Tag Archives: philosophy

Materialism and Empircisim are Easy; Idealism is Hard

Empiricism vs Idealism:

Empiricism begins with the hypothesis that there is an objective reality independent of humanity and we may use inductive logic to learn about this reality through our senses. We can experiment and test the validity of our ideas. The scientific method is a method of empirical testing to prevent common fallacies and errors. Empiricism does not assume a priori knowledge. This is also called Philosophical Realism or materialism.

To recap some basic concepts, rationalists believe knowledge is acquired independently of sensory experience. Empiricists argue that knowledge is based on sensory perception. Rationalism involves ‘pure reason’ (priori knowledge); empiricism involves evidence (posteriori knowledge). Rationalism is top-down (deductive); empiricism is bottom-up (inductive).

Consider a stick in a glass of water. To the empiricist, the stick is broken because it visually appears so. However, when the empiricist dips his hand into the water, the stick is obviously not broken. To the rationalist, it’s not broken, but rather the water makes it seem so due to refraction. The rationalist defers to theory (refraction) to justify the stick not being broken, without having to dip his hand to see for himself.

But there are seldom ‘pure empiricists’ or ‘pure rationalists’–it’s usually a hybrid, in which Kant cleverly devised a philosophical device called the ‘synthetic a priori’ to reconcile this. Many empiricists don’t reject all theories of physics (such as Newton’s law of gravitation), if there is abundant experimental evidence to support them. Empiricism leads to theory, the latter which can be defined as an ‘object’ (which Kant called a noumenon), that exists outside of sense or perception. From The theory of phenomena and noumena:

For example, to explain why the wires in an electric toaster are hot, we invoke the underlying cause of an electric current in the wires; the toaster and its wires, and the heat, are phenomenal, and the electricity is noumenal. Or, in modern language, the toaster and the hot wires are empirical and the electricity is theoretical. As David Hume pointed out, there are no empirical causes, only correlations; all causes are underlying — noumenal — or theoretical. Theoretical science tries to describe the noumenal world, and thereby explain the findings of empirical science. Everything you read about molecules, atoms, electrons, quarks, the curvature of space-time, black holes, the Big Bang, etc. is about noumena.

This is related to Platonic idealism, which is different than Idealism as presented by philosophers such as George Berkeley. Platonic abstractions are not spatial, temporal, or mental; hence, they are not compatible with the latter idealism’s emphasis on mental existence. Plato’s Forms include numbers and geometrical figures, making them a theory of mathematical realism. This makes it a form of materialism, and is related to philosophical realism–the belief that the existence of reality is independent of our conceptual schemes, perceptions, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc.

Although realism and materialism are often used interchangeably, realism involves mathematics and Plato’s forms, which are things that are ‘real’ even though they are not physically so. A rationalist is a realist, because rationalists make use of abstractions (like math). The empiricist tends to reject these abstractions, and may gravitate towards materialist interpretations as being the basis of reality (such as dunking his or her hand in the water to verify that the stick isn’t broken, instead of deferring to refraction theory). But realism is like materialism, as the stick being intact is a property that exists outside of the mind, but realism is an abstract approach (use of theory) determine this knowledge (epistemology) and empiricism is sensory (literally, a hands-on approach). Hierarchically, realism is a subset of materialism. So while realism is materialistic, not all materialism is realism (empiricism and materialism, for example, being linked but the former distinct from realism).

Science involves ‘objects’ such as theories that exist independent of perception and mind. Religion is often associated with idealism in that, epistemologically, it requires faith–by ‘pure reason’ alone, establishing a ink between idealism and rationalism. Rationalism can be applied both in a religious context but also a scientific one.

Empiricism and realism are ‘easy’ because the former lends itself to ‘binary thinking’, specifically, verificationism (the doctrine that a proposition is only cognitively meaningful if it can be definitively and conclusively determined to be either true or false). Empiricism, unlike rationalism, takes the easy way out by never having to commit to a theory. If the empiricist can’t observe it through sense, he can simply reject it. But realism is also ‘easy’, in the synthetic sense, by reducing abstractions to objects that we take for grated as ‘true’. It’s easier to just accept that 1+1=2 than try to go further to understand why it’s so. For example, the statement, ‘rising life expectancy is good’. ‘Good’ is abstract and hard to define, besides it being implied (or objectified) that ‘good’ is contrasted from what is ‘bad’. ‘Life expectancy’ is also an object, as it is something that is measured scientifically and exists outside of sensory perception. Most of the media and pundits, whether it’s Bloomberg, Wall St. Journal, or The Economists, deal with things that can be categorized either ‘true’ or ‘false’ (such as ‘the economy is weak’ or ‘the economy is strong’), with evidence brought forth either opposing or supporting the initial premise. Or objects-as-issues (such as wealth inequality, economic growth), that are often reduced to a binary state of being either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Idealism tends to reject object-based reasoning. Although idealism may have a grand theory, vision, or narrative (such as eschatology), it doesn’t rely on empirical, sensory, or object-based means of supporting it. [Materialist philosophy also has 'grand narratives', an example being Marxism, which is based on economic theory (an object), not theology.] It avoids reductionism (in terms of rejecting scientific-reduction in the forms scientism, cognitivism, positivism; but it also rejects verificationism (which is a form of reductionism. Idealists aren’t too fond of empiricism, because it tends to be binary and reductive.)–but also idealism rejects low-information discourse, which is related to binary thinking) preferring complicated, nuanced, and circuitous forms of discourse and invoking teleology. For example, for idealist, civil dissenters fit within a ‘grand theory’ of societal collapse. But aren’t dissenters empirical evidence that agrees with ‘grand theory’? Yes, but it doesn’t matter, because to the idealists the reality has already been constructed in his mind. To be fair, this is similar to how physicists rationalize string theory, because the theory can always be modified to account for any evidence that could disprove it. Or in another way, for an idealist, everything is subsumed by the theory. Teleology is a reason or explanation for something in function of its end, purpose or goal. For example, a teleological explanation of why forks have prongs is that this design helps humans eat certain foods; stabbing food to help humans eat is what forks are for. Likewise, a teleological explanation for dissenters is not that they are having a bad day, but rather because they are actors of a grand eschatological narrative. For a materialist, rather then evidence being subsumed by theory, the theory keeps being modified or is so broad as to encompass everything (which is a criticism of string theory).

As an example of ‘easiness’, an empiricist, if asked to predict something, may predict the sun will rise and fall. This is virtually certain to be a correct prediction, based on his empirical observations of the sun rising and setting. A realist would arrive at the same conclusion based on his knowledge about geophysics and astronomy, but to the idealist he too is missing the point of the question, because predictions are not supposed to be ‘obvious’ and the realist is caving into reductionism, just as the empiricist also engages in reductionism. An idealist, counter to what the objectively-determined odds say, in his mind, chooses odds are different.

Predicting economic stability is likely a correct prediction (based on empirical evidence, specifically, economic data and historical data; and ‘microeconomic foundations’–an attempt to apply the principles of science and physics to economics, to make the latter more rigorous) but conflict with an idealist whose ‘grand vision’ is of instability or eschatology. But ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ regarding the social sciences can be hard to define. Two people can bring forth evidence to arrive at opposite conclusions regarding the same issue. It depends how such evidence is interpreted and it’s context. For example, nominally, the national debt is high, but interest payments are low relative to GDP. By avoiding objects and binaries (verificatonism), the idealist may avoid having his beliefs being falsified.

Idealism is a search for Absolute Truth. It assumes there is a design and purpose to the universe and the human mind, and by discovering this purpose they can understand everything.

Idealism creates teleology. Everything has a function and purpose, and therefore everything has a final cause. This world is highly deterministic. Idealists rely almost purely on deductive logic. They create an artificial set of governing axioms. They can then use deductive logic to answer any problem within their Idealist world.

The idealist, in his mind, knows what is true and is not searching for it. Truth (ontology) for the idealist exists in the mind; for the materialist, it’s in objects. Both sides can either bring forth axioms (rationalism) or empirical evidence (empiricism), both of which are under the category of epistemology.
I also disagree here:

Empiricism takes considerably more effort to understand reality, but the ideas it produces are more consistent even if knowledge remains incomplete. Empirical reality may seem dangerous, as it disproves some moral preconceptions in religions and ideologies. Is it not better to accept reality whether it is pleasing or not?…

A real theory can be practiced in reality. Electrical theory: light bulb. Evolution: Genetic Engineering. Creationism: Nothing. Marxism: 100 million dead, but otherwise nothing.

Although empiricism has pretense of knowledge (because of spokespeople like Dennett, Dawkins, Harris and Nye, who use the ‘scientific method’ as a very convenient crutch), idealism is harder because it doesn’t involve ‘shortcuts’ (such as mathematics, sensory perception , scientific method) that materialism and empiricism employ. For a scientist, a sufficiently low ‘p-value’ can be sufficient, but the idealist isn’t placated as easily, asking, ‘but what if…’ or questioning the validity of the data itself. Idealism involves more mental gymnastics (or teleology) to make empirical reality and theory agree (such as reconciling theology with evolution, or sporadic incidents of ‘civil unrest’ as being a harbinger of impending economic and social collapse, not merely some people having a bad day).

Also, the author seems to be stumbling into the oh so tempting trap of scientific absolutism, overplaying his hand. Marxism is actually a materialistic philosophy (because economic theory is at the core of human behavior and reality, not metaphysics), not an idealistic one.

A mistake made by naivete atheists who think they are being clever is assuming that there is dichotomy where Christianity must oppose science, when such a dichotomy doesn’t necessarily exist. Many Christians understand and accept physics and evolution, and it’s possible to be both a Christian and an engineer or a biologist. Religious philosopher David Ray Griffin discusses this in his book God Exists But Gawd Does Not:

David Ray Griffin argues that progress on this issue will be impossible unless we distinguish between two radically different ideas of a divine creator, which he calls “Gawd” and “God.” Whereas there is overwhelming evidence against the existence of Gawd, there is also overwhelming evidence for the reality of God.

Atheists commonly default to this construct or strawman version of god, which the author calls ‘gawd’. An idealist may be well-versed in theory (such as evolution, quantum mechanics, and relativity) but understand that those things are merely approximations of reality, and that there will always be phenomena that cannot be explained by theory. For example, why don’t galaxies spill apart, because they are held together by ‘dark matter’, but the problem is physicists have no idea what dark matter is even though it’s thought to make up five sixths of the universe’s mass. A materialist may argue that there are no phenomena that can’t be explained by theory.

Related, Sean Carroll, in an excellent post Physicists Should Stop Saying Silly Things about Philosophy, opposes attempts to reduce philosophy to competition against science, or that how philosophy must oppose science, arguing that they can complement each other (a philosophical question being answered using physics), a view echoed by American philosopher of science Tim Maudlin, whose work on physics also incorporates philosophical elements.

Philosophy is useful for organizing ideas, beliefs, and concepts about the non-tangible, non-sensory world–things such as politics, epistemology, religion, morality, ethics, perception, consciousness, etc.–into some form of hierarchy or framework, analogous to the concept of categories in math.

Although reductionism is often frowned upon by idealists, it’s hard to avoid objects and binary thinking when trying to be persuasive. In trying to convey an opinion/perspective/declaration about something, that likely implies one opposes its opposite. There was a recent debate on Scott Aaronson’s blog, spawning significant related discussion elsewhere, but also a lot of internecine disagreement. Just saying ‘immigration is bad’ is too simple (object-based reasoning). The appeal of mathematics is once something is proven (either true or false), further discussion is no longer necessary (for that specific math concept, at least), whereas debates in the social sciences an liberal arts can be unending, as they don’t as easily yield to binary outcomes.

The ‘Universal Person’

Some Desultory Remarks on the Concept of “Universal Person”

This superior being, then, imagines himself a disembodied entity made of pure thought, and accordingly, where he positively defines his identity at all, defines it in terms of ideology. His loyalties and allegiances lie not with other people, but exclusively to the Ideal- namely, Universal Democracy, a very jealous master that doesn’t tolerate the smallest division of loyalty in its acolytes, and demands from them a seemingly total self-deracination:

Powerful…similar to my earlier post about how for the ‘left’, politics is more important then identity.

Universal Person is a nameless and anonymous entity who has no culture and no identity, and therefore subsumes all cultures and all identities in his ineffable mystical body. (Hence, according to Prime Minister Trudeau, Canada has a “pan-cultural heritage” with “no core identity”, an Ur-culture that cannot itself be a culture, in the same way that the mystical Tao, as the font of being, cannot be said to have being or named at all).

In other words, if Universal Person lives in a “multicultural” society that “celebrates diversity” but disdains and rejects his own cultural heritage and traditions, that is because his own beliefs and values, whatever they may be, are emanations of universal pure Reason that transcend all cultural and historical particularity, and can never be reduced to the mere customs and folkways of any particular people.

By ‘superior being’, maybe he is alluding to Nietzsche’s ‘Ubermensch’ concept, which is related to the so-called ‘Randian Hero’. Or a universalist, related to universalism and cosmopolitanism. And related philosophies positivism and scientism, which fall under ‘materialism’.

Or is ‘universal person’ the same as a ‘superior being’? That part is confusing.

Universal Person despises kings as despots not because their power is “absolute”, but precisely because it isn’t, and cannot possibly be; hence the invidious contrast, from roughly the Enlightenment onward, between the “arbitrary will” of the monarch and the “rule of law not men”, which designates the distinction between the local and bounded personal power of a particular man and a boundlessly totalizing universal power administered by Universal Persons who style themselves not as mere mortal men, but as ineffably transcendent pure Law.

Powerful stuff. ‘Divine law’ admits mistake, is provisional, and fallible; anthropic law cannot, is infallible like a mathematical proof but applied to man.

Sovereign power, whether exercised as the personal prerogative of flesh-and-blood men, or by those who claimed to have undergone a mystical transubstantiation of their corporeal being and become pure Law, is always going to involve plenty of inscrutable fiat and discretion involved in it either way- and yet, according to Liberalism only the personal prerogative counts as “arbitrary”. Universal Person cannot exercise “arbitrary” power by definition, since he has no particular will as such. His idiosyncratic wants, desires, tastes, whims, and pet preferences of the moment are categorical imperatives binding on every conceivable individual for all time.

The universal person imparts his power, as justified by a ‘categorical imperatives’ (duty) under the guise of ‘good intentions’. Kant wrote:

Nothing in the world—indeed nothing even beyond the world—can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will.[11]

Related to Deontological ethics:

Kant then argues that the consequences of an act of willing cannot be used to determine that the person has a good will; good consequences could arise by accident from an action that was motivated by a desire to cause harm to an innocent person, and bad consequences could arise from an action that was well-motivated. Instead, he claims, a person has a good will when he ‘acts out of respect for the moral law’.[11] People ‘act out of respect for the moral law’ when they act in some way because they have a duty to do so. So, the only thing that is truly good in itself is a good will, and a good will is only good when the willer chooses to do something because it is that person’s duty, i.e. out of “respect” for the law. He defines respect as “the concept of a worth which thwarts my self-love.”[12]

The ‘duty’ in the Kantian sense is to apply scientism or positivism. Although deontological ethics and consequentialism are contrasted, for the positivist or ‘universal person’, they are melded. There is also the rejection of ‘natural law’ but also the rejection of ‘divine law’. This is related to the naturalistic fallacy:

According to G. E. Moore, “Goodness is a simple, undefinable, non-natural property.” To call goodness “non-natural” does not mean that it is supernatural or divine. It does mean, however, that goodness cannot be reduced to natural properties such as needs, wants or pleasures. Moore also stated that a reduction of ethical properties to a divine command would be the same as stating their naturalness. This would be an example of what he referred to as “the naturalistic fallacy.”


Juridical rights, by definition, are tied to political subjection to Sovereign authority, and the so-called “human rights” touted by Universal Person are no exception to the principle. If everybody enjoys rights by virtue of being human, that is because every human being has also been deemed an a priori citizen of Universal State and therefore subject to its jurisdiction,

The ‘universal man’ may or may not care about ‘human rights’, but it also depends on how you define him (as as ubermensch, a ‘model democratic citizen’, a Randian hero, a positivist, or just a generic do-gooder). The universal man can’t be both a positivist (materialist) and an idealist. The former adheres more to the ‘homo economicus’ model of humanity, which tends to reject charity and the concept of innate human intrinsic worth, because these are hard to quantify economically and or are economically inefficient. Some do-gooders don’t impart their will but rather just go about their personal business trying to ‘do good’. The positivist tends to be more overbearing are impelled to impart their views and values (the so-called ‘militant atheist’ comes to mind). Positivism may also be seen as dehumanizing.

Also, not sure if ‘democracy’ and ‘universal man’ are always mutually inclusive. Economists Bryan Caplad and Tyler Cowen are critical of democracy yet are anti-identitarian. Positivists tend to be critical of democracy and ‘identity’, seeing both as collectivist and possibly irrational, preferring scientific consensus, meritocracy, technocracy, or elitism.

Universal Democracy, a very jealous master that doesn’t tolerate the smallest division of loyalty in its acolytes, and demands from them a seemingly total self-deracination:

But ‘identity’ may also require biological and nationalistic purity and absolutism. The far-left often justify very undemocratic means of imposing their values. Regarding Kant, the demarcation between good and bad comes down to intent, not consequence. Moral absolutism can either work well or very poorly, depending on the values of whomever is in charge. Although rationalism (pure reason, a priori) and empiricism (posteriori, evidence-based) are opposed to each other, Kant advocated a synthesis of both pure reason and empiricism, where reason follows from empirical observations, which seems to be the best approach.

Another problem is that the word ‘democracy’ has two meanings: a set of values and or a system of government. In using the phrase ‘Universal Democracy’, the author may be referring to something different…here is what I found: A Theory of Universal Democracy, by L. Ali Khan:

Democracy is often associated with Western liberal values, such as free markets, individual rights and secularism. Some scholars assert that liberal democracy is the end of history. Disputing such claims, this work presents the concept of Universal Democracy to think beyond the values of Western democracy. A Theory of Universal Democracy empowers cultures and communities across the world to custom design democracy in consonance with their traditional values. For example, the book makes concrete proposals for Muslim countries to democratize their constitutions without accepting Western values and without violating the principles of Islamic law. More importantly, Universal Democracy further develops the idea of Free State, which the author first presented in his previous book, The Extinction of Nation-States. The proposed fusion of Universal Democracy and Free State is designed to revolutionize the classical theory of government and to offer a new paradigm that accommodates both universality and uniqueness.

Individualism is results-orientated and highlights the attributes individual–be it intellectual or financial, whereas ‘identity’ has elements of collectivism. Because democracy, as a political process, is inherently collectivist, individualism opposes it. If given a choice, many would probably choose to be individually successful than less successful but part of a collective, although the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. That’s why people seek socioeconomic advancement (such as by working, striving , going to college, etc.), to differentiate themselves from everyone else and to fight the entropy of mediocrity. A problem with identity is it gives you nothing or little to show for it, whereas individualism at least produces results. From the post Reaction, Pacifism, and Realism, “Happiness and fulfillment comes from ownership of one’s own labor and ingenuity as manifested by something (tangible or not) that one can claim their ‘own’” But ‘identity’ is still necessary for cohesion, for without it you have atomization and anomie. But individualism is what provides the drive to do something.

The Post-2008 ‘Philosophy Boom’

This article is going viral: Why read old philosophy?

Since 2008, we’ve been in what can be described as ‘philosophy boom’, as articles and stories about philosophy frequently go viral on sites such as Reddit, 4Chan, and Hacker News, and there seems to be a lot of interest in the subject on Quora and elsewhere. The resurgence of philosophy can be explained by several factors:

Philosophy, especially in recent years, is finding a home in many theoretical STEM applications (such has computer science, set and logic theories, quantum physics, etc.)., and the two are becoming increasingly intertwined. Philosophers seek to emulate physicists, and physicists seek to better understand philosophy. The former is related to the so-called ‘physics envy’ in economics, but such envy also seems to be reversed for STEM subjects, too.

To wit, when the insufferable pedant Neil Degrasse Tyson proclaimed philosophy as ‘useless’, he was instantly met with strong rebuke – by other physicists, including the brilliant Sean M. Carroll, who is much smarter and more accomplished than Tyson can ever hope to be, defending philosophy.

Additionally, both physics and philosophy involve abstractions, are subtle, and tend to be very specific and precise in terminology.

The study of philosophy is analogous to understanding the ‘source code’ behind declarative statements, giving a deeper understanding than is otherwise revealed prima facie, or (in the case of source code), rendered on a computer display. A low-information political pundit may extol the ‘goodness’ of ‘freedom and liberty’ as it applies to common situations such as politics. Philosophy, however, goes deeper by inquiring what it means for something to be ‘good’, what the concept ‘freedom’ means, and whether the two are always mutually inclusive. Whereas punditry is concerned with the present, philosophy seeks to understand antecedents and origins, building on the body of prior philosophical work. This is analogous to source code, which is the antecedent of the output, and newer programming languages are derived or inspired from older ones. Similarly, regarding mathematics, applied mathematics manipulates existing concepts to get outputted results (the answer). Abstract and pure mathematics takes it a step further by trying to determine the conditions where answer is or isn’t possible. This is probably why so many people in computer science, physics, and mathematics are enamored with philosophy, and the other way around.

Second, the study of philosophy, although it may not have as many direct real-world applications as engineering, biology, or computer science, is still valuable for signaling intellect. Philosophy majors have as high of SAT scores as STEM majors. Philosophy is useful for study because it helps us organize our thought processes and reasoning, with a rigor that one wouldn’t otherwise hold themselves to, as the source code analogy above shows. This is probably why philosophy majors are sought for employment, because the degree signals above-average critical thinking and analytical skills.

For example, from the Fire Thirty Eight article Philosophers Don’t Get Much Respect, But Their Earnings Don’t Suck, here’s an infographic that shows how philosophy majors not only make good wages (as high as most STEM subjects) but also have high scores on the GRE and LSAT, both of which are good proxies for IQ. Because philosophy majors are smart, they can readily grasp non-philosophy concepts, which is valuable for employers, who benefit from having employees who are quick to learn and can anticipate needs.

And actually, philosophy is respected, or at least online based on my own observations. As mentioned above, not only do philosophy articles frequently go viral and get a lot of up-votes and positive comments, there is a lot of discussion online about philosophy, and people online seek philosophers for their insight and wisdom. But also, the monastic pursuit of knowledge, deep ‘truths’, and abstractions, in a culture of instant gratification, reductionist narratives, superficiality, and 24-7 entertainment disguised as information (infotainment), is commendable and meritorious. The sacrifice of immediate wealth and ‘payoff’ (having a low time preference) pays dividends long into the future, as others who seek ‘immediate employment’, after many decades, still find themselves in a personal rut, unable to advance beyond the 9-5 grind of being an invisible, unimportant person. Peter Thiel, possibly one of the smartest and most successful people alive as measured by net worth and accomplishments, majored in philosophy:

After graduating from San Mateo High School, Thiel went on to study philosophy at Stanford University. During Thiel’s time at Stanford, debates on identity politics and political correctness were ongoing at the university and a “Western Culture” program, which was criticized by The Rainbow Agenda because of a perceived over-representation of the achievements made by European men, was replaced with a “Culture, Ideas and Values” course, which instead pushed diversity and multiculturalism. This replacement provoked controversy on the campus, and led to Thiel founding The Stanford Review, a paper for conservative and libertarian viewpoints, in 1987, through the funding of Irving Kristol.[19]

That was many decades ago, and now he’s a billionaire..of course, his wild success cannot be generalized to everyone, but his story is example of how delayed gratification can lead to massive payoffs later, as opposed to to skipping college to seek immediate employment and gratification.

Regarding how philosophy is respected, from an earlier post SJW Narrative Collapse, Part Infinity:

The fact that the story went so viral, making it to the front page of Reddit, but also the intense, impassioned discussion in the comments, is further evidence of how finance is so important to millennials, who would rather debate regulation and high frequency trading than waste time on mind-numbing, disposable pop culture entertainment. This is more evidence of how intellectualism has become so important, contrary to pronouncements of how America is ‘dumbing down’. There is a huge demand for intellectualism that the internet and communities like Reddit, Hacker News and 4Chan are satisfying.

An from the post Millennials and Misconceptions in which I give an example from Reddit of how stories and comments that praise education and the attainment of knowledge are up-voted, whereas posts that advocate a more parochial, narrow-minded appeal to ‘instant gratification’ are down-voted.

A STEM degree is preferable, but that doesn’t make the liberal arts useless in the eyes of millennials, provided the degree has some degree of intellectual rigor and are not completely useless or commercialized (like degrees ‘child development’ or ‘search engine marketing’).

A Google search reveals many more examples on Reddit of philosophy majors being respected, so this belief that philosophy majors are unappreciated or are ignored is thoroughly debunked. Maybe as recently as a decade ago, this may have been the case, but online, especially on Quora on Reddit, there is a huge outpouring of interest in philosophy, as millennials see the value of it, along with other intellectualized subjects such as physics, math, and computer science. This also ties in with the post-2008 ‘explosion‘ of ‘intellectualism culture‘.

But also, why is there so much interest in learning complicated, esoteric math concepts? All things ‘smart’ have gotten more attention as of late, such as as theoretical physics, quantum mechanics, philosophy and math (as well as all these things melded together)…It’s like the AP-math class of high school but expanded to include almost everyone, not just a dozen students.

But does this contradict pragmatism. No, because pragmatism is intellectual of nature. Pragmatism, similar to utilitarianism, seeks to maximize resources and outcomes, based on the preponderance of empirical evidence, versus all alternatives being considered, which can include delayed gratification and the purist pursuit of intellectual endeavors, if over the long-run, one derives desirable quantifiable results, such as wealth or status, from such deferment. Pragmatism is contrasted to deontological ethics, the latter which is rule-based, not outcome-based, but this can be easily reconciled, as is often the case online, by stipulating that one’s ‘rule’ is to always choose what leads to the most optimal long-run outcome.

Understanding Marx

Aaron dismisses the study of Marx as useless , but possibly falls into the the tempting trap of reductionism.

The study of Karl Marx is more than Communism, which of course is a failure, as mass deaths during communists regimes or the economic under-performance of communist countries versus capitalistic ones (North Korea v. South Korea, for example), shows. No one disputes this.

Likewise, studying Hitler doesn’t mean you legitimize Nazism. One should learn from the mistakes of history to avoid repeating them. Also, just learning about this stuff is interesting in and of itself.

Mark had some beliefs that even some on the ‘right’ can support – such as post-labor and post-scarcity societies in which technology and automation supplants the needs for work. The far-left, such as Obama, Keynes, and FDR, on the other hand, advocate ‘full employment’ even if such jobs create no economic value, are unprofitable for employers, and or are subsidized by taxpayers.

Post-scarcity economy

Karl Marx, in a section of his Grundrisse that came to be known as the “Fragment on Machines”,[22][23] argued that the transition to a post-capitalist society combined with advances in automation would allow for significant reductions in labor needed to produce necessary goods, eventually reaching a point where all people would have significant amounts of leisure time to pursue science, the arts, and creative activities; a state some commentators later labeled as “post-scarcity”.[24] Marx argued that capitalism—the dynamic of economic growth based on capital accumulation—depends on exploiting the surplus labor of workers, but a post-capitalist society would allow for:

Keynes, whose ideas are the intellectual forebear of Obama, believed full-employment at any cost was an ideal to always strive for, in contrast to Marx who rejected such idealism. But I’m not saying Marx is right about everything – Marxism is predicated on the belief workers are exploited by capitalism. I disagree, arguing that workers are NOT exploited and have a ‘good deal’. Marx also believed capitalism is self-limiting and would eventually fail, which I again disagree with.

Some of Marx’s ideas, such as Historical Materialism, which the exception of the parts about ‘revolution’, ‘liberation’, and ‘class struggle’, are not much different from introductory economics, or just plain common sense:

The basis of human society is how humans work on nature to produce the means of subsistence.

There is a division of labor into social classes (relations of production) based on property ownership where some people live from the labor of others.

The system of class division is dependent on the mode of production.

The mode of production is based on the level of the productive forces.

Society moves from stage to stage when the dominant class is displaced by a new emerging class, by overthrowing the “political shell” that enforces the old relations of production no longer corresponding to the new productive forces. This takes place in the superstructure of society, the political arena in the form of revolution, whereby the underclass “liberates” the productive forces with new relations of production, and social relations, corresponding to it.

Also, the ‘Marxian framework’ or ‘Marxian dialectic’ is an economic-centric one, referred to as ‘historical materialism’ or ‘dialectical materialism’ (the two are different in subtle ways that can be ignored for the sake of this discussion). In contrast to Weber and Hegel, Marx believed the entire world ‘revolves’ around economics – that economics, not culture or religion, is of foremost importance to all facets of human nature and society. Marx was obsessed with economics and believed it to be the driving force behind everything, and that all societal problems could be reduced to economic ones. In that regard, pretty much all economists, including even Milton Friedman, Rand, Hayek, and Rothbard, are at least tangentially intellectually related to Marx, in seeing the world from an econo-centric point of view, not a religious, cultural, or nationalistic one.

For example, Hayek:

In the book’s postscript, “Why I Am Not a Conservative,” Hayek distinguished his classical liberalism from conservatism. Among his grounds for rejecting conservatism were that moral and religious ideals are not “proper objects of coercion” and that conservatism is hostile to internationalism and prone to a strident nationalism.

This is related to Historical materialism:

Central to Marx’s thought is his theory of historical materialism, which argued that human societies and their cultural institutions (like religion, law, morality, etc.) were the outgrowth of collective economic activity.

Marx’s theory was heavily influenced by Hegel’s dialectical method. But while Marx agreed with Hegel’s basic dialectical thesis of social change, he disagreed with the notion that abstract ideas were the engine. Rather, Marx turned Hegel on his head and argued that it was material, economic forces—or our relationship to the natural, biological, and physical world—that drove the dialectic of change. More specifically, the engine of history rests in the internal contradictions in the system of material production (or, the things we do in order to produce what we need for survival).

And from Wikipedia:

Employing a critical approach known as historical materialism, Marx propounded the theory of base and superstructure, asserting that the cultural and political conditions of society, as well as its notions of human nature, are largely determined by obscured economic foundations. These economic critiques would result in influential works such as Capital, Volume I (1867).

I discuss this in more detail here:

Why Progressives Lose Their Minds When They Lose Elections

The Slavoj Žižek-NRx Connection

This difference between materialists and idealists is that for the former, matter is the antecedent of spirit; for the latter, it’s reversed.

Unexpectedly though, Marx and Rand tenuously share similarities, in both advocating a ‘materialist’ view of the world:

Now we begin the process of the deconstruction of Rand’s views. The role of materialism in the philosophy of Marx and Rand can be used as a good starting point. Rand advocated in her writing as a materialist, not doing any less in that regard than Marx. The latter seems, however, by several orders of magnitude a more sophisticated philosopher, as he thoroughly knew the German philosophy, with its deep interest in the complexities of the process of cognition. The main principle of the philosophy of “objectivism” Rand formulated as: “Facts are facts and are independent of human feelings, desires, hopes or fears.” Adjacent to the other premise – a principle of the “identity” – “A is A”, meaning that “the fact is a fact” (the third part of “Atlas Shrugged” is subtitles “A is A”) strikes with primitivism, as well as her critique of Kant. Only Lenin, in his book Materialism and Empirico Criticism published in 1908, had a philosophy almost exactly like Rand’s which was formulated a half-century later: “Consciousness is the mirror image of reality.” Any further than Lenin, the layman in philosophy, though educated for those times, Rand did not go.

Whether materialism is the same as objectivism is heavily debated.

Somewhat similar to Hegel, Max Weber believed that religion underpins capitalism:

This Weber called the “spirit of capitalism”: it was the Protestant religious ideology that was behind – and inevitably led to – the capitalist economic system.[84] This theory is often viewed as a reversal of Marx’s thesis that the economic “base” of society determines all other aspects of it.[73]

The weird thing is, Weber was actually a liberal, founding the German Democratic Party in 1918, the German-equivalent of Bernie Sander’s brand of democratic socialism today, and his analysis influenced the creation of the Frankfurt School – or what some call ‘Cultural Marxism’.

Weber also made a variety of other contributions in economic history, as well as economic theory and methodology. Weber’s analysis of modernity and rationalisation significantly influenced the critical theory associated with the Frankfurt School. After the First World War, Max Weber was among the founders of the liberal German Democratic Party.

The Frankfurt School, related to post-structuralism, rejects the Marxian and positivist ideal that the complexity of society can be reduced to economics. Although it’s related to Marxism, adherents oppose the ‘Stalinesque’ centralized version of communism, in addition to rejecting democracy. Frankfurt School, despite being ‘leftist’, is critical of both mainstream liberal and conservative critiques. Mainstream liberals assume democracy and freedom will fix everything, but the Frankfurt School is critical of this reductionist view.

Regarding religion, Émile Durkheim (considered one the l’principal architects of modern social science’, along with Marx and Weber) shared views similar to Weber and, like Marx, that capitalism gives rise to inequality:

In an advanced, industrial, capitalist society, the complex division of labor means that people are allocated in society according to merit and rewarded accordingly: social inequality reflects natural inequality, assuming that there is complete equity in the society. Durkheim argued that moral regulation was needed, as well as economic regulation, to maintain order (or organic solidarity) in society with people able to “compose their differences peaceably”.[2] In this type of society, law would be more restitutive than penal, seeking to restore rather than punish excessively.

Durkheim saw religion as the most fundamental social institution of humankind, and one that gave rise to other social forms.[60][76] It was the religion that gave humanity the strongest sense of collective consciousness.[81] Durkheim saw the religion as a force that emerged in the early hunter and gatherer societies, as the emotions collective effervescence run high in the growing groups, forcing them to act in a new ways, and giving them a sense of some hidden force driving them.[54] Over time, as emotions became symbolized and interactions ritualized, religion became more organized, giving a rise to the division between the sacred and the profane.[54] However, Durkheim also believed that religion was becoming less important, as it was being gradually superseded by science and the cult of an individual.[57][76]

This is an example of how the the political spectrum may actually be a loop or horseshoe-shaped, with the far-left and far-right meeting on certain issues.

Intellectualism, Individualism, and Wealth, Part 4 (philosophy of millennials)

Errata: yesterday’s article, Alt-Right: Classifications and Significance, described neocons as apologetically anti-populist, when it should have been unapologetically anti-populist.

Continuing on the series on Intellectualism, Individualism, and Wealth…

The Millennial Mindset, Part 2: Philosophy and Wealth describes the underlying philosophy of most millennials as rationalist and valuing of authenticity. But another label could be deontological. Millennials, particularly smart and rational ones, seem to have an ethical system predicated on rules and promoting maximum ‘goodness’, even if ‘goodness’ may be hard to quantify or may be attained by unconventional means. The Kantian categorical imperative is relevant:

Kant then argues that the consequences of an act of willing cannot be used to determine that the person has a good will; good consequences could arise by accident from an action that was motivated by a desire to cause harm to an innocent person, and bad consequences could arise from an action that was well-motivated. Instead, he claims, a person has a good will when he ‘acts out of respect for the moral law’.[12] People ‘act out of respect for the moral law’ when they act in some way because they have a duty to do so. So, the only thing that is truly good in itself is a good will, and a good will is only good when the willer chooses to do something because it is that person’s duty, i.e. out of “respect” for the law. He defines respect as “the concept of a worth which thwarts my self-love.”[13]

As evidence of the importance of deontology, a Reddit ‘Life Pro Tips’ post which meticulously gives a list of rules for disposing of the possessions of the deceased, went viral and got a lot up-votes and comments. This is in contrast to boomers, in the 60′s, who eschewed rules and promoted ‘rebellion’ (even though they were conformist in their need to rebel). That’s probably why millennials don’t go to clubs, preferring instead to stay at home and be introspective.

This is also related to consequentialism and utilitarianism, discussed numerous times on this blog and at the end of part 3. The philosophy can also be described as quasi-authoritarian and somewhat bureaucratic, but with contradictions such as promoting individualism and authenticity. To reconcile this, individualism and authenticity is championed provided it’s within the sphere of one’s biological capabilities (also related to the meritocracy stratified by IQ), and to try to exit the sphere puts one at risk of becoming a poseur, which is among the worst things to be in a culture and society that values authenticity more than ever.

But we’re also seeing the rise of ‘advice culture’ – a subset of ‘intellectualism culture’ (as categorized here, and will be described in greater detail in upcoming installments of this series). Like the story on ‘coping with being average’, as mentioned at the end of part 2, articles that offer advice on navigating today’s difficult, hyper-meritocratic economy and culture, frequently go viral. Boomers, like the iconoclasts of the Protestant Reformation, wanted to tear down the system; millennials, on the other hand, seek to adapt, either by emulating the rich and successful or by finding ways of coping with mediocrity. Even in the 90′s, for gen-x, it as about The Matrix cyber punk rebellion and escapism though alt music, MTV, and sitcoms. But millennials want to stay in the present, to confront reality head-on, and seek complications through philosophy and inquiry (intellectualism) into things like economics and social dynamics – not the simplicity of blissful ignorance. Writers like David Foster Wallace and Hunter S. Thomson (who committed suicide within three years of each other), exude authenticity and have seen their legacies explode in recent years, becoming cultural icons. Wallace’s This is Water, a commencement speech he wrote in 2005, and Hunter’s Finding Your Purpose, a letter addressed to a fan, have been shared innumerate times and cover themes about coping with the idiosyncrasies and travails of modern society without losing one’s sanity, as well as existentialism and finding meaning in life.

Philosophy as a STEM Subject

The acronym STEM, as everyone knows, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEM subjects are math-intensive, analytic, and generally require a high intelligence to understand all the rules and intricacies. By this definition, the umbrella of subjects that could be considered ‘STEM’ or STEM-like could be expanded to include finance, economics, and even philosophy…I’ll leave it to the reader to find a catchy acronym.

Finance, which includes both personal finance and accounting, requires math, although the math tends to be simple – mostly arithmetic and compounding. There are also data visualizations involved, and the organization and interpretation of arrays of information such as spreadsheets and financial statements.

Economics, beginning in the the 50′s with Solow’s Growth Model and then in the 70′s with the theory of Rational Expectations and efficient vs. behavioral markets, has become very mathematical. Differential equations are a necessity, along with complicated diagrams and processing and analyzing an abundance of data. For example, there is Robert Barro, who used econometric methods to analyze data; John Cochrane, who pioneered time-series economics. Then there’s Paul Samuelson, a famous economist who used a lot of math to formulate his economic theories, adding significant rigor to the field of economics; Milton Friedman of the Chicago School and possibly the most famous economist of the 20th second half of the century, who used mathematical methods in the modeling of rational agents; Buchanan and the Calculus of Consent; Ronald Coase and his theorem…all economists who applied mathematics to economics subjects such as public choice, behavioral economics, rational markets, and decision making. More recently, physicists Lee Smolin and Eric Weinstein have begun applying concepts of gauge theory to macroeconomics.

Quantitative fiance is the most difficult and math-intensive of all fields of finance and economics, requiring a study of multi-variable partial differential equations, real analysis, measure spaces, martingale theory, and probability theory.

Online, especially since 2013 with the rise of ‘STEM culture’, finance, economics, philosophy, and quantitative finance carry the same prestige as the ‘hard’ STEM subjects such as physics, computer science, and math. Offline, no one cares you’re are an econometrician, but online you’re royalty. But even history majors, lit majors, comparative literature, and anthropology majors are also respected – subjects that, in contrast to useless ‘fluff’ degrees, are rigorous and intellectually redeeming even if they don’t pay as well as STEM. Also, finance, economics, and philosophy majors have as high of SAT scores (a good proxy for IQ) as math, computer science, and physics majors.

Then there’s philosophy, which I proclaim to be a STEM subject. Most people when they think of philology, the names Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, and maybe Nietzsche, Hume, and Kant come to mind, not mathematicians. But modern math and science offers a way of reconciling, or at least shedding new light, on questions posed by philosophers centuries earlier. The work of Godel, Turing, and Cantor blur the lines between philosophy and mathematics. Not only has philosophy, like economics, has become more STEM-like in recent years, but online especially, over the past few years, I’ve also noticed an immense increase in interest in mathematical-philosophy.

Kant in his 1781 magnum opus Critique of Pure Reason argued there were limitations to knowledge beyond the empirical: ‘Kant’s arguments are designed to show the limitations of our knowledge. The Rationalists believed that we could possess metaphysical knowledge about God, souls, substance, and so forth; they believed such knowledge was transcendentally real. Kant argues, however, that we cannot have knowledge of the realm beyond the empirical.’

Fast-forward to the 20th century, when Godel and Church disproved Hilbert’s ‘Entscheidungs Problem‘, as described by Scott Aaronson, who himself often blurs the lines between philosophy and science, in his research on computer science and complexity-theory:

The Entscheidungsproblem was the dream, enunciated by David Hilbert in the 1920s, of designing a mechanical procedure to determine the truth or falsehood of any well-formed mathematical statement. According to the usual story, Hilbert’s dream was irrevocably destroyed by the workof Godel, Church, and Turing in the 1930s. First, the Incompleteness Theorem showed that no recursively-axiomatizable formal system can encode all and only the true mathematical statements. Second, Church’s and Turing’s results showed that, even if we settle for an incomplete system F,there is still no mechanical procedure to sort mathematical statements into the three categories “provable in F,” “disprovable in F,” and “undecidable in F.”

In layman’s terms, every proof of the consistency of arithmetic (specifically, Peano axioms) is incomplete (arithmetic cannot prove itself).

These proofs tenuously vindicates Kant’s ‘synthetic a priori’, that there there are limitations to what can be proved, and that abstractions and propositions (like ‘multiplication’ and ‘addition’) have no empirical antecedent (a priori knowledge) and are ‘synthetic’ not ‘analytic’.

Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ernst Zermelo, Alan Turing, Alfred Tarski, and Georg Cantor are other examples of mathematicians whose results had philosophical implications.

The P versus NP problem may is also relevant in understanding the limitations of what cam be proved under ‘reasonable’ conditions by a computer, specifically whether every problem whose solution can be quickly verified by a computer can also be quickly solved by a computer.

Related to existentialism, Robin Hanson’s Great Filter thought experiment could answer the Fermi Paradox, as to why alien life has not been observed despite the high probability that it should exist.

A significant area of philosophical inquiry involves the very concept of reality itself, whether reality is ‘real’ or ‘artificial’ (a computer simulation), the latter posited by Oxford Philosopher Nick Bostrom in his famous ‘Simulation Argument‘, which ‘proves’ there is a non-zero probability everyone is living in a simulation. In addition to the probabilistic argument, there is also the mathematics and logistics of creating the simulation itself, such as if enough resources exist for an advanced civilization to build a sufficiently powerful computer that can emulate the complexities of reality, or how such a computer or program would be created. Creationists argue that the structure of the universe is so fine-tuned (such as physical constants) that a ‘creator’ or ‘designer’ of sorts is involved, an argument that merges theology with neurology, biology, and physics.

Philosophy of mind – a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind and the brain (mind–body problem) – has reaches in computer science and artificial intelligence, specifically if a simulated mind is conscious, or if a sufficiency advanced artificial intelligence is a substitute for consciousness. Computational theory of mind is view that the human mind or the human brain (or both) is an information processing system and that thinking is a form of computing, a view endorsed by philosopher Daniel Dennett, who argues that artificial systems can have ‘intentionality’ and ‘understanding’. Philosopher John Searle, invoking a thought experiment he devised called the Chinese room, counters, arguing that while a computable mind may seem like it has ‘understanding’ to an outsider, it doesn’t. This is an example of how philosophy borrows from STEM subjects such as neurology and computer science.

Free will vs. determinism is an age-old philosophical debate that has attracted the attention of quantum physicists. If the universe is entirely deterministic, it may imply humans have no free will. Philosopher and cognitive scientist Sam Harriss rejects free will; Daniel Dennett endorses compatibilism, which mixes some free will with determinism. This also ties into quantum mechanics, in an article from Scientific American The Quantum Physics of Free Will:

More recently, quantum-gravity theorist and blogger Sabine Hossenfelder has offered some thoughts. In a 2012 paper, she suggests that there is a third way between determinism and randomness: what she calls “free-will functions,” whose outputs are fully determined but unpredictable. Only those who know the function know what will happen. This is distinct from deterministic chaos, in which the function is universally known but the initial conditions are imperfectly known.

There is also the ‘many worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics, to reconcile determinism and free will by postulating that every possible event or outcome resides in a discrete universe that doesn’t interact with other universes.

The demarcation problem, in the philosophy of science, is about how to distinguish between science and pseudoscience. Karl Popper argued that science, in contrast to pseudoscience, can be falsified. Russell’s teapot, is an analogy or thought experiment, coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims, rather than shifting the burden of disproof to others. It’s impossible for someone to disprove within reason (without checking every square inch of space) the existence of the teapot. This ties into string theory, because the concern is that it cannot be falsified by any existing technology or scientific method. String theory may ‘never be wrong’, since it can always be ‘modified’ when new evidence is introduced that challenges (such as the failure to discover supersymmetry) the theory. Concepts such as the ‘multiverse’ are also impossible to falsify. It doesn’t mean these concepts are not fruitful (in the mathematical sense) or possibly correct, but right now there are no ways to test them.

That’s enough examples. It’s obvious that philosophy has extended its tentacles to all STEM subjects. In many ways, STEM complements philosophy by filling gaps of knowledge, or by providing new perspectives or angles of inquiry on timeless questions.

Slavoj Žižek-NRx Connection

Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek and reactionaries have become unlikely bedfellows. Marxism and NRx are supposed to be opposite sides of the political spectrum, so what’s going on here.

I’ve observed that rationalists and reactionaries seem to commingle a lot. For example, Scott has written a lot about Moldbug and in the process introducing NRx to a large audience that may have otherwise never heard of it, and many rationalists would rather debate reactionaries than automatically dismiss them.

As someone who identifies as being on the ‘right’ and who also posts on rationalist communities, this tolerance and willingness to entertain opposing views, is a breath of fresh air. It’s about extending the same courtesy that we may extend to ourselves, to those in the ‘outgroup’, but also many assumptions about the ‘outgroup’, upon closer inspection, may be wrong. It’s all too tempting to subscribe to reductionist narratives, that all ‘X believes in Z’, when there are often subtleties. For example, a couple years ago when I started this blog, and then only until recently – I thought #gamergate was very similar to the ‘alt right’, but upon closer inspection they are not the same. #gamergate are not culture warriors, red pill, traditionalist conservatives, nationalists, or HBD-ers. Their main concern is culture and entertainment (Hollywood, computer games, video games, etc.) being diluted by political correctness. If we criticize the media, and rightfully so, for using low-information, reductionist narratives, we should also hold ourselves to a high standard in our own discourse.

This rationalist-reactionary synthesis is discussed in more detail in Intellectual Solvent, Part 3:

In Solvent Part 2, I elaborate on etiology of the alliance or camaraderie between certain forms and liberalism and NRx, arguing that intellectual bonds may be stronger than political ones, but other reasons include:

- Rejection of majoritarianism. As I explain in a post about utilitarianism, both NRx, on the right, and utilitarians, on the left, believe majoritarian systems – be it a government or even a classroom – are inefficient and or corrupt, preferring systems where like-minded smart people make decisions, not the ignorant masses. For NRx, it’s to promote ‘right wing’ causes; for the ‘left’ it’s to promote ‘liberal’ causes.

Zizek and NRx/’alt right’ are united against ‘low information’ discourse by the mainstream media, that attempts to reduce complicated topics into easily digestible, politically-correct narratives…don’t expect any Fox News or Huffington Post-like soundbites from either. It’s like, ‘I’m a Marxist, and you’re a reactionary, but we can both agree the mainstream media insults our intelligence.’ By ‘politically correct’, I don’t just mean ‘leftist’, but rather the platitudinous thinking that constitutes much of mainstream conservative and liberal discourse.

Other similarities include:

They oppose reductionist narratives and structuralism (trying to treat the social sciences as a physical science, such as by grouping humans into socioeconomic categories, or ‘theories’ or ‘grand narratives’, as Marxian economic determinism tries to do).

This is related to Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, ‘in which he analyzes the notion of knowledge in postmodern society as the end of ‘grand narratives’ or metanarratives, which he considers a quintessential feature of modernity.’

This is also related to Materialism, which can be divided into Economic Materialism and Dialectical Materialism:

Materialism asserts the primacy of the material world: in short, matter precedes thought. Materialism is a realist philosophy of science,[13] which holds that the world is material; that all phenomena in the universe consist of “matter in motion,” wherein all things are interdependent and interconnected and develop according to natural law;..

Marxists tend to believe in Economic Materialism, related to the Marxist dialectic that the proletariat are victims of economic forces:

The end result of economic determinism in this view is both economism (a narrow focus on how people earn their livelihood) and economic reductionism (the attempt to reduce a complex social reality to one factor – the economic – such that this one factor causes all other aspects of society). This, according to some,[who?] plays directly into the hands of the business class, and ultimately ends in an anti-working class position, whereby the allegiance of the working class is just a “tool” to be used by the political class to modernise an economy, with the aid of forced labour, if need be.

Žižek is Hegelian Marxist, favoring Dialectical Materialism over Economic Materialism:

In contrast to the conventional Hegelian dialectic of the day, which emphasized the idealist observation that human experience is dependent on the mind’s perceptions, Marx developed Marxist dialectics, which emphasized the materialist view that the world of the concrete shapes socioeconomic interactions and that those in turn determine sociopolitical reality.[11] Whereas some Hegelians blamed religious alienation (estrangement from the traditional comforts of religion) for societal ills, Marx and Engels concluded that alienation from economic and political autonomy, coupled with exploitation and poverty, was the real culprit.[12]

This seems to agrees with the reactionary viewpoint, which blames religious alienation, not ‘worker exploitation’ as the source of societal ills.

They are more interested in intellectualism and ‘pursuit of truth’ than tribal loyalty; both Zizek and ‘alt right’ have offended their liberal and conservative constituents, respectively, by going off the reservation on some issues. An example is Žižek speaking out against open-border policies in Europe:

The greatest hypocrites are those who call for open borders. They know very well this will never happen: it would instantly trigger a populist revolt in Europe. They play the beautiful soul, superior to the corrupted world while continuing to get along in it. The anti-immigrant populist also knows very well that, left to themselves, people in Africa and the Middle East will not succeed in solving their own problems and changing their societies. Why not? Because we in Western Europe are preventing them from doing so.

Additionally, a shared dislike of enlightenment ‘ideals’, such as the rejection of majoritarianism forms of government (demos) and rejection of the concept of ‘unalienable rights’ (natural law vs. divine right). The far-right is skeptical of capitalism, because capitalism – and open borders and free trade that it often entails – may be affront to traditionalism and nationalism. Marxists reject capitalism categorically, as an affront to ‘worker rights’. ‘The Enlightenment’ is predicted on optimism of human nature and progress, whereas the far-left and far-right have a more negative outlook. The political spectrum may be curved, likened to a loop or a horseshoe, with the far-left and far-right sometimes merging (12 o’clock) opposite to centrism (6 o’clock), which could explain the similarities.

Bashing neoconservatism and neoliberalism seems to be pretty popular these days, by anyone who isn’t either. These two ideologies are convenient scapegoats for everything that is wrong with the world. Neoconservatism was the dominant flavor of the ‘right’, beginning in the early 80′s with Reagan, and then ending in 2015 when Trump upset the ‘old order’, splitting the party.

The ‘shared narratives’ concept seems relevant here. For example, a shared interest in existentialism, economics, and futurology.

But more importantly, we agree political correctness has gotten out of hand, and that society needs a frank, honest discussion about issues like race, rather than pandering. I’ve noticed that the far-left has more respect for those who push back and challenge their views, with substantive counterarguments, than those who nod and go along, or pretend to agree. Mainstream liberals and conservatives however seek the predictably of echo chambers and self-reinforcement.

The Daily View 3/8/2016

Homework is wrecking our kids: The research is clear, let’s ban elementary homework

And the Reddit discussion, which is more valuable than the article.

A common thread among commenters, growing up, is that homework was tedious and useless, yet scored high on tests, which is a common trait among smart people, who tend to test well. Salon is right, and I recommend homework be replaced with competency tests, which would not be as heavily influenced by patents nor waste hours of time. Or base grades only on tests. This is similar to the solution proposed to replace costly, time-consuming college diplomas with SAT and IQ tests, which are more accurate at assessing learning potential. Employers want employees who can learn quickly, and IQ and learning speed and job performance are highly correlated.

America has locked up so many black people it has warped our sense of reality

Black people are twice as likely as white people to be out of work and looking for a job. This fact was as true in 1954 as it is today.

That’s what happens when an achievement gap is an IQ gap. War on poverty, civil rights movement, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent on public education, entitlement spending, and other programs have not closed the crime gap, incarceration gap, nor the achievement gap. This is discussed in more detail here, here, here, and here.

How low will interest rates go?

They are going much lower. Would not surprise me to see the 10-yr bond go to .4% should the US economy enter another recession. All it takes is some weak data or the market falling a bit, and those bond yields drop like a stone. Low rates good for homeowners. James is right about deflation, not inflation, being in store for the future.

As more evidence of a SJW-backlash, Time magazine, a liberal publication, is being ridiculed on Twitter for putting Evelyn Waugh on a list of female writers. This also helps dispel the myth that liberals are more educated than conservatives.

It’s the left who are against web 2.0, calling it a ‘bubble‘ and ‘racist‘, when neither are true.

I mean, it wasn’t exactly the price. A mutual fund valuation committee’s decision that, say, Zenefits is worth 30 percent less than it was a few months ago doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone bought or sold shares at the new lower price.

Exactly. Fidelity and T. Rowe Price ‘markdowns’ are NOT the same as shares changing hands at a lower price, and there is no evidence shares of the hottest, most successful web 2.0 companies have done so. Valuations for Snapchat, Uber, Air BNB, and Pinterest keep rising. Only low-quality start-ups have seen valuations fall. Not a single web 2.0 company or stock I have praised has done poorly, and my predictions keep being right over and over, owing to my extensive knowledge about the consumer internet technology industry.

Related: Not Worried About Tech Valuations: Why It May Be Different This Time

Why he left

Why are so many smart people such idiots about philosophy?

Philosophy is important for more than just a while, and has serious, practical uses for all of society. There are countless examples of philosophy of mind theories’ relevance to neuroscientists, or cases where political philosophers have shaped politicians.
Historically, physics and mathematics have often overlapped with philosophy, and many great scientists engaged with philosophers to advance their own thinking. (Einstein’s work can be studied alongside that of Kant, for example.) The physicist behind the theory of relativity was also a philosopher of science and, as Hall points out, Einstein reconfigured our concepts of space and time—itself a philosophical undertaking.

This is further evidence we’re in a philosophy ‘boom’, with philosophy almost becoming a ‘STEM’ subject, with applications ranging from computer science, to quantum physics, to neurology.

Related: Neil deGrasse Tyson and Philosophy

And from Nerd Culture: Here to Stay:

I actually thing we’re in a philosophy boom, with recent developments in quantum mechanics and the synthesis between the two subjects. There is a lot of research in this area, about quantum mechanics, thought experiments (Chinese room), turing tests, complexity/computational theory of mind (Bostrom simulation argument, singularity) and connection to free will and other philosophical concepts. Philosophy becoming more STEM-like

He’s right: Learn To Code, It’s Harder Than You Think

All the evidence shows that programming requires a high level of aptitude that only a small percentage of the population possess. The current fad for short learn-to-code courses is selling people a lie and will do nothing to help the skills shortage for professional programmers.

It’s hard enough teaching kids algebra, let along coding, which is many magnitudes harder. And, no, HTML or ‘drag-and-drop’ doesn’t count.

People who are good at coding are ‘wired for success’ in today’s economy and will continue to earn more money than most people. Coding is the ‘new literacy’, but a lot harder and pays much more.

This story about being a fat passenger on a plane went viral. The viralness is evidence of the power of stories and narratives over consumerism and low-information pandering, even though I don’t agree with the article.

Southwest famously let director Kevin Smith board, then publicly escorted him off the plane for looking too fat for his seat. United will refuse to board you unless you agree to purchase an additional ticket at the day-of price, and who has $600 to spare? I check first class prices, where seats are slightly wider and put me at less risk of passenger complaints. $1000. I move on.

If you can afford to overeat, you can afford to buy an extra seat. I’m sure you pay in other ways such as an increased food bill, higher insurance premiums, and more doctor visits for obesity-related health problems. If you were really concerned about saving money, you would lose weight.

In that way, air travel is sadly familiar, a microcosm of what happens so often as a fat person. I am watched — and judged harshly — as I try — and fail — to fit into a space that was made for someone else.

This is part of the culture of ‘self’, where personal problems becomes vectors for sympathy and status seeking. It’s not the same as narcissism since this is often used in self-deprecating manner.

The Esoteric Celebrity

Intellectualism, wealth, and the entanglement of the two has become the new nobility or religion in America today, with thousand – maybe millions – of disciples and acolytes following in the footsteps of our ennobled intellectual sainthood and priesthood. We aspire to be like them, to emulate their mannerisms because they are the new ‘ruling class’, in much same way the British fawn over the King and Queen, although our tech and intelligentsia nobility is much smarter and economically useful than Britain’s consanguineous nobility, who are figureheads that draw upon the commonwealth – literal welfare queens.[1]

This new nobility has given rise to affectations intended to signal intellectual-worth, which in our increasingly technological, winner-take-all economy has become inseparable from self-worth. We all want to be philosophers (or at least perceived as smart as one) as well as economists, scientists, and objectivists. I want to be a part of it, too. In post-2008 America, STEM and STEM-like subjects like philosophy and economics are more respected than ever in the marketplace (in terms of higher wages), online (as measured by shares, viralness, approbation), and in pop culture (as measured by appropriation), too.

The culture of intellectualism is evident and thriving in both the mainstream and esoteric. Complicated, esoteric articles by philosophers and scientists are always going viral whereas social justice articles can’t even get off the launchpad without the help of multi-million dollar media properties like Salon or The Atlantic.

For example, here is one such esoteric article that went viral, combining both philosophy and economics, and is further evidence we’re in a philosophy ‘boom’ both in the field of philosophy and on social media, where such articles readily go viral. Philosophy, as of 2008, has extended its tentacles over many fields as varied as economics, physics, exobiology, and computer science. I hereby nominate philosophy as a STEM field. While it may not pay as much or have as many immediate real-world applications as the hard sciences, it’s still intellectually demanding and has become an inseparable component of the STEM-patchwork.

And as further evidence of the rise of the esoteric celebrity, consider “The Duck” aka “@jokeocracy”, who infamously ‘martyred’ his account in protest of Twitter censorship and political correctness, sending reverberations throughout not only the ‘alt right’, but the far-reaches of the internet. He’s part NRx, part-STEM, part Red Pill…he embodies an aesthetic of coolness, erudition, and authenticity that few will ever achieve. In addition to the stock market, the marketplace of ideas is the only market that matters, and Duck, metaphorically speaking, is a ‘blue chip’ in that regard. His account is suspended indefinitely, but the memory and screenshots of his tweets will live on. [2]

Or consider Davis Aurini, a pioneer of neo masculinity, whose website Stares at the World, which covers philosophy, artificial intelligence, culture and men’s right’s, receives thousands of views, and although most people are not smart enough to appreciate his work, many do, and his Youtube channel has over 10,000 subscribers. Of course, he’s not a famous as Jenna Marbles, but he successfully carved out a niche of his own. And although makeup tutorials may seem low-brow, the women who make thousands of dollars with them typically are not.

For the mainstream, consider the rise of ‘selfie culture’ as a sign of intellectualism and individualism in rejection to pre-internet era leftist collectivism. Some call it narcissism, but it could also be about rejection, even if subconscious, of leftist ideals. Being a ‘rock star’ of yesteryear was a collective endeavor involving a multitude of parties – agents, managers, record labels, TV & radio stations, etc – but today’s ‘rock stars’ – internet celebrities, socialites, and other unconventional celebrities – are bucking the leftist pull of conformity and collectivism, striking ‘gold’ on their own terms and keeping almost all of the proceeds instead of splitting it up among dozens of middlemen that can be likened to tax collectors. As evidenced by the inexorable decline of union membership, for example, the economy more than ever is rewarding individualism over collectivism, and this shift is evident both in culture and economics.[3]

As part of how INTP/J people rule the world, this also ties in with employers, too, viewing ‘social skills’ and extraversion (collectivist traits) as crutches for the incompetent, instead deeming IQ, quantifiable results, and competence (individual traits) as more important, especially since 2008. Silicon Valley pioneered this results-orientated culture, with great success and prosperity, which has caught on to the rest of corporate America:

Silicon Valley is the center of the universe – a bastion of innovation, capital creation, risk taking, and an unassailable meritocracy where anyone, regardless of national origin, age, or professional status can become instantly rich through hard work and intellect. We’re witnessing a concentration of wealth for the top 1% of IQ, but stagnation for everyone else. This trend will continue. To be smart is a ticket to prosperity in today’s hyper-meritocracy; to be dull is to be condemned to a lifetime mediocrity.

In the great fragmentation, we’re all weirdos and nerds now, or at least many aspire to be, because those are the people who are getting most of the fame and fortune since the 2008 financial problem (we don’t call it a crisis) and the super-effective bailouts that followed, which set the stage for the rapture of the cognitive elite that, for years earlier had been encumbered by excessively high interest rates.

From The Daily View: We’re All Becoming Weirdos

When the 2008 financial problem struck, and in the years that followed, corporate America, in response to deteriorating balance sheets and falling share prices, culled millions of overpaid, unproductive employees – temping, outsourcing, automating, or simply eliminating many of those jobs. But incomes and job opportunities for coders, quants, mathematicians, and economists – people who produce quantifiable results – have fared much better.

The point is, it’s time to make yourself useful (intellectually) if you want to be relevant and a participant in today’s competitive economy, creative class, and knowledge-based economy and society. Or you can wondering why you’re getting nowhere in life waiting in vain for the crisis that will never come or the social cycle to turn its dial.

[1] Under a reactionary monarchy, only the demonstrably competent would rule, not figureheads. Not sure how succession would work in the event of incompetent heirs.

[2] He made a new twitter account but the page no longer exists. I think he made a promise to delete his new account, which he followed through on.

[3] A possible exception to this is the publishing industry, in which I support the ‘gatekeepers’ in filtering out the unending conveyor belt of crud while rewarding authors who do have demonstrable talent. Although some independent authors are very successful, these tend to be the smarter ones who already have established presences offline and or online. Authors who go the conventional route can make decent careers in writing, whereas most self-published authors make very little.

NRx and Positivism

Good essay on positivism and how NRx differs from other branches of the ‘alt right’:

As mentioned in my previous post the Dissident Right can be broadly divided into the “feeling Right” which is typified by the Alt-Right and the “thinking” Right which, I feel, is typified by Neoreaction.

NRx is more about ideas than the person behind them. This is in contrast to WNs, who tend to hold Nordicism as exemplar. Thinking vs. Feeling is the demarcation between the emotive ‘alt right’ and NRx, which is more cerebral.

On a related note, from Jim’s blog: In support of Roosh

Apparently some on the ‘right’ think Roosh is a traitor because of his ‘lifestyle’ or being Iranian.

If every feminist & SJW is after Roosh, he is doing something right. Online, WNs had a 20+ year head start (since the launch of Storefront in 1995 or so) to get their movement off the ground, and they have largely failed. They, the WNs, don’t want others on their turf.

What distinguishes NRx from the Alt-Right is concern for the facts. The Alt-Right has no need for facts, it wants to embrace the myths, to be on the side of the God’s and, in that way, resembles some of the worst aspects of the Left (who were on the side of the Angels in Vietnam, for instance.) For Neoreaction, empirical observations matter and NRx forms its opinions and insights from the due consideration of the them.The critique of universal democracy, for instance, is not grounded in a “preference” or bias for for other systems of government, or the myth of aristocracy, rather it comes from a considered understanding, based upon the empirical observations of the “average voter”. If Neoreaction had a motto, it would be Solzhenitsyn’s, “Live not by lies”.

This seems similar to my earlier post on centrism and how empirical evidence should be our guiding principle, not irrational hopes, dreams, and aspirations. We want to believe in change, but first we must understand.


-NRx takes the principal of the primacy of empirical data over theory and incorporates it into a wider data set. -NRx is a sort of fusion between traditional concepts of the scope of empirical data with the positivist insistence on the primacy of data. It’s a fusion product. This, however, puts -NRx explicitly against traditionalism, insofar as traditionalists elevate custom above the truth. This, itself is not a bad thing, given traditionalism’s utter failure to combat the Left. New approaches need to be tried.

I’m already there. On the bottom of this site, I list a bunch of ideologies and philosophies that are directly or tangentially related to NRx, and ‘positivism’ is one of them.

He also notes the ideological friction or between the traditionalists and the rationalists of the right, the latter (which this blog belongs to) elevating the empiricism above orthodoxy. It could be a cognitive dissonance to hold both as equally valid.

However, ‘theory’ need not be categorically rejected just because we embrace empiricism. Kant was able to reconcile the two through the synthetic a priori, which I discuss in detail here.