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 lists rules for disposing of the possessions of the deceased, went viral, getting hundreds of votes. This is in contrast to boomers, who in the 60’s (as 20 and 30-year-olds) 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. In the 90’s, gen-x sought escapism through MTV, sitcoms, and alternative music. But millennials want to stay in the present and confront reality head-on, seeking understanding about complicated matters such philosophy, math, economics, and social theory, all of which are related to intellectualism, rather than indulge in disposable entertainment. Writers such as 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 Thomson’s Finding Your Purpose, a letter addressed to a fan, have been shared thousands of times on social media 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.

Regarding David Foster Wallace again, his critique of consumerist culture was wrong not because TV became less popular among the youth, but because consumerist culture itself began a decline some time in mid-2000, especially since 2013 with the rise of rise of minimalism and MGTOW. In the late 90’s, the youth collectively watched MTV; they all bought the latest boy band, rock, and pop albums (which told tens of millions of copies at $18/CD); they all watched Friends, 90210, Dawson’s Creek (or whatever else was popular at the time). It was very conformist and kinda dumbed-down. Then in 2008 [1] all that changed. Now (today’s) young people are streaming clips on their phones and listening to music on Spotify or iTunes instead of compulsively spending $18 on the latest album, and they are posting introspective stuff on sites such as Tumblr and Medium instead of just zoning-out to MTV. Everything has become smarter and more fragmented.

David Foster Wallace, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett can be likened to ‘atheist Protestants’ who seek earnestness and seriousness in a society that they perceive as cynical, ostentatious/materialistic, and hype-driven…they are analogous to the iconoclastic reformers of the 1500-1600’s. This ‘new morality’ is a repudiation of values, in favor of a minimialsitic, stripped-down, de-sensationalized, serious moral relativism. In photos, Dawkins and Dennett always have stern facial expressions and austere attire, bearing an uncanny similarity to the overly-serious Simpsons character Reverend Lovejoy, but instead of revering Jesus they revere Darwin, and they preach not from the Bible but rather from On the Origins of Species.

Moral relativism stands in contrast to moral absolutism (such absolutism can include right-wing absolutism (such as neo-fascism) and left-wing absolutism (SJWs, WOC/POC-left, antifa, BLM, etc.)).

From the post Inaction and Indifference as Rebellion:

Activism includes but is not limited to telling people what to do or what to believe. By that definition, mainstream liberalism and conservatism is activist. There is an authoritarian and conformist tone to it that implores the subject to do something; for example, for the left, ‘you must spread your wealth and check your privilege’, as part of a collective ‘good’. But, especially since 2013, both the ‘left’ and ‘right’, particularly millennials, are tired of having to ‘do’ things, to have to ‘believe’ things, or to have strong convictions about things. With the exception of SJWs and, to a lesser extent, the alt-right and Trump, millennials are tired of action and dogma, preferring inaction and indifference. Decades ago, young people rebelled through action (protests, Woodstock, drugs, cross-country motorcycle rides), but now ‘rebellion’ is through inaction: staying home and watching Netflix instead of partying, going MGTOW, abstaining from drugs and alcohol, minimalism, personal finance, learning coding, and eschewing careerism.

And from the post Millennials and Misconceptions:

Whereas older generations embraced activism and action ‘you must save the whales’ ‘you must get a job’ ‘you must fight the man, man’ ‘you must must start a family and buy a home’, millennials want to stay at home and ‘chill’, embrace pacifism, procrastinate, indulge in intellectual endeavors, or be ‘boring‘. But also millennials seek wealth, but on their own terms, and don’t wish to fritter their money on rapidly depreciating positional goods. ‘Careerism’ is a post-ww2 phenomenon that locks people into a rat maze where a big home or a fancy car, not cheese, is waiting at the exit. Millennials, generally, want none of that, and who can blame them. Rather, they are choosing MGTOW, Red Pill, minimalism, etc. as alternatives. For millennials, wealth is measured not just by how much money you have but also how much you know, too, which is why they value higher education (even if the degrees may not pay much and or require a lot of debt).

Such relativism and repudiation of values is also observed with the post-2008 rise of online postmodernism, which is also related to ‘intellectualism culture’ and rationalism. For smart millennials, values are less important than facts and premises. This is also related to the post-2013 decline ‘internet atheism’ [2] and the post-2013 SJW-backlash, but also as a consequence of the failure of OWS and the failure of Obama to affect change as discussed in Part 2. Online atheists, BLM, and SJWs seek to impose their values, but the post-2013 rise of rationalism and centrism is the pendulum of discourse returning to the ‘middle’ after swinging too far the the left.

This is discussed in more detail in the posts Intellect: The Universal Solvent, Centrism, Defending Postmodernism, Postmodernism: It’s about Facts, not Values, and The Culture War Is Inescapable

[1] Why 2008? This is discussed in Cambrian explosion’ of intellectualism about how the internet evolved, from being dominated by gen-x to being dominated by smart millennials.

[2] The ‘internet atheist’ movement died sometime around 2012-2014, coinciding when Reddit pulled /r/atheism from the front page. Online, there is significantly less hostility to Christianity than there was years ago, when bashing Christianity was seen as ‘edgy and cool’. Nowadays, bashing Christianity is seen as narrow-minded, essentially becoming a self-parody of the very thing atheism opposes. Such atheism has been replaced by atheist Protestantism, as discussed above.