Everyone is a Realist

This from alfanl caught my attention:

The only blot on Landry’s internet career was his public accusation that Spandrell was toxic. This was silly. You can’t demand that a gloomy realist becomes a positivist. It’s like demanding that Trump talks like a Harvard man. It’s just not what they do. The day Spandrell’s blog becomes a motivational positivity blog will be the day World War 3 breaks loose.

Had no idea there was ‘beef’ between Spandrell and Ryan. You learn the most when high-IQ people (as Ryan and Spandrell no doubt are) engage in heated debate, because both sides will put forth their best possible arguments in order to ‘win’. Sometimes people get defensive when Jordan Peterson’s ideas are criticized, but philosophy, unlike dogma, is supposed to lend itself to critique. But I’ll use this as a segue to a post about philosophy.

Ryan writes, “Ultimately, he’s a Millenial. It all clicked. The whiny Eeyore act. The moaning about the eternal September hitting NRx but doing nothing about it. The never ending bitching.”

Millennials are the fruits of postmodernism, the first generation to be be raised by a fully indoctrinating left-wing public school system and pop culture, and whether they be left-wing or right wing-millennials, this pervasive cynicism and distrust of narratives that is characteristic of postmodernism is endemic to many, it seems. Events such as 911 and the 2008 financial crisis also shook their confidence and emboldened their distrust of narratives. Popular shows such South Park, The Simpsons, and The Daily Show, that draw laughs by mocking both sides of the political spectrum, are further examples of how cynicism and skepticism has become the new sincerity. The good news is, this makes NRx appealing to millennials and the generation that follows that, many of whom reject (or at least are highly skeptical) of the Whig narratives of The Enlightenment. But this incredulousness can possibly make them, at times, difficult to work with because they are so atomistic and don’t want to ‘toe the line’ or ‘suspend disbelief’ for any cause (this is especially true for smart millennials). This can also explain why millennials are delaying family formation, or why many millennials tend to be secular compared to older Americans.

Everyone believes they are ‘correct‘–some base this correctness with a bias towards science and materialism; others, religion and the metaphysical. In that sense, because everyone believes their beliefs are grounded in ‘reality’ and ‘data’ that is independent of the mind, everyone is a realist and a positivist; no one conceives an idea that they knowingly believe to be wrong [1], nor to people conceive ideas in a sensory and information vacuum: there is always some admixture of the empirical and rational, of the idealistic and the materialistic.

From ontology and epistemology come value statements, which are prescriptive rather than descriptive, and this is where most disagreement lies; issues such as immigration, government, economics, war, etc. Because everyone believes their values are correct, and not only correct but also premised on ‘logic and reason’, disagreement is inevitable.

Empirical evidence can be useful. If someone says ‘X is true’, but a lot of evidence shows it to be false, then it’s likely X is false.

Spandrell writes:

Razib Khan has had a similar epiphany, his one apparently being caused by his inside exposure to academic politics in the US. Razib Khan is an awesome blogger who’s been writing on history and human biodiversity for a decade already. If we were Chinese I’d call him 師傅 master and would have to be extremely polite with him. Razib knows his facts. He knows a whole lot of them.


But nobody likes facts. Well of course some people do. Razib Khan certainly does, as I do. But why? Because we’re good at it. We’re so much better than everyone else we know that we use the comparative advantage to try go get status. But people aren’t interest in the facts I give them. Why? Because being interested will make them lose, and me win. And they don’t want me to win, of course. Well my mother does (sometimes). But some people want me to lose, they want to win themselves. In this status struggle, the facts aren’t very important. They’re only a factor inasmuch as I make them a factor because I’m good at them so I use them to get status. But if my conversation partner is adamant at being hostile to me, he’ll deny the facts with extreme ease. All of them. You’ve all seen that happen. Especially on the internet.

This ties in with how facts are as important, if not more so, than values. For many millennials, values are downstream from facts. This ties somewhat with postmodernism, moral relativism, and the rejection of a preferential set of values (versus infinite number of valid values). This leads to problem that we see with Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, etc. regarding the folly that science can answer questions pertaining to morality and ethics, although such criticism is unoriginal and possibly wrong. And obviously, Spandrell has a defined value system, as his posts about declining birth rates show. You don’t need to be a theist or idealist to know that increased Islamic immigration plus declining birth rates of whites, means fewer whites relative to total population size.

But even empirical evidence can fail if one tries hard enough to rationalize it away, and some of these rationalizations may be very convincing or even correct. Or it can fail if one uses faulty evidence or makes an incorrect or fallacious inference from such evidence.

For example, a common argument  is “economists can’t say we’re not in a recession, because they don’t participate and or aren’t affected in the same way that someone who is unemployed is”. Quantifiable data in the proper context will almost always beat anecdotal evidence. The statement “Michael Brown being killed proves there is systemic racism against blacks” is not helpful in terms of understanding. The data however shows that blacks and whites die at the same rate by police, which is more useful. An unemployed person and a shot black man are both empirical evidence, just not very useful.

All we’re trying to do, regardless of our philosophical or political approach, is to be ‘more right’, ‘less wrong’, and ‘more correct’.

Rather than idealism vs. realism, it’s more like idealism vs. pragmatism. The pragmatist , such as Spandrall, seeks solutions within the framework of what is already knowable, practical or feasible, rather than the idealist who seeks a solution that is much for far-reaching (such as restoring monarchy). Regarding alfanl, a positivist is not an optimist; rather, it pertains to epistemology. Christian idealists and secular pragmatists can be positivists. Nihilism is hard to define: one definition is that the present is meaningless. But it does not mean to have a negative disposition (pessimistic). If humans have no free will and or are subjected to autonomous, sweeping historical or economic forces (Hegelian and Marxist determinism), why should anyone try to change their fate. This is contrasted with existentialism. The existentialist may argue, like the nihilist, that although the world is meaningless, this can be rectified to some degree through the ‘self’. The ontological determinism of the secularist can be interpreted as negativity, due to unwillingness to suspend disbelief for the transcendent, but the Christian existentialism of Kierkegaard is a possible way out. But going back to the part about immigration, the nihilistic response would be, “who cares…I’ll be dead before it becomes a big enough problem to affect my life in any meaningful way”. Given that Spandrell is concerned about these issues, he’s not a nihilist. But it’s possible to have a deterministic view of the world and not be a nihilist, which means you care about issues but understand the limitations of trying to change them, which is part of the ‘blackpill mindset’.

[1] An obvious counterexample are politicians and PR people, where image and perception is more important than ‘truth’, but we’re assuming both sides are arguing in ‘good faith’.