When you carry an improper reduction into practice, you end up destroying valuable things – you make your theory a weapon. This can end in only two ways: you drop your weapon, or you use it to hack at yourself.
Take, for example, libertarianism.
Libertarianism and capitalism both take the individual as the basic unit of society. The individual is indeed basic. But taking the individual as the only unit of society – as rigorous capitalists and libertarians are wont to do – improperly reduces. It radically fails to account for social order, because it is blind to the entire hierarchy of social organs, each with its own coordinate life, that supervene upon individuals and form them as such. That’s like saying that a man is nothing but a bunch of atoms. A man is indeed a bunch of atoms. But he is much more than that, obviously. So likewise is society more than a bunch of individuals.
This is why there are so few rigorous capitalists and libertarians. There may indeed be none of them at all, for the very notion of communication or transaction between individuals, so well and rightly beloved of capitalists and libertarians, adds numerous entities to their explanatory scheme, all supervenient upon individuals. Languages and markets and cultures are projects and formations of groups. A single exchange between individuals either of words or of goods is as it were a social mayfly, a brief instance of something other than and including the individuals themselves.
Loyalties to superordinate social organs characterize their individual members, contributing to their constitution qua individuals. Loyalties leave literal marks on the central nervous system of an individual. Ask a man who or what he is, and he will begin to list his loyalties: son, husband, father, lawyer, American, Presbyterian, Stanford alumnus, corporate executive, board member, and so forth. Men missing the important loyalties are problematic. Cads and sluts are deprecated – and bastards, outcastes, refugees and strangers pitied – because they lack key loyalties normal to a healthy person, and crucial to the health of the social organism. Cads, sluts, frauds, liars, con artists, adulterers, traitors, and other sorts of criminals and transgressors of social bonds – these are all symptoms and vectors of social disease and breakdown.
Very well; but are social organs actually real? Are they entities?
An entity is an actual and concrete integration of forms, including the forms of its relations to other entities. That it is integral means that its essential forms cannot be alienated without destroying it qua what it is. A man can be a man without his legs, but not without his head. Delete the actualization of the form of the sodium atom from a molecule of salt, and the molecule ceases to exist. Likewise, delete the actualization of the form of the husband from a marriage and it decoheres, and ceases to exist. Social relations bind individuals together as really as the bonds between atoms bind them together in molecules. All such bonds are formal, and are mediated by transactions in which information is transmitted from one subvenient entity to another, informing it and stamping it with the character of the transmitted forms.
If entities are concrete integrations of forms, then nations, families, tribes, clans and the like are all actual entities. It is easier to see this with smaller social organs like the family or the marriage or the business partnership, but it can be seen also in nations. Delete what it is that makes the Japanese the Japanese, and Japan ceases to exist.
Back to the weaponization: policies based on the improper reduction of society to individuals have the inevitable effect of vitiating all other social organs than the individual and the state. The state either prevents their formal impositions on the individual, or captures their functions altogether (as when the Department of Education takes over direction of public schools from local school districts). They then fall into desuetude and irrelevance, until only a few old-timers remember them, or what they were for. If America continues along her present trajectory, then a century hence marriage and the family for example will be what the social clubs, granges and mutual aid societies so vital to the social life of 19th Century America are today: mostly gone.
Mark Steyn recently pointed out that if we are not going to have national borders, then we will be forced to erect borders at every public venue instead. Nor does it stop there. If we delete the boundaries that delineate one social organ – one nation, one city, one neighbourhood, and so forth – from another, then every man’s house must perforce become a castle. Under libertarianism and capitalism, taken to their limit, every man is his own nation, city, and neighbourhood, and therefore solely responsible for his own defense. Every man is then a nation, and Hobbesian war will be the result.
When improper reduction of any sort is enacted it sooner or later makes life impracticable. This is as much as to say that improper reductions simply can’t be carried into practice completely. You can say that we are not free, or that there is no such thing as the conscious mind, or that there is no absolute standard of moral value, no true objective right or wrong, or beauty, or truth, or access to reality; but you can’t act as if such statements were simply true. You can at most act as if they were partly true, and partly false. And this is to confuse both the mind and its acts, thus messing up lives. To forestall such messes, one must instead mess up praxis of one’s ideology.
The cognitive dissonance engendered by the impracticability of an ideology is itself carried into practice in unprincipled exceptions. Unprincipled exceptions are enacted cognitive dissonance.
One can hobble along for quite a while with their aid, mucking things up as one goes. But they cannot long suffice to cadge together a livable life, because, being wrong, and what is more wrong-headed, improper reduction is absurd, and therefore reduces its adherents to absolute absurdity (as with the current confusions over sex). Improper reduction is always an incipient reductio ad absurdum. Its apotheosis cannot anywise be carried into practice, for it avers some completely absurd falsehood. One cannot enact a complete falsehood, for that would be to make a falsehood somewise true. This is why we cannot possibly perform the operation that squares 2 and produces 5.
So is improper reduction eventually autophagous: devouring everything in its path, sooner or later it turns and rends itself. Revolutions always either fail, or devour their children, or both.
As its ultimate result, autophagy tells of evil. A commenter at Vox Popoli writes:
Evil is always ultimately self-destructive, suggesting [that] the latter, when found in a system, likely indicates the former. In other words, if a system (ideology, structure, philosophy, individual, or thought) contains within it the seeds of contradiction, be it internal or external, or systemic collapse, it’s a good bet it is against God and therefore evil. This is just as true for individuals with unresolved or incorrectly resolved cognitive dissonance, for example.
This is because God is both real and Creator of reality, and all that is in conflict with reality is necessarily in conflict with Him, too.