Improper Reduction Weaponized

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.

19 thoughts on “Improper Reduction Weaponized

  1. Pingback: Improper Reduction Weaponized | The Alt-Right View

  2. This is why I’ve always liked the use of the word “personalism” by Dietrich Von Hildebrand. It values the person inside of a hierarchy of values, overlapping hierarchies in fact. In the spiritual sense, the individual human soul has an absolute value that is greater than the world and has an absolute loyalty to God transcending all competing loyalties. Within the framework of day to day existence, there are also values which can trump the individual in practice, but only when it doesn’t contradict the first value.

    The libertarians, the WNs, the SJWs, and even the Muslims to a degree are all living an idea where the “story” is one of individualism versus some version of collectivism. It’s a false dichotomy, both options are ideas ripped out of order.

    • … the “story” is one of individualism versus some version of collectivism. It’s a false dichotomy, both options are ideas ripped out of order.

      You’ve nailed it.

      • greenmantlehoyos:The libertarians, the WNs, the SJWs, and even the Muslims to a degree are all living an idea where the “story” is one of individualism versus some version of collectivism.

        You ought to include “neo-reactionaries” — that is, most of the contributors and commentors to this website — in that list.

        greenmantlehoyos:… individualism versus some version of collectivism. It’s a false dichotomy, both options are ideas ripped out of order.

        The difficulty is that we human beings want (and need) Goods that in our sinful state violently conflict when absolutized.

        What sets the Anglo-American tradition (*) apart from all the other -isms in the world — emphatically including the neo-reactionism of this website — is the recognition of that tragic truth, and the recognition that building and maintaining a just society involves balancing various Goods which cannot be absolutized without conflicting and thus destroying justice.

        (*) which was termed ‘liberalism’ until the American Progressives, needing to rebrand themselves, managed to hi-jack the label.

  3. Pingback: Improper Reduction Weaponized | Reaction Times

  4. Kristor: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.

    I wonder: what’s the improper reduction that you people are doing that leads you (plural) either to damn individual human liberty — and to fantasize about making common cause with the “old left” against people like me (*) — or to not bat an eye when another of you does it?

    (*) ‘liberals’ when the term is used properly, or ‘conservatives’ as we say in America.

    • … the “story” is one of individualism versus some version of collectivism. It’s a false dichotomy, both options are ideas ripped out of order.

      • I don’t get it. How does an insistence that it is inappropriate to reduce society to this or that item in its extensive schedule of factors constitute a reduction, proper or improper?

      • Look again at the question I asked you: what is the improper reduction [in which most of the regulars here engage that leads them] either to damn individual human liberty — and to fantasize about making common cause with the “old left” against [those whom you people call like to call “right-leftists”] — or to not bat an eye when another of you does it?

        How is it that one of you fantasizing about making common cause with the “old left” doesn’t make you all *stop* and think? It’s because your “neo-reaction” is based on the same improper reduction that the leftists make.

        You said of libertarians: “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.

        What is it that you people are doing? What is the improper reduction at the heart of your “neo-reaction” that leads you (plural) to damn individual human liberty?

      • We don’t damn individual liberty. I posted an essay only a few days ago arguing that it is best secured under monarchy. As for the Old Left: those guys are atheists. We’re Christians.

        So, I’m not sure what you’re after.

      • Kristor, you didn’t condemn the fantasy in the strongest possible terms, therefore you must secretly embrace the same fantasy. Or something like that.

        And btw, Ilion, yes, I know which commenter you’re talking about. It should be duly noted that he doesn’t claim to be a part of the “you”/”us” you insist he is.

      • As for the Old Left: those guys are atheists. We’re Christians.

        To quote myself:… It doesn’t matter whether the fellow deciding that “you have enough, you must ‘give’ your ‘excess’ wealth to me to give to someone else” calls himself a commissar or a bishop, it’s still socialism, and it’s still inherently murderous.

      • Last time I checked, Christian pastors – Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox – were, not extorting charity, but exhorting it.

        It is quite possible for the sovereign to succor the poor on his own account, and from his own fisc, without resorting to uncompensated takings from his subjects in order to finance that succor. Not that I think he should engage in direct subsidies to the poor. I think rather that such succor should be an entirely private project, mostly ecclesial. The role of the sovereign should be to fund that succor from his own largesse – which, NB, he should properly have gotten by strictly voluntary payments of tolls, tariffs, tonlieux, and transaction taxes. His donation should come, not from the treasury of the state, but from his own. It should, i.e., be a strictly personal donation. And it should be a public act of tremendous magnanimity, so that it can work properly as a virtue signal, to engender a virtue signaling arms race among the oligarchy at all levels of the popular hierarchy, right on down to the peasant with his dozen eggs for the next morning’s breakfast at the local priory.

        Virtue signaling is fine so long as it is mediated by true acts of virtue.

  5. The classical Liberal tradition, at its very best, always recognized that without a strong network of social organs standing between the individual and the State- “civil society”- the isolated individual is a sitting duck for illiberal government and State totalitarianism. But as long as it insists on working with only two categories in its social ontology, and conceives all social life in terms of self-sufficient individuals freely pursuing their interests, limited only by the public interest as defined and enforced by the State, the Liberal tradition cannot endow the organs of civil society with any special legitimacy, or even really conceive what they are (i.e. for Liberalism, the civil-society organ is a mere interest group or alliance of convenience: a “voluntary association” to which men owe no special loyalty, and can freely opt in and out without moral considerations).

    Anti-reductionism may be thought of as an intervention to save the very best aspects of Liberalism from the very worst. If we conceive the State as but a component in a wider societal organism, then by definition society assigns limits to the power of the State- something Liberalism *can’t* do as long as it holds up the State as the sole and final source of social unity. And claims to inalienable individual rights are inherently that much more convincing when made on behalf of the individual by a collectivity with real power and authority of its own. The effective driving force behind the American Bill of Rights, for example, wasn’t the abstract individual, but local powers (the several states) jealous of their autonomy vis-a-vis the Fed.

  6. Pretty much every libertarian I’ve ever met is a 19 year old who has read Atlas Shrugged.

    One of the basic truths to grasp onto when defending Christianity is that it is completely true regardless of utilitarian concerns (for some reason people ignore this fact incredibly often). It also encompasses all lesser truths. Because of this it can’t be reduced like other systems (for lack of a better word). Libertarianism, Marxism, Capitalism, and so on only go so far before you reach the bottom. With the Church you never reach the bottom: her depths are infinitely profound. Follow Christ’s teaching faithfully, truly, and completely and you will avoid a reductio ad absurdum every time.

    • Gloria in excelsis deo!

      A thrilling comment, Jim; thanks.

      Utility is possible only in respect to and as conditioned by Truth. Truth baptizes utility, makes it possible in the first place, achieves and redeems it; utility per contra cannot touch Truth, but only aspire thereto.

  7. Pingback: The Very Best of Last Week in Reaction (2016/06/19) – The Reactivity Place

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