“A Primer on the Right” by R. E. Salyer

Salyer points out that an important characteristic of the Left is the demand for justification.[1] However, why we love one woman, family, community, nation, rather than another cannot be justified. Any quality the beloved might have will be possessed by another. The cultures of other countries have their own charms, not necessarily existing in our own country, too. The Right, however, believes in loyalty, and loyalty and justification cannot coexist. The rationalist demand for justification is irrational. Rationalism per se is irrational. The truly rational acknowledge the limits of reason and accommodate mystery. The demand for justification cannot be justified, but the limits on justification can.

Tradition is a product of trial and error – a combination of what works and historical happenstance. Cooking styles will be influenced by locally available produce and, at times, climate. Extremely spicy food is connected to hot climates which accelerate spoilage. Can a Frenchman justify his love of French cooking versus Chinese? Not really. And yet, his loyalty to his own cuisine is good and beautiful. Without the love of French cuisine, it ceases to exist.

Axioms cannot be justified – or rather, they are self-justifying. Without self-evident axioms there is nihilism, the characteristic of the Left. And then, the Left accepts only empirical statements as legitimate. Empiricism is synonymous with objectivity and thus measurement. The Good, the desire for the True, and the Beautiful cannot be measured and thus cannot be justified. This is why spiritual, nonmaterial reality, is necessary to avoid nihilism.

If you are for nothing, but against pain and suffering,[2] then you are for death. Only death stops pain and suffering, and with nothing positive to live for, to fight for, then there is no countervailing force. Post-Enlightenment man regards the Good as subjective, and since the time of Locke, the subjective is synonymous with the not real.

Salyer comments that the West has moved generally towards the Good, True, and the Beautiful. This is probably true to a certain extent, so long as any Hegelian-style inevitability has been stripped from it. If morality were determined for the uninitiated by studying actual historical institutions, rather than Christian ideals, the results might be rather dismal. He also supports the right of conquest. Whether we accept it or not, it is a fact of life and always has been, including in Native American culture. At this point in time, the Left seems to have intellectually and institutionally vanquished the Right. The miracle of Trump was of this lone figure in a sea of corruption – more like Jack Nicholson in China Town, than Shane – a nihilistic horror where every city councilor and judge is corrupt. Where every single institution is corrupt, what is the hero saving?

A crucial problem for the Left is that the sanctity of the person cannot be justified[3] in a secular world and that is why any semblance of morality they have relies on a metaphysics that they reject and it presumably explains how the Left has managed to lose its mind. “Morality is an invention from a naturalistic perspective.”[4] Since the Good cannot be empirically justified, neither can hierarchies; “with no Truth in Goods or Beauty to serve as a gauge, there exists no bases to answer with a theoretical justification for human inequality of any kind. Without the capacity to ground hierarchy or a structure of values on objective Truth, equality replaces inequality as the default.”[5] Ken Wilber used the term “leveling” to characterize Left egalitarianism. There are people whose every utterance on many issues could be summarized by that one word. What is it that distinguishes great literature from trash? “Leveling.” The actual sentence? “There is no difference between great and poor literature. It is all a matter of taste and who is to say whose taste is superior to whose?” What is this really? Literary nihilism. The same nihilism that leveling inevitably promotes, because all structure, all moral hierarchy, all order is annihilated by the leveling impulse. Plato’s Cave gives a picture of a hierarchy of existence. This gives the Right the ability to acknowledge all sorts of truths garnered from literature, to mystical experience, whereas the Enlightenment Left restricts knowledge to science, totalizing it.

Salyer writes that the Right admits that a leap of faith is necessary when it comes to the purpose of existence,[6] leading to a possible feeling of self-consciousness I refer to in Outlandish Freedom. The metaphysical humility and skepticism of the Left avoids this sense of going beyond the truly demonstrable and provable, but at the cost of nihilism. Salyer writes that the epistemological skepticism[7] has no historical precedent, but Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things seems like a possible precursor.

If Robert Nozick is representative of the majority of Left thinkers, as Salyer considers him, then the idea that natural abilities should not produce social privileges, shows how dysfunctional this point of view is. Rule by the more competent has no sensible alternative and competency-based hierarchies are the most legitimate of all social ordering devices.[8]

The Left claims the freedom to be self-defining; to define one’s desires and purposes. While the Right denies the freedom “to define one’s own concept of existence, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”[9] Since these things are my primary philosophical interests, I suppose I must be Left in this regard, although he later describes the Liberal as making “our own purpose from within ourselves without recourse to objective reality,” which seems like something else all together.[10] The result is “material collectivism but moral anarchy.”[11]

Salyer does a nice job of critiquing John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, a book he considers emblematic of the Left. It is archly abstract and hyper-rationalist. We are to imagine a veil of ignorance in thinking about the nature of a just society. If we do not know what position we will hold in this hypothetical society, we will make sure that no societal situation is too bad. A reductio ad absurdum consequence of this, Salyer points out, is that national borders would be abolished in case we were to find ourselves stuck in some hellish country with no way to leave. And raising children in a particular religion would be forbidden as giving too much influence of earlier generations over later ones, although not raising a child with religion is just as much to influence them in another direction, and parental influence is ineliminable.

In a section entitled “How the Left Fails,” Salyer describes a fascinating conundrum where the Left believes in self-actualization and choice, but prohibits actually making choices concrete, and pursuing a particular good. Evaluation is condemned. We have choices but should not exercise them. Anything to do with the Good, True, and Beautiful is just meaningless preference, so what real value do they have? To take your choices seriously is to believe that they are better than their alternatives, to stand up for them, show loyalty to them, and to pronounce them good. As soon as choices are made concrete, the Leftist has adopted the position of the Right.

There is a strange process where the Left seems to be trying to expand the range of socially acceptable behavior, such as releasing women from domestic duties and into the workforce in some kind of imaginary self-realization – as though work for perhaps the majority of people were not drudgery. And then, why assume heterosexuality as the norm? Let’s be lesbian and homosexual if you feel like it. But, this “liberation” becomes just as programmatic as the old rules, and women who choose to stay at home and look after children are sex traitors and are commonly vilified as retrograde counterrevolutionaries. The fact that two biological parent families raising children is eminently functional and in the best interests of children, those most vulnerable members of society, is irrelevant. The idea seems to be that we all become blue-haired lesbian activists and “normies” disappear. Of course, society disappears without parents. Those of us with fewer than two children are parasitic on those who do, just as 1960s hippies were typically, in the beginning at least, from nice middle-class homes, and lived off welfare checks provided by the taxes of those working 9 to 5 jobs – the squares. It turns out that Left “values” and preferences are pretty doctrinaire after all. The Left has adopted an anti-child stance, including literally not having them, and see immigrants as a solution – except this is once again parasitic and it is also exploitative. Salyer refers to immigrants as playing the role of an organ donor.

Multiculturalism, which rules out a preference for one culture over another, just means the end of culture. If no preference, no prejudice, no favoritism is evinced for a family or culture it ceases to exist. Multiculturalism is self-nullifying as I argue in Cultural Diversity. Once all cultures are uniformly cosmopolitan, as is the supposed ideal, then they are all the same and diversity disappears.

Salyer critiques Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies. The open society is supposed to tolerate the intolerant and not to exclude, but really the “mandate for universal tolerance collapses into nothing more than the Liberals’ own preference. It is tolerance only for those who prefer to live as the tolerant do, with No Society.”[12] Material needs are everything and teleology is nothing. Compelled inclusivity is the end of society. Bias and favoritism is a precondition for its continuance. The Right can tolerate “those who do not share their mode of life”[13] but the Left cannot tolerate them and their intolerance and exclusivity. Down with the normies and up with the hippies and the alphabet brigade. “Respect for the past inhibits freedom of the present.”[14]

Salyer points out that for the Left, but not for the Right, liberal democracy is an ideal, rather than a means to an end. And if any democracy does not affirm liberal principles, then they are not a legitimate democracy.

Salyer ends with the statement that the Right is condemned, not for its actions, but for what it desires and values. The rootless Left cosmopolitan has no loyalties to place or culture, and thus depends on those who do – since the latter are the only ones with any interest in maintaining the continued existence of those places and cultures. Satisfying material needs is not nearly sufficient for human societies to function. Hedonistic 1960s communes were devoted to the “happiness” of adults and the children tended to be a neglected afterthought. The antinatalism movement takes this further and discourages having children at all, and this time explicitly because children are seen as a drag on adult happiness. They take a bug of the 1960s counterculture and turn it into a feature. It is, of course, not sustainable and nihilistic, as is so much about the Left’s worldview.

I’ll end with my:

Recipe for Destroying the Planet

Create an elite class of cosmopolitan technocrats with no allegiance to any country or city; equally happy to live in Paris, London, New York, Tokyo. Do this through enormous international corporations, with the same qualities, and selecting candidates needed to perform corporate functions. This will work better if all sentimental attachments to home, city, and country are jettisoned and demonized as parochial nationalism promoted by benighted Neanderthals living in flyover country. This creates Globalism – a mixture of economic interdependence, watered down deracinated Western culture, promoting cosmopolitanism, “tolerance,” and the attempt to make any odd subculture feel “accepted” and normalized, while at the same time trying to dismantle any idea of normalcy.

Then, once this universalist Western point of view is entrenched, helped by the EU downplaying national differences in a collectivist direction, flip the time bomb that declares that Western Civilization is the evil product of white men and must be dismantled. The countries parasitized by Globalism then self-destruct under seething waves of self-hatred. Make sure that any forces promoting order are vilified and delegitimatized in case resistance is encountered. The police, the courts, schools, colleges, news media, intelligence agencies, and even the army, must be employed to keep up the self-hating agenda. Prepare the way by decades of propaganda and “education.” Any college department not already exclusively devoted to cultural hatred in the form of (grievance) “studies” departments are, must be converted and compelled to participate.

The American experiment has failed and is taking the rest of the civilized world with it. But, on the bright side…

[1] p. 32

[2] p. 33

[3] p. 35.

[4] p. 49

[5] p. 32-33.

[6] p. 45

[7] p. 46

[8] This is a point oft repeated by Jordan Peterson.

[9] p. 52

[10] p. 60

[11] p. 61

[12] pp. 73-74

[13] p. 74

[14] p. 81

10 thoughts on ““A Primer on the Right” by R. E. Salyer

  1. Ownership and belonging are the justification for special care. To belong to a person or group is to have special duty to that which you belong too. If a person belongs to you, a wife, a child, a subordinate, you have special duty to care for them and ensure their needs are met over and above anyone else.

    Long before they attacked anything else they attacked ownership and belonging [ultimately leading to the abolition of] family, state, and law and order. [edited]

  2. Many thanks to you Richard for another refreshing essay.

    In a similar vein, folks may be interested in a short contra utilitarianism piece that I wrote recently:

    https://theoriapress.wordpress.com/2021/05/10/elements-of-an-ethics-textbook-3-1-seven-reservations-with-utilitarianism/

    “Utilitarianism has a straightforward and immediate appeal to many people; after all, why wouldn’t we wish to reduce suffering and maximise pleasure? In fact, there are a number of reasons to harbor reservations against the utilitarian doctrine. These include, but are not limited to seven of which I will attempt to present below.”

  3. “There is no difference between great and poor literature. It is all a matter of taste and who is to say whose taste is superior to whose?”

    There is a partial truth here if you replace the word “taste” with “ideology”: “The difference between poor and great literature is all a matter of the ideology contained therein, the ideology of the teacher pushing it, and the ideology of the student.”

    “Salyer points out that an important characteristic of the Left is the demand for justification….The rationalist demand for justification is irrational. Rationalism per se is irrational. The truly rational acknowledge the limits of reason and accommodate mystery. The demand for justification cannot be justified, but the limits on justification can.”

    Pauline Christianity is all about justification, and therefore Leftist. Whereas Jesus just taught to be devoted to God and live morally. But Paul is all about a minimal virtue signalling act that supposedly justifies (i.e. believing in his version of Jesus) and yet the pushers of this virtue signaling Pauline justification scheme always come back demanding you justify yourself again, and again, and again, and again. Contra to pre-Pauline Christianity (i.e. Christianity before Luther, but even better before Augustine) where you got baptized and then you just lived right and didn’t have to worry about some Lefty notion like “justification.”

  4. Are you under the impression that something about leftism prohibits a French person from preferring French food, or that such matters of taste need to be justified by appeal to first principles?

    For all the supposed cultural dominance of the left, you people act as if you’d never so much as glimpsed a real leftist, and ascribe to them all sorts of fantastical beliefs and practices.

  5. I was discussing the contents of the article, which includes this:

    Tradition is a product of trial and error – a combination of what works and historical happenstance. Cooking styles will be influenced by locally available produce and, at times, climate. Extremely spicy food is connected to hot climates which accelerate spoilage. Can a Frenchman justify his love of French cooking versus Chinese? Not really. And yet, his loyalty to his own cuisine is good and beautiful. Without the love of French cuisine, it ceases to exist.

    Axioms cannot be justified – or rather, they are self-justifying. Without self-evident axioms there is nihilism, the characteristic of the Left. And then, the Left accepts only empirical statements as legitimate. Empiricism is synonymous with objectivity and thus measurement. The Good, the desire for the True, and the Beautiful cannot be measured and thus cannot be justified. This is why spiritual, nonmaterial reality, is necessary to avoid nihilism.

    This does not accurately describe the left. It sounds more like a description of Thomas Gradgrind, the character in Dickens’ Hard Times who is a parody of utilitarian rationalism. But leftism is generally against that sort of thing; given that it is a characteristic of capitalism.

    Thomas Gradgrind, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir—peremptorily Thomas—Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind—no, sir!

    ‘You are to be in all things regulated and governed,’ said the gentleman, ‘by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact. You must discard the word Fancy altogether. You have nothing to do with it. You are not to have, in any object of use or ornament, what would be a contradiction in fact. You don’t walk upon flowers in fact; you cannot be allowed to walk upon flowers in carpets. You don’t find that foreign birds and butterflies come and perch upon your crockery; you cannot be permitted to paint foreign birds and butterflies upon your crockery.

  6. The Left is not about justification. They demand justification from the Right but they don’t give any justification of their positions. Most of the time is scorn, fallacies, ad-hominem attacks and saying things without justifying them. Saying the Left is rational in the time of the XY women is ludicrous.

    The Left is about desire and the Right is about reality (or about the limits of desire imposed by reality). Desire has two parts:

    1) Desire of doing anything I want (selfishness).
    2) Desire of being considered virtuous and considering myself virtuous.

    Obviously the two parts are contradictory. The Left is a sophisticated rationalization to indulge in selfishness while proclaiming virtue.

    For example, the fact that leftist do not love the family or the nation does not mean that they love mankind. It’s only that saying that you love mankind is cost-free (it is only a sentence) while loving your family means devoting time and effort.

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.