In defense of conservative authoritarianism

Some commenters are saying that the conservative veneration of authority is mere nostalgia, an outdated model of society, or even anti-Christian. I strenuously disagree-authority is a core category of the social world, and its moral quality cannot be understood without it. However, it must be properly understood. In particular, it must be clear in what sort of social analysis one is engaged when one speaks of authority.

Each society has what Marxists call an ideology, a set of officially-sanctioned concepts and beliefs that the society uses to articulate its explicit understanding of itself. The Marxists are correct to note that these ideological categories can be self-serving nonsense, and in our society they assuredly are. Consider our labeling of the most despised segments of society as “privileged” or the fiction of the public-private distinction according to which the major media, large corporations, and universities are not part of the government in some meaningful sense.

These pretensions can often be debunked by engaging in an amoral, “view from outside”, sociological analysis of how decisions are actually made and where power (including psychological influence) is actually held. When done honestly, analysis of this sort must be agnostic about all claims of right or justice, considering them only by the effect of such claims on power dynamics. This sociological-power perspective abstracts away much of the all-important “surface” of social life and is thus seriously incomplete, but it is perfectly valid in its own methodological domain. These are, then, two modes of understanding the social order: the ideological and the sociological.

The conservative analysis of authority belongs to neither of these, but to a third mode of analysis which I will call the analysis of moral experience. Like sociological analysis, this third mode abstracts from the narratives the society uses to explain itself; the truth or falsity of these is put to the side, and they are relevant only to the extent that they affect the moral “facts on the ground”. Unlike the sociological mode, analysis of moral experience includes all dimensions of man’s existential situation as a sexual, social, rational animal who finds himself already in a net of dependencies on those for whom he is responsible and those to whom he owes gratitude, who can only become an integrated moral being by having a rational ordering of the goods making claim upon his loyalty. It infers that, given basic biological and moral facts, not only men but also institutions have essential natures, that their functions and responsibilities are not entirely a matter of human choice. (One might call this the “Confucian principle”.) For example, one can imagine a government formed by social contract entirely for the protection of property. However, once an organization has aggregated to itself such power, it would be unjustifiable not to use it to protect life and to interest itself in basic aspects of the common good as well. In short, it must assume all the essential functions of government.

The duty to obey certain people precedes any legitimating narrative. You might object that this is logically impossible, that a sense of duty cannot precede its ideological justification, except that we have all experienced this. Government existed for millennia before anyone invented the theory of social contract; the theory of the divine right of kings is scarcely older; nor have commoners probably ever interested themselves much in rules of succession. I am aware of no extended arguments for the authority of parents; such a thing is obvious, a premise rather than a conclusion of political philosophy. When analyzing moral experience, we are not attempting to invent stories to justify these feelings of obligation. Nor do we attempt to debunk them–they are prima facie legitimate simply by virtue of existing. We just want to understand them.

When we observe authoritative relations, here are some things we find.

There are authorities but no absolute sovereign (unless we are analyzing in the sociological-power mode, e.g. Schmitt). That is, there are multiple Earthly authorities, all deriving their mandate directly from God, rather than one of them holding a plenitude of authority and delegating to the others. The government is one authority, but so are parents, priests, professional societies, and even humble homeowners (when you’re in his house, you follow his rules). The defining act of tyranny is overriding other authorities in their rightful claims over their subjects, rather than overriding some personal freedom.

To be a relation of authority, it must be ordered to a common good and a commonly recognized moral order, not merely transactional. It may take careful thought to determine if, in a given society, the relation of employers to employees is one of authority or merely one of exchange. Obedience becomes vexing when the holder of authority personally rejects aspects of the moral order. However, the holder of authority is to be distinguished from the operation of authority; as long as the latter is unaffected by the holder’s immoral beliefs, its prerogatives remain.

All authority derives from God, and is therefore a mode of His presence to us in the world and is therefore in a sense sacred and entitled not only to our obedience but also to our honor. The paradigmatic case of authority is, of course, fatherhood, and to the extent that an authority participates in the Form of fatherhood, it is entitled to a share in the reverence of filial piety.

An authority we are obliged to obey only when we agree with its orders is no authority at all. Usually, we are obliged to obey even orders that we think foolish and counterproductive. We should, of course, refuse to obey immoral orders. This restriction is broader than a requirement that we abstain from the positive commission of intrinsically evil acts. One should not, for example, obey an order that a man should not be fed even when there is sufficient food but rather allowed to starve, or (the spiritual analogue) that no one should teach him the Christian faith. By natural law analysis, starving a man is objectively murder just as much as shooting him, regardless of an intention merely to obey orders. Authority may still lawfully command that you refrain from giving him things not needed for his survival or not giving him knowledge not needed for his salvation. Prudence is undoubtedly needed in ascertaining the limits of lawful obedience.

We find that the extent of authority–both of who and what it may command–is quite variable, although there is more uniformity for certain “natural” authorities such as those of husbands, parents, and government, for which universal social Forms come into play. What is or is not theoretically authorized by the reigning political ideology is irrelevant per se to the moral facts on the ground.

Authority lays claim to obedience, not belief. We must obey our rulers, but we are under no obligation to consider their rules wise. Authorities may offer reasons to sway our belief, but they cannot command belief. We trust our parents (at least when we are young), but that is a separate matter from their authority. (An example of the latter would be helping your brother pick up his mess because your mother told you so, even though you still think it’s not fair.) The Church can rightly command our belief, but that is because she is infallible, which is a separate competence from her authority.

Saint Paul and Jesus Himself affirm that all authority on Earth comes from God. Satan remains the Prince of this world, not that he has any rightful authority over us–God forbid!–but that he remains the preeminent power. (You’ll have noticed that wars are almost always won by the more-evil side and how events always seem to conspire to advance the Left.) One might say that his princedom applies to the sociological-power analysis mode (imagining, if you will, a non-positivist, spiritually-aware power analysis) rather than to the mode of moral experience.

Obedience to authority is not a necessary evil, a regrettable consequence of the Fall. Nor is it a mark of spiritual childishness, something we are ideally destined to outgrow. It is an intrinsic good, a key way whereby men can experience their social world as rational, as integrated to the moral order and its Author.

40 thoughts on “In defense of conservative authoritarianism

  1. Thank you. A reasoned approach.

    You may be interested to read the book, “The Ancient City: a study on the religion, laws, and institutions of Greece and Rome”, by de Coulanges, which is about the origins of human social structure and hierarchy prior to the birth of Christ. While I have no criticism of your characterization of the Christian view on authority and obedience, and of course everything in this world is ultimately created by God, I am not sure all of your anthropological assumptions are supported by the evidence.

  2. That is, there are multiple Earthly authorities, all deriving their mandate directly from God …
    That is a nonsensical statement. Stalin, Pol Pot, the senile Joe Biden, Boss Tweed, Idi Amin, General Butt Naked, all endowed with the Mandate of Heaven? Absurd.
    This is what you do to bad authorities:
    https://i.imgur.com/7YViSlg.jpg

    • The statement seems nonsensical to you because you are conflating two quite different concepts.

      Satan derives his authority from God, who at every moment of his life sustains him in being and power and freedom. Same for you. Same for all agents whatsoever. For, God is the source of the being and nature of every thing.

      Authority comes first from God; but, so does everything whatsoever.

      That is not at all to say that God approves or in any way enacts or causes – or, a fortiori, mandates – the evil acts of Satan, Pol Pot, or you. On the contrary: evil acts are evil in virtue of the fact that they contravene moral logic; that, i.e., they contravene the Order of Being on which they are themselves founded; that, i.e., they contravene the Logos, the Will and Word of God. Thus it is that, because their moral logic is defective, evil acts tend to the destruction of their agents. Not necessarily their worldly destruction, NB (although mundane disaster does seem to dog the heels of the wicked), but to their spiritual destruction.

      The Mandate of Heaven is given to those who rightly exert the authority devolved to them from God. It is different from the prior fact of that devolution from God.

      In order to do evil in the first place, you must be, and have power to act. No man can procure those things by himself.

      And when a man has abused his authority, he is more likely than not to find that, having thereby lost the Mandate of Heaven, he has lost also the mandate of his fellow creatures, and so find himself by them rejected, bewildered, perhaps even destroyed.

      • If Pol Pot has God-given agency, and his subjects likewise have God-given agency to depose and execute him when they discern he strays from the Divine will, then what are we debating? It would seem that Bruce Charlton is right: it really does come down to individual discernment and not the secular alliances of the Church hierarchy (most of whom I’d bet vote Democrat, given their mania for immigration and transfer payments).

        You seem to have come around to the position that the earthly authorities must be obeyed when they command good, and disobeyed when they command evil. But “good” and “evil” are subjective concepts. For example, I know devout Orthodox and Catholic laity who think the masks and the vaccines are evil; I know devout Orthodox and Catholic laity who think the masks and the vaccines are good. I know clergy divided along the same lines.

        I think “what will keep me in bourgeois living standards” has become the touchstone here, and not religious loyalty and obedience to titular authorities. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I don’t want to get killed or maimed fighting for political causes of dubious success either. But let’s inject some honesty and realism into this debate instead of juvenile ideology.

      • But “good” and “evil” are subjective concepts.

        Sorry, that’s modernism, on which – because it says that good and evil are only *subjectively* “good” and “evil” – there is no such thing *really* as good or evil. Such is moral nominalism, on which it is impossible to found any suasive moral argument … other than the quintessential modern shrug and weak, unmanly surrender: “whatever.”

        On any proper – i.e., any truly actionable – notion of good and evil, they must be absolutes, to which we more or less epistemically approximate, and to which – however sharp or dull our wits in respect thereto – we are bound, willy nilly, by the very nature of reality.

        Some devout Catholics think masks evil, some think them good. Sure, OK; moral discernment can be tricky. But if either camp is to be informative – is, i.e., to be closer to the truth of the matter – why then there must be some objective truth of the matter out there about masks, to which either camp might approximate. Absent any such truth about masks, both camps are bound to espouse mere wicked noxious confusing noise. Indeed, absent any such objective truth, mere wicked noxious confusing noise is *the only thing there is.* In which case, “whatever” is the only possible counsel.

        It is a counsel of despair. It is the *opposite* of Nietzschean heroism and manliness (for, absent a vision of the good that transcends the self, the Will to Power is no more than a will to chaos and so to the dissolution of the heroic self). And, of course, it is the antithesis of all moral philosophies; it is the repudiation of moral philosophy per se.

        You seem to have come around to the position that the earthly authorities must be obeyed when they command good, and disobeyed when they command evil.

        Well, *of course.* How could it possibly be otherwise? *You must not sin.* If an earthly authority commands you to sin, *you must not obey.* There is nothing complicated about that.

        The difficulty of course lies in discerning whether a given command of an authority is wicked, or not. The responsibility of that discernment is inescapable, so long as we reckon that there are indeed authorities. If simply *all* authorities are corrupt – including (in a lethal refutation of the notion) by an implacable redundant logic, the authority of the statement that all authorities are corrupt – then the duty of discernment cannot pertain at all, in earthly life; for, in that case, the *only* authority to which any of us might reasonably attend is that of our own untrammeled individual will (this, NB, being the gist of Lucifer’s non serviam).

        If there are no authorities, and social life (if so we may call it under such chaotic circumstances) is no more than the authority of my own will over against all the other wills, then discernment has no way even to get started. Discernment is in that case *not even relevant.* On the contrary, in that case, it’s just my way or the highway, *for everyone.* In that case, *all* dictates – all desires, loves, statements, wishes, *everything* – of *everybody else* are morally null, mere handwaving, sound and fury signifying nothing, and of no moral significance for any of us. In that case, there can be no hierarchy, no law, no rule, no custom; no social order; no love, no family, no loyalty – and a fortiori no fealty, to any lord whatever, including the Lord Jesus – no virtue, no admiration, no honor or merit or nobility; no excellence of any sort; so, no society. There can be in that case only a Hobbesian war of all against all, wrassling forever in the muck with the other pigs for each moment’s enjoyment.

        None of that can be true. This is obvious. *All* society is hierarchical. This is only to say that society is always more or less ordered (it is *not* to say that all societies thus ordered are therefore ordered to the good). *All* society, i.e., notices differentials of authority from one man to the next.

        If then there are such things as authorities, it behooves us all first to reckon them as such. This is as basic almost as reckoning that the sky is blue, down is downward, $1 is worth a dollar, and so on. The cop at the corner has *in fact* more authority than I do (in some respects; not all). To argue otherwise is to descend into insanity.

        That due reckoning of actual authority in turn behooves us to presume that, having attained to authority, those in authority probably know better than we about this or that to which they have paid attention, so that in respect to this or that it is most likely proper to obey them. If the cop orders me to get on the pavement, I should probably get on the pavement, right away. So doing, I might save both our lives.

        But because men are fallen, weak, and sinful, it behooves us no less to discern whether or not those in authority over us are nuts, and so how far we ought rightly to go in obeying them.

        And that’s where the vaunted discernment of the Romantic Christians – which is just Christianity 101, indeed moral philosophy 101 (which nobody has ever suggested we should abandon – just as nobody has ever suggested that we should all gouge out our eyes and make our ways through the world blind) – has a shot at being worth trying.

        It is in the real world, where there are real differentials of authority, that we must weigh the moral character of the duties to this or that dictate imposed upon us by those truly (whether or not rightly) more authoritative than we.

        The *entire discussion of authority* in the orthosphere over the last week or so *presupposes that there are such authorities.* If there are no such things, then there is nothing to discuss, and so nothing to get riled up about. In which case, antignostic, you are correct that Bruce Charlton is right about all this.

        But, if Bruce is right, then it’s every man for himself, at sea, with no seaworthy vessel anywhere; not even such a thing as an old sailor floating nearby, who might know better than we what we ought both to do next. So, Bruce can invent his own religion, and I can invent mine, and you can invent yours, and nobody can tell us that any of us are wrong about anything. Likewise, Bruce can invent his own nation and laws, and I can invent mine, and you can invent yours, and so on. Again, likewise, Bruce can invent his own laws of nature, and I can invent mine, and you can invent yours, and there’s nobody who can tell us “boo!” Ditto for metaphysics, morality, indeed even math and logic. Ditto even for whether it’s raining, or spring, or any of us are awake, or sane.

        I cannot avoid the impression that people are riled up about authority because they don’t want to do anything other than what they happen to want to do. It looks awfully like a Daddy issue thing.

        So anyway, yeah. If an ostensibly legitimate authority commands you to sin, you must disobey. Otherwise, not. Simple, really.

        In practical terms, it comes down to this: my bishop, my priest, my mayor, my judge, my cop, my President, my boss, all have in point of fact more actual authority than I; it therefore behooves me to obey them, even if I think them illegitimate, or foolish, or wicked, *unless they command me to sin.*

        Now that I’ve finally grappled with this issue a bit, I am having a hard time seeing what all the fuss has been about.

        Addendum: Should Scoot have acceded to his employer’s vaccination mandate? Maybe not, as a matter of prudence. But, was that accedence *sinful*? Is it going to keep Scoot out of heaven, unless he confesses it, repents of it, does penance, and amends his life in respect to the vax henceforth? It is a difficult question. I have not considered it carefully, but I doubt that Scoot is hellbound on account of his vaccination, even if he doesn’t confess it, repent of it, do penance for it, and so on.

      • You may be approaching agreement with Kristor, but certainly not with me. There are more possibilities than “commanding good” and “commanding evil”. One may also command what was otherwise morally undetermined. The defining feature of authority is that it can make what was not morally obligatory to be morally obligatory.

      • It is a counsel of despair. It is the *opposite* of Nietzschean heroism and manliness (for, absent a vision of the good that transcends the self, the Will to Power is no more than a will to chaos and so to the dissolution of the heroic self).

        Congratulations, that might be the dumbest take on Nietzsche I’ve ever seen.

        If there’s one thing you can definitely say about his thought – he didn’t believe in an objective morality sitting there waiting to be discovered; he thought of it as a historically evolved set of judgements (“prejudices”) – that’s why his book was titled “On the Genealogy of Morals”.

        You seem to have him mixed up with your right-wing internet manliness grifters. What a travesty. Try reading him.

      • Not so fast hot shot. Nietzsche’s whole condemnation of slave morality presumes the objective reality of its opposite. Otherwise its just untermensch, übermensch, whatever.

      • A.morphous, I would have thought that by now you would have learnt that the kindergarten playground riposte of “that’s dumb” is *not an argument.* It makes you appear a lightweight.

        If you’d read my comment more carefully, and then thought a bit more about what you’d read, perhaps you’d have realized that everything you say about Nietzsche was implicit in the passage you found so dumb. *Of course* he didn’t believe in objective morality. Nevertheless, even the Superman who acts according to a set of evolved prejudices *is acting according to a vision of the good that transcends his own peculiar predicament at the moment of decision.* He acts to realize a good that he envisions, and which he takes to be really good, and not just speciously good. No man says to himself, “ham sandwiches are no good at all, but I think I’ll have one.”

        If the Superman didn’t think anything was really any good at all, he could not form a will to realize anything. He does form such volitions. He must therefore take his evaluations of the various goods he might realize by his acts to be *veridical.*

        JM Smith understood all this; his comment is a succinct summary of the foregoing. In the absence of a transcendent moral framework, there can be no such thing as either an overman or an underman, and it can’t be worse to be a slave than a master.

        It is obvious furthermore that a historically evolved set of judgements *just is* a sort of transcendent vision of the good. Implicit in that process of evolution is the presupposition that there is an objective moral order, that imposes selection criteria upon the evolutionary process, *so that the evolution can proceed.*

        Having said all that, I would ask: as yourself a nominalist, why do you care about this stuff? You seem like the atheist who gets all upset about theism. The interest in the topic under discussion – of morality to the nominalist, of God to the atheist – makes no sense, has no reason. The true nominalist would not be interested in this topic, any more than you or I would be interested in a debate among flat earthers about what happens to the oceans at the edges of the earth.

      • @Kristor

        So, Bruce can invent his own religion, and I can invent mine, and you can invent yours, and nobody can tell us that any of us are wrong about anything.

        This has always been the case. The number of religions and sects of different religions and people who freely pick and choose which religious tenets they will believe or not believe is endless.

        Likewise, Bruce can invent his own nation and laws, and I can invent mine, and you can invent yours, and so on.

        We can indeed; sovereignty is always up for grabs. Just ask the American colonists, or the Spanish colonists, or any number of successful separatist or revolutionary movements in human history.

        Again, likewise, Bruce can invent his own laws of nature, and I can invent mine, and you can invent yours, and there’s nobody who can tell us “boo!” Ditto for metaphysics, morality, indeed even math and logic.

        No we can’t. Nobody can “make up” their own natural physical laws; reality will kill them. Airplanes, bridges, operating rooms don’t care about Wise Latinas or the Legacy of Slavery. Conservatives need to get a lot more grounded in reality than ideology.

        That due reckoning of actual authority in turn behooves us to presume that, having attained to authority, those in authority probably know better than we about this or that to which they have paid attention, so that in respect to this or that it is most likely proper to obey them.

        Here’s where we are at: they don’t. They are stupid and evil. They are going to get us in a nuclear war or some lab somewhere is going to screw up and let a virus escape from the regime’s crazed gain-of-function research. Do you know the original Spanish flu strains are being kept around and tested on rhesus monkeys?

        I toed the line of deference to authority and presumption of competence my entire adult life. Government actions since 2001 have disabused me of the notion. This is the inevitable progress of democracy and the welfare-state. In a democracy, authority is not earned by competence and intelligence but by bribing the voters and currying favor with powerful people. Terminal democracy is kakistocracy.

        I think we agree: obedience is simply a matter of practicality at this point. The Democratic vote banks we call cities will never let Republicans control the Executive Branch or have a Congressional majority again. And in case they can’t print up the mail-in ballots fast enough, the Democrats hold the threat of mass riots and prosecution in the wholly anti-Republican DC judicial circuit over their political opponents.

        absent a vision of the good that transcends the self, the Will to Power is no more than a will to chaos and so to the dissolution of the heroic self

        This is really the nub of the conservative problem and why we are losing: we are arguing over visions of the good while our opponents assert their will to power. Recognition of this fact requires a whole different mindset and strategy for victory. We’re at the “ballots no longer work” stage, ready or not.

      • The number of religions and sects of different religions and people who freely pick and choose which religious tenets they will believe or not believe is endless.

        The same goes for those other sorts of things that people believe – about politics, nations, science, logic, metaphysics. Lots of people find invalid arguments cogent, or indulge in fallacies of reason with no notion that they are reasoning illogically. Likewise, people make basic mistakes about math (I’m pretty sure I did this in computing a tip the other day …). If there is no religious truth, no truth about politics, then *it is not even possible to make religious or political mistakes.*

        There are both religious and political truths; this is why we are able to apprehend errors of religion and politics. The Left, e.g., can view our type as evil and stupid only under a prior supposition that there is really a good truth out there, to which they see themselves as approximating more closely.

        The point is that if there is a true religion and a true nation with its own true ways of doing things, to which one has been born, then while it is certainly possible to invent new ones in fantasy, it is not possible to invent them in reality. People do start new religions, new nations, and new regimes. But these startups are tested against reality, which can’t be made up adventitiously, and almost all of them fail, pretty much right away (to put that in context, the 70 years of the USSR was the blink of an eye: Soviet Communism failed pretty much right away, right out of the gate (in general, if you have to kill lots of people in order to stay in power, you have already failed, and are doomed)).

        The point, i.e., is that it is not possible to invent a religion, a nation, a people, and so forth, that is also *true.* It is, rather, possible only to *discover* such things. We can’t choose our national origin anymore than we can choose our familiar origin or its religion.

        That due reckoning of actual authority in turn behooves us to presume that, having attained to authority, those in authority probably know better than we about this or that to which they have paid attention, so that in respect to this or that it is most likely proper to obey them.

        Here’s where we are at: they don’t. They are stupid and evil. They are going to get us in a nuclear war or some lab somewhere is going to screw up and let a virus escape from the regime’s crazed gain-of-function research.

        No disagreement about that. The high officers of our present regime have been of late quite open in their declaration that they are inimical to the people to whom they owe their first official duty. Fortunately they are even more stupid than they are evil (one must be *really stupid* to believe most of the obviously false and evil ideas they credit); so that their stupidity is bound to impede their evil plans. But while in their case it is quite clear that the high officers of the present regime *do not* know better than their hapless subjects about lots of really crucial stuff, the more general case is that such high authorities probably – NB, *probably* – do know better than their subjects about the topics pertinent to the proper powers of their offices. Were this not the general case, their could never be authority, nor could there then be any social order.

      • I’ll stand by my judgement: excruciatingly dumb. You seem to have confused Nietzsche’s *Übermensch* with the Superman of the comic books, who is in fact an icon of heroism and manliness.
        The whole point of Nietzsche is that traditional sources of value have collapsed, society is threatened by the resulting nihilism, and he is trying to find a route forward out of this crisis. Of course, he has some notion of what is good, he’s not a rock, but that notion is *something new*. Or at least, that is what it aspires to be, or claims to be. That’s his project, and it’s predicated on the death of old moral certainties, and needs to be understood in that context:

        Thus I deny morality as I deny alchemy, that is, I deny their premises: but I
        do not deny that there have been alchemists who believed in these premises and acted in accordance with them. – I also deny immorality: not that countless people feel themselves to be immoral, but there is any true reason so to feel. It goes without saying that I do not deny – unless I am a fool – that many actions called immoral ought to be avoided and resisted, or that many called moral ought to be done and encouraged – but I think the one should be encouraged and the other avoided for other reasons than hitherto. We have to learn to think differently – in order at last, perhaps very late on, to attain even more: to feel differently.

        – from Daybreak

        If the Superman didn’t think anything was really any good at all, he could not form a will to realize anything.

        You do the same trick every time (I don’t know that it’s a conscious trick, you probably are sincere): beg the question by assuming as axiomatic that there is either Good as you conceive of it, or no Good at all.

        It is obvious furthermore that a historically evolved set of judgements *just is* a sort of transcendent vision of the good.

        It isn’t obvious at all, not least because the meaning of “transcendent” is unclear. I guess what you mean is that there is some pre-existing and objective transcendent ideal that all actual moral systems are trying to approximate, with varying degrees of success. I don’t believe that.

        Having said all that, I would ask: as yourself a nominalist, why do you care about this stuff? You seem like the atheist who gets all upset about theism.

        First off, I don’t label myself a nominalist, so I would never “ask myself as a nominalist”. And even nominalists care about morality, to think otherwise is a symptom of the defect I outlined above. Morality is something humans are obliged to do and to care about, as a condition of their being, regardless of their philosophy. Nominalists have a different concept of morality than you do, but you seem unable to comprehend this.
        You aren’t actually dumb, so I attribute this to motivated ideological blindness.

      • Yeah, likewise, you blind ideologue.

        You seem to have confused Nietzsche’s Übermensch with the Superman of the comic books, who is in fact an icon of heroism and manliness.

        You seem to have confused me with a fool. When I say “Superman,” I don’t mean to refer to DC Comics. *Of course.* Sheesh. Give me a break, OK? What a fucking stupid thing to say. Only a fool would say it. Consider yourself judged, and found deeply wanting.

        The Overman is a man better than other men, who are lower than he is. But on what metric, pray? Therein lies the rub for the whole Nietzschean system. It cannot proceed from first principles except on the supposition that there is *in fact* a better and a worse.

        It cannot, i.e., proceed from first principles in the absence thereof.

        Nuff said re that. I consider that topic closed, dispositively. Rant on to the contrary, at your pleasure; all of us shall see that you do so in vain, and to your own discredit, and to that of your arguments.

        The whole point of Nietzsche is that traditional sources of value have collapsed, society is threatened by the resulting nihilism, and he is trying to find a route forward out of this crisis.

        Sure, duh, everybody knows this about Nietzsche. Please, this is all common knowledge, in these orthospherean precincts, so prithee don’t waste all our time with your teaching on the topic. The poor man Nietzsche, doomed to madness, could not see a way forward which restored that which, at back, he saw had – by his own recognition, if not long before, and implicitly (in the Enlightenment) – been lost. I.e. – to those who have ears to hear – he was trying to find a route forward from that crisis *of the moral nihilism he himself advocated,* and so to some restoration of the traditional sources of value. I grant of course that he might not himself have realized what he was doing. Still, he was doing it.

        So is it with all our wayward ways.

        Only on that restoration of some tradition or other of excellence might a consistent Will to Power proceed. One cannot subsequend to a system of things that has been utterly repudiated.

        You do the same trick every time (I don’t know that it’s a conscious trick, you probably are sincere): beg the question by assuming as axiomatic that there is either Good as you conceive of it, or no Good at all.

        No, it’s simpler than that. Our conceptions of the Good are in the final analysis neither here nor there. Either there is a Good, to which we may by our conceptions and other acts approximate, or there is not. If there be no such Good, then can there be no good whatever; so all lesser goods presuppose that Good. If you think something is good, you invoke that Good. You have no real option but to do so. If you think x is good, then implicitly you think there is a Good, under which x takes its proper place.

        I guess what you mean is that there is some pre-existing and objective transcendent ideal that all actual moral systems are trying to approximate, with varying degrees of success. I don’t believe that.

        Dude. Don’t you believe in the math of game theory?

        No, of course you don’t, because the eternal truths of game theory, and thus of morality, don’t fit with your preferred obstinate stiff necked view of things, that prefers not to reckon the Science™. You are a moral nominalist. There is therefore no way you can learn what it is right to do; that, your incompetence, is among the inescapable sequelae of nominalism.

        Sorry. See you later … in Hell. Too bad, sorry; that’s just the way nominalist rebellion against reality works. It *can’t* end well, mutatis mutandis.

        … even nominalists care about morality, to think otherwise is a symptom of the defect I outlined above.

        Sure, of course they do. One can’t be human and care nothing for morality (which is why the atheists wax so wroth on that topic, as if their credentials for worrying about such things had been really impeached by their avowed repudiations of any such credentials (!)). It’s just that nominalists have no way to ground their natural and proper human care for morality; or, for other humans. Which I feel sure is pervasive among nominalists. They are men like us, in most ways, after all. But, it should be emphasized that nominalists rightly and naturally care for others *despite* their nominalism. On nominalism, such care is just insane.

        Nominalists have a different concept of morality than you do, but you seem unable to comprehend this.

        Well, yeah, because on nominalism there can be no such thing as a concept of morality, but rather only, he said, she said. Duh. A.morphous, this is so simple. I’m fairly shocked that you don’t yet get this, after all these years. On nominalism, there is no such thing as morality. Why don’t you get this?

      • Kristor, I apologize for some of my language that may have pissed you off. You are right, calling something “dumb” is itself a pretty dumb conversational move. And obviously you know the difference between comic-book Superman and Nietzsche’s *übermensch*, whatever the latter means. Interpretations vary widely, as do translations.

        The Overman is a man better than other men, who are lower than he is. But on what metric, pray?

        A better translation of *übermensch* is “beyond-man”, not least because while there might be only one metric for “better”, there are lots of possible beyonds. And their nature is unclear; like a foreign country, we can vaguely envision them but they aren’t really known until we get there, if we ever do.

        So for these and other reasons, no, there is no metric. We can’t even say that the overman is “better”, he is beyond our measurements, incommensurable with our judgements.

        Well, yeah, because on nominalism there can be no such thing as a concept of morality, but rather only, he said, she said. Duh. A.morphous, this is so simple. I’m fairly shocked that you don’t yet get this, after all these years. On nominalism, there is no such thing as morality. Why don’t you get this?

        Well, I’m disappointed (although not shocked) that after all these years you can’t process my simple statement of my position that I’m sure I’ve articulated at least a dozen times: there is morality, it is perfectly real but it doesn’t work the way you insist that it does. Your response is always, always the same, a refusal to entertain the possibility.

        The situation is nicely symmetrical; neither of us seems to be able to understand the sheer obtuseness of the other. We can leave it at a state of mutual incomprehension, I can live with that.

      • The hope of making Nietzsche a liberal never dies. My German is pretty rudimentary but I don’t think über means “beyond” in the sense you suggest. It underlying meaning is over, and it is translated as beyond in the sense of over (i.e. beyond) the river. In any case, the übermensch is the antitype of the “slave morality” and clearly values strength and domination.

      • Thanks for your apology, a.morphous. You show yourself in it a gentleman at bottom. This, despite the implication of your principles, that such a thing as gentlemanliness is not to be sought (inasmuch as it bespeaks an objectionable hierarchy among men, some of whom are by it taken to be more gentle than others). Your fundamental gentlemanliness, underneath and despite your wonted snark, is why I keep responding to you as a serious intellect, rather than as a mere troll.

        … while there might be only one metric for “better,” there are lots of possible beyonds.

        There are lots of ways to be better: better skeet shooter, better figure skater, better omelet chef, you name it. None of them quite reduce to the others. So, lots of ways to be better. Still, to be sure, they all reduce at bottom to their common characteristic (among many others, which differentiate them): i.e., “better at conformity with reality.” In any and every case, however: what is beyond a given bound surpasses it along its proper dimensions.

        So, the Overman must be *somehow better* than the Underman. But wait: how can the Overman surpass the Underman without being in some way nobler – more powerful, abler, more skilled, more ruthless, braver, and so forth – than the Underman? It is hard to see how.

        Nietzsche admired the Overman, and despised the Underman.

        Why? For what reason? On his own moral nominalism, there could not be any such reason. So, he admired the Overman *for no reason.*

        This is insanity, no? To do things for no reason? To be, i.e., unreasonable?

        … no, there is no metric. We can’t even say that the overman is “better,” he is beyond our measurements, incommensurable with our judgements.

        So, the Overman is not really “over.” He’s just a schmuck like everybody else, trying to find his way in a world with no moral shapes or bounds. Like everyone else, the Overman is a loser, a slave to something or other.

        With that, Nietzsche entirely evaporates into a fog of obfuscation.

        This is all obviously implicit in Nietzsche’s rejection of absolute values. On that rejection, no possible evaluation can be veridical, or therefore informative; so that on that rejection, *all the warrants of experience* in favor of or against this or that notion are rendered null and void. It becomes then impossible quite fully to credit, or so to understand, *or even specify,* any notion whatever, that has any moral valence. Including the notion of the Overman.

        So we end up with amorphous men, who to maintain their supposed formlessness go so far even as to reject the Principle of Sufficient Reason. Such men cannot be refuted, for they take refuge always in obfuscation and confusion of concepts and of categories.

        The problem then is this: *it is impossible to evaluate things along any dimensions – which, being dimensions of evaluation, are ipso facto dimensions of goodness – except in virtue of a logically prior specification of such dimensions,* that, as prior to such things, and as the logical forecondition and matrix of their moral character, is then *independent of and prior to any mensurations along such dimensions.*

        … after all these years you can’t process my simple statement of my position that I’m sure I’ve articulated at least a dozen times: there is morality, it is perfectly real but it doesn’t work the way you insist that it does. Your response is always, always the same, a refusal to entertain the possibility.

        You say morality is perfectly real even though it is something we make up out of nothing for ourselves and for our purposes, am I right? It’s perfectly real because we did indeed make it up, and having been made up it does then inform our acts, even though it is really nor more than a group hallucination. But, on the other hand, we only made it up, so it isn’t really real in its own right. Right?

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that your position?

        There are two possible reasons that we humans keep seeing a moral order in reality. On the one hand, we see it because we are deluded about reality, which has no moral order, but is rather just stuff happening for no reason. That is the position of a.morphous and the nominalist ilk. On the other, we see it – more or less well – because it is really out there to be seen: there is a real moral order to the world (a notion that, lo and behold, is borne out in game theory). That is the position of Kristor, and of the Orthosphere, and of all human societies prior to 1700, or thereabouts, and of almost all societies since.

        The situation is nicely symmetrical; neither of us seems to be able to understand the sheer obtuseness of the other. We can leave it at a state of mutual incomprehension, I can live with that.

        If I’m correct in the foregoing, it’s because we are using different notions of “morality,” so that we are simply talking about different things. You are saying that morality is real even though there is in reality no such thing; I am saying that morality is real, period full stop. Your position is nominalist, mine is realist. You are correct that those two positions are incommensurable.

      • You say morality is perfectly real even though it is something we make up out of nothing for ourselves and for our purposes, am I right?

        I think I see your confusion, you are one of those people who believes that because something is *constructed*, it isn’t *real*. This is a false dichotomy.

        Take, for instance, the US Government. Obviously a social construction, we know how it was constructed (and modified, and how it maintains itself). And “out of nothing”, more or less. But it’s also quite real and if you disobey its laws and agents it will show you how real it can be. People care about it, people dedicate their lives to it. Of course constructs don’t last forever and the US may be in the process of falling apart, but that’s the way it goes.

        Another common confusion, which you may or may not be suffering under: the idea that because something is constructed, it is arbitrary or unconstrained (so the social construction of morality sounds just terrible, because something unconstrained doesn’t seem like it could be morality at all). But this is another false dichotomy.

        Consider houses, which are quite obviously and literally constructed, but they aren’t constructed any old way at all. They have to obey the laws of physics, and also of zoning and architectural aesthetics, to varying degrees. A house without a roof won’t keep the rain off of its occupants. Houses can vary a lot, and one can always try something bold and new, but they aren’t *arbitrary*.

        So to say something like morality is socially constructed is not to say it isn’t real, and it is not to say it can be any old thing at all. It means that it is a product of human minds and lives and purposes, much like a town, a collective construct that grows and evolves along with the people who inhabit it.

        This is just common sense for anyone with a minimal acquaintance with the history, range, and diversity of human societies, so I’m not sure why it is so difficult for you to accept.

      • Thanks, A.morphous. You make my case!

        You are quite right that the fact that moral systems of societies are social constructs does not mean they are not real, or therefore influential. That would be like saying that because what we perceive is neurally modulated, it is not real, or therefore influential.

        Furthermore, just as the fact that what we perceive is neurally modulated does not entail that what we perceive is not real, so from the fact that moral systems are socially constructed, it does not follow that they do not isomorphically reflect an objective moral reality.

        Obviously they must, or they would not be useful; they would, rather, lead us into error and so into reproductive failure of some sort. Erroneous moral policies have mostly been – and continue mostly to be – selected away by the facts of nature, and by the various orders that characterize what is real.

        These include the truths of game theory.

        Obviously there must be a moral reality if it is to be possible to be more or less fitted to it, and thus more or less likely to succeed or fail. If there is no objective moral order to things, to which we must willy nilly try to fit ourselves, why then the very notions of failure and success are null.

        This is what happens with nominalism in general. Denying an objective order of things, transcendent to all particulars, it renders thought – and behavior, properly so called – incoherent notions. It denies an objective order, even as in expressing itself it necessarily presupposes and invokes that order.

        You agree with all this when you point out that the socially constructed moral systems of society are not “arbitrary or unconstrained,” in rather the way that houses are not. Indeed: quite so. Socially constructed moral systems are quite completely constrained by the moral facts of the matter.

        This is why reactionaries like us are so worried about the innovations of modernity. They are almost all contraventions of a basic moral order that has governed traditional societies of all sorts for as far back as we can see.

        Modernity is in its last insane throes is radically maladaptive. It is rejecting even such basic biological realities as sex and reproduction. Implicitly therefore it rejects evolution by natural selection. It rejects the notions of success, and of failure. It rejects itself.

  3. I think you are right to begin with the phenomenology of authority, since our first experience of authority is intuitive and not rational. You and I have disagreed about this before, but I think this leads to a charismatic theory of authority. I know that I am moved to obey some people and thumb my nose at others. I am very conscious of the charismatic authority of some authors and the anti-charisma of others.

    I suspect that much of our obedience to institutional authority is prudential. I will obey a surly and uncharismatic policeman because I have a prudential respect for the police force generally, and a prudential desire to stay on the good side of the surly cop. Much of my obedience at work is prudential, since charisma is abundant. I think prudential obedience to institutional authority is essentially different than intuitive obedience to charismatic authority, the former serving the self and the later surrendering the self to the leader.

    A sound society requires both sorts of authority and obedience, but only charismatic authority is analogous to the authority of God.

    • The counterpart of the concept of authority is the concept of duty.

      Now, as Thomas Reid points out, “With regard to the notion or conception of duty, I take it to be too simple to admit of a logical definition. We can define it only by synonymous words or phrases, or by its properties and necessary concomitants; as when we say that it is what we ought to do, what is fair and honest, what is approvable, what every man professes to be the rule of his conduct, what all men praise and what is in itself laudable, though no man should praise it.” (Essay on the Powers of the Human Mind III 6)

      By “simple,” he means irreducible or unanalysable: compare “primitive notions” in mathematics, such as point, line, plane, congruence, betweeness, and incidence in Euclidean geometry. We cannot define them without circularity or a perpetual regress, for all definitions ultimately presuppose them.

      An appeal to enlightened self-interest may convince a man it is in his interest to behave in a certain way, but not that it is his duty to do so (Hence, the truism that morality cannot be legislated)

      • Dutiful obedience looks like prudential obedience (perhaps the facial expression is a little less sour), but the two acts are radically different. Dutiful obedience is given without regard to consequences, prudential obedience with regard to nothing but consequences.

    • The Gospels speak of Jesus as having this sort of charisma, i.e. that he spoke “as one having authority”. I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone like this.

      • I have, although rarely. It is natural leadership, an irreducible quality. Jesus clearly had it, as did Jim Jones to a much smaller degree. It can be dangerous because it is not closely correlated with competence, but I doubt human society cab survive without charisma. The charisma of a natural leader give people hope. He often lets them down but it is good while it lasts.

  4. Interesting also is how Socialism has very deep roots in human history ever since the advent of the first State:
    https://robertlstephens.com/essays/shafarevich/001SocialistPhenomenon.html

    Then those demonic forces that want to dissolve the individual into the whole. Dissolve the family. Dissolve hierarchy, dissolve private property. Hatred of Excellence and of Hierarchy.

    Dissolve the image of God into Automatons like unto Ants and Bees. Rather than Individual Dignities and Unique images of God retaining identity and distinctive Agency within the whole.

    • Thank you, info, for mentioning “Socialist Phenomenon”. I’m reading it right now and was wondering if I should insert it into the comments. That is an eye opening book and gives me chills to know this force has been at work for much longer than I realized.

  5. @ Kristor –

    In practical terms, it comes down to this: my bishop, my priest, my mayor, my judge, my cop, my President, my boss, all have in point of fact more actual authority than I; it therefore behooves me to obey them, even if I think them illegitimate, or foolish, or wicked, *unless they command me to sin.*

    Now that I’ve finally grappled with this issue a bit, I am having a hard time seeing what all the fuss has been about.

    Addendum: Should Scoot have acceded to his employer’s vaccination mandate? Maybe not, as a matter of prudence. But, was that accedence *sinful*? Is it going to keep Scoot out of heaven, unless he confesses it, repents of it, does penance, and amends his life in respect to the vax henceforth? It is a difficult question. I have not considered it carefully, but I doubt that Scoot is hellbound on account of his vaccination, even if he doesn’t confess it, repent of it, do penance for it, and so on.

    I suggest you consider it a little more carefully.

    Your point about “unless they command me to sin” renders your addendum incoherent. Not by my criteria, but by the criteria of the orthodoxy you purport to follow.

    What you neglected to mention concerning Scoot was his vaccine hesitancy arose from his conscience. His conscience informed him he should not do it. In an effort to follow his conscience, he sought an exemption from his priest. His priest denied him this exemption.

    Once the exemption was denied, Scoot went against his conscience. Moreover, he denied any personal responsibility for the decision and denied that he needed to repent. Instead, he began to rationalize. I hate to break it to you, but according to the Second Edition of the Catechism (1776 – 1794), this *is* a sin. The priest who denied Scoot’s exemption denied Scoot’s conscience. Perhaps this also qualifies as a sin because it could be argued that the priest prevented Scoot from acting according to his conscience.

    The freedom, dignity and transcendental nature of man was not defended. Moreover, the failure was not repented — by anyone!

    The conscience is not infallible. The CCC instructs individuals that their conscience should be informed and guided by the authoritative teachings of the Church. Scoot attempted to let the authoritative teachings and the Church support his conscience. Unfortunately, very few with the Church appear to be particularly interested in actually following the authoritative teachings of the Church. No one wants to take personal responsibility for their personal discernment!

    I extend that disinclination to your take on this matter. Scoot’s need for repentance is clear. Again, not by my criteria, but by the criteria of the CCC.

    At the risk of being blunt, your waffling on the matter reveals much. I believe the antignostic is onto something with his ““what will keep me in bourgeois living standards” comment. I detect that many tradCaths and other trad/conventional Christians are abusing tradition to rationalize their missteps, failings, errors, etc. Even worse, some are using tradition as an excuse to not repent. This is nothing new, of course, but set against the backdrop of the spiritual catastrophe of 2020, it has become increasingly significant.

    This is dangerous territory. Again, not by my criteria, but by the criteria of the tradition you so vehemently support and defend. If you lot keep up with this sort of defense, the gates *may* have a shot at prevailing . . .

    • @ Kristor – Addendum – I obviously suck at the whole block quote thing here on WordPress. The quote is above, my response is in the indented part below.

      Based on good advice Natureboy offered on another thread, you don’t need to respond to me. Perhaps it’s best if you don’t. All I ask is that you sincerely consider what I have noted in my comment. I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from following orthodoxy — but if you claim to follow it, then follow it! Also, repent when you fall short.

  6. But “good” and “evil” are subjective concepts. according to the antignostic

    No, they are not, but they are abstract, general ideas. In that sense, they do exist in the mind and nowhere else.

    St John Henry Newman puts it very well: “And so again, as regards the first principles expressed in such propositions as ‘There is a right and a wrong,’ ‘a true and a false,’ ‘a just and an unjust,’ ‘a beautiful and a deformed;’ they are abstractions to which we give a notional assent in consequence of our particular experiences of qualities in the concrete, to which we give a real assent. As we form our notion of whiteness from the actual sight of snow, milk, a lily, or a cloud, so, after experiencing the sentiment of approbation which arises in us on the sight of certain acts one by one, we go on to assign to that sentiment a cause, and to those acts a quality, and we give to this notional cause or quality the name of virtue, which is an abstraction, not a thing… These so-called first principles, I say, are really conclusions or abstractions from particular experiences.” (Grammar of Assent)

    This follows from Newman’s fundamental insight in that wonderful book: “All things in the exterior world are unit and individual, and are nothing else; but the mind not only contemplates those unit realities, as they exist, but has the gift, by an act of creation, of bringing before it abstractions and generalizations, which have no existence, no counterpart, out of it.”

    Newman’s moral theory resembles Thomas Reid’s notion of the Moral Sense. (It would have been current in the Oxford of Newman’s day). For Reid, the moral sense is a form of non-inferential knowledge; just as we do not reason or infer or conclude that an object is red, but perceive it to be red, so we do not reason or infer or conclude that an action is unjust, we perceive it to be unjust.

    In this way, Reid was able to insist on the objectivity of the moral sense: we recognise justice, in the same way that we recognise Middle C. It is something real; we do not invent it.

    Like a good Scotsman, Reid argues his case trenchantly enough:

    “Reason, says the sceptic, is the only judge of truth, and you ought to throw off every opinion and every belief that is not grounded on reason. Why, Sir, should I believe the faculty of reason more than that of perception; they came both out of the same shop, and were made by the same artist; and if he puts one piece of false ware into my hands, what should hinder him from putting another? (Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense VI.xx: 169 – A splendid title.)

  7. The discussion about the state of my soul is not especially germane to the OP and is a little bit distasteful since it includes wild speculation about my soul (physician, heal thyself), and its a lot of very elaborate mind reading based on the very little information I offered. You are welcome to write speculative fan fiction about my life provided I sign over the rights, but otherwise I would kindly direct questions you have about me and my decisions to, well, me.

    I don’t trust my conscience because my conscience lets me sin. If my conscience were perfectly formed I would never sin, but as it happens I am a fallible creature and sometimes I need to rely on authority.

    The conditions for mortal sin are grave matter, full knowledge, and full consent of the will. If the sinfulness aspect comes because i didnt do something you claim my conscience told me to do, it means by your own explanation that i didnt have full consent of the will. I deny however that receiving the vaccine was grave matter. Because the matter is in dispute it certainly means there is not full knowledge. I have not seen anyone explain the moral difference between the covid vaccine or the flu vaccine, either.

    If we are sinning every time we disobey our consciences then theres quite a few jelly donuts I didnt eat but wanted to eat and now Im due back in the confessional.

    Anyway, none of this is germane to the OP. I appreciate the concern—we are all just trying to get to heaven—but if youre writing a narrative about my life and youre not even talking to me about it, then something is wrong.

    • The Romantic Christians seem to invent moral prohibitions out of nowhere and then demand that we repent. I have never been able to get them to give me any sensible reason why receiving the COVID vaccine should be regarded as sinful. The closest thing they have given me to an argument is that we should refuse to obey just it irritates the public authorities. Frankly, the ravings on some sectors of the Right about the deadliness of the vaccine strike me as far more unhinged than the mainstream over-reaction to COVID itself, which after all did end up killing millions of people. Even granting risks of the vaccine, accepting physical risks to maintain a livelihood is perfectly morally defensible, and even common. Similarly this nonsense about anthropogenic global warming being a hoax, as if there were any possible doubt about CO2 being a greenhouse gas or about the effect of humanity on its concentration in our atmosphere.

      • You lament the takeover of all the institutions by the enemy, but then you trust these same institutions when they tell you that “COVID” is responsible for “killing millions of people.”

        Indeed. I just assumed there was (shockingly) little to no discussion at the Orthosphere about the defining event of our generation because it was simply just obvious that the whole thing was a scam, a lie, from top to bottom. But I guess not.

      • “Frankly, the ravings on some sectors of the Right about the deadliness of the vaccine strike me as far more unhinged than the mainstream over-reaction to COVID itself, which after all did end up killing millions of people. …”

        I understood the trepidation when the vaccine first came out, and shared some of it myself, given that the vaccine had only just been approved and for emergency use only, that it used a new technology, and given the brazen overreach, heavy-handedness, and manifest hypocrisy and hysteria of our government-cum-media establishment during the crisis (or ‘crisis’), which made it perfectly understandable why the public would be wary to trust them on this.

        However, at this point, I don’t really see the cause for such continued alarm over the vaccine. For one, it just doesn’t fit my experience: on the one hand, while I didn’t know anyone personally who died from covid, I did know a few who were hospitalized, and I know people who know people who died (such as people my parents knew); on the other hand, I haven’t known anyone personally who has gotten more than mild or moderate flu symptoms from the vaccine, let alone was hospitalized or died from it. Nor do I know anyone who knows anyone who had such severe reactions to the vaccine.

        I also haven’t known anyone who was hospitalized from covid after being vaccinated. Of course, whether this was due the vaccine, or whether the covid strains they caught are less virulent than the earlier strains, just coincidence, or some other reason, I have no idea. (And it is my impression that the effectiveness of the vaccines has been exaggerated.)

        That’s all anecdotal, of course, so the usual caveats apply.

      • Bonald, this is naive. You lament the takeover of all the institutions by the enemy, but then you trust these same institutions when they tell you that “COVID” is responsible for “killing millions of people.” Whatever the faults of the Romantic Christians’ approach to religion, they are at least consistently sound on the COVID topic in that they are willing to look deep enough to see where lies originate.

  8. Great post.
    “Obedience to authority is not a necessary evil, a regrettable consequence of the Fall. Nor is it a mark of spiritual childishness, something we are ideally destined to outgrow. It is an intrinsic good, a key way whereby men can experience their social world as rational, as integrated to the moral order and its Author.”
    Right. Had Adam never sinned, we would still have authorities we would be obliged to obey (and I suspect also distinct communities), just as Adam was so obliged with God.
    I’m curious how we know that all authority comes directly from God and not mediated in some way. Is this sort of a ‘brute fact’ as well, something we just immediately experience? It seems sorta obvious that a father’s authority is not mediated through the sovereign or delegated by him, for example, in the way that it would be for one of his ministers.

  9. Well, if the people advocating a *change* to “conservative” authoritarianism were to pledge that they will take the *lowest* places in the socio-economic-political hierarchies, it might be more credible to the skeptical. At least Society for Creative Anachronism folks prepared to be serfs and slaves.

  10. Obviously there must be a moral reality if it is to be possible to be more or less fitted to it, and thus more or less likely to succeed or fail.

    You are confusing two different things. That a moral system may be more or less workable is one thing; that it approximates some single ideal is something quite different.

    Consider how natural selection works. Every organism is climbing a fitness landscape from lower to higher adaptedness, but that landscape doesn’t have a single peak to which all organisms are better or worse approximations. Every ecological niche has different characteristics, which is one reason among many that there are multiple kinds of organisms, not just one single optimal one. Each species has optimized for living in a slightly different way.
    Moral codes are loosely similar. They need to “work” in some sense, but that sense is “perpetuating themselves and the society they are a component of”. That doesn’t mean they are all different approximations of a single ideal moral code.

    Your constant citation of “game theory” suggests that you are referring to some universal abstract constraints on moral systems, eg they should reward cooperation. That may very well be valid, but it doesn’t define a single moral reality, any more than the constraints of physics and biochemistry define a single organization for lifeforms.

    This is why reactionaries like us are so worried about the innovations of modernity. They are almost all contraventions of a basic moral order that has governed traditional societies of all sorts for as far back as we can see.

    Reactionaries are ignorant of the diversity of human cultures then.

    I’d say your model of modernity is pretty deficient as well. I think I’ve said this before, but modernity was not just some stupid mistake, a wrong turn made somewhere that we can or should just undo. That seems just dumb to me (sorry). Obviously modernity has a lot of problems, but just as obviously it didn’t come out of nowhere, it was a product of the workings of powerful historical forces and the need for culture to adapt to them. Like any other human culture, it’s an adaptation to circumstances. Is it ultimately maladaptive? Too soon to tell, but if it collapses, it will be because of a failure to rein in the environmental effects of industrial capitalism, not the relaxing of sexual mores.

    • A.morphous, please keep up this way of talking. It is so very constructive of dialectic.

      That a moral system may be more or less workable is one thing; that it approximates some single ideal is something quite different.

      Not so fast. For a moral system to work over the long run, it must conduce to reproductive success vis-à-vis other competitive moral systems. Thus moral systems that succeed reproductively must all at least – whatever their superficial differences – approximate to the single ideal that has the character of reproductive success (that dimension being the vertical of the fitness landscape). Among the other things that such an approximation would seem to require is a due recognition of the sexes, and of the different roles of the sexes in reproduction, child bearing, child rearing, and so on. All the diverse solutions that traditional societies have found to the problem of reproduction and child rearing have in common a due recognition of and fitness to the biologically given realities of human reproduction and their logical consequends.

      Modernity we now find is in the process of rejecting all those biological realities of reproduction. That can’t result in reproductive success, and indeed the total fertility rate indicates its catastrophic failure.

      Reproductive success, and traditional sex roles that are more or less in accord with biological reality, are not the only sort of single ideal that societies must approximate in their moral systems if they are to succeed against competitors. They must, e.g., adjure in group loyalty, in group altruism, honesty and good faith, devotion to the common cult (under and by which the culture is morally ordered), some degree of xenophobia (moderated usually by an obligation to succor strangers); they must likewise abjure murder, vendetta, cheating, disloyalty, and so forth. These are all succinctly summed under the headings of the Golden Rule and the Decalogue.

      Moral codes … need to “work” in some sense, but that sense is “perpetuating themselves and the society they are a component of.” That doesn’t mean they are all different approximations of a single ideal moral code.

      On the contrary, that is *exactly* what it means. Reality is what it is. The correct solutions to life in respect thereto are therefore radically constrained. Reality being one, all such solutions simply *must* have much in common. Their differences must then be superficial; so that they can then have some hope of living together on the same planet in harmony, and in fundamental agreement about what is right and honorable (such moral agreements are presupposed by all treaties), despite the competition between them that is (quite rightly; this is the genius of stochastic variation with natural selection according to the constraints of a prior solution space) ineradicable, so long as they differ *in any way whatever.*

      Your constant citation of “game theory” suggests that you are referring to some universal abstract constraints on moral systems, e.g., they should reward cooperation. That may very well be valid, but it doesn’t define a single moral reality, any more than the constraints of physics and biochemistry define a single organization for lifeforms.

      I’m not sure why you put game theory in scare quotes. I suppose you mean thereby to minimize the eternally given constraint of moral logic upon the possibly successful strategies for playing the game of social life. That constraint is nevertheless quite rigorous: a social order that frustrates cooperation is doomed to failure and death. The variety of human cultures nowise controverts that notion, which is, precisely, of a single and quite inexorable moral reality, to which all human cultures must more or less approximate, if they are to survive; and to which, what is more, all extant human cultures do in fact more or less approximate.

      I mean, sure, yeah, there have been lots of human cultures that were lousy at fostering cooperation. The Ik are famous for that; also the Tierra del Fuegans and the Aztecs, the Maoists and the Soviets. Most of them are dead. Dustbin of history, and all that. The rest – such as, it appears more and more, our own – are dying. To wit, cancel culture – one of the later versions of scapegoating – is obviously incompatible with cooperation. Indeed, it is incompatible with mere communication, and so with social coordination, ergo with social peace. It is a recipe for civil war, and the deliquescence of society per se.

      That is not to say – of course – that all the wrongs cancel culture apprehends are in fact not wrong. I don’t know of anybody out there who is *in favor* of rape, or of sexual harassment, or even of mere boorishness. But lots of such wrongs lately so much bewailed by our Establishment Overlords add up to no more than this or that minor disagreement with the propaganda Narrative of the Establishment Regime – which is to say, the Modernist, Leftist, Nominalist Regime. It is the Regime of which – I am truly sorry to say this, but it’s the truth – you, my friend, are a mouthpiece.

      Do not, by the way, presume to tell me that I am unfamiliar with the diversity of human cultures. Do you know about the Tierra del Fuegans? Do you know as much as I about the Iroquois Nations, the Algonquins, the Sioux, the Cheyenne, the Mandan, and the Blackfeet? Are you sure about that? Do you know the differences between the voyageurs and the mountain men? Do you know as much as I about Late Classical and Medieval Europe? About the Bronze Age Asians versus the Bronze Age Greeks? Honestly, that was a cheap shot of the sort that I would have expected from the a.morphous of old, who seems – one can hope – to be waning in favor of a far more reasonable sort of chap.

      … modernity was not just some stupid mistake, a wrong turn made somewhere that we can or should just undo. That seems just dumb to me (sorry). Obviously modernity has a lot of problems, but just as obviously it didn’t come out of nowhere, it was a product of the workings of powerful historical forces and the need for culture to adapt to them. Like any other human culture, it’s an adaptation to circumstances.

      Well, sure. Obviously modernity was well intended, and arose organically out of its precedents. It seemed, and seems, logical and correct to those who have implemented it. But we can say the same of *all human social orders whatever,* so this point is neither here nor there.

      That modernity arose organically from its predecessors and with the best will in the world *does not mean it was not a mistake.* The road to Hell is paved with good intentions arising organically from their factors. Nor does it mean that we should stick with modernity, when – as is by now obvious – it is failing, a gigantic disaster unparalleled in human history. All you have to do, to understand the epochal failure of modernity, is look at the abysmal Total Fertility statistics for modern nations, and the total body counts of modern societies in the 19th and 20th centuries. Nothing like those numbers had ever before been achieved. Compared to the Commies – the archetypal modernists – the Aztecs and the Phoenicians with their pathetic tiny heaps of thousands of skulls were amateurs, chumps, beginners, wannabes.

      If modernity continues, it shall soon be extinct. It’s right there in the death rate/birth rate.

      Talk about the inarguable constraints of objective moral reality!

      Modernity is doomed. Indeed, it *wants* to be dead, for it hates itself; so it hates normal sex, normal reproduction, normal marriage and normal family life; it hates *biology.* It hates *reality.* Its insanity about sex and reproduction is echoed in its insane notion that electric vehicles are somehow less of a burden on the environment than vehicles powered by internal combustion, as if the conservation laws could by batteries and electric motors be overcome. It’s nuts. It’s pathetic.

      It’s sad.

      On the other hand, it’s hopeful. It is a happy thing for the normal and traditional sort that perversity such as modernism is bound sooner or later to devour itself.

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