History Of Liberalism

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture
Submitted by Kyrel Zantonavitch on Wed, 2013-01-02 02:20

This is a brief history of the philosophy and culture of liberalism. It describes a life-style and civilization which lifts human beings far above that of animals, chimpanzees, hominids, and even tribalist hunter-gatherers. Liberalism features man at his best. Liberals are clear-thinking and rational men: natural, sound, healthy, happy, uplifted, and heroic.

Liberalism is a fundamental category of philosophy and life-style -- something broad and general. It constitutes a definitive concept -- beyond which one can not venture or improve -- like life, happiness, greatness, transcendence, virtue, beauty, pleasure, thought, reality, existence, and the universe. Liberalism's subsidiary concepts are also ultimate and final: rationality, egoism, and liberty.

In the story of mankind, first come bonobos, then semi-human Homo habilis, then primitive man Homo erectus, then highly advanced Neanderthals, then truly intelligent and impressive Cro-Magnons -- who used their 100 IQs to exterminate their brutish competitors, and invent sophisticated arrow technology, and make art such as those Venus statues and cave paintings.

By 9000 BC the Ice Age ended and humans immediately converted from hunter-gatherers to rancher-farmers. After domesticating multitudinous plants and animals, by 3300 BC human beings further cultivated them with irrigation on their new private property, backed by their revolutionary social institution called government. By 1700 BC men had well-established written laws, and well-developed literature and art, and easy personal transportation using horses, and elaborate international trade using sophisticated great ships.

All of this constituted impressive advances in humans' quality of life; but none of it constituted philosophical or cultural liberalism.

Finally, by about 600 BC, the ancient Greeks created the indescribably magnificent phenomenon of Western liberalism. They invented rationality or "Greek reason" or syllogistic logic -- or pure thought or epistemology. This is usually described as "the discovery of science and philosophy."

But along with the stunning and wondrous epistemology of reason -- naturally and inevitably and inherently -- came the ethics of individualism, and the politics of freedom.

All of this can be fairly, accurately, and usefully denominated as the thought-system and life-style of Western liberalism -- of liberal philosophy and culture, especially as exemplified by Democritus, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno the Stoic. These four theorists, ironically, were labelled by their intellectual opponents as "dogmatic." This was not because these scientifically-minded, open-debaters claimed to know everything based on faith, but because they claimed to know something based on evidence and analysis.

By the 100s BC in Greece, the general ideology of liberalism was well-established in the middle and upper classes. Then the Romans conquered the Greeks and within a century made liberalism their own. They even advanced the noble ideas and ideals a bit, with such thinkers as Cicero, Lucretius, Virgil, Horace, and Aurelius.

But skepticism of reason ascended rapidly by the 200s AD, and with it came the decline of the greatest country in human history. The new phenomenon of monotheism began to dominate in the 300s AD, especially Christianity or "Plato for the masses." By the middle of the 400s the philosophy and culture of liberalism was dead, and so was Rome. A long, terrible Dark Age ensued.

This irrational, illiberal nightmare of Western civilization lasted for a millenia. The wretched and depraved philosophy of Jesus ruined everything.

But a bit of reason and hope came back into the world in the 1100s of northwest Europe with the mini-Renaissance. High-quality Greek thinkers were gradually reintroduced. Then came the 1300s and the Italian Renaissance.

By the 1500s a whole European-wide Renaissance began with France's conquest of northern Italy. The French brought their reborn art and philosophy to everyone in the West. The beautiful general philosophy of liberalism ascended still higher while the ghastly evils of fundamentalist skepticism, Platonism, monotheism, and Christianity declined. The classical liberal era was brought about by radical and heroic innovators like Francis Bacon, John Locke, Voltaire, Adam Smith, and Thomas Jefferson.

The late 1700s Enlightenment and Age of Reason in Britain, France, Holland, and America featured liberalism at its height. But it was gradually and massively undermined by the irrational, nonsensical philosophers Bishop Berkeley, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and Friedrich Hegel.

After the 1790s the French Revolution went astray and embraced ideological dogmatism and self-sacrifice to the cause. It also converted itself into an early version of modern communism; as well as the false, evil, and illiberal ideologies of right-wing conservatism and left-wing progressivism. In the art world this was manifested by the slightly but definitely irrational Romantic movement of 1800-1850. Paintings started to turn ugly again.

Socialism and communism fairly quickly went into high gear after Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto of 1848. Religion also somewhat revived in the late 1800s. These two monstrous ideologies backed the moral ideal of self-destruction, or the "Judeo-Christian ethic," or, even better, the "religio-socialist ethic." The fin de siecle 1890s was the giddy, despairing, hopeless, lost, end of a noble era in the West -- a dynamic, heroic, rational, liberal era.

A practical, real-world, irrational, illiberal, dystopia was achieved in the mid 1900s with Stalin, Hitler, and Mao. Later in the 1900s there was Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Ayatollah Khomeini, and countless other despots. Illiberalism reached a hellish trough around 1985.

Then came Ronald Reagan in America, Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia, and Deng Xiaoping in China. These four political semi-revolutionaries, in four leading nations, used their governments to change world culture in a liberal direction.

These liberal leaders emerged on the world scence because theory always proceeds practice, and the theory of liberalism began to rise again -- at least intellectually, and in certain recherché circles -- around the early 1900s. It began anew with Austrian economic thinkers like Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, and Friedrich Hayek. In addition to the dry, mechanical realm of economics, they addressed the fields of politics and sociology -- and even ethics and epistemology. They filled in many of the gaps, and corrected many of the weaknesses and failures, of Locke, Smith, and company.

The Austrians also attacked the communism, socialism, and progressivism of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson, among others. And they taught the fiery intellectual novelist Ayn Rand.

Rand converted from fiction to philosophy from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. She was by far the most liberal thinker in the history of man. She created the philosophy of Objectivism. Ayn Rand advanced human knowledge about as much as Bacon, Locke, Voltaire, Smith, and Jefferson combined.

Sadly, however, Rand undercut her liberal ideology with a heavy atmosphere and subtext of cultism and religiosity in her propaganda movement. This was understandable, considering how revolutionary and hated her philosophy was, but hardly rational.

However Rand died in 1982 and a highly rational and non-religious organization organized around her discoveries emerged in 1989. This brought the world Objectivism as a thought-system, not a belief-system; and Objectivism as a rational, benevolent, effective philosophy -- not an irrational, malicious, weird cult.

There are currently three separate but related avant-garde liberal ideological movements: Austrian economics, libertarian politics, and Objectivist philosophy. All three are tiny but, based on historical intellectual standards, seemingly growing solidly.

Pure liberalism -- a pure, clean, complete comprehension that reason was 100% right in epistemology, individualism was 100% right in ethics, and freedom was 100% right in politics -- began in the early 21st century. Randroid illiberalism began to die out. A New Enlightenment is about to begin.


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Reed

Jules Troy's picture

Stalin attempted to BECOME god...

5) The general and true

reed's picture

5) The general and true history of religion is black, black. Almost all our history books are massively fraudulent regarding the sky-doofus and his impact. Physical, financial, intellectual, and spiritual pain were everywhere. But those religious vermin white-washed pretty much everything. Ultimately, belief in god is 100% false and 100% evil -- and everybody knows it.

Stalin knew it.

Freedom of Philosophy

Doug Bandler's picture

"Freedom of religion" is an odd, prejudicial, limited concept. It should be "freedom of philosophy." We're all born with the absolute right to believe what we wish and then to act on those ideas as we will.

I like this. Its true, religion is a subset of philosophy. Religion is theistic philosophy with a mythological base. But when the Founders created that phrase the necessity of religion was still largely unquestioned. In human intellectual history first came primitive animism, then primitive religion, then sophisticated religion, then the beginnings of secular philosophy (Ionian revolution), then the advent of really sophisticated theological philosophy, then the further development of secular philosophy, then the coexistence of both theistic and secular philosophy, then the death of religion in the academy (now) combined with the advent of totally skeptical nihilistic philosophy. Then came Rand.

The Founders created America during a window where secular philosophy was at its strongest and most rational due to the better elements of the Enlightenment and when theistic philosophy (Christianity) was at its weakest and most constrained (and where its best elements where dominant).

Freedom of religion just means freedom of intellectual conscience. But of course there are limits to that. Islam is an example and everyone here knows where I stand on that.

Fredom of Thought, Word, and Deed

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Jules -- "Freedom of religion" is an odd, prejudicial, limited concept. It should be "freedom of philosophy." We're all born with the absolute right to believe what we wish and then to act on those ideas as we will.

The greatest blunder

Jules Troy's picture

The greatest blunder of all time.  Freedom of religion.  They should have simply left it at freedom of association. 

Religion in History

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Rosie -- Your second January 5 post was really long and rambling, which highly discouraged me. I'm only moderately self-disciplined in the first place, so it would have hugely helped if you had confined yourself to the 3 or 4 ideas in my essay you most disagreed with. Here's a few very late answers on some of the most important issues you raise:

1) The Dark Ages really were dark, irrational, and illiberal in my view, despite the current contrary consensus by today's historians. Almost no good philosophers, writers, or artists came from that god-forsaken period, and quantity and quality of life was way down. Bad and foolish people today reject the consensus of the Enlightenment thinkers and rewrite history in order to not understand the evil of the Christian era, and that we have another Dark Age today.

2) Almost all religious art during the Dark Age of Europe was secretly dedicated to man and life and happiness -- not god and the afterlife and the soul. And it was greatly inferior to the liberal, secular stuff which came before and after. People who believe in "god" actually reject and hate man, life, themselves, pleasure, hope, etc. whether they admit it or not.

3) Jesus teaches self-destruction, not self-fulfillment and personal happiness. He's the annihilator of society, and monster of all time. And people shouldn't love their neighbors unless they're lovable and good. Christian love is deeply immoral and unjust.

4) The fact that the liberal lifestyle was only truly experienced by the elite in the Greek, Roman, Renaissance, and Enlightenment eras is important in some senses, but not central to dominant philosophical and cultural analysis. It's easy enough to apply liberal ideas and behaviors to all genders, races, classes, etc., equally -- or to do so mentally.

5) The general and true history of religion is black, black. Almost all our history books are massively fraudulent regarding the sky-doofus and his impact. Physical, financial, intellectual, and spiritual pain were everywhere. But those religious vermin white-washed pretty much everything. Ultimately, belief in god is 100% false and 100% evil -- and everybody knows it.

Thoughts on Fundamentalist Skepticism of Reason

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Two full thoughtful comments I have to answer, Rosie? Two? You show me no mercy! Smiling I hope you aren't disappointed that I'm only up for one at a time.

I've read quite a bit of the history of philosophy, especially the early Greek stuff, and that Wikipedia entry you cite seems surprisingly accurate. I only dispute the part that implies that the skeptics successfully refuted the liberals/"dogmatists". In my opinion, certainty continues to exist, and humans still possess solid, reliable knowledge despite the wordy tortured 'reasoning' of Arcesilaus, Carneades, Sextus Empiricus, etc. In fact, worms possess certainty and trustworthy knowledge regarding much of reality, such as light vs. dark, wet vs. dry, hot vs. cold, food vs. poison, pain vs. pleasure, etc. Humans understand even more with our superior central nervous system and brain complex. No need for gods or supernatural forces to impact us, as we seek the truth, and absolutely no evidence that they do.

My reading of history indicates that the barbarians were impoverished, weakly armed, poorly organized, and small in number. They didn't conquer Rome in battle or overrun the borders; Rome committed suicide. Gibbon seems absolutely right that the Romans experienced a huge loss in civic virtue. It stemmed from irrational, illiberal philosophy.

The people I claim introduced this terrible evil into the world -- and who became intellectually and culturally dominant in the 200s AD -- are the ones listed in your encyclopedia article, plus the early Christian fathers/doctors/saints, plus a few stray religiosos, especially brainy warped Jews.

Fundamentalist skepticism or Skepticism (capitalized) is the root of all evil and the destroyer of mankind. Ayn Rand blamed "faith and force," but antecedent to faith (and force) is Skepticism, and doubt about rationality and thinking. This is absolutely not permitted to men (or worms). It makes no sense ever, as far as I can tell, and is naturally and always incoherent. Universal skepticism refutes itself, and is impossible to express in language; thus this type of skepticism regarding the power and authority of reason is gibberish, in my view.

(Of course, scientific type skepticism, which uses reason and evidence to challenge a previous claim/idea/belief based on reason and evidence, is wholly different. This is good, proper, and necessary to acquiring, expanding, and improving truth.)

:)

Jules Troy's picture

Visual kinaesthetic auditory girls! 

Neanderthal?

Luke Setzer's picture

I do not recall ever explicitly calling Doug a "Neanderthal" though I do wish he would give romantic love a fair shake. Act like a slut and you will attract sluts. Act like a romantic and you might actually attract a romantic. In any case, I downloaded the Kindle sample from Doug's favorite book, The Game by Neil Strauss, and found it interesting, so I might listen to the audio version later this year just to inform myself. Doug might be interested to know that I actually own the Ross Jeffries Basic Speed Seduction Home Study Course because of my interest in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). The techniques can be used to build legitimate rapport with legitimate romantic love interests and not just sluts. I wish it had existed and that I had access to it in high school. I would not hesitate to share it with any sons I had though I would certainly supplement it with other material to ground it to romantic love. For that matter, any daughters I had would deserve to know how their boyfriends think, so they would have access, too.

Speaking of fornication, I never saw an answer to my question to the resident Goblinists on the "Two Lanzas" thread about their views on the subject. My own experience suggests that many only pay lip service to this commandment but do whatever the hell they want in the bedroom. I guess they can ask Jesus to shed a little more blood to wash away their sins.

Kyrel

Rosie's picture

The new phenomenon of monotheism began to dominate in the 300s AD, especially Christianity or "Plato for the masses." By the middle of the 400s the philosophy and culture of liberalism was dead, and so was Rome. A long, terrible Dark Age ensued.

This irrational, illiberal nightmare of Western civilization lasted for a millenia. The wretched and depraved philosophy of Jesus ruined everything.

1. I disagree with you that the culture of "liberalism" as existed in Greece or Rome was dead by the middle of 400AD because it was never very alive! and I disagree that an "irrational, illiberal nightmare of Western Civilization" existed during the Middle Ages.

Firstly, this type of "liberalism" you speak of in both Greece and Rome was of a very limited sort. Nothing at all like today's liberalism.

It existed for the elite free men only. Athens' democracy excluded slaves and women from political participation. The Romans had a representative form of government (the Senate) but again it was confined to the elite free men and excluded slaves and women. Political liberalism remained this way until the 19th and 20th centuries.

Freedom of Religion was not always free. This ceases whenever one religion becomes dominant, where the established order has felt threatened, such as the trial of Socrates in 399 BC or where the ruler has been deified, as in Rome. When Christians did not recognise the emperor's deity, so began the persecution of the early Christian communities. In 1 and 2 AD there were the Roman-Jewish wars as a result of Greek/Jewish clashes in Cyrene and later Alexandria.

Freedom of speech, like religion, was only free so long as it did not threaten or offend the authorities. In 215, the emperor Caracalla visited the city and, because of some insulting satires that the inhabitants had directed at him, abruptly commanded his troops to put to death all youths capable of bearing arms.

So antiquity was not quite the liberal fantasy world you seem to imagine.

In the early middle ages, with the fall of Rome, there was a decline in trade and a natural follow on effect of urban immigration and the many barbarian invasions resulting in new leadership/power. It is true that there was a cultural vacuum during this drastic period of change initially but it was certainly not a millennia before an early renaissance occurred.

Most of the new kingdoms formed by the barbarians in the remains of Western Roman Empire continued to incorporate extant Roman institutions, the Franks had a very stable empire under the Merovingians, monasteries were founded as Christianity expanded in western Europe, the ongoing Islamic invasion of Europe was curtailed due to funding from Christian monasteries and the leadership of Charles Martel in 712 - a rational decision of the utmost importance for freedom.

By 800 the position of Emperor was restored and bestowed upon the grandson of Martel and founder of the Carolingian Empire, Charlemagne. His territory included the former Western and Central Roman Empire and his rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. In about the 9th and 10th centuries the Vikings, the Magyars and the Saracens invaded Europe and brought the Carolingian Empire to an end. So, throughout the middle ages, although there are periods of stability and unity through the Catholic church and a resurgence of art and culture during the periods of stability, there is much fighting for power.

During the High Middle Ages, which began after AD 1000, the population of Europe increased. Technological and agricultural innovations improved crops and trading. The system of rule was feudalism and manorialism. Intellectual life was marked by scholasticism, a philosophy which emphasized joining faith to reason, and by the founding of universities. The mathematics of Fibonacci and Oresme, the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, the paintings of Giotto, the poetry of Dante and Chaucer, the travels of Marco Polo, and the architecture of Gothic cathedrals such as Chartres are among the outstanding achievements of this period.

From Wikipedia:

Rational thought and the study of nature

"The medieval period is frequently caricatured as supposedly a "time of ignorance and superstition" which placed "the word of religious authorities over personal experience and rational activity." However, rationality was increasingly held in high regard as the Middle Ages progressed. The historian of science Edward Grant, writes that "If revolutionary rational thoughts were expressed [in the 18th century], they were made possible because of the long medieval tradition that established the use of reason as one of the most important of human activities". Furthermore, David Lindberg says that, contrary to common belief, "the late medieval scholar rarely experienced the coercive power of the church and would have regarded himself as free (particularly in the natural sciences) to follow reason and observation wherever they led".

"The caricature of the period is also reflected in a number of more specific notions. For instance, a claim that was first propagated in the 19th century and is still very common in popular culture is the supposition that all people in the Middle Ages believed that the Earth was flat. This claim is mistaken. In fact, lecturers in the medieval universities commonly advanced evidence in favor of the idea that the Earth was a sphere. Lindberg and Ronald Numbers write: "There was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge [Earth's] sphericity and even know its approximate circumference".

"Other misconceptions such as: "the Church prohibited autopsies and dissections during the Middle Ages", "the rise of Christianity killed off ancient science", and "the medieval Christian church suppressed the growth of natural philosophy", are all cited by Ronald Numbers as examples of widely popular myths that still pass as historical truth, although they are not supported by current historical research. They help maintain the idea of a "Dark Age" spanning through the medieval period.

"Unlike pagan Rome, Christian Europe did not exercise a universal prohibition of the dissection and autopsy of the human body and such examinations were carried out regularly from at least the 13th century. It has even been suggested that the Christian theology contributed significantly to the revival of human dissection and autopsy by providing a new socio-religious and cultural context in which the human cadaver was no longer seen as sacrosanct."

In the Eastern Roman Empire, life continued pretty much the same up until 7AD and the Islamic conquests and so began the Islamic Empire. The still sizeable Byzantine Empire survived and remained a major power. The empire's law code, the Code of Justinian, was widely admired. This became the basis of canon law in the church and is the basis of our own law today. Things continued in the East pretty much as before.

2. I particularly disagree that it was the "depraved philosophy of Jesus that ruined everything".

The philosophy of Jesus is to love thy neighbour as thyself.

Jesus and his philosophy has inspired people to create wondrous art, music, literature, cathedrals and other buildings, monastries, nunneries, institutions of learning and also, via the Bible, encouraged reading and writing for the masses. The history of Christianity is the history of Western civilisation and the cornerstone of the true freedom you enjoy today. I am not saying people have not abused the church for their own gain or in ignorance. But to say Jesus's philosophy is depraved, to say it ruined everything and to wish for the Roman Empire - in effect a military organisation with, as often as not, an insane leader - in its stead seems rather naive.

The only thing (outside of natural disasters) that "ruins everything" is the dominating, greedy, power-loving, competitive (as opposed to co-operative) behaviour of human beings NOT following the philosophy of Jesus.

Yes and No

Doug Bandler's picture

The decline of the Roman Empire had nothing whatsoever to do with philosophical skepticism but much to do with the many invasions: Germanic, Vandals, Visigoths, Persians, Muslim.

On one level, yes. But on a deeper level, Ancient Rome went through what we are going through today. The Republican period was strong and virtuous because of a belief in the gods mixed with a common sense worldview and a strong traditionalism. The gods provided the moral foundation for Roman strength, virtue, honor, and dignity. The same thing that can be said of our Founding Era. Colonial America had a mix of Enlightenment reason with a very benevolent approach to Christianity. Thus that era produced virtuous men like Washington and Madison and Adams, etc.. Even Peikoff has stated that America couldn't have been won if the Founding Fathers were a bunch of Humean skeptics.

But....

It was actually the departed John Lewis who made this point, Greek philosophy played out not in Greece but in Rome. It was the skepticism of the Greek philosophers that would come to influence Roman intellectuals. Now I know there were many schools of Greek philosophy and there were many different influences on the Romans, but you see a pattern. Like today, you had a break down in traditional morality and an ascendance of many different religious cults. Simultaneously you saw the rise of philosophic skepticism largely in the form of sophism. As a result the Roman citizens were both religious and cynical; just like today.

There are so many parallels with America and Rome that its scary. We really are going the way of Rome.

Kyrel

Rosie's picture

But skepticism of reason ascended rapidly by the 200s AD, and with it came the decline of the greatest country in human history.

In fact, philosophical skepticism originated in ancient Greek philosophy and, historically, religious skepticism can be traced back to Socrates.

From Wikipedia:

"The Greek Sophists of the 5th century BC were for the most part skeptics. Pyrrhonism was a school of skepticism founded by Aenesidemus in the first century BC and recorded by Sextus Empiricus in the late 2nd century or early 3rd century AD. One of its first proponents was Pyrrho of Elis (c. 360-275 B.C.), who traveled and studied as far as India and propounded the adoption of "practical" skepticism. Subsequently, in the "New Academy" Arcesilaus (c. 315-241 B.C.) and Carneades (c. 213-129 B.C.) developed more theoretical perspectives, by which conceptions of absolute truth and falsity were refuted as uncertain. Carneades criticized the views of the Dogmatists, especially supporters of Stoicism, asserting that absolute certainty of knowledge is impossible. Sextus Empiricus (c. A.D. 200), the main authority for Greek skepticism, developed the position further, incorporating aspects of empiricism into the basis for asserting knowledge."

The decline of the Roman Empire had nothing whatsoever to do with philosophical skepticism but much to do with the many invasions: Germanic, Vandals, Visigoths, Persians, Muslim.
Historians say that the Romans put more and more control in to the hands of the barbarians who eventually turned on them. Edward Gibbon famously placed the blame on a loss of civic virtue among the Roman citizens.

Incidentally, who do you claim is responsible for introducing this so-called "skepticism of reason" in or about 200AD?

Lewis was a good man

Doug Bandler's picture

One very interesting side note here is that about nine years ago the late, great, war expert, and independently-spirited Objectivist John David Lewis (1955-2012) gave his analysis of Rand's seminal essay in a maybe 75-minute lecture at New York University

Wow. I would have loved to hear that. You know, Rand has been criticized for that monograph with the main complaint that she got certain things wrong in her sweep of history. For example, Branden pointed out that Rand thought that Egypt used slaves to build the pyramids which I think was technically not true. But Lewis was a phd historian. I would really have loved to get his take on a philosophical-historical sweep. That is a shame that the transcript of that talk was lost. Damn, John Lewis was a really good man. What a shame to lose someone like him and so quickly once his sickness escalated.

And however impressive Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind (1987) is, in terms of reinterpreting Western history since the Greeks, he was still a Platonist who was too trapped in the limited conservo-progressive world, and just not ambitious enough overall.

Agreed. But the thing is, who else is going to critique the Leftist culture but Conservatives? You have to sift through their work and ferret out the trad-con stuff. Which is why I would love to see Objectivism develop minds like Bloom or Auster; minds that could dissect today's Leftist culture from a well developed liberal/Objectivist foundation.

The Second Flood

Doug Bandler's picture

There has to be an actual Noah's Flood, in which all such dregs are drowned and we happy few "impressive Cro-Magnons" are preserved on the Ark. Doug, there may even be a Cro-Magnon female just for you. Oh, but Luke Setzer says you're Neanderthal.

Hah. That Cro-Magnon chick better know how to cook.

As for the evolutionary angle. Well, that's just it. What science is uncovering is just how hard it is for humans to be rational and long term in their thinking. We are wired for certain things that did not exist in the degree and abundance that they do today. The biggest example of this is food. But sex is also another example of what scientists call "Mismatch Theory". Women were old by their mid 20s in the ancestral world and they were saddled with five kids or so. They had no time to be slutting it up at night clubs. Hypergamy was restrained. Humans ate what they could pick, pluck or kill. There were no fast food chains. Humans lived in groups of 150 or so. There were no multi-million people cities. We were outside all day. We did not work in cubicles. Etc, etc, etc..

The history of philosophy is the history of uncovering the potential of the neo-cortex which was the last thing we developed. I think Rand has done more than any other philosopher except Aristotle to place us on the road to truth and fully using our neo-cortex to regulate the rest of the pre-installed "animality" that comes with the human package. But I also think that she is incomplete and needs to be reconciled with evolutionary theory. I think its doable but no Objectivist today is up to the challenge. Hopefully Objectivism 2.0 will be truly kick ass whenever its launched.

As for Airhead America, its everywhere now. Even the Asian world is getting in on the act. (i.e. that crazy Korean dude that Oba-filth likes so much.) It seems like prosperity + PoMo wankery = a dumbed down airhead society. Maybe we do need a second flood although that wouldn't be good for real estate values.

Thoughts on the March and Thrust of Human History

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Thanks for comparing my essay to Ayn Rand's highly-ambitious and remarkable historical essay in For The New Intellectual, Doug! I'm flattered. Of course, my piece is 3 pages and hers 47. Still, I had much of the same intent.

One very interesting side note here is that about nine years ago the late, great, war expert, and independently-spirited Objectivist John David Lewis (1955-2012) gave his analysis of Rand's seminal essay in a maybe 75-minute lecture at New York University. I both hugely agreed and rather disagreed with his various new points, just as I did with Rand's stunning 1960 original monograph. But now this lecture seems to be LOST FOREVER. A huge tragedy, if true. His wife, archivist, or somebody desperately needs to dig up his notes since the ideas may have been too controversial to publish in written form. Professor Lewis both elaborated on and improved Rand's idiosyncratic thinking in that tour de force sweeping review of hers. But, no, I can not decently remember what the hell he said, and the many, many points he made. And I probably only have primitive notes of the speech buried somewhere in my apartment.

I certainly think the Objectivist world is capable of many good and fresh interpretations of human history, especially Western history over the past 2600 years. Not to excessively boast, but I think Rand, Lewis, and myself did just that. But there's so much more to say. And I don't think any mere conservative, progressive, or even libertarian intellectual can do it. It pretty much has to be an Objectivist. Or else a really strong British historian or classicist like Paul Johnson.

And however impressive Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind (1987) is, in terms of reinterpreting Western history since the Greeks, he was still a Platonist who was too trapped in the limited conservo-progressive world, and just not ambitious enough overall.

I think ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... Kyrel has inadvertently hit upon the real explanation for civilization's current crisis:

In the story of mankind, first come bonobos, then semi-human Homo habilis, then primitive man Homo erectus, then highly advanced Neanderthals, then truly intelligent and impressive Cro-Magnons -- who used their 100 IQs to exterminate their brutish competitors, and invent sophisticated arrow technology, and make art such as those Venus statues and cave paintings.

That is, most current "humans" are still actually "semi-human Homo habilis" (and no one's tumbled to the fact). Hence, pomowankery, goblinite wishful thinking, headbanging caterwauling, the re-election of The Filth, the Left, Adam Lanza, official Objectivism, the infantilism of umbragitis and so on: Airhead America, in short.

There has to be an actual Noah's Flood, in which all such dregs are drowned and we happy few "impressive Cro-Magnons" are preserved on the Ark. Doug, there may even be a Cro-Magnon female just for you. Oh, but Luke Setzer says you're Neanderthal. Eye

Positive v Negative

Doug Bandler's picture

Kyrel may be too positive and I may be too negative. Who knows? The truth may be in between.

The original essay though is interesting. Its Kyrel's version of Rand's sweeping essay "For The New Intellectual". Austrian economics, Objectivism and libertarian politics as the harbinger of a new reinvigorated liberalism? Hmm. Maybe. Also, I like the breakdown of progressive Leftism vs. Right-wing Conservatism. I agree with that with the caveat that today's mainstream Conservative movement is a mix of old Conservatism and watered down Classical Liberalism. It depends on the Conservative but some of them are really more Liberal than Conservative. But the point I think is a legitimate one. Stephen Hicks in one of his essays for Kelley's site argued that both Leftism and Liberalism were modern era developments that challenged the ancient order. Conservatism as an intellectual movement actually developed to combat liberalism and then sort of moved on to combat the Left (although really fucking weakly).

As for the 80s being the demarcation point of a new liberal Renaissance, that to me is the overly optimistic point but I have seen that suggestion made by other Objectivists before. I just don't know. Oh one last point, promiscuous women bringing "civilizational hope"? Really? Would you say that if you wanted to start a family and have a LOYAL wife? A wife who hasn't been taking it up every orifice from every charismatic she's met since she's 18. We disagree on that point. I think female hypergamy is one of the most dangerous forces on this earth, even if in my present (somewhat nihilistic Ke$ha-esque) state of mind I am benefiting from it. It is my deepest hope that hypergamy does not end up invalidating the liberty premise and the original liberal agenda. But history will make that judgment.

All in all, I like this thread. I like the historical overview stuff. Its cool.

I've wondered about Kyrel's optimism

gregster's picture

but I now see he knows that reality cannot be resisted indefinitely. Chickens come home to roost. It's basic economics. But whether the revolution will be armed by Objectivism is difficult to predict. If concerted efforts by the likes of ARI into the education market continue to expand it will be good. That's the only way I can see any "new enlightenment."

There are parallels in Rand's early thought. "She believed that the communist regime could not last. If it were overthrown, she would be free to write her novels; if it were not, she would find a way to leave Russia—she would have to find a way." Barbara Branden "Who is Ayn Rand"

The West cannot last as is. But how long before it staggers to a collapse? And in the meantime, its enemies are immigrating in numbers to hasten the return of the primitive.

Liberalism in History and Objectivism in Context

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

I hope people don't miss the main points of my essay, which are a new interpretation of the last 2600 years of the history of man, and a new interpretation of the history of philosophy. I also put Objectivism in historical and philosophical context -- which Ayn Rand mostly failed to do.

Yes but...

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Doug -- I both agree and respectfully disagree with your many, many judgments. Here's a précis:

Maybe there won't be an economic collapse. US federal spending is down from 25% of GDP in 2008 to 23% today. Revenues are up from 15% to 17%. A booming greater China and India (more than 40% of world population) may buffer us all. And if Greece collapses into anarchy the world may learn a pungent and powerful lesson about the evils of the welfare state.

AR noted altruism was getting "a somewhat less enthusiastic response" while still alive. People today don't near damn you for being "selfish" in the way that I remember from 30 years ago. The Chinese and even Indians openly want to get selfishly rich. The Japanese too. No more British belief in "queen and country." Etc.

Feminism is declining. All female advice columnists today are "girly girls" -- not many proud man-haters and butches left. Black racism is also in decline. And homophobia. Pretty much everyone today is rebelliously proud to be "not PC."

Islam seems like it's about to be dismissed, or even hated, by the young in Arabian nations. Iranians openly despise what Islam did to their great nation. And after 9/11 and all those best-selling Islamic-exposé books, the West is on to the Muslims and jihadis. If they nuke NYC or DC as planned America seems psychologically prepared to devastate them. True, not near enough -- but a lot.

America truly is a demographic time bomb. Blacks and Hispanics of evidently inferior nature and nurture are overrunning us -- the "barbarians at the gate." Still -- crime is down by more than half in 20 years. And it isn't admired like it was in the black community of 25 years ago.

The US Supreme Court recently confirmed that the right to be armed (2nd Amendment) is an "individual right." They also fairly recently concluded that there exists a solid "right to privacy" -- which AR said was a hallmark of civilization and progress.

Don't know much about Hsieh; too dense and boring to read, seemingly. I like the firebrand and innovator Objectivists who get to the point.

I kinda like 'promiscuous' women -- and find civilizational hope with them. No more hideous church girls. Long live the Jedi Knight gals of Great Britain. And even American emos and goths. Sticking out tongue

The Tea Party may still have some gas left in the car, and the Randroidism of the ARIans seems in slow but clear retreat.

But...it's hard to argue all this general and overall stuff.

Hang tough! Life today is still mighty sweet. Remember: people mostly create their own world. Especially fiery rational individualists. Smiling

Kyrel

Doug Bandler's picture

What specifically and philosophically makes you so pessimistic, Doug?

First and most important, imminent economic collapse. The right lessons will not be learned. In fact, freedom will be blamed.

Altruism is unremitting. You just can't challenge it intellectually. See Rosie's comments in the Afghanistan thread. And she is a good person. Imagine what a Leftist will say.

Egalitarianism is entrenched and getting worse. Feminism, multiculturalism, anti-Westernism are all getting worse. Throw in the growing demonization of white, heterosexual males and you have a dystopia in the making.

Relativism and pragmatism are escalating. Absolutes? What's that? No one in the intellectual world will accept the existence of absolute knowledge or absolute moral principles. Rand was WAY ahead of her time.

Islam. Growing stronger and it will strike the West. Hard.

There are other things which portend the fall as well:

1) the obesity epidemic coupled with socialized medicine. That in itself will destroy the economy as the West in general and America in particular are loaded with walking disease ridden obese people. We're fucked on that score alone.

2) the coming crime epidemic of non-white on white crime. Brace yourself because with the faltering economy the violence in the urban centers will spill over to the suburbs. Its happening already. The West is going to look like Brazil; i.e. first world areas surrounded by fevellas.

3) altering demographics. In Europe it is the growing Muslim hordes. In America it is the Hispanization of the US. The Hispanics will bring their tribal, socialistic collectivism with them and the will vote Democrat. Tell that to the ARI.

4) the gradual de-arming of the American citizenry. The Left is going to confiscate our guns in time. And then we will be ripe for total tyranny. At least that is before the total fall.

5) Hypergamy- yes I have to throw in some shit about women or it wouldn't be a Doug post. Their is going to be a whole demographic of 30+ women that will find themselves shit out of luck when no beta males are willing to marry them after they have been slutting it up for their 20s. They will vote Democrat (and gimmiedat) too. Plus look out for more beta male rampage; ie Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sodini, Laughner, etc.. But wait, we won't have any guns and only "gun free zones" to protect us. God have mercy.

There is more but you get a sense where I am coming from. I may be wrong and I hope I am. But the culture sucks in the important areas contrary to that dimwit Hsieh that thinks that the culture is better now in many ways then it ever was. God help the Objectivist movement.

Well..

Jules Troy's picture

Airhead america voting Obamarx in for a second term for a starter..

My Basic View of Mankind's General Direction

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Doug -- Well, I like Billy Beck. He used to participate here on Solo Passion maybe 3 years back. Zeus knows what happened to him, since I usually enjoyed his high-spirited comments.

But I'm not necessarily all that optimistic myself, despite my essay. I tend to change my mind from week to week, practically. It's a matter of overall analysis -- factoring in everything philosophical and cultural -- which is hard to do with precision. In one important sense almost the whole West seems to be dying from welfare statism with most nations headed directly over the Grecian cliff.

But I also think world beliefs and life-styles move like a giant cruise ship: really hard to start, really hard to stop, and really hard to change direction. Generally, the world seems to be moving in a liberal direction. E.g. notice how the writers of today aren't writing all that many dystopian novels like 1984, Brave New World, and Anthem.

What specifically and philosophically makes you so pessimistic, Doug?

Mankind's Ascent

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Kyle -- I expanded the essay about 20% from yesterday. I think I answered your question in the penultimate paragraph. I would say a Second Renaissance began around the 1980s with Reagan, Thatcher, Gorbachev, and Deng impacting the world solidly. More recently there were the New Atheists of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Victor Stenger (plus the Objectivist atheist George Smith). Freedom and reason seem like concepts which are noticeably more favored than 25 years ago. So too self-interest. A Second Enlightenment is the logical next step. But probably not for a few generations, alas.

Kyrel

Doug Bandler's picture

Billy Beck believes that what we are seeing is the "Endarkenment"; i.e. the collapse of civilization due to post-modern philosophy running its course. That is what I see too. You are way too optimistic. Its unwarranted.

Kyrel

Kyle Jacob Biodrowski's picture

Pure liberalism -- a pure, clean, complete comprehension that reason was 100% right in epistemology, individualism was 100% right in ethics, and freedom was 100% right in politics -- began in the early 21st century. Randroid illiberalism began to die out. A New Enlightenment is about to begin.

You are very optimistic. How do you know a New Enlightenment is about to begin? Not that I don't like the idea, I'm just curious. 

Who is leading this enlightenment?

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