Posts Tagged ‘arthur schopenhauer’

Power-Nihilism: A Case For Moral & Political Nihilism by James Theodore Stillwell III

Thursday, May 18th, 2017


Power-Nihilism: A Case For Moral & Political Nihilism
by James Theodore Stillwell III
88 pages, Bookemon, $30

Nihilism attracts much confusion because it is an entirely different way of viewing the world. It is the direct opposite of the universalism of this time, which states that there are universal truths which can be discovered and spread to other human beings. Instead, nihilism advocates a hard realism in which aspects of reality are discovered, but not preserved or communicated.

James Theodore Stillwell III enters the fray with Power-Nihilism: A Case For Moral & Political Nihilism, a short book which affirms a Nietzsche-Redbeard view of nihilism as the need for the individual to not be ruled by the herd, and find meaning where it is relevant to the individual. This “might is right” expression of nihilism conveys many benefits, but also might need further development.

The book affirms the basic idea of nihilism through a study of morality which it rightly views as conditional. That is, if someone wants to survive, they must eat; however, there is no universal commandment that all must want to survive. With that in mind, Stillwell dispenses with the idea of objective and subjective morality, and focuses instead on the morality of survival and self-expression.

Morality doesn’t state ‘If you want to achieve X you ought to do Y.’ Rather, it says ‘Thou shalt not commit murder!’ regardless of whether you are concerned about facing the death penalty or not! It is this kind of imperative the moral skeptic rejects because outside of the context of punishment and reward there can be no motivating force to propel one to act in a certain manner. After all, if I want to perform X and am immune to penalty why ought I not do X? Because it’s ‘wrong’? What does that mean? Hence the nihilist contends that only hypothetical imperatives are tenable. Every prescription not based upon a value premise (a goal) raises questions such as a ‘According to whom?’ and ‘Why not?’ because every imperative logically implies a subjective aim. Therefore the Categorical Imperative is nothing but moral mysticism dreamed up by moralizing sophists! (32)

His vision is to restate morality not as a normative commandment, or that which tells people what they should do, but as an gesture of will: people are different, and some who wish to break from the herd find a morality in asserting their will upon reality and need no reason to do so. This instinctual morality fits within a naturalistic analysis, where humans are Darwinian creatures struggling for survival.

Onto that, Stillwell grafts a bit of Nietzsche — “Nietzsche defines a healthy society as not existing for its own sake, but for the sake of a higher type, that is the ‘value creators'” — and argues essentially that these cannot sensibly obey herd morality and must do what they must, in full barbarian bloodlust, because like the natural selection in nature this produces higher proficiency and therefore, better results for humanity.

This combines with his individualist theme, and ultimately masters it, somewhat to the surprise of the writer. Stillwell correctly intuits that higher men cannot live by the rules of the herd, but then posits that they should live for their own instincts, when really his writing verges on the idea of instead having them act toward the value creation process, i.e. a transcendental outlook that values supremacy, proficiency, excellence and creativity above the usual rote labor-by-the-pound of the herd.

The slavish herd animal lives a pessimistic and fearful existence. He is timid and uncertain of himself. This type of man lacks courage, he attempts to make virtues out of his weakness and cowardice and ‘to make the best of a bad situation.’ He elevates those virtues which serve to alleviate his suffering. He honors virtues such as pity, empathy, compassion, patience, humility, and equality, for to him these are the most useful qualities. Slave morality is essentially that of utility. Such ones tend to demonize and resent the powerful, the virile, the egoistic, and self-assertive. Such lowly specimens are often pessimistic concerning the human condition, and some even find themselves gazing into the abyss of anti natalism. (73)

In this, Stillwell also reveals a flaw in Nietzsche. For Nietzsche, philosophy resolved into a type of artistic idealism whereby the individual struggled for beauty in a fusion of the Romantic and ancient ideals. The nihilistic perspective on this, however, is twofold: first, it is esoteric and most people cannot visualize it, so teaching them individualism works against it, as individualism re-invents the values of the herd. Second, it is a goal higher than the individual which requires subsuming the individual to its direction. A nihilist must be nihilistic about all things, including the self.

Power-Nihilism: A Case For Moral & Political Nihilism does an expert job of introducing all these ideas efficiently and compactly within a small package, and opens more questions than it offers answers. Mainly it demystifies and debunks most modern illusions and introduces readers to a world where reality is only known by some humans in varying degrees, and there is no “us” or universal right way of doing things.

Stillwell writes in an open style, merging contemporary idiom with philosophical language, that allows the book to introduce a dense concept and then breathe as it explores its depth at a more leisurely pace. Citing extensively from philosophers including Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, Power-Nihilism: A Case For Moral & Political Nihilism provides a doorway from kiddie nihilism of the anarchistic revolutionary type into the full moral ambiguity of the real deal.

How Anti-Semitism Wagged The Dog For Adolf Hitler

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Contemporary sources — who are bound to lies because in an egalitarian time, everything is a lie — seem baffled by the Holocaust. Was it mere racism, ideology or pathological cruelty? Perhaps some of the above, and also, “philosophy.”

It was clear to me early on that Adolf Hitler attempted to fight back against the root ideology of socialism, which is a tricky animal because it is both collectivist and individualist. Individualism — “me first” before nature, society or others — is its goal, but collectivism is its method. Already this concept is too complex for any but a few in modern society.

He also recognized, as did Schopenhauer and Plato, that a thriving civilization acts by choosing the idea it strives for first and method later, where dying civilizations choose a method and then rationalize the results as being the idea for which it was striving.

As Plato wrote, during the Golden Age of humanity, materiality was viewed as a means to an end. Good men had wealth so that they could do good things; bad men were deprived of wealth because with it, they would do bad things. Hitler wanted to refute materialism.

He — like many others — may have misinterpreted the crucifixion of Jesus in the Bible, or just given in to prevailing superstitions and analysis, which assigned to the Jews a role as materialists and to Christians, that of idealists. This is not entirely wrong but it is misinterpreted.

Jewish materialism is in my view a Buddhist-like attempt at rejecting dualism, or the idea of a perfect world with the true actual rules of reality in it, as opposed to this world which is just symbolic or otherwise irrelevant. Buddhists recognize dualism as early onset schizophrenia.

In addition, the point of the crucifixion scene in the Bible was not that Pontius Pilate was Roman and the crowd were Jews, but that a crowd demanded the death of Jesus, and they did so through democracy. A vote was taken and the herd opted to kill the prophet instead of an actual criminal.

History fans notice that this mirrors what happened to Socrates, the story from which the crucifixion story is almost certainly derived. (Fundamentalism regard the Bible, which is a metaphorical story compiling spiritual knowledge from a half-dozen traditions, will also make you schizoid).

But Hitler wanted a unifying concept, one that could motivate his people toward the right idea and away from what he hated, which was the shallow materialism that defines the modern time. Unlike Nietzsche, who associated this with Christianity, Hitler took another direction.

We have no records of Hitler reading Nietzsche, although he was certainly conversant with the ideas of that philosopher. We do know that he was fond of carrying a volume of Schopenhauer around, and that this philosopher argued that Christianity, like Hinduism, was an attempt for a heroic idealism, where Judaism had a materialistic basis:

While all other religions endeavor to explain to the people by symbols the metaphysical significance of life, the religion of the Jews is entirely immanent and furnishes nothing but a mere war-cry in the struggle with other nations. – “Fragments for the history of philosophy”, Parerga and Paralipomena, Volume I.

This may have been the source of the metaphor that Hitler used. He wanted the Germans to rise above mere individualism, and so he gave them a metaphor for individualism through Judaism. However, this proved too popular, and quickly caught on and the base anger overwhelmed the finer details of the idea.

At the point where he was most popular, Hitler could no more have backed down on his anti-Semitism than a fundamental campaign process. Germans knew something had gone wrong in their society, and they blamed the foreigners. How much of this was true is a question for another time, but clearly the method became wrong, but because scapegoats are always more popular than nuanced truths, this should have been expected.

However, Hitler was an artist, not a politician, and so he was swallowed up by the idea. At this point, his constituents expected him to act on it, and according to Albert Speer, he did so by first attempting to scare away Jews, then imprisoning them, and finally turning to more extreme methods.

This reflected an apocalyptic view of Judaism in the Nazi imagination:

According to Confino’s historical-cultural analysis, the Holocaust cannot be explained as just another one of the events of the horrible war, or as an outcome of its circumstances. The Nazi urgency to murder all the Jews but not the members of other persecuted groups, Confino writes, is explained by the Jews’ consistent apocalyptic role in the Nazi imagination. In other words, and Prof. Confino says it brilliantly numerous times, the annihilation of the entire Jewish people was the Nazis’ supreme goal in World War II. They came to save the world from the Jews and from Judaism, regardless of the price of this “salvation.” It was their mission in this world.

Providence, as Adolf Hitler told the Reichstag in December 1941, when he declared war on the United States, consigned to the German people the leadership of the battle which would shape the world’s image in the following 1,000 years—the uncompromising battle against the Jews and Judaism. This perception was not limited to the members of the Nazi party: Many Germans participated in the persecution of Jews, Confino states, while many others—basically, the entire German society—did not oppose the Nazi regime’s anti-Jewish initiatives. Not a single group in the German society rejected the Nazi offensive on the Jews and on Judaism—for the information of Israelis and Jews in Berlin.

Hitler may have thought this treatment was relatively uncontroversial. The world has barely blinked during the Boer and Armenian genocides, and laughed off mass killings in the New World and India. To his mind, this may have been a standard method within the norm, not an aberration.

Imagine an American candidate running on the idea of eliminating “materialism” among us, and identifying a group of “materialists.” You cannot touch materialism, but you can wring the neck of a materialist, and so that is what the crowd will demand.

In a sad repetition of the acts of the French Revolution, the crowd swept Hitler up in a wave of popularity he could not control and demanded the return of the guillotine. This unfolded in events that to our great sadness were modern, all too modern.

If we are to survive into the future, our path lies elsewhere from modernity. We do not need more crowds chanting for the crucifixion of Jesus, beheading of nobles or gassing of Jews. We need a calm process of sorting out who should stay from those who must leave, and to do so as gently as possible, if nothing else for the conservation of beauty and clarity in our own souls.

Neoreactionary fragmentation

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

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Like most political change in this era, Neoreaction formalized itself on the internet and continues to manage itself there, mostly through frenetic activity on Twitter. The clacking keys of today are (alas) the swords of yesteryear, and salvos fly back and forth between continents and time zones with great velocity and greater gravitas, despite being coded in the 140-character pidgin of postmodern social networking.

Recently Nick Land, who is more of a shepherd-patriarch than raging youngster in the “#nrx” tussles, recognized the split that has been inherent in Neoreaction since its early days:

The basic tenets of Heroic Reaction:

— Moldbug is over-rated.
— Capitalism needs to be brought under control.
— The errors of fascism are dwarfed by those of libertarianism.
— White racial community is the core.
— ‘Atomization’ is a serious problem.
— Answers are already easily available, so over-thinking is unhelpful, and even seriously pathological.

Unlike #NRx, #HRx is primarily a political movement. Its theoretical appetite is modest, since it has faith that everything it truly needs can be retrieved — more-or-less straightforwardly — from the folkish past. – Outside In, “HRX,” April 11, 2015

Ever since Mencius Moldbug wrote that he was not a white nationalist, but he understood and sympathized with them, the Nietzschean aspects of Neoreaction have come into view. Although the movement arises from post-libertarian thought, part of libertarianism in its purest form is Social Darwinism, which serves as an end-run around the liberal civil rights agenda which holds any action is bad if it has “disparate impact” on the poor, minorities, womens, LGBTBBQ, etc.

This approach requires the assumption of literal biological equality of ability between people, such that if someone is poor it is by chance or villainy alone and not lower IQ or motivation, which is itself the great illusion of the modern era attacked brilliantly by Stephen Pinker in The Blank Slate. Any thinker who escapes the ghetto of the post-modern mindset will do so by first rejecting this WWII-era political assumption.

Social Darwinism escapes this quagmire by allowing freedom of association and, by removing the necessity of paying entitlements like welfare and health insurance, allowing the more competent to rise above the rest. Anyone who has read IQ statistics realizes this will create a Eurasian society here in the West where indios and African-Americans for the most part serve as a permanent underclass as they do now, for the most part, except when promoted by government incentives.

The question now before Neoreaction is thus: do we rely on capitalism and Social Darwinism to sort out our situation, or is more of a hands-on approach needed? This draws us to a split between Nietzsche and Schopenhauer: Nietzsche argued for a “going under” or escape from higher principles and return to nature, while Schopenhauer thought that the solution was to breed our noblest and smartest people into a new aristocracy. Nietzsche’s solution, like those of Adam Smith and democracy itself, is “hands free”: we set up a system, people participate, and magic results come out that we assume will be best.

Not all of us agree. The following excerpt is from an upcoming interview between myself and The Right Stuff writer Meow Blitz:

My critique of Neoreaction is based in two areas. The first is that, in an effort to attract a popular audience, it reduced itself to a form of individualism. This happens to all internet movements as people want to join so they can appear “edgy,” but fear getting too far from socially acceptable ideas. Second, Neoreaction refuses to accept its conservative heritage and to endorse organic civilization. Liberalism operates through “systems” which are designed to avoid strong culture and leaders, relying instead on “invisible hand” methods like market forces and popular votes. Conservatism desires almost no government and self-rule by culture. Culture requires a racial basis and race requires nationalism, and those three are necessary together to create identity, without which social standards — other than the nominal prohibitions on murder, rape, pedophilia and the like — are impossible. Neoreaction without strong nationalism simply becomes libertarianism, which then quickly degenerates into liberalism.

In my view, invisible hand systems dodge the question of leadership and values. They do so in order to preserve The EnlightenmentTM value of equality, which means that we have no kings but require mass consensus to do anything. From this perspective, error began with the formalization in The EnlightenmentTM although the degeneration began much earlier for that formalization to even occur. Invisible hand systems are fundamentally Enlightenment creations, where prior — and, in my view, future — systems will emphasize the immediate practicality of the situation.

This represents another form of “going under,” which is the escape from the higher principles of The EnlightenmentTM and going back to common sense, natural law and the game theory logic behind the complex avoidance of centralization and decentralization alike found in nature. Why have principles at all? The task is twofold: leadership for the civilization and within it, moral standards to keep people in line without needing a police state.

Identitarian writers may have one-upped Neoreaction by discovering this necessity. To keep social order, you either need Panopticon or a population which mostly polices itself. To keep systems like capitalism from raging out of control and covering the planet in McDonald’s, you need strong culture to have values higher than mere profit enhancement. But in that, capitalism is no different than any other “tool” in our arsenal. Sometimes, government regulation makes sense, but without strong leadership and a culture that primes citizens to be vigiligant for not just violations but alert to fluctuations in quality, it fails. Even ethno-nationalism alone as a principle becomes consumptive as happened with the NSDAP. There are no tools which we can start up and imagine that they will “magically” solve our problems. We — or at least, those among us with the most skill to lead, and all of us together as administrators of culture — cannot rule through external black box mechanisms, but must get in there, roll up our sleeves, and do it ourselves.

When we do not need a capacity, it degenerates. Our leaders now are degenerate because they are elected, and elections reward showmen and snake oil saleswomen but not realistic leaders, true, but also because they are atrophied. Leadership at this point is a matter of looking over two spreadsheets, a budget and public policy polling. Leaders pick the intersection between profit and popularity, make a speech and hope for the best.

Degeneration occurs when intelligence has done its mission as well, as revealed by E. Ray Lankester in his Degeneration: A Chapter in Darwinism. In contrast to Utopian predictions, his research illustrates how in the absence of need for intelligence, it atrophies and becomes weak, allowing cruder and more violent elements to prevail. Conveniently, that describes the decline of every civilization since the dawn of humankind.

To avoid that fate, we must make intelligence relevant again. Our “going under” involves using primitive methods in place of sophisticated ones, and reverting to simple but widely-applicable stances like self-interest and its extension in tribalism instead of moral and economic stances. The more we try to make perfect, as human beings, the more we fail. It is better to uphold the older ways because they were imperfect and as a result, kept us constantly challenged and away from the atrophy of late civilization.

This does not mean a return to mud huts and subsistence farming. On the contrary, it suggests we should use technology to its fullest extent, but instead of relying on blank slate invisible hand systems, to start making leadership more important. Put each person of intelligence in charge of something and see where he succeeds. Reward those who do well, all the way up to those who should lead us at local, regional, state, nation-state and national — racial/ethnic — levels.

In this, I propose a new direction for Neoreaction: stop with the politics and economics, and focus on the design of civilization itself. The tool becomes the master when it is not guided by a strong hand. The strong hand we need is not a Fuehrer, but good leadership at every level, even for the average citizen to be morally upright and apply strong cultural principles. Then on top of that, we need the return of kings and a society which emphasizes hierarchy and excellence instead of the participation and equality which lead to degeneration.

Keeping up the grand tradition of inscrutably internally reflexive nomenclature, I suggest we call this “organic reaction,” and that it be known not as a system, but a type of civilization design that leads to better results — “the good, the beautiful and the true” and “the perennial things” (Huxley) or “tradition” (Evola) — so that we as individuals and the society around us are in harmony working toward a cooperative goal of ever-increasing excellence.

As Bill and Ted said, “Be excellent to each other.” Maybe it is time we were excellent to ourselves as a species, as well.