Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Some Notes on My Introduction to Carl Schmitt

Kalim Kassam pointed me to a new-to-me introduction to Schmitt. Contains mostly politics but also a bit about consciousness, which is my favourite bit.

"Anti-political utopianism includes all forms of liberalism as well as international socialism, global capitalism, anarchism, and pacifism: in short, all social philosophies that aim at a universal order in which conflict is abolished."
Cheerfully acknowledged as true enough of me! As any charitable observer would note, the ideal of abolishing violence doesn't mean I fail if homeopathic amounts of violence remain. I mainly think that a few simplifying steps could abolish more than half of extant violence. And that anyone who is averse to phase I trials must ultimately be pro-violence.

"Furthermore, Schmitt believes that utopian attempts to completely abolish conflict actually increase its scope and intensity. There is no war more universal in scope and fanatical in prosecution than wars to end all war and establish perpetual peace."
An excellent test of my anarchist philosophy.

Certainly, I want to avoid universal, fanatical war. How does my philosophy imply peace? The central feature of anarchism is that I deserve to be left alone by anyone I leave alone. In other words, I could achieve my utopia unilaterally if my country would give me the option of not paying taxes. (Of course they know better, because it wouldn't be just me.)

Specifically, I have, with only one proviso, no fundamental objections to Progressivism. The proviso is that they let me leave. If they'd let me out of their little 'let's try it on everyone at once' trials, I'd be happy to let them corrode themselves down to nothing with no further interference. But I suspect that's the ultimate point of Progressivism - justification for coercion. I'd be just fine with being proven wrong about this.

Ironically they accept this as moral, which you can verify by trying this argument on one. They'll respond by arguing that I can't leave them alone. However, their argument is that they can impose obligations on me through the gift of roads, or some such. If that's so, I'd give them a fiver and then impose lifelong slavery on them, and my first order would be to stop making me pay taxes. ("Only reasonable expenses." "Your gifts aren't reasonable." Etc, until they go in a circle, having forgotten I'd refuted those arguments already.)

"It is important to note that Schmitt’s concept of the political does not apply to ordinary domestic politics. The rivalries of politicians and parties, provided they stay within legal parameters, do not constitute enmity in Schmitt’s sense."
Moldbug has shown that this is incorrect. The appearance of tranquility is illusory. Republibrats and Democan'ts would happily kill each other if only it would work better. They just think the risk is too great. In due course, I'm sure they'll get to it, though.

I'm disappointed in the reactosphere for not discussing the Civil War 2. It seems more important to me than most other things, though perhaps I don't know about some other catastrophe, of about the same size, that will likely arrive first.

(Q:"Why don't you discuss it yourself?" A:"Even if I were knowledgeable, discussing this with myself is a waste of typing. If I knew how to spark a wider discussion I'd have already done it.")

"For Schmitt, political sovereignty is the power to determine the enemy and declare war. The sovereign is the person who makes that decision."
A fascinating distinction. The word is wrong, I think. Let me rearrange.

The leader of a group is who decides on the group's enemies. If a section of the group disagrees, then they aren't really part of the group. They're not working toward common goals. They're not following the leader.

Is it truly sovereignty? With this wording, does it matter? What matters is whether the above paragraph is true or only suggestive. Verification: can you think of a situation where different sub-groups are fighting different enemies, without working at cross purposes?

"and (b) life-transcending and life-negating values, i.e., things that are worth killing and dying for, like the defense of personal or collective honor, one’s culture or way of life, religious and philosophical convictions, etc. Such values make possible mortal conflict between groups."
So either group selection is a thing (there are conditions usually overlooked) or consciousness straight-up trumps genetics. (This is mechanically equivalent to having a non-evolved soul.)

No species will ever directly evolve to pursue a life-negating goal. Evolution simply can't work that way, without group selection. It is a fact that humans - in fact most humans - have life-negating goals.

So, I have in front of me an organism that has every system telling it not to die except consciousness, which in practice can override all the subsystems at any time, dying and taking all the subsystems with it. It could have happened indirectly by, for example, having human goals proceed from values, which proceed from consciousness. Regardless, consciousness must be its own thing that evolution exploited, rather than simply a kind of measurement device for pathways already evolved.

However it works, this is a pretty big elephant, so I'm impressed at how well it gets ignored. That takes skill, that does.

"The abolition of the political, therefore, requires the abolition of the human capacity for passionate, existentially serious, life and death attachments. The apolitical man is, therefore, the apathetic man, the man who lacks commitment and intensity"
Error, as I mentioned above. I have great attachment to being left alone.

Schmitt may have good pro-politics arguments, but lets me down by being ignorant of anti-busybody arguments. At least, he has failed to address them.

"The apolitical utopia is a spiritual “boneless chicken ranch” of doped up, dumbed down, self-absorbed producer-consumers."
This I must agree with. Were the previous paragraph put into practice, this would be the result.

"Politics cannot be abolished by universal declarations of peace, love, and tolerance, for such attempts to transcend politics actually just reinstitute it on another plane. After all, utopian peace- and love-mongers have enemies too, namely “haters” like us."
Past the missing busybody considerations, Schmitt constructs a good logical comparison, but this is an engineering question, not philosophy. Tolerance etc, is not the fundamental opposite of politics, and therefore 'haters' are not fundamental enemies of utopians. Declarations of tolerance etc. are merely one possible tool for reducing conflict. They didn't work.

Nineteenth century policing methods worked on criminals, so perhaps try those next. If that doesn't work, try something else until something sticks.

"Thus the abolition of politics is really only the abolition of honesty about politics."
I can't approve of the path but Schmitt seems to get to good places in the end. Yes, I agree, and the first engineering challenge for a sound utopianism is how to be against politics and dishonesty simultaneously. However, Schmitt's arguments must prove that it is impossible.

"But dishonesty is the least of the utopians’ vices. For in the name of peace and love, they persecute us with a fanaticism and wanton destructiveness that make good, old-fashioned war seem wholesome by comparison."
Dishonest utopians, yes. Honesty is hardly the least virtue, its lack proceeds directly to those wanton wars. Dishonesty plus power equals destruction, shockingly. Do phase I trials because dishonesty can slip in the back door.

To me this looks like quitting. It requires a much higher quality of argument to prove that honesty and utopianism can't be combined, or that it would lead to violence regardless. Historical patterns are useful but not sufficient. By contrast, we could just run some phase I trials and skip all the arguing.

"Two peoples occupying adjacent valleys might, for strategic reasons, covet the high ground between them. This may lead to conflict. But such conflicts have finite, definable aims. Thus they tend to be limited in scope and duration."
Moldbug's distinction between conflict and violence is extremely useful here. Conflict is ubiquitous and always will be. Schmitt wants to quit trying to reduce violence.

"But when war is wedded to a universalist utopianism—global communism or democracy, the end of “terror” or, more risibly, “evil”"
Shame, Schmitt. Violence is evil. Not risible.

Schmitt would have profited by disentangling means and ends. Proggies always promote means, as do most every group. Schmitt promots a means of not trying to abolish politics.

I promote an end. The end of violence. If you can show that my means are not promoting my end, I will change them. Further, by being explicit, I make it convenient to oppose the end directly. I can prove that Proggies means are not promoting their supposed ends - and indeed many others have besides, to their faces - but they don't stop. They're dishonest. Is Schmitt honest? I can't tell, because he avoided speaking explicitly about ends. I would have to check by poking him and seeing how he wiggles, like I've done by proxy to the Proggies. (They can prove me wrong by achieving their stated ends or even stopping the bleeding, so to speak - cease the cutting until they know better where to cut.)

Sociology is easy. Proggies choose the right means for their real ends, which is why they defend the means, not the ends. Schmitt, I feel, can do this too, which makes me suspicious about his real ends.

"As for the drugs of relativism, individualism, tolerance, and the multi-cult:"
A classic conservative error. Liberals are bad, therefore everything that liberals politically like must be bad.

Moldbug's version: "It also suffers from the electoral coincidence that it has to despise everything that progressivism adores, a bizarre birth defect which does not appear to be treatable." In an election debate, saying, "Oh yeah, you're right about that," is suicide. Ergo...many things, none of them good.

Relativism is good but has always been wrongly applied; morality is relative to the victim's values. Individualism actually contains collectivism as a proper subset. Tolerance of difference is good, tolerance of violence is bad. Multi-culturalism could work if both cultures respected each other and used an etiquette API to talk to each other, and obeyed property law. This last one may be pretty far-fetched, but that means it is bad due to being impractical, not impossible.

So Schmitt is right that all those things are, historically, bad. But that's due to the dishonesty and corruption, factors which Schmitt's anti-liberalism blinds him to. He seeks to condemn before he seeks to repair.

Not every liberal is a drooling moron incapable of appreciating anything good. They are lazy, self-serving, arrogant, foolish, rash, ignorant, stubborn, parochial, preening, and so other words, they're human beings. Just like conservatives.


Kent McManigal said...

Now, see, I don't believe anarchism would result in a "universal order in which conflict is abolished". Just one where no one is "authorized" to create conflict without facing the consequences.

I also tend to disagree that violence is evil. I think violence is neutral. If you are being attacked, then violence is a reasonable response- and I would even claim it is good in that case. Initiating violence- attacking- is evil. Obviously, eliminating violence would be good, if you could get the attackers to never attack. How do you do this? If they no longer attack, then violence is ended, since any violence would be initiated force.

Aretae said...

Critique, quick.

1. I don't buy the general model of "leader leads group". I think Moldbug is painfully blind on the topic, and has bamboozled an awful lot of others. More: Leader observes group going somewhere, maybe provides minor, near-inconsequential nudges, and jumps in front. How much of BBdM have you's essential for thinking about politics at all effectively.

2. Evolution is not THAT fast. We were all tribalists 10,000 years ago. pro-group behavior IS pro-kin pro-inclusive genetic fitness behavior....except then our groups changed, and in the last ~2000 years (rome/persia) have we had real non-kin groups attach to our in-brain group-kin conflation.

perfidy said...

Aretae, you are describing accurately a low-level leader. Middle management 'facilitating' a meeting.

That's a level-1 leader. Level 2 at the outside. There are higher levels.

Alrenous said...


Oops, I'm using my idiosyncratic definition of violence without a disclaimer... So I agree, but I'm gesturing to a slightly different thing.
I'm thinking of violence upon morality, which only aggressors can commit. Defenders commit only violence on physics.


My default hypothesis is that both BBdM and Moldbug are correct. That the jumping-in-front and status-driven-tectonics are significant factors. My question is what conditions favour which mechanic.

To use Lenin, he had to become high status in the first place, and if he was anything like Hitler, he had to have a ton of lucky breaks to get there. He can't unilaterally impose revolution - he can't fire everyone, he has to get most of them to accept him, which means they're open to revolution.

However, once he gets the top spot... Well, compulsory schooling became normal. It started with riots.

For a living example, Gevlon. His guild (The PuG) went where he planned for it to go.


For level 2 leaders to not exist, it would actually have to be impossible to shepherd/manipulate crowds. If it isn't, someone will figure out how, and the only question is how many.

CEOs currently don't lead their companies, but that's probably not because they can't. Instead, their expertise lies elsewhere. Often, previous CEOs have let power slip from their seat, much like weak feudal kings did.
There may also be some intentional interference from regulation, I'm not sure.
I mention this mainly because it's practical to test it. What happens when a company avoids being mismanaged? Google 20% time?

Alrenous said...

Gevlon helpfully put up a thing both summary and prediction.

"The new purpose: to prove that an asocial, profit-oriented organization is more welcoming to people than the friendly social ones in a realistic environment."

It's more or less what he did in WoW, and now he's going to either confirm or falsify the leadership hypothesis.