Ever wonder just why it is that folks on the Left get so easily outraged and personally offended when somebody disagrees with them? To be sure, everybody has felt at least a little disgust and opprobrium towards ideas they believe immoral and depraved, eye-rolling exasperation at ideas that are blatantly illogical or otherwise in error, heat in a debate, and so on like that. These sentiments are all perfectly natural and, when properly ordered, indeed healthy. But the Left seems to have a special propensity to take dissenting thoughts and points of view as urgently threatening even where they concern only minor points of order, and react to them with horror and loathing morbidly exaggerated beyond due proportion,  less because of any particular contents of those thoughts and points of view than simply that they dissent and disagree with the (actual or supposed) Leftist consensus. Thus it happens, for example, that SJWs ostentatiously affect being grievously traumatized by the mere fact that some speaker gave a public lecture on campus, even though none of the putative victims actually attended the lecture or even had any idea what it was supposed to have been about aside from having heard that the speaker was critical of the agenda of the Left in some way.

We can immediately recognize the legacy of Puritanism in all this, and also the Left’s intrinsically feminine mindset: emotionally labile and undisciplined, unable to subjugate the passions to Reason and ascend to the masculine level of the impartial and objective, and so incapable of distinguishing between the political and the personal, disputation and attack, objection and outrage.

There is also a cognitive-epistemic dimension to it, in the form of a horizon of assumptions about the ultimate nature of truth, reality, and Man’s relation to them, and his world; it is this more purely intellectual component of the Leftist mind that I want to single out for attention in this entry. To this end, I present, as a clinical case-study, an especially suggestive and illuminating specimen of Leftist thought, its author an associate professor of sociology and self-described revolutionary Socialist.

The starting point for our author is Marx’s “materialist” theory of the etiology of ideas:

Marx and Engels’s materialist method of history asserts that all human consciousness arises out of practical life experience.

It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness (Marx, Preface to A Critique of Political Economy)

[…] Every form of knowledge from religion to philosophy to science is a product of social relations.

So far, not so bad; I would have formulated it differently, and think it’s wrongheaded as it stands, but there’s no gainsaying the general gist of it: the great ideas of a time are products of that time, and the beliefs men have about the nature of men, things, and the ultimate are formed in the social milieux in which men are born and bred, and subsequently move. Nothing especially controversial here- at least as long as we draw a distinction between what men believe to be true at any given historical time and place and what actually is true.

The Marxists, however, fail to do precisely that. For them, there is no Heaven, only social struggles on Earth; there is no God, and, a fortiori, no rational nature, no rules of right reason, and thus no truth or reality that are “objective”, viz. irresistibly binding on every thinking subject. The distinction between the sociology of knowledge- considered as a genetic theory of how various ideas are formed- and knowledge per se-  considered as a corpus of universally valid propositions concerning the objective nature of things- is altogether obviated, and the unity of truth radically particularized into various “ideologies” that create their own truth according to their own desires, interests, and standards:

  • Bourgeois ideologies validate truth-claims relative to capitalist praxis, which works to maximize the rate of exploitation.
  • Proletarian ideologies validate truth-claims relative to working-class praxis, which works to minimize the rate of exploitation, and ultimately to abolish exploitation altogether.

Indeed, our author goes as far as to argue that, since there is after all no universal objective standard of truth against which the diverse ideological regimes of truth could be measured:

bourgeois ideologies are not actually false. Or, more specifically, they are false only in relation to working-class praxis, just as proletarian ideologies are false in relation to capitalist praxis.

Rest assured, though: our author has absolutely no intention of building some kind of happy-hippy, post-modern world in which you have your truth, I have mine, and we all agree to disagree. On the contrary: that there is no Universal that transcends the diversity of particular truth-claims seems to make the demand for punctilious ideological uniformity all the more urgent to the Leftist mind. If truth begins and ends in the subjective beliefs of individual men, then it follows that the truth of Socialism, like the Tinkerbell fairy who begins to vanish whenever a child stops believing in her, disappears where it does not succeed in gaining absolute social dominance and ascendancy in a zero-sum  elimination contest fought between the competing truths:

[T]he danger, the urgency, for an intellectual committed to radical socialism [is] not that the workers will be deceived into the false ideas of bourgeois ideologies, because those ideas are not false. They become true, or at least potentially true, the moment one rejects the project of revolutionary social change.

In other words, the danger is that bourgeois ideas will become true by virtue of the complete social dominance of capitalism.

And in the interest of seeing to it that the truths of Socialism shall not perish from the Earth, objectivity is brought back in- this time, in the form of a social consensus, a uniformity of thought and action (“praxis”) that stands in for the universal-objective as a man-made functional equivalent:

The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power…in practice. (Marx, Theses on Feuerbach)

It should go without saying that the practical demonstration of the objective truth of Socialism resides, not in formal syllogisms and scientific experiments and the like (which, we have seen, are impotent in a Marxian universe), but in the physical annihilation of dissenting ideas- and their carriers- in the “revolutionary struggle”. Where Christian religion and, a fortiori, philosophical rationalism conceived the objective character of Truth in terms of the irresistible power exercised on the reasoning mind by precepts of right Reason (e.g. if 1=1, then 1+1=2, no matter how hard you may try to conceive it otherwise), Godless materialism  guarantees the objective truth of Socialism by way of irresistible power exercised over the physical body by State repression, which lends to the articles of Socialist dogma a force they cannot possibly muster on their own.

This all explains the hysterical and grotesque over-reaction Leftists display towards dissenting ideas, which stems from a deep-seated insecurity that inexorably follow from the assumptions of Socialist materialism. Those who accept these assumptions must see any dissent and disputation as a fully-fledged existential crisis for their cause- and quite reasonably, given the assumptions. By contrast, a Christian or Rationalist need not worry that that the truth of things will disappear if men fail to acknowledge it, since that truth is given in a Divinely-created universe governed by Divinely-ordained laws, all of which exist men independently of what men think of it.

As a digression, an interesting sociological corollary and index of the greater epistemological confidence of men of the Right is that the latter, although they self-avowedly reject cosmopolitanism and globalism, are often remarkably well-rounded and well-read, while the ostensible cosmopolitans of the Left are notoriously and stupidly incestuous and provincial, unwilling to engage or even take cognizance of any intellectual output produced outside their own ranks; their withering scorn for Rightist ideas, and corresponding disdain to acquire any actual familiarity with the ideas they hold in scorn, again speaks to a profound insecurity.

This insecurity also explains the special role of censorship on the Left. Make no mistake: censorship is indispensable to the functioning of a well-ordered society of any type, and the present-day ability and willingness of anybody and everybody to publicly utter what they please is an important clinical sign of the degeneracy of the times. But where traditional regimes of censorship aim to prevent charlatans and deceivers from leading the innocent away from the truth, Leftist regimes of censorship have the self-assigned task of the production of truth in the self-fulfilling prophecy of a “praxis” from which nothing can be allowed to deviate.

Traditional censorship is therefore mainly negative; it prohibits the propagation of heresies, upholds social taboos on certain forms of conduct, and so on, but otherwise leaves  daily life unmolested in warp and woof. Socialist censorship, which is much less concerned about suppressing lies than producing truth, is positive in character; it does not merely prohibit, but requires.  For example, and notoriously, it is no longer good enough to simply not oppose the latest LGBTQWERTY bathroom programme; one must publicly pledge to support it. It is no longer good enough for the individual student or worker to exercise discretion in his dealings with members of protected classes and hazard being sanctioned if he fails to do so; he must also be subject to ongoing “sensitivity training” and other forms of re-education as a condition of eligibility for study or employment.

The positive production of truth, since it seeks the objective in the uniformity of thought and action, of necessity must seek to re-format the entire social field down to the last detail, since any non-conformity in the domain of “praxis” would be to a Socialist regime of truth what the proposition that 1+1 sometimes add up to 3 would be to a mathematician. Neither the Socialist nor the mathematical regime of truth can make room for a margin of error, no matter how small; the objective, in either case, is meaningless unless all-encompassing and binding without exception. Accordingly, nothing is too small, too intimate, or too trivial  to escape SJW scrutiny. Words must be stricken from the language, new words and new spellings coined; an official style sheet is created, which grows bigger and bigger with each of its frequent successive revisions.

Finally- and again, not unreasonably, given the underlying horizon of assumptions of the Leftist project- Leftism goes where even Mohammedanism won’t and attempts to compel belief wherever possible; for the truth of Socialism, like Tinkerbell and unlike Allah, vanishes when people fail to believe it. Where the likes of the Mohammedan faith, where ascendant, can create dispositions such as dhimmitude whereby non-believers can continue to quietly persist in their old faith if willing to accept various attending social and legal disabilities, Socialists in the same position can only expel and/or exterminate- a feature of Socialist practice that, history unfortunately documents, the Left unfailingly implements wherever, and as soon as, it gets the chance.

This, fellow men of the Right, is how the mind of your enemy works. There is no possibility of co-existing with it, no possibility of rapprochement, no possibility of dialogue or detente, and no possibility of negotiated compromise. Your enemy is as likely to compromise with you as you might be to concede to a mentally disorganized person that 1+1 can add up to 3, given a large enough value of 1; it’s just not happening. The enemy cannot conceive of anything other than enlarging his sphere of truth, at the expense of yours, until it approximates the objective, viz. when you have converted or died. Strategize and mobilize accordingly.

 

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9 thoughts on “Inside the Mind of the Cathedral: How the Left Thinks

  1. Interesting post. In some respects you’ve quite accurately and perceptively understood what I was trying to say in the post on the logic of dialectical hierarchy, even as you drive towards conclusions antithetical to my own.

    You’ve also missed a couple of key points, one minor and one major, worth mentioning here:

    On a minor note, the relativism I described locates truth not in “the subjective beliefs of individual men” but in relational fields of social practice, i.e. pragmatic, material relations among humans and nonhumans — quite a different matter from human subjectivity alone. This is actually a major point on its own terms but it might not make much difference to your argument here.

    On a major point, in the post you’ve quoted (https://practicaltheorist.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/marxs-urgent-relativism) presents not my own normative views but my *ideal-typical summation* of a certain logic which can be empirically observed in Marxist discourse. I have several motives for presenting this summation, but chief among these is a critique of the harmful effects on dialogue and debate which a strictly dialectical epistemic strategy produces on the Left, which I’m building up to over the course of several posts.

    My own views on orthodox Marxism are quite critical, sometimes in ways that resonate with points you’re making here about positive censorship and intolerance of difference. If you’re interested, you can see this critique at work in these posts:
    https://practicaltheorist.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/marxism-and-genocide/
    https://practicaltheorist.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/marxism-and-difference/
    https://practicaltheorist.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/marxism-and-difference-addendum/
    and, less directly, in posts like these:
    https://practicaltheorist.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/the-revolution/
    https://practicaltheorist.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/capitalism-the-unsolved-problem/
    https://practicaltheorist.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/christian-and-buddhist-models-for-the-dissemination-of-socialism/

    That said, of course my aim in critiquing Marxism is entirely different from yours; I want to learn from the failures of the past to help achieve a revolutionary socialism in the present. I gather you would consider this folly and/or abhorrent. Fair enough! We each have our own beliefs and values. But it brings us to an interesting point.

    In this post you complain – to risk oversimplification – you complain that people on the Left don’t want to dialogue with you. This invites the question: why should they? This is where relativism, I would argue, becomes an adaptive epistemic tactic.

    Consider, for example: you write “everybody has felt at least a little disgust and opprobrium towards ideas they believe immoral and depraved, eye-rolling exasperation at ideas that are blatantly illogical or otherwise in error, heat in a debate, and so on like that”.

    Perhaps ironically, you’ve nicely described how I feel about much of what you write in this blog, positions you assertively advance: blatant sexism and misogyny, homophobia, not to mention the general celebration and fetishization of social domination.

    So when you write about “[inability] to subjugate the passions to Reason” etc. as characteristic of a “feminine mindset” or, in another post, “our spontaneous reaction to the vice of sodomy” as “disgust, revulsion, and loathing”, and so on, my response is, precisely, that these ideas are blatantly illogical and/or empirically false, and also immoral and depraved in the crassest way.

    Now, I’m not saying that to antagonize you or start a flame war. It’s just how I see things. I’m sure you take the same view of things that I believe. And that being the case — we take not just different but sharply opposed views on the nature of reality, reason, and human freedom, along with directly opposed values and normative goals — well, on what grounds could we have a constructive conversation about anything interesting?

    I’m tempted to just leave things there, but I’ll push the point a bit further.

    Here’s a situation in which each of us thinks the other’s ideas are blatantly false and depraved. How do we make sense of it?

    If each of us is a rational subject, then “the irresistible power exercised on the reasoning mind by precepts of right Reason” has produced, in each of us, two different and opposed worldviews.

    Of course each of us can try to persuade the other using reason. But given the fundamental differences in our ontological and epistemological commitments, that’s unlikely to go very far.

    Each of use can accuse the other of being irrational. But since each of us presumably believes ourselves to be rational, neither of us will be moved by such accusations.

    We could appeal to a third party to adjudicate. But how to agree on which third party? This only defers the problem a step. Ditto for appeals to a wider community, since each of us would choose different communities of reference.

    Beyond this, I think reason is exhausted. We could of course appeal to Society or the State, but to do so is to leave the realm of rational debate for the realm of power struggles pure and simple.

    The only thing that remains, as far as I can see, is to converse at the level of the irrational: emotions, intuitions, personal experience, habitus, and so on. Such a conversation, to be fruitful, would have to be governed by rules quite different from those of purely rational discourse.

    Then what would our goal be? If we went in expecting to achieve some consensus and community of feeling, I expect we would both be disappointed.

    On the other hand, there’s nothing much at stake. It’s not as if either of us has much influence, for instance.

    So my disengagement from you, which I expressed in response to your comment on my post about Ghomeshi, stems not from a desire to censor you but from a lack of interest.

    Given our commitments, what would either of us stand to gain from an attempt at dialogue? To me this is a quite serious question.

    And of course my asking it is, in fact, a form of dialogue.

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    1. Prof. Powell, I’m afraid there’s been an awful misunderstanding here. I cited your article in order to concretely illustrate some broad propositions about the mentality of the Left in general, and certainly not to insult you personally. In its uncommon erudition and rigour of argument, your piece vividly and with grand lucidity lays bare some things that the sort of low-end middlebrow SJW word-salad that unfortunately infests even scholarly journals these days, to say nothing of the Internet, never could- which is why I chose it as data for the analysis to begin with.

      Nor was it in any way whatsoever my intention to try to draw you into some kind of debate- an endeavour which, you very reasonably point out (it may be the one thing we actually can agree upon), would be pointless when there is absolutely no ground-floor of political, ethical, epistemological, and ontological agreement whatsoever. On the contrary, the very punch-line of my argument was that:

      [t]here is no possibility of co-existing with [the Left], no possibility of rapprochement, no possibility of dialogue or detente, and no possibility of negotiated compromise…The enemy cannot conceive of anything other than enlarging his sphere of truth, at the expense of yours, until it approximates the objective, viz. when you have converted or died.

      It should be clear that I no way “complain that people on the Left don’t want to dialogue”. If anything, I’d be disappointed in them if they did– for, inasmuch as they disdain to talk to a guy like me, they show the virtue of internal solidarity and loyalty to their own class, their own tribe, their own kind, and so prove that there remains, in their hearts, an instinct to society that cannot be wholly perverted or destroyed by the anomie, atomism, and deracination they strive so hard to produce. Try as they might to tear the individual out of the tribe, it seems that they can’t tear the tribe out of the individual. Score one for the immutable nature of men and things, and take that, utopian wannabe social engineers.

      No, the problem isn’t that they don’t want to talk to me. They shouldn’t! The problem is that they want to annihilate me, my rights, my class, my people, my faith, my culture. Now, I wouldn’t be true to my disciplinary roots if I didn’t lay the blame for this state of affairs on a pathological social system and not the individuals involved- so I lay that blame at the feet of the pathological and pathogenic modern form of State, which in the madness of its totalitarian lust for power lumps together all the heterogeneous estates of Man into a jumbled and promiscuous congeries; a stinking commons or barracks where, all herded together into a single undifferentiated space like so many jailbirds, men do what jailbirds do, viz. fight for dominance and control of the entire space, instead of righteously protecting their own proper spaces, as originally was their Nature, since they no longer have any. (Is this analysis a “general celebration and fetishization of social domination”?)

      So I guess the Red and Blue tribes, the working and the ruling classes (the latter with their lumpenprole foot-soldiers), are presently headed for an OK Corral moment. This town ain’t big enough for the both of us, et cetera. Whatever possibility of dialogue might have existed between the tribes in the past has given way to what is swiftly growing into catastrophic class and other social conflict. As a Christian man, I can’t say I’m thrilled about where this looks like it’s about go- indeed, has already gone. But it is what it is. The laws of God and Nature command us to peace, but not to allow ourselves to be kicked into gas chambers or herded onto reservations. This is as true for you and your folk as it is for me and my folk.

      Finally, one wonders just what, from an intellectual point of view, the Left of right now could even bring to a dialogue in any case. Positivism? The long-discredited, hare-brained (((Marxist))) theory of value? Homo Economicus? A crude atheism and vulgar anti-Catholic bigotry passed down through time, without substantial modification, from Enlightenment-era pamphlets and old Ku Klux Klan newsletters respectively? A plebeian and Philistine “materialism” that relegates nine-tenths of the collective wisdom of Mankind to the status of mere “metaphysical” opinion, or even ideology? All these notions, and others like them, are long spent, dead, and decayed, so many corpses that languish and rot in torpor. Meanwhile, an ultra-Rightist breeze is blowing fresh air through the miasma of the charnel-house of social theory; and what is truly living in the social sciences, philosophy, and the humanities, having risen from the tomb of the University system, has passed into the hands of a whole new breed of independent intellectual. A new synthesis has emerged; old and long-suppressed intellectual traditions are being recovered, resuscitated, and woven into the brand-new; secular, this-worldly social and political theory is being reconciled with e.g. Scholasticism and even mystical thought without regard for the arbitrary and obsolete oppositions between “science” and “metaphysics”, “fact” and “value”.

      Politically, too, the new breed and the new synthesis has subsumed the traditional and legitimate functions of the Left (e.g. defense of the working classes and country people, critique of corruption and unrestrained capitalism) while the nominal Left becomes increasingly derelict from its self-assigned duty and degenerated from its original purpose: even the likes of Bernie (((Sanders))) can no longer resist self-annexation to the State capitalist system, and the likes of Naomi (((Klein))) not only abandon Socialism altogether, but in their faux-gentry class pretensions openly and radically oppose the working-class interest, preferring to sacrifice thousands of high-wage union jobs and abandon the workers to poagy and Oxy in order to spare a few trees and rocks for aesthetic reasons. What would Lenin have thought of all this, I wonder…

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  2. I appreciate that we agree on where and how much we disagree; sometimes I run into a strange kind of denial about that. And just to clear things up, in the name of civility: I wasn’t personally insulted; I only felt motivated to speak somewhat forcefully, and I hope I haven’t insulted you personally, since that wasn’t my goal.

    As for the rest, well, I disagree with the substance of your entire analysis, even if I agree on some particular points. I don’t agree that the Left wants to annihilate your rights, class, people, faith, or culture, to the extent that I know what these are, and I quite vigorously disagree that the Right represents the working class against capital particularly well at all, never mind better than the Left does. There are tensions between class politics and identity politics, obviously, but I draw quite different implications from those tensions than you do. But you know this already … I’m only saying these things for the sake of any third party who wanders by, just so there’s no misunderstanding.

    We have our projects, divergent and in key ways opposed. I’ll keep an eye on what you write, just as you might keep an eye on what I write. Perhaps at some point we’ll happen on some common ground on which to have a conversation.

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  3. Although I agree with much of this analysis, I still feel as though most of this behaviour can be merely reduced to puerile or petulant responses to contradictory viewpoints. Certainly some of these grand ontological and epistemological theories could have had purchase on them in some piecemeal or derived form, but I don’t believe the vast majority of today’s left are conscious in any way of this influence. They have been pwned, as MM was wont to proclaim.

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  4. I agree that the typical SJW-types today, judging by appearances, don’t bother closely reading the likes of Marx or trouble themselves much about the ontological and epistemological implications. But what Marx and others articulated explicitly still seems to inform Leftist practice implicitly in the form of assumptions that, while unstated, unexamined, and inarticulate, are nonetheless still present and continue to shape behaviour.

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