David Thompson
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March 25, 2014

Comments

Anna

Mental image of the day.

Dan

The only way to achieve Marxist ideals is to force people who don't want to live in that way to live in that way.

Some people will shrug their shoulders and put up with being told how to live, but others will kick back.

For those others, they have show trials and executions, labour camps, and airbrushing.

Never get taken in by Chris Dillow's apparent reasonableness: he wants to tell you how to live your life, and if you refuse, someone - maybe not Chris, maybe he'll be first up against the wall in the internecine battle - will take you in hand.

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

I've never understood why totalitarian collectivism that's perceived as coming from the right is so self-evidently evil, and how could anybody make excuses for it; meanwhile, totalitarian collectivism that's coming from the left is supposed to be well-intentioned and how dare you criticize people for holding those views in the past!

David

The “reasonable” Marxist is a bit of puzzle, one we’ve touched on before. See, for instance, Theodore Dalrymple’s provocative little insight into the ludicrous Eric Hobsbawm:

No one would feel personally threatened by him at a social gathering, where he would be amusing, polite, charming, and accomplished; if you had him to dinner, you wouldn’t have to count the spoons afterward, even though he theoretically opposes the idea of private wealth. In short, there would be no reason to suspect that he was about to commit a common crime against you. In this sense, he is what one might call a moderate Marxist.

But Hobsbawm has stated quite openly that, had the Soviet Union managed to create a functioning and prosperous socialist society, 20 million deaths would have been a worthwhile price to pay; and since he didn’t recognise, even partially, that the Soviet Union was not in fact on the path to such a society until many years after it had murdered 20 million of its people (if not more), it is fair to assume that, if things had turned out another way in his own country, Hobsbawm would have applauded, justified, and perhaps even instigated the murders of the very people to whom he was now, under the current dispensation, being amusing, charming, and polite.

In other words, what saved Hobsbawm from committing utter evil was not his own scruples or ratiocination, and certainly not the doctrine he espoused, but the force of historical circumstance. His current moderation would have counted for nothing if world events had been different.

Presumably Hobsbawm’s colossal vanity - a signature trait of Marxoid intellectuals - got the better of him. And so he was a little careless in letting slip what he’d be happy to see done to achieve his fantasy. That’s done to others, obviously. And this is the thing. Marxism stated plainly, without the usual fudges and evasions, is the political philosophy of a sociopath. At best, someone bedevilled by sadistic urges.

How can Marxoid psychology be anything other than narcissistic and vindictive? Stripped of the standard blather, what do Marxoid thinkers believe, or claim to believe? That they - being so much smarter and having seen through our ‘false consciousness’ - know what we need better than we do. Better than all of us. Our preferences, our autonomy, is making their world untidy. If only they could fix us, whether we like it or not. It’s the belief that if only they could violate the autonomy of enough people, confiscate our earnings and rewire our very nature, the result would somehow be Total Human Contentment™.

And put like that, as it ought to be, it doesn’t sound reasonable at all. It sounds unhinged.

[ Edited. ]

Watcher

Say what you will about Marxism, it never works. Never has, never will. It could safely then remain among the best of fantasy worlds, except that its advocates usually turn out to be violent.

But no matter how violent it gets, Marxism still doesn't work.

D

I certainly agree with the larger point about Marxism, but is it necessary for people to make such continued and gratuitous attacks on reasonable religious belief? There's certainly a larger quantity of intelligent Christian thought than atheist, that's for sure. Apparently a belief that everything came out of nothing for no particular reason is not "improbable" or "dogmatic."

I know it's off the main thrust of his point, but this kind of thing is being said more and more often lately, and it's evidence of a real and damaging ignorance. An intelligent religious believer can and should see some reason in the beliefs of the atheist, improbable and dogmatic as he may find them to be; for whatever reason, atheists keep advertising themselves as being incapable of respecting the many truly brilliant people, far more intelligent than they, who were ardently religious, and their many excellent arguments in favor of religious belief.

David

D,

I certainly agree with the larger point about Marxism, but is it necessary for people to make such continued and gratuitous attacks on reasonable religious belief?

You’d have to take that up with Peter. For what it’s worth, I’m more willing to entertain the possibility of some benign first cause and ultimate source of meaning than I am to find Marxism as anything but absurd and morally disfiguring. I mean, a smart teenager could read Marx and Engels and figure out how bad their ideas are - and the kinds of personalities that would be drawn to such ideas. Deducing the existence or non-existence of something one might call God is a much trickier proposition. Beyond my powers, certainly.

[ Edited. ]

Theophrastus

Not only the ghastly Hobsbawm, but presumably Ralph Miliband, too.

Hal

I certainly agree with the larger point about Marxism, but is it necessary for people to make such continued and gratuitous attacks on reasonable religious belief?

Depends.

The long version, http://thecuria.com/science-and-religion.html . . .

The short version, whether the worship of Mithra, Marx, or claiming the worship of a Buddha, it’s all faith and made up on the fly.

Now, when one has an experience that can not be transmitted to another, but Oy Vey does that one absolutely know what has been experienced, that starts getting into actual religious practice . . . . and then someone else entirely gets to judge the results strictly on the basis of actual results----thus the rather immense difference between practicing that I don’t know who you are and I want you to be fed and have clothing vs practicing that I don’t know who you are and I‘m going to set off a car bomb in front of your house.

Soooo, mere faith will always be open to ridicule, regardless of whether the attempt is to prove that there is a or any god, or disprove that there is a or any god.

The big question will remain, what is the person actually doing?

Peter Risdon

There are essays about 'why I am still/not a Christian'. A Marxist would say there was a rational, even scientific, basis for their belief. Religious people sometimes experience problems of faith. The comparison stands, I think.

I'm an atheist so I'm not surprised by that, and notice it doesn't happen to, say, structural engineers with mechanical principles. I don't think there are any strong arguments for the existence of a God, at least I have seen none, but that wasn't my point.

Whether or not someone is religious has little or nothing to do with whether I respect them - I certainly don't respect people because of their religion, but it isn't usually a negative.

tempdog

notice it doesn't happen to, say, structural engineers with mechanical principles.

No, but I did witness a passionate, months long debate in the ASCE Journal of Hydraulic Engineering over the dimensionality of Manning's n. They might as well have been arguing over the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin for all of the real world impact or the possibility of resolving the question. The conflict between the "All constants must be dimensionless" puritans vs the "It's obvious that n has metric units" zealots was not, I think, rooted in reason. (At least not for the %^&*s who thought n was dimensionless.)

tempdog

Either Chris Dillow and his ilk played too much with toy solders as a child, or maybe he didn't play with them enough. If we got him some Legos, action figures, and maybe the Barbie play house, do you think it would help?

David

You don’t get ‘Why I am still a slightly conservative pragmatist’ essays in the same way.

If I think of my own friends and relatives who would most likely be regarded by leftists as “conservative,” it occurs to me that, for the most part, they aren’t very ideological at all. They don’t label themselves as conservative and they aren’t easily shocked. Their preferences are much more about family and pragmatism, and any “conservative” aspect, such as it is, tends to follow from that. It’s secondary, incidental, not an ideological plan. Also – and this is worth noting – the friends and relatives I’m thinking of aren’t terribly concerned with how other people should live, provided those other people keep the dog off the lawn, as it were.

Marxists, on the other hand, are generally preoccupied with how other people should live, and be forced to live. There’s an urge to organise and interfere, to make the world tidy, as defined by them. The prospect of overriding the will of others, of remaking their worldviews and redistributing their stuff, seems to occupy an awful lot of space in the typical Marxoid mind.

Minnow
it occurs to me that, for the most part, they aren’t very ideological at all

They don't think they are ideological, but that is because they have mistaken their ideology and preferences for some natural state. I am guessing they get pretty ideological pretty quick when their privileges are threatened, for example when a tax rise is threatened.

Personally I live in a place where UKIP is thick on the ground and, I am sure by coincidence, where we have a large number of Roma families and assorted other poor people. The kind of poor people who are often visible from not-poor-people's lawns, even when they do keep their dogs off. The UKIP-ers are generally thought to be conservative types but I don't think anyone would call them non-ideological. And they are very, very interested in how other people live. Especially poor people. They also seem to have a lively secondary interest in what goes on in these other people's bedrooms, but I have not dug too deep into that.

David

Minnow,

They don't think they are ideological, but that is because they have mistaken their ideology and preferences for some natural state. I am guessing they get pretty ideological pretty quick when their privileges are threatened, for example when a tax rise is threatened.

I can’t speak to your neighbourhood or the interests of your local UKIP voters, but you seem to be making some pretty big assumptions about my friends and family, to whom I limited my comment. You’re awfully close to ‘false consciousness’ territory. And to talk of being unhappy about tax rises in terms of losing “privileges” rather begs the question. I suspect I understand the motives of my friends and family members a little better than you, having known them for some time and listened to their views.

Hal

Grabbing David's entire quote and comment and running with it 'cause OhBoy does it fit . . .

[quote]
You don’t get ‘Why I am still a slightly conservative pragmatist’ essays in the same way.
[endquote]

Yes, yes . . . .

If I think of my own friends and relatives who would most likely be regarded by leftists as “conservative,” it occurs to me that, for the most part, they aren’t very ideological at all. They don’t label themselves as conservative and they aren’t easily shocked. Their preferences are much more about family and pragmatism, and any “conservative” aspect, such as it is, tends to follow from that. It’s secondary, incidental, not an ideological plan. Also – and this is worth noting – the friends and relatives I’m thinking of aren’t terribly concerned with how other people should live, provided those other people keep the dog off the lawn, as it were.

Bingo!!! . . . what I would indeed describe as conservative, and how I am as well, and rather as also contrasting with the right wing, liberal/My Agenda Now!!! variety extremists, where which variety of right or left wing variety of liberal extremists doesn't really matter . . .

Marxists , and right wing liberals, on the other hand, are generally preoccupied with how other people should live, and be forced to live. There’s an urge to organise and interfere, to make the world tidy, as defined by them. The prospect of overriding the will of others, of remaking their worldviews and redistributing their stuff, seems to occupy an awful lot of space in the typical Marxoid , and right wing liberal, mind.

Following the lead of someone in here--don't remember who---, I've recently run across and have been rather enjoying Lewis Lapham's commentary . . . where in several spots he comments on having ostensibly conservative vs liberal debates during his editing of Harper's Magazine, until the beginning of the Nineteen Empties and the arrival of the Reaganites. In short, he had the actual practicing conservatives debating each other for awhile, and then after that, the noisy voices all congealed into the right wing liberal extremists screaming at the left wing liberal extremists and vice versa, with both extremists pointedly ignoring the conservatives in the middle who . . . .

. . . who would most likely be regarded by leftists as “conservative,” it occurs to me that, for the most part, they aren’t very ideological at all. They don’t label themselves as conservative and they aren’t easily shocked. Their preferences are much more about family and pragmatism, and any “conservative” aspect, such as it is, tends to follow from that. It’s secondary, incidental, not an ideological plan. Also – and this is worth noting – the friends and relatives I’m thinking of aren’t terribly concerned with how other people should live, provided those other people keep the dog off the lawn, as it were.

David

Bingo!!! . . . what I would indeed describe as conservative, and how I am as well,

I suppose what I’m getting at is this. If, for instance, someone is willing to pay towards a social safety net for people in need and also feels they should be allowed to keep at least half of what they’ve earned (thereby implying some limit on the scope and growth of state intervention), this doesn’t strike me as terribly presumptuous or ideological. It doesn’t seem to imply much about the kind of psychology they exhibit and it doesn’t require an elaborate rationalisation to make it seem apt or within the bounds of reason.

I think it’s basically an acknowledgement of human nature. They’re willing to help strangers, happy even, but there’s only so much goodwill and only so much of someone’s earnings, someone’s labour, that it’s fair for the state to take. Pushed beyond a certain point, the relationship with the state becomes exploitative and resented, and may rapidly degenerate. Some may prefer to give greater priority to the needy among their own families, as determined first hand, or to causes with which they feel affinity, above an apparently inexhaustible demand in the name of strangers whose role in their own circumstances is sometimes all too clear.

And values of this kind aren’t imposed on those who exhibit them by some dastardly external force, and neither are they arbitrary. They don’t exist as just one random choice among any number of other equally viable options. There’s an element of practicality, viability, and of mapping fairly well with human nature and revealed preferences. Insofar as such views are bourgeois or normative, or one kind of normative, it’s chiefly because they’ve worked, to varying degrees, for a great many people.

In contrast, Marxoid values seem much more contrived and much less successful, in fact catastrophic. They also map quite poorly with human nature and revealed preferences, except insofar as they give license to some of human nature’s nastier aspects. Likewise, Marxoid theorising tends to involve extensive presumption and rationalisation - often to the point of being opaque or counterfactual – and ultimately hinges on a lot of tendentious classifications and redefinition. And such theorising does tend to imply a certain kind of mindset. Certain vanities and urges. The two things aren’t symmetrical.

I am, of course, assuming I’m not bewildered by false consciousness.

[ Edited. ]

Hal

Bingo!!! . . . what I would indeed describe as conservative, and how I am as well,

I suppose what I’m getting at is this. . . . . .

What he said---errr, typed.

dicentra

That they — being so much smarter and having seen through our ‘false consciousness’ — know what we need better than we do.

The problem with that statement is that it implies that narcissists are capable of perceiving that other people have needs apart from the narcissists' — or that if they could they would care about them.

Our preferences, our autonomy, is making their world untidy.

For the narcissist, all other human beings are bit players in their personal psychodrama. Incapable of empathy, narcissists see differences of preference or perception as an attack on themselves. If the narcissist finds the room temperature to be satisfactory and you protest that it's cold, the narcissist takes it personally. "It's NOT cold in here. You're saying otherwise just to piss me off," which the narcissist knows because that was the effect, and therefore the motive, for your actions. All about him, all the time.

When my mother finally left my narcissist father, he was upset because she went off-script, not because he liked or loved her. "No, you're supposed to STAY with me," he insisted, right before he enumerated a list of her faults (most of them actually his, projection being another narcissistic tell).

The 20 million had to be killed because they refused to stay within the bounds of the grandiose narcissist's teleplay. They couldn't possibly be objecting to Stalin's reign for legitimate reasons, because Stalin himself would know if his rule were problematic. Their resistance made him angry; therefore, they were evil and had to be destroyed For The Good Of All.

"False consciousness" is just a fancy term to describe a narcissist's lack of empathy for those who differ with him.

David

“False consciousness” is just a fancy term to describe a narcissist’s lack of empathy for those who differ with him.

Well, as a self-flattering conceit it’s quite hard to top.

dicentra

I certainly agree with the larger point about Marxism, but is it necessary for people to make such continued and gratuitous attacks on reasonable religious belief?

I've recently come to understand what some of the rancor is about. Remember how Jonah Goldberg complained that Leftists claim not to be ideological — only their opponents are? I asked a lefty what they meant by "ideological" and she replied that ideology was the wicked narrative that greedy capitalists tell to justify their evil deeds.

"We already have a word for that," I observed. "Sophistry." Because the rest of us use the term "ideology" generically to refer to any system of belief, which in that case, we all have an ideology of sorts, because we all have an answer to ideological questions.

But the Left can't have that: it would put their beliefs on the same ontological plane as everyone else's. So they imagine that their eyes are open to reality and nothing but reality, whereas the rest of us have an artificial overlay on our perception. We have ideology; they have reality.

When I was in a Twitterspat with some atheists, they insisted that they were different from believers in that they had no beliefs at all, that atheism is the default setting and religion is an artificial overlay on reality. It gave them fits when I proposed that "any answer to a religious question is a religious belief," even when the answer is "no," e.g., "Does deity exist?" is a religious question, ergo, "no" is a belief of type:religious.

Which, I have no problem seeing why people would reject proposals about deity. My reasons for belief are mine, non-transferable, and personal, just as everyone else's reasons are. I can't expect others to rely on my say-so about any of that stuff.

But to put atheism on the same ontological plane as Christianity was highly provocative to my Twitterlocutors. They accused me of being dense, dishonest, deluded, dangerous.

I was insisting that their interpretation of the cosmos was as subjective as mine (how could it be otherwise?) but THAT just could not stand. Of course, I'm not terribly amused by the idea that my beliefs are an artificial overlay but their eyes are opened to reality, and therefore I'm defective.

Accusing opponents of being defective and malicious is SOP for a narcissist, though. A narcissistic perception of others may be informing the animus toward faith, even in people who aren't technically narcissists.

atheists keep advertising themselves as being incapable of respecting

I get that a lot. I ask, "Why not respond with 'whatever floats your boat, dude' instead of 'UR DELUSIONAL!'" What people believe about deity or life after death affects their behavior a lot less than what they believe about right and wrong. As a Christian, I have a lot in common lifestyle-wise with a Sikh despite the disparity in cosmological concepts.

dicentra

Well, as a self-flattering conceit it’s quite hard to top.

Never underestimate the narcotic allure of self-flattery.

Henry

The UKIP-ers are generally thought to be conservative types but I don't think anyone would call them non-ideological

Just to be clear, what ideology would you ascribe to them?

Henry

I agree with D that it's simplistic to equate Marxism with a "religious credo". While I have done this myself (several times!), the similarities are as much to do with group/tribal behaviour as anything else - I doubt that any of us are 100% rational

I also see the value of religion - and also the importance in the history of the UK - of the world really. Marxism isn't going to give us the music & art, and the personal values and structure it provides for people are a bit lacking - if they exist at all.

A lot of internet arguments I've seen boil down to "You are a Nazi" (Godwin's law) or "you are behaving like a religious fanatic" (call it Henry's law if noone else has named it yet)

All analogies break down :)

David Gillies

Atheism is not on the same ontological plane (as you put it) as religious belief. Existence and non-existence are not direct antitheses. I think it's generally agreed that Kant holed the good ship St Anselm below the waterline. If the answer to the question "does God exist?" is "no", then there's an end on it, except possibly to ask if the answer is necessarily no or merely no as a matter of fact. But if the answer be "yes", then a whole cascading series of ontological questions arises. What is God? What created God? Does God want anything? If so, what? Etc. Asking the nature of something that exists is a meaningful proposition. One can ask, "how many people are standing in that doorway?" and the answer might be none, or one or two, say. But if one sees an empty doorway and asks, "how many people are not standing in that doorway?" then it is significantly more difficult to come up with a meaningful answer. Is it even possible to determine whether the number is finite or infinite?

Even having said that, atheism is definitely not on the same epistemological plane as belief. The best objections to Russell's teapot seem to me to be either vacuous or special pleading.

Rafi

Deducing the existence or non-existence of something one might call God is a much trickier proposition. Beyond my powers, certainly.

Damn. I was hoping you'd sort *that* one out once and for all. ;D

David

I was hoping you’d sort *that* one out once and for all.

That would cost extra.

Chris N

And so often because Marxists have nothing else but an ideology and a failed theory of history in their pockets, one which advocates the violent and totalitarian takeover of everyone else's lives, they glom onto any teat they can find:

The academy, the State, rent-seeking in any form possible.

Most have to go out and pass as normal for a while...you know...until....the revolution.

dicentra

But if one sees an empty doorway and asks, "how many people are not standing in that doorway?" then it is significantly more difficult to come up with a meaningful answer.

That strikes me as a linguistic Escher sketch, wherein the problem can be posed solely because of linguistic conventions. The phrase "are not" gets inserted into a "how many" question and suddenly you're dividing by zero, which cannot happen in nature because the cipher zero is a convention, not a quantity.

It's the same as "Can God create a rock so big he can't lift it?" and when neither 'yes' or 'no' make sense, that's taken as evidence of the absurdity of God's existence, when in fact it's a flock of ducks that morph into a school of fish or two hands drawing each other.

if the answer be "yes", then a whole cascading series of ontological questions arises.

Yes, they do. The answer "no" does not send you off on that same path but it does require that you answer many of the same questions as theology poses: The answer to "If we are not God's children, then what are we?" sets off another cascade of implications that overlap the theological questions, such as "what is Ethical and why (and why should we care)?" and "what is the purpose of life, if any?" and all that.

A universe that is free of deity is considerably different from the one wherein deity exists, and yet they both pose many of the same problems. On a day-to-day level we're dealing with the same concrete reality but using different belief systems to explain what's happening to ourselves.

You and I live in the same world but with different mental narratives that explain it. I don't see why mine is qualitatively different from yours. It's all neurons firing away, after all, to the same purpose.

WTP

I ask, "Why not respond with 'whatever floats your boat, dude' instead of 'UR DELUSIONAL!'" What people believe about deity or life after death affects their behavior a lot less than what they believe about right and wrong. As a Christian, I have a lot in common lifestyle-wise with a Sikh despite the disparity in cosmological concepts.

I'm having a bit of a problem with this tag of narcissism, but then I've never read the DSM. My excuse is why should I since I live it every time I leave the house or turn on the TV? Which of course, makes me the narcissist. But I digress. Many of these so-called atheists would be holy-rollers under different circumstances. They've come in to the world at a certain time and place where atheism is on the rise. Hopping on the bandwagon is a lot easier and consumes less time than reading conflicting ideas, some of which are very deep and very much outside modern society, and forming one's own opinion, as well as one can...determinism being a whole other can of worms I may have already dented. It's funny how many atheists I've known/met sound much like the Bible-thumpers I knew in my youth. Some of whom I'm still remotely in touch with. But I do think some of the rants you see are younger people who are in the process of thinking these things out and thus are not necessarily narcissists, just young minds transitioning. Not saying the world isn't going to hell in a handbasket in pretty much every other regard.

tempdog

"Can God create a rock so big he can't lift it?"

Actually, that question has a definite answer, and that answer is no. Omnipotence is the ability to do anything not logically impossible. A rock so big an omnipotent God couldn't move it is a logical contradiction. It's like asking if God can make a circular square or five sided triangle. Of course he, she, it, or they can't, but so what?

dicentra

the ability to do anything not logically impossible.

"NO! Omni means ALL! You can't attach conditions! God wouldn't be limited by logic."

Was that 140 characters?

dicentra

I'm having a bit of a problem with this tag of narcissism, but then I've never read the DSM.

My father, the psych professor, had Narcissistic Personality Disorder, so I didn't have to.

Here Dr. Sanity explains how the clinical definition of narcissism (which is not mere self-absorption or egotism) maps to the Marxoid political movements.

Nik White

Marxists, on the other hand, are generally preoccupied with how other people should live, and be forced to live.

This, from last night's Moral Maze discussion on the BBC, seems appropriate:

    Melanie Philips: … what interests me is the tremendous snobbery, uh, er, towards the lower middle class, which no one ever talks about. And the lower middle class is looked down on – not because of wealth or, uh, lack of wealth, but because of social attitudes. It's deemed to be sort of narrow, and backward looking and so on. It's the 'Dursleys' of er, of er Harry Potter.

    Matthew Taylor: This is exactly what Marx argued. The problem with [the] lower middle class is they want to cling onto the coat tails of the middle middle class rather than associate themselves – as they should – with the interests of the working class.

David

Nik,

“The problem with [the] lower middle class is they want to cling onto the coat tails of the middle middle class rather than associate themselves – as they should – with the interests of the working class.”

It’s one of those lovely moral inversions that give Marxoid thinking its demented charm. Instead of wanting the best for your family and escaping that dodgy neighbourhood, that dodgy school, those dodgy chavs next door, you should embrace “class solidarity” and stay on the plantation, feeling all virtuous and noble. You can find variations of this conceit every other week. And today in the Guardian Occupy booster David Graeber is telling us that “working-class people… care more about their friends, families and communities… they’re just fundamentally nicer.” And so why leave paradise?

Minnow

"I am, of course, assuming I’m not bewildered by false consciousness."

But that is quite a big assumption, we all suffer from false consciousness to some degree as anyone who has read the recent Kahneman book will know. Of course he talks about 'cognitive biases' instead but it amounts to the same thing. And we all, surely, have had a friend who has insisted that, no, really, the booze helps him work, or drive, or cope, its' not a problem,honest. Or the sister-in-law who really does love him, and knows he loves her despite all those things he does, all thse things he says, he doesn't mean it, they don't mean anything, the reality of the situation is love! These are all common enough experiences, why assume the same mechanisms don't apply politically? The only questions are how much, when and where. But generally, if your deepest held beliefs also just happen to be the ones that maximise your own wealth and income, you should be most sceptical, I think.

witwoud

Yeah — it's a bit off-topic, but I've always found the depiction of the Dursleys a perfect example of leftish metropolitan condescension towards right-wing suburbia. Mr Dursley works in — gasp! — industry, making drills. His wife obviously reads the Daily Mail. Worst of all, they are normal; we are told so in the first sentence. Thank heavens young Harry learns he is of aristocratic — sorry, wizard — blood, and has inherited a fortune in gold, and is going to the country's most exclusive boarding school where the food appears by magic on silver plates. Meanwhile Mr Dursley will continue to provide for his family by making drills.

Scratch a metro-leftie and you'll find someone with a romantic view of the working class, a hatred for the middle class, and a deep respect for aristocracy.

David

Minnow,

As I said earlier, it seems to me the issue isn’t one of ‘false consciousness’ but of human nature and practicality, and of which kinds of values converge with that in a viable way, and which don’t.

Minnow

Witoud, Laurie Penny made the same criticism of Harry Potter, I am sure you will be delighted to know. I agree with it, actually (about the last time I did agree with her) a lot of very snobbish, reactionary ideas buried in that story.

Minnow

" it seems to me the issue isn’t one of ‘false consciousness’ but of human nature and practicality, and of which kinds of values converge with that in a viable way"

Yes, but 'human nature' tends to be a very ideological category. Who would have thought that giving up 30% of your income to pay for other people's medical bills and school fees would be a fit.

David

Minnow,

Who would have thought that giving up 30% of your income to pay for other people’s medical bills and school fees would be a fit.

Well, that isn’t exactly how the welfare state was originally sold to the public. And the cut taken by the state has grown quite significantly and, left unchecked, doesn’t seem likely to shrink. And the debate as to what percentage is proper, or optimal, and what deserves funding and what doesn’t, rumbles on. And of course the fact that people can be screwed by the state doesn’t prove they’re entirely happy about it.

if your deepest held beliefs also just happen to be the ones that maximise your own wealth and income, you should be most sceptical, I think.

There’s a vague implication that the values of my relatives, and people like them, are a detriment to others - that the benefits are exclusive, exploitative or predatory. I don’t think they are, and I don’t think they think they are. If anything, their values help generate the prosperity and cohesion that make welfare possible, and a great deal else besides.

Minnow

And of course the fact that people can be screwed by the state doesn’t prove they’re entirely happy about it.

No, but the Hayekian descent into serfdom hasn't transpired and, broadly speaking the state seems stable and prosperous and people accept a taxation system that at an earlier time may not have seemed compatible with 'human nature' My point is just that what alues may or may not converge with 'human nature' is not at all obvious, and when it seems obvious, that may well be because we are clouded by ideology.

There’s a vague implication that the values of my relatives, and people like them, are a detriment to others - that the benefits are exclusive, exploitative or predatory. I don’t think they are, and I don’t think they think they are. If anything, their values help generate the prosperity and cohesion that make welfare possible, and a great deal else besides..

I don't know, as you say, I don't know enough about these particular people, but it isn't impossible that their views are detrimental to others. If they oppose immigration, for example, that will have the effect of making some people much poorer, so that others can stay even richer. That isn't the whole story but it is part of it.

I am sure that the people you know are comfortable in the belief that organising society according to their values not only happens to make them more prosperous but is better for everyone else, even the people who appear not to be benefiting or who (presumably through false consciousness) believe they are not benefiting. But personally, when something looks too good to be true, I tend to think it is. They might be right, but they should be sceptical and have a think about incentives and cognitive biases, in my opinion. That doesn't mean they are bad people, that was one of Marx's central points of course, we shouldn't think about good and bad people in politics, that is just sentimental, we should look at structure, organisation, power and incentives instead.

Tim Newman

Remember how Jonah Goldberg complained that Leftists claim not to be ideological

I remember a demented lefty complaining that the Tories were flogging off parts of the NHS out of "pure ideology". Insisting on the status quo National Health Service, on the other hand, was not part of an ideology, oh no.

WTP

If they oppose immigration, for example, that will have the effect of making some people much poorer, so that others can stay even richer.

Run the math for me. I live in a nation of immigrants that, in spite of recent best efforts, continues to be one of the richest on earth.

Peter Risdon

Two disputes over equivalences here that are similar to one another: are pragmatic conservatives unknowingly as doctrinal as Marxists, and are atheists really following a faith, unknowingly, just like religious people.

Both equivalences seem to me equally false in the same way. An absence of something really isn't the same as the existence of something. I think it's the dogmatists in both cases who are incorrect in claiming the equivalence. Some on this thread fall into both camps, religious dogmatists and political pragmatists so they can ask of themselves the same question.

Minnow

Run the math for me. I live in a nation of immigrants that, in spite of recent best efforts, continues to be one of the richest on earth.

I think we are about to run into a furious agreement. Immigrants make counties richer, I agree. But controlling immigration is good for the wealth of some people some of the time. Just like restricting markets can enrich individuals at the cost of the masses.

Minnow

An absence of something really isn't the same as the existence of something.

I agree with that, and I think the theist argument hat atheism is in some sense a 'religion' is decidedly odd. But surely pragmatic conservatives to have a set of positive beliefs. They may believe in 'meritocracy' for example. The question is whether those beliefs are always transparent to the people who hold them or whether they may be based on ideological assumptions that are obscure or repressed. I don't think the two cases are the same.

Nik White

Minnow,

I'm no psychologist and only vaguely recognize the name Kahneman, but I feel fairly certain – based on the examples of the alcoholic friend and the sister-in-law in an abusive relationship you give – that you have misunderstood what false consciousness actually means.

False consciousness, to many Marxist-inspired devotees is an explanation as to why other people, specifically Working Class people, have consistently failed to behave in the way that their Theory dictates that they should have done – i.e. False consciousness is the popular Marxist answer to the question of why the proletariat would apparently rather watch TV, play games with their children or sit in a pub garden with friends instead of rising up and seizing control of the means of production in a revolution of bloody revenge and scorching fire.

Rather than revise the hypothesis in light of the results to date – which really as so-called 'scientific' materialists one might expect them to do – the Marxoids have introduced a new hypothesis to explain the inability of the working classes to rise up as expected.

Ruling out the possibility that Marx might be wrong, they have concluded that it can only be because the working class's vision of reality has been corrupted by the scheming of the ruling classes and their willing stooges. The latter are presumed to have implanted a false vision of reality into the pliant minds of the proletariat in such a way that the proletariat not only do not recognize their own oppression but willingly participate in it – because this implanted vision ('false consciousness') makes them think that, on the whole, life's OK, there's no point worrying about certain things, Dr Who is exciting and beer tastes nice. Oh and that society is mostly free and fair.

So 'consciousness' can only be 'false consciousness' if it has been created by the ruling class to serve their own purposes and then implanted into the minds of the proles. (How on earth more David Icke hasn't replaced Marx as a spiritual leader is beyond me given that kind of X-Files conspiracy theory bulls**t, but anyway …)

Your examples, on the other hand, are not of false consciousness but of self-deception. And even then, I'm not even completely convinced.

The friend who has insisted that, no, really, the booze helps him work, or drive, or cop does in fact very much know, to a greater or lesser degree, that he is lying to himself as much as to you. He is rationalizing events after the fact. Ditto the sister-in-law. The important point is that both of them choose to believe in something other than what they know to be the case and go on to portray themselves to others as if their deception was reality. It's often a mixture of politeness, meekness and a knowledge that you cannot easily change their behavior (if at all) that most people appear to accept the bulls**t at face value.

Theodore Dalrymple/Anthony Daniels has a great example of complicity in one's own self-deception when he describes a conversation he had with a 21 year-old mother of three children who was one of his patients:

    A single case can be illuminating, especially when it is statistically banal […] My patient […] had knowingly borne children of men of whom no good could be expected. She knew perfectly well the consequences and the meaning of what she was doing, as her reaction to something that I said to her – and say to hundreds of women patients in a similar situation – proved: next time you are thinking of going out with a man, bring him to me for my inspection, and I'll tell you if you can go out with him.

    This never fails to make the most wretched, the most 'depressed' of women smile broadly or laugh heartily. They know exactly what I mean, and I need not spell it out further. They know that I mean that most of the men they have chosen have evil written all over them, sometimes quite literally in the form of tattoos, saying 'FUCK OFF' or 'MAD DOG'. And they understand that if I can spot the evil instantly, because they know what I would look for, so can they – and therefore they are in large part responsible for their own downfall at the hands of evil men.

[From Our Culture: What's Left of It]

Minnow

Your examples, on the other hand, are not of false consciousness but of self-deception. And even then, I'm not even completely convinced.

I's a distinction without a difference. It is true that some self-deceivers are aware, sometimes vaguely, sometimes quite sharply, that they are lying to themselves, but very often they are not, and the same is true for political self deceivers, that is people (usually poor people, but sometimes the middle classes too) who continue to support the economic and political structures that are damaging them because they cannot face the possibility that their ideology is t fault, they would prefer to suffer than be disillusioned. This is very common in religious cults, of course. Then we call it 'brainwashing' but that is just a boo-word for ideological indoctrination in things we disagree with.

Of course sometimes the idea is misused, sometimes dishonestly, and it is deeply stained by the work it did in the Stalinist horrors, but my point was that it isn't far-fetched and quite often it is a necessary concept, even if we have to find new non-Marxist terminologies to save our blushes when using it. Like most of Marx when looked at coolly rather than from a partisan position, the idea of false consciousness is revealing and challenging. Hollywood made a film about it a couple of years ago called, I think, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It was quite good.

Peter Risdon

Minnow: 'surely pragmatic conservatives to have a set of positive beliefs. They may believe in 'meritocracy' for example.'

The word 'may' shows the difference. A Marxist *will* hold certain things to be true, as will a Christian.

Minnow

There are a few things that you can be pretty sure that most Marxists (or Marxians) will agree are true, although not that many, but I think that would be true of 'pragmatic conservatives' no?

Thornavis.

Minnow

"That doesn't mean they are bad people, that was one of Marx's central points of course, we shouldn't think about good and bad people in politics, that is just sentimental, we should look at structure, organisation, power and incentives instead."

This might have some validity if Marxists had ever shown the slightest inclination to abide by such a maxim. Instead they have consistently vilified and often murdered, whole sections of humanity on the basis of essentialist and brutal class categorisations.

In any case your argument is exactly what is wrong with all progressive thinking it hollows out society reducing it to power structures and removing humans entirely from the abstract equations. Political structures don't exist in some Neo- Platonic state.

Furthermore this exhortation to bypass moral judgements of people and look to how society is organised is in contradiction to your interpretation of false consciousness.

Sam

Like most of Marx when looked at coolly rather than from a partisan position, the idea of false consciousness is revealing and challenging

So is it false consciousness that makes Marxists feel they have a right to control other people and take away their earnings?

WTP

Just one little observation in regard to atheists and religion of which I've become quite fond. Ace from Ace of Spades recently pointed out that you don't need a god to have yourself a religion. All you need is a devil and some dogma. Marxism follows this pattern quite well.

Nik White

Minnow,

It's a distinction without a difference.

No, there is a difference – and quite a clear one at that.

It is true that some self-deceivers are aware … but very often they are not

I concede that most people exhibit idiosyncratic patterns of behavior of which they are largely or completely unaware – but it's for this reason that these are the behaviours that they don't articulate out loud.

In your examples, the alcoholic friend and the woman with an abusive partner were both not only articulating their problems but actively engaged in rationalising them.

Whether trivializing the problem as the alcoholic does or reinterpreting a partner's negative behavior as 'secret signs' of true love, both people in your examples must be aware that what they are doing is detrimental to themselves because otherwise why would they feel the need to justify it in the first place? If they were genuinely unaware of having a problem, they simply wouldn't even be articulating it to friends and family.

… the same is true for political self deceivers, that is people (usually poor people, but sometimes the middle classes too) who continue to support the economic and political structures that are damaging them because they cannot face the possibility that their ideology is t fault, they would prefer to suffer than be disillusioned.

So if the first point is wrong, so is your second. I don't mean to be rude, but what you are saying here seems to be more than a little presumptuous. In fact, it is a very clear example of the 'false consciousness'-as-conspiracy-theory I defined in the earlier message.

By saying that poor people, but sometimes the middle classes too … would prefer to suffer than be disillusioned, you are effectively writing off large numbers of people as docile sheep, a pusillanimous herd that is incapable of making decisions for itself and needs some nobler and more enlightened minds to make decisions for them. It's hard not to interpret your comment in that way.

It is true that significant numbers of people think more about who the winner of the X Factor is going to be more than they do about economic and political structures but … in a way, so what? A lack of engagement with politics isn't necessarily a lack, it could just as well be a choice.

This is probably one reason why politicians who constantly bemoan voter apathy are completely blindsided by the strength of feeling from the public that rushes up over particular flash points – they have confused general voter apathy with not caring at all about what happens to the lives of themselves, their family or their community. Such politicians are no doubt shocked because to them 'voter apathy' must be the result of not thinking or behaving as they do - which is more than a little presumptuous.

… it isn't far-fetched and quite often it is a necessary concept, … Like most of Marx when looked at coolly rather than from a partisan position, the idea of false consciousness is revealing and challenging.

Again, I'm no expert but I understood the modern idea of false consciousness is largely based on Gramsci, not Marx but I'm happy to be corrected on that point. But anyway ...

If the concept of false consciousness is necessary then presumably you would need to demonstrate that the concept can be proved empirically – something I think would be very hard if not impossible to do. I've often heard it claimed that advertising 'makes' people do things and want things they don't really want. And sometimes, yes, this appears to be the case - but it's only part of the story because it doesn't explain why it only makes people want certain things but not others (i.e. the argument only looks at successful persuasion through advertising but ignores and therefore fails to explain all the failures)

You also say it is revealing and challenging, but just what does it reveal and what (or who) is challenged by it?

pst314

Minnow "Personally I live in a place where UKIP is thick on the ground and, I am sure by coincidence, where we have a large number of Roma families and assorted other poor people. The kind of poor people who are often visible from not-poor-people's lawns, even when they do keep their dogs off. The UKIP-ers are generally thought to be conservative types but I don't think anyone would call them non-ideological. And they are very, very interested in how other people live. Especially poor people. They also seem to have a lively secondary interest in what goes on in these other people's bedrooms, but I have not dug too deep into that."

I question the accuracy of your portrayal of those UKIP people. None of the people I know--none--who have expressed concern about Roma have done so with regards to what happens in their bedrooms. It has all been about criminal behavior--theft, fraud, vandalism, trespass, threats and violence.

David

For some reason it occurred to me to remind readers of this.

Minnow

My window for online debate is closing rapidly so apologies if I disappear, don't take it as a flounce, it means I sacrifice the last word at any rate.

But here is a quick response to Nik.

By saying that poor people, but sometimes the middle classes too … would prefer to suffer than be disillusioned, you are effectively writing off large numbers of people as docile sheep, a pusillanimous herd that is incapable of making decisions for itself and needs some nobler and more enlightened minds to make decisions for them. It's hard not to interpret your comment in that way.

I think that is the meat of the disagreement between us. First of all let's get rid of all the value-connoting words like 'pusillanimous'. I don't think that being deceived, by yourself or by anyone else, is a sign of weakness or turpitude and nor is it writing people off to claim that they may not be conscious of their own motives. People who are illusioned in some way may still make decisions for themselves, there is no reason to assume that they need someone more enlightened to relieve them of that burden. When Kahneman or Daniel Ariely write essays claiming that what I think are rational actions in my own self interest are actually something else altogether, I don't assume that they therefore want to remove all freedom from me, only that they are offering me the chance to exchange false consciousness for a true consciousness, if I agree with them, that is. A lot of Marxists in the last century took this in a different direction with cattle prods, razor wire and rifle, but that is not implied in the theory.

If people want to watch the X Factor rather than read Gramsci, I am with you, they must decide for themselves? But if they can be persuaded that they are being impoverished by it and exchange it for something better, where's the harm? Or is it horribly elitist to suppose there may be something better than the X Factor?

Minnow

I question the accuracy of your portrayal of those UKIP people. None of the people I know--none--who have expressed concern about Roma have done so with regards to what happens in their bedrooms. It has all been about criminal behavior--theft, fraud, vandalism, trespass, threats and violence.

What were we saying about addiction and self deception. One last reply:

I don't mean they are interested in the sex lives of the Roma, but they have a strong interest in the sex lives of the rest of us, mainly but not exlusively, those of us who like to sleep with people of the same sex.

Sam

but that is not implied in the theory.

Yeah, those bad people who weren't *really* Marxists *perverted* the theory into a totalitarian nightmare.

For no reason whatsoever.

Every. Single. Time.

Thornavis.

"I don't mean they are interested in the sex lives of the Roma, but they have a strong interest in the sex lives of the rest of us, mainly but not exlusively, those of us who like to sleep with people of the same sex."

To the extent that this is real, rather than an apparently widespread trait amongst UKIPers exaggerated by their political opponents, then it may be nothing more than the belief amongst conservatives, of all types, that such things are a legitimate matter of political debate. Indeed it is the assumption of unthinking liberals that debate about Gay marriage or abortion or any other contentious sexually related subject is simply off the agenda that infuriates not just conservatives but those of us who don't share general conservative opinions.

pst314

"And they are very, very interested in how other people live. Especially poor people."

In more accurate phrasing, they are concerned about chavs. See, for instance, Theodore Dalrymple's writings about the pathological behaviors that lead to failure.

pst314

"I don't mean they are interested in the sex lives of the Roma, but they have a strong interest in the sex lives of the rest of us"

Well, there is an "interest" in socially harmful behaviors such as promiscuity and out-of-wedlock childbirth (see Dalrymple), and this sideline could become a very long debate of its own, but what you are doing here by bringing up "strong interest in sex lives" in an attempt to discredit a whole set of concerns that have nothing to do with sexual orientation.

As for Gramsci, no thank you. I've had enough lies and subversion for one lifetime.

Hal

Yeah — it's a bit off-topic, but I've always found the depiction of the Dursleys . . . .

Wellll, no. Just got in, and I'm not near my books here, But . . .

Mr. Dursley, as I recall, is happiest when he's yelling at someone, where Mrs. Dursley has the long neck for best peering out at the neighbors to best see what those neighbors should be doing, according to her rather than the neighbors, where the Dursleys repeatedly get scammed with some offer or another to show off how much better they think they should be seen as . . .

Rather contrasting, there is Harry, who is is only The Chosen One, because Voldemort picked him out, where it's Voldemort who has the campaign of proclaiming that only he and his are the ones who Must decide for all others, must kill all dissenters, Etc.

Also contrasting is the Grangers, who are a dentist and his wife, who are delighted to learn that their daughter gets to be a career specialist---do think unquestionably elite as in Mathematician or other scientist . . . and Hermione is regularly described as the hardest worker---and has an entire plot section of one book based on that, who is regularly described as being the best because she's the hardest worker.

Finally, the overall situation does rather get outlined at the beginning of one of the later books, where the PM is spluttering at his opposite number something to the effect of But, But, why can't you do something, after all You Can Do Magic!!!!!

Siiiiggggghhhhhhh. That, my dear PM, is exactly what we've been trying to get you to understand. While we can do magic, So Can They

David

Yeah, those bad people who weren’t *really* Marxists *perverted* the theory into a totalitarian nightmare. For no reason whatsoever. Every. Single. Time.

Yes, I thought that was almost sweet. “Not implied in the theory.”

I sometimes forget we’re not supposed to actually read the more sadistic ravings of Marx and Engels - which, shall we say, hint quite strongly at what should fill the conspicuous gaps in the Greatest Theory Ever™. Those bothersome practical details about “the middle-class owner of property” who “must be swept away and made impossible.” You know, the salacious stuff about “revolutionary terror,” the “murderous death agonies of the old society” and the “complete extirpation” of “reactionary peoples” – i.e., thee, me and most of the infidels reading this. Just as we’re not supposed to think about all those Marxist intellectuals - including Lukacs, Gramsci, Althusser and Hobsbawm, and of course Marx, Engels and Lenin – who were pretty sure that their utopia necessarily required a little pushing and shoving… a little unpleasantness.

And we’re not supposed to think about Marx’s own behaviour and psychology, and what that might imply about a world made in his image, tailored to his demons. Say, his trademark anger and contempt for others, his intolerance of dissent, his dishonesty with data, his readiness to abuse the generosity and trust of others, the habitual mooching, and his fixation with violence and apocalyptic scenarios. And we’re not supposed to regard actual Marxist societies, based on Marxist ideas and excused by Marxist thinkers as Marxism in practice, as having anything whatsoever to do with Marxism. Which, as a theory, must forever remain pure, unsullied by mere reality. Those mountains of bodies.

As I’ve said before, to read Marx and Engels - to say nothing of Trotsky and his enthusiasm for guillotines and the prospect of beheading people who didn’t wish to be communists – to read such material and somehow not grasp where that thinking goes isn’t just a failure of critical wherewithal. It’s a choice, a contrivance. Just as some contrive an indifference when faced with Engels’ eagerness to see “the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples.” A global class genocide that would be, in his words, “a step forward.” As the late Norm Geras admitted, “Communism didn’t just go wrong in some minor or insignificant detail, but on a vast scale, and the manner in which it went wrong wasn’t only the manner of what one calls a ‘mistake’.”

pst314

Yes, I thought that was almost sweet. "Not implied in the theory."

Not implied; explicit. So, technically speaking, Minnow wasn't purveying an untruth.

dicentra

if your deepest held beliefs also just happen to be the ones that maximise your own wealth and income, you should be most sceptical, I think.

You just expressed one of the fundamental assumptions of Marxism, that one's worldview is primary a function of one's economic status.

As a religious person whose deepest-held views are shared by co-religionists in all walks of life — from the favelas of Rio to billionaires in the U.S. — that's the most nonsensical thing I've ever heard.

Those deep-held beliefs rest on "God is our Father and we're his offspring and we all have the potential to cultivate godly virtues within."

Being wealthy requires that you learn generosity; being poor that you learn patience; being in the middle that you learn whatever virtue presents itself, and so on.

Positing Homo economicus strikes me as the worst kind of philosophical poverty.

dicentra

I agree with that, and I think the theist argument hat atheism is in some sense a 'religion' is decidedly odd.

Let me reiterate myself from upthread.

On a day-to-day level we're dealing with the same concrete reality but using different belief systems to explain what's happening to ourselves.

You and I live in the same world but with different mental narratives that explain it. I don't see why mine is qualitatively different from yours. It's all neurons firing away, after all, to the same purpose.

Religion is an explanatory model, just as ideology is. In fact, you can argue that religion is a subset of ideology, being that they're both narratives that put things in order.

Those of use with positive religious beliefs don't see absence of any kind in the atheists, who pop off answers to the same questions life poses, only your answers are different.

The only way you can truly be atheist — for the absence to be genuine — is to be incapable of formulating the questions in the first place.

My cat is a true atheist because he can't even comprehend religious issues such as deity or life after death or ethics or the purpose of life.

Or supply and demand and assets and debits and fiat currency and the like.

To be human is to have the internal narrative going on. Homo credens is who we are, because we do nothing all the live-long day but explain events to ourselves.

It's what those big-ass frontal lobes are for.

T.K. Tortch

Well I didn't hit "post" so this would have fit better upthread. But anyway:

It seems to me that Marxists require the world to be ideological, or else their political ambitions might appear unseemly, even to themselves.

If one claims they have no ideology, the Marxist counters that they do have a (flawed, unjust) ideology which they have just expressed; the Marxist is only asserting their own (just, superior) ideology.

I admit, that at some base-line level "the personal is political", seems so ordinary and unremarkable it hardly bears much debate.

Upon this commonplace Marxists justify the implementation (from the top down) of a vast scheme to use state power to entirely and comprehensively reorder the affairs - even consciousnesses!! - of others.

Give them an inch, they'll take a lifetime.

If there's a nihilism a Marxist can viscerally appreciate, maybe it's that others might not be ideological. Then Marxist ambitions appear to be transparently obscene, instead of pretty clearly malignant.

David

dicentra,

…one of the fundamental assumptions of Marxism, that one’s worldview is primarily a function of one’s economic status.

It’s often assumed, as implied upthread, that members of a given social class must be rationalising their position, their “privilege,” after the fact – thinking up excuses. It’s less often assumed, at least by Marxists, that people from very humble backgrounds may cultivate certain values – say, an expectation of self-reliance and a kind of stoicism – because such values have helped their family escape those humble beginnings.

I suppose I should point out that the relatives I was talking about earlier are all state-educated and of very working class parents – barely one generation removed from the bottom of the ladder. Marxoid theorising doesn’t seem to have played much part in their happiness and escape from humbledom. But their so-called “conservative” values – which are, or were, common among working class people - have helped a great deal. Again, driven by pragmatism and experience, not grandiose theory.

pst314

"But their so-called 'conservative' values – which are, or were, common among working class people - have helped a great deal."

Remember that scene in Pygmalion in which G. B. Shaw sneers at "working class morality"?

dicentra

Remember that scene in Pygmalion in which G. B. Shaw sneers at "working class morality"?

Remember when Shaw proposed a 'humane gas' to kill the useless members of society?

Good times.

It's a distinction without a difference.

No, there is a difference – and quite a clear one at that.

My 'self delusion' may be perplexing to you but ultimately it's none of your concern. Sooner or later reality will catch up with me and I'll have to revise my copying mechanisms. Or not. Either way, I and I alone reap the consequences of my actions.

My 'false consciousness' gives you permission to run roughshod over my policy preferences because I'm not 'voting my economic interests' as you see it and therefore you can implement your Grand Scheme over my protests because they're not valid.

That's a damned important difference, don't you think?

Hal

Remember that scene in Pygmalion in which G. B. Shaw sneers at "working class morality"?

Shaw on "working class morality"?

Noooo . . . Shaw just wrote the play . . .

Perhaps you're thinking of:


PICKERING. I think you ought to know, Doolittle, that Mr. Higgins's intentions are entirely honorable.

DOOLITTLE. Course they are, Governor. If I thought they wasn't, I'd ask fifty.

HIGGINS [revolted] Do you mean to say, you callous rascal, that you would sell your daughter for 50 pounds?

DOOLITTLE. Not in a general way I wouldn't; but to oblige a gentleman like you I'd do a good deal, I do assure you.

PICKERING. Have you no morals, man?

DOOLITTLE [unabashed] Can't afford them, Governor. Neither could you if you was as poor as me. Not that I mean any harm, you know. But if Liza is going to have a bit out of this, why not me too?

. . . but that's the father.

Eliza is not her father . . .

HIGGINS [a genial afterthought occurring to him] I daresay my mother could find some chap or other who would do very well—

LIZA. We were above that at the corner of Tottenham Court Road.

HIGGINS [waking up] What do you mean?

LIZA. I sold flowers. I didn't sell myself. . . . .

pst314

Hal: I was thinking of another scene:

HIGGINS [storming on] Take all her clothes off and burn them. Ring up
Whiteley or somebody for new ones. Wrap her up in brown paper till they
come.

LIZA. You're no gentleman, you're not, to talk of such things. I'm a
good girl, I am; and I know what the like of you are, I do.

HIGGINS. We want none of your Lisson Grove prudery here, young woman.
You've got to learn to behave like a duchess. Take her away, Mrs.
Pearce. If she gives you any trouble wallop her.

LIZA [springing up and running between Pickering and Mrs. Pearce for
protection] No! I'll call the police, I will.

Shaw is quite amused this "prudery" that protects Liza from all sorts of traps that lead to failure and even destruction.

Franklin

Dicentra, the statement that "'no' is a belief of type:religious" reminds me of the now probably old joke that saying that atheism is just another kind of religion is like saying that not smoking is just another kind of smoking. I can see putting all the various political views on the same ontological plane (to the chagrin of the aforementioned leftists), and all the various religious views on the same plane. But not believing and believing? My non-belief is in fact less subjective than your belief. That's not a criticism - objectivity isn't everything, and on some matters it isn't anything - but where you have a belief system that reinforces a particular narrative, an atheist has a doubt system that tests narratives for accordance with observable phenomena and discards them when they fail. Religiosity is more a matter of temperament and less a matter of choice and as such you ought not be vilified for yours. But objectivity and belief aren't compatible and it won't do to imply that they are.

dicentra

the Hayekian descent into serfdom hasn't transpired

(a) He never gave it X amount of time, after which you can conclude that it never happened.

(b) Pretty easy to argue that European Social Democracy is on the serfdom continuum, being closer to serfdom than to liberty. (A comfy cage is still a cage.)

(c) After the Ruskies and Chicoms remove the dollar from its exalted status as reserve currency, you'll experience more serfdom than you ever counted on. Maybe more than Hayek counted on.

Hal

Shaw is quite amused this "prudery" that protects Liza from all sorts of traps that lead to failure and even destruction.

. . . Is he? The problem there is you're quoting Higgins, not any of the sane or civilized cast members.

MRS. HIGGINS. I'm sorry to say that my celebrated son has no manners. You mustn't mind him.

. . . .

HIGGINS. Oh, have I been rude? I didn't mean to be. [He goes to the central window, through which, with his back to the company, he contemplates the river and the flowers in Battersea Park on the opposite bank as if they were a frozen dessert.]

. . . .

PICKERING. You mustn't mind that. Higgins takes off his boots all over the place.

LIZA. I know. I am not blaming him. It is his way, isn't it? But it made such a difference to me that you didn't do it. You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.

MRS. HIGGINS. Please don't grind your teeth, Henry.

dicentra

but where you have a belief system that reinforces a particular narrative, an atheist has a doubt system that tests narratives for accordance with observable phenomena and discards them when they fail

You are assuming that you know how my mind works and that it's different from how yours does.

It is not.

We all explain the universe to ourselves. My explanation includes a God and yours doesn't, but we're both engaging in the same activity.

This is really frustrating.

Do you imagine that I go through life with the same understanding of How Life Works as when I was five? That my concept of the universe and reality froze somewhere and I blissfully go through life cherry-picking data that fits and discarding crap that doesn't?

As if I'd never had to adjust my beliefs when life delivered a 2x4 to the back of my head, the way life does? As if I'd never had to incorporate difficult or painful experiences into my internal narrative?

As if I had no lacunae to fill in with empiricism? My religion doesn't even ATTEMPT to answer all the questions about life and the universe. And even where answers are provided, my understanding of those answers changes over time, usually in response to a painful blow that life has delivered.

My religion isn't a crutch to avoid critical thinking or to prevent me from Facing Cold Hard Reality. Crutches don't make demands of you or force you out of your comfort zone. Crutches don't insist that you re-evaluate your actions according to an ethical standard and that your entire life is basically a 12-step program where you face your own weaknesses and faults — no matter how awful — and then make a change.

I have to employ empiricism and testing and learning just like you do. I have to discard concepts ABOUT MY OWN BELIEFS when they don't comport with experience.

You fundamentally misunderstand the role of religion in the internal life of the believer if you bracket it off as different from any other way of explaining the universe.

Your internal narrative about What's Going On occupies the same functional space as mine. That's what I and every other believer mean when we say that atheism is a religion: that it fulfills the same role as religion does — as an explanatory model.

Spiny Norman

Those mountains of bodies.

Lots of "down twinkles" at YT for that video: as if on cue, the "educated" YouTube commentariat marches in to prove every bit of your thesis precisely correct.

Good lord...

David

I was also tickled by the notion that Marxoid ‘theorists’ only wish to persuade, to “offer the chance to exchange false consciousness for a true consciousness.” I’m sure there are theorists who stop short of the logical conclusion of their own desires, frustrating as it is. Norm Geras, for instance, always managed to put the brake on that looming indecency, deferring at the last minute to what the public might vote for. But such people are a minority in the history of Marxoid fantasy, as noted by Norm himself, and are entirely at odds with Marxoid experiments in the real world.

The promise of non-coercion is absurd and transparently dishonest, despite – or because of – the elaborate contortions of its proponents. For instance, the ludicrous New Economics Foundation wants to control how much we work and how much we earn, and claims that “we” will be “satisfied” without the “dispensable accoutrements of middle-class life,” including “cars, holidays, electronic equipment and multiple items of clothing.” Note the blatant disregard for the electorate and its preferences, and the comical evasions regarding how the NEF’s utopia would be brought about. It’s laughable, adolescent, and pretty much standard practice.

Franklin

"Do you imagine that I go through life with the same understanding of How Life Works as when I was five? That my concept of the universe and reality froze somewhere and I blissfully go through life cherry-picking data that fits and discarding crap that doesn't?"

I'm sorry that you had a bad experience debating this with people on Twitter but you're putting words in my mouth. I imagine that someone as intelligent and principled as yourself is continually discovering nuances in the narratives of your religion and that they are a continual font of richness and opportunity for reflection. I don't deny that you can exercise empiricism just as I don't think you would deny that I can experience wonder.

But atheism is not in itself an explanatory model. Secular philosophy, science, and poetry are some explanatory models used by atheists to fulfill the role that religion has long played in the life of the mind, but atheism itself explains nothing and offers no narrative. With that established, would it be fair to say - along the lines of "atheism is a religion" - that science is a poetry? No, there may be reason to prefer one or the other depending on what existential problem we're contemplating but they're differing modalities and it's good that they are. Science is more objective than poetry and it's more objective than religion as well.

To me, the real mystery is why you're debating this with people on Twitter.

Jake

The New Economics thing had me in stitches. Thanks for the laughs, David.

David

The New Economics thing had me in stitches.

Well, it demonstrates the kind of evasions and conceits that we’ve been talking about. These lofty Marxoid thinkers are eager to tell us how “we” feel about things – all kinds of things – because they just know, being such clever people. The tone throughout is hilariously arrogant and heaving with obnoxious implications that the authors can’t quite bring themselves to mention. And so there’s endless waffle about our “well-being” and how much they care about us, and care about trees too. They say, rather implausibly, that they want what’s best for us – and even less plausibly, that they “care about freedom.” And yet their egalitarian “alternative” – in which we’ll be “freed” from our materialism and spare pairs of shoes - is apparently “inevitable” and the public will be “encouraged” with the introduction of “measures” to “lessen resistance.” It’s so wonderfully coy.

If you’ve the stomach for such blathering, it is quite funny. The longer they talk, the more absurd they sound and the more obvious the lie becomes. But, to give them credit, they make huge efforts to hide it. Yes, it’s vile and stupid, the ramblings of narcissists unmoored from reality, but it’s by no means unusual among their peers.

dicentra

To me, the real mystery is why you're debating this with people on Twitter.

My frustration comes only partly from Twitter, and only recently.

I've run into the mischaracterization of my inner life for as long as I can remember, from the shallow stereotypes on TV to "so did they ever figure out what was wrong with Teresa of Avila" in a Cornell University classroom. (The teacher was wise enough to explain that there is no evidence that she was insane.)

I hear over and over how I'm misinterpreting my own internal experiences, how religion is a crutch, how I'm deluded and dangerous, how I need to wake up. "What's an intelligent person like you still doing in a religion?"

If not posed to me directly then to someone else. The self-congratulatory assumptions that underlie that question are profoundly insulting, especially since I grew up among TONS of well-educated Mormons whose intellectual prowess is as formidable as the questioner's if not moreso.

You need to get out more, is all I can say to such a questioner.

I cannot say why some people are religious and others are not, but I DO know that it's not tied to anything else such as IQ or income or personality type. Closest I can come is that it's a matter of TASTE. I know that my religion inspires and interests me; ergo, I pursue it. Other people don't find my (or any other) religion inspiring in the least — for a multitude of reasons — and so they don't. Given that I can't see into anyone's soul, it would be the height of presumption for me to assume that I know WHY someone doesn't like religion.

I could, as some do, assume that dislike for religion is motivated exclusively by a desire to do evil, but that's exactly as self-congratulatory as assuming that religion is an ignorant, superstitious delusion.

(n.b. — Superstition is any attempt to weight the dice in the crap shoot of life, up to and including sacrificing your children to who/whatever the hell controls the rainfall. Religion is a quest for holiness. If you wear a crucifix to ward off the evil eye, you're superstitious; if you wear it to remind you to rely on the grace of Christ or to follow his example, you're religious.)

you have a belief system that reinforces a particular narrative, an atheist has a doubt system that tests narratives for accordance with observable phenomena and discards them when they fail

Except that atheists are every bit as likely to discard phenomena that doesn't concord with their worldview as I am. This movie is coming out soon. It alleged to be based on a true story.

Atheists who are invested in "there is no God" will dismiss the story as a fable or an outright lie. It won't count at all as evidence or even as suggestive of evidence. Me, I don't automatically accept these kinds of stories (anyone can lie) but I don't automatically reject them, either.

Atheism the naked theory might be different from belief on paper, but in practice?

Occupies the same space as my faith does.

Franklin

Like I said, it's temperament. Taste is probably pretty close to that in that there's no accounting for it, but it may be something more basic to one's person than taste. Tastes change, temperament lingers. No one ought to be saying that religiosity has something to do with intelligence or lack thereof. There are learned believers, and we owe to a long history of them the maintenance of civilization in two hemispheres.

Nevertheless. At times I turn to poetry for insights into the Big Questions. Hearing that called religion is grating on my ear; that's making too much of it and making it into the wrong kind of thing all at once. There's not something called "apoetry" for people who don't do this, and even if there were it would be absurd to say that apoetry is a form of poetry. There is simply some other activity other than taking down the Larkin from the bookshelf. Atheism can't occupy a space where religion lies for many people, yourself included, because atheism is the very absence of religion. Something else has to go there. Fortunately there is much else that can, for those so inclined. Not just on paper, if you don't mind, but in my experience and others'.

It sounds like you've been fighting with some rather poor atheists. I suggest that it's probable that they were fighting with some rather poor religious people before they got to you. That's the world for you.

As for the movie trailer, considerations about how well the film correlates with reality are overwhelmed by my distaste for melodrama.

ShyGirl

** disengages lurking mode **

Just wanted to say this blog has some of the best comment threads I've seen.

** engages lurking mode again **

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