Saturday, 15 January 2011

The salvation of Mencius Moldbug

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Commenters have recently referred to the ideas of the pseudonymous Mencius Moldbug who blogs at Unqualified Reservations - http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com - and the great man himself once graced this blog with his comments!

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I regard Mencius Moldbug as one the the most important thinkers of our time (OK, there is not much competition - but still...), and I have learned a great deal from him.

He is extremely astute, extremely well-informed (and about relevant matters), honest, shows his working, and (most important) is a truth-seeker.

I think I have read everything on his blog, and have also spent a lot of time thinking about it.

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But (and you were waiting for that 'but', weren't you?) his system is based upon arbitrary axioms and is pragmatic and 'utilitarian' - in the sense that MM argues that his plans for government and society would in practice lead to the greatest happiness and/or the minimum misery for the greatest number of people.

(Or, at least, for the greatest number of people who deserve it, in the sense that those who 'deserve' to have their happiness enhanced and misery diminished are those whose net effect on the gratification of others is positive.)

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MM is perfectly aware and explicit that his axioms are un-founded, and to be judged therefore by their consequences; and he is explicitly utilitarian (with a typical 'liberal' emphasis that the diminution of misery is more important - and more objective - than the optimization of happiness: so that for MM reducing violence and the pain it brings is more important than expanding opportunities for pleasure.)

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But why is happiness good and pain bad? (This being the basis of utilitarian morality)

Of course we feel that way; but (to the secular materialist) these feelings, the specific pairings of stimulus and response, e.g. suffering violence paired with pain, engaging in sex paired with pleasure - are merely contingent facts of natural selection.

And such contingent facts can be, and are, manipulated by training, drugs, surgery and (in future, perhaps) genetic engineering.

Hence, that which previously caused pain can be made a pleasure and that which previously gratified can be made pain.

(Indeed, such inversions of traditional pairings are a major element in political correctness - albeit with inconsistent success, so far.)

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And, anyway, in the Big Picture (as perceived by secular materialism) - what do these momentary phenomena matter? Who (or what) cares about human happiness or suffering? Even a whole human life does not even amount to a micro-spark in eternity.

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In other words, Mencius Moldbug is an advocate of pure nihilism: a total denial of reality (since bottom line 'reality' - i.e. human emotions and what triggers them - is by this analysis wholly reversible, hence wholly relativistic).

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But MM is perfectly well aware of this fact.

And he is not, I am sure, happy with this state of affairs - he is not content to be a nihilist, not content to live in a state of nihilism (however free from pain and misery, however filled with pleasurable distractions).

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Mencius Moldbug is not, therefore, content to leave his ideology, his system, where it happens to be at the moment - but he will continue to seek something better.

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Assuming that Mencius Moldbug does not abandon his search for truth, he will become a Christian. Sooner or later, and possibly at the very last moment, but inevitably so.

He is on the path.

He has, indeed, already crossed the Pascalian+ threshold for salvation: the threshold which lies between being a contented atheist and a seeking atheist.

And therefore, whether he acknowledges it or not, MM is already destined to be saved (assuming, that is, he does not abandon his honest search).

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+Blaise Pascal - Pensees, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/18269

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7 comments:

sconzey said...

Interesting hypothesis. I've always seen MM's Formalist Sovereign companies as providing a framework; a "bare-bones install" to use computer jargon -- within which you can construct nearly any society you like.

I strongly suspect a permanent plutocratic/meritocratic aristocracy would develop -- society's wealthiest individuals and the artists, scientists and poets patronised by them.

dearieme said...

How do you know that he won't become a Muslim? Or a Jew?

josh said...

I've thought about his for myself; wondered if I will end up a Christian based on the path I've been on. I find myself doubting that I will ever believe in the historical Jesus and a literal God however much I admire the Christian understanding of good and evil (especially the concept of Satan).

ab said...

"And, anyway, in the Big Picture (as perceived by secular materialism) - what do these momentary phenomena matter? Who (or what) cares about human happiness or suffering? Even a whole human life does not even amount to a micro-spark in eternity."

This is what I don't understand (and I'm not at all familiar with MM's writing, so forgive me if it's obvious once one looks there).

I care about my happiness or suffering, because it is intrinsically good or bad. I also care about the happiness or suffering of my family and friends, and other people to lesser degrees.

I do not need to assume a 'view from nowhere' and judge a human life as not even amounting to a micro-spark.

Das Beagle said...

This is extremely interesting. I had recently come to the conclusion that I needed to believe in an entity or being of absolute truth as the ultimate foundation of life. Without it, life does not and can not make sense. Whether I can become a Christian or a member of another religion remains to be seen.

I can't believe Moldbug read Pobedonostsev's Reflections and did not reach the same conclusion.

Zimri said...

Moldbug's already a Jew; he's told us about his family. And he's never hinted at a sympathy toward Islam, nor even any reading into it. Admittedly he doesn't care much about the Talmud. He is far more interested in the Jacobites (Catholic) and Milosevic (Orthodox). So if he is on any path, the path is headed to Constantinople or Rome.

Reading Moldbug, in part, led me into the Catholic Church, from
January 2008 to midway 2009; although admittedly there were some comments from IMAO (yeah, I know) which pointed me thither more emphatically. And, although I lost interest, I am still pro Catholic. I suspect that I will be headed back there, in time; or to an Orthodox communion.

I chose Catholicism because my cultural background is Anglican. Anglicanism is Catholic in ritual, as you all probably know, so there was no culture shock there; the only culture shock was in finding out that Catholics actually mean it.

Also, the Catholics have historically mounted the most systematic and effective offensives against Islam, and defences against same.

Olave d'Estienne said...

I've often thought that Moldbug's passivism is a secular counterpoint to the injunction that we render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's - because tangling with the secular authorities doesn't get you any closer to God or heaven.

Moldbug seems quite-pro Christian in a way that reminds me of Schopenhauer. Why Moldbug is pro-RCC instead of pro-Orthodox, I don't know.

It seems like the Orthodox have mounted as effective a campaign against Islamization as Catholics have. Admittedly it hard to digest all of human history in making such a conclusion, so I admit this is just an impression.