Saturday 4 June 2011

Traditionalism as a mental disorder? - Kalb on Liberalism


From The Tyranny of Liberalism by James Kalb  (2008: pp. 51-2):


Crude political expressions of scientism, such as Marxism, once waged open war on the traditions and religion of the people. Contemporary liberalism, which supplements scientism with the claim of tolerance and popular consent, is more sophisticated.

It accepts the right of tradition and religion to exist, but it trivializes them as mere personal preferences that cannot be allowed to affect anything that matters.

Furthermore, the disciplines of mental health remain available to delegitimize popular preferences at odds with public policy. 

These disciplines were used as political tools with Bolshevik crudity in the Soviet Union, but they have been deployed with greater finesse in the West. 

Classic examples include Theodore Adorno's critique of the 'authoritarian personality', which allowed almost any sort of skepticism regarding liberal demand sot be treated as a sign of psychological disorder, and Richard Hofstadter's 'The paranoid style in American politics', which assimilated support of Barry Goldwater and dissent from the Cold War-liberal consensus to a pattern of political insanity that spanned centuries. 

A more recent example is the term 'homophobia, which turns adherence to traditional sexual morality into a mental disorder.'


What has happened is that liberalism/ political correctness has become so pervasive an assumption among the intellectual elite, that they regard PC as not just statistically normal, but as natural and spontaneous such that any deviations require specific explanation.

A related example of this, written by a friend of mine and indeed the premier IQ researcher in the UK, shows the Leftist assumption that intelligent people will naturally gravitate towards 'liberal and antitraditional social attitudes' and the strong implication that such attitudes are 'enlightened' in the sense of Good:


Bright Children Become Enlightened Adults. Ian J. Deary, G. David Batty, Catharine R. Gale. Psychological Science January 1, 2008 vol. 19 no. 1 1-6. Abstract: We examined the prospective association between general intelligence (g) at age 10 and liberal and antitraditional social attitudes at age 30 in a large (N = 7,070), representative sample of the British population born in 1970. Statistical analyses identified a general latent trait underlying attitudes that are antiracist, proworking women, socially liberal, and trusting in the democratic political system. There was a strong association between higher g at age 10 and more liberal and antitraditional attitudes at age 30; this association was mediated partly via educational qualifications, but not at all via occupational social class. Very similar results were obtained for men and women. People in less professional occupations—and whose parents had been in less professional occupations—were less trusting of the democratic political system. This study confirms social attitudes as a major, novel field of adult human activity that is related to childhood intelligence differences.


I agree with Deary et al that higher IQ does indeed predispose towards PC and 'enlightened' attitudes - but I regard the word 'enlightened' as meaning something-like 'progressivism typical of the enlightenment era' rather than being conflated with 'virtuous'.

So I regard high IQ enlightenment as a 'clever silly' phenomenon - a phenomenon among the current intellectual elite which is a by-product high IQ among European populations.

High IQ has definite advantages in terms of social success and longevity in modern societies.

But it is the historically- and geographically-restricted attitude of liberalism and anti-traditional values which is objectively, biologically pathological - as revealed by the cumulatively-lethal effect on reproductive success among the intellectual elite and the societies they rule.


The scientifically-correct response to accusations of mental illness among anti-PC traditionalists is therefore not to argue-against the whole idea of psychopathology as relevant in politics; but in fact to make the credible counter-argument that significant (because fitness-damaging) psychological disorder is endemic among progressives.



ajb said...

"but in fact to make the credible counter-argument that significant (because fitness-damaging) psychological disorder is endemic among progressives."

Won't they respond by rolling their eyes, because pathology as they mean it = more suffering or less pleasure, and so is only indirectly related to biological fitness (and lower levels of biological fitness might = higher levels of "PC fitness", so to speak)?

chris said...

Strange, I always figured the defining pyschological characteristic of liberals was rampant emotionalism, which is the anti-thesis of reason.

chris said...

Furthermore, how can liberals claim to be more rational when clearly the direction of neurobiology, evolutionary psychology, behavioural genetics, indeed all of the sciences that relate to behaviour, is to vindicate traditional/conservative policies and values?

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - "Won't they respond by rolling their eyes"

Yes - or worse.

But my line is: *never* argue with PC zealots. Simply say nothing; or state the truth once then shut-up (Easier said than done).

If you do state the truth then do so not as a tactic to change minds but simply because it is the truth.

@chris - "how can liberals claim to be more rational" - because they are insane, I'm afraid: but when insanity is endemic it becomes the water we swim in.

Almost nobody amonf Western intellectuals is utterly immune to the insanity of PC - certainly I am not immune to it, try as I might...

HofJude said...

Couldn't it be true not that high IQ predisposes people to become pc liberals, but that high IQ predisposes people to make themselves adept in the prevailing cultural/political norm? Surely the high-IQ bands were overrepresented in the Egyptian priesthood, the Byzantine government, the Jesuit divines of the Counterreformation, the clergy of Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony? And some of the brightest rebels became so only by accident in the quest for more perfect orthodoxy - Calvin, Luther, Jonathan Edwards. Jansen.
I think the anxiety about the correlation between intelligence and modern attitudes - the crescendo of surveys and articles asserting that atheists are brighter, advanced degree people are more socialist - is a symptom of the wobbliness of this consensus - an ill presage.

Thursday said...

The problem with your strategy against leftists is that fitness-damaging is not a synonym for bad.

Thursday said...


Bruce's clever silly argument is the better explanation because high IQ disposes one towards abstraction, and PC is the supreme example of abstraction applied to life.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Sam - I try and explain my reasoning in the forthcoming Thought Prison book - I'll e-mail you a draft copy.

In essence I think it probable that extra-high IQ evolved in the past couple of thousand years - perhaps even the last thousand years - in some places where the 'middle classes' had the highest reproductive success.

This group probably always had a tendency towards atheism and Leftism, but nations were ruled by a military elite until relatively recently.

But none of this was inevitable - the intellectual elite made a *choice* to reject orthodox Christianity (or Judaism) and to purse this-worldly hedonism which eventually led to the full-blown nihilism we experience now.

It is innumerable individual acts of apostasy which lie at the root of PC. Most of us have been complicit.

Thursday said...

Elites have always been higher IQ, but those higher IQ elites lived before the rise of science. The problem is that the immense success of scientific rationalism in the past few centuries has made our elites over reliant on it. We have been inundated with pseudo-science.

Bruce Charlton said...


I don't have a strategy against Leftists. They have won and the story will now play out to destruction.

The world cannot be saved - I hope to help save a few individual souls.

I agree that fitness damaging is not a synonym for bad - not at all. But at a population level - and when pursued for a worldly rationale - it is pretty much a synonym for psychopathology.

To sacrifice fitness for explicitly transcendental, other-worldly, salvific goals is reasonable - indeed traditional.

But to sacrifice fitness when a nihilist, relativist, materialist - while denying the effect of doing so; while denying the evidence that it will fatally damage societal function etc - all that is insane.

Thursday said...

Economic factors also weigh in on this. Our elites used to have their wealth be land based. This encouraged long term thinking. Capitalism though is about making a quick buck and PC is the perfect ideology for the corporate world.

Anonymous said...

"I don't have a strategy against Leftists. They have won and the story will now play out to destruction."

There is no moderately progressive strategy against leftists. The self destructive propensities of democracy and what we now call women's liberation have been known for a very long time.

That democracies self destruct has long been known. It has also long been known that female sexual liberation produces what we now call a prisoner's dilemma problem that greatly reduces male female cooperation in producing and raising children, with the result that cultures that fail to restrain female sexuality, fail to reproduce physically or culturally. Since what few children there are are not raised by their fathers, such cultures do not produce warriors, nor do they remember their past.

Typically patriarchy is restored by invaders that kill all the men, castrate all the male children, and enslave all the women.

Wurmbrand said...

“In times of trouble,
each Christian
is himself responsible
for the fullness
of Christianity.”
-- Archbishop John Maximovitch

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dale - well, that's what it feels like. And surely from such an authority it is true. Yet also this is hard to discern from prelest.

Wurmbrand said...

About the "fullness of Christianity" -- let's remember that any and every baptized believer has, "in principle," the fullness of the Faith, because he has Christ.