Thursday 9 June 2016

The sophomoric Left

Unreflective, naive realism is the past: religious traditionalism - it accepts what is given and relies on not-thinking about it. And then those who reflect and think deeply and become wise are led to a conscious recognition that what is given is true, real and therefore necessary.

Modern people who do not consciously think are therefore on 'the Right'; and so are those who follow-through their thoughts to their conclusions.*

But the mass majority of modern intellectuals, however, think a little bit but never through to conclusions. They reflect a little, but never about their own assumptions. They are - in a word - sophomores: that is, wise fools - or, actual-fools who superficially appear, and believe themselves to be, wise.

They can see what is wrong with the status quo but not what is wrong with their proposed solution; they know the obstacles in the path of achieving their goals but not the reason for those obstacles or that their goals may be incoherent or evil; they can see what makes some people miserable in the short term, but not what leads to a fulfilled life for most people in the long term.

The Left make much of the egalitarian economics of redistribution - of taking from the minority and handing it to the mass majority; but never do the sums to find out how much more this would give to the minority. Socialism as an international movement growing through the 19th century was built upon the desire to alleviate the poverty which the elites had noticed for the first time after the industrial revolution (after the industrial revolution had objectively alleviated that poverty - but had also brought the poorest into concentrated groups in towns) - but socialism relied on the sophomoric mindset that believed redistribution would solve poverty; but nobody did the sums which showed this was grossly impossible, and that egalitarian socialism would certainly and mathematically lead not to universal plenty but universal poverty.

Nowadays the Left focus on the supposed plight of 'victim' groups who have for the past fifty years been systematically and explicitly granted preferences and privileges by multiple laws, regulations and openly in bureaucratic and private discourse. This is in order to address some specific inequalities  (maybe personal, maybe statistical) which are usually the consequence of common sense justice - justice therefore needs to be redefined. The answer to be imposed is 'equality of outcome' as defined by group membership - i.e. quotas - regardless of individual differences. The consequences of equalising outcome by quotas on group membership can be seen with the eyes, as well as reasoned - but the sophomoric Left will neither acknowledge the obvious nor will they think through the implications of what they advocate.

The Left (whose ultimate motivations are evil, and whose ruling elite are deliberately engaged in a - highly successful - strategy of long term subversion, destruction and inversion of all that is Good) have heir pitch exactly calculated. Unreflective people are portrayed as dumb, but anyone who actually thinks rigorously through to conclusions is engaged in 'meaningless metaphysics' and is an ideological apologist for fascism.

The sophomore is thus equally impatient with the naive and with the learned - he is happy with his partial, superficial and distorted little bit of knowledge; his little bit of knowledge makes him feel superior to the masses, but he despises the truly wise because feels no need for any more knowledge because his little bit gets him what he wants (here and now, in the short term, according to his superficial and corrupt desires).

The sophomore regards himself as a kind of perfection of balance - enough knowledge to be superior to the masses, but not so much as to lead to hard work and dealing with troublesome consequences: he feels himself to be both prestigious and pragmatic; with enough learning to justify his authority, but not enough to risk being expelled outside the pale.

We live in a world where sophomores rule - they rule government, the mass media, the mainstream churches, law, the military and police, education, science and everything else.

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing; and that word 'dangerous' to a sophomore, sounds cool! He likes to think of himself, and be though-of by others, as 'dangerous' - although he actually is a timid, conformist, unprincipled coward in all serious situations (just being pragmatic, you know; saving himself for the really important conflicts...).

Every wise man must pass through the phase of being a sophomore - but unless he recognises it as a phase, he may get stuck there; as have the entirety of the Western ruling class.

Any sophomore is bad enough... But a whole class of smug, self-satisfied sophomores in charge of everything is lethal.

*Note added: This is common knowledge - Uneducated people, unexposed to mass media or mass education, are naturally conservative; and so are experts when it comes to the area of their expertise. Radicals are drawn from those whose knowledge and skills lie in-between ignorance and expertise. 


William Wildblood said...

Or as Francis Bacon said:
“I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran than that this universal frame is without a mind. And therefore God never wrought miracle to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion. For while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity.”

In many ways Bacon was one of the founding fathers of the modern world but he still accepted the reality of God unlike most of those who followed in his footsteps who pride themselves on breaking free of the dead weight of tradition (as they see it) without being able to perceive the truth behind it.

John Fitzgerald said...

A stinging analysis, Bruce. Razor sharp in every respect.

Imnobody said...

One of your bests, Bruce. I had been vaguely aware of this for longtime, but I couldn't see it well until I read it from you.

Let me add that this sophomoric behavior is only a part of something more general. The adolescent character of our culture, which I initially read in "The Culture Code" by Clotaire Rapaille. People are stuck in a perpetual adolescence and this sophomoric behavior is something associated to it (I see it everyday in my college students: they think they know it all: I used to be that way too at their age).

Other adolescent features of our culture: rebellion, following basic instincts without curbing them, rejecting shame and guilt (because I am always good and the world is unfair), rejecting religion, looking for sex without commitment, having romantic love as the highest ideal, considering that the world starts with oneself and all the past is obsolete, shallowness, avoidance of responsibility, delusions of grandeur, living as if death didn't exist, narcissism, being self-centered.

In general, adolescence is the ME phase and our times are the ME times. We are ruled by a bunch of brats.

Maolsheachlann said...

I discussed this post on my Facebook page and this is what I said:

This is an interesting quotation from Bruce Charlton, the British academic and blogger: "Uneducated people, unexposed to mass media or mass education, are naturally conservative; and so are experts when it comes to the area of their expertise. Radicals are drawn from those whose knowledge and skills lie in-between ignorance and expertise."

I'm not saying I agree with it, but it certainly seems to have something going for it. I once read (and I can never find the source) this statement: "Everybody is right-wing about the things they understand".

Take the example of religion. I can understand someone with a little bit of knowledge and reflection on the subject thinking that greater liberalisation/modernization of a religion will naturally lead to more adherents. But a fairly casual investigation of the history of organised religion will quickly tell you that this is never what happens, over the long run. In fact, the opposite happens, although it seems counter-intuitive.

Of course there are counter-examples. What about Picasso, one of the great modernizers in art whose level of accomplishment in traditional art was undoubtable? What about John Lennon, who could obviously write a song but who then moved onto Revoution No. 9 etc? I am not a reader of Tolstoy but I understand he disowned all his famous novels and developed his own radical view of art. Bobby Fischer apparently wanted to totally change the rules of chess. So there also seems to be a trend of people who have a very thorough knowledge and expertise in a field exhibiting an extremely radical attitude towards it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@M - Your quite comes from Robert Conquest e.g. -

The counter examples I have called 'evil geniuses' in my recent book The Genius Famine - you can find it via the link at the top of the blog. They are very important - but of course very rare: I was talking about the mass majority of modern people who are actually and in practice Leftists (including all non-religious conservatives, reactionaries and libertarians, and all 'liberals' in all religions).