Wednesday 28 June 2017

Review and summary of The Genius Famine

There is a pleasing review and summary of my co-authored most recent book The Genius Famine, published on the VDARE website, written by Lance Welton

If you haven't yet had a look at The Genius Famine, it is very cheaply available, properly formatted, on Kindle; or can be seen in a text version (suitable for copying, pasting, editing and printing) at:


Chiu ChunLing said...

One problem with the project of hoping to inculcate Endogenous genius in the hope of some arising with the ability to save a declining civilization is the high probability of such geniuses questioning whether saving the existing civilization should even be the point of their efforts.

A very compelling case can be made that the greatest good is to allow civilizations to collapse naturally when they reach the point of decline, so that a new civilization can come about. There are a number of perspectives that recommend this, but I'll pick the example of the general hostility to Endogenous type genius that becomes characteristic of a civilization subject to decadent influences, which are an inevitable outcome of a civilization that succeeds in the main project of civilization...relaxing the severe selective pressure that exists in a state of nature.

Endogenous geniuses are naturally valued by small human societies facing the state of nature because they are crucial to the survival of the group. You rightly point out that the lack of felt pressure on survival is significant in allowing hostility to such geniuses. Doesn't it follow that removing the underlying causes of that hostility might be beneficial to allowing Endogenous geniuses again to receive the cooperation of the group necessary to allow them to improve civilization? But wouldn't this become a contradiction in terms? How civilized can a civilization be if, to maintain it against decadence, we artificially impose a selective pressure sufficient to remove the underlying cause of the decadence?

Might it not be preferable to simply allow the decadence to proceed until renewed (natural) selective pressure produced the conditions in which geniuses would be able to lead the rebuilding of a new civilization?

More shortly, proceeding from the theological assumption that God represents a superlative example of Endogenous genius...don't we already have the answer to our question about how such a genius might view the 'problem' of a society falling into decadence and civilizational collapse?

Bruce Charlton said...

@CC - "One problem with the project of hoping to inculcate Endogenous genius in the hope of some arising with the ability to save a declining civilization "

Just to clarify, I don't believe that the Endogenous personality can be 'inculcated' - I believe that it is innate.

The current situation is that the Global Establishment are purposively destroying civilisation - approximately-nobody with power and influence is trying to save it.

As to whether it should be saved... that depends mostly on the alternative; and furthermore should be evaluated spiritually, not materially.

But perhaps we agree that civilsation is a seriously sub-optimal kind of human organisation; which can be seen from a study of uncivilised societies (I mean nomadic, hunter gatherer, tribal, extended family type societies) which are superior in many ways, such that they probably make a better *basis* for Heaven (and the Earthly Paradise) than does any farming or city/ industrial based society.

(But of course they can - so far as we can tell - only support about one percent of current world population.)

Chiu ChunLing said...

Apologies for the imprecision. I meant "inculcate" in the sense of supplying the experiential stimulus for such EGs as arise in the population to develop an interest in the preservation of civilization rather than turning their identified interests to idiosyncratic concerns. That is to say, what is to be inculcated is not the Endogenous personality traits in the population in general but rather an interest in saving civilization in potential Endogenous geniuses.

The problem would seem to be that Endogenous geniuses operate on a radically different scale of transactional behavior. Whereas normal humans engage in social transactions at the level of discrete favors for individuals or family units, the behavior pattern described for Endogenous geniuses seems to indicate that they come to identify as a small element of a much larger entity which may only accidentally overlap with human societies of any size, and then devote some substantial portion of their entire life effort to it.

A developing/expanding civilization/society can easily attract Endogenous geniuses to identify with some fundamental principle of its success and thus influence them to make contributing to the further evolution of the civilization a life "Quest". But this would seem less possible for a civilization in identifiable decadence and deterioration, a conscious effort to identify and appeal to potential Endogenous geniuses seems likely to repel them. Their behavior pattern indicates they would prefer to identify with a vital and creative alternative to the declining former order. That is to say, they are innately revolutionary and inimical to a deteriorating status quo.

I think that it is insufficient to overtly appeal to the conventionally identified self interest of an Endogenous genius, one of their crucial characteristics is the ability to subsume their individual biological interest as an organism to a more abstract and grandiose concept of identity. It seems that much of what seems to be 'vulnerability/fragility' arises from a radical tendency to see their biological organism as being not much more important to their core identity than their toenails. Such a person might even regard it as a mathematical equivalence, their whole biological life being about as valuable as the same weight in cast-off skin and hair. Those with the most potential (and especially "altruism", though that term is less useful than one indicating a radically grandiose definition of personal identity) would likely be the most ready to view their individual organism as entirely dispensable for the good of the greater whole of their adopted identity (if it is indeed adopted rather than somehow being innate).

This tendency is recognized in the observation that it is somewhat typical of Endogenous geniuses to regard even supportive family members with little special favoritism. It may even be wrong to speak of "transactional" behavior at all...the scale on which such a personality establishes its concept of 'self' may be too large to admit of anything else with which to negotiate transactions, though I doubt this.

What I don't doubt is that persuading them to identify with a civilization which has notably passed the threshold of decadence (and developed ingrained tendencies inimical to their genius) is far more difficult than just appealing to their biological self-interest. I think one has to start by identifying the kinds of larger 'self' identification Endogenous geniuses are typically prone to develop or adopt. Then examine those for clues as to the traits sought in establishing these vastly expanded self-concepts from which they operate (to the neglect of their own families and individual lives).

Chiu ChunLing said...

And then...well, it's hard to say. "Establish in civilization those principles and characteristics" is easier said than done. And it may reverse the typical relationship of the Endogenous genius to society itself. After all, while you don't appear to mention Lycurgus of Sparta, he might be an archetype of the kind of Endogenous genius you're seeking, someone who founds society in the image of his grand conception of 'self'. It isn't the job of any former civilization to find such men and appeal to their loyalty. Rather it is the role of such men to create, reform, or redefine civilization on their own visionary terms.

It's rather like the clay plotting how to find and train a suitable potter.

But I think that we do, individually if not as a society or civilization, have a meaningful choice. Visionaries will arise outside the existing status quo, and offer their ideals. I doubt it will suddenly become possible to follow all of them at once. Understanding the differences between the genuine Endogenous geniuses and the frauds is only a start (though a serious challenge that should not be underestimated), interpreting the larger vision offered in terms of our personal interests so as to select the most compatible available is necessary even when one has sorted out the fakes.

It may be that some visionaries offer a future in which our current civilizational decline is arrested or at least delayed indefinitely, but we shouldn't be too hasty to assume that's actually the best...though certainly the alternatives seem immediately appalling.

I'm actually more optimistic about the potential for maintaining some degree of technological advantage even without large-scale civilization as we know it. The main difficulty isn't really production of life necessities but rather territorial conflict resolution. It may be that the development of modern man-portable arms and infantry tactics for employing them render territorial aggression less viable than defense. The current nationalized (and international) subsidization of extremely costly and logistically intensive weapon systems make it difficult to be certain.

On the agricultural front, many relatively easily maintained technological advances in the last century give cause for optimism. And the capability of accessing local-scale genius stored and transmitted through books (both technical and fictional) shouldn't be overlooked. I'd say that a lot more than 1% of the existing population could be supported even without large-scale civilization...if necessary.

But I'm more inclined to the view that new civilizations will be established in the wake of the collapse of the current one.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CC - Interesting analysis - thanks.