21 December 2012

Anti-realism = Fascism

Peter Smith, writing at The Bell Towers, reports on an annual public meeting in the UK called Battle of Ideas

One paragraph of his report very nicely sums up a distinction I've been trying to flesh out in my homilies for years now:

John Haldane, a softly-spoken Scots academic from St Andrews. . .and fellow-traveler Catholic, put forward the proposition that the fundamental cultural debate is between one collection of ideas, called ‘the anti-realists’, and another, those of ‘the realists’, and that this cultural tension is manifest in political and social policy. Real ideas (by which I think he also meant realistic) contained at their core the notion that the universe is natural, objectively ‘out there’, knowable but distinct, and informing views on sexuality, sex, marriage, death, etc. Anti-realist ideas, by contrast, consider everything as human constructs, plastic and malleable, which can be bended and altered but which inherently are unknowable. Realism and anti-realism contain fundamentally different understandings about what is knowable and what is not, what can be change and what cannot, and mankind’s place in creation.

The distinction btw Realism and Anti-realism is applicable in all branches of philosophy, especially the philosophy of science (essentially a practical application of epistemology), and used extensively in all the humanities.

Applying the distinction to political discourse is extremely useful b/c it gives us a way of addressing and refuting such contemporary political monsters as "identity politics," "victim culture," and other creations of Gramscian cultural Marxism. 

The basic political move of the anti-realists is this: 

1. Use appeals to perspectivism to undermine objectively knowable truth: "From my perspective, X is oppressive/unjust/wrong." The operative concept to push here is the primacy of "context."

2. Once perspectivism has been absorbed into the engines of culture (media, books, academy), move quickly to promote relativism: "You have your perspective on X and I have mine. There's no way to tell which perspective of X is really true."

3. Now that relativism is established, move to nihilism: "Since there's no way to know whose perspective on X is really 'true,' we can conclude that there is no such thing as 'truth.' about X." 

4. Nihilism leads to eliminativism: "If there is no 'truth' about X, then there's no reason to believe that there is any such thing as 'truth' at all."

5. Eliminativism supports "the will to power" in an attack on any claim that something is True: "Your claim that there is such a thing as 'truth" is just an exercise of your _____ power."  The blank is usually filled with an adjective describing the race, class, gender, an/or sexual orientation of the accused.

6. Once the Will to Power is broadly adopted, it's simply a matter of making sure that Your Side has the strongest will to grab the most power. Since there can be no appeal to an objectively knowable standard of distinguishing truth from error (anti-realism), truth is whatever the most politically powerful say it is:  "The greedy 99% is being exploited by the 1%." 

Anti-realism is the philosophical basis for fascism: the State determines reality/truth.

This is all just a highly simplified summary.  The moves between stages are complex and would require whole books to flesh out. However, nota bene, that the steps I've outlined here are on naked display in our contemporary political arena. 

One example: notice how easily our Cultural Betters throw the use "fact" to describe what it is in reality nothing more than an opinion.  Once everything is "just an opinion," then anything at all can be called a "fact." Challenging the "fact" exposes you to the charge that you are abusing your white, middle-class, heterosexual male power.

H/T: Michael Liccione (from Facebook)

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  1. Nice step-by-step summary - much appreciated.

    (rant beginneth)Ah, yes...my Cultural Betters. Those with whom I cannot hold a conversation because I am utterly confused - we use the same "words", but they seem to have vastly differing meanings, and those meanings can change from one person to the next. I'm sorry, just because you've arbitrarily changed the "meaning" of something, that doesn't mean that you've actually changed what it IS!

    "What I believe (feel) is 'my reality'.
    'My Reality' is true/real.
    Therefore, what I believe (feel) is true/real."

    !?!?...and I so often accuse people of needing to take a course in Logic... ;-). (rant endeth)

    1. Logic!? How completely logo/phallo/occidental-centric of you. Logic is just a way that capitalists and Christianists attempt to marginalize difference through the privileging of absolutist binaries (either/or, right/wrong) and subsume that privilege under the militaristic and stultifying rubrics of "reality" and the rhetoric of "truth."

      Geez, how bourgeois!

    2. Hey, watch who you're calling phallo-centric! :-) Except for that, yeah, you caught me - I just live for the privileging of absolutist binaries.

  2. The definition of fascism is debated, as you likely know, and I assume you are using it in a loose popular sense, as people often use "schizophrenic" to mean "split-personality" or, my favorite, "literally" to mean "figuratively."

    Fascism, IMHO, as rough as it is, is not the worst of systems. After all, Franco's fascism kept Spain from the far worse totalitarianism of Marx. Fascism has a higher reality-content than Marxism; it overexpands the State but it recognizes the bonds of blood and culture and the limits of nature far better than the overweening anti-realist utopianism of the proletarian dictators. Most Americans don't know it, but those Roman fasces you have there preside over the House of Representatives, on the wall behind the Speaker.

    Totalitarianism is what I would suggest you are really aiming at in your post, Father. And as you say, of the Marxist kind. I despise Marxism so much that lumping it with fascism felt a bit like a slur! Hate speech! LOL.

    1. DrAndro, I'm using "fascism" to mean something like "a political philosophy that espouses the total ownership of society by the State; i.e., industry, banking, trade, education, etc." Fascism is a left-wing philosophy despite the best efforts of the media/academia to convince us that it's right-wing.

      from Wiki: "Fascism recognizes the occurrence of class conflict, and advocates a resolution to end the division of classes within a nation and secure national solidarity. However fascism publicly favours proletarian culture while it rejects bourgeois culture, and claims that cultural nationalization of society emancipates the nation's proletariat, and promotes the assimilation of all classes into a proletarian nation.

      Fascism advocates a state-controlled and regulated mixed economy; the principal economic goal of fascism is to achieve autarky to secure national self-sufficiency and independence, through protectionist and interventionist economic policies. It promotes regulated private enterprise and private property contingent whenever beneficial to the nation and state enterprise and state property whenever necessary to protect its interests."