4 min read

Freedom of the Will and Post-Modernism

Freedom of the Will and Post-Modernism
The father of modern liberalism, and progenitor of much of our problems.

Movements such as BLM or the LGBT Empire are often described as "postmodern." In a sense, they certainly are. In his book Cynical Theories, James Lindsay laid out some of the fundamentals of the postmodern mindset typical of these movements. They do believe in using "repressive tolerance" - an idea devised by Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School, which promotes toleration of all movements from the left and intolerance towards all movements from the right. They believe in "the long march through the institutions," installing their people in positions of power to affect deep and abiding change in society.

They do believe in "critical theories," which are claims about society purporting to unmask the underlying structures of power in society. Essentially, they claim that underlying structures create an imbalance of power, in which certain groups - blacks, people who identify as gay, lesbian, trans, etc. - are destined to have a more difficult time simply because of discrimination. In their eyes, there can be no explanation for differing outcomes towards these groups outside of simple discrimination. The structures of society are arbitrary - in that they are based simply in power, not in some other principle that allows them to function properly - and they can and must therefore be changed. They are built to the advantage of the strong and must be rebuilt to benefit the "weak."

This belief is self-perpetuating. Any differing outcome is proof of discrimination. This point is crucial because these groups have varying outcomes for many reasons. Trans people commit suicide not because of some societal structure but because they either have a deep and abiding mental disease or have been tricked by society into hating their bodies. Black people in the US have relatively bad outcomes for many reasons, first and foremost, fatherlessness and reliance on welfare.

Both Thomas Sowell (Disparities and Discrimination) and Walter Williams (Race & Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?) have thoroughly debunked the prevailing view that outcomes are a measure of discrimination. Low-class whites in England and many hicks in Appalachia have similar issues for similar reasons, and discrimination against whites can't be the reason for that. Irish, Jews, Italians, Chinese, Indian all lifted themselves up through generations of hard work against explicit and direct racism and anti-Semitism. The silliness of this view is so profound that it feels strange even trying to explain why it's wrong.

But all of this - all of it - is a red herring. It's a red herring because it's built on a foundation that is deeply modernist not post-modernist.

What is the real issue?

The real issue is the fundamental philosophy of "liberalism" - of any sort, post-John Stuart Mill. The idea of morality has become simple and one-dimensional: the goal of all morality is to create a private sphere around the individual in which he may do whatever he wants.

The underlying assumption of this view is that the ultimate moral goal is to allow the expression of the true "me" - whatever "I" feel that to be. It is the raising of the arbitrary will to the level of God. All morality must bend to this dictum: thou shalt be autonomous.

Moral philosophers argue about all sorts of things. They try to base their theories in reality, in some sort of truth. However, Alasdair Macintyre has shown decisively that there are only two ways forward: accepting modernism and retreating, in the end, to simply sanctifying the "preference" or rejecting the whole game and basing morality in a true understanding of human nature.

In a future post, I'll get deeper into MacIntyre's view, but this point must be made clear here. All modern morality bends to the "preference." Both the right-liberal and the left-liberal live in the same sphere. The right-liberal believes that minimal government and procedural protections will protect a private sphere. He is much closer to the truth because, in the end, this person must have enough virtue to get on in life - get on with others and survive in a challenging environment.

The left-liberal, however, is more consistent. He understands that true freedom of the will means no outside forces pushing or pulling on the will. The left-liberal knows that the need to work for a living creates unacceptable demands on the "preference." He prefers not to work, and the desire to eat makes him need to. So he supports indiscriminate government programs. He understands that personal responsibility for weight gain affects the will. He wants to eat, but being fat affects his ability to succeed. So he demands fat acceptance and changing societal structures to meet his girth. He wants to have sex with whomever and understands that norms about marriage and heterosexuality don't allow that, so he redefines marriage and demands not only acceptance for his way of life but viciously attacks anyone who deigns to disagree with him. He needs the declaration that it is just as good. In fact, he wants you to believe that it is exactly the same.

There can be no true liberation of the will, for Reality will always impose itself, but the belief in the good of such liberation pushes a "rolling revolution" on and on. It is the revolution's engine and justification.

The left-liberal knows where true belief in autonomy leads. It leads to critical theory, and critical theory leads to repressive tolerance. We, however, must understand the real enemy - if we kill the tree at its roots, the branches will wither. The real enemy is the rejection of morality based in human excellence and virtue. The real enemy is raising the arbitrary will to the level of Arbiter of all morality. We must reject that view wholesale, for no society can live without a picture of human excellence and aspiration.

More on that to come.