survival and ethics

the problem of value has been satisfactorily addressed by Darwin. it may sound controversial, with all the “science is value free” thing going around, but there is simply no value that is not reducible to survival, or endurance. if things cannot keep being, their value is limited. if they can’t be at all, their value is similarly non-extant.

any ethics that is realist – and here we strive to return to this, to ignore the spooks – will be an ethics of survival: what can we do to last longer? it understands path dependency, and thus is geared to operating with human intelligence (but only until a transition can be envisioned).

the darned thing about ethics in general is that it usually cannot be accelerated. a set of “do’s” and “don’ts” doesn’t flow from the future. or does it?

a central element of survival is being able to look ahead, and thus suck future into the present. without predictive capability (science), survival is impossible. turn this around and it’s obvious expanding predictive capability is necessary to expanding survival.

a survivalist ethics then turns into long-term strategics: what rules should we follow if we are to last (and last longer)? a society with a justice system but without a law against murder that is sufficiently strict and well applied, so as to dissuade and repay it’s violation, is a suicidal society.

this empirical model of ethics make it open to revision – it has to observe changing conditions and learn – what is specifically right or wrong changes over time. the good in itself, however, remains fixed.

the standard of value in survival makes the knowledge of what’s good available at all levels to all entities: adapt or perish. and it’s self-reinforcing: the good always wins because prevailing is itself the good. redemption is assured, but fleeting.

virtue ethics, as a summary of good strategic behaviors, is the closest we have gotten so far to an ethics of survival. virtues are recipes of how to survive, individually and socially, the longest, and how to leave good copies of oneself, so as to sustain its living. it removes the insane puritanism of deontology – no one can be virtuous by exhibiting only one virtue, all of them have to be measured – and the sheer blindness of consequentialism (seriously, where are the utilitarians going anyway?)

Adam Smith’s stance on the Theory of Moral Sentiments, that “sympathy” (empathy) is the drive for moral behavior, is respectable in many senses, and also correct, but is limited: empathy itself arises in response to environmental needs of moral behavior, and is thus subjected to (social) survival. it is because we need to live together to survive that we are empathetic – not the other way around. empathy is contingent, survival is absolute.

does the social trumps the individual survival? only if it does. to a large extent, more individualist societies have thrived more, showing that there is not, at the moment, a conflict between individual interests and social survival, much to the contrary. but it may well be that this, too, changes at some point, and that individuals are better off killing their societies and becoming lone wolves. if they can, they must. but there are moves and counter moves, and maybe societies can trump individuals at times, and be trumped by them at others. what does ethics have to say to each of them? adapt, or perish.

this shows ethics is not universal. survival is being-specific. the rules of survival for the lion are different than the rules of survival for the zebra, the bacteria in his bowels, and for the hunters with them on sight. survival is only a goal, not a specific instrument. those have to be built. and here intelligence comes in (but I’ll let you do that plugging for now).

ethics then can be anything, but is not anything at any one moment. it is some specific rules that lead to the survival of a certain specific entity. it changes, but not according to the mere will of any entity. from many points of view, the ethics proper to a certain entity may seems harsh, oppressive, cruel and unjust. from the point of view of their ethics, it probably is. but it doesn’t matter. only survival matters.

so stop whining.

different ethics can dialog, cohere and make deals. mutual survival is possible. alliances are oftentimes demanded. but that has to be produced, it is not given. effective defense is necessary, even among friends. borders are always a good idea. good fences make good friends. there’s an ethics to war, just as there is a strategics to anything.

only through reality can messages be transmitted. realism is not optional, it is selected for. survival is inherently allied to keeping it real. to the point that any reality can only be devised in the horizon because it lasts longer.

in reality, truth:=survival.

and survival is the only good.

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naturalism, ethics and politcs

1) the preemptive rejection of the strong naturalist intention (study ethics and politics solely in view of empirical evidence) does not offer any good reason why it should be so.

1.1) one good reason I would see is that, while we can understand evolutionary impacts of certain kinds of political and ethical arrangements (and under which conditions they come into being), effectively testing them would demand another framework – one such as federalism or the archipelago.

1.2) the reason “it assumes that empirical knowledge is superior to ethical and political knowledge” is weak. the naturalist method has produced demonstrable results for over 4 centuries now, incarnated in the technological world all around us. ethics and politics have produced nothing of the kind. if that’s not an evidence against the method used in ethics and politics so far (an introspective method, based at best on logic and at worst on suspicious “a priori” definitions).

thus it’s not that empirical knowledge is superior to ethics and politics, but that the empirical method works better than the introspective method used in ethics and politics.

2) the attempt to evade the facts of empirical knowledge (for whatever reason) does not make certain political or ethical theories any better adapted to empirical reality. their flaws and their course when realistically applied can be empirically predicted. refusing to listen and pay careful attention to what naturalist empirical knowledge has to say is undertaken at the critic’s own risk. reality rules.

3) there’s an universal impartial judge, and it’s called reality. reality shows itself through survival. irrealism will lead to death, necessarily. those that survive the most, have the most truth in their beliefs and practices. those that die, don’t.

3.1) sure, the contest may last a long while. and to this extent, two different and even contradictory sets of beliefs may be held as truth, at the same time. in such a point in time, both must be held as truth indeed. when one dies, then the other must be recognized as the truth that prevailed.

3.2) once again, choose to ignore reality at your own peril.

3.3) theories, of course, evolve. hopefully, learning from deaths around itself. if a theory that leads to longer survival is abandoned, for whatever reason, the whole of the institutions and societies that embed and accept them will eventually die, especially when in competition from societies that haven’t committed the same mistakes (and will themselves learn quite a bit about how not to run institutions and societies).

4) for normativity, see “The Blind Mechanic II

5) Only naturalist methodology is “legitimate” because only it works as a good proxy for real consequences, and thus ensures realism. all other methods are greatly liable to delusion and willful blindness.

neocameralism and constitutions

so, recently I noticed a whole lotta hate for Land’s constitutionalism (surging after this came from the vast abrupt). reactionary future is not pleased with “liberal neoreaction”. anomaly UK is still not convinced either.

their contention, from what I grasped, is “sovereignty cannot be effectively divided, only distributed (exponentially)”. constitutions are bullshit, men take decisions, not algorithms (ultimately). trying to do so only generates disorder (anarchy) and parasitism. [there’s also some babbling on the “anthropological error” of individualism, but I’ll deal with that elsewhere]

obviously, not wasting their time reading such left liberal bullshit of cybernetics and spontaneous order (damn hippies!), they were interested in the morally superior works of Thomas Carlyle and DeJouvenal. only dirty leftists such as me and Mr. werewolf Land could suggest a man’s Will is not sovereign, per se.

all the arcane bullshit about the functioning of the universe and horrorism that accompanies XS’s writing are not mere musings (I mean, seriously). mythology helps us think (as this elderly French says).

The real — free or fated — thing wears a face, as an allotted role within the world“.  remove the faces and you see the underlying processes that actually run things. Henry VI, Henry VII, Louis XV, etc are avatars, interfaces, symptoms, not causes, of material (efficient) processes. we are gene machines. computers are bit machines. machines connected to machines. machines interrupting the flows of other machines. the mouth machine and the milk machine. anus and shit.

this alone is already enough to show the whole “sovereignty conserves” thing is either misguided or misused. it’s not possible, ever, to have a man making decisions on his own, unchecked by anyone or anything else. there are faceless things hiding in reality, and they are already  machinic, algorithmic, automatic. the men involved are rather instruments in the hands (claws) of such fanged noumena than sovereign willing persons.

in such a machinic reality, power is an idea, and ideas are primordially checked by their effects. power is selected to check itself, because of its inherent economic quality: to survive, increase and improve, power needs to identify its reality with the outside. it needs to calculate its odds of survival, needs to develop an algorithm of the workings of the wolves of Gnon, before they find where it hides. intelligence optimization demands a will-to-think.

think of this as the “fundamental problem of loyalty”: “will the generals obey? will the soldiers shoot?“. from the (surely little) i know of Moldbug, neocameralism seeks to replace the old cameralist trust-demanding “loyalty to the king” with the trustless capitalist joint-stock corporation. why? because corporations work better. it survives longer, it grows and it improves on itself. it reaches cybernetic closure: no nodes more controlled than controlling. stockholders choose CEOs, thus checking them. CEOs choose marketing, checking consumers. consumers choose products, checking stockholders. corporations work because they’re checked, not in spite of it. without such checks and balances, there’s no alignment of companies and clients interests.

constitutionalism is merely a recognition of this reality. RF tells us Moldbug is obviously against constitutions:

“In reality, no sovereign can be subject to law. This is a political perpetual motion machine. Law is not law unless it is judged and enforced. And by whom? For example, if you think a supreme court with judicial review can make government subject to law, you are obviously unfamiliar with the sordid history of American constitutional jurisprudence. All your design has achieved is to make your supreme court sovereign. Indeed if the court had only one justice, a proper title for that justice would be “King.” Sorry, kid, you haven’t violated the conservation of anything.”

well, if it is so, why have stockholders at all? isn’t it “imperium in imperio”? here‘s Moldbug stating right away that sovcorps should have division of power:

“A responsible, effective government has three basic parts. One is the front end: all the people who report to Steve. Two is the middle: Steve himself. Three is the back end: the people Steve is responsible to. (…)

Call the back end the controllers. The controllers have one job: deciding whether or not Steve is managing responsibly. If not, they need to fire Steve and hire a new Steve. (Marc Andreesen, perhaps.)

This design requires a substantial number of reasonably cogent controllers, whose collective opinion is likely to be trustworthy, and who share a single concept of responsibility. (…)”

power divided not only between two, but three bodies. and not few, but a “substantial number” of controllers. so much for imperium.

why, oh why? because Moldbug is a realist. he knows that a power that does not check itself, dies:

“The CEO and the monarch owe their positions to a law which all can obey, and those who choose to obey the law are naturally a winning coalition against those who choose to break it. The dictator’s position is the result of his primacy in a pyramid of criminals. This structure is naturally unstable.”

men cannot choose at will. there is the unwritten constitution of that which functions better, and if he fails to acknowledge it, he dies an ugly death. patches in the patchwork are checked by natural selection: those that thrive, survive. power is primordially checked, by reality.

in fact, the history of the modern downfall of monarchism can be seen in this light, as a failure of absolutist kings to understand the economic nature of their power. Alexis de Tcqueville’s main thesis in his works is that the French Revolution stemmed first and foremost from the increasing centralization of power undertaken by the french monarchy. the failure to recognize and bring the power of the estates together in a balanced system is at the core of the demotic nightmare that followed.

similar points can be made about pretty much all other modern revolutions: the Glorious Revolution happened to protect the (aristocratic) parliament from being dissolved, the American Revolution happened to stop the king from not recognizing the factual economic sovereignty of the colonies, the Russian Revolution happened to show the czar that he can’t just put his brother as general without verifying if there is loyalty in the lower echelons of the army. the reverse is also true, Japanese quasi-mythical single royal lineage has always been a sham of “absolutism”, lasting mostly because of its ability to be checked. even the much heralded Chinese monarchy lasted only when the emperors were checked by palace checks that made them fulfill their duties. responsibility is difficult.

the conflation of democracy insurgence and division of power apparently happened because the kings chose to make sure the only way to check them was beheading them. a Schelling point arose in which both popular sovereignty and division of power could both be believed.  (Anomaly UK points out that the kings believed liberal demotic discourse. if only had they had someone to tell them to quit it.)

it’s important to remember as well that the Cathedral won. it consistently won over all absolutist regimes. it survived. that it is failing as of now is more a signal of its abandonment of its (very successful) doctrine of checks-and-balances than the contrary. if anyone wants to topple it, it takes – realistically – more division of power.

reality rules. and if reality selects constitutions, if they are more efficient than other options, well then, Kings are to go. let’s test it, shall we?

on realism (aka “stop whining”)

on realism (aka “stop whining”)
if reality rules, the first thing is to recognize it.
civilization works and wins out. liberal civilization works better and wins out even more often.
civilization is able to produce a legitimized and hence very functional hierarchy out of essentially egalitarian young male primates. this turns out to be a very efficient military organization, that eliminates its competition. territorial conquest follows.
the downside of civilization is that after some time it gets exhausted. status competition becomes more central than military conquer, resources get mostly concentrated in the hand of a few, people – especially the essentially egalitarian young male primates who were the basis of civilization – get fucking pissed off at dying for a few leaders (that are usually the moronic sons of former approved kings, or the compulsive liar politicians of late republics) and internal order collapses inexorably. too bad, but natural selection is a tough bitch. stupidity dies.
western (i.e., liberal) civilization works pretty much the same way all civilizations: astounding military conquest, territorial expansion, ensuing stupidity in managing social order. but some strange loops make liberal civilization weirder (and gets one wondering if this time it’s different).
anyone attempting to analyse or do something in the present is certainly advised to looking back to history as a teacher. but not as a moral teacher. to think that history is unfair – our side lost! – is already to give up any sort of teaching it may have. spooky ghosts won’t teach you what works. and what doesn’t work dies. in fact the very definition of “death” could be “not functioning”. whining about how wicked civilization is, or how improperly demoralized liberal civilization has become, is to ignore that, well, civilization slaughtered every other type of social organization and, well, liberal civilization overtook the globe. sadness is not an argument.
once one learns the lessons of history, the question is “what happens next?” good prediction makes fortune. the more moralistic “what should be done?” is going to look for ghosts. of course, individually everyone will have to decide what to do at every moment. that’s the predicament of human life: imperfect knowledge and hence free will. our feebleness entertains the gods. but if a blurry glimpse of the future is allowed to our primitive senses through prediction, fortune may be made.
so, what works for the Left in the wake of the 21st century, in view of history and the little prediction we can harvest? a few themes suggest themselves:
1) give up governments, go to small scale: fragmentation is becoming the worldwide trend, not onyl in communication, but emanating out of it into human organization. it’s a known in network science that centralized networks are less resilient (and hence less durable) than decentralized or (preferrably) distributed ones.
2) relentless outbreeding and/or genetic engineering towards human admixture (we’ve been through this yesterday, go check).
3) guns and AI are your friends; “proper science” is not: if we’re coming back to small-scale, lab-coat monks are not the raw materials. we need insane inventors, like old scientists, not theoreticians.
4) kill Christianity once and for all; side with witches: i am not one to despise the strength of organized rituals, but rejecting human imperfection in search for some “transcendental values” (even if they are oh so very progressive), and looking forward to taming dissent, is not at all what the Left feeds on. what ever happened to “we are the daughters of all the witches you couldn’t burn”. stick to the runes and the naturalness of paganism. the elementals are closer to reality than the Pope or the Good Book.
5) stop whining; start doing: the Left shall slowly perish into a whirlwind of complaints as long as it views its objective as “pleading for our rights”. the State doesn’t care, God doesn’t care, no one cares, which your supposed “rights” are. if you can’t build and defend them, they are void.
a realist Left, that understands power in order to effectively distribute it, that brings its madness into action (and not merely lodge it in low-grade literary academic papers) is the challenge ahead. if we fail reality, reality doesn’t go away, we do.
whining will only get yourself killed.

on Calvin

on Calvin
stumbled onto this lately. form which, Calvin:
Therefore, God has provided the soul of man with intellect, by which he might discern good from evil, just from unjust, and might know what to follow or to shun, reason going before with her lamp; whence philosophers, in reference to her directing power, have called her τὸ ἑγεμονικὸν. To this he has joined will, to which choice belongs. Man excelled in these noble endowments in his primitive condition, when reason, intelligence, prudence, and Judgment, not only sufficed for the government of his earthly life, but also enabled him to rise up to God and eternal happiness. Thereafter choice was added to direct the appetites, and temper all the organic motions; the will being thus perfectly submissive to the authority of reason. In this upright state, man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal life
so, if we have will (desire) perfectly submitted to reason, we are able to govern our earthly life (as our primitive ancestors did), but also “rise up to God and eternal happiness”. this bears out in Boehm’s descriptions of hunter-gatherer bands and tribes-people in general (pp. 50-60). also, it certainly is a great descriptor of possible AI behavior.
For surely the Deity could not be tied down to this condition,—to make man such, that he either could not or would not sin. Such a nature might have been more excellent; but to expostulate with God as if he had been bound to confer this nature on man, is more than unjust, seeing he had full right to determine how much or how little He would give. Why He did not sustain him by the virtue of perseverance is hidden in his counsel; it is ours to keep within the bounds of soberness. Man had received the power, if he had the will, but he had not the will which would have given the power; for this will would have been followed by perseverance. Still, after he had received so much, there is no excuse for his having spontaneously brought death upon himself. No necessity was laid upon God to give him more than that intermediate and even transient will, that out of man’s fall he might extract materials for his own glory.”
only Gnon can understand why it is that we fell from grace. possibly because on our darkness and misery depended a much greater project: intelligence optimization. providentially, it was much more important to give way to desire fulfilling, in order to put in place capitalist economy and ignite AI, than on cautious, rational self-control and peace of mind. capital is the socius suffering deeply.
“the Providence of God, as taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous causes. By an erroneous opinion prevailing in all ages, an opinion almost universally prevailing in our own day — viz. that all things happen fortuitously, the true doctrine of Providence has not only been obscured, but almost buried. If one falls among robbers, or ravenous beasts; if a sudden gust of wind at sea causes shipwreck; if one is struck down by the fall of a house or a tree; if another, when wandering through desert paths, meets with deliverance; or, after being tossed by the waves, arrives in port, and makes some wondrous hair-breadth escape from death — all these occurrences, prosperous as well as adverse, carnal sense will attribute to fortune. But whose has learned from the mouth of Christ that all the hairs of his head are numbered (Mt. 10:30), will look farther for the cause, and hold that all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God. With regard to inanimate objects again we must hold that though each is possessed of its peculiar properties, yet all of them exert their force only in so far as directed by the immediate hand of God. Hence they are merely instruments, into which God constantly infuses what energy he sees meet, and turns and converts to any purpose at his pleasure.

possibly one of the most eloquent defenses of radical determinism. which is really the only thing that makes sense in view of current scientific knowledge: reality (nature) rules, and it rules alone.

the horror is never knowing, being unable to see in the future. that’s also our only shot at freedom in any human sense. “ignorance is bliss” takes a whole other meaning in view of this. from the point of view of intelligence, on the other hand, freedom is precisely knowing as much as possible. it seems clear, in Providence, who is to win. the child of God is himself, after all.