Friday, April 6, 2018

Calling Out America's Declaration of Independence

From an interesting source.

Using philosophy to "deconstruct" things is not something that the late 20th Century French school of "Deconstructionists" led by Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida invented. In fact, if I understand Leo Strauss properly, he argues this is something all true philosophers since Socrates do. The difference is, before the invention of liberal democracy and its recognition of the right to freedom of speech, philosophers could be killed for deconstructing sacred cows and hence needed to write esoterically, in code.

I can't speak to the deconstructionists' case for atheism (i.e., their attempt to deconstruct God), but I do for what I think good reason assert this: Regardless of whether God exists, the 20th century deconstructionists have been irrefutably proven dead wrong in their attempt to deconstruct human nature.

Human nature exists as an "is." If the atheistic materialists are right, then the etiology of the "is" derives from our biological nature, from such causes as Darwin's case for evolution. Perhaps the "is/ought" gap can't be crossed, and appeals to nature for "oughts" commit the "naturalistic fallacy"; but the "is" exists nonetheless. And that's something those deconstructionists tried and failed to deconstruct (sometimes with disastrous results).

That said, what follows is one of my keen insights which someone more notable probably previously articulated: It's much easier for a smart person who is good in philosophy to deconstruct someone else's affirmative thesis than to build an affirmative thesis of their own that is immune to such.

And with that I get to Curtis Yarvin, aka Mencius Moldbug's deconstruction of America's Declaration of Independence. He is an interesting source. This isn't some left wing Foucault influenced academic doing the deconstructing. He's a Trump supporter who watched the victory in his friend Peter Thiel's house.

A snip:
Let's call our first witness. His name is Thomas Hutchinson, and he is the outstanding Loyalist figure of the prerevolutionary era. His Strictures upon the Declaration of the Congress at Philadelphia is here. It is not long. Please do him the courtesy of reading it in full, then continue below.

Now: what do you notice about Hutchinson's Strictures? Well, the first thing you notice is: before today, you had never read it. Or even heard of it. Or probably even its author. What is the ratio of the number of people who have read the Declaration to the number who have read the Strictures? 10^5? 10^6? Something like that. Isn't that just slightly creepy?

The second thing we notice about the Strictures is its tone - very different from the Declaration. The Declaration shouts at us. The Strictures talk to us. Hutchinson speaks quietly, with just the occasional touch of snark. He adopts the general manner of a sober adult trapped in an elevator with a drunk, knife-wielding teenager.

Of course, as Patriots (we are still Patriots, aren't we? Sorry - just checking), we would expect some cleverness from the Devil. Everyone knows this is the way you win an argument, right or wrong. Pay no attention to Darth Hutchinson's little Sith mind tricks. But still - why would Congress make it so easy? Why are we getting stomped like this? Because ouch, man, that was painful.

The third thing we notice is that Hutchinson actually explains the Declaration. As he begins:

The last time I had the honour of being in your Lordship's company, you observed that you were utterly at a loss as to what facts many parts of the Declaration of Independence published by the Philadelphia Congress referred...
In other words: these Congress people are so whack-a-doodle-doo, half the time your Lordship can't even tell what they're talking about. Presumably "your Lordship" is Lord Germain. Dear reader, how does your own knowledge of the Declaration compare to Lord Germain's? Weren't you amused, for instance, to learn that
I know of no new offices erected in America in the present reign, except those of the Commissioners of the Customs and their dependents. Five Commissioners were appointed, and four Surveyors General dismissed; perhaps fifteen to twenty clerks and under officers were necessary for this board more than the Surveyors had occasion for before: Land and tide waiters, weighers, &c. were known officers before; the Surveyors used to encrease or lessen the number as the King’s service required, and the Commissioners have done no more. Thirty or forty additional officers in the whole Continent, are the Swarms which eat out the substance of the boasted number of three millions of people.
or, most intriguingly, that
The first in order, He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good; is of so general a nature, that it is not possible to conjecture to what laws or to what Colonies it refers. I remember no laws which any Colony has been restrained from passing, so as to cause any complaint of grievance, except those for issuing a fraudulent paper currency, and making it a legal tender; but this is a restraint which for many years past has been laid on Assemblies by an act of Parliament, since which such laws cannot have been offered to the King for his allowance. I therefore believe this to be a general charge, without any particulars to support it; fit enough to be placed at the head of a list of imaginary grievances.
What is this fraudulent paper currency? Hutchinson is referring to this episode. The experienced UR reader may well ask: what is it with America and paper money? We'll definitely have to revisit the question.

But suffice it to say that you, personally, do not have the knowledge to produce any kind of coherent response to Hutchinson's brutal fisking of our sacred founding document. You can't say: "actually, Governor Hutchinson, I was in Boston in 1768, and I can tell you exactly why the Assembly was moved to Cambridge. What really happened is that..." For all you or I know about Boston in 1768, of course, Hutchinson could just as easily be the one yanking our chains. But why, then, are we so sure he's wrong?

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