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jeudi, 19 septembre 2019

The Breakdown of Order in Late Mass Democracy

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The Breakdown of Order in Late Mass Democracy

By John Derbyshire

Ex: http://www.hlmenckenclub.org

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here, and thanks to Paul  for what already looks like another very successful conference.

First somewhat of an apology. The title of my talk is misleading. I have the heart and soul of a freelance journalist, and we don’t bother much with titles. Titles to articles in newspapers and magazines were traditionally supplied by subeditors—the people responsible for headlines and photo captions. Where titles are concerned, a freelancer has to take his chances with the subs.

That’s not precisely what happened here. What actually happened was, Paul asked me if I’d join a panel on anarcho-tyranny. I said I’d be delighted. Paul asked if there was any particular subtopic I wanted to focus on. I said: “Nah, just give me a topic and I’ll run with it.” Paul then listed my topic as: “The Breakdown of Order in Late Mass Democracy.”

I tell you this to make it plain that I don’t, from long habit, take titles very seriously; and this is not Paul’s fault.

So I can now tell you that, after pondering the title Paul has supplied me with, I don’t in fact think there will be a breakdown of order in what—yes, I do agree—we can rightly call “late mass democracy.”

Not only do I think there will not be a breakdown of order, I fear the opposite thing: an intensification of order.  Let me explain that.

I think the distinguishing characteristic of late mass democracy is the elites getting their mojo back.  After a Century of the Common Man, elites are now saying to themselves, in the current popular idiom: “We’ve got this.”

To explain what I mean, let me take a brief historico-literary detour.*

When I was getting my secondary education back in England in the early 1960s, a common exercise for sixth formers—that is, high school juniors and seniors—was to read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and then to read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and to write an essay declaring, with supporting arguments, which of the two books you thought the actual future would more closely resemble.

BNW-AH.jpgBoth these books presented the reader with a dystopia—a dark view of humanity’s future.  The two dystopias were radically different, though.

In Orwell’s vision, as I’m sure is well known, the human spirit had been tamed by terror. A ruling elite, divided into an Inner Party and an Outer Party, maintained itself by fear.  Outer Party members, who did the administrative grunt work, were kept under constant vigilance by the Thought Police. Dissidents were hauled away to be tortured and killed. A great sullen mass of proles, with no political rights, were kept pacified by a coarse kind of popular culture and frequent spasms of war fever, and were also under watch by the Thought Police, so that potential troublemakers could be quickly identified and eliminated.

Huxley’s dystopia was altogether different.  Huxley’s planet is unified and at peace. Its affairs are managed by ten regional Controllers. Marriage, childbirth, and family life have been abolished, along with all kinds of suffering — even such minor kinds as disappointment and frustration. Also gone are the nation-state, war, religion, ethnicity, and all profound art and literature. Disease has been banished. Old age has been banished too, very nearly: Citizens are healthy, vigorous, and attractive until about age 60, when they decline quickly to death. Everyone lives in a state of contented hedonism, assisted by regular doses of soma, a freely available narcotic with no side- or after-effects. Sex is promiscuous and recreational, with universal free access to contraception and abortion.

The necessary work of Huxley’s society is carried out via a system of castes, with bright and capable Alphas at the top, then betas, gammas, deltas, down to dimwitted Epsilons at the bottom. Caste is determined in the Hatcheries, where good-quality eggs and sperm are mated to produce Alphas. Inferior zygotes are assigned to the lower castes and cloned. The production of well-adjusted citizens is completed in Conditioning units.

All this is accomplished so successfully that society is well-nigh self-regulating. The Controllers, though in theory they’re possessed of despotic powers, in fact have very little to do.

When I got this assignment around age 17, I pondered the matter and came down on the side of Huxley as having given us a more probable picture of the future. I can’t honestly remember my arguments, but I suspect my choice was mainly esthetic.  Orwell’s vision was plainly horrible. It even smelled bad: remember how Winston Smith’s apartment building stank of boiled cabbage? Huxley’s world, on the other hand, didn’t sound bad at all. Universal peace; no more diseases; pop a harmless pill if you’re unhappy; guilt-free recreational sex; what’s not to like? When you read Brave New World, you know there’s something badly wrong with it; but it’s surprisingly difficult to say what, exactly, that is.  Speaking as a bookish intellectual, I would say that what’s wrong is the stasis, the end of any quest for knowledge, for deeper understanding of the world.

When I look at the trends of our own time, it seems to me that my 1962 judgment was correct, however accidentally.  Of course, Huxley’s vision was only very approximately predictive. He got a lot of things wrong. We don’t need a caste of dimwitted Epsilons to do the industrial work, we can have robots do it.

BNW-2-AHux.jpgMore glaringly, he did not foresee the great explosion in the populations of hopeless people seeking to escape chaotic nations—the crowds we have seen on our TV screens this past few weeks heading up through Mexico; with, looming up behind them, the prospect of—what is the latest UN projection? Four billion, is it?—desperate Africans by the end of this century.

Still, if the civilized world can find some way to deal with those issues, or can just fence itself off from them, the trendlines for our society are Huxleyan.  Soma, the universal tranquillizer, is not yet with us, but with a couple more cycles of pharmacological advance, it likely will be. An alpha class of genetically superior humans could arise quite naturally and commercially from techniques of embryo selection already available. Something like it is anyway emerging naturally, from assortative mating among our meritocratic elites.  As has often been noted: doctors used to marry nurses and lawyers used to marry their secretaries. Now doctors marry doctors and lawyers marry lawyers. Huxley’s feelies—entertainment fed in through all the senses—are not far from the Virtual Reality gadgets already on the market.

As for social disorder: well, Pat Buchanan—who turned eighty yesterday, by the way: Happy Birthday, Pat!—reminded us in a column just last month how very disorderly the USA, and the rest of the civilized world, was fifty years ago. The Weathermen and the Black Panthers; the Symbionese Liberation Army—remember them? The Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhof gang; political assassinations; the 1968 Democratic Convention; Kent State and Cornell; …

Antifa put up a good show; and yes, I certainly agree that they illustrate the principle of anarcho-tyranny very well, controlling the streets while leftist politicians stand down the police forces. As a force for generalized disorder, though, they are not impressive. Antifa would run like chickens from a whiff of grapeshot.

The overall trend of our societies is Huxleyan.  It is the trend Steven Pinker has famously described in his book Better Angels: towards a pacified, tranquillized, hedonistic caste society.

Here in the USA the trend lines can actually be traced some way back.

In every organized society there is a tension between order and liberty. We Americans love our liberty, of course; but my love of liberty stops well short of loving your liberty to break my leg or pick my pocket. There needs to be social order.

albionseed.jpegOur own conception of social order is a fermented brew whose original ingredients were sketched out by David Hackett Fischer in his 1989 classic Albion’s Seed. Fischer described how the four main stocks of British settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries each contributed an ingredient to the national culture, and in particular to our notions of social order.

  • The Puritans of New England, drawn heavily from England’s literate artisan classes, had a conception of social order Fischer defines thus: “A condition where everything was put in its proper place and held there by force if necessary … a condition of organic unity.”  Crime stats tell the story. Further quote from Fischer: “Crimes against property were more common than crimes against persons. But crimes against order were the most common of all.” [My italics.]  The examples Fischer gives are: violations of the sabbath, blasphemy, sexual offenses, idleness, lying, domestic disorder, or drunkenness.

  • The “distressed cavaliers” and rustic, illiterate English peasants and house servants who populated Virginia and the Tidewater South had a much less egalitarian, much more hierarchical notion of social order, with county sheriffs appointed in the name of the Crown, not elected constables as in New England.  There was much more interpersonal violence here; but the violence too was hierarchical. Fischer: “It was often used by superiors against inferiors, and sometimes by equals against one another, but rarely by people of subordinate status against those above them.” Crimes of violence were more common than property crimes.

  • The Quakers of the Delaware Valley based social order on tolerance, forbearance, and the Golden Rule.  Quote from Fischer: “There were no crimes of conscience in the Quaker colonies before 1755.” Social order meant social peace. Criminal penalties were generally lighter than in the other colonies; but, says Fischer: “They punished very harshly acts of disorder in which one citizen intruded upon the peace of another … Penalties for crimes of sexual violence against women were exceptionally severe.”

  • And then there were the Scotch-Irish of the back-country, drawn from the half-civilized border lands where England meets Scotland, and from those same border folks’ Protestant settlements in Northern Ireland. These people had the least structured notion of social order among all the colonists. Fischer: “The prevailing principle was lex talionis, the rule of retaliation. It held that a good man must seek to do right in the world, but when wrong was done to him he must punish the wrongdoer himself by an act of retribution that restored order and justice in the world … A North Carolina proverb declared that ‘every man should be sheriff on his own hearth.’” That didn’t leave much for government to do. This was a very individualistic culture. Property crimes were punished much more severely than crimes of violence. One 18th-century court gave the following sentences: for hog stealing, death by hanging; for the rape of an 11-year-old girl, one shilling fine.

Overlaid on these original order traditions were the political arrangements thrashed out by the founders of our republic. Just to remind you, in very brief: Anti-Federalists favored localism and democracy modeled on the classical age, as updated by Locke and Montesquieu—a loose collection of self-governing cantons with minimal central control. Federalists argued for a stronger central government as better suited for defense and financial stability. Out of these arguments emerged our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Constitution was supposed to have settled this question: Could a republic of the classical democratic or aristocratic type, as somewhat modernized by recent thinkers, be scaled up to continental size, given that the only pre-modern unitary states of that size had been despotic empires?

You can make a case that the answer was “No” for the first hundred years or so of the U.S.A.; that the Civil War, whatever its proximate cause, showed the fundamental instability of the 1789 model; but that the model was then rescued, from the late 19th century on, by technology—particularly by mass communication, mass transportation, and mass education.

And thus we arrived at mass democracy: and not only us, but much of the rest of the world. And of course I am over-simplifying: the relevant developments have roots back in the 16th century, with printing and the Reformation—what the Third Duke of Norfolk dismissed with disgust as “this new learning.”

But we arrived at mass democracy, and the 20th century was the Century of the Common Man.  We still had elites, of course; but under mass democracy—or, in the context of my title, early mass democracy—the elites had to pretend to be just lucky commoners.  They had to practice the common touch.

The transformation is easier to see in cultures that came later to the party.  Japanese elites used to wear fantastically elaborate uniforms. Palace flunkies used to stain their teeth black to distinguish themselves from the common herd.  Now Japan’s elites strive to look just like middle-class salarymen. Or perhaps you’ve seen that juxtaposition of two photographs of female undergraduates at an Egyptian university, one taken in 1950 where they are in Western frocks and blouses, a westernized elite, the other much more recent with them all in burkas like peasant women.

Now, in the 21st century, the elites are making a comeback.  They’ve had a bellyful of this Common Man stuff.  How to do it, though? The traditional hierarchy of rank and genealogy—the pattern of order that shaped Europe and the old Tidewater South—is long gone. The violent egalitarianism of the Scotch-Irish has been corralled off into a few localities none of us ever need visit: inner-city ghettos and remote mountain villages.  The totalitarian order of the big old 20th-century despotic utopias proved a bust, though it lingers on in a few hell-holes like North Korea.

What system of order is appropriate to an age of unbounded material plenty, ample leisure, an internet panopticon, and rapid growth of understanding in the human sciences and biotechnology?  I think the goodthinking consensual model of Puritan Massachusetts set the model; except that, with sophisticated conditioning, a free ration of soma, and endless hedonistic distractions, there’ll be no need to burn witches or hang Quakers.

If we can just find some way to manage, or contain, those swelling tides of the hopeless heading for our borders, we shall reach the Brave New World at last.

mardi, 19 octobre 2010

Ordo ordinans: il carattere istitutivo del termine nomos

Ordo ordinans: il carattere istitutivo del termine nomos

Giovanni B. Krähe / Ex: http://geviert.wordpress.com/

26092631128.jpgCome sappiamo, dalla dissoluzione dell’ordinamento medioevale sorse lo Stato territoriale accentrato e delimitato. In questa nuova concezione della territorialità – caratterizzata dal principio di sovranità – l’idea di Stato superò sia il carattere non esclusivo dell’ordinamento spaziale medioevale, sia la parcellizzazione del principio di autorità (1).

Parallelamente, l’avvento dell’epoca moderna mise in atto un’autentica rivoluzione nella visione dello spazio. Questa fu caratterizzata dal sorgere, attraverso la scoperta di un nuovo mondo, di una nuova mentalità di tipo globale. In questo senso, l’evolversi del rapporto fra ordinamento e localizzazione introdusse un nuovo equilibrio tra terra ferma e mare libero, ‘‘fra scoperta e occupazione di fatto’’ (2). A questo punto ci sembra importante mettere in evidenza la specificità del rapporto che caratterizza un particolare ordine spaziale. Questo non è, come si può dedurre da una prima lettura dell’opera schmittiana, il semplice mutamento dei confini territoriali prodotto dallo sviluppo del dominio tecnico sulle altre dimensioni spaziali (terra, mare, aria o spazio globale complessivo). Ogni mutamento nei confini di queste dimensioni può determinare il sorgere di un nuovo ordinamento, di un nuovo diritto internazionale, ma non necessariamente istituire quest’ordinamento. Qui si colloca il concetto di sfida (Herausforderung) a partire dal quale, per Schmitt, una decisione politica fonda un nuovo nomos, che si sostituisce al vecchio ordinamento dello spazio (3).

Su questa via, possiamo considerare il concetto di ‘politico’ come un approccio teorico in risposta alla sfida aperta lasciata dalla fine della statualità in quanto organizzazione non conflittuale dei gruppi umani. Allo stesso modo possiamo cogliere, attraverso le trasformazioni del concetto di guerra, la proposta teorica schmittiana di una possibilità di regolazione della belligeranza. È vero poi che una decisione politica può anche risolversi in un mero rapporto di dominio egemonico, tutto centrato nella propria autoreferenzialità della sua politica di potenza. Non si può parlare in questo caso dell’emergere di un nuovo nomos in quanto il problema della conflittualità non si presenta più nei termini di una possibilità di regolazione. In questo senso, tale problema, se riferito alla guerra nell’epoca moderna, caratterizzata dalla ambiguità del principio di self-help, diventa fonte interminabile di nuove inimicizie :

“Le numerose conquiste, dedizioni, occupazioni di fatto (…) o si inquadrano in un ordinamento spaziale del diritto internazionale già dato, oppure spezzano quel quadro e hanno la tendenza – se non sono soltanto dei fugaci atti di forza – a costituire un nuovo ordinamento spaziale del diritto internazionale”(4).

Abbiamo detto che dal rapporto fra ordinamento e localizzazione può emergere un determinato ordine spaziale. La possibilità aperta di fondare, nel senso della sfida accennata da Schmitt, un nuovo ordine dipende dal carattere istitutivo della decisione politica. Il potere costituente, che da questa decisione emerge, problematizza nei suoi capisaldi il rapporto considerato implicito fra atti costituenti e istituzioni costituite, fra nomos e lex. Nella scontata sinonimia di queste due categorie fondamentali, l’autore introduce una distinzione radicale. Questa distinzione che considera l’atto fondativo di un determinato ordine spaziale attraverso la specificità pre-normativa della decisione politica è il carattere istitutivo del termine nomos (5). Questa caratteristica pre-normativa del nomos non va intesa nel senso di un diritto primitivo anteriore all’ordinamento della legalità statale, ma all’interno di una pluralità di tipi di diritto. In questa prospettiva, la norma, che c’è alla base del diritto positivo – costituito, a sua volta, sull’effetività materiale di un spazio pacificato – si colloca, all’interno di questa pluralità.

Per Schmitt, tuttavia, il nomos “è un evento storico costitutivo, un atto della legittimità che solo conferisce senso alla legalità della mera legge” (6). Di questa opposizione tra nomos e lex ripresa più volte dall’autore non ci occupiamo in questa sede, in quanto essa puó essere intesa come un unico processo a carattere ordinativo. Questo processo che viene generalmente operato dalla norma, è già, tra l’altro, implicito nello stesso nomos (7) . Piuttosto, ció che ci interessa sottolinerare all’interno di questo processo ordinativo è la collocazione del concetto di guerra. Cosí, in termini moderni, se il carattere istitutivo del termine nomos – nel senso di un ordo ordinans imperiale o federale come accennato da A. Panebianco – determina l’inizio di un unico processo strutturante fra ordinamento e localizzazione, allora la conflittualitá puó essere regolamentata, se collocata all’interno di questo processo. In questo senso, le odierne categorie del diritto internazionale sorte dal principio dello jus contra bellum (come, ad esempio, i crimini di guerra oppure i crimini contro l’umanitá) non solo non risolvono il problema dichiarando la guerra “fuori legge”, ma riducono le regolazioni della belligeranza a meri atti di polizia internazionale.

Note

(¹) La non esclusività risiedeva nella sovrapposizione di diverse istanze politico-giuridiche all’interno di uno stesso territorio. Cfr. John Gerard Ruggie, Territoriality and beyond: problematizing modernity in international relations, in “International Organization”, n. 47, 1, Winter 1993, p. 150.

(2) Carl Schmitt, Il nomos della terra (1950), Adelphi, Milano, 1991, p. 52.

(3) Cfr. ivi, p.75; vedi inoltre Carl Schmitt, Terra e Mare, Giuffrè, Milano, 1986, pp. 63-64 e pp. 80-82; sul concetto di sfida vedi la premessa (1963) a Id., Le categorie del ‘politico’, cit., pp. 89-100 in: Carl Schmitt:  Il concetto di ‘politico’ (1932), in Id., Le categorie del ‘politico’, a cura di G. Miglio e P. Schiera, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1972.

(4)  Carl Schmitt, Il nomos della terra, cit., p. 75; sul ruolo dell’America fra egemonia e nomos cfr. lo scritto Cambio di struttura del diritto internazionale (1943), pp. 296-297 e L’ordinamento planetario dopo la seconda guerra mondiale (1962), pp. 321-343 in Carl Schmitt, L’unità del mondo e altri saggi a cura di Alessandro Campi, Antonio Pellicani Editore, Roma, 1994.

(5) Sulla distinzione schmittiana tra nomos e lex si veda Carl Schmitt, Il nomos della terra, cit., pp. 55-62. La problematicità che introduce questa distinzione, per quanto riguarda l’ordinamento giuridico interno allo Stato, è stata sviluppata dall’autore in Legalità e legittimità, in Id., Le categorie del ‘politico’ cit., p. 223 ss.

(6) Carl Schmitt, Il nomos della terra, cit., p. 63.

(7) Sul carattere processuale specifico del termine nomos si veda Appropiazione/Divisione/Produzione (1958), in C. Schmitt, Le categorie del ‘politico’ cit., p. 299 ss., e Id., Nomos/Nahme/Name (1959), in Caterina Resta, Stato mondiale o Nomos della terra. Carl Schmitt tra universo e pluriverso. A.Pellicani Editore, Roma, 1999.

jeudi, 26 août 2010

Leadership & the Vital Order

Leadership & the Vital Order:
Selected Aphorisms by Hans Prinzhorn, Ph.D., M.D.

Translated and edited by Joseph D. Pryce

370.jpgThe enduring fame of German psychotherapist Hans Prinzhorn (1886–1933) is based almost entirely upon one book, Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Artistry of the mentally ill), that brilliant and quite unprecedented monograph on the artistic productions of the mentally ill, which appeared in 1922. Sadly, it is too often forgotten that Hans Prinzhorn was the most brilliant and independent disciple of Germany’s greatest 20th-Century philosopher, Ludwig Klages (1872–1956).

Although Prinzhorn himself would have protested against the oblivion into which his mentor’s life’s work has fallen, it is a fact that Prinzhorn is still a major presence in the technical literature, whilst his hero, paradoxically, has been “killed by silence.” One should be thankful for even the smallest mercies.

Prinzhorn is even now a not inconsiderable presence in the field that he made his own, and he will remain a major figure, albeit a controversial one, in the field of psychology, as long as his discoveries are cherished and his insights developed as a living heritage by those who recognize, and are willing to repay, at least some small portion of the debt that scholarship still owes to his memory.

Humanitarian Demagogues, Egalitarian Rabble. Whether today’s mechanistic and atomistic experiments with human beings originated in the Orient or in the Occident, the result is always the same: the tyranny of a clique in the name of the equality of all. And it is from this very tendency that the fantastic pipe dream of human individuals being reduced to the status of mere numbers arises. This wishful thinking is a symptom of the nihilistic Will to Power that conceals its true nature behind the cloak of such humanitarian ideals as humility, solicitude for the weak, the awakening of the oppressed masses, the plans for universal happiness, and the fever-swamp vision of perpetual progress. All of these lunatic projects invariably result in a demagogic assault on the part of the inferior rabble against the nobler type of human being. These mad projects, it need hardly be said, are always concocted in the name of “humanity,” in spite of the fact that decades earlier Nietzsche had conclusively demonstrated that it was the ressentiment, or “life-envy,” of those who feel themselves to be oppressed by fate that was at the root of all such tendencies. Indeed, it is even now quite difficult for the select few who have no wish to enroll themselves among the oppressed mob to understand the realities of their situation!

The Goals of Socialism. When we set our goals in the direction of socialism, whether in the sphere of politics, of welfare work, or of the ideal community, the fanaticism that inspires the socialist is customarily tinged with Christianity. Thus the socialist urges the citizen to progress from wicked egoism to a more social attitude. Even when we ignore the social, religious, or political nature of the ideologue’s desiderata, there is one positive aspect to this development, for socialism at least directs our attention away from the tyrannical ego and towards the world that surrounds us, thus calling upon the only one of socialism’s fundamental motives that we can regard as positive and biologically sensible.

Characterological Truth vs. Psychoanalytical Error. The most extensive, pleasant, and (one might even say) amusing effects wrought by the application of the psychoanalytic treatment depended on the fact that the most wretched and feeble blockhead was now able to convince himself that he was equal to Goethe in that the instincts that played so decisive a role in the cretin’s development were identical with those that were operative in the case of Goethe, and it was only a malicious practical joke on the part of Destiny that permitted Goethe to find in poetry a congenial sublimation of his sexuality.

The Psychopath and the Revolution. We can hold out no hope whatever for the successful creation of the sort of community that is constructed by ideologists on the basis of purely rational considerations, for the projects that are hatched out in the mind of the rationalist are most definitely not analogous to the development of living forms in nature, no matter how often the contrary position has been proclaimed by false prophets. Thus, the delusive hopes that are cherished for the successful implementation of the simple-minded schemes of our socialist and humanitarian ideologists must fail in the future as they have always failed in the past. The only tangible result of these schemes has been to intoxicate the isolated psychopath with an egalitarian frenzy, from which his tormented ego awakens, more desperate than ever, in order to plunge once again, with ever-increasing violence, into his political ecstasies, into bellowing his eulogies to those nameless “masses” who are so dear to the ideologue that he has appointed them to be the sole beneficiaries of his activism, now that he has been made sufficiently mad by a nebulous and insatiable longing for “liberation.” But the “sham” anonymity, which functions effectively as the cloak for politicians who pretend to act in the name of “the masses,” can only benefit clever, robust, and willful politicians, such as those who rule the Soviet Union; the real psychopath, on the other hand, who often possesses a taste for novel sensations and who, perhaps, may also be seeking personal publicity, will never be able to conform to the prescriptions of such an icy, strict self-discipline. As a result, he “breaks out,” and is soon overwhelmed by calamities from which he thinks he can only escape by resorting to even more violent attempts to achieve “liberation.” From the standpoint of psychology, the history of revolutions is very helpful to those who wish to increase their understanding of the “everyday” behavior—as well as the political actions—of his fellow human beings, not least to the physician who seeks enlightenment as to the nature of the motivations that drive men to perform violent deeds in situations to which they lend the halo of freedom, equality, and fraternity.

Heredity as Destiny (and Tabula Rasa as Sheer Nonsense). The life-curve of an individual’s development is a single event, which arrays itself along the lines of irrevocable changes. Strictly speaking, therefore, every occurrence, no matter how insignificant, involves an irrevocable change: in life nothing can be reversed, nothing repudiated, nothing ventured without an attendant responsibility, nothing can be annihilated: that formula constitutes the biological basis of destiny. Just as the individual must accept his biological heritage as a whole, whether he likes it or not, in precisely the same fashion must he accept the pre-ordained pattern of obscure rhythms transpiring within him.

Today we have become tragically unconcerned with our biological destiny, to say nothing of the fact that we refuse to feel the slightest reverence to the sphere of life, to which we owe everything. …That very attitude accounts for the success that has greeted the claims advanced by Alfred Adler and his followers, who advance the dogma that the hitherto customary views on heredity are fundamentally false, since man is born as a tabula rasa whereon his environment makes impressions that, by means of education, one can direct at will, and according to the capacity of that will, toward any desired goal. Adler compounds his felony by claiming that there is no such thing as inborn talent or traits of disposition. …

It would be impossible to reject the principles of biological theory more absolutely than Adler and his cohorts have done. Even that which we understand by the old, almost obsolescent name of “temperament”—that which represents the sum-total of the somatically connected, permanent tendencies of an individual—even this link between the purely psychological and the purely somatic view is repudiated by Adler in his grotesquely teleological and hyper-rationalist construction. … Since there is no biological basis whatsoever for his stupendous assertions, one must seek for such a basis in another sphere, viz., the author’s ideology. Sure enough, we learn that Adler is a fanatical believer in the coming Utopia of socialism, and, as we all recognize, no Utopia can prosper until a faceless equality of disposition has been forced upon every individual by the ideological zealots who will run the show. Therefore I denounce the politically tendentious World-View that Adler and his apostles put forward as “science,” for it is a perfect example of nihilism passing itself off as scholarship, and no cloak of pedantic and prudent caution can hide the fact.

Genetic Endowment and Environmental Conditioning. Upon his entry into individual existence, the human being’s development as a psychosomatic creature is determined as regards substance, capacity for expansion, and direction, in the first place by his genetic endowment as a whole; in the second place by his pre-natal environment; and lastly by the circumstances of his birth. That almost all the active factors rise and fall in varying phases, makes a rational interpretation and estimate of the state of things at any given moment impossible in the strictest sense of that word.

But the fact that such an admission of the difficulties that arise due to methodological limitations is exploited by false prophets in order to deceive the world as to the real nature of biological facts—usually in order to breathe some life into the defunct heresy of the infant born as a tabula rasa—is either a sad indication of their childish mentality or additional evidence that they are indulging their ideological proclivities in the wrong place. What Goethe described as “the law under which you entered the world,” what Kant, Schopenhauer, and others called the “intelligible character,” is the first unavoidable actuality that we must accept as the destiny of our being, and as the starting-point of all investigation and thinking that relates to the human being. All experience and all reasonable thinking drives us back to this basic fact.

The Occidental Observer, August 8, 2010, http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/authors/Pryce-Prinzhorn.html

Joseph Pryce (email him) is a writer and poet and translator from New York. He is author of the collection of mystical poems Mansions of Irkalla, reviewed here. His translation of the German philosopher Ludwig Klages’ work will be published shortly.