Friday, November 6, 2009

Embrace the Giants

Once again, I'm touching upon the subject of what's wrong with modern libertarians. I have previously called for "purging" some moderates, centrists and conservatives out of the pro-liberty movement, and now it's the libertarians' turn.
This article states that Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is a better aesthetic setting for libertarianism than Atlas Shrugged. Regardless of whether the article correctly describes Tolkien's world, I'd like to delve into the claims made by the article's author.
Basically, what is outlined in the story is a contrast between the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman views of man (here I do not mean religions per se but the mindsets).
The former (which the author links to Tolkien, though I'm not sure if this is correct) presents man as small, humble, fallible, imperfect. It sees perfection and complete rationality as a utopia, an ideal that cannot be achieved in reality. Man is stained forever with the original sin. Now, this guy is trying to smuggle the concept of liberty into this dwarf world. What he fails to understand, however, is that the idea of liberty, properly understood, is alien to it. This is one of the reasons why I hate Christianity.
In the latter world (Greco-Roman-Randian), perfection is attainable, and a triumph of reason is possible. Man, as he should be, is not a dwarf but a titan, an Atlas, a giant. He accepts no unearned guilt, exemplified by the notion of original sin. "Purity", which is dreaded by dwarfs, does not scare him.
For the Christian dwarf pure joy, pure happiness and pure reason (not in the Kantian sense, lol) are chimeras, elusive shadows that keep escaping from him. For him, there is always a "but", "the other side". He cannot achieve integrity. His mind is forever split between the realm of action and the realm of intellect - for him, they are separate dimensions that seldom overlap.
The Greek giant is a man of integrity. For him, action and thought are two aspects of the same process. Pure happiness and pure rationality are real and within reach.
For the dwarf, liberty is neither possible nor even conceivable. As my opponents admit, this view implies some degree of irrationality. It is not necessarily wholly irrational but always irrational to some extent. But, you see, one cannot be “a bit rational” for the same reason that one cannot be “a bit pregnant.” Once a drop of irrational poison (i.e. faith) taints one’s soul, it is destined to spread farther and eventually destroy it, unless stopped. Thus, rejecting “pure rationality” implies abandoning rationality altogether.
The dwarf is afraid of universal abstract systems and absolutes. He perceives such systems as tyrannical, regardless of whether they are really so. For him, reality is a vague, undifferentiated amoeba, and truth is a fluid, fleeting property, never wholly attainable. At this point, the nihilism of a subjectivist and the dogmatism of an intrinsicist converge, as they always do. For both, truth is something that has nothing to do with reality – for a dogmatist, truth is other-worldly, while for a subjectivist, truth does not exist.
This view lays waste to any concepts, including that of liberty. In the hazy world of the dwarf, concepts are difficult to define, and facts are never certain and absolute. “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
Liberty is freedom from the initiation of force. But the dwarf would find it hard to ascertain what exactly these concepts signify. What is force? What is initiation? What is “freedom from”? To find out whether force was initiated and by whom, one needs vast integrations of empirical data and a thorough, rational analysis of facts. They need to be “absolute.” But the dwarf’s protean reality is never certain and absolute.
Moreover, the concept of unearned guilt stains human life. The value of freedom is based on the value of life and happiness. But the dwarf’s happiness is never complete. There is always some hunch in his subconscious that “it’s too good to be true”, that something’s wrong, though everything seems right. Something is indeed wrong. It is the dwarf’s mindset.
To achieve happiness and one of its prerequisites, liberty, one needs to embrace the giant’s worldview, not the dwarf’s.


Reasonsjester said...

Who annoy you more: Libertarian hobbits or pragmatist dwarfs?

Reaganx said...

I'd say one of the problems with libertarian hobbits is that many of them are also pragmatists. On the one hand, libertarians' political views are closer to Objectivism than the views of the mainstream. On the other hand, many libertarians (though not all, of course) discredit the idea of freedom by basing it on an entirely wrong philosophical foundation (such as religion or subjectivism). In that case may be doing more damage to liberty than the mainstream.

Reaganx said...

"they may be doing"