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Athens and Jerusalem in Dialogue I — L’Affaire King

Recently there was something of a dust-up over the commenter Matt King at Dalrock’s blog.  This is a storm that has been brewing for some time, I think, but the recent kerfuffle provides a useful opportunity for a bit of reflection.  Escoffier and I have been in some dialogue about this privately, and it struck us that it might be useful to share parts of this dialogue here for others to read.  This first installment is a post from Escoffier laying out his perspective.  I will follow that with a post later today or tomorrow with my own perspective, and then a third post with some concluding remarks over the next couple of days.

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I was absent during “l’Affaire King” but I read through it over the last couple of days and have a few thoughts.
 
First, I was always and remain quite sympathetic to his world view and find very little to disagree with.  Your main criticism—that he needs to take his mission to his own platform and that his delivery needs a major overhaul—I completely agree with.  I would add one that I think is more fundamental.  King would often say that more talk was not the answer, the time for action had come.  A fair point.  However, he never said (unless I missed it) what that action should be, even at the individual level. Now, I myself, as we have discussed, have no idea what should be done now, as a matter of action (thought I will cover below).  Which is why I have no practical or political program whatsoever.  Not because I don’t care but because I don’t know what to do.  I really have no idea.  So I am not criticizing King for that, but for the harangues to action when he could not articulate any action.
 
This raises an interesting dilemma in and of itself.  Not knowing what to do can be a temptation or excuse to inaction.  That is certainly true in my case.  I tell myself that I do nothing (to reform society, to be clear, not nothing literally, though I can be quite lazy) because I don’t know what to do.  And to an extent that is true, I don’t know what to do.
 
However, I also believe that we in a downward cycle of civilization.  I believe in the classical teaching on the cycle of regimes or sects.  All civilizations have a life cycle.  Ours appears to me to be in winter, in its dotage and decay and decline.  If I am right about that, then there is nothing I or anyone can do.  But do I hold that view out of genuine conviction or because, in my laziness, I prefer to believe that there is nothing I can do?
 
Despair is a sin.  It is also, in a secular sense of the virtues, a vice.  See, e.g., Churchill’s great but forgotten inter-war essay “Shall We All Commit Suicide?”  Churchill was an agnostic (at best) and he makes an entirely rational case for why man has a moral duty to KBO (“keep buggering on”).  The essay itself is great thought Churchill as an example might be bad in that there seems to be the implicit promise of a happy ending: be vindicated, chosen for high office, win the defining struggle of the age, go down in history as one of the greatest heroes ever …
 
This of course overlooks the ways he did NOT win: Britain broke, empire gone, great power status gone, half of Europe enslaved, etc.  I suppose the best example I can think of, of a man who had a just and great cause, who was losing, who knew he was losing, who KBOed anyway and still lost, both personally and in his cause, is Cicero.  (Plutarch is very hard on Cicero but leave that aside).  Well, how many of us are prepared to be murdered with a sword in a losing cause?
 
King would no doubt raise his hand.  I don’t disbelieve him.  But I still don’t know what he would do or have the rest of us do.
 
However, I will say two broad things in his defense, regarding his ideas, which are the important thing here. First, his “teaching” or message was not merely more positive than those he attacked (and who attacked him) but also, in my estimation, closer to the truth.  Too many of his critiques tend to see everything, including the high, in the light of the low.  They are afflicted with what others have called intellectual vice of “probity” which is as it were the flipside of naïve idealism.  “Probity” is the tendency always to believe the worst BECAUSE it is the worst, to see the noble always in the light of the ignoble out of a misplaced fear of self-deception.  The pose is “I alone live without illusions.”
 
This is endemic to many red-pillers.  They learn some truths about the sordid side of female nature—truths which are verboten not merely to say aloud but even to think in the modern West—and they think that is it, the end-all, a kind of Hegelian final wisdom.  Counter-examples are dismissed with a curt wave, or a snarky “NAWALT” HawHaw guffaw, but of course we know they are, you moron, etc.  Men who can honestly say they have long, direct experience with good women are attacked as delusional fools who got lucky, like some illegal Mexican gardener who won PowerBall.
 
This arises from two contradictory, but also complementary, modern response to or attacks on religion.  Modernity of course at every step takes for granted that religion is false, the Bible is a poetic fable, written entirely by man, with the same cognitive status as (say) the Iliad, or better yet the Aeneid, which was known at the time of its writing to be a poetic fable written by a man.  Modernity begins by considering religion the enemy, on essentially three grounds: 1) religion is false and men should not live by falsehood but by the truth; 2) religion terrifies man with the prospect of eternal torment; which, though false, to the extent that it is believed, is a terrible detriment to man’s happiness; and 3) religion takes men’s mind and effort off of earthly goods, the only real goods, and man’s only chance for happiness in this life, the only one he gets.
 
So, it’s a long story to say how this happened and I don’t want to get too in the weeds here, but eventually, late modernity flips the script on parts of this.  Religion becomes damned not because it is terrifying but because it is alleged to be “comforting.”  Precisely the promise of eternal life and divine justice, both of which needless to say late modernity takes for granted are false, are attacked because they give man false hope.  Man must learn to face his forsakenness, his solitude, his existentially terrifying situation without any comforting delusion.  And it turns out that anything comforting is held to be an illusion, to the point that all truth is understood to be “bad.”  So, all the Socratic concern with the noble, the good, the just, etc.—which the tradition for 2,000 took very seriously and believed to be metaphysically real—late modernity discards all this as myth, along with religion.
 
This is the root of “probity” and it’s quite amazing to see how successful it has been.  E.g., the pop psych argument that noble deeds—such as charging into a burning building to save a little old lady—are essentially selfish because the rescuer only wants the praise, or perhaps the inner satisfaction of feeling like a hero.  But there is nothing noble about it because nobility doesn’t exist, it’s just a resplendent mirage thrown up by selfishness.   Amazingly cynical but what’s most amazing is the spectacle of a bunch of professed Christians essentially resorting to a profoundly anti-Christian argument with profoundly anti-Christian roots in order to attack a guy, whatever his faults, for trying to state an essentially hopeful Christian teaching.  It’s yet another sign of how fundamentally modern our entire intellectual framework is.
 
Which brings me to the other point.  King scored some good points about t the worst tendencies of the sphere comment zone.  But, let me stick to what I think is the most impotant point: the seemingly permanent witch hunt for “enemies” defined as people who deviate .001%.

I am something of a student of the New Left.  I really, really hate them with a mouth-frothing passion but I study them because I think they are important and influential.  One of their hallmarks was to attack with the greatest vigor those closest to them politically and intellectually.  They did not focus on their natural enemies but on their nominal (or natural or potential) friends.  That is the sphere, to a “T”.  Bill Bennett is a bigger villain that Betty Freidan.  Not that I think their criticisms of Bennett are without merit, but the feminist left hates and wants to destroy them whereas Bennett means well but is deluded.  Perhaps Bennett cannot be corrected but his followers and listeners could but certainly they will not be by the tactics now prevalent in the sphere.

I could understand this, sort of, a matter of intellectual or philosophical intransigence, the unwillingness to bend on certain points for the sake of comity or “being a good sport” or whatever.  But that is not what is at play here.  First of all, most of the discussion is simply not at that level.  Second, the vitriol is completely inconsistent with the “truth before friendship” spirit that Aristotle propounded before stating his disagreements with Plato (to cite the highest possible example).
 
I got into it once over the issue of natural right, which is what alerted me to the fact that something in the sphere is very seriously messed up.  Basically that is the idea that right and wrong exist by nature, independent of man’s will.  This was attacked with some vigor.  As if the God who created nature and pronounced the commandments somehow forged no connection between the two.  As if he created a natural world in which might makes right, but then commanded a righteousness based only on His word or will, which could be changed at a whim.  Aquinas of course saw it exactly the opposite way (as did Augustine, Dante and many others).  But the idea of natural right is now so lost to us that even devout Christians reject it and rail against it when it is by rights their birthright. To say nothing of the American founders (“nature and nature’s God”).

This is where it gets to the main point.  Modernity is the true enemy.  Modernity culminates in the rejection of natural right. It begins with the rejection of religion, proceeds to the rejection of teleology and culminates in the rejection of all morality.  The “Christian” rejection of natural right is really a product of modernity.  Christians who oppose natural right are influenced (really, corrupted) by modernity and they don’t realize it.  All the (just, correct) complaining that they do about “Churchianity” boils down to prelates following modernity rather than the Bible (and the Christian medievals).  But they themselves also have the same problem, to a lesser degree, certainly, but it is not absent.  The rejection of natural right is the core, the black heart, of modernity.  Any “Christian” who shares that outlook is fundamentally a modern and his faith is corrupted.

So, to turn briefly to the “what is to be done” question.  Cane Caldo (I think) made the argument that Western Civ should not be a concern of any serious Christian.  His argument played right into the hands of Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Gibbon and the most effective and influential of the anti-Christians.  Basically he said that the next world is what matters, this world does not.  Well, that is EXACLTLY the argument that the early moderns made AGAINST Christianity.  It makes men fatalists and passive.  Indifferent to the here and now.  You can say, that’s an incorrect interpretation, and I won’t fight you.  But it’s a PLAUSIBLE interpretation, which is why it had great currency, both among Christianity’s nominal adherents and especially its determined enemies.

Because, let’s face it, the moderns won the argument.  Philosophy picked a fight with religion.  Religion didn’t know what hit it.  Religion lost.  At least, it lost in the temporal realm.  A believer would say, (Matt King often does say) it cannot lose in the final analysis because truth is truth and truth will out.  I can’t dispute that.

But it is indisputable that religion has lost in the temporal and has been losing for 500 years.  And, contra Cane, the temporal matters.

First, because, the Bible is to a very large extent a set of commands about how to behave in the temporal, in this life, on this earth, in the here and now.  So God rather obviously cares about that.  Thus it is absurd for man to say, only the next life matters, when God Himself says, “This is how you MUST behave in the earthly life.”  One might rejoin, “put not thy faith in princes,” etc., (which is really identical to the classical teaching on moderation, but leave that aside for now).  But that is not a case for disengagement but for realistic expectations about what is possible in the flawed world,  a world which is not yet and may never become fully Christian, and even if it did, will always be governed by flawed men.

Which leads to: disengagement makes the world worse, not better.  Disengagement may be prudentially necessary in certain circumstances, but it is never desirable for its own sake.  The more that God’s word is in retreat, the fewer people will live righteously here and be saved later.  How this is good or is what He wants is, to say the least, not evident.

Christianity then must be concerned with the temporal for the same reason that philosophy must. Its own health and even survival depends on it. Christianity “won” by engagement with “this world.”  It waged spiritual warfare against paganism and, to a lesser extent, against classical hedonism.  It won.  It did not sit on its ass or bitch on the ‘net (whatever the ancient equivalent might have been).

The moderns appropriated spiritual warfare and used it against Christianity.  The faith and especially its institutions proved too corrupt and sclerotic to resist.  The modern interpretation of course is that Christianity was false and was always false.  It was a “sect” like any other, of purely human origin, subject to the cycle of regimes.  It came into being, matured, and would inevitably die.  Modernity gave it a hard push, and more importantly, formulated its replacement.

In a way, Christianity’s situation today is analogous to its beginning.  It is once again the minority, a persecuted minority, persecuted more “softly” but not less intently.  And today it has a disadvantage that it didn’t have then: so many, perhaps even the majority, of people who now claim to be Christians are in fact moderns.  Whether they know it or not.  (And most do not.)  There is an “enemy within” today whereas in the beginning there was confidence and coherence.

Modernity is the true enemy.  Modernity is a perversion of philosophy.  This argument cannot be won on religious grounds alone.  Religion already lost.  It did not lose because it is false.  It lost because it was totally unequipped to fight the fight that was forced upon it.  Religion, as it were, brought a knife to a gun fight.

[EDIT:  For some reason I had omitted the conclusion to this, likely due to a transposition failure — it follows now …]

Victory in the temporal must be a philosophic victory.  It means overcoming the errors of modernity and returning to the true and correct understanding of philosophy, which is an ally of if not a brother to religious faith.

You could say that none of this matters because Christianity shows the truth and the true way and as such has “already won.”  But that, I think, is King’s deepest error.  Not that he is wrong about the fundamental point.  But he is wrong in the way he discounts the temporal.  The truth can lose in the temporal.  It already has.  And the temporal matters.  If the temporal is lost, all is not lost, to be sure, but far fewer people will have access the eternal.

Which is a tragedy.  For both Jesus and Socrates.

Finally, I note one thing that has preoccupied me for many years.  Machiavelli finished his two great books in 1517.  Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door in Wittenberg in 1517.  Whatever one may think of the Reformation, it is I think indisputable that as a practical matter that Luther’s action launched a fratricidal war that blinded Christendom to Wicked Nick’s atheistic spiritual war and weakened it in the face of its true enemy.

ALL our problems grew from these two fateful (and seemingly unrelated) acts.  There is no direct evidence that either knew of the other.  To the secularist, it appears to be the most amazing coincidence in the history of Western thought, or even in all of history.  To the believer, it appears to be the strongest evidence available of Satan’s power in the temporal realm.

34 Responses

  1. Höllenhund

    The reason Bennett is a greater threat to the average American man than any female commissar of the feminist left is that he’s much more insidious, more adept at concealing his deep-rooted misandry, at wrapping it in nonsense that sounds good. He, and the whole Man Up Brigade of Churchianity and tradcon-ism, have more legitimacy than the rabid feminists of the left in the eyes of the common folk. The average, clueless beta and the average woman is much more likely to believe them. And for this reason, they are gaining strength, whereas the feminist left is still holding onto its political influence but its ideology is more and more discredited and ridiculed. That’s why they are more dangerous, and that’s why it’s right to discredit them.

  2. Höllenhund

    “Men who can honestly say they have long, direct experience with good women are attacked as delusional fools who got lucky, like some illegal Mexican gardener who won PowerBall.”

    They are attacked for a reason. They are usually very arrogant and contemptuous towards any man who isn’t like them. They are just another facilitator of societal misandry. They aren’t really different from the tradcon Man Up Brigade, who basically believe no Western men can have any legitimate grievances.

  3. Dalrock

    So, to turn briefly to the “what is to be done” question. Cane Caldo (I think) made the argument that Western Civ should not be a concern of any serious Christian. His argument played right into the hands of Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Gibbon and the most effective and influential of the anti-Christians. Basically he said that the next world is what matters, this world does not.

    I may be thinking of a different comment by Cane, but I challenged him on the basic question here and he clarified his position in response here. Cane very clearly does see the value in the temporal.

    As for the main topic, for me the issue with Matt is not about his ideas*, but his inability to handle himself with the most basic of netiquette. Matt makes it a habit to make repeated and clumsy attempts to AMOG the blog host wherever he goes (except Femx). In addition (but clearly related), he is either entirely unaware of how to effectively persuade others, or he knows and chooses not to be effective. This is especially ironic because his whole angle of AMOG is You are doing it wrong. People aren’t going to get your message because you don’t know how to deliver it. This is Matt’s year long comment career on my blog in a nutshell. The man claims to know how to manage communication with differing groups, and yet spends all of his time in pissing matches with bloggers in their own comments section (see also Vox Day). Simply put, this is no way to influence the bloggers he claims to be focused on influencing. The thing is, if he has half the knowledge of effective persuasion he claims to posses, he is wasting his time commenting on other blogs. He should be putting his professed knowledge to good use by showing the rest of us how it is done. But again, if he actually knew how to manage basic social interactions and influence others, he wouldn’t need his own blog because he wouldn’t be banned.

    By the same token, I think you are making the same error as Matt. You lecture the manosphere on the proper way to engage with those we disagree with (emphasis mine):

    I could understand this, sort of, a matter of intellectual or philosophical intransigence, the unwillingness to bend on certain points for the sake of comity or “being a good sport” or whatever. But that is not what is at play here. First of all, most of the discussion is simply not at that level. Second, the vitriol is completely inconsistent with the “truth before friendship” spirit that Aristotle propounded before stating his disagreements with Plato (to cite the highest possible example).

    Whom do you think this kind of language will persuade? If I didn’t know better I would think I was back in college and had just passed the creepy old dude’s dorm room while he was trying to talk the impressionable freshmen girls out of their panties. I’m sure there is a (tiny) demographic for arguments framed in this way, but I’m quite confident that this won’t be effective on the people you are criticizing. You go on to offer as proof that the manosphere is “seriously messed up”, because this same way of arguing lead to you being heckled in the comboxes:

    I got into it once over the issue of natural right, which is what alerted me to the fact that something in the sphere is very seriously messed up. Basically that is the idea that right and wrong exist by nature, independent of man’s will. This was attacked with some vigor.

    I don’t doubt that you received your share of virtual wedgies for this, but seriously how can you not have been expecting this? This isn’t the manosphere, it is you. You argue in very ineffective terms, terms which are typically only used in a philosophy class, and then complain about the poor reaction, offering it as proof that others are defective. I know this is harsh, but I suspect you have something of value to add. Novaseeker has my utmost respect, so if he feels that you have something valuable to share then I’m inclined to take that seriously. I have no question that you are highly intelligent, but I don’t think you are effective at communicating with a larger audience. Normally I would not mention this, but you are doing this while lecturing others (and presumably me) on how to effectively communicate with other groups.

    What I would suggest is what I suggested to Matt. Lead by example. Novaseeker has a great deal of credibility. He can lend you some of that, but you need to return the favor by building on that capital. If you know how to engage conservatives better than the rest of the sphere, why not show us how it is done? For the record, I have made my own efforts with a guest post in response to Alan Roebuck at the Orthosphere. Alan has my respect, and my personal opinion is that is that our exchange at the Orthosphere (both his post and mine) is about as close as the two groups can come at the moment. But this doesn’t mean you can’t do better, and I would absolutely encourage you to do so.

    *In full disclosure I am not clear on what Matt’s ideas really are. I was hoping your post would help here but aside from what I already knew “You are doing it wrong!”, I didn’t gain anything. However, if he has something of value to share and for some reason he is unwilling to create his own blog, have you considered offering him a platform here? I guess this question is more to Novaseeker than to you, but I thought I would raise it. I’ll even offer to plug Matt’s entry here as a regular guest poster from my own blog, so his message can get out.

  4. Escoffier

    Well, first, you have restated re: King the same point that Nova and I had already stipulated, so no disagreement there. In fact, Nova made two basic criticisms of King, which I agreed with, before adding a third of my own.

    But I did also say that I found some of King’s critique on target, which you interpret as me “lecturing.” No, I’m pointing out a fact, or maybe two facts. First, replying to a substantive point by calling the person a “creepy old dude … trying to talk the impressionable freshmen girls out of their panties” is essentially the exact same thing King noted and that I agreed with in his analysis. Second, it is not likely to be effective in persuading anyone who is not already persuaded and “on the team.”

    Now, I must concede the possibility that you aren’t trying to persuade and don’t want to persuade, and hence your rhetoric is commensurate with your intentions. In which case my New Left analogy was on target. And, I must also concede, that the analogy may be more apt than I originally thought. After all, the New Left won. It didn’t accomplish its original goal, which was to force a “hard” revolution a la 1789 or 1917. But it did eventually affect a broad cultural revolution. So, who’s to say the same strategy won’t work for you and sphere? (If indeed that is the strategy.)

    But I don’t think it will, which brings me to the important issue. The reason for the current mess, as I see it, I have tried to explain here (and elsewhere) several times. To repeat, it is that a perverted version of philosophy, which I identify as “modernity”, deliberately launched a propaganda war against all prior philosophy and, especially, against religion in general and Christianity in particular. It won that war. It remains the victor even today, after centuries of its lies, falsehoods and contradictions have piled up on top of one another and the whole rotten system is close to collapse. That is to say, it won in the temporal; it did not win by being true and refuting the false, it won in the more prosaic sense of convincing men to follow its way and to organize human life around its principles.

    The people you and others complain about (rightly, I repeat) as “churchians” are in fact moderns, unconscious moderns. They believe, without really knowing it, in the entire metaphysical/ontological/epistemological edifice of modernity. And whenever their Christianity comes into conflict with their modernity, they reflexively choose their modernity—without even knowing they have made such a choice.

    One of the reasons that Christianity finds itself today (and for many years prior) incapable of resisting modernity is because, at the foundational level of thought, it long ago already accepted much of the premises of modernity. The most important aspect of this is best stated in the negative. Just as did philosophy, Christianity abandoned one-by-one the peaks of the Western philosophic tradition, which include natural right, teleology, the “idea of the good,” formal and final causes, noesis noeosis (“thought thinking itself”), summum bonum (“the highest good”), and so on. Christianity was not alone in abandoning these concepts, the entire intellectual life of the West did as well, and for basically the same reasons.

    (I should thought note here, that as matters of official dogma, certain churches—particularly the Catholic and orthodox—have not formally abandoned these concepts, they remain “on the books”, but day-to-day practice is another story.)

    Why there is now among the devout not just indifference to these ideas but active hostility to them is complex and I won’t pretend to know all the reasons. I do think I know some of them, however (and presented some in the post above). There is another which I stated in private correspondence with Nova, which I think he planned to post later, but which I will state here.

    It is, I think, obvious that philosophy has a built-in tendency toward atheism which must always be resisted. Bacon famously wrote, “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.” Which is ironic since Bacon was himself an atheist but the point is nonetheless true even though he meant it “exoterically” as a cover for his true teaching. The point is, philosophy begins from the unwillingness to accept any authority, which means above all religious authority, and it consequently tends to be very skeptical of all available accounts of God. This naturally leads the more superficial minds toward atheism, but as Bacon notes, true depth in philosophy bring the mind back to religion, not to say orthodoxy, and it does so precisely through those concepts that I named above and called the peaks of the Western intellectual tradition.

    For its party, religion has a built-in tendency toward materialism, not to say nihilism though it can get there. Basically there is a certain kind of believer who rejects with some vehemence anything that they think might limit God’s power. In other words, the idea of a natural order that gives direction and guidance to men’s lives, imposes obligations, limits man’s freedom, etc.—even if that is understood as having been created by God Himself. This is a permanent temptation that was held in check for 1,500 years by philosophy’s dialogue with scripture (and vice versa) but the early moderns saw the weakness and attacked it.

    That “firewall” now gone, what we have today is a very large cohort of believers who totally dismiss or deny or discount the inherent goodness of the world and of the natural order. Goodness is a matter solely of will, the will of God, to be sure, but still of will. The nature which God created is not seen to have any inherent qualities of goodness in and of itself but only as a reflection of His will. Should He change His will and upend (for instance) the laws of physics or the principles or morality, His will would still rule.

    This is not identical to nihilism but it is close. It’s really just a restatement of classical materialism (what we may call one of the “ancient errors”), with the addition of an omnipotent God. This is, I believe, one of the reasons why Islam is so problematic. Devout Muslims see the world in exactly this way, no natural right whatsoever, there is only God’s will, which is not merely inscrutable but fundamentally arbitrary.

    Except that Islam is like this inherently, that’s the teaching. Christianity is not, and wasn’t for 3/4s of its existence (so far). That I can say with confidence, as any read of Aquinas, Augustine, etc., will show that Christianity and the natural right tradition are in fundamental harmony on questions of morality. (As, I think, one would expect to be the case. It seems reasonable to me that the same God who laid down the moral law and created nature would see to it that the two corresponded very closely.)

    What I can’t say for certain is whether Christian opposition to natural right is false. I believe it is false, having looking into the cases for and against, but I can’t prove it, nor do I think the matter is susceptible to proof. I do, however, believe that the overwhelming preponderance of evidence tells against it.

    I can also say this with some confidence. A Christianity cut off from the pre-modern philosophic tradition will NOT win the argument/propaganda war with modernity in the temporal realm. Even to try is to attempt to win a chess match with your strongest pieces off the board, or, as I said above, bringing a knife to a gun fight. That argument is fundamentally a philosophic one and winning will require recourse to the strongest (and truest) ideas of the pre-modern philosophic tradition. We actually have bigger and better guns, but we seem to have forgotten where they are, or how to use them.

    And, even so, just getting the argument right would not guarantee victory. One of modernity’s greatest strengths is that it tells people what they want to hear and it promises them stuff. That’s very hard to overcome in the temporal, and perhaps it cannot be overcome within this “cycle” of civilization. I’m quite pessimistic about the prospects, to be honest. One of the things that makes me pessimistic is to encounter very intelligent religious people, on whom any victory in the temporal must depend, who are hostile to the idea of natural right and to all the pre-modern ideas regarding what is highest in man and nature.

    I believe those ideas are true. I believe they are our only (temporal) salvation. I believe they are fundamentally compatible with the correct interpretation of Scripture. To that extent, I am a (potential) friend, ally, fellow traveler, happy warrior, etc. I want what I believe (from reading you) what you want.

    Finally, you objected to my saying that “something in the sphere is very seriously messed up.” I hope I have made clear by now what, exactly, I think that is. To sum up, the sphere rightly objects to all the rottenness and corruption of late modernity but it does so on the basis of an unconscious or un-thought-through nihilism. Even the religious corners. Because their thinking is “influenced” (“corrupted” or “coopted” are more accurate, I think) by modernity. They rightly reject the effects while unconsciously accepting the cause.

    Oh, actually, one last thing. You accuse me of arguing like this is philosophy class, which is fair enough, but I do so because the issues at hand are philosophic. I’m actually presenting a rather popularized, simplified and shortened version of all this. Not merely because this is the Internet, but because I am not a profound thinker and this is the best I can do. But simplifying it further wouldn’t help anyone.

  5. Caelan McKenzie

    I’m not sure what to make of Matt King. Since stumbling across the Manosphere a year and a half ago, I’ve read a lot of his (profuse) comments with interest, and I have to say, he is impressive. In particular, his comments in this thread at Stingray’s made a permanent impression on me.

    From my perspective, he strikes me as someone who hasn’t had to wrestle with serious personal demons – I can’t comprehend how anyone could be as arrogant and high-handed as he is otherwise. As you said over at Dalrock’s, Novaseeker, in Matt’s grand scheme for re-modelling the world, there is no place for the broken.

    I agree with him that the broken aren’t useful as soldiers, but he has no interest in doing anything other than shouting “MAN UP!!!” at them. Does he have no understanding of their plight, or simply no compassion? After a year of reading him, it seems to me that he really doesn’t get it.

    I am living proof that if someone has compassion on the broken, that they can be healed. So when Matt King impugns my father as a “faggot” for not raising me right, all I have to say is that I have a lot more compassion on my father (and my mother, for that matter), than Mr King does.

    And, on a more personal note, I thank you, Novaseeker, for being a steadfast and positive witness in the Manosphere – your quiet and considered presence was a significant influence in nudging me towards Orthodoxy.

  6. Dalrock

    @Novaseeker

    …the problem is that everyone has a philosophy, whether they know so or not. This is a problem that impacts Christians as well, or even in particular, because they can tend to think that they do not have a philosophy, or that, if they do, it isn’t important as long as they are saved personally — it’s flesh, in other words, unless it has to do with spreading the Gospel and saving souls. As a result, many Christians are de facto modernists, and act in accordance with modernist philosophy — which is one of the main reasons we see so many Christians of whatever stripe and liberal/traditional vein marching in lockstep with the current culture — one which is still mostly modern yet which is moving in a post-modern direction.

    I do think it is critical to discuss these issues. I don’t think most people can manage them on the intellectual level — philosophy is challenging mentally, plainly put. But it’s an important conversation to have, precisely because these issues need to be fleshed out and addressed…

    Yes. Agreed. But precisely because this is 1) A difficult topic for most to process and 2) An extremely important topic, we need to find ways to communicate effectively with large audiences (or as large as possible). Loading our message up with obscure philosophical references and jargon tends to both exclude and turn off the majority of folks we need to reach. I see our target audience as the right half or possibly third of the bell curve. These folks are quite diverse when it comes to education and profession, but they are interested enough to show up and intelligent enough to think it through. One of the criticisms of the manosphere is that we have created our own jargon. This is both a valid criticism and to some degree unavoidable given the nature of what we are discussing. My criticism above of Escoffier’s style is that he loads up (really tightly packed) everything he writes with obscure or semi obscure philosophical references and jargon. When people do this sort of thing (with any jargon and obscure references) it comes across as someone who 1) doesn’t know his material well enough to explain it in a form other than the way it was taught to him, and/or 2) chooses self aggrandizement over clarity.

    As I mentioned above, since you see value in Escoffier’s ideas, I’m strongly inclined to assume that he has something important to teach me. But even when he is talking about Christianity, he can’t help tying himself in knots with references and framing which don’t actually add any clarity. He tells us that secular philosophy is inclined towards atheism, then quotes Bacon who explained that this was due to not enough secular philosophy, and then points out that Bacon didn’t eat his own dog food. The trip down obscure secular philosophy lane wasn’t needed at all. Yet it was too tempting for Escoffier to resist, so we all were treated to the detour. And it isn’t just one detour, but detour after detour after detour. My advice to Escoffier would be to not approach the problem from the perspective of First I must teach you everything I know about Philosophy, and then I can explain the current problem. To the extent that his superior grasp of Philosophy helps him understand the issue better than others, then he should leverage his advantage and set about explaining things clearly and plainly in a way that microbiologist, electrician, or lawyer could understand; I’m talking about sharp people who didn’t happen to major in Philosophy. I know this is difficult, and I have no doubt that I turn plenty of readers off by not finding better ways to express what once you get there are fairly simple concepts. This is very humbling for me as a blogger, and it is something you excel at. Answering on Yahoo Answers Marriage and Divorce has been an extremely helpful exercise for me in this way, because I can’t bank on any manosphere cred and I can’t rely on manosphere jargon. But if I actually know what I’m talking about I should be able to find a way to express it to such a group in a way that makes sense. If I can’t do this (in general), the failure is mine.

  7. Escoffier

    Re: the Bacon quote, the point was the following.

    Both philosophy and religion have built in “temptations” or inclinations that can lead them astray. This is clearer in the case of philosophy. Its temptation is toward atheism. As noted, philosophy begins from the refusal to accept any authority. So, going back to the beginning, the Greeks, the philosophers say “Why should I accept anything in Homer or Hesiod just because they are renowned poets? I want to check it out for myself.” Ditto regarding oracles and so forth, all religious authority is not rejected outright, but it is put to one side. The endeavor of philosophy begins, then, as the attempt to investigate the phenomena solely with the human mind or “unassisted reason.” That is, unassisted by any authority or tradition.

    So, sticking with the Greeks, this leads the early “natural philosophers” (people we today would call “scientists,” that is, they investigated the physical and natural world) to conclude that it’s unlikely that thunder is really caused by Zeus (for instance). All of this is well illustrated in Aristophanes’ Clouds. The character of Socrates in that play in fact makes that very point—Zeus is not the cause of thunder—and goes so far as to say “Zeus does not even exist.” In other words, Aristophanes is accusing Socrates of atheism. Which of course the Athenian state would do formally about 25 years later.

    Leaving aside the question of how accurate The Clouds is as a depiction of Socrates—let’s stipulate that it’s dead accurate. But it presents a partial picture of Socrates. It presents only the younger Socrates, when he was preoccupied with studying the material world. At a certain point, Socrates made the famous “Socratic turn,” which he called his “second sailing” and began to investigate the human things, human nature, the human soul, nobility, justice, the good and so on. It is from these investigations that he and his students gained the fundamental insights that lead to the ideas which I identified as the peaks of Western philosophic tradition. And those peaks are fundamentally compatible with, if not identical to, the metaphysics of Biblical revelation and with Biblical morality.

    Hence Bacon: “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.” That statement is true and explains the problem, even if Bacon’s macro-intent was atheistic and subversive (which it was).

    One premise of modern philosophy—I would say the most important premise—is that atheism is true. It takes the ever-present temptation and makes it a certainty. It does this to advance a fundamentally political project. But then it goes further and cuts philosophy off from any recourse to or contemplation of the transcendent. It does so because it knows that such philosophic concepts give strength to religion and it wants to cut religion off from recourse to that strength. But the concepts don’t go away—how could they if they are true? They are still there, just attacked, then ridiculed and later ignored. Rather like erasing a continent off the map. You can do that and fool a lot of people into thinking it’s not there, but in the real world, it will still be there. Basically for 500 years, the West has been living with false, incomplete, lying maps.

    Now, it is not a coincidence nor an accident nor immaterial, I believe, that when Christianity was first revealed to the world, that philosophic “continent” was not only still known to the world, in particular to the educated elite, but it formed (to borrow from Nova) the “super norm” of the day. At a minimum, this helped establish people’s receptivity to Christianity and helped Christianity win its spiritual war against paganism (and to a lesser extent the false or half-true–i.e., atheistic–versions of classical philosophy).

    At a minimum. But I believe, more importantly, that this old “super norm” was true and the new “super norm” is false.

    A Christianity cut off from that old “super norm”—which helped it establish itself on earth and then sustained it for 1,500 years, or 3/4s of its temporal life (so far)—is a weakened Christianity. But worse than that, a Christianity which accepts, however implicitly, the new “super norm” is a Christianity in bed with an enemy philosophy that hates it and wants to kill it.

    So, this is not a detour. It’s a vital point.

    As for my powers of explanation, as I said, I am doing the best I can. With the partial exception of King, no one else seems to be trying (on these specific points, that is) and Nova seems to enjoy the discussion, so for now that is good enough for me.

  8. Dalrock

    @Escoffier

    So, this is not a detour. It’s a vital point.

    No, it isn’t vital at all. There is no need for a Christian to adopt a non Christian frame to understand what is going wrong with Christianity. This assumption is your fundamental error. Because you don’t actually believe in Christianity and can see where Christianity is betraying itself, you assume that Christians need to first adopt a posture of secular philosophy to understand where they have gone astray in their own faith. The lesson on the errors of philosophers when considering religion in general and Christianity in specific should be for you, not Christians. You want to teach us that your way of thinking is suspect, and prone to pronouncements that others should follow Christianity while you yourself aren’t convinced of it’s rightness. But we already know that. So if you have observed something about Christianity because of your somewhat unique perspective, instead of teaching us the dangers of adopting a non Christian frame in order to drag us into a non Christian frame, what you should do is understand that your perspective is suspect to us, and for very good reason. That whole lesson about Bacon was for you, but you insisted on teaching when you should have learned.

    As for my powers of explanation, as I said, I am doing the best I can. With the partial exception of King, no one else seems to be trying (on these specific points, that is) and Nova seems to enjoy the discussion, so for now that is good enough for me.

    If you want to have a boutique conversation which will be obscure to the vast majority of readers both inside and outside the manosphere, I’m all for that. This is the beauty of the blogosphere. Even better, someone like Novaseeker can then translate the profitable parts of the conversation into a true Christian frame and deliver it to others in the sphere. This is a win-win.

    But what doesn’t make sense is for those who want to focus on the more obscure to lecture those writing to a more general audience about our need to be more accessible in our approach. So while I won’t stop by several hundred times over the coming year to lecture you that “you are doing it wrong”, I will point out that yours and King’s approach of lecturing on what you can’t even approach doing yourselves is beyond absurd, and you both should stop it.

  9. Escoffier

    What I am saying is that modernity is A) false, B) hostile to Christianity and C) explains in very large measure why Christianity is in the state that it is in today.

    The “super norm” of (sound) pre-modern philosophy is NOT a “non-Christian frame.” Certainly it originated that way, as temporal matter, but that’s like saying geometry is a “non-Christian frame” simply because Euclid lived three centuries before Christ. Pre-modern philosophy very quickly became part of and indispensable to the Christian frame for 1,500 years and remains so for many parts of the faith, though obviously not all. Also, consider the fact that Christianity thrived under the tenets of pre-modern philosophy and then began to go into decay once modernity triumphed. This is not a coincidence.

    You believe that Christianity is in crisis. I absolutely agree with you on that. Why is it in crisis? Because so many professed Christians, even ministers, priests and such, don’t follow scripture. Why don’t they?

    My answer: because their thinking has been corrupted by modern philosophy. I don’t know whether you agree or disagree with this explanation. Even supposing you do, I suspect you might say, yes, it is necessary for Christians to abandon the corruptive teachings of modernity, but it is not necessary for them to come to understand or believe in any of the tenets of pre-modern philosophy.

    I don’t believe that is right. Nova and I have both touched on several reasons for that. The overarching one being, modernity remains “the super norm” and so long as it does, it will corrupt everything it touches, including the practice of Christianity and the beliefs of ostensibly faithful Christians.

    If am right about this, the road to a restoration of what you (and I) seek begins with understanding what modernity is and why it was so successful. It then proceeds through understanding what modernity defeated and replaced. From there it constitutes recognizing and identifying the various “metastasizations” of modernity within the faith (and within the culture more broadly), excising them, and replacing them with the truth.

    As I have admitted, I don’t know how to do that. I don’t even know whether, as a practical matter, it can be done. I do, however, believe it is what needs to be done.

    It starts with figuring all this out. That may of necessity be a “boutique conversation.” Philosophy generally has been for its entire existence. Yet that “boutique conversation” has demonstrated over many centuries its power to dominate the thinking of billions who never directly encounter philosophy in any way.

    I’m not making that claim for my own I-net ramblings, of course. Nonetheless, if indeed Nova or anyone else is spurred by anything I have written to then write things of their own that you or anyone else find profitable, I would be quite happy about that.

  10. Escoffier

    Actually, I want to clarify one point.

    The above implies that I think all or most Christians need to come to understand the errors of modernity and the true tenets of pre-modern philosophy. I actually don’t think that is either possible or necessary.

    What I do think is that the modern “super norm” has to be replaced with a true and correct “super norm.” This can actually happen fully only in the minds of a few. That’s the way “super norms” always work and always have worked. The ideas then get filtered down through various layers—roughly speaking, from philosophers to intellectuals to writers/artists to entertainers and finally to everyone. Then they become the un-thought premises, the taken-for-granted ideas, the mental reflexes of the broader culture and population.

    So long as the “super norm” remains modernity, the restoration of true Christianity will remain at best an extremely uphill battle and at worst impossible.

  11. Dalrock

    @Escoffier

    You believe that Christianity is in crisis. I absolutely agree with you on that. Why is it in crisis? Because so many professed Christians, even ministers, priests and such, don’t follow scripture. Why don’t they?

    My answer: because their thinking has been corrupted by modern philosophy.

    Agreed. The problem is from a Christian point of view the corruption comes from secular philosophy. You address my thoughts on this in your clarifying comment.

    The above implies that I think all or most Christians need to come to understand the errors of modernity and the true tenets of pre-modern philosophy. I actually don’t think that is either possible or necessary.

    What I do think is that the modern “super norm” has to be replaced with a true and correct “super norm.” This can actually happen fully only in the minds of a few. That’s the way “super norms” always work and always have worked. The ideas then get filtered down through various layers—roughly speaking, from philosophers to intellectuals to writers/artists to entertainers and finally to everyone. Then they become the un-thought premises, the taken-for-granted ideas, the mental reflexes of the broader culture and population.

    Yes. Exactly. This is why King’s approach is so unhelpful. Each blogger is part of a different layer. The nature of the layer is at the blogger’s discretion, and involves a trade-off between staying within their interest/comfort level and casting a wide net. So if King learned something of value from my blog but felt that I was missing an opportunity to reach a wider audience, after a few hundred times of me ignoring him saying I’m doing it wrong, he should have set up his own blog at the layer he wanted to fill. In doing so he would have either shown other bloggers how that layer can be reached, and/or learned that it wasn’t so easy to do what he claimed to be an expert on after all. Both the teaching and the humbling (from mutual experience) would have then made him someone I was more likely to take direction from, although even then these are calls I reserve the right to make, and if he had better basic social skills he would have understood that implicitly.

  12. Escoffier

    So, here I have another disagreement, or partial disagreement, or clarification.

    You have a couple of times used the phrase “secular philosophy.” Now, in the case of modernity, that is absolutely true and even doesn’t go far enough. Modernity is not merely secular, it is militantly atheistic and specifically hostile to Christianity.

    Pre-modern philosophy is not necessarily secular. Now, I would have to concede that, no, in all likelihood Socrates did not believe in Zeus or Hera. And he had no exposure to the Hebrew Bible, and of course Christ had not been born.

    But these facts do not make the Socratic tradition necessarily secular. Socrates affirmed his belief in a “divine thing” that sounds much close to the Biblical God than it does to any pagan god. Aristotle, despite writing in a time that was still hostile to philosophy on the grounds of its supposed non-belief in paganism, repeatedly refers to “God” but never to “gods.”

    Also, concepts in the Socratic tradition, such as “noetic heterogeneity,” the “idea of the good,” teleology, “thought thinking itself,” “summum bonum,” etc. are quite akin to the core Biblical concepts surrounding transcendence, the goodness of the world, its non-materiality, etc. And the classical moral teaching and account of the virtues is so similar to the Bible’s that Aquinas could write a line-by-line commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics and find no substantive disagreements (though of course a lot of important things left out).

    Then when you turn to medieval philosophy it is explicitly NOT secular. Augustine, et al, examine the Socratic tradition (from which I exclude derivative but incorrect teachings such as Epicureanism) and find its highest concepts in fundamental harmony with the Bible. In fact, I would say that for around 1,200 years, there was no secular philosophy at all. ALL philosophy was religious.

    My contention is that all this should make perfect sense. The truth about the natural world and man’s place in it, which is a major subject of philosophy, should of course comport with the truth as revealed by God. The true morality, deducible by reasoning about man’s nature, should of course comport with the Biblical commands. The true metaphysics … and so on.

    So, the pre-modern philosophy which the early Church quickly adopted was not per se “secular.” It arose in ignorance of the Bible and did not address many specifically Biblical topics, but proved to be fundamentally compatible with them. The same way that, to return to the Euclid example, his geometry is in one sense “secular” but it is on no way contradictory or hostile to Christianty.

  13. Dalrock

    A bit more clarification:

    What I do think is that the modern “super norm” has to be replaced with a true and correct “super norm.”

    I may be misreading you on this, but I read this as roughly the same thing as breaking what is often called the “blue pill” frame. I think you mean it in a greater context, getting to the foundational errors which lead us to where we find ourselves (and I agree). So two things need to happen. The first is we need to identify what is broken which we came to know as “normal”. The second is we need to help others challenge this broken “normal” thinking. There is no single right way to do either one of these, but as I think we agree the beauty of blogging is we can mutually profit from the different approaches of others.

    One of the things I’ve focused on is trying to exploit the medium to help others see that the “normal” frame is broken. I’ll try anything that I think will work, but I also take great care to make sure I’m not focusing on form over substance. So part of the time I focus on charting data and quoting academic papers or Scripture. These kinds of posts are beneficial to me because they invite readers to point out any flaws in my thinking. I’ve been incredibly fortunate (so far) in this way not to have failed catastrophically in public, but I’ve also learned a great deal in the process. Then in other posts I focus more on creative multimedia and/or literary methods of getting across the message I honed and backed up with hard data, etc.

    Getting it right is only the first step. Shattering the frame of what “everyone knows” is the crucial next step, and when you do that you need to have the correct frame ready to replace the flawed one. Fortunately these two steps don’t have to be performed by the same person, and fortunately for me I can mix things up to keep myself (if not my audience) interested.

  14. Dalrock

    @Escoffier

    You have a couple of times used the phrase “secular philosophy.” Now, in the case of modernity, that is absolutely true and even doesn’t go far enough. Modernity is not merely secular, it is militantly atheistic and specifically hostile to Christianity.

    Pre-modern philosophy is not necessarily secular. Now, I would have to concede that, no, in all likelihood Socrates did not believe in Zeus or Hera. And he had no exposure to the Hebrew Bible, and of course Christ had not been born.

    The problem we with this is while the ideas we are presenting are wholly consistent with traditional Christianity, modern Christians are going to look for any and every reason to reject them before giving them fair audience. Any fair reading of the Bible, especially the OT, leaves Christians with a sense of mistrust for slick talkers with new ideas. In the Bible, Not Invented Here isn’t a pathology, it is a virtue, at least when it comes to worldview. If you talk with 90% of Christians about biblical marriage, they will reject it as being unscientific and unmodern. Now we know better, will be the (denied) subtext of their rejection of biblical marriage. Indeed biblical marriage is quite shocking to modern Christian ears, as Rainey’s furious backpedaling after hearing Pastor Baucham preach here demonstrates. But if you then explain that the biblical definition of marriage is proven right by Game, Evolutionary Psychology, etc those same Christians will reject it because it isn’t Christian. This is the fundamental catch 22. They won’t follow the Bible because it isn’t modern, and they won’t listen to the modern argument because it isn’t biblical.

    The only way I’ve found to break through this is to lead with Scripture, and then when Christians reject that as not modern demolish that argument as 1) Irrelevant. If one is a Christian the Word of God must be sufficient (full stop). You have to hold to this line long enough for the truth of it to sink in. and for them to either admit they don’t really believe as Christians or accept that they believe but are in rebellion. Once this is done (and only then), you can point out that it is 2) Not even true (Game, academic papers, data, etc). This is a delicate process, and most Christians will still end up rejecting the biblical frame because it makes them uncomfortable.

    I reference this because exploring ancient secular philosophy has the problem of tripping both triggers simultaneously. All of the modern Christian’s shields will go up, and you simply won’t make it past them. You might convince some non Christians, but in the end this won’t help much.

    But this doesn’t mean your method won’t be profitable. In fact, since Novaseeker is interested I’m nearly certain there are some great nuggets to be mined. But once they are mined Novaseeker or someone else will have to take a serious look to make sure the nuggets truly fit with the Bible and Christian tradition. After testing this carefully he (or whoever) can then help Christians recover the Christian frame which we as moderns had lost.

  15. Escoffier

    “I think you mean it in a greater context, getting to the foundational errors which lead us to where we find ourselves”

    Yes, exactly. I think I know what those errors are, where they came from, how they succeeded in gaining acceptance, and what they replaced. What I don’t know, I candidly admit, is how to defeat those errors and replace them with the truth. But just knowing the truth is absolutely the essential first step toward replacing the errors with the truth.

    Who knows where the solution will come from? It might emerge from conversations like this, as it were “crowd-sourced” as more and more people get to thinking and talking about these things. What is clear from the study of philosophy is that progress toward the truth never happens in a vacuum, there is always the need for fertile ground, which I define as groups of like-minded though not necessarily lock-step people talking through the issues. These people will naturally be of various levels of competency in the subject, that’s just the nature of the thing. But the great ones, and the great ideas, always emerge from these discussions, they don’t spring up in isolation. I think that one purpose of the Platonic dialogues is to show this dynamic in action.

    Besides that, even if We Are Doomed and nothing can be done (which I do not concede), knowing the truth is still better for each individual soul than is believing in falsehood. Especially with the falsehood in question is so reductionist and degrading.

    All of this of course stipulates that I am right about the errors, etc., which in the spirit of philosophy, neither I nor anyone else can take for granted. But if I am wrong, we will sooner come to see that if the serious conversation continues.

    So, I suppose you might call that my fourth disagreement with King. He would sometimes say, “The time for discussion is over, the time for action has come.” Well, in addition to the fact that he never seemed to define what that action should be, I think it’s also incorrect that the time for discussion is over, for the reasons given above. And, because when it comes to replacing philosophic error with philosophic truth, discussion fundamentally IS action and vice versa.

    Regarding your use of data, research, etc., this will sound strange, but I regard that as fundamentally philosophic. It sounds strange because “philosophy” has come to mean “obscure, irrelevant, abstract idiocy quibbled over in academic departments.” And, sad to say, today that is more or less what philosophy is, in practice.

    But the original meaning of philosophy is “love of wisdom.” Philosophy has been defined as the quest to replace opinion about the nature of things with knowledge of the nature of things. Hence, all “science” is philosophy. In fact, the distinction between philosophy and science is a product of modernity and didn’t even gain popular currency until the 19th century.

    So, what you do is say “Here is a common opinion, let’s see if it really holds up,” and then examine it with data and such. Now, in modern academic parlance, that is termed “social science” but I would simply call it “philosophy”—IF the road leads from opinion to truth. (I’m leaving an exposed flank here, based on some things criticism I’ve made at HUS about the limits of data-driven social science, but I don’t think you or anyone else who believes in and adheres to Biblical morality has the least problem on this score, in practice or in thought, so I’m not going to address that now but might if someone insisted that I explain my alleged “self-contradiction.”)

    Now, all that spreadsheet analysis and such is fundamentally “secular,” no? Yet far from being in any conflict with the Bible you’ve shown how it can powerfully support the Bible. Which is basically the same thing I mean when I talk about the peak tenets of pre-modern philosophy. Science or philosophy, insofar as it is true, cannot be in conflict with the truth of the revealed world of God.

    Regarding how to approach Christians, I take your point fully. I gather you think that this is what I am trying to do myself. No, though I am trying to approach SOME Christians. At the present, as far as I know, I am talking to only two people. Though others may be lurking, who knows. Your comment about “boutique conversation” is accurate. It’s a boutique conversation with Nova, whom I know is interested, and you, who appear to be at least a little interested, for now, but may bow out shortly to do other things. And others may show up, who knows.

    The reason I approached Nova, apart from my great admiration for his comments around the sphere, is one of his early posts here about the problems with the Enlightenment. I knew immediately that he would “get” what I was trying to say and be receptive. I think he was completely on the right track only he didn’t go back far enough, which led to my post here on “the problem of modernity.”

    So, I don’t know in the end what you will make of all this. My own view, to repeat for the Nth time, is that the temporal victory you and I both seek will require the intellectual defeat of modernity. (Not to say “technology,” a very common error which I can explain later.) If I am wrong about that being necessary, then surely I am not wrong that the restoration of Christian orthodoxy would be vastly assisted by the defeat or diminishment of modernity.

    You may still find this conversation just a massive, unjustifiable opportunity cost for you personally and what you are trying to do, which I could not dispute. That is fundamentally your call. Even if that is the case, I think (or at least hope) that the conversation will nonetheless benefit you and your cause indirectly.

  16. Dalrock

    So, I don’t know in the end what you will make of all this.

    I appreciate the exchange, and look forward to Novaseeker’s post on the same topic. Whether I directly follow future exchanges or not, I am confident that I will ultimately profit from the exchanges you have with Novaseeker.

  17. Opus

    I have to confess that I had never read any of Matt King’s comments (nor allow me to confess GBFM’s either), but I have now carefully read King’s above linked comment at Stingray’s Blog. He writes well and in a learned style. That comment seems to me to be a mixture of good sense and Talking, or rather railing, at the Wall. It also reads to me as if King is an armchair quarterback – when I need advice on dealing with women I would be more likely to turn to Krauser – who will not be bludgeoning you with Augustine and actually gets out there and talks form his experience.

    Frankly Matt King just reminds me too much of the sort of moral exaltations that I endured at school – I am doubtless as I was told a sinner, so much the worse for sin.

    By the way I always took Bacon to be a Christian – the only atheism ever attributed to him that I can recall is the famous quote which purports the very opposite. Immediately in front of me as I write is a copy of The Novum Organon (translated).

  18. Escoffier

    Bacon–just like Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke and all the early moderns–is an atheist. It requires some careful textual “exegesis” to demonstrate that but it can be done, and has been done.

  19. Dalrock

    I hadn’t read that thread at Stingrays until now. Pure gold. Matt’s frame there and pretty much everywhere in the manosphere is that of a commanding general rushing to the part of the front which needs him most and rallying the troops. He does this because his people (the manosphere) need him, and only he can see the full scope of the field. He described how he sees himself in his very last (approved) comment on my site:

    Yet another blawg? You’re missing the point. This is not about having some permanent address for regular bloviation (cf. Tomassi). It is about what to do once you have rallied the troops to your banner. It’s time to leverage your hard work here into something useful, rather than preaching to the choir.

    Reading the thread at Stingray’s this frame is in full view, as well as a surprisingly large number of manosphere regulars eager to accept his professed leadership. Part of his appeal is seeming certainty in a time of confusion. He is irrationally confident that he is the true leader of the manosphere, and for limited periods of time this does appear to seduce many readers. His pattern is consistent, mixing barking rebuke with words of encouragement to keep up the good fight, and holding out the temptation of a battlefield promotion.

    People want to believe the man who just offered them seeming order in a time of chaos, and praised them as one of the good ones, not like those other manosphere bloggers/commenters who are weak, lazy, and getting it all wrong. Because of this, they overlook the absurdity of his persona. He presents himself as a mysterious stranger who has legitimate authority over the manosphere, but only secret legitimate authority. Thus the participants on Stingray’s blog eat it up when he writes:

    I am not Achilles sulking in his tent. I just don’t want to take on a project half-assed. It needs to be full-time and full-speed. I have the resources to play consiglieri to a young leader on the come. Where is he?

    He was in the same frame in the last comment on my blog, explaining that a master at his level is already several steps ahead of me, and insinuating that he is secretly at the head of some vast and mysterious empire:

    I appreciate the attempt at “tough love,” but I’m a couple steps ahead of you. I do not see a problem and start a blog about it. I work the problem and then consider using a website to report the activity, if that fits in with the mission. (And if I established a website — or already have one — it would be under another identity anyway; my purpose under this guise is simple investigation/reconnaissance.) You are giving me the advice you already followed years back because you approach a multifaceted problem with a single-dimensional tool: shout about it. Yours is the kind of suggestion that leads to “forming a committee to study the problem,” even though the problem has been studied and diagnosed for years now.

    When you try to nail Matt down on what he is actually doing, and what his ideas are (beyond what he is against), this valiant leader somehow vanishes into the mist. Everyone knows Matt is all places at once, making himself briefly visible to shore up the line just when and where he is needed most. As Escoffier points out in the OP, he is sure Matt is a man of action, he just has no idea what sort of action that might be.

    1. Caelan McKenzie

      I find it curious that Matt continues to insist on dismissing any demands for his testimony. Masculine demands for authenticity are not the same as feminine appeals to credential – he is conflating the two.

      He is right that detractors will take anything from your story and twist it as they please, but they aren’t your audience.

      Of the little practical advice he has to offer, what he does give boils down to “f**k your woman into submission, and have faith in God!”. OK, that might be true in that its a synecdoche and all that, but there’s an awful lot of details being glossed over there. I’d like some proof that this isn’t just posturing before I decide to charge off and do it thanks.

      If you want to be a real authority over men, you need some fruit on the tree.

  20. A Serious Diversion | Donal Graeme

    […] Part 1 is here. […]

  21. Cail Corishev

    Every once in a while, Matt would write something almost poetically insightful. That’s why I continued to read his comments for a long time despite his much more frequent rudeness and attacks on those (nearly everyone) he seemed to consider his intellectual and spiritual inferiors. As Dalrock said, his general approach was an attempt to AMOG every other man in the room. Not to say, “I think you’re wrong and here’s why,” but, “Wow, everyone look how stupid this guy is. I can’t believe I have to explain stuff like this, but I’ll come down from my mountain and tell you fools how it is out of charity.” This quote from the article: “the seemingly permanent witch hunt for ‘enemies’ defined as people who deviate .001%,” applies much better to Matt than to any of those I saw him attack. A common occurrence, which happened to me more than once, was for someone to agree with him and then be called an idiot for failing to agree with him sufficiently on every point.

    I’m not talking here about whether he was right in his arguments outside of the rudeness; he may very well have been. But when you treat every discussion as an opportunity to show off how much smarter and wiser you are than everyone else, don’t be surprised if people tend to miss the truth you’re preaching. I read Escoffier’s comments because I think he has something important to say about modernity, even though I have a hard time getting through the philosophy stuff and understanding what he’s saying. I think it’s worth the trouble. In a similar way, I thought Matt had something to say that was worth looking past the antisocial behavior. But eventually (either he got worse, or I just tired of the act), I decided it wasn’t worth it in his case.

  22. ar10308

    “They are attacked for a reason. They are usually very arrogant and contemptuous towards any man who isn’t like them. They are just another facilitator of societal misandry. They aren’t really different from the tradcon Man Up Brigade, who basically believe no Western men can have any legitimate grievances.”

    Exhibit A: RedLegBen from Sarah’s Daughter.

  23. Cail Corishev

    Bill Bennett is a bigger villain that Betty Freidan.

    It does tend to come off that way sometimes, agreed, and that’s silly. As you say, Friedan wants to destroy Christian tradition entirely; Bennett doesn’t, though he probably wouldn’t be too comfortable with some parts of real tradition pre-1965. But there is a sense in which Bennett is more dangerous to the manosphere than Friedan. No one in the manosphere, or really anywhere outside a college liberal arts program, is likely to read Friedan and be persuaded by her arguments (though I’m not denying that we’re already immersed in them nearly everywhere we turn). But a man who’s just starting to get a taste of the red pill may read Bennett and go haring off down the path of white-knighting and “man-up” harangues. So while Friedan may be more dangerous to society in general, Bennett may be more dangerous for men and the manosphere, and more important for us to prepare arguments against.

    For instance, when a feminist troll shows up on a manosphere blog, it is generally recognized and dispatched quickly. But a man-up troll can appear reasonable at the outset, and can take the conversation well down the rabbit hole before people start to realize, “Hey, this guy’s just blaming everything on men no matter what, just like a feminist!” I don’t think that’s necessarily because they’re more adept, as Höllenhund said, but more because their error contains more of the truth than Friedan’s, so it’s not as easy to spot.

    Also, I think there’s an understanding that Friedan didn’t emerge out of nowhere — one day patriarchy, the next day radical feminism. She was preceded by people who suggested compromise on various issues — women’s suffrage, birth control, etc. — though they would have been horrified by the full feminist platform. People not unlike Bill Bennett, in fact. So then the question is raised: if we follow Bennett, are we following him back through those compromises to what was before, taking baby steps in the opposite direction; or is it a one-way street, so that following him will only bring us right back to feminism again? Tradcons tend to think the former; I think the evidence better supports the latter.

  24. Escoffier

    I do see the problem of how 80% friends can be more dangerous than 100% enemies. And before anyone quibbles about whether Bennett is truly an “80% friend,” I’m just reiterating the point that Bennett agrees with us at least to some extent, whereas Freidan is an outright enemy on everything. Outright enemies are instantly recognizable as such whereas semi-friends can be invidiously corruptive.

    As I did say in my original comment, I am certainly not suggesting that anyone here follow Bennett. I also don’t think that Bennett can be persuaded on anything. He’s too old, too established, too rich, etc., to ever be amenable to changing his mind.

    So the question is not following Bennett or converting Bennett—the question, it seems to me, is rather, how to appeal to those people who today listen to Bennett because they are looking for answers that in the end Bennett cannot provide them? Or, if he does, he gives them the wrong answers or partially true answers that lead them astray?

    The two-minute-hates against Bennett don’t do much in this regard, I don’t think. In fact, I think they are counter-productive. Bennett may not deserve his eminence and audience, but the fact is he has both. To peel away the latter entails building up of the former within the sphere. Which, it seems to me, would be best served by some tactical-rhetorical adjustments.

  25. Dalrock

    @Escoffier

    I do see the problem of how 80% friends can be more dangerous than 100% enemies. And before anyone quibbles about whether Bennett is truly an “80% friend,” I’m just reiterating the point that Bennett agrees with us at least to some extent, whereas Freidan is an outright enemy on everything. Outright enemies are instantly recognizable as such whereas semi-friends can be invidiously corruptive.

    I’m probably not the one to respond to this because Bennett has never been a focus of mine; I did a search on the last name within my blog and after discarding a reference to another Bennett, I found four posts mentioning the man. Of the four, only in the last one (Brilliant Advertising) did I write out the man’s name. In the other three the references to Bennett were in quotes I included by others (one of the three was by Novaseeker). So when Matt King got so worked up that I mentioned Bennett’s name (in passing) on the Brilliant Advertising post, it was in fact the first time I wrote the name out in a post.

    But as for the assertion that someone like Bennett is in 80% agreement with us, I doubt that is true on the issues which are core to the manosphere. Again I don’t really know Bennett and haven’t really written about him, so maybe I’m wrong. But I do think that organizations like the CBMW and men like Pastor Driscoll are far more dangerous than garden variety feminists. They are 80% our friends much like a wolf in sheep’s clothing is 80% sheep. They very likely are in denial, but this only adds to the problem.

    So the question is not following Bennett or converting Bennett—the question, it seems to me, is rather, how to appeal to those people who today listen to Bennett because they are looking for answers that in the end Bennett cannot provide them? Or, if he does, he gives them the wrong answers or partially true answers that lead them astray?

    The two-minute-hates against Bennett don’t do much in this regard, I don’t think. In fact, I think they are counter-productive. Bennett may not deserve his eminence and audience, but the fact is he has both. To peel away the latter entails building up of the former within the sphere. Which, it seems to me, would be best served by some tactical-rhetorical adjustments.

    Again, Bennet isn’t someone I’ve focused on, so I can’t speak for whomever this is referring to. But as to the question on how to engage Trad Cons who might be open to dialog, I would offer my guest post at the Orthosphere. There are however serious areas of disagreement between the manosphere and the more manosphere friendly Trad Con, as Novaseeker brilliantly explained here. We can focus on respectful disagreement, and in fact it would be disrespectful to refuse to acknowledge the fundamental differences in thought between the manosphere and the (not in denial) Trad Con.

    But denial is the far bigger issue, and we need to use whatever tools are at our disposal to smash through it. Satire has its place here, as do logical arguments, references to academic papers, and charts and graphs. But to the extent that the issue is denial the process isn’t going to be enjoyable for Trad Cons, as taking them out of their comfort zone is the entire goal. This isn’t to say that all Trad Cons are in denial, but the vast majority I would say very much are.

  26. Höllenhund

    “I’m just reiterating the point that Bennett agrees with us at least to some extent”

    Frankly I see none of that. He agrees with us probably as much as Friedan or any other established feminist workhorse. Which is to say: there’s no agreement whatsoever.

  27. grey_whiskers

    Occasionaly poster, common lurker in many corners of the manosphere.
    I really hate to sound like a “split the difference” goober here, but I agree with both Escoffier *and* Dalrock on this one.

    Escoffier has the essentials right: and for the right reasons, both practical and theoretical.
    That is, the “super norm” has been usurped, the fundamental underlying assumptions behind philosophy have been changed (that of naturalistic empiricism instead of theological scholasticism).
    And these changes have filtered down through the layers to the common culture.
    It appears to me, that Dalrock is working to prepare the grass roots (especially the “Churchians” who ‘have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof’) where Escoffier is working on the philosopher class who promulgate and propagate the super-norm.

    Escoffier, the other problem with your approach is because Twitter. because Facebook. because Obama. People outside the Church have been systematically dumbed down while being *told* they are enlightened — whereas Dalrock speaks of those inside the Church rejecting Scripture because it is not “modern and scientific” whereas they reject science because “it is not Christian.” There are shades here of the quote from ‘The Screwtape Letters’:

    #########
    Failing this, there is a subtler and more entertaining method. He can be made to take a positive pleasure in the perception that the two sides of his life are inconsistent. This is done by exploiting his vanity. He can be taught to enjoy kneeling beside the grocer on Sunday just because he remembers that the grocer could not possibly understand the urbane and mocking world which he inhabited on Saturday evening; and contrariwise, to enjoy the bawdy and blasphemy over the coffee with these admirable friends all the more because he is aware of a “deeper”, “spiritual” world within him which they cannot understand. You see the idea–the worldly friends touch him on one side and the grocer on the other, and he is the complete, balanced, complex man who sees round them all. Thus, while being permanently treacherous to at least two sets of people, he will feel, instead of shame, a continual undercurrent of self-satisfaction. Finally, if all else fails, you can persuade him, in defiance of conscience, to continue the new acquaintance on the ground that he is, in some unspecified way, doing these people “good” by the mere fact of drinking their cocktails and laughing at their jokes, and that to cease to do so would be “priggish”, “intolerant”, and (of course) “Puritanical”.
    ########

    I think another possible approach, Escoffier, while still in the vein of your philosophical approach, is given in the following anecdote by Chesterton:

    Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good–” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.

    One other issue of importance — we need someone, or some group, to start reclaiming the *institutions* (as Andrew Breitbart was doing with the press before his untimely decease).

    Best wishes,

    g_w

  28. Cail Corishev

    The two-minute-hates against Bennett don’t do much in this regard, I don’t think.

    I’d say that’s true of most of the conversation that takes place inside the manosphere. There aren’t many threads that would be acceptable to mainstream readers, and much of it would be classified as hate-speech by respected authorities. Most of it is inside-ballpark stuff, people who are already on the team discussing the finer points of things. Evangelization requires a very different approach, but online everything is jumbled together.

    I think that’s mostly a fault of the medium. In a previous time, maybe we would have had these frank conversations at a men’s club, sitting around the fire smoking cigars, and then gone back to our offices and newsrooms and written it down as books and editorials in terms suitable for public consumption. Now it’s just all thrown together, and a man who gets fed up with the feminist mainstream for some reason and goes looking for alternatives might fall into any corner of the manosphere. He might land on one of Dalrock’s careful treatments of the difference between marriage 1.0 and 2.0, or he might drop into a series of comments about how women shouldn’t be allowed to vote — and be scandalized and sent running.

    I don’t see that there’s much we can do about that. The insider discussions, even the ones with fighting and name-calling, are useful in working out these ideas; and if we have to couch each one in disclaimers and friendly language that won’t scare off a newcomer, we’ll never get anything done. But the “reaching out” part needs to be there too. I just don’t know how you separate the two and funnel newcomers to the beginner’s version, short of putting all the scary stuff behind closed doors in a members-only forum or something, and that would drastically slow the discovery process.

  29. Escoffier

    D, re: Bennett, I certainly was not singling you out, my point was more about the comment zone of the sphere at large, not your OPs nor even specifically your comment zone. Bennett is definitely a kind of Emmanuel Goldstein in the comment zone at large, King was right about that, even if unfair to lay that on you.

    I do think Bennett is in fundamental agreement on many points but definitely also clouded by modernity and feminism without realizing it. Also, part of the reason I find the Bennett hate such a waste of time is not merely that it’s off-putting to potential “recruits,” but also that Bennett just isn’t that important any more. His influence peaked in the mid-1990s. I still believe, or maybe “speculate” is a better word here, that the people who listen to him (to the extent that any do any more) could potentially be receptive to the truth of those things that Bennett gets wrong.

    That said, I will defer to you and others on such questions because reaching large numbers of people is not something I am trying to do nor that I know how to do.

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