Traditional Conservatism Can Never Defeat The Enlightenment LeftRicardo Duchesne
No one knows Friedrich Julius Stahl (1802-1861). He was a legal philosopher of Jewish parentage who converted to Christianity and became a defender of Prussian Lutheran conservatism against the imposition of Enlightenment values. He rejected Hegel’s argument that one could create polities based on principles generated by rational minds rather than principles sanctioned by “divine authorities.” Stahl insisted that any politics that derived its principles from human reason in abstraction from the traditional rights and Christian beliefs of the German nation violated the natural distinctions between men and “God’s ordering of the world.”
This has been a standard argument of traditional conservatives since the “counter-Enlightenment” movement against the French Revolution of 1789. It is an argument that has suffered one defeat after another in the face of the relentless advance of science and the rights of individuals to pursue their own happiness. Traditionalist eulogies for the “divine sanctity of monarchical rule,” the value of faith, and the inborn merits of the aristocracy have been no match for the Leftist celebration of “progress,” “education over ignorance,” “tolerance over intolerance” — the “open society” over the “closed-minded” world of conservatism.
Even as traditional conservatives came to accept the inescapable end of divine authority, the rise of the middle classes, and the scientific character of modernization, they have been unable to withstand the radical liberal argument that no educated person should accept a politics that is unanswerable to the critical standards of reason.
It does not matter that Leftists would go on to accuse the Enlightenment of being a Eurocentric movement privileging Western reason over the intuitive and holistic ways of non-Europeans. The Left would forever remain identified with the “realization of reason” against every prevailing form of prejudice that “bred an irrational and enslaved order” — to quote some words from Herbert Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution (1941), a very influential book in the rise of cultural Marxism.
I was required to read some of Marcuse’s books for a Ph.D. course along with other publications by the Frankfurt School. There is even a website documenting the popularity of Marcuse’s books in university courses. Check it out: “Courses using books by Herbert Marcuse.”
Marcuse Against Stahl
Marcuse welcomed the destruction of “many theological and metaphysical illusions” accomplished by the natural sciences. But he also chastised social scientists for studying “social realities after the pattern of nature and under the aspect of objective necessity.” Societies should not be viewed as naturally given realities but as human creations susceptible to improvements through the critical application of reason to the solution of social injustices. He felt that the goals of Enlightenment reason were being abandoned in the “positivistic” acceptance of the “given” by social scientists unwilling to subject society to critical questioning.
The “force of the dialectic,” Marcuse argued in Reason and Revolution, should not be “neutralized.” The modern world was still “contradictory and irrational throughout” in its imperialistic behaviors, militarism and violence, and racism and sexism. Therefore, if the world was to be made truly rational, the social sciences should not be allowed to remain “apologetic and justificatory” in the face of these irrational realities.
While old conservatives would try to adjust their traditionalism and their Christian idea of the State to the successful rise of the middle classes and the natural sciences, Marcuse would call for a “critical” or “negative” dialectic against the irrationalism still prevailing in modern Western societies. While conservatives would give lectures to a decreasing number of followers about the continued relevance of traditionalists such as Joseph de Maistre, Edmund Burke, and Russell Kirk, the critical philosophy of Marcuse and the New Left would become the official mission of universities across the West.
The mistake of traditional conservatism was to think of the Enlightenment as a mere ideology rather than as a movement deeply steeped in the unique predilection of Western peoples to justify their actions on the basis of their knowledge and rational capacities. Conservatives should have offered rational explanations about the importance of traditions, community ties, and the natural inequalities of men rather than rely on appeals to the “divine order of God” or the “authority of history and tradition.”
Marcuse had an easy time demolishing Stahl’s repudiation of modern rationalism. Stahl could persuade the old nobility that a Christian social order cannot be answerable to reason since this order is already sanctioned by tradition and faith. But he could not persuade the dominating middle classes. Stahl could argue that he was offering a compromise between the old feudal past and the new middle classes in advocating for a constitutional monarchical system with representation limited by property and education, but he could hardly persuade future generations that tradition and custom are the sources of right, not reason.
Stahl made much sense when he observed that “man is not an absolutely free being [but] a created and a limited one, hence dependent upon the power that gave him his existence.” But it was easy for Marcuse to challenge Stahl’s inference from this observation that “the authorities, therefore, hold full power over him, even without his consent.”
It was not hard for Marcuse to counter that Stahl’s philosophy of right amounted to “submission” to “unquestionable claims” by those in power. The Left would thus make itself the party of reason, whereas old conservatives would go on talking about “divine revelation or natural law,” “faith in custom” and “orderly acceptance” of the “natural distinctions between classes.”
The development of reason is the peculiar achievement of the West. The Dissident Right should not allow the Left to maintain its current political monopoly over reason. This is what makes evolutionary psychology an important field of study for our side. We don’t need to appeal to religion, faith, divinity, and custom (on their own without rational justification) to defend our views. We have rationally based explanations about the inequalities of man, the genetic differences between the sexes and races, and the differences between whites and non-whites in ethnocentrism.
The Left, for some decades now, has been relying on unquestioned dogmas about equality, authoritarian PC mandates, irrational labels aimed at ostracizing critical thinkers, and blocking any rational investigation of numerous subjects. We on the Dissident Right do not need to make appeals to dogmas. We have rationally based research showing that ethnic nationals benefit psychologically and economically from limited immigration and from a state that encourages its citizens to develop a sense of community cohesion rooted in ancestry, custom, and religion. We are the ones asking rational questions. We have research showing that ethnocentrism is a rational behavioral strategy, and that establishment social scientists recognize this fact, which is why they are advocating for “interethnic unions” to abolish ethnocentrism and create race-mixed nations in the West.
Of course, politics can’t be reduced to rationally-based statements and debates. Politics is energized by passion, emotions, and willpower. There are symbols like the flag or the invocation of a “Fatherland” that transcend the rational. It has been established by Carl Jung’s school that however rationalized we may have become, a segment of our minds will always remain structured by collective unconscious forces expressed through archetypes, which are innate and inherited, and can never be eliminated by education, but are actually indispensable parts of the libidinal creative energies of humans. Nevertheless, we should not forget that the reason we have been able to make the unconscious an item of thought, rather than allowing it to remain something mysterious and unfathomable in the depths of our minds, is that we have been the most rational race in history. The devious, corrupt, degenerate Left nurtured by Marcuse should not be allowed to claim reason for itself.
This article originally appeared at the Council of European Canadians.
If you want to support Counter-Currents, please send us a donation by going to our Entropy page and selecting “send paid chat.” Entropy allows you to donate any amount from $3 and up. All comments will be read and discussed in the next episode of Counter-Currents Radio, which airs every weekend on DLive.
Don’t forget to sign up for the twice-monthly email Counter-Currents Newsletter for exclusive content, offers, and news.
The Machiavellian Method
Enoch Powell, poslední tory
A “Novel” Approach to the Understanding of Evil
The Abolitionists as Virtue-Signalers: Nehemiah Adams & A South-side View of Slavery
Forgotten Roots of the Left: Fichte’s Moral & Political Philosophy, Part III
Remembering Richard M. Weaver (March 3, 1910–April 1, 1963)
The Roald Dahl Controversy
Ricardo Duchesne has quickly become a favored writer/contributer/dude ever since he came onto the Counter-Currents team (following the tragic-if-not-odiously-predictable betrayal of institutional academia). His essays are always richly informative, and offer some of the most powerful articulations of the idea-knowledge pursued by this milieu. He has singlehandedly kept the light of the Canadian soul shining, something I consider monumentous in view of a number of… disheartening interactions with Leaf contacts. It is often spoken, the need for peoples with our understanding of the world to create and maintain our own institutions; figures like Mr. Duchesne make this goal attainable. May we all strive to grow and become strong!
It may seem a good strategy to engage the Left through the paradigm of Frankfurt School “reason” by turning their own methods against them, to fight fire with fire, so to speak. What we seem to be up against, however, is a type of Unreason.
Americans may be beginning to sense this in the innate Jungian manner or in the feeling that something is “off.” I prefer the idea of the “uncanny” becoming manifest in our society. Nevertheless, even at this late stage, with the absurd spectacle of white mobs swarming the streets demanding their own dispossession and destruction, it seems that an appeal to Reason is premature.
If, and this is a big if, it becomes possible to get large swaths of society to even consider the proposition of a hierarchical order grounded in nature, or even in metaphysics, or more simply put, to begin to accept the idea that one cannot do and be whatever one wants to do and be, some sort of apocalyptic event must come to pass.
The central question then is: how badly mangled will America have to get before it is willing to reconsider it’s current course?
Also, can learning through pain and abasement really be called an awakening of reason?
Excellent questions. Duchesne is both correct and incorrect in his defense of the Right’s repossession of ‘reason’ (which the Right never in fact surrendered, at least instrumentally; perhaps he means “rationalism”). I have thought this myself at times. Burkean appeals to custom, tradition and prescriptive right worked when (Western) societies were fundamentally healthy (metaphysically, psychologically, culturally, racially), but obviously they’re irrelevant today, in our time of decay. As Sam Francis understood, we on the true Right (and what exactly is that, one may ask? not an easy question; something easier to recognize than define), have been thoroughly dispossessed; we are not the Establishment; our sociopolitical order is not essentially sound; and thus we must become counterrevolutionaries. Here Duchesne is correct, but not about anything that actually advances matters very far. Who argues anymore in defense of the Old Order, or for “l’ancien regime”? And only a small minority in the West would defer to the Bible for authoritative answers to modern political questions.
Burke admired the achievements in civilization of the society of ranks of Europe in his time, and he especially cherished the English constitution and set of social habits which made his such a successful as well as lovely society. He sought to conserve these things, sagely recognizing that what might come after would likely be inferior. But we are now living under that “inferior”, something perhaps far worse than Burke – living in more civilized times – could have imagined. So of course we are driven to seek out truths about how men should live and societies be organized, and can no longer be satisfied with defending a corrupt (by eternal standards of right – assuming such exist) status quo. And we can apply our reason to the overwhelming (scientific, sociological, and historical) evidence of our senses so as to demonstrate the undesirability of our situation today, as well as to promote rationally better alternatives. And note: this is not only true wrt sociobiological insights, such as those referenced by Duchesne, but also wrt praxeological ones. We don’t need to rely on the custom or Biblical sanction of private property (and the free enterprise economy which naturally arises out of a system of secure property rights) to justify those elements of successful and stable societies. We can justify them based on the pure logic of human action.
But I don’t think mere ‘reason’ will get us as far as Duchesne avers. Burke famously opined, “The individual is foolish, but the species is wise.” What does that mean? I think it means something like no individual mind can fully grasp the totality of a society in all its complexity (whether this idea applied to a primitive, hunter-gatherer one is debatable; but it certainly did to any European principality of Burke’s age), and thus, attempts at “rationally” designing new societies are likely to disrupt the very habits and outlooks which made, say, pre-revolutionary French society both admirable and loved. IOWs, excessive reliance on reason in social affairs is arrogant and, rationally speaking, foolish. Individually limited reason is too finite to grasp the ‘ecology’ of the whole social organism.
There is a well-known and studied analogue in the field of modern urban “redevelopment”. In the mid-20th century, allegedly dysfunctional urban neighborhoods across America were torn down, with their residents often uprooted to other areas, even as the old ‘hoods were being “renovated”. The effects of these changes were frequently to dramatically increase post-redevelopment social pathologies. The old neighborhoods had, in a fashion, ‘worked’. They more or less served the interests of their residents. They did so in myriad ways that the ‘rational’ (trans: “rationalistic”) planners never grasped. The latter only saw decay. They failed to recognize the sub-surface elements – human relationships, collective mentalities, and habits formed over long time – which constituted the “spine” of a basically satisfactory situation.
Burke et al never suggested we shouldn’t study man in his social environment, let alone that we should eschew scientific investigation or technical advance. But the old conservatives demanded that we acknowledge the limits of reason, esp wrt The Big Questions, including those implicit in attempts at rationalistically redesigning settled societies (the essence of leftism, whether expressed as socialism or population replacement), in the face of which humility is the more enlightened response. And the proof that it was the conservatives, not the (((Marcusans et al))), who were correct is found in the empirically demonstrable failures of and miseries attendant upon every form of leftist social engineering.
I’d love to see a YouTube series on the philosophers discussed; something along the lines of John David Ebert’s excellent series on Spengler.
Re “Unable to withstand the radical liberal argument that no educated person should accept a politics that is unanswerable to the critical standards of reason” :
That’s the weakness of G. K. Chesterton’s Parable of the Fence – don’t take a fence down until you know why it was put up in the first place.
I don’t doubt it’s excellent advice but it can only ever be a stop-gap.
For example, our societies have flourished up to the present day while simultaneously keeping women in a subordinate position. So – just to be on the safe side – should women continue to dutifully accept their assigned role until we can figure out why The Old Ones instituted that rule?
But maybe we’ll be fine giving women their independence. Perhaps it was Religion that kept us strong? Or good breeding? Or politesse? . . .
Conservatism today has to be rationally grounded (the good news is that Liberalism is NOT rationally grounded) but we should always heed Lord Salisbury’s advice : “The use of Conservatism is to delay changes till they become harmless.”
>So – just to be on the safe side – should women continue to dutifully accept their assigned role until we can figure out why The Old Ones instituted that rule?
That rule was instituted because of high infant mortality rate and domestic work being very time consuming in pre-industrial times. The recognition of women generally being less rational and decisive than men probably served as an enforcer.
So the answer to the WQ is pretty simple: let women pursue whatever position their merits would allow in the context of a morally prescriptive society that favors sexual restraint.
I threw in the WQ just as a possible example and wouldn’t argue with the points you make.
Except : is it really “pretty simple”? To take just one issue : it could be said that a woman’s main task should be having children, building a home and raising a family. By encouraging women to enter the workplace and pursue careers has meant that high-IQ women are having small (if any) broods while the underclass shoot out lots of low-IQ specimens. (Culprits: feminism, medical advances, welfare provision.) The long-term consequences could be catastrophic.
So not so simple maybe?
“Conservatives should have offered rational explanations about the importance of traditions, community ties, and the natural inequalities of men rather than rely on appeals to the “divine order of God” or the “authority of history and tradition.”
But “conservatives” did not, and ideologically could not, which is why the Right has been losing, and why we need to get rid of “conservatism” in our ranks and in our own thinking.
And replace it with what?
The racialist theory of man needs no appeal to mysticism, faith, divine authority or rational constructs.
The basis of the Racialist theory of man is found in the observed behavior of matter: physics, chemistry, thermodynamics, biology, genetics, evolution.
From the study of these, we know that an irreducible in-equality is present between and among all particles in the universe. In-equality is the necessary basis and wellspring of all progress in the universe. Evolution is the contest of selection upon un-equals. Without in-equality, progress would be impossible.
We also know that if and when the universe eventually does devolve to a state of thermal “equality”, all time, evolution and progress will stop.
From the scientific method, a Western invention, we know that life evolved by fitness-selection among unequals, that genes are the cumulative repository of fitness-selection, and that the continuous segregation and elimination of the un-fit concurrently with the reproductive amplification of the fit, are the hallmarks of all life-progress.
From THESE material FACTS, we know that the Blank-Slate Theory of Man, which is the first premise upon which all of political Leftism is constructed, and which asserts as a moral necessity the genetic destruction of nature-built inequality and the forced imposition of socio-metric equality upon all, is a false theory.
It MUST be upon these OBSERVED FACTS, these physical realities, and not to mysticism, faith, divine authority or rational constructs, that we base our Cause.
I disagree. Leftism is essentially materialism. Equality is only a buzzword that they don’t believe in the least bit. There is no true equality in the leftist world, but rather a metric of inverted natural selection and evolution. The masses of obsolete, indistinct, alienated cattle-humans are to be ruled by a caste of technologically and genetically transfigured posthuman elites. What we talk about it in terms of what should come as natural to peoples and cultures, they simply seek to accomplish with DNA altering biotechnology. All this talk about altruism and equality are nothing but lies to cover the underlying exterminationist agenda.
J. Bowden once said that right wing ideas are essentially about inequality. But not all notions of inequality carry a necessary moral equivalence. Inequality on the basis of omnipresent lies masking the reality of the harvest of human societal energies by a parasitical group of racial degenerates, as is the case in the present moment can’t be described as anything other than pure evil. A holistic inequality in which every component participates in the healthy working of the whole organism is on the other hand, a good thing and the state towards which we all aspire.
When we talk about inequality, by what metric do we gauge its value in comparison with others? What is the fundamental difference between say the European and the East Asian civilization? Both were the products of highly intelligent populations, both excelled in equal measure militarily and materially during various parts of their history and to both can be attributed vast cultural and technological achievements. We can’t simply justify our fundamental differences on material grounds, as in who got the best genes.
The essence of the right is that it places spirit in the foremost category of principles. Spirit it can serve, in the scholastic tradition as the grounding basis of rationalist philosophy. But it can never be reduced down or rationally described in terms of material substances or units. This is because in fact, spirit underlies such material arrangements. Human beings are not seen as biological computers or randomly generated products of genetic expression. The highest expressions of our culture can’t be reduced to material categories. This is the essential position of the right. That is why I think Evola was a far clearer thinker than Jung, because he valued ideas and objects in terms of their place in a metaphysical hierarchy, whereas Jung only looked at things from the standpoint of the collective irrational, the lower and infernal influences on human thought.
To deny this is to deny the right and to embrace a form of leftism, regardless in whatever mantle it casts itself as. Remember that what we term as the “left” applies to Jewish national extremism as much as it does to the transhuman ideologues who seek to rationally define the boundaries by which the form of their being takes via purely technical scientific means. Both of these positions are defined in purely positivist and utilitarian terms.
The left doesn’t have reason on its side. It has pseudoscience and logical fallacies.
Philosophers from Aristotle to Hume to Nietzsche have known that reason is supplementary at best. Arguments and race studies only work if the soil is already prepared for them. There are one or two men responsible for something like 99.9% of the energy on the right. A compelling vision will drag reason like a slave where it wishes.
I think that in Stahl’s case you could see an approach, that resonated from his neophitic lutheranism- the disdain for reason and concentration on faith (the “Sola Fide” dogma). What author proposes resembles more of an traditional catholic approach- where there’s place for both faith and reason. As John Paul II wrote: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” (Fides et Ratio 1998). For me this is an inspiration for the golden way of political fight- appeal to a man by appealing to both his heart and reason.
Comments are closed.
If you have Paywall access,
simply login first to see your comment auto-approved.
Note on comments privacy & moderation
Your email is never published nor shared.
Comments are moderated. If you don't see your comment, please be patient. If approved, it will appear here soon. Do not post your comment a second time.
Edit your comment