Post-Modernism’s Final Causes and Pyrrhic Victory

In Part 1, I framed post-modernism according to Aristotle’s Four Causes.  The main point was to highlight how post-modernism arises from wealth (its “Material Cause.”)

In Part 2, I talked about the Formal Causes of post-modernism.  Specifically, I focused on the lack of respect for cost and chaos and how these arise in a wealthy society.

I’m going to skip a discussion of post-modernism’s Efficient Causes for now.  The Efficient Causes are essentially all the current events, issues, and problems we are currently experiencing as a result of our post-modern culture.  The internet is already full of current-event commentary, and I’ll leave this be for now.

This article is about post-modernism’s Final Causes.  In modern English this would be most straightforwardly translated as “purpose” or “goal.”  To use the common analogy, the Final Cause of a sculpture is the completed sculpture itself, composed of stone (material cause), made in the likeness of another item, idea, or inspiration (formal cause), by a sculptor (the efficient cause).  The terminology of the Final Cause is important precisely because of its finality.  For several cultural reasons that I’ll gloss over, but mostly pertaining to disposable consumerism, a Westerner might view an individual sculpture as part of the artists’s process; one of many works, part of this-or-that period of his career, etc.  It is the difference between seeing the art as a mere result of the artist’s endeavors and seeing that particular piece of art as the purpose of his endeavor and the reason he picked up a chisel at all.

What does this mean in terms of post-modernism?  It means the first question to be asked is whether it is merely a process defined by rules or if it has an ultimate goal; a telos.

There is a strong case to be made that post-modernism has no meaningfully definable telos.  The very inspiration for my blog was highlighting the highly contradictory and incompatible worldviews cobbled together to form the American Left.  (For brevity, I’ll only mention my analysis that the victories of same-sex marriage advocates in the US have simultaneously signed the death warrant for radical feminism and its dependence upon blank-slateism/ gender-as-a-social-construct.)  Instead of striving for a defined end-state, it seems to pursue policies on a case-by-case basis, securing special rights and privileges for special interest groups.  Conflicts are resolved not on the merits of the issues themselves, but according to the hierarchy of protected classes whom the Left represents.  Viewed this way, it is a politic of appetite and avarice, no more sophisticated than a child demanding enough candy to eat himself sick, then crying about an upset stomach and demanding medicine.

Yet there is also a case to be made that post-modernism does have a vaguely defined telos, or at least it thinks it does.  It envisions a world where everyone is provided with the same opportunities.  Such a world is to be created through a Harrison Bergeron-type leviathan state, which redistributes any and all resources required to make things ostensibly equal.  But this is only vaguely defined, because it doesn’t work.  As RoK pointed out, “Society Can’t Afford the Educated Woman.”  This article highlights how policies to create equality will always boil down to redistribution, in this case from men to women.  Affirmative action’s problems are well documented as well:  Students are set up for failure in more competitive schools when they would have succeeded in less competitive schools.  The “Affirmative Action Vulture” casts doubt on the true qualifications on minorities.  And finally, in order to attain the “equal” environment, people are deliberately helped or hindered by the very traits we pride ourselves on not discriminating by!  Perhaps the failure of post-modernism’s telos can be summed up in this Forbes article; no one can un-do or prevent “cosmic unfairness,” so progressive post-modernists simply shift it around from people they like to people they dislike.  Which ultimately brings us back to the previous paragraph about why post-modernism has no actual telos.

For the sake of conversation, let’s accept that post-modernism has no telos:no definable, attainable goal or end-state.  Rather it seems to exist and guide our culture as a collection of short-sighted and contradictory rules and policies.  With no destination in mind, we’re going to end up wherever those rules tend to take us.  A ship adrift will end up wherever the currents and winds take it, and its destination can be predicted not by asking the crew where it wants to go, but by studying said currents and winds.  Similarly, we need to re-examine the currents and winds of post-modernism, the basis upon which its rules are formed and the Efficient Causes based: its Formal Causes.

As a refresher, I identified these as an ignorance or disregard for both cost and entropy.  Harrison Bergeron demonstrates these both very well.  The dancers are all made equal with heavy weights, but at the cost of all of them being terrible.  Extra effort is exerted by the dancers to even move, and the bureaucrats  expend energy to hand out and enforce the handicaps.  Entropy isn’t directly addressed, but one can easily imagine that a society full of farmers and other basic-goods producers who have been handicapped to the lowest common denominator would quickly starve to death.

Without a respect for entropy, post-modernism gleefully dismantles society’s self-repair mechanisms which fight cultural, social, spiritual, and physical decay under the banner of unshackled freedom.  Post-modernists tear down the very institutions which create the wealth upon which their ideology depends and squander the wealth already attained.  A short list of examples includes:

  • The nuclear family is replaced by Heroic Single Mothers™ and the associated government assistance.  (That progressives merely replaced women’s husbands with government agencies is an idea that has been discussed extensively.  One such article linked here.)
  • The education system has been re-tooled from an education system making reasonable investments to train qualified students into a grossly expensive, government-subsidized certification mill.  While inflation of all sorts is a fact of life, the phenomenon of employers requiring degrees for jobs which don’t require degrees is the result of post-modernists who confused cause and effect: “if people with good jobs have degrees, than surely providing more people with more degrees will give them all better jobs!”  The American obsession with sending every single child to college and gearing our K-12 education system accordingly (to the exclusion of vocational education) has been failing spectacularly recently, and America’s response has been to double-down on college-prep!
  • Birth rates among the educated upper classes are falling below replacement levels.  With this demographic putting off marriage and children later and later, the demographic shrinks more and more.
  • Large-scale immigration combined with multi-culturalism attitudes in Western nations is resulting in large populations of non-assimilating immigrants who do not share the progressive values of their new home countries’ political elite .  The American discussion on immigration is such a mess it’s not worth untangling here, but the Far Right in Europe is currently resurgent as the locals realize they losing control of their own countries from underneath their feet.  The  Arab nations have learned this lesson as well and are beginning to expel hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers.

Entities which ignore entropy decay.  Houses which aren’t cleaned get dirty.  Human bodies which don’t replace individual lost or dead cells die as a whole.  Species which don’t reproduce go extinct with the death of their last members.  If post-modernism refuses to recognize this reality, then it condemns itself to extinction as well.  And all of this brings me to the point I’m really trying to make tonight:

Can a culture incapable of sustaining itself be considered moral?

I think this is the unstated question that many alt-right/neoreactionary writers are grappling with these days.  The recent political history of the West has largely consisted of the expansion of legal freedom and opportunity and diminishing social structures to guide (both in the form of helping and hindering) the exercise of those freedoms.  Post-modern culture, as I have defined it above, consists largely of expanding these freedoms with no sense of telos.  It has defined “freedom” as a moral good to be maximized.  Yet in the course of maximizing these freedoms, the same freedoms begin to disappear, or are rendered useless by the practical impossibility of exercising them.  It is a snake which has swallowed its own tail to sate its hunger; it is a ship crew in mid-voyage that has set their vessel on fire to stay warm: in the process of securing a short-term good they inherently have ensured their own demise.  While hunger is to be sated, swallowing one’s own tail is unwise and counterproductive.  While warmth is required for life, burning the ship one is on is unwise and counterproductive.

Similarly, I question whether progressive post-modernism is a self-consuming ideology incapable of winning anything other than a Pyrrhic Victory over its ideological opponents.

Further Reading on Post-Modernism’s telos or lack thereof:

How to Look at the World Like a Neoreactionary: Part 3 – Raises the question of “How far are you willing to go?” to achieve post-modernism’s goals (and concludes that post-modernists actually have none.  They just like the appearance of having them.)

How to Look at the World Like a Neoreactionart: Part 7 – Addresses the moral issue of a culture’s survival

Babies? We don’t need no stinking babies! The genius of Amanda Marcotte. Again. – Addresses post-modern failure to address entropy vis-a-vis the necessity of having children.  Because humans die.  A sort of thing that shouldn’t really need to be explained or defended, one would think.


9 thoughts on “Post-Modernism’s Final Causes and Pyrrhic Victory

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