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Liberalism as the Ideology of Consummate Meaninglessness, Part 1

[1]

Martin Heidegger, 1889–1976

1,324 words

Part 2 here [2], Part 3 here [2]

They’re killing us with their freedom.

Every dissolution of social order, every assault on the family, the unrelenting denigration of authority and heritage, and now our biological replacement by the Third World’s refuse–all justified, legislated, and celebrated in freedom’s hallowed name.

What, though, is this freedom whose ethnocidal ramification threatens what is arguably the greatest tyranny of all: Extinction?

The simple answer: It’s the false freedom favored by liberals, Jews, capitalists, and New Class operatives indifferent or hostile to peoples of European descent.

The philosophical/theoretical answer is somewhat more complex, but not substantially different in essence.

In both cases, the reigning “freedom” bears little relation to an authentic notion of freedom.

That the prevailing system of individual rights–“freedom”–has made a small number of people, some not of European origin, very well-off and very engaged in keeping us under their thumb, explains much of its dominance.

But there is also something in the history, culture, and declining Being of our people that disposes them to seeing themselves in ways that leave them indifferent to their survival as a race and a culture.

* * *

Most symptomatic of this identity-destroying disposition is liberalism.

As an ideology, it rejects all collective, historically-formed, and blood-based identities, privileging an individual disconnected from history, heritage, and kin–an individual who first demands to be treated in respect to his accomplishments rather than his birth–but who, eventually, becomes simply an abstract individual, neither white nor black, male or female, young or old–who exists entirely for himself, cut off from those that came before and those that might come in the future–“an atom without connection.”

On the basis of this individualistic fiction, liberalism rejects affiliations of all kind, positing a world of unrelated but homogenous private ego-subjects situated in a realm of unrestricted circulation, such as a market, where each–in the name of rationality–behaves according to his immediate benefit.

Alien to every ancient and medieval concept of communal decision-making or self-rule, liberal freedom comes to favor what John Gray calls “an assured space of individual independence”–devoted to personal and private, not familial, communal, or ethnoracial, rights.[1]

This liberal concept of freedom arose in opposition to “despotic” rulers–to monarchical regimes obstructing the development of those individualistic social forms championed by the “rising bourgeoisie.”

With the Enlightenment, the concept assumed a scientistic guise, premised on the notion that life is to be ordered according to reason, unhampered by tradition’s repressive effects or by “irrational” natural ascriptions.

From this abstraction, it was but a short step to identifying freedom with a condition in which “each lives as he likes,” irrespective of “authority and majorities, custom and opinion” (Lord Acton). Liberal freedom became thus more than a political principle: It evolved into a encompassing, totalizing way of Being, whose values, assumptions, and implicit modes of existence opposed all that has traditionally animated European life.[2]

* * *

At this point, Martin Heidegger might help us understand something of liberalism’s larger ontological ramification.

Against the main currents of modern thought, he argues that “the leading philosophical question” has nothing to do with the subjectivist imperatives of liberal individualism, but rather with Being–with the question that asks why is there something rather than nothing.[3]

This question of Being is admittedly an impossible one: In the hundred volumes of Heidegger’s collected work, he never actually answers it.

But if the question is not posed–if the difference between beings and nothing goes unexamined and if ontology gives itself over to the prevailing world view–it will lead (it has led) to indifference and from indifference to oblivion. For questioning, this “piety of thought,” “unlocks the essential in all things” and the question of Being is “the question of all questions.”[4]

To avoid it would be to avoid the essence of existence.

Even those who scoff at the question, dismissing it as an empty abstraction, all wind and water, usually already work within a set of assumptions about it. For however unanswerable, it awakens in us something of the mysteries and demands of existence–putting all else in perspective.

The important thing, moreover, is less the answer than the question, given that everything follows from it–everything, perhaps, except our recognition of its primacy.

Beginning with Plato and assuming a qualitatively more categorical character with modernity, the question either gets ignored or sidetracked, as concern with beings (entities in the world) crowds out more fundamental issues of beings as a whole (i.e., Being).[5]

Because the question of Being–the question of what it means “to be” or to exist–is a question of meaning, the failure to address it speaks to the meaninglessness of the modern world.

Not coincidentally, the preeminent exemplar of liberalism’s inherent meaninglessness is the founder of the modern philosophical project, René Descartes, who ignored the question entirely.

In his work, an altogether different issue is addressed: That of how the individual mind (ego cogito) comes to know and to establish an accurate knowledge of the world “outside” it.

Historically, Descartes’ quest for a reliable epistemology arose in reaction to the breakdown of medieval Christianity–and to the crisis this created in the European consciousness.

The alternative system of knowledge he founded was to serve as “the self-posited ground and measure for all certitude and truth.”[6] In this system–where the “consciousness of things and of beings as a whole [refers] back to the self-consciousness of the human subject as the unshakable ground of all certainty”–heaven’s sacred, but no longer believable authority, henceforth had to bow to an abstract reason, whose authority derived from certain mathematical principles.[7]

As traditional pre-reflective principles and Church doctrine retreated before a system that was to provide a new “foundation of knowledge and . . . of the truth of what is knowable,” Descartes helped lay the metaphysical foundations of the Modern Age–an age which would lead not just to a re-evaluation of Christian values, but to their eventual dethronement and to the onset of a nihilism whose stupefying and inescapable meaninglessness has come to pose the single most devastating threat posed against European Being.[8]

Ivan Turgenev, the first to popularize the term, defined this “nihilism” as the offshoot of a scientific positivism that pits experience (understood as sensuous perception) against every other thing, especially everything “grounded on tradition, authority, or any other definite value.”[9]

For Heidegger, nihilism denotes that condition in which “there is nothing to Being itself”–as immersion in beings (objects) obliterates an awareness of Being and of the higher values.[10]

For both, nihilism’s “falling away of Being” is seen as seeping into and assailing the rank, spirit, and identity of European peoples.

Key to Descartes’ nihilistic epistemology is his model of subject-object relations, which categorizes worldly entities as either res cogitans (conscious substance) or res extensa (extended, divisible, spatial substance)–that is, as mind or matter.

The obliging philosophical problem for Descartes was to determine how the subject’s conscious mind, presumed separated from and unrelated to external reality, including the body housing it, was able to know–and achieve certainty of–the world “outside” it.

Truth in this model becomes a matter of establishing an accurate correspondence between a statement (whose ideal form is mathematical) and the substance this statement endeavors to represent.

Methodologically, this notion reduces beings to perceptum or objects, with the assumption that the subject (whose domain is pure cognition) is unrelated to what it represents and that the “truth” conveyed in its mirroring representations resides in its accuracy and objectivity.

Knowledge in Descartes’ world (this realm of objective substances) is thus associated with the factually verifiable or quantifiable designations of its attributes, which are formulatable in the precise language of mathematics.[11]

But like naturalistic rationalism (science) and political rationalism (liberalism), Cartesian or philosophical rationalism “proceeds mathematically in this way only because, in a deeper sense, it is already itself mathematical.”[12] That is, the world for it is assumed to be (projected as and perceived as) mathematical.

Truth as adequation subsumes, in effect, the logical positing of the concept at the expense of the extra-logical character of existence, which means the world for it is “experienced” not as it actually is, but as it is assumed to be.

Cartesian representations are thus hardly impartial, even when numerically formulated, for they reflect the quantitative, objectifying, homogenous standards of a representing subject uprooted from the temporal event structure in which life is lived and from the qualitative designations that distinguish human being from other life forms.[13]

In contrast, then, to our ancestors’ world, Descartes’ world of res extensa is a flattened one, devoid of beings whose differences are destining and whose past, present, and future are ready at hand and beyond representation.

In its world, the Cartesian subject regards everything and everyone as an object of calculation, a means to a mensural or materialist ends. As such, it absorbs everything objective and vice versa, just as all its thought is reduced to a calculation heedless of “the meaning which reigns in everything that is.”[14]

Human beings are seen thus as “mind-matter conglomerates with peculiar causal properties,” not as life-stories that fail or succeed in realizing the possibilities inherent to the world in which they have been thrown.[15]

“What is” becomes “what is present right now,” not “what has been” or what is in the process of being.[16] Ascriptive or qualitative attributes (family, race, sex, religion, culture, etc.) are similarly treated as distractions from reason’s capacity to impartially represent the objective reality situating the subject.

Descartes’ method endeavors in this way to free the subject from such attachments, as if they were of secondary importance.

Though his calculating rationality helped empower modern science with a often miraculous facility over “the things of nature,” this technoscientific prowess came at a cost, for once its mathematical system of reason (whose pre-ontological impetus was perfectly appropriate to the scientific investigation of material or living substances) was extended to man and society, it became scientistic, leading ultimately to an understanding of human beings analogous to the biologist’s understanding of plant and animal organisms (that is, one devoid of ontological significance) and thus to an understanding devoid of meaning.

Notes

1. John Gray, Liberalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 1.

2. What is here called “liberalism” is the political ideology of modernity–modernity in Heidegger’s view being “the age of consummate meaninglessness.”  Liberalism has several ideological roots, that of Locke, Smith, Benthan, and the Revolution of 1776 in the English-speaking world, the Enlightenment and the Revolution of 1789 on the Continent. Its different conceptual trajectories–as individual rights or political reform, laissez-faire or social engineering–historically converged in its rationalistic opposition to authority, tradition, religion, rank, and history, principles foundational to pre-modern or traditional societies anchored in more authentic ways of Being. The mainly Kantian-Cartesian distillation of liberalism criticized here is not the sole expression of what has become a multifaceted, intellectually incoherent ideology, but philosophically it is the dominant one and hence the main target of the above critique. For one of the better treatments of this complex subject, see Guido de Ruggerio, The History of European Liberalism, tran. R. G. Collingwood (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1981); my own view is worked out in New Culture, New Right: Anti-liberalism in Postmodern Europe (Blommington: 1stBooks, 2004).

3. Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, tran. G. Fried and R. Polt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 1.

4. Martin Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom, tran. J. Stambaugh (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985), 98.

5. Following an earlier convention of English-language Heideggerian studies, “Being” is used here to designate das Sein and “being” das Seiende, with the latter referring to an entity or a presence (physical or spiritual, real or imaginary) that partakes in the “beingness” of Being (das Sein).  The capital letter in Being ought not, though, to be seen as conferring a transcendental status on the concept — which would misapprehend what Heidegger intends in his use of the term.

6. Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche: IV. Nihilism, tran. F. A. Capuzzi (San Francisco: Harper, 1982), 90.

7. Heidegger, Nietzsche: IV, 86.

8. Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise, 20; Martin Heidegger, Parmenides, tran. A. Schuwer and R. Rojcewicz (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 51.

9. Heidegger, Nietzsche: IV, 3.  Turgenev’s discussion of “nihilism,” especially pertinent to my generation, can be found in his novel Fathers and Sons (1861).

10. Heidegger, Nietzsche: IV, 21 and 220.

11. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, tran. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson (New York: Harper, 1962), §19–21.

12. Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, tran. W. Lovitt (New York: Harper, 1977), 118.

13. What about the modern discipline of history? Like other academic disciplines, history is not necessarily quantitative in its representations, but its principal concern is with verifiable “facts”–which allegedly speaks for themselves and are taken as the “essence” of what was. Facts, though, are never enough to disclose “the meaning of a happening” or how they affect man’s Being. The historian’s empirical orientation to the historical record tends thus to distort the past in presenting it objectively, ignoring how “what has been” remains present in the present. Historiographical empiricism, accordingly, sees history as something past, not something opened to the future–something in movement back and forth in time, always in question. Relatedly, the vast majority of contemporary academic historians are historiographical researchers (concerned with empirical particulars), not students of history’s historicality (except in the most abysmal PC sense).  Martin Heidegger, Basic Questions of Philosophy: Selected “Problems” of “Logic,” tran. R. Rojcewicz and A. Schuwer (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), 27–52; Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, 45–47.

14. Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, 148; Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking, tran. J. M. Anderson (New York: Harper, 1966), 47. For liberalism’s quantitative calculous, the joining of an African or Asian Dasein to a European one leads to something greater or larger, not something corrupted or diminished.

15. Charles Guignon, “Being as Appearing,” in R. Polt and G. Fried, eds., A Companion to Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).

16. Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason, tran. R. Lilly (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 80.

An earlier version of this essay appeared as “Freedom’s Racial Imperative: A Heideggerian Argument for the Self-Assertion of Peoples of European Descent,” The Occidental Quarterly, vol. 6, no. 3 (Fall 2006).

Read Part 2 here [3].