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What is the Metaphysics of the Right?

[1]5,486 words

In my essay “What is the Metaphysics of the Left? [2]” I identified the fundamental presuppositions underlying the Leftist worldview. In the present essay, I intend to build on that analysis by showing how it can enable us, with relative ease, to identify our own metaphysics, the metaphysics of the Right. In short, my approach is indirect: I intend to arrive at our own most fundamental presuppositions by, in essence, negating the metaphysics we reject and revile. First of all, however, a few very brief introductory remarks and disclaimers are necessary.

First, given my methodology, it is obviously the case that one will only agree that what I present really is the metaphysics of the Right, if one agrees with my analysis of Leftist metaphysics in the previous essay. I am confident, however, that most of my readers will concur with that analysis, at least in its broad outlines. This means that my approach may have the benefit of helping us to overcome some divisions within the Right, by identifying the most fundamental, metaphysical convictions we share in common. By adhering to this “indirect” methodology, I believe I have pitched a “big tent.” As the reader will see, I advocate a kind of “metaphysical pluralism,” and I avoid making certain sorts of claims – including those that some readers might expect me to make. For example, I don’t claim that this metaphysics commits us to pagan polytheism.

Further, while I have written many essays on metaphysical themes, the present essay does not attempt to weave together everything I have said elsewhere (though readers familiar with my work will see where certain ideas are incorporated). Also, as noted in the previous essay, my starting point is not a review of Western metaphysics – again, my starting point is a critique of Leftist presuppositions. No attempt has been made to synthesize ideas from the Western philosophical tradition. However, attentive readers will notice where those ideas wind up being recapitulated. This is unavoidable since some (not all) of Western metaphysics is true. Finally, I must emphasize that the present essay presupposes familiarity with the previous one. At every point in the present essay, I am, in effect, responding to the tenets of the Leftist metaphysics discussed in the other essay – but it is up to the reader to see this.

So, let us begin.

The first and most basic tenet of the metaphysics of the Right is that there is a reality that exists independently of us. We might as well call this nature: it is the non-human world out of which the human emerges.[1] [3] We have not created nature, and it would continue to exist if human beings were completely wiped out. Nature is the reality that it is independent of our ideas, theories, emotions, hopes, wishes, or fears.

Nature is a world of individuals. These possess definite identities, which are not conferred on individuals by human beings, and which continue to exist even if human beings remain unaware of them, or deny them. Identity consists in possessing, or not possessing certain features. These include potentialities for behaving in certain ways, and for acquiring (or losing) other features. Since some individuals possess features in common, it is possible for us to speak about natural kinds. At this juncture in our metaphysics, it is possible to go in either a Platonist or an Aristotelean direction: to say that natural kinds (forms, universals, natures) have an existence independent of the physical world, or to say that, while natural kinds are real, they have no existence apart from the individuals that exhibit them.

I will make no judgment about this, and Rightists could embrace either position. The metaphysics I am outlining here is pluralistic in the sense that it is open to the existence of different sorts of entities. So called “non-material” beings (forms, souls, spirits, etc.) may – or may not – exist. We believe in the existence of a nature that exists independently of our subjective states – and (as I discuss later) we appeal to that nature as a standard by which those subjective states are judged. But this does not necessarily entail metaphysical materialism. I do not believe it is essential that a Rightist metaphysics take a position on the existence of non-material beings. (In other words, one can take whatever position on this one likes and still be on the Right.) One position we cannot embrace, however, is nominalism: the theory that universals are mere words with no objective correlates. In the entire history of Western philosophy, no one has ever succeeded in developing a nominalism that does not reduce to the position that universals are inherently arbitrary, non-objective human inventions and that human beings may conceptually carve up the world in any way they like. (It is nominalism that is at the root of claims that such things as race and “gender” are “socially constructed.”)

Individuals (of whatever kind) exist in certain objective states of affairs. These are called facts. Seeking to know what these are is the same thing as seeking to know truth. One of the features of individuals is their relationships. Individuals are related to other individuals in countless ways. In fact, everything is related, in one way or another, to everything else. (See Part One of my essay “Ancestral Being [4].”)[2] [5] We seek to know the truth about individuals, which always involves the truth about their relationships.

While we live in the world with these natural objects, we also live in another world, one of our own creation: this is the world of human culture and human ideas. Much of human thought and culture is a way of shaping and understanding that first, natural world, and our relationship to it. This “world of the subject,” for lack of a better term, has a secondary, derived status. Our ideas and our feelings are consequent upon our engagement with the world. In other words, immediate engagement with the world around us, in the form of sense perception, occurs prior to the formation of ideas about the world. It is the world around us, a world of individuals and their properties in relation to each other, that is primary, not the “subjective world” of thoughts, feelings, and theories. That subjective world may, in certain respects, faithfully reflect the objective world. Or it may not. For example, a theory may be confirmed – or disconfirmed – by evidence.

Though we create a human world that is distinct from what exists in nature (i.e., what is simply given), our human being “contains” the natural as well. We possess natural characteristics that we have not chosen, and that will continue to exist regardless of what we think or feel about them. Much of education and enculturation consists in honing and refining natural characteristics. For example, we have a natural aptitude for language; i.e, this is a heritable, natural property of human beings. Education actualizes this aptitude by teaching us a specific language and refining our use of it. We have aptitudes for certain types of bodily motion. Education and enculturation teach us specific ways in which these aptitudes can be realized – for example, through athletics and dance.

However, every aptitude or potential we possess comes with certain natural limits beyond which we cannot stray – or beyond which we stray at our peril (as when we misuse natural aptitudes in ways that are destructive to the body, mind, or character). We are free only up to a point. Specifically, we are free to see and to think – or to choose not to do so. To take an example, I can choose to see my natural limits, or I can choose to live in denial of them. The problem of “free will” is not as big a problem as you think it is. Just consider this: You are willing to allow that certain people (e.g., liberals) live in denial of natural limits and natural differences. And you reproach them for this. This means you believe that they could, if they wanted, be aware of those limits and differences, and affirm them. We have the choice to see or not to see; to be awake or to be asleep.

What seems to be unique about us in nature is that we are the animals that are aware of nature. We are the only animal that is struck with wonder at nature; the only animal, indeed, that is struck with wonder at the fact that things are at all. We try to capture what is, in one way or another: to understand it, to analyze it, to depict it, to predict it, to grasp our relationship to it, or simply to bear witness to it. This gives rise to different modes of the human relationship to what is: philosophy, science, art, poetry, religion, mysticism, and so on.

To actualize this grasp of what is – which, again, seems to be our unique role in the scheme of things – we have to be open to the ways in which the world shows itself to us. The opposite of this would be to insist on interpreting everything according to fixed ideas or theories, or to live with a censored awareness that denies certain facts. We have an obligation to honor what the senses tell us – an obligation to honor evidence, of whatever kind. Heidegger is correct when he speaks of truth as unconcealment: to discover the truth means to bring things to light; to bring them from out of darkness into light, to reveal them. And in doing so, we bring ourselves into the light.

What is it that it is unconcealed? The identities of things in the world, and their relations, as spoken of earlier. Our ideas, opinions, theories, and even our emotional responses are all judged in terms of whether they are faithful to what the world actually reveals to us; in other words, in terms of whether they are faithful to truth. To strive always to think in accord with truth – in accord with facts we have brought to light – is what it means to be logical, in the most fundamental sense of the word.

We have no obligation to believe anything; no one can say, in other words, that we must believe some claim because believing in it is good in a moral sense. However, we do have an obligation to believe any claim that is supported by sufficient evidence. The flipside of this is that we have an obligation to disbelieve claims for which insufficient evidence exists. Whenever ideas contradict each other, or when our thinking leads to contradiction, we know that we have arrived at falsehood and impossibility. The reason for this is that literal contradictions cannot exist in reality.[3] [6] We have an obligation to avoid contradiction, and never to simultaneously believe two or more ideas or claims that contradict each other.

One can use the discovery of truths as a means to alter certain features of the world. Famously, for example, scientific discoveries have technological applications, which always involve the alteration of natural givens. However, our openness to the truths of nature reveals to us certain respects in which we cannot alter the identities of things, and their relations, without endangering ourselves and the network of human and natural relations of which we are a part. Things are not infinitely malleable. To insist that they are requires a deliberate denial of the intrinsic characteristics they reveal to us – which is the opposite of the attitude of openness I discussed earlier. I previously discussed the importance of recognizing limits on our ability to alter our own natural characteristics, in the context of discussing human freedom.

In order to go into more detail concerning human nature and potentialities, I must return for a moment to the metaphysically basic topic of individual things and their identities. I already discussed how part of the identity of individuals consists in their relations. In a certain way, however, it is possible to understand an individual’s relations to others as constituting the whole of its identity. This is because identity is always identity in difference. In other words, the identity of anything is constituted through the ways in which it is different from other things. An individual thing is brown and not green, straight and not round, living and not non-living, six feet tall and not five-foot-eleven, male and not female, occupying this space and not that one, and so on. (See my in particular my essay “Asatru and the Political [7]” for more information on this basic idea of identity in difference.) Indeed, it is differences that makes individuals individual: each is a unique combination of traits. Any two things that seem absolutely identical (such as identical twins) will, nonetheless, possess at least some differing traits, else we would not count them as two. (If nothing else, they occupy at all times different physical spaces.) We can thus say that is fundamental to existing things is that they are always other.

This fundamental otherness manifests itself in myriad ways, not just the possession of different traits. The otherness of things frequently places them in antagonistic relationships. They bump into each other and create friction; they displace each other in their roles or locations; they compete in various ways. For all of the above, we could find illustrations involving either living or non-living things. In addition, living things devour each other, desire each other, and seek to undermine each other in various ways.

Difference or otherness is expressed in two fundamental forms, both of which can be the basis for antagonisms:

  1. Difference in kind: minerals have a definite chemical composition, rocks do not; the mammal is warm-blooded, the reptile is not; the collie barks, the basenji does not; John has blue eyes and Mary does not; the raven can mimic, the sparrow cannot.
  2. Difference in degree: gold has only one stable isotype, whereas silver has two; elephants are larger than hedgehogs; one collie barks louder than another; Mary’s eyes are bluer than Steve’s; Steve is smarter than Mary; the parrot can mimic more sounds than the raven.

Differences in degree are inequalities, and inequalities are found throughout nature. Some things are greater than others: larger, swifter, stronger, more durable, smarter, heavier, more industrious, more aggressive, and so on. In some contexts, this means that some things wind up dominating others (as the male animal dominates the female, one animal devours another, some men rule over others, some animals and men defeat others in forms of competition, etc.). It is basic to the metaphysics of the Right that we affirm the existence of superiority and natural inequality, and, indeed, the reality of difference in general.[4] [8] This does not mean, however, that we endorse the childish idea that “might is right,” for we do have a conception of justice and of law.[5] [9] If Steve mugs Mary and steals her purse, we don’t simply accept this because Steve is stronger. Nor do we simply shrug and affirm that “might makes right” when confronted with the superior wealth, influence, and firepower of deracinated, globalist elites who seek to rob us of our freedoms and replace us in our own countries. Further, we do seek to ameliorate certain sorts of natural inequality. For example, if Steve’s vision is poorer than the other boys’, we don’t refuse to equip him with glasses.

It is possible to see all of existence as an expression of a struggle for dominance or power, to see this as a primary (or the primary) element in existence, as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche did (though there is no good reason to follow them in hypostatizing the “will” that things exhibit, and in thinking it is some kind of entity that exists distinct from its expression). It is only living things that strive in the literal sense (non-living things “strive” only figuratively or poetically). The striving for dominance is an effort to . . .

  1. Maintain one’s existence as an individual, against challenges and threats (especially those posed by other living things, including things of one’s own kind).
  2. Elevate that existence above influences that would retard the natural expression of one’s properties or potentialities.
  3. Expand one’s sphere of influence in order to control situations or things, including things of one’s own kind.

Related to these forms of striving are two others. The first is the striving to, in effect, duplicate oneself through reproduction. In some individuals (especially males), this striving expresses itself in part or in whole as the production of works that are intended to survive the death of the individual (discoveries, conquests, monuments, novels, musical compositions, works of philosophy, etc.). Another, related form of striving is the striving to understand the world. This can be understood as an expression of the striving for control (number 3 above), given that understanding things reduces their otherness or alienness, and allows us to manipulate them in various ways.

Strategies for dominance basically divide into three types:

  1. “Primary” (for lack of a better word): One uses one’s own strength (of whatever kind) to dominate or win against others.
  2. “Secondary”: One affiliates with or serves the stronger in order to dominate others or achieve some objective.
  3. “Parasitic”: One dominates not through one’s own strength, or through allying oneself with the strong, but through in some way feeding off the strength of others, or even using their strength against them. This can be a simple strategy for achieving basic subsistence (Greek parásitos literally means “one who eats at the table of another”; and we see this form of “parasitism” throughout nature). It can become a dominance strategy, but only through considerable cleverness. An example would be Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of values,” in which the weak convince the strong that their virtues are vices, and that they only gain merit in serving the weak. This may even become the long-term strategy of an entire group.

Primary dominance is associated with greater reproductive success, a greater likelihood of achieving the top position within hierarchies (or coming very close to it), and greater life-satisfaction. Those who are less strong or less dominant achieve success (in reproduction, social position, life-satisfaction, etc.) by affiliating upwards (the secondary strategy). They will likely never be top dog, but they are able to accept this situation through achievement of a kind of derived status; achievement of virtue associated with “service,” and so on.

There is a qualitative difference between these two strategies and the third, “parasitic” strategy. We sense this in our strong intuition that there is something loathsome about individuals who pursue this strategy. This difference in human types is inscrutable, and ultimately, there may be no way of understanding why certain individuals are, to use Nietzsche’s language, slave types.[6] [10] I will suggest – though I do not wish to insist on this point – that this difference in human types may reflect a broader dualism inherent in existence itself: a split between a kind of “will” towards order, health, and the achievement of ideal type, and an opposing “will” toward undermining order (i.e., producing chaos), undermining health, and retarding the expression of natural forms. This is a rather Manichean position, but I find myself drawn toward it. And I increasingly find myself drawn toward the position that the Left (and slave morality generally) is a social expression of the latter sort of “negative will.”

Life is not entirely about struggle and dominance, however. As Empedocles saw, the force of “Strife” is balanced by “Love.” Individuals are not just different, they are also similar. It is on the basis of similarities that they affiliate and form bonds. Here I am speaking primarily of living things, but this principle holds true even in the case of some non-living material objects. Living things always form bonds or alliances on the basis of similarity, never in the basis of difference. Arguably, the only exception to this is the bond between male and female, though even in this case they bond on the basis of certain shared values or desires (e.g., the desire for children). The “diversity” ideology of today’s Left is, of course, completely contradicted by the basic biological fact that creatures tend to bond exclusively with others like themselves. It is unity that is always sought, not diversity.

I will deal with two counter-examples. Don’t men with radically different views bond together in order to create such things as debating societies? Yes, but they bond on the basis of strong, shared values: valuing debate, and valuing the rules of civil discussion. Second, what about all those cute animal videos on YouTube that show cats and dogs cuddling or mother cats nursing baby weasels, and such things? These sorts of relationships are obviously not natural. They have been created by keeping the animals in an artificially infantile state – and keeping them well-fed. If resources became scarce, they would immediately turn on each other. Superficially functional “diverse” cities and neighborhoods face the same problem.

Similarities bond people together. Our strongest bonds tend to be with those to whom we are genetically similar. And this is not, of course, true only of human beings; we see this throughout the animal kingdom (“birds of a feather . . .”). Genetic ties are not a matter of choice (they are, in a sense, chosen for us) and the feelings they engender are not chosen (again, much of who and what we are is not under our control). Our genetic nature is a fundamental part of our being. (See again my essay “Ancestral Being.”) Genetic bonds can be visualized as a series of concentric circles. At the very center is immediate family. Moving outwards from the center we come to extended family, clan, tribe, ethnicity, and race.[7] [11] An ethnicity and a race can be considered as a very large, extended family of genetically similar people. Ties to ethnicity and race are obviously weaker than ties to family, but people are naturally drawn to and prefer their own ethnicity and race just as they prefer (or at least give some kind of priority to) their own families.

It is true that there are individuals who seem to have a weak bond with their families, and even to prefer their “chosen families” (close, genetically unrelated friends) to their own kin. But these people tend to be W.E.I.R.D. (Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic; see my essay on Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind [12]). It is also obviously true that bonds across ethnic/racial lines are possible, but these tend to be the weakest bonds of all. For the most part, the flipside of genetic attraction is that most people feel ill at ease with those who are very genetically different.[8] [13] It is primarily for this reason, as my readers know well, that the multicultural/multi-racial society is a recipe for perpetual conflict and tension.

Within societies of genetically similar individuals, a struggle for dominance still takes place. This is particularly the case where social status is concerned. This can serve the interests of group security and group cohesion, since (theoretically) the strongest and most capable will rise to the top and occupy leadership positions. That is, unless conditions arise which make this difficult or impossible. (For example, democracy – in which the mob’s resentment against superiority is allowed free rein, and only those willing to flatter and placate the mob can succeed in gaining power over it.) In an ethnically homogeneous society, in which conditions allow the strongest and most capable to rise to the top, leadership will consist primarily in safeguarding the ethny, its territory, and its culture. (In weaker sets of conditions, leadership may be focused on its own enrichment and self-aggrandizement, even to the point of disadvantaging the ethny and its culture.)

While struggle for dominance within a society does not, under normal circumstances, undermine the society (and may even, as I have said, strengthen it), societies struggle with other societies, effectively in a kind of “state of nature,” without any higher law-giving authority that may limit their actions. This struggle between societies is a struggle to undermine or disadvantage each other, from the outside (or from the inside, if some societies have agents that act within other societies to somehow weaken their defenses). Societies have been known to form alliances with each other or to make treaties, and even to form transnational assemblies for adjudicating disputes. But these are largely ineffective.

Differences between genetically similar groups are profound. Human groups have evolved under markedly different sets of circumstances. As a result, they exhibit pronounced anatomical and behavioral differences. Because human groups possess these physical differences and have encountered different sorts of environmental and historical circumstances, the cultures they have evolved are very different. This means that it is entirely possible that if an individual of race X finds himself in a culture evolved by race Y, he may (or may not) be ill-equipped to function and achieve various sorts of success within that culture (happiness, material prosperity, formation of family). It is very difficult, and usually impossible, to impose a culture on a people that has not evolved it. We cannot make everyone like us.

The profound differences in groups include fundamentally different ways of seeing the world. Because of this, it is impossible for groups ever to fully understand each other. I have read and profited from the Tao Te Ching, but I am quite convinced that I could never understand it in the way a mature and educated Chinaman could. Nor could he ever understand the Iliad or Beyond Good and Evil as I can.

However, this does not entail cultural relativism or the trendy assertion that people of different cultures “live in different realities.” Recall that our metaphysics holds that there is a reality (just the one) that exists independently of our minds, as well as our different culturally-embedded beliefs and presuppositions. Because of this, those beliefs and presuppositions can be judged in just the same way that those of an individual can be judged: in terms of whether they account for, or accord with, perceivable, testable facts of reality, and whether the inferences they involve are cogent. For example, if Barbara thinks that she has an alien implant in her left wrist, we can, with a little effort, easily test and refute this belief. So, too, with cultures that believe molesting a child will cure them of AIDS [14].

Radical Leftists (especially those in academia) will assert that such thinking is cultural imperialism, since it attempts to judge another culture’s beliefs on the basis of logic, which is a Western “invention.” Aside from the dubious charge of “imperialism,” there is some truth to this. Logic is Western: it is Western philosophers, beginning with Aristotle, who codified logic. It is true to say that logic is a product of our culture – but it is not our “invention,” it is our discovery. In just the same way, calculus is Western – a Western discovery, not a Western invention (it was discovered independently by Newton and Leibniz). Like mathematics, logic works not just here in the West, but here, there, and everywhere. Western logic and mathematics even work in outer space, whether the astronauts are American or Chinese.

Is it the case that logic, as a way of dealing with the world and organizing our thoughts, might be particularly suited to us Westerners? Yes, indeed. But this does not make the case that logic is “culturally relative,” especially given its spectacular success regardless of where and when it has been used. Rather, what it shows is that cultures are not equal. At least in this particular case, it is the West that has been far ahead of the rest of the world in developing tools that can bring things out of the darkness and into the light – as Hegel clearly saw (see my essay “The Stones Cry Out: Cave Art and the Origins of the Human Spirit [15].”). It is simply the case that some cultures have noticed features of reality that others have not. Some are better equipped to understand nature than others.

* * *

This completes my survey of the metaphysics of the Right. Obviously, a great deal more could be said. However, I have tried as much as possible to restrict myself to essential points – and I have inferred these, once again, from a consideration of the features of Leftist metaphysics we strongly reject. I think of us loosely as “The Reality Party”: ours is the position that honors what is; that honors evidence, even when it suggests that the world we live in is far from ideal. This standpoint stands in sharp contrast to that of the Left, which is preoccupied with ideal visions of a world that can never be, and which denies evidence and persecutes those who dare to mention it.

I will close by saying that if you feel some essential point has been left out of my account – some point essential to a Rightist metaphysics – I would challenge you to provide an argument for why it is essential. For example, you will have seen that I take no position (in the present essay) on the existence of God, or gods. If you disagree with me and think that this is essential, why? Would an individual cease to be on the Right if they rejected your position? If so, why? My major preoccupation in this essay (and the one that preceded it) has been truth. But I also think that the minimalist results of my inquiry serve to unite us, rather than to divide us.

Notes

[1] [16] Strictly speaking, “reality” includes whatever exists, which includes our ideas and other subjective states. In other words, “reality” and “nature” are not strictly synonymous. In the present context, however, the “reality” I am keen to assert is the one denied by Leftists: an independently existing nature, that is what it is independent of how we think or feel.

[2] [17] Consistent with my commitment to metaphysical pluralism, I will also make no judgment on the issue of whether it is individuals or relations that can be said to be “ontologically primary.” I tend to think that it depends on how you look at the matter, and that both positions are valid. Again, see Part One of “Ancestral Being.”

[3] [18] There is a great deal of misunderstanding about what a contradiction is. A contradiction is “X and not-X.” The law of non-contradiction states that something cannot be X and not-X at the same time and in the same respect. So, while it is possible for it to rain in one location at 12:00 and not rain at 2:00, it is impossible for it to rain and not rain in the same location, at the same time. A standard example of why contradictions cannot exist in reality is the legendary “square circle.” The assertion that there could be a square circle is a contradiction, because it claims that something that has no angles has angles. There are ideas and claims that conflict, but to call them “contradictory” is usually a loose way of talking. For example, it is loose talk to say that liberalism and conservatism are “contradictory.” However, to take one example, the assertion that “gender” is both “socially constructed” and is not “socially constructed” does seem contradictory, unless one claims that certain things about gender are socially constructed, and other things are not.

[4] [19] The “inequality of the sexes” is natural, though in many respects, the differences between them are not “inequalities.” For example, it would be mostly pointless to argue about which is “better” or “superior”: having a penis or having a vagina. For the most part, the differences/inequalities between the sexes complement each other. The sexes have only been placed in competition with each other in the modern period due to the poisonous influence of feminism.

[5] [20] We cannot cede the idea of “justice” to the Left. It is not justice we reject, but the Left’s peculiar idea that justice excludes all inequality. Some inequalities are just, others are not.

[6] [21] Many of these individuals may be burdened by physical inadequacies or born into low status. But these situations do not always produce slave types. Some individuals who are physically weak exhibit great spiritual strength, and no signs of ressentiment. And some individuals born to low status choose to affiliate upwards, and also exhibit no signs of hating or envying their betters. Some fundamental differences in character type remain, and may always remain, a mystery. The ultimate unintelligibility of individuals may be precisely what makes them individual. At least, this was an implication of Plato’s metaphysics.

[7] [22] I am using “ethnicity” here to mean what is sometimes called “nationality” – for example, German, English, French, Spanish. The race subsuming these ethnicities is obviously white.

[8] [23] I assume I do not need to lecture this audience on how “small” genetic differences make huge differences in how animals look and how they behave. Humans share 96 percent of their DNA with chimps. That little 4 percent makes all the difference in the world. It is the difference between spending one’s days chomping on bananas versus writing (or reading) The Phenomenology of Spirit.