2010 October 19 Tuesday
Razib On The Skeptical Conservatives

Razib looks at an affinity group for skeptical conservatives and after noting that politics are not his main interest he offers his views on what is worth conserving.

But by disposition and outlook I have a preference for what can loosely be termed the bourgeois world which arose in the West in the wake of the Enlightenment, and would prefer to conserve it, and at most evolve it from within. I have come to reject excessive axiomatic constructs in political theory and politics, and also believe from an empirical evolutionary perspective that the methodological individualism at the heart of modern liberalism may at root be a quirk of the preferences of the intellectual classes in general.

Razib and I agree. But I tend to say the same thing with, well, lower brow prose. Axiomatic constructs? Methodological individualism? I need to learn how to talk like that. Not sure to who though.

I used to try to figure out which political philosophy or theory was correct. After all, renowned people subscribe to assorted political philosophies. Surely one of them must be correct. But as I got absorbed into and found unacceptable flaws in each major political school of thought it occurred to me that the people who buy into these schools of thought are unhinged. They build big systematic intellectual houses on rickety foundations, mostly wrong due to wrong models of human nature.

On types of individualism: I think individualism flows from an instinctual desire to not be dominated. Men who let themselves become dominated handed over too much of their hunting spoils or crops to people who used their wealth to out-reproduce them. So our desire for independence and freedom are an accidental outcome of evolution. That some people dress this up in elaborate philosophies (e.g. Objectivism) amounts to trying to rationalize one's instincts in order to rally more to your instinctual cause.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 October 19 11:05 PM  Politics Human Nature

James Bowery said at October 19, 2010 11:26 PM:

It's pretty obvious that gangs can out-reproduce equal numbers of individualists. They just go around to the individualists one at a time and take things.

Individualism is deeper than you let on.

Try starting with the origin of multicellular organisms and sex. You might be surprised to find consilience.

no i don't said at October 20, 2010 2:15 PM:

Individualism exists in a person only until that person needs from somebody else. Man is just too weak for individualism, he will therefore continue to be a social animal.

And freedom...? Well freedom is only an idea; freedom stops the moment we have a need. As soon as we have a need, freedom vanishes into nice dreams.

craigsfist said at October 20, 2010 5:23 PM:

I need to learn how to talk like that.

Only if you want to talk like a pretentious ninny.

sg said at October 20, 2010 7:09 PM:

"Only if you want to talk like a pretentious ninny."

Not necessarily. It is more concise. Razib is pretty clear without sounding pretentious, just precise.

James Bowery said at October 20, 2010 7:55 PM:

Yeah, "methodological individualism" is just a concise statement of the following:

Methodological individualism is a widely-used term in the social sciences. Its advocates see it as a philosophical method aimed at explaining and understanding broad society-wide developments as the aggregation of decisions by individuals. The term was originally coined by Joseph Schumpeter (1908, 1909).

Methodological individualism does not imply political individualism, although methodological individualists like Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper were opponents of collectivism. Detaching methodological individualism from political individualism, Max Weber's position, argued at the start of the twentieth century that if a properly-functioning communist regime were to arise, it too would have to be sociologically understood on methodological individualist principles. But the conflation of methodological with political individualism (i.e., liberalism of the laissez-faire variety) is common, by friends and foes of the former alike.

Importantly, there are different formulations of the term and some of the differences have crucial implications (Udéhn 2001, 2002, Hodgson 2007). It is sometimes confused with ontological individualism, with statements such as "society consists of individuals", or the "whole" is nothing but the "sum of its parts" (atomism). Ontology is about existence. Methodology, by contrast, is about explanation.

Even in methodological terms there are serious ambiguities. Some accounts are unclear whether methodological individualism means (a) explanations in terms of individuals alone, or (b) explanations in terms of individuals plus relations between individuals. The Nobel economist Kenneth Arrow (1994) proposes that the narrower version (a) is not achieved in practice.

It has also been regarded as a form of "methodological reductionism",[1] a reduction of the explanation of all large entities by reference to smaller ones. On the other hand, the broader version (b) would be rejected by very few social scientists. In version (b) "relations between individuals" amount to social structures (by prominent definitions of "social structure"). Hence version (b) amounts to the rule that explanations should be in terms of both individuals and social structures. The question, then, is why this should warrant the description of "methodological individualism", as social structure is an equally vital part of the story (Hodgson 2007).

In other words, Razib is merciful in the little time few words with which he burdens us with gibberish.

Randall Parker said at October 20, 2010 10:24 PM:


So unless Razib defines which meaning he is using we have no idea what he really said.

But at least he didn't use unclosed blockquote tags. Hey, Preview is your friend.

James Bowery said at October 21, 2010 12:30 AM:

Preview showed exdenting at paragraph boundaries without subsequent blockquotes.

Movable Type is not your friend.

Sam said at October 21, 2010 11:43 AM:

"I think individualism flows from an instinctual desire to not be dominated."
If this is true as a deep need for Whites it would seem to be very important. I'm against mass immigration. Maybe this would be a hook to get Whites to see the need to stop mass immigration. If they don't stop it they will be dominated as a Minority.

kurt9 said at October 21, 2010 3:39 PM:

I think what Razib is saying is that philosophy and politics considered as subjects independent of socio-biology and, ultimately neurobiology are meaningless drivel. There may be truth to this.

I think the notion of freedom being drive by the desire not to be dominated by others is entirely spot on. I can tell you this is definitely my motivation for freedom.

Randall Parker said at October 21, 2010 10:51 PM:


Nope. I tried your text in preview and it displays as it does once the comment is posted. At least it does that in Mozilla Seamonkey.

Do not do blockquote on each paragraph. Just do it once at the beginning and then /blockquote after the final paragraph you are excerpting.

I fixed your quote and also included the link to the Wikipedia page which appears to be the original source.

aaron said at October 22, 2010 7:32 PM:

LOL! Bowery, the self-styled programming "genius" can't even get comments to properly show up.

Mthson said at October 23, 2010 2:15 AM:


We're all busy, and we often make our comments quickly during short breaks in our schedules.

Also, if someone believes themselves to be capable of genius, good. I hope they live up to it.

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