Education Realist on the Dark Enlightenment

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

The defining element of the Dark Enlightenment is not political, philosophical, or cultural views, Education Realist says, but a shared loathing of “The Cathedral”:

Unfortunately, I can’t find one clear definition of the Cathedral that doesn’t involve reading all of Mencius Moldebug, who I don’t really understand and makes me feel Hemingway brusque. I use the term Voldemort View to characterize the most likely reason for the achievement gap; the Cathedral can be thought of as the Canon of Modern Anathema, the official dogma of views that must not be spoken. Some of the views are actual truths, others are opinions. But if they are uttered, the speaker must be cast out into the darkness and, more importantly, economically ruined.

I can think of no common objective the nodes in that diagram share, but we all hate and despise the Cathedral. Our touchstones are not racial purity, male dominance or a derailing of democracy (all objectives I unreservedly oppose) but the expulsion of James Watson, Jason Richwine, and John Derbyshire — whether we agree with them or not. I almost never hate people. But I hate the Cathedral. Probably in part because I trusted it a couple decades ago, and there’s nothing like a reformed ex-smoker. Screw you if you want me to righteously disassociate. Take my ideas on their own merit or don’t, never assume I agree with any idea unless I say so. But if you’re the sort who demands indignant condemnation, it will be my considerable pleasure to deprive you of that satisfaction. In short–but why be short when English has so many words? — I will not disavow on principle.

I suggest that if the “dark enlightenment” is spreading, it does so not because of any distaste for democracy, much less some weird white guy radicalization, but because the general public is slowly becoming deeply tired of the elites getting exercised about exorcising yet another heretic.


  1. Dan Kurt says:

    re: “…reading all of Mencius Moldebug.” Education Realist

    The Fact that no one seems to admit to is the writing style of Mencius Moldebug is hidious, prolex and endless to no good end: he is not a writer one would choose to read except for the content. I can only wish that he could obtain an editor who could wring out his prose into a digestable, shorter user frindly form.

    Dan Kurt

  2. Erik says:

    Moldbug really could use an editor.

  3. “The Fact that no one seems to admit to is the writing style of Mencius Moldebug is hidious, prolex and endless to no good end”

    I think I kind of hinted at that, didn’t I?

  4. I’m an unabashed fan of Lovecraft, including his prose, but even I still agree that Moldbug needs to tighten up his writing. As several have noted, though, it does act as a filter to discourage random drive-by idiocy.

  5. Dan Kurt says:

    re: ” think I kind of hinted at that, didn’t I?” Education Realist

    Actually I didn’t read your entire piece. I am in a fog currently eight days post a total hip replacement, my first surgery since tonsils removal at age five and am now 72. Have no appetite, no interests, no pep. Don’t have the intellect to read or think. Sorry if I hurt your feelings.

    Dan Kurt

    p.s. Used to be able to do better as I spent nearly a decade at an Ivy ending with a science doctorate and post doc. My sister, a retired med school professor, told me today that I would be back to normal in three months so not to worry.

    p.p.s. Just as I was writing this the lady who helps my wife each week with cleaning came into my room and told me I looked as if I lost a war and have lost a lot of weight. I’m going to send this and go to bed. Reality is cruel.

  6. Faze says:

    Hatred of the Cathedral and it’s ability to visit punishment according to its own ever-shifting rules does not need a new category. It’s plain old hatred of injustice — an instinctive human reaction.

  7. Space Nookie says:

    lol yeah I remember when Moldbug was posting his own original poetry.

  8. T. Greer says:

    So for what it is worth, here is the comment I left that started the whole discussion off:

    I implore chick and others to drop the “Dark Enlightenment” term. I’ve already made my arguments elsewhere, but to re-cap: the enlightenment was truly enlightening.. It included Hume as well Roseau. Moreover, it was not just a time of philosophical truths, but scientific ones– the enlightenment is the age of Newton, Huygens, Polinière, Lavoisier, Volta, Linnaeus, Watt, Humboldt, and many others. Most modern ‘branches’ of scientific study arose at this time. It was the age of reason. If HBD is truly what its most vocal proponents claim it to be, then it is not a refutation of the enlightenment, but simply the application of enlightenment methods to data enlightenment thinkers did not have access to!

    The other problem with the term is it justifies a community that has no real reason for existence. The many voices in the ‘dark enlightenment’ do not harmonize. They don’t share the same ideals, aims, or even impulses. They defined by a shared enemy; were this enemy to disappear then so would all talk of a cohesive ‘dark enlightenment.’

    Some have said that what unites that dark enlightenment is an attachment to HBD. If you investigate all the different blogs in the community, however, you find that this really is not true. The major strand that unites the entire community is a willingness to frankly state opinions polite society does not accept (but in many cases once did) and listen to others do the same. But there is very little holding them together past this point. Neoreaction is a political movement, and if hard HBD was falsified tomorrow its most prominent thinkers could happily continue peddling monarchy or corporation-states without a losing a beat. The theocrats do not share the goals, often doubt the methods, and have an entirely different world view from the hyper-rationalists of the HBD researchers. The idea that red pill buffoonery is even comparable to a community engaged in a scientific endeavor is laughable.

    I could continue with the other groups but I think you understand the point. Perhaps the greatest difference between the HBD section of the dark enlightenment and the rest of it is that the HBD folks are interested in positive claims, while the rest are obsessed with normative ones. For most of these HBD is a tool to an end, and if it did not serve their chosen end they would drop it without a second thought….

    science does not need any glitzy names or online ecosystems to justify it. If HBD is what its proponents claim it to be, then it does not need any other title than “reason” or “science.” Additional ornamentation cheapens the results.

  9. James James says:

    I don’t know, I’ve been re-reading some Moldbug and I no longer find it too long at all! I find it extremely clear. E.g. his economics crash-course: The original comments say he is too long and too unclear, but I no longer think so — I find it a model of clarity.

  10. James James says:

    Perhaps it’s because I’ve learnt a lot since then (partly from Moldbug himself) so I’ve internalised what once were new, complicated ideas. Now they seem easy; obvious.

  11. James James says:

    I don’t use the term “dark enlightenment” myself, I use “neoreaction”, though I see from rereading Moldbug that he prefers just “reaction”. (“Neoreaction” was coined in 2010 by Arnold Kling.)

    However, I don’t understand the Dark Enlightenment as an anti-Enlightenment movement, but as a second Enlightenment. The Dark Enlightenment is merely a strand of neoreaction: it is the realisation that humans are not created equal.

    As you say, Enlightenment bashing is a bit silly. It was the age of Hume as well as Rousseau.

  12. Anomaly UK says:

    Just to insert a note of dissent, my reaction on first reading Moldbug was “what a rollicking good read”. I think that came even before any assessment of the content.

    Picking on spelling errors is a very low form of internet debate, but if someone reads sufficient volume that they can easily spell “hideous” and “prolix” then they are more likely to appreciate Moldbug’s breezy and discursive mode.

    Still, de gustibus. I wouldn’t deny for a moment that brevity would improve accessibility. I just don’t want “Moldbug is a terrible writer” to appear unanimous.

  13. Isegoria says:

    The crux of the Dark Enlightenment is that some elements of the Enlightenment were right, while others were wrong — and the progress we’ve made since then stems from the technical and economic gains we’ve made, not from extending the franchise, etc.

  14. Carl says:

    I find Moldbug’s writing to be highly entertaining. It’s possible to present his ideas more concisely, but it loses something in the translation. The Cathedral is intentionally nebulous, so it should not be surprising that it is difficult to pin down the concept to explain to the uninitiated.

    I would say that it is clear that Moldbug was loquacious for a reason. He has managed to inspire a whole internet community from his oeuvre, so he must have been doing something right.

  15. I would agree with Isegoria’s take on the Dark Enlightenment position regarding the Enlightenment (original flavor). I think the critical division might be that the parts of the Enlightenment that were closest to the truth were those regarding ways of understanding physical reality, whereas the Enlightenment philosophers and philosophies that attempted to understand human nature were farthest from the mark.

    Take for instance the “State of Nature.” An idea of what man is like in the state of nature lies at the heart of all three of the Enlightenment-spawned political/sociological perspectives, namely those of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke. Hobbes view was the war of all against all which must be suppressed at all costs by the ultimately powerful sovereign (a quite innovative idea at the time, I might add, and very distant from traditional conceptions of monarchical order). Rousseau saw man’s basic nature as nurturing, cooperative, and peaceful, with civilization an imposed corruption that kept us from that blissful state. Locke’s perspective was a sort of middle-ground, accepting that people have negative/irrational individual traits but arguing that they will naturally form a government to rationally see to their safety and posterity.

    All three of these perspectives are correct to a degree, and all of them are wrong in some very important fundamentals. At the time their originators were writing our understanding of anthropology, psychology (both mass and individual), and the origins of civilization were practically nil, so the error is not necessarily something to blame them for. The problem is that these perspectives, which we now know to be at best only partial understandings of human behavior patterns, still form the priors for almost all modern political discourse. There have been no “updates” to them despite enormous strides in our understanding of human nature from anthropological, historical, neurobiological, and sociobiological perspectives.

    Rousseauians (progressives) still assume the noble savage and his corruption by civilization. Lockeans (classical liberals, libertarians, American conservatives) still assume that humans can subdue any innate a/irrationalities to political ratiocination. I can’t think of any remaining Hobbesians, but I perceive a danger of neoreaction falling into that slot as, well, a reaction to the triumph of the other two schools despite it being no less mistaken than they are, and no less a product of the Enlightenment period’s limited understanding of human biological and civilizational development.

    This is what the DE attempts to do and, at heart, the attempts to resist it are what I feel neoreaction is reacting against.

  16. Sorry, I should have made clearer that updating, improving, and replacing the priors of the Enlightenment’s understanding of human nature was what the Dark Enlightenment is trying to do. As it is it seems like I wrote that the Dark Enlightenment is trying to become neo-Hobbesianism.

  17. Lynn C. Rees says:

    Yarvin’s writing is constructed the way it is for a reason. His intent is to cull mere passerby from seekers of Higher Truth, a target demographic Yarvin has positioned himself to be an OEM for.

    If you look at Yarvin’s technology:

    It starts off citing Yorhe Looees Borjes:

    “Tlön is surely a labyrinth, but it is a labyrinth devised by men, a labyrinth destined to be deciphered by men.”

    If you are used to existing software code in the most C-ish style, Yarvin’s first example is jarring perhaps:

    ~waclux-tomwyc/try=> “hello, world”
    “hello, world”

    ~waclux-tomwyc/try=> (add 2 2)

    ~waclux-tomwyc/try=> :hello %world
    “hello, world.”

    ~waclux-tomwyc/try=> :cat /=main=/bin/hello/hoon
    :: /=main=/bin/hello/hoon
    |= *
    |= [planet=@ta ~]
    ^- bowl
    :_ ~ :_ ~
    :- %%
    !>(“hello, {(trip planet)}.”)

    The jarring, if you are the sort to be so jarred, is intentional. The non-seeker of Yarvinesque-flavored technology will look at that, perhaps see flashes of Perl before their eyes, say “EWWW!”, and flee for pastures rendered more green by their contrasting normality. The seeker of the Yarvin Enlightenment will be intrigued and put in the effort to understand Post 1. Once he completes his struggle session with Post 1, he will say to himself, even if sotto voce, “Now I understand: I have power because I am among the Few who understand. We Few are better than those Many. They don’t understand. We are 1337 haX0rz! They are n00bz! Under the sign of @1-!hoon? (liturgically lowercased), we will conquer. We will trod upon the necks of the Many n00bs, feast on their blood, and take their girlz to ourselves. ”

    Once Yarvin’s pound of flesh is extracted by Post 1, some will fall away into broad paths but, for Yarvin’s desired demographic, loss aversion will kick in and they will persevere, the most 1337 to the bitter end as their costs are much more sunk than those that turn back. Those few will then urbit around Yarvin as satellites, reflectors of the glory that is Yarvin.

    Some may even discover, as Dzugashvili did when he found Ulaynov was not Ulaynovist enough for Ulaynovism, that Yarvin is not Yarvinist enough for Yarvinism. Like Dzugashvili, who had to destroy Ulaynov for the sake of Ulaynov, they may seek to escape Yarvin for Yarvin’s sake. Since, unlike Dzugashvili, they aren’t veteran terrorists, they will take the row of the Few and fork into their own groups of more Yarvin than Thou (Yarvin). Then they will say to themselves, even if sotto voce, “Now we understand: we have power because we am among the Few who understand. We are the Fewest of the Few. The other Few are not only beneath us, they are more fallen than even the Many. They understand but they have rejected Understanding. We are the truest of 1337 haX0rz! The Few are fallen and have become n00bz! Under the sign of @1-!HOON++ (liturgically uppercased), we will conquer the Many and destroy the non-Few Few. We will trod upon the pencil necks of the Fallen Few, feast on their Code Red Mountain Dew saturated blood, and …wait, they don’t have any girlz.”

    You can tell schismatic blood flows through your caffeine laced veins if most of your conversations can be reduced to lexing and parsing. If you re-read Yarvinist moldbuggery for its fine shades and find yourself searching for Yarvin’s original intent, you may be a schismatic. If you find yourself building a new terminological wall to separate yourself from those whose neologisms don’t possess the proper ritual punctuation and significant white space, you might already be a schismatic. If Yarvin and his autodidactic squiggles are not Yarvin enough for you, you are not only a schismatic, you are a fire-breathing evangelizing Yarvinist fundamentalist schismatic. The only thing you lack is being born again with your own personal Yarvin.

    Yarvinist moldbuggery will never be accessible to the masses. Attempts to make it accessible defeat the purpose of Yarvinist moldbuggery. The labyrinth winds its way to a place in a new ruling class intended to be the vanguard of the not proletariat. It’s hard to be a new ruling class when everyone else is trying to freeload off your special ruling class Mountain Dew. The more impenetrable the moldbuggery, the more exalted the Yarvinism (and, by extension, the Yarvinist).

    All of which amuses me. As I’ve said before, Yarvin should come with this helpful disclaimer branded into his forehead: FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES only.

  18. If you don’t like Moldbug, you need to read moar Moldbug.

    I recommend ‘Hubristic User Interfaces’ and ‘Almost Pure Empty Poetry’ to start.

  19. James James says:

    Oh yes, that’s a good one, especially when he grafts the end of “From Mount Athos” onto “The Tree”. “Now that is a poem.”

    Sean Gabb did something similar to Carol Ann Duffy, Britain’s high-school poet and (God help us) our Poet Laureate.

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