Monday, March 21, 2022

Conspiracy theories, spontaneous order, and the hermeneutics of suspicion


Nobody denies that conspiracies occur.  They happen every time two or more people collude in order to secure some malign end.  When people criticize “conspiracy theories,” it is a particular kind of conspiracy that they find implausible.  I’ve written several times before about some of the marks of conspiracy theories of this dubious kind.  They tend to be grounded in “narrative thinking” rather than a rigorous and dispassionate consideration of the merits and deficiencies of all alternative possible explanations.  They tend to violate Ockham’s razor, posit conspiracies that are too vast and complicated to be psychologically and sociologically feasible, and reflect naiveté about the way modern bureaucracies function.  The vastness of the posited conspiracy often has implications for the reliability of news media and other sources of information that make the theory epistemically self-defeating and unfalsifiable.  (For simplicity’s sake, from here on out I’ll use the expression “conspiracy theories” to refer, specifically, to theories having vices like these – acknowledging, again, that there are conspiracies of a more plausible kind, and thus conspiracy theories of a more plausible kind.)

A superficially similar but at bottom very different sort of theory is represented by examples of the “hermeneutics of suspicion.”  Theories of this kind posit forces which might seem analogous to the malign actors imagined by conspiracy theorists, but which ultimately operate in an impersonal manner.  Hence Marxism analyzes prevailing moral and cultural institutions as ideologies functioning to uphold dominant economic interests, Foucault regards them as expressions of power, Critical Race Theory as expressions of “white supremacy,” and so on.

Such theories share some of the flaws of conspiracy theories.  Like conspiracy theories, they rely on “narrative thinking” rather than rigorous argumentation, oversimplify complex social phenomena, and read sinister meaning into what is innocuous.  They also tend to dismiss criticism and counterarguments as merely the expression of the purported sinister forces, rather than evaluating them logically and dispassionately.  (“That’s just what the interests of [power, capital, white supremacy, etc.] want you to think!”)  Like conspiracy theories, they thereby open themselves up to the charge of being self-defeating.  If everything is “nothing but” the expression of some economic interest and can be dismissed as having no objective validity, why can’t we say the same of Marxism?  If it is merely the expression of the interests of power, what power interests does Foucault’s analysis itself serve?  If it is the expression of racism, how can Critical Race Theory itself be exempt?

All the same, instances of the “hermeneutics of suspicion” are not conspiracy theories, because they don’t attribute the phenomena they analyze to any sort of plotting or design.  The claim is not that a cabal of capitalists, racists, or other powerful interests got together in a smoke-filled room to map out how cultural and social institutions would be set up.  Rather, the malign forces such a theory posits are treated as impersonal abstractions that (somehow) nevertheless operate as if they were concrete, personal entities.  Accordingly, such theories tend to commit a fallacy of hypostatization or reification.  Where conspiracy theories attribute too much to human agency, the hermeneutics of suspicion attributes too little to it.  Abstractions like “capital,” “power,” “white supremacy,” etc. don’t exist over and above specific individuals and institutions who could intelligibly be said, whether correctly or incorrectly, to exercise power, to have economic interests, to harbor racist attitudes, or whatever.  Hence, to the extent that an analysis cannot be cashed out in terms of the motives and activities of such specific individuals and institutions, it fails to capture anything real.

Now, there is a third kind of theory which claims to explain the same sorts of phenomena as conspiracy theories and the hermeneutics of suspicion, but does not have the problems that those approaches exhibit.  Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a commonly accepted label for this approach.  Borrowing from F. A. Hayek, I’ll label them theories of “spontaneous order,” though I’m not entirely happy with the phrase.  In addition to Hayek, the best-known representatives of this sort of approach are the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson.  Smith’s “invisible hand” principle is one application, as is Hayek’s elaboration of how prices generated in the free market encapsulate scattered bits of information that would otherwise be inaccessible to economic actors.  In an earlier post, I suggested that Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s “propaganda model” of mass media, when abstracted from the specific political assumptions they bring to bear on it, counts as another application.

What analyses of this kind describe are, as Ferguson famously put it, “the results of human action but not of human design.”  Smith argues that when economic agents act in their own best interests, society in general reaps unforeseen benefits insofar as production, innovation, services, etc. are efficiently fitted to actual demand.  Hayek argues that when consumers are guided by market prices, economic information is communicated and used as effectively as possible.  Herman and Chomsky argue that the incentives built into a corporately-owned media system tend naturally to filter out information and opinions awareness of which would be contrary to the common interests of corporations and governments. 

Now, you may or may not agree with one or more of these theories of “spontaneous order.”  That’s fine.  I’m neither defending nor criticizing any of them here, but just using them as examples of a general style of analysis.  Note, however, that you don’t need to agree with the use these theorists make of these theories in order to find the theories themselves of interest.  Smith and Hayek are favorable to the market economy, and Herman and Chomsky are unfavorable to corporate media.  But that is irrelevant to the cogency (or lack thereof) of their analyses.  Someone could agree that the effects described by Smith and Hayek are real and still be unfavorable toward the free market, and someone could agree that the effects described by Herman and Chomsky are real and still favor corporate media.  It all depends on what other premises and values are factored into one’s overall political or economic view of things.

Anyway, the thing to emphasize for present purposes is that theories of “spontaneous order” are neither conspiracy theories nor instances of the hermeneutics of suspicion.  The effects described by Smith, Hayek, and Herman and Chomsky are brought about by specific human beings and specific institutions acting in clearly identifiable ways according to explicit motives.  There is no reference to reified abstractions acting in ways that only personal or other concrete entities can.  (The “invisible hand” is no exception, because Smith’s whole point is that there is no such hand.  It’s only as if there were.)  At the same time, these specific agents and institutions are not acting with the intention or design of bringing about the specific effects that Smith, Hayek, and Edward and Chomsky describe.  There is no conspiracy.  Consumers are not consciously trying to increase the efficiency with which economic information is transmitted, reporters are not consciously trying to uphold the interests of corporations, and so on.  Again, the whole point of theories of this kind is to explain how complex social patterns can be “the results of human action” and at the same timenot of human design.”

We might think of the systems posited by “spontaneous order” theorists on the model of what philosopher of science Nancy Cartwright calls “nomological machines.”  A nomological machine is a system of substances whose causal powers, when acting in tandem, generate patterns which approximate laws of nature.  For example, the solar system is a nomological machine.  What it is fundamentally made up of are objects like our sun, the various planets and asteroids, etc., all with their distinctive properties and powers.  Given that such objects are in the right sort of proximity to one another and mutually trigger the operation of their causal powers, the result is a system that more or less operates in the way described by Kepler’s laws of planetary motion.  Cartwright’s point is that laws of nature are not fundamental to physical reality.  Rather, what are fundamental to physical reality are various concrete physical substances, and their distinctive properties and causal powers.  When these substances get into the right configuration, the result is a pattern that approximates a law.  Laws are, accordingly, idealized descriptions of phenomena that are themselves derivative from something more fundamental.  Treating laws as themselves the fundamental facts about physical reality just gets the natural world badly wrong.  (See chapter 3 of my book Aristotle’s Revenge for detailed exposition and defense of this sort of view.)

The processes posited by theories of “spontaneous order” are like this.  Given a collection of individual economic actors responding to market forces, the result (the theory says) will be the patterns described by Smith and Hayek.  It’s as if these economic actors are following economic laws, but really they are not.  Any purported economic laws are really only approximations at best of complex patterns that arise when economic actors interact in certain ways under certain conditions.  Something similar can be said of the behavior of media personnel, government officials, etc. in the context described by Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model.  It’s as if they are following some law of corporate media behavior, though really they are not.

Because human beings and social phenomena are vastly more complex than (say) the solar system, the “laws” in these cases are only very remote approximations and idealizations, rather than closely conforming to what actually happens (since human beings, after all, are moved by far more than merely economic considerations, political incentives, etc.).  There are and can be no strict “laws” where human beings and social phenomena are concerned.  But the “spontaneous order” models are still useful, because they do capture real systemic features and tendencies, even if mere tendencies (rather than exceptionless patterns) is all they are. 

I would suggest that Cartwright’s account provides one way of seeing what is wrong with conspiracy theories and the hermeneutics of suspicion.  Cartwright’s neo-Aristotelian view of laws is what you might call a “bottom-up” view.  Again, what are fundamental to nature are concrete substances and their powers, and laws are derivative abstractions, and typically approximations at best.  (This is true, as Cartwright famously argues, even of laws of physics.)  The view she opposes takes a “top-down” view of laws, according to which laws are the fundamental physical reality and imposed from above on the rest of nature – whether by a divine designer, or as just a brute fact about the world.

Conspiracy theories and the hermeneutics of suspicion are, I submit, comparable to “top-down” views about laws of nature, and are especially comparable to attempts to identify strict “laws” governing economic or other social phenomena.  They both try to wedge what is really a very messy, complex social reality into a simplistic model that abstracts from how human beings and human institutions actually operate.  Conspiracy theories do so by identifying a “designer” of the patterns they claim to explain, whereas the hermeneutics of suspicion takes those patterns to be something like a brute fact about the social world rather than the product of design.  (I don’t claim that my analogy here is terribly exact, only that it is suggestive.)

The Substack writer Eugyppius has written some helpful articles (e.g. here and here) about why the manner in which governments have handled the Covid-19 situation is best understood in “spontaneous order” terms rather than in terms of conspiracy.  In particular, the stubbornly incompetent and callous nature of pandemic policy reflects the incentives, values, and information flow that prevail in modern bureaucracies, rather than centralized planning.  As Eugyppius emphasizes, this by no means entails that those responsible for making policy don’t often have bad motives.  That’s not the point.  The point is that in order effectively to counter destructive policies and corrupt and incompetent authorities, we need to understand how social institutions, including governments, actually work.  Conspiracy theories and the hermeneutics of suspicion darken our understanding – and thereby inadvertently give aid and comfort to bad policymakers whom we can effectively resist only with sobriety.

Related posts:

Chomsky’s “propaganda model” of mass media

Narrative thinking and conspiracy theories

The Gnostic heresy’s political successors

The Bizarro world of left-wing politics

The trouble with conspiracy theories

Brin on conspiracy theories

Epstein on conspiracies

We the sheeple? Why conspiracy theories persist

51 comments:

  1. Speaking of conspiracies, there are a lot of right-wing conspiracy theorists on your blog, Ed, which is a shame because you're such a brilliant philosopher.

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  2. Professor Feser, I've been saying CRT analyses have been guilty of reification/hypostatization for years, treating people, who are subjects, as objects and abstract, complex social forces, which are objects, as person-like subjects.

    I'd venture that the latter is so reified that it's become a fetish, something very much metaphysical. "White supremacy" for CRT proponents is the first principle by which all of socially constructed reality is ordered. Given their rhetoric, it seems like "white supremacy" is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omnimalevolent. Apparently, it is culpable for everything from emoticons ominously being initially that cartoonish yellow (code: white) to black males' "overrepresenation" in prisons and every other social phenomena in between. Honestly, "white supremacy" occupies the role of an archdemon or demiurge in the political theology of the social justice left.

    The point being, there seems to be something just a little idolatrous about our society's new civic religion. I'd wager one can't both be a faithful Christian and devotee of CRT or other "hermeneutics of suspicion"-inspired social justice ideologies.

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    1. CRT smells Hegelian in that individuals are construed as metaphysically inferior or secondary to "society" or some idea or whatever. It's a very strange mindset to have, but I think one that is easily acquired in public schools, the media, or entertainment. "Society" is very often tossed around as if it referred to a substantial being of which all its members are something like parts. The ominous music played during the news suggests almost some geist that determines events ("History!"). There is a kind of pedestrian emotional appeal to thinking this way that is reinforced in many ways. It's all very melodramatic.

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  3. I wonder where faith based ideas of angels, demons, Satan, and God lands in this framework? We talk about impersonal forces and personifications ... at least in the second category. Well, maybe they are collective manifestations of national identity. Makes me think of the prophets talking to Isreal as though Israel were a real person responsible for his (and often her) collective actions. God addresses the nation as a whole. He condemns what He sees as evil behaviour. For example, the worship of Moloch and human sacrifice. Sacred prostitution. The lack of care for the poor, the widowed, the orphaned, the resident alien, and so on. He treats the nations as though they have moral and personal responsibility for their collective actions.

    And demonic forces are also at play, manipulating both individuals and nations collectively into sin and evil. As do angles in the opposite direction, towards good.

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    1. Why can't God act on individuals?

      I think all of the talk about "manipulating nations" is shorthand. I don't think demons manipulate "nations" as if they were substantial rather than aggregate.

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    2. The talk of nations being responsable for their actions does sounds more simbolic on the prophets. Kinda like when some prophets denounce the abuses made by the shepherds of Israel: The shepherds are just a way of adressing the elite.

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    3. While it is very important to keep tabs on the personal responsibility (and guilt) of senior policy-makers and authorities in charge, there is, in addition, a "kind" of "corporate" responsibility (and guilt) that attaches to whole nations.

      I say "kind" with quotation marks, because it is at best analogical. If a king or president sends a nation unjustly into a war, and that nation loses, there is indeed a sort of justice that demands reparations from the whole nation, not just the king or president personally.

      The wrong actions of my president are not my personal sins, in any DIRECT sense, but they can be (for some of us) due indirectly to personal sins by many or even most of us, in three ways: (1) by our voting for him even though knowing his character (for those who voted for him); (2) by concrete sins of our own by which we commit acts that tend toward and ease the possibility of his being elected (and others like him), (e.g. - admittedly at verrrry looong range - my unjustly getting a divorce would add to the social permission of men who get divorces being electable; but far more pertinent, my being sexually promiscuous adds to the possibility of sexually promiscuous men being electable); and (3) personal sins of omission by which we neglect to do those things that we OWE to our country for the general welfare, including praying for it, verbally supporting its virtues and proper good, etc.

      It is often said that a people "gets the leaders it deserves". This is not a fixed and absolute rule, but it is an approximation or rule of thumb that harbors an important insight into the connectivity of human relations, and how our neighbors need or even deserve our good behavior.

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  4. Where does Abraham Lincoln's description of a slave state conspiracy in his "House Divided" speech land in this discussion? "Conspiracy" as defined here, or "spontaneous order"? Looks more like spontaneous order to me.

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  5. Interestingly, nothing prevents an intelligent operator to, first, recognize one or more of these "spontaneous order" systems in action, and, second, employ these systems for a specific plan with a distinct "goal" than the goal(s) of the spontaneous order systems themselves. I take it that this is, in a sense at least, what savvy politicians and their "machines" do to manipulate voter behavior: the better of such politicians using the capability to move people toward better behaviors, and vice versa. More importantly, it is, arguably, what MUCH more capable intelligences than mere humans do, or attempt to do, in their influencing humans. So, finding (correctly) that X social behavior is "really just part of a spontaneous order system" behavior doesn't preclude that it was, in addition, planned for and by design.

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  6. When you get deep enough into these distinctions, then, for practical purposes, the distinctions don't really matter. Consider, if Big Pharma is making money hand over fist selling vaccines which have not gone through the usual testing regime and for which they are fully indemnified by national governments, their boards of directors are likely to say, "hey, this is actually working out quite well for us". Ditto, if Amazon doubles its business because everybody is locked down like convicts, they're not going to complain too loud. It doesn't matter if there's a cabal of conspirators orchestrating this or not, the effect on Joe Soap is the same. Business is booming and the politicians have abrogated unprecedented power to themselves. Where's the incentive to go back?

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    1. For practical purposes, if you don't make the distinction, you end up being easily pushed in to accepting ideas like CRT and the right-wing equivalent. For those benefitting and those losing out, failure to recognize what is happening can push them to the extremes, which have their own impracticalities.

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  7. Great post. Some psychologists see a preoccupation with conspiracies as way to cope with uncertainty. So it's less scary for us to believe that there is some agent who is responsible for all the crap, than to think that stuff just happens "randomly". Once we're in that space, Daniel Kahneman's "system 1" thinking takes over and fills in the details.

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  8. It seems to me that those involved in preaching the hermeneutics of suspicion say: "it doesn't matter how evil a thing I create, e.g. a revolution a tyranny etc..., I am simply helping defeat this impersonal force". Spontaneous order preaching seems to say "it doesn't matter how cruel I am. E
    G. Not paying my employees, sending 16 year olds into no man's land; I am actually helping people in the long run"
    While conspiracy theories seem to say "it doesn't matter how much I hate, the government, doctors, the zoom elite, Nasa who says that the earth is round, sexually virtuous people. I am really just oppressed by them"

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  9. Nice Post Dr Feser! Couldn't help but notice the Spidey reference to amazing spider man 144. It's surprising to me that there hasn't been a post on the fantastic Spiderman No Way Home. I use to enjoy those occasional marvel posts. But ofcourse you may have not enjoyed the film. In that case there must be some conspiracy ;).

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  10. Though from the Christian perspective we also know there are in fact personal and intelligent dark powers operating in the world. The thing is, they are not human, but of spiritual nature (demons). Not to deny that 'spontaneous order' phenomena are real and impersonal effects of complex human interaction. But it seems to me they are a good instrument for them to transform individual errors, vices and sins into generalized corruption in the culture and laws. Especially when these spontaneous phenomena are related to culture, politics and mass media. Nevertheless, above them and us, there is the One that is Lord of History, and ultimately nothing happens outside of his Providence.

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    1. But they are still just individual actors behaving maliciously.

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    2. I agree, Oktavian, but they are still far more intelligent and powerful than any human, and they operate in a (kind of) 'hidden' manner. I think it is good we Christians don't forget they are out there, especially in our times (when belief in demons is frequently portrayed as a ridiculous medieval superstition). Still, their influence is limited by God, though when sin and error grow, so does that influence.

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  11. “It’s as if these economic actors are following economic laws, but really they are not. Any purported economic laws are really only approximations at best of complex patterns that arise when economic actors interact in certain ways under certain conditions. Something similar can be said of the behavior of media personnel, government officials, etc. in the context described by Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model. It’s as if they are following some law of corporate media behavior, though really they are not.”

    I am in agreement with the description of the three categories you address in your post. However, I think that many (superior) forms of Marxism and critical race theory also posit “spontaneous order” explanations rather than crude conspiracy or hermeneutic-of-suspicion explanations. There are plenty of incredibly stupid uses of the term “structural racism,” for example, but a lot of the academic literature is going to explain its thesis in a manner similar to the paragraph I quoted. No one is cackling and wringing his hands with a conscious desire to oppress minorities, nor are white people “secretly” or “unconsciously” moved by racism, but rather, the systems comprised of individuals acting out of a range of complex motives, in response to a variety of larger material, social, cultural, etc. factors is one which can be well-described as structurally racist. Similarly with (good versions of) Marxism. I do not fully agree with even these versions of Marxism or “critical race theory,” but I think it is a mistake to imply that those schools of thought are necessarily bound up with conspiracy- or hermeneutic-of-suspicion style thinking.

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    1. That is a good point. At least in regards to Marx, that seems to get at what the guy said.

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  12. Dr Feser,

    Can this bottom-up view of social dynamics be influenced by a fabricated top-down narrative of the invisible hand. I ask, because I agree with the natural ordering being bottom-up but the influence of say, Marxism, has had on society is quite significant. Therefore, if a top-down narrative can influence the natural outcome of a bottom-up process could this not be consciously orchestrated. (I suppose this would mean the conspiracy theory would be the narrative of the conspiracy theory itself)

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  13. Speaking of Conspiracy theories Vigano is now certifiable!!!!

    YOU HAD ONE JOB OLD MAN! And ye blew it like a Milo Yiannopoulos in an NBA locker room before he found religion again!

    God help us. With allies like this who need Pope Francis or Fr Martin? Oy vey!!!

    https://www.crisismagazine.com/2022/is-archbishop-vigano-looking-east?fbclid=IwAR0BUw-k-oEFW7IJvTdrl9P0OZrTyXA5hrb6X8NujwjEeKMx2Yjh3wqZfqA

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    1. While it seems to me Abp Vigano has misread the overall reality of the Russian invasion, the article you cite seems to misread Vigano, at least based on the evidence presented therein. The quotation from Vigano it provides makes a reference to Moscow ("Third Rome") as a purported obstacle to the Antichrist. The author then immediately interprets this as a properly ecclesial reference to the Russion Orthodox Church and its Patriarch; hence the inference Vigano is firting with Eastern Orthodoxy.

      However, this is neither a necessary nor a probable interpretation. While the Scriptural reference used by Vigano has been interpreted by some exegetes as pointing to the Church, most other exegetes have traditionally speculated it refers to a civil person or entity, e.g., the Roman Empire. Since Vigano refers in the section quoted to Moscow, not the ROC or its Patriarch, it seems more likely (given the interpretive stream abovementioned) it is a reference to the civil-cultural power-base and influence in Russia. This doesn't make Vigano's claims any more plausible, but it does partly undermine the theological critique in the article.

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    2. Thank you Father.

      This is an interesting coincidence. Just few minutes ago before I came here & saw yer post I read this over at Church Militant.

      https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/the-uncrossable-red-line

      QUOTE"Finally, with regard to my reference to the "Third Rome," I am surprised that, in the presence of an imminent danger of escalation of the conflict, Weigel criticizes me for having used (in a political sense) an argument of the Russian role as opposing party — with the aim of demonstrating readiness for dialogue with a view to peace. From what I have written, it is clear that I had no intention of giving a doctrinal basis or legitimization to a pan-Slavic or pan-Orthodox vision that, as a Roman Catholic, is not part of my cultural and religious heritage. On the contrary, it is curious that it is precisely the proponents of ecumenical dialogue who are tearing their garments over a topic that, without any exaggeration, could open the way for a return of the schismatic parts of the Eastern Church to Catholic unity."END QUOTE

      Well politics aside (& the fact I still think he goes off the deep end) I take his clarification at face value. So Vigano is not becoming a heretic and schismatic. Good that is something.

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    3. Vigano's denial was a bit like that of Moscow invading while saying at the same time, "we don't invade".

      Is saying that the "pan-Orthodox vision" is not part of "my cultural and religious heritage" the best the would-be Grand Inquisitor Vigano can do? To say such a vision is not only wrong but inherently anti-Catholic is the least he could do to make up for the confusion he is sowing. The expressions Third Rome and Katechon are not terms that have to do with secular things; they're essentially religious and, as employed here by Vigano, false! The use of either of these terms in a civil context would only compound the religious error.

      Vigano has not appeared in public for five years. The fact that he allows his name to be put to all these screeds written by blogger Pietro Siffi (whose professional work consists partly as MC for those sorts of "weddings") is appalling. Vigano should appear in public and answer questions about "his" pronouncements, but he won't, because he can't.

      Moscow already counts four religions (Islam, Orthodoxy, Buddhism and Judaism) as official in the Russian Federation. If Catholics accept their place as a "traditional" folk religion without pretensions to dogma or truth, they too can take their place in the Eurasian pantheon of "traditional religions" promoted by Moscow. If not...

      Western liberalism and Moscow neo-paganism and Eurasianism are as bad as each other. Catholics should start working out their true geopolitical references again, and not allow themselves to be forced into either camp, for they are both anti-Catholic.

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  14. Ed,

    Every time you write a new post about this kind of topic the more I come to realize how intelligent you are - despite the fact that's somehow already evident in your books.

    In this post but most especially the last one about Chomsky, it's evident how you are the kind of person that analyzes arguments - independent of the ideologies of our adversaries. And that's what makes the difference between you and other people.

    If I may say, you sometimes look like Aristotle analyzing other philosopher's arguments - always careful and rigorous.

    Thank you for this. You're truly an example for young folks like me.

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    1. Indeed, extremely intelligent our Profesor is :)

      Ari has gotten his due revenge.

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  15. 3 local interaction rules can model flock behavior elegantly https://www.complexity-explorables.org/explorables/flockn-roll/ I think this is what you're going for?

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  16. Of the three kinds of sin; ignorance, weakness and malice: spontaneous order and the hermeneutics of suspicion are explained by the first two.

    Actual conspiracies are the result of malice. The worst evils tend to be conspiratorial, and conspiracy tends to make any evil worse because that is how evil becomes organized.

    It's like the 80/20 rule ("law"): 80% of the (deliberate) evil is the result of the 20% of the evil doers that are conspiring.

    Unlike ignorance and weakness, you cannot immunize yourself against the effects of malice; and the conspiracies it entails.

    The evil conspiracies have to be actively fought by a council of the just; who must often begin with the hermeneutics of suspicion to rule out mundane causes like spontaneous order, ignorance and weakness.

    The world is awash in evil like we have never seen; except perhaps in biblical eras immediately proceeding the awful Wrath of God. It's never been more pertinent to consider conspiracy theories as we approach the culmination of this, the penultimate tribulation of the apocalypse. This is the ultimate age of conspiracy now, because the Antichrist will openly declare himself to be God rather than bother with conspiracy.

    "Come, let us invent devices against the just, for the Law will not depart from the priest, nor council from the wise, nor the Word from the prophet. Let us lash them with the tongue, and declare all the words of God false."

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  17. Laudator Temporis ActiMarch 23, 2022 at 3:14 AM

    I think the Second Vatican Council was either a conspiracy against the Church or the culmination of a conspiracy against the Church. Oh, and St Paul appears to have been a conspiracy theorist:

    For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. -- Ephesians 6:12

    As for the conspiracy laid out in the Gospel of John, I think we need a new translation. For example:

    After these things Jeezus walked in Wakanda: for he would not walk in America, because white supremacists sought to kill him. -- Jeehanavius 7:1

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  18. Right now, it appears that a lot of second-order effects are being deliberately ignored and the solution is always more leftism.

    For example, Russia and much of Eastern Europe acts as a breadbasket for African nations. Thus, if that region of the world is hurt by armed conflict, it will result in widespread famines in Africa. These famines will then be blamed on climate change, and activists will advocate for bringing "climate refugees" to America and Western Europe. There's also potential semiconductor crisis - two companies in Ukraine manufacture roughly half the world's semiconductor-grade neon. If Ukraine suffers, then we our industries for cars, cameras, computers, and other electronic equipment will suffer.

    And while your material conditions continue to deteriorate, the CBDCs are being discussed more open while mainstream media articles tell you to eat lentils and bugs instead of meat. And if the people wise up? Blame Russia! Blame right-wingers! Blame the fact that we don't have a one world government yet! All of this is painfully predictable.

    If this is "the product of human action, but not the product of human design," I'd like to know how.

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    1. According to a quick look, Russia exported about $5B to Africa of food and agricultural materials - roughly equal to what the US exported. Arguably, the US can make up for some of the differential, but (a) probably not all, and (b) probably with supply chain and time lag issues. Ukraine's exports are probably even larger, but I couldn't find the comparable $ amounts.

      It is difficult to see how the leaders of Russia and Ukraine - the two most critical decision-makers involved - could have intended to produce a food shortage in food-importing countries, (or a semicondictor shortage) since those shortages will cause the importers to turn to other nations and create supply chains that otherwise would not exist, leaving both Russia and Ukraine with less control of markets after the war. At least, that's one possible outcome. Certainly Putin might have had designs like pushing for CBDCs, but (at least in the short term) it looks like Russia is the least likely to be able to make that work and benefit from it, globally. Maybe he just wanted to cement psychological and political control over Russia and didn't care about these little details, but if the effect of the war is to leave Russia poorer and even more challenged by the emerging world leaders, its hard to see that as an attractive goal for Putin.

      I am not saying some of the behind-the-scenes intent by world decision-makers could not ALSO be involved, but it's hard to see clear pathways for how specific decisions were made that make sense from those angles.

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    2. What I was referring to is the fact that this conflict was completely avoidable and its potential consequences are predictable. If someone anonymous Internet user can predict these outcomes, the people with power and money can too.

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    3. Maybe he just wanted to cement psychological and political control over Russia and didn't care about these little details,

      My guess is that he didn't expect the West to impose (as severe) sanctions, because they'd lead to the consequences Mister Geocon mentions.

      -- The original Mr. X

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  19. Does this all mean that Hari Seldon's psychohistory could be never be true?!

    And is predictive power the measure here? For instance, if a conspiracy theorist correctly predicts (as a matter of course) what a particular bureaucracy will do, how important is it that it's human action rather than human design that is operative?

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    1. No predictive power is not the differentiator between conspiracy and spontaneous order. Rather, it is inherent probability of the hypothesis. Since spontaneous order theories stem from observations about human nature, they are very likely to occur in and of themselves. Mass conspiracies are, on the other hand, very difficult to pull off.

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  20. Dear Ed and Readers

    Jon Garvey, a high-church Anglican and retired physician, psychologist and theologian has an excellent blog, "The Hump of the Camel", in which he goes into depth on a number of these so-called conspiracies with a deft and solid understanding of the workings of the "ruler of the powers and principalities" behind much that passes for political intrigue. I've found his blog and his books most excellent, enlightening and brilliantly written.

    L

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  21. A post with a lot of substance, Profesor :) Thank you for another intellectual treat.

    The atheistic materialist CRT proponent faces two serious problems:

    First: he is an idiot and he deserves to be laughed at.

    Second: for his "theory" to work, he has to rely on universals, in this case that of race. There is a real category ("race"), which is instantiated by concrete individuals (humans in this case). It has to be real and objective for his "theory" to work, because if "race" is a subjective category "imposed" by the human mind, then each individual has the right to claim his own concept of "race", as each individual has the right to claim her/his own concept of "beauty". Therefore, for his lame theory to work, race can NOT "be in the eye of the beholder" so to speak.

    Now, if the universal ("race") HAS to exist as extramental/real (and for the CRT proponent it has to exist as extramental/real as explained above), the universal can not be material, because something material can not be in several places at the same time, and "race" is right now in several places at the same time (black "race" exists now in all parts of the planet where black people exist and white "race" exists now in all parts of the planet where white people exist). The important part here is to note that it is in several places at the same time.

    Then, as demonstrated, an ugly contradiction arises for the atheistic materialist who is a proponent of CRT and it bites his rear end: for "race" to exist (and his lame theory to work), it has to be immaterial (universal), which contradicts his starting metaphysical point that everything that is, is matter.

    So, the nice and delightful conclusion is that no atheistic materialist can coherently support CRT. If he does so, he is violating his own materialistic "logic" and refuting himself (which is exquisitely ironic because the atheistic materialist is very proud of his "reason" and "impeccable logic" that have led him to conclude that "God does not exist").

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  22. (Part II)

    What goes for CRT ("racism"), goes for any other -ism: feminism, veganism*, "transgenderism" and, of course, atheism itself.

    An atheistic materialist can NOT coherently support any of those positions, because all those positions rely on universals (immaterial) and then he is forced to acknowledge that his materialism is false (so now he looks like a fool, which is what he is so no surprises here).

    *Veganism is the most interesting case of all, because the vegan claims that "speciesism" exists: the human species (exists) and "exploits" the rest of animal species (that also exist). But according to the atheistic materialist, Mr. Darwin abolished the concept of species when he developed his fanciful theory. So, according to an atheistic materialist who is a vegan (a logical contradiction), "speciesism" both exists and does not exist at the same time (another logical contradiction), because species can not be real for his materialism to work but at the same time they have to be real for his veganism to work.

    And it's no wonder that he is caught in such blatant and laughable contradictions, because that is exactly the problem that Mr. Darwin had to face when he developed his fanciful theory. Mr. Darwin had to abolish the concept of fixed species to allow for his universal transformism to work, which means that he said that species do not exist as real extramental entities (they are just human mental concepts) but, at the same time, he wrote a book named On the Origin of Species, which is then a book who "explains" the origin of something that according to he himself does not exist. A book who "explains" the origin of an inexistent entity is a massive waste of time.

    And that is what happens when you are a sloppy thinker that goes the nominalist route. Sloppiness breads sloppiness, because that's its nature.

    We theists have to be grateful to the SJW brigade, because all their -isms ("racism", "feminism", "transgenderism", "veganism", etc) only reinforce essentialism. And essentialism is the route to form . And form is the route to God. So thank you for your sloppiness, atheists.

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    1. "A book who "explains" the origin of an inexistent entity is a massive waste of time."

      Which is why nobody reads it and it is definitely not taught in school. It's like actually reading Einstein's papers and trying not to laugh at him for thinking a mechanical clock ticking in the 1910's was literally time itself - a moronic mistake he made his entire, pathetic life.

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    2. "An atheistic materialist can NOT coherently support any of those positions, because all those positions rely on universals (immaterial) and then he is forced to acknowledge that his materialism is false (so now he looks like a fool, which is what he is so no surprises here)."

      Is not "matter" itself a universal?

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  23. (First two minor corrections: I meant "a book which explains" and not "who* explains" and  "sloppiness breeds sloppines" and not "breads* sloppines").

    @Timocrates:

    Which is why nobody reads it and it is definitely not taught in school.

    And sadly, its content (On the Origin of Species) which is a poor mix of science/philosophy and theology is the tool that materialists have so successfully employed to advance their nocive philosophy and that has caused so much damage to Christian faith (in fact it's not only the Christian faith the one that has been severely damaged, because muslim countries are also being secularized with the "evolutionist" tool).

    As Fr. Chaberek states, Darwin overstepped his boundaries and abandoned science to enter the domain of theology. His theory of evolution (scientific), could only be allowed to explain *how things (that already exist) undergo change. Trying to transform it into an account of origins (*from where?) was the mistake of a poor thinker.

    There are two layers in the Theory of Evolution:

    1. The first is factual and concerned with the homology/disanalogy between different species (e.g. the similitude among the limbs of vertebrates and the different shape of the beaks of the famous Galapagos finches) and with the idea that there is some kind of selection in nature which adapts organisms to their environment.

    2. The second one is speculative, regarding the concepts of "common descent" and "transformation" of one species into another. Here is where Mr. Darwin went wrong, mixing science with poor philosophy and bad theology, letting his imagination wander and trying to prove an alternative genesis of life which could dispatch with the idea of God.

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  24. (Part II):

    And now we are reaping the "benefits" of Darwin and his disciples' alternative genesis: massive abandonment and ridicule of the Christian faith (and other faiths like the muslim one as mentioned above). We Christians (and by extension any other theist) are "stupid", "gullible" and "obsolete". People no longer need God as an explanation of origins because they have found a sufficient reason for our origin in the Darwinian tale (so cunningly self-appropriated by the materialist brigade). Absolute idiots like Dawkins say they are "intellectually fulfilled" (?) and are praised as "great thinkers" (lol). There are no "species" and no "essences" (e.g. "everything is in flux" and a man "can identify as a woman and viceversa") and yet, ironically, people fervently cling to essentialist thinking ("feminism" and its "feminine" essence, "racism" and its "racial" essence, "homosexuality" and its "sexual" essence, "veganism" and its "speciesist" essence, etc).

    The world has gone mad, and yet there is a cure for all that madness: the sane and both ontologically and epistemologically realist philosophy of hylemorphism.

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  25. @Tadeo:

    Is not "matter" itself a universal?

    Ironically, it IS the most universal of universals, because the materialist equates "matter" to "Being Itself" (a.k.a. God). Matter has, for the materialist "aseity" (it's not created, it's self-subsistent and it's eternal). And, of course, it exists everywhere at the same time.

    But the materialist, as stated, is a sloppy thinker who does not even understand his own self-defeat and his lame paradoxes (although he has fallen in love with himself as it happened to Narcissus). The materialist says "God does not exist" and yet he finally ends up equating "matter" to "God" (which only re-affirms God's existence, albeit in an impoverished and botched up manner).

    So the materialist loses, and the theist crosses the final line with a triumphant smile on his lips :)

    The final humilliation for the materialist is getting to acknowledge that "matter" is, in the end, "immaterial" (a universal).

    Good riddance, "materialists".

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  26. The last comment was directed at Talmid (and not Tadeo). Sorry.

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    1. I was a bit confused by that.

      And you are right! While the average materialist do not put moral properties on matter*, matter IS a universal, so they don't really have a right to it.

      Berkeley, empiricist that he was, did push a similar point: there is no perception that can be associated with matter especifically, no parti ular that can represent it, so if the materialist is not a fan of universals his beloved Matter has to go too. What a view!


      *so his view is closer to Schopenhauer that to theism

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    2. @Talmid:

      And you are right! While the average materialist do not put moral properties on matter*, matter IS a universal, so they don't really have a right to it.

      They exempt matter from "moral properties" unless that matter is enclosed inside a human skull. Then they call it a "brain" and magically it becomes "moral".

      This is another one of the multitude of blatant idiocies that materialists have forced upon us. A bunch of useless pagans that believe in "magic" and are proud of it.

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  27. This is an insightful distinction. Though I will confess that it's more fun and catchy to refer to a wokester who believes in systemic racism as a 'conspiracy theorist' than as a 'hermeneutician of suspicion'. So I'm a bit sorry I'm going to have to give that practice up.

    One paradoxical thing about conspiracy theorists is that they rely on a simplistic model, but then require a great host of complexities, triple-bank shots, 4D chess, etc., to wedge all the facts into their simplistic model.

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  28. Wonderful piece, Ed. Thank you so much

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