Saturday, March 18, 2023

How to define “wokeness”

A common talking point among the woke is the claim that “woke” is just a term of abuse that has no clear meaning.  Whether many of them really believe this or are just obfuscating is not clear, but in any event it isn’t true.  I would suggest that what critics of wokeness have in mind is pretty obviously captured in the following definition: Wokeness is a paranoid delusional hyper-egalitarian mindset that tends to see oppression and injustice where they do not exist or greatly to exaggerate them where they do exist.

Examples would be: Characterizing as racist “microaggressions” behaviors that in fact are either perfectly innocuous or at worst just ordinary rudeness; condemning some economic outcome as a racist “inequity” despite there being no empirical evidence whatsoever that it is due to racism; condemning as “transphobic” recognition of the commonsense and scientific fact that sex is binary; condemning as “racist” the view that public policy should be color-blind and that racial discrimination is wrong whatever the race of the persons being discriminated against; condemning as “antigay” the view that it is not appropriate for grade schools to address matters of sexuality in the classroom without parental consent; and so on.

If you’re thinking “Wait, what’s wrong with any of that?,” you’re probably woke and should seek help, because these are deeply irrational attitudes.  My book All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory explains what is wrong with much that presents itself as “antiracist” but is in fact nothing of the kind.  (You will find much of the book useful even if you are not Catholic, because the argumentation is largely of a philosophical and social scientific nature rather than a theological nature.)

By characterizing wokeness as paranoid and delusional I am not flinging terms of abuse, but describing real psychological features of the woke attitude.  In their book The Coddling of the American Mind (which I say a bit about in my own book), Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt note that the frame of mind encouraged by woke ideas (Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory, “Social Justice Warrior” rhetoric and the like) is very similar to a mindset that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy identifies as a major cause of psychological disorders. 

Features of this mindset include emotional reasoning, or letting our feelings determine how we interpret reality rather than letting reality determine whether our feelings are the appropriate ones; catastrophizing, or focusing obsessively on the imagined worst possible outcome rather than on what the evidence shows are more likely outcomes; overgeneralizing, or jumping to sweeping conclusions on the basis of one or a few incidents; dichotomous thinking, or seeing things in either-or terms when a more sober analysis would reveal more possibilities; mind reading, or jumping to conclusions about what other people are thinking; labeling, or slapping a simplistic description on some person or phenomenon that papers over its complexity; negative filtering and discounting positives, or looking only for confirming evidence for some pessimistic assumption while denying or downplaying confirming evidence that things are not in fact so bad; and blaming, or focusing on others as the sources of one’s negative feelings rather than taking responsibility for them oneself.

Obviously, the more thoroughly one is prone to these habits of thought, the more likely one is to see the world in excessively negative terms and to be miserable as a result.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy thus aims to help patients identify these bad mental habits and to counteract them.  But “wokeness” positively encourages all of these cognitive distortions.  For example, it teaches emotional reasoning insofar as it pits personal “narratives” of oppression against the ideals of rationality and objectivity, and insofar as it makes the subjective reactions of offended people the measure of whether they are victims of “microaggressions.”  It encourages blaming by treating accusations about microaggressions and other grievances as if they can never reasonably be regarded as stemming from oversensitivity or paranoia on the part of the person offended.  It indulges in negative filtering and discounting positives insofar as it arbitrarily defines terms like “racism,” “sexism,” “transphobia,” “homophobia,” and the like so broadly that anything can be made to count as racist, sexist, transphobic, or homophobic, even what would historically have been regarded as paradigmatically egalitarian policies (such as color-blind or race-neutral policies, and opposition to all racial discrimination).  In the same way, it engages in labeling, by ignoring all the complex causes of disparities and the different motives behind various actions and policies, and simply slapping descriptions like “racist,” “sexist,” etc. on them.  It promotes dichotomous thinking insofar as it insists that one either agrees with woke ideas or ought to be dismissed as “racist,” “transphobic,” etc.  It exhibits catastrophizing in that it insists that anything short of implementing the most extreme of woke policy recommendations will leave us with an unjust society that has made little if any real progress.  It encourages mind reading by imputing “racism,” “bigotry,” “hate,” “implicit bias,” “white fragility,” and other such attitudes to all critics, even in the absence of any objective evidence for these attributions.  It overgeneralizes by treating any particular case of a real or perceived injustice as if it amounted to confirmation of the entire woke worldview.

In short, woke ideas positively encourage paranoid habits of mind which are analogous to those exhibited by people suffering from depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders.  Looking at the world through woke lenses leads one to see oppression and injustice even where they do not exist, to feel strongly aggrieved at this imagined oppression and injustice, and then to treat the narrative of grievance that results as if it were confirming evidence of the reality of the imagined oppression and injustice. 

The psychological factors underlying wokeness account for two characteristics of the woke that are very familiar to anyone who has ever dealt with them, but might seem incongruous.  On the one hand, wokesters are extremely confident of their view of the world, thinking it so obviously correct that they cannot understand how anyone could possibly disagree with it.  Yet at the same time, they seem almost constitutionally incapable of calm and rational engagement with critics.  They invariably attack the critic rather than the claims and arguments the critic raises.  Imagine a person suffering from the paranoid delusion that everyone is out to get him.  Because he massively over-interprets other people’s behavior – reading malign motivations into the most innocuous remarks and actions – he thinks that the evidence that everyone is out to get him is overwhelming, even though in fact it is extremely slight at best.  But at the same time, precisely for that reason, he finds it impossible calmly and rationally to discuss the matter with anyone who disagrees with him.  “It’s so obvious!  If you can’t see it, you must be crazy!  In fact, you must be part of the conspiracy too!”  You might say that that such a paranoid delusional person thinks he’s become “woke” to the reality that everyone is out to get him, when in fact he’s lost in fantasy.  Think of Russell Crowe’s portrayal of John Nash in the movie A Beautiful Mind – seeing plots and conspirators everywhere, including even places where literally no one exists.

The difference between wokeness and other forms of delusional paranoia is that the wokester’s delusions and paranoia reflect what I referred to above as a hyper-egalitarian view of the world.  Notice that I am not saying that all forms of egalitarianism are bad.  On the contrary, as I argue in All One in Christ, because human beings of all races have the same nature, they have the same basic rights and dignity.  Hence it would, for example, be unjust for a government to protect the lives, liberties, and property rights of citizens of one race while not doing the same for citizens of other races.  This would be a clear case of an unjust inequity.

What I am calling hyper-egalitarian is the tendency to suspect all inequalities of being per se unjust – for example, to suppose that if 10% of the population of a country is of a certain race yet less than 10% of the stockbrokers in that country are of that race, this amounts to a “racist” inequity that cannot be given an innocent explanation and must somehow be eliminated by governmental policy.  (Think of Ibram X. Kendi’s famous remark: “When I see racial disparities, I see racism.”)  Again, imagine Russell Crowe’s performance in A Beautiful Mind, but suppose that instead of seeing hidden messages, Soviet plots, and fellow spies everywhere, he saw racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. everywhere and divided the world into the “bigots” who aimed to uphold this system of “intersectional” “oppression,” and the “allies” working together with him to subvert it.  The delusion seems frighteningly real, but in fact is held in place by circular reasoning and ad hominem attacks on anyone who tries to convince him otherwise.

To be sure, I am not saying that all wokesters are as insane as the Russell Crowe character.  Nor are all wokesters even as shrill as the stereotypical online Social Justice Warrior or Twitter mob.  Like other forms of delusional paranoia, wokeness comes in degrees.  But if you think that views like Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory, etc. are so obviously correct that no decent and well-informed person could possibly object to them, and find it at least difficult calmly and rationally to engage with anyone who thinks otherwise, you are woke.  And precisely because you find it difficult calmly and rationally to entertain the possibility that you are wrong, your attitude is paradigmatically irrational. 

Further reading:

Countering disinformation about Critical Race Theory

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion”: Good, bad, or indifferent?

The Gnostic heresy’s political successors

Woke Ideology Is a Psychological Disorder

All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory


  1. Good article. The only thing I might add is that just as the woke sees or exaggerate injustice where it does not exist or barely exists, their solution to these perceived problems of repressive tolerance, or discrimination against those they view as oppressors, instead of treating the actual causes and problems that led to the disparities, tends to create new injustice where it previously did not exist.

  2. I don't think CBT is a successful program for reteaching the mind to think logically. What alternatives do you gents recommend for gaining logical thinking?

    1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy practiced by clinical psychologists for the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and other kinds of mental illness.

    2. @Anonymous

      "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by uncharitable people." - Dr. Sigmund Freud (apocryphal)

  3. I can't help but feeling like Dr. Feser is missing the mark a bitch here. I don't think anything he said is *wrong* per se, but the way it seems to me, the defining characteristic of wokeness isn't merely the viewpoint that Dr. Feser presented in his definition, but the insistence that every aspect of society be oriented towards correcting those perceived injustices.

    Maybe that's intended to be covered in the "hyperfixation" part, but I think it bears pointing out that we really started caring about things being woke when we started to see areas of society that did not normally take an explicit stand on social issues (sports leagues, video game companies, etc) start to emphasize such perceived social injustices that were entirely unrelated to their particular domains and often at odds with the majority views of their audience demographics.

    IMO, this is by far the worst effect of wokeness because it robs society of opportunities to bond over non-political topics. When political causes permeate every facet of society, you never have an opportunity to connect with a person that you disagree with politically. Low stakes things like sports or other entertainment ought to be avenues that allow you to build bridges with the people who don't see eye to eye with you on politics, but you can't have that when politics dominate all those areas as well. You literally never get opportunities to view those with whom you disagree politically as anything other than your enemies, and that's really toxic to political discourse.

    1. Ha, I think you meant to type "a bit here"! ;)

    2. Oof. Yeah. Definitely an unfortunate typo lol

    3. Anon,
      Freudian slip? Were you feeling like coming here to bit for awhile? Or perhaps it crossed your mind that the OP was just

      Woke used to be a good word and a good thing to aspire to. But, the pendulum has swung too far, as pendulums sometimes do. The revolutionaries have become reflections of the the very constructs they sought to overturn, as revolutionaries sometimes do.

      It seems clear that a great many people on my side of aisle don't know how to take yes for an answer, and lacking the genuine social injustices of the prior generation to fight, seem to have convinced themselves of largely imaginary injustices to fight.

      In my generation racism was legal, I mean, racial minorities could be and were excluded and very seriously oppressed in very real ways, and if you did not understand that at that time you needed to wake up to reality.

      Women, homosexuals, and others were similarly subjected to routine and very serious bigotry and even assault that went unbelieved or simply uncared about, and if you did not understand how wrong that was you were a complete ass who we all needed to wake up, fast, like, right now.

      But then, people did start to wake up, laws were changed, and slowly, attitudes changed.

      Our nation got woke up, in no small part because a somewhat rag tag movement of social revolutionaries were screaming at them to wake up, wake up to the injustices that were deeply embedded against everybody not a white male in the USA.

      Woke used to be a good word.

      But, it's not all bad on my side of the aisle, Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other so-called New Atheists are (or were) very much opposed to the New Woke excesses. That is because we strongly convinced atheists are first and foremost rationalists, and for reasons generally well described in the OP, the current New Woke is largely irrational.

      OBTW, we can all welcome Joy Baher to the pushback, in her case against leftist book banning, which infantilizes as opposed to educates our children.

      If it took a Nixon to go to China perhaps it takes a Joy Baher to call out the left on the banning of classics.

      Sometimes I just want to grab somebody by the shoulders and say "hey, kids, the war is over, we won, just go home and enjoy the victory, it was for everybody, both sides won".

      But then I realize, all is not yet won, there is still religion :-)

    4. @ StardustyPsyche,

      "Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali"

      At least these ultra leftists have names, unlike you. Trashing people, like Christopher Hitchens' intellectually light weight and dishonest attempt to "cancel" Mother Teresa of Calcutta in your war on "religion" is good stuff? How about your own superstition?

      "we strongly convinced atheists are first and foremost rationalists"

      Atheism is not rational unless circular thinking is rational, which it is not. Atheism like yours can be logical (a computer operating over internal, correct, logic operations can be nevertheless caught in an endless loop) but it is not rational. It has been correctly described as "The Last Superstition".


      Tom Cohoe

    5. @StardustPsyche

      From previous “not-even-an-armchair-philosopher”.

      Woke was a self-aggrandizing term, once largely used by secular humanists, to refer to themselves, similar to the way atheists use terms like “freethinker” or “rationalists”. And for the record, the ideas the woke have been peddling really haven’t changed at all since then. They’ve just become mainstream. But because the ideas are so bad and so visible and so extremely easy to ridicule, they’ve realized their only recourse is to turn the moniker they created and which is now haunting them into some sort of vague slight concocted by their tormentors.

      But this is sort of par for the course for “your side”, if you want to call it that. As is establishing “your side” as one who has always fought on the right side of everything. As is deciding, without even a hint of sarcasm or self-awareness, that “your side” has the market cornered on rationality (or would have, if not for the “New Woke” who came along and ruined it all). As is “your side” decrying racism at the same time as asserting how deeply embedded injustices preclude and are the fruits of all white men. These and many of the other behaviors “your side” exhibits are not those of rational actors. Are you aware of the symptoms of NPD?

      One of the biggest issues I attribute to the woke is that they clearly think everyone who disagrees with them necessarily and diametrically opposes the causes they believe in. But “my side’s” problem with the woke isn’t with their causes per se: it’s with their absurd, narcissistic trust in their own intellects, despite proving time and time again how utterly incapable they are at interpreting data/history, diagnosing root causes, and solving the world’s problems. It’s with them cloaking their first-world angst or “western privilege” in false virtue. It’s with their dishonesty. And, it’s especially with their sophomoric, intentional ignoring or amplifying of whatever case or cause célèbre gives them them the freedom to continue to be angry at or even hate specific persons or groups of people, namely God and the religious.

      I should be loath to offer advice on how to be a more convincing atheist, but I’m not. (E.g., using occasional self-deprecation builds trust; and asking probing questions is far more efficient and often more effective at sowing doubt in your audience than attempting to build your case.) And the reason I’m not is because you don’t pose any danger of helping gain a victory over religion. About the best you can hope to achieve is a face made at an uncharitable or off-target response to one of your insipid comments.

    6. Terrier Stricken,
      "using occasional self-deprecation builds trust; and asking probing questions"
      Sorry, I missed where you followed your own advice.

      Care to start over in the manner you advised me to follow?

    7. @ StardustyPsyche,

      "Sorry, I missed where you followed your own advice.

      Care to start over in the manner you advised me to follow?"

      He mocks your method, whereby you seem to think your chilling and irrational attack on Christianity can be made "friendly" by following your threat with a smiley.


      Tom Cohoe

  4. Good analysis, as always, although I think this is incomplete.

    For instance, I agree with some woke points, and disagree with others. Those I agree with, in particular the scientific basis for the acceptance of the reality of transexuality, and some aspects of intersectionality, I discuss rationally with no issues. In fact, I wouldn't even know what it is like to be emotional about such topics, it just isn't in my nature. As such, I'm not woke according this post's definition of wokeness.

    On the flip side, my aligning with the woke crowd on those two topics and, more generally, with many aspects of 3rd-wave feminism, even if it doesn't qualify as woke behavior proper (I suppose this blog's reader would simply view me as being confused and/or in error), still in some measures "clusters" me closer to the woke crowd than to, say, the mainstream progressive one, and evidently quite far away from the conservative camp.

    I wonder what would be a proper term to designate this position, of being unemotionally, only rationally, aligned adjacently to the woke camp as defined here? Any suggestions?

    1. @Alexander, “scientific basis” does not translate into “acceptance.” There might be a scientific basis for theft, but that doesn't mean we should accept or approve of it. And even if we accept it, there's a world of difference between that and your vanilla cross-dresser who wants access to women's restrooms and locker rooms for free looks. Why should the overwhelming number of genuine women have their privacy rights violated for every pervert who's considered a woman on the mere claim that he is one?

    2. Without a fuller understanding of which aspects of intersectionality and 3rd wave feminism you align yourself with it would be hard to say. One possible label for your camp is "progressive" (as the term is currently used).

      Which aspects of third wave feminism and intersectionality do you align yourself with?

    3. @Anonymous: I see 3rd wave feminism as a course correction on 2nd wave.

      2nd wave feminism was (is) heavily inspired on Marx's attempt to completely deny the natural basis of gender differences, under the notion gender roles are pure social constructs devoid of any basis on material reality, and therefore a form of oppression of men over women.

      3rd wave feminism rejects that denial of natural gender differences. For 3rd wavers, gender differences are real, and grounded on biology. The major difference from how conservatives understand those differences and grounding are on the depth of the knowledge involved.

      Conservatives ground their understanding on 3 key areas:

      a) The obvious, visible morphological differences between male and female bodies, reproductive abilities, organs present or absent from bodies etc.;

      b) Basic genetic models of sexuality, basically the X/Y chromosomal distinction, as discovered in 1905;

      c) And, for religious conservatives in particular, certain assumptions on the nature and operation of supernatural aspects of human beings.

      3rd wave feminism takes into account much more recent studies on the differences between genders, in particular morphological differences in brain connectomes marking brains as male-shaped or female-shaped, and how these brain shapes sometimes are mismatched with their corresponding body morphologies, leading to literal, physical cases of female-shaped brains, with female cognitive operations and female body mappings (motor and sensory cortical homunculus) in male bodies, and the other way around, male-shaped brain in female bodies, plus the resulting psychological mismatch that results from these mismatched body shapes.

      This course correction taking recent biological discoveries, as well as acceptance of inherent gender differences, is what led 3rd wave feminism to become accepting of transsexuality, contrary to 2nd wave feminism, which saw (sees) transsexuals as enemies, their very presumed existence a denial of 2nd wave's incorrect belief on the reality of inherent biological gender differences.

      This also leads to another point of 3rd wave feminism I agree with, which is the belief there are indeed biological-grounded differences in social roles between male-brained and female-brained individuals. However, these cannot be properly known without first making sure the baseline political and economic conditions are such that those natural differences may show themselves as such, rather than being confused with those that exist due to education and life conditions inducing more differences than those (aka, first nature gender differences as distinct from second nature gender differences).

      (And, on the point of the spiritual interpretation of such aspects, those can be made fit with different assumptions about the supernatural aspects of human beings.)

      That, in a nutshell, are my agreements with 3rd wave feminism. My disagreements stem from its reliance on Postmodernist modes of thinking, with which I disagree, as I don't see Postmodernism as conducive to any constructive work, being, as it is, purely destructive.

      In regards to intersectionality, I see it in terms of a distinction I personally make between someone pointing the existence of a problem, and that same someone suggesting solutions for those problems. That is to say, I see the problems intersectionalists notice and describe as reflective of something real, even if not literally as they themselves describe and frame such problems, and even if I don't think the solutions they propose to make sense.

      This attitude I apply to everything, mind. When conservatives point problems they perceive in something, my attitude is also to consider these problems real, even if not literally as expressed and framed by conservatives.

    4. @Anonymous: (continuing)

      In my ideal world, all sides would sit down, present the problems they perceive, be taken seriously by all other sides, and everyone would try and find an arrangement of social institutions that tried to minimize the total quantity of problems, rather than regarding only their own perceived problems as real, and the problems others perceive as non-existent.

    5. @Bill: Complementing my reply to Anonymous above (or below, Blogger is sometimes a little confusing), I'd say your worry is a valid one, taken in abstract. In practice there have been studies on the risks involved, and while they aren't non-zero, they're small compared to the risks male-to-female transsexual individuals have of being physically harmed when using male restrooms. In a well-adjusted society the decision on which way to go in this specific matter would take both metrics and define a policy designed to minimize the total harm done to all the involved.

      That said, my own preference would be for a policy of requiring three restrooms: a male-only, a female-only, and a single occupant one for others. This may be somewhat burdensome to property owners, but it isn't that much different from when, for example, single-sex schools were turned into mixed-sex ones, requiring similar adaptations to their facilities.

      Either way, I think this is a very small problem that doesn't deserve even a fraction of the attention it receives in the media. The impression I have is that politicians from both sides like to keep this on the spotlight because it serves as an easy distraction from actually relevant matters. People keep heatedly discussing this, and neglect to focus on everything else that's much more important.

    6. PS: I noticed two typos in my replies above. I guess my meaning is clear in context, but here are the two corrections:

      a) "2nd wave's incorrect belief" to "2nd wave's incorrect disbelief";

      b) "while they aren't non-zero" to "while they are non-zero".

    7. @Alexander, thanks for your reply. I never raised any concern about violence. I specifically mentioned privacy, which used to be a hallmark of liberalism. Although the threat of violence is a concern, please recall that separate restrooms were created to protect privacy rights, not to oppress women. The solution is not to violate the privacy rights of the vast majority of biological females by granting any Tom, Dick, or Harry access to personal spaces just because they identify as female. And contrary to your dismissal, this is a valid concern across the country.

      For those with medically diagnosed biological abnormalities, they can get a doctor's certificate and be “accepted” accordingly. The answer isn't to claim to be whatever you want so you can go wherever you want. For as long as they've existed, men have been trying to get into areas reserved for women. From hidden cameras, two-way mirrors, cross-dressing and drilling holes in walls, even crawling into wide enough duct spaces, some fellas will do anything for a peek. And now, we have this insane policy that allows those same men to waltz openly into places with a waive of their “I'm a female” badge. Or, they can hang out in all-gender locker rooms and restrooms to get their jollies. All this for a handful of abnormalities? I think not.

    8. @Alexander Gieg, thanks for the lengthy and well-explained reply. I would think that "progressive" or "woke-adjacent" (as you suggested in your OP) would be the best label for your camp. Or, better yet, avoid camps altogether; you seem to be an independent thinker.

    9. @Bill: Ah, understood. Yes, I agree that the most appropriate way is having a doctor diagnostic in hands. Merely saying one is this or that shouldn't be enough, for the reasons you delineate.

      I'd add a minor caveat. A full gender dysphoria diagnostic allowing the person to obtain a gender reassignment surgery requires, as far as I remember, living as the opposite gender for a full year. As such, I'd include as an acceptable document a medical statement the person is engaged in the year-long pre-treatment for the surgery.

      And, evidently, all of this is dependent upon the law not negatively interfering with medical knowledge and practice, but rather giving the medical professional associations liberty to determine procedures and full legal support to their recommendations, otherwise things enter into a catch-22, almost Kafkian, situation.

    10. @Anonymous: Indeed. I had excellent conservative and progressive teachers, and thus have a good grasp of how both sides argument, and what they focus on, as well as agreements and disagreements on specific positions with each. I suppose most of my agreements fall on the progressive side, but several are definitely at odds with it, and some align with neither, so there's that too. :-)

  5. WCB

    Recently, we had three major banks fail due to foolish policies. Far right politicians are now bellowing the real cause of these failures was bank wokeness. Republicam Mike Crapo headed the GOP effort to eliminate the banking safeguards put in place after the real estate derivatives of 2008. Signed into law by Trump.

    Now we keep having train derailments nation wide. Again, right wing politicians put the blame on woke policies, not the GOP's successful effort to kill railroad safety policies.

    Wokeness is the new right wing. Total BS with an agenda. political boogyman. Bad old Democrats want y9u to get vaccinated and wear a mask in public spaces? Wokism destroying American freedoms? Really!

    A quick google for right wing attempts to blame big bank failures and train wrecks will show you what this Woke panic is really about. Right winged nonsense with a bad agenda.


    1. In fact, the collapse of SVB was caused by a series of events beginning with the investment of most of their balance sheet in short term fixed income securities at low interest rates combined with a high concentration of deposits from tech startups. This was hunky dory for a while but then 2 things happened. The Fed could no longer hold interest rates down due to raging inflation caused by the idiotic infusion of trillions of dollars into the economy by the government, and the drying up of Venture Cap investment due to a slow economy. This meant that the depositors had to spend cash on hand rather than additional VC investments and so were withdrawing large amounts of money from SVB. This forced the bank to sell assets to cover the withdrawals while the rising interest rates meant that the bank's assets were worth less and less and so they had to sell more and more. Then the word went out to a favored few from VC firms that the bank was unstable and the run was on. Not at all different from what happened in 1929, really. The wokeness comes in when you learn that the acting Chief Risk Officer at the bank was more concerned with LGBT causes than with the soundness of the balance sheet.

    2. WCB,

      Can your usual partisan nonsense.

    3. @Bill L: DEI policies (diversity, equity, inclusion) are common across the financial system, they weren't exclusive of SVB. In fact, several studies over the last several years have shown that DEI policies measurably increase profits, which is why banks adopt it, as can be seen in the first link below. Wasn't that the case and banks would have dropped the practice irrespective of PR.

      Rather, the reason SVB and other banks do risky operations such as this is the belief they'll get government bailouts. Generally this is a valid assumption, especially when they all start breaking together, as happened in 2008, so banks include this in their risk calculations and act accordingly. SVB's error was in doing it more than the others and breaking ahead of time, which in turn is prompting government to look deeper into these practices. So the other banks who were all doing similar stuff are now having to take a step back.

      For the actual historical background on why and how banks behave this way, and connections to SVB's behavior, check the second link.



    4. Mr G. You are back!

    5. WCB

      After the 2008 meltdown, strong programs were enacted to rein in banker foolishness. The bankers and GOP hated that. And fought to deregulate these banks. Senator Mike Crapo lead a GOP committee to deregulate the banks. And the GOP passed it. Trump signed it. And many banks went hog wild and forgot the lessons of the past. Silicon Valley Bank, Silvergate Bank, Signature Bank, and First Republic Bank. All went under do to their abject incompetence. Senator Elizabeth Warren and many experts predicted exactly this would happen. It did right on schedule

      No, it had nothing to do with wokeness which is merely a right wing myth to deflect blame from GOP and banker greed and incompetence.

      A big spreader of this BS has been everybody's favorite Fox News goofball, Tucker Carlson.

      Janet Yeltson has vowed no money for bank bailouts. By blaming these bank failures on wokeness the culprits hope to convince enough people it was not banker greed and incompetence, and that these poor bankers deserve a big government bailout.


    6. WCB

      @ Bill L

      "The wokeness comes in when you learn that the acting Chief Risk Officer at the bank was more concerned with LGBT causes than with the soundness of the balance sheet."

      The lack of wokeness was when bankers started making the same stupid mistakes after Trump and
      The GOP deregulated the banks.

      Google short sellers, banks. The short sellers, those who understood the principles of sound banking and could do math, bet big money on the obvious failures sure to come. These short sellers profited by $3.2 billion dollars.

      It was not wokeness that destroyed these banks. It was inability to learn from past failures, an inability to do math.


    7. It's good to see you Mr. G!


  6. I've been having this conversation more and more lately. The left are constantly accusing opponents of being unable to define these terms.

    You probably know the issue came up on Wednesday when Bethany Mandel stumbled over the definition of "woke" when appearing as a guest on "Rising". She finally did say, "It is sort of the understanding that we need to totally reimagine and redo society in order to create hierarchies of oppression."

    In a segment on MSNBC, Alex Wagner ridiculed Mandel's stumbling but ignored Mandel's off-the-cuff definition which is basically correct. Wagner also made the outrageous claim that "so far the only person to actually define what woke actually is is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis." (I don't know if she's that ignorant or if she's just that comfortable with lying.) Regardless, Wagner cited Taryn Fenske, DeSantis's communications director: woke is a "slang term for activism…progressive activism." Wagner added part of DeSantis's general counsel's (Ryan Newman) definition: woke is "the belief that there are systemic injustices in our society and the need to address them."

    And therein lies the problem with short definitions of complex terms. The 'woke' MSNBC personality ignored the fact that Ryan Newman and DeSantis believe those systemic injustices are largely imaginary. So she ridiculed the watered-down definition, "which sounds right, maybe even sort of sensible? Maybe that's why the anti-woke movement has such a hard time with it."

    But of course she's cherry-picked what we anti-woke actually say and, instead, created a straw man. She did that even when she just aired a better and less woke-friendly definition made by the stumbling Alex Wagner.

    In a conversation I defined woke as follows:

    Wokeness is a political framework. It imagines it and it alone knows what "social justice" is. It filters reality through the lens of oppressed and oppressor. The supposed oppressed are POC, some women or those who deviate from sexual norms. It is vehemently anti-white and usually anti-Western. It's become an umbrella term encompassing all sorts of leftist agendas including BLM, CRT, radical feminism, trans activism, fat activism, 'white privilege', so-called 'equity', decolonization etc. It refuses to believe inequality of outcome could possibly be explained by cultural failures or personal biological deficiencies. So it creates a boogeyman out of the 'oppressors' -- the 'oppressors' normally being white males. With the 'oppressors' being sufficiently dehumanized, woke adherents feel justified in their own discriminatory practices, outright bigotry and hate. Wokeness is so certain of its own moral rightness it will listen to no debate on its tenets and will try to silence anyone who disagrees. Bottom line, wokeness is an activist ideology of hate and self-delusion.

    Nobody should fall into the trap of making short, bumper-sticker definitions of these political terms.

  7. "Wokeness is a paranoid delusional hyper-egalitarian mindset that tends to see oppression and injustice where they do not exist or greatly to exaggerate them where they do exist".

    This is actually so accurate that if Wuellner was still around he should include it in the Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy.

    Btw, amazing post, Ed!

  8. It occurs to me as highly ironic that the same people screaming "gotcha!" at any difficulties to define "woke" given their demonstrable lack of being able to define the word "woman."

    One of these words has existed in every human language of human history, the other was created in the last 10ish years. Which word do you expect to be easier to define?

    Stones, glass houses, some assembly required.

  9. I tend to regard some terms as well-meant variations on previous usages. Reading the term 'woke' for the first time, my impression was something like : oh, a new, cryptic term for social awareness---coined for fast times and a society uninterested in long winded explanations. See what I mean? I lost you after the first half-dozen words. Then, as time passed quickly and interests, preferences and motives subsumed original intention, people basrardized the term. After such alterations occurred, intention was erased. Soon, no one knew what the word originally meant. Happens a lot.

  10. Within the context of a Freirean "pedagogy of revolution" cultivating psychological instability is a feature, not a bug.

    That is, though still coming from an overall Marxist view of progress, instead of detailed, constant instruction in the the tenets per se (think Leninist Russia or Maoist China), Freire's insight--if we want to call it that--was that if you educated people into an encompassing psychological revulsion at the world as it is, they would revolt and destroy the existing institutions without having to have a detailed theory as to why or what comes next.

    The "work" of constant revolution would become available on the cheap, as it were.

  11. Excellent article. I would add that the emotional reasoning that comes from the woke crowd usually if not always fits the definition of "fundamentalism" provided by Eric Voegelin, that is, reasoning that comes from words and the feeling these words generate (anything goes here, "racism", "equality", "structural", etc) instead of using words that actually describe a given sociological reality. Not only this explains their sociopathic approach to argument, it also explains the emotional instability one often finds in their ranks. When one disconnects from reality - by essentially not being able or willing to describe it - neurosis is sure to follow.

  12. "Oppression or injustice where they do not exist" is rather subjective. I have lived in the Deep Red South (Ala Ga, and Ms) all my 73 years. I was a "troublemaker" growing up. I asked my dad why there were separate water fountains for white and "colored " people. He said that it had always been that way. I would anger him and all good white folks by drinking out of the "colored" water fountain. My grandmother had a black maid who had a beautiful older daughter who taught me how to kiss. We would walk around Union Springs, Ala holding hands. People would stare at us, called me a "nigger lover" and I just flipped them off and kept walking. My grandfather was Chief of Police so no one bothered me. He did tell me to "behave" myself. My uncle would get drunk and beat up his wife, but she had to take it because back then, in small Southern towns, men didn't get charged with domestic violence. That's the way it was there until the 1970s when things began to change. But you see, even though I hadn't heard of the word "woke," I was a "woke" kid way before my time.

    1. I doubt that anyone on this forum would argue that oppression and injustice did not exist in the US in the past. So, by Prof. Fesser's definition of "woke", the fact that you perceived oppression and injustice at a time and place where it existed does not indicate that you were a woke kid.

    2. Anonymous
      Oppression and injustice still exist in my Deep Red South. It is just not as open and blatant as it was decades ago. And now the governor of my state and it's Republican legislature want to whitewash our past.

    3. @Anonymous at 5:13 PM

      (I am the Anonymous to whom you replied)

      I too live in the deep south (albeit in a highly diverse suburb of a large city). Honesty, I don't see much or any systemic oppression or injustice any more, either in my community or nationwide, albeit there are obviously some individuals who still hold to bigoted views. What are some examples of the oppression and injustice that you observe?

      Much of the trouble of the current debate is that it centers around generalities that are difficult to address or discuss rather than specifics.

    4. Houston TX. ain't the small cities of AL GA and MS. It's a different way of life here. Whites can't legally let blacks be 'separate but equal" as they did when I was young. Many fine, educated, well meaning , Christian whites thought that was best for society.
      When they couldn't maintain that separation
      they moved away and separated themselves from black folk. And now it's woke to let young people today know about the past and what was done.

    5. @Anonymous at 4:54 PM

      Ironic that you would mention "separate but equal" as an example of a current injustice. I agree that segregation is bad. But, at the current time, it is the woke/progressive side pushing for segregation. Several progressive colleges have separate graduation ceremonies for different racial groups, several have dorms dedicated to specific racial groups, and there is even now a separate black national anthem.

      I agree with you that "separate but equal" is a bad idea, but it is a bad idea being pushed by the woke camp.

      Your only other response was a suggestion that it was woke to "let young people today know about the past and what was done".

      As far as I know, none of the republican initiatives prevent in any way an objective teaching of slavery, conflicts with the indigenous population, Jim Crow, or anything of that sort. Basically they are intended to prevent teaching to K-12 students of dubious and ideologically loaded material.

    6. Astro,

      "Honesty, I don't see much or any systemic oppression or injustice any more, either in my community or nationwide, albeit there are obviously some individuals who still hold to bigoted views."

      I agree. I graduated high school in Lewisville, Texas in 1972. The school was integrated with a small black population. I saw no signs of racial bigotry while I was there. I was an athlete and got a four year scholarship to North Texas. That's where I first saw obvious racial tension. But black athletes were just as bigoted as whites. I learned that racial bigotry -- "white supremacy" or "black supremacy" -- were not necessarily a big concern. We could still play friendly games of pool together. We could still root for each other. We could still have friendly conversations. The most tension involved what radio station we listened to. So a white guy didn't want to be stuck in the black van and have to listen to hours of Barry White, and a black guy didn't want to be stuck on the white van and listen to hours of Elton John. We separated voluntarily due to culture, not race. Since then I've always looked with suspicion on the claim that racism is the boogeyman it's made out to be. I've doubted racism is a big factor in one-on-one, personal interactions. In the end most of us want the best for people we know personally. We have different preferences and that's okay.

  13. By your definition I would argue a fairly large amount modern day conservatives are woke. They complain about the oppression around the 2020 election, anti-white racism, Christian oppression, etc. I would argue all of these supposed inequities either don't exist or are greatly exaggerated. I don't think your definition is adequate.

  14. “Wokeness.”
    No such word exists in the English dictionary. Please try to re-define your question. Signed Google and the internet generally.

  15. Origins: "How woke went from black to bad"

  16. I endorse what Screwtape Jenkins said. By your definition, a fairly large number of modern conservatives are "woke." They complain about how they are victimized. Victimized by people who argue that producers of surplus value should be able to determine how that surplus value is allocated. Or something.

    Some people may want to try to bring a Catholic monarchy or the equivalent into political power in the USA or in some other country. Many of us who love freedom will oppose such an attempt. Cant about who is or is not "woke" is a distraction. The ground point is whether we have a state in which prevails: 1) freedom of conscience; 2) Catholic doctrine and precept.

  17. Screwtape and ficino,

    You're forgetting that "hyper-egalitarian" is part of the proposed definition, and that would not apply to the people you're describing. You may or may not be able to make the case that they have some characteristics in common, but what I'm trying to capture in the definition is a specifically left-wing phenomenon.

    1. I don't know what you mean by hyper-egalitarian if you think the people on the right don't fit the term. I think the people who complain about the election are being egalitarian - they think their votes should count and they believe they weren't. I think people who complain about reverse racism and Christian oppression are being egalitarian - they want to be treated equally to minorities or Non-Christians and they believe they aren't.

      Honestly, when you spoke about emotional reasoning, the image that jumped into my mind was an election denier. If you take the specific references to left-wing politics out of it, this article perfectly describes the state of mind of the election denier, or the climate change denier, or the person who thinks the covid vaccine is more dangerous than the disease. What your describing is an irrational malady common to the fringes of both the left and right wing. It's just when this malady appears on the left you call it "woke," and when it happens on the right we just call it "Trumpism."

      The irrationality itself is the real problem in our politics - the problem is that people both left and right are in rebellion against the notion of objective truth. The "do your own research" conservatives are just as guilty of this as the "live your truth" liberals.

    2. @Screwtape Jenkins Perhaps those who complain about the election are being egalitarian, but they are not being hyper-egalitarian. After all, few on either the left or the right would deny that everyone's vote should count. The contentious point made by those complaining is that their votes were not counted.

      The hyper-egalitarian claim made by the woke camp is that any difference in outcome (e.g. any wealth discrepancy, any income discrepancy, etc.) is an injustice. This claim is not well supported by either evidence or argumentation, and in fact good arguments exist against the claim.

      This is why the election complainers are not hyper egalitarian but the woke camp is.

      (Note that I am not endorsing the arguments of the election complainers, I am just denying that their arguments are not hyper-egalitarian.)

    3. Screwtape Jenkins,

      "What you're describing is an irrational malady common to the fringes of both the left and right wing. It's just when this malady appears on the left you call it 'woke,' and when it happens on the right we just call it 'Trumpism.'"

      I agree there is an abundance of irrationality on both left and right. But there are big differences between 'Trumpism' and 'wokeness'.

      There are few if any education entry points into Trumpism. It's not part of a college curriculum. It's not part of the mindset in freshmen orientation. There are no forbidden words or mandatory pronouns. There is no equivalent of the Evergreen fiasco from Trumpster students. Trumpism has almost no influence in education, regardless of the outcry about DeSantis's policies or textbook fights in Texas. These are minor adjustments.

      Likewise in companies. There is no equivalent to DEI hiring for Trumpism. There is no 'diversity' guideline for Trump groupies. There is no company policy that's 'inclusive' of Trumpsters. (You might find an unspoken policy in that Pillow Guy's company, but there are very few of these flakes.) There is no seminar or training to make employees sensitive to the feelings of Trumpsters, or to cultivate Trumpster empathy. Nobody worries about 'microaggression' toward a Trump groupie. It's more likely encouraged.

      Likewise in the culture. There is no serious challenge from Trumpism in movies, TV, or novels. You won't see "sensitivity readers" look for ways a novel might offend Trumpsters. Culturally, Trumpism is a drop in the bucket in its influence. If we look at the culture honestly, there is no doubt that Trump and his groupies may slow the direction ever so slightly but they are powerless to move it toward their worldview. Broadly, conservatives (though I hesitate to call Trumpsters conservatives) have failed to make significant headway culturally.

      Trumpism is more dangerous short-term to our political system. But wokeness is a much greater long term danger to our country and Western Civilization. Wokeness will fail only because they push things too far. Even their own kind will start to question the ideology. I think we're already seeing signs of that.

    4. Anonymous

      I don't know of any politician or scholar who believes that literally any disparity in outcome for any reason is an injustice. So I don't know of anyone who would meet this mysterious criteria of "hyper-egalitarian." That phrase is in as much need of definition as the term it is being deployed to define.

      Either this definition is so broad as to be applicable to everyone, or it relies on a complete strawman. Either way, we don't have a good definition for woke.

      (And by the way, I would concede that the inability to define woke is as big a problem for people who identify as woke as it is for the people who attack wokeness. I think both sides are muddle-headed, and are wasting time and oxygen on a stupid culture war that is more about a dislike of people who are culturally dissimilar to them than it is about anything substantive.)

    5. Don Jindra,

      I agree there is no university system devoted to Trumpism. By the same token, there is no major news network or talk radio empire devoted to wokeness.

      I just have to scratch my head when you claim there is no support for Trumpism on TV - you mean other than the three 24-hour news channels entirely devoted to it?!

      How about an entire social media platform not only dedicated to Trump but owned by him? How about the youtube empires of Stephen Crowder, Ben Shapiro, Gavin McInnes, etc?

      And tell me - what television channels or shows are woke as opposed to just left-leaning? And this is the problem of the inability to define wokeness. It just ends up meaning anything to the left of you that makes you uncomfortable.

      And there are definitely forbidden words and/or concepts within Trumpism: Happy Holidays, anti-abortion advocates, President Joe Biden. (That last one was a joke, but just barely.)

      Wokeism and Trumpism are different in the kinds of stupidity they endorse but equal in the degree, in my opinion.

      You're all being ridiculous.

    6. @Screwtape at 7:30 AM (I am the Anonymous to whom you replied)

      And yet disparities of income are often offered by woke individuals as "proof" of injustice with no explanation of exactly what level of disparity would be required to constitute an injustice and no explanation of why such disparities are an injustice.

      I agree that the whole woke debate is unfortunate and I wish that it did not exist. The problem is that if those opposed to wokeness decide to sit out the debate then wokeness will proceed unimpeded. As Edmund Burke once said, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph in the world is that good men do nothing".

    7. Anonymous:

      "And yet disparities of income are often offered by woke individuals as "proof" of injustice with no explanation of exactly what level of disparity would be required to constitute an injustice and no explanation of why such disparities are an injustice."

      Give me an example of someone doing this, because I've never seen anyone do it.

      What I have seen is left-leaning people say that, for example, when a woman of equal qualifications does the same job as a man, she should earn equal pay. I don't think it should be necessary to explain why a woman not receiving equal pay under that circumstance would be an injustice.

      Or to take another example, I've heard them say that the inequality in wealth between African American families and white families are unjust *to the extent* that those inequalities are caused by systemic racism. And it being that generating wealth takes decades, there is ample evidence that these inequalities are to a very large extent the result of past systemic racism. As I mentioned to another poster, much white wealth in America is due to home ownership. Thanks to their being denied access to the Homestead Act, being systematically discriminated against with the FHA, redlining practices with the banks, etc, African Americans have been systematically excluded from home ownership for hundreds of years, and that is a big reason why they have lower levels of home ownership and, consequently, wealth, today.

      The work of explaining why these disparities are unjust has been done, it's just that many unengaged conservative critics simply haven't bothered to do the reading. And at the risk of repeating myself, I will again say that all of this predates the concept of wokeness by several generations. So we still don't have a good definition of what constitutes wokeness.

    8. Screwtape Jenkins,

      This was my sentence: "There is no serious challenge from Trumpism in movies, TV, or novels."

      I was talking about entertainment (fiction) programming, not political programming. Although I don't watch Fox, I hear Fox has largely turned on Trump in preference to DeSantis. Fox's love affair with Trump was like a one-night-stand in all its sleazy details.

      Meanwhile CNN and MSNBC were vehemently anti-Trump. CBS, ABC, and NBC were also anti-Trump. Trump's only major safe haven was Fox and talk radio. So there was stiff opposition to Trumpism from news and pundits. IOW, there was balance. Trumpism was both worshiped and condemned, and probably condemned far more than not.

      Trump's Truth Social is a failure.

      Trump recent CPAC was a failure.

      Trumpism had a shelf life of a maximum of 8 years but he didn't even reach that before rot set in. He was an insidious influence but he's a has-been.

      Regardless, that's all political coverage. It's election cycle stuff. It's the junk food of our culture. The real culture, the culture I'm speaking of, dwarfs politics.

      Where is Trumpism found in any of our artistic cultural output? Output that will last? Where is the artistic opposition to wokeness in any medium? That's what I'm asking.

      "And tell me - what television channels or shows are woke as opposed to just left-leaning?"

      Virtually every one of them. Virtually every commercial too. A naive observer could watch TV and conclude the US population was over 50% black. They might conclude every American was best buddies with a gay person. They could conclude every American cannot get through a day without help from some representative of a 'diversity' group. That observer could rightly ask, "What is all this talk of economic disparity about? Blacks apparently fill every good job out there and at great numbers -- in way higher numbers than their 13% of the population would justify." The same economic question could be asked about women.

      "And there are definitely forbidden words and/or concepts within Trumpism"

      Well, that's not Trumpism but I agree with you somewhat. The difference is that 'conservatives' don't control the cultural establishment in a way that could have any real effect. They are heckling from the cheap seats.

    9. "A naive observer could watch TV and conclude the US population was over 50% black". It's the same here in the UK. According to the 2021 census the black population is 4%, but you'd never know it from watching TV. It seems more like 20%. They're very often in positions of authority, and historical dramas even though the percentage of blacks in those times was virtually nil. But there isn't really diversity because although the percentage of asians in the UK is more than double that of blacks at 9.4%, they are comparatively rarely seen on TV, presumably because they aren't "oppressed" to the same extent.

    10. @screwtape at 4:19 PM
      You said
       So we still don't have a good definition of what constitutes wokeness.
      I think prof. Feser’s definition is just fine, particularly with (another) anonymous’ s addition: together with “the insistence that every aspect of society be oriented towards correcting those perceived injustices”.
      Now, on to your specific comments:
      You said:
      > Give me an example of someone doing this, because I've never seen anyone do it.

      If you have never seen the claim made that income or wealth inequality is evidence of injustice, without qualification of what level in inequality would constitute an injustice, or without an explanation of why such an inequality would constitute an injustice, I have no words, except “I don’t believe you”. This is particularly true in popular (non-academic) communication. But, wokeness is as much a popular phenomenon as it is an academic phenomenon. I apologize, but I am not going to waste my time looking for specific references.

      You said:
      > What I have seen is left-leaning people say that, for example, when a woman of equal qualifications does the same job as a man, she should earn equal pay. I don't think it should be necessary to explain why a woman not receiving equal pay under that circumstance would be an injustice.

      Most of the studies of the “income gap” have focused on aggregate studies. When you look at specific fields, the income gap disappears or in some cases is inverted. For example, if you look at engineers in the starting range (ages 22-35) of the career, women engineers do as well (salary-wise) or better than men. Do you know of any studies that show that woman of equal qualifications doing the same job as a men receive lower pay? If so, please provide them. Also, the aggregate “income gap” between men and women can largely be explained by a small percentage of high-income men – CEOs, senior partners in law firms, commissioned sales persons, etc. There is a larger pay gap between such high earners (men or women) and the average person (man or woman) on the street than there is between men and women in aggregate.

      You said:
      > Or to take another example, I've heard them say that the inequality in wealth between African American families and white families are unjust *to the extent* that those inequalities are caused by systemic racism.

      Yes, that is the question – to what extent is the wealth gap between African American families and white families due to systemic racism? That is a difficult question, but the answer is usually provided quite glibly by the woke camp. In reality we’ve had over a generation of awareness of past injustices, an elimination of those injustices, and programs to mitigate the effects of those injustices. No single variate analysis will yield the answer to this question.In my view, although past injustices certainly occurred, we have largely or entirely eradicated unequal treatment from western societies’ systems. What is your view?

  18. Ed, I've read "All One in Christ" even though I'm not a Catholic, and only nominally a Christian. It's a wonderful book, but I'm wondering whether it would have reached a wider audience if it had been titled simply : "A Critique of Critical Race Theory". Perhaps you could (self) publish a non-denominational version? The more people who see this nonsense for what it is, the better.

  19. Its Antiwhite. Thats all you need to say. Conservatives will always lose. Fancy words, no substance.

  20. Laudator Temporis ActiMarch 20, 2023 at 5:36 AM

    "Wokeness is a paranoid delusional hyper-egalitarian mindset that tends to see oppression and injustice where they do not exist or greatly to exaggerate them where they do exist."

    I'd say that "tends to see" should be "insists (and depends) on seeing" and that "egalitarian" has its Orwellian meaning: "All humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others."

    At best, the woke want blacks to be privileged over whites, Muslims over Christians, transgenders over the sane, etc, etc. At worst, they want to enslave the latter groups to the former groups.

    And wokeness is delusional in the same sense as communism: some of the woke may think they want a fair and equal world, but that's not what the ideology is designed to bring about and not what the woke elite want.

  21. WCB.

    In recent years we have seen Jim Crow seeping into this nation. GOP voter

    I note that just this week, Flor
    Woke is a word weaponizing right wing bigotry.DeSantis banishing Rosa Parks to the Orwellian memory hole is what this boogyman of "woke" stands for now.

    WCBida mandated the history of Rosa Parks be removed from Florida history text books. Parks most notably stood up for her rights, was arrested, but started a movement to stand up for black American rights that played an important role in the battle against Jim Crow. Naturally, DeSantas in his loudly proclaimed war against wokeness did not want students realize that one could fight things like segregation, Jim Crow oppression.

    In recent years, we have seen the Jim Crow garbage creeping back into America. Extreme gerrymandering. Voter caging, harassment, discouragement and more. Attempts to make it harder to register to vote, attemps to attack vote by mail, early voting and more.

    Thus we get things like America United. It is free speech for wealthy oligarchs to through unlim8ted money at favored politicians. But not free speech to give a bottle of water to a thirsty voter in a long line at a Georgia voting site.

  22. Once you concede that "racism" exists, its just a matter of degree. Who is to say what is or what is not racist? Since its a fake word, anything is racist. Conservatives like Dr Feser, gullible, and determined to impress lefty, are the problem, not lefty.

  23. This post, with the definition, examples, and analysis, is extremely helpful. Thank you for your work on this. I hope that it continues as it is desperately needed right now. It would be useful for the restoration of sanity in our society if every politician of good will read your work.

  24. "3rd wave feminism takes into account much more recent studies on the differences between genders, in particular morphological differences in brain connectomes marking brains as male-shaped or female-shaped, and how these brain shapes sometimes are mismatched with their corresponding body morphologies, leading to literal, physical cases of female-shaped brains, with female cognitive operations and female body mappings (motor and sensory cortical homunculus) in male bodies, and the other way around, male-shaped brain in female bodies, plus the resulting psychological mismatch that results from these mismatched body shapes."

    This can be recognized while also recognizing that this is an abnormality and contrary to nature as the very distinctions presuppose that the male mind is naturally or normally fitted to the male body and the female mind is naturally fitted to the female body. This can be disrupted and studies should look into what causes such disruption between the mind and the body.

    For example, the mind of boy might be terribly misshapen because he is treated *as if* he were a girl by an influential person or persons around him. That would cause terrible mental damage to a child that would be reflected in a tension between his intellect and his body. This is also possible if a society as a whole begins to act as if one's identity might be completely decoupled from one's body as if we are souls trapped in a body. That sort of damage is now widespread in our society as gender dysphoria is exploding among teenage girls who are being confused into thinking that their identity is determined solely by their will and imagination and that their bodies are not a part of who they are. In this, bad philosophy is making for bad psychology and, ultimately, psychological disorder.

  25. WCB

    Fox News 13, Tampa Bay, Florida

    During the testimony, Warren's attorney, Jean-Jacques Cabou asked those within DeSantis' administration what "woke" meant to them. 

    The governor's general counsel, Ryan Newman, said, in general, it means "the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them." He added that DeSantis doesn't believe there are systemic injustices in the country, reports Florida Politics.

    DeSantas proudly calls Florida "Where woke goes to die".


    1. "The governor's general counsel, Ryan Newman, said, in general, it means "the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them." He added that DeSantis doesn't believe there are systemic injustices in the country, reports Florida Politics."

      Well, if DeSantis says that, then it must be true, and if you disagree with him, you are woke!

    2. And Newman was absolutely correct. The key word there is "systematic." Of course injustices are sometimes perpetrated by individuals against other individuals. But there is no "system" that programmatically excluded or oppressed any particular group. There wad at one time. Jim Crow and segregation were a set of laws that systematically excluded and oppressed black people in the American South. Those laws were dismantled over half a century ago. The "system" as it currently exists is expressly designed to undo the exclusion and oppression that took place under Jim Crow and segregation, and the informal system of exclusion in the North and prevent their recurrence. That doesn't mean discrimination no longer ever happens, but it happens in individual cases, and far from being designed as a "system," it is a violation of every expressed principle of the "system." DeSantis is correct that wokeness is the paranoid delusion that there exists some invisible, subterranean "system" of exclusion and oppression that must be destroyed in order to usher in the millennium.

    3. "Excluded" and "oppressed" in my second sentence should obviously be present tense. And "wad at one time" should obviously be "was at one time." The price I pay for typing on a phone with fat fingers.

    4. Fred,

      You're only right if the system has to be intentional and overt in its injustice. What about systems that create injustice unintentionally? Are we supposed to do nothing about them?

      For example, in America, our public education is funded by local property taxes. This has the effect that the children of people who live in rich neighborhoods will go to excellent schools, and the children of those who live in poor neighborhoods will go to schools that are underfunded. This in term constitutes a system that perpetuates these inequalities. The children of the rich receive quality educations that allow the to perpetuate their wealth, and the children of the poor receive subpar educations that perpetuate their poverty. And the cycle continues.

      Now let's say for the sake of argument that no one intentionally designed the system of funding schools through local property taxes to disadvantage poor children. It still disadvantages them, and does so systematically.

      And even in your world where only individual injustice exists, if enough individuals in a single field perpetuate these injustices, the effects can still be systematic. If the banking system is filled with enough loan officers who all believe Black people are bad loan candidates, then the banking system will be de facto systematically racist.

      Again, the stuff I'm saying is not even remotely "woke," this is common sense center-left policy and theory that has been with us for decades. That this is being classified as "woke" is yet further proof, if we needed any, that it is a meaningless term. It is simply deployed to shut down legitimate social critiques from the left without having to actually critically respond to the points that have been raised.

    5. So, Fred, why does DeSantis want to" cancel"
      books that tell the ugly truth about centuries of racism in this country?

  26. Are believing Christian are under attack and/or a persecuted minority in America examples of "wokeness?"

  27. Wokeness is the logical consequence of the Enlightenment: its reductio ad absurdum.

    If I believe my grandma is a car, giving her gasoline to drink is a logical consequence. From absurd premises, you get to insane consequences by applying valid logic.

    From the absurdity of believing freedom, progress and equality are the highest good, you derive wokeness.

    If all men are equal, the fact that some group of people perform worse can only be explained because of discrimination. Since the differences do not disappear when laws are made equal, the discrimination has to be subtle and unconscious. The road to paranoia is well established.

    Progressives are similar to religious sects that predicted the end of the world and it didn't happen. They predicted that, after the laws would become equal, a non-discriminatory paradise on earth would happen. But this was a failed prediction Now they want to make sense of the non-arrival of the parousia by increasing their faith and looking for scapegoats

    1. But conservative, who are liberals two weeks later, believe all this junk too. Look at how anyone talked about blacks 100 years ago, and NO ONE believed they were equal to whites. No one beleived women were equal to men. The problem is not lefty, lefty will always be insane, the problem is conservatives like Dr Feser, who think the races are interchangeable too. Once you believe in a lie, all the consequences are there. Its just a matter of time. Its really true what they say about the origins of the term "left and right". Conservatives believe in all the same stuff. They just want to go a little slower.

    2. xxxx,

      "Wokeness is the logical consequence of the Enlightenment: its reductio ad absurdum."

      I'd like to see you work from Kant's understanding of Enlightenment:

      "Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one's own understanding without another's guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one's own mind without another's guidance. Dare to know! (Sapere aude.) 'Have the courage to use your own understanding,' is therefore the motto of the enlightenment."

      To this:

      "Wokeness is a paranoid delusional hyper-egalitarian mindset that tends to see oppression and injustice where they do not exist or greatly to exaggerate them where they do exist."

      IMO, wokeness is a rejection of the Enlightenment. Wokeness has much more in common with Puritanism -- it's a postmodern Puritanism.

    3. xxxx

      "If all men are equal, the fact that some group of people perform worse can only be explained because of discrimination."

      Or by two centuries of slavery and a century of Jim Crow. Or by decades of housing discrimination and banking discrimination. Or by decades of giving white people and only white people access to benefits like the GI Bill, the Homestead Act, Farming Subsidies, etc.

      From absurdly unfair systems you get absurdly unfair outcomes.

      No one is saying that current day inequalities are *entirely* due to these things, but to say these things play no role in current inequalities is equally absurd.

      Liberals are not just saying "things are unequal so there must be an unseen injustice somewhere." Left-leaning cultural critics are completely capable of pointing out iron-clad specifics of how and where and why these disparities developed, and they have been doing this for decades before anyone ever heard of the term "woke."

    4. @Anonymous. Agreed. This is why the right always loses. Because it accepts the absurd premises, but it does not want to accept the last logical consequence until it does. The real right is duty (the opposite to freedom), hierarchy (the opposite to equality) and tradition (the opposite to progress ). That is, the minimum for a healthy, sustainable society. A real right has not existed in the West after World War II. We only have outdated versions of the Left.

    5. "how and where and why these disparities developed, "

      Yes. Systemic racism and whiteness. How convincing

    6. @Don. This is a straw man. I have explained in my first comment how wokeness derives from the Enlightenment. I never said that wokeness derives from a paragraph by Kant.

      Puritanism begat the Enlightenment, which begat wokeness. When you say that wokeness looks like Puritanism and not the Enlightenment, you are making a distinction without a difference

    7. An intelligent person could reach the conclusion that freedom and equality are highest goods. An intelligent person cannot reach the conclusion that togetherness is the highest good, which is, alas, what sooo many Catholic saints have concluded.

      Togetherness is a contingent good. It's contingent on the type of people you're together with.

    8. xxxx,

      "I have explained in my first comment how wokeness derives from the Enlightenment."

      This is your attempt at explanation: "From the absurdity of believing freedom, progress and equality are the highest good, you derive wokeness."

      Who in the Enlightenment believed equality of outcome was the highest good? Maybe Rousseau, but he didn't speak for all. Who believed freedom was the highest good rather than, say, a necessary condition before an individual could achieve a highest good as he understood it? You have made a strong assertion. You must show all of the diverse Enlightenment opinion through history determined wokeness, and determined wokeness to the exclusion of all diversity of political opinion we see today.

      You seem to scoff at freedom. What are you going to replace it with? Surely not tyranny. So what offends you about freedom and why do you associate wokeness with progress toward freedom? I think you mentioned duty. I could argue wokeness is based on duty -- a duty and moral obligation to uplift the supposed oppressed. Regardless, you make big assumptions. I wouldn't call wokeness a quest for freedom or progress. I would call it a quest for conformity through arbitrary rules. Surely you don't deny technological progress. I suppose you mean social progress. "Progressive" is a misnomer. If "progressives" are woke, their wokeness is not progress. It's degenerative.

      The Enlightenment was concerned with liberating the individual. Wokeness is concerned with "equity" of groups. I see no likeness. There is tension between the two. I am a believer in Enlightenment values. I reject wokeness. I'm not going to wake up tomorrow as a social justice warrior. Yet you assert there is a deterministic flow from liberated individual to equitable groups. Please show this deterministic cause and effect through history. Please show it in me -- wokeness as my unfortunate, miserable natural end. I know you will not be able to do this because it is not there.

      "If all men are equal, the fact that some group of people perform worse can only be explained because of discrimination."

      You imply Enlightenment philosophers could not see differences among groups. I suggest you read up on Kant's assessment of blacks. It's ironic that these men in our past are being erased from history because of their politically incorrect views on race or sex, yet you want to play like they had no such views, really. It is all a misunderstanding. They were closet wokesters, actually.

      "I never said that wokeness derives from a paragraph by Kant."

      You must prove more than that. You must prove wokeness *necessarily* derives from that paragraph by Kant. You must also prove it *necessarily* derives from Locke's Two Treatises of Government, Newton's Physics, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, through Friedrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom, etc...

      Puritanism did not produce the Enlightenment except, possibly, as a reaction against it.

      I agree progressives are similar to religious sects. They and 'conservatives' are disenchanted with Enlightenment values because those values did not result in their separate versions of paradise. You accuse progressives of looking for a scapegoat. I agree there too. But I say that scapegoat is the Enlightenment itself -- the very thing you say created them, their foundation. The reasoning is all too weird.

    9. Screwtape Jenkins,

      "Or by decades of giving white people and only white people access to benefits like the GI Bill, the Homestead Act, Farming Subsidies, etc."

      Blacks benefited from both the GI Bill and farming subsidies. Your claim is too strong. You might argue the GI Bill and farming subsidies favored whites, but they did not exclude blacks. The Homestead Act of 1862? My family didn't benefit from it or any of the later ones. The actual benefit of those acts is hotly contested. One thing is sure -- it was no land giveaway to large masses of white citizens.

      "Liberals are not just saying 'things are unequal so there must be an unseen injustice somewhere.'"

      Liberals -- true liberals -- maybe not. There aren't many true liberals remaining. Leftists certainly do say, "things are unequal so there must be an unseen injustice somewhere." That is the only explanation they will accept. I agree left-leaning cultural critics pointing to specifics of how and where and why these disparities developed. But are those convincing? Are they causes or rather effects? Are they insurmountable obstacles? The problem with the left (or any ideologue) is that when they find an answer that suits their purpose they stop looking.

  28. The whole woke phenomenon is just another carefully fenced-in pasture that the American people are allowed to graze in. Each "side" gets heroes and villains and outrages which are used to farm votes, donations, and to safely disperse genuine political will into irrelevancies.

  29. I like "weaponized political correctness" as a pithy definition of wokeness.

  30. This is a good post

    I do think however there seems to be a wokeness-like phenomenon on the conservative aisle with regards to President Trump, this idea that he is the "only one" and anyone who dares to speak against him is a deluded leftist etc. Trump had his strengths and he did have some political accomplishments. But it seems like the time is come to move on from him. It was always clear that this man never really actually cared about any issue, they were only important as vote banks to him. The jabs he took at the pro life community were shameful, he was never really a fan of traditional marriage to begin with. The way he is bringing down promising candidates and anyone who threatens to steal his thunder. It's just wrong.

    It's very likely that Trump will win the republican nomination, bu if a better candidate has to have any chance, it will require a concerted effort from all conservative influencers from commentators to lawyers to philosophers to religious figures, basically anyone with a prominent voice. The message has to be clear that we may have been bereft of better options before but that definitely isn't the case, a generational talent like Ron DeSantis won't be easy to find again. If everyone could rally for Trump, they could rally for De Santis as well, but it will require effort, small things like trying to convince your neighbours, friends, it may not reflect in the polls but it will reflect in the votes, that small split second where a seed of doubt planted way back may cause someone to pick De Santis over Trump. If we are any different then the woke adherents especially with regards to their most fatal error which is the complete denial of reality, we will make this happens, otherwise it seems like conservatism will be doomed to Trumpism forever.

    1. I wouldn’t call that “wokeness” in any real sense of the word, that’s just a good old-fashioned cult of personality.

  31. I’d be interested to hear Dr. Feser’s thoughts on psychoanalytic figures, e.g. Lacan, etc. Is there much practicality and/or evidence for that kind of therapy (or philosophy) or is it just pretentious psychobabble? It seems to lack the objective & evidence-based qualities of CBT.

    1. There is something true about looking for archetypes in fiction. That is a type of psychoanalysis I can support.

    2. What exactly are “archetypes” in psychoanalysis? Are they the same thing as “universals” (to use metaphysical language)?

  32. They should make a remake of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol where after being visited by the three spirits Scrooge instead of repenting goes on to start his own television circuit blaming the three woke ghosts for cancelling him.

  33. A degree of catastrophizing is good (if not in excess), because you have to consider Low Probability High Impact prospects.

  34. Hi Ed,

    I have to say you've hit the nail on the head. Thanks for your insightful and illuminating post.

    By the way, I enjoyed reading your review of Thomas Ward’s "Ordered by Love: An Introduction to John Duns Scotus." I thought it was a very fair-minded article. Cheers.

  35. OP
    "By characterizing wokeness as paranoid and delusional I am not flinging terms of abuse, but describing real psychological features of the woke attitude."
    Likewise regarding the god delusion.

    "During a recent interview with British journalist Piers Morgan, famed atheist and biologist Richard Dawkins declared, "there are two sexes, and that’s all there is to it."

    He added that LGBTQ activists looking to discredit the reality of two biological sexes are pushing "utter nonsense."

    Dawkins further noted that those going after Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling for her commitment to the reality of two sexes are "bullies.""

    Be it the god delusion or the woke delusion, we strongly convinced atheists of the "new" variety call out irrationality wherever and from whomever, without fear or favor.

    Calling Thomistic views delusional is not a term of abuse, but describing a real psychological feature of the religious attitude.

    1. @ StardustyPsyche,

      "Likewise regarding the god delusion."

      Ah, your convenient but false "inverse" argument. False because you must ignore that science itself does not support what you seek to prove. 😀

      "we strongly convinced atheists of the 'new' variety call out irrationality wherever and from whomever, without fear or favor"

      Well then you must call out yourself because ignoring that science itself contradicts your "proof" that science explains all is quite irrational. _Something_ that is not science explains how an uncertain future evolves into a solid present. It is logical but irrational to assume your conclusion when your assumption ignores what science demonstrates. But we know that arguing in a circle from a false premise is always possible. Even a computer, always following logical operations, can get stuck in an endless loop. That's where you are - stuck in an endless loop, but at least it is possible for you to break out yourself by making a free will choice to make a better assumption. I note, however, that your current occupation in the endless loop requires you to believe that you do not even have free will 😀.

      I hope that all who think you might be making sense realize that your "sense" implies that they do not at all have free will or choice.

      The _something_ that explains what makes the choices that, according to science itself, are not explained by science, we call God.

      "Calling Thomistic views delusional is not a term of abuse, but describing a real psychological feature of the religious attitude."

      Back to your irrational hatred of Aquinas, huh? And here it boils down to "the religious attitude", which is such a broad denunciation that it could denounce anything. But it at least shows you at your irrational, hatred motivated, worst.

      All! - beware this careering nut! 🤣


      Tom Cohoe