Why The “No True Scotsman” Fallacy Isn’t a Fallacy (And Why It Matters)


This post will show why the “No True Scotsman” fallacy isn’t a fallacy. Wikipedia describes the alleged fallacy as follows:

No true Scotsman is an informal fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion.  When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim (“no Scotsman would do such a thing”), rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule (“no true Scotsman would do such a thing”).


The introduction of the term is attributed to British philosopher Antony Flew, who in his 1975 book, Thinking About Thinking, wrote:[2]

Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton (England) Sex Maniac Strikes Again”. Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing”. The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again; and, this time, finds an article about an Aberdeen (Scotland) man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion, but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says: “No true Scotsman would do such a thing”.

To understand why it is not a fallacy I need to explain the difference between classes and kinds. (see Millikan’s Language: A Biological Model, p. 107). A class is a group of individuals who possess some property or set of properties in common. An example would be something like blue objects on Main St. This class could include houses, bicycles, cars, toys, shirts, signs, chairs, and so on. The members of this class don’t need to be like each other for any reason. Because of this we don’t learn about classes by experience; there is no way to predict anything about the next member of this class we may encounter on our walk down Main St other than that the object will be blue and will be on Main St.  We don’t even have to ever set foot on Main St. to know that. The next object in this class we encounter could be a balloon, or a bird, or a truck, and nothing we have learned on our walk would be useful to us in our dealings with this object.

As opposed to classes, the members of a kind have properties in common because there are natural forces that have produced similarities among members. Because of this, knowledge of kinds is useful in making predictions. Knowledge I gain on one occasion about, say, lions is useful in predicting the future. If I know that one lion is a dangerous predator this information will be useful to me in predicting the behavior of the next lion I encounter. The reason why lions are dangerous predators is not because the word “lion” means “dangerous predator”; lions are dangerous predators because of the natural forces that produced lions.

For one, lion genes are copies of one another. The copying of genes that happens in sexual reproduction guarantees similarities between generations. Secondly, lions must remain sufficiently alike genetically so that when their genes are combined in sexual reproduction it will produce viable offspring that have a chance of survival. This need for sufficient genetic similarity between the parents keeps the nature of lions relatively stable across time. Finally, the environment itself guarantees that lions remain similar in that any extreme deviations from the well-established lion form will not survive in its environment. Because of the working of these forces, the knowledge I gain on one encounter with lions is useful, though fallible, for encounters on other occasions.

Millikan calls these kinds that are alike because of these historical forces that work to ensure similarity “historical kinds.” Ethnic groups, like the Scots, are historical kinds (On Clear and Confused Ideas, p. 22). Picture historical kinds as groups of properties that tend to clump together and stay together over time because of the working of these forces. Things like wearing argyle, playing the bagpipes, drinking Scottish whiskey, eating haggis (this is just an example for argument’s sake; today, I assume, very few Scotsmen actually do these things as the homogenizing process of modernism has flattened many historical ethnic groups). These behaviors, characteristics, and properties tended to clump together in Scottish people for historical reasons. If you plotted all the people in the world on a massively multidimensional graph that had dimensions like frequency of eating haggis, frequency of wearing argyle, frequency of listening to bagpipes, etc., you would find a clump on this graph which denotes the Scots. Other dimensions like speaks German, eats sauerkraut, wears lederhosen, celebrates Octoberfest, etc. would form a German clump (again, for sake of argument).

Now, switch your vision, as it were, and look out on this landscape of clumps kinda like how a geologist looks at a landscape.  What forces formed these clumps?  Why are there these valleys between clumps?  Why are some clumps closer to others?  Why are the Scottish and English clumps closer together in this space (whether they like it tor not) than the Scottish and Somalian?  Why are some big and others small?  Why are Angus and Bonnie close together in this clump centered on Scotland, and Toshiro and Mikayo close together in this clump centered on Japan?  Like a geologist, the answer to these questions will be that natural historical forces produced these clump and explain their features.

So the pro-fallacy side is arguing that to the anti-fallacy side, “Scotsman” is a class that means something like “lives in Scotland and isn’t a sex maniac” (to again use the Anthony Flew example). But–aha!—the pro-fallacy side proclaims, here is someone who lives in Scotland and IS a sex maniac. Therefore, your definition of the class is false.

But this is itself a fallacy in that it attacks a strawman; to the anti-fallacy side “Scotsman” isn’t a class, it is a kind. The anti-fallacy side is asserting that the word “Scotsman” is ambiguous; there exists the kind “Scotsman” and the class “Scotsman.” A true Scotsman is one who upholds the historical traditions of Scots, and being a sex maniac ain’t it. So no fallacy is committed.

Saying that x is no true Scotsman is not to make a claim about kind membership. It is to claim that a certain trait is central to being Scottish–that it is part of the Scottish clump of properties–and that x has violated this trait. Compare with the claim that a dog with three legs is not a well-formed instance of dog-kind. If some poor dog has lost its leg you are not claiming that this animal is no longer a dog. You are claiming that some characteristic historical feature of dogs is missing. The same goes for the “no true Scotsman is a sex maniac” example.

So why does this matter? Always pay attention to how terms are being used and whether they are referring to a class or a kind. Terms like Scottish, German, Polish, and American used to refer to kinds but liberals have succeeded in turning them into classes. These terms now simply mean, at best, “is a citizen of Scotland” (or Germany, or Poland, etc) and at worse merely “lives in Scotland,” or “lives in Germany,” or “lives in America.” The idea that Germans, or Russians, or Poles might be historical kinds denoting a common history or tradition is verboten. There was an article not long ago about how a gang of “Swedes” had raped a woman on a ferry. See here. It turned out these Swedes weren’t even Swedish citizens, they just happened to be living in Sweden at the time. I remember after 9/11 there was an ad on television called “I am an American.” It showed a wide variety of the class “American” proclaiming that they were American. See here. Even if they were members of the class “American” they weren’t members of the kind-formerly-known-as-American. I suppose “European-American” is now the name of that kind. These kinds of word games are always politically motivated to claim that there is no difference between true Swedes and nominal Swedes, and attempt to manipulate the affections people naturally have for their kind, and extend it to a class.

What’s worse is that the Left will not allow the kind “European-American” to exist. The Left seems to tolerate Irish American cultural centers (or German, or Italian, or Polish, cultural centers), but any attempt to create a European-American cultural center would be met with protests. European-Americans are definitely a distinct kind; European-Americans are not Germans, or Irish, or English, or Italian. We have our own history, our own traditions, our own style, and so on. But you can just imagine the reaction if European-Americans tried to have European-American celebrations, festivals, parades, or holidays.

I don’t give a damn about the class “American.” Why should I? (This is not to say that members of this class aren’t entitled to basic human respect). You can be a member of the class American and care nothing for baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet (to use the slogan from an old commercial). You don’t need to celebrate the 4th of July, give a damn about the “land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrims’ pride,” or the Civil War, or World War 2. You don’t even need to care about the Constitution, or life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to be a member of the American class. My patriotism, affection, or loyalty contributes nothing to a class. One’s affection for their people means you love something and want it to endure and be passed on, to be inherited. I do feel a loyalty to my kind because loyalty helps your kind to survive and endure.




Why Diversity Destroys Social Capital, part 3


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In this section I will discuss the way in which social capital is compatible with diversity. As I mentioned in part 2, in the social capital literature there is a distinction between micro and macro social capital on the one hand, and between bridging and bonding social capital on the other. The topic of this post is bridging social capital.

Throughout these posts I have assumed that there is only one model of diversity, what we might call micro-level or inter-personal diversity. But since the world has always been diverse, and high levels of social capital have existed in the past, and still do persist in many places around the world, it shows that social capital is compatible with diversity. The question should be what kind of diversity is compatible with social capital. Start by considering that every kind of diversity is also a kind of homogeny. For example, if every street containing one-hundred houses contained representatives of one-hundred different cultures, in one sense this would be diverse, but in another sense it would be entirely homogenous in that every street would be like every other street. A diverse street could be a homogenous collection of streets; diversity is always relative to a reference class. But there is another type of diversity, intercultural diversity. Whereas interpersonal diversity is disruptive to social capital (as discussed in part 2), intercultural social capital is compatible with social capital of a different kind: what Putnam calls bridging social capital.

Bridging social capital is what exists between groups and allows them to cooperate to promote shared interests. To understand how the social capital that exists within groups is different from the social capital that exists between groups, it is important to first understand what these groups are. Millikan writes: “Many kinds of interest to social scientists, such as ethnic, social, economic, and vocational groups are historical kinds” (2000: 22). As might be expected from their name, historical kinds are constituted not by some essential properties or essence, but by the possession of certain shared historical relations between members (2000: 23). A common such historical relation is that one item is copied or reproduced from another (as discussed in part 1); behaviors, language, customs, traditions and the like are copied from person to person through family and cultural traditions, and through education. Similar to the way genes are copied across generations, these behaviors and ideas are copied into new generations and will promote historical continuity.


For example, school teachers, doctors, and fathers form historical kinds when these groups are studied as limited to particular historical cultural contexts. Members of these groups are likely to act similarly in certain ways and to have attitudes in common as a result of similar training handed down from person to person (reproduction or copying), as a result of custom (more copying), as a result either of natural human dispositions or social pressures to conform to role models (copying again) and/or as a result of legal practices (2000: 22).


A second historical relation between members is a shared environment which sees to it through natural and cultural selection that features and practices that do not provide a benefit to the individual will not get passed on. Cultures existing in the polar region, or a dessert, or a rain forest, or a city, or in proximity to other cultures will have persisting factors that will need to be dealt with by behavioral and cultural adaptations by successive generations.   Thus the stability of natural and social environmental conditions will contribute to the stability of the group over time. These factors will contribute to the stability, or “homeostasis,” of the group over time.

The final factor that promotes the stability of social groups are the stabilizing cooperative conventions discussed in part 2. Take as an example the Normal conditions for visual perception of color. If one is in abNormal conditions for color perception, say, it is too dark, or there are colored lights instead of sunlight, and one is unable to judge accurately an object’s color, the solution is to bring the object into Normal conditions, to bring it outdoors, for example, and look at it under the sun. Millikan writes “One knows how, physically, to maneuver oneself into conditions [N]ormal for making accurate perceptual judgments of a given kind” (2000: 103). Either by instinct or experience people are quite good at bringing about Normal conditions in order to ensure successful functioning of their visual or linguistic or other teleological mechanisms. When trying to see something, we bring objects into Normal conditions for visual perception, when trying to hear a sound we might turn our head in order to sense from which direction the sound is coming, or move closer to the sound, and so on.

Similar to these cases, people naturally will seek out conditions that are Normal for the interpersonal stabilizing functions of language, appearance, customs, morals, tastes, and other stabilizing functions. We naturally attune ourselves to one another to enjoy the benefits of successful interpersonal coordination. We need to do so if we are going to succeed in communicating and in other day-to-day interactions that require coordination and cooperation amongst members of a community in the performance of stabilizing functions. In the case of coordinating behaviors such as the American convention of driving on the right hand side of the road, the stabilization keeps the cooperating partners behaving in conventional ways; in the case communication, the benefit afforded by stabilizing proper functions serves to keep producers producing in historically Normal ways, and consumers consuming in historically Normal ways.

Just as the stability of biological species results from the maintenance of compatibilities in the gene pool, the need for Normal inter-personal coordination is what keeps words meaning the same things over time, or keeps traditions alive, or keeps moral practices in existence. Without the forces of cultural homeostasis cultures and social groups would be unable to persist (or exist) and there would be no cultures or cultural diversity. In the United States, drivers must coordinate with one another such that Normally people drive on the right, people shake hands when greeting rather than, say, bowing to one another, we start work at 9 a.m., we have standards for dress, we use dollars for currency, etc. These and innumerable other historical co-adaptations are what create, constitutes, and maintains a culture; they are the bonds that hold a culture together. And just as homeostasis preserves the diversity of biological species, this process of cultural homeostasis is what preserves cultures and cultural diversity; it keeps cultures in existence and stable over time and safe from dispersal. But notice that if the argument of the second section of this article is correct, interpersonal stabilizing proper functions that contribute to cultural homeostasis just is bonding social capital. Thus is explained the grounds of the often-invoked metaphor that bonding social capital is the “sociological superglue” that keeps groups together (Putnam 2000: 23).


Historical kinds can be more of less “rough” depending on the regularity of the causative factors between copies, and by the number of commonalities that go together (2000: 26). For example, like biological species, cultures and other social groups have stability through time. They are not as stable as species, and in many places the speed of cultural change seems blindingly fast, but many features of a culture do persist through time. Not too much emphasis should be given to the “stasis” in homeostasis. The world is always changing through environmental changes, technical innovations, new scientific understanding, and communication, and this prevents true stasis. Nevertheless, all of these things also have a resistance to change due to the forces of homeostasis. Americans still predominantly speak English, celebrate Christmas, drive on the right, conduct elections, and so on. Despite the radical changes that have occurred, these features have remained constant over the decades and centuries. None of these traits are universal, but neither is it the case that all swans are white, all birds fly, or all hearts pump blood. Nevertheless, the social sciences that study these kinds can persist in doing empirical studies on these groups that result in justified yet fallible inductions concerning these categories because these real historical relations promote the possession of commonalities between members. If there were no such forces there would be no possibility of the social sciences for there would be no forces promoting likeness among members resulting in social groups. “If social groups were not real, there could be no gain in empirical studies concerning them, for example, studies of the attitudes of American doctors towards herbal medicines, and so forth” (2000: 22).

Too much diversity on an interpersonal level destroys social capital by introducing the too frequent abNormal conditions and thus disrupting the process of cultural homeostasis. Were the process of cultural homeostasis to somehow break down either by members ceasing to produce the Normal coordinating behaviors for that culture–perhaps they adopt the behaviors of another culture as in the case of cultural imperialism or invasion, or perhaps the members of the culture are widely dispersed by a hostile outside force–the culture would cease to exist and the world’s cultural diversity lessened. Thus micro-level interpersonal cultural diversity, if carried to an ultimate extent, undermines itself by disrupting the forces of cultural homeostasis that make the existence of cultures possible in the first place.

Fortunately, the forces of cultural homeostasis as constituted by stabilizing proper functions are so fundamental to the ability of people to get by in the world, the necessity for co-adaptation so strong, that people will seek out Normal conditions, as we have seen, and cultures will generally remain safe from dispersal unless acted upon by an outside force. People will either adapt to the prevalent language and customs of a place, and thereby integrate, or they will seek out those with whom they are already adapted and congregate. But there is no irrational bigotry or prejudice involved in seeking out those with whom one can coordinate and communicate Normally. These vices themselves destroy social capital by preventing the successful performance of the stabilizing function of the indicative mood, and so result in one not benefiting by acquiring new knowledge, or lead to the malfunctioning of the imperative mood by preventing one from doing what is in their best interest because one blindly refuses to believe or do what is said by someone against whom one is prejudiced. But preferring the presence of those one can expect to communicate and coordinate with successfully is not irrational or a vice. The reasons for avoiding meaning decay are the same as those for having language, culture, and communication in the first place, namely the benefits that accrue to the functioning of language and culture. It is part of the job of social science to study the factors that foster or impede the reception of these benefits by preventing the assimilation into a given history.

With this understanding of the forces that keep historical kinds together, we can proceed to discuss the interactions that exist between historical kinds through bridging social capital. As indicated previously, the difference between bonding and bridging social capital is in the kinds of things that are related: individuals within an historical kind in the former, and between historical kinds, or between individuals belonging to different historical kinds, in the latter. But the nature of social capital as stabilizing proper function is the same for both.

This present account explains why “bridging social capital is intrinsically less likely to develop automatically than bonding social capital” (Putnam 2003: 279). Stabilizing functions come to exist because the parties have a common interest. In the case of groups with a function, such as the promotion of a specific political, or social, or economic goal, if there is no common interest between groups, there would be no need for a stabilizing function to bridge them. On the other hand, different groups or cultures might have common interests, such as trade, or a common antagonist, and so derive a set of diplomatic (bridging) conventions in the pursuit of this common goal, only to return to their respective kinds afterwards, or, as in the case of organizations such as NATO, continue to exist as a loose homeostatic group of groups itself. Bridging social capital is more likely to exist between sub-groups of a larger group where there are already many shared conventions–language, or values, for example–than where there are few or no shared conventions. But even here diversity would destroy bridging social capital if it prevents the adoption of common standards and conventions by which the groups can cooperate.

In conclusion, since social capital is possible within a culture to the extent that the coordination of stabilizing functions proceed Normally, and cultural diversity is possible in the sense of a diversity of cultures each maintained through the cultural homeostasis that is produced by bonding social capital, they are compatible as long as cultural homeostasis is allowed to persist and not disrupted by too frequent abNormal conditions. The promotion of diversity should not become mere neikophilia—love of breaking the bonds that bring a people together–for it is by these bonds that cultures can exist and persist, and that individuals can enjoy the benefits of cooperation that social capital bestows.


Allen, Colin, Bekoff, Marc, Lauder, George, eds., (1998), Nature’s Purposes, (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press).


Boyd, Richard (1989), “What Realism Implies and What it Does Not,” Dialectica, 43.1-2: 5-29.


Coleman, J.S. (1988), “Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital,” American Journal of Sociology, 94 Supplement: S95 – S120.


Dronkers, Jaap, and Lancee, Bram (2008), “Ethnic diversity in neighborhoods and individual trust of immigrants and natives: A replication of Putnam (2007) in a West-European country.” Paper presented at the International Conference on Theoretical Perspectives on Social Cohesion and Social Capital, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, Brussels, Palace of the Academy. May 15, 2008. Online at http://www.eui.eu/Personal/Dronkers/English/trust.pdf


Eldredge, G. and Gould, S.J. (1972), “Punctuated Equilibria: An Alternative to Phyletic Gradualism,” In T.J.M. Schopf (ed.), Models in Paleobiology, 82—155 (San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper and Company).

Godfrey-Smith, Peter (1994), “A Modern History Theory of Functions,” Nous 28: 344 – 32.

Halpern, David (2005), Social Capital, (Cambridge: Polity Press).

Hero, Rodney E. (2007), Racal Diversity and Social Capital, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Millikan, Ruth (1984), Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories, (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press).

—– (1993), White Queen Psychology and Other Essays for Alice, (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press).

—– (2000), On Clear and Confused Ideas, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

—– (2004), Varieties of Meaning, (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press).

—– (2005), Language: A Biological Model, (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Putnam, Robert (2000), Bowling Alone, (New York: Simon and Schuster).

—– (2003), Better Together, (New York: Simon and Schuster).

—– (2007), “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century,” Scandinavian Political Studies, 30: 137 – 174.





Why Diversity Destroys Social Capital, part 2


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With the framework presented in part 1 in mind we can now begin to address the nature of social capital. It is important to understand that stabilizing proper functions (as discussed in part 1) can be destroyed by abNormal conditions. If a producer consistently fails to receive the Normal response from its intended consumers, consumers will eventually come to cease trying to get their purpose across by means of using language in conventional ways. And if speakers do not use linguistic forms Normally, a hearer will soon stop trying to extract useful information from them from which to form beliefs (1984: 31). To take an obvious example, just think about being placed in a country where the inhabitants speak a different language. If you approach a person and try to get information from them by using the inquisitive mood, but they do not respond by using language forms that you understand, conditions are abNormal for the use of the inquisitive mood in one’s language and meaning has broken down. In such a case the stabilizing function that coordinates speaker and hearer fails since the speaker and hearer are not adapted to one another. You may try your luck with a few other people hoping that one of them will be adapted to respond to your language production, but after a few tries you will soon stop trying to communicate with others by the means of your native language. The same goes if someone approaches you and begins producing sounds to which you are not properly adapted for interpreting. You will soon either try to communicate in some other way, by gestures perhaps, and thereby try to direct the person to someone who may be able to help, but you will eventually cease to try to communicate by using your language.

Meaning can be destroyed in less extreme cases as well. Take the case of the use of the indicative, or fact-stating, linguistic mood. Its stabilizing function is to produce true beliefs in its listeners and it does this Normally when the speaker/producer has a true belief, communicates this fact to the listener/consumer, and they then come to possess a true belief (1984: 53). If listeners were not liable to obtain true beliefs from speakers sufficiently often they would soon stop forming the belief that corresponds to the utterances of speakers, and if listeners were not going to convert one’s utterances into beliefs, speakers would stop trying to communicate by using these language forms. The stabilizing function of the indicative mood can thus be undermined by abNormality when the speaker does not have a true belief (but thinks they do), has true beliefs but intentionally spreads a false statement (lies), or when the consumer misunderstands or refuses to believe the statement (1984: 55). For example, if a group or individual has been shown to have spread false information sufficiently often, people will longer trust what is being told to them. And someone who is so stubborn that they refuse to believe anything that is told to them will soon find that few people will make the effort to tell them anything. This discussion of how the successful functioning of the indicative mood both requires and reinforces honesty on the part of the speaker, and requires and reinforces trust on the part of the listener should begin to illuminate how this approach applies to the study of social capital where honesty and trust have been central topics (2005: 16).
We are now in a position to address the nature of social capital and how diversity undermines it. The result of the preceding discussion is this: social capital exists to the extent that interpersonal stabilizing functions proceed Normally, and is lost to the extent that abNormal conditions prevent successful functioning. Social capital just is the presence of Normal conditions for interpersonal stabilizing function and diversity destroys social capital by preventing the successful performance of this function. The study of social capital should thus be the study of how people coordinate and cooperate and so arrive at stabilizing functions, and what factors inhibit or prevent successful coordination.
In the social capital literature there is a distinction between society-wide macro social capital, and interpersonal micro social capital, and another distinction between “bonding” social capital within groups and “bridging” social capital between groups. The account I have presented here cuts across the bridging/bonding and micro/macro debates in the social capital literature as it equally applies to all these types. As far as bonding social capital, the value of biosemantics to the study of social capital is that it allows us to understand what the bonds of bonding social capital are, how the mechanism of bonding occurs, what its function is (see Putnam 2000: 22). These bonds have previously been taken as primitives, as automatic, with vague gestures towards a supposed brute fact that “birds of a feather flock together.” The existence and nature of interpersonal stabilizing proper functions provides us with a detailed account of this bonding mechanism and how stabilization may be achieved.

Macro-level stabilizing functions–society-wide cooperation among those who “can hardly be said to know each another” (Halpern 2005: 16)–have stabilizing functions as well. The societal conventions involved in obeying the rules of traffic, sharing standards of attire, cooperating with other pedestrians, or sharing a common language by which to communicate, are all stabilizing functions. The difference between micro-level and macro-level social capital lies not in the type of substances involved, but in the nature of the concepts involved. The concepts involved in these macro-level interactions are temporary and are discarded once the interaction is over; as when we only possess the concept of the individual car in front of us for as long as we need to track it while driving. As soon as the car moves out of our vicinity we discard the concept like we discard the concept of our individual glass at a cocktail party when we can no longer keep track of it (2000: 80). Because of the fleetingness of these interactions it would be very inefficient for us to retain a concept of each individual we encounter. Thus macro-level social capital must involve society-wide stabilizing functions that do not rely on enduring concepts of individuals. The way to make sure these conventions are followed is to have them widely adopted so that each individual can be assured that others are following the conventions without needing information about the distinct individual with whom we need to coordinate (2005: 12).

Micro-level interactions such as the strength and reliability of an individual’s personal networks are equally stabilized, the difference being that the bonds can be stronger to the extent that one can form enduring concepts of the individuals involved and thus track those involved in the recurring cooperation, and through experience build degrees of trust that would be impossible when dealing with strangers and the many individuals that are encountered in traffic or crowds. In high social capital, tight-knit communities, the subjects might possess a concept of an individual that lasts for the subject’s entire life and includes information stretching back for decades to include familiarity with the individual’s family and ancestors.

The nature of bridging social capital will be discussed in part 3.
I will now provide some examples of how this argument may be applied to the problem of diversity. This is not meant to be an exhaustive inventory of the ways that diversity undermines social capital and other cases surely exist. We have already discussed case 1,  how the alienation that results from being in the presence of those who can not understand one’s language—that is, where a producer reproduces a linguistic form in the absence of a Normal consumer—will eventually result in the producer to stop producing. This is what Putnam refers to as “hunkering down” or “drawing in as a turtle” (2007: 149). But it is not only the failure to possess a common language that can produce this effect.  Case 2: the collection of distinctive inflections, phonemes, and emphasis that we call a regional accent has its stabilizing functions. Accents standardize the pronunciation of words so that they may be reidentified by the listener each tome they are spoken.  Simply not possessing the accent that is commonly used in a region is alienating. If one feels that one’s listeners are not picking up on the subtleties that are conveyed with an accent, that they are not adapted to the conventions on how words are to be pronounced, meaning decay is the result of this breakdown in the stabilizing proper function of this use of language, and one will quickly either adapt to and adopt the regional accent, or go find others with whom one is already coordinated and so are able to appreciate it. What usually happens is that people who move to a new region come to adopt the local accent as a means of coordinating with those with whom one must communicate and thus remove the alienation and enjoy the benefits of coordination.
Dysfunction can occur among intentional representations other than spoken human language. For example, case 3, one way people adopt conventions is in the way they coordinate their appearance. In schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and any other group or sub-group you will find a high degree of coordination of appearance. The way new styles of attire are selected and reproduced and thus spread through a population are extremely complicated and varied. Yet enough can be said here to make the point. One benefit of this coordination is that individuals are thereby able to blend in with one another in order to not attract unwanted attention. (On the other hand, there are those who take advantage of the coordinating conventions and intentionally violate them specifically in order to stand out and attract attention.) Another reason for adopting these conventions is the same for having spoken language; people are capable of communicating things about themselves by their choice of attire. You can communicate wealth, or sophistication, or even political and social views, or kind membership (see section 3) by choice of attire. In your appearance you wear your history on your sleeve, as it were. The phenomenon of people coordinating their appearances by adoption of common styles of dress because of what this “says” about you qualifies these items as intentional icons, and members of these kinds are in on this language just as much as they are in on the co-adaptations involved in speaking the shared language.

I have already mentioned as an example the stripes that are worn by soldiers to indicate rank and proscribe appropriate behavior. When one displays an intentional icon amongst those who are not the Normal consumers, meaning decay will result. For instance, the meaning of the stripes on a soldiers uniform decays when worn among civilians who do not know their significance. It is being produced, but the Normal consumers (other members of the military) are missing. From the consumer’s side, seeing someone wearing something with obvious meaning, but for whom you are not historically attuned, causes alienation and meaning decay as well. Examples of this are the Muslim head scarf and other religious and/or cultural garb when worn among those brought up in different traditions. The head scarf is a sign of modesty, and it indicates this Normally when the wearer and perceiver are historically adapted to interpret it is this way. In such a case meaning decay and alienation does not occur merely because one does not understand the meaning, something which might quickly be corrected by doing research or by asking, it is that when worn amongst non-members it also indicates that you are outside the Normal producer/consumer pair. It thus produces alienation and its corresponding destruction of social capital.

Further examples are, case 4, how different cultures have different conventions for the proper distance to stand from one another when conversing. Having someone stand closer or further away than you are accustomed to when having a conversation is a result of miscoordination, and produces that awkward uncomfortable feeling which results from alienation. Offering to shake hands when your consumer is prepared for a bow produces a similar result. Listeners that react to you in unexpected ways, have different habits, or mannerisms—all of which have been replicated and selected–will produce similar results. And just imagine the effect on social capital if cultural diversity was allowed to the extent that individuals could retain varying customs regarding which side of the road on which to drive.

The most extreme case is case 5, where moral standards differ between populations. Whatever account one may accept of the origins of morality, moral behavior remains in practice in a population for a reason. In other words, moral behavior has a stabilizing function. Someone performing an act which they believe to be moral, but others believe to be immoral, destroys this stabilizing function of moral behavior and is a more devastating blow to social capital than any other case. Being in the presence of those behaving in ways that one deems immoral but others find perfectly acceptable is a very alienating experience. The presence of female genital mutilation, homophobia, abortion, animal cruelty, or any other practice that is deemed immoral by some in a population will cause severe destruction of social capital.

The conclusion is that since different cultures possess different accents, languages, standards of humor, reactions, morals, norms, gestures, etc., the greater the degree of cultural diversity, the greater the frequency of abNormal conditions and the corresponding destruction of social capital. It should thus be clear why social capital and diversity are incompatible, and why efforts to make diversity and social capital compatible are bound to fail. If we wish to bring about Normalcy of interpersonal stabilizing proper functions, this can only be done by co-adapting the partners of the stabilizing coordination. There are several ways we can do this: one way would be for the consumer to adopt the conventions of the producer’s language and customs and thus adapt to the producer. On the other hand, the producer could learn the language and customs of the consumer and so succeed in stabilization. Or, both the producer and consumer can abandon their coordinating conventions and adopt new ones. Or, the cultures can merge. All of these solutions would help to eliminate alienation by removing the signs of historical differences that cause it. But in all of these cases, the solution is to get rid of the diversity that is causing dysfunction and alienation and instead adopt common conventions that bring the producer and consumer into coordination. If social capital exists by the Normal performance of interpersonal stabilizing functions, and a diversity of differing conditions for interpersonal coordination will inevitably cause malfunctioning, it is only through the elimination of this conflicting diversity by both participants coming to adopt Normal partner roles that social capital can be maintained.

We conclude this discussion in part 3.

Why Diversity Destroys Social Capital, part 1


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In 2007 Harvard researcher Robert Putnam published the long-awaited results of his research which showed that increased diversity lead to a reduction in social capital. Putnam’s massive study concluded that:

…inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the colour of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, to give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television (2007: 150).


In the presence of diversity, we “hunker down”, he argued, “we pull in like a turtle” (2007: 149).

These results have been echoed in other studies as well. For example, Dronkers in his study of immigrant neighborhoods in the Netherlands finds that:

1) neighborhoods’ ethnic diversity reduces individual trust in neighborhoods; 2) those with neighbors of a different ethnicity have less trust in neighborhoods and neighbors 3) a substantial part of the effect of neighborhoods’ ethnic diversity on individual trust can be explained by the higher propensity of having neighbors of a different ethnicity. We conclude that ethnic diversity can have a negative effect on individual trust. (Dronkers 2008)


And Hero concurs that “When we considered the interaction of diversity and social capital, a powerful dampening effect of the former on the latter was shown” (Hero 2007: 157).

The explanations for the findings of Putnam’s and other similar studies have usually been couched in moral terms: liberals see it as confirmation of persistent prejudice; conservatives see it as a confirmation that multiculturalism is destructive to society. Both sides see social capital as an important good in society, but they differ in that whereas liberals believe that social capital and diversity are compatible, and that the promotion of social capital is frustrated by prejudice, conservatives believe that social capital and diversity are incompatible and that the good of social capital can only be achieved by reducing diversity through integration. My hope here is to resolve this dispute by offering a non-moral explanation of the mechanism by which social capital is created and maintained, and thereby come to understand how this mechanism is in turn undermined, so that ultimately we can come to judge the compatibility of social capital and diversity.

In his groundbreaking account of social capital, Coleman wrote that “Social capital is defined by its function” (Coleman 1988: 96). If so, it should prove fruitful to consult the literature that has been dedicated to the understanding of the notion and nature of natural function, and see how this may be applied to social capital. This might provide insight into the distinctive function of social capital: what is its function, how it performs its function, and how it fails to perform it. Specifically, I will apply the teleofunctional framework developed by philosopher Ruth Millikan to these ends. There are other accounts of function in the literature, but Millikan’s is specifically geared towards understanding the nature of interpersonal cooperation and communication, and as such is equipped with a set of conceptual tools applicable to the study to social capital.


  1. Teleosemantics

Millikan’s great insight in her landmark Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories was to look language, thought, and behavior from an evolutionary frame to apply this to the philosophical problems of mind and semantics. Starting from a naturalistic account of the phenomena of teleological function, Millikan is able to move up into the spheres of intentionality, meaning, representation, and interpersonal communication. For Millikan, functional items like hearts and kidneys get their functions not by what they currently do, or have a disposition to do, but by possessing a certain history. Specifically, there must be a history of both reproduction and selection. “Reproduction” is to be understood counterfactually as had the ancestor differed in some respect, the descendent would likewise differ in that respect. Picture the way the words on the paper that comes out of a copying machine are copies of the words on the original, or the way that children’s genes are copies of their parents’ genes, or the performance of social customs such as shaking hands or bowing when greeting are copies of previous performances of those gestures, or the way manufactured items on an assembly line are copies of a blueprint or prototype (1984: 23).[1][1]

The second requirement is that the item must be selected for the possession of a feature. “Selection” here is to be understood not as conscious choice, but in the Darwinian sense that the reason an item or feature exists is that this feature has correlated sufficiently often with some effect, and this effect helped account for its reproduction as opposed to things lacking this effect (1993: 35). The effect in question is the proper function of the item. In the case of biological items such as organs or inherited behaviors such as mating displays, the proper function is that effect an item’s ancestors had that accounted for the proliferation of the genes responsible for its production (1993: 14). Put more intuitively, a specific animal mating display, for example, has proliferated because this behavior corresponds more positively with the ability to attract mates than some other behavior. This behavior was selected by natural selection over some other behavior at least in part because of that correlation; those who performed this display were more likely to attract mates, and thus to pass these behavior-producing genes into their progeny, than those who didn’t. Hearts, to take another example, have pumping blood as their proper function not because they currently pump blood, or have the capacity to pump blood, but because the genes that produce hearts are copies of an ancestor’s genes, and the reason these genes have proliferated is because they correlate with the production of things that pump blood (1993: 35). Thus diseased, malformed, and damaged hearts that lack the ability to pump blood still have the pumping of blood as their proper function because the genes that produced them are copies of genes that have proliferated because they sufficiently often produce things the pump blood, whether or not the current item in question has this ability. Many mating displays fail to perform their mate-attracting function, maybe they even fail more frequently than they succeed, but they succeed often enough to make it worthwhile to pass on the genes.

It is not only the case of the copying and selection of genes that thereby have proper functions in this sense. The account of selection merely requires that a feature be reproduced because it correlates positively with some effect more positively than if it were lacking this feature. Thus things may have proper functions that exist for reasons other than natural selection working on genes. Manufactured artifacts are also copied and selected because they produce some effect (1984: 28). Hammers have driving nails as their proper function because it was the ability to drive nails that has lead to the copying of these artifacts by humans in manufacture. In addition to innate behaviors, a learned behavior can have a proper function if it is reproduced because it leads to a reward; it being the function of the behavior to bring about this result. Behaviors learned through trial and error or through imitation, for example, fall into this category (1984: 28). When a child first learns to imitate (reproduce) light-switch-flipping behavior because they have observed the correlation between light-switch-flipping and room illumination, the proper function of this behavior is to illuminate the room. The proper function of taking the bus is to arrive at one’s destination; the proper function of opening the refrigerator is to get food, and so on.   Likewise, saying/reproducing language items such as words, sentence syntax, phonetic accents, and so on have proper functions; the child learns to iterate tokens of “ba-ba” because this correlates sufficiently often with the reception of a bottle and thus food.

In some cases two items have a common purpose that has been achieved in the past by each party reproducing their share in a pattern of behavior. This serves to coordinate each one to the other in order to cooperate in the achievement of this common purpose. For example, drivers have a common interest in avoiding collisions, so, in the United States and many other countries, a convention was instituted whereby drivers drive on the right. Drivers thus coordinate with one another in order to cooperate in the achievement of their common goal. Other countries of course may have instituted the similar convention of driving on the left. Producing and maintaining this mutual adaptation whereby each party contributes to the shared goal is the “stabilizing” function of the item or behavior; it is what keeps both parties to the coordination responding in standard ways (1984: 31, 2005: 54).

One such case are the reproduced patterns involved in certain animal mating dances where both the producer of the dance and its audience (called the “consumer” by Millikan) have a common purpose and have come up with a convention in order to coordinate with one another in order to reach it. The intended audience “expects” a dance of a certain form to be performed, its conventions followed, and the producer expects the audience to react in a standard way to its performance. Because consumers often enough respond to the dances in a way that benefits them, producers are encouraged to keep producing. And because responding to the dances aids consumers, they are likely to keep responding in the standard way. Despite the fact that often the dance may fail in its purpose, it is more likely to succeed than some random motions, and that makes it worthwhile to keep it in use.

Language devices have their stabilizing functions as well. For instance, if the listeners of an utterance reacted randomly to one’s speech it would be pointless to continue to make those utterances, and the speaker would soon stop. Likewise, if speakers’ utterances never communicated useful information, or if the hearer was too often manipulated against their best interest, hearers would soon stop believing what is said (1984: 31). Speakers and listeners thus arrive at a convention to which each is attuned in order for each of them to succeed in performing the stabilizing function. Speakers must produce forms that the listener is prepared to accept, and the intended audience, the consumers of the language form, must react in ways that reinforce the speaker in so speaking. For instance, it is a convention amongst English speakers that we utter “dog” when trying to discuss dogs. Likewise, it is a convention amongst English writers that we write the characters d, o, and g in order when we are trying to discuss or refer to dogs. One’s hearer must be coordinated with this convention and so be prepared to respond to the utterance of “dog” such as to know that it refers to dogs. It will do no good to utter “dog” amongst those who are not coordinated with the speaker by the possession of a common linguistic history so as to respond to this utterance in a predictable way.

Speakers within a language community are, simply, adapted to an environment in which hearers are responding, sufficiently often, to the forms speakers produce in ways that reinforce these speaker productions. Correlatively, hearers in the community are, simply, adapted to conditions under which speakers, sufficiently often, produce these language forms in circumstances such that making conventional responses to them aids those hearers (2005: 57).

Thus, people continue to utter “dog” in order to draw attention to dogs only insofar as listeners often enough continue to respond to this utterance appropriately. It is in both the speaker’s and hearer’s interest to continue to respond in this way since the hearer is liable to gain useful information and the speaker is liable to meet his goal of spreading such information. “Dog” has been copied from person to person for generations because it is successful in doing so in relation to dogs. The stabilizing function a linguistic form performs is one of the aspects of the term’s meaning (2005: 58).

There are ways of communicating besides through the use of spoken human language. There is the common phenomenon of non-spoken communicating signs that have been designed to coordinate between producer, consumer, and environment. In these cases items with stabilizing functions may attain intentionality. To use a now classic example, after finding a source of nectar, a honey bee returns to the hive and does a dance. Other bees watch the dance and so learn the location of the nectar relative to the sun and the hive. They then fly off in the direction of the nectar in order to retrieve it and bring it back to the hive. Millikan calls items such as the dance of the honey bee “intentional icons” because they are about the location of nectar (1984: ch. 6). In order to be an intentional icon the sign in question must, firstly, be able to vary in accordance with variations in the environment. Secondly, it must be a function of the producer of the sign to produce it for a consumer in accordance with certain mapping rules by which the sign maps its intended environmental feature. Finally, it must be a function of the intended consumers of the icon to use it in the way the mapping relation indicates (1993: 106).

For example, the form of the dance of the honey bee varies depending on the location of the nectar relative to the sun and the hive, it is produced by the dancing bee in order to indicate this relation, and the watching bees then use the mapping relation indicated to direct their direction of flight. In another example, soldiers wear their ranks on their uniforms where they can be clearly perceived by their intended audience. The insignia varies according to the soldiers rank and both tells consumers what the rank is and so prescribes appropriate behavior. Finally, beavers slap their tails on the water when danger is near in order to tell listening beavers of its presence. The slaps vary with the time and place of danger, and the listening beavers use this icon to initiate hiding or other avoidance behaviors.

For each item that possesses a function in the sense described here there will be an explanation of how the item has historically managed to perform this function. This explanation will mention how the structure of the item in question has managed to “do its job” historically, what conditions were in effect, what the environment was like that allowed the item to successfully perform it function. Millikan calls such an explanation a “Normal” explanation and the conditions that have historically held in order for the item to succeed in performing its function “Normal” conditions (1984: 33). “Normal” is capitalized to prevent confusion that might occur if one was to think that Normal conditions are average or frequent since “normal” often has that connotation. For example, just think of how few sperm manage to perform their function of fertilizing an egg, or how infrequently the skull needs to perform its function of protecting the brain from impacts. It might be helpful to think of Normal conditions as “activation conditions” or “enabling conditions.” In abNormal conditions an item will fail to perform its function, or at least fail to accomplish it in accordance with a Normal explanation. Diseased hearts are in abNormal conditions, being underwater for extended periods is an abNormal condition for otherwise healthy lungs, and whatever it is that prevents a specific sperm from fertilizing an egg is also an abNormal condition.

We will put all this theory to use in part 2.


Teleofunction, Not Tradition



I am going to try to write a few shorter posts over the next couple of weeks instead of my usual long, multi-part epics. Today’s subject is traditionalism. The point of this post is merely tactical, a way to get around the negative connotations of the word “tradition.”   As soon as someone says they are a traditionalist they open themselves up to some immediate objections. You can already hear howls that slavery was a tradition, or invocations of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. Either that or you will invoke images of silly harmless holidays like Groundhog’s Day. This is because the word “tradition” has a connotation of rote repetition for no other reason than that is how things have always been done.

However, this is not what a self-described traditionalist is trying to convey. When someone claims they are a traditionalist they are making the point that things have been done a certain way for good reasons, and that there isn’t really a better word for this in English than “tradition.” What is missing from the word “tradition” is the crucial point that traditions are teleofunctional. Take Chesterton’s fence. Chesterton’s point is that the fence serves a purpose; it has a function (to keep the horses in or whatever). A fence is a designed artifact with a function, and in claiming that tradition is like a fence the analogy is that traditions are designed to prevent problems, that traditions are teleofunctional.

Just because something has a function of course doesn’t mean it was good. Slavery had a function, providing the slave owners with a life of comfort. It is a separate argument to show that a social structure is needed or good. The ultimate weapon of reaction/neoreaction is that claim that anti-liberal structures are inevitable given the workings of nature (gnon) and human nature; that liberal values are deathwish values.

Plus, saying you’re a traditionalist sounds so musty and fuddy-duddy; saying you’re a teleofunctionalist sounds modern and sexy. So my proposal is to stop calling ourselves traditionalists and start calling ourselves teleofunctionalists. If you really want to sex it up call it bio-social teleofunctionalism, which encapsulates the Dark Enlightenment in a nutshell.

The Dark Enlightenment for Newbies


Soon after Nick Land coined the phrase “Dark Enlightenment” there was a flood of articles on the subject. However, most of the articles that actually tried to explain what it was were written by those hostile to the concept. Now that the furor has subsided it seems like a good time to try to explain to newcomers what the Dark Enlightenment actually is from a sympathetic angle. With so many different writers it can be intimidating for newcomers to tip their toes in the water without having to jump in to the ocean. So this will be a primer for those who are perhaps curious and looking for an introduction.

In Nick Land’s Dark Enlightenment series he never actually defines it, so I am going to go by Jim’s description: that the Enlightenment was dangerously optimistic about humans, human nature, and the state, that it is another good news religion, telling us what we wish to hear, but about this world instead of the next.   http://blog.jim.com/culture/the-dark-enlightenment/

Claiming that the Enlightenment was optimistic about human nature is nothing new. In fact, much of the Enlightenment itself was dedicated to this. Just think of Locke’s skepticism about innate ideas, Hume’s denial of knowledge of the self, or Kant’s denial of knowledge of things-in-themselves. This skepticism concerning knowledge was carried to its completion in the 20th century with Sellers’ denial that we possess direct awareness of our perpetual states, and reached its apex with Millikan’s attack on “meaning rationalism,” where even the meanings of our own thoughts and language are not directly given to consciousness.

So what is the Enlightenment view of human nature against which the Dark Enlightenment sets itself? Here we seem to have pretty strong agreement that it is the blank slate view of human nature that is not only wrong but disastrously so.   (Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate is required reading for anyone delving into these waters.) The blank slate was originally an entirely epistemological notion; it was the claim that knowledge came from the senses and that there were no innate ideas in Descartes’ sense. Restricted to this sphere it was relatively unproblematic and it is a view I share. But in the late 19th and 20th century the notion of the blank slate was extended way beyond its merely epistemological origins to encompass the entirety of human psychology. It is this expansion that the Dark Enlightenment sets itself against.

It is illuminating to understand how communism claimed it was the rational conclusion of the blank slate. Communism held that human nature is entirely malleable and that education and propaganda can shape people in any way desired. Communists held that people were so malleable that, say, parents’ affection for their children could be educated away and children could be happily abandoned to be brought up by the state, or that people’s self-interest could be overcome through education, and so people could work not for their own interests but for the benefit of the state, or that people could be educated out of their desire for material goods, and so on. The communist views were actually quite reasonable given blank slate equalism. For example, I seem remember reading somewhere that Trotsky claimed that there would be a Leonardo Da Vinci on every street corner after the revolution, and why not? If everyone is equal then inequality must be the result of social conditions. If there could be one Leonardo Da Vinci why can’t everyone be a Leonardo Da Vinci if we are all equal and society is perfected?

The official socially-approved lesson from the fall of communism is that it fell because it failed to see that people are naturally self-interested. Even uber-Lefty Peter Singer in his book Darwinian Left concedes that a political system can not require that people act against their self-interest. This is the view of the neo-liberalism that has reigned for the last 30 years: blank slate + self-interest. Neo-liberals of the right and left generally believe in the blank slate in all areas except that people are naturally materially self-interested.

The Dark Enlightenment puts a lot more back into the self in addition to self-interest. The reason for this is that the DE sees psychology as a branch of biology. I won’t argue for this point here except to claim that if minds are the result of the functioning of our brains, and brains are biological organs, they must work under the same principles as the rest of biology. This actually could work as a definition of the Dark Enlightenment: biology applies to people too. Which might be rephrased as: realize that you are a designed being. For example, one thing we put back into human nature is biofunctional psychology, the view that mental states must be understood the way any other biological process in understood. Take the feeling of hunger. What effect does hunger produce that might explain how it contributes to the well-being of an organism? It seems clear that hunger is supposed to, is designed to, get the organism to procure food. This is the function of hunger just as it is the function of the heart to pump blood, or red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body. The same account can be given of other feelings like thirst, fear, anger, and other mental states like beliefs, hopes, intentions, and desires.

A parent’s greater affection for their children than for unrelated children is another thing we put into human nature. We generally use the theory of kin-selection to explain this. To reiterate, it used to be thought by communism (and in the Israeli kibbutz as well) that children could be brought up communally, without attachment to their parents, and that parents could happily surrender their children to be raised by the state, and that children could thus come to care for the state more than for their families. But wherever this is tried parents come to reject it and desire to look after their children’s welfare personally. The Dark Enlightenment sees a parent’s love and partiality for their children as part of human nature.

Another thing we put back into the self is sexual attraction. It might surprise some today to know that not long ago it was believed that sexual attraction and identity were purely a matter of social conditioning. It was thought that if a boy was raised as a girl from childbirth, he would go on to identify as a girl, and be attracted to boys, and display other feminine traits. Here is a documentary that looks at this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiJVJ5QRRUE

This view has proven to be entirely unfounded, yet you can see how it follows from the extreme blank slate dogma. But if psychology is understood biologically it makes sense that sexual attraction would be built into humans just as it is in other animals.

Another thing we put into human nature is diversity. In the biological world everything from the length of one’s big toe, how fast you can run, the number of hair you have, and so on, is distributed along a range of values. This should apply to psychological states as well. Some people might be natural hot-heads who have stronger feelings of anger, the highly intelligent kids in your school probably were actually smarter than the slower kids, some people might have a natural talent for music, and so on.

So what is dark about the Dark Enlightenment? Absolutely nothing. The Dark Enlightenment only looks dark in contrast to the blinding (as in, it blinds you) optimism of flash-in-the-pan of blank slate equalism. The things that the DE contend about human nature–that parents naturally favor their children, that sexual attraction is a biological phenomenon, that some people are naturally smarter or faster than others–were all accepted as common sense for most or all of human history. It is the unrealistic utopianism of modern liberalism which is ridiculously absurd. The Dark Enlightenment might be better termed The Return to Normalcy. So the phrase “Dark Enlightenment” might not be the best, but it has received enough attention that I don’t think we should abandon it.

Each aspect of human nature I have discussed here has its own branch of the Dark Enlightenment tree (and its own websites dedicated to its discussion). Having accepted Jim’s definition at the outset of this post, I now wish to reject is as too limiting. The Dark Enlightenment extends far beyond the account of human psychology discussed here. For example, I haven’t discussed politics or religion (or gnon). In short, our political discussions center on what social and political structures are needed to create a stable, peaceful, prosperous, and enduring civilization for such a creature.  Elsewhere ( https://darwinianreactionary.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/teleology-and-the-dark-enlightenment/ ) I have argued that the Dark Enlightenment should be identified with a revival of the relevance of teleology. These are all fertile areas for exploration for anyone interested in these topics.


How a Lack of Teleological Thinking Lost the Marriage Debate



This post is an addendum to my series on marriage. You should probably read at least part one of that series before this post in order to understand what I’m talking about.

The most common objections to a procreative understanding of marriage result from the failure to appreciate that institutions are teleofunctional in nature, and so possess the distinctive character of teleological kinds.  Teleological kinds display the following features:

A) Human intentions do not determine an object’s function. One may intend to use a toaster as a door jam, or a space heater, or to illuminate a room by the glow of its electric coils, but none of these things are its function (what Millikan calls a direct proper function). These uses are what Millikan would call “derived” proper functions; the sense in which we would say that the toaster is functioning as a heater is derived from the user’s intentions (Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories, ch. 2). Prototypes of artifacts have only derived functions, when they begin to be replicated because they produce some effect they acquire a direct function as well.

B) An item may be able to perform its function only if external conditions are right, and yet because conditions are never right, the item may never perform its function. Millikan gives as an example an ice-cream machine. In order for an otherwise working ice-cream machine to perform its function, it needs to be hooked up to the appropriate environment and receive the appropriate ingredients as inputs. But because in this example the environment is never right and this particular ice-cream machine is never actually loaded with the correct ingredients, or plugged in and turned on, it never performs its function. And yet making ice cream remains its function (see “Existence Proof for a Viable Externalism,” The Externalist Challenge. New Studies on Cognition and Intentionality, p. 230).

C) An item with a teleofunction may be physically unable to perform it. A diseased heart may be unable to pump blood, yet that remains its function. It is because the possession of a teleofunction is a matter of what one’s ancestors did that the current item may lack these features and yet still have the performance of that action as its function.

D) The possession of a function is an objective fact. It is not a matter of opinion, or interpretation, or a matter of social agreement. It is a fact that the function of the heart is to pump blood. Anyone thinking otherwise is factually wrong. Aristotle thought that the function of the brain was to cool the blood; his proposition to that effect was false. Indeed, generations of biologists may be in agreement as to the function of some mechanism, and yet be wrong about it.

E) An item may fail in the performance of its function more often that it actually achieves it. For example, certain animal mating dances might fail more often than they succeed, yet they succeed often enough to make it worthwhile to keep them in use.

F) Saying that an item has a function is not to provide a conceptual analysis of the concept of that item. In describing an item’s function one is not giving a list of necessary and sufficient conditions for being that thing; having a function is neither necessary nor sufficient for producing the effect in question. Being a heart is a matter of possessing a certain history, and this history can not be revealed by conceptual analysis. In addition to possessing this history, in order to perform a function conditions must be what Millikan calls Normal conditions (LTOBC, p. 33).   Even pumping blood can be missing from a heart, as is the case in deceased, diseased, or damaged hearts, and yet pumping blood remains the heart’s function.

With these features of teleological phenomena in mind we can see how the arguments for gay marriage make invalid assumptions. They almost always assume an essentialism where a single counterexample can invalidate a principle. Teleological phenomena, however, do not work this way. Take the following commonly heard arguments for gay marriage:

Objection 1: Preventing the problems that result from heterosexual intercourse can not be the function of marriage since people get married for all sorts of reasons other than the having and rearing of children. Couples might marry for wealth, to secure an alliance, to receive tax breaks, for companionship, to avoid deportation, and so on.

Feature (A) above answers this objection; functions have nothing to do with an individual or group’s intentions. For example, a screwdriver could be used to fulfill various intentions–as a weapon, a can opener, a hole puncher, etc.–but its (direct as opposed to derived) function is to turn screws. That is what it was reproduced for its ability to do. Furthermore, even if it is constantly used as a space heater, toasting remains the function of a toaster. Whatever its derived function may be, its direct function does not change. Likewise, those entering a police force might be doing it for financial gain, and not law-enforcement, but that remains the institution’s function.

Objection 2: Marriage can have nothing to do with the production of children since lots of people might get married and decide not to have children. Or they may be infertile and unable to have children. A procreative understanding of marriage would say that these couples are not married because they do not perform the function of marriage. To quote Adele Mercier, “Anyone who thinks that the essence of their union is to produce children are mistaken unless they are ready to consider their marriage as having never existed at all should it result in no children” (The Monist, 91 (2008), p. 4).

Feature (B) above explains why an item or institution may have a function and yet never perform it. Imagine a police department that is lucky enough to exist in a place where there is no crime and so no criminals ever need to be apprehended. The apprehension of criminals is still its function despite the fact that it is not performed. Or simply imagine an otherwise working toaster that is never actually used to toast items. Toasting is still its function even though it is never performed. Similarly, a marriage that never performs its function still has that function. Likewise, with infertile couples, feature (C) shows that even if an item is unable to perform its function, it still has that function as its function. A broken toaster or malformed heart still has their distinctive functions even if they are unable to perform them. An infertile heterosexual couple still forms a natural reproductive unit with the function to produce offspring even if it is unable to perform that function. All that is required for marriage is that the couple forms a natural reproductive unit and takes the vows.

Objection 3: It can not be the function of marriage to prevent the problems that result from the production of children because many married couples do not prevent these problems. Parents may be abusive or neglectful, or otherwise make bad parents. In fact, they may make the problems worse than they would have been if they did not raise the child.

Feature (E) answers this objection. An item may still have a function even if it sometimes, frequently, or almost always fails. Police departments have the function to prevent crime even though they often fail to do so, the camouflage of a snowshoe hare has the function to avoid detection by predators even though most hares get eaten anyway, and the vast majority of sperm fail to perform their function of fertilizing an egg. All that matters is that the item succeeds often enough to make it worth while to keep around.

Objection 4: An infertile couple may happily remain together for decades. How can you say that this is an unsuccessful marriage?

Mutual love and happiness are great Aristotelian virtues of marriage; they are properties that help to enable a marriage to perform its function. And so this marriage is good insofar as it displays these virtues. However, it has been a monumental error to mistake the virtue of marriage for its function: love is not the function of procreative marriage. Furthermore, no one would deny that a couple that lovingly raise a child display other virtues, and that these are by necessity missing in the case of a childless couple. People may join all sorts of institutions and get much satisfaction out of them without ever successfully performing the function of the institution.

Objection 5: The argument begs the question by describing the problem in such a way that it excludes homosexual couples. It has defined marriage as preventing the problems that result from heterosexual intercourse, namely, the production of a child. Considering that this definition of marriage contains “heterosexual” right in the definition, of course homosexuals will be excluded.

Feature (F) above answers this objection. A teleofunctional account of marriage is not a definition or conceptual analysis of the concept of marriage. Since the argument does not rely on an analysis of “marriage” it does not beg the question to point out that functionally successful heterosexual intercourse has certain consequences missing from homosexual intercourse, and that these consequences might need a social institution with which to address them. If Aristotle was allowed to define the brain as an organ whose function it is to cool the blood, then he could never be refuted by those arguing otherwise, he could only be shown that the item which he took to be a brain, that lump of grey matter in the skull, was not in fact a brain. Anyone arguing otherwise would be accused of begging the question by including their new account of its function in their definition.

Objection 6: “Marriage is neither necessary nor sufficient for recognizing the dignity of children, for procreation, or for encouraging the flourishing of another person (by bringing him or her into existence.” (Brook Sandler, Social Philosophy Today 26 (2010) p. 27.)

Feature (F) answers this objection as well. No social institution is necessary or sufficient for performance of its functions: police departments are neither necessary nor sufficient for stopping crime, schools are neither necessary nor sufficient for education, hospitals are neither necessary nor sufficient for healing the sick. Yet those activities remain the institutions’ functions. The same goes for other functional items such as biological organs, behaviors, or manufactured artifacts. Functions are a matter of what has happened sufficiently often in the past (even if rarely) that explains why an item has been reproduced, and that something has happened in the past is no guarantee (in the form of necessary and sufficient conditions) that it will happen in the present since conditions may not currently be those found in the past that enabled the item to produce the effect for which it has been selected. In Normal conditions an item will be caused to perform its function as a matter of natural law, not metaphysical or logical necessity.

Objection 7: What if a homosexual undergoes a sex change operation to become the opposite sex. Can they then marry their partner?

Sex change operations do not change an individual’s sex (and are usually instead called gender reassignment procedures). Sex is a functional category and is assigned by nature. Sex change operations may however make life more pleasant for one whose sex and sense of sexual identity do not correspond.

Objection 8: Even if it once was the function of marriage to prevent the problems that result from the production of children, its function can change over time and so come to possess a different function.

The function of marriage does not change. More specifically, for as long as the combination of egg and sperm produces children, and this creates problems that can be prevented by the parents taking on certain obligations, marriage will have the function of preventing these problems. This is different from saying that this institution will inevitably be called “marriage.” And it is different from denying that the obligations of an institution might change, even to the extent that it no longer addresses the original problem. And it is different from saying that an institution may start solving a new problem, and no longer address the old one, and carry the institutional name along with it as it now solves this new problem. However, once a “new” institution is started to address the original problems, this institution will be marriage (again, even if it does not carry the name and some other institution does).

The Ultimate Guide To Cultural Marxist Genocide, part 7



  1. Loyalty:

As discussed in previous posts, in order to prevent the extinction of a kind its members must either intentionally or unintentionally perform kind replication activities such as observing holidays, reproducing historical rememberences, as well as producing new members. Those kinds that can not inspire this will go extinct. In day to day living, this doesn’t require much sacrifice. But sometimes an individual’s affection for the kind may be so great, or the situation be so dire, that they willingly undertake deeds that are personally disadvantageous in order to see to the survival of the group. Volunteering to fight in a war is a clear case. Thus I advocate a revival and re-appreciation of the ancient virtue of loyalty, understood as the voluntary performance of actions that promote the persistence of ones kind.

There are few virtues whose reputation has taken a more severe beating than loyalty. There are three reasons for the sad state of loyalty’s reputation. One is that loyalty has become synonymous with blind loyalty; loyalty has been portrayed as allegiance to an individual or cause regardless of its morality. Second, loyalty has been perceived as nothing more than favoritism or irrational discrimination. Third, loyalty has been seen as a case of false consciousness in that it seems to demand one sacrifice their own good for the good of others.

However, these charges only make sense in the absence of an understanding of genocide-susceptible kinds as historical kinds. There is an unspoken tendency to view social groups as self-perpetuating elementary particles that require no effort in order to persist. When looked at this way loyalty seems senseless and irrational. But when one understands those processes which must occur in order to allow a kind to persist, these criticisms no longer hold water. The kind of loyalty I am advocating suffers from none of these deficiencies and applies only to those behaviors which must be performed if a kind is to avoid extinction. And so this model of loyalty is not blind as the explicit goal of loyalty is restricted to the prevention of the extinction of ones genocide-susceptible kind. And so dedication to an immoral individual or political party such as the Nazi party is not included under this account of loyalty as it is not an immoral individual or ideology which is the object of loyalty and is instead the perfectly legitimate desire to see ones kind persist.

Second, loyalty to ones kind is not a case of irrational favoritism or discrimination. Irrational discrimination is the preference for an individual for a reason unrelated to the activity at hand. And so it is a case of irrational discrimination to exclude someone from employment based on religion since religion plays no role in their ability to perform a job. However, the goal of loyalty is the prevention of extinction, and this is a goal that can only be achieved by loyalty. And so the choice of ones own kind over other kinds as concerns kind-replication is perfectly moral when one can not replicate ones kind except in concert with another member of ones kind. Simply put, it is not irrational discrimination and is instead a case of moral selection for, say, a Jew (or Mormon or Pole, or Russian, and so on), to select another Jew over a non-Jew for a marriage partner if the later will be against raising their children to be Jewish. It is the suppression of selection in favor of ones own kind that is immoral as it is an act of genocide through neikophilia.

Third, loyalty is not a case of manipulation or false consciousness. If genocide is one of the greatest crimes of which humanity is capable, then people must justifiably be able to resist it when it is imposed upon their kind. Extinction is the worst of evils that can befall a kind, and those that sacrifice some present self-interest out of loyalty should receive the highest moral praise for their efforts at avoiding this greatest of evils. In fact, altruistic self-sacrifice is often considered the essence of morality. Again, if a member of an ethnic group stays in a neighborhood, state, or country out of loyalty, when moving might be better from self-interest, this is a moral act of the highest order. Instead, there is a natural existential imperative demanding loyalty to ones kind when loyalty is necessary for any kind to persist. When threatened with genocide those groups whose members do not demonstrate loyalty go extinct, and so the prevention is genocidal.

There are three kinds of loyalty that correspond to the factors discussed in parts 2 – 4: loyalty to ones people, loyalty to ones ethnic, religious, and cultural traditions, and loyalty to place. There may be other important kinds of loyalty, such as institutional loyalty–loyalty to ones teammates, partners, family, leader, military commander, and so on—but it is these three types that are genocide-resistant.

Thus society needs to gain new respect for loyalty and the loyal, and a new disdain for the traitorous as loyalty is the highest of virtues as it avoids the greatest of calamities. Disloyalty, as was traditionally claimed, is the worst of vices; Dante condemned the traitorous to the lowest level of hell. A full discussion of how the disloyal should be treated, and what, if any, the penalty should be for disloyalty, is beyond the scope of this post. But several general points could be made. How to produce loyalty is an ancient problem. Perhaps disloyalty should be illegal. But it seems grossly extreme to charge someone as a traitor who, say, chooses to not bring their child up in their traditional faith. On the other hand, being a traitor to ones country is generally considered a great offense and is punishable with the most severe penalty, even death. In between state enforcement and unfettered license lay social pressure and stigma, and this seems a far more reasonable way to treat certain kinds of disloyalty: the disloyal should be ostracized and shamed the way the Amish or Hasidim do.

The Ultimate Guide to Cultural Marxist Genocide, part 6



Part 6: Genocide

Raphael Lemkin, the father of the notion of genocide, wrote:

“Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions of culture, language, national feelings [emphasis mine], religion, and the economic existence of national groups and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.” Lemkin cited in Stephen L. Jacobs, “Indicting Henry Kissinger: The Response of Raphael Lemkin,” in Adam Jones, ed., Genocide, War Crimes, and the West, p. 80.

Nothing I have written in this series so far has any moral or political implications; I have just discussed the forces that contribute to the persistence of ethnic and other genocide-susceptible kinds. The forces I have discussed—genes, culture, homeland, spirit—would traditionally be called ones heritage or inheritance. But these terms sometimes simply have the connotation of being akin to useless baggage one comes into the world in possession of, whereas I have illustrated how they act as an ethnic or other genocide-susceptible kind’s sustaining force, the “essential foundations” Lemkin mentioned in the above quote.

Although by them selves these facts about the nature of different kinds have no political implications, when combined with certain moral principles concerning the nature of genocide they do have political implications. It should probably be obvious by now that my point is going to be that Cultural Marxism is genocidal in that it attacks and prevents the working of the forces that allow ethnic and other genocide-susceptible kinds to persist. Empedocles taught that there were two forces operating in nature: Love (philos) and Strife (neikos). Love was the force the brought and kept things together; Strife was the force the drove things apart and destroyed them. The essence of Cultural Marxism is neikophilia; its imperatives are designed to break the bonds, and prevent the working of the forces that keep ethnic and other genocide-susceptible kinds together.

You could do worse than define Cultural Marxism with the above Lemkin quote. However, I don’t like the phrase “Cultural Marxism.” I feel it is too academic and dry. And “Cultural Marxism” doesn’t lend itself to any good derogatory terms like “commie.” (We need to get to work on this!) Furthermore, many libertarians and capitalists would fall under the category of being a Cultural Marxist, and it seems odd to call them Marxists. Nevertheless, “Cultural Marxism” has caught on so we will have to live with it, I suppose.

The point of this article is to draw the conclusions that result from the combination of ethnic realism with this standard account of genocide. The realist account of ethnicity in parts 2 – 5 forms the first premise of the argument. The nature of genocide forms the second. This series of posts is not about the definition of genocide, a very complicated issue in its own right with a large literature. I am just going to adopt the standard UN Convention on Genocide definition as a baseline.

The UN Convention on Genocide defines genocide as:

[A]ny of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as:

(a) killing members of the group;

(b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) forcible transferring children of the group to another group.

The crux of my argument is this: ethnic and other genocide-susceptible kinds require the working of certain forces in order to persist. These forces were discussed in parts 2 – 5. The prevention of the working of these forces by individuals, society, or the state through laws, sanctions, violence, or social pressure, would result in the destruction, in whole or in part, of the genocide-susceptible kind, i.e., would be genocide. Cultural Marxism advocates and facilitates the prevention of the working of these forces. Therefore, Cultural Marxism advocates genocide. (If you want you can complete the argument in that we ought to resist or forbid those ideologies that advocate genocide, therefore, we ought to resist or forbid Cultural Marxism.)

Thus, the forces I discussed in parts 2 – 5 must be allowed to do their job of sustaining ethnic and other genocide-susceptible kinds. Specifically, from part 2, ethnic groups can not be prevented or censored from the reproduction of their distinctive traditions, or from advocating the creation of new members of the kind, i.e, advocating against miscegenation is not in any way morally objectionable.

From part 3: members of an ethnic group can not be hindered or censured for seeking to live among members of their own kind, i.e., “white flight” or any other kind of ethnic clustering is not immoral or objectionable, although introducing the factors that cause it is.

From part 4: an ethnic group has a right to reserve its territory to itself, i.e, borders, immigration controls, or housing discrimination are in no way morally objectionable.

From part 5: an ethnic group has the right to inculcate affection for the group in its members in order to urge them to perpetuate the kind and defend its territory, i.e., patriotic celebrations and displays of ethnic pride, ethnocentrism, or attempts to inculcate group affection among a people, are in no way morally objectionable.

In short, it is perfectly acceptable and unobjectionable to favor members of your own kind when it comes to a whole host of behaviors and social functions. On the contrary, efforts to weaken and destroy these forces, known as Cultural Marxism, are immoral and unjust and may or must be resisted.

(There is one qualification to the preceding: an ethnic group or other genocide-susceptible kind is not entitled to physically harm others in perpetuation of its kind. For example, the Comanche may justifiably be prevented from raiding and looting other tribes, and that a life of raiding and looting made up a significant part of the Comanche’s cultural identity does not protect it from being justifiably suppressed. )

We will conclude this series in part 7.

The Ultimate Guide to Cultural Marxist Genocide, part 5



Part 5: Love

And now gentlemen,
A word I give to remain in your memories and minds,
As base and finale too for all metaphysics.

(So to the students the old professor,
At the close of his crowded course.)

Having studied the new and antique, the Greek and Germanic systems,
Kant having studied and stated, Fichte and Schelling and Hegel,
Stated the lore of Plato, and Socrates greater than Plato,
And greater than Socrates sought and stated, Christ divine having
studied long,
I see reminiscent to-day those Greek and Germanic systems,
See the philosophies all, Christian churches and tenets see,
Yet underneath Socrates clearly see, and underneath Christ the divine I see,
The dear love of man for his comrade, the attraction of friend to friend,
Of the well-married husband and wife, of children and parents,
Of city for city and land for land.

–Walt Whitman, “The Base of All Metaphysics”

In part 1 of this series I discussed three of the forces that keep biological species stable and distinctive over time. In parts 2 – 4 I have discussed the corresponding forces at work in the case of ethnic and cultural groups. But there is an additional force at work in the case of ethnicity, one absent in the case of biological species. This is the emotional connection that the members of an ethnic group feel towards that group. As we have seen in the three preceding posts, people must perform certain behaviors in order to keep their kind in existence. In order to perform behaviors, humans must be motivated to do so, and for the most part (and perhaps entirely), humans are motivated to perform behaviors by emotions and feelings. Hunger, or the prospect of hunger, motivates people to get food; fear causes people to seek safety; anger motivates violence; sexual attraction motivates sex, and so on.

In the case of ethnic and other groups, the motivation comes from having the members of a kind form an emotional connection to the group. Commonly, the members of an ethnic group are passionately devoted to ensuring that the group persist and take great pains to ensure that it does. Most often the emotional connection is the result of individuals perceiving the group to be intimately connected to their sense of identity or well-being, or they judge the group to have an independent value of its own, one they deem worthy of preservation. People identify themselves as ethnic Russians, or Comanche, or Japanese, and take a personal interest in the survival of their group. They take threats to the group personally and are willing to make sacrifices to ensure the survival of the group. This desire to ensure that the group persists is the fourth force (in addition to the three discussed in the previous posts) that contributes to that persistence.

“Patriotism” doesn’t quite capture what I am talking about, but I can’t think of any other word that does a better job. Patriotism usually means love for country, and where the country represents the interests of the ethnic group as it does in ethno-states, it may be the appropriate word. But there needs to be another word for the affection for one’s own religion and people where this is independent of the state.

If members feel no emotional connection to the group and care not whether it persists or not, they are not as likely to take the effort to do the things required to ensure that group persists. Lacking such an emotional connection members may have no incentive to put in the effort required to keep the ethnic group in existence. Thus it is common for ethnic groups to take the time and effort to produce this affection among members for the group: setting aside holidays dedicated to significant historical events, making inspiring emotional speeches on historic dates reminding members of the sacrifices that were made in the past by members of the group on its behalf, or writing and performing songs, plays, films, or poems about their affection for the group and its history. Similarly, festivals and holidays are usually made to be enjoyable so that the members will look forward to and seek to reproduce them. These events are designed to produce a sense of the worth of the group and create an emotional attachment.

The logic is purely Darwinian: those groups whose members form such an emotional connection will be more willing to put in the effort to see to it that group continues to exist over time. Those groups that don’t, won’t. And those groups that manage to produce such an affection will be more likely to survive than those whose members feel no such affection. The result is that the world is full of groups whose members do feel such an affection. This group-affection, love, loyalty, or patriotism, is the fourth causal factor that contributes to the persistence of an ethnic group.

With all this under our best we will finally see how it applies to genocide in part 6.