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I wonder if Ponerology as a science studying psychological pathology would see modernity as essentially a psychopathic situation generating psychosis. I wonder this, because in reading Augusto Del Noce, the new totalitarianism proceeds by negating every form of transcendence, especially the religious truth and universal reason which Del Noce calls “Platonism.” It reconceives reality as “a system of forces, not of values.” Being and nature are dissolved into the flux of history. And truth is reduced to social and psychological “situations” to be administered by social scientists.

This totalitarianism is total because it does away with the idea of truth and universal reason, reducing the one to pragmatic function and the other to empirical analysis. This scientism ushers in what Del Noce, following Michele Federico Sciacca, calls “the reign of stupidity.” Argument becomes impossible because truth claims are attacked as expressions of class interest, bigotry, or psychosis. Ultimate questions can no longer be posed in a public way, much less answered. “Only what is subject to empirical observation and can be empirically represented . . . ‘is,’” and so thinking itself is reduced to the refinement of technique and the multiplication of means. After the negation of transcendence, politics itself becomes the transcendental horizon, and ethics, like truth, is subsumed under the form of war. https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/06/what-del-noce-saw

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Great comments all around, guys. I think I know what I'll write about next! We did a relevant talk about it on MindMatters, but this will give me the opportunity to put some of it in writing. In short, I wouldn't call it a psychopathic situation per se. I'd call it a schizoid (Lobaczewski) or schizo-affective (McGilchrist) situation, which has brain hemisphere implications as well, as L.P., John, and Winston point out.

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I enjoyed your podcast discussion - would be good to include some of the takeaways from that as well.

Don't know how you guys can read The Matter With Things so quickly - I have to take it slowly for it to sink in :-)

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I tore through the first volume. Think my brain needed some recovery time, because I've found myself reading other things instead of volume two!

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Well, I'm in the same boat, it's slow reading for me. But the reason is not that it's tedious, but that it's so rich that it stimulates my mind very hard, and I can only take so much of that :)

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May 2, 2022Liked by Harrison Koehli

I think you are onto something here. We have lost the idea of the primacy of thought for a long time now, but without that, we are helpless against the scientist-priest-class and their endless claims that "clear evidence shows... according to studies...". As Iain McGilchrist put it, there is such a thing as a judgement that is more truthful than others even though it cannot be "proven" or "disproven" by empirical evidence. And the phrase "reign of stupidity" is spot-on: this is exactly what we see when people are so incapable of thought that they would rather believe "The Science" than their own eyes and reason. I think I'll write something about all that soon.

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May 2, 2022·edited May 2, 2022Liked by Harrison Koehli

McGilchrist is relevant to this discussion in another way. One of the right hemisphere's primordial functions is predator detection. Suppression of the right hemisphere therefore implies a reduction in the ability to correctly identify environmental threats. It's pretty clear that this creates fertile ground for ponerogenisis.

Further, the left hemisphere, due to its tendency to discard inconvenient data, is far more prone than the right to engage in paralogical and therefore paramoral reasoning. It may reason logically, but does so from absurd premises without noticing their absurdity, and very easily falls into the sort of conversive thought in which premises are switched out as needed to reach the necessary conclusions.

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Yes that's right, and as you would know from my rants about McGilchrist's thesis on the left hemisphere modernity, "The Science" has negated transcendence, as Stegiel points out above, for decontextualised abstractions (and distorted ones at that) of the limited world the left hemisphere can grasp.

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This was an excellent, thought-provoking response to my earlier comment. Thank you for taking the time to compose it. This brings essential nuance to the discussion.

I especially appreciated your emphasis that a pathocratic system can arise in any political system, and vice versa; thus a benign authoritarian system such as a monarchy can be far superior to a malign 'democratic' system such as we have today. That's a very important point and one I think few would have appreciated before the events of the last couple decades revealed the Western order for the beast system it has become.

The risk of being killed by one's own immune response is not to be treated lightly. "Take care that in fighting monsters, you do not become one ... and when you stare too long into the abyss, the abyss also stares back."

Given that there is some evidence for psychopathology to have direct correlates in neural architecture and activity patterns, I've often wondered if a very simple intervention could all but eliminate psychopaths from the top leadership of society: just require that any would-be candidates for political office, corporate leadership, etc., submit to an MRI. That might not catch them all, but it would probably catch a lot of them.

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If only it were as simple as an MRI. The correlations with neural architecture and activity patterns is complex and still poorly understood - the conclusions from many of these studies may give the impression that we are not far from 'brain scanning' such psychopathology - but the truth is there is still a large gap between neural activity and the subjective consciousness of any of us.

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Thanks Harrison for the deeper dive - really appreciating your insight on ponerology and thank you for the new version of the book! I really struggled with the former version, and although I've only dipped into your new publication I can already see how much easier it is to read (and loving the detailed notes and your intro is also very helpful) - thanks again!

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Much appreciated!

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