A lion, although exquisitely structured for survival and reproduction within its habitat, has no conscious understanding of why it behaves as it does or why its claws are shaped as they are. The reason is simple: The process of biological evolution is a force that lies outside the realm of the organism’s capacity (or lack thereof) for introspection and self-description. Lions have evolved their hunting techniques and claw sharpness not by conscious thinking, but rather by an unconscious process governed by natural selection and other such forces. Clearly few people would contest this, as doing so would seem ridiculous from the point of view of modern scientific thinking, but as we’ll see below an identical error is systematically made by the majority of scientists in a different realm of analysis.
(Note: Below is an edited version of a comment I originally wrote on Reddit.)
At my core, I identify as an intellectual within certain Western traditions, namely the Scottish Enlightenment (e.g., David Hume and Adam Smith), along with two schools of which came out of the interwar period in Vienna and are usually thought to be in opposition to each other: Austrian Economics (most importantly, Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek) and Logical Positivism (for example Rudolf Carnap). I see a common strand going through the scientific, philosophical, and aesthetic history of the West, which above all else I form my identity around. I don’t identify as an American, although I did grow up on the East Coast near Baltimore City and Washington DC. Instead, I identify more generally as a Western intellectual, with most of the historical figures which had great influence on my development being Western European.
Every individual who’s going through the process of acquiring a natural language, whether they’re a child picking up their native language or an adult learning a foreign language, develops their grammatical ability through a process of trial-and-error. The main difference between children and adults in this respect is that for children the trial-and-error process is in almost all cases perfectly intact, whereas for adults there’s almost always a significant breakdown.
At the core of the post-modern neo-Marxist ideology that Jordan Peterson talks about, the aggressive promotion of sexualities once seen as pathological (such as transgenderism, asexuality, masculinity in a female body, femininity in a male body, and certain manifestations of homosexuality), many of the classic feminist policy prescriptions, specific aspects of the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s (including recent movements like polyamory), socialist/communist thinking, and countless other cultural ills of the current age—at the core of all of these seemingly disparate realms of doctrine and behavior lie a key commonality: the denial of human nature. Rather than structure one’s own action, along with one’s policy prescriptions for how to affect society-wide action, on inquiry into the laws of individual and group psychology; instead one attempts to ponder away such laws, and simply act upon immediately present whim. Personality, identity, and behavior become subject to shortsighted attempts to Follow One’s Happiness, rather than systematic construction of ways of thinking and acting which are a matter of proper adjustment to social conditions.
Most language learners are under the impression that one’s native language is destined to forever be a more emotionally charged experience than any language that one picks up as an adult. They believe that there’s something peculiar to the process of acquiring a foreign language, where the words will never pack the same emotional punch as they do in one’s mother tongue. Almost invariably they hypothesize that this difference in depth of acquisition is a matter of inexorable neurological changes that occur from childhood to adulthood. Rather than wondering whether they’ve simply made a series of mistakes that lead them to a situation where their emotional perception in the foreign language is lackluster in comparison to their perception in their native language, they shift the blame from themselves to the often frustrating but always unavoidable vicissitudes of Mother Nature.
The Laws of Group Action
A large swath of the history of intellectual inquiry into what society looks like and how we should change it has consisted of emotionally driven misinterpretations about the current state of affairs followed by utopian visions about what a wonderful society would look like. Few thinkers take seriously the fact that there are laws of human nature, and that simply weaving elaborate fantasies about ideal culture and government without taking into account the character of human motivation, the reality of incentive structures, and so forth, is no less misguided than eschewing all serious thought about engineering, monetary considerations, etc., and then dressing up sophomoric suggestions about how humans should go about colonizing Mars in authoritative language, when the psychological process which produced the recommendations ran almost exclusively on observations like, “Whoa dude, this sounds so fucking cool. Warp drive is definitely where it’s at.”