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Home Front: Culture Wars
Unfrozen Caveman Intellectual: Jonah Goldberg's Strangely Dark Enlightenment
2018-08-26
[The Federalist] "There is no God in this book." So begins "Suicide of the West," Jonah Goldberg’s contribution to the recent flurry of discussion about the legacy of the Enlightenment. Unfortunately, there’s not much of the Enlightenment in the book, either.

If Steven Pinker’s "Enlightenment Now" treated the philosophical movement of the 18th century as if it were just a precursor to the contemporary center-left consensus, Goldberg’s defense of the Enlightenment ends up being mostly a rehearsal of boilerplate 20th-century American conservatism, including the fact that God does not actually stay out of the book.

The comparison is a more interesting one than I expected, because much of the book reads like an answer to the question, "What if Steven Pinker were a conservative?" Goldberg relies to a surprising degree on modern anthropology and on evolutionary psychology’s speculative parsing of the mentality of the cave man. This is reminiscent of Pinker’s reductive "scientism," but Goldberg gives it a somewhat different twist. He concludes that anthropology and evolutionary psychology reveal human nature to be inherently tribal, irrational, violent, cruel, obsessed with status, and oriented around rule by a strongman. Basically, it’s all "Lord of the Flies" ‐ which is, in fact, one of the examples he cites. In that novel, he explains, "The beast is not ’something you could hunt and kill,’ because the real beast resides inside all of the children themselves. That internal beast is human nature. It cannot be killed; it can only be tamed. And even then, constant vigilance is required."

This insistence that primitivism is natural and civilization is unnatural leaves Goldberg occasionally sounding like the Unfrozen Caveman Intellectual: "Beneath the layers of outward civilization lurks our more primal self, who finds the world around us complicated and artificial." Your modern ways frighten and confuse me.
Posted by:Besoeker

#8  Goldberg's "Miracle of the Enlightenment" gives much of the credit for economic growth to the rule of law and the credit of the rule of law to the western respect for sacred text. The sacred text allows the taming of the caveman.

There is nothing particularly 'dark' about this.

It is interesting that the rise of the economies of Japan, China and India are also coincident to the respect for the rule of law but not to the sacred texts of the west. Goldberg would probably claim that this is why their economic rise was delayed by centuries but that's just a guess.
Posted by: lord garth   2018-08-26 19:16  

#7  Hate'im.
Posted by: Skidmark   2018-08-26 14:11  

#6  Pinker?
Ahahahaha....
Posted by: Skidmark   2018-08-26 14:11  

#5  Heh, ineffectual cabin boy on the USS NRO/Kristol cruise ship
Posted by: Frank G   2018-08-26 13:22  

#4  It must eat him up to know he doesn't matter anymore.

He'll make a nice living as the gimp for some rich donor who wants cheap intellectual adornments, and other "conservative" commentariat sites will continue to throw traffic his way per their bosses' orders.

But he knows deep down inside that most of us have tuned him out.
Posted by: charger   2018-08-26 11:52  

#3  Well, your Founders knew that civilization is unnatural - that's why they placed so many guards and limitations on your government. However, not being familiar with China, they did not anticipate the rise of the bureaucratic state.
Posted by: g(r)omgoru   2018-08-26 10:36  

#2  'Sees a banana' photo. It seemed appropriate.
Posted by: Besoeker   2018-08-26 06:55  

#1  The fact that some rich guys prop up idiots like Goldberg, Kristol, Earickson, Shapiro et al is proof of Riverboat Slim's dictum that "Suckers aren't supposed to have money."
Posted by: M. Murcek   2018-08-26 06:28  

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