A reply to the Medium article “The Intellectual Dark Web Is Dead”:
We need to become more nuanced in our expectations of unity.
We will think more clearly about IDW figures better if we think of them in private-inner- vs public-outer terms (inner-Peterson, inner-Paglia, inner-Harris, inner-Shapiro, etc. versus outer-Peterson, -Paglia, -Harris, -Shapiro). We will notice vast divergence in the inner-IDW, but active convergence in outer-IDW.
This is important. In a liberal democracy, we should seek unity solely in the outer, in the civic realm. Essential to this unity is the strong belief that our private beliefs are nobody’s political business.
IDW’s implicit code seems to be: maximum public unity resting on a foundation of maximum private difference. This is why everyone drafted into the IDW makes a point of emphasizing their ability to seek agreement on outer-matters, while maintaining their own private individual metaphysic and moral ideals. The whole point of the IDW is seeking agreement only on those matters that require agreement in a flourishing liberal democracy (public-outer), and protecting the right to disagree on all other matters (private-inner)
The widespread belief that we must agree privately to be united publicly produces an obtrusive politics that cares far too much about what goes on in a citizen’s head. This belief easily metastasizes into a craving for likemindedness and leads directly to illiberalism. It leads to politics that tries to do what it should not, namely to provide individuals with inner-meaning, which sounds wonderful until you find yourself being force-fed someone else’s meaning. Liberal democracy is boring on principle. It leaves problems of meaning to private individuals working alone or together to discover or produce their own meaning.
Regarding the inner-convictions of the IDW crew, I find them all alternately dull and repellant. Peterson and Paglia are total retro-flakes. Pinker and Harris are standard-issue modern philistines. And Shapiro is somehow WASPier than any WASP I’ve ever met. None of them are interesting to me.
But the fact that they can all send these irritating private beliefs home when it is time to discuss politics makes me a huge fan of IDW, not despite my distaste for their private convictions, but because of it.
If you prefer the language of myth over political principle, I can translate it to Olympian: What separated the gods from the titans was the gods prioritized their shared loyalty to Olympus over their commitment to their individual divine vision. I can also translate it to American: E pluribus unum.
Full disclosure: I pretty much lifted this line of thought from Richard Rorty’s beautful article on Nietzsche’s pragmatism. Highly recommended.