Why Idealism Leads to Death

(Originally published August 24, 2020.)

With violent idealists roaming streets, burning things, enjoying the fact that they can scare people and so on, I think a brief explanation of how idealism leads to death (and frequently to mass death) is in order.

The Two Models

There are two primary models of seeing the world that have been duking it out for a long, long time. They were most famously embodied in the rift between Plato and Aristotle, well over 2,000 years ago. Both men had their errors (this was a long time ago, after all), but each came up with a basic model of viewing the world. I’m simplifying, of course, but here they are in essence:

Aristotle: We should look at the things that are (reality), make sense of it and draw useful conclusions from it.

Plato: Everything we see is a weak version of the real and glorious things that are beyond us. We should seek the ideal, and bring ourselves toward it.

Our Western civilization, as it formed in late antiquity, tended to take Aristotle’s path, focusing mainly on reality. The Roman Church, after it gained real power centuries later, took a very Platonic course, but they had to give up a good deal of that after about 1200 AD. (Thomas Aquinas, etc.)

And so we inherited a civilization more in tune with Aristotle than with Plato. Idealism, however, reverses that, and has brought masses of people back to Plato’s way. And while it tends to sound good (“lets hold to the higher principles”), mixing it with human weaknesses and a lust for power leads to dark and deadly places.

To explain why this is so, I’m going to use a wonderful but academic passage written by Harry J. Hogan, from his introduction to The Evolution of Civilizations. I’ll pull pieces out of the quote and then elaborate:

In a Platonistic society, social arrangements are molded to express a rigidly idealized version of reality.”

In a group of humans holding to a higher principle, the principle quickly becomes rigid, and the people empowered by it become rigid. If you espouse a variant of their belief, you are immediately seen as an enemy. You can find this in more or less every idealistic group; it’s why, for example, the Bolsheviks killed all the other socialists.

If your ideal is the great one, anyone who distracts from it is pulling people away from Truth. And so those who differ are destroying those who listen to them and are destroying the future of humanity.

Once real-life humans take a principle as perfect, this is what you get. It’s how you get self-righteous college students and kindergarten teachers breaking windows and terrorizing people.

Such institutionalization would not have the flexibility to accommodate to the pressures of changing reality.” 

By holding your principle as high and perfect, you are also making a claim to perfect knowledge. Real humans, however, do not possess perfect, god-like information. That isn’t to say we’re stupid or defective, but we just don’t have perfect knowledge, and pretending we do has to lead us toward dangerous places.

Bear in mind also that science proper (not the kind beloved by politicians) was the opposite; it held “we could still be wrong about this” as a fundamental and eternal principle.

Idealism cannot bend, cannot adapt, cannot accommodate itself to better concepts. And this while humans endlessly change.

Western civilization… is engaged in a constant effort to understand reality.”

This is our model: Looking at reality, attempting to understand it, adapt to it, and if possible use it to our benefit. This model is wide open to differing and even clashing ideas, to infinite experimentation and to endless growth.

Within Aristotle’s model, then, reform is always possible.

Does All Idealism Kill?

All ideals held rigidly can kill, and will in certain circumstances. Holding principles as stars to guide by, however, is something very different.

The principle used as a guide is not a claim to perfect knowledge. Rather, it is “the highest and best we can currently make out.” And that is a fine thing to steer by; we need only remember that we came to that principle with incomplete knowledge.

And so a human-friendly principle, like proper scientific findings, remains open to future clarification and modification. That is honest, non-arrogant and useful.

The Idealists Are The New Barbarians

Idealism tends to spawn clannishness, disgust for “the other,” and soon enough collective guilt and the death that follows it. This is what has flowered in 2020 AD. Under the new idealist model, white people are inherently defective and need to be put out or put down. (After a good fleecing, of course).

As I wrote a few weeks ago, any institution or corporation that has bowed to cancel culture has gone over to the barbarians… who are also the idealists.

There’s a lot more to be said on this subject (and I say a good deal of it in my book Production Versus Plunder), but in practical terms, this is enough. 

None of us possesses perfect knowledge, and by arrogantly imagining that we do, we spawn death.


Paul Rosenberg