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Mary's Motte and the case against progress

I have a subsblog. And my [first post][mm] is against those who say there's "no such thing as progress"

I'm basing this off Mary Harrington's recent podcast with Bret Weinstein. But more likely I'm picking a fight with some y'all here, so I hope you enjoy it.

It is one thing when someone is merely wrong. But when someone denies what is starkly before everyone's eyes, then bullshit is in the air. And that is what I smell whenever I hear the dogma that "there is no such thing as progress".

I these dogmatists of of a motte-and-bailey trick

... progress-skeptics retreat back to the safety of Mary's Motte and acknowledge the growth of knowledge, productivity social complexity and human health but deny that this is called progress.

Their motte is a Reasonable But Wrong claim that these sorts of growth aren't morally valuable. Their bailey extends to denying history and also accusing optimists of teleological magical thinking. But really progress has a simple cause: useful knowledge increases.

Civilised humans took millennia to discover writing, bronze and electricity. But we have not since undiscovered them. Useful knowledge is easier to retain than win and easier to win than destroy. On the scale of history, it is quickly disseminated, replicated and used. It gets encoded redundantly in books, technologies, social practices and the genes of domesticated species. Every generation inherits a vast and waxing store of ancestral knowledge both explicit and tacit.

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[Mary Harrington's][rfem] recent [podcast][mhdh]

I these dogmatists

Either you've got some formatting issues or you're using weird shorthand with which I'm not familiar.

Anyway! By this standard, I'm not sure I've ever actually talked to a progress-skeptic. Education, GDP per capita, lifespan, personal's not hard to find someone who will disavow one or more of these, claiming they are not "progress" but a new avenue for oppression. But all of them? Arguing that all "progress" is māyā is a bold statement for a motte. Where have you encountered it outside of Ms. Harrington's work?

I do find it interesting that this stance is left-coded. It reminds me of the old neoreactionary claims about Victorian England. Paging @Hlynka_CG, I guess.

Finally, if you haven't seen it: Ars longa, vita brevis. A short story about the nature of technological progress.

Where have you encountered it outside of Ms. Harrington's work?

I've seen it here, and I feel the ethos in a lot of the more intellectual parts of the New Right. As far as I can tell, they are making are logical / epistemological case similar to Harrington. I.e. we are judging the past by present standards, this logic extends over as many domains as you care to name. But really Harrington is the only one I can clearly point to because she is the most honest and explicit. Which is why I like her.

I do find it interesting that this stance is left-coded.

The Harrington and the other tradfems are hard to place on the left-right axis. But insofar as they are "trad", their arguments are more like the post-liberal right than the left.

That said, the illiberal left has a similar thing going on. They want to deny the moral standing of the present.