Ideology has blinded the world. It's time we learned to see again.
Someone pointed out in the commments that the original spelling I went with is probably wrong (alethiology rather than alitheology), and I think that is probably correct. This essay has been edited accordingly to use the correct spelling.
In the meantime, I also discovered that alethiology is not, in fact, a neologism, but was coined in the 18th century by Johann Heinrich Lambert, an obscure philosopher whom I’d not previously heard of. Demonstrating once again that if you think an idea is original, it almost certainly isn’t.
There's been a bit of deserved dunking on ideology recently. Not any specific ideology, but ideology in general. Rolo Slavskiy had a turn at the subject, suggesting that ideology be replaced with principles, foremost amongst which should be strength: an Ideology of Victory. Theophilus Chilton discussed the Ideology of Magic Words, and made the interesting point that implicit in the very term ideology - lit. the study of ideas - is the Platonic concept that the world of pure, theoretical forms should dominate over the world of tangible things ... in other words, that the abstraction, the model, should triumph over the thing in itself, that the idea is more real than the real.
As an aside, that prejudice in favour of the virtual is a very left-brain way of seeing things, and leads directly to a very dangerous selective blindness.
A few weeks ago I was out getting drunk, and as the booze took its effect and tongues were loosened a portly woman who'd recently been added to the group was surprisedand appalled to hear that I had not been jabbed, and would not be jabbed, with the safe-and-effective juice, and didn't I care about keeping down the pressure on the poor, overburdened health care system?
During the increasingly bitter exchange she remarked that the only reason I didn't want to receive Fauci's pointy benediction was that my ideology prevented me from being able to do so. That took me aback. Instinctively, I knew this to be a perfect inversion of the truth, but aside from sputtering that, nuh uh, you're the ideological one! (which I don't think I did but, you know: drunk), I wasn't sure quite how to formulate a rejoinder more sophisticated than I know you are but what am I?
Reading Theophilus' essay, it clicked.
I didn't have the proper word for it.
We see everything in terms of ideology. That's a relatively new phenomenon, dating more or less to the 19th century (the word itself having been coined in 1796), a period corresponding to the birth of the left-wing monster from the loins of the Lilith of liberalism. As anyone who's spent any time in hard-core Marxist circles can tell you, the left is obsessed with ideology. For all that their rhetoric is so relentlessly focused on material concerns - black bodies, the immiseration of the working class, the state of the health care system, and so on - there is nothing that their intellectuals (insofar as they still possess them) enjoy so much as spergy Moebius debates over the finer points of ideology.
You see this preference for theory over fact in myriad ways:
The essence of the postmodernist pseudo-philosophyis a rejection of the very existence of truth, a concept of the world in terms of pure discourse: nothing but a language game of he said, she said, xe said, where all parties are merely attempting to assert power over others by trapping their interlocutors' minds inside elaborate verbal snares.
The weird obsession with nomenclature, where the belief seems to be that if we can make people use the right words, it will follow that their bad ideas are excised from their naughty minds: stop saying retard and people will change their attitudes towards the developmentally delayed (and never mind the linguistic history of cretin, idiot, mongoloid, moron, or special).
The societal panic over COVID-19, driven entirely by computer models and the weaponized psychiatry of nudge units, neither of which had more than a passing contact with actual data ... a small matter that did not inconvenience the panic-mongers for a moment, nor give the panicked a moment's pause.
I could go on listing examples for hours but you get the point. You can probably think of several off the top of your head.
The contemporary left inhabits a world of pure ideology in the strictest sense of that word: they are not just ideologues but ideologists: they make the solipsistic study of their ideas their sole concern.
At the same time, the leftist mind has become increasingly closed to a growing array of factual information - not only unwilling to see it, but seemingly incapable. Very obvious, broad features of human reality - the negligible death toll from COVID-19, the historically unprecedented death and injury toll from mRNA injections, the incredible vanishing efficacy of mRNA injections, the biological differences between the sexes and the races, the stubborn refusal of the climate to warm, the grim outcomes of 'gender affirmation' mutilation - are simply not part of their cognitive landscape, not because they have carefully examined and refuted them on a factual basis, but because they are simply oblivious to them. Those data disagree with the model, with the ideology, and since the ideology is for the ideologue the primary reality, contradictory data simply cannot exist.
They ground their view of the world in their ideas.
The sane alternative is to ground one's ideas in one's view of the world.
And that's what I think we - the great underground intellectual resistance to this hegemony, the loosely networked armies of the meme wars, the classical liberals and post-liberals and anarcho-capitalists and libertarians and dissident rightists and traditionalists and heterodox scientists and renegade physicians and open source mystics and schizoposting conspiracy analysts - that's what I think we're doing. We're attempting as best we can to perceive reality as it is, and to proceed from there.
An ideologue would reply that this is our ideology, because an ideologue is incapable of perceiving anything that is not an ideology. You might be tempted to simply reply, fine, it's our ideology, but that framing is an inversion. It fails to draw the necessary contrast between how the ideologue is trapped into seeing the world, and how we strive to operate within it.
That's why I think we need a new word.
I humbly propose alethiology, from αλήθεια, aletheia, literally 'the study of truth'.
Yes, I know, that’s autistic. Bear with me.
You could say, well why don't we just say philosophy, or science, or something along those lines. Both of those fields were originally developed with something very much like the alethiological project in mind. However, there are subtle, but important, distinctions of emphasis, as well as degradations in meaning that have occurred due to the influence of ideologues.
Philosophy, originally the love of wisdom, has in modern times largely lost its connection to the pursuit of truth. See: postmodernism. To say something is merely philosphical is much the same as saying that it is of no consequence.
As for science, we have for years now been forced to distinguish between science as the open pursuit of truth via the relentless testing of model against observation, and THE SCIENCE!™ as the unassailable and occult diktat of institutionalized, credentialed experts, who are not to be questioned but merely I-Fucking-Loved and obeyed. As amusing as it is to draw the distinction between science and THE SCIENCE!™, this is a clumsy terminology to use.
The other issue with science is that science is, from the very beginning, of necessity exclusively focused on the quantifiable and material. Its mechanisms are measurement and analysis, where to analyze means to break something down into its component parts, such that the key mechanisms affecting a given system's behaviour can be more easily determined. The very word science has its origin in the Proto-Indo-European root *skei-, to cut or split. Implicit in all of this are precisely the habits of thought of the left hemisphere, which is also the hemisphere that most strongly prefers the model to the inconvenient fact, and so will readily discard the awkward datum so as to to retain the cherished idea. The left hemisphere is the hemisphere that drills down perception to some detail of reality so as to manipulate or acquire it; it is the right hemisphere whose function is to see how the parts are ordered within the whole, which is to say, to perceive reality as it is. The danger I point to here is that by relying exclusively on science, we leave ourselves open to precisely the cognitive patterns that enable the ideologue to sneak in and take over.
What I have in mind with alethiology is something different. It includes the best of philosophy, for wisdom is by its nature true, and love and wisdom are naturally united with truth. It includes science, as science is meant to be understood: a tool that helps in the apprehension and manipulation of the material world. It includes theology, for it is not possible to know the truth without also knowing God. It encompasses all these things, linking and transcending them, but its exclusive focus is not wisdom or love or God or matter ... but simply truth.
Alethiology also encompasses ideology. Ideas may not correspond to material reality (in fact they never do), but ideas are a real feature of reality. Ideas are real, as ideas; while an idea's description of reality must always be in greater or lesser degree of error, the existence of those ideas cannot itself be denied. In these terms, the alethiologue grasps all ideologies at once, subsuming them and subjecting them to the blistering ionizing radiation of that dreaded question - but is this true?
Finally, one might object that alethiology is not fully sufficient as a means of interacting with the world. One cannot derive ought from is, as the old saying goes. This has been a particularly popular complaint whenever some unimpressive midwit holding high office squirms in front of the cameras to proclaim that she's just following the science, a phrase intended to absolve her and her like from the moral culpability for whatever fresh horror is about to hatch from her masked hole. Science can't tell us what to do, goes that critique, only ethics, religion, or philosophical principles can tell us what we should do. And it's very true: science can't tell us what to do.
Alethiology is not science; it aims at a comprehensive, holistic apprehension of the world as it is. As such, it necessarily encompasses ethics, philosophy, and religion - insofar as any particular element of those fields are true.
It was true that COVID-19 was spreading around the world in early 2020.
It was true that the elderly and infirm were at primary risk.
It is true that society should act in such a fashion as to mitigate risk for its members.
But it was also true that for the the vast majority of the human population, the risk posed by COVID-19 was vanishingly small.
And it was also true that the extreme non-pharmaceutical interventions - the lockdowns, the social distancing, the masks - were unlikely to provide any benefit.
And it was also true that those NPIs were guaranteed to impose enourmous costs - economically, professionally, educationally, emotionally, psychologically - on the bulk of the population, a crushing toll in human misery with a payoff that could only in principle be measured on the margins of large-number statistics (and in practice only ever appeared when games were played with those statistics).
To the ideologues, only the first three items on that list were obvious, and they remain oblivious to the remainder to this day. The ideologues only ever look at a given issue in clinical isolation from other issues. Context is a room with blank white walls illuminated uniformly from all directions, like the loading chamber in the Matrix; or it is a cave, and the phenomenon they consider the shadows on the walls.
To the alethiologues, the entirety of the list was apparent virtually from the first day. I know it was to me, and I know it was to many others besides. For alethiologues, nothing happens in isolation; all the phenomena of the temporal world happen within a global context which must be brought to bear in its entirety for that phenomenon to be understood. Context is an organic landscape illuminated by a million shifting sources of light, the dancing shadows providing depth and texture to everything within it.
The ideologues saw only a virus, that came out of nowhere, and for them everything became about stopping the virus. Everything that was not stopping the virus simply ceased to register.
The alethiologues saw a virus emerge from a city with a high-level biological research laboratory that had been working on gain of function research related precisely to that class of viral pathogens; in a country infamous for the corruption of its inscrutable elite; in a world with a failing economy due to decades of rapacious financial plunder; a world whose institutions were known to be controlled by untrustworthy bought men looking for any excuse to distract the population from the part they'd played in that failing economy; bought men who were in turn purchased by an amoral corporate oligarchy whose most profitable enterprise was the sale of pharmaceuticals; drugs which had a long and inglorious record of having been developed without appropriate testing for safety or efficacy, and then foisted upon a gullible public by regulatory agencies that acted as the marketing arms for the pharmaceutical oligarchy. All of this and more - the World Economic Forum's weird cult of megalomaniacal billionaires, the endless lies in the regime media, the heavy-handed silencing of dissident voices on the Internet - was immediately brought to bear in the mind of the alethiologue as the critical context framing the appearance of COVID-19 on the world stage, and inside that context the alethiologue smelled a rat king without anyone having to tell him that something was rotten in the state of Davos.
One thing the alpha ideologues of postmodernism understand correctly is that words are powerful things. That's not a unique understanding - one need merely look at the Book of Genesis to see that Adam's first and most potent power was to name the things of the world. By naming something, we give it a solidity in our minds - a nebula of free-floating conceptual gas crystallizes, takes on an intellectual solidity that our minds can hold and manipulate.
That's what alethiology is meant to do: to give form and substance to our loose swarm of intellectual dissidents, that we might recognize ourselves as we are and draw the proper distinction between ourselves and our opponents, and then begin to take back reality from the delusions of ideology.
See also Winston Smith's latest instalment in his on-going series on Ian McGilchrist's revelatory work on the implications of hemispheric differences for, well, everything in the human experience.
I, on the other hand, was not at all surprised to be told that she was thrice-jabbed: since she'd entered the bar with a mask ostentatiously wrapping her face, I had simply assumed this was the case. Because, you know, of the great confidence the Covidians place in the safety and efficacy of their safe-and-effective sacrament. But I digress.
Yes, over two years after we last heard 'flatten the curve' as a justification for tyranny, she was, rather remarkably, still using that as a talking point.
I say 'pseudo' because postmodernism contains neither love nor wisdom.
Which is a fairly accurate description of the logorrhea comprising the entirety of postmodernist thought, but anyhow.
As is implicit in the word, although this is probably just an accident of the Greek words for truth and God ... although now that I think about it, there may be a deeper connection there.