A Conversation with Ricardo Duchesne, Part 2 of 3

Grégoire Canlorbe: Western civilization, originating from the Indo-European heroic ethos, turned out to be both the most creative and Faustian civilization and the most war-ridden and war-dominated one. Islamic civilization has been equally militaristic and expansionist; yet it quickly became frozen and hostile towards innovation and individual genius—despite the fact that praising Muhammad’s heroic lifetime has permeated Islamic societies to this day. How do you explain this duality?

Ricardo Duchesne: Almost all cultures have been expansionist, if not warlike, in one form or another. This universal trait does not make a people Faustian. Even highly expansionist peoples such as the Assyrians, Aztecs, Huns, Turks, or Mongols, were not Faustian. Oswald Spengler was aware that medieval and modern Europeans were not uniquely militaristic and imperialistic. Spengler spoke of the “morphological relationship that inwardly binds together the expression-forms of all branches of Culture.” For him, such things as Rococo art, differential calculus, the Crusades and the Spanish conquest of the Americas, were all expressions of the same soul. He saw something Faustian about all the great men of Europe, both in reality and in fiction: in Hamlet, Richard III, Gauss, Newton, Nicolas Cusanus, Don Quixote, Goethe’s Werther, Gregory VII, Michelangelo, Paracelsus, Dante, Descartes, Don Juan, Bach, Wagner’s Parsifal, Haydn, Leibniz’s Monads, Giordano Bruno, Frederick the Great, Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. For Spengler, Christianity, too, became a thoroughly Faustian moral ethic. “It was not Christianity that transformed Faustian man, but Faustian man who transformed Christianity —and he not only made it a new religion but also gave it a new moral direction”: will-to-power in ethics. This “Faustian-Christian morale” produced the incredible variety of personalities we witness in Europe, such as Luther, Loyola, Pascal, St. Theresa, “giant-men like Henry the Lion and Gregory VII, … the men of the Renaissance, of the struggle of the two Roses, of the Huguenot Wars, the Spanish Conquistadores, … Napoleon, Bismarck, Rhodes.”

By contrast, other than the Islamic efflorescence between 700 and 1200, which consisted primarily in commentaries on Aristotle, preserving some contributions from Persia and the Greco-Roman world, the Islamic world barely produced any truly creative personalities. Spengler attributed this to the “the Magian Soul” of Arabic-Muslim culture; in Islam “the civil and the ecclesiastical are identical.” This identification means that the world of man is subordinate to the dictates of Islam, everyone is essentially a believer or a non-believer, a member of the “We” of Islam or an outcast standing alone. There is no “I” in Islam, no room for personalities to affirm their “self-asserting egos” as we find in Christianity. Faustian Christianity “presupposes the strong and free will that can overcome itself.”

It is difficult to sum up this contrast, but perhaps this passage may do for this interview: “Whereas the Faustian man is an ‘I’ that in the last resort draws its own conclusions about the Infinite, … the Magian man, with his spiritual kind of being, is only a part of a pneumatic ‘We’ that, descending from above, is one and the same in all believers. As body and soul he belongs not to himself alone, but something else, something alien and higher, dwells in him, making him with all his glimpses and convictions just a member of a consensus which, as the emanation of God, excludes error, but excludes also all possibility of the self-asserting Ego. Truth is for him something other than for us. All our epistemological methods, resting upon the individual judgment, are for him madness and infatuation, and its scientific results a work of the Evil One, who has confused and deceived the spirit as to its true dispositions and purposes.”[1]

Once we understand the “morphological” unity of culture, we can see that Islam has not been “equally militaristic and expansionist.” There is a beautiful creativity in European expansionism that is lacking in all other cultures. Europeans were far more expansive, and successfully so: by 1800 they controlled 35% of the land surface of the globe, increasing this control to 85% by 1914. Almost every single military innovation in weapons, strategy, and organization, from ancient Greek times to the present, was European. There is no comparison.

Grégoire Canlorbe: How do you explain that the West moved from the Enlightenment’s promotion of peaceful relations among the world’s nations, each one conserving its sovereignty and its bio-cultural specificity, to the ideal of turning the Western society into an “open society,” i.e., multiracial and multicultural? Was the worm of the great replacement already in the fruit of Enlightenment’s soft cosmopolitanism?

Ricardo Duchesne: There is a two-pronged attempt to force the Enlightenment to meet the needs of the enforced diversification of White nations. One consists in an attempt by multicultural historians to re-interpret the Enlightenment as a world historical phenomenon in which multiple peoples, Africans, Asians, and even Haitians, played a crucial role (hitherto suppressed by White males). The aim is to create a narrative that fits with the idea that all the races of the world, all the ancestors of diverse students in Western university classrooms, played an equal role in the making of modernity. The goal is to strip Whites of any priority in bringing about the major transformations of modern history. The same re-interpretations are being implemented with regards to the Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and even the ancient “Greek Miracle.” I have a two part article, “Multicultural Historians and the Assault on Western Civilization and the Defilement of the Historical Profession,” demolishing the scholarly credentials of this malicious academic agenda.

The other attack is about persuading students that Enlightenment thinkers were the progenitors of the idea that all White nations must be diversified through mass immigration, as well as the idea that, if Western nations are to be true to their Enlightenment ideals, they must de-link the state from any identification with an ethnic group, but must instead promote the integration of multiple ethnicities from the rest of the world. They want to trick us into believing that a call for peaceful relations among nations amounts to a call for the diversification of White nations, because, apparently, White nations are inherently militaristic, including Norway, Finland, and Denmark, whereas African and Muslim immigrants are carriers of peaceful memes that will “culturally enrich” the otherwise “parochial” Europeans.

The truth is that honest reflection based on reason and open inquiry shows that the Enlightenment was exclusively European. The great thinkers of the Enlightenment were aristocratic representatives of their people with a sense of rooted history and lineage. They did not believe (except for a rare few) that all the peoples of the Earth were members of a raceless humanity in equal possession of reason. When they wrote of “mankind,” they meant “European-kind.” When they said that “only a true cosmopolitan can be a good citizen,” they meant that European nationals should enlarge their focus and consider Europe “as a great republic.” When they condemned the slave trade, they meant that this trade was immoral and inconsistent with Christian and Enlightenment ideals. They did not mean that Europe should be Africanized. In fact, Enlightenment thinkers were the first to attempt a scientific conception of human nature structured by racial classifications, culminating in Immanuel Kant’s anthropological justification of his “critical” argument that only European peoples were capable of becoming rational moral legislators of their actions and elevating themselves above the causality of nature and the unreflective customs of tribalist cultures. The point is not whether we agree with Kant or not; it is that Kant (including Herder) can’t be used as a foundational thinker for the promotion of multiculturalism in the West.

Therefore, I disagree with those on the dissident right who claim that “the worm of the great replacement was already in the Enlightenment’s soft cosmopolitanism.” Insomuch as Europeans have been searching for universal truths since ancient Greek times, through Christianity, the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment eras, it has not been hard to point to one epoch or another as the original source for the current promotion of diversification. This is a very complicated problem about which I will say that the desacralization of law and politics by Enlightenment thinkers, the idea that all humans have natural rights, the science of human nature initiated by Thomas Hobbes and David Hume, among others, the onset of religious tolerance, the right of dissent, and the development of international law, are modern achievements we should validate. The theory of natural rights grew in reaction to the brutal Thirty Years War (1618–1648) and the English Civil War (1642–1651).

Before the Enlightenment, the so-called School of Salamanca (16th and 17th centuries) was the first to write about the natural rights of all humans. They established moral norms for the conduct of Spaniards in America, drawing on the old Roman concept of ius gentium, but which went beyond by announcing that the Indians of the Americas had a right to the property of their lands, proclaiming the innate dignity of human beings, the right of equal sovereignty, the international obligation of cooperation among states (ius inter gentes). This was a major achievement of Europeans.

Although there is a connection between these principles and the current theory of human rights, they are very different. These jurists and Enlightenment thinkers were not calling for the right of non-citizens from different countries to be granted citizenship without regard for the cultural heritage of European natives. Even the theory of human rights, when it was first articulated after WWI, was simply advocating for the humane treatment of all humans across the world. It was not a call for the Western world to open its borders to unlimited numbers of humans in order to create a new mongrelized (“superior”) species. In Canada in Decay I explain at length my view about how the otherwise great ideals of liberalism were manipulated, starting in the post-WW II era, by cultural Marxists. We should not blame Enlightenment ideals but cultural Marxist infiltrators. These infiltrators have been deceitfully using liberal ideals for the eradication of European identities while at the same time celebrating, in multicultural fashion, the illiberal customs and values of non-Europeans.

Grégoire Canlorbe: You conceive of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit as an account of the developmental experience of the properly Western spirit, the latter finding itself in a state of dissatisfaction and alienation which progressively leads it to achieve “freedom” and “reason.” Could you come back to this way of envisioning Hegel’s philosophy—in particular, when it comes to the master-slave dialectic within Indo-European aristocratic societies?

Ricardo Duchesne: Given the incredible ambivalence in the English world about Hegel, despite an ongoing “revival” in Hegelian scholarship since the 1980s, I should point out that Hegel is one of the most studied philosophers in recent decades in the United States and the English world generally. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that more academic books are coming out about him than about other great philosophers. Go to Amazon, or simply Google his name for number of books in recent years. I am not an expert on Hegel. I have relied on the best books to formulate a new way of reading him: instead of reading Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit as an account of the developmental experience of the human spirit, I read it as an account of the Western spirit.

If you ask Hegelian scholars in a straightforward way whether the Phenomenology is really about the cognitive experience of European peoples, they would agree. Many Hegelian scholars also believe that Hegel’s philosophy recounts the development of self-consciousness, and that Hegel’s philosophy does indeed demonstrate that humans became self-conscious of the character of their own thoughts only in post-Enlightenment times. However, if you then ask these scholars whether this means that only Europeans had achieved self-consciousness, they will immediately find ways to insist that Hegel’s philosophy should not be read as an account of the European spirit. But since it is obvious that it is, they will have no choice but to conclude that, insofar as it is, it is Eurocentric and therefore a flawed philosophical account. I am actually noticing more and more admirers of Hegel (see, for example, Terry Pinkard’s Does History Make Sense? Hegel on the Historical Shapes of Justice, 2017), emphasizing the limitations of Hegel’s philosophy due to his “Eurocentrism,” condemning his observations about the lack of self-consciousness among non-Europeans.

As to your question about my use of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic in relationship to Indo-European aristocratic societies, this may be difficult to apprehend if one is not familiar with these two subjects; Hegel scholars don’t know anything about Indo-European societies, and Indo-European scholars don’t know anything about Hegel. One of the positive outcomes of not being an expert in any subject, as I am, is that you can draw original connections between subjects. I read Hegel’s master-slave dialectic as his own version of the state of nature. We commonly associate the concept of a “state of nature” with Hobbes and Locke. Many have investigated the hypothetical historical society that would meet the Hobbesian state of nature. Some say it refers to the most primitive societies, when there was no state enforcing rules of pacification among family-kin units. Others say it refers to any society in which state rule collapses, as happened during the English Civil War of the mid-1600s when Hobbes was writing. I believe the fight for pure prestige between Indo-European aristocratic warriors can be used as a historical reference to make sense of the master-slave dialectic.

This dialectic has been interpreted as a struggle for recognition between two humans, each seeking from the other to be recognized as superior. The master is the one who is willing to carry the struggle to the end without fear of death—the one who wins the struggle, whereas the slave is the man who gives up due to his fear of death. The master is the one who values above all else the immaterial goal of making the other man recognize him as superior. The master, however, can’t be satisfied with this outcome since the man recognizing him is a slavish man.

However, Hegelian scholars think of this struggle in purely conceptual ways, as if it were a mental struggle, or a purely epistemological effort by Hegel to demonstrate that one cannot obtain recognition except through mutual recognition between two individuals who are recognized as equal by their culture. I believe that the struggle for mastery by Indo-European warriors can be used as a historical reference, and that there are clear historical allusions in Hegel pointing in this direction. Francis Fukuyama correctly understood that in Nietzsche we find a “celebration of Hegel’s aristocratic master and his struggle to the death for pure prestige.” But Fukuyama does not follow through his Nietzschean reading with any historically based attempt to understand what it means to speak of “aristocratic masters” struggling to the death for prestige.  I argue that only in Indo-European societies can we envision real masters, really free men, struggling for prestige, because only among Indo-Europeans do we find aristocratic men who are not subservient to a despotic ruler but who recognize each other as equal. I criticized Kojeve’s otherwise brilliant reading of Hegel for accentuating only the outcome of the struggle for recognition, for focusing on the master-slave dialectic, and believing that there was not much for the master to do once he had won this battle, and for arguing that it is the slave-turned bourgeois who advances history up to a modern stage when everyone is recognized as equal.

I believe that we should speak, firstly, of the master-master dialectic, and that this dialectic can be said to encapsulate the first society in history in which men were free to fight for self-chosen aims—for pure prestige above their mere animalistic needs, and as a struggle in which we witness the “first appearance of self-consciousness.” In a despotic society where “one man is free,” there could be no master-master dialectic; and the master who subdues the slavish man who caves in to his fear of death would not feel satisfied with the recognition he wins from this slave. But in a society of aristocratic masters we can have a situation in which aristocrats struggling for superior prestige feel truly validated when aristocratic peers acknowledge his heroic deeds. The attitude of the individual who risks his life for prestige is that of “being-for-self” or self-assertiveness. The historical reference for this attitude could only have been a society made up of aristocrats who were in a state of free willfulness wherein it was possible for individuals to fight for purely human aims, for prestige and heroic renown. The entire IE aristocratic way of life had a profound effect on the constitution of the human personality, selecting traits that pointed towards the awakening of human “inwardness” in contradistinction to what is not humanly self-chosen, but given by nature.

Go to Part 3 of 3.

[1] Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West: Volume II. Perspectives of World History (Alfred Knopf Publisher, 1989), p. 235.

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