I have more time to respond now, was on a phone most of the day.
The thing that I think the opponent of such a line should take is: well, we’re beyond nature. In nature you don’t get — for example — penicillin, running water, Shakespeare. Much of what is distinctive about humanity, one might think, is unique to humanity and so looking to non-human (or archaic-human) forms of life for inspiration won’t help. I think this is a pretty decent response, if I’m understanding you correctly, to your view. I would be interested to hear if you disagree.
This is very definitely the entire topic of the ant piece. Pull it up in an incognito window in Chrome. Put simply, yeah, no, we are not at all beyond nature, and the stuff that we take as the human condition (both good and bad) all erupts from us adopting societal indoctrination scripts that help us emulate ants. Agriculture, civil infrastructure, division of labor, social hierarchies, decentralized decision making, nationalism, war, genocide, slavery. All ant stuff. And the ants have been running that program for 50 million years, and currently constitute something like one fifth of the entire terrestrial animal kingdom by mass, because they run those programs so well. The programs work.
Over the last three to six thousand years, we’ve been running a parallel evolutionary track, where the indoctrination layers installed in the white space in our brains are evolving, as less effective memes die out to more effective ones. Penicillin and Shakespeare and TVs are just an ancillary benefit. And any given society rests on a particular set of indoctrinations, which are made up. Money or slavery or the enlightenment or God (for some people) or whatever else are all made up, but the fact that they’re made up doesn’t mean they don’t work. They work to keep the ants marching, and if you ever wreck your ant hill’s operational memes, and there’s an adjacent ant hill whose memes aren’t wrecked, they’re going to take over. That’s how superorganisms work.
As to the SJ stuff, again what you say sounds very interesting but again at the time of writing it’s paywalled for me. So I’ll just make this one quick and kind of rhetorical response: you seem to say that the SJ movement is bad at what it does. But a very common line one sees would suggest precisely the opposite: that SJW’s have taken over the university, have taken over the media, business, etc.etc. That is, a lot of the attention and animus directed towards SJ seems precisely that it is very successful in propagating itself and that’s why people worry about it.
I think the most fascinating thing about it, honestly, is how good it is at spreading. Again, incognito window that article and you’ll see better what I mean. It’s spreading not because the memes work, though, they clearly don’t. It’s spreading because it’s discovered a new mode of propagation. The universities stoke the fire, but the stuff is spreading because its crowdsourced.
I think most of the people fighting it have missed that key point. In my view, SJ is kind of like a beta test for 21st Century Religion, and while their program is inherently unstable and doomed to failure because it’s deeply steeped in inconsistent nonsense, their indoctrination and propagation framework is absolutely top tier, and fascinating to try and analyze.
A third, somewhat side point: I don’t think I would phrase my point in terms of everything being made up bullshit. I think — and here I agree with you — capitalism (as you say, of not the crony variety ) seems to do certain things pretty well. Certain aspects of the social justice movement remind us of important points about equality and prejudice. They’re both deserving of our attention. Maybe your point is that by bullshit you mean what others would say socially-constructed or determined things; if that’s so, I think such socially-constructed things are nevertheless fully real things, I don’t think they’re bullshit.
I think we can both hold hands here and agree that this depends entirely on the metasemantics of the word “bullshit.” So I’ll pivot from the term. SJ and Capitalism are both “made up things.” Whether capitalism is truly a standpoint epistemology, as you claim, I’m sorta on the fence on, honestly. My understanding of standpoint epistemology was that it was basically a trick to win a debate, where anyone who disagrees with you has no right to disagree because they come from a different standpoint. I don’t think the supporters of capitalism pull that trick, at least not in my experience. More often than not, I see them defaulting to efficacy arguments, and from my living room by my fire on my very expensive laptop I can see capitalism’s strength here. Were I a blue whale, I might not have the same opinion, and maybe that’s where you’re coming from with the standpoint epistemology argument, and I yield to that, but it still doesn’t seem like standpoint epistemology to me.
My underlying point, and I write about this a lot, is that the Social Justice battleground, as well as the other battlegrounds in the overall Culture War, aren’t really about truth at all. At their root, they’re about which bundle of “made up things” we should adopt.
Everyone participating in this culture war has taken a side based on their own perception of truth, or their own adopted epistemologies. I think we can do better than that, if we analyze it properly. We need to take a look at what sorts of things make the ant hill go, and which sorts of things break it, and why.
In some ways I think Social Justice was close to the mark, here. I feel like their overall project is “Create a theory about how society works, don’t really test it rigorously, and then use that theory to break society because hierarchies are bad.” I think if their project were slightly tweaked, it could be “Create a theory about how societies work, test that theory rigorously, and then use it to build a stronger more resilient ant hill.” You could use real science on that, and get real results.