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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Pot Calling the Copper Kettle Black

The apostle Lew, disciple of the savior Murray, is outraged that someone questioned Saint Ron:

"Writes Justin Raimondo:

"Bruce Bartlett, former columnist for Libertarian Review turned neocon, and Andy “Gay Marriage Is All” Sullivan, team up to smear Ron Paul as a 'crackpot' and lie about his view of the Fed."

Well, Bartlett never called Paul a "crackpot": he called one of his ideas "crackpot." (An important difference: Newton was not a crackpot, but his theological notions probably could be described as such.) And Sullivan never called Paul or his ideas anything at all! He just linked to Bartlett, without further commentary. And what lies are being told? Paul does want Congress to have Fed oversight, doesn't he? Maybe there is some "lie" involved (I'm really not following the details of this debate), but what is it? And couldn't it have been an honest mistake? No, let's just assume it's a "lie," as calling your opponent a liar is so much more gratifying than calling him mistaken.

And note: how is it relevant that Bartlett may have "turned neocon", and what is it but an ad hominem attack to throw in "Gay Marriage Is All" in the middle of Sullivan's name? (I'm convinced, by the way, that Raimondo has a big time crush on Sullivan, he is so obsessed with the fellow.) And, not only is it irrelevant, it's a lie! Sullivan's doctoral thesis on Oakeshott was certainly not focused on the issue of gay marriage.

So when someone makes a substantive criticism of one of the ideas of one of the Mises Institute's Church Fathers, that is a "smear," but when the response is irrelevant personal attacks, well, that's just good clean fun, hey? This is not the way one conducts intellectual debate; this is the way one riles up the passions of the faithful in a modern, gnostic revolutionary movement.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good Work, Lads!

Babel Fish took the Russian phrase "Ne govoryu po russki, tovarisch" and rendered it in English as "Ne of govoryu po of russki, tovarisch."

Russians using Babel Fish must think, "English is easy! You just add 'of' a couple of times to a Russian sentence and... English!"

Voegelin on Utilitarians

"A crippled man, however, does not cease to be a man. Spiritual obscurantists, or anithumanistic utilitarians, are not animals; they continue to function as humans. Still, they can no longer solve human problems rationally, or on the basis of the spiritual experiences the possession of which characterizes mature man. Hence there appear the curious transpositions of the problems of mature Western civilization to the new level of utilitarian immaturity." -- "Positivism and Its Antecedents"

I just saw a very good example of this: Peter Singer spoke to a colloquium I attend at NYU. He argued that utilitarian ethics would make it mandatory for, say, a surgeon to, on occasion, deliberately kill a (mostly) healthy patient under the knife in order to harvest his organs for several other patients who need them. I think his demonstration was sound, but, of course, Singer, being an anithumanistic utilitarian, thought this was a good argument for occasionally doing just this, rather than a crushing refutation of utilitarian ethics!

Monday, September 28, 2009

If You've Never Read Rousseau...

you probably think he created the concept of the "Noble Savage," right? Well, you'd be wrong! OK, but at least he was behind the idea, right? Anti-civilization, wasn't he? Sorry: "Rousseau argued that in a State of Nature men are essentially animals and only by acting together in civil society and binding themselves to its laws, do they become men. For Rousseau only a properly constituted society and reformed system of education could make men good."

The whole association of Rousseau with the "Noble Savage" and the claim that he was "anti-civilization" were smears against Rousseau by a 19th-century racist. Now, this is known well enough that it makes it into a Wikipedia page; yet, even in recent times, some people who pretend to be writing on the history of thought have continued to perpetuate this smear.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Unemployed?

CNN headline suggests suicide.

And the Mark of Moral Maturity Is...

Check out this post, linked to approvingly by Michelle Malkin. The author complains that we have "Obama strutting the world stage, telling us that 'climate change' is the problème du jour - and nothing is more important," a sign of what he calls "moral infantilism."

And his evidence that Obama is wrong about this is... a public opinion poll!

Yes, once we reach moral maturity, we'll form our moral views based on Bloomberg Polls.

Voegelin on Condorcet

"With a few masterful strokes Condorcet has sketched the new type of intellectual parasite whose zeal to teach others is stronger than his willingness to submit to intellectual discipline, who thrives on the fallacy that truth is to be found in the solution to problems rather than in their discovery, who believes truth can be dispensed as a body of doctrine, who transfers the characteristics of revealed truth to the finite human search for knowledge; who consequently, through vulgarizing problematic knowledge into dogmatic results, can make the innocent belive that they enter into the truth if they accept faithfully as dogma a proposition which no conscientious thinker would accept without far-reaching qualifications, who create in their victims the belief that instruction is education, who destroy intellectual honesty through their separation of results from the critical processes which lead up to them, who build up in the masses the unshakable brutality of ignorant conviction..." -- "Progress and Political Experience"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

You See, It Was Theoretical Change We Voted for...

Glenn Greenwald:

'When it comes to uprooting ("changing") the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism and civil liberties -- the issue which generated as much opposition to the last presidency as anything else -- the Obama administration has proven rather conclusively that tiny and cosmetic adjustments are the most it is willing to do. They love announcing new policies that cast the appearance of change but which have no effect whatsoever on presidential powers. With great fanfare, they announced the closing of CIA black sites -- at a time when none was operating. They trumpeted the President's order that no interrogation tactics outside of the Army Field Manual could be used -- at a time when approval for such tactics had been withdrawn. They repudiated the most extreme elements of the Bush/Addington/Yoo "inherent power" theories -- while maintaining alternative justifications to enable the same exact policies to proceed exactly as is. They flamboyantly touted the closing of Guantanamo -- while aggressively defending the right to abduct people from around the world and then imprison them with no due process at Bagram. Their "changes" exist solely in theory'

Bob's Office



A short which includes my friend Matt Pollock.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nonstop

Nonstop:
Commercial flight having no intermediate destinations.

Nonstop nonstop:
Nonstop commercial flights all day, no waiting.

Nonstop nonstop nonstop:
Blitz advertising campaign re nonstop nonstops.


Nonstop nonstop nonstop nonstop:
???

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Drugs

Today at weather.com:

"THE POLLEN FORECAST FOR YOUR AREA IS HIGH..."

No sense listening to that thing, then.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kinsella on Anarchism

Stephan Kinsella takes an unusual, "pessimistic anarchist" position. Since he has just recently set it out at length, I will take a moment to point out what I think to be some problems with his views.

"Accordingly, anyone who is not an anarchist must maintain either: (a) aggression is justified; or (b) states (in particular, minimal states) do not necessarily employ aggression.

"Proposition (b) is plainly false. States always tax their citizens, which is a form of aggression. They always outlaw competing defense agencies, which also amounts to aggression."

So that handles (b), does it? Of course, someone who believes the state is legitimate doesn't believe taxation to be aggression. Naturally, if you get to define the terms the way you want, you can win any argument, but really it's an empty victory just to define your way to the win.

"Conservative and minarchist-libertarian criticism of anarchy on the grounds that it won’t 'work' or is not 'practical' is just confused... Consider an analogy. Conservatives and libertarians all agree that private crime (murder, robbery, rape) is unjustified, and "should" not occur. Yet no matter how good most men become, there will always be at least some small element who will resort to crime. Crime will always be with us. Yet we still condemn crime and work to reduce it."

Well, it's an analogy, but a bad one. The people who claim that anarchy won't work are not claiming that the State is a negative factor in society, like crime, with which we must learn to live. Instead, they are claiming it is necessary for social order, and that eliminating it, while not impossible, would be disastrous. And, if this argument is correct, then the State is morally defensible, as necessary to human social life, and its taxes and suppression of other defense agencies would certainly not be forms of aggression.

Midtown

Looking north from the NYU Law School:


(Click for a larger image.)

The (Extremely Shallow) Ethicist

This is a bit old, but it's a great demolition of one of Randy Cohen's shallow and utterly conventional bits of "ethical" analysis. My general impression is that Cohen equates ethics with "what will make you liked at a Manhattan cocktail party."

Coming to New York?

This is the time of year to do it -- late September to early October. I was just looking at our ten-day forecast, and the high every day is between 70 and 75, and almost every night the lows will be down in the 50s. Warm enough by day for outdoor activities, even swimming -- I was in the Atlantic three days ago -- and beautiful sleeping weather at night.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Well, Duh!

From a angry left-wing blogger:

"The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country’s future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state."

This is a surprise?! The corporate state will not allow the election of anyone from off the reservation. The mere fact that Obama could get elected was a guarantee there would be no major change. (I write this as he increases the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and fights to extend the Patriot Act.)

Unwelcome Screen

Did you ever arrive at a web site to read an article by some friends, only to encounter a full-screen ad instead? Then, way up in the corner somewhere, you notice a link that reads, "Skip this welcome screen."

Since the screen was neither welcoming me to anything nor was it welcome on my monitor, I suggest changing that to, "Skip this unwelcome screen."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

That Mysterious Life Force

I'm reading John Gribbin's The Scientist, a thoroughly whig history of science. At one point, celebrating the great advance the dismissal of vitalism represented, he writes, "By the end of the nineteenth century it was clear that there was no mysterious life force at work in organic chemistry..."

This is the kind of thing you see all the time in discussions of vitalism... but it is thoroughly ahistorical. Recall that the mechanical philosophers had dismissed Newton for positing "a mysterious gravitational force," and that science later advanced by positing "a mysterious electrical force" and "a mysterious magnetic force." The idea that there was "a life force," given these precedents, was a perfectly respectable scientific hypothesis, and, if it had been found, it would have been no more mysterious than gravity, electricity, or magnetism. (And given the repeated failure, after over a century of promises, of reductionists to produce life from non-life, perhaps it will yet prove to be a fruitful hypothesis!)

Idealist Skin Lotion

Tonight, on the bottle of skin lotion in my bathroom, I read its claim of "Consciousness in Cosmetics."

As an idealist, who holds that there is consciousness in everything, I thoroughly approve of their metaphysics.

Washington Square Park





Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bobby Boy on CNBC!



You did a great job, Bob, but was bringing that extra chin along really necessary?

Fancy pants conference room

At NYU Law School, where I'm waiting to hear Richard Epstein present to Ronald Dworkin's colloquium.








Query: Why are the libertarians at the Market Process colluquium stuffed in a little conference room without microphones, pitchers of water, mahogany desks, plush chairs, million dollar views, etc., while the egalitarians have all of this? It's time for some redistribution, folks!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

And it just gets worse





End of the night at Nos Da





Hegel

'[Hegel] finds the Absolute, God, in the development of the thought of mankind, in the rise and fall of nations, in the establishment and overthrow of social institutions, in the movements of history, just as truly as did the Hebrew prophets, or Carlyle. His task is to find God everywhere, to justify 'the faith' -- if I may use this word of what was to him a rational necessity, and not a conviction unjustified by reason -- that the Absolute Spirit lives and moves in all things.'
-- Henry Jones, 'Idealism and Epsitemology', from The Scottish Idealists, ed. David Boucher

Nasty!

I'm sitting in the postgraduate research room at the School of European Studies. I just went to search for a drinking glass and found one that looked clean. Luckily, just before I drank out of it, I noticed a dark, disturbing film on the bottom of the glass.

I think the film was Italian, perhaps directed by Fellini.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Freedom's Just Another Word for...

I'm attending a British Idealism conference in Manchester. A speaker who admitted he wasn't very familiar with Brish Idealism (he is a Isaiah Berlin scholar, I take it) was questioning the idealist conception of freedom. Someone in the audience explained it as 'the will to subjectively choose what is objectively correct.'

'Ah,' the speaker, 'objectively correct to whom?'

What a curious muddle! Something that is correct only 'to' someone is subjectively, not objectively, correct. What 'objective' means is precisely 'to any and all possible perceivers.' And, of course, it is simply a further muddle to introduce beings incapable of perceiving the objective item in question, as if that raised doubts about its objective status. 'Would this be objectively correct for ants?' makes no more sense than 'Is it objectively true for ants that Mars has two moons?' It is objectively true, not 'for' anyone, that Mars has two moons, and it is also objectively true that ants are a kind of being that cannot peer through telescopes or count to two. It is objectively true that murder is wrong, and if ants were the sort of being capable of murder, which they are not (as far as we know!), it would be wrong for them to commit murders.