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A Hasty and Inadequate Introduction to a Serious Problem

I have developed a keen interest in persuading sensible people that Western civilization is an a dire state, that they should take a personal interest in this, and that they can, and should, do something about it.

For my purposes, “sensible people” are Aristotelians (whether they know it or not). In brief, this means […]

A Way Out

I was asked on Facebook how I would move people toward learning how to talk about politics. My answer grew too big for a Facebook comment, so I’m posting it here:

As for what can be done right this second, yes, participating in and encouraging civil and serious discussion is the way to go. […]

Impervious to Evidence

Turns out it’s serious business when someone is wrong on the internet …

Two friends build a wind-powered car that travels directly downwind faster than the wind. It’s a neat case study in bias.

The Internal Monologue of a Common Interlocutor

From The Onion:

What’s that? Now it’s making an appeal to reason? Never! Do you hear me, you eloquent, well-read behemoth? Never! We’ll die before we recognize what we secretly know to be true! The cognitive dissonance only makes our denial stronger!

Via STR

Thinking About Thinking About Our Interlocutors

I wrote the following as part of an ongoing debate over my solution to the problem of universals. I leave it for the reader to surmise why I thought it worth sharing here.

Let me take a moment to make a meta-argument before I dive back in to addressing the comments in this thread.

I am working under the assumption that Ayn Rand is a hero to most of the participants here. Ayn Rand herself called the problem of universals “philosophy’s central issue.” Those who profoundly admire Ayn Rand do so, in large part, because of her achievements in philosophy. By any measure, then, Ayn Rand’s solution to the problem of universals is an important value to Objectivists.

Now, suppose I am right, and that Ayn Rand either did not solve the problem of universals, or only solved it partially. Ayn Rand’s philosophy then has an error of omission, at the least, down near its very roots in metaphysics.

From the perspective of hero-worshipping Objectivists, it could hardly matter whether this error is a minor error of omission or something more significant; the prospect that Objectivism could have a flaw at a point so fundamental in the hierarchy of philosophy should be disturbing.

Continue reading Thinking About Thinking About Our Interlocutors

"Kids These Days," And Other Snipes

Billy Beck, the best blogger out there, brought Fred Hiat’s June 9 meditation on the "’Bush Lied’ story line" to my attention. Hiat argues or implies that

  1. The Rockefeller report, which has been taken by the "Bush Lied" partisans as clear-cut vindication of their claims, in fact shows that Bush did not lie, but rather based his pre-war claims on bad intelligence.
  2. "Bush Lied" partisans continue to make their claims apart from all evidence.
  3. There will inevitably be times when the president is called upon to make a judgement call based on imperfect intelligence.
  4. Once the president and his military advisors have judged that military action is necessary, it will be necessary to spin such imperfect intelligence until it appears to unambiguously demand a military response, in order to get the gun-shy American people behind the effort.
  5. The Bush administration may very well have spun the imperfect intelligence too hard in the lead-up to the Iraq war, but the "’Bush Lied’ story line" threatens to undermine the president’s future ability to spin intelligence to the American public.

Beck seems to have found point 2 above to be the most worthy of comment. He links to a commentary on the Hiat piece by a hand-wringing Catholic matron (Elizabeth Scalia) who sees bad omens in the pervasive Gen-Y perspectivism that is intimately familiar and obscenely comfortable with the partisans’ habit of making claims apart from all evidence.

Scalia’s take? Too much egoism in our young, combined with an infotainment diet saturated with satire and irony is leading to the Nazification of the U.S. (She doesn’t make her point quite this explicit.)

Continue reading "Kids These Days," And Other Snipes

Heaven, Hell, or Hades: What Comes After the Revolution?

This is the fifth entry in my Antistatism Series.


The more I study the Enlightenment, the more astounded I am at the depth and breadth of its contours, and at boldness of its heroes as they sought to shape the West to their new vision. One contour that I think Objectivists admire too distantly was the attempt by the Founding Fathers to engineer a future for themselves and their countrymen by balancing the forces of society and government against each other. The philosophy of statecraft embodied in the U.S. Constitution is one of containment. What is contained? The whim of the mob and the ambition, self-importance, avarice, and, especially, corruption of men-in-government. The ideal the Constitution sought after was perhaps a government of laws and not of men, but the very tripartite structure it established stood testament to reality: all governments are and must be governments of men. Because this is so, the founders thought, a good government must be divided against itself and against the people; it must be made inefficient on purpose, unwieldy on purpose, self-frustrating on purpose. It seems an Objectivist’s constitution would likely repeat this structure, but would it make use of divided government for the same reasons? Does Objectivism agree with the Founding Fathers’ premise that governments-as-such tend toward tyranny?

Continue reading Heaven, Hell, or Hades: What Comes After the Revolution?

More Eggs

I will never forget this. One morning, when I was about seven years old, I sat down with my younger brother and sister to a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast. I dug in immediately, preferring my eggs as warm as possible.

“Look!”, came a cry from across the dining room table. It was my brother speaking.

I looked over and saw him mashing at his breakfast with the edge of his fork. My sister, seated next to him, was doing the same. Their faces were alight with glee. They looked up at me expectantly, then returned intently to making a mess on their plates, then looked at me expectantly again. My expression must have shown my incomprehension. What was I supposed to be looking at? Three-year-olds playing with their food? What else was new?

“I’m making More Eggs!”, my brother explained.

I tried to return my attention to eating my breakfast, but, before long, my resolve broke down. I just couldn’t let it be, for some reason. “You’re not making More Eggs, just smaller pieces,” I said, setting down my fork.

Continue reading More Eggs

Premature Identification

One of the things I find most striking about Objectivism is its subtlety. I’m in the minority. The lucidity of Ayn Rand’s writing, I think, tends to fool her admirers nearly as often as it fools her critics. She reduces complex issues to essentials, casts fine lines of distinction in sharp relief, illuminates the obscure, and penetrates the impenetrable. She makes it look easy.

It’s not easy.

Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. And an argument, to be refuted, must be comprehended, which means it must be surrounded with understanding. Ayn Rand made dispatching her opponents look easy because, far more often than not, she had them surrounded.

To my dismay, I’ve observed too many who call themselves Objectivists surround their interlocutors’ arguments, not with understanding, but with mere words. This isn’t comprehension; it’s circumlocution.

And in fact, it’s often worse than that. Continue reading Premature Identification

Coincidence?

[T]he great majority of people lack an intellectual conscience.

—Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

—Henry David Thoreau

I think not.