Friday, August 26, 2011

The GOP Field (and Perry vs. Willingham)

Intrade provides the current odds for the 2012 GOP nomination. It shows, in effect, that the choice in 2012 is between the status quo (which is bad enough as it is), and an even worse GOP candidate. Roughly, the odds break down as follows:

Perry - 39%
Romney - 30%
Palin - 8%
Huntsman - 7%
Bachmann - 5%
Paul - 3%

(This gives a total of about 92%, meaning the prediction market is holding out an 8% hope for someone else to jump into the fray.)

Romney is simply not popular with the party's base (given his liberal past and his Religious Incorrectness), which means it'll take a big-money Establishment push to make him viable. I don't see how he could be any more or less status-quo-ey a candidate than Obama. Bachmann is batshit crazy, and Palin is a Dingbat. Paul doesn't really stand any actual chance, and his run will be a repeat of '08. Huntsman is about the only candidate who doesn't look like crap. All in all, it's obviously a really slim field if you're looking for a quality candidate, and this is a problem the GOP has brought on itself.

To illustrate that problem, let's consider Rick Perry, the current front-runner. Everything I've seen and heard about the guy suggests to me that he's as dirty a politician as they come, and he's got all the anti-reason, anti-science credentials the southern party base craves these days. Already on the campaign trail he's said thoroughly dumb things and has gone back on things he wrote in his book only 9 months ago.

But the main thing that pops into my mind whenever I hear Rick Perry's name - the thing that most represents to me what Rick Perry is as a politician and a human being - is his handling of the Texas Forensic Science Commission's inquiry into the Cameron Todd Willingham case. Zack Beauchamp over at the Daily Dish sums it up nicely:

I doubt, sadly, that the Willingham case will have much of an influence on Perry's chances. The real reason to talk about it is to point out the absolute insanity of a situation where someone with Perry's record can be thought of a "serious" candidate. The man was complicit in covering up the truth about the execution of an almost-certainly innocent man. That's outrageous, and should be disqualifying. But it's not, which says a hell of a lot about American political culture. This problem - whatever its source - is something we ought to be highlighting.

My hope is that the Willingham case isn't kept under the rug like it has been so far, and that this issue dogs Perry throughout the campaign season. By the way, the Willingham case is not an isolated instance of Perry's complicity in his state's corrupt capital punishment system:

In the Hank Skinner case, Perry has actively fought DNA testing that could confirm the innocence (or guilt) of another Texas man on death row. Skinner was at one point hours from execution before the Supreme Court intervened (the intervening justice was Antonin Scalia, believe it or not). In Skinner’s case, the prosecution actually began to conduct DNA testing on crime scene evidence, then stopped when the first tests confirmed Skinner’s version of events. Perry again justified willful ignorance in this case by simply noting that he’s personally convinced of Skinner’s guilt.

It will also be interesting to see just how willfully ignorant the GOP primary voters could possibly be when it comes to these matters.

All in all, the 2012 election season is shaping up to be a nice, big shit sandwich.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blog Resumption?

I may return to normal blogging soon; the insane "debt-ceiling debate" and the fiscal trainwreck ahead is tempting enough in its own right to comment on.

I'd like to mention a recent read that I found highly readable and "entertaining": Noam Chomsky's Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. It's a great introduction for the layperson to the workings of a brilliant mind. (The footnotes themselves are hundreds of pages worth, compiled at the book's website.) I don't agree with some of his analyses on economics (namely, that corporations almost universally benefit at the expense of peoples), but he is nonetheless very perceptive about the dynamics of power in the world today, even were we to assume a pro-capitalist, pro-corporation-in-principle point of view. It is true: corporations have managed to buy elections and work in conjunction with states to exploit peoples around the world. It's not something Ayn Rand and other advocates of capitalism would support. I did catch two instances where Chomsky states facts in a misleading way: (1) That slaves as 3/5 persons is "in the Constitution." By the same token, Prohibition is "in the Constitution," but so what? (2) That under Clinton, the defense budget exceeded the Cold War average. But it certainly didn't as a share of GDP, even if it did in absolute terms. A ton of other facts he cites I simply am not up on, but I suspect some of them are stated misleadingly.

I also schlepped through Gewirth's Self-Fulfillment recently. I may have something substantive to say in reaction to he book in due course, beyond pointing out the fact that it's very dry and tedious, that it sets forth an intriguing theory of rights to freedom-and-wellbeing, and that it is argued very thoroughly. I just wish it were argued way more accessibly. Sigh.

I tried Nozick's Philosophical Explanations and The Examined Life; the former was not all that accessible, while the latter had a hard time holding my attention.

I also went through the post-1950 portion of Anne Heller's Ayn Rand and the World She Made; among other things I discovered that a Daryn Kent was most likely the unnamed young woman "put on trial" as described in Barbara Branden's biography of Rand. Another thing I can't really do at this point is to form a coherent, context-sensitive picture of Rand the person based on all the things others have said about her. There are a total of 100 accounts in 100 Voices that conflict with some 100 or so accounts in Heller's book. If you see Rand the way Leonard Peikoff sees her, you see someone of staggering genius, insight, rationality, and character, who could argue anyone she met into a corner. If you see her as a good number of NBI-days ex-Objectivists and ex-close-associates see her, you see a domineering diva who's nonetheless a staggering genius. And it's all things other people have said. (Heller basically sides with the latter crowd, since she didn't have much of the former type to rely on as a source. She said she was denied access to the archives because she didn't agree with Rand's ideas; I think it had more to do with the fact that she was going to the Brandens as a leading source. Heller does get a good number of facts wrong that more meticulous fact-checking would correct, BTW.) The Ayn Rand I know is the Rand that appeared in print and in some public forums, including the Donahue show. The Rand I see on the Donahue show is one I find enjoyable to watch. The Ayn Rand that might be and ought to be is, of course, the Ayn Rand we'd all want to know, and there's a shit-ton of that Ayn Rand in her writings. (I still think she gets some things wrong about, e.g., Kant, and I'm still not up on what's great about the speech-filled dialogues in Atlas, but I'll spiral back to all this in due course.)

Heller's book is also very wordy and repetitive, for what that's worth. Anyway, for the latest Rand-related gossip, it's a "good" source. It's not clear Heller has anywhere near the kind of grasp of Objectivism that a student of Peikoff's does, which definitely makes a difference in how one might perceive Rand the person (e.g., with one's method of judgment). That's one big context about Peikoff that Heller simply misses. If Rand says in a general letter of recommendation that Peikoff has a "superlative" understanding of Objectivism, one would do well to study Peikoff's work carefully to understand the philosophy better, and it's pretty clear Heller didn't do that. I'm still waiting for that other shoe to drop, the "definitive" biography from the ARI.

And I think I still have a book in the works; it is evolving into I-don't-know-what at this point. I want it to be pretty excellent, though, even if not absolutely, ahem, perfect.

(Next up on the reading list: Mayhew-edited volumes of essays on The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged - here and here.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Glimpse into the Singularity?

I may have had a glimpse roughly a month or less ago. It was some far out stuff ("man"). I don't really know who else might have had a glimpse, but I think it might involve a lot of people sitting around and getting high on what would by that point be perfectly legal drugs, and laughing their asses off to the tunes and lyrics on the Best of Bond . . . James Bond 007 soundtrack compilation. In such a scenario, people would be looking at each other shit-faced and asking such questions as, "So this is process panentheism?" and laughing their asses off some more. A nearly universal bond of mutual trust might well have been established by this point, so paranoia and other "mindfuck" experiences on these unnamed by-then-legal drugs would not be an issue, or presumably wouldn't be. (I'm assuming some high-tech reverse-engineering of these drugs might have happened at this point such that that paranoia would be, ahem, weeded out of the whole consumption-and-effects process.) Also, the whole "keep plenty of good food and water handy" issue would be addressed one way or the other.

In other words, the questions have to be asked: would people in the Singularity look a lot like this, and do we all die laughing? Or, perhaps, do we all get a little bit "crazy" and begin dancing/raving to a certain early 1990s album with heavy Singularity-like themes?

Always remember: The dialectic embraces everything good.


[Currently listening/integrating: J.S. Bach, concertos, such as the one featured here. Dialectics, man.]

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Problem and Solution #1: Understanding Aristotelianism

I don't claim to be a scholar of Aristotle; the extent of my Aristotle studies culminated in a graduate-level course on ancient philosophy in which I looked fairly indepth at his views on the nature of the soul. It told me a lot, specifically about his method of approach to philosophical questions.

If there's one thing that I find most dismaying among "students of philosophy" I encounter is the stunning level of inability to Get It about Aristotle. I can only attribute this to a remarkable failure of philosophy professors to Get It about Aristotle - for where else would these students learn such a remarkable failure (and have such a failure go uncorrected)?

I would say that failure to understand the essence of Aristotle or Aristotelianism could be chalked up to "inability to think in essentials," but perhaps the ability to think in essentials is the #1 core solution to all philosophical (and all human) problems, so going around and shouting from the rooftops, "Think in essentials, damn you!", while correctly stating the essence of, and solution to, the core human problem, it wouldn't help much. As I stated in my previous posting, thinking in essentials is not for amateurs and requires loads of practice or habituation.

(This is not to say that there aren't self-made amateurs - people, such as many a professor of "philosophy," who are led to the water of thinking in essentials and failed to integrate/drink. Some such professors go on to emulate certain non-Aristotelian "giants" of the field, but under the false impression that their non-Aristotelian heroes are where it's at philosophically. It comes as no surprise, then, that their students/victims would likewise fail to integrate.)

So when it comes to Aristotle, what is the thing that advanced student and amateur alike need to know more than anything else? If one were to examine his treatment of the subject of the soul in De Anima in light of the treatment of that subject in the history of philosophy (I'm looking right at Cartesian Dualism and all the subsequent confusions Descartes's approach spawned in modern analytic philosophy), what could one say most in praise of Aristotle?

The non-essentials "thinker," when hearing the name "Aristotle," will tend to hone right in on Aristotle's views concerning 55 unmoved movers, or his views on slavery and women, or his outmoded views on teleology, or his quasi-Platonic views on universals (assuming that's even a correct interpretation), or other such things that make Aristotle's views unacceptable to modern minds. It's like a clockwork pathology among students of "philosophy" to do this with Aristotle. If asked to distill the essence of Aristotle as a philosopher, however, I don't think they could do it in a hundred years. (Hell, we've had over 700 years since Aquinas reintroduced Aristotle to the Western intellectual tradition, and the point has been missed time and time again ever since (except by a few hearty philosopher such as Ayn Rand). It should make a perceptive student of philosophy ask why Aristotle's reputation has held up so well as it has.

Here's the reason it's held up so well: Aristotle was the first known Western philosopher to have really perfected the art of thinking. Just as Miss Rand observed about Aristotle, it makes his errors irrelevant by comparison. His errors are quite inessential to understanding him as a philosopher. This is actually true for any other philosopher, when you apply the question of essentials to this or that thinker. And the essential here is: The philosopher's method of approach to this or that subject matter.

Aristotle's method of approach is what most impressed such perceptive thinkers as Aquinas, Hegel, and Rand. He is the father of dialectic as we now know it: the art of systematic integration, or context-keeping, or hierarchy-respecting. He was the first to really formalize the principles of right reasoning into a system, rightly-understood axioms and all.

(Contrary to the thinking of various amateurs, axioms are not "starting points" from which things get deduced. This is one respect in which too many students of "philosophy" misunderstand Rand/Objectivism on the nature of axioms. Axioms are, instead, distinguished by their being irreducible to anything further and yet which defeat their opponents in any attempt to deny them. They are not, however, "starting points." If anything can be called "starting points" in human knowledge, it's the evidence of the senses and the use of logic as applied to that evidence. In that regard, Aristotle was a perfector of dialectic, even if he did reach some conclusions which later proved faulty. And as a later perfector of dialectic, Ayn Rand, pointed out, axioms are "implicit" within every perception and thought from an early age, but many people don't even come to explicitly identify them later on. But they are contained within every act of thought, which is, as I understand it, what she meant by "implicit.")

Now, why is it that Aristotle (and Ayn Rand) have come to be so sorely misunderstood in terms of their essentials? I think it is because thinking in essentials is part of what it means to perfect the art of dialectic - in other words, you cannot perfect the art of dialectic unless you first learn to think in essentials. (I haven't thought thoroughly through whether thinking in essentials is perfecting the art of dialectic - but I think it is a necessary precondition for sure.) This is to say that, in the history of philosophy, perfecting the art of thinking in essentials has been a very rare phenomenon - and until it becomes less rare, the more the vicious circle of not understanding philosophers in terms of essentials would continue.

So, applying the approach of thinking in essentials to Aristotle, we get the following: Aristotle is best understood in virtue of his having perfected the art of dialectic, i.e., in virtue of his approach to subject matter, irrespective of the concrete conclusions he reached. He was, in other words, doing the best that he could with all the evidence at his avail. After all, isn't this what best makes sense of how important a philosopher is or should be? Had it been all about the 55 unmoved movers and shit, we'd never have gotten anywhere when it comes to the man. And rather than - like Descartes - dropping the context of what makes mind or the soul possible in connection with the body, he integrates one crucial real-world fact with his philosophizing: we don't actually observe any minds apart from physical bodies. (So "conceiving" of mind as "distinct from" body can only foster confusions. For Aristotle, mind is the form of a natural body organized a certain way. If Descartes's rationlistic-dualistic approach to the subject is what sets the tone for modern philosophizing, modern philosophizing is royally screwed. It's also no surprise in this context that Aristotle was all but set aside as Catholic dogma as modern philosophy proceeded forward. In this context, who is the real "king" of modern philosophy: Hume, or Kant? Are these two figures just different sides of the same parlor-game coin?)

Now, can I give some more precise content to what it actually means to think in terms of essentials? That might be the whole Perfectivism project right there. I could only give a barest summary at this point. To think in essentials is to grasp what is most significant about some subject matter, to retain that, and to move on to bigger and better subject matter keeping the previous essentialized context retained in mind for future retrieval. This is how I think (though I need to think it through further to be definitively sure) I managed to grasp the essence of Aristotle as philosopher via his highly-useful approach to thinking about the nature of the soul (as contrasted to Descartes's confusion-filled rationalistic approach). I learned that applying the same approach to any and all other subject matter in philosophy, a shit-ton of confusions and dead-ends could be avoided, and all at minimal cost. The "minimal cost" part here concerns the principle of unit-economy identified by Miss Rand: essentializing is a process of condensation, of reducing a vast body of observations to a small but workable mental unit. By essentializing, one reduces these observations to the mental equivalent of a file folder, which may contain and therefore be broken down into sub-folders, or which may be a sub-folder that can be related or integrated with larger containing folders, and so forth. To do all this mentally requires being able to organize one's mental contents effectively so as to respect the unit-economizing nature of human cognition. (This all seems to elementary, and yet why does the point get so missed so badly? Why do amateurs, to this day, continue to hate on Rand for inessential, much less totally false, stuff?) Then there is that point - well-understood to advanced students of Objectivism - that to capture what is essential about some thing is to capture what is of fundamental importance about it - that which best explains the greatest number of observations or conclusions about it.

This is not to say that the principle of fundamentality or thinking in essentials (all of this is there in the Lexicon, by the way, for any students who are serious enough to go through and integrate its contents - I tire of linking to specific entries every time only for the context to get dropped by amateurs the next go-around) can be misapplied or misused. To take Immanuel Kant, for instance, it would be mistaken, as Rand did, to identify Kant in terms of his (real or alleged) conclusions, when it is his method of approach that is more fundamental. Kant's method was one of a "dialectic" of sorts, a way of trying to integrate all of the previous philosophy he had at his avail. (There didn't seem to be any Aristotle involved in this to a meaningful extent, and therein lies the problem.) In this regard, Hegel had a "better" (i.e., more Aristotle-informed) "fix" than what Kant provided, though Kant and Hegel still shared a basic methodological problem: rationalism. In other words, they applied the art of dialectic within a fundamentally broken context. How can the malady of rationalism best be described to the amateurs as well as advanced students out there? Well, perhaps like this: Rationalistic thinking processes are the equivalent to treating philosophy like a parlor game. I'll leave it at that for now; this entry has gone on long enough as it is. Exercise for a future time: how does thinking in essentials (or not doing so) integrate with rationalism-as-parlor-game?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Notes On Essentializing

[Yesterday's blog entry was apparently wiped out due to Google Blogger technical issues, but the core essence of it is still contained here. Ain't essentializing fun? :-) (Another term for essentializing is "unit-economy," but that's probably casting more pearls before so many swine.)]

One thing I've come to discover, on a repeat listen to Peikoff's Art of Thinking course, and as I set Ayn Rand's essay "The Objectivist Ethics" to outline form (based more or less on the outline-examples provided in the Appendix to The Art of Nonfiction), is that essentializing is NOT for amateurs - repeat, NOT FOR AMATEURS. Essentializing an essay such as "The Objectivist Ethics" in a proper fashion takes years of context-establishing and understanding, including at least several reads through of that essay as well as other literature; it's damn near impossible to expect an appropriate outline-summary from an amateur to Objectivism.

(Anyway, yes, I was able to boil Miss Rand's 30-ish page essay down to a useful 12-point essentialization. Point number 9, concerning the relation between life and happiness, is the most extensive, going up to several lines of summary. Many of the other points were relatively short. I see little point in posting the outline here, however. It's primarily for personal use and edification. It is available on request to students of Objectivism whom I know, though. The fucking amateurs - and I think they know who they are - can wither on the vine at this juncture for all I care; those unfortunate souls cannot or will not think in the true sense.)

On a totally related note - but not something amateurs could possibly grasp right away, either on its own, or in conjunction with the foregoing - is the following observation for the day: The dialectic did flourish in the 1960s - but (aside from the work done by Rand and at the NBI) not in philosophy. Just as today, the Philosophy Profession had defaulted on carrying the dialectical torch. But dialectic did have an outlet then - in popular culture.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Peikoff's The Art of Thinking, Lecture Six

My mind can sometimes wander when listening to something, especially in this distracting multimedia age, so perhaps I didn't focus just quite enough during this particular lecture (see blog entry title), which is on the subject of certainty. Peikoff does realize that his live audience for this lecture might be varying states of intellectual preparedness as well as attentiveness for each particular lecture, depending on their individual contexts. For some, the content might be very redundant; I think it was in my case, because I heard a lot of stating and restating of the obvious. Referring to an earlier lecture (No. 3, on thinking in essentials) from this course, I think the essence of this lecture can be boiled down to the following: Certainty does not require omniscience. So, can I be certain that this is what the lecture could be boiled down to, essentially? I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

(One thing I am certain of: You can't refute perfectivism. ;-) )

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Question for the Day

Does "Academic Freedom" mean the same thing to pathologically-biased left-wing parasites in the Humanities as it does to ordinary Americans?

I smell a stink of blatant hypocrisy here among leftist scum who whine about their "academic freedom" supposedly being under attack. Sure, in a better (i.e., more perfectivist) world, universities would have plenty-adequate policies concerning genuine academic freedom in the light of political differences. But the blatant hypocrisy involved here is what happens to all too many non-left-wingers in the academic Humanities - as anyone paying close attention knows happens. One need only look at the political makeup of the leading departments listed in the Leiter Report to figure out that one; the evidence of political bias and hypocrisy there is quite compelling - especially when you consider this piece of manifest intellectual dishonesty going unchallenged by those in the profession, and all under the guise of "academic freedom." Justice would dictate that "academic freedom" doesn't protect blatant, accountability-free dishonesty.

So, what exactly does the leftist-scum version of "academic freedom" ultimately amount to, anyway?

[ADDENDUM: As I have pointed out elsewhere: "Given the overwhelmingly compelling case for capitalism presented in the works of Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman, David Friedman, James Buchanan, George Reisman, John Hospers, Richard Epstein, Randy Barnett, Eric Mack, Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl, Loren Lomasky, David Schmidtz, and Chris Matthew Sciabarra, not to mention the overwhelming, real-world, not-merely-theoretical, demonstrated superiority of capitalism in practice, the opposition to capitalism in the Intellectual Class is nothing short of pathological - quite frighteningly so, in fact. It's hard to expect the Intellectual Class to take Rand seriously when it hardly takes anything pro-capitalism seriously, which in turn makes it exceedingly difficult to take the Intellectual Class seriously." Hell, Rand and Mises alone are pretty much enough to make the slam-dunk case for capitalism; the fifteen or so other names are like adding a punctuation mark to the blatantly obvious. So, again, what does this say about the scummy Leiters of the world?]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Blissing Out

The latest in the soundscape-dialectic.

[ADDENDUM: Thought for the day: Dialectic must embrace everything (or, perhaps more precisely, it must embrace everything essential). This means not just the history of philosophy, which does indeed have a primacy of its own, but also the artistic world (music, films, etc.), and the business/economic world, and the scientific world, and the religious or spiritual world, and the sports world, and ... . Now, is there any other philosopher on today's scene saying (much less doing) that? (Currently listening: Miles Davis, "Sanctuary.")]

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Slam-Dunk of the Day

I did a little browsing of Slavoj Zizek's recent release, Living in the End Times, the other day, and certain no-gloves-wearing thoughts regarding this Euro-fashionable, no-Mises-referencing, "post-capitalist" thinker came to mind. Then I found out that the essence of my views concerning this "thinker" had already been summarized quite well (though in nicer and more forgiving terms) here, saving yours truly the time and trouble of explaining my assessment.

(The sad part of the sordid story of this "thinker" is that he's apparently beloved among a certain left-oriented segment of ignorant college punks here and abroad, who most likely do not major in economics. [Sadder still, in connection with this observation, is that if you're not majoring in economics or a hard science in today's university setting, you're probably not getting your money's worth. As hard evidence of this, observe the effects of globalization on the employability of today's youts. Surely Zizek, without citing a single economist, could "explain" this trend in his unusually-irritating style. It probably has something to do with the likes of Ayn Rand being A and non-A at the same time and same respect, or some such complete and utter horseshit.])

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tearing the Academy a New Asshole: A Preview

I've actually touched on this issue already:

The Nature of the "Educators"

The integrating strand between the "educators'" evasions described therein and what the Leiters of the world are up to is almost too obvious to require further explanation.

There is a difference between errors of knowledge and breaches of morality. An evasion is the wedge-in-the-door to immorality. (There is actually an interesting psychological question here: how does one determine whether one is in fact on a course of evasion? I think the very raising of that question in a person's own mind is the chief saving grace, because it means the mind is calling itself to attention and signaling a course of caution.) At some point, the "educators" (or anyone else for that matter) lose the benefit of the doubt, when they demonstrate in action a vicious, base, ignoble, or cowardly tendency without a course correction.

Errors of knowledge are quite commonplace - much moreso throughout history - than breaches of morality. For there to be a breach of morality takes quite a bit. Intellectual dishonesty is a relatively rare - but real - phenomenon. And that's where such moral terms as "praise" or "blame" come in. If we observe some disastrous and deadly human-caused event in history, we can make objective, fact-based assessments as to whether the disaster was a result of lack of knowledge, or of evasion. (Socrates apparently held that it is lack of knowledge that leads to vice. But I think that is mistaken; lack of knowledge is either a product of a lack of information having been presented - or it is due to a willful refusal to face information that has been presented. In other words, a lack of knowledge can arise out of a freely-chosen decision.)

To apply this to the question of the Academy as it is today:

To wax Randian for a bit, if you want to gauge the health of a country, look at the state of its universities' philosophy departments. (If it doesn't have universities, much less philosophy departments, that signifies a more primitive state than what we have in America.) At present, Ayn Rand is what might be termed "dialectically alienated" from the Academy to a very large extent. There is the Ayn Rand Society, but it is at present still a small organization without a lot of what those in the Academy would regard as "big names." So to a large extent, Rand's ideas just aren't being talked about much in the academy - despite her affinity methodologically and substantively with Aristotle, and despite the profound human need for integration. A lot of this has to do with a conscious or unconscious bias against pro-capitalist ideas, something Nozick identified (though didn't quite fully diagnose) a few years back.

The Academy has many good people in it, doing quality work. It is just about the only place philosophers - lovers of wisdom - can make a living doing what they love doing. They are entrusted with a serious responsibility - of educating those of college age who will then go out and make of the world what they will. If they fail in some way at this responsibility, the real-world results are quite inevitable. We are seeing those results in all the crises we observe today. A lot of the philosophers lament this fact, and are at a loss for explanations or solutions.

The solution, of course, would be a better dialogue between advocates of Ayn Rand's ideas and the Academy as a whole. Ayn Rand's importance lies in the fact that her philosophy is so representative of America's founding ideals, and in the fact that her writings have influenced and inspired millions of Americans. It would be a default on the responsibilities of the philosophers were there to be a failure of communication between the Academy and the ideals upon which this country was built. But that is exactly what has been happening.

What turns this problem - this error of knowledge, if you will - into a breach of morality, is when leading figures in the Profession engage in the kind of smear tactics that Prof. Leiter engages in - and when the others in the profession sit by in silence. That sort of default is a moral one. And that is when we can begin assigning praise or blame - be it at an individual or (to some degree or other) an institutional level - for the state that both the philosophy profession and America at large are in currently.

There's really no excusing the sort of thing Leiter does when it comes to Rand and advocates of capitalism - and there's no excusing the behavior of academic philosophers who sit by and utter not a word of protest. It is the height of anti-philosophy to smear Rand the way way Leiter does. Rand herself did commit errors of knowledge - quite notably in her assessment of Kant the man, to name a most notorious instance. But Leiter's behavior is downright dishonest, and readers of his blog sanction that dishonesty with their silent complicity.

(More to come.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thoughts for the Day

(1) On the playlist:
Bernstein Conducts Sibelius
Camille Saint-Saens, Carnival of the Animals
Debussy, La Mer, etc.
Satie, Popular Piano Works (Ciccolini)
Holst, The Planets (Previn/RPO)
Howard Hanson, Symphony No. 4, etc. (Schwartz/SSO)

(2) On the short, short reading list: Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience"

(3) Legalize it already. This is America, goddammit. The Framers wouldn't stand for one effing minute the present insanity called the "Drug War." I know it, you know it, and, deep down, the American people know it.

(4) In the docket: At long last, the skewering the present insanity called the "philosophy" profession really deserves. The gloves are coming off. Remember: this is America, goddammit.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday Worship, 5/1/2011

A philosopher who stood head and shoulders above the rest:

Quote of the Day

"If [Andrei Tarkovsky's] Sculpting in Time could be distilled to a single message, it would be this: Content and conscience must come before technique—for any artist in any art form."
(Los Angeles Times Book Review)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Weekend Update

I'll start with one bit of good news: I feel quite rested, and that's a beautiful thing.

A dream I had before waking: I don't know all the details, but the home team had a something-and-goal at the 1-yard line. I don't think I was quarterback. I'm pretty sure I was running back. The QB was maybe a Cam Newton type, but I just don't know that for sure. Anyway, QB hands off to yours truly, and a sneak the ball in for a TOUCHDOWNNNN!!!!! I risk thousands of pounds of bodies piling up on me as I cross the goal line, but our team's training prepared us well for all that. I have no idea what stage of the game this was, but it meant great progress for the home team. I have little expertise when it comes to the psychology of dream states, but I hear that they can involve re-creations or integrations of past experiences, as well as a sort of mental prep for future scenarios. If that's the case, then I rather liked this particular dream sequence.

Here's hoping that all of us have a relaxing and enjoyable weekend! :-)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Update on the Perfectivism Saga

I originally planned my project as a book looking at the similarities between Ayn Rand and David L. Norton's ethical individualisms or eudaemonisms. The whole project has led to something way more than I had ever expected, of which a book would only be a part. Some readers of this blog may already know that I have roughly 20,000 words or 50ish pages' worth of manuscript, all in first rough draft form, composed in December of last year. It covers approximately 3 chapters' worth of material; the first chapter, which at the time I titled "Perfectionism," is a basic introduction to the idea I'm aiming at. Depending on the vibe I get I may post the first chapter here as preview for the public as well as prospective agents or publishers. But I just haven't figured that part out yet.

The good thing is that things have been getting back to a more even keel than they were a few days ago, but a number of things have also been keeping me on edge. So if there doesn't look like there's much activity going on in this blog, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of progress going on. One pleasing aspect to all this is just how efficiently things have been moving along. "It's taken a hell of a lot of doing to get here, but it's been worth it." (Don't know who might have said that before and in what forms.) As time, interest, and what-have-you permit, I may take part in philosophy discussion over on reddit, but I really have quite a lot on my plate right now. It's all about prioritizing at this point. Shout-outs to all my for-real friends and others enjoying the ride. This really has been a most mind-blowing experience for me. :-)

[ADDENDUM: Just in the past few days, I've been adding names to the "perfectivism honor roll" along with Rand, Mises, et al, and the number of names keeps on expanding at a brisk pace. I'm having a tough time even sorting out who belongs and who doesn't at this point. Ain't integration fun?]

[ADDENDUM #2: Now that it isn't any secret at this point who Yours Truly is, I've re-opened my personal webpage for public viewing, which you should be able to, uh, Google up. It's already rather out-of-date on some things, so don't take it as state-of-the-art in the saga.]

Quote of the Day

"It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness and of pain... The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love."
--Benjamin Britten

(I don't share that view, but I think I see where he's coming from.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Playlist for the Day

Sibelius Symphonies 4 and 5 (Karajan/BPO/DG)
Nielsen Symphony No. 3 (Blomstedt/SFO/Decca)
Franz Schmidt, Symphony No. 4 (Welser-Most/LPO/EMI)
Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 (Haitink/RCO/Decca)

Scheduled for tomorrow:

Bruckner Symphony No. 9 (Walter/CSO/RCA)
Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 (Karajan/BPO/DG)
Shostakovich Symphony No. 10 (Karajan/BPO/DG)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent."
--Victor Hugo

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mind = Blown

In the "Spiritual Uplift" department . . .

On tonight's tentative playlist (I might improvise on it, of course):

John Coltrane, A Love Supreme
Radiohead, OK Computer
Euphoric Classics
The Most Uplifting Classics in the Universe
The Most Inspiring Classics in the Universe
Sibelius, Symphony No. 2 (Levi/Cleveland SO)
The Beatles, 1
Simon and Garfunkle's Greatest Hits

As Linz Perigo would say, that's KASS! :-)


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Question for the Day

Is all philosophy, as Alfred North Whitehead once said, a series of footnotes to Plato?

(Some thoughts on that question: Plato's ideal utopia described in the Republic had a strict regimen of activities inculcating virtues. At the "head" of this utopia is a Philosopher King. Seems that if Whitehead is right, then everyone throughout the history of philosophy is responding to that ideal. I, for one, like Aristotle's more integrative, or perfective, sensibility, as I've made clear on numerous occasions in this blog, about which recent newcomers to this blog might not be aware. The contexts of understanding may be clashing. But Aristotle was, as dialectical grandmaster or perfectivist, a master of the art of context-keeping. That's why certain perceptive philosophers - Ayn Rand, for one - have the highest regard for him. You can't refute perfectivism. :-) )

For Your Viewing Enjoyment

The internet seems to be getting more and more funny by the day (well, for me, anyway). I'll happily return the favor:

Couldn't embed this one, but it's worth it.

Ain't integration fun? :-)

Spiritual Uplift for the Day

I'm just amazed this band isn't more well-known. May not be exactly to everyone's liking, but it is to mine. :-)

(There are two videos of this on YouTube, but the audio quality is way better on this one.)

And a bonus:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tying Together Strands

In recent days, there have been a lotta facets, lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what have you's, lot of interested parties. Not only that, what was at first a modest task has turned into an ordeal, an odyssey if you will.

Nothing is fucked here, though. Nothing is fucked.

Quote for the day: "All the Dude ever wanted was his rug back. It really tied the room together."

Quote #2: "And this guy peed on it."

Quote #3: "I'm talking about drawing a line in the sand here! Across this line, YOU DO NOT-- Also, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please."

Enjoying the ride yet? :-)

(And to all my online "collaborators" out there: Thanks for the input. :-) )

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Quote of the Day

"The highest responsibility of philosophers is to serve as the guardians and integrators of human knowledge."
--Ayn Rand

Question for the Day

Ain't integration fun? :-)

The Benevolent Universe Premise

The Benevolent Universe Premise of which Ayn Rand spoke is something that takes years to really understand, deep down. It takes years and years of automatizated or habituated integration before the full reality of it becomes clear to oneself. People coming way, way, way late to the game here are not going to understand what whirlwind they have sown for themselves.

If you accept the Benevolent Universe Premise, you refuse to accept the potency of evil. The existence of evil depends upon sanction from the good. When that sanction is withdrawn, it is as if a whole new universe of possibilities opens up to oneself. You don't have to accept that the injustice and irrationality of the status quo are the given. In fact, if you operate on the Benevolent Universe Premise, you creatively find ways to turn negatives into positives. The last day has taught me that in a completely first-handed way.

If you accept and act upon the Benevolent Universe Premise, you know that evasion comes at a price, but that the good - i.e., justice - can and might win out in the end. You even learn that a single dedicated independent individual can win out over an entire army of context-droppers and second-handers thrown together hastily and with a sometimes-appalling disregard for principles - or even for simple human decency. I hope that the coming days, weeks, and months will illustrate the importance of the Benevolent Universe Premise in fueling and fulfilling one's life.

In the name of the best within us,

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spiritual Uplift for the Day

Wouldn't it be great if a lot more music today was this inspiring? (You go, Lenny!)

Story about Mahler's masterpiece here.

Go forth and eudaemonize! :-)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spiritual Uplift for the Day

From the "Roarkian Soul" department:

(h/t: Frank O'Connor) (Also: TUW)

(ADDENDUM: More spiritual uplift.)

(ADDENDUM #2: Is this far and away the best philosophy blog on the internet, or what? :-D )

(ADDENDUM #3: Nicely done, self. Keep it up! :-) )

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ayn Rand isn't Going Away, Ever

(Story here.)

The "educators" are going to have a real problem on their hands if they don't clean up their acts, and fast.

Perhaps you've heard of Ayn Rand or her Objectivist philosophy in the news, in blogs, and in real-time discussions a lot more lately than you did a few years back. There's a reason for this. It's called the power of ideas - especially when the ideas carry such a fascinating and compelling quality that they cannot but generate discussion. This is especially true in the case of the ideas of Ayn Rand.

One thing that Ayn Rand's way of thinking inspires other like-minded thinkers to do, is to think long-range, long-term. If you think long-range enough to search and consider this graph, for example, you find that her ideas just keep on growing, growing, growing over time. If you'll notice, this particular Google application only goes up through 2008. Ayn Rand-related discussion has risen quite markedly since then; I don't think there is any denying this. (Note that this graph refers to percentage, not volume.)

The great thing about this growing phenomenon, is that it gets ideas out there which - despite a constant stream of forest-missing, misrepresentations, distortions, and outright smears against them (including even from some leading "educators") - really cannot be refuted once they're actually understood. Ayn Rand's ideas are too perfectivist to succumb to the usual attacks. Given the Rand-haters' decades-long cognitive stagnation, this is a juggernaut they simply are not prepared to handle.

And you ain't seen nothin' yet.


[ADDENDUM: For advanced students of Objectivism: Peikoff/ARI and Sciabarra: A shining example of clashing contexts. Chew/integrate that one for a bit.]

[ADDENDUM #2: Focus!]

The Nature of the "Educators"

From the interview with author, educator and psychotherapist Larry Cole, in 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, p. 468:

I read [Ayn Rand's essay] "The Comprachicos" during the time we were in the middle of a totally chaotic educational fiasco in this country, and it nearly brought me to tears. They were partly tears of recognition, especially her translation of the segment from Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughs. I told Ayn that I promptly sent it to all my radical educator friends, trying to stir up dialogue. They were all the big names in education. I sent them the article with little notes on it saying, "I think you should read this, and we should talk." It was the only time they did not respond, none of them, ever.

Zons of Beetches!

Not even the courtesy of a response? The only time they didn't ever respond?

I'm past the point where this sort of corruption surprises me any longer. (If I were steaped in pragmatism, like the "educators" are, I'd devolve quite naturally into cynicism, pessimism, defeatism, and stagnation, just like they have done, and just as they've fostered it in their victims. This is why Rand, Aristotelianism and Perfectivism will win, and why they will lose (or come to the winning side by necessity). It's just a matter of time.)

It's one thing to reject the arguments in Miss Rand's article and explain why; it's another not to even address it and to pretend it doesn't exist.

I have a pretty good idea as to why they did not bother to address it: She's absolutely right-on in her masterful identification of the naked essence of what Aristotelians are up against in this country, and they have no way to refute her. This is a recurring pattern with Ayn Rand's ideas, and there's no denying it. The light comes on, and the cockroaches scatter. It's like clockwork at this juncture.

Good thing that the butchers' days are numbered, 'cause I for one am sick of 'em.

The honorable educators, whoever they might be, they can stay. But definitely not the cockroaches.

(Rand's recommended alternative.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Essentialized Comprehensiveness

If you have a look at the selection of books in my Profile, you find that it has a lot of books by or about Ayn Rand, enough to take up about half of the intellectual-theoretical books listed there. The rest consists to a large extent of economic-theoretical works in the "Austrian" tradition. Why, if I aim for comprehensiveness, don't I include a massive selection of influential works from all across the spectrum of ideas? Because the list is essentialized for the sake of unit-economy. Unit-economy is a highly capitalistic principle. Ayn Rand's whole system is geared toward people who think like capitalists. She recognized the essential principle behind capitalism: that it is, unavoidably and undeniably, the system geared to the requirements of human life, i.e., of the mind. (Hint: It's the principle behind Aristotle's boundless intellectual activity and productivity.)

So, the list basically gives you all that you need to know, in essence, to figure out what's what, and then to flourish like you've never flourished before. The key is not in resenting the capitalists (and stagnating), but in becoming a capitalist (and growing). (The truth here is an exact inversion of Marx.)

In this, Rand was so far ahead of her time that, for the most part, and so very tragically, she was casting pearls before swine. (See, e.g., here.) Only swine turn away from the essential message of John Galt's radio address - the role of the mind in human existence - and of Ayn Rand's body of work. Only anti-capitalist uber-swine who call themselves "philosophers" would blank out this stark and glaring theme, and indulge the mainstream swine in their base and ignoble ignorance regarding the role of the mind in human existence. (To paraphrase a pearl cast heroically before so many swine, such "philosophers" should be provided a club and bearskin and a cave to dwell in, instead of chaired university professorships. The latter situation is fucking insane for an advanced civilized society.)

If you want an actual real-life instantiation of Plato's Allegory of the Cave, look no further than the widespread swinish reaction to Ayn Rand's pro-mind and pro-life ideas. Only swine run from the word "selfishness," for instance, without giving any sort of careful thought to meanings (intended or otherwise), or to context, or to hierarchy, or to integration. The swine have been conditioned to react to stimuli in certain ways (e.g., to words instead of concepts or ideas or essentials), so much so that they revolt even against a messenger who advises them to use their minds to the utmost so that they might then move past swinehood and into the adulthood of the intellect.

Unlike myriad academically-tenured destroyers of the mind, this here philosopher is no swine.

And things are going to change drastically for the better, and much faster than the out-of-it crowd could even begin to realize.

Mark my words.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011


(Published initially under the title, "Testing Rand's Theory of Culture.")

The theme under consideration: That philosophy is the driving force of a culture.

Some patterns already recognized/presupposed going into this analysis:

(1) The more Ayn Rand's (supremely perfectivist) philosophical ideas are exposed to the light of critical scrutiny, the more it turns out they hold up admirably and defeat their critics in the process.

(2) The "liberal" Ivy League intelligentsia are at present utterly unequipped and unprepared to deal with fact (1).

(3) The "liberal" Ivy League intelligentsia supposedly have all the best intellectual resources on their side; so why are they so utterly helpless in waging the war of ideas against their "neanderthal-like" anti-intellectual opposition on the political Right? What's stopping them from making an all-out slam-dunk effort to prove that their whole "progressive" worldview is so superior? I mean, it's so obvious how superior they believe it to be, isn't it? Couldn't they prove everything beyond a doubt in all their rigorously-peer-reviewed, Ivy-League-Press-published treatises, just like how peer-review helps ensure quality, thoroughness and true authoritativeness in the natural sciences?

(4) The "liberals" seem utterly weak at selling their ideas to an American audience. And the act of selling is so darned . . . capitalistic and entrepreneurial, innit? (For more evidence, see the stark contrast between the success of "conservative" talk radio and the failure of "liberal" talk radio to connect with listeners. If we used "liberals" as the model of reason, it would seem that reason has no selling-power, that it is impotent to change minds, and that the failure here can only be rationalized away attributed to a dumbed-down plutocracy. Also, note how this alleged model of reason illicitly smuggles in a neo-Marxian, materialist explanation for cultural conditions, another byproduct of modern Greek-ignorant philosophizing. Time for the "reality-based" and yet in-denial "liberals" to check a few premises and save themselves yet further embarrassment, perhaps? They might start by shifting their cognitive context away from the likes of Descartes/Hobbes/Hume/Marx/Rawls and toward true giants like Aristotle/Aquinas/Spinoza/Mises/Rand. It really works wonders, liberals! As an awesomely liberating, productivity-enhancing bonus, you'll become much less pathologically fearful and ignobly ignorant of capitalism in the process.)

(5) Neither the pro-Republican FOX News nor pro-Democrat MSNBC networks ever have any guests that you might term "serious philosophers." I mean, surely MSNBC could enlighten its audiences by have lots of university-professor guests who prove everything so well? Surely MSNBC's audiences would lap up the "manufacturing consent" theories of Noam Chomsky, if only this GE-owned subsidiary would have him on as a guest. Surely there's a whole coalition of Ivy League professors who could have broadcasted widely about the naked-emperor-like discrepancy between intellectual liberalism and MSNBC? Surely MSNBC could have them as guests to get the word out and enlighten the audience? (Surely, the professors are not too helpless and too un-enterprising to get the word out otherwise?)

(6) As Exhibit A of how low the mainstream culture has descended in absence of a boldly and decisively Aristotelian influence: The leading "public intellectuals" at the present are mostly the New Atheists - Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett. Harris at present is trying to ground ethics (well, "morality") in biology, with a crucial element missing: Aristotelianism. His context inherits, as a given, a Humean style, with its unresolvable is/ought (or nature/goodness) dualism. (Were Aristotle around today, which philosopher - Sam Harris or Ayn Rand - do you think he'd be way, way, way more impressed by?)

(7) Thinkers like Aristotle and Ayn Rand manage to cover their bases like f***. Their performances are analagous to super-grandmastery in chess. The common standard is essentializing-comprehensiveness or assimilation, i.e., mastering the art of dialectic.

(8) An adjective, "Aristotle-like," comes to mind when I think of a pattern of instances of highly-functional human beings in this or that endeavor, such as the concretes listed in "About Me."

Okay, now the test.

If Rand's theory of philosophy's ruling power over a culture were correct, then our culture would be dominated by the basically Rawlsian views of the Ivy League intellectuals in political matters. In fact, Rawls is considered by the philosophy professors to be the most important philosopher of the last half-century, and by a pretty wide margin. This is also borne out by other data which show just how much greater Rawls' influence among academic philosophers is than Rand's. These data are pretty good evidence that Rand isn't worth taking seriously as a philosopher, aren't they?


Seriously, now?

In American culture, what is more widely read: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, or A Theory of Justice by John Rawls?

Moreover, while Atlas Shrugged has placed a distant second in polls of readers asked to name the book that influenced them most, what placed first?

Moreover, in what fundamental similar respect are the top two choices in these polls so very unlike John Rawls's treatise? Consider: the impact of a comprehensive vision of man and existence as against a merely-political focus. (See also: the Ivy League intelligentsia's utter helplessness in the face of theocratic and militant Islamism.)

Moreover, see point (4) in the list of patterns recognized.

Moreover, see all the other patterns recognized.

Moreover, the act of establishing the wider pattern among these patterns is one of first-handed thought and integration, and cannot be otherwise. (In this regard, Ayn Rand simply cannot be "taught" overnight, in talking-heads shouting matches, or undigested (or undigestible) soundbites; it requires something the ancients referred to as habituation, and what Rand referred to as automatization of well-functioning cognitive processes, which are essentially Aristotelian in nature. The modern revival of "virtue ethics" cannot be complete or understood by the community at large without the Aristotelian-Thomistic-Randian form of perfectivism.)

Unless or until you get this last part, you're pretty much out-of-it when it comes to understanding Ayn Rand's greatness - why she is, like Aristotle, always and everywhere vindicated by any attempt to deny her. The stated Objection is an example of jumping into an analysis of ideas mid-stream, i.e., of dropping context, thereby thoroughly failing to recognize the vast sum of integrated facts behind Rand's analysis of (in this instance) cultural causation. To them (the context-droppers), it would seem that Rand was - as they were themselves, in actual fact - jumping into cultural-causal analysis mid-stream, all arbitrary and dis-integrated. If ever there is an instance of psycho-epistemological projection among Rand's out-of-it critics, this is it.

(This is also why this psycho-epistemological deficiency needs to be systematically rooted out and discouraged among college students by the professors - but . . . you might see the vicious cycle involved here. And if there ever was an instance of jumping in mid-stream - by Aristotelian, though not Humean, standards - while appearing to provide systematic foundations, it's Rawls's theory of justice. [See also here.] This is held up as "great" philosophy by out-of-touch academics. Pseudo-foundational or insidiously un-foundational, anti-context, anti-hierarchy philosophizing is a characteristically "modern" technique - particularly in the "analytic" tradition, which the whole Aristotelian-dialectical tradition is lost on - and so by no means does it originate with Rawls; Rawls is just the terminal cashing-in of the whole methodologically and cognitively corrupt style. The non-integration involved here feeds into a festering non-integration between abstract theory and real-world practice. Integrating with pattern (4), we find that this is a by-product of a systematic rooting-out of capitalistic memes and personality characteristics among the wordsmith-intellectuals. Capitalist-types can't afford to flout context in their endeavors, see; that the fashionable wordsmiths have failed to recognize this - much less to understand it all the way down to the Aristotelian self-identical explanatory causal root - is a result of their failure to grasp the capitalists' context. Checkmated.)

Finally, a better, widespread understanding of these points and their logical interconnections would lead to great improvements for American culture.


Ain't integration fun? :-)

[ADDENDUM: The chickens' homecoming. Remember, kids: Integrate! :-)]

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Big, Fat Anti-Euphemism

Ayn Rand was an expert at identifying and diagnosing the myriad techniques of intellectual sloppiness and evasion used by enemies of the American way of life, i.e., of reason, individualism and capitalism.

These techniques include (but are by no means limited to): package-dealing, smuggling in premises, stealing concepts, purveying anti-concepts, hurling ill-defined approximations, dropping context, equivocating, and weasel-wording.

One such occasion of expert Randian diagnosis occurs in a little-cited article, "How to Read (and Not to Write)" in a 1972 issue of The Ayn Rand Letter (reprinted in The Voice of Reason [1989]). There, Rand addresses a charge made against individualist ideas like hers time and time again, viz., that they promote "atomism." Rand breaks down a New York Times editorial, which stated that "this country cannot go back to the highly atomistic, competitive model of the early nineteenth century," as follows:
If a euphemism is an inoffensive way of identifying an offensive fact, then "highly atomistic, competitive model" is an anti-euphemism, i.e., an offensive way of identifying an inoffensive (or great and noble) fact -- in this case, capitalism. "Competitive" is a definition by non-essentials; "atomistic" is worse. Capitalism involves competition as one of its proper consequences, not as its essential or defining attribute. "Atomistic" is usually meant to imply "scattered, broken up, distintegrated." Capitalism is the system that made productive cooperation possible among men, on a large scale - a voluntary cooperation that raised everyone's standard of living - as the nineteenth century has demonstrated. So "atomism" is an anti-euphemism, standing for "free, independent, individualistic." If the editorial's sentence were intended to be fully understood, it would read: "this country cannot go back to the free, individualistic, private property system of capitalism." (Voice of Reason, p. 131)
(The chickens' homecoming, as far as any last shred of intellectual credibility in NYT editorials are concerned, has been dissected by Greenwald. The NYT euphemized torture so that the Bush Administration didn't have to, torture - usually a last-ditch, pathologically-agnostic, no-absolutes, panic-ridden attempt to force a mind - being the naked-essential end-of-the-line for a pragmatist ethos.)

I'd like to identify a massive anti-euphemism that has been perpetrated on this country, much to its long-term detriment. And that is the identification of the American ethos of "commonsense practicality" with pragmatism (either little-p or big-P).

This didn't happen overnight and the corruptions involved have hardly been made explicit much less manifest to the American people. America's implicit founding philosophy - groped toward by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine - was Aristotelian through and through. Rand is the only 20th-century American thinker to have made this fully explicit.

The fundamental difference one needs to know between Aristotelianism and Pragmatism has to do with their respective stands on the Law of Identity and the Primacy of Existence. Aristotelianism affirms Rand's statement that "Existence is identity; consciousness is identification." Pragmatism systematically undercuts this axiomatic principle.

Since Pragmatism understands truth in terms of "what works" rather than in terms of correspondence to an independent, term-setting, causal reality with its own definite identity, it fails right on its face to represent "common sense," whereas Aristotelianism clearly does not so fail. What's more, an Aristotelian primacy-of-existence approach recognizes the ontological primacy involved: something works in virtue of being properly in accord with reality. Pragmatism dispenses with any such talk as being "metaphysics" with no "cash value." But getting this right is fundamental to getting it right about the nature of existence and humans' relationship to existence, which includes having a philosophy that fully and adequately addresses the independent-fact-integrative requirements of our conceptual nature.

Before Aristotle's complete works were translated into English in the early 20th century and before Ayn Rand's arrival on the scene - before America had had the opportunity to become a philosophical behemoth as a complement to its becoming a political and economic behemoth - its budding intellectual class, consisting first and foremost of the Pragmatists, had to cobble together the "best" of the philosophical ideas out there (again, in the absence of Aristotle). It must be kept in mind that inasmuch as people had heard of Aristotle, it was in terms of non-essentials - for instance, that his biology had been overturned by Darwin, or that his universal teleology was outmoded, or that the Church had canonized him into a dogma, or (among those less intellectually out-of-it) that he was being invoked by Hegel and Marx as a forerunner to modern "dialectics."

(Throw into this whole mix the rise of modern psychology: by the mid-20th century, many of the most adept minds were preoccupied by matters of psychology rather than philosophy - see Nathaniel Branden, Stanley Kubrick, David L. Norton. It's probably not at all accidental that people who developed like these three did were also all born right around 1930. An intellectually-minded person reaching college age ca. 1950s is more likely to be reading a lot of Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Maslow, and Fromm, than to be reading Aristotle or Rand. Only a highly-unusual instance - namely, Branden - would have feet in both these worlds. What's more, young idealists aren't going to be interested much in reading middling, cynicism-breeding Pragmatist philosophy, and anyone who bothers to delve into philosophy around this time is going to be assaulted by positivism and existentialism. Given this default by the philosophers, one can hardly blame a perfective artist like Kubrick for being much more psychology-focused than philosophy-focused. This of course only reinforces Miss Rand's point about the inescapable power of philosophy to affect a culture for good or bad, be it through influence or default. Oh, and ain't integration fun?)

No, Aristotle was pretty much a non-factor on the intellectual scene at the height of the Pragmatist movement. Instead, the chief influences were Hume and Kant, and if you want the non-identity, non-primacy-of-existence version of doing philosophy (complete with - get this - an atomistic, homo-economicus conception of the empirical-natural person!), you get it in full force with these two. In this fundamental respect, Hume and Kant share essential premises that only an Aristotelian approach can answer. In more specific terms, Hume and Kant both agreed that you could not get the concept of causal necessity from experience. From there, it's a matter of preference whether you go the Humean route of giving up on finding such an account, or the Kantian route of assigning to necessity a subject-dependent ("a priori") status.

On this point, I think Peikoff and Rand may have misidentified just how strongly "Kantian" the Pragmatists were, because I see them much more as Humean. What is the "cash value," after all, of Kant's whole categorical scheme? As a primacy-of-consciousness view - hence the purported subjectivity of the category of necessity - Kant's view is still a metaphysical one of sorts. (If you want another anti-euphemism in connection with this, how about the identification of Kant's critique of Rationalist metaphysics with a critique of metaphysics as such. Just imagine the thousandfold-multiplied disasters that might proceed from that kind of imperfect lumping-together. For evidence of the cashing-in there, see post-modernism.) Hume, to his commonsensical credit, makes no pretense to overturning empty metaphysics and replacing it with a primacy-of-consciousness one. In this, the Pragmatists are much more akin to Hume. It's Hume's philosophy, his whole approach, which sets the terms for everything to follow. The Pragmatists were too "common sense" to go with Kant's (metaphysical) subjectivism over Hume's (epistemological) subjectivism, which - unfortunately for the Pragmatists - still devolves into skepticism. (Again, see post-modernism for the final dead-end of a Humean influence.)

In the mind of the pragmatism-bred mainstream American now, philosophy is associated with skepticism - with questions without answers. That, of course, isn't practically workable, so the average American "rationally" rejects the study of philosophy as a waste of time. ("Rationally," that is, in the morally-vacuous sense used by social scientists who just don't know better, while their cognitively-Humean counterparts in the philosophy departments never told them otherwise. Certainly it's not "rationally" in the sense used by Rand or Henry Veatch. [From Hume: "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions," and "'Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger." This, today's philosophical Establishment considers a formidable thing to have to respond to - and is ill-equipped to do so as things currently stand.])

The important thing which only a few astute intellectuals grasp at this time, is that Aristotle and Rand have Hume and the Pragmatists checkmated/trumped on Law-of-Identity and Primacy-of-Existence grounds, just like Aristotle had all the ancient skeptics and proto-pragmatists checkmated (in addition to having been more dialectically comprehensive-completist-perfectivist than was his otherwise beloved teacher, Plato - and having become the father of inductive Western science in the process). Rand's primary-of-existence terminology is her way of more effectively phrasing the fundamental essence of classical commonsense realism. American-style commonsense would dictate adopting the comprehensive/perfectivist style of an Aristotle or Rand over the disintegrative style of Hume and the Pragmatists. What's more, there's a lot more cash-value in adopting the former over the latter.

Relative to the implicit neo-Aristotelian philosophy of America's founding, Pragmatism represents a regression, and the chief force undermining what made this country great. By having Hume as the "best" to fall back on in the tradition, America has never really declared an intellectual independence from Britain (or British notions of common sense). The Intellectual Establishment here is so very Humean (that is, non-Aristotelian) in basic cognitive style and many of its leading practitioners don't even seem to be aware of it. (That's why I'm here to point this out.) It's quite undeniable, actually: had they been more Aristotelian in basic cognitive style, the Establishment leaders would have acknowledged the deep similarity of cognitive style between the venerated Aristotle and the snidely dismissed Rand. Absent Aristotelianism and Randism, these children of Hume are reduced to increasingly-complex acts of squaring circles: see, for instance, the various ingenious but non-Aristotelian attempts to get around Hume's "is-ought" distinction, attempts which serve no useful purpose to the community at large but which can make for exhaustive publication or dissertation material. And that's not the only thing the Intellectual Establishment is way out-of-touch about.

Pragmatism breeds staleness, conformity, mediocrity, stagnation, weakness, and cowardice. (And so much anti-euphemism-spouting, soul-killing cynicism!) For abundant real-world evidence of this, see the state of America today. For Rand's expert, naked-essentials, theoretical analysis of all that's wrong with Pragmatism as against Aristotelianism, see Peter Keating as contrasted (spiritually) with Howard Roark, or Mr. Thompson as contrasted (intellectually, morally and metaphysically) with John Galt.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Moral Leadership

If you want a damning indictment of the philosophy profession today, look no further than the fact that in the mind of the mainstream American, "moral leader" tends to signify "religious leader." Of course, given the meaning of "religion" in such a person's mind, this is a devastating package-deal, all rendered and accepted quite efficiently at the unexamined subconscious level; so why wouldn't "moral leader" tend to signify "philosopher"? Because (a) the mainstream of the philosophy profession has defaulted on moral theory, making it essentially useless to the community for workable moral guidance; (What moral leader is the Machiavellian-pragmatist Obama consulting these days, especially since he threw the Rev. Wright under the bus a while back?) and (b) When the mainstream American seeks moral advice on something, one can throw a stone and hit a priest, pastor, rabbi, etc. On the off-chance that consulting a philosopher for moral advice ever even occurs to such a person, how would the person know where to go?

In a perfectivism-enriched world, there would be no such problem.

Friday, April 1, 2011

OMG, Miss Rand!?

You're just totally fucking wrong about Beethoven, Miss Rand, and I'm most assuredly not a politeness-and-manners-dropping hippie in saying so!

Pastoral Symphony, op. 68 in F Major.

First movement: "Awakening of Cheerful Feelings Upon Arrival in the Country."

Third movement: "Merry Gathering of Country Folk."

Last movement: "Shepherd's Song: Happy and Thankful Feelings After the Storm."

MALEVOLENT UNIVERSE PREMISE? Man's heroic fight against destiny and eventual DEFEAT? The opposite of your sense of life? (Ref.: 1981 Ford Hall Forum Q&A.) How 'bout: the exact effing opposite of Ludwig Van's?


tisk, tisk, tisk

Oh, but I still love ya, though. Just gotta check those premises more perfectively, mmmkay?

But . . .

Miss Rand, you've been vindicated yet again. I'm gonna go sit in the corner now.

Your Loyal and Humble Servant,

Thursday, March 31, 2011

American Exceptionalism



Not really a tough call for me to say that Rand trumps Greenwald. (Greenwald is right, though, that Obama has become an empty suit after presenting such a promising and principled-sounding persona during the '08 campaign. Fool me once....) America as it is right now - in all its intellectually-stunted glory - is not obviously exceptional, even if it is still exceptional compared (in full context) to the alternatives. But America as it might be and ought to be? Of course it's exceptional. It's all about individualism and a benevolent sense of life. (America is also uniquely situated to boldly lead the world toward the Singularity. Ain't integration fun?)

To see that as clearly as Rand did or yours truly does, requires a massive amount of well-focused integration - e.g., a well-integrated understanding of Galt's radio address. Attaining such an integrated understanding is not at all quick or easy (if it were, everyone would be doing it), and the leads (e.g., this) are not at all obvious or accessible. Without the requisite context of understanding, Rand's words - about America, or just about anything else - fall on uncomprehending and/or cynical ears.

Hence the assignment at the end of my previous posting.

"Let your mind and your love of existence decide."

Spiral Progression of Knowledge

Why on earth is this concept - the spiral progression of knowledge - not all the rage even in Objectivist circles, much less wider philosophy circles? (That you'd never hear the phrase "spiral progress of knowledge" in philosophy circles outside of Objectivism . . . well, it's just part of that pattern of failure of non-Aristotelian philosophy I've been harping about.) Peikoff got into the subject in Understanding Objectivism and it's like the idea has just been hanging there for almost 30 years, hardly ever brought up, hardly ever mentioned. Google the phrase. It's all too obscure, when it damn well shouldn't be. This is one insidious thousandfold-multiplied effect of the, ahem, imperfectly exclusive format in which Understanding Objectivism currently exists. It's ridiculous. Bizarrely enough, not even Sciabarra in all his comprehensiveness explicitly incorporates this concept in his dialectical methodology. (It's gotta be there at least implicitly - I mean, it's all supposed to be integrated, right? Of course it is.)

How does such a deficiency go so unnoticed?


I suppose I'll just have to take up the subject and develop it myself. I mean, what else has this blog been, but an exercise in the spiral progression?

Preliminary thoughts on the subject:
I think of the spiral as something like this: You have an integrated body of knowledge but it's developed only so much at a given point in time - meaning there are deficiencies or ill-formed aspects that are later recognized as such from a more advanced perspective. Certain points, concepts, concretes, principles, etc., are approached and thought about, the most cognitively-relevant aspects (in that context) being grasped and retained for future access (see: Subconscious), and then left for the time being as other points, concepts, etc. are approached and dealt with . . . and then, at some future time, the points, concepts, etc. are returned to afresh, and re-integrated, with any necessary modifications, into the newly expanded body of knowledge . . . and on it goes. This is why I find it so bizarre that Sciabarra didn't go whole-hog with this idea, because the progression is so dialectical-sounding. Hell, it's a progression, for crying out loud, a perfective activity. Then again, perhaps the whole point is that not every base has to be covered at any one time; rather, the idea is to formulate the principles by which to cover bases as knowledge expands. (Trying to cover every possible base at a given time without context-sensitivity is symptomatic, not of perfectivism, but of "perfectionism" in the perjorative sense, which holds omniscience as the standard.) That's how you get the idea that a system of thought such as Objectivism serves as its own defender, where rationality in this premise-checking, spiral-progression sense is the primary virtue. And, of course, the ancient master-integrator, Aristotle, sets the tone. I don't know how you have a fully-developed systematizing empiricism without the Spiral concept. It'll be fun to compare my future developments of the idea of the spiral progression with this seedling here, and revel in the self-reinforcing, invincible, undeniable quality of it all. :-) Also, I think there's another, all-encompassing term for this dynamic mental process: Logic. (See also: Induction and Deduction, Psycho-Epistemology, Automatization, Method.)

[ADDENDUM: Now, an assignment of sorts - a mission, if you will, should you choose to accept it: Read through the postings in this blog in reverse order going back to the start of this year, follow the many leads contained therein, and integrate, integrate, integrate! You, too, can and should become a Perfectivist through this process. You'll also earn yourself a big head-start on what's to come for this country. "To save the world is the simplest thing in the world. All one has to do is think." - Leonard Peikoff. In the meantime, while you do your own thinking, I've got a book to write....]