Monday, December 31, 2012

The verbal river of gold begins :-D

Please kindly direct your attention to "Perfectivism: An Introduction" (dated today), a new, definitive, one-page presentation of this soon-to-be-revolutionary philosophy.

And a Happy New Year to you all, as well! :-)

P.S. An "Occupy 4/20" kind of deal ought to be a cinch to pull off, shouldn't it?  Only 5 days after Tax Day and all?  Budmageddon? :-D  (All of you reading this, repeat after me: You can't refute Perfectivism. :-)

An item in the queue: an Ultimate Dialectic concerning classic theism, panentheism, pantheism, deism, atheism, agnosticism, fideism, naturalism, humanism, teleology, Intelligent Design, the Fine-Tuning of Cosmological Constants Argument, the Problem of Unnecessary Suffering, Necessary-Existence as a Predicate, Alvin Plantinga, (neo-)Aristotelian metaphysics and epistemology, Hegelian idealism, process philosophy and theology, Charles Hartshorne, Antony Flew, J. L. Mackie, Charles Taylor, Robert Nozick, Daniel Dennett, George H. Smith, Mark Johnston, and related concepts and people.  (Teaser: panentheism appears to be a very strong contender, followed in approximate order by atheism, deism, agnosticism/undecided, pantheism and (mayhaps) a modally-necessarily-existing deity.  All but the last one listed are, to their credit, naturalistic; a neo-Aristotelian dialectical resolution probably comes down to a 3-way showdown between three naturalisms: panentheism, deism, and atheism; the idea of a modally-necessarily-existing deity involves the notion of a completely perfect being, which arguably has no cognitive content, within a perfectivist conceptual framework or otherwise. Spinozist pantheism is a bit of a tough nut to crack: it is a naturalism which treats the world as the material mode or expression of God [I think], while treating God as synonymous with all of reality or existence - hence, "pan"-theism.  There might be a methodologically-flawed rationalistic castle in the sky having been erected here; it could collapse into panentheism upon further inspection; or mayhaps both, which might also indict panentheism as rationalistic castle-in-the-sky-building, or "floating abstractions" untethered, Aristotelian-style, to empirical observation of nature.  Is there room in a (neo-)Aristotelian metaphysics for a being of pure actuality or form, or is that, as with the notion of a completely perfect being, rationalistic and/or arguably devoid of cognitive content?  Finally, what are the conceptual interrelations between panentheism, the cosmological fine-tuning argument, and the problem of unnecessary suffering?  Does the ultimate dialectical showdown among these three concepts evolve into a probabilistic "what seems more likely than not?" question weighing naturally-observed-fine-tuning-with-perfect-divine-foreknowledge against naturally-observed morally-pointless suffering, or does it involve (or require?) some dialectically-necessary synthesis of these key concepts into an integral and seamless unity, as is typical of Aristotelian method?  If panentheism doesn't work to reconcile these concerns, and short of remaining agnostic/undecided, then we seem to be left with either a fideistic leap to God-plus-an-afterlife-where-all-wrongs-are-righted, or a godless physical world or nature.  For an Aristotelian naturalist, then, process of elimination appears to bring it down to a choice between panentheism succeeding in non-rationalistic fashion, or accepting a godless metaphysics and epistemology.  Processes of elimination are a key element of perfective human cognition, BTW.)

Also in the queue: Our moral obligations toward animals (SPOILER: factory farming is a moral abomination and should be ended ASAFP); The Israel-Palestine situation (Something Something even Dershowitz and Chomsky agree on the merits of Taba, criminy gee whiz goshdarnit would you look at that...); Solving the "problem of induction": the interrelations between induction, integration, unit-economy, hierarchy, organization of mental content, induction as a perfective process, and later findings (using strictly modern-scientific or perfective methods of thinking) as always building upon and never contradicting earlier findings.  ("The earth is flat" is not a modern-scientifically-established finding; such examples of pre-modern scientific fallibility furnish no good case against induction on epistemic or scientific grounds nowadays.  There's also an implicit "stolen-concept" fallacy at work in standard undergraduate-mystifying efforts to undermine inductive method: appealing to inductively-very-well-established findings - e.g., the earth most definitely not being flat - to impugn the epistemic authority of those very findings.  Or something to that effect.  Such would appear, then, to be a variant on some more pervasive fallacy that rears its ugly head in undergraduate-mystifying efforts to undermine the axiomatic reliability of sense-data.  Mayhaps perfective induction bears axiom-like self-defense characteristics as well, hence the evident stolen-concept character of induction-denial?)  Okay, I'm spent for now.  Damn [EDIT: damned?] completism....

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Jerkoff-in-Chief

(and his intellectual enablers)

The stated policy of the current President on "marijuana" (cannabis) legalization can be found here.  If you want an Official Government line that uses every lawyerly (actually, outright dishonest) weasel-worded tactic available to justify the unjustifiable, it can be found there.  (The Catch-22 type of argumentation is the best part! :-)  At this point in history, a point-by-point refutation of this garbage would be kind of pointless seeing as nobody outside the beltway with a lick of common sense buys into this horseshit - certainly not as sufficient grounds to deny consenting adults their nature/God-given rights to toke up seeing as it's they as individuals (and certainly not the fuckers in D.C.) who are in the best position to decide for themselves whether cannabis use is for them.  See?  Common sense.  (The point-by-point refutations have already been done hundreds if not thousands of times already, so I won't waste my precious time reiterating them all when it's the reader's responsibility to be aware of the myriad refutations available by now.)  The President's point-by-point excuse for justifying a continued War on Weed flies right in the face of common sense by obfuscating the real issue, which is freedom, goddammit.

Now, what makes this even more infuriating is the current President's pathetic attempt to Please Everyone as usual.  (Worked out really nicely for his "look forward, not backward" approach to accountability for this government's acts of torture, hasn't it?  [Read: no accountability.])  This is his standard tactic of Leading from Behind because he doesn't have the nuts to take a clear stand at this time so that his positions and policies can be pummeled into the ground.  He has (apparently) adopted a "wait and see" approach to the new Washington and Colorado state laws aiming to end the insanity.  Well, that's only a Jerkoff move; is he going to enforce the "marijuana" policy stated on his website, or not?  Are we in some kind of postmodernist legal limbo, or what?  What the fuck is going on here, and what the fuck does the President/Jerkoff intend to do?  If he's got the nuts, why doesn't he stick to his federal enforcement powers in adherence to his oath of office, rather than send mixed signals like this?

This is a political maneuver in which the Jerkoff is trying to have it both A and not-A at the same time and in the same respect.  Legally, he's still within his ostensible constitutional authority to enforce the ridiculously insane federal drug laws.  (The term "ostensible" triggered in my mind an association with Orson Welles's adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Trial, where the court painter Titarelli (sp?) explains to Joseph K. in classic Trial fashion how an acquittal from the unknown charges leveled against him would make him only "ostensibly free," as he could come home only to be arrested and processed all over again.)  Politically, his game-playing - the result of which is that we don't really know at this time what policy he intends to enforce - has succeeded so far in distracting the public from his officially-stated policy.  Looks like a state of A-and-not-A jerkoff limbo to this here philosopher if there ever was such a thing; how about for you, reader?

What this President hasn't done, is to do the courageous thing, i.e., what a President Jefferson would have done, and that's to speak out clearly against the madness that is the drug war, and propose serious revisions if not downright legalization (for cannabis, at the very least).  That's what common sense and backbone would dictate.  Instead, we have a "leader" more in the mold of a Mr. Thompson, the Head of State in Atlas Shrugged: a pathological pragmatist engulfed in a "Heraclitean Flux" of Non-Principle.  The President pulled this same shit with his transparently dishonest "evolving views on same-sex marriage" shtick, when he could have nutted up like a real leader and stood up all along for what he knew to be right and just.  (Miss Rand's comment on the character of Mr. Thompson as described here is precious.)  Meanwhile, intellectually-deficient but influential pundits such as our fellow blogger Andrew Sullivan are reduced to groveling before the President, entreating him to "please not use your ostensibly-duly-established constitutional powers to interfere with States' Rights, and follow reason instead," or some such A-and-not-A excuse for an argument that hardly even merit the status of a fallback.  Do recall that this very same Andrew Sullivan said not more than two weeks ago that, quote, "the public has every right to legislate morals," unquote.  (That's why, apparently, he thinks cannabis policy is a matter for States' Rights rather than individual, Ninth-Amendment-style rights.)  Do keep in mind that the federal government's executive branch has the power to enforce laws enacted by Congress, to crack down on any and all pot whether it's legal under a given state's laws or not.  Is the federal government going to be treating citizens of the different states differently just because majorities in some states enacted legalization initiatives?  We just don't know right now.

Sullivan's weary and ineffectual last appeal for the President not to enforce the federal drug laws amounts to nothing more than, quote, "...if they [i.e., the current Administration] decide that opposing a near majority of Americans in continuing to prosecute the drug war on marijuana, even when the core of their own supporters want an end to Prohibition, and even when that Prohibition makes no sense ... then we will give them hell."  Say what?  You mean, the American people aren't giving them hell already?  What makes anyone think that continuing the status quo at the federal level will change anything?  Then again, maybe it would be some sort of last straw for the People.  How do we know at this point?

You begin to see the problem when objectivity and identity are replaced in the public discourse by ambiguity, obfuscation, limbo, flux and short, non-integrative attention spans.  Where are the Professional Philosophers in all this?  Why is the task of pleading before the President in the mainstream media left to some intellectually-muddled blogger who gives away the case in the very act of presenting it?

Had enough yet?  I haven't.  (This is Philosophical Boot Camp and I'm the senior drill instructor; we haven't had enough until I say we've had enough.)  In his groveling appeal to the President, Sullivan writes that "the federal War on Marijuana is racist in its enforcement."  Certainly it is de facto and substantively if not procedurally racist in its enforcement, one of the eminently sensible reasons to end this War.  One might think that this President would be responsive to this, or that he should be given his race.  (Meanwhile, Sullivan quotes another author, Pete Guither, who makes the sensible matter-of-fact observation that the President appears to have floated a "blatant political trial balloon using the New York Times."  See?  Leadership.)  Anyway, that the Drug War is de facto racist is one of the several matters of fact that Sullivan gets right, and proud we are of all of him for that, but in missing the real point and target, he essentially gives away the case to the goddamned statists.  To wit:
Let's have this debate openly and honestly. Let the government prove that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin and should be treated as such. The very process will reveal the anachronism of the provision itself and the racial and cultural panic that created it. The very discussion will point to an inevitable, scientific conclusion that the current federal policy is based on nothing. 
So do nothing, Mr president, with respect to these states and their legitimate decisions. Set the DEA's priorities so that this trivial, medically useful, pleasure is not in any way a priority for law enforcement. Let the states figure this out, as they are on marriage equality. 
Lead from behind. An entire generation is ahead of you.
Yes, the mainstream national discourse has fallen just this low, given oh-so-much intellectual bankruptcy as its background context.  (Isn't this what Miss Rand would say about the present situation were she around now?  Something tells me that were she around now and commanding national attention as she did in her prime, things would be getting shaken up a lot more.  So I can only do my best to emulate her style of cultural and political commentary in my own unique way.)  We have Andrew Sullivan, the nation's leading political blogger, asking the President to "lead from behind" and "do nothing" even though the White House's official statement of drug policy indicates that it doesn't accept that "doing nothing" is the right thing to be doing.  (To reiterate: we're getting mixed signals on this from the White House and its political trial balloons.)  In addition, Sullivan didn't waste an opportunity to leave the matter of marriage equality up to the states rather than up to sound interpretation of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments.

With "friends of freedom" like this, who needs enemies?  If this is the best critical voice out there in Mainstream Public Opinion today, this President needn't worry about truly serious challenges to his doings.  (Actually, the best critical voices in that context would be Greenwald and Chomsky, but as long as the Public remains largely ignorant of what these two are saying, the President still needn't worry.  My point is, even if/though the public isn't largely ignorant of Sullivan, the President needn't have much to worry about in the way of intellectually serious and credible opposition.  After all, the public has "every right" to legislate morals 'n' all that, and decent and intelligent Catholics and others can find only "puerile cruelty" in the works of Ayn Rand.  The President himself, in typically un-Jefferson-like, philosophically-vacant fashion, doesn't understand jackshit about Rand, either, so the circle of ignorance [EDIT: or, how about . . . epistemic closure?  Booyah, score one for the UP!] is complete.)  And as long as the public remains largely ignorant of philosophy - thanks in part to the failure of the Professional Philosophers to serve as the guardians and integrators of human knowledge - we will continue to get lousy, non-identity, Orwellian "leadership" like this.

This feels like shooting fish in a barrel, a task for which Perfectivism seems particularly well-suited, I'll point out.  (Praise due to Ayn Rand for establishing precedent in this area with her Objectivism.)  So you're welcome, or something.

Merry Fucking Christmas.

P.S. I've come to the realization that, his having put several decades of deeply-Rand-influenced thought into the subject, Leonard Peikoff is (in a just world) our current leading authority on the philosophy of history, his The DIM Hypothesis (2012) being the culmination of his investigations.  (Note that I say philosophy of history, not history of philosophy.  In the latter department, Peikoff suffers from many of the very same problems Rand had.  His latest statements about Kant in The DIM Hypothesis bear no resemblance to recent Kant scholarship, such as Korsgaard's.  You might as well have jerkoff academic "philosophy" bloggers commenting on Ayn Rand in complete obliviousness to, say, Peikoff's interpretive work, and get precisely the same embarrassing effect.  You have to have the analytical skills - as Aristotle did - to separate out the wheat from the chaff in Peikoff and Rand's expositions, or you're going to fail miserably at getting their essential core message, something about focus vs. evasion and the role of the mind in human existence [EDIT: and the vital importance of mental integration], I believe.)  Few people alive are as keenly aware as Peikoff is, of the central role of integration (or lack thereof, or misapplication thereof) in the course of human life and history.  His latest work requires serious attention from philosophers of history, if any (besides Peikoff and those on his wavelength) are even around today.  I mean, if I were asked where serious philosophy of history is being done these days, the only name that pops into mind is Peikoff's - and there's no good reason to think anyone has put in nearly the kind and level of analysis that he has put in over some 60 years of thought and study, half of them under the tutelage of a fucking grandmaster of integration.  The Professional Philosophers ignore Peikoff's work in this area (as well as his two books on Objectivism now in publication) at their own peril.  Arguably, they've done so for so long as it is that a Point of No Return has been passed, probably in the last decade or so.  They can ignore the well-researched Rand scholarship for only so long before their intellectual credibility begins swirling around toward the bottom of the shitter.  Tara Smith's 2006 book was the final litmus test of what these so-called philosophers are really made of, and of whether they could make themselves useful to the public discourse for a change; many of them failed that test miserably.  So fuck 'em.  Let their departmental funding get cut and market principles encroach further into their insulated bubble of security, and let them whine incessantly about capitalism in their blogs.  The whiners had their final opportunity in 2006 to close the massive gap between themselves and the Real World (where Ayn Rand matters - a lot), and they blew it big-time; the more ignoble bastards among them have resorted instead to vicious, savage, smears pertaining to Rand's youthful (and irrelevant, and not-admiring) comments about a serial killer, and other such intellectually-reckless or negligent tactics for which their pathological groupie-colleague-enablers hold them not at all accountable.  To see these fucks get their comeuppance - it's not a matter of if, but when - will be a particular pleasure of mine to behold.  So the current situation is that we have this national discourse where Rand looms as a major presence and influence on people's ideas, and instead of participating in that national dialogue on a level field of play the Professional Philosophers gratuitously dropped the ball and retreated ever-further into their Ivory Towers.  ("Cowards!  Weaklings!  Bums!")  So, again, until they get their act together: Fuck 'em.  In the meantime, I'll be reading DIM, and integrating, of course.

P.P.S. Sign of a/the verbal river of gold to come?  Merry Fucking Christmas. :-)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Human rights court: CIA 'tortured, sodomized' terror suspect.

Also: 4/20/2013, a Cannabis Cliff?

The CIA torture-'n'-sodomizing news item.

In a society where words and ideas get twisted in Orwellian ways, the term "terror suspect" is equated in the mind of the average sheep/boob with "terrorist."  What else could explain how the American People rationalize or plainly ignore morally outrageous actions committed by their own government?  There's a cognitive bias - I forget what it's called right off-hand - in which people will condone actions by their in-group which they condemn when committed by the out-group.  The psychologists apparently have a tendency to reduce massive cognitive deficits such as this to "cognitive bias," though as a philosopher and moralist I leave open the very real possibility that this can be reduced to willful evasion or malice in many instances.  Some of the more vile right-wing nationalist types will chant "American exceptionalism" and "God bless America!" while all this goes on; a God-blessed America wouldn't dare torture, now, would it?  Hence the (willful?) cognitive blinders when the evidence pops up and stares them right in the face.  Many others would rather just not be inconvenienced with facing up to this reality and doing something about it.

However you cut it, it's fucking disgusting.  What would Jefferson think?

On a related note, Greenwald breaks down the new film directed by Katheryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) about the CIA's (Orwellian obfuscation coming) Enhanced Interrogation Program.  What an inconvenient time for this human rights court to issue its ruling!  The fucks in Washington are thinking, "Okay, how do we go into damage control?" and not "How do we hold our leaders and officials accountable for their acts of torture?"  That's just how fucks in Washington think these days.

Meanwhile, the fucks in Congress keep cannabis illegal and DOMA the law of the land, for no good reason whatsoever in both instances.  We've got crazy ignorant fucks from a gerrymandered majority (of course, the honest and common sense thing to do about drawing up congressional districts would be to assign that responsibility to an independent entity) running the House science committee.  We've got yet another stupid "fiscal cliff" coming in good part because the Republicans are being dishonest fucks about the economic effects of their preferred tax policies, and refuse to take a hint from the fact that voters rejected the plutocrats' open and unabashed efforts to buy the presidency outright.  (Can you just imagine how fucks like Hannity and the rest of the talking heads at the official propaganda outlet of the GOP would react if Dems suppressed a study like that?)  Isn't it high time the fucks were run out of town, or something?  Who the fuck keeps electing these fucks, anyway?

Reader, what do you think?  What does your conscience tell you ought to be done?

Speaking of political cliffs, should 4/20/2013 be designated as the Cannabis Cliff, I wonder?  The scenario churning in my mind for a while now has involved massive crowd of stoners showing up at all the major monuments in D.C., paying tribute to the real patriots who founded this nation, and lighting up en masse.  Wouldn't fucking matter whether the rascals in Congress got around to doing the sensible thing by then, or not.  It would just be a deadline playing upon the Cliff theme - a favorite in D.C., as we know too well - and then, on 4/20, no matter what, a shit-ton of cannabis goes up in smoke right across the street from the rascals.  Maybe the cool political leaders would join their fellow patriots out on the smoking areas.  (An alternative scenario is playing upon that same Cliff theme by setting that as the legalization deadline and then let the political brinksmanship ensue; the threat to light up en masse would be the pro-freedom side's bargaining chip in that case.  But why not light up even if it's legalized, in celebration?  Yet another alternative scenario - if this idea cannot be implemented in that time - is for various people around the country to smoke out in front of their local federal courthouses and turn it into a legal spectacle in which the outrageous drug laws are challenged on Ninth Amendment grounds.  Then the drug laws can be unequivocally exposed as the travesty that they are in the full light and court of public opinion.)  Can you just imagine the glorious spectacle of a massive billowing cloud of fragrant, aromatic dank smoke engulfing the Washington Monument?  4/20/2013 is a weekend day, by the way.  And it could be observed and celebrated as a national holiday every 4/20 weekend thereafter (perhaps as an adults-only event since a sound legalization policy would involve a responsible-cannabis-use educational program; yes, one day out of 365 the kiddies wouldn't get to access the monuments but they would learn an unbelievably valuable lesson in freedom and citizen action, and they could always plan around that day; perhaps even better yet: leave it up to the parents whether to bring their kids along?).  National Dank Day it could be called.  Free fucking country and all that.  Now the question is whether Jon Stewart, the Hollywood Crowd, true 'tea party' patriots, and sympathetic supporters could get on board with arranging this very thing to happen.  The cynical cable news networks could make a huge theatrical production out of it, don't you think?  I think the scenario would be fucking AWESOME.  Anyway, just throwing some ideas out there for the time being.  Maybe the good guys in the game of 4/20 chicken could throw in other eminently reasonable demands, like having CIA torturers and sodomizers, and their enablers, actually being held accountable for their actions.  Nice idea regardless, innit?

(Obviously I have way too much time on my hands sitting around and thinking up shit like this.  The availability of trees doesn't help any, either.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sullivan (and broken culture) again

[For some context, the last blog entry about Sullivan is here.  One could alternately refer to this here blog entry as Exhibit B.]

So, the subject of Justice (sic) Scalia's very recent bout of imbecility regarding gay rights came up on Andrew Sullivan's 'The Dish.'  Here's Sullivan's substantive take on the issue:
So lets challenge Scalia on "legislating morals". The public has every right to legislate morals but not to do so arbitrarily to punish and stigmatize a minority for doing the exact same things that the majority does all the time, i.e., sodomy. If the court has already determined that mass murderers have an inviolable right to marry, how is allowing gay people to marry somehow a sign of moral decline? If the court has already made non-procreative sex constitutionally protected for straight people, how is it that the very same thing, condemned for the very same reasons by Scalia's and my own hierarchy, is obviously immoral when it comes to homosexuals? 
It's that discrepancy that suggests that this argument is not about legislating morals, as Scalia insists. It is about legislating them unequally, and treating a tiny minority differently for no rational reason. This issue has been settled, as Scalia himself declared in his dissent in Lawrence vs Texas. He rightly said there that that decision essentially made gay marriage a constitutional inevitability. He was right. And he should uphold that precedent in these cases, if it comes to that. Or is he going to contradict himself?
Got all that?  Just in case you didn't:

He starts with, "So lets challenge Scalia on "legislating morals"."  Great!  After all, the whole notion of government "legislating morals" is so fucking offensive to genuine-liberal sensibilities that Scalia should be toast.  But wait!  Instead, Sullivan says:
The public has every right to legislate morals but not to do so arbitrarily to punish and stigmatize a minority for doing the exact same things that the majority does all the time, i.e., sodomy.
Is this what Jefferson had in mind when authoring the Declaration of Independence?  Is this what Thomas Paine had in mind when writing The Rights of Man?  Where does a supposed right of the public to do this-and-that come from?  Does "the public" have rights, or is it only individuals that have them?  If the public has rights, can they not be only the rights delegated to it by individuals?  That's the whole idea of civil government in Lockean-liberal terms: the individuals give up to the government rights of enforcement of the Law of Nature, in exchange for a much more effective, just, and stable system of securing and protecting their rights.  This is a goddamned no-brainer if you just read the opening part of the Declaration.

What is the just exchange of rights and responsibilities, benefits and burdens, involved when "the public" decides to punish a victimless crime?  The peaceful people doing their private consensual things give up their freedom to do so in exchange for . . . what?  Jack shit, that's what.

Let's call "legislating morals" that do not serve the end of protecting individual rights what it is: violations of individual rights by a majority that has no fucking business whatsoever interfering with victimless activity.  This whole notion of "legislating morals" is a "conservative" (read: right-wing) fantasy that may have held sway back in the day, but it's neanderthalism at this point in history.

And to be clear even further: "Legislating morals" and "protecting rights" cannot - in a rational system of government based on individual rights - be mashed together such that when government punishes a murderer, it is "legislating morals."  Only imbeciles - Justice (sic!) Scalia, for example - would run them together like that.  (See, once again, Spooner.)  (Here's Spooner again.)  (Lysander Spooner, "Vices are not Crimes.")

Spooner already refuted this bullshit well over a century ago.  Why "the morals-legislating public" isn't intimately familiar with this essay is a very good question.  I'll provide some hints to an answer in just a moment.

(In case you missed it: Spooner.)

(And there's no good argument that homosexual sodomy per se is even a vice!  Double imbecility from Scalia!  You know what is a vice, a deficiency, in an objective, Aristotelian/perfectivist code of ethics?  Willful imbecility on the part of those who should goddamn well know better.  Plato wrote The Republic, after all, with the idea in mind that imbeciles shouldn't be in positions of political power.  Remember the Athenians' "right to legislate morality" by sentencing Socrates to death?  Q.E.D., motherfuckers.)

To continue: What Sullivan turns this into is a case for "legislating morals" but not to do so "arbitrarily" and "unequally."  So it comes down to a Fourteenth Amendment issue, which is the primary basis (under present, corrupted jurisprudence) on which to strike down sodomy laws as unconstitutional.  How exactly does one distinguish between equal protection and equal rights-violation given this framing of things, praytell?  (Anyone else think of this question before I did?  Of course, it came to me at mind at the very first but I just forgot to ask or mention it in first drafit; hadn't yet perfected this subject in my mind till now.  [UP asks: how exactly do you figure out what "now" this is referring to?  Did you think of the question for yourself before, or after, seeing UP ask it above?  If it's "before," you're in a small minority of intellectually-well-informed people who happened upon this blog "early," making you well ahead of the rest of internet users and the "general public" in a very significant sense.  What results this fact will have, sociologically speaking, I guess I have to predict via my understanding of praxeology, memetics, moral theory, and so forth, to come to some overhelmingly amazing conclusion I haven't reached yet?  Whoa. :-D  So, what is "now" in UP's context?  In yours?  In the minds of those you love?  An exercise not just for present readers but for all of us, it appears....] serious and pensive Sagan face.)

Sullivan is correct that Scalia was not such an imbecile as to fail to recognize that striking down laws against sodomy would pave the way for marriage equality.  (He was an imbecile for being concerned about striking down sodomy laws on that basis, hence his morally obscene dissent in Lawrence.)  But all this misses the point, given Spooner.

As I pointed out in my previous blog entry, all of this intellectual and jurisprudential corruption can be circumvented by appeal to the Ninth Amendment, that is, to natural law, or to what Paine termed common sense.  If we want to be "originalists" (as Scalia supposedly is) in our interpretation of the Constitution, which involves reference to the intent of the Framers, then what other intent is there behind the Ninth Amendment than just what Jefferson and Paine referred to as The Rights of Man?  We can prattle on all we like about the intent of the more statist Framers - like those, for instance, who never intended for African-American slaves to have rights - but that doesn't do a fucking thing to negate the meaning and intent of the Ninth Amendment (which could also have been invoked to strike down slavery as unconstitutional, under a rational jurisprudence).

Well, I've gone on at some length already here, and the gist of the matter is plenty clear.  Having once been an avid reader of Sullivan's 'Dish', I'm disgusted by him these days.  I don't know if his brand of so-called conservatism inspired by Hayek and Oakeshott is undermined by the 'British' way of approaching governance post-Locke (see: J.S. Mill and utilitarianism) with which he was bombarded as a youth in the UK, but it isn't what American originalists like Jefferson and Paine - and, later, Spooner, and later still, Rand, Rothbard and Nozick - had in mind.  (There is also the matter of Sullivan's "dialectical" sensibility in trying to carve out some territory of reconciliation between different factions in today's politics, to reach some ostensibly reasonable and practical common ground of overlapping consensus; the primary problem here is the underlying corruption of the whole discourse as such today, which Sullivan does not address at its core [a matter for the discipline of philosophy to address].  A better term for Sullivan's "dialectical" sensibility here is pragmatism, with all the baggage that carries.)  But more disgusting still is what is revealed by this paragraph of Sullivan's article:
But the exchange also brought back something in my own past. Well over a decade ago (I can't remember when), one of the professors I taught students for at Harvard, Michael Sandel, invited me to debate my former dissertation adviser, Harvey C Mansfield, on marriage equality. It was for Sandel's legendarily popular course, "Justice". The fact that Harvey and I both agreed to do it and debated with civility and mutual respect (I revere Harvey as a scholar and as a human being) was, for me, somewhat moving, if also a little personally awkward.
Cutting to the chase: what the fuck is going on at Harvard that someone who teaches for Prof. Sandel doesn't understand the principles of rights underlying the Declaration of Independence?  Moreover, how the fuck does it happen that a former teacher of students at Harvard can so ignorantly blast Ayn Rand in the most extreme of terms?  (For that matter, what the fuck is going on in academia generally that a leading academic "philosophy" blogger does the same thing?)  Is it any surprise that Harvard is turning out so many statists along with so many morally and aesthetically vacuous Wall Street financiers and intellectually vacuous politicians (see: 2012 presidential election)?  Just what the fuck does a credential from Harvard signify, anyway?  Raw smarts can go only so far, after all, and Gates and Zuckerberg didn't need the credential to prove their economic worth.

This former teacher of students for Michael Sandel at Harvard concludes by quoting without comment the following from another author, one Paul Campos:
Scalia’s tactless fulminations are, at bottom, a reminder of why life tenure for Supremes is a bad idea, the badness of which increases in direct proportion to our average life expectancy. Put another way, someone who was in law school at a time when 96 percent of the public disapproved of interracial marriage should be considered too old to sit on the Supreme Court.
How is this asinine and irrelevant opinion worthy of so much as a quotation in the given context?

Something something Jefferson, Franklin and Paine appalled and aghast, etc.  Q.E.F.D.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Scalia vs. principles of liberty

UPDATED below.

I was going to title this blog entry "Scalia vs. liberty," but I suppose he sometimes - incidentally - comes out in favor of liberty.  But the issue here is principle: is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a principled advocate of liberty?

No, he is not.

[EDIT: On second thought, the best headline for this entry might very well be "Scalia vs. rights."  Let's each of us chew on that one.]

This item came to my attention today.  Rush Limbaugh is on record for saying for saying, at least a couple times, that if he could switch out his brain with someone else's, it would be Scalia's.  Given Limbaugh's gradual, sad descent into intellectual dementia, I can see why.  One of the "best legal minds of our time" responded to a student's sensible question regarding his comparison between laws banning sodomy and laws banning bestiality and murder:

“If we cannot have moral feelings against or objections to homosexuality, can we have it against anything?” Scalia said in response to the question, according to The Daily Princetonian. “I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective.” 
Scalia told Princeton student Duncan Hosie that he is not equating sodomy with bestiality or murder, but drawing parallels between the bans. 
Scalia added dryly, “I’m surprised you weren’t persuaded,”  the student newspaper reported.

Oh, good lord.  Does this even merit comment?

Where does this guy live, under a fucking rock?

This is the second decade of the 21st century, after all, where gay ivy-league college students aren't going to find persuasive some asinine comparison of sodomy laws to bestiality laws, and yet Scalia finds himself "surprised" by their not being so persuaded.  He's got to have been living under a fucking rock.

But, more importantly, here's the article's description of Scalia's legal reasoning (sic) used in the landmark case, Lawrence v. Texas (2003), in which the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws as unconstitutional:

Scalia had dissented in the case; in his dissent, he makes a couple of comparisons to laws against bestiality and declares, "nowhere does the Court’s opinion declare that homosexual sodomy is a 'fundamental right.'"

I'll go ahead and state it in plain, simple and blunt terms:

There is most definitely a natural right to engage in homosexual sodomy.

This comes from the reality-based observation that (a) people have the right to engage in private consensual activities with one another, and (b) private and consensual homosexual sodomy poses no credible threat to the security and well-being of society's members.  (This is also why people have a natural right to use cannabis responsibly.)  As to where one can find this right - implicitly - in the Constitution, Justice (sic) Scalia cannot fail to be unaware of the libertarian implications of the Ninth Amendment which refers to un-enumerated rights retained by the people, and of the illiberal implications of laws banning sodomy, pornography, birth control, victimless drug use, and so on.

(EDIT: Stupidity - Scalia's, for example - does in fact pose a credible threat to the security and well-being of society's members.  Maybe stupidity, intellectual laziness, ignorance, or plain old kookery should be made illegal?  I wonder why right-wing politicians, pundits and bloggers don't fanatically go after that real threat wherever it lurks (or, hell, is openly broadcast)?  Where's Michele Bachmann when we need her to protect us from this manifestly obvious threat to American Values?  Why the fuck is she spending her time focusing on a non-existent problem such as sharia law emerging in America?  Just because it's the brand of illiberal batshit-crazy theocracy-ism that she doesn't like, doesn't mean that it's anywhere near the threat that someone like, say, Antonin Scalia or his doppelganger John Yoo poses to our liberties.  Is down up in the right-wing mindset?  Good lord!  It's just so absurd, I don't know how people can endure such blatantly irrational idiocy with a straight face.... [Don't worry, proudly-ignorant left-wing socialism-embracers and Rand-haters, you're next up on my Shit List, beginning with the fact that I received not one single fucking answer in the affirmative to the question I posed here.  Just you wait till I'm in full intellectual-rampage mode, 'cause you ain't seen nuttin' yet, you fucking amateurs.])

What Justice (sic) Scalia is, is a "conservative" statist of sorts who only happens sometimes to support freedom.  What he is not, is someone whose occupancy of a Supreme Court seat should be considered a good thing for the country - especially not when he's so homophobic as to be unqualified to adjudicate the marriage-equality issue fairly or justly.  And that issue is, at this point in history, a no-brainer!  (I'll note that since the Prop 8 plaintiff's attorney Theodore Olson wrote his conservative case for gay marriage, no conservative group or publication has managed to produce anything remotely resembling a well-reasoned case against it.  Indisputable fact.  There's a reason why it is an indisputable fact: the overwhelming evidence, logic, and constitutional and natural principles of justice are on the side of marriage-equality.  Duh.)

I will also mention that the "conservative" Scalia sided with the "liberal" majority in Gonzalez v. Raich which upheld the (natural-rights-violating) federal drug laws on the grounds of the ominously-ever-expansive (under twentieth-century, post-Holmes, post-Dewey jurisprudence) Commerce Clause. These laws (wrongly) empower the government to prohibit a citizen from growing pot in his own backyard.  Meanwhile, Justice (sic) Scalia found some way to oppose the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), presumably on the grounds that it would involve an unacceptable expansion of federal power.  What principle drives all of this is some idiosyncratic Scalian jurisprudence that I haven't gotten a grip on, but given how illiberal he is on issues like sodomy and weed, it is a corrupt jurisprudence, no question.

Since I first got interested in politics some decades back, my political sensibilities have always been more or less libertarian, with civil libertarianism on the so-called personal-freedom issues being one of the biggest no-brainers in political philosophy.  Just some good ol' Aristotelian common sense on my part, I suppose.  During this period of time one of the books that readily caught my attention given my areas of study/interest was Peter McWilliams's Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do: The Absurdity Of Consensual Crimes In A Free Society (1993).  I have not actually read this book, because it preaches to this choir.  (Given its unusually high rating by standards - 4.48 out of 5 stars with 285 ratings - perhaps it goes into the "must-read" category regardless.)

The story of McWilliam's own death - caused by corrupt jurisprudence (which stems ultimately from corrupt but influential philosophy) - is fucking insane.  Franklin, Paine and Jefferson would be aghast.

Thanks a lot, Justice (sic!) Scalia.


UPDATE: Lysander Spooner, bitches.

"The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer's Social Statics." -some "progressive" asshole in a black robe

"The Ninth Amendment surely enacts Mr. Lysander Spooner's Natural Law." -The Ultimate Philosopher

(I've just been getting warmed up here these past months, mofos.  BTW, did you happen to catch that one ignorantly-Rand-hating asshole who runs a leading "philosophy" blog, whining recently about hedge-fund managers making a lot more than university professors?  It's like he's never heard of the concept of rarity of talents combined with the relative economic importance of skill sets.  Sure, Derek Jeter could probably teach high school classes, but can any high school teachers play shortstop for the New York Yankees?  Does a philosophy professor have the skill set to run a hedge fund or other demanding business venture?  Arguably a hedge-fund manager could have entered the philosophy profession instead, and do a good job at it (which really isn't all that hard if you absorb Aristotelian sensibilities, as way too many philosophy professors have failed so crashingly to do - as evidenced by the quality of students Higher Ed lets loose on the world nowadays), but who would run the hedge funds, then?  Such questions and answers occur as second nature to business-types but apparently never occur to a lot of university professors, especially those in the Humanities who are supposed to be expanding their cognitive horizons for fuck's sake.  I guess Marx-inspired economic value theory never accustomed them to understanding these things?  I'll just leave this here again.  Nozick > bitter whining asshole left-wing "philosophy" prof.  Say, why did Nozick go from leftist to libertarian?  Something something conversation with Murray Rothbard and individualist anarchism, something something Rothbard and Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Mises's Human Action, something something individualist anarchism and Lysander Spooner, something something footnote three to "A Framework for Utopia," something something "On the Randian Argument," something something "Nozick on the Randian Argument," something something "How to Derive Libertarian Rights," something something eudaemonistic egoism, something something "Flourishing Egoism," something something Personal Destinies, something something Aristotle, something something Allan Gotthelf, something something epistemology workshop, something something noble soul, something something man as heroic being, something something role of the mind in human existence (Marxian value-theory and historical materialism, eh?  Something reeks about all that. Class struggles? Like that going on between the darkly-comically entrenched Theory Class and ordinary human beings, for instance?), something something rationality as the fundamental virtue, something something Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics, something something Leonard Peikoff, something something Understanding Objectivism, something something Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical . . . wait a second, it's like there's some kind of dialectical progression/convergence/integration/ perfection going on here; anyone else notice that besides moi?  If not, why the hell not?  Also, to that whiny left-wing "philosophy"-prof blogger: Go fuck yourself, asshole. [cue Spaceballs-mog finger gesture and smooching noises] Cheers, UP :-p )

Saturday, November 24, 2012

An Aristotelian utopia? (repost)

[Originally posted Aug. 25 of this year; spiraling back...]

While the most prominent economist on today's public scene spends his scarce time going apeshit over the Paul Ryan-Ayn Rand connection, complete with laughable commentary on Rand/Galt/Atlas, my thoughts turn more toward the long-term and to subjects of the greatest and furthest-reaching scope.  That's what I do, see.  That's all I do.  And I absolutely will not stop, ever, until I am dead.

So, without further ado, I direct your attention to a blog commentary (Part 1) (Part 2) on Prof. Marcia Homiak's essay, "An Aristotelian Life" (a chapter in the collection Philosophers Without Gods [Louise M. Antony, ed., OUP, 2007]).  The collection as a whole is okay, but the one essay that stuck in my mind was this one.  The basic idea of her essay is that a society built along essentially Aristotelian lines would fulfill all the needs that many human beings think requires belief in a god or gods to fulfill. It wouldn't be an atheistic or secular society by necessity or default - for all we know, a rigorously-philosophically-informed theism may be a prominent feature in such a society - but the point would be that belief in god(s) would not be necessary for the society to function in a, well, pretty fucking awesome manner.

I wish to go a step or so beyond the envisioned social order outlined by Prof. Homiak and consider certain questions.  These include: (1) How realistic is it that such a society might be actualized?  (2) Were such a society to be actualized, wouldn't the benefits of a philosophically-enriched citizenry have a snowball effect, leading to ever-better social discourse and, in turn, to ever-better solutions to major challenges facing humanity?  (3) Would this not hasten the onset of the technological singularity?  (4) Is such a social order, properly speaking, utopian?  Breaking that question down further: Is the society envisioned by Homiak already utopian, or would we need the aforementioned snowballing effect to reach utopia?  (5) What exactly is the difference between perfection (in this context, a utopian society) and excellence (an awesome society), anyway?

Well, I think the chief question here is (1).  I think once such a society were realized, the snowball effect and the rest follow quite logically - that is, unless humanity is already doomed.  Is humanity doomed?  I don't know.  But what's a pretty fucking awesome way to hedge our bets on that?  Or go out with a bang if the end really is near?  Could it get any better - could we do any better - than an Aristotelian society (be it to stave off extinction, or just because that's the best way to go regardless)?  If we could do better, that's what the Man himself would recommend we do, of course!  (You can't refute perfectivism. :-)  So, now: what about (1).  Is such a society a realistic goal?  Let me turn the tables here: Is it not a realistic goal, and if not, why?

The strategy here isn't difficult to figure out.  (It's tactics used to carry out the strategy that need some big-time investigation, I think.  How are memes optimally propagated in this day and age?)  The strategy is to get as many people turned on to this Aristotelian idea as soon as possible.  This has a number of things going for it.  For one thing, Aristotle is canonized.  Ayn Rand, on the other hand, deservedly or not, is not canonized.  Even though I think Aristotle and Rand would converge on support for the Aristotelian program, using Rand's ideas as the vehicle for such a social change would be something of a non-starter.  I think that comes after the Aristotelianization (great word!), which would enable the folks to actually understand what the hell Rand has been getting at all this time.  Or, perhaps, the Aristotelianized citizenry would tear Objectivism apart (if not ignore/scoff at it), as the current genius-packed academy-consensus would believe.  (I'd be happy to take bets on that.  But one philosopher against a million; what chance do I stand?)  But that's really quite beside the point.  The point is to have a citizenry that is maximally intellectually tutored and let the chips fall where they may.  (Again, I'm happy to take bets on how well Rand pans out in such a scenario.  But hell, we'd all be winners in that scenario.  I'd just want to be a bigger winner. ;-)

So, a maximally intellectually-tutored citizenry.  How can that be achieved?  Well, I said the strategy would be fairly simple and straightforward: Get as many people as possible understanding Aristotelianism as soon as possible.  Especially rationality as the highest virtue, and the progressive activity that is eudaimonia (involving self-actualization) the good life.  A citizenry devoted to learning and growing and deriving enjoyment from doing so.  Higher aesthetic standards in the public sphere.  Stupidity in politics scorned rather than celebrated.  A people "conditioned" to think eudaimonically and therefore looking down on lying, cheating, and stealing as purported means of getting ahead in life. Growing bonds of trust.  Capitalism with businesspeople actually of the character of Randian heroes, rather than the sociopathic unprincipled cutthroat philistinic cronyist assholes that dominate the business scene too much today. Violence scorned rather than celebrated.  And on and on and on.  Like I said, fucking awesome.

So how does that ball get rolling?  Is it realistic for the ball just to get rolling?  Well, is it not realistic, and if not, why?  How does a people concerned with their survival and well-being reject Aristotle?

Say that it's achievable in principle.  Better yet, say that it's at least plausible.  (If not, why not?)  In that case, it comes down to a matter of time: just how long would it take before Prof. Homiak's (admittedly ambitious) vision is achieved?  And why not sooner rather than later?

A couple other twists to the narrative above:

(1) Jesus of Nazareth can still play a key role in all this.  Think of this combination as the possible citizen-ideal: Having the head of Aristotle and the heart of Jesus.  (Do keep in mind what Aristotle had to say about intellectual activity as expressing what is "divine" in man, and ask yourself how Jesus could possibly object to the maximal use of one's cognitive faculty.)

(2) Cannabis legalization would speed all of the above way up, for the reasons Carl Sagan explained.

More to come, of course . . .

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vertigo not yet on Blu-ray?

This is an obvious travesty that should hopefully be remedied in the near future (how does a 4/20/2013 deadline sound?).  Also, it would be really nice if Orson Welles's masterful 1962 adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Trial got the Criterion and/or Blu-ray treatment.  Just thought I'd throw that out there for consideration.  (I wonder if the The Big Lebowski Blu-ray has come down enough in price yet?  Concretes, concretes; units, units; lotta strands, man....)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Books, CDs, and DVDs as units

This blog entry's subject is unit-economy.  Its theme is: unit-economy as key to cognition.

(I'm writing this in a Saganized state.)

I was looking down at a hard copy of Morton Hunt's The Story of Psychology and it finally hit me in a completed/perfected form: Books (i.e., their entire contents) as units.  Then I generalized to other units in my immediate sensory vicinity - CDs and DVDs, meticulously organized to criteria I won't go into here at this point in time.  (Dramatic intrigue to ensue; see P.S. below [currently in my mind but yet to put down on digital screen].)

The Hunt book was grouped in with other "empirical psychology" books.  They can be grouped together as units in that regard in accordance with conceptually fundamental similarities.  (See: Rand, "Fundamentality, Rule of" which I see is right over there in the large white-cover well-worn copy of The Ayn Rand Lexicon, similarly grouped in with other concepts according to fundamental-level similarities (which I won't name at this point in time - dramatic intrigue, again).  This process of generalizing falls, I think, under the general category of "induction."  (Now I look over at the Harriman book and also physical copies of Peikoff's "Objectivism Through Induction," which I've barely even listened to yet.)

(I've just had another important unit enter my perceptual field, but I'm sure as shit not going to tell all of you right now.  Just a moment.)

Gist: The task now is to condense (units and concepts being condensatins of concretes, with mental units serving as concretes with respect to higher-level integrations/condensations) all the units in my perceptual view, as well as all those other higher-level units rolling around in the ol' noggin), into a philosophically compelling, dramatic narrative to culminate a few months from now.

P.S. 4/20/2013.  "Mark it, Dude."  Possible title: There Will be Bud.  Details to come, of course.  (Are you hooked on my every word yet?  I know I am. :-)

P.P.S. I think I can present a pretty good case against digitizing much less pirating all information/entertainment units. ;-)

P.P.P.S. Ain't integration fun? / You can't refute perfectivism. :-)

P.P.P.P.S. What Would Howard Stern/Seth MacFarlane/David Shore Do?  shifaced

P.P.P.P.P.S. UP asks: So am I the first to figure all this out or am I just now catching up with everyone else?  (Hi there year 2100 readers! :-D )  lmao

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Best 10 bucks I ever spent lol.  Plenty more material where that came from. :-o

Monday, November 12, 2012

A goal: total cannabis legalization by 4/20/2013

[UPDATED below.]

(Stimulated in part by the insanity of this news item.  Something something Mark Twain quotation.)

Completely legalized in all of the United States for all adults 21 and over (unless we want to be wink-wink hypocrites by making it nominally 21 while acknowledging that college kids starting freshman year will do it; do we want to be fucking wink-wink hypocrites or do we want to be reality-observant like Aristotle?).

The only question is how to make this happen.  (The ironic part is that formulating strategy for swift-as-possible legalization would itself be aided by cannabis-induced semantic priming.)

I think there is already a basis for pot legalization in the Ninth Amendment.  What would Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, Locke, Sagan, Marley ("Get up, stand up..."), the Coens, Kanye, Glenn Greenwald and plain old common sense say/do?  If consuming cannabis in the privacy of one's home poses no clear or present danger to the security or well-being of others or self, then prima facie we have a pre-political, nature- or God-given right to do so, which government is instituted to secure.  It's plain, simple, and common sense - something we don't see enough of in the world, unfortunately.  (A compromise measure would leave cannabis prohibition up to the states - a Tenth Amendment thing - but at the very least the wise tactic is to go into negotiations demanding as much as you can reasonably demand.  And I rather like the appeal to Sagan and Marley on natural-rights and common-sense grounds.)

There also needs to be a common-sense plan in place for educating people about the benefits and hazards of cannabis use.  (Available data indicate that it's not a good idea, in terms of cognitive development, for people in their teens to use weed - not frequently or in large amounts, anyhow.)  In fact, such an educational program should be a required condition of cannabis legalization, because we don't want a big fuck-up.  We don't want such legalization to go bad for no good reason, and then get blamed for problems that ensue from irresponsible use or what have you.  The cognitive benefits (when used responsibly) as explained by Sagan need to be brought to the fore of the public's consciousness.  (Something something semantic priming.)  It's fucking Carl Sagan, man!  There's no reason for anything he wrote to languish in obscurity.  (Exhibit B of what's gone the hell wrong with this country.)  The other health benefits are all well and good, but we have a planet to save from possible ecological collapse, and/or a technological singularity to reach ASAFP, and we need all the cognition-boosting resources at our avail to make this happen.

That, and a thorough, age-appropriate education in philosophy for as many citizens as possible, as soon as possible.  (Might not happen by 4/20/2013, but the future is not determined . . .)

That's pretty much the gist of it in a nutshell.

The nice thing is that there's really no refuting any of it.  (Perfectivism rearing its pretty head again....)  Ah, it's neat having truth, beauty and justice on one's side. :-)

Can we as a nation get our shit together on this issue in a little over five months?  If not, why not?

"Weed is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." -UP, with revision from the original saying

UPDATE: Might as well make same-sex marriage the law of the land by 4/20/2013 while we're at it . . .  Then prostitution other capitalist acts between consenting adults?  What Would Jefferson Do?  (The philosophy-education program would probably be higher priority with him, but hey, we're not limited to just one or the other, thank Rand.)

UPDATE: Wouldn't the fucking politicians just love a large-scale cannabis revolt right around April 15?  "Legalize it and then we'll pay up.  Deal?"  (Hell yeah, that's way more than a fair bargain.  Throw the other rights retained by the people in there as well, while we're at it.)

UPDATE: It had slipped my mind by the time I posted this blog entry, but the original Ninth Amendment idea planted in me quite some time ago is rightly credited to Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett.  My "prima facie natural right" formulation above and Barnett's "presumption of liberty" idea amount to essentially the same thing.  (Ain't integration fun? :-) / You can't refute perfectivism. :-) )

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Various things to integrate:

(1) On the provisional playlist: Bob Marley, Songs of Freedom; Boogie Down Productions, Edutainment; Leonard Peikoff, Philosophy of Education

(2) Some of the nation's founders were indeed Christians, but the fact of fundamental importance is that they were men of the mind.  Whence America's greatness?  The mind.  The intellect.  Reason. Learning, knowledge, science, philosophy.  Glenn Beck echoes Jefferson: "Question with boldness even the very existence of God."  Integrate with the theme of Atlas Shrugged.  Contrast that with various and sundry loudmouth right-wing "Christian" dingbats who have defaulted on the issue of mind, intellect, learning, philosophy.  Contrast also with shortcomings of the left, such as the amazing failure of leftist loudmouths to grasp Rand and her theme(s).

(3) Question for the day: What Would Carl Sagan Do?

Ain't integration fun? :-)

You can't refute perfectivism. :-)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Now listening: Kanye West

I've never experienced semantic priming like this before; whoa.  Many updates to come?  Goldberg variations after this?  Spiral back to KRS-One, who kinda sparked all this here philosophizing?  I hear there's some election shit going on tomorrow, whatever.  Best of luck/premises to the states of CO, OR, and WA, and to marriage-equality proponents. :-)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Plantinga's stinky "evolutionary argument against naturalism"

The argument is simple, and stupid.  The stupidity of it might well be evident to an attentive observer, even if an explanation for how it is stupid might not be so easy to come by.  The argument, in its essence, holds that if (note the "if" part here) evolution selects traits in accordance with survival value rather than truth-value (also note that Daniel Dennett uses this analysis to explain the existence of religion, so we have a double-edged sword going on here...), then we do not have a good enough reason, epistemically and scientifically, to accept that evolution itself happened without a Divine Presence (either intervening in the natural process or very-delicately calibrating the initial laws and doing as the god of Deism does (i.e., doesn't do)).  (I should note that the "fine-tuning argument" of the latter sort might have its difficulties but it doesn't run counter to the worldview accepted and practiced by scientists and many other rationalists (reason-ists), as one can see by pointing to an example like Jefferson, or perhaps Spinoza, or perhaps the panentheists).  If, the argument goes, our mental faculties are constructed for the sake of survival value rather than truth-value, then we cannot accept the theory of evolution itself as being the product of a cognitive process reliably grounded in truth-value.

So, what stinks about it?  I don't mean, it's just a little bit, subtly, odious, but that it stinks to high heaven.  IOW, we expect much better than this from philosophers.  What stinks is that it lumps specifically human traits in with all the other traits living things have, under the general heading: "Promotes survival value," and then doesn't explain how those traits - in each organisms's case - promoted the survival of that species.  We don't have the faculties that (without technology) promote survival value in an aqueous environment; we don't have the faculties that (without technology) promote survival value in hunting-from-the-air terms.  What we do have, that other organisms do not, is a faculty that is selected for survival value in virtue of its uniquely-adept and superior capacity for tracking truth.  What we don't have in terms of big, sharp teeth, or hawk-like wings and eyesight, we make up for with this other faculty.

What's more, this observation holds across all of human history, not just pre-technological (much less pre-modern) human history.  In all cases, a better truth-tracking faculty - or, yet more accurately put - a better use of our biologically-hardwired truth-tracking faculty - aided in promoting survival.  It is in virtue of that increasingly optimal use of that faculty that we now have bullyons and bullyon of people on the planet, living longer lifespans than before.  No thanks to believers and practitioners in less rational variants of theism.  (Would a good god, incarnated as Jesus, want us to accept and love Jesus with our heart only, or with all our critical Socratean-Aristotelian-Jeffersonian intellect as well?  Why don't we get this latter aspect of Christian devotion until the modern, scientific, post-Thomas/Maimonides/Averroes, post-Servetus period?  It's called progress from a state of lesser to a state of greater perfection of human potentials.  Also, Dennett's analysis of religion in terms of survival-value doesn't mean a discrediting of religion on the basis of truth-value; the best and only way of actually determining the truth value either of religion - whatever its initial survival value - or of evolutionary theory is through the classic, evolution-independent canons of logic, which our allegedly unreliable cognitive faculties managed to discover and formalize and made learning, science, and technology possible.  That way, we go from a state of lesser rationality (what we had in the prehistoric periods) to a state of greater rationality, whatever our reliably-constant genetic hardwiring.  I mean, like, duh.)

That's some preliminary commentary, anyway.  Spiral progression will come back to this with enhanced findings.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

These are not worthy fucking adversaries

So Romney has gone 22 days at a time without taking any questions from the press, and Obama has gone six weeks at a time without doing so.  They do not want to be caught in any "gotcha" moments.

This is not accountability or transparency.  This is a sham.

Fuck it, dude, let's write in Glenn Greenwald.

(Oh, snap.)

Now there's a worthy fucking adversary.

I'm pretty Saganized at the moment. :-D

UPDATE: I've heard that the Romney/Ryan ticket is too odious even for some serious long-time students of Objectivism (SLSOs) despite Ryan's professed support for Ayn Rand.  When you get some of those SLSOs migrating to even the "subjectivist, anarchist, and nihilist" Libertarian Party candidate (ze nihilists [not an ethos], zay vote for CHONSON!!!), you know what a joke this whole election is. The serious change can only come intellectually/culturally, as the SLSOs know quite well.  This time around, I'm at least as "apathetic" about a presidential election as I've been since Bush/Gore 2000.

UPDATE: Miguel Cabrera - HOF or no?  (Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron are the most similar through age 29!)

UPDATE: Bigger circle-jerk: FOX News or /r/politics?  The FOX pundits are all working themselves up into a lather in expectation of a Romney upset.  I guess it just makes them and their audience feel better to ignore the statistically-best projections?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Some "desert island" books

[UPDATED below.]

I figured that I would do this sort of thing once in a while, in order to chart a course of progress over time, to reminisce from points in the future, etc.  This is a listing of books that "I'd take with me to a desert island" (a hypothetical that doesn't really tell you what would be most useful for you on a desert island, but rather illustrates something else, namely, the small number of books you'd want on hand over any others).  It does not, at this point, include fiction, since I have yet to really explore that written world.  Also, these are not synonymous with "favorite" books - though there is some overlap - but rather those books which I think I might come back to the most.  Some I have not even gotten to reading but want to have them on hand as much as I can, just in case.  It's not a perfect list; the point is to make it become more perfect over time. ;-)

David L. Norton, Personal Destinies
Alan Gewirth, Self-Fulfillment
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning and Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning
The Essential Plato
The Basic Writings of Kant
A Spinoza Reader
Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations
Basic Writings of Nietzsche and The Portable Nietzsche
A Kierkegaard Anthology
The Marx-Engels Reader
Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia
John Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement
The Essential Epicurus
Epictetus, The Art of Living
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Saint Augustine, Confessions
Erich Fromm, Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics
Albert Ellis, A New Guide to Rational Living
The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader
Thomas Jefferson, Writings
Benjamin Franklin, Writings
Thomas Paine, Collected Writings
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
Strunk and White, The Elements of Style
The Ayn Rand Lexicon and Letters of Ayn Rand
Leonard Peikoff, Understanding Objectivism
Alan Dershowitz, The Best Defense
Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics
Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty
David Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom
Thomas Karier, Intellectual Capital
The Essential Jung
V.S. Ramachandran, Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind
Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works
Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat & Other Clinical Tales
Morton Hunt, The Story of Psychology
Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel
Douglas Hofstadter, Godel, Escher, Bach
Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea
Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience
The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge
Michael Steinberg, The Symphony: A Listener's Guide
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
Ursula Vaughan Williams, R.V.W.: A Biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams
Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis

Nov. 4, 2012 additions:

The Jefferson Bible
Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings
Ruth Garrett Millikan, Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories
Henry Veatch, Rational Man: A Modern Interpretation of Aristotelian Ethics
Marquis de Sade, Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings
Walter Kaufmann, Critique of Religion and Philosophy
A. John Simmons, The Lockean Theory of Rights and On the Edge of Anarchy: Locke, Consent, and the Limits of Society
Charles Taylor, Hegel, Sources of the Self, and A Secular Age
Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations
Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons and On What Matters

Monday, October 29, 2012

Major bargains

Leonard Peikoff lecture courses at the ARI E-store

These used to be priced in the hundreds of dollars each, now marked down by about 95%, give or take.  If I had to guess why, I think it has to do with the idea of sparking intellectual/cultural revolution more swiftly and sweepingly.

Approximate (rounded up or down) prices for the core Oism curriculum (the most essential, among those I've heard so far, in bold):

The Philosophy of Objectivism (1976) (the Official Course, w/Rand Q&A) - $11 (book: OPAR - $15)
Objective Communication (1980) - $9
Principles of Grammar (1982) - $7
Understanding Objectivism (1983) - $10 (book: $12)
Philosophy of Education (1985) - $6
Objectivism: The State of the Art (1987) - $7
Moral Virtue (ca. 1989) - $4
Advanced OPAR seminars parts 1 and 2 (1990) - $14
The Art of Thinking (1992) - $7
Unity in Epistemology and Ethics (1993) - $4
Objectivism Through Induction (1996) - $11
Induction in Physics and Philosophy (2001) - $7
DIM Hypothesis parts 1 and 2 (ca. 2004) - $11 (book: $15)

Grand total: $108 for around 250 hours of lectures, and by the time you're done you have a good chance of actually "getting" the ideas! :-)  Or perhaps being destroyed for life. ;-)

These lecture courses should be coupled with the books listed here as part of any serious, scholarly, comprehensive research program on Objectivism.  Any future works/books covering Objectivism that aren't based on this research probably should not be taken seriously.  The Rand-haters have a lot of catching up to do, with no serious excuses any longer for failing to do so, and when all is said and done, their hate-projects will probably never materialize in any credible form.

Hell, with the prices of these courses now this low, with students of Objectivism that much more inexpensively fortified on college campuses in the years to come - and, let's not forget, let's NOT forget, this fact in conjunction with future widespread responsible (think Aristotelian Mean here) usage of cheap and abundant legalized weed to make cognitive integration that much more fun - I think it's pretty much Game Over.  Aristotelian-tradition philosophy will survive the onslaught (see, e.g.,  the cases of Gotthelf, Miller, Lennox, the Dougs), while the other traditions will have to adapt and embrace that tradition dialectically or die off.  As attrition chips away at the Old Guard, eudaimonism will almost surely triumph in ethics, if not thoroughly fuck up the alternative theories.  (Insert modified Lebowski reference here: "You see what happens?  Do you see what happens, armchair socialists, when you fail in your educational mission!")  It's only a matter of time.  Second Renaissance, baby!

Hey, just trying to be as way-ahead-of-the-curve dead-on right as I can for my advanced-content-assimilation-technology-aided year-2100 readership here.  (Hi there, fellas! :-p )


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The 2012 Presidential Election

I try to write this blog's contents "for the ages," i.e., for audiences at some point in the indefinite future with all the advanced content-assimilation technology at their avail.  As such I don't care to focus much on the short-term, the ephemeral, the insignificant-in-the-long-run.  I don't think the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election - whether it's Obama who wins reelection, or Romney who wins - would make much of a difference to the long-term well-being of Americans or of the world polity.  Life will go on pretty much "as usual" regardless of the outcome.

This wouldn't matter the slightest bit to those of you reading this in the year 2112, but in one of the recent presidential debates there was a verbal gaffe/oddity from Romney when he referred to "binders full of women."  This tiny little unimportant (in the grand scheme of things) event caused several days of fascinated commentary from TV pundits and bloggers (and blog commenters with nothing better to do with their precious time, apparently).  My only interest in this is a socio-cultural one: why would people be so fascinated by something that no one in ten years' time - much less a year's time - will care about?  This verbal whatever-it-was told those folks-who-have-a-clue nothing they didn't already know about Romney or his policies.

This was nothing more than fodder for that curious phenomenon known as the News Cycle, which is a big "thing" in our culture because the majority of viewers have ADD or something, and have little capacity to isolate what is important long-term from the noise - hence the oft-observed short-lived memory among the citizenry.

Then we have this endlessly-fascinated day-to-day focus on Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog.  Is Obama's projected chance of winning 70% today, or 73%?  This is a big deal to some people.  The important question is, Why?  How does it affect the living of one's life, one's character, one's destiny, one's sense of meaning and purpose?  What the fuck difference does it make?

If and whenever the American people need a political sanity check on a daily or semi-daily basis, they can always head on over to Glenn Greenwald's column for ongoing reminders that The System is deeply structurally unsound and changes in personnel do little to affect that.  One could point out that the political system has become a corporatocracy (become one? was it ever not one?), but that hardly explains why the bulk of the American citizenry with its partisan in-ground cognitive biases finds the torture of out-group-members acceptable, or why (as Greenwald constantly harps about, hoping some people might get a clue) the current adminstration decided to grant full and final prosecutorial immunity to officials who (merely short of an official acknowledgment of such) murdered detainees under their control.  Not only that, we now have a president who has a secret, unaccountable, due-process-free "kill list" with American citizens on it.  You can be sure as fuck that had Obama campaigned on this rather than "Hope and Change" in 2008, he'd have been electoral toast.  Or perhaps the American electorate wouldn't care and would prefer ignorance.  That appears to be the case now, after all - with a "binders full of women" gaffe commanding so much more enraptured attention.

America doesn't have leading lights such as Franklin and Jefferson these days, no examples of great political leaders to emulate.  We have a crumbling national infrastructure - not just physical infrastructure, but educational, social, cultural, fiscal.  In 300 years, Snooki will be a footnote at best - does anyone remember the name of her equivalent in ancient Rome? - and yet for some reason very foreign to me (maybe I need to prick up my sociological-analysis antennae more?) she is important in enough people's lives to be a "household name" in 2012 USA.  Speaking of ancient Rome, are we repeating that history?  Americans are, on average, so historically ignorant that they couldn't tell you.  So there you go.

Then we have this long-running mythos - it's a myth especially with our McPrepackaged two-party American political system - that voting for candidates neither of which will fix any of the nation's fundamental problems is somehow an important act, even expressively or participatory.  As to how one's activity of casting a statistically-insignificant vote for deeply flawed candidates in a deeply flawed system somehow contributes to one's well-being, sense of meaning, character or destiny, there is no clear answer that I can fathom.  If it were a choice between Jefferson and Franklin in a non-insane polity, I could see the "civic participation" angle carrying some weight; I would be proud to cast a vote in such an election even understanding the statistical-insignificance aspect.

So that leads to the question of the 2012 Presidential Election: just who would I vote for on the assumption I consider this corrupt, cynical and ignorant system worthy of my grudging participation?  Or at the minimum, which candidate would I endorse?  I don't have a good answer there.  I don't even know how to answer whether - if we're limiting the question to the two candidates with a realistic chance of winning - Obama or Romney would be the better choice for president in the next four years.  I really think it all comes down to the public character of the American people, to whom the leaders are still accountable (to the extent that they still have to garner a majority of electoral votes).  Greenwald's column pretty much tells the story, I think.  For the time being, the situation is grim.  It's a good thing that I don't have to vote for or endorse either of the two McCandidates, given the alternatives.  I'd prefer some combination or other of Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Jill Stein (Green), but that's out of the question practically speaking (if only because it's two persons, not a hypothetical fusion into one; also, I have little idea as to their qualifications).  That basically leaves the write-in option.

Among well-known public figures with the character, ability, and any remote inclination to preside over our executive branch, who is there to write in?  Would Greenwald himself have any such inclination?  Chomsky?  Krauthammer?  Kurzweil?  Dennett?  Wales?  Gates?  Buffett?  Howard Stern?  (Drawing a blank here.)  Assuming I'm eligible for the office, should I just write in myself?  I'm all for self-government, after all.  Given that it would be a symbolic write-in anyway, does it even really matter?

Does it?

In any event, I think the more significant election issue, long-term-wise, concerns the cannabis legalization initiatives on the ballot in a few states. Carl Sagan would be encouraged by that; the American people could use what cognitive boost they can get.  (Being staunchly pro-self-government - this is supposed to be a free country, right? RIGHT? - I have to ask how it is anyone's fucking business whether I choose to toke or not.  Those of you reading this in 2112 realize, of course, how amazingly stupid our drug laws were ca. 2012, but you do realize, I am sure, that some of us did not stand in the way of reaching the technological singularity ASAFP.)  There is hope yet.

UPDATE: This has come to my attention.  It's President Obama saying something about a philosopher, and fucking up with the usual caricature stuff.  I don't know how many times I have to point out how the understanding of Ayn Rand's philosophy you see on display in such (extensively-researched!) works as Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Sciabarra's Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, or Smith's Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist, is wildly at odds with the various "understandings" of her core messages you find out there in the popular media (and, evidently, among our political leaders).  So, rather than going on and on about that again, I'll essentialize my observation thus: Thomas Jefferson is one President of the United States whose grasp of philosophical ideas would not have been so superficial and pathetic.  There's just no disputing this point.  If it's any consolation to whomever it may concern, at least he's not a dingbat.  UPDATE #2: That link with Obama's answer about Rand - the whole link - quite perfectly captures current American popular culture in a nutshell, right down to an asinine meme-posterization of Rand in the comments section.  I'll just leave this (UPDATE #3: and this) right here.  Jefferson and Franklin would be deeply saddened.