Saturday, February 9, 2013

Poor Sully (poor America!)

[Okay, so America isn't quite as poor as Sully's place in the current discourse would indicate.  But if that status quo were to continue, with the likes of Sully giving away the case for what made America great, we might well end up in deep poop.]

So I was doing an Ayn Rand search in the "Blogs" tab of Google search, and this link by Sully appears, which references Boston U. Professor of Political Science Alan Wolfe's piece-of-shit article in the online Chronicle of Higher Education last year (which I briefly touch upon here).

(Just for once, will there ever be an interwebbed critical article on Rand by a professor of philosophy, conversant with the other side?  There is critical discussion by Swanton and Cullyer in that recent book on Rand's ethics and in the brand-new book by James P. Sterba, long-time proponent of a "from liberty to welfare" argument which I've somehow managed not to address in this blog - yet.  From the available "preview" feature, Sterba correctly identifies Rand's ethics as a version of Aristotelianism [Chapter 5] - now that's progress! - and given all the pages left out of the Amazon preview feature I can't yet adequately assess his arguments there regarding Rand or much of anything else.  Anyway, the Ayn Rand being discussed by these philosophical critics in these hard-copy books bears next to no resemblance to the "Ayn Rand" that Sully and many other fools on the interwebs speak of.  Okay, okay, so there are webbed articles criticizing Rand available here, including from Profs. Bass, Huemer, and Vallicella, which partly answers my question . . . and guess what, that Rand bears hardly any resemblance to the incompetently-depicted Rand appearing all over elsewhere on the interwebs, either.  There are other relevant distinctions pertaining to these articles to make as well, for another blog entry; one of them has to do with whether Randian egoism is indeed correctly interpreted as a version of Aristotelianism - i.e., of perfectivism. ;-) )

Anyway, this blog entry isn't (directly) about Rand, it's about the sad state of the political blogosphere as reflected by arguably its most representative figure, Andrew Sullivan.  (For the positive, the antidote to this sad state, try here for starters.)  The aforementioned Google search brought be to Sullivan's "Dish" (which I hardly read otherwise).

Speaking of sad states, how about The Dish's masthead, taking  pride (however ironically or humorously) in being "biased and balanced"?  The whole idea among philosophers, of course, is to fight like hell against any biasing influences - hence the whole goddamn enterprise of philosophy, to weed out bullshit and fallacies and wishful thinking and inexactness, so as to differentiate mere opinion from knowledge.  (The success of that very enterprise - reflected most smashingly by the success of modern science - gives lie to whatever thrust there might have been behind Plantinga's "evolutionary argument against naturalism," discussed here.  We can reason past initial biases which were selected for survival value, and that's all there is to it.  Also, how does Plantinga's free will theodicy account for the suffering of non-human animals?  Is their undeserved and morally-pointless suffering justified by the "greater good" of human freedom?  Is God a utilitarian?  Have I misunderstood the argument?  Have I seen anything by Plantinga to be all that impressed by?  Does the notion of a maximally excellent or perfect being, which is at the root of his modal-ontological argument, make any more sense than Anselm's original notion?  And why is it that, seemingly, the best philosophy of religion nowadays is associated with panentheism, of which Plantinga is not a known proponent?  How did I get off on this tangent?  Oh.  Bias.  It's like Sully takes pride in being a fool.)

So, Sully's "latest keepers" include these items:

Um, Sully is about five years late to asking this question.  Glenn Greenwald - one of the major redeeming figures of the blogosphere - asked this question at the time that Obama voted on the 2008 FISA bill to grant retroactive immunity to telecoms complicit in illegal eavesdropping.  One might well rationalize that breach of integrity as a necessary maneuver to secure establishment support so that the charismatic and very-ambitious ("Yes we can!") future head of state could then reform the establishment from within.  (Was it naivete to buy into that, or was it a last gasp of idealism in an age of cynicism?  Keep in mind that the only reason this asshole got re-elected was because the opposition party is half-nuts, the only viable candidate it offered being an out-of-touch, no-ideals-having, culturally-reactionary, personally-boring, retroactively-retiring plutocrat.)  Even then, the signs of unraveling were already there - as Greenwald was pointing out - in the presidential transition season between Nov. 2008 and Jan. 2009 when the future head of state brought onto his team scores of members of the very cynical, hypocritical establishment he had (fraudulently) rhetoricized against.  It was then that lingering sentiments of idealism about this future "leader" should have been seriously called into question or abandoned outright.  This "leader" is never going to do anything to seriously address the coming $107 trillion Social Security and Medicare cluster-fuck, is he.  None of the "leaders" in the District of Cynicism wants to even mention it.

The story of this "leader's" initial appeal - his stated vision in 2008 - and of his cowardly betrayal of that vision is told in summary essence in this NPR interview with Harvard Law (the irony!) professor Lawrence Lessig.

Sully pleads:
"Come back, Mr Obama. The nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

Joe DiMaggio had a 56-game hitting streak (and 72 games out of 73) and hit 361 career home runs with a homer-killing deep left field in Yankee stadium, along with three prime ballplaying years away for military service.  What's-his-face was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing, and then later killed U.S. citizens with no judicial oversight.  What the fuck is the comparison supposed to be here?  I mean, Joe D. wasn't the hitter that Ted Williams was, and neither does the current head of state merit mention in the same breath as the guys depicted on Mt. Rushmore, but c'mon.  Joe D.'s highest similarity score through age 27 was Hank Aaron, for crying out loud.  Who tops the current hypocrite-in-chief's similarity score chart?  I'll let you, the reader, guess who the Babe Ruth of American presidents was.  Babe Ruth was on his way to the Hall of Fame as a pitcher, keep in mind, before going on to slug .690 lifetime.

There are various gems from Sully in that exchange; a sampling:

A: But the kind of Christianity that Jefferson espoused—
A: No, because philosophy doesn’t help you live.
A: Religion is the practical impulse, it is how do we live, how do we get through the day knowing that we could die tomorrow, knowing that we are mortally—
H: But how does the belief that Jesus was born of a virgin help you to do that?
A: That particular belief may not.
Sully, of course, has no idea just how embarrassing his performance in that debate really is.

Oh.  Enhancing the blog in the cosmetic dept., not in the dept. it needs real enhancing ("philosophy doesn't help you live" - this sonofabitch taught at Harvard for Prof. Sandel????).  Gee, thanks.

For insight and edification on the nature of today's political-cultural scene, read Greenwald and the other blogs listed in the column to your right, instead.
"Checkmate, asshole."