Monday, June 30, 2008

Kant's 3rd

Few people who have made it through Kant's Critique of Pure Reason would deny that the 3rd Antinomy--in brief, the Freedom/Nature dialectic--possesses a certain Beethoven-like sublimity. Kant holds the strictly determined laws of nature (i.e. Newtonian mechanics--Einstein himself claimed he merely modified Newton's concepts, slightly--and a few supposed sub-atomic anomalies should be considered negligible), and freedom (i.e. human intentionality) to be irreconcilable and dependent on two separate concepts of causality. Some have gone as far as to argue that the Big 3rd really leads to Hegelian dialectic. There are reasons, however, to object to the 3rd Antinomy (and really to much of Kant--anyone care to provide a necessary argument for the synthetic a priori?), regardless of the continentalist philosophers' traditional reverence for the 3rd.

The freedom/nature dichotomy does seem to suggest a type of archaic dualism (and there are more than a few Cartesian aspects to the 1st critique, as in the Deduction of the Categories). Humans are economic creatures: not merely robots (nor primates--as even that talented clown Marx granted), yet nonetheless their acts are determined to a large extent (ie, like as determined as McBauerlumpen heading off to the lunch counter at noon). The abstraction of “Freedom” is also itself certainly questionable; does Kant mean human consciousness as a whole, or intention, or---some transcendent Geist, perhaps? We here at Contingencies suggest that by "Freedom" (Freiheit) Kant intended, er, something like “intention”, though hardly anyone, at least in psychology or cognitive science, would argue that intention stands apart from humans' biological and neurological endowment. Moreover, determinism has not ever really been refuted; if anything, genetics and bio-chemistry tend to confirm deterministic views---though the apparent "anomaly" of human consciousness remains an issue, at least for some (Jefferson sort of sums up the freedom/determinism issue thusly: "Man [is] a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights and with an innate sense of justice." Rational, and with rights, maybe TJ, but animal nonetheless). Theists and theistically-inclined philosophers, or immaterialist-mystics of some sort, of course continue to make transcendental claims for intention and consciousness ("Free will" remains one of the favorite terms of biblethumpers). As model and metaphor, the 3rd has a definite power, but one could read that metaphorical power as somewhat deceptive, if not dangerous.

Nothin' but Meat (Caliban)

Starting at least with Wm. James, consciousness was identified with the brain, instead of the metaphysicians' Mind, or Res Cogitans, Idea, etc. That’s not to say that James or the S-R people, and the behaviorists solved the problem of intention, but one doesn't simply toss the entire tradition of empirical psychology out the window (unless one is a renowned parisian postmodernist perhaps). Kantian or Cartesian views of the Ego/Mind/Self are not very prevalent except for a few philosophers, theologians or maybe people like Chomsky. But even Chomsky asserted that his language faculty forms part of the "biological endowment" of humans. The Chomster's rationalism is not equivalent to the Kantian or Cartesian ghost.

There can hardly be any doubt that consciousness is predicated on the biochemistry of the brain. Moreover, economic and biological reality conditions that consciousness: lobotomies, drugs, alcohol, sex, even food, demonstrate “external realism,” as Searle refers to it: nature has a causal relation to our thinking, to consciousness, regardless of metaphysicians' doubts (or the doubts of the Catholic church).

The 3rd Antinomy may work as a model, or explanatory hypothesis, or interesting conceptual poetry of some type. But the freedom/nature dichotomy is not a fact in the sense that, say, evolution is a fact, or hunger is a fact, or that gravity is fact, or the physics of electricity is fact. There are semantic problems with the very word "freedom." What does the word “freedom” really refer to in Kant’s 3rd Ant.? The freedom of humans to act in certain ways? Freedom is a quality or attribute; not an object in the sense the brain is an object. We say someone is free. But one could not really point to the freedom itself. Freedom is a strange word, and concept. It describes some situation, a state of a person, a state of affairs; it means something like, not bound, not encumbered, but those terms are not so definable either. (Maria has a sensation of hunger, and decides to go to lunch: her decision may seem freely chosen to some extent, but she certainly does not choose whether she is hungry or not.) And you’ll find, if you work at it, that much of Kantian metaphysics has that problem– the terminology does not point to anything that can be readily defined; it can be conceptually described but not really correlated with any existing thing. Even as a philosopher Kant offers few if any convincing arguments, even as weighty as say Descartes "cogito" (read as psychology (proto-cognitive science, perhaps) Kant's Critique has a certain power, as long as one modifies the jargon--"transcendental" and "noumenal", categories, intuition, the understanding, the "ideality" of space and time, etc. become brain functions. Old school metaphysicians would not care for that, but that may be the only way to salvage it).

Regardless of BF Skinner's faults and oversights, Skinner’s critique of “mentalism” (which he thought philosophers, theologians, and most belle-lettrists were generally guilty of) should at least be considered, until cognitivists and brain scientists begin to offer some convincing accounts of thinking, intention, language, perception and the knowledge-accumulation process itself (---and Skinner's crony WVO Quine also had problems with the Idea idea---as well as essences, abstract entities, a prioricity, etc.). Indeed, as BF realized, Freedom, and a naive Freedom-fetish (rather common to both right and left), lies at the root of many social, economic, and, one might argue, environmental problems.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Prevarication, Kossack style

Many Democrats routinely invoke the Constitution as the supreme Criteria that all Americans must agree to, and, yes, we should respect Constitutional and secular principles, it seems, at least on pragmatic grounds: we can't all be Nietzsches dreaming of the arrival of Uebermensch (and Uebermenschism, even of the watered down L-Ron sort, is not so conducive to mental health). That respect extends to the 4th Amendment, the stoner-leftists' favorite chant: they are generally worried about being busted for dope, and pot shakedowns do occasionally violate the 4th, unfortunately (When it comes to meth or crack, violate away Ossifers). We should not picture the Constitution as carved on marble slabs, however. Anyone who knows something about the modern Law business knows that the real maxim of American law (and arguably English common law) equates to something like "maxims (even Constitutional ones) can and should be broken when it is expedient or profitable to do so."

Here's a deeep thought regarding the sacred 4th from one of the DailyKOS teamsters:

"""""Your telephone number pops up several times on the call list of someone the FBI believe is involved with Al Qaeda. The FBI go to the FISC, and ask for a warrant to wiretap your telephone. The wiretap reveals nothing about terrorism - turns out they were wrong number calls - but the FBI do hear you talking about who will bring the weed to your backyard barbeque.

Based on that, the FBI get a warrant to raid your home on the day of the barbeque, and in they swoop, charging you with possession with intent to distribute. That's a felony.

"What gives you the right to storm into my back yard?" you ask. The FBI agent presents you with the warrant, and its affidavit, and you see that they've been wiretapping you. "What gives you the right to spy on my phone calls?" you demand.

"We have a FISA warrant," the agent answers. And off you go to trial.

At trial, your attorney moves to exclude the search warrant that let them into your backyard, on grounds that you're not a terrorist, there is no conceivable evidence to suggest otherwise, thus no FISA warrant should have been issued, thus the wiretap is illegal, and all information gained from it is "fruit of the poisoned tree." But there's a problem:

Not even your trial judge can see the FISA affidavit. It is classified, "sources and methods" information. The prosecutor can show the judge that a FISA warrant was indeed issued, but that's as far as it goes.

Because you can't see the factual allegations underlying the FISA warrant - not even the trial judge can see that - you cannot challenge the validity of that warrant. It's not reviewable. Not at trial. Not on appeal. Not ever.""""""

Heh. Note the well-placed pot reference: a deception tactic, and what I term the "bogus hypothetical" fallacy, typical of many Kossacks (and paranoiacs, links und rechts. Some call it the "what if" fallacy, and it's similar to "ignorantia elenchi" pseudo-arguments). Yes, the FBI, now armed with FISA, and the PatAct, will be cracking down on some suburban pot smokers, as well as Al Qaeda! Pure hyperbole. The point was that given extreme circumstances (i.e. muslim terrorism), some tweaking of the 4th might be justifiable, and the Dems agreed to that, as RF Kennedy had agreed to similar bendings of the rules back in the 50s (and one needn't love Annie Coulter to know that American leftists did tend to ignore the real dangers of Stalinism).

The rousing rendition of the "4th Chant" in regards to the Patriot Act thus seems rather ironic if not pathetic. DailyKOS has a reputation for a sort of moderate leftism, and it was moderate leftists (Hillary, Pelosi, Kerry, Feinstein, etc etc) who joined forces with the GOP and supported the PatAct (and have continued to do so): FISA’s a Dem policy (brought about under James Carter, that snakey baptist do-gooder), hardly less J-Edgarish than Nixonism. Kid Obama hisself voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act.

We will grant this person is not entirely misguided. The PatAct sort of snooping does perhaps endanger liberty, as do warrantless searches (which we should reject). Moreover, when the authori-tays charge an ordinary citizen with a crime, he should know what the charges consist of, and what the evidence consists of, and what the warrant was based upon. Yet Al Qaeda and many terrorists are not ordinary citizens. The FISA warrants are used with suspected foreign criminals, not US citizens, unless they have some odd connection to the foreign suspects (and foreigners do not have same rights under 4th either--a point lost on the Sally Fields Union). Moreover precedent exists (as the Kossack legal-beagle should realize) for this type of scenario: when the Feds get a wiretap to bust the mafia for transportation of heroin or whores, and hear them plotting (or reminiscing about) the deaths of their rivals, they can move on the murder case[s].

Those of us who respect the 4th may not care for that, but better preventing brutal crimes and death via a bit of Constitution-tweaking--even snooping--instead of ranting about precious liberties while Sendero Luminoso or the Hezbollah or Doomsday baptists move in next door and start to plan for the revolution of the proletariat (or jihad, or rapture). There's no 4th Amendment in North Korea or Nigeria: be assured of that.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

while you shop contingencies, enjoy "on green dolphin street" (getz ...). Don't fergit to put that Cont. Tee in the cart

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Ecclesiastix Gang (Jimmy Madison nostalgia hour, continued)

Father Madison's Sermon:

"""Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects. [James Madison, letter to William Bradford, Jr., January 1774]

What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not. [Pres. James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785]

Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. [James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785]""""

Res ipsa Loquitur. Few if any contemporary American politicians possess the spine (or the communication skills) which would allow them to proclaim such thoughts. (Unlike Demopublicans, the Founding Fathers were not "accommodators"). Secular, Madisonian principles (not to say the First Amendment) thus seem to permit civil unions of any type (heterosexual, same-sex, or otherwise), regardless of the Founding Fathers' own view of the "morality" of such unions (TJ and Madison, no Hucklebees, most likely had a taste of european decadence during their sojourns in Pre-Rev Paris: Ben Franklin (pal of Voltaire) certainly had, and rumor is Ben paid a visit to a brothel or two).

Can ah, ah get a witness? A men

The Founders love of liberty (not so great in all respects, like the economic) would seemingly take precedence over any supposed piety: better Ellen DeG. and her gal legally hitched than any imaginable Huckocracy--tho' that's not to say Ellen's not obnoxious as F, and part of the Ho-wood machine: a dyke with a gift for gab does not an Alan Turing make (Turing, father of the algorithm, cracked the nazi radar code (Enigma), and was queer, reportedly (as was his mad mentor Wittgenstein, reportedly)). However obnoxious a Turing might seem (and he does, in some ways) he prevented a great deal of damage: the crack of Enigma was arguably one of the key turning points in the allies' fortunes. British law even in 50's still contained a few quasi-theological statutes, and the authori-tays prosecuted Turing for "sodomy" more or less (later he ---reportedly---committed suicide via a cynanide-laced apple. We here at Contingencies suggest Moider as a possibility, perhaps with soviet (or Oxbridge-marxist) involvement).

The noun "Marriage" does traditionally have a theological meaning (and heterosexual meaning), however, and churches, whether one supports them or not, have the right to bless or not bless (or grant) a marriage. But theologians do not have the right to dictate civil law, nor is it simply a matter of a vote, taken mostly from baptist zombies (a point lost on some of the zealous anti-same-sex union crowd). Maybe eliminating the word "marriage" from all state and fed. documents might assist the forces of secularization.

Reading a bit of MadisonSpeak, however quaint, should remind us that opposition to ecclesiastical oppression and religious dogma (as JM and his pal TJ were so opposed) does not imply opposition to political order, and a traditional, secular sort of conservativism. By disliking preachers (or priests, imams, rabbis, etx.) one does not thereby join the sans-cullottes (or, in our day, the marxistas (and the Democrats have boo-coo marxist ties: they are the backroom boys (and gals) now (refer to UC professoriat for examples)). The cool reason and structure that characterizes Madisonian prose has obviously mostly vanished, whether in terms of mainstream journalism, academic writing, or blogland: calibans of links und rechts surround us (some even quote Nietzsche and Darwin).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Politics of Satire

“Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own.” (Swift)

American consumers obviously love their comedy. They are not much interested in the subtle satire and wit of Voltaire or Swift (or even say Vonnegut, sort of a stoned swift); they are interested in the Simpsons, SouthPark, Colbert, SNL. The stars of Friends, or Seinfeld, Cheers, etc--hardly Voltaires, they--all became millionaires owing to America's comedy addiction. In blogland, many ostensibly political blogs--DailyKOS, TPM, the Onion--specialize in a sort of biting humor--Hunter S Thompson meets Sandra Bernhardt or something. Satire, and comedy as a whole, offers escape to the Herd--they prefer a Feste du jour to some gloomy boor like Macbeth. Similarly, many cynics would rather watch Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin as Annie Oakley, instead of Ms Palin doing Annie Oakley (tho' Annie with a lot of back-up).

Satire, however, functions as a type of deception more often than not. Fey may effectively caricature Palin, as Ackroyd caricatured Nixon and many others back in the day, but the comic mockery does not really address any specific policies or ideas. The comic actor's merely a speaking cartoon, in effect: the comedian-cartoonist often produces powerful reactions and responses, especially among the tribe of the Gullible. That satire is not "true"--in the sense that a historical record is true--does not imply a need for censoring satirical writing or broadcasting, but at some point cartoon politics often verge on a type of nihilism: the jokes and wit-contests--or "snark" as some of the wannabe Voltaires now term it--replace any sort of serious or even semi-serious discussion. Much easier it is for hicks or college-boy hipsters to crack jokes about the bailout and depict the Demopublicans as corrupt buffoons than to discuss credit default swaps.

Students could do worse than read Candide or Cat's Cradle (at least after their history and science lessons), or Cela, the spanish Voltaire (nearly). The great satirist does reveal the nasty business in a way the historian does not (or the preacher). But the Onion is no Candide, or at best it's like endless mini-Candide episodes. Neither is SNL. Everything is parodied and ridiculed (parody sort of the stock in trade of satire, though again parody falls in the set of satire, and satire in the set of comedy....verstehen sie??). One sees this parody-mania on the DNCocrat sites such as DailyKOS as well, where it takes a more gonzo form. Why discuss the very troubling problem of misrepresentation in regards to WMDs, when Cheney or Lieberman can be put in a dress and made to dance across the boards, or McCain stampted with 666 on his forehead??

Facts, evidence, rational analysis are pushed aside, and the insta-Voltaires take aim (and they are assisted with squads of cartoonists, or video-spinners armed with powerful graphix arsenals, quite beyond that of any berlin dadaists). The cartoon itself will work as a weapon, and a weapon of misinformation (Freud had some interesting if typically vague thoughts on comedy as a type of weapon, and jokes in particular). Pop-culture as a whole--including pop-satire and irony, endless comedy, pop-musical noise, movies, schports, fads, etc.--tends to demolish empirical accuracy and rational political discussion, whether in the comments boxes of KOS or the Fray, or prime-time. That may be what the Producers want--comedy moves their product.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Liberal Fascism"

"""Youth politics—like populism generally—is the politics of the tantrum and the hissy fit."" (Goldberg).

Goldberg's tome, "Liberal Fascism," has created a stir in some quarters of blog-land. Most reviews have been negative (not surprisingly, since more reviewers tend to be liberal). Goldberg makes the bold claim that modern liberalism follows as much from Mussolini and Hitler as from, say, the Founding Fathers, Locke, etc. That's not an entirely new or innovative thesis: some economists of the "Austrian school" had suggested as much after WWII (fascism and communism are both statist religions: totalitarianism manifests itself in a sort of Janus-faced Hegelianism, according to the Hayekian sorts).

Goldberg does make a few interesting points, however obvious. One point concerns free speech. Fascists, like their ideological cousins in the Bolsheviks, started things rolling by controlling the press, and in effect eliminating dissent (and it might be recalled that Lenin and the Bolsheviki had no problems cutting deals with the most militaristic prussians). That's sort of an obvious, run-of-the-mill Orwellian theme some might aver. And it is. Few topics are as boring as citizens arguing about free speech, rights to free expression, the First Amendment, dissent, yada yada yada. At the same time, perhaps few topics remain as critical as communication rights (some of the blogocheks now call that "transparency").

Other important rights depend on that foundation-stone of free speech (and a free press). Democracy it might argued, relies on open communication, whether in terms of letters to the editor, academic writing, or blogs. In Blogland that freedom to speak one's mind is continually under attack, and as Goldberg rightly notes, it is "liberals" who now do most of the attacking. Attacks on free speech now assume various forms in blogland, from being troll-rated, moderated, or banned for say making a few comments in support of a Hillary or McCain, or taking issue with some rabid Darwinian (especially ones incapable of perceiving the rather unsavory implications of strict Darwinism) Simply proclaim that you will NOT cast a vote for Barack Obama, and you are no longer welcome at many sites, and/or have a swastika (virtual or real) posted next to your link. That said, free speech and communication rights should not be confused with a right to shriek pop-marxist slogans or punk-rock-like defamation at all times (the usual bad-blog fare: tho' hick-conservative often is as guilty as the zombiecrat in that regard).

""""This is one of the main reasons I’ve written this book: to puncture the smug self-confidence that simply by virtue of being liberal one is also virtuous. At the same time, I need to repeat that I am not playing the movie backward. Today’s liberals aren’t the authors of past generations’ mistakes any more than I’m responsible for the callousness of some conservative who championed states’ rights for the wrong reason well before I was born. No, the problems with liberalism today reside in liberalism today. The relevance of the past is that unlike the conservative who has wrestled with his history to make sure he does not repeat it, liberals see no need to do anything of the sort."""" (pg.317)

One needn't agree with Goldberg's terms or exact argument (for one, I do not think "liberal" adequately describes the zany paranoids of DailyKOS or DU. "Insane" seems a bit more appropriate--as with this stooge's daily drivel). Goldberg's criticism of Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt seems a bit unwarranted, really. He's not so wrong-headed, however, about some of the scummier, violent radicals of the 60s New left, whether Weather Underground or Black Panthers (sober protests of the Vietnam war carried on the American tradition of free speech. Blowing up Brinks trucks in the name of Revolution didn't: there's a great difference between Bertrand Russell and Abbie Hoffman). A mob is a mob, whether it's for Mussolini, or Barack Obama.

Apart from the many generalizations (and occasional religious tone), Goldberg's essential point relates to that time-honored political theme of hypocrisy. The Kossack at once insists on liberal principles--Due Process, transparency, dissent, communication rights, etc.---yet when challenged he turns around and denies them to anyone who disagrees with him, or anyone who is not a par-tay member (that is the related theme of ID politics). Like some wannabe-KGB or Cheka-man, the liberal blogochek remains convinced he does the right thing--the virtuous thing--as he eliminates freedom, rational debate, and dissent, and sends the troublemakers (Trolls!) off to the gulags of the iggy bin. DailyKOS, and its countless spinoffs: that is the new McCarthyism, a cyber-McCarthyism.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Stan da Man.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"I shall not vote for Sen. Obama" (Christopher Hitchens on ID Politics)

A few months ago, Master Hitchens offered some fairly sound reasons to question B.O.'s candidacy. Agreeing with CH on this (ie. not voting for B.O.) does not imply, however, that one signs on with McMaverick and the GOPers at the Scottsdale Country Club of the Mind (the usual zombie-crat indoctrinated with the "bubblegum liberalism" of HuffPo or KOS of course insists it does imply that). Were the scheisse to hit the fan, though, most rational wights would definitely prefer Commander McCain at the helm than Kid Obama.

While respecting and sharing Hitchens' secular perspective, we are not that enamored with HitchensSpeak (his Carlyle-esque justifications for the Iraqi War effort on occasion seemed a bit too breezy). Hitchens has a grasp of Jeffersonian principles, however: and unlike most zombie-crats (or GOPers) he realizes that Jefferson, Madison, & Co were not just some country-boy fiddlers and farm-boys but filosophes on a par with Voltaire and Hume (HuffPo gals don't know Hume from their hairdressers, of course). Hitchens also reminds us that authentic politics transcends the identity concerns and endless frat-boy food fights common to left and right blogs: it's not about race. It's about BO's record and experience, at least partially.

""" Not to dampen any parade, but if one asks if there is a single thing about Mr. Obama's Senate record, or state legislature record, or current program, that could possibly justify his claim to the presidency one gets . . . what? Not much. Similarly lightweight unqualified "white" candidates have overcome this objection, to be sure, but what kind of standard is that?

I shall not vote for Sen. Obama and it will not be because he -- like me and like all of us -- carries African genes. And I shall not be voting for Mrs. Clinton, who has the gall to inform me after a career of overweening entitlement that there is "a double standard" at work for women in politics; and I assure you now that this decision of mine has only to do with the content of her character. We will know that we have put this behind us when -- as with the vowel -- we have outgrown and forgotten the original prejudice."""""

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Holy Moral-Assay-Processes Batman (24/7 Stuckey's, cont.)

Positive, adj.: Mistaken at the top of one's voice.
(Ambrose Bierce)

Most everyone in Consumerland has an opinion on "ethics", or what they take to be ethics. A biblethumper has an opinion, as does the anti-biblethumper. Most arm-chair ethicists, however, overlook one crucial starting point: language. Actions (say robbing an old lady in the street) are not words, or sentences. That robbery looks "unethical" (and certainly illegal) to some, yet maybe not to others (say the robber's cronies). When someone offers a moral or ethical assessment of the action in words ("robbing that old lady was wrong/evil/unethical"), problems arise. Yes, let's grant "an old woman was robbed" works as a factual statement. The meaning (or at least event being pointed to) seems fairly obvious. When someone also predicates "Evil" (or wrong, or unethical) to that fact statement "A woman was robbed, and that was "evil"--the meaning is no longer so obvious. What does the sentence "robbing an old lady is evil" point to? It is not a factual statement (if a fact at all) in the way "an old lady was robbed" is a fact statement. That's the starting point of ethical analysis (or what philosophers call second order ethics rather than first order ethics [ie sunday school exclamations--that is so wrong!]).

The positivist tradition (starting with say Hume--tho' also implied by Darwinian views, and arguably by Nietzsche) holds that moral statements ("Robbing old ladies is evil") do not point to facts, or verifiable truths, and thus are meaningless (that's Carnap's updating of Hume). AS Hume pointed out, there are no contradictions involved in conflicting moral statements: i.e. X says the robbery was wrong. Y, however, knows the lady (say she's the widow of a mafia don), and says, she deserved it, whether considered illegal or not. Or say the robber has a family to feed, etc.--the Valjean meme. "Good" (say wife and kids fed, given new clothes, etc) could conceivably come out of a robbery, as many a novelist knows). There is a contradiction, however, in saying that the lady was robbed and not robbed. So it seems Hume is correct in pointing out that moral statements (normative statements) are not truth functional: they are expressions, and more akin to evaluative preferences (though of course the Law does seem to suggest the act is wrong, at least according to the social consensus, or opinions of judges---yet morality has never been a matter of consensus, or judicial opinion).

Moralistic Bubbas of all types often interpret Hume's questioning of ethics (including the famed denial of obligation or duty--"you cannot extract an ought from an is") as a type of nihilism. It is not. It is actually a rather profound insight into the nature of language, and dare one say Reality. (Someone who reads Hume as saying something like "intellectuals must reject morality" begs the question of what the word "morality" means, and misses the entire point of Hume's analysis: that's about like Jerry Falwell on crack).

The usual Bubba (whether links oder rechts) thus generally forgets that his moral-belch (Karl Rove is Evil!) involves all sorts of assumptions which he could not establish. (Had Moron read like even the cliffsnotes to Bentham he would have realized that.) Does that suggestion of Evil mean, just not according to one's own taste, or Evil in objective sense? Is it a matter of a vote? No. The Kossack wants to say Rove is Evil, regardless of what vox populi says (since Rove might be considered a hero, like in Texass). Really, Rove's actions--even the IWE--could conceivably result in the furthering of good in the long run (ah doubt it): a rather complex "consequentialist" point that most naive arm-chair philosophasters also overlook (Chris Hitchens, sort of Hume-lite, has noted that at times in regards to IWE: liberals can't really prove things would have been better if the USA had not gone into Iraq).

The usual Kossack judgement-belch relies on some Idea of justice or fairness which obviously doesn’t appear on say the periodic table: it’s intuitive, not observable or axiomatic (perhaps some would-be Platonist would say Justice is axiomatic. Yet they cannot generally prove that. There is, admittedly, an issue related to Justice regarding "rights": let's hear any necessary argument for "rights"). First order ethical statements are expressions: of emotion, of subjective desire, of taste. (though even that raises problems--related as much to psychology as to logic and language. Are humans even free? Or to what extent. Maybe the robber was driven, biologically and genetically, to rob the old lady).

Any time someone offers moral assessments (as apart from say just legal definitions) he will run into the Humean fact-value problem again (of course the Catholic church, or Plato, offers an alternative to Hume, or utilitarianism, or Darwin. But that's all a bit murky and difficult and Bubba wouldn't care for the implications). Bubba, at least a Demo one, wants to suggest that values (say, BO is “better” or superior, or nicer than McCain) are somehow factual, or objective, but he could not prove it whatsoever (as Darwin hisself suggested as well). The best Bubba could get is Obama will serve his purposes and further his own subjective goals (hardly shared by all) better than McCain will--or so he believes. Taking it one step further, the arm-chair moralist insists that his own quasi-religious realm of moral Truths be viewed as absolute when he can't define the word "moral" (or Truth for that matter).

Friday, June 06, 2008

Barack Obama: I've chosen La Gran Puta de Babilon to help find a VEEP

The Kantian gambit: "Skepticism, in a word, is not a resting place; it is a propaedeutic. It has a cathartic function: It purges the mind of delusions of grandeur; it brings men down from the clouds and sets them firmly on their feet ... Far from inhibiting action, it frees men from the metaphysical mazes in which they have been wandering and enables them to contemplate w/out distress 'the whimsical condition of mankind, who must act and reason and believe; though they are not able, by their most diligent enquiry, to satisfy themselves concerning the foundation of these operations, or to remove the objections, which may be raised against them..."

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Rome vs Israel (Nietzsche, continued)

Following the current PC fashion, cafe-Nietzscheans insist that Nietzsche was not anti-semitic. This is not entirely accurate. Nietzsche may have balked at the extreme right of Bismarck's era (unlike Wagner, who did sign on---one hopes both FN and RW would have objected to a Himmler sort of final solution, but that is not entirely clear), yet anti-semitic passages can be found a plenty in Nietzsche's writing. This section from "The Genealogy of Morals" indicates quite clearly that Nietzsche was not only attacking Christianity but the Jews as well, "the priestly nation of ressentiment par excellence":

"""How, on the other hand, did the Jews feel about Rome? A thousand signs tell us; but it suffices to recall the Apocalypse of John, the most wanton of all literary outbursts that vengefulness has on its conscience. (One should not underestimate the profound consistency of the Christian instinct when it signed this book of hate with the name of the disciple of love, the same disciple to whom it attributed that amorous-enthusiastic Gospel: there is a piece of truth in this, however much literary counterfeiting might have been required to provide it.) For the Romans were the strong and noble, and nobody stronger and nobler has yet existed on earth or even been dreamed of: every remnant of them, every inscription gives delight, if only one divines what it was that was there at work. The Jews, on the contrary, were the priestly nation of ressentiment par excellence, in whom there dwelt an unequalled popular-moral genius: one only has to compare similarly gifted nations—the Chinese or the Germans, for instance—with the Jews, to sense which is of the first and which of the fifth rank. [4]

Which of them has won for the present, Rome or Judea? There can be no doubt: consider to whom one bows down in Rome itself today, as if they were the epitome of all the highest values [5]—and not only in Rome but over almost half the earth, everywhere that man has become tame or desires to become tame: three Jews, as is known, and one Jewess (Jesus of Nazareth, the fisherman Peter, the rug weaver Paul, and the mother of the aforementioned Jesus, named Mary). This is very remarkable: Rome has been defeated beyond all doubt. [6]

There was, to be sure, in the Renaissance an uncanny and glittering reawakening of the classical ideal, of the noble mode of evaluating all things; Rome itself, oppressed by the new superimposed Judaized Rome that presented the aspect of an ecumenical synagogue and was called the "church," stirred like one awakened from seeming death: but Judea immediately triumphed again, thanks to that thoroughly plebeian (German and English) ressentiment movement called the Reformation, and to that which was bound to arise from it, the restoration of the church—the restoration too of the ancient sepulchral repose of classical Rome.[7]. . ."""

Really one tires of the grand generalizations. Notwithstanding the typical bombast, we should note the attack on the Book of Revelation. That's the somewhat rational side of Nietzsche creeping out (a rarity). Jefferson, hardly the machiavellian that Nietzsche was, considered the Book of Rev. "merely the ravings of a maniac." (both were most likely fond of Voltaire's writings)

One might question whether identifying the Book of Rev. with jewish tradition is correct: for one, some biblical scholars suggest that the Revelator was a Roman, or at least converted gentile of some sort. Who cares, really. AS both Nietzsche and Jefferson realized, the Book of Rev. reveals the madness of Scripture as a whole (though that's not to yawp, Hitchens style, that it's all BS. The Beatitudes will do for beat poesy--so will the book of Psalms. FN might have agreed). For Nietzsche the madness speaks of Judea, and the ressentiment of the jewish and then jew-Christian scribes. One can hardly fail to term that a type of anti-semitism, and anti-zionism--not quite Himmler, but a profound dislike for judeo-christian tradition and culture (and we might also recall that roman historians such as Tacitus took Xtians to be a jewish sect). That hardly implies that one should toss TGOM or Nietzsche as a whole. That is the raw honest power, the wolf-sublimity of Nietzsche that must be acknowledged, however much it offends the regs at Cafe-Gauche.

And there's another somewhat rational point (one that TJ himself might respect). Nietzsche indicates the essential paradox (even dangerous paradox) of Scripture, and of the New Testament, that supposed Gospel of Luv: as Nietzsche says, "one should not underestimate the profound consistency of the Christian instinct when it signed this book of hate with the name of the disciple of love, the same disciple to whom it attributed that amorous-enthusiastic Gospel." Das stimmt! That same hysteria and irrational faith characteristic of the Revelator (that both Nietzsche and Jefferson attack) exists today, mainly in the protestant churches, whether that of a Hagee (McCain's pastor-general) or Wright (Obama's pastor-panderer (at least until a few weeks ago).
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