Friday, May 30, 2008

Holy Hohenstaufen Batman! Frederick II (Nietzsche, cont).

Some dweebs in blogland still catch Nietzsche-fever on occasion. Usually they are failed engineer types, wannabe Jack Parsons, OR, just as pernicious, they are lapsed marxists--suburban Che Guevaras who have lost their faith in La Gente, and turn to Nietzsche for some type of anti-democratic guidance, or something. The Genealogy of Morals is one of the favorite texts (though other texts, even "Thus Spake Zarathustra" however bizarre (Kahil Gibran meets Himmler??) offer a rawer Nietzsche--by the time of his "Antichrist," Nietzsche has his howitzers blazing (and it's sort of sublime--as sublime as like a gyrfalcon attacking a dove).

Nietzsche admired the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, and called him "the FIRST of Europeans according to my taste, the Hohenstaufen, Frederick the Second". Who the F izz that, inquiring minds want to know--at least a few might. (Here's the Wiki.). There are, we suggest, various curious reasons for Nietzsche's fondness for Fred II. One, he was a Northerner who had moved south. He also battled against the Pope and papal states. AS the Wiki makes clear, Fred. II also had allies among the Muslims--a rather radical (and heretical) policy at the time. Fred. II. supposedly was a bit of a freethinker, skilled in numerous languages, ladies' man, a patron of scientists of the time, and artists--though also a Crusader. He was, circa 1200, a very powerful man. Dante put him in a rather nasty section of the Inferno--near Dis-- with other heretics (though not nearly as nasty as Mohammed's abode). He then represents a type of aggressive Renaissance man for Nietzsche, it would seem--one not bound to ecclesiastical tradition. Politically, Fred. II probably represented a German ruler who could (and did) conquer southern Europe and establish a German, or at least teutonic presence in the Mediterranean.



Die Will Zur Macht!!!

Nietzsche's fondness for Fred. II also indicates his relationship to, shall we say "military totalitarianism". Some might term it fascism, though Nietzsche seems more akin in his political strategies to prussian Junkers, who were monarchist, and mostly evangelical (starting at least with the Hohenzollern, a later development from the Hohenstaufen. The Hohenzollern of course often ruled over brutal, militaristic regimes, as was that of the crusader and proto-prussian Fred II, who had muslim mercenaries in his army). Regardless if Hohenzollern or outright fascist, Nietzsche's certainly supportive of the prussian militarism (and those who read the Antichrist might have note his near-Ode to the prussian army).

Nietzsche's praise of Alcibiades in TGOM--a despotic greek general, whose reckless campaigns destroyed Athens--- also provides evidence of Nietzsche's political thinking, as Bertrand Russell well knew (and Plato had criticized military oligarchies, so, like maybe McX can connect the dots). Of course Russell was British, and a lil' guy--Untermensch-- so probably suspect according to Nietzschean macho-men, regardless of his mastery of mathematical logic, metaphysics, modern science, history, etc.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Max Weber on Ben Franklin ("the spirit of capitalism")

Weber tends to generalize about religious character, but his analysis of capitalism as puritanism should not be rejected out of hand. Weber understood what Calvin's strange doctrine had accomplished: it had created legions of pious, greedy robots ( Ben F. symptomatic of the type). American protestants carry on the tradition of the Xtian Zombie, for the most part. Somewhat surprisingly, Herr Weber had words for zionist finance as well. The nazis might have arrested him, but then so might have the bolsheviks (allies with prussians until about 1939), who would not have approved of his non-orthodox leftism (perhaps socialistic, but not marxism). At the very least, Weber's "conceptual empiricism" will irritate romantics, links oder rechts.

""""Thus, if we try to determine the object, the analysis and historical explanation of which we are attempting, it cannot be in the form of a conceptual definition, but at least in the beginning only a provisional description of what is here meant by the spirit of capitalism. Such a description is, however, indispensable in order clearly to understand the object of the investigation. For this purpose we turn to a document of that spirit which contains what we are looking for in almost classical purity, and at the same time has the advantage of being free from all direct relationship to religion, being thus, for our purposes, free of preconceptions.

..............

"Remember this saying, The good paymaster is lord of another man's purse. He that is known to pay punctually and exactly to the time he promises, may at any time, and on any occasion, raise all the money his friends can spare. This is sometimes of great use. After industry and frugality, nothing contributes more to the raising of a young man in the world than punctuality and justice in all his dealings; therefore never keep borrowed money an hour beyond the time you promised, lest a disappointment shut up your friend's purse for ever.



La Reina de las putas


"The most trifling actions that affect a man's credit are to be regarded. The sound of your hammer at five in the morning, or eight at night, heard by a creditor, makes him easy six months longer; but if he sees you at a billiard-table, or hears your voice at a tavern, when you should be at work, he sends for his money the next day; demands it, before he can receive it, in a lump.

"It shows, besides, that you are mindful of what you owe; it makes you appear a careful as well as an honest man, and that still increases your credit.

"Beware of thinking all your own that you possess, and of living accordingly. It is a mistake that many people who have credit fall into. To prevent this, keep an exact account for some time both of your expenses and your income. If you take the pains at first to mention particulars, it will have this good effect: you will discover how wonderfully small, trifling expenses mount up to large sums, and will discern what might have been, and may for the future be saved, without occasioning any great inconvenience."

..........

It is Benjamin Franklin who preaches to us in these sentences, the same which Ferdinand K├╝rnberger satirizes in his clever and malicious "Picture of American Culture" as the supposed confession of faith of the Yankee. That it is the spirit of capitalism which here speaks in characteristic fashion, no one will doubt, however little we may wish to claim that everything which could be understood as pertaining to that spirit is contained in it. Let us pause a moment to consider this passage, the philosophy of which K├╝rnberger sums up in the words, "They make tallow out of cattle and money out of men". The peculiarity of this philosophy of avarice appears to be the ideal of the honest man of recognized credit, and above all the idea of a duty of the individual toward the increase of his capital, which is assumed as an end in itself. Truly what is here preached is not simply a means of making one's way in the world, but a peculiar ethic. The infraction of its rules is treated not as foolishness but as forgetfulness of duty. That is the essence of the matter. It is not mere business astuteness, that sort of thing is common enough, it is an ethos. This is the quality which interests us."""


Weber

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Give Hillary her MI and FL delegates


"""""There’s been a lot of talk about what your campaign would do should it get to the convention. Would you commit today to honoring the agreement made earlier not to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations?

Let’s talk about the agreement. The only agreement I entered into was not to campaign in Michigan and Florida. It had nothing to do with not seating the delegates. I think that’s an important distinction. I did not campaign--

The press seems to have missed the distinction if that’s the case. The talk is that you agreed not to seat the delegation.

That’s not the case at all. I signed an agreement not to campaign in Michigan and Florida. Now, the DNC made the determination that they would not seat the delegates, but I was not party to that. I think it’s important for the DNC to ask itself, Is this really in the best interest of our eventual nominee? We do not want to be disenfranchising Michigan and Florida. We have to try to carry both of those states. I’d love to carry Texas, but it’s usually not in the electoral calculation for the Democratic nominee. Florida and Michigan are. Therefore, the people of those two states disregarded adamantly the DNC’s decision that they would not seat the delegates. They came out and voted. If they had been influenced by the DNC, despite the fact that there was very little campaigning, if any, they would have stayed home. But they wanted their voices heard. More than 2 million people came out. I mean, it was record turnout for a primary. Florida, in particular, is sensitive to being disenfranchised because of what happened to them in the last elections. I have said that I would ask my delegates to vote to seat.

So your intention is to press this issue?

Yes, it is. Yes, it is."""

Well stated, Mrs President. Contingencies Agrees (that is, the authentic Contingencies agrees).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nietzsche for Frat-boys (updated with help from Lt. Callley)

Many a college dweeb goes through a Nietzsche phase (for the dweebette, it's probably Ayn Rand's FN-lite). Who can forget the Nietzsche chestnuts--the Will to power, dissing judeo-christian tradition, slave morality, the Uebermensch, attacks on the german proles and Wagner, anti-liberals and contra-feminism, mixed in with his praise of a few classix (including Caesarian classics--Nietzsche much prefers Caesar to Plato--or to "God"). Sooner or later, about any semi-bright consumer tunes into his inner Nietzsche.

Here's the master hisself:

"[The aristocratic men] enjoy their freedom from all social control, they feelthat in the wilderness they can give vent with impunity to that tension which is producedby enclosure and imprisonment in the peace of society, they revert to the innocence of the beast-of-prey conscience, like jubilant monsters, who perhaps come from a ghastly bout of murder, arson, rape, and torture, with bravado and moral equanimity, as though merely some wild student’s prank had been played, perfectly convinced that the poets have now anample theme to sing and celebrate. It is impossible not to recognise at the core of all these aristocratic races the beast of prey; the magnificent blonde brute, avidly rampant for spoil and victory; this hidden core needed an outlet from time to time, the beast must get loose again, must return into the wilderness — the Roman, Arabic, German, and Japanese nobility, the Homeric heroes, the Scandinavian Vikings, are allalike in this need."""(from the Genealogy of Morals,

How cool, and beastly. So no problems with those torturers at Gitmo (or My Lai), or denying the right of Habeas Corpus, etc. (does that passage remind anyone of Donny Sutherlands' rather vile character in Bertolucci's 1900?? it should) The Kossack generally approves of Nietzschean-style RealPolitik, except when it's in his interest not to. Values, if not secular politics as a whole, are for the frat-boy Nietzschean provisional, constructed, and subjective, as Biff, Beau, and Bunny still insist over the kegger. Which is to say, nada (who art in Nada).

Really, the Genealogy of Morals could have been written by Aurelius: Nietzsche is sort of a wannabe-Roman stoic (if not wannabe Caesar), though lacking the virtu, and the dedication to "honor" common to the Romans, raised in the Aristotelian school ( most of the "Nietzschean claptrap" (Ez Pound's assessment of FN) updates Ari's Nico. ethics. It's not "footnotes to Plato," but to Aristotle).
At his worst Nietzsche moves from Ravenna to, er, the Reichstag, and resembles nothing so much as a wannabe-prussian officer, Ludendorff-like, taking issue with the drunken soldiers. He may not care for the German working class, yet he does admire Goethe, Beethoven, etc. Heroes of art and kultur, and the battlefield. Da Classix!! IN spirit he seems more akin to one of Kaiser Wilhelm’s cadre than a brownshirt. Many a german (including soldiers) wanted the Kaiser strung up on a lamppost after WWI.




Applied Nietzsche (Ludendorff)


Nietzsche insists he's not a nihilist, but he is: or rather, his nihilism is not done from despair: we wants to smile as he joins the Blackshirts in his imagination (if not Sturmabteilung). While one can understand the appeal of that gonzo-nihilism--alas, so do frat-boy conservatives the world over. Bertrand Russell considered Nietzsche an eloquent fool, mostly--a prussian one at that: and Frege or David Hilbert he wasn't.


Those humans who, for instance, take issue with Lt. Calley and the bloodsport of My Lai should also take issue with Nietzsche's code (tho' the code is hardly consistent anyways: the frat boy Nietzschean doesn't quite realize what it means to say "truth does not exist"). Gaze at the pics of dead, naked villagers--women, children, old men---and recall the will to power (or, better intone "Der Wille zur Macht"!!!). Nietzsche could not say that is an occasion for sadness or tragedy (and his idea of tragedy itself odd--tragedy affirms, yawped Nietzsche. A german or french WWI vet's hospital after a few years of trench warfare was not so affirming, though FN).

Nietzsche's own writing in TGOM (as quote above indicates) would seem to bless Lt. Calleys and bloodsport; he might find it distasteful, but he could not say it was wrong--a fortiori he could not term even the Nazi's "evil" . No value realm holds for Nietzsche, no normativity, no consensus either, even in a secular sense. Lt. Calley and his platoon (really Capn. Medina the CO), or Ludendorffs and Goerings--the Reichmarshall does not seem so distant from FN's ideas of the blond beast--lay waste to chandala: wolves attacking caribou. (Hobbes addresses a Nietzsche-like rebel knight in a few paragraphs in Leviathan. What to do with the Baron von Nietzsche's? You force him to accept the covenants, or order him to be out of town by sunset).

It should bother us when legal-professionals pick up Nietzsche, and call it "naturalism": does that imply then whenever a judge or DA can get away with lying, mis-repping evidence, f-ing over the defendant,etc. that's acceptable? So much for Jefferson and Madison, not to say traditional philosophy ala Hobbes and Kant (and however jargon-ridden Kant is, he believed in Justice with a capital J, and was a bit of peacenik. The Categorical Imperative should not be just tossed aside as if it were some baptist tract).

Moreover given Nietzsche’s own amoral, hedonistic principles–the Will to Power, and nothing else–-in a sense he has no business making evaluative statements about anything. Nietzschean ideals in a political context would mean, for instance, that if Bush/Cheney lied about the WMDs, mis-rep’ed the dangers of terrorism, etc. that’s acceptable, since the end result was a furthering of US power. Lie, when it’s in your best interest: that’s Nietzsche applied to RealPolitik (for that matter, Nietzsche denies the possibility of Truth itself–one reason he criticizes traditional philosophy, modern science, etc). We might appreciate Nietzsche's praise of strength in terms of psychology, even a type of self-help: to thine own self be true, etc. (yet it's not true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger--it might maim you). On a political level, however, Nietzsche has for years provided live ammo to countless Calleys- and Himmlers-in-potentia (and Zhukovs-in-potentia).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Science: Real (EO Wilson), and Bogus (Al Gore) (Cont. retrofit)

"With sociobiology prospering, Wilson has carried his research into the full arena of human knowledge, publishing the hugely ambitious Consilience in 1998, in which he developed his ideas about gene-culture co-evolution further and resurrected CP Snow's efforts to conjoin the "two cultures". In fact, Wilson's arguments are more fundamental and persuasive than Snow's; works on evolution, like Sociobiology and Dawkins's The Selfish Gene, have been absorbed into western cultural life as neatly as any neo-Darwinist could have predicted.

"He is," says Ian McEwan, "a scientific materialist who warmly embraces the diversity of human achievement - including religion and art, which he sees in evolutionary terms. One of his tasks has been to further the Enlightenment project of absorbing the social sciences into science proper; another has been to find a sound ethical basis for ecological thinking. He is fundamentally a rational optimist who shows us the beauty of the narrative of life on earth. He is living proof that materialism need not be a bleak world view.""

EOWilson



I read Wilson’s "Consilience" a few years ago and was quite impressed. While Wilson may over-simplify a few issues (in regards to the biological evidence for species-altruism, for one), he offers quite a bit of support for his socio-biological ideas; Wilson, like his colleague Dawkins (tho' Doc Dawkins a bit more strident in tone than EO), tends to a sort of reductionism which might irritate some political or ethically-oriented writers--(and few liberal hacks shrieking 24/7 about what they take to be "ethics" have troubled with Hume on the fact-value distinction, or the cliffsnotes to Plato's Republic for that matter). Most philosophical types who I am acquainted with who bothered to read Consilience objected to it, but they are rarely able to formulate their objections. Many philosophers tend to be sort of Kantian idealists (not to be confused with Henry-Fonda idealists), if not theists, more often than they are materialists; thus, Darwin, if not biology as a whole, is taken to be wrong-- or at least questionable--owing to its determinist-naturalist grounds. The idealists rarely offer any convincing arguments showing the real problems with strict determinism.

We here at Contingencies, however, contend there are no good grounds for upholding Kantian idealism (or theology for that matter)--though the First Critique, however jargon-ridden, should at least be kept on the intellectual jukebox (Kant's synthetic a priori rather "proto-cognitivist" anyway)--nor for the more extreme forms of Humean skepticism--tho' in many situations, doubts about causality or any absolute inductive knowledge ARE more than warranted, as in the "social sciences". (Those few new-agey narcissists who mistake Niels Bohr and quantum mechanics for evidence of mystic idealism may be safely ignored). The Chomskyan sorts of "Cartesian rationalists" have raised a few interesting issues regarding innateness (and a prioricity in trad. terms), yet those issues and the supposed "Universal Grammar" do not disprove naturalism, though the relation of cognition to the brain's hard-wiring--to neurology-- has not been conclusively established (especially in regards to intention and higher order thinking)--most mortals will have little or nothing to say on that topic anyway.

Darwinian accounts of evolution and natural selection as well as Mendelian genetics and many other modern biological concepts have been established. Thus the burden rests on idealists to disprove Darwin, if not materialism, which they have failed to do; the Intelligent Design argument, however subtle and complex, being the latest theological fiasco--tho' the IDT people (who are NOT the same as the fundies or biblethumpers who have made use of IDT) raised one valid point-- Darwinism still has not provided a complete account of evolution: Father Darwin was no biochemist, for one. The IDT people often commit the ad ignorantium sort of fallacy: the theory of Darwinian evo. still has gaps; therefore, "God" must exist to explain the gaps. NICHT. There are, however, sort of naive leftists, nearly as pernicious as the fundamentalist or dogmatic xtian (or muslim, jew etc.), who quote Darwin and then some marxist-multiculturalist PC BS --or, Osiris forbid, Al Gore--as if they were equivalent. Hah. Darwinism does not offer any comforting assurances or utopian ideology for the liberal--or conservative--do-gooder.


and now for something completely different from Big Al:

"The climate crisis offers us the chance to experience what few generations in history have had the privilege of experiencing: a generational mission; a compelling moral purpose; a shared cause; and the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict of politics and to embrace a genuine moral and spiritual challenge."

SO much for unbiased research, data-gathering, and the sound biological science that Wilson practices. By what means were the problems associated with global warming (and the big issue of proving "anthropic" cause---some evidence suggests global warming and ozone depletion are natural phenomena) converted into a "generational mission," a "moral purpose" or "spiritual challenge"? Maybe they became so in Gore's mystical vision of the protestant-buddhist Verde. Big Al unlikely knows C02 from karma, but that doesn't stop the Gore-Bot liberal nurseys from worshipping him.

Sunday, May 18, 2008



ah care to compare notes on that, bubba-belch

Thursday, May 15, 2008



Leviathan, Inc. (wtih DiDi Feinstone's mensch Richie Blum at the controls)

"""People commonly travel the world over to see rivers and mountains, new stars, garish birds, freak fish, grotesque breeds of human; they fall into an animal stupor that gapes at existence and they think they have seen something.""
(Kierkegaard)

Man flies with jet-powered wings
Man flies with jet-powered wings


There you go, Nurse Starcraft

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

News from the Weird

Mormon salesmen for Obama?

Hey Brighamius: your little zionist-barf poems have gone out even to your pals at LDS! What a shame. Maybe you'll have to leave COLDS, and like take up with some Scientologists.



fly, pretties, phly

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oprahocracy

Interesting list on defining an Oprahcrat from one Charles Rouse:

"""1. Make all sorts of baseless accusations and insinuations (accuse people of racism, misogyny, homophobia, fascism, etc), without ever referring to facts or evidence.

2. Reduce arguments to childish ad hominems, ad populus, generalizations, other logical fallacies and character defamations. Mock people's religions, political viewpoints and heritage like a drunken fratboy might. Do your best to eliminate dissent: that's the apparatchik tradition ( KGB, maoist, gestapo, etc.).

3. Avoid logic or fact-based writing, or specific points at all costs (tho,' yes, this strategy might be used by rightists as well). Rely on slang and crass, colloquial language instead of rational prose. Construct simple-minded dichotomies–an Us vs. Them situation–even where there isn't one. Villify (Bush (Pelosi, McCain etc.) is Satan!).............""""""

Monday, May 12, 2008

Global Warming Gospel
Howard Hayden, physics professor (emeritus) at U. of Conn, offers his thoughts on AGW "hypothesis" and the Gore church:


"The hype surrounding the issue of global warming is a bunch of hot air, a retired physics professor told members of Rotary Club 43 on Monday.
"Global warming is not a problem," Howard C. Hayden said. "Go find something useful to do." Hayden is an emeritus professor of physics from the University of Connecticut and now resides in Pueblo West.
Hayden, who spoke at the Rotary Club's weekly meeting, offered a skeptical view of global warming.

"This is not a view you'll hear from Al Gore," Hayden said, prefacing his slide show presentation. ........

........




Jupiter Kazoo, aka the Butt-Trumpet

"Hayden claimed that much of what is being advertised about global warming issues such as the melting polar ice caps, greenhouse gases and changes in carbon dioxide levels is not factual.

"Yes, the polar ice caps are shrinking . . . on Mars," he said, "On Mars, the ice caps are melting and small hills are disappearing."

Hayden added that there is warming occurring on Jupiter, Saturn and Triton.

He said the increased carbon-dioxide levels that global-warming promoters keep talking about is nothing new. He said the levels of carbon dioxide have been rising and falling for more than 400,000 years.

"We are at the lowest levels in the last 300,000 years," he said. "During the Jurassic period, we had very high levels of carbon dioxide."

Hayden added that the majority of carbon dioxide is the result of natural sources and not to be blamed on humankind.

Worldwide, the burning of coal, oil and gas contributes to only an estimated 3 percent of the carbon-dioxide emissions, he said.

"About 97 percent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from natural sources, not humans," Hayden said."""


Ouchie! Back to those cliffsnotes for "Physics for Dixiecrats 101" courses, Al.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Cactus Ed Abbey on muzak


"Rock" is the music of slaves. Of adolescents pursuing the illusion of freedom and protest while the steel chains of technology bind them ever tighter.




~
Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible. If there is a Kingdom of Heaven, it lies in music.
~
Music clouds the intellect but clarifies the heart.
~
How did Haydn and Mozart produce such vast quantities of formally perfect art? They worked from a perfect formula. In music, Beethoven was the Great Emancipator.
~

"Rock": music to hammer out fenders by. Music for vomiting to after a hard day spreading asphalt. Vietnam music. Imitation-Afro, industrial air-compressor music.
~
Grand opera is a form of musical entertainment for people who hate music.
~
Life without music would be an intolerable insult.
~
The best argument for Christianity is the Gregorian chant. Listening to that music, one can believe anything--while the music lasts.
~
Music is a savage art, a measured madness.


Music endures and ages far better than books. Books, made of words, are unavoidably attached to ideas, events, conflict, and history, but music has the power to transcend time. At least for a time. Palestrina sounds as fresh today as he did in 1555, but Dante, only three centuries older, already smells of the archaic, the medieval, the catacombs.


Vladimir Nabokov was a writer who cared nothing for music and whose favorite sport was the pursuit, capture, and murder of butterflies. This explains many things; for example, the fact that Nabokov's novels, for all their elegance and wit, resemble nothing so much as butterflies pinned to a board: pretty but dead; symmetrical but stiff.


Verstehen sie das, McSklaven?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Menckenisms



"I hate all sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense."


"If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner."


"In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican."

"Most people are unable to write because they are unable to think, and they are unable to think because they congenitally lack the equipment to do so, just as they congenitally lack the equipment to fly over the moon."


Bravo. One bon-mot from Mencken worth a month of blog-belches and ewe-tube spam from the usual moron-o-crat, er, McMoron-o-crat.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

"Slang: the grunt of the Human hog." (Bierce)

McGrunt du jour: """So what you’re saying is, [oBama]’s not really a religious nutcase, he just plays one on TV? I think I can agree with that.


What palpable BS--as is the entire justification of Rev. Wright. Overlooking McGuru McGrunt's awkward, colloquial phrasing and usual 1st person blather, note the lack of any allusions to Wright or Obama's stated positions or record. For one, BO has attended the same church for over 20 years, toured on “40 days of faith and phamily,” shakes hands with protestant creationists (including GOP ones), and has even called into question the 1st Amendment (i.e. separation clause--googlestein er!). Obama's received the most donations from religious groups by far (and far more than the GOP biblethumpers like Mitt-bot or Hucklebee) Obama makes Hillary seem about like Madeliene Murray O’Hair. Even McCain has said some words against fundies, unlike BO. BO’s a complete churchie, except when he’s in LA or SF: and as consistently hypocritical as most protestants as well.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Smackdown: TH Huxley vs. Matthew Arnold (with help from Camus)


"Mechanized civilization has just reached the ultimate stage of barbarism. In a near future, we will have to choose between mass suicide and intelligent use of scientific conquests[...] This can no longer be simply a prayer; it must become an order which goes upward from the peoples to the governments, an order to make a definitive choice between hell and reason." (Albert Camus on the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945).


Victoriana tends to irritate most American yahoos. Yahoos (that's yahoo as in Swift, not Silicon Valley extortion) detest all things French, yet they detest most things British as well (and not without some reason). The yahoo doesn't care for British propriety, the civility, the manners: say England, and Americans think Sherlock Holmes, or dreadful PBS Schake-schpearean fairies, or worse, the Beatles. And yes, we here at Contingencies are not down with that sceptre'd isle either, and prefer Descartes to Darwin, and respect Clemenceau more than a Churchill (not only palsies with Il Duce, but praising Hitler and brownshirts until Der Fuhrer's deals with Stalin pissed off the royals, and the tanks rolled into Poland. Winnie--corporate Darwinist way before Rich. Dawkins arrived---most likely sucking scheisse next to the Reichmarshall and gang).

Nonetheless, some aspects of English kultur should be attended to, at least for a few nanoseconds: like, say, the celebrated debates between Matt Arnold and TH Huxley: c'est Victoriana. The debate concerned the merits of a scientific education compared to the study of the classics, Latin, Greek, Plato, sophocles, et all. Huxley argued (in effect agreeing with the founder of the University of Birmingham) that Da Classix--even the study of Latin grammar--were no longer needed. Universities would stress natural sciences--biology, chemistry, physics---and engineering. Pure mathematics--itself traditionally regarded as Platonic, and above the grubby work of physicians and lawyers-- would be, according to Huxley, relegated to scientific applications and engineering.

Huxley may win the battle against that eloquent poltroon Arnold, though Arnold may win the war: which is to say (in QuineSpeak) few could doubt the efficaciousness of the natural sciences--Plato's next to nothing compared to gunpowder, or a panzer division. The Huxleyan pedagogy, however, should not be just accepted prima facie as the path to a progressive future, certainly not after the 20th century (that may be obvious to some hepcats, but not to many in ConsumerLand). What Huxley did not foresee was that his beloved Darwin, and the natural sciences could be (and were) very efficacious in terms of advancing totalitarian goals, and murder on a macro-scale. Chas himself seemed to hint at eugenics on occasion. Does Darwin (and the advances of physical chemistry) lead to mustand gas, not to say zyklon B? Es posible. Does Einstein lead to Hiroshima? Es posible.

Until the whores of academic science free themselves from their pimps in industry (not to say the military), the science establishment should be counted as a foe of progressive ideals--and Camus suggests something like that as well. That's not to advocate Luddite-ism; (tho' google Pynchon for an interesting spin on Ludd). Cybernetics--gear itself-- can be a force for the Good; however Tech. is not inherently "Good". One doesn't have to quote Martin Heidegger on "teleos"--or Platonic chestnuts---to understand that science and engineering should relate to some democratic-socialist, and dare we say humanistic goals. Maybe those sections of Plato relating to oligarchy---tyranny of the wealthy, powerful and fortunate---were meaningful, after all.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

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