Saturday, December 16, 2006

Les bons mots de Cactus Ed Abbey

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

“Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.”

“The only thing worse than a knee-jerk liberal is a knee-pad conservative.”

There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.”

“That which today calls itself science gives us more and more information, and indigestible glut of information, and less and less understanding.”

“In the modern techno-industrial culture, it is possible to proceed from infancy into senility without ever knowing manhood”

“The only thing worse than a knee-jerk liberal is a knee-pad conservative.”

“No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policemen, government clerks, and electromechanical gadgets.”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Orwell on the real motives of pacifists

"The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States …"

(from Orwell's Notes on Nationalism).

Das Stimmt, Mr. Orwell. The Pacifist may overtly claim to be opposing war in general, but he's all-too-often assisting the other side by his kvetching and resistance, or possibly (as Orwell suggests) he wishes to implement--re-implement, as it were--the great marxist state (and of course obtain for himself a Par-tay membership), and anything which lessens, say, the power of the US military, increases the likelihood of the success of the pacifist's real statist agenda: and rest assured that there are few if no Islamic pacifists.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

How not to write

From one of the geniuses du jour of DemocraticUnderground:

"Suddenly, one of the arab kids stood up and held up his hands in an obvious gesture of truce. We held our fire; I walked out to meet him in the middle of the battlefield. As we approached each other, I could see that he was bleeding as badly as I was. We met in the middle, and just looked at each other for a few minutes, breathing heavily. He reached in his pocket, and pulled out a knife -- and then also pulled out some sort of desert fruit. To this day, I have no idea what it was. He swiftly peeled it, cut off a slice, and handed it to me. It was delicious."

This would not make it past the metro editor of the Tulsa Herald. This would not fly in a Hardy Boys story; this would not be accepted for publication at the most obscure e-zine or lit. rag to be found in cyberia. Not only that, there's no way to establish that the narrative is genuine; it could quite possibly be an invention, if not a lie. But dupes of the left (i.e. DU) and right (i.e. the right-wing coaches-on-acid of New Worlds ) take this to be some type of deep literary truth, when it's about the equivalent of "All we need iz Luv" (or as Walker Percy termed the motto of the opportunistic protestant turned New Ager--- "Love...or Die").

"The War ended immediately. All the other kids from both sides wandered out, took a slice of the strange fruit, and tried to communicate with each other somehow. Some of us spoke a rudimentary Arabic, but none of the arab kids spoke English -- we did our best. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the desert together, all thoughts of conflict forgotten. I remember my mother's shock at seeing my blood-encrusted face and shirt -- I had completely forgotten about it by then."

Colloquial, arrogant, indulgent: CalibanSpeak---or, better, another Cyber-Caliban aspiring to sophistication. Michener's worst personal narrative trumps this sort of sentimental, egotistic prose. (Und der Klown versteht nicht ein Wort von Deutsch noch von Französisch). It's the writing of a thug who never bothered with Shakespeare nor Swift nor Bertrand Russell.

Those few cynics (including some who read and understood Gulliver's Travels once in their life, unlike Caliban of Araby here) with enough spine and intelligence to denounce such frauds are slowly being eliminated from both left and rightist sites--dissent now referred to in 90s dweeb terms as "trolling" by the over-grown adolescents, pansies and emotional wrecks who operate most blogs and websites at this point (of course, the typical leftist narcissist, like his fundie cuz, never quite realized what trolls really were--)

"The degree of one's emotion varies inversely with one's knowledge of the facts -- the less you know the hotter you get." Russell

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New Pynchon

("Among other things, it deals with the four children of Webb Traverse, a bomb-throwing anarchist who's assassinated by mercenaries working for an evil plutocrat named Scarsdale Vibe...")

Looking forward to Maestro TP's latest fulgurescence.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Kripke's error

"Kripke's error is basically one that is symptomatic of all modern analytic philosophy...overattachment to modal considerations, trying get it to do the work that only Bayesian analysis can do properly. Bertrand Russell said it best--"There is only one world, the 'real' world." Philosophers should have listened. The meaning of (even non-literal) utterances reduces to the transmission of information, and everything you ever wanted to know about transmission of information can be found in conditional probabilities. The space you're forced to deal with is the space of ways the world might *be* (for all I or you know), not ways the world "might have been.""

Very astute observation--conditional probabilities are not places; contingent events-to-come are not worlds.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Meme meme

"Pride, the never failing vice of fools" Pope

There is so much involved with Dawkins' claim: one, what really is a meme? For a scientific materialist, ultimately a meme is neurological (and I wager there ay even be lurkers about here who could ID the cognitive residence, so to speak). In regards to human consciousness (tho' memetics has been supposedly observed among other mammals), memetics has its shortcomings: Dawkins and his followers hardly
provide a worked-out account of perception, or of conceptualization--the Thought-formation (nor does anyone , really as of yet, though cognitive scientists have been attempting to do so for decades). Memetics, like naive Darwinism (tho' Dawkins and Dennett are not so naive) , thus tends to affirm rather reductive accounts of consciousness (tho' I am not asserting memetics is not true: simply that it takes much for granted--like cognition for one). And, putting aside questions regarding the cognitive assumptions of memetics (there may be some snooty cognitivist-behaviorists working on that issue somewhere) couldn't "machiavellian" memes (say, kill or be killed, or "by any means necessary") often be as functional as non-machiavellian (altruism, cooperation, etc.)? Indeed they are.

But what does the memeticist say? Like the pragmatist, the evo. psych's code of functionality--or, of adaptation-- is purely descriptive: this idea-strategy seems to work--this one doesn't. So in some (many) circumstances, machiavellianism will do as well as altruism--rather unpleasant news to all those dupes who thought Truth, Justice, benevolence were sort of universals, or at least, worthy ideals. Which is to say, lacking anything but evolutionary explanations, "social darwinism", will remain an issue, even for the most sophisticated of evo. psych types (or their remora-like followers in the humanities). I am not a worshipper of Chomsky's somewhat Cartesian rationalism--or all of his politics (9-11 changed much)-- but there may be worse programmes than Chomsky's anti-reductionist view of language and thought--whether in terms of opposing behaviorism, or his few comments contra-evo. psych. And there are also grounds to object to lumping together all ideas or concepts in the meme class, as well: a certain musical sound--say, Debussyan harmony--might have worked memetically for some time (from concerts, to film scores, advertisements, etc), but an integral or even Modus Ponens are not really similar to musical or architectural "pattern" memes--integrals and Modus Ponens are true (at least if calculated correctly), regardless of functionality (though they may function as well). Are aesthetics and knowledge both memetic? That seems a bit strange to say--tho' perhaps at some point, mathematics itself might be read as some type of evolutionary behavior--and those who uphold Quine's "Two Dogmas" view of all knowledge--including logic/math--as synthetic a posteriori might agree (reluctantly). Dennett makes some suggestions along those lines in Darwins' D.I.--which I am slowly reading--he's OK, but not the most eloquent of writers.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Starship Troopers, Inc.

Contrarian readings of literary classics--whether Hemingway or RA Heinlein--often may be more informative, or, at the very least, more entertaining than the usual hagiographic type of analysis common to the lit. professor. The literary contrarian, at least one of a skeptical rather than dogmatic nature, generally begins with the realization, as did that great contrarian Bertrand Russell, that literature is never to be mistaken for Truth itself, whether that flavor of Truth be historical, scientific, or logical; whatever "Hamlet" is, neither the play nor the character has the same, as they say, ontological status in reality as the facts pertaining to the life of a Nero or a Napoleon.

Since literature--specifically fiction--does not really point at facts as say a history --or biology-- text does, one might ask what precisely is a literary narrative. Of course many varied answers might be given: it's an art-form, akin to say a musical composition, with metaphors intended to demonstrate something about human existence, or the narrative suggests something about psychology, or it’s a tale about Oppression, or in the case of science fiction, the narrative concerns technology, and perhaps the political consequences of applied technology. Literary types indeed specialize in extracting codes from literary texts: whether they are obvious or not, and with a writer such as Robert Heinlein, the code seems fairly detectable--though that is not necessarily a fault in a writer.

Heinlein's fictional code is not so innovative; RAH himself admitted he wrote for money (he was, granted, fairly qualified to write on scientific topics, given his experience in the Navy, and his studies in mathematics--for a semester or two, at least--at UCLA). One might term the
Heinleinian code militaristic-stoical, but there is more to it than that--a valuing of science
and mathematics, along with the Semper Fidelis trumpet blast: imagine a Marcus
Aurelius who spins partial differentials, and also pilots spacecraft, and leads a platoon against "The Bugs." (Lucas's Hans Solo a rather Heinleinian sort of icon as well, tho' perhaps a bit too capricious compared to the iron-willed Heinleinian officer).

Starship Troopers, both the novel and the film adaptation, reveals much of the Heinleinian code (tho' one might grant RAH softened a bit later, with say Time Enough for Love--yet RAH's anti-pacifist address to the cadets in Annapolis in '73, as well as comments in favor of the US
presence in the Vietnam War and in support of Reagan’s Star Wars dreams might indicate otherwise). ST features a fairly complicated if somewhat pulpish plot; the movie sort of ramped up the original pulp vision (some might say improved upon it). Apart from the narrative details, the pronouncements of one-armed Lieutenant Colonel Jean V. Dubois are often read as Heinlein himself speaking. Dubois is the protagonist Johnny Rico's high school instructor in History and Moral Philosophy. Indeed, compared to some action-packed sci-fi, the novel ST features quite a bit of dialogue concerning moral and political themes, and the shortcomings of democracy; and there are some who have interpreted Starship Troopers as somewhat fascistic, which is certainly not an impossible reading. Like many conservative writers attacking democracy, Dubois-Heinlein insists on the necessity of individual sacrifice--and the masses are generally held to be of quite less importance than the heroic officer-scientist. The novel--though it's been some years since last perusal--though hardly reaches a Mein Kampf level of exterminator prayer: Rico himself is a Filipino--there is a somewhat Americanist-like suggestion of meritocracy; that is, if Johnny Rico himself masters those partial derivatives and his flight training, as well as, presumably, his Latin Gradus Ad Parnassum via Marcus Aurelius, he too will join the elite. But the Terran Federation of ST is a police state of sorts, or at least a society ruled by the military: only those citizens willing to serve their society by enlisting for two years of Federal Service are really "free."

This sort of Grunt-worship is a common enough theme in sci-fi and popular culture: the Soldier as Everyman--and the non-soldier as schlemiel, more or less. For Heinlein the soldier of course is not merely a grunt (as he is say for most Hollywood war epics, or say Hemingway's stories--tho' Krebs in Soldier’s Home is a fairly bright if shell-shocked chap); Grunt is a
quantum physicist, expert pilot AND soldier: a yankee Uebermensch of
sorts--and RAH's one-time pal and partner in El Lay diablerie, L-Ron, Big Daddy of Scientology, also not far from that "Social Darwinism with integrals" perspective.

The popular success of both RAH's novel and the film adaptation years
later should not surprise us. (there are, of course, more than a few Heinlein fans who have objected to Verhoeven's Starship Troopers Movie ) The code appeals to most Americans--old or young; and the film version demonstrates that the cast can be made more multicultural and sexxay (perhaps there are others who might agree the high point of the flick was Denise Richards showing her tits), and the code remains intact--and of perennial interest and marketability.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Neither Republican nor Democrat

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Kid Galilee at the University of Chi-town? Say it ain't so

Ipsa quidem virtus pretium sibi

Rawls if not Hobbes and the utilitarians begin with an acknowledgment of ethical relativism; or, shall we say, instead of theology or Platonism (or the Marxist state), utilitarians and contractualists proceed from a secular and naturalist perspective based on individual needs and desires. The point is to overcome the relativism by something other than making obvious "pragmaticist" points such as "Ethical principles vary from society to society," or "the law of gravity seems substantially different than a statement about ethics."

There are problems with the utilitarian tradition, of course: if 25% of the population of the state of, er, Gonzalopolis were illegal immigrants from Tazmania, and they were committing the great majority of crimes (and say getting away with it, usually), liquidating the Tazmanians as a whole would produce a greater good for the rest of the State (and perhaps would be lent support by an Off the Tasmanian proposition on the Gonzalopolis Ballot), yet that would hardly be considered Just. That'a bit obvious, but anyone arguing for a non-objective, ethics-by-consensus (or say ethics as Wittgensteinian language game, multiculturalism etc.) perspective runs into that problem. Nonetheless, utilitarian considerations--consequentialism, in other words--apply to most political or ethical decisions, especially at the macro level. Who would deny that in many if not most circumstances that a possible act or policy decision--at either personal level or political -- must be assessed in regards to the possible effects entailed by implementing the proposed policy? ( environmental concerns--say regarding cattle , or petroleum---would hardly seem capable of being put into a pure "deontological" framework). But consequentialism doesn't appear to work in ALL circumstances (i.e. Justice), and consequentialism could possibly be injust in certain situations (a tyranny of the majority etc.). And justifying egalitarianism, or perhaps denying it--does not seem to be purely a matter of consequentialism (Hobbes assumes some degree of egalitarianism as a given, and Rawls seems to suggest that is the rational choice).

Consider this situation: Somebody has raped Mrs. Higginsbottham at the mall--. The town is up in arms. Vigilante squads form: and yet no one is found matching her description. After a few months, the cops locate a bum, X, who vaguely looks like the suspect, but who is in fact innocent (say he has a criminal record as well). They arrest X and the DA files charges against him, and put him up for trial; X doesn't have much cash, and he takes the public defender and the jury finds him guilty. (Or imagine more sinister scenarios--falsified evidence, etc.--not uncommon). The townspeople are relieved; the newpaper features the bum as Hannibal Lector du jour etc. X's off to Pelican Bay.

What can the ethical relativist/hedonist or anti-foundationalist really say about this? More pleasure was provided to the community by not upholding justice; the "facts" of the matter it could be argued were shaped for a good purpose; it was more useful to deny the truth (doesn't "use" have something to do with effects, and effects with pleasure/satisfaction, yada yada yada), put away the innocent, then it was to allow the evil to go unpunished. Regardless of the amount of pleasure or satisfaction provided, however, the injustice of the DA's actions is not simply a matter of what a majority of people would say about it (in other words, if the majority of a town voted in a rule in effect claiming that "it's ok to put away the innocent when it's good for the community," that would still be injust--thus a Justice "universal" seems to hold apart from individual opinion/choice).

Related to the problems of ethical relativism is Hume's celebrated dictum that one cannot derive an "ought from an is." (the fact/value distinction). There have been arguments offered against Hume's skeptical chestnut. One of Rorty's mentors, Gewirth, argued for a rationalist ethics which he felt was sufficient to overturn the Humean/util./hedonist school. Gewirth's argument is quite convincing, though it's probably not so appealing to literary hepcats, nor to Starship Troopers of the USA, nor to postmods: his argument is based on what sorts of rights (or a freedom from being constrained) any rational agent claims--and values-- simply by being an agent. Most normal humans value a "right" of some sort--or at least the absence of constraints and limitations--to pursue and attain their economic/biological/social needs and requirements (say, like, education, employment, a mate etc). Thus it's reasonable to assume other normal human agents value their own freedom to attain their ends as well; indeed, Gewirth argues that's its necessary for people to do so (though one could imagine various Malthusian/anarchistic scenarios where that identity is erased). There may be ways to counter Gewirth, but there does seem to be a "moral fact" involved in an agent's own pursuit of the goods and resources needed to sustain his own life, and his own valuing of his freedom to act--and it's not a great stretch to see that other agents also need (and value) the same freedom to pursue their own ends, and that agent X is obligated to recognize agent Y's own entitlement as it were, given a sort of human-identity criteria--and Gewirth's rational ethics are not too distant from Kant's imperative (though Kant's arguments leave something to be desired), nor so different from J.C. AKA Kid Galilee's injunction, in that old collection of poesy, the Beatitudes: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you, man." During a war-- or a Katrina--or for a Pol Pot or Nuremberg trial, it might be difficult to uphold such a view, and marxists or mafiosi would probably object; at the very least, Gewirth put Master Hume in check.

Rawls offers another method for getting around the fact/value issue, related to Hobbes: asked to choose a society (and with a high probability of living in the world he chooses), one would probably choose various policies (or Hobbes' covenants) which are more or less "just" in conventional terms (say, to honor contracts/promises): that one should honor the contracts one consents to does seem to be a "fact" of civil society (and justifiable on utilitarian grounds as well)--most rational humans would choose to live in a society where their contracts were honored (that's a simplication, but will suffice for a blog post).

Thus there are various ways to get around Hume (and utilitarianism, instrumentalism--which may owe something to Hume--and amoralism), however quaint or moralistic or tendentious they appear. (and one might say there is a determinist--naturalist ala Darwin--if not Nietzsche and BF Skinner--perspective denying ethics of any sort--or at least those based on agency or choice). If one simply takes the Humean dictum--or say a pure egoism-- as faith (and many humans--even ones in philosophy departments--obviously do take amoral hedonism or machiavellianism as an item of faith) then, well, it is as pointless to discuss the issue, as it would be to discuss religion with a fundamentalist Xtian or mooslim. Of course, the Machiavellian-Aristotelian school (and Nietzsche also not far from a sort of updating of the Nichomachean Ethics) cares little for any sort of axiomatic ethics, deontological, contractural or otherwise; and in a very real sense, most American institutions--whether education, business, bureaucracy, journalism--uphold that vaguely stoical and nationalistic "force-policy" to some degree, and one doesn't have to empathize with some fancy French deconstructionists to perceive that. And even a hip Stanford-like pragmatist--or literatteur-- probably prefers some flavor of Machiavelli to, like, Kant's imperative, "Act as if every act was a maxim to be applied to all."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Master Thespian

JW Booth

Lincoln's Assassination

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


(Hint Hint, Texass Red)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Victor "Doc" Laxateur: Royal Nonesuch, Emeritus

Cal Skank, in conjunction with La Iglesia Catolica de Kern, Inc. is proud to announce that this year's Lifetime MENDACITY Award has gone to Victor "Doc" Laxateur, a Cal Skank English professor and lay priest who has, in the words of Dr. Hector Cabronando, director of the CSU Ad Hoc Committee on CA Literature and Bureaucratic Support Services, "done good work in furthering the cause of Catholic bureaucracy and Truth at CSUK, the Peoples' College of Kern." Doc Laxateur was especially known for his ability to teach the masterpieces of American literature from a Catholic perspective: indeed, as one former Cal Skank student, LaSheequa Johnson, claims, "Doc Laxateur showed me that a writer like Mark Twain was not just another dead cracker, and Doc L. also took the time to explain the details of the ROYAL NONESUCH to me. He keeps it real for the peeps." Doc Laxateur's lifetime companion, Steven "Canberra" Cartier, was awarded the ROYAL NONESUCH in 1998 for his contributions to California bureaucracy.

A celebration of Doc Laxateur's lifetime MENDACITY achievement award is scheduled for May 23 at Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Banquet Hall and Bingo Parlor, with notable CSUK Professors Mike and Kim Assclown also scheduled guests.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hitchens on the flawed reasoning of the Lancet Report

"Make the assumption that some percentage of those killed by the coalition are the sort of people who have been blowing up mosques, beheading captives on video, detonating rush-hour car bombs, destroying pipelines, murdering aid workers, bombing the headquarters of the United Nations, and inciting ethnic and sectarian warfare. Make the allowance for the number of bystanders and innocents who lost their lives in the combat against these fanatics (one or two, alas, in the single case of the precision bombing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, just to take one instance). But who is to say how many people were saved from being murdered by the fact that the murderers were killed first?"


Hitchens raises an important point about the Lancet report, a point typically disregarded by the Mommycrats of blogland: only about 1/3 of the casualties estimated (but not proven) by the Lancet crew are attributable to US/Brit. forces. Hitchens also alludes to the fact that Dr. Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet magazine, is "a full-throated speaker at rallies of the Islamist-Leftist alliance that makes up the British Stop the War Coalition." That a marxist-muslim might have an interest in exaggerating (or "skewing" the data, as the stats people say) the number of deaths and showing the US/Brit. forces in a poor light should not be surprising: like fundamentalists of all types (Islamic or Christian), most marxists have no problem bending the truth when necessary to suit their needs. The Lancet "methodology" was based not on verified deaths, anyway; instead the researchers counted the deaths in a few urban areas in Iraq, and then, merely by analogy, extended the death ratio to other areas, where they did not perform any research. This is known as "cluster" sampling, and there are more than a few researchers who have expressed doubts about the accuracy of the results.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Quine's Two Dogmas of Empiricism

Quine's Two Dogmas of Empiricism appears on my reading list about once every 6 months. I admit to my dilettante status in regards to these matters, but Quine seems so concerned with semantic issues that he overlooks other analytical issues. Those regular consumers of Contingencies who care about such things might recall that the analytic/synthetic divide originates with Kant:

"Either (1) the predicate B belongs to the subject A as something that is (covertly) contained in this concept A; or (2) B lies entirely outside the concept A, though to be sure it stands in connection with it. In the first case, I call the judgment analytic, in the second synthetic."

Two examples which show the difference to some degree:

"Lawyers are attorneys" is 1 (analytic--synonymous in broad sense)
"Lawyers are professionals" is 2 (synthetic--or empirical in broad sense)

Quine denied the distinction. But there's more to it, it would seem. For instance, are logical connectives to be defined synthetically--Is the premise of an argument no different than the conclusion? Obviously the end result of a derivation or deductive argument is not the same as confirming a premise: and defining a variable is not the same as say putting some variable into a function and getting a result.

There is a difference-- fairly important difference--between working towards a deductive truth via equations, functions, reductio ad absurdum, etc., and, on the other hand, establishing "truth" via empirical confirmation, whether in a chemistry lab or economics research paper. But specifying the cash value of analyticity is not so easy. Even a hard-core materialist or behaviorist, say like Skinner, needs to establish his own ontology, and thus needs to know what he is attacking. If you do deny analyticity and really platonic realism and "mind" it does seem that a Darwinian meat popsicle view of human nature follows, or at least is much more plausible.

So, in effect, we are not completely sure what Quine's removal of the analytical/syntheic divide "entails" as the good Panglosses say. Is it just semantic and linguistic--that "meaning" (or reference) must proceed by synthetic means (observation, really)? I follow his linguistics to a degree: the definitions of words are always changing (if not ostensible in many cases), thus it is not impossible that "lawyers are attorneys" (analytic) may be, eventually, as synthetic as say a "lawyers are corrupt."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Humiliation Incorporated

"Democrats" who make use of the same cutthroat tactics that the right-wing GOPers do--character attacks, scandal mongering, the usual snickering sexual insinuations, etc.--in effect defeat their own cause. Foleygate amply demonstrated that machiavellian aspect of new-school liberals who will do nearly anything to tarnish the other side. Instead of hammering on BushCo for, say, possible lies or misrepresentations about intelligence regarding WMDs or the "safe haven", many liberals now seem preoccupied with getting the dirt on someone from the opposing side. That sort of ID politics is not merely juvenile but an inverted sunday school morality itself--one might call it Norma Raeism. Marxists themselves are often as capable of a sort of do-gooder morality as nauseating as that of dixie biblethumpers.

Foleygate was mostly a non-issue, except for the hysterical sort of soccer mommy common to Kos or DU or TeeVee (or this clown's site ). OK Yeah he's slimy etc. but Foley wasn't even charged with a crime. However unsavory, he could have done what he allegedly did in Toronto legally. Whether Bush and Co. lied about or greatly misrepresented intelligence data regarding Iraqi WMDs or the "safe haven" idea: that's a f-n issue. Whether Lay and Enron or other energy powerbrokers met with Schwarzenegger and somehow arranged the Recall: another case. Some of the more bizarre aspects of 9-11--the crash into the Pentagon especially: that's a case. Possible vote fraud in Florida 2000: a case.

In the Brave New World of Media, Inc. anyone suspected of a crime or moral failing is found guilty as soon as his face appears online or on TeeVee: bada bing, Public Enemy #1. And Mommycrat hypocrites deny the presumption of innocence clause to suspects nearly as often as conservatives do....even fundie morons such as the Colorado preacher Haggard have a right to a fair trial. And Haggardgate has the makings of another pseudo-scandal which will play well with liberal pundits and populist muckrakers who have yet to realize that a Feinstein or Hillary are to the right of most hick conservatives.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

All-American Mobster

More than a few reporters and journalists have suggested that many celebrated pro athletes–including All-American heroes such as Joe DiMaggio–had dealings with the Mafia which were unknown to the public at large. In 2000 Richard Ben Cramer published a book in which he claimed that DiMaggio, the "Yankee Clipper" and one-time husband of Marilyn Monroe (herself suspected of Mob ties), had a connection to the Mafia via Frank Costello, a mobster fairly well-known to anyone who has read a bit about the real history of La Cosa Nostra (and the Five-Points gang, specifically). Costello at one time apparently functioned as Dimaggio's "financial advisor": "Dimaggio was able to walk away from baseball and his $100,000-a-year salary with the Yankees in 1951 because mobster Frank Costello had set up a "trust fund" at the Bowery Bank for him."

To some sentimental fans of pro baseball, this information might be troubling –in fact, Ben Cramer was subject to numerous personal insults and attacks when his book on DiMaggio appeared; yet to other, more cynical sports connoissieurs–say those familiar with the facts surrounding the mobster-rigged World Series of 1919 (John Sayles' film "Eight Men Out" does a decent job in presenting the broad details of the "thrown" series)–evidence suggesting that the Yankee Clipper associated with a big-time mobster such as Frank Costello–AKA "the Prime Minister" of Murder, Inc.–was probably not too alarming or unexpected.

Indeed, it could be argued quite convincingly that an athlete's shadowy associations to organized crime figures, to mobsters or gangster mollies- –or the contemporary athlete's association to drugs, drug dealers, or prostitutes–may provide part of the allure of the game for many consumers of the athletic spectacle. Pro athletes are not merely superb specimens of physical conditioning and discipline; they are America's official par-tay boys, with high-powered actors and actresses watching them at bat, running up and down the gridiron, shooting hoops; and various corporations (the corporate execs themselves sort of the sugar-daddies behind the scenes) paying millions to sell beer or razors during the ad-breaks of the Gladiator-fests. Baseball, or Beer; bimbos or organized crime: it's all part of the Sports, Inc. show.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Zizek, perhaps

"Zizek explores how an ideological edifice is sustained by underground transgressions: "Law can be sustained only by a sovereign power which reserves for itself the right... to suspend the rule of law(s) on behalf of the Law itself.""

The Zizekian bon mot regarding sovereignity does not seem entirely off-topic in regards to the present torture bill: the sovereign as Law-enforcer, whether judicial or clerical (i.e. the Catholic Church, Inc.), assumes for itself the monarchical right to enforce laws and codes (which were never agreed to via an egalitarian, social contract), but grant itself whatever exemptions it needs, at least in potentia--the judge or priest pedophile/adulterer; a Scalia enforcing theocracy [state approved displays of Decalogue, etc.], and then watching porno. (An undergraduate yippie-in-training shrieks "Hypocrisy", but Z. suggests the judicial/clerical sovereign's Janus face is a bit more subtle and detailed than the sentimental liberal might believe). The legal sovereign may also at any time view any code as provisional, regardless of possible infringement of presumed contractural rights: at once upholding the liberal's feel-good concept of "due process" and then modifying/denying its "scope" when necessary. (Zizek, like many a empirically-minded Hegelian, really addressing issues similar to those raised by Hobbes in Leviathan--if not a Platonic dialogue somewhere).

One might ask, though, how the Marxist-statist argues in favor of retaining Habeas Corpus laws at all: from a purely statist viewpoint, the ruling would be (if Congress were comprised of hip leftists) thought to be quite acceptable, HC being the remnants of a liberal entitlement based on decadent views of the individual. The statists and Zizekians objecting to the torture bill (and it should be objected to) are showing their own janus-face: Lenin had no problem ending due process not merely for the aristos but for anyone who posed a threat to bolshevik power: the bipolarity of the sovereign reveals itself either in fascist/monarchy or communism.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

New Worlds Gals

A group of untalented, mediocre clowns who have yet to figure out that there's more to life than Pink Floyd lyrics, bud, and NASA fantasies, the New Worlds posse may be, hopefully, like, cerrados. (More to follow)

The "Creeping Threat of Jihadism"

Mr. Hitchens in the house again. He's is one of the few western journalists willing to fight the zealots, be they dixie Xtians, mafioso-like Catolicos, or wild-eyed muslim fanatics. Hitchens takes some getting used to, but he's generally correct, and the representative of a moderate secularism based , one might say, on Enlightenment principles. And he's the possessor of a fairly wicked Swiftian prose style as well.

"As a journalist Mr. Hitchens extensively covered the Bosnian war and the Gulf War, yet describes 9/11 as "an exhilarating moment" because it crystallized his views. "Everything I hate is on one side, and everything I love is on the other. I'm never going to get bored with this."

What does he hate?

"Religion. I quite simply identify it with barbarism and backwardness and human stupidity. The methods of theocracy in action are a cult of death." The jihadists, he says, "say they love death more than we love life, and we have to prove that wrong. They're right on the first; they love murder, in which they exult, and suicide, in which they take pride." Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, he says, want to turn the Islamic world back to the seventh century and take the West with them. "Opposed to these and hated by them is scientific inquiry and philosophical inquiry, the emancipation of women, the secular state, and other very hard-won achievements of civilization. And it's good to be reminded they are fragile, they can be destroyed. We can be pushed back into the childhood of our species again."

Turning back clocks doesn't interest Mr. Hitchens, who began his political life as a member of the British Labor Party and joined a Marxist faction even before arriving at Oxford to push revolution in the turmoil of 1968. "The promises of the '60s came true in 1989—in exactly the way we would not have imagined," he notes. The Cold War and leftist politics left him drained, he says, by the mid-'70s, and by the fall of the Berlin Wall he was ready for something "kind of banal, like how to bring together a market economy and democratic society." When the Cold War ended, he wanted to go back to writing about literature, not dreaming that the so-called peace dividend, by his calculation, was to last "only about 150 days."

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and Slobodan Milosevic tried to annex all of Yugoslavia into a greater Serbia, Mr. Hitchens says, "I found myself in Sarajevo. And I found myself in northern Iraq in Kurdistan. Seeing people who'd been gassed, people who were still dying from Saddam's brutality . . . some I met were old comrades, but it was a pretty plain new enemy we had." The reality that totalitarian dictatorships like those in Iraq and Serbia could continue into the post--Cold War era hit him hard. "You may think you can give up politics but you can't, it won't give you up. Politics will come and find you." And the trials, at the same time, of his close friend, author Salman Rushdie, made him aware of the creeping threat of jihadism."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ethical ruminations

How may ethics be justified given a non-theological, naturalist ontology? That sounds fairly obvious, but I suggest it is more problematic than many realize; and I tend to share the views of the later Freud in so far as he suggests violence, sadism, "thanatos" and unethical acts are really the norm (even within civilized society--ie. WWI and WWII), and that ethics/morality are generally exceptions, and typically done in furtherance of "eros." It's more complex than that, but a text such as Civ. and its Discontents in some way as valuable to "meta-ethics" as are the traditional ethics texts. It would be swell if everyone performed the Kantian imperative routine, consider their potential act in context (as a rule binding on all) and then do the right thing, but they don't: one of the great failures of ethics is assuming that at some point rationality and ethics will coincide. Like Hume, Freud realizes that's mostly unfeasible (as do various machiavellians of left and right).

I would not claim there are any innate ethical tendencies: there are instincts, desires, passions, as Hume says--and Hume not so far from biological determinism and Freudian desire of some sort- and there are thoughts, concepts, ethical beliefs or actions based on, or at least having some relation to those instincts and passions.

In contrast to Humean hedonism, the late ethicist Alan Gewirth attempted to construct an axiomatic formulation of ethics which transcends the mere subjective "desire-based" ethics of Hume and the utilitarians (and Hobbes as well in that school). Gewirth understands that utilitarianism (or simply giving up on rational ethics altogether) in all of its forms easily leads to saying whatever the majority decides on is correct. So there must be some other basis for ethics (or objective rights' claims), than consensus, and for Gewrtih it's a matter of viewing yourself and other human-agents as more or less equals in terms of rights claims: you claim, or at least require, some degree of freedom to pursue your goals and economic necessities; thus you must acknowledge other normal human-agents have the same need for some degree of freedom. Gewirths' Reason and Morality is quite a bit more complex than that, but Gewirth does offer a way out of Hume/utilitarianism, hedonism, and the problems of the cat. Imperative.

That said, the most Gewirth can say then is that selfishness, greed, conservativism, monarchy etc. are inconsistent or possibly irrational; so when you refuse to help the starving family (say in a jungle or forest when they have no other means of support) you are acting irrationally.

Gewirth is arguing for a rational right (yet secular) prior to the construction of society (where Hobbes would say in nature there are no rights or laws or ethics at all). Yes, if measuring socities by that sort of natural right, human history may appear to be a record of various murderous factions which never acknowledged that rational right to economic/social entitlement, but then even catholics often say the same, or postmodernists for that matter. Which is to say, if you yourself claim a right to self-sufficiency (if not requiring economic/biological resources), don't you have to grant that other normal human-agents have the same, or nearly equal right to self-sufficiency and economic/biological resources? It would seem so. I am not sure it is necessary , but quite a cogent argument.

Without clearly defined economic rights and social contracts which are enforced by the sovereign, we are more or less in a Hobbesian state of nature; tho some people do succeed and so forth. Yet Hobbes does hold that once people agree to form covenants and seek peace instead of living in anarchy, participation in the economy is a given: thus I would say Hobbes agrees with Gewirth's agent-identity idea for most part ( tho not completely), once social contracts/covenants have been established--citizens are entitled to more or less equal distribution of resources one of his givens, and indeed one that the Royalists did not admire. Which is to say Leviathan is quite a radical text and not so far from some socialist or marxist theory.

Where or when does this covenant-construction occur Master Hobbes? He's not really suggesting it had occurred: but that it should; that people should, for their own interests, form social contracts and seek peace. Of course that may not happen, and indeed Hobbes raises the spectre of the powerful baron (with his own army, say) who refuses to form any covenants. Yes the other people might have to force him to join, or presumably, eliminate him.

Obviously a marxist (or fascist or Nietzschean for that matter) simply gives up on rights-speak or contracts and suggests the proles revolt, create a non-democratic State and then implement various economic policies. Yet Stalin (or nazi statism) shows what sorts of results are produced from politics which have no basis in rights. That said I do think there may be pragmatic reasons to oppose pure democracy ( or Hobbesianism), but more along the line of neo-behaviorism, if not Plato's Republic, than marx or fascism.

Friday, September 15, 2006

There are ample reasons to object to the Frankfurt School, but Adorno, on occasion, put forth some interesting ideas (however speculative) in regards to commodification, consumerism, and the entertainment business.

"There is nothing left for the consumer to classify. Producers have done it for him. Art for the masses has destroyed the dream but still conforms to the tenets of that dreaming idealism which critical idealism baulked at. Everything derives from consciousness: for Malebranche and Berkeley, from the consciousness of God; in mass art, from the consciousness of the production team. Not only are the hit songs, stars, and soap operas cyclically recurrent and rigidly invariable types, but the specific content of the entertainment itself is derived from them and only appears to change. The details are interchangeable. The short interval sequence which was effective in a hit song, the hero’s momentary fall from grace (which he accepts as good sport), the rough treatment which the beloved gets from the male star, the latter’s rugged defiance of the spoilt heiress, are, like all the other details, ready-made clichés to be slotted in anywhere; they never do anything more than fulfil the purpose allotted them in the overall plan. Their whole raison d’être is to confirm it by being its constituent parts. As soon as the film begins, it is quite clear how it will end, and who will be rewarded, punished, or forgotten. In light music, once the trained ear has heard the first notes of the hit song, it can guess what is coming and feel flattered when it does come. The average length of the short story has to be rigidly adhered to. Even gags, effects, and jokes are calculated like the setting in which they are placed. They are the responsibility of special experts and their narrow range makes it easy for them to be apportioned in the office."

Thursday, September 07, 2006


It's questionable whether any particular type of thinking could be said to be peculiar to philosophy, or Philosophy with a big P. Even as far back as Leibniz there was an urge to end the demarcation between philosophy and science. Frege's task consisted of trimming up the language to make it more suitable for physical sciences, mathematics, and scholarly work, retro-fitting the outdated syllogistic forms with quantifiers and predicates. Aristotelian cat. syllogisms updated with quantifiers and predicates more or less defines modern formal logic.

Frege/Russell are also in an important sense semanticists, as much as philosophers or logicians. Given the advances of the physical sciences, the positivists desired to sort of reduce language and statements to pure symbolism; and with both Frege and Russell there was an impulse to view all language as comprised of propositions, functions, quantifiers, variables, predicates, and the needed mathematics. Witt. of the Tractatus, and then later Quine continue this reductionism, for better or worse. Verification of course was another key analytical issue, as is probability; in strictly logical terms, the Tractatus demonstrates deductive logic reduces to tautologies and contradictions, tho there are a few paradoxes (which however are generally not an issue except for a very limited set of self-referential expressions. Your OS works fine: Goedel be damned).

So that propositional aspect is not really so philosophical as much as about eliminating ambiguity of ordinary language and creating semantic efficiency: the symbolic language then may be used for different purposes, whether philosophy of science, or programming or inductive endeavors.

The Big P philosophy, Der Weltanschauung-- conceptualization, system building, philosophy of science, phil. of history/time/process, ethics, even theology or whatever it is Heideggerians do-- is affected by the move to the symbolic language; once the positivists decide on permitting only synthetic/analytic truths, a lot of metaphysical baggage was eliminated as well. Ethics becomes in some sense closer to psychology and sociology. Political philosophy ala Hobbes or Rousseau, Marx, more akin to Econ. or poli sci. But these disciplines hardly deny the positivist advances; indeed behaviorism depended on positivism and pragmatism for a lot of its core doctrine.

You seem like you are suggesting a sort of thoroughly inductive political and educational philosophy, which would encompass other disciplines. I do not think that is likely to occur; indeed it could be argued that ethics and political philosophy have mostly been absorbed into various social sciences: doesn't Dewey sort of suggest that as well? Cognitive studies and lingustics (tho I'm not so sure what linguistics is anymore, except a sort of ultra-grammar) absorb philosophy of mind and epistemology, really. Philosophy of science remains, but scientists are generally more suited to those investigations than traditional philosophers: tho a critique of the economics, methods, and ethics of Big Science, especially academic science, remains important, and a Feyerbend should be taught along with Popper and Kuhn. Of course with the rise of PostMod Inc. a lot of metaphysics, or quasi-metaphysics is back, with plenty of aesthetics and the perennial marxism, but I would hold Russellianism to be more authentically progressive than most postmod. The Big P philosophy is dead (if it wasn't in 1885 when the Cambridge people began to trash on Hegel and Kant), and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

-- Ich gebrauchte das Wort "Staat": es versteht sich von selbst, wer damit gemeint ist—irgendein Rudel blonder Raubtiere, eine Eroberer- und Herren-Rasse, weiche, kriegerisch organisiert und mit der Kraft, zu organisieren, unbedenklich ihre furchtbaren Tatzen auf eine der Zahl nach vielleicht ungeheuer überlegene, aber noch gestaltlose, noch schweifende Bevölkerung legt. Dergestalt beginnt ja der "Staat" auf Erden: ich denke, jene Schwärmerei ist abgetan, welche ihn mit einem "Vertrage" beginnen liess.--

Cheap anglo translation:

I used the word "State"—it is self-evident who is meant by that term—some pack of blond predatory animals, a race of conquerors and masters, which, organized for war and with the power to organize, without thinking about it, sets its terrifying paws on a subordinate population which may perhaps be vast in numbers but is still without any shape, is still wandering about. That's surely the way the "State" begins on earth. I believe that that fantasy has been done away with which sees the beginning of the state in some "contract."....

from Faust

Verachte nur Vernunft und Wissenschaft,

des Menschen allerhöchste Kraft,

laß nur in Blend- und Zauberwerken

dich von dem Lügengeist bestärken,

so hab' ich dich schon unbedingt.

PZ's translation into Englische:

"Scorn Reason and Science,

Humanity's highest craft;

permit yourself to be overcome

with the lying soul of magic and illusions,

and I have you absolutely..."

Der LuegenGeist: sort of California's official spiritual Entity

Monday, August 28, 2006

Literary pseudo-objects

"Similarly, to maintain that Hamlet, for example, exists in his own world, namely, in the world of Shakespeare's imagination, just as truly as (say) Napoleon existed in the ordinary world, is to say something deliberately confusing, or else confused to a degree which is scarcely credible. There is only one world, the 'real' world: Shakespeare's imagination is part of it, and the thoughts that he had in writing Hamlet are real. So are the thoughts that we have in reading the play. But it is of the very essence of fiction that only the thoughts, feelings, etc., in Shakespeare and his readers are real, and that there is not, in addition to them, an objective Hamlet. When you have taken account of all the feelings roused by Napoleon in writers and readers of history, you have not touched the actual man; but in the case of Hamlet you have come to the end of him. If no one thought about Hamlet, there would be nothing left of him; if no one had thought about Napoleon, he would have soon seen to it that some one did. The sense of reality is vital in logic, and whoever juggles with it by pretending that Hamlet has another kind of reality is doing a disservice to thought. A robust sense of reality is very necessary in framing a correct analysis of propositions about unicorns, golden mountains, round squares, and other pseudo-objects"

(from Russell, Bertrand. Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy. London: Allen and Unwin, 1919)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Room with 50 umbrellas

Erik Satie was beat before beat was born. A pianist as well as humorist–at his death friends rushed in his apartment and found a stash of dozens of unused umbrellas, along with velvet suits and unknown compositions and writings—Satie was a crony of Debussy as well as the young Stravinsky and most of the other parisian freaks who partied in the cafes and brothels of Montparnasse prior to the Great War: legend has it that Satie’s protege Claude Debussy died a few minutes after hearing some of the prussian shells landing in Pa-ree. Most know some of the story: the lost generation, James Joyce trying to get his massive Aquinas-meets-Dante-in-a-Dublin ho-house Ulysses published, Einstein informing the world about the dilation of time, Freud barking about desire, Andre Breton, at least after WWI, asking real surrealists to run into the street and shoot people at random.

The world was definitely coming to an end in 1914, if not a few years before. VI Lenin, at least in early 1900s, lurked in bistro corners of Montparnasse and Montmartre, looking disapprovingly at the absinthe swilling libertines, the chess players, the artists, the hucksters. There was a lot of fluff. But the best music of Satie and of his friends Debussy and Ravel (Ravel orchestrated Satie’s 3 Gymnopedies early on) remains, and was an important influence on many 20th century composers and artists–including minimalists, jazz players and Frank Zappa.


The music of Satie is deceptively simple. Most of his pieces begin with a fairly uncomplicated theme–”without sauerkraut” he would say; i.e. free of the Germanic and Wagnerian bombast–and one might think it might be a Chopin sort of piffle, but the harmonies are then subtlely altered, inverted, 9ths and 11ths appear on top of the major and minor chords, and there are strange modulations (tho not so strange now after modern jazz): from D maj. to D dorian. Most Satie music sounds vaguely chant-like, but I suggest Satie, like Debussy is profoundly secular and agnostic and not at all some lapsed-catholic like many composers (or worse, lasped Lutherans), though there are hints of the mystical or exotic in many Satie compositions: odd modes, some from ancient Greek or oriental music appear, 5ths are flattened, one is no longer in a Paris cafe, but on some windy mongolian plain….or in an ancient pagan temple. Generally he works back towards the head, almost jazzman like , but not after going through many strange, unexpected twists

Friday, August 18, 2006

Are there rational grounds for religious belief?

"If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? …Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814

There's no point in arguing with a person who assumes a religious perspective may be justified merely by dogma–the tradition of Scripture and religious institutions; yet the religious person who does hold that his dogma and religious concepts can be justified rationally (as the Jesuits used to assert) runs up against the Theology 101 "Top 10 of Skepticism" very quickly: the problem of evil, immateriality, status of other faiths, fallibility of Scripture, evolution, etc. as well as the basic epistemological issue of why anyone should accept any religion as a true account of reality, rather than say a common-sense physico-logico account. That may not be very subtle, or appealing to those who work for Christendom Inc., but theists continually assume that those issues have been settled in their favor, when of course they haven’t been.

Kant himself rejected all the classical arguments for a Deity (including the Design argument, which has sort of made a comeback as Intelligent Design Theory--), and there are I think far more philosophers and scientists arranged on the skeptic side (e..g, that there are no convincing, rational grounds for religious truth, or for an omniscient and just God) than there are rational theists. There does not seem to be a shortage of irrational theists however.

* * *

Is the existence of miracles used to confirm the truth of Scripture? If it is, then obviously other religions and cults claim miraculous events (though I assert wrongly), so the mere presence of claims that a miracle occurred doesn’t really prove anything: that water was instantly converted to wine is about like saying the Buddha levitated. One can believe that, I guess, just as people believe in astrology. But most theists believe that there’s more to the plausibility of Scripture than the presence of miracles; if not, it would be a situation of which cult features the best miracles.

In fact the catholic church routinely confirms miracles, yet as Chris Hitchens recently pointed out in a great essay on Mother Theresa’s death, the confirmaton is in no way scientific or objective: it’s usually based on flimsy, anecdotal evidence (and an incredibly sentimental process as well). It may be thought such claims of miracles are amusing or charming, but as Hitchens points out, the belief in miracles acutally does great damage to rationality as a whole.

I shall let Mr. Hitchens speak for himself (and for rationality), since he does it much better than I:

“Those of us who are against miraculous claims for the more obvious reasons–that the laws of nature do not respond to petitions and that what can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof–have a tendency to forget that this vulgarity and hysteria also increases the sum of misery on Earth, without at all diminishing it in the false promise of the afterlife.”

* * *

Quote (from Christian blogger):

“in order to do that without actually investigating each miracle- or religious experience-claim, you’d need to give arguments for why we shouldn’t believe in miracles or see religious experience as evidentially weighty”

In other words, prove to you that pigs don’t fly. I have never seen a flying pig in person or photos. I don’t know anyone that has, and never read any history indicating that pigs do fly. I did see a drawing of one with wings on a website. But it was not flying.

You are right, though to some degree: all the laws and rules of physical science could be overturned tomorrow and pigs might fly, just as Hume said tomorrow his billard table might obey different physical laws–I would agree there is no logically necessary reason why physical laws could not be overturned. But I’d wager the probability of the pig flying ( or billard balls flying backwards after the break of the table) is about the same as Jesus out strolling on the waves or the Virgin of Guadalupe making her annual appearance in the reflection of some campesino’s windshield or whatever. I think Bayes theorem shows this too: each day a miracle has not been confirmed increases the unlikeliness of the original anomaly having occurred.

Mystical experiences are another thing. I don’t doubt many people have those experiences, but they in no way demonstrate or confirm theological concepts. Recently some experiments have shown that the mental state produced by monks and nuns meditating or praying can be electrically stimulated in various brain lobes. So what was thought to be a calm “oneness with god” or satori was in fact some biochemical process in the corpus callosum.

* * *

Ivan in Dostoyevsky’s Brother Karamazov doesn’t believe in God. Ivan (who I think we can imagine has read some Voltaire [as had Jefferson] and other French or English skeptics and scientists) claims, if such a “God” existed, he allows wars, Napoleons, plagues, all sorts of injustices anyways: so He kills the innocent, while commanding us not to do it. And by definition God would both have commanded the deaths of innocents and known about it. Ivan thus rejects “God” (Nietzsche also enjoyed reading some FD) , but I don’t think he is saying everything is permissable, merely that theological concepts of justice are absurd. (Of course some nut like Kierkegaard chooses to believe anyways, as do most fundies and catholics: tsunami wipes 300,000 people off the earth and yet the fundies goes to Church and says it was a sign of Gott).

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mac Haters of the World, Unite!

My name is P******* and I am a Windows XP user. And I use, and appreciate to some extent, IE, and lots of other Microsoft products, including MS-SQL, and Windows 2000 Server with the Active Directory, which, after tweaking a bit, works fine. Yes, XP has fluff, unneeded services, service packs, security issues ( at least until Saint Spybot showed up–send the dude a check) and, well, minor problems, at least for the newbies who aren’t aware of a few tricks to get XP–even Home– purring.

And, yes, count me as one who detests Macs. Not only the old drag and drop, and go-out-for-a -burger- while-the- file-downloads Apples and Macs, with screens about the size of a wallet, and a little blinking cursor moving like worm across the page, but the supposedly new, fast OS/X or Tiger OS, or Cobra OS/XII or whatever lame Silicon Wally brand name has been given to the latest Mac sled.

The Mac sled does appeal to some degree: it certainly costs a lot more than some PC with the generic Windows XP, so it must be fast and high-end, right. Cool kids with Ipods who drink frappiccinos in like Palo Alto use Macs. One would thus think the new Macs rock. But that isn’t the case.

They are big, and they are slow (at least the ones that cost like $2500.00 are slow–at 4 grand I wager its up to like my $600.00 PC Athlon speed). The browser, if you can locate it (somewhere near “Dock” I think) is, horrors, Netscape or Godzilla or something unfamiliar (the ‘zilla things generally come up as viruses in my spy -ware detection app.) Where the heck is IE? Who knows. Maybe the slowness is due to all the perfidious “graphics” apps and so forth: and that is part of the problem. Mac management seems to think anyone using a box is like some online Picasso working on his newest Mahster-piece: No. We are at work, or in offices, not in ateliers, Mr. Jobs.

And Mac people (some of them are tolerable, but thankfully are mostly centered around Mt. View and downtown SF) are not so easy to deal with. First they hate a Windoze people–even those few who might read Kerouac, listen to the Grateful Dead, and never vote GOP–even more than the corp. Windows bottom-line guys hate them. They are mostly, as they say in El Lay, “creatives.” Generally creatives are not doing much with networking, or protocols, or data-bases, UNIX or DOS, or security or code of any sort (I always thought Maccies were all javaheads, but later find out that they hate java too, for some unknown reason): they are working with Photoshop or maybe javascript or some open source freak code They are animating things: maybe putting together a groovalicious South Park-like episode or video for the office reggae band.

Mac creatives are not hacking or cracking like decent LA sharkie types might (yes Windows is probably the preferred choice for southside scum); instead they sort of work for much nobler ideals: implementing a type of Mt. View-o-polis where everyone works as graphix or web designers in small, soon-to-fail corps (upstarts, as they say) and plays in some rock band in penisula cafes at night while hot bi-sexual divorcees gaze at them in the cool evening--On second thought, that doesn't sound so bad, if one could afford a house anywhere within 20 miles of Stanford.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Steely Dan -

Black Friday

black friday on youtube: way tight groove. herr. on 6 string

---catch the great men as they fall from the 14th flo'--


Friday, August 04, 2006

Exxon, IG Farben, Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow

To whom are you giving your shekels when you fill your tank at an Exxon or Chevron station ? (both built from the ashes of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil monopoly). Most American consumers who fill their tanks at an Exxon station are probably not aware that they are, at least by proxy, handing their money over to a company which at one time had close ties to IG Farben, the german chemical corporation which provided Zyklon B, among other chemical wonders, to the nazis.

”During the 1930s when Walter C. Teagle was head of Standard Oil, the company forged close ties with I.G. Farben, a firm that supported the Nazis and used concentration camp labour. Charles Higham (a former New York Times writer and biographer) writes in his book Trading With the Enemy: ‘From the 1920s on Teagle showed a marked admiration for Germany’s enterprise in overcoming the destructive terms of the Versaille Treaty. His lumbering stride, booming tones, and clouds of cigar smoke became widely and affectionately known in the circles that helped support the rising Nazi Party’ [7]. Exxon Mobil’s website prefers to describe how ‘Each company [Jersey Standard and Socony-Vacuum] beefed up refining output to supply the Allied war effort [8].’”

Exxon/IG Farben

* * *

Thomas Pynchon, international man of literary mystery, included a great deal of material about IG Farben in his massive “postmodernist” novel Gravity’s Rainbow. GR’s not an easy read–I have been attempting to master Gravity’s Rainbow for a few years, following the enjoyment of reading Crying of Lot 49 (a sort of decent introduction to Pynchon and groundwork for GR) and his “California dystopia” novel Vineland–but there are quite a few accurate historical references in GR demonstrating the connection of many American businesses to the nazis. Indeed not only was Standard connected to IG Farben , but George W. Bush’s granddaddy, Preston Bush, had some ties to IG Farben as well.

”The big scandal around IG Farben this week is the unlucky subsidiary Spottbilligfilm AG, whose entire management are about to be purged for sending to OKW weapons procurement a design proposal for a new airborne ray which could turn whole populations, inside a ten-kilometer radius, stone blind. An IG review board caught the scheme in time. Poor Spottbilligfilm. It had slipped their collective mind what such a weapon would do to the dye market after the next war.” 163

Maybe when Tom makes another voice-over appearance on the Simpsons (as he did in what 2003 and 2005) he will like offer some explanations of the knottier sections of GR and the IG Farben scandals.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Reason to blog again: the Tragic Flight of Dr. Dyke

One Denice Denton, Chancellor of UC Santa Cruz, recently leapt to her death from the top of the Paramount, a 42 story luxury apartment building in downtown San Francisco. Her lesbian lover and fellow UC crony-engineer had a room at the apartment.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Samuel Johnson on Americans—

“I am willing to love all mankind, except an American.”

“Sir, they are a race of convicts,” Johnson stated in 1769, “and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging.” (Quoted in Boswell, Life of Dr. Johnson, March 21, 1775).)

“Slavery is now no where more patiently endured, than in countries once inhabited by the zealots of liberty.”

“We have now, for more than two centuries, ruled large tracts of the American continent, by a claim which, perhaps, is valid only upon this consideration, that no power can produce a better; by the right of discovery, and prior settlement. And by such titles almost all the dominions of the earth are holden, except that their original is beyond memory, and greater obscurity gives them greater veneration.”

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A. Bierce on German metaphysics

monad, n.

"The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. (See Molecule.) According to Leibnitz, as nearly as he seems willing to be understood, the monad has body without bulk, and mind without manifestation -- Leibnitz knows him by the innate power of considering. He has founded upon him a theory of the universe, which the creature bears without resentment, for the monad is a gentlmean. Small as he is, the monad contains all the powers and possibilities needful to his evolution into a German philosopher of the first class -- altogether a very capable little fellow. He is not to be confounded with the microbe, or bacillus; by its inability to discern him, a good microscope shows him to be of an entirely distinct species."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hoo-yah for Hobbes

Hobbes' Leviathan functions as a great antidote to excessive postmod. bickering, conceptualization and to belle-lettrism of all sorts. His ideas of the sovereign were a bit draconian--but I think capable of progressive readings. And he's no friend of theocrats or aristocrats: more like a republican who felt a strong monarchy was the most effective strategy for maintaining order. His ideas on contracts, covenants, the state of nature, sovereignity, etc. are still worth reading closely and worth reading in the King's English--he's not that difficult a writer and indeed rather eloquent. Of course his materialism was very influential--not only to Locke and the sensationalists, but to Marx and utilitarians. His critique of Descartes and the res cogitans also very worthwhile. Hobbes anticipates Darwin, or at least understood territoriality and the problems of altruism, or lack thereof. He's at least as powerful a thinker as Hegel and Marx were; indeed I would venture to say rather more powerful. Descartes may have been his superior, at least mathematically; but in political terms there are few thinkers equal to his force.

An interesting and enigmatic character was Master Hobbes: he was a student of Bacon (that itself a bit scandalous) and acquainted with leading figures of the day such as Gallileo, Ben Jonson and of course the royalists. He probably knew "Shakespeare" (tho' Hobbes would have been rather young) and had most likely had some hushhush stuff on King Jimmy, Chas I, Cromwell, and the rest. Hobbes, expert latinist, may have had some hand in the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays as well. (I suspect Milton and the young Locke had a few run-ins with the elder royalist Hobbes as well). Hobbes was probably a scoundrel early on, as was his mentor Bacon (whose system Hobbes later rejected), but Leviathan shows quite a melancholy and even tragic aspect as well.



One of Hobbes' "laws of nature"--that is, after men decide to leave the state of nature, form covenants and live peacefully--is that of the equality of distribution. In the first 10-15 chapters of Leviathan there's quite a bit of material which sounds rather socialist and egalitarian, though Hobbes admits his various covenants are more like "givens": he assumes that, for one, people are bound to carry out contracts/covenants they consent to (and that the King/Law exists to enforce that). Obviously most rational people would agree to that, and to most of Leviathan; that idea of rational contracting is similar to what Rawls continues as well: what sort of society will rational people decide on, if they themselves have to live in the society they choose? They would probably agree that covenants should be respected; and that seems like a fairly Scriptural course of action as well. There is no need of recourse to theology or idealism. Perhaps that's not Kant's imperative, but then I believe Kant's imperative ultimately turns on similar concerns (the actual effects of any maxims that people may decide on).

Hobbes admittedly is not a great continentalist philosopher or scientist like Galileo or even Descartes, and not exactly hospitable to platonic or cartesian metaphysics, but a pragmatic, politically oriented thinker. And what is the Marxist state if not sort of a Hobbesian sovereign? The difference being that Marx never bothers arguing for covenants and economic entitlement, as far as I can tell; he instead is taking on Adam Smith (who also has a Hobbesian side). And of course with Stalin and Mao one gets to see what sorts of covenants the statist despots enforce: prison camps, or liquidation. Of course I don't think Marx was so bellicose as to suggest the "liquidation of reactionaries," or, eh, was he.


Which is to say, Hobbes anticipates much Marxist thinking, but one, he is aware of the cooperation/non-cooperation issue--the prisoner's dilemma--some people are not willingly going to participate in civil society, if it's not in their best interest to do so; so coercion is a factor (Marx realizes this in a different form maybe). Hobbesianism also is thankfully free of the grand Hegelian abstractions which Marxism is chock full of (ie the bizarre conceptualizations of the commodity/value, and the dialectic itself). Hobbesian economics is not yet to the level of Smith's supply and demand model perhaps, but Hobbes "given" of equality-- men should more or less aim for equality of distribution of goods and resources-- is nearly as close to socialist ideals as Marxism is.

Ever heard of Lysander Spooner? His tragic realization was that the Hobbesian/Lockean/ Jeffersonian contract was never really enacted, except for a lucky few; that since the great majority of citizens never participated in the social contracting (or Constitution) in reality, America was for the most part a state of anarchy and perpetual warfare with various constabularies as Hobbes had suggested: Blackbeardland, regardless of a few wealthy robber barons or mercantilists. Not to say marxism is preferable to that anarcho-capitalism, but I think in some sense Spooner's insights (sort of a reversed Hobbesianism if you will) still hold: for many of us, this is Blackbeardland. (Vegass, baybe)

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Colonel Kurtz Comedy Hour?

Interesting critique of the au courant hegelianism and what passes for online "philosophy."

"Bertrand Russell, writing his History of Western Philosophy in '43 or so (it's a bit glib and abridged but not such a bad overview of modern philosophy), did not have much positive to say about Hegel's history philosophy nor his metaphysics. He more or less dismissed Hegel's logic (a logic which takes the elements of logic themselves to be sort of constituents of all reality? hah. physics and the natural sciences don't work that way, Herr Hegel) , and argues that the Wehrmacht itself would have found ample support in Hegel's Philosophy of Right and Philosophy of History. And the nazis found some related ideas in Nietzsche ( who more and more appears like a materialist Hegel Jr. sans the great dialectic).

Throughout Russell's critique of Hegel one notes his objections to the irrational and to the militaristic aspects of Hegelianism. Russell does a fairly convincing job demonstrating that Hegel was more a prussian type of scholar-officer, with more than a hint of proto-fascism to his character and writing, than some Sorbonne- like cafe-filosophe or leftist intellectual. Yet the cafe-filosophes and marxists never tire of invoking all the old Hegelian jargon; indeed, the Hegelian militarism and heroics seems to form part of the irrational allure of postmodernism and of marxism. Who needs all those boring Englishmen going on about contracts, sensations and cause, fallibility, etc. when there is Der Geist to attend to. Hegelianism, even when attenuated by french aesthetes or orthodox marxists, is nothing if not romantic."


Friday, May 12, 2006

Vegas: part of the American Dream?

Gambling, like mining, is part of the romance of the Old West. Hollywood in fact makes much of gambling imagery: whether if it’s whiskey-drinkin’ hombres in an old saloon, or fancy ladies of the evenin’ and their gents at the roulette wheel, gangsters playing poker and smoking a few stogies, or James Bond-like high-rollers in Monaco, gambling imagery is generally a crowdpleaser, and sexxay as well. And Vegas, has since its creation—a creation, like the building of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino, assisted with lots of funds from the Mob—depended on gambling; the Nevada economy as a whole depends largely on legalized gambling.

The romantics and libertarians in favor of legal casinos and online poker and blackjack (a multi-billion-dollar per year business) generally avoid discussing the negatives of legalized gambling, however. Unfortunately, there seem to be millions of Americans who haven’t realized the odds are always in favor of the house, unless one is playing poker; and for high stakes poker, the odds are, not surprisingly, in favor of a tycoon—imagine Jerry Buss sitting at the end of the table, grinning—not the working guys having’ some fun. Although blackjack odds can be nearly even at some houses—say 50.5 to 49.5—but even with only a 1 percentage point difference in favor of the house, and “Hoyle” strategy the great majority of people will lose as well, regardless of a few winning runs, and all those few hundred bucks losses add up to mega-profits for the house. (proficient card counters may increase their odds, and may win, but the pit guys watch for CC very closely, and the auto-shuffle machines with 6+ decks and a variable shoe make counting very difficult).

In effect billions of dollars are being thrown away to the casino owners: and looking at the holdings of a big Vegas player such as Steve Wynn—the Bellagio, or his newest ugly Vegas skyscraper—one obtains a sense of what sort of profits the casino owners are earning. Nearly everyone loses in Vegas, except the casino owners. And the native owners of the CA casinos are raking in big profits as well (tho’ at least there the profits are fairly well-spread among the tribe).

There’s another issue regarding gambling that many pro-gambling people do not consider. You are a hard-working and educated citizen ; whereas a successful gambler or casino owner may not be. Merely by the luck of the draw, say he wins consistently: and makes 10 times what you do (if he started with a Paris- Hilton- type of wealth, he can also do a lot of “leveraging” to increase his chances of winning—high bets, raises, etc.). Like his ancestor, the prospector, the gambler does no real work except finding wealth by the easiest possible means.

It’s doubtful that the Founding Fathers wanted to include gambling and the world of casinos (and associated practices, such as prostitution and organized crime, alcoholism) in their vision of America. Indeed an early American writer such as Thoreau took issue with both gambling and mining, and saw the parallel between the two practices: “The gold-digger in the ravines of the mountains is as much a gambler as his fellow in the saloons of San Francisco. What difference does it make whether you shake dirt or shake dice? If you win, society is the loser.”

Californians would do well to ponder Thoreau’s point and work towards the control and regulation if not outright banning of Casinopolis, and online gambling as well. Educating people--especially po’ folks throwing away hundreds a month in dreams of hitting the big jackpot, blackjack run, or even lotto ticket—about the real costs of gambling also should be a priority for those humans who do not look upon the Vegas Strip with admiration.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Psych. 101: Civilization and Its Discontents

"Men are not gentle, friendly creatures wishing for love, who simply defend themselves if they are attacked, but that a powerful measure of desire for aggression has to be reckoned as part of their instinctual endowment. The result is that their neighbour is to them not only a possible helper or sexual object, but also a temptation to them to gratify their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without recompense, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him. Homo homini lupus; who has the courage to dispute it in the face of all the evidence in his own life and in history? This aggressive cruelty usually lies in wait for some provocation, or else it steps into the service of some other purpose, the aim of which might as well have been achieved by milder measures. In circumstances that favour it, when those forces in the mind which ordinarily inhibit it cease to operate, it also manifests itself spontaneously and reveals men as savage beasts to whom the thought of sparing their own kind is alien. Anyone who calls to mind the atrocities of the early migrations, of the invasion by the Huns or by the so-called Mongols under Jenghiz Khan and Tamurlane, of the sack of Jerusalem by the pious Crusaders, even indeed the horrors of the last world-war, will have to bow his head humbly before the truth of this view of man."

Sigimundus rocks on occasion.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

National Prayer Day

National Prayer Day has become an important occasion for humans of all “faiths.” President Bush has, as expected, given his blessing to the event as well. Most of the participants are protestants, but other churches are represented, including catholics, muslims, jews, buddhists and various pagan groups. Unfortunately, these faithful humans overlook the fact that there are no rational justifications for belief in the power of prayer (and the history of the 20th century itself would seem to imply that if “God” exists He apparently doesn’t care too much about what occurs in his earthly abode, or, rather He has an appetite for warfare on a grand scale). Faith is not a method of proof. And no miracles have ever been confirmed (notwithstanding regular reports of, say, the Virgin of Guadalupe), nor are there any grounds for believing in occult or mystical phenomena—and praying is a type of mysticism.

The things “asked for” in prayers are often solutions to social and/or economic problems which could perhaps be remedied, but either current conditions prevent that, or there are other obstacles. Prayers and invocations, whether that of bonehead Baptists or touchy-feely pagans, are thus a cop-out to some extent: instead of say working towards lessening the great disparity between middle class and the very wealthy, humans sort of “wish for the best”, or say “God’ll sort it out.” Prayer then, for many, becomes an excuse not to do anything tangible or productive in regards to social, economic and/or psychological problems. Of course, spiritual bureaucrats (ie. Priests, pastors, Imams, rabbis, etc.) regularly assure people in their congregations that prayer does work, that there exists some ghostly power which can intervene (with the proper amount of supplication, of course) and thus alter the laws of physics or biology: that’s part of their job description.

“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”

Friday, May 05, 2006

At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his notebook called out "Silence" and read out from his book "Rule Forty-Two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court."

Everybody looked at Alice.

"I’m not a mile high," said Alice.

"You are," said the King.

"Nearly two miles high,’ added the Queen.

"Well, I shan’t go, at any rate," said Alice; "besides that’s not a regular rule: You invented it just now."

" It’s the oldest rule in the book," said the King.

"Then it ought to be Number One," said Alice.

- Lewis Carroll

Monday, May 01, 2006


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Russell on Design

"When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the fascists? Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions and temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending -- something dead, cold, and lifeless."
Victor "Doc" Laxateur: CSUK's own Royal Nonesuch

Cal Skank, in conjunction with La Iglesia Catolica de Kern, Inc. is proud to announce that this year's Lifetime MENDACITY Award has gone to Victor "Doc" Laxateur, a Cal Skank English professor and lay priest who has, in the words of Dr. Hector Cabronando, director of the CSU Ad Hoc Committee on CA Literature and Bureaucratic Support Services, "done good work in furthering the cause of Catholic bureaucracy and Truth at CSUK, the Peoples' College of Kern." Doc Laxateur was especially known for his ability to teach the masterpieces of American literature from a Catholic perspective: indeed, as one former Cal Skank student, Maria Putalanzia, claims, "Doc Laxateur showed me that a writer like Mark Twain was not just another dead cracker, and Maestro L. also took the time to explain the details of the ROYAL NONESUCH to me. Muchas Graziass."

A celebration of Doc Laxateur's lifetime MENDACITY achievement award is scheduled for May 23 at Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Banquet Hall and Bingo Parlor.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ronald Reagan, Mobster

According to one Dan Moldea, author of “Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, MCA and the Mob”, which details the rise of the Chicago mob to the rise of MCA, Ronald Reagan was a central figure in the MCA’s rise to power:

“Reagan, the president of SAG and an FBI informant against Hollywood (Reds), was the subject of a federal grand jury investigation whose focus was Reagan’s possible role in a suspected conspiracy between MCA and the actors’ union. According to Justice Department documents, government prosecutors had concluded that decisions made by SAG while under Reagan’s leadership became “the central fact of MCA’s whole rise to power.”

During his campaign for Prez in 1980, Reagan allegedly met privately with known organized-crime figures and appointed mobsters to his personal campaign staff. Several of these people were awarded important positions in the Reagan administration after his election victory. While President Reagan talked tough about the organized crime problem in the United States, and represented himself as a “born-again” Christian, he surrounded himself with many men (such as Wasserman, MCA Boss, for one) who were closely linked to the rise of the Mob.

Boss Reagan

Monday, April 17, 2006

the Vatican and the Nazis

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tyranny of the Majority (JS MIll)

According to JS Mill (in "On Liberty"), a tyranny of the majority (of voters, say) poses more of a threat to human liberty than does a tyranny of government because such a threat is not limited to political functions. One might be protected from a tyrant (tho' the distinction between the two potential tyrannies is not always clear), but it is much more difficult to be protected “against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling”. Some citizens will be subject to what society as a whole views as suitable, whether economically, politically, culturally (and of course most citizens have little to no voice regarding how the free market functions). The prevailing and popular opinions within a democratic society will be the basis of the rules of conduct within society; therefore, there can be no reliable safeguards in law against the tyranny of the majority—a majority of citizens could vote in a Hitler (and he was supported by majorities in the 20s and 30s). Thus, however obvious, Mill demonstrates that the majority opinion may not be the correct opinion. The only justification for a person’s political (or moral) belief is that it is that person’s preference, or desire, not that it is really the “best,” most effective, or most equitable, course of action (or the “best”, i.e., most qualified, intelligent candidate).

Mill may have been anticipated by other thinkers in regards to this (Rousseau, if not Plato had similar concerns), and we might not agree to his idea that the judicial branches are superior to legislative and executive (i.e. representatives voted in, and then making decisions for their constituents); Mill, however, brings forth the issue in a concise manner, though he does not provide any sure political methods to ameliorate the problem.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Kant, "Aufklärung," Evolution

Though I would not go so far as some and denounce Kant's entire conceptual architecture (Heisenberg nearly did so), there are many aspects of the Kritik der Reinen Vernunft (Critique of Pure Reason) which should trouble anyone either gullible or naive enough to read it. For one, Kant’s general claim of the synthetic a priori (SAP), which applies not only to mathematical knowledge but physics and natural sciences, has always bothered me. At least in terms of causality (and thus of the Newtonian physics of his time) Kant was mistaken. Causality cannot be known a priori–there is no a priori knowledge, synthetic or analytic, about the physical world (i.e. physics); yet K. offers as an example of the SAP (from the older physics) that "every event must have a cause". Synthetic, yes, but how could this be a priori? It was learned, for one. The language was correlated with events--and cause--and states of affairs, not with some transcendental categories or noumena.

Newton was an inductivist as well as mathematician, and made hundreds of observations to confirm his theories of mechanics and gravitation; Einstein's theory of general relativity was confirmed by an eclipse. This is sort of obvious, but the point is that Kantian a priori-ness, and the supposed subjectivity of time and space, have little to no relevance to modern science, whether physics or psychology (perhaps Kant's continued presence in the colleges is part of some pro-German faction in the academies--someone like Hilbert a much better choice). If there are a priori truths about nature, then the world is a very strange place–ghost vector-world--(or knowledge passed genetically?).

The view of mathematical knowledge as synthetic is also puzzling, though a bit more understandable in terms of a prioriness. Most would say math. truths are analytical, based on tautologies; define the variables, constants and operators ( = for identity, + , -, ~, v, -> etc.), and deductively necessary results follow. YES, regardless uf analyticity or synthesis, there is an issue regarding the source of our knowledge of mathematics which Kant wants to affirm; i.e., empiricism ala Locke cannot really explain math knowledge via sensationalism (and true there are no integrals or logical connectives--and, or, conditionals, etc.--existing in nature the way there are objects which we term trees, rivers, people, tables, etc.). Thus POINT GRANTED at least in terms of showing the limits of traditional empiricism. But that empiricism could not provide a cogent mathematical epistemology does not thereby entail one must view mathematical truth as a priori (whether analytical AP or synthetic AP).

There can hardly be any doubt that the human mind conceived of mathematics, and logic itself--numbers, equations, the unit circle, functions, connectives, derivatives, integrals, a coordinate system---from interactions with nature, from perceptions, and from agricultural work, building, markets (i.e. abacus), military applications. Mathematics, whether number, geometry, or function, is an abstraction from nature, a conceptualization (and quite remarkable, if not anomalous, in an evolutionary sense) not from some Platonic heaven, and of course something like integral calculus took centuries to develop. That may seem like nominalism, but an account of mathematical knowledge as historical, empirical--useful, in pragmatic terms--should be affirmed, unless one prefers more Casper the Friendly Geist.

* * *

And using the 1st critique as metaphor or model seems sort of like using the Bible as metaphor. I mean, if you are trying to save some religious or metaphysical view, I think there are better sources than Kant–even a Cartesian dualism or perhaps platonic realism more plausible than Kant. Descartes was, I believe, as profound a metaphysician and mathematician as Herr Kant; and the arguments of the Meditations, the Cogito, seem a bit more forceful than the speculations of the Critique (which are far from axiomatic or necessary).

But I still don’t think any metaphysics, whether via Descartes or Plato or even the weirder aspects of the quantum theory (non-locality, chaos etc.), can overcome the rise of biological materialism and evolution.

* * *

there’s a big difference between some type of rational, philosophical justifcation of religious concepts (as say Descartes and Kant both attempted to do), and popular religion, “faith,” organized churches and so forth. I don’t think there are any rational, logical defenses of religious concepts, but I will grant (as even the arch-materialist Hobbes did) that there may be pragmatic reasons for upholding religious institutions and even Scriptural “values” to some extent. The Sermon on the Mount is not mere hyperbole; it’s a fairly profound statement of ethics.

* * *

EO Wilson

I read Wilson’s Consilience a few years ago and was impressed, though I agree he does oversimplify a few things (in regards to ethics and altruism, I would claim). Most philosophical types I know who have bothered to read it objected to it, as they do to Darwin, but they are rarely able to formulate their objections. Philosophers tend to be sort of Kantian, if not theists, far more than they are materialists; thus, Darwin, if not biology as a whole, is taken to be wrong owing to its materialist grounds. (Idealists, theists and neo-idealists also conveniently overlook verification when it's in their best interest to do so.) But I contend there are no good grounds for Kantian idealism (or theology for that matter), nor for immaterial conceptions of mind. And obviously Darwin as well as Mendel and many other biological concepts have been established. Thus the burden is 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. (That said, I might agree with Behe to some extent on secular grounds, or at least to some notion of an organizing force or principle,: but not with his religious conclusions.)

* * *

Another question is whether the celebrated 3rd Antimony, however sublime a concept, is really a correct picture of reality. I’m not much of a postmodernist, but in some sense I would say the freedom/nature dichotomy may indeed be a false binary. if not metaphysical dualism (and there are some Cartesian aspects to Herr Kant are there not). The abstraction of “Freedom” is itself certainly questionable; does Kant mean human consciousness as a whole there, or intention, or what? I think he meant what is called “intention” now, though hardly anyone, at least in psychology or cognitive science, would say one intention is somehow independent of nature, or transcendental; moreover determinism has not ever really been refuted–if anything genetics and biology tend to confirm deterministic views. It’s only theists and theistically-inclined philosophers who make transcendental claims for intention and consciousness. However, as model and indeed metaphor, the 3rd has a definite power (Beethoven-like nearly), but one could also read that metaphorical power as somewhat deceptive, if not dangerous: especially if one concludes that Hegel takes that 3rd Antimony as a starting point for a lot of bad thinking.

* * *

"all the great thinkers attributed to the Enlightenment such as Hume, Locke, Kant were actually religious believers and none of them believed in progress" Miss Bunting, Guardian columnist

Hume certainly was not pious nor a believer in any real sense, though he may have supported the Church for pragmatic reasons; the Enquiry pretty much reduces Scripture to those few sections which are capable of withstanding rational criticism, doesn’t it? If that. Hume denies not only miracles but any arguments for a Deity, and any ideas of objective morality. I don’t understand how Hume is now being read as a theist.

Kant himself has a somewhat skeptical side (he affirms knowledge of phenomena is surer than that of noumena, for one–), and he was criticized by the Lutherans of the day; moreover, catholics certainly do not respect his system or his rejection of all the classical canonical arguments.

But the Ausklärung (gr. for Enlightenment) is also attributable to the French, is it not: the Encyclopedists, Voltaire, Rousseau, the french republicans (when republican meant something, as it did for the republicanos of La Guerra Civil in España ). Diderot called for the death of kings and priests. They certainly were not religious in any real sense: Voltaire, who pretty much declared God was dead in what 1750, also was read by the yankees such as Franklin and Jefferson–Jefferson had a bust of Voltaire in his study.

Hegelianism probably had more of a causal relation to the disasters of the 20th century, both through fascism and communism. Don’t blame Voltaire or Hume or Jefferson, or even Darwin: blame Hegel and his bastard son Marx and distant cuz Nietzsche, and perhaps German industrialists . And maybe throw in Freud and phenomenology as well in the culprit file (thus Kant to some degree, the father of phenomenology).

Yes, the Enlightenment is not easily reducible to a set of core concepts or figures; nonetheless, I think it can be formulated in analytical terms more or less, and that formulation would include the political as well as philosophical and scientific. And I would assert a writer such as Voltaire may be as important an E. person as the traditional philosophers such as Kant and Hegel, certainly in terms of the effects of his ideas.

Hegel obviously includes much, but, like most analytically-inclined people, I hold that what he includes is not merely a grand system of unverifiable metaphysics, but outright pernicious falsehoods; as one old professor of mine claimed, WWII might be viewed as the clash of the Hegelian right and left , and both of them are wrong, or something to that effect.

Any notion of Reason in history, of some impersonal “telos”, or of a transcendental dialectic seem about as close to truth as like hinduism . And the history of the 20th century shows what sort of progress characterizes the “Geist”, or the marxist version of it. The more empirical, secular aspect of the E.–from Locke and Hume to Voltaire, Rousseau , the encyclopedists, scientists, even a few decent Romantics such as Shelley, to Jefferson, the French republicans–that is the authentic, and viable tradition of the E. (tho’ with mistakes–like Rousseauian “freedom”), and unfairly criticized by all sorts of postmods and multiculturalists.
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