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

Blog Counter

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.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Doktor Dark, Fred Chopin
Voting, continued

Though most Americans have a great deal of faith in democratic political processes such as voting, choosing representatives by means of elections-- whether at local, state, or national levels--does not necessarily produce the best candidate. For instance, the 36th District's scurrent Assemblyperson, Sharon Runner, had little to no experience in politics prior to running for office--her job experience seems to have been limited to real estate sales; additionally, she does not possess a college degree. Her opponent, a Mr. Scioneaux, I believe, did have some experience with politics and a college education, and worked as a teacher. Regardless of Mr. Scioneaux's politics, or education, AV voters decided to vote in Ms. Runner. Did the best person win (i.e most qualified, intelligent, experienced), or was it instead merely the person who most AV voters liked, for whatever reason? It's unlikely that the decision was based on what voters thought of the intelligence of the two candidates, since, at least on paper, Mr. Scioneaux appears to have quite a bit more education than Ms. Runner. That's not to say Mr. Scioneaux would have been preferable to Ms. Runner, but merely to note that winning elections has little to do with the worth of a candidate's specific political or economic policies, but lots to do with imagery and marketing (though the person who obtains enough press photos rubbing shoulders with the cops and/or wealthy developers generally will go on to Victory).
Custom Search

Blog Archive