Spotlight

A Few Quotations From The Stanford Encyclopedia On Positive And Negative Freedom

Full entry here. Of course, there are other ways to think about ...

From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Full piece here. The old liberal vs libertarian battle rehashed…link sent in ...

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Full text found here. (updated) I wanted to focus a little on ...

Offering links and thoughts on the Arts, Politics, Political Philosophy and Foreign Affairs.

Sizzler, Members Only, And The Cruelly Misogynist ‘Dark Raider’

Passed along by a reader.  If you haven’t seen this Sizzer promotional video, well then that’s your loss, traitor.

I don’t think that’s a real sailor.

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As previously posted…

If you’re not wearing one of these, you can’t be in the club:

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Master-level social justice warrior trolling may have been reached.

What Are Our Interests? Chattering Away In Washington-A Few Iran Links

I’ve heard it described this way: America used to be like a bouncer at a club (thanks, Britain), and it seems now after signaling to everyone in the club we’re not showing up for work anymore, we’re trying to negotiate with a particular group of pretty powerful, pretty bad group of guys in the club. These guys do bad things, and operate much like a cartel, running guns, militias, terror squads and such in their part of the club.  In fact, some of these guys are some of the worst guys in the club, and unsurprisingly they want to be in charge of the club (unsettling to catch sight of a ‘Death to America’ tattoo close-up amongst the 1979 crowd).

These guys (Shia, Iranian regime) fought a horrific turf war years ago against a guy (Saddam, Sunni, Ba’ath) in whose business many years later, for various reasons, the bouncer got involved.  We went in and took Saddam out (admittedly one of the worst guys in the club..yet…this decision has failed on many basic premises and promises, and left behind a huge mess and a lot of suffering).  The turf war is still going on in various forms, and on a larger scale now.

Our current representative keeps telling us we MUST do business with this group of guys (generally ignoring a lot of other people in the club…Kurds…various other Sunnis and a few semi-allies…and a strong ally and a decent fellow we know well whom everyone else would kill if they got the chance), because, yes, these are the people we can do business with. Other allies, semi-allies, frenemies, but mostly adversaries, are watching the drama unfold and making moves accordingly.We are being told this deal is a moral imperative because, well…peace or bust.

And that’s where a lot of people are looking.

Is it worth having sacrificed American treasure, wealth, time and opportunity costs on removing economic sanctions from the Iranian regime and bringing them a step or two in from the international wilds…for a deal that hasn’t even materialized yet?

***When you think about it, the analogy fails on a number of levels, but I thought I’d share it with the below links, because the ‘club’ is a real mess:

From The Daily Beast: ‘There is No ‘Good’ Shia Militia In Iraq

‘Yet, if the priority is to counter Iran while fighting ISIS, an American modus vivendi with Sadr may be necessary. Certainly the modus vivendi between Sadr and Tehran is not going well. The Iranians have built up numerous Sadrist splinter groups that put pressure on the leader. At the same time, Sadr’s criticism of the actions of Iranian-controlled militias and his more nationalistic tone—going so far as to suspend his group’s activities after the slaying of an Iraqi Sunni tribal leader—certainly demonstrates a shift.’

Michael Totten: ‘Iran’s Goal Is Middle-Eastern Hegemony

‘Iran’s ability to disrupt the Middle East is unmatched by any other state in the region, but it couldn’t conquer and rule the whole area even if it did have nuclear weapons. It can, however, foment fragmentation, chaos, terrorism, and war, and will continue to do so whether or not its government signs and adheres to an agreement with the US. A deal that allows Iran to grow stronger through sanctions relief without addressing any of that, alas, will almost certainly make the Middle East a worse place than it already is.’

The Prospect On Parmenides

The Prospect has a good article here on Parmenides (no longer free).  Stanford’s page here.

“By these arguments, Parmenides arrives at his picture of the world as a single, undifferentiated, unchanging unity. Needless to say, scholars have disagreed over exactly what he meant. They have questioned whether he meant that the universe was one thing, or only that it was undifferentiated.”

Here is a quote from this abstract:

According to Hume, the idea of a persisting, self-identical object, distinct from our impressions of it, and the idea of a duration of time, the mere passage of time without change, are mutually supporting “fictions”. Each rests upon a “mistake”, the commingling of “qualities of the imagination” or “impressions of reflection” with “external” impressions (perceptions), and, strictly speaking, we are conceptually and epistemically entitled to neither.

and also:

Unlike Hume, however, he (Kant) undertakes to establish the legitimacy or objective validity of the schematized category of substance and, correspondingly, of the representation of time as a formal unity with duration as one of its modes.

parmenides.jpg

Repost-George Johnson Reviews “The Drunkard’s Walk” In The NY Times

Full post here.

Well, you probably know that people rarely make rational decisions, but did you realize how easy it is to be wrong?

the additional information skews the odds, and with Cardano’s method you can make a rational, though counterintuitive, decision.

We have all probably “trusted our intuitions” in crucial moments but haven’t had rational explanations for why we did so, or for that matter, we probably don’t have a good definition of what intuition is either.

The Nikzor site has some good fallacies and Marilyn Vos Savant’s (of Parade and Jarvik fame) page has some as well.

*Check out Johnson’s garage band science page if you’re interested in simple experiments, especially to do with electricity.

See AlsoMarilyn Vos Savant:  The Game Show Problem

Repost: A Goya Tour Of Madrid At The NY Times

Full slide show here.

The first modern?

“Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.”

See Also:  Goya’s Fight With Cudgels and Goya’s Colossus.  A very good Goya page here.

Ideology On Campus-Some Links

From The New Criterion: ‘Campus Inquisition:’

‘McAdams ended by observing that, “like the rest of academia, Marquette is less and less a real university. And, when gay marriage cannot be discussed, certainly not a Catholic university.’

From The FIRE blog: ‘Student Accused Of Sexual Assault Sues Brandeis For Alleged Due Process Violations’

‘Of course, how could anyone defend themselves against charges without knowing precisely what those charges are?’

As previously posted:

Camille Paglia’s piece ‘The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil’

Well, I don’t know about the whole campus, but with freedom comes responsibility.

Addition: Or as a friend puts it: Some ideologues on campus want to hermetically seal their place within it, and the campus itself, into a ‘zone’ under which they have influence, where reality and many parts of human nature can’t enter.  This is not practicable long-term.

Some people are trying to erode common sense until it becomes less common:

‘The horrors and atrocities of history have been edited out of primary and secondary education except where they can be blamed on racism, sexism, and imperialism — toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade. But the real problem resides in human nature, which religion as well as great art sees as eternally torn by a war between the forces of darkness and light.’

Well, that’s quite a worldview, but like me, you probably agree that there are bad, possibly evil, crazy, and dangerous people among us. The kinds of extreme badness and goodness one can find in war aren’t really ever that far away.  Our knowledge and our civilization are often assumed to be less fragile than they are.

Related On This Site: Cathy Young At Minding The Campus: ‘The Brown Case: Does It Still Look Like Rape?…The Personal Ain’t Political-Holding The Line Against Rape Ideologues-Conor Friedersdorf On George Will

Christina Hoff Sommers (wikipedia) is trying to replacing gender feminism with equity feminism. She also wrote The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.

Are You Man Enough? Nussbaum v. MansfieldFrom The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Defending Eliot Spitzer…as a man who ought to be free of prostitution laws…but didn’t he prosecute others with those same laws?: Repost: Martha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A very Harvard affair: The Spelke/Pinker debate-The Science Of Gender And Science

Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

From FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’

Greg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

Tuesday Poem-Wallace Stevens

Not Ideas About The Thing But The Thing Itself

At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.

He knew that he heard it,
A bird’s cry, at daylight or before,
In the early March wind.

The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow…
It would have been outside.

It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep’s faded papier-mache…
The sun was coming from the outside.

That scrawny cry–It was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.

Wallace Stevens

David Brooks And Writing For Money

Brooksy’s still out there, via The Guardian:

He should be given credit for noting and categorizing this trend:

‘This may seem like serious stuff to readers who recall Bobos in Paradise, Brooks’s acutely well-observed debut about the new class of “bourgeois bohemians”, the emerging elite who fused the social values of the hippies with the consumerism of the yuppies. Returning to America following a stint in Brussels for the Wall Street Journal, Brooks found that it was “now impossible to tell an espresso-sipping artist from a cappuccino-gulping banker.” (He counted himself a Bobo, as must at least some Guardian readers.) He zeroed in on a new form of conspicuous consumption: a Bobo would never spend thousands on a fancy TV – that would be crass – but would willingly blow cash on “necessities”, such as restaurant-quality kitchen appliances, or a bathroom lined with slate of precisely the right artisanal roughness.’

A sharp-enough guy.  Being the ‘house’ conservative amongst Left and Left-Liberals has its benefits, including gigs at the NY Times and NPR.

‘His support for Obama helped establish him as the incoming president’s favourite conservative: the night before each column appeared, New York magazine reported, he’d get a call from a senior aide asking if the next day would be a good one, meaning: would Brooks praise or criticise the White House?’

Best to stay relevant and not evince a shudder of disgust amongst those movers and shakers in the right rings of public opinion when your career may depend upon it.

Expressing conservative views in the wrong setting can be met with bemused, quizzical stares and even mild shock.  Many citizens are fearful to be seen loping around gun-shows, howling along to the pack-song in the wastes of AM radio, or steadily creeping along university quadrangles as though werewolves in mid-transformation.

All is not well, however.  There is a disturbance in the force; lingering doubts and deeper sorrows:

‘Brooks builds a convincing case that this isn’t just his personal problem but a societal one: that our market-driven meritocracy, even when functioning at its fairest, rewards outer success while discouraging the development of the soul.’

Soul-development will be available in that new book, and at Yale, and at the NY Times, and on NPR.

***Clearly, this is a serious piece, and in no way presented tongue-in-cheek.

As previously posted:

Will Wilkinson found Brooks’ last book lacking:

“The story of Harold and Erica does not really illustrate a new, coherent, science-based theory of human nature. It is a bowl hammered from Brooks’ philosophic predilections into which a jumbled stew of scientific anecdotes is poured.”

and:

“Brooks’ characters are constantly saying and thinking the sort of thing Brooks says and thinks in his opinion columns. They’re constantly made to express what are quite clearly elements of the author’s conception of human nature, sociality, and political life. But this stuff often has little or nothing to do with the “revolutionary” discoveries Brooks says he’s attempting to pull together into a coherent conception of human nature, sociality, and political life”

and:

“I suspect Brooks really does thinks thumos is an essential part of the best big-picture theory of human nature and the good society. But that’s an idea he took from the science-wary Allan Bloom and Harvey Mansfield, not Robert Trivers or David Buss or Geoffrey Miller.”

As before, perhaps it’s worth pointing out that the way in which Brooks goes about analyzing and understanding culture, our relationships to one another, our interior lives etc….is ostensibly through the lens of his understanding of the social sciences.

Charlie Rose has a full interview with Brooks and his last book.

A debate with Milton Friedman, a long time ago, and perhaps not so long ago:

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Also On This Site:  Part of a larger move away from religion…toward social liberalism…libertarianism…liberaltarianism?:  Will Wilkinson And Jonah Goldberg On Bloggingheads: Updating Libertarianism?…A hip, more diverse conservatism?: RealClearPolitics reviews Grand New Party here….From Will Wilkinson-A Response To Kay Hymowitz: ‘The “Menaissance” and Its Dickscontents’

Harvey Mansfield At Defining Ideas: ‘Democracy Without Politics?’

Morals have roots in emotions…neuroscience toward Hume?:  Jesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

-Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

Related On This Site: Repost-A Quotation From Emerson-Some Thoughts On Hipsterdom & ‘The Culture’The Cresting Of A Hipster Wave?-From The New York Observer: ‘Brooklyn Is Now Officially Over: The Ascendance of Brooklyn, the Lifestyle, Above All Else’

David Brooks, We Hardly Knew Ye-One Nation Under The Best & Brightest Long-Term Planners

Repost-From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-‘Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Full piece here.

Metcalf is arguing, I think, that Nozick’s reasoning is unsound (philosophical father?).  Here’s Metcalf:

‘When I study American history, I can see why America, thanks to a dense bundle of historical accidents, is a kind of Lockean paradise, uniquely suited to holding up liberty as its paramount value. This is not what Nozick is arguing. Nozick is arguing that liberty is the sole value, and to put forward any other value is to submit individuals to coercion.’

Well, it’s good to see a modern liberal appeal to Lockean life, liberty and property, even if for other ends (to position Nozick as extreme, and libertarians as outside the norm of a more reasonable definition of liberty).  Here’s the Internet Encyclopedia Of Philosophy’s page on Nozick:

‘Nozick takes his position to follow from a basic moral principle associated with Immanuel Kant and enshrined in Kant’s second formulation of his famous Categorical Imperative: “Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.” ‘

and:

‘But if individuals are inviolable ends-in-themselves (as Kant describes them) and self-owners, it follows, Nozick says, that they have certain rights, in particular (and here again following Locke) rights to their lives, liberty, and the fruits of their labor. To own something, after all, just is to have a right to it, or, more accurately, to possess the bundle of rights – rights to possess something, to dispose of it, to determine what may be done with it, etc. ‘

thus:

‘So far this all might seem fairly uncontroversial. But what follows from it, in Nozick’s view, is the surprising and radical conclusion that taxation, of the redistributive sort in which modern states engage in order to fund the various programs of the bureaucratic welfare state, is morally illegitimate. It amounts to a kind of forced labor’

Perhaps you find Nozick’s minimally intrusive, all-that’s-morally-justifiable “night watchman” state inadequate for how people actually behave (Nozick was well prepared, however, for many of your arguments). Let’s say you’re OK with paying taxes for roads and public education (as for me I know quite well that incentives can be distorted: state workers often getting lazy, bored, resentful at their bosses, aiming for retirement etc…teachers not often being the best minds, some quite mediocre, also aiming for retirement and benefits, bored, the creative ones ground down by the red tape and petty bureaucracy…and this is if both groups DON”T unionize).  But no state services for roads and education?

So, what is Metcalf’s response to Nozick?  After two readings, I’m still unclear:

The ploy is to take libertarianism as Orwell meant it and confuse it with libertarianism as Hayek meant it; to take a faith in the individual as an irreducible unit of moral worth, and turn it into a weapon in favor of predation.’

The ploy?  Predation?  Clarity please.

‘When Hayek insists welfare is the road is to serfdom, when Nozick insists that progressive taxation is coercion, they take liberty hostage in order to prevent a reasoned discussion about public goods from ever taking place.’

Not too impressive.  I could see how liberals might want to keep Rand and F.A. Hayek and perhaps Nozick (thinkers grappling with communism and socialism on the ground in the former cases…and the results in both Russia and Austria…from defining the debate, but….well…make the arguments).   Comments might be worth a read.

Addition:  Libertarianism often rises during liberal administrations, and is particularly active in California.  If liberalism has at its core some socialist and communist elements (and in my experience, it does), then I see a real need for a Nozickian defense of liberty as do many libertarians and Californians who’ve seen the rise of a union and special interest controlled democratic party, crony capitalism, and much corruption and waste.  Those are serious threats to individual liberty as are the good intentions of many universalists and idealists, even if you find Nozick extreme.

As to Nozick perhaps unwittingly building a Kantian/Lockean extreme defense of liberty, built upon the largesse of a mix of state/private enterprise that modern liberalism has helped build, then where is a more clear path from modern liberalism to classical liberalism, and to Locke?

Related On This SiteA Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

On anarchy: Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’The Politics Of Noam Chomsky-The Dangers Of Kantian Transcendental Idealism?

Tuesday Quotation: J.S. MillPeter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

There are other ponds: A Few Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’

Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

Piece here (link may return behind a paywall)

A good analysis, likely worth your time. ======================

This blog remains skeptical, and mostly critical (surprise me) of the potential Iran deal so far, because, as Richard Epstein has pointed out, without the threat of force, the deal doesn’t have the leverage needed to really put pressure where it’s needed:  Upon a throughly committed, anti-American incentivized group of mullahs and post-1979 revolutionaries running terrorism, militias, guns and money around the region (and sometimes further afield) to become as powerful as they can.

Deliverable nukes are not just a means for an authoritarian theocracy to keep repressing its own people (though there’s plenty of that) nor a way to quell Iranian hostility towards and isolation from international institutions (plenty of that, too), but also a way for deeper Persian, Shia, and national Iranian identity and pride to assert itself in a dangerous region under an authoritarian theocracy. The basic security issues are more than mullah-deep, and the basic security of the Saudis, Israelis, and other interested Sunni-led countries and parties leads one to conclude this could easily turn into an arms race.

This is very risky if you’d prefer peace, or fighting the wars that you need to fight for the security of yourself and your own people, for treaties, alliances and trade, basic human rights or whatever interest or ideal you’d like to see leading our policy in the world (I’d prefer to stay ahead of war in the first place). More details at the link:

‘Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites.’

The negotiations may yet do a lot of harm because they may not be capable of stopping the Iranian regime from buying time, nor ultimately getting deliverable nukes, nor changing nor constraining their activities enough for the possible opportunity costs involved. Our authors finish with:

If the world is to be spared even worse turmoil, the U.S. must develop a strategic doctrine for the region. Stability requires an active American role. For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community, the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East and challenge the broader international order. Until clarity on an American strategic political concept is reached, the projected nuclear agreement will reinforce, not resolve, the world’s challenges in the region. Rather than enabling American disengagement from the Middle East, the nuclear framework is more likely to necessitate deepening involvement there—on complex new terms. History will not do our work for us; it helps only those who seek to help themselves

Addition:  Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’ takes the classical liberal, non anti-war libertarian position:

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind.  The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’

Another Addition: Adam Garfinkle has a thoughtful piece on American political discourse and the Iran deal.

Another Addition: Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill  Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy
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