Spotlight

Ah, Look At All The Lonely People-‘Jeff Koons Is Back’ Via Vanity Fair

Full piece here. -Koons gets the Annie Leibovitz treatment (an unfortunate photo ...

Update & Repost-A Reaction To Jeff Koons-For Commerce Or Contemplation?

Koons has a retrospective at the Whitney going on right now: —————– ...

Repost-A Reaction To Jeff Koons-For Commerce Or Contemplation?

—————– Koons’ site here.  Part 1 of a 5-part documentary above. I often ...

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

Trolley Problems, Utilitarian Logic, Liberty, Self-Defense & Property

As originally linked:

From Darwinian Conservatism-‘Trolleyology & Rawlsian Moral Grammar

For a Kantian utilitarian like Singer, the relevant moral principle in the trolley problem–that five deaths are worse than one death–is the same in both cases, and therefore Singer would pull the switch and push the fat man. For Singer, the 10% of the people who would push the fat man are rightly following pure moral reason, while the other 90% are allowing their emotions to override their reason, because from the viewpoint of pure reason, there is no morally relevant difference between the two cases.’

How far will utilitarian logic go?

A few more links:  From Tomkow.com ‘Trolley Problems:’

‘Then too, according to many accounts of self-defense, the right self-defense entrains the right of “other-defense”; so that if someone is permitted to defend themselves against an action then others are likewise permitted to intervene to help them prevent it. Perhaps, when folks express qualms about pushing the Fat Man they are sensitive to the fact that it may be permissible for third parties to forcibly restrain them.

Or, maybe, folks see a moral difference between, on the one hand, saving the lives of five people and, on the other, forcing someone else to save those lives.’

From the comments:

‘This is why I’ve always used the trolley problem simply as an illustrative guide, one which clearly points out the difference between comission and omission. The point about utilitarianism is not that it gets the answer to this particular problem wrong, but rather that it cannot make sense of this distinction. -‘

From another post at Tomkow.com on property:  The Origins Of Property II, which finds the typical Hobbes-Locke-Nozick libertarian defense of private property inadequate:

‘An “absolutist” about property rights is someone who says that — freezing or not—it is morally impermissible for the hiker to use the cabin without the owner’s permission and that if the owner had been around he would have been within his rights to kick the hiker out to die in the snow or shoot him like a common burglar. Because the hiker violates the owner’s property rights he is morally obliged to pay the owner compensation in full for all damage done -

I had an interesting discussion with a Kantian about the coming abolition of property rights…

A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy..A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche ConnectionDinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

You Can Be Anything You Want-A Few Sunday Links

From this piece here as previously posted, lots of food for thought, including mention of Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama:

‘ And isn’t the great foreign-policy debate of our time—whether America should continue its post–Cold War policy of interventionism in the name of American exceptionalism and Western universalism; or whether it should abandon that mission in favor of a more measured exercise of its military and economic power—fundamentally a debate over whether Spengler had it right?’

Well worth a read.

How active is American exceptionalism when it comes to American foreign policy, and will the propensity for American idealism and exuberance find channels other than exceptionalism?

Is it merely dormant?

Robert Kaplan’s brief summation of Samuel Huntington’s ideas here:

“• The fact that the world is modernizing does not mean that it is Westernizing. The impact of urbanization and mass communications, coupled with poverty and ethnic divisions, will not lead to peoples’ everywhere thinking as we do.

• Asia, despite its ups and downs, is expanding militarily and economically. Islam is exploding demographically. The West may be declining in relative influence.

• Culture-consciousness is getting stronger, not weaker, and states or peoples may band together because of cultural similarities rather than because of ideological ones, as in the past.

• The Western belief that parliamentary democracy and free markets are suitable for everyone will bring the West into conflict with civilizations—notably, Islam and the Chinese—that think differently.

• In a multi-polar world based loosely on civilizations rather than on ideologies, Americans must reaffirm their Western identity.”

Worth thinking about.  His Political Order In Changing Societies challenged modernization theory.

The baby-boomers are still talking about themselves, and perhaps it’s still important.

A line by O’Rourke which stirs  libertarian sympathies:

We’re creating a political system upon which everybody is dependent.’

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Did the 60’s counter-culture and the conservative counter-counter culture both win, in a sense?

Christopher Hitchens, William F. Buckley and Peter Robinson discuss below, including the sexual revolution:

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From 2008-Friedrich Hayek Discussion On Bloggingheads

Full diavlog here.

Duke professor Bruce Caldwell talks about his then new book on Hayek, an intellectual biography.

Things Are Heating Up In Ukraine

Lilia Shevtsova At The American Interest ‘Putin Ends The Interregnum:’

‘What a mess Putin has gotten us all into! But let’s also give him his due: He has paved the way for the emergence of new trends—or at least he’s called the existing ones into serious question. He has also facilitated the formation of Ukrainian national identity, ensuring that the country will never again become a mere extension of Russia. He has thus undermined his own dream—that of creating the Eurasian Union. He has precipitated a crisis in his own country, making its future path completely unpredictable. And finally, he has reminded NATO of its mission and prompted the liberal democracies to reflect on their own principles.’

It seems there’s a Russian ethno-nationalist core Putin’s playing to aside from the clear interest in Crimea and a corridor that means splitting Ukraine in two.  Just how Putin defines that core in order to play-up to Russian pride, nostalgia and national security via his own power via a cagey ex-KGB, authoritarian, petro-Czar ruling-style is up for debate.

Over at the New Republic, they’re going to have to work harder to figure out how to maintain humanist, Left-liberal ideals in the face of such meddling and aggression (they might have to think about rebuilding the Peretz wall separating a kind of liberalism from full-on Lefty activism that new ownership has since removed):

Putin Will Never, Ever Admit That Russia Has Invaded Ukraine

‘The Kremlin will continue to deny its involvement in Ukraine, and the U.S. and E.U. will take their time calling this an outright invasion. Russia has made its objectives in Ukraine clear, and has signalled its resolute unwillingness to participate in military negotiations while its political concerns go unresolved.’

It’s pretty clear the Georgia model is in play, to some extent.  Ukraine’s economy is weak, and its civil institutions very corrupt, but Putin’s aims are pretty clear.

An interesting interview with an American volunteer with Army experience and Ukrainian roots who’s joined the fight.  A surprisingly reasonable-sounding guy via VICE:

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Via a reader: George Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram’ back to Washington in 1946.

From Vlad’s pen to NY Times readers’ eyes.

Also On This Site: Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Some Links On Foreign Policy & Ukraine…Kasparov, Kerry, Putin & Obama?-Some Links On Ukraine

James Baker At The NY Times: ‘3 Presidents and a Riddle Named Putin’

Nearly three years ago now: Eric Posner At The Volokh Conspiracy: The Bear Is Back!

Repost-Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’

Full piece here.

Briton Ed West is leaving the Telegraph and offers some thoughts:

‘Conservatism is depressive realism. That’s not to say that things are always bad, or necessarily getting worse, but that there is a natural tendency among humans to ignore problems, and it’s our job to point this out.’

He finishes with:

‘So thank you, and I will continue somewhere the struggle against cultural Marxism, the Frankfurt School, Lib-Lab-Con, Common Purpose, Gramscian hegemony and reality in general. And remember, if you think things are bad, they can always get worse, and probably will.’

Adios.

Perhaps you can hold out more hope than the Stoics did, even a muted optimism for some improvement of the human condition and our institutions.  Though not by forcing human nature to conform top-down rationalism nor our institutions to meet impossibly idealistic goals.

In the modern age it often it so boils down to:  Stop!

Related On This Site:  Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Some Links From The Left-Liberal Side

You don’t need necessarily need a driver’s license in France, but your driving-school does need a state-mandated DVD player:

‘Francis Kramarz, an economist who has studied the French licensing system, says that barriers to getting a license are so high that about one million French people, who should have licenses, have never been able to get them. Although it is technically possible to reduce the cost by having parents teach students in a dual-control car, few expect to succeed this way, and so it is rarely done.
Mr. Kramarz said that it often costs 3,000 euros, or about $3,900, to get a license. But others said the average was closer to 1,500 to 2,000 euros.’

Let’s be like Europe!

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Surely, all the moral equivalence and moral rationalism that finds expression in comparing Israeli deaths and Palestinian deaths equally and ignoring much else is….purely rational.  Such calculations float free above the frenzied passions and direct needs of many coalitions of Left, Left-liberal and even anti-semitic sentiment looking for oppressed victim classes in the Palestinians and Hamas through a certain ideological lens.  Social justice is nigh.

Freddie deBoer, Lefty with some socialist leanings, explains his reasoning here.

Maverick Philosopher takes a look at some of Juan Cole’s statements:

‘What Cole has given us is a text-book example of ignoratio elenchi.  This is an informal fallacy of reasoning committed by a person who launches into the refutation of some thesis that is  other than the one being forwarded by the dialectical opponent. ‘

—————

So that Libyan intervention didn’t work out too well. Competing militias fight for control as does a very weak government.  The French had to go in to Mali to contain some of the spillover from Gadhafi’s overthrow, and now the UAE and Egypt are trying to have some influence.

From Via Media: ‘Egypt, UAE Join Libyan Afterparty:’

‘Since the beginning of the current crises in the Middle East, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have been attacking terror groups, standing beside Israel against Hamas, and confronting Iran. Unlovely though these allies may sometimes be, they are embracing a war on extremism that the U.S. has been pushing hard for a decade. Yet the Obama Administration has been giving them the cold shoulder, betting instead on ideas that look increasingly tenuous: a grand bargain with Iran, pressuring Israel to achieve peace with Hamas, and looking to mediations and the UN to repair Libya, even as it collapses into civil war.’

Don’t worry, this will all work-out.

Tuesday Poem: Richard Eberhart’s “The Groundhog”

The Groundhog

In June, amid the golden fields,
I saw a groundhog lying dead.
Dead lay he; my senses shook,
And mind outshot our naked frailty.
There lowly in the vigorous summer
His form began its senseless change,
And made my senses waver dim
Seeing nature ferocious in him.
Inspecting close his maggots’ might
And seething cauldron of his being,
Half with loathing, half with a strange love,
I poked him with an angry stick.
The fever arose, became a flame
And Vigour circumscribed the skies,
Immense energy in the sun,
And through my frame a sunless trembling.
My stick had done nor good nor harm.
Then stood I silent in the day
Watching the object, as before;
And kept my reverence for knowledge
Trying for control, to be still,
To quell the passion of the blood;
Until I had bent down on my knees
Praying for joy in the sight of decay.
And so I left; and I returned
In Autumn strict of eye, to see
The sap gone out of the groundhog,
But the bony sodden hulk remained.
But the year had lost its meaning,
And in intellectual chains
I lost both love and loathing,
Mured up in the wall of wisdom.
Another summer took the fields again
Massive and burning, full of life,
But when I chanced upon the spot
There was only a little hair left,
And bones bleaching in the sunlight
Beautiful as architecture;
I watched them like a geometer,
And cut a walking stick from a birch.
It has been three years, now.
There is no sign of the groundhog.
I stood there in the whirling summer,
My hand capped a withered heart,
And thought of China and of Greece,
Of Alexander in his tent;
Of Montaigne in his tower,
Of Saint Theresa in her wild lament.

As posted. It’s late August now, but the issue comes up from time to time.

For a friend.

Compstat For Prosecutors? Hipsters Late To The Game? How Far Will Utilitarian Logic Go?

Heather MacDonald at the City Journal-‘Prosecution Gets Smart:’

The police, and now prosecutors, are responding to available data and new strategies that respond to that data.

MacDonald:

‘The rethinking of prosecution has only begun. Gascon is exploring the idea of predictive prosecution, echoing the nascent predictive policing concept. “We want to create tools to project crime patterns several years out” by mapping the connections between victims and offenders in a neighborhood, he says. In addition, he wants improved means of measuring whether his office’s court filings are targeted efficiently.’

How much of good policing and prosecution will ultimately rely on the judgment and experience of police officers working their beats and prosecutors working their caseloads?

How much on the the politics and policies of the day?

How much on data and technology?

I’m guessing that in the roughest neighborhoods, the cliche often found in movies carries some weight: The character and dedication of good police officers keeps the bad guys in check, and the good guys from becoming the bad.

Hipster Real Estate At The New York Times:

‘By many measures, Jeff Huston and his wife, Lisa Medvedik-Huston, arrived late to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They weren’t among the first waves of artists and hipsters in the early-to-mid ’90s to cross the East River in search of cheaper, grittier confines.’

At least none of the guys have gone-in for hyphenated names yet.  That’s the event horizon. One thing that seems to have changed in the latest rounds of gentrification are some of the ideals guiding the people moving into Brooklyn and making it a brand…i.e. the ‘hipsters.’

Surely people aren’t so naive and idealistic as to not understand gentrification?

From Darwinian Conservatism-‘Trolleyology & Rawlsian Moral Grammar

‘For a Kantian utilitarian like Singer, the relevant moral principle in the trolley problem–that five deaths are worse than one death–is the same in both cases, and therefore Singer would pull the switch and push the fat man. For Singer, the 10% of the people who would push the fat man are rightly following pure moral reason, while the other 90% are allowing their emotions to override their reason, because from the viewpoint of pure reason, there is no morally relevant difference between the two cases.’

How far will utilitarian logic go?

A reader sent in this quote by Ken Minogue, conservative British thinker, found on page 20 in the first print edition of ‘The Liberal Mind:’

‘Liberalism has come more and more to see politics simply as a technical activity like any other. We first decide what it is that we want, how we think our society ought to be organized, and then we seek the means to our end. It means, for example, that all widespread problems turn into political problems, inviting a solution by state activity. Faced with backsliding, governments must coerce. They must control the climate of thought in which people live, and if necessary engage in large scale and protracted repression in order to keep a public consistent with what it seemed to want at some time in the past.’

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

Sunday Poem-Galway Kinnell

Telephoning In Mexican Sunlight

Talking with my beloved in New York
I stood at the outdoor public telephone
in Mexican sunlight, in my purple shirt.
Someone had called it a man/woman
shirt. The phrase irked me. But then
I remembered that Rainer Maria
Rilke, who until he was seven wore
dresses and had long yellow hair,
wrote that the girl he almost was
“made her bed in his ear” and “slept him the world.”
I thought, OK this shirt will clothe the other in me.
As we fell into long-distance love talk
a squeaky chittering started up all around,
and every few seconds came a sudden loud
buzzing. I half expected to find
the insulation on the telephone line
laid open under the pressure of our talk
leaking low-frequency noises.
But a few yards away a dozen hummingbirds,
gorgets going drab or blazing
according as the sun struck them,
stood on their tail rudders in a circle
around my head, transfixed
by the flower-likeness of the shirt.
And perhaps also by a flush rising into my face,
for a word — one with a thick sound,
as if a porous vowel had sat soaking up
saliva while waiting to get spoken,
possibly the name of some flower
that hummingbirds love, perhaps
“honeysuckle” or “hollyhock”
or “phlox” — just then shocked me
with its suddenness, and this time
apparently did burst the insulation,
letting the word sound in the open
where all could hear, for these tiny, irascible,
nectar-addicted puritans jumped back
all at once, as if the air gasped.

-Galway Kinnell

Three Friday Links-Public Sector Unions, The ‘Libertarian Moment,’ & Ken Burns’ Logic

From The Federalist: ‘12 Things You Need To Know About Government Unions:’

A quote that jumps out regarding the Harris v. Quinn case:

‘If the Supreme Court had found the scheme to be constitutionally permissible, the implications would have been enormous. Doctors who accepted Medicare or Medicaid could have been forced by gubernatorial executive order or state legislation to accept a particular private organization as their lobbying agent. Moreover, doctors could have been forced to pay mandatory dues and fees to such an organization.’

Richard Epstein has a piece and podcast on the ‘Libertarian Moment.’ He’s been lately making a good case for classical liberalism/libertarianism. For my piece, if individuals, aided by technology, are increasingly disconnected from the Charles Murray-esque traditional civic and religious structures, voluntary associations and obligations of small-town American life, does it follow these individuals will embrace libertarian reasoning?

My guess is, a majority clearly doesn’t, and perhaps never will. Will the libertarian coalitions forever be tilting at windmills?

I suppose we’ll see.

Addition: Two angry emails already.  I’m just trying to be realistic, here, people.

Another quote that jumps out from the below video from Reason’s Nick Gillespie interviewing Ken Burns, whose pieces often end-up on public television:

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In the video Burns discusses how he is primarily an artist, not an historian. He does, believe, however, that his work has other goals besides art. He sees himself as:

“…rooted in a humanist tradition of American History..that includes not just the old top down version, but the bottom up version that acknowledges women and labor and minorities….”

I’m guessing such a vision of the public good acts as a beacon for many at PBS, NPR, and other people interested in speaking for all of the public. Usually they end up, like all of us, presuming their ideals are universal and forming coalitions of self-interest, money, sentiment, political influence etc.  Their ideals have clear limitations and consequences.

Who among us can speak for all the public, or design some rational framework upon epistemological foundations that could ever do so?

To my ears, it’s pretty clear Burns’ ideals lead him to his own top-down version of things.  It would seem Big Labor, Left-liberal Woody Guthrie-like populism, coalitions of 60’s activists, feminists, environmentalists etc. tend to prosper under such a vision.

At what cost to me, to you, to those who might not share in the ideals?

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