From Slate Star Codex: ‘All In All, Another Brick In The Motte’

Click through (great comments)

‘The original Shackel paper is intended as a critique of post-modernism. Post-modernists sometimes say things like “reality is socially constructed”, and there’s an uncontroversially correct meaning there. We don’t experience the world directly, but through the categories and prejudices implicit to our society; for example, I might view a certain shade of bluish-green as blue, and someone raised in a different culture might view it as green. Okay.’

From Remarks On Bertrand Russell’s Theory Of Knowledge:

“The following, however, appears to me to be correct in Kant’s statement of the problem: in thinking we use, with a certain “right,” concepts to which there is no access from the materials of sensory experience, if the situation is viewed from the logical point of view.

As a matter of fact, I am convinced that even much more is to be asserted: the concepts which arise in our thought and in our linguistic expressions are all — when viewed logically — the free creations of thought which cannot inductively be gained from sense experiences.”

From Bloggingheads: Adam Frank And Eliezer Yudkowsky Discuss The Epistemology Of ScienceFrom Bloggingheads: Adam Frank And Eliezer Yudkowsky Discuss The Epistemology Of Science

Repost-Saturday Quotations: Bertrand Russell & Niccolo Machiavelli

“Government can easily exist without laws, but law cannot exist without government.”

Bertrand Russell

“It is necessary for him who lays out a state and arranges laws for it to presuppose that all men are evil and that they are always going to act according to the wickedness of their spirits whenever they have free scope.”

Niccolo Machiavelli

“We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

From the Declaration Of Independence.

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How PC Can You Be? A Few Links

First, a quote I keep putting up from Karl Popper:

“…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”

Now, some folks further Left are taking-on those in the more ‘liberal establishment’ in a contest of ideological purity:

Alex Pareene at Gawker on Jonathan Chait’s pushback against the PC crowd:

“[Political correctness] also makes money,” Chait says, using, as his example, one BuzzFeed post about microaggressions that has “received more than 2 million views.” I’m guessing that Chait makes quite a bit more money than the person who compiled that post. In fact, that’s true of nearly everyone who is presented as a victim of political correctness in Chait’s essay, from millionaire comedian Bill Maher to the anonymous professor at a prestigious university: They all enjoy superior social status to the people who are supposedly silencing or terrifying them. It’s hard to see how democracy was significantly harmed by Condoleezza Rice not giving a commencement address.’

PC isn’t just a vehicle for fame or money for the true believers. The truly ‘virtuous’ know all about the plight of the poor and the underclasses, and while they may not know exactly who’s deserving of power, they know the world as it really is and as it’s going to be.  The Bill Mahers and Jonathan Chaits of the world may share common ground, but they too, are either for or against the march to equali-topia.

When exactly did what I would call such a radical worldview became mainstream enough for Gawker?  I’m not sure exactly…

This blog is guessing that a good litmus test for how the ‘liberal establishment’ deals with the further Left, the radical and activist base, will be in Hilary Clinton’s behavior should she choose (still looking likely) to run for office again.  Can’t seem ‘warmongering,’ uncool, ‘racist.’

Political risk and calculation in dealing with this base, how much she will need those in this ideological camp, and most in the popular media who don’t often think beyond what’s popular and what gets ratings; all will likely be involved.

Where will that less radical liberal center be?

Libertarian editor of Reason Matt Welch took a look at the change of ownership at the New Republic under Chris Hughes, and the move further Leftward:

‘The great irony is that The New Republic is repudiating contrarian neoliberalism precisely when we need it most. Obama proposes in his State of the Union address to jack up the minimum wage to $9 an hour, and instead of surveying the vast skeptical academic literature, or asking (pace Charles Peters) whether such liberal gestures are “more about preserving their own gains than about helping those in need,” TNR columnist Timothy Noah declares, “Raise the Minimum Wage! And make it higher than what Obama just proposed.”

Adam Kirsch, Simon Blackburn, Martha Nussbaum, John Gray.  Here are a few links on this site to the New Republic:  Leon Wieseltier At The New Republic: ‘A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher’Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’

Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘Look Away From Europe’s Muslim Problem’

Full piece here.

But of course the most worrying aspect of the situation is the attraction of jihadi ideology for young Muslims. It is impossible to gauge exactly the degree or strength of support for it: opinion surveys are all but useless. The least one can say, however, is that jihadism attracts both those with bright and dim futures, and according to official calculations, some 2,200 youthful jihadis from France, Britain, and Belgium alone have gone to Syria. This is a far more than sufficient pool of murderous religious ideologues to cause untold havoc in Europe.’

Medieval Times-Roaming The Gloom With Theory: Interview With Michel Hollebecq

So, You’re Telling Me What’s Cool?-Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘Banksy In Neverland’Terrifying News Story Of The Day-From The London Evening Standard: ‘Man Butchered By ‘Terror’ Pair’Horror And Hope-Some Links On Rebuilding After 9/11

Which Lens Are You Using? Some Links

David Hockney ‘On Secret Knowledge: On Rediscovering The Lost Secrets Of The Old Masters’:

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Optical devices were likely common practice more than is commonly known these days, way before the camera, the television etc.

As previously posted:

Just as optics revolutionized the sciences and the boundaries of human knowledge, from Galileo to Newton and onwards, Tim Jenison wonders if optics may have revolutionized the arts as well.

‘But still, exactly how did Vermeer do it? One day, in the bathtub, Jenison had a eureka moment: a mirror. If the lens focused its image onto a small, angled mirror, and the mirror was placed just between the painter’s eye and the canvas, by glancing back and forth he could copy that bit of image until the color and tone precisely matched the reflected bit of reality.’

Good Vermeer page here for a refresher on the Dutch master.

Penn & Teller helped make a documentary which has gotten good reviews, entitled ‘Tim’s Vermeer.

They discuss the project and Tim’s theory below (perhaps only the Girl With The Pearl Earring knows for sure if the painter used such a technique):

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Interesting quotation from Quora, on Richard Feynman’s discussion of light in ‘QED: The Strange Theory Of Light And Matter’:

‘Mirrors and pools of water work pretty much the same way. Light interacts with electrons on the surface. Under the laws of quantum mechanics, each photon interacts with ALL of the electrons on the surface, and the net result is the sum of all possible pathways. If the surface is perfectly smooth, then most of the pathways cancel each other out, except for the one where the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. ‘

Click through for the illustrations to help explain Feynman’s theory, which fascinated me when I first came across it; much as I understand of it.

Have you ever seen sunlight reflecting off a body of water from a few thousand feet up in a plane?  A rainbow in a puddle with some oil in it?  A laser reflecting off a smooth surface like a mirror?

Related On This Site: In The Mail: Vivian Maier

Goya, that modern, had to make a living from the royal family: Goya’s ColossusGoya’s Fight With CudgelsGoethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersNASA Composite Image Of The Earth At Night…Beauty?Garrett Mattingly On Machiavelli-The Prince: Political Science Or Political Satire?

Repost-From The NY Times: Schlieren

Repost-Megan McArdle At The Daily Beast: ‘America’s New Mandarins’

Full post here.

‘In fact, I think that to some extent, the current political wars are a culture war not between social liberals and social conservatives, but between the values of the mandarin system, and the values of those who compete in the very different culture of ordinary businesses–ones outside glamor industries like tech or design.’

I’m still thinking some of those people in ‘the ruling class’ are going to need some support if the public backlash gets too strong (Washington D.C. is the ‘Hunger Games Capitol City‘).  To some extent they are us, after all, elected to do the necessary evil of hashing out our business within our Constitutional framework, even if many in our society’s vision of leadership is a group of insulated scholar-bureaucrats.  The sausage still needs to get made, and we’ve got to get the incentives right.

I wouldn’t exactly call tech ‘glamour,’ either, especially as it can be a kind of white collar wage slavery for coders and programmers.  Design, too, you know, has to work.  Usually, that isn’t glamorous.

Comments are worth a read.

Possibly Useful Links On This Site:

-Repost-Kenneth Anderson At Volokh: ‘The Fragmenting of the New Class Elites, Or, Downward Mobility’

Thoughts about our political class-Francis Fukuyama And Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘None Of The Above’

Angelo Codevilla’s polemic: America’s Ruling Class-And The Perils Of Revolution.

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Mentioned in the Comments

Jonathan Rauch at Reason takes a look at Charles Murray’s Coming Apart.

Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

From Maverick Philosopher: ‘Peter van Inwagen, “A Theory Of Properties,” Exposition And Critique

Exposition and critique here.

‘I’ll begin the critique with the last point. “We never see properties, although we see that certain things have certain properties.” (179)  If van Inwagen can ‘peter out,’ so can I: I honestly don’t know what to make of the second  clause of the quoted sentence.  I am now, with a brain properly caffeinated, staring at my blue coffee cup in good light.  Van Inwagen’s claim is that I do not see the blueness of the cup, though I do see that the cup is blue.  Here I balk.  If I don’t see blueness, or blue, when I look at the cup, how can I see (literally see, with the eyes of the head, not the eye of the mind) that the cup is blue?’

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

Interview With Vladimir Nabokov In The Paris Review

Interview here.

A little bit about politics and also the politics amidst fellow writers and critics:

‘…when in doubt, I always follow the simple method of choosing that line of conduct which may be the most displeasing to the Reds and the Russells.’

and:

‘Who’s in, who’s out, and where are the snows of yesteryear. All very amusing. I am a little sorry to be left out. Nobody can decide if I am a middle-aged American writer or an old Russian writer—or an ageless international freak.’

On his professional collection of butterflies:

‘The pleasures and rewards of literary inspiration are nothing beside the rapture of discovering a new organ under the microscope or an undescribed species on a mountainside in Iran or Peru. It is not improbable that had there been no revolution in Russia, I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology and never written any novels at all.’

Via Youtube: An interviewer, Nabokov and Lionel Trilling discuss ‘Lolita:’

Trying To Keep Up With Events-A Few Middle-East Links

Michael Totten at World Affairs:

‘Hezbollah is fighting against Sunni jihadists in Syria on behalf of the Iranian and Syrian regimes, but that doesn’t mean it has abandoned its war against Israel. If the Syrian regime doesn’t survive, Hezbollah won’t be able to receive high-grade weapon systems from Iran anymore. It already has a formidable missile arsenal and can now—unlike during the 2006 war—inflict significant damage on Tel Aviv and even Jerusalem if it dares’

Eli Lake at Bloomberg-There’s diplomacy involved:

‘All of this gets to a paradox of the war on terror. It has never been a war on the tactic of terrorism, and it has always been a war against networks of radical Islamists. But in order to wage that war, the U.S. has had to ally with Muslim countries and people, many of whom believe the state should punish apostates, adulterers and blasphemers.’

Adam Garfinkle plays the mug’s game and makes some prognostications:

But, who really knows?  Here’s a reasonable one:

‘The P5/Iranian nuclear negotiations will not produce a deal, because no deal the Obama Administration can get would pass muster in Congress. The superficial thawing of U.S.-Iranian relations will refreeze; marginal violence in a new U.S.-Iranian shadow war will occur as Iran draws ever closer to breakout capacity. Israel will not strike Iran; the Obama Administration will try to buy time via a selected extension of the interim deal as the sanctions regime continues to fray.’

Repost-A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

Progressive Convention, 1912. Moffett Studio & Kaufmann, Weimer & Fabry Co.  Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-USZ62-116075

Progressive Convention, 1912. Moffett Studio & Kaufmann, Weimer & Fabry Co. Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-USZ62-116075

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Current liberal establishment thinking under Obama is naturally reacting to Obama’s leadership.  I’d argue that it’s getting more difficult to appreciate self-reliance as a result, and to maintain a healthy respect for the limits of government.   A healthy respect for the limits of government reflects a healthy understanding of human nature, its limitations, and the fact that all politics is local.  Power ultimately rests with “We the People,” after all.

Obama’s activist brand of local politics benefits from a lack of self-reliance in people, otherwise the need for the activist is lessened.  Activists become adept at organizing and inspiring (if not inciting) people to collective action under collectivist principles.  Once organized, the people’s interests can be aimed toward broader goals, some quite productive, but many often extracting money from businesses as well as federal and local governments.  Activists can be rabble-rousers, or they can be high-minded, but the model they’re using relies on redistributive logic (getting other people’s money redistributed to themselves and their constituents).

Political power is too easily the currency and the reward.

In the long run, obviously, there’s only so much of other people’s money to go around.  In the long run, there’s always a nagging question of how much the activist is really doing for his constituents by gaining all that political power for himself.  In the long run, we’re all more likely to have a few ruling the many under such a model, through an erosion of self-reliance.  In the long run, we’re more likely to end up in “tyranny of the majority” scenarios.

The growth of federal programs under Obama has been dramatic.  We still have many unelected czars and it looks as though Obamacare may be here to stay. Here are some IRS forms you’ll be filling out shortly.  A maze of new laws regulating the financial industry under Dodd-Frank has been signed into law, some of which have already passed costs along to the consumer.  We’ve seen the growth of the EPA and heavy regulation of the energy sector.

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I’d like to try and work towards a theme:

While still being one of the best, and most thorough, news-gathering services, NPR generally cleaves to a Left-Of-Center political philosophy.  I suspect many folks at NPR aim to be like the BBC in Britain, or the CBC in Canada:  Not only the national standard in news but perhaps the nationalized cultural gatekeepers as well.  According to their lights, they see themselves as having a duty to promote and fund the arts, education, and knowledge.

That said, NPR is guilty of what many Americans have been guilty of, something which seems to transcend politics:  They’ve followed the national greatness model and assumed that American greatness, economic dominance and good times are a guarantee.

Here are two problems with NPR’s approach:

-NPR usually puts environmental interests above business interests.

The dangers of environmental policy can be seen in California, where environmental regulations can stagnate the economy.    These policies shift the cost of land management onto individuals and landowners, while creating laws whose oversight those citizens must finance, often inefficiently through a system of taxation and regulation.  Politicos have every incentive to keep taxpayer money flowing to themselves and a few companies, pressured by the green lobby and riding waves of green public sentiment, always with an eye on reelection.  This has actively driven many individuals and families out of the state.

Perhaps even some conservationists realize that activism generally leads to big money and big politics, and that  everyday people can suffer the most, especially those who aim to be self-reliant.

Californians can leave California, but on the national level, sadly, the rest of us have few options.

-NPR has promoted multiculturalism and diversity often as the highest ideas around.

Unfortunately, multiculturalism creates a system of incentives which rewards racial and identity politics, and at its worst, a kind of modern tribalism where group membership and loyalty come first.

Identity groups can remain Balkanized, and treat the public treasury like a piggy bank, politics like a system of patronage, and the laws like bludgeons in order to gain and maintain political power.  This is especially true of big-city machine politics, where the corruption is baked-in.  Government’s the only thing we all belong todoes, in fact, reflect a gaping hole at the center of modern liberal establishment thinking.  If such thinking continues to follow Obama’s brand of activism, that hole will continue to be there.

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Monticello.  Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-F8-1046

Monticello. Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-F8-1046

In response, it might not be a bad idea to promote a more agrarian Jeffersonian liberalism instead of the California or the current NPR liberal establishment models.   It’s a little worrying that California has traditionally been a cultural bellwether for the rest of the nation.  There’s a fiscal crisis in the Golden State, and enough multiculturalism and environmentalism that Californians may well keep voting for the model until it crashes, or they are forced to act otherwise.

I’d humbly ask that Northeastern and old school Democrats, the classical liberals, the Jeffersonians, the self-reliant, and the reasonably skeptical to reconsider where the current liberal establishment is headed under an Obama administration.

It’s affecting all of us.

Addition: NPR has roots in 60’s Civil Rights activism, and thus is often most sympathetic to 60’s type coalitions of protest models including feminists, environmentalists, race and identity politickers etc. They can get criticism from their Left for being too mainstream, and they can attach these 60’s coalitions to mainstream liberalism, politics and culture. I’m guessing you’re not going to find nakedly partisan or activists behind the scenes, really, but rather people so embedded in their own worldview (that of secular liberal humanism and progress) that they presuppose such a worldview when reporting on events.

Liberal, Left-liberal and Center-Left statists are words that seem to apply.

Another addition:  I should add that I don’t believe we either can, nor should want to return to an agrarian society, but rather, contra Hamilton, we should aim for institutions that promote the individual, his family, and the free associations he makes above political activism, lobbyists, big government and big corporations in bed together, which is where ideas like environmentalism and multiculturalism most often lead.  It’s the political philosophy that lies behind, and beneath what’s become of current establishment liberal thinking in that has not yet figured out how to protect the individual from the big money and big politics that are a result of such thinking in practice.

Related On This Site:  Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…How Would Obama Respond To Milton Friedman’s Four Ways To Spend Money?

A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

The market will make people better off, but always leaves them wanting more and in a state of spiritual malaise, which invites constant meddling.  Can economic freedom and free markets reconcile the moral depth of progressive big-State human freedom:  Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’A Few Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

From Bloggingheads: Denis Dutton On His New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’A Few More Thoughts On Denis Dutton’s New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’

Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art.  The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’