Repost-From Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Does the Moral Flynn Effect Support Flynn’s Democratic Socialism or Murray’s Classical Liberalism?’

Full post here.

Readers may recall the James Flynn/Charles Murray debate about IQ a while back.  More on that Flynn Effect.

The nub of the argument as Arnhart sees it, in terms of political philosophy:

‘Here is the fundamental disagreement between Flynn’s socialism and Murray’s classical liberalism.  Flynn’s socialism assumes that human beings must be forced by governmental coercion to solve social problems.  Murray’s classical liberalism assumes that force is bad, and cooperation is good, and that if people are prohibited from using force, they will tend to cooperate voluntarily.’

Do you trust people to take care of themselves and others on their own? Which incentives and/or punishments do you create for those who can’t/don’t/won’t?  Do you trust people acting on behalf of government to be willing/able (by force of law) to administer your tax dollars to oversee institutions which presume to take care of others?

I suppose this partly depends upon your view of human nature, your responsibilities and moral obligations to others, and whether the products of Enlightenment Reason guiding the institutions of liberal democracy are enough to raise others up through those institutions and assist individuals in leading a more moral life…:

‘So, again, it’s a question of empirical evidence. When government is limited to deterring and punishing the initiation of force, to enforcing laws of contract and private property, and to providing those few public goods that cannot be provided by the market, will human beings cooperate voluntarily to solve their social problems, as Murray believes?  Or will human beings have to be forced by government bureaucracies to solve their problems, as Flynn believes?’

The libertarian/classically liberal vs. Left-liberal divide opens up again.

Here’s another take, the entirety of which can be found here. Thomas Sowell rejected Marxist economics and political philosophy in favor of classically liberal thought:

“[Thomas] Sowell’s argument is a relatively simple one:  “innate” mental abilities do not develop spontaneously but must undergo development, which is differentially fostered by different cultures, even when the abilities are general and abstract and do not consist of items of cultural knowledge.

“…Sowell’s approach splits the difference between “nature” and “nurture“…

Arnhart from the piece above on Steven Pinker who veered classically liberal in the The Better Angels Of Our Nature:

‘Pinker thinks this improvement in intelligence has brought improvement in morality, as manifested in our modern commitment to a liberal social order based on nonviolence, toleration, peaceful coexistence, and voluntary cooperation.’

Pinker’s empirical claim is that violence has gone down in the Western world as a result of these changes.

Briton John Gray argues against such a humanist vision (not necessarily the empirical claim), and argues that while science may proceed and real progress is taking place, in the realms of ethics and politics, things are learned but they don’t stay learned.

The religious and secular humanist missionary has a kind of faith in progress which doesn’t necessarily line-up with reality, according to Gray.

Mistah Kurtz-he dead‘ is a pretty dark vision.

Thomas Nagel reviewed Gray’s book ‘Silence Of Animals’ here.

Are we rational beings?  Rational animals?  What can the powers of reason do?:


When it comes to political philosophy, in partial response to Gray’s claims to Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, Kelly Ross thought the moral claims need to be deeper (which I think is why Mill’s utilitarianism is often thrown out to ground environmental debates), otherwise you end-up with the activism of progressive politics, the majoritarianism and totalitarian impulses to control speech and thought in a quasi-religious way:

‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

Are libertarians the true classical liberals?  Much closer to our founding fathers?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’Race and IQ: Malcolm Gladwell On The Flynn Effect

Steven Pinker somewhat focused on the idea of freedom from violence, which tends to be libertarian. Yet, he’s also skeptical of the more liberal human rights and also religious natural rights. What about a World Leviathan?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas HobbesFrom Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

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’

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