From Jaltcoh: ‘Do Addicts Have Self-Control?’

Full post here.

Addiction is a disease?  Our author reviews a few reviews and discusses the following fallacy:

1. A certain behavioral/mental problem — call it “X” — is associated with brain activity in ways that can be observed and predicted.

2. Therefore, the solution to “X” must take the form of psychiatric/medical assistance; the solution cannot be individual free choice. (Indeed, even invoking that concept may be detrimental.)

There are other potential consequences:

‘…Satel also says that the people who came up with the idea that addiction is a disease and is incompatible with self-control were motivated by political and financial concerns (and probably emotional impulses)’

Worth pointing out.

Thursday Poem-Robert Frost

Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost

Come What Will-Two Links On Brexit And One On Iran

Theodore Dalrymple on Brexit:

‘For a long time, Britons who wanted their country to leave the European Union were regarded almost as mentally ill by those who wanted it to stay. The leavers didn’t have an opinion; they had a pathology. Since one doesn’t argue with pathology, it wasn’t necessary for the remainers to answer the leavers with more than sneers and derision.’

All the howling, wounded idealism and doomsaying makes you wonder…

Brendan O’Neill at Reason takes a more populist right perspective, with which I find great sympathy: ‘Elitist Rage With the Pro-Brexit Masses Echoes Longstanding British Suspicion of Democracy:’

‘Hell hath no fury like an establishment spurned. If you didn’t know this already, you certainly know it now, following the British people’s vote for a “Brexit.”

That’s the NY Times for you…:

‘The disclosure that Thomas Pickering, a former State Department official who advocated the Iran nuclear deal, was also a paid consultant to Boeing creates a scandal for the New York Times.’

Some wide-eyed idealists don’t mind setting very bad odds for themselves. This blog remains deeply skeptical and highly concerned with the Iran deal.

The same people are in charge, and the possibility of deliverable nukes is still very, very real; an outcome with nearly no upside for American interests, and great danger for the world.

Iran, So Far Away?-Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Rhodes To Ruin’…

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

Repost-Five Short Stories Likely Worth Your Time

I claim no special literary insight, other than these five short stories have stuck with me, as they have for many other readers besides. Links included.

——————–

1. ‘Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story Of Wall Street

Herman Melville

Catch-up with Turkey, Nippers, and Ginger Nut; their daily routines at the office.

Our narrator:

‘I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquillity of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men’s bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method.’

We all want to be alone, and to be with others, and Bartleby…Bartleby would just prefer not to:

‘Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!  ‘

——————–

2. ‘An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

Ambrose Bierce

As they were for many other high-school boys, the first lines were enough for me:

‘A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck.’

Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man?

———————-

3. ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge

Flannery O’Connor

O’Connor’s Southern Gothic style often flirts with the grotesque, and can traffic in the macabre, but there’s reason behind it, and a brilliantly skeptical, humane eye.  Few writers get so many things right, in my opinion.

The world is changing, and so is the South.

Julian’s mother is living in the past:

‘They had reached the bus stop. There was no bus in sight and Julian, his hands still jammed in his pockets and his head thrust forward, scowled down the empty street. The frustration of having to wait on the bus as well as ride on it began to creep up his neck like a hot hand. The presence of his mother was borne in upon him as she gave a pained sigh. He looked at her bleakly. She was holding herself very erect under the preposterous hat, wearing it like a banner of her imaginary dignity. There was in him an evil urge to break her spirit. He suddenly unloosened his tie and pulled it off and put it in his pocket’

——————–

4. ‘A Distant Episode

Paul Bowles

A lot can be ‘swallowed’ up in the desert, lost in translation; across time, language and civilizations.

Things don’t always end well for the intellectually curious and naive…:

‘It occurred to him that he ought to ask himself why he was doing this irrational thing, but he was intelligent enough to know that since he Was doing it, it was not so important to probe for explanations at that moment.’

Let’s leave it at that.

——————–

5. ‘Araby

James Joyce

To what does a man put his hopes?

But such wonderful writing:

‘When the short days of winter came, dusk fell before we had well eaten our dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed.’

University Renewal, Freedom Isn’t Free & The Gobbler

Alan Jacobs at National Affairs: ‘Renewing The University’

‘For, whomever or whatever you might blame for the current state of affairs, the recent hostilities have been distinctly unfriendly to the creating and sustaining of intellectual energy. Universities need to get beyond these disputes, at least to some degree, if they are going to retain any meaningful chance to fulfill their social missions.’

Hmmm.  Many intemperate people with radical views have been rewarded, in many cases, for their intemperance and for their radical views.  I doubt many such people will be voluntarily returning any of the budget (the People’s budget!) anytime soon.

My two cents: Keep learning, aim for moral decency, and be reasonably open to new experiences and criticism.  On a daily basis you will often meet people smarter than you or better than you at something you thought you were good at (humbling, to be sure). Everyone knows many things you never will.

I’ve found that true-belief is everywhere, and people taken up into belief are often pretty clear about what’s not up for discussion.  Ideologues sometimes believe what they say, sometimes not.  In fact, go by what other people do, not what they say.

Once there is an apparatus of incentives, procedures, prestige and money set-up around a set of ideas and principles; such as found in universities, companies, organizations and bureaucracies, such things tend to keep going until they can’t any longer.

The worse the ideas and incentives are, the worse the people in them tend to behave.  So, aim to get into reputable organizations, and, should you find yourself within one, ask what you’re bringing to the table.

You probably believe in some ideas and principles yourself, right now, but as for that, keep thinking, and check often to make sure your head isn’t up yours or someone else’s ass.

There is very little evidence that life is fair.

P.S. Hey, have a little fun!


From The College Fix: This guy seems pretty reasonable, and he grew-up within the old Cold War structure in Romania (the cold makes you strong!).

He did leave…


Via Twitter, The Gobbler is back (we’ll see):

Click here to experience ‘The Gobbler.

‘If you’re ever wondering what the War Room of “Dr. Strangelove” would look like if the movie had been directed by Prince, here you go.’

After taking the photo tour, I remain convinced that ‘The Gobbler’ exists in its own realm of awesome badness.  Such a shag-covered, abandoned love-child of the late 60’s and early 70’s is challenging just what I thought I knew about American culture.

And while I can lounge in the bathos of this Wisconsin motor court/supper club’s global ambitions, and walk through the valley of the shadow of its modernist, U.N. international style, I still can’t fathom the intentions of its authors.

Why, Gobbler, why?

Want to lose an afternoon?  Visit Lileks.com.  A fine humorist with a sharp pen and a keen eye.  This is what the internet is for.

Additionally:  Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism.  From the banner of his blog:

‘The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’

Repost-Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’

As posted 4 years ago, now!

————–

VDH was a supporter of the Iraq war as part of a larger war against “Islamic fascism.” He is registered Democrat but generally conservative (neoconservative?), and I suspect virtue, duty, and honor are central to a lot of his thinking as he is a military historian who’s written extensively about the Peloponessian wars.

As he points out, we are in an asymmetrical war against Islamic terrorists and also in potential conflict with the nations which actively support, harbor, or simply cannot control those terrorists within their borders.  He discusses some of the forces inside Muslim countries which help to produce these terrorists as he sees them:  anti-modernism, anti-Westernism, an Islamic resurgence whose sharp edge is going to drive the infidel and his Western influences from the Arabian peninsula and restore purist Islam.

In a democracy like ours (he no doubt sees parallels to ancient Athens) we generally don’t provide a lot of public support to a war unless we are in real danger as we were on 9/11.  This kind of ongoing conflict (USS Cole, embassy bombings, Ft. Hood, Times Square bomber) is a tough sell to Americans and VDH is generally suspect of our will to see the struggle through as for him it is a conflict to be won, military campaigns and all.

I’d add that as we speak, Obama’s liberal internationalist policy platform is pursuing a goal which I would support if I had more confidence it would reap reward without too much sacrifice and change to our own freedoms, traditions and institutions (and not lead us into the European multicultural solution which is in part relying on our military strength).

This goal is getting a plurality if not a majority of Muslims to stand up and say to those terrorists, Al-Qaida members, inflammatory Imams and radicals amongst them:  Stop it.  Your way is not our way.

On this view, to achieve this goal, you meet with these Muslims and their organizations where they are, and you try and punish/reward their political leaders who cannot be too far in front of their people.  You still try and install more Western democratic institutions and include the people under a set of ideals which you presume to be universal, but with as little military involvement as possible.  Now you have the “right ideas.”

According to liberal internationalism, curbing American force, withdrawing our military from Afghanistan and Iraq (but involving it in unforeseen ways in Libya, and leaving it out of Syria?) is the best way forward.  With carrots and sticks this will somehow, in the long run, lead toward peace by including and representing all parties without exposing them to the sharp edge of Western society.  The preferred ideals of women’s freedoms, human rights, and tolerance are often pursued most prominently.

As VDH points out, our enemies (Al Qaida, terrorists in general, Ahmadinejad, Hizbollah) see this approach as a sign of weakness, and will take any advantage they can which poses other risks to our security.  Our old enemies like Russia and unknowns like China will do much the same, and international institutions may not be the best way to handle any common interests.  The kinds of institutions which this worldview produces are like the relatively ineffective ones it has already already produced:  the U.N., the failures of the Eurozone and its top down class of bureaucrats, and the excesses of more indebted and unsustainable Western States whose people are being out-produced and out-reproduced.

There is a serious design flaw to such an approach, aside from the Rousseuian tendencies and the idealism inherent within it.

I’m not sure I’m totally on board with another military campaign in the Middle-East and I know many fellow Americans are not as well, so I’ll leave with this quotation by Samuel Huntington which I keep putting up:

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.  Please feel free to highlight my ignorance.

Related On This Site:  The Clash Of Civilizations…The End Of History?:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

Back to 19th Century power politics since the end of history has not “materialized”?:  Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of DreamsRepost-Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: ‘Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy’

Is the End Of History contingent upon a perfectible State driven by a more moral bureaucratic class?:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Are we in decline?:  Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

It’s a big assumption to make: From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism….Daniel Greenfield definitely thinks Islam is the problem: From Sultan Knish: ‘The Mirage Of Moderate Islam’Repost-From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’

A Pretty Important Decision-Some Brexit Links

It seems Great Britain has decided to leave the EU.

I tend not to stick my nose into the business of others when they’re making these kinds of decisions.  Predictions are hard, especially about the future.

**Please see this appropriate response to the Guardian (G2) after they sponsored the ‘Clark County Project’ to stick British noses sniffing out the World Human Will into American politics.

I can’t help but think that the poorly-designed institutions arising out of a Western idealism I often criticize, are much to blame, and that a strengthened Anglo economic/trade org wouldn’t hurt, but can’t say I have anything better to offer.

-Walter Russell Mead at The American Interest: ‘Brexit And The Weakness Of The West

-Niall Ferguson was not so impressed back in April by Daniel Hannan’s arguments (Ferguson saw likely currency devaluation, and the downside of being subject to regulations of a big player next door with no say in the regulations)

-Tyler Cowen’s not so enthusiastic….

-Ian Bremmer says it’s a Throw The Bums Out mentality

I can’t help but think the tone and tenor of the arguments on both sides highlight many of the deeper splits:  Money, jobs, opportunity…but also, who are ‘we’ exactly ?-Nationalism vs. anti-nationalism, more open vs. more closed borders, local legal and political accountability vs international institutions and global markets.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

‘Peace’ At High Cost: Alberto Nisman And Robert Conquest-Two Links

About that Alberto Nisman murder, the Argentinian prosecutor who uncovered likely Iranian-backed terror in Argentina, and throughout South America:

‘Testimony from journalists and government officials suggest that in addition to describing Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s hand in protecting the perpetrators of a 1994 Buenos Aires terrorist attack, Nisman was also working to blow the lid off the workings of Iran’s terrorist organization in Latin America.

Nisman’s decade of work on the subject pointed to Iran.’

Don’t worry, though, those hundreds of millions in sanctions relief certainly won’t end-up in the hands of the Quds force, backing Hezbollah and other proxies around the globe to do much of the same.

Certainly, certainly, giving all that money and time to the same 1979 forces who held Americans hostage, who currently control much of the deep state in Iran, who still repress many of the people involved in the Green Revolution, and who back Assad, mostly aligning with Putin, certainly this is all part of the master-plan for world peace.

Dexter Filkins took a look at the death of Nisman:

‘By the time Kirchner announced the agreement about the AMIA case, Nisman’s obsession with Iran had expanded beyond Argentina. That year, he and his staff produced a five-hundred-page report outlining what it said was Hezbollah’s and Iran’s terrorist “infiltration” in Latin America. (A U.S. official called the report “spot on.”) A month before Nisman died, he told the writer Gustavo Perednik that he believed Argentina and Iran could be secretly discussing renewing the nuclear agreement of the nineteen-eighties and nineties. “Nisman said this was part of the big deal,” Perednik told me.’


The level of intellectual vanity, pride and willful self-deception of many intellectuals when it came to Stalin’s deeds are worth revisiting.  C-SPAN had Robert Conquest and Ken Jowitt in discussion of Conquest’s ‘The Dragons Of Expectation: Reality And Delusion In The Course Of History

A man who habitually cut through a lot of bullshit.

Tuesday Quotation-Harry Frankfurt

‘The notion of carefully wrought bullshit involves, then, a certain inner strain. Thoughtful attention to detail requires discipline and objectivity. It entails accepting standards and limitations that forbid the indulgence of impulse or whim. It is this selflessness that, in connection with bullshit, strikes us as inapposite. But in fact it is not out of the question at all. The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept. And in these realms there are exquisitely sophisticated craftsmen, who with the help of advanced and demanding techniques of market research, of public opinion polling, of psychological testing, and so forth, dedicate themselves tirelessly to getting every word and image they produce exactly right.’

Some Updated Links On Postmodernism

David Thompson offers satire on such matters.

Postmodern generator here, via David Thompson.

Simon Blackburn revisits the Sokal hoax.

Do you remember the Sokal hoax?

“…in 1996 the radical “postmodernist” journal Social Text published an article submitted by Alan Sokal, a mathematical physicist at New York University, with the mouthwatering title “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” Sokal then revealed the article to be a spoof…”

Sokal has been busy ruminating since that paper, and Blackburn, a Cambridge philosophy professor, reviews his ruminations.

Mentioned In The Review:  Kant, Karl Popper, Einstein, postmodernism, a sympathetic account of the academic postmodernist climate, Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, (T)ruth, Richard Rorty…


Daniel Dennett from 1998: Postmodernism and Truth

‘When I was a young untenured professor of philosophy, I once received a visit from a colleague from the Comparative Literature Department, an eminent and fashionable literary theorist, who wanted some help from me. I was flattered to be asked, and did my best to oblige, but the drift of his questions about various philosophical topics was strangely perplexing to me. For quite a while we were getting nowhere, until finally he managed to make clear to me what he had come for. He wanted “an epistemology,” he said. An epistemology. Every self-respecting literary theorist had to sport an epistemology that season, it seems, and without one he felt naked, so he had come to me for an epistemology to wear–it was the very next fashion, he was sure, and he wanted the dernier cri in epistemologies. It didn’t matter to him that it be sound, or defensible, or (as one might as well say) true; it just had to be new and different and stylish. Accessorize, my good fellow, or be overlooked at the party’

Worth a read.

The arts and humantities can be given a seriousness of purpose, I’m guessing, but must that purpose necessarily be scientific?

Do creative musical/artistic geniuses really need to understand particularly well how the sciences advance? How much does it matter that a theater major understands how the sciences come to say true things about the world and predict with high accuracy how nature behaves beyond a philosophy course or two?

I could be wrong.

Clearly, one problem is that out of the postmodern malaise comes the nihilism, moral relativism and general desperation where many can be found clinging to the sciences, or some standard of rationalism and reason that doesn’t seem sufficient in answering all the questions religion claims to answer, nor doesn’t seem sufficient as a platform to understand human nature, history, tradition, the wisdom in our institutions, and the experience past generations can offer beyond its own presumptions.

Lots of people can thus make ideology their guide and political change their purpose, or the State their religion and their own moral failings or moral programs everyone’s moral oughts through the law and politics.

Who has the moral legitimacy to be in charge?


Tim Kavanaugh at Reason: Every Man A Derrida

Quote found here at friesian.com:

‘Oddly enough, it is the intellectual snobbery and elitism of many of the literati that politically correct egalitarianism appeals to; their partiality to literary Marxism is based not on its economic theory but on its hostility to business and the middle class. The character of this anti-bourgeois sentiment therefore has more in common with its origin in aristocratic disdain for the lower orders than with egalitarianism.’

John M. Ellis, Literature Lost [Yale University Press, 1997, p. 214]


Using quite a bit of German idealism to get at the problem:

Roger Scruton here.

Book here.

‘While I am complaining, I will also note that Scruton has nothing to say about how several of these figures—especially Žižek and Alain Badiou, along with Jacques Derrida, who is barely mentioned here—have played a role in the so-called “religious turn” of humanistic studies, in which various movements generally called “postmodern” find a significant place for religion in their reflections, if not in their beliefs or practices. This marks a significant departure from the relentless secularism of most earlier forms of European leftism, and that deserves note. Nor does Scruton account fully for Jürgen Habermas’s reputation as a centrist figure in the German and more generally the European context. (Habermas too has spoken more warmly of religion in recent years.’

I’ve heard Scruton’s rather sober vision of the good society referred to as ‘Scrutopia’ by dissenters:

On this site, see:

More Scruton here.

So, what is all this Nothing-ness about? ‘My view’, says Scruton, ‘is that what’s underlying all of this is a kind of nihilistic vision that masks itself as a moving toward the enlightened future, but never pauses to describe what that society will be like. It simply loses itself in negatives about the existing things – institutional relations like marriage, for instance – but never asks itself if those existing things are actually part of what human beings are. Always in Zizek there’s an assumption of the right to dismiss them as standing in the way of something else, but that something else turns out to be Nothing.’

Related: From Darwinian Conservatism: Nietzsche-Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?

*******And mostly, but not entirely unrelated, you can make your own Tom Friedman columns at home.  Is Tom Friedman a bot?

Related On This Site:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’ Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

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.…  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…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