I tend to be skeptical of guys who, upon their deaths, freeze their heads into perpetuity. Probabilistically, though, I suppose it could be a bet worth taking.
We could use more outside-the-box thinkers with real-world experience making bets on where to fruitfully think.
Our institutions have more rot than usual, and dangerous capture. There are too many prizes, too many piles of old money, and not enough brains and courage.
I’m of a mind to say Nature is beyond value judgment (I judge things all the time, but Nature doesn’t seem to care). The people I love and who love me, do care about me (as long as we’re here).
God? Maybe. The universe: Unclear. The little I know of the laws of the universe suggest more of the same Nature I’ve known here on Earth.
Beauty plays a key part in understanding the world. It can both anchor us into our own bodies and experiences, while keeping us searching for new experiences. Truth has a clear empirical element in my thinking, and refers to a world I believe genuinely exists. Collecting data about the world is a lot like actually referring back to the book you’re quoting, or asking the other person what they’re really thinking…then listening.
Beautiful and dangerous. Maybe the tornado is telling you something? Maybe not.
Roger Sandall, Australian critic of romantic primitivism and the Western’s Left’s penchant for the Noble Savage: His home page where his essays can be found. Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologues“ and…
We’ve continued to see the application of quantitative reasoning, and applied mathematics, to many fields pursuing knowledge and truth of our interior lives (psychology), how we act in groups (sociology), where we might have come from (anthropology) and not merely how to buy and sell stuff, but markets themselves (the quants on Wall Street). Much of this will be highly useful knowledge, new knowledge even, with a lot of truth to it.
At the same time, however, the further pursuit of not merely quantitative reasoning, mathematics, the natural sciences and computer sciences, but the (R)ational, is in conflict with the (I)rrational, the nihilistic, The Will and Will To Power. The (S)elf is a primary conception alive in the West today, and thus does the postmodern (S)elf permeate the arts, art movements, and the (C)ulture at-large. The Hegelian conception of (H)istory, and its re-appearance in Marx, provides intellectual backdrop for many ideologues and ideologies active in many American institutions.
In the meantime, maybe pick up a hobby? Maybe it’s poetry, or music, or off-roading, or mining, or photography. Learn how bad you are at something, as you slowly become better through hard work. Come to appreciate those who worked hard and came before.
On Mars, Curiosity Rover helped establish the existence of flowing, liquid water on the Martian Surface some billions of years ago. This water would have been highly acidic, pooling up in the lower places, and probably (from what I currently know) not part of a water cycle with condensing and precipitating water (rain).
Long ago, Mars had enough of an atmosphere to support this liquid water, but lacking the size and electro-magnetic field generated by Earth’s core, Mars slowly had all the water molecules combine with other particles blasting away at the surface from space. Slowly, the water dwindled, as the atmosphere drifted away, and so the temperatures dropped.
So did protection from the Sun’s radiation.
Imagine sub-freezing temperatures and free radicals bombarding the near atmosphere-less Martian surface (oxidized and rusted red, barren), but below the Martian surface lurk big blocks of briny ice; ice with freezing cold, incredibly salty water and maybe just enough O2 to support some microbes.
Worth thinking about.
What are you doing with your imagination?
‘Due to the scarcity of O2 in the modern Martian atmosphere, Mars has been assumed to be incapable of producing environments with sufficiently large concentrations of O2 to support aerobic respiration. Here, we present a thermodynamic framework for the solubility of O2 in brines under Martian near-surface conditions. We find that modern Mars can support liquid environments with dissolved O2 values ranging from ~2.5 × 10−6 mol m−3 to 2 mol m−3 across the planet, with particularly high concentrations in polar regions because of lower temperatures at higher latitudes promoting O2 entry into brines’
Jezero crater, where Perseverance has landed, has both inflow and outflow channels, like a holding tank. There is a deposit plain near the inflow channel. If you’re going to go digging in the Martian dust, digging through what was once muck, hoping to find some evidence of microbial Martian life, Jezero crater is as good place as any to do it.
I noticed a tear in my eye watching video of the rover touching down. So much hard work. So many deep dreams and aspirations made into reality. A functional robotic exploratory team is slowly being built, with little outposts on other worlds.
For those who didn’t ask, Dear Reader:
Liberal Idealism–>I want to live in a free and human world, constantly progressing, full of human compassion, equality and justice. People, and people like myself, are generally good. Our change is good, and ought to be in charge–Output 1: Technocratic Bureaucracy–>Process 1: Change-focused ideas are in positions of key institutional leadership and authority (conserving certain elements of the past according to liberal ideals, excluding others). Science is invoked by many non-scientific actors. Process 2–>Institutional Capture by Ideologues and True-Belief from radical-change agents who believe that no authority is legitimate, and that it’s all power and no truth.–>Behind the Scenes: The people dedicated to an institution’s mission and purpose are fighting with the people who control the promotions within the institutions, and the loudest activist voices often win (see Jerry Pournelle).
Examples: See the NY Times, many Grant Foundations (Ford, Poetry), and many colleges and universities. See also, Health and Education departments. Most Liberal publications are now negotiating with the radical discontents within them. Such radicals, when not claiming collectivist supremacy, claim, from within the postmodern morass, a certain kind of feeling-first irrationality and primacy of Self (an irrational and mystic response to the ‘oppression’ of reason and the sciences).
Deeper Reasons Why: The Liberatory model of freedom (freedom against the oppressor, supposedly for the ‘victim’ and ‘oppressed minorities’) is an utopian and ideological model. Such a worldview has profound authoritarian/totalitarian implications. The ‘personal is political’ makes all areas of life (knowledge, sports, break-rooms) into political arenas. The Utopian promise of people actually getting along is pushed ever further into the future at the cost of people…you know….getting along in the present. Mediocre people and bad ideas are in charge. The easiest outlet for blame is anything standing in the way of progress (religion, tradition, liberal dissension, those who conserve).
What the Liberal idealist (and many anarchists) likely get wrong about human nature: People need ‘low-resolution’ ideas to make sense of reality, hierarchy, death, uncertainty and fear. This is an emergent feature within ourselves, and ignored at our peril. Human behavior, in aiming to be morally good and true, must be restrained, honorable and focused on consent. If such ideas and behavior are not incentivized into models of authority, then worse men, and the worse in men, will come to be in charge.
The more religious, frontier and freedom, flag and country type of America I once knew (with all its flaws) is looking more like a minority position these days.
Any pushback is welcome.
Some interesting links:
Shelby Steele and his son, Eli, have made a documentary about the killing of Michael Brown, and what happened in Ferguson. A lot of what seems to be the truth is not what many people claiming to have the truth are saying. Many of those people are in charge:
Who can afford to speak out?
Maybe if you’re a Stoic living on the fringes, whose needs are lesser than the punishment exclusion can bring. Maybe if you don’t have anyone directly dependent on you for love, security and safety.
Maybe the people with ‘F-You’ money who actually say ‘F-You’. The really well-to-do and the academic. I’m not holding my breath.
Please, Dear Reader, think about Twitter: With your own capital investment of an average $200-400 for a mobile device, you can install Twitter’s ‘free’ (you’re the product) software onto your device. The software will access the hardware (camera, video) as well as other software, so that you can upload what you’ve recorded onto their platform. Additionally, the barrier to entry is low enough for the UI (user interface) to allow searching all kinds of topics, engaging similar users (others with the same low costs to entry).
Suddenly, many people who once needed much higher capital investment (labor costs, professional cameras, professional skills, licenses, lobbyists, lawyers etc) at least have the illusion of being in competition with many bigger players, while communicating with similar smaller ones.
Meanwhile, the programmers, developers, management, lobbyists, lawyers and politically connected people at Twitter have become new big players of a sort (while it lasts). More organized (and politically/ideologically favored) individuals and groups seem to influence more, and faster.
Analogously, in my mind, and hopefully in reality, some investor figured out that GameStop was being incorrectly valued by big players. With this knowledge, and with knowledge-sharing on a platform of smaller players, a group of people mobilized (individuals and smaller groups can’t usually compete at scale nor directly with the bigger players).
We’ve been rearranging our society and institutions around increasingly technically mediated channels, so those with more IQ capital, knowledge of hardware/software capital, and social capital are using these channels for all the other things people do: Knowledge, sex, love, friendship, power, influence, fame, pride, vanity etc.
On that note, I don’t buy into many ‘liberatory’ and leveling equality claims. We have hierarchies for lots of reasons, and we have authority for lots of reasons (hopefully legitimate authority aligned with the best among us and the best within us, constrained by the right incentives).
There’s definitely a lot of change going on right now, but how is the actual power being leveraged and authority being used?
Who’s going to be in charge? And, of what?
Personally, I would love to see alternatives to information-sharing than Twitter, possessing similar functionality, but with deeper roots to freedom of thought and expression (yeah, you’ll probably have to pay something):
Some quotations on what I’m taking to be the same old human nature:
Do you trust those following their moral lights to allow you to follow yours?
“The moral world has no particular objection to vice, but an insuperable repugnance to hearing vice called by its proper name.”
‘The fact is, even the sternest ascetic tends to be slightly inconsistent in his condemnation of pleasure. He may sentence you to a life of hard labour, inadequate sleep, and general discomfort, but he’ll also tell you to do your best to ease the pains and privations of others. He’ll regard all such attempts to improve the human situation as laudable acts of humanity – for obviously nothing could be more humane, or more natural for a human being, than to relieve other people’s sufferings, put an end to their miseries, and restore their joie de vivre, that is, their capacity for pleasure. So, why shouldn’t it be equally natural to do the same thing for oneself?’
More, Thomas. Utopia. Penguin (trans. Paul Turner), 1965. Print.
“His problem (Plato’s) with the arts was that they operated by images rather than by ideas, and thus that they might cloud the truth rather than clarifying it.”
Yes, and religious traditions, for example, also have interpretations of how one ought to reproduce the image.
“Whatever one thinks of Plato’s solution to this problem, I suggest that this is one of the problems that elicited his proposals for severe censorship of the arts he so obviously loved and had been trained in.”
Earthlings were visited, many times this past century, by beings from the planet Utopia. Little is known about these curious creatures, but they were advanced, and went about vigorously erecting structures across our planetary surface.
What were they trying to tell us?
Concrete, as a material, was used, presumably because it was so common and functioned as our ‘lingua franca’ (so hard to use well). Shapes were decided upon that might please and delight us (flowers, blocks, dodecahedrons), but also shapes that could disconsole, consigning some souls to work and live in an eternal present, possible futures winking upon the horizon.
Dear Reader, rumor has it these beings whispered in Esperanto, but only into the ears of those most ready to receive such comprehensive knowledge and advanced understanding; humans beings closer to knowledge of Universal Shapes and Human Destinies.
Personally, I like to think some of these humans being reside at the BBC.
‘At the exhibition, I fell to talking with two elegantly coiffed ladies of the kind who spend their afternoons in exhibitions. “Marvelous, don’t you think?” one said to me, to which I replied: “Monstrous.” Both opened their eyes wide, as if I had denied Allah’s existence in Mecca. If most architects revered Le Corbusier, who were we laymen, the mere human backdrop to his buildings, who know nothing of the problems of building construction, to criticize him? Warming to my theme, I spoke of the horrors of Le Corbusier’s favorite material, reinforced concrete, which does not age gracefully but instead crumbles, stains, and decays. A single one of his buildings, or one inspired by him, could ruin the harmony of an entire townscape, I insisted. A Corbusian building is incompatible with anything except itself.’
I noticed a mini-brutalist revival there for a minute.
[Readers of this blog will know that the idea there exists comprehensive knowledge of ‘reason’, or the idea that political science will arrive at solutions to all previous political problems, or the idea that modern doctrines can provide ‘systemic’ blueprints for either buildings or political systems are all ideas viewed very skepticallyhere.]
You’ve got to be careful where you go looking for what’s good, true and beautiful.
As for Boston City Hall, it was built in ’69 and aims to be open, accessible, and [to] connect with Boston’s past:
Brutalistarchitecture flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, having descended from the modernist architectural movement of the early 20th century. The term originates from the French word for “raw”, as Le Corbusier described his choice of material béton brut, meaning raw concrete in French.’
Regarding the above conversation between writer Bret Easton Ellis and mathematician Eric Weinstein: Both men tell coming-of-age tales as Gen Xer’s during the early 1980’s; a glamourized, somewhat nihilistic youth culture and a deep personal freedom.
I’ve been to L.A. a few times (Raymond Chandler kept me going when I was far away from my language) and David Hockney has captured some of the light and landscape of that particular place.
We all have likely have some contact with Los Angeles through the movies, and particular stylized visions of it:
‘Noyce was like a great many bright young men and women from Dissenting Protestant families in the Middle West after the Second World War. They had been raised as Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, United Brethren, whatever. They had been led through the Church door and prodded toward religion, but it had never come alive for them. Sundays made their skulls feel like dried-out husks. So they slowly walked away from the church and silently, without so much as a growl of rebellion, congratulated themselves on their independence of mind and headed into another way of life. Only decades later, in most cases, would they discover how, absentmindedly, inexplicably, they had brought the old ways along for the journey nonetheless. It was as if . . . through some extraordinary mistake . . . they had been sewn into the linings of their coats!
Does L.A. or the music made there even have a center?:
More broadly, in interacting with many Millenials I often find myself thinking: What the hell happened to a rough and ready sense of independence, freedom and responsibility? Am I alone in my deeper sense of patriotism, gratitude and a skepticism regarding the new, emergent rules?
Freedom of Speech! America!
‘Whatever,’ comes the reply. ‘We’ll see.‘
Am I just living in a post-60’s and post-Boomer bubble myself? To some extent, yes.
Weinstein’s argument as I understand it: Something fundamental shifted around 1972 in American economic and institutional life. It’s when a previously more explosive rate of economic growth stalled. Since that time, most folks within our academic, cultural and political institutions simply haven’t adjusted.
It’s harder to get into many housing markets now, and it’s harder to compete with global labor for jobs and academic positions. Our current politics is a clown-show (for many reasons). Much stagnation has ensued, and many of our current institutional hierarchies might just possess dark, unspoken ponzi knowledge at their hearts.
The sooner you got in, the better off you are.
If such a theory be true, these conditions can easily erode a basic sense of fairness, institutional trust and continuity. This could allow more space for the postmodern and nihilist drift both men discuss, and the growing desire for (S)elves looking for (C)ommunities and rules. EQUALITY now. More space for Socialism. Anarchy. More space for a retreat from the public square into one’s family and church.
Such a theory just might also stroke the egos of people who think of themselves as relatively independent, such as myself.
Dear Reader, I’ve got to watch out for that. I like to think of myself as ahead of some curves.
‘Increasingly the research seemed to show that interventions by government, universities and industry in the US labor market for scientists, especially after the University system stopped growing organically in the early 1970s were exceedingly problematic.’
A few more thoughts and personal experiences as an undergraduate English major which support the theory: There were plenty of talented undergrads, sure, but there were also clearly not enough slots to develop and mature their talents within the institutions.
A writing MFA? Don’t be a sucker.
The older the professor, usually the more rigorous and focused the teaching. The higher the expectations and the less existential questions of pedagogy there were. Fewer ontological questions of Self in the World emerged as confessional blank verse and personalized syllabi.
Later on, briefly (you should be as happy as I am I’m not a lawyer), I saw legal education displaying similar troubling trends, even though law requires a clearer logical and objective rigor: All the top-tier law grads were vying for teaching spots at second and third-tier law schools. If you started at a second or third-tier law school….good luck.
Don’t be a sucker, now. Find your (S)elf. Freedom is next.
Both men are plugged-in to mathematics, the mathematical sciences, technology, tech investment, and to some extent, the political economy. The genuine, and most rapid, progress affecting all of our lives tends to come out of such knowledge.
I appreciate the depth, breadth and openness both offer. Perhaps both also see themselves as outside much mainstream thought, and somewhat iconoclastic, if the substance of their thinking and insight does, in fact, place them ahead of one or many curves.
This blog has accepted the deeper critique that without limiting principles against violence, one can not simply dine ‘a la carte’ at the buffet of radical change.
Human nature, whether understood through the lens of Christian faith, the humanities, our founders’ framing, the social sciences and even the mathematical sciences, is inherently corruptible by ideas many modern, radical and historically revisonary doctrines promote.
In other words, I’m much closer to Thiel’s commitment to the classical liberal/libertarian approach, and perhaps even a bit more conservative, but always open to revision.
As posted on this site. The Oakeshottian/Minogue critique of ideology:
The discussion hinges on the idea of whether or not you and I are already free, and whether or not we somehow need liberating from something. The world and society are full of injustices, and discontents, and inequalities. Sure, we needed liberating from King George III for various reasons during our revolution, but not in the radical, ideological, rationalist sense (addition: a reader points out John Locke’s right of revolution…duly noted).
Black folks in America certainly needed liberating, held under the laws and subject to extreme injustice. But how?
In Marxist ideology, this liberating hinges on a form of revolutionary praxis, according to Minogue. It operates as a closed system of ‘first principles’ which goes deep and purports to function as a science and claims to undercut the sciences, philosophy, capitalism and theology in order to liberate. This is why it lives on, and on, and on. Despite its failures it remains ultimately untestable, neither proved nor disproved, not being a form of knowledge we’ll know ever lines up with reality, or that can be falsifiable, a la Karl Popper.
In the video, liberation theology is briefly discussed as well, described by Buckley as a kind of ‘baptised Marxism.’ In it, we see a charged movement against the injustices of slavery moving towards ideas of liberation (think Rev. Wright’s church). I’ll put up a quote from a few posts ago by Cornel West.:
‘Being a leftist is a calling, not a career; it’s a vocation not a profession. It means you are concerned about structural violence, you are concerned about exploitation at the work place, you are concerned about institutionalized contempt against gay brothers and lesbian sisters, hatred against peoples of color, and the subordination of women.’
The piece contains liberal pushback (the search for a center?) against what’s argued to be Kagan’s proselytizing neo-conservatism:
‘That is precisely what today’s moment cries out for: Kennan’s humility rather than a new crusade against a new Evil Empire. It cries out for a skeptical liberalism that sees the world as it is rather than going looking for new monsters to destroy.’
Our ideological troubles spring, I have argued before, from liberalism’s lack of perceived legitimacy. Authoritarianism emerges as a symptom either where the liberal approach to organizing society has failed to take root, or where an established liberalism is seen to be overreaching unopposed. We ought to be on the lookout for these failures of liberalism—for “the appeals to core elements of human nature that liberalism does not always satisfy,”
There’s lots of stuff in the piece for regular readers of this blog (Mention of Edmund Burke, Isaiah Berlin etc.).
The author finishes with the area of most shared agreement [between himself] and Kagan (a view of ‘teleological’ progressivism as dangerously narrow and very authoritarian itself; delegitimizing and destabilizing Western liberalism from within).
It’s going to be harder to deal with the rest of the world when these core elements of debate rage within Western hearts, minds and institutions:
‘The Jungle Grows Back is an important book insofar as it contains all the debates outlined above within it. And Kagan opens the space for these ideas to breathe a little by rightly dismissing teleological progressivism in his book’s opening pages—a great service that makes reading the book a richer experience than it otherwise might have been. But a more moderate, and therefore much wiser, conclusion is passed over by an author whose commitment to his priors prevents him from seeing what a gem he might have had on his hands. It’s too bad.’
Kagan discusses the book here with what I’d describe as an evolutionary psychologist/soft-ish Marxist: