Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution Of War And Lethal Violence’

Full post here.

‘Over the years, I have written a long series of posts on whether evolutionary science can adjudicate the debate between Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau over whether our earliest human ancestors were naturally violent (as Hobbes argued) or naturally peaceful (as Rousseau argued). Many social scientists have been vehement in taking one side or the other in this debate. But I have argued that John Locke took a third position that is closest to the truth–that our foraging ancestors lived in a state of peace that tended to become a state of war. Hobbes is partly right. Rousseau is mostly wrong. And Locke is mostly right.’

Much depends on where you start, for in seeking a definition of man’s State in Nature, enough to claim a moral and legal foundation for the justification of authority, this definition matters a lot. Much modern political philosophy has been engaged in trying to define who has the moral legitimacy to be in charge (I personally find myself attracted to the government having a role to secure life, liberty, and property…and little else).

Arnhart:

It’s easy to understand why the Rousseaueans love the bonobos–there’re the hippie apes who make love not war.

On the other hand, it’s also easy to understand why the Hobbesians love the chimps and not the bonobos, because the chimps are closer to Hobbesian expectations for a evolutionarily close human relative. Frances White once observed…’

Darwinian science can explain quite a bit about our behavior, both individually and in the aggregate, yielding insights grounded in data and close observations of how we actually behave, and how our closest ancestors in the wild also actually behave.

Yet, this field will also interact with what we already know of our natures based on the political, civil and religious institutions we see around us every day which I presume also reflect much of who we are and how we behave…especially with power (and why the separation of powers is so important).

This blog is concerned with a fundamental problem in the West since the Enlightenment: Some people are seeking to mold human nature and smash civil society and its laws (to be replaced with something else, often the remnants of failed authoritarian/totalitarian rationalist systems or…nothing).

Other folks are seeking inclusion into civil society from previous injustice and oppression by vast expansions of Federal authority. This has had important consequences for the moral claims to authority which currently justify that authority.

Still others are claiming legitimate moral authority from the Sciences and Human Reason which can easily outstrip the ability of the Sciences and our Reason to justify such claims. I often find myself retreating to a position of Skepticism regarding many such claims.

As has been pointed out to me, Lockean liberty does correct for Hobbes’ Leviathan, but when did individuals consent to such authority in the first place?

As previously posted:

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Presented by Lawrence Cahoone, at College Of The Holy Cross, and focusing on ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.’

Via a previous post:

‘If a man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to nobody, why will he part with his freedom? Why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power? To which ’tis obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others. For all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very insecure. This makes him willing to quit this condition, which however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and ’tis not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others who are already united, or have a mind to unity for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.’

*Locke, John. Two Treatises Of Government. London: Everyman, J.M. Dent, Orion Publishing House. 1993.

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And the comments:

–Chris, do you have the exact date when man agreed to “join in society with others”

My response which has not really answered the question:

I’m still trying to figure out exactly when, or how, it was that each man was granted rights derived from God, or reason, or some sufficiently abstract principle(s) that keeps him free enough to be neither master nor slave, and at least free enough to choose voluntary association through protection of law, property, contract, and some of the ‘negative’ liberties.

Given my understanding of human nature and my own experience, I don’t see how this is possible without family, the dependence upon institutions, tradition and the habits derived from them forming the backbone of civil society. That may well be a lack of faith in human nature, but I consider it quite realistic

How the voluntary association and the obligations and duties to these institutions fit together is a matter of deep debate and one I clearly haven’t resolved.

Related On This Site: From Darwinian Conservatism-‘Smith and Strauss on Bourgeois Liberalism and the Philosophic Life’…Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

 

Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’

Repost-Thomas Sowell Discusses ‘A Conflict Of Visions’

Repost-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

Thanks: Includes anecdotes involving Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein and logical positivism, John Maynard Keynes, and a funny one with Winston Churchill; talk about being near the center of 20th-century intellectual life…

On this site, see: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Berlin puts forth a liberal political philosophy and value pluralism which hones in on one of the greatest dangers to liberty:  Thinking that there is fact one rational plan and end to human affairs, of which some men have knowledge and towards which all men should be directed:

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Somewhere from the old aristocratic Russia softly speaks a keen mind in beautiful, strange English: Michael Dirda At The Washington Post Reviews ‘Nabokov in America’

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’

This Post Is Way Too Modern?

Two juxtapositions of ‘texts in space’ found at the Times Literary Supplement.

From ‘Postmodernism is dead. What comes next?‘ by Alison Gibbons:

‘At the same time, our culture retains many of the themes and concerns that exercised writers of earlier generations; there is little sign of a radical literary avant garde sweeping away the old to make way for the new. Postmodernism might not be as emphatically over as some critics like to claim, but it does seem to be in retreat. Its devices have become so commonplace that they have been absorbed into mainstream, commercial and popular culture. Postmodernism has lost its value in part because it has oversaturated the market. And with the end of postmodernism’s playfulness and affectation, we are better placed to construct a literature that engages earnestly with real-world problems.’

From ‘The relentless honesty of Ludwig Wittgenstein‘ by Ian Ground:

‘Wittgenstein was hostile to modern philosophy as he found it. He thought it the product of a culture that had come to model everything that matters about our lives on scientific explanation. In its ever-extending observance of the idea that knowledge, not wisdom, is our goal, that what matters is information rather than insight, and that we best address the problems that beset us, not with changes in our heart and spirit but with more data and better theories, our culture is pretty much exactly as Wittgenstein feared it would become.’

Goodness, this is messy.  As previously posted:

Repost-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

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?

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Update & Repost-You, Sir Or Ma’am, Are Probably As Bad As Hitler, And You’re Getting Warmer

Timothy Snyder’s new book ‘The Next Genocide.

Bruce Everett on the book:

‘It’s de rigueur on college campuses to pledge allegiance to the climate agenda, denouncing Luddites who impede progress on the climate policies that all right-thinking people support. Those of us who work in academia are used to this ritual, but every once in a while an academic decides to distinguish himself by making his denunciation louder and more strident than the rest of the crowd. ‘

Personally, as someone interested in reserving my right to skepticism and following my limited understanding of climate science data (quite possibly happening, not clear how drastic, predictions are hard, especially about the future), climate change activism suspiciously resembles an ideological refugee camp for many followers of failed theories of history.

This is off-putting, to say the least.

From a reader:  Christopher Essex discusses ‘Believing In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, And Climate Models:’

It really shouldn’t be that difficult a thing to keep a strong interest in the natural world and a desire to understand it quite apart from such true-belief, collectivist virtue-signalling, hyperbole and ideology.

This stuff is complicated!

It also seems obvious that some climate radicalism has hardened into an idealism guiding much establishment conventional wisdom, producing an enormous gravy-train of special interests, economy-stifling regulations and questionable incentives. At present, it would seem a vast majority of people busy scribbling for media outlets believe in climate change as much as they believe in anything.

As for Hitler, that reminds me to plug my remaindered pulp title: ‘Hitler’s Hell-Girls And The Venetian Platform Of Doom

Back cover blurb: ‘It’s 2076, and the Climate Wars have broken-out. Earth hangs in the balance. Quietly, Hitler’s head has been kept alive on a sub-station orbiting Venus, doing quality research on surface conditions and geology. When the first band of refugees arrives however, old ways return. Soon, Goering’s space-ghost is leading an army of Catholic school girls who’ve traded-in their plaid-skirts for brown-shirts. Can anything stop this nightmare from reaching Earth?’

He’s right…you know zat?

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As previously posted: Bathe in the bathos of a warming world:

A reader sends a link to a SF Gate review of poet Jorie Graham’s ‘Sea Change:

‘In “Sea Change,” Graham becomes Prospero, casting spells by spelling out her thoughts to merge with ours, and with the voices of the elements. The result is a mingling of perceptions rather than a broadcasting of opinions. Instead of analysis, the poems encourage emotional involvement with the drastic changes overwhelming us, overwhelm- ing the planet.’

and:

‘Strengths and weaknesses, flows and ebbs, yet every poem in “Sea Change” bears memorable lines, with almost haunting (if we truly have but 10 years to “fix” global warming) images of flora and fauna under siege. Jorie Graham has composed a swan song for Earth.’

Oh boy.

What are these poems being asked to do?

Repost-Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

***Who do you trust for discussions of the arts and culture, and would you just rather publications be up front about their ideological bents and loyalties?

Related On This Site: Snyder is perhaps not a fan of libertarianism Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale Surrenders

Update And Repost-Skeptical Environmentalism From Fora.tv Via A & L Daily: Bjorn Lomborg @ COP15

Full video here 

Intro below.  Don’t worry, another summit is surely coming along:

Don’t argue the science, Lomborg has been saying for a while now, but try and align the problems more with the science, because much of it suggests that CO2 warming will likely present problems.

We’re cramming way too much into a tiny idea (capping carbon emissions), and the media coverage absurdly demonstrates this.  We may not want to end-up with European-style policies restricting our economy, and the old European stratifications and resentments directed from a clunky, top-down global enterprise (hey, my cards are showing).

I still reserve the right to be entirely skeptical (what if it isn’t happening at all?), but the more time I’ve spent with any data, the more I think.

How to separate reasonable environmentalism from the authoritarian impulses, the naive idealists, the Malthusians and various other people who “know” how many people is enough?  Now that environmentalism is a primary focus in our schools, it’s probably worth thinking about.

More on his position here:

As posted:

Here’s Bob Zubrin on the rather pseudo-religious and dangerous roots of much environmentalism:

Rescuing the Enlightenment from its exploiters?

Tzvetan Todorov is primarily a literary theorist, but it’s often worth highlighting the following:

“Or take the current fetishisation of The Science, or as Todorov calls it, ‘scientism’.”

and

“We experience this most often, although far from exclusively, through environmentalist discourse. Here, science supplants politics. Competing visions of the good are ruled out in favour of that which the science demands, be it reduced energy consumption or a massive wind-power project. This, as Todorov sees it, involves a conflation of two types of reasoning, the moral (or the promotion of the good) and the scientific (or the discovery of truth”

On this analysis, those who would defend skepticism and political conservatism against climate change politics (demanding less, much less and in some ways more, from their politics …and with a healthier understanding of what politics can do) are boxed out.

But our author is somewhat critical of Todorov’s approach:

“Any redemption of the hopes of the Enlightenment, any revival of the core principles of Enlightenment, from autonomy to secularism, can never be a purely intellectual exercise.”

Is that a dose of Historicism?

Related On This Site:  Bjorn Lomborg saw this coming a while ago, pricking the mighty Al Gore (who is moving beyond satire):  From The WSJ-A Heated Exchange: Al Gore Confronts His Critics

Andrew Revkin In The NY Times: Global Warming Moderation From Bloggingheads: On Freeman Dyson’s Global Warming Heresy…From The WSJ-A Heated Exchange: Al Gore Confronts His Critics…From The Literary Review–Weather Channel Green Ideology: Founder John Coleman Upset.

Trying To Club Your Club To Death, Fictional British Towns & Mars-Some Links

Imagine trying to ban all the Moose Lodges, Elks’ Clubs, Little Leagues, and Girl Scout Troops across the nation in the name of fairness (if these clubs and civil associations can’t be ‘equal’ according to the loudest voices demanding ‘equality’, then nobody’s going to have any clubs).

Of course, many of the same individuals and orgs seeking to influence everyone’s behavior at Harvard are also seeking to do so through the Federal Government.

Some people seem locked in [a] kind of slavish ideological dependency on the institutions they seek to either control or destroy.

From FIRE.org: ‘Harvard’s Steven Pinker on proposal to ban social clubs: ‘This is a terrible recommendation

‘Members of the Harvard University community are reacting to news yesterday that a faculty committee recommends the Ivy League institution eliminate all exclusive social clubs. The ban would effectively shutter any Harvard-connected off-campus clubs, including all fraternities and sororities, by the year 2022 — despite Harvard’s continued promises of unfettered freedom of association for its students.’


Via kottke.org: ‘Fictional Names For British Towns Generated By A Neural Net

Two miles from Brumlington, as the crow flies, deep in the moor past Firley Binch, lieth Fuckley….

I recommend Simon’s blog for photos and text of the English Countryside.

Mick Hartley’s blog is pretty good, too.


Five years on Mars can be boiled down to 1 1/2 hours of discussion.  The data is telling a story, so how is that story being told?:

Did Mars harbor life?

Could it have harbored life?

What does this new data mean for Earth and our story?

From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

A very Harvard affair: The Spelke/Pinker debate-The Science Of Gender And Science

Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

Harvey Mansfield At The City Journal: ‘Principles That Don’t Change’

Via Youtube: ‘Curiosity’s First Year On Mars’

Repost-Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’

Full post here.

Darwin and the arts.  Kirsch has an interesting piece reviewing 3 books, including one by Denis Dutton.  What might neuroaesthetics have to say about art that hasn’t been said already?

‘This sensible reticence served both art and science well enough for more than a century after Darwin’s death. But with the rise of evolutionary psychology, it was only a matter of time before the attempt was made to explain art in Darwinian terms. After all, if ethics and politics can be explained by game theory and reciprocal altruism, there is no reason why aesthetics should be different: in each case, what appears to be a realm of human autonomy can be reduced to the covert expression of biological imperatives. The first popular effort in this direction was the late Denis Dutton’s much-discussed book The Art Instinct, which appeared in 2009.’

Worth a read.

More broadly, it’s interesting to note how art, aesthetics, morality, moral reasoning, ethics etc. are being attached to Darwin’s thinking.  For some, I suspect, it is to advance a secular humanist platform which is full of oughts and shoulds for all of us in other areas of life, including politics and culture.

Related On This Site:  Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’Denis Dutton R.I.P.-December 28th, 2010 …From Bloggingheads: Denis Dutton On His New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’A Few More Thoughts On Denis Dutton’s New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful…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…Adam Kirsch At The Prospect: ‘America’s Superman’… From The Spiked Review Of Books: “Re-Opening The American Mind”.

Some say we’re just selfish, others disagree-Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’Adam Kirsch In The New Republic On Slavoj Zizek: The Deadly JesterSlavoj Zizek In The New Republic: Responding To Adam Kirsch