‘It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible…’
The 1st and last paragraphs of Blackburn’s review:
‘When the hoary old question of nature versus nurture comes around, sides form quickly. And as Leavis once remarked, whenever this is so, we can suspect that the differences have little to do with thinking. Still, the question certainly obsesses thinkers, and crops up in various terminologies and under various rubrics: human essence versus historical accident, intrinsic nature versus social construction, nativism versus empiricism. In the ancient world the nativist Plato held that we come into the world equipped with knowledge obtained in a previous life, while the empiricist Aristotle denied it. In our own time Chomsky has revived the nativist doctrine that our capacity for language is innate, and some ultras have even held that our whole conceptual repertoire is innate. We did not ever have to learn anything. We had only to let loose what we already have.
‘Once we get past the demonizing and the rhetoric, take proper notice of the space between overt psychology and evolutionary rationale for it, and lose any phobia of cultural phenomena, what is left? There are plenty of sensible and plausible observations about human beings in Pinker’s book. But it is not clear that any of them are particularly new: Hobbes and Adam Smith give us more than anybody else. And at least their insights have stood the test of time, unlike that of some more recent work. Consider again the example of media violence. Here it seems that psychologists cannot speak with one voice about its effects. But worse than that, much worse, they cannot even speak with one voice about what psychological studies find about its effects. That is, the meta-studies that Pinker cites flatly disagree with the meta-studies that I mentioned earlier. If this is the state of play, we do well to plead the privilege of skepticism. We also do well too not to jettison other cultural resources too quickly. The depressing thing about “The Blank Slate” is that behind the rhetoric and the salesmanship, I suspect that Pinker knows this as well as anyone else.’
Related On This Site: Does evo psy have aspirations in creating a sort of secular morality…or non-religious moral and philosophical structure?: Steven Pinker From The New Republic: The Stupidity Of Dignity…Also, what might the cognitive sciences have against transcedental morality? Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s“Constructive Sentimentalism”
Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’…Repost-Steven Weinberg’s Essay ‘On God’ In The NY Times Review Of Books…Simon Blackburn ReviewsAlan Sokal’s ‘Beyond The Hoax’ In The New Republic…Repost-From Virtual Philosophy: A Brief Interview With Simon Blackburn
One of the themes of this blog has been looking, usually from the outside in, at political liberalism and offering critiques, though I frequently hesitate to align myself with any political party and/or movement. I’m not much of a joiner, and I can’t really call myself a religious believer.
I try and offer that caveat for anyone looking for a political ally or a fellow idea-traveler. Admittedly, it’s a bit strange to write a good deal about political philosophy but not put one forward of one’s own; trying to declare no particular allegiance on any given day.
I can’t help but think to make a child, yours or someone else’s, a poster-child for your cause demonstrates a failure of ideas. It’s probably always unwise to use your child as a vehicle for your dreams, despite the occassional prodigy and/or genius with dreams of their own. Frankly, it seems pretty pathetic to pimp-out children for large, abstract ideas and current politico-moral movements:
I’m with Hannan here:
Britain has gone without burning coal for longer than at any time since the industrial revolution. We are reducing carbon emissions faster than any other big country. Adults should encourage children’s enthusiasm, but not applaud their mistakes. https://t.co/FyMTRqi0Hh
— Daniel Hannan (@DanielJHannan) April 23, 2019
What might people believe and how do they act, and what might that eventually mean for others (laws, politics, rules)? Environmentalism as religion (or a movement with clear Western religious roots does some work for me):
We must conserve all human civilizations as they are today, but not according to current religious, legal, & free-market traditions. Those must radically change. We must conserve Nature, wild & free, saving primitive Peoples, atoning for our sins. Join Peace Pavilion West today.
— Chris Navin (@chris_navin) April 23, 2019
I’ll take up an oar in the Catholic galley, but we may have to part ways sooner or later on our trip down the river:
German philosophical idealism does some work for me (Historicism, post-Hegelian, Marxist), but a high-toned Puritan sensibility is clearly offended by Trump, too. Is a post-ish WASP political establishment more aligned with SJW/Civil Rights causes looking for heretics?
— Chris Navin (@chris_navin) April 23, 2019
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- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’
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 Kant…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …
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.…
Full piece here. (hat tip to David Thompson)
Worstall on Monbiot’s piece:
‘Which brings us to the much more important basic point. The 20th century rather tells us that what people think about things, their guilt at the state of the world, is less important than their actions. Many communists and socialists really did believe that communism and socialism would be better for human beings than the terrors of capitalism and free markets. But their motives pale beside their actual works, slaughtering a hundred million and more in assuaging their guilt.
Actions George, not motives.’
Update: Monbiot as of a few days ago, going full ideology (if such people were in charge, enforcing their cult-like adherence to such ideology…):
— Novara Media (@novaramedia) April 12, 2019
In many instances, the loyalty that many people had for communist and socialist ideals has been transferred over to green causes. Many moral commitments that came with these ideologies, frustrated by the horrendous consequences and totalitarian regimes that resulted (Stalinist North Korea and Communist Cuba still sputter onwards), have been re-directed or can even appear re-branded within environmental movements.
YOU should feel guilty about the poor, the downtrodden, and the global victims of industrial activity. WE should ‘re-wild’ nature and bring it to a state it achieved before man came and despoiled it. Humans have the power to shape their world, but only if they follow the right ideals and the right knowledge, as well as perhaps feeling the guilt and commitment and passion that come with those ideals. WE should aim for a simpler, collective life, and feel ’empathy’ with everyone (oft times the noble savage) around the globe.
Even in the U.S., we’re seeing more socialists out in public in the United States pushing green causes, and there’s more than a little anti-corporate, anti-industrial activism that often finds expression within environmental movements. This activism is making its way into laws, and increasingly forming a major plank in the national Democratic party platform.
Whatever your thoughts on the natural world and conservation, I think it’s fair to say that from cartoons to schools to movies, there’s also been remarkable popular success in making environmental activism mainstream conventional wisdom; easy, cool and fun to join.
Rarely though, is there much discussion of the costs environmental laws can impose on private landowners and consumers (not just big real-estate developers and industrial interests) through compliance with the laws and higher prices. Supporters of environmental causes don’t often connect the dots between their interests and the potential for bureaucratic waste and mismanagement, nor the downright twisted incentives that can result for citizens, lawmakers and even budding scientists looking for grant money.
As we see in California, I think once you get enough public sentiment believing in the basic tenets of green thinking, then climate science, whatever its merits, often becomes a sideshow, while politics and money can become the main event.
***I think Monbiot was on much more stable ground when he appealed to J.S. Mill’s harm principle regarding people harmed by industrial activity. Sometimes people in industries just don’t care about some of the consequences of their actions, and legal recourse can be hard to come by for those without money or connections. There have been beneficial consequences to individuals’ health and to those parts of nature sought to be conserved…but again…at what cost?
It seems worth continually discussing.
This isn’t just about science.
Related On This Site: A Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing?-’Rewilding’ And Ecological Balance
A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…From The Boston Review: ‘Libertarianism And Liberty: How Not To Argue For Limited Government And Lower Taxes’…From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’…
Is it actual Nature, or a deep debate about civilization and morality, man and nature that fuels this Western debate: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’…Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’…Karl Popper’s metaphysical theory: Falsifiability
Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?: Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?: From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit…
Instead of global green governance, what about a World Leviathan…food for thought, and a little frightening: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes…
Let me project some of my own interpretations onto the cave wall.
For many Westerners, perhaps there is no longer a God revealing Himself to Man, but there are expanding fields of knowledge and human endeavors able to light the way forwards onto a future of hope and progress; backwards onto human origins.
In the popular media (such as in the publications displaying the photo above), perhaps this knowledge can align with current popular sentiment and belief. An imprimatur, of sorts.
Such thinking can also coincide with a rather Romantic Idealization of Nature; a vision of Man without dominion over Nature, necessarily, but rather men, women, children and an ever growing list of humans (and animals, even) living both frustratingly apart, but also interconnected within Nature, following Nature’s lead alone and with each other.
Most people, I suspect, often without such specialized knowledge (not specifically trained in the sciences), require a lot of moral oughts and shoulds regarding how to live and what to do.
Furthermore, people tend to organize into groups united by shared principles and beliefs, and so often, in the modern world, beneath political ideals and political ideologies. Even if these political ideals and ideologies aren’t explict moral philosophies, necessarily, they can certainly end-up engaging the moral sentiments, basic human desires and motivations of the people within them.
Such movements are certainly understood by many of their members as posessing truth and knowledge enough to write the laws and rules we all must follow, prescribing our own personal moral behavior enough to align us with the people who ought to be in charge of us.
Perhaps the poet or Romantic genius can help guide Man (into the Self and the Self into Nature). The poet/thinker’s example can be full of grief, anguish and Nature’s brutality, indeed, but it can also offer moments of self-actualization, beauty, consolation and transcendence. It can be taught as part of a civilizing hierarchy or canon, a reef of traditions and structure enough to develop seriously good artists and produce quite a few educated citizens.
I suspect there’s always been a tension between the poet/artist and the Man of Science and Mathematics; people generally more concerned in seeking the underlying order and patterns within Nature, discovering the probabilistic and mathematical laws able to accurately describe and predict the strange world in which we seem to find ourselves. Such laws can be beautiful, and symmetrical, and true just for their own sake, sure, but like a good poem, a mathematical law remains curiously silent about how to live and what to do.
Addition: Perhaps, I might add, but perhaps not. Perhaps it’s worth thinking about just which dangers accompany such lights, and which problems endure.
How does the West interact with the non-West, and vice versa. What common assumptions do Westerners often assume and project onto other civilizations? The late Roger Sandall, here:
‘The claim that “open societies” are now increasingly threatened would probably meet with little argument. But what is the nature of the threat, and what are its roots? Here less agreement might be found. Some would say an essentially religious clash of civilizations is the main cause, and point to the growing struggle between Islam and the West.
Others might point to Russia under President Putin, finding evidence of a long-standing political tradition that owes relatively little to the Russian Orthodox Church, but has always found liberty odious.
And then there’s a third and troubling possibility — that from an evolutionary perspective, taking a long view of our historic and prehistoric origins, open societies where voluntaristic principles prevail are new forms of human association only recently arrived from the distant tribal past, and in the more violent trouble spots around the world they never arrived at all.’
The late Ken Minogue:
On the many dangers of political idealism, and using political theory as the limits of your field of vision:
‘We may sum this up by saying that the more the style of what used to be called politics becomes theorized, the more political problems come to be reintrepreted as managerial. Working out the least oppressive laws under which different and sometimes conflicting groups may live peaceably together is being replaced by manipulation and management of the attitudes different groups take towards each other, with the hope that this will ultimately bring harmony. In other words, in the new form of society, human beings are becoming the matter which is to be shaped according to the latest moral idea.’
-Minogue, Kenneth. Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).
Related: A definition of humanism:
“‘…a morally concerned style of intellectual atheism openly avowed by only a small minority of individuals (for example, those who are members of the British Humanist Association) but tacitly accepted by a wide spectrum of educated people in all parts of the Western world.”
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’…
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…
Robert Hughes, Australian and often fierce critic of modernism and post-modernism.
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”…
Full discussion here.
Helen Andrews offers a critique of the meritocratic system she sees dominating U.S. education (more grades, achievement and performance-based—-less legacy and WASP based).
Yes, the old system had its problems and horrors, but she cites its end in a Victorian redesign of the British civil service, a redesign whose counterpart is now thriving here in the U.S. since the 1960’s.
‘Others favor the slightly more radical solution of redefining our idea of merit, usually in a way that downplays what Guinier calls “pseudoscientific measures of excellence.” She even has a replacement in mind, the Bial-Dale College Adaptability Index, the testing of which involves Legos. (Why are you laughing? It is backed by a study.) This is even less likely to work than fiddling with the equality-of-opportunity end. For one thing, the minority of families willing to do whatever it takes to get into Harvard will still do whatever it takes to get into Harvard.’
‘My solution is quite different. The meritocracy is hardening into an aristocracy—so let it. Every society in history has had an elite, and what is an aristocracy but an elite that has put some care into making itself presentable? Allow the social forces that created this aristocracy to continue their work, and embrace the label.’
If true, I look forward to being governed by the somewhat true social-science coventional wisdom of 25 years prior; hardened into assumptive bedrock beneath the intense gazes of a political campaign doing opposition reaearch in shafts of afternoon sunlight at the Airport Heights Convention Center. The dust of the world swirls up from the carpet, suddenly visible.
As I see it, these schools were always about grooming ambitious, wealthy, and well-connected people to some extent; molding them into institutions which often govern the rest of us.
***I’d add that much like the deeper logic behind a more general multiculturalism, its practitioners and the younger people raised within this system can easily lose sight of the lenses they’re using to view the world (shared ideals and assumptions about moral virtue, truth and knowledge claims, the idea of moving towards the telos of a ‘better world’ which can now become the social glue of the institutions themselves).
***I should add that I’m rather sympathetic to Andrews’ slow-change, tradition-favoring, conservative-ish, position. I also like to think of myself as somewhat on the outside looking in.
As often posted:
It’d be nice if many secularists and political liberals said something like the following: If we continue to secularize society, we will entrench many postmoderns, activists, radicals, people steeped in resentment, and narrow socialist ideologues, but the gains in liberty will be worth it. We understand human nature well enough to create lasting institutions which can preserve liberty.
I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of this quote by Ken Minogue:
‘We may sum this up by saying that the more the style of what used to be called politics becomes theorized, the more political problems come to be reintrepreted as managerial. Working out the least oppressive laws under which different and sometimes conflicting groups may live peaceably together is being replaced by manipulation and management of the attitudes different groups take towards each other, with the hope that this will ultimately bring harmony. In other words, in the new form of society, human beings are becoming the matter which is to be shaped according to the latest moral ideas.’
-Minogue, Kenneth. Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).
As also previously posted:
There seems to be an ex post facto character to much of the ol’ meritocratic enterprise, in my humble opinion, where a healthy skepticism is warranted.
In fact, it’s probably made [more] room for the same old Socialism.
On that note, I have a healthy respect for contrarians, frankly, when merely speaking out in favor of…:
‘the importance of traditional marriage values in ensuring children’s future success…’
…involves controversy and professional censure.
It’s so bland!
In fact, what will you do with your own blandness, dear reader, entombing the flaming desire to be woke within; the little half-opened doors of ecstasy and ‘environmental justice’?:
Earth Quaker Action Team is ON IT. (I’m not sure the Quakers ever had much institutional authority…so this could well be a marketing ploy to start more Quaking)
If we are coming apart, who’s putting us back together? : Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss…Repost-Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People
Related On This Site: Once you take apart the old structure, you have to criticize the meritocracy you’ve helped create: David Brooks At The NY Times: ‘Why Our Elites Stink’
The anti-intellectual’s intellectual: Repost-Via Youtube: Eric Hoffer-’The Passionate State Of Mind’…
A deeper look at what education “ought” to be, which is remarkably like it is now: A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.
Still reliving the 60′s?: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”
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.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”Via Bloggingheads-Helen Andrews On Meritocracy
Dear reader, there’s a competition going on, extending to the poles and into space, for raw materials, mineral wealth and transit routes.
This competition will surely have some consequences in the current geopolitical realm (Cuba, Ukraine, Africa, The South China Sea) where there’s quite a bit of Russian and Chinese recalcitrance in the face of Western attempts at order.
Europe’s low birth-rates and many flagging economies (including the top-heavy trade union), aren’t looking great, but they’ve got funding and top talent. America’s profound social and political divides don’t bode well for current national unification, but are not necessarily requirements for proper investment in this process (not clear to me if we’ve even bottomed out of the current serious problems and aren’t heading for a resurgent nationalism).
Russia’s low birth-rates and post-ish Communist order contain very high levels of corruption but can also still apply many of the country’s resources, though I doubt these efforts will be as cooperative as even getting to the ISS, and could become pretty nasty.
China’s post-ish Communist order must maintain high-rates of economic growth and Chinese civilization is still undergoing crazy rates of change. Much of the society is deeply commercial and with quite a bit of nationalism. The political order is deeply authoritarian and global in reach. Chinese authorities are heavily investing AI modeling, artificial intelligence, and technological advancement.
We probably shouldn’t count out other players like India and Japan either.
How much am I missing?
Bob Zubrin at The New Atlantis: ‘Moon Direct‘. He’s a fan of creating a moon-base.
‘If we want to explore the Moon, and prepare to go beyond, we don’t need a space station in lunar orbit — but we could use a base on the Moon itself.’
There was a pretty tense atmosphere these past generations, as the primary geopolitical contest was between the United States and the Soviet Union:
Here’s actual video:
As to the further below video regarding crazy and true-believing environmentalists (more Zubrin, recommended), perhaps this brief sketch does some work:
My limited take on a Christian view of the world-Deeply Aristotelian, it incorporates a metaphysics with Man at the top of a hierarchal order of all living creatures here on Earth (dominion and stewardship), but Man’s place is beneath a God revealing himself to Man as he discovers the divine and mysterious order to be found within Nature.
My limited take post-Enlightenment back-to-Nature Romanticism-Deeply materialist and humanist, often collectivist, it incorporates a metaphysics of scientific materialism and an often inverted Christian morality of dominion and stewardship. In addition, there are many anti-scientific, anti-materialist, anti-humanist movements beneath the bloom of post-Enlightentment science, social-science and humanities thinking.
Look no further than the current postmodern mess.
How much am I missing?
So many doomsayers in the prediction racket:
Addition: Mining the Moon or Mars is going to be very expensive, currently prohibitively so. However, if it becomes economically viable (costs get low enough, travel, tourism, trade), there are reasons to so, especially survival.
Currently, I’ve been thinking about Mars on the Moon kind of like like going to Antarctica, but colder, drier, with little to no atmosphere, intense solar radiation and all the problems of confined spaces and being so far from home you might not return.
“He is a hard man who is only just, and a sad one who is only wise.”
More on Weinstein here. Interesting guy.
There’s 4 kinds of “fake news”:
I) Narrative driven (NYT)
III) Factually false
I/IV now at war w II/III.
— Eric Weinstein (@EricRWeinstein) December 7, 2016
As this blog has noted: One of the core functions of successful media outlets lies in aggregating information and sources of information, cornering a market if possible, and maintaining competitive advantage by implementing new technology ahead of others in the same market space. It’d be nice if they had an idea of the ‘public trust’ in mind, or reader-respect, or consumer responsiveness…but…there are no guarantees. Also, they can easily become beholden to the people they rely upon for access.
What if the technology changes rapidly enough to make many old models obselete, or many of them obselete within a relatively short period of time?
The losers can be very vocal about their losses (some going-in for special pleading and the end-is-nigh handwringing….often with an inflated sense of their own importance).
A lot of the people who used the math to design the algorithms that now structure user interaction with information and sources of information have similar gatekeeping power/influence the old outlets had.
***Actual beat journalism costs time and money, is probably best done locally, and can be a vital check on those with power and influence (or more power/influence than the media outlet has, and more likely with conflicting political/business/ideological interests than the media outlet).
There is a risk calculation necessary for this type of journalism, because it often doesn’t pan-out.
Thanks to a reader.
Related On This Site:A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’
-(addition) Via a reader: Eugene Volokh argues freedom of the press ain’t about saving the buggy whip industry:
‘I’ve often argued that the freedom of the press was seen near the time of the Framing (and near the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment, as well as in between and largely since) as protecting the right to use the press as technology — everyone’s right to use the printing press and its modern technological heirs. It was not seen as protecting a right of the press as industry, which would have been a right limited to people who printed or wrote for newspapers, magazines and the like .‘
At least with the Weekly World News, you got the best of fakery:
Hello there fellow secular human being!
As we both know, past traditions, institutions, laws and honor-bound individual obligations are anachronistic at best, oppressive at worst.
They just don’t work.
As an empathetic life-form, you’re not only feeling overwhelmed by too many consumer choices, but also by the failures of ‘neo-liberal’ and rootless global cosmopolitanism.
Our Leader bears witness to your hidden talents and challenges you to empower your Self to become part of the new ‘creative class.’
Roll-up your sleeves and work for more pure and collectively oriented democratic institutions today! It’s up to us to choose benevolent and energetic politicians; strong leaders possessing all the right knowledge and rhetorical prowess.
Come join us at The Human Pagoda, global democracy’s laboratory for progress and collective human leadership.
At Peace Pavilion West, we have a new, inspirational mural painted on the ceiling of The Human Pagoda. It depicts Saints John, Paul, George and Ringo locking arms with Mother Mary, Our Lady Of The Global Village. #LoveIsAllYouNeed
— Chris Navin (@chris_navin) February 4, 2019
At Peace Pavilion West, we have an on-site ethicist, a brain-scan and palm reader, and a community empath with two Humanities degrees. #WhatCanTheHumanPagodaDoForYou?
— Chris Navin (@chris_navin) February 5, 2019
***The above is entirely, 100% true.