Intelligent Design Creationism And A Few Iran Links

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Gelernter’s Strong Arguments Against Intelligent Design Creationism

Interesting read:

‘Gelernter sees that this is purely negative reasoning, because the proponents of intelligent design are offering no positive explanation of their own as to exactly when, where, and how the intelligent designer caused these forms of life.’

Relevant key-word search on this site ‘Gelernter:’ From Ed Driscoll: ‘Interview: David Gelernter on America-Lite’…More Americans In Universities-To What End? A Few Links

Both from The Federalist:

President Trump Can Still Avert A Catastrophe With Iran, And He Should

Panic Over War With Iran Is An Info Operation To Preserve The Iran Deal

My thoughts as a semi-informed citizen: I remember thinking that the Iranian regime (proxies, guns, terrorism) was the kind of regime with whom we couldn’t really do business (anti-American from the get-go), and that the deeper, populist ambitions of many Persians might support some kind of Iranian level-up to nuclear legitimacy, further destabilizing the region after a longer American strategic retreat.

Many signs pointed towards a conflict.

At the time, I didn’t much like the McCain campaign’s noises on Iran, potentially leading to a stand-off or even a much more difficult war than the Iraq campaign, without many of the Iraq war’s architects and supporting base having to examine their underlying assumptions.  This, given the many failure of America’s political and intellectual classes to properly consider what I see as many current American internal social, political and cultural divisions.

This process of decay and/or re-formation of our political and intellectual elite still seems to be ongoing. All in all, I remain highly skeptical.

Add to this the ‘our-deal-or-war’ peace rhetoric of the Obama administration and what seemed the amateurish quality of their foreign policy goals?

Here we are, I suppose.

Relevant key-word search on this site ‘Iran’: How’s That Iran Deal Going, Exactly?…

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

Adam Garfinkle has a thoughtful piece on American political discourse and the Iran deal.

 

North Korea, Strauss & Lucretian Liberalism-Sweet Dreams Are Made Of Red & Green

Claudia Rosett:  ‘Trump, Kim, and the Death Of Otto Warmbier:’

Still completely untrustworthy; diabolical, even:

‘The basic problem is that North Korea’s regime has proved the most enduring totalitarian system of the past century. Kim’s grandfather was installed by Stalin as North Korea’s founding tyrant at the end of World War II, wielding power that has now been entrenched, honed and passed along down three generations.’

How can a regime be so bad with a subway station that good?

Via Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Straussian Denial Of Evolutionary Lucretian Liberalism

So can the Straussian scholars recognize that in this and other ways the Liberal Enlightenment has succeeded? It’s not clear. Generally, Strauss and his followers insist that liberalism must fail because it denies the natural fact of the contradiction between social order and philosophic truth, so that every social order must be closed to any philosophic or scientific enlightenment. A crucial consequence of this natural fact is the necessity and desirability of esoteric writing: philosophers or scientists seeking the truth about nature must write and speak in such a way as to hide their true teaching from the multitude of people who would be harmed by this teaching.

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

From the De Blasio files:

You asked for it, New York:

As posted, from the NY Times on the mayor:

‘Bill de Blasio, then 26, went to Nicaragua to help distribute food and medicine in the middle of a war between left and right. But he returned with something else entirely: a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.

Dream big, impractial dreams: Red, green and white dreams (helping oppressed brown bodies juxtaposed in space).

Bill de Blasio has plans to part the East River—and expects New Yorkers to follow him 500 feet into the estuary, to a new land that will protect downtown from the sea.

However tumultuous American politics gets, just remember it’s not as peace-affirming as Peace Pavilion West and Peace Plaza East (hanging gardens of community kale).

Here are some recent tweets from our community.

Won’t you join us?:

First, we mobilize Youth Consciousness towards Community Goals:

Next, we verdantly restate Community Goals.

Sometimes there are sacrifices to be made:

But the Ends will justify the Means:

A Brief Peace Pavilion West Update

The Founder Of Peace Pavilion West-The Early Years

Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Matt Ridley’s Evolutionary Science of Lucretian Libertarianism ‘

Full post here.

‘LIMITED GOVERNMENT OR LIBERTARIAN ANARCHY?
In some previous posts (here, here, and here), I have commented on the debate between classical liberals and libertarian anarchists as to whether a self-regulating society without government is possible.  Traditionally, classical liberals like Locke and Smith have said that yes, we need government, but only a limited government, to secure the conditions of liberty–to protect the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and to provide some public goods that cannot be provided by private groups.  In response to this, libertarian anarchists have argued that limited government fails, because there is a natural tendency for the powers of government to expand.  The liberal idea that society is an evolved, self-organizing order should lead to the anarchist idea of society without government.

Ridley is unclear as to where he stands in this debate.  On the one hand, he embraces Smith, and he sees that Smith “was no anarchist” (112).  Like Smith, Ridley believes that “there is a vital role for government to play” (101).  On the other hand, in explaining the evolution of government as originating as “a mafia protection racket,” Ridley scorns “the government skyhook” (150, 238-241); and he is fascinated by historical examples of societies without much government in which multiple private law enforcers emerged. ‘

Definitely worth a read.

As previously posted:

Here’s John Gray in the Guardian on Ridley’s new book (Gray’s position is more or less that scientific progress is going on, but in human affairs, ethics and politics, things are learned but don’t stay learned…better to be pessimistic/realistic when it comes to the possibility of our reason making the world any better in these realms).

He’s not a fan of Ridley’s rational optimism:

‘If The Evolution of Everything has any value, it’s as a demonstration that, outside of science, there isn’t much progress – even of the vaguer sort – in the history of thought. Bad ideas aren’t defeated by falsification, and they don’t fade away. As Ridley’s book shows, they simply recur, quite often in increasingly primitive and incoherent forms.’

The two have butted heads before regarding Ridley’s last book:

‘John Gray, in his review of my book The Rational Optimist accuses me of being an apologist for social Darwinism. This vile accusation could not be farther from the truth. I have resolutely criticised both eugenics and social Darwinism in several of my books. I have consistently argued that both policies are morally wrong, politically authoritarian and practically foolish. In my new book I make a wholly different and more interesting argument, namely that if evolution occurs among ideas, then it is ideas, not people, that struggle, compete and die.’

How far will rationalism stretch and tell us true things about the world, predict the future and be a place to put one’s hopes? How far will Darwin’s ideas travel well?

A few years ago, Larry Arnhart at Darwinian Conservatism took a look at Ridley as opposed to Paul Erhlich’s ‘The Population Bomb’ predictions:

‘Notice that in this new journalistic coverage for Ehrlich’s Malthusian pessimism, there are no references to the arguments of people like Simon and Ridley.  Even in the articles in Nature, the scientists are careful not to mention the historical record supporting Darwinian optimism.’

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

Repost-Two Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

From Edge: ‘Dennett On Wieseltier V. Pinker In The New Republic’

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’

A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”

Repost-Graeme Wood At The Atlantic-‘His Kampf: Richard Spencer Is A Troll And An Icon For White Supremacists. He Was Also My High-School Classmate’

There sure are a lot of people ignoring the obvious fascism of the anti-fascists inviting the fascists into their collectivist, ideological embrace, giving meaning to a lot of rather pathetic, lonely people.

The individuals focusing on the idea of racial categories, collectivist solutions to individual problems, equity-first and tribal/group-first ideological and political frameworks have the right to peaceably assemble, of course, but there must be law and order and there must be enough individual citizens answering bad speech with more speech.

I am hoping (perhaps unwisely) for a correction in many media quarters, parts of the academy and the high-liberal turrets where’s there’s been great clamor towards activist logic and increasing emotional commitment to the same old political idealism which gives cover for the violent and radical elements on the Left.

This invites genuine fascism which I sternly and open denounce (not patriotism, not a nation of citizens and laws, not the conservation of liberal order). Violence is not the answer.

Full piece here. (Includes audio interview)

To be fair, I think Wood offers a decent piece of journalism (interviews, phone calls, research etc.); a well-written, longer-form work I find to be in shorter-supply these days.

In it, he highlights Spencer’s Nietzschean-influenced intellectual aspirations and populist ambitions to become a mouthpiece for alt-right advocacy (serious enough to get attention, unserious enough to be poseurish and pathetically fascistic..which means Spencer may not represent more than a vocal minority, even on the alt-right……feel free to send some data my way).

To be critical: What I think Wood misses, and what many anti-Trumpers and liberal ‘gentry’ miss (Trump is an opportunist if there ever was one), is that Richard Spencer (an opportunist if there ever was one) isn’t enjoying his moment in the sun alone. The kind of black bloc, antifa radicalism which Spencer publicly addresses is clearly ok using violence on the way to radical and revolutionary freedom.

Addition: I should clarify that I don’t think Trump is a fascist, but merely an opportunist; a rather socially liberal, NYC real-estate developer.

This leads to the most persuasive arguments I’ve heard criticizing modern liberalism: It’s all too easy to ignore the true-believers, radicals, poseurs and nutbars (they’re our bastards) beneath one’s own platform, especially if they share some version of one’s own cherished beliefs and ideals.

Left and Left-liberal idealism prospers and is even institutionalized at places like Berkeley (no shortage of anti-racist, neo-Marxist, anti-establishment, anti-capitalist sentiment at Berkeley), which helps fuel radicals which help fuel the Richard Spencers.

Fascists and anti-fascists sure can come to resemble one another, trading tired power theories, hitting each other over the head, and trying to squeeze some meaning from similar principles while showboating through the nihilistic void.

Frankly, they deserve each other, and they deserve to be marginalized by the rest of us.

***I don’t think one need be a Nietzschean nor Nietzsche-inspired, nor a Nietzsche-reacting sort of Straussian (from H.L. Mencken to Leo Strauss to Camille Paglia to John Gray) to seriously question the modern liberal and secular human project, and help offer perspective.

But, it probably helps in understanding the fascist tendencies of Spencer and his enemies/allies..

Addition: I should make it clear that Nietzsche didn’t have much truck with fascists, and that he diagnosed, from the depths of his own nihilism, a lot of the crises that would come to face Europe…as for folks like Spencer, they seem to get enough nihilism to carry around while looking for meaning/purpose/identity/belonging elsewhere (in fascist movements)

Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases

On this site, see also:

-Graeme Wood At The Atlantic: ‘The American Leader In The Islamic State’

Hitchens could be entertaining, especially on grounds I’m guessing he knew instinctively well as a former Trotskyite: Ideologies, while highlighting truths, promise a one-stop shop on truth, knowledge, how to be in the world, what to do and what the future will be.

People can kill for less, and when they adhere to such systems, then they can end-up killing more.

This is something of what neo-neo conservatism might look like:

Via a reader. Platonic idealism has advantages in restoring both idealism and realism into political debate, but also drawbacks. It can be a bulwark against moral relativism, which is a modern soup in which Left and Right fascism can be found simmering.

A Podcast From Britain: E30 | Dreaming The Future | Natalie Bennett, Phillip Blond, Roger Scruton

Related On This Site: -Repost: Various Products Of Radical Reason And Reactions To Them- John Gray At The New Statesman

-Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo Strauss

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

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:

======

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.

===========

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’

Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism On Moral Virtue, Individual Freedom And Possibilities For Liberal Order

Full piece here.

Religious believers, religious conservatives, traditionalists, Natural Right Straussians and theists are mistaken, on Arnhart’s view, in thinking there are diminishing stores of moral virtue to be found in America, Western nations more broadly, and throughout a global liberal order partially emanating from the Anglosphere.

Perhaps some fusion of Scottish Enlightenment liberal thought (Adam Smith, especially), Lockean natural right, and Darwinian truth claims upon our origins are enough to maintain moral virtue in keeping individuals and ‘us’ upon a glide-path to progress.

Arnhart:

‘A bourgeois liberal society conforms best to human nature, because a liberal open society will secure both natural liberty and natural virtue–the liberty of individuals to develop those moral and intellectual virtues that express that ranking of the generic goods of human nature that constitutes the best life for those individuals.’

On that pesky God question:

‘To the question of why nature exists, or why it has the order that it does, there are only two possible answers. Either we say this is a brute fact of our experience: that’s just the way it is! Or we move beyond nature to nature’s God as the creator of nature, but then we cannot explain why God is the way He is. In looking for an ultimate explanation, we must stop somewhere with something that is unexplained–either an uncaused or self-caused nature or an uncaused or self-caused God.’

Hmmm…

Related On This Site: Are the empirical claims demonstrating continued progress true? To some extent, I think, yes, they are. Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’

What about that old Church Of England belief via a lot of German Idealism? Repost-Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

From Darwinian Conservatism-‘Smith and Strauss on Bourgeois Liberalism and the Philosophic Life’..

What about the Nietzschean influence and its attendant nihilism?:From YouTube: J.P. Stern On Nietzsche Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’..

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

Is value pluralism really enough?:  A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…

All The Rage On Campus These Days

Jonathan Haidt continues to apply his work as a moral psychologist to the behaviors of true-believing campus activists:  ‘The Roots Of Campus Rage‘ (behind a pay wall)

One thing seems pretty certain: If you leave solutions to the the kinds of intense ideologues and true-believers currently being incentivized on many college campuses, you can be pretty sure what to expect.

This blog’s opinion:  There has been a serious failure of academic stewardship by some gatekeepers and educators along with the likely unsustainable growth of non-essential staff and administration (consultants, really).  This oft watered-down educational mission has led the college experience to become more transactional and consumeristic, thus opening it to further charges of consumerism by the usual ‘anti-capitalist’ suspects drawn to where the money and influence are (America, I don’t want to you lose the sensible egalitarian spirit that helped produce this slow-rolling mess and simply drift Europe-ward).

Charles Murray on his experience at Middlebury

The revolution probably won’t be televised:

‘Some were just having a snarky good time as college undergrads have been known to do, dancing in the aisle to the rhythm of the chants. But many looked like they had come straight out of casting for a film of brownshirt rallies. In some cases, I can only describe their eyes as crazed and their expressions as snarls. Melodramatic, I know. But that’s what they looked like.’

From a reader:  ‘The Rationalist Delusion In Moral Psychology:’

——–

Full piece here.

Larry Arnhart continued his careful reading of Haidt’s work, to which Haidt responded:

“As always, you have done a very close and fair reading of my work. And as before, you see things in my work that I was not fully aware of, but which I agree with. I think you’re right to call me on some potential contradictions. I am indeed a Darwinian, and I am indeed sympathetic to both classical liberalism and Burkean conservatism — more so than to modern leftism or 1970s liberalism. So I’ll have to think about this, and about the conundrums of tolerance and nested incompatible moral matrices that you raise. Thank you!”

An interesting discussion.  Comments are worth a read.


As previously posted:

Full piece here:

‘High schools and colleges that lack viewpoint diversity should make it their top priority. Race and gender diversity matter too, but if those goals are pursued in the ways that student activists are currently demanding, then political orthodoxy is likely to intensify.’

Especially in California, in private schools too, I’m guessing you will likely see a lot of what Haidt describes here as the air kids are used to breathing.

Often, should you point out such competing truths, many people appreciate the respectful discussion; a give and take.

But when you’ve upset the true-believers and their followers (people with money, jobs, political power, core-identity on the line), expect to be vilified and attacked.

For the long haul, it’s possible to be quietly ignored as anachronistic, on the ‘wrong side of history’, put in the libertarian/conservative/neo-conservative bin etc.

There, many sit on a dusty shelf in the bin, properly labeled.

Uncool.

Also, as previously posted:

Megan McArdle revisited Jonathan Haidt: ‘Liberals Can’t Admit To Thinking Like Conservatives

‘I’m an enormous fan of Jonathan Haidt’s work. Nonetheless, I’ve always had two outstanding questions about it (and would note that these are not exactly questions of which Professor Haidt is unaware).’

Check out Larry Arnhart, at Darwinian Conservatism:

Full piece here:

‘The most revealing comment from the Wall Street Journal interview is his praise for Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions, in which Sowell elaborates Friedrich Hayek’s distinction between the “constrained vision” of the British tradition and the “unconstrained vision” of the French tradition.  The constrained or realist vision of human nature is the vision of classical liberalism (Adam Smith) or traditionalist conservatism (Edmund Burke).  “Again, as a moral psychologist,” Haidt says, “I had to say the constrained vision is correct.”  The evolutionary support for the constrained vision is one of the major themes of my Darwinian Conservatism.’

and:

‘The imprecise terminology of liberalism, conservatism, and libertarianism is also confusing.  From my reading of Haidt’s book, he is implicitly embracing a liberal conservatism, or what people like Frank Meyer defended as a fusion of classical liberalism and traditionalist conservatism.  (Haidt mentions fusionism briefly in his paper on libertarianism.)  Crucial for this fusion is the distinction between state and society.  The end for a free state is liberty.  The end for a free society is virtue.  Political liberty provides the conditions for people to pursue virtue in civil society through the natural and voluntary associations of life.  Classical liberals or libertarians rightly emphasize political liberty.  Traditionalist conservatives rightly emphasize social virtue.  Political liberty provides the liberal tolerance by which people are free to pursue their moral visions within whatever moral community they join, as long as they do not violate the equal liberty of all others to live their moral lives as they choose.

‘This is, I think, implicit in Haidt’s book, but he never makes it explicit, because he never clearly makes the crucial distinction between state and society, political liberty and social virtue.’

Interesting reading.

Related On This Site: From Edge: ‘Re: What Makes People Republican? By Jonathan Haidt’…Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

Morality in the emotions? Jesse Prinz argues that neuroscience and the cognitive sciences should move back toward British empiricism and David Hume…yet…with a defense of multiculturalism and Nietzsche thrown in:  Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”From Bloggingheads: Tamar Szabo Gendler On Philosophy and Cognitive Science

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

From Darwinian Conservatism-‘Smith and Strauss on Bourgeois Liberalism and the Philosophic Life’

Full piece here.

This blog is still exploring some ideas of where Leo Strauss’ thinking might lead as a positive doctrine.

Arnhart on this book:

‘The basic idea for Smith’s book comes from Strauss’s “Three Waves of Modernity”–the idea that the first wave of liberal modernity is theoretically flawed in ways that provoke two waves of illiberal attacks on modernity. This suggests the question of whether Strauss and the Straussians are proposing some illiberal alternative to the bourgeois liberal order.

Some advantages:  Strauss’ scholastic, esoteric doctrine can provide a platform on which to understand and critique many aspects of modern life, especially moral relativism.  Many people within the liberal and secular democratic West naturally view liberalism and secular democracy (humanism, more deeply) as part of the air they breathe and the water they drink.

Strauss, to a large extent, was a liberal thinker in this regard, but he drew some sharp lines and saw very illiberal forces at work.  For him, these were urgent matters.  Beginning with Machiavelli, three crises of modernity have shaken liberal democracies to their core from within.

‘Strauss especially worried about the modern philosophical grounds for political and moral normativity as well as about the philosophical, theological, and political consequences of what he took to be modern philosophy’s overinflated claims for the self-sufficiency of reason.’

From ‘The Truth About Leo Strauss,‘ an excerpt from Catherine and Michael Zuckert’s book:

‘A composite picture of Strauss’s Wilsonian idealism would run something like this: Strauss’s chief motivation as a thinker derived from his desire to oppose the twin forces of positivism and historicism, which separately and in combination produce relativism in political thinking. Positivism is the theory that says only scientifically (empirically) supportable claims merit the label of truth; all claims of the sort we have come to call values (for example, judgments of what is morally and politically good, right, and just) are pronounced merely subjective preferences, which can never be rationally validated. Only facts and broader theoretical conceptions built upon facts can be rationally established and defended. Values are thus “subjective” and “relative” to their holders.

Historicism goes even further than positivism in a relativistic direction: even truths of the sort positivists are willing to accept as rationally defensible are rejected as being subjective, as being dependent on or expressive of values—indeed, identified as value judgments themselves. In contrast to positivism, historicism, and relativism, it is said, Strauss taught “the immutability of moral and social values.” This commitment to what is often technically (though never in the popular media) called “value cognitivism” ran contrary to the “moral relativism” dominant in the 1960s and1970s.

Moral relativism was not, in the eyes of Strauss and his followers, a merely academic foible; it underlay, among other things, the dominant foreign policy approaches of the era.’

Harvey Mansfield, Harvard professor and someone who came under Strauss’ influence, expresses some of these ideas in the discussion below with Bill Kristol:

Science (positivism) and History (historicism) on Strauss’ view have helped to create the radicalism, nihilism, and fascist elements deep within civil society and political parties on both the Right and Left in Europe.

Arnhart, meanwhile, seems committed to the idea of progress, as well as there being a sound enough moral and philosophical footing that will not necessarily lead to the problems Strauss defines:

‘Because of market freedom, cultural pluralism, and the bourgeois virtues, our life today is generally more peaceful, more just, and richer in both material and spiritual goods than has ever been the case for human beings at any previous time in history.  Does Smith really believe that that is not progress?’


As previously posted:

Correspondence here.

Link sent in by a reader.

Without a stronger moral core, will liberalism necessarily corrode into the soft tyranny of an ever-expanding State?

Since the 60’s, and with a lot of postmodern nihilism making advances in our society, is a liberal politics of consent possible given the dangers of cultivating a kind of majoritarian politics: Dirty, easily corrupt, with everyone fighting for a piece of the pie?

As an example, Civil Rights activists showed moral courage and high idealism, to be sure, but we’ve also seen a devolution of the Civil Rights crowd into squabbling factions, many of whom seem more interested in money, self-promotion, influence, and political power.

The 60’s protest model, too, washed over our universities, demanding freedom against injustice, but it has since devolved into a kind of politically correct farce, with comically illiberal and intolerant people claiming they seek liberty and tolerance for all in the name of similar ideals.

Who are they to decide what’s best for everyone?  How ‘liberal’ were they ever, really?

Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.

Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘

and about providing a core to liberalism:

‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’

And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:

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

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

Has John Gray turned away from value pluralism into a kind of ‘godless mysticism?’

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Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

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

Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Good Inequality’

Full piece here.

For what it’s worth, in my travels, I often find people who believe ‘inequality’ to be a social or moral harm, to also find ‘equality’ to be a social and moral good, and I’m curious as to how they arrived at such a position.

What does ‘equality’ mean, exactly?

In my experience, people can be wildly unequal in terms of physical and mental abilities, innate capacities and learned skills, life experiences, love and relationship goals, drive and ambition, and of course, pure luck.

We’ve all had some good times, some hard times, some things we’ve fought hard for, sacrificed for, and made a central part of our lives.

Am I gonna make it?  How can I be better to someone I love?  Is what I’m doing with my time worthwhile?

I generally agree with equality under the law as far as the equality of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ goes, but once I start to hear ‘equality’ as an abstract list of ‘rights’, human and otherwise, I find myself occupying a position of skepticism and doubt.

How much equality is enough, exactly?

Arnhart:

‘Over 11 percent of Americans will be among the top 1 percent of income-earners (people making a minimum of $332,000 per year) for at least one year in their lives.  94 percent of the Americans who join the top 1 percent group will keep that status for only one year.’

It seems to me that economic mobility and opportunity is one of the greatest strengths and cherished inheritances we share as Americans.

We don’t have to build around the ruins of monarchy, aristocracy, feudal landownership and fixed classes as found in most of Old Europe.  Our founders set us on a glide-path out of such constraints, with a lot of foresight and wisdom.

Arnhart:

‘Moreover, the factors that explain higher household incomes among Americans are not fixed over a lifetime, and they are to some degree a matter of personal decisions, which means that people are not forced to remain in one income bracket for their whole lives.  American households with higher than average incomes tend to be households where the members are well-educated, in their prime earning years (between the ages of 35 and 64), working full-time, and are in stable marriages.  Households with lower than average incomes tend to be households where the members are less-educated, outside their prime earning years, unemployed or working only part-time, and they are likely to be unmarried.’

Piketty And Hitchens-Some Saturday Links

Larry Summers via the Democracy Journal has an easily-accessible review of Piketty’s ‘Capital In The Twenty-First Century‘, called ‘The Inequality Puzzle.’

Among other interesting thoughts, there’s this:

‘…there is the basic truth that technology and globalization give greater scope to those with extraordinary entrepreneurial ability, luck, or managerial skill. Think about the contrast between George Eastman, who pioneered fundamental innovations in photography, and Steve Jobs. Jobs had an immediate global market, and the immediate capacity to implement his innovations at very low cost, so he was able to capture a far larger share of their value than Eastman. Correspondingly, while Eastman’s innovations and their dissemination through the Eastman Kodak Co. provided a foundation for a prosperous middle class in Rochester for generations, no comparable impact has been created by Jobs’s innovations’

Addition:  Richard Epstein-Piketty’s Rickety Economics.

Martin Feldstein at the WSJ (behind a paywall)-Piketty’s Numbers Don’t Add Up.

Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?Why Do People Move To Cities? From Falkenblog: ‘The Perennial Urban Allure’

Technotopia And Politics-Jonah Goldberg At The National Review Online: ‘Minimum Wage And The Rise Of The Machines’

Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Piketty’s Tax Hikes Won’t Help The Middle-Class’…David Harsanyi: ‘What Thomas Piketty’s Popularity Tells Us About The Liberal Press?’

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.  Technology is changing things rapidly, and maybe, as Charles Murray points out, it’s skewing the field toward high IQ positions while simultaneously getting rid of industrial, managerial, clerical, labor intensive office jobs.  Even so,  we can’t cling to the past.  This is quite a progressive vision but one that embraces change boldly.  Repost-Via Youtube: Conversations With History – Walter Russell Mead

The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Charles Murray On ‘Coming Apart’

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Matt Ridley’s Evolutionary Science of Lucretian Libertarianism ‘

Full post here.

‘LIMITED GOVERNMENT OR LIBERTARIAN ANARCHY?
In some previous posts (here, here, and here), I have commented on the debate between classical liberals and libertarian anarchists as to whether a self-regulating society without government is possible.  Traditionally, classical liberals like Locke and Smith have said that yes, we need government, but only a limited government, to secure the conditions of liberty–to protect the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and to provide some public goods that cannot be provided by private groups.  In response to this, libertarian anarchists have argued that limited government fails, because there is a natural tendency for the powers of government to expand.  The liberal idea that society is an evolved, self-organizing order should lead to the anarchist idea of society without government.

Ridley is unclear as to where he stands in this debate.  On the one hand, he embraces Smith, and he sees that Smith “was no anarchist” (112).  Like Smith, Ridley believes that “there is a vital role for government to play” (101).  On the other hand, in explaining the evolution of government as originating as “a mafia protection racket,” Ridley scorns “the government skyhook” (150, 238-241); and he is fascinated by historical examples of societies without much government in which multiple private law enforcers emerged. ‘

Definitely worth a read.

As previously posted:

Here’s John Gray in the Guardian on Ridley’s new book (Gray’s position is more or less that scientific progress is going on, but in human affairs, ethics and politics, things are learned but don’t stay learned…better to be pessimistic/realistic when it comes to the possibility of our reason making the world any better in these realms).

He’s not a fan of Ridley’s rational optimism:

‘If The Evolution of Everything has any value, it’s as a demonstration that, outside of science, there isn’t much progress – even of the vaguer sort – in the history of thought. Bad ideas aren’t defeated by falsification, and they don’t fade away. As Ridley’s book shows, they simply recur, quite often in increasingly primitive and incoherent forms.’

The two have butted heads before regarding Ridley’s last book:

‘John Gray, in his review of my book The Rational Optimist accuses me of being an apologist for social Darwinism. This vile accusation could not be farther from the truth. I have resolutely criticised both eugenics and social Darwinism in several of my books. I have consistently argued that both policies are morally wrong, politically authoritarian and practically foolish. In my new book I make a wholly different and more interesting argument, namely that if evolution occurs among ideas, then it is ideas, not people, that struggle, compete and die.’

How far will rationalism stretch and tell us true things about the world, predict the future and be a place to put one’s hopes? How far will Darwin’s ideas travel well?

A few years ago, Larry Arnhart at Darwinian Conservatism took a look at Ridley as opposed to Paul Erhlich’s ‘The Population Bomb’ predictions:

‘Notice that in this new journalistic coverage for Ehrlich’s Malthusian pessimism, there are no references to the arguments of people like Simon and Ridley.  Even in the articles in Nature, the scientists are careful not to mention the historical record supporting Darwinian optimism.’

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

Repost-Two Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

From Edge: ‘Dennett On Wieseltier V. Pinker In The New Republic’

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’

A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”