Friday, April 23, 2021
Hundreds of books and innumerable articles have been written, and many popular movies have been made, about the people who died when Vietnam became a battleground between the American forces and the communist guerrilla army. But we rarely hear the story of those who died while trying to flee Vietnam after the communists vanquished the Americans and took control of the country. In his book Carnage and Culture, Victor Davis Hanson writes: “A communist victory brought more death and even greater dislocation to the Vietnamese than did decades of war—more often slowly by starvation, incarceration, and flight, rather than by outright mass murder… Exact numbers are in dispute, but most scholars accept that well over 1 million left by boat; and hundreds of thousands of others crossed by land into neighboring Thailand and even China…. Those who died in leaky boats or in storms numbered between 50,000 and 100,000…”
Posted by Anoop Verma at 9:05:00 AM
Thursday, April 22, 2021
People who are good-hearted can become tyrannical out of idleness. Capitalism creates prosperity, which in turn makes it possible for the top layer of the population (the elites) to have an idle lifestyle—their idleness breeds tyrannical tendencies and they turn towards communism and fascism. They can no longer feel satisfied with their luxurious way of life. Now they lust for control, for the capacity to give orders, for political power. They want to have a say in how the less fortunate folks (who are less prosperous and less idle) live. The elites lobby for a bigger and more intrusive government which, they are convinced, they will control forever. But they are not satisfied with exercising tyrannical control over their own nation; they are still idle and they lust for more power. They want to control the way of life in other nations too. First they try the diplomatic and economic methods to coerce the natives of other nations; if these do not work, they send their military to beat and bomb the recalcitrant natives into submission. Thus, the bridge that connects capitalism with communism and fascism is made out of “idleness.”
Dostoevsky understood the connection between “atheism” and “socialism” before anyone else. In his book The Brothers Karamazov, published in 1879, decades before the Bolshevik experiment was executed in Russia by Lenin and Trotsky, Dostoevsky writes: “If he had decided that God and immortality did not exist, he would at once have become an atheist and a socialist. For socialism is not merely the labor question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism today, the question of the tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to heaven from earth but to set up heaven on earth.” In this excerpt, which occurs in Chapter 5, “Elders,” Dostoevsky is reflecting on the reasons which might have inspired the youngest of the Karamazov brothers, Alyosha Karamazov, to become a monk and not a socialist. Dostoevsky was a man of wisdom—in his books, he has given a magnificent description of the human condition.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:35:00 AM
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
You can’t win if you fight “science.” After the Second World War, the intellectuals belonging to the Frankfurt school and other post-Bolshevik leftist groups, who were identifying as liberals, developed the strategy of using Freudian psychoanalysis, which they touted as infallible science, to disarm their political opponents.
They created the image of a normal personality-type which was of a prototypical liberal—and they started using words like “deranged,” “racist,” “infantile,” “fascist,” “neurotic,” “nazi,” and “warmonger” to denounce those whose opinions did not fit the liberal personality-type. You had to be a liberal in order to be regarded as “normal”—if you were a conservative or an independent thinker, then you faced the risk of being branded as “abnormal.” Since this branding was being done in the name of science, it was incontestable.
In the twenty-first century, this supposedly Freudian but essentially liberal method of analyzing and depicting personality-types has become the widely accepted norm in the intellectual establishment (the mainstream media, academia, and the arts and entertainment industry). Those who reject the liberal view on the hot-button issues—global warming, climate change, sexism, minority rights, feminism, multiculturalism, economic policy, foreign policy—are routinely depicted as “abnormal” in the newspapers, magazines, books, TV news, movies, and serials.
The call is often made that the “abnormal” personality-types should be tarred and feathered, and driven out of the media, academia, the arts and entertainment industry, and most importantly politics. Having been inundated with such opinions from a variety of intellectual resources since the 1950s, the masses are convinced that the liberal way is the only way of being “normal.”
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:50:00 AM
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Not all who rave about paradise are divinely inspired. Many of them are utopians who conceal in their heart a maddening amount of hatred, rage, and revolt. Their moral values are founded on atheism and their politics is leftist or liberal—but they are not without “faith,” not without the notion of “paradise” and “blasphemy.” They have faith in their paradise, which is their earthly utopia of science and reason where there is total freedom and total equality, and they treat the arguments against their paradise as a blasphemy—one that is punishable by a purge, enslavement, and death. They want to burn down the social institutions, rewrite history, discredit the traditions and culture, cut through the political opposition by committing every possible atrocity, including mass murders—all this to save mankind from the injustices of the world and create a new paradise for the true believers. The primary motivation of the utopian paradise-builders is annihilation; the creation of the paradise is their secondary motivation.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:15:00 AM
Monday, April 19, 2021
The notion that man is born free, that total freedom is his natural state, and that all rational men want to be free is a myth that got developed in the Age of Enlightenment by French philosophers who hoped that their philosophy would inspire the rise of a new kind of human material which is untainted by the belief in God and cultural traditions and would be ready to fight and die for a new atheistic utopia of reason and science. These philosophers believed that God and cultural traditions are the two major forces which hinder people from being free.
Since the Age of Enlightenment, this myth of total freedom and the hope of an atheistic utopia has been perpetuated by several powerful schools of modern philosophy.
Most people (who are not obsessed with philosophy and utopian politics) want to be part of religious and cultural groups which can give them a sense of belonging and security. In Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, the character called Ivan Karamazov says: “I tell you, man has no preoccupation more nagging than to find the person to whom that unhappy creature may surrender the gift of freedom with which he is born. But only he can take mastery of people's freedom who is able to set their consciences at rest.”
Dostoevsky was not a utopian like the Enlightenment philosophers and their modern counterparts—he was a man of wisdom.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:53:00 PM
Sunday, April 18, 2021
I can see the future: it is a leftist utopia. The left never stopped learning—it learned from the failures of the Jacobin revolution of the eighteenth century, the Russian Bolshevik revolution of the twentieth century, and several other revolutions—and their political movement kept evolving. From the guillotine-toting Jacobins, they evolved into the gun-toting Bolshevik revolutionaries, and now they have evolved into an even more magnificent beast: the suave and erudite liberal who conspires in black suit and black tie to devastate his enemies, who uses culture to control politics and politics to control culture, who is equally at home in corporate boardrooms as he is in political war councils. The left never gave up its fanatical faith, not when the Jacobins were decimated, not when the Bolsheviks were thrown out like yesterday’s garbage. Now they are on the cusp of attaining what they always wanted: total political control of all the major nations.
Immanuel Kant explains the relationship between a personal maxim and a universal practical law (in his Critique of Practical Reason) : “I have, for example, made it my maxim to increase my wealth by every safe means. Now I have a deposit in my hands, the owner of which has died and left no record of it. This is, naturally, a case for my maxim. Now I want only to know whether that maxim could also hold as a universal practical law. I therefore apply the maxim to the present case and ask whether it could indeed take the form of a law, and consequently whether I could through my maxim at the same time give such a law as this: that everyone may deny a deposit which no one can prove has been made. I at once become aware that such a principle, as a law, would annihilate itself since it would bring it about that there would be no deposits at all.”
Posted by Anoop Verma at 9:12:00 AM
Saturday, April 17, 2021
In 1618, Johannes Kepler published his last major work, the Harmonice Mundi (The Harmony of the World). The poverty, prosecution, and ostracism that he had experienced in his lifetime had left him bitter and pessimistic, and he had become convinced that the earth was a celestial ball of everlasting misfortune. In a footnote to the Harmonice Mundi, he writes: "The Earth sings Mi-Fa-Mi, so we can gather even from this that Misery and Famine reign on our habitat.”
Kepler makes this comment not just because of the sense of doom and gloom which was pervading his mind during the final years of his life—he actually believed that the speed at which the planets move through space is proportional to certain notes of the Latinate musical scale popular in his day: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do. He rationalized that the sound of a planet corresponds to the character of life that it supports, and that the earth’s notes were mi-fa-mi.
The last one year has given me an insight into the smugness of the twenty-first century man before the vast perils that he faces. If the twenty-first century man who commands vast intellectual, technological, and economic resources can be so smug, then humanity has no future. Perhaps Kepler was right about misery and famine being the reality of life on earth. Can mankind be free from the misery and famine—I don’t think that a permanent solution to these problems is possible. People might become happy and prosperous in some parts of earth at certain periods of time but the happiness and prosperity never lasts.
The happy and prosperous societies are the first to be judged on the metaphorical Judgement Day; this is because their happiness and prosperity makes them morally, psychologically, and intellectually weak, and unfit to survive. When they decline and fall under the weight of their weaknesses and immoralities, they pave way for the rise of another society in which the human mind is regulated by the harsh whiplash of misery and famine.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:40:00 PM
Philosophy without religion leads to utopianism, atheism, and nihilism. Religion without philosophy leads to tribalism, cultism, and religious fundamentalism. History tells us that the most effective philosophies and religions are those in which philosophical thought and religious speculation have marched shoulder to shoulder.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:57:00 AM
Friday, April 16, 2021
The conservative belief that the past is the fountainhead of culture contains the seeds of its own destruction. Culture operates not just through the past but also the present. The past supplies the foundational structure of culture, but in the present, powerful groups in society can impregnate culture with their own ideas. By powerful groups, I mean the groups which control academia, the entertainment industry, the mainstream media, publishing houses, social media, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the trade unions, and geopolitical associations. Through their control of these businesses and institutions, powerful groups dictate how culture is perceived by the people. In most democracies, the businesses and institutions (which I have listed above) have been under liberal control since the 1960s—this means that, for over sixty years, the liberals have been the most powerful group and the masters of the forces of culture in their nation. They have been using the institutions and businesses that they control to propagate new cultural norms which invariably push large large sections of society towards nihilism and leftism.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
“In the war between capitalism and Communism, books are weapons, and, like all serviceable weapons, loaded.” ~ said Whittaker Chambers in his 1952 classic Witness. But I think that the communists (the leftists and the liberals) have won the war of books. Their books have greater firepower and the capacity to blow to bits their enemy’s fundamental values than the books by the pro-capitalism authors. The capitalists might be good at at building roads, skyscrapers, shopping centers, and bridges, but in the intellectual and political space their performance is naive and feeble, and they are no match for the communists who turn out to be completely ruthless and firmly grounded despite the fact that they are fueled by a utopian ideology.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:24:00 PM
The American and British conservatives are the alter ego of Rip Van Winkle, the protagonist in Washington Irving’s short story. In 1991, when the Soviet Union fell, these conservatives partied like never before with liquor supplied by “mysterious globalist forces” and fell asleep.
They slept for almost forty years (twenty years more than Rip Van Winkle), and between 2016 and 2021, they woke up in a changed world, having missed the decline of their culture, the corruption of their political establishment, the degradation of their universities, the derangement of their youth, the leftward tilt of their bureaucracy, the nihilism of their mainstream media, the alienation and fury of their minorities, the totalitarian digital revolution, and the rise of China. Now it is too late for these conservatives to conserve their society, because there is nothing left in their society that is worth conserving. Every value has turned into a lifeless fossil.
This decade and the next one will be all about the creation of a new world order in which the Americans and British do not play a dominant role. The transition to the new world order won’t be peaceful—it will be marked by economic chaos in major markets, civil wars in several nations, reworking of military alliances, and military conflicts in the hotspots. The geopolitical tsunami that is coming (perhaps it is already here) will not spare any nation, though America and Britain will be the hardest hit since they have the most to lose.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:16:00 AM
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
The idea that “perpetual peace” is possible in a nation which is guided by reason and science is one of the great political myths to come out of the Age of Enlightenment. Perpetual peace is an unrealizable concept, because national politics (like the tribal conflicts of the prehistoric times) has always been and always will be: Civil War.
The use of political violence is the “natural” method of achieving political objectives. Mankind is incapable of creating a nation in which every political faction voluntarily adopts the peaceful methods of politicking. The breaking of one chain of political violence, leads to the start of another chain. When old conflicts end, they make space for new ones, and a new cycle of political violence commences. Through the contest of antagonistic political forces, the nation keeps transforming itself, it becomes better or worse, it rises to greater heights or declines and falls. A nation can never be free of political violence, but it can try to prevent such violence from getting out of control, by deploying counter-political violence through law enforcement agencies (such strategies are effective in creating a semblance of peace in the short-term but never perpetually).
The price for short-term political peace is frightfully high—heavy financial and psychological investment must be made for creating a system of rule of law which cannot be corrupted by the forces which are battling for political power. In the words of Vegetius, the Roman General, only those nations which prepare for war, can attain peace.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:57:00 PM
In poor countries where starvation and disease is common, when two people who are acquainted with each other meet on the street, they usually ask, “Are you feeling healthy? Did you have enough food?” In prosperous countries where people are complacent and expect to live forever, when two people who are acquainted with each other meet on the street, they usually ask, “Are you feeling healthy? Did you get vaccinated?”
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:11:00 AM
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Throughout history the forces of progress and destruction have marched hand in hand. The price of great progress in one area has always been great destruction in another area. The bond between barbarism and civilization, repression and liberty, traditions and innovation, cruelty and compassion, faith and reason is forged by the primal forces of nature and can never be broken. Classical liberalism, which originated in the eighteenth century, was aimed at creating a perfect society which is based on civilization, liberty, innovation, compassion, and reason and does not have to invoke the powers of barbarism, repression, traditions, cruelty, and faith. But this project has been a colossal failure. The classical liberals (and their twentieth century cultist avatar, the libertarians) have failed to create their perfect society (their utopia) in which mankind is all roses and no thorns. Nature does not allow roses without thorns.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:12:00 PM
What kind of men prove to be the great political leaders? This question can be best answered by using Nietzsche’s terminology: The great political leaders are a synthesis of the Unmensch (the brute) and Übermensch (the overman). History tells us that the great political leaders have the mind of the overman and the heart of the brute.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:37:00 AM
Monday, April 12, 2021
The notion of freedom that developed in the eighteenth century, during the Age of Enlightenment, was devoted to overcoming the old forms of authority, chief among these being faith in God and religion. The Enlightenment philosophes surmised that freedom from God and religion is the ultimate form of freedom. They made their philosophical case by asserting that there is a dichotomy between faith and reason—a man can have either reason or faith, never both. They rationalized that only a man of reason (who is free of the taint of faith) can be truly free and that faith in every form is an enemy of freedom. But if man is free of faith, then he lacks the inner capacity to believe in anything that is not provable by science. On what basis does a man who is free of faith make himself believe in metaphysics, norms or morality, norms of good culture, norms of good art, and the idea of a political system which respects man’s rights, all of which are not provable by science? A man who accepts reason as his sole means for understanding the world, faces the risk of becoming a nihilist—he loses not just his religious beliefs but also his standards in metaphysics, morality, culture, art, and politics. This is a recipe for disaster.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:21:00 PM
Sunday, April 11, 2021
When egalitarianism and individualism get radicalized, there is a decline in moral, intellectual, and political standards, and then the nation’s march into a tyrannical and hedonistic dystopia cannot be stopped. Robert H. Bork writes in his classic 1996 book Slouching Towards Gomorrah: “In their final stages, radical egalitarianism becomes tyranny and radical individualism descends into hedonism. Those translate into a modern version of bread and circuses. Government grows larger and more intrusive in order to direct the distribution of goods and services in an ever more equal fashion while people are coarsened and diverted, led to believe that their freedoms are increasing, by a great variety of entertainments featuring violence and sex.”
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:39:00 PM
Saturday, April 10, 2021
The idea of concentration camps was conceived in Europe in the eighteenth century, the Age of Enlightenment, as a tool for indoctrinating the masses. The Enlightenment philosophers and politicians believed that by teaching the right kind of philosophy and by applying sufficient amount of coercion, it is possible to transform men into better beings who are motivated by reason, science, and logic, and who cannot be swayed by the irrational forces of religion, tradition, and monarchism. They thought that people could be herded into large correction facilities where they would be kept for as long as it would take to reeducate them for their own good.
The first Concentration Camp in modern history was established in Paris by the Jacobins during the French Revolution which began in 1789. After taking control of Paris, the Jacobins locked the city, banned all religious and traditional gatherings, and they made arrangements for the masses to be indoctrinated in their way of thinking. To coerce the masses to accept the Jacobin ideas, they started having public executions. Guillotines were erected in major streets—the idea was that when people see the heads of the enemies of the revolution being chopped, they would surrender their heart and mind to the Jacobin movement. But this strategy didn’t work out. The Jacobin regime was overthrown in 1799, and Napoleon took over in 1804.
The second large-scale use of concentration camps happened in the Soviet Union when the Bolsheviks, the inheritors of the Jacobin legacy, came to power. The Bolsheviks were inspired by the Western ideology of communism and they believed that human beings can be coerced to give up their religious and traditional beliefs and became communists. During the time of Stalin, the Gulags (the Russian name for concentration camps) were used on a massive scale to torture and indoctrinate the potential enemies of the state and make counterrevolution impossible by spreading terror in rest of the population. Millions perished in these Gulags. But sufficient number of people could not be transformed through the Gulags and the Soviet Union fell in 1991.
Most communist countries have made extensive use of concentration camps. In Mao’s China, large swaths of the country had been turned into concentration camps where millions were starved, tortured, and worked to death. The post-Mao China continues to operate a large number of concentration camps.
In the USA and Western Europe, the decline in civil liberties has been massive in the last fifteen years. These nations are now as totalitarian as China, but they continue to fondly believe that they are capitalistic and free. In the next five years their fake notion of being free and capitalistic will shatter under the weight of the contradictions and corruption in their political system, and then these nations will start herding the politically undesirable section of their population into concentration camps. The lockdowns, which have been a regular feature since the last year, are experiments to prepare people for a new way of life. Most people have accepted the lockdowns as the “new normal,” and they will accept the concentration camps as another new normal.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:32:00 PM
Friday, April 9, 2021
Is Carl Sagan taken seriously? I rank his two books—The Demon-Haunted World and Cosmos—among the low-quality propaganda books written in the final decades of the twentieth century. Much of the science that he offers in these two books is pop-science of the banal kind; you generally read such pop-science in third-rate tabloids. He was, I am certain, a believer in the Whig theory of history—his two books are written in the style of a Whig historian. I say this because he tries to present the movement from the ancient times to the modern age as an inevitable progression towards liberty, enlightenment, and technological advancement. He attributes all the progress that mankind has made to the work of the scientists who were motivated by an empirical view of the world. He excoriates the spiritual, theological, and religious movements of the past for creating roadblocks in the path of the scientists.
He suggests that calculus could have been invented by the time of Christ if the works of the Ancient Greek atomists like Democritus had not been lost—this is an absurd hypothesis but he offers this as a self-evident fact. To him Socrates and Plato are of less importance than Democritus—he tries to turn them into caricatures by mentioning them in reference to their purported belief in demons and ignoring their philosophical and political achievements. He prattles about the virtue of using reason and being a nonconformist, but he was himself a conformist. He blindly accepts every scientific myth of his time—from environmentalism to evolution to Big Bang to time travel and much else. He fails to see that most of the scientists of the past had a spiritual and religious side to their life. While talking of Newton, he does not mention the fact that Newton was born as a sickly child and he could not have survived to adulthood had he not been sustained by his faith in religion and God.
The complication of human psychology is inconsequential to Sagan; man’s need for philosophy, spiritualism, and faith is inconsequential to him; the rise and fall of the empires of the past and the movement of history is inconsequential to him—the only thing that matters is the scientific theories which a few scientists have discovered. But I don’t see Sagan as a scientist; he was more of a glib talker, a shrewd marketer, a narcissistic actor, and a mediocre political theorist. His books are not about science. His basic interest is in preaching a materialistic or leftist (atheistic) view of the world. His leftism is quite simplistic and hollow. What I dislike most in Sagan is his naivety. He is like a Pollyanna, always optimistic, constantly hopeful of a prosperous and scientifically advanced tomorrow, smiling and cheerful like a clown at the circus.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:28:00 PM
Digging for good philosophy is similar to digging for diamonds. You have to shift through a mountain of rubbish before you find a few grains of diamonds, or good philosophy. But the effort is worth it because both, diamonds and good philosophy, are forever.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 3:28:00 PM
Thursday, April 8, 2021
According to Ted Cruz, none of the 500 top performing companies in the USA are being run by Republican-aligned CEOs. If this is true, then this is a major indictment of American conservatism. If the captains of the 500 top performing companies despise the conservatives, then there must be something wrong with conservatism. How pathetic the conservative political movement must be if they can’t get the CEOs of a few top performing companies to support them?
It is not just the top CEOs. It seems most successful (the creamy layer) Americans despise the conservatives. The top members of the bureaucracy, much of academia, the top players in Hollywood, the top journalists, and most of the chattering celebrities despise the conservatives. Perhaps the conservatives are too naive, they do not understand the post-Soviet transformations in geopolitics, they do not understand the social changes that the digital technologies have brought to society in the last twenty years, they are too weak and they never fight to achieve their conservative political agenda. Perhaps their politics is too uncouth and unpalatable for the over-intellectualized generation of modern Americans.
The world has marched into the twenty-first century, while the conservatives remain stuck in the twentieth century. America is a socialist country which pretends to be a capitalist country.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 9:09:00 PM
What is more critical: the civilization or the nation? The nation is made by the civilizational forces, and the civilizational forces are made by the nation. This means that both—the civilization and its nation—have a symbiotic relationship. The civilization is an abstract and timeless idea which is the fountainhead of the culture which drives the nation, whereas the nation is a concrete reality which exists at a particular time and in a particular space. If the nation suffers a decline, it can be mended, but once the idea of civilization breaks down, it cannot be mended—thus, the civilization is like a paradise, which once lost cannot be regained.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:03:00 AM
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Liberty can open the right doors, but it can open some of the wrong ones too. When a man is liberated from the bondage of political systems, he is free to play an active role in society. But liberty never keeps itself confined to cutting the bonds of politics, it operates simultaneously in the areas of morality and culture.
When the bonds of morality are cut, there is the prospect of amoralism and libertinism; when the bonds of culture are cut, there is the prospect of utopianism and nihilism. A man who is free of political, moral, and cultural bonds is left to face the world on his own—this is not something that most men can manage, and many succumb to the feelings of nothingness, powerlessness, alienation, and anxiety. Many give up on morality and culture and there is rise in substance abuse, libertinism, and violence.
When the masses become degenerate, the politicians become corrupt, the businessmen become totalitarian, and the intellectuals become messianic. With the fall in the intellectual, political, and moral standards, society becomes an easy prey to the utopian movements which promise to create a new paradise—and this marks the end of the nation.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:35:00 PM
The individualists demand “freedom from” religion, clan, culture, moral norms, and politics—they preach that man is like a Robinson Crusoe, and he must live in a metaphorical deserted island where he is free from all collectives. But such views are a sign of their ideological over-maturity and psychological backwardness.
Man is not just the maker of civilizations (which are the largest collective of humanity)—he is the product of civilizations. Robison Crusoe, the protagonist in Daniel Defoe’s book, is a brave man who gets trapped in a deserted island. He does all that he can to preserve his sanity, meet the needs of his body, and survive as a human. But man is not designed to be like Crusoe. His mind might identify as an individual, but the heart of most men identifies with the collectives: relatives, friends, customers, associates, employees, employers, and the religious, political, social, and intellectual groups of which he is a part.
Man qua man is a political creature and politics can never transcend collectivism. We join the collectives in order to find a sense of security and belonging, to develop spiritual, cultural, and political bonds for defending our way of life, and to avoid the one thing which we truly dread: loneliness. The man who sees himself as an individualist is no Crusoe; he is naive, politically ineffective, and culturally alienated, and he lacks the sense to realize that he is overestimating his virtues and capacities. The nations where individualism becomes a popular movement generally see a steep decline in the quality of their politics and culture.
If these individualists end up on a deserted island, they will not last for a week—they will undergo mental disintegration from the feeling of being lonely and they will eventually starve to death. Individualism is not a virtue; it is a vice.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:29:00 AM
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
The worst type of ignorance is found in people who are ignorant of their ignorance—and have come to believe that they possess perfect knowledge. Being unaware of their ignorance, they keep making bad choices, and if they acquire a position of power, in the government or any large corporation, they get regarded as the “experts,” who are always “scientific” and can never be wrong, and they go on making bad choices for the hapless masses. (An expert is a man who is ignorant of his ignorance but has acquired massive political power.) When you are aware of your ignorance, then you are not ignorant, since you have the knowledge of what you don’t know, which is the most important knowledge, since it can prevent you from making bad choices and inspire you to make efforts for fulfilling the gaps in your learning. Knowing the limits of your knowledge is a sign of wisdom and maturity, the two qualities which have become rare in our technocratic, information-deluged, expert-worshiping world.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:10:00 AM
Monday, April 5, 2021
After his death in 1900, Nietzsche acquired the reputation of a wrathful and unsystematic thinker, an apostle of teutonic chauvinism, barbarianism, and ruthlessness, whose thought has inspired the Nazi movement. His reputation was resurrected after the Second World War with the publication of new books on his life and work. The most important of these books is Walter Kaufmann’s Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, published in 1950.
For Nietzsche’s ugly posthumous reputation, Kaufmann places a major part of the blame on Nietzsche’s sister Elizabeth. In 1885, she married Bernhard Förster, a prominent teutonic nationalist and antisemite. Nietzsche was against the marriage and he did not attend the wedding. After her husband died in 1889, Elizabeth became devoted to caring for her brother, who suffered a loss of mental capacity in the same year, and managing his intellectual legacy. She assumed the name Förster-Nietzsche. Regarding this name, Kaufmann writes: “The irony of this name suggests almost everything that could be said against her: the gospel she spread was indeed Förster first and Nietzsche second.”
Nietzsche had distanced himself from Richard Wagner—they last saw each other on November 5, 1876. But Elizabeth was inspired by Wagner’s Teutonism; she could not accept her brother’s rejection of Wagner, and desired to create a union between their thoughts and motivations. Kaufmann reveals his low opinion of Wagner’s political and cultural philosophy in several lines. Here’s a line in which he suggests that there is a symbiotic relationship between Wagner and Nazism: “Hitler, of course, knew fifty times as much about Wagner as he did about Nietzsche, and Wagner’s essays, unlike Nietzsche’s, did not have to be expurgated by the Nazis before being used in schools.”
Kaufmann says that Elizabeth, in her zeal for reconciling Nietzsche with his opposites (Förster and Wagner), intentionally or due to lack of understanding, misrepresented Nietzsche’s thought, especially in The Will to Power, which she published from an arbitrary selection of Nietzsche’s personal notes which she compiled and crudely edited, and which were consequently taken out of context. According to Kaufmann, Nietzsche is not antisemitic and he is not the supporter of a dominant state. He is the enemy of all types of states, totalitarian as well as liberal, and his ideal man is not Napoleon (he would have despised Hitler) but Goethe.
Nietzsche’s philosophy, Kaufmann says, is rooted in Kant, Hegel, and Socrates—the reference to Socrates, of whom Nietzsche has been very critical, is surprising. But Nietzsche had a kind of love-hate relationship with both Socrates and Wagner. Kaufmann rejects the jingoistic and revolutionary conception of the overman (Übermensch) that was popular in the first half of twentieth century—he asserts that the overman is not a biological or racial concept; rather it indicates the enterprise of “overcoming” oneself (one’s own weaknesses, vices, and doubts) and not others.
Kaufmann's Nietzsche is, like Kierkegaard, and two of the most important philosophers of the 1950s and 60s, Heidegger and Sartre, an existentialist. There is no doubt that, in his attempt to reinvent Nietzsche, Kaufmann went too far. He is often accused of sanitizing Nietzsche, making him appear too soft. Perhaps it was necessary to go this far, otherwise Nietzsche could not be rescued from the taint of Nazism. By exaggerating the gentle aspects of Nietzsche, Kaufmann managed to establish him as a serious thinker.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
The statements which express moral, political, and aesthetic ideals are neither subjective nor objective—they are normative. The subjective statements represent the matters of personal taste and feelings; for example: “I like black coffee,” “The political situation makes me feel sad,” “Modern art is rubbish.” The objective statements are logical and descriptive; for example: “The dog is barking,” “2+2=4,” “Lenin was the founder of the Soviet Union." The normative statements are the statements of value—they are not verifiable and it is impossible to connect them to personal states of the mind; for example: “Liars are sinners,” “Honesty is the best policy,” “Capitalism is better than socialism,” “Rembrandt was a great artist.” The quest of the philosophers, between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, to develop a fully-rational (based on an entirely objective criteria) system of morality, politics, and art has proved to be a spectacular failure because it was based on a misunderstanding of the nature of normative statements. Where do normative statements come from? It is hard to say with certainty, since normative statements are a part of the religious, philosophical, and cultural knowledge of mankind whose origin can be traced to the ancient and the prehistoric times.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:42:00 PM
In his line, “The past is not dead. It's not even past,” William Faulkner is referring to the paradox of time. We live in the past, the present exists in our mind as an abstraction, and the future never arrives. The moment you say, “right now”—that moment is gone; it is past; it is history. You can reminisce the past, you may try to understand it, but you no longer live in it. By paraphrasing Faulkner, a philosophical point might be made: “The past philosophies are not dead. They aren’t even past.” Philosophical ideas never die. On wings of new arguments, they keep coming back in age after age, giving rise to new controversies, new clashes, and new collaborations.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:21:00 AM
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
An exchange between Humphrey van Weyden and Wolf Larsen, in Jack London's The Sea-Wolf:
"But history tells of slaves who rose to the purple," I chided.
"And history tells of opportunities that came to the slaves who rose to the purple," he answered grimly. "No man makes opportunity. All the great men ever did was to know it when it came to them. The Corsican knew. I have dreamed as greatly as the Corsican. I should have known the opportunity, but it never came. The thorns sprung up and choked me. And, Hump, I can tell you that you know more about me than any living man, except my own brother.”
"And what is he? And where is he?”
"Master of the steamship Macedonia, seal-hunter," was the answer. "We will meet him most probably on the Japan coast. Men call him 'Death' Larsen.”
"Death Larsen!" I involuntarily cried. "Is he like you?”
"Hardly. He is a lump of an animal without any head. He has all my—my—”
"Brutishness," I suggested.
“Yes,—thank you for the word,—all my brutishness, but he can scarcely read or write.”
"And he has never philosophized on life," I added.
"No," Wolf Larsen answered, with an indescribable air of sadness. "And he is all the happier for leaving life alone. He is too busy living it to think about it. My mistake was in ever opening the books."
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:44:00 PM
The fate of modernity is like the fate of Oedipus; it has been left to die of neglect at the mountainside on the orders of its Western father (who has transmogrified into a King Laius-like decadent figure). Modernity might die. The world might revert to a premodern way of life. But that will not happen—like Oedipus, modernity will survive through the care of a foster father (a King Polybus-like figure; could be China). Modernity, a child of the West, will become a force that is antithetical to its parents. It will attack the West as Oedipus attacked King Laius. The West has lost control of the narrative of modernism—they now prefer liberal primitivism. China is trying to turn modernism into its ally and the West’s worst enemy, just as Oedipus became King Laius’s worst enemy.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:13:00 AM
Monday, March 29, 2021
There are two kinds of men: the masses and the elites. The masses use their senses, instinct, habits, wisdom, and their sense of morality and traditions; they think of man as he is thought to be. The elites use their reason, rationalizations, intelligence, and their notions of power and perfection; they think of man as he ought to be. In Cartesian terms, the masses are therefore they think, whereas the elites think therefore they are. In Lockean terms, the masses have the body and the soul, whereas the elites have the body but no soul. In Kantian terms, the masses inhabit the phenomenon world, whereas the elites inhabit the noumenon world. In Hegelian terms, the masses are the thesis, whereas the elites are the antithesis.
“A very popular error: having the courage of one’s convictions; rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one’s convictions!” ~ says Nietzsche (in his notes). This is an excellent point. A philosopher should have an intellectual conscience. He has to argue against himself, be his own critic, and he should be able to bear an attack on his fondest convictions.
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The libertarian notion of liberty is not an attempt to escape the tyranny of the government; rather it is an attempt to escape culture. The libertarians talk about how good life will be in their utopia: state-less society. But what they aim for is a culture-less society. All manifestations of culture are an original sin in their eyes. Libertarianism might seem like an antithesis of communism, but the suspicion of culture is a discerning feature of both. The Enlightenment is the mother of Jacobinism and the grandmother of communism, libertarianism, and a few other utopian movements. There is one important difference though between communism and libertarianism: While communism is the movement of people with an empty belly (the starving masses), libertarianism is a movement of people with a full belly (the idle rich). The only country where libertarianism has gained a substantial following is the “full-belly USA” of the post-1950s. There are hardly any libertarians in the poor countries where people with empty belly live.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 9:18:00 PM
A civilization that does not understand the critical need for negative thinking (pessimism) is a civilization that has lost its intellect, vigor, and sense of realism, and is in the phase of decline. Perpetual optimism (in the manner of a feeble-brained Pollyanna) is the trait of primitive societies (societies which have never succeeded or have declined after a brief period of success). Negative thinking is the trait of the people who are on the rise, who are full of wisdom, enterprise, vigor, and passion, who have already achieved greatness and are now itching to achieve even more success. All great civilizations of the last three thousand years have produced tragedies in literature, and philosophies which are deeply skeptic and pessimistic.
Saturday, March 27, 2021
“Modern philosophy has not yielded any remotely acceptable picture of man. The thinkers of the Enlightenment showed too little understanding of religion and art, feeling, passion, and the imagination; and neither romanticism nor any modern philosophy has produced a conception of man that would even tempt us to assent.” ~ Walter Kaufmann in his book Critique of Religion and Philosophy. He notes that the inheritors of the legacy of the Enlightenment thinkers, the professors of philosophy in today’s universities, are mired in lifeless scholasticism. “Whatever professors of philosophy take up nowadays tends to become scholastic, and the rigor of the scholastics is rigor mortis… Scholasticism has not changed its ways. Rigor sets in after the life has been driven out of its parts. To creep is a virtue, to leap a vice, and speed the sin of the spirit. As for “The Philosophic Flight” (the title of the first chapter of this book), that is to the scholastic a contradiction in terms.” Kaufmann is renowned as a translator of Nietzsche—but he has written extensively on a range of philosophical subjects. In my opinion, his Critique of Religion and Philosophy is among his best works.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:29:00 PM
One of the fundamental themes of Heidegger’s philosophy is the difference between truth as the “unhiddenness of beings” (coherence theory of truth) and truth as “correctness of propositions” (correspondence theory of truth). He is of the view that the intellectual bankruptcy of the present day is related to the metaphysical course that Western philosophy when it abandoned the former primordial conception of truth in favor of the latter derivative conception which, he maintains, originated in the works of Plato. He notes that truth as correspondence (which is characteristic of propositions) is “ambiguous, insufficiently delimited in itself or determined in it origins. It is therefore not intelligible, its self-evidence is illusory.”
Friday, March 26, 2021
“Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad.”—this is an Ancient Greek saying. The Gods do something similar to the superpowers that they wish to destroy—they first drive them mad or senile. The great superpower of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union, went senile in the 1980s and was finished in 1991.
On 12 November 1982, the Soviet Union gave a public display of the senility of its political establishment by promoting Yuri Andropov, a sick man, to the post of General Secretary. Within three months of being in office, Andropov suffered total kidney failure; he spent rest of his life in the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow where, for long periods, he was unconscious. He died on 9 February 1984. Konstantin Chernenko, who succeeded Andropov as General Secretary on 13 February 1984, was also in an advanced stage of mental and physical decline. It was rumored that he used to forget that he was holding the highest political office in the Soviet Union. Before his public appearances, his aides used to remind him of who he was. Within weeks of taking office, he was rushed to the Central Clinical Hospital where he spent much of the remainder of his life. He died on 10 March 1985. A day later, Mikhail Gorbachev, who was young, healthy, and charismatic, was made the General Secretary. But Gorbachev could not be the savior of the Soviet Union—he was an ignorant and naive leader. In his hurry to catch up with America, he took a series of disastrous decisions, including the policy of Glasnost and Perestroika, which was antithetical to the totalitarian and secretive character of the Soviet Union. When simultaneous rebellions erupted in several towns and cities in Russia and Eastern Europe, Gorbachev was taken by surprise and he could not act decisively to crush the rebels. His weakness emboldened the rebels, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. Two years later, in 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved, leaving the USA as the world’s only superpower.
I wonder what the Gods wish for the USA—in his public appearances, the current President gives the impression of being like Andropov and Chernenko, quite unhealthy. When he talks about policy matters, he sounds like Gorbachev, a man who is out of touch with the reality of his own country. The next five years will be pivotal for this country and the geopolitical system that it protects.
History is a terrible tragedy. It is a tragedy because it tells you about the fragility of civilizations, and it is terrible because it gives you a vague sense of the barbaric final chapter towards which your own world is hurtling. Since most people do not comprehend history, they are doomed to make the political and cultural mistakes which will ensure that the history of their civilization will be read by the future generations as a terrible tragedy.
Thursday, March 25, 2021
The Ancient Greeks preached that to learn how to lead a moral life, one should study the lifestyle of the nobles (the cultural and political elites of their society). Apparently, the nobles of Ancient Greece lived, or were expected to live, in the service of demanding moral norms without which their culture would not be possible. Nobility or elitism in Ancient Greece implied the capacity of being the exemplars of moral virtues. But in our time, the elites who would follow the moral norms, which are critical for the survival of our culture, cannot be found. Hypocrisy is a way of life for our elites; they take pride in defying the moral norms that the masses are expected to follow. They are corrupt, immoral, and nihilistic—quite a few are perverts and criminals. The Ancient Greek method of learning morality from the elites won’t work in our time.
The man who lacks the capacity to doubt his philosophical and political views is either an idiot or a monster; the more intelligence, reason, and passion he brings to his philosophy and politics, the more idiotic and monstrous he becomes. What people call “certainty” is often dangerous—the worst monsters of history, and their idiotic followers, are known to have wielded “certainty” as a lethal political weapon. Without the feeling of doubt, there can be no motivation to introspect, and without introspection, there can be no wisdom. “True wisdom,” Whittaker Chambers rightly notes in his classic book Witness, “comes from overcoming of suffering and sin. All true wisdom is therefore touched with sadness.”
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
In his commencement address at Harvard (on June 8, 1978), Solzhenitsyn said that he despised the Soviet Union, which had incarcerated and tortured him for years, and he was grateful to the free West for granting him a sanctuary, but he was virtually without any hope so far as the future of the Western civilization is concerned. He noted that the West was incapable of defeating the communists and its decline was inevitable because it had lost faith in itself. In the name of freedom and liberalism, the West was, on a widening scale, revolting against the authority of traditional culture and morality around which it was founded. Without the authority of culture and morality, which is the opposite of the ideological and political power that the communists exercise, there can be no stability, liberty, and creativity.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:24:00 PM
In the second page of his book Witness, Whittaker Chambers talks of “this sick society, which we call Western civilization,” locked in a deadly struggle between “the two irreconcilable faiths of our time—Communism and Freedom.” Chambers is correct in describing “freedom” as a faith. The philosophy of freedom, like communism, is a religion, which preaches the establishment of a promised land where there is total freedom. The classical liberal notion of freedom, developed between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, is founded on the principle of individual and social perfectibility—the classical liberals believe that through their “rational” philosophy a perfectly free and atheistic society, a utopia, can be created. In the twentieth century, the idea of freedom has become fully utopian through the work of several classical liberal and leftist thinkers: I can think of the nihilistic notion of total freedom developed by the Neo-Marxists (the Frankfurt School, the Fabian Society, and the anti-fascists like Antonio Gramsci), the ersatz individualism in Ayn Rand’s utopian fiction, and the utopian stateless society of Murray Rothbard.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:34:00 AM
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
In a 1954 letter to Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, Jr. expressed the hope that National Review would play a major role in stopping the communists from wrecking the West. In his reply, dated August 5, 1954, Chambers crushed Buckley’s hopes.
Chambers begins his letter by declaring that it is too late to stop the communists: “I no longer believe that political solutions are possible for us. I am baffled by the way people still speak of the West as if it were at least a cultural unity against Communism though it is divided not only by a political, but by an invisible cleavage. On one side are the voiceless masses with their own subdivisions and fractures. On the other side is the enlightened, articulate elite which, to one degree or other, has rejected the religious roots of the civilization—the roots without which it is no longer Western civilization, but a new order of beliefs, attitudes and mandates.”
Chambers then notes that communism did not originate in Russia; it is a Western creation: “In short, this is the order of which Communism is one logical expression, originating not in Russia, but in the culture capitals of the West, reaching Russia by clandestine delivery via the old underground centers in Cracow, Vienna, Berne, Zurich, and Geneva.”
He ends his letter with these lines: “It is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.”
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:22:00 PM
The idea of science being on the side of those who are blessed with a utopian vision got emblazoned in mankind’s collective consciousness during the Age of Enlightenment. Robespierre, Saint-Just and other leaders of the Jacobin movement, which was coterminous with the Age of Enlightenment, were convinced that they had science on their side when they guillotined more than twenty thousand people in the streets of Paris. The utopians who followed the Jacobins—Saint-Simon, Comte, Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and others—defended their apocalyptic and millenarian political agenda in the name of science. They burned with passionate zeal to deploy extreme political power for realizing the “scientific” promised land that only they had visualized. The liberals of our time are the inheritors of the legacy of the past utopians, and they feel entitled to use science to defend their own politics: global warming, climate change, systemic racism, critical race theory, income equality, multiculturalism, lockdowns are incontestable scientific facts, the liberals assert, and must be imposed on society.
Monday, March 22, 2021
Machiavelli sees history as cyclical returns, nothing but a succession of ups and downs. In The Discourses, he notes that customs and laws are necessary since “men are more prone to evil than to good.” This trait of men ensures that history oscillates between the bad and the good, with the bad being in control more often and over longer periods of time.
Lady Fortuna, the goddess of fortune, possesses a mercurial character and plays a pivotal role in the succession of ups and downs. In The Prince, Machiavelli says that all rulers, despite their craftiness, ruthlessness, and wisdom, are playthings in the hands of Lady Fortuna. In his essay, “On Fortune,” he writes: “Lady Fortuna turns states and kingdoms upside down as she pleases; she deprives the just of the good that she freely gives to the unjust.”
Political stability is unattainable—things tend to degenerate till an absolute bottom is reached and from there a recovery is made in case of some nations, and fortune alone has the true suzerainty over men’s political affairs.
No form of government is immune to failure. In The Discourses, Machiavelli observes: “For a Monarchy readily becomes a Tyranny, an Aristocracy an Oligarchy, while a Democracy tends to degenerate into Anarchy. So that if the founder of a State should establish any one of these three forms of Government, he establishes it for a short time only, since no precaution he may take can prevent it from sliding into its contrary, by reason of the close resemblance which, in this case, the virtue bears to the vice.”
The greatest threat to a state, Machiavelli says, comes from the feeble princes: “no kingdom can stand when two feeble princes follow in succession.” This makes you think of the current state of politics—the damage that the feeble politicians are causing to their nation.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:36:00 PM
The utopian mentality is devoid of historical consciousness; it views the past as evil and oppressive and does not believe in stage by stage advancement from one level of existence to the next. Leszek Kołakowski has given an excellent description of the utopian mentality as we have been encountering it since the eighteenth century: “History is portrayed as catastrophic, not evolutionary… There is a radical discontinuity between the world as it is and as it will be; a violent leap is needed to do away with the past; a new time will start.” The utopians ignore the will of the people, and advocate despotic means for achieving their promised land. Kołakowski defines the idea of utopia in these words: “Utopia is a desperate desire to attain absolute perfection; this desire is a degraded remnant of the religious legacy in nonreligious minds.”
Sunday, March 21, 2021
What if there is an Orwellian climax to the totalitarian turn that the world has taken in the year 2020? What if instead of fighting back to regain the civil liberties that they have lost, people submit to their oppressors, in the manner of Winston Smith, the protagonist in Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, whose mentality, by the end of the novel, can be subsumed in just one chilling line: “He loved Big Brother.” Perhaps mankind’s ultimate destiny is to transform into the docile and dumb creatures whose most discerning feature is that they love Big Brother.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:43:00 PM
From what he saw around him in Europe, Nietzsche developed serious doubts about the future of Western society. In The Anti-Christ, he writes, “Mankind does not represent a development toward something better or stronger or higher in the sense accepted today. ‘Progress’ is merely a modern idea, that is, a false idea. The European of today is vastly inferior in value to the European of the Renaissance: further development is altogether not according to any necessity in the direction of elevation, enhancement, or strength.” In his Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche laments that: “Nothing avails: one must go forward—step by step further into decadence (that is my definition of modern ‘progress’)."
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:15:00 AM
Saturday, March 20, 2021
In Volume Six of his massive work on the decline of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon contemplates the possibility of barbarians from the savage kingdoms annihilating his own Western Civilization, just as the Germanic Barbarians (the Visigoths) had annihilated the Roman Empire. The outcome of his contemplation is quite optimistic. He says that while the barbarians might manage to cause some harm to the West, they will not “injure our general state of happiness, the system of arts, and laws, and manners, which so advantageously distinguish, above the rest of mankind, the Europeans and their colonies.”
But in the sentence that follows, he is back to talking about the “savage nations” in Eastern Europe and Asia sending their barbarian hordes to destroy the West. “The savage nations of the globe are the common enemies of civilized society; and we may inquire with anxious curiosity, whether Europe is still threatened with a repetition of those calamities which formerly oppressed the arms and institutions of Rome. Perhaps the same reflections will illustrate the fall of that mighty empire, and explain the probable causes of our actual security.” Gibbon conjectures that the military arts of the West render it invulnerable to the barbarian invaders. He does not see any parallel between the West and the Roman Empire, and he asserts that once the savage kingdoms learn from the West, they will cease to be “savage”:
“Europe is secure from any future irruption of Barbarians; since, before they can conquer, they must cease to be barbarous. Their gradual advances in the science of war would always be accompanied, as we may learn from the example of Russia, with a proportionable improvement in the arts of peace and civil policy; and they themselves must deserve a place among the polished nations whom they subdue."
Gibbon believed that a civilization which possesses knowledge of science and arts will not be savage and is unlikely to attack other nations—it is surprising to see a historian of his level of erudition expressing such a naive opinion. The truth is that the primitive nations seldom attack other nations, since they lack the means of fighting a great war. All great wars of history have been initiated by the nations which possess advanced knowledge of science and arts. Gibbon does not realize that, despite the advancements in science and arts, the threat to the West might arise from within, by the emergence of new, more horrific forms of barbarism, under ideologically motivated leaders like Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini.
Hobbes was horrified by the idea of life in the state of nature—he depicts the state of nature as an environment in which there is no property, no security, no possibility of practical arts; where man’s life is marked by violence and fear, and is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” But Locke, who arrived about half a century after Hobbes, discovered an entirely different state of nature, in which people possess natural rights, and their property is secure, natural property in agricultural land being the rule. Another half a century pass, and along comes Montesquieu who discovered a state of nature where men are a timid lot, so timid that they avoid war and violence. And lastly, there is Rousseau, in whose writing the state of nature becomes a sort of Eden of liberty—a place where man is endowed with natural rights and is free. Thus, in a span of three hundred years (sixteenth century to eighteenth century), four major philosophers have presented four different conceptions of the state of nature—what was dystopia for Hobbes magically transforms into a utopia that man must strive to achieve by the time Rousseau has finished his work.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:25:00 AM
Friday, March 19, 2021
History is full of battles in which small groups take a desperate stand against large armies, refusing to surrender in face of great odds, and often fighting to the last man. What was the motivation of the men who fought in these battles? In his book Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost, Michael Walsh writes about such battles, and he connects the motivation of the men who fought, knowing full well that they are going to die fighting, to the premodern conceptions of masculinity and heroism. Here are three excerpts from Walsh’s Introduction to his book:
“The sexes are different. A country whose women lose their virtue and whose men lose their nerve—the Soviet Union is the most recent example of this historical truth—soon vanishes into history. When every man is a petitioner, a lackey, or a slave, and every woman a whore, that country is finished. A land of “strong” (I.e., in defiance of previous social norms with no immediate consequences, or even opposition) women and weak men is a dead country.”
“Iconoclasm is a luxury in which only stable societies can indulge; once it becomes institutionalized, it turns into a battering ram wielded by a resentful minority against the larger, historically based, cultural entity toward which its animus is directed. To put it in Hegelian Marxist terms: the antithesis has superseded the thesis, thus negating the need for a synthesis. This is the goal of all “progressivism.””
“Therefore, what is heroism? What are its moral components? Is it altruism, love, self-sacrifice. What are its amoral components—fear of cowardice, lust for glory, pride? Why was it once celebrated, and now often dismissed as anachronistic at best, foolish and vainglorious at its worst?”
Individualism leads to apoliticism. The individualists overestimate their intellectual and moral capabilities, and become convinced that they are too “intelligent” and “saintly” to even think of politics and politicians. In their narcissistic and utopian mind, all political factions appear equally “collectivist” (which is their favorite term for evil) and must be rejected. They fail to recognize the reality that even if you live in a democracy (or a republic), there will be the rulers and the ruled, and if you don’t want totalitarians as the rulers, then you must take a political stand which might offer the possibility of improving the political culture of your country—you have to favor the best candidate, one who is not only moral and capable of serving the needs of your country but also has the ability to win in the electoral contest. You can’t get away by proclaiming that since none of the candidates fit the criteria of being the “Mr. Perfect Individualist,” I will become apolitical. If you become apolitical, you allow the people whose political thinking might not be rational to elect the next government. Paradoxically, the rise of individualism after the 1950s has actually helped the statist forces (leftists, liberals, and neoconservatives) to intensify their stranglehold on politics and culture in many democratic nations. By becoming apolitical, the naive individualists have surrendered the politics of their country to the statist forces which they despise.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:18:00 AM
Thursday, March 18, 2021
The question that the philosophers have been trying to answer for several millennia is: What is man? The scientific definitions of man can be found inside man—in his genetic composition, his mental state, his psychology, his physical features, his attributes like rationality, morality, and faith, his ability to use language, his power to be political and appreciate art. But a scientific definition is not what the philosophers are questing for. For the philosophers, the question—“what is man?”—is not a materialistic or objective question; for them, the question means “what can man become?” The philosophers seek the answers to such questions: What is man’s ultimate potential? What is the ultimate goal that he is supposed to reach? What is the real purpose of mankind? Will the day arrive when man will create life in his own image? The philosophers want to predict man’s ultimate future on the basis of man’s historical past and man’s present.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:54:00 PM
In his Preface to the Critique of Political Economy, Karl Marx writes, “No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions for their existence have matured in the womb of the old society. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.” This is an interesting point. Perhaps modernity is perishing because all the potential productive forces of the modern framework have already been developed; now it is no longer possible for the modern man to make further progress. He must either move to a new level, a sort of modernity 2.0, or he must descend to the lower pre-modern levels.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:52:00 AM
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Religion is the philosophy of the masses, while philosophy is the religion of the intellectuals. This point is made by Schopenhauer in his work Religion: A Dialogue, which is a debate between two characters Demopheles, who is a theist, and Philalethes, who is anti-religion. Here’s a sample of the lines that Demopheles speaks: “Religion is the metaphysics of the masses; by all means let them keep it: let it therefore command external respect, for to discredit it is to take it away. Just as they have popular poetry, and the popular wisdom of proverbs, so they must have popular metaphysics too: for mankind absolutely needs an interpretation of life; and this, again, must be suited to popular comprehension.” In Religion: A Dialogue, and other works, Schopenhauer goes against the vision of absolute atheism, which was articulated by the Enlightenment philosophers in the eighteenth century, and was being popularized by the left Hegelians like Feuerbach and Marx in the nineteenth century, and, recognizing the need for harmony between science and faith, like Kant, who he regarded as a great philosopher, and the movement of German Idealism (spearheaded by post-Kantians and right Hegelians), with which he is often associated, he argues that both religion and philosophy play an equally important role in man’s life.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:12:00 PM
A 206-word sentence by René Descartes:
“Notwithstanding this, I am in no degree desirous to lessen the honor which each of them can justly claim; I am only constrained to say, for the consolation of those who have not given their attention to study, that just as in traveling, when we turn our back upon the place to which we were going, we recede the farther from it in proportion as we proceed in the new direction for a greater length of time and with greater speed, so that, though we may be afterwards brought back to the right way, we cannot nevertheless arrive at the destined place as soon as if we had not moved backwards at all; so in philosophy, when we make use of false principles, we depart the farther from the knowledge of truth and wisdom exactly in proportion to the care with which we cultivate them, and apply ourselves to the deduction of diverse consequences from them, thinking that we are philosophizing well, while we are only departing the farther from the truth; from which it must be inferred that they who have learned the least of all that has been hitherto distinguished by the name of philosophy are the most fitted for the apprehension of truth.” ~ (from The Principles of Philosophy by Descartes; Chapter: Letter of the Author)
Posted by Anoop Verma at 10:38:00 AM
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Why are pop philosophers popular with the young but are discarded by the older folks? The answer is that when the young read such philosophers, they do so with an attitude of “heroic fury and aspiration”—they are not looking for mere philosophical knowledge; they are looking for a vindication of an ideal that they desperately want to believe in. They want to believe in the possibility of a utopia, and they think that the pop philosophy will somehow help them in creating it. They submerge their youthful personality into the pop philosophy, but when they grow older, the knowledge of other readings and the wisdom gained from life’s hard experiences kicks in, and they recognize the inconsistencies and stupidities in the pop philosophy that they had so naively accepted. They have now reached the stage where they can study without succumbing to the false hope of finding the ultimate answers to life’s grave questions.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:28:00 PM
A government of experts and intellectuals is seldom good for the people—the experience of the twentieth century shows that such governments lead to economic decline, and if things gets out of control then to a cataclysmic bloodbath. I would prefer a government of populists and non-intellectuals—such a government is generally closer to reality; it is less likely to get carried away by utopian agendas and make colossal mistakes. I like Donald Trump because he seems like a total populist and non-intellectual. In Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, the character called Ivan says to his brother Alyosha: “The stupider one is, the closer one is to reality. The stupider one is, the clearer one is. Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence wriggles and hides itself. Intelligence is a knave, but stupidity is honest and straightforward.”
Posted by Anoop Verma at 10:05:00 AM
Monday, March 15, 2021
A religion which is built on a sound theological foundation is implicitly a utopia. The metaphysics of such religions is the greatest in history—it encapsulates the entirety of time (past, present, and future), the entirety of space in the universe, and the entirety of heavenly bodies and creatures. In the theology of such religions, you find a marvelous attempt to define a moral way of life and reconcile the contradictions of metaphysics and politics. By presenting man as the creature that God has created in his own image, or as God’s child, such religions define the nature of man and his place in the universe. Since all men are God’s children, all men are brothers, which implies that they are equal to each other. Thus, the ideas of equality, liberty, and fraternity are intrinsic to these religions. Since the eighteenth century, the materialists and atheists have been trying to create a utopia which might equal the glories of the utopias of theological religion. But every attempt to create an atheistic and materialistic utopia has unleashed a massive bloodbath and ended in a colossal failure. If men are not motivated by a religion which is founded on sound theology, they cannot create a utopia. All successful utopias in history are religious.
Ludwig Feuerbach’s assertion, “Man is what he eats,” has been interpreted in various ways. The vapid interpretation is that Feuerbach is asserting that man’s thinking is related to the food he eats. But if this were true, then the kitchens, and not the political and intellectual movements, and the revolutions and civil wars, would be the drivers of world history. This is contrary to historical evidence. Feuerbach is not talking about the food that man eats. By the phrase, “what he eats,” he means man’s economic and sociological conditions of existence taken as a whole. He is positing that every economic and social group has its own diet. Therefore, the assertion—“Man is what he eats”—can be restated as “Man is what his culture is,” or “Man is what his nation is.” Culture and geography play a major role in the dietary habits of various groups—for instance, the Europeans prefer wheat, the Asians prefer rice.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:47:00 AM
Sunday, March 14, 2021
Tolstoy says that in his boyhood days, he was fascinated by skepticism to such an extent that his mind took a flight into the solipsist territory. Here’s an excerpt from his book Childhood, Boyhood and Youth (Chapter 19; “Boyhood” section): “But by none of my philosophical tendencies was I so carried away as by skepticism, which at one time brought me into a state bordering on madness. I fancied that besides myself nobody existed in the universe, that objects were not objects at all, but images which appeared only when I paid attention to them, and that as soon as I left off thinking of them these images immediately disappeared. In a word, I coincided with Schelling in the conviction that not objects exist but my relation to them. There were moments when, under the influence of this idée fixe, I reached such a state of insanity that I sometimes looked rapidly round to one side, hoping suddenly to find nothingness where I was not.” In my opinion, it is understandable that in his youth, Tolstoy became fascinated by the solipsist (subjectivist) position—to prepare himself mentally for being a writer of great novels, he had to view himself at the center of the world, as the world’s only mind, one that sees all and can write about all.
When an individualist takes part in a debate, doesn’t it show that he thinks that he can actually convince people to become individualists? He expects people to stop thinking for themselves and live in accordance to his specific positive opinion—in other words, he expects everyone, except himself, to be a collectivist. But this means that he is no longer an individualist; he is the founder of a collective, comprising of people who follow his opinion of individualism. The individualism of a man is lost in a swamp of irreconcilable contradictions, and leads to the formation of a utopian cult (the worst form of collectivism), the moment the man becomes a preacher of individualism. The proof of Individualism’s absurdity and incapacity lies in the fact that to preach it, you have to turn to the opposite camp—you must become a collectivist (a utopian cultist),
Saturday, March 13, 2021
All things have a quality and a quantity—there cannot be a quality without a quantity, and a quantity without a quality. This means that there cannot be a good economy (quantity) without an equally good culture (quality); there cannot be material progress (quantity) without an equivalent amount of intellectual progress (quality). While quantity is empirical (objective) and measurable (in most cases), quality is often abstract (subjective) and its measurement is a controversial subject, which can be influenced by the taste, sensibility, and the philosophical, political, and aesthetic opinions of the people who are doing the measuring.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:48:00 PM
Philosophy cannot be separated from the history of philosophy; politics cannot be separated from the history of culture. All major civilizations generate philosophical, political, and cultural forces which lead to the development of the crucial element that is generally recognized as “common sense” by the people who are part of those civilizations. Without historical consciousness, people cannot understand their philosophy, politics, and culture, and then they will be devoid of common sense, which too is a product of history. Nations without common sense are an anachronism, a freak of evolution, which must disappear without leaving a trace.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:24:00 AM
Friday, March 12, 2021
We live in the age of totalitarian social hypocrisy. The masses are coerced to practice certain virtues, but those who preach these virtues do not practice them, although they venerate these virtues in their speech. This totalitarian social hypocrisy has an unexpected consequence: the rise of nihilism. When the masses have absorbed the virtues, which they do not understand and find absurd, they lose faith in the possibility of having a virtuous life—and then there is a decline in their moral and intellectual standards and they become nihilistic.
There is only one way of countering the problem of totalitarian social hypocrisy: totalitarian response from the other side. Fight totalitarianism with totalitarianism. A totalitarian political action (by a traditionalist and moral political force) has to be mustered to uproot the regime of totalitarian social hypocrisy; the hypocritical elites have to be overthrown from their elitist positions, and a crop of new elites has to be created. Once society is freed from the bondage of false virtues, and domination of the hypocritical elites, the problem of nihilism will go away.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:42:00 PM
Donald Trump is an unarmed prophet. He is very popular, it seems, but he does not have the backing of the American elite class, who know how to develop a winning political strategy, and the bureaucratic and revolutionary forces, who know how to fight street level political battles. Therefore, Trump cannot be an effective politician. The term “unarmed prophet” comes from Machiavelli’s The Prince. Machiavelli brands Savonarola as the unarmed prophet, whose political mission must end in disaster because he does not enjoy the backing of an army of armed followers. The irony is that Machiavelli was plagued with the same deficiency for which he chastises Savonarola—he too was an unarmed prophet. Machiavelli was not a mere political theorist; he was a man of powerful political passions. He aspired to be a revolutionary and fight for the creation of a new Republic, one that would be formed by uniting the states of Italy. He was a partisan, an active politician, and he was desperate to overthrow the existing balance of political forces in Italy and make space for a new balance which would be Republican. In his books, when he is talking about historical events several centuries in the past, Machiavelli keeps commenting on what “ought to be” the political reality of present day Italy. Since he was an unarmed prophet, Machiavelli’s political mission could not be fulfilled in his lifetime.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:20:00 AM
Thursday, March 11, 2021
Most people accept the banal notion that in a democracy political power comes through numbers. They naively believe that the politician who attracts the largest crowds will win the election, and that the opinion of the folks in the small towns and rural areas carry the same weight in the politics of their country as the opinion of the shrewd and wealthy elites dwelling in the cities. But it is not true at all that numbers decide the character of the government. Even if the elections are held in a fair manner, and the political group that enjoys overwhelming support in the smaller towns and rural areas wins, the new government will pay more attention to the needs of the urban elites. This is because the urban elites are well connected; they know how to subvert the political system; they are capable of using all kinds of intellectual, bureaucratic, journalistic, and legal maneuvers to coerce the government.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:08:00 PM
In politics, the brutal Jacobins are the rule and not the exception. These lines from Machiavelli’s The Prince apply to modern politics (and politicians) as much as to the politics and the politicians of Machiavelli’s time: “There are two ways of fighting: by law or by force. The first way is natural to men, and the second to beasts. But as the first way often proves inadequate one must needs have recourse to the second. So a prince must understand how to make a nice use of the beast and the man. The ancient writers taught princes about this by an allegory, when they described how Achilles and many other princes of the ancient world were sent to be brought up by Chiron, the centaur, so that he might train them his way. All the allegory means, in making the teacher half beast and half man, is that a prince must know how to act according to the nature of both, and that he cannot survive otherwise.”
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:14:00 AM
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
In his Prison Notebooks, the Italian communist thinker Antonio Gramsci calls Machiavelli the “precocious Jacobin” in whose work, The Prince, political ideology and political science get represented not in the form of a utopia or a scholarly treatise but in the dramatic form of a myth. He declares that the communist party is the Modern Prince and it must use Jacobin force to unleash communism in society. Bringing the Modern Prince and Jacobinism together means ending the conflict between the myth and the critique of the myth—or between the utopian (revolutionary) and the reactionary (counterrevolutionary). Gramsci exhorts the communist movements to hold together in a dialectical unity the utopian enterprise and the reaction to the utopian enterprise. The liberals can be viewed as the inheritors of Gramsci’s communism—they operate by holding in a dialectical unity the forces which can act to create the utopia (bureaucracy, financial institutions, law and order machinery, and big businesses) and the forces which can try to counter the utopia (academia, media, and entertainment industry).
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:21:00 PM
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Mathematics is fascist because it does not accept the ruses of dialectics. It is unacceptable that for every equation, mathematics gives the factually correct answer and never the politically correct answer. By consistently presenting a systematic and rational view of the universe, mathematics violates the rights of those who want the universe to be unsystematic and irrational; it denies man the liberty to indulge his anti-objective impulses. It might not be possible to ban mathematics, but this subject has to be regulated to ensure that it serves the common good. A classless and humane society cannot be created until mathematics is rescued from its fascistic foundations.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:46:00 PM
The decline of a civilization always comes as a surprise to the political, intellectual, and financial elite who are thriving in that civilization—they live under the delusion that they are entitled to every bit of the power, prosperity, and prestige that they have been enjoying, and that while bad things might happen to other people, they are themselves safe, for there is no power that can dislodge them from their supreme position. The interpretation of why their civilization is declining lags behind and catches up with the elite when all is already lost. They are the last to realize that their civilization has fallen and that they have become the losers of history.
Monday, March 8, 2021
A civilization cannot be transformed unless the masses are made to desire their own repression. One way of achieving this end is by erasing the difference between repression and liberty by using the universities, the mainstream media, the movie industry, and the publishing houses to seed society with the new logic: “The desire for repression is a sign of individualism”; “The passion for being led is moral”; “Normality is abnormal”; “Knowledge is an attempt to exercise brute power by other means”; “Love of one’s culture is a sign of schizophrenia”; “Man’s sickness is man’s individuality and his desire to be left alone”; “Classics are evil since they allow people to connect with an earlier socio-historical context”; “Capitalism does not create prosperity—it creates fascism and fosters the myth of keeping everyone busy”. These are not absurd statements—these are the widely accepted logical tenets of contemporary high culture. It is clear that the utopia project of the early decades of the twentieth century has been resumed in the twenty-first century. But this time the bumbling gun-wielding bolsheviks, the militants of theory, are not in charge—the utopia project is being spearheaded by the wealthy and smart comrades of the media, entertainment, academic, and digital industries, and its management is bureaucratic, globalized, and abstract.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:01:00 PM
Isabel Paterson was a far more wise, balanced, and knowledgeable philosopher than her friend Ayn Rand. Rand might have had a better literary style (even this is debatable)—she certainly had a whole lot of ambition to be a famous author and philosopher—but Paterson possessed a better grasp of philosophy, history, and the human condition. Paterson’s book The God of the Machine is a classic. Here’s an excerpt from the book: “Fear and want are subjective; and poverty is the absence of wealth. If it were promised that from the hour of his birth no man should ever again stand in his naked skin, who is to produce the clothes? who is to have such absolute power over every person? The only condition in which no one can experience poverty, want, or fear, is that of rigor mortis. The dead neither want nor fear.” Here’s another excerpt: “The philanthropist, the politician, and the pimp are inevitably found in alliance because they have the same motives, they seek the same ends, to exist for, through, and by others. And the good people cannot be exonerated for supporting them.” Unfortunately, Paterson is now forgotten by the libertarians.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:50:00 AM