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Monday, January 27, 2020

Philosophy and Science

Philosophy seeks certainty; science seeks empirical facts. The truths of philosophy are the rules of the mind; the truths of science are the rules of causality and materiality. The positions of philosophy are contextual; the facts of science are eternal. Philosophy is often historicist; science is free of the historical context.

On The Importance of Attacks and Refutations

To say that a philosophy is not good because it has been refuted is like saying that the soccer game was pointless because neither team scored a goal despite playing very hard. All the important philosophies in the world have been attacked and refuted several times—but that has actually strengthened these philosophies, enabling them to dominate our culture and politics. Philosophical criticism makes a philosophy relevant by placing it in the historical context. The worst thing that can happen to a philosophy is neglect by other schools. For instance, the 20th century philosophy of Existentialism became popular in the 1960s when Jean-Paul Sartre was at the peak of his career, but after the 1980s, the philosophers started ignoring Sartre and that pushed Existentialism into oblivion.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Free Will and Morality

Free will can be examined in two ways: first, we can examine the freedoms that a man requires to be free of all constraints; second, we can examine the freedoms he requires to be held morally responsible. The first criteria leads to a barbarian conception of man and the second criteria leads to a civilized conception. There is no evidence of the existence of free will, but if it exists, then it must be related to the flow of man’s moral principles. Freedom is good, but over-freedom—or freedom from all moral, social, and religious constraints—has negative consequences; it’s a form of barbarism.

On The Theistic Hopes Of Atheism

Anyone can give up god and religion and become an atheist, but it’s not possible for man to give up his theistic hopes. The nihilism, immoralism, libertinism, and utopianism that is often found in the leaders and members of the atheistic movements is an outcome of their unfulfilled desire for a theistic paradise in the material world. Atheism is not a rebellion against god and religion—it is a project to create new earthly religions and gods, and to turn the earth into a theistic paradise. When this project fails, as it bound to fail because its ends are unachievable, the atheists react by discarding all values.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Conservatives Versus Liberals

The energy of a conservative is directed inwards—his mindset is traditional, practical, isolationist, and nationalist. The energy of a liberal is directed outwards—his mindset is alienated, utopian, expansionist, and globalist. When the major nations of the world are being ruled by conservative governments, there is less likelihood of a great war breaking out because the conservatives prefer to focus on their own nation. But when the major nations are under liberal control, a great war becomes possible because the liberals focus on minding the business of other nations.

The Gap Between Libertarians And Real People

Real people battle with the real problems which they confront in the real world—the libertarian scholars, on the other hand, dwell in an abstract reality where they contemplate an idealistic worldview. The gap between the political opinions of the real people and the libertarian scholars is unbridgeable.

The politics of the real people is focused on resolving short-term political concerns, because they fear that if these concerns are not addressed their life will become much harder. The libertarians in their abstract world tend to focus on longterm plans; their plans can even be utopian—having a stateless society, a global free market, a world free of wars—all of which will never be achieved.

The libertarians have good intentions, but the character of their intentions is irrelevant to the real people who are desperate for concrete solutions to their political problems. The real people tend to gravitate towards real world movements like that of the conservatives who speak in a language that the real people can understand.

Friday, January 24, 2020

In Defense of Irrationalities And Fantasies

Reason is an uncertain attribute. When you become obsessed with following the rules of reason preached by some self-proclaimed rational philosopher, you squander a part of your intellect and creativity. A stickler for reason is incapable of optimizing his chances in the marketplace of ideas because his thinking is too dull, banal, and rigid. Intelligence and creativity walk in tandem with imagination and fantasy.

When we examine the life of the world’s great creative thinkers, we find that while being capable of rational thinking, they are equally at home in the domain of fantasies and irrationalities. Giving vent to some fantasies and irrationalities from time to time is actually good for a man—it broadens the horizons of the mind, energizes the psyche, fuels creativity, encourages innovation, and inculcates hope and courage.

On The Problem of Free Will

Free will can be described as free only if there is the possibility of it to be enslaved. If nature has created free will with the objective of it being free, then free will is not actually free because it is determined by nature to be free. Liberty means absence of external restraint; it does not mean that free will is uncaused. In a causally determined universe, free will can be caused by internal factors but this means that it is causally determined. However, if our choices are uncaused, then our actions will be unpredictable and, that will imply that the impulses of free will are impossible to morally evaluate.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

On The Myth Of Man's Rationality

The philosophers define man as a rational creature, and yet the same philosophers thunder that their intellectual opponents are irrational creatures. I think, “rational” is not an objective term; it’s a relative term. When someone says that men are rational creatures, then you have the right to demand, “Rational, compared to what?” If we are rational compared to the chimpanzees, wildebeest, lions, cats, and dogs, then that does not inspire much confidence in the quality of the human mind. Man cannot be defined as a rational creature because we have a massive drive to act in an irrational manner. Philosophers ought to know this—much of metaphysics and ethics is highly speculative and irrational. A better definition would be that man is the only creature with the capacity for faith.

The Intellectual Infirmity Of Philosophical Movements

People join philosophical movements for the same reason for which they may join groups like Weight Watchers, Alcoholics Anonymous, or a Health Club and even a cult of fanatics—they are in need of group therapy. They have lost confidence in their own mind, they find themselves helpless against whatever vice they think they are plagued with—the vice can be irrational or immoral philosophy, alcohol, overweight, bad health, or something else. They want to belong to a group where they can find people who will influence them into transforming their thinking and psychology. Joining a philosophical movement is the sign of intellectual infirmity and collectivist psychology—it is never a sign of intellectual strength and individualism.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

On The Kindness Of Conservatism

The political forces which perform great acts of kindness are seldom forgiven by the intellectuals. The conservatives are categorized by the intellectuals as a barbaric, fascist, and racist force, but the condition of the poor and the minorities is far better in the nations with healthy conservative movements than in the liberal nations. No one can judge a political system but one who has himself experienced the political system—the best defense of conservatism is that the ordinary people, who have experienced it, like it. The intellectuals are the drummer boys of falsehoods—it’s safe to ignore their opinions.

On The Non-Eternality Of The Universe

If the universe is eternal, then there is no necessity for an ultimate mover or a creator demiurge because everything in the universe has always existed and is transforming and moving in accordance with the laws of physics. But the universe cannot be eternal because it does not contain any component part that does not undergo transformation. From common sense experience we know that all things which undergo transformation are either material or mental and have a beginning and an end. If everything in the universe is undergoing transformation, then the quality of eternality cannot be attributed to the universe as a whole. The universe must have a beginning, and if it has a beginning, then it’s logical to believe that there is a creator involved.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Democratic Life of Socrates

There is a contradiction between the political views of Socrates and his way of life. In Plato’s Republic, he talks about five types of states: first, Aristocracy, or a state ruled by the best man or best men; second, timocracy, or a state ruled by men of honor and ambition; third, oligarchy, or a state ruled by the moneyed class; fourth, democracy, or a state ruled by free people; fifth, tyranny or a state ruled by a totally unjust man. In his hierarchy of different types of states, democracy is awarded a lowly fourth position, but in his own life, he shows a preference for the democratic state. Unlike Plato and Aristotle, he never ventures out of democratic Athens—his entire life is spent in the city-state. He eagerly fights for Athens in wars, and when an Athenian jury sentences him to death, he does not oppose the verdict. His pupils advise him to flee and save his life, but in deference to the Athenian laws, Socrates quietly accepts his fate.

On Metaphysical Propositions

Philosophy, unlike science, is never fully rational and cannot be founded on purely empirical evidence. Every philosophy assumes certain basic facts which cannot be proved or disproved on the basis of existing knowledge. These basic facts are mostly the metaphysical presuppositions (also known as axioms) which can be based on theological or atheistic rationalizations. Without such presuppositions or axioms, no philosophy is possible.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Necessity Of Conservatism

The avalanche of highbrow books on liberty and free markets can be best understood as a sign that no one has gotten to the heart the matter, or that the truth about the matter is so ungainly or politically incorrect that no one wants to acknowledge it. Here’s the ungainly truth: liberty and free markets can be found only in the nations which are rooted in solid culture, positive sense of history, and religious morality, and where the politics is dominated by a conservative political movement. In other words, liberty and free markets are an outcome of the conservative way of life. If conservatism is lost, liberty and free markets will become extinct.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Nonsense Can Establish Sense

Nonsense is not always wasteful and destructive—the history of past 3000 years is replete with instances of sense being established through nonsense.

The cosmology of Homer and Hesiod was nonsense, but their legends played a seminal role in the evolution of Ancient Greek culture and philosophy. In their search for a method of turning base metals into gold, the alchemists of the Middle Ages discovered several important facts of chemistry. In 13th century, Thomas Aquinas wanted to prove the existence of god but his efforts led to the rise of Aristotelian philosophy in Europe. In the 17th century, the scientists trying to prove the phlogiston theory of combustion managed to discover oxygen. The quest for the mythical golden city of El Dorado inspired the Spaniards in the 16th century to undertake risky expeditions to South America. The quest for the mythical island of Terra Australis inspired the exploration of the Southern Hemisphere between the 15th and 18th centuries.

Human beings make their greatest achievements when they work for some purpose—it doesn’t matter whether the purpose is sensible or nonsensical. People often get inspired by nonsensical ideas to take great risks and make great sacrifices which lead to great achievements.

On The Dogma Of Individualism

When a philosophy movement takes individualism as its driving principle, it becomes the preacher of a new form of conformism which regards individualism as a dogma. Its followers are convinced that by conforming with the thinking of their movement’s philosophy and groupthink they are furnishing the ultimate proof of their individualism. No amount of evidence or arguments is sufficient to dispel their illusion of being individualists.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Kantian Bridge Between the Enlightenment and Romanticism

Immanuel Kant is a transitional figure between the Enlightenment and German Romanticism. With his philosophy, he completed the Enlightenment, but he also served as an inspiration for the German Romantics, who undermined the Enlightenment by rejecting the rationalism and scientism of the Enlightenment philosophers.

In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant is aiming to investigate why reason, which is a success in science and mathematics, has brought skepticism and disagreements on the questions of metaphysics, religion, and ethics. He notes that reason is successful in science and mathematics because these subjects deal with things as they appear to us (realm of appearances), not the way they really are (things in “themselves” which exist in the noumenal realm inaccessible by our senses).

Science and mathematics study a world on which our mind imposes certain forms and categories to make sense experience possible. Metaphysics, on the other hand, is beyond the bounds of reason because it deals with the noumenal world of things as they really are. The notion of the noumenal realm of things in themselves is critical for Kant’s thought in metaphysics, ethics, and religion and it inspired the German Romantic movement which was counter-Enlightenment.

Good Times are Bad Teachers

Prosperity, peace, and liberty are lousy teachers. They delude the citizens into believing that the good times will last forever and that the progress of their nation is guaranteed by a law of nature—they lead to moral decadence by creating artificial luxuries and inequalities. Progress is never guaranteed and there is no direction to history.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Age of Reason is a Myth

Reason may enable us to make advances in science, but the dawning of an “age of reason” is not good for a nation. In the area of philosophy and politics, reason tends to breed skeptical, critical, nihilistic, and purely individualistic thinking which foments alienation, decadence, and disorder. When people march under the banner of reason, they lose their sense of traditional values, and their society is ripped apart by unrest and civil war. A rational pursuit of liberty, equality, fraternity often leads to the rise of slavery, inequalities, class conflicts—and a new barbarism. A stable society is founded on customs and mores—the forces of illusion and irrationality have as important role to play in it as the principles of rationality.

On Human Nature And Culture

You cannot break human nature through political coercion. Human nature is largely dependent on culture, which is a product of centuries of intellectual, religious, and materialistic endeavors. It may bend when political coercion is applied, but as soon as the political coercion is removed, human nature will, like a spring, revert back to its original shape. However, human nature can be broken by attacking and transforming culture. That is why the philosophies and political movements that want to promote a different type of human beings despise the existing culture—their politics centers on erasing the old culture to make space for a new one.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

On The Metaphysics Of God

Our language imposes certain logical limits to what we can think or say. Whether you are a theist or atheist, you cannot use language to express your belief or disbelief of god—at least meaningfully you can’t. When you talk about god, you are using natural means to describe an entity that transcends nature; you are using expression to describe an entity that is inexpressible; you are using conscious means to describe an entity that transcends consciousness or unconsciousness. You know in advance that you cannot succeed in describing or denying god, no one can. You can’t describe or deny an infinite entity with finite number of words. The demand for proof of god’s existence is beyond the bounds of logic.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

On Nietzsche’s Theistic Hopes

Nietzsche said, “God is dead,” but he was not an atheist. Hegel, a deeply pious man, had used the “God is dead” phrase to describe a situation in which consciousness senses that there is no hope and feels profoundly unhappy. For Nietzsche too, the death of god is unrelated to the god of religions, though he does not accept the Hegelian notion that unhappiness is humankind’s fate.

According to Nietzsche, the idea of “God’s eye view” is dead. There is no single view of the world, there is no single truth, and there is no divine plan for mankind. A privileged perspective from philosophy, religion, and metaphysics is no longer available. He attacks the idea of morality that is valid for everyone everywhere. He insists on a multiplicity of perspectives, noting that values are relative to a time, a place, and a set of circumstances and customs.

Humanity has to construct its own destiny by creating its own values. People will define who they are and what they can be. Thus Nietzsche’s idea that “God is dead” does not deny theism; it gives rise to new theistic hopes of creative values made by humans themselves.

On Philosophical Battles

A philosophical position developed by a set of sensible men may collapse when another set of equally sensible men refute it. There is not a single major philosopher in history whose ideas have not been refuted several times—greater the philosopher, more multifarious and intense are the refutations. To establish a philosophical position, the philosopher or his followers and sympathizers have to defend their position again and again with ever increasing vigor. The side that engages in more vigorous argumentation usually wins the philosophical debate irrespective of whether their ideas are based on rational and moral considerations.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Disagreements With Ayn Rand’s Philosophy

I disagree with every sentence that Ayn Rand has written in her philosophy of objectivism which is a utopian movement with a naive view of the world. It never entered Rand’s mind to draw a line between her literature and philosophy. Being a fiction writer of the romantic school, she didn’t look at the strict reality in face; she didn’t conduct a serious study of past philosophers; she didn’t try to master the philosophical method; for her philosophy was a work of romantic fiction that she would write by relying on her own imagination. Her philosophy is an attempt at imposing a fictional model on reality—everything should obey the rules of her fictional vision. If a philosopher’s legacy is judged by the conduct of her followers, then Rand’s devotees present a disturbing picture. Weaned on her utopian rhetoric, they revere her as a goddess—they see objectivism as a copernican revolution in philosophy, in that it admits no debt to the philosophies of the past. But their objectivism is scholasticism without the charm of dogma. An exaggerated respect for Rand as a philosopher is the mark of not only poor knowledge of the problems of philosophy but also lack of wisdom.

On Truth and Incertitude

All philosophies aim to find the truth, but what is truth is itself a philosophical question. Before a philosopher begins his search for the truth, he must commit himself to a theory of the truth. There is one thing that a philosopher must not lose sight of: incertitude. Incertitude is not the same thing as skepticism; it denotes the realization that it’s not possible to find the answer to the fundamental questions of philosophy and that the quest for certainty is futile and can have adverse consequences in ethics and politics.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Individualism and Nationhood

Man has two political aspects—first, man as an individual; second, man as the member of a political community. In a good political community, the individualism of most citizens will move in tandem with their sense of belonging to the nation. A symbiotic relationship between man’s individualism and man’s nationhood is the fundamental requirement for a stable political community. The philosophies which preach the notion of a rift between individualism and nationhood are the breeders of alienation, nihilism, and immorality. Such philosophies are not at all conducive for good life and must be rejected.

On Man’s Idealism and Materialism

If idealism is right, there is no difference between man and an omnipotent god. If materialism is right, there is no difference between man and a mindless animal. Man is man because he exists in the narrow stretch in which idealism and materialism intersect.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

On Four Types of Rules

The rules of science are discovered; the rules of philosophy are devised; the rules of religion are divined; the rules of politics are developed.

On The Philosophical Bulls In The China Shop

The 20th century was the age of philosophy movements. It saw the rise of a number of movements which were founded by intellectuals who had too much confidence in their own abilities. They were convinced that they were the raging bulls of philosophy—that they would demolish the china shop of all the dominant philosophies and make people accept a new worldview. But in the arena, there is a matador for every bull and likewise is the situation in the field of philosophy. The philosophical bulls were quickly cut down to size by the matadors of philosophy and every philosophy movement founded in the 20th century was ripped apart (became irrelevant). Philosophy needs wisdom; it needs knowledge of history and human psychology; it needs sympathetic attitude—it’s not a sport for bullheaded people.

On Dreaming The Philosophical Truth

In the philosopher’s dream the philosopher is refuting his own philosophy, and when he wakes up he finds that he is convinced by the refutations that he offered while he was dreaming. He realizes that the philosophy that he has thus far been preaching to his followers is full of flaws. The irony is that it is in his sleep, while he is dreaming, that he awakes.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Barbarism Versus Civilization

The nihilists and barbarians can in no time destroy a civilization which has been developed from several centuries of intellectual, political, and cultural efforts. An act of creation is an arduous undertaking which can go on for several centuries, but the act of destruction is something that can be accomplished in a few days of thoughtless mayhem. The pace at which nihilism and barbarianism devastate is much faster than the pace at which civilization creates.

Achievements Are Not Natural

To be born free is meaningless; to become free is an achievement. That man has natural rights is meaningless; that he has created nations in which rights are possible is an achievement.

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Truth About The Enlightenment

Thanks to the wrongful categorizing of the 18th century as the Enlightenment — an incredibly jejune and meaningless term, which has, however, entirely dominated our historical thinking —we have failed to perceive not only the truth about this century’s intellectualism and politics but also the contributions of the great minds who came before the 18th century. I agree with the view of the Enlightenment that philosopher Yoram Hazony presents in this PagerU video. I have been expressing similar opinions on the Enlightenment in my posts.

The Platitudes On Good & Evil

It’s not necessary that good will triumph over evil—in the political space, the taste for good is a luxury and a disability. It’s not necessary that truth will make us free—truth can give rise to a new forms of scholasticism and slavery. It’s not necessary that knowledge and good life go together—ignorant people often enjoy a higher quality of life than those with knowledge. It’s not necessary that technology can cure the frailty of human nature—technology may fulfill our material wants but it can have a negative impact on our spiritual nature. It’s not necessary that progress and peace move in tandem—the quest for progress can lead to mass murders and wars. Man quests for stability and rationality but life without illusions and irrationality is impossible.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Rootlessness Of Liberalism

Modern liberalism is the doctrine for rootless barbarians. I define a barbarian as a man who feels no curiosity about the sources of his forms of life and civilization. A positive sense of history is necessary for self-determination — being determined by rational considerations of culture. History is never dead and gone; a civilized man senses history as a tool for identifying who his progenitors were, how they lived, what they believed, what they achieved, and where they failed. All civilizations are created on the adamantine foundations of culture and history.

On The Conflict Between Philosophy And Reason

Good philosophy is not an expression of reason. The great philosophers of the past have often flouted the rules of philosophical method and acted against reason. Many aspects of a man’s mind play a role in the development of good philosophy, these include faith, history, prejudices related to cultural, racial, religious, and political issues—and also reason. Reason is a success in science and mathematics, but in philosophy too much reliance on reason can sow seeds of dogmatism, skepticism, and discord, and lead to an inferior quality of work. By using reason, it is not possible to find the answers to the fundamental questions regarding god, soul, free will, and ethics.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A Definite Proof of God’s Existence

Once upon a time there was a man who passionately desired for a definite proof of god’s existence or nonexistence. He took an atheist and a theist up a hill and threw them both down. As the theist fell, he cried, “There is a god.” As the atheist fell, he cried, “There is no god.” The theist survived the fall but the atheist didn’t, and thus the man had a definite proof of the existence of god. This short story elucidates the fact that it is beyond the bounds of possibility to prove or disprove the existence of god.

The Inefficacy of Libertarianism

The man who becomes a libertarian because he is inspired by the idea of liberty and free markets is like an alcoholic who tries to quench his thirst for alcohol by gazing at the labels in the bottles stacked on the shelves of a liquor shop. All that libertarianism can give you is the label (or the abstract theory) of liberty and free markets—this movement is not capable of persuading people to accept its ideas.

A nation is not an abstraction. People are not the creatures of ideology. Politics is not an abstract theory; it’s the domain of practical knowledge and skill. A movement which lacks practical knowledge and skill cannot have a direct impact on politics. The liberty and free markets that we have in some parts of the world today is not due to libertarian styled ideological movements—our modern way of life is the outcome of a confluence of cultural, historical, geographical, geo-political, religious, philosophical, economic, militaristic, and chance related factors. People with conservative, romanticist, and religious mindsets have played a major role in the rise of our world.

The wholly abstract and ideological presentation of the libertarians is, to some extent, responsible for the general decline in the appeal of the ideas of liberty and free markets.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

On Winter’s Reading Binge

To detoxify my mind from the clutter of information, analysis, and chatter, I kept away from cable TV, all print newspapers and magazines, video streaming services, and Internet during the last 20 days (December 19, 2019 to January 7, 2020). While I held on to my mobile device, I didn’t use it to browse social media, news sites, or to send emails. I used this period to read the following books:

1. The Roots of Romanticism, by Isaiah Berlin
2. New Science, by Giambattista Vico
3. The Decline of the West (Volume I), by Oswald Spengler
4. In the Shadow of the Sword, by Tom Holland
5. Classical Indian Metaphysics, by Stephen H. Phillips
6. Free Will, Agency, and Selfhood in Indian Philosophy, Edited by Matthew R. Dasti and Edwin F. Bryant
7. The Collected Essays of Bimal Krishan Matilal (Volume 1), Edited by Jonardon Ganeri

These books (especially the first four) have enabled me to solidify my view of the relation between culture and politics. Culture, and not ideology, is the fountainhead of a good society. The 20th century movements—communism, socialism, liberalism, and libertarianism—have failed because they are too ideological and utopian; what they lack is cultural roots. Every culture has its own possibilities of self-expression; the good political and economic ideas get implemented in nations whose culture is ripe for accepting such innovations. A political community (nation) is culture unadulterated.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Joseph Conrad On The Unexamined Life

Socrates assumed that an examined life is a good life, but Joseph Conrad rejects this idea. He believed that an unexamined life is better because it has authenticity. When a friend suggested in a letter that Singleton, the character in Conrad’s novel The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus', would have been more convincing if he was educated, Conrad sent a reply in which he questions the idea that the world is more intelligible to an educated person. Here’s an excerpt from Conrad’s letter:
You say: ‘Singleton with an education’ ... But first of all – what education? If it is the knowledge of how to live my man essentially possessed it. He was in perfect accord with his life. If by education you mean scientific knowledge then the question arises – what knowledge, how much of it – in what direction? Is it to stop at plane trigonometry or at conic sections? Or is he to study Platonism or Pyrrhonism or the philosophy of the gentle Emerson? Or do you mean the kind of knowledge that would enable him to scheme, and lie, and intrigue his way to the forefront of a crowd no better than himself? Would you seriously, of malice prepense cultivate in that unconscious man the power to think? Then he would become conscious – and much smaller – and very unhappy. Now he is simple and great like an elemental force. Nothing can touch him but the curse of decay – the eternal decree that will extinguish the sun, the stars one by one, and in another instant shall spread a frozen darkness over the whole universe. Nothing else can touch him – he does not think. 
Would you seriously wish to tell such a man: ‘Know thyself.’ Understand thou art nothing, less than a shadow, more insignificant than a drop of water in the ocean, more fleeting than the illusion of a dream. Would you? 
This letter, which is cited in Cedric Watts introductory book on Conrad, A Preface To Conrad, can be seen as Conrad’s rejection of rationalism in ethics. Singleton may not have the education but he is versed in the ways of the world because of his experiences at the sea with his sea mates.

On The Limitations Of Philosophy

The man who looks at philosophy for solutions is either a charlatan or an imbecile or an idealist. A solution is precisely the thing that philosophy is not equipped to provide. To find solutions, you need some kind of practical experience. The solutions for life’s fundamental problems are found by the men of action—the politicians, scientists, professionals, businessmen, artists, and the laboring classes—and never by the philosophers.

The task of philosophy is to elucidate and generalize the solutions which the men of action have discovered. Those who yearn for philosophical solutions are often tempted to undertake the disastrous course of trying to make reality fit into their philosophical theory. The 20th century, in particular, has given an insight into the awful devastation that men armed with a philosophical doctrine and having negligible experience can unleash.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

On The Contradictions In Human Values

Isaiah Berlin’s key teaching is that it’s not possible to create a society in which all human values have been achieved. Human values often contradict each other—for instance, justice is not compatible with mercy; pursuit of truth cannot be reconciled with happiness or the idea of total freedom; if you have peace, then you may lack in excitement; if you have knowledge, then you may lack blissful ignorance. What Berlin says about Turgenev in his essay, “Fathers and Children: Turgenev and The Liberal Predicament,” (Chapter 6; Russian Thinkers by Isaiah Berlin), can he said about him as well:

“Civilization, humane culture, meant more to the Russians, latecomers to Hegel’s feast of the spirit, than to the blasé natives of the West. Turgenev clung to it more passionately, was more conscious of its precariousness, than even his friends Flaubert or Renan. But unlike them, he discerned behind the philistine bourgeoisie a far more furious opponent—the young iconoclasts bent on the total annihilation of his world in the certainty that a new and more just world would emerge. He understood the best among these Robespierres, as Tolstoy, or even Dostoevsky, did not. He rejected their methods, he thought their goals naive and grotesque, but his hand would not rise against them if this meant giving aid and comfort to the generals and the bureaucrats. He offered no clear way out: only gradualism and education, only reason. Chekhov once said that a writer’s business was not to provide solutions, only to describe a situation so truthfully, do such justice to all sides of the question, that the reader could no longer evade it. The doubts Turgenev raised have not been stilled. The dilemma of morally sensitive, honest, and intellectually responsible men at times of acute polarization of opinion has, since his time, grown world-wide. The predicament of what, for him, was only the ‘educated section’ of a country then scarcely regarded as fully European, has come to be that of men in every class of society in our day. He recognized this predicament in its very beginnings and described it with incomparable sharpness of vision, poetry, and truth.”

Conservatism, Progressivism, Libertarianism

Conservatism is a movement of traditionalistic institutions and people who fondly look back at the good old days—they aspire for a future that does not stray too far from the golden past. Progressivism (liberalism and leftism) is a movement of nihilistic intellectuals and demagogic community organizers who, being alienated from their society, look at the past with anger and contempt. Libertarianism is a movement of idealistic dreamers for whom the past and present are mere stepping stones on the road to a global utopia of free markets and liberty where humanity will live happily ever after (like in the fairytales). A positive sense of history is of importance for conservatism; a negative sense of history is of importance for progressivism; and for libertarianism, history is a journey on the road to a free market fairyland.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Pinker’s Pollyannish Philosophy and Its Perfidious Politics

When I read Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, I could not find anything remotely scholarly in it. His sermons on the virtues of the Age of Enlightenment will make no sense to anyone who knows something about the history of the Enlightenment. His attempt to link all the progress of the modern times to the ideas developed during the Age of Enlightenment creates the impression of a shoddy replay of whiggish historiography, which no one, except the most gullible, would believe. His view is totally one-sided; he does not look at the problems created by the Enlightenment and modernity.

I find Jessica Riskin's essay, "Pinker’s Pollyannish Philosophy and Its Perfidious Politics," interesting. She notes that she was tangled in a “knot of Orwellian contradictions” by Pinker’s feeble arguments, his misrepresentation of past philosophers, and misinterpretation of data. Riskin writes, "Pinker is no intellectual historian, so perhaps it should not be surprising that he overlooks a key Enlightenment debate. I’m referring to the long and vigorous debate over the power, foundation, and limits of rational inquiry, perhaps the core example of Enlightenment self-directed skepticism."

Barbarianism Versus Civilization

The rich nations act on the assumption that barbarianism has no real power over human beings. They fail to recognize the appeal of barbarianism—they don’t give enough attention to the cultural pride, sense of historical injustice, lust for unearned riches, and the total rejection of modernity that motivates such cultures. Barbarianism has had a deadly impact on the history of civilization. In the conflicts between civilization and barbarianism, the barbarians may lose in the short term, but, if they are passionate about their way of life and have a sizable territory under their control, they win in the long term. You see this kind of outcome in the many civilizational conflicts of last 2500 years. The Persian, Indus Valley, Greek, Roman, and British empires were ripped apart by the people that they regarded as barbarians.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Ugliness and The Power of Money

Karl Marx defines ugliness as a characteristic that may have a negative impact on a person’s lifestyle only when he is lacking in money. Here’s an excerpt from his essay, “The Power of Money,” (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844):

“I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness–its deterrent power–is nullified by money. I, according to my individual characteristics, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame. I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honored, and hence its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest. I am brainless, but money is the real brain of all things and how then should its possessor be brainless? Besides, he can buy clever people for himself, and is he who has power over the clever not more clever than the clever? Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary?”

I think Marx is wrong on this. It’s not necessary that a man with money will buy beautiful women or clever people—he can buy those who are ugly and stupid. Money does not give you the talent to identify beauty and cleverness.

On The Pitfalls Of Innovation

Our faith in innovation is misplaced. An examination of the history of last 2500 years shows that the advanced nations are often destroyed by their own innovations because they cannot prevent their innovations from falling into the hands of their enemies. The ancient Greeks made significant advances in philosophy, politics, military strategy, and technology, but the Romans created a powerful republic by learning from the Greeks, and eventually the Romans obliterated the Greek civilization. The Romans in turn were destroyed by the barbarians who became powerful by mastering all the Roman innovations. The British Empire on which, it was said, the sun never set, was destroyed when most of their colonies empowered themselves by mastering the British art of politics and economics. Today the American empire is under seize as the innovations that the Americans made in the last 250 years have been mastered by their rival nations. America’s enemies are using American technology to defeat America.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Atheistic Religion of Environmentalism

The behavior of the atheists supports the view that the need for religion and god is hardwired in human beings. The atheists have a theological view of atheism; they have always been passionately engaged in bringing salvation to all through politics and science.

When their idea of salvation through politics died with the communist disasters of the 20th century, the atheists faced the risk of being driven out of politics. To protect their political relevance they turned their eschatological hope on other issues—one of them being environmentalism, which for the atheists, is a scientific means for bringing salvation to all.

Love for environment is there in the theists too, but the theist environmentalists are less dangerous. Their heaven is an afterlife phenomena and they accept that human beings are indelibly flawed—the theists are not using environmentalism (or communism) as a blueprint for building an earthly heaven.

Being convinced that man is a perfect being, there is nothing that the atheists won’t do to achieve their political goals. Their environmentalist project can be as deadly as their communist project.

On The Limitations Of Free Market System

A free market system can facilitate the rise of large business houses and make it easier for the people to find better employment and procure goods and services at competitive prices, but it cannot make us more wise, rational, peaceful, or civilized. A nation with a free market system can be as unreasonable and nihilistic as a nation with backward economy. No power can coerce the big business houses which thrive under a free market system to use their economic power for moral purposes. The problem is that no one knows what purposes are moral. The free markets will solve a few economic problems, but they may give birth to a range of political and cultural problems which may prove intractable. To ensure that the free markets operate within the framework of a nation’s culture a healthy political system is necessary.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Myth of Universal Human Nature

The idea that there is a trait called universal human nature is a myth which was first propagated during the Age of Enlightenment by intellectuals who dreamed of unifying mankind under a global political and moral system. But a global political system is a utopian project which can never be achieved. Human beings have always been deeply divided on lines of race, religion, nationality, geography, and language. Universal nature is one thing that the human beings don’t have. Since there is no universal nature, there can be no universal moral law or universal form of government. Different groups of people have always had different moral beliefs and forms of government and that will continue to be the case for as long as humanity lasts on this planet.

Stability Versus Liberty

It’s naive to conceive a political theory that is not based on human nature. The primary political requirement of human beings is not liberty—it’s stability. Hobbes understood that people want their government to protect their life, property, and way of life. The passion for liberty is the hallmark of the type of intellectuals who are idealistic and have a utopian view of the world. Most people are convinced that the responsibility for maintaining the stability of the political, social, and economic system belongs to the government. In case there is a conflict between liberty and stability, people may tolerate a loss of their liberty, but they will never tolerate instability.