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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Philosophy Begins With Wonder

"Aristotle’s view that philosophy begins with wonder, not as in our day with doubt, is a positive point of departure for philosophy. Indeed, the world will no doubt learn that it does not do to begin with the negative, and the reason for success up to the present is that philosophers have never quite surrendered to the negative and thus have never earnestly done what they have said. They merely flirt with doubt." ~ Søren Kierkegaard (The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard)

In Metaphysics, Aristotle says: "For it is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize; they wondered originally at the obvious difficulties, then advanced little by little and stated difficulties about the greater matters, e.g. about the phenomena of the moon and those of the sun and of the stars, and about the genesis of the universe." (Metaphysics, Book I, Part II)

On Pre-Moderns, Moderns, and Postmoderns

We call ourselves modern and postmodern, but we are grappling with the same philosophical problems which exercised the thinkers in the ancient and the medieval periods. When our philosophy is mostly pre-modern, it is difficult to justify the use of labels like "modern" and "postmodern". Here’s a thought from Gertrude Himmelfarb (The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments (Page 235):

"The sociology of virtue, the ideology of reason, the politics of liberty—the ideas still resonate today. But they carry with them the accretions of more than two centuries of historical experiences and memories. And other ideas now compete for our attention: equality, most notably, but also nationality and ethnicity, class and gender, cultural diversity and global homogeneity. If the three Enlightenments ushered in the modernity—or at least a new stage of in modernity, or new variations on modernity—the postmodernists may be justified in calling this a postmodern age. Yet the ideas of virtue, liberty, and reason did not originate in modernity; nor have they been superseded or superannuated by postmodernity. We are, in fact, still floundering in the verities and fallacies, the assumptions and convictions, about human nature, society, and the polity that exercised the British moral philosophers, the French philosophes, and the American Founders."

Paul Guyer's Thoughts On Kant as a Stoic

Immanuel Kant on Space and Time

In his Inaugural Dissertation of 1770, Immanuel Kant denies the realty of time and space and of temporal and spatial form. He writes:
Time is not something objective and real, neither a substance, nor an accident, nor a relation. It is the subjective condition necessary by the nature of the human mind for coordinating any sensible objects among themselves by a certain law; time is a pure intuition.  
Space is not something objective and real, neither substance, nor accident, nor relation; but subjective and ideal, arising by fixed law from the nature of the mind like an outline for the mutual co-ordination of all external sensations whatsoever.
It is noteworthy that Kant is not implying that the existence of objects perceived in space and time is dependent on the nature of the human mind. Rather he is saying that the existence of mind-dependent forms like time and space make it possible for the human mind to precisely observe the mind-independent objects.

Who Should Be The Judge?

In Metaphysics 4.6, Aristotle summarizes the arguments from his skeptic opponents in this paragraph:
There are, both among those who have these convictions and among those who merely profess these views, some who raise a difficulty by asking, who is to be the judge of the healthy man, and in general who is likely to judge rightly on each class of questions. But such inquiries are like puzzling over the question whether we are now asleep or awake. And all such questions have the same meaning. These people demand that a reason shall be given for everything; for they seek a starting-point, and they seek to get this by demonstration, while it is obvious from their actions that they have no conviction. But their mistake is what we have stated it to be; they seek a reason for things for which no reason can be given; for the starting-point of demonstration is not demonstration.
According to Aristotle, when anyone inquires about who is likely to judge rightly on each class of questions, he is seeking to cast doubt on opinions of one’s preferred experts and authorities. If you say that you prefer the beliefs of X to that of Y, the skeptic will undermine the grounds for which you are preferring X. The question is do we accept that we are justified in believing a particular issue only by appealing to some further principle—if such a condition to accepted then nothing can be judged because every principle will need a further justification. Aristotle points out that it is futile to appeal to the authority of any figure—the analysis should begin with what requires proof and what does not, and in case something requires proof, then what kind proof is required.

Marcel Proust’s 960 Word Marathon

In Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way (Volume 1, In Search of Lost Time), the longest sentence of 601 words occurs in the opening section of the first chapter, “Overture”:
But I had seen first one and then another of the rooms in which I had slept during my life, and in the end I would revisit them all in the long course of my waking dream: rooms in winter, where on going to bed I would at once bury my head in a nest, built up out of the most diverse materials, the corner of my pillow, the top of my blankets, a piece of a shawl, the edge of my bed, and a copy of an evening paper, all of which things I would contrive, with the infinite patience of birds building their nests, to cement into one whole; rooms where, in a keen frost, I would feel the satisfaction of being shut in from the outer world (like the sea-swallow which builds at the end of a dark tunnel and is kept warm by the surrounding earth), and where, the fire keeping in all night, I would sleep wrapped up, as it were, in a great cloak of snug and savoury air, shot with the glow of the logs which would break out again in flame: in a sort of alcove without walls, a cave of warmth dug out of the heart of the room itself, a zone of heat whose boundaries were constantly shifting and altering in temperature as gusts of air ran across them to strike freshly upon my face, from the corners of the room, or from parts near the window or far from the fireplace which had therefore remained cold — or rooms in summer, where I would delight to feel myself a part of the warm evening, where the moonlight striking upon the half-opened shutters would throw down to the foot of my bed its enchanted ladder; where I would fall asleep, as it might be in the open air, like a titmouse which the breeze keeps poised in the focus of a sunbeam — or sometimes the Louis XVI room, so cheerful that I could never feel really unhappy, even on my first night in it: that room where the slender columns which lightly supported its ceiling would part, ever so gracefully, to indicate where the bed was and to keep it separate; sometimes again that little room with the high ceiling, hollowed in the form of a pyramid out of two separate storeys, and partly walled with mahogany, in which from the first moment my mind was drugged by the unfamiliar scent of flowering grasses, convinced of the hostility of the violet curtains and of the insolent indifference of a clock that chattered on at the top of its voice as though I were not there; while a strange and pitiless mirror with square feet, which stood across one corner of the room, cleared for itself a site I had not looked to find tenanted in the quiet surroundings of my normal field of vision: that room in which my mind, forcing itself for hours on end to leave its moorings, to elongate itself upwards so as to take on the exact shape of the room, and to reach to the summit of that monstrous funnel, had passed so many anxious nights while my body lay stretched out in bed, my eyes staring upwards, my ears straining, my nostrils sniffing uneasily, and my heart beating; until custom had changed the colour of the curtains, made the clock keep quiet, brought an expression of pity to the cruel, slanting face of the glass, disguised or even completely dispelled the scent of flowering grasses, and distinctly reduced the apparent loftiness of the ceiling.
But the longest sentence in the 7-volume set is of 960 words. It appears in the Introduction of Volume 4, In Search Of LostSodom and Gomorrah (sometimes translated as Cities of the Plain):
Their honour precarious, their liberty provisional, lasting only until the discovery of their crime; their position unstable, like that of the poet who one day was feasted at every table, applauded in every theatre in London, and on the next was driven from every lodging, unable to find a pillow upon which to lay his head, turning the mill like Samson and saying like him: “The two sexes shall die, each in a place apart!”; excluded even, save on the days of general disaster when the majority rally round the victim as the Jews rallied round Dreyfus, from the sympathy — at times from the society — of their fellows, in whom they inspire only disgust at seeing themselves as they are, portrayed in a mirror which, ceasing to flatter them, accentuates every blemish that they have refused to observe in themselves, and makes them understand that what they have been calling their love (a thing to which, playing upon the word, they have by association annexed all that poetry, painting, music, chivalry, asceticism have contrived to add to love) springs not from an ideal of beauty which they have chosen but from an incurable malady; like the Jews again (save some who will associate only with others of their race and have always on their lips ritual words and consecrated pleasantries), shunning one another, seeking out those who are most directly their opposite, who do not desire their company, pardoning their rebuffs, moved to ecstasy by their condescension; but also brought into the company of their own kind by the ostracism that strikes them, the opprobrium under which they have fallen, having finally been invested, by a persecution similar to that of Israel, with the physical and moral characteristics of a race, sometimes beautiful, often hideous, finding (in spite of all the mockery with which he who, more closely blended with, better assimilated to the opposing race, is relatively, in appearance, the least inverted, heaps upon him who has remained more so) a relief in frequenting the society of their kind, and even some corroboration of their own life, so much so that, while steadfastly denying that they are a race (the name of which is the vilest of insults), those who succeed in concealing the fact that they belong to it they readily unmask, with a view less to injuring them, though they have no scruple about that, than to excusing themselves; and, going in search (as a doctor seeks cases of appendicitis) of cases of inversion in history, taking pleasure in recalling that Socrates was one of themselves, as the Israelites claim that Jesus was one of them, without reflecting that there were no abnormals when homosexuality was the norm, no anti-Christians before Christ, that the disgrace alone makes the crime because it has allowed to survive only those who remained obdurate to every warning, to every example, to every punishment, by virtue of an innate disposition so peculiar that it is more repugnant to other men (even though it may be accompanied by exalted moral qualities) than certain other vices which exclude those qualities, such as theft, cruelty, breach of faith, vices better understood and so more readily excused by the generality of men; forming a freemasonry far more extensive, more powerful and less suspected than that of the Lodges, for it rests upon an identity of tastes, needs, habits, dangers, apprenticeship, knowledge, traffic, glossary, and one in which the members themselves, who intend not to know one another, recognise one another immediately by natural or conventional, involuntary or deliberate signs which indicate one of his congeners to the beggar in the street, in the great nobleman whose carriage door he is shutting, to the father in the suitor for his daughter’s hand, to him who has sought healing, absolution, defence, in the doctor, the priest, the barrister to whom he has had recourse; all of them obliged to protect their own secret but having their part in a secret shared with the others, which the rest of humanity does not suspect and which means that to them the most wildly improbable tales of adventure seem true, for in this romantic, anachronistic life the ambassador is a bosom friend of the felon, the prince, with a certain independence of action with which his aristocratic breeding has furnished him, and which the trembling little cit would lack, on leaving the duchess’s party goes off to confer in private with the hooligan; a reprobate part of the human whole, but an important part, suspected where it does not exist, flaunting itself, insolent and unpunished, where its existence is never guessed; numbering its adherents everywhere, among the people, in the army, in the church, in the prison, on the throne; living, in short, at least to a great extent, in a playful and perilous intimacy with the men of the other race, provoking them, playing with them by speaking of its vice as of something alien to it; a game that is rendered easy by the blindness or duplicity of the others, a game that may be kept up for years until the day of the scandal, on which these lion-tamers are devoured; until then, obliged to make a secret of their lives, to turn away their eyes from the things on which they would naturally fasten them, to fasten them upon those from which they would naturally turn away, to change the gender of many of the words in their vocabulary, a social constraint, slight in comparison with the inward constraint which their vice, or what is improperly so called, imposes upon them with regard not so much now to others as to themselves, and in such a way that to themselves it does not appear a vice.

Kant On Empirical Concepts

Immanuel Kant, in his First Introduction to the Critique of Judgment, talks about the conditions of forming a set of empirical concepts which cohere with each other. Some kind of coherence is necessary to ensure that the concepts that are obtained through comparison are connectable to each other in judgement. In the First Introduction, Kant notes: "One may wonder whether Linnaeus could have hoped to design a system of nature if he had had to worry that a stone which he found, and which he called granite, might differ in its inner character from any other stone even if it looked the same, so that all he could ever hope to find would be single things — isolated, as it were, for the understanding — but never a class of them that could be brought under concepts of genus and species."

Henry E. Allison, in his essay, “Reflective Judgment and the Purposiveness of Nature,” (Chapter 1;  Kant’s Theory of Taste: A Reading of the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment), offers the following analysis of the above quoted lines from Kant:

"This note makes “explicit the requirement that a classificatory system reflect an underlying order of nature. Thus, whereas any number of such systems might be possible, the assumption is that there is one (and only one) that, as it were, “carves nature at its joints.” And the goal or regulative idea of a systematizer such as Linnaeus is to provide the system that reflects this order (or at least comes as close as possible to doing so). Moreover, since the classification of phenomena has to be based on observed uniformities and differences, the operative assumption must once again be that outer similarities and differences correspond to inner or intrinsic ones. To use Kant’s own example, objects with the observable features of granite must also be similar in their inner character; for otherwise there would be no basis for inferring from the fact that an object has granite-like features that it will behave similarly to other objects with these features.”

According to Kant, a hierarchical system of concepts (in which every concept is itself both a species of the concepts contained in it and a genus for the concepts falling under it) is a necessary condition for the application of logic to nature, that is, for empirical judgment. (By “logic” Kant does not mean formal logic but rather our discursive, conceptual abilities.)

The Bounds of Sensibility and of Reason

In two of his letters to Marcus Hertz, Immanuel Kant has given a brief account of the philosophical project that he was working on in the 1770s. His fundamental concern is with metaphysics (or the possibility of metaphysics) and he says that his project will be an introduction to metaphysics and to it he has given the title, “The Bounds of Sensibility and of Reason.”

Here’s an excerpt from Kant’s June 7, 1771 letter:
Long experience has taught me that one cannot compel or precipitate insight by force in matters of the sort we are considering; rather, it takes quite a long time to gain insight, since one looks at one and the same concept intermittently and regards its possibility in all its relations and contexts, and furthermore, because one must above all awaken the skeptical spirit within, to examine one's conclusions against the strongest possible doubt and see whether they can stand the test. From this point of view I have, I think, made good use of the time that I have allowed myself, risking the danger of offending these scholars with my seeming impoliteness while actually motivated by respect for their judgment. You understand how important it is, for all of philosophy — yes even for the most important ends of humanity in general — to distinguish with certainty and clarity that which depends on the subjective principles of human mental powers (not only sensibility but also the understanding) and that which pertains directly to the facts. If one is not driven by a mania for systematizing, the investigations which one makes concerning one and the same fundamental principle in its widest possible applications even confirm each other. I am therefore now busy on a work which I call "The Bounds of Sensibility and of Reason." It will work out in some detail the foundational principles and laws that determine the sensible world together with an outline of what is essential to the Doctrine of Taste, of Metaphysics, and of Moral Philosophy. I have this winter surveyed all the relevant materials for it and have considered, weighed, and harmonized everything, but I have only recently come up with the way to organize the whole work. 
Kant provides further details of his project in his second, much longer letter to Herz (dated February 21, 1772):
I had also long ago outlined, to my tolerable satisfaction, the principles of feeling, taste, and power of judgment, with their effects — the pleasant, the beautiful, and the good — and was then making plans for a work that might perhaps have the title, The Limits of Sensibility and Reason. I planned to have it consist of two parts, a theoretical and a practical. The first part would have two sections, (1) general phenomenology and (2) metaphysics, but this only with regard to its nature and method. The second part likewise would have two sections, (1) the universal principles of feeling, taste, and sensuous desire and (2) the first principles of morality.
From these two letters, it is obvious that, in the 1770s, Kant had started grappling with the philosophical problem of taste. In 1781, the work that he had initially thought of calling “The Bounds of Sensibility and of Reason,” was published as The Critique of Pure Reason.

Political Norms Are Not Universal

The libertarian view is that political norms are universal and can be justified independent of cultural differences. But this is not correct. The terms “liberty,” “democracy,” “justice,” and “rights,” are political concepts, and their actualization and justification is contingent on the culture of a political community (nation). In order to figure just what liberty, democracy, justice, and rights look like in a given society, we must become acquainted with the local culture. This means that political norms cannot be universal; they have to be contextual—or developed in relation to a political community. In order to give a logical description of liberty, democracy, justice, and rights, the philosopher must begin by describing the political community in context of which he is philosophizing. The political community forms the foundation of all political norms—and the purpose of political norms is to explain the political and moral values of a particular political community.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

On The Limitations of Originalism

The traditional conservatives have faith in originalism because they are convinced that the constitution is adequate for defending people’s rights and freedoms, and preserving their way of life, but here they show a characteristic disregard for history which shows that the constitution always changes with the regime. They don’t seem to realize that for the liberals, the constitution is merely a tool for transforming society into a progressive utopia—when the liberals are in power they do their best to change the constitution by passing new laws and getting rid of the old constitutional guarantees. They politicize the judicial system to rig the kind of verdicts that they want. Originalism might be a good way of interpreting the constitution, but it often deludes its conservative followers into putting too much faith in the constitution and adopting a weak political strategy, which is ineffective against the maneuvers of the liberal activists.

The Pitfalls of a Borderless Utopia

A borderless world is utopianism of the most primitive kind—it presumes that people can live in harmony with everyone. The truth is that human beings have a natural desire to live in the company of people with whom they share some qualities and interests. That is why we prefer to live in political communities. But for building a political community, it is necessary to place restrictions on the entry of people who are, for some reason, incapable of being part of that community. Therefore, it is imperative for a political community to regulate immigration.

A nation is a political community—in order to perform the function of a political community it has to have borders and a system for controlling immigration. If a nation is forced to have open borders, then its political community will get disrupted. Its citizens will start feeling insecure and they will react by organizing themselves into non-national political communities which are based on regionalism, race, religion, and economic and political status—walls will come up around many towns and cities to regulate the entry of outsiders. There could be a massive rise in the number of gated communities within the cities and towns.

If the political campaign for open border and a universal right to immigrate is successful, it will lead to an ironic outcome—instead of freeing the nation of borders, it will give rise to a plethora of borders within the nation.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Unlimited Freedom Leads to Unlimited Despotism

The intellectuals and politicians who propose that the western countries should use their military power to force countries in the Middle East to accept a liberal form of governance are like the deluded revolutionaries that Fyodor Dostoevsky has described in his book The Possessed. These revolutionaries think that they can establish a paradise after overthrowing the existing regime through a violent revolution. Shigalyov, the intellectual character in The Possessed, who is a historian and social theorist, and a key thinker for the revolutionaries, has developed a plan for post-revolution reorganization of mankind. But the realization dawns on him that the reorganization of mankind will entail a huge cost—more than 100 million people will be killed and many more will be enslaved in the attempt to create a paradise. He confesses, "My conclusion stands in direct contradiction to the idea from which I started. Proceeding from unlimited freedom, I end with unlimited despotism.” This has an important lesson for the Middle East: Political liberty and free market cannot be established in most countries in this region. Here the choice is between secular despotism and theocratic regime.

A Perfect Society Cannot Be Conceived

All philosophies which describe a perfect society are utopian and bogus. A perfect society cannot be conceived by the human mind. This is because the structure of any society is based on two theories: legal theory and ethical theory. The arguments in both ethical theory and legal theory are interminable. People will never have a consensus on the best constitution and good moral behavior. Since it is not possible to conceive of the final form of legal theory and moral theory, a perfect society is beyond the reach of the human mind. Imagining a perfect society is like imagining the Kingdom of Atlantis. We will never know what a perfect society is, and what we don’t know we can’t create.

Monday, October 28, 2019

On Fukuyama’s Idea of End of History

In his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama presents his end of history thesis. He says that in future there will not be any conflict about the most legitimate type of government because it is now established that the liberal type of government is the final form. Later he denied that he believed in the end of history. But in his book he has written these lines:

“What we may be witnessing in not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government. This is not to say that there will no longer be events to fill the pages of Foreign Affairs's yearly summaries of international relations, for the victory of liberalism has occurred primarily in the realm of ideas or consciousness and is as yet incomplete in the real or material world. But there are powerful reasons for believing that it is the ideal that will govern the material world in the long run.”

Fukuyama is making two important claims: first, history has reached its end point (at least, in the area of political theory); second, liberal democracy is now the final (or the most legitimate) form of government. But it is not true that history has reached an end point— Fukuyama does not offer any argument to back this claim. The idea that liberal democracy is the final form of government is crackpot neo-conservative utopianism. There is no evidence to suggest that political liberty and free-markets are suitable for every nation in the world. A liberal form of government cannot be achieved everywhere.

On the Utopianism of the Libertarians

The libertarian defense of liberty and free-markets smacks of scientism. They describe the irrationality of big government, but they fail to notice that liberty and free markets are an artifact of nationalism and state power. Without nationhood and state power, liberty and free markets cannot exist. The libertarians detest nationalism; history for them is a one-way street which, they believe, will end (in a Hegelian fashion) with the establishment of a global utopia of free-market and liberty.

But it is unlikely that the globe will ever become a libertarian utopia. This is primarily because in different countries, the forces of nationalism interact with modern technology to produce different kinds of free-market systems. Today the world is home to not one but several variants of free-markets. There is no conformity among people in different nations on the issue of free-society and free-market. Moreover, there is no evidence to show that liberty and free-markets are equally good for people in all cultures. The libertarians have nothing to say about those cultures in the world that are incompatible with liberty and free-markets.

The problem with the libertarians is that they lack skepticism—the libertarian cliches are for them the eternal verities.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

On Reason and Emotions

Emotions are as innate to man as reason is. A man of reason, who has suppressed or overcome his emotions, is usually a totalitarian and a dogmatist. A good human being is a man of both, reason and emotions. Reason cannot be trusted when it operates without regard for emotions. Likewise, emotions cannot be trusted when they operate without regard for reason. Both reason and emotions are fallible, but when they work together in a man’s mind, then he has a better chance for making the right choices. I often come across philosophers who invoke reason to attack emotions. But an examination of their philosophies will show that their ideas are bogus. Reason is ineffective if it does not have access to the common sense that is reflected in a man’s emotions.

On Conservatism’s Decline into Progressive Utopianism

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, instead of leading to the end of socialism, led to the weakening of the conservative movement. The 1990s saw the rise of a new breed of conservative politicians and intellectuals who viewed traditional conservatism as an obstacle to electoral success. Under their leadership, conservatism’s links with ancient and medieval knowledge, which is essential for making it a coherent project, was severed. Conservatism ceased to be conservative in the traditional sense; it is now a modernist movement—a vehicle for progressive utopianism.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

On the Doctrine of Historical Teleology

Hegel believed that history ended in 1806 when Napoleon marched into Jena, a point of time, when he, Hegel, finished writing his The Phenomenology of Spirit. 1806 was, according to Hegel, the year when mankind had experienced all the stages of mental and political evolution. The future, he believed, would not bring any further transformation in human mentality and political systems. On the back of Napoleon’s army there had arrived in Jena, the idea of a society of freedom, law, and equality based, not on religion, but on science, and from Hegel’s Phenomenology there came the ultimate philosophy. Nothing else was required.

In the 20th century, Hegel’s doctrine was used by the communists to make a case for “historical teleology.” They saw history as a process with communism as its built-in goal. The collapse of communism did not lead to the end of the doctrine of historical teleology, which was picked up by the neo-liberals and the neo-conservatives who were motivated by the utopian vision of turning the entire world into a free-market and democratic paradise. In his 1992 book on political philosophy The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama asserted that the Western liberal democracy was the final form of government for all nations and it represented the end-point of mankind's ideological evolution.

Margret Thatcher, who was a traditional conservative, untouched by utopian revolutionary ambitions, rejected Fukuyama’s thesis with these words: “The end of history! The beginning of nonsense!”

On The Four Types of Conservatism

The term “conservative” generally refers to anyone who stands for small government, free-markets, respect for religion and culture, and strong law and order. There are four types of conservatism: first, free-market conservatism, which is focused on free market liberalism; second, traditional conservatism, sometimes called paleoconservatism, which stand for economic and cultural nationalism and noninterventionism; third, religious conservatism, which is concerned with moral and cultural issues; fourth, neo-conservatism, which has revolutionary and utopian aspirations and stands for using the power of the government to remake the country and the world. The four types of conservatism are not separated by an unbridgeable chasm. The first three groups of conservatives agree on most issues, while disagreeing on others. But the fourth type of conservatism, neo-conservatism, is a new phenomena and it is seen as an outlier in the overall conservative movement because of its revolutionary and utopian character.

Friday, October 25, 2019

You Don’t Have The Right to be Wrong

Freedom of belief is seen as an important value in our society—it is interpreted as the right not to be coerced into believing something. But it is generally believed that freedom of belief grants people the right to hold a false belief, and that they have the right to be wrong. They think that the freedom of thought necessitates the freedom to make mistakes.

In his article, “Is There a Right to be Wrong?” David Oderberg shows that there is nothing called the right to be wrong and no one has the freedom to make mistakes. He writes: “Morality itself demands that we seek and believe only the truth, since only the truth satisfies our rational nature. It is the truth that sets us free, not error. Of course knowing the truth is not always easy, especially in times such as these when diversity of opinion is prized as a great social value.”

Freedom does not mean the freedom to hold false belief because if you hold a false belief you are in essence a slave to your ignorance. Oderberg says, “as the lost man wandering the desert without a map is free to explore any direction he likes but is in reality a slave to his ignorance. It is the man with a map who is truly free.”

Oderberg ends his article with these lines:
The ‘right to be wrong’ is, I conclude, a myth. There is an obligation to weigh evidence and to assess argument, and you may be blameless in your embracing of a falsehood as long as that embrace occurs despite the proper use of your intellect rather than as a consequence of its misuse. To say or imply, however, that a person has the right to embrace falsehood is to assist in the spreading of the sort of indifferentism and syncretism that is one of the hallmarks of contemporary society.
People have the right to believe in the truth, which means that they do not have the right to believe in falsehoods. The right to be wrong is a modern myth.

Aristotle’s Truly Happy Man

Frederic Copleston on Aristotle’s eudaemonistic ethic:
Aristotle’s ethic was thus eudaemonistic in character, teleological, and markedly intellectualist, since it is clear that for him contemplation meant philosophical contemplation: he was not referring to a religious phenomenon, such as the ecstasy of Plotinus. Moreover, the end (telos) of moral activity is an end to be acquired in this life: as far as the ethics of Aristotle are concerned there is no hint of any vision of God in the next life, and it is indeed questionable whether he believed in personal immortality at all. Aristotle’s truly happy man is the philosopher, not the saint. 
(Source: History of Philosophy (Volume II): Augustine to Scotus by Frederic Copleston; Chapter 29, “St. Thomas Aquinas: Moral Theory”)

Is Ayn Rand’s Objectivism a Philosophy?

Ayn Rand’s novels, like the works of a few other great writers, have a stunning impact on the mind when you read them for the first time. You get mesmerized by the larger than life characters that you discover in her novels, and the notion that philosophy has practical consequences gets inscribed in your memory.

Most people become acquainted with Rand by reading her novels and when they make inquiries about her, they come to know that she is the founder of a school called objectivism. After the publication of Atlas Shrugged in 1958, she decided to become a philosopher—with a band of inexperienced youngsters, she launched objectivism. She didn’t have any expertise or interest in philosophy; she had no clue what it takes to philosophize like a philosopher. Much of the work that she has done in the name of objectivism consists of short articles on the political and cultural excrescences of her own time. Her articles are interesting, but they are not philosophy.

Rand’s objectivist followers claim that her novels are an elucidation of the objectivist philosophy. But I believe that her novels are works of fiction; they are not philosophy. You can find in her novels an inspiration for a healthy sense of life, and a sense of the critical role that philosophy plays in the rise and fall of civilizations and in an individual’s life—but all this is not philosophy.

Philosophy, like physics, biology, and mathematics, has a methodology of its own. You can discover the philosophical truth only by following the philosophical method. You can’t do it by following a literary way—but that is what Rand tried to do. She developed objectivism by following a literary methodology and she could not produce a single treatise on any area of philosophy. The contrast between the massive scope of her novels, and the pettiness, ignorance, and dogmatism that we find in objectivism is so blatantly obvious that only the most dogmatic acolytes can claim that all is well in objectivism.

Etienne Gilson’s thought provoking words in The Unity of Philosophical Experience (page 7) come to my mind:
I wish I could make clear from the very beginning that in criticizing great men, as I shall do, I am very far from forgetting what made them truly great. No man can fall a victim to his own genius unless he has genius; but those who have none are fully justified in refusing to be victimized by the genius of others. Not having made the mathematical discoveries of Descartes and Leibniz, we cannot be tempted to submit all questions to the rules of mathematics; but our very mediocrity should at least help us to avoid such a mistake. There is more than one excuse for being a Descartes, but there is no excuse whatsoever for being a Cartesian. 
Taking an inspiration from Gilson’s words, I will say that there is more than one excuse for being an Ayn Rand, but there is no excuse whatsoever for being an objectivist. I am not trying to debase Rand as a fiction writer; she has written fine novels—she took philosophy seriously and was devoted to finding the philosophical truth. But she failed to create any value in objectivism because she was a fiction writer and not a philosopher. She made no effort to learn philosophy.

(I first posted this on January 5, 2019.)

On The Age of Enlightenment

Did the Age of Enlightenment lead to any enlightening idea? The Enlightenment is not identified with one or two great philosophers; it was a mishmash of philosophers belonging to an array of schools of thought—monarchists and republicans, atheists and deists, liberals and non-liberals, communists and egalitarians, free-marketers and socialists, anarchists and statists, humanists and racists. They had bitter disputes with each other on a range of political and ethical issues, but the doctrine with which the Enlightenment is generally associated is a totalitarian one: that the human race can be perfected and a good society can be created by using political power.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Neo-Conservatism: Modernity’s First Religious Utopian Movement

The Age of Enlightenment bequeathed to the world the notion that men of reason and science (who are free of religious beliefs) can use political power to improve human race and create a perfect society. The first political movement inspired by the radical enlightenment doctrine was the French Revolution of the 18th century—the atheistic jacobins began the era of mass murder in the name of spreading enlightenment.

The Enlightenment doctrine didn’t disappear with the failure of the French Revolution. In the 20th century, the communists led by Lenin were motivated by the vision of unbounded human possibility that could be unleashed by the implementation of utopian ideas. In the 1930s, the nazis and the fascists used the idea of scientific racism (which was developed during the Age of Enlightenment) to create a perfect society.

All political movements in the last 250 years that were inspired by the Enlightenment vision of human perfectibility and the possibility of perfect society were atheistic and anti-tradition—all except one, the neo-conservatives. They are very religious and traditional, but they hanker for goals that are as utopian as the goals that motivated the jacobins, communists, nazis, and fascists. With the rise of the neo-conservatives, utopianism has taken root in the conservative mind.

Related: The Utopian Mission of Liberals and Neo-Conservatives

The Utopian Mission of Liberals and Neo-Conservatives

The failure of the Nazism, Fascism, and Communism did not destroy the doctrine of human perfectibility which found a way of migrating to other movements. The liberals were the first to be infected by this doctrine—in the late 1940s, a few years after the Second World War, the liberals became obsessed with the idea of creating a perfect global society. They started drawing the blueprint for a new utopia which would span the planet—a global democracy and free market under the benign command of enlightened progressive rulers. But the liberals could not take their agenda forward because of strong opposition from the conservatives.

After the 1990s, a section of the conservatives too became infected with the doctrine of human perfectibility. They called themselves neo-conservatives and were inspired by the idea that, with the use of military power, people in other countries can be perfected. The neo-conservatives joined hands with the liberals and they launched their first major utopian experiment in the Middle East. Their plan was to use military power to turn the Middle East into a democratic and free market paradise. The Middle Eastern experiment has had catastrophic consequences—it has cost millions of lives and trillions of dollars, and none of the utopian goals have been achieved.

For a war to be moral, its goals must be achievable; if the goals are utopian and not achievable, then the war is immoral. The wars orchestrated by the liberals and the neo-conservatives in the last four decades are utopian and immoral.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Isaiah Berlin On Utopianism

In his essay, “The Apotheosis of the Romantic Will,” (The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas; By Isaiah Berlin; Page 219 - 252), Isaiah Berlin sounds a warning against the moral and political cost of utopianism. Here’s a paragraph from the essay in which Berlin equates utopianism with totalitarianism:

“All the utopias known to us are based upon the discoverability and harmony of objectively true ends, true for all men, at all times and places. This holds of every ideal city, from Plato’s Republic and his Laws, and Zeno’s anarchist world community, and the City of the Sun of Iambulus, to the Utopias of Thomas More and Campanella, Bacon and Harrington and Fenelon. The communist societies of Mably and Morelly, the state capitalism of Saint-Simon, the Phalansteres of Fourier, the various combinations of anarchism and collectivism of Owen and Godwin, Cabet, William Morris and Chemyshevsky, Bellamy, Hertzka and others (there is no lack of them in the nineteenth century) rest on the three pillars of social optimism in the west of which I have spoken: that the central problems — the massimi problemi — of men are, in the end, the same throughout history; that they are in principle soluble; and that the solutions form a harmonious whole.”

Conservatives Versus Liberals

Populism and nationalism are fundamental to the conservatives. Intellectualism and globalism are fundamental to the liberals. The conservatives base their policies on the feedback that they have from the masses. The liberals enact their policies on the basis of the advice that they have from the “liberal experts,” who have contempt for the masses. The conservatives believe in equality before the law. The liberals believe in equality of wealth and resources.

Conservatism leads to good outcomes only in nations that have a sense of connection with the great civilizations of the past and have a rich tradition of liberty, morality (religious and secular), individualism, and interdependence. Liberalism operates by demolishing a nation’s traditions—to attain and retain political power, the liberals must force the masses to reject their traditions and rely on the doctrine developed by the “liberal experts.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

John Gray on Ayn Rand’s Cult

In his book Seven Types of Atheism, John Gray offers a devastating four page (Page 48 to 51) critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophical movement objectivism. He notes that objectivism is a farrago that Rand created by mixing her version of Nietzsche and American folk-mythology with her borrowings from Aristotle and John Locke. She tried to sell objectivism as an atheistic and individualistic philosophical system, but the school is organized like a cult—most objectivists worship Rand as their goddess. Here’s an excerpt (Pages 50 - 51):

"Rand’s cult aimed to govern every aspect of life. She was a dedicated smoker, and her followers were instructed that they had to smoke as well. Not only did Rand smoke, she used a cigarette-holder—so that when she addressed large audiences of the faithful, a thousand cigarette-holders would move in unison. It was not for nothing that the ultra-individualists who became Rand’s disciples were described within the movement as ‘the Collective’. The selection of marriage partners was also controlled. In her view of things, rational human beings should not associate with those that are irrational. There could be no worse example of this than two people joined together in marriage by mere emotion, so officers of the cult were empowered to pair Rand’s disciples only with others who also subscribed to the faith. The marriage ceremony included pledging devotion to Rand, then opening Atlas Shrugged at random to read aloud a passage from the sacred text.

"Rand pronounced on a wide range of issues, including what was the best kind of dance. Only one type of dancing was truly rational. Some – like the tango – were low-level, semi-instinctual physical performances lacking any intellectual content. Others – the foxtrot, possibly – she rejected as being too cerebral. What then was the only dance that, combining mind and body, could be approved as being truly rational? Tap-dancing. Fred Astaire may not have known it, but he embodied the opposing forces of reason and instinct in an ideal synthesis. Tap-dancing was the cultural form that Nietzsche had been searching for in his first important work, The Birth of Tragedy: a fusion of Dionysian vitality with Apollonian harmony.

"It might seem unlikely that a cult of this kind could exercise any public influence. But the maddest ideas are quite often the most influential, and Rand’s cod-philosophy has had a discernible impact on American politics."

Religion is the Master of Politics

A people will never change their political and cultural views until they are inspired or forced to reform or reject their religious convictions. This inference can be drawn from the political history of last 2500 years which, as it turns out, is analogous to the history of religion. The periods of great political upheavals are the periods of tectonic changes in matters to faith. A transformation in religious belief always breeds political and cultural upheaval.

The atheistic revolutions of the last two centuries morphed into earthly religious movements, because the atheists realized that without an earthly religion they cannot make an impression on the masses. The communists preached faith in their doctrine of historical materialism, the nazis preached faith in scientific racism (eugenics)—the liberals (who are the descendants of the communists and the nazis) preach salvation through enlightened progressivism.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

In his short story, “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man,” Fyodor Dostoevsky looks at the issues related to human perfectibility and the possibility of a utopia. The story’s unnamed narrator thinks of himself as a ridiculous man and he is convinced that others see him in the same way. He decides to commit suicide and buys a gun with the intention of shooting himself in the head. But the chance encounter with a troubled girl makes him postpone his suicide.

That day when he falls asleep, he dreams that he has shot himself in the heart and has died. However, he continues to be aware of his surroundings. There is a funeral and he is buried, after an unknown period of time, his body is exhumed from the grave by a mysterious figure who soars with him into the space. They go to a new planet which is like earth in most respects—the only difference is that here the human beings are perfect creatures and they lead a happy, blissful, sinless life in a utopia. One day the narrator accidentally teaches them the way of lying and then starts the process of corruption of the utopia which soon becomes exactly like earth.

Here’s an excerpt from Dostoevsky's “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”:

“Then there arose men who began to think how to bring all people together again, so that everybody, while still loving himself best of all, might not interfere with others, and all might live together in something like a harmonious society. Regular wars sprang up over this idea. All the combatants at the same time firmly believed that science, wisdom and the instinct of self-preservation would force men at last to unite into a harmonious and rational society; and so, meanwhile, to hasten matters, ‘the wise’ endeavored to exterminate as rapidly as possible all who were ‘not wise’ and did not understand their idea, that the latter might not hinder its triumph.”

Libertarianism is a Child of Conservatism

Karl Marx has proclaimed that a socialist utopia can arise only in a society where the capitalists (by implication, the conservatives) have done their work. The libertarians have not made a similar proclamation, but their tiny movement has evolved only in countries where the politics and culture is dominated by free-market oriented conservatism. There is no trace of libertarianism in the countries which are being ruled by a communist or religious fundamentalist regimes.

It’s notable that in the last 100 years, the libertarians have been pontificating about liberty and free markets only in countries where liberty and free market already exist, primarily due to the efforts of the conservatives. Libertarianism is like a creeper that survives by attaching itself to the trunk and branches of the giant tree of conservatism. They are both movements which appreciate the fruitfulness of unplanned processes and are averse to the idea of big government.

Libertarianism cannot have an impact on culture and politics until the libertarians start acknowledging the conservative roots of their ideology

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Why are Marvel Movies Popular?

In his article, “Masculinity and the Marvel movies,” Edward Feser writes:

“People will yearn in at least an inchoate way for the traditional institutions and ideals without which they cannot fulfill their nature, even when they are told they ought not to and have halfway convinced themselves that they ought not to… I would suggest that the Marvel movies have the appeal they do at least in part precisely because they both convey these traditional ideals, but do so in a way that is fantastic enough that the offense to political correctness is not blatant.  A film series whose heroes are a square patriotic soldier, the son of a heavenly Father come to earth, and a strutting capitalist alpha male sounds like something tailor-made for a Red State audience, and the last thing that would attract A-list actors and billions in investment from a major studio.  Put these characters in colorful costumes, scenarios drawn from science fiction, and a little PC window dressing (such as portraying their girlfriends as a soldier, a scientist, and a businesswoman, respectively), and suddenly even a Blue State crowd can get on board.”

However, the future of the Marvel movies enterprise is not clear, as Feser notes:

“I submit that its complex portrayal of these competing models of masculinity is part of what makes the Marvel series of movies a genuine exercise in imagination rather than fantasy, in Haldane’s sense of the terms… One wonders, however, whether this will last.  A few years ago, Marvel’s comics division notoriously reoriented their titles to reflect greater “diversity” and political correctness – an experiment that critics labeled “SJW Marvel” and that resulted in a dramatic decline in sales.  The trend has been partially reversed and did not at the time affect the movies, where much more money is at stake.  But there are signs that a milder form of the “SJW Marvel” approach will make its way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the next phase of movies.”

On Kant’s Categorical Imperative

Immanuel Kant has argued for only one categorical imperative which is best known by this formulation: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”

The Kantian categorical imperative is a product of reason alone. Kant understood reason as the faculty that discerns and dictates universal laws. He posits that if reason dictates a moral law, then that law will be capable of being universalized—it would necessarily dictate that you must act according to the universal law, or in accordance to the maxims that you can universalize.

With his categorical imperative, Kant is not preaching a moral law which may dictate your acts—he is giving you the freedom to make your own choices. He is saying that you can act according to your own reason, and that it is your task to figure out what the rule of your reason is. There is only one caveat—you can act only as you would will all others to.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

On Clausewitz’s Philosophy of War

The wars of ancient and medieval periods were mostly localized conflicts as the nations didn’t have large standing armies. The scope of their wars, fought mainly through mercenaries and aristocrats, was constrained by all kinds of rules and the ideas of chivalry. But the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the rise of nationalism led to a transformation in warfare. When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 his Grande Armée had a strength of 685,000 men. This was the largest land army that Europe had ever seen.

Carl von Clausewitz was serving as a military officer in Jena when Napoleon invaded Prussia in 1806 and defeated the Prussian army, taking more than 25000 prisoners, including Clausewitz. After being held in France for two years, when Clausewitz returned to Prussia, he participated in several other military campaigns. His book On War (which he wrote between 1816 and 1830) is a systematic and philosophical examination of modern (or nationalist) way of warfare.

Along with being an officer in Prussian military, Clausewitz was also versed in German philosophy. He takes a Kantian approach to warfare and defines two kinds of wars: a real (empirical) war and a pure war. A real war, he says is continuation of state policy by other means and is an act of force that compels the enemy to do our will; whereas a pure war is concerned with only the military aspects of war—deployment of troops, topography of the area where the battle is fought, the arms and ammunitions to be used, the strategies, the maintenance of supply lines, and so on.

The two, real war and pure war, he says, have to be analyzed separately because if political considerations behind the war are mixed with the methods used to fight the war then the military analysis may turn out to be faulty. Real war, he notes, is political, which means it is motivated by political considerations, but a pure war is not concerned with politics—it is focused only on the militaristic considerations that can lead to victory.

Clausewitz makes an important political point—he notes that the success of Napoleon’s war machine in European conflicts is a sign that in future the wars will tend towards being pure wars, because the resources that the nations will pour into the war effort will be much greater than what was possible in the Ancient and Medieval periods. This will lead to the wars become less chivalrous, more violent, and less concerned with political considerations.

Nationalistic Conservatism is Anti-Racism

Nationalistic conservatism means that people should rule themselves and it’s inherently anti-racism. Both nationalism and conservatism are modern phenomena. They are the political outcome of the two 18th century revolutions: The American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789.

People have always lived in groups formed by the bonds of kinship, race, location, and dialect. In Ancient Greece, Roman Era, and Middle Ages, people didn’t identify with their country (they didn’t have the concept of a country with definite borders); they identified with their king, their racial or ethnic group, their small town, and their dialect. The rise of nationalistic conservatism, after the two 18th century revolutions, has allowed tens of millions of people (in countries with large populations) to transcend their racial and ethnic identities, and identify with their nation and its culture.

I am not saying that a supporter of nationalism and conservatism cannot be a racist—a follower of any ideology can be motivated by racism. My point is that as a political system or movement nationalistic conservatism tends to look at issues primarily from a national perspective, and it usually operates by downplaying the issues related to racial and ethnic identities.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Edmund Burke’s Critique of the Social Contract

In his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke predicts with amazing prescience that the French revolutionaries would destroy their country because they were motivated by the idea obliterating the political, social, and theological institutions and redistributing wealth. He also offers a good critique of the Social Contract theory. He points out that society is not an outcome of contract that people enter into at a particular moment. The contract among the people (if there is indeed a contract) is eternal and unstated and it includes the dead and the future generations. According to Burke, a political society is like an organism that exists over a period of time—it gains legitimacy through its traditions. The local loyalties of the people—the collectives like family, neighborhood communities, and the religious institutions—are the glue that hold the organism called society together.

Here’s an excerpt from Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France:

“Society is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for objects of mere occasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure—but the state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco, or some other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be looked on with other reverence; because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact sanctioned by the inviolable oath which holds all physical and all moral natures, each in their appointed place.”

Burke warns against the intellectuals who are backed by men who have acquired new wealth and have little respect for traditions and institutions. He says that these intellectuals are  determined to reform society according to abstract principles of reasoning. But their doctrine of “rule of reason” is actually a kind of despotism.

The Voice of Reason is The Voice of Totalitarianism

The conservatives do not look at “reason” for deducing their political norms—they look at historical practices and institutions. I support the conservative method, because the history of last 250 years shows that the movements that are based on reason tend to become totalitarian. One man’s reason can be, and often is, in conflict with the reason of other men and this inevitably leads to a conflict of wills within the movement. There is a temptation in the leader of such movements to project himself as a perfectly rational being. To overcome the conflict of wills in his movement, the “self-proclaimed perfectly rational leader” propagates the view that he is the voice of reason, and all those who oppose him are the enemies of reason—thus he establishes a totalitarian enterprise. The conservative way of treating the historical practices and institutions as the fountainhead of political norms usually leads to much better outcomes for a nation.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

On Montesquieu’s Republicanism

Montesquieu was a popular philosopher in 18th century French, but his political theory had a great impact across the continent, in America. In his 1748 work The Spirit of the Laws, he makes an important claim about the separation of powers between different arms of a republican government that proved crucial to the leaders who founded American in 1776. The great debate between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists in the United States in 1787 and 1788 was inspired by Montesquieu’s theory of government.

An admirer of England’s constitutionalist system with its mixed government and separation of powers, Montesquieu makes the case for a division of power between the executive, judicial, and legislative branches, and a bicameral legislature. He grants the executive the power to veto legislation but not to establish it, and to the legislature he grants the power to review the executive but not to disarm it. The outcome of his theory is four agencies—the executive, judiciary, House of Lords, and House of Commons—which act as a check on one another’s powers.

Montesquieu is an advocate of the view that a government with internal political limits and whose parts are in competition is a necessary condition for preserving the liberty of the citizens. But he insists that if a republic is too large, it’s likely to become corrupted. He says that a large republic should adopt a federal structure (a federation of small republics) to avoid the pitfalls of size.

On History and Politics

The principle by which liberalism (nihilistic leftism) rules is ignorance and fear of history. The principle required for nationalism (constitutionalist conservatism) is knowledge and honor of history.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

On The Political Implications of Immanuel Kant’s Philosophy

Immanuel Kant has not written directly on political issues; much of his work is on epistemology, moral theory, and aesthetics, and since his writing style is highly abstract, it is difficult to connect him to any political movement. Some of the letters that he wrote in the early years of 1790s suggest that the failure of the French Revolution had the effect of awakening him from his “dogmatic political slumbers,” and he was inspired to write a Fourth Critique, which might have focused on political theory. But in the 1790s he could write only a few minor essays.

However, if we see philosophy as a practical implication of ethical philosophy, then we can try to find out how Kant’s deontological ethics informs his politics. One of the versions of his categorical imperative is close to republicanism. This is the version that states that one must act in accord with the idea that every rational will is a universally legislating will, and one must treat every person, including oneself, with the respect owed to someone who is a universal moral legislator.

This version of the categorical imperative implies that Kant (like Locke and Rousseau) believed that people are free while they obeying the laws of society, as long as they have participated in the formation of the laws that they are obeying. We show our moral obligations to all rational beings when we participate in the formulation of laws which we must ourselves obey. According to Kant, freedom is autonomy, which is the rational self giving itself the law. But morality too is the rational self giving itself the law. Therefore, freedom and morality are same for Kant. You are free only when, you are acting morally.

In the 19th century, political theory has become based on ethics—the two dominant ethical theories of this period are John Stuart Mill’s utilitarian ethics and Kant’s deontological ethics. So there are several political theories in the 19th century which acknowledge a debt to Mill’s utilitarianism or to Kant’s deontology.

In his shorter essays, Kant has made some comments on political issues. In his essay on universal history, he notes that the great problem that civil society faces is the “unsocial sociability” of man, which while making us inherently social also puts us in competition and conflict. But this feature of man is conducive for progress. A republican political system is must suited for preserving the freedom of a creature like man. Kant expects republicanism to become universal. In his essay on perpetual peace, he notes that wars between the states can undermine republicanism, and he suggests that a federation of republican states can be created to ensure world peace.

On Kant’s Moral Theory

Immanuel Kant believed that moral theories, such as Aristotle’s eudaimonia, Hume’s notion of utility, or the Stoic principle of apathy, are not sufficiently general, universal, and fundamental. He was looking for a universal, a priori law of moral action that is determined solely by reason. He believed that the ultimate moral law can be a priori, only if it is a law of action free of the desire of achieving any aim or good.

In the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant writes, “There is no possibility of thinking of anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be regarded as good without qualification, except a good will.”

In this statement, he is positing that there is no state, goal, or object that can be regarded as intrinsically or universally good—everything, including happiness, love, intelligence, or health, is compatible with moral wrong. Kant notes that in moral and political theories there is a divide between theories that are based in the right and those that are based in some ultimate good or value that our actions ought to maximize. The aims for achieving good outcomes like love, happiness, health, or anything else cannot dictate our moral ideas.

What is morally right can be understood only in terms of a rule. We have to do what is right, not because it is expected to lead to a good end, but because it is right. Moral actions are not only according to duty, but also because of and from duty. In judging morality of actions or social policies, consequences are irrelevant.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Hume’s Influence on Einstein

David Hume has had a massive influence on all areas of philosophy and a variety of scientific and economic disciplines. Several prominent philosophers, scientists, and economists have acknowledged that they owe a debt to his philosophy. Here’s an excerpt from Matias Slavov’s essay, “No absolute time,” which is on the influence that Hume has exercised on Albert Einstein’s conception of time and his theory of relativity:

“Einstein learned an empiricist theory of concepts from Hume (and plausibly from Mach and the positivist tradition). He then implemented concept empiricism in his argument for the relativity of simultaneity. The result is that different observers will not agree whether two events are simultaneous or not. Take the openings of two windows, a living room window and a kitchen window. There is no absolute fact to the matter of whether the living room window opens before the kitchen window, or whether they open simultaneously or in reverse order. The temporal order of such events is observer-dependent; it is relative to the designated frame of reference.

“Once the relativity of simultaneity was established, Einstein was able to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable aspects of his theory, the principle of relativity and the light postulate. This conclusion required abandoning the view that there is such a thing as an unobservable time that grounds temporal order. This is the view that Einstein got from Hume.”

Nationalism is Close to Classical Liberalism

The modern nationalists are the true inheritors of the classical liberal political theory that was developed in the 17th and 18th centuries by philosophers like John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Montesquieu, David Hume, and Adam Smith. Classical liberalism and nationalism are historical in character—they are motivated by the aim of preserving the liberties of the citizens within the context of social and cultural systems which have evolved organically over a period of several centuries. Since they are built on a multitude of political, cultural, and theological philosophies, it seems that both classical liberalism and nationalism have erected a Tower of Babel which continues to grow because new theories keep getting invented.

Monday, October 14, 2019

On The Self-Love Of The Libertarians

Jean-Jacques Rousseau has described two kinds of self-love: amour de soi (self-love based on the desire of preserving the self) and amour propre (love of self as it is seen by others that has the potential for leading to envy, vice, and misery). I am of the opinion that amour propre is the right term for describing the self-love that the libertarian intellectuals feel for themselves.

The libertarians are narcissistic—they are convinced that their solutions for political, economic, and moral problems are always moral and correct. I think that every time they look into the mirror, they imagine a halo of saintliness on their head. Many libertarians seem convinced that others see them as they see themselves, and if there is a person who does not believe in their perfection, then there must be something wrong with him, either he is ignorant or irrational or both.

Every libertarian intellectual yearns for the approval of other libertarians; it is praise of the peers that they most value. They have no time or energy to try to understand the concerns that are driving the political opinions of vast majority of people in their country who are not libertarians. They are clueless about what is really going on in their country—that is why their opinions on the pressing political problems make very little sense.

The Four Political Forces Of Modern World

The four political forces—capitalism, nationalism, socialism, and progressivism—have acquired a pole position in human affairs between 16th century and 19th century. The duel between these political forces dictates the politics of almost every nation today. The nations where capitalism and nationalism are dominant, and socialism and progressivism are subdued, are the successful nations. The nations where socialism and progressivism manage to subdue the forces of capitalism and nationalism are the failed nations. Capitalism is an antidote to socialism; nationalism is an antidote to progressivism. Capitalism and nationalism walk hand in hand, for the same reason for which socialism and progressivism walk hand in hand.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

On The Jacobin Religion Of Reason

Their atheism notwithstanding, the Jacobins were a barbaric cult. The human cost of their atheistic revolution runs into hundreds of thousands. In his 1794 speech, Robespierre declared the Jacobin principle: “Pity is treason.” Alexis de Tocqueville describes the religious passion of the Jacobins in his book The Old Regime and the Revolution. Here’s an excerpt:

“The French Revolution acted, with regard to things of this world, precisely as religious revolutions have acted with regard to things of the other. It dealt with the citizen in the abstract, independent of particular social organizations, just as religions deal with mankind in general, independent of time and place. It inquired, not what were the particular rights of French citizens, but what were the general rights and duties of mankind in reference to political concerns.

“It was by thus divesting itself of all that was peculiar to one race or time, and by reverting to natural principles of social order and government, that it became intelligible to all, and susceptible of simultaneous imitation in a hundred different places.

“By seeming to tend rather to the regeneration of the human race than to the reform of France alone, it roused passions such as the most violent political revolutions had been incapable of awakening. It inspired proselytism, and gave birth to propagandism; and hence assumed that quasi religious character which so terrified those who saw it, or, rather, became a sort of new religion, imperfect, it is true, without God, worship, or future life, but still able, like Islamism, to cover the earth with its soldiers, its apostles, and its martyrs.”

The Jacobins established an atheistic religion called the Cult of Reason, but when it didn’t have the desired impact, they came up with another atheistic religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being. They used to hold religious ceremonies called Feast of Reason throughout the country. They converted the traditional places of worship into the Temples of Reason in which they installed the statue of Goddess of Reason, clothed in Roman style robes.

One thing is clear from this: “Reason” is a word with a bad history.

A Good Politician Does Not Need the Intellectuals

The support of the intellectuals and mainstream media is not necessarily a sign of a government’s popularity, stability, and strength—it can be a sign of weakness and corruption.

When the intellectuals and mainstream media are in their pocket, the members of the government become complacent—they start believing that they can get away with anything. They lose touch with the masses and they fail to see what is going on in the economy. They make all kinds of political blunders and indulge in corrupt practices. All this leads to a decline in their popularity and ensures their loss in elections.

An antagonistic intellectual establishment and mainstream media is better for a government because when the intellectuals and journalists are raving and ranting, the members of the government are likely to do their work carefully and honestly. If the government gives better performance, its popularity will rise. Therefore, a political leader must strive to keep the intellectuals and the journalists infuriated and the masses happy.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Flies of a Summer

Edmund Burke believed that reason alone is not sufficient to keep most men in line—this is because most men do not employ the rational faculty at all, and even those who employ it often do so without sufficient knowledge and experience. He notes that common sense and the wisdom of ancient custom (or traditions) are far more effective instruments for enabling people to come together and live with some kind of peace and harmony.

If men start altering their cultural institutions and their constitution whenever they wanted, then the present generations will lose their connection with the wisdom of the past generations—this is a recipe for tearing down a civilization. In Reflections on The Revolution in France, Burke warns the people of Britain that if, like the French, they get seduced by the ideologies which promise “liberty, equality, fraternity,” then the fire of revolution would consume Britain too as it had consumed France. He coins the phrase “flies of a summer,” to refer to a society that has developed an insatiable appetite for rapid transformations. Here’s an excerpt:

“By this unprincipled facility of changing the state as often and as much and in as many ways as there are floating fancies or fashions, the whole chain and continuity of the commonwealth would be broken; no one generation could link with the other; men would become little better than the flies of a summer.”

The idea that rapid change might not be a good thing is something that the modern conservatives have learned from Burke. The conservatives realize that hasty political and cultural innovation can lead to improvement as well as destruction—therefore, they are prudent with changes. They take  a cautious approach to reform. The liberals, on the other hand, can be compared with what Burke has called the “flies of a summer”—they have no connection with the past. They want to overthrow all past traditions and force a new utopian future on the people.

On the Theistic Projects of the Atheists

Modern atheism is a project for manufacturing new earthly religions and gods. Every atheistic movement in the last 250 years has tried to found its own earthly religion and develop its own gods. The French Revolutionaries, once they gained power, first established an atheistic religion called the Cult of Reason, and then its rival religion called the Cult of the Supreme Being. Auguste Comte established a positivist religion of humanity in which he was revered as a godlike figure. In the former Soviet Union, the atheistic communists indulged in an orgy of self-deification—they deified Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and several other communist icons. Despite her claims for being a stickler for reason and logic, Ayn Rand established a cult called objectivism whose followers worship her as the final authority on everything. The present day liberals, who are mostly atheistic, make massive misuse of the mainstream media for self-deification.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Dostoevsky On The Revolutionary Demons

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Demons is an attack on atheistic and nihilistic political movements. The book shows that atheistic and nihilistic philosophy can lead to suicide and murder. This is the story of high-minded intellectuals who are attempting to spark a revolution, even though they are clueless about the consequences of a revolution. But the intellectuals are not the demons that Dostoevsky describes in the novel—the demons are the atheistic and nihilistic ideas by which the intellectuals are possessed. (The book is also known as The Possessed.)

Dostoevsky offers a masterful description of the extent to which Alexei Nilych Kirillov, a character in the novel, is possessed by the revolutionary ideas. Kirillov, an engineer in the small town where the story is set, is deeply influenced by Nikolai Vsevolodovich Stavrogin, one of the leaders of the secret revolutionary society. Kirillov is determined to kill himself at the opportune moment when his death will be useful for sparking the revolution. He explains his motivation in these words:
“So at last you understand!” cried Kirillov rapturously. “So it can be understood if even a fellow like you understands. Do you understand now that the salvation for all consists in proving this idea to every one? Who will prove it? I! I can’t understand how an atheist could know that there is no God and not kill himself on the spot. To recognize that there is no God and not to recognize at the same instant that one is God oneself is an absurdity, else one would certainly kill oneself. If you recognize it you are sovereign, and then you won’t kill yourself but will live in the greatest glory. But one, the first, must kill himself, for else who will begin and prove it? So I must certainly kill myself, to begin and prove it. Now I am only a god against my will and I am unhappy, because I am bound to assert my will. All are unhappy because all are afraid to express their will. Man has hitherto been so unhappy and so poor because he has been afraid to assert his will in the highest point and has shown his self-will only in little things, like a schoolboy. I am awfully unhappy, for I’m awfully afraid. Terror is the curse of man.… But I will assert my will, I am bound to believe that I don’t believe. I will begin and will make an end of it and open the door, and will save. That’s the only thing that will save mankind and will re-create the next generation physically; for with his present physical nature man can’t get on without his former God, I believe. For three years I’ve been seeking for the attribute of my godhead and I’ve found it; the attribute of my godhead is self-will! That’s all I can do to prove in the highest point my independence and my new terrible freedom. For it is very terrible. I am killing myself to prove my independence and my new terrible freedom.” 
Dostoevsky was of the view that atheism is essentially a project for self-deification. When human beings discard the idea of divinity, they pave way for some of them to come forward and make the claim that they are themselves divine. That is why the atheistic revolutions which try to obliterate notion of god in heaven, end up deifying their own leaders as the new gods.

On the Politics of Liberals and Nationalists

In a liberal (progressive) society, politics is stronger than culture and history. In a nationalist (conservative) society, culture and history are stronger than politics. Liberalism seeks to politicize every aspect of life by politicizing culture and history. Nationalism seeks to bring traditional values (rooted in culture and history) to politics. The stability of a liberal regime depends on the power of the political institutions. The stability of a nationalist society depends on the nation’s sense of history and the strength of its culture. The liberals operate by making people contemptuous of their nation’s culture and history. The nationalists operate by energizing their culture and history through a revival of the old legends about the deeds of the heroic and brilliant figures from the past.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Liberty is a Porous Concept

Isaiah Berlin argues in his essay, “Two Concepts of Liberty,” (which is based on the lecture that he gave before the University of Oxford on 31 October 1958), that there are not one but two concepts of liberty—positive and negative. He also notes that liberty is a porous concept “with more than two hundred senses of it recorded by historians of ideas.” Here’s an excerpt:

“To coerce a man is to deprive him of freedom – freedom from what? Almost every moralist in human history has praised freedom. Like happiness and goodness, like nature and reality, the meaning of this term is so porous that there is little interpretation that it seems able to resist. I do not propose to discuss either the history or the more than two hundred senses of this protean word, recorded by historians of ideas.”

Immanuel Kant was probably the first philosopher to distinguish between a negative and positive sense of the term “liberty”. Berlin is essentially defending a Kantian view of liberty in his essay—he shows that positive and negative liberty are not only distinct, they can also be seen as the opposing and incompatible expositions of the same political ideal.

Nationalism is a Reaction to the Failures of Liberalism

Liberalism is the road to serfdom. Nationalism is the reaction to the wounds that the liberal intellectuals and politicians inflict on a nation. The liberals never acknowledge that their policies are ravaging the economy and culture—they keep annoying the people with their condescending attitude. No country is likely to succeed in keeping itself free from the plague of liberalism unless it allies itself to nationalist sentiments.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Tolstoy: The Fox Who Tried to Become a Hedgehog

In his essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” Isaiah Berlin divides thinkers into hedgehogs and foxes—the hedgehogs are those who know one big thing, like Aquinas and Dostoevsky, while the foxes are those who know many things, like Hume and Turgenev. Berlin posits that Tolstoy was a natural fox who tried to become a hedgehog. He says that being a natural fox Tolstoy had the capacity to slice through all kinds of illusions and enter the minds of the most unpleasant characters, but he aspired to have a big vision too, and that led to the destruction of his sense of reality. Berlin ends his essay with these devastating lines:

“Tolstoy’s sense of reality was until the end too devastating to be compatible with any moral ideal which he was able to construct out of the fragments into which his intellect shivered the world, and he dedicated all of his vast strength of mind and will to the lifelong denial of this fact. At once insanely proud and filled with self-hatred, omniscient and doubting everything, cold and violently passionate, contemptuous and self-abasing, tormented and detached, surrounded by an adoring family, by devoted followers, by the admiration of the entire civilised world, and yet almost wholly isolated, he is the most tragic of the great writers, a desperate old man, beyond human aid, wandering self-blinded at Colonus.”

On The Conservative New Intellectuals

Nationalistic conservatism is not entirely focused on politics; it also aspires for intellectual influence. Several good intellectuals are identifying with the nationalist conservative cause and are writing books to explain the conservative perspective on contemporary and historical issues. Conservatives have traditionally lagged behind the progressives (liberals) in the intellectual space, but the situation has now changed—nowadays the progressives appear quite dumb, immoral, unhinged, and nihilistic, while the conservatives seem to be sophisticated, moral, and balanced.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

On The Problem of Induction

The problem of induction is a legacy of David Hume even though he never used the word “induction” in his works. In a series of works, the first of which is his A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume offers his arguments against induction. He shows that the truth of the premises of an inductive argument, even if it enjoys a great deal of evidential support, do not necessarily lead to the truth of the argument’s conclusion.

Hume points out that for you to have the reason to believe the result of your inductive inference, you must have the reason to believe that the uniformity principle—which states that unobserved instances resemble observed instances—is true. We can have an inductive argument only when past performances resemble future results in ways that will allow us to make generalizations about those future results. But the reason to believe in the uniformity principle is not self-evident.

Hume divides claims into two categories — “relations-of-ideas claims” and “matter-of-fact claims”. The matter-of-fact claims, he points out, can be either true or false based on the facts in reality that can be observed directly. However, the relations-of-ideas claims are true or false by virtue of the concepts, or ideas, that they involve—to establish the truth or falsehood of such claims you have to go out into the world and verify.

Now the uniformity principle is not a relations-of-ideas claim because there is nothing in the concepts involved in the claim that will guarantee its truth. But if all claims are either relations-of-ideas claims or matter-of-fact claims, and the uniformity principle is not a relations-of-ideas claim, then it must be a matters-of-fact claim.

The uniformity principle is a claim about the unobserved since it talks about unobserved instances resembling observed instances. But since the uniformity principle is itself a matter-of-fact claim about the unobserved, it means that you can have a reason to believe that the uniformity principle is true, only if you already have the reason to believe that the uniformity principle is true.

But this means that the justification for the uniformity principle comes from the uniformity principle—the argument is circular and therefore it is invalid. Thus Hume has reached the conclusion that he wants—he has shown that there cannot be any non-circular logical argument for believing in the answers that we derive from inductive arguments.

There are several ways by which Hume’s argument against induction can be rejected. I am not getting into those arguments in this post—but it is worth noting that while there can be any number of arguments to establish a particular view of induction, there cannot be any ultimate solution to the problem. It is not necessary that there should be a solution to every philosophical problem—the problem of induction is one of those problems for which there is no solution.

A Bird's-eye View of Modern Movements

Here are some troubling facts: The liberals don’t stand for liberty; they are a bunch of control-freaks and totalitarians. The conservatives are unintellectual, weak, and pompous; in the long run, they prove incapable of conserving the economy and culture of their nation. The libertarians are a tiny 100 year old cult led by pontifical academics; they hold an idealistic and unworkable view of liberty, and many of them are out of touch with reality. The anarchists (anarcho-libertarians) assert that they stand for a state-less society (whatever that means), but in their eagerness to overthrow the state, they support all kinds of violent revolutionary groups. The objectivists (Ayn Rand’s tiny group) are cultist and mystic; their political opinions are dumb and their philosophy is absurd. The socialists, instead of empowering the working classes, destroy them.

Monday, October 7, 2019

On the Role of Skeptics in Philosophy

Skeptic thinkers have played a crucial role in the development of philosophy in all ages. Much of the philosophical thought in the world has arisen as response to or in defense of the questions and doubts that they have raised. A skeptic is not necessarily an iconoclast, or a destroyer of knowledge—in many cases, he is the thinker who is extremely concerned about the truth and is not prepared to accept anything less.

Even if he conforms with the prevailing cultural and political norms, truth is of paramount importance for the skeptic. He persists and probes. He asks the tough questions and raises doubts which force the philosopher who is trying to expound a particular view of the world to develop better arguments for defending his position. The attacks of the skeptics often result in identification of the problems in a philosophy, and this gives the philosophers a chance to address the problems and improve the quality of their philosophy.

However, only those skeptics are effective who are good dialecticians, skillful in the art of argumentation.

On the Rise of Nationalist Conservatism

Liberalism became a dominant trend in the conservative movements after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. But now it seems that the conservatives have realized that they cannot implement their political agenda even if they win the electoral battles as long as they continue to act like a clone of the liberals. Therefore, they are moving away from liberalism—they are going back to nationalism. Nationalist conservatism is once again a political force in several democracies.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

On Modern Philosophy’s Misuse of "Reason"

"Reason" is the most misused word in modern philosophy. A large number of modern philosophers, who relentlessly pontificate about the “faculty of reason,” are clueless about the nature of reason. They talk about reason not because they are convinced about reason's efficacy, but because they want to be regarded as “philosophers of reason”—they are after buttressing their own pro-science and pro-objectivity image.

What is this faculty of reason? The modern philosophers who talk about it have no answer to this question. They fail to explain how the faculty of reason comes to know the things it knows. Is the faculty of reason a mechanism or collection of mechanisms in the brain, or is it something else? The philosophers have no answer. For them “faculty of reason” is just a label—they are incapable of providing any detail about what reason might be.

Since they can’t provide a proper explanation of how the“faculty of reason” operates in a man’s mind, their idea that all knowledge is derived through the “faculty of reason” is useless. The idea that all knowledge is derived from the facility of reason can be taken seriously only if it is based on a logical discussion of what the faculty of reason is and how it operates in a man’s mind.

Modern Philosophers Versus Past Philosophers

Among modern philosophers, who are inspired by the Enlightenment doctrine, we find a tendency to depict the classical and medieval thinkers as exotic, obsolete, and tradition-bound creatures who are incapable of looking beyond the concerns of the small city-states in which they existed. But this viewpoint is largely incorrect.

The classical and medieval thinkers, most of them, were rational agents; they had an objective view of the world—they gave birth to the ideas which are the fountainhead of modern science, technology, and politics. The philosophy that we have today is largely classical and medieval philosophy—the moderns have hardly made any contribution.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

On John Galt’s “Arrested Mind”

John Galt, the protagonist in Ayn Rand’s dystopian novel Atlas Shrugged, is a man of “arrested mind.” When he makes an appearance in the novel, he is at the peak of his intellectual abilities. In the novel there is not a single instance of him learning anything new; Rand portrays him as a man who knows everything that is worth knowing—he never changes his mind; he never introspects and never has a doubt. He never confronts a contradiction; every sentence that he speaks is perfect; every choice that he makes is the right one. He represents Rand’s notion of the ideal man.

Rand modeled Galt’s character after her own personality. She had turned into a person of “arrested mind” in the years when she was working on Atlas Shrugged. She was not always like this. During the early phase of her writing career, she learned a lot from a wide variety of resources. A close study of the chaotic and contradictory viewpoints that we find in her early writing (especially in her journals), makes it clear that she did in fact pass through a phase of intense intellectual development. But in the 1950s, her mind stopped growing—she became convinced that she had attained intellectual perfection and there was nothing new that she needed to learn.

It was in a state of “arrested mind” that Rand conceived of John Galt, and after the publication of Atlas Shrugged, along with a band of youngsters whose only qualification was that they worshipped her as the only perfect genius in the history of mankind, she founded a movement called “objectivism” in 1958. This movement, which was a cult from the very beginning, is not an outcome of her literary genius, but of her psychological problems and her failure to emerge from the fictional world of Atlas Shrugged that she had herself created.