Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Five Objectives of Pepper’s World Hypothesis

The five objectives that Stephen C. Pepper tries to achieve in his book World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence

1. He rejects skepticism and dogmatism by showing that both are weak arguments which lead to the same positions. 
2. He presents a view of evidence as uncriticized, and criticized or refined—with commonsense being the uncriticized evidence. He tries to establish that knowledge is gathered through the progressive refinement of commonsense knowledge.
3. He tries to explain the different types of corroboration through which refined evidence is created—he develops terms like “dubitanda” (commonsense); “data” (multiplicative jargon); “danda” (logical data). 
4. He suggests the origin of world hypothesis through the root metaphor theory. 
5. He does an analysis of the six world hypotheses which, he holds, drive philosophical thought: “Mysticism” and “Animism” are the inadequate hypotheses; “Formism,” “Mechanism,” “Contextualism,” and “Organicism” are the adequate hypotheses.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Thoughts on The Gita

The Gita is the only book of religion which appears as a chapter in the epic history (the Mahabharata) of an ancient civilization comprising nations of differing cultures and ruled by a number of dynasties. This signifies that the Gita was not conceived by its ancient creator as a stand-alone book of religion but as a part of an epic history—its teachings are enmeshed with the story of the life of the warriors, sages, and the masses who are the creators, preservers, and beneficiaries of the civilization described in the Mahabharata. Its purpose is to be a practical guide for those who find themselves incapable of taking the right action when they are facing the greatest challenge of their lifetime because they are overcome by feelings of doubt.

There are times in the history of every civilization when its politics and culture are in the state of great turmoil and its survival is at stake—to recover from such a crisis, a civilization has to fight a great war in which half of its population will be pitted against the other half. If the wrong side wins the war, the civilization will decline and fall. If the good side wins, they will manage to save their civilization by destroying the bad political forces and getting rid of the institutions which have become corrupt and dysfunctional, and by creating new institutions which are better suited to  preserve their way of life. But to win such a great war, the good side has to be willing to fight against their own kith and kin.

The text of the Gita is recited in the middle of the battlefield of Kurukshetra, where two of the greatest armies that the civilization has ever seen are facing each other—the text is addressed to Arjuna, the warrior (man of action), who stands on a chariot facing the enemy forces. Krishna, the divine personality (man of thought), who holds the reins of Arjuna’s chariot, delivers the text of the Gita. On seeing many of his loved ones standing on the other side of the battlefield, Arjuna is plagued with doubts; he thinks that he will be committing a great sin if he slays his kith and kin, and loses his will to fight. Krishna addresses the Gita to Arjuna and to make him realize that fighting for the cause of justice and truth is his sacred dharma (duty).

The Downfall of the Cities

In the Ancient and Middle ages, the cities were the place where the political establishment who produced little and consumed a lot would reside. The needs of these cities were fulfilled by the production taking place in the rural areas and the smaller towns. The character of the cities saw a transformation in the middle of the eighteenth century when the industrial revolution swept through several parts of the globe and made the cities the center of production—barring agricultural products, which continued to be sourced out of the rural areas and smaller towns, the cities were now producing enough of the goods and services that they needed to meet the needs of not only their own residents but also the people living outside the city limits. But since the 1950s, the cities have been reverting to what they were during the Ancient and Middle Ages. Instead of being the centers of production, they are transforming (many have already transformed) into centers of political power and consumption. These cities hold the offices of government institutions, multinational companies, academic institutions, global establishments, entertainment organizations, mainstream media, and the high-level lobbyists, financiers, and speculators—all these entities are mainly involved in policy making, regulating, speculating, propaganda, and indoctrination; they are not the producers of material goods and services. The rural areas and the smaller towns produce not only the agricultural products but also other goods and services which the residents of the cities need for their survival. But can modern civilization be sustained if the cities revert to the Ancient and Middle ages way of existence in which they consume a lot and produce too little? The cities are a burden on the rest of the country—they are taking too much from the rest of the country and giving too little in return.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Unexpected Consequence of Digital Technologies

Mankind has been reset in the last three decades. The central role in this resetting has been played not by any moral, religious, or political movement, not by any revolutionary ideology, not by any world war, but by digital technologies which are privately owned. Internet based search, social media, and free email services have seminally (perhaps catastrophically) transformed our way of life.

In the early days of the digital revolution, it seemed that the internet based services would fuel liberty and individualism, and lead to lessening of the power that the governments have enjoyed over our lives. But the opposite has happened. The internet based services have become a leash which tie people around their neck and restrict their ability to use their own brain. The internet has led to a new wave of cultism in advanced countries. People have become divided into cults, which bicker on social media.

The population of the digital age is more docile and easier to control than the generations before the 1990s. They whine a lot—and they are more conformist, more dependent on services from the government, and they have poor moral values and work ethic. Due to Internet based search, people have information at their fingertips, but since they don’t know how to ask the right question, they fail to discover anything of importance. Due to social media, they have the power to share their opinions with a large number of people, but since they have little understanding of the political and social problems, they are incapable of having a sensible discussion.

The work from remote location technologies, along with social media, have led to a decline in the public forums where people used to gather for a face to face discussion or confrontation on political and other issues. This has weakened not just the communities but also the bonds between family members.

The Connection Between Politicians & Intellectuals

“The death of Pericles and the Peloponnesian War mark the moment when the men of thought and the men of action began to take different paths, destined to diverge more and more widely till the Stoic sage ceased to be a citizen of his own country and became a citizen of the universe. Pericles had been the last philosophic statesman. Socrates remarks in the Phaedrus that his loftiness of spirit was due to his converse with Anaxagoras, whose speculations about Nature and the intelligence that works in Nature had given Pericles an insight and breadth of view that he carried into his work as leader of the Assembly. After Pericles the men of thought, like Thucydides and Euripides, go into exile, voluntary or enforced.” ~ writes F. M. Cornford in his essay “Plato’s Commonwealth,” (included in his book Unwritten Philosophy). In my opinion, since the eighteenth century, in many nations of the Western civilization, the men of thought (intellectuals) and the men of action (politicians) have worked together to establish a system of governance. The two exceptions to this eighteenth century trend in the West are America and Britain—these two nations were led by populist politicians till the first decade of the twentieth century, after that their politics took a turn towards intellectualism and gradually lost its populist character; the transformation was total by the 1940s in Britain and the 1990s in America.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Rapid Expansions and Contractions of the West

Plato speaks about Zeus Herkeios (the divinity who is the guardian of the house in Greek mythology) as the protector of the borderlines between city-states. He holds that the borderlines (which he names “haroi”) are divine [see Plato’s dialogue, the Laws].  In the Western tradition, there has been a conception of borderlines between nations since the time of Plato. But the borders of the kingdoms of the Western tradition have never been fixed—they have expanded in times of rise and contracted in times of fall. The conquering forces of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king, marched till the borders of India, but within months of his death, his empire splintered into several parts. The Roman Empire, the first great empire of the Western tradition, at its zenith controlled much of Europe, and parts of Middle East, North Africa, and Asia, but at the time of its fall, it lost even its capital city, Rome (to the Visigoths); the Eastern Roman Empire remained in the Western fold till the fifteenth century, when it was conquered by the Ottomans, and this area is now home to a culture that is West’s great rival. The British Empire, at its zenith, was the ruler of nations in every continent, but between 1935 and 1955, it lost every colony and became restricted to its original island in the north of Europe. The fate of the American Empire might be similar to that of the empires of Alexander, the Romans, and the British. America does not have satellite kingdoms like Alexander and the Romans, or colonies like the British, but it has exercised great power on international politics since the Second World War, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, when it became the world’s only superpower. But now American culture and power are diminishing at a great pace, and the Western civilization is contracting. In the next ten or twenty years another power might emerge to fill the vacuum in international politics.

Humanity Cannot Be Reset By Politics

Politicians and their crony intellectuals have been trying to reset humanity for ages. But every attempt leads to an outcome different from what they envisaged. The resetting of humanity cannot be planned by the political class—the currents of history are too powerful, the human mind is too complicated and defies logic, and the variables in social relationships are infinite. No amount of political force will change the course of history. No amount of political force can transform human beings into something that they do not want to be. In the twentieth century, a number of leaders—Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, Pol Pot—tried to use political power to reset humanity, and coerce people into becoming the ideal citizens of the utopia that they envisioned. Between them, these leaders killed more than 250 million people, and caused pain and suffering to many more, yet they failed to create the kind of nation that they wanted, and eventually they lost control. From history we learn that the forces of religion, moral philosophy, artistic movements, scientific advancements, peaceful or violent interactions between civilizations, and mass education have a better success in resetting humanity.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Arendt: On the Political Judgement of Scientists

In the prologue to her book The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt notes that speech is what makes man a political being, but the sciences use a language of mathematical symbols which include statements that cannot be translated into spoken language. She says that it may be wise to distrust the political judgment of scientists because “they move in a world where speech has lost its power.” I think Arendt’s critique of the political judgement of scientists is applicable to the professionals of the digital industry, who use computer code, which cannot be translated into spoken statements, to operate their systems and devices. In their world, computer coding, and not speech, has the power; thus, their politics is bound to be different from that of the humans who use spoken language. The political judgement of the digital industry cannot be trusted.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Experts Versus the Chicken and Egg Oscillation

The “chicken and egg oscillation” cannot be overcome. We will never be sure if the rule comes first or the event. The rules of morality, justice, politics, and economics which lead to particular type of events cannot be developed. Those who are revered as experts in the intellectual and political establishment might be convinced that a certain rule when implemented will lead to a particular event, but instances can be found where the event comes first and rule is conceived at a later stage, or the rule leads to a wholly different kind of event. The variables and chance factors in human affairs are too great, the chaos in the multitude of minds is indecipherable, and the future, especially the long term future, of societies cannot be predicted.

Heidegger: Man’s Understanding of Being

Heidegger begins his book Being and Time by talking about the historical interpretation of the way “we in our time” have become disoriented with regard to an understanding of our own being. He posits that our understanding of the basic question of our being is thwarted by two things: first, the classical Greek conception of man as zoon echon logon (animal rationale, Aristotle’s definition of man); second, Christianity’s conception of man in god’s image. These classical and medieval conceptions of being, he says, continue to be in place in modern philosophy, since Descartes too conceived human existence in terms of presence—a presence to which he ascribed certain unique and distinctive traits. According to Heidegger, this twofold humanist anthropology is what is hindering us from gaining a significant understanding of our being.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Failure of Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism, Part III

The libertarian idea of achieving liberty and free markets in a stateless society is destined to remain unfulfilled. This is because liberty and free markets are political concepts which can be defined only in context of the political system of a society. When taken outside the political context, liberty and free markets transform into pseudo-concepts.The libertarian ideal is a stateless society, but if the society is stateless, then it is devoid of any political system, and where there is no political system, there can be no liberty and free markets. In context of a stateless society, liberty and free markets cannot even be defined, so there is no question of these ideals being achieved. The libertarians can either dream of a stateless society (an anarchist utopia), whatever that signifies, or they can dream of liberty and free markets—if they dream of both, there will be a contradiction in their dreams.

The Enlightenment’s Political Heritage

The political heritage of the Enlightenment is utopian since the movement was founded on three pseudo-concepts: universal morality, universal political ideology, and universal rationality. Those western nations which were able to resist the pull of the Enlightenment’s utopianism have made progress, while those which accepted that utopianism through and through faced great political and social problems. I am impressed by the analysis of the Enlightenment’s political heritage done by four philosophers: Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, Leo Strauss, and Alasdair MacIntyre.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Failure of Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism, Part II

The classical liberal and libertarian projects didn’t simply happen to fail, they had to fail. What doomed these projects from their inception was their failure to connect their ideas of individualism, liberty, and free markets with the preexisting cultural, moral, political, and economic narratives. Like the communists, the classical liberal and libertarian idealists want to upend the existing social order and create a new world, a sort of utopia; unlike the communists, they don’t want to use violent revolutionary methods to force people to accept their ideas. There are two ways by which you can transform a society: first, you present something that fits into the preexisting narratives and then you can hope that people will accept your ideas as a part of their tradition; second, you use revolutionary violence, like the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky to force people to believe what you want them to believe and live as you want them to live. The classical liberals and libertarians don’t want to do either; they think that their arguments are so good that their utopia of liberty and free markets is destined to become a reality. Their utopian mindset hinders them from noticing the reality that individualism literarily means nothing outside the moral and cultural context; liberty literally means nothing outside the cultural and political context; free markets literally means nothing outside the political and economic context.

The Paradox of Digital Technologies

Here’s the paradox of digital technologies—these technologies have simultaneously given people the power to share their thoughts, create private and public groups (mostly online and sometimes offline), access the works of all kinds of thinkers, politicians, and activists, and attempted, in part due to the utopian aspirations of the tycoons who control the digital industry, to found a draconian political order which has the technological capacity to monitor the activities of anyone on a real time basis and impose on society new forms of control and oppression. The tycoons are probably thinking that this state of affairs will go on forever—but they will soon find out that no paradox is everlasting, and that those who try to ride two boats at the same time are likely to lose their balance and descend into the river.

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Failure of Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism, Part I

Aristotle says that Socrates believed that the moral virtues are forms of knowledge, and that when men know what justice is, they will be just. But this point of view is not right. Aristotle says: “Yet where moral virtue is concerned, the most important thing is not to know what it is, but how it arises; we do not wish to know what courage is, we wish to be courageous.” I think, Aristotle’s critique of Socrates is applicable to the philosophers who identify themselves as classical liberals and libertarians and believe that once people know what rights, liberty, individualism, and rationality are, they will be motivated to fight for a free society. They believe that philosophical knowledge inspires political action—but this is not true at all. Knowledge of moral and political concepts is not enough to inspire people to fight for achieving those concepts. No one, except a tiny group of idealistic politicians and intellectuals, who despise the old order and are intent on overthrowing it, will risk his life to fight for mere concepts. Classical liberalism and libertarianism are a failure because their arguments are weak—in their works they give knowledge of rights, liberty, individualism, and rationality but they fail to explain how, and in what kind of society, these concepts arise. The masses will never be enthused by the ideas of the classical liberals and libertarians, so in a political sense, they are quite useless.

On Modern Politics

Modern politics is a civil war. In good societies, the civil war does not get too violent; in bad societies, it is too violent. Those who fail to understand the fundamental nature of modern politics are destined to lose in the political battles.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Liberalism Inc.—Too Big to Fail

Liberalism is too big to fail. It controls not just the political establishment but also the economic and the intellectual establishments. The pharma and healthcare industry, the tech industry, the banking and insurance industry, the automobile and airlines industry—every major sector of the economy is being run by the liberals. In the intellectual space, the academic industry, the mainstream media, and the movie industry are wholly liberal. How do people fight liberalism when the liberals operate every aspect of their life? There is no answer to this question. To overthrow liberalism, means overthrowing your way of life; if liberalism goes down, it will take with it much of the economy and the intellectual establishments—every product and service, every convenience that makes life worth living, might be endangered. There will be nothing left and the quality of life will become as bad as it was during the middle ages. Karl Marx has written that capitalism is doomed because as capitalism develops powerful monopolies emerge which drive out small businesses, and at the final stage of capitalism, a single monopoly owns every means of production. Perhaps the final stage of capitalism has been reached. The irony is that the single monopoly that owns everything today is not capitalistic but leftist—it is Liberalism Inc.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Legend of a Civilization

A civilization can be viewed as a legend that is historically extended over several centuries and sometimes millennia and narrates the saga of millions or billions of people from the past and present. When the civilization is full of energy and is on the rise, its legend will flow like a thriller and an epic love story; when it has lost its vitality and is declining and falling, its legend will flow like a tragedy and a horror story. The norms of culture, which include the moral, political, religious, and artistic ideas, are embedded in the legend as the myriad subplots. People get their sense of values, and of being good, from the context defined by that part of the legend of the civilization in which they happen to be living their life. If the mind of majority of the people is full of thrill and love, then the civilization is healthy, and if their mind is mired in tragedy and fear of horrible calamities, then the civilization is dying or dead.

The Endless Civilizational Conflicts

Wars fought over contemporaneous factors, relating to land disputes, economic disputes, or something else, can be brought to an end with one side winning and imposing its terms on the other side, or with both sides coming to a negotiated settlement. But the conflicts rooted in civilizational factors go on for centuries. There are several civilizational conflicts that have been going on for a thousand years—when the nations and groups which participate in these conflicts decline and go out of existence, their place is taken up by new nations and groups which emerge, and the conflict goes on. There are instances of nations breaking away from their own civilization, due to their own political and economic circumstances, and becoming neutral or even supporting the cause of the other side, but if the population of these nations is dominated by the people of a particular culture, then they simply cannot withstand the pressure of history and are forced to join the bandwagon of their own civilization. The civilizational conflicts do not see military engagement all the time; they go through long periods of peace, when the antagonism simmers under the surface, and the conflict is pursued through diplomatic, economic, and insurgency related channels. In the military engagements, one side might win a decisive victory, but if the losing side has a large and youthful population, it will continue to pursue the conflict. The advanced civilizations, with better technology, political system, and economy, tend to win most of the wars, but it is the barbaric civilizations, with large and barely educated youthful population, which win the civilizational conflict.

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Globalists are Janus-Faced

The globalists are divided into two camps: the internal globalists and the external globalists. The internal globalists demand that their nation should give-up its culture and become like the world; the external globalists want to coerce other nations to become like their own nation. The policies of the internal globalists lead to civil wars, and the policies of the external globalists lead to world wars. Both camps of globalists exist under the umbrella of liberalism (leftism); thus, liberalism and leftism can be said to have become Janus-faced—one side of the face warns the dominant community of their nation of dire consequences if they do not discard their own culture and become like the world, while other side of the face tries to bully the world into becoming like their own nation. The globalists are the biggest source of instability and conflict in a world that has always been and always will be multi-civilizational.

On Kant’s Politics of Reason

Kant and Hume were more focused on defending the ideas of liberty and rational politics than any other philosopher of the eighteenth century (including Adam Smith). Here’s Martha C. Nussbaum’s view of Kant’s politics (from her essay, “Kant and Stoic Cosmopolitanism”): "Kant, more influentially than any other Enlightenment thinker, defended a politics based upon reason rather than patriotism or group sentiment, a politics that was truly universal rather than communitarian, a politics that was active, reformist and optimistic, rather than given to contemplating the horrors, or waiting for the call of Being."

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Great Wall Country

China is a Great Wall country. It is comfortable inside its Great Wall, which has been protecting its borders from as early as the seventh century BC. But the present generation of Chinese political and intellectual elite are convinced that, in the twenty-first century, the Chinese Great Wall has expanded. The Great War now encircles not just China but several other nations in Asia and beyond. For the first time in their history, the Chinese elite have developed a global vision and ambition. They think that they can inspire and coerce other nations to adopt the Confucian order, fully or in part. The twenty-first century might turn out be the Chinese century—whether they fail or succeed in their geopolitical agenda, they will make history.

The Irrationality of Rational Philosophies

To argue that a philosophy must be rational is by itself an irrational philosophical opinion. A rational philosophy is a myth. It does not exist. All past and present philosophies are fundamentally irrational because the philosophical problems that they grapple with remain unsolved and the solutions that they offer defy reason. When philosophers acquire the pole position in politics and culture, they unleash one irrationality after other, and bring about the decline of their nation. Philosophers can coin profound arguments, they can develop theories which seem amazing on paper, but they cannot create systems which work in the real world—to create workable systems, you need people of skill, people of worldly experience.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Divided House of the West

The Western Roman Empire has impacted the culture of the West European nations; the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire), which outlasted its Western counterpart by more than a thousand years, and fell to the Ottomans in the fifteenth century, has impacted the culture of Russia and the Russian block of East European nations. The United States is a unique case as it is impacted by the political innovations of the inheritors of the Western Roman Empire (classical liberal, expansionist, and socialist) and the cultural values of the inheritors of the Eastern Roman Empire (orthodox, insular, and feudal). The political discontent within the societies of Europe and the USA can be analyzed through the prism of the intellectual and cultural feuds which prevented the Western and Eastern Roman Empires from cooperating with each other.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

On Culture and History

A man without history and culture is a myth. He does not exist. A man can hate and deny his history and culture, but he cannot escape his history and culture. Even the tiny tribal communities which exist in remote jungles and islands are aware of a past and a way of life—if their way of life, which is miserable by the standards of people who live in modern environments, is threatened, they will fight. Intellectuals and politicians imbued with the hubris to believe that they can create a better society by using political power to radically transform the historical and cultural sensibilities of their people are destined to fail. In the last three hundred years every attempt to transform a society by political force has resulted in massive violence and chaos.

The Paradise of the Impatient and the Miserable

The people who live in a paradise, isolated from the real world, get filled with the notion that something is missing in their life, and they become impatient and miserable. They demand perfection; they demand more power, more wealth, more conveniences, more glory. If they can’t have everything, they will burn everything—either they will be the lords of the perfect paradise or the lords of the chaos. If you have lived in the paradise all your life, you can’t know what the paradise means because you have no experience of the world outside. It is always the impatient and miserable residents of the paradise who use their great power to attain perfection and in the process they destroy the world. Here’s a passage from Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, which is the most depressing novel on the suicide of civilizations that I have read: “The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they became with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier to see something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle's eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn.”

Monday, February 8, 2021

Man, Body, and Soul

Man doesn’t have a soul. He is the soul. The body is the garment that the soul temporarily wears. This is how the great religions of the world (and the pre-modern philosophies) have viewed the relationship between man and his body. The conception of man as a wholly material entity is the result of a shotgun wedding between soul and body organized by modern philosophy (in the last three hundred years)—this shotgun wedding is not going to last; a breakup between body and soul is certain because modern philosophy (modernity itself) is crumbling and it will soon fall. By the next decade, the philosophers will either revert to the religious and pre-modern view or they will develop a new theory to explain the connection between the body and the soul.

The Political Problem of Atheism

“If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God), you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin,” said T. S. Elliot. I believe Elliot is right—from the experience of last hundred years we know that it is generally the atheists who become the foot soldiers of ideologies like fascism, nazism, and communism. God is man’s psychological need—if you don’t believe in god, you will be driven to surrender your mind to any Hitler or Stalin, or a philosophical cult. Atheism is based on the idea that people can live on reason alone—but this is not true. People cannot use their reason until they have a sense of identity, which comes from their ability to answer the two questions: Who am I? Where am I from? Traditionally, in most societies, it is religion that has supplied the answers to these questions. When religion becomes irrelevant, people lose their sense of identity and become an easy prey for the totalitarian atheistic movements.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Competitive Virtues and Cooperative Virtues

The Ancient Greeks recognized two types of virtues: competitive virtues and cooperative virtues. In the Homeric texts, we discover warriors like Hector, Achilles, and Odysseus who possess the virtue of being competitive and go on to become the top warriors of their time. There are female characters, like Helen and Penelope, who compete for beauty and fidelity. Even the Homeric gods are competitive—Zeus is the top god because he is more powerful than other gods. These characters possess the cooperative virtues as well—they understand their place in the world and strive to fulfill their duties and obligations. The competitive virtues and cooperative virtues are critical not only for an Ancient Greece type of society but for every age, including the modern age. We no longer compete with swords, axes, and spears like Hector, Achilles, and Odysseus, or with primitive notions of beauty and fidelity like Helen and Penelope, but there are ample opportunities for men and women to hone and test their competitive virtues. Children compete in the playground, to be the best athlete, and inside the classroom, to be the best student; grownups compete in the workplace, and in the arena of sports, business, and politics. Within nations, the towns and cities, and groups with all kinds of agenda, compete for dominance; in the international arena, the nations compete with their rivals. There is a ruthless competition happening in every sphere of our existence. The cooperative virtues are honed and tested in the sphere of personal, social, and economic relationships—these virtues inspire men to fulfill their duties and obligations while remaining true to the legal code and tenets of culture. On the level of nations and other political groupings, the cooperative virtues are honed and tested through relationships and rivalries which can be economic, political, or militaristic. Without the competitive and cooperative virtues, we cannot function as good human beings and we cannot preserve a good social order. When there is decline in competitive virtues, people become weak and incompetent; when there is decline in cooperative virtues, there is corruption and immorality.

Rousseau and Natural Rights

When intellectuals talk about natural rights, they are following Rousseau’s famous line in The Social Contract: “Men are born free but everywhere are in chains.” They identify natural rights as a political empowerment that is available to every man in all parts of the world, and the chains as the political, intellectual, and cultural constraints imposed by society. But this is nor logical. Men are never born free—they are highly dependent when they are born and when they are in the stage of childhood; and everywhere men are not in chains—the world has a few semi-free societies, where some rights exists due to the political system and culture, while most societies are unfree, as their culture does not allow a rights-based political system. There is no social contract between men so there cannot be any natural rights; all rights are manmade.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Spengler: The Ptolemaic Approach to History

Oswald Spengler was appalled by the thinking of the historians who present history from a mono-civilizational (Western) perspective—in 1918, he denounced the division of history into ancient, medieval, and modern sections as the “Ptolemaic approach to history,” which obscures the multi-civilizational reality of the world and creates the false impression that the other civilizations are not transforming. In his classic The Decline of the West, he writes: “I see, in place of that empty figment of one linear history which can be kept up only by shutting one’s eyes to the overwhelming multitude of facts, the drama of a number of mighty Cultures, each springing with primitive strength from the soil of a mother-region to which it remains firmly bound throughout it’s whole life-cycle; each stamping its material, its mankind, in its own image; each having its own idea, its own passions, its own life, will and feelings, its own death. Here indeed are colors, lights, movements, that no intellectual eye has yet discovered.”

Friday, February 5, 2021

Quigley: Seven Stages of Civilizations

In his book The Evolution of Civilizations, Carroll Quigley notes that, from their inception to fall, civilizations move through seven stages: mixture, gestation, expansion, age of conflict, universal empire, decay, and invasion. A civilization starts declining when it is in the universal empire stage and its instruments of expansion are institutionalized, which means that the systems that the civilization uses to gather, grow, and distribute its resources are politicized and intellectualized and turned into slow-moving bureaucratic institutions, which grab more and more power and resources as they grow in size—these institutions see themselves as the civilization’s true representative and the only line of defense. According to Quigley, most civilizations do not die in a fiery blaze; they wane out of existence because, with all the institutions having become bureaucratic, insular, and self-serving, no one has the power to stop the decay which keeps intensifying—the invaders, when they arrive, do not face much resistance.

The Importance of Political Conflicts

Nothing makes a civilization more self-aware than the confrontation with another civilization. By observing their enemies, by fearing and admiring them, by learning from them, by trying to outmaneuver them in economics and geopolitics, and by trying to vanquish them, a civilization becomes aware of its unique history, culture, religion, politics, and psychology. In his novel Dead Lagoon, Michael Dibdin writes: "There can be no true friends without true enemies. Unless we hate what we are not, we cannot love what we are. These are the old truths we are painfully rediscovering after a century and more of sentimental cant. Those who deny them deny their family, their heritage, their culture, their birthright, their very selves! They will not lightly be forgiven.” The rivalry between civilizations runs parallel to the political and cultural rivalries within the civilizations, and both are a necessary condition for the evolution of mankind.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Chaos of Philosophy and Politics

Philosophy and politics are not the cosmos. They are the chaos. It is impossible to derive for philosophy and politics the kind of scientific and mathematical rules that apply to the cosmos. The chaos has been the final end of mankind’s every philosophical and political project. No paradigm, as Thomas Kuhn shows in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, is good forever. Every paradigm descends into chaos. The only solution is to replace the old paradigm with a new one which might offer a more satisfactory outcome.

The Mystical and Mental Drivers of History

The decisive forces of history are not materialistic but mystical and mental. Events which make history—revolutions, revolts, wars, cultural movements, purges, assassination of political figures, and coups—rarely happen due to objective and demonstrable facts; they happen due to the motivations related to religion, myths, a biased sense of history, the ruling elite’s sense of honor and lust for glory, doubtful reports compiled by intellectuals and spy agencies, ideologies which cannot be proved or disproved, and the desire to create a promised land (utopia). The mystical and mental forces of history have the power to bring any civilization to the brink of dissolution.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Revolt of the Intellectuals

In his article, “The Revolt of the Intellectuals,” Whittaker Chambers writes: “When the train of history makes a sharp turn, said Lenin, the passengers who do not have a good grip on their seats are thrown off.” The article was published in Time magazine on Jan 6, 1941, when the intellectuals in western countries had started regarding Stalin as the messiah who would rescue their society from the unfairness and unintellectualism of capitalism. Chambers believed that the communist strategy was to takeover the world by taking several sharp turns and keeping the western countries off balance. On the attitude of American intellectuals during the great depression, Chambers writes, “The Depression came to them as a refreshing change. Fundamentally skeptical, maladjusted, defeatist, the intellectuals felt thoroughly at home in the chaos and misery of the ’30s. Fundamentally benevolent and humane, they loved their fellow countrymen in distress far more than they could ever love them in prosperity.” Chambers could see that the intellectuals were revolting, while the masses were either apolitical or the blind followers of the intellectuals—in Europe, the intellectuals were spearheading the communist, nazi, and fascist revolutions, while in the USA they were leading a push towards liberalism.

The Disconnect Between Philosophy and Politics

Philosophy and politics are more difficult than you think. If you are convinced that these are easy subjects, then you are lacking in historical consciousness. The more philosophy and politics you know, the less and less sure you become about the path that human beings and societies ought to follow for attaining peace, prosperity, and moral and material progress. There is a massive disconnect between history of philosophy and history of politics, which proves that a connection between philosophical theory and political action cannot be developed. The fundamental tenets of moral theory and political theory cannot be argued or demonstrated without making an appeal (an illogical leap) to religious ideals, man’s intuitions, the so-called self-evident truths, the utilitarian ends, the deontological doctrines, and virtue ethics. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Buckley’s View of Conservative Intellectualism

William F. Buckley, Jr. was convinced that the conservatives would cease to matter unless they shed their cliche-ridden approach of appealing to the grassroots. He observed in 1955 that the conservatives did not have a single journal of opinion while the liberals had eight. He said: “They [the liberals] know the power of ideas, and it is largely for this reason that socialist-liberal forces have made such a great headway in the past thirty years.” He started the National Review with the aim of revitalizing conservatism by appealing to the conservative intellectuals and not the conservative masses. He said that it was the intellectuals “who have midwifed and implemented the revolution. We have got to have allies among the intellectuals, and we propose to renovate conservatism and see if we can’t win some of them around.”

Politics Has No Lost Causes

Conservatism is not a lost cause because liberalism is not a gained cause. Capitalism is not a lost cause because socialism is not a gained cause. The political contest is never-ending; tomorrow is another day, a day of a new contest which might overturn the outcome of yesterday’s contest. When we fight for an ideology and a way of life, we fight for an idea, an abstraction, which never dies, which is resurrected after every crucifixion. Here are the lines from T. S. Elliot: “If we take the widest and wisest view of a Cause, there is no such thing as a Lost Cause because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause. We fight for lost causes because we know that our defeat and dismay may be the preface to our successors’ victory, though that victory itself will be temporary; we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that anything will triumph.”

Monday, February 1, 2021

Herodotus: On the Doctrine of Equality

The doctrine of equality has been used as a political weapon since ancient times. In his Histories, Herodotus writes about Periander, the tyrant of Corinth, who had learned that some nobles in his kingdom were conspiring against him. But, having become a tyrant recently, he was not sure who the rebellious nobles were, and what was the best way of suppressing their rebellion. So, Periander sends his assistant to Thrasybulus, the wise longtime tyrant of Miletus, to seek advice on how to rule. Here’s Herodotus's description:  

“Thrasybulus invited the man to walk with him from the city to a field where corn was growing. As he passed through this cornfield, continually asking questions about why the messenger had come to him from Corinth, he kept cutting off all the tallest ears of wheat which he could see, and throwing them away, until the finest and best-grown part of the crop was ruined. In this way he went right through the field, and then sent the messenger away without a word. On his return to Corinth, Periander was eager to hear what advice Thrasybulus had given, and the man replied that he had not given any at all, adding that he was surprised at being sent to visit such a person, who was evidently mad and a wanton destroyer of his own property — and then described what he had seen Thrasybulus do. Periander seized the point at once; it was perfectly plain to him that Thrasybulus recommended the murder of all the people in the city who were outstanding in influence or ability. Moreover, he took the advice, and from that time forward there was no crime against the Corinthians that he did not commit.” 

The advice of Thrasybulus is that Periander must usher a regime of equality by chopping of the heads of all the best people in his kingdom, in the same way that one might cut off the tallest ears of wheat. When the best men are gone, everyone in the kingdom becomes equal, and there is no one left with the capability and the will to oppose the tyrant.