Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Normative Statements are not Objective or Subjective

The statements which express moral, political, and aesthetic ideals are neither subjective nor objective—they are normative. The subjective statements represent the matters of personal taste and feelings; for example: “I like black coffee,” “The political situation makes me feel sad,” “Modern art is rubbish.” The objective statements are logical and descriptive; for example: “The dog is barking,” “2+2=4,” “Lenin was the founder of the Soviet Union." The normative statements are the statements of value—they are not verifiable and it is impossible to connect them to personal states of the mind; for example: “Liars are sinners,” “Honesty is the best policy,” “Capitalism is better than socialism,” “Rembrandt was a great artist.” The quest of the philosophers, between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, to develop a fully-rational (based on an entirely objective criteria) system of morality, politics, and art has proved to be a spectacular failure because it was based on a misunderstanding of the nature of normative statements. Where do normative statements come from? It is hard to say with certainty, since normative statements are a part of the religious, philosophical, and cultural knowledge of mankind whose origin can be traced to the ancient and the prehistoric times.

“The Past Is Not Dead. It's Not Even past”

In his line, “The past is not dead. It's not even past,” William Faulkner is referring to the paradox of time. We live in the past, the present exists in our mind as an abstraction, and the future never arrives. The moment you say, “right now”—that moment is gone; it is past; it is history. You can reminisce the past, you may try to understand it, but you no longer live in it. By paraphrasing Faulkner, a philosophical point might be made: “The past philosophies are not dead. They aren’t even past.” Philosophical ideas never die. On wings of new arguments, they keep coming back in age after age, giving rise to new controversies, new clashes, and new collaborations.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A Passage From Jack London’s The Sea-Wolf

An exchange between Humphrey van Weyden and Wolf Larsen, in Jack London's The Sea-Wolf

"But history tells of slaves who rose to the purple," I chided.

"And history tells of opportunities that came to the slaves who rose to the purple," he answered grimly. "No man makes opportunity. All the great men ever did was to know it when it came to them. The Corsican knew. I have dreamed as greatly as the Corsican. I should have known the opportunity, but it never came. The thorns sprung up and choked me. And, Hump, I can tell you that you know more about me than any living man, except my own brother.”

"And what is he? And where is he?”

"Master of the steamship Macedonia, seal-hunter," was the answer. "We will meet him most probably on the Japan coast. Men call him 'Death' Larsen.”

"Death Larsen!" I involuntarily cried. "Is he like you?”

"Hardly. He is a lump of an animal without any head. He has all my—my—”

"Brutishness," I suggested.

“Yes,—thank you for the word,—all my brutishness, but he can scarcely read or write.”

"And he has never philosophized on life," I added.

"No," Wolf Larsen answered, with an indescribable air of sadness. "And he is all the happier for leaving life alone. He is too busy living it to think about it. My mistake was in ever opening the books."

Modernity: The New Oedipus

The fate of modernity is like the fate of Oedipus; it has been left to die of neglect at the mountainside on the orders of its Western father (who has transmogrified into a King Laius-like decadent figure). Modernity might die. The world might revert to a premodern way of life. But that will not happen—like Oedipus, modernity will survive through the care of a foster father (a King Polybus-like figure; could be China). Modernity, a child of the West, will become a force that is antithetical to its parents. It will attack the West as Oedipus attacked King Laius. The West has lost control of the narrative of modernism—they now prefer liberal primitivism. China is trying to turn modernism into its ally and the West’s worst enemy, just as Oedipus became King Laius’s worst enemy.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Masses And The Elites

There are two kinds of men: the masses and the elites. The masses use their senses, instinct, habits, wisdom, and their sense of morality and traditions; they think of man as he is thought to be. The elites use their reason, rationalizations, intelligence, and their notions of power and perfection; they think of man as he ought to be. In Cartesian terms, the masses are therefore they think, whereas the elites think therefore they are. In Lockean terms, the masses have the body and the soul, whereas the elites have the body but no soul. In Kantian terms, the masses inhabit the phenomenon world, whereas the elites inhabit the noumenon world. In Hegelian terms, the masses are the thesis, whereas the elites are the antithesis.

Nietzsche: The Philosopher’s Intellectual Conscience

“A very popular error: having the courage of one’s convictions; rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one’s convictions!” ~ says Nietzsche (in his notes). This is an excellent point. A philosopher should have an intellectual conscience. He has to argue against himself, be his own critic, and he should be able to bear an attack on his fondest convictions.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

On Full Belly Libertarianism

The libertarian notion of liberty is not an attempt to escape the tyranny of the government; rather it is an attempt to escape culture. The libertarians talk about how good life will be in their utopia: state-less society. But what they aim for is a culture-less society. All manifestations of culture are an original sin in their eyes. Libertarianism might seem like an antithesis of communism, but the suspicion of culture is a discerning feature of both. The Enlightenment is the mother of Jacobinism and the grandmother of communism, libertarianism, and a few other utopian movements. There is one important difference though between communism and libertarianism: While communism is the movement of people with an empty belly (the starving masses), libertarianism is a movement of people with a full belly (the idle rich). The only country where libertarianism has gained a substantial following is the “full-belly USA” of the post-1950s. There are hardly any libertarians in the poor countries where people with empty belly live.

On The Importance Of Pessimism

A civilization that does not understand the critical need for negative thinking (pessimism) is a civilization that has lost its intellect, vigor, and sense of realism, and is in the phase of decline. Perpetual optimism (in the manner of a feeble-brained Pollyanna) is the trait of primitive societies (societies which have never succeeded or have declined after a brief period of success). Negative thinking is the trait of the people who are on the rise, who are full of wisdom, enterprise, vigor, and passion, who have already achieved greatness and are now itching to achieve even more success. All great civilizations of the last three thousand years have produced tragedies in literature, and philosophies which are deeply skeptic and pessimistic.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Kaufmann: Critique of Religion and Philosophy

“Modern philosophy has not yielded any remotely acceptable picture of man. The thinkers of the Enlightenment showed too little understanding of religion and art, feeling, passion, and the imagination; and neither romanticism nor any modern philosophy has produced a conception of man that would even tempt us to assent.” ~ Walter Kaufmann in his book Critique of Religion and Philosophy. He notes that the inheritors of the legacy of the Enlightenment thinkers, the professors of philosophy in today’s universities, are mired in lifeless scholasticism. “Whatever professors of philosophy take up nowadays tends to become scholastic, and the rigor of the scholastics is rigor mortis… Scholasticism has not changed its ways. Rigor sets in after the life has been driven out of its parts. To creep is a virtue, to leap a vice, and speed the sin of the spirit. As for “The Philosophic Flight” (the title of the first chapter of this book), that is to the scholastic a contradiction in terms.” Kaufmann is renowned as a translator of Nietzsche—but he has written extensively on a range of philosophical subjects. In my opinion, his Critique of Religion and Philosophy is among his best works.

Heidegger: Two Conceptions of the Truth

One of the fundamental themes of Heidegger’s philosophy is the difference between truth as the “unhiddenness of beings” (coherence theory of truth) and truth as “correctness of propositions” (correspondence theory of truth). He is of the view that the intellectual bankruptcy of the present day is related to the metaphysical course that Western philosophy when it abandoned the former primordial conception of truth in favor of the latter derivative conception which, he maintains, originated in the works of Plato. He notes that truth as correspondence (which is characteristic of propositions) is “ambiguous, insufficiently delimited in itself or determined in it origins. It is therefore not intelligible, its self-evidence is illusory.”

Friday, March 26, 2021

Senility and the Superpowers

“Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad.”—this is an Ancient Greek saying. The Gods do something similar to the superpowers that they wish to destroy—they first drive them mad or senile. The great superpower of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union, went senile in the 1980s and was finished in 1991. 

On 12 November 1982, the Soviet Union gave a public display of the senility of its political establishment by promoting Yuri Andropov, a sick man, to the post of General Secretary. Within three months of being in office, Andropov suffered total kidney failure; he spent rest of his life in the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow where, for long periods, he was unconscious. He died on 9 February 1984. Konstantin Chernenko, who succeeded Andropov as General Secretary on 13 February 1984, was also in an advanced stage of mental and physical decline. It was rumored that he used to forget that he was holding the highest political office in the Soviet Union. Before his public appearances, his aides used to remind him of who he was. Within weeks of taking office, he was rushed to the Central Clinical Hospital where he spent much of the remainder of his life. He died on 10 March 1985. A day later, Mikhail Gorbachev, who was young, healthy, and charismatic, was made the General Secretary. But Gorbachev could not be the savior of the Soviet Union—he was an ignorant and naive leader. In his hurry to catch up with America, he took a series of disastrous decisions, including the policy of Glasnost and Perestroika, which was antithetical to the totalitarian and secretive character of the Soviet Union. When simultaneous rebellions erupted in several towns and cities in Russia and Eastern Europe, Gorbachev was taken by surprise and he could not act decisively to crush the rebels. His weakness emboldened the rebels, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. Two years later, in 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved, leaving the USA as the world’s only superpower. 

I wonder what the Gods wish for the USA—in his public appearances, the current President gives the impression of being like Andropov and Chernenko, quite unhealthy. When he talks about policy matters, he sounds like Gorbachev, a man who is out of touch with the reality of his own country. The next five years will be pivotal for this country and the geopolitical system that it protects.

The Terrible Tragedy of History

History is a terrible tragedy. It is a tragedy because it tells you about the fragility of civilizations, and it is terrible because it gives you a vague sense of the barbaric final chapter towards which your own world is hurtling. Since most people do not comprehend history, they are doomed to make the political and cultural mistakes which will ensure that the history of their civilization will be read by the future generations as a terrible tragedy.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Downfall of the Elites

The Ancient Greeks preached that to learn how to lead a moral life, one should study the lifestyle of the nobles (the cultural and political elites of their society). Apparently, the nobles of Ancient Greece lived, or were expected to live, in the service of demanding moral norms without which their culture would not be possible. Nobility or elitism in Ancient Greece implied the capacity of being the exemplars of moral virtues. But in our time, the elites who would follow the moral norms, which are critical for the survival of our culture, cannot be found. Hypocrisy is a way of life for our elites; they take pride in defying the moral norms that the masses are expected to follow. They are corrupt, immoral, and nihilistic—quite a few are perverts and criminals. The Ancient Greek method of learning morality from the elites won’t work in our time.

On Doubt and Wisdom

The man who lacks the capacity to doubt his philosophical and political views is either an idiot or a monster; the more intelligence, reason, and passion he brings to his philosophy and politics, the more idiotic and monstrous he becomes. What people call “certainty” is often dangerous—the worst monsters of history, and their idiotic followers, are known to have wielded “certainty” as a lethal political weapon. Without the feeling of doubt, there can be no motivation to introspect, and without introspection, there can be no wisdom. “True wisdom,” Whittaker Chambers rightly notes in his classic book Witness, “comes from overcoming of suffering and sin. All true wisdom is therefore touched with sadness.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Solzhenitsyn: On The Decline Of The West

In his commencement address at Harvard (on June 8, 1978), Solzhenitsyn said that he despised the Soviet Union, which had incarcerated and tortured him for years, and he was grateful to the free West for granting him a sanctuary, but he was virtually without any hope so far as the future of the Western civilization is concerned. He noted that the West was incapable of defeating the communists and its decline was inevitable because it had lost faith in itself. In the name of freedom and liberalism, the West was, on a widening scale, revolting against the authority of traditional culture and morality around which it was founded. Without the authority of culture and morality, which is the opposite of the ideological and political power that the communists exercise, there can be no stability, liberty, and creativity.

Chambers On the Two Faiths: Freedom and Communism

In the second page of his book Witness, Whittaker Chambers talks of “this sick society, which we call Western civilization,” locked in a deadly struggle between “the two irreconcilable faiths of our time—Communism and Freedom.” Chambers is correct in describing “freedom” as a faith. The philosophy of freedom, like communism, is a religion, which preaches the establishment of a promised land where there is total freedom. The classical liberal notion of freedom, developed between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, is founded on the principle of individual and social perfectibility—the classical liberals believe that through their “rational” philosophy a perfectly free and atheistic society, a utopia, can be created. In the twentieth century, the idea of freedom has become fully utopian through the work of several classical liberal and leftist thinkers: I can think of the nihilistic notion of total freedom developed by the Neo-Marxists (the Frankfurt School, the Fabian Society, and the anti-fascists like Antonio Gramsci), the ersatz individualism in Ayn Rand’s utopian fiction, and the utopian stateless society of Murray Rothbard.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Letter from Whittaker Chambers to William F. Buckley, Jr.

In a 1954 letter to Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, Jr. expressed the hope that National Review would play a major role in stopping the communists from wrecking the West. In his reply, dated August 5, 1954, Chambers crushed Buckley’s hopes. 

Chambers begins his letter by declaring that it is too late to stop the communists: “I no longer believe that political solutions are possible for us. I am baffled by the way people still speak of the West as if it were at least a cultural unity against Communism though it is divided not only by a political, but by an invisible cleavage. On one side are the voiceless masses with their own subdivisions and fractures. On the other side is the enlightened, articulate elite which, to one degree or other, has rejected the religious roots of the civilization—the roots without which it is no longer Western civilization, but a new order of beliefs, attitudes and mandates.” 

Chambers then notes that communism did not originate in Russia; it is a Western creation: “In short, this is the order of which Communism is one logical expression, originating not in Russia, but in the culture capitals of the West, reaching Russia by clandestine delivery via the old underground centers in Cracow, Vienna, Berne, Zurich, and Geneva.”

He ends his letter with these lines: “It is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.”

Science: As the Handmaiden of the Utopians

The idea of science being on the side of those who are blessed with a utopian vision got emblazoned in mankind’s collective consciousness during the Age of Enlightenment. Robespierre, Saint-Just and other leaders of the Jacobin movement, which was coterminous with the Age of Enlightenment, were convinced that they had science on their side when they guillotined more than twenty thousand people in the streets of Paris. The utopians who followed the Jacobins—Saint-Simon, Comte, Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and others—defended their apocalyptic and millenarian political agenda in the name of science. They burned with passionate zeal to deploy extreme political power for realizing the “scientific” promised land that only they had visualized. The liberals of our time are the inheritors of the legacy of the past utopians, and they feel entitled to use science to defend their own politics: global warming, climate change, systemic racism, critical race theory, income equality, multiculturalism, lockdowns are incontestable scientific facts, the liberals assert, and must be imposed on society.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Machiavelli: History as Cyclical Returns

Machiavelli sees history as cyclical returns, nothing but a succession of ups and downs. In The Discourses, he notes that customs and laws are necessary since “men are more prone to evil than to good.” This trait of men ensures that history oscillates between the bad and the good, with the bad being in control more often and over longer periods of time. 

Lady Fortuna, the goddess of fortune, possesses a mercurial character and plays a pivotal role in the succession of ups and downs. In The Prince, Machiavelli says that all rulers, despite their craftiness, ruthlessness, and wisdom, are playthings in the hands of Lady Fortuna. In his essay, “On Fortune,” he writes: “Lady Fortuna turns states and kingdoms upside down as she pleases; she deprives the just of the good that she freely gives to the unjust.”  

Political stability is unattainable—things tend to degenerate till an absolute bottom is reached and from there a recovery is made in case of some nations, and fortune alone has the true suzerainty over men’s political affairs.

No form of government is immune to failure. In The Discourses, Machiavelli observes: “For a Monarchy readily becomes a Tyranny, an Aristocracy an Oligarchy, while a Democracy tends to degenerate into Anarchy. So that if the founder of a State should establish any one of these three forms of Government, he establishes it for a short time only, since no precaution he may take can prevent it from sliding into its contrary, by reason of the close resemblance which, in this case, the virtue bears to the vice.” 

The greatest threat to a state, Machiavelli says, comes from the feeble princes: “no kingdom can stand when two feeble princes follow in succession.” This makes you think of the current state of politics—the damage that the feeble politicians are causing to their nation.

Kołakowski: On the Utopian Mentality

The utopian mentality is devoid of historical consciousness; it views the past as evil and oppressive and does not believe in stage by stage advancement from one level of existence to the next. Leszek Kołakowski has given an excellent description of the utopian mentality as we have been encountering it since the eighteenth century: “History is portrayed as catastrophic, not evolutionary… There is a radical discontinuity between the world as it is and as it will be; a violent leap is needed to do away with the past; a new time will start.” The utopians ignore the will of the people, and advocate despotic means for achieving their promised land. Kołakowski defines the idea of utopia in these words: “Utopia is a desperate desire to attain absolute perfection; this desire is a degraded remnant of the religious legacy in nonreligious minds.”

Sunday, March 21, 2021

“He loved Big Brother”

What if there is an Orwellian climax to the totalitarian turn that the world has taken in the year 2020? What if instead of fighting back to regain the civil liberties that they have lost, people submit to their oppressors, in the manner of Winston Smith, the protagonist in Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, whose mentality, by the end of the novel, can be subsumed in just one chilling line: “He loved Big Brother.” Perhaps mankind’s ultimate destiny is to transform into the docile and dumb creatures whose most discerning feature is that they love Big Brother.

On Nietzsche’s Pessimism of the Future

From what he saw around him in Europe, Nietzsche developed serious doubts about the future of Western society. In The Anti-Christ, he writes, “Mankind does not represent a development toward something better or stronger or higher in the sense accepted today. ‘Progress’ is merely a modern idea, that is, a false idea. The European of today is vastly inferior in value to the European of the Renaissance: further development is altogether not according to any necessity in the direction of elevation, enhancement, or strength.” In his Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche laments that: “Nothing avails: one must go forward—step by step further into decadence (that is my definition of modern ‘progress’)."

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Gibbon: Savage Kingdoms Versus Civilization

In Volume Six of his massive work on the decline of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon contemplates the possibility of barbarians from the savage kingdoms annihilating his own Western Civilization, just as the Germanic Barbarians (the Visigoths) had annihilated the Roman Empire. The outcome of his contemplation is quite optimistic. He says that while the barbarians might manage to cause some harm to the West, they will not “injure our general state of happiness, the system of arts, and laws, and manners, which so advantageously distinguish, above the rest of mankind, the Europeans and their colonies.”

But in the sentence that follows, he is back to talking about the “savage nations” in Eastern Europe and Asia sending their barbarian hordes to destroy the West. “The savage nations of the globe are the common enemies of civilized society; and we may inquire with anxious curiosity, whether Europe is still threatened with a repetition of those calamities which formerly oppressed the arms and institutions of Rome. Perhaps the same reflections will illustrate the fall of that mighty empire, and explain the probable causes of our actual security.” Gibbon conjectures that the military arts of the West render it invulnerable to the barbarian invaders. He does not see any parallel between the West and the Roman Empire, and he asserts that once the savage kingdoms learn from the West, they will cease to be “savage”: 

“Europe is secure from any future irruption of Barbarians; since, before they can conquer, they must cease to be barbarous. Their gradual advances in the science of war would always be accompanied, as we may learn from the example of Russia, with a proportionable improvement in the arts of peace and civil policy; and they themselves must deserve a place among the polished nations whom they subdue."

Gibbon believed that a civilization which possesses knowledge of science and arts will not be savage and is unlikely to attack other nations—it is surprising to see a historian of his level of erudition expressing such a naive opinion. The truth is that the primitive nations seldom attack other nations, since they lack the means of fighting a great war. All great wars of history have been initiated by the nations which possess advanced knowledge of science and arts. Gibbon does not realize that, despite the advancements in science and arts, the threat to the West might arise from within, by the emergence of new, more horrific forms of barbarism, under ideologically motivated leaders like Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini.

Four Philosophers: Four Views of the State of Nature

Hobbes was horrified by the idea of life in the state of nature—he depicts the state of nature as an environment in which there is no property, no security, no possibility of practical arts; where man’s life is marked by violence and fear, and is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” But Locke, who arrived about half a century after Hobbes, discovered an entirely different state of nature, in which people possess natural rights, and their property is secure, natural property in agricultural land being the rule. Another half a century pass, and along comes Montesquieu who discovered a state of nature where men are a timid lot, so timid that they avoid war and violence. And lastly, there is Rousseau, in whose writing the state of nature becomes a sort of Eden of liberty—a place where man is endowed with natural rights and is free. Thus, in a span of three hundred years (sixteenth century to eighteenth century), four major philosophers have presented four different conceptions of the state of nature—what was dystopia for Hobbes magically transforms into a utopia that man must strive to achieve by the time Rousseau has finished his work.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Walsh: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost?

History is full of battles in which small groups take a desperate stand against large armies, refusing to surrender in face of great odds, and often fighting to the last man. What was the motivation of the men who fought in these battles? In his book Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost, Michael Walsh writes about such battles, and he connects the motivation of the men who fought, knowing full well that they are going to die fighting, to the premodern conceptions of masculinity and heroism. Here are three excerpts from Walsh’s Introduction to his book: 

“The sexes are different. A country whose women lose their virtue and whose men lose their nerve—the Soviet Union is the most recent example of this historical truth—soon vanishes into history. When every man is a petitioner, a lackey, or a slave, and every woman a whore, that country is finished. A land of “strong” (I.e., in defiance of previous social norms with no immediate consequences, or even opposition) women and weak men is a dead country.”

“Iconoclasm is a luxury in which only stable societies can indulge; once it becomes institutionalized, it turns into a battering ram wielded by a resentful minority against the larger, historically based, cultural entity toward which its animus is directed. To put it in Hegelian Marxist terms: the antithesis has superseded the thesis, thus negating the need for a synthesis. This is the goal of all “progressivism.””

“Therefore, what is heroism? What are its moral components? Is it altruism, love, self-sacrifice. What are its amoral components—fear of cowardice, lust for glory, pride? Why was it once celebrated, and now often dismissed as anachronistic at best, foolish and vainglorious at its worst?”

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Philosophical Question: What is man?

The question that the philosophers have been trying to answer for several millennia is: What is man? The scientific definitions of man can be found inside man—in his genetic composition, his mental state, his psychology, his physical features, his attributes like rationality, morality, and faith, his ability to use language, his power to be political and appreciate art. But a scientific definition is not what the philosophers are questing for. For the philosophers, the question—“what is man?”—is not a materialistic or objective question; for them, the question means “what can man become?” The philosophers seek the answers to such questions: What is man’s ultimate potential? What is the ultimate goal that he is supposed to reach? What is the real purpose of mankind? Will the day arrive when man will create life in his own image? The philosophers want to predict man’s ultimate future on the basis of man’s historical past and man’s present.

The End of Modernity

In his Preface to the Critique of Political Economy, Karl Marx writes, “No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions for their existence have matured in the womb of the old society. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.” This is an interesting point. Perhaps modernity is perishing because all the potential productive forces of the modern framework have already been developed; now it is no longer possible for the modern man to make further progress. He must either move to a new level, a sort of modernity 2.0, or he must descend to the lower pre-modern levels. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Schopenhauer: Religion and Philosophy

Religion is the philosophy of the masses, while philosophy is the religion of the intellectuals. This point is made by Schopenhauer in his work Religion: A Dialogue, which is a debate between two characters Demopheles, who is a theist, and Philalethes, who is anti-religion. Here’s a sample of the lines that Demopheles speaks: “Religion is the metaphysics of the masses; by all means let them keep it: let it therefore command external respect, for to discredit it is to take it away. Just as they have popular poetry, and the popular wisdom of proverbs, so they must have popular metaphysics too: for mankind absolutely needs an interpretation of life; and this, again, must be suited to popular comprehension.” In Religion: A Dialogue and other works, Schopenhauer goes against the vision of absolute atheism, which was articulated by the Enlightenment philosophers in the eighteenth century, and was being popularized by the left Hegelians like Feuerbach and Marx in the nineteenth century. Schopenhauer argues that religion and philosophy are the two pillars of man's life.

A Long Sentence by Descartes

A 206-word sentence by René Descartes: 

“Notwithstanding this, I am in no degree desirous to lessen the honor which each of them can justly claim; I am only constrained to say, for the consolation of those who have not given their attention to study, that just as in traveling, when we turn our back upon the place to which we were going, we recede the farther from it in proportion as we proceed in the new direction for a greater length of time and with greater speed, so that, though we may be afterwards brought back to the right way, we cannot nevertheless arrive at the destined place as soon as if we had not moved backwards at all; so in philosophy, when we make use of false principles, we depart the farther from the knowledge of truth and wisdom exactly in proportion to the care with which we cultivate them, and apply ourselves to the deduction of diverse consequences from them, thinking that we are philosophizing well, while we are only departing the farther from the truth; from which it must be inferred that they who have learned the least of all that has been hitherto distinguished by the name of philosophy are the most fitted for the apprehension of truth.” ~ (from The Principles of Philosophy by Descartes; Chapter: Letter of the Author)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

On the Youthful Fascination with Pop Philosophers

Why are pop philosophers popular with the young but are discarded by the older folks? The answer is that when the young read such philosophers, they do so with an attitude of “heroic fury and aspiration”—they are not looking for mere philosophical knowledge; they are looking for a vindication of an ideal that they desperately want to believe in. They want to believe in the possibility of a utopia, and they think that the pop philosophy will somehow help them in creating it. They submerge their youthful personality into the pop philosophy, but when they grow older, the knowledge of other readings and the wisdom gained from life’s hard experiences kicks in, and they recognize the inconsistencies and stupidities in the pop philosophy that they had so naively accepted. They have now reached the stage where they can study without succumbing to the false hope of finding the ultimate answers to life’s grave questions.

Monday, March 15, 2021

All Successful Utopias are Religious

A religion which is built on a sound theological foundation is implicitly a utopia. The metaphysics of such religions is the greatest in history—it encapsulates the entirety of time (past, present, and future), the entirety of space in the universe, and the entirety of heavenly bodies and creatures. In the theology of such religions, you find a marvelous attempt to define a moral way of life and reconcile the contradictions of metaphysics and politics. By presenting man as the creature that God has created in his own image, or as God’s child, such religions define the nature of man and his place in the universe. Since all men are God’s children, all men are brothers, which implies that they are equal to each other. Thus, the ideas of equality, liberty, and fraternity are intrinsic to these religions. Since the eighteenth century, the materialists and atheists have been trying to create a utopia which might equal the glories of the utopias of theological religion. But every attempt to create an atheistic and materialistic utopia has unleashed a massive bloodbath and ended in a colossal failure. If men are not motivated by a religion which is founded on sound theology, they cannot create a utopia. All successful utopias in history are religious.

Feuerbach’s Assertion On Man’s Nature

Ludwig Feuerbach’s assertion, “Man is what he eats,” has been interpreted in various ways. The vapid interpretation is that Feuerbach is asserting that man’s thinking is related to the food he eats. But if this were true, then the kitchens, and not the political and intellectual movements, and the revolutions and civil wars, would be the drivers of world history. This is contrary to historical evidence. Feuerbach is not talking about the food that man eats. By the phrase, “what he eats,” he means man’s economic and sociological conditions of existence taken as a whole. He is positing that every economic and social group has its own diet. Therefore, the assertion—“Man is what he eats”—can be restated as “Man is what his culture is,” or “Man is what his nation is.” Culture and geography play a major role in the dietary habits of various groups—for instance, the Europeans prefer wheat, the Asians prefer rice.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Solipsism of Tolstoy

Tolstoy says that in his boyhood days, he was fascinated by skepticism to such an extent that his mind took a flight into the solipsist territory. Here’s an excerpt from his book Childhood, Boyhood and Youth (Chapter 19; “Boyhood” section): “But by none of my philosophical tendencies was I so carried away as by skepticism, which at one time brought me into a state bordering on madness. I fancied that besides myself nobody existed in the universe, that objects were not objects at all, but images which appeared only when I paid attention to them, and that as soon as I left off thinking of them these images immediately disappeared. In a word, I coincided with Schelling in the conviction that not objects exist but my relation to them. There were moments when, under the influence of this idée fixe, I reached such a state of insanity that I sometimes looked rapidly round to one side, hoping suddenly to find nothingness where I was not.”  In my opinion, it is understandable that in his youth, Tolstoy became fascinated by the solipsist (subjectivist) position—to prepare himself mentally for being a writer of great novels, he had to view himself at the center of the world, as the world’s only mind, one that sees all and can write about all.

The Absurdity and Incapacity of Individualism

When an individualist takes part in a debate, doesn’t it show that he thinks that he can actually convince people to become individualists? He expects people to stop thinking for themselves and live in accordance to his specific positive opinion—in other words, he expects everyone, except himself, to be a collectivist. But this means that he is no longer an individualist; he is the founder of a collective, comprising of people who follow his opinion of individualism. The individualism of a man is lost in a swamp of irreconcilable contradictions, and leads to the formation of a utopian cult (the worst form of collectivism), the moment the man becomes a preacher of individualism. The proof of Individualism’s absurdity and incapacity lies in the fact that to preach it, you have to turn to the opposite camp—you must become a collectivist (a utopian cultist),

Saturday, March 13, 2021

The Coexistence of Quality and Quantity

All things have a quality and a quantity—there cannot be a quality without a quantity, and a quantity without a quality. This means that there cannot be a good economy (quantity) without an equally good culture (quality); there cannot be material progress (quantity) without an equivalent amount of intellectual progress (quality). While quantity is empirical (objective) and measurable (in most cases), quality is often abstract (subjective) and its measurement is a controversial subject, which can be influenced by the taste, sensibility, and the philosophical, political, and aesthetic opinions of the people who are doing the measuring.

The Connection Between History and Common Sense

Philosophy cannot be separated from the history of philosophy; politics cannot be separated from the history of culture. All major civilizations generate philosophical, political, and cultural forces which lead to the development of the crucial element that is generally recognized as “common sense” by the people who are part of those civilizations. Without historical consciousness, people cannot understand their philosophy, politics, and culture, and then they will be devoid of common sense, which too is a product of history. Nations without common sense are an anachronism, a freak of evolution, which must disappear without leaving a trace.

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Consequence of Totalitarian Social Hypocrisy

We live in the age of totalitarian social hypocrisy. The masses are coerced to practice certain virtues, but those who preach these virtues do not practice them, although they venerate these virtues in their speech. This totalitarian social hypocrisy has an unexpected consequence: the rise of nihilism. When the masses have absorbed the virtues, which they do not understand and find absurd, they lose faith in the possibility of having a virtuous life—and then there is a decline in their moral and intellectual standards and they become nihilistic. 

There is only one way of countering the problem of totalitarian social hypocrisy: totalitarian response from the other side. Fight totalitarianism with totalitarianism. A totalitarian political action (by a traditionalist and moral political force) has to be mustered to uproot the regime of totalitarian social hypocrisy; the hypocritical elites have to be overthrown from their elitist positions, and a crop of new elites has to be created. Once society is freed from the bondage of false virtues, and domination of the hypocritical elites, the problem of nihilism will go away.

Machiavelli and Trump: The Unarmed Prophets

Donald Trump is an unarmed prophet. He is popular, it seems. But he does not have the backing of the American elite class, who know how to develop a winning political strategy, and the bureaucratic and revolutionary forces, who know how to fight street level political battles. Therefore, Trump cannot be an effective politician. The term “unarmed prophet” comes from Machiavelli’s The Prince. Machiavelli brands Savonarola as the unarmed prophet, whose political mission must end in disaster because he does not enjoy the backing of an army of armed followers. The irony is that Machiavelli was plagued with the same deficiency for which he chastises Savonarola—he too was an unarmed prophet. Machiavelli was not a mere political theorist. He was a man of powerful political passions. He aspired to be a revolutionary and fight for the creation of a new Republic, one that would be formed by uniting the states of Italy. He was a partisan, an active politician. He wanted to overthrow the existing balance of political forces in Italy and make space for a new balance which would be Republican. In his books, when he is talking about historical events several centuries in the past, Machiavelli keeps commenting on what “ought to be” the political reality of present day Italy. Since he was an unarmed prophet, Machiavelli’s political mission could not be fulfilled in his lifetime.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Politics is Not a Game of Numbers

Most people accept the banal notion that in a democracy political power comes through numbers. They naively believe that the politician who attracts the largest crowds will win the election, and that the opinion of the folks in the small towns and rural areas carry the same weight in the politics of their country as the opinion of the shrewd and wealthy elites dwelling in the cities. But it is not true at all that numbers decide the character of the government. Even if the elections are held in a fair manner, and the political group that enjoys overwhelming support in the smaller towns and rural areas wins, the new government will pay more attention to the needs of the urban elites. This is because the urban elites are well connected; they know how to subvert the political system; they are capable of using all kinds of intellectual, bureaucratic, journalistic, and legal maneuvers to coerce the government.

Machiavelli: Two Ways of Politics

In politics, the brutal Jacobins are the rule and not the exception. These lines from Machiavelli’s The Prince apply to modern politics (and politicians) as much as to the politics and the politicians of Machiavelli’s time: “There are two ways of fighting: by law or by force. The first way is natural to men, and the second to beasts. But as the first way often proves inadequate one must needs have recourse to the second. So a prince must understand how to make a nice use of the beast and the man. The ancient writers taught princes about this by an allegory, when they described how Achilles and many other princes of the ancient world were sent to be brought up by Chiron, the centaur, so that he might train them his way. All the allegory means, in making the teacher half beast and half man, is that a prince must know how to act according to the nature of both, and that he cannot survive otherwise.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Modern Prince and the Jacobins

In his Prison Notebooks, the Italian communist thinker Antonio Gramsci calls Machiavelli the “precocious Jacobin” in whose work, The Prince, political ideology and political science get represented not in the form of a utopia or a scholarly treatise but in the dramatic form of a myth. He declares that the communist party is the Modern Prince and it must use Jacobin force to unleash communism in society. Bringing the Modern Prince and Jacobinism together means ending the conflict between the myth and the critique of the myth—or between the utopian (revolutionary) and the reactionary (counterrevolutionary). Gramsci exhorts the communist movements to hold together in a dialectical unity the utopian enterprise and the reaction to the utopian enterprise. The liberals can be viewed as the inheritors of Gramsci’s communism—they operate by holding in a dialectical unity the forces which can act to create the utopia (bureaucracy, financial institutions, law and order machinery, and big businesses) and the forces which can try to counter the utopia (academia, media, and entertainment industry).

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Fascist Mathematics

Mathematics is fascist because it does not accept the ruses of dialectics. It is unacceptable that for every equation, mathematics gives the factually correct answer and never the politically correct answer. By consistently presenting a systematic and rational view of the universe, mathematics violates the rights of those who want the universe to be unsystematic and irrational; it denies man the liberty to indulge his anti-objective impulses. It might not be possible to ban mathematics, but this subject has to be regulated to ensure that it serves the common good. A classless and humane society cannot be created until mathematics is rescued from its fascistic foundations.

The Decline of a Civilization

The decline of a civilization always comes as a surprise to the political, intellectual, and financial elite who are thriving in that civilization—they live under the delusion that they are entitled to every bit of the power, prosperity, and prestige that they have been enjoying, and that while bad things might happen to other people, they are themselves safe, for there is no power that can dislodge them from their supreme position. The interpretation of why their civilization is declining lags behind and catches up with the elite when all is already lost. They are the last to realize that their civilization has fallen and that they have become the losers of history.

Monday, March 8, 2021

The New Logic: Normality is Abnormal

A civilization cannot be transformed unless the masses are made to desire their own repression. One way of achieving this end is by erasing the difference between repression and liberty by using the universities, the mainstream media, the movie industry, and the publishing houses to seed society with the new logic: “The desire for repression is a sign of individualism”; “The passion for being led is moral”; “Normality is abnormal”; “Knowledge is an attempt to exercise brute power by other means”; “Love of one’s culture is a sign of schizophrenia”; “Man’s sickness is man’s individuality and his desire to be left alone”; “Classics are evil since they allow people to connect with an earlier socio-historical context”; “Capitalism does not create prosperity—it creates fascism and fosters the myth of keeping everyone busy”. These are not absurd statements—these are the widely accepted logical tenets of contemporary high culture. It is clear that the utopia project of the early decades of the twentieth century has been resumed in the twenty-first century. But this time the bumbling gun-wielding bolsheviks, the militants of theory, are not in charge—the utopia project is being spearheaded by the wealthy and smart comrades of the media, entertainment, academic, and digital industries, and its management is bureaucratic, globalized, and abstract.

Isabel Paterson and Ayn Rand

Isabel Paterson was a far more wise, balanced, and knowledgeable philosopher than her friend Ayn Rand. Rand might have had a better literary style (even this is debatable)—she certainly had a whole lot of ambition to be a famous author and philosopher—but Paterson possessed a better grasp of philosophy, history, and the human condition. Paterson’s book The God of the Machine is a classic. Here’s an excerpt from the book: “Fear and want are subjective; and poverty is the absence of wealth. If it were promised that from the hour of his birth no man should ever again stand in his naked skin, who is to produce the clothes? who is to have such absolute power over every person? The only condition in which no one can experience poverty, want, or fear, is that of rigor mortis. The dead neither want nor fear.” Here’s another excerpt: “The philanthropist, the politician, and the pimp are inevitably found in alliance because they have the same motives, they seek the same ends, to exist for, through, and by others. And the good people cannot be exonerated for supporting them.” Unfortunately, Paterson is now forgotten by the libertarians.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Familiarity Breeds Contempt and Ignorance

“What is familiarly known is not properly known, just for the reason that it is familiar,” says Hegel. We can add Hegel’s reasoning to the old proverb “familiarity breeds contempt,” and arrive at the conclusion that the notion of familiarity leads to two pitfalls: contempt and ignorance. When people are psyched into believing that they are familiar with something, they do not try to investigate that thing. Their familiarity becomes the cause of their deficient understanding. What they do not understand, they hold in contempt. Easy access to university education, and to the newspapers, Internet, and cable TV, which offer a simplistic and politically motivated view of culture and history, fills people with the feeling that they are familiar with their nation’s past and present, and its future prospects. But their familiarity is devoid of understanding, and this makes them contemptuous and ignorant of all that their nation stands for.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

The Wrong Mountain of Utilitarians and Libertarians

Rejecting the claims of the British utilitarians, Nietzsche said, “Man does not seek happiness; only the Englishman does that.” This is a good point which can be stretched to include the two concepts which obsess the libertarians: liberty and rights. Man does not seek liberty and rights; only the libertarian does that. Not happiness, not liberty, and not rights but being part of a nation with stable, historical, and decent culture, in which they might hope to flourish, according to the traditional norms of human flourishing, is fundamental to man. When the utilitarians talk about happiness, and the libertarians talk about liberty and rights, they are indulging in metaphysical fiction—they are exhorting humanity to climb the wrong mountain. The right mountain is culture. All good things come to the nations which have a good culture.

The Good: The Eternal Battleground

What is the good? It might be possible to have an agreement, to a large extent (though not universal), on what makes a mobile phone a good mobile phone, a car a good car, and a rose a good rose, but when we talk about the moral good, the political good, and the aesthetic good, then people have sharp, and at times acrimonious, disagreements. Socrates and Plato in the Platonic Dialogues, Aristotle in Nichomachean Ethics, Aquinas in Commentary on the Ethics, and a number of other philosophers have posited that what is the good can never be conclusively ascertained and that mankind will always be faced with a multiplicity of perspectives, which are often irreconcilable, on the good. The idea of the good is an eternal battleground for intellectuals, artists, and politicians. The acrimonious discourse on the good will go on forever.

Friday, March 5, 2021

The Power Game: Tradition Versus the Left

The preachers of a new ideology have to decide how they are going to react to the traditional beliefs and institutions of their society. Are they going to annihilate all traces of tradition in a brutal revolutionary war and then create a new utopia, or are they going to let the forces of tradition live and, through a long drawn process of compromise and coercion (carrot and stick), try to transform or destroy those aspects of tradition that they dislike? 

The preachers of leftism, in the first half of the twentieth century, opted for the first model—they decided that they would cleanse their society of all traditional beliefs and institutions and then commence the work for the creation of a communist utopia. But that led to mass slaughters and extreme poverty and starvation in the Soviet Union. Between the 1930s and 1960s, it dawned on the leftists that the cost of annihilating the traditional beliefs and institutions is too high and that the mindless destruction caused by Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin in the Soviet Union was doing nothing to further the communist cause. 

After the 1930s, the leftists started moving towards the model of compromising with the existing traditions—this gave rise to the intellectual movements like Fabian Socialism and Frankfurt School and the political movements like liberalism and progressivism which became very popular and are currently ruling most of the democratic nations in the world. What the brutal tactics of communism could not achieve, the soft tactics of liberalism and progressivism has.

After Virtue: My Favorite Book on Moral Theory

My favorite book on moral theory, among those published after 1960, is Alasdair MacIntyre’s 1981 book After Virtue. He presents a rather pessimistic view of moral theory (and by implication political theory), and explains why there can never be an agreement on whether a particular moral theory is rational or irrational. His analysis of the failures of the modern theories of morality, spawned during and after the Age of Enlightenment, is brilliant. He provides a possible solution in the Aristotelian virtue ethics tradition, but he does not claim his solution is the rational one, though he suggests that his solution is the one that might work.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Krishna and Arjuna: A Civilization in Crisis

When a civilization is facing a great crisis, two types of personalities have to take initiative—the warriors (the politicians or men of action), who are capable of winning the support of their population and subduing the enemies of their civilization, and the great philosophers (the men of supreme wisdom and knowledge of religious and philosophical texts), who advise the warriors on morality, righteousness, justice, and political strategy. 

In the Mahabharata, the first type of personality is represented by Arjuna and the second type by Krishna. They come together to save their civilization from a great crisis. Before the great war begins, we find that Arjuna is always eager for battle; again and again, he argues for a swift military action against his political rivals, but he is always held back by Krishna who insists that a war will be too destructive for their civilization and that they must negotiate and find a peaceful solution. But once the war starts, and the two armies are standing opposite each other, Arjuna wants to abandon the battlefield because he does not want to commit the sin of mass slaughter, but now Krishna insists that the war must be fought. 

Krishna delivers the teachings of the Gita to Arjuna to make him realize that it is his duty to fight the “dharmayuddha” (the holy war for justice and moral principles) and walking out of the battlefield would be a grave sin which will lead to the annihilation of their civilization.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Hegel and Derrida: On Prefaces

Hegel philosophically confronts the problem of prefaces in the Preface to his book The Phenomenology of Spirit. The preface, Hegel posits, is not the pre-face—it is not something that is written before the book; it is a retrospective event, something that can be better described as a post-face, or a text that has been written after the book is complete. Hegel asks the reader not to take his Preface seriously, because the serious stuff is in the book which follows: “In the case of a philosophical work... such an explanation seems not only superfluous but, in view of the nature of the subject-matter, even inappropriate and misleading.For whatever might appropriately be said about philosophy in a preface–say a historical statement of the main drift and the point of view, the general content and results, a string of random assertions and assurances about truth–none of this can be accepted as the way in which to expound philosophical truth.” In his book Dissemination, Derrida notes that Hegel had to write a preface to denounce the preface, even though much of Hegel’s work is a play of prefaces.

The Utopia of Nihilism

Like the insects which throw themselves into fire because they are mesmerized by the light and heat, the Western liberals are now throwing their nations into the hellfire of a new utopianism. They are no longer pursuing a Marxist utopia; they realize that the Russian communists failed to create a utopia in the twentieth century because they got constrained by Marxism. Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin killed millions but they did not go far enough; their Marxist ideology would allow a certain amount of barbarity and once that limit was reached, their utopia had to collapse. The new utopia of the Western liberals that is currently in the works is fully unconstrained—it is not limited by any ideology, values, history, traditions, and even the facts of reality and national borders. It is global; it is nihilistic, it is amoral, it is anti-traditional, it is unhistorical, it is post-truth, and it does not seek to achieve any values, except total power for the liberal elite.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Nietzsche and Ayn Rand: The Overman’s Psychological Problem

In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche reflects on the Overman’s psychological problem: “The psychological problem in the type of Zarathustra is how he that says No and does No to an un-heard of degree, to everything that one has so far said Yes, can nevertheless be the opposite of a No-saying spirit; how the spirit who bears the heaviest fate, a fatality of a task, can nevertheless be the lightest and most transcendent…” Nietzsche is acknowledging that to influence society, the Overman should be capable of both affirming and denying—he should have the integrity to stand for his ideals, and the wisdom to compromise, collaborate, and cooperate. Thus, Nietzsche’s Overman has an antinomic character—he is a man of ideals and a man of wisdom. He is not like the individualistic, singleminded, and alienated protagonists in Ayn Rand’s novels—Howard Roark and John Galt—who will walk over corpses for transforming their society into a Randian utopia. I see Ayn Rand as a naive (and totalitarian) thinker who was convinced that history moves through the thoughts and actions of the Overmen whose supreme talent, power, knowledge, and determination made them unstoppable by the lesser specimens of humanity. Her conception of the Overman is more extreme and unworkable than the Overman of Nietzsche’s conception.

Multinational Corporations Are “Quasi-Private” Property

The multinational companies are not private property; they are “quasi-private” property, which is the property that symbolizes political power—they are part of the global ruling class, the geopolitical establishment. I make this assertion based on four reasons: first, these companies have a turnover higher than the GDP of most small and middle sized countries; second, as they operate in multiple countries, some of which are democracies, while others have a communist system or a Middle East type theocratic system, they tend to develop a globalist worldview which sees no difference between democracy and totalitarianism; third, they are managed by massive bureaucracies which are as secretive, insular, and agenda driven as the bureaucracies in government institutions; fourth, they possess too much political and legal clout, and they often violate the rights of citizens and small businesses. In the methods that they adopt for growing their business, the multinationals give an open display of their fascist tendencies. In democratic countries, they lobby for regulation and government intervention; while they posses the legal and political clout to navigate through the regulatory environment, the small and medium sized businesses do not—and when the small and medium sized businesses are decimated, the multinationals gain monopolistic control over the market. I am not saying that the governments should intervene to regulate the operations of the multinationals, because if the politicians and bureaucrats get involved they are certain to further worsen the situation. But a way has to be found to denude the multinationals of their immense political power.