#141: The Infantilized Electorate and the Nanny Mind

July 17, 2018

We’re all familiar with the current phenomenon of so-called “snowflakes” who run and hide in “safe spaces” when they hear opinions not their own. They get really “upset” and need to have a good cry. We’re told, rightly, that this is at least partly an effect of university “social justice warrior” indoctrination. But this way of putting it fails to make clear why the indoctrination works so well. I suggest that it does because these students suffer from an emotional arrested development coming from both their parents and the culture at large, an arrested development which makes them natural soil for “social warrior” indoctrination.

But why is this happening? I suspect that it is an inevitable by-product of the recognition on the part of businesses and marketing agencies that women are the majority spenders in the society. And, like it or not, a huge number of women see the world through the eyes of children; and a huge number of women want someone, a father or a husband or a government or even a pimp to protect and provide for them and their offspring. And the marketers have recognized that a huge number of women are vulnerable to the narrative of the fragility of children both physically and psychologically. There is a lot of money in the issues of “the child.” Books written about them sell in the millions, talk shows endlessly deal with them, and manufacturers make money selling every conceivable child protective gadget. The market likes a child centered society. All of this leads the world being perceived as a schoolyard. 

I’ve focused in the past on how the Infantilization of culture is to be seen in the language used in television news media. I wrote in #103:

“…the sentimentalization of our language. Apparently, the world no longer contains any “mothers” or “fathers,” they were, apparently, replaced during some starless night by a whole new cadre of “mums” and “dads.” This is as true for bad mothers and fathers as it is for good ones. Nancy Grace recently made a point of referring to Casey Anthony, a woman charged with killing her infant daughter, as the “tot mom.” The crazed woman who produced eight children was known as the “octomom.” So, these days, even a possible child murderess is a “mom.” A self-aggrandizing mental case who tries to make an industry out of procreation is still a “mom.” Men, on the other hand, who don’t pay child support payments are known as “deadbeat dads.”

And the chance of war is called “scary” rather than frightening, while external enemies are referred to as “bullies.” This is the language of the schoolyard.

This is the Oprahfied mass consuming herd and it understands the world from the perspective of the schoolyard. I call this the perspective of the “nanny mind.”  Mrs. Smith, Mrs, Smith, Jimmy said something mean and then Sammy said something bad back to him! Mrs. Smith, make them stop, please! (crying)

It’s bad and sad enough that this occurs in the popular media which amplify and distribute this infantilization of discourse, but it is more than that, it is downright dangerous.

Watching news coverage of Donald Trump since the 2016 election is truly sobering. Of course, we already know the derangement to be found there, but look more closely.

The really frightening part is that even apparently sober commentators seem aware of what the listening public expects, and what that public expects is certain things have to be said and that other things are “just too horrible” to have said. It’s all about talk. But the world does not move this way or that way because of talk. The world does not, but the schoolyard does.

This phenomenon is nowhere more visible than in the recent Trump/Putin news conference in Helsinki. The screaming scribblers (and even some normally sober talking heads) are enraged that Trump did not publicly brace Putin on his various crimes and misdemeanours. The only adult I heard was Rand Paul, whose words I summarize this way: Oh please, grow up!

Other than Paul, none of them asked the critical question: Exactly what would the objective have been in bracing Putin in that venue, given that the reason for the meeting was to de-escalate tensions between the two largest nuclear powers in the world?

Would the world have been a safer place because Trump got as tough on Putin as Obama who told him to “cut it out.” Yeah, boy, that would’ve put the Kremlin strongman in his place! Yeah!

He should have said this and he should have said that and why did he say this and … and … and …

The whole thing is so tooth-achingly stupid that were it not so dangerous, it would be utterly laughable.

Karl Marx believed in underlying laws of historical development. He was wrong about that. But this does not entail that we cannot see definite forces at play and see their at least their short-term destinations.

As long as the nanny mind is the dominant target in marketing, the society will lurch towards Socialism, and, inevitably, that Socialism will go broke. But since capitalism, together with universal suffrage, leads inescapably to the dominance of the nanny mind, we cannot help but conclude that there can be no stable democratic economic system. They all lurch towards Socialism, and beyond that to bankruptcy and starvation.

The West needs an adult electorate, but the forces at play do not work in that direction.

 

 

 

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#140: The EU, Nationalism, Imperialism, and Multi-Culturalism

May 30, 2018

We cannot understand the politics of current Europe without appreciating this critical fact, namely that Socialism in every one of its forms is inherently imperialistic.

This is camouflaged by the fact that post WW II Leftists have identified two culprits in history’s most recent horrors: nationalism and imperialism (aka now as “colonialism”). Modern political convenience made them parse imperialism as exclusively governance by force of non-contiguous (distant) culturally distinct regions and populations. This was partly so that they could agitate third-world populations and their widely distributed descendants, but also to distract attention from the bothersome fact that they were themselves imperialistic. But clearly empires were not only based on distant colonies.

Really, any European not ideologically blinded should find it hard to miss from where he is standing that Socialism is itself intrinsically imperialistic. And further, realizing that, failing some very harsh medicine, it is fated inevitably to disintegrate. But why?

The problem that empires encounter is that culturally distinct populations resent and resist governance from a distance. This is true even when the culturally distinct populations are geographically contiguous. This is called nationalism and it leads to revolution, sometimes afar and sometimes quite close.

This means that the Left’s public position on nationalism and imperialism is not quite as represented. The Left is so hostile to nationalism not because it leads to horrors such as those found in Nazism, but because nationalism is imperialism’s deadliest foe. And Socialism is an imperialism!

Most Socialist (read: Communist) nations have actually recognized this fact and have attempted to deal with the problem by forcibly “re-educating” or culturally homogenizing their populations.

Karl Popper famously accused Plato of fascism in The Republic because he argued that the perfect state could only be achieved if it were begun with young children, the parents having been eliminated. The children could then be properly “educated” into perfect citizens.

The Jacobins of the French Revolution sought to erase the ancien regime partly by elimination (the clergy and the aristocracy) and partly by an enforced newly minted culture of their own devising.

The Bolshevik Russians followed the same recipe, as did the Chinese in their own “cultural revolution.”

This strategy has been successful to varying degrees. Czarism remains beneath the surface in Russia in various mutated forms. Catholicism and Confucianism remains beneath the surface in China in various mutated forms, not to mention its problems with the various resisting minorities on its peripheries.

But, as we know, Europe has opted for its famous “third way” governance, “Social Democracy,” which abjures the use of force in governance. Yet, failing forcible cultural cleansing, Socialism faces exactly the same disintegrative forces faced by the conventional distant empires of the past, and this applies precisely to the EU.

Brexit was no accident. Norway and Switzerland never joined. Italy is threatening to leave, and Hungary and Poland are telling Brussels to get lost. There should be no surprise about this. It is happening precisely where Europe’s most dramatic imperial death took place, that of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The EU is nothing but a Social-Democrat attempt at empire along the Hapsburg line, namely the governance of culturally distinct but geographically contiguous populations without cultural cleansing. The Hapsburgs did not attempt to make all their contiguous “colonies” become Austrian, they allowed them to retain their local cultures. For this reason, we can say that both the Hapsburg empire and the EU are today’s multi-culturalism writ large upon a continent.

We’ve seen how the Hapsburgs fared. We’ve seen how all the conventional empires fared.

The leaders of the EU knew quite well the problem that they faced and they knew quite well that the measures implemented by Communist nations were not available to them. And so they embarked on another, new, strategy to combat nationalism, the threat to their imperialism. It’s very clever.

Their strategy applied exactly the same force that was threatening their empire-in-the-making against their nation-state constituents. Here’s how.

Multi-culturalism in the form of different nation-states was threatening EU disintegration. So the EU leaders decided to force multi-culturalism upon the nation-states themselves to dissolve their unity, hence neutralizing them.

This is the entire point of the EU government’s insisting that member states take in massive doses of third world migrants.

What we’re seeing are culturally cohesive nation-states who are members of an empire insisting on their cultural distinctiveness to govern themselves, while the empire attempts to erase their cultural distinctiveness so as to gain hegemony over them.

A hell of a fight.


#139: Gettier Counter-Example Lessons [Warning: Boring Philosophy]

April 30, 2018

[These are reflections really only relevant to people of the Epistemology persuasion — my apologies to all others.]

I: Providing Context

From about 1900 on philosophical conceptual analysis increasingly took on a very specific form. Instead of leaving it to our intuitions to determine the “meaning” of a concept, philosophers left any reference to “meaning” behind and became interested instead in what had to be true in order for a particular concept to be properly applied.

A classic instance of such an analysis is that of the justified-true-belief account of the concept of knowledge.

According to the JTB:

S knows that p if and only if

      1. p is true,
      2. S believes that p, and
      3. S is justified in believing that p.

The new method had the distinct advantage of avoiding all sorts of vexatious questions associated with talking about “meanings.” It also had the advantage of specifying exactly how a criticism of an account is to take place, viz. by way of a “counter-example.”

A counter-example, as the expression indicates, is a case, real or fictitious, in which an account fails either by being too demanding (it has too many conditions or too constraining conditions), on the one hand, or by being not demanding enough (requiring an additional condition(s)).

The JTB was considered a rock-solid analysis, a model of the method, until a very short paper was published by Edmund Gettier in 1963. Gettier argued that the JTB is deficient in that the three conditions while necessary were not sufficient. He argued this by providing a counter-example to the classic account, an example in which the three conditions were satisfied, but putatively S did not know.

His argument is instructive for our discussion of the method of philosophical analysis. He provides, in fact, two counter-examples, though I’ll only cite his “case 2” as both are based on the same strategy.

Here’s case 2:

“Let us suppose that Smith has strong evidence for the following proposition:

  1. Jones owns a Ford.

Smith’s evidence might be that Jones has at all times in the past within Smith’s memory owned a car, and always a Ford, and that Jones has just offered Smith a ride while driving a Ford. Let us imagine, now, that Smith has another friend, Brown, of whose whereabouts he is totally ignorant. Smith selects three place names quite at random and constructs the following three propositions:

  1. Either Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Boston.
  2. Either Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Barcelona.
  3. Either Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Brest-Litovsk.

Each of these propositions is entailed by (f). Imagine that Smith realizes the entailment of each of these propositions he has constructed by (f), and proceeds to accept (g), (h), and (i) on the basis of (f). Smith has correctly inferred (g), (h), and (i) from a proposition for which be has strong evidence. Smith is therefore completely justified in believing each of these three propositions, Smith, of course, has no idea where Brown is.

But imagine now that two further conditions hold. First Jones does not own a Ford, but is at present driving a rented car. And secondly, by the sheerest coincidence, and entirely unknown to Smith, the place mentioned in proposition (h) happens really to be the place where Brown is. If these two conditions hold, then Smith does not know that (h) is true, even though (i) (h) is true, (ii) Smith does believe that (h) is true, and (iii) Smith is justified in believing that (h) is true.”

The strategy is this:

It is to construct examples in which a proposition (h in the above, the one supposedly known) is validly derived from a false, though justified, proposition f, but because h can be true under more than one condition, it is in fact true, though accidentally so.

I chose Case 2 because the “known” proposition (h) is a disjunction (an “or” proposition) and it is obvious with disjunctions that they can be true under more than one circumstance.

The Gettier examples rely on the following:

  1. That a proposition can be well justified even though false;
  2. That justification is transferred through entailment.
  3. That there are propositions which can be true under various different circumstances.

II: What Should We Conclude from these Cases?

Now, the two Gettier cases have been taken to mean that the JTB account of knowledge is defective because it fails to exclude the cases. I want to suggest that that is not the significance of the cases; rather, I think it points to a problem with this method of analysis.

In both of his cases, Gettier simply assumes that the conclusion must be that his protagonist does not know the proposition in question and that we will automatically agree with that. And it is critically important that we do agree, for without that, the counter-example fails. However, I don’t want to suggest that he does know the proposition; rather I want us to ask ourselves what our own intuitions are about the case he presents. Note that it is a highly artificial case based on a logical trick. Given that, my own intuition is that I want to respond that I have no idea what this example implies with respect to knowledge.

The clear uses of words allow for confident responses, but things get murky as we move away from the center. And this is not a case of a vagueness built into a word, like it is with the word “heap.” In “heap,” we have a vague band between “yes” and “no,” but “no” is ultimately reached. In the Gettier case of knowledge, we are not moving towards uncertainty by tiny increments, not knowing exactly where “knowledge” definitely ends; no, we are given a bizarre, contrived example for which we are not prepared by natural language or intuition, so we really cannot say “no.”

With the Gettier case, we like an ornithologist confronted by a winged, flying pig. Ok, we say to our ornithologist, is it a bird? He would, should, say I have no idea.

Does my belief that a square has four sides count as knowledge? Yes. Does my belief that the sun is 93 million miles from the earth? Yes. But does Smith’s belief that Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona? I have no idea. The word “knowledge” as I learned to use it was never applied to such a case.

Thus, the only way in which the Gettier cases can be made to count as counter-examples to the JTB is if we make the assumption that analyses of the JTB kind must be proof against examples outside the core of normal natural language uses. But why would we make such an assumption?

I think it is because a number of very influential philosophers had a mostly unspoken model of language in which our ordinary usage was no more than a clue to an underlying, concealed perfect language which did indeed consist of universally applicable concepts. The ancient version of this fairy tale was Plato’s theory of Ideas, while the modern one is that of “logically perfect language.” According to this notion, a conceptual analysis must be proof against any counter-example, no matter how foreign to our natural language mastery. I suggest that this is a bar too high, set perhaps with one eye on the physical sciences where observed phenomena are used as signs of underlying natural laws.

A more plausible model, perhaps, would be that of the law, where the prosecution’s claim must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Not beyond any doubt, no matter how contrived. So, the prosecutors in the O.J. Simpson murder trial did not have to prove to the jury that aliens from another planet did not kill Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman in order to make their case; this was a doubt too far, they only had to dismiss reasonable doubts (i.e. doubts for which there was at least some evidence).

In a similar way, if conceptual analysis is to be continued, an analysis can fairly be only expected to be proof against any intuitively recognizable counter-example, but not more than that.


#138: What Can We Learn from the German Revolution?

April 26, 2018

I

Most everyone in the Western world knows that there was an American Revolution (1775-1783) and a French Revolution (1789-1799). The continental nineteenth century had a number of lesser known, smaller, unsuccessful revolutions in 1848.

Virtually unknown in the West, there was the Chinese revolution in 1911.

And then there was the important Russian Revolution of 1917, which was, in fact, two revolutions, one in February and one in October, which led to the murderous reign of the Bolsheviks.

The most recent revolution, however, was the German Revolution which began in October of 1918, just one year after the Bolsheviks took power in Russia; which rejected monarchical rule and replaced it with a presidential parliamentary democracy.

On a side note, outrageously, the neurotic imbecile Kaiser Wilhelm II was allowed to go into exile on November 10, to Holland, where he lived in comfort until June, 1941, and where he died in his bed at the age of 82. Nicholas II, on the other hand, his cousin and one of the other co-conspirators in the catastrophic debacle that was WW I, was murdered along with his entire family in July 1918. As in Wilhelm’s case, his sin seems to have been entirely culpable stupidity. King George V, another cousin and co-conspirator, also lived past the end of the war, and remained King till the age of 70. Maybe this was just a bit less outrageous than Wilhelm’s case since Britain was a constitutional monarchy during WW I and the king really had very little influence. The fourth conspirator was the semi-senile dotard Franz Josef of Austria, who had the good manners to die in the middle of the war, 1916, at the indecent old age of 86. Millions of others were consigned to much harsher destinies than any of these.

Back to Germany, the new democracy was based in the German Enlightenment city of Weimar, home to Goethe, among others. It’s first chancellor was Friedrich Ebert, leader of the Social Democrat Party.

While there was nothing here quite like the excesses of the French Revolution, the German one was scarcely “bloodless” and there is much to learn today from this most recent Revolution. While the events of the revolution and the details of the Weimar Republic’s efforts to govern during the following decade are daunting in complexity, this much is evident.

The forces at play were:

  1. The Social Democrat Party (SDP)
  2. The Spartacist Party, supported by the Bolsheviks (meddling in German politics)
  3. The army and a reactionary population which, while enraged at the monarchy for the outcome of the war, were still committed to authoritarian rule.

And here are some thoughts on how that revolution is interesting today.

First, and most obvious, the Russians have clearly had the habit of meddling in other countries’ elections and politics since their own revolution. No surprises here.

Second, the Socialists were split then along lines similar to ours today. The SDP was the centrist Democrat party of the 1950s and 60s; the Spartacists were today’s followers of Bernie Sanders. Just like today’s ANTIFAs and BLMs, the Spartacists were happy to use violence to try to achieve their ends. Since the SDP followers were unwilling to brawl in the streets, the SDP made the ill-considered and fateful decision to enlist the army and non-government militias to maintain order. Well, we know how that turned out.

Third, while today’s Left would very much like to paint Trump’s conservative middle-class supporters as today’s version of the 1918 German reactionary population, this is where the historical analogy fails. Nonetheless, even while failing, there is a very important insight to be had here.

II

While political power can be taken by force, the real objective of a revolution, whether totalitarian or democratic, is for it to become permanent. The most common strategy for this has been to erase the preceding culture in an attempt to normalize the new order; the French tried this, the Russians tried this, and the Chinese tried this. While these efforts have definitely altered the cultures involved, they have not had the effect of safeguarding regimes. As it turns out, the only two things which safeguard a regime are giving the population what it wants (usually bread and circuses), on the one hand, and severe repressive power, on the other.

The American revolution aside, we find that populations accustomed to autocratic absolutist government often return to it. Populations are fickle; the political history of post-revolution France proves this if nothing else.

The French had their popular revolution in 1789 with its exercise of democratic mob murder, but soon enjoyed having autocracy back in the person of the Emperor Napoleon. They gave up Louis XVI and the Bourbon line only to embrace Napoleon and the Bonaparte line. Then they tried democracy for a while, only to follow it with a second emperor Napoleon. Through the following decades, France lumbered back and forth between autocracy and democracy. France is now enjoying its fifth republic (fifth constitution). Who knows how long it will last?

The Russians gave up Nicholas II and the Romanov line in the Feb revolution, only to embrace Lenin and Stalin and their successors in the October revolution. The USSR has since disappeared, but little has changed for the average Russian: Russian aristocrats have just been exchanged for Russian oligarchs and oppression is arguably worse than it was under the czars.

In the German revolution, circumstances allowed for a democratic republic, only to see the population embrace absolutism again in the decade following 1933, when General von Hindenburg, long past his best-before date, allowed himself to be persuaded to make Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany.

George W. Bush, a good son of the American founding vision, could not imagine a population that would not be ecstatic to be self-governing. Iraq raises questions on this thesis. I think that a closer look at history might have suggested to him that people are far more open to autocratic rule than he thought was possible.

What do we learn from this?

That populations really do not care so much how they are governed so long as their needs, their wants, and their prejudices are satisfied.

Where any of these three are significantly absent, and where autocratic power does not prevent it, the people will revolt.


#137: The Enlightenment Revolution and its Grandchildren

November 4, 2017

I

I’ve mentioned in a number of earlier posts that it is the inescapable destiny of popular, democratic revolutions to be successfully hijacked by tyrannical internal forces. The usual suspects come to mind, of course: the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the German Revolution. I don’t mention the American Revolution since, as I have previously argued, it was not, strictly speaking, a “revolution” at all, rather a case of colonial irredentism.

I’m returning to this theme because of I’ve been reading Peter Gay’s The Enlightenment. The reading chair in my tiny home office is right next to a couple of book cases holding the rather sad remainder of what was once a pleasantly large library. But still, being retired allows me the luxury to read whatever strikes my fancy. Settling down in my reading chair to wallow in a trashy mystery, my eye settled on the Gay book, which I didn’t remember reading, but which looked like an enticing read. Which it has turn out to be, complete with old notes, which I don’t remember making.

Gay is a superbly well-read enthusiast of the Enlightenment, and he attempts to be fair to the many criticisms that have been leveled against it during both the 19th and 20th centuries. Nonetheless, he fails to appreciate that the Enlightenment was, in fact, a single revolution taking place over the space of 200 years that culminated in the murderous paroxysm that began in 1789. This is the more odd since he paints the philosophes as perceiving themselves as (drum roll) revolutionaries. More specifically, they saw themselves as being at war with religion (which they branded “superstition”) and the various cultures from which they themselves had emerged. So, how is it that we have someone like Gay showing himself such a fan of the philosophes when they are the precursors of the Terror?

Now, if the principle with which I began is true (and I have seen no counter-examples), then Gay should have been on the lookout for signs of the totalitarianism which seems the inevitable legacy of revolution. To be honest, I haven’t finished the book yet, so he might still get to that.

II

But there’s no mystery here. The 17th and 18th century Enlightenment was the incubator of modern totalitarian Socialism (aka “communism”). And what lies at the heart of all these totalitarian take-overs is a forced detachment from cultural/historical antecedents, the erasure of the ancien regime, a forced move from a despised culture to no culture at all.

Edmund Wilson, in his history of Socialism (“To the Finland Station”), traces Socialism back to the French Revolution, where the principle I’m proposing had already made itself felt in the Jacobins. But the theoretical underpinnings of that revolution did not emerge suddenly as from the head of Zeus, nor had they been churning unperceived beneath the European surface. The French Revolution’s theoretical underpinnings had been proposed, debated, evolved, and refined during the two preceding centuries. The Jacobins stood on the shoulders of the philosophes, who were the early generals and strategists of the Enlightenment Revolution.

The scientists and intellectual dilettantes of the French 18th century whom Gay so admires can easily be enjoyed for their wit, their creativity, even their eccentricities. We forgive them much, at least partly because we’ve been taught to do so. We smile at Voltaire’s excesses just as so many smile at Bill Clinton’s. They’re charming, glib bad boys, and just oh so clever. But we wouldn’t be so happy to give them a pass if we reviewed their antics within the shadow of the guillotine. Reading Gay helps make it clear why we don’t notice Robespierre’s face peering out from the background of Gay’s cheerful group photo of the philosophes. It is because the philosophes had not yet taken that fatal revolutionary step right out of history. Yes, they sought to detach themselves from their Christian heritage, but like so many moving into divorce, they had another lover waiting in the wings. The philosophes divorced Christianity, but they were able to do so because they had the writers of classical antiquity ready to take its place. The Jacobins, on the other hand, divorced all of their history and culture, and it is this that finally made the Terror possible. It is this which distinguishes the philosophes from the vicious and murderous ideologues of 1789 and which obscures the direct line of descendancy leading to them.

And yes, it can seem a small price to pay, that of having a bad boy, to have someone very clever at the helm of government. But we must ask ourselves what the consequences will be of increasingly staffing our universities, our courts, and our government institutions with such charming, glib bad boys. Bad boys who hate the culture which nurtured them, on which they feed, and from which they emerge.

The EU is one grandchild of the Enlightenment Revolution. How’s that been working?

The American Democratic Party is another grandchild of the Enlightenment Revolution. How’s that been working?

The Enlightenment Revolution was an irresponsible parent (what else would we expect?), so there are yet other grandchildren mucking about, all illegitimate and all still waiting for parental support which will never come. Revolutions lead to tyrannies, which lead to slavery, poverty, and starvation for their citizens.

III

But while bashing the Enlightenment may be a necessary antidote to its excesses, one can hardly argue against its one utterly overwhelming benefit: Science. And by “science,” I mean the “natural” sciences, not the jumped-up pseudo disciplines with the borrowed authority of statistics, i.e. the “social sciences.” Lest someone doubt me here, let me indicate that a recent study by a social scientist claimed to demonstrate that around 75% of “published studies” in social psychology and cognitive psychology are not replicable. I wonder if his own study was replicable and whether he sensed some irony here. I tend to think the situation is likely worse for sociology and whatever other invented disciplines are littering the university scene.

Yes, science and math have made astonishing progress and are accelerating at an apparently exponential rate. This is fabulous and must be acknowledged and admired (which I do).

The problem arises only when, as is inevitable, the methods which have proven powerful and successful in one arena are aggressively applied in others where they simply do not work.

There is an enormous amount of money now involved in natural science, and natural science has carried tremendous prestige for a long time.

A situation such as this is like the smell of fresh meat to a scavenger.

The natural sciences have attracted wanna-be disciplines looking to cash in on the natural sciences’ successes. They want to create departments, to increase their staffing and their budgets. Hence they tart up their names by adding “science.” We now have political “science.” Really? Maybe we’ll eventually have philosophical “science,” as well. And we wind up with idiocies like departments of “theory.” Shouldn’t that have been “theoretical science”?

But, worse, the prestige of the natural sciences attracts political and social scavengers who actually burrow into the periphery of real natural science from which position they attempt to affect public policy. Their “scientific” camouflage is the use of computer models and simulations. That’s pretty “scientific,” right? How well has this “scientific” method worked in, say, economics? But we should accept its hysterical results in the Global Warming scam. Right. The social “sciences” per se could be thought of as harmless enough wastes of public money, and if they were satisfied to remain that, I suppose we could tolerate them on campuses. But sadly they have become the instruments of governments and other enormous interests to manipulate public opinion into supporting policies completely incompatible with common sense. We should be very wary of these pseudo-sciences.

This all means that once science became rich and successful, it became a target for parasites. Should come as no surprise. See what happens if you win $50 million.

Now, these are the dishonest attendants on wealth and success, but there is one other that seems to be built right into human nature.

It is that people are naturally inclined to extend a new method that has proven successful beyond its place of discovery and to think of it as the final solution for all human problems. Descartes, for example, invented analytic geometry, an extraordinary achievement. Since he was, among other things, one of the earliest physicists, he immediately thought he could use it to represent motion. Unfortunately, he was wrong in this; the representation of motion had to await the invention of calculus by both Newton and Leibniz (separately). This impulse to extend the method is also behind the attempt to approach non-quantitative empirical problems and questions with “science.” It was certainly present among the 18th century philosophes.

Those whose imaginations are totally in the grip of scientific method often feel compelled to despise the organically grown culture within which they live. This was largely true of the philosophes and it is largely true of many modern intellectuals, e.g. Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens.

The really difficult thing to do is to accept the amazing progress and discoveries of natural science while accepting the universe of inherited myths and values within which we live.

A prudent first step in this is to reject all attempts at persuasion on moral matters based on “social science studies.”


#136: Feeling the Old Age Paradox

October 27, 2017

If one is at, say, one’s 40th birthday, then one is not old.

No one would say that one is. Nor would one be old the next day. Or the day after. The reason is that one’s age status doesn’t change on the basis of one day more-or-less. However, if one adds, say, 12,320 days, making one 75, then on is old. But 12,320 days are just that many individual days no one of which is capable of changing one’s age status. The big group of days can’t have a property not owned by any of its constituents.

This means that at age 75 one has a property that one didn’t have when one was 40 and never acquired since then. How is this possible? It would seem that either we were old at 40 or we are not old at 75. We can’t have oldness at 75 without having acquired it at some point.

This is a paradox. Call it the “Old Age Paradox.” A paradox occurs when two equally compelling beliefs are incompatible. Most commonly, paradoxes involve an incompatibility between a belief of which one is intuitively certain and a belief which is the conclusion of some apparently sound argument. What makes it a paradox is that it seems that one must abandon one of the beliefs, but one is still equally committed to both. Psychologists call this state of mind “cognitive dissonance.” Students of philosophy will recognize the Old Age Paradox as an instance of the “Heap” or “Sorites” paradox.

I don’t think that this paradox is best for introducing paradoxes to young people, there are others in which the dissonance is much more obvious and immediate.

Yet, there is a feature to the Old Age Paradox that I don’t detect in others.

Logical paradoxes are mostly contrived, one doesn’t encounter them in the course of ordinary life. But the Old Age Paradox puzzles almost everyone who actually gets old whether philosophically inclined or not.

Of course, most everyone who gets old bemoans that fact. But it’s not this that I’m after here; it’s that almost everyone is puzzled with respect to when it happened.

I remember my mother telling me that when she looked in a mirror (in her 70s), that she couldn’t understand when it happened. There was the usual emotional component, but there was also a distinct, identifiable cognitive component. “I was young,” she said, “and now I’m old. When did it happen, how did it happen”? She really couldn’t understand how it could have happened without her noticing that it had. Yet, it had. Her puzzlement was exactly the one found in the Old Age Paradox.

I couldn’t answer her question then, and now I find myself puzzled in exactly the same way. And I still can’t answer the question.

The Old Age Paradox may be unique in being a natural and inevitable experiential moment built right into the human condition.


#135 The Public Apology App (PAP)

October 20, 2017

As we all know, technological change often brings with it unanticipated cultural change and attendant challenges. Generally, those challenges are themselves met with novel technological advances. This is no less true for our current struggles with the new social media technology. While the social media revolution has presented new challenges, those challenges have often been overcome by new software in the form of … apps.

Like many beauty pageant contestants and political science majors, I want to make a difference. I also want to make the world a better place. In keeping with those objectives, I offer the following proposal for a clearly needed new app.

I call it the Public Apology Application (or “PAP”).

I have noticed that more and more people on Twitter particularly have been asked to make public apologies and recantments for their obviously heartfelt beliefs and sentiments. Almost universally, those people have complied. In older days, the public apology was restricted to large powerful institutions, such as governments. Social media such as Twitter have thankfully democratized this much needed societal instrument. What was once only available to large entities such as the Soviet Union under Stalin (and is still used by North Korea and China), is now finally available to the people. My app would go even further in making the task of public self-abasement easier. This is what the app would offer.

Both boiler-plate and custom apologies.

A boiler-plate apology would be something like this:

If any of my statements, actions, or habitual behaviors have unintentionally given pain or offense to anyone, I want to make it absolutely clear how very, very sorry I am that they have had to feel this way. My statements, actions, and habitual behaviors in no way represent my true beliefs or attitudes and have all been either misinterpreted, taken out of context, or were the result of the use of prescribed drugs. Or my struggles with deep personal problems or addictions. Or other matters beyond my control. Anyways, I’m really sorry. Really sorry. That they feel this way.

All apologies could, of course, be edited and the audience base adjusted. Thus, an apology could be restricted to some predefined message address database (email, messaging, twitter accounts, etc.) or it could be addressed to the world at large.

The apologies could also be titrated for degree of personal humiliation: I am sorry, I am so sorry, I am so very sorry, my sorriness goeth beyond all belief, I am beneath contempt, OMG I am so awful, etc.

My plan includes having the app available in both a free (with advertisements) version and a premium version (no advertisements). The premium version would also allow for larger apology scripts up to five typed pages in length along with an inventory of professionally done scripts written by ex-presidential speech writers.

I sincerely believe that this app would be a genuine contribution to the great goal of making the world a better place and am confident that if it were implemented, I would indeed have made a difference. And I apologize most sincerely if my efforts have unintentionally caused anyone any pain, discomfort, anxiety, nervous tic, digestive disorder, or unhappy thought. Sorry. Really.