i'll be doing my anti-left-right-spectrum thing this friday at the european and american philosophy conference at the fordham law school up near lincoln center. noon in room 3-01. it may well irritate people, but you never know.
i'll be doing my anti-left-right-spectrum thing this friday at the european and american philosophy conference at the fordham law school up near lincoln center. noon in room 3-01. it may well irritate people, but you never know.
alright, i'm grappling fairly seriously with poe's eureka. it is brilliant.
a few remarks about genre. there is evidently a theory abroad that it's some kind of parody or satire of a scientific paper. not at all. he called it a "prose poem", which really is a joke with a point. it is a completely serious and extremely profound essay in natural philosophy. and it is a very serious scientific treatise by someone who knows himself not to be a working astronomer or physicist, but who has assiduously studied the available writings of those who are. it is fully, pointedly, rational, and systematically presents arguments and proofs.
now, there is a fair amount of religious language, but it is used to express physical laws and events. i'm not saying poe didn't believe in god, but the god he uses here is a deist god, or is explicitly identified with the physical laws of the universe. if the religious language was read out completely, it would still work beautifully, but also there is a sincere undertow that betrays a certain profundity. understand that he's writing in america in 1848, alright? you're going to have to do some translation.
i am going to do a long entry on his method and epistemology, which are extremely sharp and interesting. also i will just remark that the metaphysics and the epistemology are similar to mine in entanglements (forthcoming). i think it is one of the great american philosophical essays.
one question that robinson is asking in the nyrb piece and that others have asked is whether it anticipates bang-and-crunch cosmology. oh yes it does. but there is more. i don't know why i'm always talking about physics when i don't actually know very much about it. but some things are pretty frigging obvious. so, consider the 'cosmological principle' in 20th c physics.
In modern physical cosmology, the cosmological principle is the notion that the distribution of matter in the Universe is homogeneous and isotropic when viewed on a large enough scale, since the forces are expected to act uniformly throughout the Universe, and should, therefore, produce no observable irregularities in the large scale structuring over the course of evolution of the matter field that was initially laid down by the Big Bang. (Wikipedia)
(then they go on, sadly, to define it in terms of observers. poe is aware that he is trying to describe the distribution of matter in the universe, not his own or someone else's mental images. i don't figure he deserves a lot of credit for that; physicists' mistaking their own discipline for psychology seems like an extremely difficult mistake to make.) but anyway, not only does poe formulate it, he formulates it beautifully. and he is arguing for it on the grounds of spherical expanding universe originating at an infinitely dense point of unity. in 1848. he calls what makes it bang a 'divine volition', partly to signal that his own explanation runs out there. here is poe:
I mean to say that our solar system is to be understood as affording a generic instance of these agglomerations [other solar systems, galaxies, and so forth], or, more correctly, of the ulterior conditions at which they arrived. . . . We shall be inclined to think that no two stellar bodies in the Universe -- whether suns, planets or moons -- are particularly, while all are generally, similar. Still less, then, can we imagine any two assemblages of such bodies -- any two "systems" -- as having more than a general resemblance. (It is not impossible that some unlooked-for optical improvement may disclose to us, among innumerable varieties of systems, a luminous sun, encircled by luminous and non-luminous rings, within and without and between which, revolve luminous and non-luminous planets, attended by moons having moons -- and even these latter again having moons.) Our telescopes, at this point, thoroughly confirm our deductions. Taking our own solar system, then, as merely a loose or general type of all, we have so far proceeded in our subject as to survey the Universe under the aspect of a spherical space, throughout which, dispersed with merely general equability, exist a number of but generally similar systems.
Let us now, expanding our conceptions, look upon each of these system as in itself an atom; which in fact it is, when we consider it as but one of the countless myriads of systems which constitute the Universe. Regarding all, then, as but colossal atoms, each with the same ineradicable tendency to Unity which characterizes the actual atoms of which it consists -- we enter at once upon a new order of aggregations. The smaller systems, in the vicinity of a larger one, would, inevitably, be drawn into still closer vicinity. A thousand would assemble here; a million there -- perhaps here, again, even a billion -- leaving, thus, immeasurable vacancies in space. And if, now, it be demanded why, in the case of these systems -- of these merely Titanic atoms -- I speak, simply, of an "assemblage," and not, as in the case of the actual atoms, of a more or less consolidated agglomeration: -- if it be asked, for instance, why I do not carry what I suggest to its legitimate conclusion, and describe, at once, these assemblages of system-atoms as rushing to consolidation in spheres -- as each becoming condensed into one magnificent sun -- my reply is that mellonta tauta -- I am but pausing, for a moment, on the awful threshold of the Future. For the present, calling these assemblages "clusters," we see them in the incipient stages of their consolidation. Their absolute consolidation is to come. (this is at page 1323-24 of the library of america poetry and tales)
as explicitly as possible, he argues that the matter is roughly evenly distributed through the universe if you consider it at a large enough scale and so it can be described mathematically, but if you zoom in to any region, you see radically uneven distributions of matter, each local region being unique.
i am often frustrated that my books rarely get reviewed; i know a lot of authors who feel that way. but i did find a nice review of political aesthetics from the journal of aesthetics and art criticism, by paul voice from bennington.
i love the praise, of course, and he praises the book for strengths i do think it has. and i also think that his criticisms poke some of the weak spots. it is true that i have a hard time with the concept of 'the aesthetic'. i certainly have been worrying about it for decades, but even when a student asked me today in my beauty class what i meant by 'aesthetic' (properties, aspects, experiences) i fumbled around. and it does have a tendency to get bigger and bigger until it's not surprising that it engulfs everything. i am not satisfied with the general characterizations of the aesthetic i gave in the book, and i have no pop-up definition. but of course i could and do say something and then something else and so on about it; i don't think it's completely nebulous.
i'm working on a review of a book called british ethical theorists from sidgwick to ewing. admittedly, this is the sort of thing jeeves would hold up in front of his face just to intimidate bertie, and perhaps it is not primarily intended to provide amusement. however, it has got me reading things that i had long neglected or forgotten. i have to say, it's hard to imagine clearer or more solidly-constructed work in ethics than that of h.a. prichard or w.d. ross. one re-discovery: the very excellent five types of ethical theory, by c.d. broad. it is written with extreme confidence and a lot of flair.
when i did the index for obscenity, anarchy, reality in the early '90s, i thought i had invented the comical index, or at least had done the first one in an academic book, or for heaven's sake the first in an academic philosophy book. (you can actually check out the index in the look-inside bit of the amazon page; no one but randy auxier really noticed, though.) but frigging c.d. broad was there ahead of me. some sub-entries:
Bentham, Jeremy; tentatively compared to God, 160
God; may possibly be a Utilitarian, 81-82
Green, T.H.; his power of producing prigs, 144
Hegel, G.F.W.; was a philosophical disaster, 10
Paul, Saint; less widely appreciated than Mr. Charles Chaplin, 173
Russell, Hon. B.A.W.; his inordinate respect for psychoanalysis, 24
Socrates; less widely appreciated than Mr. Charles Chaplin, 173
etc. also this is an artifact of an era when a professor could actually express bold, slashing opinions definitely and amusingly. we long ago transcended that era.
marilynne robinson's essay on edgar allan poe in this month's nyrb is profound. here's an example of the motivations underlying my view that knowledge is merely believing the truth, and does not require any particular sorts of reasons or justifications:
Poe’s mind was by no means commonplace. In the last year of his life he wrote a prose poem, Eureka, which would have established this fact beyond doubt—if it had not been so full of intuitive insight that neither his contemporaries nor subsequent generations, at least until the late twentieth century, could make any sense of it. Its very brilliance made it an object of ridicule, an instance of affectation and delusion, and so it is regarded to this day among readers and critics who are not at all abreast of contemporary physics. Eureka describes the origins of the universe in a single particle, from which “radiated” the atoms of which all matter is made. Minute dissimilarities of size and distribution among these atoms meant that the effects of gravity caused them to accumulate as matter, forming the physical universe.
This by itself would be a startling anticipation of modern cosmology, if Poe had not also drawn striking conclusions from it, for example that space and “duration” are one thing, that there might be stars that emit no light, that there is a repulsive force that in some degree counteracts the force of gravity, that there could be any number of universes with different laws simultaneous with ours, that our universe might collapse to its original state and another universe erupt from the particle it would have become, that our present universe may be one in a series.
All this is perfectly sound as observation, hypothesis, or speculation by the lights of science in the twenty-ﬁrst century. And of course Poe had neither evidence nor authority for any of it. It was the product, he said, of a kind of aesthetic reasoning—therefore, he insisted, a poem. He was absolutely sincere about the truth of the account he had made of cosmic origins, and he was ridiculed for his sincerity. Eureka is important because it indicates the scale and the seriousness of Poe’s thinking, and its remarkable integrity. It demonstrates his use of his aesthetic sense as a particularly rigorous method of inquiry.
right: aesthetic reasoning. might lead you very wrong. but it might lead you very right. and if you think that aesthetics isn't central to science or reason or practices of inquiry or justification, i don't think you've been watching!
speaking of free will, here is the freedom chunk of entanglements, half or so of the ethics chapter of my magnum opusy thing. it does show the range of tones, or good portion of it, in the book, from a phenomenological and first-person account to riffing about louis armstrong to a fairly precise analytic-style argument that free will is not necessary for moral responsibility (an analogue in ethics to my view, also re-argued in entanglements, that justification is not necessary for knowledge). i wouldn't say i try to squarely solve the problem of whether we have free will; i'm trying to re-enrich it. i think an beautifully replete question has been nibbled away to nothing by analytic philosophers.
i realize that i am getting a bit pissy and obsessed, but man i just feel this wigner thing is wacky at a hundred junctures. he defines the "wave functions" that describe the universe as being concerned exclusively with "sense impressions": given an impression of a flash at t, there is x probability of an impression of a flash at t1. oh man i don't even know where to start on this. first of all, i don't believe in sense impressions, and there is a whole theory of perception here which is controversial, unargued, and for which there can be no scientific evidence in my view. i'll send you to j.l. austin's sense and sensibilia: then you can watch the flashes as the idea of sense impressions explodes. but anyway, if you just define science at the outset as being concerned exclusively with sense impressions, you again don't need anything else to establish observer-dependence. only it is an unbelievably wrong characterization of science, or at a minimum one that i believe wigner cannot get anywhere close to establishing.
'i have direct knowledge only of my sensations', writes wigner, at the same moment austin was blowing this up. so, would you say i have no direct knowledge of my cat? or i don't know it's raining; i know only that i am having certain sensations? funny but in the usual case i have no beliefs about, much less knowledge about, my own sensations. but i do know it's raining out there. it is not raining in my head, because little drops of water cannot fall from the sky in my head. here's an assertion: i know that it is raining outside as directly as i can know anything.
materialism, argues wigner, is 'incompatible with quantum theory'. why? because we can doubt the existence of the material world but we can't doubt the existence of our own consciousness and the sense impressions allegedly contained therein. i don't even know where to start here either. that surely has nothing to do with quantum theory; it's just descartes or epistemological foundationalism based on sense contents in a representational theory of mind. i believe this whole position has been exploded within philosophy, but even if it hasn't been, surely we can see that wigner (a) isn't doing science, (b) is deploying uncritically a series of highly problematic philosophical claims, and (c) does nothing at all to defend those claims. (to defend them, if they were not indefensible, would take a whole career.)
i'm going to pull a little physics back out of comment threads to the top. i am in quite the little dialogue with my cousin boaz nash, who is a physicist. the paper by eugene wigner that boaz brings my attention to is a really clear statement of the process by which physicists got from experiments to absolute idealism. of course, in my opinion there is no possible legitimate move from one to the other. i am going to gear some comments to quotes.
"The statement that [something] 'exists' means only that: (a) it can be measured, hence uniquely defined, and (b) that its knowledge is useful for understanding past phenomena and in helping foresee future events."
this is an extremely clear example of what i am complaining about. so, where did eugene wigner get his his theory of existence? it should be completely clear that he brought it to and did not derive it from science: no empirical data bear on this definition of existence at all. also, this is just not what anyone, including eugene wigner, does mean by the claim that something exists. i exist, eugene, can i be measured and uniquely defined? is that what it means to say i exist? (b) is just the pragmatic theory of truth again, and i say that it is wrong. but even if it isn't, it is not any sort of scientific result.
now, wigner came up with a series of important equations for quantum mechanics. but, his definition of 'existence': how much critical scrutiny has he subjected it to? has he considered any objections whatever? not to put too fine a point on it, but is he any more competent to define 'existence' than i am to generate important equations? does he give any argument for this? and is anything else necessary to make the world dependent on consciousness? he is doing philosophy, but carelessly, incompetently, and without any actual work to make the definitions and theories stick. he is so not entitled to these assumptions, and i think that in their absence, none of this other stuff about consciousness and reality follows at all.
if 'exists' means 'can be measured', the observer-dependence of absolutely everything follows immediately, ok? the science is neither here not there.
when a scientist starts defining notions like 'existence', 'truth', 'reality' and so on, they often want to be taken to be sort of informal: like, this is what i practically mean by 'truth', so now let's go on. it's almost like it's a trivial assumption: here's what i'll mean when i say something exists: it can be measured etc. like it's a practical, hands-on characterization of scientific procedure, or the underbrush you have to clear out to get to the actual work. only, no it's not: it's an entire metaphysical theory of the universe for which there is no argument, and it governs the way the results of experiments are formulated. in general, everywhere, this is the problem with science: the assumptions one brings very very often control the results and are very very often accepted uncritically.
honestly, i want all the physicists in the world, starting with hawking, to withdraw these claims immediately in their entirety and go back to what they can actually do. i just kind of wish i was a macarthur genius or a nobel prize winner. then i would publicly demand that the claims of observer-dependence be withdrawn until the totally-destructive objections can be answered. this really is a very long and very bad mistake, i think!
suddenly i have very much warmed to experimental philosophy. once, i was skeptical or even dismissive, for one of the things that very much attracted me to philosophy was that, unlike in many less rigorous disciplines, you could do your research lying in bed, maybe with a bunch of books lying around, maybe not. but however, experimental philosophers are vindicating my theory of knowledge, which, if i'm recalling correctly, is profoundly radical yet mind-humpingly simple. i conclude from this that their research methods are unassailable. k=tb, baby.
one thing i'll say for 'knowledge is merely true belief' that perhaps i didn't say back in the day: it's pretty darn economical, oh, elegant really. i think knowledge is a richer notion than is captured in analytic epistemology. but let's restrict ourselves to an account of 'S (a person) knows that p (a proposition [or something that can be true or false])'. i actually am not quite sure how to value simplicity as a quality of theories; i am not sure that a simpler theory is likelier to be true than a complex one. but S knows that p iff S believes p and p is true (or 'S knows that p iff p and S believes that p') is an extraordinarily simple theory (iff is 'if and only if'), and i assert that it does a surprisingly good job of covering 'the phenomena', which i make out to be the ways the term is centrally or paradigmatically used in ordinary language. that it can do that is what i was arguing in my early papers, and the survey materials lend at least some support to that notion. the simplicity might be compelling at this point because of the baroque refinements to jtb-style approaches post-gettier.
[or, to review: the usual account of knowledge is jtb: justified true belief. obviously, tb is more economical. also, that little j thing or whatever we may call a similar condition, or multiplying conditions, begins to become truly rococo: dude it leads into endless labyrinths, worlds full of barn replicas.]
i generated k=tb in jim cargile's graduate seminar in epistemology at uva in the late 80s. it was explicitly an attempt to display the philosophical power of sheer perversity, a not entirely atypical bit of playful grandstanding: alright, what position is no one taking? i literally built a grid of theories and saw a big hole, and one thing about finding a fissure in the taxonomy like that is that if you jump in, you see a bunch of assumptions other people are making, which you then can try to undermine. but there could have been other perverse approaches and here's why i went for this one: it leans on truth like a mofo. as david sackris and james beebe put it, "bringing about the truth of p is (except in exceptional circumstances) not a task that falls to S. Rather, that 'task' falls to reality" (9). everyone at the time was willing to delete the truth condition; i had a lot of more or less rortyan gard contemporaries. my approach was designed to fit into a reality program. (cargile thought it was ridiculous, but in a great way or just the way i'd hoped: blasphemy! he cried, with a big old smile. also he always called me 'jean-paul'. he gave the final version for the class/first version for the world a 'B+', if i recall.)
another motivation at that moment, however, was that (almost secretly) i was reading kierkegaard, and really, as people sensed when the stuff angered them, i was going to try to derationalize knowledge; i was going to let your faith count as knowledge if its propositional content was true, i was going to encourage you to intuit, i was going to claim that even reason rested on faith, and so on. i was going to argue that there were many sources of knowledge, reason/science being only some, anarchizing epistemology. the main purpose of the papers was to take the sting out of the actual results, to show that it wasn't irrationalist at all. well, maybe it wasn't, necessarily, without some ancillary arguments. i was going to sneak all that up on you after i pulled the rational part out of the conceptual analysis of knowledge.
i did get more convinced of it as time went by; also it was my hobby to go here and there to defend it against various onslaughts, so it provided amusement if nothing else; i did delight in its perversity, or even in the fact that everyone thought it was ridiculous. some people - including some eminent epistemologists - became genuinely angry, which is also not the worst thing in the world necessarily. it was a bit of a performance piece, but people did sincerely think it was absurd. i started touring it to little conferences and stuff as a grad student and had worked it through a million counter-examples before the first version came out in american philosophical quarterly. i certainly had a notion that it would be my little reputation-maker, that i'd be associated with that idea primarily. i'm glad it didn't quite turn out that way, i suppose.
there was a little sensation at the time when the second paper came out in the journal of philosophy, i guess, and i do remember defending the whole thing in front of an angry auditorium at an apa; i remember robert audi getting pretty hostile, e.g. but really, the thing blew over. i think one problem is this: if k=tb, too many problems on which people have spent too much time do not arise. if it were true, it really would mean a lot of the epistemology of the last x decades (again, gettier and after) was barking up the wrong tree. it just had no place in the line of the discourse at that time, is another way to put it. it was one of a number of times i mistakenly thought that people would find it delightful to be provoked.
no one would publish my book on the topic, which must have been profoundly frustrating at the time. they sent it out specifically to be refereed by people who had already attacked the argument in one venue or another. for awhile, they were assigning my papers to grad students at arizona - a big center of analytic epistemology - as an exercise, like a take-home final: what has gone so terribly wrong with this argument? an object-lesson in sophism. i used to get some emails every year or two with refutations from grad students (always on the same predictable lines). i actually didn't hate that; i've always thought the whole thing was a fun little thing to play with, and it came from a grad seminar in the first place, for god's sake.
there has been a trickle of references to it, but really it just dissolved. in a way, that was ok; it let me go on to other things, like the political stuff; otherwise i might have spent a career on it. after some years i got profoundly tired of the same objections and replies, and really wanted to go write about art or something. sriously, for a very long time if i was walking the halls somewhere with a name tag, philosophers would snap their fingers, like 'aren't you that guy?' it got to where i'd be: have you read my stuff on race? i started pretending not to remember my own argument, and then i really started not remembering my own argument.
but i definitely also still feel that this sucker has legs. people are going to keep circling back to it, i think. there are problems, but there are strategies for dealing with them. i think beebe and sackris show some of these better than i did. if i myself were going to return to a defense, i'd need to bone up on my own arguments! also rethink some. also it would need to be put into relation to developments in epistemology since the early '90s, like the 'truth-makers' stuff and timothy williamson's work in epistemology, to which it is interestingly related.
i feel very distant from the person who generated this idea, so maybe if i could be permitted to comment on its strengths? it is still out there as a fundamental challenge. no one has dispensed with it. (people were relieved to regard lycan's attack as decisive. not even close, i say, as beebe and sackris point out. but lycan reviewed the manuscript for one publisher or another.) the fact that many important epistemological problems do not arise if k=tb is right is not necessarily, all things considered, a strike against it. i still endorse it as a theory within limits (man it's going to be a little hard to deal with 'propositions' in my later ontology), but there should at least be a longer line of debate about it.
american philosophical quarterly, knowledge is merely true belief
journal of philosophy, why knowledge is merely true belief
(sorry about paywalls etc; maybe you can get them through jstor if you have a library connection).
frank hofmann, in defense of some sartwellian insights
ken morris, concerning sartwell's minimalist thesis
reflecting back on it, i had an interesting experience in grad school. at hopkins, working on my ma, i took some classes with stanley fish (and also played on his intramural softball and basketball teams!), and then my ph.d. experience at uva centered around rorty. indeed, i first studied rorty (consequences of pragmatism) with fish. now, these were both actually rather funny and ironic men who loved life (well, fish is still that, no doubt). but it was hard to miss a sense of the end: certainly of philosophy, pictured as so tired and over, but vaguely of everything, like western culture and values, meaning, and stuff. also, um, the real world. rorty projected an air of sort-of-amused disappointment that anyone would still go get a ph.d., years after he said the whole thing was over with heidegger. that someone still believed in reality in 1986 just sort of saddened him.
they both also affirmed some form of liberal democracy and other positive values, and these affirmations were sincere and grew more intense as time went on. yet there was always that deflationary wry detachment, that shrug of the shoulders, that well-i-can't-seem-to-think-of-anything-better so, whatever. so that is actually how i think of the postmodern moment, because that was the bit of it i was in. it was attractive in its way, and they were good advertisements for their positions: fundemantally decent people. and yet it all made me want to...begin again.
you just have to find a way to reaffirm or go on after that, right? like you're after the end - even then it was getting longer and longer since the end of art, the death of the author, flies ditching fly-bottles, and so on and so forth: the pomo thinkers declared themselves to be a dead end, which leaves you in a bit of a quandary if you're trying to pull together a dissertation topic under their tutelage. (i think a fair amount of pomo theory could be accounted for by the disappointment of the left in that era, the dreams that ran aground on reagan and thatcher, the obvious evil and decline of communism.) but really if you're after after the end or whatever, you just...go on, don't you? that end shit got boring and odd, like a strange tic or not-quite-right recurrent phrase. and it was the teleological assumptions that these figures brought to bear - which they in turn inherited from their teachers - that brought on the disappointment or even exhaustion.
but i say to you straight up that we have not yet begun to inquire. there is plenty to do. sally forth!
one mark of this period in philosophy is its realism, by which i mean that philosophy in this period is convinced of the existence of a world independent of consciousness (or, let's start with that; believe me i have worked more carefully on formulating this). now one would say it's a return to realism, only guess what? western philosophy has been profoundly and almost continuously anti-realist throughout the modern era. descartes, locke, hume, kant, hegel, husserl: all locked us in a world of ideas and impressions and sensations. carnap constructed a universe out of "auto-psychological objects". hermeneutics and much of pomo phil (rorty, e.g.; but, wittgenstein, derrida), went textual instead of phenomenalist; we build a world from language, which adds a social element. i think of rorty or gadamer as linguistic idealists. baudrillard in a way makes the obvious move, yet again: oh well there's no sense in holding on to this old distinction between simulacra and reality.
but here are some elements of the realist backlash: externalism in philosophy of mind a la andy clark or mark rowlands (well, or me), timothy williamson's epistemology and response to dummett, etc, bruno latour, speculative realism a la graham harman and levi bryant (and now many others), lee smolin arguing that time is real.
i'm reading coming to our senses, by viki mccabe, who is a cognitive psychologist. here's the nut:
this paper by timothy williamson (one of the most eminent contemporary philosophers; i am struggling into his modal logic as metaphysics) is very fascinating. it's a history/memoir about the sneaky and then explicit revival of metaphysics within the analytic tradition, with characters including ayer, strawson, and kripke. in general there's a lot of interesting history of analytic philosophy emerging these days.
williamson writes this about his supervisor at oxford, the anti-realist philosopher of language michael dummett. "He was remarkably tolerant of the strident realism of my thesis, which effectively presupposed the futility of his life's work and pursued other issues from that starting point." that was around 1980. i might have written that sentence about my thesis with rorty, except that i probably at this point wouldn't put quite so much swashbuckle in it. i was a realist - the most extreme realist i could figure out how to be - but in 1988 i was not ready to really do rorty any damage. i am now. but he's not there anymore. but he too was remarkably tolerant, here of my combined anti-rortyanism and incompetence. i have this funny feeling that by 1980, when he was about 25, timothy williamson was fully as formidable as dummett, but i guess one wouldn't know without reading the thesis. i always thought those giant dummett books on frege etc went from awfully precise-seeming to awfully fuzzy-seeming right at the point where the anti-realist conclusions started flowing.
but, all this time, philosophers of the generation after people like dummett and rorty have been yearning in a thousand ways for a return to the real world. i actually think this is intensified by the cyber-world and the screen world and virtual realities etc etc. in that atmosphere people yearn for a real physical environment. sometimes philosophy floats like this: as a negative image of the culture or an expression of its yearnings away from itself.
you know, my academic career has been a struggle. there are many factors in that, which i won't enumerate. but on the other hand i have tenure now and i've always had a job, even though i went into several mays not knowing if i'd be teaching in septembers. i cycled through disciplines; i've been a professor of communications, 'humanities and sciences', political science, 'art and art history' as well as philosophy. i've worked at vanderbilt, alabama, penn, millersville, penn state harrisburg, mica, and dickinson. honestly, all of this was just about trying to hold on. anyway, my kids had health insurance and shit. and what i'm proud of - and which has also partly been made possible by what i think of as my marginal career - is that i really did do whatever i wanted. i wrote exactly what i wanted, and i wrote it in exactly the ways i wanted to write it, and i honestly represented my own experience. i swore to do that after grad school, and i have. i have never not been paid a living wage to do what i wanted to do, including teach. so that is a lot lot to be grateful for. (on the other hand, i still owe 30k in student loans, and i'm 55).
if i could lament one thing about philosophy now, it is that most of it is written in a kind of generic academic voice, and takes up pretty well-defined disciplinary questions of the moment. the good part of that is that it ends up constituting a kind of collective project, even within the constant disagreements that have to be central to the conception of philosophy (it is a discipline of agument, after all). but when i think back on what and who is worth reading in the history of philosophy, it is great big and extraordinarily distinctive voices. surely if you named ten historical philosophers off the top of your head, they would have that quality. even someone like aquinas is remaking as much as instantiating the philosophical/theological discourse he's in, and on the other hand is stunted by all the texts he's trying to venerate and emulate and the institutions that embed him. i think we've lost a lot of that boldness and distinctiveness, and indeed we literally lost it when we lost people like davidson, quine, rorty, danto, baudrillard. this is what i admire about zizek, for example, or latour: they still give that flavor. right now they seem like outliers, though i'm not saying there aren't a lot of intersting eccentrics here and there. you'll often find them in the provinces, or isolated from the big research-1 discourse.
anyway, i don't mean to assert that i am playing on that level; i sincerely try to turn that over; the reception is not in my power, nor can it be, nor should it be. i have tried to write according to the demands of the project and the subject-matter, not in order to be acclaimed. sometimes i read my own stuff as being there, sometimes i don't, and nothing is harder to do than to squarely or honestly or 'objectively' assess your own work. but i did always intend to end up there, at least in the sense of saying exactly what i do believe in as me-ey a way as i can (well, also to prove my positions in your face). i am not going to stop trying.
just rummaging around in james's varieties of religious experience, as i prepare to teach a slice. in the chapter on mysticism, james famously connects intoxication to mystical experience, and reports his own experience with nitrous oxide. "I feel as if it must mean something, something like what the Hegelian philosophy means, if only one could lay hold of it more clearly." and on james's account, the effects of chloroform turn out to be even more like the effects of hegel's philosophy, an observation with which it would be frivolous to cavil.
here i am, teaching plato's republic once again. i will assert flatly that it is the most disgusting book ever written by a famous philosopher. what i would like to do is write a book attacking and refuting and ridiculing it line by line, but publication of such a thing seems unlikely, and it would embroil me in long months of loathing.
really, western political philosophy has had many miserable or evil moments, many lurid or pathetic or desperate attempts to justify oppression of various sorts, from hobbes to hegel to marx, or the pitiable history of the attempts to establish the legitimacy of state power. but plato just goes straight for the extreme caste elitism, lies, eugenics, extreme censorship etc etc, on the basis of a metaphysics of world-hatred. the thing is sort of an amazing intellectual achievement, but it defends every aspect of what came to be modern totalitarianism. the people are animals, and must be broken. that he's doing this in the midst of the first democracy is essential info.
this webchat with zizek shows various things about him that i like and various things that i don't like so much. so first of all, i like that there's a philosopher doing a webchat at the guardian, and in general how free-wheelingly and frequently zizek writes about contemporary issues in the day-by-day media. at least a philosopher exists in that space, and he is quite the swashbuckler, either doing high-end history or philosophy or metaphysics, or writing columns on the economy. i think he writes boldly and relatively clearly in english for a continental killer. we need more folks who do all those things; these are things i would like to do and be.
now, on the very other hand, i would prefer almost anyone to hegel, marx, and lacan as figures to push into the future. i think he constantly constantly flirts with totalitarian communism, and always withdraws the most achingly disastrous conclusions. but he's always opposed to any sort of anarchism, and that's one of many things that lead one to think that, like everyone else, he's got the same old giant leftist state coming at you. the totalitarianism takes care of itself after that, btw.
indeed, most of the questions in the chat are political, and really several of them have that quite bizarre marxist-scholastic tone of like soviet apparatchiks. i guess in the back of my mind i figured that there were still people like that, but lord.
but zizek in response is typically both playful and always slightly fudging at the pivot points. it's awfully hard to know how seriously to take him at any given moment, and i think he's quite a bit more improvisational and probably ultimately more unpredictable than people usually give him credit for. these are good things to blow into the academy at this time.
in my opinion the very worst philosophers of the twentieth century that anyone ever took seriously were the frankfurt school guys. they were both miserable marxists and miserable snobs, extreme egalitarians and extreme elitists: a particularly charming combination. look, being a marxist is pathetic enough, particularly for anyone calling himself a philosopher. but being a radical leftist revolutionary and also a sneering, pretentious fuckhead is justification for a sound thrashing. for whatever reason, people like that were very typical productions of the twentieth century, and they're still all over academia.
i want you to imagine what the arts of the 20th century would have looked like if they were doing what adorno thought they should do. you'd do better to have no art. also, i would say that if anti-capitalism leads you to sneer at, say, duke ellington or hank williams, on the grounds that people bought their records, then anti-capitalism should be blown to smithereens. rarely has anyone had worse taste that theodor adorno, or been so celebrated for it. but i'm too sophisto to get all 'dorkheimer' and 'adornob': i'll leave that to today's grad students.
laying down the smack in the atlantic today. but readers of this blog have been familiar with this approach since 2011. i like to call the cred indextm "arrow's extreme improbability theorem", not because kenneth arrow is involved, but because i like the word 'arrow', nicely combining the phallus, the nobel prize, and kacey musgraves.
i am going to speculate that high-end physics/cosmology has gone very far off the deep end. so, for example, stephen hawking has concluded on the basis - i guess? - of mathematics that "the universe has every possible history", and we're way into multiverses, infinitely many different spaces, and stuff.
Dr. Tegmark, in his new book, “Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality,” turns the idea on its head: The reason mathematics serves as such a forceful tool is that the universe is a mathematical structure. Going beyond Pythagoras and Plato, he sets out to show how matter, energy, space and time might emerge from numbers.
now, i'm afraid i do not understand the claim that the universe is a mathematical structure. does that mean that physical objects are abstract objects? well, you'll need to grapple with the fact that that cannot possibly be the case, given that abstract and concrete objects have extremely different sorts of properties, and hence cannot be identical. where is the number 5, bro? inside that star?
now it may sound crass to say it, but isn't whether there are other universes - whatever that means - an empirical question? (if not, i wouldn't think it's a scientific question at all.) you can stipulate universes, or invent them - but you can't discover them except in the usual human way: by actual experience. i should have said it's quite like insisting that you know the number of planets before looking at all, maybe from a biblical passage, or just by thinking about it real hard. a few decadesago we called that "the dark ages".
the piece says that they're going beyond plato and pythagoras, but maybe they're just going back to the little stage where people were worshipping abstract objects and trying to view the physical universe either as an illusionistic scrim over the numbers and concepts, or as actually being made out of them. like i say, that's not just a puzzling formulation. if you tell me a wall is made of bricks, i understand what you're saying. if you tell me it's made out of 16 and 137, or emerges from them (causally?) it's going to take a lot to convince me that you mean anything at all.
maybe, just perhaps, this stuff isn't science whatsoever. it certainly isn't science that involves things like experiments and systematic observation. perhaps we're back to the wildest metaphysical speculation. there's a lot to be said for that, i think, but that is also not the way it's being presented. indeed, hawking, for example is (a) doing philosophy all the time, (b) doing it very very badly, (c) denying that he's doing it at all. but if you want to believe whatever he says, go right ahead, because even if everyone believed that the universe has every possible history or whatever it may be, that will have no effects at all on this one.
i think there are three ways to try to make the left-right spectrum coherent, or to say what it means: (1) state vs capital, (2) future vs past, (3) collectivist vs individualist. obviously one's positions on these dimensions need not coincide, so any particular person's positions can well be both left and right if we're using all three. that is, obviously these are not 3 ways of saying the same thing, though you might wish they were. (2) is just a bunch of wacky propaganda bullshit. people purporting to speak for or as or from the future need to chill. i dealt with the first in the atlantic piece, or really it needs a lot more than that. the third is the grossest thing ever. just make your mind up to this: collective consciousness or decision-making is compromised by coercion. however, when the left goes 'what about the collective?' they actually do mean precisely and usually exclusively coercion. it is really the most repulsive, most disingenuous reversal one could readily imagine.
individualism and collectivism really can't be opposed. if you and i unite, it is precisely you and i who are uniting. but still, you and i might always disagree. that could be good too.
one thing i do really see as running throughout the history of the left is an enthusiasm for collective consciousness. the idea of forging such a consciousness politically goes back at least to hobbes, though, in the modern period. but rousseau's 'general will' adds an inspiring twist and starts to frame the thing in terms of social justice. now, i am going to say that we are not fully distinct from one another, nor from the rest of the world. but the applications of this thought have been nightmarish. even in rousseau, the collective consciousness is forged by subordination (dissenters will be 'forced to be free').
we have an impulse to merge, to lose ourselves, to be at once expanded and erased. perhaps it is because we are sexual creatures. but truly, the idea is that if everyone could be fully subordinated by one set of rules or rulers - with the materiel to make it stick - we would finally be as one. we wouldn't be lonely anymore.
plato, in setting out his ideal polis, based it on the idea that the polis is analagous to the human self (it is divided into the same three parts, etc.). the dream of unity is old, so are the mechanisms used to simulate it (plato likes lies and eugenics, which is fairly par for the course).
i think we should agree on things and we should act in concert if the action is good. but we are also stuck with our irremediable distinction from one another, and any of us can dissent from any consensus, which is one reason we're not all one self/will/belief system together. and the consensus is very likely to be wrong, and very likely to be merely enforced.
it is not only the left, though, that likes or worships a merger of many into one. the very idea of the corporation as a legal person enshrines collective consciousness in law. hegel was as enthusiastic about the idea as marx, and called The Thing the nation or state. mussolini liked it as much as did pol pot.
in every candidate for collective identity - nation, class, race, corporation - listen to the high-flown rhetoric, and then watch the actual coercion and force by which the collective action and identity is actually achieved. what is supposed to be an antecedent reality that we're detecting (our 'social nature' etc.) is a fiction brought to a leering semblance of reality by violence.
what i hear when someone brings in the collective or the people or whatever: you have to agree with me, because you are me. so if you disagree with me you betray yourself. thus, by your own fiat i will constrain you: the whole idea calls you a betrayer of yourself in order to attack you. this is what modern political philosophy often means, bizarrely enough, by autonomy, citizenship, democracy and so on. it's what habermas means, for example.
speaking of brassy, i am definitely feeling miranda lambert's album platinum. she is a very distinctive and more or less wholly admirable artist. she is not one of the great voices in country history, but she can really sing in her very own way. not to be too negative, but replacing faith hill with miranda as the queen of country music is an extreme upgrade. oh man she radiates attitude like a girlish sun. and i feel the material is very worthwhile. actually, she's about as bluesy as it is possible to be in pop music today: basically the accompaniment is blues rock as only them nashville cats can kill it. also i think she's building up a whole account of what it is to be a youngish american woman now, with both good humor and genuine emotion. on the title cut she re-works nietzsche: "what doesn't kill you only makes you blonder", which is far more plausible than the original ("what doesn't kill you puts you an asylum, signing your letters 'god'").
i am in the midst of bruno latour's an inquiry into the modes of existence (perhaps not the most prepossessing title the world had ever known). now, latour is the, say, living intellectual master for whose work i feel the most affinity. in one way it's pretty easy to say why: he makes the simple, completely necessary move of replacing the social within what i would call and what he would sometimes call a material world. the ontology of ant (actor-network theory) is close to mine in entanglements, etc. i love also his conceptiion of and relation to rationality; he's actually fundamentally engaged in both a rational critique and critique of rationality (he wouldn''t like 'critique' maybe).
also i like his writing on several grounds. he's lively as hell; the stuff is always studded with examples, sudden felicitous crystallizations, surprising juxtapositions. his prose is relatively clear, perhaps clearer than the ideas at key junctures; well, that is unusual in a fashionable french intellectual!
but i am going to say that i am a bit let down so far by this book, presented as a sort of magnum opus. i'm not sure that ultimately he has got beyond where he has been, even though again and again as always the insights flash from the material and the method. but what is new is a kind of quasi-technical apparatus describing the 'modes' or existence or 'verediction', such as the political, the religious, the legal, the scientific, and so on. really it's a plea for epistemic pluralism, for different modes of truth in different domains. but latour ends up deploying dozens of technical terms, three-letter abbreviations, etc (presented in charts at the end, e.g.). i don't think that this machine adds anything fundamental; it just sort of quasi-legitimates what is a considerably more...poetic approach as a logic, a weight it can't ultimately bear.
also, one of latour's less charming tics is on display here quite a bit: he spends at least as much time telling you the amazing things that he (or 'we') are going to do than actually doing them, and he leaves you wondering over and over what exactly he has done. now on the other hand, even here i take a sensual delight in reading him, and i propose after trying it the other way round a bit to release the technical apparatus and rest content with sentences or paragraphs where the old latour technique and voice and thrown around with improvisational impudence and also profundity.
it's not that i doubt that there is a series of thoughts underneath latour that can be rendered rigorous. nor do i think that that couldn't be a worthwhile project. but still it is a question whether latour's thoughts on "the anthropology of the moderns" are best schematized at all or best schematized in a way such as this. and still and all, i don't think latour's thought is as rigorous as he consistently presents it as being. but it is more profound than he presents it as being too (e.g. this is not about the anthropology of the moderns - whatever that means exactly - but about the nature of the universe and the human relation to it).
it's funny but you just have to reach for sources of authority, for a voice that legitimates its assertions, a place to speak from authoritatively. now one thing i do really like about latour is that he is remarkably playful, multiply ironic, with regard to his own authorial stance. yet still he takes up that stance, and one thing it always says is: stand back, i am about to unveil the nature of science, or whatever it may be. then there are myriad preparations, which often get you in the old-fashioned way to see through the concepts in terms of which the question was formulated, or to regard them geneologically, etc.
alright! here is just the sort of thing i do love about latour, though:
The anthropologist of the Moderns thus has to get used to living in a cloud of dust, since those whom she is studying always seem to live amid ruins: the ruins they have just toppled, the ruins of what they had put up in place of the ones they toppled, ruins that others, for the same reason, are preparing to destroy. Mantegna's Saint Sebastian in the Louvre, pierced by arrows, his corpse already stony, upright on a pedestal at the foot of which lie the idols of the gods he has just sacrificed, the whole framed by the arch of one of those Roman ruins so admired during the Renaissance - this is the sort of emblem we confront when we approach the tribe of taboo-breakers. Or the astonishing film that ran in the Iconoclash exhibit, showing the consecration of the church of Christ the Savior in Moscow, performed by popes and patriarchs in clouds of god and incense (this was from the early days of cinema), then the destruction of the church of Christ the Savior by the Bosheviks in clouds of dust, followed by construction of a Soviet swimming pool, followed at once by its destruction, in new clouds of dust, which permitted the construction of a facsimile of the church of Christ the Savior, once again consecrated, a century later, by Orthodox bishops, once again gleaming with gold and precious stones. . . . Have you ever come across a critical mind that was secularized? (An Inquiry into the Modes Of Existence, 168-69)
a bit more more on g.e. moore. i do think of him as the originator of ordinary language philosophy, which flowered in austin, strawson, ryle, and wittgenstein, among others. he was giving hints even as a cambridge undergraduate in the 1890s, and it was fairly full-blown by the end of the 1910s (obviously, this requires documentation). i don't think he has gotten enough credit for this. also, though it is hard without really getting into the texts to show this decisively, i think wittgenstein's transition from "early" to "late" and from a building-on-russell ideal language theory to "meaning is use", from the tractatus to the investigations, was due in large part to the direct influence of moore. certainly from early on you see wittgenstein wrestling with moore, both live and in writing, and often extremely explicitly. i see moore as witt's inner and outer interlocutor throughout, and by similarity and contrast the influence is pervasive.
and i think that ordinary language philosophy is still a good - often the best - technique for dealing with philosophical questions, and i still think it should be applied to more of them. because the people who did it back in the day were so leary of the traditional philosophical questions, they tended to pull up short of the big metaphysical things. so, what is truth? one way into this question: what is the meaning of the word 'truth'? now i do think that if that question means anything it must mean: how do we use the word? what do we mean when we say of something (a sentence, a love, an aim), that it is true? the question we are actually asking is : to what sorts of things do we actually apply the term now? how do we (centrally, properly, etc) actually use the term? (or it might be: how did the greeks use 'alatheia'? there is evidence about that.) if we are not asking what we actually mean, then i am not sure what question we are asking, and when we ask that we are asking to what sorts of things the term applies, that is, its meaning involves or encompasses its extension as actually used; that is, we are ultimately among other things asking what truth is - the metaphysical question - when we are asking how the term is used now. there are many such applications of olp in entanglements.
philosophy really has produced some of the most monstrous egos in human history. i often point to the prefaces of the german idealists: here is what humanity has been waiting for since it awoke to consciousness; here is the culmination of our species. or nietzsche: "why i am a destiny". one of the most charming things about g.e. moore is his extreme, astonishing humility.
here are some bits of his autobiographical sketch, written for the "library of living philosophers" volume on his work (1942). (the llp exists still; it has produced great volumes on, e.g. rorty and danto under randy auxier's editorship.)
"I do not know that Russell owed to me anything except mistakes."
On his early paper "The Nature of Judgement": "I am sure the article must have been full of confusions."
On a revision of Principia Ethica: "Of course, even with all this alteration, there still remained an immense deal that was wrong with it; but I did not see that clearly at the time, though I constantly felt vaguely dissatisfied."
"When I got to know [Wittgenstein], I soon came to feel that he was much cleverer at philosophy than I was, and not only cleverer, but more profound, and with a much better insight into the sort of inquiry which was really important and best worth pursuing, and into the best method of pursuing such inquiries. . . . [The Tractatus] is a book which I admired and do admire extremely. There is of course a good deal in it which I am not able to understand."
Of his student F.P. Ramsey: "I felt distinctly nervous in lecturing before him: I was afraid he would see some gross absurdity in things which I said, of which I was quite unconscious."
believe it or not, i think it is partly things like this (which i think are honest expressions of his own self-assessment), and moore's whole anti-genius persona, that have led him to be underestimated. in particular moore has been one of many people who have been blown away by wittgenstein's super-genius performance, and moore's reputation has suffered partly by comparison to wittgenstein. and though moore should have had a much higher opinion of his own work, it is so sweet that he did not.
editing through entanglements i keep noticing that its presiding spirit in some ways is g.e. moore. perhaps hoping to pitch a piece of literary journalism to someone, i've been reading moore's writings, the bios, and so on. in my opinion he compares extremely well with his associates russell and wittgenstein, but he has been fading in reputation for decades, i think. for one thing, in 1939 moore proved once and for all in a way that no one can possibly doubt, that the external world exists. quite the little accomplishment! the famous proof: "here is a hand, and here is another".
whatever our assessment of moore's proof, we ought to be astonished that someone feels the need to argue for the existence of 'a world outside the mind' or the existence of 'things to be met with in space' in 1939. here's one way of narrating 'modern thought' or the run-up to and then the enlightenment: the works of figures such descartes, locke, leibniz, hume, kant are connected with science or are attempting to give underpinnings for the new secular and and empirical approach that is at the center of western culture even now. but i think basically modern philosophy is pitted against modern science, and i think that by and large this history, and then nineteenth-century idealism - fichte, hegel, schelling, schopenhauer, etc - , and then the positivists, hermenauts, narrativists, deconstructionsits, phenomenologists, etc. is profoundly anti-scientific and also a miserable dead end.
seriously, descartes starts the thing off by doubting the existence of the world and moore polishes it off by proving the existence of the world. throughout, the existence of the world is a problem. hume proves that it cannot be proven, then kant spends thousands of pages of tortured deduction proving it after all, except that the world he proves isn't external to the mind at all, but constructed by it (i'll give kant this, though, if he proves anything, he does prove that there are things to be met with in space; sadly space is internal to the mind). and the whole tradition, more or less, is led down this dark alley to its doom by the notion that we only directly perceive our own images, representations, ideas, impressions, sense data, and so on. seriously, they staked hundreds of years of extreme ingenuity on this perfectly doubtable dogma, or rather this very obvious mistake. that is because they were actually fighting a rearguard action for mind and spirit and spiritual reality and against the material world.
if the idea that we only perceive our own ideas and the external world might not exist at all, or might be mind or something, ever helped anyone do any actual science, that would be very surprising. really, as galileo gazes through his telescope, he needs to report what he sees, not discharge the hypothesis that he might be dreaming. the planet jupiter is a representation in our consciousness, it is an idea, or a congeries of ideas, and so on: that has nothing to do with science and if scientists ever took it seriously as some sort of issue, science would never have happened at all. some mistakes persist for centuries, son, and some blunders are merely blunders.
moore was trained by idealists (mctaggart, e.g.) and he spent a career not merely refuting them, but ridiculing them, with real gentleness, but with brilliant wit. but so subtle was this wit often that people missed the jokes - some of which take many pages to unfold - entirely. here is an example: in principia ethica he spends a long time arguing as against kant, that it matters "just a bit" whether or not beautiful things exist in the world, or rather just in the mind (or 'sensible manifold' etc). he works at it paragraph after paragraph, admitting that of course this matter of whether anything beaiutiful exists in the world is a trivial matter compared to what's happening in immanuel kant's head, but still it does matter in a teensy way. he is very good-naturedly poking kant and us in the ribs. but 'here is a hand' encapsulates the whole thing beautifully: it is hilarious, and moore thinks it is really absurd and great that he has to prove the existence of the external world against his own professors and colleagues. it is both a perfectly rigorous and decisive proof and a perfect parody of the whole idea of a proof, in particular of something that no one ever doubted for a moment.
re-reading through peter kropotkin and the history of anarchist theory generally, i conclude again that he is a very impressive person and a very wide-ranging intellectual, as well as the best theorist that anarchism has produced, by quite a ways. one excellent set of moments in modern science and anarchism, is where he gently but definitely points out that the claims of various political theorists - especially those influenced by hegel - to science, are ridiculous. he has a go at the 'dialectical method', for example, which many people took seriously and took to be scientific. well, he is puncturing the pretensions not only of marx, but of proudhon, for instance. all you have to say is that the thing is not driven by observation or experiment: it is a purely a priori conceptual structure into which data are jammed. or fourier, or comte: that their views constitute science is their most characteristic assertion, but lord knows what they can possibly mean by 'science': they certainly do not mean that their results are based on systematic empirical observation that is open to whatever is actual. when they foretell the future, and it happens to be the future they want, they call that science (marx is the very most extreme case of this). when their opponents disagree, they just respond that you can't argue with science. it's quite disingenuous or self-deceived, and it is certainly ridiculous.
now kropotkin appeals to science too, but he was actually a distinguished geographer and naturalist. his own deployments of science - for example in the utter refutation of social darwinism/hobbesian justifications of state power in mutual aid - have their own difficulties, or their own slippage between the descriptive and the normative - but they have something to do with actual science, and he has thought long and hard about what that actually means.
we live in an era of renewed scientism, conducted on an extremely primitive level: the left accuses the right of not believing what science says. or any disagreement with the latest study, contradicting the last one and the next one, is savaged as irrationality. man if you look at the history of science and then believe whatever 'science' 'says' right now, you really have failed at basic induction. and the idea of 'what science says' - as though science was a person with a voice - is a mere appeal to the authority of scripture and a mysterious priesthood. and of course people are still claiming the mantle of science for whatever politics they want, or making it equivalent to the political program of the democratic party or something. if you disagree with al gore's plans for a world regulatory regime, you don't accept 'science'. or a candidate for office might actually be asked whether he 'believes in science', for pity's sake. science is something with a definite set of assertions and values that you accept or reject, quite like - or more than merely like - a religion.
the first thing to say about science - actual science - is that it is open to criticism: critically, independently assessing the results of science is science. if you have to accept whatever psychologists or brain boys or string theorists say on pain of being irrational = heretical, then science is impossible. the people who beat this drum are killing what they purport to love. and if people are interpreting scientific results as entailing their own pre-existing political positions: well, you should regard everything else they say with extreme scepticism. it's definitely not going to be actual science that tells you what to do or who to vote for or what policies to prefer, so if someone is saying that it does, they've got nothing to do with science except as its betrayers.
marx, giving his positive program in the manifesto:
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.
it is pure totalitarianism, the very model for the forced collectivization of ag, etc etc. here, in short, is the formula for achieving equality: introduce the most extreme assymmetries of power, the most excruciating hierarchies, that the world has ever known. here's the formula for liberation: extreme oppression. it's scientific!
i think what is most disgusting about marxist communism and related developments is the idea that thinking independently, or for example listening to the deliverances of your own conscience, is the merest bourgeois individualism and must be crushed. well, any power-mad ideologue or self-deluded fanatic might recommend that you believe all and only what he tells you. individual conscience is indeed a a barrier to collective action, such as genocide. but what is really amazing is that millions of actually bourgeois people, and maybe a few others, decided that made sense and tried to destroy their own independence of thought, and overcome all conscientious individual qualms. it was like they performed lobotomies on themselves, using steak knives from down at the rustler. it's a mindless endorsement of mindlessness. even if it wasn't in the service of a farrago of jive, that is a formula for astounding doltishness, profound evil, and non-stop mass murder for no reason at all.