Arimathea
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Philosophy
All wisdom begins in wonder, and this delight kindles a desire for truth that leads us on a quest for the really real -- the source of being itself. Hence, the philosophical impulse, albeit often manifested in atheistic and irreverent stumblings in the dark of human ignorance, begins and ultimately ends in theology -- communicating and communing with our origin and goal. We men are rational animals who seek to know. We are agents of truth who want correct answers to questions that we must ask. From the noblest objects of contemplation to the seemingly insignificant everyday trivialities of life, we attempt to unravel perplexing knots. Limited, blind, and distracted, we nevertheless struggle for wisdom. This is our lot, and it is also our glory.
Thursday, March 18, A.D. 2010
Absurd Intelligence

On View from the Right, Auster and pals have been discussing Bill O’Reilly, and there is widespread disbelief that the Fox News personality earned a 1585 on his S.A.T. In the thread, someone suggested a web site that estimates I.Q. based on S.A.T. and G.R.E. scores, IQComparisonSite. The estimator would give Mr. O’Reilly an intelligence quotient between 150 and 155.

I think that general intelligence is difficult to measure precisely with tests, and I don’t buy the given estimates. Personally speaking, the spread between my S.A.T. based I.Q. estimate and my G.R.E. based I.Q. estimate is thirty points. The clinical score that I received as a child falls in the middle of the two, though close to the higher G.R.E. estimate. I took each test once, but I took the first after three years of disappointing American high school education and the second after four years at a Jesuit university. Wouldn’t education matter to how someone performs on a test? It seems obvious.

To use a sports analogy, let us assume two fellows with bodies suitable for Olympic gymnastics who are identical in every way except that one benefits from a professionally run gymnastics training program while the other one simply keeps fit with a standard exercise regimen. Of course, the first guy will perform better at a gymnastics competition. However, given time in training, the two would come close in their performance abilities.

I think that this holds true for mental gymnastics, too. Standardized tests may give a ball park estimate of who is smart and of who is stupid, but educational preparation must determine a significant fraction of the scoring. A more accurate system would involve a series of tests over a period of time that would measure mental talents by weighing academic performance. Wasn’t this once called school? Before the dark times, before grade inflation, before teachers’ unions?

Anyway, IQComparisonSite is bunkum. The site’s author provides the intelligence estimates of modern historical figures by a woman named Cox. Cox compiled the list in the 1920’s, when people were still interested in I.Q. differences. I have no idea how Cox tallied the I.Q. points of the men who shaped the modern West, but I don’t believe them. In today’s measurements, who can believe that Jonathan Swift had an I.Q. of 133? Or that Molière only had one of 138?  Or Bach, Beethoven, and Hobbes at 143? I can believe Luther at 148, but Kant at 153? There is no way—especially with Condorcet at 158. Newton is at 168, Descartes is at 158, and Pascal is at 173. The top scorers are Leibniz at 183 and Goethe at 188. Most figures’ estimates seem so low. The site’s author notes, “I realize that these calculations shrink the pedestal that we keep the Eminent Geniuses on, but at least it should give more of you hope that you might be able to accomplish important things (as long as you are also gifted with creativity or perseverance or whatever other factors contribute to grand achievements).” Balderdash! I know some rather intelligent people, and I have a decent score myself, but I am not smarter than Mozart. The current top students at M.I.T., CalTech, Harvard, and Yale are frankly not at the level of the best of our civilization’s best. This is generational narcissism seldom seen!

Besides, this site would have Bill O’Reilly rank with Lincoln, Rousseau, Huygens, Kepler, Kant, Balzac, Cervantes, Calvin, Spinoza, Palestrina, Rembrandt, and Swift. So, the mind behind the “no spin zone” ranks up there with the master of the Critiques? Absurdly, outrageously idiotic nonsense!

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, March 18, Anno Domini 2010
AnthropologyCommentsPermalink
Wednesday, March 17, A.D. 2010
Words That Hurt

A few months ago, I read the following article about a Washington state legislator who wishes to remove “negative language” from state law: “Wash. lawmaker wants to banish negative language.”

Decades ago, poor children became known as “disadvantaged” to soften the stigma of poverty. Then they were “at-risk.” Now, a Washington lawmaker wants to replace those euphemisms with a new one, “at hope.” . . . Positive labeling is more than a gimmick or political correctness, Franklin says. She believes her idea could lead to a paradigm shift in state government and to changes in classrooms across the state.

Of course, the politician is a Democratic woman, Rosa Franklin. I suspected that Franklin was black from the level of unseriousness that she exudes in the article, and I was correct.

By stating such, I am not referring to population disparities in the intelligence bell curve. Rather, and perhaps relatedly, there is far less quality control in the Democratic Party for their black politicians. Leftists harbor many stupid ideas based on foolish principles and the consequent unwillingness to consider reality when the world contradicts their cherished values. However, despite their perplexing adherence to stupid ideas, most Leftists in positions of power are not stupid themselves. Yet, Democrats’ white guilt and noblesse oblige curdle together to mollify any criticism of the leaders that poor, dysfunctional black communities elect. Occasionally, after much long suffering, the Democratic establishment may attempt to hoodwink the masses with back room political coups, but the diversity tooting Democrats are content to allow clowns to run around the circus as long as their antics do not generate too much bad press. As we know from experience, it takes a lot of bad press to tarnish a black Democrat politician—that soft bigotry of low expectations is rather widespread.

Yet, does Franklin fit that mold? My guess was that she was a public school teacher before politics. However, it turns out that she was a nurse who entered politics after being involved in community charities. According to an online biography, she has been married for almost sixty years and she is likely a pious Protestant. So, maybe we can simply attribute her silly ideas to classic, well intentioned, Christian Leftism.

My friend Andrew used to remark that Leftists locate power and meaning in words rather than the ideas and experiences behind words. Perhaps, this is logical for nominalist, postmodernist, deconstructionist folks who reduce insight and thought to word play and confusion. For many of them, there is no nature—only descriptions of our imagined objectivity that seem to originate in the will rather than the intellect. For the consistent (well, as consistent as such people can be), discourse can never be a joint labor with the ascent to the truth as its goal. Argument is simply a battle for domination. As such, propaganda replaces philosophy; he who frames the debate wins (and thus imposes his will on others). Have you ever wondered why the Left loves George Lakoff so much? He speaks their truth to them, insofar as they can use the word truth.

I do not deny that word choice is very important, and “framing the debate” matters immensely in persuasion. However, true thinking ought to rise above rhetoric. It must strive to overcome the limitations of convention and of the routine, well worn paths of the herd. Yet, it is this possibility that Leftist nihilists deny. For the honest ones, it is all about the will to power.

I certainly do not think that low level left wing politicians consciously entertain decadent Nietzschean or even Derridean theories, but I do think that the general world view and assortment of values and commitments of the political Left have been fully colonized by anti-rational philosophical theories (“philosophical” taken quite liberally). The judgmental non-judgmentalism, the intolerant cult of tolerance, the dogmatic hatred of dogma, and the (pseudo-)rational undermining of reason that pervade Leftist thinking all seep from the same murky waters. Dear Rosa Franklin may not realize the ideological genealogy of her proposal to help children through newspeak, but she has been compromised. She may genuinely wish to help “at hope” youth, but her understanding of the world has been distorted to think that words—and systems in general—are more primary than ideas and minds.

By the way, happy Saint Patrick’s Day to the Micks on the new calendar!

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, March 17, Anno Domini 2010
EpistemologyPoliticsCommentsPermalink
Saturday, March 6, A.D. 2010
American Mandarins

I read yesterday that the Transportation Security Administration was installing more full body scanners at eleven additional airports, including Cincinnati, Columbus, Reagan National, and Baltimore Washington International—the very airports I most frequently use (and I bet that they will arrive in Dayton soon enough). Each scanner costs $250,000, but no price is too steep for a federal government that spends like a sailor in port and that cares as much for the dignity and privacy of its citizens as any crass Politbüro managerial overlord.

In protest, I wrote the following to my Congressional representative and senators:

I read today that the Transportation Security Administration is installing body scanners in more airports, including DCA, BWI, and our own CVG. If one refuses to submit to this invasive and humiliating “security measure,” then one has to be pat down like a criminal by T.S.A. employees. For how long and to what degree are Americans willing to act like an enslaved people? These regulations are not fitting for a free people, and yet Americans are being reduced to non-questioning, eagerly nodding lemmings that willfully suffer in an increasingly oppressive Big Brother society.

Please work in Congress to uphold Americans’ individual dignity. Are we to sacrifice everything for some phantom “security” that the all watching state keeps on promising? I would rather the government take a more direct approach to save us from terrorism—such as not promoting American hating radical Moslems in the military, increasingly cracking down on jihadist organizations in the U.S. as well as on Saudi funded institutions whose aim is the imposition of sharia law on our Western society, and restricting immigration from countries with populations that hate the traditional American way of life and seek to replace it with an alien political ideology.

We expect our people to submit to strip searches in order to visit grandma on Thanksgiving, but we open the doors to folks whose own religion commands them to kill Jews. This is madness. As an elected official, you have the responsibility to work against such policies that harm Americans and empower people who wish our destruction.

Of course, my little bit of civic participation will not amount to much, but if everyone complained about these bastards’ attempts to control our lives, the fiends would back off. Liberty is not secured by papers in the National Archives but by the conviction of a people to maintain it. Learned Hand spoke to the heart of every true liberal when he addressed his countrymen in Central Park during the Second World War:

We have gathered here to affirm a faith, a faith in a common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion. Some of us have chosen America as the land of our adoption; the rest have come from those who did the same. For this reason we have some right to consider ourselves a picked group, a group of those who had the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and the loneliness of a strange land. What was the object that nerved us, or those who went before us, to this choice? We sought liberty; freedom from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. This we then sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning. What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few; as we have learned to our sorrow.

What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest. And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be; nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans create it; yet in the spirit of that America which lies hidden in some form in the aspirations of us all; in the spirit of that America for which our young men are at this moment fighting and dying; in that spirit of liberty and of America I ask you to rise and with me pledge our faith in the glorious destiny of our beloved country.

“Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it” is so true. We Americans are losing this spirit; we are becoming a nation of Mandarins.

It is interesting that the forces eager to cripple American liberty originate on the Left and on the Right, both of which are willing to sacrifice American freedom to their other pet projects (such as socialist leveling or police state law and order). Similarly, we find that the American Civil Liberties Union and traditionalist American institutions (those old paleocons) oppose the slide to an increasingly Orwellian society. Shall we say that totalitarianism and opposition thereto are bipartisan endeavors?

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, March 6, Anno Domini 2010
PoliticsCommentsPermalink
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