Arimathea | Philosophy
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Friday, October 29, A.D. 2010
Vallicella on the Conservative Philosopher

Bill Vallicella of Maverick Philosopher gives us an insightful aphorism:

The Conservative Philosopher:

As a philosopher, he loves reason. As a conservative, he is properly skeptical of it.

Simple and true.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, October 29, Anno Domini 2010
Thursday, October 28, A.D. 2010
Vermicular Grayson

Democrat Alan Grayson, currently “serving” for Florida’s eighth House district, is a loathsome worm. For some evidence of how bad he really is, read George Will’s piece in Newsweek, “America’s Worst Politician.” As cynical as I am about democracy, it still surprises me that Floridians would elect such a beast to represent Orlando. Happily, Grayson will only serve one term; he is expected to lose next week to a much better man, Daniel Webster. Yes, Daniel Webster, concerning which Will writes:

Grayson, never missing an opportunity to live down to his reputation, ridicules Webster’s “18th-century name.” Given Grayson’s relentless advertising of his intellectual shortcomings, it is surprising that he recognizes the name.

Watch this news story about how Grayson distorted Webster’s words from a Christian conference:

Grayson makes other Democratic politicians look positively statemanlike. How wretched a man must be when, by comparison, Dick Durbin ranks closer to Thomas More than to him. Grayson also proves that character matters more than intelligence and educational credentials. For Grayson’s biographical sketch appears rather impressive. Clearly, he is clever in certain ways. Nonetheless, he remains a fool. An intelligent fool is the worst kind. Add lack of virtue coupled with terrible opinions to the mixture, and you get Grayson.

“Taliban Dan”? If only the American Right were so committed and inclined, as Grayson allegedly fears, then America would be a much healthier society. In such a hypothetical country, patriots would have that lying scoundrel stoned to death at Disney World. It would not upset me to watch Mickey pelt him with jagged rocks. I might even cheer Goofy on as he silences the foul tongue. Such a pig does not deserve a more dignified execution.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, October 28, Anno Domini 2010
Tuesday, October 26, A.D. 2010
Best Candidate for Office

The general election will occur one week from now, and the nation currently suffers political overdose. I am returning home to vote, and I look forward to watching the results on Tuesday evening.

For now, however, allow me to introduce the most compelling candidate that I have witnessed in some time—Sandra Queen Noble, Ph.D., of the Hero-Shero Party, who is running against Eleanor Holmes Norton to be the non-voting D.C. delegate to Congress: “Norton Challenger Seeks $994 Trillion in Lawsuit.” Yes, you read that figure correctly.

I most appreciate when the interviewer asks Queen Noble about her sash. Her diction leaves me speechless.

Of course, I only support Queen Noble because she is another of my kind—a Cincinnatian who happens to be in captivity in D.C. Queen Noble has a political history in the Queen City, where her mother was the “Queen of the Gospel Travelers.” Five years ago, Queen Noble ran to be mayor of Cincinnati; look at her SmartVoter page, where it notes that the Walnut Hills native was educated by George Wallace and Jim Crow. Ponder her answers to the League of Women Voters’ questions as well as her position papers:

What are your qualifications for office?

Currently a presidential candidate running for the Mayor of Cincinnati 3 times candidate for President 5 times for City Mayor Candidate Congress and City Council Candidate once

What plans do you have to address your top three priorities?

Power and compassion; the right to protect children; when you take from the land of native people respect the people of the land you take from.

America is a Stolen Country

“America” is a stolen Country byway of London England . The German culture is murder, theft, child abuse, mental illness, suicide, genocide at which time to date is also guilty of monopoly of ill gotten gain by way of poor quality unequal health education, well-being, housing, transportation, communications, parks, recreation, justice, law enforcement and clean environments aided and abet by inferior blacks and those calling themselves minorities, the racist culture gave birth to profanity

Recycling means much more than civil service

Recycling means much more than civil service collection of trash in a German ghetto or Indian reservations injustice

Working in your Best Interest

Thank you for the opportunity to work in your best interest. As a candidate for mayor in this 17th state it is very official to inform you that freedom is born to any and all life on earth freedom should not be given to those who cause harm to themselves and others i.e. US Government at present support the taking of children from the homes and of loving parents. Ghetto and drug afflictions throughout communities in Cincinnati and nation wide against the best interest of the public.

It is clear that her majesty harbors ill will toward her Teutonic townsmen. Needless to say, then, she lost the mayoral race. Even 98 Degrees’ Justin Jeffre earned more votes than the Queen’s 121 votes.

If you have never been to Cincinnati, let me tell you that we inhabit a very regal urban area. There are many queens like Noble. There is no doubt as to who has a royal pedigree; these well born types are quick to remind you. Sometimes, you can read about their queenliness on their shirts, “booty blurbs,” and cars. You can see crowns and flashy golden accoutrements laden on such esteemed persons’ carriages and in their estate windows, as well.

Given the electorate in D.C., I would say that Queen Noble has a chance. After all, there is no shortage of queens in the district’s wards, either. After all, is what it is; this is what is it.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, October 26, Anno Domini 2010
Saturday, October 23, A.D. 2010
Vallicella on Bundle Theory

Bill Vallicella of the excellent Maverick Philosopher blog has been tackling his theory of particulars as bundles of universals. If you appreciate mindwatering metaphysical morsels, I recommend the eats.

Total Dependence and Essence/Existence Composition

Metaphysics at Cindy’s: The Ontological Stucture of Contingent Conreta

Two Questions About the Bundle Theory Answered

Can a Bundle Theory Accommodate Change?

Bundling is Symmetrical But Not Transitive

The Bundle Theory and the Identity of Indiscernibles

Hardy and delicious.

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, October 23, Anno Domini 2010
Thursday, October 21, A.D. 2010
Kalb on Inclusiveness

Jim Kalb has a delightfully rational and honest examination of inclusiveness on his Turnabout site’s “Anti-Inclusiveness FAQ.” It is brief, pointed, and very sensible. I love when common sense refuses to hide when the specter of leftist brainwashing creeps among the living dead, also known as contemporary men. Consider, for example, his tenth point:

Shouldn’t communities that define themselves by reference to ethnicity, religion, lifestyle and so on broaden themselves to reflect a fuller appreciation of the richness of humanity?

Sometimes to some degree. Unlimited breadth is impossible because we are finite creatures. No single person or society can express all human possibilities, if only because of practical incompatibilities, so the particularity and diversity of human life can not be realized without social diversity and particularity. Inclusiveness denies that necessity since it attempts to create one social shoe (the inclusive society) that fits all equally.

The Vikings, the Abbasid Caliphate and Heian Japan all achieved splendid things, but it is unlikely that mixing the three societies and insisting that members of each be able to participate equally in all aspects of their common life would have created something that realized human capacities better than they did separately. Each might have profited in its own way by learning from the others, but not by reconstructing itself to become equally accessible to the other two. While Egil Skallagrimsson and Lady Murasaki were both great literary artists, it would have helped neither to force them to write a book together.

In such matters the world today is no different from what it was a thousand years ago, and particular organizations no different from whole societies or circles of friends. Some diversity is good, too much is bad, and dogmatic rules like the civil rights laws are worse than useless for dealing with the issue.

In addition, behind all differences mankind has an essential nature that some religions and lifestyles succeed in realizing better than others. To require each society to be equally open to all religions and lifestyles is to forbid social recognition of that essential nature and insist on a sort of official amorality. The requirement is even self-contradictory, since the principle of inclusiveness is itself a universal moral claim and as such cannot be asserted if there is no universal human nature that is better served by some moral rules than others.

I recommend that you read Kalb. It turns out that he began View from the Right and that Lawrence Auster inherited the site. I do not know the history of that particular torch passing.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, October 21, Anno Domini 2010
Monday, October 18, A.D. 2010
Plato a Leftist?

Yesterday, Lawrence Auster mused about whether Augustus was history’s first liberal or leftist in “History’s First Liberal.” His readers sent many responses and offered their own candidates, including the very sensible choices of Pericles and the Gracci brothers and the obviously right answer, Satan. However, Roland, one of Auster’s readers, gave this absurd comment:

Looking at Roman history, it’s pretty apparent that Catalina and his followers were leftists/liberals.

But I believe that the distinction of being the first identifiable leftist/liberal in history probably goes to Pericles, with things being carried to their logical conclusion by Alcibiades, who was shaped by his goo-goo liberal teacher, Socrates.

And although he came later, Plato also should be cited as a notable liberal/leftist, as well.

Pericles is an arguable choice, as I previously stated, but Socrates and Plato?

I wrote the following to Auster:

Kristor might beat me to this, but . . .

I choked when I read Roland D.‘s comment that Socrates was a “goo-goo liberal teacher” and that Plato was a “notable liberal/leftist,” and not because I think that there is any merit to Popper’s accusation that Plato was a fascist. I would like to know why Roland would label these men as ancient Greek leftists? Surely, that designation might make sense for sophists like Gorgias or Protagoras, but not for Socrates and Plato. What is leftism if not a rejection of order, a rebellion against the hierarchical structure of being where some goods are better than other goods? What is liberalism if not the refusal to articulate that hierarchy of goods for society as a whole? A liberal is skeptical that such an effort is possible for the human mind, and he certainly does not think that a society is just in imposing such a ranking of values on its citizens. Liberalism is a denial that there is a human good by nature or at least that men can discern it.

By the strongest contrast, Socrates (as portrayed by his disciples) and Plato (through the dialogues) make the very purpose of human life the struggle to know that which truly is. There is no higher life than to see the really real and to pattern one’s soul on this transcendent reality. The good is the center around which everything revolves in the Platonic understanding of the world. There is no moral neutrality in Platonism. Plato is the anti-nihilist and, as such, an intellectual enemy to the relativist, nihilistic Left.

The Left deifies politics, and in dialogue after dialogue, Plato’s Socrates (or his Athenian Stranger in the Laws) consistently posits the philosophical life that strives after truth as much higher than the bestial life that strives after power. Politics is important, and, as Plato’s student stresses, man is by nature political. Therefore, decent men have to involve themselves in matters of the state. Yet, that is a necessary evil for them. No leftist would see attaining political power as an evil. Political power is the Left’s idol.

The only thing that might lead someone to call Socrates and Plato leftists is their contempt for convention. Yet, all philosophy involves contempt for convention, at least for the seeker of truth. Yet, you can see how important convention is in the dialogues that deal with politics. Plato knew well how powerful education, myths, and civic celebrations are for a culture, and that is why the Republic and the Laws have so much to say about civic indoctrination. The Left shares this insight, but so does anyone who thinks. What you feed the soul alters the soul. Feed it trash, and it will become trashy. Nourish it with songs that celebrate virtuous men and with stories that depict the gods as benevolent and good, and the soul will become fine and noble. Plato, like all the wise, clearly saw the limits of convention, but he likewise appreciated its powers and the limits to which we can expect “enlightenment” among the masses. Leftists are principled egalitarians, and there is no illusion about equality in the dialogues. Indeed, I cannot think of any topic where the Left can claim Plato as its own, except when the Left happens to be right (which is rare and accidental).

At least someone who has poorly and unthinkingly read some of the dialogues could come away with Karl Popper’s position in The Open Society and Its Enemies that Plato was a proto-totalitarian. Evidently, there are legions of “scholars” who interpret texts in a bizarre way without reading them carefully. Take the “Jesus Seminar” folks or pretty much anything that originates in postmodern circles. Yet, it is inconceivable to me how anyone, even a freshman, could label Plato a leftist after reading his works. I suspect that Roland has never read Plato’s writing but developed an ignorant opinion against Plato from hearing about him. Perhaps, he has noticed how highly leftist academics speak of the “Socratic method,” and, judging that a hero of his enemy must be an enemy, he consigned Socrates and Plato to the likes of Mill and Marx.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, October 18, Anno Domini 2010
Friday, October 8, A.D. 2010
Women’s Rights Women

I found a gem of an essay online by Presbyterian scholar, Southern apologist, and unapologetic Dixie reactionary, Robert Lewis Dabney, called “Women’s Rights Women.” Dabney died in A.D. 1898 after having lived a colorful life on the losing side of American history. Wikipedia notes that he served as Stonewall Jackson’s chief of staff during the Civil War. What I find refreshing about Dabney’s essay and about political writings before the cultural revolution of the nineteen sixties is their frankness. American political discourse after the Second World War has been hopelessly muddled, given that all sides have not been about to think, much less speak, honestly about political issues. The horror of the Nazis and of the Communists made several aspects of political discourse taboo, and taboos do not facilitate clarity or rationality in men’s thoughts. The Left has tried to pursue an egalitarian agenda while pretending that social democracy is compatible with liberalism and freedom. The Right has tried to uphold the foundations of society without squarely addressing the natural inequality of man, the necessary consequences of social authority, the tension between freedom and order, and the real influence of class, ethnicity, and religion in political life. The partisans in American politics rightly deride the other side’s illogic and inability to present coherent assessments and solutions, though they fail to see how their own side suffers the same, and precious few commentators realize why American political discourse remains so idiotic. It’s the taboos. The “mainstream” is intolerant of any “extreme” voice—that might actually make sense and break through the fog of self imposed blindness.

Dabney’s essay is remarkably insightful, both for its originality and for its good sense in hearkening to previous voices. Consider his observation of American conservativism, which he dismisses as Yankee conservatism. Dabney argues, rightly, as history shows, that American conservatives only try to conserve the status quo. They do not follow principles or an understanding of the natural order; they simply reject the latest innovation to come along—until they get used to it. Then, they rally against the next descent into Bedlam.

It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always when about to enter a protest very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance: The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy, from having nothing to whip. No doubt after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.

Dabney thus affirms Tocqueville’s observation (and Plato’s long before the Frenchman) that democracy by its own nature spreads equality throughout a society:

Indeed, as De Tocqueville predicted, innovations in the direction of extensions of suffrage will always be successful in America, because of the selfish timidity of her public men. It is the nature of ultra democracy to make all its politicians time servers; its natural spawn is the brood of narrow, truckling, cowardly worshippers of the vox populi, and of present expediency. Their polar star is always found in the answer to the question, “Which will be the more popular?” As soon as any agitation of this kind goes far enough to indicate a possibility of success, their resistance ends. Each of them begins to argue thus in his private mind: “The proposed revolution is of course preposterous, but it will be best for me to leave opposition to it to others. For if it succeeds, the newly enfranchised will not fail to remember the opponents of their claim at future elections, and to reward those who were their friends in the hour of need.” Again: it has now become a regular trick of American demagogues in power to manufacture new classes of voters to sustain them in office. It is presumed that the gratitude of the newly enfranchised will be sufficient to make them vote the ticket of their benefactors. But as gratitude is a very flimsy sort of fabric among Radicals, and soon worn threadbare, such a reliance only lasts a short time, and requires to be speedily replaced. The marvelous invention of negro suffrage (excogitated for this sole purpose) sufficed to give Radicalism a new four years lease of life; but the grateful allegiance of the freedmen to their pretended liberators. is waxing very thin; and hence the same expedient must be repeated, in the form of creating a few millions of female votes. The designing have an active, selfish motive for pushing the measure; but its opponents will without fail be paralyzed in their resistance by their wonted cowardice; so that success is sure.

Dabney also proves prophetic about the dissolution of America’s future generations after “female emancipation”:

But now, what will be the character of the children reared under such a domestic organization as this? If human experience has established anything at all, it is the truth of that principle announced by the Hebrew prophet when he declared that the great aim of God in ordaining a permanent marriage tie between one man and one woman was “that He might seek a godly seed.” God’s ordinance, the only effective human ordinance for checking and curbing the first tendencies to evil, is domestic, parental government. When the family shall no longer have a head, and the great foundation for the subordination of children in the mother’s example is gone; when the mother shall have found another sphere than her home for her energies; when she shall have exchanged the sweet charities of domestic love and sympathy for the fierce passions of the hustings; when families shall be disrupted at the caprice of either party, and the children scattered as foundlings from their hearthstone requires no wisdom to see that a race of sons will be reared nearer akin to devils than to men. In the hands of such a bastard progeny, without discipline, without homes, without a God, the last remains of social order will speedily perish, and society will be overwhelmed in savage anarchy.

It would be nice to have American conservative thinkers who actually proceed from principles in their deliberations about the body politic. Indeed, there are such folks, but they are marginal. Gingrich, Lowry, Will, Krauthammer, Kristol, Bush, Palin, Romney, Huckabee, Christie, McConnell . . . name a prominent figure on the American Right, and you will see a liberal who finds our society’s steady march to the collectivist Left unsettling. Yet, they only react against the current. In this sense, they are simply reactionaries, whereas men like Dabney in his time or Auster today are the true conservatives. They know what they wish to conserve.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, October 8, Anno Domini 2010
Thursday, October 7, A.D. 2010
Goldberg on the Democrats’ Constitutional Woes

Jonah Goldberg has an amusing article at National Review on some Democrats’ peculiar ideas about how the various branches of the federal government should treat the United States Constitution: “Oh, That Weird Constitution!” Basically, he notes how various politicians and journalists of the Left have come to the idea that only the Supreme Court should concern itself with the Constitution. Congress and the President should do whatever they wish to do, and it is the Supreme Court’s job to decide if such actions are constitutional. For the legislative or executive branches to direct their actions based on the Constitution amounts to “[a]n extraconstitutional attempt to limit the powers of Congress [which] is dangerous even as a mere suggestion, and it constitutes an encroachment on the judiciary.” Goldberg then examines this idea logically and historically. Here is a wee excerpt:

Does anyone, anywhere, think legislators should vote for legislation they think is unconstitutional? Anyone? Anyone?

How about presidents? Should they sign such legislation into law?

Yet, according to this creepy logic, there’s no reason for congressmen to pass, obey, or even consider the supreme law of the land. Reimpose slavery? Sure! Let’s see if we can catch the Supreme Court asleep at the switch. Nationalize the TV stations? Establish a king? Kill every first-born child? Why not? It ain’t unconstitutional until the Supreme Court says so!

And of course, that means the president can’t veto legislation because it’s unconstitutional, because that’s apparently not his job. Wouldn’t want to “encroach” on the judiciary!

I know that I am given to asking rhetorical questions, but why isn’t this apparent to the Left? I assume that it is; consider the Democrats’ accusations against Bush during his years in the Oval Office. Our political life is saturated with power hungry liars with no shame or principles. They have no fidelity to facts, logic, or permanent commitments; they say and act only to advance themselves into positions of power.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, October 7, Anno Domini 2010
Wednesday, October 6, A.D. 2010
Sobran on Preparing Children for Our Democracy

Joseph Sobran died last week, and many conservative sites have been reminiscing about old Joe by reprinting or linking to essays of his. Ann Coulter linked to a characteristically funny one at the Ludwig von Mises Institute: “Teach Your Children Well.” In it, Sobran counsels how one may raise his children to be prepared for life in our dysfunctional democracy.

Because I write about politics, people are forever asking me the best way to teach children how our system of government works. I tell them that they can give their own children a basic civics course right in their own homes.

In my own experience as a father, I have discovered several simple devices that can illustrate to a child’s mind the principles on which the modern state deals with its citizens. You may find them helpful, too.

For example, I used to play the simple card game WAR with my son. After a while, when he thoroughly understood that the higher ranking cards beat the lower ranking ones, I created a new game I called GOVERNMENT. In this game, I was Government, and I won every trick, regardless of who had the better card. My boy soon lost interest in my new game, but I like to think it taught him a valuable lesson for later in life.

When your child is a little older, you can teach him about our tax system in a way that is easy to grasp. Offer him, say, $10 to mow the lawn. When he has mowed it and asks to be paid, withhold $5 and explain that this is income tax. Give $1 to his younger brother, and tell him that this is “fair”. Also, explain that you need the other $4 yourself to cover the administrative costs of dividing the money. When he cries, tell him he is being “selfish” and “greedy”. Later in life he will thank you.

Make as many rules as possible. Leave the reasons for them obscure. Enforce them arbitrarily. Accuse your child of breaking rules you have never told him about. Keep him anxious that he may be violating commands you haven’t yet issued. Instill in him the feeling that rules are utterly irrational. This will prepare him for living under democratic government.

When your child has matured sufficiently to understand how the judicial system works, set a bedtime for him and then send him to bed an hour early. When he tearfully accuses you of breaking the rules, explain that you made the rules and you can interpret them in any way that seems appropriate to you, according to changing conditions. This will prepare him for the Supreme Court’s concept of the U.S. Constitution as a “living document”.

Promise often to take him to the movies or the zoo, and then, at the appointed hour, recline in an easy chair with a newspaper and tell him you have changed your plans. When he screams, “But you promised!”, explain to him that it was a campaign promise.

Every now and then, without warning, slap your child. Then explain that this is defense. Tell him that you must be vigilant at all times to stop any potential enemy before he gets big enough to hurt you. This, too, your child will appreciate, not right at that moment, maybe, but later in life.

At times your child will naturally express discontent with your methods. He may even give voice to a petulant wish that he lived with another family. To forestall and minimize this reaction, tell him how lucky he is to be with you the most loving and indulgent parent in the world, and recount lurid stories of the cruelties of other parents. This will make him loyal to you and, later, receptive to schoolroom claims that the America of the postmodern welfare state is still the best and freest country on Earth.

This brings me to the most important child-rearing technique of all: lying. Lie to your child constantly. Teach him that words mean nothing—or rather that the meanings of words are continually “evolving”, and may be tomorrow the opposite of what they are today.

Some readers may object that this is a poor way to raise a child. A few may even call it child abuse. But that’s the whole point: Child abuse is the best preparation for adult life under our form of GOVERNMENT.

Out of the mouths of reactionaries . . . May his memory be eternal!

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, October 6, Anno Domini 2010
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