Welcome to the latest incarnation of Maverick Philosopher. I began this weblog in May of 2004 and have kept it up continuously on different servers, missing only a few days. I'm in this game 'for the duration,' as long as health and eyesight hold out. It has proven to be deeply satisfying, not the least reason for which being that my scribbling has attracted a large number of like-minded individuals, some of whom I have met in the flesh, and have come to value highly as friends.
And for that I am grateful.
What you need to know is that this weblog is just one philosopher's online journal, notebook, common place book, workshop, soapbox, sandbox, and literary litter box. A lot of what I write is unpolished and tentative. I explore the cartography of ideas along many paths. Here below we are in statu viae, and it is fitting that our thinking should be exploratory, meandering, and undogmatic. Nothing human, and thus nothing philosophical, is foreign to me.
The graphic well illustrates my approach. A lonesome traveller meanders along a desert path toward a distant prominence which points up and away to the goal of his Quest, a goal fitfully glimpsed, never grasped. Leastways, not while he is on trail and on trial. The quester quests until his thought rests, but the Rest is far off. Meanwhile there is the Quest, an integral part of which is philosophy, reason's search for the ultimate truth about the ultimate matters. But reason is not reason unless it strives mightily beyond itself to sources of truth that transcend it.
I write about what interests me whether I am expert in it or not. Some find this unseemly; I do not. I oppose hyper-professionalization and excessive specialization. After all, this is only a weblog. Every once in a while I post something that is mistaken, someone corrects me, and I learn something. I admit mistakes if mistakes they be. See how modest I am? On the other hand, this rarely happens. My PhilPapers page currently lists 64 entries and will give you some idea of what I am more or less expert in.
I allow comments on only some posts, usually the more technical ones. And to keep the cyberpunks at bay, Comment Moderation is always on. Comments must address what I say in my posts. If you go off on a tangent, I will most likely not allow your comment to appear. Comments must meet a certain standard, and I do not suffer fools gladly. But on some days I go soft, being only human.
I suppose that in these decadent days of the Decline of the West I should issue a TRIGGER WARNING: this is no place for the politically correct. It is not a 'safe space.' Here you will find free speech, trenchancy of expression, and open inquiry.
When this crazy world is too much with us, we can and should retreat to the inner citadel.
Starting now, I will unplug from this hyperkinetic modern world for a period of a month or longer. How long remains to be seen. I will devote myself to such spiritual exercises as prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, hard-core philosophy and theology pursued for truth as opposed to professional gain, and the exploration of nature.
I will not be checking my e-mail except once a week. The plan is for ordinary operations to resume sometime in August.
I will avoid unnecessary conversations and their near occasion, socializing, newspapers, telephony, radio, television, blogging, facebooking, tweeting, and all non-essential Internet-related activities. In a word: all of the ephemera that most people now take to be the ne plus ultra of reality and importance. (As for Twitter, I am and hope to remain a virgin: I have never had truck with this weapon of mass distraction.)
I ask my valued correspondents to refrain from sending me any links to events of the day or commentary thereon. I am going on a 'news fast' which is even more salutary for the soul than a food fast is for the body.
From time to time we should devote time to be still and listen beyond the human horizon. Modern man, crazed little hustler and self-absorbed chatterbox that he is, needs to enter his depths and listen.
In April of 2011, 60 Minutes had a segment on the monks of Mt. Athos. It was surprisingly sympathetic for such a left-leaning program. What one expects and usually gets from liberals and leftists and the lamestream media is religion-bashing -- unless of course the religion is Islam, the religion of peace -- but the segment in question was refreshingly objective. It was actually too sympathetic for my taste and not critical enough. It didn't raise the underlying questions. Which is why you need my blog.
We know that this world is no dream and is to that extent real. For all we know it may be as real as it gets, though philosophers and sages over the centuries, East and West, have assembled plenty of considerations that speak against its plenary reality. We don't know that there is any world other than this one. We also don't know that there isn't. Now here is an existential question for you: Will you sacrifice life in this world, with its manifold pleasures and satisfactions, for the chance of transcendent happiness in a merely believed-in hinter world? The Here is clear; the Hereafter is not. It is not clear that is is, or that it isn't, or what it is if it is. When I say that the world beyond is merely believed-in, I mean that it is merely believed-in from the point of view of the here and now where knowledge is impossible; I am not saying that there is no world beyond.
Let us be clear what the existential option is. It is not between being a dissolute hedonist or an ascetic, a Bukowski or a Simon of Sylites. It is between being one who lives in an upright and productive way but in such a way as to assign plenary reality and importance to this world, this life, VERSUS one who sees this world as a vanishing quantity that cannot be taken with full seriousness but who takes it as preparatory for what comes after death. (Of course, most adherents of a religion live like ordinary worldlings for the most part but hedge their bets by tacking on some religious observances on the weekend. I am not concerned with these wishy-washy types here.)
The monks of Mount Athos spend their lives preparing for death, writing their ticket to the Beyond, engaging in unseen warfare against Satan and his legions. They pray the Jesus Prayer ceaselessly; they do not surf the Web or engage in competitive eating contests or consort with females -- there are no distaff elements on the Holy Mountain.
Is theirs the highest life possible for a human being? Or is the quest to determine what is the highest life the highest life? The monks think they have the truth, the final truth, the essential and saving truth. Thinking they possess it, their task is not to seek it but to implement it in their lives, to 'existentially appropriate it' as Kierkegaard might say, to knit it into the fabric of their Existenz. There is a definite logic to their position. If you have the truth, then there is no point in wasting time seeking it, or talking about it, or debating scoffers and doubters. The point is to do what is necessary to achieve the transcendent Good the existence of which one does not question.
This logic is of course common to other 'true believers.' Karl Marx in the 11th of his Theses on Feuerbach wrote that "The philosophers have variously interpreted the world, but the point is to change it." Marx and the commies he spawned thought they had the truth, and so the only thing left was to implement it at whatever cost, the glorious end justifying the bloody means. Millions of eggs were broken, though, and no omelet materialized.
Buddha, too, was famously opposed to speculation. If you have been shot with a poisoned arrow, there is no point in speculating as to the trajectory of the arrow, the social class of the archer, or the chemical composition of the poison; the one thing necessary is to extract the arrow. The logic is the same, though the point is different. The point for Buddha was not theosis (deification) as in Eastern Orthodoxy, or the classless society as in Marxism, but Nirvana, the extinguishing of the ego-illusion and final release from the wheel of Samsara.
If you have the ultimate truth about the ultimate matters, then by all means live in accordance with it. Put it into practice. But do you in fact have the truth? For the philosopher this is the question that comes first and cannot be evaded. If the monks of Mt. Athos are right about God and the soul and that the ultimate human goal is theosis, then they are absolutely right to renounce this world of shadows and seemings and ignorance and evil for the sake of true reality and true happiness.
But do they have the truth or does one throw one's life away when one flees to a monastery? Does one toss aside the only reality there is for a bunch of illusions? There is of course a secular analog. I would say that all the earnest and idealistic and highly talented individuals who served the cause of Communism in the 20th century sacrificed their lives on the altar of illusions. They threw their lives away pursuing the impossible. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, for example, who went to the electric chair as atomic spies. Such true believers wasted their lives and ended up enablers of great evil. In the end they were played for fools by an evil ideology.
So isn't the philosopher's life the highest possible life for a human being? For only the philosopher pursues the ultimate questions without dogmatism, without blind belief, in freedom, critically, autonomously. I am not saying that the ultimate good for a human being is endless inquiry. The highest goal cannot be endless inquiry into truth, but a resting in it. But that can't come this side of the Great Divide. Here and now is not the place or time to dogmatize. We can rest in dogma on the far side, although there we won't need it, seeing having replaced believing.
My Athenian thesis -- that the life of the philosopher is the highest life possible for a human being -- won't play very well in Jerusalem. And I myself have serious doubts about it. But all such doubts are themselves part and parcel of the philosophical enterprise. For if nothing is immune from being hauled before the bench of Reason, there to be rudely interrogated, then fair Philosophia herself must also answer to that tribunal.
Philosophy is reason's search for the ultimate truth about the ultimate matters. But reason is not reason unless it strives mightily beyond itself to sources of truth that transcend it. So the true philosopher must be open to divine revelation. If it is the truth the philosopher seeks, then he cannot confine himself to the truth accessible to discursive reason.
A Facebook user told me he left it because it had become for him an impediment to spiritual growth. I concur and generalize: inordinate consumption of any and all mass communications media militates against spiritual health for all of us. Mass media content is a bit like whisky: a little, from time to time, will not hurt you, and my even do some good; but more is not better!
But why, exactly? Here is one answer. The attainment of mental quiet is a very high and choice-worthy goal of human striving. Anything that scatters or dis-tracts (literally: pulls apart) the mind makes it impossible to attain mental quiet as well as such lower attainments as ordinary concentration. Now the mass media have the tendency to scatter and distract. Therefore, if you value the attainment of mental quiet and such cognate states as tranquillitas animi, ataraxia, peace of mind, samadhi, concentration, 'personal presence,' etc., then you are well-advised to limit consumption of media dreck and cultivate the disciplines that lead to these states.
Of course, the quick answer I just gave presupposes a metaphysics, a philosophical anthopology and a soteriology that cannot be laid out briefly. So here are some links to related posts that fill in some of the details.
I have been reading Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), This Business of Living, Diaries 1935-1950, Transaction Publishers, 2009. I gather that Pavese was obsessed life-long with the thought of suicide. Entry of 8 January 1938:
There is nothing ridiculous or absurd about a man who is thinking of killing himself being afraid of falling under a car or catching a fatal disease. Quite apart from the degree of suffering involved, the fact remains that to want to kill oneself is to want one's death to be significant, a supreme choice, a deed that cannot be misunderstood. So it is natural that no would-be suicide can endure the thought of anything so meaningless as being run over or dying of pneumonia. So beware of draughts and street corners. (71)
From the entry of 16 January 1938:
Here's the difficulty about suicide: it is an act of ambition that can be committed only when one has passed beyond ambition. (73)
The last line of his journal, 18 August 1950:
Not words. An act. I won't write any more. (350)
Nine days later Pavese killed himself in a Turin hotel room with an overdose of sleeping pills. Apparently because of the ending of his relationship with the American actress, Constance Dowling.
Who among us has not been played for a fool by the illusions of romantic love?
Our restless hearts seek from the finite what the finite cannot provide.
To paint a massive brushstroke, I assume the difference between Europe and America is that in the former the government is seen as a facilitator and provider of peace and security, whereas in the US it seems the individual and the government are at loggerheads, hence the right to bear arms in the Constitution.
Here is the way I see it.
We too think of government as a provider of peace and security. It exists primarily, but not solely, to secure the Lockean triad of life, liberty, and property. Government is necessary to do certain jobs that we cannot do by ourselves either individually or in small groups. National defense from foreign aggressors is one such job of the central government as is the securing of the nation's borders. Government at federal, state, and local levels is also legitimately tasked with the domestic defense of the citizenry against the criminal element. And of course there are other legitimate functions of government.
So we Americans also think of government as facilitating and providing for peace and security. We are not anti-government. We are not anarchists. We believe in limited government. Patently, to believe in limited government is to believe in government. But we are aware that government is coercive by its very nature and therefore that there cannot fail to be a certain tension between individuals and groups of individuals, on the one hand, and the government on the other. If you want to say that individual and government are "at loggerheads" you can say this as long as you make it clear that this is true for everyone, American or not, who belongs to a state. And who doesn't?
Liberals like to say that the government is us. President Obama recently trotted out the line to quell the fears of gun owners:
You hear some of these quotes: ‘I need a gun to protect myself from the government.’ ‘We can’t do background checks because the government is going to come take my guns away,’ Obama said. “Well, the government is us. These officials are elected by you. They are elected by you. I am elected by you. I am constrained, as they are constrained, by a system that our Founders put in place. It’s a government of and by and for the people.
Liberals need to think about the following.
If the government is us, and the government lies to us about Benghazi or anything else, then we must be lying to ourselves. Right?
If the government is us, and the government uses the IRS to harass certain groups of citizens whose political views the administration opposes, then we must be harassing ourselves.
I could continue in this vein, but you get the drift. "The government is us" is blather. It is on a par with Paul Krugman's silly notion that we owe the national debt to ourselves. (See Left, Right, and Debt.)
It is true that some, but not all, of those who have power over us are elected. But that truth cannot be expressed by the literally false, if not meaningless, 'The government is us.' Anyone who uses this sentence is either mendacious or foolish.
The government is not us. It is an entity distinct from most of us, and opposed to many of us, run by a relatively small number of us. Among the latter are some decent people but also plenty of power-hungry individuals who may have started out with good intentions but who were soon suborned by the power, perquisites, and pelf of high office, people for whom a government position is a hustle like any hustle, a hustle in the service of personal ambition. Government, like any entity, likes power and likes to expand its power, and can be counted on to come up with plenty of rationalizations for the maintenance and extension of its power. It must be kept in check by us, who are not part of the government, just as big corporations need to be kept in check by government regulators.
If you value liberty you must cultivate a healthy skepticism about government. To do so is not anti-government.
My reader suggests that the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms reflects the fact that in the U.S. government and citizens are "at loggerheads." My counter-suggestion is that it reflects the American love of liberty and self-reliance.
By what right does the the government deny me the means of defending myself, my family, my property, my community, against a range of malefactors running from criminals to terrorists to rogue government agents?
What you believe, or claim to believe or say you believe—not what you do or how you act or what the results of your actions may be—defines you as a person and makes you “good.” It is how your life will be judged by others and by yourself. In 19th-century France, the gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin told us that “You are what you eat.” In 21st-century America, almost all of us seem to have concluded that “you are what you say you are. You are what you proclaim your values to be, irrespective of their consequences.” That is moral narcissism.
So George Will has proclaimed himself to be free and above the Republican Party -- most specifically the Republican Party whose current standard bearer by millions of votes is Donald Trump, a man Will obviously abhors. As the columnist said in his speech, Republicans should “make sure he loses. Grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”
I understand why Will loathes Trump, but Will is more the quisling than the conservative when he advocates against Trump and therefore for Hillary.
I won't repeat what I said yesterday about the folly of putting up with Hillary and her crew for four years and then winning the White House.
Here is perhaps the deepest connection, the subterranean link, between the decidedly strange bedfellows, Leftism and Islamism: both deny the absoluteness of truth and both make it subservient to power and arbitrary will.
But how is it that Islamists attack objective truth? Aren't they theists? Don't they believe in an absolute source and ground of being and truth? Yes indeed. But their God is unlimited Power. Their God is all-powerful to the max: there are no truths of logic, nor any necessary truths, that limit his power. The Muslim God is pure, omnipotent will. (See Pope Benedict's Regensurg Speech and Muslim Oversensitivity.)
So we who form the Coalition of the Sane and Decent have our work cut out for us. It is a war on two fronts: against radical Islam and against their leftist enablers such as Barack Hussein Obama and Hillary 'Milhous' Clinton.
If you refuse to vote for Donald Trump because he is in several ways a loathsome individual, then I pronounce you a fool in point of the political. You don't understand that politics is a practical struggle, not a gentlemanly conversation. It is not about perfection or ideological purity or choosing the Good over the Bad. It's about better or worse in the ugly concrete circumstances in which we presently find ourselves.
The argument of George Will and others of the 'bow-tie brigade' is patently lame, as lame as can be. They will do what they can to stop Trump the vulgarian know-nothing. In so doing they support Hillary. When this is pointed out, the response is that after four years of Hillary, we will elect a 'true' conservative to the White House.
This ignores the fact that after four years of Hillary it may be too late. Four more years of illegal immigration from the south; four more years of largely unvetted Muslim immigration, including Syrian refugees; four more years of erosion of First and Second Amendment rights; four years in which Hillary can make 2-5 Supreme Court appointments; four more years of attacks on civil society, the buffer space between the individual and the state apparatus; four more years of sanctuary cities and the flouting of the rule of law; four more years of assaults on the likes of the Little Sisters of the Poor and others who stand in the way of the pro-abortion agenda; and more.
Here is another question for George and Bill Kristol and the rest of the bow-tie boys: who will be your candidate? David French? Lindsey Graham? Jeb!?
You boys live in Cloud Cuckoo Land. You are expecting the resurrection of Ronald Reagan. It ain't gonna happen.
Given the preternatural crapaciousness of the bow-tie arguments, I am permitted to psychologize.
What Will and the boys fear is the loss of their Ps: their power, position, perquisites, and pelf. They want the status quo in which they can continue to yap and scribble as before and enjoy the high life. They understand that a third term of Obama in the guise of Hillary is a better bet for them than a populist coup.
Just as we ought not tolerate intolerance, especially the murderous intolerance of radical Muslims, we ought not try to appease the intolerant. Appeasement is never the way to genuine peace. The New York Time's call for Benedict XVI to apologize for quoting the remarks of a Byzantine emperor is a particularly abject example of appeasement. This was some time ago, but it is important not to forget the past in the manner of a tweeting twit whose brain is fit only to flit.
One should not miss the double-standard in play. The Pope is held to a very high standard: he must not employ any words, not even in oratio obliqua, that could be perceived as offensive by any Muslim who might be hanging around a theology conference in Germany, words uttered in a talk that is only tangentially about Islam, but Muslims can say anything they want about Jews and Christians no matter how vile. The tolerant must tiptoe around the rabidly intolerant lest they give offense.
At the root of appeasement and the tip-toe of the soon-to-be dhimmi: fear.
My analysis of Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech is here.
Another dangerous property of worldly things is that they appear at first as mere trifles, but each of these so-called 'trifles' branches out into countless ramifications until they swallow up the whole of a man's time and energy.
To be judgmental is to be hypercritical, captious, caviling, fault-finding, etc. One ought to avoid being judgmental. But it is a mistake to confuse making moral judgments with being judgmental. I condemn the behavior of Ponzi-schemers like Bernie Madoff. That is a moral judgment. (And if you refuse to condemn Madoff and his behavior, then I condemn your refusal to condemn.) But it would be an egregious misuse of language to say that I am being judgmental in issuing either condemnation.
If someone thinks it is wrong to make moral judgments, ask him whether he thinks it is morally wrong. If he says yes, then point out that he has just made a moral judgment; he has made the moral judgment that making moral judgments is morally wrong.
Then ask him whether (a) he is OK with contradicting himself, or (b) makes an exception for the meta-assertion that making moral judgments is morally wrong, or (c) thinks that both the meta-judgment and first-order moral judgments (e.g., sodomy is morally wrong) are all morally wrong. (C) is a logically consistent position, although rejectable for other reasons.
The interlocutor might of course say that 'must not' in 'must not be judgmental' is not to be construed morally, but in some other way. Press him on how it is to be construed.
Do as I say, not as I do. Stay out of the rattlesnake infested inferno known as the Superstition Wilderness in summer! 18 June 2016:
A 25-year-old Phoenix man died while hiking on the Peralta Trail near Gold Canyon, according to Pinal County officials.
Anthony Quatela III, 25, was found dead after county search-and-rescue personnel responded to a heat-related emergency call just after 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Quatela was hiking with a friend who also suffered from a heat-related illness but is expected to recover, officials said.
The friend told deputies the pair had been hiking since 7:30 a.m. and were on what they called a "day hike." After a few hours, they ran out of water and Quatela began showing signs of heat illness, according to Sheriff's Office reports. The friend called 911 for help, officials said. Temperatures reached 111 degrees in the Valley on Saturday.
I often hike in the Killer Mountains in the summer, sometimes alone. But I observe the following precautions: I hydrate throughly before leaving the house and carry at least a gallon of water and enough gear and food to get me through the night if that should prove necessary; I carry a whistle and bright bandannas to attach to my hiking staff for signaling; and I stick to the itinerary that I leave with my wife, e.g., Black Mesa Loop, 9. 1 miles, out of First Water Trailhead, counterclockwise direction. And of course I stay on the trail. Don't go looking for the Lost Dutchman's gold. There ain't no gold in them thar hills, but you could easily fall down a mine shaft. Naturally you must start such a hike at first light and be done with that ankle-busting 9 mile loop by about 10:00 AM. Only a jackass with a death wish hikes in the middle of the day in these mountains in summer.
Here is a tale of three Utah fools who died several summers ago near Yellow Peak near the Black Mesa trail. Here is Tom Kollenborn's account of when and where and by whom the bodies were recovered.
If you fancy yourself clear-thinking, then you ought to be very careful with the word 'over-represent' and its opposite. They are ambiguous as between normative and non-normative readings. It is just a fact that there are proportionately more Asians than blacks in the elite high schools of New York City. But it doesn't follow that this state of affairs is one that ought not be, or that it would be better if there were proportional representation. So don't say that the Asians are 'over-represented.' For then you are trading in confusion. You are blurring the distinction between the statement of a fact and the expression of a value judgment.
Consider the sports analogy. Asians are 'under-represented' on basketball teams. That is a fact. But it doesn't follow that this state of affairs is one that ought not be, or that it would be better if there were proportional representation. Enforced proportional representation would adversely affect the quality of basketball games. Women are over-represented among massage therapists. Is that bad? Of course not.
Since we are now back to the delightful and heart-warming topic of race/ ethnicity/ gender, let's talk about Jews! They are 'over-represented' in the chess world so much so that there is much truth to the old joke that chess is Jewish athletics. Should the government do something about this 'problem'? (This is what is called a rhetorical question.)
I once told my Jewish and Israeli friend Peter that I had never met a stupid Jew. He shot back, "Then you've never lived in Israel." The very alacrity of his comeback, however, proved (or at least provided further evidence for) my point.
I have noticed, however, that Jews get nervous when you point out that, as a group, they are more intelligent than some other groups I won't mention. I finally figured out what makes them nervous. Jews are a small minority who have been hounded and persecuted and slaughtered through the centuries. They don't like to 'stick out.' They prefer to 'lay low.' Can you blame them? That is at least part of the explanation as to why they don't want attention drawn to them.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I am not now, and never have been, either an Asian or a Jew or an Israeli. And the chances of becoming one of these is either zero, or near zero.
I am a chess player, however, a patzer/potzer to employ a choice word of Yiddish, presumably from the German patzen, to make a mess, or do something incompetently. But be careful! Should our paths cross in some coffee house, chances are good that I will clean your clock!
Liberals love 'diversity' even at the expense of such obvious goods as unity, assimilation, and comity. So it is something of a paradox that their refusal to take seriously the enforcement of immigration laws has led to a most un-diverse stream of immigrants. "While espousing a fervent belief in diversity, immigrant advocates and their allies have presided over a policy regime that has produced one of the least diverse migration streams in our history." Here
Karl White refers us to this quotation from a John Gray piece on William Empson in The New Statesman.
Empson’s attitude to Buddhism, like the images of the Buddha that he so loved, was asymmetrical. He valued the Buddhist view as an alternative to the Western outlook, in which satisfying one’s desires by acting in the world was the principal or only goal in life. At the same time he thought that by asserting the unsatisfactoriness of existence as such – whether earthly or heavenly – Buddhism was more life-negating and, in this regard, even worse than Christianity, which he loathed. Yet he also believed Buddhism, in practice, had been more life-enhancing. Buddhism was a paradox: a seeming contradiction that contained a vital truth.
Is Buddhism more life-negating than Christianity? No doubt about it. Empson is right on this point if not on the others. I would put it like this.
Both Buddhism and Christianity are life-denying religions in that they both reject the ultimacy and satisfactoriness of this life taken as end-all and be-all. But while Christianity denies this life for the sake of a higher life elsewhere and elsewhen, Buddhism denies this life for the sake of Nirvanic extinction. The solution to the problem of suffering is to so attenuate desire and aversion that one comes to the realization that one never existed in the first place.
Now that is one radical solution! It should appeal to anti-natalists and Schopenhauerian pessimists. And yet there is much to learn from Buddhism and its practices. Mindfulness exercises and other practices can be usefully employed by Christians. Christianity and Buddhism are the two highest religions. My own view is that a spiritual practice that draws on the resources of both is the way to go. They are of course incompatible in their metaphysics. But metaphysics is a product of the discursive intellect and to be transcended in any case. Both religions terminate, 'ultimate,' if you will, in the Mystical.
For Buddhism the problem is suffering. All is ill, suffering, unsatisfactory. The cause is desire as such. The solution is the extirpation of desire. The way is the eight-fold path. I have just summed up Buddhism in five sentences.
Pace the Buddhists, the problem is not desire as such, but desire inordinate and misdirected.
Buddha correctly understood the nature of desire as infinite, as finally unsatisfiable by any finite object. But since he had convinced himself that there is no Absolute, no Atman, nothing possessing self-nature, he made a drastic move: he preached salvation through the extirpation of desire itself. Desire itself is at the root of suffering, dukkha, on the Buddhist conception, not desire for the wrong objects; so the way to salvation is not via redirection of desire upon the right Object, but via an uprooting of desire itself.
Christianity enjoins redirection of desire upon the Right Object.
The two great religions have this in common: both preach the nihilism of the finite. I would say that any religion worth its salt must preach the nihilism of the finite, namely, the understanding that in the last analysis nothing finite is ultimately real. In fact, I would erect this into a criterion of the religious nature. If you have the insight into the nihilism of the finite, then you have a religious nature. If you do not, then you do not.
But while both of these great religions preach the nihilism of the finite, Christianity in its highest manifestation -- Thomistic Catholicism you could call it -- takes a positive line with a respect to the Absolute: the ultimate state and goal is not one of Nirvanic extinction and nonbeing, but of participation in the divine life via the Beatific Vision.
We are now hard by the boundary of the Sayable as we ought to be if we are serious truth seekers.
We can now define the worldling or secularist and the nihilist.
The worlding takes this world to be ultimately real, and the only reality. He is spiritually dead to its ontological and axiological deficiency. He is a Platonic troglodyte, if you catch my drift. He is incapable of transcendental speleology since he cannot see the Cave as a Cave.
The nihilist is spiritually awake as compared to the worldling. The nihilist sees the nullity and the vanity (vanitas = emptiness) of the finite and transient, but thinks it exhausts the Real. The adolescent nihilist's T-shirt reads: The finite sucks! (on the front) and There's nothing else! (on the back).
According to Roger Scuton, because of political correctness:
A story of rampant child abuse—ignored and abetted by the police—is emerging out of the British town of Rotherham. Until now, its scale and scope would have been inconceivable in a civilized country. Its origins, however, lie in something quite ordinary: what one Labour MP called "not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat."
The fact that Brits object to their daughters being abused by foreigners shows that they are benighted nativists, racists, white supremacists with an irrational fear, a phobia, of foreigners. Right? And that is what Brexit was all about: an irrational fear of foreigners. Right?
Being a conservative, I advocate limited government. Big government leads to big trouble as we fight endlessly, acrimoniously, and fruitlessly over all sorts of issues that we really ought not be fighting over. As one of my slogans has it, "The bigger the government, the more to fight over." The final clause of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution enshrines the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." So the more the government does things that grieve us, by intruding into our lives and limiting our liberties, the more we will petition, lobby, and generally raise hell with the government and with our political opponents.
If you try to tell me how much soda I can buy at a pop, or how capacious or incapacious my ammo mags must be, or how I must speak to assuage the tender sensitivities of the Pee Cee, or if you try to stop me from home-schooling my kids, or force me to buy health insurance, or force me to cater a same-sex 'marriage' ceremony, then you are spoiling for a fight and you will get it. Think of how much time, energy, and money we waste battling our political enemies, working to undo what we take to be their damage, the damage of ObamaCare being a prime example.
So if you want less contention, work for smaller government. The smaller the government, the less to fight over.
Or do you like fighting for the sake of fighting? I'm Italian: a lover, not a fighter. I prefer la dolce vita to bellum omnium contra omnes.
I stated that the reason for carefully vetting Muslims who aim to immigrate into the USA is political rather than religious. I had several points in mind, one of them being that it is the theocratic character of Islam that renders it incompatible with Western values, but not its specifically religious character. Theocracy is a form of political organization whereas there is nothing in the nature of the religious as such that requires that a religion be theocratic. Theocracy is a political concept. Religious character is -- wait for it -- a religious concept. These are different concepts. That should be obvious. If it is not obvious, argument up ahead!
It struck me as important to make the distinction between the political and the religious because the political reasons for vetting or even excluding Muslims or some proper subset thereof, perhaps the 'Medina Muslims,' are consistent with the commitment to religious liberty enshrined in the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. According to this amendment, the government shall not interfere with the free exercise of religion. Now while the First Amendment applies only to citizens, not to would-be citizens, it expresses a value that is universal in scope, that of religious liberty. The value/right comes first; the amendment merely protects it.
Note also that according to the Article VI of the Constitution, there shall be no "religious Test" for would-be holders of public office. So it is not the fact that Muslims have a different religion than most of us that supplies a reason for carefully vetting them; it is because their religion is a hybrid ideology, a political-religious ideology, the political component of which is manifestly incompatible with American political principles. I hope it is obvious that a totalitarian theocracy is incompatible with limited government.
Canadian philosopher Jacques, however, questions my distinction between the political and the religious. He writes,
What are political grounds? I doubt there could be any kind of political theory that isn't ultimately based in some (implicitly) religious attitude. Consider the very idea that religion and politics are different realms, or should be or could be. It's an idea that Protestants find easy enough to accept, because of their peculiar religious beliefs. People in a Protestant-derived society such as the USA find it easy to accept because they have been shaped by Protestantism. But if Islam is true, there is no such distinction.
I am afraid I cannot agree with this. First of all, it is obvious that at the notional level there is distinction between the concept of the political and the concept of the religious. The distinction holds even if one or both concepts are empty. The first concept would be empty or uninstantiated if there were no states, just people organized in non-state or sub-state ways. But there are, we know, states. We don't know, however, if there is anything corresponding to the concept of the religious. Here are some typical religious 'objects': nirguna Brahman, saguna Brahman, Nirvana, The One of Plotinus, Deus qua ipsum esse subsistens (Aquinas), Allah, Yahweh, immortal souls . . . . Suppose that naturalism is true and that there are no religious 'objects' at all, where naturalism is the thesis that reality is exhausted by space-time and its contents. There would still be a distinction between the political and the religious. They are clearly distinct at the conceptual level. I hope Jacques is not denying the distinction at the notional or conceptual level.
Jacques appears to be claiming that every type of political theory is based in some implicitly religious attitude. That would be false for the political theory of a naturalist. I should think it is obvious that one could have a political doctrine that did not entail or presuppose any religious doctrine. A libertarian doctrine of the state as outlined in, say, Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, is consistent with the view that religion is a purely private matter.
Jacques tells us that "if Islam is true, then there is no such distinction" as that between the political and the religious. But surely if two concepts are extensionally equivalent, it does not follow that they are the same concept. To borrow a Quinean example, x is a cordate iff x is a renate, but it doesn't follow that being cordate and being renate are the same property or concept. So even if Islam is true -- God forbid! -- there would still be a distinction between the religious and political character of Islam. And that is all I need for the points I am making.
But if we think about this carefully, we see that there is not even an extensional equivalence. Not every religious item in Islam is a political item. For example, take the following doctrinal item: There is no god but God! Call it Radical Monotheism. Consider it and all its entailments. Among the entailments: God/Allah exists, is radically one, is not a trinity, is radically transcendent of the world, etc. None of these metaphysical propositions has, by itself, any political implication. One could, in all logical consistency, accept all of these propositions and also accept American principles of government. Case in point: Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a moderate Muslim who battles what he calls "political Islam" in A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot's Fight to Save his Faith, Simon and Shuster, 2012. My tribute to Dr. Jasser here.
A reformed Islam that is consistent with American values is not only possible but also actual in the case of Dr. Jasser and a few others. So, obviously, the political and religious aspects of Islam can be prised apart. They are distinct. I should add that, while there are a few moderate Muslims, the vast majority are not. These are the ones that subscribe to Islamic law (sharia) and have no intention of assimilating to the West and its values. I am afraid that Dr. Jasser's noble attempt at a reform of Islam is bound to fail. But that is a separate issue.
Probably the same goes for Catholicism (on the most honest and coherent interpretation) and Hinduism or lots of Amerindian religions. It makes no sense, on these various religious views, to isolate some particular realm of human affairs as being just 'political' rather than religious. Just as it makes no sense, on most religious views, to isolate an area that is just 'ethical' or 'artistic' without also being religious. Just as it makes no sense for progressives to isolate an area that's just 'personal' and not political.
With respect to Catholicism, Jacques is on very shaky ground. Jesus himself provides the charter for temple/church - state separation with his "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; render unto God the things that are God's." That saying presupposes for its very sense that the political and the religious are not identical. The saying occurs in all three of the synoptic gospels. It is of course subject to different interpretations, but the Catholic reading is something like the following. Although our main obligations are to God, we also have obligations to the political authorities, where 'Caesar' represents the political authorities of whatever time and place. So of course the political and religious spheres are distinguishable.
And surely it is false that the concepts of the ethical and the religious coincide, or that no ethics is possible that does not rest on religious tenets. This would have shocked old Aristotle whose eudaimonistic ethics rests on no religious bases. There is of course a primum mobile in Aristotle's system, but it has no religious meaning. The Prime Mover, just as such, is precisely NOT "what all men call God." (Aquinas, Quinque viae)
Jacques tells us that progressives or as I call them, 'progressives,' do not separate the personal from the political. But of course they have to, at the notional or conceptual level, if there are to be in a position to say something meaningful albeit stupid such as The personal is political. This is an informative identity claim only if the senses of 'personal' and 'political' are different -- he said with side-long glance in the direction of Frege. On the level of reference, however, it is true that the person is political for 'progressives.' But so what? They're wrong. Jacques concludes:
Protestant theology holds up individualism and autonomy as very important values, ultimately for theological reasons. Take away Protestantism, or some similar theology, and it's not clear why we should care so much about these things -- for example, why we should care that society has some tolerance for religious diversity or a non-religious conception of politics. So I'm suggesting that, if Islam is not a 'pure' religion then western liberalism or conservatism is not a 'pure' political theory.
Jacques seems to be saying that there are no non-theological reasons for caring about the toleration of religious diversity. Well, try this reason on for size: We tolerate religious diversity because we do not know which religion is true; nor do we know if any extant or possible religion is true. Given deep and intractable disagreement within religions, across religions, and between religion and anti-religion, toleration makes possible comity (social harmony) and prevents foolish, costly, and sometimes bloody conflicts. There is no need for a theology to underpin this commitment to toleration. Atheists and naturalists have no theology, but that does not prevent them from espousing toleration.
"So I'm suggesting that, if Islam is not a 'pure' religion then western liberalism or conservatism is not a 'pure' political theory." I can't agree with this either. Islam itself -- not Islam 'lite,' some Jasserian reformed, de-politicized Islam -- is as much a political ideology as a religion. It is very far from being just a religion. But much of American conservatism is mostly free of religious elements. Correct me if I am wrong, but nowhere in the U. S. Constitution or its Amendments is there any reference to God or to any religious doctrine.
Neil Diamond, Solitary Man. Johnny Cash does it better. Nothing better than the sound of an acoustic guitar, well-made, well-played, steel-stringed, with fresh strings. This one goes out to Dave Bagwill.
While we have the Big O cued up, here is Oh, Pretty Woman, a contender for greatest R & R song, what with its unique blend of the Dionysian and the tender. Legendary sideman James Burton and Bruce Springsteen trade licks on their Telecasters. Burton was the man behind the guitar fills and leads in the early Ricky Nelson hits such as Hello Mary Lou. This one goes out to my wife Mary Lou on this our 33rd wedding anniversary. "I knew Mary Lou we'd never part/So hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart."
Reading Notebooks 1951-1959 of Albert Camus, I cannot help but love and sympathize with this sensitive, self-doubting, and tortured soul.
Stages of healing.
Letting volition sleep. Enough of 'you must.'
Completely depoliticize the mind in order to humanize it.
Write the claustrophobic -- and comedies.
Deal with death, which is to say, accept it.
Accept making a spectacle of yourself. I will not die of this anguish. If I died from it, the end. Otherwise, at worst, shortsighted behavior. It suffices to accept others' judgment. Humility and acceptance: purely medical remedies of anguish. (p. 203)
Like his hero Nietzsche, Camus had the throbbing heart of the homo religiosus but the bladed intellect of the skeptic: he could not bring himself to believe. Trust in the ultimate sense of things was impossible for this argonaut of the Absurd, as was hope. Thus humility and acceptance could only be for him "purely medical remedies."
And how could he completely depoliticize his mind when the only world for him was this miserably political one? If this is all there is, then all of one's hopes and dreams and aspirations for peace and justice have to be trained upon it and its future. There you have the futile delusion of the 'progressive.' Rejecting God, he puts his faith in Man, when it ought to be evident that Man does not exist, only men, at each others' throats, full of ignorance and corruption, incapable of redeeming themselves.
The man is a sorry specimen, a disgrace to the papacy. What a come-down from the brilliant and penetrating Joseph Ratzinger. Part of Bergoglio's latest outburst:
“Nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person,” the Pope said in his June 22 message to the Sixth World Congress against the Death Penalty, which is being held in Oslo this week.
I stopped reading after this idiotic comment which contains two, count 'em, two mistakes. 'Nowadays' implies that in the past the death penalty was acceptable. So moral truth has changed? That's one egregious blunder. Then: "however grave the crime"?
So murdering with premeditation 50 night-clubbers and trying to murder them all does not deserve the death penalty? How about blowing up Manhattan? Would that deserve the death penalty? If you say No to either question I pronounce you morally obtuse. You do not understand the PFC principle: "the punishment must fit the crime." I am always astonished when people confuse PFC with some such lex talionis principle as "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." No one, leastways not in the enlightened West, thinks that the rapist ought to be raped, or that the eye-gouger ought to have an eye gouged out. PFC is a principle of proportionality: the gravity of the punishment must be adjusted to the gravity of the crime.
I can do no better than to refer you to Edward Feser's writings on the topic, for example, In Defense of Capital Punishment. I gather that Ed is at work on a book on the topic.
Anecdote. Dale Tuggy and I were discussing our mutual friend Ed a while back. I asked, "How does Ed do it all: teach 10 courses a year, write numerous books and articles, give lectures, maintain a consistently excellent weblog, raise six kids (at last count)?"
Dale, who has published on mysterianism, replied, "It's a mystery."
If man is made in God's image and likeness, does it follow that God is essentially embodied?
Faciamus hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem nostram . . . (Gen 1, 26) Let us make man in our image and likeness. . .
Et creavit Deus hominem ad imaginem suam. . . (Gen 1, 27) And God created man in his image. . .
I used to play chess with an old man by the name of Joe B., one of the last of the WWII Flying Tigers. Although he had been a working man all his life, he had an intellectual bent and liked to read. But like many an old man, he thought he knew all sorts of things that he didn’t know, and was not bashful about sharing his ‘knowledge.’ One day the talk got on to religion and the notion that man was created in the image and likeness of God. Old Joe had a long-standing animus against the Christianity of his youth, an animus probably connected with his equally long-standing hatred for his long-dead father.
Recalling some preacher’s invocation of the’ image and likeness’ theme, old Joe snorted derisively, "So God has a digestive tract!?" In Joe’s mind this triumphal query was supposed to bear the force of a refutation. Joe’s ‘reasoning’ was along these lines:
1. Man is made in God’s image. 2. Man is a physical being with a digestive tract, etc. Therefore 3. God is a physical being with a digestive tract, etc.
But that’s like arguing:
1. This statue is made in Lincoln’s image. 2. This statue is composed of marble. Therefore 3. Lincoln is composed of marble.
Joe’s mistake, one often repeated, is to take a spiritual saying in a materialistic way. The point is not that God must be physical because man is, but that man is a spiritual being just like God, potentially if not actually. The idea is not that God is a big man, the proverbial ‘man upstairs,’ but that man is a little god, a proto-god, a temporally and temporarily debased god who has open to him the possibility of a Higher Life with God, a possibility whose actualization requires both creaturely effort and divine grace.
In Feuerbachian terms, the point of imago dei is not that God is an anthropomorphic projection whereby man alienates his best attributes from himself and assigns them to an imaginary being external to himself, but that man is a theomorphic projection whereby God shares some of his attributes, such as free will, with real beings external to him though dependent on him.
Which is true? Does man project God, or does God project man? Is man the measure, or the measured? Does man 'create' God, or God man?
Note first the following asymmetry. If God is literally an anthropomorphic projection, then God does not exist. It would be absurd to say that God exists as an anthropomorphic projection when it is built into the very concept of God that he be a se, from himself, i.e., incapable of any kind of ontological dependency. But if man is a theomorphic projection, then man exists to a degree greater than he would exist if there were no God. For if man is a creature of God, and indeed one created in the image and likeness of God, then man has the possibility of a Higher Life, an eternal life.
The paradox is that when atheistic man tries to stand on his own two feet, declaring himself independent of God, at that moment he is next to nothing, a transient flash in the cosmic pan. But when man accepts his creaturely status as imago Dei, thereby accepting his radical dependence, at that moment he becomes more than a speck of cosmic dust slated for destruction. Thus Jean-Paul Sartre had it precisely backwards in thinking that if God exists then man is nothing; it is rather that man is something only if God exists. For if man exists in a godless universe he is but a cosmic fluke and all the existentialist posturing in the world won't change the fact.
Is "image and likeness" a redundant phrase, or does it mark a distinction? Arguably the latter. To be created in God’s image is to be granted the potentiality for sharing in the divine life, a potentiality that may or may not be actualized and is shared in equally by all human beings without their consent. Likeness, however, results from man’s free actualization of that potentiality. Whereas the image of God is imposed on man, likeness to God is not, but requires the free cooperation of the creature. (Cf. Harry Boosalis, Orthodox Spiritual Life, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1999), pp. 28-29.)
I am not free with respect to the image of God within me since I am not free to renounce my potential for divine sonship; but I am free with respect to the likeness since it is up to me whether I actualize the potential.
Well, does God exist or not? Before one can answer this question, one must understand it. In particular, one must understand that it cannot be dismissed as one the answer to which is obvious. To wax Continental for a moment, one must restore the question (die Frage) to its questionableness (Fragwuerdigkeit), where ‘questionable’ means not only able to be questioned, but, as the corresponding German term suggests, worthy of being questioned, of being raised as a question. And for that it is necessary not to take phrases like imago Dei in a crude materialistic way in the manner of old Joe and so many others.
One reason so many are atheists is because they are crude materialists: they cannot conceive how anything could be real that is not material. This, in turn, is aided and abetted by, and perhaps grounded in, their concupiscence: The lusts of the flesh have persuaded them that the sensible alone is real.
One must see that there is nothing obvious in the Feuerbachian suggestion, even though the weight of our culture favors this obviousness; one must see that the opposite and much much older suggestion, according to which man is a theomorphic projection, is just as reasonable.
But reasonable is not the same as true; so in the end one must decide what one will believe and how one will live.
In these regions of inquiry one cannot prove anything. To think otherwise is to fail to grasp the concept of proof.
First off, hats off! to the Brits, or at least to those of their number who voted Leave.
But now what should we do financially speaking? Expect turmoil in the markets. The stock market was down when I checked it a few hours ago. But gold and other precious metals were up. Good news to those of us who had the foresight to buy the stuff, and who held it, even when we could have made a pile by selling. ('Lead' is also a precious metal these days, and not just for the protection of gold.)
But of course you understand that running political campaigns costs money. What you object to is the buying of influence. What you object to are candidates who will do the bidding of their deep-pocketed donors, whether corporate or individual. Now along comes Donald Trump who funds himself and is beholden to no one.
Has he not gotten the money out of politics? He has, in the only sense of this phrase that means anything.
Why then are you bitching? I assume you are not a benighted lefty in the tank for Hillary. Why won't you support the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, the people's choice, the only one who can beat Mrs. Clinton?
You say your conscience won't allow a vote for a man with his many deep flaws? But your conscience will allow four to eight more years of leftist infiltration of the government, including the loss of the Supreme Court for the rest of our lives?
Are you NeverTrumpers even trying to think clearly?
Try to guess when the following was written, and by whom. Answer below the fold:
Ever increasing frenzy, tension, explosiveness of this country. You feel it in the monastery with people like Raymond. In the priesthood with so many upset, one way or another, and so many leaving. So many just cracking up, falling apart. People in Detroit buying guns. Groups of vigilantes being formed to shoot Negroes. Louisville is a violent place, too. Letters in U. S. Catholic about the war article. -- some of the shrillest came from Louisville. This is a really mad country, and an explosion of the madness is inevitable. The only question -- can it somehow be less bad than one anticipates? Total chaos is quite possible, though I don't anticipate that. But the fears, frustrations, hatreds, irrationalities, hysterias, are all there and all powerful enough to blow everything wide open. One feels that they want violence. It is preferable to the uncertainty of 'waiting.'
Albert Camus, Notebooks 1951-1959, tr. Ryan Bloom, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2010, p. 202:
Algerians. They live in the richness and warmth of friendship and family. The body as the center, and its virtues -- and its [sic] profound sadness as soon as it declines -- life without a view other than the immediate one, than the physical circle. Proud of their virility, of their capacity for eating and drinking, of their strength and their courage. Vulnerable.
The long views of philosophy are not to everyone's taste. If not bored, many are depressed by the contemplation of death and pain, God and the soul, the meaning or meaninglessness of our lives. They prefer not to think of such things and consider it best to take short views. If as Thomas Nagel maintains, the contemplation sub specie aeternitatis of one's daily doings drains them of seriousness, one is under no obligation to take the view from nowhere.
Is it best to take short views? To live in immediacy, immersed in the quotidian and not questioning it?
Sometimes it is. When the going gets tough, it is best to pull in one’s horns, hunker down, and just try to get through the next week, the next day, the next hour. One can always meet the challenge of the next hour. Be here now and deal with what is on your plate at the moment. Most likely you will find a way forward.
But, speaking for myself, a life without long views would not be worth living. I thrill at the passage in Plato’s Republic, Book Six (486a), where the philosopher is described as a "spectator of all time and existence." And then there is this beautiful formulation by William James:
The absolute things, the last things, the overlapping things, are the truly philosophic concerns; all superior minds feel seriously about them, and the mind with the shortest views is simply the mind of the more shallow man. (Pragmatism, Harvard UP, 1975, p. 56)
I wrote above, "speaking for myself." The expression was not used redundantly inasmuch as it conveys that my philosopher’s preference for the long view is not one that I would want to or try to urge on anyone else. In my experience, one cannot argue with another man’s sensibility. And much of life comes down to precisely that -- sensibility. If people share a sensibility, then argument is useful for its articulation and refinement. But I am none too sanguine about the possibility of arguing someone into, or out of, a sensibility.
How argue the atheist out of his abiding sense that the universe is godless, or the radical out of his conviction of human perfectibility? How argue me out of my deep conviction that the pursuit of name and fame, land and loot, is base and pointless?
If the passages I cited from Plato and James leave you cold, how could I change your mind? If you sneer at my being thrilled, what then? Argument comes too late. Or if you prefer, sensibility comes too early.
One might also speak of a person’s sense of life, view of what is important, or ‘feel for the real.’ James’ phrase, "feel seriously," is apt. To the superior mind, ultimate questions "feel real," whereas to the shallow mind they appear pointless, unimportant, silly. It is equally true that the superior mind is made such by its wrestling with these questions.
Maximae res, cum parvis quaeruntur, magnos eos solent efficere.
Matters of the greatest importance, when they are investigated by little men, tend to make those men great. (Augustine,Contra Academicos 1. 2. 6.)
Albert Camus, Notebooks 1951-1959, tr. Ryan Bloom, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2010, p. 177:
The Revolution is good. But why? One must have an idea of the civilization one wishes to create. The abolition of property is not an end. It is a means.
This is foolish. Private property is the foundation of individual liberty. The problem is not private property, but too few people owning property, property they have worked for, and thus value and care about. I include among private property the means for the defense of property against assorted malefactors from unorganized criminals to rogue elements in the government.
Perhaps you think I go too far when I liken politics to warfare. Well then, will you admit that it is adversarial?
The defense attorney in a court of law fails to do his job if he strives for objectivity: he is paid to argue on behalf of his client. He is paid to be one-sided. This is why he is called in many languages an advocate, in Turkish, for example, Avokat. His sole task is to make the strongest case he can for his client while, of course, observing all the appropriate protocols and ethical guidelines. Advocacy is his duty, not ajudication. Ajudication is in the hands of judge and jury. If your attorney were to say, "You know, the prosecution does make some good points," you would fire him on the spot.
Paul Ryan and other Republicans fail to understand the adversarial nature of politics. Instead of defending the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, the people's choice, who alone can defeat Hillary, they attack him, as if their job is to arrive at an objective assessment of his strengths and weaknesses. In so doing, they aid and abet Hillary.
Now that is stupid.
But it is worse than stupid. Sometimes Republicans attack Trump in utterly mindless ways, as when Paul Ryan came out with the nonsensical phrase "textbook definition of racism." There is no textbook definition, or any definition, as I have been arguing for years. The word is used as a semantic bludgeon in different ways depending on context. For example, you may be called a racist for urging that Muslims entering the country be properly vetted, even though everyone knows that Islam is not a race but a religion, or rather a religious-political ideology. You can be called a racist for simply citing a fact about race. Or for pointing out that 'nigger' is disyllabic, or often applied by blacks to one another. You are a racist if you serve watermelon at a party at which blacks are in attendance. You are a racist if you try to get beyond race, and also if you don't. If you enjoy 'soul food' then you are a racist for 'culturally appropriating' the vittles of the 'oppressed.' And also a racist if you don't like the stuff. Black pride is not racist, but white pride is.
Ryan's playing of the race card against Trump is exactly what one expects from a leftist. So what's going on? Is Ryan stupid or a quisling, or what? Doesn't he understand that behavior like his is what gave Trump traction in the first place? If Republicans were conservatives, and also knew how to fight, there would be no need for Trump. He says what they are afraid to say.
Gonzalo Curiel of La Raza
Trump had questioned whether federal judge Gonzalo Curiel would be able to give his Trump University case a fair hearing. A reasonable question given that, according to Wikipedia, "Curiel is a member of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, a nonprofit professional association of Latino lawyers that is affiliated with a statewide organization, the La Raza Lawyers of California." 'La Raza' means The Race, which ought to raise eyebrows of not chill one to the bone. One suspects that this Curiel fellow identifies as Hispanic first and as American second. So it is a reasonable surmise that Curiel will not be able to be objective in hearing a case in which the defendant advocates building a wall to keep illegal aliens, who are mostly Mexican, from entering the United States.
Victor Davis Hanson is on target re: the Trump-Curiel affair (empasis added):
Trump dismissively characterized Judge Gonzalo Curiel as a “Mexican” (the absence of hyphenation could be charitably interpreted as following the slang convention in which Americans are routinely called “Irish,” “Swedish,” “Greek,” or “Portuguese,” with these words used simply as abbreviated identifiers rather than as pejoratives). Trump’s point was that Curiel could not grant Trump a fair trial, given Trump’s well-publicized closed-borders advocacy.
Most of America was understandably outraged: Trump had belittled a sitting federal judge. Trump had impugned his Mexican ancestry. Trump had offered a dangerous vision of jurisprudence in which ethnic ancestry necessarily manifests itself in chauvinism and prejudice against the Other.
Trump was certainly crude, but on closer analysis of his disparagements he had blundered into at least a few legitimate issues. Was it not the Left that had always made Trump’s point about ethnicity being inseparable from ideology (most infamously Justice Sotomayor in her ruminations about how a “wise Latina” would reach better conclusions than intrinsically less capable white males, and how ethnic heritage necessarily must affect the vantage point of jurists — racialist themes Sotomayor returned to this week in her Utah v. Strieff dissent, which has been characterized as a “Black Lives Matter” manifesto)? Had not Barack Obama himself apologized (“Yeah, he’s a white guy . . . sorry.”) for nominating a white male judge to the Supreme Court, as if Merrick Garland’s appearance were something logically inseparable from his thought?
What exactly was the otherwise apparently sober and judicious Judge Curiel doing in publicizing his membership in a group known as the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association? Raza — a term that will likely soon disappear from American parlance once belated public attention focuses on its 1960s separatist origins and its deeper racist Francoist and Mussolinian roots — is by intent racially charged. Certainly, an illegal-immigration advocate could not expect a fair trial from any federal judge who belonged to a group commensurately designated “the San Diego Race Lawyers Association.” From this tawdry incident, we will remember Trump, the racial incendiary — but perhaps in the aftermath we will also question why any organization with Raza in its name should earn a pass from charges of polarizing racial chauvinism. The present tribalism is unsustainable in a pluralistic society. I wish the antidote for “typical white person,” “punish our enemies,” “my people,” (only) Black Lives Matter, and “la Raza” were not Donald Trump, but let us be clear on the fact that his is a crude reaction to a smooth and unquestioned racialism that, in bankrupt fashion, has been tolerated by the establishments of both parties.
As an addendum to The Incompatibility of Islam and the West, let me add that the case against Muslim immigration is political not religious. It is because Muslims are politically subversive that their immigration must be curtailed or eliminated, not because they have a different religion.
The U. S. Constitution in its First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion: one is free to practice the religion of one's choice, or refrain from the practice of any religion.
Now if Islam were a religion like Buddhism or Christianity or Judaism, there would be no problem. But Islam is unique. On an extreme view which I do not endorse, Islam is a political ideology masquerading as a religion; on a moderate view, which I do endorse, it is a hybrid ideology: at once both a religion and a political ideology. Either way is not a pure religion.
Qua political ideology, Islam is incompatible with Western values, or at least U. S. values. One reason for this is that Islam is not tolerant of religious diversity. It cannot be since it blends the religious and the secular and does not recognize the separation of church/mosque and state. Secular law is driven by Islamic law, or rather secular law just is Islamic law. So the 'infidel,' whether Buddhist, Christian, Jew, or whatever, must either convert or accept dhimmitude.
It's hot and dry in these parts this time of year, the candy-assed snowbirds have all flown back to their humid nests, and we desert rats like it plenty. That's why we live here. It takes a special breed of cat to be a desert rat.
You Californians stay put in your gun-grabbing, liberty-bashing, People's Republic of Political Correctness. Give my disregards to Governor Moonbeam. And that goes double for you effete and epicene residents of such Eastern states as the Commonwealth of Taxachusetts. Isn't that where Elizabeth 'Fauxcahontas' Warren spouts her nonsense?
Yesterday afternoon I was out and about in my Jeep Wrangler. The onboard thermometer reported the outside temperature as 116 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale.
Malcolm Pollack inquires, "Meanwhile, how do you manage in such heat? Do you just stay indoors? I suppose it's like living in Minneapolis in the winter."
It is no problem at all. We love the desert and deserts are typically hot in the summer. But there is often a 30 degree differential between the high and the low. 'Surely' it is better to live in a place where it is dry and hot in the afternoon but cool in the mornings rather in a flat and boring Eastern or Midwestern place where it is a humid 90 around the clock. Surely. (Might there be a bit of geographical chauvinism in play here?)
Do we just stay indoors? Of course not. This morning around 5:30 I hiked down to the swimming pool where I swam and did water aerobics for about an hour, chatting up the ladies and satisfying my social needs for the day. Then I went into the hot tub (sic!) for 15 minutes where I did stretching exercises. Then back into the pool for a cool-down, followed by a shower and a walk home. Other days I ride my mountain bike to the pool, swim, then go for a good ride while wet: with the soaked bandanna around my neck I'm as cool as a cucumber.
This afternoon I will go out around 3:30 to do some pro bono chess coaching at a local library for all comers, young and old. (I'm a strong coffee-house player; highest USCF rating in the 1700s.) Getting into a locked hot car that has been in the sun for an hour or two takes some getting used to, but one finds that steering a car requires less contact with the steering wheel than you might think.
From 1991 to 2009 I drove a 1988 Jeep Cherokee out here with no A.C. I'm not lying! I'm frugal. (Bought it in Ohio at T-giving in '87.) One summer I drove in one shot from Bishop, California in the High Sierra across the Mojave and Sonoran deserts to Phoenix. Stopping for gas in Blythe, California, just shy of the Colorado River and the Arizona border the temp. was 115. You drive open-windowed with an ice-cold wet bandanna around your neck. The only other motorists with their windows down were Mexicans. I felt a certain 'solidarity' with them. Does that make me a racist? Am I guilty of 'cultural appropriation'?
Tomorrow morning I pick up a guy at 5:30 and we head East into the desert for a little target practice, arriving at my favorite spot at 6. After expending 200-300 rounds between us, we head back around 8.
So no, we don't stay indoors.
I would say that Arizona is absolutely the best place to live year-round in the U.S. for all sorts of reasons.
There's a rattlesnake-infested wilderness right outside my door. Up for a hike? We leave in the dark, commence hiking at first light, and are done around ten A. M.