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 deeply grateful.
What you need to know is that this weblog is just one philosopher's online journal, notebook, workshop, and on occasion sandbox. 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.
I write about what interests me whether I am expert in it or not. Some find this unseemly; I do not. I oppose hyperprofessionalization and excessive specialization. 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 61 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.
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.
To understand the Left you must understand that central to their worldview is the hermeneutics of suspicion which is essentially a diluted amalgam of themes from Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud.
Thus nothing has the plain meaning that it has; every meaning must be deconstructed so as to lay bare its 'real meaning.'
Suppose I say, sincerely, "The most qualified person should get the job." To a leftist that means: "People of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race."
Or suppose I describe a black malefactor as a thug. What I have actually said, according to the hermeneutics of suspicion, is that the malefactor is a nigger. But 'thug' does not mean 'nigger.' 'Thug' means thug. There are thugs of all races.
Leftists often call for 'conversations' about this or that. Thus Eric Holder famously called for a 'conversation' about race. But how can one have a conversation -- no sneer quotes -- about anything with people who refuse to take what one sincerely says at face value?
Say 'Thanksgiving' and give thanks. You don't need to eat turkey to be thankful. Gratitude is a good old conservative virtue. I'd expatiate further, but I've got a race to run. You guessed it: a 'turkey trot.'
Occasionally, Robert Paul Wolff says something at his blog that I agree with completely, for instance:
To an extent I did not anticipate when I set out on life’s path, books have provided many of the joys and satisfactions I have encountered. I am constantly grateful to the scholars and thinkers who have written, and continue to write, the books from which I derive such pleasure, both the great authors of the past . . . and those less exalted . . . .
Gratitude is a characteristically conservative virtue; hence its presence in Wolff softens my attitude toward him.
As Wolff suggests, our gratitude should extend to the lesser lights, the humbler laborers in the vineyards of Wissenschaft, the commentators and translators, the editors and compilers and publishers. Beyond that, to the librarians and the supporters of libraries, and all the preservers and transmitters of high culture, and those who, unlettered themselves in the main, defend with blood and iron the precincts of high culture from the barbarians who now once again are massing at the gates.
Nor should we forget the dedicated teachers, mostly women, who taught us to read and write and who opened up the world of learning to us and a lifetime of the sublime joys of study and reading and writing.
The attitude of gratitude conduces to beatitude. Can it be said in plain Anglo-Saxon? Grateful thoughts lead one to happiness. However you say it, it is true. The miserable make themselves miserable by their bad thinking; the happy happy by their correct mental hygiene.
Broad generalizations, these. They admit of exceptions, as goes without saying. He who is afflicted with Weilian malheur or clinical depression cannot think his way out of his misery. Don't get hung up on the exceptions. Meditate on the broad practical truth. On Thanksgiving, and every day.
Liberals will complain that I am 'preaching.' But that only reinforces my point: they complain and they think, strangely, that any form of exhortation just has to be hypocritical. Besides not knowing what hypocrisy is, they don't know how to appreciate what actually exists and provably works. Appreciation is conservative. Scratch a liberal and likely as not you'll find a nihilist, a denier of the value of what is, a hankerer after what is not, and in too many cases, what is impossible.
Even the existence of liberals is something to be grateful for. They mark out paths not to be trodden. And their foibles provide plenty of blog fodder. For example, there is the curious phenomenon of hypocrisy-in-reverse.
. . . U.S. immigration policy is fundamentally unjust. It disregards the rights and interests of other human beings, merely because those persons were born in another country. It coercively imposes clear and serious harms on some people, for the sake of relatively minor or dubious benefits for others who happened to have been born in the right geographical area.
Huemer's argument stripped to essentials and in his own words:
1. It is wrong to knowingly impose severe harms on others, by force, without having a good reason for doing so. This principle holds regardless of where one's victims were born or presently reside.
2. The U.S. government, in restricting immigration, knowingly and coercively imposes severe harms on millions of human beings.
3. The U.S. government has no good reason for imposing such harms on potential immigrants.
4. It follows that U.S. immigration policy is morally wrong.
Before addressing Huemer's argument, some preliminary points need to be made.
A. First, a difficult issue such as the one before us cannot be resolved via some quick little argument like the above. Numerous considerations and counter-considerations come into play.
B. Here is a consideration in the light of which Huemer's argument has an aura of the fantastic. The U. S. is a welfare state. Now no welfare state can hope to survive and meet it commitments to provide all sorts of services at taxpayer expense if it opens its borders wide. Without trying to estimate the tsunami of humanity that would flood into the country from all sides were immigration restrictions removed, it is clear that open borders is a wildly impractical proposal. And note that this impracticality itself has moral ramifications: if bona fide citizens have been promised that they will be taken care of by some such system as Social Security into their old age, and the government reneges on its promises because of an empty treasury, then the rights of the retirees will have been violated -- which is a moral issue.
If state functions were stripped down to 'night watchman' size as certain libertarians would advocate, then perhaps an open borders policy would be workable; but obviously such a rollback of governmental powers and functions has no chance of occurring. Let the quixotic rollback occur; THEN and ONLY THEN we can talk about open borders. Meanwhile we do have border control, half-hearted as it is. It is not obviously unjust to those who immigrate legally to allow others in illegally?
C. An open borders policy is impractical not only for the reason mentioned, but for many others besides. I catalog some of them in Immigration Legal and Illegal.
Now to Huemer's argument.
I see no reason to accept premise (2) according to which the U. S. government imposes severe harms on people by preventing them from immigrating. Suppose you have foolishly gone into the desert without proper supplies. You soon find yourself in dire need of water. Coming upon my camp, you enter it and try to take my water. I prevent you from doing so. Have I harmed you? I have not inflicted any harm upon you; I have merely prevented you from getting something you need for your well-being. But you have no right to my water, even if I have more than enough. If you steal my supplies, you violate my property rights; I am therefore morally justified in resisting the theft. You are morally obliged to respect my property rights, but I am under no moral obligation to give you what you need, especially in light of the fact that you have freely put yourself in harm's way.
Similarly, the U. S. government does not harm those whom it does not allow to enter its territory, for they have no right to enter its territory in the first place, and in so doing violate the property rights of the U. S.
Once this is appreciated it will also be seen why (3) is false. The U. S. does have a good moral reason to prevent foreigners from entering its territory, namely, to prevent them from violating the property rights of the U. S.
Now at this point I expect someone to object as follows. "I grant you that illegal aliens are not justified in violating private property rights, but when they cross public lands, travel on public roads, use public facilities, etc. they are not violating any property rights. The U. S. has no property rights; there are no public property rights that need to be respected."
This objection is easily rebutted. It is based on a false analogy with unowned resources. An incursion into an uninhabited region not in the jurisdiction of a state does not violate property rights. But the public lands of the U. S. are within the jurisdiction of the U.S. These lands are managed and protected by the state which gets the werewithal of such management and protection, and in some instances, the money to pay for the original acquisition, from coercive taxation. Thus we taxpayers collectively own these lands. It is not as if the land, roads, resources and the like of the U.S. which are not privately owned are somehow open to anyone in the world who wants to come here. Just as an illegal alien violates property rights when he breaks into my house, he violates property rights when he breaks into my country. For a country belongs collectively to its citizens, not to everyone in the world.
The fundamental point is that foreigners have no right to immigrate. Since they have no such right, no moral wrong is done to them by preventing them from immigrating even though they would be better off were they to immigrate. Furthermore, the U.S. government and every government has not only the right, but also the moral obligation, to control its border for the the good of its citizens. After all, protection from foreign invasion is one of the legitimate functions of government.
. . . I'm reluctant to say that tolerance needs defending more than intolerance.
The Muslim world is intolerant of many things that should be tolerated, such as 'paganism' and atheism. But then, the Muslim world is also rightly intolerant of all the worst things about our culture. They don't tolerate blasphemy-for-the-sake-of-blasphemy. If halfwits with 'education' degrees want to teach their young children that it's great to be 'gay' or 'trans', and maybe they should try it out, Muslims will not stand for it. They don't tolerate rape and murder just because stopping it would have 'disparate impact' across races. Don't we want to defend their intolerance in these respects?
[. . .]
I basically agree with Jacques although the penultimate sentence of the above quotation needs to be toned down and qualified. But it is certainly true that "the Muslim world is also rightly intolerant of all the worst things about our culture." I have argued this myself:
Thursday, February 10, 2011
What Do We Have to Teach the Muslim World? Reflections Occasioned by the Death of Maria Schneider
I was one of those who saw "Last Tango in Paris" when it was first released, in 1972. I haven't seen it since and I don't remember anything specific about it except one scene, the scene you remember too, the 'butter scene,' in which the Marlon Brando character sodomizes the Maria Schneider character. Maria Schneider died last week at 58 and indications are that her exploitation by Brando and Bertolucci scarred her for life.
Islamic culture is in many ways benighted and backward, fanatical and anti-Enlightenment, but our trash culture is not much better. Suppose you are a Muslim and you look to the West. What do you see? Decadence. And an opportunity to bury the West.
If Muslims think that our decadent culture is what Western values are all about, and something we are trying to impose on them, then we are in trouble. They do and we are.
Militant Islam's deadly hatred of us should not be discounted as the ravings of lunatics or psychologized away as a reflex of envy at our fabulous success. For there is a kernel of insight in it that we do well to heed. Sayyid Qutb , theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood, who visited the USA at the end of the '40s, writes in Milestones (1965):
Humanity today is living in a large brothel! One has only to glance at its press, films, fashion shows, beauty contests, ballrooms, wine bars and broadcasting stations! Or observe its mad lust for naked flesh, provocative pictures, and sick, suggestive statements in literature, the arts, and mass media! And add to all this the system of usury which fuels man's voracity for money and engenders vile methods for its accumulation and investment, in addition to fraud, trickery, and blackmail dressed up in the garb of law.
A wild exaggeration in 1965, the above statement is much less of an exaggeration today. But setting aside the hyperbole, we are in several ways a sick and decadent society getting worse day by day. On this score, if on no other, we can learn something from our Islamist critics. The fact that a man wants to chop your head off does not mean that he has nothing to teach you. We often learn more from our enemies than from our friends. Our friends often will spare us hard truths.
Jacques' challenge to me I take to be the following: Why do you defend tolerance and not intolerance when, as ought to be obvious to any sensible person, there are things that we ought to tolerate and things that we ought not tolerate? Equivalently, why is tolerance in general better than intolerance in general? An anonymous commenter adds support to Jacques' challenge:
All sides can say "it is important that the right kinds of things are tolerated and important that the wrong kinds of things are not tolerated". Isn't that the only sense in which you, or anyone, is a proponent of "tolerance"?
I don't think so. In order to determine what is tolerable and what is not we must inquire, we must examine, we must canvass various options. For this we need the help of others. We need to read their writings and hear their voices. We need access to a broad base of historical and other knowledge. We ought therefore to tolerate a wide variety of views in order to understand the issues and possibly arrive at the truth about them.
We don't know what all to tolerate and what all not to tolerate. Should we allow (tolerate) immigration from Muslim lands at the present time? That is a serious question. The answer is not obvious. If you claim to know the answer you are blustering. This is a legitimate topic of open inquiry. Among the conditions of the possibility of open inquiry is toleration of opposing points of view.
So, even to get clear about what toleration is and is not, to get clear about its limits, to get clear about how it gears into other values, to get clear about what our first-order moral commitments ought to be, we need a space in which there is the free exchange of ideas, a space that is possible only under the aegis of toleration, and not in the precincts of Islamic fundamentalism or Leftism.
Suppose you say to me, "Look, free exchange of ideas is just one more thing that we ought to tolerate; but that is not a reason to defend tolerance in general rather than intolerance." Well, I think it is. For how do you know that free exchange of ideas ought to be tolerated? That is something that needs to be investigated. Tolerance is the space within which alone these questions can be addressed and possibly resolved (though I am not sanguine about resolutions); as such, tolerance and its conditions are not just further things that ought to be tolerated.
Every day brings further evidence that contemporary liberals have lost their minds.
A yoga class has been cancelled at the University of Ottawa on the ground that participants are complicit in 'oppression' and 'cultural genocide.' By the way, we are talking about hatha yoga here which is essentially just stretching.
So you might think that re-labelling the course 'Stretching' would solve the problem. But no!
This is a good place to observe that stretching is an essential ingredient in a balanced physical fitness program along with aerobic exercise (walking, hiking, running, biking, etc.), anaerobic work (weight-lifting), and activities that maintain good hand-eye coordination (tennis, pickleball, etc.) The Maverick recommends a four-pronged approach.
Why is Canada such a Pee Cee place? I should think that with all that rugged country up there, those vast empty expanses, and the ass-freezing temperatures a tougher breed of cat would live there and not a bunch of pc-whipped pussies.
Another 'interesting' development is the assault on free speech. According to Pew Research, 40% of millennials think it acceptable to limit speech offensive to minorities.
Trouble is, almost anything will be found offensive by the members of some minority or other. Some blacks have shown themselves to be absurdly sensitive to the slights they imagine embedded in such words and phrases as 'niggardly,' 'denigrate,' 'black hole,' and 'watermelon.'
Some take offense at 'chink in the armor.' But if 'chink in the armor' is about Asians, then the Asians in question would have to be rather tiny to hang out interstitially in, say, a coat of mail.
Why not take offense at 'chunk'? Someone might get it into his Pee Cee head that a chunk is a fat chink.
There is no end to this madness once it gets going, which is why we sane and decent people need to mock and deride liberals every chance we get. Mockery and derision can achieve what calm reasoning cannot.
One cannot reason with those who are permanently in a state of self-colonoscopy.
The truth is PC doesn't hack it in war. PC is a rich liberal's plaything, a luxury item. It works best as a subject for ridicule on South Park. And it's not the way we really think. It's the way we pretend we think. So just who is it that is blowing innocent people to smithereens in Paris, Beirut, Sharm, and Mali, and who knows where else next? Zen Buddhist monks? The Little Sisters of the Poor?
Everybody knows who it is. Islam has a big problem and although people want to be polite or deliberately lie about it to look "good" to their neighbors or to their cousins at the Thanksgiving table, when they get into a voting booth, many of them are guiltily going to be pulling the lever for someone with the you-know-what to put an end to this global homicidal insanity -- and it's not going to be John Kasich or Rand Paul or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. It's going to be Donald Trump. And if not Donald, possibly Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, both of whom seem to be able to find Raqqa on a map. And none of these people are racists, not even faintly, no matter what some NBC reporter wants to imply.
Commenting on a recent post of mine, Malcolm Pollack takes issue with the notion that values are objective. While granting that there are objective truths, he denies that there are objective values because of a theory of value that he holds according to which values have their origin in valuing beings and merely reflect the needs and interests of these valuing beings.
The wider context of the debate is the assault upon Western values by those who would infiltrate our societies and foist Islamic values upon us. I had made the claim that in defending the values of the West we should insist that these are not just values for us in the West but are values for all. In this sense these values are universal and valid for all human beings even though not universally recognized as valid for all human beings, and even though they were first 'sighted' in the West. I pointed out that values could be universal without being universally recognized. That is indisputably true. What is not indisputably true, however, is the claim that there are objective values. If there are objective values, then these values are universal, i.e., valid for all. Does the converse also hold? Is it also true that if there are universal values, then they are objective? I don't think so. It may well be that some values are universal despite their being non-objective.
What I am going to argue is that, even if one were to concede what I don't concede, namely, that there are no objective values, it still would not follow that that there are no universal values. But first we need to discuss the question of the objectivity of values and give some examples of the values that we are concerned with.
I claim that there are some objective values. Malcolm claims that there are no objective values. He doesn't deny that are values, and I am confident that he and I agree on what some of the Western values are; what he denies is that these values are objective values. But first some examples of Western values.
Open inquiry I take to be an example of a Western value. Inquiry is open to the extent that it is not interfered with by religious or political authorities. The value of open inquiry presupposes the values of knowledge and truth. Inquiry is a value because knowledge is a value, and knowledge is a value because truth is a value. But the pursuit of truth via inquiry requires the free exchange of ideas. So freedom of expression is a value, whether in speech or in writing. Connected with this is the value of toleration. We tolerate other voices and opposing points of view because their consideration is truth-conducive. There are of course other values championed in the West such as equality of rights. But I will take as my central example the value of truth.
When I say that truth is a value I mean that truth is something that has value. I mean that truth is a valuable item. In general we ought to distinguish between an item that has value and its property of being valuable. And neither is to be confused with an act of valuation or with a disposition to evaluate.
The question, however, is whether truth is objectively valuable or else valuable only relative to beings having interests and needs.
In this discussion 'truth' is to be taken extensionally as referring to truths (the propositions, beliefs, judgments . . . that are true) and not intensionally as referring to that property in virtue of which truths are true. Now on to Malcolm's axiological theory.
Where do values come from? In general values represent some interest of their owner, and such interests range from such hard-wired preferences as biological survival and the survival of our offspring, to whether one roots for the Yankees or the Red Sox. In particular, many of the most important valuations humans make have a social context; in addition to valuing such obvious things as food, pleasure, comfort, sex, and shelter, humans tend to value those things that elevate their status in their group, and that help their group compete with other groups. Indeed, for creatures like us, social values can often trump more personal interests — because if your group is wiped out, you are too. Humans will make tremendous personal sacrifices both for the well-being of the group, and to attain and signal high status in whatever way it is acquired and displayed.
[. . .]
Let me put this another way: for a fish, a pre-eminent “value” is to be, at all times, fully immersed in water. This is not the case for a cat. Human groups may not differ from each other as much as fishes and cats do — but they differ enough, I think, that one group’s cherished value can be another’s damnable sin.
Let's examine this admittedly plausible view. The idea is that nothing is valuable or the opposite, in itself or intrinsically. If a thing is valuable, it is valuable only relative to a being who wants, needs, or desires it. If a thing lacks value, it lacks value only relative to a being who shuns it or is averse to it. In a world in which there are no conative/desiderative beings, nothing has or lacks value. Such a world would be value-neutral. This is plausible, is it not? How could an object or state of affairs have value or disvalue apart from a valuer with specific needs and interests? (As Malcolm might rhetorically ask.)
Imagine a world in which there is nothing but inanimate objects and processes, a world in which nothing is alive, willing, striving, wanting, needing, desiring, competing for space or scarce resources. In such a world nothing would be either good or bad, valuable or the opposite. A sun in a lifeless world goes supernova incinerating a nearby planet. A disaster? Hardly. Just another value-neutral event. A re-arrangement of particles and fields. But if our sun went supernova, that would be a calamity beyond compare -- but only for us and any other caring observers hanging around. For we are averse to such an event -- to put it mildly -- and this aversion is the ground of the disvalue of our sun's going supernova, just as our need for light and a certain range of temperatures is what confers value upon our sun's doing its normal thing.
An axiological theory like this involves two steps. The first step relativizes value claims. The second step provides a naturalistic reduction of them.
First, sentences of the form 'X is good (evil)' are construed as elliptical for sentences of the form 'X is good (evil) for Y.' Accordingly, to say that X is good (evil) but X is not good (evil) for some Y would then be like saying that Tom is married but there is no one to whom Tom is married.
The second step is to cash out axiological predicates in naturalistic terms. Thus,
D1. X has value for Y =df X satisfies Y's actual wants (needs, desires)
D2. X has disvalue for Y =df X frustrates Y's actual wants (needs, desires).
It is clear that on this theory value and disvalue are not being made relative to what anyone says or opines, but to certain hard facts, objective facts, about the wants, needs, and desires of living beings. That we need water to live is an objective fact about us, a fact independent of what anyone says or believes. Water cannot have value except for beings who need or want it; but that it does have value for such beings is an objective fact.
The needs of fish and the needs of cats are objective facts about fish and cats respectively; but the value of being totally immersed in water at all times is a value only for fish, not for cats. It follows on the axiological theory we are considering that values are relative: they are relative to the needs and interests of evaluators.
Does it follow from this that no value is universal? No. (Recall that 'universal' in this discussion of Western values in the context of the civilizational struggle between the West and the Islamic world means 'valid for all human beings.' It does not mean 'universally recognized.') It doesn't follow because a value could be non-objective in that it is necessarily tied to the needs/interests of evaluating beings and thus relative to beings having these needs/interests while also being universal. This will be the case with respect to all values that originate from needs that all humans possess. Thus being fully immersed in water at all times (without special breathing apparatus) is a universal disvalue for all human beings. And ingesting a certain amount of protein per week is a universal value.
There are also universal values for all living things, or at least for all terrestrial living things. For they all need our sun's light and a certain range of temperatures. The corresponding value is a value for all terrestrial biota despite the fact that this value is not universally recognized by these organisms. So once again a value can be non-objective, universal, and not universally recognized. Indeed, not even universally recognizable. For there is no possibility that an amoeba recognize the value of what it needs to exist.
As for the fish and the cats, they both need oxygen and they both get oxygen, but in different ways via gills and lungs respectively. So getting oxygen is a universal value for the union of the set of fish and the set of cats, and this despite the fact that this value is not only not universally recognized by these critters, but not recognized by them at all. The point I have just made is of course consistent with the fact that being fully immersed in water at all times is a value for fish but not for cats on the axiological theory under examination. (Note that it is not only not a value for cats, but a disvalue for them.)
As for truth, we presumably agree as to the first-order claim that truth has value. And I hope we can agree also on the first-order claim that truth trumps human feelings, that truth is of higher value than that no injury to human feelings occur, though I cannot expect any contemporary liberal to perceive this. The dispute occurs at the meta level: given that X (e.g. truth) has value, what is it for X to have value?
Suppose that values are non-objective: they merely reflect the interests and needs of evaluators. Given that truth is a value, the ground of truth's being valuable is that we need truth. And we do need it, and not only for the life of the mind. We need it to live well as animals. Truth is conducive to human flourishing, indeed, to a human existence that is not nasty, brutish, and short. Since we all need truth, truth is a universal value. Thus it is a value even for those who do not value it: it is a value even for those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its value for us.
The values of the West areuniversal values. They are not Western values or Caucasian values except per accidens. They are universal, not in that they are recognized by all, but in that they are valid for all. If a proposition is true, it is true for all including those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its truth. If a value is valid or binding or normative it is these things for all including those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its validity.
What I didn't realize at the time I wrote this was that the quoted paragraph is consistent both with my view that values are objective and with those views according to which values reflect the interests and needs of evaluators.
On my view, the universality and intersubjective validity of values is secured by their objectivity. On a view like that of Malcolm's, the universality of (some) values is secured by the objective fact that all the members of a class of evaluators share the need that is 'father' to the value. Thus all human beings, and indeed all intelligent beings, need truth to flourish, whence it follows that this value is universal even if non-objective.
What is crucial here is the distinction between a value's being universal and a value's being universally recognized. This distinction 'cuts perpendicular' to the distinction between objective and non-objective values. The Islamic world, benighted and backward as it is, either will not or cannot recognize certain values that are conducive to human flourishing, all human flourishing, including the flourishing of Muslims.
The message we need to convey to the Muslims and to the leftists who will listen is not that Western values are superior because they are Western but that they are best conducive to everyone's flourishing even that of Muslims and leftists. We have to convince them that we are not out to foist 'our' values on them, but to get them to recognize values that are valid for all.
Welcome to the worst job market in America. Extracts:
As late as 1970, more than two-thirds of faculty positions at U.S. colleges and universities were tenure-line, but now the percentages are reversed, with 1 million out of the estimated 1.5 million Americans teaching college these days classified as “contingent” faculty, the overwhelming majority of them working part-time. Parents who have shelled out or borrowed the more than $60,000 per year that it can now cost to attend an elite private college may be shocked to learn that their young Jayden or Sophia isn’t actually being taught by the Nobel Prize-winners advertised on the faculty but by shabbily attired nomads with ancient clattering cars who are wondering how to get the phone bill paid. Some adjuncts have successfully unionized. In 2013 adjuncts at the University of Oregon won the right to a boost in base pay, regular raises, health insurance, and the ability to qualify for multiyear contracts. That still didn’t erase—and perhaps set in stone—their second-class faculty status, and they still would earn tens of thousands of dollars less than the greenest assistant professor.
Explanations for this two-tier phenomenon abound. Marc Bousquet, now an associate professor of film and media at Emory University, contended, in his 2008 book, How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation, that the problem was the “corporatization” of the university. Bousquet argued that formerly high-minded academia figured out that it was actually a business. Like the rest of American businesses during the 1980s and 1990s, Bousquet argued, universities adopted outsourcing as their most profitable economic model, transforming their historic teaching mission into a form of low-wage, gig-economy service employment in which the majority of the instructors, like Uber drivers, are responsible for their own overhead.
An alternative and less class-warfare-driven theory came from Benjamin Ginsberg, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University. In his 2011 book, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters, Ginsberg targeted administrative bloat as the culprit for the massive shrinkage in tenure-line faculty from the 1970s onward, even as college tuition costs were rising exponentially. He pointed out, for example, that between 1998 and 2008, America’s colleges increased their spending on administration by 36 percent while boosting their spending on instruction by only 22 percent. In an adaptation of his book for the Washington Monthly Ginsberg wrote: “As a result, universities are now filled with armies of functionaries—vice presidents, associate vice presidents, assistant vice presidents, provosts, associate provosts, vice provosts, assistant provosts, deans, deanlets, and deanlings, all of whom command staffers and assistants—who, more and more, direct the operations of every school.”
[. . .]
In the end, though, the best course for Ph.D.s facing underemployment—as most do—is probably a version of William Pannapacker’s “Just Don’t Go”: Take the supply-and-demand problem into your own hands, and just say no to adjuncting and its Dickensian miseries. This past April Jason Brennan, a philosophy professor at Georgetown and a self-described libertarian, incurred the Internet wrath of the famously left-leaning adjunct-advocacy community by proclaiming that “it’s hard to feel sorry for [adjuncts].” There’s no reason for them “to wallow in adjunct poverty,” Brennan wrote, pointing out that they could “quit any time and get a perfectly good job at GEICO.”
In a phone interview, Brennan said, “So many people consistently make bad decisions. The system isn’t going to deliver more tenure-track jobs. A small number of people will, and the rest get kicked out for good. Most people won’t get what they want. There just isn’t that much money.”
An important essay by Niall Ferguson. The meat of the article (emphases and parenthetical material added):
Let us be clear about what is happening. Like the Roman Empire in the early fifth century, Europe has allowed its defenses to crumble. As its wealth has grown, so its military prowess has shrunk, along with its self-belief. It has grown decadent in its shopping malls and sports stadiums. At the same time, it has opened its gates to outsiders who have coveted its wealth without renouncing their ancestral faith.
The distant shock to this weakened edifice has been the Syrian civil war, though it has been a catalyst as much as a direct cause for the great Völkerwanderung [migration of the tribes/peoples] of 2015. As before, they have come from all over the imperial periphery — from North Africa, from the Levant, from South Asia — but this time they have come in their millions.
To be sure, most have come hoping only for a better life. Things in their own countries have become just good enough economically for them to afford to leave and just bad enough politically for them to risk leaving. But they cannot stream northward and westward without some of that political malaise coming along with them. As Gibbon saw, convinced monotheists pose a grave threat to a secular empire.
It is conventional to say that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Europe are not violent, and that is doubtless true. But it is also true that the majority of Muslims in Europe hold views that are not easily reconciled with the principles of our modern liberal democracies, including those novel notions we have about equality between the sexes and tolerance not merely of religious diversity but of nearly all sexual proclivities. And it is thus remarkably easy for a violent minority to acquire their weapons and prepare their assaults on civilization within these avowedly peace-loving communities.
I do not know enough about the fifth century to be able to quote Romans who described each new act of barbarism as unprecedented, even when it had happened multiple times before; or who issued pious calls for solidarity after the fall of Rome, even when standing together in fact meant falling together; or who issued empty threats of pitiless revenge, even when all they intended to do was to strike a melodramatic pose.
I do know that 21st-century Europe has only itself to blame for the mess it is now in. For surely nowhere in the world has devoted more resources to the study of history than modern Europe. When I went up to Oxford more than 30 years ago, it was taken for granted that in the first term of my first year I would study Gibbon. It did no good. We learned nothing that mattered. Indeed, we learned a lot of nonsense to the effect that nationalism was a bad thing, nation-states worse, and empires the worst things of all.
“Romans before the fall,” wrote Ward-Perkins in his “Fall of Rome,” “were as certain as we are today that their world would continue for ever substantially unchanged. They were wrong. We would be wise not to repeat their complacency.”
Dr. Ben Carson, the pediatric neurosurgeon who is running for president, is now in trouble with the politically correct for referring to Syrian terrorists as rabid dogs. The comparison is perfectly apt, and only a fool or a liberal could take offense at it. A Syrian terrorist is not 'rabid' in that he is Syrian; he is 'rabid' in that he is a terrorist.
Note the double standard involved here. Carson compares Muslim terrorists to rabid dogs. But Muslims refer to ALL Jews as the sons and daughters of pigs and monkeys. Where is the outrage of the squishy-headed libs and lefties over this, something that is objectively offensive?
But as I have said many times before, there would be nothing left of a Left made bereft of its double standards.
Since forcible equalization of wealth will be resisted by those who possess it and feel entitled to their possession of it, a revolutionary vanguard will be needed to impose the equalization. But this vanguard cannot have power equal to the power of those upon whom it imposes its will: the power of the vanguard must far outstrip the power of those to be socialized. So right at the outset of the new socialist order an inequality of power is instituted to bring about an equality of wealth -- in contradiction to the socialist demand for equality.
The upshot is that no equality is attained, neither of wealth nor of power. The apparatchiks end up with both, and their subjects end up far worse off than they would have ended up in a free and competitive society. And once the apparatchiks get a taste of the good life with their luxury apartments in Moscow and their dachas on the Black Sea, or their equivalent in other lands, they will not want to give it up. Greed has ever been with us, and it is folly to suppose that it is a fruit of capitalism or that its cure is socialism.
André Glucksmann was a great man, and he played a great role in history. I think that, in the world of ideas, no one in modern times has played a larger and more effective role in marshalling the arguments against totalitarianisms of every sort—no one outside of the dissident circles of the old Soviet bloc, that is.
[. . .]
Glucksmann worried about dreamy visions of world peace. Dreamy visions seemed to him a ticket to war. He had a lot to say about the Soviet Union and its own weapons. He argued that, in the face of the Soviet Union, nuclear deterrence and common sense were one and the same. Pessimism was wisdom, in his eyes. He wanted to rally support in the West for the dissidents of the East, which was not the same as staging mass demonstrations against Ronald Reagan.
[. . .]
Intellectually speaking, he did not care if old-fashioned leftists of a certain kind accused him of betrayal. His own rebellion was to reject political ideologies altogether. The leftists denounced him as a right-winger, and sometimes the press picked up the cliché, but this, of course, was never accurate. You have only to read two pages by Glucksmann to appreciate that he is not a man of conservative instincts. He is outraged by injustice; he is moved by the despair of the most desperate; he doesn’t give a damn about hallowed traditions. These traits of his were constitutional. His final book is about Voltaire—I wrote about it for Tablet—and, in that book, he mounted a defense of the Roma, or Gypsies, in France, people so downtrodden they have ended up deformed and ugly, doomed to the pathologies of organized crime. In France, to defend the Roma has not been in fashion. But France’s most principled intellectual was on their side.
It is true that, in the French election of 2007, he came out for the conservative candidate for president. This was Nicolas Sarkozy, and Glucksmann’s endorsement aroused the harshest denunciations of his life. He could not walk in the street without being rebuked by the leftwing passersby. As it happened, he came to the conclusion, after a couple of years, that his endorsement was a mistake, which he regretted.
"Roughly 150 Black Lives Matter protesters reportedly stormed a library at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, Thursday night to berate students studying there for their supposed racial privilege." Here.
The solution, of course, is to expel the BLM thugs. But that would be a 'racist' thing to do. So is it the leftist view that blacks are thuggish by nature and simply cannot be expected to behave in a civilized manner? So who are the real racists here?
TRIGGER WARNING! The above contains careful thought and big words and will upset and offend the 'safe space' crybullies, the BLM thugs, and the liberal- left scum who apologize for them.
Addendum (11/20): If the secular sphere has a 'sacred' space, that would be the university library, the repository of the best thoughts of humanity. The university is finished if such a space is allowed to be invaded and disrupted by thugs and savages.
A 'pastafarian' idiot was allowed to wear a colander in an official DMV photo in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Bring on the hoodies, the sombreros, the ski masks . . . . Story here.
Does this have anything to do with the decline of the West? Something. It is just another little indication of the abdication of those in positions of authority. A driver's license is an important document. The authorities should not allow its being mocked by a dumbass with a piece of kitchenware on her head. But Massachusetts is lousy with liberals, so what do you expect? A liberal will tolerate anything except common sense and good judgment.
A penne for her thoughts as she strains to find something to believe in. If only she would use her noodle.
This entry continues the discussion with Jacques about patriotism begun in Is Patriotism a Good Thing? The topic is murky and difficult and we have been meandering some, but at the moment we are discussing the ground of patriotism's moral permissibility. What makes patriotism morally permissible, assuming that it is? We have been operating with a characterization of patriotism as love of, and loyalty to, one's country. (A characterization needn't be a definition in the strict sense of a specification of the necessary and sufficient conditions for the correct application of the definiendum. Or so say I.)
Here is part of our last exchange:
Now my surrejoinder:
I take you to be committed to the proposition that a logically sufficient condition of the moral permissibility of a person's being loyal to his family is just that he be a member of it. And similarly for the moral permissibility of loyalty to larger groups up to and including the nation.
But this is entirely too thin a basis for the moral permissibility of loyalty. Why? Because it allows such permissibility even if the group to which one is loyal has no worthwhile features at all. And surely this is absurd.
You might respond that in actuality no group is devoid of worthwhile attributes. You would be right about that, but all I need is the possibility of such a group for my objection to go through.
I think you agree with me that patriotism is not jingoism. In my original post I characterized jingoism as bellicose chauvinism. So imagine some jingoist who trumpets "My country right or wrong." He could invoke your theory in justification of his attitude. He might say, agreeing with you: My country is mine, and its being mine suffices to make it morally permissible for me to prefer my country over every other, and to take its side in any conflict with any other, regardless of the nature of the conflict and regardless of any moral outrages my country has perpetrated on the other. Do you want to give aid and comfort to such jingoism?
Is your loyalty to your rapist friend (or to your Muslim friend whom you have just discovered to have participated in the Paris terrorist attack) logically consistent with turning him into the police? Assume that 'ratting him out' will lead to his execution. Would you remain a loyal friend if you did that? Can a 'rat' be loyal? I would say No, and that you (morally) must turn him in. It is morally obligatory that you turn him in. It is therefore morally impermissible that you abstract away from his attributes and deeds and consider merely the fact that he is your friend.
I take that to show that the moral permissibility of loyalty to a friend cannot be grounded merely in the fact that he is your friend.
There is no coward like a university administrator, to cop a line from Dennis Prager. But that is not to say that there have never been any who have demonstrated civil courage. But we have to go back a long way to the late 60s and early 70s.
With apologies to that unrepentant commie Peter Seeger who wrote it and to all who have sung it:
Where have all the Silbers gone, long time passing? Where have all the Silbers gone, long time ago Where have all the Silbers gone, gone into abdication every one When will they ever learn, when will they e-v-e-r learn?
I believe that I now have a clear mandate from this University community to see that: (1) our lines of communication between all segments of the community are kept as open as possible, with all legitimate means of communicating dissent assured, expanded, and protected; (2) civility and rationality are maintained; and (3) violation of another’s rights or obstruction of the life of the University are outlawed as illegitimate means of dissent in this kind of open society.
Now comes my duty of stating, clearly and unequivocally, what happens if. I’ll try to make it as simple as possible to avoid misunderstanding by anyone. Anyone or any group that substitutes force for rational persuasion, be it violent or non-violent, will be given fifteen minutes of meditation to cease and desist. They will be told that they are, by their actions, going counter to the overwhelming conviction of this community as to what is proper here.
If they do not within that time period cease and desist, they will be asked for their identity cards. Those who produce these will be suspended from this community as not understanding what this community is. Those who do not have or will not produce identity cards will be assumed not to be members of the community and will be charged with trespassing and disturbing the peace on private property and treated accordingly by the law.
After notification of suspension, or trespass in the case of non-community members, if there is not within five minutes a movement to cease and desist, students will be notified of expulsion from this community and the law will deal with them as non-students.
There seems to be a current myth that university members are not responsible to the law, and that somehow the law is the enemy, particularly those whom society has constituted to uphold and enforce the law. I would like to insist here that all of us are responsible to the duly constituted laws of this University community and to all of the laws of the land. There is no other guarantee of civilization versus the jungle or mob rule, here or elsewhere.
Responding to a commenter who states that one exposes oneself to tremendous risk by speaking out against leftist insanity, Malcolm Pollack writes:
Most bloggers who write from a contrarian position about these things seem to use noms de plume. In fact, I do have another blog I’ve set up for this purpose, but I almost never post anything to it. I prefer to speak under my own name — not because I’m trying to be “brave”, which this really isn’t at all, but just because it feels more honest, and because I have a right to, and because I’m ornery. (Running into that theater in Paris to try to save the people inside, knowing you are overwhelmingly likely to be killed: that’s brave. Writing grumpy blog-posts from the comfort and safety of my home is not.)
I would underscore the First Amendment right to free speech under one's own name without fear of government reprisal. Use it or lose it. (Unfortunately, the disjunction is inclusive: you may use it and still lose it.) But use it responsibly, as Pollack does. The right to express an opinion does not absolve one of the obligation to do one's level best to form correct opinions. Note however that your legal (and moral) right to free speech remains even if you shirk your moral (but not legal) obligation to do your best to form correct opinions.
I would add to Pollack's reasons for writing under his own name the credibility it gives him. You lose credibility when you hide behind a pseudonym. And when you take cover behind 'anonymous,' your credibility takes a further southward plunge, and shows a lack of imagination to boot.
Pollack is right: it doesn't take much civil courage to do what he and I do. I've made mine, and he is on the cusp of making his, if he hasn't already. (You could say we are 'made men.') We don't need jobs and we have no need to curry favor. And our obscurity provides some cover. Obscurity has its advantages, and fame is surely overrated. (Ask John Lennon.)
This is why I do not criticize the young and not-yet-established conservatives who employ pseudonyms. Given the ugly climate wrought by the fascists of the Left it would be highly imprudent to come forth as a conservative if you are seeking employment in academe, but not just there.
What is civil courage? The phrase translates the German Zivilcourage, a word first used by Otto von Bismarck in 1864 to refer to the courage displayed in civilian life as opposed to the military valor displayed on the battlefield. According to Bismarck, there is more of the latter than of the former, an observation that holds true today. (One example: there is no coward like a university administrator, as recent events at the university of Missouri and at Yale once again bear out.) Civil courage itself no doubt antedates by centuries the phrase.
"An Italian man was arrested in Dublin on Sunday and charged with killing his Irish landlord and attempting to eat his heart after an argument about a game of chess." (here)
When the irascibility of the Italian collides with the pugnacity of the Irishman, look out! The above incident adds resonance to a well-known chess title, Chess for Fun and Chess for Blood, by Edward Lasker, not to be confused with Emmanuel Lasker.
Am I retailing stereotypes? Damn straight I am. If you deny that stereotypes have a fundamentum in re, then you are either stupid or a liberal, predicates which may in the end be coextensive.
It is important to distinguish between the problem of evil and the argument from evil. The first is the problem of reconciling the existence of God, as traditionally understood, with the existence of natural and moral evils. As J. L. Mackie points out, this "is essentially a logical problem: it sets the theist the task of clarifying and if possible reconciling the several beliefs which he holds." (The Miracle of Theism, Oxford 1982, p. 150) Mackie goes on to point out that "the problem in this sense signally does not arise for those whose views of the world are markedly different from traditional theism." Thus the theist's problem of evil does not arise for an atheist. It might, however, be the case that some other problem of evil arises for the atheist, say, the problem of reconciling the existence of evil with life's being worth living. But that is a separate matter. I discuss it in A Problem of Evil for Atheists.
The argument from evil, on the other hand, is an attempt to show the nonexistence of God from the fact of evil, where 'fact of evil' is elliptical for 'the existence of natural and moral evils.'
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PROBLEM OF EVIL AND THE ARGUMENT FROM EVIL
The main difference between the problem of evil and the argument from evil is that the former is an ad hominem argument whereas the second is not. I am using ad hominem in the way Peter Geach uses it on pp. 26-27 of his Reason and Argument (Basil Blackwell 1976):
This Latin term indicates that these are arguments addressed to a particular man -- in fact, the other fellow you are disputing with. You start from something he believes as a premise, and infer a conclusion he won't admit to be true. If you have not been cheating in your reasoning, you will have shown that your opponent's present body of beliefs is inconsistent and it's up to him to modify it somewhere.
As Geach points out, there is nothing fallacious about such an argumentative procedure. If A succeeds in showing B that his doxastic system harbors a contradiction, then not everything that B believes can be true. Now can an atheist prove the nonexistence of God in this way? No he cannot: at the very most he can prove (with the aid of various auxiliary premises that he and his interlocutor both accept) that God exists and Evil exists cannot both be true. But it does not follow therefrom that God exists is not true. For the atheist to transform the ad hominem problem of evil into a non-ad hominemargument from evil, he would have to establish, or at least assert, that evil exists, and not merely that the theist believes that evil exists. To see my point consider the following conditional, where P is the conjunction of auxiliary premises:
C. If evil exists & P, then God does not exist.
The atheist who raises the problem of evil for the theist asserts (C), or rather a proposition of that form. But to assert a conditional is not to assert its antecedent, or its consequent for that matter; it is to assert an entailment connection between the two. Now although it is the case that for each argument there is a corresponding conditional, and vice versa, arguments must not be confused with conditionals.
Transforming (C) into an argument from evil yields:
God does not exist.
Clearly, an atheist who gives this argument, or rather an argument of this form, must assert both premises. Doing so, he ceases his ad hominem examination of the consistency of another person's beliefs, beliefs he either rejects or takes no stand on, and 'comes clean' with his own beliefs.
THE ARGUER FROM EVIL NEEDS TO AFFIRM OBJECTIVE EVIL
If the atheist's aim is merely to poke holes in the logical consistency of the theist's belief set, then it doesn't matter whether he thinks of evil as objective or subjective. Indeed, he needn't believe in evil in any sense. He could hold that it is an illusion. But if the atheist's goal is to support his own belief that God does not exist with an argument from evil, then he needs to maintain that evil is objective or objectively real.
Consider all the enslavement of humans by humans that has taken place in the history of the world. Suppose it is agreed that slavery is morally wrong. What makes this true? Define a moral subjectivist as one who agrees that the claim in question is true, but holds that the truth-maker of this moral truth, and of others like it, is an individual's being in a psychological state, say, the state of being repulsed by slavery. For the moral subjectivist, then, sentences like 'Slavery is wrong' are elliptical for sentences like 'Slavery is wrong-for-X,' where X is a person or any being capable of being in psychological states. Furthermore, the moral subjectivist grants that moral claims have truth-makers, indeed objective truth-makers; it is just that these truth-makers involve psychological states that vary from person to person.
Now if our atheist subscribes to a theory of evil along those lines, then, although there will be objective facts of the matter regarding what various individuals feel about the practice or the institution of slavery, there will be no objective fact of the matter regarding the wrongness or moral evil of slavery.
If so, the fact of evil subjectively construed will have no bearing on the existence of God, a fact, if it a fact, that is objective.
Suppose a torturer tortures his victim to death solely for the satisfaction it gives him. And suppose that moral subjectivism is true. Then the torturing, though evil for the tortured, is good for the torturer, with the upshot that the torturing is neither good nor evil objectively. Now if I were on the scene and had the power to stop the torturing, but did not, would my noninterference detract from my moral goodness? Not at all. (The same goes a fortiori for God.) For nothing objectively evil is transpiring: all that is going on is that one person is securing his pleasure at the expense of another's pain. If you insist that something evil is going on, then that shows that you reject moral subjectivism. But if you accept moral subjectivism, then nothing evil is going on; the torturing is evil only in the mind of the victim and in the minds of any others who sympathize with him. If you accept moral subjectivism and continue to insist that the torturing is evil, then you would also have to insist that it is good, since it is good from the perspective of the torturer. But if it is both good and evil, then it is (objectively) neither.
What I am claiming, then, is that the atheist arguer from evil must construe evil objectively. This will result in trouble for the atheist if it can be shown that objective evil cannot exist unless God exists. For then the atheist arguer from evil will end up presupposing the very being whose existence he is out to deny. No doubt this is a big 'if.' But it is worth exploring. The problem for the atheist is to explain how there can be objective good and evil in a Godless universe. I wish him the best of luck with that.
And another line worth exploring is a theistic argument to God from the fact of objective good and evil. No such argument could PROVE the existence of God, but it could very well have the power of cancelling out the argument from evil.
. . . and avoid politics. But philosophy needs a 'safe space' within which to flourish. And that space needs to be defended against the two-fold totalitarian threat. There is the threat from radical Islam and the threat from the leftist enablers of and apologists for radical Islam. (If you insist that radical Islam = Islam, I may come to agree with you; in which case 'radical' in 'radical Islam' is a redundant qualifier. But pleonasm is but a peccadillo, if that.)
So if you are a decent human being with an ounce of gratitude for the fruits of Western civilization, then you should do your bit. At a minimum, show a little civil courage and speak out against the Muslim barbarians and the liberal-left scum who enable them while attacking our great institutions such as the universities.
Meanwhile, Islamic society is whitewashed by pretending the dangers it poses to Western societies are non-Islamic (the Left with talk of "extremism"), or so outside the Islamic norm as to render Islam itself beyond debate, beyond concern (the Right with talk of "Islamism").
Take a recent essay on Paris by Andrew C. McCarthy.
“Allahu Akbar!” cried the jihadists as they killed innocent after French innocent. The commentators told us it means “God is great.” But it doesn’t. It means “Allah is greater!” It is a comparative, a cry of combative aggression: “Our God is mightier than yours.” It is central to a construction of Islam,mainstream in the Middle East, that sees itself at war with the West. It is what animates our enemies. ['Construction' here means 'construal,' 'interpretation.']
We are supposed to believe that "a construction of Islam, mainstream in the Middle East," is what animates our enemies -- not Islam.
Is that so?
If this were ten, five, three years ago, I might ask what Koran, sunnas, and hadiths that this "construction of Islam" is based upon? I might break out the poll data that demonstrates strong Muslim affinity for sharia the world over. I might point to a 2013 study of 9,000 Muslims in six European countries which found that 65 percent say that religious rules are more important that the laws of the country in which they live.
But is there a point? Fourteen years after 9/11, Islam is spectrum-wide defended in the public square even as it destroys the public square, while the threat to the public square is usually identitied as coming from Europe's so-called "far right."
But never fear. Memorial light displays are ready anywhere, anytime.
The Republicans have been accused of 'politicizing' the debt crisis. But how can you politicize what is inherently political? The debt in question is the debt of the federal government. Since a government is a political entity, questions concerning federal debts are political questions. As inherently political, such questions cannot be politicized.
If to reify is illicitly to treat as a thing that which is not a thing, then to politicize is illicitly to treat as political what is not political. Since governmental debt questions are 'already' political, they cannot be politicized.
Some commentators are now claiming that the Paris attacks are being 'politicized.' But again, how can something that is inherently political be 'politicized'? An attack by a terrorist entity upon a Western democracy is clearly a political event.
Someone might respond to me as follows. "I see your point, but when people say that an event is being politicized, what they mean is that it is being exploited for partisan advantage. Thus those opposed to Muslim immigration will 'use' the Paris attacks to support their case against such immigration."
I agree that this is what most people mean by 'politicization.' But then what is wrong with it? Nothing as far as I can see.
We must learn the lessons from these terrible events. One lesson of Paris, or rather a confirmation of a lesson that already should have been learned, is that radical Islam (militant Islam, Islamism, pick your term) is a grave threat to civilization. French civilization, and European civilization generally, borders on the decadent; but it is still to be preferred to the fanaticism, tribalism, and backwardness of the Islamic world. That is what we call an understatement.
So I say we need more 'politicization' in the second sense of the term. We need more 'exploitation' of such horrific crimes.
And there is a bridge from Paris to Mizzou.
In a characteristically piss-poor OpEd piece in the NYT entitled Exploiting Paris, Frank Bruni whines, "Using Paris to delegitimize them is puerile." He is referring to the 'safe space' girly-girls and crybullies.
This shows how willfully stupid he and his colleagues are. (Not all of them, of course: Douthat and Brooks are worth reading.) They fail to grasp the connection between the assault on free speech by the Islamists and that by the crybullies and pampered fascists of our elite universities. And they will never own up to the obvious fact that the Left serves to enable radical Islam.
Both are incredibly destructive forces that attack the foundations of genuine civilization. Observe also that the Left is not only destructive, but insanely self-destructive: they think they will use the Islamists for their ends; but they will be the first of the infidels to be slaughtered.
Malcolm Pollack has a fine and courageous post, hot off the keyboard, about the allowance by the West of mass immigration from Muslim countries. You should study it. It begins like this:
I have said this before, and I will say it again: allowing mass Muslim immigration is the stupidest and most irreversibly self-destructive thing that any Western nation can do. So in the wake of the Paris attacks, is it reasonable to imagine that Western nations, reeling from yet another inevitable and predictable act of jihad, will do, at last, what they obviously must do: namely, to declare an immediate moratorium on Muslim immigration?
Lefties love 'conversations.' How about a conversation about this, a real conversation?
Could we drag Hillary the Mendacious into it? Not likely. Last night she refused to use the phrase 'radical Islam.'
For a long time I thought we should carefully distinguish between radical Islam and Islam. But I am not so sure any more. It may well be that a moderate Muslim is as impossible as a moderate Nazi.
Of course, not every Muslim is a terrorist. Most are not. But then most members of the NSDAP did not work in the camps.
Mark Steyn is a profile in civil courage unlike the 'safe space' administrative and professorial pussies who now infest the universities. Where have all the John Silbers gone, long time passing? Some delightful excerpts:
When the Allahu Akbar boys opened fire, Paris was talking about the climate-change conference due to start later this month, when the world's leaders will fly in to "solve" a "problem" that doesn't exist rather than to address the one that does. But don't worry: we already have a hashtag (#PrayForParis) and doubtless there'll be another candlelight vigil of weepy tilty-headed wankers. Because as long as we all advertise how sad and sorrowful we are, who needs to do anything?
With his usual killer comedy timing, the "leader of the free world" told George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning, America" this very morning that he'd "contained" ISIS and that they're not "gaining strength". A few hours later, a cell whose members claim to have been recruited by ISIS slaughtered over 150 people in the heart of Paris and succeeded in getting two suicide bombers and a third bomb to within a few yards of the French president.
Visiting the Bataclan, M Hollande declared that "nous allons mener le combat, il sera impitoyable": We are going to wage a war that will be pitiless.
Does he mean it? Or is he just killing time until Obama and Cameron and Merkel and Justin Trudeau and Malcolm Turnbull fly in and they can all get back to talking about sea levels in the Maldives in the 22nd century? By which time France and Germany and Belgium and Austria and the Netherlands will have been long washed away.
Among his other coy evasions, President Obama described tonight's events as "an attack not just on Paris, it's an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share".
But that's not true, is it? He's right that it's an attack not just on Paris or France. What it is is an attack on the west, on the civilization that built the modern world - an attack on one portion of "humanity" by those who claim to speak for another portion of "humanity". And these are not "universal values" but values that spring from a relatively narrow segment of humanity. They were kinda sorta "universal" when the great powers were willing to enforce them around the world and the colonial subjects of ramshackle backwaters such as Aden, Sudan and the North-West Frontier Province were at least obliged to pay lip service to them. But the European empires retreated from the world, and those "universal values" are utterly alien to large parts of the map today.
This is very good and needs to be said and endlessly repeated for the sake of self-enstupidated liberals, but I think Mr Steyn stumbles on one important point, and in a way that may give aid and comfort to relativism. The values of the West are universal values. They are not Western values or Caucasian values except per accidens. They are universal, not in that they are recognized by all, but in that they are valid for all. If a proposition is true, it is true for all including those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its truth. If a value is valid or binding or normative it is these things for all including those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its validity.
This is very important. There is no such thing as Western physics; there is just physics. There is no such distinction as that between German physics and Jewish physics any more than there is a distinction between Protestant and Catholic mathematics. There are Muslim mathematicians, but no Islamic mathematics. There are Arabic numerals but no Arabic numbers. If a mathematically competent Arab and a mathematically competent Roman do a sum they will get the same result despite the difference in their notations. When a Palestinian terrorist makes a bomb he relies on the same underlying science as does the Israeli surgeon who re-attaches a severed limb. There is no such thing as Soviet philology or Soviet biology. If Judeo-Christian values are valid and life-enhancing then they are Judeo-Christian only per accidens.
There is no contradiction in saying that salvation came from the Jews and that this salvation is salvation for all. "How odd of God to choose the Jews." Odd, but possible.
The fact that the science of nature and the discernment of universal values "sprang from a relatively narrow segment of humanity" does not make them any less universal. In fairness to Steyn, however, he may be using using 'universal values' to mean 'universally recognized values.'
The rest of his piece earns the coveted MavPhilsigillum approbationis. (I just now made up that Latin off the top of my head. If it is wrong shoot me an e-mail.)
And then Europe decided to invite millions of Muslims to settle in their countries. Most of those people don't want to participate actively in bringing about the death of diners and concertgoers and soccer fans, but at a certain level most of them either wish or are indifferent to the death of the societies in which they live - modern, pluralist, western societies and those "universal values" of which Barack Obama bleats. So, if you are either an active ISIS recruit or just a guy who's been fired up by social media, you have a very large comfort zone in which to swim, and which the authorities find almost impossible to penetrate.
[. . .]
To repeat what I said a few days ago, I'm Islamed out. I'm tired of Islam 24/7, at Colorado colleges, Marseilles synagogues, Sydney coffee shops, day after day after day. The west cannot win this thing with a schizophrenic strategy of targeting things and people but not targeting the ideology, of intervening ineffectually overseas and not intervening at all when it comes to the remorseless Islamization and self-segregation of large segments of their own countries.
So I say again: What's the happy ending here? Because if M Hollande isn't prepared to end mass Muslim immigration to France and Europe, then his "pitiless war" isn't serious. And, if they're still willing to tolerate Mutti Merkel's mad plan to reverse Germany's demographic death spiral through fast-track Islamization, then Europeans aren't serious. In the end, the decadence of Merkel, Hollande, Cameron and the rest of the fin de civilisation western leadership will cost you your world and everything you love.
. . . so that events like yesterday's massacre in Paris never happen again.
Yes, I am being sarcastic, and doubly so. First, stricter gun laws would have had no effect on yesterday's events. Second, the silly phrase "so that it never happens again," beloved of politicians, insults our intelligence and erodes their credibility even further.
Am I being 'insensitive'? Damn straight I am. And you should be too. 'Sensitivity' is for squishy bien-pensant liberals whose specialty is gushing and emoting rather than thinking. It is something for the 'safe space' girly-girls, whether female, male, or neuter, to demand of the sane.
Liberals love laws, but not the enforcement of laws. Legislating is easy, enforcement is hard. Enforcement leads to incarceration and then to the 'mass incarceration' of certain populations. And we can't have 'mass incarceration' can we?
How about a little common sense? I'd have to check, but I'll guess that France has laws against the smuggling of Kalashnikovs and other 'assault weapons.' Well, how about enforcing those laws?
How about a review of French immigration policy? Radical Islam is the paramount threat to civilization at the present time. Of course, not every Muslim is a terrorist. But the more Muslims you let in, the more terrorists you will have to contend with. And it wouldn't take many to bring a city or a nation to a screeching halt. (See How to Destroy a City in Five Minutes)
Am I blaming the victims? Damn straight I'm blaming the victims. And you should too. While the lion's share of the responsibility obvious lies with the jihadis, politically correct Frenchmen who refuse to face the reality of the Islamist threat must bear some responsibility. Blaming the victim is perfectly legitimate within certain limits. I have made this case in an earlier post
Given that the ubiquity of crosses all across this great land has not yet established Christianity as the state religion, why, as it declines in influence, do the cruciphobic shysters of the ACLU and their ilk agitate still against these harmless and mostly merely historical remnants of a great religion?
There is an old saying which is perhaps now out-of-date. If liberals took the Second Amendment as seriously as they take the First, they would demand that gun ownership be mandatory. The point of the jibe was to highlight the absurd extremes to which liberals take the First Amendment.
But now the First Amendment is under vicious assault, by contemporary liberals no less, while university administrators and professors, in abdication of authority, stand idly by or allow themselves to be driven out of office.
Curiously, this assault on the First is yet another powerful argument for the Second.
The following just over the transom from 'Jacques' with responses in blue from BV:
I read your blog every day. Quite apart from the high level philosophizing, it's a rare bit of political sanity and rationality and decency. Academic philosophy is now thoroughly controlled by the most evil and insane factions of the Left. It's good to know that real philosophy, and real political philosophy in particular, is still alive in the hearts and minds of some individual people, even though the philosophical institutions are dead or hopelessly corrupt. Thank you!
BV: You're very welcome. I am happy to have you as a reader and correspondent. While academic philosophy is not thoroughly controlled by the Left, not yet anyway, you are not far from the truth.
"... As Socrates explains in Plato's Crito, we are what we are because of the laws. Our country and its laws have overseen our nurturance, our education, and the forming of our characters. We owe a debt of gratitude to our country, its laws, those who have worked to maintain and defend it, and especially those who have died in its defense."
This argument (if it's valid) must have a suppressed premise. The premise must be something like the following: "It is good that we are what we are", or "Some of the features of our characters that are due to our country and its laws are features for which we should be grateful".
BV: Right, that tacit assumption is in play, and without it the argument is invalid.
Of course, the inference would only be valid given some further assumptions, e.g., that our country and its laws have not also caused us to have other features that are so bad or regrettable that, all things considered, it would be reasonable to wish that our characters hadn't been shaped by our country and its laws in any way.
BV: I agree.
But in any case, I don't think that these suppressed premises are true. Not if they are meant to support the conclusion that, in general, patriotism is good--let alone that, in general, it is a virtue.
If my character was shaped by my experiences growing up in Maoist China, say, then it seems entirely possible that most or all of the features of myself that I came to have as a result of those experiences are bad. Or they might be features that just have no particular value or disvalue. At any rate there seems to be no reason to expect that, for any arbitrary person whose character was formed by any arbitrary country or legal system, the relevant features will be such that, on balance, this person ought to be grateful for whatever it was that caused him to have these features. To be sure, those who were lucky to have been formed within good countries or good legal institutions should probably be patriotic, for the kind of reason that Socrates gave; but this is not to say that patriotism in general is a duty or a virtue or even a good thing in any respect.
BV: Your critique up to this point is a good one and I accept it. I take you to be saying that I have not given a good argument for the thesis that in general patriotism is a good thing. For whether it is good or not will depend on the particular patria, the particular country, and its laws, institutions, and traditions. Presumably, citizens of North Korea, Cuba, Nazi Germany, and the USSR ought not be or ought not have been patriotic. But much depends on what the object of patriotism is. What exactly is that which one loves and is loyal to when one is patriotic? More on this below.
I would suggest that there is no basis for healthy patriotism beyond the fact that my country is MY country. The reason why I should have some loyalty to my country, or love for it, is just that it is mine. Not that, in being mine, it has shaped my character. Not that its laws are better than others, or that they encode certain 'propositions' which a rational being should believe, or anything like that. But if this is right, the proper object of healthy patriotism is not a country in the sense that you seem to have in mind, i.e., a government or set of political or legal arrangements or traditions. Because that kind of thing is not really mine, in any deep sense, and because that kind of thing is not something I can love or feel loyalty towards. So if this suggestion is right, the proper object is my 'country' in the sense of the concrete land and people, not the state or its laws. (And this distinction seems especially important nowadays. You would not want to confuse the real America that Americans may properly love with the weird, sick, soft-totalitarian state that now occupies America.)
BV: You rightly appreciate that a proper discussion of this topic requires a careful specification of the object of patriotic love/loyalty. You say it is "the concrete land and people, not the state and its laws." Suppose I grant that for the nonce. Why should I love/be loyal to my country just because it is mine? That is not obvious, indeed it strikes me as false. I take you to be making two separate claims. The first is that one should display some patriotism toward one's country. This first claim is a presupposition of "The reason why I should have some loyalty to my country, or love for it, is just that it is mine." The second claim is that that only reason for so doing is that the country is one's own.
But do you really want to endorse the first claim? Even if country = "concrete land and people," there are possible and perhaps also actual countries such that you wouldn't want to endorse the first claim. As for the second, if you endorse it, will you also say that the only reason you should be loyal to your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your children, your friends, your clan, your neighborhood, your gang, and so on is because they are yours? Should you be true to your school only because it is the one you attend?
The above doesn't sound right. That a friend is my friend is not the only possible legitimate reason for my being loyal to him, assuming it is a legitimate reason at all. A second legitimate reason is that when I was in trouble he helped me. (And so on.) That my country (concrete land and people) is my country is not the only possible reason for my loving it and being loyal to it; other legitimate reasons are that the land is beautiful -- "purple mountain majesties from sea to shining sea" -- and that the people are self-reliant, hard-working, frugal, liberty-loving, etc., although how many of these people does one encounter theses days?
You write, "The reason why I should have some loyalty to my country, or love for it, is just that it is mine." Do you intend the 'just' to express a biconditional relation? Are you proposing
1. One should have some loyalty for one's country or love for it if and only if it is one's own country
2. If one should have some loyalty for one's own country or love for it, then it is one's own country?
Is my country's being mine a necessary and sufficient condition of my legitimate patriotism, or only a necessary condition thereof? On a charitable reading, you are affirming (2).
What is a Country?
If patriotism is love of and loyalty to one's country, then we need to know what a country is. First of all, a country will involve
a. A geographical area, a land mass, with more or less definite boundaries or borders.
But this is not sufficient since presumably a country without people is no country in the sense of 'country' relevant to a definition of 'patriotism.' A backpacker may love the unpopulated backcountry of a wilderness area but such love of a chunk of the earth and its flora and (non-human) fauna is not patriotic love. So we add
b. Having a (human) population.
Are (a) and (b) jointly sufficient? I don't think so. Suppose you have a land mass upon which are dumped all sorts of different people of different races and religions, speaking hundreds of different languages, with wildly different habits and values and mores. That would not be a country in a sense relevant to a definition of 'patriotism.' It seems we must add
c. Sharing a common culture which will involve such elements as a common language, religion, tradition, history, 'national narrative,' heritage, a basic common understanding of what is right and wrong, a codification of this basic common understanding in law, and what all else.
I should think that each of (a), (b), and (c) are necessary to have a country. 'Jacques' apparently disagrees. He seems to be saying above that (a) and (b) are individually necessary and jointly sufficient. I say they are individually necessary but not jointly sufficient. I say further that the three conditions just specified are not jointly sufficient either, or not obviously jointly sufficient. For if the basic common understanding of right and wrong naturally evolves toward a codification and detailed articulation in written laws, then we are well on the way to 'the political.'
And isn't it obvious, or at least plausible, that if a country cannot exist without geographical borders, that these borders cannot be merely geographical in nature, but must also be political as well?
Take the Rio Grande. It is obviously not a social construct. It is a natural feature of the earth. But the southern border of the USA, its border with Mexico, is a social or socio-political construct. It is 'conventional' not 'natural.' The sorthern border might not have been the Rio Grande. But as things are, a river serves as the southern border.
My point is that, while a border must be naturally or physically realized by a river, or a coastline, or the crest of a mountain range, or by a wall or a fence (an electronic 'fence' would do) or whatever, borders are also political entities. Thus the Rio Grande is both a natural feature of the earth but also a political entity. And so what I want to say is that nothing can count as a country in the sense of 'country' relevant to a definition of 'patriotism' if it is not a political entity. Two countries bordering on each other cannot border on each other unless both are political entities.
Can I argue this out rigorously? I don't know. Let me take a stab at it.
A country is a continuant: it remains numerically the same over the period of time, however short, during which it exists. And while a country can gain or lose territory without prejudice to its diachronic numerical identity, it will cease to exist if it loses all its territory, or lets itself be invaded by foreigners to such an extent that its characteristic culture is destroyed (see point (c) above). So a country must defend its border if it wishes to stay in existence. But for the USA to defend its southern border is not for it to defend a river. It is to prevent non-citizens from crossing illegally into a country of which they are not a citizen. Am I begging the question? Perhaps. I'll have to think about it some more.
In any case it seems intuitively obvious to me that we need
d. Under the jurisdiction of a government.
But it is important to distinguish between a government and a particular administration of a government such as the Reagan administration or the Obama administration (regime?). Consider the bumper sticker:
What does 'government' mean here? It means either the current administration or some administrations, but presumably not every administration. It cannot mean the institutional structure, with its enabling documents such as the Constitution, which structure outlasts particular administrations. That is shown by the American flag above. What does it signify? Not the Nixon admin or the Obama admin. It signifies the ideals and values of America and the people who uphold them. Which values? Liberty and justice are named in the Pledge of Allegiance. But not social justice, or material equality (equality of outcome or result).
The person who would display a bumper sticker like the above does not fear the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or the institutional structure of the USA or the values and ideals it enshrines. Take a gander at this sticker:
Someone who displays this supports the U. S. Constitution and the Second Amendment thereto in particular. What he fears is not the U. S. government in its institutional structure; what he fears are gun-grabbing administrations. What he fears are lawless, hate-America, gun-grabbing, liberty-infringing, race-baiting leftists like Barack Obama and Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton.
In sum, I suggest that an adequate definition of 'country' must involve all of (a)-(d) supra. But this is a very difficult topic and I am no expert in political philosophy.