Archives for category: Random musings

With the triumph of Donald Trump, we are told to beware of authoritarianism, fascism, totalitarianism. Those on the left, especially, ominously shriek their warnings, advising us to read Ninety-Eighty Four. But, like usual, leftists have chosen the wrong book. The science fiction classic relevant here is Frankenstein. The Left, after all, bred its Nemesis. It should learn to sympathize . . . if not with the monster, at least with its creator.

If you think that people who hold ugly ideas need to be hounded out of society, must be socially destroyed, you do not believe in free speech. You are illiberal.

The need for rules and taboos will surely never end in human society. We cannot think through the consequences of every act. We must make short cuts. By holding one or many sets of actions out of bounds, we are relieved of the necessity of evaualting those actions and their effects. This is what Hayek called nomocratic — the government of rules. The rule-following aspects of life allow for the purposeful aspects of life to be managed more effectively. Rules outsource wisdom from individuals to tradition and  folkways.

The world of facts is not all that is the case. Fiction has been a driving force for human adaptation and progress. Facts are for computers. Fictions are where humanity has thrived. Those who think morality compels us to always “stick to the facts” will fail to become fully human.

Determinism is a theoretical map placed upon the world. It is akin to measurement, which also maps reality, but by comparing reality to an idealized construct, a standard. Determinism runs afoul of the truism “the map is not the territory,” and proves off-point with Zeno’s arrow paradox, in which we buy into a premise of measurement — a mapping technique — forgetting the reality in the act of mapping, measuring. The truth is that the arrow hits the target and stops. The truth is that adding sign and significance and concepts to the causal reality, causal reality is transcended — leaving determinism measuring a world no longer relevant to it. For, as Hume showed us, the realm of ideas behave by logic and validity, not causality, and our life of the mind places us on another level beyond any simple causality.

Socialism is the fantasy of most Democrats, libertarianism of many Republicans.

The former has long been the case, but usually was discounted with a breezy admission that socialism be “unworkable” in some way, but still “a good idea at core” and “obviously the more moral way of organization” though, sadly, somehow leading to bad results when pushed too far. So most Democrats compromised, always nudging towards more government, but accepting some need for compromise. Recently, the understanding of socialism’s scalability problems have evaporated, and the Democracy has lurched towards hard-left collectivism and a sort of Cultural Revolution moralistic groupthink.

Republicans’ besetting fantasy has been increasingly libertarian, but they often impute to the recent past more libertarian features than it possessed. Because progressives thoroughly won the ideological wars by 1960, and recast much of American life in terms of heavy state interference, characteristically conservative attitudes tend to bolster existing progressive institutions. The Republicans’ libertarian fantasies have thus served more as a touchstone than a lodestar, or, better yet, more of an anchor to prevent hasty and unsustainable acceptance of further socialist incursions.

Amusingly, the Democratic socialists take the libertarian fantasies of Republicans more seriously than do the Republicans themselves. They see these fantasies as a real threat, and, like many Republicans, often mistakenly impute Republicans’ characteristically milquetoast reforms as “free market” and “ruggedly individualistic“ (“by the bootstraps!” in their demonology of convenient clichés) when the Republicans’ fantasies are in fact barely ever more than nods towards individualistic rigor.

This yields us the peculiarly daft ideological divide of recent history, and makes talking with normies of both sides quite frustrating. They rarely can distinguish between fantasy and reality, especially when contemplated in the other sides’ ideological eructations.

Recently, though, it has gotten more interesting. With the popularization of Bernie and Elizabeth Warren’s “ideas” (mostly, of course, fantasy and rank delusion) the Democrats have abandoned their previous distancing from socialism to an embrace of the very word on the grounds that any government program is socialist, so wanting more programs makes them, unabashedly, “socialists.” This is so stupid one wonders if they have any sense of history at all, or any respect for clear thinking.

But they look like Einsteins compared to the brain-deadening drain on principle that is the Trump phenomenon. Almost any love for individual freedom has been thrown out the window for the silly nationalism of Trump’s unlearned approach to policy. The only palliative, here, is the obvious build-up of failures in the new administration. Which may lead to an implosion. Soon.

We are reaching for an apogee of silliness, it seems, upon which we can expect the decay to be quick and catastrophic.

But I hope I am wrong. If the modern world can keep running through its witless iterations of fantasy and compromise, we may witness the unfolding of some new alignment of politics, perhaps of a Seussian nature: will your fronts be plain, while your opponents sport stars upon thars? Or the reverse?

Better that than a choice of hammer-and-sickle vs. swastika, leading to the conquest by people preferring to adorn themselves with the crescent.



usmapAs I often contemplate, these days, the dissolution of these United States into their several units, and their subsequent accession into new unions and (perhaps) a new union of unions (putting, of course, the current federal republic into receivership), the future complexion of these states — and the distribution of their separate unions — often weighs upon my mind.

The most obvious map would reflect “blue” and “red” state differences. But perhaps the country should be re-arranged on more cultural, less political, grounds.

Like this. The separate unions would be Soda States of America, Pop States of America, and Coke States of America, etc.


Yes, this is mere whimsy.


I cannot conjure up the effrontery it would take to scribble marginal notes in a borrowed book.

I remember borrowing a copy of George Santayana’s Life of Reason (the one-volume edition) from a local library and reading the inane commentary of a previous reader. It actually turned me off reading the book.

I made up for this by buying the book in its first, multi-volume editions. Alas, I have only read two of its five parts, and own a mere three of them. This is not the origin of my entry into the ranks of the bibliobibuli, or of book collectors, but it may have been a turning point of sorts.

So I may owe something (what, you decide) to one particular Pacific Northwest graphomaniac.



The history of philosophy is that of geniuses getting so close . . . but missing the mark.

Hence, my appreciation of a thinker is often not “do I agree” but “can I learn” from encountering said thinker’s work.

It is not for nothing that I am apt to say appreciative things about Jeremy Bentham but not William Godwin. Is Godwin uninteresting? Never, on occasion, correct? Irrelevant. It is merely that making sense of Bentham and where he went both wrong and right is much more edifying.

Thus, often we must look for truth, but keep a special eye out for the interesting and profitable mistakes, even blunders.

The two most interesting failures in political philosophy, in the last two centuries? Herbert Spencer and John Rawls. I am not sure anyone else comes even close.

The errors of great men are venerable because they are more profitable than the truths of little men. — Friedrich Nietzsche

When a friend or sibling advises me how to be safe, I attribute the concern as earnest, perhaps even as “heartfelt.”

When my insurance agent advises me in a similar manner, I infer self-interest on his part.

In both cases, I consider the advice in a spirit of equanimity and good feeling.

But when an agent of the government lectures me on safety, I check for ready exits, and eye any official weaponry with deep suspicion.


“Friendship lives on its income, love devours its capital.”

Last night, I set my iPad upon my lap and fell asleep.

I immediately began dreaming about a pushy man “borrowing” my iPad without really asking. He just walked away with it.

I was annoyed — so annoyed that I woke myself up with the express purpose of getting my iPad back. 

Yes, it was still on my lap. Quest achieved.

It is a pity that the conflicts of waking life are not so easy to fix.


You should not always want “your guy” or “your gal” to win the U. S. Presidency. After all, the economy being what it is — Damoclean — things could go awry at any moment . . . go terribly wrong. And the American people would witlessly blame whoever held power at the time of the bust for the bust.

The Presidency these days seems like a game of musical chairs — except that it is the one who takes the seat who loses.




You may wish to play “the hero” in your “own life,” as Dickens put it, but it’s all too easy to step off the heroic stage to find yourself a melodrama’s bit player — or worse, the villain.

Or, in a comedy, the fool.

Take Louise Linton, the Scots actress whose previous work has been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding her memoirs, In Congo’s Shadow, released a few months ago. In her book she relates her 1999 “gap year” experiences, in which she traveled to Africa and got caught up in the Second Congolese War.

THe book has been billed as “the inspiring memoir of an intrepid teenager who abandoned her privileged life in Scotland” and “a tale of lost innocence and one daring young girl’s bittersweet journey to the heart of Africa.” But some readers, from Zambia and the UK, “have taken to social media to claim there are inaccuracies in her story,” relates The Scotsman.

And have accused her of sporting “a ‘white saviour complex.’”

And, basically, told lies, #LintonLies being the hashtag.

You can see what she has stumbled into, here. Even if she told the truth to the best of her ability, she has written herself a role that others don’t like very much.

Her very role as storyteller may have betrayed her. For instance, last year she garnered attention for her “idyllic childhood at Melville — which has now inspired her forthcoming untitled horror movie.” Used to telling stories that work better when she is the center of attention, it’s no surprise that she may have, in her memoirs, fudged the truth a bit for dramatic effect. A little pride, a little drama, a little padding. And a lot more Significance.

Welcome to the big world, Ms. Linton. It’s a comedy.

Even when you don’t plan it that way.

WyvernI am sure that at least some of my friends and neighbors find themselves nonplused at the extravagance of some of my opinions — and perhaps even more at my willingness to vigorously defend those opinions . . . or test their limits, in even more extreme ideational dimensions.

All under the gonfalon of philosophy!

But disagreement is fractal: even among those whom I seem most closely in agreement on some, say, political matter, we often discover vast chasms of dispute, expanding beneath the surface.

I find this invigorating. I understand that many others do not.

It reminds me of the wisdom of the old philosopher of unified science: the more we learn, the wider the horizon of nescience.

And yes, I do wish to assert that word, “nescience” — lack of knowledge — for there exist whole domains of thought that I have no hope of ever mastering. Yes, I admit as much, merely scribbling on my mental map, “Here there be dragons.”