Chanting the Death-Wish: DIE, DIE, DIE

“If you allow a political catchword to go on and grow, you will awaken some day to find it standing over you, the arbiter of your destiny, against which you are powerless, as men are powerless against delusions.” 

William Graham Sumner, “War” (1903)

“It was Napoleon, I believe, who said that there is only one figure in rhetoric of serious importance, namely, repetition.  The thing affirmed comes by repetition to fix itself in the mind in such a way that it is accepted in the end as a demonstrated truth.”

Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1896)

It is a great mistake to suppose that political slogans are as ephemeral as advertising slogans, and that the catchwords “Diversity, Inclusion, Equity” will therefore one day go the way of “put a tiger in your tank” and “where the rubber meets the road.”  Consider, for instance, how Woodrow Wilson’s facile slogan about “making the world safe for democracy” has gone on and grown into “the arbiter of our destiny,” against which we are now as powerless as men under a delusion.  Consider how much happier we might be if some brave and learned Senator had interrupted President Wilson and observed that the United States Constitution was written to keep Americans safe from democracy. Continue reading

Politics after Clausewitz, By Which I Mean Politics Today

“A party, which . . . does not carry on systematic, all-embracing underground work . . . is a party of traitors and scoundrels.” 

Vladimir Illich Lenin, Problems of the Third International (1919)

When Lenin says “systematic, all-embracing underground work,” he means the work of a criminal conspiracy.   The work is hidden “underground” because it is illegal, and the work is a conspiracy because it is not only hidden, but because it is also “systematic,” and “all-embracing.” Lenin’s general proposition, therefore, is that every serious political party has an underground wing, and that every party that doesn’t have an underground wing is not a serious political party.

It is, rather, an unserious sham party of “traitors and scoundrels.” Continue reading

Strictures on Bibliomania

“Excessive reading is bad for thinking.  The most distinguished thinkers I have ever met have been just those of my learned acquaintances who have read the least.” 

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Reflections (1844)

At its most recent meeting, the Editorial Board of the Orthosphere decided to jointly publish an essay on the best books its members had read in 2021.  The resolution provoked in me, as similar resolutions had provoked in years past, a bashful consciousness that I had read very little in 2021, and that much of what I did read was trash.

I was at one time a tiger for reading, not to mention a sabre-tooth tiger of ambition to appear well-read.  But nowadays, when it comes to books, I am more like a puppy that sniffs, tentatively paws, yaps twice, and then lopes away in search of lunch. Continue reading

The Lust that Lies at the Bottom of Everything

“We need to make an application of Freudian psychology to an even more fundamental libido than the libido with which the Freudians themselves have been concerned—namely, the libido dominandi.”

Irving Babbitt, Democracy and Leadership (1924).

“Libido dominandi, the lust of government, is the greatest lust.” 

James Harrington, A System of Politics (c. 1650)

“When the minds of men are once erroneously persuaded that it is the will of God to have those things done which they fancy, their opinions are as thorns in their sides, never suffering them to take rest until they have brought their speculations into practice.” 

Richard Hooker, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1553)

At my son’s urging, I yesterday watched Joe Rogan interview the dissident virologist Robert Malone.  Much of the three hours was devoted to discussion of biologic questions that are, to me, highly arcane; but my interest was sustained by Dr. Malone’s occasional allusions to his intimations of a dark conspiracy.  He senses, just as many of us sense, that a secret and sinister hand is at work in the world. Continue reading

The Giants and the Grasshoppers

William Wildblood just posted a reflection on “soulless entities” or unspiritual persons.  This is my comment, suggesting some connections to Scripture and our tribulations in these later days.

I have always been fascinated by the Nephilim, or “giants,” that are said to have sprung from the union of fallen angles and the daughters of men (Genesis 6:4). Swedenborg is a very mixed bag, in my opinion, but he says interesting things about the Nephilim, and about their mulatto progeny, the Anakim and Rephaim. Continue reading

Spare Me Their Company!

“I confess that I do feel the differences of mankind, national or individual, to an unhealthy excess . . . . I hope it may be said of me, that I am a lover of my species . . . . [but] I cannot like all people alike.”

Charles Lamb, “Jews, Quakers, Scotchmen and Other Imperfect Sympathies” (1821)

It is quite possible to have goodwill towards men without having any desire for closer acquaintance with particular men, particular types of men, or even with men in general.  I do not have to hate a man to take no pleasure in his society.  I may dislike him because he is a bore, a bigot, a prig, a pest, a rube, a rascal, a snob, a sissy, a pedant, a pervert, a braggart, a brute, or a buffoon. Continue reading

Individualism Promotes Ugliness

Beauty is communal.[1] We know what beautiful architecture looks like. Tourists travel from all over the world to see the buildings of Italy, the Baptistry in Florence, the Roman Coliseum, and the cathedrals of France. Or, maybe the fanciful towers of Neuschwanstein Castle. Likewise, Western tourists will go to see Hindu temples in India, or the Taj Mahal, and Buddhist temples in Thailand. The connection between religion and beauty is also significant. A beautiful environment creates a shared place to live that embodies qualities that can be experienced as “home.” Poundbury is a self-consciously created town in England that employs traditional house

Neuschwanstein

designs that most people actively like and enjoy. Liberals correctly see Poundbury as an attack on their individualist mindset and reject it. Individualism is antisocial and thus eschews orderly and beautiful neighborhoods with concordant matching architectural styles that embody group-selected values such as harmony. Instead, they opt for intentional ugliness; either overtly anti-human ugly square boxes, or bizarre monstrosities that represent “originality,” not beauty. Truth, beauty and goodness converge with cross-cultural agreement. There is no Spanish physics and Inuit physics. The same is true of philosophical truths. There are thousands of ways of being wrong, of missing the target, and only one way of being right. Originality is far easier when being wrong or creating something ugly. No talent or intelligence is required for either. Any of us can do it. The only requirement is gall. How impervious are you to social embarrassment? The charlatan who simply stares down his detractors with a sociopathic unblinking stare. Continue reading

Benevolent Malevolence and the Rewards of “’Good ‘ Hate”

“We show our love towards our friends by the vigor with which we hate their enemies.”

Richard Hildreth, Theory of Morals (1844)

“Dear Bathurst (said he to me one day) was a man to my very heart’s content: he hated a fool, and he hated a rogue, and he hated a Whig; he was a very good hater.”

Hester Lynch Piozzi, Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson (1822)

When Dr. Johnson said that his friend Dr. Bathurst was a “good hater,” he meant that Dr. Bathurst was good at hating things that Dr. Johnson thought it good to hate. And about the things it is good to hate, Dr. Johnson was very seldom wrong. The same cannot be said about today’s vociferous haters of “hate,” since they believe they are “good haters” but are, in fact, sanctimonious sadists.  Some have said that one must be cruel to be kind.  These sanctimonious sadists are kind to be cruel. Continue reading

So Much for the Turing Test … and for Consequentialism

In a few sentences, and with his characteristic penetrating trenchance, Chastek demolishes the Turing Test, and for that matter all arguments from similarity of causal effects; I post here without apology his entire argument, on account of its brevity, precision, and devastation:

One principle of (strong/sci-fi) AI seems to be that what can replicate the effects of intelligence is intelligence, e.g. the Turing test, or the present claim by some philosophers that a Chinese room would be intelligence.

So imagine you rig up a track and trolley to accelerate at 9.8 m/s2. This perfectly replicates the effects of falling, and so is artificial falling. It deserves the name too: you could strap a helmet to the front of your train and drive at a wall 10 feet away, and it will tell you what the helmet would look like if dropped from 10 feet. But for all that the helmet at the front of your train is obviously being pushed and not falling – falling is something bodies do by themselves and being pushed isn’t. The difference is relevant to AI, for just as falling is to being pushed so thinking for oneself is to being a tool, instrument or machine. Both latter are acted on by others, and have the form by which they act in a transient way and not as a principal agent.

Continue reading

Second Thoughts, Midwinter

Wanderer

Wanderer in the Snow, Karl Hofer (1924)

A poet once stopped by a wood,
’Twas evening, snowy, still,
His little horse impatient stood,
He thought, I won’t, I will;

The sylvan shadows whispered pleas
To step down from his sleigh,
To seek repose among the trees,
To on cool snow drifts lay;

But he by promises was bound,
He was a promise keeper,
So though he heard that siren sound,
He drove on, not a sleeper.

So once one greater far than he
On lonesome errand bound,
May once have paused and heard a plea
That he too might step down.

There are coy shadows between stars,
Cool snow beds of repose,
His errand was to bear cruel scars—
Had he second thoughts?  Who knows!

But he by promises was bound,
He was a promise keeper,
And though he heard that siren sound,
He drove on, not a sleeper.

And on the morrow when he woke,
’Twas straw couched him, not snow,
’Twas not stars round, but simple folk—
His errand, scars, you know.

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Winter Landscape, Caspar David Friedrich (1811)