Berdyaev Summer Camp

A student commented the other day that Berdyaev reminded her of some utopian summer camp in the Adirondacks she had gone to in high school devoted to ecological wonderfulness. Why? God is your friend, and never your judge or king. Like any friend, his offer of friendship comes with no threats and no consequences, delivered by Him at least. Any “friend” who said “Be my friend, or I’ll blow your head off,” or, even worse, “Be my friend, or I’ll condemn you to eternal torment” would be a psychopath, without doubt.

Today, after having time to think, and after today’s Avicenna reading, I replied that there is an awful (awe-ful) aspect to Berdyaev – complete freedom means complete moral responsibility. Humanity continually searches for escape from this. We dream up ever new escape routes and “get out of jail free” cards. Continue reading

Berdyaev: Why God and Personality Must be the Highest Ideal

Berdyaev: Why God and Personality Must be the Highest Ideal

Berdyaev points out that if God and the individual human Personality are not someone’s highest ideal then that person is effectively promising to sacrifice the individual in the name of that supposedly higher ideal. The logic is simple and undeniable.

If someone says that under any circumstances, no matter what competing goods there may be or seem to be, the Personality is sacrosanct and to be protected at all costs, then that person is elevating Personality to the highest level of their morality in the manner that Berdyaev identifies as necessary and has abandoned his former allegiances.

Alternatives to the genuine highest good include the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, well-being, just plain “happiness,” social justice, feminism, equality, the nation, workers of the world, rationalism, science, and progress.

Every one of those “goods” is a murderous cult bent on the immolation of the human individual. If any object to this accusation, let him agree that Personality is paramount and beats out all competing ideals and that his former highest good is now secondary and always, in every situation, to be trumped by God and Personality. Continue reading

Nikolai Berdyaev: the Primacy of Freedom

Nikolai Berdyaev: the Primacy of Freedom

For the Russian philosopher Berdyaev, freedom is absolutely fundamental. And freedom is connected with subjectivity and Spirit, rather than the objective (measurable) external world.

All attempts to locate meaning and value in things outside the human soul are doomed to fail. Thinking of the universe as an organism, for instance, seems like an improvement over thinking of it as a dead mechanism. It turns the cosmos into a living entity with a purpose, but it also means thinking of people as mere cells in this organism to be subordinated to the larger whole. Nationalism turns the nation into a false idol to be worshipped. Neither “history,” nor “progress,” nor “the human race,” nor Platonic Forms are particularly significant or even real. They are hypostatizations and abstractions. For Berdyaev, the concrete individual personality is the full locus of reality and value. Anything else renders the personality a meaningless nothing to be used as a means to some other end.

Kant, who also saw human beings as ends in themselves, pointed out that freedom must be a fundamental aspect of human subjectivity because love exists.[1] This is known directly from experience. Each one of us has loved and been the recipient of love. Love cannot exist without freedom. We should let the datum of love determine our theories and speculations about ultimate existence. If love is possible, and we know it is, then freedom exists.

Continue reading

Form Follows Function?

Louis Sullivan is credited with coming up with the phrase “form follows function.” It is useful to know that someone in the recent past invented this notion in order to raise the possibility of uninventing it.

Some quote “form follows function” as though it were an axiom of geometry that all remotely mature thinkers acknowledge as a foundational truth; even as a God-given dictum.

The phrase could even be rendered innocuous if “function” were suitably defined. What, for instance, is the function of houses and work places? They are there to serve human beings with all their intricacies. They are not there to shelter robots and automatons.

What do people want from houses? They want a house to be a home. They want it to be structurally sound, reasonably affordable, easy to maintain and they want it to be beautiful. Human beings feel at home with beauty. They are instinctively drawn to beautiful things and feel alienated by the ugly. This is why we carefully choose furniture, paintings, decorations, paint colors for walls, curtains and carpets. We attempt, with various levels of success, bearing in mind limitations of budget, to turn the house into a home. Many of us like to include house plants and pets as other living things to share our homes with. Continue reading

That’s a Generalization… only feminists get to make truth-claims about groups?

Knowledge involves generalizations. The science of amphibians is not about specific frogs, but about frogs in general. A veterinarian, asked to treat a specific frog, would call upon a store of generalizations to help make a diagnosis and to recommend treatments. Even if the vet was very familiar with past episodes of sickness of that particular frog, he would still be generalizing across instances. i.e., in the past, when this frog burps purple bubbles, it has meant that he is reacting to eating a certain kind of fly. The frog is burping purple bubbles, therefore…

It is true that there is nothing logically precise or rigorous about induction. Technically, induction can even be regarded as an error. Just because 100,000 white swans have been observed, it does not mean all swans are white.

On the other hand, since human knowledge is finite, and people are often operating in conditions of uncertainty, it is frequently necessary to make educated guesses based on past experience. Continue reading

Some thoughts about male and female feminists

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvbtKAYdcZY

Sir Roger Scruton/Dr. Jordan B. Peterson: Apprehending the Transcendent

Scruton comments: “The old way of teaching the humanities was as objects of love. This is what I have loved. This is what previous generations have loved who handed it on to me. Here. Try it out and you will love it too. Whereas the postmodern curriculum is a curriculum of hatred. It’s directed against our cultural inheritance.”

Peterson, describing that postmodern point of view: “This is the best of what the best of us could produce and it’s nothing. Why should you bother?”

When asked why someone would adopt a man-hating ideology, Scruton suggests that with a loss of a culturally inherited religious tradition and church attendance feminists feel something to be lacking in their lives but do not know what it is. They then surmise that it has been stolen from them.[1] They look at people who seem to be at peace with themselves and the world, the socially successful, who seem fairly content, and imagine it is they who have taken it. Continue reading

Knowledge is Domain Specific : an elusive, inscrutable and profound truth

The statement that knowledge is domain specific has the ring of something blandly matter-of-fact and dull. It is, in fact, of earth-shattering importance and it explains a great deal concerning the limitations of human cognition.

For instance, professors of statistics and probability are generally unable to apply their knowledge to ordinary, everyday affairs and they come up with the wrong answers. They know how their expertise applies to certain domains; perhaps reverse mortgages, or the likelihood of chimpanzee number three getting to mate, but do not know how it applies to used car purchases, dating apps, or paint prices.

If even the professors are unable to apply what they have learned, it seems rather pointless to insist that psychology undergraduates learn the concepts and methods. However, this is simply the situation of all of us in every field. Those psychology students should potentially be able to apply stats to certain kinds of experiments, though possibly completely unable to apply the same concepts to anything outside that narrow topic.

The domain specificity of knowledge explains the need for explanations. Explanations take something a person is already familiar with and relates it to something unfamiliar. It is not possible to explain the unfamiliar by appeal to something also unfamiliar.

If it were possible for someone to extrapolate automatically from something he knows to all circumstances where the concept might usefully apply, explanations would be redundant and human beings would get a lot closer to omniscience.[1] Continue reading

Christopher Hitchens is Not Great

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55GtlOyJnis&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_b0sTjvuas&feature=youtu.be

Self-sealing Fallacy

Some modern militant atheists like to claim things like “religion ruins everything.” Or that the planet would be so much better off without a belief in God. An obvious response is to point at the horrors perpetrated by explicitly atheistic political movements in the twentieth century to claim that actually, things get much worse – atheism ruins everything.

Some atheists have attempted a rebuttal. This is the idea that Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong were not “real” atheists, communism and fascism are not genuinely atheistic, and neither were their followers, and that their ill-deeds cannot be laid at the feet of atheism. The first time I encountered it, I incorrectly imagined it was just one person’s confusion. Apparently, this is not so.

Christopher Hitchens advances the argument in the above clips.

It is a nice example of the self-sealing fallacy – also known as the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Continue reading

When One Sex Attacks The Other, Both Lose

When One Sex Attacks The Other, Both Lose

Many feminists describe the history of humanity as a male tyranny, oppressing and maltreating women at every opportunity. Their name for this is the “patriarchy;” a name now intended to send a shudder down the spines of all who hear it.

Having suggested this characterization of the totality of human existence all that is needed is evidence. Then, in an instance of what is called “confirmation bias,” a selective search is made for unpleasant things ever done to women, not worrying about similarly horrible things perpetrated against men, nice things about men, or nice things men have done for women.

The result is an ugly and repellent account of the way men and women are connected to each other.

A list of male contributions in architecture, art, music, literature, philosophy, poetry, theater, medicine, math, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering – the provision of the water coming out of the kitchen tap and showerhead, plumbing, roads, hospitals, the phone in your pocket, you name it, would present a more positive picture of the male input to humanity.

Thanks to anti-male propaganda it is possible to read Facebook posts where one woman casually comments to the other that “men suck,” and is met by bland agreement by a married woman. Continue reading

AI and the Dehumanization of Man

AI and the Dehumanization of Man

Strong Artificial Intelligence is the idea that computers can one day be constructed that have the abilities of the human mind. The contrast is with narrow AI which is already with us – that is the notion that computers can be made that can do one thing very well, such as the Watson computer that won in Jeopardy, or Deep Blue that bet Kasparov in chess.

Strong AI, artificial general intelligence, would mean that a robot fitted with a computer brain could move around in the world as competently as a human.  As F. H. George commented to the editor of Philosophy, 32 (1957), 168-169: “finite automata are capable of exhibiting, at least in principle, all the behaviour that human beings are capable of exhibiting, including the ability to act as poets or creative artists and even to wink at a girl and mean it.”[1] This reference to a wink itself has a poetic touch to it that captures a sense of genuine humanity.

Strong and narrow AI is the difference between an idiot savant who can do one thing incredibly well, such as recognizing prime numbers of incredible length,[2] reading two pages of a book simultaneously with over 90% recall like Kim Peek, and someone with enough nous to handle the wide range of tasks that any normal human being has to face; engaging in a lengthy conversation one minute and enjoying a work of fiction the next. Continue reading