Utilitarianism: a new kind of evil

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[I have so revised Utilitarianism: yet another sacrificial cult, including insights from my article The Trolley Problem Explained, and from thoughts arising from teaching this topic, that I am publishing this new version with a new title.]

Utilitarianism represents a nadir in philosophical moral reasoning, more corrupting and evil even than the spontaneous tendency to scapegoat.

Before Plato, the Ancient Greek attitude to morality was “help your friends, harm your enemies.” Modern people can see that such a point of view is grotesquely immoral. It is a description of corruption. Plato’s suggestion was “harm no one.” This is obviously a vast improvement.

The Bible states that “you should love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus took this even further and said “love your enemy.” Continue reading

Social Justice: an analysis Part 3

Social Justice: an analysis Part 3

The topics discussed in Part 3 of Social Justice: an analysis now published at The Gates of Vienna include differences in achievement by sex and ethnic groups and further analysis of resentment.The demand for identical outcomes between the sexes and ethnic groups is deeply pathological and irrational. Plenty of empirical evidence is provided in the discussion. Even academic feminists have begun to recognize the incontrovertible fact that the more egalitarian a culture is, the bigger the differences regarding areas of study and vocational choice between the sexes. One study called it a “paradox” which seems to indicate disbelief that their past assumptions could possibly be wrong.The Gender-Equality Paradox in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education. A related “paradox” is referred to here:The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness.

By falsely claiming that differences of outcome are the result of discrimination, SJWs ramp up intergroup hatred, fear, and resentment making the world a significantly worse place. The sacrificial crisis of rampant scapegoating continues to escalate.

The notion of resentment is worth trying to understand as deeply as possible because it is such a major feature of human life and right at his moment in time it has been actively encouraged by the left-dominated media, government, and colleges.

Part 1 is here,and Part 2,here.

Social Justice: an analysis part 2 of 4

Social Justice: an analysis part 2 of 4

Social Justice: an analysis part 2 has been published by Gates of Vienna. Part 1 is here.

Beginning as a summary of The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell, the article took on a life of its own. While heavily indebted to Sowell, the analysis ranges further.

Topics include Tough Love vs Mother Love – with modernity suffering from a relative absence of one and a surplus of the other. In Kindness and Charity I argue that SJWs supposedly want both but in fact fill the world with hate and resentment by claiming that all life is a zero sum game and if someone is doing well it is only at the expense of the downtrodden, an idea promoted by Karl Marx. Hierarchies and Equality points out the absolute necessity of hierarchies for social life to function, among other things. Hierarchies and Achievement tries to explain why “from he who has much, more will be given.” Relatively slight differences in ability and industriousness can result in vastly different outcomes for reasons that have nothing at all to do with discrimination.

The end of part 2 ends by commenting on the splendidly informative experiment that was East and West Germany. By taking the same group of people with a common history and cultural habits and subjecting them to different political and economic systems the results were clear very quickly. The “social justice” of communism did not work out at all well.

The Schizophrenia of Strong AI

The Schizophrenia of Strong AI

If a person went to a psychiatrist and said “I think I am a machine,” the psychiatrist would be quite right in thinking he has his work cut out for him. This belief resembles the brain damaged patients described by Oliver Sacks in books like The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. One man thinks he is a machine; another, his wife a hat.

Proponents of Strong AI, or artificial general intelligence, regard people as machines and oscillate between extreme self-hatred and god fantasies. This cries out for a diagnosis as much as an explanation. In many ways, it turns out, this is just a particular variant of an omnipresent modern tendency.

Eric Voegelin makes much of Plato’s notion of the metaxy – man as the in-between; neither beasts nor gods. Finite beings confronted by intuitions of the infinite – neither omniscient nor completely oblivious. Metaxy can only exist if in fact something is recognized as transcending Man.

In a similar fashion, Nikolai Berdyaev comments that without the idea of God there can be no idea of Man. The sense of metaxy is lost and man is unable to find his existential situation. Continue reading

Sam Harris: the Unconverted

Having lived through the Russian Revolution and seen its results two powerful writers wrote brilliant critiques of the entire mode of thought associated with it. Yevgeny Zamyatin wrote WE, a dystopian futuristic novel where the One State had achieved “happiness” by reducing its members to nameless drones. Free will, religion and imagination have been banished and societal problems have been “solved” via extreme rationalism and mathematical equations. Zamyatin’s novel was the progenitor of Brave New World and 1984 but published in 1922. It was immediately banned. Nikolai Berdyaev, with the help of Dostoevsky’s amazing prescience in novels like The Possessed, also understood the dire consequences of the revolution, finding himself exiled about the time of WE’s publication. Two brilliant assertions Berdyaev made, among others, was that without the idea of God there can be no idea of man and every highest good other than God leads murderously to treating men as means to achieving the hoped-for goal – “happiness” included.

Sam Harris rose to fame as one of the self-proclaimed Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens being the other three) AKA as the New Atheists. Embracing the horsemen moniker seems like wearing your nihilism rather too evidently on your sleeve, but Harris was only too happy about it.

Harris has a significant following. He is a determinist, with all the logical paradoxes such a position engenders, and embraces a hyper-rationalism. He has hopes to save the world through “rational” debate and ridding the world of religion. He has found himself in trouble with his liberal brethren by being openly critical of Islam and being willing to talk to Charles Murray of The Bell Curve fame.

Tom Bertonneau recently commented to me that Christianity is engaging in a new revelation; namely the effects of its withdrawal from large sectors of the Western world resulting in the current frenzy of scapegoating and a pervasive dreary nihilism hopefully leading to its future re-embracement. The Russians had a foretaste with the banning of religion after the revolution and the various utopian fantasies that invariably seek to replace Christianity giving writers like Berdyaev and Zamyatin particular perspicuity. These two writers brilliantly anticipated all the main rhetorical and intellectual stances of Sam Harris and others like him, and point out their logical and real-world consequences long before Harris was ever born.

The following article, kindly published by The Sydney Traditionalist, – Sam Harris; the Unconverted outlines the way Berdyaev and Zamyatin anticipate and critique Harris and his ilk.

Social Justice: an analysis – part 1 of 4

poster,210x230,f8f8f8-pad,210x230,f8f8f8.lite-1u1Part 1 of Social Justice: an analysis has been published at Gates of Vienna. This essay began as an attempt to summarize the key arguments of Thomas Sowell’s The Quest for Cosmic Justice. This is what I had done for Thomas Sowell in “Intellectuals and Race.” As writing proceeded, however, the discussion broadened to take in topics not explicitly covered by Sowell – so while The Quest for Cosmic Justice is the inspiration for the final result and many of the points are Sowell’s, it no longer seemed appropriate to give the article the same kind of title as my piece on Intellectuals and Race.

Since social justice is driven by resentment towards the successful resulting in their scapegoating, this is very much the territory analyzed so successfully by René Girard, hence his thinking is especially relevant.

Name any human characteristic and barring two individuals, someone will be better than you and someone worse than you. To reject this is to reject Being and existence. It is nihilistic.

The article begins by distinguishing between justified resentment at unprovoked attacks and actual unfairness versus unwarranted and essentially puerile resentment. It is important to recognize that all human beings are prone to resentment at those perceived to be superior and more successful. To exist is to have limits and those limits tend to produce frustration and resentment, a point made by Jordan Peterson. One student asked last semester whether it was possible to resent God. Yes, indeed! Even Sophia, in Gnostic theology, second only to The One, is said to be driven by resentment. What hope for the rest of us? Continue reading

A revision to the Gödel essay

A benefit of publication can be informed criticism which in this case has entailed a revision. I had confused Gödelian propositions with axioms. The revision makes extensive use of Roger Penrose – a major mathematical physicist and philosopher, and to a lesser extent, Stanley Jaki, also a physicist and philosopher – so there is a certain amount of a legitimate appeal to authority. If it is a subject that seems particularly interesting, perhaps you wanted to know why Gödel’s Theorem is regarded as such a landmark, I hope the reader might read this version too. My apologies for leading anyone astray. I can only hope that this revision is evidence of intellectual integrity and not just boneheadedness on my part.

https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2018/05/19/godels-theorem/

Chaos and Order; the right and left hemispheres

Chaos and Order; the right and left hemispheres

In The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist writes that a creature like a bird needs two types of consciousness simultaneously. It needs to be able to focus on something specific, such as pecking at food, while it also needs to keep an eye out for predators which requires a more general awareness of environment.

These are quite different activities. The Left Hemisphere (LH) is adapted for a narrow focus. The Right Hemisphere (RH) for the broad. The brains of human beings have the same division of function.

The LH governs the right side of the body, the RH, the left side. With birds, the left eye (RH) looks for predators, the right eye (LH) focuses on food and specifics. Since danger can take many forms and is unpredictable, the RH has to be very open-minded. Continue reading

Gödel’s Theorem (revised)

Kurt Gödel[1] was a Platonist,[2] logician and mathematician who developed the intention of making a profound and lasting impact on philosophical mathematics. His next task was to think of something! Amazingly, at the age of twenty five, he achieved his goal, publishing his incompleteness theorem.

Godel and Einstein

Kurt Gödel and Einstein

A good friend of Albert Einstein’s, Einstein once said that late in life when his own work was not amounting to much, the only reason he bothered going to his office at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton was for the pleasure of walking home with Gödel.

John von Neumann wrote: “Kurt Gödel’s achievement in modern logic is singular and monumental – indeed it is more than a monument, it is a landmark which will remain visible far in space and time. … The subject of logic has certainly completely changed its nature and possibilities with Gödel’s achievement.”[3]

While at university, Gödel attended a seminar run by David Hilbert who posed the problem of completeness: Are the axioms of a formal system sufficient to derive every statement that is true in all models of the system? Continue reading

The Halting Problem – there is, definitively, more to thinking than computation

Alan Turing

Alan Turing

Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem[1] was inspired by David Hilbert’s question “Are the axioms of a formal system sufficient to derive every statement that is true in all models of the system?” Hilbert played the same role regarding Alan Turing’s proof of the halting problem. Hilbert had asked: “Is there some mechanical procedure [an algorithm] for answering all mathematical problems, belonging to some broad, but well-defined class?”[2] In German this is called Entscheidungsproblem – the decision problem.[3]

Turing found that he could answer this question by framing it in terms of a Turing machine[4] – could there be a program that could determine whether any other arbitrary computer program and input would eventually stop or just loop forever? This was called the halting problem.

“Alan Turing proved in 1936 that a general algorithm to solve the halting problem for all possible program-input pairs cannot exist.”[5]

Continue reading