Writing is Revenge

I have been reading Theodore Dalrymple since his first and I think best book, Life at the Bottom. Dalrymple’s style of irony worked best when he wrote as a prison doctor reflecting on his patient’s self-deception, since the gentility of his bourgeois diction contrasted with the degeneracy of his underclass subjects in a way that was both amusing and instructive. When Dalrymple retired, moved to France, and began to write about bourgeois culture and the petty vexations of his bourgeois life, this style of irony worked less well, and has sometimes lapsed, I fear, into a degree of cranky pomposity. Continue reading

On Pests

“Tremendous pest, abhorr’d by man and gods!”

Pope’s Odyssey, book xii

The word pestilence comes from the Latin pestis, and a pestis is an affliction that causes dis-ease.  To ease is, of course, to render less painful or difficult, so that which causes dis-ease has the opposite effect.  Dis-ease is what we suffer whenever some pest makes life hard. Continue reading

Gender, Class, and Race: and a light-hearted invitation to anecdotal testimony

After hearing a complaint from a father that he did not want his son’s English teacher inserting politics into every English class in the form of “gender, class, and race,” an English teacher responded “But, that’s all there is.” Proponents of this mantra are supposed to be precisely those who fret about “stereotyping” and sexism, classism, and racism.

1St. Augustine in the City of God systematically debunks astrology by highlighting its absurdities. One point he makes is that if astrology were true, then twins would share exactly the same fate, when they clearly do not. The astrologers counter, Augustine writes, that since twins are born a few minutes apart, this accounts for their differing destinies. Augustine responds that the idea that astrology, rather than simply focusing on birth month and star sign, is so precise that a three minute difference in birth time will have vastly different astrological implications and that astrologers will be able to make accurate predictions based on such a tiny time interval is ridiculous. The whole discussion is rather tedious if astrology has always seemed to the reader as an epistemic nonstarter. Continue reading

Quantum Physics and Reality: a preemptive response

(For someone who is offering to prove that quantum physics is spiritual.)

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In a world where the objective is subjective and the subjective is objective quantum physics has precious little to do with reality. Plato was correct when he described physical reality as the shadows on the back wall of a cave – not even a copy of primary reality, but a copy of a copy.

The idea that quantum physics could describe or point to spiritual reality is a claim of the grossest positivism. Positivism, the notion that all that is true is captured by the methods of science, is the product of a rationalistic delusion. It has proven itself completely unable to describe human existence in any satisfactory manner. Continue reading

The Habit-Breaker

It is easy to get out of the habit of writing for a blog. Let it go for a while and you start to wonder what all the old urgency was about, much as you may wonder how you used to get so het up over an old girlfriend. Time is amnestic, and the first thing you forget is why you did all those things you used to do. You remember that you used to do them, but because you have forgotten why, those memories will be colored by remorse, puzzlement or chagrin. Continue reading

Aristotle and Ethics

Ethics and metaphysics

Aristotle’s conception of ethics is consistent with Plato, his teacher’s notion that moral virtue is essential to human happiness and offers some useful and practical contributions on the matter.  However, there are some noticeable differences, some of which relate to their differing conceptions of God and the divine.

Metaphysics concerns notions of ultimate reality and human happiness has to take reality into account. How best to live is relative to the kind of world and universe we live in. Socrates, Plato’s teacher, wanted to dispense with metaphysics and focus on ethics. Plato saw that metaphysics and ethics are bound up together and Plato’s ethics seem to be influenced by his experience of The Form of the Good – the supreme level of reality symbolized by the sun in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and his awareness of the heaven beyond the heavens.

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Pandemic: Open Thread

Bruce Charlton has rightly argued in an email that the lack of commentary at The Orthosphere on the corona-virus pandemic, the implications of which are epochal, is intellectually and morally impugnable. For what it is worth — I cannot get rid of the suspicion that it is a deliberate attack. Its occurrence and effects are far too convenient for the forces of the Left for it to be a coincidence. I can offer no evidence except the event itself. I invite comments.

Are We All Selfish?

Many students imagine that every human being and every action is selfish. Immanuel Kant was rightly suspicious of the tendency to defer everything to the “dear self,” and make ourselves an exception to a rule. However, the idea that everyone is selfish is largely the result of confusions involving language.

Hedonism is the notion that everything we do, we do for pleasure. Aristotle nixed this idea two millennia ago by stating that eating vetch might be the grandest happiness for a cow, but it is hardly sufficient for a human being. If pleasure were the secret of life, it would be possible to install an electrode in the pleasure center of human beings, have a button attached to a battery, and simply press the button for “happiness.” However, most sane individuals reject this scenario as the acme of human flourishing. Such thought experiments involving mechanical devices are simply a variation on the use of heroin. It feels good for a while, but it means nothing, and it prevents most of the things most people consider worthwhile, such as romantic relationships, projects meaningful to the individual, holding down a job, and being self-sufficient, and is likely to cause a premature death. Since heroin is addicting, it also subverts freedom and makes people slaves of a drug.

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Triumph of the Heat Wave Philosophy

“Call it not love, for Love to heaven is fled,
Since sweating Lust on earth usurp’d his name”

Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis (1593)

I was recently stranded in a public space and accosted by an amplified recording of (Love is Like a) Heat Wave, the 1963 hit that is said to have crystalized the “Motown Sound.”  It was the original recording by Martha and the Vandellas, which I certainly recognized, but it mostly served to take me back to the fall of 1975, when I was about to turn eighteen and Linda Ronstadt released her very popular cover of the song.  Since I was in those days eager to master the art of triggering “heat waves” in young women, I would turn up the volume and listen closely whenever Ronstadt’s hit erupted from a radio. Continue reading