Is Peer Review Mostly Butt Sniffing?

The outfit worn by an American teenager has been subjected to rigorous “peer review.” Likewise his hairstyle, his lingo, and what he passes off as his opinions. In fact, we might say that he is, in toto, the product of the “peer review process.”  Or what anxious sociologists used to call “peer pressure.”

Academic peer review is engineered somewhat differently, but its purpose and effect is the same. It produces conformity, or what we are told to call, with intonations of reverence, scientific consensus. Continue reading

A Patriotic Cosmopolitan

The cosmopolitan outlook is said to have begun when the Stoic philosopher Zeno announced that he was a “citizen of the world.”  By “the world,” Zeno really meant the cosmos, as we recognize in the term cosmopolitan, and by cosmos he really meant the divine order, universal reason, or logos that stands behind everything (1).  In saying he was a “citizen of the world,” or a “cosmopolitan,” Zeno was therefore declaring himself a loyal subject of this higher law, and at the same time renouncing his allegiance to the lesser laws and loyalties that bind citizens of a mere city-state. Continue reading

The Sacred is Indispensable – An Argument for the Existence of God

Having an emotional and intellectual appreciation for the sacred is necessary to live well. Without an appreciation for the sacred a person’s attunement to life is severely damaged.

The sacred can be thought of as the appearance of the transcendent in the midst of the immanent; of a slight rip in the curtain separating the two.

A human being, Nature and Beauty can all be counted as instances of the sacred. Mystics seem to suggest that in fact all reality is divine and describe the sacred as shining through the most mundane of objects. Since mystics face the problem of communicating their rare experiences to the rest of us, they frequently make use of poetry. This has the advantage of potentially engaging the reader emotionally, intellectually and imaginatively. The aesthetic experience can be an instance of when people are most alive and a poem, as an instance of the beautiful, can point beyond itself to the divine realm. A realm for which we have an affinity, claims Plotinus, as being our true home.

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The Gift – Marcel Mauss and René Girard

Tobriand Island

Trobriand Island

Gifts are universal. Every culture on Earth has and will always exchange gifts. The effect of gifts is to tie people together; to connect them. This is their ultimate meaning and significance. Many features of gifts are immune from changes in cultural context and time. They stay the same in all circumstances. They are traditional everywhere.

Marcel Mauss’ The Gift is an anthropological study of gifts. He hoped to show that gift-giving precedes mere economic transactions in chronology and significance. Successful businesses often combine gifts with the more prosaic monetary exchanges.

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Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Ontological Priority of Wholes to Parts

I struggled for several decades to understand composite wholes (organisms, organs, ecologies, societies, and so forth (not to mention molecules, atoms (in the Rutherfordian sense rather than the Democritean), cells, organelles, hadrons, etc.)) as deriving from and completely explained by the interactions of their constituent parts, until I finally realized that it simply can’t be done. Such “explanations” inevitably invoke the whole they are trying to explain as an obscure feature of their parts. They are, i.e., somehow or other circular. This is why honest and careful materialism *just is* eliminative.

The derivation must run the other way, if we are to understand either wholes or their parts. And once we run the derivation in the proper direction, taking the whole as itself an ontological real independent of its parts, and prior thereto, and furthermore definitive thereof, why then all sorts of vexing problems that simply cannot be solved under the terms of materialist modernism – the mind/body problem, in particular – simply vanish. There are to such ontological holism furthermore all sorts of interesting consequences, that tend to validate both our quotidian experience and the deliverances of traditional supernaturalism.

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A Dolorous Rationalist

Isegoria has posted an excerpt from Razib Kahn’s review of Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now. Kahn, like Pinker, is a true believer in what he calls the “enlightenment project,” which he conceives as the use of “critical rationalism” to liberate men from “tribal visions” and resettle them in the promised land of truth and righteousness. Continue reading

The Power of the Eunuchs

With an eye to updating one of my lectures, I have been reading the Travels of Ludovico di Varthema, an Italian who disguised himself as a Muslim and made the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1503.  From there, he pressed on to India and the Spice Islands, only turning back when he had seen the famous clove trees of Ternaté.  While ashore on Java, he notes that his companion purchased . . . Continue reading

The Narcissism Test: Reality. Who Needs It?

Some people exhibit an amazing lack of interest in reality, content to imagine living in a wholly invented world. The notion that much of subjective experience is illusory is strongly connected with the beginnings of “modern” philosophy.

Locke

Locke

Galileo and Locke claimed that only things which are physical and measurable really exist. Galileo argued that primary qualities; solidity, motion, figure, extension and number were really real – being the objective properties of objects and that secondary qualities; color, sight, sound, small, taste and touch did not actually exist per se. They are merely artifacts; products of the sense organs that really have nothing to do with the objects being perceived. They are merely what our brains do when confronted with sensory input and primary qualities.

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The Antic Dance of Folly and Desire

University Police report the rape of yet another ingénue (or demirep), youthful folly having had its usual antic dance with youthful desire. Last Saturday, the UPD “was contacted regarding a sexual assault” that occurred four months earlier, on June 28. This wording and the long delay suggest intercession by a third party, very probably a university employee, as we are required by law to inform the police if we hear any such allegation. Continue reading