Category Archives: Philosophy

Everything That Can Be Customized

must be.

This is where I differ with Lileks (and Virginia Postrel). I have no desire to customize anything. To me it’s pointless work. Perhaps because I have absolutely no artistic talent (at least visually) or even that much aesthetic sensibility. My computer screen has the same background that was installed with the OS. I did put an effect on my phone when I first got it, because I was playing around with it to see how it all worked, but I’ve never downloaded, let alone paid for, a ring tone. Or a fancy case. I really just don’t care.

The Latest Take-Down Of Piketty

It’s long, and too much there to pick out a quote, but worth the read.

As I’ve noted before, Marxism is not a discipline, or even an ideology, really. It’s an attitude founded in envy and a grasping for power. Simply put, if you believe your judgment of someone else’s need to be superior to their own, and are willing to enforce it at the point of a gun, you are a Marxist. And that attitude describes a large majority of Democrats, and far too many Republicans.

The Next Generation Of Republicans

Are they already here?

What’s behind all these surprising numbers? I can’t say, but it’s hard not to notice that a decline in destructive behavior associated with peer pressure has happened at the same moment that the US became a fully wired nation.

Now that broadband access is nearly universal — 78% of homes, and that’s not counting all the schools and library and Wi-Fi hotspot connections available to most kids with minimal effort — restless youth don’t have to go along with whatever the local knuckleheads are up to.

They can find their community of likeminded souls online, and an unintended consequence of their tinkering with YouTube videos or playing “Call of Duty” with a buddy in Mexico City, they’re staying in. As a frustrated barman in England, where pubs have been closing in huge numbers, put it to The Economist, “Kids these days just want to live in their f- – – ing own little worlds in their bedrooms watching Netflix and becoming obese.” That sounds right, but at least no one ever got pregnant from eating Cheetos.

How are young people turning out politically? They’re liberal Democrats . . . who sometimes sound an awful lot like conservative Republicans.

I don’t really care whether or not they’re Republicans, as long as they’re vehemently not Democrats.

[Update a while later]

This seems related, somehow: How the Left got boring.

[Late-morning update]

Sorry, first link was broken. Should be fixed now.

Scientists And Philosophers

Why they need to talk to each other:

Most of climate science is in ‘shut up and calculate’ mode. This is a very dangerous place to be given the substantial uncertainties, ignorance and areas of disagreement, not to mention the problems/failures of climate models. Climate science needs reflection on the fundamental assumptions, re-interpretations, and deeper thinking. How to reason about the complex climate system, and its uncertainties, is not at all straightforward. And then of course there are the ethical issues, including understanding how the climate debate has gone so badly wrong.

Yes.

Libertarianism

What it isn’t:

…journalists cover complex things they don’t know about all the time, and this is usually okay because they research and talk to people who do know about it.

Unless, of course, they’re writing about libertarians.

Not only do you not have to know the first thing about libertarianism to cover it for major news outlets, it is perfectly fine to a) decline to ask anybody who does know, b) make up your own version of what it is, and then c) lament the terribleness of this terrible philosophy or people you have just created. Cases in point: approximately every 10th article published by Salon, this piece by Damon Linker at The Week.

A lot of people seem to have difficulty with the concept of liberty.

The Missing Light

It’s a mystery:

As one participating scientist points out, to miss the mark by so much means what we understand about the universe is fundamentally wrong. The universe continues to be exciting, a little scary, but mostly—a mystery.

And yet some have the hubris to tell us they can predict the temperature of the planet and level of the seas decades from now.

Heidegger

Since we were discussing philosophy the other day, Lileks has some thoughts:

The article concerns the anti-Semitism of Heidegger, and how the publication of recent texts the philosopher intended to be the capstone of his output reveals that he didn’t have the easy, lazy cultural anti-Semitism of the era, but really, really thought hard on how the Jews were putting the stick to the decent noble Volk. Not just any kind of Jews, though: worldwide jewry! It’s the richest kind.

..Anything that starts out with “Russia and America are the same” is the product of a mind so high in the clouds it cannot tell the different between red and black ants. But while Russia did indeed have “unrestricted organization of the average man,” an inevitable consequence of the state’s politicization of the entire society, you could say Germany under Hitler had a smattering as well. Or a gerschmatturung, to use Heidegger’s word. Just kidding; he doesn’t. But the article is full of German words intended to set off a Concept, as though expressing a concept in a train-wreck of consonants makes it important. I suppose the point is to be accurate, use the terms the author uses so there can be no misunderstanding. But for my part that would require anything close to comprehension, and I cannot grasp a lot of what Heidegger is talking about, perhaps because there seems to be no point in understanding what he’s saying.

Philosophy isn’t useless, but some philosophers are. Or worse than.

On Gun Control

How I learned to stop worrying and love the AR-15:

Brutally put, it makes little philosophical sense for the elected representatives of a government that is subordinate to the people to be able to disarm those people. As an enlightened state may by no means act as the arbiter of its critics’ words, it may not remove from the people the basic rights that are recognized in the very document to which it owes its existence. “Shall not be infringed” and “shall make no law” are clear enough even for the postmodern age. To ask, “Why do you need an AR-15?” is to invert the relationship. A better question: “Why don’t you want me to have one?” And far from being the preserve of two-bit reactionaries, this, I discovered to my consternation, is a deeply — nay, radically — liberal principle, and one of the most beautiful ideas in the history of beautiful ideas. It changed my politics forever.

It is not, and has never been, about hunting.

[Update a few minutes later]

And then there’s this:

These ideas had a profound effect on me, ushering in the startling realization that, far from merely being a larger England, the United States had become something quite different: an incubator of lost or diluted British freedoms. As the Liberty Bell was originally cast in England but rang out in America, so those guarantees of the “rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural-born subjects” have found their truest expression across the Atlantic. “That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy,” wrote George Orwell in 1941. “It is our job to see that it stays there.” In Britain and beyond, that rifle has long been taken away. England’s bell has fallen silent. Americans would do well to ensure that the crack in theirs grows no larger.

Yes.

Rousseau Was Wrong

That’s an evergreen post title, but the science is settled:

Human facial structure evolved to tolerate punches to the head, according to new research that suggests our ancestors spent a lot of time fighting.

So they weren’t corrupted by civilization. Huh.

[Update early afternoon]

On the other hand, maybe not.

But even without this theory, there’s ample evidence that prehistoric humans weren’t gentle pacifists.