Category Archives: Philosophy

He Said That? 7/17/17

From Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts, at his son’s recent 9th Grade commencement speech. Remember when 9th graders didn’t have commencements?

“Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why.

From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice.

I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty.

Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted.

I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.

And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship.

I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.

Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen.

And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”

 

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How Many Russians Do You Hate? by Robert Gore

“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”  Muhammad Ali

How many Russians do you hate? Chinese? North Koreans? Iranians? Syrians? Yemenis? If, aggregated, your answer was zero, your answer is typical.

Perhaps you were rejected once by someone you loved, whom you wanted to love you. It’s surprising how quickly love can become hate. You hated, bitterly, for a long time. Then you realized your hate wasn’t just ineffectual—the hated one had moved on, oblivious to your antipathy—it was warping you, closing you off to the good that life offers. You were only hurting yourself, so you let it go, reopening the door to positive possibilities and opportunities.

If you couldn’t continue hating someone who hurt you, why would you hate any one of billions of people you’ll never know? It’s foolish, a waste of time and energy. Most people pursue their own opportunities, living and letting live…especially people they don’t know. It’s an important element of a well-adjusted personality. Wars and conflict get all the press, but the unrecognized history of the world is actually a more salutary chronicle. Through the generations, people in large measure have lived peaceably together, even people of different races, nationalities, and creeds. Peace, cooperation, and mutually beneficial exchange, not war and conflict, account for humanity’s journey from cave to skyscraper.

Who peddles, promotes, and profits from war and conflict? The people of Germany didn’t spontaneously make war against the people of Poland in 1939, nor the people of the United States against the people of Iraq in 2003. Germans and Americans may have supported those wars, but they were instigated by those in power. Almost all wars are, but are fought by people who have no use for them, who will bear most of the costs, and derive few if any of the purported benefits.

Hate is stoked to overcome the natural desires for peace and prosperity and aversion to war. As a leader, you don’t sit the citizens down one-by-one and calmly explain to them why they should hate whomever you’ve chosen to fight. Rather, you make a frenzied appeal to a crowd, and let crowd psychology work its woeful wonders, with ostracism and worse for the few rejecting the appeal.

FOR THOSE WHO LOVE…GREAT SATIRE!

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Hate is the very foundation of war. Isn’t it also the very foundation of power? Certainly those in power would reject that formulation, but let’s come at the question from the other direction. If you hate someone, you wish the worse for them. You wish you could determine their fate, which left to you would be awful. Isn’t power the ability of one person to determine the fate of another? Has power generally been exercised to the benefit or detriment of those subjected to it?

Keep in mind that the exercise of power forcibly preempts the subjected’s own judgments about what’s best for themselves. You’d like to keep what you’ve earned; the state takes it. You’d like to live your life in the way you see fit; the state has its myriad regulations and punishments. You and another party would like to conduct a mutually beneficial exchange; the state bans, regulates, or dictates its terms. You want to live in peace: the state pursues war.

Now the state may claim that all it does is for your benefit, but aren’t you the best judge of what’s beneficial to you? Doesn’t this presumption that they know better than you do what’s good for you reek of insufferable arrogance? Think about your own experiences. Has anyone who obviously thought he or she was superior to you ever had your best interests at heart?

“I love mankind…it’s people I can’t stand.”
Linus Van Pelt, from the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz

The last one hundred years has seen a parade of leaders and their henchmen demonstrating their professed love of humanity with guns, concentration camps, torture, gas chambers, forced famines, genocide, and other evils. In the twentieth century, humanity-loving governments have killed between 100-200 million of the people they couldn’t stand, and that’s not counting the wars. How high does the body count have to go before the conclusion generally takes hold that it’s the power and the killing and the death they love, not the people they subjugate? Or is that insight only reached when the person next to you—like you kneeling, his hands bound—takes a bullet in the back of his head?

Power, a mass murderer once noted, “grows out of the barrel of gun.” You shall know him, and everyone else with a gun trained at your head, by their fruits. Their harvest is always death, fed by the poison of their murderous hate.

A bumper crop looms. The world is perfectly configured for an orgy of hate. Developed nations’ governments have debt and other promises that cannot be kept, and their creditors and populations expect to be paid. Their economies are faltering under the load of existing debt service. The optimistic wave of social mood and central bank machinations propelling US and European equity and bond markets to new highs—and keeping their economies treading water—are long in the tooth. When markets and economies crash, scapegoats will be found, blamed, perhaps afforded something resembling judicial process, and imprisoned or worse.

China and Russia are leading a consortium of nations that recognize US unipolar world dominance is a thing of the past and are challenging what remains of it. The US public sustains itself on a delusional mix of something for nothing, red versus blue, transparently fraudulent propaganda, jingoism, and state-sponsored veneration of the state and its functionaries. And they hate, against those the government and its media instruct them to hate.

Let the hate flow through you!
Emperor Palpatine to Luke Skywalker,
Star Wars: Episode VI-Return of the Jedi

Reality will wipe out the delusions, but leave vast reservoirs of hate. The Palpatines who think they can use hate for their own ends will find that it cannot be so precisely channeled. All of its irrationally random consequences cannot be predicted, but hate will surely boomerang against its promoters.

Those of us who hope to pick up the pieces and build something better cannot afford the foolish and counterproductive indulgence of hate, during the cataclysm or its aftermath. You may be disgusted by a cockroach infestation, but hating them does nothing to eliminate them. Eradicating our cockroaches—those who claim superiority and their right to rule us—will require all the tightly focused concentration, resourcefulness, cooperation, and rationality we can summon. Justice will not be denied—but bloodthirsty vengeance and mindless violence must be. Criminality has to be called to account and suitable punishment administered. Unfortunately, revolutions often replace bad with worse. Give in to hate, and we become that which we seek to eradicate. The Dark Side destroys all who embrace it.

“I love how you have told this marvelous story with fantastic

characters and embodied all your principles and ideals within.”

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A 4th of July Remembrance: Independence Arises from Self-Reliance, by Charles Hugh Smith

Rugged individualism, the making of one’s own way, psychological self-sufficiency, used to be the bedrock of the American character. Now the whole concept of individualism has been perverted into a demand for others’ attention and support. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Individualism, it seems, means not the making of one’s own way but the demanding of sacrifices by others to maintain one’s own lifestyle.
What is visible on July 4th is the overwhelming consumerism of an American holiday: the over-hyped sales campaigns, the over-indulgences of the table, and the obligatory displays of fireworks. But beneath this celebratory surface run questions about American identity and the state of grace of the American soul.
There is a darkness in that soul, the poisonous darkness of greed, complacency and hubris. Individualism, it seems, means not the making of one’s own way but the demanding of sacrifices by others to maintain one’s own lifestyle: the sacrifices laid on the next generations to pay our lavish medical and retirement benefits, and the sacrificing of the planet to supply us with cheap energy, particle-board furniture and all the other gimcracks which are piled up in countless garages and storage facilities across the overstuffed suburbs of America.
There is another American soul, a largely forgotten one; that of Emerson, Thoreau and Muir. Emerson’s essay Self-Reliance speaks to a radical individualism: “Insist on yourself; never imitate.”
His vision has been reduced to a callow “do your own thing,” but his individualism is not the type trumpeted by consumerism, of dependence on the state and all the ills of self-absorption. It is both spiritual (Emerson was a Harvard-trained minister, after all) and a state of being.
“Man is not a farmer, a professor or an engineer, but he is all.” To be fluid, capable of metamorphosis, and true to oneself was not an abstract ideal to study in a classroom but a way of living: “We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them.”

He Said That? 9/28/17

From Isaac Newton (1643-1727), English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, inventor, theologian and natural philosopher, cited in Rules for methodizing the Apocalypse, Rule 9, from a manuscript published in The Religion of Isaac Newton by Frank E. Manuel (1974):

Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.

 

She Said That? 6/23/17

From Jojo Moyes (born 1969), English journalist and novelist, One Plus One (2014):

The law of probability combined with the law of large numbers states that to beat the odds, sometimes you have to repeat an event an increasing number of times in order to get you to the outcome you desire. The more you do, the closer you get. Or… basically, sometimes you just have to keep going.

We had just experienced exactly the type of free and honest fight club conversation that ZeroHedge enables, by Hedgeless Horseman

I attended the conference that is the topic of this article, and made a presentation on “Breaking the Alternative Media’s Dependence on the Mainstream Media.” Soon I will release the text of that presentation, probably in parts since it was about a 45-minute speech. It was a great conference, and Hedgeless Horseman and Zero Hedge deserve a world of credit for hosting it. From Hedgeless at zerohedge.com:

At the time, my life just seemed too complete, and maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves.” 

-Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

I am still trying to interpret and integrate all that I experienced and learned about disintermediation, about myself, and about y’all at last week’s First ZeroHedge Symposium and Live Fight Club in Marfa, Texas. I hope that writing this after-action report will help me to better assimilate it.

Last Wednesday, I picked up the aquaponics speaker, Tim, upon his arrival from Hawaii at the airport.  My family and I got to know him well during our short 10.5 hour drive out to Marfa, and over the course of the next 6 days.  We now grok the differences between aquaponics and hydroponics, and the similarities between our two families.

For us, staying in the tepees, tents, and vintage aluminum trailers at El Cosmico proved to be a very good choice.  ZeroHedgers arrived and immediately coalesced around the open-air showers and community kitchens.  Usually the question of, “Are you here for the symposium?” was answered with a yes, a big smile, an offer of a beer or mescal, and an introduction such as, “Hello, I am hedgeless_horseman.”  

[The guy in the picture is Hedgeless Horseman]

Some of us had come a day early to tour the art at the Chinati Foundation.  I had very high expectations based on the reading I had done, and they were exceeded.  It was sublime to experience Donald Judd’s 100 untitled works in milled aluminum, in that particular light, architecture, and environment.  Another favorite was Robert Irwin’s relatively new permanent installation where we literally moved out of the darkness and into the light.  The full-day tour served as the perfect appetizer to clear, open, and prepare my mind for the three-day symposium.

Thursday afternoon, I learned from our gracious hosts in Marfa that a few special snowflakes, which had only recently fallen in this hot and dry desert, had started a petition for the city to ban us from holding the symposium in “their” town. I asked what the perceived problem was, and was told that they were afraid we were violent and white supremacists.  We all laughed, especially the non-whites and pacifists.  Someone asked if the special snow flakes were able to read the list of speakers and topics.  Apparently not.  However, I immediately suspected that their concerns and petition were just another clear case of FEAR, False Evidence Appearing Real.  This was confirmed when I agreed to be interviewed by one of them, a young woman from New York, who also claimed to be a freelance journalist.

To continue reading: We had just experienced exactly the type of free and honest fight club conversation that ZeroHedge enables

In Praise of Facts, by Robert Gore

Facts rush towards us like an oncoming train, and facts tie us to the track.

Your car won’t start. That’s a fact. You think the battery is dead. That’s a hypothesis. Your neighbor has jumper cables and you start the car off of her car’s battery. That’s an experiment that yields data supporting your hypothesis. Maybe you drive around for a while and your battery either recharges or it doesn’t. Either way, that’s another fact, which tends to disprove or support your hypothesis. Perceiving facts, developing hypotheses, experimentation, then revising, when necessary, those hypotheses in light of newly perceived facts are defining processes of the human mind. Humans continuously perceive, hypothesize, experiment, and revise, rarely even aware of the process: call it the empirical loop.

It’s easy to laugh at the academic and student primitives who deride the loop, who even question the concept of facts. Often this rejection stands on the notion that the loop is a package of “constructs” developed by white males to oppress everyone else. Credit for the loop to white males is a compliment, not a condemnation. However, they aren’t responsible for the epistemological process necessary for any human being to deal with reality, although some white males have dealt with reality extraordinarily well. Rejecting the loop, primitives will surely be oppressed…by reality. Let one of them, regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender, step in front of a moving train, rejecting the fact that it’s a train and the hypothesis of imminent impact. Before he splatters on the train’s windshield, he may realize his epistemological errors.

Thus, this anti-epistemology that has permeated the academy is not a laughing matter. It cripples young minds just as they should be launching their first independent forays into reality. Unfortunately, it can not and has not stayed confined to the academy. In the empirical loop, facts are primary; in the anti-empirical loop, perceptions and beliefs reign supreme. The unremarkable observation that beliefs can create facts—people believe Brand A soap cleans better, so they buy more of it than other soaps—has mutated into the mindset that facts either don’t exist or are irrelevant, only perception and belief matter. That precept is inherently collectivist, because the perceptions and beliefs that matter are those of groups. Patron saint of this movement is Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays (1891-1995), who has been called the father of public relations.

SOMETIMES MADE UP FACTS HAVE MORE TRUTH THAN REAL FACTS

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At root, economics is the study of how people deal with certain aspects of reality: scarce resources, producing goods and services, trade, and so on. A plausible hypothesis concerning the 2008-2009 financial crisis was that it was caused by years of mathematically unsustainable debt growth—promoted by central banks’ policies—in excess of economic growth. When the debt-stimulated housing sector—homes, mortgages, and mortgage-backed securities—reversed course and imploded, it took much of the world with it, because the global financial system is inextricably interlinked.

This hypothesis implies that restoration of the economy and financial system requires debt contraction to a point where the economy can support it. However, that hypothesis about the cause was never officially accepted, and neither was any other. To this day, policymakers within governments and central banks profess ignorance about the causes of the crisis. They may be covering their asses, because most hypotheses in some way implicate them. But the fact that none of them saw it coming suggests that perhaps they should be taken at their word. Their solutions—government debt, central bank debt monetization, and low or negative interest rates—suggest the same thing.

Such solutions replace economics with mass psychology. Promoting and increasing debt, policymakers reject the excess debt hypothesis. At the heart of feel-good operations, central banks exchange their fiat debt for governments’ fiat debt at suppressed interest rates. Low interests rates promote borrowing and stabilize falling asset prices, which makes people feel better. Feeling better, they buy goods, services, and financial assets, which, in a virtuous cycle called the wealth effect, make people feel even better, juicing the economy and financial markets even more. Edward Bernays would have been proud: prosperity via PR. One inconvenient fact: the feel-good cure hasn’t worked particularly well.

The aide [Karl Rove] said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” He continued “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Suskind, Ron, “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” The New York Times Magazine, 10/17/04

Can anything be more arrogantly delusional than a belief that an entity, even an “empire,” can create its “own reality”? Some version of Karl Rove’s triumphal effluvia has been muttered by emperors, and their courtiers and courtesans, since Ozymandias. The US empire has been creating realities since Korea. They certainly haven’t been the realities, the sets of facts, the ruling cabal advertised or promised, although they may have been the realities it wanted. When one creates one’s own reality, facts are clearly superfluous. For the unenlightened remnant, “the reality-based community,” Bush, Rove, and company’s War on Terror is more accurately labeled the War to Promote Terror; terror now being more prevalent than it was when the war was initiated. Similar relabeling is apt for the empire’s other reality-creating wars: the War to Promote Drugs and the War to Promote Poverty.

The reality creators pursue a fact-free revolt against a duly elected president, hoping to, Bernays-like, conjure a perception that will drive him from office. Megyn Kelly’s recent interviews with Vladimir Putin (Link to ABC version; Link to part ABC left out) are instructive: the Witch Doctor versus the empiricist. Kelly incants all the right incantations: “Consensus view,” “Republicans and Democrats,” “17 intelligence agencies,” “experts say,” “reports today in the American press,” “US intelligence has concluded.” However, you can’t argue from authority when the other side doesn’t recognize your authority, which Putin did not. Did Kelly and those who vetted her questions actually think the ex-KGB agent (a fact that Kelly helpfully pointed out…twice) would acknowledge the expertise, accuracy, or integrity, much less the authority, of America’s consensus, Republicans and Democrats, experts, press, or intelligence agencies? Who in their right mind would?

Putin punctured Kelly’s word bubbles with two words—”direct proof,” noting its absence. The closest Kelly got to facts is when she incanted “forensics,” “digital fingerprints,” “IP addresses” (Internet Protocol), “malware,” “encryption keys,” and “specific pieces of code,” all of which, she asserted, pointed to Russian hacking. Unfortunately, beyond briefing her on software lexicon, apparently nobody told Kelly that all her keywords can be faked—until Putin did…twice. He did not—but could have—cited WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 disclosures in March revealing that the CIA can engage in false flag cyberattacks such as the one of which Russia stands accused.

SLL has posited that the great divide in American life is between the useful and the useless. However, the divide is deeper than that. It’s epistemological, between those who deal every day with cars that won’t start and other facts, and those who believe that facts are irrelevant or a construct of their own choosing and construction. Facts can be ignored but not eradicated. The reality-based community will take grim satisfaction when ignored facts finally cascade down upon the heads of the reality-creators, as they assuredly will. Unfortunately, those facts will cascade down upon the rest of us, too, and we’re left hoping for one future fact: that we’ll be around to pick up the pieces.

GREAT NOVEL, GREAT READ, GREAT LITERATURE

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