I have spoken on this blog numerous times about both the illiberal woke left and the illiberal integralist right. Both sides critique liberalism (used in the classical sense, not in the sense of the U.S. left). Some of these critiques are valid. Indeed, I am not above critiquing liberalism. My position, however, is that although liberalism is not good, it is the least bad of the available options. Now, though, the illiberal right is becoming the friend of the center left in the enemy of my enemy sort of way.
A number of conservative thinkers are coming to the conclusion that liberalism, in the classical sense (the way it will be used hereafter), ought to be jettisoned. Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen published Why Liberalism Failed in 2018 where he argued that liberalism is an ideology in the same sense that fascism or communism are. It is not the natural order of things of which human history has been blundering about for millennia in its quest to achieve. What is happening in the world today is not in spite of liberalism, but a result of it.
I have made no secret about the fact that I am a philosophical pessimist. Hell, my blog, the one you are reading right now, is called the cynical philosopher. My general disposition is one of nihilism and general misanthropy. This grim view of things is often considered one for the weak. For those who can’t hack it and have given up. I couldn’t agree more with this assessment. But I think there is a case to be made that giving up is a sensible position to take.
In science, objectivity is the greatest virtue. In an ideal world, a scientist would be impartial, disinterested in the outcomes, never desiring one result over another. They would run they experiment, gather the data, and report the findings, even if the data showed something that refuted the scientists’ hypothesis or gave an uninteresting negative result. Experiments would be replicated by multiple different people to more rigorously determine the veracity of the results. Negative results would get published as often as positive results. Topics for study would be determined by a mixture of intellectual curiosity and potential for improving society in some measurable way. Science, to say the least, does not live up to this ideal. But is science redeemable?
I wrote before on the Sohrab Ahmari vs David French antagonism seen in U.S. conservatism. A new theater in this growing schism between the postliberal and liberal (in a classical liberal sense) wings of the U.S. conservative movement has opened up between Catholic Integralist Sohrab Ahmari and Orthodox (post)liberal Rod Dreher.
The popular, even ubiquitous metaphor used in cognitive neuroscience is that the brain can be likened to a computer. The similarities seem obvious: neuronal activity is binary (a neuron is either depolarized (ON) during an action potential or polarized (OFF) when inactive); our vision and hearing has many aesthetic similarities to a computer display (indeed, the monitor is made exactly to fit the human experience of colors, shapes, etc.); humans process information (we can sit down and think through a math problem, for instance). So on and so forth. But is the “brains are computers” metaphor accurate? And if not, then is adherence to this metaphor slowing down progress in neuroscience?
Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America by John McWhorter, Portfolio (October 26, 2021), 224 Pages.
Nihilism, I contend, broadly comes in two different flavors. There is the nihilism of hopelessness and existential dread, whereby the meaninglessness of everything is more contemplative, yet psychologically paralyzing. I tend to fall more into this camp. The second flavor is selfishness and greed. A person concludes there is no meaning to anything, so why not just enjoy myself?
I just finished watching Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special “The Closer” after hearing about the backlash against his alleged transphobic jokes. I have some thoughts. Here they are.
The Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, has become a big story in the news lately. I think most people are not really surprised about the revelations that Instagram makes people anxious and depressed and that Facebook cares about money more than people’s well being. The question, though, is where to go from here.
Philosophy is broadly concerned with two questions: what is there (i.e. what exists)? And what is the good life? The former still holds a prominent place in philosophy. The latter has undergone an evolution. If it is asked now days, it is usually rephrased something more like: how can I maximize pleasure and reduce suffering? But is this the question we ought to be asking?
One of the main issues that proponents of Critical Race Theory (CRT) have with the liberal status quo is the idea of meritocracy. Ideally, meritocracy means that the persons who are best qualified for some position in the economy (or even society at large) will be the ones who obtain those positions. The CRT proponent will say that meritocracy is not only bad in practice, but also bad in principle. Thus, some other criteria – such as ones status in a particular group, such as race or sex – ought to be used when determining who fills different positions.
I have not made a post here about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan not because I don’t have opinions about it, but because I don’t really have a hot take on it. The war was misguided from very early on, strategically inept, and the withdrawal was a complete boondoggle. I think one would be hard pressed to find many differing opinions on that third point, though possibly for different reasons.
Classical liberalism was the inauguration of ideas such as personal and economic liberty, secular government, and being allowed to define happiness based on your personal beliefs. What has resulted from the liberalism of western society is an atomization of our personal lives. People feel less connection to family and community; relationships have become another avenue to pursue happiness, with the consequence that friendships and romantic partners, like material possessions, can be jettisoned as soon as they don’t spark joy; and shallow materialism has become a stand-in for happiness. Is this because we lost what allowed liberalism to work in the beginning – namely, religion?
There has lately been controversy about whether schools – both at the primary and secondary education level – are teaching kids critical race theory, otherwise known as CRT. School administrators and CRT theorists have both denied this, claiming that CRT is not taught to children. But this is sort of misleading.
Information can be broadly defined as the reduction in uncertainty. The reason that the location and momentum of 100 particles in a 1×1 meter box contains less information than either A) the location and momentum of 100 particles in a 10×10 meter box or B) 1,000 particles in a 1×1 meter box is because, in case A, one must specify a greater number of microstates (i.e. there are more possible arrangements of particles) and in case B, there are more particles whose position must be specified. What can we say about cosmology using the integrated information of all particles in existence?
The death toll in the U.S. as a result of COVID is equal to the U.S. death toll of WW1 and WW2 combined, but in half the time. This is not even mentioning the people who got sick but survived and are now dealing with long term complications and financial stress as a direct result of being sick with COVID19. Was (and is) our reaction to the COVID19 pandemic hysteria? Or was/is it a reaction commensurate with a real crisis?
When using formal logic, what are the referents of a given proposition? If we take a proposition to be of the form X is P where the subject X is some object or concept sublated to a predicate i.e. a more general concept P, what is it that X and P refer to? Logicists like Gottlob Frege would say that X refers to some object in the world while P refers to a concept; Ferdinand de Saussure would deny that X refers to anything in the real world, instead saying that it refers only to the psychological concept of some object.
About a month ago I recorded a video examining the scientific evidence of the lab-leak hypothesis for the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Since then, a heated exchange between Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Anthony Fauci has transpired in which the issue of whether the United States, through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has funded so-called gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). I was planning on making another video on this subject (and probably will at some point), but after some discussion with a commenter on my earlier video, some more philosophical questions have emerged that I am going to discuss here a bit.