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Reflections on the GOP Loss: In Search of a Silver Lining

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I’ve long ceased commenting on current affairs for lack of any discernible meaning, and instead turned my attention to the theoretical, with an eye to a brighter tomorrow. Well, the 2012 elections may well prove to be an exception, a portent of something new, something different. No, not because the Democrats have won, but because the Republicans have lost!

Indeed, Romney’s defeat, coupled with the continuation of the status quo in both houses, promises to be the best of all possible outcomes. Again, not because the policies emanating from the White House are expected to be more enlightened or better for the country with Mr. Obama in charge than with Mr. Romney. Nor do I base my hopes on the White House prerogative of filling in Supreme Court appointments. I’ve long shed the illusion that liberalism, unaltered, can work. On what, then, do I base my cautious optimism?

Surprisingly, it comes from the least expected of quarters: a thoughtful conservative response, re-evaluation, and narrative. Therein lies the possibility, I say, of a meaningful dialogue in terms of conflicting ideas, not just another compromise by way of half-baked policies designed to accommodate the conflict. Had Mr. Romney won and the shoe been on the other foot, I’m near certain there would be no room for further thought and reflection, and this article would never materialized. I must confess, in passing, I have yet to meet a thoughtful liberal, let alone encountered a “thoughtful liberal response,” but that’s my bias.

Two examples will suffice. Witness, for instance, the timely appearance of David Frum, a conservative with impeccable credentials, on a recent Mike Huckabee show. Lest you didn’t know, Mr. Frum has just published an eBook, Why Romney Lost: And What the GOP Can Do About It, so it’s understandable that he’d be a much sought-after persona these days in all the media. What made his presence, however, on the Mike Huckabee show especially significant was the congenial tone of the conversation. One of the subjects was abortion and the ways in which the two seemingly irreconcilable positions, pro-life and pro-choice, could possibly be reconciled. Rather than treating us to the usual fare of arguments and counterarguments, whereby the two views are deemed mutually exclusive, the focus was on closing the gap by coming up with a more generous support system for expectant mothers (regardless of their immigration status), on neonatal and prenatal care, etc. All told, it was rather refreshing for a conservative radio show. The podcast of the relevant segment follows.

Interestingly, some of it has already trickled down to our little community as well, for within hours of the eBook’s publication, we are treated to the following comment, #8900, by one of the BC “regulars:”

The pro-life movement needs to look at what actually decreases abortion, rather than seeking to ban it (if their true aim is to save babies, which is rather doubtful). Banning does nothing to decrease abortion. Access to birth control and a strong social safety net for poor and single mothers does.

Take it for what it’s worth, but it’s a fairly levelheaded statement, considering the commenter is a no-nonsense liberal who is known for shooting from the hip. One could almost detect here touches of Mr. Huckabee’s genuine concern for the lives of both the expectant mother and the unborn child if it weren’t for the parenthetical disclaimer: “if their [i.e., the pro-life movement’s] true aim is to save babies, which is rather doubtful.”

Now, why would a commenter who goes by the name of “zingzing,” an odd moniker if there ever was one, visit sites such as “Unnecessary Pap Smears” and weigh in on a discussion concerning women’s reproductive organs, a dubious medical practice, and its possible connection to the rising incidence of cervical cancer? This question needn’t concern us here. Lest you wonder, no, he is not an OB/GYN the last time I checked; besides, I’ve always taken her to be a member of the opposite sex but hey, this is internet, so one never really knows! Be that as it may, it’s almost axiomatic that no thoughtful resolution of the abortion question is going to issue from glib pronouncements of gloating liberals like our zingzing here but only from heartrending deliberations of humbled conservatives such as Mike Huckabee and friends.

For our second example, let’s turn our attention to the subject of demographics, another hotly debated topic of late; this time, however, with an idea of providing a plausible explanation of the 2012 election results. Just as in the first instance, there is no shortage of divergent opinions here, which, too, is reflected in our microcosm. Without further ado, then, let me cite one such comment, #11, from “The New America” thread. Unlike the first-cited comment, however, this one, in spite of having been characterized by another self-styled liberal, “Igor” by name, as “the usual lamentation of racists” (see comment #12), has all the makings of sound thinking . . . yes, you’ve guessed it, because it’s from the mouth of a thoughtful conservative:

Demographers have proclaimed for some time now that the country was moving toward a population in which no one ethnic group will be the majority; many have mentioned 2035 as the date this process would culminate.

I think we saw the process gather velocity with this election, which boiled down to the people of color forming a coalition under the Democratic banner (although with a fairly good-sized contingent of whites joining them), while the Republicans, almost 100% lily white, formed the opposition. I take away from the result of this election that white folks have finally lost their position (as a group – individuals will prevail for a few more years) of power, authority and privilege in the USA. I believe that never again will whites dominate the rest of American society to the degree they have until now. Yes, there will be seeming returns to the old structure; white presidents will still get elected (but less and less frequently and they will face Congresses of increasing non-white membership), but the overall trend will be fewer and fewer whites in positions of power in the coming years.

Since most of the non-whites are and will be Latino (they already outnumber the African Americans for example), if you don’t already speak Spanish, learn it. From this event on, this process will only accelerate; as the news circulates in Latin America, ever larger groups of immigrants will begin to arrive, swelling the ranks of the Latinos to a point where much of the country will mirror Miami and South Florida, where almost every position of power and authority, from politics, to business to law enforcement is already held by a Latino/a these days.

Again, I refer the reader to the relevant segment of the Mike Huckabee show (see the link above), in which the discussants speak of the Republican party of yore, circa 1950, as the party that championed the values of “the great American middle class”; of its heartland, its composition, its greatest strength, as consisting of the rank and file, “the people who were holding hammers and saws in their hands and working with their hand tools” and, in so doing, “shared in the general growth of the nation”; of the opportunities which used to abound but which abound no longer.

Never mind that “a lot of people are still mentally living in that country [my emphasis] . . . their children are not,” says Frum: the jobs and opportunities just aren’t there for them anymore like they once were for their parents and grandparents. (Thus, in addition to the immigration/demographic factor, we have a generation gap to ponder about in order to help us account for the gradual shift in both the composition and voting patterns of the American public, come 2012.) Also never mind that the grand ole’ party of yore has become hijacked since by the “corporate-boardroom” types. At least the conversation is on! And it’s not a conversation between liberals because the liberals have just won and are still smarting from their victory: having just been given the stamp of approval, they have no reason to question their self-assured ways. Nor is it a conversation between liberals and conservatives, unless by “conversation” you mean the kind of gridlock we’ve all been exposed to by our do-nothing Congress for four years now and counting on virtually every aspect of policy, foreign or domestic. No, it’s a conversation between thoughtful conservatives, rare as they may be, for only they, not the liberals, have the right kind of motivation to recover from their loss, to search their hearts and souls, to reflect and to evaluate. And who knows, each of us may end up the wiser for the fact.

If “pro-life” and “pro-choice” form a set of seemingly irreconcilable positions on the abortion question, what fundamental issue splits the American public along the liberal-conservative divide? Again, taking the lead from David Frum, one could say it’s the belief in the new and the old America, but we can do better than that. Indeed, once we consider the steady demographic shift due to both the influx from immigration and differential birthrates between whites and non-whites, and its presumed impact on Mr. Obama’s re-election victory, a more precise formulation suggests itself, a formulation which brings the desired contrast into sharper focus: in the final analysis, it’s the belief in the utter dependency (on the largesse of the liberal government) on the one hand, and the belief in complete self-sufficiency on the other.

And so, here we are. While the Republican hierarchy perpetuates the myth of the American Dream among its rank and file, a myth that, in light of all the available evidence, should long since be discarded, the Democratic establishment is no less guilty for implying that if we are at a disadvantage in any way, we can’t do without the government’s help. Needless to say, these two positions, as stated, are not only mutually exclusive: though both contain a kernel of truth, they’re also utterly cynical and ideological to the core.

In the first instance, along with the self-sufficiency myth, there comes an indictment of all those who, for one reason or another, fail to measure up, all those who, by virtue of their genetic predisposition, lack of will, perseverance, character, what else have you, somehow don’t make it and fall through the cracks. And this serves the ideological intent just fine, for it instills in the rank and file a false sense of moral superiority, a prerequisite for keeping it in check. Thus, the party’s leadership is kept intact and beyond reproach for telling the rank and file what it wants to hear; and so does the myth. (Which kinda explains Romney’s ill-fated remark about “the 47 percenters,” how easy it is to write ‘em all off.) And in the second:

Well, the liberal narrative is somewhat more subtle though no less perverse, methinks. Although the Democratic leadership doesn’t explicitly deny the self-sufficiency myth (witness, for example, the great bulk of government-funded programs, all designed to get you back on your own two feet and running), the end result still is: it does promote a culture of dependency, government-based dependency. In either case, it’s all about power and keeping the respective hierarchies intact.

But whereas in the abortion case we did see an attempt at reconciliation along with a semblance of a solution, how are we to reconcile such extreme, if not mutually exclusive, viewpoints in this instance? Is there a common ground between these two narratives? Of course there is!

The idea of willful co-operation, the essential aspect of any human (read: collective) endeavor, is what we’re looking for. It does away with the false dichotomy by absorbing the two seemingly contradictory terms into one fold: anyone who’d argue to the contrary is either a demagogue or a charlatan. In any event, “self-reliance” and “(inter)dependency” aren’t any stand-alone, absolute concepts; in fact, when so construed, they verge on being pathological, and so is the resultant behavior. Au contraire, they’re correlative, which is to say, each deriving its meaning from its juxtaposition with the other, each a defining element of what ultimately adds up to the nexus of human relations. Don’t expect, however, neither the Democratic nor the Republican leadership, not even the thoughtful conservatives, to come up with any kind of resolution in this instance. It’s beyond the pale.

Why so? Because the dispute over the self-sufficiency versus the dependency question isn’t political at bottom, although it’s made out to look as though it were political. It’s a dispute, plain and simple, about economics, personal economics, about who can keep what, about who is entitled to what, and at what cost. Politics is just a veneer, a convenient gloss we put on things in order to obscure, under the banner of freedom, what’s really at stake.

Indeed, if we go by politics alone, we can’t help but conclude that all is fair and square: one man, one vote. What could be fairer than that? But economics tells a different story; and it’s economics, stupid, that our political system is designed to keep under the radar to the extent it can. And yet,

It is precisely in the economic arena, and this is the height of irony, where the notion of willful co-operation makes more sense than anywhere else and assumes its fullest expression. In particular, only through a thoroughgoing reorganization of our productive activities along, dare I say, Marxian, communist lines would our cooperative, communal spirit (or impulse) attain its greatest potential: a proposition (need I argue?) that is clearly antithetical to the economic system in place. Which is why a liberal democracy, any liberal democracy, for all its niceties such as equal protection under the law or the one-man/one-vote rule, for all its guarantees of our rights and whatever else you may think of, is, at bottom, nothing but ideology, a political arm of the capitalist system which is regarded by all and all alike as sacrosanct. On this, let me assure you, our conservatives and our liberals are in perfect agreement!

Perhaps there is a thoughtful conservative here and there who would be willing to challenge these assumptions and buck the trend, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. That would be un-American; and if there’s anything a conservative is about, it’s about America. In any event, I don’t exactly fancy myself another Diogenes, looking for an honest man.

And so I say, let the festivities continue!

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About Roger Nowosielski

  • Cindy

    I have finished page 3, Roger. I like where that page has ended, very astute point. I will return again to finish tomorrow.

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    I think you need to write where people are capable of comprehending what you write.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Or where he can be persuaded not to repel half his potential audience by insulting them before he even starts.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I didn’t realize I was being so dense, Cindy. You got through page 3, so where is the difficulty now? Anyways, I’ll call tomorrow.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    zing never comments on my stuff anyway. I thought given him a push and shove might do the trick. But there is no reason for you to feel slighted.

  • Cindy

    He wouldn’t be insulting anyone who even half understood what he is saying. Alas, I think that isn’t possible. Perhaps there is a conspiracy regarding cultural indoctrination!

  • Cindy

    No difficulty or criticism for/by me, Roger. I am speaking to the lack of commentary on an obviously astute article.

  • Cindy

    He necessarily repels his audience because they are blind.

  • Cindy

    They might wish to investigate that point. Instead of expecting to be fed their pablum.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I have a different take on this, Cindy, at least different than Dreadful’s. The way I see it, none are willing to admit the emperor is naked.

  • Cindy

    Which, in my own experience they are, no matter what the fuck you ask of them. They will not question their own beliefs.

  • Cindy

    None are capable, Roger. You do yourself a disservice in thinking them unwilling. They have never even tried.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    No, they’re not incapable. Denial takes an effort, a conscious effort.

  • Cindy

    Most of my comments were directed to Dr. Dreadful. (Just for clarity.)

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    I need to discuss two very important teachers of mine and why I think you are wrong. Call me.

    In other words, “denial”, as you call it, is only a denial of what someone else believes, and is ordinary. In fact, everything “normal” is ordinary.

    If I might say, and you can quote me–“we made it all the fuck up.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Planned to call you on Thanksgiving day anyway, rain or shine.

  • Cindy

    When you think about it you realize that we–the normal society are no less a cult than say, Scientology. So, what makes THIS cult (culture) more legitimate than that one? Not much–a legitimating governmental body.

    The followers of any cult are necessarily brainwashed into that cult’s thinking. No matter how loose the boundaries of that thinking.

    Okay, that is my basic argument. Call me tomorrow.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Will do.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    They will not question their own beliefs.

    And what do you think “their” beliefs are?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Don’t fall for that trap, Cindy, Dreadful is taking things out of context. The correct reference is a set of beliefs implied by the subject article, and if I’m not mistaken, that’s what you were referring to. If perchance he happens to disagree that these beliefs are a fair approximation of a typical liberal mindset, he is yet to voice his disagreement.

    The onus is on him.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Whether the onus is on him or not, he feels the above exchange illustrates quite neatly why no-one else feels inclined to join the two of you in your echo chamber.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Of course, not. You’d rather be beating up on “easy targets” like Arch Conservative or Warren Beatty (not the liberal actor) rather than engage in a conversation in which your own presuppositions stand a chance of being challenged.

    And echo chamber or no echo chamber, neither Cindy nor I have given you a cause to feel insulted, so perhaps you ought to get off your high horse.

  • Zingzing

    Roger, speaking of context, perhaps you’d like to think about why I said the phrase you highlight as so egregious. I follow comments more than articles usually, which is how i got here, so that explains why I’m okay not being an ob/gyn on that unnecessary pap thread (how many ob/gyns are on that thread?), so maybe I spelled it out better during that multi-thread conversation elsewhere, but there’s a reason behind it. It’s not just blindly battering the opposition, and I’d love to see if you even have a clue. (and if you seriously want to bash someone for taking things out of context as you just did doc, I suggest you do it under another, more fanciful name, because you’ve sullied the one you’re using now with that shitstick.)

    Cindy–did you notice how Roger used his supposed belief that I was female (which he’s known not to be true for years, but he keeps on bringing up periodically) as a not-so-veiled insult? Every time I comment on women’s issues and he’s around, he does this kind of thing. I have no idea why. Maybe he’s not as left as he thinks he is, or whatever you said.

    Have a nice holiday.

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Surely the silver lining is the very fact that the Republicans lost?

    If they had won, the USA would be facing a very bleak and bitter future…

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    You’d rather be beating up on “easy targets” like Arch Conservative or Warren Beatty (not the liberal actor)

    Archie, misguided though he may be, is more than capable of holding his own in any argument. Warren is… well… a bit special. And if you think I confine my targets to those whose arguments can be easily demolished, then you haven’t been paying much attention. (How is your navel these days, BTW?)

    rather than engage in a conversation in which your own presuppositions stand a chance of being challenged.

    I ask you, this time, what you think those presuppositions are.

    neither Cindy nor I have given you a cause to feel insulted

    I didn’t say that I, personally, felt insulted. But there is some accusatory dialogue involving dark-coloured items commonly found in the kitchen on your part.

    Cindy’s #18 epitomises this nicely: The followers of any cult are necessarily brainwashed into that cult’s thinking. No matter how loose the boundaries of that thinking.

    In other words, no matter what anyone says who doesn’t happen to toe the line of Roger and Cindy’s little clique, no matter how much variability their utterances may have from anyone else’s, they can automatically be dismissed as brainwashed.

    Now what does that pattern of behaviour remind me of? Oh, yes… a cult.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Can’t be responding on a point-by-point basis, Dreadful, only to the gestalt.

    First off, nowhere have I given you an indication that I was addressing your personal beliefs and presuppositions, only those which I take to be fairly representative of a “typical liberal mindset”; and that’s a horse of another color. You may or you may not identify with them. Neither do I have a way of telling, nor does it concern me since that wasn’t the purpose or the intent of the article, drawing a portrait was. And you may of course disagree with my portrait, on which subject you continue to remain mute and choose instead to make things personal. That’s precisely what I meant earlier when I spoke of “taking things out of context.” Why? To derail the conversation? To make Cindy a potential target if she were to follow your line of questioning? I hope the answer to these questions is an unequivocal “no,” for none of that serves any useful purpose, a thoughtful discussion of the ideas raised does. But I won’t know, of course, until you change your tack and stay within the bounds of the written matter. That’s why we write papers, articles, etc., for crying out laud, to delineate a context for the subsequent discussion. Surely you must know that. Things would be smoother, much smoother, I assure you, if you were also to observe that. So no, you haven’t criticized my ideas thus far, only my bedside manner, not the same thing.

    I do happen to agree that Cindy’s statement is rather extreme, but the cult metaphor is rather striking, I must admit. Liberalism, as I see it, is a kind of religion, especially given our thoroughly secularized society; and so are some of the responses by many of its practitioners. But then again, why place yourself in that category and react rather than examine the metaphor on its merit? Did Cindy suggest that discussion with you is impossible? Did I? And since neither of us have, why take on the burden of defending what is merely a type? And if there is anything wrong with positing a type, why not discuss that.

    You speak of me and Cindy as though forming a clique. Two makes for a very small clique, don’t you think. Come to think of it, she may have misspoken. Should have referred to both of us as forming a cult, the cult of anarchists, if by cult one means something esoteric or, in any case, as departing from what is considered normal, orthodox and perfectly ordinary. so yes, you may be right on that score.

    In any case, rest assured that both she and I wish for this cult to be more inclusive, as inclusive as humanly possible. Yes, we’re in dire need of more members, the more the better. So in that sense, yes, you are the intended target, and so is zing and many others.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    ” …besides, I’ve always taken her to be a member of the opposite sex …” page 2

    Zing, this is but a literary form whereby a male is being referred to by the pronoun “she.” I would have hoped you know that.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  • troll

    you’re both right…an hellacious conundrum

    “Welcome to the [cult] of the real”…or at least really brainwashed

  • Igor

    Well Roger, I’m just surprised that you still assign any meaning to the old “left/right” or “liberal/conservative” divisions after all that’s happened in the last 50 years. It’s all so old-fashioned. In any case, those pairings never established a true dichotomy because they were not exhaustive (didn’t include all possibilities) nor exclusive (didn’t exclude mutual possibilities) so it was bogus intellectualism all the way. In fact, of course, capitalism and communism were brothers (you get to pick which was Cain and which was Abel). So with communism gone capitalism was left to flail itself to death (which it is doing nicely) being deprived of an enemy to lean against.

    …the dispute over the self-sufficiency versus the dependency question isn’t political at bottom, although it’s made out to look as though it were political. It’s a dispute, plain and simple, about economics, personal economics, about who can keep what, about who is entitled to what, and at what cost. Politics is just a veneer,…

    Economics, yes, but more importantly morality. In fact, self-righteous morality.

    Just listen to the self-righteous tone come into the conversation from the rightists, who are simply more blatant than passive-aggressive leftists.

    “Economics” of course, was invented by power-seeking clerics to justify the predations of merchants and Princes and give their excesses the blessings of institutional morality. That the ink-stained clerics could thereby secure cushy positions in the hierarchy was not just a side effect, but, in fact, the point of those rationalizations. Thus, we get Adam Smith, David Ricardo and all those worthies.

    Too bad that their practised lies still have a hold on people.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Granted, Igor, the categories may no longer be as useful as they once were; and I believe I addressed this matter, albeit less than adequately, it appears, in prior essays. Still, there is no denying that we’re experiencing a major ideological divide and this is the focus of this article. So does it really matter what we call it? A rose by any other name … Suffice it. however, that lots of people, here and elsewhere, identify themselves as liberals or progressives, sufficiently so, at least, to take offense, so the terms haven’t altogether lost all their meaning.

    Sure, there is righteous moral indignation from the extreme right, but as you yourself have noted, there is no shortage of it from the left as well. So I agree with you than in addition to politics, morality is also being invoked to justify the economic status quo as part of the ideological battle.

  • Igor

    Those categories never were useful. They were illusions created and nurtured to keep people in fear so they could be easily manipulated.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, I’m glad you said it, not I. Perhaps we’re on to something now.

  • Anarcissie

    Part of my problem with this discussion thus far is the use of terms like ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’. The meanings of ‘liberal’ are, of course, spread all over the map, but the basic meaning in political philosophy is something like ‘believing in and desiring the rights named in the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and in capitalism’, which comprises a very wide swath of politics in the U.S., so wide as to be virtually meaningless — only some of the religious Right and the tiny Left are excluded. ‘Conservative’ also denotes a very broad collection of views, such that it often intersects with ‘liberal’. If we fall back to the common-sense meanings of these words, in which ‘conservative’ means ‘not desiring much change’, then we find that the Democratic Party is the conservative party, but the Republican Party is not, since it is the Democrats that are trying (or are supposed to be trying) to hold on to the remains of the social democratic state (Social Security, Medicare, the Welfare State in general, encouragement of unions, regulation of business, distaste for large-scale foreign adventures, and so on) whereas the Republicans, in general, are trying to destroy them, a radical experiment.

    We might try to use the terms ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ instead of ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’, but here we are impeded by the fact that both parties are authoritarian, that is, rightist, the main disagreement being as to which authorities are preferred, the Republicans preferring the explicit authority of Capital and the military, while Democrats prefer that the ruling class operate its authority through bureaucrats, academics, and legislative procedures. (The Left, as I use the word, people who prefer actual peace, freedom, and equality, are a small, marginalized minority.)

    Rightist leaders and theoreticians are already very smart and very thoughtful. From my point of view, this is not a good thing, because I dislike their intentions. In any case, the demographic shifts which produced Mr. Obama’s undeserved victory will not particularly increase their mental activities: you win some, you lose some, let’s move on. They are already hard at work on the next election, the next war, the next intensification of surveillance and police power in general. If ‘liberals’ (popular usage here) think their opponents are in disarray or disheartened, they will get taken to the cleaners — again.

    In the matter of abortion, anti-abortionists do not particularly wish to reduce the number of abortions but rather to keep the state pure of the kind of permissiveness which tolerates it. Their core complaint is against the free expression of sexuality, in particular female sexuality. I suppose female sexuality is still held by many to be a kind of huge dark amorphous monster which destroys (patriarchal) families and eats babies; one cannot compromise with it. From that point of view, someone who advocates more access to sex education and contraception in order to reduce the number of abortions has already gone over to the Dark Side.

    In general I see the recent election as a temporary, partial defensive victory, a hanging-on of already-tattered social democracy against an assault which will certainly be renewed in the near future. The silver lining is that things are not worse, that we are not yet rushing over the edge of the abyss but only walking steadily towards it.

    My thoughts for so aptly named Black Friday.

  • Igor

    Yes, IMO anti-abortionists are not really interested in preventing abortions but rather in having a moral imperative to hold over peoples heads to shame them into following orders (starting with the order: no extramarital sex!).

    Once you control peoples sex lives you’ve REALLY got control of them.

  • Igor

    Oh, and I don’t know how or when Capitalism got absorbed into conservatism as an essential ingredient. Looks totally spurious to me. Like the words “under god” that got stuck into the Pleadge of Allegiance (in fact, the whole pledge is spurious).

  • Clavos

    Liberalism, as I see it, is a kind of religion…

    True, but also true of all other political philosophies. In fact politics itself is nothing more than a secular religion (at least as practiced in this country, most of Europe and certainly in the middle east) — complete with prayers (the declaration of independence), sacraments, sins and penances, and of course, a clergy (the political class).

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Of course you’re right, Clavos — all political philosophies which function as ideologies. I was referring, however, to the missionary aspect of liberalism, a unique characteristic if I may say so.

  • Clavos

    I was referring, however, to the missionary aspect of liberalism, a unique characteristic if I may say so.

    True in today’s world, yes. But just in the relatively recent past we can also point to Nationalsozialismus (National Socialism – the Nazi movement) and Communism (and perhaps others) as exhibiting missionary aspects as well, don’t you think?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    No question, I’m living too much in the present, so thanks for pointing it out.

    I suppose the object then must be to free politics of any kind of ideological taint, to think of it as nothing but a process.

    Is it possible? I seriously doubt it. Humans are endowed with a sense of purpose and their sense of purpose is bound to color everything they do. Ideology is rooted in a sense of purpose, in trying to impose our sense of purpose on others.

    Is there be a purpose that, potentially at least, that can be free of the ideological stain and eventual contamination.

    Justice perhaps.

  • Cindy

    Cindy’s #18 epitomises this nicely: The followers of any cult are necessarily brainwashed into that cult’s thinking. No matter how loose the boundaries of that thinking.

    In other words, no matter what anyone says who doesn’t happen to toe the line of Roger and Cindy’s little clique, no matter how much variability their utterances may have from anyone else’s, they can automatically be dismissed as brainwashed.

    Dear Dr.D,

    I assure you the context is much different than you think. Me and Roger, among other people whose analysis lays along a similar observation, are included in the cult.

    “Their” means “they who are members of the particular cult” (culture). Even cultures I admire–say, the !Kung, for example are “enculturated”.

    My reference was to suggest that this is insidious and clouds the very nature of reality. There are no set of beliefs that some “they” have–“their beliefs”. Only multiple sets of beliefs that overlap in particular cultures.

    I am not personalizing some attack on anyone. If I criticize, it is because of an unwillingness to explore what I am saying as a reasonable proposition rather than as a personal attack.

    It makes me throw my hands up. I am speaking of our (yours, mine, zing’s, everyone’s) human condition. These are not personal insults.

    I wish one of you would take the challenge to try and understand and get past the level of simply interpreting what I say as some personal slight to be defended against.

    And I won’t hear any of that nonsense about how it’s all my fault cuz I am a meanie who puts people off. You are all grown up people. take a challenge. Or don’t. Just end the conversation figuring I am a snob or a bitch. It’s all the same to me. Though I really would like to see someone at least TRY to take what I am saying and imagine it as a possibility and see where it leads.

  • Cindy

    Dr.D,

    Allow me to give you a brief picture. As a girl growing up in the USA I learned to have certain likes and dislikes, interests, and goals, and beliefs about the world and what was real.

    Perhaps a girl (though not I) will be inclined to dress in pink and play with My Little Ponies. Perhaps she will identify with the princess in a Disney film. If she is brown-skinned, she likely will smart with the lack of such characteristics among Disney princesses (until new markets were explored–the “brown girl’s market”, say).

    In any case she will feel her likes and dislikes, her longings, and her feelings about herself according to what marketing has done and what her culture permits or enforces. And they will all be taken to BE reality. That is, it is not that girls are marketed to to like pink and play with ponies, whilst boys are marketed to to smash figurines together in a mock annihilation and power struggle–it is that girls ARE this and boys ARE that. We mistake our nature for what we have been taught to do. There is very little that we ARE in our nature, except very, very flexible.

    For a different example, in some fringe culture schools, she may be encouraged to take a philosophical outlook–to question reality and to explore and gain experience in discovering her own way and her own truths. Or, in a typical school, she will be introduced to law and order and the importance of being obedient and doing what you are told, all the while experiencing what we all did–the dysfunctional connection between what we were being told and what was actually happening. In this cult (culture) authority and obedience to rules without thinking is preferred, memorization of facts and dates and figures, are preferred to actual thinking.

  • Cindy

    You speak of me and Cindy as though forming a clique. Two makes for a very small clique, don’t you think. Come to think of it, she may have misspoken. Should have referred to both of us as forming a cult, the cult of anarchists, if by cult one means something esoteric or, in any case, as departing from what is considered normal, orthodox and perfectly ordinary. so yes, you may be right on that score.

    In any case, rest assured that both she and I wish for this cult to be more inclusive, as inclusive as humanly possible. Yes, we’re in dire need of more members, the more the better. So in that sense, yes, you are the intended target, and so is zing and many others.

    Very good, Roger. I am in agreement.

  • Cindy

    (Though, I will include all these ideas in my statement that “we made it all the fuck up”. :-)

  • Cindy

    Except, I think of cults as not departures from the ordinary, but the indoctrinated, ingrained, or learned ordinary.

    I would prefer to be among a cult of anarchists, or peaceful peoples, than a cult of capitalist peoples who use coercion and domination as if they were a necessary fact of reality.

    There is a chance that in a cult of anarchists the reality is perceived as being that there will be acceptance of differences in realities. :-)

    That is a good start!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @33, Anarcissie (and thanks for coming out of hibernation, btw).

    A number of points:

    (1) That’s news to me that you appear to be more concerned about the possible rise of the Right as a potentially more damaging development on the American political scene rather than with “the Left” holding on to its “gains.” From the purely practical standpoint, I think your scenario is highly unrealistic. And in that, I happen to concur with such as Clavos, for example, who regards the recent demographic shift in the U.S. from “white” to non-white” majority as a permanent one and that the die has been cast. And assuming now we shall not undergo any drastic changes as regards the US electorate process in the immediate future (due to, say, any number of factors calling for “the state of exception” [Agamben]), it’s really difficult to imagine how the Right would continue to appeal to the US voting public which is increasingly non-white. The so-called “liberal” ideas – such as “extra-marital” sex Igor mentioned or same-sex marriage – are getting wider and wider acceptance, if only by virtue of “being kicked about” for quite some time now (as is true of all originally “radical” ideas which have been around for a while); and “liberal ideas,” so understood, have become the exclusive province of the Democratic party (at least insofar as the popular mind is concerned).

    Apart from practical considerations, it would appear that that the main danger you perceive in singling out the possible rise of the Right concerns a return to a more repressive (and less permissive) society. (I would say “fascism,” but I hesitate since the Right, ideologically at least, is in favor of a more limited, less intrusive state/government, but this proviso may apply only to the federal level: can we speak of “fascism” on a state-by-state basis?) Whereas I see a far greater danger from the movement toward ever greater appeasement and acquiescence, as a by-product of the policies on the liberal state. And I believe history bears me out on this, since the liberal state, since its very inception, has been steadily progressing towards an all-comprehensive welfare state, a real behemoth. So we may have an honest disagreement on this point.

    (2) Concerning the definition of terms

    While I agree that the “liberal” vs. “conservative” nomenclature has become hopelessly befuddled by now, not to mention utterly divorced from what may have been the original meaning, I believe we can still make a number of tactical moves to help us keep our heads above the water and stop us from talking past one another. In this connection, let me suggest a number of distinctions to keep in mind:

    (a) Liberalism vs. conservatism as political philosophies, the first, in particular, as an offshoot of utilitarianism a la Bentham and John Stuart Mill.
    (b) Liberalism as original political philosophy vs. liberalism in modern political parlance, mainly as popular perception. The fact that the latter may have become utterly divorced and disconnected from the former doesn’t change the reality of perceptions as they play out on the political scene. Many, including our own Glenn Contratrian and Christopher Rose, consider themselves “liberals,” however much their thinking may have become divorced from the original idea; likewise, just as many detest self-proclaimed “liberals,” and you’ve got to visit the South to appreciate that sentiment and taste the flavor of the popular mind. None of which makes perceptions any less real. That’s a discourse on a wholly different level.
    (c) Finally, political liberalism/conservatism divide vs. liberalism/conservatism division as regards social/sociological perspective. Let me once again cite here from Robert P. Wolff’s The Poverty of Liberalism:

    “The collective character of social action is the universal presupposition of the social sciences, and modern liberals who have wholeheartedly adopted the theories of sociology and social psychology, are accustomed to view society through the eyes of conservative social theorists like Max Weber [and Emile Durkheim] …”

    Now, how does “the collective character of social action” end up as “the universal presupposition” by, of all people, conservative social theorists is the right kind of question. It’s simply because, Wolff explains, “the fundamental insight of the conservative philosophy [and sociology, one may as well add], is that man is by nature a social being … social in the sense that his essence, his true being, lies in his involvement in a human community.” One would be inclined to think that liberal social theorists would have a head start here, beating their colleagues to the punch, but apparently not. It’s the emphasis on individual or group rights versus the person’s relationship to their community or, as Wolff aptly put it, the emphasis on “individualist politics,” that keeps the liberal-minded theorists behind the eight ball on this score.

    All told, I consider the objection as to vague and ambiguous terms a cop-out. It’s one of the virtues of human communication, unimpeded, that we can readily ascertain what exactly we’re talking about and stay on target. In any case, some of you may find it expedient to copy and paste these remarks for future reference. I don’t intend to go through gyrations of having to repeat them.

    (3) Perhaps we should start paying greater heed to Igor’s insightful remark: “Those categories never were useful. They were illusions created and nurtured to keep people in fear so they could be easily manipulated [#31].”

    Do you realize, Igor, how radical your proposition really is? Do you care to extrapolate? I’m waiting.

    In closing, I’d like to thank Anarcissie and Igor for keeping the fires burning, Igor in particular, for overlooking the obvious attempt to smoke him out as part of the intellectual come-on, to have him join the discussion. Too bad people like zing are too obtuse not to see through my ploy and decide, contrary to their best interests, to read me literally.

    In any case, it’s becoming more and more difficult to have an honest-to-goodness dialogue anymore, on the internet or in person. To continue with my sour grapes, Ana here is more into activism than political theory. Cindy has lost her fire for the time being due to personal circumstances. Mark Eden (aka “troll”) is on a sabbatical leave or an extended vacation. One possible prospect, a mutual acquaintance of mine and Anarcissie’s, has recently remarked that “since liberalism is my cup of tea, I’ll continue to swim around in its essential care for humanity” (as if one couldn’t care for humanity anymore outside of liberalism); and that essentially closed all avenues of communication between me and her until we meet in person, until, that is, the power of my personality takes effect. Consequently, I’ve got to be grateful to however few souls who are willing to keep the discussion alive.

    In short, I can’t do without you guys. Writing or taking notes to myself just doesn’t cut it since all truth is relational at bottom. It must be shared or it’s nothing.

  • Cindy

    Hiya troll :-)

    I think we may be on somewhat the same page. (though mine is really wavy like an lsd trip).

    Tell me when I have caught up to you. ;-)

  • Anarcissie

    ‘[T]he Right, ideologically at least, is in favor of a more limited, less intrusive state/government.’

    What??? It is not. The more explicit Right (Republicans, neocons, jihadis, etc.) generally favors war, imperialism, police powers, prisons, surveillance, suppression of free speech, suppression of labor unions, suppression of sexuality, voter suppression, copyright and other absurdly restrictive IP laws, and above all the government-backed authority of private capital. It is not an accident that under recent Republican administrations, and the Obama administration, which has generally copied its predecessor in many areas, the Federal budget and national debt have exploded.

    In regard to demographics, constructions like race, ethnicity, ‘color’, gender, etc., can be set aside. They were (and are) low-hanging fruit for rightists, a means of quick appeal to those who may most politely be called ‘low-information voters’. It will probably take less work than you think to disengage from them and re-emphasize authority, power, private wealth, class, and related divisions, to which race and gender are fundamentally irrelevant.

    You can argue that Democrats, ‘liberals’, ‘progressives’, etc., favor the same things as explicit rightists, but at least they do have the decency to put up a curtain before they get on with the dirty work. And they are functionally conservative, so they won’t destroy the world as rapidly.

    The need for a dialectic to make progress points to not only a need for theories to interact (discussion), but for them to interact with the material world (that is, in the realm of politics, activism).

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    In your definition of terms, when it comes to “liberal” and “conservative”, you should also include how one’s biology affects one’s mindset. For instance, it’s been noted in several studies that there is a significant correlation between the size of one’s amygdala and whether one leans to the liberal or the conservative (as defined by the study, of course). If the amygdala is larger, one is apparently more likely to be conservative…and the stronger the “fight or flight” response. It’s been posited that this is at least partially responsible for the success of fear-based political speech, punditry, and advertising on the Right.

    That said, my own definition of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ lay in the degree of one’s comfort with change – the more liberal one is, the less afraid one is of change, the more willing (and sometimes eager) one is to adapt to change. And yes, this has directly affected our major political parties as evinced by the fact that 55% of scientists self-identify as Democratic, whereas only 6% self-identify as Republican…and by my definition above, scientists – who thirst to discover the unknown – would strongly lean towards the liberal.

    If one adds the philosophical differences between liberals and conservatives to the apparent biological difference, one must wonder if H.G. Wells might have been on to something when he wrote of the Eloi and the Morlocks in The Time Machine.

    P.S. I’m glad to see you’re still around.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Interesting literary allusion, Glenn. However, I wouldn’t touch the issue of biological determinism with a ten-foot pole.

  • Clavos

    However, I wouldn’t touch the issue of biological determinism with a ten-foot pole.

    You’re a wise man, Roger. The concept invokes the horrors inherent in everything from racism to eugenics and Nazi prison camp experiments.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger and Clavos –

    quite true to both of you…but such is the nature of science. Hard science cares little for social constructs such as laws, moral concepts of right and wrong.

    We all know and agree of the dangers Clavos listed – there’s no argument. But by the same token, if the scientific studies are right, then the difference is still there. Which is the greater wrong – to deny them altogether and pretend they don’t exist, or to acknowledge those differences and work to adapt our society to allow for those differences…particularly when those differences do not seem to be affected by race or ethnicity in any way?

    Let me put this in a different light: my oldest son has an a-type personality, and my youngest has ADD. Which is the wiser path – to get them to ignore those conditions and soldier on bravely, or to get them to accept those conditions as (probably) unchangeable parts of their personalities? My oldest son – probably due to his a-type personality – will always refuse to accept it and could care less what people think of his personality. He’s also very conservative – not in politics, but in personality. My youngest son has already accepted his ADD and now sees it as an advantage; indeed, he hopes his children have the same.

    My oldest son is not my biological son – my youngest is. Looking at the two of them, half-brothers, alike in kindness and honor, but total opposites otherwise, well, this has shown me the “nature” side of the “nature or nurture” argument.

    But the point is, this is science. It’s real. It does not apply to race or ethnicity…and it in NO way gives the advantage of the one over the other. I have stated several times on this blog that we liberals need conservatives…and that’s much the same point Wells made in his book.

    Again, it’s science. It would be very wrong to use it for the evil purposes that Clavos rightly listed; however, it would be just as wrong to deny its existence. Adapt – that’s what we do.

  • Clavos

    if the scientific studies are right…

    You haven’t shown that, Glenn

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    Here..
    And here (read the references).
    And here.
    And here.

  • Clavos

    Glenn,

    Your three links to media all refer to one study, the Kanai one, which has yet to be peer reviewed; the third link also refers to the Amodio study, which also is described as “preliminary.”

    The Wikipedia article is a throwaway; there are far too many caveats right at the beginning to sustain its credibility.

    But lets assume for the sake of argument that the other two studies prove to be dead on; so what? Unless you want to use the information to abort all babies born on one side or the other (take your pick), or to force politicians to undergo treatment and/or surgery to “correct’ their brain architecture, both of which would be, as I said above, very reminiscent of Eugenics and/or the Nazi experiments on concentration camp inmates.

    As I see it, if there is a value to knowing this, it is contained in the idea that one line of political/philosophical thought is somehow more valuable and/or desirable than the other, and then doing something about it to bring those members of the population who don’t exhibit the “right” brain architecture, over to the “right” side; an idea which to me is repugnant, unAmerican and grotesque.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    A project of this sort would amount to programming a human being to function as a machine.

    Kinda of odd that it’s being endorsed by someone like Glenn who, correct me if I’m wrong? is quite content to live with imperfection in virtually every aspect of human life on account of “human nature.”

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    There will not be any surgery to ‘correct’ conservatives or liberals any more than there is surgery to ‘correct’ A-type personalities and ADD – which is precisely why I included my sons’ personalities in my comment.

    Furthermore, that’s why I pointed out that my oldest son is quite conservative by nature, but votes Democratic.

    In other words, Clav, yes you can accept scientific findings that challenge the status quo without the sky suddenly falling on all our heads. Besides, the march of science is inevitable, unstoppable. Either understand and adapt – and learn how to make sure the knowledge is used in a way that does not offend our modern societal morality – or risk becoming a Luddite.

    And you can get a clue on anthropomorphic global warming while you’re at it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    Where did I ever even HINT that I would approve of ‘correcting’ someone’s personality? Did you read what I wrote about my sons? That SHOULD have given you a clue that this is all about learning WHY we have differences, that we may be better able to ACCEPT those differences, just as our society is trying to do with those who are of different races, ethnicities, religions, and disabilities or lack thereof.

    It’s not me who brought up ‘correcting’ differences – that’s you and Clav. Don’t project your fears on me.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I have no fears, Glenn, none in any case of the sort you may imagine. But what then, if I may ask, is the point of bringing up biology as a way of accounting for our political predispositions?

    Unless you intend to put these “findings” into practice, it’s a moot point, don’t you think?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    As a matter of fact, your very approach to the subject reminds me of Dan.

    So what if there are genetic differences between “the races”? How we treat one another is certainly a more important question then “the findings.”

    “The findings” be damned! There is no point, none whatever, unless one wants to make something out of it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    But what then, if I may ask, is the point of bringing up biology as a way of accounting for our political predispositions?

    Let me direct you to what I said in my most recent comment to you:

    That SHOULD have given you a clue that this is all about learning WHY we have differences, that we may be better able to ACCEPT those differences, just as our society is trying to do with those who are of different races, ethnicities, religions, and disabilities or lack thereof.

    The answer is there – and the way to “put the findings into practice” is the same way we put into practice the understanding that we need to accept each other as equals, just as we are trying to do with matters of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, whatever.

    And one more thing, Roger, concerning what you said:

    I have no fears, Glenn, none in any case of the sort you may imagine.

    Don’t assume that your fears are somehow beyond my imagination. That’s nothing more than angst and hubris, and you should know better than that. And if you indeed have no fears, then you have more problems than you yourself may imagine.

    Instead, take a clue from Socrates: “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.”

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    And you can get a clue on anthropomorphic global warming while you’re at it.

    It’s anthropogenic global warming, Glenn, for God’s sake.

    Unless you want to start calling it Glenda Global Warming and making it the star of its own kids’ TV series.

  • pablo

    Roger,

    No offense, but I enjoy your comments much more than your articles. And I do like most of your comments very much :) Happy day after thanksgiving bro.

  • pablo

    The problem as I see it with the theory of anthropogenic global warming (and yes it is a theory, just as its a theory that 9/11 was done by a bunch of Arabs) is that the global warming mongers are blowing out so much hot air that they are in face causing climate change! Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Thanks, Pablo. I’m kinda locked in into my writing style — the subject matter perhaps. But it’s sure great hearing from you. Wish you the best, too.

  • pablo

    Roger,

    I am always around. I read some comments occasionally. However I gave up most of my commenting since it falls on deaf ears, in short a waste of time. I will occasionally however just thow a barb out there to such esteemed mental thinkers such as Dread, zingzag, aucontrarian, and a few others. Too bad Nalle aint around anymore, boy was he a piece of work.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    We do feature a bunch of colorful characters on BC, don’t we?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    -morphic, -genic, whatever. You and everyone else knew what I meant. I’ll try harder in the future – we don’t need any Alice the Goon Warming running around (see the old Popeye cartoons).

  • Glenn Contrarian

    pablo –

    putting me in the same line as zing and particularly Dread is a compliment for which I’m grateful. But why did you call me ‘golden contrarian’? Je ne parle pas Francais, you know.

  • Clavos

    or risk becoming a Luddite.

    OK, I’m Luddite.

    When they start pointing out the differences in people’s brains, it’s only a matter of time before someone decides that type a is more desirable than type B (or vice versa) so, let’s do something about it.

    And that’s when yes, I’ll be a Luddite.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    There’s nothing wrong with pointing out biological differences between people. The only danger is in allowing prejudice against one group or the other based on those differences. Acknowledging that a person’s conservative or liberal outlook on life is in reality not any different from acknowledging that a person has a type a personality, or has ADD, or any other mental quirk…for the people who have these are still normal people, and while these quirks may hinder a person in some fields of endeavor, they are great advantages in other endeavors.

    This isn’t eugenics – this is simple reality, and it’s just as the man said – the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.

    C’mon, Clav, I know you understand this at least as well as I do.

  • Clavos

    Oh, I understand it just fine, Glenn, But there’s a difference between understanding something and embracing it.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Pablo, throwing a bunch of names around is not a theory.

  • Anarcissie

    ‘Biological differences’, like other abstractions, are constructed out of phenomena within frameworks containing a great many assumptions, may of them unquestioned, unanalyzed, indeed, even unconscious. There is probably something wrong, most of the time, with treating them as facts rather than provisional theories.

  • Igor

    @63-pablo: calling something just a theory is not really a strong argument: everything we know or think we know is just a theory. Socrates explained this 2500 years ago, but I like the more modern explanation by Bertrand Russell about 100 years ago in terms of Sense Datum.

    Nevertheless, many people think that an idea is “just a theory” and then, somehow, it graduates to being “fact”, but that is intellectually indefensible. Facts are poor miserable things: you might say it’s a fact that the temp in this room is 65F, but really that’s just based on the presentation of some colored alcohol in a thin tube, which theoretically is proportional to the mean energy of 6.24*10**23 molecules per mole of the air in this room, whatever that’s worth.

    It’s all theory. But theory is the best thing we’ve got.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @74

    Except for meta-language statements about rules — e.g., grammatical, syntax rules, etc.

    BTW, I think the intent of Ana’s comment was to shed doubt on biological-differences claims, i.e., that they don’t have the status of “bare facts.”

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Anarcissie –

    ‘Biological differences’, like other abstractions, are constructed out of phenomena within frameworks containing a great many assumptions, may of them unquestioned, unanalyzed, indeed, even unconscious. There is probably something wrong, most of the time, with treating them as facts rather than provisional theories.

    In other words, science is too scary for you to take seriously.

    Look, Ana, the science is there whether we like it or not. We can either ignore it and everything we can learn from it, or we accept it and mold its meanings into something we can use for the good.

  • Igor

    As pointed out earlier, there’s no sin in recognizing differences, the sin is in arbitrary invidious comparisons.

    The human is a gregarious animal: we like other people and we like being with them. We’re happy to help people. It’s a good thing all this is true, else the human animal would have disappeared long ago. We want the best for the other people. All of us are charmed by the smiling, gurgling baby waving it’s arms and legs in the air. That’s normal. All of us humans need that love in our lives, or individually we wouldn’t survive, let alone collectively.

    So they are wrong when they say it is a Dog Eat Dog world. None of us would be here if that were true. None would be able to survive the variety of animosities of which people are capable.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, but we’re also scared shitless, unwholesome and unhappy, gravitating between these extremes. The social order we impose from without, apart from serving the interests of the ruling class, is also designed to alleviate our fears.

  • Anarcissie

    I don’t see how having idealistic fantasies about science does good.

  • Cindy

    76

    Glenn,

    In other words, science is too scary for you to take seriously.

    Taking science ‘seriously’ requires, accessing studies as published and trying to tear them to shreds to find the likely flaws contained therein.

    Reading preliminary (unreplicated) results in popular media and regarding them as fact is something more akin to being gullible or maybe even reckless, rather than science-minded.

    Look, Ana, the science is there whether we like it or not. We can either ignore it and everything we can learn from it, or we accept it and mold its meanings into something we can use for the good.

    Even evolution is a “theory”. Science-minded is a skeptical mind. Taking science seriously, imo, would require data much beyond 4 links to a questioned-for-bias wikipedia article and popular news reports (which tend to use a sensationalizing tone), to even begin to discuss your assumptions about brains.

    That said, I think Anarcissie’s comment regarding science was very well put, and strikes me as true by my own experience. It might even be seen as very ‘scientific-minded’ in its skepticism and willingness to examine.

    ‘Biological differences’, like other abstractions, are constructed out of phenomena within frameworks containing a great many assumptions, may of them unquestioned, unanalyzed, indeed, even unconscious. There is probably something wrong, most of the time, with treating them as facts rather than provisional theories.

  • Cindy

    In the view I see, whole fields (evolutionary psychology) of “scientific” subject matter have been invented. As well as a variety “medical conditions” due to “brain differences” for every season.

  • Cindy

    One more point, Glenn. Researchers don’t embark on a study in some “objective” way to find “the truth”. Researchers have biases about which they create hypotheses to study. As for the results obtained, they may coincide with the researchers bias accidentally or on purpose. Researchers generally have “something to prove”.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Agreed, Cindy: but you are leaving out that this is why we have the scientific method. All results are always open to further inquiry so that sooner or later, scientists’ personal prejudices or wishful thinking are ruthlessly eliminated. This is especially important when we are talking about something as inherently prejudicial as politics.

    Although there is strong evidence for it, the idea that genetics plays a part in determining one’s political outlook is still a hypothesis. There isn’t nearly enough experimental data yet to advance it to the status of a theory.

    For one thing, the hypothesis doesn’t yet do enough to address the reality that some (not all) people’s political views change over time, sometimes drastically. It also needs to encompass environmental factors such as the influence of one’s parents’ and friends’ political views, where one lives and one’s personal economic circumstances, which I don’t believe it has adequately done yet.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @83

    I don’t know, Dreadful, how much time have you spend in social sciences departments. or whether you’re familiar with the content of most sociological or political science journals, but let me assure you: the kind of hypotheses that are being tested and variables which go into them are not only very narrowly construed; they’re also boring. They’re not all like the kind of wide-reaching “hypothesis” that Glenn is suggesting.

    In any case, there’s also a host of problems/considerations which are peculiar to the social sciences per se (as opposed to the hard sciences). Peter Winch’s The Idea of a Social Science is still the best treatment of the subject thus far, and parts of it, if not all, may be available online.

  • Dr Dreadful

    True, Roger, and it’s arguable whether the social sciences are actually sciences at all.

    However, the research Glenn is referencing is hard science: neurology, to be exact.

    It makes sense that our attitudes are a function of the structure of our brains. To what extent our politics are determined by hardware rather than software is the question at issue.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc and Roger –

    Did I take it too far? Probably. But while it is erroneous to take one or two studies and use them as ‘proof’, it’s every bit as erroneous (and even more so IMO) to assume that biology cannot have an effect on psychology and personality. While some may be offended at comparing dogs to humans, most of us have seen how different breeds of dogs often tend to have different personalities. That doesn’t make one breed better than the others.

    But back to humans. Much was made of studies showing that the Ashkenazi Jews tend to have higher IQ’s…although there’s opposition to such studies, particularly along the nature-vs.-nurture line.

    I remember another study that wherein groups of Asian and Caucasian teenagers (in New York, IIRC) were shown pictures and were later asked to describe those pictures. The Caucasians were much more likely to focus on the main subject of the picture, but the Asians – though they were able to describe the central subject almost as well – were significantly more likely to be able to describe the rest of the picture, the surroundings.

    There’s more, but the central point is this: to assume (if only for political correctness) that biology cannot affect one’s personality, one’s likes and dislikes, is IMO quite erroneous. Instead of condemning the idea, we should instead objectively study and understand the results…but in ALL cases, defend the equality of all before the law and in general society.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Except that neurological findings have to be translated into social constructs in order to be made relevant in the way he wants them to be. And here we run into the mind-brain identity thesis conundrum, the province of neurophilosophy, a branch of cognitive sciences.

    Patricia Smith Churchland’s Neurophilosophy (1986) is an ambitious textbook on the subject in case you’re interested.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski
  • Dr Dreadful

    Interesting from an intellectual standpoint, Rog, but I suspect you’re splitting hairs. A theory that predicts the way the universe ought to work accurately enough to be practical for most purposes, without actually being the way the universe works, is nonetheless scientifically sound. The best example of this is Newton’s theory of gravitation.

    As I said, it remains to be seen whether the brain structure-political outlook hypothesis stands up.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, let’s just say I’m less interested in the predictive value of such theories than you may be.

  • Cindy

    Patricia Smith Churchland’s proposition is a social construct, itself.

    the research Glenn is referencing is hard science: neurology, to be exact.

    I think the research Glenn is looking at is interpreted through the scientist’s social construct. I have found no clear research that indicates any of these notions can be elevated beyond what you are calling the hypothesis stage. That is why I would argue that the social sciences are nothing like physics. (*But I would vote for being open to our own effects on even physics.*)

    I don’t regard it as a strictly neurological study, because it involves questionnaires about beliefs. I find that different than a study regarding the effect of a medication on brain function, say. Beliefs and presumption are loaded into social assessments, like what is a liberal or what is a conservation. Take those presumptions, and on top of them assume one can get correct answers about them via a questionnaire, which is extremely biased and limited by nature, and you are treading into dangerous waters. At least that is my opinion based on my experience in regards to assessing such studies.

    Theoretically, scientific method is supposed to do what you say here:

    …sooner or later, scientists’ personal prejudices or wishful thinking are ruthlessly eliminated. This is especially important when we are talking about something as inherently prejudicial as politics.

    perhaps, it will be later. ;-) I know of no studies that predict such socially constructed ideas are caused by physiological traits and after 30 years of interest in such things, I think there is a reason for that. That reason is that findings have to be translated into social constructs in order to be made relevant.

    Perhaps we are not able to eliminate our own ‘instrument’ in our analysis of anything.

    *As you may know, though Einstein did not believe ‘God play’s dice with the universe’, quantum physics suggests he was likely wrong on that point and unable to breech his own biases.

  • Cindy

    Oh #91.

    First two lines are to, Roger. The rest is to Dr.D.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Of course it is. It is “scientism” at its worst, a reductive thesis at its best. There’s this underlying idea in all projects of this sort that we can somehow, with the help of science, bypass the cumbersome mediation of language so as to be able to process reality without it and see it as it really is, directly and immediately. Motives and reasons are reduced to “causes,” the decisions we make and the thoughts we have are said to spring from our neurons firing independently of us as though subject to their own laws, the human is reduced to a machine. All the while, we forget of course, that “cause” itself is a linguistic construct and that we can’t do without language.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Hence the aptness of Anarcissie’s comment about idealized conception of science.

  • Dr Dreadful

    You have a good point, Cindy, in that measurements of attitudes are inherently biased. One person’s right-winger is another person’s centrist. For instance, how often have you read me, Stan (who seems to have dropped off the face of the earth, BTW – arms must have got tired with all that hanging on upside down) and the other non-American regulars explaining that US “liberals” are, by global standards, actually rather conservative?

  • Dr Dreadful

    Motives and reasons are reduced to “causes,” the decisions we make and the thoughts we have are said to spring from our neurons firing independently of us as though subject to their own laws, the human is reduced to a machine.

    But humans are machines, Roger, albeit highly sophisticated ones. Although the argument has long been made that our self-awareness sets us above and apart from other organisms, really it’s just a higher degree of sophistication.

    All the while, we forget of course, that “cause” itself is a linguistic construct and that we can’t do without language.

    Your thesis that our reality is a function of language, Roger, is also a human conceit. Once again, an appreciation of this is what led to the development of the scientific method.

    It’s perfectly feasible to function without language: computers do so all the time. (Computer languages are merely a medium for the programmer to communicate with the computer.) Mathematics is also a way of interpreting reality independent of language. A triangle, for example, would still be a three-sided shape even if there were not the word “three” or the numeral “3” to describe it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    0-1-0-1-0-1 binary code, is a computer, decision-making, machine language. Mathematics is a language too.

    A triangle is a triangle by virtue of our concept of a triangle. To a different brand of consciousness, form of life, it could well be something entirely different.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Binary code is simply a numeric representation of the two different states of a computer circuit: on/off.

    A computer connected to a telescope can look at the Alpha Centauri system and note that there are three stars, without having to formulate that observation into language.

    A triangle is a shape with three straight sides, which we humans happen to describe that way because we have the words “triangle”, “shape” and “three” to do so. But there is no requirement for humans to be present to perceive a triangle in order for it to exist.

    Also, trees do make a sound when they fall in the forest and no-one is there. That’s physics.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “On” and “off” is a decision-making language corresponding to an affirmation and negation, “yes” or “no.”

    So now “triangles” exist independently of the human concept. And I thought I was a Platonist!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And who did you say was vain, I who am open to the possibility of different-than-human forms of life and forms of consciousness, or you who postulate human-originated conceptions as absolute?

  • Dr Dreadful

    I didn’t say anyone was vain, Roger, I said that your idea of language-as-reality was, among other things discussed on this thread, a human conceit.

    Although what does your suggestion that only humans are capable of conceiving of something as simple as a triangle say about vanity? :-)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Quite the contrary, I never claimed the kind of realities available to us because of language are the only kind of realities.

    And who said that the concept of a triangle was in any sense a superior kind of concept. It is only a human concept.

  • Cindy

    D,

    But there is no requirement for humans to be present to perceive a triangle in order for it to exist.

    Also, trees do make a sound when they fall in the forest and no-one is there. That’s physics.

    There are those who would suggest that physics is taking notice that “reality” might be something quite different than what we are ordinarily taught.

    D + R,

    You probably know about (but do you consider the possible implications of) the double-slit experiment. Or my favorite the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser.

    But with regards to triangles, I find this is a helpful and interesting little piece called, “Do triangles exist?: the nature of mathematical knowledge and critical mathematics education”.

    There is a field of work on a philosophy of education called Critical Pedagogy,which aims at promoting a different sort of learning than is traditional.

    Ira Shor defines critical pedagogy as:

    “Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse.” (Empowering Education, 129)

    Critical pedagogy includes relationships between teaching and learning. Its proponents claim that it is a continuous process of what they call “unlearning,” “learning,” and “relearning,” “reflection,” “evaluation,” and the impact that these actions have on the students, in particular students whom they believe have been historically and continue to be disenfranchised by what they call “traditional schooling.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    “On” and “off” is a decision-making language corresponding to an affirmation and negation, “yes” or “no.”

    No, Rog, they are simply descriptors for two opposing states. On/off, one/zero, yes/no, in/out, is/isn’t, open/closed, they’re just different ways of signifying the same thing. Binary can be used to build language, but of itself it is no more language than the alternations of sound and silence in your speech are language.

    Cindy, your point about the quantum universe is well taken, but you overlook that the cumulative effects of the behaviour of quantum particles, which is usually counterintuitive, produce the phenomena of the macro world with which we perceive and which can often be predicted accurately by science.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Opposing states are negation and affirmation, again a process of decision-making, the rudiments of language.

    Try as you may, you can’t escape the inconvenience of there being language for you to be anything, to say anything, to amount to anything.

    Of course, it’s an inconvenience to you, and that’s where you’re in error.

  • Igor

    @91-Cindy: actually, Einstein was right. He was explaining why people misunderstand the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which does NOT say that position and momenta are ‘random’ but that they are indeterminate because measurement itself disturbs that which is measured. That’s consistent.

  • Cindy

    I don’t think I’ve overlook that. I am not sure how, if I did. Can you explain? I would like to know if I have overlooked something.

    We are intuitive with regard to the macro-world (the ordinary world of Newton’s physics), because we have experience with it. The quantum world is fairly unintuitive and its very existence makes one question one’s ability to casually comprehend ‘reality’.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    No decision involved, Roger: a thing either is or it isn’t.

  • Cindy

    Igor,

    My own readings suggest a different meaning to what Einstein said. i will go along basically with what I understand from Stephen Hawking and Niels Bohr (and whomever I was reading when I developed my understanding of it–I think it was someone writing about dark matter, but I can’t think of the name) about what Einstein meant.

    This idea is that Einstein was not happy with quantum physics’ revelation that the universe is not deterministic. See Hawking: Does God Play Dice?

    I will cheat and give you some quotes that explain my understanding of it, probably the fastest shortest route by way of explanations snipped from various commentators on a physics blog:

    “Einstein simply meant that he didn’t believe quantum mechanics (which deals with probabilities, rather than with certainties) was correct.”

    “He was particularly against the Born interpretaion of the wavefunction, that the (real) square of the (complex) wavefunction value gives a probability of finding the particle in whatever state the wavefunction is concerned with, and that beyond that probability, and then only as the result of a measurement, physics has nothing to say. This is about as far from realism as you can get, and Einstein couldn’t go that distance. Neither could Schroedinger, the author of the basic equation of QM. The EPR paper and Schroedinger’s cat thought experiment were episodes in the war the two great men fought against Bohr, Heisenberg and most of the rest of the quantum physics community.”

    “Einstein’s final known position was that of the EPR paper, i.e. the probabilities predicted by QM are correct, but there must be some deeper level of reality that explains them deterministically.”

    or in other words (from a person on Yahoo Answers whom I think shares my understanding–though was not selected for the ‘best’ answer, I’m afraid):

    The point is that quantum mechanics proves the universe to be non-deterministic (in broadest possible terms the uncertainty principle demonstrates that it is impossible to know the position and momentum of a given particle simultaneously to infinite precision). Einstein was not happy with this idea, and he and many others struggled to recast the equations of quantum mechanics in a more intuitive and a fundamentally deterministic form.

    Repeated accurate predictions and further insight have, however, proven the mathematical framework of quantum mechanics as it stands to be very accurate. It is this proof to which Hawkins was alluding when he said “God not only plays dice, he regularly throws them in places where we can’t see them”.

    Actually, Niels Bohr who pioneered quantum theory and was a contemporary of Einstein’s said “Einstein, stop telling God what to do!”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    To say whether something is or isn’t is in itself s decision and an application of a language faculty albeit of the most primitive kind, and presupposes the existence of a discerning subject who makes the decision. Your naivete, whether feigned or not, appears to have no limits.

    It’s almost as though you were determined to cut your nose to spite your face.

    A tree, without the concept, would be nothing other than an undifferentiated chunk of matter. It is the thinking subject who, via language, creates the world and all the meaning

    In the beginning was the word … NOT the world!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Try deciding whether there is or isn’t an electrical current next time you shove a screwdriver into a light fixture and flip the switch.

  • Cindy

    Before we can accept something as possible, most of our presumptions must be conquered.

    Roger,

    Do you remember when troll was trying to help me comprehend something and I just seemed to be giving arguments. Sometimes a person is just being defensive. But sometimes a person’s doubts need to be overcome.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    In any case, you made a quantum leap here from whether “something is or isn’t,” (and what on earth are we talking about, what is that dummy variable “something,” what does it stand for, in the absence of language to agree or to disagree on what is the intended referent of “something”) to a computer program, namely software, which is language.

    Again, I hate to be drumming it into your head, Dreadful, but the binary code, 01-01 etc. is language.

    Make an intelligent comment for a change, e.g., concerning the distinction between notation (as in logic) and language, and I’ll be all ears. For the time being, however, I get a distinct impression that I’m trying to converse with an alien life form.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @112

    Dreadful’s rebuttal in #112 brings to mind Samuel Johnson’s refutation of Bishop Berkeley:

    After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it — “I refute it thus.”
    Boswell: Life

    In all seriousness, however, he ought to try to quench his intellectual curiosity by visiting a philosophy dept or two. San Diego is a big enough town, of that I’m certain. I’d tutor him for s nominal fee, but he hadn’t offered.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @112

    That’s not the case with Dreadful, Cindy, let me assure you.

  • Cindy

    I will present this interesting understanding of binary code:

    To understand binary code, it is important to first understand exactly what the code is and the functions it serves. Binary code is a breakdown of complex language into very simple zeros and ones. For instance, the binary code for the letter “A” is 01000001, the code for “B” is 01000010 and “C” is 01000011.

    In essence, binary code is merely a translation of an understandable language into what has come to be known as computer language. While there are many derivatives of binary computer language, each with the goal of presenting enhanced understandability for programmers, all derivative languages are converted into binary code for processing by a computer’s CPU (central processing unit).

    Read more: How Does Binary Code Work? eHow.com

  • Cindy

    Thus, binary code (rather like Morse code) is a coded language.

  • Zingzing

    But the thing that processes that language isn’t expressing anything through that language. It’s just doing what it was told to do.

    Until skynet.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Binary isn’t a language. Language can be constructed from it, just as language can be constructed from the sounds and pauses you make when you utilize your vocal apparatus.

    But just as your vocal apparatus can also be used to make simple inarticulate sounds, such as sighs and grunts, binary can also be a meaningless series of ones and zeros (theres and not-theres, yeses and nos, ons and offs, what have you) – the difference, say, between a sailor transmitting a Morse code message and a kid playing with the light switch.

    What I’m at root disputing is Roger’s notion that there is no truth we can rely upon as empirical because our means of expressing truth, language, inevitably distorts it. To me that’s obviously wrong. Alpha Centauri is empirically a star system four light years away from the Solar System whether we are here to observe it or not, whether we measure that distance in light years or not, whether we call it a star or not.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    That’s how Dreadful and company propose to prepare us for subsequent reduction of the human mind and all its complexity to the circuitry of the brain,

    Welcome to the brave new world and have no fear. Dr. Strangelove, oops, Dreadful.is in charge.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Wonder why a solipsist would need to take refuge in abuse?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    For earlier taint of condescension I apologize. As to the solipsism label, wrong again! I’m perfectly comfortable with language as my communication tool. It is you, on the other hand, who is less than satisfied with it and asks for more.

    Science is your religion, Dreadful, face it, to overcome any inadequacies you imagine yourself to be suffering from, and natural language happens to be one of them in your secret heart of hearts. I see no reason why you ought to consider yourself so handicapped, but you do. And here, I’m afraid I can’t help you. Which is why I momentarily succumbed to weakness and showed my impatience: because of your screwed-up motivation and unalloyed fears, the discussion was going nowhere.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    … to help you overcome … 2nd paragraph, first line.

    In the interest of improved communication between two inquiring minds, mate, just so you know!

  • troll

    Dreadful – while binary objects are not languages in themselves codes are aren’t they?

    …and what would a proof that a tree falls in the absence of language look like?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Or to put it another way, what would be the point of trying to ascertain what does or does not exist, and in what form, apart from language?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    Doc’s right – binary isn’t a language in the same way that the dots and dashes used in Morse Code aren’t in and of themselves the language. Even the letters I’m typing right now aren’t a language, just as hammers and nails and two-by-fours are not themselves construction, but are only the tools and materials used in construction. The ones and zeros, the dots and dashes, and the letters are tools to construct the language and nothing more.

  • troll

    there is more to a code than its symbols

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    An interesting aside: Even though notation (e.g., as in logic) isn’t properly speaking a language per se, significant contributions were made to the field by virtue of a change in mere notation.

  • Dr Dreadful

    while binary objects are not languages in themselves codes are aren’t they?

    Yes, troll, but that’s somewhat beside the point I’ve been trying to make.

    Roger claims that mathematics is a language, that language is inadequate to formulate an accurate perception of the universe, and that therefore we cannot even know for certain that this number of asterisks **** is four.

    But the point has often been made by scientists who have pondered the question that an alien civilization, even if its language (or whatever it used for communication) was completely incompatible and mutually unintelligible with human language, they would still know math. The problem would be how to communicate that knowledge.

    In Carl Sagan’s novel Contact, aliens overcome this problem by broadcasting the sequence of prime numbers: a sequence that will be instantly understood by any listener that knows math, no matter what notation they use to work with math.

    and what would a proof that a tree falls in the absence of language look like?

    1. There would be a dead tree on the ground. 2. Although we do not know for sure whether the tree ever stood in the vertical position, enough trees have been observed to stand vertically while they are alive for us to be able to conclude provisionally that this one did too. 3. Although no-one was present when it fell, enough trees have been observed in the past to make a sound when they fall, and enough is known about the wave energy propagation properties of air, that we can be reasonably confident that this one did, also, make a sound. 4. And yes, I do realize the irony that I’ve just explained all this using language. You need to use a bit of imagination here.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    You need to use a bit of imagination here.

    I think that is a good point. When failing to understand another’s proposal is a problem, a bit of imagination and/or “going along with” that proposition might help bridge the gap. As, it seems things are neither this nor that but interpreted in different contexts.

    Perhaps if all of us attempt to take what we doubt as true (since several people with functioning brains can sense there is truth in each proposition) and act as if it is true. That is, perhaps it may help to try to defend the position with which we disagree.

    Just a thought.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Just “going along with it” doesn’t suffice, though. You have to ask yourself: “If this proposition is true, what effects should I expect to observe? Do I, in fact, observe them?” A proposition that isn’t testable is no better than nonsense.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    That’s not the irony. The irony is that grown-up, able-bodied native interlocutors insist on making vacuous, pointless statements and keep on peddling them as though they were cogent and in perfect working order. They’re not because there is no point in asking the question as to whether anything exists apart from language, just as there is no point in saying “I know I am in pain.” In both instances, we don’t know what would count as proof or disproof. Both are examples of linguistic nonsense.

    There is of course the hidden or not so hidden agenda which makes the perpetrators mouth off such utterances: in the former instance, it’s a certain discomfort with a perfectly ordinary notion that our language is more than adequate in our dealings with reality, that somehow it leaves something to be desired, that we need something more, something over and beyond; and to these perpetrators, science, the fantastic conception of science, is the answer and their religion. (They forget of course that sciences themselves are specialized languages.)

    In any case, it’s a misguided notion. Language is all we have, and we can do nothing about it. So no, Cindy, I don’t think it’s lack of imagination that is the culprit here but some kind of angst. We’re dealing with true believers in the thoroughly secularized age.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “Roger claims that mathematics is a language, that language is inadequate to formulate an accurate perception of the universe …”

    @129 – from the mouth of Dreadful

    Roger never claimed the latter part, about the inaccuracy, that is. All Roger claimed is that all our claims are contingent on our life-form. To say they’re contingent is not to say inaccurate; it’s only to qualify the conditions of accuracy.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    131,

    Given that Roger and troll and I all seem able to comprehend the sense of what Roger is saying, I think it goes without saying that if you “just don’t get it”, you are not actually trying.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    That was to D.

    My point being that our biases often cause us to fail to see another’s reasoning. In order to facilitate the effort in good faith you’d have to take for granted that either a) there is some sense there to be gotten, or b) troll, Roger, and I are complete idiots, able to dream sense into the nonsensical.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Sorry for the garbled comment. You know what I mean, I’m sure.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    You have to ask yourself: “If this proposition is true, what effects should I expect to observe? Do I, in fact, observe them?”

    My point being that you will not be able to answer that question, with a comprehension of Roger’s perspective if you do not grant that things contain different contexts and make sense in more than one way.

    Thus, the thing you need to do is to ask yourself, “Is there another way this can be analyzed that might make sense?” Because, I can answer your above questions with relation to my perspective, even though you cannot .

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    If Roger’s proposition is true, I expect to observe certain effects. I, do, in fact observe those effects. It’s why I understand what he’s saying.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    In fairness, Cindy, there was a time when verification theory of meaning was in vogue; it was crafted by Ayer, in an attempt to rid the language of certain metaphysical statements by declaring them meaningless for lack of knowing what would constitute proof or disproof. Ayer’s program was ambitious and meant to include all emotive, value-laden statements as well; needless to say, there are some problems with that theory, which isn’t to say it’s all wrong. Of course, Dreadful is taking this to a wholly different level, and whatever it is he’s trying to apply “the verification principle” I have no idea.

    By the same token, Wittgenstein also tried to take metaphysics out of philosophy, albeit on different, linguistic grounds, in terms of “grammatical nonsense.” “I know I’m in pain” is an example. To say I know such as such must allow for the possibility of doubt. Well, doubt falls out of consideration with respect to knowledge claims about our sensations.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Language is all we have, and we can do nothing about it.

    Rather a neat encapsulation of why philosophy is mostly useless, if I may say so.

    If you’re saying reality isn’t necessarily what we say it is, but it’s impossible to verify this proposition one way or the other, then we might as well proceed on the assumption that it is the way we describe it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The proposition you cites has a status of a metalinguistic statement: it’s an observation about the life form and language as circumscribing its limits. One may agree or disagree with the proposition, but that doesn’t render it meaningless. Neither were Godel’s observations meaningless about the properties of a number system.

    Why should this observation render philosophy useless? It is perplexing that you should be posing such a question? Is our literature useless because it is made of our language use? I should think, rather, that philosophy would indeed be useless if it tried to do away with language. And that’s not the same as pushing the limits of language, of trying to say the ineffable.

    As to “reality,” again, all I’m saying that our understanding of it is contingent upon and necessitated by our life form. I wouldn’t know how “necessarily” is supposed to function in that context. I don’t have access to other life forms or other ways of perceiving reality.

    Lastly, I wouldn’t have qualms with saying that our reality is the way we describe it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I believe the main stumbling block between us: you happen to think we see with our eyes; I contend that language is our eyesight.

  • Anarcissie

    Wittgenstein’s On Certainty might be helpful, although I got out of it something different from what Wikipedia did. There’s a pointer to a PDF of the text in the article.

    In other news, the Many-Worlds interpretation of Quantum uncertainty makes it possible to view the universe as both deterministic and non-deterministic — a sort of mental superposition which seems happily appropriate.

    In yet other news, I conferred just now with a mathematician friend and we concluded that, while mathematics as talked and written about is a language, it looks at something which is not a language (mostly), just natural language looks at something — the world — which is not a language (mostly).

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielskibnb

    Surely there is the world, there’s no denying it; otherwise, there’d be no sensations, no thoughts, no feelings (unless we believe in the evil genius who makes all these things happen).

    I think the right kind of question is, what sense can we make of the world apart from language?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Okay, so far we have the alphabet alone is not a language and languages do not look at themselves, but look at “worlds”.

    Continue…

    (Just having some fun.)

    ;-)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Languages also look at themselves. That’s where the paradoxes come from – for example, the set of all sets.

    Does the set of all sets includes itself as well?