National Sovereignty or EU Membership: Which is the Least Bad Option? (2014), by Sean Gabb


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National Sovereignty or EU Membership: 
Which is the Least Bad Option?
A Lecture given in Bratislava on the 12th August 2014
to the Institute of Economic and Social Studies (INESS)
by Sean Gabb

INESS Introduction

The Institute of Economic and Social Studies (INESS) held its annual Sean Gabb Lecture on August 12, 2014 in Bratislava. Dr. Gabb is Director of the Libertarian Alliance and one of the leading advocates of individual liberty in Europe and also a renowned writer and author of several bestsellers, focusing on historical fiction (under a pen name Richard Blake).

The lecture was titled: National Sovereignty or EU Membership: Which is the Least Bad Option? Dr. Gabb introduced an inspiring alternative to the usual euroscepticism of British free-market advocates. They consider EU as a socialist, or at least a corporatist, project. They have focused on its liking for increased levels of tax and regulation, and its commitment to environmentalist untruths about global warming. There is, however, an argument against this hostility. The European Union is not, in itself, a liberal project. But libertarians have tended to assume that, free from rule by the European Union, the Member States would become more liberal. This may, in many cases, be an unrealistic assumption. According to Dr. Gabb, the threat to individual freedom coming from the local interest groups is often higher than the threat coming from Brussels.

The Lecture

It is a point of orthodoxy among British advocates of the free market that Britain should leave the European Union. This is an orthodoxy that, between 1999 and 2001, I did much to impose on the Conservative Party. It is, however, an orthodoxy that I no longer fully accept. I do accept that the freedom and prosperity I want for my country are incompatible with membership of the European Union. What I do not necessarily accept is that we should walk away at the earliest opportunity. There may, in the next few years, be a referendum on British membership of the European Union. If it happens, I am not sure how I shall vote in this. But, if it were to happen tomorrow, I know that I would vote against leaving.

I am always grateful to INESS for its invitations to speak here in Bratislava. INESS is itself one of the most prominent and distinguished movements of its kind in Europe. Those it gathers to hear my speeches are impressive both in their intellectual quality and in their ability to express themselves in a foreign language. I am particularly grateful this year for the opportunity given me to explain my partial change of mind on the European Union. If I shall be speaking mostly from a British point of view, I hope that what I have to say will be relevant, or at least interesting, to a Slovak audience.

A Case Against the European Union

I will begin by stating what I believe to be the main case against the European Union. Unlike many British Eurosceptics, I do not believe that my country has been in any meaningful sense conquered by an alien power. The European Union is not, for my country, an exercise in French or German imperialism. Its development has not been driven by an out of control and centralising bureaucracy in Brussels. Instead, British membership of the European Union, and its influence on Britain are entirely a device of the British ruling class.

For as long as I have been alive, and perhaps for somewhat longer, the ruling class of my country has been working to free itself from anything by the most formal accountability to the people. On the one hand, this has been achieved by a state-sponsored mass-immigration of those who are, for whatever reason, unlikely to assimilate themselves into our national life. Over a century and a half ago, John Stuart Mill observed that, when a population is made up of groups who speak different languages, and who have different ways and different concerns, there can be no single public opinion able to hold the rulers to account. Instead, each group will be more inclined to look to the State for preference against the other groups, and free institutions will be impossible. That increasingly is the situation in Britain.

On the other hand, this project requires all important decisions to be taken beyond the inspection and control of our historic institutions. Rather than state it in the abstract, let me illustrate this with what you may regard as a trivial example.

In terms of rationality, the English system of weights and measures is hard to defend. One inch is the average length of the top joint of an adult male thumb. Twelve inches make one foot. Three feet make one yard. 1,760 yards make one mile, which is also 5,280 feet or 63,360 inches. I leave aside how rods, poles, perches, furlongs and other units of length fit into this system; and I will say nothing of our equally eccentric measurements of weight. All I will say is that the system works and has always been popular. Each time, since the 1790s, there has been an open discussion of whether we should adopt the metric system, change has been firmly rejected. Then, in the 1990s, a coalition of bureaucrats with tidy minds and commercial interests agreed on a policy of compulsory metrication. Rather than take this before Parliament, where it might be voted down, they took advantage of a European Directive from 1989, which requires all goods that are sold throughout the European Union to be labelled in metric. This says nothing about goods sold in one country only, or about secondary labelling. But it was interpreted by the British authorities to mean that.

Now, a Directive can be incorporated into national law by parliamentary legislation, or by executive order, which may not require parliamentary discussion. British metrication was imposed by this second method – and, to make sure protest would be minimised, it was imposed in two stages. The Order was published in 1995, to come into effect in 2000. In 1995, discussion was muted because the change was five years distant. In 2000, we were told that discussion was worthless, since everything had been decided five years earlier. And so, to a chorus of venom against a European Commission that had no interest in our domestic measurements, it became a criminal offence to sell a pound of bananas in Britain, and the real projectors of the change walked away laughing.

In great things and in small, this is how the European Union works. This is how Britain got its money laundering laws that have abolished financial privacy, and its lunatic recycling laws, and the closure of all slaughter houses not owned by big business interests. The European Union is a cartel of ruling classes. In each member state, the ruling class makes unpopular laws behind a fig leaf of the various European treaties. Of course, since it is a cartel, each ruling class must often accept laws desired by the others that it finds unpopular. For example, the British ruling class would rather not have the Common Agricultural Policy. It increases rents for the landowning interest, but does so at the cost of endless complaints about British membership of the European Union.

Even so, this is a cost that can be managed. Other costs can be entirely avoided. Whether or not membership of the European Union involves a loss of national sovereignty, anything really unwelcome that comes out of Brussels can be ignored by each ruling class. Though it has been allowed to destroy the British fishing industry, the Common Fisheries Policy is not applied in Spain. The European Arrest Warrant, which allows a citizen of one member state to be taken, with minimal oversight, for trial in another member state, is not applied in Germany or Austria – because these countries have constitutional safeguards against extradition, and it would be too much trouble to remove these safeguards. We in Britain have just had an example of how supreme the European Union really is. The British State likes to spy on us by collecting details of our e-mails and telephone calls. This was recently judged to be in breach of European Law by the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg. Our ruling class responded by passing the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, which overturns the ruling of the European Court.

I repeat: the European Union is not an external imposition. In Britain – and, I think, in each member state – it is the means by which the ruling class has carried out an internal revolution. Historically subordinate institutions, such as the bureaucracy and the judiciary, plus private interest groups formally outside our Constitution, have been placed beyond the scrutiny and control of our elective institutions. Parliamentary government has become a charade – though not for the empowerment of the European institutions, but of our own ruling class.

A False Assumption

When, at the turn of the present century, I first realised that nature of the European Union, my natural instinct was to join in the demands for British withdrawal. As said, I had an important part in making Euroscepticism an orthodox position in the Conservative Party. Through my Candidlist Project, I was able to destroy the hopes of several dozen Conservative candidates for Parliament who refused to sign their names to the possibility of withdrawal. Many other candidates, who did sign as I demanded, found their way into Parliament more easily than they might otherwise have done.

But my belief in British withdrawal was based on a single assumption. This was that, once we were out of the European Union, our Constitution could be rebalanced in favour of its elective elements, and that the government of my country would become politically and economically more liberal. This was not, at the time, a manifestly absurd assumption. The history of my county has, to a large degree, been the history of freedom. Every liberal doctrine has had its origin in a meditation on the history of England. As late as the year 2000, the Thatcher Government could still be seen – however imperfect we may have thought it – as a reaction against an overmighty state. I took it for granted that, once the various interest groups empowered by the European treaties could be made subject to a Parliament elected by the people, we could at least argue for the restoration of our ancient liberties.

I now accept that I was wrong. Since 2000, Britain has become a sinister police state. The police are feared. Speech is increasingly unfree. Our rulers talk endlessly of democracy and fundamental human rights. But these are interpreted as extravagant affirmative action programmes for privileged minorities. You can get a criminal record in my country for suggesting that a police horse looks gay, or for standing beside the Cenotaph to recite the names of our dead servicemen in the Iraq War. You can be put out of business if you refuse to let homosexuals share a bed in your hotel. You can be arrested if you quote Winston Churchll’s comments on Islam. Ancient due process protections have been stripped from the criminal law. There are suggestions that your children should be taken from you if you do not agree with the ruling class definitions of diversity or human rights.

None of this has been required by membership of the European Union. Nor has it been effectively resisted by the people. It would be unjust to say that the British people as a whole want to be slaves. At the same time, the popular voice most often heard is one long and hysterical scream about paedophile conspiracies, and demands for a police state even less restrained than the one desired and given us by the ruling class.

The Origins of the New Totalitarianism

According to the standard Eurosceptic narrative, there is a war between traditional English liberties and Napoleonic despotism. We have a limited state and the Common Law. The Europeans have absolute states and politicised justice. Without romanticising the constitutions of the other member states of the European Union, this is a false narrative. So far as the European Union is becoming more despotic, the main pressure comes not from Brussels or Paris or Berlin, but from London.

Increasingly associated with Euroscepticism is the Cultural Marxist hypothesis. According to this, Classical Marxism – that is, the ideology that some of you may be old enough to remember in your own country – fell to pieces in the 1980s. But, rather than give up their position in the face of triumphant liberal democracy, the Marxist intellectual classes simply changed their front. They stopped quoting Marx and Lenin about the dictatorship of the proletariat. Instead, they turned to the writings of the neo-Marxists – Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, and so on – and used the alleged evils of racism, sexism, homophobia, lookism, transphobia and much more beside, as their ideology of legitimation for a total state. In short, old-fashioned socialism gave way to political correctness.

There is much truth in this hypothesis. Of course, I would say this: popularising the hypothesis in Britain is another of my achievements – see my book Cultural Revolution, Culture War. But it should not be used as any support of Euroscepticism. The intellectual architects of political correctness were all European; and the European Parliament is filled with members and whole committees eager to impose political correctness at the European level. But its power as a hegemonic ideology has nothing to do with a few dozen politicians on the European mainland. I say once more that the wind is blowing from London – and that wind ultimately is blowing from across the Atlantic.

I am a man of reasonable education. I know several European languages and have lived and travelled much in Europe. But I do not know who is the French Prime Minister or the German President. I do not know the names or faces of the European Commissioners. I barely ever look at newspapers in the European languages I know. I pay very little attention to what people are thinking and doing in the other member states of the European Union. For most other people in my country, this ignorance of European affairs is total. At my daughter’s school, nearly all the other parents think Slovakia used to be part of Yugoslavia – and they would have trouble pointing to the former Yugoslavia on a map. I find it hard to believe that a group of European intellectuals could give my country its hegemonic ideology.

The truth is that, if European in its origins, cultural Marxism, or political correctness, draws all its power in the world from America, and to a lesser extent, from Britain. In saying this, I am elaborating on arguments that I have put myself – but also, and critically, on the arguments put by my friend Ian B on the Libertarian Alliance Blog. Together, and in the company of others I will not presently mention, we are feeling our way to a new analysis of where we stand.

The past four hundred years of history on the English-speaking world can be seen as a contest between puritans and libertines. The latter believe that life is something to be enjoyed, the former that everyone else should be made to feel so guilty that they will have no objection to being pushed around. For its first century, the history of this contest is muddied by the accidental fact that the puritans were broadly in favour of the Ancient Constitution, and the libertines supported an empowered monarchy. But the puritan victory in the English Civil War was followed by ten years of moral totalitarianism – no Christmas, no Maypole dancing, the death penalty for extra-marital sex, and more witch-hunting than at any other time in English history. The puritan defeat in 1660 was the beginning of the classical age of our constitution. With the puritans out of power – and often shipped off to stew in the American colonies – a tolerant and cautious aristocracy presided over an astonishing two centuries of freedom and progress. The puritans never went entirely away. They were always somewhere, whining about sin and quoting the nastier verses from The Bible. But they were unable to shut down the brothels and gin palaces and gambling dens. They were unable to curb the “licentiousness” of the media. Their only success was in running the commercial and industrial revolution that paid for the good times of Georgian and early Victorian England.

Then around the middle of the nineteenth century, the brighter puritans moved their ideology from religion to “progressive” statism. They argued for moral totalitarianism not because God wanted it, but because an expanded state would be good for the health of the people. It was not conservatives who. after about 1860, made laws against pornography and drinking and homosexuality. It was people who called themselves liberals. The first Obscene Publications Act was brought in by a liberal politician. The prohibition of “indecency between men” was brought in by a radical. The Punishment of Incest Act and the Mental Deficiency Act and the regulation of drinking, and all the other “progressive” laws of Edwardian England, were brought in by a Liberal Government against Conservative opposition in the House of Lords.

It was worse in the United States, where the puritans had a greater hold. They started the War on Drugs, and, for a while, actually banned the sale of alcohol.

Then in the 1960s, this second wave of puritanism collapsed in both Britain and America. An entire generation chose longer hair and shorter dresses. The Pill and penicillin helped break down the old restraints on sexual conduct. The laws against pornography and homosexuality were relaxed. The War on Drugs began to collapse. Wars became unpopular. Toleration came back into fashion. Puritanism of any kind became an object of derision.

It was now that the Anglo-American puritans began instinctively to feel round for a new ideology of legitimation. It was now, quite by chance, that Cultural Marxism came to ripeness. For all the intellectual power behind it, Classical Marxism had always been the political equivalent in Britain and America of train spotting. It had no meaningful influence. If a handful of German-Jewish intellectuals were now pulled out of obscurity, it was entirely because what they said about racism and sexism and patriarchy and so forth were exactly what our own puritan classes needed to power their third wave.

If anyone doubts this, just look at what the neo-Marxists believed about economics. They were all traditional socialists. Their main objection to Marxism-Leninism was that it was not socialist enough. Nor were they noticeably concerned about controls on smoking and drinking and sexual behaviour. Their socialism was soon forgotten. Its place was taken by a mass of claims about the need to regulate harmful lifestyles. By the time the generation of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair came to power, what we got was traditional puritanism updated for a new century. We got speech codes and controls on drinking and smoking and lifestyle in general, and a police state to make us obey – and a heavily regulated but still broadly capitalist economy. Except there was little talk of God, the new order of things, as it emerged at the turn of the present century, was almost everything the puritans in the age of Charles I could have wanted.

Oh – for largely accidental reasons, homosexuals have so far been one of the privileged groups in this new order. You may not go to prison for calling them hell-bound sodomites. But you will have trouble finding a job if you do. I doubt, however, this will last. An ideology that sees oppressive relationships in most heterosexuality, and that is going mad about the “sexualisation” of children – and that requires the support of ethnic and religious groups who have little time for all-male sex – is unlikely to let so glaring an anomaly continue. Homosexuals are likely to be tolerated only so far as they get married to each other and stop quite so obviously having a good time.

The European Union as Constitutional Safeguard

This digression being made, I return to the European Union. Where the new totalitarianism is concerned, it has no primary function. This new totalitarianism is entirely bound up with the history of the English-speaking world. I go further. I say that British membership of the European Union is an actual impediment to the growth of despotism in Britain. I will repeat that the European Union is not in itself a good thing. It is a cartel of ruling classes, and none of these is interested in the welfare of ordinary people. But the ideal of the European Union is one big vacuum cleaner factory – preferably owned by the brother-in-law of a national President or a European Commissioner. It is not really interested in the things that obsess the Anglo-American ruling classes.

I will elaborate. Here, in Slovakia, the ruling class is notable for a certain lack of transparency in its financial dealings. Anyone who digs too hard into these matters will get into trouble of one kind or another. But the ruling class is not that worried about smoking or drinking. There are still inside areas where people can light up a cigarette. You can buy alcohol in petrol stations. There seem to be few predatory social workers, always on the lookout for excuses to steal children from their parents. You may not have noticed, but, while Slovak politicians do not noticeably fawn over homosexuals, and put people in prison for laughing at them, Slovakia is one of the main international production centres for gay pornography. Run by the libertarian George Duroy, Bel Ami films is about the most famous gay video production company on the planet. Its models start their careers somewhat under the age of 21. Two of the most famous models, Dolph and Roger Lambert, are cousins. Two other models are claimed to be twin brothers. When they are filmed having sex, I do not think the studio is raided by the police. There is no equivalent here of The Daily Mail or the Sun – ready to howl at the moon for censorship laws. I am not saying that Slovakia is a libertarian paradise. But it does seem to me that the Slovak ruling class has other concerns beside the imposition of a cultural Marxist police state.

This seems to be the case in most of the other member states of the European Union. And the benefit for Britain is that, since the European Union is a cartel of ruling classes, many restrictive laws need to be brought in with the agreement of the other ruling classes. You cannot cleanse the Internet and the airwaves of “violent” pornography, when the Dutch and Germans have no interest in cooperating. You cannot have a minimum price for alcohol and plain packaging for cigarettes, when the Slovaks and Italians disagree. There are political limits to how many rulings of the European Court of Justice can be overturned by Act of Parliament.

The British Constitution has been shredded. There are no native safeguards of the liberties we retain. The only safeguard we have is the need for many totalitarian laws to be negotiated with other ruling classes, not all of them filled with certifiable lunatics. On this analysis, the main threat to liberty represented by British membership of the European Union is that the other member states are in danger of being cajoled from London into making slaves of their citizens.

A Challenge to the Eurosceptics

I want much more freedom for my country than is allowed by continued British membership of the European Union. For that reason, if I were to come to power tomorrow in London, one of my first acts would be to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, and all subsequent amendments. But I shall not come to power, tomorrow or any other time. The challenge I make, therefore, to the Eurosceptic politicians in my country is to demand to be told what specific policies they have for preventing Britain from becoming a totalitarian nightmare if they get their way. I and other people like me want to live in an independent country. More than that, however, we want to live in a free country.

So far, we have supported the UK Independence Party because its leader, Nigel Farage, is a sort of libertarian, and because voting UKIP is an easy way of annoying the ruling class. But we are one year now from a general election in which UKIP hopes to win seats in Parliament. We may be three years from a referendum in which UKIP will probably lead the No campaign. It is time for specific assurances that an independent Britain outside the European Union will not simply be a country made safe for third wave puritanism.

If, in this speech, given in the capital of another European Union country, I can help begin a debate on this critical issue, I shall more than usually, have been in the debt of INESS and my Slovak audience.

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319 comments

  • The European Union is an extra lawyer of government – both in its spending and (more importantly) in its regulations. Getting rid of this extra layer of government would be a good thing.

    All this Sean Gabb knows very well (and has done for many years). So how to explain this lecture?

    Not difficult – it is Sean’s delight in shocking an audience – in being “naughty” (in “naughtiness”), this (Sean believes) is the heart of freedom. For example, even denying the very existence of freedom (of the capacity of humans to do otherwise than we do – to choose to do something else) can be an exercise in “freedom” if it shocks the audience (if it achieves the effect of “naughtiness”).

    How to shock a pro liberty audience on a policy matter?

    An easy way is to decide to defend the E.U.

    As for the rest (the stuff about Puritans and so on – by the way a better work on specifically American statism is J. Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism”) – some of it is true (pity the line from the Conservative Bishop of Peterborough “better an England that is voluntarily drunk than compulsorily sober” is not there, I am sure Sean likes it – and it is good) and some of it is false, but it is all essentially beside-the-point. (lots of chaff thrown in the air to obscure the basic point – the first paragraph of my own reply).

    None of the above should be read to suggest that there are not rare examples where the E.U. will forbid a local regulation that would have bad. Simply that (net) the E.U. creates far more regulations than it removes.

  • Sean,

    Thank you for the mention. I just want to add that I have no problem with the use of my name, “Ian Bland”, instead of the internet ‘nym of Ian B. I just use the latter because I always have, really.

    Fairly obviously, I am in general agreement with Sean’s speech here 🙂

    Paul-

    You can’t just assume that anyone with a different analysis to yourself is being puckishly contrarian. The Puritan Hypothesis may be right or it may be wrong, but I personally believe that it has more explanatory power than the Cultural Marxism Hypothesis, at least the “pure” form of that. We should be discussing the big picture of how we got where we are, not just denouncing each other. In my view the PH explains quite well why CM is of use to the rulers of Britain and America, and that has merit. If we are to defeat an enemy, we must first know who the enemy are.

    The reality is that Liberty has failed. Nothing libertarians have done has turned things around so far. The one attempt at a moderately (economically) libertarian revolution- Thatcherism- ended up going nowhere. We need to know why.

  • Readng my response there again, I just want re-iterate, or possibly just iterate, that if the Puritan Hypothesis is correct- and thus embeds our current troubles in the context of a culture war of several centuries’ duration- nothing could be less “beside the point”.

  • A very good speech. In answer to a question about Hungary, however, Sean said something along the lines of, “The British ruling class needs the European Union to legitimise itself”. Does this not contradict the main point? Would leaving the European Union not tip the balance in favour of the libertines, for precisely that reason?

  • Leonardo-

    Good point, and I think Sean’s thesis is weak on this, at least without clarification. It’s certainly valid that such justifications are used by the British government, as with metrication[1] but it is interesting to note how most of the puritan tranche is not justified as “imposed by the EU” and indeed the government falls over itself to take credit for censorship, tobacco, alcohol and drugs controls, laws regarding sexism, racism, omophobia[2], etc. In most cases, the EU (and UN) are used as vehicles by anglo nations to export and impose puritan policies on other nations.

    Which in my view is the primary reason the government want to be in them. And thus my argument is that the best reason for leaving the EU (and UN) is not so much to preserve our own liberty as to reduce our destruction of everybody else’s. That in itself is a rather magnanimous argument on the face of it (Britain should go round the U-bend in isolation, like a puritan Albania or North Korea) but we must learn the lessons of the collapse of Communism and in so doing see that this policy is of self-interested benefit.

    Communism ultimately collapsed because, despite the best attempts of the Soviet authorities, the people living beyond the Berlin Wall knew there were people living in more free countries who had better lives. The mere existence of the West meant that Communism was a demonstrable failure for its citizens. It is thus vital that even as Britain descends into absolute police statism, that there be other countries “beyond the wall” acting as examples to our benighted citizenry.

    If we cannot stop the Proggies here at home, we may have some success at least in preventing the cancer spreading. And that is why, come the referendum, I will vote “out”. In the absence of a strategy for taking back our nation for the libertines, we can at least spanner the mechanism that is dragging the rest of Europe (and ultimately the world) down with us.

    [1] I’m actually in favour of the metric system btw, I think Imperial is ridiculous.
    [2] Fear and hatred of washing powder

    • Ian you do you appreciate that we don’t all walk about with a tape measure to hand, but that we, of necessity, take our bodies with us. An inch is as described by Sean, a foot is a foot, you can pace out a length and count in feet, that is why they are called feet, a hand is 4 inches but in fact the depth of you hand held sideways, so you can measure the height of a horse (transport) on the spot if you and he are present. A yard is the length from shoulder to the end of the opposite extended arm, (like a archer), I could go on, and on and on… but instead let’s look at your preferred alternative.
      Napoleon, that great libertarian, imposed a measurement which was the earths circumference equally divided. It was called the meter but sadly the French are not great mathematicians and got the figures wrong, so the earths circumference is NOT equally divided into meters and therefore the meter relates to absolutely nothing (a bit like your interpretation of libertarianism). Pascal, a rare Frenchman with a scientific mind, rejected metric measurements and had his entire laboratory trashed by the Napoleonic forerunner of the EU. No doubt you will tell me it was their freedom to act such.
      Britain was the greatest manufacturing nation on earth and all our machines, building etc are based on imperial measures, so by imposing Metric, the EU effectively scrapped our manufacturing infrastructure, and you support that? The impoverishment of the British! Well done!
      In addition you will find that if you can’t cope with a simple thing like calculating the circumference of the earth and dividing it equally to create a metric measure, fractions are bound to be a real problem. The minute you give up the dozen, 12 which is easily divided in half, in thirds and quarters etc and try the same calculation on 10, you are dealing with fractions. Hard, especially when you are concentrating on baking a cake! The same goes for all our other ‘yardsticks’, you will find that all the numbers which govern computing are NOT metric. Now if you are innumerate as you seem to be, you will be easily duped into believing that metric measures are easy and that man can chose the numbers that govern the world. He can’t. It’s been done in the creation.
      Look at computing, nobody can devise a metric computer, except maybe a libertarian? How would you like to devote the rest of you life in that endevour? It will stop you making a fool of yourself on the pseudo-political stage…

      • I’m inclined to entitle this response “Why I Am Not A Conservative”.

        Properly applied, conservatism can be a useful philosophy. Unfortunately it frequently degenerates into this kind of claptrap, of defending any old nonsense (like the mesmerisingly awful Imperial weights and measures) simply because it’s old and native.

        Anyway, many early computers, including IBM, were decimal. In that application, it’s less efficient than binary. If you want to switch to a binary based system, you might have a point, but Imperial isn’t binary, and neither 12, 3, 1760, 14 or most of the other imperial multiples (16 ounces to the pound being an exception) code well in binary either.

        On the other hand, we have a decimal number system, so decimal measures make instant sense for that reason alone. So much for that.

        But hey, it’s old, and it’s native. So it must be good.

        The claims about relations to body size might be useful if we were all the same size, so that is only ruined by the fact that we aren’t.

        • IBM always got everything apart from salesmanship, wrong. And the ‘decimal’ computer you agree was one such. Trashing all our manufacturing machines because they were not imperial was great? Hey, it’s modern! It’s meaningless! It Stuffs Britain! It must be good!

          • The System/360 was a pretty good product by all accounts. I don’t know what you’ve got against IBM.

            • I worked for CDC who employed Cray to build real computers, but apart for that the fact that IBM provided tabulators to Hitler to keep tabs of the numbers passing through the extermination camps tends to be a problem for me. I have other more details objections too which are above your head. Technical.

              • I’m wondering how somebody who believes that Obama is a Kenyan Moslem can credibly make claims of intellectual superiority. Are your brain powers increased by your magical tinfoil hat?

                • You should look at facts, but as a dreamer I suppose that is too big an ask. A Dreamer to you, a nightmare to us. I just has some time and thought I would throw in a few facts, now I will let you little boys continue with your occupational therapy. If you ever grow up, maybe you can join the grown up debate.

        • I am an engineer. I have been a fully timed served precision toolmaker and I now reside in a drawing office designing and conceptualising various engineering equipment that both makes and inspects all sorts of components.

          It is my firm belief that the metric system is both easier and more sensible for engineering purposes.

          Also, most drawings these days are done in what is known as third-angle projection, not first-angle projection. The latter being the old system and the former being the newer one imported to us.

          I don’t think the switch to metric is responsible for a loss in the British manufacturing sector. I think the wider embrace of globalism and the opening up our markets to cheaper products is was destroyed it.

          On this, it is often a race to the bottom: Who can provide the most and work for the least in the worst conditions. We still manufacture all sorts of things, but not on the scale we once did – and usually as subordinates to foreign parent companies.

          People may bang on about free market capitalism, but I do not think we have such a thing at the moment anyway, much like many think we live in a capitalist system, when we do not really do so. It is a tweaked version of it and not the real deal.

          So whilst I am not in favour of the EU project, or wider globalism in general, that does not necessarily mean to say that systems like metric ought to be disregarded in the process of rejecting the more human and political side of things.

          Asking an engineer (particularly in a dumbed down nation) to “pitch in” several holes at one inch nineteen thirty-seconds (1″ 19/32′) apart, starting with the last hole first…. is obviously (to me) more difficult to mentally arithmetic than asking them to pitch in seven holes at say 25mm apart.

          One would be able to add it up fairly quickly, whereas the other would have to either use a calculator or try and work it out longhand on some paper. Not impossible, or course, but a little harder, a little slower, and more prone for an error.

          Sometimes things come along that are more efficient and make more sense than an older system. I think metric is one of them, irrespective of it not being native.

          I can handle the adoption of some non-native practices – providing we are all natives using it and that we choose/decide to use it!

          What did make me bitterly laugh during the New Labour term in office was how the zealots took the London market traders to court for selling their bananas and apples in lbs, then when Blair had his baby, they stood on the steps of number ten announcing the baby weight in lbs and not kg.

          But that is the hypocrisy of the establishment…..do as we say, not as we do.

  • andromeda077342014

    Are any of you libertarian enough to repeal the Equality Act 2010?

  • Is there a libertarian in Britain who wouldn’t?

  • The point is all about balance of power the having the freedom to fight. Fascism, of which the EU is the lastest and most sophisticated version, by removing democracy (the power to sack your lawmakers) prevents the sovereigns in any democracy (the electorate) from exerting influence and power and being able to fight.
    It is necessary therefore to remove the EU in order to allow the electorate to tell the government what ‘British Values’ are rather than the other way around, and if the government does not like it, they go.
    At present we, the cultured, polite and civilised natives of Britain are being ravaged by those who are not confined by our values just as surely as a foreign virus runs through a people who have not built immunity to it. The spokesman for assimilation (or similar) said yesterday apropos the beheading of an Amerrican journalist by a ‘British’ Moslem, that ‘laws will not suffice, we have to learn to live together in this island’. Perhaps he will teach the Moslems that lesson first? After all there is only 1 Islamic State – the world, and they are bound on pain of death to accept nothing less. So Britain has been taken from the natives without a shot being fired because we are all too polite or fearful to mention that homosexuality is contrary to our religion, multiculturalism is a suicide note and socialism is ‘progression’ to starvation.
    All land is held by force of arms so that the occupants can live under their version of fair and right, in our case, freedom under the law which is made by those we freely elect to represent us in our own Parliament which operates under our Glorious Constitution that took the best brains 800 years to develop. Now we are told by a libertarian (!), Sean, that we don’t have that freedom and have no right to demand it. We must accept foreign rule and open borders.
    The Caucasian race is being wiped off the face of the earth, we are all in the extermination camp and the Windsors and Camerrons of this world are negotiating the pace and numbers with the nazi jailers.
    One day they will discover that they are ‘grotesquely white’ too. Too late, the stupid lose their right to survive and we are living through the Fall of Britain, and of the English System (Hitler called democracy and capitalism the English System) which has delivered prosperity and the means for all men to make the best of themselves to us and a lot of the world.
    Now let’s listen for the Hurrahs……

  • Lynne Atkinson has it spot -on here in my opinion. Hurrah!
    To say that ‘None of this has been required by membership of the European Union’ is disingenuous. Equality and Diversity tools have been forced upon all Member States through fear of financial penalties, thence come hate-crimes by which to control by fear.
    Different statutes are implemented across member States which will, eventually, all come together under the UN, ‘Turning Point For All Nations’ blueprint.
    There is no mention of the UN with global, corporate, philanthropic stakeholder partners and it’s global governance controlling plans, without this the picture is incomplete.
    The EU is a specific conduit for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,(SDGs) post 2015, Maritime Law and massive migration.

    • What you are missing is that the entire ideology of equality and diversity is the invention of the Anglosphere, particularly the USA, and that they are being imposed most fervently in Anglosphere countries.

      It’s this blindness to the actual source of the problems that hamstrings Libertarians trying to understand what we’re up against.

      • Ian it’s called ‘suicide’ which is the preferred option to continuing to shoulder The White Mans Burden. The Anglosphere give all they can, cash, blood sweat and tears, and it’s never enough. We therefore are giving best, give up because we are sick of being castigated for not providing enough.
        We actually do want equality (instead of servant status) we want the other races to grow up, provide for themselves, and be responsible for themselves.
        We want diversity because we want them to live their way in their own countries, practising all the barbaric things they have always practised, honour killing, female mutilation etc, which is none of our business, and we want acknowledgement that we are not responsible for all this barbarism. We want to live our way in our own country.
        This has been perverted by the One World Fascists into a demand for the extinction of all countries (just a they replace the demand to end Corporatism spontaneous demonstrations with the word ‘capilatism’ and promoted the ‘anti-Capitalist rallies’ (look at the pictures!)
        Kindly remember that the Anglosphere is no longer RUN by us. Look at the Kenyan Moslem President of the US, the Secretaries General of the UN, the low intellect of the celebrities and House of Windsor who take the stage to represent us.
        The least you can do is not make things worse, which is exactly what Gabb does. Candidlist being one such, it was used by all the liars for cover, he was warned but would not withdraw it. He really is a dangerous fool.

        • Have you even read or listened to the speech? None of what you’re saying reads as if you have.

          • Self delusion beyond repair!

            • Don’t give up on yourself like that. You can recover if you really want to.

              • Poor!

        • And for God’s sake, Barack Obama might be all kinds of things, but he is neither a Kenyan nor a Moslem. Get a grip.

          • Barack Hussain Obsma, Born in Kenya (they have the records and claim him) of a Kenyan father and a Caucasian mother. Removed to the Anglosphere because Africa run by the Africans does not tolerate mixed race individuals, they don’t survive toddlerhood.
            Face facts!

            • He was born in Hawaii.

              • That was proved to a fake birth certificate, there were mistakes in the printing! You really are not up to speed. You probably don’t know about his personal Moslem conduct in the Middle East either? You are like the Americans, purblind. To prove that the Twin Towers was an aboration and Islam does not demand the death of the angloJewish world, they voted for a Moslen to prove they were right.
                Self delusion beyond repair.

                • This whole thing is tinfoil hattery. I really don’t see any point in engaging with it. I can think of many criticisms of Obama; his poor presidency, his policies, his Marxist upbringing, his deification by many leftist Americans.

                  But he was born in Hawaii and he isn’t a Muslim. That is just reality.

  • Kacey there is no mention of the global fascists because the ‘lecture’ shows that there is no difference between Gabb and the world government fascists!!?? When Gabb gets his way and seeks to shock the World Government in a speech perhaps the Man in the Moon will grant him asylum? One World Government is certainly the solution to the problem of Asylum seekers but funnily enough, even One World Islamic Government that will not ‘rid the world of the horror of War’.
    Islam is divided and both sides should be allowed to kill as many of each other as they can manage without too much wringing of Jewish and Christian hands.

  • The fact that the British government is our bitter enemy does not make the EU our friend and saviour.
    The evil of this world resides in the USA and their reign is coming to an end. A greater enemy resides in London but people are now waking up to this. No matter what the organisation predators will try to dominate.
    A number of small units (countries) working for mutual benefit is much more difficult to usurp and dominate.
    We need an English parliament, out of Europe and out of Britain.

  • It’s the British Constitution that is supreme, if we give that up, and there is no British Parliament it reassertion it, we are finished. In legal terms any British Parliament can reassert our Sovereignty, see the British Declaration of Independence, but no other forum can, so you are falling into an English Parliament trap.
    If Scotland goes independent, the British Parliament will be the English Parliament, but it will train the credentials to reassert our sovereignty.

  • The British Civil Service has been deeply involved in formulating and steering everything from the Nuremberg Trials, to the EU, to the UN. Likewise the Bank of England is the major driver in the on-going global bank fraud. The problem has always been the British elite classes. Indeed the Queen/King/Parliament/Civil Service is sovereign and only allows to happen what it wants to happen. In as much as some other countries have stronger and better traditions of protections of individual liberty – for instance, if it was up to Britain no civilian ownership of firearms would be permitted – we can hope for at least some solace from extra-territorial legal jurisdiction. The problem is us, always has been. Fascism was born in Britain with the rise of the British East India Company and it’s been alive and kicking ever since. America fought a war of Independence against British fascism and the British political classes have been subverting America, and the rest of the world, to full-blown fascism ever since. If you can’t understand that you’re part of the problem.

    • Yes since Edward Heath removed the power of members to SELECT their own candidates, and Labour followed suite, the true sovereigns in any democracy, the electorate, have been stymied. Now the problem is that the stuff that floats to the top is exercising our sovereignty without our authority. For instance The Royal Prerogative was used to destroy the Royal Prerogative. That is our problem, entirely within our own domain. We need to assert our eon constitution to bring our own government to heel. Starving them of money is a good start. The fallacy that fascism requires jackboots is one that hides the real thing, and the fascists like Kenneth Clarke who use the word to describe others obtain cover for themselves too.
      I wonder if these libertarians are libertarian enough to allow the rest of the world and the other races to live in their own way in their own countries?

    • Neither Empire nor mercantalism were unique to Britain.

      Fascism was the invention of former communist Benito Mussollini when he created the Fasci di Combattimento. If we cannot call things by their real names then we are truly lost.

      The 13 colonies fought the War of Independence for many reasons; fascism was not among them. There is a rather good lecture on YouTube by one Dr Sean Gabb giving the partial case for the Royalists and the Crown.

    • By fascism I mean to say the merger of state and corporate power that is not accountable to the people – by merging state and corporate the free market is destroyed and you can’t even vote with your pocket. Given the world runs on debt the banking system hardly even needs the plebs at all.

  • Ian – Thanks for the reply. I am very taken with your puritans narrative and the addition of Sean’s broadly libertarian (albeit for self-interested reasons) landed aristocracy narrative brings still greater clarity. The question I have is, whatever happened to the boomers, which started out well (obviously dependent on taste) with flower power, sex, drugs, rock & roll, anti-war, anti-authoritarianism, etc. but which eventually morphed into the third phase puritans with their deeply authoritarian, politically correct, cultural Marxist agendas?

    • andromeda077342014

      What you have described is the manifestation of a MATRIARCHY.

  • andromeda077342014

    What you are all complaining about is the matriarchy. It is not Big Brother that is ruining your lives but a neurotic Big Mama who is obese, irrational, emotional, promiscuous, jealous and demented.

    A patriarchy is a society that condones male promiscuity while a matriarchy is a society that condones and even rewards female promiscuity.

    It is pretty obvious which we are, is it not?

  • A couple of brief points; Lynn makes a compelling case for Imperial measures which Ian then rubbishes without providing a counter-argument. If I may throw a couple more points into the pot, Britain is now the only country in the world where Imperial measures are criminalised, and the law is enforced with extreme zealotry. Why is this? You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to see an agenda at work here. And Ian, if your wife sends you shopping for a plank of wood 1,372mm long, will you easily be able to visualise what you’re looking for? If she had said 4ft 6 you might have a clearer picture of what you are looking for (and no, you can’t have centimetres because they’re not part of the S.I. system).
    As for the relative merits of being in the EU or out, the question is whether you wish to live under laws made by people you elect, or have them imposed on you by a bunch of faceless self-appointed foreign bureaucrats. I know which I prefer.

    • Obviously I don’t support criminalisation of weights and measures; but as Sean points out, the EU directive for this doesn’t either. It’s entirely the choice of our own ruling class to persecute sellers of bananas by the pound. In Libertarian England, you could use any measures you like. You could invent your own, if you cared to (so long as this didn’t amount to fraud).

      Metric is a more ergonomic system though for most things. As a former electrician, I’ve thought in metric for most of my life. Visualising a cable run, or a plank of wood, I “see” it in metres, not feet and inches. In those sort of terms, it really is just whatever you’re used to; neither system (or any other) is better. But our arithmetic is base 10, so it’s easier to calculate in a base 10 measurement system; most obviously, shifting between units is just a shift of the decimal point, without any calculation required at all. Additionally, the weights are linked to the measures by water (our most common fluid) which makes it very convenient in regards to that.

      There might be a more ergonomic system, I’m sure there is. But metric is certainly an improvement on Imperial for any serious work.

      I’m generally in favour of globalising such things. It should not be done by force and compulsion. People must be free to choose. But among scientists and engineers etc, it is obviously easier if everyone uses the same units; just as it’s easier within a nation if everyone is using standard units instead of there being different ones in Birmingham and Coventry. (One of the great products of the industrial revolution was the standard Whitworth nut and bolt).

      As libertarians, it’s worth remembering that we once had a near global money standard. It was called gold. You could sell something for gold in London, go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and buy some food, lodging and souvenirs there with the gold. No exchange rates. No conversion factors. Gold, the global currency. Pretty good system.

      • One solution is to be fluent in both. Then you can communicate accurately with everyone around.

        In the 60s we were taught both systems, and also had to know all the conversion factors, for every unit, without looking them up. If we could do it, then today’s children can do it. But show me any British teacher working today that agrees with this, and I’ll tell you that I’m the Queen of Upper-JipoopooLand.

        • I learned both too David, but I don’t think there’s much point. Most of the people hanging on to Imperial are people who don’t calculate; they just use it for things like buying flour or stating their height or the distance to Huddersfield.

          Which is fine. If people prefer to purchase and talk and estimate like that, no problem. But they’re not the people working out the dimensions of a crate to hold a hundredweight of flour, or the thrust necessary to course correct a spacecraft bound for Mars. So they aren’t people who use or know the conversion factors for the foot pound furlong system (or whatever it is) anyway.

          I repeat that I see no justification for legal imposition of units. All I said was that metric is a better system, which I think for anyone doing significant calculation, it clearly is.

      • I agree with you on the metric system, and I have written why further up the page. I guess I should have read all the comments first!

  • Lost Leonardo-

    I can only think of very long answers to your important question. But there is a short one, which is the song “Hip To Be Square” by Huey Lewis And The News. This isn’t meant to be facetious; it rather well describes the transformation that the Boomers underwent.

    A longer answer would involve the political talents of the Left, and their ability to hold onto a public image of being “liberal” whilst openly pursuing illiberal goals (not least by maintaining one or two high profile “liberalisms” like Gay Rights) and the woeful political failures of any oppositional forces to them, combined with in my view a complete failure of social analysis which the “puritan hypothesis” is an attempt to address.

    I suppose another way to look at it is this; millions of economic liberals go out election after election and vote for an economically illiberal party (the Tories) because it is marginally less illiberal than the other side. You might get a bit less regulation, slightly lower taxes,etc, So you vote Tory. The Left’s ability to appear marginally more socially liberal than the Right has the same effect; this enabled them to “own” social liberalism while, using political correctness, undermine and destroy it.

  • Ian – Sean is not engaged in political “analysis”.

    I would not have been so harsh if I did not know that Sean knows the works of Christopher Booker and Richard North (and so on) at least as well as I do.

    But instead of hard headed examination of E.U. economic regulations on farming and industry (which Sean is perfectly capable of doing) – we get stuff on porn (and whatever) and Puritans and …… (well at least we did not Ming the Mercyless and the Planet Mongo).

    Sean was not giving a serious lecture – he was doing something quite different (and deliberately so).

    What Sean was doing is what he often does – performance art.

    Performance art designed to shock the audience – like the “Nudey Men” or the male Potter in a dress.

    It is done for effect – as a form of performance art (not political analysis).

    By the way……..

    The E.U. is actually in favour of censorship of the internet (look what they have just done to Google – with the “right to be forgotten”) and has no problem at all with member countries censoring either “racist” politics, or hard core porn.

    So the lecture was crap – even in its own (performance art) terms.

  • I repeat…..

    The European Union is an extra layer of government – both in its spending and (more importantly) in its regulations. People who want to reduce the size and scope of government should oppose British membership of the E.U. (or Estonian membership of the E.U. come to that – the E.U. should not exist).

    Sean Gabb knows all this as well as I do.

    As so often Sean is (to use technical language) just messing about.

    • Just so you know, on 9th September 2014 we celebrate the 21st anniversary of my husband Rodney and Norris McWhirters treason charges against the Maastricht Traitors. Instead of Booker and North, who believes we should remain in the EU, you should read Rodney’s books and particularly the 9 charges themselves, the converse of which created the BDI.

      • I have one of your husband’s books upstairs Mrs Atkinson (and very good it is to).

        I do not believe that Christopher Booker believes that Britain should be in the E.U. – I must confess that (as far as I can remember) I have never met Richard North.

  • Ian – you say “One of the great products of the industrial revolution was the standard Whitworth nut and bolt.”
    And how are these nuts & bolts measured? If you take a particularly common size used on cars, a 5/16″ bolt, the metric equivalent is a 13mm spanner size; the American (Unified) 5/16 thread takes a 1/2″ spanner, and the Whitworth / BSF equivalent is some fantastic fraction like 0.512″ or some such.
    The fact that you are praising the most eccentric measurement system of the three demonstrates that not everything needs to be tidied up in 1/10ths of everything else.
    Is it true that the EU Directive doesn’t criminalise Imperial measures? I thought it did just that. Imperial and Metric had lived happily (and legally) side by side since the 1890’s. If the EU didn’t criminalise Imperial then it changed nothing, n’est-ce pas? Either way, however, it shows an agenda at work.

  • Hugo, the point was about standards. In terms of bolts, anything will do so long as it is well engineered- and the Whitworth is an excellently engineered design. What units it is in doesn’t matter.

    Units themselves though benefit from being easy to calculate with, and in that case metric wins out over the ad hoc mess of inches, poles, miles and chains that Imperial was. The particular scale doesn’t matter; it’s the relations between units that do, and it is obviously sensible to have relations in powers of ten when you have a base ten number units.

    Which is why also computing units, being base 2, get problematic once you’re above the lower ones you know by rote. I can very easily tell you what 10^10 is. 2^10? Unless I learn it by heart (it’s 1024) I don’t know without an additional calculation. It gets harder and harder- 2^30? No idea at all. I’ll have to ask the Google calculator

    1073741824

    Hmm. So where we can stick with base 10, it’s better. Which is what metric does.

  • Paul-

    Your fascination with psychoanlaysing Sean is the most totally useless comment on this thread, and that’s going some considering the competition.

    It’s not about economic relations. That’s why Libertarianism can’t get anywhere. It’s just being the negative space of Marxism, sharing Marx’s view that social relations are the product of economic relations. A libertarianism that agrees that humanity is defined by the “mode of production” and who owns the “means of production” is trapped in a mindset that is not only wrong, but can’t address the actual collapse of liberty.

    Free markets are the economic relations of free people. Free people are not the social relations of free markets. We need to understand why we are not a free people, and then we will know why we can’t get a free market. And among other things, we can then understand why the one programme for economic freedom- the 1980s Thatcherite one- ultimately failed.

    This is an angry comment because, frankly right now, I’m pretty angry. If you want to have a go at Sean, fine, but at least don’t be so dishonest as to ignore the fact that the ideas you’re accusing him of making up are in large part ideas of mine, which we have debated at length.

    Or maybe I’m just engaged in “performance art” too. For fark’s sake.

    • Ian – it is (in part) about “economic relations”, the EU is highly damaging to the economy of this country (via its regulations).

      However, it is indeed not JUST about economic relations – it is also about such things as internet censorship of which (as I have already pointed out) the E.U. is in FAVOUR of.

      The E.U. is a bad thing – we (and everyone else) should get out of it – full stop.

      Stuff designed to obscure this truth (whether put out by Sean Gabb – or you Ian) is crap.

      I agree that free markets are created by free people. If people are not free to choose (to choose to do otherwise than they do) then there is no freedom. Nor can their be moral responsibility for actions over which there was no choice, no ability to do otherwise (libertarianism 101)

      And this freedom is exactly what the E.U. opposes.

      Do you think that I just oppose government regulations because they reduce economic efficiency?

      If so you are quite wrong – I oppose them because they restrict the freedom of human beings, our freedom to choose to do otherwise than we do.

      However, many words Sean (or you) spit out, the E.U. is a bad thing (an extra layer of government) and we should get out of it.

  • Very well done Lynn Atkinson. Your remarkable fight somewhat took the edge right off Sean and Ian’s insistence that they know best.

    I totally agree with you concerning the enforced demise of our traditional methods of measurement. After all, didn’t the UK give birth to the industrial revolution before metrification arrived? Let’s face it squarely, since then we’ve invented very little of any true worth. Can’t seem to engineer anything new and in world-wide demand without having to join forces with engineers from abroad.

    Whitworth was a remarkable engineer, a generous and caring employer, great inventor and loyal English gentleman. The first man in the world who was capable of measuring one millionth of an inch.

    The British government usually tries its very best to break our best engineers – especially our aero engineers – and they came close to breaking Whitworth too – but he was always a little too smart for them.

    Whitworth really was right up there with the likes of Brunel when it came to cutting edge engineering. In Germany the government shows great respect to their engineers. Over here, our own government always seem to hate them for some reason.

    What disappointed me most with Sean’s speech was that he didn’t even bother mentioning to his audience – who wouldn’t know – the most crucial part of the UK’s eventual long term involvement with the EU. Which is of course, that the voters of this country were never invited to give their blessing to the setting up of a common market, or being involved with what many predicted would eventually turn into a corrupt political union.

    I’m certainly with Ian B however when it comes to voting in or out (if we are ever allowed to that is) and I too will be sticking with UKIP. Never is indeed a very long time, but the way I currently feel, the Tories can all go to hell. I’ll never vote a tory MP into power again.

    • Well yes, Lynn’s “remarkable fight” to prove that the EU is a fascist dictatorship who want to abolish the inch and the white man under the influence of Obama, the Kenyan Moslem certainly made sure any hope of a rational discussion was lost. Well done Lynn!

      And then we wonder why Libertarianism gets nowhere.

      • @Ian B your defence of the metric system vs imperial is nonsense. The very reason imperial is better is because it works so much better at the human scale of buying and selling things. Scientific or engineering measurement can be in any units that are internally self consistent because it’s all done on computer nowadays which don’t care and don’t make mistakes.
        The problem comes when you mix units of measure in calculations, the one benefit of one universal system of measurement.
        The unification of measurement systems, including of time, is purely to aid in governance (subjugation) of people by abolishing regional differentiation and to make the bureaucracy more efficient.
        What should happen is objective published standards for measurement be available then people measure stuff however the hell they want.
        One of the first things SIG should do as Lord High Chancellor is bring back the imperial system of measurement and pounds shilling and pence.

        • Oh good, a baffling money system as well. Let’s go back to the old system properly and use groats and tally sticks. Why would you want regional differentiation and bureucratic inefficiency? Remember, the same inefficiencies apply to private businesses and private individuals. It’s not just bureacrats who are slowed down by them.

          Oh, because they’re old is why. You want us all to use different clocks too? Jesus H.

          • Yes, and different clocks too. Just as there are different dialects or languages for different regions. If we’re to have true choice and diversity we should have choice and diversity. I laugh at your bs “inefficiency” comment, what the hell are you talking about? Efficiency is a value judgement, what about quality of life? Next you’ll be banging on in favour of Material Determinism.

  • ” So where we can stick with base 10, it’s better. Which is what metric does.”
    Actually that’s what Decimal does. Ok, I know the Metric system is decimal, but they are not the same thing.
    You go on to say that it’s sensible to have relations in powers of ten. The S.I. system doesn’t actually do that. You go from millimetres to metres, a leap of one thousand times. Even a centimetre to a metre is a hundred-fold leap, whereas there are only twelve inches in a foot and three feet in a yard.
    Actually I think it’s rather unfortunate that we evolved with ten fingers. If we had six on each hand we’d be working to base twelve, which would be much more interesting in my view.
    In fact I’d love to see what the world would look like if we worked to base Pi, or some other irrational number. Presumably the diameter of a circle would then divide into its circumference, but we wouldn’t be able to count our fingers and toes without getting a recurring decimal fraction.
    Base ten and the decimal system is so boring!

    • One hundred and one thousand are powers of ten.

  • Yes but a relationship of a thousand to one between adjacent measurements is not much good to me. That is why you get things sold in incomprehensible numbers of hundreds or even thousands of millimetres, instead of a few feet.
    But that is not the point. Since the 1890’s we have had the choice of two systems, until the EU stepped in and banned our traditional system. You say they didn’t, and I queried this, but you have not come up with any info to support your case.
    Whether you’re right or wrong about this point, the EU was the ultimate cause of criminalising our traditions. The motive was ‘harmonisation’ with Europe, and we were certainly led to believe that the EU was issuing the edict. If we had not been in the EU it would not have happened, that’s for sure.

  • Some years ago I was rebuilding a gearbox from an old Bristol bus. The manual gave the clearance for the brake bands as 0.437 inches. I puzzled over this for a while, not merely because it was such an odd fraction, but also because they measured it to a thousandth of an inch, when the actual measurement was not particularly critical.
    Then the penny dropped. What they were trying to say was 7/16″. Somebody had had the bright idea of expressing it in decimal format.
    Going back to metric measurements, I can divide an inch pretty much any which way I like; half, quarter, eighth, third, sixteenth, thirty-second, sixty-fourth. If I’m working in centimetres I can only divide it into tenths, i.e. mm.
    You may see that as advantageous. I do not.

  • You can divide any unit you like, or anything else into fractions. You can express something in thirds of a centimetre, or 64ths of a centimetre. Except you wouldn’t because it’s clumsy and makes calculations difficult (what’s 19/64ths + 7/16ths? Where’s my calculator?) so luckily in metric there’s another unit smaller, the millimetre. Or micro, or nano, if you’re being really precise.

    But with inches, that’s the smallest you’ve got. So you’re forced into clumsy fractions. The metric system is indefinitely extensible in either direction, whatever unit you’re working with. Like our base 10 number system. Imperial isn’t.

    And this is why I thank God every morning I’m not a conservative. The need to defend any old nonsense just because of it being “traditional”, even if it’s actually total bollocks.

    That is why you get things sold in incomprehensible numbers of hundreds or even thousands of millimetres, instead of a few feet.

    You can do fractions, but can’t work out that 1600mm is 1.6m?

    ***
    Anyway, this is a sad irrelevance. In a libertarian Britain you and I would be free to use and trade in whatever units we care to and prefer, or our customers prefer. It would not be a matter for the State.

    The real issue raised by Sean’s speech was an important one; what would Britain outside the EU actually be like? That is, the matter of how much liberty would be achieved at ground level, at the level of the individual citizen? How much “functional liberty” could we expect? Would we get more of it? Would we have fewer laws?

    And the problem here is obvious; as he expressed in the speech, the laws multiply because our own ruling class want them to. They do not make these laws under duress from the EU. They make numerous laws that the EU have not asked of them. They actively push the EU to make more of them. As with the email spying law, at times when the EU tells them to remove a law, they just make another one. So, would we get a more free state if we were locked into our nation with these lunatics in charge of it?

    The torrent of laws destroying British liberty began long before the EU, or the Frankfurt School. It was the British parliament that decreed when and where we could buy a pint of beer, nationalised most of industry, hauled off unknown thousands into institutions where they were abused “for their own good”. It was the British parliament that nationalised our entire communcations infrastructure and they who, to this day, force us to purchase licenses to own televisions, in order to fund a State propaganda service, and which put us on long waiting lists for basic items like telephones. It was the British parliament who, alone, has imposed wave after draconian wave of censorship, and has imposed a new tranche every time technology does an end run around it (as with video recordings, and now with the internet). It was the British Parliament who decided to throw people in jail for using recreational drugs, and the British Parliament who took away our rights of self defence, prohibited guns, and has now made it extremely risk to even carry a pen knife. It was the British Parliament that decreed that homosexuals should be hunted down and the British Parliament who later decreed made it a criminal offence to be unkind to the same people. It was the British Parliament, decades ago, who decided for ideological reasons to flood our nation with immigrants, and which under every government of Right or Left since has ruthlessly pursued that agenda and introduced, piece by piece, draconian controls on the voicing of opposition to it. It is the British Parliament who are pursuing the incremental criminalisation of smokers with ever greater zeal. It is the British Parliament who wish to raise the price of alcoholic beverages beyond the means of the common man. It is the British Parliament that introduced a secret court system that snatches ever greater numbers of children from parents in conditions of such absolute secrecy such that the population in general have no idea as to what is happening and the media are verboten from even discussing it. It is the British Parliament throwing vast numbers of elderly men in jail for purported crimes in the distant past evidenced by nothing more than emotive testimony. And it is the British Parliament who have just proudly announced that it is to be a criminal offence to argue with one’s wife over money or anything else. Raise your voice, go to jail! Vote Conservative for more of the same!

    Sean’s speech attempted to address why the collapse of liberty has occurred, and who is responsible and whether, if locked in with the perpetrators, Britain would become a less or more free country. This is a vital question for lovers of liberty.

    And here we are wasting our virtual breath arguing about inches.

    • Ian – The problem with any attempt at a novel analysis is not disagreement, but lack of understanding. The answer is to keep writing.

      I’ve just driven back from Slovakia, where schoolboys go about with hunting rifles and where ciggies are about £2.50 for a pack of twenty – oh, and where bicycle parts and computers have always been measured in inches. There is porn on telly every night, and parents smack their children in public.

      I’m now back in the Anglosphere, with its matchless Parliament and its immemorial Common Law protections of my liberty. This Euroscepticism stuff is getting right on my tits.

      • I am delighted, Sean, that you have acknowledged your position on supranational government. It confirm all we said about your launching Candidlist to take the sting out of the BDI, which was a commitment. Your Candidlist allowed all the traitors to stand on a false platform and continue fooling those who vote for them.

  • Excellent synopsis Ian, and all very true. But there are also many impositions that emanate from the EU which our elected politicians genuinely don’t want. My own industry, transportation, is full of them. Our protests are always met with a variation of the same response; ‘I wish things could stay as they are, but it’s an EU Directive so there’s nothing we can do about it.’
    It is quite true that life outside the EU would be little better in terms of liberty. But, outside the EU, we would at least have the ability to establish a more libertarian state, by electing the right people.
    And we wouldn’t be arguing about inches if the EU hadn’t banned them!

  • All the above is very well but the real problem is very simple. The vast mass of the human race are cowardly and as thick as pig shit. All the above arguments are only symptoms of that. You have your Stephen Molyneux-who thinks that if spanking kids could be stopped, Utopia would be at hand. Probably y’all have your own thoughts. I don’t have a clue how to start even.

  • Hugo-

    A couple of points. Firstly, how much our “elected politicians”[1] really don’t want these EU regulations is debatable. It’s easy for them to defuse criticism by just saying “we have no choice”. There is clearly enormous enthusiasm in our political class for these regulations. They make no attempt to prevent them being imposed, and many are their own preference, inflicted across the entire EU to prevent anyone living differently “beyond the wall”.

    Secondly, Sean’s point was that the EU didn’t ban Imperial units. The regulation only applied to the labelling of products sold in other EU countries, as part of the single market. The choice to impose metric domestically, and arrest market traders selling pounds of bananas, is purely the choice of our national politicians and local councils.

    Thirdly, we seem to have ample historical evidence that our own country’s political system is entirely dysfunctional. Not only has it never defended our liberty when the political class choose to take it away, it did not stop us being taken into, or kept in, the EU either. So if we do leave, we really aren’t addressing the major issue, which is what to do with our domestic condition, and how to do anything about it anyway. We have an elected dictatorship, not a democracy. THe will of the people, let alone the right to have private lives and choices which supposedly defines a liberal nation, are marginal at best.

    I am not arguing to stay in. Given the chance, I will vote for “out” and hope that a majority does too. If we fumble this chance to assert the popular will, we will not get another. But I say this with the expectation that if we leave the EU, there is little likelihood of improvement as a consequence and, as Sean warns, it may well enable an even faster collapse of liberty. Our true enemy is in Westminster (and the sprawling, shadowy political structures of “governance”). In practical terms, Brussels is a sideshow.

    [1] The people appointed by the parties to pretend to represent us.

  • Brilliantly well thought through Ian-B.

    In fact, I’d say, that for most people, you succinctly set out what many of us have thought about our successive parliaments.

    Increasingly these days, many of us have come to positively hate those who choose to deny us our one tiny part in electing the genuine parliament which we all yearn for. The man and woman in the street have repeatedly demanded an end to increasing taxation in this country for instance – especially given that most working people are in a struggle just to survive (highest fuel duty in the entire EU – just for starters) but the demand is consistently refused and will continue to be refused I’m sure.

    Then, something else mentioned several times is the never-ending erosion of our hard-won freedoms. That it was the casual way our various governments have allowed the people importation business to continue and thereby grow the erosion, seems not to matter much to our elected and other noble leaders.

    Unless one is dyed-in-the-wool, politically speaking, going out of the way to cast a vote in our hopeless 3 party system for most people is a waste of time. What ever party it is that grabs four years worth of gold-plated salaries and pensions, the ‘celebrities’ within that party, always carry on ruling precisely as before. Sometimes they make token policy changes but not always and why should they when they know no one of importance will care that much.

    Nothing much ever changes these days, so we all might just as well give UKIP a go. What’s to lose? We’re all in the same bus together heading downhill with no brakes to speak of, so we’ll all have to jump at some point. For some of the weakest among us, it will be to their graves I fear.

    It seems crazy to me that after all this time the wrecking ball continues to swing unabated. The national debt piles up knocking over one piece of genuine industry after another; just like in a game of skittles. Georgie girl said he’d half the debt but the blighter has managed to triple it. Not for him of course but for our grandchildren.

    Compare what now remains of our once highly respected UK-owned car industry, to that which happened to car makers across the rest of Europe. Out of 20 or so serious car manufacturers alive and well in the UK before the outbreak of WW2 (the UK once boasted close to 90) only Morgan Cars survive in British hands. Sadly, even they survive only because they are an odd-ball outfit building cars in a collection of sheds and so not worth being taken over. I suppose however, that we should be thanking our lucky stars that we still have car owners in the UK who relish owning a car that’s a bit different… or we wouldn’t be able to call any cars that was truly of our own manufacture.

    It’s common knowledge of course that almost all engineering companies working within the UK found themselves in a fight for survival after WW2. Some did survive but most didn’t. During the war many factories had been obliged to switch over to arms production and when it ended they were then obliged to switch back to whatever it was they were making. The very last thing most of those business’s needed was for the UK government to force them to alter the way their measuring systems worked. I can only think it was done in order to give the factories laid to waste throughout Europe, a chance to rebuild without being handicapped.

    Something like a post-war horse race: Handicap the horse most likely to win even if only in order to put on a good show. That would have met with hearty approval my HM I’m sure.

    The country had done ok engineering wise both before and during the war. In matter of fact she’d performed brilliantly well during the war. Other forces, mostly former allies, seemed to choose to remain at war with us at least. The Americans went out of their way to support German industry rebuild but wanted UK manufacturing, temporarily of course, crippled. They over did things a bit on that front I fancy.

    Now try to count how many German car and truck manufacturers you know that went tits-up after WW2. All the big ones are still there I assure you. They even went on to buy up ours courtesy of the UK government – after they’d first driven them to the wall.

  • In thrashing about regarding metric/Imperial units, we’re getting away from the real issue, which is – in the event that we left the EU – what to do about the British-Political-EnemyClass. This is what Sean and Ian are trying to say I think.

    We’ll still be saddled with this cabal, which will never apologise and never cease to oppose liberalism to the end of its strength and beyond. The trouble with getting lots of UKIP councillors, for exampple, is that by the time something needs to be done about frankly abolishing all or most council functions, the buggers’ll have gone Native.

    • I tend to agree David, on both parts. There is no point eradicating the membership of the EU if the same attitudes, ideologies, world visions and systems are still in place and our “leaders” and institutions etc are working to those same ends regardless!

      All it means is that our governments will not be able to hide behind EU rules to do the work that they already want to push but haven’t the bravery to admit.

      I also tend to agree about UKIP. I am not knocking them, in fact in the future I shall probably be voting for them……but the more mainstream they need to become to capture enough votes, the more mainstream their positions will be…..and by mainstream, we are now talking extreme-left on all sorts of things.

      It is a bit of a vicious cycle, where to challenge the establishment in politics you often end up being part of it before you get the seat of control. Still, something has to try and slow it down and push in a slightly different direction for a change.

  • Ian – you keep saying the EU Directive didn’t ban the use of Imperial measures, but you haven’t given any references. My recollection is that a British Statute from the 1980’s (?) permitted Imperial measures, but Mr Justice Laws declared that this was trumped by the 1972 E.C.A. In so ruling, he created a new class of ‘Constitutional Statute’, to which the 1972 E.C.A. belonged, and which was not subject to the doctrine of implied repeal. So the 1972 Act over-ruled the 198? Act. That is my recollection. Can you tell me where I’ve got it wrong?
    Incidentally, “A metre is the length of the path travelled in a vacuum by light during 1/299 792 458 seconds.” A lot more rational than just using one’s thumb to measure an inch, or one’s stride to measure a yard!

    John Warren; You say “Georgie girl said he’d half the debt but the blighter has managed to triple it.”. You are misquoting him – he promised to halve the deficit, i.e. the shortfall between income and expenditure. He didn’t mention the debt. Clever use of words!

    As to what to do about it, the solution is devastatingly simple; I have voted Conservative all my life, up until Francis Maude signed the Maastricht Treaty. In 1997 there was nobody I felt I could vote for, so I stood for Parliament myself as a UKIP candidate (against, of all people, Francis Maude – he had been parachuted into my constituency of Horsham as a reward for his dirty work). I repeated the process in 2001 and 2005. The people of Horsham overwhelmingly voted Francis Maude into office, so they deserve everything that’s coming in my opinion.
    As Alan Sked said in 1997, if people had voted according to their convictions instead of Party loyalty, we would have been out of the EU years ago.
    Maybe that is finally beginning to happen, but it’s too little too late in my opinion.

    • The metrications orders of 1995 banned English measurements. These were made purportedly to implement various EU Directives. Since these Directives were approved by HMG, and don’t seem to have required all that the metrication orders imposed, your point is irrelevant. Certainly, if HMG had done nothing about the use of English measurements for the sale of goods not exported elsewhere in the EU, nothing would or could have been done. Metrication began here in 1965. It has proceeded since then because of our own internal politics.

      The main point that Ian and I keep making is that this country is a police state for reasons that have nothing to do with the EU. This is not to romanticise the EU. Sooner or later, a freed England will need to get out. But taking an unfreed England out may not be worth the effort currently put into it.

  • So true David. I came to the debate late but simply had to join in. It was only this morning that I truly got around to reading iSean’s speech in full; along with the comments that followed of course.

    Ian and Lynn going at it full pelt was truly a joy to behold. Can’t help but learn something from such battles. I couldn’t wait for the next comment. No shop egg that lady and we all know what Ian’s capable of.

    Alas, I’m now very slowly coming to realise that I’m of little use when it comes to finding solutions to such vexed questions. For years now I’ve tried to fix in my mind something that I thought might work. Now that we’ve become completely surrounded by the enemy however, I don’t seem to know anything anymore.

    I do know that the crop of Brits that have run the UK for the past half century are cowards. Cowards who’ve given away that which millions of other brave souls paid so heavily for. It seems now that no honest and true leaders are out there. That, or they’v been lulled into prolonged sleep.

    Recently, I’ve taken to hoping that people like yourself, Sean, Ian and several others, could demonstrate a positive way forward for the country. Knowing what I now know however, the way would also remain blocked. We allowed ourselves to be gripped by the throat. One quick shake now and we’ll be no more.

    Anyway, no matter, if the lads (and lassies) call on me to take to the streets with a pitchfork I’ll be there. My God, there’s a host of idiots with giant arses too often pressing the green benches of Westminster. Arses I’d so dearly love to stick.

    Is be-arsing a word do you know? If it is, I’d make a 1st class be-asrser.

    • John-

      So really the question becomes not one of a way forward (any of us on this thread or elsewhere could suggest one, though they might be quite different) but of unblocking. And I think the question is not so much of whether we (as a people) have allowed ourselves to be taken by the throat, but why instead we have come to positively beg for it, and to fear and reject those who suggest the removal of the hand, or even the slightest slackening of its grip.

  • “I say that British membership of the European Union is an actual impediment to the growth of despotism in Britain. ”

    Sean:It is the fact that our politics has been translated to the supra-national that allows our political elite to abuse our liberties and interests. If we were out of the EU and our own masters again, our politicos would of necessity have to pay attention to our national needs and desires.

    • Why would it make them start? It never made them do so in the past.

      Perhaps the biggest reason for voting us “out” (I suspect they will not give us a fair vote, but we can hope) is that it would be a resounding kick in the groin for the entire political class and the three main parties, severely undermining, at least temporarily, their legitimacy. But I also suspect that they will take a terrible revenge on us as punishment, whether by passing new laws or raining economic ruin on us, under a pretext of “it’s your own fault, these are the consequences of leaving the EU”. And under the cobbled unwritten and ramshackle “constitution” we have, there will be few means of stopping them.

      Whether or not people find the “puritan hypothesis” convincing, the fact remains that we need to recognise that the mess we are in is one that our own leaders have led us into, and it is the means to sort that out that we need to seek.

      For me though, we are not at the “solutions” stage. We are at the “analysing the situation” stage. And my own view- which of course is currently, I accept, very much a minority one- is that so far we’ve got the analysis wrong in key aspects. Which is why a solution eludes us, whether from a Libertarian or Tory perspective.

      • Agreed

      • “Why would it make them start? It never made them do so in the past.”

        Factually untrue. Prior to our entry into the EEC domestic politics and interests were the political battleground in Britain. We made our own treaties, controlled our own borders and the great political question was the relationship between capital and labour.

        • Robert is of course, completely correct. But the reason we are giving up is because we are sick of shouldering the ‘white mans burden’. No matter what we give, it’s not enough. Moreover the govt, does notc are if every ethnic Britain is replaced by aliens, so long as the numbers increase by no more than their stated percentage per annum. The reason we are not as free as we were is because we have to construct laws to try to civilise these backward people who bring their backwardness with them. They see nothing wrong with beheading ‘kaffirs’ (that is us, anyone who is not Moslem), honour killing, femail general mutilation etc etc. This is the rich thread that has been woven into our society and, sadly into our gene pool. The fact is that Britain will never be as sophisticated again because we are no longer the same genetic people.

        • “We” also made numerous entirely oppressive and frequently ridiculous laws of the type I described in an extensive post above. The idea that up until the EU we had some kind of wonderful government is a myth.

          In fact, this essay by GK Chesterton, which starts with the Eugenics craze but broadens out to describe the general form of government already falling into place a century ago is an excellent historical portrait of a moment in time-

          http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/Eugenics.html

          It was already happening Robert. It had already been happening for some time. This is why I (and others) have looked further back in history than can be explained by either the EU or the Frankfurt School.

          The basic problem is, that (to somewhat simplify) there are two sorts of people who want out of the EU. There are those who want greater liberty. There are others who simply desire a local tyranny. This is not an unusual thing in history. The desire of the Jews to leave the Roman sphere was not in order to create a Judea of individual liberty, but to be left alone in a tyrannical theocratic stew of their own making.

          So often, the issues are really quite different depending on whether one wants a liberal England, or not. What we do know is that long before the EU, the British constitutional settlement had entirely failed in maintaining the liberalism which we pretty much invented.

          • Ian B – Before 1973 the trend of British legislation was generally towards personal freedom, for example, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the of abolition of the censorship the theatre, much less censorship of films . The only laws I can think of which might have been described as lessening personal freedom prior to 1973 were the two Race Relations Acts of 1965 and 1968 (both far less radical than the 1976 Act), and the tightening laws on drugs legislation.

            • Robert – We’ve dealt with this already. The waxing and waning of liberty in this country has nothing to do with the European Union.

              I agree that full liberalisation requires us to leave the EU. But it does not follow that leaving the EU will bring on full liberalisation. At the moment, the most likely outcome of exit would be to lock us into a madhouse policed by 60,000 social workers and a militarised PC police force.

              Another consideration you should bear in mind is that leaving the EU would, given our present political class, make England a wholly-owned subsidiary of the United States. One of the consequences of this would be the destruction of the NHS, which is one of your favourite institutions. The American pharmaceutical companies hate the influence possessed by the NHS over drug prices throughout the world. Having done a fair bit of ghostwriting for these people, I assure you that one of their objectives is to bribe the politicians to “privatise” the NHS out of existence, and then charge £20 per heart pill.

              Getting out of the EU needs to be one item in an agenda of downsizing the British State. Much of this downsizing can be done before we leave. Until this is done, I have to suspect that it won’t be done.

              • Sean – there would be both a psychological and sociological change if we left the EU. Our politicians would no longer be able to hide behind the excuse that it is the EU who are responsible. That would be a big thing in itself. On the general public’s side, the widespread feeling of helplessness in the face of the EU would be gone. The public would feel they could drive the behaviour of politicians by saying this we like, this we dislike.

                • Robert – You may be right, and please be aware that I have not said the EU was at all a good thing. On the other hand, I do suspect that EU membership is more a common symptom that a cause of our problems.

                  I would say more. However, for reasons that may be obvious, I shall have other business on my hands for the next few days.

      • EU exit would necessitate constitutional change to ensure that we can never again be subjected to supranational treaty governance against our will. It would also provide a convenient pretext to push for such a change. We should be thinking about how to preference a libertarian direction for the country.

        • EU exit would necessitate constitutional change to ensure that we can never again be subjected to supranational treaty governance against our will.

          That would also mean exiting the UN, NATO, various tariff organisations etc etc. All of which as Libertarian I would do of course, but it’s not just the EU. The government is signed up to and subject to numerous transnationalist treaties; for instance the UN Framework On Tobacco Control, the one that caused so many countries to magically all decide to have smoking bans at the same time.

          And we are back again to the problem that our own elites want to be in them, because they see these treaties as a way of exporting Anglosphere Proggressive (“Puritan”) values, as with the example I just used.

          • The UK, as a member of the EU does not qualify for UN membership according to the UNs own definition of qualifying countries. We can be expelled at any time in the current situation. So leaving the EU would secure our seat, the exact opposite of what Ian B has falsely claimed. You need to understand that all the laws in this country, even those dominating from the EU are OKed by our Parliament, else they would not be on our statute book. All the treaties signed by the Govt would stand. If we left the EU, overnight nothing would change until we made parliament repeal laws and treaties. They would no longer have the excuse of saying it was nothing to do with them, which they so often now deploy. Treaty Law, by the way, is trumped by Constitutional Law, and our EU involvement is under Treaty Law.
            The German ‘opt outs’ from various things, like the Extradition Acts which bury Habus Corpus, on the grounds that they are contratpry to their Constitution give proof that we can repeal the European Acts altogether on the same grounds.
            Ian B and Sean should read my husbands books, real emancipation and sovereignty explained in detail. They are 30 years old of course, but The Emancipated Society, Government Against the People, Treason at Maastricht, Fascist Europe Rising, etc, all available for pennies on Amazon, and will fill you in so that you have a hope of not continuing to make fools of yourselves publicly.

            • We don’t have a special category of “constitutional law” that stands higher than other forms of the law. Any law passed by Parliament which conflicts with any prior law supercedes it. Whether a law is constitutional (e.g. the Bill Of Rights 1689) is purely a matter of descriptive taste.

              • This really is knotty stuff and seeing as I have no training nor detailed knowledge of the law, I am relying exclusively on work by other people whose opinion I respect or am inclined to trust. To that end, according to another interesting lecture on YouTube, thanks in no small part to our EU membership (ironically), there is now recognition of a “tiered” legal system in the United Kingdom, whereby whatever the judiciary regard as “Constitutional Acts” – Magna Carta 1215, Habeas Corpus 1679, the Bill of Rights 1689, European Communities Act 1972, Human Rights Act 1998 – cannot be impliedly repealed by later legislation, only expressly repealed by Parliament.

              • No wonder you don’t understand anything. Constitutional Law can only be repealed EXPRESSLY, other laws are repealed in whole or in part, by new laws (the latest will of Parliament) which contradict then, impliedly. That is the crux if the argument that Heaths Bill is not legal in the first place, because he did not expressly repeal those parts of our Constitutional law expressly.
                So the BDI sakes palrliament to assert our constitutional law, thereby impliedly repealing all the Eurpean Treay Acts. If they say the BDI Bill is not legal because it does not explicitly repeal the EU Acts, the admit they are not legal themselves. Win win.
                You can’t join the debate until you have basic knowledge.

          • A nerdy but absolutely crucial point – NATO and the UN are intergovernmental treaty organisations. The European Union is unique in the sense that it is supranational – political and economic integration are achieved via a ratcheting affect; sovereign powers surrendered to the supranational executive (Commission) are administered in the “EU interest” and cannot be returned to Member States. There is no equivalent body anywhere else in the world.

            • Absolutely correct. At last someone who know which way is up! Actually there is a thing called ‘Tha African Union’ modelled on the EU. But they have not got it going properly yet.

  • Sean,

    You say: Sooner or later, a freed England will need to get out. But taking an unfreed England out may not be worth the effort currently put into it.

    To me, the question is the other way around. Would it be easier to free the people of an England inside the EU, or of an England out of it? I think the second. Of course, I can see the opposite argument, too – that it’s easier to enslave the people in a small unit than a big one. But I think I’ll take that risk.

    BTW, I like your use of “England” in this context, rather than the completely arbitrary and artificial thing called “Britain” or “the UK.” Long may it continue!

    • You cannot have a unfettered part of a fettered whole. Therefore it is IMPOSSIBLE to free England as part of the EU. Therefore as ‘eurosceptisicm gets on (Sean’s) tits’ he is and cannot be part of the solution.
      BTW, I assume you use ‘England’ in the colonial manner to indicate England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Monmouth and Berwick? That is the 5 parts of the Union.
      I doubt Ian B will know this, as he does not even know that Barack Hussain Obama was born in Kenya and is a Moslem.

      • That’s because he wasn’t born in Kenya and he isn’t a Muslim. That’s an internet conspiracy theory believed in exclusively by a motley of nutters.

        • You are an obdurate fool. You will not even do any investigation. I expect you know that nobody at ‘his university’ in his year remembers him? Someone else was asked to chair a reunion and that person rather reasonably commented that if they had a president in their year, he would have been first choice.
          You are so easy to fool, any fool can do it because you will not look at facts. You already know it all, like Sean.
          Now you know why lots of us don’t even care to fight for this country anymore. Whether you enjoy the freedom for which we fight is no longer enough for us to make the sacrifice. I look forward to you and Sean explaining to Moslem Obama and Fasist EU your anarchist ideas. I rather think I know the response.

          • “Anarchist”? I’m not an anarchist. What makes you think I’m an anarchist? What is your definition of an anarchist?

        • It always cracks me up, by the way, when I see that “Barack Hussein Obama” wheeled out. Especially by people who can’t even spell it. Is that your proof that he’s a muslim, Lynn?

          • It’s proof that I am not. But I notice you don’t contest his name. Have you named your child Mohammad? Like Hussein It not a very popular Christian name …
            But Ian, you don’t need bad spelling to ‘crack you up’, you were cracked long before you had the privilege of communicating with me.

            • My forenames are Ian and Robert. I am not Scottish, but my grandfather was, and my mother wanted to honour him with Scottish names. My Scottish names are not proof that I am also a Scotsman. The names parents give are not relevant to the child, since the child does not choose them. If Barack Steve Obama had changed Steve to Hussein you might have some kind of point. But he didn’t.

              Look, both Libertarianism and Euroscepticism are outsider movements. That means both suffer a credibility gap. It does not help that credibility when people are peddling loony internet conspiracy theories in our midsts. If you want to believe that a Leftist Islamist Conspiracy spent 47 years laying false evidence regarding The Man Who Would Be President is up to you, but the rest of us need to discuss things which are substantive, or at least sane.

              • You are wrong again. Euroscepticism is mainstream. Even in mainland EU. Poor Chris must be spinning (yes I did know him) you have destroyed his movement and credibility. You seriously think that anyone who argues for the EU, as Sean has done, at this stage when even every Greek can see what it is, is sane?

                • I said it’s “outsider”, and what I meant by that is that it is not supported by the elite/opinion forming classes in our country or any other EU member.

                  I’m not really interested, myself, in what appears to be some bad blood from the past of the Eurosceptic movement, which seems to me as an outsider to be (like most fringe political and religious movements) riddled with fallings out, vendettas and schisms. Sean in this speech presented a particular argument based on a libertarian analysis of the current situation. I am guessing that you are not a libertarian, which is fair enough, but whatever you identify as, you probably have different priorities.

                  The question of “out of the EU” is one issue. What sort of Britain we might get instead is another one, and that’s what Sean was really addressing. As I have said above, I will vote for “out” and I think everyone should. But I also share Sean’s concern that the outcome of that is likely to be a less libertarian Britain even than we have now.

            • If he’s a Moslem born in Kenya, then how has he become the President of the USA? He fails on his birth-place, if not for any other reason, the USA being an overtly Christian Nation at least officially.

              S,o Lynn, can you state why this has not been previously investigated, or are we in the “Bush phones all 4,000 Jews the day before not to go to work in the Twin Towers on 9/11” area of stuff?

              I don’t mean to be rude, and I know your husband’s work and writings and their value, and that of others associated, but I’m just asking.

              • It was investigated, Donald Trump funded the case. Obama spend £200,000 defending. It went on for years. Eventually he produced the (fake) Hawaiian birth certificate, no corresponding entry in the register unlike the one in Mombassa where these is a corresponding entry in the register. His mother was 16 when he was born, this means that they may have been escaping a criminal case in the US (underage sex), or perhaps his father, a Moslem, wanted his so born in his own country.
                The difference between Ian B’s Scottish ancestry remembered only in his names and Obamas is that you can leave Scotland. Born a Moslem, apostate Moslems are killed, so he remains a Moslem while he breaths.
                The whole point of the case upon which Trump spent millions was to get Obama impeached exactly because he does not qualify to stand as President. Then Trump suddenly dropped the case, one wonders if the Moslem Brotherhood, or the (one. World) Islamic State had something to do with it.
                I am surprised that you know nothing of this.

                • Obama is on the Hawaiian births registry. His birth was reported in Hawaiian newspaper births reports. His mother was hardly likely to be 16 when she was at University. There is no Kenyan record of his birth, just a badly forged fake birth certificate touted around by the Birthers.

                  The difference between Ian B’s Scottish ancestry remembered only in his names and Obamas is that you can leave Scotland. Born a Moslem, apostate Moslems are killed, so he remains a Moslem while he breaths.

                  This argument is stupid beyond all reason. Even if Muslims feel that way, nobody else is required to agree with them. If somebody born to a muslim family, when they get older, rejects it, or becomes a Christian (or Buddhist, Sikh or anything else), then anyone non-muslim (that’s us, isn’t it?) should not consider them a muslim any more because WE ARE NOT BOUND BY THE MUSLIM FAITH AND DO NOT FOLLOW ITS RULES.

                  For heaven’s sake.

  • This is probably a case of teaching grandmother to suck eggs, but people who are serious about the idea of Britain leaving the EU should certainly catch up with the outstanding work that Richard North has been doing at EUReferendum.

    • You should catch up with the work my husband and I have been doing. We have set out the criteria for a fair referendum. This will ensure that there is never a referendum. We don’t want one because it’s a tool the Govt uses against the people, if they hold one we know they have worked out how to fake it. We did a lot of work when the Welsh referendum was held, it did not comply with the representation of the peoples Act because there was no ‘candidate’ therefore no scrutiny of the postal ballot, which swung it at the last minute.
      Are you familiar with the BDI? It is parliament that can, any day, chose to assert our sovereignty with which they are charged. We don’t need a referendum, apart form anything else, if we did win they can and will ignore the result, see Ireland and Denmark.
      North does not believe the UK should leave the EU. He has to earn money from political activit, and therefore he is bought by whosoever has the cash, in one instance is was Cash (Bill) who paid him, and as you know, Cash does not want to leave the EU.

  • Whatever strategic path we in the end try to take, we will run up against the primary problem, which is that the majority of the 74 million people for whom the Grocers insist they are shipping foodstuffs, really don’t give a f**k. So long as they can fly to Magaluf for £8 return to have sex and get rat-arsed, not necessarily in that order, and can change money at Liverpool Airport since they forgot to do it before, they’re happy.

    Moreover, so long as the Political-EnemyClass “suggests” to Endemol and other production companies run by its friends and members that shows headlining in the RedTops with “TOWIE LAUREN IN CELEB-BIG-BRO SEXFEST!” are the thing to narcotize the masses, they’ll do it, and the Masses will comply by shifting their gaze to “Lauren” having sex, and away from “goings-on”(see below.)

    (“Lauren” is actually a very very pretty young woman, by the way, who everybody commenting in the DM loves to slag off for some reason because she’s “had her breasts slightly enhanced” – but they all pile home to watch the stuff.)
    It’s like the “Free Games” put on by Emperors, along with the “free bread ration”, designed to keep the plebs docile and uncurious about “goings-on” – read Mr Richard Blake’s novels for more gen about this matter.

    Whatever comes about, there is not enough political momentum or head-of-steam built up any more, or even available noe, in the mass of People’s Hearts, for a result of the sort either of our two seeming camps would like.

    I think it’s too late frankly: to use old Chris Tame’s phrase: “There aren’t enough people left to make a difference”. I am really rather afraid that the current population of British People, taken as an integrated whole, really cares enough one way or the other, so long as things as they are “sort of last out their time”. Enoch Powell said two things:-

    (1) “There’s a deal of ruin in a nation”,
    (2) Be of good cheer, my boy: the Rot Has Set In, But It Will Take Quite Some Time”.

  • I am not sure as to whether Obama is a Muslim (or gay!) or not……but I do consider him a bit of a “place-man” as part of a wider agenda, much like some of our own leaders.

    It can be easy to criticise such theories as being ‘tin foil hat’ – but as is often the case, there are things in the mix that are factual and may have some basis in understanding what is going on.

    As far as I understand it, the disproportionate Jewish dominance in all sorts of radical left wing, communist, financial, media circles throughout history and in present day is a fact and something which ought to be astonishing…. but is brushed aside, hidden, covered over, made obnoxious to even suggest.

    People are frightened of it now. Frightened of even looking into it and what it may mean, but that was not always the case. Even Winston Churchill wrote about this specific issue, yet today, to bring up such a notion makes one a member of the ‘tin foil hat’ brigade’ and you can get laughed off as being the rantings of a lunatic.

    I think it is difficult to always say that because of “A”, you therefore get “B” that has led to “C” though, because nothing ever really goes to plan as people may have expected.

    However, that does not mean to say that some plans were not there and are now being adhered to, either by accident or by default rather than by educated dedication and scheming skulduggery.

    I notice that Lynn was mocked for mentioning that the EU and plans for the EU were part of a scheme to wipe out white people. Of course, it sounds pretty far fetched……but is there anything at all which may shed some light on the thinking behind the EU in this way?

    For example, what about Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi?

    Not many know of this man, but he is considered by many within the EU camp itself to be the founder of European integration and the EU. So much so that they give out a prize in his name. I think Herman Rumpoy was the last winner – probably for helping to do the most damage to nation states.

    What did Kalergi have to say about the plans for Europe in the future, via this EU integration project?

    He said that European integration should be the first step in creating a world government.

    In his book Practical Idealism, Kalergi indicated that the populace of the future “United States of Europe” will not be the ‘People of the Old Continent’, but products of miscegenation that would artificially be imposed upon the peoples of Europe.

    He states that the peoples of Europe should interbreed with Asians and coloured races to create a people that are more easily controlled by the ruling elite (which he and his cohorts sought to build and be part of).

    Kalergi proclaims the abolition of the right of self-determination and then the elimination of nations with the use of ethnic separatist movements and mass migration.

    No national divisions, no racial homogeneity, no races at all, in fact, just a pliable mass in which a certain ethnic group (not taking part in this process so vigorously) will rise to the top…like they disproportionately already do tend to do in all sorts of spheres of influence.

    In his book, he apparently states:

    … “The man of the future will be of mixed race. The races and classes of today will gradually disappear due to the elimination of space, time, and prejudice. The Eurasian-negroid race of the future, similar in appearance to the Ancient Egyptians, will replace the diversity of peoples and the diversity of individuals. Instead of destroying European Judaism, Europe, against her will, refined and educated this people, driving them to their future status as a leading nation through this artificial evolutionary process. It’s not surprising that the people that escaped from the Ghetto-Prison, became the spiritual nobility of Europe. Thus, the compassionate care given by Europe created a new breed of aristocrats. This happened when the European feudal aristocracy crashed because of the emancipation of the Jews [due to the actions taken by the French Revolution]”…

    Of course, it all depends where one sits with this kind of thing as to whether it can be seen as sinister and plotting or not. Was it a plan of action? Was it a recognition of how things are to be, or a suggestion as to how things ought to be?

    Some people (rather stupidly in my opinion) champion the eradication of races, borders, identities, so we can all “become one”. They don’t care that they are partaking in what is in effect genocide, because, to them, the end result is worth it, as they naively believe it will be the end to all wars and fighting.

    Myself, I think it is horrific to make humanity irrecoverably head this way, into a generic, diversity-less, bland and boring world… and I think that the act of pursuing it is wicked and evil.

    As a European/Caucasian, I naturally object to the idea of my own peoples’ eradication. Any organism with self worth should have this instinct, but it seems to have been battered out of most people thanks to decades of guilt tripping and brainwashing.

    So whether their intentions are “good” or not (and I think not) with these aspects of the EU vision, does not mean it is necessarily “tin foil hat” to suggest that these kinds of aims (creating conditions within which we are ‘naturally’ wiped out of existence) were being discussed, or that they perhaps are being worked towards or seen as a “good thing” for a “better future”.

    I would not suggest that Angela Merkel, for example, was meeting in secret rooms planning how to destroy European peoples, twisting her moustachio in the presence of rather large nosed globalists, but I would suggest that situations have been engineered which may shape her choices, her viewpoints and attitudes.

    Maybe it is rather tin foil hat…..but I think it is good to think about things a bit rather than automatically dismissing them. So much has come to light through the advent of time. Things we would never have believed at the time. So, nothing really surprises me.

    • Ian B claims that the birth certificate, (which has even authenticated), issued by the British Authorities in Kenya to the Obamas when their son, is fraudulent. It is perfect, while the one produced after a long time from ‘Hawaii’ is riddled with flaws, if it had been a bank note, it would have been used as an example of how not to do it. So we know about a tolerate the breaking of our laws by coloured and black people, just as we tolerate the raping of our small children by Pakistani men. We cannot say Boo to a goose. We are in fact xenophobic, terrified of (upsetting) foreigners. They can behead our own servicemen in the sets of London, and we wring our hands and urge the majority population to be kind to the ‘majority of Moslems who are shocked at this sad event’. The British have long gone. There is no fairness or equality, the aliens always demanded superiority and we have acknowledged them as superior. The behave as throu they have defeated us militarily, these actions are those of a victorious invasion force. No wonder we have the ‘keep calm and carry on’ signs all over the country. We are living through the. Fall of Britain. That means the Fall of the Western world. And you have self-confessed NAZIs (national socialists in your group who have the same immunity as the Pakistanis! And you call yourselves ‘libertarians’! What a sick joke.

      >

      • Lynn,

        Do you mean this bad forged Kenyan birth certificate-

        http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/birthers/kenyacert.asp

        -or have you got yet another one off the David Icke forums or wherever you get your stuff?

        I’m not sure how a random self-described “national socialist” posting a comment ties into “the same immunity as the Pakistanis”, but I’m sure it makes some kind of sense to you. You might make more sense if you avoided missing out random words, and closed brackets occasionally.

  • Just found this blog. This is an important article for me because it blows a hole in one of the major canards of our time: the notion that the EU is the root cause of many of our ills.

    As a national-socialist, I approach these issues from a different angle in that I evaluate the EU and the UK’s membership mainly from a racial angle. As I see it, the issue is not straight-forward. I will possibly have more to say and may dissect the article if I have time over the next few days.

  • Who are the f*ckwits arguing that the EU is the “root cause” of our ills? The root cause is a political establishment that would willingly surrender national independence, popular sovereignty and liberal democracy to a supranational treaty organisation. Don’t get it backwards. It was not the Germans or the French or the Polish who forced the United Kingdom to join the EU. “British” political leaders did so of their own volition. Likewise, if there was sufficient political will, we would leave.

    As much as I enjoyed Sean’s lecture and am inclined to agree with many of his arguments (I would very much like to see the puritans/libertines narrative described at length), the idea that EU governance is an incidental detail in our ongoing enslavement and congruent decline as a culture and a civilisation is utter, utter tripe. The thought of voting to remain a member of this anti-liberty, anti-consitutional, anti-British monstrosity fills me with disgust. Surrender peacefully if you must, but please do not claim that independent self-government is incidental to freedom.

  • Somebody said “If we left the EU, overnight nothing would change until we made parliament repeal laws and treaties.” Not so – the Regulations would evaporate overnight, but the Directives would need to be individually repealed, which would take a very long time.

    Lynn said “This will ensure that there is never a referendum. We don’t want one because it’s a tool the Govt uses against the people,…..”
    It is worth taking a look at the history of referenda in the EU; Denmark voted against Maastricht; Ireland voted against Nice; France and the Netherlands voted against the Constitution for Europe; Ireland voted against Lisbon. In each case the respective treaty was dead in the water, but, like Vampires (or is it Zombies?) they just don’t stay dead.

    Just take a broader look at the reality; the various architects of the EU have been working on the political unification (or re-unification, as they would have it) of Europe for half a century and more. They are almost there. The notion that they will abandon their plans when they are in sight of the finish line just because the Brits vote ‘no’ in a referendum is laughable.

  • Strange how those who talk of freedom deny it to man’s will.

  • Neither Sean Gabb or Ian Bland have produced any good reasons why we should stay in the E.U. – nor have they refuted any of the good reasons why should get out of it.

    Sean is just messing about – as he so often does.

    I do not know what Ian is doing. He says he is “angry” – but not with the E.U.

    Puritans may have a vast influence in modern Britain – actually I think they have very little influence (I do not think all this “health and safety” stuff or P.C. stuff is from Puritanism, and I think the British population is about as far from being Puritans as it possible to be, they appear to be far closer to being obsessive pleasure seekers), but I could be mistaken. But there is nothing wrong with Britain that the E.U. is going to fix – it is just going to make the bad things worse, and undermine the good things.

    With thanks to Mr J. Owens.

  • The Puritan v Libertine dichotomy is pure confection as anyone familiar with the English Civil War should know.
    The real difference is the battle between Plato v Aristotle, Europe v the UK, collectivism v freedom, rationalism v empiricism, feeling v reason, representationalism v realism, intrinsicism v subjectivism, determinism v free will.
    Because Sean and Ian are representationalists and determinists they cannot identify the source of the error – to do that they would have to abandon their representationalism and determinism.

  • Dear Dr Gabb

    What our government is doing to our country is ‘obeyink orders’.

    Our institutions and constitution are being trashed because someone somewhere with the power to order it to be made so, has done so and our political classes, aided and abetted by our public servants and corporate interests, are willing and able to comply.

    Public trust in all of our major institutions, including education, health, both houses of parliament, the BBC, the judiciary, the police and social services, has been wilfully undermined. To what end? Perhaps so we may be ‘rescued’ by the EU?

    Our political classes, including that nice Mr Johnson, have been shaving our Common Law heritage and moving us towards the European model of the state as owner of a citizen livestock, who are beholden unto the state first and foremost, and the state can do what it likes with and to its ‘citizens’.

    Whether this is a great conspiracy, or the natural evolution of government appearing to be design is debatable. Certainly it is driven by self-interest of the parties with power. Once you have power you can use it to leverage more power. Once you have power, you are disinclined to let it go. That is the self-interest of the ruling classes. The interest of the rest is irrelevant.

    Adam Smith’s ‘hidden hand’ of the market is self-interest; but it is the mutual self-interest of buyer and seller to not rip off the other. The free market works by adding value.

    Government self-interest is unmutual, imposed by force upon the other. It is irrelevant to government whether or not it adds value, and inevitably devolves into value-subtracting, simply because there is nothing to stop it doing so.

    What is the difference between government and organised crime?

    One is illegal.

    However, neither is lawful.

    The EU and those above it are driving the agenda of our government, like its predecessors and, potentially, its successors.

    Outside the EU we have the opportunity to dismiss our Quisling politicians and restore our cultural heritage. Inside we never will be able to do so.

    However, for the last few decades our Quisling governments have conspired to undermine our heritage in perpetuity by establishing third world colonies in the UK. Should the UK restore or attempt to restore its heritage, those colonies can used to foment insurgencies with which to effect regime change to something more beneficial to the alien forces which currently order our governments to order affairs.

    DP

  • Paul Marks-

    I will quote what I said in a previous comment-

    “As I have said above, I will vote for “out” and I think everyone should. But I also share Sean’s concern that the outcome of that is likely to be a less libertarian Britain even than we have now.”

    I don’t agree with Sean that we should not vote to leave. I do agree that leaving is unlikely to make anything better for liberty and may well make things worse. Because, what I am arguing and Sean is arguing, is that the problem for liberty is our own Establishment or political class or whatever you want to call them. I have said multiple times that the best argument for leaving would be that it would reduce their influence with the rest of the world. This follows from the analysis that Progressivism is an Anglosphere invention and that it is Progressivism that is the great enemy of liberty in this century, as Communism was in the last.

    • Why is Progressvism not a French invention since it was Auguste Comte who…you know…invented it??

      • Because the thing we call Progressivism these days is the product of reformism in Anglosphere countries, particularly America and Britain, which took flight in the Victorian Era and has dominated us to various degrees ever since. This is the basic (simplified) argument of the “Puritan Hypothesis”, which is that we are not ruled by, say, a fifth column of Communists, but by tambourine banging crusaders who are committed to the moral correction and purification both of us natives and of the world.

        One good way to look at it is to ask what the justification for power is in a society. Every ruling class has some kind of justification; a reason that they believe that they are the best people to have power. For much of European history, we actually had a dualist power structure which we call “church and state”. The church was justified by piety. The pope and bishops were justified in their power by being pious. The State was an aristocracy, and its justification was hereditary. “We rule because our fathers did.” The aristocratic justification has certain associated justifications- that a man born to rule will be trained for it his entire life and be a natural at it, whereas commoners won’t be good at it because they don’t know what they’re doing. But anyway, that was the only justification required under feudalism and aristocracy. Other than that, the State didn’t have a particular objective or ideology. It was there for pragmatic reasons; national defence, keep the peace, etc.

        We can look at what other societies think the State is there for (or what their ruling classes think it is for). Under Nazism, the primary State role was ethnic purity. Under Communism, it was a political/economic programme (communism). In Iran, it is religious piety again. In each case, other spheres of action- the economic, the military, the social, etc, are subordinate to that particular percieved primary purpose of the State.

        After the Civil War in England, we have two philosophies of the State fighting for dominance. One is the liberal philosophy, in which the purpose of a limited State is to protect its citizens’ liberty. It protects them from invasion. It runs a just court system. It recognises and records property rights. Beyond that, it is has little other role. The competing philosophy- the one that has triumphed- was that of the Cromwellians. They saw the State as the means to morally improve and coerce the citizens. This leads to an unlimited and ever expanding State role as ever more sources of moral corruption are identified and brought into the remit of State power. This is the process which we have observed since the mid 19th century since the second wave Puritans started wresting power after the disaster (for Liberty) of the Great Reform Act, which not only removed all sense of caution from the Commons, but allowed the puritans (now known as non-conformists) back into power (they had been deliberately excluded by Charles II after the abortive coup by the Fifth Monarchy Men).

        So these days, the perceived basis of government is moral. All its policies and actions are justified on a moral basis. We go to war for moral reasons. Economic policies are judged on moral outcomes. And so on. And this is basically why Libertarianism can get no traction, and loses so badly all the time. We are trying to have a rational, enlightnement argument with people who are driven by their feelings. (This is why we need to recognise Hume’s understanding of the basis of morals; they come from sentiment, not reason). Our arguments are talking past theirs. They don’t care which economic system is most productively efficient. They care which economic system most appeals to their moral sentiments. Liberty is less important than goodness. Facts are less important than their own values. If we are going to win, we need to start engaging with them as they are, rather than fighting what amounts to a straw man of what we wish they were.

        This is why libertarian arguments worked against communism and economic socialism. Marxism is a rational, enlightenment theory. It is also a wrong theory. But Das Kapital lays out a rational argument (from the labour theory of value, Ricardo, etc) and a rational economic libertarian can demonstrate what is wrong with that in rational terms. This is an argument of the mind- of the “head”.

        The Progressives have no such theory. Tony Blair is not a marxist, and neither are any of the rest of them. They are not driven by the head, but by the heart; and unfortunately their hearts are in entirely the wrong place, to coin a phrase.

        I think in the process of liberals (libertarians) spending so long fighting marxism (communism), we’ve lost focus on the original liberalism of England and the original political struggle. The liberal basis of the American Constitution was not a bulwark against communism, which did not even exist then. In the 18th century, the question was what would replace the old aristocratic justification for government. Would it be the restrained, libertarian government of the liberals- or would it be “the Church of Parliament”? The 20th century struggle against communists means that, in returning to a struggle against the “old enemy”, we have not recognised them for what they are. Instead, by calling them “cultural marxists”, we identify them as something we know how to fight- communists- and thus fail to grasp their actual character. We are still trying to fight the previous war.

  • To all and singular to whom these presents are met:

    Please insert another ‘our’ in the appropriate place.

    Thank you.

    DP

  • Just to follow on from my reply above to JohnW as regards the model of the State seeing its role as a “moral guardian”, I think the Rotherham debacle is instructive.

    There are various analsyses being applied to this. We can say it was political correctness gone mad. The Establishment want it to be a lesson about inadequate “safeguarding”- and thus say that the lesson is that the State should do more to intervene in family life. Others will draw a lesson from immigrationism and the failure of multiculturalism as a policy.

    But I think what we actually saw was the bizarre consequences of a State driven by moral dogma. The agencies involved in the debacle were so committed to a particular moral belief- that any criticism of an ethnic group or members thereof is a terrible sin called “racism”- that they were bound into inaction even when they saw their other moral principles, such as sexual protection of girls, violated.

    We live in a society in which scores of elderly men are being dragged through kangaroo court proceedings and into jail on the mere accusation that they may have acted sexually inapporpriately decades ago. But in Rotherham, the fear of racism was so intense that even in a situation where what libertarians would recognise as the most gross aggressions were occurring right before their eyes, the State agencies not only did nothing, but explained those aggressions away to themselves, and even denied private citizens the means to protect themselves from them.

    If we look at religious moral systems of a severe character, such as the Christian, Jewish or Islamic laws, we may agree or disagree with them. But they are all the product of centuries of development by clerisies, and are at least thus generally internally consistent. The Proggie system is not. It started off in Christian dogma of a certain kind- with a large input from the Calvinist heresy. But as the Progressive Era took root, it drifted away from its religious justification and became free floating. The result is a secular “sharia” with similar intensity but no internally coherent system, other than that of the idea of class struggels borrowed from Marxism. And as we see from Rotherham, the perceived “class struggles”- in this case one of race, and one of gender- are contradictory. Supporting the gender class struggle (men vs women) would have meant contradicting the racial class struggle (white oppressors of ethnics). With no way to reconcile the oppositional moral preferences, one had to win. The race interpretation became the more powerful; and Rotherham resulted.

  • It’s also worth mentioning in the “puritan vs. libertine” dichotomy, that it’s not really a dichotomy. A libertine in this sense is just anyone who isn’t a puritan, in the same way as you had Nazism vs anyone who isn’t a Nazi, or that a non-smoker is simply anyone who isn’t a smoker. The word has a perjorative flavour to it from a Puritan perspective, in the same way as “conservative” is perjorative to people on the Left, but it should not be seen in that light. The word was originally coined to describe the opponents of Calvin’s tyranny in Geneva, and is thus an entirely honourable word.

    • Ian I am glad that you would vote to leave the European Union – and I apologise if I implied that you would not.

      No a “libertine” is NOT “anyone who is not a Puritan”.

      A libertine is someone who says that human beings should not exercise self restraint – indeed libertinism leads to “Puritan” (and non “Puritan”) efforts for the state to impose order (as it destroys all voluntary order – and ends with people starving in the gutter). Indeed if libertinism is the logical end of a lack of state control (if liberty leads to the destruction of civil society, the collapse of most people into self destructive vice and terrible poverty) then indeed the argument for statism is greatly strengthened.

      The confusion of “libertarian” with “libertine” is precisely what the ENEMIES of liberty try to promote (pretending that libertarians are libertines), I am astonished that you appear to be actively helping this confusion – rather than fighting against it.

      It is not true that all Non Conformists (what you call Puritans) were statists. Some were (yes indeed they were), and some (such as the Voluntarist tradition associated with the Leeds Mercury newspaper in the early 19th century) were not statists.

      The statist Non Conformists did indeed, at times, have a baleful influence on policy – for example the Licensing Laws that destroyed the Gladstone government (and all hope of ending such things as the Income Tax) in the terrible election of 1874.

      However, the “Puritans” can hardly be said to have inspired the statism of Disraeli in 1875 (the local government Act, the union Act, and so on) – any more than they inspired the statism of Louis XIV in the 17th century, Frederick the Great in the 18th century, or Bismark in the 19th century.

      We disagree about the power of Non Conformists (what you call “Puritans”) – I think they are minority feature of 19th century politics (for example they were a menace in Kettering – arguing for prohibition, state education, and even getting involved in the “land nationalisation” movement, the development of the errors of David Ricardo which Sean Gabb still thinks of a s live “land question” even though this attack on the principles of the Old Whigs it was utterly buy Frank Fetter a century ago).

      However, I do not think they inspired the statism of (for example) Bismark – or even David Lloyd George (even though, in theory, he came from Non Conformist tradition religiously, although I do not think the family were Calvinist Methodists, I think they were Wesleyian Methodists, but I have not checked).

      The idea that they inspired statism in America is massively over stressed – as J..Goldberg points out in “Liberal Fascism” American statists were actually (mostly) far more inspired by German philosophy than they were by religious Puritanism.

      As for modern Britain – I doubt that the nonConforminsts (what you call the Puritans) have much political influence. The actual sources of modern British statism being very different – as they are in Continental Europe (and elsewhere) also.

      But even if I am wrong – it is not relevant to the debate on the European Union.

      I repeat (with thanks to the late Mr J. Owens).

      There is nothing wrong with Britain that the E.U. is going to fix.

      It just makes the bad things about Britain worse, and undermines the good things about Britain.

      Therefore the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (and all other members of the E.U.) should leave the E.U. – which should not exist.

      I am glad you agree Ian – and I again apologise if I misunderstood before.

      As for Sean – I repeat, he is just messing about (as so often).

  • IanB and Sean,
    There is much truth in what you say since the battle between Plato and Aristotle did manifest in its most strident forms in the English Civil War, but if Humean scepticism is the solution to our problems why did not Humean scepticism prevail the first time?

    You say that the UK is in the grip of a moral crusade, but were the 17th. and 18th. centuries less morally motivated than today?
    Would Locke, Hobbes, and Hume have said Rotherham or Lee Rigby were of less moral significance than the wattage of vacuum cleaners and electric light bulbs?

    There must have been a revolution in moral philosophy to turn the self-interest of Adam Smith’s baker into the essential moral imperative of someone righteously informing the Nazis “the Jews are hiding in the Attic!”
    [Did not Kant establish that self-interest does not guarantee any reward or salvation either in this world or the next? Who then are we to complain when our interests are ignored?]

    The Puritans and the Libertines were men of mixed premises, and where they could not resolve their political differences they were simply acting upon differences in their underlying philosophical assumptions, but at least their arguments were centred on the benefit to the individual self.
    Can we claim the same today?

    To solve the difference between then and now requires an answer to Kant.

    It is Kant’s philosophy which marks the sea-change not some inconsequential secondary differences between Puritans and Libertines.

    Kant’s “Copernican Revolution” as he called it himself, [Copernican for heaven’s sake!] has been the most influential development in modern thought, creating such diverse ‘wonders’ as Modern Art and the EU.
    Our moral and political leaders have been persuaded of the virtue of Kant’s Transcendentalism and Hume cannot save us now anymore than he saved us in the past.

    Nevertheless, it is a matter both of simple expediency and common sense that the further and sooner we are able to extract ourselves from its source the better.

  • John Pate – you make me wish I had read the above comments more closely (I have the gotten into the habit of just glancing at things on this site – and thus I miss some things). I did not know that Sean and Ian argued that the English Civil War was a clash between the ideas of Plato and those of Aristotle. Which side was which?

    At a guess I would suppose that the claim is that the Royalists were the Platonists (although “The King’s Book” does not seem very much like “The Republic”, “The Laws” or “The Statesman” to me – well perhaps there is something of the third work there…..) and Hampden and co were the followers of Aristotle (or at least Aristotelianism – not quite the same thing as Aristotle himself).

    David Hume does not appear to have had any strong political convictions (in the sense of things he would have prepared to die for) – it is hard to see him either fighting for the King (found after the battle – dead but still clutching the standard, as the man who said “I have eaten his bread too long to betray him now”, ironically a Puritan in religion, was found after the first battle of the Civil War). or fighting to limit the King’s power (many of those on the “Parliamentary side” would have rejected, and with utter horror, the idea that Parliament can do anything it likes – they were NOT fighting for the “power of Parliament”)..

    Sean (and Ian) may argue that Hume’s lack of convictions (in the sense explained above) made him tolerant – unlike the hardened killers of the 17th century. However, it also makes him (in the end) politically irrelevant. If there is nothing you are prepared to die (and to kill) for – then you (in the end) leave politics to those who are prepared to die and to kill. Also (and, I believe, more importantly) the account of the NATURE OF MAN found in David Hume (if it is to be taken literally – and I am far from sure it is) destroys human as beings – it presents humans as non agents ((essentially vermin – no better than rats). Not moral beings who can choose to do otherwise than we do (to reject moral evil and support moral good – to overcome our fear of suffering if we make a real effort to do what is right). If freedom is truly an “illusion” (if the self, the reasoning “I”, does not even, truly, exist), then political philosophy (indeed all philosophy) is just folly – and humans have no moral worth.

    I repeat that this may not be what David Hume truly believed (although it clearly was what Thomas Hobbes believed) – but it is what was taken (however wrongly) from his words. The popularity of David Hume (and even of Thomas Hobbes – the arch enemy of moral freedom) among some 19th century “liberals” is in striking contrast to the rejection of these thinkers by the traditional Old Whigs.

    if this be “scepticism” – then damn scepticism. This is the “freedom” not to be free, A “tolerance” of injustice and tyranny. An undermining of the foundational principles of human moral agency and justice.

    This fad of a minority faction (for even in the 19th century they were the MINORITY of liberals) should go the way of probation and “the land question”. As the Bishop of Peterborough pointed out – temperance (in the sense of moderation – so that one does not allow one’s reason to be overthrown by the passions, which is what excessive drink can lead t) is good, but “better an England voluntarily drunk than compulsorily sober” – the key thing being the free MORAL CHOICE (government intervention denying us the opportunity, to vital opportunity, to choose to do otherwise. This idea (that the state should try improve moral character by passing regulations) is as absurd (in its own way) as the “land question” – that other folly of a minority faction of 19th century liberals (between the errors of David Ricardo and their final refutation by Frank Fetter more than a century ago).

    As for Kant – his is an intellectual world that Harold Prichard (and others) have explored – I leave it to them.

    • Yes, @Paul Marks, everyone seems to be missing the deep principles and instead arguing surface meanings, foolishly believing any old propaganda and misdirection without thinking about it – and even not understanding the implication of the borrowed ideas they’re defending!

      The world is what we make it and there is no pre-determined best solution. Sadly, it seems some (most) people are content with a uniformed panopticon hell so long as they’re told it keeps the dragons at bay.

  • My apologies – the last comment should have been addressed to John W. – not to Mr Pate.

    This one is for Mr Pate.

    Fascism is not the “merging of state and corporate power” – that is a Hollywood view of “Fascism” (actually propaganda invented by the NKVD back in the 1920s and 1930s – and then taken up by Hollywood and the American universities and general “education system” and, to a lesser extent, in Britain also).

    Fascism (like First World War German “War Socialism” and later National Socialism) is the utter subordination of business to the state – there is no “partnership” (any more than there is in Mr Putin’s Russia – where any businessman, no matter how rich, who shows a spark of independence finds his business confiscated, and himself in a labour camp, very quickly).

    Sadly the works of F.A. Hayek and Ludwig Von Mises (such as “The Road to Serfdom” and “Omnipotent Government”) explaining both National Socialism and Fascism, are less well known than they used to be – and the Hollywood-NKVD ((i.e. the refusal, for example, to accept that the Fascism of Mussolini was political philosophy of the PROGRESSIVE LEFT) view of “Fascism” (a false and misleading view) has again become common.

    One even hears (from some young persons) the idea that “Fascism means the corporations control the government – as they do in the United States”. I would not like to have been the same room (or lecture hall) as Ludwig Von Mises if he had been alive to hear such rubbish – Mises was a man of a somewhat short temper (and a very loud voice when angry).

    On the other hand……..

    I agree with you about tradition – including money and weights and measures.

    Ian is quite mistaken – there is nothing superior in the decimal money (an idea originally suggested by that idiot Sir William Petty back in the mid 1600s) or metric measurements.

    Britain managed to be the leading industrial and creative land in the world – without either of them.

    Edward Heath (in thinking that adopting such things would improve Britain) was just being a modernist fool – as he was in his support for joining the EEC (as it then was).

    Also liberty is founded in TRADTIION – undermine tradition and you undermine liberty.

    This was the great strength of SEAN GABB (yes I am going to praise SEAN GABB – the blockage on the right side of my heart must be effecting my brain) – in that Sean always understood that liberty exists in a CONTEXT and that context (in this country) is TRADITION.

    So (much as Ian might be baffled by it) getting rid of “Pounds and shillings and pence” and “feet and inches” is indeed bound up with getting rid of such things as freedom of speech, or freedom of contract.

    A modernist (such as Edward Heath) would do all these things – because they had cut themselves off from the traditions of the land.

    Sir Edward Coke did not cite hundreds of Common Law judgements (going back CENTURIES) for fun.

    The great defender of the Common Law (who that enemy of freedom, Thomas Hobbes, hated with a passion – and not just because Coke went after Francis Bacon, the mentor of Hobbes, for his corruption) was doing something vital.

    He was showing that when he (Sir Edward Coke) said that justice in a particular case was shown by “reason” to be such-and-such he was not just pulling this out of his own head – he could point to judgement after judgement (in dusty Year Books going back for centuries) that showed judges groping after the same principles of justice (and trying to apply them to cases) going all the way back to the Middle Ages.

    When Coke’s enemies (such as that apologist for tyranny the author of the “The New Atlantis” – Sir Francis Bacon) pointed out that other old cases were decided differently they MISSED THE POINT.

    The point is not (as even Plucknett – of “A Concise History of the Common Law” seems, wrongly, to believe) did all the old judges agree, they did not, therefore Coke was wrong……. that is NOT what Coke is saying. What Coke is saying is that the Common Law tradition exists – centuries of judges applying reason to matters of law, in the effort to apply the principles of justice to individual cases – the concrete circumstances of time and place, that it was possible to do this. That reason and justice are NOT just whims (so the arbitrary ravings of Kings and “legislatures” [what a vile concept – as Bruno Leoni points out in “Freedom and the Law”] are NOT just as good as any other statements).

    And far from dying with Coke – this is exactly what (for example) Chief Justice John Holt (late 17th century – well after the Civil War) tried to do – going all the way back to Bracton (and others) but applying his trained legal reasoning also., And understanding that PARLIAMENT (just as much as the King) could be the enemy of the Common Law – of fundamental liberties.

    Someone such as Justice Peirce Butler (of the American Supreme Court in the 1920s and 1930s) is a classic example of this tradition in a modern context.

    As the old American saying (attributed to Mark Twain) has it “no man’s liberty or property is safe – when the legislature is in secession” .

    It is the duty of those who care about Civil Society (civilisation) to guard against these “legislatures” – and (even more) the power of the Executive (of Kings and Presidents and Prime Ministers and OFFICIALS).

    In the end……

    One stands either with Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice John Holt, and Edmund Burke and Justice Butler and…. With the tradition of ordered liberty founded on respect for property rights – and prepared to defend them (to the death) against all foes (“both Kings and Parliaments”).

    Or one stands with Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, Sir William Petty, Jeremy Bentham, the Bowood Circle, the Hobbes lovers among the Westminster Review crowd, and the “New Liberals” of the late 19th century – and so on.

    I know where I stand – I side with the former, and I am an enemy of the latter.

    I wish I could be so sure of some people on this site.

    • @Paul Marks – I don’t entirely disagree about the merger of state of corporate needing a new definition, and yes, corporations have to subvert the government as much as a defensive measure as anything. But whatever, it is the merger of state and corporate power we see, call it what you will.

      • Sadly the defensive measures do not work – not in long run. The bribes (sorry “campaign contributions”) and so on.

        American company taxation is now the worst in the Western world (and contrary to the mythology most companies are forced to pay, or keep their money overseas, which is why more and more American companies are moving out of the United States) and American regulations allow the government to send company directors to prison for what would be considered minor clerical errors in other countries.

        The Federal government is out of control and giving large sums of money to leftist politicians (the top three people in Congress in the years in the run up to 2008, in terms of money from “big business”, were the far leftists Congressman Barney Frank, and Senators Christopher Dodd and Barack Obama) does not stop them doing leftist things.

        After all what can companies do? Say “we paid you lots of money not do that”? How would that look?

        Even banking (the ultimate example of corporate welfare) is not immune, After all when the people at Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase (and so on) were paying Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd (and Barack Obama) lots and lots of money – the “Dodd-Frank” Act (signed into law by Barack Obama) was not exactly what they were hoping for (to put it mildly).

        As for manufacturing industry (and so on) – they are being hit harder and harder (the next target is to massively increase their energy costs by targeting the coal power generation industry – and that would terribly effect American manufacturing) – and no amount of money they pay to the left is going to give them any protection at all.

        In Europe if the government of a country (say Belgium) went nuts – business could cross the border and go somewhere else (say Holland).

        In the United States the Feds are everywhere – and the E.U. wants to be the same.

        They are even copying “anti trust law” (at taking it to even more insane levels than the United States has).

        By the way (for those who do not know) – “anti trust” actions do not tend to benefit customers (the public), very much the reverse.

        • Neither government nor corporations work to the benefit of the people, that’s the upshot of it all but you can’t excuse the fact that many big companies use the power of government to receive significant market advantage, or even for their business model to exist at all. In today’s world moving headquarters overseas can have all sorts of advantages not just money, for instance shifting time zones can make management more effective.
          Eisenhower had it right – corporate money corrupts governments and government violence corrupts corporations.

  • A commercial company is not supposed to be about working for “the benefit of the people” – it is supposed to be about earning profit for the shareholders. Indeed my attack on a lot corporate managers (the sort that by the Financial Times and agree with what is written there) is they are too little concerned with long term profit for the shareholders and far too much concerned with feathering their own nests (letting the actual providers of capital, the shareholders, be ruined – especially in the longer term). I hold that both the structure of taxation (undermining individual share ownership and promoting institutional share ownership) and the vast web of regulations (especially since the Dodd Act of the 1960s in the United States) has tended to separate ownership from control – and that this is a very bad thing indeed.

    As for using regulations against competitors (especially smaller competitors) – yes this can (and is) done, but the NET effect of the regulations is overwhelmingly negative (even for the largest enterprises).

    One of the most depressing developments of modern times is that some libertarians have taken up the frauds of socialists (such as G. Kolko with his mythology that T. Roosevelt and W. Wilson and the rest of the Progressive movement really served the interests of “big business”) as if it was the truth.

    Some self described libertarians even pretend that Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” did this – even though Murray Rothbard knew perfectly well (he was alive at the time – as an intellectually curious child) that the random (arbitrary) changes of regulations in the 1930s paralysed investment by most of even the largest business enterprises and that (with the exception of “the usual suspects” – such as General Electric) “big business” detested the regime of Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, just as Jon Huntsman (of Huntsman Chemical), Charles and David Koch (of Koch industries) and so on,,… detest the Obama regime today.

    The thinking of the libertarians (for example certain Rothbardians – in some periods of time) who use the socialist arguments appears to be as follows…..

    “The socialists are saying bad things about big government – we will say the same (in the hope of turning young persons against big government), even though we know the specific things the socialists are saying are not true, because the noble end (turning the young against big government) justifies the means (repeating, as true, the lies of G. Kolko and other socialists).”.

    If the means worked (if it really turned the young against big government) then there would be a genuine moral question here – do the ends justify the means?

    However, the means do not work.

    The young do NOT draw the conclusion from the line “big business is in bed with big government” that government should be smaller (should have less money and power to “help big business”).

    On the contrary, the young just draw the conclusion that “better people” should be in charge of government, and that government should be bigger than ever – in order to fight these “evil capitalists”.

    Of course some regulations can be used by some enterprises to hurt their rivals – but that has never been the purpose of most regulations.

    The endless regulations to “protect the consumer” or “protect the worker” are mostly quite sincere – although no less evil because of their sincerity.

  • @Paul Marks

    Sean and IanB did not argue that the English Civil War was a clash between the ideas of Plato and those of Aristotle. That was my summation of the great philosophic duel of the last two millennia.
    The individualism inherent in the Five Solae puts Protestantism generally on the side of Aristotle – Catholicism on the side of Plato notwithstanding Aristotle’s adoption by the clerisy. Yes, the Royalists were mainly Platonists, Hampden and his friends – Aristotelian.
    Hume’s critique of reason and logic makes him, like Kant, a Platonist and he would be judged as evil were it not for the admission that he did not take his own philosophy seriously.

    The differences between Plato and Aristotle are not always stark – there are elements of Plato in Aristotle, and Plato derives positive elements from Socrates – but, in essence, Plato represents other-worldly metaphysics, faith, self-sacrifice and duty.
    Aristotle: this-worldly metaphysics, pro-reason, self-love and personal happiness.

    Following Justinan’s closure of the schools of philosophy in 529 AD it was Plato’s followers who won the first duel.
    Plotinus and Augustine and their followers, being more faithful to Platonism than Plato himself, piously stripped his philosophy of the generally positive, life-centred outlook of the pagan era.

    We call their achievement The Dark Ages.

    It’s difficult for the modern mind to comprehend the spiritual poverty of the early Christian world-view but some measure of its bleakness can be found in the lives of the self-torturing saints recorded by Gordon Rattray Taylor and others:

    St Macarius, for example, in order to deny himself the temptations of the flesh, immersed himself in a fetid swamp where he was devoured
    by insects so severely that he was mistaken for a leper – his friends only recognising him by the sound of his voice.
    Compelled by the same motive, Benedict of Nursia spent his nights on a bed of thorns, Evagrius Pontieus – a frozen fountain, St. Francis’ – a pit of snow.
    Christine of Troud in order to demonstrate her devotion had herself laid in a hot oven before being turned and racked on a wheel, hung from a gallows beside a corpse, and buried alive in a graveyard. Her life long urge – to be dangled from roofs, high walls and church steeples.
    Hair-shirts and self-flagellation provided insufficient self-mortification for St. Ammonius – he burned his entire body with hot irons.
    Having vowed herself to chastity by the age of four St. Rose ate only sheep’s gall, bitter herbs and ashes. Margaret Marie Alacoque restricted her diet to rotten fruit and mouldy bread. Her beverage of choice – laundry water. She carved the name of Jesus in her chest with a carving-knife and fastidiously heightened her agony by anointing her wounds with hot candle-wax…

    On and on it goes.

    These people were not ostracised for their behaviour. On the contrary they were praised and admired for their piety.

    It was not until Grossteste and Aquinas in the 13th c. that Aristotelians could assemble a counter-attack.

    For them, reason was not the handmaiden of faith appealing to the mere “lust of the eyes” but an autonomous faculty. This Earth was not an insubstantial emanation of a Platonic super-reality beset by demons, but a domain knowable and real – its processes investigable and demonstrable. Self-love was a virtue not a sin. Life was for living – not a curse.

    The Renaissance, it has been said, marked the rebirth of reason in man’s life. But it was Aristotle who was considered THE philosopher of reason. It was his ideas that created a secular Enlightenment where reason, which had once been seen as a mortal sin, was now so non-controversial it was taken for granted.

    But the anti-Aristotelian forces had not been entirely vanquished – they had been regrouping using ammunition stolen, in part, from Aristotle. In Descartes, they found a new champion. He challenged the Aristotelians where they were most vulnerable – the theory of concepts and the validation of ethics.

    Hume was the most eloquent communicator of this vulnerability – it was Hume who awakened Kant from his dogmatic slumbers.

    Appalled by the sceptics assault on free will and knowledge Kant determined to rescue both – a necessary condition in his quest to save religion. In the process he catastrophically all but obliterated both reason and free will – destroying the Enlightenment and enabling the horrors of the 20th. century.

    The precise method of this singular achievement would take too long to describe in detail here, but, in essence, Kant devised a new epistemology and metaphysics utterly independent of experience. By this method he created an entirely new philosophic system in which society – and
    society’s spokesmen – supplanted reality as the basis of knowledge and of reality itself.

    Loyalty to society became the standard, purpose and motive of all human existence.

    It was a Copernican Revolution in which Kant reaffirmed the fundamental ideas of Plato but this time the ramifications of Plato’s philosophy would develop unmoderated by any positive counterbalancing influences of a healthy pagan culture.
    Previously, Plato and his medieval followers had denied the reality of our experience but they still believed that an alternate reality could be known if only to a few – a reward of sorts to be gained in the life hereafter.
    But Kant took it a step further – Kant denied realty outright. He appealed directly to the unknowable and inconceivable.
    Man cannot know “things in themselves” he declared, because man only knows things by his own particular means. To know true “reality as it is” you would have to know true reality as it isn’t i.e. by no means, no how, and in no way.
    Man is a “crooked timber” Kant declared, and “radically evil.” His evil nature disfigures everything he apprehends.
    “Man is blind, because he has eyes — deaf, because he has ears — deluded, because he has a mind — and the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them,” said John Galt, mockingly of Kant, in Atlas Shrugged.

    In a sense Kant was harking back to the desiccated spirit of the old life-hating German saints but with this major difference: whereas Plato’s pagan philosophy could be viewed as a type or worship, Kant’s Transcendental philosophy lead inexorably to a hatred for anything good – a sheer, soul-wrenching nihilism.

    Kant is the first philosopher in history to reject reality, thought, and values for the sake of nothing, in the name of nothing.

    Heinrich Heine summed him up perfectly: “What a strange contrast did this man’s outward life present to his destructive, world-annihilating thoughts! In sooth, had the citizens of Königsberg had the least presentiment of the full significance of his ideas, they would have felt far more awful dread at the presence of this man than at the sight of an executioner, who can but kill the body.”

    Kant’s system has created a new class of intellectuals who are happy to embrace the notion that the survival of the planet should be preserved by the punishment and ultimately the extinction of humanity.

    To a class, these experts are similar to psychopaths who murder for kicks.

    For them, the thrill of the new leavens the normality of their ennui at every turn, only, the new must be a negative – no positives are allowed because a positive would be an endorsement of the self – and this is the age of the collective.

    Instead, we should embrace the ugly, the anti-heroic, the anti-productive, the pitiful, the anti-man and the anti-life. The best we can hope for is the shrugging sceptic, certain only of his own doubt, his favourite idea a “meme” – which means an anti-idea.

    Kant did not live to see his philosophy finally realised in his homeland of “poets and philosophers” – that accomplishment was left to Marx, Hegel and Bismarck – in communism and fascism and now today’s welfare state with its moribund zeitgeists: anti-industry, anti-energy, zero-growth, rationed and licensed everything.
    What do they preach but a pleasureless, cold, dim, bitter, austere and torturous existence – worthy of saints.

    Where once progress and gentleness had been taken for granted now Auschwitz and beheadings are taken for granted.

    The Pax Britannica and perpetual peace has surrendered to Vox Americana and perpetual war.

    Everywhere Plato is on the advance.

    It will take more than Hume to stop him.

  • In his last comment (which has yet to appear here) John W. produces a lot to think about.

    I think he goes too far (for example the followers of the King in the Civil War included some people who would have considered themselves, and with good reason, Aristotelians – and the Cambridge Platonists were not all bad, although their “Plato” was rather different from the historical Plato), however there is a great deal of truth in the comment.

    The Western tradition is based on three principles

    That the physical world is real – that it is not just an illusion, or unknowable.

    That the mind (the self – the “I”) is also real (and that this does not contradict the first principle).

    And that good and evil are real (that they are not just “boo” and “cheer” words) and that humans (because we are beings) can CHOOSE between good and evil (know right from wrong – and make an effort to change our ways, to do other than we do).

    All this can be found in Aristotle (although much error can be found in Aristotle also – which why we say “Aristotelian” (i.e. part of a living tradition) not just slavish imitator of Aristotle.

    How much of the Western tradition can be found either in Plato or in the modern rejecters of Aristotelianism ) is open to considerable doubt.

    Still back to the E.U…..

    The European Union Central Bank announced yet more Corporate Welfare yesterday – yet lower interest rates, and debt buying.

    “So what Paul – the Bank of England, Bank of Japan and Federal Reserve behave in the same disgustingly corrupt [intellectual corruption – and financial corruption?] way”.

    I mention it because some people (including some good people) had hopes that the ECB might be different.

    It is not.

    It is the same effort to have more borrowing than REAL SAVING – another effort to have “capitalism” without “capitalists” (i.e. real savers – people making a sacrifice of consumption).

    Another violation of the ancient principles that Kipling points to in his poem “The Gods of the Copy Book Headings”.

    Those who think they can go “above” Common Sense always fall below it.

    Just as those who think they can go “beyond” good and evil – just fall into evil.

    But, sadly, “the dog always returns to his vomit”.

    Such is the nature of those who reject reality as shadows on a cave wall.

    And those who reject the idea that justice is to each their own (i.e. not robbing others or ordering them about).

    People like Plato (who falls into both errors).

  • Regarding John W’s comment, I myself am interested in neither Plato nor Aristotle, and I think the idea that these two primitive philosophers somehow defined the only two sides in the debate is absurd. Plato got everything wrong. Aristotle got nearly everything wrong, though he made some first primitive steps on the matter of logic. Trying to decide which of these sides everyone since falls on is silly. They can be respected in philosophical terms as making the first basic steps, but they are of only historical interest these days. We have made massive steps forward since their times in understanding nature and reality around us. Aristotle has had no practical utility to the philosopher since the Middle Ages. Plato never had any at all.

    • I’ve never had much time for Plato, but the Greeks as a whole are not to be underrated.

    • What is man?
      Every dictionary since the Ancient Greeks defines man as: the rational animal.
      Note: the rational animal, not merely a rational animal.

      Why?

      Because only man possesses reason i.e. the capacity to think in terms of concepts.
      Animals can think but they think in purely perceptual terms: a percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of an animal, giving it the ability to be aware, not of discreet sensations, but of entities, of things.
      Animals can see reality as we do and they can remember their perceptual experiences as we do – but they cannot abstract. They cannot form concepts.

      Why?

      Because a concept is a mental integration of similar characteristics, or things, isolated by a process of abstraction and then united and retained by means of words.
      Conceptual thought, i.e. cognition, is a radically different type of mental process to the kind of mental processes an animal performs when it engages in perceptual association.

      Conceptual thought allows the apprehension of literally unlimited quantities of data.

      This is why animals are still stuck in the jungle as they were 5 million years ago – and will be 5 million years hence.

      Concepts allow us rise above and beyond the animal level; they free us from the mental constraint of mere percepts.

      But this raises an enormous problem, the greatest problem in all philosophy and all science: if the essence of man is his capacity to reason, and reason is the capacity to think in terms of concepts, then what is the essence of concepts?

      Plato located the essence of concepts in a supernatural world – Aristotle in this world.

      See the 2 central figures – Plato points to the heavens – Aristotle to the ground:

      This is no small difference because it sets the terms and conditions of all human thought – the last 2000 years of Western history has been the record of this perennial duel, and it’s not just Objectivists who think so – see for example: The Cave and the Light: Plato versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization.

      Whether science can be saved from Plato and his followers is a vital issue – just yesterday I heard Hawking praise Descartes! – virtually every month I hear some allegedly “new” scientific claim based on the assumptions of Plato and the pre-Socratics long since refuted by Aristotle.

      • You provide a lot to think about John W. Just because I am not replying to what you are saying does not mean I am ignoring what you have said.

  • Aristotle “got nearly everything wrong”. Well Aristotle certainly made many mistakes – for example his view that economic exchanges are of equal values (actually both sides in a voluntary exchange, exchange less for more – as different people, in different circumstances, value the same things differently), but Aristotle got the basic things, the foundations, right.

    The objective nature of the universe – that it really exists and can be understood in terms of natural laws (that Aristotle got the laws wrong misses the point that eastern thought denied objective natural laws at all – mainstream Islam today still does deny them).

    The existence of good and evil – that they are NOT just the arbitrary will (whims) of “the Gods” (later “of God”). That neither “the Gods” or an earthly ruler decides what is right and what is wrong via arbitrary WILL. That reason (human reason) can find good – can see what is right and what is wrong.

    And that humans are beings (agents – that we have moral responsibility) that, with great effort, we can choose good and reject evil.

    To reject the above is to reject the Western tradition – not just the Catholic, but British proto Whigs, such as Richard Hooker and Sir Edward Cook, and full Whigs such as Chief Justice Sir John Holt also.

    It is to embrace the position that humans are not agents that we are incapable of choosing good – that all good (without exception) must be the arbitrary will of God, or of absolute and unlimited Earthly rulers.

    To reject Erasmus and the whole Aristotelian tradition (including Protestant Scholastics and Classical Humanists such as John Locke, Ralph Cudworth, and Edmund Burke) and to embrace Martin Luther and his rejection of “that whore” reason – with his doctrine that humans are not beings (that we are just walking lumps of shit, incapable of choosing good at any time) with the only “freedom” being offered being the freedom not-to-be-free from the terrible burden of guilt borne by both Jews and Christians (although not the followers of Sunni Islam) – for if we can not reject evil (if our actions are predetermined – and all utterly vile) then why not revel in evil, in being “beyond good and evil” (i.e. being evil).

    Not just the doctrine of philosophical (theological) determinism and unlimited (absolute) state power seen in the Ottoman Empire (which so impressed people of the time of Luther and John Calvin) but, even more so, the doctrine of the Blond Beast (“free” in his rejection of moral responsibility, thus free of guilt – of moral conscience, and totally devoted to the absolute, unlimited, state) defeated over the skies of Southern England in 1940.

    “There is no hope in elves and the dying West [such as the chaotic old Holy Roman Empire] a new power has arisen, a new age – an age we must RULE” not word-for-word but gist from Tolkien (a 20th century Aristotelian) and it is not a good character of his who is speaking.

    To an contemporary observer the holding of Vienna, in the face of the might of the Ottoman Empire, in 1529 must have looked like a fluke. A few Mad Max style mercenaries holding the 30 yard breach when the wall was undermined and blown up – holding the breach with sword and pike (and their own bodies) against all comers.

    It would not last, A new power had arisen – the whole east was moving. The age of reason was over – now would come the age of power, absolute and unlimited. With the individual just a cog in a vast machine of state – a state limited by no law other than the will of the ruler (the servant of a God who also was just a creature of WHIM, with no moral rule).

    But it did not turn out that way – the West was not dead. And the West is not dead – even now.

  • Short version.

    If you embrace the philosophy of Frederick the Great – you end up with the politics of Frederick the Great.

    One can not get the politics of the Old Whigs (of people such as Sir John Holt and, a century later, Edmund Burke) from such theological and philosophical sources.

  • This is the problem we keep coming back to Paul. You can’t declare what reality is in order to align it to your preferences, which is what you keep doing. You have to start by trying to figure out what reality is, then draw your conclusions- however unpalatable- from that. Which was what Hume did, basically, even if he got some stuff wrong as well.

    In a nutshell, you can keep saying “there is objective good and evil” all day and night, but that is just an assertion until you can find some proof of the statement. The argument, “there must be good or evil or [this unacceptable to me consequence] will occur” just isn’t valid.

  • You have only opposed one of Aristotle’s principles Ian.

    The idea that we can know what is right and what is wrong – that these are not just “boo and cheer words” as that vile creature A.J. Ayer used to say.

    I assume that you accept the other two principles (also denied by, for example, mainstream Islam) that the universe is governed by objective laws, and that (and there is no contradiction) we can choose our actions – that we are moral agents (not clockwork mice).

    It we are clockwork mice (if we are not agents – if have no moral responsibility) then libertarianism is false – by definition false. If God (or the state) just winds us up and then watches amused as we engage in our (pre programmed) antics – then libertarianism would not just be wrong, it would be an utter absurdity.

    As for whether people know what a basic crime is without scripture.

    Of course they do – and you do Ian.

    The idea that “I did not know raping and murdering is wrong – because I never read scripture” is an absurd position to take.

    Of course such a criminal knows they have done wrong – and they choose to do wrong. We do not put a tree that has dropped a branch on someone’s head on trial – we put a person who has CHOSEN to smash someone’s head with a branch on trial.

    As the Scholastics used to say (and still do say) – the law (the fundamental law) is the law of God, but if God did not exist it would be exactly the same.

    For example….

    A warrior of ISIS (or of mainstream Islam for the last thousand years and more) may free themselves from some feelings of guilt (the only “freedom” such a doctrine offers is freedom from guilt, from moral responsibility) by declaring that all their actions are predetermined by God (so they had no choice about cutting the head off of a helpless person, or raping some child).

    And they may further try to “free” themselves from feelings of guilt by decaling that good and evil (right and wrong) are just the arbitrary commands (the WILL) of God – and that if it says do X in scripture then doing X is “good” by definition. Not for nothing is Islam sometimes described as a “revolt against the Talmud” – hence the early Islamic cry to the Jews “raise your hand” – i.e. remove one’s hand from the vicious (vicious if taken literally) parts of scripture (in this case parts of he Torah) and read them out – and ACT UPON THEM (stone the adulterer to death and so on).

    However, no one really believes this (not deep down) – it is all a big, fat, stinking lie.

    “I can do no other than I do, it is all predetermined” – is a lie.

    And “If the Leader [or God] wills it, it is good – because good and evil are whatever the will of the Leader [or God] says they are” is also a lie.

    They (the Nazis, the ISIS types and so on) know they difference between right and wrong (and that it is bugger all to do with the Will of the Leader) and they make a CHOICE to do wrong.

    That is why one punishes them. And one does put trees on trial.

    Actually it is useful to have false ideas come from the snarling face of Martin Luther (rather than kindly face of David Hume) – in between stuff about how we should murder the Jews (after persecuting them in various ways – the late Mr Luther goes into loving detail on persecution), because then one can more clearly see where the false ideas (that good and evil are just the will of the ruler, in this case God, and that we have no real choice between them anyway), but that leads me to something that really does interest me. Interests me a lot more than absurd claims that “I could not help raping and murdering the child – my action was predetermined” or “Raping and murdering the child was not wrong – the Leader [or God] told me to do it, so it was morally good. PROVE it was wrong for to rape and murder the child”. The only answer such people deserve is that of the common hangman. But there are more interesting questions.

    Some of Sean Gabb’s friends (and Sean himself) go on about “England” a lot – and there was something odd about England that was odd.

    In Continental Europe the Reformation was about attacking agency (supporting predestination and denying moral responsibility – agency) and sneering at “that whore reason” as Mr Luther put it.

    But in England the Church that emerged after the Reformation (and some of the Dissenters also) was MORE (not less) committed to the idea of moral responsibility (agency) than the Roman Catholics were, and was MORE (not less) committed to the idea that right and wrong were not just arbitrary commands in scripture.

    It was almost as if the Reformation, eventually, led to the spirit of Pelagius returning to this island (or at least the southern bit of it – known as England) both among the Anglicans and among many (although not all) of the Dissenters also (even in the 17th century we have Ralph Cudworth – and he was far from alone).

    I would dearly like to know why the Reformation had opposite philosophical consequences in mainstream thought in England than it had in Continental Europe (although in Holland things are more complex). Why in Continental Europe we get Martin Luther and John Calvin and on to Frederick the Great and so on. We get the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church replaced by error of a more extreme nature – the dominant thought being more favourable to the denial of the moral worth of the individual and more pro power. Whereas in England we get Richard Hooker, Ralph Cudworth, John Locke, Chief Justice Sir John Holt, Edmund Burke, John Wesley and so on – people who stress moral freedom (agency – moral responsibility) and right reason more (not less) than the Roman Catholics.

    This is the question that actually interests me.

  • By the way, I do know (before anyone points it out) that the Scottish American philosopher James McCosh denied that predestination implied determinism (in the sense of the PRE determination of all actions).

    I have the greatest respect for James McCosh, but in this specific area was engaged in a difficult task – trying to reconcile the doctrines of the Church of Scotland (Calvinism) with reason, Indeed I hold he was not just engaged in a difficult task – but an impossible one.

  • Ian, you don’t need to figure out “what reality is” as you put it – “what reality is” is given to us in sense-perception. Only if you accept the validity of sense-perception can you proceed to the conceptual level of making perceptual judgments.

    Look at it this way:

    Two cars, A and B, travel towards one another on a single-track road and eventually collide. Where is the collision?
    Is it somewhere in car A [the glove-box, the boot, the engine etc.]? No.
    Is it somewhere in car B? No.
    Or is it somewhere in the road? No.
    A collision is the result of an interaction between the 2 vehicles under certain conditions – in this case, the conditions of an accident on a single-track road.

    A man and a woman get married in church. Where is the marriage?
    Is it somewhere in the man? No.
    Is it somewhere in the woman? No.
    Or is it somewhere in the church? No.
    A marriage is the product of an interaction between two people under certain specific conditions – in this case, the conditions of a legal contract.

    A man [ the subject] looks at a red and black post-box [the object] in daylight and perceives the post-box as a perceptual form possessing red and black colours.
    Where is the perceptual form?
    Is it in the subject? No.
    Is it in the object? No.
    Is it in the conditions in hand? No.
    The perceptual form is the result of an interaction between the subject and the object under certain conditions – but its location cannot be isolated in either the subject nor the object nor the conditions in hand. It is a product of all three.

    Do you understand this?

    Contrary to the naive realism of Descartes the perceptual form is not in the object.
    Contrary to the representationalism of David Hume the perceptual form is not in the subject.

    This is where Hume goes wrong – at the very beginning. He climbs on the wrong tracks on the basis of mistaken premises and ends up in a cul-de-sac of his own creation.

    See the quote from OPAR: Sensory Qualities as Real, here:

    http://forum.objectivismonline.com/?showtopic=5348

  • I would have a long argument about this but I’m in the middle of trying to learn a programming environment, so I will just be brief and snippy; if people can’t move forward from the first stumbling philosophies of two and a half thousand years ago, developed by worthy but profoundly ignorant men who knew virtually nothing about science, even if they could turn a nice phrase, there is no point debating these issues anyway. Philosophy doesn’t really get going until the Western mind gets on the case (basically with Descartes) and doesn’t even start making any scientific sense until Hume; this is hardly surprising as neither Plato nor Aristotle nor Socrates nor Ptolemy had access to any science. It was still many centuries in the future.

    Paul asserts again and again that there is some objective moral value scale. He does so despite the simply (observational ironically) evidence around him that no two human beings have the same moral value scales, even those who notionally are in agreement (“conservatives”, “libertarians”, “christians”, etc) and despite inconsistently understanding the basic point of economics; which is that values are ordinal, not cardinal, and are unique to every individual.

    Simply declaring one’s own certainty- on the basis that to be uncertain is unpalatable- simply doesn’t have legs. Not in philosophy, anyway.

  • And that’s where Ayn Rand went wrong as well.

  • “move forward from philosophies of two and half thousand years ago” – that is old line Ian. Actually, as you know, evil is thousands of years old – all the “modern” stuff can be found in certain ancient Greek writers and so on. As for Descartes – as Ralph Cudworth pointed out at the time, nearly everything in Descartes (the good and the bad) can be found in other thinkers thousands of years before Descartes was born.

    It is like Woodrow Wilson saying the United States needed to “move forward”, “develop”, “evolve” past the Declaration of Independence of the Bill of Rights. What he really meant was that American (indeed Western) principles were WRONG – but he did not have the guts to say so (he would not have been elected if he had) so we get the “evolution” tap dance (trying to grab the cover of science, in this case biology, to try and hide ancient evils).

    It is even true of the war (the First World War) – the President of France sincerely dissented from the might-is-right philosophy of the German elite (which they used to “justify” their lies and general crimes) – but Woodrow Wilson did not sincerely dissent (any more than his mentor Richard Ely did) – they just wanted to replace Germany with the United States Yes America was on the right side in the First World War, but not because Woodrow Wilson was a good man – he was not a good man, and he used his book learning to cover up his hollowness (see Woodrow Wilson and the origins of modern liberalism).

    Warren Harding was no intellectual giant and he had little education – but he understood what Woodrow Wilson was and what he stood for, and exposed him in his speeches. Calvin Coolidge, a highly intelligent and a highly educated man (the last American President to be truly Classically educated [Franklin Roosevelt had the opportunity to become an educated man, but he did not bother – just doing enough to get by] – comfortable talking in both Latin and Ancient Greek, who knew the same works that the Founders had known) did the same (see “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents”).

    As for the attack on right reason and basic (foundational) morality – what did David Hume (that great OPPONENT of the Scottish Enlightenment) say with a smiling face that Martin Luther had not said (far more clearly) with a snarling face two centuries earlier?

    The attack on agency (free will) – check. The attack on the ability of reason to find what is right – check.

    So people can not know what is morally right and, even if they could know what it is right, could not choose it (as all our actions are predetermined) – that is all in Luther centuries before Hume and regardless of whether Hume really meant it, Luther certainly did mean it. Thus all power is left to the Leader (God, or for atheists, the STATE) with no possible moral stand against it. As with Thomas Hobbes we have no moral grounds for helping SOMEONE ELSE who is attacked by the State.

    And the two great falsehoods (that we can not know what is right via human reason – and even if we could know we could not choose what is right) are in mainstream Islam centuries before Martin Luther – which is why some figures of the French “Enlightenment” (although NOT the Scottish Enlightenment) were full of praise for Islam – it was not because they believed in Allah (they were atheists) it was because they could recognise PHILOSOPHICAL kinship.

    And, yes, one can find these false ideas in Ancient Greek thought (in fallacies that were refuted at the time). There is nothing really “modern” about these evils.

    “And that is where Ayn Rand went wrong as well”.

    Ayn Rand is normally attacked for her atheism (which the lady was open and honest about – unlike Thomas Hobbes or David Hume, or Jeremy Bentham, there is no “philosophical” double talk about the matter) and for her “selfishness” (by people who normally assume that this means not helping others – and, of course, the loudest critics of Rand, in this regard, have never lifted a finger to help others themselves), but you Ian are not attacking Ayn Rand for either of these things – not at all.

    What you are attacking Ayn Rand for is her loyalty to the central principles of the West – the foundational principles.

    What you describe as “modern philosophy” is just the ancient enemy, and what is taught now in the universities (or most of them) is basically just “death-to-the-West” repeated endlessly and wrapped up in complex language.

    We can not know what is morally right and, even if we could know, we could not choose what is morally right (as all our actions are predetermined).

    This is the philosophy of the Ottoman Empire (and every other tyranny past, present and future) – so it is no surprise that modern academics (and other “intellectuals”) teach that the Ottoman Empire was more “advanced” (they do not mean technologically advanced – they mean in IDEAS) than the “feudal” West and that it would have been a good thing had the Ottoman Empire won in 1529 or 1683.

    Truly this is the “treason of the intellectuals” – clever people using their reason to attack reason.

    The human mind being used as a weapon against the human mind

    The ultimate bad faith – the denial of our ability to know right from wrong, and (with great effort) to choose what is right.

  • Lots of typos – for example it should be “Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights” not “of”. But no person of good will would mistake my meaning – which is the guide I use to decide whether I should type something again.

    I find it baffling that people are prepared to declare stuff that can all be found in Martin Luther (indeed many centuries before him) as “modern” yet denounce the work of 20th century philosophers such as Harold Prichard and Sir William David Ross as “old fashioned” or “not philosophy”.

    Even if one takes the, VERY BAD, definition of “philosophy” that it is “what people employed in universities as philosophers do” does not mid 20th century Oxford count as a university?

    Did Oxford only become a university when the A.J. Ayer and co took it over? And is Joad’s refutation of Logical Positivism really invalidated by Joad being caught not paying for a railway ticket?

    “As you have done a bad thing. this means there is no such thing as right and wrong” – is that it?

    It is as daft as saying that as Woodrow Wilson was at Princeton after James McCosh was – then Woodrow Wilson is correct and James McCosh is wrong, because Wilson is more “modern”.

    Actually there is little in Wilson’s “great work” (“The State”) that Plato would not have recognised and approved of.

  • It should not be forgotten that Martin Luther understood the political implications of these philosophical matters.

    “You preach liberation from Rome so you must support freedom from Serfdom” cried the peasants (serfs in many parts of Germany – a state of affairs that had largely died out in both England and France). No, replies Luther – I teach liberation from the burden of guilt (by teaching that salvation is the arbitrary action of the grace of God – that it has nothing to do with our own efforts, as we are utterly vile and totally base), this has nothing to do with freedom from serfdom or even from slavery. He was teaching freedom from the terrible burden of moral responsibility – the “freedom not to be free” as rather later Germans were to describe it.

    “But surely you support the religious struggle against the Ottomans” asked the Roman Catholics. No, replies Luther – a secular Prince may be at war with the Sultan, and the subjects of such a Prince should support their master, but there can be no such thing as religious struggle, as we should submit to our master (even if our master happens to be the Islamic Sultan).

    “But then are you not denying the whole structure of the Holy Roman Empire – the efforts to balance the rights of the Church against the rights of the Emperor, and the rights of the Princes and the Free Cities against the rights of the Emperor?”

    Of course replies Luther – that is all a chaotic mess. There should be the Prince of a particular area with absolute and unlimited power. One Leader on Earth responsible to one Supreme Leader of the universe. Right and wrong are just matters of arbitrary will (commands of the Leader) – and reason is just a “whore”.

    Luther did not need Thomas Hobbes to teach him this (he lived before Hobbes) and he did not need David Hume to teach him about the “euthanasia of the Constitution” (he lived before Hume).

    It is a common place (it has been pointed out many times) that Mr Hitler took large sections of Mr Luther for his speeches – and it is was not really plagiarism, as Germans were the most educated people in the world (one did not have top stop in mid flow every few minutes and say “I am getting this from……” they knew perfectly well where it was from).

    However, Paul Johnson (in his “History of the Jews”) is one of those people who point out that Karl Marx also took large sections from Mr Luther – just replacing the words “Jew” and “Jews” with the words “capitalist” and “capitalists”. No matter how much Ecks (and other Catholic writers) and the Christian money lenders the Fuggers denied being Jews (indeed denounced Jews – to try and protect themselves) Luther was convinced there was some Jewish link – Karl Marx was prepared to accept that most “capitalists” were not actually secret Jews, although he did say that all businessmen were “inwardly circumcised Jews”.

    I repeat……

    What really interests me is why in England the Reformation led to exactly the OPPOSITE philosophical development.

    Why instead of stressing moral responsibility and reason LESS than the Roman Catholics (as with Martin Luther and John Calvin), the English Church (both the Anglicans and many of the Dissenters) ended up stressing them far MORE than the Roman Catholics did.

    And, yes, the political side (the Old Whigs) is directly dependent on this philosophical development (it lives or dies with it – one can not have political freedom without philosophical freedom, agency, and without right reason), and the philosophical development is directly linked to the theological development.

    What I do not understand is why the theological development (and, therefore, everything else) went the other way in England – as opposed to most of the Continent (Holland being a partial exception).

    JohnW would argue that, no matter how false he holds their religion to be, the reason that the English theologians (please do not be frightened of the word “theologian” – it just means philosopher in a religious context, as with the Talmudic debaters that John Selden compared to the Common Lawyers) went right in philosophy is because they followed the basic (the foundational) rulers of Aristotle – where as most of the Protestant reformers on the Continent rejected Aristotle (root as well as branch).

    Is John W. right? Is he correct? Is that the reason for the Old Whigs?

    Lastly on Aristotle and “basic” logic – the mistake that can be made there is to think that one can go “beyond” Aristotle in the sense not of building upon his principles, but in rejecting them – and trying to create something fundamentally different instead.

    As Richard Whately’s (also once rightly famous for his “Lectures on Political Economy” where, for example, David Ricardo’s Labour Theory of Value is refuted on basic philosophical logic grounds) old Oxford standby “Elements of Logic” points out, this is a basic (foundational) error. Aristotle can be wrong in all sorts of things and even where he is right one can develop things and say things he never said – but on the basics he is right, and those who try and depart from him on the basics fall into madness and evil. As Tolkien (another Oxford man a century later) put it “he who breaks a thing [meaning a basic principle] to find out what it is – has left the path of wisdom”.

    Certainly Sir William Hamilton attacked Richard Whately on all sorts of grounds – but he never attacked this basic point (because he knew it to be correct). As for J.S. Mill’s an “Examination of the Philosophy of Sir William Hamilton” see James McCosh’s an “Examination of the Philosophy of Mr J.S. Mill” (basically – the Old Whigs strike back).

    Even such popular works as Straight and Crooked Thinking – Do You Sincerely What To Be Right (Antony Flew and so on) are Aristotelian – they are all ordinary human wisdom (right reason) no Platonic “modern” stuff in sight.

  • A key mistake, both in logic and in economics, is to try and replace ordinary language with magical formulae (numbers, letters and so on – all presented with non normal language, weird jargon). This is presented as “scientific” – but, too often, is just a way of hiding error, indeed hiding evil.

    Of making people just shake their heads saying “I do not understand any of this, these clever intellectuals are beyond me – and they advice our mighty rulers”.

    Where ordinary people can not understand the laws (the basic rules), it is the end of a “government of laws” and its replacement by a “government of men”.

  • Some people might be confused by me saying, in passing, that serfdom had largely died out in France (not just in England) when Luther was supporting serfdom in the German lands. Did not the French Revolution free the serfs of France?

    No it did not (although on August 4th 1789 the peasants were relieved of various taxes – soon much heavier taxes were to be imposed in the near future, but the end of the “Feudal” taxes on August the 4th 1789 was still a good thing) indeed even in 1318 the King of France was finding difficulty in finding serfs to free (he wanted to free them, partly for financial reasons, but also for genuine moral reasons).

    Politics contains a lot of lies – in the case of the French Revolution we are also told that it abolished torture (actually abolished some years before – and brought back the Revolutionary regimes) and freed the Protestants and Jews (both freed in the Royal parts of France, years before).

    The great lie of the European Union is that it has “kept the peace in Europe” (meaning Western Europe).

    This expropriates the achievements of NATO, basically of the United States armed forces, for the E.U. – both false and ironic. Ironic as the E.U. elite do not like the United States (in spite of the support of the “liberal” American elite for the E.U. over the years), they especially hate the United States armed forces (as do the American “liberal” “Progressive” elite themselves – the soldiers and marines are hated, passionately hated, by the people who presently command them).

    As Kipling would have put it “cursed by those you guard”. Please no accusations of “racism” – although I know that is from the White Man’s Burden.

    Of course Kipling’s poem “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” is his reply to “modern”, “philosophy” with its “freedom” not to be free – its rejection of moral responsibility, and the desire for the “freedom” to get “beyond good and evil”. A “liberation” from both moral responsibility for one’s actions and a pretence (and it is a pretence) that one could not tell moral good from evil.

    It is not new and it is not good – but as Kipling put it “the dog always returns to his vomit”.

  • Paul,
    Politics is based on morality, and morality is based on epistemology and metaphysics – so the answer has to lie there.
    Obviously, one of the key concepts in metaphysics is free will, so Boethius, Pelagius, Bede, Alfred the Great, Ockham, Roger Bacon, and Grosseteste are important in principle [beside their individual contributions to epistemology, teaching and politics – Grosseteste, for example, single-handedly increased the categories of knowledge from 12? to 25? (I forget the numbers but it was huge) made the first translations of Aristotle’s egoist ethics and had them circulated – they were banned on the Continent, was present at the Magna Carta etc., btw he is not well served on the internet. I have one old book somewhere that claims the Renaissance starts with him.]

    Secondly, the very early constraint of the power of Canon Law through the Constitutions of Clarendon and similar.

    Thirdly, the peculiar fact that post-conquest England had two languages [+ very fine Latin] occupying the same conceptual arena enabled very advanced subtlety of thought – you cannot think if you do not have the words, and England had words – and therefore the ready potential for thought – aplenty.

    Fourthly, the individuality inherent in the Five Solas seems to have found fertile ground in sensible aspects of Anglo Saxon culture generally, rights-based laws, Coke and the others you mentioned, the authority-mocking Chaucer etc..
    It’s a big topic, poorly understood by collectivist historians who see altruism as some sort of advance, but I suspect most people would agree that ideas matter.
    Forget explanations that appeal to chance, the climate or the geography of an island – Japan was an island but where were the rights? – it is the fundamental ideas that count.

    Locke’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness all rest on reason but the Age of Reason has been all but destroyed by the Critique of Reason in answer to Hume

    Answering Kant and putting reason back into the culture will be a mammoth task – but it is not too late.

    • It is more than politics – it is the law itself, the very concepts of crime and punishment depend on agency (choice – free will), without agency they are a hollow farce.

      When Ian says “you are still wrong Paul” he denies his own status as a human being, if I were to take him at his word, I do NOT, I could, without ethical problem, sell his skin for parchment and his bones for animal feed. After all, he would not be a human being – indeed not a being of any sort (not a moral agent).

      With people who both deny morality and deny free will, who deny our ability to know what is morally right and to choose what is right even if we did not know it, one can only engage in civil interaction with them if one keeps saying to one’s self “they do not really mean this”.

      With David Hume it is easy to say “he does not really mean this” as he had such a gentle manner (and so on), With someone like Martin Luther it can not really be done – because he obviously did mean it, so civil interaction with him would not really have useful.

      For, yes Ian, someone who denies the ability of humans to know what is morally right, and who denies the ability of humans to choose what is right even if they did know it, is indeed an enemy of the West – that is blatantly obvious. They are traitors to all that is best in humanity – and our using their reason to attack reason itself (the worst form of treason).

      On law…..

      Back in the day – back before I really understood anything much about Sean Gabb, I wondered why he studied law.

      I did not (and do not) doubt his knowledge of this or that detail of law (on the contrary – Sean’s knowledge of the details of law is excellent), but as Sean denied the basic foundational principle of law, that humans were beings (i.e. that we could know right and wrong and, with effort, choose right – do other than we do) what was the point of studying the details of law?

      However, I suppose, he could just reply that his study of the details of law was predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the Big Bang.

    • Still John – you are really asking me if I think that Kant’s answer to Hume (or rather to the questions that Hume is asking – it may not be Hume’s actual opinions). It will not shock you to know that I do not favour Kant’s reply.

      What Kant seems to be doing is to accept the thrust of the doubts that Hume is expressing, and then try to find ways round them. The doubts (the questions) should just be rejected – root and branch. After all (as you point out) the questions (if one accepts their principles) destroy the existence of the questioner as a moral agent (as a being capable of knowing what is right and choosing right), such a creature need not detain us.

      One can simply reply “by your own statements, your own principles, you do not matter”. After all why bother to engage in a long conversation with a clock work mouse?

  • You’re still wrong, Paul. And trying to claim that anyone who seeks a better answer than Aristotle is an “enemy of the West” (Greece wasn’t a “Western” civilisation anyway, but we’ll let that pass) is just wearying. I must have typed a thousand times a request to prove any of your assertions of certainty, and you never do. Because you can’t. Nobody can.

    But I will reflect your outcomes-based argument back at you. If objectivism (I mean this in the general sense not Randian) is correct, there is no need for liberty. If our values are all objective, and can be discerned by sufficient reason, nobody needs any choice. For any matter, there would be a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it, and everybody should do the right way. Nobody would need any liberty; liberty would be reduced to irrationally claiming that things which are objectively wrong should be done. This is an absurd position to end up in.

    Take religion. Religion is subjective. Some people believe in Christianity (numerous flavours). Some are Jews. Some are atheists. In an objectivist universe, you decide which is correct (e.g. Methodism). You can then declare that everyone else (Catholics, Jews, Hindus) are wrong. You then have the justification for imposing one religion (in this case Methodism) because everyone else is objectively and demonstrably in error. Which is indeed what every religious tyrant has done; and what the “Progressives” are based on- because they are absolutely certain as to right and wrong, they set about extinguishing every other point of view.

    So then, the only minor justification for liberty would be choice in trivia that has no importance. What hat to wear perhaps. But even then, you find that the trivia is subject to the same objectivism. One hat is objectively better than another. Everyone must wear the objectively best hat. And we find that, if we believe in this magic objective morality, we cannot even choose what clothes to wear- ladies’ skirt lengths have often been a subject of moral discussion. And then you end up in sharia.

    It’s WRONG Paul. I’m tired of arguing about it. Any attempt to produce an objectivist system is doomed to failure. It always runs up against the baffling (to the objectivist) reality of people who simply do not agree- who then have to be bullied, coerced and even murdered because, hey, they are objectively wrong and are objectively “poisoning” the rest of society with their error. The absurd thing to me is that libertarians- who get the message about economic values being inherently subjective- then try to draw a boundary around the economic sphere and refuse to apply the same reasoning to the rest of human values. At least the left are consistent (objective economic values as well as other values). Somebody who would let a woman choose her hat (economics) but not her skirt (morals) is in a hopeless pit of inconsistency.

  • “I must have typed a thousand times a request to prove any of your assertions of certainty, and you never do. Because you can’t. Nobody can.”

    Are you certain of that?

    What is proof? Why do we need it?

    We need proof because existence is what it is – we cannot just use our free will and say it is “any old thing” and expect it to shuffle into line. It will not because A is A.

    Can I prove free will, existence, identity, consciousness or perception? – no because they are the pre-conditions of proof, they are axioms, they are the foundations of all cognition re-affirmed in every attempt to deny them.

    • Considering “free will”, as it seems to be defined by those most keen to assert it, is a logical impossibility (something magical which is neither deterministic nor random), it is hard to consider it axiomatic. Which is indicative of the mess people get into when they’re determined to limit themselves to the writings of people 2000 years ago.

      • Considering “free will”, as it seems to be defined by those most keen to assert it, is a logical impossibility (something magical which is neither deterministic nor random), it is hard to consider it axiomatic. Which is indicative of the mess people get into when they’re determined to limit themselves to the writings of people 2000 years ago.

        Ian,
        What forced you to say that?
        Could you not help yourself?
        Are you totally out of control? – you would be if you had no free will.

        Free will is an omnipresent fact of human awareness. It is implicit an every act of introspection and extrospection.
        Free will means your mind’s freedom to think – or not,

        Reason does not work automatically; thinking is NOT a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not.
        The dichotomy between determinism and indeterminism is a false dichotomy – free will is NOT an exception to the principle of causation but a type of causation.
        Do living organisms, which possess the power of self-initiated motion, contradict the existence of inanimate matter? No.
        Does man’s consciousness, which possesses the power of self-initiated motion in the realm of cognition (thinking), contradict the consciousnesses of other living species? No.

        Both are real – both possess a specific identity.

        Free will does NOT give us the power to alter the elements of reality, but it DOES give us the power to rearrange them them according to reality’s laws.
        But to do that we have to think, and the act of thinking is up to us, each of us, by our own free will.

  • Julie near Chicago

    JohnW (2 December, 2014 at 5:34 pm), Your examples are interesting as examples of something, although I’m not sure they exactly illustrate your point. I never got around to reading OPAR, partly because L.P. is in rather bad odor with me I’m afraid. I will follow your link to read the conversation there, so as to get the full context. But on the second reading, I have some observations.

    1. The collision. In the sense that you seem to using of the word “reside,” the collision resides on the road. In another sense, it resides in the properties or attributes of each car as they come together and exert some degree of force on each other.

    2. The marriage. It has “residence” in the minds of both the husband and the wife, and of those who recognize the marriage as such (according to whatever definitions of “marriage” they have in their heads). The contract itself has “residence” only in the minds of people — the piece of paper is a record of the contract, but the meaning of the contract resides in people’s minds: in their understanding of it.

    3. The post-box. Now you are talking the true Objectivist position, which is the denial of the subject’s believing or understanding or even perceiving and conceiving as the Last Word in making the judgment as to whether “X is real”; the denial of the intrinsic properties of X as being what we actually grasp or understand as being the Real Truth of X; and the supplanting of both the subjectivist and the intrinsicist positions by the objective position, which is that there IS a Real World out there, which we DO perceive (directly), which is specifically not the subjectivist position (“Reality IS, literally, what we/I take it to be”) and also is specifically not the intrinsicist position (“What I perceive as Reality literally IS ‘forcibly injected into my mind.”).

    In the Objectivist understanding, what we sense is real. Our perception is the grasping or conscious awareness of the data reported by the senses, and the placing of the thing (object, phenomenon, event) into various categories depending on our interpretations of various things about it that we sense, such as that attribute we call its “color,” the one we call its “shape,” even the one we call its “location” or its “warmth” or “coolness.”

    This is, at least, my own understanding of the Objectivist “trichotomy” of subjectivism, intrinsicism, and objectivism.

    And it seems to me that this is what you are trying to get at in all three of your examples. I do hope I haven’t misinterpreted you. :>)

    Note to readers: There are still areas of Objectivism that need work. But this is true of every philosophy I’ve ever heard of, including ones that have been around since Protagorus and modern “analytic” philosophies, and all the ones in between.

    • And it seems to me that this is what you are trying to get at in all three of your examples. I do hope I haven’t misinterpreted you. :>)

      Julie,
      Unfortunately, that is not what I am saying at all, but that’s not your fault – the perceptual form is a very difficult thing to describe and it’s a very subtle point that hardly anyone understands [including most Randians].
      I shall return to this matter later when I have more time.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ian, on 3 December, 2014 at 7:39 pm :

    In this comment in particular (you’ve tried to make the same point many times) you have taken it for granted that “objective” judgments require infallibility — indeed that “judgment” is a meaningless term in a world where objectivity is possible; and you have also taken it for granted that an “objectively” “true” fact is one to which all persons must accept as truth, or be legally punishable. Elsewhere you have also stated, vehemently, that unless all persons everywhere and presumably everywhen agree to some “objective” “truth,” it cannot be called “objective.”

    This means among other things that a fact is not a fact unless there is universal agreement to it. Well, it is a fact, and objectively true, that at this moment I am “typing” on my computer keyboard. But I’ll bet that if you asked, say, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England whether it is true, she would answer, “how the hell should I know?!” Not in exactly those words, of course.

    Conversely, if the entire population of Earth insisted that the moon is made of green cheese, ‘would still not be so. The number and even the credentials of people subscribing to a given idea do not determine its objective truth.

    It is precisely because there is — necessarily!, given the fallibility of humans and the fact (objectively true!) that we must learn about the world as we go along, never knowing Everything — disagreement about what is objectively true, that some people feel the need to legislate what is to be believed by the populace. (Even making allowances for various forms of human cussedness.)

    I will make the same point that thousands of others have made, several in response to your position on this and all of them to people who hold the same sort of position: When you state that there is no such thing as objective truth, you are stating an absolute: No ifs ands or buts; therefore your statement that there is no such thing as objective truth isn’t an objective truth either. At best it’s merely something you believe; at worst, a known untruth.

    The aims of philosophy are three.

    First, and most important I suppose in the minds of most who consider it all, it hopes to advance our knowledge of just what IS (objectively) true. –Purpose of the parens: For me, truth is truth. It is so, or it ain’t, at least not for the same person, in the same respect and at the same time.

    Second, it’s supposedly good mental exercise. I think this is sometimes true and sometimes not.

    Third, it’s entertaining, amusing, inspiring as an activity, like playing the piano or sculpting a statue.

    With this thought I leave you…for now. 🙂

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ian, in the same comment you wrote:

    If objectivism (I mean this in the general sense not Randian) is correct, there is no need for liberty. If our values are all objective, and can be discerned by sufficient reason, nobody needs any choice. For any matter, there would be a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it, and everybody should do the right way. Nobody would need any liberty; liberty would be reduced to irrationally claiming that things which are objectively wrong should be done. This is an absurd position to end up in.

    1. If “objectivism” is correct — that is, if there is such a thing as objective truth — then liberty is necessary in order to ensure that at least nobody is prevented by others, using force or deception, from learning what it is, in any given field. (Caveat about children, the mentally incompetent, etc.)

    2. It is (contra you) an objective truth that there are often several methods of achieving the same end, rather than “a right way and a wrong way.” I can get from here to the grocery store by walking or by driving. In terms of that particular end, neither way is THE “right” way or THE “wrong” way. It is not right to get a cat but wrong to get a dog. It is not right to get a dog but wrong to get a cat. What you do in these situations where there is no inherent “right” or “wrong” way, is that you keep adding in constraints till you get to an answer that works for you. The nearest store is 25 miles away, I think Ill drive. We already have two cats, and much as I love them (and I really really do, especially Neko) I’d really prefer a doggy companion for my Lucy … and for me.

    3. We already curtail liberty (actually not liberty, but rather the freedom to act just as we feel like, or even just as we know in our gut is proper on some level) by, for instance, outlawing murder. Even retributive killing, even where it’s just. Even almost all libertarians subscribe to this, I believe. However, since there are myriads of things that can justly (and morally in the broader sense as well) be done, and many of them are at odds with each other — shall I become an orange-grower, a programmer, or a drawer of rude cartoons as my main breadwinning activity and career? — there is no need to prescribe which a given person should take up, on some grounds that “objective truth” nullifies the need for liberty.

    The very object of statute law, for libertarians who believe in it at all, is to protect people’s liberty, including their ability to form and act upon their own judgments of what is objective truth, given their own needs, wants, and circumstances. It is the business of legal philosophy and of the history of men who lived under this or that legal system to determine which laws maximize this protection of the freedom to choose.

  • Julie, it is actually consistent to state (as an objective truth) that everything is uncertain; because it’s a fact-about-facts. (There is an implied “except this statement”). Claiming that it disproves itself is the same fallacy as Russell’s barber “paradox” (the paradox is only a paradox because he slyly forces one to contemplate a universe in which only two, exclusive classes of person are allowed).

    The sceptical, or subjectivist point- and Hume’s point, at its core- is that some things are more certain than others, but nothing is 100% certain. So you have to accept that we’re all muddling along with guesswork and thus always consider the possibility that something you believe to be true will turn out to be false. I believe very strongly right now that there is a washing machine in my kitchen, but there is some tiny (and not mathematically calculable) possibility that there isn’t. I would be very surprised if it isn’t there. But it might not be.

    The objectivist error is to take some facts that he considers very highly certain and conclude that they are absolutely certain, closing that sliver of doubt. The objectivist then boldly declare these things, whatever they are, to be self-evident (mangling the meaning of the term entirely) and on that rock he builds his system. And then denounces anyone who suggests that it might be just firmer sand than usual as- lordy God forbid, a “relativist”.

    I also have never stated that for a fact to be objectively true, everyone must believe it. If I’ve ever written something that appeared to mean that, I must have been writing poorly. Belief is irrelevant. Just because everyone believes in God, for instance, it wouldn’t make God any more real.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ian, I’m in a bit of a rush, but just your very first statement — so it’s OK for you to tuck “implicit” understandings or premises into your statements, but not for Russell to do so? Russell’s entire point was that the idea of such a barber is meaningless, that is, that it cannot have any referents in reality; as well as that it’s logically incoherent. It’s a “Let us suppose … and so we see that our supposition can never in fact be correct. I. e. true in the real world.”

    The fact remains that what you SAID (whatever you meant) was, “There is no such thing as objective truth. This is the objective truth.” It’s exactly the same as the sentence written on the otherwise blank piece of paper: “Every sentence on this page is false.”

    Well — one other thing. If you are messing about with “learning new program environments” AND you think that the System 360 was once the greatest thing since sliced bread (even though it was fraught with problems and the S/370 was the machine that fixed most of them), you must have run across the terms “axiom” and “postulate” somewhere in your life. (Yes, that’s a SNARK, but teasingly meant.) Anyway, I’m not going into all that yet again, but I will point out that the fact that there is a real reality which we can negotiate reasonably well by bringing reason and logic to bear on our perceptions and experience can and indeed must be taken as axiomatic, because without that principle there can be no meaningful thought about anything. Now a given instance may or may not be self-evident to some particular person, but the axiom is still there and irrefutable. I believe, and Paul will correct me if I’m wrong, that the Common-Sense philosophers like Reid used the term “self-evident” to refer to instances the arguments for the proof of which ultimately could be traced back to that axiom.

    As in interesting example of How We Think, I have this true story. As it happens, I have Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in pure (abstract, not applied) mathematics. When I was a graduate student I earned my tuition as a teaching assistant (T.A.), like most. I shared an office with a couple of other people. It occurred to me that it is NOT self-evident that the midpoint between two points A and B, with B>A, meaning that B is farther from the origin than A, is given by the simple formula

    M = (B – A)/2.

    However, it is easy to prove that that’s correct. The distance between them is, by definition, the distance from B to the origin less the distance from A to the origin: that is, D = B-A. The Midpoint between them is, by actual definition (rather than directly self-evident fact)

    M = D/2 = (B-A) / 2.

    Simples. Now, nobody else could see why the formula is not, strictly speaking, self-evident. But it isn’t. It needs proof. What IS self-evident, to me anyway, is that D = (B-Origin) – (A-Origin) is the proper definition of the distance (in the Cartesian co-ordinate plane) between B and A.

  • Julie,

    Since we’re following the ultra-sceptic part (does existence exist?) rather than the more interesting point about subjectivism… go back to Descartes. He concluded reasonably that he thinks therefore he is. The question about existence is thus whether or not the world external to the mind contemplating itexists. Certainty or uncertainty are internal to the mind. So it is not inconsistent to say that everything external to the mind and perceived by it is uncertain. The uncertainty is about things other than the certainty itself. So the sentence “everything is uncertain” does not refer to itself. There is no paradox.

    I think therefore I am. I just don’t know for sure if anything exists beyond that, or whether if something exists, I am perceiving it correctly.

    • And what content does the mind have independently of existence? NONE.
      To think you need something to think about.
      If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness: a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something. If that which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you possess is not consciousness.

      Descartes was a disaster for philosophy and science – he is the modern day equivalent of a witch-doctor.
      To reclaim the self-confidence of man’s mind and the supremacy of reason the first modern to refute is Kant; the second is Descartes.

      “Men have been wrong,” says Descartes, “and therefore, they can never know what is right.” But if they cannot, how did they ever discover that they were wrong? How can one form such concepts as “mistake” or “error” while wholly ignorant of what is correct? “Error” signifies a departure from truth; the concept of “error” logically presupposes that one has already grasped some truth. If truth were unknowable, as Descartes implies, the idea of a departure from it would be meaningless.

      Which takes us back to perception and the Sensory Qualities as Real:

      http://forum.objectivismonline.com/?showtopic=5348

      • There’s nothing to stop a conscsiousness being conscious of nothing but itself. It is not a contradiction in terms. A cruel mad scientist could do this simply by severing all connections to the peripheral nervous system, and thus all external experience from the brain. One could reasonably argue that consciousness of nothing but the self is precisely what we experience every time we sleep.

        Descartes got a lot wrong, but he at least started dragging us out of the mediaeval mire.

        • On Descartes – as often been pointed out (for example by Sir William Hamilton – but a lot more recent scholars) the matters that Descartes discusses were (not were not) discussed by philosophers in the Middle Ages (Ralph Cudworth pointed out that they were discussed long before the Middle Ages).

          The main problems with philosophical debates in the Middle Ages (from our point of view) is the assumption that everyone would know Latin, and the use of complex technical language (although no worse than the jargon that modern academic philosophers use).

          The great advantage of someone like Descartes is that one can put a work of his into the hands of an ordinary person and they can work out what he is saying (without long training), although the temptation is to assume he is discussing problems that no one else had discussed, and this is not helped by his habit of not saying that X,Y, Z had discussed such matters before and made the points that he is making – although in Latin, and in a complex scholastic jargon (and with the assumption that the reader would have already read various other works).

          • Although the fact that Descartes writes for a general audience (and writes well for a general audience) does not mean that he is right.

        • There’s nothing to stop a conscsiousness being conscious of nothing but itself. It is not a contradiction in terms. A cruel mad scientist could do this simply by severing all connections to the peripheral nervous system, and thus all external experience from the brain. One could reasonably argue that consciousness of nothing but the self is precisely what we experience every time we sleep.

          If the mad scientist cut all external connections it is plausible to contend that we would still have our memories and we would still have our dreams but what would they be memories and dreams of – independently of existence?

          Consciousness CANNOT create anything – it is metaphysically passive.

  • If someone tells me they are unable to tell right from wrong (moral right from moral wrong) and they are not mentally ill or brain damaged – then they are not telling the truth.

    And if someone tells me they are unable to choose any of their actions (that all their actions are predetermined) and they are not mentally ill or brain damaged – then they are not telling the truth.

    If “modern philosophy” denies the above, then “modern philosophy” is nonsense – evil nonsense.

    There is no “Jewish reason” opposed to “Nordic reason” and there is no “working class reason” opposed to “capitalist reason”. There is no “Jewish justice” opposed to “Nordic justice” and there is no “working class justice” opposed to “capitalist justice”. There is just reason and justice – universal principles.

    Again if “modern philosophy” denies the universality of reason and justice (in both time and space) then “modern philosophy” is nonsense – evil nonsense.

    The President of France (a philosopher) in 1914 was correct in his formal statement of response to the German Declaration of War. What the German elite had said (their lies) and what they were doing (their invasion) was WRONG – it was not wrong according to “French morality” or “German morality”, it was against the principles of reason and justice (period).

    Whatever one thinks of the merits of the evidence in the case of the prosecution of Warren Hastings, Edmund Burke’s outlining of the PHILOSOPHY upon which the right to prosecute at all was based (the universality of justice – DENYING that the different race of the Indians “their lack of lilies and roses in their faces” and their different history, religion meant they did not have the same rights under the universal law of justice) is correct.

    This is why Burke is in tune with the Scottish Enlightenment (although not Scottish) whilst being AGAINST the French “Enlightenment” (which had replaced the traditional rights of individual persons under the natural law of justice – with the rights of the people as a collective), and was in tune with the American Bill of Rights (although not an American), but was not in tune with the French “Rights of Man” (which seems fine – till one looks at the small print, then Rousseau and other collectivism starts poking through, as it does with the United Nations and European documents today).

    The French Revolution was not at fault because it took freedom “too far” – it was at fault because it was not really about private liberty and property at all.

    And the French Revolution was not at fault because it tried to apply principles – it was at fault because it tried to apply the wrong principles (as wrong in France as they would wrong in Britain).

  • “But did the French Revolutionaries KNOW they were doing wrong when they murdered the innocent?” – of course they knew, and if any of them denied they knew, they were adding the crime of perjury to the crime of murder.

    As Eric Brown has pointed out about the guards he interrogated at Belson – they all (without exception) knew they had done wrong, their German “moral relativism” was just a great big stinking lie. The warriors of ISIS are no different – liars as well as murderers. They know what they do is wrong.

    As for the Thomas Paine defence (which, to be fair to Mr Paine, he himself dropped) that someone who complains about murder is obsessed with “the plumage” forgetting the rights of “the people” – the “dying bird”, the late C.C. O’Brien (used to hearing such nonsense from the IRA and others) replied justly.

    You (Mr Paine) are trying to turn the victims of murder into “feathers” (“plumage”) – but you know they are not feathers, they are human beings. So your defence is not just false it is a lie – because you know it is false.

  • Paul’s last but one comment illustrates why I think there is little to be gained from these arguments. There is little to be gained from trying to address an argument consisting of “X is true and anyone who disagrees is evil”.

    • Someone who denies that humans are beings – that we can, with effort, tell moral right from wrong, and, again with effort, choose to do what is right, is evil – that is a matter of fact. The “freedom to attack anything – even freedom itself” is not freedom – it is the “freedom not to be free”.

      But whether you are one of these people is not for me to say Ian. I can not see into your soul – and I do not mean the word “soul” in a supernatural sense.

      And, for that matter, there is an awful lot wrong with my own soul – my own self.

      • Someone who denies that humans are beings – that we can, with effort, tell moral right from wrong, and, again with effort, choose to do what is right, is evil – that is a matter of fact.

        It’s not a matter of fact. It doesn’t even make any coherent sense. A “being” is not defined as something that can tell moral right from wrong. My cat was a being, but knew nothing of morals. Even if that strange association were correct, it still comes back, for the thousandth time, to how one knows what to categorise as “right” or “wrong”, other than by asking Paul Marks.

        The “freedom to attack anything – even freedom itself” is not freedom – it is the “freedom not to be free”.

        At which point you seem to have leapt into bed with Herbert Marcuse; which brings us back to my earlier point that anyone with an objectivist moral position ends up enacting some form of “repressive tolerance”.

        • Ian you are reversing Herbert Marcuse – he attacked what he, falsely, called “repressive tolerance”, he did not endorse it.

          As for human beings – that we can, with effort, know what is morally right and what is wrong, and we can, again with effort, choose to do what is right – even if we desire to do what is wrong. We can choose to do other than we do.

          Descartes, whom you have cited, would have had no trouble understanding the above (and neither do you – your claim that you do not understand it, that it “does not make sense” is false). Nor would Descartes have confused a cat with a being – a moral agent. Although Descartes did not fully take on board the capacity of animals for suffering (he is wrong to regard them as simply machines) he is correct in not confusing a cat with a moral agent (you do not really make this mistake either Ian – you are pretending to make it).

          Should people be punished for pretending that human beings can not tell right from wrong and for pretending that, even if we could know right from wrong, we could not choose good against evil – as all our actions are predetermined?

          Of course NOT – no more than someone should be punished for claiming that 1+1=68, or that water is dry, or ice hot, or that A is not A.

          It is only if someone acts upon these false claims, by (for example) actually robbing, raping and murdering, that they should be punished – that is not “repressive tolerance”, that is JUSTICE.

          • “Moral agent” and “being” are not synonyms.

            • But Ian – according to you “moral agents” do not exist. In short you deny your own status. It is extremely unlikely that you really want people to take your position seriously and act upon it in relation to yourself.

        • Often a good way to show that a position is false is to proceed as if it was true – as I shall now demonstrate.

          Let us say, Ian, that I deliberately cut off your arms and legs – simply because I liked to hear your screams and wanted to taunt you by waving your limbs in front of your face.

          At my trial I claim that I did not know what I was doing was wrong – indeed according to my “equally valid” “moral position” what I did was morally right, because I really enjoyed hearing you scream – and taunting you with your own limbs. Would you just nod in agreement with my relativism and recommend me for a Chair in Moral Philosophy at a university? Of course you would not – you would denounce my lies and say (quite rightly) that I was adding insult to your injuries.

          Unless I was brain damaged (say had the brain the size of that of a cat) or was criminally insane – of course I knew what I was doing was wrong.

          Now say I used a different defence at my trial.

          Now I claim that I knew what I was doing was wrong – but I could not do otherwise, because all my actions were predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the Big Bang.

          Would you agree with me? Of course not – you would (quite rightly) denounce me for lying through my teeth. Of course I could have chosen to do otherwise – chosen not to experience the pleasure of hearing you scream (or whatever), chosen not to cut off your arms and legs.

          It is not “repressive tolerance” for you to denounce my “defences” (that I can not tell right from wrong – and, even if I could tell right from wrong, I could not choose right) as the obvious lies they would be – it is, again, a matter of TRUTH and JUSTICE for you to do so.

          As for Descartes – perhaps he should have been a bit less hasty in not fully considering the “Great Chain of Being” argument from the Middle Ages. After all that something is clearly inferior does not make it morally worthless – one should not reduce all non humans to the level of mechanical objects.

          On David Hume – Antony Flew always argued that the Hume of the “Enquires of concerning Human Understanding and concerning the principles of Morals” was fundamentally different (and much better) than he had been ten years before when he wrote “A Treatise of Human Nature”.

          What is your opinion Ian?

          • My opinion is that you still haven’t understood the question.

            A common tactic in this kind of debate is to pick something that seems “surely” immoral and lurid, then claim a win from that. But the issue is not a matter of how I would feel if my arms and legs were cut off and waved in front of me. The issue is how you go about proving that this, or any other act, is moral or immoral, as a philosopher. I could indicate any number of societies- in fact, virtually every one prior to the modern West, who considered it highly admirable to treat one’s enemies with extreme cruelty. The objectivist has to somehow prove that they were wrong all along, and an objective moral prohibition always existed, even if nobody knew about it. And that’s where you hit the stumbling block because, as I’ve said a thousand times, you never do that. Because you cannot. Because it is an impossibility. Because morals and ethics are localised in time and place.

            No two human beings alive, even in the same country, who seem to be on the same side, have precisely the same moral codes. They may agree that murder and rape are wrong, but they will have different opinions of the degree of wrong. Some will think murder worse than rape, others that rape is worse than murder. This is (for instance) why whatever sentences the law codifies, some will complain that they are too harsh, and others that they are too light.

            Lurid scenarios don’t help us. We may go to the other extreme and address the question of me taking ten pence from you. We must find something in nature that tells us that this wrong, and what degree of wrong it is.

            And there we are stymied.

            • My point was simple Ian. You would not accept the defence that someone did not know that cutting off your limbs was wrong, And you would not accept a defence that this action was predetermined. In practice we do not disagree – as, whatever you may choose to say, in reality you do not believe in either moral relativism or determinism.

              Paul.

              Sent from Windows Mail

  • We are stymied if we delude ourselves into concluding that we have no free will – but we do.

    In ethics, one must begin by asking: What are values? Why does man need them?

    “Value” is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. The concept “value” is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? It presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative.

    I quote from Galt’s speech: “There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or nonexistence – and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.”

    If a chicken had free will and tried to live as a trout it would die.
    If a trout had free will and tried to live as a chicken it would die.
    Why?Because a chicken is not an aquatic creature – a fish is not a land animal.
    It is the type of life form that determines the type of value that living entities seek.

    But unlike a fish or a chicken man has no automatic code of survival. Man’s particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives by means of volitional choice. Man has no automatic knowledge of what is good for him or evil, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires.

    I quote from Galt’s speech again: “a desire is not an instinct. A desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living…Man must obtain his knowledge and choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform. Man has the power to act as his own destroyer – and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.

    A living entity that regarded its means of survival as evil, would not survive. A plant that struggled to mangle its roots, a bird that fought to break its wings would not remain for long in the existence…But the history of man has been a struggle to deny and to destroy – his mind.”

    Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice – and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal, Man has to be man – by choice; he has to hold his life as a value – by choice; he has to learn to sustain it – by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues – by choice.

    A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.

    The standard of value of Objectivist ethics – the standard by which one judges what is good or evil – is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.

    Since reason is man’s basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil.

    Objectivist ethics holds man’s life as the standard of value BUT THAT HIS OWN LIFE is the ethical purpose of every individual man.

    The difference between “standard” and “purpose” in this context is as follows: a “standard” is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man’s choices in the achievement of a concrete, specific purpose. “That which is required for the survival of man qua man” is an abstract principle that applies to every individual man. The task of applying this principle to a concrete, specific purpose – the purpose of living a life proper to a rational being -belongs to every individual man, and the life he has to live is his own.

    • Rand’s attempt to bypass is and ought doesn’t work. By the imaginary Mr Galt’s standard, a man who risks his life to save others is acting against nature and morals.

      • Neither you nor I nor anyone else of sound mind would risk his life “to save others.”
        Why should we?
        Why are “others” the purpose and standard of moral behaviour?
        That is sheer altruism – a term that was only coined in the 1840’s.

        • Well mainly because morals and ethics are in fact the ruleset one applies to others. Robinson Crusoe and The Omega Man need no morals, because there is nobody else to consider.

          I can only point out that many people throghout history have risked their lives to save others. By your measure (and Rand’s), the man who goes into his neighbour’s burning house to try to save the occupants, or jumps into the sea to save a child, is not of sound mind. Hmmm.

          I think Jesus might have some argument with the idea that Comte invented altruism in the 1840s.

          • Well mainly because morals and ethics are in fact the ruleset one applies to others. Robinson Crusoe and The Omega Man need no morals, because there is nobody else to consider.

            I can only point out that many people throghout history have risked their lives to save others. By your measure (and Rand’s), the man who goes into his neighbour’s burning house to try to save the occupants, or jumps into the sea to save a child, is not of sound mind. Hmmm.

            I think Jesus might have some argument with the idea that Comte invented altruism in the 1840s.</blockquote.

            Robinson Crusoe and The Omega Man need a moral code most of all. How to plan, how to work what to produce? – these are moral questions!

            What they do not need is rights.

            As for the ethics of emergencies – you cannot construct a moral theory on the basis of emergencies.
            "You are transported by aliens to the planet Mars without oxygen or even air-pressure – how should you live?" This is an absurd question.

            A moral code is a guide for living life on Earth, not a guide for living life in a lifeboat or on a world consisting of burning neighbours and drowning children.

            If my neighbours were murderous psychopaths like my previous neighbours – hell no! – I would not save them!

            If the child of a stranger were drowning and the risk was low – maybe.
            If the child of a stranger were drowning and the risk was high – probably not.

            If my child were drowning the risk would hardly matter.

            My own life as a rational human being is my standard of value – my purpose on this Earth is my own happiness. Figuring out what is in my own long-range self-interest is not in any way automatic nor is it simplistic!
            What career, which woman, what pastimes? These are difficult questions – being truly selfish is like embarking on a lifetime’s crusade – it ain’t easy!

            I think Jesus might have some argument with the idea that Comte invented altruism in the 1840s.

            Jesus did not say you should “live for others” like Comte.He did not make others his standard nor purpose.

            Jesus only said you should love others as you love yourself – not more than yourself.

            But you see in every case you mention you seem obsessed with others?

            WHY????????????????????????????????????

      • She first derives the fundamental ethic as staying alive, from the fact that if one is not alive, one cannot function and make ethical decisions. She then starts babbling on with her usual verbal diarrhoea about how living an inferior non-Objectivist moocher kind of life “isn’t really living” and this seems to be what you’re referring to. It is so sloppy that I’m astonished that even someone as vain as she thought she could get away with it. The fact of being a living organism cannot be then transferred to “living a life” in the metaphorical “get a life” sense. It just can’t.

        Ian,
        No, she EMPHATICALLY DOES NOT derive “the fundamental ethic as staying alive, from the fact that if one is not alive, one cannot function and make ethical decisions.”

        She says the type of values which living things require to maintain their lives is determined by the essential nature of the life form in question.
        She says man’s essential nature is his capacity for reason – but because man has free will he can try living like a plant or an animal if he so chooses.
        But if he does choose to “live” like a plant, like a cross-legged fakir who sits on the ground with one hand permanently held above his head – self-tortured and dependent on alms – he is still a man but he is man acting against his own nature like a bird that breaks its own wings, or a fish that tries living like a chicken.

        He is not acting acting as a man qua man but as a man qua plant.

        If man chooses to live an a manner contrary to reason he is acting against his own nature and he cannot expect to avoid the consequences because A is A.

        Indeed, we must hope they are since everyone outside of Ayn Rand’s nutty tent has believed in cause and effect for most of history, because that is how the universe works. Things happen because of previous things happening. That is how the brain works. It moves from one state to the next by cause and effect. It is deterministic because everything in the universe is deterministic. How the hell else do you think if functions? I mean, imagine your own brain, working from one second to the next. How does it reach a state now from the state it was in one second ago? It follows the laws of physics, which are deterministic, and there is no other conceivable way it could do so. Is there?

        Yes, you are making a simple error of logic called begging the question. You are merely saying:

        All that exists is the result of causation.
        All causation is mechanistic.
        Free will is not mechanistic.
        Therefore free will does not exist.

        This whole mindset is based on a classic reductionist fallacy which assumes that everything can be reduced to one simple cause rather than a combination of causes or causes of different irreducible types.

        There are obviously no rational grounds for such an assumption.

        Free will is not an exception to causation but a type of causation. To pretend otherwise is to claim that the nature of all causes in the whole Universe is already known.

        .

        • Okay, I’ll get back to Rand later.

          Regarding the ongoing (endless) free will argument,

          This whole mindset is based on a classic reductionist fallacy which assumes that everything can be reduced to one simple cause rather than a combination of causes or causes of different irreducible types.

          -is not my point at all. The causations operating in my brain, or even in the fall of a snowflake, are unfathomably complex. The only issue is whether they are caused entirely by the prior state of reality; which they are. Anti-determinists want a magical thing called “free will” which is not determined by the prior state of reality, but operates by some other magical method. Which is not only not true, but not even conceivable. This is to justify a strange idea that anything operating causally is not responsible for its actions, so you can’t punish them, or something. It’s a supernatural idea which is what you get when you’re stuck in philosophy from the years before Christ.

          Like I said, I’ll get back to Rand later.

          Simple fact; the human brain is a machine which operates according to the laws of nature. As such, its thoughts are simply the result of (very complex) mechanical actions within it, and it is thus operates deterministically. The idea that the brain has some kind of get-out clause from nature is absurd.

          • The only issue is whether they are caused entirely by the prior state of reality; which they are. Anti-determinists want a magical thing called “free will” which is not determined by the prior state of reality, but operates by some other magical method. Which is not only not true, but not even conceivable.

            But you have just conceived of it. You have conceived of it as a “magical” and “religious” method.

            The question is – is free will a natural or a supernatural or a nonsensical property?

            And my answer to that is – free will is a pre-condition of the concepts “natural,” “supernatural” and “nonsensical.”

            Animals do not have these types of conversations because they do not have the concepts – they have the percepts as we do, but they have no free-will to integrate their percepts into concepts.

            The reason we need logic is sort out which sort concepts are consistent with reality.

            You are saying, in effect:

            “I am in control of my mind.
            I do have the power to decide to focus on reality.
            I do not merely submit spinelessly to whatever distortions happen to be decreed by some chain of forces stretching back to infinity.
            I am free, free to be objective, free to conclude – that I am not free.”

            • I’m not saying anything of the sort. I am not “in control of my mind”. I am my mind. To claim that “I control myself” is a strange recursive dualism. How can “I” be separate from “I”? A is not A, if it’s the human mind? Hmmm.

              The reality is that in scientific terms- dropping the supernatural gobbledegook- “free will” is just the experience of being a mind- a machine which thinks. I am not privvy to my own workings, and I don’t know what I’m going to do next, so that creates an impression of this thing, “free will”. I don’t even know what words I’m going to type here until they come out of my fingers. I just start typing with some concepts in mind, and words flow out, but I didn’t plan or reason them in advance. It’s this weird lack of knowledge of self that creates the impression that something a bit magical is going on.

              Nonetheless, we know as a matter of both emprical science and, ironically, logic, that the brain must function in an entirely deterministic manner. Not only is it inconceivable that one thing in all the universe- a lump of cells inside a human being- does not obey causality, it is also logically impossible to conceive of any alternative, which is why definitions of “free will” by believers in it always reduce to saying “neither A nor B” rather than a positive definition which describes how it works. Because such a positive description of the actual functioning of the proposed “free will” is entirely inconceivable.

        • As to Rand, it’s probably easiest if I quote the Grand Dame herself-

          It is only an ultimate goal, and end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible. Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself: a value gained and kept by a constant process of action. Epistemologically, the concept of “value” is genetically dependent upon and derived from the antecedent concept of “life.” To speak of “value” as apart from “life” is worse than a contradiction in terms. “It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible.”

          In answer to those philosophers who claim that no relation can be established between ultimate ends or values and the facts of reality, let me stress that the fact that living entities exist and function necessitates the existence of values and of an ultimate value which for any given living entity is its own life. Thus the validation of value judgments is to be achieved by reference to the facts of reality. The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do. So much for the issue of the relation between “is” and “ought.”

          I particularly like the arrogant dismissal at the end. Unfortunately, she goes wrong after the first sentence, which is reasonable- you can’t have values unless there are goals. The problem is, how you prove you ought to have some particular goals. And that’s where Hume’s Guillotine slices the head off many a philosopher.

          This, though, is the nub of her argument- life as life- stayin’ alive is the ultimate “ought- which for any given living entity is its own life. The problem is, she’s just picked something and declared it, and hasn’t evaded the guillotine. One might reasonably argue that the ultimate “ought” from nature is to reproduce. That’s what our genes designed us for, not just living. Living isn’t ultimate at all; it’s a means to the end of reproduction, biologically. That doesn’t mean that reproduction will satisfy the ought criterion either, but it does demonstrate that one’s own life, in itself, doesn’t.

          • The problem is, how you prove you ought to have some particular goals. And that’s where Hume’s Guillotine slices the head off many a philosopher.

            If you conflate standard with purpose like every other 18th c philosopher.

            But Ayn Rand does not do that!

            Neither does she conflate the form of awareness with the content of awareness – which is the source of Hume’s error.

            One might reasonably argue that the ultimate “ought” from nature is to reproduce.

            Kind of difficult to reproduce if you are dead.

            The full quote from VOS is as follows:

            Only a living entity can have goals or can originate them. And it is only a
            living organism that has the capacity for self-generated, goal-directed action.
            On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the
            simplest to the most complex—from the nutritive function in the single cell
            of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man—are actions
            generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the
            maintenance of the organism’s life.
            An organism’s life depends on two factors: the material or fuel which it
            needs from the outside, from its physical background, and the action of its
            own body, the action of using that fuel properly. What standard determines
            what is proper in this context? The standard is the organism’s life, or: that
            which is required for the organism’s survival.
            No choice is open to an organism in this issue: that which is required for
            its survival is determined by its nature, by the kind of entity it is. Many
            variations, many forms of adaptation to its background are possible to an
            organism, including the possibility of existing for a while in a crippled,
            disabled or diseased condition, but the fundamental alternative of its
            existence remains the same: if an organism fails in the basic functions
            required by its nature—if an amoeba’s protoplasm stops assimilating food,
            or if a man’s heart stops beating—the organism dies.
            In a fundamental sense, stillness is the antithesis of life.
            Life can be kept in existence only by a
            constant process of self-sustaining action. The goal of that action, the
            ultimate value which, to be kept, must be gained through its every moment,
            is the organism’s life.

            An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the
            means – and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated. An
            organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the
            good, that which threatens it is the evil.

            Without an ultimate goal or end, there can be no lesser goals or means: a
            series of means going off into an infinite progression toward a nonexistent
            end is a metaphysical and epistemological impossibility. It is only an
            ultimate goal, an end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible.

            Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself: a value
            gained and kept by a constant process of action.

            • Kind of difficult to reproduce if you are dead.

              Nonetheless, the point I was making is that life is not the ultimate goal in this example; reproduction is. Rand’s attempt to find an ultimate fails. There are certainly many conceivable situations in which a person may risk or sacrifice their life to ensure the survival of offspring; it’s a major heroic trope and, from an evolutionary perspective, why males are built for aggression. We do things which may cause us to die so that our wives and children may live. “Women and children first”.

              Rand is correct that you can’t have values without goals. Her error is thinking she can discern an objective ultimate goal that applies to everyone, and her cobbled together argument for life as being that goal is the result of that error. The real answer is that, nihistically, there is no purpose to life so, we invent them. Goals are local and personal, not universal and collective.

              Bear in mind that the fight to live is a fight you are guaranteed to lose. Knowing that, it makes at least equal sense to devote what life you have to leaving something tangible behind when you go; biologically, of course, that is children. Our genes certainly are honed by a process in which reproducers win, and one can thus say that that is our most ultimate goal- a goal at which Rand herself failed (as she did at living, like everyone else does).

              This still doesn’t answer Hume of course, because we still cannot get “should have children” from “genetically honed to produce children and continue the species”, because the gulf between Is and Ought is unbridgable. All arguments from nature- including Rand’s- are simply the naturalistic fallacy with some quantity of bells and whistles.

              The other aspect of her error is that elaboration itself. She argues that since reason distinguishes us from the animals, that is what it means to be human. But firstly, not really- cats and dogs and chimps have reasoning, if much less than ours. But secondly, to choose this distinguishing feature is again simply arbitrary. For instance, humans are definitely unique in having religion and spirituality. The same argument applied to that would say that to not be religious is to be not human. Or, only humans make music- so to not make music is to live like a pig or a plant. And so on.

              In naturalistic terms, if anyone is “being most human”, it is a highly religious couple with ten children. They are articulating their uniquely human capacity for faith, and winning the game of reproduction as well. By living a life which is the antithesis of that lived by Ayn Rand.

  • Ian you did not reply to my actual question (about Flew’s claim of the difference between the two works of Hume that I mentioned) and instead pretended I was talking about a different question and had not “understood” it – this is a tactic you have learned from Sean Gabb (“he who touches pitch is defiled”). As you did not answer the question about the difference between the two work of David Hume that I mentioned should I assume that you know as little of David Hume as you know of Ayn Rand? By the way I do not know why you hate Rand so much – after all the lady was an admirer of cats (she observed the spark of life in these animals, that someone was there – not just something) no Descartes mistake for Rand – animals, at least some animals, are not just clock-like machines. For something to suffer there must be someone there (not just something).

    You confuse Rand with Hobbes – assuming that brute survival (not living as a HUMAN BEING – even if this means death) is the core of her position that and that Randian Objectivist could not never (consistently) risk their lives to save someone else. Now I could understand you being ignorant of Rand (I rather doubt that you received a very sympathetic account of Rand at university – if you received an account at all), but your dodging the question about David Hume, that was a bit of a surprise.

    I have already replied here, but my internet connection is so bad that the reply did not appear – so I will have another go.

    There is no real disagreement between us Ian – as we have already established (by your previous non replies) that you would NOT accept a “moral relativism” defence if someone deliberately cut off your limbs. If they were not brain damaged and were not insane you would demand that they were punished for their crime against you – and would (quite rightly) denounce their “I did not know what I was doing was wrong” defence as a LIE (and I agree with you – it would be a lie).

    You would also NOT accept the “determinism” defence – i.e. the claim that someone could make that they did know what they were doing (cutting off your arms and legs) was wrong, but it was not their fault because their action was predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the Big Bang. Again unless the person was brain damaged or mentally ill you would demand they were punished – and even it was established that they were brain damaged or mentally ill you would NOT allow them to just leave the court room and do as proceed to cut off the limbs of other people.

    So Ian in practice you do NOT believe in either moral relativism or determinism – so why do you pretend to believe in these things in theory when you would reject them in reality, in practice?

    Actually it is just as well that you reject the doctrines of moral relativism and determinism (and you do reject these doctrines Ian, and least in relation to crimes against yourself,- whatever you may pretend in theory).

    After all if humans are not people – if we can not, no matter how hard we try, tell moral good from evil (moral relativism), or we can not, no matter how hard we try, choose good when we desire to do evil (determinism) then libertarianism (and liberalism) is absolutely false and totally null.

    If humans are not people, if philosophical libertarianism is false, then political libertarianism (and liberalism) is false.

  • At one point does the capacity to suffer mean self knowledge – consciousness (agency)? And is our level of consciousness (agency) the highest there is – or are higher (or deeper) levels of consciousness? Some of the great chain of being questions – trying to see the difference between a clock and a cat, and the difference between a cat and a (non brain damaged) human, and a human and ……….

    These questions are too difficult for me – but at least I understand that they are questions. Those who do not even accept that humans are people (such as Thomas Hobbes) do not even see the questions – let alone the answers.

    One must start by accepting the “dignity of man” – the nature of humans beings as moral agents (capable, with effort, of both working out what is morally good and choosing against our base desires to do it) – otherwise concepts of “human rights” are absurd, utterly absurd.

    As philosophers used to know – one starts off with the “nature of man”, before one proceeds to “man’s life”.

    To deny that humans are moral agents (that we can, with effort, tell right from wrong – and, again with effort, choose what is right against our desire to do wrong) is the worst treason there is.

  • Paul. I have no idea what Mr Flew thought of Mr Hume and I’m trying to discuss philosophy and nature here, not what one bloke thought of another bloke. It really does not matter. I only refer to Hume where he got things right about the nature of things (in my view) and that is where he starts and ends.

    Trying to unpick the mess of thoughts you fling in each comment is taxing. But I can kill two birds with one stone here by pointing out you making the same error as Rand. Confusing two different usages of the same word and using one to justify the other. Rand derives her attempt to produce objective morals from life itself- biological functioning. She then smears that across to “being a human” as living a life in some way she considers worthy.

    Consider the following-

    Bob is a male member of the species homo sapiens. Bob is a man.
    Bob is a coward. He is not a man.

    We have here two usages of the word “man”, the first being a simple descriptor of an objective nature (if you accept reality exists, etc etc, which we will in this context). The second is a disparaging comment on his behaviour. The same word, different meanings. Rand tries to get away with doing the same with her dismal attempt at deriving an ethics. She first derives the fundamental ethic as staying alive, from the fact that if one is not alive, one cannot function and make ethical decisions. She then starts babbling on with her usual verbal diarrhoea about how living an inferior non-Objectivist moocher kind of life “isn’t really living” and this seems to be what you’re referring to. It is so sloppy that I’m astonished that even someone as vain as she thought she could get away with it. The fact of being a living organism cannot be then transferred to “living a life” in the metaphorical “get a life” sense. It just can’t.

    And you do the same, by claiming that “if humans are not people – if we can not, no matter how hard we try, tell moral good from evil (moral relativism),”. These are two entirely different meanings of the word “person”. A person is simply a member of the species homo sapiens. A moral relativist is still a person. A psychopath is still a person. A person who is alive after catastrophic brain injury is still a person. A man in a coma is still a person. Claiming that “personhood” derives from being a moral objectivist is trying to impose a view of “a good person” (in your view) upon the nature of personhood itself. You just cannot do that.

    Look, I kind of undrstand where you got this crap from. But human beings would still be human beings in an entirely deterministic universe. Indeed, we must hope they are since everyone outside of Ayn Rand’s nutty tent has believed in cause and effect for most of history, because that is how the universe works. Things happen because of previous things happening. That is how the brain works. It moves from one state to the next by cause and effect. It is deterministic because everything in the universe is deterministic. How the hell else do you think if functions? I mean, imagine your own brain, working from one second to the next. How does it reach a state now from the state it was in one second ago? It follows the laws of physics, which are deterministic, and there is no other conceivable way it could do so. Is there?

  • Ian – my question on Hume was straightforward, were the two works I mentioned (written ten years or so apart) fundamentally different or not? The question was not on Antony Flew – the question obviously was “did David Hume change his position?”

    As for moral relativism and determinism…..

    I have asked you, repeatedly, if you would accept a defence of moral relativism (“I did not know it was wrong” or “I thought what I did was good”) or a defence of determinism (“I knew what I did was wrong – but I could not do otherwise as my actions were predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the Big Bang”).

    It is obvious that you would NOT accept these defences – in reality (in practice) you do not believe in either moral relativism or determinism.

    So why defend something in theory – when you do not really believe in it? Not in reality – not in practice.

    As for appealing to natural science – I am astonished with you Ian.

    You must remember how you were corrected on this subject (by Nick and other trained natural scientists) when you appealed to the authority of physics before. Why make the same mistake again? Physics is not fully deterministic, randomness does exist. And agency is NEITHER predeterminism or randomness anyway (choice is neither of these things – a point made by Ralph Cudworth about three and half centuries ago, and by many other philosophers before and after his time).

    I repeat I would like to know if you think that Hume did change his opinions between “A Treatise of Human Nature” and “Enquires Concerning Human Understanding and concerning the Principles of Morals”.

    With the greatest respect (and I am not being sarcastic) I am not interested in reading your statements about Ayn Rand or natural science (I do not believe you know things about these subjects that I do not know – indeed I know rather more about Ayn Rand than you do Ian) – but it is many years since I read these works of Hume so I am indeed interested in knowing your opinion on whether Hume really did change his position in important ways.

    Sadly we have gone away from opposing the extra lawyer of government that is the European Union – but I suppose it is pointless to discuss the E.U. (or anything else) if we can not even agree that humans (who are not brain damaged or criminally insane) are moral agents who can, with effort, know the difference between moral right and wrong, and, again with effort, choose to do what is right against the desire to do evil.

    If humans are not people (are not moral agents) then tyranny does not matter, The philosophy of Thomas Hobbes leads to the politics of Thomas Hobbes.

    I would make the same point about Martin Luther (a century before Hobbes) – indeed I already have made this point.

    Once one holds that humans can not know moral right from moral wrong, and, even if we could know, could not choose to do what is morally right anyway – why should one care about the absolute rule of a Prince (or even the Ottoman Sultan) or such things as serfdom?

    Still less should one care about the spider’s web of regulations that is the European Union.

    If humans are not agents then “violating their freedom” matters no more than building a dam to “violate the freedom” of water matters.

    Violating agency does not matter – if agency does not exist.

    If one is just taking about the clockwork human shaped machines of Thomas Hobbes, or the utterly-vile-and-totally-base “human” creatures of Martin Luther – freedom is irrelevant (if not actually harmful).

  • I could most of the time never tell what Nick was on about due to his chest beating and threatening to beat me up, so I’ll pass on Nick as an authority, thanks. Even so, I can only call to mind two occasions; one exchange on Samizdata when Nick and I fell out over whether chaos theory is applicable to human society, and another over black holes at Cats.

    As to quantum mechanics, I don’t think you know very much about it, but here goes. It does indeed contain implicit randomness. Nonetheless it is predictable randomness; a particle can decay into particles A and B, or C and D and a photon, but it cannot turn into an elephant. It is precisely formulated and mathematically described randomness. But as you say, the appeal to the magic of free will denies both a determined and a random evolution of a system. It is literally “none of the above”. I have simply been using a Newtonian description (A causes B) rather than a quantum one (A causes B 50% of the time, C 30% of the time and D 20% of the time) for brevity. Because, as you point out, both are considered unacceptable to the free will believer. For the imaginary “free will” to operate, State A has to evolve into State B neither deterministically nor randomly; which as I have often pointed out, is a logical impossibility and an absolute absurdity- neither A nor Not A.

    Whether or not you are more of an expert on Ayn Rand is beside the point. Her philosophy, like that of Hume or Marx, contains a few basic ideas extrapolated, and we can discuss them without an intimate knowledge of the plot of Atlas Shrugged. Where she goes wrong for instance with defining life as the goal of existence can be discussed after the first few sentences, because she is already wrong by that point, just as we can criticise Marx from the early point where he relies on objective value (yes, Marx was an objectivist, if not an Objectivist) too.

    As to the arms and legs court case example, I already answered it. The question of whether I would blame the man is irrelevant to the issue of whether what he did is objectively morally wrong. This is however a common error of Common Sense style philosophy, so I will address it again.

    Would I hold him personally responsible for the action? Yes I would. This is not however a refutation of moral relativism- you constantly jump to conclusions (“A therefore B” when the issue is with the “therefore”). I used an example a long while ago of a robot car that I have built which drives into your garden and destroys your greenhouse. It is a deterministic system with no understanding of moral philosophy. You can still identify it as the perpetrator of the action, though, and thus say that the robot car needs some form of response. You can imprison it to stop it running amok. You can decide it is unfixable and destroy (execute) it. If it were a sufficiently advanced system that it could learn from experience, you could re-educate it, or you could punish it to dissuade it from acting that way in the future. Its determinism (it runs mechanically) neither prevents you identifying it as the perpetrator nor taking action against it. The question of its internal workings, or why it did what it did, is not relevant. And therefore the fact that the robot car is responsible for destroying your greenhouse is not only irreleveant to the question of determinism, it is irrelevant to the question of morals as well.

    You see, you objectivists are running after a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You live in a world where, observably, people have all kinds of different ideas on what is good and bad behaviour. But still you want to find this magic system that ought to apply to everyone. Find yourself in the hands of ISIL, and tell them that beheading you is evil; they will reply “not in our system. In our system it is an act of good”. And you can keep ranting at them until they cut your head off. They simply have a different value system to you. They are violating your value system- but you, as an infidel- are violating theirs. Most everyone believes that their value system is correct and ought to apply universally; which ironically is why there is an ISIL in the first place.

    As to literary criticism of David Hume’s writing, I really have no interest in it. I’m not getting into another sidetrack.

  • “literary criticism”?????

    My question (which you keep dodging) was whether David Hume changed his philosophical position, it was nothing to do with literary style.

    As for Nick – my point was not that he threatened to beat you up (I did not even know he had), but that he, and others, established that you do not actually know much about natural science (no shame in that – I do not know much about natural science either) – even if natural science was relevant to what we were discussing (which it is not).

    Why is the European Union a bad thing?

    Because it is an extra layer of government ordering people about with its commands.

    Why is that a bad thing?

    Because humans are people – moral agents who have the capacity with effort to know what is morally right and what is morally wrong and, also with effort, choose to do what is morally right against a desire to do evil, This Aristotelianism is NOT enough on its own.

    One must then make the additional step (which Lycrophon and others made – but which Aristotle himself disputed) that it is a BAD THING to for the state (or private persons) to violate the freedom of people. Not just that freedom exists (freedom as in agency NOT just “freedom” as in the “freedom” of water after a dam has been blown up – as water is a nonagent its “freedom” is of no moral importance at all, and may actually be a bad thing), but that it is a BAD THING to violate agency – the freedom of an agent (as long that agent does not violate the person or possessions of others).

    Philosophical libertarianism (understanding that humans are people – moral agents) is a necessary but not sufficient condition for political libertarianism.

    It is actually the second step (that it is a BAD THING to violate agency) that is the difficult one – yet I can not even get you to formally accept the first step (that agency exists at all).

    This reminds me of when it first dawned on me (quite some years ago) that Sean Gabb was an “accident waiting to happen” – as he (Sean) did not believe in agency , so why should he believe it was a bad thing to violate something he did not even believe existed in the first place?

    The only comfort I can draw is that, like Aristotle freeing all his slaves in his will, in practice you do not actually believe in your own doctrines Ian.

    After all you would not accept either the “moral relativism” defence or the “determinism” defence for any aggression committed against you or others.

    So, whatever you may claim to believe in theory Ian, in practice (in reality) you do not actually believe in either moral relativism or determinism.

    Just as, in practice, you would vote to get out of the E.U. – so all the other word play (and so on) does not actually matter.

  • Paul, at some point you’re going to have to catch on to the idea that I don’t give a tinker’s cuss about whether David Hume changed his position, nor whether Anthony Flew thought so. It has no bearing on the subject, which is the nature of reality.

    If you’re trying to wind me up about Nick, it is beneath you. If you want to argue that a thuggish handyman is an authority on “natural science”, that is of course your perogative.

  • As to the tiresome Common Sense school arguments, which constitute a kind of saloon bar anti-philosophy, feel free to keep deploying them. You will still be wrong.

  • Ian I was not “trying to wind up with Nick” I simply pointed out that it has already been established that even if physics was relevant to this discussion (it is not – as agency, choice, is NEITHER predeterminism or randomness) you do not actually know much about modern physics anyway (no shame in that – I do not know much about it myself, although I do know that it is NOT fully deterministic).

    And if it is “saloon bar anti-philosophy” to point out that you are contradicting yourself when you reject both the “moral relativism” defence and the “determinism” defence for any aggression committed against you – i.e. you REJECT both moral relativism and determinism “in reality” (in practice) yet continue to try and defend these doctrines in theory, than a “saloon bar” is, in this, a place of wisdom.

    By sneering at “common sense” you put yourself in bad company Ian – the company of Plato and co, those who sneer at ordinary people for just seeing the “shadows in the cave wall” whilst just they (the academic elite) see the truth.

    I recently had a very bad experience with a “libertarian” academic – Dr Stephen Davis who explained to me (to his own satisfaction) that the government should back (with its credit bubble monetary policy, subsidised roads and drainage, and on and on) an extra 400 thousand “housing units” per year whether the people of this country supported the policy or not. Do you really up in the Ivory Tower with people like that Ian?

    Still your argument “is still wrong” – because you assume that I can not produce academics at universities who support agency (moral responsibility – personhood, against the false doctrines of moral relativism and determinism), not that it matters but I can (and have already done so).

    By the way if everyone who is not employed by a university is a “saloon bar anti philosopher” at which university was Mr David Hume employed?

  • Okay Paul, I’ll bite. I do not recall Nick demonstrating that “I know nothing about modern physics” so I suggest that you should at least point to the instance when he did so that we can discuss it. I can remember as I said one disagreement about chaos theory and one where I did say something incorrect about relativity theory, but neither of them would suffice. I think you are just being desperate and rude here, but if that’s how you want to go, go ahead with it.

    Secondly I never defined philosophy in terms of universities and academics, so I don’t know why you’re claiming I did either. I said that Common Sense is a kind of saloon bar anti-philosophy, meaning that it just rejects the questions others ponder because it doesn’t like them, like a man in a saloon bar.

    And we come back again and again to the fact that you keep defining “free will” as niether determinist nor random, and I keep pointing out that a mechanism which is neither determinist nor random is a physical and logical impossibility. I ask you to describe how such a thing actually works, and of course you cannot, because it is impossible and inconceivable. So, you go round a definitional circle in which the definition of free will is what agents do, and agency is what beings with free will have, but you cannot actually describe either state- “free will” or “agency” in any other terms because you have no idea what they mean outside the circular definitions.

    If I were an engineer seeking to construct a machine with free will, what physical characteristics would it have? How does a free will engine work? How do I construct a machine such that its state at a given instant is not due to its prior state evolving by physical processes? I cannot conceive of how such a machine would or could operate, and neither in fact can you.

  • “nothing” about physics? I hope I did not say that – even I know more than “nothing” about physics.

    Very well Ian – “as you know” (as you insist you understand physics) physics is not fully deterministic as randomness does exist (a central point of QM and so on). However, the point is not relevant to our discussion as randomness is not choice. Choice is choice – it is itself (agency), trying to reduce it to something else (to predetermination or to randomness) is a classic example of the error of reductionism. Some things are foundational – they can not be reduced to other things. So, for example, if someone says “a thought does not mean a thinker – a reasoning I” they are just wrong (flat wrong). One does not have to be a fan of Descartes to know that – as the point was explained centuries before he was born.

    Is a machine a reasoning I (a thinker – a moral agent)? Unless someone has created AI just now – then NO.

    I keep coming back to the central contradiction in your position – you REJECT both the moral relativism defence (“I did not know what I did was wrong” or “I thought it was right”) and the determinism defence (“I knew what I was doing was wrong – but my action was predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the Big Bang”) in practice – in reality. You would NOT accept either of these defences for an aggression against yourself or anyone else.

    Yet you keep trying to defend in theory doctrines (moral relativism and determinism) that you reject in practice – in reality. This is a contradiction – a fundamental contradiction.

    If something is not true in practice (for example you would not accept it as defence for an aggression against you) it can not be true in theory – no matter how many magical notations (how logic has collapsed into something that looks very much like astrology) and forms of special language one uses.

    Still at least we have not got into the irrational mess of trying to claim that incompatible things, such as freedom of choice – agency and everything being predetermined, are “compatible” because of a lot of word games (really – word twisting).

    Their are two fundamental principles of libertarianism (and liberalism).

    Firstly that human agency exists (that we can indeed, with effort, tell moral right from wrong – and, again with effort, choose to do what is right against our desire to do evil), and (SECOND STEP) that it is wrong (a BAD THING) violate it.

    It is useless to discuss whether it is a wrong (a bad thing) to violate agency with people who will not even accept that agency even exists.

    Now Ian you accept in practice (in reality) that agency exists – will you take the step (the first step) of accepting that agency exists in theory also?

    I am NOT asking you to accept that violating agency is a bad thing (not just now) – I am just asking you to accept that agency exists.

    Will you do that?

    Will you get rid of the contradiction between your rejection of the moral relativism defence (defence for aggressions) and the determinism defence in practice (in reality) and your endorsement of these defences in theory?

  • You haven’t actually defined agency, Paul. All we actually see in the world is action. You want some form of action which is not determinist, nor random, and call it “agency” and as I have been saying over and over for years now, such a thing is a logical impossibility. The problem I keep pointing out is taht you are dealing in a circularly defined set of abstracts. So I keep asking you how this thing which is neither deterministic nor random operates- or indeed can possibly operate, and I have been waiting for a very long time now for you to even acknowledge the question let alone answer it.

    So, once again. Consider a machine. Consider that it operates- like all machines, and all things- deterministically (which may include a quantum random component, though for all practical macroscopic purposes the randomness evens out anyway, but we’ll leave that aside). You observe this machine operating. It acts. It makes choices. It has an internal set of rules of how to behave in circumstances it encounters (for instance, “thou shalt not kill humans”). This set of rules is its “morals”, if you like. Furthermore, the machine is sufficiently complex that it is unpredictable to an outside observer; you are not sure what it will do until it does it, though you are aware of the gamut of its behaviour. This means that at some time you can imagine it taking one of several actions, but you do not know what action it will take until you observe it- as such you say, “it could have done other than it did”.

    So, how do you distinguish it from a machine that operates according to your idea of free will?

    I have also nowhere rejected what you call “the moral relativism defence” or the “determinism defence”. You just keep saying I have. I appreciate that this is a standard Common Sense argument (“You don’t really believe it”) so please get your head around the idea that I do indeed believe what I am saying here. I’m not ragging you for jollies. You seem to be confusing personal feelings I might have in some situation (annoyed that somebody has attacked me) with a claim to objective morality, and that is the antithesis of the point I am making. There are various things I do not want done to me. I don’t want me head cut off. I know there are people in Iraq who, given the chance will cut my head off, because that is admirable in their moral system.

    Legal systems vary across the world, representing (to some degree anyway) the preferences of the people of that jurisdiction. Nobody has to prove any legal system objectively correct; it is just their preferences for their community. If you are really hoping to prove that English law is more objectively correct than Islamic Law, you are on a hiding to nowhere. All I can say- and I’m happy with this, even if you aren’t- is that subjectively, I prefer English law even in its current state to Islamist sharia. But my personal preferences are not a claim to objectivity. They’re personal, local values, not universal. For the same reason that prices are subjective (which bizarrely you accept, in total contradiction to everything else you seem to believe about the world).

  • “You have not defined agency Paul” – I have, repeatedly.

    And the fact that you can say that I have not defined agency makes me despair of this conversation.

    If I may sum up your position Ian.

    You do not believe that agency exists – you do not believe that humans are people. BUT you believe that politically we should act as if agency did exist (as if humans are people – i.e. can tell right from wrong and can choose to do right even when the desire to do evil) – that is why you will not accept as defence of aggression against you either the moral relativism defence “I did not know what I did was wrong – I thought it was right” or the determinism defence “I knew what I what I was doing was wrong – but my actions were predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the Big Bang”.

    You would not accept either the moral relativism defence for an aggression against you or the determinism defence, You insist that you are treated as a human being (a moral agent – a being who can tell right from wrong and choose to do right against the desire to do evil) even though you hold that there are no such things as human beings (no such things as people – that we are just flesh robots without knowledge of good and evil, and without the ability to choose between them even if we did know).

    Sorry but that just does not work – if humans are not agents, if we are just flesh robots (like the “zombie” humans of philosophy thought experiments) without self awareness, (if we are NOT agents – not a “reasoning I”) then violating our freedom presents no moral problem, as we have no moral freedom – so the word “violating” would actually be wrong.

    After all we do not say that the freedom of water has been “violated” when a dam is built and it is morally good when a dam is blown up and the water “freed”. Ian – it would be exactly the same with the flesh robots (the “zombies”) you claim humans are.

    There is no reason (none) to act “as if” moral freedom (human agency) was true if it is not true.

    There is no moral problem in violating human freedom – if no such thing exists.

  • Perhaps Ian thinks ‘After all we do not say that the freedom of water has been “violated” when a dam is built and it is morally good when a dam is blown up and the water “freed”,’ is only an issue because of the way we use or define ‘violated’ and ‘freed’?

    • Perhaps Ian would say that John, But Ian could also say that it is quite normal (in modern times) for people to keep their philosophy and their politics in different boxes (even Hayek did so), and that I (Paul Marks) am the freak because I do not keep my politics and my philosophy in different boxes.

      Ian could also say that his way of “doing philosophy” (essentially an obsession with the exact use of language – to me missing the wood for the trees) is now perfectly normal in universities – even in Oxford (and he would be correct to say so).. The days when it was considered a compliment (not an insult ) to write (and reason) like an ordinary person are long gone – someone like Harold Prichard or Sir William David Ross would only get jobs as toilet cleaners or other such in a modern university philosophy department, And Henry Veatch called both Prichard and Ross, Kantians.

      Ian is a man of his time – so is Sean (although he chooses to hide it), I passionately despise this period – but that makes me the freak, not Ian.

      • Paul, it’s not about having politics and philosophy in separate boxes. The problem is you start with your conclusions- a set of circularly defined abstracts- and then work backwards and demand that reality should conform to them. Which is why you can’t even accept the most basic fact about external reality, such as causation; because if you accept that, you find “responsibility” leaking out of the person you want to hold responsible, and because that goes against your personal taste, you just deny it. So you have to put human action in a vacuum where it just happens, without explanation, uncaused by anything. Which really is absurd.

        This would in fact lead us to bizarre conclusions if applied (to use your own “consequentialist” arguments); for instance that Bin Laden had no responsibility for 911, since he did not fly the planes, and that Hitler was not responsible for the Holocaust, since he did not operate the Death Camps. And so on.

  • I would also like to thank all the participants in this discussion because their comments have helped me to clarify my own thoughts on these matters.

  • Same blind repetition, over and over again. For somebody who believes in reason, you are powerfully immune to actually deploying it, Paul. So, once again, here is the question you refuse to even acknowledge, let alone answer:

    If the human brain is denied both causality and randomness, how does it actually function? Drop your abstracts and tell me, in mechanical terms, how it works (that is, how any system without causality or randomness possibly can work)?.

  • Yes Ian I start from the fact of my own existence (I exist – as an “I” a someone not JUST a something) – this is because it is not a “conclusion” (as you think of that term) it is a basic starting point. I am not going to engage in “reasoning” without reasoners, in “philosophy” without philosophers. The denial of the existence of the reasoning I (the human person) is not legitimate.

    The way of “doing philosophy” that you were taught Ian, leads naturally to political tyranny – and it is meant to. The purpose being the “euthanasia of the constitution”. And indeed if human beings do not, in fact, exist (if there is no such thing as a “reasoning I” – a someONE not just a someTHING) then tyranny is of no moral importance – none.

    It makes no sense to talk of water, or non sentient robots, being “enslaved”. Only agents can be enslaved – and if agency does not exist, then agents do not exist.

  • The irony Paul is that you aren’t doing philosophy. You’re refusing to do it. You are treating your prefererred conclusions as facts, and thus incapable of reaching any other conclusion. You’re not doing any reasoning at all. The question is not (in this context) whether you exist, but how the you that exist functions.

    Particularly bizarre is your claiming that a “person” only exists if they work on magic (this “free will” which you cannot even describe). Here is your “logic”: I am a person. Persons have free will. Therefore free will exists. You have not made any attempt to prove the existence of the free will, because it is plugged in as axiomatic. It is the same non-thinking as, say, “I am a person. Persons are made by Allah. Therefore Allah exists”.

    I don’t think you’re even capable of thinking your way out of this circularity. And so finally, you’re reduced to “I won’t discuss it at all”, because it’s all you’ve got left.

    Look. If you are going to claim that something exists- this “free will” for instance- you are obligated to describe what it is. You must surely see that. You can’t just keep going around this circle of A is defined by B and B is defined by C and C is defined by A. Suppose you use some word that somebody else does not know the meaning of- let us say, “fringle”. Asked what it is, you say, “a fringle is the nature of a zongle”. Asked what a zongle is, you say, “A zongle is that which has the nature of fringle”. The listener is none the wiser. He needs a definition of fringle or zongle in other terms; it must be derived from some observables. If you now say, “a zongle is my name for a ginger tom cat”, we have got somewhere.

    You have to describe “free will” in other terms. Given that the universe can only contain things which are either causal or not causal (deterministic or random) and logic itself only allows those two options, you cannot do that, so then you instead go into this, “liar or fool” routine to anyone (such as myself) pointing this out.

    And round and round we go.

    I put it to you that a person- a member of the species homo sapiens- is a complex mechanism that operates in the same manner as everything else we see in the universe, according to the laws of physics. You insist that a person is (apparently uniquely) the only thing in the universe that not only defies physics but logic (a person is neither A nor Not A). You have an absolute obligation to therefore describe what instead it is. How it operates. How my brain defies the laws of both physics and logic.

    Are you going to finally do so, Paul?

  • First Ian do not bring “physics” or “logic” up again – as physics is NOT fully deterministic (physics does NOT deny randomness – and CHOICE is NEITHER randomness or determinism anyway). and “modern” “logic” looks more like magical spells (or astrology) than reasoning. Neither playing silly games with numbers and letters, nor endless word play is actual reasoning.

    Ian what you are doing is denying that the Western tradition (which is based upon the existence and moral value of he human agent) is philosophy at all. Indeed you deny that words such as “agent” or “agency” have even been “defined” (because the only definition you will accept is one that conforms to what you have been taught).

    Admittedly you were taught to behave this way – but you could choose to free yourself (if you really made an effort), but you have made a choice not to.

  • I don’t give a flying fig about what you think “The Western Tradition” is. I’m interested in what is actually observably true. You are thinking backwards as I keep saying- “I want these conclusions therefore I will believe X Y and Z regardless of reality”.

    And as you keep amusingly pointing out, determinism and randomness are both verboten to your magic “free will”, which is why I keep asking how it operates without either, and you can’t answer that, can you? Bear in mind that QM (if you understood it) is causal, even though it has a probabilistic basis, but I’m not getting into arguing about that. As you say, it doesn’t matter anyway, since neither will satisfy your supernatural and irrational demands for humans to be subject to neither.

  • I will also remind you again that it is objectivist ideas that are incompatible with liberty. You recognise this in economics- if there is an objective “just price” for everything, you don’t need economic markets. But since economic values are subjective, only markets can discover them. Likewise, if our other values are objective, again, nobody needs liberty. We would all have to have the same set of values, put on a Mao suit and live our identical lives. It is only by recognising human subjectivity in our other values that we understand that no one system can satisfy everyone (or even, anyone, as with Communism) and thus the sensible approach is to maximise freedom of human action.

    I’m just being a consistent Misesian, effectively.

  • On the contrary Ian – economics depends on the existence (the objective existence) of human persons. If persons do not exist then they can not value anything – there can not be value without valuers. There can be no “subjective economic value” if there are no subjects (no human agents) – only objects (flesh robots).

    This is why, for example, Hayek’s economics, and politics, is fundamentally in conflict with his philosophy (philosophy he did not get from Mises), In his economics and politics Hayek assumed the existence of the very thing (the human person) that he denied existed in his philosophy, or rather in the philosophy he had been taught.

    It is an important point – as Hayek appeared baffled (for decades) why the people who shared his philosophical outlook were socialists (of various sorts). Actually (although this never seemed to occur to him) it was not them who were trapped in a contradiction – it was him.

    “I do not give a flying fig about the Western Tradition” – well you said that about yourself Ian, it was not me who said it.

    Ian the term used to describe what you now openly state is your position is “the treason of the intellectuals”, their denial of the moral importance (indeed the VERY EXISTANCE) of the human person – of the agent, of agency (the reasoning “I” – self awareness, consciousness, free will, whatever term you want to use),

    If you want to see your monument (and Sean’s – and the rest of you for so many decades now) then observe the ever growing state. It is not consistent to adopt the philosophical assumptions of, for example, Martin Luther (that humans can not tell moral good from evil – and could not choose good even if they could tell right from wrong) and then be all shocked and upset over serfdom or absolute Princes. Why should anyone care about the “enslavement” of “something” rather than “someone”? There is no reason to be concerned – none. If the “one” (the agent – the reasoning I) does not exist (or is utterly vile and totally base) then there is no reason to be concerned about the “freedom” of these non-existent beings.

    At least Luther was consistent (his politics matched his philosophy) as was Thomas Hobbes a century later.

  • By the way – this is why I regard “The Road to Serfdom” as rather distasteful. Not because I disagree with the book (I do not disagree), but because the writer (F.A. Hayek) has no moral right to use the language he uses in the book – language (which Hayek himself admitted) assumes the existence of various things hat his philosophy expressly denies.

    Most readers (both in Britain and the United States) were unaware of Hayek’s philosophical opinions. For example Mrs Thatcher (then Miss Roberts) assumed that this Hayek chap who was using the political language of her father (Alfred Roberts) about opposing the “totalitarians” (Alderman Roberts had given many talks opposing the “totalitarians” in the 1930s) and supporting the “rights” of people shared her father’s philosophy – centred on his belief that humans were people (i.e. could tell moral right from wrong – and choose, with effort, to do right even when they desired to do evil). This Alfred Roberts believed just as much as John Wesley had – hence Wesley’s opposition to slavery (unlike his rival the predestinationist George Whitfield who, quite logically given his philosophical position, was not opposed to slavery).

    Actually F.A. Hayek believed no such thing – all the praise for the natural rights expressed in such things as the Bill of Rights (British and American) was just “war work” (he had no belief in the philosophy that is the foundation of the such things).

    I wonder if Mrs Thatcher ever knew that? There is no evidence that the lady ever read the later works (just “The Road to Serfdom” – the “war work book”).

    Even today “we must oppose the E.U. because it produces extra attacks on liberty – it is an extra layer of government” rings hollow from people who do not believe in human freedom anyway – from people (like Thomas Hobbes) who believe their is no difference between human freedom and water rushing out after dam has been blown up.

    “Freedom” as just “lack of external restraint” – not moral choice. There is no moral value (none) in blowing up a dam to “free” water, or in “freeing” flesh robot. So the state (and the intellectual elite that support it) have no problem in limiting “freedom” more and more.

    Why should they not? If the human beings that Richard Hooker, Sir Edward Cook, Sir John Holt (the Chief Justice of the Glorious Revolution period), Edmund Burke, Gladstone, Alderman Alfred Roberts and all the rest (great and small) believed i DO NOT EXIST.

  • Ian said:

    This is the problem we keep coming back to Paul. You can’t declare what reality is in order to align it to your preferences, which is what you keep doing. You have to start by trying to figure out what reality is, then draw your conclusions- however unpalatable- from that. Which was what Hume did, basically, even if he got some stuff wrong as well.

    No, you do not.

    You do not “have to start by trying to figure out what reality is,” that is Hume’s error, which he got from Descartes and Hume, if I remember correctly, tried unsuccessfully to resolve the problems resulting from Cartesian Doubt by resurrecting the concept of an “idea” – which he got from Augustine. So much for “modern” philosophy.

    What reality is – is given to us. You say we “have to start by trying to figure out what reality is” but what are you figuring out from?

    Do you understand?

    This is where our differences begin. – at the very beginning.

    All the stuff about free will – or lack of – follows.

    @Paul, yes Hobbes is hateful – and yes there are two Hume’s. However, Hume was not a sceptic in real life, there has only ever been one true sceptic – Cratylus.
    Oddly enough, Hume’s method of ensuring adherence to reality is not very far from the Objectivist position namely, try to relate new knowledge to old knowledge and reduce your conclusions to back to the perceptual level – I posted Hume’s exact words on Chris Tame’s LA Alliance group list a few years ago.

    @Ian And Objectivists do subscribe to objective values in economics [see Reisman.]
    But there is a difference between philosophically objective and socially objective.

    • Julie near Chicago

      John, do you perchance have the date of your posting on Hume on the old LA? Along with the discussion’s title? Presumably it would still be in the archives, although they only commence in October, 2006 — and that month’s only entry boils down to “We’re working on it.”

      My acquaintance with Hume is of the “He looks vaguely familiar — I might have had a class with him once” variety, but on re-reading a teensy bit of the pertinent material it seems to me that there are three possibilities: First, that he really was arguing for philosophical scepticism. But perhaps not: Perhaps he was trying to present arguments against dogmatism and the doctrinaire. The third possibility, which at the moment seems to me the most likely, is that he intended to be arguing AGAINST hard scepticism.

      It seems to me he may be saying, “Suppose scepticism is the correct position. Then…. and…. so…. ” and on and on for pages, in which he speaks as he would IF he were a philosophical sceptic.

      I didn’t see it that way at all in college, I must say. But perhaps I completely misunderstood the man.

      • My interpretation of what Hume was doing, and I think it’s fairly widely held, was a very reasonable thing of trying to find the bounds of knowledge. That is, he wasn’t arguing for “scepticism” per se, but trying to find out what we can know. He was in the scientific tradition. Hence, his treatise on human nature, attempts to ascertain what man is before declaring a philosophy; rather than the reverse which many philosophers have done of starting with what they think ought to be, then declaring man to be whatever fits to that. As we see Paul doing here.

        Hume wasn’t actually arguing for a scepticism in the same mode as Berkeley. But he did show that you can’t have absolute certainty, so be prepared to be suprised if that of which you are certain turns out to be wrong. I think for me that is the main conclusion of his work.

        • Julie near Chicago

          Thanks for your thoughts, Ian. I do appreciate them, and I think many people basically agree with what you say here (in particular) about Hume.

      • Try searching for Hume and Objectivist and/or method.

        Most Objectivist’s , I suspect, would regard Hume as a basically good guy trying his best to figure out the problems inherent in Descartes and Locke [ Locke, incidentally, starts out brilliantly, but then falls back into the Descartes fold] but failing.

        You may recall the principal character in Ayn Rand’s Anthem discovering the concept of “I” which is the easiest thing in the world for an Objectivist – you just form an abstraction – but Hume can’t do that;

        David Hume says when I look inside myself, I cannot find anything distinct from my experiences and which is unchanging – ‘the I or ego,’ thus, he says “for my part when I enter most intimately into what I call myself [myself is a stolen concept – how many can you count in this paragraph?! – JohnW} I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade love or hatred pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at anytime without a perception and can never observe anything but the perception. If anyone upon serious and unprejudiced reflection thinks he has a different notion of himself I must confess I can reason no longer with him. all I can allow him is that he may be in the right as well as I and that we are essentially different in this particular. He may perhaps perceive something simple and continued which he calls himself though I am certain there is no such principle in me but setting aside some metaphysicians of this kind I made venture to affirm of the rest of mankind that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and movement .”

        The idea of a self is a meaningless term, because for David Hume at term is meaningful only if it stands for something in direct experience.

        His view can be characterised as “Look this is where philosophy leads, I cannot figure it out, if you can, good luck to you, but when I go out drinking and gambling with my mates I simply act like everyone else.”
        This pretty much let’s him off the hook because “acting like everyone else” in his time and place meant respecting individual rights and freedom and gentleness because people – even savages like Man Friday – are basically good and human life is precious.

        David Hume, for example, was assuredly NOT an advocate of sacrifice and suffering!

        Nevertheless, he DID invalidate the conceptual faculty, reducing man to the perceptual level, destroying entities, destroying the law of cause and effect, turning all necessary truths into mere conventions and it was Hume who suggested that the idea of necessary causal sequence must be routed in “associative laws of the minds internal operations” – giving Kant the idea that there are some kind of laws organising the material inside the mind.

        So along comes Kant and it’s good bye Enlightenment!

        • Julie near Chicago

          Thanks for your response also, John. Hume lost me in college when he asked (wherever it was, I forget) how we KNOW that two non-parallel mathematical lines intersect in a single point? He said that after all, “yes, if you look at two lines [drawn on paper] at a broad angle it seems they meet in but one point; but if you draw them so they meet at a sharp angle, they clearly share many points in common” (paraphrase). I thought, then, that if the man had so little of a concept of the abstract, what in the world could his philosophy be worth?

          But that was over 40 years ago, and perhaps I misinterpreted his reason for bringing it up and putting that question.

          However, I have tremendous difficulty wrapping my head around the idea that we do not form concepts. I mean, do I not “see” myself doing this all the time?

          As for Kant…it seemed to me in college that Miss Rand was likely misinterpreting him. Interestingly enough, there are Objectivists, or Randites, or at least Randite fellow-travellers (I class myself among the latter) who think that that was the case. In particular, I assume you’ve read George Walsh’s 1992 paper “Ayn Rand and the Metaphysics of Kant.” But if anyone’s interested, it’s at

          http://enlightenment.supersaturated.com/objectivity/walsh1/

          Still, as I mentioned elsewhere, somebody on one of the O-boards said (non-jokingly) that you need to immerse yourself in Kant for 20 years if you hope to understand him properly, and by all accounts I have insufficient time to complete the program, even if I were that interested. :>)

          • Yes I am aware of it, but where do I start? Do other Enlightenment thinkers describe Mankind as “radically evil” and “crooked timber”? This is the voice of the Counter-Reformation not the Enlightenment.

            I would be here for months if I described my disagreements with Walsh.

            If I had to describe my disagreement to Kant I would say it is this – prior to Kant philosophers were all, in one sense, realists — they believed there was reality out there and the function of our minds was to obtain knowledge and conform to reality – that was true of Plato and it was true of Aristotle. But Kant says our minds do not conform to things; (phenomenal) things conform to our minds. This volte-face is his Copernican Revolution and it really is a revolution – but not for the better.
            [I would seriously recommend John Ridpath’s lecture series on Kant [in addition to Peikoff’s History of Philosophy lectures] – they are some of the most moving lectures in the whole of Objectivism.]

            I should also point out that it is not just Objectivists who denounce Kant. I have read many books by non-Objectivists who simply loathe him.
            Windelband, for example, described the Critique of Pure Reason as “The Doomsday Book of German Philosophy, Walter Kaufman, in Discovering the Mind says “Style is the mirror of a mind. Kant’s is anything but a harmless eccentricity. It is a contagious disease … it is the language of self-deception. … Kant’s language is a scandal not only stylistically but also methodologically. It kept him and others from seeing what he was doing…”

            I could go on.

  • I have not denied the existence of persons. Your problem Paul is that you have an irrational belief regarding what a person is- a person in your philosophy is only a person if they operate on the basis of an illogical magic principle which you cannot even describe. You will not even address that problem.

    For the thousandth time I will ask you again Paul, describe how a choice which is neither causal nor random can possibly occur. Describe the process. If you cannot do that, you cannot assert such a thing as existing.

    • Julie near Chicago

      Ian — if you adhere to your understanding of Humean skepticism, how can you make absolute (i.e. full-stop-declarative) statements like “you have an irrational belief”? The only way this could be consistent with that skepticism is that you intend every word you say to be understood as including the qualifier “in my opinion” or “it seems to me” or some such. (Interestingly, Eric Hoffer wrote this qualifier into the introduction of his book on mass movements. He said he didn’t want to have to keep repeating it in every sentence. The man quite won my heart with that.)

      But that intention seems unlikely, given the doggedness of your apparent attempts to disabuse Paul (and others, sometimes) of Error.

      It is possible, of course, that your aim is not to correct Paul or anyone else so much as it is to get yourself understood. I am not the only one who is more open to entertaining (not necessarily adopting) other points of view once I have the feeling or sense that my own PoV, finally, has been properly understood.

      ???

      • The only way this could be consistent with that skepticism is that you intend every word you say to be understood as including the qualifier “in my opinion” or “it seems to me” or some such.

        Indeed. Everything everyone says contains that as an implicit prefix, we just usually omit it for brevity. Human speech implies all kinds of implied qualifications. I’ve said this myself a few times in internet arguments, I can certainly remember specifically stating it at Samizdata at least once. Everyone in a debate is prefixing everything with “in my opinion”, whether they admit it or not.

        Additionally, the thing I’ve said a few times here to Paul- “your statement is not logically possible” is predicated on an implication of something like, “if our understandings of the rules of logic are sufficiently similar”. Paul (or anyone else) could dispute or refute my claim that something cannot be both Not A and Not Not A by some form of argument showing that this can indeed occur logically, and then (if we are dilligent) we would carefully examine where in the chain of reasonings or understandings of reality our divergence of belief regarding logic has occurred, and so on.

        Except we don’t because we’re really just evolved chimpanzees, so it’s easier to throw poo at each other until one poo-flinger gives up. Which of course takes us back to the nature of human nature (and thus by implication, Hume) and the realisation that reason is not the main driver of human behaviour at all, because (though Hume himself did not know this) we’re just chimps who can do quadratic equations.

        • Except we don’t because we’re really just evolved chimpanzees, so it’s easier to throw poo at each other until one poo-flinger gives up. Which of course takes us back to the nature of human nature (and thus by implication, Hume) and the realisation that reason is not the main driver of human behaviour at all, because (though Hume himself did not know this) we’re just chimps who can do quadratic equations.

          Ian, from your perspective, would it not be more pertinent to describe human beings as, essentially, merely Brussels sprouts or mud?

          • We are more closely related to chimpanzees than brussels sprouts.

  • What reality is – is given to us.

    And there is the problem. There are really two levels on this; the first is the grand scepticism of whether reality external to the consciousness exists at all. The second is the subjectivist question of how, if it exists, the consciousness apprehends it.

    If we skip the first one by assuming for practical purposes that yes, a reality it exists and, yes there is only one of it and everyone lives within that, we can move onto the second problem, which is the one we are arguing about here. And if you contemplate that scenario; a universe in which things exist that experience their environment, it is pretty obvious that each of those entities- however they function internally- will have to build an internal model of the world, and that each model will be incomplete, uncertain and unique. That is, subjective.

    And this is born out by our experiences. Everyone has a different model of the world. Some models will be quite similar, and some will be quite divergent. The brain (or any other perceiving entitity) does not contain the world (it cannot); it contains opinions about the world and there is no way around that. This, by the way, is as true of entities that we may consider objective since they do not “think” as we do, or have emotions, such as a computer compiling data. Its apprehensions regarding the world will depend on what statistics it is programmed to gather, and what logic to apply to them, and so on. Computers (and government statisticians, etc) are subjective entities too.

    Which explains why people can all look at the same world and have such wildly different opinions about it. Two people can look at the same data (say, unemployment) and one has a conservative interpretation and one has a socialist interpretation. For the philosophical objectivist (small “o”), the only explanations are the ones Paul trots out- the other person is either a liar or a fool. But in fact it is just that each apprehends the reality “out there” beyond their consciousness according to different internal models forged by their experience (and possibly, arguably, different brain wiring from birth).

    Humans have thus developed strategies for getting a more consistent view- the scientific method, notably- which helps somewhat, since when applied properly it enforces scepticism on the user of it. But even so, in all manner of areas, two scientists or users of the method can look at precisely the same data and come up with opposite beliefs. The current global warming phenomenon being an example. We live, as entities, in constant uncertainty. Nothing is truly a given.

    • What reality is – is given to us.

      And there is the problem. There are really two levels on this; the first is the grand scepticism of whether reality external to the consciousness exists at all. The second is the subjectivist question of how, if it exists, the consciousness apprehends it.

      If we skip the first one by assuming for practical purposes that yes, a reality it exists and, yes there is only one of it and everyone lives within that, we can move onto the second problem, which is the one we are arguing about here. And if you contemplate that scenario; a universe in which things exist that experience their environment, it is pretty obvious that each of those entities- however they function internally- will have to build an internal model of the world, and that each model will be incomplete, uncertain and unique. That is, subjective.

      And this is born out by our experiences. Everyone has a different model of the world. Some models will be quite similar, and some will be quite divergent. The brain (or any other perceiving entitity) does not contain the world (it cannot); it contains opinions about the world and there is no way around that. This, by the way, is as true of entities that we may consider objective since they do not “think” as we do, or have emotions, such as a computer compiling data. Its apprehensions regarding the world will depend on what statistics it is programmed to gather, and what logic to apply to them, and so on. Computers (and government statisticians, etc) are subjective entities too.

      Which explains why people can all look at the same world and have such wildly different opinions about it. .

      I think we are making progress – this is where we differ.

      More later

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh, horsefeathers, Ian. “Nothing is truly a given”? YOU are a “given,” or else you wouldn’t be able to write what you did, due to non-existence. I too am a given, or I wouldn’t be able to think about anything, discuss anything, breathe or do anything else. This is what Descartes said, in essence, and he was quite right. Whether he said anything else, whether sensible or not, is beside the point. That we exist, is a Given.

    I am using the term “given” in the sense in which I think you mean it: A “given,” in that sense, is something which is known by direct experience, universally, by everyone. Except for a tiny fraction of humans — the severely malformed or dysfunctional; the anencephalic; the severely retarded or comatose perhaps, but also perhaps not — everyone senses himself directly, immediately (the word means “without need of an intervening medium to connect A and B”).

    . . .

    “Everyone has a different model of the world.” Yes, at least once you get past the fundamentals: I exist, and I require food and sleep and some form of hydration, and also there is stuff that is not me. These things are indisputables, though some sane people pretend to dispute them, either as an intellectual game or for the purpose of driving other people nuts.

    But, so what? Some of those models turn out to be better guides than others when negotiating reality, and the ones that are particularly good in negotiating certain situations tend to be similar in the pertinent respects. None of that means that the facts themselves are LITERALLY dependent on what people make of them. That the existence, and the nature, of the facts themselves LITERALLY depend on opinion is the belief of the philosophical subjectivist.

    I’d hoped to finish this before I crashed, but I’m crashing. So with luck I’ll finish it tomorrow, and from your POV, gentle reader, perhaps with luck I won’t get back to it at all. 😉

    • As I said somewhere up the thread, scepticism applies to the world external to the consciousness, so when I said “nothing is a given” it naturally should be read as “beyond my consciousness, nothing is a given”. Hence, Descartes.

      Some of those models turn out to be better guides than others when negotiating reality, and the ones that are particularly good in negotiating certain situations tend to be similar in the pertinent respects.

      And there’s already a problem, because you’ve sneaked in a “better” and there is no objective standard of “better”. You might think that everyone agrees on “don’t stab yourself in the eyes with a fork”, but that presumes a goal (subjective) to avoid self harm. And there are plenty of philosophies that admire self harm; Christianity, Islam and various other self-mortifying philosophies. If you think harming yourself brings you closer to God, and if being closer to God is your goal, you might end up defining “better” as stabbing yourself in the eyes with a fork.

      Anyway, those fact things. As we’ve seen at length in this thread, Paul is absolutely content to throw away what most people consider the most basic facts- the laws of physics- to satisfy his subjective preference that humans are magical beings. So if you want to lecture somebody about facts, it’s not me that needs the talking to. I’m at least accepting an external reality with consistent facts, like Hume, in the absence of compelling contrary evidence. Paul just flings it away entirely because of his terror of being a “flesh zombie”.

  • Yes John W. – Hume is complicated as re-reading some things (after so long) reminded me, I wanted to get Ian’s opinion – but he decided to be closed minded and not even discuss the matter.

    Ian you continue to claim the mantle of “science”, specifically physics, for your determinist claims – even though you know that physics is NOT fully deterministic.

    Now if you said this once or twice it might be a mistake, for example a typing error – after all my own typing is awful. But you keep on doing it Ian – again and again. Now if Nick really did get angry with you (as you claim) I can understand why. Someone who says “physics says X” when it has been explained to him (over and over again) that physics does NOT say X is engaging in deliberate provocation. Now Ian if you had said “unlike physicists I, Ian Bland, believe that physics is totally deterministic – that such things as QM and chaos theory do not exist” then I would SUPPORT your rights (I really would). If Nick or some other physicist came to “beat you up” I would be on YOUR SIDE Ian – because (as you are free will person – an agent) you have a right to your opinion (no matter how mistaken it may be) and I have a moral duty to help you defend yourself from attack.

    But you do not do that Ian – you do not say “I have a different view of physics from most physicists” (which would be fine – totally legitimate). You claim that you are expressing the opinion of actual physicists, such as Nick, when you claim that science is totally deterministic – and that is simply not true.

    Not that the point is even relevant anyway – as choice is NEIHER predetermined nor random. Choice is choice – it is itself. The attempt to reduce choice (human agency – the “I”) to something else is reductionism. A crass error.

    As for the “external world” – there is no point in arguing about the “external world”, for example the European Union, if we do not first accept the fact of our existence – and we do not need physics to know that we exist, it is a basic fact (the defining fact) of consciousness – self awareness (agency – free will). To deny one’s own existence is to engage in a basic contradiction – as if the person does not exist, the person can not deny their own existence.

    As for the effects of “modern philosophy” (it is actually an evil that is thousands of years old) to deny the existence of the human person (to claim that there is no such entity as “some ONE” only “some THING”) – well look around you Nick.

    The expansion of the state (in both size and scope) is the result of your philosophy (the philosophy shared by Sean Gabb), if human beings do not exist (if there is no such thing as agent – a reasoning “I”) then the rights of these, non existent, beings do not exist either.

    If “people” are just flesh robots (if they not are agents – if they have no free will), then there is no moral reason to respect their “rights” because they have none. The state, and the “intellectual” elite behind it (like Francis Bacon’s “The New Atlantis” or Jeremy Bentham’s 13 Departments of state covering almost every aspect of life) can do what it likes – and they will (and have).

  • My apologies – that should have been “look around you Ian”.

  • Jesus Christ Paul, are you even reading what I write? I specifically stated that QM is probabilistic. If I did not know you as well as I do, and know you really believe what you are saying, I would think you are trolling. You are certainly deploying a spectacular straw man here.

    Now answer my frigging question Paul. If the brain is not deterministic nor probabilistic as you keep claiming, please explain how else it works, and why it alone in the universe is able to ignore the laws of physics. And then explain how anything can be neither A nor Not A. I await with bated breath.

    And, I have never stated that people do not exist. I have said that they don’t work by magic. If you insist that liberty is only compatible with magic, that is your problem to work out, not mine.

  • And this-

    The attempt to reduce choice (human agency – the “I”) to something else is reductionism. A crass error.

    Not an error. Normal science. Asking, “how does this thing here work?”. The only reason you refuse to do it is that you cannot, because it undermines what you believe. Human thought is the action of the brain. We can study how the brain works, and many scientists do this for a living. Presumably you think this is an “error”. How absurd.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh for gosh sakes. The word better ALWAYS means “better according to some standard or criterion”; better for some purpose, as in honey is better than vinegar for the purpose of catching flies, or, inversely, honey is better for making things sweet than it is for making things sour.

    Yes, the concept “better” applies in the judgments of particular people; but some procedures really ARE better than others for achieving a given purpose. It is better to feed your family delicious, healthful roast beef than it is to commit suicide, if your purpose is to provide a good diet for them.

    Now, you might actually find some folks who claim not to agree with that…but that wouldn’t make it any less true.

    . . .

    By the way. I don’t remember Jesus’s saying anything to indicate that mortifying the flesh is particularly holy. I don’t think mainstream Christianity is particularly in favor of that doctrine, though some sects seem to have been, or at least to have produced more religious fanatics than others. Of course every religion has its fanatics who seem to think that masochism implies a literal holy sacrifice of self to whatever they worship, and I conjecture that they believe that makes them acceptable to whatever they worship…and perhaps causes them to meld somehow with the Head of Lettuce Named Ralph.

  • One thing that does interest me is how much of a “some ONE” has to be there for there to be suffering? A “some THING” can not really suffer.

    A clock can not suffer, a robot can not suffer (at least a non AI robot can not suffer) – but a cat can (a point that Bentham was fond of making – and he was not always wrong) when one looks into the eyes of a cat (or another higher animal) does someone look back? It is not the same as looking into the eyes of a clockwork robot, but a cat is not a full agent (with knowledge of right and wrong and the ability to choose right even when the animal desires to do wrong), at least they are not generally considered to be so. Are there different levels of consciousness below humans? And (possibly) above humans? One can legitimately use AGGRESSIVE FORCE against a cat (for example to take it the vet for an operation) for its “own good” (or not even for its own good – say one does not want the cat to have more kittens). This is wrong in the case of humans – because humans are agents (an example of a “reasoning I” – free will) one does NOT have the right to use aggressive force against humans “for their own good”, “for their own happiness” (Francis Bacon, Jeremy Bentham and so on were wrong – morally wrong because they were also wrong in FACT, in what they believed humans to be).

    But that is a discussion for an other time – and a discussion I would only be prepared to have with people (human or alien – if “ET” really is out there) who accepted the basic fact of human agency (free will). It is not a discussion I am prepared to have a site such as this one. A site that is, generally speaking, hostile to the moral foundations of liberty. Just as some, but not all, of the site is hostile to large scale property (regarding supermarket chains and so on as somehow bad things) . I am not interested in endlessly debating these matters – I want to move on to other things (based upon the foundations of liberty and property that are not accepted here).

    To sum up…..

    The European Union is bad because it is an extra layer of government – ordering people about and taking their stuff.

    Contrary to the claim made on another post on this site, the European Union is NOT just doing things that the “ruling class” in Britain would do anyway (the works of Christopher Booker make it clear that many of the things that are done were never even imagined by politicians in Britain – no matter how eagerly civil servants may grab them in order to justify their own jobs, or just to stave off boredom).

    The European Union does things and spends money IN ADDITION to what would happen anyway – that is why it is a bad thing.

    “But why is it bad to order people about and take their stuff?”

    Because people are not flesh robots there to be “programmed” for “happiness” – the whole “Progressive” project is wrong – morally wrong, partly because it is factually wrong (their view of human nature is mistaken).

    It is simply not true to claim that “Progressives” do not want humans to be “happy” – of course they do. Their error is based upon their false understanding of what a “human being” is – their denial of agency. If their view of the “nature of man” was correct – if we really were on the level of cats (or even of inanimate objects – such as robot cats) there would be nothing wrong in what they, the intellectual elite, are doing.

    That is why an elite in the European Union (and so many other examples) think there is no moral problem in what they are doing – because they have a fundamentally false view of the “nature of man”.

    Finis.

  • You aren’t going to answer the question are you, Paul?

  • Ian I do not deny that humans often fail to be what we could be (I have failed only too often) – the horrible thing about evil (and they are evil) works such as “Nudge” is there that there is a bit of TRUTH in them.

    But, no, I am not interested in answering “questions” from “people” who deny agency (i.e. who deny their own personhood). Even if I knew to what “question” you refer – and I do NOT Please remember that I do not carefully read every single line that is on this site – I do not have the time or the desire to do that, so I may have missed the “question”, when I quickly had a look at what was being said. These days I delete comments in my “in box” without reading them (otherwise I would never leave this chair) – I just go to the thread and have a quick look. In fact this is the last thread on this site that I am actually “subscribed” to.

    Still…..

    Ian, by your own “arguments”, you have no moral worth – you are not a person, indeed you claim that there are no such things as persons (i.e. agents – free will beings).

    You are indeed caught in a contradiction – in that your denial of your own existence, as a person, is actually proof of your existence. But it is interesting to proceed on the basis that what you say is correct – in relation to yourself.

    After all the forces of mainstream (mainstream – there is a dissenting tradition within Islam) Islam (centuries before Martin Luther) insisted that humans could not work out what was moral right from moral wrong (so the only moral right and wrong were COMMANDS – either of God or of the State, the representative of God on Earth) and that humans, even if they could know right from wrong, could not choose between them anyway – as all actions are predetermined.

    This line seems to break down when one is questioning a mainstream follower of Mohammed.

    “you should not treat me like this, I am a HUMAN BEING” comes the scream.

    A perfectly just reply would be.

    “You have just contradicted your own philosophy”.

    A clear “ought from an is” (not allowed) and an “is” “I am a human being” that they have previously denied anyway – denying the very existence of the “I”, of the human agent.

    Saul Alinsky said in his “Rules for Radicals” that reactionaries (those people who support the Western Tradition – which you say you despise just as Saul Alinsky did Ian, “I do not give a flying fig about the Western tradition”) should be called upon to keep “their rules” whilst, of course, the Radicals would not – thus giving the Radicals (the enemies of the West) the advantage.

    I reject this.

    If someone will not “play by the rules” the rules do not apply to them – if someone thinks it is O.K. to slit my throat it is O.K. for me to slit his throat (cue for Sean Gabb to “denounce” me again in his hypocritical way).

    If someone denies that human beings exist and will, therefore, not treat me as a human person – I am not going to give them the advantage of one sided enforcement of “the rules”.

    In short people who fought the Radicals, such as Attorney General Palmer (of the “Palmer Raids”) and FBI Director Hoover were correct – if anything they were far too soft in their tactics, in fighting people who intended to murder tens of millions of human beings (pretending that the human person was just a “capitalist social construct”).

    Just as the people who fight the attacks of mainstream (I repeat “mainstream” – there is a dissenting tradition within Islam) Islam (with its philosophical denial of human personhood) are correct today. Indeed they also are far too soft.

  • This question, Paul-

    “If the brain is not deterministic nor probabilistic as you keep claiming, please explain how else it works, and why it alone in the universe is able to ignore the laws of physics. And then explain how anything can be neither A nor Not A. I await with bated breath.”

  • Thank you Ian.

    I note in your question you use the word “I” – if the assumption in your question is correct (that everything is either predetermined or random) then you have no moral right to use the word “I”. As I have explained to you before there is a large number of other words that you should not use, if the assumptions in your “questions” are correct. There would be no “I” (or “you” or……) there would be no “some ONE”, just “some THING”.

    If agents do not exist, you can not be an agent Ian – therefore you have no moral right to a reply. Indeed no rights at all.

    This is not rudeness – it is just taking your philosophy seriously, not as a game that we play for a while, but forget about in practice.

    If the mind (“the brain”) is just entirely “deterministic or probabilistic” then there is no mind – no “I” (this is refuted by self awareness).

    One “can not have it both ways” – the Islamist in the interrogation room who suddenly, in contradiction to everything he has always taught, decides he is a “human being” who has “rights” is being naughty.

    And so are you Ian – if you declare that the mind (the “I” – the free will agent) does not exist – that it is entirely “deterministic or probabilistic ” and then, for example, object to being used as dog food.

    What you call “modern philosophers” (whose position is actually many thousands of years old) need to make a choice.

    Do they want to be treated as persons or not?

    If “not” fair enough.

    But if they do wish to be treated as persons – they should stop claiming that persons do not exist.

    By the way………..

    Materialism does NOT have to be deterministic (or “probabilistic” – the choice is NOT always between predetermined and random) this the Randian Objectivists show (and they are at least as materialist as you Ian).

    But if (I repeat “if”) materialism had to be deterministic (or “probabilistic”) then it would be clearly false – as the mind does exist (we are indeed self aware beings – an example of a reasoning “I” a free will agent).

    So in all your efforts to tie materialism and determinism Ian, the most you can possibly achieve is the refutation of materialism.

    A rather ironic achievement considering that you are a materialist.

  • lol

  • Glad to amuse…..

    And we did not even get on to me mentioning Aristotle’s “The Soul” – and you thinking it is a religious work (it is not) and saying angels (whether they exist or not) are also subject to the iron laws of predetermination or probability (not quite the same thing as randomness).

    I think we did that some time ago – and we may do it again, but not today.

  • I think it comes down to whether a material being can be a person; I think they can, you presumably think they cannot. I fear that we could be on this merry go round forever Paul.

  • Of course Ian – as Ralph Cudworth pointed out (back in the 1600s) all of the philosophical debates of his time had been going on for thousands of years (the modern participants might not have read the Ancient Greek authors – but they were, without knowing it, taking up ancient battle positions).

    Do I think a material being can be a person? Sadly I do, I say “sadly” as if the answer was “no” I would have proved the existence of the supernatural – which would be nice, but I do not think that it is correct that a material being can not be a person (i.e. an agent – a free will, self aware “I”).

    This, of course, means that IN THEORY a computer could be a person – if it achieved true AI.

    If this was the case then, yes, this computer would be morally responsible for its actions – and we would have moral obligations in relation to the computer (which would be an agent).

    “So smashing the computer would be murder?”

    YES.

    • Its existence would have to be conditional though – it would have to face the genuine metaphysical difference between life and death and I have no idea how that might be achieved other than through a simulation – so you would have a robot of simulated intelligence and simulated existence.

      I would question in what sense is such a thing alive?

      In which case, you could only be charged with simulated murder.

      • What is the “metaphysical” difference between life and death? It’s just chemistry.

        • Ian,
          What is the difference between an amoeba and a nuclear power station?

          A child would say – the amoeba is alive. The nuclear power station is not.

          But I suspect you have something to say about that?

          • I don’t know what distinction you’re making. “Alive” is a particular set of chemical reactions which characterise biological organisms. A nuclear power station doesn’t perform those reactions.

            The problem here is I think a bunch of antiquated concepts left over from pre-scientific man, who had no idea how anything worked. So you have things like vitalism, and the idea that “life” is something special. But maybe I’m on the wrong tack with that, since it’s not clear to me what distinction you’re making. I just get the feeling you want life to be something more than the chemical reactions thing.

            • Ian,
              Even the most simple living things behave differently to the most complex non-living things.

              Living things are value seekers – they act in order to preserve their lives as the type of living things they are.

              If living things fail to obtain the values required for the preservation of their lives – they die and their life is

              irreconstitutable – life has gone, never to return.
              Living things make self-generated goal-directed actions in the face of a fundamental metaphysical alternative – existence or non-existence.
              Animate entities behave radically differently to inanimate entities – and this difference is open to direct observation.

              The existence of living things is conditional upon a specific course of action.

              The existence of inanimate things, on the other hand “is not conditional upon their actions; (1) inanimate objects are not capable of self-generated action, and (2) they will continue to exist as long as they are not acted upon by external forces. A living
              organism faces the constant alternative of life or death – not simply in that it can be annihilated by an external catastrophe (as, for instance. a stone can be pulverized by an advancing glacier)- but in that unless it can utilize the materials and energy in its environment to fuel the complex internal processes of self-maintenance, it will disintegrate.” – Binswanger. [TBBOTC].

              Now, I have to confess that I have no idea as to the origin of life on Earth, whether it emerged locally from a combination of chemicals under certain conditions, or whether it arrived in the form of microscopic life-forms from outer-space is beyond my knowledge; as are the necessary factors required assuming either case – does life emerge from a combination of matter as we know it? Or does arrive from a confluence matter and some other element or elements or exotic processes as yet unknown? I have no idea.

              All I know is this – reality is constructed of living and non-living things and they are different [whether or not one can be reduced to having its origin located entirely in the other] and that simple fact is available to observation.

              Do we agree on this?

  • If the mind is entirely a matter of “determinism” (in the sense of PRE determined) or “probability” – then there is no mind (no self aware “I”), no such thing as a person. This is nothing to do with materialism (I wish it was – because it would refute materialism if it was).

    And it is a lot more than just a doctrine that Classical Liberals such as Gladstone, and Old Whigs such as Edmund Burke oppose. Even the High Tory Dr Johnson understood the doctrine to be an enemy (the arch enemy – the most ancient enemy) of everything good.

    When informed that the doctrine (that the human person, human agency, did not exist – so political freedom was an absurdity) would be a great ally to the cause that everyone should submit to the Crown – Dr Johnson replied (in rather direct terms) that he wanted no such ally.

    There can be compromise (or “civil dialogue”) with such a doctrine. Human personhood must be defended – by all means necessary. Of course people should have the freedom to advocate the doctrine – just as people should have the freedom to advocate the extermination of other races (or their own race), but it must be kept in mind just how utterly false the doctrine is. Logically it would lead to the extermination or enslavement not just of one race – but of all races. Without any moral limit – as morality, moral responsibility, would not exist. No persons would have been killed or enslaved – because no persons would exist, just flesh robots.

    The doctrine is not just the enemy of the West (although it is the enemy of the West) it is the ancient enemy of humanity in general – it denies the very existence of the human person.

  • So basically Paul, you are saying that you reject any (potential) fact if it conflicts with your preferred conclusions, yes?

    “If X therefore Y, I find Y unacceptable, so I refuse to consider X”.

    Fine. But don’t pretend you’re on the side of “reason” if you’re going to do that.

  • Ian you are using the word “you” – that is one of the words that I can use, but you can not (not legitimately).

    I hold that choice (the “I”) exists – that personhood can not be “explained” by reducing it to something else (that it is NEITHER predetermined or randomness – both of which are NOT agency).

    You deny this and adopt that the reductionist position that choice (the human person) does not really exist – that it is really something else (either predetermination or randomness).

    If your position is correct such words as “I”, and “you” and “your” (and many others) are illegitimate.

    To answer your question directly – I start from the fact of my own existence (self awareness) any “fact” that contradicts my existence (that purports to “explain” it by reducing it to something else) is false – false by definition. After all it is illogical for me to believe in my own nonexistence. If I do not exist (if there is no “I”) I can not believe that I do not exist – at least not logically.

    Reason needs reasoners (persons – reason can not be a free standing thing on its own as Plato seems to have supposed) – and you deny that reasoners exist.

    If there are no persons (either human or alien) there is no reason. Certainly no person can make 2+2=5, but no reasoning can take place without a reasoner.

    In short, even if the position (the position – not necessarily everyone who holds the position) that everything is either predetermined or random (that there is no such thing as real choice – human agency) was not gut churningly evil (which it is), it would still be mistaken.

  • Turning to the European Union.

    I think Kant would be in favour of world government – the E.U. could be seen as a step towards that. Kant was not a socialist (certainly not) – but he was wildly interested in ultra strict limits on government – he was, after all, part of the Prussian system, although he had no particular loyalty, philosophically, to the Prussian monarchy or the “nation” of Prussia – if Prussia can be described as a “nation”.

    I think Hegel would be in favour of the E.U. as well – his Prussian patriotism was rather “flexible” (Hegel’s philosophy is so complex and “flexible”” at key points that it could house support for any rising power that could be said to further the “progress of history”, or whatever). Yes I know that T.M. Knox and M.J. Oakeshott said nice things about Hegel – perhaps they have a point, and perhaps not (anyway the praise for Hegel in the footnote of page of 305 of Oakeshott’s “On Human Conduct” can be read in two ways ….. after all I do not believe that extra regulations reduce poverty, or that a state excising “judicious lordship”, welfare spending, is the way to go either).

    David Hume?

    I do not think he would care – either way. After all he is the “euthanasia of the constitution” man – not exactly a fan of Whigs and ideas of natural liberties (you can not get to such things as the Bill of Rights, British or American, from the philosophy of David Hume – F.A. Hayek please note, wherever you are).

    To be fair to David Hume Whig claims of “liberty” rand very hollow in Scotland.

    The Stuarts were a Scottish family – the Georges has no connection to Scotland.

    1688 in some Scottish ideas had led to war with France, which disrupted traditional Scottish trade – and (perhaps) led to the desperate Darian scheme – which ended in bankruptcy and ruin. Leading to the Union with England in 1707 – the end of the Scottish Parliament and a big increase in taxation on the poor.

    Then we have such things as the “15” the failed Jacobite revolt in Scotland, Then the great revolt of 1745 – ending in utter defeat and the destruction of the Highland system of tenure (based upon military service to Clan chiefs) – it was clear that the thin soil and bad climate of the Highlands could not serve an English system (based upon rent) the Scottish Highlanders were doomed under the new system – and the lowlanders were drawn into England’s wars with France in which (some claimed) they had no interest.

    True Edmund Burke could look beyond the disadvantage 1688 had led to for his mother’s Catholic people in Ireland – look to general principles (just as the fact of slavery in the Roman Republic does NOT mean that Brutus, Cassius and Cato the Younger were not fighting for liberty, or that their defeat did not matter). Better some people are free than everyone is crushed under an absolute monarchy – whether Catholic such as Louis XIV (the Sun King) or Protestant such as Frederick the Great (Burke’s detestation for Prussian absolutism is obvious in the “Annual Register” – and unusual as Prussia and Frederick the Great was widely admired in Britain, an evil sign for the future).

    But David Hume may well have felt that the talk of liberty among England and Scottish Whigs was hypocritical – if this was their “liberty” what was so wrong of the absolutism of France?

    And the France that Hume knew was NOT the France of the Sun King – it was the France of Louis XV (not Louis XIV) – Louis XV was a restrained King, his regime did not seem so bad.

    So why get so het up about politics?

    I suspect Hume would feel the same about the E.U. – yes its taxes and regulations are annoying, but it would not effect him personally or his friends (they could continue to earn a good living as writers – and have pleasant conversations), so why get upset about it?

    My answer would be the same as Burke’s – if you have to ask the question you will not understand the answer. But, I suspect, that would have been too “Irish” a reply for Hume. I doubt he would have understood someone like Cato the Younger either – but Julius C. has offered you a full amnesty, why do have to die?

    If you have to ask the question Davy Hume, you will not understand the answer.

  • I meant to say that as Kant was in favour of world government he would, likely, have been in favour of the E.U……..

    Sorry about that.

  • To quote Julie Andrews, “Me [is] a name I call myself”. That is all the word means. It is a self reference. Any assemblage of parts that can use language can use the word. A computer can talk about itself. There is no mystery.

    Are you going to explain how “choice” can (and indeed must) operate without casuality (or randomness) Paul? I am asking again. I don’t want to hear about the history of politicians or philosophers, and I’m not interested in your finding any conclusion unacceptable. I am purely interested in how any mechanism (including a brain) can work if it is not causal, and it is not random. You are postulating a third alternative. You must describe this alternative in a physical sense. How does it function?

    • Why must a mental event be described in a physical sense?

      Would you insist that physical events be described in a mental sense?

      Are house-bricks somehow unreal because they do not feel emotions?

      What length in inches is a thought? – how many ounces does a thought weigh? – when I think of big things like the universe do my thoughts weigh more than when I think of feathers?

      Scientists tell us that when they stimulate the brain with electrodes a patient will lift his arm – but does my arm not lift when I will it to? and is not the evidence for this causal sequence directly available to introspection?

  • How does “it” function – I am not an “it” Ian, please do not refer to me as an “it”.

    As for trying to “explain” agency (the human person – the “I”) by reducing agency to something else, that is an utterly mistaken thing to try to do (one can not explain agency in terms of non agency – an agent is an agent). One should not try and reduce some ONE to some THING. It is perfectly possible that the physical brain houses the mind (what Aristotle and so on would call the soul) and that the mind dies with the brain (that there is NOTHING immortal about the mind – about the human person) – but trying to “explain” the mind (the person) in terms of something else, is an error, a gross one.

    I agree with your point about brussels sprouts being different to a chimp.

    Clearly a load of veg that falls upon a person’s head is not morally responsible for the damage to the man’s head – veg makes no choice to fall on someone’s head.

    Ditto if a chimp falls accidentally on someone’s head the chimp has not committed an aggression – even if the man dies of a broken neck. But should that same chimp pick up a club and deliberately smash someone’s head in with repeated blows, has no CHOICE occurred? A very difficult area – at what point does non agent (such as brussels sprouts) become an agent (such as a human person)? How developed does an animal have to be – and at what point (say with brain damage or some illness) does a human STOP being an agent (stop being a person)? This is not trying to grasp agency in terms of something else (which, I repeat, is a gross error), it is dealing with the serious implications of agency. The old great chain of being, levels of consciousness area – very difficult.

    There is something I may have quoted to you before – but it is good to repeat it occasionally

    Gandalf’s answer to Saruman that “he who breaks a thing [meaning a fundamental principle] to find out what it is, has left the path of wisdom” – one does not do evil to try and find out what good is.

    By all means investigate the implications of agency – and the incredibly difficult matter of lower (and higher?) levels of consciousness than our own. But do not deny it exists – do not deny your own existence and the existence of other agents. That is not freedom – that is the betrayal of it.

    Lastly I will leave you with something that you may find a support to your cause – or at least your amusement.

    My telephone does not work, it has not worked since Thursday the 4th of December – the website of “Sky” just goes round in circles, and when I telephone from the home of someone else I am told to telephone from my own home.

    Telephone from my own home when the telephone does not work – I trust you can see something wrong with that Ian. The “Sky” people can not – no matter how many times I try and explain it to them.

    Perhaps you are right and I am wrong – perhaps other humans are not in fact agents at all, at least not “Sky” humans.

    They would certainly fail the T Test (to try and tell an agent from a computer – or to try and prove AI).

    • Julie near Chicago

      Paul,

      “One should not try and reduce some ONE to some THING. It is perfectly possible that the physical brain houses the mind (what Aristotle and so on would call the soul) and that the mind dies with the brain (that there is NOTHING immortal about the mind – about the human person) – but trying to “explain” the mind (the person) in terms of something else, is an error, a gross one.”

      If I’m understanding you anywhere near correctly, this clarifies your position a great deal. I suppose I am what is now called a “physicalist” (rather than a “materialist,” see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy); but it seems to me that while mind may be produced by the brain, or perhaps better by the nervous system (in whatever species its members have “minds” in some sense and degree), “mind” or “sense of self” or even “awareness” is not the same thing as nervous system or brain; nor do we grasp what these things are by knowing how currents and chemicals chase around in the wetware and produce or correlate with them. Rather, we experience them directly, and what they ARE is precisely what we experience of ourselves. By that, I mean what Joe Doakes the anything-but-a-neuroscientist-or-philosopher walking down the street means when he talks about “mind,” or “consciousness,” or other such existents. And I doubt that when even a scientist or a philosopher says something like “In my mind just now I have a picture of a purple people-eater,” he refers to anything other but the thing-in-itself that is, presumably, the product of his brain (or nervous system).

      I do think it’s at least conceivable that someday we will learn fairly accurately what state of mind or awareness or consciousness or sense of self results from (or at least correlates with) a particular state of our bodies in general and our nervous systems and especially our brains in particular. But that understanding will still be the map, not the territory.

  • It is “possible” that the brain houses the mind? How very generous to even admit the possibility, Paul. Out here in the scientific world, we understand that the mind is just what the brain does. Here’s a short and snippy parable.

    One morning, Paul got in his car and turned the ignition key and nothing happened. He called a mechanic, and explained that the car’s “motion” had gone. The mechanic opened the bonnet and had a poke around and said, “It’s this wire here that burned out- see it got too hot. I’ll replace it”. Paul was furious. “How dare you reduce my car’s motion to a mere thing?!” he shouted. “I’m not interested in the mechanics and your obnoxious ‘materialism’. I want to know where the essence of Motion is!”.

    So the mechanic tried to explain to Paul that the motion is not an essence separate from the engine, but is merely a feature of what the engine’s mechanics do. And how that motion occurs- if at all- depends on the mechanical functioning of the engine. But Paul would have none of it. He grudgingly accepted that, possibly, it may be that the engine houses the motion, but still he would have none of this gross reductionist error of reducing motion to mechanics. After a couple of hours of denunciation, the mechanic packed up his tools, went home, and left the car alone, still not working. While Paul paced around it, wondering where he would find the essence of its motion. Eventually he went to church and prayed for it, but that didn’t work either. Here endeth the parable.

    Of course we can “reduce” the mind to the material brain (which I call an “it” by the way for the same reason I call my liver, left foot or large intestine an “it”). That is all there is; the material workings of the material brain, that produce a result which we call consciousness, or “the mind”. Just as a car engine produces a result we call “motion”. There is nothing else.

    This kind of nonsense is what you get when you start with complex abstracts instead of working up from the basics of what we know about reality- in this case that being that we know that the brain is a physical machine whose functioning produces the effect we call “mind”.

    See this-

    trying to “explain” the mind (the person) in terms of something else, is an error, a gross one.

    Try explaining that to somebody who actually deals with the brain. Somebody with a brain tumour, for instance.

    This idea of the distinction of mind and body is all ancient thinking which we know to be wrong, based on supernatural ideas. Consider an ancient family; they are sitting around a table and granny suddenly falls off her stool. They poke her and she does not move. She is dead. This represented a paradox to early man; clearly there was some change which had occurred, but it did not seem to be a material one. Her body was all still there. Something seemed to have suddenly departed it. Hence, they came up with the reasonable (but we now know incorrect) hypothesis that granny, and everyone else, was motivated by an invisible, immaterial something that departs at death. The spirit. And they concluded that this spirit must contain “the person”- the “mind”. And then they wondered where it went, and concluded it might hang around in the real world, floating about, and that is why most ancient people believe they are surrounded by the spirits of dead ancestors who maybe they can contact for help, and eventually that evolved into all the bells and whistles of religion.

    But now we know this is wrong. Granny is a machine that stopped functioning because it fell into too great disrepair, and the difference between life and death is a matter of chemical reactions described by science, and the mind is simply the mechanical functioning of the brain. And it amazes me that people who are the most prone to banging on about “reason” and “logic” suddenly abandon all this when they want to believe something different, like the idea that people are special magical elves.

    You can’t meaningfully discuss any of this if you refuse to even contemplate how nature works. It’s a total waste of time.

  • It’s worth noting as well that the ancient answer to how things work meant that they concluded that “agency” was in pretty much everything- humans, animals, plants, the sea, the weather, the sky, rocks, etc. Even the Sun had to be driven across the sky by an “agency”, hence the plethora of spirits and gods in ancient mythologies. Anything that did anything at all (or even not much at all, like rocks) had to contain supernatural “agents” to make them work. Because they didn’t know how action arises in a scientific sense. Now we do. Put some chemicals in the right configuration, you get life. And even thought.

  • John W-

    The problem here is Rand’s idea that the “is”- living things seek to preserve themselves- with the “ought”- living things ought to preserve themselves. I can think of various moral examples in which non preservation of self is the preferred outcome for most people who are by any other measure rational. For instance, perhaps it is 1942 in Germany, and you can save 1000 Jews being loaded onto a train, but you’ll probably (or even to be reliable in this, inevitably) die in the process. Whether or not you personally would do that, most people would consider it a moral action. As I said in another comment, it makes both evolutionary and emotional sense to die for your children, at least. And so on. You simply can’t derive the “ought” from the “is”. Rand has just picked something she considers unique to living organisms- self preservation- and accorded it an absolute status. But other aspects, partiuclarly of man, can at least compete with it. Reproduction. Religious faith. Even the survival of the community over the individual. I am not promoting any of these as “the” goal either. I’m just saying that the same logic could be applied to them.

    The other problem is that you’ve got a correlation- being alive and self preservation- but although it has historically been a good correlation, it is not a necessary one. For instance, I could program a robot to preserve its own existence- so if I tell it to jump off a cliff, it will not carry out the order- but I don’t think you would consider it alive. At the other extreme, there are entities in the natural world- viruses- which reproduce and act in their own self interest, but which are not properly alive, and are in a sort of hinterland between the living and non-living categories.

    • Ian, Ayn Rand would actually agree with you – that’s not the point she is making.
      What I am trying to do is draw your attention to the fact that there are two types things in existence – living things and non-living things – and the evidence for this difference is directly available to observation.

  • Just one other point, regarding Hume. I think there is a bit of a misunderstanding regarding what he was up to. Hume wasn’t trying to disprove the existence of reality (like, it seems, Berkeley) or of induction (his most famous sceptical problem). What he was trying to do was understand why we believe in these things. And his answer was that it is not due to “reason”, but instead due to some innate “propensity”. And if you think about it, this is a reasonable (haha!) conclusion.

    A baby believe in reality and induction from the get-go. It doesn’t have to sit down and reason about whether the things it is experiencing are actually real, or whether the world around it is predictable. Indeed, every higher organism seems to believe in induction, even though other species cannot do philosophy or “reasoning” as we think of it at all. Hume’s conclusion therefore was that the assumption that the world is repeatably predictable- induction- is what we would now call “hardwired”. We are born with it. We don’t reason it from deep philosophical contemplation.

    This is not a proof that the belief in induction- or reality itself- is dubious or wrong. It is simply a useful description of how, as organisms, we function. And it seems science is bearing him out on this “propensities” idea.

    Let’s take another example; how do you know that your right hand is part of your body? If we appeal to reason, we say that it is a logical consequence of it being attached to your arm. You think about it, and conclude that the thing attached to your arm is you hand. Simple.

    But it seems not. It appears that the brain contains- in a particular part- a “map” of what parts of the natural world constitute the body it is part of, and if that is damaged, then a person can believe that their hand is not part of their body, even though they can see that it is and any logical reasoning on the matter will tell them that the hand on their arm is their own hand. There are some patients who have suffered a lesion to this area of the brain and, indeed, simply do not believe that their hand is their own, in contravention of their own observations and logic.

    And another, personal, example. I suffer very frequent migraines, which are basically brain seizures. Luckily I do not get much pain, but I do sometimes get disturbing mental states when the seizure affects those parts of the brain. And a couple of terrifying times, it seems that whatever part of my brain holds the propensity to believe in reality has switched off; and thus despite my “intellect” being fully functional and telling me that reality is out there, I’ve had the strange experience of ceasing to believe it, simultaneously with logically knowing it. It is very frightening. I also wonder sometimes if having a brain that regularly malfunctions helps me to accept that I am just a rather complex mechanism, and at whatever point that mechanism ceases functioning altogether, that’s it; I’ll be gone.

    • But it seems not. It appears that the brain contains- in a particular part- a “map” of what parts of the natural world constitute the body it is part of, and if that is damaged, then a person can believe that their hand is not part of their body, even though they can see that it is and any logical reasoning on the matter will tell them that the hand on their arm is their own hand. There are some patients who have suffered a lesion to this area of the brain and, indeed, simply do not believe that their hand is their own, in contravention of their own observations and logic.,

      Ian,
      But what does this example, and others like it, really prove?

      If this is a proof of the subjectivity and determinism of experience then what would a disproof look like?

      You are demanding as disproof that we should be able to shove red-hot pokers in our brains and in our eyes and that we should still perceive the world unaffected by changes to our sensory apparatus.

      It is a demand for a supernatural form of awareness.

      It is a declaration that our means of awareness should have no identity i.e. should not exist.

      It is an assertion that because we have a means of awareness then we are not aware of “reality as it is” only “reality as it isn’t.”

      It is a claim that unless our awareness is diaphanous we cannot be aware of reality.

      It is a claim that our awareness is NOT an awareness of reality but merely an awareness of our own awareness..

      Or as Ayn Rand says in Galt’s speech “man is blind because he has eyes…”

      Do you understand this point?

      • Julie, it is simply an illustration or example of Hume’s point that we believe in these things such as induction not by reasoning, but due to a propensity.

        No, I don’t understand whatever point you’re making. You seem to have joined Paul in his swirling maelstrom of circularly defined abstractions. I do wish people would work forwards from what we know, rather than backwards from whatever complex conclusions they already have.

        • It’s JohnW not Julie.

          It’s what we know and how we know that is under examination.

          I deny Hume’s entire view of consciousness – I deny we perceive “impressions.”

          That whole view and everything that follows from it – is wrong.

          We perceive reality, not our form of perceiving reality.

          Reality is the object, which we perceive in a form, dictated by the nature of the object
          and by the nature of our means of perception.– “consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists”–Galt’s speech.

          That’s the very opposite of representationalism

          • Sorry for getting you mixed up with Julie, apologies.

            You can’t perceive reality itself. That would mean reality was inside your brain- if you see a cup, the cup would have to be in your brain itself. All you can perceive is a representation of a cup. That doesn’t imply that the cup doesn’t itself exist, but the best you can have inside your head is a stream of neural impulses that represent it. Furthermore, the thing inside your head is an interpretation of what you are seeing, by the very nature of being a representation. Which is why people have all kinds of different perceptions of reality, and thus we all disagree about most everything, which is why we argue.

            Consciousness is a set of beliefs about that which exists, which vary from person to person. The brain builds a model of the world. It does not contain the world itself.

            • No problem – I just didn’t any blame to land on Julie!

              You can’t perceive reality itself. That would mean reality was inside your brain- if you see a cup, the cup would have to be in your brain itself.

              This is where we disagree.

              The perceptual form is not “in you,” “out there” nor at any point in between.

              It is an interaction – a relation [this is one of the things that Plato got right.]

              It is NOT a representation or an interpretation.

              I agree that consciousness is NOT AN ENTITY [as claimed by Descartes] but a functional capacity of the brain.

              Furthermore, I agree, that it is IMPOSSIBLE for consciousness to exist without a brain, even though I maintain that distinct, conscious operations and products of consciousness do not correlate with distinct neural structures in any simple fashion.

              My [i.e. Rand’s] view, however, is that cognition in all its modes is always, in one form or another, dependent on and directed toward external objects, and so could not possibly occur in the absence of an independent world.

              I reject the Cartesian model of ideas, in which an experience or belief is an internal subjective state, with an identity that can be described without reference to the objective world.

              External reality cannot be anything other than essential to the subjective state.

              If the primacy of existence is true,then consciousness is not in any sense an autonomous realm of inner contents.

        • Ian you are using the word “I” again (and “you” and so on), it is not legitimate for you to use these words. I wish you would be consistent – if persons do not exist (if we are just flesh robots with all actions being either predetermined or random) then there is no “I” or “you”” and so on. So please stop using such words.

          • Don’t be silly Paul. Even flesh robots need words to refer to themselves and each other. Your belief that only magical elves can use such words does not even make sense within your own philosophy, let alone in general.

  • It is quite true that David Hume uses gentle language and speaks with a smiling face, whereas Martin Luther and Thomas Hobbes used harsh language and spoke with a snarling face. But is Hume really saying something fundamentally different?

    I supposed the question is “does he mean it?”. Is David Hume really just trying to wake people up from their dogmatic slumbers by challenging self evident (literally “self” evident) truths – to see how people would respond (perhaps even with the intention of showing that reason could not prove the existence of reason – that the foundations of existence have to be accepted not “proved” in the sense a scientific theory is “proved”). Or did David Hume really mean it?

    Did Hume (like Thomas Hobbes and Martin Luther) really believe that there was no such thing as a person – that there was no moral responsibility (no free will – no agency, no agents, including himself). If Hume really believed that there was no such thing as the reasoning “I” , that a thought does NOT mean a thinker – that persons did not exist, then the gentle language and the smiling face does not matter.

    By the way – please no “compatiblist” nonsense (literally the denial of sense – of the self, of the reasoning “I”). Either persons exist or we are just flesh robots – with no moral value and no moral responsibility.

    It is sometimes said that Thomas Hobbes reduced people to the level of animals – he actually tried to do much more than that. Hobbes tried to reduce humans to the level of inanimate objects (such as clocks). If David Hume is really accepting the same philosophical principles (if he is not just trying to wake people up from the dogmatic slumbers by challenging self evident truths) then he is doing the same thing – the smiling face and the gentle language should not be allowed to hide this.

    By the way, it is naught to do with materialism – Epicurus is supposed to have been a materialist, yet he did not deny the existence of persons (of agency) or try tricks to try and “explain it away” by describing human agency in terms of determinism. As in “give me the mechanism”. Although Epicurus can, perhaps, be accused of confusing agency (choice – free will) with randomness – they are not the same thing.

  • It’s like trying to have a discussion with a brick wall.

  • Perhaps, if we take the view that Hume was not on the side of evil, what David Hume was really saying is “the “I” can not be analysed – it is, at a fundamental level, un-analysis-able” and if that was Hume’s true position he may be correct. For “the self”” to turn round and try and prove (or disprove) “its” own existence may be profoundly silly – if that was Hume’s position (and I am not saying it was – it is a matter of “if”), he may have been correct. The existence of the self (the reasoning “I” the agent, agency) is indeed “self evident” – it is not a matter or experiment or the “scientific method” of the physical sciences.

  • A brick wall that spouts incoherent gobbledegook.

  • Look Paul, let’s get to the simple stuff. Human beings are part of the physical world. We are animals; mammals. We are made from the same stuff as everything else, living and non-living, and which we can understand with science. Of course humans, like everything else, are amenable to the physical sciences. How can you possibly claim we are not? On what basis?

    And please don’t just read out your “moral agency” script again. Please just once address the science.

  • What is the relation between the subject and the object of cognition?

    Realists [like Ayn Rand] claim that the objects of cognition exists independently of the subject.

    Things are what they are independently of our awareness of them.

    Idealists, on the other hand, claim that the objects of cognition do depend on some constitutive activity of the subject.
    This basic metaphysical disagreement creates two different epistmological standards of truth and justIfication.

    If the goal of cognition is to identify independent objects, then, for realists, the measure of success will be truth in the sense of CORRESPONDENCE, and the principles of evidence and justification must be established by reference to that goal.

    If the objects of knowledge depend on the subject, however, then truth (if one retains that concept at all) must be something other than correspondence, and idealists typically propose some form of COHERENCE [rather than CORRESPONDENCE.]

    Historically, on both of these issues, representationalists INITIALLY side with realists in maintaining the correspondence theory of truth and the independent existence of the ultimate (though not the immediate) objects of knowledge.

    However, representationalists like Descartes were unable to defend these realist elements in their thesis because they held a non-realist element: the assumption that consciousness is metaphysically autonomous [I think therefore I am} that it is capable in principle of originating all its own contents, that our mental life could go on exactly as it does even if there were no external reality [hence Ian’s conjecture concerning the aliens and the detached brain}.

    The primacy of existence [i.e. Rand] implies that consciousness is radically NON-CREATIVE, radically dependent on existence for its contents.

    However active it may be in processing information, the mind can only work on information derived from its response to objects outside it.

    Its function is to identify things as they are independently of it.

    In that respect it can malfunction, it can misidentify them [as a result of injury, malformation or whatever] but it cannot make up its contents FROM THE BEGINNING.

  • Ian – the point is not what someone is made of, it is perfectly possible that we are just made of “flesh”. The point, as you know perfectly well, is whether “someone” exists – or whether there are only “somethings” not “someones”. You Ian deny that “someones” exist – that there is any such thing as the “I” (the reasoning agent – free will, self awareness) yet you blithely (I almost typed “blandly”) carry on using words such as “I” and “you” – this is hypocritical of you, intensely hypocritical.

    Take the example of an ordinary decent person (a person – the very entity you deny exists) such as Alfred Roberts (the father of Mrs Thatcher) – did he believe in the doctrines you are pushing? Of course he did not. What have the doctrines you are pushing got to offer to an ordinary person – other than to tell them the self evidently false (literally “self evidently” false – as you doctrines deny the existence of he self and are, therefore, refuted by self awareness) that they do not exist.

    Why should ordinary decent people, such as the late Mr Roberts, be forced to pay taxes so that universities can teach such utter rubbish under the name of “philosophy”? I hope you agree Ian that there is no good purpose in such false “philosophy” at all – that it is not only false (self evidently false), but actively harmful – teaching students that their parents (and so on) do not exist (as human persons – agents) and do not matter.

    No wonder some modern “libertarians” (philosophically not libertarians at all – indeed the opposite of philosophical libertarians such as the Aristotelian Alexander of Aphrodisias and so many other philosophers of various schools) sneer at ordinary people, such as Tea Party, people in the United States – as they have nothing in common with the beliefs of such people (any more than they have anything in common with the beliefs of someone such as the late Mr Roberts) indeed they do not believe these ordinary people are persons (reasoning “I” – free will agents) at all.

  • It is not really philosophy, it is snobbery.

    Obviously Ian you would not apply your doctrines to yourself – you would not accept a moral relativism defence (“I did not know what I was doing was wrong” or “I thought it was good”) for a aggression committed against YOURSELF – nor would you accept a determinism defence (“I knew what I was doing was wrong – but my action was predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the Big Bang, there is no such thing as real choice”) so why should other people accept these false defences? These false philosophical doctrines.

    Why is there one philosophy for you (and for the late Mr Hume?) and another philosophy for ordinary people?

    If I am wrong, if you would accept a moral relativism defence or a determinism defence in relation to an aggression committed against yourself, then please say so – publically.

    • Julie near Chicago

      You’ve nailed it there, Paul. It’s nothing so intellectual as philosophy: It’s snobbery plain and simple. It drives a lot of people of just about every turn of mind, although it’s worse in some quarters than others. I suppose part of it is defensive, or grew out of a felt need of defense, but a good deal of it has to do with wanting to be part of the In-Crowd, in whatever circles one runs in.

      But it’s shameful, and if Jonathan Gruber and his ilk don’t mind shaming themselves that way, that’s their affair; but I do wish people who say they are “libertarians” would cut it out.

      It’s counterproductive, if the idea is to try and gain adherents to the cause of liberty — just aside from anything else.

      • This whole thread is like watching a car crash over and over again. I keep trying to stop looking, but the sheer horror brings me back.

        The mental twists and turns are mesmerising. Apparently, not believing in supernatural ideas is “snobbery”. Amazing. It’s akin I admit to watching Creationists, except that they at least attempt to explain and defend their anti-science, whereas here all we get is “anyone who doesn’t believe in magical elves is evil”. And now, even worse, a snob. Which I daresay is even worse.

        I understand why. Paul “won’t put his politics and philosophy in separate boxes”, which in practical terms means “I have this bizarre and unsupportable conclusion as a matter of faith, and I’m going to simply stop my ears to anything that undermines it”. Which is just shit.

        Look, somebody, anybody, tell me how the brain can be doing this “choice” thing which is neither causal nor acausal, and we’ll have something to discuss. Until then, all I see is people playing the National Anthem with farts and calling it an orchestra.

        • Julie near Chicago

          Ian, this is meant purely as an observation and not as any sort of put-down. But the fact is, that I was responding to Paul’s very first sentence, to the effect that there is one sort of “libertarian” who trashes the Common Folk — in the particular instance, we had been discussing Trevor Burrus of the Cato Institute, who has relegated the Tea Party folks to the ranks of the Great Unwashed who are not worthy of mixing with the exalted society of Real Libertarians. The Left is fully of these people, cf. that same Jonathon Gruber, and unfortunately so are Official Libertarians (regardless of whether they vote, and regardless of whether they’re card-carrying members of the L.P.).

          None of us reads as carefully as he should (“should” — if he wishes to understand others properly, and discuss things with them cogently). And none of us always writes as carefully as he should, if he wishes to be properly understood and to discuss things with others in a meaningful manner.

          Read, write, re-read, file what you wrote in the round file, and write Draft Two. :>)

          • Julie near Chicago

            Correction: I was referring to the very first sentence of Paul’s last paragraph in his posting of 17 December, 2014 at 10:12 am.

            • Julie near Chicago

              Strike the incorrect correction. Perfect example of Quick-Draw McGraw excessively eager to Get It Down on Paper.

              I was right in the first place: Referring to the FIRST SENTENCE, which is also the first paragraph, of Paul’s comment of 17 December, 2014 at 10:27 am. This sentence, however, did refer back to the comment at 10:12 a.m., to which the Incorrect Correction referred.

  • I am not sure I have nailed it Julie. But if someone keeps telling you that you do not exist (that you are not a someone – just a something, all actions being predetermined or random, no real CHOICE) that you do not matter (have no moral rights – there being no natural justice), again and again and again, it becomes irritating. The temptation to go for a Dr Johnson style response is strong.

    Of course, according to Ian, Nick went further – and whilst in Ian’s philosophy there is nothing wrong with such a response (as Ian would not be a moral agent, just an object – not a subject, and Nick would not be morally responsible for “his” actions anyway), I do not hold with such a response.

    • Nobody has said anyone doesn’t exist. It’s just you, claiming that people don’t exist unless they’re magical.

      I mean seriously Paul, the basis of your faith is not just wrong, it’s impossible. Nothing can work- human or otherwise, how you insist it must work in order to be considered “a person”. And you can stand their denouncing everyone who points this out as “evil” if you like, but you’re still talking nonsense, and no, saying “it is not a matter for the natural sciences” doesn’t get you out of that. You’re made of protons, neutrons and electrons. Of course you are a matter for science.

      Throw away your confused morass of incontinent abstractions, start from what we know about nature, and work up from there. It’s the only way to proceed; except you won’t do it because you’re too scared of what you’ll be forced- by reality and logic- to accept. Which is, in intellectual terms, utterly feeble.

      • And while we’re at it, let’s address this silly Common Nonsense Philosopher argument- the “argument from hypocrisy”, which goes “you do not really apply what you believe”. Well, whether or not I act as Paul claims I would (I have never said how I would react, he simply assumes it on my behalf) that does not prove or disprove the veracity of my claims anyway. It may prove that I am a hypocrite. But that is not a proof or disproof of the claims I make.

        I will give an example. You will misunderstand it, no doubt, perhaps delberately, but here goes. If a preacher says, “drinking is a sin. Do not drink.” and then a newspaper discovers he is secretly a drinker who has a half bottle of whisky every evening, this would not tell us whether his claim- that drinking is a sin- is wrong. It would simply tell us that he does not live up to his claimed standard. Drinking may well still be a sin. The personal behaviour of the preacher does not affect the validity or otherwise of the claim that it is.

        In the name of clarity I will reiterate that the above is just an illustrative example and is not intended to start a discussion of the merits of boozing.

  • One can also add that contrary to Paul, “I didn’t know it was wrong” is in fact a pretty good defence. Somebody who arrives in Saudi Arabia or the 1930s USA unaware that drinking is considered a great moral transgression there, and cracks open a beer, and then gets beaten with sticks in the name of morality, is a good example.

    Of course according to Marksism, our imaginary subject should have known that drinking a beer has been evil since the dawn of time- indeed, is programmed into the Universe somewhere- so anyone unaware of this is at fault for not being plugged into the Great Cosmic Truth Engine that apparently exists in Kettering. So Paul would happily beat him with a stick. But I wouldn’t.

  • Oh bother! I wrote a long, and crushing, reply – but it did not appear because of my dodgy internet connection.

    “That is a “one that got away” fishing story Paul”.

    Shut up at the back there.

  • Maybe you should devote less time to long and crushing replies and more time to considering the facts of the matters under discussion. I’m still awaiting just one smidgen of explanation of by what mechanism the brain evades the conditions under which the rest of reality operates, for instance.

  • Well if we are talking about the facts Ian, I specifically (and in multiple comments) talked about aggressions against you – you dodged the point by talking about other stuff (such as drinking beer). It is a bit like Thomas Hobbes versus the Student of the Common Laws of England – accept that I am not a fictional character who says only want you want me to say (which is how Hobbes “won” that discussion – he made up his opponent, actually that is attractive option sometimes……).

    I fully admit that with David Hume matters are complicated – but with Thomas Hobbes they are not.

    Human beings are just machines (not really beings at all) – a human is not reduced to (say) the level of a cat by Hobbes, both human and cat are reduced to the level of a carrot, or a clock, with the same level of moral responsibility and moral worth as a carrot or clock (a non sentient life form – or a machine).

    If one man bashes the head of another to a pulp the first man has not destroyed an agent (because no such thing as an agent exists), and they did not really choose to smash the other man’s head in (because all actions are predetermined and mechanical).

    So no crimes against agents (because no agents exist) and no moral responsibility (because no real choice).

    Oakeshott may defend Hobbes in relation to what he (Hobbes) wants government to do (although Hobbes would do nothing to stop government doing anything – other than attacking him, T.H., personally) – but Oakeshott never made the mistake of defending the PHILOSOPHY of Hobbes.

    The teaching is pure evil – and almost relaxing in being so.

    A bit like the evil character in a “Republic” movie explaining his evil plan – at length and in detail.

    Or (to give two British examples to balance the American one) the evil Professor facing “Bulldog Drummond” or “Dick Barton: Special Agent”.

    The vile Professor would explain his Evil Plan (TM) in detail “humans are just machines, just tools in my hands – I will manipulate you are all in the following way………” whilst the hero was working to get his hand free of the ropes……. in order to foil the fiend at the last moment.

    By the way the Professor would tend to speak a bit too exactly, soft spoken (at least till the game was up) and obsessed with the detailed use of language rather than what actually matters, even when the baddie was NOT secretly German (hiding an accent) there were be something “rum” about his way of speaking.

    Even back in the day (long before our disputes) I thought that Sean spoke a bit like that ….. it was only slightly disturbing at the time.

    “Ah there you see Paul – determinism is PROVED! You heard baddies speak in the way Sean does as a child, so you were predestined to become wary of him”.

    Oh pipe down.

  • Still waiting for an answer Paul.

  • “your conception of a person is impossible, literally impossible…..”.

    “It is the evil Professor in disguise. Jock, Snowy get him – before he gets away!”

    • It’s not evil – see my comments on coherence v correspondence [above].

      • John, the thread is long and I’ve lost my place in it. So I’ll start again here. Regarding the claim that there is a correspondence between real world objects and the mental “objects of cognition”, and that the brain does not create these objects of cognition, how does Rand explain people having things like gods and ghosts- which have no real world counterparts- as cognitive objects? Does it not make sense to see them as subjective interpretations of reality?

        Consider somebody who has not merely read about God, but believes they have actually had a sensory religious experience of God- which many religious people claim to have had. How can a Randian explain that?

        • Ian,
          Rand would say that God is not an object of cognition but an object of imagination.

          For example, we have a direct experience of horses and horns through perception – horses and horns are not created by us – they are a given.
          We can retain in our minds these features of reality and use our free will to combine them to make unicorns.
          But we are not creating anything metaphysically, the mind does not have that power – the mind is metaphysically passive. All we are doing is rearranging particular aspects of reality which are given to us by perception to create new, and in this case, imaginary entities.
          The same with fairies – we see girls and insects with wings – we retain the image of the girl and combine it with the image of the wings of insects, add a touch transparency and shrink the size down, and the result is a fairy.

          Animals cannot do this because they are trapped at the perceptual level.

          The uniquely human mental process of purposefully retaining some aspects of reality is called abstraction the process of mentally combining these abstractions into new mental entities is called conceptualisation.

          But there is a peculiar thing about the process of conceptualisation – we cannot retain the mental product of conceptualisation – a concept – unless we fix it with another percept in the form of a word other auditory-visual symbol of some kind.

          If we created in our minds the image of a unicorn by combing horse+horn we would not be able remember the mental result of that combination as a concept unless we attributed some word or other auditory-visual symbol to it. Without the word “unicorn” to fix concept of a unicorn in our minds we would NOT be able to retain the distinct character of the conceptualisation – we would not be able to retain the product of combing horse+horn and, in particular, we would NOT be able to keep that product separate from all the other products of our mental activities.

          The word “unicorn” fixes the concept like a chemical fixative in photography.

          It functions as a sort of mental file folder that keeps all the things you will ever discover about unicorns distinct an separate from your knowledge of other things.

          But here we are getting ahead of ourselves – I need to explain the nature of Rand’s realism first – I shall do that later.

  • You can take the piss all you like Paul, but you’ll still be declaring that the only acceptable position is to believe in fairies. “Neither causation, nor non-causation”, said Mr Marks. “How can this be?” we asked. “If you ask that question you are evil,” replied Mr Marks, “Now, let us contemplate the fairies.”

    • Ian,
      It’s not causation v non-causation.
      Free will is both caused and free – free will is a type of causation.
      The reason you cannot see this is because you have assumed the Idealist’s notion of consciousness from the very outset.
      And oddly enough, idealism has its origin in the magic-bound notions of perception of religionists – an outlook not shared by Plato, Aristotle and Ayn Rand.
      So there is a certain irony here.

      • John,

        You are arguing something different to what Paul is arguing. I disagree with you (to some degree, less than you think, since I am a realist in that I believe that there is a real objective world out there, I just believe that Hume’s point is that we do not believe in it due to reason) but my disagreements with you are not the same as my disagreements with Paul, and the points you are making are not the same points as Paul is making.

        Paul is claiming a basically religiously descended position that human thought is uncaused (neither deterministic nor random) because if he accepts causation in the mind, then he believes that that would relieve that mind of responsibility for its own actions, which he considers morally unacceptable. Whether or not it is unacceptable, it is also simply impossible for the mind to operate in the way he describes- or rather, fails to describe, since he has no idea how such a thing would work if it cannot be reaching each new state as an effect of prior states. This is just a basic matter of reality (haha!).

        As I said, this is a religiously derived philosophy- the answer in religion is to ascribe the motivation to a spirit force. It is no use to anyone dealing with science, and since Objectivism is basically atheistic, not much use to an Objectivist either. It’s not really any use to religion if you apply logic, since the spirit would in turn require a spiritual motivator, in an infinite regress, but of course in religion you can just answer any paradox with magic.

        Anyway, I’m working on the rather obvious idea that the mind is a function of mechanical brain processes, and if somebody wants me to ascribe its actions to anything else, I at least want some kind of argument for the existence of this other thing- none of which are forthcoming- rather than being denounced as evil for wanting to know how the world actually works rather than ascribing human nature to impossible magical forces.

        • But just to add, if you want to describe human action as “both caused and free”, the onus is on you to precisely define “free” in some kind of mechanical terms distinct from simple causation.

          • Julie near Chicago

            As I see it, human action is physically caused (as is ant action, even though “Ants are Crap”), and so is consciousness or awareness in any creature that has such a thing, in any respect and to any degree. “A thing is [ is ] itself,” and that includes its awareness, its consciousness, its will, and anything that exists as a part of its psyche or what might be a component of its mentality. (Note that by “mentality” I mean to include emotionality, will, and motivation, as these are states that we experience “in our heads,” that is, in our minds.)

            Whether it is within the range of human intellect that we will ever be able to understand the chain of cause and effect that produces mind, consciousness, will — yes, will — is an open question.

            HOWEVER, “free will” is a perfectly valid and indeed obvious condition if it is understood properly. (The history of science — especially of math — and the history of thought generally show that often a concept must be redefined from the existing common understanding of it in order to comply with new evidence, whether empirical or logical.) Not that the re-thinking I describe below is unique to me — something like it has been around for thousands of years. However, I did work it out for myself. :>)

            Thus: The idea of “choice” is wrongly understood, and therefore so is “free will.” What makes perfect sense is that the individual certainly does make choices, in that alternative courses exist and he follows one or the other of them, not because of any constraining external factor but because of his own nature as it exists at that moment. The existence of choices is a phenomenon universally observed throughout the history of man and also of many of the other animals. But note that the choice the individual makes is, finally, determined by HIM, by himself, and not by any other entity external to him. In the religious sense, God gives us free will in that He has decided to make the universe such that He will not constrain what we do by His intravention to suspend or destroy our Free Will.

            A person IS his whole self: the physical system that constitutes his body, and all that he experiences in terms of his “inner life,” in particular motivation or “will” (they are not the same thing). What choices he makes are his own and nobody else’s, and this is why we rightly hold each person responsible for what he does. (The exception to this occurs when some other person or group of persons by force, fraud, or extortion — the credible threat of physical force — overcomes the ability of a man to make his own choices and to act on them, or induces him not to do as he will; thus robbing him of his autonomy.)

            That is my view of how it works. And I say again: Mind, awareness, consciousness, the capacity for logic and for reason, the capacity for imagination, and also will — all these arise from the physical systems that constitute our bodies, and in ways that are theoretically understandable; but they are NOT the same thing as our bodies or the subsystems thereof in any way at all. And no explanation of the physical causes will ever convey to us the nature of the experience of selfhood that we actually do have.

            You might very well be able to take X oxygen atoms and 2X hydrogen atoms and understand what to do to make them into water; you might be able to explain how the chemical H2O affects chemicals and electrical currents in the skin, and transmits to the brain signals that result in our EXPERIENCING the sensation of wetness; but none of that understanding will give you the experience itself of wetness.

            The map is not the territory.

            Also, just as one does not (except infrequently and for the most narrow of purposes) get into the QM of how the particular pigments in “The Garden of Earthly Delights” give rise to the actual painting, one mostly searches for cause-and-effect in the interaction of a person’s psyche with the rest of his circumstances, and not by physical examination of his brain. MOSTLY. There are the exceptions of research and of drug or surgery or other physical therapies.

            . . .

            Persons who wish to examine in more detail my thinking on the issue might see two pieces I wrote at Counting Cats. The first, “Might We Have Free Will?” is at

            http://www.countingcats.com/?p=13915

            and the second, “Axioms, Postulates, Maps, Territory ….,” is at

            http://www.countingcats.com/?p=13919 .

            The comments to each are interesting, and I added a fuller explanation of some points in the second essay to the comments there. Also, I think that the second piece might clarify my use of logic and terminology, and therefore help in correctly understanding the first piece, which is the one more immediately germane to this discussion.

            I stand by what I wrote then (Feb., 2013) and will continue to do so unless I learn of evidence or arguments of some sort which seem to me to require a rethinking. This is far from impossible.

          • But just to add, if you want to describe human action as “both caused and free”, the onus is on you to precisely define “free” in some kind of mechanical terms distinct from simple causation.

            To me it is rather obvious that the mental realm cannot be defined in terms of material properties any more than the material realm can be defined in terms of purely mental properties.

            How much anger or jealousy or ambition does a house-brick possess? None, but is a house-brick any the less real for that deficiency?

            The mental realm, as far we know, is not a mechanistic process.

            The mind can produce material effects via the body but is the mind necessarily reducible to the mechanistic processes of tiny, irreducible sub-atomic particles of matter of some kind?

            No one can say.

            Perhaps free will occurs only under certain material conditions at which point some as yet unknown non-material stuff reaches a critical point and becomes active, as claimed by Dualists.
            Or perhaps free will can be described in terms of clusters and arrangements of tiny irreducible particles and free will is simply an emergent property of matter, as claimed by Monists.

            Does it matter if, in either case, the result is the same – a self-regulating, self-maintaining, self-initiating power – the power to think – the power to alter the course of mechanistic events?

  • Paul, just to confirm something here, do you accept that humans are animals which evolved from earlier primates and in turn from some ancient single celled organism?

  • Julie near Chicago

    In a nutshell: As usual, “freedom” does not mean “freedom from all constraint,” but rather freedom from domination by others of one’s autonomy: the denial by others of one’s fundamental faculty of self-determination or self-direction. “Free will” is one way of stating this freedom; the freedom which is the meaning of the word “liberty.” “Free will” refers precisely to the condition of being unrestrained by the force of others from acting in accordance with one’s own wishes or desires or beliefs or objectives.

    (Yes, it’s true that we say things like, “Well, I sure didn’t hurl of my own free will!” But that’s a loose usage, and the comeback is often, “Yeah, well, nobody held a gun to your head and MADE you drink all that Jivaro Joy Juice!”)

    –Regarding my comment of 17 December, 2014 at 11:13 pm.

    • That may be what you’re arguing Julie, but it isn’t what Paul is arguing. Your position is basically Compatibilist, which means according to Paul you’re an evil liar. Paul’s “choice” is immune to all physical laws and causation, neither is it random (or some mix of determinism and randomness). It is literally uncaused. How the hell he thinks his own thoughts actually function if his thought now does not follow his thoughts five or ten seconds ago in some causative manner, the mind boggles. But anyway, that’s what he’s claiming. If humans are subject to causation, they are not (by his definition) “persons” and anyone who says otherwise is evil.

      My own definition of freedom is pretty much yours, for what it’s worth.

  • “still waiting for an answer Paul” – I have answered you repeatedly Ian, if you do not like the answer that is not my problem. You demand that I “explain” (really “explain away”) agency in terms of non agency – and I have told you to stop playing what Sean Gabb would call “verbal games” (or, if I have not, I have now). Agency can not be explained in terms of non agency – and that does NOT mean that agency does not exist. The “I” (self awareness, consciousness, free will) exists – that is a basic, a fundamental, fact.

    The facts are as follows.

    Human beings, who are not brain damaged or mentally ill, know that are aggressions are wrong (if they deny it – they are lying), that did not come from Christianity or Judaism – it was present in both Germanic and Roman law (very different societies – and China and India and the rest of the world are no different, as Edmund Burke pointed out in his prosecution of Warren Hastings “geographical morality” is as absurd as historical morality, aggressive crime is aggressive crime) long before the influence of either. One can argue that one needs to engage in an aggression in order to counter an aggression, or to prevent a planned aggression by one’s enemies, but to say “my aggression is morally good – because aggression is morally good” is just wrong (and people know it is wrong – however much they try to deny it). No Roman legal philosopher pretended that slavery was not against natural law – they just said things such as “well everyone else does it, so we would be at a disadvantage if we did not” or “if we did not do it to them they would do it to us” – and so on. They did bad things (lots of them) – but they were not so dishonest as to pretend that they did not the difference between right and wrong.

    So human beings, who are not brain damaged or mentally ill, can work out the difference between fundamental right and wrong, between nonaggression and aggression – if they say do not know that aggressions against you are wrong, they are lying (period – as the Americans saying).

    Nor is it just a matter of knowing the difference between right and wrong.

    Human beings, again if not brain damaged or mentally ill, can choose between right and wrong. Choose to stop murdering the helpless, even if the penalty for refusing to do so is being sent to the Russian Front – real crime is a CHOICE (a real CHOICE).

    Free will (human agency, consciousness, the reasoning “I”) is not some “theory” that needs to be “proved by argument” (as with your absurd “show me the mechanism” Ian) – is the fundamental fact of our existence (it is us – it is what, who, we are).

    Those who dishonestly deny that they know that aggressions are wrong, or deny that that they can stop themselves commiting these aggressions (murders and rapes and so on) are liars – they are telling lies.

    If “philosophy” denies this – then “philosophy” is nonsense.

    They do not deserve a “mechanism” Ian (whatever you mean by that word) – they deserve only PUNISHMENT for their aggressions.

    They knew they were doing wrong.

    And although they desired to do evil, they could have chosen to do otherwise – with real effort they could have done what they knew to be right, and overcome their desire to do what they knew to be wrong.

    Free will is not just what we do – it is what, who, we are.

    And the knowledge of good and evil is the burden, the terrible burden, we all carry- for it carries with it shame and guilt.

    When the Nazis, or others, offer people “the freedom not to be free” – they are offering a “freedom” from the burden of moral choice, freedom from free will (from the burden of guilt).

    But this “freedom not be free” is a lie.

  • If the “freedom not to be free” position was correct, if we were not agents (examples of free will – a reasoning “I”) who could know the difference between fundamental moral right and wrong and choose (against our evil desires) to do right against wrong, then YES there would be nothing wrong with the European Union or any additional lawyer of government (of any level of taxation and regulation).

    YES the freedom of agents can not be violated if there are no such “things” as agents (as ourselves), and YES if we can not choose between good and evil then it does not matter if our, non-existent choice is taken away by the state (or by private criminals).

    However, the “freedom not to be free” position is not correct – it is both false and evil.

  • No insult to lawyers meant by mistakenly typing “lawyer” not “layer”.

  • Show me the mechanism, Paul. Or stop waffling in circles. One or the other. Anything you assert to exist needs proof. If you claim that the human brain defies physics and logic, you’d better have a pretty solid explanation.

    And no, “If X is true then Y is true, Y is unacceptable to me therefore I refuse to consider X” is not an answer, however many times you type it out. That your ludicrous Y (“if people are subject to causation, they are not persons”) does not follow from X anyway is an additional problem you have.

    But for now, you need to answer the question. How does it work, Paul? This mechanism you demand to exist. How does it work? How does it work? How does it bloody well work, Paul?

    • “Show me the mechanism, Paul. Or stop waffling in circles. One or the other. Anything you assert to exist needs proof. If you claim that the

      human brain defies physics and logic, you’d better have a pretty solid explanation.
      And no, “If X is true then Y is true, Y is unacceptable to me therefore I refuse to consider X” is not an answer, however many times you type

      it out. That your ludicrous Y (“if people are subject to causation, they are not persons”) does not follow from X anyway is an additional

      problem you have.
      But for now, you need to answer the question. How does it work, Paul? This mechanism you demand to exist. How does it work? How does it work?

      How does it bloody well work, Paul?”

      Firstly, the human brain would NOT have to “defy physics and logic” to operate because it is not the human brain that is responsible for the mental action – the human mind does this all the time, and the mind is not the same thing as the brain.

      Our minds, after all, are capable of imagining all sorts of things that defy physics and logic, are they not?

      Secondly, if you assert that only mechanistic causation is permissible then you have already ruled out mental causation at the outset.

      If you insist that mental events must be described in only physical terms how would you answer the Idealist who insists that in order to be real, all physical events be described as the result of mental [i.e. non-physical] causation in which case not only post-boxes and trees are the creation of the human mind but all of the universe is merely an idea with no existential referent?

  • Well that was a waste of a few hours – true some other comments of mine (on other topics) did not get through – but one here was the one I actually cared about. And it failed to get through.

    As for your swearing Ian – I can swear to. I am not “bloody” interested in your “mechanism” – because I am so stupid as to try and describe agency in terms of non agency. I am not going to allow you to set the “the rules” – in order to get the answer you want. You can have the answer that I want to give you – not the answer you want me to give you. No matter how much you try and bully me I am not going to play your game.

    Ian – to deny agency is itself an act of agency. This is why a determinist (in the sense of predeterminist) is caught in a self contradiction – literally a contradiction of the self (of their own existence).

    As for “compatiblism” I have not written a huge amount about this (so do not try and put words in my mouth – about Julie or anyone else), but it is, at best, a “rest” position – whilst someone is deciding whether they are going to say that persons could have done otherwise or not.

    For example, could the persons (the self aware agents – the people, not the clocks on the wall of the Commander’s office or anything like that) running the extermination camps have chosen to do otherwise? To stop doing what they were doing – and take the consequences of that choice?

    The correct question to ask the “compatiblist” is this – could they, for example the persons running the extermination camps, have chosen to do otherwise than they did, to stop what they were doing?

    If the “compatibilist” says “no it was logically impossible for them to choose to do otherwise” then they are not a compatibist – they are determinist (in the sense of a predeterminst),

    And if the “compatibilist” says “yes they could have chosen to do otherwise – to stop what they were doing and take the consequences of so doing” then they are not a compatiblist – they are a believer in agency.

    The “rest” of “compatiblism” is over and the person has come out on one side or the other.

    And as for the person who says “I do not understand the question” – if they really say, in relation to something serious (such as the extermination camps) the question “could they chosen to do otherwise – to stop what they were doing” then such a person is not worth bothering with.

  • Yes the determinist (in the sense of predeterminist) is caught in literal “self contradiction” as their denial of agency is itself act of agency – which is why agency is a “self evident truth” (not a weakness – a strength). By the way the same is true for the person who claims that everything is random – nothing CHOSEN, for they to deny their own personhood. Choice is NEITHER predetermined or random – choice is “itself” (our self – our identity, who we are), it is not some “mechanism”.

    As for biological evolution Ian – as you know that I believe in it, you can have had no decent reason for asking the question whether I believe in it.

  • In an effort to be fair (and it takes a mighty effort after the last two weeks of no telephone and on-off internet) I can think of one decent reason why Ian might have asked the evolution question – whether I think there are any moral or philosophical implications from it. No I do not.

    “Social Darwinism” is no excuse for murder or other such. For example, after “Buck V Bell” Oliver Wendell Holmes (jr) rejoiced in his own wickedness in his letters to Harold Laski (the fact that he wrote to that man at all is bad enough) – Holmes pointed out that he had deliberately used rough language to his fellow judges and wondering if they had been “shocked”. They were trying to hide from themselves what they had done with a web of words – he wanted them to see it (if had not known that he had done wrong with his “good law” he would have got evil glee out of it).

    A is indeed A – but a judge (indeed anyone) can hide from what they are doing. Pretend that A is not really A – that are not really doing what they are actually doing.

    I wonder how many of those eight judges (Justice Butler dissented – so there were eight not nine) would have ruled as they did had they be required to see (actually see – not just listen to that pig Holmes make jokes about it) what they had done – the screaming woman being dragged to the operating table……

  • You can have the answer that I want to give you – not the answer you want me to give you.

    And there, in a nutshell, is Paul’s “philosophy”. Faced with a question he cannot answer, he does not worry whether this might show a flaw in his dogma. He just boasts that he won’t address it. Which is why this whole thread is a waste of time. Such wilful blindness cannot be reasoned with.

    Still, it will stand testament to the demonstrated fact that, next time Paul is denouncing everyone around him as evil, the basis on which he does so hasn’t got a leg to stand on. I wonder if Paul wrote a book about this, what he would call it: “I’m Right Because I’m Right (And Anyone Who Disagrees Is Evil”, perhaps.

    Feel free to carry on with your circular babbling Paul, but I think I really am done with this, this time.

  • Yes Ian – it is my philosophy that I only have to say what I believe to be the truth (actually I do not even have to say what I believe to be true – I choose to do so). That I do not have to say things I do not believe to be true – just because you want me to. You insist that I describe agency in terms of non agency – and I think that makes no sense. Agency (“free will” – real choice) is itself – it is not something else, it is the “I”, it can not be described in some other set of terms (at least not usefully so).

    By the way I have never said that “compatiblists” are evil – I have said that “compaibilism” is at best a “rest period” whilst someone decides whether or not persons (I believe in the existence of persons – I do not regard a person as “logically impossible”), could have chosen to do otherwise or not.

    For example, could the people running the extermination camps have chosen to do otherwise – to stop what they were doing (and take the consequences of stopping)?

    Someone who believes in agency says “yes they could have chosen to stop doing these evil things”.

    Whereas a determinist (in the sense of someone who thinks everything is PRE determined) says “no they could not have chosen to do otherwise – their actions were predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the big bang”. And yes this sort of determinist, a predeterminist, is evil. If someone starts making excuses for the Nazis (or the Communists – or others) of this type, then they are evil.

    And a “compatiblist”?

    Well, it seems to me (I am open to be corrected) that a “compatiblist” is saying “I will get back to you on that”. Not really coming down on one side or the other – neither good nor evil.

    By the way Ian WHAT IS YOUR POSITION?

    Could the people running the extermination camps have done otherwise or not?

    Do not give me a moral copout about “I do not understand the question” – you understand the question perfectly well.

    Are humans persons? Can we choose to do otherwise than we do?

    And, by the way, would you accept either a “moral relativist” defence (“I did not know it was wrong” or “I thought it was right”) or a “determinist” defence (“I knew it was wrong – but what I did was predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the Big Bang, there is no such thing as real choice”) for an aggression (an attack) on you personally.

    If you would not accept such defences for aggressions against you then you are NOT a moral relativist or a determinist Ian (at least not a consistent one).

    And if you would accept such defences for an aggressions against you – would you please say so publically.

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