Monday, June 29, 2009

I Have No Need Of Monsters - Reality Is Frightening Enough For Me

I have no need of monsters - reality is terrifying enough for me

I have no need of monsters. I do not need Obama to be the most narcissistic narcissist since man first heard the echo of his own voice - his creating the 'seal of the office of the president-elect', suffices rather well for me. I do not need him to be the anti-Christ, his putting his long held disdain for the that document which he has never shown any glimpse of understanding - the U.S. Constitution - into destructive practice (see his past and forthcoming legislative efforts), is terrifying enough for me.

I do not need Bildeburghers or black helicopters, the actions of Paulson, Geitner and House and Senate who feel no need to read legislation before voting on it, and Serv.Gov have me quaking in my boots enough already.

I have no need for elaborate monsters, there are real ones afoot here and now. Like the movie makers of the 30's & 40's understood, the monster you don't see is far more real than the one you do. Our monsters are non-corporeal Ideas, and they animate the bodies of ordinary people in such a way, that, even more so than sci-fi Pod People, they horrify me today. They horrify me because they are living breathing people, here among us, living next door or even with you in your own home. They are made far more monstrous than any CGI or movie make-up by what they uncomprehendingly believe, than any fictional ghoul could ever conjure up... and what makes them more dangerous than any magical talisman or spell - they believe they are right - without understanding what they believe - they believe they are right.

Hitler was no monster. Portraying him so only makes him only safer to our sensibilities, and as a consequence even more of a threat. Hitler was worse than a monster, he was a human being who believed that his sophistic estimations and deductions which he "clearly and distinctly" imagined to be true, were correct.

Some of the most celebrated minds in 19th & 20th century America thought it perfectly right and proper to use the Govt to allow and disallow who could, and who could not, marry. They felt themselves perfectly in the right, and competent to, judge who was worth allowing to have children, and who should be prevented from ever doing so.

As Progressives, in both the Democrat and Republican parties, there were large numbers who were for eugenic programs, including Oliver Wendell Holmes on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court. And they put those ideas into law.

I've no need of monsters, we've had real people, otherwise kind and sensible people, willing to do monstrous things because, without understanding what they believed, and content with that, they thought they were right.

I've no need of conspiracies, we've had individuals perfectly willing to act in the open to destroy our way of life, because they didn't understand what they were doing, and they were self satisfied in thinking that they were right to do so.

We've had Truman attempting to nationalize the steel industry, we've had Nixon decreeing wage and price controls. We've had congress passing legislation forcing businesses to compromise with, and allow a say in their decisions to those who wish them ruin, labor unions. We've had two Presidents and Secretaries willing to nationalize financial and industrial institutions... to destroy the free market 'in order to save the free market'. We have people seriously thinking about the sensibility of states seceding from the union. We've had... we've had much worse than that.

There has been worse, and I've no doubt that there is worse coming.

And it is coming, and it is able to come, because something worse than an evil sorcerer has been at work; a well intentioned philosopher, centuries ago, made it possible for people to publicly, and with intellectual respectability, to advance the most spurious nonsense based on the proposition that it could be true, and if that could be true, then this must be true, and therefore these X things must be done.... And part and parcel of that, his ideas made it nearly impossible for those who innocently read his thoughts, to detect errors in their own thoughts, or even feel the need to do so.

That long ago foolish philosopher was Descartes, and because he didn't think, we're doomed - unless we learn to spot and avoid his errors, but that would require doing away with our schools - but people believe our schools are good, even though they are bad... we may indeed be doomed, doomed to apply his errors, to our lives.

And he was followed by many other philosophers who consciously, and unconsciously, have done much worse.

And the result is that today we have no need of monsters... we have people, willing to do what they are pleased to say is right, and 'for our own good'.


To be continued soon....


Unknown said...

Decartes, I was never a fan so I am looking forward to what you have to say to follow up on this. I have to ask though, do you think that anything good has come out of Decartes? I like his meditation on the existence of God.

Van Harvey said...

Hey Lance,

I'm afraid I found his proof's for God to be very weak, in fact many moons ago, it was reading him, after Ayn Rand, that caused me to dismiss all religion as either 'talking snake' or 'talkin' head' stories. A conclusion I've been modifying significantly over the last couple years.

To be fair to Descartes, I didn't find Pascal, Aquinas or any other 'proof' I've ever seen, as even remotely convincing, which logically, they cannot be. Logic is not going to prove something outside its system, and without evidence - unless you already believe, they aren't going to do anything for you.

Personally, if there is a God, I think that is by deisign. I think God is something that can only be approached from within, either through the Poetic, or (more difficultly) inferred through your own personal observations, and as such, can be truly convincing only to yourself (these two posts of mine briefly (really!) describe this point better what I mean by first hand experience, and digging into those private charged thoughts).

But then I'm weird that way.

Of course his contributions to Geometry are unquestionable. However. Philosophically, I'm afraid I find Descartes a bust all around, though if you're careful (and I've yet to talk with someone who doesn't examine his ideas without unwittingly slipping into the same fundamental error he did... and blink in embarrassment when it's pointed out), he's an interesting read... from a crash scene investigators perspective. I just finished re-reading most of his works, and if anything I think I actually think less of him than before, though like Hume (I suppose you remember that one), I don't think either of them were knowingly or maliciously spinning webs (which I definitely do think was done by Rousseau, and to a lesser extent, Kant (though I waffle between identifying him as merely bad or evil)), I think Descartes and Hume both made some basic errors, and wore those colored lens from there on out.

More’s the pity for modernity.

mushroom said...

I agree. Most "proof of God" stuff that people put forth turns out to be more like "God could exist". This is hardly proof; it's just trying to create space that God does not need.

Science likes Cartesian thinking because it helps them generate funding -- no matter how bogus their research ultimately turns out to be. Politicians like it because, as you say, it enables to justify the otherwise ridiculous expansion of their power. I don't even think they do it because they think it is right. They just think they are more likely to stay in their cushy positions.

Unknown said...

Hey Van,

Thanks for the quick response. I have never cared for Ayn Rand but I doubt that you are surprised by that. Have you read, as I type that I am thinking I am sure you have, Kierkegaard? I do not fully agree with his writing but I find it thought provoking which is always a plus for me.

As far as the Hume fiasco goes I think I am better because of it. I do not know if you feel that way however :)

Cassandra said...

"More's the pity for modernity."
Let us not imagine that there was this lovely thing called modernity....and then philosophers like Descartes, Hume, Kant, etc. came around and ruined it. They themselves ARE modernity.

The quintessentially MODERN enterprise in philosophy has been to try to find a rational, certain ground for Truth---including simple, everyday reality like the existence of my keyboard---without any vertical,transcendent reference, be it God, gods, 'self-evident' principles, or immutable constitutions and custom. The colossal failure of this effort, an effort that has engaged some of the most brilliant minds in history, is clear.

You can blame Descartes, as I myself am fond of doing; Richard Weaver can go back further and blame Ockham; and the Randians can blame Kant. But there's something about all this 'blame' that reminds me of those folks who say it's not socialism that's the problem, it's Stalin, or Mao, or Pol Pot. The fact is, the problem is not that there are worms in the apple of modern philosophy. The problem is that the apple itself is rotten to the core.

The belief held by so many, from Ayn Rand to Capt. Queeg, that you can cure post-modernism with 'modernity'is (unfortunately)about as fatuous as believing you can cure lung cancer with asbestos dust and cigarettes.

Cassandra said...

I'm truly sincere about that "unfortunately" in my last sentence there, BTW. To put it very succinctly, I honestly wish that Tocqueville was wrong when he maintained that a nation with universal suffrage can only avoid ugliness and disaster if (1) a solid majority of the masses are imbued with Biblical religion and if (2) the elites are educated in a curriculum thoroughly based on the Greco-Roman classics.

All of which is simply to say that the people must be fundamentally PRE-modern in their adherence to a trancendent hierarchy of values.

Cassandra says we're dooooooooooomed!

Van Harvey said...

Lance said "I have never cared for Ayn Rand but I doubt that you are surprised by that."


;- )

"Have you read, as I type that I am thinking I am sure you have, Kierkegaard?"
I have read Kierkegaard... there is much in his, how to put it, tone - I think we share common enemies - but... I can enjoy him IF I disallow his fundamentals, and insert mine under them. Plus he wasn't the happiest camper in the campground, so to speak. But thought provoking, definitely, and if you remember not to look for your answers only where the author is pointing, a writer like that can be even more valuable than someone who is more correct.

Van Harvey said...

Mushroom said "Cartesian thinking because it helps them generate funding -- no matter how bogus their research ultimately turns out to be"

Yeah, falsehood and lies do seem to help with the whole govt funding thing, don't they?

Van Harvey said...

Cassandra said "Cassandra says we're dooooooooooomed! "

To quote Kind Priam, "Ahhh... shaddup... youdunnowhatyertalkinaboud!"


"You can blame Descartes, as I myself am fond of doing; Richard Weaver can go back further and blame Ockham; and the Randians can blame Kant. "

There is something to what you say... but... there is also much you leave out. I've been reading or rereading the big guys back through to Aquinas, I sampled the highlights in posts on Bacon and Machiavelli here, y here and z here. And IMHO (oh... quite laughing), prior to Descartes there were certainly errors made, not to mention a predilection towards a materialism, but prior to him the errors, whether incidental or egregious, were still errors of fact, but not of metaphysical import.

Biiig difference.

Descartes opened a can of worms that not only led to the legitimization of the arbitrary, but metaphysically separated philosophy from the very material reality he, and the other pre-post-moderns were claiming to exalt. More on that to come... was going to be my next post, but I think with all the secession jabber going about, I'll need a 4th of July post first.

There is a huge difference between what I call the 'incidental atheists' and the 'materialistic atheists'; Rand upheld the unity and thoroughly integrated non-contradictory nature of Truth, whereas the materialists at their very 'best', would allow only little disintegrated relativistic 'truths'. Odd as it may seem, especially to Rand, a proper perspective on religion, is not in any way opposed to Rand's Objectivism - I haven't changed my principles one whit... I just stopped trying to look at religion as the literalistic fundamentalists, and Objectivists, do.

I also think that while Rand is right about Kant, and I don't let him off the hook in the least, her disposition against the poetic caused her to miss the far more important and significant role which I think Rousseau played in the destruction of modernity, and which Kant provided a legitimatizing, intimidating, purposely incomprehensible, philosophical basis for.

"The quintessentially MODERN enterprise in philosophy has been to try to find a rational, certain ground for Truth---including simple, everyday reality like the existence of my keyboard---without any vertical, transcendent reference, be it God, gods, 'self-evident' principles, or immutable constitutions and custom."

Here you're blending together the French/German rationalistic and ultimately skeptical, branch of the Enlightenment, with the English/Scottish branch (with some exceptions, such as Hume, Bentham, etc on the foul British side, and Say and (later) Bastiat on the finer French side) which was seeking a sound basis for Reason to operate in a true respect for reality, while respecting the transcendent truth of religion, as with Locke and Smith, and they very much espoused self-evident principles of Natural Law in harmony with religion.

Now the Brit's empiricism was missing key points which led it to a form of dualism as well, but while the frenchie branch discarded reality in favor of arbitrary whims, the English branch, in an effort to focus (incompletely) on reality, strove for principles though their empiricism and nominalism, true they failed and were forced to make unconvincing appeals to tradition (Rand's theory of concept formation provides what they missed.), but they wouldn't abandon Truth altogether.

Ok... comment... not post... stay tuned.

Van Harvey said...

Oops... "Kind Priam" --> King Priam

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Superb post, Van!

I cooncur, infra-humans that have lost their humanity are scarier than monsters.
They have no regard for liberty, and they would gladly take it away...from everyone, for their own "good."

Is their anything more evil than that?
I mean, who the hell do they think they are to make, I mean FORCE that slavemaster philosophy on folks who wanna be free?

Fuck that! Our Founding Fathers also had to face these infra-humans, and their remedy was to ban them from our land of liberty.
Liberty can't tolerate a slave mentality that chooses to FORCE everyone to accept the chains of destruction.

To hell with that!

Van Harvey said...

I said "I sampled the highlights in posts on Bacon and Machiavelli here, y here and z here..."

WTF?! 'y'? 'z'? Sheesh.

Cassandra, here are the missing links from above on Bacon & Machiavelli,
and Hobbes & Rousseau

Sorry about that.