Thursday, 8 December 2016

Friedrich Nietzsche Versus George Santayana

George Santayana; Friedrich Nietzsche
Considering that Friedrich Nietzsche wrote Thus Spake Zarathustra in the early 1880s, it is surprising how relevant and invigorating many of the book's ideas remain in 2016.

In the book’s Part One (Section: “Of the New Idol”), Nietzsche says:
A state? What is that? Well! open now your ears to me, for now I will speak to you about the death of peoples. 
State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies; and this lie slips from its mouth: "I, the state, am the people."
It is a lie! It was creators who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life.
Destroyers are they who lay snares for the many, and call it state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them.
Where there are still peoples, the state is not understood, and is hated as the evil eye, and as sin against laws and customs. 
Nietzsche’s view of the state is clearly anti-egalitarian. In fact, anti-egalitarian elements are there in most of his works, and that is why he is criticized by the egalitarian thinkers like George Santayana.

Santayana sneeringly refers to Nietzsche as the author of “boyish blasphemies,” which were put into the mouth of the protagonist of Thus Spake Zarathustra.

In Reason and Society, Santayana says:
The state may be a monster, as Nietzsche called it; a monster of unnecessary size; but its centralized tyranny has the virtue of abolishing the miscellaneous and innumerable petty tyrannies by which life was of old pestered and confined. One master pirate, accepting tribute quietly, is better than a hundred pirates, taking toll without warning and without stint. 
Santayana accepts that the State is a monster —he likens the State to a master pirate—but he wants people to accept its rule because of his conviction that civilization can only be conducted by a totalitarian system.

In another work The German Mind: A Philosophical Diagnosis, Santayana criticizes Nietzsche’s ethics and theory of superman. He accuses Nietzsche of "subjectivity in thought and wilfulness in morals."

There no justification for the insults that Santayana has levelled on Nietzsche.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Blaise Pascal on Cleopatra’s Nose

Bust of Cleopatra at Altes Museum, Berlin
“Cleopatra’s nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed,” says Blaise Pascal in his famous work Pensees (Thoughts) which was published posthumously in 1669.

Pascal was of the view that the nose is an indicator of a person’s character, and if Cleopatra’s nose had been smaller she would have lacked the strength of character and she could not have mustered the will to dominate the world.

She could have not have held the powerful men of the Roman empire, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, under her spell if her nose had been longer or smaller by a few millimetres, and then the great wars of that era would not have been fought.

Pascal's Pensees is a defense of Christian religion, but in it he has included several random ideas and jottings. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Labour of Zarathustra

Friedrich Nietzsche
In my view, “The Labour of Zarathustra”  is the most interesting chapter in Daniel Halevy’s The Life of Frederich Nietzsche.

Halevy has described how Nietzsche got the inspiration for his book Thus Spake Zarathustra. Here’s an excerpt from The Life of Frederich Nietzsche:
Friedrich Nietzsche never ceased to hear and gather the words of Zarathustra. In three distiches of a soft and almost tender seduction he tells how this companion entered into his life :  
I sat there waiting—waiting for nothing,
Enjoying, beyond good and evil, now
The light, now the shade; there was only
The day, the lake, the noon, time without end.
Then, my friend, suddenly one became two—
And Zarathustra passed by me.
But Nietzsche could not find a publisher for Thus Spake Zarathustra. Eventually he agreed to pay for the book’s publication. Less than 50 copies of the first-edition got sold, and no one praised it. The sad fate of his book further actuated Nietzsche’s feeling of loneliness.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Marx is in the scrapyard, but there is no respite from Marxism


Marx is in the scrapyard, but there is no respite from Marxism. The Marxists continue to wreak havoc with their irrational political, economic, and cultural ideas.

Fashion changes. Weather Changes. People change. But a socialist society never changes—it is always one government-made catastrophe away from utopia.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

100-years Of Socialism Has Taught Us Nothing

Forced Labor in Soviet Union
The Russian Revolution of 1917 which brought the Soviet regime to power in Russia was a pair of revolutions.

The first revolution in February 1917 resulted in the old regime being replaced by a Provisional Government. In the second revolution of October 1917, the Provisional Government was removed and replaced with a Communist State.

According to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the author of several harrowing books on the Soviet gulag system, the Soviet State murdered more than 60 million people during the reign of Josef Stalin.

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression reveals that the communist regimes in the world have been responsible for close to 100 million deaths.

100-years of large-scale destruction and bloodshed in the name of socialism has taught us nothing. We still have idiots pitching atrocious socialist lies.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Will Durant On The Rediscovery Of Aristotle

Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy has a good concise account of Aristotle’s life and ideas. It is true that Aristotle is such a vast subject and Durant has barely skimmed the surface, but in my opinion Durant has provided a good overview.

Here’s an excerpt from The Story of Philosophy where Durant is talking about the rediscovery of Aristotle in Europe:
It may be doubted if any other thinker has contributed so much to the enlightenment of the world. Every later age has drawn upon Aristotle, and stood upon his shoulders to see the truth. The varied and magnificent culture of Alexandria found its scientific inspiration in him. His Organon played a central role in shaping the minds of the medieval barbarians into disciplined and consistent thought. The other works, translated by Nestorian Christians into Syriac in the fifth century A.D., and thence into Arabic and Hebrew in the tenth century, and thence into Latin towards 1225, turned scholasticism from its eloquent beginnings in Abelard to encyclopaedic completion in Thomas Aquinas. The Crusaders brought back more accurate Greek copies of the philosopher’s text; and the Greek scholars of Constantinople brought further Aristotelian treasures with them when, after 1453, they fled from the besieging Turks. The works of Aristotle came to be for European philosophy what the Bible was for theology—an almost infallible text, with solutions for every problem. In 1215 the Papal legate at Paris forbade teachers to lecture on his works; in 1213 Gregory IX appointed a commission to expurgate him; by 1260 he was de rigueur in every Christian school, and ecclesiastical assemblies penalized deviations from his views. Chaucer describes his student as happy by having 
At his bedded hed
Twenty books clothed in blake or red,
Of Aristotle and his philosophie; 
and in the first circles of Hell, says Dante, 
I saw the Master there of those who know,
Amid the philosophic family,
By all admired, and by all reverenced;
There Plato too I saw, and Socrates,
Who stood beside him closer than the rest.
 
Such lines give us some inkling of the honor which a thousand years offered to the Stagirite. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Is The Big Government Rational Or Irrational?

The big government’s actions are not necessarily irrational.

Irrational actions are those in which the entity in some way defeats its own purpose, doing what is calculated to frustrate its ends. But if the big government’s policies enable it to usurp several new powers and eviscerate the political opposition then it is not frustrating its own ends.

There is, in most cases, a carefully designed strategy behind what may seem like irrational and destructive policies of the big government. There is a method behind what may seem like madness.

A big government is a government that has metamorphosed into a powerful mafia organization. It is no longer concerned with protecting the rights and liberties of the people. The fate of the citizens is not the priority. The fate of the regime is the most important of all considerations for the big government.

The big governments planners intentionally develop policies that will create a major crisis in the lives of millions of citizens because their plan is to use the crisis as an excuse for increasing manifold the powers and the size of the government. The consistency in never letting a major crisis go waste cannot be termed irrational.

A big government that rocks the country with one crisis after another can be fully rational. It can be accused of villainy of the most venal kind, but not necessarily of irrationality.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

On Categorical And Hypothetical Imperatives

Virtues and Vices and other Essays in Moral Philosophy
Philippa Foot

In Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals Immanuel Kant has said that moral judgements are categorical, not hypothetical, imperatives. Was Kant right?

In her essay “Morality as a system of Hypothetical imperatives” (Virtues and Vices and other Essays in Moral Philosophy), Philippa Foot looks at Kant’s theory of categorical and hypothetical imperatives. She points out that moral judgements have no better claim to be categorical imperatives than do hypothetical imperatives such as the statements about matters of etiquette. It is possible for people to follow either morality or etiquette without asking why they should do so, but equally well they may not. They may ask for reasons and may reasonably refuse to follow either if reasons are not to be found.

Here’s an excerpt from the essay:
Kant, in fact, was a psychological hedonist in respect of all actions except those done for the sake of the moral law, and this faulty theory of human nature was one of the things preventing him from seeing that moral virtue might be compatible with the rejection of the categorical imperative.  
If we put this theory of human action aside, and allow as ends the things that seem to be ends, the picture changes. It will surely be allowed that quite apart from thoughts of duty a man may care about the suffering of others, having a sense of identification with them, and wanting to help if he can. Of course he must want not the reputation of charity, nor even a gratifying rôle helping others, but, quite simply, their good. If this is what he does care about, then he will be attached to the end proper to the virtue of charity and a comparison with someone acting from an ulterior motive (even a respectable ulterior motive) is out of place. Nor will the conformity of his action to the rule of charity be merely contingent. Honest action may happen to further a man's career; charitable actions do not happen to further the good of others. 
Can a man accepting only hypothetical imperatives possess other virtues besides that of charity? Could he be just or honest? This problem is more complex because there is no end related to such virtues as the good of others is related to charity. But what reason could there be for refusing to call a man a just man if he acted justly because he loved truth and liberty, and wanted every man to be treated with a certain respect? And why should the truly honest man not follow honesty for the sake of the good that honest dealing brings to men? Of course, the usual difficulties can be raised about the rare case in which no good is foreseen from an individual act of honesty. But it is not evident that a man's desires could not give him reason to act honestly even here. 
The essay is concluded with these lines:
This conclusion may, as I said, appear dangerous and subversive of morality. We are apt to panic at the thought that we ourselves, or other people, might stop caring about the things we do care about, and we feel that the categorical imperative gives us some control over the situation. But it is interesting that the people of Leningrad were not struck by the thought that only the contingent fact that other citizens shared their loyalty and devotion to the city stood between them and the Germans during the terrible years of the siege. Perhaps we should be less troubled than we are by fear of defection from the moral cause; perhaps we should even have less reason to fear it if people thought of themselves as volunteers banded together to fight for liberty and justice and against inhumanity and oppression. It is often felt, even if obscurely, that there is an element of deception in the official line about morality. And while some have been persuaded by talk about the authority of the moral law, others have turned away with a sense of distrust.
Virtues and Vices and other Essays in Moral Philosophy is a collection of 14 essays that Philippa Foot wrote between 1957 and 1977 on different issues in philosophy. "Two themes run through many of the essays: opposition to emotivism and prescriptivism, and the thought that a sound moral philosophy should start from a theory of the virtues and vices."

Sunday, 27 November 2016

On the Correlation Between Lack of Freedom and Nihilistic Violence

There exists a correlation between people’s sense of morality and reason, and the freedom that they enjoy in the country.

When the government usurps the power to dictate what is moral, what is good economics, what is good culture, what is social justice, and how the nation’s wealth must be redistributed, then most people develop the mindset that it is not their job to think about such issues. As they begin to depend too much on the government, they loose the capability of applying their minds for taking a rational stand on social, political, economic, and moral problems.

People with smothered minds are ineffective and dangerous because they are not guided by any sense of morality or reason. They are nihilists who think that all values are unfounded—they will blindly believe the propaganda from the government and the intellectuals. When the country faces economic and political problems, they won’t blame themselves or the out of control government. They actively seek scapegoats onto whom they can displace their aggression.

The private sector is an easy target for such nihilists. They hate the private sector because they are jealous of anyone who has achieved some kind of creative and financial success. Prosecuted by the government and hounded by the citizens, the private sector fails. But there are not enough government jobs and most people see a dramatic fall in the quality of their life.

The government is too arrogant to accept that its policies are responsible for the failure of the economy, and the people are too ignorant to recognize that they are responsible for the mess because they blindly supported the government’s encroachments into all spheres of life. As unemployment rises in the country, the confused people spill into the streets and there is unrest in the cities and towns.

The massive hordes of unthinking people that the ruling class had indoctrinated and groomed hoping that they will be the regime's strongest supporters for all times start turning against the government. The law and order machinery responds by launching a severe crackdown on the protestors. Normal life is thrown out of gear as thousands are arrested and locked up in jails.

The police action inevitably results in further disintegration of freedom, and this in turn generates even more immorality and irrationalism in the minds of the people. The situation continues to escalate and brainless-destructive-mobs start sprouting in different parts of the country. The mobs comprise of people who don't have any sense of morality, reason, or politics; the common bond that binds them consists of their blind hatred for every symbol of the regime.

There is a civil war between the statist government and the irrational mobs. They are nihilists on both sides; they don’t have any ideas for creating a better society; they fight with the sole purpose of causing maximum destruction to the other side. Even if the dictatorship gets overthrown, there is no chance for a saner system of governance to emerge. The cycle of cruel dictatorships and violent anarchy is likely to continue for years, perhaps decades.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

A Confederacy of Nationalist Dunces

Mussolini Being Cheered by The “Nationalist Italians”
When the politicians run out of arguments for defending the policies that they have foisted on the country, they start ranting about the virtues of nationalism.

They rant about nationalism hoping to bamboozle everyone into believing that the government will maintain order, restore the nation’s pride, inculcate moral ideas, and bring social justice.

Nationalism is tribalism on a national scale. The nationalists look at the government as the leader of the tribe and expect every citizen to conform to the traditional ways of the tribe. Any instance of individualism is frowned upon and discouraged.

A citizenry brainwashed by nationalist propaganda will overlook the disastrous outcomes of the government’s economic decisions. They will stoically bear the pain caused by the illogical decisions because their faith in the government is unshakable. They are filled with the belief that the government works for the greater good of the nation.

If you question the government’s actions, the nationalist citizens will promptly brand you as a traitor. They are inclined to see a conspiracy in every criticism of the government. They are not ready to accept that the government can make any mistake.

This kind of attitude puts and end to all political debate in the country and leaves the government free to drag the entire population into a new kind of socialist and fascist hell.

A nationalist political farce of the worst kind is now unfolding in India. Ever since the government banned the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes, which comprised 87% of the monetary value of the cash in circulation, there has been economic chaos in the country. But the nationalist supporters of the government are not ready to accept that anything is wrong.

In the days to come the situation is bound to get much worse, more desperate.

Related: 

The Immorality of Currency Demonetization

By Banning Cash The Government Wants To End Privacy

The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum

“Committing Suicide is Also Radical.” ~ Arun Shourie on Currency Demonetization 

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad World Of Currency Demonetization

The Bizarre Consequences of Messing With The Financial System

The Nightmare of Going to The Bank 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Illogical Economic Ideas Lead To Political Disaster

The more the politicians rant on patriotism and nationalism, the higher becomes the disgust and anxiety of the few rational people.

Is Fascism round the corner, or is it already here?

How far will the insanity go before people realize that they are supporting illogical economic ideas which can only lead to a major social-political crisis?

A Comparison of Objectivist and Aristotelian Ethics

Ayn Rand saw Aristotle as the greatest of all philosophers. In "Review of Randall’s Aristotle," she says that Aristotle is the philosophical Atlas who carries the Western civilization on his shoulders.

Yet she is critical of Aristotle’s ethics.

In Aristotle, John Herman Randall has claimed that “Aristotle’s ethics and politics are actually his supreme achievement.” Rand rejects Randall’s assertion. She is of the view that ethics and politics are not Aristotle’s greatest achievement “even in their original form—let alone in Professor Randall’s version, which transforms them into the ethics of pragmatism.”

In her lecture “The Objectivist Ethics,” Rand has made another negative observation on Aristotelian ethics: “Aristotle did not regard ethics as an exact science; he based his ethical system on observations of what the noble and wise men of his time chose to do, leaving unanswered the questions of: why they chose to do it and why he evaluated them as noble and wise.”

The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand has an essay by Jack Wheeler in which an attempt has been made to draw a comparison between Rand’s Objectivist ethics and Aristotelian ethics (Chapter: “Rand and Aristotle: A Comparison of Objectivist and Aristotelian Ethics”).

Wheeler finds Rand’s view on Aristotle's ethics troubling. He says that “Rand’s criticism that Aristotle did not regard ethics as an 'exact science' is equally odd, for this has nothing to do with 'observing wise men,' but rather, as Aristotle notes: 'It is the mark of an educated mind to except that amount of exactness in each kind which the nature of the particular subject admits.' Or does Rand really wish to claim that one can have mathematic precision for ethics on a par with physics.”

According to Wheeler, there are several similarities between the Aristotelian and Objectivist positions on ethics:

“Both Rand and Aristotle propose… a metaethics that is nonrelativist and nonsubjectivist but, rather, objectivist—naturalistically objectivist and not religiously or supernaturally so. There are no appeals to God or a cosmic supernatural power in either theory to give ethics its binding legitimacy, but rather an appeal to the very objective nature of things. The good is what is good for: goal-directed, purposefully acting entities for Aristotle; living, organic entities for Rand.”

Wheeler goes on to say that “it should come as little surprise that Aristotle, whom Rand lauds for advocating an objectivist metaphysics paralleling her own, should advocate an objectivist metaethics (paralleling her own).”

There is considerable difference among philosophers regarding the meaning of Aristotelian eudaimonia. But Wheeler posits that the Aristotelian eudaimonia corresponds to Rand’s happiness. He points out that Rand has described happiness as “that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values,” and “a state of non-contradictory joy.”

Both Rand and Aristotle have expressed the view that rationality is man’s distinctive capacity and “basic means of survival.” And it is through the active and continuous exercise of reason that man achieves happiness and moral virtue.

Wheeler ends his essay with this observation: “Ayn Rand stands higher and sees farther than any other thinker of our day. She does so because she stands, not just metaphysically and epistemologically (as she would admit), but ethically (as she would not admit), on the shoulders of Aristotle.”

Edited by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen, The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand has nine essays on Ayn Rand's philosophy by ten academicians.

Related:

The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand

Can Socrates Flourish Without Philosophizing?

Rational Man by Henry B. Veatch

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Ludwig von Mises on The Religion of Socialism

A socialist advocates socialism because he is fully convinced that the supreme dictator of the socialist commonwealth will be reasonable from his--the individual socialist's--point of view, that he will aim at those ends of which he--the individual socialist--fully approves, and that he will try to attain these ends by choosing means which he--the individual socialist--would [p. 693] also choose. Every socialist calls only that system a genuinely socialist system in which these conditions are completely fulfilled; all other brands claiming the name of socialism are counterfeit systems entirely different from true socialism. Every socialist is a disguised dictator. Woe to all dissenters! They have forfeited their right to live and must be "liquidated."

The market economy makes peaceful cooperation among people possible in spite of the fact that they disagree with regard to their value judgments. In the plans of the socialists there is no room left for dissenting views. Their principle is Gleichschaltung, perfect uniformity enforced by the police.

People frequently call socialism a religion. It is indeed the religion of self-deification. The State and Government of which the planners speak, the People of the nationalists, the Society of the Marxians and the Humanity of Comte's positivism are name for the God of the new religions. But all these idols are merely aliases for the individual reformer's own will. In ascribing to his idol all those attributes which the theologians ascribe to God. the inflated Ego glorifies itself. It is infinitely good, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, eternal. It is the only perfect being in this imperfect world.

Economics is not called to examine blind faith and bigotry. The faithful are proof against every criticism. In their eyes criticism is scandalous, a blasphemous revolt of wicked men against the imperishable splendor of their idol. Economics deals merely with the socialist plans, not with the psychological factors that impel people to espouse the religion of statolatry.

~ Ludwig von Mises in Human Action (Chapter: "The Imaginary Construction Of A Socialist Society")