Friday, 6 December 2019

Thoughts on Wittgenstein’s Legacy

Wittgenstein is described by several scholars as a profound, brilliant, and the most influential philosopher of the 20th century. But what about philosophers like Edmund Husserl, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre? Is Wittgenstein’s contributions to philosophy greater than the work done by these philosophers? These philosophers were Wittgenstein’s contemporaries but none of them cared to use his theories in their own philosophy. Russell and Moore have praised Wittgenstein, but they never made use of his philosophy. In fact, they disagreed with Wittgenstein on almost everything.

It is puzzling that Wittgenstein’s name continues to be a major brand in philosophy. His claim that the problems of philosophy will vanish if we pay proper attention to language has been rejected by the analytic philosophers and the logical positivists. In fact, the views of Frege and Russell are far more popular today. The concerns regarding language are more than 2000 years old—Plato has talked about it, and so have Bacon and Berkeley. Wittgenstein overstated the problem when he made the sweeping claim that all our philosophical problems are related to our misunderstanding of language. His views on meaning, rule-following, cognitive relativism are unsound.

Not much scholarly work has been done on Wittgenstein. Far more work has been done on the ideas of Husserl, Frege, Russell, Heidegger, Sartre, and Moore.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians

The liberal political method is founded on political ideology and political skill—they ignore or denounce traditions and religion. The conservative political method is founded on traditions (past, present, and a projection of future), religion, and political skill—they are suspicious of political ideology. The libertarian political method is founded on political ideology—they ignore or denounce religion, traditions, and political skill.

The liberals and the conservatives are the successful political movements of the last 200 years; the libertarians are a failure. This is because the liberals and the conservatives possess one thing, which the libertarians lack—they possess political skill. Politics is primarily a skill. A political movement can afford to ignore religion, traditions, and ideology, but it cannot afford to ignore political skill.

Only those political movements succeed which possess political skill.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The Last Libertarian Standing

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is the ace libertarian gunslinger of our time. In his book Democracy: The God That Failed he comes out all guns blazing, but many of his shots are directed at the side to which he belongs—the libertarian side; by the time you have turned the book’s last page, you realize that this gunslinger has put down every libertarian theocrat in the town and that he is the last man standing. The libertarian political theories tends to get so predictable and utopian that most non-libertarian readers are disillusioned by it, but Hoppe ventures into areas in which you will never expect a libertarian scholar to go. In his book, you find a new kind of libertarianism, which is less idealistic and is focused on addressing the practical concerns of the masses.

They say, Hoppe is not a libertarian—that he is a paleolibertarian. But it is clear to me that paleolibertarianism is libertarianism’s future. Either the libertarians will imbibe the paleo-values of Hoppe and others, or their political theory will remain irrelevant, as it has been for the past 100 years. The question is how do you look at political ideology—most libertarians think of political ideology an end in itself, as something that has nothing to do with traditions and culture. They have a utopian view of how the society functions. But Hoppe’s approach in Democracy: The God That Failed is different. He explains his perspectives on the problems in modern democracies in context of human psychology and the traditions and culture that people are used to. Here’s an excerpt from his book (Chapter 10: “On Conservatism and Libertarianism”; Page 218):

"In a covenant concluded among proprietor and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private property, no such thing as a right to free (unlimited) speech exists, not even to unlimited speech on one's own tenant-property. One may say innumerable things and promote almost any idea under the sun, but naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very purpose of the covenant of preserving and protecting private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society. Likewise, in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal."

Hoppe’s views are controversial, but he has shown a way by which the gap between libertarianism and conservatism can be corrected.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

The Orthodox Camp Versus The Radical Camp

When a major philosopher exits the world stage his students become split into two camps—the orthodox camp and the radical camp. We see this happening with almost all the major philosophers in the last 3000 years—from Ancient Greece to the Modern Age.

The orthodox camp comprises of those who want to blindly follow their teacher’s style and commandments. They revere their teacher as their infallible guide and they view his philosophical works theologically, as an end in itself. But the orthodox camp is mostly unable to attract or groom major thinkers, and within three of four decades of the philosopher’s death, they go into so steep a decline that their style of philosophy goes out of fashion.

The radical camp consists of thinkers with an independent and radical mind. Their approach is not reverent; it is critical—they appreciate the good points in their teacher’s philosophy, but they also examine the flaws in his thinking. It is generally the radical camp that gives rise to good thinkers who go on to develop the revolutionary implications of their teacher’s philosophy. The future of the philosophical school lies with the radicals.

Hegel’s God

It is not clear if Hegel was a theist, pantheist, or an atheist. Hegelian philosophy does not put god and religion on a pedestal; there are, however, several elements in Hegel’s thought which indicate that he had a religious bent of mind. But if Hegel believed in a god, then that god is not a perfect being like the god of any religion. His god is an entity that seeks perfection in the universe that he has himself created. This god is eternal, he is immutable, but he needs to manifest himself in the universe in order to perfect the world, for only by perfecting the world can the god perfect himself. History, therefore, is a project for god’s self-perfection. This is a powerful vision of god who is an active participant in history that we find in Hegel’s philosophy. Even though Hegel was a conservative, his view that the movement of history is linked to god’s quest for perfection has had an immense influence on revolutionary thinkers.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Multiculturalism is a Flawed Doctrine

The “melting pot” model which encourages the immigrants to merge and mix with the nation’s dominant culture is a much better system than the multiculturalist model which sermonizes about the value of diversity and encourages identity politics based on racial and religious differences. When people in a nation identify with a common culture (as in the melting pot system), then they will stay united on their own and the government will not need to interfere in their affairs. But if they are lacking in cultural bonds, then a severe discipline backed by political power will be needed to coerce them to stay together in peace. Over a period of time, most multiculturalist nations turn into police states.

Schumpeter’s Theory of Creative Destruction

In his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, Joseph Schumpeter presents the thesis that capitalism will not die due to its economic failures, as Karl Marx had predicted, but due to its economic success. The following sentence from his book can be seen as a good summary of his thesis: “Capitalism, while economically stable, and even gaining in stability, creates, by rationalizing the human mind, a mentality and a style of life incompatible with its own fundamental conditions, motives and social institutions.”

Schumpeter devotes six pages in his book to discussing the “perennial gale of creative destruction” that capitalism faces. He writes: “The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation—if I may use that biological term—that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”

In a capitalist system, things are always in a flux, and society is never stable. As capitalism creates new products and services, and develops new ways of manufacturing and trading, it obliterates old ways of doing business—this leads to fundamental changes in peoples lives. Not everyone can keep pace with the high speed motion of the capitalist marketplace and many people get left behind, not just for a short period of time, but, in many cases, forever. Capitalism offers people several ways of succeeding in the marketplace, but it also creates as many ways of failing.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Western Civilization: A Myth or Reality?

The western civilization doesn’t exist in realty; it’s an abstract concept developed by some French philosophers during the Age of Enlightenment. These philosophers were of the view that human progress must have a single civilization as its goal—and to this civilization they gave the name “western civilization.” But their conception of the western civilization consisted of only the developed regions of the world—countries like France and England, and some parts of Germany, Italy, and America were included in it; rest of the world, they posited, was populated with barbarians who must be subdued in the name of human progress.

For much of last 2500 years, no one in Europe thought in terms of a western civilization, because there was no feeling of unity among the Europeans—they were continuously at war. Ancient Greece regarded Sparta as its enemy. The Roman Republic regarded Greece as its enemy. The history of the Roman Empire is the story of the wars that it fought with the barbarians in Northern Italy, Germany, Spain, England and other parts of Europe. Spain, for much of the Middle Ages, was an Islamic kingdom. By the time of the Renaissance most parts of Europe acquired a common religion, but there was no end to the European wars.

After the Enlightenment, the idea of western civilization remained locked inside philosophy and history books and made no impression on European politics. In the 20th century,  the Europeans fought two great wars—the First and the Second World Wars, in which they slaughtered millions of their own people and reduced large parts of Europe to rubble. During the bloodbath of the two wars, it would have been impossible for the European nations to conceive of themselves as a part of the same western civilization. The Second World War led to the division of Europe into two blocs — the free bloc and the Soviet bloc. The free bloc nations started identifying themselves and other nations that were opposed to the Soviet Union as the western civilization.

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1992 is seen as a victory for the western civilization, but the truth is that the Soviet Union was ruled from Moscow, an European city; it had a western ideology, communism; and it enjoyed the strong support of several European intellectuals—therefore, I think, it is logical to see the collapse of the Soviet Union as the failure of one faction of the western civilization. The geographical extent of the western civilization is a controversial subject because its political, linguistic, racial, and religious character is not clear.

Hegel On The Condemnation of Socrates

When Socrates took up the mantle of free enquiry, which is unencumbered by prevalent beliefs and prejudices, he was following the command that the Greeks attributed to their god Apollo: “Man, know thyself.” Socrates had dedicated his life to inculcating in his followers the virtue of critically reflecting on matters concerning morality and politics. But this kind of critical reflection makes reason, and not social custom, the ultimate judge.

In his the Philosophy of History, Hegel says that by teaching his followers to reflect on moral and political issues, Socrates was destabilizing the Athenian city-state—he was fomenting a revolution. Therefore, he notes, the Athenians were right in regarding him as an enemy of their way of life and condemning him to death. However, in ancient Athens, the principe of free thought was too firmly entrenched in culture to be banished by the execution of a single individual. The revolutionary idea remained alive in Athens after the death of Socrates; and in time it led to the condemnation of all the accusers of Socrates while Socrates himself was posthumously resurrected.

The posthumous resurrection of Socrates had a vitalizing impact on the principle of free thought and that contributed to the decline of the Ancient Greek civilization. Thus Socrates was responsible for the end of the world-historical role that the Ancient Greeks had been playing.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

On The Theology of Small Governments

The libertarians look at small governments theologically, as an end in itself. They seldom talk about the symbiotic relationship between the size of government and the capitalist economy. The truth is that there has never been a small government capitalist country. Capitalism is by nature a big government political system—just as communism is. In a stable capitalist country, the size of the government is always proportional to the size of the economy. The attempt to cut the size of the government in a capitalist country has a destabilizing impact on the economy—it leads to massive job losses in the private sector and all kinds of political and cultural problems. If you want a small government system, then you have to move away from capitalism towards a system that is regulated through self-governed guilds and local communities. You have to rely on your nation’s culture to throw up its own systems of manufacturing and trade.

Kant’s First Critique is Neither Right Nor Wrong

The philosophy that Immanuel Kant presents in his first CritiqueThe Critique of Pure Reason, cannot be proved or disproved. The arguments that he offers are his own rationalizations on the nature and scope of our mind and reason, but those who have discovered flaws in his thought, philosophers like Fichte, Hegel, and others, have also indulged in outrageous rationalizations.

Kant's aim in the first Critique is to investigate what our reason or intellect can or cannot achieve for formulating knowledge. He theorizes that the mind does not receive information passively through our eyes, ears, nose, and other senses. The mind plays an active role in acquiring knowledge, by organizing and systemizing the information that it receives through our senses. We experience the world within a framework of space, time, and substance; however, space, time, and substance are not part of the objective reality, they are not something that is independent of the mind. They are intrinsic to the mind; our reason or intuition creates the framework of space, time, and substance to enable us to comprehend the world. But if this is the case, then the question is: How does the world look like independent of the framework through which we experience it? According to Kant, this question can never be answered by human beings. The name he gives to the reality that is independent of mind is “thing-in-itself,” which, he asserts, is beyond the reach of our knowledge.

Kant does not offer conclusive philosophical evidence to back his claims, but, as I have already pointed out, those who reject his first Critique can be faulted on the same ground. The knowledge of how our mind interacts with the information that we receive through our senses is as impossible to us as the knowledge of the Kantian “thing-in-itself”. We can’t know if space, time, and substance exist out there, in the world, or inside the human mind. Therefore, Kant’s first Critique cannot be proved or disproved.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

On Types Of Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism is broadly of two types: traditional fundamentalism and modernist fundamentalism.

Traditional fundamentalism is based on certain conceptions of religious, racial, and historical prejudices and ideologies—not much needs to be said about this form of fundamentalism as their strategies and objectives are well known. Modernist fundamentalist is based on the utopian notions of human perfectionism developed during the Age of Enlightenment—for instance, communism and socialism. A fundamentalist force can have elements of both, the traditional and the modern—an example of this is nazism and fascism.

Modernist fundamentalism is not necessarily violent; it can be a peaceful movement. For instance, the belief in the power of global free markets to improve the human condition;  the belief in the symbiotic relationship between individualism and capitalism—these too are myths developed during the Age of Enlightenment. There is no evidence to back the claim that individualism is necessary for capitalism and the idea of a global free market system is a utopian dream.

Individualism Is Not Necessary For Capitalism

The German philosopher Max Stirner popularized the modern sense of individualism with his 1844 book The Ego and Its Own which opens with these provocative words, “What is not supposed to be my concern! First and foremost, the Good Cause, then God's cause, the cause of mankind, of truth, of freedom, of humanity, of justice; further, the cause of my people, my prince, my fatherland; finally, even the cause of Mind, and a thousand other causes. Only my cause is never to be my concern. "Shame on the egoist who thinks only of himself!”

Most market economists base their model of capitalism on the notion that the ideal man, the one who makes the capitalist economy run, is an individualist. But this is not true. The successful capitalist economies of the world are highly collectivized.

For instance, the USA saw its highest economic growth in the period between 1865 and 1960—and this was the period when the American society was highly collective. The family system, local communities, and the religious institutions were dominant; people had a strong sense of culture and history, and they saw themselves as a part of their community. After 1960, there was a breakdown in family system, local communities, and religious sentiments in the USA and that has led to a period of economic decline. Japan is another example of a nation where the model of capitalism (developed between 1880 and 1970) does not show individualistic tendencies. The Japanese businesses prefer to rely on interpersonal networks rather than on the culture of contracts, and they have close contact with the political and cultural institutions.

To succeed in a business activity a man has to be rooted in society—unless he understands the society in which he aims to market his products and services, he cannot develop a proper business model. Therefore, every successful businessman must have some collectivist instincts. Individualism has nothing to do with capitalism. The theorists who overhype individualism as a necessary condition for capitalism do so because of their own political opinions.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Multiculturalism Does Not Work

A nation in which several cultures enjoy an equal status ceases to be a nation; it becomes a “United Nations,” or a disorderly forum where people of different cultural backgrounds squander all their time and energy in squabbling with each other. The history of last 2500 years shows that the United Nations type of nations do not survive for long. I understand that there have been several empires that were multicultural—for instance, the Roman Empire and the British Empire. But first, an empire is not the same thing as a nation; second, the Romans and the British could keep their empires together only so long as their own culture was strong. Once their own culture weakened, the Roman and the British empires were finished. The nations that survive are those that have a cultural core that is strong and vibrant enough to provide the native population with a sense of civilizational identity and inspire respect and awe from the new immigrants.

Wittgenstein and the Logical Positivists

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s influence on the logical positivists was next to nothing. His first book, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, was read with interest by logical positivists, and Wittgenstein had a number of conversations with Moritz Schlick, the founder of the Vienna Circle, and other logical positivists, but there is a major difference between the philosophy of logical atomism that is there in the Tractatus and the thesis of logical positivism.

The logical positivist philosophy was established before Wittgenstein met Schlick and his associates. Wittgenstein could not make them change their mind on anything. The logical positivist view was that the roots of factual knowledge lie in empirical observation; in their usage, the word “metaphysics” held as a synonym for “nonsense”; Wittgenstein, on the other hand, was applying modern logic to metaphysics, via language. The logical positivists were propounding that the argument “there is a god” is an empty claim, since this claim cannot be proved or disproved by empirical observation, whereas Wittgenstein, throughout his life, accorded a great value to the matters concerning religious ethics and god. On the theories of probability and induction there is a major disconnect between the logical positivists and Wittgenstein.

In fact, there is evidence that the one who was influenced during their interactions was Wittgenstein himself. The Vienna Circle scholars made him realize that many of the statements that he had made in the Tractatus could not be defended. This realization set him on the course of distancing himself from the Tractatus. In his 1932 letter to Schlick, he writes: “There are many, many formulations in that book (the Tractatus) that I am no longer in agreement with.” In his record of Wittgenstein’s conversations, Frederich Weismann, an associate of Schlick and a member of Vienna Circle, has made a note of this sentiment. The logical positivists enabled Wittgenstein to develop his later philosophy by making him notice the problems in the Tractatus.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Religion, Racism, and Liberty

The idea that freedom from religious and racist considerations go hand in hand with liberty and free markets is an inversion of the truth. A society that is secular, atheistic, and non-racial is not—as today's liberal and libertarian intellectuals and politicians claim—a natural state for mankind.

In the last 6000 years of civilization, there has never been a successful city-state or nation in which the people have not been motivated by religious and racist considerations. The religious and racist considerations are not necessarily bad—for thousand of years such considerations have enabled large groups of people to identify with each other and coexist in all kinds of political communities. People have a natural instinct to be religious and to identify with their race.

But the modern intellectuals and politicians want to create societies in which everyone is secular, atheistic, and non-racial. This goal, however, cannot be achieved without using state power. A nation free of religious and racist considerations is necessarily totalitarian (like the Soviet Union).

Wittgenstein on Ethics and Religion

Wittgenstein provides his perspective on ethical and religious issues in a few brief statements in the last four pages of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. In statement 6.43 he says that the good or bad acts of the will do not alter the world, but rather they “alter only the limits of the world”—in other words, they lead to a change in how the world appears to the moral agent. To a good-willed agent the world will appear differently from how the world appears to a bad-willed agent. In the same statement, Wittgenstein goes on to say: “The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man.” This means that a good-willed agent can achieve happiness or that for a good-willed agent the ultimate moral value is happiness. In the statement preceding 6.43, statement 6.422, Wittgenstein suggests that good-willing contains its own reward—happiness—while bad-willing leads to the opposite. He writes, “There must indeed be some kind of ethical reward and ethical punishment, but they must reside in the action itself.”

In his perspectives on God and death, Wittgenstein suggests that the realms of facts and value are quite distinct—this is because the matters of value concern the world as a whole and are unrelated to the facts within it. In statement 6.431, he says, “So too at death the world does not alter, but comes to an end.” In statement 6.4311, he says, “Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death… Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no limits.” In statement 6.4312, he says, “How things are in the world is a matter of complete indifference for what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world.” In two statements which follow, he suggests that the consideration of God being the source of value is entirely related to world as a whole and with matter of value. Here are the two statements—statement 644 says, “It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists”; statement 6.46 says, “To view the world sub specie aeterni is to view it as a whole—a limited whole. Feeling the world as a limited whole—it is this that is mystical.”

These statements in the last four pages of the Tractatus lead to the book’s famous last statement 7: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” This statement is a reassertion of Wittgenstein’s belief that nothing can be said about the ethical and religious matters, since they lie outside the world.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

On The Gulf Between Moral Ideals and Moral Reality

Moral philosophy is an ideal and it is impossible for a human being to achieve an ideal—therefore, it should not surprise us that there has never been a moral philosopher who has accomplished the feat of perfectly practicing the moral ideals that he preached. The wide gulf that exists between moral ideals and moral reality can never be bridged.

On Wittgenstein’s Tractatus

The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, the only book-length work that Wittgenstein published in his lifetime, is a short book of 145 pages but it covers a wide range of philosophical problems. While the book's main argument is on the structure of language and the world and the relationship between the language and the world, Wittgenstein also talks about subjects like the purpose of philosophy; solipsism; the nature and form of logic; probability theory; the theory of number; induction and causality; and the matters related to religion, ethics, and life. The perspectives that he offers on these subjects is short, almost aphoristic, and this has earned the Tractatus the reputation of an obscure treatise. But he has drawn an intimate linkage between the position that he takes on various issues and his main argument—everything that he says in the book is a consequence or corollary of his main argument and this brings some clarity on his sayings in the book.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The Elites Are Always The “Useful Idiots”

The people who realize that they have something to lose if their nation is wiped out in political violence tend to shun the revolutionary movements which agitate for total change. The poor and middle class are generally attached to their way of life and possessions and it is difficult, if not impossible, to persuade them to risk whatever they have and join a revolutionary movement. The promise of a better life once the revolution is successful cuts no ice with them. The elites, on the other hand, are an easy target. They are easily persuaded that, in spite of their worldly possessions and all their political and cultural achievements, they are living a pseudo life, that something vital is missing from their life, and in order to bring “meaning” to their life they eagerly become the revolution’s “useful idiots”. It is a paradox that the lack of worldly success breeds in people more loyalty towards their nation than a life of achievements and great wealth.

Conservatives and Innovation

A conservative will not surrender lightly a known good for an unknown better. His disposition is to enjoy what he has, instead of sacrificing the present joys for some kind of future happiness. He is not eager for change, but if change becomes imperative, he will prefer a slow change to a rapid one—preserving the appearance of continuity, while things are changing, is of critical importance to a conservative. In his essay, “On Being Conservative,” Michael Oakeshott notes that the conservatives prefer small and limited innovations to large and indefinite ones. Oakeshott's skepticism of innovation is reflected in the following passage:

“Consequently, the conservative will have nothing to do with innovations designed to meet merely hypothetical situations; he will prefer to enforce a rule he has got rather than invent a new one; he will think it appropriate to delay a modification of the rules until it is clear that the change of circumstances it is designed to reflect has come to stay for a while; he will be suspicious of proposals for change in excess of what the situation calls for, of rulers who demand extra-ordinary powers in order to make great changes and whose utterances are tied to generalities like “the public good” or “social justice”, and of Saviors of Society who buckle on armor and seek dragons to slay; he will think it proper to consider the occasion of the innovation with care; in short, he will be disposed to regard politics as an activity in which a valuable set of tools is renovated from time to time and kept in trim rather than as an opportunity for perpetual re-equipment.”

Monday, 25 November 2019

Peace is a Dangerous Game

Peace is not an ultimate value for a nation. The nations which lose their appetite for power and war are doomed in the long run. When a nation has convinced itself that it faces no existential threats and has achieved lasting peace, its politics gets mired in complacency and hypocrisy and this has a negative consequence for the moral values, courage, intelligence, and integrity of its people. The nation’s culture takes a nihilistic turn and its politics becomes frivolous and corrupt. Its people lose their appetite for hard work and its institutions become incapable of maintaining an edge in technological and militaristic innovation—this leads to a fall in their military capability. Eventually the peacenik nations get destroyed and overtaken by the more vigorous and warlike nations.

Machiavelli and Nietzsche

According to Isaiah Berlin, Machiavelli composed his political works with the conviction that the ultimate values often contradict each other—that a harmony between ultimate values (such as political values and ethical values) cannot be achieved. In this sense, a connection can be drawn between Machiavelli and Nietzsche; the latter has, in his works, forcefully questioned the disharmony between ultimate values. Nietzsche notes that the conflict between political and moral values is a fact recorded by history and on this basis he establishes his ethics of the soul.

Here’s an excerpt from Berlin’s essay, “The Originality of Machiavelli”:

“What has been shown by Machiavelli, who is often (like Nietzsche) congratulated for tearing off hypocritical masks, brutally revealing the truth, and so on, is not that men profess one thing and do another (although no doubt he shows this too) but that when they assume that the two ideals are compatible, or perhaps are even one and the same ideal, and do not allow this assumption to be questioned, they are guilty of bad faith (as the existentialists call it, or of 'false consciousness’, to use a Marxist formula) which their actual behavior exhibits. Machiavelli calls the bluff not just of official morality—the hypocrisies of ordinary life—but of one of the foundations of the central Western philosophical tradition, the belief in the ultimate compatibility of all genuine values. His own withers are unwrung. He has made his choice. He seems wholly unworried by, indeed scarcely aware of, parting company with traditional Western morality.”

In another passage, Berlin notes: “Machiavelli’s cardinal achievement is his uncovering of an insoluble dilemma, the planting of a permanent question mark in the path of posterity. It stems from his de facto recognition that ends equally ultimate, equally sacred, may contradict each other, that entire systems of value may come into collision without possibility of rational arbitration, and that not merely in exceptional circumstances, as a result of abnormality or accident or error—the clash of Antigone and Creon or in the story of Tristan—but (this was surely new) as part of the normal human situation.”

Sunday, 24 November 2019

On The Importance of Theological Philosophy

Theological philosophy is a man’s fundamental need because he has no possibility for achieving enlightenment or the knowledge of the universe as a whole. Enlightenment is a corrupt and anti-man enterprise; it exhorts man to make sacrifices for achieving an impossible ideal.

Those who quest for enlightenment get mired in metaphysical and moral contradictions. We can become better people if we are willing to labor for it, but it is not possible for us to become enlightened. If enlightenment was possible, then there would be no need for theological philosophy because then man would be omniscient; he would have the potential to be like god. With theological philosophy man can try to find explanation for things for which scientific explanation is not possible.

God doesn’t need theological philosophy—man does.

The Fearful Sphere of Pascal

In his essay, “The Fearful Sphere of Pascal,” Jorge Luis Borges narrates the history of a metaphoric reflection on the universe. He gives several variations of the same metaphor. Here are three of them:

“God is an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” ~ Corpus Hermeticum

“We assert with certainty that the universe is all center, or that the center of the universe is everywhere and its circumference nowhere.” ~ Giordano Bruno

“Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere.” Blaise Pascal

According to Borges, Pascal “abhorred the universe and would have liked to adore God; but God, for him, was less real than the abhorred universe. He deplored the fact that the universe does not speak, and he compared our life with that of castaways on a desert island.”

Saturday, 23 November 2019

On the Materialistic and Spiritual Notions of Progress

There are two notions of progress: materialistic and spiritual. For progress to be beneficial (conducive for human happiness), the materialistic and spiritual developments must happen simultaneously and in equal measure. But the modernist doctrine (developed during the Age of Enlightenment) restricts progress to the domain of reason and science, or the domain of materialism—it rejects spirituality as a meaningless superstition.

It’s not possible for mankind to achieve progress in the material domain while ignoring the spiritual domain—such a skewed notion of progress is against the laws of nature. The political movements that view mankind in materialistic terms will never bring real progress—their politics will give rise to the kind of disasters which came to pass in the 20th century: Soviet Communism, Italian Fascism, German Nazism, and Nihilistic Liberalism.

On The Viability of Political Virtues

Machiavelli, in The Prince (Chapter 15), accepts that liberalism, compassion, honor, bravery, justness, humanity, affability, straightforwardness, prudence, religiousness, and so forth are some of the virtues that a prince (or political leader) can display. But he notes that virtuous politics can be successful only when men in the country are good. In case men are not good, it will be futile to hope that they should become good. When the national character is corrupt, virtuous politics will have a negative impact—the nation’s enemies may see virtuous politics as a sign of the government’s weakness and they may try to foment a rebellion. The prince should take his people as he finds them and seek to bring improvements along possible, and not impossible, lines. Machiavelli ends the chapter with these lines:

“And I know that every one will confess that it would be most praiseworthy in a prince to exhibit all the above qualities that are considered good; but because they can neither be entirely possessed nor observed, for human conditions do not permit it, it is necessary for him to be sufficiently prudent that he may know how to avoid the reproach of those vices which would lose him his state; and also to keep himself, if it be possible, from those which would not lose him it; but this not being possible, he may with less hesitation abandon himself to them. And again, he need not make himself uneasy at incurring a reproach for those vices without which the state can only be saved with difficulty, for if everything is considered carefully, it will be found that something which looks like virtue, if followed, would be his ruin; whilst something else, which looks like vice, yet followed brings him security and prosperity.”

Friday, 22 November 2019

The Illogicality of Philosophical Movements

All philosophical movements lead to disillusionment in men who possess a brain that is capable of doing what it’s supposed to do: Think.

The philosophical movements are energized by the claim that they have discovered the answers to the ultimate philosophical problems. But the ultimate problems in philosophy have multiple answers: What is the ultimate nature of things? What kind of human enterprise should be designated right or wrong? What is the ultimate moral standard? Why does man have natural rights? The dilemma in such questions is always confronting us. Individualism or security of benevolent groups; liberty or order; justice or compassion or charity; nationalism or globalism; free markets or social stability; traditionalism or progressivism; religious morality or atheistic morality— we are always being torn between abstract extremes.

Philosophy quests for certainty and knowledge of the whole but this aim is unattainable—what it achieves is arguments for defending particular positions; but where there are arguments, there will be counterarguments.

Traditions Encourage Openness, Flexibility, and Adaptability

Michael Oakeshott, in his essay, “The Tower of Babel,” shows that there are fundamentally two idealized versions of moral orders: a moral order that is based on established traditions or customs and one that is doctrinal, self-conscious and critical. He places traditions or customs between the extremes of ‘rigidity’ and ‘instability’. He notes that traditions or customs encourage openness and flexibility, and enable a society to be adaptable to the “nuance of the situation’. Here’s an excerpt from his essay:

"Custom is always adaptable and susceptible to the nuance of the situation.This may appear a paradoxical assertion; custom, we have been taught, is blind. It is, however, an insidious piece of misobservation; custom is not blind, it is only ‘blind as a bat’. And anyone who has studied a tradition of customary behaviour (or tradition of any sort) knows that both rigidity and instability are foreign to its character. And secondly, this form of the moral life is capable of change as well as of local variation. Indeed, no traditional way of behaviour, no traditional skill, ever remained fixed; its history is one of continuous change. It is true that the change it admits is neither great nor sudden; but then, revolutionary change is usually the product of the eventual overthrow of an aversion from change, and is characterisictcp of something that has few internal resources of change."

Thursday, 21 November 2019

The West Fell With Communism

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 was not a victory for the western civilization; it was a great defeat. The ruling ideology in the Soviet Union was communism, which is a western doctrine—communism was developed by the western intellectuals in Germany, England, and France. In Asian countries (where the first experiments in communism were conducted) most people were clueless about communism.

Through the communist regime in the Soviet Union, western intellectualism was controlling a major chunk of humanity—in the Soviet states, China, South Asia, and parts of Middle East, South America, and Africa. But the fall of the Soviet Union had a domino effect and one by one the communist regimes in most parts of the world collapsed. The traditionalist, regionalist, racial, and theocratic political forces are the biggest beneficiaries of communism’s fall—In last three decades, they have acquired total political power in the post-communist world.

By defeating the Soviet Union, Reagan and Thatcher did not strengthen the western civilization—they paved way for its decline.

Capitalism: The God That Failed

Karl Marx was right about the demise of capitalism, but he was wrong about the way in which the demise will happen. He believed that capitalism will face its mortal crisis because all the means of production will be cornered by the capitalist class who, in their lust for improving their profits, will strip the masses of their wealth. The competition between the capitalists will force the nation’s small businesses into bankruptcy and reduce the number of capitalists at the top. Imagine a situation where a single textile factory is producing garments for the entire nation—the owners will get fabulously rich, but no one else will. In such a system, the capitalists must take measures to defend their property and profits, but rest of the nation will hate them. Marx hoped that eventually the proletariat would rise in a violent rebellion the capitalists.

The flaw in Marx’s theory of demise of capitalism is that he didn’t foresee that capitalism is built on socialistic principles. Big government is part and parcel of capitalism; if there is reduction in the size of the government, the capitalist economy will stop functioning. The history of capitalism in the 19th and 20th centuries is by itself a proof that capitalism is essentially a big government phenomena—instead of the capitalists taking control of everything, the government grabs a major chunk of the political as well as economic power. The growth of the economy in a capitalist nation is always directly proportional to the size of its government.

As the government grows bigger, it consumes more and more resources—the big capitalists are able to protect their wealth by becoming crony-capitalists and aligning their own business interests with the government’s political interests. The burden of paying taxes falls on the small businesses, middle class, and the poor class. This leads to a massive disparity in income—the rich keep getting richer while the poor get poorer. The pro-capitalism intellectuals talk about minimum government but a minimum government is not possible in capitalism. The big capitalists need big government to keep the small businesses, middle class, and the poor class in control. Without a system for controlling the population, the big capitalists won’t be able to function. Therefore, in a capitalist economy, the size of the government has to keep growing till the nation goes bust.

There are several other problems in capitalism that I can talk about; for instance, the rise of nihilism in capitalist nations, the capitalist lust for establishing a worldwide free-market utopia, destruction of small communities and guilds. But those topics are beyond the scope of my short article, which I will end by noting that—like communism, capitalism is the god that failed.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

On The Five Abused Words

The five words—“reason,” “atheism,” “rights,” “liberty,” and “enlightenment”—have been strangely abused in the last 250 years by philosophers and politicians to create hopelessly ramshackle movements which are logically indefensible and without any vestige of validity. The political projects developed by intertwining these words have caused unimaginable destruction in several nations—yet the vision continues to achieve an apotheosis in people’s minds because they are mesmerized by the idea of an earthly heaven.

Darwinian Theory of Evolution Versus Natural Rights

You can either have the Darwinian theory of evolution or you can have natural rights—you can’t have both. According to Darwin, the creation of man is an accident of evolution. But if that is the case, then there is nothing special about man. We are like every other creature on earth. This raises the question—how did John Locke get the idea that men have natural rights? Men are not born with the words “creature with natural rights” tattooed on their body.

In the past and present, men have not shown an enthusiasm for exercising their natural rights and being free. Men have always lived in small or big groups in which they have to surrender their rights to the leader. Till this day, a major chunk of the human population lives in totalitarian or semi-totalitarian countries. Even in countries that are regarded as free, most people seem unenthusiastic about their rights; they often vote for governments which aim to take away peoples rights.

Being without rights does not seem to harm people—natural rights are not a necessary condition for man’s survival. People in totalitarian countries live as long as people in free countries.

In man, there is no biological or behavioral trait to support the idea that he has natural rights. If the Darwinian theory of evolution is correct, then we have to accept that the idea of natural rights is Locke’s own rationalization—it is his philosophical opinion which is not based of facts. Moreover, if men have natural rights, then the other creatures (the birds, animals, bacteria) must also enjoy the same privilege because they too are an outcome of evolution—in fact, the animal rights activists make such arguments.

However, the truth is that Locke does not talk about evolution while making a case for natural rights. His argument is essentially theistic—he is saying that men have natural rights because such rights are conferred on him by god. This argument makes sense. If we believe that god has created man in his own image, then the case can be made that man is special and he has natural rights.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Political Problems, Reason, and Will

Political problems cannot be solved by using reason because they involve the choices and actions of a multitude of people in the nation and, in some cases, the world. More than one response is possible for a political problem. While questing for a solution, the political authority would like to know about the possible consequences of their response. To predict the solution that will lead to the best consequence it is necessary to have the answers to all the questions that are entailed in the political problem. But in the political space there are several questions for which no answers are possible. When the questions don’t have an answer, reason will be ineffective. The authority has two alternatives—either they can become paralyzed (take no action) or they can respond on the basis of will. The will has a major role to play in the resolution of political problems—this “will” consists of not only the personal will (of the authority) but also the will of the nation as whole.

On Isaiah Berlin’s Counter-Enlightenment

Isaiah Berlin popularized the term “Counter-Enlightenment” with his 1973 essay, “The Counter-Enlightenment.” By “Counter-Enlightenment,” he is referring to the German Romanticism (specifically to the thought of Herder, Fichte, and J. G. Hamann), which he holds was far more liberal (value pluralistic) than the Enlightenment thought. The Counter-Enlightenment originated in the middle of the 18th century and is coeval with the Enlightenment. Berlin was appalled by the absurdity of the Enlightenment agenda and he is sympathetic to the Counter-Enlightenment rebellion even though he finds a number of flaws in its viewpoints.

Here’s an excerpt from his essay in which he is comparing the thought of Enlightenment thinkers with that of Herder:

“For Voltaire, Diderot, Helvdtius, Holbach, Condorcet, there is only universal civilization, of which now one nation, now another, represents the richest flowering. For Herder there is a plurality of incommensurable cultures. To belong to a given community, to be connected with its members by indissoluble and impalpable ties of common language, historical memory, habit, tradition and feeling, is a basic human need no less natural than that for food or drink or security or procreation. One nation can understand and sympathize with the institutions of another only because it knows how much its own mean to itself. Cosmopolitanism is the shedding of all that makes one most human, most oneself.”

Berlin notes that the Enlightenment project was centered on remaking society and man by using reason and science. The philosophes wanted to purge society of all political and cultural traditions and man’s mind of all that is irrational and unscientific. But such a project, Berlin points out, is not liberal because it entails forcing people to transform their way of life. Therefore, the Counter-Enlightenment rebellion was justified in calling for a reversal of the political and cultural excesses that the Enlightenment philosophes had inspired.

If the Enlightenment is seen as a progressive movement that was aimed at recreating society and man, then the Counter-Enlightenment can, in a broad sense, be seen as having a conservative character. However, the Counter-Enlightenment was reactionary conservatism, which is not a part of the modern conservative tradition that is found in countries like the UK and the USA. By the 1870s, the Counter-Enlightenment rebellion had come to an end, but its anti-enlightenment thinking has had a seminal impact on modern conservatism.

Monday, 18 November 2019

In Defense of Popular Governments

It is the political naivety of the intellectuals that makes them assume that a government that enjoys mass support will necessarily be a badly managed dictatorship. The intellectuals are guilty of projecting their own flaws on the masses—the truth is that they have a history of supporting dictators, while the masses mostly support the political groups which promise to revive the economy, establish law and order, and improve quality of life.

The worst dictatorships of the last 100 years came to power because of the support of the intellectuals. Hitler lost the election in 1932 (he didn’t have popular support), but he was appointed chancellor in 1933 because the European intellectuals were rooting for him. Lenin was himself an intellectual and his Bolshevik party had several other prominent intellectuals. The Bolsheviks came to power through a violent revolution and after that they didn’t conduct a fair election in Russia.

On the other hand, the best governments in last 100 years came to power due to mass support—for example, Thatcher, Reagan, and others. A government that enjoys the support of the masses is a better option than a government for which the intellectuals are rooting. The intellectuals think that they know more about politics than the masses, but they don’t. The masses (in some of the advanced democracies) are more politically savvy than the intellectuals.

On Being Conservative

Michael Oakeshott is the originator of the term “conservative disposition.” He holds that the conservatives do not have a doctrine; they have a disposition. In his 1956 essay, “On Being Conservative,” he writes, “My theme is not a creed or a doctrine, but a disposition. To be conservative is to be disposed to think and behave in certain manners; it is to prefer certain kinds of conduct and certain conditions of human circumstances to others; it is to be disposed to make certain kinds of choices.”

Here’s Oakeshott’s description of conservative disposition and choices:

“To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss. Familiar relationships and loyalties will be preferred to the allure of more profitable attachments; to acquire and to enlarge will be less important than to keep, to cultivate and to enjoy; the grief of loss will be more acute than the excitement of novelty or promise. It is to be equal to one’s own fortune, to live at the level of one’s own means, to be content with the want of greater perfection which belongs alike to oneself and one’s circumstances. With some people this is itself a choice; in others it is a disposition which appears, frequently or less frequently, in their preferences and aversions, and is onto itself chosen or specifically cultivated.”

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Civilization and Barbarism

Man is not a creature of reason, he is not born for freedom, and he does not yearn for peace. The men who use reason and are fixated on living in freedom and peace are to be found only in the idealistic works of the philosophers and fiction writers. The truth is that men are motivated by a range of passions, emotions, desires, ambitions, fears, prejudices, and corporeal and spiritual needs. In history of mankind, the desire for creating a civilization has always marched hand in hand with the lust for indulging in an orgy of barbarism. The barbarians are always threatening the gates of civilization, because a barbarian resides inside the mind of every man howsoever sophisticated and erudite he may appear from the outside.

The Progressives Seek an Earthly Paradise

In his November 15, 2019 lecture, William Barr says that the difference between the progressives and conservatives is that the former treat politics as their religion and their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake men and society and create an earthy paradise, while the latter restrict themselves to preserving the proper balance of freedom and order to enable the development of a healthy civil society in which individuals can thrive.

Here’s an excerpt from Barr’s lecture:

“In any age, the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion.  Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection.  Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end.  They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of collateral consequences and the systemic implications.  They never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides.

“Conservatives, on the other hand, do not seek an earthly paradise.  We are interested in preserving over the long run the proper balance of freedom and order necessary for healthy development of natural civil society and individual human flourishing.  This means that we naturally test the propriety and wisdom of action under a “rule of law” standard.  The essence of this standard is to ask what the overall impact on society over the long run if the action we are taking, or principle we are applying, in a given circumstance was universalized – that is, would it be good for society over the long haul if this was done in all like circumstances?

"For these reasons, conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means.  And this is as it should be, but there is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.”

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Is Liberty a Cult?

The philosophy of liberty is fully compatible with irrationality, cultism, and utopianism. We can draw this inference from history of the philosophical movements that have been devoted to liberty in the last 2500 years. There is as much irrationally, cultism, and utopianism in the pro-liberty movements as there is any theocratic movement. In Ancient Greece, Epicurus established a movement called epicureanism which asserted the value of human freedom and individualism, but the epicureans used to worship the hero cult of Epicurus and they pined for a utopia. In the last 100 years there have been two movements dedicated to liberty: the first is libertarianism and the second is a tiny movement called objectivism which was founded by Ayn Rand. Both libertarianism and objectivism are irrational (in several aspects), cultist, and utopian.

On Master Morality and Slave Morality

In his two books Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morality, Friedrich Nietzsche argues that there are two fundamental types of morality: master morality and slave morality. Both the moralities, he says, originated in ancient societies of Greece and Rome. The ancient masters belonged to aristocratic families and were strong, creative, wealthy, and powerful; they viewed themselves as just and moral and they ruled the ancient world with an iron hand, even during the period when Greece and Rome were democracy or republic.

The slave morality, on the other hand, originated among the people in the ancient world who were slaves and servants. They were weak, powerless, lacking in education and intellect, and had no hope of ever enjoying the good life that was being enjoyed by the master class. The relentless oppression that they suffered from their masters had turned them into servile, reactionary, and resentful creatures. While they regarded the virtues of their masters as evil, they had a low opinion of themselves because they believed that they, in some way, deserved their fate.

The masters became the fountainhead of the notion that wealth, glory, ambition, and excellence are compatible with a moral way of life. The thinking of the slaves gave rise to the idea that denial of desire, renunciation, and self-sacrifice are a necessary condition for being moral. Thus master morality is based on self-actualization and slave morality is based on self-denial.

According to Nietzsche, slave morality has been the popular principle for more than 2000 years and the modern age is its climax. However, master morality has not vanished—it continues to exist in peoples minds as a bad conscience which often asserts itself in form of a conflict between things like excellence and mediocrity, pride and humility, selfishness and selflessness, desire and renunciation. Nietzsche imagines that evolution may give rise of the Übermensch who is an expression of master morality and also contains the speritualized elements of slave morality.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Individualism is Not a Political Concept

Individualism is not a political concept; it is an attribute of human psychology that enables a man to be independent and use his own mind for making his choices. A man, depending on his mindset, can be an individualist in a communist country—capitalism is not a necessary condition for individualism. An individualist, like any collectivist, can be moral or immoral—individualism has nothing to do with morality.

Politics is by nature social and collectivist; it cannot be individualistic because the formation of groups with some sort of common agenda is a necessary condition for political activity. The idea of having a political movement of individualists is vacuous and incoherent. Unless people can find ways for collaborating and cooperating with each other and develop a basic understanding about the political outcomes that they want to achieve, they won’t have a political movement.

The individualists must develop the capacity for empathizing and communicating with other minds if they want to have an impact on their nation’s politics.