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.

The Incoherent Dream of The Enlightenment

In the final paragraph of his essay, “Vico and the Ideal of the Enlightenment,” Isaiah Berlin talks about the incoherence in the dream of the Enlightenment. Here’s an excerpt:

"To a disciple of Vico, the ideal of some of the thinkers of the Enlightenment, the notion of even the abstract possibility of a perfect society, is necessarily an attempt to weld together incompatible attributes—characteristics, ideals, gifts, properties, values that belong to different patterns of thought, action, life, and therefore cannot be detached and sewn together into one garment. For a Vichian this notion must be literally absurd : absurd because there is a conceptual clash between, let us say, what gives splendour to Achilles and what causes Socrates or Michelangelo or Spinoza or Mozart or the Buddha to be admired; and since this applies to the respective cultures, in the context of which alone men's achievements can be understood and judged, this fact alone makes this particular dream of the Enlightenment incoherent. The scepticism or pessimism of a good many thinkers of the Enlightenment—Voltaire, Hume, Gibbon, Grimm, Rousseau—about the possibility of realizing this condition is beside the point. The point is that even they were animated by a conception of ideal possibilities, however unattainable in practice. In this, at least, they seem to be at one with the more optimistic Turgot and Condorcet. After Vico, the conflict of monism and pluralism, timeless values and historicism, was bound sooner or later to become a central issue."

The dream of the Enlightenment was based on the notion that human progress is certain and that human history will take a particular path. But Berlin rejects determinism and the possibility of a perfect human life. He points out that indeterminacy and pluralism, which are the essential features of human nature, make it impossible for any philosopher or historian to predict the future.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

On The Problem of Evil

Diamonds are not forever, but evil is. Evil cannot be abolished. There can never be a society that is free of evil because all men (even the saintly ones) have the potential for being evil, just as they have the potential for being good. But this philosophical point is ignored by the modern leftists, liberals, and the neo-conservatives who are convinced that a society free of evil (a paradise) can be created through reason. They inflict utopian policies on their nation and launch wars for creating a paradise in other nations. Most of them are atheists, but they have a “blind faith” in reason; they are convinced that their domestic and foreign policy is perfect.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The Subversive Philosophy of Isaiah Berlin

John Gray, in his Introduction to his book Isaiah Berlin, says that “Berlin’s work is animated by a single idea of enormous subversive force. This is the idea, which I call value-pluralism, that ultimate values are objective but irreducibly diverse, that they are conflicting and often uncombinable, and that sometimes when they come into conflict with one another they are incommensurable.” According to Gray, the political implication of Berlin’s thought is that “the idea of a perfect society in which all genuine ideals and goods are achieved is not merely utopian; it is incoherent.”

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The Problem of Modern Philosophy and Science

The purpose of philosophy is to establish certainty; the purpose of science is to establish empirical facts. But the modernist thought developed during the Age of Enlightenment has turned the traditional view of philosophy and science on its head. The “enlightened” modernists view philosophy as a political tool for imposing an atheistic worldview on the people—and they see science as a tool for creating an idea of progress which owes nothing to traditional knowledge and values. Due to their efforts, atheism has become a project that is devoted solely to creating new materialistic religions (which come with a complete paraphernalia of earthly gods, virtue-signaling rituals, and the promise of an earthly paradise). By suppressing traditional knowledge and values, they have ensured that the progress achieved through science does not lead to intellectual and spiritual advancement in the people; it leads to nihilism.

Hegel’s God and Kierkegaard’s God

While he was a student in Berlin, Søren Kierkegaard had studied with Friedrich Schelling who has denounced G. W. F. Hegel as a negative thinker. Kierkegaard too disliked Hegel’s philosophy because he found in it a paradigm of collective and rationalist thinking, and an idea of god that was incompatible with his own idea of god. He developed a philosophy that is essentially non-Hegelian—its focus is on the individual and not the collective.

In Hegel’s philosophy, we find a grand historical dialectic which leaves little room for the individual, as it seeks to prove that history and humanity have an ultimate purpose. His dialectic defends the idea of a collective world-spirit (or Geist), which is identical with human consciousness and the world. The Hegelian god or Geist is inseparable from his creation and human beings. According to Hegel, human beings can rationally comprehend the Geist, but they cannot confront it as they are themselves a part of the Geist.

Kierkegaard, a profoundly devout man, was appalled by Hegel’s view of god, and he viewed Hegel as an atheist. He rejected not only the collectivity of the Hegelian Geist but also the idea that god can be rationally comprehended. He says that the existence of god cannot be proved or disproved. In his works, he introduces a god that has the power to induce “fear and trembling” and who exists separate from his creation and human beings, thus making a personal confrontation between god and man possible.

In Hegelian dialectic, history proceeds through confrontation, but in Kierkegaard’s dialectic there is no scope for confrontation as it is focussed on the individual. Kierkegaard is primarily interested in two issues: the choices that man faces and the modes of his existence (or lifestyle). He identifies three modes: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. But he notes that there is no rational standard for preferring one mode over the other two.

Monday, 11 November 2019

On The Political Significance of a Nation’s Traditions

A nation’s tradition does not concern only its past; rather, tradition is a cultural and political principle that distributes authority between the past, present, and future. It is a principle that takes into account the three possible cultures: the culture that existed in the old times, the new culture of the contemporary period, and the culture that is possible in the time that is yet to come. By distributing authority between the past, present, and future, the principle of tradition prevents a nation’s politics from taking a totalitarian turn. A consensus between the past, present, and future cannot be achieved by a totalitarian regime—only a democratic or republican government, elected by popular mandate, may achieve it. That is why the nations where politics is dominated by conservative and nationalistic groups which respect tradition are always democratic or republican and tend to enjoy a high level of liberty and free market.

Theists Versus Atheists

Being an atheist is not a sign of a person’s individualism, rationality, and pure moral sentiments but a philosophical position, which is a subject of contentious debate because it can never be proved to be right or wrong. The idea that atheism goes hand in hand with individualism, rationality, and morality is an Enlightenment claim, but there is no philosophical or scientific evidence to back this claim. There is also no evidence to back the claim that the atheists are happier than the theists—in most countries surveys have shown that the theists are generally happier and have a longer average lifespan than the atheists. Then there is the claim that the atheists are likely to be in favor of liberty—this claim is false. In fact, most countries ruled by atheistic doctrines are totalitarian. Even in free countries, the atheistic institutions and groups are mostly hierarchical and cultist—they take a doctrinal approach to political and cultural issues because of which they tend to deny freedom of free expression to their members.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

People Need Religion Because Philosophy is Subjective

Human life is a paradox which cannot be resolved by reason alone; it also demands some sort of contact with a religion that is rich in theological philosophy. The paradox in life is one of truth—there are the fundamental truths that you accept because your senses tell you that these truths are part of the objective reality. But several of these fundamental truths cannot be proved by science and mathematics; you have to go to philosophy for finding arguments to substantiate your belief in these truths. Philosophy, however, is grounded in both objectivity and subjectivity.

A good philosophy is never wholly objective—science is wholly objective, philosophy isn’t. In philosophy the subjective element, as well as the objective element, have a role to play. A philosopher’s work is an outcome of his own subjective thoughts, his reflections on the concerns of the world in which he exists. When there is a subjective element, the aspect of rationalization will be there. But rationalization entails faith—it can be faith in your own mind, that of someone else, or in a mystical entity. The idea of faith brings us to theological philosophy, which is religion.

On Existentialism

Philosophers with existentialist sensibilities can be found as far back as ancient times. Existentialist way of thinking has been identified in Heraclitus, Socrates, and even Augustine. Modern existentialism is generally identified with the thought of five thinkers: Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre. The wide difference in the religious and political thought of these five philosophers is something that makes it impossible to see existentialism as a school of philosophy. Modern existentialism is not a set of doctrines; it is a movement based on certain sensibilities regarding individualism and human freedom. Kierkegaard was profoundly religious, whereas Nietzsche and Sartre were atheists. Kierkegaard would have nothing to do with politics, he was disgusted by it, but Sartre, Camus, and Heidegger were not only political theorists but also political activists. Sartre was a Marxist; Camus was a staunch anti-Marxist and identified as a humanitarian; Heidegger, it is alleged, was close to Nazism. The philosophy also includes popular authors like Fyodor Dostoevsky and Franz Kafka.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Socrates: The Ugly Philosopher

Socrates was ugly and that made him unhappy. His ugliness was a cause of unhappiness for him because in Ancient Greece ugliness was regarded as a refutation. He hated the people of Ancient Greece because he could see that they were rejecting him because of his ugliness and he devoted his life to philosophy with the aim of overturning Greek culture. This is one of the points that Friedrich Nietzsche makes in his critique of Socratic philosophy.

On The Importance of Man’s Absurdity

Thomas Hobbes describes in Leviathan, an ideal commonwealth that can be established through a social contract and mimics a human body which has at its head, a sovereign with absolute power over the masses. Every person living in the commonwealth has a fixed role to play, like the organs in a human body.

Is it possible for human beings to live in a society where they play fixed roles and have no freedom? Hobbes does not rely on morality to keep the masses in place—he thinks that people will enter into a social contract with one another to establish a commonwealth ruled by a sovereign because they want stability and peace more than anything else.

But Hobbes undermines much of the thesis that he has presented in Leviathan in a passage in Chapter 5 where he acknowledges that human beings have the tendency of exhibiting absurd behavior. He writes, “the privilege of absurdity; to which no living creature is subject, but man only.” His utopia is not feasible because men have the tendency to speak words without meaning and act in absurd ways.

I think that man’s freedom is rooted not only in his reason and intelligence but also in his aptitude for thinking and acting in nonsensical and unpredictable ways.

Friday, 8 November 2019

The God of the Libertarians

The libertarian thinkers deny god of religion because they think that they possess a better god. The free market is the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god that they believe in. They give short shrift to the historical issues, cultural issues, and geopolitical issues. They think that the free market god is the best solution to most of the problems that mankind faces. But the problem with the libertarian vision is that their god of free market is badly articulated—free market will never be achieved by the intellectual and political methods that they are using.

Political Ideology Versus Political Activity

In his essay, “Political Education,” Michael Oakeshott rejects the supposition that political ideology inspires political activity. He points out that the exact opposite is true, it is political activity that is the father of political ideology. Here’s an excerpt:

“So far from a political ideology being the quasi-divine parent of political activity, it turns out to be its earthly stepchild. Instead of an independently premeditated scheme of ends to be pursued, it is a system of ideas abstracted from the manner in which people have been accustomed to go about the business of attending to the arrangements of their societies. The pedigree of every political ideology shows it to be the creature, not of premeditation in advance of political activity, but of meditation upon a manner of politics. In short, political activity comes first and a political ideology follows after; and the understanding of politics we are investigating has the disadvantage of being, in the strict sense, preposterous.”

He illustrates his point by reflecting on the relationship between scientific hypothesis and scientific activity:

“Let us consider the matter first in relation to scientific hypothesis, which I have taken to play a role in scientific activity in some respects similar to that of an ideology in politics. If a scientific hypothesis were a self-generated bright idea which owed nothing to scientific activity, then empiricism governed by hypothesis could be considered to compose a self-contained manner of activity; but this certainly is not its character. The truth is that only a man who is already a scientist can formulate a scientific hypothesis; that is, an hypothesis is not an independent invention capable of guiding scientific inquiry, but a dependent supposition which arises as an abstraction from within already existing scientific activity. Moreover, even when the specific hypothesis has in this manner been formulated, it is inoperative as a guide to research without constant reference to the traditions of scientific inquiry from which it was abstracted. The concrete situation does not appear until the specific hypothesis, which is the occasion of empiricism being set to work, is recognized as itself the creature of owing how to conduct a scientific inquiry.”

Here's his outlook on the relationship between cooking and a cookery book:

“…consider the example of cookery. It might be supposed that an ignorant man, some edible materials, and a cookery book compose together the necessities of a self-moved (or concrete) activity called cooking. But nothing is further from the truth. The cookery book is not an independently generated beginning from which cooking can spring; it is nothing more than an abstract of somebody's knowledge of how to cook: it is the stepchild, not the parent of the activity. The book, in its tum, may help to set a man on to dressing a dinner, but if it were his sole guide he could never, in fact, begin: the book speaks only to those who know already the kind of thing to expect from it and consequently bow to interpret it.”

Thursday, 7 November 2019

The Myth of Scientific Worldview

The notion of a scientific worldview is a myth that was first propagated in the 18th century by the Enlightenment philosophers who wanted to elucidate a totally materialistic doctrine of the universe.

The truth is that science is a method of inquiry into the nature of particular things or phenomena—and no amount of scientific knowledge will give us a view of the “whole” or the entire world. The belief that the universe originated from Big Bang is a philosophical speculation. The belief that the universe was created by a god or an unmoved mover is a religious speculation. These are not scientific facts. Science has no way of proving or disproving the theories that are universal in scope. Through science we cannot even prove that everything in the universe is composed of matter—this is a metaphysical speculation.

Only philosophy and religion can provide a worldview. When people embrace a worldview, they don’t do it on the basis of scientific facts—they do it for ideological or religious reasons.

On The Purpose of Freedom

The purpose of freedom is not to make human beings rational, moral, knowledgeable, or civilized. Freedom has only one purpose—it is to enable human beings to live in society without meddling in each other’s lives. The inner freedom of the mind (that Socrates and Plato have talked about) could be more important than political freedom.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Secularism Leads To Multiple Personality Disorder

Secularism is a political doctrine that seeks to banish religion from public life while allowing it to stay alive in private life. But by dividing a man’s life into public life and private life, secularism leads to the creation of a sort of multiple personality disorder in the people. Men become split into two identities: the public man, or a man who engages in political and social activities during his work hours; and the private man, or a man who in his free time attends to his personal needs.

The public man and the private man have to coexist, since they have one body and one mind, but their opinions and way of life are often dissimilar. Secularism commands the public man to be atheistic in his outlook, while the private man is allowed to be religious, if that is what he wishes to be. But a man cannot lead a fulfilling life when his mind is a battleground of two contrasting versions of his own personality—the public man inside him wants him to become a total atheist, while the private man inside him won’t allow him to give up his religion.

Since people are incapable of living with a split personality, the secularist agenda of restricting religion to private life can never succeed. In many secular countries, religion continues to play an important role in politics.

Related: On The Myth of Secularism

Totalitarianism Versus Anarchy

The worst enemy of liberty is not totalitarianism—it is anarchy. No totalitarian regime can constrain a nation’s freedom in every possible way, because to do so it would have to put all its people in chains and herd them into a concentration camp, but if every man in the country suffers the same fate, then there will be no one left to run the economy and the regime will collapse. Most totalitarian regimes leave majority of the citizens untouched—they go after the individuals and groups that they regard as a political threat.

When there is anarchy, there is a power vacuum which turns the society into a battleground of competing faiths and ideologies. The masses get tossed around in this battle for political supremacy; instead of one totalitarian, they have to deal with a whole host of them. They may have to run around to save themselves from the sectarian death squads (some of which may claim a divine right to rule) which prefer to use terror as a tool for grabbing political power. In the chaos and violence that ensues, the masses forgo of their psychological incentives for exercising any kind of liberty. They are not in chains, they are not herded in a concentration camp—but they have no liberty.

Therefore, an individual living in a society that is in state of anarchy is worse off politically than an individual living under a totalitarian regime. In anarchy, there is less liberty because the masses are enchained by fear and confusion.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

On The Myth of Minimum Government

The libertarians talk about returning to the era of minimum government. But what “era” are they talking about? Minimum government is an imaginary concept. Even in the 18th century, when the USA was founded, the government there was quite big, relative to the nation’s population, the area that it controlled, and the revenues that it received as taxes, and since then the government in this nation has been growing at a brisk pace.

Human beings do not know how to create a minimum government paradise. In the last 2500 years there has not been a single good nation with minimum government—the greatest innovations in philosophy, science, and technology have been made in nations with big governments. Can a nation with libertarian style minimum government survive, if by some kind of miracle it comes into existence? I doubt it. Minimum government is a utopian goal—it will never be achieved. It sounds good in theory, but it is not realizable.

A campaign for minimum government can never succeeded—that is why the libertarian political parties never get more than a handful of votes. If the libertarians want people to take them seriously, they should start talking about things that are achievable by the “imperfect” human beings who live in imperfect nations. Instead of minimum government, they must talk about the ways by which the government institutions can be made more honest, efficient, and accountable.

On The Philosophy of War

There are three philosophical positions on ethics of warfare: pacifism, realism, and just war theory. The liberal political groups are generally inclined towards pacifism or just war theory depending on their political agenda. The conservative groups reject pacifism as a utopian ideal—they are inclined towards realism but they may also espouse a just war theory in certain circumstances.

Pacifism rejects all violent actions—some extreme pacifist groups advocate peace initiatives even when the nation is under direct attack. The pacifist groups are inspired by the teachings of Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In the time of the Soviet Union, the communist groups made use of pacifist rhetoric to create antiwar sentiments in the countries that they planned to attack. I think pacifism is an immoral doctrine because it constrains the nation from retaliating when its own interests are under attack.

The realist view entails that a nation has the right (and the moral obligation) to defend its interests. According to the realists, if need arises, the nation should go to war against an enemy power, but only after making an objective analysis of its own military power. The realists (who as I said earlier are mostly conservatives) generally believe in maintaining peace through a balance of power among the nations.

The just war theory is divided into two branches: jus ad bellum, which examines the moral and political principles for deciding whether it is just to participate in a war; and jus in bello, which seeks to ensure that the war is conducted ethically. In some cases, jus in bello seeks to constrain a nation from undertaking military action that will lead to civilian casualties in enemy territory, even if the avoidance of such military action will endanger the life of the nation’s own soldiers—this viewpoint is rejected by the conservatives.

In his 1977 book On Just and Unjust Wars, Michael Walzer, an important leftist intellectual, rejects both pacifism and realism. He says that a war can only be justified on the basis of the just war theory. He approves the Israeli military action during the Arab-Israeli Six Day War of 1967. However, the purpose of his book is to justify his opposition to the Vietnam War. He makes a number of assertions which smack of liberal pacifist thinking. For instance, he writes, “It is a crime to commit aggression”.

He also says, “Any use of force or imminent threat of force by one state against the political sovereignty or territorial integrity of another constitutes aggression and is a criminal act… Aggression justifies two kinds of violent response: a war of self-defense by the victim and a war of law enforcement by the victim and any other member of international society.” But such arguments will lead to the utopian conclusion that war is essentially a bad thing.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Survival Strategy for Empires and Republics

A good nation must be both: an empire and a republic. This means that the nation should be founded on republican values while retaining the ability to act like an empire. The history of last 2500 years shows that if a republic lacks the ability to act like an empire, then, within a few decades, it either gets ripped apart in a civil war or is conquered by an outside force. The same goes for empires which are not republics—they too have a short life.

The successful republics cum empires in history are—the Roman Republic/Empire, the British Monarchy/Republic/Empire, and the American Republic/Empire.

The Roman Republic, within a few decades of its inception in 509 BC, developed a lust for being an empire. Starting from the city of Rome, it gradually gained influence over much of the Mediterranean world. After 27 BC it got transformed into an empire with republican roots—the Western Roman Empire lasted till 480 AD and the Eastern till 1500 AD. The British Empire was officially a monarchy, but it was founded on republican values —it lasted for almost 400 years (16th century to 19th century), and at its peak it controlled 25% of the planet.

America was founded on republican principles, but like the Roman Republic, it quickly developed the ability to act like an empire. Jefferson and Hamilton were enthusiastic about the prospect of their nation becoming an empire. After the First World War, America discarded all pretentions of republican isolationism—it became an empire with the messianic agenda of using its military, political, and economic power to assert its hegemony over the entire planet.

The republics that lack the ability for acting like an empire fail within a few decades—example, Ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence, etc. The empires that are not founded on republican values also fail in a few decades—example, the empires founded by Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan splintered after their death; the Soviet Communist Empire was finished in just 70 years (1922 to 1991); the Japanese Empire lasted from 1868 to 1947.

Hegel: Philosophy Comes in the End

Hegel, in his Preface to Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1820) writes that the “owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.” This is his way of saying that philosophy comes in the end when the world has reached a mature state of development, or after the shape of life has grown old. Here’s the complete paragraph from Hegel’s Preface:

“Only one word more concerning the desire to teach the world what it ought to be. For such a purpose philosophy at least always comes too late. Philosophy, as the thought of the world, does not appear until reality has completed its formative process, and made itself ready. History thus corroborates the teaching of the conception that only in the maturity of reality does the ideal appear as counterpart to the real, apprehends the real world in its substance, and shapes it into an intellectual kingdom. When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.” (Translation by S W Dyde, 1896)

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Modern Atheism: The Lure of Manmade Heaven

The concept of “heaven” plays a vital role in modern atheism. All modern atheistic movements have enticed followers by promising them a shortcut to a manmade heaven. The jacobins (during the French Revolution) promised to turn their country into a heaven of reason and science where there would be total equality and all would prosper. Auguste Comte’s positivists promised a heaven of altruism and humanism. Lenin and his communist revolutionaries promised the Russians that they would bring salvation to all (except the bourgeoise and the kulaks) by creating a heavenly dictatorship of the proletariat. The nazis promised to create a heaven by deploying the principles of scientific racism. The logical positivists declared that linguistic concepts of god and belief in god are meaningless, but they promised a heaven through reliance on empirical knowledge. Ayn Rand enchanted her tiny flock of objectivists by creating a godlike character called John Galt (in her novel Atlas Shrugged) who would lead the chosen ones to a “rational” heaven called Galt’s Gulch. The libertarians believe that liberty and free-markets are attractive to all people and the world is destined to become a libertarian heaven. The liberals promise to create a heaven on earth by crushing capitalism and imposing a socialistic welfare model on society.

The Importance of Culture

Michael Oakeshott’s central insight in his essay, “Rationalism in Politics,” is that liberty is not an ideal that can be exported from one culture to another, rather it is a practice that germinates in a certain type of culture under historical circumstances that are extremely rare. Therefore, an attempt by the free nations to use their military or economic power to export the ideal of liberty to the unfree nations will mostly end in a disaster. The interesting thing is that Oakeshott, a conservative scholar, presented this insight in 1947, more than four decades before the neo-conservatives took control of western conservatism and began their project for transforming the Middle East into a paradise of liberty and free-markets. Oakeshott’s insight is also fatal to the doctrine of multiculturalism—because it proves that when it comes to ideals like liberty, all cultures are not equal.

Related: Oakeshott’s Critique of Libertarian Politics

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Tyranny is More Popular Than Liberty

The vision of a world in which every man’s rights are respected, and there is universal democracy and free-markets, is a utopian dream. In foreseeable future, the world will remain divided into nations with different kinds of political systems with varying degrees of freedom and tyranny. A nation’s political system is dependent on its culture—very few cultures in the world like liberty, most cultures are nihilistic and inclined towards tyranny.

The libertarians say that there is great attractiveness in the ideas of liberty and free-markets, but there is great attractiveness in tyranny and socialism too. When tyranny comes gift-wrapped in moral ideals, then it becomes immensely attractive to the people. They will fight to death to defend their tyrant and if the tyrant’s regime is overthrown, they will promptly install another tyrant to lord over their nation.

Oakeshott’s Critique of Libertarian Politics

Michael Oakeshott is seen as the most thoughtful conservative of the 20th century; the rationalists that he is targeting in his 1947 essay, “Rationalism in Politics,” are primarily the liberals and the leftists. The word “libertarianism” is not there in the essay—he has, however, made a comment on F. A. Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom, noting that “a plan to resist all planning may be better than its opposite, but it belongs to the same style of politics.” In my opinion, Oakeshott's essay, “Rationalism in Politics,” can also be read as a critique of libertarian politics.

According to Oakeshott, modern rationalism emerged as a method of acquiring knowledge in the seventeenth century and within a short period of time it acquired a chokehold on politics. The political rationalists attempt to deduce abstract, universal principles through unaided reason. They are convinced that since an individual’s reason is independent, the knowledge derived through it must lead to social progress. Modern rationalism enables armchair political theorists to originate principles, which they think are most suitable for society, and impose them on the nation.

This idea that politics is the domain of technical knowledge and not practical experience is rejected by Oakeshott. He notes that politics is not something that can reduced to a set of abstract principles or a doctrine—it is something far more complicated, being dependent on the traditions and habits of the people. Therefore, politics has to be guided by practical knowledge.

The claims that the rationalists are making are mere abridgements of practical knowledge and that will not serve as a guide for a nation’s politics. To explain his point, Oakeshott offers the analogy of a recipe—he points out that the recipes that are contained in a cookery book can be useful to an expert cook as reminders. But the people who have no knowledge of cooking cannot cook like a chef if all they know is the recipe—a practical knowledge is required for being a chef. The same, Oakeshott insists, is true of politics. You can use abstract political principles as reminders, but if you have no practical knowledge, then your political ideas are of little value.

Oakeshott sees politics as the “practice” of attending to the arrangements of a given society. He rightly notes that Hayek’s plan is merely a plan or a theory—to make it work you need practical knowledge that Hayek (or any other armchair thinker) is incapable of providing. I think this is a right identification of the problem in libertarianism which relies too heavily on abstract theories and pays very little attention to the practical side of politics.

Related: The Importance of Culture

Friday, 1 November 2019

On The Myth of Secularism

Secularism is an impossible ideal. It commands man to go against his own nature, the human nature, by denying his own faith. Religion is a basic human need because man is as much a creature of faith, as he is a creature of reason. It is impossible for human beings to develop a nation that is not influenced by the knowledge encompassed in the dominant religion of the political community. The best governed republican nations in the last 2500 years were developed after rationally and fully integrating religion into the political life. If a religion has a long intellectual and cultural tradition, then it will never lead to the problem of totalitarianism.

Related: Secularism Leads To Multiple Personality Disorder

The Universe As A Library of Babel

Imagine the universe as a library spread across an endless series of hexagonal rooms—in each room there is an entrance built on one wall; on another wall, there are the bare necessities for human existence; and rest of the four walls are lined with bookshelves filled with books. The library contains infinite number of books. It has every book that has ever been written and that will ever be written—and it has every possible variation of every book that it contains. A vast majority of the books make no sense, but some of which make sense contain vital information that the human beings quest for. I am talking about the short story, “The Library of Babel,” by Jorge Luis Borges.

Here’s the final paragraph from the story:

“I have just written the word "infinite." I have not included that adjective out of mere rhetorical habit; I hereby state that it is not illogical to think that the world is infinite. Those who believe it to have limits hypothesize that in some remote place or places the corridors and staircases and hexa­gons may, inconceivably, end-which is absurd. And yet those who picture the world as unlimited forget that the number of possible books is not. I will be bold enough to suggest this solution to the ancient problem: The Li­brary is unlimited but periodic. If an eternal traveler should journey in any direction, he would find after untold centuries that the same volumes are repeated in the same disorder-which, repeated, becomes order: the Order. My solitude is cheered by that elegant hope.”