Anyone who has read this blog for some time knows I hold Aristotle in a very high degree. As such it is always great to see others also acknowledge his greatest work Nicomachean Ethics, which in my mind is the most important book every written in the history of the world. This speech at the American Enterprise Institute about the importance of Aristotle’s works I think is something we should all take the time (it’s worth the hour and a half).
Tag Archives: philosophy
For some reason atheists piss me off more than any other religion. Maybe it’s because, as a group, they are the most arrogant bunch of idiots who scream that their idiotic beliefs are the only true way to view things without even the dignity to admit that what they’re screaming is unsubstantiated faith.
Or maybe it’s because it’s because they give such terrible arguments. Really terrible arguments. They’re like most liberals–they can give 5 or 6 memorized talking points and they never deviate.
In a recent article I published on the utter stupidity of atheism I got several stock point arguments in response on several forums, so rather than waste my time and respond to them individually, I thought best to deal with them all at once.
So I’m going to respond to their repetitive talking points, and not only am I going to use quotes, and jokes, and parables, but unlike atheists I’m going to back my quips and stories up with real argument.
(Also let me point out, if you’re just an atheist, because that works for you, I don’t really care about you or your beliefs, you are free to have them and I’m not attacking you. I’m attacking the rabid section of Atheism that feels that their belief is so superior to everyone else’s that they must attack everyone else’s beliefs. It is their arguments I’m hitting, if you just have your beliefs and aren’t proselytizing, I’m not out to attack you.).
Stock Atheist Argument 1: We may not be able to prove our point but you can’t prove yours.
I’d like to begin this section with a classic joke whose usefulness will be relevant by the end of this piece.
A well-known scientist once gave a public lecture on astronomy and the Big Bang. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy which in turn all came out of the initial explosion. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”
Now in this joke we’re supposed to see that the scientist is intelligent and the old woman is really an idiot for such a silly idea as turtles all the way down. I’ve even seen an atheist use this joke to make fun of religious people and how ignorant they are in not accepting science. That spiritual people are stupid to not understand that we can trace the origins of everything to physics and the Big Bang.
Let me clarify what I mean by this. The most perfect argument for the existence of God.
There’s just one problem with that whole model. What caused the Big Bang? And atheists have to answer to that. The first is “Well, it’s just a series of Big Bangs and Big Crunches over and over again” which is called an infinite series. Or you can go even more complex with some description of a quantum mechanics/holographic universe within a universe. But that too leads to an infinite series. Because of the fact that everything has to be caused by something else otherwise it would just sit there and never. do anything (see the 1st Law of Newtonian Physics), everything in physics is subject to this need for cause, no matter how complex that makes the universe everything is still subject to causation. Which leads you to only one of two possibilities. Either you have an infinite series of causes going back for an infinite period of time…or you have something that doesn’t need a cause, an uncaused cause, an unmoved mover (as Aristotle would say). This first cause that needs no other thing to cause it we call God.
But why can’t we have an infinite series? Because that also violates the rules of physics and logic. Because even if you go back all the way an infinite way, there has to be something that causes that movement. But rather than believe that there must be some cause that needs nothing to cause it, Atheists are arguing we should believe in the infinite series of causes, that we should be believe, “It’s turtles all the way down.” That’s what arguing for not having a God is arguing for, the stupidity of turtles all the way down.
Logic dictates that there has to be some cause outside of the rules of causation, because an infinite regression is just idiotic. That’s a logical fact. That God exists is a fact dictated by logic. Now, intelligent philosophers will admit that a lot of the qualities that we often apply to God (intelligence, goodness, motive) we do not have as strong a case for, and thus faith is required in part to a have a fuller sense of what God is. We only have arguments that only suggest but do not completely prove these qualities beyond the shadow of a doubt. But the existence of a first cause is a logical necessity, and this we call God.
You may have issues with the qualities we attribute to God and you may attack them, but just because you attack the arguments for those qualities does not negate the fact that for existence to be, you logically must have God, the first cause.
“But, but,” I can hear atheists sputtering, “Hume and Kant and Dawkins disproved the argument by cause.” No they didn’t. Let me explain what are all the arguments made by Hume and Kant and such against the argument by cause. Every version goes something like this…lots of words that intentionally get you lost in the argument, complain about all the traits added after existence, complain all you did was look for proof in what you already believe* thus you really didn’t prove anything, and thus the argument by cause is wrong. QED. If that sounds kind of dumb, it is. Some might complain that I’ve just put up a straw man version of the argument against the argument by cause. I haven’t. Every long winded version boils down to, uh, I don’t want to buy your proof, so I don’t have to actually disprove your points I just have to say your logic is bad (not that I’m going to show where) and so there, I win. It’s actually a lot like most atheist arguments arrogance and idiocy working hand in hand. But don’t believe me go read Kant and Hume and whoever, try and follow their points…and don’t get upset if you feel you can’t follow them, they’re designed to be impossible to follow the logic of making you think if you can’t understand it and thus making you feel inferior and thus it must be right. But it’s not you that isn’t understanding the argument. There isn’t a well reasoned argument to understand.
The reason Atheists really, really hate the argument by cause and will deny it to their last dying and lying breath is that is gets them out of their central point: “Rules of argument state you have to prove God exists.” This is kind of dumb on its face, when you’re in the minority and trying to prove to the majority that you’re right, even if you are right (which atheists aren’t) the burden of proof is on you. But since they bizarrely think that life should be governed by the same rules as a scientific lab without a shred of common sense. So they say the burden of proof is on believers and not them, so they have a vested interest in putting their hands over their ears and going “LALALALALALA” in the face of the fact that logic requires that there is a God.
*By the way this would mean that every criminal prosecution is wrong.
Stock Atheist Argument 2: If there is a God, why isn’t there evidence of God’s existence?
Someone asked [Bertrand] Russell at some meeting: ‘Lord Russell, what will you say when you die and are brought face to face with your Maker?’ He replied without hesitation: ‘God,’ I shall say, ‘God, why did you make the evidence for your existence so insufficient?’ – A. J. Ayer
Again let me start off with a classic joke:
A terrible flood hit a small town, sending the rescue units out.
It just so happened that a devoutly religious woman lived in this town when the flood hit, and she sat down to wait for God to save her.
When the first rescue boat came in the worker called for her to come out but she just shook her head and said “Thank you, but my God will save me. ” Shaking his head the rescue worker moved on.
The waters rose and she climbed to the second story of her home to wait for God.
A second boat came by and the worker called out “Listen lady we’ve got to get you out of here!” Once again she thanked him profusely and said “My God will save me.”
The waters rose a third time forcing her to her roof.
The water was just closing around her ankles when a third boat came by. ” Lady, I’m the last boat out if you don’t come now you’re going to die. ” She just smiled “My God will save me” she said quietly. Frustrated the worker moved on. The waters rose once again leaving her standing on her chimney. She heard a huge ruckus above her head and when she looked up she saw an emergency helicopter. ” This is it lady, you have to come now or we won’t be able to save you. ” Still she refused to go. The waters rose a final time dragging her under and she was drowned. When she got to heaven, the Lord asked her if she had any questions, and in a timid voice she replied. “You said if I followed you, you would always save me. Why didn’t you save me from that flood?” God looked at her in shocked disbelief and said: “My child I sent three boats and a helicopter for you… What else did you want?”
For Atheists who ask for proof of God you have to look at them like the woman who didn’t recognize the three boats and the helicopter for what they were.
Probability states there should have been a fairly equal amount of matter and antimatter created at the Big Bang. There wasn’t. It was actually incredibly disproportioned. But it was also just enough anti-matter to spread out the universe, but not enough to push everything too far from each other so that nothing forms. Boy, that was lucky.
And let’s just ignore how this planet is set up rather well for life and just assume life can develop in lots of situations, let’s look at the odds of life starting. Now most of what gets chalked up as Intelligent Design is kind of stupid, but not when it comes to the creation of life and the creation of sentience. The most basic cell requires over 200 processes, each controlled by several dozen protein chains, each controlled by several lines of code on a strand of DNA. Ignoring that there would have to be something to start the process, the odds of a DNA chain that can do all of that without error and in the proper order…I could give you a number but think of it this way, you have better odds of winning the Powerball every Wednesday and Saturday for a year (probably getting hit by lightning several times during that year). Yes, I’m sure that just happened by chance.
And then there was that time when evolved chimps suddenly became self aware. I can’t quite tell you the odds on that because there are no odds on that. It can’t happen just by itself. Sentience and free will defy everything we know about physics and biology. They’re not things that can just happen because certain chemicals line up in a certain way or because the brain becomes complex enough.
Then of course there are all those miracles that can’t be disproven. A bulk of evidence in the realm studies into near death experience, past life memories and the fields of parapsychology, no doubt some or most of which is not relevant, but which can’t be dismissed because it just doesn’t fit your argument.
There are piles and piles of evidence. Just because you don’t want to look at them as evidence doesn’t stop their existence.
Stock Atheist Argument 3: Fairies and the Teapots don’t exist so neither does God.
There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can’t prove that there aren’t any, so shouldn’t we be agnostic with respect to fairies?—Richard Dawkins
Also see the pretentious and stupid “Russell’s Teapot” thought experiment which Atheists are so fond of quoting.
There is an old Buddhist parable used to justify Buddhism agnosticism about questions of God and the creation of the universe.
“If one day you were walking along the road and are shot with an arrow do you stop to ask, ‘From what village was the shooter from?’ ‘What kind of wood was used to make the arrow?’ ‘What bird are the feathers on this arrow from?’ ‘How long ago was the arrow made?’ ‘Did the shooter eat a full breakfast this morning?’ No you will pull out the arrow and treat the wound.”
Buddhists use this parable to justify their intentional agnosticism about metaphysical questions that religion often addresses. For a Buddhist the most important thing is to end the cycle of rebirth and suffering, the rest can wait until that is stopped, and wasting time on these questions is like asking what village the shooter was from when you still have an arrow and bleeding wound in you. Deal with the pressing problem at hand. **
The parable understands there is a difference between questions that are relevant and questions that are not. Dawkins and Russell may think that teapots and fairies are relevant, but they’re not…and to compare them to what must be the cause of all existence is clearly not understanding the nature of what you’re talking about. Fairies and teapots in space don’t have to exist, nor is there anything to necessarily suggest they do. God has to exist for there to be existence and oddly enough existence is the evidence. Feel free to be agonistic, hell even atheistic, about fairies and tea pots. But don’t dare suggest that your silly little quip is on the same lines as dismissing what logically has to be for there to be anything.
**Now I have some issues with this parable because I think you can’t fully know where you’re going and how to get there unless you actually know where you’re going and how to get there. I think if you’re shot with an arrow and one village in the area uses poison and one doesn’t then yes the question about which village a person is from becomes relevant. I think understanding God is like that question, in some cases it may be helpful, in other cases perhaps not.
Stock Atheist Argument 4: You don’t believe in other Gods either, so your God is wrong.
We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. – Richard Dawkins
I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.–Stephen F. Roberts.
This one atheists love, as you can see from the ease at which I found a multitude of quotes. It’s more fun when you get into it with non-public figures because then they’ll start using names and specifics. “Well why don’t you believe in Zeus? Or Odin? Or Shiva?” And this tendency comes from the fact that most Atheists are actually just immature and rebelling against mommy and daddy’s beliefs which often in the West is Christianity.
And again I turn to a parable.
A number of blind men came to an elephant. Somebody told them that it was an elephant. The blind men asked, ‘What is the elephant like?’ and they began to touch its body. One of them said: ‘It is like a pillar.’ This blind man had only touched its leg. Another man said, ‘The elephant is like a husking basket.’ This person had only touched its ears. Similarly, he who touched its trunk or its belly talked of it differently. In the same way, he who has seen the Lord in a particular way limits the Lord to that alone and thinks that He is nothing else.– Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
If a culture misunderstands what God is but puts a name to their understanding (Zeus, Odin, Brahma, Dagda, El), does that mean the thing they’re trying to understand doesn’t exist. The blind men were wrong about their understanding of an elephant, does that mean elephants don’t exist? Newton was wrong about the nature of gravity; Einstein proved that, it doesn’t mean there is no such thing as gravity. People don’t understand what God fully is, thus all the masks we put on God to understand him are imperfect. But just because you can show flaws with each mask it does not dictate that what is behind the mask is wrong. You can disprove every religion, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. And just because some people don’t believe in the interpretations of others doesn’t make the other person wrong or that first person right. God exists independent of people’s perceptions about him.
I believe in God. Now what my understanding of him is may be imperfect, that does not mean the thing I’m trying to understand doesn’t exist. But that’s the game Atheists like to play. They attack an understanding of the thing and use it to say that the thing itself doesn’t exist. But there is a problem with this argument, an elephant in the room you might say is that elephants exist, and that is that there is a difference between the imperfect conceptions of God and the existence of God.
Stock Atheist Argument 5: Atheism isn’t a religion.
Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.” –Don Hirschberg
Until someone claims to see Christopher Hitchens’ face in a tree stump, idiots must stop claiming that atheism is a religion. There’s one little difference: Religion is defined as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, and atheism is — precisely not that. Got it? Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sex position.—Bill Maher
Those are such cute lines. It’s just that even the slightest amount of logic tears them apart. If you want a quote here I’ll respond with the popular “Contradictions do not exist if you think you’ve found a contradiction, recheck your premises. One of them is wrong.” Or if you prefer “2+2=4”
Let’s take a look at that quote again “Religion is defined as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power” and I’ve seen numerous Atheists in personal arguments respond in the same way.
I respond by doing this wacky thing like quoting the dictionary. From Webster’s: “Religion: 7. A cause, principle, system of tenets held with ardor, devotion, conscientiousness, and faith.” Now under my definition Atheism is a religion because they hold a belief (That there is no God) based on absolutely no evidence (a process otherwise known as faith, thus meeting the requirements of the definition).
So who’s right? Well let’s test out the Atheist’s definition whose key point is believing in a divine being. By this definition is Christianity a religion? Yes. Judaism? Yes. Hinduism? Yes. So far so good. Buddhism and Taosim? No. Most strains of Buddhism (as I pointed out above) and several strains of Taoism don’t believe in a supreme being. So by the definition Atheists are trying to use would say that Buddhism and Taoism aren’t religions. And that would be preposterous on its face. No you can either try to continue arguing this, or can admit that the definition used by Atheists while practical in most cases in the West, is not a solid definition.
The criteria of faith is a much more comprehensive definition. And by that definition Atheism is a religious belief.
It is based on faith and no evidence.
And all the negatives that come with religion are there as well. Like many religions, its followers proselytize, they are emotionally invested in protecting their beliefs, their zealots are violent to those who don’t follow their religion.
Of course Atheism has none of the positives that come with other religions, but hey that applies to several religions.
Atheists quips are clever, but without substance. And sadly that’s all they have.
“In the beginning was Reason, and Reason was with God, and Reason was God.”–Gospel of John 1:1
What? How do you translate the Greek work “Logos”? The Word? So let me get this straight any other work of philosophy from that time period we would translate logos as Reason or Logic, but in this one work we should translate it as “The Word”…yeah that makes sense.
My point here is that reason, logic, the critical power of the mind to analyze and come to conclusions is actually something that has been praised in religion. Any correct interpretation of any sane religion places reason and faith on equal footing where they work together in harmony, not in opposition. Thus to truly lead a spiritual life we must lead a life of reason…
Yeah modern culture has tried to teach you that the two are opposed, but they’re not.
It wasn’t a giant leap of faith that allowed Siddhartha to reach Enlightenment, he tried that for years to no avail–it was hearing the rational wisdom of a lyre player saying that “If the string is to tight it will break, if too loose it will not play” to his student. The reason that we must seek a middle path, or at the father of Western reason Aristotle would put it, the Golden Mean.
Granted reason without faith won’t get you to Enlightenment, but neither will faith without reason.
And for most of us I think it is the powers of reason they we neglect too much. And if it is neglected too much than all the faith and crystals and holy books and yoga in the world won’t help you. You need both and you need to make sure both your ability to believe and your ability to reason are functioning properly.
So this week I want you to ask the most basic question that is the beginning or reason: Why?
Why do you believe that? Why should I believe that? Why do you say that? Why do you believe you’re right?
To every statement you hear, every fact provided to you, every thought you have, question it. Try and reason it out and deduce if it is true, if it makes sense, if there is justification for it. Everything, even the things you take for granted if only for the practice.
Now you may want to do this all internally, as doing it aloud is partly what got Socrates a death sentence. If you have someone who enjoys a long conversation that will reduce any position down to its most basic premises, great, but those kind of people are few and far between.
Take this to both spiritual and world knowledge. It will get tiring, because each answer will lead you to another “Why” and another and another…but the exercise will be worth it.
I’m sorry, I really wanted to have a more detailed and thought provoking meditation this week…but 6 days of state mandated teacher training has left my brain still unable to function properly. It is often the case that 1 hour of boring and useless work is more damaging to the brain than 10 hours of pushing your mind and body…6 8-hour-days of propaganda and BS based off decades old, out-dated biased research. Thank you state of Arizona.
Anyway, as I try to retrieve balance through more serious mediation, may I suggest this week we all focus on two very important questions:
“Who are you?” and “What do you want in life?”*
These two questions are at the heart of psychology, philosophy, and spirituality, and have been asked in a myriad of forms over the ages.
Next week I’m going to bring your answers to these questions back to our eternal battle with the ego, but for this week I just want you to spend a few minutes a day and in silence ask yourself these two questions and come up with a list (mental or written down, it doesn’t matter) and be prepared to seriously look at that list soon.
Who are you?
What do you want in life?
PS It might help if you cleared all your chakras mentally before engaging in this if you have the time. With the chakras cleared of negative energy and filled again with light and love you might get clearer and more preceptive answers.
*No, I’m not quoting a sci-fi show of questionable production values, these are important philosophical questions. Kudos, though if you get the reference.
So someone I think is an idiot recommended that I read Robert Nozick’s book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Now my expectations weren’t high, as I said the person who recommended is in my informed opinion an idiot’s idiot, but I’m willing to look at other arguments…and the title alone really lowered my expectations. Sadly my expectations were not low enough. The preface to the book suggested that Nozick provided the intellectual basis for modern libertarianism…and I can now see why I think most modern libertarians are utterly impossible to deal with. The short version is that Nozick takes Kant’s hideously flawed ethics and tries to shoehorn them into justifying limited government. Now an intelligent person (i.e. someone who doesn’t spend their life in academia) might understand implicitly (even if they don’t always articulate it as such) that just looking at means is stupid…and they also tend to understand that just looking at ends is stupid. Ends and means must be taken together and to focus on one to the exclusion of the others is preposterous at best. I initially resisted the temptation to hurl the book into the trash even though the entire foundation of Nozick’s arguments were trash piled on trash…but by the halfway mark I couldn’t stand the terrible logic anymore, threw the book away as no one should be subjected to that claptrap and turned back to an old favorite of mine which I haven’t read since college: Mortimer Adler’s Ten Philosophical Mistakes.
The book sets out to describe where most of modern philosophy made its mistakes when breaking from classical realism (From Plato and Aristotle to Aquinas). Adler, one of the most well spoken philosophers of the 20th century, although a bit dry, always does an excellent job in explaining why things are the way they are. I will someday get around to most of his major books on philosophy, but let me give you a brief overview. Adler was known as the philosopher for the everyman. Not because his ideas were simple or plebian but because he recognized the massive importance of correct philosophical ideas in everyday life and tried to state the complex idea in terms that someone who is not a philosophy major can readily grasp. Not to say that this makes the books he writes on par with the simplicity of Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter or Obama’s understanding of, well, anything…but he does put it in as simple but still precise terms as he can and he tries to give examples that are readily accessible. As you can guess this makes him really unpopular with the intelligentsia who like to pretend that philosophy or an understanding of it isn’t something for the average person and thus spend an obscene amount of time trying to obfuscate any understanding of it under mountains of jargon
The problem, especially with this book is that the errors made by many of the philosophers in the modern age are very technical and more often in the metaphysical or epistemological area. Don’t yawn. The reason why this is important is that those little technical errors compound into massive cracks in ethical thought and politics and in turn have a disastrous effect on our lives. And because of this it is important to understand the mistake, what the correct opinion is and why.
Now I’m going to go over a brief summary of these ten categories of mistakes, but understand, yes my justification of why certain ideas are right and others wrong is going to be lacking…go read the book if you want the full justification.
First category: “Consciousness and Its Objects” Adler deals with the mistakes of Locke, Descartes, Hume, and Kant, skepticism, solipsism, and subjectivism. In dealing with our ability to use our minds, these philosophers made the gross mistake of driving too deep a wedge between our minds and the outside world. Skeptics claim we can’t be sure if what we’re experiencing and the solipsists claim that we don’t actually experience in the outside world and really just experience in our minds with no connection to the outside world. It may seem stupid to go over a category that seems so common sense…but the problem is that the attack on the correct idea–that your mind perceives a world that exists outside of your mind and that the things in our minds (ideas, sense, memories, imagined ideas and things, conceptions, other objects of thought) and the two are very related—is a more common problem than you think. Ever have someone tell you “Well, you can’t know that” or “well that’s your opinion” after you state an article of fact. It may seem like a rather esoteric issue, but in fact it is the root of many problems in ethics, politics, psychology, and human existence. *
Second Category: “The Intellect and the Senses.” If you thought the last one was esoteric, this one is even more so. Common sense and reason tell us that there is a difference between our thoughts and our senses. One is informed by the other, but they are not the same thing. And you would think it would take a real moron to mistake the two. Well, let me introduce you to Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, George Berkley, David Hume who basically thought they were one in the same…and Plato, Descartes, Kant and Hegel who thought that they had little to nothing to do with each other. The reason this becomes a problem is that it begins to degrade the nature of language (I’ll spare you the steps on how this works, trust me this is what Adler points out)…and that this is also a basis for the arguments of crackpots who think that humans are not superior to animals. So if PETA has ever annoyed you, you can blame this logical error as being part of that problem.
Third Category: “Words and Meaning”. Locke seemed to argue that words are useless in communicating ideas (one wonders why he wrote so much) and Hobbes and Russell seemed to think words can only be about real things and that reference to non-tangible things is to be just speaking gibberish (if you can’t touch or see it, it’s not real). Common sense may immediately dismiss these preposterous ideas, but if you’ve ever gotten into an argument of semantics with a moron who thinks they know more than you do (when they don’t) you may begin to understand why this issue might become relevant.
Fourth Category: “Knowledge and Opinion.” You know something when you believe something to be true, you have a reason to believe it is true, and it is true. You could teach a child that 2+2=5…but they couldn’t know that 2+2=5 because it’s not true…similarly a child can repeat the phrase 2+2=4 but until they understand why that is, they don’t have knowledge. Without reason and truth it is merely opinion. And in common usage of the term knowledge we can know things we have evidence and reason for even if we don’t know it in the same way with the same absolute certainty of arithmetic. For instance, I know that capitalism within a Classically Liberal society is better than any other system yet conceived, and I have mountain of evidence, logic and reason to back this up…although if you wanted to be really strict it is merely highly justified opinion…but for the common philosophic usage of the word, I know this for a fact. I’m guessing again this seems pretty obvious…but let me introduce you to David Hume who thinks you can’t know anything beyond math and since nothing can be known you can’t even really have justified opinions and thus all ideas are equally unfounded…oh there’s Immanuel Kant who tried to get around this by filling our mind with an out of the box operating system he calls a priori knowledge. Adler takes several pages to really dig into the stupidity of Kant’s lacking understanding of how we know things, but let me share with you my favorite passage from the whole book:
“How anyone in the twentieth century can take Kant’s transcendental philosophy seriously is baffling, even though it may always remain admirable in certain respects as an extraordinarily elaborate and ingenious intellectual invention.”
Which has to be one of the best back handed compliments I’ve ever read.
Why do Hume and Kant lead to such problems with their inability to know anything about knowing? Well because in one way or another it leads to destroying the value of scientific falsifiability and reasoned argument and reduces all knowledge to nothingness…which leads to a complete abdication of personal responsibility to know the truth of things. Look at any organization that requires mindless following (Nazism, Communism, the Democratic National Committee, Islamofacism, numerous individual churches) and all the problems they create to see why this is an important issue to understand.
Fifth Category: “Moral Value.” Hedonists (Epicurus, Mill) ethical skeptics (Hume, Russell, Ayer) and wacky deontological Kant get beat up in this. The hedonists fail to make the important distinction between wants and needs and mistake the former for the latter. Skeptics, deriving from the earlier mistakes believe foolishly that you can’t make any meaningful statements about ethics and so whatever is popular at the time goes (see the lack of ethics is sociology departments, multiculturalism, and ignoring the barbarism and oppression of women in Islam…not to mention backing a lot of evil in the recent history of the world by governments). And what evil isn’t backed by the skeptics usually can look to Kant and his categorical imperative which Adler states “is an empty recommendation.” From the detached and survey nature of the book Adler simply states proper ethics is “We ought to desire whatever is really good for us and nothing else” and work toward that true good…but he points you to Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics for more details.
Sixth Category: “Happiness and Contentment” Tied heavy to the last chapter is the true good in life: Happiness. And happiness is collection of virtues in action not just material contentment as utilitarians like Mill and Dewey might mistake it as (or you know the current government). And while not a very common mistake Adler as tears apart the Stoics (and Kant) who didn’t understand that while doing the right thing is very important, you also have to succeed some of the time to actually be happy
Seventh Category:”Freedom of choice.” You have free will and anyone who says otherwise (determinists and scientists, those who say that there is only the physical world) have no reasonable grounding for their beliefs. Although while your will is free, it is informed by the outside world, nature and nurture. This one is actually important to understand because you wouldn’t believe how often I am seeing arguments that people are mere victims of their computer like minds and its programming, with no will of their own…and it shouldn’t take long to figure out what kind of government that will lead to.
Eighth Category: “Human Nature.” The fact that this book was written in the early 80’s didn’t allow Adler to be familiar with the term multiculturalism, but he was shooting down the stupidity of that dumb idea long before it took hold. Human beings are human beings and their nature does not change by race, culture, time, or upbringing and this means that rights are the same and inalienable for everyone, they do not change for any other group. Also, he tears apart those ideas of PETA in raising animals to the value of humans.
Ninth Category: “Human Society”. In this section, Adler takes aim at Rosseau, Hobbes and Locke for their arguments about the state of nature. His argument is that these three treat the state of nature as if it was a historical reality and not a thought experiment. To be honest I’ve never heard anyone take this extreme stance (but I will admit I’m more familiar with Locke than the other two…but I also admit that academia is an odd place and easily see this chapter coming out of an argument with some professor at the University of Chicago where Adler taught. He argues, as would any historian or anthropologist that society and government have grown over time because humans are naturally social creatures. He then attacks anarchists who believe that mankind can ever be molded into a being that doesn’t need society, like Marx’s communist utopia.
Tenth Category: “Human Existence.” This chapter really required a full understanding of the previous chapters to go into any detail…and since I wanted to keep this blog “manageable” (at least by my long winded standards)…so let me just say Adler maintains life has a purpose and meaning.
Again I realize I’ve glossed over a lot, but I highly recommend this book to anyone who deals with any kind of discussion of ideas (politics and religion especially), understanding the underlying premises that Adler goes over is infinitely important. Adler is not as simplistic as Rand who makes a good primer in philosophy, but lacks practicality and depth, but nor is he as dry as the works of his beloved Aristotle or Aquinas. He’s dry but not so much that it’s almost unreadable for pleasure, he has meat on the bones of his philosophy, and while a few decades out of date it is still modern enough that the languages used doesn’t suffer from the kind of gap you get with a lot of the older philosophers. Oh, and he’s right ninety-nine times out a hundred. Really you should read this book.
Now let me counter some obvious and addle brain responses I expect to get because I’ve reminded people that there is an excellent attack on all the BS philosophers so beloved by the Ivory Tower…
(1)“Adler isn’t respected by philosophers!” Well, the philosophers you read must never have mentioned in their worthless tomes that popularity doesn’t equal truth. All that matters is if the argument is a reasoned one and conclusion is true or not. If every philosophy professor in the world said Adler (and by extension Aristotle and Aquinas, since Adler is more about reiterating the correct philosophies of others and adapting them to modern issues than coming up with his own ideas) was an idiot, it still wouldn’t prove that he was wrong, only truth and reason would do that. (Now please don’t think that I think everything Adler said is true, he’s human, he’s wrong sometimes, but when compared to Descartes, Hume, Berkley, Foucault, Satre, James, Kierkegaard, Leibniz, Marx…you get the idea, he’s on a far more solid grounding of reason.)
(2)“Well you didn’t disprove (such and such philosopher] and their statement of [such and such bullshit] in your blog. Thus you’re wrong.” It’s a book review, it’s 200 pages long, of course I can’t get into specifics.
(3)“Well Adler didn’t disprove…” Yes he did, you didn’t read the book.
(4)“I did read the book and he didn’t…” actually he did, see page…
(5)“I did read the book and he didn’t…” You’re right he didin’t. He did tear out all of the idea that that specific point is based on though which kind of makes tearing that point apart silly and redundant.
(6) “You didn’t accurately describe [such and such BS philopher’s] ideas correctly” Probably not. Do you get the concept of a book review or a blog? If I made this a 200 page discussion why not just post all of Alder’s book?
(7) “Adler’s biased”…you mean he has a reasoned opinion and while he admits that there is grey in the world will not back down from self-evident truths because there is also black and white in the universe. Yes, in that case he is biased…Although you might then like his 1,000 page tome “The Great Ideas” where he actually discusses all of these philosophers and their ideas quite dispassionately.
(8) “I did read it and I don’t agree with anything he had to say!” Why are you telling me this? Like I care. Don’t listen to my book reviews if you dislike them so much. Really I don’t understand people who keep coming back to be infuriated because they disagree with me and want to express their displeasure. I can understand trying to keep up with people you disagree with so that you can consider new idea…but I just don’t get the childish need seek out and bully those you disagree with.
*There is some important hair splitting to be done here in relationship to my views as New Ager, and if I get any requests, I’ll go into that…but (1) I can see where you might see some contradictions between this point and New Age belief that I would agree would constitute a prima facie case against my spiritual beliefs (2) I have considered them and I believe that while there is a prima facie case to be made it does not hold up under scrutiny.
**On another side note you may want to watch Lost before reading Adler’s book…otherwise you may have a knee jerk reaction into hating half the cast from day one…and I really love Hume on Lost.
Once again I come back to my favorite series of books Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. Partly because I’ve gotten away from this when I shouldn’t have…and partly because we have a lull in election season so I can concentrate on something else for a little while. So, as I’ve done the first five books, here is book six, Faith of the Fallen.
This is probably my favorite book in the entire series. As I have said I love this series for not only providing a well paced and character driven fantasy series, but because each book is thematically tied to what the author has the Wizard’s Rules…a series of 11 short simple ethical statements. These 11 wizard’s rules that are actually possibly the best set of rules I have ever seen for living one’s life, because they don’t discuss specific acts, which are always dependant on situations and variables, so myriad that no hard rule on behavior can ever fully cover them. But Faith of the Fallen is probably my favorite, not just because the plot is even more character centered than most of the other books in the series, but because I love the wizard’s rule more than any of the others.
Wizard’s Sixth Rule:
“The only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason.“
The first law of reason is this: what exists, exists, what is, is and from this irreducible bedrock principle, all knowledge is built. It is the foundation from which life is embraced.
Thinking is a choice. Wishes and whims are not facts nor are they a means to discover them. Reason is our only way of grasping reality; it is our basic tool of survival. We are free to evade the effort of thinking, to reject reason, but we are not free to avoid the penalty of the abyss that we refuse to see. Faith and feelings are the darkness to reason’s light. In rejecting reason, refusing to think, one embraces death.”
–Faith of the Fallen pg 319
Again, I’ll be vague in the plot summary so as not to spoil anything if you haven’t read the books to this point (but really this is, hands down, the best book in the series).
The hero of the story Richard Rahl is forced to leave his wife Kahlan to save her life. He is blackmailed by the sorceress Nicci subject of his enemy the Emperor Jagang, that he must travel with her into the heart of Jagang’s Imperial Order and do exactly as she says or the lives of his beloved will be extinguished. And while you might expect torture or mind games you find something much worse in the Imperial Order: communism. Complete, total and utterly inefficient communism. Government control of everything. Government corruption rampant. Starvation. Misery. Masses living lives under a crushing totalitarian regime that makes life not worth living. Nicci’s plan to crush Richard’s will and let him see the evil nature of mankind and turn him to her side…I will put in one spoiler: this plan fails (but that was kind of obvious).
I’m not sure but I suspect that Goodkind did an extensive amount of research on life in the USSR, Soviet Blocs and Maoist China as the world depicted in the Imperial Order could have easily come out of any textbook or autobiography on life in those nations. The inefficiency, the corruption, the lack of basic needs due to stupidity of a system that is at every step controlled by an overarching authority. Every aspect of life, from care of the environment to daily quality of life to even being able to enjoy sex is polluted and destroyed under totalitarianism.
What does this have to do with the idea that reason is the only thing that guides your actions?
It has to do with the fact that there is this thing called human nature. Human nature is always trying to find the best in life. We are naturally selfish from the most rational of us to the least rational of us; human nature has this odd behavior of caring about our needs first. Now granted the more rational and educated a person is the more they think toward long term and spiritual and emotional benefits to themselves than the immediate but we are all motivated by self interest, it is simple basic fact. And everyone agrees that it cannot be changed, from the radical atheist that sees us as nothing but being motivated by a biological imperative to survive to the wises of spiritual masters who tell you to love yourself as much as you love any other person, who tell you to reach enlightenment as your primary goal, who even tell you that you are connected to everyone and that the good you do for others is good done to you, every person with even the smallest fraction of intelligence acknowledges that human beings are motivated by self interest. Now you can accept that fact and accept that it cannot be changed, or you can choose to deny it. Now if you accept the fact that mankind is motivated by self interest then you would try to make sure that your nation had laws that would try to move that self interest in the most useful ways, encouraging policies and practices that benefited not only the individual pursuing self interest, but also everyone they associate with. Or as Adam Smith observed, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” Capitalism is that system. Or you could try to deny facts, deny reason, and suggest that both the biological and spiritual imperative toward self-interest can somehow be destroyed by government fiat and try fascism or socialism or communism or some odd mixture of all three (I think it’s called Obamaism). You can accept something about human nature to be true and work with it or you can deny facts and try to change what cannot be changed. Which plan is guided by Reason and which is guided by only irrational faith and feelings.
And at every level of the economy from the individual level to the nation wide Faith of the Fallen shows how this rejection of reason is a rejection of humanity. At first it merely leads to inefficiencies but will soon corrupt and destroy whole systems and lives—killing hope, drive, happiness and in the end, life. And in opposition to this an embrace of self-interest is an embrace of life in all it’s glory (the book makes this point very clearly near the end with artistic point). Now I know that any liberal that has stumbled upon this review is probably having seizures by my praising self-interest trying to list all the terrible things that self-interest can lead to. Yeah? Duh. Self-interest is a fact. The question is whether you are using reason to guide your self-interest or if you let your feeling guide it. Reason by nature thinks long term and by nature looks for win-win scenarios. Even without compassion or empathy guiding it, reason is a benevolent force. It is only when you let compassion or empathy rule instead of informed reason that you do things because it feels right, ignoring whether or not it will actually work. And the book makes this very clear. Self-interest in itself is neither good or bad, it is merely a fact. You can either choose to let it be ruled by reason, which seeks a win-win, or you can try to deny it which builds nothing but misery, resentment and a viciousness to lash out at others. But then again to judge between the two requires reason to guide you.
And the other greatness of the philosophy of this book is that it shows how this principle permeates not just economics, politics, and military strategy. It extends to even issues of art. Inevitably art that embraces the denial of reality, the idea that self-interest must be condemned, must at all time deny the existence of heroes or greatness in the individual for to have such examples would be to give something for people to aspire to which in itself is another example of self-interest driving us, we want to be like the people whom we admire. Thus intelligence, strength, character of both the hero and the common man must be denied and only suffering and inadequacy highlighted. Charity is also perverted from an act of personal humanity and an acknowledgement of the potential in others, to nothing more than a duty from which no one should take pleasure in.
As always the relationship between the characters is even more enjoyable than the philosophy in Terry Gookind books…but as I said I don’t like giving away too much…although I would add that watching the character of Nicci go from being only motivated by the illogical desire to destroy self-interest to embracing life and reason is a hopeful one.
My one caveat on the sixth rule as Goodkind writes it is a small one. He suggests that faith is opposed to reason. I would say that there are two kinds of faith, rational faith and irrational faith. Faith about things that are not contradicted by reason (a belief in God for instance or what drives most people that they can do something that others say they can’t) is not a flaw in human reasoning but one of its greatest abilities. It is only faith about something that reason directly contradicts (like the belief you can change human nature into something better than it is through laws and government power) that should be opposed and resisted.