What’s “Evolution”?

Here's a bit more fun from Mr. Elliot in his Human Character:

... emotion causes some physical alteration in the individual -- an alteration perceptible to other individuals; that is to say an alteration that is visible or audible or recognizable by one or other of the various senses with which the animal is endowed.

Usually these alterations are severally very minute;

but for gregarious creatures they are of high significance;

[1] and natural selection (or some other factor of evolution) has determined that individuals shall be extremely quick in perceiving and recognizing them.

[2] Evolution has likewise determined that the perception of them automatically produces the same emotion as that which first caused them. (165)

He is obviously talking about body language as a means of communicating "emotions" as opposed to and distinct from speech.

What's interesting is that if you replace the word "evolution" in sentences [1] and [2] with "God" or "the Great Pumpkin," the sentences will neither gain nor lose any of their informational content. Evolution for Elliot is simply a substitute for an unknown deity.

(For, surely, a process of such massive creative power has some claim on our reverence.)

Even more bizarre is that the data that theologians claim to have discovered on God far exceeds the pathetic amount that the naturalists have discovered on evolution. Theology is a far more successful and fruitful science than evolutionary biology.

Sun and Rain

I love the cynical bullshit Huge Elliot churns out in Human Character! Here is an example:

The moral sentiment, appearing in the form of religion, generates belief in the existence of deities, spirits, angels, devils, etc. ...

The belief is not in the least shaken by facts which appear directly to contradict it; as for instance that calamities and misfortunes in this world fall impartially upon the righteous and the sinner. (141)

Yes, but the righteous are precisely those who respond righteously to "calamities and misfortunes"; and sinners are those respond viciously to them.

How would we even know who is righteous and who is a sinner without calamities and misfortunes?

If everything in life is pleasantly agreeable, what use is there for righteousness?

War As the Health of the State

America does not have any foreign enemies.

But the US government does.

It does simply in obedience to its nature. War, though sickness of the people, is yet the health of the state. Peace is the health of the people. As Randolph Bourne wrote:

With the shock of war the state comes into its own again.

It is the reason given for

high taxes,
internal revenue bureaucracies,
pervasive spying,
censorship,
military conscription,
the abolition of civil liberties,
heavy debt,
an explosive growth of government spending and borrowing,
extensive excise taxation,
nationalization of industries,
socialist central planning,
massive public indoctrination campaigns,
the punishment and imprisonment of dissenters to the state's rule,
the shooting of deserters from its armies,
the conquest of other countries,
inflation of the currency,
demonization of private enterprise and the civil society for being insufficiently "patriotic,"
the growth of the military/industrial complex,
a vast expansion of government pork barrel spending,
the demonization of the ideas of freedom and individualism and those who espouse them, and
a never-ending celebration, if not deification, of statism and militarism.

As a result, the interests of the state and the people are diametrically opposed. Our enemy is a state, but not a foreign one but the one ruling America.

Repost: Culture

Culture is what people, having fulfilled their moral duty, choose to do with their freedom.

Freedom may be envisioned as a collection of many particular freedoms. But these depend on government policy or lack thereof.

Hence, concern with politics is logically prior to concern over culture, is more foundational than it. The question, "Which culture is more conducive to freedom?" misses the point. Culture is the people's creative use of freedom. North Korea, for example, having no freedom, does not have a culture, either.

Peace and Economic Ties

International peace is promoted by strong commercial ties between nations. It does not pay the people of any nation to destroy their trading partners.

But however free trade allays the threat of war, it is only a necessary condition for peace, not a sufficient one.

For the American masses can always be whipped into a frenzy of hatred toward any country, even if there are robust trading ties between them. If the country being aggressed on is small, its destruction will not impair the standard of living of Americans too much. On the other hand, it may well happen that the satisfaction of the desires of sadism, mass murder, and destruction of property will outweigh for the boobeoise the costs of loss of imports to the consumers and of exports to businesses.

As a result, peace is not just a matter of the incentives here and now. It must be a guiding principle, an unbreakable moral law, a fully internalized norm.

Depleted Uranium

We have every right to fuck ourselves up.

But we don't have the right to fuck up the next generation, insofar as birth defects result from the military use of depleted uranium, before they are even born.

Socialist Computation Problem

I have 3 favorite papers on Mises:

  1. Jeff Tucker and Lew Rockwell, "The Cultural Thought of Ludwig von Mises."
  2. Murray Rothbard, "The Laissez-Faire Radical: A Quest for the Historical Mises."
  3. Joseph Salerno, "Ludwig von Mises as Social Rationalist."

In particular, Salerno's analysis of Mises is super-subtle and sophisticated.

Let me offer a slightly different take on it. Consider these two quotes of Mises Salerno uses:

Homo sapiens appeared on the stage of earthly events neither as a solitary food-seeker nor as a member of a gregarious flock, but as a being consciously cooperating with other beings of his own kind. ...

We cannot even imagine a reasonable being living in perfect isolation and not cooperating at least with members of his family, clan, or tribe.

And:

Where there are no money prices there... is no means for man to find out what kind of action would best serve his endeavors to remove his uneasiness as far as possible.

I think here "man" should be understood as species man, as a sufficiently large group of people "consciously cooperating within... family, clan, or tribe."

But a man, such as solitary Crusoe, certainly can act in his own self-interest without prices. And that's what I ask in an earlier post, whether Crusoe can run the world if somehow and under admittedly unreasonable assumptions put in charge of a huge economy.

I answer no, not because he can't calculate, but because he can't adjust production to novel data of whatever kind: changes in ends, technological means, environment, etc.

What's after all the difference between socialism and capitalism? Under capitalism, each person seeks his own happiness. Under socialism, only one man, perhaps surprisingly also named Crusoe, acts; every other person simply robotically obeys his commands. There is no labor market, for example, or any other kind of market. The situation of socialism is no different from the situation of Crusoe alone on his island. Under socialism, other people are Crusoe's mindless and obedient tools, like his axe and fishing rod under solitude. And, just like under solitude, Crusoe does not need to calculate in terms of money:

[Under socialism,] mankind is to be divided into two classes: the almighty dictator, on the one hand, and the underlings who are to be reduced to the status of mere pawns in his plans and cogs in his machinery, on the other.

If this were feasible, then of course the social engineer would not have to bother about understanding other people's actions. He would be free to deal with them as technology deals with lumber and iron. (HA, 113)

Even under the free market, calculation is needed solely to deal with ordered introduction of novelties, what I call creative advance, change-amidst-permanence. For the market actors can simply be commanded by some great power to evenly rotate under threat of a terrible punishment. "From now on, unless still equilibrating, everyone shall do tomorrow and every day hence exactly what he did today (or else)." Money then becomes a mere token, a medium of exchange still but no longer a unit of account. Everything needful has already been calculated upon the forcible arrival of the equilibrium.

Now with other people, there are certainly additional complications, such that Crusoe must know their values scales and somehow maximize overall welfare rather than his own. But in order to get to the essence of the socialist quandary, we can assume that Crusoe "loves" all his billion slaves as his own children and "feels with them," knowing every motion of their hearts, somewhat perhaps like a glorified saint. I know: Gulags, but stick with me. We can even assume with Mises that Crusoe "has made up his mind with regard to the valuation of ultimate ends. We do not question his decision." (696)

So, let Crusoe be mysteriously put in the midst of a highly developed "evenly rotating" complex economy (meaning that he at this moment is unaware of a better allocation of resources) which he alone somehow labors in and manages. I suggest that the problem of adjusting production to new data is too hard computationally, even if Crusoe can juggle his utilities like a pro. And by "too hard" I mean impossible with all the computational resources the known universe might conceivably supply.

"New data" is a crucial proviso. If Crusoe were from the beginning of his adventure endowed with omniscience regarding (1) all possible technology, as well as (2) his own future valuations, and (3) future environmental changes, then even if he was practically immortal, he could make a perfect plan from now until kingdom come and grow his economy at the pace that maximizes his (or his "pawns'" and "cogs'") long-term welfare.

Crusoe needs acting people, his fellow men, to come and rescue him, by taking ownership of his factories and becoming entrepreneurs, from the increasing complexity of his developing world.

P.S. In the paper, Salerno wonders about the meaning of "spontaneity" of action. "Spontaneous" action within the market is not purposeless action but generally unpredictable by other actors. Entrepreneurs try to predict future consumer preferences, but they cannot normally predict each other's moves; or rather they make plans to ready production a year hence, say, without taking into account any innovations others might come up with during this period of production. The inner workings of competing firms are impenetrable to them. Smith's introduction of novelty into the market is a genuine surprise to his competitor Jones. From Jones' point of view, Smith's actions were "spontaneous."

I Love SiteGround

It's this website's new hosting company. Everything just works.

The Socialist Left

The left loves its victims. But why? Leftists almost never know any sick sexual freaks personally. What do they care about the homosexuals?

The answer is that they don't; but the left wants to build socialism. They care about the pretend victims only as a means to transitioning to socialism and, as an essential part of that, to the destruction of the bourgeois society based on private ownership.

That socialism cannot function as a system of production does not concern them; it is an allegedly moral imperative. Before, they championed the class warfare between the proletarians and capitalists. Their ultimate goal has remained; only the tactics of inducing the requisite destruction has changed to "Victim groups of the world, unite!"

The Names of God

St. Thomas proposes the following caveat:

Although it may be admitted that creatures are in some sort like God, it must nowise be admitted that God is like creatures; because...

"A mutual likeness may be found between things of the same order, but not between a cause and that which is caused."

For, we say that a statue is like a man, but not conversely; so also a creature can be spoken of as in some sort like God; but not that God is like a creature. (ST, I, 4, 3, reply 4)

The likeness of a creature and God simply means that a proposition that is true of a creature is also true, though not necessarily univocally, of God. The reason for the rider and to deny that God is like any creature is that God transcends creatures.

For example, God the Son has an essence, and a man has an essence; God exists, and so does the man. But only for God is His essence identical to His existence.

God the Father knows possible worlds, and so do humans; God can create a world, and humans can shape matter into art. But God knows all possibilities, and for Him what is possible is conceivable, and vice versa; and only God can create ex nihilo.

We can see that the purpose of naming God "analogically" as "a mean between pure equivocation and simple univocation" is to describe both how God is like creatures, and how He differs from them by some spectacular excellence in degree or in kind.

Levels and Time

I have written:

Experience teaches that our lives are fragmented into four parts: the past, the present, the future, and timelessness, such as enjoyed by abstracta like "2 + 2 = 4." Our past is gone, our future is not yet, timelessness is accessed only when we do math or philosophy (with propositions apparently outlasting our own lives), and our present is fleeting and evanescent.

Far be it from God to suffer from so many imperfections. But He neither abolishes time nor keeps it unchanged but rather transcends and perfects it. For God those 4 time periods are folded up, unified as if in a package and present themselves as single eternal Moment of boiling divine life.

It cannot be doubted that such a life is superior in intensity, poignancy, and happiness it can generate to our human experience.

Now that we have sorted out our levels, we must distinguish between the timelessness of the Father and the eternity of the Son. The latter does not include timelessness but is a roll-up of just 3 out of 4 aspects of time: past, present, and future.

The Father is entirely outside of time; the Son is in time perfected.

Goodness and St. Thomas

I have maintained that God on His 3rd level is goodness who communicates being. But St. Thomas seems to object to that characterization as follows: "For He is assuredly the cause of bodies in the same way as He is the cause of good things; therefore if the words 'God is good,' signified no more than, 'God is the cause of good things,' it might in like manner be said that God is a body, inasmuch as He is the cause of bodies." (ST, I, 13, 2)

Well, God (the Father) is not the "cause of good things"; He is the Knower of essences and Infuser of being. In combining essence and existence, He is Begetter of the Son (in whom essence and existence are one) and Creator of all other things.

The things God creates are good only insofar as they enjoy existing and agree to stay in existence. Things are metaphysically good as secondary causes; God is goodness as first cause.

St. Thomas' third objection is that "this is against the intention of those who speak of God. For in saying that God lives, they assuredly mean more than to say the He is the cause of our life, or that He differs from inanimate bodies."

We call God Goodness to differentiate it from Being which He creates in order to express Himself. No being including the Son, but only the Father, has the power to create ex nihilo. The Father's goodness diffuses itself into Others; once brought into being, those Others, again including the Son, pursue only their own personal projects. It is the most fundamental way in which God is different from creatures.

To say that God lives, on the contrary, is to liken Him to creatures.

Both ways of describing God, namely what the study of creatures reveals about Him, and how He transcends creatures, are valid and indispensable.

“Economic Activity”

I am finished with reviewing my early private notes. This is the last one to be unearthed.


Man does not "engage in economic activity" such as presumably buying and selling; rather, in whatever real activity he does engage in, he economizes.

Psychiatrist, Heal Yourself

The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defends his practices as follows:

"Yet the psychiatrist who enjoys his trade is also receiving constant feedback: the way the patient holds himself, the expression on his face, the hesitation in his voice, the content of the material he brings up in the therapeutic hour -- all these bits of information are important clues the psychiatrist uses to monitor the progress of the therapy.

"The difference between a surgeon and a psychiatrist is that the former considers blood and excision the only feedback worth attending to, whereas the latter considers the signals reflecting a patient's state of mind to be significant information. The surgeon judges the psychiatrist to be soft because he is interested in such ephemeral goals; the psychiatrist thinks the surgeon crude for his concentration on mechanics." (Flow, 56)

Isn't it odd for a person who has written a treatise on happiness to despise people who are not like him, in fact, people who simply perform other tasks within social cooperation? And moreover, to ascribe to those other people the predilection for having similar contempt for himself?

Judging from a few sentences here and there, our author is very insecure about his science. Studying consciousness appears to him to be a "soft" endeavor, unlike the far "harder" chemistry and even biology. Meh. Mises has this to say about economics:

"It is common with narrow-minded people to reflect upon every respect in which other people differ from themselves. The camel in the fable takes exception to all other animals for not having a hump, and the Ruritanian criticizes the Laputanian for not being a Ruritanian. The research worker in the laboratory considers it as the sole worthy home of inquiry, and differential equations as the only sound method of expressing the results of scientific thought. He is simply incapable of seeing the epistemological problems of human action. For him economics cannot be anything but a kind of mechanics." (Human Action, 8)

Oh well.

Sherlock Holmes

Here's another "from the vault" note from 2010:


Who said that the Sherlock Holmes movie had gay "undercurrents"? That's ridiculous. The Holmes / Watson duo was probably the first superhero / sidekick team in literature.

Well, there was, for example, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza before, but they were real knight and sidekick, and Quixote was an idiot not a superhero.

Anyway, that can be claimed about any such pair of heroes. Remember the 80s Disney Darkwing Duck cartoons? Some web page I recall cast them as "gay," as well. I mean, it's Disney! Have the homosexualists no shame?

It's yet another nasty effect of the political gay movement: men are now afraid to show affection for each other.

When David lamented, "I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women," (2 Sam 1:26) was he being "gay"?

Beam me up, Mr. Speaker.

Thomas Morris on Belief Conservation

In the first philosophy book I ever read, Philosophy for Dummies by Thomas Morris (which is an excellect introduction), the author articulates the "principle of belief conservation." First he argues that some of our beliefs are rational, or else the term "rational belief" would have neither referent nor meaning. The usefulness of this term comes from being able to separate rational beliefs from ir- or non-rational ones. Common sense supports the view that our belief acquisition faculties are at least sometimes reliable.

Here's the principle. For any proposition, P: If

  1. Taking a certain cognitive stance toward P (for example, believing it, rejecting it, or withholding judgment) would require rejecting or doubting a vast number of your current beliefs;

  2. You have no independent positive reason to reject or doubt all those other beliefs; and

  3. You have no compelling reason to take up that cognitive stance towards P,

then it is more rational for you not to take that cognitive stance toward P.

"Your current beliefs," Morris goes on, "are like a raft or boat on which you are floating, sailing across the seas of life. You need to make repairs and additions during your voyage. But it can never be rational to destroy the boat totally while out on an open sea, hoping somehow to be able to rebuild it from scratch, or else to swim without it." (72ff)

The principle passes its own test and is elevated into a basic belief.

I think this opinion is similar to what Victor Reppert has proposed, namely that one should keep believing what he already believes, unless he encounters a good reason to believe otherwise.

A Conversation in Heaven

Imagine the following conversation between God and a creature:

Creature: Why am I like that?

God: Because I made you so.

Creature: Can I be something else?

God: Yes. What would you like to be?

Creature: How can I know until I see the choices and their consequences?

God: Would you like an opportunity to make yourself into whatever you please?

Creature: What do I need to do?

God: Be born.

Thus, God makes us unfinished and orders us to build the rest of ourselves by developing our inborn potentialities. He then accepts or rejects what we have done almost as an art critic would.

This is a combination of the refined "soul factory" and the "evil is necessary" theodicies.

The Outsider Test for Faith, 2

Rothbard posed the question: who are the greater villains with respect to liberty, the unwashed masses or the power elite? His answer was:

First, even granting for a moment that the masses are the worst possible, that they are perpetually Hell-bent on lynching anyone down the block, the mass of people simply don't have the time for politics or political shenanigans.

The average person must spend most of his time on the daily business of life, being with his family, seeing his friends, etc. He can only get interested in politics or engage in it sporadically.

The only people who have time for politics are the professionals: the bureaucrats, politicians, and special interest groups dependent on political rule.

They make money out of politics, and so they are intensely interested, and lobby and are active twenty-four hours a day. Therefore, these special interest groups will tend to win out over the uninterested masses.

This is the basic insight of the Public Choice school of economics.

There is a similar piece of wisdom awaiting us in the evaluation of the outsider test. The truth is, natural theology, philosophy of religion, proper interpretation of the Bible, the field of comparative religion are far beyond what the masses can do and judge for themselves. They are not professional philosophers and theologians with their noses in books and heads in the clouds. They are too busy living real lives.

Consequently, if this vast majority were to abandon their Christian faith, then they would no better be able to justify their atheism or deism than they had previously been able to justify their Christianity. They would be as helpless as newly minted atheists against a sophisticated defender of the Christian faith like St. Thomas or William Lane Craig as they are now against a sophisticated defender of atheism like Loftus. So, what our author demands from people is unrealistic and futile. As a clarion call to some elite group of scholars to get to work, it's fine. Otherwise, it's of little consequence.

Another subtle point is that the Christian faith, at least according to St. Thomas, is an infused virtue. It's created by grace as much as by natural study. It may be impossible to doubt the faith without losing it altogether. In other words, becoming genuinely skeptical of your faith is a dangerous project, because you'll be defying the influence of grace.

Therefore, it may be advisable for a Christian to adopt the motto "faith seeking understanding." If Islam and Judaism and so on have notions of grace, the same attitude is recommended. Then it may happen upon a thorough investigation that one eventually converts from one faith to another. Moreover, if trying to "understand" can move you from Christianity to Islam, then it can also move you from Christianity to, say, deism. But this won't be a violent destructive transition, as Loftus' radical skepticism must needs entail, but a much more gradual and smooth one.

So, even Loftus' method is flawed.

Notes on the Argumentation Ethics, 2

1. Suppose that a robber in a restaurant yells at the customers: "I am not going to argue with you; just give me all your money. Any of you fucking pricks move, and I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya!" Hoppe's argument fails to convict the robber of irrationality.

Similarly, suppose that in some bar a bouncer is throwing out a rowdy drunk. The bouncer tells him in no uncertain terms: "Shut up and don't argue with me, or I'll call the cops on you!" Again, Hoppe's argument does not establish whether the bouncer is right or wrong.

2. Murphy and Callahan argues as follows:

Hoppe has shown that bashing someone on the head is an illogical form of argumentation.

He has not shown that the fact that one has ever argued demonstrates that one may never bash anyone on the head, nor has he demonstrated that one may not validly argue that it would be a good thing to bash so-and-so on the head.

We cannot convince you of anything by clubbing you, but we may quite logically try to convince you that we should have the right to club you.

A Performative Contradiction: Mises on Nietzsche

It's a comely point:

It is noteworthy that the men who were foremost in extolling the eminence of the savage impulses of our barbarian forefathers were so frail that their bodies would not have come up to the requirements of "living dangerously."

Nietzsche even before his mental breakdown was so sickly that the only climate he could stand was that of the Engadin valley and of some Italian districts. He would not have been in a position to accomplish his work if civilized society had not protected his delicate nerves against the roughness of life.

The apostles of violence wrote their books under the sheltering roof of 'bourgeois security' which they derided and disparaged.

They were free to publish their incendiary sermons because the liberalism which they scorned safeguarded freedom of the press.

They would have been desperate if they had had to forego the blessings of the civilization scorned by their philosophy. (HA, 170ff)

Though less ambitious than Hoppe's arguments, it's for all that considerably stinging, it seems to me.