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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 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.

The Harm of Taxation

Rothbard pointed out somewhere that taxation harms the economy twice: first, when the money is taxed away; second, when the government spends the loot.

First, taxation is not market-neutral and always redirects production away from the optimal flow. Suppose a powerful demon were to divide everyone's cash holdings and listed prices by 10 overnight and inform every person of this action in their dreams. That would be a 100% market-neutral action, as everyone would stay as well off relative to everyone else as before.

But taxation does not touch everyone identically. Some people pay more than others. As a result, the consumer hierarchy in terms of purchasing power is reshuffled by a foreign to the market force.

Further, if firms are also taxed, then taxation distorts production directly.

Further, taxation generates incentives to avoid it, including by refusing to engage in highly taxed activities, and people alter their behavior in response to a new variable introduced into their environment: the often uniquely different taxes on various things.

Different goods of different quantity and quality end up being produced in comparison with a free economy; they are produced by different people and are sold to different people.

Finally, taxes come with deadweight losses. It's not simply that the state benefits, while the people lose from transfer payments; there are gains from trade that are entirely unrealized.

Second, spending the money is how the government does the most damage. If it simply took the taxed cash and burned it on the White House lawn or zeroed out the Treasury's bank account, then the money supply would shrink and prices would diminish along with the wages. The situation would not be as as clean as with the demon, because again, people's well-being would change relatively. But it would contain the damage.

Instead, the government, by spending the money, bids goods away from private shoppers and takes them away for its own use.

Further, production itself is steered to satisfying the government not private consumers. President Dwight D. Eisenhower put it this way:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement.

We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. ... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Eisenhower talked the talk even if he did not walk the walk.

Trading Off Pleasures

One person's goods of nature can be traded for another person's goods of nature, either by the person himself or by God.

Similarly with goods of grace and goods of glory: perhaps God's providence admits such trade-offs.

But we can't cross the boundaries: not even the least good of grace can be legitimately sacrificed for the sake of even a great good of nature, etc.

Christians Should Not Be Idiots

It is not an ethos of Christianity to render aid to those who are merely pretending to be helpless victims -- who have of late proliferated in fantastic numbers -- in order deviously to take advantage of the Christian's compassion for their own selfish ends.

Separate and Distinct

A and B are separate, if they are different quantitatively, i.e., if there are 2 of them. They are not identical.

A and B are distinct, if they are different qualitatively, i.e., if some of their properties differ. They are discernible.

I Don’t Like Indiscernibility of Identicals

This supposedly "uncontroversial" principle is false. First, however, here's why it is not false.

"Morning Star" refers to the same thing as "Evening Star," i.e., the planet Venus. Therefore, according to the principle, every proposition involving MS must have the same truth value as the exact same proposition with MS substituted with ES.

However, consider the proposition

(i) "'MS' means Venus-seen-in-the-morning."

It's true. Substituting "ES" for "MS," however, renders it false. So, the principle applies to all propositions where the two identical things are used and not mentioned. "Morning Star" is merely mentioned in (i). (i) is about the term not the thing.

Now consider the example in Wikipedia:

1. Clark Kent is Superman's secret identity; that is, they're the same person (identical), but people don't know this fact.
2. Lois Lane thinks that Clark Kent cannot fly.
3. Lois Lane thinks that Superman can fly.
4. Therefore Superman has a property that Clark Kent does not have, namely that Lois Lane thinks that he can fly.
5. Therefore, Superman is not identical to Clark Kent.

(2) can be rewritten as "Lois Lane thinks the proposition 'Clark Kent cannot fly' is true." It should be obvious that by asserting (2) we do not say anything about a man, but only about a proposition. We learn nothing about the man, whether Clark Kent or Superman, by reading this statement; we rather learn something only about the proposition "Clark Kent cannot fly," namely, that is it being held by Lois Lane. And who cares about that? This is a more general case of mentioning a term rather than using it.

Nor is the issue necessarily intentional properties. It may be that "Morning Star" has a property of being considered beautiful by Smith that "Evening Star" lacks. Now let "Smith thinks the MS is beautiful in the morning" be true. Then "Smith thinks the ES is beautiful in the morning" is also true. Then the MS and ES are still indiscernible.

These are not the ways to refute the indiscernibility of identicals. But another way is available.

While "MS" and "ES" refer to the same thing, they mean different things: "MS" means "Venus-when-seen-in-the morning"; "ES," "Venus-when-seen-in-the evening." (These definitions happen to be correct in ordinary language.) Identity of reference does not entail indiscernibility in meaning. Given these meanings, we no longer need Smith at all. E.g.,

(ii) "MS is higher above the ground than ES"

may be true, and even if actually false, is only contingently so; whereas "Venus is higher above the ground than Venus" is necessarily false. This works even if MS and ES are taken de re.

Proposition (ii) is, of course, garbage as expressed; e.g., it can be rewritten much more helpfully as "Venus appears higher from the ground in the morning than in the evening." But indiscernibility of identicals is a philosophical principle that ought to be true on its own terms.

Again, consider a dialog like:

A: "I saw the Morning Star today."
B: "Oh, so you saw Venus in the morning."

"MS" can convey more information than "Venus":

A: "Exactly!"

or less:

A: "I didn't realize it was Venus. Now I'll go to Wikipedia and read all about it!"

We can have identity in reference or indiscernibility in meaning, but those are separate things.

Arguing for God

The task when proving God's existence is always to uncover some attribute of God in which God is different from creatures.

For example, one argument can start by noticing that the world is very lawlike. There is order in it and not a whole lot of chaos.

Suppose we then suggest: This sort of determination, perhaps as instructions located deep in the essences of all things, must've been infused into those things by an intelligence. Law, we argue, implies a lawgiver.

This is extremely inadequate. First, a chaotic universe is not even conceivable or imaginable to human beings. This is especially so if causality is somehow an a priori part of the structure of our minds. The human mind expects to find order in the world, much more even than the brain "expects" to find functioning arms and legs in the body. An orderly and comprehensible universe which human beings can to some extent master and control is an ultimate given. It need not at first glance point to anything beyond.

Second, even if we surmount this problem, all we know at this point is that the lawgiver is intelligent. But so are human beings. How is God any different from man? Could God happen to be just a somewhat smarter human? Maybe the true God is Hephaestus or Zeus.

The correct way to utilize the fact of natural law is the way I do it in my book:

I first establish by a different yet also rigorous argument that the universe had to be created from nothing. I deduce that its Creator is "goodness" that is beyond being and suggest that its mode of causation is neither physical nor teleological nor Aristotelian. Instead, it is an eternal grounding cause that consists in "self-diffusion" of goodness. Notice how God is shown to be something sui generis: different yet not intractable.

So, the world's existence and order are not just some brute facts. There is a lawgiver. Then I ask:

What informed the universe with laws? If object A gave the law to matter, then if A itself is law-bound, then the problem remains. "What ordered A?" we are liable to ask. We cannot go to infinity; hence, the ultimate first cause of the order of the universe itself obeys no laws at all. But there are only two sorts of things that obey no laws at all: one is pure chaos, and the other is absolutely simple; pure potency and pure act. But the chaos of the former does not generate order. We must acknowledge this simple thing that is free to such a perfect degree to be the cause of order of the universe and to be God.

The conclusion -- now exceedingly interesting and useful -- is not that God is intelligent (he may well be, but we need other arguments to give us a better idea of just how intelligent he is), but that he, unlike creatures, is materially simple and efficiently free.

Re: Whether God Is Contained in a Genus?

St. Thomas argues, among other things, that God is not in the genus "being." (ST, I, 3, 5) This is because it is part of the meaning of the term "genus" that it is united with differences, producing species. But being has no subspecies, "for non-being cannot be a difference."

Nor is God in the genus "substance," possibly because for no substance we are familiar with, does its existence equal to its essence.

Any genus is a universal that describes certain features common to many things. Some of these things exist; others do not or can corrupt or don't have to exist. Existence then is an accident that is attached to some members of a genus and is denied to others. But God's existence is essential to Him which is again contrary to the definition of the term "genus."

God then is sui generis and at the most is in the genus "divinity." Even in that case, the abstract genus is simply identical to the concrete God, giving us no new information.

Imitatio Dei

If in life you imitate no one, then you'll end up uniquely ugly; your soul, a disgusting misshapen freak.

But if you imitate God, then you will end up uniquely beautiful, "made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions." (C.S. Lewis)

“Soul” and “Body”

How incoherent. Body is complemented not with soul but with will and intellect.

Soul, on the contrary, means "humanity" as the nature or essence of men and is complemented not with body but with spirit which is personality (character + self) and acts which are pursuit and enjoyment of happiness.

Trump and Foreign Policy Snares

There are two ways for a country to end up belligerent and foment war: by (1) political internationalism or (2) economic nationalism.

To his credit, Trump seems to eschew (1) and to have little interest in maintaining an empire via nation building destroying, spreading "democracy," antagonizing Russia, and so on. Unfortunately, he embraces (2) which is also a source of numerous causes of war: "If men and commodities are prevented from crossing the borderlines, why should not the armies try to pave the way for them?" (HA, 832)

Thus, (2) gives a powerful nation an incentive to conquer its neighbors in order to force open new markets. The result is... still an empire with free trade within its newly enlarged territory! "The philosophy of protectionism is a philosophy of war," concludes Mises (687). So, Trump's political sense may be in vain unless he grasps his economics, as well.

The proper position to adopt is political nationalism / isolationism coupled with economic internationalism, which was Ron Paul's platform which would reliably foster peace of earth.