The share price of liberal freedom is frankly falling. If it falls any further, we will all be flat on our faces. I think we all know by now that the problem is capitalism as we by now know it all. It is stumbling ahead, winning victory over victory mostly without putting up a hard fight. This is one of the harsh qualities it has acquired over a long time by taking the moral high ground of liberal freedom and human rights. I will not be far off the mark when I say most people have grown used to holding liberal freedom and capitalism as synonymous.
This pamphlet tries to do two things. It separates freedom and capitalism by exposing the collapse of humanity in the heartland of the free world. Evidence for this collapse is the unhappiness of free people as expressed in them voting for tyrannical cultural pessimism. People unhinged by the insecurity that is essential to capitalism are always too easily exploited by nut cases of various brands, specifically those graduating from the Harvard of sociopathy. The pamphlet further proposes three measures for a capitalist society to move on. I say move on because moving back is not only not an option, it is simply backward. As a cultural optimist I am convinced we can only move on by building on what makes us strong, not by reversing history toward a time of melancholy that never was.
The cul-de-sac of blind capitalism
Liberals promoting capitalism don’t promote freedom. The reason is simple: their view of mankind is that it needs more and more money. On this view progress is a necessary by-product of society accumulating capital in a market that, itself, is free. This is defended religiously. It’s a religious point after all. Its central tenet is that man’s original sin is laziness. In the capitalist case we can only “work it off”. If we work hard enough it will redeem generations to come. Every American Dream is just a story of redemption where an individual shows us how to atone for the evil void inside all of us. Continue reading
“We have found, indeed, that although we had contemplated building a tower which should reach to the heavens, the supply of materials suffices only for a dwelling-house, just sufficiently commodious for our business on the level of experience, and just sufficiently high to allow our overlooking it. The bold undertaking that we had designed is thus bound to fail through lack of material – not to mention the babel of tongues, which inevitably gives rise to disputes among the workers in regard to the plan to be followed, and which must end by scattering them all over the world, leaving each to erect a separate building for himself, according to his own design. At present, however, we are concerned not so much with the materials as with the plan; and inasmuch as we have been warned not to venture at random upon a blind project which may alltogether beyond our capacities, and yet cannot well abstain from building a secure home for ourselves, we must plan our building in conformity with the material which is given to us, and which is also at the same time appropriate to our needs.”, Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, Reclam, 1966, p. 726 – this is the semi-official English internet translation of the original passage.
[I am re-posting this from another blog of mine out of nostalgia. This is a favorite quote of mine and my quought of 2008 actually is, in an endearing kind of way, something that has stayed constant in my head over the past 30 odd years.]
I know: a poet he was not. Nevertheless, this is a sublime poetic truth. It is much like my history teacher (the forever unknown Jef Arras) told me twenty years before I mustered the courage to read, happily unguided as ever, this rather annoying but great book: there was philosophy before and after Kant, and only the latter is of real significance. Continue reading
“The best the logician can do is to recommend gathering more data.”
Henry E. Kyburg Jr. & Choh Man Teng, p. 200, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
A small piece on a forgotten (or, let’s be optimistic: not yet discovered) pearl of this human endeavor called ‘thinking’. I learned Mr. Kyburg died a couple of years ago. Given that is a fact, one can only hope that he turns out to be an instance of the reference class of great thinkers that have ideas requiring the environment of thought of a generation coming well after their own generation. Kyburg is one of three B-list philosophers on which I based my Cognitive Science dissertation: “Do Humans Think?’.
But let’s cut to the chase: Continue reading
“(..) insight can come from outside the mind.”
G. Gigerenzer, Adaptive Thinking, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. vii (a.o.).
There’s something deeply unnerving about scientists, especially neuroscientists: it is the idea that whatever there is can be located somewhere. Localized so as to make it a candidate for treatment of some sort. In this sense, neuroscience took over the world because the world is filled with people who believe things can be pinpointed and then addressed. Forget about the butterfly effect, the butterfly is in our current world view pinned down where it can be examined.
Nothing can be farther removed from the ecological point of view (this includes most people who see themselves as the ‘advocates of ecological preservation’). It may well be that this world view of pinning down, setting apart and solving is the root cause of us not applying evident solutions to the issues we have, in a broad sense, with our environment. Continue reading
“7. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (p. 89), Routledge Classics, 1961.
Allow me to have some innocent fun by messing up a popular quote. I attended a three-hour lecture on ‘Satz 7’ a week or so ago. The only thing I could keep on thinking was why not the other way around? – it is highly probable, by the way, that this is the side effect of an overdose of Musil ‘look for the opposite’-irony. It’s also of some value to add here that it is difficult to keep focused on what basically is just one sentence – no matter how valiant the effort is on the part of the lecturer to uncover layers and layers of deeper meaning in it.
Anyway, somewhere halfway the above ‘Satz 0’ (please try to pronounce in German) had lodged itself in my brain. It has been there ever since. I tried to Google it to find one million people who came to the same sentence and found none. So I couldn’t remove ‘Satz 0’ because of lack of originality (you might argue that not every sentence once thought is on the internet but you really shouldn’t think so blasphemous a thought).
I struggled a couple of days more. I wanted to believe that ‘Satz 0’ was at least trivial, if not just obviously grammatically incorrect. I did not succeed in convincing me of either. ‘Satz 0’ was so damned sticky that I even numbered it and slowly realized it was absolutely cool to imagine it pronounced in German.
So what is the matter with ‘Satz 0’? Let me tell ya, below the fold. Continue reading