Thinking Like a State

What solved the problem in yesterday’s terror attack? A passenger getting out of his seat to tackle the terrorist.

So what’s the government’s plan for handling such problems in the future? Putting more restrictions on passengers’ freedom to get out of their seats.


77 Responses to Thinking Like a State

  1. Dr. Q December 26, 2009 at 10:03 pm #

    The TSA practically puts people through full-body cavity searches before they’re allowed to board planes, yet they’re apparently less effective at stopping terror attacks than some random person who happened to be around at the time. I don’t know what we’d do without Uncle Sam protecting us.

  2. Anon73 December 26, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    Has anybody figured out why they didn’t just lock the cabin door on the 9/11 flights?

    • Black Bloke December 27, 2009 at 1:14 am #

      They were locked. The 4 principle hijackers brought in ~4 guys each as muscle to help them take down the doors and subdue defenses.

      Also I think there were situations of stolen keys (from corpses) and hostage taking that gave access to the doors.

  3. lukas December 27, 2009 at 6:45 am #

    What solved the problem in yesterday’s terror attack? A passenger getting out of his seat to tackle the terrorist.

    Well, that only happened after the bomb had failed to go off. What solved the problem was the wannabe terrorist’s ineptitude.

  4. Michael Wiebe December 27, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    So the government fails to prevent a terrorist from bringing a bomb onto a plane. The immediate and automatic response is to give the government more power and resources. Now, the fact that people see this as the only reasonable response (“You would propose reducing airport security?!”) shows just how much monopoly government perverts critical thinking.

    In a competitive industry no one would ever think this way. If you pay someone to deliver a letter and they fail to do it, you would never respond by giving them more money. The whole point of the profit and loss system is to reward success and punish failure.

    But the very nature of government forces it to operate on the opposite principle: punish success, reward failure. Barring competition in airline security, the government has no choice but to reward a failing agency if it wants to increase security. Whereas under free competition, firms that provide security earn profits, and firms that don’t incur losses.

    What we need isn’t more stringent security restrictions, but the option to fire the TSA.

    • Anon73 December 27, 2009 at 6:18 pm #

      Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, what if the government just fired the leadership of the TSA? So that way there would at least be some incentive for the agency to do a better job.

  5. MBH December 27, 2009 at 3:03 pm #

    An open question to all “organic” individualists: how does methodological subjectivism explain motivation when the perspective of ‘I’ is embedded in a culture?

    Is not reflection necessary? And is reflection not a disconnection from the organic interaction which roots the sort of individualism you claim?

    Please give me a story as to how methodological subjectivism can be organic and yet not collectivist?

    • Neil December 27, 2009 at 5:11 pm #


      • MBH December 27, 2009 at 7:20 pm #

        If your beliefs, desires, and preferences are — at first — shaped by the many people around you, how do you describe your motivation in terms of your own beliefs, desires, and preferences?

        • smally December 28, 2009 at 12:19 am #

          What’s the problem supposed to be here? That to the extent that they are shaped by others we cannot count as owning our beliefs, desires, and preferences?

          That makes no more sense to me than saying that I don’t own the sandwich I just made because my brother provided the chutney.

        • MBH December 28, 2009 at 12:51 am #

          I’ll grant that you own them. That’s not the problem. The problem is that — structurally — acting on your own desire for X is nearly identical to acting on John Doe’s desire for X insofar as he underwent a similar enculturation process. The desire for X may belong to you, but the same desire for X belongs to John Doe and countless other individuals enculturated similarly. It begins to look like the individual agent making the selection to acquire X is not you, or John Doe, or any of the others. It looks like the information within the enculturation process determines the desires and so the “choices” which will follow from them. Now it doesn’t look like individualism applies to anything — motivation wise — other than the architecture of the enculturation process (which is more like psychological fascism than individualism) and the limited instances in which members psychologically reject the cultural norms.

          The vast majority of desiring X is a collective process which occurs in individual agents. Methodological subjectivism is totally blind to this broader process.

        • Aster December 28, 2009 at 4:50 am #


          I think these are absolutely crucial issues. May I ask where you are normatively going with this?

        • MBH December 28, 2009 at 10:41 am #


          I think these are absolutely crucial issues.

          I’m glad you recognize that. I think too little is said in this area.

          May I ask where you are normatively going with this?

          I think I’m on two tracks: (One) is to see if methodological subjectivism is coherent when taking into account this broad range of determining factors. I suspect either that it isn’t or that it will need a tune-up which may leave it entirely different. (Two) Is just to describe this subtle part between enculturation and the aquisition of beliefs, desires, preferences. A lot is going on here, and I don’t know that many theories take into account this shift from public to private. And I also want to know, in what sense ‘private’ is still meaningful when the beliefs, desires, and preferences are rooted in public transference.

          I’d love to know what you’re thinking about this. I hope this can be an interactive process!

        • Neil December 28, 2009 at 11:35 am #

          They may be shaped by those around you and by yourself. After all you are processing the information. The beliefs of other may also be your beliefs. I believe that he sky is blue as I’m sure you do.

          I have no desire whatsoever to know anything about the Jonas Brothers and their work. You may believe that they are the greatest band on earth and convince me of the notion. Assuming this is the case, I’m convinced by you and we now share this belief which otherwise would not be the case without your influence. In a sense you shaped it first.

          On the other hand, I have to perform the act of being convinced, so without my engagement in the matter – in the first place – your argument may fall on deaf ears.

        • MBH December 28, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

          Your instance is more superficial than I imagine. What do you say about hundreds of children brought up with the belief that music is immoral. They all act on that belief too. Obviously, given what we know of music, they hold a latent desire for M even though their experience of their desires show –M. So which is their desire M or –M? If it’s really M, then how do you say that if they fight against M. If –M, then how do you say that if the desire is entirely conditioned and cut-off from an organic experience of reality.

        • MBH December 28, 2009 at 5:56 pm #

          Aster, to answer a part of your question that I missed: where am I going normatively with this? Nowhere. I certainly don’t want any value judgments to enter the picture. I just want to describe whether or not methodological subjectivism is coherent, consistent, and/or holds explanatory power that is accurate.

        • Neil December 28, 2009 at 6:30 pm #

          People can act on desires that they don’t have. For example, I may not want to offend you by pointing out that the Jonas Brothers suck (assuming that they do, of course). Here your desire to consume the work of the Jonas Brothers is not shared by me, yet I act on that desire anyway.

          When it comes to your children, they are indoctrinated with the notion that all music is immoral and they act on the belief. Assuming that they only act in a fashion that seems to be in accord with believing that they think all music is immoral, you also make a point that may overturn this prima facie evidence, namely given that what you know of music, they hold a latent desire for belief in moral music although the experience of their desires shows the belief that all music is immoral (assuming that is what you mean by M and -M).

          Yet people can have conflicting desires. They can desire M. They can desire -M. They can even act on these conflicting desires. If a scalper likes the band he is selling tickets for and holds conflicting desires about whether he wants to see the show or sell the tickets, he may drive to the concert anyway. Then he may perhaps walk along the line and exclaim that he is selling tickets as he moves to the end to get in line to watch the show. If faced with a potential buyer he may like the band so much that the asks for a price that is too high for those standing in line looking for tickets. Yet its obvious that he can’t see the show and sell the tickets.

          So I can say that its really M even if they fight against M. The inverse is also true. Yet an entirely conditioned desire is an organic experience of reality. Yet I’m not quite sure what you mean, since no-one can have an experience that isn’t one of reality.

          I’m still a bit unsure of what you’re talking about as you seem to be (at times) conflating desire with belief.

        • MBH December 29, 2009 at 2:45 am #

          I understand that people can act on desires they don’t have. I understand that people can have conflicting desires. My question is how A decides to act on X. Certainly, A, B, and C, don’t usually find aesthetic value in X yet they all choose X. Maybe it’s so that they can go together to see the Jonas Brothers and have a big time. But then it looks like Y (getting together in a social musical environment) is the real end and X is just a means. So it starts to look like a lot of our preferences are the way they are in order to further a kind of artificial social cohesion. It looks like a main desire is cohesion, but we’re enculterated into a world that finds it more profitable to use cohesion-as-the-finishing-line rather than cohesion-as-the-starting-line.

          It’s my guess that this framework would explain 99% of the products and services in our markets.

          Cohesion-as-the-finishing-line is perfect for methodological subjectivism since it takes our separation as a metaphysical fact. Of course, we’re not metaphysically separate, but much more money can be made in a market structure which assumes that we are.

        • Neil December 29, 2009 at 3:48 pm #

          I just think that there is many more than just one answer to your question. How they decide can be based on all sorts of variables that we just don’t have the time to cover here. They may want to experience the social environment. Then again they may just love the Jonas Brothers. Perhaps they want to just go there and heckle them and the fans instead.

          I must warn against the temptation to engage in pathological science.

          Don’t get me wrong, I sympathize with the notion of aiming at cohesion-as-the-starting-line. It just seems like you tread close to affirming the consequent, as people may engage in certain behaviors that correlate with what you’re attempting to convince people of.

          Yet many of the people you want to reach won’t even make it to the race. They’re usually too busy in auto-fellating their egos while they shatter the knee caps of potential teammates they find threatening.

          Let me put it another way: I never realized just how much of a douchebag I am until I discovered who my political allies are. I won’t even make it to the race until I fix this problem. I’m am working on it, though. Unfortunately time preferences of the other problem children are too high. They get off on the glory of “pwning” internet arguments. If you want cohesion as a means to (let’s say) success, then its going to take much more than complaining on a website about it.

          Help the proles get a college education. The good folks here are seasoned philosophers of the armchair and professional varieties. They ought to be able to present information in a fashion that will allow the proles to consume the info, take the tests and get along in life. You must have some notes lying around somewhere. You’re not the only one that may find them helpful. Let philosophy, libertarianism, and austrian economics go for a while. Trust me, the good folks have that covered. Think precalculus, finance, american history, you know, general studies courses for a simple run-of-the-mill bachelor’s.

          Instead of trying to be a hero, one would actually become a hero if she truly accomplished this. Testing out of each subject at at around $100 a pop plus a couple of grand in graduation fees is a hell of a lot easier than playing the college name game and would fast forward many who are currently stuck in the shiz. Trust me, they would be far more appreciative and willing to provide that cohesion-as-the-starting-line that you’re looking for than what you will accomplish wasting your breath on educated folk who know better and prima donnas that pretend like they do.

        • MBH December 29, 2009 at 5:41 pm #

          All I want is to show that methodological subectivism is incoherent. If that argument was already “out there” — being handled by the professional philosophers — then I’d let it go. But I care about the truth and I don’t see this fight anywhere. Do you? Point me towards it. I’ll go away if you can direct me towards professional battles over the foundation of methodological subjectivism…

        • Neil December 29, 2009 at 11:08 pm #

          Oh well. It is likely somewhat incoherent under the right circumstances, yet I don’t believe that it is as incoherent as you would like to believe. Do I know where the pros are arguing about this? No. I haven’t focused enough on the matter to discover this information.

          You may dismiss my points too quickly. If that is all you care about, well, ok. If your argument is as sound as you think it is then it ought to meet the empirical standards that count as evidence for your case. I just figure you may kill two birds with one stone using my suggested technique.

          So yeah, have fun with your axe-grinding.

        • MBH December 30, 2009 at 8:00 am #

          I think that a good deal of philosophy and economics can be upgraded by a recognition that methodological subjectivism is itself pathological science when it comes to the motivational realm.

          As to your suggested technique: I’ll have a run-of-the-mill bachelors in management in March. I’m doing this on the side of school and a 40 hour work week — I practice bankruptcy law. It’s hard to stay engaged intellectually when all I have left is Biology 101, Health 101, and Math 101.

          I don’t know why my activity here comes across as axe-grinding. Roderick knows more about methodological subjectivism than anyone in America probably. So I’m honored when he provides feedback. If this is axe-grinding, then I don’t know what the hell’s going on.

        • Roderick December 31, 2009 at 5:33 pm #

          I guess my take on MBH’s worry is more or less what I say here.

        • MBH January 1, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

          Cool. But how does he mean “contractual” in referencing non-hierarchical relationships?

        • Aster January 2, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

          Please forgive me for not replying to you earlier. I’ve meant to write for some time.

          I look at the issues surrounding methodological subjectivism as a matter of whether minds can meaningfully have authenticity, which I think is ultimately a matter of whether our minds can know. The mainstream of Western philosophy since Fichte or so has taken it as proven that our stories are irrevocably coloured by nature and convention. Rand and some other Aristotelians have by contrast brushed aside the issues that Kant raised and the impact on the human condition given by life and culture’s contingencies. The tabula rasa view is simply provably not true, and the evidence that who we are is in some sense a matter of who we’ve been is all around us. Conservatives, fascists, and postmodernists appreciate such things to the point of denying and devaluing our capacity for authenticity.

          What I think we should do is recognise all the influences and constructs that shape our worlds as we experience them and take control of the causes, suggesting a transhumanist attitude towards nature, and the replacement of inherited custom by a conscious project granting style to one’s character. I still believe in the possibility of a Prometheanism which tries to correct for and unravel our conditioned existence, or a modernism willing to take on postmodernism in its own lair and trace our way back out of cognitive illusions and linguistic labyrinths. Foucault’s extremely late work around the “care of the self” concept is in some ways close to what I’m thinking of, if I remember it all correctly. Poetry can take over from religion once we become conscious of the narrative air we breathe and learn that we can program our own environments.

          Your possibility of a society which teaches the young to hate music is precisely what I so deeply wish that libertarianism could see- that culture even without statism can be a crushing vice immeasurably limiting our human potential. And it’s anything but a speculative possibility- look not only at Calvin’s Geneva and Puritan America but the Communist world, which banned “decadent” Western music precisely because the regime could not afford to allow anyone to experience joys that were better than anything the Party could offer (the Khmer Rouge, taking this to the logical extreme, executed people for smiling; you were not allowed to live if you showed evidence of being happy). It was not many centuries ago that England, India, and Japan alike all declared entertainers nonpersons who must be kept segregated, even in the grave. Plato censored all music which didn’t glorify the community; Rousseau was trying to shut down theatres in 1758. The terrible thing is that most societies have made people feel senselessly terrible about the things that make life worthwhile, usually because the tribe or the ruler wanted to keep everyone slaving away and kept weak by low expectations. Unhappy societies must shut down recreated realities which represent or present more than ‘crackpot realism’ can dream to provide. Men must be taught to identify with their narrowed horizons and to take pride in their prisons.

          We take for granted and slightly loathe our ability to turn on HBO, throw on some music, or run down to the video store, but there have been very few historical periods where our neighbours would have permitted it to us. The Bible forbade graven images because it feared incitement of the imagination and senses (and the expressive mode of consciousness). About half of America considers Hollywood a pernicious cultural influence. The current mayor of Rome is a fascist elected on a platform of expelling gypsies and reducing the influence of the cinema.

          Our cultural liberty, which is only partially a question of laws, is atypical, tenuous, and fragile. Everyone from Ibsen to Madonna who had the bad manners to demand a more passionate existence than society had taught people was moral was condemned as a public menace, because their existence clashed with the worldview which had been beaten and lied into their audiences since childhood.

          If we are to be individuals we have to take the position of Socrates and van Gogh against their times, which means above all that current preferences should be questioned, and that our models of liberation must look at preference in terms of possible appreciation as well as present appreciation. In much of the world women are given approval to the degree that they submit to others at the cost of a lifelong deferment of happiness. Or independence. Or literacy. I’ve known far too many women who thought that they just ought to live to serve their husbands, and to feel bad about themselves if that wasn’t enough for them. Individualism which wishes to be individualism simply has to be able to address this- especially as nearly all of us are in some aspects of our psychologies similarly needlessly limited and in need of emancipation. I’ve had many Mises Institute types tell me that if women are in these position then essential submission, unrequited work, and infulfilled potential must be womens’ revealed preference. Just like a slave’s hopeless slouch and abandoned mind are obvious evidence of his servile nature, and the fundamentalist’s discomfort with pleasure, passion, reason, creativity, individuality, or reality are just the way he is. That which is worthwhile has to be more than what we currently feel is worthwhile.

          I don’t think I’d say that methodological subjectivism, is entirely incoherent myself. The reason that libertarians adopted it was largely because they were fighting socialists and historicists who routinely treated desires and opinions as epiphenomenon of class or other group membership. “I believe X”. “X is just a petty bourgeois idea”. Any idea can be dismissed and silenced by this process, as it’s an insulated theory that can keep spinning forever. In this context, emphasis on the fact that value, worth, interest, desire, or attention is an attribute of an individual agent was quite healthy, and the point that even the most corrupted dictator and exploited slave still possesses the possibility of valuing in a way irreducible to social circumstances was also healthy. But unfortunately an idea which was meant to liberate from a theory which confined us within our time and condition has in its turn been used to hide our freedom from us.

          That’s all. Please forgive my verbosity and digressions, but it is to have a genuine conservation about the philophical essentials beneath libertarianism’s misfortunes and controversies.


          P.S. Thank you, Roderick, for posting the link to your commentary on Foucault. I’ve never had a pleasant introduction to analytic philosophy, and was having a complete mind block in analytic “desire for X” instrumental mode.

        • MBH January 2, 2010 at 7:44 pm #


          No worries. I’m grateful for the lengthy and — as always — substantive response. Where to start:

          [M]ethodological subjectivism is[n’t] entirely incoherent…

          I could agree that insofar as it smuggles into awareness all the historical, cultural, and linguistic influences on consciousness, then it would be coherent. But bringing all those influences to the table is the real work. Finding authenticity after that isn’t so difficult. I mean, insofar as methodological subjectivism is the process by which we individuate ourselves, all the heavy lifting was already done by the artifact-gathering-process-which-tells-us-our-context-and-text. Methodological subjectivism is to score-keeping as objectivism is to playing-the-game.

          Though I do hear your call to retain the means by which we individuate — otherwise we’re lost.

        • Aster January 3, 2010 at 3:25 am #

          Bill Hicks is kewl. My favourite stand-up comedian is Margaret Cho” (warning: may offend boring people).

        • MBH January 3, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

          Bill: “When did thinking not become entertaining? I honestly believe that we’re all the same. And I think, to go ‘well, I’ll give ’em what they want’ is very condescending. And I don’t try to condescend to people. And that’s why I treat ’em like my friends. I guess that’s a shocking way to behave in this world.”

          Margaret: “And I went through this whole thing: Am I gay? Am I straight? And I realized: I’m just slutty. Where’s my parade?”


        • Aster January 3, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

          My favourite Cho-ism:

          “I urge you all today, especially during these times of chaos and war, to love each other without restraint. Unless you are into leather. And then, by all means, lease use restraints.”

          Back on methodological subjectivism:

          1) May I ask precisely what you mean by “cohesion as the starting line” vs. “cohesion as the finishing line”.

          2) Are you familiar with Chris Sciabarra’s work? His project of a dialectical libertarianism transcending the traditional atomistic limitations of liberal politics has an immense amount ic common with your critique here of methodological subjectivism, both in form and purpose.

        • MBH January 4, 2010 at 3:36 am #

          (1) Cohesion-as-the-starting-line is my way of saying thinking-objectively. But I don’t mean it like Rand meant it. I think the word “objective” signifies something much more radical. Elsewhere, I’ve said it like this:

          [The] neurological process is a polycentric occurrence. The information is being inputted and outputted literally everywhere. A red ball moves from space A to space B. Whether anyone watches that or not, the information that makes up the red ball at space A is inputted to space B and outputted from space A. No human brain needs to be within a hundred miles. The information is still inputted and still outputted.

          In that sense, space cannot be linear. And all our notions of separation entail linearity. So we have to consider any linguistic mechanisms like ‘I’ and ‘you’ to be constructs. We also have to consider any modes of perception which are supported by — or imply — an ‘I’ or a ‘you’ as constructs. So what I’m suggesting is that the only starting point for consciousness has to be something which doesn’t use either of those constructs.

          So by definition, however that venture begins, it pulls a complete sense of cohesion along with it. David Bohm thinks that dialogue is where you go with it. I think the Internet changes things. He might say today that “threading” on blogs might be even better. But regardless, to start with that mode of perception is necessary. Starting brings it into the phenomenal world and so all acts — from this mode — manifest the end instantaneously.

          (2) I’m not familiar with it. But I will check it out and comment………

        • MBH January 4, 2010 at 5:58 am #

          Um. Wow. So maybe Rand did mean “objective” that way. Sciabarra is fucking awesome. Much to read……………

          Thank you.

        • Aster January 4, 2010 at 9:02 am #

          Thank you. I regretfully think that my views on essential issues may be a starkly mirrored reverse of your own, but I’m still nice to hear anyone show appreciation for Chris Sciabarra.

          That man made it his life’s work to rescue Randian libertarianism from itself, for which he was betrayed and deserted by his closest friends. I’ve never known anyone who so precisely united Rand’s kind of egoistic virtue with such benevolence and compassion. He should have been here for all of these conversations which he more than anyone else started.

          Or maybe not. I’ve been happier to the degree I’ve been able to quiet the element in me that wanted to ‘make a difference’ and focused on more rewarding things. Maybe he just had the experiences that showed him this cool reality before I did. Believing that the psyche works this way makes one’s picture of ‘human nature’ darker, but it works where naivete does not.

          As for Rand, her epistemology was ‘objective’ in the sense that she believed that consciousness implies the existence of a reality prior to conscious. I get the sense that by ‘radical objectivism’ you mean something more Platonic or Augustianian, a belief that consciousness and/or reality points to Reality. Roderick lightly suggests at times that he leans in the same direction. But Rand clearly meant to draw her objectivism right down the secular middle between subjectivism-relativism-nominalism, and the realist view, which she opposed as ‘intrincism’. Her intentions were certainly extremely far away from any kind of intersubjective mysticism, which she would have considered a worst-case synthesis of unspeakably dangerous errors. I personally see her as very close to Sartre’s Transcendence of the Ego, but most Randians (including Rand) loathe Sartre and no one agrees with me. Oh well.

          Personally I don’t precisely agree with Rand’s epistemology, but I approve of her intentions, even if I’m never found a better option to replace her epistemology. Rand wanted to reassert an 18th century optimism in reason. She thought she could prove that philosophy had simply taken a colossal wrong turn since the Copernican Revolution and thereby restore liberal civilisation’s self-confidence. And insofar as philosophy goes I think she was reasonably close to right. The problem I have with her philosophical anthropology is that evolutionary psychology shows us a more disturbing, Hobbesian, reverse-Rousseauan picture of humanity. I can take that material and make it into a Homeric or Nietzschean concept of excellence, but not a Randian view in which reason shows us a perfect harmony of interests. i wish Rand had proved right.

          I don’t find very much in contemporary philosophy inspiring to engage with, to be honest. I’d be grateful to hear of any truly original or inspiring thinkers in the last quarter century or so. ‘High culture’ feels like such a desert today; I suspect that a great deal of ‘popular culture’ produced today will outlast most of what’s considered worthy to teach in a university.

        • Roderick January 4, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

          I’d be grateful to hear of any truly original or inspiring thinkers in the last quarter century or so

          The two that come first to mind for me are John McDowell (Mind and World) and Michael Thompson (Life and Action).

        • MBH January 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

          “I’[ve] never found a better option to replace her epistemology.”

          I’ve found one way through Roderick and John McDowell. Roderick shows (in different words) that for Rand, knowledge depends on–what Wilfrid Sellars’ would call–answer-ability to the tribunal of experience.

          Any epistemology set up with this standard will fall into some extreme kind of skepticism. The trick is to show that knowledge is intertwined with experience — no tribunal necessary. The way I think of it is like I was saying earlier: if everything is information, then ‘the table is next to chairs’ requires no justification other than that the information which makes up the table is situated next to the information which makes up the chair.

          I like to put it all in terms of information. As I read (or misread) McDowell, he thinks of it as things within the space of reasons. That’s misleading, I think. It’s hard — if not impossible — to imagine what stuff looks like in the space of reasons. But if you think of it simply as information, it makes more sense. The word ‘information’ implies a space of reasons.

          I know that your problem with that is Quality. If all is information then underneath it all there’s just noise. But that doesn’t mean that certain orderings of information aren’t beautiful and even sublime — no matter what’s underneath.

        • Aster January 5, 2010 at 9:26 pm #


          I hope you’ll forgive this digression into meta-conversation, but we seem to come from wildly different philosophical and experiential backgrounds, and I think this discussion might prove more productive if some background necessities were first dealt with. I’ll try to be as terse as I can manage, but there is much I feel a need to explain.

          i. I think I’ll go read Roderick’s book. If there are any excerpts or essays which deal with the same subject matter online I’d be very grateful if my host could point me to them.

          ii. My background many moons ago was in Randian and existential philosophy. Since then I’ve tended to read within the culture of wherever I happened to be at the time, which has been interesting, but it’s never taken be back to immediately contemporary philosophy- probably because most academics’ lives too closely resemble those of their Medieval forebears. Because of this, I probably need more background and definition than your average graduate student. Also, like Rand, I’m in the odd position of supporting instrumentalist virtues but myself preferring a more expressive or literary frame of mind, so please understand if I tend to tend to approach things from strange angles. I can recognise that you’re talking about absolutely crucial things here, but I personally have found Wittgenstein and much Anglo-American philosophy impenetrable, and will have to translate before I can intelligently respond.

          iii. I think I should warn you beforehand that I suspect that my way of thinking and being is in many respects at the polar extreme of what you believe in- in consequences but also in ontological essentials. If you seek by this conversation to convince me to abandon my commitments then I must sadly suggest, with no offence intended, that this won’t be a very rewarding use of your time. Once more, what you are saying here interests me greatly, and I appreciate being pulled to address essential issues that I’m currently struggling with. But in fair disclosure you ought to be aware that the likely outcome will be to refine and clarify my views more sharply in opposition to what I sense may be your own ideals, and that I will put these views into practice in the world as effectively as my mind and fortune can manage.

          Which leads me to my own personal trajectory:

          iv. I was greatly touched at one point by the works of Leo Strauss (even if I obviously don’t share his politics). Strauss placed great emphasis on his view that philosophy requires going out in the world to see if one’s understanding of reality and the human condition is in fact true. I’ve always agreed with this, not because I think one should live ‘idealistically’ instead of ‘practially, but because to me the statement that one believes in something is the same thing a saying that this is how one finds it most valuable to act. Of course one should live one’s conviction entirely if one is free to; one’s convictions are simply one’s best understanding of what is worth living, and to fail to examine one’s life if to stupidly forego any agency in improving it.

          Five years ago (about the same time I became active online), my beliefs were primarily about what I saw a a natural synthesis between Randianism and an optimistic feminist humanist psychology such as that advocated by Alice Miller and Riane Eisler, and practiced by large numbers of social anarchists and other ‘alernative scene’ bohemian types. I was also a neo-Pagan during this period, and accepted a liberal universalist theology. Some of my speculations involving the relation between matter and consciousness, or between consciousness and consciousness and consciousness and the Divine, were at least vaguely similar to what I think you’ve been presenting. In my self-selected social circle in San Francisco, this worldview seemed affirmed by daily experience, I (still) think partially because elements of it were right. I also admit that during that time I had some unspeakably amazing personal experiences that at the time I connected with trying to live out a neo-Pagan spirituality.

          Since that time, however, my worldview have radically shifted. This started with a personal experience which I don’t wish to relate here which led to an interest in evolutionary psychology, the implications of which have simply staggered me, and which eventually rendered my spiritually unbelievable. Desmond Morris’ The Naked Ape was the first book I ever read which made me think that ignorance could be more happy than knowledge. In itself, the shift to Paganism back to atheism did little; my basic ethics or way of life haven’t changed, and the greater clarity and grounding have improved my life.

          The trouble is that the view of human nature I came out of it has been quite unpleasant, and has essentially convinced me that while happiness is till essentially Promethean and Nietzschean, it is alsoinescapably inimical to sustainable organic social life. As I’m absolutely certain that the latter- nature andd natural human culture- makes me miserable (and usually wants to kill me). I’ve essentially come to the conclusion that my brightest happiness lies in living Randian egoistic individualism at the highest level of stress that I can possibly manage- if you will, maxing out my spiritual credit card. The problem is at the same time I do the math looking at the world and see that a worldview which deeply shares essential features which everything which defines me is, speaking without alarm or exaggeration, destroying the world, most obviously ecologically. I cannot emphasise enough the shock of stepping outside of the American bubble of environmental silence and being slapped in the face by the grim reality of modernity’s externalities.

          This certainly is not what I intended when I began this journey. I could mention in fairness that my own life is probably less destructive than the average middle class Western consumer’s (I don’t even own a car, and live simply on my own time simply because I don’t personally care about most of society’s consumptive obsessions, with the notable exception of travel). If I’d the power to change our mad evasion of a global economy without martyrdom I would do so- I voted Green in the last election, and am still more politically active than most of m neighbours. I could also mention that I’m pretty certain that there is no other way I could be happy. But I don’t think any of this is really the point- the problem is that the whole mode of life which sustains, empowers, and animates my life and everything in the world I love seems to be predatory. Worse, a glance at the reality of nature suggests that this problem is inherent not only to humanity but to all life. Schopenhauer’s writing certainly contains all the evidence one might wish on this issue. And I agree with Schopenhauer that the issue is essentially ontological.

          I’ve come, like Nietzsche, to the conclusion that one should affirm life despite its cruelty, and my philosophical experiments in this directions have concluded that, indeed, one can walk through the amoralist door and still feel happy and vital on the far side (Vichy Fournier has inspired me greatly in this). The result is very, very strange- if nothing else, the resulting state of mind I find myself in is utterly fascinating. You would probably call it nihilism, but if so I feel like I must regretfully inform you that nihilism doesn’t seem to hurt very much, and I’m becoming very confident that I can get this spiritual machine to the point of generating a positive feedback loop for as many years as I am likely to find worth living. Everyone told me that if I got to this point I’d feel unspeakable empty horrors, but it’s not true. I feel sorrow, love, and curiosity as strongly as ever, in fact more strongly given that I feel more biologically vital. I apologise, but it seems that human flourishing just isn’t nice. And I’ve studiously nice people, and for the most part they are deeply not flourishing.

          It’s just that I look to the heart of the human condition and see something so noisy, absurd, cynical- and that’s a deep disappointment, as I used to really think that Randian exaltation was consistent with a benevolent harmony. I seriously believed that if you got to the pure essentials of our desire you would find childlike wonder and compassion. And in a sense that’s true- in their purest state of happiness almost everyone really does become wonderful. But it’s all based inextricably on life feeding upon life. I’ve seen the deadened misery of those who try escaping from the system and the genuine happiness of those who accept and affirm it. It distresses me immensely, but the distress can be managed- so every day I read the news with excitement of being able to understand that we’re all bringing the world to an end by a process I’m knowingly part of. Looked at sub specie aeternatis it’s the maddening winds of Pandemonium. Looking through my eyes first person it’s Beethoven’s ninth.

          If you still wish to have this conversation, I’d love to, as you clearly have a sharp mind with an understanding of intellectual problems I also wish to try to comprehend more clearly. You have a grasp on something I want to better understand. But I think you ought to be aware that I would never reference the Trinity or Revelations for any purpose except aesthetic styling plus intellectual subversion. And to finish, I want to again apologise for the length of this personal digression, but the problem with esoteric communication in that it encourages mutual misunderstanding, and I would prefer to be honest as to where I’m coming from. If you’d wish, I’d certainly be curious to hear your own values and commitments, which I appreciate seem unusually examined.

        • MBH January 6, 2010 at 1:24 am #


          If you’d wish, I’d certainly be curious to hear your own values and commitments, which I appreciate seem unusually examined.

          I’ve had instruction from the greatest philosophy department ever: Auburn. During that time I was working one-on-one extensively with an Amherst social scientist. My studies were feeding back and forth. And eventually I tried them through field analysis. A lot worked. A lot didn’t. But I gained a richer understanding of both disciplines and their executions. I value Quality in Pirsig’s sense. Zen, most often works best for me, but I love all religious — except where jihad as-sayf necessitates violence and where Christianity pretends like it’s so super-duper awesome.

          You say, “If you seek by this conversation to convince me to abandon my commitments then I must sadly suggest, with no offence intended, that this won’t be a very rewarding use of your time.

          Trying-to-show-you-something-you-may-change-to is a by-product of defining what the dichotomy actually is or (in Sciabarra’s dailectic sense) a way to show there is no dichotomy.

          I’m yet to see where we have differing epistemic positions.

          …[T]his won’t be a very rewarding use of your time.

          If I was in subjective defense of my position I would agree. But in reality: I’m slutty when it comes to ideas, if I hear a better one, I don’t call the old the one to say “I’m leaving”.

          I understand dialogue as the way by which both people refine their ideas. I heart that. Not-convincing-someone-what-I-think-is-right is not a waste, but a step towards refining how I communicate my position or beginning to let go of what I have to concede. Should it lead to you sharpening your own position, then I’m sure that I will be forced to re-evaluate mine. I look forward to that process.

          Worse, a glance at the reality of nature suggests that this problem is inherent not only to humanity but to all life.

          Sort-of. But Schopenahuer and Niezsche offer a different species of will than their willing (pun intended) to make explicit. For Schopenhauer, art transcends as direct presentation — no re-presenation. For Niezsche, human reabsorption of some kind evolves the will. Note to Aster: that’s not nihilism in book; it’s almost the opposite.

          As long as we distinguish between self and true-self, that issue isn’t there. In fact, and I hope Roderick will upgrade this idea, In Greece, you aren’t in a state of eadaimonia, you have an eudaimon — a spirit with dwells in your presence. The Roman notion of genius was not of a personal property of an individual, but an entity which lives in the walls of an inspired artist.

          So that make account for the lack of flourishing by the advocates of flourishing: the daimon is around then; it is not in them. This misperception would cause all kinds of disappointments.

        • Aster January 6, 2010 at 3:02 am #


          As long as we distinguish between self and true-self, that issue isn’t there. In fact, and I hope Roderick will upgrade this idea, In Greece, you aren’t in a state of eadaimonia, you have an eudaimon — a spirit with dwells in your presence. The Roman notion of genius was not of a personal property of an individual, but an entity which lives in the walls of an inspired artist.

          Aw, damn you to Hell!- a special William Blakeish kind of Hell 😉 -this is almost precisely what I used to believe as a neo-Pagan, albiet with more depth than can be matched by my pretentious rhetoric. No fair hitting Aster’s vulnerable hypocrisies. Bad code. I call right of way.

          OK, I’m an atheist, but I’m not a very good atheist. It’s very fortunate for my mind that my hands are indefinitely tied to reason on this issue, because I might otherwise be in mortal peril of being led into mysticism, or an upside-down patriarchal appropriation of mysticism, or something else which might cause Ayn Rand’s spectre(=) to de-friend me on facebook.

          I also absolutely agree with you and Epicurus about winning and losing arguments. One of my favourite quotes from Nietzsche is “to be a friend you must be capable of being an enemy”.

          This is fun, and thank you for your tolerance. TTYL. But it’s nearly a third past 4:00 here in Wellington, and I have to go cook supper. Blessed be.

          (=) OK, so one of them isn’t dead yet.

        • MBH January 6, 2010 at 3:36 am #

          I’m not a very good atheist.

          Roderick taught me early on that — contrary to popular belief, atheism is a really difficult position to hold. Even if you think that the world’s all binard code, the same combinations of 1,s and 0,s can produce the Midnight Sonata. That process may not be Divine, but sometimes beauty is enough. Especially when you take into consideration — What that Russian fellow taught Rand — “all is immenent in all”.

        • MBH January 6, 2010 at 3:39 am #

          Dammit, and i meant to add this too.

          sleep meds………………i’m out……………….

        • Aster January 6, 2010 at 8:23 pm #


          I’ll have to put this discussion on hold briefly. I’ve a busy week coming, and today is Thursday, which for no interesting reason happens to be Mom Day, so I have to go do some gardening, enjoy the mom’s indescribable cooking, and see if she likes my utterly decadent chocolate and cinnamon cookie cake. It also means that I have to be a neutral good Eurosocialist(=), atho’ nice establishment liberals have the habit of making this selfish Randian capitalist wonder which side of the barricades she’s on. The neo-mom’s a literary Buddhist social worker who cares deeply about all the correct causes, and is capable of infinite for those human imperfections which suggest the influence of the other rand. I will not rest until I’ve succeeded in getting her restate her opinions as to how the developing world might contribute to a sustainable population solution over pavlova. The thing is that I dearly love her, without even mentioning the immense difference that her kindness and belief in my abilities has made for my life. Few things have made me happier than watching the way she tore through the Deutsch novels I found her for Solstice, or how seriously she read them. Not to mention that she has a WAY kewl crimson scooter.

          Your reference to Lossky is eiriely interesting. I’ve coincidentally been listening a great deal of late to a seriously evil national socialist apologist for serfdom who is nevertheless an interesting authority on Slavic history and culture. Sciabarra’s writings have influenced me greatly, but I’d never previously connected my years of neo-Pagan deviation from philosophy with Ayn Rand, the Russian Radical. But looking over Solovyov’s views again the connexion is obvious- as Nikos Kazantzakis put it:

          I asked the almond tree: ‘speak to me of God’, and the almond tree blossomed.

          I could also mention that Rand’s early ideas and life do not gel with the way she presented her trajectory to her mature philosophy. Starting about 2/3 of the way through the Fountainhead she drops anything which culturally links her to elite French-speaking St. Petersburg and reinvents herself as an American bourgeois. Am I the only one who reads screenwriter’s ressentiment into miss Rosenbaum? Rand dissed the 1960s, but what precisely is the difference between the mass bohemia of the American counterculture and 1920s Hollywood? Only girl in the room syndrome much? She named herself after her frackin’ typewriter. (warning: organised Objectivism will lynch you if they hear you breathe three words about this stuff)

          That said, these very pleasant recollections of mysticism remind me of a number of other things, for instance that the nasty political record of Germanic neo-Paganism is matched by the equally nasty political record of Slavic neo-Paganism. This is one reason why I keep my Paganism firmly on a literary level; the most important reason is that while I’ll cheerfully take a moral holiday at the drop of a hairpin, I can only see spiritual suicide in taking a rational holiday, unless one has a very firm tether back to secular rationality. I’m utterly unable to resist any temptation consonant with my mode of life (as my suffering amygdala will tearfully attest), and so I’ve kept temptations to spirituality firmly off my list. I wish to stay on the side of reason and freedom.

          One reason I stepped back from neo-Paganism is that I when I finally saw everything stripped to essentials I saw something beautiful but utterly cruel, as is nature itself. I had to make some decisions. I’m amoral enough to involve myself in cruelty if it is inherent with a kind of life so intense that I could not live with abandoning it, but I can’t worship it, especially when the natural order translated into political terms is a tribal deep conservatism with no use for individualism or Greek rationality. The program to tear down modernity to return to that is called fascism.

          Decent people who are not fascists often underestimate them precisely because they don’t recognise or understand the power of collective myth that fascists draw upon. Fascists are struck blind by love for the superficial beauty of social institutions which confine human souls within frozen intricacies of manner, structure, and custom. Someone who has been taught by pain to lose the capacity for joy- who has never known appreciation for free and breathing humanity- is easily captivated by an iron dream. Fascists are not stupid, and they think that the rest of us are spiritual mediocrities tone deaf to the movements of the human spirit through history’s slaughters of individuals. They simply know of no other way to connect with humanity than to force everyone into the same stagnant song with themselves on stage singing. Liberals too often pay for their humanity by naive ignorance or patronising compartmentalisation of aesthetic responses which they don’t know to handle. It’s largely for this reason that they are terrible at recognising each new guise of totalitarianism until it’s too late, and try to fight it with only money and material armaments. Classical liberals fighting the churches feared ‘enthusiasm’ as such, which could make reason seem intolerably dry and dusty, which was one of the reasons why Enlightenment faltered in the 19th century in the face of Rousseauean, Romantic, and religious revivalism.

          I sadlytend to agree with that unfortunate corallary the Enlightenment approach. Peter Viereck (one of the few conservatives I really like) wrote a book called Metapolitics which argued that the introduction of aesthetics into politics was just as destructive of sanity as the introduction of romanticism into natural science. And this has much to do with libertarianism’s extreme reluctance to deal with messy ‘cultural’ issues- it’s scared to touch or acknowledge a psychic economy which it lacks the conceptual tools to handle and which the better libertarians fear is the domain of the enemy. But in reality there’s no way to liberate people from oppressive social systems without psychologically grappling with their existence. Opening the rationalist door to an expansion of consciousness without opening the door to pure madness is a very dangerous and delicate enterprise. As someone’s whose life depends upon the open society I’m really not sure if it belongs in the vernacular, or should be allowed within any rational individual’s mind.

          TTYL. And solidarity on the scarcity of pain medications. As as it’s Mom day, tonight I share in your suffering. 😉

          (=) please see the international anthem. Also this.

        • Neverfox January 19, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

          I second McDowell and Thompson. Two other names that come to mind for me are John F. Post and Ruth Millikan.

        • Roderick January 19, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

          Coincidentally, I mention Thompson and Millikan in the Cato Unbound piece that’s going up tomorrow.

      • Neil December 30, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

        Good for you! So if you have all of this knowledge and notes lying around, why not put them to good use elsewhere? Besides, you’re not the only one in school with a 40 hour work week.

        Anyway, its obvious that not much is going to quell your acts of conviction. I’m not even attempting to defend methodological subjectivism as such. There are plenty of uses that are indeed pathological, yet there are those that are not. You’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

        As for having an axe to grind, ulterior motives need not be malevolent, so relax.

        • MBH December 30, 2009 at 4:54 pm #

          You act as if I was bragging. I was responding to your suggestion that I go get a run-of-the-mill bachelors.

          There are plenty of uses [of methodological subjectivism] that are indeed pathological, yet there are those that are not.

          My claim is precisely that all uses of methodological subjectivism are pathological. It is my belief that this is Wittgenstein’s gift to philosophy — only he never said it that way.

        • MBH December 30, 2009 at 4:57 pm #

          I should say: all except those uses of methodological subjectivism which show that methodological subjectivism is nonsense.

        • Neil December 31, 2009 at 12:05 am #

          I wasn’t suggesting that you get a run-of-the-mill bachelors. I was suggesting that you help others who are down on their luck but willing to do so get theirs as a means to cohesion-as-the-starting-line. I would be willing to put an enormous amount of time and energy into working on such a project, so if you find the idea appealing, please let me know.

          Anyway, -I know what your claim is.-

          Yet I don’t agree. And I haven’t read any Wittgenstein that has given me quite that impression yet.

          To toss out methodological subjectivism wholesale seems to generally toss out with it the possibility of verstehen. I think you have a great point about the lack of metaphysical separation. Yet I doubt that methodological subjectivism actually rest alone upon such a foundation. The beliefs of those in such an absolute metaphysical separation may be cases of fallacious inference. But to treat this as essentially the only foundation, and conclude from this that methodological subjectivism lacks foundation at all may also be a mistake.

        • MBH December 31, 2009 at 9:41 am #

          I would be willing to put an enormous amount of time and energy into working on such a project, so if you find the idea appealing, please let me know.

          Wow. I think that’s a great idea. Especially for folks with substance abuse issues. Philosophy-as-therapy — the way Wittgenstein understood it — could be a great tool. Tell me some more about what you have in mind…

          I haven’t read any Wittgenstein that has given me quite that impression yet.

          Try reading The Tractatus-as-methodological-subjectivism-discarding-itself.

          To toss out methodological subjectivism wholesale seems to generally toss out with it the possibility of verstehen.

          Far from it. To toss it out wholesale is to allow an object to exist.

        • MBH December 31, 2009 at 9:43 am #

          There has to be object to interpret. If there’s just a subject, then there’s nothing to understand.

        • Neil December 31, 2009 at 1:35 pm #

          I doubt all methodological subjectivists are necessarily denying the existence of object to interpret.

          Anyway, I’ll keep your advice in mind when I find the time to read more philosophy. I’m currently somewhat consumed with other subjects.

          As for philosophically-therapeutic-study-for-run-of-the-mill-bachelor’s-degrees-for-cohesion-as-the-starting-line, I would like to get a website off the ground that has a focus on passing standardized tests, namely those that may count for college credit. I’m thinking of something open-ended, with sections that have a focus on test topics and a light seasoning of philosophy mixed in (perhaps in some ‘applied’ form pertaining to the subject at hand) and a separate area where philoso-praxeo-anarcho-topics are a main focus. All the while building bridges to each section, but not in an overbearing, indoctrinating fashion. Hopefully wiki pages, flash-card building, forum posting and study groups will become the norm. I also have pipe dreams, but I’ll refrain from ’embellishing’ my post with them for obvious reasons. I’ve been trying to fashion my own website for this purpose by mostly just playing around with stuff and finding the kinks in software. Its a slow start, but being my own guinea pig is beginning to produce some interesting results.

          If you seriously would like to work on something like this, I’m sure that we can chat more about it elsewhere. This probably isn’t the best place to get into lengthy (that is, even lengthier) discussions about the matter.

        • MBH January 6, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

          i’m afraid that not-being-oberbearing works for me as well as it did for him.

        • Anon73 January 6, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

          I want to know what Roderick thinks about Rand being named after her typewriter, and if so what the implications for Objectivism would be.

        • Brandon January 6, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

          MBH: let me make a friendly suggestion. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to correct fouled-up anchor tags you’ve tried to use to post links. You’ve complained about lack of time. That’s fine. If you don’t have the time to learn and practice proper markup then don’t try. Simply paste the hyperlink and WordPress will link it for you.

          But really, you should learn a bit of basic formatting XHTML so you can sex-up your posts.

        • MBH January 7, 2010 at 3:45 am #

          Brandon I will sex you up.

          Seriously though, that’s for the advice.

        • MBH January 7, 2010 at 3:46 am #

          I will sex you up


        • MBH January 7, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

          Brandon, do you feel sufficiently sexed-up?

        • Brandon January 7, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

          MBH: I’ll have you assimilated by the Borg.

        • Aster January 8, 2010 at 12:18 am #

          First, more Tori. Ordered Roderick’s book.

          1) Would you say that Rand was correct in saying that emotions can be made to follow premises, but that she understood it as an involuntary process rather than a skill- a skill she personally may have unconsciously habitualised?

          2) Are you claiming that aesthetic awareness is a form of perception and for a rational being a kind of opinion, or a more or less refined awareness of reality (‘the intrinsic’), thereby placing it on epistemological par with empirical awareness, something like Kant’s notion of ‘inner sense’?

          3) Are you arguing that human perceptions and neurological states inherently interrelate with one another, and that the line between one consciousness and another is blurred and interactive all the way down to the neurological level?

          4) Thought you might like this:


          Is there another forum which might be more suited to an extended philosophy discussion unlikely to be of interest to most here? With no disrespect to our host, (whose mind I also have the highest regard for) the medium of blog comments is limiting, and libertarian society often tends towards a regrettably oppositional intellectual atmosphere.

        • MBH January 8, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

          Brandon: not all assimilation stories end the same….

  6. Pavedwalden December 27, 2009 at 5:07 pm #

    Great point 🙂

    On an unrelated topic, this is the first time I’ve seen your blog, and I’m wondering how I could duplicate the halo effect on your header text. What did you use to get that glowing/smeared effect?

    • Roderick December 31, 2009 at 5:28 pm #

      It only looks that way in some browsers. But in any case, the person to ask is Brandon, not me; he is the Almighty Blog and Magog.

    • Brandon December 31, 2009 at 8:20 pm #

      The header is using a CSS 3 property called text-shadow. It is implemented as follows:

      text-shadow:0 0 4px white, 0 -5px 4px #ff3, 2px -10px 6px #fd3, -2px -15px 11px #f80, 2px -25px 18px #f20;

      The foreground colour of the text also matters of course. The only browser that doesn’t support the property at this point is Internet Exploder.

      • Roderick December 31, 2009 at 8:29 pm #

        I use Firefox at both home and work, but the text shadow shows up only at home, not at work. I suspect this has something to do with my lack of administrative privileges at work, which often prevents updates from installing. (This also presumably explains why, at work, there are video files I can watch on Explorer but not Firefox, and also why Firefox keeps crashing at work.)

        • Brandon December 31, 2009 at 8:43 pm #

          Firefox versions less than 3.5 do not support the property.

          I agree with IT departments not letting regular users have admin rights. However what ends up happening is the department is understaffed and overwhelmed and cannot take care of little things like upgrading Firefox.

          The alternative, which would be allowing elevated rights, would be too terrible to contemplate — University staff flying to Nigeria to pick up their “prize money” and infecting the whole network with rootkits. So I suppose the former is the lesser of two weevils.

        • Roderick December 31, 2009 at 9:14 pm #

          You mean other people have won money from Nigeria too?

  7. Zach Bibeault December 27, 2009 at 5:23 pm #

    You would think the neocon types who want to forcibly restrict the freedom of airlines and airline consumers would put their (limited) knowledge of free markets to work and realize that the profit-and-loss mechanism is the only way to ensure safety from incidents like this in the future (discounting heroic flukes like a guy tackling the person as happened here).

    But no, they throw freedom to the wind and instead want to expand the almighty state even more. So predictable.

  8. MBH December 28, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    Aster, I think we end up with something like this:

    Methodological subjectivism cannot distinguish between desires formed by organic experience and desires formed by enculturation.

    Unless that can be proven false, then individualism — insofar as it rests on the shoulders of methodological subjectivism — is empty.

    • JOR December 29, 2009 at 10:00 am #

      How so? Individualism is about the fact that individuals make choices, and have beliefs and desires, not about where their beliefs and desires come from.

      • MBH December 29, 2009 at 1:38 pm #

        That fact is muddied by the potential for other identically encultured agents to have the same beliefs and desires.

        • JOR December 30, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

          That potential isn’t even a point against methodological subjectivism. Two hydrogen atoms might be exactly similar, but each is still a separate hydrogen atom.

          On the other hand, what about the very real potential for identically encultured agents to have different beliefs and desires?

        • MBH December 30, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

          The hydrogen atoms might be spatially distinct. But spatial distinction is not relevant in the realm of motivation. A desire for X here is the same thing as a desire for X there.

          …[W]hat about the very real potential for identically encultured agents to have different beliefs and desires?

          Beliefs and desires can certainly be changed, but for one agent to change their beliefs and desires, they would need access to something beyond the original culture. Methodological subjectivism does not explain the transformation of beliefs and desires. That description belongs to the inter-subjective — a realm which methodological subjectivism cannot reach.

  9. Aster January 7, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    Well, I’ve no prejudices against the Borg, so long as they cease forcibly assimilating people and agree to have their rights recognised as a single (very intelligent, capable, and large) rational organism. Cyborgs are people too.

    note: we consider the term ‘toaster’ to be uncivilised.

    • Neil January 7, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

      The Borg don’t reproduce. They only assimilate.

  10. Aster January 7, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    Then perhaps the Borg (a contraction of ‘boring’?) should cease reproducing, if this reproduction requires a suppression of less-cybered individuals’ passion, creativity, and intelligence. If I was the borg, I could find far more interesting uses for my time than reducing free minds to cells in an assembly line social organism.


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