Archive | May 13, 2010

Smashing Capitalism in Caesar’s Palace

The texts (or approximations thereto) of the presentations at our Free-Market Anti-Capitalism panel at last month’s APEE meeting in Las Vegas are now all online. (Some of them have been online for a while, but the whole enchilada wasn’t up until today.)

Alliance of the Libertarian Left

• Steven Horwitz’s comments, parts one and two (and see also this follow-up)

• Sheldon Richman’s comments

• Gary Chartier’s comments

• Charles Johnson’s comments, parts one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven

The presentations were excellent and the panel was a lot of fun, as was hanging out with the panelists in Vegas. I’m hoping we can do another of these at next year’s APEE meeting in Nassau.

Charles Johnson, Gary Chartier, Steven Horwitz, Sheldon Richman, and Roderick Long at APEE's Free-Market Anti-Capitalism panel in Las Vegas, 13 April 2010

Charles Johnson, Gary Chartier, Steven Horwitz, Sheldon Richman, and Roderick Long at APEE's Free-Market Anti-Capitalism panel in Las Vegas, 13 April 2010

For bigger (much bigger) pictures of the panel, see here, here, and here.

Terms of Ownership

Shawn Wilbur has some interesting remarks on the benefits and hazards of the possession/property distinction.

In related news, Demonic Possession would be a great name for an anti-Proudhonian screed.

Cartesius Aristotelicus

Descartes’s philosophical anthropology is widely thought to mark a radical break from the preceding Aristotelean tradition. But Paul Hoffman has been arguing for the past quarter-century that, despite various differences, Descartes is actually far closer to the Aristotelean conception of the embodied human being as a hylomorphic unity than to the popular textbook “Cartesian” stereotype of two separate substances interacting.

Descartes by Weenix

Of course Descartes differs from Aristotle over the separability of soul and body – but so did Aquinas. Hoffman’s point is that for Descartes, as for Aquinas, separability does not imply separation; so long as soul and body are united, they make up a single substance.

Hoffman identifies still further Aristotelean legacies in Descartes’s thought, such as the identity of action and passion, and the existence of the cognised in the cogniser.

Hoffman was my professor back in the 80s, and he largely convinced me of his interpretation. The passages that Hoffman relies on to make his case are not exactly unknown, but they are often dismissed (even by non-Straussians) as merely attempts on Descartes’s part to cover his ass and appear more orthodox than he really was in order to avoid persecution. Consequently, such passages have not received as much careful analysis as they deserve; but once one does analyse them, as Hoffman does, the ass-covering interpretation becomes very difficult to take seriously.

I’m happy to see that a collection of Hoffman’s Descartes essays is now finally in print.

The bad news is that it’s pricey. The good news is that many of the essays in it are online here and here. You can also read Hoffman’s own summary of his interpretation.

Serving Two Masters

According to the latest LP press release:

Constitution burning

Elena Kagan is another bad pick for the Supreme Court. If confirmed, it is likely that she will vote on cases with the intent of advancing political policy goals.

Kagan will probably vote to advance liberal policy goals, just as some other justices vote to advance conservative policy goals. That is not the place of justices, who should be applying the Constitution, not trying to rewrite it to make society work better according to their views. …

Once upon a time, Congress felt it had a duty to legislate in accordance with the Constitution. Likewise, past presidents believed that they should veto laws that were not clearly constitutional. But in more recent years, both branches have thrown this crucial duty away. …

And so on.

So are they the Libertarian Party or are they the Constitution Party? Which is their more basic value: the nonaggression principle or the Constitution? If there is a “duty” on the part of Federal officials to set aside their own judgment in favour of the Constitution, does that mean they also had a duty to enforce the fugitive slave cause?

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