Tag Archives | Agoric Cafe

Closely Watched Brains; or, Czech Your Premises: A Bohemian Rhapsody

[cross-posted at POT and RCL]

Czech out this exclusive! expanded! three-part version of my 2019 Prague lecture on “Austro-Libertarian Themes in Three Prague Authors: Čapek, Kafka, and Hašek.”

(See the descriptions on YouTube for links to various items mentioned in my three discussions.)

In Part 1, on Karel Čapek (1890-1938), I discuss: intelligent, morally ambiguous salamanders; rebellious, morally ambiguous robots; the effects on supply and demand of unleashing the Absolute; a critique of the labour theory of Labour Day; the geometrical logic of imperial expansion; why police detectives have no interest in mysteries; the merits and demerits of government theme parks devoted to the preservation of Czech folkways; the magic word by means of which the English protect their property; why God can only be a witness and never a judge; the role of clumsiness in advancing civilisation; the benefits and hazards of replacing feet with wheels; inspirational workplace posters suitable for shackled newts; how I ran into one of Čapek’s robots in the lounge of the Auburn Hotel and Conference Center; and the crucifixion of Christ as a sensible protectionist measure.

Note: contrary to what I say in the video, I believe that the R.U.R. cover designed by Čapek’s brother Josef is not the one I show there, but instead this (rather better) one:

Incidentally, Josef Čapek also designed this Kropotkin cover:

On the subject of corrections, I think it may actually have been Paul Cantor rather than Ralph Raico who was in the company of my old stage partner in the Mises conference anecdote I tell. I’m not sure. Jeez, my memory is crap these days. Um, what was I saying?

In Part 2, on Franz Kafka (1883-1924), I discuss: theological versus political readings of Kafka’s vision of elusive, perpetually deferred authority; bureaucracy as hopelessly incompetent and out-of-touch, versus bureaucracy as all-pervasive surveillance; the dependence of rulership on those who rule; Stoic versus anti-Stoic readings of Seneca’s Medea; discovering Kafka through Marvel Comics (or not); and remembering Kropotkin but forgetting Nietzsche’s umbrella.

On second thought I don’t think the April 1982 issue of Epic Illustrated can have been my introduction to Kafka after all, as Dartmouth was running an Orson Welles film festival which I attended while I was living in Hanover NH, 1977-1981, which certainly included The Trial.

Speaking of which, here are some clips from the Welles movie:

I also meant to include this passage from Kafka on his own bureaucratic career (oh well): “What a fine thing it is to be a clerk at a town hall! Little work, adequate salary, plenty of leisure, excessive respect everywhere in the town …. and if I only could, I should like to give this entire dignity to the office cat to eat ….” (Still, at least his office had a cat; that seems like some solace.)

In Part 3, on Jaroslav Hašek (1883-1923), I discuss: the perversities of bureaucratic incentives; the state as a parasite on private crime; the importance of providing every voter with a pocket aquarium; the dangers of displaying, or not displaying, portraits of the Emperor; access to one lavatory as a bribe for permission to reopen another lavatory; electoral campaigns as anarchist street theatre; justice in canine nomenclature; what happens when criminals go on strike; the forgotten economic costs of farting; the ethical, logistical, and grammatical aspects of assassinating Archduke Ferdinand; my success and the Soviets’ failure in deciphering Czech signage; and the economic transaction that I conducted with a nun in the men’s room of the Vatican.

And finally, here’s a clip from the movie version of Hašek’s novel The Good Soldier Švejk:


If I Don’t Vote, You Can’t Complain

[cross-posted at POT]

Do I plan to vote in the upcoming (November 2020) election? If so, for whom, and why? Or if not, then why not? If these questions have been keeping you anxiously awake at night, answers are gloriously at hand!


Part 2: Who Is Sheldon Richman, and Why Does He Love Jihadis, French Communism, Godless Atheism, and Weird-Ass Epistemology?

In Part 2 of this 2-part interview, I chat with Sheldon Richman about the Israeli occupation of Palestine; u.s. intervention in the Middle East; the meaning of Jewish identity; the relation between libertarian individualism and social cooperation; the communistic theories of Frédéric Bastiat; the theologico-political merits of Spinoza; Nathaniel Branden and George H. Smith on atheism; Thomas Paine and Lysander Spooner on deism; the philosophical failings of the New Atheists; rehabilitating the cost-of-production theory of value; the uses of coherentist epistemology for both theists and atheists; reading Wittgenstein for relaxation; the advantages and disadvantages of Randian approaches to knowledge and concepts; the sordid truth behind the special effects in my videos (and in particular, what the deal is with my hair); Sheldon’s case against open Borders; and the shocking misuse of libertarian think tank resources to photocopy body parts (but who did it, Sheldon or myself? and which body parts? watch and learn!).


Who Is Sheldon Richman, and Why Does He Hate the Constitution and American Greatness?

In Part 1 of this 2-part interview, I chat with Sheldon Richman about his youthful enthusiasm for the Swamp Fox and his guerilla fighters; the Constitution as a betrayal of the American Revolution and the Articles of Confederation; defying YAF with Karl Hess at the March to the Arch; the positive externalities achievable by sitting next to Dave Barry; using Koch money to fight big business; Robert Bidinotto’s dark anarchist past; the perils of publishing Kevin Carson; going crazy for Thomas Szasz; the identity of Filthy Pierre; how to smoke like Gandalf; an atheist’s favourite Bishop; and which prominent Austrian economist experimented on Sheldon’s newborn infant.


From Pico to Nano

In my latest Agoric Café video, I chat with biologist James T. Bradley about the future of, and ethical issues surrounding, biotechnology and nanotechnology; global and civic responsibilities of scientists and of laypeople; intimations of immortality from William Godwin to Ray Kurzweil; the importance of interdisciplinary education, and of instruction in evolutionary biology; the 15th-century (trans)humanism of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, and the perils of invoking the Pope; Bradley’s three-week plan for solving a pandemic; the potential parallels between central planning for sociopolitical systems and central planning for ecosystems; the cosmological theories of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; that time the National Science Foundation awarded Bradley and myself a $200,000 grant (but we had to spend it all on, like, course stuff); how the universe uses stardust to become self-conscious; and the waning allure of cricket ovaries:


Fog-Like Sensibilia

In my latest Agoric Café video, I chat with Kelly Dean Jolley about Jane Austen and J. L. Austin, the veil of perception, Ohio land swindles, the tyranny of nouns, screwball comedies, anti-psychologism, apophatic theology, the arctic perils of SUNY Oswego, the philosophic uses of poetry, Wittgenstein vs. Augustine, 18th-century literary nanotechnology, real love in the spy life, Howard Hawks as an Aristotelean ethicist, the problem of other minds, the Typic of practical reason, Frege’s three principles, religious language and the ineffability of logic, feeling William James’s ‘but’, and Lewis White Beck philosophising with a hammer.

Some viewers of my channel may be dismayed that this episode contains no libertarian, anarchist, or Rand-related content. To them, I say: dear god, there’s more to life than that stuff.

(Though anyone insistent on drawing connections to Rand can likely find a basis for them in the sections of the interview about direct perceptual realism and/or Hawksian eudaimonism.)

(Incidentally, to any Rand fans reading this, I highly recommend Gerald Mast’s book on Hawks; I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.)


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes