Tag Archives | Jove’s Witnesses

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:


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!).


Decaffeinated Philosophy: The Existence of God; or, Apophat Boy Slim

[cross-posted at POT]

It’s long been the custom of the Auburn U. Philosophy Club to hold a public meeting at a local coffee house – generally either Mama Mocha’s or the Coffee Cat – where a panel composed of both students and faculty from the department give brief presentations on some philosophical topic of general interest, followed by Q&A.

In light of the Current Unpleasantness, this semester’s panel will be online via Zoom rather than in-person, which will sadly mean no access to the venue’s excellent coffee. But we must soldier on with a decaffeinated, or at least less gloriously caffeinated, version of our usual caffeinated-philosophy event. And the positive side is that folks not physically present in Auburn will be able to attend.

The topic for this semester’s panel is “The Existence of God.” I will be one of the speakers (and my contribution will of course decisively settle the theism vs. atheism debate once and for all! – although in my experience neither side tends to be very fond of my solution). It will be held on Wednesday, October 7th, at 7:00pm Central (8:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific). The meeting is free and open to the public; but please register in advance at https://auburn.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIvce6gqjguGdJC7olVpoP-TnWgaZtUCkKr. After registering, you’ll receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Be there or B2!


Gary Gary Quite Contrary

In my latest Agoric Café video, I chat with Gary Chartier about Robin Hood, left-wing market anarchism, natural law, free speech and employer power, libertarian secularism, Seventh-day Adventism, religious epistemology, long-arc television, urban fantasy, Lawrence Durrell, Iris Murdoch, Whit Stillman, the evils of giving extra credit and taking attendance, and the attractions of being emperor.


(You Know) Who Said This

I won’t say “guess the author” on this one, because the author is unmistakable, even if the content will be somewhat surprising to many:

I believe that my statement of man’s proper morality does not contradict any religious belief, if that belief includes faith in man’s free will. … Christianity was the first school of thought that proclaimed the supreme sacredness of the individual. The first duty of a Christian is the salvation of his own soul. This duty comes above any he may owe to his brothers. This is the basic statement of true individualism. The salvation of one’s own soul means the preservation of the integrity of one’s ego. The soul is the ego. Thus Christianity did preach egoism in my sense of the word, in a high, noble and spiritual sense. Christ did say that you must love your neighbor as yourself, but He never said that you must love your neighbor better than yourself – which is the monstrous doctrine of altruism and collectivism. Altruism – the demand of self-immolation for others—contradicts the basic premise of Christianity, the sacredness of one’s own soul. Altruism introduced a basic contradiction into Christian philosophy, which has never been resolved. The entire history of Christianity in Europe has been a continuous civil war, not merely in fact, but also in spirit. I believe that Christianity will not regain its power as a vital spiritual force until it has resolved this contradiction. And since it cannot reject the conception of the paramount sacredness of the individual soul – this conception holds the root, the meaning and the greatness of Christianity – it must reject the morality of altruism.


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes