Tag Archives | Praxeology

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!).


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.)


Aristotle on Free Will: One From the Vaults

[cross-posted at POT]

Today I found that my 1992 Ph.D. dissertation, Free Choice and Indeterminism in Aristotle and Later Antiquity, is a free (to those with institutional access) download from UMI, so I decided to make it a free download for everybody.

Reducing and optimising the hell out of it only got it down from around 25 MB to around 18 MB, so I split it into four parts in order to get around the 5 MB maximum upload limit.

I haven’t OCR’d it because UMI has inserted renderable text on every page, which bizarrely blocks Acrobat’s OCR function, and getting around that is more hassle than it’s worth to me right now.

I still agree with what I say here in broad outlines, but not with every detail, and indeed I have a book manuscript, Aristotle on Fate and Freedom, that revises, updates, and supersedes the Aristotle portion of this. (It leaves out the sections on later antiquity.) That is better than this. But that’s not published, and this is, so here ya go.

The main thing I would want to retract today is the snarky remark about Los Angeles in the autobiographical sketch. L.A. is the bee’s knees, man! Not sure what my glitch was. (Of course it was inspired by a similar remark in Isaac Asimov’s bio, but that hardly justifies it.)


Experimenting with the Timeline

Below is a presentation I created today using a software tool called Timeline, as part of a teaching workshop I’m participating in this week:

That embedded version is a bit cramped; for a less cramped view, click here.

I wanted to break long paragraphs into shorter ones, preferably on more than one page, but couldn’t figure out (in the allotted time) how to do it.

I also wanted to date the slides by centuries, not individual dates. I couldn’t figure out how to do that either. So then I wanted the first dated slide to be labeled “c. 340 BCE.” (“c.” for “circa.”). But it wouldn’t let me include “circa,” either; no non-numeric content was allowed in the dates. And it said I had to use negative numbers for BCE. So I ended up dating that slide “-340.” But I’m not happy about that, because they’re not equivalent; positive and negative integers belong to a cardinal sequence separated by a zero; but the BCE/CE (or BC/AD) system of dating is an ordinal system with no Year Zero. So, strictly speaking, 340 BCE would correspond to -339, not -340.

Otherwise, though, I’m fairly pleased at how it looks; and I could probably get something closer to what I want if I tinkered with it a bit. (The content I wrote is oversimplified, but this is just a trial.)


Who Said This?

“Language is a code dependent upon the life rhythms of the species which originated the language. Unless you learn these rhythms, the code remains mostly unintelligible.”

Guess the author. (Or see the link to the answer in the comments.) Although it’s a somewhat Wittgensteinian sentiment, I have no particular reason to think the author had read Wittgenstein, though I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out. While the author certainly is known for having a philosophical turn of mind, he or she did not publish in the area of philosophy and is best known for something else. (The lion is not a clue to the author, btw – just a reference to Wittgenstein’s “If a lion could speak, we would not understand it” and “a mouth smiles only in a human face.”)


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes