We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

We want to rule you because you are stupid and powerless and we are wise

Even by the standards of the authortarian depravity of people who work in the West’s places of higher education, this caught my eye:

“Against Autonomy is a defence of paternalistic laws; that is, laws that make you do things, or prevent you from doing things, for your own good. I argue that autonomy, or the freedom to act in accordance with your own decisions, is overrated — that the common high evaluation of the importance of autonomy is based on a belief that we are much more rational than we actually are. We now have lots of evidence from psychology and behavioural economics that we are often very bad at choosing effective means to our ends. In such cases, we need the help of others — and in particular, of government regulation — to keep us from going wrong.”

Via the website of Stephen Hicks.

Read the whole thing. And look at the sort of coercive measures she favours, such as over the number of children that people have. Here is the book.

The other day, we had a debate on this site about free will and determinism. It is a debate that goes back centuries. For what it is worth, I am on the side of those who believe that human beings, by their very nature, have volition – it is hard to see how humans can form concepts, judge and reason without a volitional capacity. Here is a great discussion of the issues over at Diana Hsieh’s Philosophy in Action blog.

Now, some people argue, this is all very academic. But as the example above shows, once supposedly “academic” and “scientific” people put about the idea that we are nothing more than puppets in a deterministic universe, certain consequences follow. It can – although it needn’t – lead to fatalism and nihilism. It can also mean that certain intellectuals and the like, rather as the Marxists of old, consider themselves able to rise above the herd, diagnose the ills of we meat-puppets, and lead us “for our own good”. Just as a Marxist would shout “bourgeois illusion!” if a person ever contested such ideas as historical inevitability, so today’s modern determinists, such the Sam Harrises, do the same in suggesting that our free will/volition is also an illusion.

And Harris’ recent forays into the world of political philosophy give us a good idea of how collectivist such people frequently are. Here, by the way, is an excellent short book by Tim Mawson, a philosopher, on the free will issue – it has a huge bibliography at the back which is also very useful.

Some things change and some things stay the same. And it seems that one constant debate is that between those who think that Man is, to an extent anyway, the master or author of his own story, and those who would rather Man just did what he was told, for his own good, of course. Well, I know which side I’m on.

Update, via the Art and Letters Daily website, I came across this rather soft-ball review of the book by a certain Cass Sunstein, one of those unashamed paternalists whom, it pains me to say, seem to be popular with the current political class. (But even he has reservations about this book.)

 

102 comments to We want to rule you because you are stupid and powerless and we are wise

  • SC

    Interesting that someone on the Left is admitting this so openly.

    Even if maximising rational decisions is the goal (and forgetting about freedom), what these idiots fail to notice is that decisions made by panels of experts are usually even more irrational and harmful than stupid individual decisions, for example, the stupendously huge debts governments continually run up.

    You know, it always struck as extremely hypocritical that all these left-wing anti-colonial academics would go around spouting libertarian-sounding views about colonialism (‘let them make their own mistakes’, etc.), yet their own political philosophy was based one exactly the sort of views that they attributed to colonialism, ie. we know best, you’re too dim to make your own decisions, so we’ll be in charge whether you like it or not.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    SC

    Indeed. The difference being that if an individual makes a stupid decision, then with luck he can later desist. If for him it’s irrevocable, at least other individuals can watch and learn, and change their decisions.

    When governments make mistakes, on the other hand …

    It’s not that the individuals in government are individually stupider than the rest of us, in fact they may indeed be cleverer, on average, as individuals, to start with. It’s that the system they operate in brings the worst out of them. They become a collective idiot, and clever only at excusing this, and using the idiocy as an excuse for further idiocy.

  • People like Sarah O. Conly are the greatest of many reasons I am so very much in favour of widespread civilian ownership of modern guns. It can be quite important that the costs and risks associated with coercion not be excessively low.

  • AndrewWS

    Quoted from the comments on Dr Hicks’ blog: “When Big Brother lives a large part of our lives for us — and makes the majority of our important choices — it converts us from responsible, respectable adults into untrustworthy, incompetent children. The loving, caring, helpful, fascist state changes us from the joyfully alive, to the listlessly existing — from the vibrant, excited, and pulsating, to the dull, depressed, and despairing.”

    Wonderful. Thank you, Kyrel Zantonavitch.

  • Sam Duncan

    Heh. You didn’t quote Hicks’s excellently wry comment:

    Rumor has it that contrarian paternalists disagree violently, arguing that Conly should have been prevented by force from writing the book.

    Which is exactly the sort of thing I wish I’d said.

  • Mr Ecks

    A few (indefinate) years in Guantanamo –waterboarded/white noise/solitary–the full works–might change her mind about the wonders of coercion.

  • Laird

    I don’t care how irrational individuals may be: we need to make our own decisions and, yes, our own mistakes. Otherwise we can’t expect to achieve any successes. People like Dr. Conly view us rabble as merely farm animals to be managed (and culled) for the benefit of herself and her ilk. By her words she demonstrates her unqualification to ‘lead’ anyone.

    Incidentally, she is currently working on a book justifying ‘population regulation’ (i.e., China’s One Child policy). “I argue that opposition to population regulation is based on a number of mistakes: that the right to have a family doesn’t entail the right to have as many children as you may want; that the right to control one’s body is conditional on how much harm you are doing to others; and that nothing in population regulation entails that those who break the law can be forced to have abortions, or subject to any sort of punishment that is horrific. If population growth is sufficiently dangerous, it is fair for us to impose restrictions on how many children we can give birth to.” (I sincerely hope that her personal answer to that is ‘none’.) She is an unrepentant statist from the ground up, and grossly ignorant to boot. (Of course, those two tend to go together.)

  • AKM

    PDH: “People like Sarah O. Conly are the greatest of many reasons I am so very much in favour of widespread civilian ownership of modern guns. It can be quite important that the costs and risks associated with coercion not be excessively low.”

    Indeed. I read a letter to Obama from a Columbine Survivor yesterday in which, I was very glad to see, he stated very clearly that one of the primary reasons for an armed populace is defense from tyranny. The Gun-(and everything else)Controllers like to frame the argument as being primarily about sports or hunting with maybe a little self-defense thrown in (and then only when forced to, as they’d prefer that we rely on the Police). Anything to avoid the idea that the Government might not always be on the side of the people.

  • RRS

    Modifying Brian that inestimable modificator:

    The difference being that if an individual makes a stupid decision, then with luck he can later desist. If for him it’s irrevocable, at least other individuals can watch and learn, and change their decisions.

    A more essential difference being that individuals make numerous decisions, some excellent, some good, some adequate, some inadequate, many with unintended consequences, some bad, some stupid, etc. it is in the balance of results achieved from multiple decisions determined by individual motivations (however those motivations are determined) that the individual can find a “track” for existence and compatibility with others.

    Any process, established by external means, that limits the possibility of attaining that balance by selectively removing specific kinds of decisions, or by any other forms of action, impedes individuals from finding their own way in existence and compatibility with others.

    When governments make mistakes, on the other hand …

    “Governments” are only mechanisms through which some humans’decisions impact upon other humans. Those decisions are taken on the basis of motivations other than the motivations of those who will be affected by the determinations in the uses of the mechanisms of governments.

    It’s not that the individuals in government are individually stupider than the rest of us, in fact they may indeed be cleverer, on average, as individuals, to start with. It’s that the system they operate in brings the worst out of them. They become a collective idiot, and clever only at excusing this, and using the idiocy as an excuse for further idiocy.

    But it goes further than that (does it not always). The shape of such (“governmental” or collective) decisions is formed by a multitude of factors and the effects of those decisions by even more additional factors; but, underlying the objectives and selection of means for attainment of the decisions are motives; and, the motives within such a “collective system” are formed by factors entirely foreign to and often totally unrelated to the individuals who will be impacted. Those motives are the motives of one set of individuals contraposed to those of other individuals.

  • SC

    > for example, the stupendously huge debts governments continually run up.

    And, I should add, they’re the better governments! The worse ones end up slaughtering their citizens.

  • So individuals occasionally make bad or seemingly irrational decisions for themselves and sometimes there will be negative externalities. So what? At least the consequneces of those bad decisions are borne mostly by that individual and maybe a few people he is close to. Also overlooked is the fact that he might recognize he has made a mistake, correct it and learn from it. If a committee makes a bad decision and it is forced on everyone the damage is far more widespread and with the statist mindset of we-know-what’s-best the statist is more likely to double down rather than admit error and back off. That should be enough of an argument for maximum individual autonomy all by itself.

  • RickC

    At the U.S. Amazon site the comments are blistering. I recommend the one by Chris Bray. Don’t let the 5-star rating he gave it deter you.

    Over the last couple of years I gotten the feeling that the left feels they’ve won the ideological battle. That belief seems to have made them quite comfortable talking openly about their full blown totalitarian dreams. The vision of the world they wish to see made reality represents a nightmare for us. For instance, I can’t seem to get the journal article advocating what its authors’ termed “post-birth abortions” out of my head. Because, you know, their not really people until they are 3-4 years old.

  • Laird

    I note that the book is priced at $95. That’s pretty steep (since she’s an ‘assistant professor’ at some backwater college they probably think they can get away with charging the type of obscene price they do for textbooks). Still, I hope the sell a whole lot of them; anyone who would pay that kind of price for a book of this nature deserves to be separated from his money. Repeatedly.

  • Laird

    RickC is correct: the comments on Amazon are blistering. An excerpt from my favorite: “People like Sarah Conly, people who share her philosophy of supreme governmental arrogance, have spent the last century building gulags, creating secret police forces, torturing dissidents, and finally when they were finished, placing the muzzle of a gun to the vulnerable spot behind the victim’s ear and pulling the trigger. People like Sarah Conly have filled mass graves with over 100 million people, because they were so convinced they knew better than their victims. People like Sarah Conly are possessed of a special kind of madness, the kind that is only satisfied when it is drenched in blood.”

  • Paul Marks

    This work should come as no surpise.

    First the collectivists claim (via their “science”) that humans are not really beings – we are all “Homer Simpsons” (indeed worse than Homer, this fictional character is stupid, but he is a human being – “behavioural science” and so on, basicall takes the position that there are no human BEINGS).

    Then the mask of politeness (the mask worn in such works as “Freakonomics”, “Nudge” and “Thinking Fast and Slow”) gets dropped.

    No more nonsense talk about “libertarian paternalism” (an oxymoron that should have got its users laughed out of town – but instead made them “leading thinkers”).

    No more mask.

    Just the bare face.

    The bare face of evil.

    And YES I am going to say the words….

    I TOLD YOU SO.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – good comments.

  • > for example, the stupendously huge debts governments continually run up.

    And, I should add, they’re the better governments! The worse ones end up slaughtering their citizens.

    *All* of them eventually slaughter their citizens – only a matter of time.

  • I’ve just googled the article to which Rick alluded, and it is real (no offense, Rick).

  • RickC

    None taken, Alisa. I should have included a link. I have it bookmarked but my list is oh so long.

    Also Mr. Marks might is correct about those other books with masks like “Nudge”. I actually came across a discussion of this very book yesterday, but can’t remember where. The take off was because of a positive review by none other than Cass Sunstein, he of the libertarian paternalistic nudge.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Obviously it’s time to bring in Hayek again, and fortunately I am in the position of being able to revise & recycle recent comments of mine:

    The best place to start is Hayek’s essay: “Individualism: True and False”.
    As I understand it, it says that there are basically 2 kinds of libertarians/individualists: those who want people to be free because people are informed and rational (which I shall call the utilitarians), and those who want people to be free because people are ignorant and irrational, and selfish for good measure (which I shall call the Hayekians … though obviously Hayek did not claim that Mandeville, Hume, Smith, Burke, Tocqueville, and Acton were Hayekians).

    Hayek thought that only the Hayekians are true libertarians/individualists: the utilitarians are on the slippery slope to socialism.
    Why? Hayek is not clear about this, but let me guess.
    When the utilitarians see that people are ignorant and/or irrational, that’s sufficient for them to advocate state intervention: It’s a slippery slope from JS Mill to Sarah Conly. (NB Hayek would not have been as blunt as I am.)
    By contrast, when we Hayekians see that people are informed and rational, we see no reason to demand state intervention.

  • People who call themselves “medical ethicists” are some of the most unethical people out there.

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT Paul’s comment: Kahneman is actually one of Taleb’s intellectual heroes, and Taleb is a Hayekian in the sense of my previous comment.
    I mention this, because it confirms Hayek’s point: irrationality, by itself, does not imply the need for state intervention.

  • RickC

    First, let me say that apparently I’m having a hard time putting together sensible sentences today. Sorry.

    In reponse to Snorri Godhi, I also have a guess about Hayek’s point and maybe it’s just a continuation of your thought. The immediate thing that jumps out to me is something Bastiat wrote in “The Law”. This is from memory but I seem to recall Bastiat discussing the absurdity of on one hand admitting that people are ignorant, irrational and selfish but then advocating for some to control/guide the rest. Who are these individuals who would guide us? Are they made from some special cloth and not afflicted with the same faults? Further, would not giving any individual power over his fellow man only magnify the harm resulting from his ignorant or irrational actions?

  • veryretired

    It would be pathetic and funny if it wasn’t the froth on such a deep and deadly wave of danger.

    If this kind of proposal were subject to the common rules of due diligence required of any significant corporate investment, then the financial prospects and history of the enterprise would be carefully considered.

    So let’s look at the 20th century, and all the various examples of paternalistic, authoritarian, and totalitarian social experiments.

    Did they keep us out of massive, destructive, horrendously deadly wars?

    Nope.

    Did they manage the agricultural development of their societies, and ensure a reliable and sufficient diet for the populations?

    Nope.

    Did they manage the industrial development of their societies for the betterment and well-being of their populations, providing good quality products, and a clean, pollution-free environment?

    Nope.

    Did they maintain a clean, efficient, and uncorrupted administration, operated by the rule of law, and protective of ther citizens’ human rights and dignity?

    Nope, twice.

    Is the world now, after a century and more of continuous growth in governmental size, scope, and complexity, a peaceful, well managed, finanically stable, and steadily progressing enterprise with good future prospects, based on the efforts of those governments?

    Nope.

    In any private venture, all these types of questions, and dozens more of a technical and accounting nature, would be asked, and satisfactory answers would be required. And the answers would have to be backed up with cold, hard facts and figures, not dreamy rhetoric and claims of good intentions.

    By any rational standard, the great collectivist experiment, using the entire globe and it’s populations as unwitting lab rats, has been a disastrous failure. Any medical test program that returned such results would be terminated as quickly as possible, and the drug or treatment being tested would be banned from human use.

    But it is abundantly clear that it is the very irrationality of collectivism and its theories that appeals to the disciples of these ideologies.

    For all their claims of a scientific, compassionate, and thoughtful approach to their stewardship, what we see in the historical record, and all around us in the current day, is all the failings and faults that flesh is heir to, except magnified in their deadliness and greed by the coercive power of the state.

    Every time some puffed up ideologue comes along claiming that they and their buddies should run the world, it can’t be said too often or too loudly—they don’t know what they’re doing, and never have.

  • Pat

    Well, Its quite plain that human beings often make awful decisions, ones that mess up their own lives.
    Its quite obvious that individual human beings know more about themselves than they do about others (with the best will in the world, and every incentive to succeed, did anyone ever buy their spouse the perfect present? How much worse a present would be bought for a stranger?).
    There are of course people who do not possess goodwill- but they never say so. That some people lie for their own self interest is not news.
    The evident fallibility of humans is precisely why no human being should have power over another.

  • RRS

    In the case of Cass Sunstein’s “libertarian” background:

    After a certain type of encounter a KY Derby winner at stud could produce a mule, which in the ol’ so’ theme –

    Has no pride of parentage or hope of posterity.

    So much for the libertarian stud.

  • RRS

    The maxim, that governments ought to train the people in the way in which they should go, sounds well. But is there any reason for believing that a government is more likely to lead the people in the right way than the people to fall into the right way of themselves?

    “Southey’s Colloquies on Society” par. SC.60

    And to say that society ought to be governed by the opinion of the wisest and best, though true, is useless. Whose opinion is to decide who are the wisest and best?

    “Southey’s Colloquies on Society” par. SC.60

    These of course are Thos. Babington’s critique of Southey, not Southey
    Read the whole thing over at Liberty Fund.

  • [...] Samizdata points us to this wonderful book: Against Autonomy, Justifying Coercive Paternalism. [...]

  • RickC

    I bit the bullet and went to Ms. Conly’s page. Here’s her follow up project, in her own words:

    “I’ve now started on my next book, tentatively titled One: Do We have a Right to More Children? We tend to think of regulating the number of children people may have as morally reprehensible. For one thing, the right to have a family is one we often think of as sacrosanct, articulated, among other places, in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. And, we think that women have the right to control their bodies, and while this right is mentioned often in the context of the right to abortion, it may also be held to include the right to have as many children as one wants. Lastly, we think of such policies as having sanctions that are unacceptable, including forced abortions of those who become pregnant with a second child. In One, I argue that opposition to population regulation is based on a number of mistakes: that the right to have a family doesn’t entail the right to have as many children as you may want; that the right to control one’s body is conditional on how much harm you are doing to others; and that nothing in population regulation entails that those who break the law can be forced to have abortions, or subject to any sort of punishment that is horrific. If population growth is sufficiently dangerous, it is fair for us to impose restrictions on how many children we can give birth to.”

    See, she’s even got answers for the non-problem of over-population. IIRC research has already shown that the world population will plateau in few years and some countries, particularly European countries are already below replacement rates. The U.S. birthrate is right at equilibrium today. So now she’s caught in a trap. How will an aging, declining population pay for all the nudges we need?

  • Laird

    @ Snorri Godhi: “It’s a slippery slope from JS Mill to Sarah Conly.” Indeed.

  • renminbi

    The nerve. The asking price for her book is $95. Theyb really think people are stupid.

  • Paul Marks

    Actually Hayek was a utilitarian (of the “rule utilitarian” sort) in that he rejected natural law.

    It was actually impossible to get a law doctorate in Vienna (even a century ago) if one supported natural law.

    It is true Hayek rejected the socialist conclusions of Hans Kelson and co – but he never rejected their philosophy.

    And HAYEK IS WRONG – as if one accepts the philosophical assumptions of Hans Kelson and others, their legal and political positions naturally follow from them.

    Philosophically Hayek’s effort is much more than saying that “people can be stupid and make bad choices – but that includes the rulers also”, Hayek’s effort is much more radical than that.

    He tried to combine late 19th and early 20th century determinism with traditional (Whig style) moral and political opinions.

    And the philosophical effort FAILS – fails totally.

    It is like trying to combine water and oil – or even fire and ice.

    In Hayek’s “The Road To Serfdom” he is forced to use traditional philosphical langauge (from natural law and natural rights – and from human freedom thinking, not the same thing of course) even though he does not believe in any of it.

    He is forced to do this because otherwise he can not get the, pro freedom political conclusions he wants.

    That should have told Hayek one of two things…..

    Either his pro freedom political conclusions were wrong.

    Or his philosiphical beliefs (the ones he does NOT use in “Road To Serfdom”) are wrong.

    If there really is no such thing as objective right and wrong (no principle of natural law).

    And (a different thing – but related) humans are NOT beings (can not make real choices – NOT even stupid real choices) then tradtional (Whig) liberalism is just drivil – nonsense.

    The “freedom” of human beings (or rather non beings) is as meaningless, in moral terms, as the “freedom” of clockwork mice, or the “freedom” of water after a dam has been blown up. That is the natural implication of the philosophy that Hayek was taught – and never formally rejected (he just rejected the consequences of it – falsely denying that the consequences are natural once one has accepted the doctrines).

    When people reject the “chains” of “right and wrong” (Hayek quotes various leading intellectuals saying that they do in his “Constitution of Liberty” and “Law, Legislation and Liberty”).

    And (different but related) one denies that people have any real choice over what they do (that they do not just make “stupid£” choices – that the do not make real choices at all), then collectivism (evil) is that the natural result.

    F.A. Hayek spent decade after decades being shocked and upset by the political and moral conclusions that intellectuals got from their philosphical doctrines – but that does not the alter the basic fact.

    They (the vast majority of intellectuals) were CORRECT and Hayek was WRONG – once you adopt these philosophical doctrines than the moral and political conclusions (conculsions of gut twisting evil) naturally follow from them.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way I know that someone can be a rule utilitarian (or an “act utilitarian” for that matter) and still believe in human agency (i.e. that people make real choices – even though that some of them are stupid choices), but Hayek did NOT take that position philosophically. Philosophically he never really broke with the philosophical doctrines he was taught in Vienna – Hayek just disputed the moral and political conclusions that were taken from those doctrines, and he was WRONG as these coclusions do indeed naturally follow from the doctrines.

    Turning back to the book (and “intellectuals” in general….).

    There is, of course, the unspoken assumption.

    The assumption that the vast majority of humans are not beings – BUT that they author (and her pals) are beings.

    They can make choices (real ones) – it is just the rest of us who can not.

    And it is NOT a good reply to say “you can not make real choices either”.

    In fact that is not a good reply at all.

    The Holocaust was NOT various clockwork mice smashing up various other clockwork mice – with the National Socialists being “just as non human” as the clockwork mice they were smashing up.

    In reality no clockwork mice were involved at all – on either side.

    Some HUMAN BEINGS were making a CHOICE to murder various other HUMAN BEINGS.

    The National Socialists offered their own version of “freedom”.

    The “freedom not to be free”.

    Release from the terrible burden of human choice (your choices are all illusions anyway – just obey).

    And the “freedom” from the “chains” of objective right and wrong.

    Right and wrong just being “racial constructs” or “class constructs” (the Marxist version), or “sexual constructs” or whatever…..

    Right and wrong being anything (anything at all) apart from RIGHT AND WRONG.

    And humans not really being beings – not really have a choice between right and wrong (which do not really exist anyway).

    Fashionable philosophy (and the “science” which is claimed to support it) is a vast cop out – a terminal example of “bad faith”.

  • Paul Marks

    I am not going to comment on J.S. Mill – because it would take too long (no doubt I have another couple of hundred of e.mails to deal with) and I have upset enough people today (my view of J.S. Mill would upset a lot more people).

    However, I will comment on what renminbi said.

    It is a good point – it is a elite price.

    But, of course, the author is expecting the primary buyers to be UNIVERSITIES.

    In short we will be paying for this book renminbi. Via our taxes – as even the private universities (with a few exceptions) get tax money (to spend on stuff such as this book).

    And it is quite right that we should be looted (from the author’s point of view) as we would just waste the money if it was not taxed away from us.

    A state led by George Walker Bush is a bad – but a state led by “enlightened” people (real people – not us, the clockwork mice) is good.

    It is nice (fitting – useful) to take resounces, by force, away from non agents (us) and give them to agents (the author and her pals).

    And shouting “you are not agents either – you are not real people, any more than we are” is not a good reply to the lady and her pals.

  • ErisGuy

    Eh. More of the same. The American nomenklatura, intelligentsia, and, of course, the overwhelming majority of leaders (that sounds better in German) in all political parties already believe and act on this. They have for decades. And the American people have voted for it again and again. The American people know their own interests, and are the best judges of whom should govern them. They have chosen wisely again with Obama. I sure hope he can equal FDR’s four terms, or more. ‘Cause I can’t think of anyone more deserving for the hell that will rain (reign?) down on them than an Obama voter.

    For myself, I say: the last ruling class this corrupt and venal was terminated by guillotine.

  • RRS

    P M

    When people reject the “chains” of “right and wrong” (Hayek quotes various leading intellectuals saying that they do in his “Constitution of Liberty” and “Law, Legislation and Liberty”).

    Finish that thought – because it is the essence of what is missing in so much of the libertarian argument.

  • Paul Marks

    My apologies RRS.

    I will finish writing out the thought.

    When people reject the “moral chains” of right and wrong, they are likely to reject the non aggression principle (which is based on the libertarian principle of JUSTICE, to each their own).

    Why not rob people of their possessions and abuse their bodies?

    If there is no such thing as right and wrong?

    This to is a view of “freedom”.

    The freedom of those who choose evil – even if they deny that they are making a choice.

  • Nohbody

    RickC: “I actually came across a discussion of this very book yesterday, but can’t remember where. The take off was because of a positive review by none other than Cass Sunstein, he of the libertarian paternalistic nudge.”

    Here’s the article in question: It’s for your own good

  • [...] post “We want to rule you because you are stupid and powerless and we are wise” has an excellent money-quote from “Against Autonomy,” a book apparently written [...]

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul: thank you for you reply(es). It will take me a while to absorb them. Meanwhile here are a few points that I hope are worth considering:

    * Surely you do not confuse utilitarianism with the broader doctrine of consequentialism.
    You know better than me whether Hayek could be considered a consequentialist; but I doubt that he could be reasonably labeled as utilitarian: to be a utilitarian is to accept interpersonal utility comparisons, which I understand are verboten in Austrian economics; and even if they are admissible, utilitarianism in practice requires perfect information of the kind that Hayek would think impossible to acquire.

    * On a personal note, I myself have sympathy for both consequentialism and natural rights, but belong to neither camp. I believe above all in the distinction between what you can change and what you can’t. (See the Serenity Prayer.)
    I cannot change the size, scope, and form of government, so why should I take a position on its ethical foundations?
    I am interested in political philosophy because it helps me to understand what is going on, and without understanding what is going on, I cannot act to preserve my life, liberty, property, and happiness, and those of people close to me. In this sense, I am a consequentialist — but note that I am only concerned about the consequences of my own actions.

    * Since writing my previous comment I thought about this a bit more, and now I think that the divide between the “rationalists” (a label that replaces “utilitarians”) and the Hayekians, extends to natural-law libertarianism.

    The rationalist natural-lawyers are those who pretend to deduce their entire political philosophy from natural rights, e.g. Rand and Rothbard.
    The Hayekian natural-lawyers are those who take natural rights as absolute, but do not take them as the only axioms of their politics. Locke comes to mind.

  • Midwesterner

    I cannot change the size, scope, and form of government, so why should I take a position on its ethical foundations?

    Governments collapse under their own weight and are replaced. Laying the foundations for what replaces them can be done now. The foundations the replacement governments are built on, very much control what is built. This is why I am perpetually hammering away at the individual/collective dichotomy. When construction of the new governments begins, philosophical individualism needs to have already been cast into the foundational metacontext of the builders.

    Fastening philosophical individualism into the conscious moral construct now is much easier than it will be while Chaos and Chance are running the show.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Correct again, Mid. And another reason why remaining ignorant (of political philosophy and practice, and of who stands where as well) is NOT rational–at least, not for people who care what happens to them day after tomorrow.

  • Rob

    She is a totalitarian. Anyone who would deny the basic freedoms of private citizens is not going to tolerate organised political opposition.

    Regarding the $95 price tag, don’t Amazon have a pricing policy where the more they sell the cheaper it is? We can gather from the price that she has sold perhaps seventeen copies, which is encouraging.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Midwesterner: there is nothing that you said that I disagree with, but you have not addressed the issue that I raised: what can I, individually, do, to increase Whatever is Good? (Let’s say, to increase freedom and/or happiness, but the argument is more general.)

    Perhaps I can make this more concrete. You say:
    “When construction of the new governments begins, philosophical individualism needs to have already been cast into the foundational metacontext of the builders.”
    Indeed, but what can I do, individually, to satisfy this need?
    Very little, as it turns out.
    Since it costs me very little to do it, I am quite willing to; but when the next State collapse is near, my first concern will not be what will replace it: my first concern will be not to be there while it happens, to observe from a safe distance what kind of new order will rise from the ashes.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul: after thinking about this issue, I feel compelled (no free will?) to point out your fallacy:
    “[If] one denies that people have any real choice over what they do (that they do not just make “stupid£” choices – that the do not make real choices at all), then collectivism (evil) is that the natural result.”

    The rest of your comment strongly suggests that by “natural result” you mean “logical conclusion”. If so, you are wrong.
    If we do not make choices, then we cannot choose collectivism; hence, if one takes the view that we cannot make choices, then she must LOGICALLY also take the view that we cannot choose collectivism.

    Of course there are irrational people who make the false inference:
    we cannot make “real” choices, therefore we “ought” to choose collectivism.
    But if we cannot make choices, then what freedom and democracy there is today is not the result of our choices, nor is it in our power to choose to give it up.

    In fact, if we cannot make choices, then all ought-propositions become meaningless: it would make no more sense to say that we ought to act for the common good, than to say that the 2004 tsunami ought not to have happened.

  • Midwesterner
    “When construction of the new governments begins, philosophical individualism needs to have already been cast into the foundational metacontext of the builders.”

    Indeed, but what can I do, individually, to satisfy this need?

    You are doing it now (although there are a lot of ‘the choir’ present on Samizdata) and I presume you do it every time you engage others you meet daily in the real world and on the internet. IIRC, you are in Denmark? In any case, some Danes have been setting the table for us amateurs on how to wake up public consciousness on matters of morality and personal liberty.

    I would not be so sure if I were you that “it costs me very little to do it”. That depends on who rises to oppose you. Certainly don’t expect you can “observe from a safe distance what kind of new order will rise from the ashes” unless you have connections in the space industry. Be open and ‘out’ about your individualist values. Point out loudly and at every opportunity that the emperor is without a shred of moral clothing.

    In my own life, I have been increasingly jeopardizing personal friendships by challenging knee-jerk reflexive opinions of some long time friends. It is difficult. Some friendships are durable and some are fragile. Finding a course that allows me to disagree without completely breaking communication takes a fine touch that I’m not sure I have. But so far, so good. I’ve found a couple of allies that I didn’t know I had and turned one 30 year friendship that talked almost exclusively of football into one that talks almost exclusively of political economy. He is a hard core Obama backer and our discussions teeter on the edge of civility sometimes, but the friendship appears to be holding up under the strain. What is interesting is that he is now the one bringing up politics, morality and economics when we meet. Another friendship has faded. I suspect part of the cause is too much of what I predicted happened and loss of ‘face’ may be part of the problem.

    These local one-on-one efforts are small scale and I’m not sure how many people we will change. But what we do change is the arena in which these matters are debated. By publicly and assertively putting our individualist value system into the sphere of public debate and strongly defending it, we are opening up the scope of what can be publicly discussed. Perhaps most important of all, we are providing cover for more timid or vulnerable persons to publicly ‘come out’ as libertarian individualists. I suspect I also start many discussions that I am never aware of. “Did you hear what [Mid] has been saying?” And later people with whom I have never discussed political economy or social morality bring it up for discussion.

  • Snorri Godhi

    “Certainly don’t expect you can “observe from a safe distance what kind of new order will rise from the ashes” unless you have connections in the space industry.”

    I am observing from a safe distance the collapse of Greece, Argentina, and California…none of which I have previously been associated with; but if Italy, the UK, or NY State collapse, I’ll also watch from a safe distance. People whom I have been associated with, won’t be so lucky.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri Godhi.

    I did not say that then when the enemy choose evil they were not making a choice – I said they were making a choice (even if they claimed they were not).

  • Midwesterner

    I am observing from a safe distance the collapse of Greece, Argentina, and California…none of which I have previously been associated with; but if Italy, the UK, or NY State collapse, I’ll also watch from a safe distance.

    The world political economic infrastructure is one big system. What you are in fact observing is the sinking of the lower decks from a ‘safe’ position on the upper decks.

  • Paul Marks

    A different, but related, matter.

    Just as when someone says “I am beyond good and evil” or “I reject these moral chains” – they are actually just indicating they choose evil.

    On a different matter again….

    The National Socialists boasted of the higher educational standard of their soldiers.

    “American soldiers go into battle with Superman comics as their reading matter – ours go into battle reading about the Superman of Nietzsche”.

    Whether or not that was true (actually the most common reading matter to be found among American soldiers during World War II was the Bible) it rather misses the point that the Superman comics of the period were on a higher moral plane than the works of Friedrich Nietzsche – let alone those of his vile sister.

    Or perhaps that was the point they were making.

    As a friend of mine puts it…..

    “Hans?”

    “Yes Wolfgang?”

    “Something is bothering me Hans. Our opponents have things like circles and stars as their sign, we have a DEATHSHEAD – does this mean we are the bad guys?”

  • Paul Marks

    Rob.

    I walked past W.H. Smiths today and made the mistake of going into this shop.

    “Thinking Fast and Slow” “book of the week” – shoved everywhere (“Nudge” at practice – one can enter the shop without seeing the favoured book).

    This is how they increase sales of favoured books.

    They shove them in your face – and then say “they sell reasonably well”

    As for anti leftist books – no where to be found in the shops (so they sell less well – because they are not there).

    This is why I only buy books on-line.

    It is not just price.

    Amazon does not have a collectivist agenda.

    “The book trade” (the people who would tne government to “do something” about Amazon and other internet companies) DO have a collectivist agenda.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul: “I did not say that then when the enemy choose evil they were not making a choice”

    …and I did not say that you said that.
    I said that you said:
    if one (let’s call her Sarah C) starts from the premise that we can make NO CHOICES, then she is correct in inferring that we ought to CHOOSE collectivism.
    I am, of course, rephrasing your argument in such a way as to make it clear why you are wrong.

    But thank you for giving me a chance to add a few remarks about Hayek.

    First, wrt free will.
    In The Constitution of Liberty (chapter 5, section 2) Hayek wrote that, far from being incompatible with determinism, free will is impossible without determinism. He did not provide an argument for this, but I happen to believe that he was correct, though possibly for the wrong reasons.

    Second, one of Hayek’s favorite quotes (from Lord Acton):
    “Whenever a single definite object is made the supreme end of the State, be it [...] the greatest happiness of the greatest number or the support of any speculative idea, the State becomes for the time inevitably absolute.”
    Obviously, Acton and Hayek were not utilitarians.

    Third, a general remark. Blasphemous as this is, I don’t think that Hayek is a model of logical consistency. In particular, I suspect he never had a clear idea of why freedom from coercion is valuable.
    Not that this bothers me: freedom from coercion is valuable to me, for the obvious reason that I don’t want to be coerced. I can’t be bothered to find an abstract rationale for my preference.
    And anyway I don’t read Hayek to find values: I read Hayek, and pretty much every political thinker except Locke, to understand the world as it is, not the world as it ought to be.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri – I am aware of what Hayek says in Constitution of Liberty.

    The stuff on economic policy is (normally) good.

    The stuff on intellectual history is very interesting.

    The stuff on philosophy is – a twisted mess.

    By the way Hayek does not say “free will is impossible without determinism”.

    He just holds that free will does not exist.

    But he claims that moral responsbility depends on determinism – and he does NOT mean because the agent (the reasoning I) is the determiner. Hayek does not even bleive the reasoning I exists.

    Actually he goes into the “compatiblist” Black Hole – in fact he goes deeper in than David Hume does.

    And Davy Hume may have been winking – Hayek was serious.

    By the way – YES (again like Hume) Hayek does not go for utilitarISM.

    The “ism” is later than Hume.

    So (if we want to be Captain Pedant here) Hayek is a rule utilitarist – not a rule utilitarian.

    I am indifferent to such distinctions.

    Well actually that is not true – I actually “hate the very sound of them”.

    But O.K. Hayek (nor Hume) are utilitarIANS.

    They just go for general rules that are for the good of the evolution of society over time (waffle, waffle, shuffle and spit).

    And neither one believes that this “society” is made up of human beings.

  • Snorri Godhi

    “By the way Hayek does not say “free will is impossible without determinism”.
    He just holds that free will does not exist.”

    I’ll have to check: i don’t have the book at hand.
    But you contradict yourself again: you say that Hayek was a compatibilist, and at the same time you deny that he believed in free will.
    And just to be clear i’ll repeat myself: I don’t really know, and I don’t care, about Hayek’s ethical views.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri I am not contradicting myself. Let alone “again”.

    Hayek did.

    That is why I called his efforts at philosophy a “twisted mess”.

    I call people who claim to believe that humans are responsible (in moral terms) for their actions, but also deny the existance of real choice – compatiblists. You may call them “water bottles” if you wish.

    As should be obvious by now – to me “real choice” and “agency” mean the same thing. Both depend on the existance of the “I” (the agent). And a rejection of reductionist efforts to explain the agent away.

    I should also have pointed out that I agree with Midwesterner that the foundations (the metacontext) for the recovery of civil society (if it does recover) have to be laid now.

    The philosophy of David Hume can not serve as part of the foundation for the recovery of civil society (it is destructive – indeed it was meant as humourous mockery of all that it is most important) – so you could say that I reject his philosophy on “consequentialist grounds”.

    However, you would be mistaken – as I actually reject it because it is shit.

  • Paul Marks

    Think of a castle.

    One can smash the castle down with cannons or stone throwers – that is the open attack of evil.

    Or one can undermine the castle walls from below – all appears to be fine, and then the walls suddenly (and seemingly without reason) collapse.

    The latter means is the way of David Hume – and he did not even want to destroy the castle (he was having fun – using reason AGAINST reason, to deny the very existance of reason).

    Undermine the beliefs that uphold civil society and, eventually, civil society falls – even if that was not your intention.

    David Hume was active in the mid 18th century – when philosophy appeared to be a harmless game (nothing to take too seriously).

    But it was (and is) not a harmless thing – philosophy can be lethal (in time).

    And society would look much the same – even as it was being undermined.

    Outwardly a dead tooth looks much like a live tooth.

    However, by Hayek’s time (the 20th century – not the mid 18th) it was obvious where such games led (that is why the collectivists loved them – because they supported where they led).

    But Hayek just kept being shocked and upset – decade after decade……

    He did not approve of where the games led – but he assumed the games were true.

    So he tried to show that they did not go to the place that they do go to.

    A well intentioned, but utterly hopeless, effort.

    Did David Hume actually believe his own stuff – or was it just a game?

    I do not know – and I do not much care. Although I suspect that a person who constructs clever arguments against the existance of the agent (the I) and then contructs clever arguments claiming to show that the universe is just fancies of the mind (the very mind that he has just attacked the existance of) is engaged in very complex forms of LEG PULLING. One or the other might be sincere, but BOTH?

    As for the moderns….

    Do the moderns believe it (“it” being the denial of the agent – the reasoning I) – or are they just USING it?

    Again I do not know.

    But Hayek clearly did believe it – he was quite sincere.

    And so, philosophically, ended up like the bird in “Carry On Up The Jungle”.

    Oh, by the way – I know the stuff about Hume being a sceptic and never clearly saying X, Y, Z, (leaving to others to draw implications that he may or may not have believed himself and……..).

    I suspect that this is why in English-English the word “clever” is sometimes used as an INSULT.

    “Say what you mean and say it plain – continue to play with words and you will not like where my boot goes.”

    That is the implication when an Englishman says “that is very clever of you”.

    Although that sort of Englishman is rare in these latter days.

    As for the Common Sense reply to the games – whether the Common Sense comes Scots (or Scots Americans such as James McCosh) or Englishmen such as Harold Prichard or Antony Flew (although he desperatly tried to keep on good terms with the game players – although his efforts did him no good) the response is the same.

    The little twisted smile – and the sneering words.

    To the game players people like me are just scum – “Colonel Blimps”.

    Fair enough – after all I am not exactly in love with them either.

    But when they open the gates of Hell (whether they mean to or not – “look at me, I am so clever you could never have worked out how to open these gates, what is behind them? who cares? just watch me open them”) who is supposed to save the people who opened the gates?

    Oh, silly me, the “Colonel Blimps” have to do it – or die trying.

    Human beings do exist.

    And some human beings are indeed highly intelligent. Far more intelligent than “Red Necks” or “Colonel Blimps”.

    But, alas, some humans choose to use their intellgence for destructive ends – for example to deny the very existance of reason (agency) itself.

    This is because intelligence and wisdom are not the same thing.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mid,

    Just to say you’re absolutely right in your conclusions at 3:45 p.m. on 2/23.

    For all the reasons you mention, including the simple fact of keeping up our own morale. Even preaching to the choir is valuable. And of course, what one says to somebody who utterly rejects it may be overheard by a passerby, who finds that some part of what he hears raises a question or strikes a chord in him. You also mentioned both of those, of course. I especially liked the “providing cover” remark. Very, very true and important.

    Yes, when you come clean about your evil non-”liberal”, non-left, non-Progressive, blood-sucking, baby-eating propensities you do indeed risk friendships and even relationships with your children. And yes, it really is hard sometimes. Especially with close family, of course.

    Thanks for saying it all. :>)

  • [...] Prompted by Jccarlton who linked to It’s For Your Own Good! – NYTs and Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism – Book Excerpt and We want to rule you because you are stupid and powerless and we are wise – Samizdata. [...]

  • I linked at: http://classicalvalues.com/2013/02/we-are-ruled/

    and the main point?

    We Are Ruled By Coalitions Of Fears

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul: I said it before, and I’ll say it again:
    “you said:
    if one (let’s call her Sarah C) starts from the premise that we can make NO CHOICES, then she is correct in inferring that we ought to CHOOSE collectivism.
    I am, of course, rephrasing your argument in such a way as to make it clear why you are wrong.”
    That is your 1st contradiction, and it seems to me (though I am not sure) that you double down on it in your comment on Hume.

    I thought you contradicted yourself again, because I thought that, in saying that Hayek was a compatibilist, you meant that Hayek believed in both free will and determinism. A forgivable mistake on my part, since that is how I understood Hayek myself.
    But at this point I also doubt whether “free will” means the same to you as it does to me.

    As for Hayek contradicting himself, I said so myself, though not about free will.

    As for this: “I should also have pointed out that I agree with Midwesterner that the foundations (the metacontext) for the recovery of civil society (if it does recover) have to be laid now.”

    I explicitly stated that I agree as well. If you and Midwestern think I disagree, you are completely missing the point.

  • I’m about a third of the way down in the comments here and no one has mentioned the paternalism of the right. Drug prohibition being a prime example.

    What most people caught up in the political dichotomy of today fail to get is that the left and the right both believe they favor liberty. And how is that justified by each side? “My fears are real, yours are imaginary.”

    Once upon a time in the West we countered the fear problem with faith in God. That has given way to faith in Rome (government). We used to wish to be ruled by the “holy spirit” as it moved us individually. Now we want to be ruled by rules developed remotely. The more remote the rules and the more immediate the enforcment the better.

    We in fact don’t have a government problem. We have a spiritual problem. A lack of trust in God. There was a guy 2,000 years ago who expounded on the problem. His current day followers appear to have missed the message. They prefer to act in the very way he railed against. “Stone her” is their rallying cry. Well maybe not to the point of death. Just a very long stretch in stir. Kinder and gentler.

    ====

    BTW I did not come by my “faith” in the usual way: indoctrination. Experience taught me. And note: I do engineering for a living. So reason is not some remote idea to me. It is daily (or oftener) practice.

    http://www.ecnmag.com/tags/Blogs/M-Simon/

  • On the correct morality. Right and wrong.

    I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.- Hunter S. Thompson

  • Paul Marks,

    Re: agency. “Societies of the Mind” by Minsky is quite good and mirrors the understanding of the more esoteric Ouespensky in “The Fourth Way”.

    The reason most people are so confusing is tat there is not one agent in a given body. There are multiple and they do not coordinate.

  • The Many Faces of James? Seriously.

  • Midwesterner

    M. Simon,

    Dead on about the Republican paternalism. I lost a relative to drug addiction because the insane War on Drugs® made it dangerous for anybody to even acknowledge the presence of a drug problem. “See no evil”, because just knowing and not reporting can send you to prison. Republican Drug Warriors have managed to destroy the very community support system they claim to support just where it is needed most. Republicans are not called “The Stupid Party” without good reason.

  • Alisa,

    I clicked on your name and was most gratified to see the Hebrew although my skill in that language (poor at best) has atrophied to practically nothing. And the Russian? I have a son living in Moscow. I don’t know a bit of Russian except for “halva”. Love the sunflower seeds. The son in Russia brings me back treats (chocolates and sunflower seed halva) when he visits. Unfortunately (hah) I have to share them with the rest of the family.

    All I can say is: read the Minsky book “Societies of the Mind”. Then if you are a mind the Russian expat Ouspensky.

  • M. Simon: I didn’t mean to dismiss the merits of the book or its author. Also, the idea that one person may possess several personalities is not new and seems to be empirically valid. Problem is, ‘personality’ is a psychological concept, while ‘agent’ is philosophical and moral. Consequently, the former is subjective, the latter is objective. All of which would render Eve (she of Three Faces) a non-agent, and that is just an extreme example. Any “normal” person has to grapple with decisions he’d rather not have to make on a daily basis. But once we make this decisions and act on them, they are ours – at least as far as the world outside us is concerned.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri Godhi – you are “quoting” me saying things I have never said.

    You are not “rephrasing my argument”. Because I have never made any such argument.

    I have never said that the people are right to choose evil.

    And I have never said that they are correct when they imply they have no choice in the matter (or when they say that evil does not exist).

    I have said something quite different.

    I have said (and said repeatedly) that when intellectuals play these games (whether sincerely or not) the result is obivous (even without centuries of experience one should expect it). For F.A. Hayek to be shocked by the result of these games was absurd. And for him to desperatly try to show that that the games do not lead in this direction was also absurd.

    If you sincerly do not understand what I have said – well, I am sorry, but there is nothing more that I am prepared to do to explain it to you.

    Nor have I ever claimed that you and Midwesterner are in disagreement about the other matter (the restoration of civil society)that I mentioned.

  • Paul Marks

    I will now contradict myself – by making a final effort to explain……

    If one does not wish people to burn – one should not lead them into a fire.

    And chanting(even with total sincerity) “I am not leading you into a fire” makes no difference when one is leading people into a fire.

  • Leading people into a fire? Don’t they have free will, Paul?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul Marks:
    “I have never said that the people are right to choose evil.”

    …and I never said that you said so.

    “And I have never said that they are correct when they imply they have no choice in the matter (or when they say that evil does not exist).”

    …and I never said that you said so.

    “I have said something quite different.”

    …and so did I.

    “I have said (and said repeatedly) that when intellectuals play these games (whether sincerely or not) the result is obivous”

    …but you never spelled out what “these games” are, and frankly I doubt that you have a clear idea of what they are.

    “If you sincerly do not understand what I have said – well, I am sorry, but there is nothing more that I am prepared to do to explain it to you.”

    …and if you sincerely do not understand what I have said – well, I am sorry, but there is nothing more that I can do to explain it to you.

  • Paul Marks

    “but you have never spelled out what “these games” are”.

    Yes I have – repeatedly.

    “and frankly I doubt you have a clear idea of what they are”.

    Yes I do – and so do you.

  • Paul Marks

    They do indeed Alisa.

    However, if you tell people (repeatedly – and via the culture) that right and wrong do not exist – then, eventually, some people will be more likely to believe it.

    And if you tell people (again repeatedly – and via the cultrue) that they have no choice over their actions anyway……..

    Free will (agency) is NOT without effort. Sometimes it requires incredible effort (to overcome gentic and environmental factors) – and it is often agony. Each day (each minute) contains the agony – and the temptation to give in.

    The Nazis (and others) were not wrong when they thought of it as a BURDEN. They were wrong in holding that it (personal responsbility)is a burden that should be rejected (now we are free not to be free – free from the burden of CHOICE).

    Misguide people (again and again) and you make it harder for them.

    “There is no fire this way”.

    And.

    “Even if there is a fire – it will not burn you”.

    Of just “trust me – obey”.

    Of course one can still say “You are wrong – I will not go this way”.

    But it makes the “burden of agency” harder and harder (more and more heavy)- and becomes more and more tempting to go with the flow.

    The flow to destruction.

    As for such things as there-is-no-real-choice-but-people-are-still-morally-responsible-for-their-actions.

    That is just wrong, flat wrong.

    The “you do not have any real choice” will be heard (and jumped on, or fallen for, by some), the “but you should still not rape and murder and so on”…….? To any normal person that is just a contradiction.

    After all one has just given people the perfect excuse………

    Yes people have free will – but that does not mean that tempters and Devils (if only in human form) do not exist, or that they have no effect.

    That such folk (those with evil intent – and jokers who just do not care about the consequences) use such (FALSE) “arguments” is not astonishing.

    That a good man (such as Hayek) desperately tries to move from those “arguments” from their evil consequences is astonishing.

    The way to avoid the consequences is not to pretend that the road does not naturally tend in that direction – after all it is the road to Hell (the sign posts are clear enough – even if it is just a natural, not a supernatual Hell).

    It is not to walk down the road.

    And, yes, not to point down the road and encourage other people to walk down it.

    “But telling people there is no such thing as right and wrong is not the same thing as telling them to do wrong”.

    And.

    “But telling someone there is no such thing as a real choice is not the same thing as telling them to choose evil”.

    Totally beside the point.

    Indeed classic examples of “bad faith” – in this case playing with logic to deny what one knows the result of certain actions will be.

    The Devil himself (if he actually exists) does not go around telling people to “do wrong” and “choose evil”.

    His whispers (if he exists and actually does whisper) may have no “logical” connection to “do wrong” and “choose evil” – but the point of them is to lead in the direction of “do wrong”, “choose evil”.

  • Paul, have you even bothered to actually read the comments here?

  • Alisa,

    Your statement: “But once we make this decisions and act on them, they are ours – at least as far as the world outside us is concerned.” is the correct way to look at the matter from the outside. From the inside it is a good idea to learn about the different personalities and install a Master Personality that calls the rest – if you can. “The Fourth Way” by Ouspensky discusses what needs to be done to install an operating system. Other than the esoteric craziness – an excellent book. BTW “People of the Lie” by Peck anecdotally mirrors a lot of what Ouspensky says.

  • I absolutely agree, M. Simon. The only point I was making was that ‘agent’ and ‘personality’ are two very different things. A person can have several personalities, but only one agent.

  • Alisa,

    You say, “Leading people into a fire? Don’t they have free will, Paul?” Well that is what we should assume to make a coherent social system. In fact the vast majority are mechanical. It is why you cant teach people new things socially past age 25. It is why Max Planck said:

    “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” – Max Planck

  • Take my mother for instance. A life long Democrat. Not because their ideas are right but because they gave her food during the Great Depression of the 30s. There is an awful lot of that going on. At a deep and possibly unconscious level the left knows how to program the masses. The right places far too much reliance on reason. Reason is very good. I make my living at it. It represents about 10% of humanity and human experience.

  • Paul Marks

    Some of the comments Alisa – however, there are things that I am not happy with. [Actually the format (things just dropping into my inbox) does not please me either].

    “But once we make decisons and act on them. they are ours – at least as far the world outside us is concerned”.

    Either we make decisions or we do not.

    “once we make decisions” either means what it says – or it means nothing.

    And a thousand long comments do not alter that fact.

    Eiher humans beings exist – or human beings do not exist.

    Either we are capable of choice – or we are not (are not – because we are not beings).

    Nonbeings can have no morality.

    As for killing such creatures (such nonbeings – flesh robots) – it could be argued (although this might not in fact be the case) to be act of virtue.

    After all they would be mockeries – creatures that appeared to be beings (“as far as the outside world” is concerned), but in reality are not beings at all.

  • Paul Marks

    Multiple personalities (and so on) is an area I will not deal with (I mention it to prove that I am reading the comments).

    Again – a person may have all sorts of impluses and influences (and YES they may be in contradiction – and alter in strength over time, “different personalities” perhaps).

    But the “I” does exist (it is not an “illusion” – for who is having the illusion) – and can (with effort) choose. Although the effort may indeed be agony.

  • M. Simon: I made that remark sarcastically, to point out the internal contradiction in Paul’s arguments.

    Yes, many people are what you call ‘mechanical’, but the fact is that at some point they chose to be so. It is also true that having chosen that path, after enough time they may reach a point of no returning and no regaining the ability to choose. This may be what the religious tradition alludes to when it talks about selling one’s soul to the Devil.

  • Paul says: “Free will (agency) is NOT without effort. Sometimes it requires incredible effort (to overcome gentic and environmental factors) – and it is often agony. Each day (each minute) contains the agony – and the temptation to give in.”

    Excellent. The matter in a nut shell. And yes – political movements that offer to relieve you of the burden are quite popular. Libertarians (the rationalists) turn their nose up at them. But they work. For a while. Our trouble is that we have no formula. In fact we can’t have a formula. The real world doesn’t allow it. Circumstances change.

    Religion used to give people a tolerably good formula when things changed slowly. Slow enough that religion could keep up well enough. Now a days we are stuck with a number of old formulas and the same old mechanical people. There is a mismatch with reality. Things break and break out then. Wars mostly. You can see it coming.

    I do not think that anything will save the country: unless through war and revolution, when those who wish to survive will have to think and act for themselves according to their desperate needs, and not by some rotten yard-stick of convention.

    http://hermetic.com/crowley/eight-lectures-on-yoga/8yoga2.html

    Yeah. I have bee a big fan for over 40 years. He is dangerous – because he will take you to the dark side if that is where you want to go. But he can also take you to the light.

  • Paul, the purpose of this discussion is not to make someone happy.
    We are all entitled to our opinions, but in order to participate in a discussion, one has to actually listen to what his interlocutors are actually saying, rather than attacking various arguments that no one present ever made.

    Multiple personalities (and so on) is an area I will not deal with (I mention it to prove that I am reading the comments).

    You don’t have to prove anything, but you do need to address the points people are actually making, rather than some imaginary points addressing which keeps you happy.

  • Alissa says, “Yes, many people are what you call ‘mechanical’, but the fact is that at some point they chose to be so.”

    Actually I’m of the opposite conviction. Mechanicalness is the norm. You have to choose and work hard to become awake. We are naturally awake and with sufficient discernment to make choices from age 15 to 25. After that – for the vast majority it is sleep time. Mechanicalness.

    That is why the left works so hard to capture the youth. They get most of them (90% to 99%) for life. As I pointed out above – they have even made Progressives out of the Right. “Government should…” being the operative term. In America the Right of 1900 would be called libertarians today. And you know how what is currently called the right reviles libertarians. It will not end well. It can’t.

  • Paul,

    The unitary “I” does not exist for the vast majority. The different “Is” are bought out by triggers. Thus the mass meetings by the Nazis to trigger the people attending. To create the unttary “I” is a struggle. You are aware of it.

    You really ought to do some research into esoteric Naziism. They understood how to manipulate the mechanicals. Pauwels and Bergier are tolerably good for a start and once you have that look into the German branch of the OTO in the 30s. Crowley was not too fond of them despite having – in a way – spawned them.

  • M. Simon: you may be right, and most people are mechanical. But it hardly changes my point, which is that at some point, even for a split second, they made a choice.

    I don’t disagree with any of the rest of your points.

  • Paul says,

    “Eiher humans beings exist – or human beings do not exist.”

    Well some humans exist. Most with a human looking body are not human.

    “Nonbeings can have no morality.”

    True that. What would I do about it? For the most part try to disturb them as little as possible. Liberty if you will. For those who wish to awake psychedelics are extremely useful. Which is why Drug Prohibition is so evil. We have made/allowed sleepers of those who should be awake. And awakeness is not a virtue in our culture. The Zen people have a better culture even if the portion awake is not much larger than ours. The Church prefers sleepers. The only Church person I know involved in awakening is Joyce Meyers. I’m not too fond of the Christian overlay but she gets the fundamentals right and does reach the mechanicals with an affinity to Christianity.

  • Alisa says,

    “M. Simon: you may be right, and most people are mechanical. But it hardly changes my point, which is that at some point, even for a split second, they made a choice.”

    Yes. But for most that choice is for practical purposes predetermined. And it is made once and forgotten. It is very difficult to go back to that decision point and unmake the choice. There was a SF/fantasy story about that I have read. Very insightful. Can’t remember the title. About a man selling his soul to the Devil. To beat the Devil he has to go back in his life line to the point where the choice was made and unmake it. And then everything changes in the universe. But it still remains the same.

  • Paul Marks

    M. Simon – I am not a prohitionist, but I strongly suspect that drugs make the problems worse (not better).

    Alisa – yes on the Nazis. Himmler was a mystic, but Hitler was very much a rationalist – USING stimuli on humans (like Pavlov and the dogs – just in a far more complex ways).

    Getting to the moment of “I” (the instant of real choice).

    We look at it differently.

    “That is because you believe in the existance of the soul Paul”.

    That may indeed be it – although many atheists also belive in the existance of the soul.

    Of course (to really alienate people from me) I also believe in the Devil -indeed, alas, I know the gentleman only too well.

  • Paul, where did I say anything about the Nazis?

  • Paul Marks, your February 24, 2013 at 8:57 pm,

    Is spot on relative to the morality one should adopt among the sleepers. Our current difficulty is that the ruling elite have adopted the morality of the Nazis if in a less extreme form. Bastards. We are in a better condition relative to some cultures in that our current masters are not above mass murder but it is not their preference.

    Alisa – you are not wrong either.

    The eternal question for the awake is what morality do you adopt among the sleepers? Our current rulers have adopted evil. How do we change their minds when as of now they are profiting so handsomely from their choice? It will not be easy. How do we strike the fear of “God” into them? How do we convince them that raising up the sleepers is a better choice even if it means some personal losses? I currently have no idea.

  • “M. Simon – I am not a prohitionist, but I strongly suspect that drugs make the problems worse (not better).”

    If you had experienced what I have your opinion would be different. I was fortunate to be alive and in my 20s in the 60s. There was a culture developing then that could have helped the larger culture. Squashed. All that remains is a remnant. And who was in the lead in the squashing? The Church. For very good reasons. From their point of view.

    The situation was not loss free I grant you. But the gains far exceeded the losses. And had the movement been embraced the losses could have been reduced.

    You might find this of interest: http://www.maps.org/ Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

  • Our current rulers have adopted evil. How do we change their minds when as of now they are profiting so handsomely from their choice?

    You don’t. It will not be easy – it will be…is, impossible. You force them to leave you alone, by any means necessary.

  • Paul Marks

    Sorry Alisa – that was Mr Simon.

    You complained that I replied to traditional arguments that had NOT actually been made in the thread.

    You also made the perfectly valid point that this thread was not about me being “happy” but was about something else.

    Actually these matters are what matters to me (and has always mattered to me) more than anything else in the world – but that might be misunderstood as an appeal to happiness (something I do not put much store in anyway).

    It would have been more accurate to say “anger me a great deal” rather than “I am not happy with”.

    But my anger is as nonrelevant as my happiness.

    A population with such beliefs (the belief in the nonexistance of right and wrong – and/or the belief that they can not make real choices) do not deserve to survive.

    And will not survive.

    Perhaps a Hayekian – cultural evolution point.

    Although, if one takes Hayek at his word (that morality is to be judged by rules that are useful for the long term growth of society) the correct moral response to his statements (for example his examination, or rather denial, of the human mind in “The Sensory Order”) would have been to kill him (having first destroyed all copies of such writings). As such beliefs, if they spread, can only have an incredibly negative effect on the future survival of society.

    I do not believe that would have been the right thing to do.

    One can not defend the dignity of the human mind by hanging those humans who deny it, and one can not defend the work of humans by burning books one does not approve of.

    Such evil means corrupt the end. Something “Saint” Augustine did not seem to understand.

    On the other hand – I can not convince people with words. In this particular thread I clearly lack the skill.

    So there is no point in my reading or writing anything more here.

    Finis.

  • Paul say: “Of course (to really alienate people from me) I also believe in the Devil -indeed, alas, I know the gentleman only too well.”

    I have a more than nodding acquaintance with the gentleman myself. He will leave you alone if he finds you too hard to conquer. But he is always available for conversation. And I do enjoy the conversation.

    “with their head in the highest heavens and their feet in the deepest hells”

    from: http://www.witchtalkshow.com/post/14927920773/the-crossed-keys-european-spellcraft-with

    Which is a bit too romantic for my taste these days. People who believe they can/should do only good are capable of the greatest evil. What ever you do will help some and hurt others. If you developed a perfect cancer cure you would be hurting seriously all those purveyors of imperfect cures. “Creatures of Light and Darkness” (by Zelazny) indeed.

  • Alisa says – “You don’t. It will not be easy – it will be…is, impossible. You force them to leave you alone, by any means necessary.”

    I like that. Still. I am looking for a formula that might change their minds. I’m not inherently a blood thirsty person. But I will do my duty to the best of my ability. Devil take hindmost. Heh.

  • Paul says,

    “On the other hand – I can not convince people with words. In this particular thread I clearly lack the skill.

    So there is no point in my reading or writing anything more here.

    Finis.”

    Well it takes time. And repetition. Patience.

    I have enjoyed your presence.

    Love is the Law.

  • A population with such beliefs (the belief in the nonexistance of right and wrong – and/or the belief that they can not make real choices) do not deserve to survive.

    It’s a strawman you keep repeating, Paul – contrary to everything that has been said here.

    Actually these matters are what matters to me (and has always mattered to me) more than anything else in the world

    Yes, and you are not the only one, hence the argument.

    I can not convince people with words

    It is not about convincing people, which presumes that you know The Truth, and your mission is to spread it to others. It is about constantly reexamining your assumptions about the truth, and being prepared to change them if proven wrong, rather than blindly following them.

    Anyway, I’m exhausted. You may find this of interest.

  • Alisa,

    I have enjoyed your presence as well. And thanks for the link. I will give it some study.

    And your point about reexamining your presumptions is very scientific. This engineer likes that.

    Love is the Law.

  • Alisa,

    I have read the link. Nice. My view is that the Force, God if you will, can be made to reconsider its assumptions. “It affects me and I affect it” in the Star Wars formulation. The Will of the Universe is not fixed. However, as a limited being my understanding may be incorrect. But that is how I see it today.

  • My view is that the Force, God if you will, can be made to reconsider its assumptions.

    That is no less than revolutionary – I like that:-)

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