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

Samizdata quote of the day

The way Sam talks about institutions and expert opinion confirms my sense that the true split of the heterodox world was between those defending the institutions and those who defend the truth. When the institutions separated from the truth, we saw who was who.

Alexandros Marinos, making what I think is a profound broader point, referencing not just Sam Harris’ train wreck interview on Triggernometry.

63 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Bobby b

    I think he just told us that it would be better to destroy the world than to leave it to people who think like Trump.

  • bobby b

    (P.S. I meant Harris, not Marinos.)

  • Patrick Crozier

    Clearly Triggernometry’s interview with Sam Harris is a big deal. But there’s something I just don’t understand. Who the fuck is Sam Harris?

  • Exasperated

    How can they, people like Harris, and they are legion, not see that they are boosting Trump’s popularity, by making claims that are preposterous, fantastical, and malignant. Is it a compulsion, a mania, or some sort of neurosis? It’s so pathetic and adolescent. It’s baffling to people, who don’t have Trump on the brain, every waking minute.

  • Steven R

    I am still astounded just how many otherwise-rational individuals go completely unhinged at the mention of Trump.

  • Patrick: For better or worse, mostly worse, Sam Harris is a leading talking head & member of the “Intellectual dark web”. Perhaps best known for having said “Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas.”

  • Martin

    I believe that Harris or someone of his ilk would be a much worse president than Trump. There is no one worse than people who believe that if anyone just behaved like they think they should the world would be Utopia. Really no one.
    I prefer a big-mouthed blunderer who basically leaves all or most people live as they want over a self-righteous do-gooder every time.

  • lucklucky

    How can they, people like Harris, and they are legion, not see that they are boosting Trump’s popularity, by making claims that are preposterous, fantastical, and malignant. Is it a compulsion, a mania, or some sort of neurosis?

    None of that. It is the logical consequence of needing access to progressive circles.

    Perhaps best known for having said “Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas.”

    He probably have to compensate that by showing militant TDS…

  • bobby b

    “He probably have to compensate that by showing militant TDS”

    Yeah, and even that level of TDS probably hasn’t gotten him back in good woke graces yet. You just don’t critique Islam.

  • SkippyTony

    The is the intellectual heart of the left laid bare. By any means possible….

  • Martin

    Harris has the honour of being part of two completely unimpressive intellectual movements. First the rather risible ‘new atheists’ and then the ineffectual dork web.

    With Liz Cheney first and now Harris committing professional hari-kari, it’s been a good week. 😁

  • BelgianBrian

    Is it a compulsion, a mania, or some sort of neurosis?

    The agenda is the father of the neurosis. Harris might be something of an intellectual, but when the agenda conflicts with the intellect you get the resulting cognitive dissonance. Which was illustrated in the first couple of minutes of the interview. It’s his ‘feelz’, not his intellect, that informs Harris that Trump is an evil man. Then the agenda reasserts it’s hold, and he can’t find enough evidence to indict Hunter Biden, or his Dad.

    it’s been a good week.

    Amen.

  • Martin

    I am increasingly sympathetic to the view that the hostility against Trump is motivated by class hatred. Obviously Trump is a billionaire but then he’s a pretty atypical billionaire, definitely not part of the Masters of the Universe club of the Gates/Zuckerberg/Soros sort. But really it’s class hatred against Trump’s main support groups – mostly working class and petit bourgeois. The likes of Sam Harris hate the idea that the presidential candidate supported by those people could win because they hate these classes of people. Trump is right when he says they’re not really after him, they’re after you. The ultra rich, the deep state, and the professional classes want to discipline their inferiors.

    So we live in such strange times that I am becoming almost a right wing Marxist! 🤣😄

  • Paul Marks

    Patrick – Sam Harris is a leading atheist and defender of science (not the same thing – although he may think it is). But, sadly, the institutions, including the scientific institutions, have BETRAYED science.

    In the natural sciences, such as medicine, this was horribly exposed by the reaction to Covid 19 – where institution after institution backed the totally unscientific “lockdowns” and supported the smearing of dissent (as if free debate was not vital to science), and supported the smearing of Early Treatment.

    In Germany (where I presently am – just for a few days) hundreds of doctors have protested over unscientific measures and over the censorship of dissent – censorship of dissent on medical matters is especially reprehensible to Germans of conscience, due to the historical experience of Germany.

    On President Trump – the position of Sam Harris is terrible. To admit that there was a “liberal” (not really liberal at all – I hate the Collectivists stealing such words as “liberal”) conspiracy against President Trump, but then saying “it was justified because Trump is bad” (or words to that effect) is disgusting. Especially as it was not President Trump who was doing the bad things (pushing wars, supporting lockdowns – and-so-on) it was his opponents who were pushing the bad policies.

    This also touches on science – someone who looks at a city such as Chicago and decides yet more “Progressive” policy is needed (yet more government spending and regulations) is someone who is ignoring both reason and experience.

    There is a big debate in economics – is the subject a matter of logical reasoning from first principles, as economists such as Ludwig Von Mises argued, or is economics a matter of experience, empirical data – as economists such as Milton Friedman argued? But in the case of “Progressive” policies, such as “look-say” (rather than phonics) in the teaching of reading, or high government spending, or high taxes, or endless regulations – it-does-not-matter if we are talking about logical first principles or experience (empirical data) as “Progressive” policies are shown to be wrong either way.

    What Sam Harris is really saying is incredibly bad – for it is the position of “let us ignore both reason and experience and carry on with “liberal” policies anyway – and if the voters elect someone, such as Donald John Trump, to stop us – then let us conspire to remove him, let us edit is words to reverse the meaning of what he is saying, let us even rig elections, anything to get rid of him”.

    As a circumcised man some of whose relatives (cousins of my father) died in the gas chambers, I found the “liberal” editing of the words of Donald John Trump in Virginia in 2017 particularly repulsive. The very first thing that the man said was to condemn the Nazis who had tried to hijacked the movement to try and keep statutes of General Lee and others (such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and-so-on) – President Trump totally condemned the Nazis, and that was EDITED OUT by the media, indeed they so edited his words as to make it seem that he was saying that the Nazis who had tried to take over the save-the-statues movement were “good people” (not that OTHER PEOPLE who wanted to save the statues of General Lee and others were good people).

    I hated what the media did – they took the words of President Trump and twisted them to get the opposite meaning, and they CARRIED ON doing it, year after year. That is the sort of despicable tactic that Sam Harris is supporting.

    It is not “scientific” to get the “data”, in this case the words a man is saying, and edit and twist them to get the opposite result – it is like Michael Mann and others taking temperature (and other) data and systematically falsifying it – to support their theories.

    One does not falsify the data to get the result one wants – for example “Trump is a Nazi – let us show this by taking his words condemning Nazis and editing them to make it appear that he is supporting Nazis” – only a despicable person does this, and this is the sort of thing that Sam Harris is supporting.

    By the way, for those who do not know, Donald John Trump has been a friend of the Jewish community for some 60 years – as was his father before him. What the media did, and continue to do, is vile – the “liberal” media are pigs, and people such as Sam Harris, who support such tactics, are also pigs.

  • Paul Marks

    There is a definition of “conservative” that goes “supporter of the institutions” – by this definition I am NOT a conservative (my dear friends at Central Office will be rubbing their hands with glee at that admission), as the institutions in so many countries (including the United Kingdom) have betrayed truth – they have betrayed scientific truth and they have also betrayed moral truth.

    To a real conservative, whether an Old Whig such as Edmund Burke, or a Tory such as Samuel Johnson, TRUTH comes first – both the scientific truth and the moral truth (natural law – in both senses of the term). This is why Samuel Johnson rejected David Hume – even though they were “both Tory”, they were “Tory” in the party political sense – but some things go beyond party politics. Scientific truth (the objective physical universe) and the moral truth of such things as human agency (free will – the ability to, with great effort, choose to do what is morally right over our desire to do evil).

    It is truth, both scientific and moral truth, that the institutions (such as the media – but essentially every other institution as well – especially the education system) has betrayed.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Martin

    I am increasingly sympathetic to the view that the hostility against Trump is motivated by class hatred…So we live in such strange times that I am becoming almost a right wing Marxist!

    I think you are, as I am, becoming that thing most hated by the modern bien-pensant elites: a populist.
    Not in the hating sense that they mean it (which boils down to `someone who disagrees with us’), but rather someone who believes that the (vast) majority of people are entitled to control their own lives.

    This is anathema to the controlling classes.

  • rhoda klapp

    His justification for not covering hte laptop story could be, and was, used by those who had the access to interfere with the vote count. It is so awful to re-elect Trump that there is nothing ruled out to keep it from happening.

  • Y. Knott

    How can they, people like Harris, and they are legion, not see that they are boosting Trump’s popularity, by making claims that are preposterous, fantastical, and malignant.

    – Because to people like Harris (and they are legion), it’s the utter, unchallengeable, PROFOUND truth – and anybody who can’t see that is so mentally deficient as to be beneath consideration, poor thing, and anybody who disagrees is by definition, beneath contempt: they are THEM, and once the right-thinkers take over, they’re all for the tethered high jump.

    It’s his class marker for deplorables; and they, having been conveniently labelled, may be forever ignored (at best); it’s why he labels.

    And, who is Sam Harris? – he’s their eminence grise; he’s the profound thinker from before-when we-weren’t-in-power, whose insightful philosophy justifies our heinous deeds now that we are.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    This article, an amplification of a Twitter thread, reinforces my point:
    https://outsidevoices.substack.com/p/author-of-the-mega-viral-thread-on

  • Y. Knott

    – someone who looks at a city such as Chicago and decides yet more “Progressive” policy is needed – they say this because they just KNOW it is – as BelgianBrian put it, “feelz” are what matters, and don’t bother trying to confuse them with facts. They’re ever-so-much smarter than us; they just ARE.

    Me, I liked a lot of Trump, but his inexperience in high government office, while being one of his strong points, was also one of his weak points; he was an outsider, and “the club” united against him resulting in ~three years of wasteful “NO!!! – because Trump said yes”ism. I’d rather De Santis because he’s shown he knows how to bend deep-states to his will, and our benefit; but I really hope Trump gets back in, for three reasons:

    1) the election was openly stolen from him – he deserves it;

    2) Hilary – tick tock, b1tch – Trump will rain payback on thousands who really, really deserve it; and

    3) for at least a year after he wins, we’ll be treated to ongoing fireworks displays; great, multicoloured sheets ‘n gouts of flame as leftist heads explode all over the world – I LOVE fireworks!

  • Sean

    Patrick – he’s been milking his mother’s talent/name for years. Eventually the mean would be tended to.

  • Bobby b (August 19, 2022 at 1:28 am), Sam Harris loudly believes moral values can and should be derived from ‘science’. His enthusiasm for compulsory vaccination followed naturally. I have the impression he hates the idea of any competing source of value impeding the moral rule of ‘science’ so, like Richard Dawkins (they quote and praise each other a lot), he spends much time venting against Christianity and religion in general, and also makes the occasional unwoke remark specifically about Islam.

  • Exasperated

    How can they, people like Harris, and they are legion, not see that they are boosting Trump’s popularity, by making claims that are preposterous, fantastical, and malignant.

    I suppose that many are really convinced of their crazy claims and can’t hear how outlandish they appear to normies.
    In my comment, I was questioning the lack of self awareness regarding their own credibility(and dignity). It’s in part “crying wolf”, and it’s in part the bizarre, frenetic, dribbling spit OVER REACTION to any disagreement.
    I feel about them, the same way I feel about the SARS-2 vaccine experts. If their “evidence” was so solid and incontrovertible why did make their mission (even sometimes conspire) to smear, harass, and lie about dissenters, even if the dissenters were asking the most innocuous, mundane and routine questions? It’s bizarre.
    Just another thought. How can they not realize that by their behavior they turn off honest, fair minded people and make their targets into martyrs and sympathetic underdogs? That’s just tone deaf, stupid, obtuse, even.

  • Exasperated

    Another thing, these people take no responsibility for driving Middle America towards Trump with their lame theatrics and unrelenting barrage of insults to working people. They aren’t original or creative either.

  • Sam Duncan

    How can they, people like Harris, and they are legion, not see that they are boosting Trump’s popularity, by making claims that are preposterous, fantastical, and malignant.

    Exactly. During his primary run, I tended to agree with these people. I keep thinking of PJ O’Rourke’s comment (which Harris echoes, less pithily) that Hillary “might be wrong about everything, but she’s wrong by normal parameters”. That seemed reasonable to me (I may even have repeated it here at the time), when looking at the untested loose cannon that Trump was in the summer of 2016.

    But then they went off the deep end. It began to look, on the contrary, that it was Trump who was operating by the normal parameters. Being, effectively, personally pardoned by the Director of the FBI isn’t “normal parameters”. Circulating a dossier of lies about a President in order to provoke impeachment isn’t “normal parameters”. Normalising illegal immigration and allowing non-citizens to vote isn’t “normal parameters”. Encouraging violent riots that cost dozens of lives then claiming that people walking around the Capitol uninvited was the greatest threat to the Republic since the 1860s isn’t “normal parameters”. (You may well, in your cynicism, disagree. But if they are, they damned well shouldn’t be.)

    I hope they keep it up. 2024 will be a walkover.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I am still astounded just how many otherwise-rational individuals go completely unhinged at the mention of Trump.

    I am still astounded at how individuals who are completely unhinged about Trump (or any other subject, eg Ukraine) manage to be rational in other areas.

    Bobby Fisher is a good example.

    But it also seems delusional to me (to a lesser extent) to think that such people are not delusional, that they don’t really believe what they say, that they have a hidden agenda.

    For instance, i am convinced (although i could conceivably be un-convinced) that the vast majority of people in the chattering classes who proclaim that Trump is a racist, do not say it only because they think that other people will believe them: they say it because they are too delusional to evaluate the evidence to the contrary.

    It is hardly ever possible to over-estimate the human proneness to delusional insanity. Believe me, every day i question my own sanity; not because i have reason to question it, but because i know that i do not need specific reasons to question it.

  • Snorri Godhi

    There is a definition of “conservative” that goes “supporter of the institutions” – by this definition I [Paul Marks] am NOT a conservative

    As i put it previously in this forum, there are 2 main concepts of “conservative”: supporter of tradition, and supporter of authority. (I believe that “right-wing” is historically more correct for the latter.)

    I am certainly not an unconditional supporter of authority; nor of tradition, but having to choose between the 2, i am biased towards tradition. Especially when the authorities are such as they are today.

    I recently made a list for myself of essays that best describe my version of conservatism:
    Karl Popper: Towards a Rational Theory of Tradition
    Edward Feser: Hayek on Tradition
    Norman Barry: The Tradition of Spontaneous Order: A Bibliographical Essay

    What GK Chesterton said about fences, is also relevant.

    (It helps to read Hayek, but it is hard work.)

  • bobby b

    I suspect that they would have hated and demonized anyone who denied their expected Queen Hillary her presidency. That was really the day they all became unhinged, and they have never recovered from that outrage.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Incidentally, Sam Harris had a debate about free will with his fellow “new atheist” Dan Dennett.

    That a compatibilist like Dennett, finds so much disagreement with a free-will denier like Harris, just goes to show that people are delusional when they claim that compatibilism is dishonest free-will denial. (I am looking at you, Paul and Johnathan.)

    And here is Dan Dennett arguing for well over one hour against free-will denial.

    Not that i think that Dennett makes the best argument against free-will denial. Much better than Augustine and Thomas Reid, however.

  • Exasperated

    This is just my opinion, but I think people who fixate on or imagine that they have deep insight into a public persona based on media, are really quite adolescent, cases of arrested development.
    The rest of us know how the game is played: the loaded question (when did you stop beating your wife?), false accusations, cherry picking the stories, exaggerated headlines disconnected from any substance, guilt by association, the pretense that they can discern motivation and know private thoughts, deceptive editing of video, presenting rumors and gossip as facts, manufactured anonymous sources, suppression of anything exculpatory, deliberate misinterpretation of statements, doctoring of photographs, insertion of stock photographs, ad hominins, selection of the most unflattering photographs, every story slanted in the most negative way with negative adjectives, adverbs and verbs, constant gotchas and efforts to bait the target……
    Look what they did to the Covington Kids.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I suspect that they would have hated and demonized anyone who denied their expected Queen Hillary her presidency. That was really the day they all became unhinged, and they have never recovered from that outrage.

    I actually started to think of xxi century Anglo-American progressivism as a suicide cult, around the time of Obama’s 1st election. That was the culmination of a personal development that began with the Cartoon Jihad of 2006.

    However, now i believe that, in the long run, things would have been worse if McCain had won.

  • Exasperated

    To me it is reasonable to be biased in favor of tradition, but with the caveat that the environment is always in flux. I operate on the assumption that, over time, flawed, inadequate systems fail and disappear while the effective and most efficiently adapted to their environment tend to prevail by attrition, on average. This is not meant to be ironclad or kneejerk since the environment is always in flux, and adaptability to change is a key feature. Uh,oh does this sound like social Darwinism?

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri – I had forgotten that Sam Harris was a Determinist. That explains a lot – if humans are not beings (it they are just non beings) then why not rig elections, or force people to take injections that may kill them, or even just burn people alive – to hear the screams these non-beings make.

    As for Compatibilism – my view on it is the same as that of Kant of William James (they were not wrong about everything), it is a contradictory concept (it holds that humans are beings, moral agents, and that they are NOT) – that does NOT mean that everyone who holds it is being dishonest. But it is such a radical contradiction it does tend to make further conversation, on-that-particular-matter, pointless.

    G.K. Chesterton would have admitted that he was not breaking new ground, in ethics or philosophy generally, he was (as he would have been the first to admit) explaining the Aristotelian tradition of thought – as seen through the lens of the Roman Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church of pre Vatican II days, when it still took philosophy seriously. That is not to say that it got everything right (no one does – most certainly including me), but it was a serious intellectual force in those days. Indeed one can see that even in the writings of Pope Benedict (who received his theological and philosophical training before the 1960s), whether one agreed with him or not – his writings showed a serious intellectual tradition at work.

    Some people are very rude about the contradictions and terrible VAGUENESS (lack of clarity) in the intellectual work of Pope Francis – but the problem may be much deeper than the alleged intellectual failings of one man. The tradition of serious logical reasoning may have been undermined in the institution generally – I do not know if that is the case or not. Perhaps, perhaps, a certain intellectual complacency had crept in long before before the 1960s, a tendency to avoid the hard work of arguing from first principles, and questioning every assumption and every “fact” presented.

    Take the example of the very first paragraph of Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical on policy (economics and politics) of 1891 – at the very start of the work two assumptions are made, namely that “capitalism” has increased poverty and that that it has undermined morality – the Encyclical does not advocate socialism (certainly not – it correctly denounces socialism as robbery and tyranny), but it does advocate interventionism (the continuation of the path already followed by such politicians as Disraeli and Bismarck), interventionism based on the two assumptions already mentioned, plus a third assumption – that state intervention would improve matters.

    However, none of these three assumptions were correct – poverty had not increased, it had declined (people were not poorer in 1891 than they had been in 1791 or before), nor had morality been undermined (society was not more immoral and vice ridden in 1891 than in 1791, or 1691, or 1591 – indeed it was LESS so). And the assumption that state interventions would make things better than they otherwise would be, was also mistaken (it makes things worse than they otherwise would be).

    It does not matter how logical someone’s reasoning is – if they start from false assumptions.

  • Paul Marks

    Y. Knott – yes agreed on all points. No reason for me to try and add anything to what you have said.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Harris is also a hardline determinist who denies that humans have free will or agency. Crime, on his view, should be dealt with by therapists or the use of drugs. Moral agency is in his view a myth.

    And yet he cannot see the contradiction. To assert that A is true is meaningless if one has no choice to grasp truth or falsity sans uf one is simply a zombie acting out a chain of actions stemming from the Big Bang. Without agency, there is no judgement, including the ability to judge the truth of determinism. He’s at a dead end as a philosopher.

    Harris gets some kudos for sticking it to Islam, but in general he is a mediocre thinker. The late Christopher Hitchens was far better and more incisive, in my view.

  • ANTHONY TURLEY

    Constricted interpretations of political reality rarely rate legitimacy, but these are strange times. The fact that the country survived Presidents Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan critically weakens Harris’s defense of political annihilation of dangerous candidates by any means necessary.
    The brahmins of the day demonized Jackson and Reagan as existential threats to the nation. In 1824, they successfully conspired to defeat Jackson (“really, how much is conspiracy if some of the discussions are happening in the open…” one of Sam’s more lame rationalizations). Four years later, democracy happened. Similar to Jackson’s victory in 1828, Reagan was overwhelmingly elected in 1980, despite a sustained and concerted “existential threat” campaign.
    To acknowledge an important distinction — While most campaigns seek to demonize the opponent, it is an abuse of position and influence to brandish one’s assets and resources in the service of Total War. In this interview, Harris explicitly and repeatedly justifies a Total War approach to defeat candidates perceived to be existential threats.

    Understanding that past elitist claims regarding extreme threats were re-evaluated in part due to discussions in “the public square,” Triggernometry is right to point out the greater-than-existential threat posed by Harris’s rationalizations. These rationalizations – from the biased premises through to the obviously faulty conclusions – threaten legitimate political discourse in multiple ways. In particular, his refusal to rationally process and evaluate diametrically opposed viewpoints of “how Hunter’s laptop should have been handled” was appallingly craven.
    As Triggernometry and others point out, Harris unabashedly justifies destruction of fundamental democratic processes in the name of electoral democracy.

  • Exasperated (August 19, 2022 at 2:20 pm), I’m not too surprised when a guy like Laurence Tribe screams that Trump can be convicted of attempted murder

    ‘without any doubt, beyond a reasonable doubt, beyond any doubt, and the crimes are obvious.’

    He reminds me of A.C.Grayling after Brexit, frothing at the mouth because

    “Our country is being stolen from us.”

    (Several months later, Grayling – or someone – stealth-edited his ‘New European’ article to tone down just a little of its wildest rhetoric, though it remained a scream in more ways than one).

    Tribe and Grayling are smug academics, immensely revealing (and revealed) when a Brexit or a Trump pricks their bubble. What about the former head of the CIA and NSA who says today’s Republicans are

    more dangerous than ISIS, Communist China, and N. Korea … [Hayden] said so explicitly in a retweet of a comment from Edward Luce, the blue-check assistant editor of the Financial Times, who wrote, “I’ve covered extremism and violent ideologies around the world over my career. Have never come across a political force more nihilistic, dangerous and contemptible than today’s Republicans. Nothing close.”

    Luce edited the Grauniad before moving to the FT, so the wild Lucian rhetoric is not that great a surprise, but Hayden (who also recently retweeted and endorsed the hope that Trump, like the Rosenbergs some 70 years ago, would be executed for stealing nuclear secrets) was a four-star general. Maybe not just the rot but this scale of rot started years before Obama. There again, maybe Trump made Hayden’s part of the uniparty realise it was also their uniparty.

    All the above on Hayden is from Neo’s post The drumming up of hatred against Republicans is escalating.

  • Sam Duncan

    … when a Brexit or a Trump pricks their bubble.

    It occurs to me that while Harris is an individual (although there are many like him, often in positions of great power and influence), the idea that the people must be prevented from making “incorrect” choices is the foundational principle of the European Union, the very “thing that it’s for”. There may be some hope for America (and now, maybe, Britain), but this snooty paternalism is baked right into “Europe”.

    “I’ve covered extremism and violent ideologies around the world over my career. Have never come across a political force more nihilistic, dangerous and contemptible than today’s Republicans. Nothing close.”

    Just saw that. It’s staggering. ISIS? The Khmer Rouge? Nope, not as Bad as the Orange Man.

    But ignore any comparisons; as the guy who brought it to my attention said, where is he getting nihilism at all from the Republican party? I keep thinking we’ve hit peak derangement, and they keep raising the bar.

  • bobby b

    The most dangerous time with these people is always right after they’ve been frustrated in an attempt at world transformation that they were convinced was going to succeed, but which didn’t.

    In the US, with Obama’s election, they thought they were there. The future was obviously green and non-white and woke. Then came 2016, with Trump, and their furious rage since then has only grown. “By any means necessary” is the slogan of a people tired of following rules in getting their way. They’re going to get their way if it costs every one of us non-woke our lives.

    We need our own “by any means necessary” mindset, or we’ll be like the iconic pacifist throughout history – sincerely wishing things were different but too polite to make them so.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Incidentally, Sam should not be confused with Kamala.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Niall Kilmartin
    Sam Harris loudly believes moral values can and should be derived from ‘science’.

    I’m surprised at the reaction to this interview. I definitely wouldn’t describe it as a train wreck. It is very long and admittedly I didn’t listen to the whole thing, but there was a lot in there that he said I agreed with. For example many of his comments on wokeism, and I think particularly his comments on George Floyd were quite interesting and insightful. Of course he kicks off the interview with his very dim view of Trump, and much of what he says there I think shows that he doesn’t fully understand the Trump phenomenon. I was particularly concerned that he said a lot without giving specific examples. The only one he mentioned was Trump University.

    It is worth pointing out that most of what he said that I disagree with was at the beginning and most of what he said that I agree with was at the end. So it is a bit of a slog to get a balanced picture.

    As to his view on morals from science I don’t agree with him, but it is an attractive view from a non religious point of view. We want to believe that, for example, killing and stealing are objectively wrong, rather than just something we, as a society, have agreed are wrong. And I think it is from that deep desire for moral certainty that he derives this. I have heard his arguments on this and they are really rather weak, surprisingly so since his arguments are often quite well constructed. And FWIW, I think many of his compatriots in the atheist community, Dawkins, Krauss, Caroll, Hitchens, would not subscribe to this view at all. FWIW, I certainly don’t.

    I have the impression he hates the idea of any competing source of value impeding the moral rule of ‘science’ so,

    I think that is one way of looking at it, though he isn’t really a scientist in the way that, for example, Dawkins or Krauss are. But a more fair way of saying this is that he opposes drawing conclusions when there is no empirical evidence to support it, or no logical derivation from previously, empirically determined theories. If that means “sola science” as opposed to “sola scriptura” then I think that is a good thing.

    like Richard Dawkins (they quote and praise each other a lot), he spends much time venting against Christianity and religion in general, and also makes the occasional unwoke remark specifically about Islam.

    I’d say that is very unfair. He is an implacable critic of Islam (and religion in general), and has criticized it often in situations that we might well call dangerous. I remember on one occasion he had all the audience draw pictures of Muhammad after one of the atrocities. In private that isn’t particularly risky, but to do so in public, and to lead others is definitely putting a target on your back.

    As to “unwoke” a great deal of the interview is him describing his concerns and opposition to wokeness. So I’m not sure where that comes from.

    (If some of this has already been said, I apologize, crazy busy and I haven’t had the chance to read all the comments. But yours, Niall, are always worth taking the time to read.)

  • Exasperated

    The only one he mentioned was Trump University.

    I could be wrong about this, correct me if You remember the facts. I thought the Trump University deal was about DJT selling the use of his name, like celebrities do all the time. I just assumed it was a marketing gimmick.
    It reminded me of the Kathy Lee Gifford scandal. She was a household name as an American morning television host for years. In 1996 Gifford was earning $9 million annually…. licensing her name….. to a brand of clothing sold at Walmart. She was accused of serious fair labor/child labor practices in a Bangladesh garment sweat shop, as though she owned the company.

  • lucklucky

    I actually started to think of xxi century Anglo-American progressivism as a suicide cult, around the time of Obama’s 1st election. That was the culmination of a personal development that began with the Cartoon Jihad of 2006.

    To Marxism and neo Marxists the Final Solution is not only the Jews but the end of natural humanity, they want a tabula rasa towards the “scientific” designing of a perfect human. That is why in some Communist countries we have the “New Man” like in Soviet Union the “New Soviet Man” .
    This is just one example of the extreme unhappiness of Progressives with Humans.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Exasperated
    I could be wrong about this, correct me if You remember the facts. I thought the Trump University deal was about DJT selling the use of his name,

    I don’t really remember either, and I wasn’t suggesting that Harris was right to criticize Trump for this, just that that was the only specific, the only particular example of Trump’s putative mendacity, that he brought up (that I noticed anyway.)

  • Fraser Orr

    @Johnathan Pearce
    Harris is also a hardline determinist who denies that humans have free will or agency.

    I have often said that we can all agree on the answer to the question “Do I have free will” once we all agree on the meaning of the words “I”, “have”, “free” and “will”. No serious scientist or philosopher believes that the universe is deterministic, it is just a plain fact that many events do not have a cause, but are stochastic in nature. In fact this is most evident at the quantum scale, and so what we see as determinism is really an emergent property of this stochastic behavior. Which is to say that the universe is no more deterministic than, for example, evolution or the weather. A river has a current which shows the direction of the water, but you cannot say for certain where a certain rock drug along the bottom will end up. And similar with your brain. There is a certain current of flow in your thoughts, certain preferred pathways. But with all the information in the world I can’t determine exactly what you are going to think next.

    But the real question here is: is there something beyond the physical material of our bodies and brains that determines our actions? I see no reason to believe this. However that is not to say that we don’t have moral agency or judgement. These things though are the product of the mechanisms of our mind. But you may have an entirely different incompatible meaning of “moral agency” that assumes a soul, and that is the problem with philosophy. It is why I think most philosophy is the emperor with no clothes. Most of it is just arguing endlessly about the meaning of words.

    Harris gets some kudos for sticking it to Islam, but in general he is a mediocre thinker. The late Christopher Hitchens was far better and more incisive, in my view.

    I agree on all these points. Hitchens was a better thinker, but he was far better as a polemicist than a logician. If you are interested in who I think is the best of the “New Atheists” I’d recommend Sean Carroll. He is deeply insightful, an excellent debater and an interesting thinker though not as well known as people like Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris.

  • Martin

    As to “unwoke” a great deal of the interview is him describing his concerns and opposition to wokeness.

    While I don’t think one is obliged to support Donald Trump, I’d say if your views on DJT are as pathologically crazy as Sam Harris’ are, you are woke by default. Harris’ views put him completely in league with BLM, Antifa, etc. Regardless of what he says, the latter are the ideological children of 90s/early 2000s neoliberal ‘centrism’ that Harris epitomises.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Sam Harris loudly believes moral values can and should be derived from ‘science’.

    That this is an absurd belief, was conclusively proven by Hume.

  • Exasperated

    I don’t really remember either, and I wasn’t suggesting that Harris was right to criticize Trump for this, just that that was the only specific, the only particular example of Trump’s putative mendacity, that he brought up (that I noticed anyway.)

    I understood, sorry if my comment suggested otherwise.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Without agency, there is no judgement, including the ability to judge the truth of determinism.

    As a matter of fact, Dennett made the same argument.
    Asked for a short answer to the question:

    Do human beings have free will? What kind or kinds of freedom are worth having?

    he gave the answer:

    By asking these questions, you’re illustrating the answers: yes, you have free will, since you’re able to ask for reasons and consider whether they’re persuasive. Isn’t that a kind of freedom you’d hate to lose? We’d have to institutionalize you

    But note that this answer can be consistently given only by a compatibilist, because it implies that human beings usually can (and usually do) choose correct answers. Since most questions have one, and only one, correct answer, most humans do not have what Paul Marks would call “freedom of choice”: we deterministically choose the correct answer, if we are able to figure it out. And if we cannot figure out the correct answer, then we deterministically choose the answer that seems correct to us.

    Thomas Reid explicitly wrote that a person who always makes the right choice, does not have agency. I take exactly the opposite view: that a person who does not consistently make the right (or apparently right) choice, does not have full agency. I believe that, apart from the qualifier in brackets (or apparently right), this was the predominant position in philosophy before Augustine; and even Augustine, inconsistently, does not give it up entirely.

  • John

    The Lotus Eaters devoted a great deal of yesterdays (or was it Thursdays?) podcast to reviewing this train wreck.

    Unfortunately Francis Foster of Triggernometry was recently Carl Benjamins guest/co-host on LE where his own uncontrollable TDS was only marginally less insane than Harris’s.

  • He is an implacable critic of Islam (and religion in general), and has criticized it often in situations that we might well call dangerous. I remember on one occasion he had all the audience draw pictures of Muhammad after one of the atrocities. In private that isn’t particularly risky, but to do so in public, and to lead others is definitely putting a target on your back.

    Sure, assuming by ‘he’ you mean Dawkins, he is against religion, but so was Pol Pot. Dawkins wants to criminalise teaching children about religion, so hard not to see him as part of the problem rather than a solution to anything.

  • Exasperated

    One of the downsides of “all things Trump”, is that it overshadows whatever good points the speaker is trying to get across.
    I have no sympathy, though, because they’re to blame. Their obsession or mania over Trump is what enables him to suck all the air out of the room.
    I have no issue with calm, objective, reality based criticisms of Trump, I’m just not interested in the made up stuff. I suppose that doesn’t get any traction or clicks($$$$$).

  • Fraser Orr

    @Perry de Havilland (London)
    Sure, assuming by ‘he’ you mean Dawkins, he is against religion, but so was Pol Pot. Dawkins wants to criminalise teaching children about religion, so hard not to see him as part of the problem rather than a solution to anything.

    The reference to Pol Pot seems a rather unfair swipe. After all Hitler was an advocate of motherhood and I believe a big fan of apple pie.

    “He” refers to Sam Harris, but even so I think you are incorrect about Dawkins. He is not at all opposed to teaching religion in school, whether it be as comparative religious studies, religion in history or anthropology, religion in art and so forth. What he objects to is teaching religion as truth, teaching religion as the madrasas do, or teaching in science that the world was created in seven days, and especially (given Dawkins background) opposed to teaching intelligent design as part of the science curriculum. I think not teaching these things is a good thing. I have never heard him call for the criminalization of such things, just that they ought not to be done. This is not just my opinion, I have heard him say almost exactly this at least a dozen times.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Martin
    While I don’t think one is obliged to support Donald Trump, I’d say if your views on DJT are as pathologically crazy as Sam Harris’ are, you are woke by default.

    That seems a really narrow way to think about things. It is as if you are defining “woke” to be “anything I disagree with”. But there are many people who are opposed to wokism that hold many important views on which I disagree. Two obvious examples are JK Rowling and Germaine Greer, both of whose views on transgenerism are getting them brutally cancelled.

    Harris’ views put him completely in league with BLM, Antifa, etc. Regardless of what he says, the latter are the ideological children of 90s/early 2000s neoliberal ‘centrism’ that Harris epitomises.

    But I can only assume you didn’t listen to the whole interview if you say this. He specifically discusses at some length the subject of BLM how wrong it is and how dangerously seductive it is.

    My feeling about the reaction here is that we all have to put people into “us” and “them” camps, and since Harris criticizes Trump he must be the “them” category and must consequently have all the attributes of the craziest Antifa rioter. But surely we are all rather more sophisticated than that? Surely we can see that while someone might be wrong about some things, he can be right about others? And in fact in this interview, although I think he is deeply wrong about Trump, he said many, many other quite interesting things. In fact I’d specifically direct you to his comments about BLM which were quite interesting and insightful. Toward the end there was an extensive discussion on self awareness which I also thought was quite fascinating.

  • Martin

    But I can only assume you didn’t listen to the whole interview if you say this. He specifically discusses at some length the subject of BLM how wrong it is and how dangerously seductive it is.

    These are his words. His actions are to fully support using dirty tricks and support at all costs the election of Joe Biden. In other words he supports the candidate of BLM, Antifa, the transindustrial complex, etc in the White House. So while he rhetorically opposes wokism, his actions are defacto in support of the woke constituencies.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I agree with Martin’s latest comment: anybody who is anti-Trump is objectively pro-wokeness*.

    At this point in time: things could very well be different in the future. But not in the immediate future.

    * This is especially true for Americans.

  • While I don’t think one is obliged to support Donald Trump, I’d say if your views on DJT are as pathologically crazy as Sam Harris’ are, you are woke by default. (Martin)

    That seems a really narrow way to think about things. (Fraser Orr, August 20, 2022 at 6:13 pm)

    I suggest it’s at worst only an imperfectly-focussed way of looking at it.

    – Harris shows he’ll tolerate murder, never mind vote fraud, in the cause of defeating Trump, and that he’s crazily ready to (pretend to? make himself?) believe whatever the woke say about Trump.

    – Harris serves his own ideology, which, like Dawkins’, is not the same as echoing the latest woke line in all matters without exception – he won’t tolerate Islam, for example. But he will tolerate enough to merit great contempt. And my impression of his style of argument from way back is that suppressio veri came naturally to him long before he decided that us common people should not be told things that might discredit the anti-Trump narrative specifically.

    Martin’s point seems valid FWIW: when it comes to actions as against words, Harris’ remarks about BLM did not prevent him making the choice that helps them. Fraser mentions J.K.Rowling but she is on record as admitting “I saw what I expected to see” after falling for an edited anti-Trump video on a Friday but honestly correcting herself by the following Monday. If Harris had ever gone public simply to tell us common people that he’d been mistakenly credulous about an anti-Trump story, that would mean something – but I confess the video does not inspire me to seek for an example.

  • bobby b

    I cannot care too much that I agree with him on many issues when he then also explains that he favors removing our democratic power to elect whom we wish. That, to me, negates whatever insight he might exhibit. It disqualifies him.

  • I cannot care too much that I agree with him [Harris] on many issues when he then also explains that he favors removing our democratic power to elect whom we wish. (bobby b, August 21, 2022 at 12:40 am)

    (Expanding on that) I dare not trust Harris even where we might appear to be in agreement. Suppose Harris tells me something about Islamic terrorism or BLM – or defends some measure against either or both. Experience warns me to beware suppressio veri, suggestio falsi and the lie direct even in what seems plausible. I dare not assume the measure will be used honestly against its purported target, not perverted for use against me. Thus even a point of superficial agreement is polluted. As I’m going to have to check it from a better source, I might as well go to that source in the first place.

  • I think not teaching these things is a good thing.

    As do I. I just don’t want to see it made illegal by the Truth Police.

    I have never heard him call for the criminalization of such things

    Can’t be bothered to look for a link but I certainly have. I believe it was along the lines of “teaching children religion is child abuse & child abuse is illegal” or words to that effect.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I have finally got around to reading the entire Twitter thread by Alexandros, and greatly enjoyed it. He clearly is a Sam Harris expert.

    Not sure that the tweet in the OP is the most deserving of SQotD status: there are others that might qualify.
    But here is one that i found ironic, given the previous discussion of “free-will”. I have not bothered to examine the logic of the tweet, though: i just enjoy the irony.

  • Exasperated

    It is priceless to see the expressions on the faces of the Triggernometry hosts when Harris meltsdown.

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