Saturday, January 12, 2008

Another Form of Cultural Relativism

Are we a slave to our culture? Is our culture fixed? Are our cultural virtues and values right for us and only us? Is there no objective right and wrong inherent in human nature?

These questions were debated in Athens during the 4th century BC. The Greeks were aware that other cultures had different values. They asked what is true by nature and what is true by convention? The Sophists argued it is all relative and there are no objective truths. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle disagreed. Except for the last two centuries, the absolutist version of truth has dominated Western history.

Ethical truths, however, aren’t adopted by simple acts. Character is a lifetime achievement. One can’t jettison one’s character and be another person by a simple act of will. Character has to be cultivated. Culture – a character of a society – is also fixed at any given moment. It often takes generations to change a culture. Today, this truth is often forgotten.

John Kenneth Press, in his book Culturism, does an excellent job of describing the significance and intransigence of culture. Not everyone wants to be free as our President claims; indeed, many will fight against it with every fiber in their body. Others might find the idea appealing but they will readily give up the fight and submit. Facing the fact that culture limits the actions of those in another society is just facing the fact that the ability to act contrary to character is severely limited.

Press is right descriptively but what does he do with this knowledge? For Press, it is all convention. This is how people are and this is how people have to be, given their character and culture, therefore this is what is right for them. Good does not stem from human nature; it comes from cultural conventions and it is for the people of that culture. Each culture has a right to preserve their cultural identity.

I couldn’t’ disagree more. The human mind is man’s tool of survival. Cultivating the habits of character to grasp and understand reality – i.e. reason – is required for survival and flourishing. Reason, therefore, isn’t good by convention but required by our nature. Close you eyes, turn your mind off, and wish for the best; and you’ll die. Diminish your ability to understand the world around you and you’ll be engaging in a spiritually unhealthy practice that endangers your physical well being.

It is true that other cultures don’t hold reason in high regard. To the extent that they reject reason, implicitly or explicitly, they diminish their ability to deal with the challenges of life and in the long run suffer because of it. Just as physical health requires the achievement of certain values so does mental/spiritual health. The mind isn’t superfluous to one’s well being. Neither is one’s character.

Ironically, Press is advocating that we go against our core cultural values. Absolute truth, based on reality and knowable by human reason, is an idea that goes back to the Hellenic philosophers. But merely rejecting “our way” isn’t my complaint with this gentleman’s work. As he notes, we have an evolving culture. However, the question of how we should evolve should be answered with objective reality-based evidence. Our health, wealth, and survival depend on it.

We should be proud of the strengths of our culture but proud because they are objectively better and demonstrably so.

52 Comments:

Blogger Farmer John said...

Cultivating the habits of character to grasp and understand reality – i.e. reason – is required for survival and flourishing.

I find cockroaches to be the most reasonable of all creatures. That's why they are such survivors!

1/12/08, 2:10 PM  
Blogger Mustang said...

Jason, rather than taking a position on this topic — allow me to test the waters with you on your premises. I suspect you will agree that cultures do change over time, and that you will acknowledge that some cultures are more susceptible to change than others are. In the case of Islamic culture, the foundation of which is religious in nature, it is difficult to discern a major shift in tradition or core values. In contrast, American culture changes almost generationally simply because it does not appear to be well founded on religious principles. Do you agree?

If you believe that character is a lifetime development, which suggests important changes with maturation, do you think that lack of character follows the same pattern? It seems to me that if you assume an ethical basis for character, the only explanation for those of low character is an unethical foundation. Importantly, ethical behavior is learned from parents, and from society generally from the standpoint of what behaviors a community will tolerate, and what they will not. Surely, you do not believe that an infant has any character, or that character from the age of reason remains staid. Once again, doesn’t religious value play an important role in the development and maintenance of ethical parameters?

Consider the case of Saudi women who are content to remain enslaved to the idea that they are inferior to men. It would appear that such persons do not desire freedom from gender prosecution, and are perfectly satisfied with the cultural status-quo. If this is true, how is Mr. Press’ proposition incorrect? Importantly, the only way this condition will change is through internal struggle, and this is highly unlikely given the cultural mores of the Saudi (any Arab) people.

I believe you might be correct to assert that the “human mind is man’s tool for survival.” This is especially true, as discussed above, if an Arab woman declares her independence from convention, her husband, father, or brother will kill her. Her mind tells her quite clearly that her survival demands obedience to tradition.

I think you claim about the long-range ramifications of reason is difficult to support. If I assume you refer to western reason, then we can conclude that Muslim behavior is unreasonable because it has remained unchanged since Mohammed was a pedophile. But is Muslim behavior reasonable in context with Arabic culture? I believe it is, but fail to see how they “suffer.” If Muslims thought they were suffering, then we would see some movement to other social positions.

Finally, let me ask you if you honestly think there is “absolute truth.” I think not, because it is possible for an antagonist to despise everything you stand for based on an honest, good faith, and sincere appraisal that you are an infidel. Truth is always subjective, and justice elusive among disparate cultures. Remember that Western culture is not only “evolving,” it has already evolved within the past 60 years. Our land today is no longer the land of our grandfathers. We are “less free” today than at any earlier time in history, and this would never have occurred without our collective acquiescence.

Where am I wrong?

1/12/08, 2:23 PM  
Blogger maccusgermanis said...

I've not read Mr. Press's book but, if he stands where you have directed your criticism, then he is hit. I am often apprehensive about such communal solutions, but entertain such ideas because, the largely transcendent of laws, free peoples should be someways reluctant to overturn the laws of the merely cultivated. Freedom, allowing of the accomplishment of both great good and evil, is not, now, for everyone. While those that become self governed, by reason, should never be disallowed transcendence, the cultivated should not be uprooted without cause and forethought. We must be prepared for the mandrake's scream.

The absolutes are that the cultivated are, by choice or omission, lesser than their potential. Likewise the libertine subvert themselves. Any undertaking of cultivation should be for the development of strong individuals. To that end, I do not believe that "will" should be discounted. Ethical truths are adopted without even simple acts, but by will. Character is an image of ourselves and others portrayed by our will and their actions. Will is not a simple act but a directive first step, and persisting guide.

We should be proud of the strengths of our culture but proud because they are objectively better and demonstrably so.
Have you a chisel?

FJ,

If you're having trouble with cockroaches, try water bait laced with boric acid (all water sources must be dried or poisoned) in conjunction with commercial poisons. The "most reasonable creatures" will purge one poison with the other. Unless you have pets, of course. Dogs and cats are "most reasonable" themselves.

1/12/08, 3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With regard to cultural relativism, Jason holds to “Absolute truth based on reality and knowable by human reason…” Mustang counters that “it is possible for an antagonist to despise everything you stand for based on an honest, good faith, and sincere appraisal…”

Apparently, he believes that 'absolute truth' means that people agree, which is something that has never been claimed. Actually, its advocates believe that in general the truth contains more than man knows. To take a simple case, the authoritative Pythagoras sincerely believed that all numbers were rational, but it was shown that the diagonal of a unit square was irrational. Was it then the case that at the time of Pythagoras this truth was relative, and that later it became absolute? Similarly, at one time it was an honest, good faith, appraisal, based on experience, that the world was flat. Was that relative to the times? Similarly, the Hilbert view about the theorems of mathematics was believed by all, but is now known to be wrong, as shown by Gödel, and the Newtonian view of physics was shown to be but an approximation, by Einstein.

Similarly, Mustang states ‘We are “less free” today than at any earlier time in history, and this would never have occurred without our collective acquiescence.’ Apparently he believes that proof of 'absolute truth' requires common agreement. Yet that is surely not the way the concept is defined, for it claims (as in the aforementioned examples) that something can be absolutely true, although everyone is against it) such as Weingarten being the greatest.

Yet what is the use of the concept of truth, if people can disagree, and be mistaken? Just consider that although we don’t know whether the accused was in NY at the time of the crime, we know that he was or he wasn’t. Then we can examine the evidence that he was in Ohio. Compare this with the view that it is all a matter of opinion, so let’s find the race of the accused, so that we can establish a consensus that he was guilty.

Finally, let us presume the belief that truth is always subjective (meaning that it is merely a matter of opinion). If that belief is absolutely true, it is contradictory. If not, then sometimes it isn’t a matter of opinion, so it is again absolutely true.

Weingarten

1/12/08, 4:32 PM  
Blogger Culturist said...

Jason,

This is John Press, the author of culturism, commenting. Thanks so very much for reading culturism and hosting such a thoughtful discussion.

Certainly you are right concerning Plato and Jesus having objective truth. Protagoras' "man is the measure of all things" shows we have also had a relativist tradition. But you are right that he and the sophists were culturally marginalized.

For better or worse, you are also right that culturism jettisons the idea of absolute truth. Muslims don’t find it self evident that our way of life is better than theirs. As with Mustang’s example, Saudi women accept their cultural role and position. Chinese find it self evident that identifying with a nationalist racist hierarchy is akin to listening to ones parents and meritorious. You are right that culturism holds right is “what is right for them” ie culturally determined.

But, in contrast to multiculturalism, culturism is not domestically morally relative. When I close my eyes I also deeply identify with Western precepts. I would not be able to be comfortable living in Iran or China because my self is anchored in the Western worldview. “Merely our way” does not describe this depth. I cannot but be for Western culture. If it falls, I will have no where else to go. When I advocate for its strength I advocate for myself and a unique and fragile vision I think infinitely worthwhile.

As Farmer John’s logic implies, the ultimate problem with the assumption that we are obviously superior is that it assumes our triumph in the struggle for survival. In this ultimate test of objective superiority I do not think we are assured of victory against a culture that believes in submission and jihad. I think such an assumption makes us dangerously complacent. It assumes that even if we are degenerate, irresponsible, entertainment slaves and ship all our jobs overseas our vision is obviously going to triumph. Had the Greeks all been drunk or too poor for a navy when the Persians attacked . . .

Culturism does, maccusgermanis, provide a communitarian solution. But unlike Iranian culturism, Western culturism is done with respect for the individual and the cultivating of his or her faculties. Our traditional republican view, the Greek and Roman view, cultivated the individual, but did so with an eye towards the standards and survival of the polis. Your individual greatness and that of the polis were not opposed. Culturist values are protected from excess by our traditional valuing of the individual. Herein, understanding Aristotle’s vision of the individual and polis are very important.

Multiculturalism holds that there is no unique Western culture. Western nations are made of assortments of random cultures. They have a shallow view of diversity that also employs a universalist / global model; underneath we are all basically the same and agree on fundamentals. This means that we don’t need borders and that we can turn Middle Eastern countries into liberal democracies regardless of cultural diversity. Culturism takes diversity to be real. Some cultures value large families and alcohol more than they value education and rational decisions. Some cultures value jihad for God. If we do not think in culturist terms, like other nations, our mode of thought can disappear.

Jason, ultimately you are right, culturism only holds that Western culture is right to us because we were raised in it. Again, many many thanks for reading culturism and hosting this provocative discussion. Thanks participants. I’ll check back for more comments and reply if it seems fit.

Thanks again,

John
www.culturism.us

1/12/08, 6:13 PM  
Blogger Mustang said...

Weingarten, the impossibility of your crossover is that human psychology, unlike mathematics, is not an exact science. There are variables in human behavior that make absolute truth difficult, if not impossible. For example, is religious belief (e.g., the foundation of ethical behavior), based on absolute truth? If the answer is "no," then you must concede that in the absence of "absolute truth," humans are required to infer truth (like justice) — as they understand it. It is not therefore reasonable to assume that all truth is subjective, and must remain so until proven?

1/12/08, 6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mustang, you have forgotten the context of this discussion. Jason gave his view on “truth”, which you countered by requiring that it depended upon concurrence. I mentioned that this was not its definition, and refuted it by math and physics. *My counterargument did not require proving absolute truth, but showing that it could not depend upon concurrence.* Do you continue to hold that the concept of “truth” depends upon the agreement of people? If so, what you are defining as ‘truth’ is not what Jason or I are addressing.

Moreover, I gave the case where we either viewed finding the innocence or guilt by seeking evidence or by establishing consensus. This position is not restricted to science. For example, a criminal could have killed someone out of ambition, or to defend himself. Let us say that he knows that he did so for profit. Then that is the truth, even if the jury does not know it. (Do you deny this?) Isn’t it evident that when they examine his background or other evidence, that this is preferable to seeking consensus?

Next, even those who deny the existence of truth, confirm it by their arguments. They are unable to believe otherwise, for truth is logically prior to their methods of refutation.

Finally, consider the foundation of ethical behavior. It is based on the search for an absolute, which is not dependent upon reaching it, but on getting closer to it. Ideals, do not depend upon material completion, but on a comprehensive examination of existence. So *the question is not whether these ideals are proven, but whether they are helpful guides.* The position that ‘there is no truth’ is shown spiritually, philosophically, historically, and politically, to be detrimental to human development. One needn’t ‘prove’ this, but need only show the disparity between an attempt to find out what is, and the belief that there can be no such thing. Do you truly believe that seeking the truth, and denying its existence, have comparable justification? If so, why do you care to debate the subject at all?

Weingarten

P.S. At a later point, we might discuss the imperative of having a summa bonum.

1/12/08, 8:00 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

“I find cockroaches to be the most reasonable of all creatures. That's why they are such survivors!” – Farmer John

Farmer John seems to believe that the survival of roaches means that they reason. He has the dubious distinction of being the first philosopher to claim: Sum Ergo Cognito.

1/13/08, 6:05 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I agree with Mustang and John Press that character isn’t easy to change as I said in my original post. And, of course, one explains a person’s actions by their character. Given the beliefs of women in Saudi Arabia one expects widespread acceptance of the indignities and oppression that are hard to escape. Mustang says it “would appear that such persons do not desire freedom from gender prosecution, and are perfectly satisfied with the cultural status-quo.” Indeed, they teach it to their daughters! John Press agrees with Mustang’s example.

Of course they see matters differently than women in the West. But women in fundamentalist societies aren’t flourishing; they are floundering. Muslim societies as a whole are floundering. This is an objective fact. If it weren’t for the windfall of oil and the existence of Western culture to value this oil the lives of people in Mid-East Arab societies would be “short nasty and brutish” as it was in the West when Hobbes first used that phrase. The prospects of actualizing one’s potential are severely limited in oppressive societies such as those where Islam dominates.

As Weingarten notes, another’s inability to accept the concept of a human right isn’t required for its validity anymore than a truth of physics or medicine becomes fact only if someone accepts it. My brother-in-law might not believe that smoking is bad, but it is. What sense would it make to say “it is good for him” just because he won’t stop smoking? A lazy bum who drinks his days away is floundering. What sense would it make to say “it is good for him” just because he can’t instantly change his character and become a high performing productive member of society?

In the same manner we can note that an oppressive culture, where individual thought is condemned as heresy, will not sustain the development of science on a scale and for a duration required to achieve the elimination of plagues and famine. Should we say that “it is good for them?” Today such primitive cultures can benefit from more healthy cultures because of international trade. But they would not have gotten there on their own. The occasional discoveries prior to the cultural advancement of the West could never have added up to the tsunami of progress that can be unleashed when the individual mind has been unshackled.

Liberty isn’t a luxury for human flourishing. Without freedom Hobbes is right about life.

The objective fact of failing to cultivate a virtue means existentially one’s doesn’t have the associated ability and will suffer accordingly. If I don’t cultivate the virtue of courage I will be unable to sustain a course of action under fire. If I don’t cultivate the virtue of self-reliance, I won’t be able to stand on my own two feet. The lack of virtue hinders my ability to perform and flourish. It makes no sense to baptize failure as “good for me” because I currently can’t sustain a virtuous course of action.

The most important point about character flaws is that without good dispositions and healthy habits one will flounder. Cultures with unhealthy habits are susceptible to problems as they face new challenges that they are ill equipped to adequately handle.

Bernard Lewis describes how Islamic societies have failed in the face of modernity. The autocratic Ottoman “sultan [had] to consult” his subjects and win their support prior to acquisition of the “whole modern apparatus of control, repression and indoctrination” from the West. As I said in the above link “It’s obvious that the Islamic world failed to deal with the challenges of change. But we’d do better to consider the inherent flaws that make it susceptible to disintegration in the face of the winds of modernity. It is inherently autocratic, illiberal, dogmatic, ritualistic, and hostile to reason – limiting its ability to absorb the classical liberal ideals while leaving it susceptible to the socialist totalitarian mode of thought.”

The result is the mass murder of Saddam, the oppression of tyrants like Quadaffi, the expansion of Wahabbist teaching through out the world, and the rise of the Iranian theocracy. Unlike the Pacific Rim, the Islamic world not only flounders in the face of opportunity, they never fail to miss an opportunity to reach a new low. This is a cultural cancer spreading at break-neck speed bringing irrational hate and oppression never before possible when limited to indigenous means. It is outrageous to say “this is their way” and it is “good for them.” It is good for no human being even if this is what we can only expect given their culture.

The inherent flaws in Islamic culture make it susceptible to the most illiberal and oppressive regimes. It may not succumb at any given moment but a crisis or turn of events will provide an insurmountable challenge. It may the loss of a tiny sliver of land in Palestine or the challenge of independence in India. It may be the rule of the Shah or the challenges of self-definition in post-French Algeria. It may be the welcoming of a few Arab terrorists in Lebanon or the rise of a strong man in Iraq. A flawed culture will buckle in the face of a challenge. Islamic cultures never fail to flounder when faced with a crisis.

Ethics is the cultivation of dispositions of character that allow the individual to respond to the challenges of life. Ethics is the health of the soul. The Islamic world is sick. Politically correct scruples only blind us to the problem. We have to be able to face the horror and evil in this world without white-washing it as “good for them.” They may be stuck in their hell hole but let’s not pretend it is another kind of heaven.

1/13/08, 6:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As usual, I concur with Jason, and can aught but thank him for his presentation.

Mustang's final sentence is "[Is it] not therefore reasonable to assume that all truth is subjective, and must remain so until proven?" Let us note that *by his reasoning, it cannot be proven.* We are discussing aspirations & values, not science. Here, Mustang claims that there can be no absolute truth. Hence, one cannot prove what cannot exist.

To my example where a man kills for ambition, the jury can only conclude that there is no such thing as why he did it. So instead of using reason, or searching for evidence, we can only seek consensus.

Weingarten

1/13/08, 8:05 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Off topic....

Jason,
You are a Blogger of the World!

1/13/08, 8:27 AM  
Blogger Culturist said...

Jason,

Wonderful discussion. We both agree on the goal of a strong West, it sharpens our thinking to discuss how this is best accomplished.

You and Weingarten raise very interesting issues about shared ideals. I agree with Mustang’s view that human psychology, unlike mathematics, is not an exact science. You use the idea of health and life being nasty, brutish and short without Western influence. Two things: one running water, electricity and oppressive theocracy are not at all incompatible. Secondly, you would think that the will to live a long life would be the ultimate in universal agreed upon value. But these are people that blow themselves up at every age in the name of God. The men who blew up the London buses were doctors! You then might say, but their god is illusory and so blowing themselves up is not really in their best interests. Perhaps in some metaphysical way when they have conquered the world for God, the falsity of their belief will metaphysically exist. There yet may be an objective component. But I am worried about the beliefs and survival of Western views in this world, even though you might ultimately be right.

But again, the task at hand is not only to explain what is better, but what has survivability. You contend that Islam cannot thrive and yet also note that it “is a cultural cancer spreading at break-neck speed.” I agree with the latter. You mention that Islam has “inherent flaws that make it susceptible to disintegration in the face of the winds of modernity.” I can, unfortunately, hear them saying we have inherent flaws that make us unable to withstand Islam. Again, my biggest problem with the view that we are inherently superior is that it makes us complacent. If you are right, we can just sit back, and wait for all to become progressive, democratic, women respecting, countries with a separation of church and state. They will “buckle in the face of a challenge.” Certainly you must have worries and policies to address the fact that we have weaknesses.

Very interesting point about “standing on your own two feet” coming from “self-reliance.” This is very Western. From our perspective – and mine- this is a truism. I have tried to cultivate my rational potential much of my life. But if my society does not thrive, I cannot. I think we need to have a culturist sense of needing our polis to be healthy; hence culturism as a value. That the individual detached from their community would be healthy would seem poisonous to Muslims and Asians. You put individualism at the core of our ethics. Our current extreme form of individualism and the right to be anti-social may not even be conducive to our “individual” potential. We ignore our polis at our own peril. Certainly, that is what we now offer as superior to more collectivist cultural models. We’ll see.

According to our values, women in “fundamentalist societies aren’t flourishing; they are floundering.” But that assumes individualist goals. Being a mother in a likeminded community may be wonderful. We cannot assume that Islamic women pine to be Western feminist individualists. Indeed, even in France, where the opportunity for lifestyle change exists, women continue Islamic traditional ways. I prefer our ways, but I do not think it is obvious to all who consider it. The fact that diversity includes those who believe in Female Genital Mutilation / Circumcision, makes it imperative that we stand up for our particular cultural values in Western lands. We cannot assume, even in Europe, that all will naturally become Western if they are not pushed to by Western laws and teaching. Culturism is necessary because multicultural tolerance does not necessarily lead to assimilation or agreement with core Western values.

Ultimately, we agree. We prefer the West and want it to survive. As culturism indicates, I completely agree that we have to say we are better on Western lands in a way that multiculturalism won’t allow. I just believe that this understanding is best facilitated when we note that we are fragile, not the obvious direction of history. Those who hold us as superior have us all over the Middle East trying to impose our values. We don't have money for this and it is more often resented than appreciated. I admit that making sure we are solvent involves looking the other way when things that are repugnant to Western eyes happen. But, we are safer, spend our money more wisely, and more apt to protect our culture if we think it particular and fragile - if we are willing to consider that diversity may exist and other’s values may only be repugnant to our eyes and their values may even be able to topple ours. I also worry that your model justifies Islamic immigration. Not all people are Westerners in the making. Democracy, individualism, and the separation of church and state may only be Western values. Even if they are universal, it is prudent to doubt it for now.

We both agree that the West needs to protect itself and we wish to see it thrive. Thanks for hosting.

www.culturism.us

1/13/08, 9:24 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Certainly I can not fully explain my position in such a brief exposition. Naturally you had to make some assumptions about my broader views which are not correct. I have the advantage of reading a large part of your book and listening to an interview. For example, I understand how and why you define individualism even though I disagree. Nevertheless, thanks for the provocative discussion. I’ll let each reader mull over these ideas for themselves.

1/13/08, 10:45 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Excellent discussion--and certainly a lot to think about.

In my view, the term "culturist" is a useful one. Will it gain in popularity. I have my doubts, and I explain why below.

Of course, as a Christian, I believe in absolute truth and an absolute ethos. But my opinion about those matters is not my main point. Rather, I am most concerned about the presevation of Western civilization.

Today, the West seems to have a collective guilt which prevents Westerners from standing up for our culture and our civilization. The embrace of multiculturalism is one major cause of this ennui.

As a religion, Christianity seems to have made more shifts than many other religions. Both the Reformation and the Age of Reason are responsible for those shifts, IMO. Furthermore, we in America tend not to be followers in many ways; that characteristic can work both for and against holding on to core values of Westernism.

1/13/08, 11:45 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Article in today's Telegraph. Worth reading, IMO.

1/13/08, 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Culturist claims that if we view the West as inherently superior “we can just sit back, and wait for all to become progressive, democratic, women respecting, countries with a separation of church and state.” I doubt that Jason has held that view, for he continually strives to awaken our will to survive. I certainly do not believe that the superiority of our ideals guarantees success. Even if we weren’t hamstrung with the false ideals of altruism, and didn’t lack a commitment to reason, there would still be an uphill fight. History is often the story of the defeat of what is right, rather than the inevitability of an immediate victory. Eratosthenes for example lost the battle for his ideas on astronomy, for over 1,500 years. So *my question to Culturist is whether he can find a single advocate of Western superiority, who claims that there is no need to defend against destruction.*

Nor does the advocacy of individualism necessitate a lack of appreciation for ‘culture’, and this is shown by its inclusion in the name of this blog.

Next he writes that those who hold us superior try to impose our values. Jason can answer for himself, but I for one do not believe in trying to impose my values, save by setting an example, and adhering to the marketplace of ideas.

Still further, Culturist claims that the “model justifies Islamic immigration” which I am adamantly opposed to.

In sum, the claim is made that those of us who hold to the superiority of the West: are complacent about Western survival; lack an appreciation for culture; try to impose our values; and favor Islamic immigration. Culturist has not mentioned a single position that I for one have advocated. Would it not be better if he provided a quote before claiming that someone believes or advocates a position?

AOW is “most concerned about the preservation of Western civilization.” She too holds to absolutes, and I presume does not adhere to any of the beliefs that Culturist attributes to those who hold to the superiority of the West.

Weingarten

1/13/08, 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Bithead said...

Are we a slave to our culture? Is our culture fixed? Are our cultural virtues and values right for us and only us? Is there no objective right and wrong inherent in human nature?

Obviously my answers here will be somewhat truncated.

1: No.
2: No, but changes do tend to occur slowly, when they do happen.
3: Certainly, each culture has it's own values, and some values don't work well in other cultures. But notice that the cultures whic apply western values tend to thrive, whereas those who do not, dot no thrive. Cultures who work outside those values tend, in the way of the long view of the world, not to last very long in power, if they last at all. I submit that this is because those values are closer to objective truth than are others.
And I think that asnwers number 4 , as well.

1/13/08, 2:52 PM  
Blogger Culturist said...

Weingarten,

You are right. I do not really think that Jason is complacent about Western Civ. No one who has partaken in this conversation is. I shouldn't have said so. Weingarten, you are also right that believing one's ideals are superior does NOT necessarily imply that one assumes they will triumph. Good point. I need to remember that. I do, however, think that American's widely held assumption that we are superior and that the world will adopt our model GENERALLY makes us overly complacent.

Again, Jason, I really want to thank you for hosting this discussion. I've enjoyed focusing on it for the last couple of days. As evidenced above, I've learned some things; lots of healthy food for thought. I look forward to understanding your take on our geo-political and philosophical battles better. I will definetely be back to participate in more discussions. This is a great community.

Thanks again, John

1/14/08, 2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Culturist:

I concur that "American's widely held assumption that we are superior and that the world will adopt our model GENERALLY makes us overly complacent." That assumption has been claimed by the influential Professor Fukuyama in "The End of History and the Last Man". (Note that even his name is wrong, for you shouldn't do that to you mama).

There were those who thought that the Iraqis would welcome us as liberators. Similarly, others advocated bribing them with benefits, because they would then act as we would.

I have appreciated your views, particularly your emphasis on culture. Today almost everyone views government as the primary component of civilization, whereas (as you know) it is culture.

I look forward to your participation in these discussions.

Weingarten

P.S. As to your claim that 'Weingarten is right", it is redundant, if not tautological.

1/14/08, 8:13 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

reason – is required for survival and flourishing.

Farmer John seems to believe that the survival of roaches means that they reason.

I can't imagine where these crazy beliefs of mine come from.

1/14/08, 3:10 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

He has the dubious distinction of being the first philosopher to claim: Sum Ergo Cognito.

Well, perhaps not the first. Mine was merely an echo. ;-)

1/14/08, 3:11 PM  
Blogger Ducky's Here said...

The position that ‘there is no truth’ is shown spiritually, philosophically, historically, and politically, to be detrimental to human development.

----------------------

Maybe, but it still doesn't get us a damn bit closer to understanding what that "truth" is or acknowledging that there are several views of it even within "Western" culture.

This is a common mistake of the Rand cult. Assuming they have somehow "proven" their dogma.

1/15/08, 12:07 PM  
Blogger Ducky's Here said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/15/08, 2:45 PM  
Blogger Ducky's Here said...

In contrast, American culture changes almost generationally simply because it does not appear to be well founded on religious principles. Do you agree?

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I would agree that it changes very rapidly.

However I think that is because it isn't grounded at all in any principle other than ---- CONSUME.
It is an extremely hedonistic culture and the primary change has already occurred (started with the need for the two income family to provide cash for consumption and growth) and now we just change the packaging.

1/15/08, 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a point to be clarified about the notion of absolute truth, namely the distinction between having it, and reaching for it. When we point and say “that is the sun” it is true. To deny this ostensive definition is contradictory. Consequently, there are ways in which we possess the truth. On the other hand, when we describe what transpired in history, it is understood that we have partial knowledge, which will be supplemented with further evidence and reason. Here, we know that a fuller description is possible, and that the complete truth might never be known.

The latter operates as an ideal, where we attempt to get ever closer to the absolute. It is akin to the seaman who sails toward his destination by following the North star. His concern is not to arrive at the star, but to use it as a guide to reach his goal. Thus his use of the absolute is not in having it, but in its operational effectiveness (which cannot be perfect).

Weingarten

1/17/08, 1:51 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Weingarten,
Culturist claims that if we view the West as inherently superior “we can just sit back, and wait for all to become progressive, democratic, women respecting, countries with a separation of church and state.”

I don't go along with that, of course.

The following may sound stupid, but I'm going to type it in anyway....

Way back when, on the original Star Trek, one of the lead characters said something like the following: "It's my observation that evil will triumph unless the good is very, very strong."

Okay, so Star Trek isn't an authority. Still, the speaker of the above lines made an important part, namely that complacency is deadly.

1/18/08, 7:46 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Weingarten,
AOW is “most concerned about the preservation of Western civilization.” She too holds to absolutes, and I presume does not adhere to any of the beliefs that Culturist attributes to those who hold to the superiority of the West.

Yes, I believe in absolutes.

Do I believe that Western culture is superior? Yes. But even if true, that doesn't guarantee that Western civilization cannot be challenged and overtaken--on the basis of demographics along, i.e., Muslim immigrants who do not truly assimilate.

There were those who thought that the Iraqis would welcome us as liberators. Similarly, others advocated bribing them with benefits, because they would then act as we would.

I was naive enough to believe that Iraq would flow into a democracy as I interpret the term. I should have known bettter!

1/18/08, 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To AOW:

As you indicate, Star Trek soundly states that complacency is deadly. However, Culturist has modified his view, stating "I do not really think that Jason is complacent about Western Civ. No one who has partaken in this conversation is. I shouldn't have said so." Consequently, your position is shared by Culturist and myself.

I strongly appreciate it when people (such as Culturist or yourself) are willing to correct themselves when they think they have erred. There are many with great erudition, but it is the few who reexamine their views, that are truly commendable.

Weingarten

1/18/08, 9:03 AM  
Blogger Culturist said...

Isn’t it an interesting coincidence that those who think Islam is superior were raised in Islamic societies, those who think the Chinese values and people superior were raised in China and those who think it obvious that the West is superior were raised in the West? Perhaps you’ll note that we do it without coercion. Yes, but when people move here they do not drop their old views. If they assimilate it is because the kids pick up the culture. Beyond this, culture is not taught by the government, it is taught in homes and a thousand mosques. Don’t expect all the millions of mosque’s occupants to suddenly say, “Oops, you were right, we’ll drop that silly book [the Koran].” Even if science proves religion wrong, they will not disprove that it grounds a satisfying and meaningful lifestyle. Don't count on Islam receding.

In culturism my fight with universal absolute truths is focused on the Enlightenment. Metaphysical concepts like those which ground the U.N.'s 1948“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” First of all the document is, ironically, Western. If the freedom of religion and political voice it demands as “unalienable rights” [where did they get that wonderful phrase] were implemented, it would undermine Islamic nations and that of China. That is why both groups ignore it. We, on the other hand, hold it to be self-evident and it is used against us.

Universal rights means that Muslims get to immigrate to our countries and we don’t get to go to theirs. The West may let Turkey into the EEU. That is because we are not to discriminate based on nationality, country of origin, religion, wealth, creed, etc., We are to remain blind to all cultural peculiarities. We hang on by a shred of culturist sentiment. This shred allows our government and people to take sides. It should allow us to say, yes, we denounce Islamic presence and values on our soil because they are on the other side. Multi’s and universalists say, there are no sides. But in Islamic nations they sure think so. In culturism I use the example of a football game in which one side says, there are no teams, we won’t defend our quarterback anymore. The other team can run all over them. We need to take sides in geo-politics; our side. We need to be clear that there are sides.

If values don’t exist in self evident universal truths, where do they exist? Culturism’s look at world history establishes that they travel in people’s heads and that people’s heads need land to survive. That is why if you let large parts of Europe and New Jersey and the West to become occupied by Islamic people, the area in which our Western notions of rights, democracy, the separation of church and state, female rights, and free speech exist has shrunken. Cultures and values exist in physical space. When all Western lands have been taken over by Islamic radicals, rights will not exist in a metaphysical space. They will be gone. If they do continue to exist in a metaphysical realm of right and wrong, it won’t matter to me.

I will fight for Western values on Western soil. Cultures die and regress. I agree that our values cannot be based on consumerism. Culturism grounds values in history, recapturing the ideal of free republicanism in the distinction between liberty and license. One increases your freedom, it is the freedom to do any responsible thing you want. The other, enslaves you and us via irresponsible behavior. This is real freedom. Not grounded in unalienable rights. Rights are earned, protected and defended. They are bought. In education the Court recognizes rights and then allows lawsuits when they aren’t given. There is no sense of earning or cost in this vision. Our values should reflect that rights, opportunity, and the other Western come from our country, its belief in them and the ability to pay for them. They are not written in the stars to be discovered. They are something that we collectively earn or lose. Having this culturist sense of responsibility should again inform Western values.

Are you still reading?? In closing, we agree. We all prefer and revere Western culture. Weingarten, you do so because it is objectively better. I think we need to protect it because it is fragile, beautiful and I cannot help but believe in it and desire it. We both advocate and will fight for Western culture. In this sense we are both culturists. Mr. Ducky notes that our culture is hedonistic. It pays no attention to the needs of the culture or our cultural heritage or precepts. It isn’t like in classical ages when all saw themselves as part of a team / polis whose glory or survival needed upholding. To the extent that you worry about the culture, Mr. Ducky, you might be a culturist. Politicians will not readily adopt the term because they are worried about offending anybody.“ Islam is peace too!” “We love all voters.” When educationists and lawmakers accuse their fellow Westerners of bias and intolerance for speaking up for their own civilization, we need to have a rational alternative to the multicultural vision.

I think many Westerners are culturist. Regardless of the interesting nuance of metaphysical absolutes we are discussing here, they just think the West is the best. I do too. They don’t believe, by definition, the multiculturalist creeds that we are just another country and have no traditions. They believe that our values are special and need protection. I think our country would be better off if we saw the world as consisting of cultural sides. Culturism is dedicated to showing that having sides is normal, international cultural diversity and competition exists. That means if you want the West to survive, you had better fight for it. In schools they now teach multiculturalism. When a teacher takes that tact, we need students to have an easy word at hand to combat them with. Why do you only have multicultural courses? Culturism explains why we teach Western Civilization in Western schools. I know that no one here identifies as a multiculturalist. I think we’d all be safer if we identified ourselves as culturists. If not on a daily basis, the next time someone calls your views racist or mentions that multiculturalism is at fault, you will have a value system to counter and announce our cultural bias for the West with in a single word. Rather than just be defensive, I'd hope you go on the offensive and say you are a culturist [even if you don't endorse all the premises].

1/18/08, 9:46 AM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

In many ways I think the discussion is quite odd. Other than a few scientific and scholarly artifacts pillaged and stolen from the Byzantine Empire and Vedic Hindu cultures, the only real cultures Islam has cultivated or produced on its own sits in petri dishes in bioweapons labs. And even those probably aren't all that advanced.

Still, I suppose eliminating rape crime statistics by denying a woman the right to speak in court is a "culture" - but not one anyone but idiots and other kinds of leftists would find merit in.

1/18/08, 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Culturist notes that people tend to accept the values they were raised in, and will tend to adhere to it, even if science refutes it. This is the case, and those of us who believe in absolute truth say the same thing. What then is his argument against absolute truth? He rejects the concepts which ground the U.N.'s 1948 “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” I surely do so as well. However, although it used the term ‘rights’ it was contradictory, presupposing that nations that did not recognize rights in their own countries, could defend them internationally. The U.N. simply never had a foundation in law.

As Culturist points out, Muslims get to immigrate to our countries, which is disastrous. However, that does not follow from our adherence to rights, for our Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is to protect our rights, and not those of our detractors. America did not hesitate to kill the British, because our national survival required it.

*In short, if Culturist wants to argue against absolute truth, he first needs to find something that one who advocates it is mistaken about.* To clarify, some of us believe in science. Yet is it an argument against science to point to mistakes about it or in it? Do we say that we do not believe in mathematics, because the mathematician Pythagoras claimed that all numbers are rational; do we not believe in physics, because physicists believed in (the nonexistent) phlogiston?

Culturist seems to assume that the believers in science claim that science is absolutely correct, when they in fact claim the opposite. Now he can counter that the areas he is concerned with are ‘values’, yet the same occurs here. The believers in absolute truth do not claim that people who say they possess it are necessarily correct.

It appears that Culturist criticizes the view of absolute truth by making statements that the view does not hold to, and then showing them to be mistaken. How would he respond if I said that Culturism is wrong because it advocates Islam & tyranny, and then show the flaws in Islam & tyranny? *Is it just my opinion, or is it in fact the case, that to criticize a doctrine, one must criticize what it says, and not what it denies?* Or does Culturism hold that since there is no objective truth, one can claim that a belief says what it denies?

In sum, *I would appreciate it if Culturist took any one statement that I have made about absolute truth, and criticize that statement.*

1/18/08, 11:07 AM  
Blogger Donald Douglas said...

Great post and thread here, Jason. Just stopped by for a quick hello, but I'll come back later to add a couple of thoughts.

1/18/08, 11:23 AM  
Blogger Culturist said...

Anonymous, are you Weingarten? I am much more interested in arguing for culturism as a political strategy than against absolute truth. But I think that my best one is that people in other cultures do not agree and show no sign of relenting. The burden to disprove absolute truth is something I can try further if you like. You could also take on the burden of proof and prove an absolute truth. If you want me to critique a specific statement you made about absolute truth, please provide it; I'll do my best. Please note that my real intention in all of this is to combat multiculturalism.

Don't you think the idea of international rights and not being able to discriminate feeds Islamic immigration? Culturism would argue that you have no rights accept as a member of a nation. So, Iraqi muslims and refugees have no right to immigrate to America unless they are Americans with such rights. Multiculturalism says we cannot choose who comes based on culture. That is because it is wrong to discriminate against others. Perhaps not other Americans, but we have a right to discriminate against non-Americans who seek entry.

I do not believe that science provides us with values. Societies have all had plumbing and some science. This infrastructure gives them a subtle similarity. But the NAZIs and Aztecs believed in science. They did not see that science taught values I would buy into. If by absolute truth you mean 2 + 2 = 4, I still feel that is approached with different ontologies. But it is also a trivial example. Science does not give us, that I know of, less trivial examples.

Finally, then I have to run, if you said that culturism is wrong because it advocates Islam and tyranny, we would have to agree to disagree. Culturism does not judge other's cultures. Western culture is free to advocate its values. But if people want Islam in Saudi Arabia, it does not go with culturist thought to try to invade and change them. If they come of it of their own accord, they are free to that too. You may list other horrors. I will tell you that they are horrible to me because I support and believe in Western values systems. But, I recognize that diversity exists. We are the kings of our own realm, but not elsewhere.

That said, I would also argue that if you really hate their culture, it may be more prudent to save our money and have a sustainable alternative than to spend our resources fixing them. If we drown in debt, the values we agree are valuable will - in my opinion -not still exist as absolutes. They will be gone.

To criticize a doctrine and not what it denies. Oh, I finally get it and don't have time to edit. You think I am saying you believe in things that you don't believe in. I am putting up straw men. Well again, you provide a proof or instance of absolute truth, in your own words and I'll try to be careful to just discuss it as it appears to me in your own words.

Finally, lets get rid of multiculturalism. I don't care if we do so by calling our culture absolute truth or just our own proud tradition and belief system. But on our soil, female genital mutilation, CAIR's terrorizing of those who uphold free speech, government business in Spanish, ignoring of immigration laws, and all other manifestations of multiculturalism must go. Personally I think culturism is more strategically useful, but I'm happy to judge culturally on the basis of absolute truths or culturist precepts. We need to do this because Fukayama was wrong, history has not ended.

1/18/08, 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Culturist, this is Weingarten. If you do not choose to discuss absolute truth, that is fine. (I had thought that we were following Jason’s posting.) However, since you ask for a statement of absolute truth, I shall supply three of Ayn Rand’s statements. First, “existence exists”; second, “man is conscious of what exists”; third, “A is A”. (For Mr. Beamish’ benefit, I will be more fundamental: “Weingarten exists”; “Weingarten is conscious of what exists”; “Weingarten is right”, “Weingarten says “A is A” ”, therefore as a corollary “A is A”.) Note that even an animal is conscious of reality, and knows when he encounters something, it is that thing, and not something else.

I am not clear as to how you define ‘culturism’, but will take it as meaning a preference for our culture, as contrasted with valuing our differences. Now as you say “people in other cultures do not agree” and you could have added that in America there is no consensus as to what our culture is. I join you in opposing international rights and in opposing Islamic immigration. However, I cannot agree that there are no rights, except as a member of a nation. Allow me to put this in the negative. If there were two men on a desert island, one would have no right to kill or steal from the other. This is an existential statement, which carries a different morality than “anything goes”. Without such a metaphysical view there could be no justification for government, and no derivation of its delegated powers, save by majority vote.

So whereas immigration requires invitation, it does not mean that Americans have the right to kill non-Americans (unless they pose a threat to America) even if by majority vote, our citizens say kill or enslave them when we feel like it.

As you say, science does not provide us with values, for by its nature it is intention-independent, while values emerge from aspirations. I do not know of any mathematician or physicist who claims that his discipline is the fount of values. Consequently, I do not know why you bring up your statement.

As to your denial that culturism advocates Islam & tyranny, you didn’t follow what was said. To repeat, I asked *Is it just my opinion, or is it in fact the case, that to criticize a doctrine, one must criticize what it says, and not what it denies?* I agree with you that we have no obligation to invade or change Islam in Saudi Arabia. To repeat my question, if I criticized culturism because it said that we must invade Saudi Arabia in order to change Islam, would you not say that one should not criticize a doctrine by misrepresenting it?

I further agree that our priority is to build America rather than change other nations, and that drowning in debt is not helpful.

Next, you say that you do not care whether we call our culture absolute truth or our own proud tradition and belief system. I disagree because *our culture cannot be absolute truth, for it has much to be corrected*. Are you saying that when we further our tradition and belief system, that we should not correct its errors? Believers in absolute truth acknowledge contradictions and imperfections in our culture. Could you possibly be advocating “My culture right or wrong”?

Finally, your statement “Fukayama was wrong, history has not ended” is an example of absolute truth.

Weingarten

1/18/08, 1:46 PM  
Blogger Culturist said...

Weingarten my friend,

Tis I, Senor culturist, whom BTW I would welcome being referred to as John. Yes, I do stress culturism as that is my gig. I think it an important political move. I will respond herein. But we may just have to agree to disagree. I will be a culturist and you can continue with absolute truth. I still hope that we are, overall, on the same side.

If you like, I can refute each of your three absolutes one by one. Would this sway you? I don’t think we’ll solve this eternal conundrum here. Culturism deals with values. Existence exists seems, again, to be as trivial as 2 + 2 = 4. But does existence simply exist? Many believe this is just a testing ground for a life after death that is more real and eternal. This truism can be nuanced into being not agreed upon. A = A is a total abstraction. The same objections as above apply. By the way, Taoists would tell you life = death and death = life. Lucian Levy Bruhl attacked Claude Levi Strauss. He held that native think differently. For them, you shadow or things you touched were a part of you. “I am sick because the tree was disrespected” is not unusual. And my health is dependent upon the blessing of Jesus I get through prayer. That means A (me) is really A (me plus the blessings and will of Jesus). Even A = A is not an absolute truth.

If you are not clear about how I define culturism, I would totally love it if you’d buy and read my book. This would greatly encourage me to spread “the word.” Shy of that, you can go to my website, www.culturism.us and read the book for free. You might like the philosophy chapter, even though I doubt you’d agree with it or be persuaded by it. I take comfort in your also opposing international rights. It gives me hope that I am wrong and this discussion is totally amiable. If two men were on an Island and one was strong enough to enslave the other, no mystical sense of rights would prevent it. But it seems we agree on this. I don’t understand how this undermines the “justification for government.” As for our “right to kill non-Americans.” Again, I do not deal in rights. So I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Culturism holds that rights only exist in cultures that believe in them and have the money to pay for them. To kill others for no reason would violate our traditions. If we don’t do it due to “rights” that is our convention. I am proud of it. But no metaphysical or absolute entity prevents us from doing so. You may have the right to be alive, but daily events disprove the import and possibly even the existence of these absolute rights outside of context.

I bring up values coming from science because I thought you were basing absolute truths on science. My mistake. I apologize if I misunderstand your arguments. I hope that my response in the previous paragraph fairly addresses your point.

I, in re-reading you previous post am puzzled by your statement, “The believers in absolute truth do not claim that people who say they possess it are necessarily correct.” Do you mean that the absolute truth exists, even though we cannot know it? Are you taking the Socratic position on forms which we try to approximate, but can’t? It is a great position. I is hard to prove, but provides a beautiful set of ideals. Culturism uses Socrates and our other Western heroes to ground a sense of excellence. The beauty of the Symposium and the Republic should serve as an example for us. Culturism also draws heavily from Alistair MacIntyre and Aristotle. The idea that virtue is measured by the standards of your community and that values ultimately have to lead to a sustainable polis or disappear.

Moving to the paragraph that starts with, “as to your denial . . “ I apologize if I misrepresented your views. I have seen much more evidence of your attacking my views than presenting yours. When I am responding, I am not strictly responding to your post (this post being an exception). I am trying to present culturism’s views broadly. I am an advocate for culturism and try to explain it whenever anyone is nice enough to humor me and pay attention. So not all responses refer directly to your responses. But, if you advocate a position I have dodged, please let me know.

I appreciate your willingness to acknowledge aggreement. This shows a philosopher's search for the truth, rather than a sophist antagonism. There is much we agree upon.

I guess I wasn’t clear enough about your definition of absolute truth. I, again, connect them to Plato and his forms. These are unchangeable eternal truths. We may agree more than I thought if we take Aristotle’s view of forms as emerging from the culture. I do believe there are standards by which we can judge ourselves. I believe culturism is necessary because we are falling away from them now. These ideals would derive from the best of our traditions and aspirations. But these would be created, in my book, not existing apriori. Does this reconcile our disagreements?

No culturism doesn’t say my culture right or wrong. It is an interesting objection. We are to be judged by the standards of our predecessors. Check my chapter on the Western culture for details. Our standards are – in a sense – absolutely right for us. We should try to approximate them. But these, ala Aristotle, do not exist independent of this world. They are our standards and not those of the universe. From “universal rights” to Kant’s categorical imperative, culturism decries all that tries to exist sans a cultural tradition and a thriving society.

Fukayama was wrong being an absolute truth is a funny observation. But it is based on contingent, provisional realities. If Muslims all became dedicated to Western values, or we decided to submit rather than die, then history might (temporarily) end. The truth about history not ending is not a priori.

Thanks for the insights and I look forward to your next post. After Monday, school starts again and I will not have time for such a great and detailed reply. But until then, I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Please let me know if what I've put forward approximates your understanding of absolute truths. If not, I'd appreciate your elaborating on your definition. Also, am I right in thinking we agree mostly on policy but only disagree on how they are to be grounded?

Thanks for reading and writing,

John

1/19/08, 2:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear John, in the past I would have said that it is absolutely true that I would never write a “Dear John” letter, so you may have proven your point.

As you suggest, we disagree on theory, but consistently agree on policy. I however, am unclear as to whether we agree that there exists a realm in which one (or neither) of us, could ultimately be found to be right, or whether you hold, that since there is no such absolute, one cannot be found to be right or wrong.

However, before we discuss my view of truth, and yours on culturism, can we concur that we can differentiate between whether we are discussing the former or the latter? That is, when we are discussing my position, shouldn't we be using my definitions, and when we are discussing your position, using your definitions? Is there not a shared understanding by all of us, that either we are discussing one, rather than the other? Isn’t it a mistake to refute what someone says, by using the meanings of another?

You ask if it would sway me if you can refute my (actually Ayn Rand’s) absolutes. Surely it would, provided we agree on what is a refutation. To me *the refutation must be in ordinary language, not scientific or philosophical terminology, with concurrence as to the meaning of words*. Thus, Zeno had several “refutations” that an object can move, one of which is “It cannot move when it is at a place, for it then resides there; it cannot move when it is not resident at a place, for it is then not there; consequently, it cannot move at all.” This is a refutation in the technical language of logic, but not in ordinary language, for here “moving” means precisely what occurs when an object resides in one place, and then at another. In science, there are proofs that time cannot exist, as in “A World Without Time” by Palle Yourgrau”. I would be pleased to discuss these and other proofs, but they have no relevance to ordinary language. Nor does it help to quote what others believe, when they function in the realm of technical, instead of ordinary, language.

Thus it is no more pertinent when you say “does existence simply exist” for what we mean by “exist” is precisely what it is. When a child points and says “That is the sun” it is not refuted by finding complexities in its shape, boundaries, material composition, etc. The philosophic statements are equally irrelevant, for they too are not in ordinary language, but mean something different. To refute that an ‘object can move’ is a contradiction in terms, for movement, space, and time, is presupposed, or else one cannot say anything in ordinary language. As another example 5+8 = 1 is a contradiction in ordinary language, but is true in mathematics modulo 12, where 5 hours after 8 o’clock is 1 o’clock. To refute the statement “That is the sun” requires that we replace that understanding which is shared by all, by some other shared statement, such as “That is not the sun” or “There is no such thing as the sun (or anything else).” *Can you provide such a refutation?*

This change in meaning from ordinary language is contained in every example you presented. Thus, I have great respect for Taoism, and hold that life & death constitute a dichotomy, where they are metaphysically inextricable. However, no Taoist has ever denied the ordinary truth that someone can be killed, thereby moving from life to death. The Taoist would never replace the shared meaning that “Someone has been killed” by “Jones cannot be killed”.

Further, let us note that in your statements, you have presupposed ordinary meaning. Thus, when you say “I” you do not mean someone else, such as “Jones”. Were I to refute every word that you spoke, by your criteria, I would only have to give it some other meaning, or say that someone else interprets it differently. In short, what you argue, would not only refute absolute truth, but would refute everything that you say, if that is what you mean by “refutation”. *If you do not agree that we must take the meaning within ordinary language as given, can you show this without employing ordinary language?*

As to a definition of “culturism” if it cannot be defined in ordinary language in a sentence or two, it is not in ordinary language, and not helpful for discussing it on a blog. It could be a completely valid and fruitful concept (perhaps a “theoretical definition”), but in group discussions an agreed upon meaning is called for. So until you provide an operational definition, I shall again “take it as meaning a preference for our culture, as contrasted with valuing our differences.”

You view my opposition to international rights as indicating that our discussion is amiable. I have never doubted amiability, and do not require agreement for it. I have disagreed with everyone on this blog, at some point or other, including Jason, and even Weingarten.

Next, we agree that “If two men were on an Island and one was strong enough to enslave the other, no mystical sense of rights would prevent it.” However, my sense of rights does not aim at changing that enslavement, but refers to how we view it. *If you view the enslavement as moral, and I view it as immoral, then we disagree on something far more fundamental than what would prevent that enslavement.* (Note that when I am discussing my view of rights, and you respond with your own definition, you are not refuting my view, but presenting a different definition.)

You do not see how a view of morality pertains to the justification for government. In the Declaration of Independence, the purpose of government is to protect our rights, where our moral precepts indicate that one has no right to enslave another. Here, rights precede government, and are super-ordinate to it. Conversely, some people illogically claim that the second amendment (supposedly based on a government militia) denies the right of a citizen to bear arms. Yet if one has the right of self-protection (to prevent being killed or enslaved prior to the establishment of a Constitution) it does not require any amendment to grant him that right.

(As an aside, I hold that the ‘self-evident’ precedes our conventions, so for example even the animal knows that there is space, time, and causality. The fox would not run after the hare if this could not result in catching it. The animal knows, even if it does not know that it knows.)

When you say that “rights only exist in cultures” you are referring to enforcement. The founders meant something different when they spoke of ‘inalienable rights’, meaning not only that none had the right to take it from them, but that one had no right to give it away. Thus, in their view, one had no right to choose to be a slave. That view of morality may make no sense to you, but it was on that basis that they chose to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” So, even if their motivation appears meaningless to you, it had an operational impact on their fight for independence. They did not choose to risk all, merely because it was a convention (which it wasn’t).

Next you refer to my statement that “The believers in absolute truth do not claim that people who say they possess it are necessarily correct”, and ask if that means that we cannot know it? To clarify, we absolutely know that Smith was either in NY or not, at the time of the murder, but may or may not ever find out. If we find that he was in California at that time, we would absolutely know that he was not in NY; conversely, the evidence might never appear.

You refer to the philosopher’s search for truth. Do you mean his attempt to adhere to our conventions, or something more? If he seeks to merely adhere to convention, how can he be seeking truth? If what he seeks goes beyond our conventions, how can he seek what you claim doesn’t exist? Here, I am not referring to Socrates, but merely to common sense, as it is meant in ordinary language.

You are correct that we agree on policy, but not on how it is grounded. Socrates, Kant, and many of the very founders of the traditions you advocate, based their beliefs on something more fundamental than tradition, and would violate traditions when they did not conform to what they viewed as absolute.

In sum:
With regard to my position on absolute truth, refutation requires a contrary shared meaning. Thus instead of “A person can be conscious” a refutation would require a shared meaning such as “No person can be conscious.”

With regard to your position on culturism, it appears to say that we can only determine what adheres to convention. Thus our beliefs cannot contradict our conventions, for that is what we mean is “right”. Consequently, if your view is conventional, it cannot be refuted if you can show it adheres to our conventions.

Thank you for reading and writing,

Weingarten

P.S. For those who seek clarification, I am enclosing my course on Language 101.

Language 101

There are no prerequisites for taking my course ‘Language 101’ except to speak English at the level of a normal 12 year old. We shall start from scratch, without reference to any writings, previous discussions, or use of terminology. Today we begin with the concept that “there are things that people know, that cannot be wrong, for it would be a contradiction in terms.” This concept is called ‘self-evident’, so that for example each of us knows that he is alive, or that he wants a drink of water.

If I ask you to find a chair, and you respond by asking ‘which chair?’ you have understood by the self-evident that there can be a given chair as well as chairs. You not only know that there are chairs, but that if someone says there is no such thing as a chair, he is mistaken, and if another says there is no such thing as the class of chairs, he is mistaken.

It is said that a bachelor cannot marry for ‘bachelor’ is defined as being unmarried. Similarly, that a rock cannot fall, since to fall from where it is, it has to be where it is. Yet language 101 teaches that we know that bachelors marry and rocks fall. *If an argument refutes what we know, it is the argument that is fallacious.*

In Language 102, we shall apply such knowledge, but let us not get ahead of ourselves, for students cannot take Language 102 until they have passed Language 101. Are there any questions?

Student A: What about infants and toddlers, who do not fathom these words, do they know what is self-evident?
Weingarten: No, by definition they do not.

Student B: Can we address where people obtained the self-evident?
Weingarten: Not until passing Language 101 & 102, which are the prerequisites for Philosophy 101.

Student C: Can you exemplify the self-evident?
Weingarten: Surely. They include knowing that bees can fly, things can move, and one can step into the Hudson river.

Student D: Can this course be taught in a different language?
Weingarten: Surely. Tarzan never saw a chair, but he knew about ‘Simba” and other lions. Moreover, he knew that there were such things as fingers, although I don’t know the word for giving the finger in Swahili.

Scientist: I have a scientific proof that bees cannot fly.
Weingarten: That will serve you well in your science course, but it has no bearing in Language 101. If your argument differs from the self-evident, it is your argument that is mistaken. (By the way, there is a rabid bumble bee buzzing near you.)

Zeno: I can prove in several ways that things do not and cannot move, so I differ with the self-evident.
Weingarten: You are quite brilliant, but will fail this course. Don’t worry, unless I move I cannot fill in your failing grade.

Heraclitus: One cannot step into the same river twice.
Weingarten: Since I have done so, you fail.

Cratylus: One cannot even step into the same river once, since during that step, the river has changed, and so have you.
Weingarten: How then can you speak of ‘the same river’, since every second it is a different river? But don’t worry about your failing grade since I cannot give it even once.

Determinist: By the self-evident, one can choose to raise his right hand, but I can prove that one has no such choice.
Weingarten: Apparently, you do not know the meaning of the term ‘choice’ for that exactly corresponds to what was done when you raised your hand.

‘Objectivist’: I can prove that there is no such thing as self-evident, for it means the same thing as ‘a-priori’ which by my definition requires something that does not exist in reality.
Weingarten: That’s a great argument, but since you made it in language, there is no foundation for it being correct, or even meaning exactly what you say. As an aside do you think that someone knows that being tortured will make him unhappy?

The scientists and philosophers have argued that their theories refute the self-evident, yet they presupposed the very use of language and logic that depends on the self-evident. Should they wish to deny that one knows “this is a chair” let them say that the person lacks such knowledge, and then explain how anything can be taught to him, without employing the knowledge of classes and particular members.

I shall now give the final exam for Language 101.

Student A: What is the passing grade?
It requires 100% to pass, since you already knew everything needed before you registered. However, don't worry if you fail, since if you do you would have no use for Language 102 anyway.

Final Exam

Each question requires a 'yes' or 'no' answer (and no copying is permitted).

Are there things that people know, that cannot be wrong, for it would be a contradiction in terms?
Do people know that there is a chair and a category of chairs?
Can a bee fly?
Can you choose to raise your right hand?
Does a man know that if he is tortured it will make him unhappy?

1/19/08, 12:25 PM  
Blogger I, John Kenneth Press, am said...

Weingarten,

I don’t know why I didn’t get notification of your post. It was a pleasant surprise to find it. I’m a big fan of Ayn Rand. I have read a few of her books, but not the major ones; anthem, virtue of selfishness, hymn to the new intellectual and probably another one or two (sorry if I get the names wrong).

When we started I was explaining my conception of truth against a charge that it was cultural relativism. My position is not a standard one. I could see how one would classify it as such. But that would overlook the fact that I am a relative purist within Western lands. In the book I advocate what I call culturist pragmatism. This is pragmatism that gets its definition of progress via calling on tradition. This also limits what it can do. Killing people for dissent heavily violates the trajectory of the Western tradition.

Now it seems that we have switched to talking about your conception of truth. That is fine. I am eager to read the rest of your post and see whether we agree through Aristotle. It occurred to me that you may have an Aristotelian vision of ethics. That includes perfection and room to grow. Our only difference then would be whether or not it applies outside of the Western realm. I’ll read on . . .

I appreciate normal language and take pride in the matter-of-fact use of language and rejection of metaphysics culturism employs. It would be interesting if you read the philosophy chapter of culturism, for free, via my website.

That is, however, within a Western context. In other cultures words are incantations. When you curse, you still curse. Interestingly, challenges to honor in Southern states have been shown to be more likely to cause fights and release more hormones than they do in Northern states. Even within Western world, without curses being magical, they can have different results. Taoists, by the way, used to take drugs to die insane so that they could die without reincarnating. Did you know that Jesus rose from the dead and there is life after death? That is a belief many hold. Do you have proof that they are wrong?

I think language exists within a cultural context. When you and I say “I” we have some shared understanding. That said, my first association with the pronoun, my adjectives, may be different. But if you only mean by “absolute truth” that words can have shared meaning, we do not disagree. But I am waiting for you to build to a bigger point and perhaps should not go paragraph by paragraph. I still must say though, that rather than attacking my words, I wish you would present a positive definition of what you believe. I still don’t know what you mean by “absolute truth.” It is like shooting something with blindfolds on. Tell me what you believe and perhaps we can really disagree.

The first thing on the first page of the book culturism is the definition. It, again, would be cool were you to have read even one word of the book by now. The entire book, furthermore, expands on that definition. It has several uses. But, things being what they are, lets accept your definition. It does capture one small aspect of culturism.

Again, give me your definition of rights if you don’t want me to use a definition you don’t agree with. You cannot continue to say I don’t properly present you views without telling me what they are. How can I be held responsible for refuting your view of rights if you have never enumerated them? Now come words in my mouth, “You do not see how a view of morality pertains to the justification for government.” Really???

Note the pronoun “our” in “the purpose of government is to protect our rights.” Self-government is collective. The Declaration announces our national independence from Britain. It does not Declare independence from each other. The constitution creates a system of governance, not of anarchy. Cultural presuppositions precede all. The Declaration of Independence would not get signed with references to the morality of slavery. That is why it was taken out. If rights were preceded by government, why did government need to be instituted to guard them? Weren’t they already apparent throughout all time without government? You don’t try to protect yourself from death because of a right. I wish you’d define your terms. What do you mean by “right”?

It was self-evident in the South that someone had to be enslaved. Slavery was self-evident. When I say rights only exist in culture why do you think that I am referring to enforcement? Putting words in mouth? I am referring to belief in them; their actual conceptualization and acceptance. Without agreement, enforcement is near impossible.

When you say the founders, you mean Thomas Jefferson right? He had slaves. Did the Southern founders actually believe “one had no right to choose to be a slave”? Whether they thought so or not, their decision to fight was not a priori obvious. This was a propaganda piece meant to convince people to fight. Its existence testifies to the fact that this was a choice. A choice that reflected assertions that were widespread in the culture. Edmund Burke’s view of the French Revolution would say that they were not conventional enough.

Again, if you mean by absolute truth Smith was in NY. I think it is a trivial example. I won’t even fight over whether NY is an absolute or the LES or in his house; just under heaven or in a time of decline. But if by absolute truth you mean we can establish location on a conventional grid . . . okay, within currently assumed confines, we agree. BTW read Barbara Mundy’s work for kicks and understanding how the Spanish and Mayans saw space and mapping differently (once the Spanish introduced the concept).

Socrates used ordinary language. Truth of a culture, a sense of excellence in culture, was what Aristotle taught. It is always culturally relative. Why can’t you reconcile a sense of excellence and tradition or convention? Do the Founding Father’s not inspire you? Is that not a sense of excellence? It was not an excellence of Islamic piety. But it was a Western rational assertion against arbitrary authority sense of excellence.

Again, and excuse me for overly seeking agreement, but we may perhaps agree on right and wrong. It is only that I believe it is right and wrong for us Westerners and you believe it is right and wrong for the whole world. Within our culture I will agree to absolute truths (something you still have not defined). Free speech should not be abridged unless it presents a clear and present danger. I’ll buy that as an absolute truth in Western nations. We may only disagree over whether it is an absolute truth in China or Islamic nations.

I’ll try to read the language bit later. Your presentation of the Declaration of Independence had, for me, the most to chew upon. We may be able to define our basic differences there. If I re-read it more and find more stuff to say, I’ll post it. I went through this sizable post fairly quickly. I look forward to the next.

Have a great Saturday night!

John

PS Where in this great nation of ours are you Weingarten?
PS PS Anyone but Weingarten and I reading by this time???
PS PS PS Sorry about the weird presentation of my name. I am trying to get my blogger settings right.
PSPSPSPSPSPS I have a new blog post on my blog!

1/19/08, 7:31 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Sense is needed for survival/ flourishing (but only for mobile life forms). "Reason" is something else, entirely.

Nietzsche, "On Truth and Lie in a Extra-Moral Sense"

It is strange that this should be the effect of the intellect, for after all it was given only as an aid to the most unfortunate, most delicate, most evanescent beings in order to hold them for a minute in existence, from which otherwise, without this gift, they would have every reason to flee as quickly as Lessing's son. [In a famous letter to Johann Joachim Eschenburg (December 31, 1778), Lessing relates the death of his infant son, who "understood the world so well that he left it at the first opportunity."] That haughtiness which goes with knowledge and feeling, which shrouds the eyes and senses of man in a blinding fog, therefore deceives him about the value of existence by carrying in itself the most flattering evaluation of knowledge itself. Its most universal effect is deception; but even its most particular effects have something of the same character.

1/20/08, 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear John:

Whereas Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu sought to awaken the innate knowledge (or common sense) that ALL MEN possess, they would have looked askance at those who turned their teachings into magic, drugs and incantations. I believe that I am in line with their teaching *to not interfere, but to find that sense of direction that most men ignore*.

You ask about my views on reincarnation, Jesus, and life after death. These concepts are within the areas of theology, mysticism, and philosophy. So whereas, I would be pleased to enter that fray, it would detract from our discussion. By my definition *‘absolute truth’ is the shared knowledge that is built into language* (along with its extensions). Thus whereas I believe in the virtues of philosophy & science, they go beyond our shared knowledge and its extensions. So although I shall be reincarnated as Weingarten, this has not yet been shown to constitute absolute truth ☹.

So when you ask what I believe regarding absolute truth, it is the aforementioned definition, along with the criteria of falsifiabilty. As an illustration, to refute the statement “That is the sun” requires that we replace that understanding which is shared by all, by some other shared statement, such as “That is not the sun” or “There is no such thing as the sun (or anything else).”

You state that “language exists within a cultural context.” That is the case for any given (natural) language such as English or Mandarin. However, *the shared meanings to which I refer are universal.* Thus in any language there is recognition that: things move, a man can die, we can distinguish between you and me, etc. (I claim that Tumac, in “One Million Years BC” understood these shared truths as well.) Were this not the case, people with different languages could not communicate by translation. Again and again, if you are referring to differences, that is not what I mean by ‘shared meanings’, for they are universal.

Next, you ask for my definition of ‘rights’. A ‘right’ is a moral principle, best placed in the negative, as to not be interfered with (unless one has first interfered with another). *It applies only to individuals, and can be phrased as to live-and-let-live.* We can go into where rights come from, and why they are valid, if you wish. However, we disagree on the meaning of inalienable rights. My understanding is that these are individual, and not collective. The concept refers to the sovereignty of each individual. (In religious terms, it would refer to one’s soul.) Government does not have rights, but delegated powers to protect our rights, which are strictly individual. The phrase “life, liberty, and property” which was extended to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” makes no sense with regard to a collective. (If someone thinks that a group can have a life, I can only suggest that he get a life.) One can find support for this position in the “Federalist Papers”, the writings of Ayn Rand, the Austrian economists, and in Libertarian literature. Now it is true that the powers of government are collective, and the Declaration declared our independence from Britain, but *it did so because Britain was violating individual rights*. To wit, the Declaration states “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men…”

Now you asked me to define rights, so that you could address my views. Actually, I thought that on this blog, we understood the notion of rights as individual, so I did not realize that you were unfamiliar with that view. However, you have presented your views, so let me comment on them.

When you say ‘slavery was self-evident’ you are using a different definition from mine, which requires shared (or universal) meaning; the fact that Thomas Jefferson had slaves does not contradict the belief that slavery is wrong, and he would be the first to say so. You write “When I [John] say rights only exist in culture why do you think that I am referring to enforcement? Putting words in my mouth?” I was referring to your statement “If two men were on an Island and one was strong enough to enslave the other, no mystical sense of rights would prevent it.” Were you not referring to enforcement? When you add that “Without agreement, enforcement is near impossible” am I putting words in your mouth about enforcement? The definition of rights is logically prior to whether or not they are enforced.

You further write that Spanish and Mayans saw space differently, which is a technicality. Before people can see something differently, they must recognize that it is the same thing that they are speaking about. Yet again and again, if you are referring to differences, you are not speaking of shared meanings, which by definition are universal.

Then you ask “Why can’t you reconcile a sense of excellence and tradition or convention?” I surely do, and have continually believed in the Greek concept “Arete”. You seem to think that I do not appreciate the traditions of our civilization. I agree with your view that our culture is superior to multiculturalism. *Our difference is not there, but in what constitutes the fount from which they derive.* It is as you write that ‘that John believes it is right and wrong for us Westerners, and Weingarten believes it is right and wrong for the whole world.’ When you say that “Within our culture I will agree to absolute truths” you are surely not referring to my view. I could never say that within our culture a bird moves, but in another culture it cannot move.

Finally, you ask “Where in this great nation of ours are you Weingarten?” Within our culture I am Weingarten in New Jersey; within Indian culture I am Weingarten in Bombay; and within Muslim culture I am Weingarten within the Kaaba.

1/20/08, 11:00 AM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Jason

What does the Duck know about culture
aside from watching a few Dslton Trumbo classics. Islam like Communism
stifles creativity.

No doubt the Duck will lecture us about caligraphy, which is one step removed from Banksy.

1/20/08, 6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heretofore, I made the case for absolute truth and for individual rights. Historically, the primary case against them has been based on employing different definitions, and showing that by these definitions the aforementioned were refuted. Note that when Ayn Rand wrote of existence, consciousness and identity, she recognized that these terms were understood in context. So for example the fact that people have illusions does not contradict that there is existence, and in fact it wouldn’t be an illusion unless there were something in existence. The fact that there are boundaries to something that exists, such as when a star is going out of existence, or when a child becomes an adult, is not a refutation, but something that is affirmed by the advocates of absolute truth and individual rights.

What I wish to note at this point is that *the approach of the detractors would not only refute these positions, but would refute any and all knowledge*. Thus, when someone says there is no such thing as consciousness, his logic indicates that there is no such thing as “there” or “is” or “thing”. Similarly, he himself cannot be conscious, and when he ends “his” sentence cannot be the identical person to the one who began it. To repeat, the method of argumentation not only refutes some positions, but refutes all positions, including its own.

“Absolute truth” is axiomatic, and cannot be denied without contradiction. As such, it is differentiated from relative truths, which hold in some places, but not in others. Thus, it is wrong to kill an innocent in any country, but the laws of enforcement differ from country to country. To refute this concept one must show that there can be no difference between what holds in any country, and what depends on which particular country is referred to. Then the differentiation between absolute and relative would be untenable.

Similarly, there are things that apply to every (normal) individual, in contrast to what holds for some (normal) individuals and not for others.

Another ‘refutation’ of absolute truth and individual rights is that not all people agree. By this method, since there is always someone who disagrees, all positions are refuted, including the position that there is no absolute truth or individual right or anything else.

Currently, nihilists deny the superiority of America by employing moral relativism, whereby no nation can be morally superior to any other nation. By their same method (using truth as relative) they conclude that America is morally inferior to other nations.

Weingarten

1/21/08, 9:34 AM  
Blogger Culturist John said...

Weingarten,

"Within our culture I am Weingarten in New Jersey; within Indian culture I am Weingarten in Bombay; and within Muslim culture I am Weingarten within the Kaaba." This is very very funny. Thanks.

Of course, to the West coaster you are east. To those in Montreal you are south. To a Brazilian you are north!!! But hey, I'll take New Jersy : ) If you are ever in NYC, look me up for a beer.

Parmenides is a later Plato dialogue. In it Parmenides tries to convince young Socrates of the theory of forms. It is convoluted. Some say it shows Plato backing away from the theory of forms. In the end, young Socrates, confused by the idea that all is one, just says "most true." And, so it is W., "most true."

That is the way I remember Parmenides. Of course, my memory is either abolutely correct or incorrect on this (proving you point). At any rate, tomorrow its back to teaching and limited time for discussion. So I want to thank you for your careful and thorough posts. Its been fun and enlightening.

There was a New York Times article about cliterectomies in Indonesia. It showed many happy women doing it to their daughters. They did it for mental balance and making them marriagable. I would hope that they would agree with us and stop it. Until then, it is most practical to let them have their way over there. I'm not going to waste time and money going over there trying to tell them we are right and they are barbarians. As sick as it is to me, even if we had the money, I just wouldn't care to invade their country or take them to International U.N. court to stop it. If we can show, domestically, that women are happy with all of their anatomy, perhaps they will convert. This would be the culturist tact. Shine and be an example, a "City upon a hill."

Finally, all, I hope we can all agree that we don't want that behavior over here. We, despite what multiculturist say, do have a culture over here. It is one in which we think women should be whole and allowed to choose her values. We have a core culture that provides absolute (there ya' go W.) right and wrong in Western nations. Since rights are cultural and not international, we have a cultural right to define, protect and promote our vision (the definition of culturism). We have a right to say, "you are not compatible with our culture and cannot immigrate here AND if you do, understand that you'll do heavy jail time for cliterectomies." I hope that we can at least agree on this domestic culturist policy.

Today I put the first ever culturist video on my website. I also did a new blog post. Please check them out.

Thanks again to Jason and all posters, John

www.culturism.us

1/22/08, 2:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear John:

Thanks for the invite (“If you are ever in NYC, look me up for a beer.”) However, the last invitation I received from a New Yorker proposed a larger drink, and more often. She said she lives by the East River, and that I should drop in anytime.

I appreciated your views and the good humor in which they were presented. Moreover, your post has convinced me (relatively) that 
I shall never have a cliterectomy.

Best wishes,

The Weingarten to your West

1/22/08, 9:59 AM  
Blogger Ducky's Here said...

Jason, please stop exposing your limited artistic experience.

Calligraphy as high art has been around a few thousand years longer than Ayn Rand.

I don't think much of Trumbo. Best film DVD release last year was definitely Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep". Nice that it finally got at least a limited release. It's about as far as neo-realism can go.

It's so hard sharing the culture with a bunch of mall rats who are out watching "Cloverfield".

1/22/08, 10:13 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Thanks for stopping by John and discussing your provocative and bold ideas. I’ve found that trying to explain the essence of your idea to people who haven’t read the book invokes many associations that result in a misunderstanding. I admire your willingness to jump into the fray. However, I found it very useful to read the book because you answered my many questions and corrected early tentative impression as I continued to read. The topic is of the upmost importance and you’ve made a welcomed contribution to the debate.

1/22/08, 11:13 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

The point of Plato's "Parmenides" dialogue was to demonstrate a complete dialectic of absolutes which concluded with "if one is not, then nothing is".''... all this being the result of Xeno's obverse dialectic meant to show the inherent contradiction in the arguments of Parmenides detractors.

No wonder you and weingarten are so confused. You all should try learning some philosophy instead attempting to preach it. ;-)

1/22/08, 1:22 PM  
Blogger Ducky's Here said...

"We, despite what multiculturist say, do have a culture over here. It is one in which we think women should be whole and allowed to choose her values."

Someone has apparently been out of the country. Many don't believe a woman should be able to chose her medical options with the advice of her doctor.

Of course the left has been fighting the female emancipation fight with little help from the right.

1/23/08, 12:36 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Golf clap for the leftist championing of the abortion industry!

1/24/08, 4:05 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Time to liberate fathers from fatherhood and permit them to expose their infants up until the age of five in temples throughout America!

Hooray for liberty!

There will never be sexual equality in this country until all men have to undergo the pain of childbirth! It's time to lobby for a form of socialized medicine that forces every man in the country to be implanted with an artificial uterous!

1/25/08, 12:07 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Is that ducky I hear clamouring to be the first to experience sexual equality under the Uterus' for Sexual Equality Act of 2009?

What a champion for women's liberation!

1/25/08, 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Previously, I addressed Jason’s question “Is there no objective right and wrong inherent in human nature?” This was a conceptual or theoretical matter. However there is also the issue of its history.

In the Dec. 2007 issue of “The Freeman” Richard Ebeling wrote the article “Marching to Bismarck’s Drummer: The Origins of the Modern Welfare State.” Therein, he notes that in the 1880’s the Kaisar supported the first welfare-state legislation (sponsored by Otto von Bismarck). This included much that people today view as the American way for a just and caring society, such as health insurance, minimum wage and workplace regulation, unemployment insurance, etc.

Now I am not addressing these policies per se, nor their contribution to National Socialism. Rather my focus is on their rationale. An American admirer of the German Welfare state wrote that “In the mind of the Germans the functions of the state are not susceptible to abstract, a priori deductions…If it seems advisable for the state to own an industry it should proceed to own it; if it is wise to curb any class or interest it should be curbed. Expediency or opportunism is the rule of statesmanship, not abstraction as to the philosophical nature of the state.” Dr. Ebeling notes that “there was no place for universal and enduring principles concerning the individual’s rights to life, liberty , and property, or for constitutions to prevent governments from encroaching on freedom. Every policy issue was to be guided by the pragmatic interests of the day.”

Is it not the case that when we lose the foundation of an objective right and wrong, we become susceptible to these pragmatic and pandering approaches?

Weingarten

1/25/08, 1:44 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

We will never be equal until a man may "choose" to not be a father without suffering a life of fleeing prosecution, fines, wage garnishments, and jail.

1/26/08, 7:08 AM  

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