Archive for the '“A Rational Perspective”' Category

Jesus Camp

by Jason Stotts

Today I watched one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in my life, the movie “Jesus Camp” – a documentary about the new evangelical christian movement in America. It’s truly frightening to see radical irrationality destroying the unformed minds of children in their rabid pursuit of theocracy.

It’s not that I’m scared of physical violence on their part (I’m fairly sure their religion has a prohibition against it), but of their incredible irrationality and gross lack of any sort of epistemology. From the core of their doctrine, to their ironic pro-life movement, to their hatred of non-christians – reason seems alien to these people.

It’s frightening to think that these people are becoming involved in government and are actively trying to change policy to include the bible and exclude frivolous things like rights, freedom, and ultimately Americanism itself.

We stand at the edge of a second dark age, we must either act now or bear witness to the decline of Man.

What If?

by Jason Stotts

What if one day a philosopher is born who is able to answer all of the “eternal questions” of philosophy, would he be revered or hated? What if this philosopher provided irrefutable proofs for all of his arguments and left no hole or weakness? Would he be believed or would he be derided for his certainty? I have no doubt in my mind how he would be received by academia.

Academic Philosophy today is about “asking the right questions” – forgetting that the purpose of asking questions is to elicit responses and that the art of asking the right questions if for the purpose of eliciting the right responses. Academic philosophers love to be in a state of doubt; or at least if they do not love it, they find it necessary. In order for them to maintain their often outrageous beliefs, they must cast epistemic mists upon the mind of those who would otherwise confront them. In order to be a Hegelian, one must become absurd and deny the principle of non-contradiction. In order to be a Pragmatist, one must assume that concepts have no definite referents. In order to be a Platonist, one must engage in metaphysical and epistemological back-flips to justify Forms. Any rational layman would be able to refute these positions with nothing more than common sense – if they were not disarmed with epistemic mist cast upon them by their interlocutor.

When Plato says that the Forms exist in another world that is cut off from us because of our bodies, the proper response is “well then how do you know about it?” The question is mere common sense – if we as humans are cut off from the world of the Forms because of our physical bodies, and if Plato is a person with a physical body, then Plato too is cut off from the world of the forms and can claim no knowledge of them. If Plato rebuts by saying that we have all been there in another life, we just forget this knowledge when we’re born, the proper response is “what proof do you have of this?” Any assertion without evidence is arbitrary and should be dismissed as such. Common sense, the modern day remnant of Aristotelian philosophy, is the only shield that laymen have against Academic philosophers – unless they want to spend just a little bit of time thinking about the issues.

The Academic program is only kept in place because of doubt – their doubt in their abilities to find truth, their doubt in their abilities to recognize it if they were to find it, and the doubt of those who never question them and deride them for the charlatans they are. Indeed, Academic philosophers by and large are charlatans – the intellectual heirs of the Sophists. It is through their tricks that they are able to keep their jobs and their false prestige.

The state of the philosophical community is even worse than most could imagine though – a state more suited to paranoid fiction than reality. In order to gain admittance into the halls of academia, one must first pass through graduate school and be recognized by the current faculty as an intellectual equal. In graduate school one is subjected to more years of intellectual “brow-beating” as their modus operandi consists of only acknowledging work done in certain ways. Why only these certain ways? Well, that is just the way it is done. Anyone who does not follow “the path” into academia to get acknowledged by the philosophical community will not be recognized by them. Woe be it to the philosopher who does not get a PhD – ignoring the fact that almost none of the “great” philosophers had them. Worse though is the philosopher who would dare to become popular; any work which is intellectual would never appeal to the common man, so the academics say, therefore any popular work must not be good. Personally I think that there is a great deal of intelligence and intellectual honesty among the “common man” – in general they have a common sense that is not found among academics.

Let us return, then, to our initial question – if there were a philosopher who could answer all of the questions of Philosophy, would he be recognized? Yes, by the common man, and most certainly not by academia.

The Superficiality of Diversity

by Jason Stotts

The proponents of diversity, common though they are, are uncommon in one aspect – each and every one of them is completely superficial. Now it’s not as though superficial people are rare; it’s unfortunately all too common trait. Yet to imagine that a whole superficial ideology strains ones credulity, at least it should.

Given that one must be rational in order to operate in reality, one should be able to safely assume that any particular ideology, in order to gain any sort of wide recognition, would have to be rational as well in order to garner adherents. Yet Diversity (the ideology) is premised upon a completely irrational premise, namely: difference is good. This is the core of the diversity delusion (to borrow a phrase from Peter Schwartz), the idea that difference is intrinsically good.

Diversity adherents usually try to mask this by using other arguments such as: blacks have been oppressed in this country so they deserve proportional representation now. Now it is one’s immediate (and indoctrinated) thought to agree that blacks should have things like affirmative action – but the fact is that they shouldn’t. This is not to be racist, but that is what the diversity advocates would have you believe. The problem is that they want the diversity to be of superficial things like skin color – it is, after all, a difference. But what is the important difference in jobs and in education? What is the diversity delusion trying to mask? The idea of merit.

Black people, qua black, are no better and no worse than any other color person; one’s skin does not determine one’s moral character. Ergo, to claim that some people should get a job because they are black is to try and institute racism as a standard of judgment – but a kind of racism that tries to include every race. Racism, as a concept, means merely that one judges another based solely on their race. It does not mean that one then acts in a negative way, it would be just as racist to then act in a positive way. Racism just means that you are judging them solely on their skin color.

To try and institute Diversity in the workplace means that workers who are productive should be balanced out with workers who are different, i.e. lazy, incompetent, stupid, or criminal. A consistent Diversity adherent would have to advocate this – after all, they are different, right?

That is the switch, to take a superficial characteristic where the difference is morally irrelevant (race, gender, etc) and to try and extrapolate a general principle that is then applied to characteristics that do have moral significance (competence, intelligence, etc).

Thus, all diversity adherents are superficial.

Comprehension of the Bestial?

by Jason Stotts

Sometimes I wonder, in a real human way, what drives men to become bestial. In a dry academic sense, I know the answer. The answer is manifold, but uncomplicated. The simplest way to put it is that they have never learnt how to become men. But that doesn’t satisfy my curiosity on a deeper level. Although I know why they do it, I cannot put myself into their mental and emotional state which would allow these acts of depravity.

Take, for instance, the decadence of those who live their lives through the stupor of drugs or alcohol – those who intentionally erect a veil between themselves and reality. Why do they do it? Could it merely be that they do it for the “pleasure” of being under the influence? Are they trying to escape from their own incompetency? Are they seeking to construct an “alternate universe” where their lack of human skills can be compensated for by their brutality and the empty vanity offered to them by others of their ilk? Could it even be that what drives them to decadence is their hatred of the Good? Do they become bestial merely to desecrate the good as should have been personified in them?

I truly want to know the answer.

I cannot grasp how they can see that there are good men out there, that efficacy in the world comes from using your mind, that the key to anything they could ever wish lies in the actualization of their human potential…and then willfully seek to destroy their humanity. Is their mental evasion so complete that they can no longer see their actions and their own state of existence for what it is?

Although I could write volumes on the issue and although I know that I could explain the phenomenon fully and accurately – I shall never, ever, be able to understand it.

Isn’t it Interesting?

by Jason Stotts

Some men are wealthy, some men are poor. My uncle is of the former, I myself am as of yet of the latter. Yet one day he gave me advice which I have never forgotten and which, were it to be loosed upon men, would change the very world – that is, if men understood it.

When he asked me what me future plans were, at a rather young age, I informed him that I wanted to be rich. He asked me if I knew what riches were. I pointed around to his luxurious house, yard, and boat. He merely smiled and asked me if I thought that such things could make a man truly happy. Being young, and much before I would come into my philosophical prowess, I did not understand his intent. He smiled at my confusion and looked inside through the window to his wife who was inside. He told me this, which I shall never forget: “It is not by being wealthy that a man becomes truly rich.”

I did not then understand him, although the words had a profound impact on me. Today, the words, being no longer lost to time or enigma, revived in me a sense of the greatness that people can achieve when they do no more than recognize the goods they have. Striving, struggling, overcoming – these are virtuous and the path to Happiness. Yet, without the recognition of what you have now, they lead not to happiness, but to oblivion. The failure to recognize the value of your current state, to revel in your existence in every moment which you are alive, is to give your life away, piece by irreplaceable piece, into some future account upon which you will never be able to draw.

Let us always strive for the best within us and the best open to us. Let us immolate our weakness; commit our indecision, evasion, and compromise to the flame. Let us dash our decadence upon the rocks that lay on the crumbling temple of sacrifice, rendering unto it that which it had always couchedly demanded. Let us struggle to overcome ourselves and in the process become divine. Yet, let us never fail to regard the majesty of every day that we have, every hour and every minute. Let us hold our values dear and let us never fall into the deadly trap of nihilism. For every moment that we live is one more moment in which we can revel in our existence. There is no dishonor in reveling alone, but to those who have come to know true love, something which is spoken of by many and known by few, it is clear that to be with your true lover is to come to epitome of human divinity.

True love is the union of two spiritual titans – and just as the Greek Titans defied the gods and threw them from their thrones, true love throws the light of truth upon the false idols who claim that happiness is not possible in a human life. True love is the greatest thing possible, the noblest state, the finest goal. It is no easy endeavor: it requires nobility of character for each of the lovers, it requires firm commitment and principled resolve, it requires the profound conviction that your life is worth living and that both you and your lover deserve the greatest thing in life.

To those who have ever known true love, I commend you. Yours was no easy path, revel in your achievement.

Recently at Easton

by Jason Stotts

I was at Easton recently and while waiting in line at Starbucks, I overheard a conversation which disturbed me. There was a girl in front of me in a rather long line, due to some incompetent elderly folks and their inability to order, and she was talking on her cell phone. Now she seemed to be a rather intelligent looking girl who was fairly attractive as well; she seemed to be about 19, had pretty brunette hair, and appeared to be affluent given her dress.

What disturbed me was this: while in a conversation with a friend, about going abroad for the summer, I overheard her say the following “What’s in Europe? Wait, is Paris in Europe?” I could hardly believe my ears, to think that there could be a person alive who did not know on what continent to find Paris…was, to say the least, astounding.

I greatly enjoy bastions of economic prosperity such as Easton and I find them to be an uplifting view of human progress – yet I’m disconcerted by those I find there. To think that there could really be people so stupid enjoying the fruits of other men’s minds makes me physically ill.

Aristotle said that there are two kinds of people who don’t need cities: gods and brutes. Yet, I find that there are many who don’t deserve cities.

Holidays: Altruism’s Corruption of the Holy

by Jason Stotts

Last night I had my initial “screening” with some of M.’s friends – I had already met Elisa, so I was meeting both Connie and Laura for the first time. They seem like really nice people, albeit confused. This was particularly evident with Connie, who during the course of conversation mentioned that the upcoming holiday of the Fourth of July was her favorite.

This rather surprised me as I had never heard anyone identify the Fourth as their favorite holiday. It’s not that I’m surprised by the choice of days – the Fourth is a most deserving day for celebration: what could be better than a secular celebration of freedom, rationality, and the greatest country in the world? No, it’s not that I thought her choice unworthy; rather I was surprised that a religious person would identify this secular holiday as her favorite.

The surprise came for me because I knew that Connie is a mormon – further, it’s not as though she is just a mormon equivocally (in name only), but she even attends Brigham Young University (a highly religious mormon school). I would have thought that she would pick a favorite holiday that was more consistent with her religious (altruistic) convictions, like Christmas, Easter, or Good Friday. Realistically the only kind of people that I would have expected to declare the Fourth as their favorite holiday would be Objectivists – people who understand the value of our country and what it represents in the course of human development.

Prompted by my confusion about her choice, I decided to employ what is probably my favorite word in the English language: “why”. I questioned her about her choice and was relieved and gratified that when I asked her why she liked the Fourth of July so much, she actually paused and gave the question serious consideration. (I say gratified because it sickens me when people treat serious and important questions quickly and without thought – as if I should be satisfied by their regurgitated answer that they formed in haste and never questioned.) Connie’s pause, however, was more than I expected. While considering the question, I could see in her face that it was causing quite an internal conflict – her face was both enlightened and troubled by her thoughts. Her first response was a rather disappointed “I don’t know” – which is perhaps the worst answer possible to any question. If you don’t know the answer, then your response should be “I don’t know and I’m going to find out”. Thankfully Connie was not satisfied with her answer either and began to reflect again. This time she did discover the answer, although she still does not realize the magnitude of her answer.

Haltingly, and uncertainly, Connie began to explain that with holidays like Christmas, Easter, etc., you are obligated to get gifts for people you don’t really care about and you are forced to be around people you do not really want to be around. In effect she was telling me that she did not like duty and sacrifice, that these things pained her (although she did not then make the full identification). Suddenly her staccato answer stopped and her eyes lit up – she told me that the reason why she liked the Fourth so much was because you were not obligated to get gifts for people that you did not want to and you only had to spend time with the people you love and want to be with. In effect, she told me that self-interest was the proper modus operandum and that she was only happy when she was acting in her own rational self-interest – which was why she hated the other holidays.

Since I had only recently met the girl and knew that our lack of familiarity would only cause a direct (blunt) mode of questioning to appear accusatory – I instead took a tactful approach and tried to stimulate her mind to make the connections which I thought should be self-evident. I merely said something to the effect of “I agree, living your life for others is no way to live – to be happy you have to live for yourself”. She agreed and it was evident from her face that my answer had struck a chord with her – an ephemeral flash of comprehension lit her eyes.

Now, this is perhaps one of the most poignant cases of the dire necessity of philosophy in life and the consequences of its absence or perversion. Through something as simple as holidays, Connie was starting to recognize the evilness of Altruism and the goodness of Egoism. Her religion, accepted at an age before she had gained control of her rational and cognitive faculties, had crippled her mind, yet it could not prevent her body’s automated defense mechanism – her emotions – from acting to tell her that something was wrong. Connie’s emotive response to the threat to her life, as a human if not even literally to her physical existence, caused her to question – but having accepted the premises of Altruism she could not identify what was causing her to feel that way. Emotions are not enough for us to live by and they are not always to be trusted; they can be corrupted, so we need something that is more reliable and, if used correctly, infallible.

Yet, unfortunately for Connie, her religious convictions had crippled her Rationality by corrupting her most fundamental premises. Left in this position, where one knows that something is not as it should be because he feels that something is wrong which he thinks should be right, is a deadly position for many. Instead of questioning their basic premises causing the contradiction of something being both right and wrong at the same time and in the same respect, many people would instead began to question themselves – since they know that it is wrong to act in their own self-interest and yet they only feel happy when they do, they began to regard themselves as evil. However, the trap is easy to break out of once you realize that the only things binding you are your own mistaken beliefs. Instead of starting with the premise that acting self-sacrificially is right, ask yourself why it is right. If you can’t answer the question of why it is right, then you’re certainly not justified in believing that it is right. Floating abstractions are worse than ignorance because ignorance is at least honest.

It is in the realm of Ethics that Philosophy has most abdicated its role as the protector of humanity, so it is hard to condemn Connie for failing to question Altruism when Philosophy itself has historically failed to question this most controversial of premises. Through most of the history of the Philosophy it was taken as a given that man had to act self-sacrificially – it was only the beneficiary that was contested. The simple fact that man could live for himself seemed to escape the notice of these purveyors of death.

Holidays, however, are supposed to be celebrations – and celebrations are supposed to be life-affirming: no one would celebrate the fact that he had a debilitating disease, whereas we do celebrate the good things in life like graduations, weddings, new jobs, etc. How, then, can most of what we call holidays cause Connie and many others to feel a sense of bitterness and sadness? It’s through the perversion of morality via Altruism and the destruction of legitimate concepts such as “holiday”. By turning words that should be employed to praise the nobility of the human spirit into words that are reserved for otherworldly father figures, Altruism has taken reverence for life and tried to substitute its antithesis. Why do we hate buying gifts for people whom we don’t really like and don’t want to be around? Clearly this is against our self-interest – if I do not like someone, I am not going to want to give him a gift because I either don’t value him, or I value him less than the value of the gift – but our duty to sacrifice our self-interest (under Altruism) demands that we ignore this analysis and give the gift anyway. Yet this only causes ill feelings all around as everyone senses that acting contrary to their self-interest is wrong, while at the same time they feel that they are trapped and have no choice but to act self-sacrificially anyway.

In order to fix the seeming paradox of holidays we have to remind ourselves that if we want to be happy we must identify what this means and work to achieve it. We must question our premises and challenge our most basic assumptions – “why” must become our credo. We must reclaim the words that have been stolen and perverted. We have to overcome the privation left to us by the betrayal of our philosophic forefathers and seek guidance from ourselves.

Ethics should not be a set of negative commands – instead of telling you what not to do, Ethics should help you live your life. Ethics, proper Ethics, is a system of general principles that try to help you lead a good life. It is the role of Ethics to identify the Good life. It is the role of Ethics to identify the actions and lifestyle that will help you achieve a Good life. It is the role of Ethics to help us lead good Human lives. If living a good life is not your goal, if you instead stick to your mystical decadence, then death shall be your reward. If you truly believe that living a good human life is not the Good for humans, think about what this means for you – you are beyond hope and “beyond” human. It is by living a moral life that we become happy and it is by being virtuous that we live a moral life. Without Ethics, we are without guidance in the most important thing in the world: our very lives.

In order to live a moral life we must learn that egoism is the path to happiness: our lives are our responsibility and if we want to be happy we must concern ourselves with our own interests. What right could I possibly have to the life of another person? We must be self-reliant and never ask another to sacrifice for us and never sacrifice ourselves for another.

In order to live a moral life we must learn the true nature of happiness. Is happiness merely feeling joyful? If it were, then we could live our lives well by staying in a drug-induced delirium all day – yet clearly this would not be a good life. So happiness must be more than merely feelings of joy. Happiness comes from living a good human life – from pride in our accomplishments and from pride in living well. Pride was once called the crown of the virtues; happiness requires us to pick up this shattered crown and restore it to its glory.

In order to live a moral life, we must throw off the chains of Altruism. We must either act to further our life or act to diminish it – there are no other choices. If we want to live and be happy, we must recognize Altruism as the virulent form of decadence it is. Self-sacrifice is clearly decadent; it asks us to renounce our judgment and our life. Duty demands that we purposefully act decadently; it asks us to willing and jovially give up our lives. Do you now see the monstrosity of Altruism, lauded as the supposed salvation of man? Sure, it can save us – from life.

There are so many ways in which we can take our lives back from the black pit of death; the most important is to merely recognize the nature of the struggle and what’s at stake. After this all we need to do is recognize changes we can make in our lives – such as with holidays.

Reclaiming holiday would require no more than for all of us to sever them from their religious basis and celebrate them for their value to our lives – there is a great benefit in proper celebration. Instead of sacrificing ourselves at the holidays, let us instead celebrate them with the people we really do love and really do want to see. Instead of getting gifts for everyone, let us just get them for those closest to us who hold the most value for us. Let us turn holidays back into celebrations of life.

As is universally true, even the hardest issue can be made easy by breaking it down into its fundamental components and analyzing these for what they really are – our minds are capable of coming to the truth of any issue with time and knowledge. The issue of holidays has led us to understand the conflict of Altruism and Egoism – we have come to universal truth from a particular situation. This is yet another example of the dire necessity of philosophy and its usefulness in life. Let us hope that Connie, and everyone else like her, can figure out these complicated issues for themselves and they can start to be truly happy in life. Reclaimed, holidays will no longer be a source of suffering – they will be a source of joy and an affirmation of life: a celebration of ourselves.

Lisska-isms

by Jason Stotts

A tribute to one of the best professors at Denison – Dr. Anthony J. Lisska.

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“Geography test even? We’re a full service operation…but not that full.”

“Execution’s not a nice thing, is it folks?”

“You’re all starting to write good arguments…it warms an old philosopher’s soul – not that that’s why you need to exist, in order to warm Lisska’s soul.”

“Without individual rights…well…we’d have big bad problems!”

“The world’s bigger than Easton! Joke, Joke, Joke.”

“You haven’t lived if you’ve never been to an Appalachian fair.”

“Now this isn’t in the essay, this is Lisska’s take on it.”

[Randomly stops in the middle of class and laughs] “…Dworkin’s funny…”

“On a cloudy day like this I’m glad everyone is up…had their coffee and eggs Benedict…”

“Dworkin loves an argument…not in a bad way like weird uncle Harold.”

“Lisska’s thinking of England and wishing he was there…[sighs]”

“Right away they’re going to be in each other’s meta-ethical face!”

“It’s like a little kid had a bucket of blocks and poured them out all over the place – that’s Hume’s theory of reality!”

[very quickly] “How’d we get created? I don’t know…maybe God lost a poker game! I don’t know…”

“The story is that Granville would always remain dry as long as the citizens could stagger to the polls.”

“Scrooge could be a guy who’s just evil…too big a dose of original sin or something!”

“The old Testament had a number of writers…it wasn’t as if it was one old dude with an earphone to God!”

“That’s what studying higher mathematics can do…WoooWoooWooo!” [Referring to Plato]

“That’s what heaven’s like – blackboards all around…[sighs]”

“If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam…don’t take a deep breath…Wooo!”