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Morality and Politics
Posted by: Dale Franks on Thursday, April 05, 2007

Let me continue with the theme in my previous post. It isn't just the self-righteous tone of the left that gets up my nose. It is the assumption that their brand of politics is uniquely moral that irks me more than anything.

First of all, all politics involves some level of immorality, because political power is the power, at the end of the day, of government coercion. To give money and power to the government is to give it the power to coerce the citizenry to do things they otherwise would not do. We don't, after all, submit our tax returns by 15 April of every year because we think it's a public-spirited thing to do. We do so because to refuse is to risk imprisonment. To refuse to pay income taxes is to invite the government to compel you, by force, to comply.

Indeed, that is the basic assumption behind almost every government action. At bottom, To invoke government action is to invoke the entire arsenal of the government's police powers to compel obedience by force. Those who do not obey invite the government to "legitimately" strip them of their liberty, or their lives. The Founders knew this, which was why they generally had the attitude of "the government is best that governs least."

Unfortunately, humans, being primates, are prone to dominance hierarchies, so the development of government is more or less a natural outgrowth of our humanness. I would love to live in the anarcho-capitalist world, but, barring an extensive revision of human nature, this will not happen. It remains, then, to us to eliminate the possibility of government coercion to the greatest extent possible. To my mind, the original powers and constitutional framework of the Early Republic is about as close as we have ever come to doing so.

What is remarkable about claims of morality by the modern Left, is that their policies almost invariably involve a net increase in government coercion, in nearly every policy that they espouse.

Take tax policy, for instance.

As a normative statement of morality, I have no quibble at all with the idea that wealthy people should devote a signifigant portion of their income to the poor. I would heartily approve of private citizens involving themselves in a campaign to encourage the wealthy to support single mothers, fund programs for at-risk inner-city kids, or devote some of their income to any of a thousand worthy causes to help the less fortunate. Those who agreed to provide that funding would be performing a virtuous act.

But virtue, to be virtue, requires free will. The moment I put a gun to a rich man's head, plop his checkbook down and tell him that I will not leave until either his signature or his brains are on that check, his acquiescence is no longer a matter of virtue. He has simply been robbed, even if I take that check and distribute the money to widows and orphans.

The preferred tax policy of the left, of course, is a graduated income tax, whereby the more money you have, the more you are coerced into giving to the government. They get to choose how much money to take from you—irrespective of your wishes—because they believe that taking your money against your will is a moral act, as long as the the money is given to someone they consider more deserving. Moreover, in pursuit of that end, they require you to keep detailed financial records, which they reserve the right to inspect at any time, to ensure you're giving them all the money they demand.

They consider obtaining money by force, in order to distribute it as they please, to be a moral political solution. This, from the people who are constantly telling us that "you can't legislate morality", when that is precisely what they are trying to do.

And that's only one example. You can run down the laundry list of prefered policy solutions of the left, and, at the end of the day, the lion's share of them involve coercing the citizenry to do things they would not otherwise do.

This is not a defense of conservatism, either. Conservatives, who gave us Prohibition, among other things, are perfectly willing to use coercion to stamp their brand of morality on the populace. They're perfectly happy to ban online gambling, pornography, or any number of things that the citizenry—based on the amount of money they spend on such things—are quite happy, even eager, to purchase.

For either side to crow about their vaunted morality—be it social, or biblical—is a farce.

Given that all government relies on coercion, it seems to me that the only ideology with any claim to morality is one that reduces government coercion to the smallest possible amount, and leaves the citizenry both economically and morally unhindered to make their own decisions about what they will do with both their money, and their naughty bits. If there is any moral component to political ideology, it should be that the citizen is free, to the furthest possible extent, to control his own life without government interference. To make and spend as much money as he pleases, how he pleases. To associate with whom he pleases. To worship as he pleases.

In my view, the more coercive a government is, the less moral it is. The only legitimately moral acts of government are to protect the individual citizen from force or fraud, and to protect the citizenry as a whole from foreign aggression. Once a government goes beyond that, for any purpose, it becomes increasingly immoral, because it increasingly becomes a tool for one group of citizens to use force on another group. And it doesn't matter if you're grabbing money at gunpoint to give to widows and orphans, or jailing pornographers for corrupting the morals of our children; it's still morally illegitimate, because the ends do not justify the means.
 
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Hmph. And never mind the shifting definition of "rich" on the part of the left...in campaigns, rather high, in practice, much more median. It somehow seems that during primary and general campaigns, I’m "middle class", but once a lefty is elected, I’m "rich".

Nice post, Dale.
 
Written By: D.G. Hall
URL: http://www.cadillactight.com
Excellent presentation, You leave me in an awkward position. There is nothing to say. I cannot disagree with you, and have nothing to add. Job well done.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://faroutfishfiles.blogspot.com/
At last, a neo-libertarian strikes intellectual paydirt. Great post.

The grounding of freedom as a philosophy has five parts: morality is one of the five key grounds (see Dr. Joseph Raz’s work, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Baliol College, Oxford).

One may call it "free will," as Mr. Franks does, and have solid arguments to make for freedom being the grounds for ALL morality [see philosopher Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush’s thinking (formerly at Tehran University, now banned, beaten and fired): ’without freedom, morality is impossible’].

The inescapable requirement of all moral systems is that the individual makes a choice between good and evil. That choice—that choice of whether to be moral or not—is the necessary pre-requisite to moral behavior. In this view, without free choice it is impossible to be moral. Note that morality may never be imposed...merely the attempt to impose morality makes the imposition immoral. To be moral, the autonomous individual must have the freedom to choose.

All moral systems are based upon the choice between good and evil, regardless of how ’good’ and ’evil’ are defined.

Freedom is NOT just a "topic" or "theme" of Political Science; freedom is a moral, an ethic, a way of knowing and a way to live a life. In short, freedom is a philosophy.

Congratulations, Mr. Franks: you’ve hit the Mother Lode of philosophical grounds for the ideology of neo-libertarianism. One ’grounding’ down, four more to go. Are you and your fellow neo-libertarians up to this?

’Be free.’
 
Written By: a Duoist
URL: http://www.duoism.org

Unfortunately, humans, being primates, are prone to dominance hierarchies, so the development of government is more or less a natural outgrowth of our humanness.
Humans can develop cultural norms that govern behavior without it being a strict dominating hierarchy. The trouble is such norms function best in smaller, homogenous societies (clans and tribes) and large conglomarates of people, especially in cities and large diverse states aren’t able to have cohesive shared cultural values as easiliy, if at all. Our nature makes us predisposed to living freely in small groups and clans. But it works against freedom in larger groupings, especially as differences in status become solidified. That creates both an incentive for those who "have" to construct systems to protect their position, and those who "have not" to engage in political action to try to equalize. How does one properly emphasize freedom and take into account those differences.

You are definitely right that morality does not belong to the left or right (or to anarcho-capitalists or libertarians) exclusively. Individuals show their morality in their behavior, in how they treat others. Having worked in Washington I saw no superiority in either party, but there were especially good and especially bad people in each.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Hmph. And never mind the shifting definition of "rich" on the part of the left...in campaigns, rather high, in practice, much more median. It somehow seems that during primary and general campaigns, I’m "middle class", but once a lefty is elected, I’m "rich".
Once you accept the idea that it is morally acceptable for the government to forcefully take your money from you, any argument for how much they should take from you is really just haggling over the price. How can you make an argument that it is morally acceptable for the government to forceably take your money, but it is morally unacceptable for them to take more than you think they should?

It reminds me of an old joke: A guy walks up to a nice looking girl and say’s "I’ll give you one million dollars if you sleep with me. The girl says, "OK!". Then the guys says, "I don’t have a million dollars how about one dollar?" The girl says "No way, what do you think I am?" The guy says "we already established what you are, now we are just haggling over the price."

This is the "small government conservative" position on most things the government does. They don’t have a problem with a powerful government who can take what you have and put you in jail, they just don’t think its always a good idea for the government to actually do those things, or that it should do them in moderation, or that it should somehow calculate the most efficient level of government force to maximize the collective benefit.

In short, "small government conservatives" are constantly playing defense because they don’t have any offensive skills. They are a fielding shortstop who hits 0.180, a tennis player who can volley but can’t serve. They don’t disagree with the fundamental principals of leftists, they just think they shouldn’t be so liberally applied. Which is why Goldwater, Reagan and Gingrich never made a real dent in the size, scope or power of government, because all they were doing was playing defense. Ultimately there is no difference morally between a top marginal tax rate of 35% and 91%. Once you agree that the government may help itself to a portion of your income how much they take is really just a matter of opinion. The majority opinion will always be that the "rich" should pay a lot and that the majority should pay nothing. Actually majority opinion is that "I" should pay nothing and "they" should pay a lot. Welcome to democracy.

Modern American conservatism (Glodwater, Reagan, early Contract with America variety) is a gate-way drug to libertarianism. Unfortunately too few conservatives make the next logical step into the hard stuff.
 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
To my mind, the original powers and constitutional framework of the Early Republic is about as close as we have ever come to doing so.
The 14th amendment was an improvement on even that state in time, as it stripped state and local government of much of their powers as well.

However, those values and limitations were transmitted to us until the late 1880’s or so, when the Progressive movement and its antecedents began to convince us it is government’s job to mold society in a politically correct fashion.
Conservatives, who gave us Prohibition, among other things, are perfectly willing to use coercion to stamp their brand of morality on the populace.
Conservatives didn’t "give" us Prohibition, it was Carrie Nation and other left wing radicals. At least they got an amendment to make it legal, unlike the drug war.
They’re perfectly happy to ban online gambling, pornography, or any number of things that the citizenry—based on the amount of money they spend on such things—are quite happy, even eager, to purchase.
They are not conservative, precisely because they do think it is government’s job to enforce such morality. They are Progressives of an older school.

This is the quintessentially American conservative outlook (Dave Kopel, 1997):
"a group of people who do not tend to be especially articulate or literate, and whose world view is rarely expressed in print. Their model is that of the independent frontiersman who takes care of himself and his family with no interference from the state. They are "conservative" in the sense that they cling to America’s unique pre-modern tradition—a non-feudal society with a sort of medieval liberty writ large for everyman. To these people, "sociological" is an epithet. Life is tough and competitive. Manhood means responsibility and caring for your own."
There is nothing of "prohibitions" in it.

Neither Burke nor Falwell have nothing to with what is genuinely American conservatism, indeed they’d think an American conservative a dangerous radical or an intemperate lout.

Here’s to the louts of 1776.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Scott Erb -
Our nature makes us predisposed to living freely in small groups and clans.
And yet,
* you’re living in a country of over 300 million people, China is over four times that size, and certain organizations span virtually every inch of the globe; and
* for thousands of years, pockets of liberty have been the exception rather than the rule.

What dreadful violations of human nature, the things human beings actually do, eh?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
At last, a neo-libertarian strikes intellectual paydirt...

Congratulations, Mr. Franks: you’ve hit the Mother Lode of philosophical grounds for the ideology of neo-libertarianism. One ’grounding’ down, four more to go. Are you and your fellow neo-libertarians up to this?
You arrogant ass. We’ve talked about these things for years here, and, for years prior to QandO’s existence. I don’t need you to come kiting in and smugly congratulate me on my accomplishment. Go f*ck yourself.

How’s that for the motherlode, you condescending pr*ck?

Oh, and by the way, since you’ve so kindly agreed to drop in and share your wisdom, have you got any idea why so many people are turned off by libertarians?
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
have nothing /= have anything Yikes! TDP
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://

But virtue, to be virtue, requires free will.
I think that’s the heart of a difference of opinion. The only conclusion I can reach is that the Left Blogosphere, at least, believes that virtue is a matter of outcome however the outcome is reached.
 
Written By: Dave Schuler
URL: http://www.theglitteringeye.com
You arrogant ass. We’ve talked about these things for years here, and, for years prior to QandO’s existence. I don’t need you to come kiting in and smugly congratulate me on my accomplishment. Go f*ck yourself.

How’s that for the motherlode, you condescending pr*ck?

Oh, and by the way, since you’ve so kindly agreed to drop in and share your wisdom, have you got any idea why so many people are turned off by libertarians?
While I can see why Dale would interpret aDuoist’s comments as arrogant and condescending, having read aDuoist’s comments for a while, I don’t believe they were meant in that way.

However, to restate Dale’s point, this is nothing new for "neo-libertarian" discussion and nothing new for QandO (hit the archives). We’ve been "up for this" since the blog’s founding.

But one of the things you have to realize is the lifeblood of a blog is readers (and to a lesser extent, commmenters). So the blog of QandO mixes such heavy discussion with more topical items since the hope is that those not particularly disposed (or exposed) to libertarian thought may become regular readers and, at the times we do bring these topics up, will read through them with some interest.

So yea, aDuoist, to answer your question, "are you and your fellow neo-libertarians up to this", the answer is we’re not only up for this, it is we who constantly bring it up in various forms for fairly frequent discussion.

I for one, even given Dale’s reaction to that particular line of yours, value and appreciate your participation. But understand, this is nothing new for us or our fellow neo-libertarians.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
The 14th amendment was an improvement on even that state in time, as it stripped state and local government of much of their powers as well.

However, those values and limitations were transmitted to us until the late 1880’s or so, when the Progressive movement and its antecedents began to convince us it is government’s job to mold society in a politically correct fashion.
Yes, the first step towards progressive socialism is to eliminate the decentralized forces that resist the concentrations of power necessary to bring a population to its knees. The 14th amendment performed this task by removing the citizenship of Americans from the state they lived in and re-defined them as citizens of the United States of America. Now their every whim and impulse could be regulated and the federal government could for the first time help itself directly to the bank accounts of every person living within its boundaries.

The first step towards progressive socialism is to centralize power in a remote location, where it is less accessible to the populace that could restrain it and less accountable.

For instance, today the federal government has more than 2 million civilian employees (not including the military). There are only 436 elected officials watching over these 2 million employees who can tax us, tell us what to do and throw in jail if we resist, and only one of them has direct authority over their hiring and firing. Of these 436 officials you, me and every person in this country has a very minor (a fraction of a millionth) vote in which of the 2-party’s candidates get to hold 4 of those offices: The president, a congressman and 2 Senators. As much as Ted Kennedy or Nancy Pelosi or Ted Stevens or John Boehner may want to take my money and tell me what to do I have absolutely no say in the matter, they may as well be military dictators. The reason for this is that the people I do have some minimal amount of control over, my county and city officials, my state assemblymen, sentators, governors and judges can do nothing for me if I don’t like what the Federal government has forced upon me. Nothing whatsoever.

My local or state elected official cannot ignore or nullify any federal law no matter how outrageous or rapacious. My local or state court has no ability to protect my rights unless the federal government decides that it is not worth their time to get involved. Turning the 10th amendment on its head, the state and local governments assume only the powers that the federal government deems more efficiently handled at that level. The federal government delegates all powers it deems necessary to itself.

The 14th amendment was the last (not the first) nail in that coffin.
 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
The Left confuses morality with sentmentality.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
And yet,
* you’re living in a country of over 300 million people, China is over four times that size, and certain organizations span virtually every inch of the globe; and
* for thousands of years, pockets of liberty have been the exception rather than the rule.

What dreadful violations of human nature, the things human beings actually do, eh?

I’m not sure these are dreadful violations of human nature. As with, say, the obesity epidemic as a result of our bodies having evolved to get by on less fuel, the modern world confronts us with things we’re not built for. But that’s OK, one other trait we have is adaptability. My point, though, was to bring in the question of whether or not culture can overcome what appear to be "natural" constraints.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"To my mind, the original powers and constitutional framework of the Early Republic is about as close as we have ever come to doing so."
"The constitution was essentially a counter-revolutionary act."

(Recalled from memory: a line from a very noteworthy 20th century thinker.)

Erb-dough:
"...the obesity epidemic as a result of our bodies having evolved to get by on less fuel..."
No kiddin’? When did that happen? "The obesity epidemic" isn’t even the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. It’s not even one tick of the second-hand on that clock.

What the hell is wrong with you?
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Ps. — pardon me. I looked it up. This is the actual line:

"The American Revolution in fact died with the ratification of the US Constitution."
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Yes, the first step towards progressive socialism is to eliminate the decentralized forces that resist the concentrations of power necessary to bring a population to its knees.
The 14th amendment created no new powers for governemnt, it forbade the states from violating the rights which were protected from national government intrusion by the BoR. It is a peculiar strawman by which you claim a recession of power is an advance.
The 14th amendment performed this task by removing the citizenship of Americans from the state they lived in and re-defined them as citizens of the United States of America.
Someone is always a citizen of any jurisdiction into which they are born or naturalized, making me a citizen of my town, county, state and nation. The delusion that persons in the U.S. prior to the 14th amendment were citizens solely of their states but not citizens of the United States is a sad one.

This is clearly false.
Now their every whim and impulse could be regulated and the federal government could for the first time help itself directly to the bank accounts of every person living within its boundaries.
Really? What part of the 14th do you imagine authorizes that?

None of it. The 14th is solely a reasonable restriction on the state and local jurisdiction, a restriction which tends to perfect and not reduce just liberty.
The first step towards progressive socialism is to centralize power in a remote location, where it is less accessible to the populace that could restrain it and less accountable.
And there is nothing in the 14th amendment which centralizes power, it disperse it more thoroughly to is proper and individual possessors.
For instance... blather having nothing to do with the 14th amendment ...whatsoever.
Your local representatives have fewer people voting for them, their constitutencies are smaller, your voice to them is proportionally more loud. O waahh!!!

That’s it, that’s import of the whole thing you wrote.

The question is what areas of law are appropriately handled at the national level, the state level, and the more local levels—and at each level of jurisdiction are there sufficient appeals to other jurisdictions and divisions of power that only by greatest of effort and when tolerated by a vast majority of the people at large will just liberty be violated.

The 14th amendment repaired a flaw in the structure of our governance—the states were free to violate our most basic of rights, and if they did so, they were a power unto themselves from which there was no peaceful appeal.
My local or state elected official cannot ignore or nullify any federal law no matter how outrageous or rapacious.
If a well distributed minority exists which disagrees with national government enforcement actions, then no jury will jail such officials with the certainty required to leave "outrageous or rapacious" laws in effect. If there is no such minority, there will be no saving you regardless of what is in the true law. This is not a flaw in constitutionalism, but an inherent limitation.
My local or state court has no ability to protect my rights unless the federal government decides that it is not worth their time to get involved.
The courts have at all levels discarded trial by an informed jury, and have decided trials should solely be about the facts of a case, and not society continuously and incrementally approving of government’s enforcement actions. This still has nothing to do with the 14th amendment.
Turning the 10th amendment on its head, the state and local governments assume only the powers that the federal government deems more efficiently handled at that level.
Again, pray tell, what part of the 14th amendment do you imagine does this?

There is nothing about the 14th amendment that impairs any action by any state, except to modify the 10th amendment to forbids states from infringing on rights of citizens which are protected from national government intrusion by the BoR, even if the state constitution permit that intrusion.
The 14th amendment was the last (not the first) nail in that coffin.
It is not any nail in any coffin, except usually in the fever dreams of confederate sympathizers. I don’t know of you also share that affliction.

The 14th amendment is a restriction of government, this is of the good, and improves and protects just liberty.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Billy Beck quoted:
"The American Revolution in fact died with the ratification of the US Constitution."
The person making that statement was an especially fatuous idiot.

What few indications there are from the brief period of 1781 to 1789 show the 13 colonies would have become 13 or some fewer independent despotisms, with some entralled to foreign powers and machinated against their once brothers.

There is no more reason to think any of the state constitutions would have preserved liberty any better than the national constitution has, and it is certain some of them would have more quickly become and still more long remained hellholes of the worst rank, at least for persons darker than a certain shade.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Dale,

It is an inevitability that politics will happen and that politics will reflect morality. I can’t begin to explain why the left in general or the misnomed social conservatives are so well tolerated in their hypocrisy.

I sympathize.

But like the poor, they will always be with us as they are (at least for the length of the timeline we’re likely to be a part of ).
If there is any moral component to political ideology, it should be that the citizen is free, to the furthest possible extent, to control his own life without government interference.
Where a swung fist lands—when it’s someone else’s nose—and what happens then seems to be a reasonable first order approximation.

Skol.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
"The American Revolution in fact died with the ratification of the US Constitution."
Heh ... nice set-up Billy ... now drop the other shoe.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Having seen the other shoe, what excuse do you have for yourself?

Have you any knowledge of the drift of the new England states back to England? The Spanish roiling up Florida? The—fortunately abortive—German efforts in Texas?

What advantage for liberty did you see in a sea of contending, foreign influenced, fully sovereign states?

Eh, maybe you were just having a bad day?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Scott Erb: Our nature makes us predisposed to living freely in small groups and clans.
Bryan Pick: And yet,
* you’re living in a country of over 300 million people, China is over four times that size, and certain organizations span virtually every inch of the globe; and
* for thousands of years, pockets of liberty have been the exception rather than the rule.

What dreadful violations of human nature, the things human beings actually do, eh?
Scott Erb: I’m not sure these are dreadful violations of human nature. As with, say, the obesity epidemic as a result of our bodies having evolved to get by on less fuel, the modern world confronts us with things we’re not built for. But that’s OK, one other trait we have is adaptability. My point, though, was to bring in the question of whether or not culture can overcome what appear to be "natural" constraints.
That doesn’t sound like what you were saying at all. The fact that many people are classified as obese is a point you bring up when discussing whether humans behave in ways to which their biology (specifically, their metabolism) is not accustomed. And you did leave out how that "modern world" was produced in the first place, if not by human nature.

When saying that human "nature" makes us "predisposed to living freely in small groups and clans", you’re talking about about organization and association. Yet, if that’s what humans are "predisposed" to living with, then try explaining hierarchy above the clan level, markets and networks. If you’re going to believe in something called "human nature" (and believe that it has certain properties), you might want to start explaining how it produced the human condition.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
To be human is to know you can imagine more than you can do, to be aware of your limitations. Whether that’s feeding you children or avoiding death through technology, it makes no difference. Human nature is also to frequently deny your limitations, and to be surprised and hurt when things don’t work out for you.

I recall some enviro nut claiming the other day the Earth would outlast us, only with great and terrible scars from our presence, or some such nonsense.

To borrow from—I think—Bradbury, for all but a vanished small portion of our history, ship will mean spaceship, and that ships once went on water will be a little known bit of trivia. If that future is true, human nature will remain a constant.

I suspect that when we encounter aliens of radically different configuration, they’ll have human nature.

It is a constant of sentience, we cannot do all that we can imagine, this irks us.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Humans can develop cultural norms that govern behavior without it being a strict dominating hierarchy....

...Our nature makes us predisposed to living freely in small groups and clans. But it works against freedom in larger groupings, especially as differences in status become solidified.
Bryan, I could be misunderstanding but I think Erb’s point was that our nature means that in small groups we can live freely. Whereas when we congregate into larger groups we tend to construct hierarchal systems that end up limiting freedom. I think he misused ’predisposed’ or perhaps it should have read: "Our nature makes us predisposed to living freely, when in small groups and clans."

As I said I could be wrong. Erb?
 
Written By: Kav
URL: http://livingrealworld.blogspot.com
Bryan, I could be misunderstanding but I think Erb’s point was that our nature means that in small groups we can live freely.
Which is abjectly dumb. You try to do something the tribe doesn’t like and you ain’t in the tribe all of sudden. Historically, that meant hunger, cold, and death. No, no coercion there. Even with modern technology, to blow off the tribe is to be lonely.

Erb is just one fake fact and mis-apprehension after another.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Having seen the other shoe, what excuse do you have for yourself?
Excuse?

Heh ... Look around you for heaven sake.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Kav - That would indeed make more sense in that paragraph. Not that I’d agree with him, but the paragraph would work better. What he wrote subsequently, though, still needs to be defended.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Heh ... Look around you for heaven sake.
And why do you think what you see around you has much to do with adherence to the constitution of 1788?

What do you see around you that you think would plausibly be improved if there had been no Constitutional Convention?

Do you imagine the Enlightenment a la Locke would have been better respected? That Rousseau and Kant would not have had their effect? That Darwin’s observations would not have been taken to mean that societies can direct their own evolution centrally? That Marx would have died an unheard man?

Do you think international politics would have stopped, or Austrian economics adopted as a policy?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I wondered whether you would remember, Bruce, although I shouldn’t have.
"... now drop the other shoe."
You know, man, there are lots of ways that I could do that, really, in terms of the concepts involved. I could cite all day long from the anti-Federalists, but why bother? I know what I’m dealing with.
"The person making that statement was an especially fatuous idiot."
Well, Tom, you can take it up with him personally because he’s right here watching this right here & now.

It was Bruce McQuain.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Billy, read up a bit. I’m wise to that and unfazed.

I don’t know what’s more shocking, the fatuousness or the baselessness.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
To quote McQ from the thread you link, Billy:
Then ANYONE can stop governmental tyranny and oppression dead in it’s tracks by a simple "no" vote.


That’s been tried, it was called the "Polish no" and may be why pollacks rec’v’d a rep for stupidity. It’s also what got the polity called Poland et the first time.

I think the Prussians got them that time, the mental maps of the shifting borders are a skosh blended.

McQ’s then held paragon of governance didn’t work out.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
"I’m wise to that and unfazed."
Not to mention: unthinking.
"I don’t know what’s more shocking, the fatuousness or the baselessness."
Oh, yeah? Well...
"And why do you think what you see around you has much to do with adherence to the constitution of 1788?"
If you understood the enormous implications of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, for only one concrete instance, you wouldn’t ask questions like that.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
If you understood the enormous implications of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.
And if you understood the significance of it being in 1887 not 1787, why then you’d just be mulish about something else.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
After just a quick refresher, here’s what that act did provide for:

* Shipping rates had to be "reasonable and just"
* Rates had to be published
* Secret rebates were outlawed
* Price discrimination against small markets was made illegal

And none of these are activities authorized by the constitution, because the commerce clause is intended solely to keep a free trade zone without tarriffs for the several states.

So it provides no support for your (or McQ’s imputed) contention.

And frankly, because the state constitutions adopted common law with it’s common carrier judgements, the states would have been free to conduct all those infringements of economic liberty.

If the costs of profit lost to such regulations were to be considered as a taking, however, then the 14th would apply the 4th to them and ban the states from undertaking them.

That said, I think the "packet ship" business model would have eliminated such discrepancies in any case.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
The 14th amendment created no new powers for government, it forbade the states from violating the rights which were protected from national government intrusion by the BoR.
If not for the fifth section of the 14th amendment, you might have a case. But because of the fifth section ("The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.") you do not. Why would this section be included if the 14th amendment wasn’t a vast expansion of federal government power?

The 14th amendment not only applies the provisions of the Bill of Rights to the States, it gives the Federal government vast new powers over the States for the protection and enforcement of those rights. It fundamentally altered the role of the Federal government and made it the law of the land down to the State and even local levels. Yes it restricts government, State and local government, but it does so by greatly expanding Federal authority.

Originally the form of government with the most power to intrude on your rights was the local, followed by the states, followed federal which was the most limited government. This is how it should be because, as DS points out, you have the most personal influence over the local and less as you move up in the government hierarchy. The 14th Amendment turns all this on its head. It restricts the rights of the States and localities. It makes the form of government you have the least individual influence over, the Federal, the final arbiter over them. What’s worse, because the Ninth Amendment implies non-enumerated rights, the Federal government can invent rights wholesale to reach in and protect the entire nation from. Worse yet others can invent them and enforce the protection of those rights onto the Federal government through court proceedings.

Is all this necessary to safeguard some of our rights? Maybe, but it isn’t as clear cut as you would think.
 
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
URL: http://jeffthebaptist.blogspot.com
And why do you think what you see around you has much to do with adherence to the constitution of 1788?
That’s kind of the point. It set this up.
What do you see around you that you think would plausibly be improved if there had been no Constitutional Convention?

[...]

Do you think international politics would have stopped, or Austrian economics adopted as a policy?
What has all to do with the point at hand? My guesses would be about as valid as computer climate change models are today.

Like I said ... look around you. Then tell me how, in the context of what I wrote, this is wrong:
The important point here is to understand that we aren’t where we are because the past leaders and legislatures have failed to live up to the ideals of the Constitution, but that those who framed the Constitution failed to live up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.
Then, take us from there to here.

Any real surprises?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
That’s been tried, it was called the "Polish no" and may be why pollacks rec’v’d a rep for stupidity. It’s also what got the polity called Poland et the first time.

I think the Prussians got them that time, the mental maps of the shifting borders are a skosh blended.

McQ’s then held paragon of governance didn’t work out.
No one said it did, Tom. The statement made was the American Revolution died when the Constitution was signed. And the argument is supported in the article cited.

All you’re doing is tossing out contextless statements out as some sort of proof that I was arguing something else (the proverbial strawman). A little disingenuous, wouldn’t you say?

This:
To quote McQ from the thread you link, Billy:
Then ANYONE can stop governmental tyranny and oppression dead in it’s tracks by a simple "no" vote.
Came from this:
This is an important starting place because once you unwrap the "myth" in regard to the US Constitution, you’re better able to understand the point that regardless of initial "intent", without consent and consensus, almost every type of government (but the most carefully crafted one, such as the type the Iroquois put together) must become oppressive. It is the nature of the beast.

Consent and how seriously the consent of the governed is factored into the collective decision-making apparatus is the critical factor.
If, as with the Iroquois, it is the most important component, THEN one "vote" actually DOES makes a difference. Then ANYONE can stop governmental tyranny and oppression dead in it’s tracks by a simple "no" vote.
IOW, the point being made is that for all intents and purposes, the way voting works here mostly has no weight except to be used to claim the consent I mention. And an example of how a vote might actually be meaningful was used as a contrast.

Now head back into that cite and show me where I even hinted I supported such a system or held it out as some sort of "paragon of governance", okay?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
If not for the fifth section of the 14th amendment, you might have a case. But because of the fifth section ("The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.") you do not. Why would this section be included if the 14th amendment wasn’t a vast expansion of federal government power?
And if that phrase were lacking, then the supremacy clause and the fact the national SCOTUS has original jurisdiction in constitutional cases, the fact the president is the chief magistrate, these things combine to show the fifth phrase is only a restatement of previously existing capabilities. It merely existed to make explicit to the defeated southron despots that no, they couldn’t take the freedmen’s guns. Would that attitude had proven steadfast.
Yes it restricts government, State and local government, but it does so by greatly expanding Federal authority.
And does so solely to prevent state level usurpations, this is not a net loss to liberty.
Originally the form of government with the most power to intrude on your rights was the local, followed by the states, followed federal which was the most limited government.
You are incorrect. From the standpoint of legal powers, the state governments were held to have inherited all the powers of the British crown, and they chartered and dissolved local jurisdictions at the will of the state house. Merely that they did not do so in history does not mean the states were not the paramount power, absent a federal arrangement of power sharing between levels of government.
This is how it should be because, as DS points out, you have the most personal influence over the local and less as you move up in the government hierarchy.
And for questions of local import, that is both true and desirable. Questions of national import exist, and they are best handled by a national legislature.
The 14th Amendment turns all this on its head. It restricts the rights of the States and localities.
They never had rights, they had powers, and after the 14th they had less legal power than they used to.
It makes the form of government you have the least individual influence over, the Federal, the final arbiter over them.
Solely with respect to the states being unable to infringe on the basic liberties which the national government was already prevented* from interfering with.

Less government power, and distributing what power it has more broadly among branches and levels of jurisdiction improves the prospects for liberty.

*I write prevented fully aware that words on paper have no force but the fidelity to their meaning we demonstrate—my point is that the problems we see are owing to a lack of fidelity to the constitution, not adherence to it*1.

*1 the stupid 17th amendment excepted, that was just a bad idea.
What’s worse, because the Ninth Amendment implies non-enumerated rights, the Federal government can invent rights wholesale to reach in and protect the entire nation from.
Except that the people still have to vote for it, the juries still have to convict on cases of transgressions of those "rights" and the actual rights the 9th protects are ones inherent to individuals. You’d need to explain how that’s a problem.
Worse yet others can invent them and enforce the protection of those rights onto the Federal government through court proceedings.
Ditto what I said about voting and juries.
Is all this necessary to safeguard some of our rights?
Yes, witness Bloomberg’s transgressions in NY. Think the guy ticketed for sitting on his own porch will get any help from Albany? Not that the feds would help in that case—but that’s just because virtually no one in or out of government cares for preserving liberty these days, and haven’t for around one hundred years, give or take a few decades.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
No one said it did, Tom.
You, back then, wrote:
If, as with the Iroquois, it is the most important component, THEN one "vote" actually DOES makes a difference. Then ANYONE can stop governmental tyranny and oppression dead in it’s tracks by a simple "no" vote.
And the polish no is another example of such unanimity, and how it does not work in human societies.
The statement made was the American Revolution died when the Constitution was signed. And the argument is supported in the article cited.
No, it ain’t, you contend that, but there aren’t any actual examples.
All you’re doing is tossing out contextless statements out as some sort of proof that I was arguing something else (the proverbial strawman).
The "polish no" was cited in the context of your claiming the requiring unanimity of approval to government was a good thing, where’s the strawman? I mean you held up the Iroquois, I hold up the Poles, fair’s fair.
A little disingenuous, wouldn’t you say?
I’m saying you are being tenditious. There’s nothing in the quote elided below:
’This is an important starting ... ANYONE can stop governmental tyranny and oppression dead in it’s tracks by a simple "no" vote."
Which makes the example of the "Polish no" any less applicable than the example you gave of the Iroquois.
IOW, the point being made is that for all intents and purposes, the way voting works here mostly has no weight except to be used to claim the consent I mention.
You know what, concerning questions of executive national import, I’m one of 300,000,000. It don’t expect to have more than 1/300 millionth of a say. concerning my representative in the House, I don’t expect to have more than about 1/600,000 of a say.

I do think questions of national import exist,and the constitution was created and adopted because the Founders and the people ratifying the Constitution agree with me.

Why don’t you explain how Bellingham and Baltimore have NO strategic interests in common, or how the Articles really did satisfy those needs.

Then you’d be making some progress towards supporting this statement:
"The American Revolution in fact died with the ratification of the US Constitution."
now then
Now head back into that cite and show me where I even hinted I supported such a system or held it out as some sort of "paragon of governance", okay?
OK.
Consent and how seriously the consent of the governed is factored into the collective decision-making apparatus is the critical factor.
If, as with the Iroquois, it is the most important component, THEN one "vote" actually DOES makes a difference. Then ANYONE can stop governmental tyranny and oppression dead in it’s tracks by a simple "no" vote.
The emphasis is mine.

So performing well, in your eyes, in the most critical factor does not make a government a paragon? You held unanimity by the example of the Iroquois, and I held up the "polish no" as a counterexample.

I invite you to provide your own adjective if paragon is too strong a term for your feelings towards unanimity being required for government action, but please acknowledge you picked unanimity as the point to hang your hat on.

You also wrote:
Where we are today isn’t a problem with "straying", over time, from the ideals formerly set forth in the Declaration of Independence and then embodied in the Constitution (per the myth).
And every example given in this thread of such straying is clearly in violation of the constitution, and most are generally.

The Declaration of Independence said "screw the English crown, we’re making our own laws". The constitution is the law they made.

There are few flaws in the constitution prior to the 1880’s, either by amendment or by implementation, with respect to which ANY constitution in any state could be said to be any improvement over it.

You reiterate:
The important point here is to understand that we aren’t where we are because the past leaders and legislatures have failed to live up to the ideals of the Constitution, but that those who framed the Constitution failed to live up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.
And yet you provide no examples of how any clause in the original constitution does so fail to live up to the ideals of the Declaration? You claim looking around should show me, but all but universally, I see the constitution disrespected to the detriment of liberty.

neither is unanimity cited in the Declaration as prerequisite of good governemnt.

And I do provide examples, where are yours, the Iroquois excepted? What clause or idea in the constitution can be shown to disparage an idea or clause in the declaration?

Just to head you off one bad example other people have brought up, the free and independent states chose as such to relinquish authority over some areas of law to a national government, they did so by means legal according to their own lights, and as binding on them as the state constitutions were on the states—any problem you have with the constitution is one you also have with ANY constitution.

Thank you, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Oh and by the way:
"When the "Framers" decided they wanted to focus on NATIONAL goals through collective action (vs. the protection of individual rights per the DoI) they needed the ability to do so with less consensus, not more, and the Constitution provided that vehicle."
The states were just smaller nations, they’d have focused just as intently on their national goals, and there is no reason to think they’d have used differing means.

What’s more, only the national constitution makes so much use of requiring supermajorities to make big changes, the states less so. There’s your consensus better protected at the national level than at most any other.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Like Pesci talking to Fred Gwynne, "I would love to hear this!"

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
You, back then, wrote:

If, as with the Iroquois, it is the most important component, THEN one "vote" actually DOES makes a difference. Then ANYONE can stop governmental tyranny and oppression dead in it’s tracks by a simple "no" vote.
In context with what point?

I’m not going to play this game, Tom. Sorry.

You want to play Strawmen ’R Us, go find another playmate. I have no intention of participating.
Now head back into that cite and show me where I even hinted I supported such a system or held it out as some sort of "paragon of governance", okay?
OK.

Consent and how seriously the consent of the governed is factored into the collective decision-making apparatus is the critical factor.

If, as with the Iroquois, it is the most important component, THEN one "vote" actually DOES makes a difference. Then ANYONE can stop governmental tyranny and oppression dead in it’s tracks by a simple "no" vote.
The emphasis is mine.

So performing well, in your eyes, in the most critical factor does not make a government a paragon? You held unanimity by the example of the Iroquois, and I held up the "polish no" as a counterexample.

I invite you to provide your own adjective if paragon is too strong a term for your feelings towards unanimity being required for government action, but please acknowledge you picked unanimity as the point to hang your hat on.
No, "performing well" has a specific context and you seem bent on skipping over it.

Consent. How is it manifested? How is it used? Is it in fact actually incorporated in the Constitution? Does a vote imply consent? Does a vote have any real power or meaning? In the context in which I pointed to the pure democracy of the Iroquois, a single vote performed very well because the culture of the Iroquois demanded complete agreement in many cases. So a vote actually signified consent or no consent, and given their "rules" a single vote could stop the majority from having their way.

But I certainly never said it was practical or good or something we should adopt. So again, you’re invited to go back in the cite and point out where I pointed to that particular example as something I felt worthy of emulation or adoption or to use your words, "paragon of governance".
And every example given in this thread of such straying is clearly in violation of the constitution, and most are generally.

The Declaration of Independence said "screw the English crown, we’re making our own laws". The constitution is the law they made.

There are few flaws in the constitution prior to the 1880’s, either by amendment or by implementation, with respect to which ANY constitution in any state could be said to be any improvement over it.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Those sentences in the DoI are the soul and essence of the American Revolution. You’re invited to point to the government, enabled and supported by the present amended version of the Constitution of the United States (news flash, that’s what we have to live with), and point out how those unalienable rights have been both protected and enhanced.
And yet you provide no examples of how any clause in the original constitution does so fail to live up to the ideals of the Declaration? You claim looking around should show me, but all but universally, I see the constitution disrespected to the detriment of liberty.
You’re a big boy, you can think and reason. Show me, given the portion of the DoI above, how this present government lives up to those ideals.

Discuss eminent domain, taxation, welfare, stifling regulation, federal intrusion into every aspect of our lives and then attempt to tell me, with a straight face, mind, that that was the intent of those who talked about inalienable rights and government destructive to those rights.

neither is unanimity cited in the Declaration as prerequisite of good governemnt.

No one claimed it was. That’s your strawman. Enjoy the dance.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Yes it restricts government, State and local government, but it does so by greatly expanding Federal authority.

And does so solely to prevent state level usurpations, this is not a net loss to liberty.
Who prevents federal usurpations of liberty? The Supreme Court? The Congress? The President? Democracy? These groups are only loosely accountable to the voting populace, and that only prevents the minority from infinging on the majority.

Lets create a hypothetical that reverses the most recent major states rights dispute in this country: What if the federal government enacted racial segregation laws that applied to the entire United States. The Congress and Senate passed them with majority votes, The president signed it into law, the Segregation Enforcement Agency was create to arrest those who violated the segregation laws, and the Supreme Court in case after case interpreted the "necessary and proper" clause and the Commerce Clause to find the powers for the federal government to regulate the free association of citizens based on race, simply ignoring the 14th amendment as if it didn’t exist.

What then? The states would have to abide by them or face military occupation in order to re-segregate the schools and supress riots. Who protects the rights of the minorities then? What choice would any state that didn’t want segregation have? You couldn’t simply move to another state that wasn’t segregated, the law is enforced everywhere. You would have to leave the country.

What if the issue were instead medical marijuana use? This is not a hypothetical case and it has played out exactly as above, except the DEA replaces the SEA. Other than that it is the same, but since a majority of Americans think drugs should be illegal there is little moral outrage, but the constitutional effect is exactly the same.
 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
In context with what point?
McQ, unless you meant that all government must become oppressive except one that requires unanimity to act, then you weren’t saying much at all were you.

Please go ahead and make your real point plain so my pigheadedness is clear.

You wrote:
This is an important starting place because once you unwrap the "myth" in regard to the US Constitution, you’re better able to
understand the point that regardless of initial "intent", without consent and consensus, almost every type of government (but the most carefully crafted one, such as the type the Iroquois put together) must become oppressive. It is the nature of the beast.

Consent and how seriously the consent of the governed is factored into the collective decision-making apparatus is the critical factor.
If, as with the Iroquois, it is the most important component, THEN one "vote" actually DOES makes a difference. Then ANYONE can stop governmental tyranny and oppression dead in it’s tracks by a simple "no" vote.

Where we are today isn’t a problem with "straying", over time, from the ideals formerly set forth in the Declaration of Independence and
then embodied in the Constitution (per the myth). Those ideals were in fact abandoned when the Constitution was adopted. Consent and consensus were given lip service at best. When the "Framers" decided they wanted to focus on NATIONAL goals through collective action (vs. the protection of individual rights per the DoI) they needed the ability to do so with less consensus, not more, and the Constitution provided that vehicle. They chose the goals of the state over the rights of individuals.

So while we’re a powerful and rich nation, our individual freedom is only relatively better than elsewhere and becoming less and less so.

The important point here is to understand that we aren’t where we are because the past leaders and legislatures have failed to live up to the ideals of the Constitution, but that those who framed the Constitution failed to live up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.

The American Revolution in fact *died* with the ratification of the US Constitution.
I’m not playing any games with you. I think you were foolish to have written that, and still more foolish for still believing it. The desirability of unanimous consent is trivially obvious, it is also essentially impossible, and so not relevant—all government will be coercive and oppressive to some degree, and even to a good, just person acting within their rights.

So the impossiblity of perfection does not justfy your disparaging the more perfect union. Unless like most libertarians, you have no problem with the perfect being the enemy of the good.
Consent. How is it manifested?
Majority rule in the details and a supermajority in the major issues. By actual due process which neccessitates a fully informed jury confirming that prosecutions are undertaken to ends society likely approves, or there would be too many acquitals on account of injustice in the law or its application.
How is it used?
Please rephrase.
Is it in fact actually incorporated in the Constitution?
Individual consent a la your Iroquois or my Polish legislature? No. Is that even desirable, no. What then of your using the Iroquois as an example?
Does a vote imply consent?
A vote in the sense of a balloting, no, it implies what will happen, and is better still than no voting at all. A vote in the sense of one individually marked ballot, it represents what one person will consent to, and casting no ballot the same.
Does a vote have any real power or meaning?
Historically, they don’t have as much of a weight if Democrats count them but yes, they do. Towards a presidential election, mine has roughly 1/300,000,000 of what weight there is to be had.
In the context in which I pointed to the pure democracy of the Iroquois, a single vote performed very well because the culture of the Iroquois demanded complete agreement in many cases.
And how less appropriate then for you to use them as an example of any sort when our culture has never demanded unanimity?
So a vote actually signified consent or no consent, and given their "rules" a single vote could stop the majority from having their way.
And the formal vote is itself dependent on every other factor in the ballot caster’s life, and not indicative of a lack of coercion. The human reality stays the same, we are not free to do as we like and neccessarily remain in association with other people.
But I certainly never said it was practical or good or something we should adopt. So again, you’re invited to go back in the cite and point out where I pointed to that particular example as something I felt worthy of emulation or adoption or to use your words, "paragon of governance".
And I have never said that you said it should be adopted here or was practical. I do claim that if you did not want others to draw the inference from your Iroquois example, that you felt oppressive government in the context of the DoI was a bad thing and that such a system as the Iroquoian was a good thing because it would not neccessarily become oppressive, if you did not want people to draw that inference, you did a p!ss poor job of writing.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Those sentences in the DoI are the soul and essence of the American Revolution.
Absolutely true.
You’re invited to point to the government, enabled and supported by the present amended version of the Constitution of the United States (news flash, that’s what we have to live with
BZZZP Wrong!

Apart from good government progressive idiocies like the 17th amendment, which if wrongheaded were at least an actual adopted change to the document, very little of how the national government spends it’s money, very little of what it does, is actually authorized by the constitution. We aren’t living with it. We’re living with what the moonbats of the last hundred or more years have done in spite of it, what they call the "living" constitution. It has very little to do with the Constitution, day in and day out.
), and point out how those unalienable rights have been both protected and enhanced.
They haven’t been in most cases, but when they haven’t been, you can almost always point to the part of the Constitution the judges say "this makes it kosher" and read out either simpy the text itself or the thoughts of the poeple writing and voting on it, and see the judges are full of horsesh!t.

So how is the document being respected today? Poorly.
You’re a big boy, you can think and reason. Show me, given the portion of the DoI above, how this present government lives up to those ideals.


Oh it doesn’t, I’ve never said it does—I’m also pointing out there are no explicit discrepancies between the DoI and the CotUS, and no implicit ones either. Nothing in the DoI implies the CotUS is illegitimate, and I’d love for you to point out what parts of the CotUS are a derogation of the aims outlined in the DoI.
Discuss eminent domain
Its a good enough thing if restricted, as the constitution states, to roads and buildings of public use. You go me one better, and find me where anyone at the time of the DoI thought, or someone objecting the the CotUS complained, that eminent domain as the revolutionaries or Founders thought of it was contrary to the DoI.

I think you’ll look as long and hard as you like, and discover they disagree with you as to the appropriateness of eminent domain. I think you’ll find the man who wrote the DoI considers your opinion daft.
taxation
In the original wording it was restricted to being apportioned among the several states, and not an income tax, and also, senators representing state governments would have approved them. In the main, subsequent amendments have been an improvement, in that the questions of national scale are of import solely to individuals in the nation, and states are really legal fictions as much as the national government is. So states should have no say in national taxes.

In the main, the purposes to which the tax moneys are put are not constitutional, so that topic rather proves my point doesn’t it, that the constitution is not currently respected.

Additionally, to harp with you on the DoI, there is nothing in it to say concept of taxes is one being rebelled against, but taxes made without representational consent.
welfare
Ditto not authorized in the constitution, so it’s existence at the federal level is proof of my point, that the constitution is not currently respected.
stifling regulation
The only regulations the national government is empowered to impose are ones dealing with the Army and Navy, waterways more than three deep and then only to further waterborne commerce and to no other purpose, the post roads and post office, import fees—both the DoI generation and the CotUS folks were big mercantilists as a general rule, dang it, but there’s certainly no help for that in the DoI which the CotUS can be said to rollback.
federal intrusion
Which federal intrusions are you whining about? I mean if you think the DoI was issued so that Georgia’s pound could be twelve ounces and still 9/10s of what Virginia’s pound measure weighs, then you’ve got a point.

You’d be insane and have no evidence for your position, but you’d have a point. The feds intrude and declare arbitrarily what a pound is, and the CotUS authorizes that horrible intrusion...

I assume you’re objecting to the federal intrusion which isn’t authorized in the CotUS, and that federal instrusion exists while proving my point which is that the constitution is not currently respected.
neither is unanimity cited in the Declaration as prerequisite of good governemnt.
If you mean you think I’ve claimed other wise, please cite me.
No one claimed it was.
I don’t disagree there.
That’s your strawman.
Prove it. Cite me.
Enjoy the dance.
Oh, I had popcorn.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Mr. Franks has a good post here; I thought so at 2:30 last night, and still do. I’m not very current on blogs, so it is entirely my error for not knowing that Q&O bloggers and commenters have been disussing, for quite so time, that morality is one of the grounds for the philosophy of freedom. What small time I’ve spent reading libertarian blogs (I spend instead volumnous amounts of time reading libertarian philosophy) has always impressed upon me that so many of us libertarians do not realize that we—humanity—already have the philosophical basis for freedom: freedom with its five groundings is itself a universal moral philosophy, not merely a disputed point of political discussion. The recognition of this—that freedom is already and has long been a universal moral philosophy, is reflected in the steadily growing number of PhD philosophers around the world who now teach, or list as one of their philosophical specializations, the Philosophy of Human Rights (See: www.philohr.org).

I’ve re-read my comment from last night with care, attempting to pinpoint the cause for Mr. Frank’s sharp reaction. As best as I can determine, my initial compliment was instead perecieved as being ironic or even sarcastic. Socrates had this problem (was he being ironic, or sarcastic?), but my original remarks were genuinely complimentary, not ironic nor sarcastic. At the close of my comment I used the preposition "to" instead of using the preposition "for," unintentionally resulting in creating an impression of ending my comments with the same sarcasm perceived in my opening remark. Careless of me.

Perceived to be twice attacked with sarcasm, Mr. Franks responded as just about all of us will when personally attacked.

So, another lesson learned about the importance of language, and my apologies to Mr. Franks.
 
Written By: a Duoist
URL: http://www.duoism.org
In response to DS.
Who prevents federal usurpations of liberty?
Who prevents state usurpations of liberty?

Prior to the 14th amendment, it could only be the people of the state, themselves falling to.

At that time national usurpations could be opposed by individuals with or without the state government’s approval and even it’s resources.

Currently, there is nothing except practicality to prevent a state or the people from appealing the question to arms in the event of a federal usurpation.

Before there was better balance but no symmetry—preventing state usurpations was not the national gov’t’s job. Now there is symmetry but no balance, but the 14th amendment did not cause the lack of balance, nor did the CotUS, neither was either it a symptom of it.

And if you want to dispute that, take it up with Jeff Davis, it’s his fault.

But seriously, the most the Civil War did was confirm that the national government was a real government, one as real as the states and that it was empowered to enforce it’s laws by force of arms—which it was already empowered to do in the CotUS orginally, and that fact is no great impairment of liberty in and of itself.

In the event a state were to rally it’s militia in response to federal intrusion into what is genuinely not it’s business or no government’s business, I’d be the first support them.

But the CW and/or the 14th amendment is a poor hook to hang your hat on.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
"say concept" /= "say the concept" TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
McQ, unless you meant that all government must become oppressive except one that requires unanimity to act, then you weren’t saying much at all were you.

Please go ahead and make your real point plain so my pigheadedness is clear.
Sheesh. I’ve done that ... twice. And yes, you’re right, I can’t help you understand what you apparently can’t understand.
You’re invited to point to the government, enabled and supported by the present amended version of the Constitution of the United States (news flash, that’s what we have to live with
BZZZP Wrong!
Well then change it. Either that or admit it’s what we have to live with ...

Look, you seem unable to grasp the point I was making about consent, voting and how contrasting governments give the vote and consent much different weight. Naturally, in your arrogance, you argue that you understand, much better than me, you know, the guy who wrote the piece in question, what I meant.

And in the case above (BZZZP), you seem unable to deal with the reality in which we find ourselves.

That’s not my fault. That said, I’m also not going to waste my time in fruitless tail chasing with you Tom.

I mean look at this:
Apart from good government progressive idiocies like the 17th amendment, which if wrongheaded were at least an actual adopted change to the document, very little of how the national government spends it’s money, very little of what it does, is actually authorized by the constitution. We aren’t living with it. We’re living with what the moonbats of the last hundred or more years have done in spite of it, what they call the "living" constitution. It has very little to do with the Constitution, day in and day out.
And what, pray tell, enabled those "progressive idiocies" as you term them? Hint: 17th Amendment. Whoa, how’d that happen? Oh, the Constitution allows it?

Huh, how does a document purported to establish in law the soul and essence of the DoI enable such "progressive idiocies" to establish themselves in law to the detriment of our rights?

Apply the same standard liberally (a little pun for you) to the rest of your list of "progressive idiocies" enabled by the very same document.
Prove it. Cite me.
Certainly. My pleasure:
McQ’s then held paragon of governance didn’t work out.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Duoist -

No, he didn’t think you were sarcastic. He clearly thought you were being extremely smug and patronizing. He was also irritated that you congratulated him on "at last" doing something he’s done for years (as has McQ).
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
The recognition of this—that freedom is already and has long been a universal moral philosophy, is reflected in the steadily growing number of PhD philosophers around the world who now teach, or list as one of their philosophical specializations, the Philosophy of Human Rights (See: www.philohr.org).
This has long been one of my favorite topics and one for which I’ve argued for years. Humans beings being rational creatures with finite needs must, by default, have an optimum morality ("finite needs" being that which argues for an optimum). And that, of course, would be a morality by which man qua man best fulfills those needs. Inherent rights allow him that without denying them to others.

Human rights must be inalienable (and thus universal) to have any power. Their universal application sets the gross parameters for all human interaction everywhere without exception. Those rights both enable and limit. The natural limits imposed by the inherent responsibility not to do to others that which they have no right to do to you further defines our interactions.

Inherent or inalienable human rights are, at base, a simple concept, but when you consider them, their power is incredible. They stand to change humankind’s future relational paradigm irrevocably (for the positive) if ever fully adopted, recognized and protected as they should be.

Rights, responsibilities and reciprocity, once understood, can indeed set you free.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I’m a little late here, obviously, but the bottom line is that this:

In my view, the more coercive a government is, the less moral it is. The only legitimately moral acts of government are to protect the individual citizen from force or fraud, and to protect the citizenry as a whole from foreign aggression. Once a government goes beyond that, for any purpose, it becomes increasingly immoral, because it increasingly becomes a tool for one group of citizens to use force on another group. And it doesn’t matter if you’re grabbing money at gunpoint to give to widows and orphans, or jailing pornographers for corrupting the morals of our children; it’s still morally illegitimate, because the ends do not justify the means.

Is too simplistic a philosophy for effective governance. It’s intellectually consistent, but it simply doesn’t work well enough. The libertarian accepts constraints on liberty in areas of defense because it’s blatantly obvious that people have to be coerced to support armies effectively. They don’t accept constraints in other areas because they don’t believe that other constraints are necessary for well-being: but history demonstrates that they are, in fact, necessary. By virtue of being useful inside a giant global competition for success. Otherwise, they wouldn’t exist.

To give a tiny, isolated example: it’s a clear violation of liberty that banks are required to hold certain currency reserve percentages as a ratio relative to their loan portfolios. But we had a banking collapse without that regulation, and none with. Financial sectors without banking regulations crash, and burn, and are unpopular, and national resources are not developed. Financial regulations increase as financial complexity increases, and the reason is that people learn from crashes, failures, and getting skinned. It’s not enough to say "the market will correct bad practices". Sometimes the market attempts to correct bad practices by effectively evaporating. The market prefers not to learn through corrections and creative destruction, and the world of regulations we live in testifies to it.

Which is all only a reference to collective action problems, where groups of individuals each acting in pursuit of their own best interests consistently create undesirable outcomes. When you hand voting power to a majority, they will consistently demand that collective action failures be prevented from reoccuring, freedom be damned. The reasons are no different from why people in Baghdad find authority an attractive model right now. And to prevent a society from imposing binding restrictions on its members, ultimately ends up forcing that society to undergo collective suffering, against its desire not to undergo said suffering.

That’s why pro-freedom solutions are only implemented when they, broadly, create more prosperity than they destroy. You can count on libertarians to insist that pro-freedom solutions always do that, but you can also count on them to insist so out of belief, not out of impartial observation of the relative success of all possible solutions.

To make a long story short: progressive income taxes create successful societies and avoid vast quantities of alienated, impoverished, hostile social classes. They work. Thus they’re used. Try and have a democracy without social redistribution, and you get Hugo Chavez in two generations. All the ideology, all the morality, in the world can’t avoid the facts of life as they are. People don’t donate enough to charity to avoid widespread social instability and failed societies.



 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
"s too simplistic a philosophy for effective governance. It’s intellectually consistent, but it simply doesn’t work well enough."
...for you, and anyone who’s paid attention to you around here understands what that means.
"To make a long story short: progressive income taxes create successful societies and avoid vast quantities of alienated, impoverished, hostile social classes."
To make your rubbish just as "short" as it needs to be and precisely concise: "We need to steal some peoples’ money to pay bribes to people who’ll step right out as animals if we don’t."

Your lies are old, but you tell ’em pretty good.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
That doesn’t sound like what you were saying at all. The fact that many people are classified as obese is a point you bring up when discussing whether humans behave in ways to which their biology (specifically, their metabolism) is not accustomed. And you did leave out how that "modern world" was produced in the first place, if not by human nature.

When saying that human "nature" makes us "predisposed to living freely in small groups and clans", you’re talking about about organization and association. Yet, if that’s what humans are "predisposed" to living with, then try explaining hierarchy above the clan level, markets and networks. If you’re going to believe in something called "human nature" (and believe that it has certain properties), you might want to start explaining how it produced the human condition.
I personally think human nature doesn’t push us to any one particular cultural arrangement — we can build all sorts of cultural variations, some which can last for centuries, others fall apart quickly. Humans are born free in the world to act as they please, limited by their abilities, circumstances, and having to endure the consequences of their actions. Their nature seems minimally to want to fulfill basic needs (shelter, food, procreation), and have evolved traits/emotions suited to pursuit of these in the vast expanse of human development.

To build a culture is, in essence, to remove ourselves from the state of nature and thus encumber ourselves with constructed traits and values alongside anything that nature provides. So human nature did not construct modernism (indeed, it isn’t the norm of human behavior; modernism was hard for humans to accept). But I also see a spiritual side of our nature, and believe that more important than our material/evolutionary nature.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
But Scott, who builds the culture and constructs the traits in the first place, if not humans? Who constructed modernism?

If the answer is "humans," then apparently it is in humans’ nature to build such things.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Sheesh. I’ve done that ... twice.
No. You haven’t given any reason why the Iroquois and their unanimity were relevant examples to use with respect to consent, consensus, voting, and the significance thereof, either in an absolute sense or to how the CotUS supposedly embodies a betrayal of the American Revolution or the DoI by the Founders. You just haven’t.

Why don’t you put it to a vote.
Well then change it. Either that or admit it’s what we have to live with ...
That’s just it McQ, I’m saying BZZZP, you’re wrong, we are not living with it. We are living with the "living constitution" not the Founder’s constitution or anything like it. I feel you admit as much admit that on this thread, where you write:
Is that your "principled" argument? Because we all know the Constitution is a "living document", eh?
It isn’t supposed to be, but by your sarcasm there I believe you acknowledge it has been treated as such by the courts and the other branches of government. Which is what I mean by, it has been disrespected, the CotUS does not define the scope of our national government any longer.
Look, you seem unable to grasp the point I was making about consent, voting and how contrasting governments give the vote and consent much different weight.
No I grasp your point, I both disagree with it and believe your Iroquois example has no relevance to your point whatsoever.
And what, pray tell, enabled those "progressive idiocies" as you term them? Hint: 17th Amendment. Whoa, how’d that happen? Oh, the Constitution allows it?
In sum, no. To break it down, the 17th doesn’t authorize those other progressive idiocies, it just says the people elect Senators directly. Read what I wrote, did I say enable? No. I said authorize. Are being incautious, or trying to be clever in substituting the word "enable" for "authorize"? Is there a fourth option you’d like to suggest? Do you think enable and authorize are such synonyms your word choice is ok? Because the only way your use of the word enable could possibly be justified is in the sense of making some acts by government more likely, not in the sense of giving explicit permission. The Founders, Federalists amd AntiFederalists alike, were clear the CotUS was about explicit authorizations and restrictions—therefore any derogations of it which are made more likely by removing the direct voices of the states are still derogations, and disrespect of it.

And yes, the Constitution can be amended—that’s part of the way it fufills the DoI. It cannot prevent itself from being amended in foolish ways, no Constitution that aims to enable
People to alter or to abolish it
could do so. Neither the national constitution nor the state constitution could, and absent the CotUS, the state constitutions would have remained—and they would have been less fulfilling of the DoI and the Revolution for being fully centralized sovereignties, which by design and intent the CotUS is not.
That said, I’m also not going to waste my time in fruitless tail chasing with you Tom.
Well considering you haven’t responded to any of my other points, I’ll guess you don’t really the facts or intellectual horsepower to do so, whatever you protest.

If you can cite facts to the contrary of my statements, it should be easy for you.
Naturally, in your arrogance, you argue that you understand, much better than me, you know, the guy who wrote the piece in question, what I meant.
I’m not saying I know what you meant better than you do, I’m saying if I misunderstand you, what you wrote is not clear.
Huh, how does a document purported to establish in law the soul and essence of the DoI enable such "progressive idiocies" to establish themselves in law to the detriment of our rights?
It doesn’t, the "progressive idiocies" are unconstitutional as a general rule. And some of the amendments, like the 16th, 17th, and 18th are so contrary to the Founders vision they should themselves be regarded as disrespect of the previous document, and something which fundamentally subverts its original character—hence poor results furthered (but not authorized) by alterations after the fact cannot be fairly ascribed to a betrayal of the Revolution of DoI or Revolution by the Founders. You misplace your condemnation by a good 140 years or so in that case. None of the Founders voted for the 17th amendment. It’s not their bad.
Apply the same standard liberally (a little pun for you) to the rest of your list of "progressive idiocies" enabled by the very same document.
And if you mean what I think you do, then those progressive idiocies are not authorized by the constitution in the main, they are a disrespect of it, and their existence does not support your contention that:
The American Revolution in fact *died* with the ratification of the US Constitution.


You quoting me from an earlier post:
neither is unanimity cited in the Declaration as prerequisite of good governemnt.
I was not claiming you said it did. I was saying the unanimity you brought up had nothing to do with the DoI. I respond to your quoting me:
If you mean you think I’ve claimed other wise, please cite me.
To which you respond:
No one claimed it was.
To which I respond:
I don’t disagree there.
And the you insist:
That’s your strawman.
And yet you’re the one who thought unanimity was a worthwhile concept to inject in that old post in the first place. Plus, when I wrote:
Prove it. Cite me.
You respond:
Certainly. My pleasure:
And the you produce this:
McQ’s then held paragon of governance didn’t work out.
That has nothing to do with my supposedly claiming you said unanimity was in the DoI, which is what I thought that exchange was about.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
No. You haven’t given any reason why the Iroquois and their unanimity were relevant examples to use with respect to consent, consensus, voting, and the significance thereof, either in an absolute sense or to how the CotUS supposedly embodies a betrayal of the American Revolution or the DoI by the Founders. You just haven’t.
I guess I’m mistaken, but I would never have guessed you were this obtuse.

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
And I’m guessing you’ve got nothing, and so still won’t respond to my other points, which were responses at length to you.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
To my mind, the original powers and constitutional framework of the Early Republic is about as close as we have ever come to doing so.
In general it was as close as we’ve come. The "freedmen have equal rights" amendments and universal suffrage and voting age amendments were very pausibly needed improvement, but they examples of steps forward in a society jogging backwards.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
And I’m guessing you’ve got nothing, and so still won’t respond to my other points, which were responses at length to you.
You can guess whatever you wish, but I see no benefit in wasting my time with someone who seems incapable of grasping a fairly simple point just because it doesn’t fit his preconceived argument. But I have enjoyed, in a rather perverse way, watching your rather hilarious attempts at trying to tell me what I really did or didn’t mean when I wrote the cite.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
But Scott, who builds the culture and constructs the traits in the first place, if not humans? Who constructed modernism?

If the answer is "humans," then apparently it is in humans’ nature to build such things.
Yes! It’s in the nature of humans to construct such things. But human nature itself does not point to any particular kind of construction as being the unique expression of human nature. We adapt, create, construct, and learn. Ultimately we are responsible for what we become, we can’t blame or credit some "nature."
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
But Scott, who builds the culture and constructs the traits in the first place, if not humans? Who constructed modernism?

If the answer is "humans," then apparently it is in humans’ nature to build such things.
Yes! It’s in the nature of humans to construct such things. But human nature itself does not point to any particular kind of construction as being the unique expression of human nature. We adapt, create, construct, and learn. Ultimately we are responsible for what we become, we can’t blame or credit some "nature."
Let me get this straight:
In developing your personal philosophy, you came to the conclusion (before this debate) that building culture is removing ourselves from our natural state, but that it is in our nature to build culture?

You determined that nature does not provide constructed traits and values, even though it is in man’s nature to construct such traits?

You believed that we are responsible for what we become, but that we are predisposed by our nature to do certain things?

Really?

And where do humans come from, Scott? What produced our "nature"?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
"Ultimately we are responsible for what we become, we can’t blame or credit some ’nature.’"
The essence of that assertion, ladies & gentlemen, is a radical denial (or radical ignorance — take your pick) of the Law of Identity. It does not "credit" the imperative of self-actualization as a necessary element of the entity known as "human".

You should also be aware that when this creep uses the word "we" in a context like this, he is actually asserting a metaphysical/ontological unity of the whole species. He simply does not account for individuals. There are some obvious clues to this in the ordinary everyday things that he writes around here, but I often doubt exactly how many people understand just how profoundly — radically — he means that "we".

He’s talking about a hive.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Bryan: I can see that you have an eye for the circles. Watch him closely, as you go. I’m telling you, man: he is the original Mr. Mercury. He will dodge you at every turn, and you will not be able pin him down.

There are all kinds of conclusions to be drawn from the facts of what he is.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Let me get this straight:
In developing your personal philosophy, you came to the conclusion (before this debate) that building culture is removing ourselves from our natural state, but that it is in our nature to build culture?
That seems beyond dispute; there are a myriad of different cultures that have been built. Some have lasted long eras, others withered away quickly. If there was one particular culture that was ’natural’ rather than an artificial human construct (which may or may not be conducive to the requisites of human nature), then there would not be variety. A classic is Berger and Luckman’s 1967 Social Construction of Reality. And this isn’t just my personal philosophy, it’s actually a dominant view in much of social science.

You seem to think there has to be an extreme — either anything we do is our nature (in which case the term ’human nature’ is irrelevant as it can attached to anything) or all we do is culture. It’s a mix; nature provides certain constraints and traits, humans actualize their personal reality by making choices in the context in which they are born, and collectively a social reality emerges which creates contexts which confront humans with as much real force as anything in nature. If this view really puzzles you, or if you think there is something contradictory about it, I strongly recommend you read Berger and Luckman’s book — it’s a classic in sociology (revolutionized it in some ways) and inexpensive.

As for responsible for what we become, that means that we have to accept responsibility to deal with our circumstances and take care of the consequences. People should claim their lives and make with it what they can. They are not causally responsible for all the circumstances in their lives, but they have to take responsibility for their choices and attitudes.

Where humans come from — biologists say we evolved from primates, and that seems reasonable. I personally have a spiritual view that adds to that, but I won’t get into that unless you’re really curious.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Scott Erb -
Let me get this straight:
In developing your personal philosophy, you came to the conclusion (before this debate) that building culture is removing ourselves from our natural state, but that it is in our nature to build culture?
That seems beyond dispute; there are a myriad of different cultures that have been built. Some have lasted long eras, others withered away quickly. If there was one particular culture that was ’natural’ rather than an artificial human construct (which may or may not be conducive to the requisites of human nature), then there would not be variety. A classic is Berger and Luckman’s 1967 Social Construction of Reality. And this isn’t just my personal philosophy, it’s actually a dominant view in much of social science.
You didn’t answer my question. You claimed that building culture is removing ourselves from our natural state ("To build a culture is, in essence, to remove ourselves from the state of nature"), but you also claimed that it is in our nature to build culture ("It’s in the nature of humans to construct such things [as culture/traits/modernism]").

If building culture itself—not one particular culture, which wasn’t your earlier claim and wasn’t in my question—is removing ourselves from the state of nature, then it doesn’t make any sense that such a thing would be in our nature. It’s in our nature to do something against our nature, Scott?

And going back to your claim about modernism, you first allowed that it was in human nature to construct such things, but then claimed that "human nature did not construct modernism," indeed, that "modernism was hard for humans to accept". So, where did modernism come from?
You seem to think there has to be an extreme — either anything we do is our nature (in which case the term ’human nature’ is irrelevant as it can attached to anything) or all we do is culture.
What I "seem to think" from your perspective doesn’t get you out of your bind. Explain yourself.

Is it in humans’ nature to build culture (not a particular culture, but culture itself)? You said yes, enthusiastically. But you also said that building culture removes man from his state of nature. That’s like picking yourself out of a hole in the ground by grabbing the top of your head and pulling.
It’s a mix; nature provides certain constraints and traits, humans actualize their personal reality by making choices in the context in which they are born, and collectively a social reality emerges which creates contexts which confront humans with as much real force as anything in nature.
That social reality is built by whom, Scott? It emerges from the behavior of whom?

Look: you already basically said that culture constructs traits and values, but also that nature provides traits and values "alongside" those.
If it’s in man’s nature to construct culture, I wanted to know where you thought man came from. You responded, "Where humans come from — biologists say we evolved from primates, and that seems reasonable. I personally have a spiritual view that adds to that, but I won’t get into that unless you’re really curious." So, you believe man was created by a natural process. You have some spiritual view, too, one about which I’d love to hear you make a falsifiable statement. So yeah, I’m really curious. Does this spirit violate the laws of nature? If so, would it be possible to observe it doing so?
If this view really puzzles you, or if you think there is something contradictory about it, I strongly recommend you read Berger and Luckman’s book — it’s a classic in sociology (revolutionized it in some ways) and inexpensive.
For the time being, I think it’d be less expensive to hear you explain the seeming contradictions in your expressed views. I’m asking questions of you, not a couple of sociologists. But you can use quotes of theirs if they have anything to say that’ll back you up.
As for responsible for what we become, that means that we have to accept responsibility to deal with our circumstances and take care of the consequences. People should claim their lives and make with it what they can. They are not causally responsible for all the circumstances in their lives, but they have to take responsibility for their choices and attitudes.
Clearly, when you say "have to" here, you’re really saying "ought to" (just as when you say "should"). Those are normative statements. Earlier, you were making declarative statements:
Our nature makes us predisposed to living freely in small groups and clans.
Ultimately we are responsible for what we become, we can’t blame or credit some "nature."
Do you believe that we are responsible for what we become, or not? Do you believe there is no basis for blaming nature, or don’t you? After all, we were created by natural processes (e.g. evolution), right? And nature does provide traits and constraints, does it not? Are these the kind of traits and constraints that might impact choices and attitudes?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
You didn’t answer my question. You claimed that building culture is removing ourselves from our natural state ("To build a culture is, in essence, to remove ourselves from the state of nature"), but you also claimed that it is in our nature to build culture ("It’s in the nature of humans to construct such things [as culture/traits/modernism]").

If building culture itself—not one particular culture, which wasn’t your earlier claim and wasn’t in my question—is removing ourselves from the state of nature, then it doesn’t make any sense that such a thing would be in our nature. It’s in our nature to do something against our nature, Scott?
Yes, I said that human nature is limited, and part of it is to build cultures. But you create a false dichotomy — that something is in our nature or against our nature. I’m noting only that human nature tells only a part of the story, it gives us a minimal set of conditions around which we have a lot of freedom to build and develop. For instance, it may be in the nature of humans to be selfish, but that doesn’t mean it is human nature to murder people in order to get what you want.

Humans construct modernism, it didn’t emerge naturally from human nature — unless you want to say anything humans do is human nature, but then you’ve made the concept utterly worthless. Bottom line: humans have a nature, but not everything humans do is reducible to that nature.

As for responsibility: We are responsible for how we handle our circumstances — we take individual responsibility for what we make of our lives. We are not causally responsible for the circumstances in which we are born into, or the constraints and opportunities that cannot be volitionally altered through our action.

As for spirituality and falsifiability, I see spirituality as outside science because it cannot be reduced to falsifiable statements; ultimately it is belief and faith based on subjective experience.

I’m not sure why you think I’m contradicting myself, unless you’re trying to assert that anything humans do must be due to human nature because humans do it. But that kind of use of the concept of human nature makes it worthless.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
OK, let me finish up, my four year old demanded my attention for awhile!
As for responsible for what we become, that means that we have to accept responsibility to deal with our circumstances and take care of the consequences. People should claim their lives and make with it what they can. They are not causally responsible for all the circumstances in their lives, but they have to take responsibility for their choices and attitudes.

Clearly, when you say "have to" here, you’re really saying "ought to" (just as when you say "should"). Those are normative statements. Earlier, you were making declarative statements:
Yes "have to" should be "ought to."

Our nature makes us predisposed to living freely in small groups and clans.

Ultimately we are responsible for what we become, we can’t blame or credit some "nature."


Do you believe that we are responsible for what we become, or not? Do you believe there is no basis for blaming nature, or don’t you? After all, we were created by natural processes (e.g. evolution), right? And nature does provide traits and constraints, does it not? Are these the kind of traits and constraints that might impact choices and attitudes?
Obviously I could not claim that we are responsible for every circumstance and opportunity in our lives; I think I make it clear that we are responsible for making our life within the constraints we find ourselves within.

I’m not at base a materialist, however, so I’m uncomfortable with stipulating that the evolutionary process is "all there is" in terms of describing what is human.

Have you ever thought about how the universe looks to a photon? A photon experiences only velocity, it does experience distance or time; in a sense a photon is everywhere, all the time. How can that make sense? To me it is evidence that the material world is not what it appears (in fact, the more one reads about modern physics, the more clear that becomes). Therefore I think the key to understanding reality, human-ness, and ultimately ethics and the meaning of life is to get beyond the material/falsifiable and think of the spiritual. If you don’t want to read Berger and Luckman, try the Dalai Lama’s "The Universe in a Single Atom."
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Scott -

You have now stated that if I "say anything humans do is human nature," then I’ve "made the concept utterly worthless."
Let’s say for a moment that I were to make such a claim. If I had a concept of human nature that described every behavior that humans exhibit in every possible circumstance, i.e., I fully circumscribed the behavior of humans in every circumstance of their existence, would I not in fact have a perfect definition of the nature of humans? That wouldn’t be worthless, but rather extraordinarily valuable: You could win bets with that kind of information. You could manipulate people. You would be a hero of social sciences.

Meanwhile, if you make a claim that is so limited in its explanatory power of human behavior that a given behavior in a given circumstance neither violates nor fulfills it, how can that describe the nature of humans? It doesn’t. It doesn’t say anything at all—you can’t make predictions or even wagers with it, you can’t say anything useful about any human using it, nothing. It is utterly unsure of itself. That is worthless, and further, it’s not human nature at all: a statement about the observable nature of an observable thing is falsifiable.

Yet even that is not the claim you originally made. Your earlier invocation of human nature said that it "makes us predisposed" to certain behaviors in certain situations, which means that upon the fulfillment of a particular circumstance, it is at least likely that humans will exhibit those particular behaviors. That is a declarative statement about the observable nature of humans, that is, a statement about how humans qua humans behave in particular circumstances.

So when you say, "For instance, it may be in the nature of humans to be selfish, but that doesn’t mean it is human nature to murder people in order to get what you want," that is laying down smoke. If you just make the blanket statement that "it’s in the nature of humans to be selfish" without a qualifier, then you can’t explain all the times when humans do not behave in a selfish manner, and any time that happens, your claim about human nature is proven false. You clearly aren’t describing human nature, because your claim is general even though it only truly describes the behavior of particular humans in particular circumstances.
Even assuming it were true that humans are by nature selfish, of course that doesn’t necessarily mean that humans will murder people in order to get what they want—perhaps their selfishness leads them to avoid risks and take precautions against other selfish people. But that doesn’t make you right; in fact, it does your argument no good at all. It’s a red herring.
As for responsibility: We are responsible for how we handle our circumstances — we take individual responsibility for what we make of our lives.
The second statement does not follow from the first. Being responsible for something is a matter of fact. Taking responsibility is an action, and your generalization does not cover the many people who do not take individual responsibility for what they make of their lives. The very existence of (a) hard determinists, (b) fatalists and (c) other people who blame their background for everything that "happens" to them (including actions that they haven’t taken yet) proves that your use of "we" is false.
We are not causally responsible for the circumstances in which we are born into[sic], or the constraints and opportunities that cannot be volitionally altered through our action.
If our decisions have traits and are constrained at all from the beginning, how can "we" be causally responsible for anything we do? Any original constraints quickly balloon into a huge number of paths that couldn’t be taken in life. What is the source of volition?
As for spirituality and falsifiability, I see spirituality as outside science because it cannot be reduced to falsifiable statements; ultimately it is belief and faith based on subjective experience.
If a spirit is outside the bounds of science, then it does not manifest itself in physical phenomena, which are what science measures, labels, and describes. Therefore it has no effect on human behavior.

If it did have an effect on human behavior, its existence and/or supposed properties would be falsifiable.

So, I suppose we can leave it out of further discussions of human behavior.
As for responsible for what we become, that means that we have to accept responsibility to deal with our circumstances and take care of the consequences. People should claim their lives and make with it what they can. They are not causally responsible for all the circumstances in their lives, but they have to take responsibility for their choices and attitudes.
Clearly, when you say "have to" here, you’re really saying "ought to" (just as when you say "should"). Those are normative statements. Earlier, you were making declarative statements:
Our nature makes us predisposed to living freely in small groups and clans.
Ultimately we are responsible for what we become, we can’t blame or credit some "nature."
Yes "have to" should be "ought to."
Okay, so... your normative statements did not clarify your earlier, declarative statements. So when you said, "that means," you were not really saying what that means. You were employing a red herring.
Obviously I could not claim that we are responsible for every circumstance and opportunity in our lives; I think I make it clear that we are responsible for making our life within the constraints we find ourselves within [sic].

I’m not at base a materialist, however, so I’m uncomfortable with stipulating that the evolutionary process is "all there is" in terms of describing what is human.
Oh, no, you’re at least moderately dualist, but you’ve already as much as admitted that whatever spirits do exist have no observable effect on human behavior here in the material world.

So explain how this works, in physical terms.
A human is conceived and subsequently born into circumstances beyond his control. His body has developed according to the interplay of genetics and the environment. You believe he has a spirit, but its effect on the material world is apparently unfalsifiable (and thus unobservable), being beyond the limits of science (suppose it’s fully transcendant). His body, including his brain and sensory organs, are built of the same atoms and molecules that make up everything else, and while they are complexly ordered, they seem to respond to the laws of physics.
Those are an awful lot of constraints. Where’s the freedom to make his own life?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Have you ever thought about how the universe looks to a photon?
No, because photons can’t see.
A photon experiences only velocity, it does experience distance or time; in a sense a photon is everywhere, all the time. How can that make sense? To me it is evidence that the material world is not what it appears (in fact, the more one reads about modern physics, the more clear that becomes).
Oh, a layman drawing conclusions from his uncertainty about physics. I sense an avalanche of bullsh*t coming...
Therefore I think the key to understanding reality, human-ness, and ultimately ethics and the meaning of life is to get beyond the material/falsifiable and think of the spiritual. If you don’t want to read Berger and Luckman, try the Dalai Lama’s "The Universe in a Single Atom."
... and there it is.

I won’t argue anything with you that’s not falsifiable. You can believe in spirits all you like and I won’t stop you. "Get beyond" the material world any way you like. The second you make assertions about human behavior, though, you’re going to have to prove what you say. If you can’t prove what you’re saying about reality, you’re useless to me. Tell me how to solve a complex problem and win a wager. Don’t blow smoke.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
You have now stated that if I "say anything humans do is human nature," then I’ve "made the concept utterly worthless."
Let’s say for a moment that I were to make such a claim. If I had a concept of human nature that described every behavior that humans exhibit in every possible circumstance, i.e., I fully circumscribed the behavior of humans in every circumstance of their existence, would I not in fact have a perfect definition of the nature of humans? That wouldn’t be worthless, but rather extraordinarily valuable: You could win bets with that kind of information. You could manipulate people. You would be a hero of social sciences.
Hari Seldon, watch out! (In case you haven’t read Asimov’s Foundation series, he was the founder of psychohistory, which is probably the closest imaginable analog to what you’re describing.
Meanwhile, if you make a claim that is so limited in its explanatory power of human behavior that a given behavior in a given circumstance neither violates nor fulfills it, how can that describe the nature of humans? It doesn’t. It doesn’t say anything at all—you can’t make predictions or even wagers with it, you can’t say anything useful about any human using it, nothing. It is utterly unsure of itself. That is worthless, and further, it’s not human nature at all: a statement about the observable nature of an observable thing is falsifiable.
If I understand you right, that is what I sensed you might be doing. I presume, given the post so far, I read you wrong.
Yet even that is not the claim you originally made. Your earlier invocation of human nature said that it "makes us predisposed" to certain behaviors in certain situations, which means that upon the fulfillment of a particular circumstance, it is at least likely that humans will exhibit those particular behaviors. That is a declarative statement about the observable nature of humans, that is, a statement about how humans qua humans behave in particular circumstances.
Yes, I believe here are some predispositions in human nature. I’m enough of a social scientist to recognize I can’t operationalize a definition of human nature to make this more than my own speculative ideas based on experience. But it does seem like humans can interact more easily in a voluntaristic mode when the population is small and relatively homogenous. Complexity, well, makes things complicated!
So when you say, "For instance, it may be in the nature of humans to be selfish, but that doesn’t mean it is human nature to murder people in order to get what you want," that is laying down smoke. If you just make the blanket statement that "it’s in the nature of humans to be selfish" without a qualifier, then you can’t explain all the times when humans do not behave in a selfish manner, and any time that happens, your claim about human nature is proven false. You clearly aren’t describing human nature, because your claim is general even though it only truly describes the behavior of particular humans in particular circumstances.
Actually, you can’t really disprove such a claim about human nature, unless you also claim that it is impossible for humans to act against their nature. Most psychologists would argue that basic traits in human nature can lead to various behaviors under different contexts — and perhaps with reflection humans can choose to put aside what nature might push them to do. BTW, there is an interesting article in this month’s Discover about claims that a moral code is hardwired in us, a kind of ’moral grammar’ that we internalize, but doesn’t necessarily correspond to anything we can map out with logic. An interesting article.
As for responsibility: We are responsible for how we handle our circumstances — we take individual responsibility for what we make of our lives.

The second statement does not follow from the first. Being responsible for something is a matter of fact. Taking responsibility is an action, and your generalization does not cover the many people who do not take individual responsibility for what they make of their lives. The very existence of (a) hard determinists, (b) fatalists and (c) other people who blame their background for everything that "happens" to them (including actions that they haven’t taken yet) proves that your use of "we" is false.
As I noted in an earlier post, this is a normative claim that people should take responsibility. I think we are responsible for how we handle circumstances; a person who blames the system or others for all his problems is responsible for having made that choice. A person who refuses to take control of how he guides his life is responsible for that refusal. There may be causal factors making one pre-disposed to not accepting reseponsibility (poor upbringing, traumatic experiences, etc). To me the first step to really having a fulfilling life is to come to take that responsibility.
If our decisions have traits and are constrained at all from the beginning, how can "we" be causally responsible for anything we do? Any original constraints quickly balloon into a huge number of paths that couldn’t be taken in life. What is the source of volition?
So argue the structuralists (and I had some pretty intense debates with structuralist and neo-Marxian thinkers in grad school over this very issue). I argue that constraints and opportunities are not deterministic, that there is a human spirit or will that is able to reflect and make autonomous choices. The neo-Marxist response was that this is just an illusion, that the only autonomy we get is through contradictions or alternatives in the discourse created by the structure of the system. I argued that imagination and reflection created an opening for human agency. (And in the greater picture of social science theory, this is where constructivism and social construction theory find their place).
If a spirit is outside the bounds of science, then it does not manifest itself in physical phenomena, which are what science measures, labels, and describes. Therefore it has no effect on human behavior.
I think you make a fundamental mistake there: you think that outside science means "does not manifest itself in physical phenomena." What’s outside science is anything that can’t be falsified, such as subjective experience. Thus these are claims about causal factors in physical reality that can’t be measured but may in fact have a major impact on physical phenomena. If it is outside science we can not determine whether or not it has an effect on human behavior.

Oh, no, you’re at least moderately dualist, but you’ve already as much as admitted that whatever spirits do exist have no observable effect on human behavior here in the material world.
Here you do something important — you add the word "observable." I suspect the material is symbolic of a deeper spiritual aspect of reality. If that is true, it does have an effect on human behavior. What we can’t do is determine if this is true or not. You can no more assume it has an effect on behavior than assume has no effect.
So explain how this works, in physical terms.
A human is conceived and subsequently born into circumstances beyond his control. His body has developed according to the interplay of genetics and the environment. You believe he has a spirit, but its effect on the material world is apparently unfalsifiable (and thus unobservable), being beyond the limits of science (suppose it’s fully transcendant). His body, including his brain and sensory organs, are built of the same atoms and molecules that make up everything else, and while they are complexly ordered, they seem to respond to the laws of physics.
Those are an awful lot of constraints. Where’s the freedom to make his own life?

Well, mechanistic behavior of atoms and molecules has been demolished by quantum mechanics. The clockwork universe of Newton is no more, we have a probablistic universe, where the laws of physics would not give you certain predictive power if you had all information possible (which it was assumed to be able to do in Newtonian terms). So in that sense, I’d point to the paradoxes and bizarreness of quantum physics as evidence that a mechanistic materialist understanding of reality is incomplete. In quantum physics anything that can happen does, at some level of probability. Yet we actualize only one of those probabilities, and it appears concrete only as we experience it. Perhaps that is a scientific glimpse at the power of choice. (The best book I’ve recommended so far, a good primer on modern physics: Brian Greene, "The Fabric of the Cosmos" — a thorough explanation of the problems and developments of modern physics).

I won’t argue anything with you that’s not falsifiable. You can believe in spirits all you like and I won’t stop you. "Get beyond" the material world any way you like. The second you make assertions about human behavior, though, you’re going to have to prove what you say. If you can’t prove what you’re saying about reality, you’re useless to me. Tell me how to solve a complex problem and win a wager. Don’t blow smoke.
You certainly can’t prove what you’re saying about reality. As a social scientist, I have not seen any theory prove their claims; quite the opposite, we have a plethora of theories that can’t be proven superior. In any event, if you want to limit your life speculation to those things falsifiable, then that’s your choice. But I personally think it’s a very limiting choice; if a material world was all that is, then how the heck could it come into existence? If a big bang created space-time (which the photon experiences all at once), what caused the big bang?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Yet even that is not the claim you originally made. Your earlier invocation of human nature said that it "makes us predisposed" to certain behaviors in certain situations, which means that upon the fulfillment of a particular circumstance, it is at least likely that humans will exhibit those particular behaviors. That is a declarative statement about the observable nature of humans, that is, a statement about how humans qua humans behave in particular circumstances.
Yes, I believe here are some predispositions in human nature. I’m enough of a social scientist to recognize I can’t operationalize a definition of human nature to make this more than my own speculative ideas based on experience. But it does seem like humans can interact more easily in a voluntaristic mode when the population is small and relatively homogenous. Complexity, well, makes things complicated!
If all you can do is speculate, make sure you tell everyone that you’re just speculating instead of making an authoritative declaration about what humans are.
So when you say, "For instance, it may be in the nature of humans to be selfish, but that doesn’t mean it is human nature to murder people in order to get what you want," that is laying down smoke. If you just make the blanket statement that "it’s in the nature of humans to be selfish" without a qualifier, then you can’t explain all the times when humans do not behave in a selfish manner, and any time that happens, your claim about human nature is proven false. You clearly aren’t describing human nature, because your claim is general even though it only truly describes the behavior of particular humans in particular circumstances.
Actually, you can’t really disprove such a claim about human nature, unless you also claim that it is impossible for humans to act against their nature.
You believe it’s possible for anything to act against its nature?
How, Scott? That’s utter doublethink.

You are effectively saying this:
"Well, the nature of this thing is, it will act in this manner when placed in this circumstance. Unless it doesn’t."
And that is completely useless. How can you call yourself a scientist? You don’t practice or believe in science! How would a chemist get by, saying things like that? "Well, the nature of pure water is, it freezes at 1 atmosphere of pressure and zero degrees Celsius. Unless, of course, it doesn’t. But that’s all right, no need to get more specific about circumstances or build a better model for that behavior: sometimes things just act against their nature. Consult the spirits."
You don’t even bother to give us a probability. Not even a confidence interval. So what benefit does anyone derive from listening to you?
Most psychologists would argue that basic traits in human nature can lead to various behaviors under different contexts — and perhaps with reflection humans can choose to put aside what nature might push them to do.
Prove it. Prove that psychologists believe it, and prove that it’s true. Because last I checked, the forces of "nature" were pretty pushy.
As for responsibility: We are responsible for how we handle our circumstances — we take individual responsibility for what we make of our lives.
The second statement does not follow from the first. Being responsible for something is a matter of fact. Taking responsibility is an action, and your generalization does not cover the many people who do not take individual responsibility for what they make of their lives. The very existence of (a) hard determinists, (b) fatalists and (c) other people who blame their background for everything that "happens" to them (including actions that they haven’t taken yet) proves that your use of "we" is false.
As I noted in an earlier post, this is a normative claim that people should take responsibility.
Then you still haven’t backed up your earlier declarative statements. When are you going to get around to that?
I think we are responsible for how we handle circumstances; a person who blames the system or others for all his problems is responsible for having made that choice. A person who refuses to take control of how he guides his life is responsible for that refusal. There may be causal factors making one pre-disposed to not accepting reseponsibility (poor upbringing, traumatic experiences, etc). To me the first step to really having a fulfilling life is to come to take that responsibility.
Scott, you’ve just said that something may cause a person not to "accept responsibility." As in, you believe he is responsible for something you believe he is not responsible for.

Doublethink. There is no better word for it. You hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time; you place them right next to each other on the page.
If our decisions have traits and are constrained at all from the beginning, how can "we" be causally responsible for anything we do? Any original constraints quickly balloon into a huge number of paths that couldn’t be taken in life. What is the source of volition?
[...] I argue that constraints and opportunities are not deterministic, that there is a human spirit or will that is able to reflect and make autonomous choices. [...] I argued that imagination and reflection created an opening for human agency. (And in the greater picture of social science theory, this is where constructivism and social construction theory find their place).
Does this "agency" exist outside of physical laws and time? Or is it constrained, too?
If a spirit is outside the bounds of science, then it does not manifest itself in physical phenomena, which are what science measures, labels, and describes. Therefore it has no effect on human behavior.
I think you make a fundamental mistake there: you think that outside science means "does not manifest itself in physical phenomena." What’s outside science is anything that can’t be falsified, such as subjective experience.
You’re saying that the effects of subjective experience are not observable. I beg to differ. We can and do study response to stimuli. We even study brain activity with ever-growing resolution. We can alter subjective experience (heck, we’ve been doing that for a long time, but we’re starting to do it much more reliably) and we can reliably alter choices. We know these things for a fact. In fact, science rests on at least a tacit base of determinism, and most human activity rests on the often unarticulated belief that we can alter other people’s choices—and we’re getting better at it all the time. See advertising and marketing, neuroeconomics and neuropsychology, pharmaceutical and other kinds of behavior modification. Tacit belief in hard determinism has been on the march for some time now, and has seen enough successes that people keep doing it and refining it into a more and more exact science.
Thus these are claims about causal factors in physical reality that can’t be measured but may in fact have a major impact on physical phenomena.
If it has a major impact on physical reality, enough for you to observe, then it is within the bounds of science.
If it is outside science we can not determine whether or not it has an effect on human behavior.
You talk about "it" as if you’re sure it does. But you can’t prove it. You won’t subject it to even the possibility of falsification.
Oh, no, you’re at least moderately dualist, but you’ve already as much as admitted that whatever spirits do exist have no observable effect on human behavior here in the material world.
Here you do something important — you add the word "observable."
We’ve been talking about observable events since the beginning, Scott. Unless, that is, you don’t think that the "living freely in small groups and clans" is observable.

If there’s no observable effect, then there’s nothing to argue. You can believe in your spirits all you like, but if they are unobservable and their effect in unobservable, then I don’t care. I can’t win a wager with that. But other scientists seem to keep on telling me useful things. They tell me how things actually behave, and if something goes contrary to their expectations, they don’t tell me to consult the spirits. They go out and build a better model.
I suspect the material is symbolic of a deeper spiritual aspect of reality. If that is true, it does have an effect on human behavior.
Your suspicion is useless. Give me numbers, give me facts, make a predicition. Do not state your suspicions as if they are facts.
What we can’t do is determine if this is true or not. You can no more assume it has an effect on behavior than assume has no effect.
Yes, I can do the latter much more readily than the former. I can catalog all the other forces acting on something, and then see how much room there still is for your spirits.
Y’know what? There’s less and less room all the time.
Well, mechanistic behavior of atoms and molecules has been demolished by quantum mechanics.
I didn’t say hard determinism had to be mechanistic; in fact, quantum mechanics may accommodate hard determinism even better than mechanistic determinism did. But hey, you’re the layman who thinks that quantum mechanics somehow suggests that materialism is unworkable.
Perhaps that is a scientific glimpse at the power of choice.
To prove something like a spirit or free will, you can’t just say there are dice. You must prove that the dice are loaded by *us*.
I won’t argue anything with you that’s not falsifiable. You can believe in spirits all you like and I won’t stop you. "Get beyond" the material world any way you like. The second you make assertions about human behavior, though, you’re going to have to prove what you say. If you can’t prove what you’re saying about reality, you’re useless to me. Tell me how to solve a complex problem and win a wager. Don’t blow smoke.
You certainly can’t prove what you’re saying about reality.
You haven’t figured out what I’m saying about reality, and my view of reality is always open to modification—I don’t fall back on explaining things with spirits that I can’t prove are there. If someone can explain something I can observe better than my previous model did, I take him or her seriously. If someone talks about something that he can’t observe but is nevertheless sure is there, I tell him to come back when he’s got a shred of evidence to stand on.
As a social scientist, I have not seen any theory prove their claims; quite the opposite, we have a plethora of theories that can’t be proven superior.
Whose claims? About what?
In any event, if you want to limit your life speculation to those things falsifiable, then that’s your choice. But I personally think it’s a very limiting choice
Well, your personal speculation isn’t valuable to anyone. They can’t do anything with it. I’m limiting myself to claims about how the world will behave when things happen; I only care about observable events. If you come in here stating things that can’t be proven or disproven, things that can’t be put to any test, and state them authoritatively, you’re going to be called on it.
if a material world was all that is, then how the heck could it come into existence? If a big bang created space-time (which the photon experiences all at once), what caused the big bang?
See if your spirits can give you an answer. Then make a prediction based on that information and what it implies about the universe today.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
That last suggestion, by the way, is serious. Don’t take it (or any other part of my post) as simple mockery. I want to see you stand on a prediction.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
A couple points before getting into your post:
1. Limiting yourself to just falsifiable claims is more than even most scientists would do. Theoretical physics and nearly all of social science deals with claims which we are yet unable to falsify (which is why in social sciences we use statistics a lot – one case does not falsify a probabilistic hypothesis).
2. I’ve come to the conclusion that reason and material evidence alone is insufficient in understanding reality and morality, and believe sentiment and reflection is important. This moves me away from purely linear and material thinking. If that is something you reject (which seems to be the case), my ideas will appear to you mushy and vague; yours will appear to me as self-limiting and resting on unfalsifiable assumptions about reality. I understand your approach, having studied a bit of philosophy of science, but ultimately if you reject mine, we’ll almost be speaking different languages.

By the way, you say "my spirits" as if I’m talking about entities outside of myself or the material world. I’m rather an pantheist, I think all is spirit and all is at base unified (a kind of neo-Platonist view, close to the philosopher Plotinus, whose ideas were adopted by Augustine in early Christianity, though altered away from the kind of pure spirituality of Plotinus). My epistemological view that augments this is an absolute idealism, such as that espoused by Bishop Berkeley.

Now, into your post:
You believe it’s possible for anything to act against its nature?
Yes - I think free will gives us that capacity. Suicide, for instance.
Scott, you’ve just said that something may cause a person not to "accept responsibility." As in, you believe he is responsible for something you believe he is not responsible for.
Of course — but free will gives a person the power to overcome that. Again, I’m asserting a belief in volition (and no, I can’t prove it — I don’t think such a thing is provable).
You’re saying that the effects of subjective experience are not observable. I beg to differ. We can and do study response to stimuli. We even study brain activity with ever-growing resolution. We can alter subjective experience (heck, we’ve been doing that for a long time, but we’re starting to do it much more reliably) and we can reliably alter choices. We know these things for a fact. In fact, science rests on at least a tacit base of determinism, and most human activity rests on the often unarticulated belief that we can alter other people’s choices—and we’re getting better at it all the time. See advertising and marketing, neuroeconomics and neuropsychology, pharmaceutical and other kinds of behavior modification. Tacit belief in hard determinism has been on the march for some time now, and has seen enough successes that people keep doing it and refining it into a more and more exact science.
If you study quantum mechanics you realize that determinism simply is inaccurate. Again, I point you to Greene’s book, that Newtonian deterministic world is dead. I’ve followed brain research and other efforts, but that doesn’t mean a person doesn’t have free will or volition — indeed, there is more unknown than known. Ultimately it’s a matter of what you choose to believe, it can’t be proven either way.

It is true that if there is a spiritual side to reality it’s likely outside science (certainly at this point in time) and thus one cannot prove or disprove its impact and effect. There are subjective experiences of spirituality (for which materialist psychology can offer possible explanations), and there is subjective reflection which can lead me to conclusions that I cannot prove to you. That’s fine, I’m not trying to ridicule or change your beliefs. But I’m certainly free to develop my beliefs, especially if it’s something we can neither prove nor disprove.
Well, your personal speculation isn’t valuable to anyone. They can’t do anything with it.
My approach works for me in my life, in ways that sometimes amaze me, I find life beautiful and magical. And other people’s personal speculations have been valuable to me. I think you’re positing yourself as "anyone" there — you have a world view that shuts you off from that kind of approach. I find that limiting and ultimately self-defeating, but you find the only reasonable approach. Vive la differance!

My "usual prediction" is basically personal: people who live life in a way that is open to seeing reality as beyond just the material we encounter will have a happier life, and things will work out better for them. It’s sort of like the story of when a potential student of the Buddha asked him whether the universe was infinite or finite, how reality works, etc. He replied (paraphrasing) "You are like the man who had a poison arrow stuck in his side and he refused treatment until they found out who shot the arrow, what the poison was, etc. Those are irrelevant, I’m offering you something to free yourself." I’m not a Buddhist, but I do think that the real challenge of life is not reflected in just navigating the transcient problems that arise in the material world — after all, our material lives are short, fleeting, and ultimately will be forgotten.

 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris Erb writes:
My approach works for me in my life, in ways that sometimes amaze me, I find life beautiful and magical.
So, being a socialist and hating the United States works for you. But it’s how you lie about it that gives you that special aura as a fraud.
Again, I point you to Greene’s book, that Newtonian deterministic world is dead.
Anytime you want to test that gardenia-sniffing weak-wristed assertion, Boris, I’m sure there’s a sixth-story window available for your convenience.

As the crowd gathers in the aftermath, they can say, "Oh, look, Boris’s quantum state has changed, definitively."
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Erb
"If there was one particular culture that was ’natural’ rather than an artificial human construct (which may or may not be conducive to the requisites of human nature), then there would not be variety. A classic is Berger and Luckman’s 1967 Social Construction of Reality. And this isn’t just my personal philosophy, it’s actually a dominant view in much of social science."
Allow me:

"It is from Marx that the sociology of knowledge derived its root proposition — that man’s consciousness is determined by his social being."

(Berger & Luckmann, pp. 5-6, emphasis added)

Let that sink in for a moment. Consult my remark on "metaphysical/ontological unity", above. Bryan: you are dealing with a positive assertion on the nature of humanity. I think you know this, of course, but what I want to emphasize here is that this whole assertion has necessary political implications. Once that fact is understood, then Erb’s political character comes into focus as true (that is; integral: true to itself) whenever his politics is collectivist, and false (without integrity: arbitrary) any time he makes the least noise in favor of individualism.

Another quick point. Reprise Erb, above:
"If there was one particular culture that was ’natural’ rather than an artificial human construct (which may or may not be conducive to the requisites of human nature), then there would not be variety."
This is essentially an epistemic point, albeit with crucial ethical and political implications. The central point to be made here is that it simply does not account for error (misapprehension or flat ignorance of facts) or mendacity. It all turns on the fact that human consciousness is not automatic or infallible. Beyond that:

*** One crucial ethical implication is widely manifest in the mania over "tolerance", today. If the metaphysics of all this are true, then (again) there simply is no serious way to reject the concrete manifestations of collectivist politics on moral grounds. (This is the whole point of my Anne Frank example.)

*** Politically: if the implications of this metaphysics are run out with integrity, then it necessarily means that no individual can be permitted to live without submission to others’ errors or mendacity whenever they are prevalent in any example culture.

Think about that.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
"Anytime you want to test that gardenia-sniffing weak-wristed assertion, Boris, I’m sure there’s a sixth-story window available for your convenience.

As the crowd gathers in the aftermath, they can say, ’Oh, look, Boris’s quantum state has changed, definitively.’"
(emphatic nod) This is where I always invite the bloody twit at hand to pile into the back seat of the Citabria for takeoff and climb-out to cruise, at which point I would be happy to point the nose at the ground at full throttle, just to hear what comes next over the intercom.

It’s pretty drastic, though, and any person with a spoonful of sense would understand Samuel Johnson more than two hundred years ago:

"After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it — ’I refute it thus.’"

(Boswell, "Life of Johnson")
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Boris Erb writes:
I’m rather an pantheist, I think all is spirit and all is at base unified (a kind of neo-Platonist view, close to the philosopher Plotinus, whose ideas were adopted by Augustine in early Christianity, though altered away from the kind of pure spirituality of Plotinus). My epistemological view that augments this is an absolute idealism, such as that espoused by Bishop Berkeley.
All that, and the depth of a Roosevelt dime, too!

No re-inventing the wheel for Erb. He’s taken on the onerous burden of re-inventing the college sophomore. "The lemondade stand Ward Churchill."

The fluttering skepticism of the gardenia-sniffing weak-wristed tenured faculty boob. Bishop Berkeley, indeed.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
I’m not sure how much more time I’m going to spend on this. Scott, I think you’ve avoided discussion of a number of things that are inconvenient to bring back up. I’d love it if you could actually explain these things away as if you were being consistent all along, but it’s awfully suspicious that you don’t really respond to contradictions in your declarative statements. What am I supposed to think of debating with a person who turns around after being called out on the statement "we take individual responsibility for what we make of our lives" and has the gall to call that a normative claim? Really, Scott: can you admit it when you’re wrong on such a simple point?
1. Limiting yourself to just falsifiable claims is more than even most scientists would do. Theoretical physics and nearly all of social science deals with claims which we are yet unable to falsify (which is why in social sciences we use statistics a lot – one case does not falsify a probabilistic hypothesis).
Theoretical physics has implications for future experiments, and those who develop theories on physics do so to fill in gaps in the current models’ explanatory power of existing evidence. These experiments could be far, far off into the future, decades or longer, when technology has become more powerful.
But if you take leaps of faith based on those theories, you do so at your own risk and that is understood. And importantly, they stand on what they say; if something doesn’t go the way their theory says it should, they go back to the drawing board. They don’t just chalk it up to the complex nature of physics.

A social scientist who doesn’t even provide a falsifiable claim is not a scientist. If you give me nothing but ruminations when discussing how various actors made decisions, then that’s worthless. Why would I pay (time or wealth) for something that doesn’t have any explanatory power?
I could respect the use of statistics, but Scott, you didn’t use statistics. Not at all. You said something that might be plausible, and then provided absolutely nothing to back it up. I saw references to "human nature" and got a little bothered about it, and asked you some straightforward questions. After a series of responses and follow-up questions, I see you’re falling back on questionable metaphysics and spiritualism, not statistics or economics or even general history.
If I had a social science professor who tried to teach me to think that way, I’d resent him for being a complete waste of my $3000-plus in tuition, and I’d eviscerate him on his end-of-semester evaluation. If it got bad enough, I’d report him to the dean.
I want to be able to solve real problems; I want to be able to get reliable data, I want to be able to do analysis, synthesis, evaluation, application, and start all over again. I don’t want someone to try to teach me what to think and I especially don’t appreciate it when people try to authoritatively state things that can’t be backed up with something objective. If somebody tells me I’m wrong or throws evidence at me that doesn’t fit my current impressions, I question my impression. I don’t think, "Well, the nature of my opinion is that this evidence might neither violate nor support it."

Now Scott, anybody watching my debates with you thus far on QandO will say I’ve given you a fair chance. I didn’t let anyone pour poison in my ear; I tried to have a real debate with you, the same as I’d have with anyone. But you must stand for something objective; you can’t just evade every question of the contradictions in what you’ve said, and when you have a claim that you can’t back up with evidence other people can see, you must admit as much, or else people will just assume that everything you say has only speculation about metaphysics and spirituality behind it. They will also assume that you’re lying.
2. I’ve come to the conclusion that reason and material evidence alone is insufficient in understanding reality and morality, and believe sentiment and reflection is important.
Next time you present a conclusion resting only on your sentiment and reflection, make sure to tell the people you’re talking to, because if I had a job where I filled in the gaps of the company’s reality with assertions based on my feelings, I’d be fired just as soon as reason and material evidence caught up with me.
This moves me away from purely linear and material thinking. If that is something you reject (which seems to be the case), my ideas will appear to you mushy and vague;
They’re not just vague, Scott. You have contradicted yourself and failed to account for the rather apparent contradiction.
And why should it come as a surprise to you that I wouldn’t accept your sentiment and reflection when coming to a decision about the observable world around me? Why in the world would I rely on your sentiment? As soon as your airy sentiment beaches on the rocks of reality, I’ll have what to fall back on? From what account do I draw when someone expecting results comes to me?
yours will appear to me as self-limiting and resting on unfalsifiable assumptions about reality.
Yes, and then no. First, yes, I do limit myself to objective reality. If I was looking to comfort myself with visions of things that other people can’t see, I’d load myself up on hallucinogens and get busy pretending that it meant something more than electrochemical interference.

As to the second part, be specific. What about the things I’ve said about reality is unfalsifiable?
I understand your approach, having studied a bit of philosophy of science, but ultimately if you reject mine, we’ll almost be speaking different languages.
If you bring in pseudoskepticism and airy sentiment, you aren’t just speaking a different language. There’s no Rosetta Stone for what you’re talking about. So that’s a bad analogy.
Communicate things that other people can observe, or you will be all noise and no signal. Capiche?
You believe it’s possible for anything to act against its nature?
Yes - I think free will gives us that capacity. Suicide, for instance.
Do you consider free will to be part of human nature, or don’t you? And wouldn’t any conception of "human nature" that excluded something that many humans do be automatically invalid? Look: if I were trying to explain human behavior by discussing what it’s in their nature to do, I wouldn’t discount an act that was the eighth leading cause of death for men. And women attempt suicide what, three times as often as men do?
I think we are responsible for how we handle circumstances; a person who blames the system or others for all his problems is responsible for having made that choice. A person who refuses to take control of how he guides his life is responsible for that refusal. There may be causal factors making one pre-disposed to not accepting reseponsibility (poor upbringing, traumatic experiences, etc). To me the first step to really having a fulfilling life is to come to take that responsibility.
Scott, you’ve just said that something may cause a person not to "accept responsibility." As in, you believe he is responsible for something you believe he is not responsible for.
Of course — but free will gives a person the power to overcome that. Again, I’m asserting a belief in volition (and no, I can’t prove it — I don’t think such a thing is provable).
No. It’s not just that you can’t prove it, it’s that you said something with explicit internal contradictions. You said that a person can be caused to do something in the same paragraph where you said that a person is ultimately responsible for his life. There is no "overcoming" or defying cause. A cause brings about an effect.

And if you can’t prove it, don’t assert it. It’s simple. Stick to what you can prove when debating with someone else.
If you study quantum mechanics you realize that determinism simply is inaccurate. Again, I point you to Greene’s book, that Newtonian deterministic world is dead.
Did you ignore what I said? You must have, because you quoted me and still responded as if I had not said what I said.

Just for the most basic of starters, here’s a Wikipedia link for ya:
Determinism, quantum mechanics and classical physics

Determinists aren’t daunted by dice. There is still such a thing as cause and effect, but if a number of scientists are right, it’s probabilistic rather than mechanical. That does not mean it is unbounded.

Knowledge about objective reality is still not only possible, but growing. We can still make accurate predictions about the world. If you jump out of a sixth-floor window or take a nose-dive in a plane, as your more outspoken critics have suggested, you’re still going to have an unpleasant reconciliation with Newton. You mentioned statistics earlier; give me a ballpark figure for how likely it is that quantum uncertainty will save you.
I’ve followed brain research and other efforts, but that doesn’t mean a person doesn’t have free will or volition — indeed, there is more unknown than known. Ultimately it’s a matter of what you choose to believe, it can’t be proven either way.
... except that the more we learn about the brain and intelligence, (a) the less room there always seems to be for your spirits and (b) the more we’re able to model things and reliably predict the reaction of the brain and nervous system to particular stimuli like targeted chemicals and electrical signals. My position is being proven steadily, incrementally. Your position is retreating into an ever-smaller reservoir of hand-waving and faith.
It is true that if there is a spiritual side to reality it’s likely outside science (certainly at this point in time) and thus one cannot prove or disprove its impact and effect. There are subjective experiences of spirituality (for which materialist psychology can offer possible explanations), and there is subjective reflection which can lead me to conclusions that I cannot prove to you. That’s fine, I’m not trying to ridicule or change your beliefs. But I’m certainly free to develop my beliefs, especially if it’s something we can neither prove nor disprove.
You certainly are free (in the sense that nobody’s knocking down your door and imprisoning you) to develop your own beliefs, but if you present them as facts or as backup for things you present as facts, you’re going to be called on it.

I do try to avoid mockery, Scott. But I’m having trouble describing your positions with anything but words with heavily negative connotations. Stick to what you can prove (or at least provide evidence and reason) when you’re debating. If somebody can’t prove what they’re saying, ask them to do the same. But don’t think that just because you’re creative enough to come up with an unfalsifiable statement, that anyone has to respect that in any way in a forum for debate.
Well, your personal speculation isn’t valuable to anyone. They can’t do anything with it.
My approach works for me in my life, in ways that sometimes amaze me, I find life beautiful and magical. And other people’s personal speculations have been valuable to me.
... except that you’ve never solved a real problem with them. You’ve only managed to comfort yourself psychologically. If anyone tried to win a wager or solve a problem with your sentiment and reflection, they’d end up hungry and poor. Doesn’t that bother you?
I think you’re positing yourself as "anyone" there — you have a world view that shuts you off from that kind of approach. I find that limiting and ultimately self-defeating, but you find the only reasonable approach. Vive la differance!
When I limit my inquiry to that which is observable, it allows me to recognize what changes in my (observable) behavior can be made, and what the (observable) consequences of that will be. And when you say something is self-defeating, you better explain yourself: what does that even mean?
My "usual prediction" is basically personal: people who live life in a way that is open to seeing reality as beyond just the material we encounter will have a happier life, and things will work out better for them.
I asked you to form a prediction based on your beliefs regarding the material universe and the Big Bang, something that you could stand on. What you came up with instead is sufficiently vague that you will never have to defend it, and I don’t see how that could be an accident.
It’s sort of like the story of when a potential student of the Buddha asked him whether the universe was infinite or finite, how reality works, etc. He replied (paraphrasing) "You are like the man who had a poison arrow stuck in his side and he refused treatment until they found out who shot the arrow, what the poison was, etc. Those are irrelevant, I’m offering you something to free yourself." I’m not a Buddhist, but I do think that the real challenge of life is not reflected in just navigating the transcient [sic] problems that arise in the material world — after all, our material lives are short, fleeting, and ultimately will be forgotten.
Scott, I’m going to ask you a serious question: Do you care if you live or die?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
He’s talking about a hive.
Billy;

It amazes me that Erb dares to drag out the specter of ’culture’. Forgive me, but it seems to me that brought this up with him previously a number of years ago, wherein I mentioned that government was the product of and the servant of culture, ideally, and not the reverse. His entire conversation therefore strikes me as laughable, given that Scott is so prone to leaning more heavily on government than on culture. Indeed, he seems quite willing to use the power of government, to overcome the power of culture.

Argue with me about this if you will, particularly about the "hive" mentality inherent in most people’s concept of "culture", (We’ve discussed this before as I’m sure you’ll recall) but it strikes me that Erb leans out very heavily on something he clearly doesn’t understand... particularly the relationships between man and culture and government. Indeed, he has a history of promoting government to overcome culture... which is exactly against, I think, what the original purpose of government was and is... to SUPPORT the culture.

The point I’m making here, perhaps less than fully effectively, is that even inside the context that he insists on arguing all this in, he still cannot make all the connections properly. He’s out of his depth.

For all of his reading, and his high sounding words, the bottom line is he still doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s clearly demonstrated that to me in this thread.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Billy wants to suggest that Berger and Luckman are Marxist because they note that sociology to that point built on one of Marx’s ideas. What Billy doesn’t tell you is that Berger and Luckman’s book challenged how that was done and developed a new kind of analysis. And any philosopher would say that the claim that you can refute Berkeley by kicking a rock is totally absurd — in fact any discussion of Berkeley includes that "refutation" and shows why it doesn’t work, namely the sensation of kicking a rock and observing it — or jumping off a cliff and falling to a horrid injury or death — still can be seen within Berkeley as an experience of the mind. If Billy thinks that is a serious refutation, his knowledge of the material is not very deep. Now to Bryan:
What am I supposed to think of debating with a person who turns around after being called out on the statement "we take individual responsibility for what we make of our lives" and has the gall to call that a normative claim?
What do you mean "gall?" It is a normative claim that I’m making. If I worded it wrong, I apologize. I thought in the context it was clear I meant it as an ought statement, but after you questioned it, I clarified my meaning. If you can’t accept that, then there’s not much I can say.

As for your discussion of theoretical physics and social science, I daresay you do not have a full grasp the philosophy behind social science, especially if you adhere to a strict positivist notion of falsifiability. Obviously issues of spirituality and the like fall outside of social science — just as any scientist can have religious beliefs and yet not bring them into their classroom, so can I. If we’re talking about human nature in class, we compare different beliefs about human nature and see what that means for theory, and how people can interpret different phenomena into their theory (which is why social science so far rarely deals with truly falsifiable hypotheses). I’m talking from the heart about what I believe and why, in an honest and straightforward manner, even if my wording sometimes leads to misunderstandings. And spare me efforts to insult my abilities as a social scientist — I’ve proven myself both in my profession and at my work, and I daresay you’re hardly qualified to second guess those who have analyzed and published my work (and I could list my teaching awards too — the latest just two weeks ago).

Yet what do you mean "stand for something objective?" In terms of philosophy of science I’m a pragmatist. You seem to be a positivist, there are also relativists, realists (Marx was a realist) and other less popular approaches. In terms of ethics, I believe human ethics do not come from reason or ideology. I’m anti-ideology, the attempt to find some elusive "first principle" or reasoned basis for ethics has failed, no one can do it. I think we are in a sense hard wired for a sense of ethics (though obviously with a lot of leeway), and that comes not from thinking through things and finding principles, but from sentiment and our reactions (hence the cite yesterday to the Discover article, suggesting scientific evidence of such a thing — both the sense of ethics, and the leeway).

I’m trying to figure out where you think I’ve contradicted myself. Let me try an analogy, you don’t seem to get my explanations. If I’m a batter, I’m responsible for how I handle an at bat. I’m responsible for guessing the pitches, adapting to the count, and concentrating. Now, I may face a really good or a really bad pitcher. I may have a horrid hangover and be unable to concentrate. I may be pre-occupied with my last at bat, or I may be on a hot streak. All of that affects the probability that I’ll get a hit. BUT I’m still responsible for how I handle the circumstances of that at bat, even if other factors are affecting my ability to handle it as well as I should, regardless of the end result.

And I don’t know how to make hide nor hair of the rest of your post. I don’t feel like I’m "debating," I’m honestly stating my view on things, and why. I’m not trying to prove points, and I’m convinced that many of these issues defy proof. I don’t mind if you decide they’re not worth reading; some people find such things interesting, others don’t. Nobody has been able to prove an ethical system correct (especially not through falsifiability). Yet you demand that — does that mean one can’t talk about ethics unless they find a way to overcome that barrier? I don’t know what you want me to try to prove, or what point you’re debating. Is it human nature? I can’t give my view on human nature (and in social science no one has come up with a falsifiable notion of human nature yet) without going into things that can’t be proven. So I really do not know what it is you are asking or want from me. I’m sorry.

But I’m not a materialist and we see the world differently — perhaps that’s the problem, we have very different world views. Do I "care if I live or die?" Sure, I want to live. But I know I’ll die someday, and my existence is but a small fragment of space-time. So I focus in my life on things I think transcend the average material concerns of the day — I try to do good to others, be kind, be honest, and have perspective. My December 1 and 5, 2005 gives a sense of how I try to live life. Maybe we just have very different approaches — and that’s OK.

Does that yet show you what I mean?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
What am I supposed to think of debating with a person who turns around after being called out on the statement "we take individual responsibility for what we make of our lives" and has the gall to call that a normative claim?
What do you mean "gall?" It is a normative claim that I’m making. If I worded it wrong, I apologize. I thought in the context it was clear I meant it as an ought statement, but after you questioned it, I clarified my meaning. If you can’t accept that, then there’s not much I can say.
If you meant it as a normative claim, i.e., "we should take individual responsibility for what we make of our lives," I would understand. But without that "should" or some variation, it’s a declarative statement. It means something else entirely. That’s why I used the word "gall" — you didn’t explain how "we take" was either normative or how it reconciled your earlier statements. That struck me as either rude or dishonest.
And since you made that (apparently) normative claim in response to my question about two declarative statements you had made, I was still left wondering how you reconcile them.

If that’s something you can correct by changing your wording—making sure to indicate what is a normative claim and what is a statement of fact—then please do so. I am not a mind-reader. I respond to what you write, not what you think. Can you see how what you wrote could easily lead a person to believe you were making a declarative statement?
As for your discussion of theoretical physics and social science, I daresay you do not have a full grasp the philosophy behind social science, especially if you adhere to a strict positivist notion of falsifiability.
I don’t think there’s one philosophy behind social science, but I do rather a lot of reading on social sciences. A theory either has explanatory power or it does not. If you state that something behaves a particular way, and it doesn’t explain the behavior, you either modify the model or you admit that the model doesn’t explain the behavior.

For example, if someone claimed that the behavior of all states can be broken down into the monetary constraints and incentives acting on policymakers (legislators, bureaucrats, etc.), and then a state behaves in a way that indicates that at least some actors are behaving against any detectable monetary interests on their part (or no correlation can be found), then you start looking for other explanations. Maybe you turn to the effects of ideology. Maybe you turn to the psychology of individual elites or small groups. Maybe you turn to the non-monetary incentive structures acting on those policymakers. Either way, you make a falsifiable statement and if it doesn’t explain behavior, you keep looking. That’s science.

If you don’t bother to make falsifiable claims, how can anyone know whether your claims are worth listening to? We do want to use theory to explain things that we observe, or what good is it?

Now, collection of data is never perfect. Things have costs, and performing experiments is complicated or even prohibitively difficult in some cases. But if you can’t even make an approximation, if you can’t use statistics or otherwise show the predictive power of a theory, what use is it?

If a given philosophy of social science doesn’t deal with the usefulness of a theory, then it’s not science. If you’re a pragmatist, you surely must be able to appreciate that.
Obviously issues of spirituality and the like fall outside of social science — just as any scientist can have religious beliefs and yet not bring them into their classroom, so can I.
Please do so. If you’re going to back up your particular view of human nature with unfalsifiable notions, make sure you say so—or stay quiet about it, knowing that you can’t prove what you say.
If we’re talking about human nature in class, we compare different beliefs about human nature and see what that means for theory, and how people can interpret different phenomena into their theory (which is why social science so far rarely deals with truly falsifiable hypotheses).
What? That’s using neither induction nor deduction, but selectively picking data that conforms to a belief. If someone has a belief about something called "human nature," or the way humans behave in particular circumstances, then it’s a short step from the tentative/conjectural to developing theories based on those ideas. If they can’t come up with a falsifiable hypothesis based on that, then they’re not describing human behavior/nature at all.

They may not be able to come up with a perfect model the first time, but that’s what science does so well: self-correction through a process of accountability. Either your idea holds up under scrutiny, or it fails to account for some behavior. If somebody else’s model accounts for behavior better than yours, you take them seriously even if it steps all over your neat-sounding theory.

If nobody can account for any behavior better than anyone else, it’s not a science.
I’m talking from the heart about what I believe and why, in an honest and straightforward manner, even if my wording sometimes leads to misunderstandings.
Communication is important, Scott. If other people can’t see what you see, I can think of three possibilities off the top of my head: (a) only you can see it, (b) you’re not articulating it well enough, or (c) they are truly blind. Don’t blame me for either of the first two: either say something you can prove, or hold your peace until you figure out how. And if you accuse me of the third, well, make sure you’re correct first. Forewarned is forearmed.
And spare me efforts to insult my abilities as a social scientist — I’ve proven myself both in my profession and at my work, and I daresay you’re hardly qualified to second guess those who have analyzed and published my work (and I could list my teaching awards too — the latest just two weeks ago).
I have no idea about either your work or your teaching, Scott, and I don’t claim to. I don’t need to know about your teaching awards. All I know is what you put in front of me, on the page, and that’s all I’m going to use to judge your argument.

You have identified yourself as a scientist. I expect certain things of a scientist, but more to the point, I expect anyone debating with me to have some proof behind their claims. When a scientist falls back on spirituality, I become a serious skeptic.
Think about what it’s like to be on the opposite end of someone arguing that something is true, but who doesn’t provide evidence for their claims and admits that he can’t prove a number of the things he’s talking about. Are you just going to take his word for it when he says the world works a certain way?
If not, why would you expect me to?
Yet what do you mean "stand for something objective?" In terms of philosophy of science I’m a pragmatist. You seem to be a positivist, there are also relativists, realists (Marx was a realist) and other less popular approaches.
I mean, stand on a prediction whose results we can all observe. If you are successful often enough, I have reason to keep listening to you, because you and your ideas can inform my decisions.

For instance, say I have a choice between two financial advisors, and one seems to make consistently better returns than the other over an extended period of time. All I need to know as a consumer of services is that the guy who produces better returns does so, but what underlies his success could be anything from pure luck to running a tighter ship to (something more intriguing) a deeper understanding of the financial instruments with which he’s dealing.

You are, I think you would agree, an intellectual who studies the interactions of human beings. I would come to you to learn something on the assumption that you could tell me something that would allow me to understand how people actually behave, and perhaps even why. That way, I could change my approach to people to obtain more beneficial results from my point of view, perhaps make bets on how people will act in given situations, perhaps make better public policy.
If you are unable to give me something with explanatory power, I will not derive that benefit. People will remain just as unpredictable to me as they were before I came to you as a student. The same is true in a debate.

So that’s why I have little patience for people who fall back on things they can’t prove. Give me a prediction, help me win a wager, give me numbers. Otherwise, you’re not worth my time, plain and simple.
I’m trying to figure out where you think I’ve contradicted myself. Let me try an analogy, you don’t seem to get my explanations. If I’m a batter, I’m responsible for how I handle an at bat. I’m responsible for guessing the pitches, adapting to the count, and concentrating. Now, I may face a really good or a really bad pitcher. I may have a horrid hangover and be unable to concentrate. I may be pre-occupied with my last at bat, or I may be on a hot streak. All of that affects the probability that I’ll get a hit. BUT I’m still responsible for how I handle the circumstances of that at bat, even if other factors are affecting my ability to handle it as well as I should, regardless of the end result.
Please clarify: when you say you’re responsible for handling your circumstances, is your will the cause of you getting a hit? Or is it a combination of (a) the states of your body and brain and (b) your environment (including the other players)?

Or, when you say you’re responsible, are you making a normative claim that you should be held accountable?
And I don’t know how to make hide nor hair of the rest of your post. I don’t feel like I’m "debating," I’m honestly stating my view on things, and why. I’m not trying to prove points, and I’m convinced that many of these issues defy proof.
You made a statement about human behavior in small groups or clans. It turns out that there are small groups and clans we can study both in the past and in present day. If somebody describes their behavior better (i.e., their model has greater explanatory power) than you can, doesn’t that indicate that the issue does not defy proof?

As a pragmatist, you must believe that some action is better informed than other action. You must, as a pragmatist, trust experience to inform that practice. Well, the trustiest weapon in your arsenal would then be observation of how things behaved in the past, with the expectation that like things will behave alike. Experts/specialists who study the material world often make predictions about how things will act based on expectations created in precisely this way—theories tested by experience itself.
A pragmatist should (*not a normative claim) have no trouble at all with predictions that will have objective results. The more talented pragmatist, you would agree, would be the one who better observed past data, analyzed it, synthesized it, and applied it before starting the process all over again. A pragmatist would not fall back on something that, in his experience, produces no reliable results.
I don’t mind if you decide they’re not worth reading; some people find such things interesting, others don’t.
That’s fine, Scott, but when you say something you can’t prove, it won’t matter whether I consider it interesting; I’m going to call you on it and ask you to explain yourself. If you fall back on spirituality every time, this will become a rather tiring exercise.
Nobody has been able to prove an ethical system correct (especially not through falsifiability). Yet you demand that — does that mean one can’t talk about ethics unless they find a way to overcome that barrier?
Well, one could describe the consequences of a particular ethical system in given circumstances, and leave everyone else to decide if that’s how they want to behave. The first step is a pretty important one, Scott.

But that’s beside the point, because I didn’t press upon you to provide the "correct" ethical system. This all started with me asking you about a claim about human nature.
I don’t know what you want me to try to prove, or what point you’re debating. Is it human nature? I can’t give my view on human nature (and in social science no one has come up with a falsifiable notion of human nature yet) without going into things that can’t be proven. So I really do not know what it is you are asking or want from me. I’m sorry.
At first, I challenged your point about human nature, because you made a claim about human nature that did not describe how humans behave today. You didn’t account for this apparent discrepancy.

Then you began to make other claims. I kept asking questions about those, and every time, you retreated further and further into things you admitted you can’t prove. That’s frustrating for me; how am I supposed to respond when someone makes a claim for which they ultimately can’t/won’t provide proof? Am I just supposed to let that slide, even when I think it’s incorrect?

What I’m asking of you is, if you make a claim about how things behave on the material plane, be able to provide proof. Give me numbers, give me facts, give me something from objective experience that conquers contradictory evidence. If you want to talk about spirituality, make it clear that you are talking about something that is genuinely unobservable and about which you cannot thus make an unfalsifiable statement. If that’s as clear as day, e.g., "I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior," then you can leave out the disclaimer. Discussion of human behavior requires a bit more discretion.
But I’m not a materialist and we see the world differently — perhaps that’s the problem, we have very different world views.
It’s not a problem for me, until you start making claims about how observable things behave that I don’t see as being true.
Do I "care if I live or die?" Sure, I want to live. But I know I’ll die someday, and my existence is but a small fragment of space-time. So I focus in my life on things I think transcend the average material concerns of the day — I try to do good to others, be kind, be honest, and have perspective.
If your life is "short, fleeting, and ultimately will be forgotten", then why worry about such things? Why do you want to live?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
"Billy wants to suggest that Berger and Luckman are Marxist because they note that sociology to that point built on one of Marx’s ideas. What Billy doesn’t tell you is that Berger and Luckman’s book challenged how that was done and developed a new kind of analysis."
"Luckmann", you incompetent feeb. "Luckmann" — two n’s. You know; that would be one of the authors that you’ve been pimping around here, and who I went and read nearly ten years ago because you were pimping them in Usenet. Now then; you’re here to tell all the nice people that I’m scaring them all unreasonably with that citation. Well, guess what, Erb: this is the rest of that whole paragraph:
"To be sure, there has been much debate as to just what kind of determination Marx had in mind. It is safe to say that much of the great ’struggle with Marx’ that characterized not only the beginnings of the sociology of knowledge but the ’classical age’ of sociology in general (particularly as manifested in the works of Weber, Durkheim and Pareto) was really a struggle with a faulty interpretation of Marx by latter-day Marxists. This proposition gains plausibility when we reflect that it was only in 1932 that the very important Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 were rediscovered and only after World War II that the full implications of this discovery could be worked out in Marx research. Be this as it may, the sociology of knowledge inherited from Marx not only the sharpest formulation of its central problem but also some of its key concepts, among which should be mentioned particularly the concepts of ’ideology’ (ideas serving as weapons for social interests) and ’false consciousness’ (thought that is alienated from the real social being of the thinker)."
Erb
"What Billy doesn’t tell you is that Berger and Luckman’s book challenged how that was done and developed a new kind of analysis."
They certainly did. I’ve read this piece of trash you blithering jackass. I am quoting here from my own annotated copy. And George Simpson’s blurb on the back of the thing is correct:
"Berger and Luckmann do in a relatively short compass what has long been necessary — they place the sociology of knowledge foursquare in the center of the sociological stage. They take knowledge to mean not merely ideology — as do Marx, Engels, Nietzsche, and Mannheim — but rather everything that passes for knowledge in society, whether ideology, false consciousness, propaganda, science, or art."
(emphasis added)

Berger and Luckmann most certainly "developed a new kind of analysis": they went where the most influential writer of the nineteenth century didn’t dare to go.

They are describing the human mind as manifestation of a hive. Just exactly as I said about you.
"And any philosopher would say that the claim that you can refute Berkeley by kicking a rock is totally absurd — in fact any discussion of Berkeley includes that ’refutation’ and shows why it doesn’t work, namely the sensation of kicking a rock and observing it — or jumping off a cliff and falling to a horrid injury or death — still can be seen within Berkeley as an experience of the mind. If Billy thinks that is a serious refutation, his knowledge of the material is not very deep."
Understand this, ladies and gentlemen: "deep", to Scott Erb, means that death due to active dismissal of the actual fact of material reality is only "an experience of the mind".

If you’re not accustomed to the state of philosophy in the late twentieth century, you might not believe that a grown and presumably sane man would actually and seriously believe such a thing, but that really is what he’s telling you.

And it’s why his political character is what it is.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Understand this, ladies and gentlemen: "deep", to Scott Erb, means that death due to active dismissal of the actual fact of material reality is only "an experience of the mind".

If you’re not accustomed to the state of philosophy in the late twentieth century, you might not believe that a grown and presumably sane man would actually and seriously believe such a thing, but that really is what he’s telling you.
You’re a lot of bluster Billy, but no bite. All you have are senses — images, feelings, smells, tastes...and your brain constructs a reality based on those images which you choose to think of as objective and real. Yet anyone who has had a lucid dream knows that in a dream, reality can seem just as real. I have dream journals with over 200 lucid dreams, I’ve done experiments in dreams, and know that a dream feels and seems as real (albeit with reality operating under different laws) than waking reality.

But that’s OK, Billy. Cling to your view of a hard, fast, material reality, even though in real terms the keyboard you type on is not solid and hard; the distance between the various subatomic particles is vast compared to the small size of the particles. We still don’t know why we even experience mass (though CERN’s large hadron accelerator may discover the Higgs particle and a Higgs field may explain that — but that creates even more headaches for those who yearn for a materialist approach to reality). You may be pleasantly surprised in thirty or forty years to find out that the end of your material existence isn’t the end at all.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

If nobody can account for any behavior better than anyone else, it’s not a science.
Bryan - I’ll respond to your post in the next day or two. Too much time, too little to do (check that, reverse it).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
. And spare me efforts to insult my abilities as a social scientist — I’ve proven myself both in my profession and at my work, and I daresay you’re hardly qualified to second guess those who have analyzed and published my work (and I could list my teaching awards too — the latest just two weeks ago).
Nice try, Scott. It’s almost cute. But as usual, you’re dead wrong.

Look... Since Social science is anything but an exact science (Indeed, by it’s nature it’s laughable to call it a "science" at all...) I am fully qualified... as qualified as you are, which as I gather it is a largeish chunk of the point Bryan’s making. And since it isn’t an exact science, it’s small wonder that you find such refuge wallowing in it. In that environment nobody can ever pin you down to anything solid. you apparently figure they’ll never know if you were right or wrong. ... supposedly.


That’s your big problem, Erb... Bryan asks you...
...if you make a claim about how things behave on the material plane, be able to provide proof. Give me numbers, give me facts, give me something from objective experience that conquers contradictory evidence.
... the reason you haven’t done that yet, is even more clear now that it is ever been; you have no experience in the real world. That lack of experience out in the real world is the major reason you keep backing yourself into a corner in this conversation and in every other conversation I’ve ever seen you engaged with somebody who has a minimum of half a brain, for the last decade.

All you have to go on is the books in front of you, written by people of like mindlessness... People whose approval you obviously crave, and feel proud about when they smile and pat your widdle head. I’ve got news for you.. put their opinions together with 50 cents and you can get a bad cup of coffee.

I mean, spare me the self serving pats on the back about how many other people take your "work" seriously. I’m willing to bet they haven’t gotten outside the ivory tower of late, either. Thereby have no more credibility than you. Not out here in the real world.

We... the rest of us... are dealing with the real world.... Actual facts. Real world experiences. Something you’ve clearly demonstrated repeatedly you have no knowledge of, whatever in the first hand.

As a result, like the blind man trying to describe the elephant by sense of touch, your observations about the conditions of things are all wrong, because you’ve never been able to see the problem firsthand.

of course, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.


 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
"You’re a lot of bluster Billy, but no bite."
Sez you. Nice hip-shake around Berger and Luckmann. It’s too bad to have to tell you this, Professorboy, but everybody just saw you dodge that.
"All you have are senses — images, feelings, smells, tastes...and your brain constructs a reality based on those images which you choose to think of as objective and real."
Sez you. I have news for you, dumbass: reality exists whether I’m even here to "construct" it or not.
"Yet anyone who has had a lucid dream knows that in a dream, reality can seem just a..."
[whack] We’re not talking about dreams, worm, so stop trying to change the subject like no one is going to notice.
"Cling to your view of a hard, fast, material reality,..."
I will, and that’s because that’s where I have to live, Erb. I am not a sub-atomic particle. Stop trying to change the subject.
"You may be pleasantly surprised in thirty or forty years to find out that the end of your material existence isn’t the end at all."
Let me know when you can prove that, Erb. Until then, I watch out for buses when I cross the street, and I don’t put loaded pistols to my head, for all the same reasons that have kept human beings alive throughout the entire history of their existence: we know that works.

And so do you.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Bryan, here is a Time Magazine article about Einstein and his spiritual beliefs. There is nothing irrational about having spiritual beliefs.
I don’t think there’s one philosophy behind social science, but I do rather a lot of reading on social sciences. A theory either has explanatory power or it does not. If you state that something behaves a particular way, and it doesn’t explain the behavior, you either modify the model or you admit that the model doesn’t explain the behavior.

For example, if someone claimed that the behavior of all states can be broken down into the monetary constraints and incentives acting on policymakers (legislators, bureaucrats, etc.), and then a state behaves in a way that indicates that at least some actors are behaving against any detectable monetary interests on their part (or no correlation can be found), then you start looking for other explanations. Maybe you turn to the effects of ideology. Maybe you turn to the psychology of individual elites or small groups. Maybe you turn to the non-monetary incentive structures acting on those policymakers. Either way, you make a falsifiable statement and if it doesn’t explain behavior, you keep looking. That’s science.
And what you find is that in a multicausal world where we can’t isolate variables and run experiments you will never do anything more than make probabilistic claims about the likelihood a variable is causal. Moreover, due to contextual change, what’s true for state X may not be true for state Y, meaning that social scientific "laws" are contextual. Beyond that, the perspective of the researcher influences both the way the research is conducted (choice of variables and interpretation) and how well the researcher understands the meaning of variables in a different culture. The result is that social science is more like a pre-science, rarely able to truly test an hypothesis, sometimes even focused on grounded theory, which is the effort to try to develop an hypothesis grounded in the understanding of a particular context and issue.

The heyday of social science wanting to claim "sciencehood" was probably the 70s. And, though we withstood the assault from the post-moderns in the eighties, there is a lot of humility in what social science can accomplish. My own view is that grand theories (trying to explain all behavior of all states or across a multitude of contexts) can only make predictions that are very general and probabilistic (closer economic ties and interdependence tend to make war less likely as states develop mutual interests).

Please clarify: when you say you’re responsible for handling your circumstances, is your will the cause of you getting a hit? Or is it a combination of (a) the states of your body and brain and (b) your environment (including the other players)?

Or, when you say you’re responsible, are you making a normative claim that you should be held accountable?
The result (getting a hit or not) is a combination of a and b. I am responsible for how I handle the situation, including trying to overcome distractions or other factors. Certainly I can imagine instances (insanity, for instance) where this wouldn’t hold. The normative aspect is implicit — I should hold myself accountable. Rather than say "I was distracted by those damn fans yelling obscenities" I should say "I let myself get distracted when I shouldn’t have."

You made a statement about human behavior in small groups or clans. It turns out that there are small groups and clans we can study both in the past and in present day. If somebody describes their behavior better (i.e., their model has greater explanatory power) than you can, doesn’t that indicate that the issue does not defy proof?
One can make probablistic statements — that was in fact the cause for my statements that small groups tend to have humans acting more voluntaristically — that abuses of power tend to be less extreme in such circumstances. If Dale’s first statement (humans are by nature hierarchical) is true, then it follows that the nature of the hierarchy changes depending on the context.

As a pragmatist, you must believe that some action is better informed than other action. You must, as a pragmatist, trust experience to inform that practice. Well, the trustiest weapon in your arsenal would then be observation of how things behaved in the past, with the expectation that like things will behave alike. Experts/specialists who study the material world often make predictions about how things will act based on expectations created in precisely this way—theories tested by experience itself.
A pragmatist should (*not a normative claim) have no trouble at all with predictions that will have objective results. The more talented pragmatist, you would agree, would be the one who better observed past data, analyzed it, synthesized it, and applied it before starting the process all over again. A pragmatist would not fall back on something that, in his experience, produces no reliable results.
Bryan, I am a "science fan." I devour books on science, read scientific literature aimed at lay people, and can’t wait for the results when CERN starts its large hadron accelerator. In both social and natural science of course I look at tests and results.

I agree with in part you on ethics — that is in fact the pragmatic perspective, you detain the consequences of actions, and people can decide if they want them. But that’s assuming a consequentialist form of ethic. If I can borrow from the Discover article (I can’t recall the author, but it’s in this month’s issue), is it ethical to divert a train from a track where five will die to one where the train will kill only one person (you have to act instantly). Most would say yes. Is it ethical to kill a man to harvest his organs to save five who would die from organ failure? I don’t think anyone would say yes to that. But the consequences are the same. Now, you could argue that people will figure out all the social consequences of allowing such harvesting and decide it would devastate society on a variety of levels (the consequences of allowing such an act), but do people really do that? Or is it an innate "that’s just wrong!" sentiment that compel people to without hesitation notice that despite similar direct consequences one act is much more defensible than the other.

What I’m asking of you is, if you make a claim about how things behave on the material plane, be able to provide proof. Give me numbers, give me facts, give me something from objective experience that conquers contradictory evidence.
I don’t have time to go into the anthropology literature to develop a detailed argument about small groups, so if you want to dismiss my claim as an unsubstantiated assertion, you may. I do know I’ve read things that support that view, but it’s not info I can simply grab off the shelves, and my memory may be misleading me.

I can give some examples about my views on ’accepting personal responsibility’: One summer I worked on an assembly line at a place making kitchen cabinets. Unfortunately for me, my line was almost all Laotian refugees, meaning they were working about twice as hard as the Americans (and since this was an assembly line, I had to keep up). There was little in the way coercion — the bosses clearly tolerated less ambitious work ethics. The Laotians were part of a family clan of sorts, there was the elder father who commanded respect (he briefly tried to pair me up with his daughter until he learned I’d be moving away soon). They were happy to be in America, wanted to succeed, and took their work seriously.

Why was this? What was it that caused them to take a very different attitude towards work than the Americans around them. Did they not notice how much harder they were working? Did they fear getting fired for not being American? I asked one of them near the end of my time there, and he said, "we love this work, it is great to be part of producing kitchen cabinets for people."

When I managed a pizzeria I noticed that there were two kinds of managers, and two kinds of workers. The managers that obsessed when things got busy about something going wrong were high stress, and took it out on workers who would then resent getting that kind of treatment at $3.65 an hour. Others (myself included) would be positive, figure that if we’re understaffed we’ll do the best we can, and not stress out. We’d save the yelling at employees only for those who were truly not working as they should. Meanwhile some workers took the job as being just to make money — they’d work as little as possible, and move slowly, figuring hell, it’s only minimum wage or slightly above. Others would enjoy their work, work hard (I found out I impressed the boss the first day when after he asked me to sweep the floor I ran back to get the broom. I think some thought I was sucking up the boss, but I thought the job was fun.

So what works in the real world: if you have a positive attitude towards your conditions, accept that circumstances are sometimes going to create problems, and try to work though them without obsessing about what oen can’t control, then you’ll work harder and be happier. Very pragmatic and common sensical. I do not need to add my own spiritual beliefs to explain it, though they help me retain that sense of perspective and remain calm. But one can achieve that with a secular understanding. Still, what about those workers who don’t want to work hard, either at the kitchen cabinet place or the pizzeria? Why are they behaving like they do?

I’d argue that they are not accepting responsibility — they are feeling like they are someplace they don’t want to be, doing what they don’t want to do, perhaps going through the motions so they can get a paycheck and go out and buy things or party afterwards. Life to them is a series of hurdles one has to overcome in order to get what one wants. Practically, such a view leads to less success in life (I would argue — though I don’t have proof) because their minimal behavior means they are less likely to be promoted or get raises, and their dislike of their condition will foster a resentment and alienation that will make them less motivated. So, therefore, I can make a pragmatic argument that accepting responsibility is in ones’ self-interest, if one wants to be successful and enjoy life.

Now that I wrote all that I feel I went far off topic, mixing up the responsibility stuff with the human nature stuff. If so, I apologize. But if this all needs proof, what would you require from me? Would it be enough to say "this is base on my experience, is your experience similar?"
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
reality exists whether I’m even here to "construct" it or not.
Yet if we follow science, most of what you experience is empty space; the computer you type on isn’t solid, the space between particles is immense, it’s almost nothing. Yet your mind experiences it as a solid object, with keys you press down on to type. Reality exists, obviously. Your experience of reality is constructed in your mind. There is an old cognitive psych experiment where young Mexicans and young Americans are giving three-D slides with one side being a bull fight and the other a baseball game. The Mexicans almost uniformly saw only the former, the Americans only the latter. The reason — their brains sought information that fight their experience. In fact, the field of cognitive psychology is filled with examples of how our experience of reality is shaped very much by our beliefs and biases.


I am not a sub-atomic particle.
You are nothing but sub-atomic particles. Though perhaps there is something spiritual involved, or perhaps structural theory makes sense and the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I see that Boris Erb has resorted to his penultimate tactic (I’ll get to his ultimate tactic in a moment), which is to turn his arguments into a picked apart loaf of white bread soaking in a large bowl of water. "Argue with that!" he says.

For his ultimate tactic, Erb assumes the positions of the person he’s arguing with and says that they have been his positions all along.

It’s all part of being nothing but subatomic particles.

That done, he presses the reset button and its back to socialism and anti-Americanism, the two products of his deeply spiritual and scientific life.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
"You are nothing but sub-atomic particles."
The commissar accidently steps into the light.

Everybody saw that, Erb.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Beck quotes Boris and writes:
"You are nothing but sub-atomic particles."

The commissar accidently steps into the light.

Everybody saw that, Erb.
It doesn’t make any difference. You’re hammering rubberband stew.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
For his ultimate tactic, Erb assumes the positions of the person he’s arguing with and says that they have been his positions all along.
It’s something Clinton did rather well;

The way to diffuse and disarm a lynch mob is to convince them they’re taking part in a parade... one you’re leading. The REAL trick is to make the attempt at this, less than fully transparent.... a trick Erb has yet to master.


 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
"You are nothing but sub-atomic particles."

The commissar accidently steps into the light.

Everybody saw that, Erb.
Huh? I’m not sure what you mean there.

I do know you ignored this: Reality exists, obviously. Your experience of reality is constructed in your mind (followed by examples from cognitive psychology).

By the way, a connected question might be "what are subatomic particles?" The term "particle" itself is misleading because it creates an image of a little thing. It’s more like a ripple in a field, potentially dispersed over a vast region of space-time.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Bryan, here is a Time Magazine article about Einstein and his spiritual beliefs. There is nothing irrational about having spiritual beliefs.
You can believe whatever you like, Scott, as I already said, but if you try to fill in the gaps of what you can’t explain with something other people can’t see, I have no reason to take your word for it. When you’re commenting here, stick to what you can prove.

And did you note the part of the article where Einstein calls himself a determinist?
And what you find is that in a multicausal world where we can’t isolate variables and run experiments you will never do anything more than make probabilistic claims about the likelihood a variable is causal.
You didn’t make probabilistic claims, Scott. Nor did you attempt to do so. And if you make claims here without having even that as backup, you’re going to be called on it.
Moreover, due to contextual change, what’s true for state X may not be true for state Y, meaning that social scientific "laws" are contextual.
If social science stops short of trying to explain the contexts, then how is it useful?
Beyond that, the perspective of the researcher influences both the way the research is conducted (choice of variables and interpretation) and how well the researcher understands the meaning of variables in a different culture. The result is that social science is more like a pre-science, rarely able to truly test an hypothesis, sometimes even focused on grounded theory, which is the effort to try to develop an hypothesis grounded in the understanding of a particular context and issue.
So, what you’re saying is, social scientists are not scientists at all? You’re saying that because of their inability to look at a variable objectively, they can’t make any observation that will allow anyone else to understand human interaction any better than before they run into the social "scientist"? No better able to make predictions about how humans will behave?
The heyday of social science wanting to claim "sciencehood" was probably the 70s. And, though we withstood the assault from the post-moderns in the eighties, there is a lot of humility in what social science can accomplish.
That’s passive voice. Who’s humble about what social science can accomplish?
My own view is that grand theories (trying to explain all behavior of all states or across a multitude of contexts) can only make predictions that are very general and probabilistic (closer economic ties and interdependence tend to make war less likely as states develop mutual interests).
If you can back up what you say with evidence and probabilities, by all means please do. But you didn’t. I thought you made a very general claim about human nature, which I challenged by pointing to how humans behave today. You didn’t fall back on historical evidence, or on probabilities. Instead, you fell back on even more general claims, eventually getting back all the way to unfalsifiable dualist claims about the nature of reality.

If you want to use theories that are limited in their explanatory power outside of a particular context, go ahead, but your theory better have explanatory power within that context.

The very existence of such contexts, though, throws doubt on any general invocation of "human nature" that doesn’t account for such contexts. Hence, my earlier argument that any concept of "human nature" that generalizes even though it only describes particular humans is particular circumstances is invalid. (e.g., "It is in humans’ nature to be selfish" doesn’t account for all the times humans don’t behave selfishly.)
Please clarify: when you say you’re responsible for handling your circumstances, is your will the cause of you getting a hit? Or is it a combination of (a) the states of your body and brain and (b) your environment (including the other players)?

Or, when you say you’re responsible, are you making a normative claim that you should be held accountable?
The result (getting a hit or not) is a combination of a and b. I am responsible for how I handle the situation, including trying to overcome distractions or other factors. Certainly I can imagine instances (insanity, for instance) where this wouldn’t hold. The normative aspect is implicit — I should hold myself accountable. Rather than say "I was distracted by those damn fans yelling obscenities" I should say "I let myself get distracted when I shouldn’t have."
Okay, the first sentence of yours, taken alone, is an admission of determinism. Unless somebody’s loading the dice in your body and brain, you’re talking hard determinism.

The second sentence of yours is vague, so I’m going to ask again what you mean by "I am responsible." Is that a declarative statement ("I am the sole cause of that action") or a normative statement ("I should be held accountable")? If it is the former, are you saying that your brain and body are the sole cause of that action, or are you saying that something else representing "you" is the sole cause of that action?
You made a statement about human behavior in small groups or clans. It turns out that there are small groups and clans we can study both in the past and in present day. If somebody describes their behavior better (i.e., their model has greater explanatory power) than you can, doesn’t that indicate that the issue does not defy proof?
One can make probablistic statements — that was in fact the cause for my statements that small groups tend to have humans acting more voluntaristically — that abuses of power tend to be less extreme in such circumstances. If Dale’s first statement (humans are by nature hierarchical) is true, then it follows that the nature of the hierarchy changes depending on the context.
So one can make probabilistic statements about behavior within particular contexts. One would assume, axiomatically, that one probabilistic statement could have more explanatory power than another. In that case, a real social science would offer some objective guidance toward how things will actually behave, since like things behave alike.

So, does social science offer guidance toward how things will actually behave, or not? Can you make predictions and win wagers with it, or not?
If it does, then it will have to do so here in the objective world, and social science has some value.
If it offers no guidance, no ability to make predictions and win wagers even within particular contexts, then please follow up by explaining what makes social science valuable.
As a pragmatist, you must believe that some action is better informed than other action. You must, as a pragmatist, trust experience to inform that practice. Well, the trustiest weapon in your arsenal would then be observation of how things behaved in the past, with the expectation that like things will behave alike. Experts/specialists who study the material world often make predictions about how things will act based on expectations created in precisely this way—theories tested by experience itself.
A pragmatist should (*not a normative claim) have no trouble at all with predictions that will have objective results. The more talented pragmatist, you would agree, would be the one who better observed past data, analyzed it, synthesized it, and applied it before starting the process all over again. A pragmatist would not fall back on something that, in his experience, produces no reliable results.
Bryan, I am a "science fan." I devour books on science, read scientific literature aimed at lay people, and can’t wait for the results when CERN starts its large hadron accelerator. In both social and natural science of course I look at tests and results.
Then you must do so out of a belief that those results will be useful for describing behavior. More useful, say, than a random guess. Would it be fair to say that you could make wagers with that kind of information?

If so, then that is science, so get busy making predictions.
Nobody has been able to prove an ethical system correct (especially not through falsifiability). Yet you demand that — does that mean one can’t talk about ethics unless they find a way to overcome that barrier?
Well, one could describe the consequences of a particular ethical system in given circumstances, and leave everyone else to decide if that’s how they want to behave. The first step is a pretty important one, Scott.

But that’s beside the point, because I didn’t press upon you to provide the "correct" ethical system. This all started with me asking you about a claim about human nature.
I agree with in part you on ethics — that is in fact the pragmatic perspective, you detain the consequences of actions, and people can decide if they want them. But that’s assuming a consequentialist form of ethic.
I’m not assuming anything. I said you could do it, that you could discuss the consequences of particular ethical systems. Pragmatism is just supposed to inform your actions.
But again, that’s beside the point, for the same reason it was beside the point before.
What I’m asking of you is, if you make a claim about how things behave on the material plane, be able to provide proof. Give me numbers, give me facts, give me something from objective experience that conquers contradictory evidence.
I don’t have time to go into the anthropology literature to develop a detailed argument about small groups, so if you want to dismiss my claim as an unsubstantiated assertion, you may. I do know I’ve read things that support that view, but it’s not info I can simply grab off the shelves, and my memory may be misleading me.
I know I may dismiss your claim until you provide evidence. I wasn’t asking permission, Scott. :)

Anyway, now you’ve made many claims about how things behave on the material plane beyond that first one (my objection to which may have been based on me misunderstanding your phrase).
[...] Practically, such a view leads to less success in life (I would argue — though I don’t have proof) because their minimal behavior means they are less likely to be promoted or get raises, and their dislike of their condition will foster a resentment and alienation that will make them less motivated. So, therefore, I can make a pragmatic argument that accepting responsibility is in ones’ self-interest, if one wants to be successful and enjoy life.
Scott, I didn’t ask you about that the first time. I asked you to make a prediction (edit: that means objectively verifiable) based on your belief that there’s more to the world than the material, which seemed at least partly based on your beliefs about the Big Bang thoery.

And again, accepting responsibility (i.e., holding yourself accountable for what you do) is an act, while being responsible (i.e., being the true cause of an event) is a matter of fact.
I’m asking you about matters of fact.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
So, what you’re saying is, social scientists are not scientists at all? You’re saying that because of their inability to look at a variable objectively, they can’t make any observation that will allow anyone else to understand human interaction any better than before they run into the social "scientist"? No better able to make predictions about how humans will behave?
Like I said.... laughable.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
So, what you’re saying is, social scientists are not scientists at all? You’re saying that because of their inability to look at a variable objectively, they can’t make any observation that will allow anyone else to understand human interaction any better than before they run into the social "scientist"? No better able to make predictions about how humans will behave?
Right now social science is in a morass due to the problems of complexity and perspective. Experts on European politics and international relations did not see the end of the Cold War coming. There are alternate interpretations for just about every event and prediction one can make, and there isn’t a way to prove one interpretation right and the other wrong. Somethings can be predicted (polls give a good sense at likely election results, and there are general tendencies — single member district systems tend towards two parties absent major ethnic divisions. Social science has to be a humble science, not able to provide much in the way of predictions, and able to provide numerous alternate explanations for phenomena which occur.

As for posting evidence for claims, you’re being a bit hypocritical. You’re demanding from me proof for every claim about the material world, but even Dale’s original claim about humans as primates being hierarchical was just an assertion, not backed up by evidence. Billy Beck consistently posts assertion plus insult, without evidence. This isn’t a scientific discussion, quite obviously. If you have reason to doubt a point, or have an alternative view, then you can ask for evidence (I offered an alternative to Dale’s claim, but didn’t press him for evidence, even though he offered none) Now, what exactly — be concise and clear — do you want me to back up with evidence, and why?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Right now social science is in a morass due to the problems of complexity and perspective.
And at what point will it ever NOT be so?



 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
"Social science has to be a humble science..."
It has a great deal to be humble about.

Twit.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
By the way, I did put together a series from various blog entries during my first year or so of blogging called "Science and Belief".
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
A couple more things (I was in a hurry earlier)...
Scott, I didn’t ask you about that the first time. I asked you to make a prediction (edit: that means objectively verifiable) based on your belief that there’s more to the world than the material, which seemed at least partly based on your beliefs about the Big Bang thoery.
More quantum mechanics and relativity rather than big bang theory. I cannot make a falsifiable prediction, and if that’s what you require to see such thinking as having any value then, clearly, there is no reason for you to accept or even waste time on talking to me about that.

For me personally these things work in my life — but not in a way that I can falsify to others. It’s subjective evidence, not objective. Only those who want to reflect on these kinds ideas and their own subjective response would enjoy discussing them; I don’t think you find that at all interesting or useful.

I do think social science was useful in giving information that should have caused us to avoid going to war in Iraq. And if you want evidence of that I can provide it.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
As for posting evidence for claims, you’re being a bit hypocritical.
Scott, be very very careful with that word.

I have my disagreements with Billy and the people who followed him in here, I have my disagreements with Dale... I have disagreements with everyone. I let many things slide, often simply because of a lack of time these days, and sometimes I don’t have enough information to challenge someone. Your original claim seemed a bit off to me, so I did challenge it. You responded, and I found that I had even more distinct objections. Once you got to the subject of determinism vs. free will, I was engaged—that’s a subject I’ve discussed with others at considerable length.

Note that I’m not piling on with other people’s arguments. I’m giving you my undivided attention and a chance to defend your claims. I’m not calling you names, and the closest I’ve come to getting personal is saying that (a) you don’t seem to practice or really believe in science, which I think you will admit is fair given what you’ve written in this thread, and (b) if a social science professor of mine tried to fill in the gaps of his science with spirituality, I’d be livid. I can walk to church any time I want, but if I’m paying someone to teach me about the interactions of humans, he better give me something worth my money—and what I consider to be worth my money are problem-solving tools. When a prospective employer sees my résumé, I want him or her to see a problem-solver, not somebody who paid tens of thousands of dollars and four years of his time to psychologically comfort himself.

So right now, in this particular thread, my spotlight’s on your claims. It was one of your claims to which I originally objected, and (if memory serves) I have only responded, briefly, to two other people—one who was trying to clarify what you said, and one who I believe misunderstood something that I thought Dale communicated clearly.
(I offered an alternative to Dale’s claim, but didn’t press him for evidence, even though he offered none)
I encourage you to press Dale for evidence when you have a conflicting interpretation or view, when it strikes your fancy. If you have evidence that he’s wrong, you may just do readers the favor of correcting their false notions. That way, you can add to an overall atmosphere of accountability.
If you have reason to doubt a point, or have an alternative view, then you can ask for evidence [...] Now, what exactly — be concise and clear — do you want me to back up with evidence, and why?
On the first sentence: I will ask for evidence, as I already promised. The question is, will you respond with evidence? Do you believe that you can provide such evidence, given the problems of quantum uncertainty, complexity and perspective? If so, then we’re making a breakthrough here.

On the second sentence:
I have spent this entire thread asking you to back up an expanding number of claims with evidence and/or reason, and each time, I have had to ask follow-up questions because... well, because of a lot of things. For example, in response to a request for you to reconcile two seemingly contradictory declarative statements, you made a series of normative statements for reasons unknown.

Would you like me to list every question you haven’t fully answered? If someone treated you this way, would you appreciate it? I have labored to articulate these questions with ever-increasing precision whenever you offered a vague or ambiguous answer.

Now we’re up to our elbows in an argument about epistemology, determinism, science (and whether the social sciences have value), and for some reason, spirituality. I had no intention, when I made a simple statement, of getting into this material, but this is where we are. And actually, I think we’re getting right down to the heart of the matter now. I can continue this conversation if you can keep answering these irksome questions.

As for why I’d want you to back up any of these claims: no matter what my motives may be for asking a particular question, that doesn’t change whether or not you’re correct. I’d advise you not to speculate on my motives, either, unless you’re an uncommonly talented mind-reader.
In the meantime, if someone asks you a fair question, what’s to fear? That you might be wrong? That you might contradict something you said before and have to account for the fact that you were fallible?
If you don’t subject your beliefs to criticism and contingent verification through real-world tests, how will you know whether you’re misguided and spending your efforts on something illusory?
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

In response to your last post: when someone else posts something they admit they can’t prove, do you trust them enough to act on it? Do you just take their word for it?
If so, do you keep doing it even if you don’t seem to derive a benefit from it? If not, why not?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Scott, be very very careful with that word.
You’re right, I apologize.

As for the personal and the scientific: 1) I do not believe that spirituality is anti-science; many scientists are religious (though I wouldn’t describe myself as religious). Even Galileo was a devout believer despite what the Church did to him; he claimed that if human experience shows religious teaching to be in error, than human interpretation of the Bible must be wrong. Religion and science, or science and spirituality, can co-exist so long as religion doesn’t try to contradict what science clearly demonstrates as almost certain to be true; and 2) I certainly would never in a classroom or an article talk about spiritual or religious beliefs. That would not be appropriate. I wasn’t trying to use it to fill in gaps of social science, I was being personally honest about what motivates me as a whole person, not just my social science.

I encourage you to press Dale for evidence when you have a conflicting interpretation or view, when it strikes your fancy. If you have evidence that he’s wrong, you may just do readers the favor of correcting their false notions. That way, you can add to an overall atmosphere of accountability.
I suspect he’s right in his basic claims: humans are primates (that’s pretty undeniable) and primates form hierarchies. My point was that the cultures we build might allow us to overcome the need for a hierarchy that is based on government — I can imagine a culture that could support a voluntaristic system. Where I got in trouble, I believe, is stating that our nature tends us towards freedom in smaller clans and tribes. That is speculation on my part (indeed, I think the question of what is human nature is one that we can not answer definitively), based on the fact that human history has been mostly one of small groups or clans until the first larger cities. But I was in the realm of fun, speculative thinking, not social science in that claim.
Do you believe that you can provide such evidence, given the problems of quantum uncertainty, complexity and perspective? If so, then we’re making a breakthrough here.
Depending on the question, I’m sure evidence is available, though in many cases there can be multiple interpretations of the evidence. That doesn’t mean that we throw up our hands and give in to relativism or nihilism, only that I may not be able to provide more than an argument why I believe one interpretation is stronger than another — it may not be falsifiable.
Would you like me to list every question you haven’t fully answered? If someone treated you this way, would you appreciate it? I have labored to articulate these questions with ever-increasing precision whenever you offered a vague or ambiguous answer.
If there are questions you want answered, feel free to list them. I’m sometimes dense and need the question put straight forward to me to get what is being asked.

Now we’re up to our elbows in an argument about epistemology, determinism, science (and whether the social sciences have value), and for some reason, spirituality. I had no intention, when I made a simple statement, of getting into this material, but this is where we are. And actually, I think we’re getting right down to the heart of the matter now. I can continue this conversation if you can keep answering these irksome questions.
These are all important topics, I certainly would rather our conversation generate more light than heat.
In the meantime, if someone asks you a fair question, what’s to fear? That you might be wrong? That you might contradict something you said before and have to account for the fact that you were fallible?
Well, I’ve been wrong so often, and have found myself holding contradictory views often enough that I don’t fear that. I welcome it, I’m always trying to learn and be self-critical.
If you don’t subject your beliefs to criticism and contingent verification through real-world tests, how will you know whether you’re misguided and spending your efforts on something illusory?
One should do that, definitely. But somethings that may be important fall outside the realm of real world tests, and so some beliefs are simply beliefs based on subjective reflection. In such cases, I know I can’t state these things as true or certain, no one else has reason to believe that which I believe for subjective purposes. To give you an example of how I try to be scientific, I kept a journal of dreams, and when I would become lucid in a dream, I’d experiment. Do I taste (yes, though things are bland), do I see colors (vividly!), can I control the environment (yes, but with difficulty — I ultimately learned I had to remove doubt in order to really control the environment, and that’s hard to do — learning to fly at will in lucid dreams took awhile). I would also seek to see if I could find access to other forms of knowledge in these dreams, but if I had, it was only symbolic. One "lesson" I learned though, came from being confronted with wild dogs often in these dreams. I’d try to escape, and then wake myself up at the last minute. In bed I’d be mad at myself for leaving the lucid dream when I could have tried to experiment more. One time I decided to simply face the dogs and stick my hand right into their mouths. It got bit off (I felt a twinge of pain — pain in dreams seems very minor) and then the dogs got docile, my hand came back, and the dogs never bothered me in a dream again. That seemed to me to have a lesson about confronting fears/dangers, but it was very personal.

Anyway, the point is, even on spiritual things I try to take an experimental scientific approach as much as possible.
In response to your last post: when someone else posts something they admit they can’t prove, do you trust them enough to act on it? Do you just take their word for it?
If so, do you keep doing it even if you don’t seem to derive a benefit from it? If not, why not?
You know, I may indeed trust that person more than someone who is absolutely convinced they can prove it, but don’t demonstrate to me that proof. I find it easier to trust someone who admits when they don’t know for sure. But to act on their claims? I may consider them and investigate myself, but I usually need to verify things to act on claims if the stakes are high. If the stakes are low (someone says ’take zinc and your cold will be shorter,’ but the studies are inconclusive on that point, I’ll still take zinc in case he’s right) I may indeed act on someone’s claim.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I’d be fascinated by any discussion right now about the qualitative differences, if there are any, between "spiritual", "supernatural" and "imaginary".
 
Written By: Ron Good
URL: http://northernsubverbia.blogspot.com

I’d be fascinated by any discussion right now about the qualitative differences, if there are any, between "spiritual", "supernatural" and "imaginary".
OK, I’ll take a stab at that.

Spiritual would mean a part of nature that is beyond our normal capacity to experience in material terms (hence meditation, reflection, or faith usually define spiritual). Spiritual can be supernatural if it is equated to a God or an entity above the natural world who created that world. But spiritual for means simply a part of nature that doesn’t manifest itself in observable cause and effect physical terms. If, say, a chance meeting is caused at a deeper level by a spiritual connection, there is no way I know of that one would prove it.

Supernatural would be above nature literally, and I would take that as meaning that it reflects claims about causality in the material world that cannot be measured or tested scientifically (faith healing, magic spells, etc.) I personally am very skeptical about supernatural claims.

Imaginary is anything one imagines might or could exist. This would include something someone knows never will exist (like an imaginary friend). But it also might include imagined possibilities about nature that inform scientific development and therefore later are able to be found and verified (at some level subatomic particles are imaginary because no one has ever seen one, and the term ’particle’ isn’t really a good description — they are posited as a cause for various phenomena). It also might include imagined states that one then works to bring in existence (imagination precedes creativity).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Thanks. I don’t want to hijack this thread, I just wanted to know what was being referred to, when.
 
Written By: Ron Good
URL: http://northernsubverbia.blogspot.com
Spiritual, supernatural, and imaginary are indistinguishable to the rational mind.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
Spiritual, supernatural, and imaginary are indistinguishable to the rational mind.
So you’re saying the rational mind can’t understand terms with different definitions? You are stating a belief and then doing the very arrogant thing of proclaiming that anyone who doesn’t share your belief doesn’t have a rational mind. You are being irrational in making such a claim.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Spiritual, supernatural, and imaginary are indistinguishable to the rational mind
.

So you’re saying the rational mind can’t understand terms with different definitions?
No.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
Again, Elliot, you are stating a belief and then doing the very arrogant thing of proclaiming that anyone who doesn’t share your belief doesn’t have a rational mind. By your definition Galileo, Newton and some of the greatest thinkers didn’t have rational minds because they had beliefs in the supernatural and did not consider that imaginary. Your statement is so absurd I can’t imagine how you could defend it. (And I note you don’t really try to defend it).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Scott - I haven’t forgotten about this debate, but I’ve become very busy. I’ll email you when I have a chance to form a full response.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Again, Elliot, you are stating a belief and then doing the very arrogant thing of proclaiming that anyone who doesn’t share your belief doesn’t have a rational mind.
I said no such thing.

You could actually go back and see for yourself.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
In response to your last post: when someone else posts something they admit they can’t prove, do you trust them enough to act on it? Do you just take their word for it?
If so, do you keep doing it even if you don’t seem to derive a benefit from it? If not, why not?
You know, I may indeed trust that person more than someone who is absolutely convinced they can prove it, but don’t demonstrate to me that proof. I find it easier to trust someone who admits when they don’t know for sure. But to act on their claims? I may consider them and investigate myself, but I usually need to verify things to act on claims if the stakes are high. If the stakes are low (someone says ’take zinc and your cold will be shorter,’ but the studies are inconclusive on that point, I’ll still take zinc in case he’s right) I may indeed act on someone’s claim.
And are you more likely to press for proof if the speaker’s POV doesn’t mesh with your worldview, I wonder?

(Chuckle)
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
I said no such thing.
Here is what you wrote (and which you refuse to explain or defend): "Spiritual, supernatural, and imaginary are indistinguishable to the rational mind."

This seems to imply that a rational mind will not make any distinctions between these three concepts. That is self-evidently wrong — very brilliant and rational thinkers have had religious beliefs and have made distinctions here. On its face, you made an utterly absurd statement. Perhaps you can explain what you meant.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Spiritual, supernatural, and imaginary are indistinguishable to the rational mind.
This seems to imply that a rational mind will not make any distinctions between these three concepts.
There are things which are imaginary—like Sherlock Holmes—which would not be properly labeled as spiritual or supernatural, just to name one obvious example of how the definitions differ.

I was referring to beliefs, not mere definitions. I made the false assumption that you could figure that out from the context.
That is self-evidently wrong — very brilliant and rational thinkers have had religious beliefs and have made distinctions here.
How do you know Galileo actually believed what the Church forcibly coerced him to say, write, or do? Look what they did to him in the end, simply for supporting the heliocentric theory, and not for dismissing the divinity of Jesus as unsupportable by reason.

Even the most brilliant men are undoubtedly flawed. Jefferson recognized inalienable rights, but retained people in bondage. Gandhi expressed racist views against blacks in South Africa. Einstein rejected newer theories because "God doesn’t throw dice." Just because a man is a notable example of applying reason to solve a problem doesn’t mean he does so in every situation.

Take any belief that you or someone you know intimately has in the spiritual or supernatural. What demonstrable, rational difference is there between that belief and imaginary beliefs?
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
How do you know Galileo actually believed what the Church forcibly coerced him to say, write, or do? Look what they did to him in the end, simply for supporting the heliocentric theory, and not for dismissing the divinity of Jesus as unsupportable by reason.
Galileo was a devout Christian despite his fight with the church; he put one of his daughters into a convent, and in his writings and correspondence maintained his belief to the end Newton was an ardent believer as well, believing his laws of physics proved God must exist.

What do you mean by demonstrable, rational difference between spiritual beliefs and imaginary beliefs. Spiritual beliefs may be rational, based on subjective evidence not able to be tested in a material sense. Imaginary things are things wholly made up, for which there is no evidence, subjective or otherwise. There are many reasons not to dismiss the possibility of spirituality, ranging from modern physics to insights from meditation (something I’m not patient enough to do) and reflection. To dismiss such beliefs as nothing different than imagination seems a leap of faith, an assumption that only materialist forms of thinking are rational. The only way to do that is to assume that only materialist forms of thinking can be rational. To assume your conclusion is not rational thinking.

The reason I have spiritual beliefs is because rational thinking has led me to the conclusion that material factors cannot explain the fundamental mysteries of existence. Thus it is rational to believe that there is something other than the easily available materialist way of thinking. I rationally try to investigate it by comparing world religions, different traditions, and my own subjective connection with reality beyond the materially discernible (dream experiments, etc.). That may be wrong, but it’s not irrational. Remember: to assume that the material world is all that is, and is enough to understand reality as a whole, is very dubious. We could indeed be like an ant, glimpsing our slice of reality, and unable to comprehend the greater whole. And since we have an example, with the ant (or most animals) of how that can be true, we have to rationally accept that it may be true for us as well, given that we are but one of many species on this planet.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Galileo was a devout Christian despite his fight with the church
"Despite"? The Church had massive power. How could you judge the compliance by Galileo or Newton to be rational under such coercion?
Spiritual beliefs may be rational, based on subjective evidence not able to be tested in a material sense. Imaginary things are things wholly made up, for which there is no evidence, subjective or otherwise.
If you tell me you have visions or premonitions and can’t demonstrate anything to me, then how can I, as an outside observer, tell the difference? They are indistinguishable to me.
There are many reasons not to dismiss the possibility of spirituality ...
I didn’t say anything about dismissing even the possibility of the spiritual.
... ranging from modern physics ...
Specifically?

... to insights from meditation (something I’m not patient enough to do) and reflection.
If you’ve never had such insights, how do you know those who claim to have them didn’t just make them up?
To dismiss such beliefs as nothing different than imagination seems a leap of faith ...
The phrase "nothing different" is yours. I used the word "indistinguishable." There is no faith involved. Believing that someone else’s claims of spirituality or supernatural are genuine, and not imaginary, takes a leap of faith, by definition.
The reason I have spiritual beliefs is because rational thinking has led me to the conclusion that material factors cannot explain the fundamental mysteries of existence.
I conclude that I don’t understand the fundamental nature of the universe sufficiently. Similarly, I conclude that a talented magician has done something I can’t figure out, rather than assuming that it was genuine magic until I know better.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
Galileo was a devout Christian despite his fight with the church
"Despite"? The Church had massive power. How could you judge the compliance by Galileo or Newton to be rational under such coercion?
I’ve studied Galileo’s life pretty extensively to prepare for a couple travel courses to Italy. He disagreed with the Church (though was on good terms with them for some time), but he didn’t doubt the existence of God. Newton was extremely devout, and in fact was convinced that his physics required a God. Rousseau and Voltaire, both Deists (though of a different sort) each believed that there must be a designer for a reality this complex, and Rousseau especially was convinced that without a first mover, there could be no reality.

Now all these things may be wrong, but they were rational.

Spiritual beliefs may be rational, based on subjective evidence not able to be tested in a material sense. Imaginary things are things wholly made up, for which there is no evidence, subjective or otherwise.

If you tell me you have visions or premonitions and can’t demonstrate anything to me, then how can I, as an outside observer, tell the difference? They are indistinguishable to me.
That’s a different argument. On the issue of subjective evidence I’m simply noting that you cannot judge the rationality of another person’s mind based on their beliefs if they have experiences that you haven’t had, and which they can’t communicate. Clearly, you have no reason to accept their claims, but that doesn’t mean they are not rational.

There are many reasons not to dismiss the possibility of spirituality ...

I didn’t say anything about dismissing even the possibility of the spiritual.

... ranging from modern physics ...

Specifically?
I’d recommend The Universe in a Single Atom by the Dalai Lama. Quantum physics opens up a range of possibilities. At the very least, it’s clear that the world you see is not the world that is — most of all solid objects are made up of empty space, almost entirely. Yet we experience them as solid because of how we confront and experience reality.
... to insights from meditation (something I’m not patient enough to do) and reflection.

If you’ve never had such insights, how do you know those who claim to have them didn’t just make them up?
Ah, but that’s my point — you can’t know if they made them up or not, so you can’t judge the rationality of their mind based on whether or not they distinguish between spiritual and imagination.

To dismiss such beliefs as nothing different than imagination seems a leap of faith ...

The phrase "nothing different" is yours. I used the word "indistinguishable." There is no faith involved. Believing that someone else’s claims of spirituality or supernatural are genuine, and not imaginary, takes a leap of faith, by definition.
Yet there is a clear difference between a work of fiction, spiritual teachings, and claims of divine intervention (faith healing, etc.) These things can be distinguished even if you can’t know for sure that the claims are accurate.

The reason I have spiritual beliefs is because rational thinking has led me to the conclusion that material factors cannot explain the fundamental mysteries of existence.

I conclude that I don’t understand the fundamental nature of the universe sufficiently. Similarly, I conclude that a talented magician has done something I can’t figure out, rather than assuming that it was genuine magic until I know better.
Well, that’s why I’m fascinated with science, I want to figure out the nature of the world I find myself in. In that, I don’t limit myself to a materialist assumption, and I am willing to engage in speculation and intuition. But I agree that I can’t expect you to accept my thoughts on such issues, all I can do is share them when asked and explain why I think like I do. I look at it this way, even if I can’t prove it right, if something works for me in my life, I stick with it.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
[Galileo] disagreed with the Church ... but he didn’t doubt the existence of God.
If they put him under house arrest for supporting the heliocentric theory, imagine what they would do to him if he denied the existence of God. Elsewhere, you call into question the word of Iraqis interviewed in the presence of American troops. Can you not apply the same skepticism to people living under the shadow of the Inquisition?
Now all these things [religious beliefs of historical figures] may be wrong, but they were rational.
Was it rational to accept the divinity of Jesus on faith, for example? No.

If you tell me you have visions or premonitions and can’t demonstrate anything to me, then how can I, as an outside observer, tell the difference? They are indistinguishable to me.


That’s a different argument.
That was my argument. I falsely assumed you’d had enough debates on the subject to recognize an argument which has been made by countless others before me.
... Quantum physics opens up a range of possibilities [of spirituality].
The knowledge and theories of quantum physics are merely the refinement of human understanding. Newton’s laws of motion didn’t stop working the minute Max Planck or Albert Einstein discovered their formulas.

Just because something is very complex doesn’t mean it is magic. I can’t be certain that there are not supernatural powers, but I’m not going to assume there are just because I see that the most brilliant Physicists haven’t unraveled the mysteries. A tribesman in some remote corner of the world might have no idea how a laptop functions, but if he is convinced it is magic, we laugh at him because we know it isn’t magic.
At the very least, it’s clear that the world you see is not the world that is — most of all solid objects are made up of empty space, almost entirely.
Of course I see the world that is. I’m not seeing a different world. You’re making the unreasonable assumption that light ought to behave differently than it does, that the space between subatomic particles ought to allow more light through than you presently observe. Well, in the world that is, the world that you and I are in, subatomic particles which are very distant relative to their sizes still manage to reflect certain wavelengths of light, depending upon their arrangements with other particles, in generally predictable ways (i.e., silver atoms here or in China have the same reflective properties). So if we saw something different, the universe wouldn’t be what it is now.
Yet we experience them as solid because of how we confront and experience reality.
Materials are, in fact, solids, in that "solid" means they do not easily allow other materials to pass through them at relatively low force levels. If the distance between subatomic particles meant that atoms should pass through one another more easily, then this would be a completely different world. You’re not rationally interpreting the evidence available to you if you can’t wrap your mind around the fact that you’re not melding with your chair.
... so you can’t judge the rationality of their mind based on whether or not they distinguish between spiritual and imagination.
If a man expresses a belief in the supernatural (to properly include spiritual) based upon his faith in what others have told him, then I can conclude that he is not making a rational judgment. If he were making a rational judgment, he would ask for evidence, so he could distinguish between genuine claims and imaginary ones.

If he justifies his belief on the argument that he can think of no other explanations, he makes a logical fallacy, just as when the tribesman is convinced a laptop is magic.

But if he claims to have first-hand experience, my bet is that (1) he made it up, (2) he was tricked by some charlatan, (3) he misinterpreted some natural phenomenon, or (4) he was hallucinating.

If I am wrong about all of those, and he had a genuine brush with the supernatural, then it’s very odd how such experiences are so rare and seem to mimic all of the above explanations so very, very often.

Believing that someone else’s claims of spirituality or supernatural are genuine, and not imaginary, takes a leap of faith, by definition.


Yet there is a clear difference between a work of fiction, spiritual teachings, and claims of divine intervention (faith healing, etc.) These things can be distinguished even if you can’t know for sure that the claims are accurate.
Given the plethora of contradictory religions and beliefs, then most of them must be imaginary. Even if you assume that one is true, how could you rationally distinguish it from the imaginary ones?

As a side note: the comparison is not simply to "a work of fiction." Novelists, poets, or film producers doesn’t usually present their imaginary tales as true, like the authors of scripture did.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
If they put him under house arrest for supporting the heliocentric theory, imagine what they would do to him if he denied the existence of God. Elsewhere, you call into question the word of Iraqis interviewed in the presence of American troops. Can you not apply the same skepticism to people living under the shadow of the Inquisition?
Oh, come on! No historian I know of doubts Galileo’s deep faith. And Newton’s is so strong it’s undeniable. If you want to deny the historical consensus, you have to provide some kind of evidence that Galileo’s statements of faith aren’t sincere.

The knowledge and theories of quantum physics are merely the refinement of human understanding. Newton’s laws of motion didn’t stop working the minute Max Planck or Albert Einstein discovered their formulas.
Newton’s physics was overturned by Einstein and quantum mechanics. The universe went from a clockwork material universe with space and time as absolutes to a very different one, including non-locality (what happens in place X can instantenously affect what happens in point Y, even if the point is far distant). Even Einstein found that hard to accept, but experiments verify it.
Of course I see the world that is. I’m not seeing a different world. You’re making the unreasonable assumption that light ought to behave differently than it does, that the space between subatomic particles ought to allow more light through than you presently observe. Well, in the world that is, the world that you and I are in, subatomic particles which are very distant relative to their sizes still manage to reflect certain wavelengths of light, depending upon their arrangements with other particles, in generally predictable ways (i.e., silver atoms here or in China have the same reflective properties). So if we saw something different, the universe wouldn’t be what it is now.
Don’t let the term "particle" fool you — particles are really simply ripples in fields, with locations that are probabalistic. Moreover, photons experience reality "all at once," they have no experience of time or space, just velocity. There are a lot of bizarre aspects of quantum mechanics that show that a materialist determinist view of reality is questionable. It does create an opening to a spiritual side of life — non-material — that nonetheless is also natural.
Materials are, in fact, solids, in that "solid" means they do not easily allow other materials to pass through them at relatively low force levels. If the distance between subatomic particles meant that atoms should pass through one another more easily, then this would be a completely different world. You’re not rationally interpreting the evidence available to you if you can’t wrap your mind around the fact that you’re not melding with your chair.
That’s how we experience/interpret them. But remember that particles are not truly chunks of reality, but occur when we observe a quantum state and a probabilistic location of a ripple in a field becomes actualized.
If a man expresses a belief in the supernatural (to properly include spiritual) based upon his faith in what others have told him, then I can conclude that he is not making a rational judgment. If he were making a rational judgment, he would ask for evidence, so he could distinguish between genuine claims and imaginary ones
I disagree. You’re making an assumption that rationality means acceptance of a materialist paradigm. It’s just that non-material notions of reality can’t be studied in a scientific sense, with the same kind of evidence. One has to go with intuition, sentiment, and reflection.

After all, religious belief is common among humans, and there are a lot of similarities between various spiritual beliefs. I don’t limit myself to reflection on the material, I think reality is deeper and more complex than that. I also know I may be wrong, so I won’t be dogmatic. I don’t think religious dogmatism, materialist dogmatism, or ideological dogmatism make sense. The problem with ideology and even reason is that it can be used to justify any belief — depending on your assumptions, you can consider a vast variety of interpretations of reality as objectively correct. But there is no way I’ve ever seen that one can truly be proven so. All we have is our own best guesses based on experience and reflection. I simply add the non-material or, for lack of a better word, spiritual, to that reflection.

BTW, this is probably just coincidence, but it was interesting. Once at the Bangor Mall I stopped at a bookstore and saw "The Birthday Book," which gives astrological information about each person’s birthday. I don’t really take astrology seriously, but for fun I first looked up my birthday. My key word was "spirit," and the entry said that I would be prone to mystical beliefs, and that my thinking would be hard for more pragmatic objective types to fathom and accept. (My B-day: March 1). I had been debating Billy Beck so I looked up his birthday (he had just celebrated it with a usenet post, so I knew it was November 27). His keyword was freedom, and it said that people born that day would be totally devoted to their own personal freedom, and resent any limitations. Now, again, I don’t think such a book really has validity, but you have to admit, that was a rather accurate coincidence.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
As much as I’d love to pick apart your nonsensical excuses for believing in imaginary things, for no rational reason, it’s just too much of a chore.

One last thing, which I don’t think I made enough about:

Now all these things may be wrong, but they were rational.
Believing something on faith is never rational.
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
Believing something on faith is never rational.
First, you apparently don’t know what "rational" means. It means maximizing your expected utility — if believing something on faith does that for you, then you are rational.

Second every day of your life you act on faith. You cannot act in the world without doing so.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
First, you apparently don’t know what "rational" means. It means maximizing your expected utility
No, it doesn’t.
if believing something on faith does that for you, then you are rational.
If believing something on faith makes you immune to the truth, makes you ignore what is logical, then you are not thinking rationally.
Second every day of your life you act on faith. You cannot act in the world without doing so.
So you’re too stupid to discriminate between having faith that the air outside will contain oxygen—like it has for every other minute of your life—and believing that some guy centuries ago performed miracles, when you’ve never, ever seen such a thing nor seen any real evidence of such a thing?
 
Written By: Elliot
URL: http://
First, you apparently don’t know what "rational" means. It means maximizing your expected utility

No, it doesn’t.
Define your terms then. You’re not using them in a standard manner.
If believing something on faith makes you immune to the truth, makes you ignore what is logical, then you are not thinking rationally.
Who determines the truth and what is logical? Define your terms. What if faith comes in for questions for which there is no definitive answer from science or philosophy? Then how can it make one immune from truth, how can it make one ignore what is logical or not think rationally.

But you really need to define how you are using your terms if you’re going to back such broad generalizations.
So you’re too stupid to discriminate between having faith that the air outside will contain oxygen—like it has for every other minute of your life—and believing that some guy centuries ago performed miracles, when you’ve never, ever seen such a thing nor seen any real evidence of such a thing?
Those are your examples, not mine.

And where does one draw the line? Any one can play that old ’give two wild extremes’ game. But that’s evasion. In fact, you seem to have a pretty strong faith yourself, and you seem set on using evasive language and slippery wording to avoid having to actually explain what you believe and why.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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