Bats aren’t bugs

by John Holbo on May 5, 2004

I shouldn’t, but what the heck.

Steven Den Beste has http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2004/05/Inelegance.shtml”>a long post in which he articulates his view that:

we are actually engaged in a three-way war. It’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important consequence of it is simply the recognition and acknowledgement that it is a three-way struggle.

So, the most important consequence of ‘it’ – i.e. the war – is ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement’ of the nature of that very war? Hegel himself might blush at such a lofty, self-reflexive conceit: a war primarily to know what the war itself is about. (If so, why not just not hold the thing and be satisfied with the answer: nothing.)

Many things have happened which are inexplicable under the assumption that there are only two sides.

So Den Beste deduces this must be a three-way war, a priori, by helping himself to the major premise: anything inexplicable on the assumption that it has two sides must have three sides. (How else?) Plato himself, author of the Theaetetus, might blush. Even the Medium Lobster, transcendent being that he is, might balk at playing a ‘prove everyone is a triangle for free’ card.

But can Den Beste really be meaning to assert these strange, speculative things? Oh, who the hell can say? On the other hand, in dovetails neatly with what comes next. He explains how it all flows from the abstract, metaphysical nature of the three combatants. “There is a significant degree to which each of the three should be thought of as ‘hive-minds’.” Or as one hive-mind. Each. One hive-mind. So you get three. Attacking each other with their minds. Anyway, we have here an abstract war of Ideas. Ergo, by harmonic mental attunement, one may apprehend the agonically teleological operations of Mind behind the scenes. That is, the war.

So what will we see, according to Den Beste, if we claw our way out of the cave, into the Sun? First, Islamism – radical, jihadist, militant Islam.

The other two sides are derived from Western philosophical roots. For them I’ve had to invent my own names: “p-idealism” and “empiricism”.

P-idealism:

One world view is known as teleology, which refers to a basic assumption that there’s a fundamental elegance of design to the universe, a deep sense in which things are related so that outcomes are intellectually and esthetically pleasing. When things happen, it’s not just the result of localized cause-and-effect; there’s also a “final cause”, a deeper meaning and source of it. And because of that, it all relates; everything is of a piece, and it’s all part of an elegant overall pattern.

…One of the ways in which this all ultimately manifested was in the basic philosophy of idealism, which posits that the mind is the essential and central force in the universe. . .

And that was why you could figure it all out: if you could somehow attune yourself to that higher order of existence, you’d automatically know it all. And those who had come closer to achieving such enlightenment were therefore more wise than anyone else, and should be able to wield power over the others.

Empiricism:

It started with the question, “What is the universe like?” and came up with the answer, “I dunno; let’s go look and see.” It posits that there actually is an objective universe, and doesn’t automatically assume that it has any kind of underlying purpose. If such a thing is present, it will become clear in due course, and in the mean time let’s all look around to see what kind of place we’re living in.

Notice the peculiar ‘It’. To what does ‘it’ refer? Ideas doing it for themselves? Very Hegelian.

At any rate, the hive-mind known as ‘p-Idealism’ is emanating (in semi-Plotinian fashion) mostly as Europe. The Ding an sich known as ‘empiricism’ manifests itself, empirically, as the United States (roughly).

The basic competition at all levels between the rising force of empiricism and the existing entrenched p-idealism has a long and bloody history. Empiricism dominated the US and still does, but p-idealism has spent most of the last hundred years trying to challenge that, as yet unsuccessfully. In Europe, it’s been more complicated with a long and strong competition between empiricism and p-idealism for control, and the balance of power changing constantly, but since the end of WWII p-idealism has largely come to dominate in western Europe.

Den Beste is, of course, firmly and staunchly on the side of empiricism. Not an p-idealist bone in his body. Nope. No flights of speculative fancy for him. Wouldn’t talk about a messy, empirical thing like it was an abstract dialectic. This isn’t one of those fruity, Hegel passages where you can’t tell whether you are hearing about people, or premises, or a war, or an abstract argument. Or what. Nothing like that.

OK, I’m laying it on thick. But as someone with a weakness for speculative philosophy – from Parmenides on – it bothers me when folks think they can dance ad nauseum to these airy tunes without having to pay the empirical piper. For them to say they are the piper is sillier still.

Seriously, from Hegel’s History: grand, unbroken march of World-Spirit – to den Beste’s War: three-way cage-match of hive-minds – to Calvin’s last-minute report on bats: bats, the big bug scourge of the skies – the finest, truest response is and shall remain that of the tiger, Hobbes: your report only contains one fact, and you made it up.

Hey, it worked for Parmenides. Sort of.

I guess what I’m really saying is it’s about time that whole ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ meme – which was funny for about three days – gets laid totally and finally and utterly to rest. It doesn’t need, at this late stage in its career, to morph into a giant sequel to the Phenomenology of Spirit. It doesn’t need to be an a priori philosophy of anti-Europe grousing that pretends its motto is ‘I dunno, let’s look and see.’

If John Kerry loses a single red-blooded, empirical American vote on the grounds that he fraternizes with p-idealizing surrender hive-minds – I swear somebody is going to deserve a kick in the noumenon.

{ 126 comments }

1

zippy 05.05.04 at 4:58 pm

Three-way hive-mind cage-match!
Three-way hive-mind cage-match!
Three-way hive-mind cage-match!

2

Brian Weatherson 05.05.04 at 5:01 pm

It’s pretty rich for someone to assert that this kind of design-based idealism is more prevalent in Europe than the US. Last I heard there weren’t any big moves on to get creationism and/or intelligent design theories onto the curriculum in _European_ schools. I think your Hobbes has it right.

3

Mark Byron 05.05.04 at 5:06 pm

I haven’t read the Den Beste piece yet, but I’d think that the more religious-based American ethic more resembles P-idealism than it does the empirical model. The assumption that there is an order to the universe tends to flow from the idea of a Creator.

The Europeans seem to lean more towards the empirical model. As Europe becomes more post-Christian, it loses that sence of an orderly creation and has to reprove things from scratch.

4

ogged 05.05.04 at 5:17 pm

It’s pretty rich for someone to assert

Right. Not to mention the conduct of the very war Den Beste apparently is writing about, which has been conducted in such a way that we might have to invent our own Den Bestian term to describe it: anti-factually.

5

asdf 05.05.04 at 5:23 pm

In other news, up is the new down.

6

jdw 05.05.04 at 5:25 pm

_Last I heard there weren’t any big moves on to get creationism and/or intelligent design theories onto the curriculum in European schools._

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,1596,680218,00.html

But the Continent might still be safe, I guess.

7

Ted Barlow 05.05.04 at 5:35 pm

For an intelligent individual to look at the war in Iraq- the run-up, the planning, the execution, and the occupation…

and then to say that “People on the side of the administration, we’re the empiricists”…

that takes a kind of ocean-swallowing gall that I can only call “warbloggerish”. I’m a little stunned.

8

Bruce Baugh 05.05.04 at 5:38 pm

Right on, John. The kind of libertarianism-turned-imperialism that den Beste espouses is itself the grandest, airiest idealism around. (It’s also true of much of the rest of his thought, be it the prospects for computer systems he doesn’t favor or the current realities of alternative cell phone technologies or whatever. Will trumps fact every time.)

9

Hipocrite 05.05.04 at 5:38 pm

You mock and mock and quote your dead European Old-Europe Liberal Hegel Intellectual Ivory Tower Liberal Hegel Liberal stuff, but have you ever invented a word? Huh? Have you?

10

Jeremy Osner 05.05.04 at 6:12 pm

Me too! I was wading through the verbiage waiting to see his assertion that Doug Feith is carrying the Platonist banner for all loyal red-blooded p-idealists to march behind and then he went and switched sides on me — what gives…?

11

Vance Maverick 05.05.04 at 6:17 pm

There’s definitely an anti-evolution strain in the right wing here in Italy. The education minister recently announced that evolution would not be taught in biology classes up through middle school, but was forced to back down.

All that said, Den Beste is really smoking something strong there.

12

Randy Paul 05.05.04 at 6:39 pm

I’m sure that den Beste has been fantasizing about a three way or perhaps even a two way for some time.

13

chun the unavoidable 05.05.04 at 6:40 pm

Den Beste is rather like Gareth except American, older, less well-informed, and without the valuable military experience.

Imagine constructing a sociology of the United States if your only source was his blog. Or, better yet, his blog turns out to be the only surviving record of humanity. I can easily envision it being a sort of Orange Catholic (is that the thing from Herbert, or does that have something to do with Ireland somehow?) bible in some particularly exotic far-future.

14

baa 05.05.04 at 6:45 pm

I don’t want to defend the indefensible, but let’s imagine someone said the following:

1. there’s this war on terror
2. you’ve got these islamic-influenced terrorists
3. In the west, you’ve got a split in the west between…
4. …the americans, who want to kill terrorist and disuade them, and don’t much care for international process and root causes arguments…
5. …and the europeans, who care a lot more about international process and root causes arguments.

Wouldn’t we all agree with that?

Yours in charity

15

Henry 05.05.04 at 6:50 pm

Chun – you should explain who Gareth is for people who haven’t seen “the Office.” But the comparison is exactly right.

16

Matthew 05.05.04 at 7:02 pm

The original and still the best:
My dislike of the French is independant of any fact about the world.

17

dmm 05.05.04 at 7:03 pm

The thought of Den Beste saying “I don’t do sloppy seconds” is going to be giving me cold sweats for days to come.

More to the point, the notion that militant Islam and secular Baathism share a single hive-mind is somewhat anti-empiricist, imho.

18

chun the unavoidable 05.05.04 at 7:15 pm

I’m imagining someone writing to den Beste to complain that the phrase “sloppy seconds” is sexist only to be treated to a graphic, Garethian lecture on how in fact it could apply equally well to either sexual modality.

19

bob mcmanus 05.05.04 at 7:18 pm

I read the whole thing, including the worshipful links. God, what a mess. I am having fun imagining a collaboration of DenBeste and Thomas Friedman, with Victor Davis Hansen doing footnotes.

GWB as empiricist. Who da thunk it.

DenBeste is I suspect typical of many libertarians trying to reconcile themselves with today’s Republican party. That, and the sexy servant anime, has ruined a fine mind.

20

bob mcmanus 05.05.04 at 7:28 pm

Oh, one could meta this war, as the death-throes of conservatism, with one dying tradition(GWB & Republicans) battling another dying tradition(Islamism) while the rest of us duck and cover into our post-modern secularism.

Much like WWI as the death-rattle of the Ancien Regime.

But I don’t have a top-twenty blog, and world-wide reputation as a deep thinker, and watch zombie movies instead of sexy anime, so I guess I can escape a withering deconstruction by Holbo.

21

Dan 05.05.04 at 7:31 pm

So what’s with the buxom, lycra-clad CGI martian on Beste’s 404 page?

I’d like to ding her sich.

22

chun the unavoidable 05.05.04 at 7:34 pm

Bob,

It took me about an hour to recover from the “sloppy seconds” thing and now you bring out the “world-wide reputation as a deep thinker.”

Please stop.

23

Another Damned Medievalist 05.05.04 at 7:38 pm

Thanks for explaining whichGareth, Henry. The mind boggles.

Of course, being a history-type, I could only groan, writhing on the floor, with the serious lumping upon which den Beste bases his arguments. I’m no logician, but I seem to remember something from Philosophy 101 about the conclusion not being valid if the premises are false?

one of my favorites — the idea that Humanism is a result of the Reformation, rather than something that was fundamental to the Reformation. Oh, and that one and only monolithic Inquisition …
silly Rabbit.

24

PZ Myers 05.05.04 at 7:38 pm

You know, as a real, live, working biologist, I get kinda pissy when creationists try to pass themselves off as scientists.

I will henceforth regard them with greater equanimity, because now I have seen the indignities philosophers must suffer when poseurs pretend to be real thinkers.

So when are we going to declare war on Europe? The incessant chanting of the magical term “WMD” got us into Iraq, and “p-idealists” sounds about as persuasive. And has about as much basis in fact.

25

PZ Myers 05.05.04 at 7:46 pm

Oh, crap. I made the mistake of reading one of DenBeste’s trackbacks. I’ve got 125 final exams to grade, don’t these people realize I need every one of my brain cells? I can’t afford to fry them in great sizzling waves by exposing them to Stupid Rays like that.

26

Paul 05.05.04 at 8:03 pm

Hey! That trackback post is titled Den Beste Explains It All.

27

JRoth 05.05.04 at 8:09 pm

hipocrite gave me a coughing fit here at work. Thank Jeebus I’m in a casual environment.

28

surmize 05.05.04 at 9:20 pm

Greetings to all.

Obviously, you fellows know more about these things than I (seriously), but would someone take a moment to respons to “baa”‘s post?

Thanks.

29

The Snark Who Was Really a Boojum 05.05.04 at 9:20 pm

Mark Byron,
“I haven’t read the Den Beste piece yet, but I’d think that the more religious-based American ethic more resembles P-idealism than it does the empirical model.”

I wonder if I am the only one here who appreciates the unintended irony of that statement? After all, to comment before reading is hardly empirical, ne? ^_~

30

h. e. baber 05.05.04 at 9:31 pm

So when are we going to declare war on Europe?

When is Europe going to declare war on us and strip us of our WMD and privately held assault weapons? You bet there’s a Clash of Civilizations–and I know whose side I’m on.

31

vaildog 05.05.04 at 9:40 pm

I wish everyone of you were dead.

32

MWB 05.05.04 at 9:47 pm

Not to quibble, but when writing about SdB, “long post” is redundant.

33

Matt 05.05.04 at 9:47 pm

One thing can be said about Den Beste’s article that wouldn’t apply to this deconstruction of it is that his article can be understood by your average reader. I don’t really understand many of the “points” of this follow-up, and there is no effort to explain them to a layman such as myself.

Perhaps that makes me one of the unwashed and unworthy of understanding your point before I’ve read Hegel or learned whatever those german(?) phrases mean?

I don’t know, but for what it’s worth his artcle is an appeal to others, whereas this piece is a self-congratulatory pat on the back and a sage nod to a clique that apparently is already in agreement.

34

DJW 05.05.04 at 9:49 pm

You hardly need to be a Hegel scholar (I’m certainly not) to grasp John’s primary point–that SDB is engaging in exactly the kind of thinking and reasoning he’s accusing Europeans of.

35

chun the unavoidable 05.05.04 at 9:59 pm

Important point for Panblogss Holbo: this is what awaits the world of literary blogs. P-idealism vs. empiricism.

36

bob mcmanus 05.05.04 at 10:00 pm

“would someone take a moment to respond to “baa“‘s post?”

baa’s post is in no way a condensed DenBeste, for SD has a much larger agenda, connecting the American academic left with Europe, for instance. I have read most of SD’s previous essays on this subject, to my public embarrassment.
…..
On it’s own merits? No baa, very few would agree with it. For instance, SD would say that the Democrats and the far left do not want to kill and dissuade terrorists.
….
For myself, I state my analysis above. Islam is very much of the West. GWB and the current Republican party represent the same atavistic nostalgia for a feudalistic theocracy as Osama bin Laden and the Wahhabbists. They are both doomed to fail, but will take many ot most or all of us with them as they go.

37

brett 05.05.04 at 10:11 pm

Every time I come to this blog, I kick myself for wasting time reading this pompous crap. Any post that mentions Hegel four times *and* uses the phrase ding an sich is too pretentious to live.

> a sage nod to a clique that apparently is already in agreement

I would use something more pejorative than ‘sage’, but the comment is dead on. What a waste of space.

38

Sebastian Holsclaw 05.05.04 at 10:13 pm

“So, the most important consequence of ‘it’ – i.e. the war – is ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement’ of the nature of that very war?”

I’m not going to defend his whole piece, but your attack on it starts from pretty shaky ground. The reason acknowledgemnt is important (especially to someone like Steven who places himself in the empiricist camp) is that it allows you to try to deal with the situation that exists, instead of the situation that you wish existed.

He is suggesting (and his target audience is mostly I suspect Americans) that we wish we were in a situation where everyone thought that Islamism was as important to fight as we do. But the real situation might be that some people think that American power is at least as dangerous, and that they are consequently more interested in focusing on restraining American power. They will do so even if it hobbles the fight against terrorism because they see American power as the greater threat.

If true, this would have many ramifications for American policy that would be impossible before such a state were acknowledged, wouldn’t it?

Also note that he isn’t suggesting we need to invade France or any such thing. He is just suggesting that it would be better for the US not to pretend that certain allies are really interested in the same goals as the US.

39

bob mcmanus 05.05.04 at 10:28 pm

Nor is Sebastian a shorter DenBeste. SdB makes those arguments directly. And many visitors to this blog also make those kind of arguments

What is his purpose in putting these questions into an epistemological framework? What is the value of that project? That was really the question Mr Holbo asks, and the one you need to answer.

40

liberal japonicus 05.05.04 at 10:32 pm

1. there’s this war on terror
OK, baa, help me out. What is the War on terror? When will it be over? What defines winning and losing?

2. you’ve got these islamic-influenced terroristsOK, is their sole influence from Islam? Or, could it be that they were influenced because we financed them against the Soviets in Afghanistan? Or that they were used by the Saudis to channel dissent but maintain power?
3. In the west, you’ve got a split in the west between…
4. …the americans, who want to kill terrorist and disuade them, and don’t much care for international process and root causes arguments…
5. …and the europeans, who care a lot more about international process and root causes arguments.

As Bob said, ‘americans’ is an overly broad brush. But, not meaning to be snarky, if ‘we’ are not concerned with ‘root causes’, aren’t we just setting ourselves up for the next time when someone is able to tap a set of grievances about the modern world?

41

Eric 05.05.04 at 10:35 pm

Agree with first handful of posts. American neo conservatism is p-idealism to the core.

42

PZ Myers 05.05.04 at 10:41 pm

One thing can be said about Den Beste’s article that wouldn’t apply to this deconstruction of it is that his article can be understood by your average reader.

Ah. But do you think the average reader understands the Den Beste’s long-winded, yammering post o’ nonsense is a reeking pile of pig poop?

43

tate 05.05.04 at 10:44 pm

Shorter Den Beste: a priori, I am an empiricist.

44

Lindsay Beyerstein 05.05.04 at 10:52 pm

Am I the only person deeply confused by Den Beste’s post? I had a lot of trouble extracting any cognitive content at all.

Admittedly, I had to Google “sloppy seconds” to confirm my guess as to its meaning.

45

Troll King 05.05.04 at 10:59 pm

Eww…this is a gross thread.

This kind of tortured, bad faith reading / grandstanding would make a sophist proud. I recall back in grad school when I learned how to read that way, too.

It’s easy once you pick up the knack. You just engage in willful misprision with the text. You get bonus points if you can throw in a French or German phrase, double points if you can toss in Latin or a non-Romance language, and triple word score if you can type something in Greek typeface using a DVORAK keyboard.

Just a bunch of glass-bead game players here, very smart and funny ones, but ultimate just a bunch of folks in a circle jerk. Sloppy seconds to them means they lick their hands before wanking a second time. Best just to back out of here and not touch anything.

46

Matt 05.05.04 at 11:20 pm

“Ah. But do you think the average reader understands the Den Beste’s long-winded, yammering post o’ nonsense is a reeking pile of pig poop?”

I think they would be able to make that distinguishment if they so chose; Again, unlike this criticism of it.

47

chun the unavoidable 05.05.04 at 11:24 pm

I deenchoosenate to cogiarbitrate upon that distinguishment.

48

bob mcmanus 05.05.04 at 11:29 pm

“Empiricism is all well and good, but seriously it’s just not possible to interpret data without background assumptions. One doesn’t, of course, want to cling too dogmatically to one’s assumptions, but it’s hard to say exactly how dogmatically is too dogmatically.” Yglesias

In spirit of offending everyone, and trying to explain SdB’s defenders, I would mention that SdB is trying to answer a need. I am doing my best with a late-life study of pomo and analytic philosophy, but the bright young philosopher quoted above doesn’t help all that much in making the tough decisions. Or offer much hope of clarity.

In other words, perhaps SdB is doing it very badly, but he is doing what philosophers for 2500 were supposed to do, and since it appears professional philosophers have abandoned the responsibility, perhaps they may have also lost the right to criticize the amateur on style points.

49

A.M.B. 05.05.04 at 11:37 pm

I think Den Best is on to something. Years ago I read Hegel’s aesthetics and came with this impression that his philosophy was really about the number three:

Aesthetics
1. symbolic art
2. Classical art
3. Romantic art

Dialethics
1. Thesis
2. Anti-thesis
3. Synthesis

The Objective Spirit
1. das Recht
2. Moralitat
3.concrete morality (Sittlichkeit)

Religion
1. Natural Religion
2. God as transcendence
3. Absolute religion

I suppose someone better acquianted with Hegel could continue the list…

Andre, Portugal

50

Walt Pohl 05.05.04 at 11:41 pm

For our very many bitter interlopers: the tone of John’s post is a joke — hence the comparisons to Hegel, etc. His point is that you can’t both be an empiricist and at the same time invent a grand metaphysical theory that divides all of humanity into three groups. _That_ kind of analysis is associated with non-empiricists like Hegel.

51

Lindsay Beyerstein 05.05.04 at 11:48 pm

Was it Gibbard who said that the goal of ethics was parochialism with the widest possible parish? In that spirit, I submit that wisdom is a circle jerk with the largest possible circle.

52

Walt Pohl 05.05.04 at 11:48 pm

Shorter John Holbo: SdB’s post is like someone who says “There are two kinds of people in the world — those who divide people into two kinds, and those who don’t. I don’t.”

53

Matt 05.06.04 at 12:01 am

Woo! I hooked one! Chun’s my first Elitist fish of the day.

Distinguishment is a word that is no longer in common usage, having been replaced by ‘distinction’ but can nonetheless be distinguished from distinction by the necessity of there being an observer.

You may now proceed to educate yourself, Chun. Bon appetit!

54

beyondhope 05.06.04 at 12:02 am

To conclude that “empiricists” should continue a course of action which means no negotiation with anyone who disagrees with their point of view strikes one as completely absurd.
Three wise monkeys carrying machine guns – not a pretty site.

55

Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 12:20 am

Well I think Steven’s argument was based on one really insulting assumption: that those in the west who oppose American power have come to a conclusion that is so bizarre and at such odds with the evidence that it must stem from a philosophy that makes realistic reasoning from evidence impossible.

While I DO agree with part of Steven’s assessment, that European opposition to a war against Islamism is foolish, I think there are plenty of other reasons for politics and societies to be foolish other than philosophies that make reasoning impossible.

I think humanity deserves less respect than Steven gives it. It’s the exception for a person to be well informed, well reasoned and clear seeing – one doesn’t have to posit deep reasons for ignorance, stupidity, moral or intellectual laziness, nor for shallow irresponsible politics that prefers crowd-pleasing appeals to old biases.

56

Anatoly 05.06.04 at 12:28 am

Bob,

Islam is very much of the West.

Huh?

GWB and the current Republican party represent the same atavistic nostalgia for a feudalistic theocracy as Osama bin Laden and the Wahhabbists.

How tedrallish of you.

How do you figure? Where do you find anything in GWB and Republicans’ programs, stated intentions, speeches, etc. that’s even remotely close to the kind of society bin Laden and the Wahhabists are openly striving for?

57

tate 05.06.04 at 12:31 am

another damned medievalist–

An argument is invalid if its premises are true but its conclusion false. The validity or invalidity of an argument says nothing about the truth or falsity of the claims made, only about the form of the argument.

It is possible to determine the truth or falsity of a conclusion of a valid argument if the truth or falsity of the premises are known and the argument as a whole is known to be valid.

Den Beste doesn’t make an overarching argument in his post. He only provides definitions.

58

Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 12:35 am

By the way, as for SDB not being the perfect empiricist…

Remember Steven Den Beste is an engineer, and has an engineer’s attitude toward abstractions. Engineers don’t wish for perfection, they wish for “good enough”.

He reasons if people are ignoring evidence and coming to ridiculous conclusions, then they must not be empirical enough.

That’s really all there is to it. By the way, he’s ignoring the possibility that said people are simply uninformed or misinformed.

59

Raymond 05.06.04 at 12:41 am

I’m with you, Matt.

Ever wonder what an intellectual circle-jerk would look like?

Regards

60

Anatoly 05.06.04 at 12:47 am

tate —

It is possible to determine the truth or falsity of a conclusion of a valid argument if the truth or falsity of the premises are known and the argument as a whole is known to be valid.

If the premises are false and the argument is valid, the truth status of the conclusion cannot be determined: it could be either true or false.

(picking the nitpickers’ nits since 1847)

61

tate 05.06.04 at 12:51 am

anatoly–

Thanks.

62

TomK 05.06.04 at 12:55 am

Tate –

“An argument is invalid if its premises are true but its conclusion false.”

Not quite. An argument is invalid if it is possible for it’s premises to be true and it’s conclusion false.

1.) George Bush is the president of the United states.
2.) Either George Bush is not President of the United states or 2+2=4
—-
3.) So, Britan is surronded by a lot of water.

This argument has true premises and true conclusion and is invalid. Invalidity requires the possibility of true premises while there is a false conclusion, not that the premises are true and the conclusion is false.

63

bob mcmanus 05.06.04 at 1:26 am

“Islam is very much of the West. Huh?”

Should I bother?
Maybe it was too terse. The conflict, such as it is, between Christianity and Islam is very comparable to the conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism. In other words two equally respectable branches of the Judeo-Christian Graeco-Roman Western tradition. If I have to tell you who Averroes is I shouldn’t have bothered.
….
“the same atavistic nostalgia for a feudalistic theocracy” is what I said. Note that “same” modifies “atavistic nostalgia”. I did regret this somewhat, for it does oversimplify.

Rove’s favorite President: McKinley. Reference work of use: Marvin Olasky’s “Tragedy of American Compassion”
Would require a book of cites to really argue, so just the bold thesis that the President and his allies seek to return America to the general conditions of the late 19th century in terms of regulation, gov’t intervention,tax structure, social mores, etc.
The world of paternalistic capitalism, of Pullman and Rockefeller and Ford. Was this “theocratic feudalism?” Too close for my comfort.

64

John D'oh 05.06.04 at 1:52 am

Can I ask a sincerely, honestly puzzled question?

Could someone explain to me what the *point* of behaving all mean and nasty like this is?

I mean, what exactly is it supposed to accomplish? What’s the goal here, and how and why is this mean and nasty behavior particularly appropriate and effective in achieving it?

?

Ack!
Non Illegitimi Carborundum, and KOT!

65

Matt 05.06.04 at 2:25 am

I don’t mind intellectualism, it’s the elitist attitude that deliberately alienates the very people the intellectuals are, or at least should be, trying to reach that irks me.

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mwb 05.06.04 at 2:37 am

What’s elitist about calling BS on BS?

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J 05.06.04 at 2:38 am

Why is satire so unrecognizable to so many people? Maybe we really should go to John Quiggin’s irony alert system. It didn’t even occur to matt that Chun was joking. Some of these people probably get offended by The Onion.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 2:45 am

You know it occures to me that teleological thinking is hardly rare. It may even be the norm among new-age types here in the SF where I live. And it’s the norm among mystics of all types.

It’s a force that’s completely overlooked in most analyses.

Perhaps it just sounds wrong to be the first person to claim that this sort of thing actually effects politics.

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Anatoly 05.06.04 at 2:46 am

Bob,

Maybe it was too terse. The conflict, such as it is, between Christianity and Islam is very comparable to the conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Everything is comparable. Is it similar?

Did Islam arise as a movement inside Christianity, or vice versa?
Does either of them stress the importance of the original holy texts much more than the other? Is one of them wholly united, with the chain of command at least theoretically leading to one person, while the other is diverse and includes many different denominations?

In other words, is there any substance to the analogy you’re drawing, or is it a ham-fisted attempt to bring Islam into “the West” by likening its conflict with Christianity, such as it is, with whatever major conflict within Christianity that comes to a willing mind?

And hey, give Averroes a rest. The poor guy deserved it, and I suspect he wouldn’t like you making a red herring out of him, anyway.

I did regret this somewhat, for it does oversimplify.

I’ll say!

so just the bold thesis that the President and his allies seek to return America to the general conditions of the late 19th century in terms of regulation, gov’t intervention,tax structure, social mores, etc.

Well, now you’ve made it somewhat more believable, but not quite enough to push it out of the realm of patently absurd. Maybe after two or three further revisions we could get to something realistic?

I mean, come on, late 19th century’s social mores? With the repeal of the income tax to boot? Any chance for a quote from anyone in the administration regarding their intent to outlaw fornication or get rid of the income tax?

The world of paternalistic capitalism, of Pullman and Rockefeller and Ford. Was this “theocratic feudalism?” Too close for my comfort.

Even this ridiculous picture is nowhere close to what bin Laden etc. are openly advocating.

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Matt 05.06.04 at 3:02 am

j, why is it so hard for you to recognize my baiting an elitist for fun? Is my humor so hard to understand? Perhaps the air is too thin up there on your humor high-horse?

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h. e. baber 05.06.04 at 3:04 am

How do you figure? Where do you find anything in GWB and Republicans’ programs, stated intentions, speeches, etc. that’s even remotely close to the kind of society bin Laden and the Wahhabists are openly striving for??

Let’s see–madrassas and schools where students learn scripture, protected from teaching about evolution or other topics that might disrupt their religious convictions; faith-based initiatives; family values–female modesty, puritanism and sex-roles; the right to bear arms interpreted as the right of individuals to buy handguns and assault weapons at the local strip mall; anti-intellectualism, machismo and nostalgia for a former age of faith. Recall that shortly after 9/11 Falwell flew the idea that it was God’s punishing the US for harboring “feminists, abortionists and secular humanists.”

It makes one wonder why conservatives in the US are fighting radical Islamisists rather than joining them–the ideology is the same. It’s just a clash between competing tribal warlords.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 3:07 am

bob mcmanus said:
For myself, I state my analysis above. Islam is very much of the West. GWB and the current Republican party represent the same atavistic nostalgia for a feudalistic theocracy as Osama bin Laden and the Wahhabbists. They are both doomed to fail, but will take many ot most or all of us with them as they go.

That’s a theory so absurd that only an intellectual could posit it.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 3:19 am

It makes one wonder why conservatives in the US are fighting radical Islamisists rather than joining them—the ideology is the same. It’s just a clash between competing tribal warlords.

The reason for that is obvious.

Social conservatives are the ones who never gave up the idea that there are some morally inferior cultures out there.

So when faces with a culture that’s deeply hostile, xenophobic, bigoted and determined to cause us harm, social conservatives are the only people in our society who don’t have a taboo against recognizing an enemy. Nor do they have a taboo against recognizing that our culture has intellectual and cultural achievements that deserved to be protected against those who oppose those achievements. Nor do they have a taboo against going to war to protect the lives and futures of their children.

That their philosophy is, at the most shallow (and misleading) level, less incompatible with those Islamists than progressive philosophy is is irrelevent. Social conservatives are equiped to be early adopters of the war against our enemies.

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mg 05.06.04 at 3:31 am

j, why is it so hard for you to recognize my baiting an elitist for fun? Is my humor so hard to understand? Perhaps the air is too thin up there on your humor high-horse?

I say, wouldn’t it be fun if John Holbo came here now and wrote that he only posted to bait an anti-intellectualist or two? Seems to be working…

And FTR, matt, your humour is hard to understand. I think you’ll have to spell out for me how eliciting a fairly obvious joke(sorry, Chun) is funny.

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bob mcmanus 05.06.04 at 3:37 am

” sistani is a shia thinker (specifically, an ithna ashari akbari shia), and the shia have been outside the mainstream of the mutazilite vs. asharite dispute (this is a “sunni” issue). in fact, it is in the shia tradition that you find living direct transmissions of mutazilite thought & philosophy.” Just a comment in a Abiola Lapite “Foreign Dispatches” thread. The possibility that Sistani and his followers may give Wahabbism some real competition is a real benefit of the Iraq invasion.

What can I say? A troll that would exclude Islam from Western Civilization is hard to argue with.
I stand refuted guys. Got me.

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moonbiter 05.06.04 at 3:49 am

Not to lower the level of discourse, but I keep on imagining that he hears “Get to the god-damned point, Steven” a whole lot in his life.

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Kip Manley 05.06.04 at 4:04 am

If there’s one thing I’d want learned and learned right good by whatever hypothetical children I might some day be responsible for, it’s “I’m stupid and you’ve all read the same books I haven’t so thbbptptt” is by no means a winning tactic in any dispute.

That said, it bears repeating: to call “empirical” the cabal that chased 20-year-old fevre dreams of empire into Iraq requires a degree of folly and delusion that is monstrous to contemplete. –Nor do I understand in what way Islamism (Islamofascism? The Swarthy Other?) is supposed to differ from both p-idealism and empiricism. Does Den Beste mean they are nihilists? Is that why we must also steel ourselves for war with the French?

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Anatoly 05.06.04 at 4:07 am

The second trackback to this post is pure gold.

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michaela cooper 05.06.04 at 4:09 am

This really isn’t worth saying, but being a sometime English professor and a fulltime pedant, I couldn’t let John (who’s right, after all) get away with a couple of cheap shots at SDB based on reading his words wrong.

1) SDB’s words:

we are actually engaged in a three-way war. It’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important consequence of it is simply the recognition and acknowledgement that it is a three-way struggle.

JH’s response:

So, the most important consequence of ‘it’ – i.e. the war – is ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement’ of the nature of that very war? Hegel himself might blush at such a lofty, self-reflexive conceit: a war primarily to know what the war itself is about. (If so, why not just not hold the thing and be satisfied with the answer: nothing.)

Me:

If you regard the antecedent for the second pronoun “it” (in the phrase “the most important consequence of it . . . is recognition & acknowledgment”) as “something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about,” then it’s not such a completely idiotic remark. He’s spent a lot of time thinking about his trinity, and the most important consequence of that thinking is (universal) “recognition and acknowledgment” that his trinity exists.

2) SDB (as given):

Empiricism:

It started with the question, “What is the universe like?” and came up with the answer, “I dunno; let’s go look and see.” It posits that there actually is an objective universe, and doesn’t automatically assume . . . .

JH:
Notice the peculiar ‘It’. To what does ‘it’ refer? Ideas doing it for themselves? Very Hegelian.

Me:

SDB set himself up for this cheap shot by misquoting himself. If you go back to his earlier piece, from which he’s quoting, you find the language like this:

The third faction also draws from Greek roots, and as mentioned in the quote above it’s generally known as realism. It started with the question, “What is the universe like?” and came up with the answer, “I dunno; let’s go look and see.” It posits that there actually is an objective universe . . . .

Clearly the “third faction” “started with the question . . . and came up with the answer . . . [and] posits . . . .” I grant you he gets into trouble when he himself confuses the members of the faction “realists” with their epistemological approach “realism.” Then it starts to sound as if ideas “are doing it for themselves” (standin’ on their own two feet & ringin’ on their own bells).

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michaela cooper 05.06.04 at 4:10 am

This really isn’t worth saying, but being a sometime English professor and a fulltime pedant, I couldn’t let John (who’s right, after all) get away with a couple of cheap shots at SDB based on reading his words wrong.

1) SDB’s words:

we are actually engaged in a three-way war. It’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important consequence of it is simply the recognition and acknowledgement that it is a three-way struggle.

JH’s response:

So, the most important consequence of ‘it’ – i.e. the war – is ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement’ of the nature of that very war? Hegel himself might blush at such a lofty, self-reflexive conceit: a war primarily to know what the war itself is about. (If so, why not just not hold the thing and be satisfied with the answer: nothing.)

Me:

If you regard the antecedent for the second pronoun “it” (in the phrase “the most important consequence of it . . . is recognition & acknowledgment”) as “something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about,” then it’s not such a completely idiotic remark. He’s spent a lot of time thinking about his trinity, and the most important consequence of that thinking is (universal) “recognition and acknowledgment” that his trinity exists.

2) SDB (as given):

Empiricism:

It started with the question, “What is the universe like?” and came up with the answer, “I dunno; let’s go look and see.” It posits that there actually is an objective universe, and doesn’t automatically assume . . . .

JH:
Notice the peculiar ‘It’. To what does ‘it’ refer? Ideas doing it for themselves? Very Hegelian.

Me:

SDB set himself up for this cheap shot by misquoting himself. If you go back to his earlier piece, from which he’s quoting, you find the language like this:

The third faction also draws from Greek roots, and as mentioned in the quote above it’s generally known as realism. It started with the question, “What is the universe like?” and came up with the answer, “I dunno; let’s go look and see.” It posits that there actually is an objective universe . . . .

Clearly the “third faction” “started with the question . . . and came up with the answer . . . [and] posits . . . .” I grant you he gets into trouble when he himself confuses the members of the faction “realists” with their epistemological approach “realism.” Then it starts to sound as if ideas “are doing it for themselves” (standin’ on their own two feet & ringin’ on their own bells).

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 4:12 am

Henry, would you pleast stop posting under twenty names?

It’s dishonest and it creates the impression that there are 100 dimwitted moonbats fluttering around this blog instead of one.

Yes we’ve already noted that you have no idea what SDB is talking about. That’s not anything to brag about, really.

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Lance Boyle 05.06.04 at 4:44 am

“…deeply hostile, xenophobic, bigoted and determined to cause us harm…”
Yeppers. Ayhup. Uh-hunh. Okey-dokey.

A thread that has a quote or two from Bill Watterson and a trollish misreading of Hesse’s “Der Glasperlenspiel” is unmistakable evidence the world’s not yet entirely lost.

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spacetoast 05.06.04 at 5:07 am

Hm, I think that the object, which was supposed to be the essential element, is now the unessential element. Frankly, I am deeply disappointed in this thread, which I expected to amass lots of hilarious Hegel jokes as it went on (82 comments as of now!)…what a bunch of fuckers.

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Matt 05.06.04 at 5:20 am

Wow. What a collection of jerks there are posting here.

A lot of folks here remind me of that guy in Good Will Hunting who tried to impress the girl in the bar with their scholarly jabber, only to get bitchslapped by one of the hoi polloi.

Go ahead, cerebroids, tell me “hoi” means “the” in Greek, so I’m being redundant. How sad.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 5:53 am

Lance Boyle:

Sarcasm of things you’re ignorant about is ugly.

After 9/11 I spent months finding out what was going on in the middle east. I took the time to find out (some of):
1. what Arabic newspapers are saying
2. what politicians in the middle east are saying
3. what’s being taught in school curricula in middle eastern countries
4. what is being preached in the mosques.
5. what dissidents and intellectuals in the middle east are writing.
– In all I was trying to get a feel for what was going on in these cultures.

Partially this was because what I found in my first forays was scary as hell, and I wanted to know just how bad it was.

Lance I can see that you’re not just skeptical of my opinion, you’re contemptuous of it. I can also see that you are completely ignorant. That’s not just irresponsible and immature, it’s also damn ugly.

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Lance Boyle 05.06.04 at 6:16 am

Joshua –
Not only am I not skeptical of your opinion, I have no opinion about your opinion. Your opinion does not create a counter-opinion in me.
Just that description. I have an opinion about that description.
The words I quoted could easily be describing any aggressive nation at this dark moment. Certainly the US and its allies qualify.
“…deeply hostile, xenophobic, bigoted and determined to cause us harm…”
Your enemies will be saying that about you as well, I’ll wager.

The Glass Bead Game, now there’s something I have an opinion about. The importance of seemingly arcane, seemingly inconsequential study. The value of, and the necessity to defend, the most obscure academic research.
Yes indeedy.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 6:37 am

“lance,” well I’m skeptical of your evasiveness.
You write with derision and pick a sarcastic name and then claim “I have no opinion about your opinion.”

You’re lying, and you’re clearly too insecure to actually argue.

Let me suggest one thing. The morality based on easy rules or images is wrong.
In the real world, you have a moral duty to find out what really exists and to make the supreme effort it takes to figure out what is likely to happen and what the results of each possible action is.

You can’t dismiss war a-priori. That means that we will always be plagued by doubt and guilt and that we will never find that moral decisions are easy.

If you think there are always easy, obvious answers, then you are too divorced from reality.

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jholbo 05.06.04 at 6:38 am

I’ll just make a quick response to Michaela Cooper, who calls me out on some cheap shots. Basically, I construe a couple of ‘it’s in anaphorically uncharitable fashion. Michaela is quite right that I am stretching, and this is really not a friendly way to interpret blog posts. Lord knows I have some slipped sentences to my credit. But I was actually making a serious point by means of my cheap shots (which may only make the cheapness worse). Den Beste has a very marked tendency to spiral of into realms of Pure Mind, in which (as Michaela nicely puts it) ideas stand on their own two feet and ring their own bells. His peculiar sentences are symptoms of this. He writes a sentence about the war as if it were a pure war of ideas, because it is his sense of the war as a war of ideas that fires his imagination. He writes about ideas in ways that impute to them autonomous, teleological energy because that is how he models the war; as a teleological motion of Mind. (Of course, he will protest that his sense of Mind – hive-mind and the rest – is immanent in the empirical reality, not transcendent. But, hey, that’s what Hegel and Marx said too.)

The point of the post, of course, is that it would be altogether helpful if Den Beste smelled the empirical coffee and admitted that he IS the type of thinker he thinks he is combatting. Indeed, it is rare to find such pure instances of the p-idealist type. If Den Beste saw this he might either decide that his own approach was illegitimate all along. Or he might decide that p-idealism isn’t such a bad way to live, after all. Maybe get to know his long-lost European relatives, like Hegel and Marx and Spengler and folks like that. The guys with the big Ideas. Who are very clever fellows in their way. (I’m not saying that Den Beste is stupid, even though I am mocking him. I don’t think he is stupid, though I think he is terribly wrong about politics.)

Of course being such a smirking smarty pants, I’m not really doing enough to get this point across in a ‘win friends and influence people’ sort of way.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 6:45 am

jholbo

There are two things wrong with your accessment of SDB.

One, he makes an attempt (only half successful) to base his high flying theories on actual historical trends and on his observations of people. His theories may be wrong (IMO some of them are) but they are not based on any sense of beauty, justice or on faith that God will reward the pure of heart and intention.

He is arguing against two philosophies based on just those assumptions.

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jholbo 05.06.04 at 7:00 am

Well, I may be uncharitable, Joshua, but I think this whole high-flying ‘America is empiricism, Europe is p-idealist’ thing is just a function of irritation at Europe. I think it’s just a more windy expression of a chuckle at ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’. It is, then, an aesthetic response. ‘Empiricism’ ends up being short-hand for a lot of things SDB likes, ‘p-idealism’ basically means being a lofty blockhead who won’t face facts. So you end up with the point of view that America is basically noble and Europe basically a lofty blockhead. And this is supposed to sort of prove that the intuition that America is basically noble and Europe basically a lofty blockhead is basically right. But really it is just an EXPRESSION of that intuition. SDB is just spinning out threads of this intuition, which he very powerfully has. (It’s not like he’s got empirical data for what he’s saying. How are you going to confirm or disconfirm, empirically, that Europe is a locus of p-idealistic hive-minditude.) So the intuition, wearing a fancy hat, testifies to the effect that the intuition is correct. It’s just this sort of tight circularity – very characteristic of idealistic philosophy down the ages – that empiricism is supposed to combat.

As a wise man once wrote: “metaphysics is the provision of bad reasons for what we believe on instinct.” That is SDB’s three-way war in a nutshell.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 7:01 am

Oh, and point two is…
I forget what point two is.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 7:17 am

Well the clearly anti-empirical attitudes that SDB noticed in Europe are:

1. pacifism
2. faith in (inherently corrupt) transnational institutions like the UN
3. socialism and it’s softer variant like social-democratic parties.

Now, I completely disagree with SDB that social-democratic parties have proven themselves to be failures – I believe that they are trying optimize parameters that SDB isn’t even recognizing.

But both the immorality of pacifism and it’s historical ineffictiveness (in relevent circumstances) is so trivial to prove that support for pacifism almost proves the existance of philosophies that are divorced from historical reality and realistic moralit.

A similar case can be made for #2. One certainly can not be a liberal and a supporter of an institution run by a plurality of despots.

No, there is some substance to SDB’s arguement, though you didn’t notice it.

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casualobserver 05.06.04 at 7:51 am

Joshua-
You like long words, and you like war, and especially you like war against Muslims. Why don’t you join the army.
PS: Don’t forget to bring back some photos.

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Nabakov 05.06.04 at 8:35 am

Meanwhile the Beste boy is stomping around the deck of USS Clueless, complaining that many readers don’t understand how he works.

Apparently he’s basically a “holistic” writer, working in ways that may not be explained, and not a thinker that gets bogged down in nitpicky empirical detail.

There’s no doubt the man has a fine brain, just not much of a mind.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 8:37 am

Casual Observer, I just feel that the Islamofacists are set to turn the whole western world, starting with the US into another Israel. But they’re likely to use more sophisitcated weapons against the US than cheap vest bombs.
If we do nothing, then I feel that a likely outcome, within 75 years, is a constant string of WMD attacks against our country – with the full, though covert, support of Muslim dominated states.

Obviously this would ruin the lives of our children or grandchildren.

I came to the same conclusion as the so called “neo-cons” independently…

In the long run we have 3 choices:
1. bring liberal values to the middle east / denazify the place as soon as possible
2. wait until our existance is threatened and wipe them out
3. allow them to destroy our civilization – by which I mean, bring mass, mass death and everlasting war to us without ever using our own WMDs to end it.

I prefer #1 to #3 (probably your choice)

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Lance Boyle 05.06.04 at 9:20 am

“Joshua” “Scholar”-
You called me a liar. But I didn’t lie to you. Or here.
I scanned the thread, caught a strong hit of ironic parodic intelligent fun, the Hobbes quote, the disembowelling of a fatuous blowhard, and then, as the thread deteriorated toward its bathroom-stall entropic destiny, basically quit reading, even though I was reading – you know that one? Thinking about something else while the words go by?
I swear. So I didn’t connect your name with that quote, or your arguments or your thoughts or anything; I was surprised when you responded, I thought it was because of the position of my post just above yours.
I just read that phrase and thought it needed a little salt, that’s all. Mostly I wanted to rebutt that troll person and his use of “The Glass Bead Game” as a derogatory reference. Egregious, that.
Your arguments aren’t contemptible, they’re lunar, too desperately weak to matter. Bad logic offends me, but nonsense is amusing; you’re somewhere in the middle. Only neither offensive, particularly, nor amusing.
It’s too late for the arguments you want to make. The tumblers are rolling in the lock.
It’s over.
Your side will use its nuclear weapons, the people you attack will, who cares who goes first?
I don’t have any nuclear weapons.
Nobody I have the phone number of does, either.
But we’re going, too.

Thanks, for everything.

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pepi 05.06.04 at 9:25 am

Oh, man, the Bush approach as a triumph of ’empiricism’ is the funniest thing ever! This Dan Beste guy must be a clever satirist.

When I started reading, I was actually expecting that in the most classic right-wing take he’d pin the “empiricism” on Europe and damn it as some sort of post-modern cynical ennui that is responsible for weakness in the face of terrorism blah blah blah. AS opposed to the “idealism” that gives America its ideological advantage over Islam etc etc etc.

But gosh, he is surprisingly original to reverse the terms like that! wow.

And the way he defines what he calls “idealism” – if you could somehow attune yourself to that higher order of existence, you’d automatically know it all – sounds like it’s taken right out of Carlos Castaneda or some later new age guru.

Very very amusing.

The only question is, who is the target of his clever satire? philosophers? Americans? Europeans? Islamists? or himself?

Hmm, I won’t be able to rest until I get that…

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Motoko Kusanagi 05.06.04 at 9:35 am

Andre:

“…Dialethics:
1. Thesis
2. Anti-thesis
3. Synthesis
…”

Synthesis?!? Now really! That should be “aufhebung” – elevation.

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pepi 05.06.04 at 9:36 am

No, there is some substance to SDB’s arguement, though you didn’t notice it.

Heh, I know, I know… it’s got to be too deep and clever and most of all so so original, only similary fine minds can grasp it!

I’m with the thick ones who can’t even dream of attaining such lofty heights of crystal-clear reasoning. Ah, bollocks.

I do appreciate the entertainment value though. Surely that’s a good start already!What do I have to do next to become enlightened to this fabulous new empiricism?
Is there a crash course? Do I get a job in some think tank? Go on, sell it to me proper…

When you’ve opened up a whole new revolutionary way of thinking, you’ve got to win converts, not just say “you don’t get it”. Come on.

:p

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 9:55 am

Lance Boyle,
odd post for someone accusing me of poor logic.

I’d suggest you actually make an arguement, but I suspect that you already would have if you were capable.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 10:26 am

Ah lance, I reread your post. Now I understand your point of view.

According to your non-logic it is America’s fault that Europe will have to fight.

Never mind that Islamofacists have been explicit in their enimity for many years, never mind that they intended to invade Europe anyway.

You will need to defend yourselves, and it’s America’s fault, because, because, well because you need a scapegoat, and blaming your REAL enemy could be dangerous.

Shhhh, don’t piss off the Muslim fanatics, they’re dangerous.

The wisest thing that Ann Coulter has ever said (perhaps the only wise thing):
“we must mollify angry fanatics who seek our destruction because otherwise they might get mad and seek our destruction.”

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 10:31 am

Damn, cutting and pasting off the internet has it’s pitfalls.

Obviously Coulter ACTUALLY said

“We must molify angry fanatics who seek our destruction, otherwise they might get angry and seek our destruction.”

What fool thought she’d ruin the parallelism by using both “angry” and “mad”?

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A.M.B. 05.06.04 at 10:31 am

To Motoko Kusanagi

Like I said, I read Hegel long ago. And just in case you have not noticed there are more “three its” in the thread above.

Andre

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armando 05.06.04 at 10:45 am

Well the clearly anti-empirical attitudes that SDB noticed in Europe are:
1. pacifism
2. faith in (inherently corrupt) transnational institutions like the UN
3. socialism and it’s softer variant like social-democratic parties.

1. I’m not sure that the repetition of “cheese eating surrender monkeys” really counts as an argument. Or, at least, not an empirical argument.

2. Inherent corruption, again, doesn’t sound like an empirical notion to me. Are we also supposed to blithely ignore the role of other transnational institutions where the ties of support are rather different? Perhaps. The implication is also that a good empiricist has no time for the rule of law. Breaking eggs and omlettes probably have something to do with it.

3. We’re back to 1 again, aren’t we? Socialism functions here as a curious trigger, invoking a presumed revulsion. I suppose that this is empirical, if one allows sufficiently egregious equivocation. Socialism is Stalinism is European Government.

I am being silly, of course, in even responding to this kind of fundamentalism. Still, you have to admire the gall in trying to appropriate the term “empiricist”.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 10:49 am

Armondo, it’s insulting to refute the first few sentences of a posting obviously without reading the rest of the post.

I myself disagree with SDB about #3. If you had read my post you would have noticed that.

Feel free to post a correct arguement if you take the time to read an entire post.

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casualobserver 05.06.04 at 11:02 am

Fiery Joshua-
_I just feel that the Islamofacists are set to turn the whole western world, starting with the US into another Israel._

Can we clarify the use of some of the terms you have used. So many terms: “Islamofascists”, “WMD”, “liberal values”, “denazify”.

Fascism: a love of power … it is the US that is the occupying power here. When an Arabic government has an army operating in the USA, then you might be right in accusing them of fascism.

WMD: The US and Israel have the largest collections of WMD in the Middle East and they are not Islamic.

“liberal values”: Any liberal in the Middle East would seriously question what the US government is trying to do beyond securing political control near the oil fields, whether that liberal is a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, or a Hindu for that matter.

“denazify”: if we define nazis as combining both a love of power plus a love of racial purity, then no groups in the Middle East really qualify as it is a highly racially mixed place.

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Joshua Scholar 05.06.04 at 11:18 am

I’ll have to continue this discussion after some sleep. After some chinese herbs to help me sleep and a couple beers I doubt my ability to explain to Casual Observer what I really meant.

It’s 3 am in San Francisco right now. I’m fiery partially because I just found out that a friend of mine very nearly succeded in killing himself… I’m not suffering any fools tonight.

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armando 05.06.04 at 11:37 am

Joshua. I was, of course, aware that you disagreed with 3. So what? My points still stand.

Just because you feel that no reasonable person could possibly disagree with you, doesn’t make it true.

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Motoko Kusanagi 05.06.04 at 11:45 am

To Andre,

It was never my intention to address the substance of your post, which, by the way, may be quite correct – Hegel did go for threes, like Cicero and Steven den Beste. I only wanted to point out the (very common) mistranslation of “Aufhebung” as synthesis.

Cheers,
Motoko

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Larry M 05.06.04 at 1:03 pm

Joshua

Pacifism – the problem with your argument (and, by extension, Den Beste’s) is a bit of bait and switch regarding the term pacifism. pacifism in the literal sense means a total abjuration of the use of force . You, and Den Beste, are IMO correct that a belief in this strict form of pacifism is “anti-empirical”.

But Europeans as a whole aren’t pacifists in this sense. Europe has supported the use of force in numerous situations. Your argument (and Den Beste’s) is that they are overly reluctant to use force. But that doesn’t make them pacifists in the strict sense, and, even if you are right, I don’t think that one can fairly argue that Europe’s conclusions about the appropriate circumstances in which force is justified is in any important sense “anti-empirical”.

In essence, Europe looks at the same evidence we look at, and concludes that the level and type of force advocated by some in the United States is excessive. That may be wrong headed, but it hardly can be characterized as “anti-empirical”.

Or, to put it another way, to pick something from one of your other posts, I would agree that rejecting war a priori would be “anti-empirical” in the sense that Den Beste is using the term. But it is inaccurate to say that Europe (as a whole) rejects war a priori. There may well be a substantial minirity of Europeans who do so, but you can’t reasonably make that claim for Europe as a whole.

Faith in (inherently corrupt) transnational institutions like the UN – you (and Den Beste) make the same kind of mistake here, and a separate, unique mistake. The similar mistake – if Eurpoe believed in, say, the infallibility of international institutions such as the United nations, then you (and Den Beste) would have a point. However, I don’t really see anyone expressing such blind faith. Many argue that international institutions, with all their problems (and, yes, they are in an important sense illiberal for the reason you identify), can still serve a positive role in certain circumstances. Such a belief may be wrong (I don’t think it is), but it’s hardly “anti-empirical”.

Secondly, the major decision making body of the United nations is the security council. Your statement that the United nations is composed of a plurality of “despots” is probably not true about the general assembly (depending on your definition of despots), but is certainly not true of the security council. Of course, the security council does have it’s own institutional problems (the veto, primarily), but then this often works to the advantage of the United States given that we have one of those vetos.

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Carleton Wu 05.06.04 at 5:35 pm

Scholar,
Im with Larry in criticism of your points #1 and #2, but I’ll take him one further.
Pacifism- you (inferernce) agree with DB that the Euros are pacifists based on their non-support of the US in a single war. You may believe that there can be no rational, empirical reasons for opposing the war in Iraq (although I would expect that, by now, the troubles that the US have encountered there would cause a re-evaluation of this belief)… but you would still have to acknowledge that many Europeans joined the US in Iraq, and even more (including those canonical Europeans, the French) joined us in Afghanistan.
They aren’t pacifists. They have relaitvely large militaries. They use them (eg Kosovo). Maybe their militaries aren’t as large or effective as ours, and they may have not performed effectively in Kosovo, but that has no bearing on whether they’re willing to use force. They are.
Calling the French pacifists is just a way of avoiding the empirical arguments about the wisdom of this particular engagement. Time is showing that their decision was wise, ergo the retroactive desire to re-categorize their lack of action as ‘ideologically impure’, rather than a product of a foresight that we also could have exercised to avoid the current mess, or at least handle its results much more effecively.

Likewise, the claim that the Euro’s faith in “inherently corrupt” international institutions-
Are you claiming that international institutions are ineviably corrupt? Or that the UN is? That wouldn’t be very empirical… or just that it happens to be corrupt at this moment?
Of course, politics in the US is also tainted by significant corruption. Special-interest money, for example, has become a system of de facto bribery. Nevertheless, we participate in this overtly corrupt system because
1-There isn’t any other game in town, and ‘making’ a new game would come at a very high cost
2-By exercising diligence, we can extract some useful outcomes from the corrupt system
Actually, that’s a pretty practical, empirical-type response, using a corrupt system while being aware of its shortcomings. An idealist might refuse to touch such a system, though…

DB reminds me of Ayn Rand. “There is an objective universe. And, since Im the one who said that, I also get to decide what that objective universe is. When people disagree with me from now on, they’re disagreeing with Objective Reality.” How satisfying! Probably about as satisfying as a Bible (or Koran) in the hands of another type of True Believer.

Wu

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pepi 05.06.04 at 5:53 pm

larry: don’t forget to add that the much-despised United Nations was the one body the US turned to for discussing the steps up to the military attack, and after, up to and including the present.

So maybe people like Joshua should keep in mind that not it’s not just European countries but also the United States that are an active member of it and of its SC.

Maybe he could also keep in mind that there was no single coherent position from Europe – aka European countries – on either the war in Iraq itself – since the UK and several other nations were with the US on that – or the war on terror at large, on which collaboration with the US is rather uniform.

… maybe also the fact that the war in Iraq and the larger war on terrorism are not exactly the one and same thing.

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pepi 05.06.04 at 5:57 pm

Oh, the powers of translation. Witness how this:

Your side will use its nuclear weapons, the people you attack will, who cares who goes first?
I don’t have any nuclear weapons.
Nobody I have the phone number of does, either.
But we’re going, too.

written by Lance Boyle became this:

According to your non-logic it is America’s fault that Europe will have to fight.

in the interesting version by Joshua Scholar…

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MWB 05.06.04 at 8:02 pm

OK, I’m convinced. SdB has another post up explaining at great length that he’s just smarter than the rest of us and anyone who points out that he’s full of shit about any particular piece of his “argument” is just missing the point. Glad he cleared that up for us. Kind of fun how that works. Now can we go back to ignoring him?

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pepi 05.06.04 at 8:33 pm

mwb, that’s a splendid idea. Now if only it was as easy to ignore all those people who have a little more direct power and relevance over our lives than some frustrated megalomaniac nutter with a website, but who practice the same “I’m too clever, I’m too right, you just don’t get it” religion…

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culture wars 05.06.04 at 8:36 pm

I have to poop.

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Another Damned Medievalist 05.06.04 at 8:46 pm

Thanks, Tate et al. for explanations on argument.

Bob M., please note that “Feudalistic” and “feudalistic theocracy” are pretty much nonsense phrases. Could you please be more specific? (without making any false analogies that include the words “medieval,” ‘Dark Ages’, etc.)

I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’re saying, but really don’t understand the usage and what it’s supposed to imply.

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HP 05.06.04 at 11:07 pm

I once had a mother-in-law who patiently explained to me that psuedo-intellectual is the correct word to use when describing actual intellectuals.

I’m reminded of that as I read this comment thread.

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SpectreU 05.07.04 at 12:04 am

Gee willakers, most of you guys seem so smart with all this talk that you’ve reminded me of a phrase, I’m not sure where I read it (I only read comic books, you see), but it goes something like this:

“..full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…..”

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bob mcmanus 05.07.04 at 12:48 am

“feudalistic theocracy” are pretty much nonsense phrases. Could you please be more specific?”

I hope so, defined it once on Yglesias and only a few though I was completely nuts. Based on an intuition that peasant farmers in Anc Egypt, Ming China, Med Normandy, and Soviet Ukraine had more in common than different; that in spite of ideology the smart kid in the village was picked to be overseer and given special privileges, stuff like that.

Heirarchical social systems; a sacrifice of social mobility in exchange for economic security; codified mutual obligations within the heirarchy; static value systems, protected from internal and external change; codified resistance to social innovation; some communitarianism even approaching communal sharing. “Feudalism” usually I guess is used to describe a particular political
system at a particular time and place and I think only the upper parts of that system.

And I see some analogues in the blue-collar rust- belt America of the twentieth century that are now disappearing. Japan may have it still. Does this make any sense?

If ignorance is keeping away the correct word for what I have in mind, help.

I hope I am not sounding DenBestian.

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nopundit 05.07.04 at 4:19 am

SdB wins. Hands down.

nopundit

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tictoc 05.07.04 at 4:32 am

German is a tough language.

Lance Boyle, you claim to have studied Hermann Hesse’s “Glass Bead Game”, but you can’t even give its German title correctly. It is DAS Glasperlenspiel, not DER G., since Glasperlenspiel is a neutral noun (three genders in German, remember?)

Motoko Kusanagi, you claim that Aufhebung = elevation. As a matter of fact, the word Aufhebung as used by that maddeningly opaque writer Hegel means more things, among them “cancellation/annullation” and “safekeeping/preservation”. To this day, masochistic graduate students are trying to figure out how these disparate meanings might be tied together so that the whole thing makes sense.

Schopenhauer called Hegel a gross charlatan, and his teachings a philosophical charade. He also said that “if you want to stultify a youngster on purpose and render him entirely incapable of all thought, then there is no more effective means than assiduous study of Hegel’s original works.”

On the evidence of this weblog post and some of the fawning comments, he was right.

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Motoko Kusanagi 05.07.04 at 10:44 am

Thank you, tictoc. Though I was aware it could mean “cancelation”, I didn’t know “Aufhebung” could also stand for “preservation”. I should also admit that before reading this thread I was completely unaware of the etymological kinship of “empiricism” and “empire”.

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tictoc 05.07.04 at 2:37 pm

motoko —

“empiricism” and “empire”

LOL! Glad to see you haven’t lost your sense of Yuma.

Have you checked out some of the other weblogs commenting on SDB’s article?

About a third express fawning adulation for the Great Man — an utter waste of time.

About a third express some fairly substantial reservations/disagreements while managing to show appropriate respect for SDB’s effort.

And then there are those who are nothing but examples of lazy, sneering condescension: also an utter waste of time.

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Shai 05.07.04 at 6:37 pm

appropriate respect for a schemata that incompetently borrows and manages to mangle aspects of the history of rationalism vs empiricism, applied ad hoc without a shred of evidence to fit his political perspective. right. his work might pass for b- in a philosophy, history, or political science course, mostly because the marker glossing over it would lazily conclude that his writing style is a good enough sign of clear and competent thinking.

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Tedd McHenry 05.11.04 at 5:29 am

I think those who’ve identified American Christian creationism with Den Beste’s “P-idealism” have made a valid point, but I don’t see how it argues against Den Beste’s three-way theory. It may be true that many American Christian fundamentalists support, for example, the liberation/occupation/colonization (take your choice) of Iraq, but many are isolationists, also. The fact that Bush has strong support among creationists no more refutes Den Beste’s theory than the existence of Christopher Hitchens.

I like the “bat’s aren’t bugs” angle, though.

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