Pressing Questions

Here is a list of questions I want to answer:

  1. Given that there is no inherent meaning to life, why are humans so driven to find it?
    • Evolutionary biology may offer some insights, but then the question turns to which is the cause and which the effect?
    • Is it merely a function of language and cognition?
  2. Other than circular logic arguments—namely, to posit ‘I prefer it that why’—, what is the logical justification for the exclusivity of property ownership if not the divine or nature vis-a-vis so-called workmanship ideal?
  3. Why do Libertarians frame the equality debate between opportunity and outcome and side-step equality of condition and ontological equality, the other sociological categories of equality, especially when the ‘all men are created equal‘ claim in ontological in the first place?
  4. What do do with the logical fallacy, Appeal to Tradition?
  5. How to get beyond Wittgenstein’s language problem? In my experience, most people accept and use language uncritically. Is everything just an arbitrary function of language? As language is an arbitrary construct, and meaning may change over time and dialect, how can we create a meaningful basis for argument?
    • For example, when we say we expect a ‘just’ society, justice means different things to different people. A typical use is to equate ‘just’ to ‘right’, but as there is no absolute right, there is no absolute just. Moreover, people tend to invoke just and justice, when they mean ‘my way’ and ‘vengeance’, and so the frame is relative to the framer.
  6. What is the way to get past injecting concepts such as value and income into premises and arguments?
  7. Accepting for the moment the concept of ‘state’, what is the optimal number of states, and why have more than one?

Workmanship Ideal or Convenience?

One of the biggest issues I have with modern, Western political theory is Locke‘s so-called ‘workmanship ideal‘, a concept stemming from the Enlightenment belief that a maker of something should be the rightful owner of something. The Age of Enlightenment (AKA Age of Reason) was supposed to have divorced science from other rationale, whether divine rights (as ascribed to kings) or something else. The problem—the same problem Descartes had in his Discourses—is that God (even if vis-a-vis ‘nature‘) is injected exogenously and irrationally into the works. Philosophers even into the 21st century, if barely, have concluded that this concept breaks down when we attempt to secularise it, but we are subjectively comfortable with the notion. Of course, the more our beliefs lean towards ‘higher powers‘, intelligent design and the such, the more comfortable we are apt to feel.

I was originally inspired to write this when researching Rawls and happening upon Ian Shapiro‘s Yale open course, The Moral Foundations of Politics. James Murphy has this to say in his essay, The Workmanship Ideal : A Theologico-Political Chimera?

What’s in Store for 2017?

Going into 2017, I am going to focus more attention on Universal Basic Income (UBI) otherwise known as minimum income. Providing everyone with a safety net in the spirit of life, liberty, and happiness. Hopefully, this will take some focus away from or redirect the negativity I am anticipating under the Trump regime, but I make no promises, expressed or implied. I’ll attend to the detractors as well.

I’ve been peripherally aware of the concept of UBI for a couple of years now—Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots and Erik Brynjolfsson’s The Second Machine Age, among others. Although I don’t envision it as a permanent solution—after all, what is permanent? —but it is a solution that works within the existing (and woefully wanting) economic framework. It does, however, have a way to go relative to the current socio-political constructs.

The solution is not permanent primarily because the current economic system based on markets, supply, demand, income, and production is tenuous, so building on a platform of shifting sand is bound to fail—not because it is a bad idea considering the given system, but because the system itself is faulty. Capitalism is a house of cards, a tenuous MacGyver-ed system held together with spit and bubble gum (and who knows what else). I don’t have a replacement system in mind, and most people are not quite ready to abandon their cherished ragdoll owing to indoctrination, propaganda, and escalating commitment.  Entropy is at play, and the establishment needs to apply more and more external force to keep it together. We can look to history and the French revolution of 1789 as a guide—or perhaps the fall of tsarist Russia. These systems were inherently unstable.

Regarding these societies of serfs, the gutting of the middle class and the expanding inequality along with technological trends seems to have a trajectory along a vector to return us there, and the results can be expected to be as disastrous.

The United States was founded during the so-called Enlightenment with dashes of a Calvinistic work ethic and rugged independence, whatever that means. ‘Enlightenment,’ like ‘modern’, is a flattering term given to self-describe a period, but this description is mostly wishful thinking. I am not opposed to much of the thought that came from the Enlightenment, from Diderot to Locke to Montesquieu—thoughts such as freedom and separation of powers—, hijacked by the likes of Franklin and Jefferson on these shores, but they, too, were built on shaky grounds—the grounds of gods or God, and nature—, so our laws are built upon nothing; this is worse than shifting sand: at least there was sand to shift.

Language tries to obfuscate the divine with the euphemism nature. From so-called ‘natural laws’ we derive property rights, but take away the premise of natural law, and we lose the basis for such an assertion. And don’t get me started on the further foundationless logical leap to intellectual property rights.