Good Riddance 2017

I can’t wait for 2018 to rear its ugly head.

Entering 2017, my primary interest was the validity of property rights. This devolved into an enquiry on rights more generally and then moved out of the realm of political philosophy into the domain of philosophy.

On the journey, I decided to self-identify as a subjectivist, entrenching from a mere relativistic position. This led me into the sphere of normative ethics, bringing me back into the realm of political philosophy. I realise that at some level we need a pragmatic philosophy to operate as a society—presuming that one feels that society is a desirable goal. It is for me. But I feel that the normative moral offerings are all weak tea.


Weak Tea


I also realise that I think (read: process information) like a (stereotypical) female, thinking in terms of relationships rather the more male dominant deontology. Where my female accord differs is that I don’t buy whole hog into the Consequentialistic worldview.  Also, I haven’t experienced reality from a female point of view. Vive la difference.

So what’s up for 2018?

For now, I am going to continue to try to make sense of political philosophical positions. At the moment, I am pretty much a social constructivist, so I’ll see where this leads. Post-modernists (or post-structuralists, if you prefer) are under fire these days and have been for a while now. It’s not that I don’t understand or sympathise with the position of people who buy into thinking that we need to accept some normative morality. In fact, I have sympathised with Nietzsche’s quandary from the getgo.  I just don’t believe that a political worldview can be structured on a single tenet, whether God or country—Truth, Justice, and the American Way.


On the topic of identity, I’ve always wondered how Superman decided to view himself as American. I also wonder if he is referring to the United States of America or of the larger continents. Given the backlash over immigrants and aliens, I have to wonder how nationalists react to this interloper.

Anyway, I am going to research other post-modernist thinkers as well as to continue to learn about the Classical thinkers—even though I seem to reject out of hand most of the ideas of most of them. The common thread seems to be the wishful thinking involved, whether the gods and goddesses thing or the pretence of some single (or at least tightly contained, small, finite set of) underlying and discoverable truths.

Until next time, I’ll see you on the other side…

Life Lessons from Battle Royale

I’ve played some multiplayer games in my lifetime, and there are lessons of fairness to be learnt. In these games—whether PUBG or World of Warcraft, there are competitive and cooperative elements. Some have in-game economies and others ex-game versions. The common theme is acceptance of the concept that one cannot simply purchase a win or even a winning character. The game is won with a combination of skill and luck—good old-fashioned RNG. Except at the margin, wealth is insignificant, and there is little dynastic benefit, which is to say one can’t inherit a better toon bequeathed by some other.

 “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

In gaming, we recognise this to be unfair. Taking more classic games as examples, we would not find it acceptable for one player to start a chess game with additional pieces or to start a Monopoly game with hotels already in place.

In real life, many* don’t feel that this inbuilt advantage is somehow unfair. In fact, it’s desirable. Let alone that most—which is to say 90-plus-odd-percent of them—will never be in a position to give or receive this advantage. This is where Rawlsian logic comes into play. Under the veil of ignorance, the vast majority of humans would not choose this system.

Unfortunately, whilst people may not live under a veil of ignorance—at least not in the manner presumed by the thought experiment—, they also under a veil of delusion, living as if by the misattributed John Steinbeck quote that people somehow view themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

To be sure, as Michael Walzer noted, there are many places where market-based economics are appropriate, but it would be good to remember that there are many places where it’s not.

* By many, I mean to call out Libertarians, who have no issue with persisting wealth across generations. They apparently have a belief that (1) wealth can be earned, and one earned, (2) it can be carried forward into perpetuity—even if the subsequent wealth holder only acquires it through association, as with inheritance.

Binary: Meaning | -Meaning

There are 10 types of people in this world*:

  • Those who require meaning
  • Those who don’t require meaning

Of those who do not require meaning, I don’t have much to say, and anything I do have to say about this will be obvious in reflection to the people who do.

Some people—perhaps even the majority or super-majority of them—require meaning. Of these, some accept the doctrines offered by religion or society whilst others will construct meaning. Even those who don’t patently need meaning may still construct one anyway, whether employment, family, country, or duty.

People who require meaning feel that the world will devolve into chaos if no meaning were inherent, that people would become selfish anarchists, hooligans, and ne’er-do-wells.  Most of these people (convincingly) convince themselves that there is some source of objective morality and that that reality is known. Insomuch as, in this case, perception is reality, it doesn’t matter whether it is or isn’t.

Pinker’s possible objections in The Blank Slate notwithstanding—there may be some genetic component driving this delusion—, this reality is a social construct.

I guess the point is that some people are incapable of accepting a world with no meaning. Unfortunately, politicians, and Randian Objectivists (perhaps a large overlap in some circles) can prey on these gullible masses, and they can vilify others who are not so lucky in masking their motives.

* An age-old binary joke

An Inconvenient Truth

Ghost in the Machine - Jacob Sutton (Photographer)

It seems to me that the largest or largest complaint people claiming a realist, objective moralist perspective is:

How would it work if morals were not objective?

This is also a common defence by Christians who claim:

If there were no God, then people would just be mindless hedonists.

This is the same line of defence used by statists of all stripes, whether Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Monarchist, Oligarch, or otherwise.

Anarchy can’t work because everything would just be chaos.

It is also the same argument mounted, as Steven Pinker points out in The Blank Slate, against a strong genetic component to human behaviour.

If we believe that, then what will prevent the next Nazi Holocaust?

In the end, because these people cannot fathom how it might work, it is easy to assuage cognitive dissonance through self-delusion. It’s as if the people defending actually know that they are wrong, but that if they deny it loudly enough, then, like religion, others will believe it’s just so, that they’ll follow the deceiving confederate in a psychology experiment.

The problem is that there is no god, there is no objective morality, government is unnecessary, and much behaviour and temperament have significant genetic foundations unaffected by environmental factors.