Philosophy & Living

Video of Ruins of New York

Imagine if NYC was deserted by everyone who lived there and it was taken over by nature? What would it look like?

https://youtube.com/watch?v=WYf2c-b-iuQ%3F

BBC has an awesome photo series by Christopher Payne produced by Michael Maher on this…

It’s one of New York’s best kept secrets. Lying in plain sight of the city is an island which no one has inhabited for more than 50 years. North Brother Island was once a quarantine station for patients with infectious diseases. It then provided accommodation for returning World War Two veterans and finally was a rehabilitation centre for drug-addicted youths. But in 1963 the complex was shut down and abandoned. Left behind was a campus of buildings, many of which have now been reclaimed by vegetation and nesting birds.The photographer Christopher Payne was granted rare permission to visit the island over the course of a number of years. His images are now on display in the book: “North Brother Island. The Last Unknown Place in New York City.”

DOLLAR: Koch – Love of Liberty is the American Ideal

Writes Charles Koch is chairman and CEO of Koch Industries in  I’m Fighting to Restore a Free Society – WSJ.com:

[…] The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.

More than 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson warned that this could happen. “The natural progress of things,” Jefferson wrote, “is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” He knew that no government could possibly run citizens’ lives for the better. The more government tries to control, the greater the disaster, as shown by the current health-care debacle. Collectivists (those who stand for government control of the means of production and how people live their lives) promise heaven but deliver hell. For them, the promised end justifies the means.

Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.) […]

Rather than try to understand my vision for a free society or accurately report the facts about Koch Industries, our critics would have you believe we’re “un-American” and trying to “rig the system,” that we’re against “environmental protection” or eager to “end workplace safety standards.” These falsehoods remind me of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Here are some facts about my philosophy and our company:

Koch companies employ 60,000 Americans, who make many thousands of products that Americans want and need. According to government figures, our employees and the 143,000 additional American jobs they support generate nearly $11.7 billion in compensation and benefits. About one-third of our U.S.-based employees are union members.

[…]

Instead of fostering a system that enables people to help themselves, America is now saddled with a system that destroys value, raises costs, hinders innovation and relegates millions of citizens to a life of poverty, dependency and hopelessness. This is what happens when elected officials believe that people’s lives are better run by politicians and regulators than by the people themselves. Those in power fail to see that more government means less liberty, and liberty is the essence of what it means to be American. Love of liberty is the American ideal.

If more businesses (and elected officials) were to embrace a vision of creating real value for people in a principled way, our nation would be far better off—not just today, but for generations to come. I’m dedicated to fighting for that vision. I’m convinced most Americans believe it’s worth fighting for, too.

 

What is racism?

Best-selling philosopher Ayn Rand on racism:

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men.

Like every form of determinism, racism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty. Racism negates two aspects of man’s life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination. [“Racism,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 126]

Krohn, Conservatism, Kant, and the Destruction of Values

Jonathan Krohn first captured the national spotlight when he authored the book Defining Conservatism and delivered a speech at CPAC in 2009.  He had accomplished all of these major feats when he was only 13 years old.  At 17, he’s now making the necessary preparations to enroll at NYU.  However, according to a recent Politico article, Krohn has made a massive ideological shift…backwards.  In fact, Krohn will neither call himself a conservative or reject the ideology outright.  As the article states, “Krohn won’t go so far as to say he’s liberal, in part because his move away from conservatism was a move away from ideological boxes in general.”

Krohn explains it this way:

“One of the first things that changed was that I stopped being a social conservative,” said Krohn. “It just didn’t seem right to me anymore. From there, it branched into other issues, everything from health care to economic issues.… I think I’ve changed a lot, and it’s not because I’ve become a liberal from being a conservative — it’s just that I thought about it more. The issues are so complex, you can’t just go with some ideological mantra for each substantive issue.”

Indeed, “conservatism” is quite similar to the concept of a mixed economy.  Where a mixed economy is a volatile mix of freedoms and controls, conservatism is a slap-dashed conglomerate of free market principles and mysticism–or an appeal to the Dark Ages.  Ayn Rand put it this way:

The most immoral contradiction—in the chaos of today’s anti-ideological groups—is that of the so-called “conservatives,” who posture as defenders of individual rights, particularly property rights, but uphold and advocate the draft. By what infernal evasion can they hope to justify the proposition that creatures who have no right to life, have the right to a bank account?

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 227

However, this doesn’t answer the fundamental question of why Krohn consciously decided to abandon the importance of principles altogether.  What Krohn reveals is most disturbing:

“I started reflecting on a lot of what I wrote, just thinking about what I had said and what I had done and started reading a lot of other stuff, and not just political stuff,” Krohn said. “I started getting into philosophy — Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Kant and lots of other German philosophers. And then into present philosophers — Saul Kripke, David Chalmers. It was really reading philosophy that didn’t have anything to do with politics that gave me a breather and made me realize that a lot of what I said was ideological blather that really wasn’t meaningful.”

Of all the philosophers Krohn lists as important to him; the one who lived and wrote before the rest, and who remains a titan in the field is–Immanuel Kant.  I’ll refer to Ayn Rand once more to elaborate why Kant is such a destructive force in the realm of philosophy:

The man who . . . closed the door of philosophy to reason, was Immanuel Kant. . . .

Kant’s expressly stated purpose was to save the morality of self-abnegation and self-sacrifice. He knew that it could not survive without a mystic base—and what it had to be saved from was reason.

Attila’s share of Kant’s universe includes this earth, physical reality, man’s senses, perceptions, reason and science, all of it labeled the “phenomenal” world. The Witch Doctor’s share is another, “higher,” reality, labeled the “noumenal” world, and a special manifestation, labeled the “categorical imperative,” which dictates to man the rules of morality and which makes itself known by means of afeeling, as a special sense of duty.

The “phenomenal” world, said Kant, is not real: reality, as perceived by man’s mind, is a distortion. The distorting mechanism is man’s conceptual faculty: man’s basic concepts (such as time, space, existence) are not derived from experience or reality, but come from an automatic system of filters in his consciousness (labeled “categories” and “forms of perception”) which impose their own design on his perception of the external world and make him incapable of perceiving it in any manner other than the one in which he does perceive it. This proves, said Kant, that man’s concepts are only a delusion, but a collective delusion which no one has the power to escape. Thus reason and science are “limited,” said Kant; they are valid only so long as they deal with this world, with a permanent, pre-determined collective delusion (and thus the criterion of reason’s validity was switched from theobjective to the collective), but they are impotent to deal with the fundamental, metaphysical issues of existence, which belong to the “noumenal” world. The “noumenal” world is unknowable; it is the world of “real” reality, “superior” truth and “things in themselves” or “things as they are”—which means: things as they are not perceived by man.

Even apart from the fact that Kant’s theory of the “categories” as the source of man’s concepts was a preposterous invention, his argument amounted to a negation, not only of man’s consciousness, but ofany consciousness, of consciousness as such. His argument, in essence, ran as follows: man islimited to a consciousness of a specific nature, which perceives by specific means and no others, therefore, his consciousness is not valid; man is blind, because he has eyes—deaf, because he has ears—deluded, because he has a mind—and the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them.

For The New Intellectual, 30

And there you have it.  The story of a young boy who embraced “conservatism,” with all its contradictions and logical loopholes, as a viable ideology only to discover that it’s not.  Subsequently, he has gone on to learn that attempting to understand reality and existence is merely a futile effort due to the construction of the human brain–at least according to Kant.  Krohn was right to reject “conservatism” but he has escaped flagrant contradictions only to fall for evasion (His exposure to the former helps explain his attraction to the latter as well).  Here’s hoping Jonathan will read his way to Ayn Rand soon–before the NYU faculty gets to him.

Professor John Allison will Become Cato Institute’s New CEO

Looks like Objectivist Professor John Allison will be the new CEO of the Cato Institute:

[CATO Media Press Release] The Cato Institute and its shareholders have reached an agreement in principle that would resolve pending lawsuits filed by Charles Koch and David Koch against Cato, its CEO, and several of its directors.

Under terms of the agreement, Cato will no longer be a stockholder corporation and John Allison (the former CEO of BB&T) will be replacing Ed Crane, who will be retiring as Cato’s CEO. That represents a compromise by which both sides will achieve key objectives. For a majority of Cato’s directors, the agreement confirms Cato’s independence and ensures that Cato is not viewed as controlled by the Kochs. For Charles Koch and David Koch, the agreement helps ensure that Cato will be a principled organization that is effective in advancing a free society.

Earlier this year, Charles Koch and David Koch filed two separate lawsuits seeking interpretation and enforcement of Cato’s shareholders’ agreement. Prior to October 2011, Cato was owned by four shareholders — Crane, Charles Koch, David Koch, and William Niskanen. After Niskanen’s death in October 2011, the Kochs maintained that the shareholders’ agreement left Cato with three remaining shareholders (the Kochs and Crane). Crane and Niskanen’s widow, Kathryn Washburn, challenged the shareholders’ agreement and maintained that Ms. Washburn was the rightful owner of Niskanen’s shares.

The parties will seek a stay of the court proceedings related to that dispute after formal settlement documents have been prepared and signed. Terms of the settlement include:

  • The Cato Institute will be governed by members rather than shareholders. The members will be the directors of the Institute and will elect their own successors. Initially, the Board will include 12 long-term Cato directors, including David Koch. They will be joined by three other Koch designees and Allison, who has the option to nominate one or two additional directors. Charles Koch, Crane, and Washburn will not be on the Board.
  • Crane, who co-founded the Institute with Charles Koch and served as its CEO for 35 years, will retire within six months. He will be succeeded by Allison, an expert on political philosophy and public policy and a revered libertarian, admired and respected by the Kochs and the Cato Board.
  • Crane will work with Allison during the transition period and then serve as a consultant on fundraising and other matters.

On announcing the agreement in principle, Cato chairman Bob Levy said: “This is the end of an era at Cato. From the Institute’s inception, Ed Crane has played an indispensable role — co-founding, managing and shaping it into one of the nation’s leading research organizations.”

Crane extended his gratitude to Cato’s employees, directors, and donors for their ongoing support. He welcomed Allison, whom he described as “a great champion of liberty and an outstanding choice to build on Cato’s success as the foremost non-partisan, non-aligned, independent source of libertarian perspectives on public policy.”

Allison said he was “happy to assist in resolving the pending litigation and related issues,” and affirmed that his goal is “to sustain Cato’s efforts at moving the country toward a freer and more prosperous society.”

Charles Koch applauded the agreement. “I have every confidence that John’s leadership will enable Cato to reach new levels of effectiveness. The alarming increase in the size and scope of government is undermining freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all. Effective action is required to limit government to its proper role.”

Collectivist Arizona Immigration Law is Anti-Capitalist

by Harry Binswanger, Ph.D.

Now that the Arizona immigration-control law is at the Supreme Court, it’s time to analyze that law.

There are two levels: the philosophic level and the level of Constitutional law. Fortunately, they both point to the same conclusion.

The philosophical issue is my main concern. There is no dichotomy between property rights and human rights. Just as foreign businessmen have the absolute right to send their products to domestic buyers, foreign individuals have the absolute right to enter the country. If you support free trade, consistency requires supporting free immigration. (But granting citizenship, and the vote, is a different matter; restrictions on that are proper—and should be applied even to natural born citizens.)

And let’s go further: if you abhor the inspection of goods at the border, you should abhor the inspection of men at the border. (The premise of this entire discussion is that we are not at war and not in the midst of an epidemic or other emergency). There is no justification for inspecting parcels or persons at the border. The widespread view that government may properly inspect for disease and criminal records is well motivated, but mistaken. The terms of when a person may be inspected by government has nothing to do with whether the person is domestic or foreign, nor whether he is standing at the nation’s border or on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Police need probable cause (or whatever the legal standard is) in order to interfere with free movement.

There should be no visible border. The border between the U.S. and Mexico (and between the U.S. and Canada) should be exactly like the border between Connecticut and Massachusetts: you see Welcome to Massachusetts and otherwise you are unaware of the difference.

A logical error makes some people think a government has the right to exclude, detain, or otherwise interfere with foreigners. The error is confusing the protection of rights and the non-violation of rights. The fact that a government is limited to protecting its citizens’ rights doesn’t mean the government is allowed to violate non-citizens’ rights. The San Diego police are not authorized to enter Tijuana to start protecting Mexican’s rights, but that doesn’t mean it can enslave Tijunans (whether those Tijunans are inside or outside the U.S.).

Back to first principles: the source of government authority is the delegation of rights by the citizenry. A citizen has no right to interfere with the free movement of any individual, foreign or not, so neither does the government. You could not stand at the national, state, or municipal border and demand people stop for inspection, to prove they are not criminals and not diseased. You cannot delegate to the state a right you do not possess.

Notice that, stemming from your right of self-defense, the state certainly does have the authority to detain and inspect—or even imprison—anyone who gives specific evidence of initiating force. Contra anarchism, if a foreigner is brandishing a gun, that is full justification for police action. But that governmental authority applies in exactly the same way to citizens. It is not whether someone is Mexican or American that justifies government action, it is whether he is objectively threatening force.

Collectivism is usually involved in people’s thinking on this subject: xenophobia is a form of collectivism, and that accounts for a lot of the opposition to open immigration; but collectivism in regard to America is often involved—on both the Left and the Right. For example, people will say: If government didn’t inspect fruits and vegetables coming in from unsanitary places like Mexico, we’d be hit with diseases, which is a form of force. But no one forces you to buy or eat particular fruits or vegetables: they end up in your mouth by a series of voluntary transactions on the free market. A&P chooses to buy Mexican fruits and vegetables, and you choose to buy them from A&P. It is highly against A&P’s interest to sell tainted produce—from anywhere. (And food poisoning is not contagious.)

Collectivism means viewing this issue as: Their unsanitary food enters our country. But it is not them and us—it is a particular Mexican vendor dealing with a particular American supermarket dealing with a particular citizen. And it’s all voluntary.

Now here’s an example of collectivism from Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. An editorial on the Arizona law refers to the authority that Congress bestowed as part of its power to manage the nation’s borders. There is no such proper power. The relation of Congress to the U.S. border is not the relation of an individual to his property line. Congress does not hold the U.S. as its property. Again, no individual has the right to go to some jurisdictional boundary and use force against people trying to cross it; he can do that at the border of his property (subject to the requirements of objectivity vs. anarchist vigilantism), but it is collectivism to transfer one’s thinking about property lines to border lines.

The border is a line demarcating jurisdiction not ownership. Its function is to tell the government where its authority ends (and to tell the citizen what legal jurisdiction he has entered). The only proper governmental managing of our borders, in peacetime, that I can think of is keeping in good repair the Welcome to America signs.

The legal-Constitutional side of the Arizona law is something I am not expert on, but given my limited knowledge it seems that the issue is federal vs. state authority regarding immigration. The Constitution gives that authority to the federal government. It is said that all the states are doing is enforcing federal law. E.g., the same Wall Street Journal editorial says:

[Arizona] carefully crafted a state law that is consistent with the federal immigration laws already on the books. All Arizona does is instruct state police to enforce federal immigration laws—for instance, by calling federal officials if a person they arrest can’t verify his legal status. . . . The state is simply using its own resources to execute rules set up by Congress.

These rules are themselves wrong, as I showed above. But let’s waive that and try to straighten out the resulting (ultimately irresolvable) mess. In a conflict between the federal government’s interpretation of how its laws should be executed and a states interpretation of that, which body should prevail? Clearly, the federal government’s. I gather that the federal government does not agree with how Arizona is executing federal law. If that’s the case, it’s sufficient grounds for the Supreme Court to void the Arizona law.

What complicates the case here is that not only is the federal law improper, the objections to how Arizona is administering it, from the little I have read, are improper. The objections seem to center around profiling, which is a conceptual package-deal. The proper part of the package is: it is wrong to use statistics about groups as evidence regarding the volitional choices of individuals. The improper part of the package is the reverse: it is wrong to ignore evidence about the volitional choices of an individual because he is a member of some group. If one sees a thuggish looking individual engaged in suspicious behavior, that is not to be ignored on the grounds that he is a member of some race. (This is only an indication of how to approach what can be a difficult issue in application.)

Aside from the legal issues, the symbolic meaning of the Arizona law is well understood and transcends the issue of Left vs. Right. The supporters of the law are anti-immigration; the opponents of the law are pro-immigration. As an individualist, I oppose the law.

Dr. Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand, is a professor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center of the Ayn Rand Institute. Special Offer: Dr. Binswanger moderates Harry Binswanger’s List (HBL)–an email list for Objectivists for discussing philosophic and cultural issues — a free one-month trial is available at: www.hblist.com.

New Website: Checking Premises

From checkingpremises.org:

This site is being created by serious students and proponents of Objectivism in response to the danger that some, who may seem in agreement with the philosophy, are in fact subverting it. The tabs representing the subjects are arranged, left to right, in chronological order.

The “Context” tab is where we suggest you begin. Here we have quoted from Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s 1989 essay, “Fact and Value.” The first passage clearly defines what is, and what is not, Objectivism. The second passage describes how he “finally” identified the common denominator of past, and future, schisms. This essay was seminal for many of us. It helped us to understand the past more clearly, and, we think, to identify current detractors disguised as Objectivists. A link to the entire essay may be found under the “Resources” tab, and we encourage everyone to study it.

We understand there are different levels of Objectivist detractors, from outright enemies of Objectivism to those who are “Objectivish” and who need to recognize and admit their differences with Objectivism.

“The future of Islam will be Aristotelian, or it will not be”

FrontPage Magazine has an excellent interview by Jamie Glazov with Robert R. Reilly, author of The Closing of the Muslim Mind. Here are some choice excerpts:

[…] FP: Why is the West, aside from some few and brave thinkers, so blind in confronting the Islamist crisis?Reilly: Self-delusion is one problem and ignorance is another. Many in the secular West find it hard to believe that anyone takes religion seriously anymore. Since they have lost their faith, they don’t have the ability to comprehend the terms of faith in anyone else’s life. In fact, their incomprehension, their obliviousness to the sacred, is one of the things that inflames Islam against the West. We are essentially facing a theological problem and a profound spiritual disorder. People ignorant of theology are unable to recognize the nature of the problem. They want to create another economic development program in the Middle East, as if that will solve it. This is delusional and a total waste. The problem needs to be addressed at the level at which it exists, not by sociologists or psychiatrists.

FP: What hope is there that some kind of “moderate” Islam can ever emerge?

Reilly: […] At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century there was far more intellectual ferment for reconciling Islam and modern science, for finding ways to adopt the best of the West to the Muslim world. These efforts largely failed. Things are now likely to get worse, not better.

The intellectual impetus in the Muslim world is not with those who see the need to reopen the foreclosed questions from the ninth century as to who God is and what his relationship to reason is. (There are such Muslim thinkers but they get no support from us.) It is with those who wish to return to the seventh century and replicate the feats of the Companions of the Prophet in creating the greatest empire the world had seen up to that point. The worse things get in the Muslim world, the more support these jihadists receive because they provide an explanation and a program that can be easily understood by those who deeply feel the grievances and humiliation of their situation.

It is not inevitable that the Islamists should succeed, except in the absence of any strategy to counter them. Muslim leaders like the former president of Indonesia, the late Abdurrahman Wahid​, the spiritual head of the largest Muslim organization in the world, Nahdlatul Ulama, have called for a counter-strategy that would include offering “a compelling alternative vision of Islam, one that banishes the fanatical ideology of hatred to the darkness from which it emerged.” Wahid advocated a partnership with the non-Muslim world in a massively resourced effort to uphold human dignity, freedom of conscience, religious freedom, and the benefits of modernity before the juggernaut of Islamist ideology swamps the Muslim world. It was a compelling summons. It has yet to be answered.

There is another way to state this at its heart. The Arab Muslim world reached its apogee when it was at its most Hellenized, i.e. under the influence of Greek philosophy. It then underwent a process of dehellenization, a divorce from reason and the extirpation of philosophy. Its path to recovery must be in these same terms – a rehellenization, a restoration of the status or reason and a return to philosophy. Is that possible? As a twentieth century Moroccan Muslim thinker put it, either the future of Islam will be Aristotelian, or it will not be.

Read the rest of the interview.

Related: Book Review: The Closing of the Muslim Mind by Robert R. Reilly

What Facts of Reality Gave Rise to the Science of Economics?

Capitalism Magazine has another excerpt from Dr. Northrup Buechner’s Objective Economics: How Ayn Rand’s Philosophy Changes Everything About Economics.

The book sold out at this year’s OCON conference and though somewhat controversial, is definitely worth a read.

Read What Facts of Reality Gave Rise to the Science of Economics?

Video: Dr. John David Lewis on His Book Nothing Less Than Victory

Dr. John David Lewis talks about his book Nothing Less Than Victory.

Dr. Lewis is a visiting associate professor in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program at Duke University. He holds a PhD in classics from the University of Cambridge, has taught at the University of London. He has been a senior research scholar in history and classics at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University, and a fellow of the Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship. He has published in journals such as Journal of Business Ethics, Social Philosophy and Policy, Polis, Dike, and Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and has lectured on classics, military history, and contemporary political issues at numerous universities and for private groups. His research interests are in ancient Greek and Roman thought, military history, and their connections to the modern day. His books are Solon the Thinker: Political Thought in Archaic Athens (Duckworth, 2006), Early Greek Lawgivers (Bristol Classical Press, August, 2007), and Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History (Princeton, 2010). His website is www.JohnDavidLewis.com.