Saturday, June 24, 2006

Siegel Digs Deeper

Concluding that the hole he dug for himself wasn't quite deep enough, Lee Siegel has at it again.


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm not quite locating the nexus of outrage at Siegel, perhaps because I have no horse in the race.

He called Kos a fascist, is that it?

Please advise. Thx.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, that's the part that's baffling *me*, anyway. Seems like we jumped to 'fascist' pretty quickly here, doesn't it? There's shady dealings going on here, and dogmatic, uncivil and even hostile responses to legitimate questions...partisanship...tribalism....but using the 'F' word under these circumstances seems to me to be (a) hyperbolic and (b) destined to make a bad situation worse.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Once you start calling people fascists, it's so hard to stop.

Me, I just call myself a fascist now in advance, to save my friends on the left the trouble.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

heh heh heh...

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When fascism comes to these shores, it will be waving an American flag."

Huey Long

One couldn't accuse you of waving an American flag here, TVD. In fact, your skepticism about the benefits of the Enlightentment, to which some folks is the basis of measuring the success of the "American Experiment" is refreshing at times.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Why, thank you, DA. I'm quite good with the Enlightenment, not so good with what came in its wake.

“Hume and other skeptical innovators are vain men and will gratify themselves at any expense. Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity, so they have betaken themselves to error: Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull.” ---Dr Johnson

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hume was part of the Enlightenment, so quoting something against him seems to make my point better than I could.

Let the record show that according to the Wikipedia:

Johnson was a a devout, conservative Anglican, a staunch Tory and a compassionate man, supporting a number of poor friends under his own roof. He was an opponent of slavery and once proposed a toast to the "next rebellion of the negroes in the West Indies". [2] He had a black manservant, Frank, whom Johnson made his heir. [citation needed] He admitted to sympathies for the Jacobite cause but by the reign of George III he had come to accept the Hanoverian Succession. He remained a fiercely independent and original thinker, which may explain his deep affinity for John Milton's work despite Milton's intensely radical — and, for Johnson, intolerable — political and religious outlook.


One of Johnson's famous quotes, "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man" is displayed in the intro of the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

So you're in good company, TVD

I prefer this post-Enlightenment quote:

"Nothing is too wonderful to be true."

Michael Faraday

9:17 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Hey, you OK, pal. Sweet. Perhaps we misjudged each other.

The entire quote (so the internet tells us) is

"Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature."

Now, the Young Earth Creationist is crestfallen at the addendum, but the Thomist takes an even deeper pleasure at its arrival, in harmony with reason and nature.

(BTW, my heroes from that time are Burke and the astonishing William Wilberforce, whose name should be be inscribed in any man's pantheon. Hume, perhaps another day. He does not permit himself to wonder or smile, except in his weakest moments, like when he's having a beer.)

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"(It)fell dead-born from the press, without reaching such distinction as even to excite a murmur among the zealots. But being naturally of a cheerful and sanguine temper, I soon recovered from the blow and prosecuted with great ardour my studies in the country"

David Hume on the reception of his Treatise of Human Nature after its' publication in 1739-1740

Looks like a smile, and not over beer or in a weak moment.

This is interesting about reason and miracles:

For Hume, the only way to support theistic religion beyond strict fideism is by an appeal to miracles. But Hume argued that, at minimum, miracles could never give religion much support. There are several arguments suggested by Hume's essay, all of which turn on his conception of a miracle: namely, a violation of the laws of nature. His very definition of miracles from his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding states that miracles are violations of the laws of nature and consequently have a very low probability of occurring. In a slogan, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Here, he kinda sounds like you:

Many regard David Hume as a political conservative, sometimes calling him the first conservative philosopher. He expressed suspicion of attempts to reform society in ways that departed from long-established custom, and he counselled people not to resist their governments except in cases of the most egregious tyranny.

Sounds like he'd be against same-sex marriage, for starters..........

12:20 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Keep in mind that the great Jewish medieval Maimonides also rejected miracles, and it was he who Thomas followed in the Aristotelian tradition.

That Hume rejects miracles is a no-brainer; a radical empiricist could do nowt else. But Thomas does not depend on them at all or even voices in the sky for natural law or "general" revelation, which is why I wrote what I wrote.

Yes, it seems that Burke follows Hume here on his caution on uprooting convention with a scheme to replant some other bright idea. At least Hume's skepticism is not destructive. Good on him. I'm sure I'd somewhat enjoy a beer with him, although he got no soul. That I reject his main thesis doesn't mean I reject him or his wisdom completely, DA. Such Manicheanism is for the Kososphere, eh?

(Of course it was a weak moment. The world just ignored him. But I'm sure he was a nice guy---he took that total bastard Rousseau in under his roof for a year before giving him the boot, a miracle in itself. Mebbe Hume had some soul after all.)

3:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having no knowledge of the Kososphere, you will pardon me if I can in all intellectual honesty tell you I don't know why they are more deserving of that characterization than Free Republic, LGF, or WorldNutDaily, which last 4 I have some knowledge of, and this definition seems to fit them very well:

Because Manichaeism is a faith that teaches dualism, in modern English the word "manichean" has come to mean dualistic, presenting or viewing things in a "black and white" fashion.

So, I guess the old cowboy movies were Manichean as well, damn those heretics in Hollywood anyway.........

4:39 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

The I've only really, truly come to realize in the last couple of years...was a mixed bag. Romanticism realized this, and I've got a kind of soft spot for their partial revolt. Faith in human reason: good. Seeing reason as purely instrumental: bad. And sentiment...egad, my so-called thinking about that is very, very up in the air...

Incidentally, Peirce--no theist--says that Hume got the miracles stuff wrong, though to my shame I didn't understand the argument the one time I read it. Hume is no logician; my money'd be on Peirce.

The *conservatism* of conservatism is a reasonable idea I think--beware radical social change. Take it slow. I've met few actual conservatives in that sense. I'd respect a conservative who said "Hmmm...same-sex marriage...yeah, I can't see any weighty argument against it, but let's go slow on that..." In actual fact, they mostly shriek, proclaim their eternal opposition to it, and produce some fallacious arguments against it. *Change* and its speed isn't the issue for them at all. Or, if it is, it's no change they want. Or, if they do, it's in accordance with their own radical theory of how society can be improved.

Our Tom may be a genuine go-slow conservative...not sure...

6:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, nothing in this critique of Hume's argument should be taken to suggest, in any way, that miracles have ever occurred, or that we are justified in believing that any have occurred. But it would be most surprising if some people at some time and in certain circumstances have not been, and will not again be, justified in believing in the occurrence of a miracle. However, nothing I have said suggests that that the evidence available for the occurrence of any alleged miracle warrants justified belief in miracles for most people - including those who really do believe in them.


Here's an interesting critique from the novel First Lensman, By E.E. Smith, PhD(in Physics):

I do not believe at all in the supernatural. This universe did not come into being, it does not continue to be, except by the operation of natural and immutable laws. And I mean immutable, gentlemen. Everything that has ever happened, that is happening now, or that ever is to happen was, is, and will statistically connected with its predecessor event and with its successor event. If I did not believe that implicitly, I would lose all faith in the scientific method. For if one single 'supernatural' event or thing had ever occured or existed it would have constituted an entirely unpredictable even and would have initiated a series--a succession--of such events; a state of things no scientist will or can believe possible in an orderly universe

10:06 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Thing is, many, many, many events have occurred that have been uncaused--not "statistically connected" with a predecessor event. The universe is, so far as we can tell, indeterministic. Some events are causally determined and some aren't.

That doesn't get us supernatural events, of course..

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One example that is cited as an 'uncaused event' is the radioactive decay of a given element, like radium, U-238, etc..

If one takes the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, then the question of 'cause' becomes irrelevant, since Co states that we cannot know exactly what goes on at a quantum level, classifying the type of event that is taking place would be impossible as well.

Also, even if one doesn't subscribe to the Co, our understanding of radioactive decay is enough to predict that for a given quantity of a given element for a given time, x atoms will have decayed from element A to element B, and this statistical aspect suggests that there is a cause responsible for the effect of one random atom decaying at a given point in time that seems random from our POV, we just can't understand it yet.

I believe the stance you outline is known as indeterminism, WS.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Indeed it is.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Effect without cause seems to me against the laws of nature. A miracle?

That the carbon atom behaves so funkily, both macro- and sub-atomically is a cause for great pause, at least to me. Otherwise, we'd just be "stuff."

But I'm not much for science, especially quantum physics, as holding inherent meaning. They've been trying to tease something out of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle for years now. I prefer to think God will always leave the human mind something to explore, even on the material level. If the whole deal stopped at Newtonian physics, what a bore that would be.

Since this has been such a nourishing discussion, I thought I'd pass on this, another way of looking at things. Since, like you guys, I think, I entered philosophy through the modern academy's doors, there are many great thinkers who have been consigned to the ghetto outside Hume's house. I'm only just becoming aware of them.

I present no agreement with the article itself, but it's quite a comprehensive door-opener to the pariahs of modern thought.

I lit onto it exploring perhaps the most fascinating man of the past century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Lutheran theologian, pastor, mystic (it seems), a pacifist who was hanged for trying to kill Hitler.

Try that one on for size.

I never heard of him until a month ago. What a world.

11:25 PM  

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