Ruptured Rhapsody

A different kind of "blog," consisting of selections from my scribblings over many years. The date of each post is the date I originally wrote that piece. So, the top post is usually not the latest post, because I continually add writings from different years to the blog. If you have visited here before, you are likely to find new posts anywhere on the page. I'll continue to add "new" posts as my time allows.

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Location: Toronto, Canada

21 October 1985

Means and ends in politics

There is not necessarily just a single species of progressive person, as far as political movements are concerned. In other words, the work of different "progressive" groups may possibly be in conflict with each other . One example is the fact that the environmental movement concerned with whales may not really care about politicians to about nuclear weapons (on second thought, though, the same people seem to be interested in both of these issues, so this first example may not be a very good one -- in fact, it will turn out that it isn't, because there is no fundamental difference between the two issues). My second example, a better one, has to do with the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua, on one hand, versus the antinuclear [weapons] movement, on the other. If the revolution in Nicaragua fails, some of those concerned with the Nicaraguan experiment may not care very much whether the Bomb falls or doesn't fall. In other words, they may feel that if the Nicaraguan [revolutionary] experiment fails, the survival of the homo sapiens is not something worth worrying about. The third example is about the fact that a proponent of feudalism, for example, was a progressive person several hundred years ago. In other words, and more generally, contradictory causes have been "progressive" at different times and places. An item in the newspaper today made me aware of this contradiction again. A certain extreme-leftist European group, while denouncing nuclear missile, had also denounced "petite bourgeois pacifism." Apparently they feel that the usual antinuclear protester has the wrong attitude. They seem to see such a person as someone who is simply concerned with peace, that is, lack of any kind of conflict. Notwithstanding the obvious Marxist rhetoric, there does seem to be an important point here. On one side there is concern for peacefulness and stability. On the other side there is concern for pursuit of concrete realizations of high ideals. The kind of tragedy that can result from confusing the two can perhaps be illustrated with reference to the Iranian revolution. The rhetoric has always declared the revolution to be for the betterment of the lot of the downtrodden and the exploited. One notices the contradiction when one sees that the clergy who preach for an end to injustice and exploitation, represent the very forces that caused the problem in the first place. Religion is the opiate of the people; it tends to keep them pacified and concerned with their small personal problems, and to keep them from perceiving the larger societal picture. It is a means of keeping people ignorant of the real nature of their plight. For example, it keeps them from realizing that concern for personal salvation, and therefore disregard for the essentially social nature of human existence, is a part of the problem. By assuming the progressive rhetoric, the Iranian clergy managed to lure the progressive elements to its side. The progressives forgot that religion is not something to join for them, but rather something to try to get rid of.

13 October 1985

What does God have to do with it?

Religions just say "Believe." How can I believe, when you don't give me anything to believe? Religion is completely without substance. If they say "believe in God and the message of this or that messenger of God," I would say "Why?" If they bring in miracles, I would give Hume's answer, including the fact that even if I personally saw a miracle, it would only prove something wrong with my senses; and also there is the fact that miracles do not prove the existence of a God, and so how can they prove somebody is a messenger of God? If in answer to my original question "Why?" they say "Because we believe in brotherhood and peace, and so on," I would say "I already believe in all those things, and they have nothing to do with belief in any God or religion I do not need God or religion to think and act as a mature adult human being. The basis of humanism is not a set of beliefs; rather, it is a mature realization of what it means to be a human being, namely to think and act rationally, or in other words not to act according to the whims and impulses. A rational agent is a moral agent, because a rational agent automatically behaves morally, that is, in accordance with principles of brotherhood, charity, and so on. Charity is based on faith in man, and hope for his future.

10 October 1985

If an advice falls in the forest...

People consult others about their own problems, in order to have their own thoughts and incipient decisions confirmed. If the second person does not confirm those thoughts and decisions, he may be disliked. But this may be completely rational, in his own way. In rejecting the consultant for giving unfavorable advice, the first person is saying "You are not what I thought you were." In other words, the seeker comes to the adviser with the subconscious thought in mind that "I know this person is such and such a type of individual, and that therefore he would see the situation in such and such a way, which is also how I see this situation." If this expectation is not confirmed, the seeker rejects the adviser and his advice; he rejects the adviser, because the adviser turns out to be a "phony" -- he has been pretending, as the seeker sees it, to be something other than what he is; the seeker rejects the advice, because the advice, as the seekers sees it, is issued from a source that the seeker now does not see as competent to advise the seeker on the matter. If the seeker is unwilling to reject the advisor, however, the seeker will try to distort the advice; he may think to himself: "He didn't really understand what I meant, because I didn't explain it very well"; or "even though he said "Do A," he really meant "Do B ""; or "To implement his advice to "Do A," I would really have to "do B""; or "He tried his best, but he really doesn't know about this sort of thing."

7 October 1985

Feminism and Compassion

One rather puzzling feature of the feminist movement is hatred of men. It has perhaps justifiably led some to think of feminists as essentially lesbian – the point being that there are legitimate feminists, but that the rest are feminist because they are lesbian, not lesbian because they are feminist. This is, of course, an oversimplification of the matter, in any case. The point, however, is a serious one. Some lesbian feminists claim that lesbianism is inseparable from feminism, because man is the enemy. In other words, they see a conceptual conflict (and not simply an emotional one) between intimacy with men and the cause of feminism. They interpret their whole being in feminist terms are, and can therefore only fit intimacy with another woman into the picture. This is what they claim, in any case. It seems, however, that this view is based on an interpretation of feminism as the liberation of the female species, rather than that of female human beings. Whether conceptually wrong or not, their analysis is contrary to historical evidence. The main impetus behind the modern feminist movement was the American Civil Rights movement, which was definitely aimed at improving women’s lot as much as that of men. Lesbian feminism, however, loses touch with humanist values as soon as it becomes able to divide humanity into two species. This is perhaps why compassion and peace pervaded the Civil Rights and peace movements of the 1960s, and are absent from the feminist movement. On a more practical level, it’s true that overstatement is needed in order to make important and unfamiliar concepts understood, but espousing hatred of man simply in order to make a point is ridiculous, if not ultimately counterproductive. To make men out to be a gang of brutes out raping their wives and committing incest with their daughters, neither just rewards the many men who are deeply concerned about the plight of women, nor does it creates the proper frame of mind for women to help men understand the nature of that plight.

4 October 1985

How real are you?

I was thinking about the idea that on the strict philosophical level one can’t talk about a dead person – at least not without using highly convoluted language. For example, I can’t talk about a dead person and use words like “he” or “she” or “John Smith” in referring to the person, because, strictly speaking, these words are meaningful only in reference to living persons who can be pointed out as the reference point for these words. So far, it seems that we can only talk about what exists. But this distinction breaks down in the case of a person who I am not sure is still alive or not. If I am not sure whether John Smith is alive, I can talk about him as a person who quite possibly a exists; the possibility is enough to enable me to do so, since in no case are we certain of anyone’s existence unless the person is sitting right in front of us – someone I saw a minute ago may have been struck by lightning right after leaving. If it turns out that the person I was talking about did not exist as I was talking about him, this fact in itself should not make what I said meaningless. After all, we constantly talk about people who we assume to be still alive, who could possibly not be alive. There is, however, an apparent paradox here. On one hand, we can talk about anything that we presume to exist, whether it does or not. On the other hand, we can’t talk meaningfully about anything, as we may be wrong in presuming its existence . The paradox can be resolved if we realize that the problem here is the concept concept of “thing”, and other concepts like it, such as “person.” “He,” “she,” “John Smith,” “tree,” and so on are fictional constructs that we create in our minds to make it possible to go on living . Such concepts are equivalent to nonexistent ones such as “Napoleon” and “the Library of Alexandria.” Both in the case of “the living, breathing, John Smith” and “Napoleon,” I am referring to constructs in my mind. An objection at this point is that John Smith would surely not agree that he is an artificial or fictional construct. We may answer the objection by trying to clarify the matter further. When someone else refers to me as “he," he is creating a fictitious entity. His "he" is a different entity than my “I.” My “I” and John Smith’s “I.” are both quite real, or at least real insofar as they are the foundations for everything else that we are and know. But what makes the “I” itself possible is the historical nature of human consciousness. We are, so far as we know, the only creatures on this planet who can think of “Napoleon” or “yesterday’s lunch.” The same thing goes on when we refer to “John Smith.” What we mean when we say “John Smith” is the set of memories we have of a particulars spatio-temporal continuity's behaviour. We can only see and think in historical terms. One question at this point is whether the “historical” and “fictitious” are interchangeable, because if they are, then the “I” may also be fictitious – because the “I” appears also to be historical. There seem to be two solutions. The first one is to say that the transcendental “I” is unhistorical and eternal. The other solution is to say that the “I” is in fact of the same nature as everything else. These seem to correspond to the Dualist and Monist solutions in various philosophies.

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