Saturday, December 17, 2005

Popper on Saddam

One of my favorite philosophers is the late Sir Karl Popper. He was an extremely influential philosopher of science; whenever you talk of falsifiability being the criterion of science (that is, that a hypothesis can never be proved 100% by an number of tests, and yet one, repeatable, negative result is enough to disprove it) you are speaking of Popper's legacy. His epistemology was also an optimistic, soothing thing--he believed that there is objective truth out there, and that we can grasp it--and yet, we can never know for sure whether we have grasped it, and so must always leave our views open to reform and criticism. He also applied his insights from his meditations on the philosophy of science to political philosophy, and his devastating critique of historicism (the view that the past proceeds inexorably to a predestined future according to certain "laws" of history--Marx, drawing from Hegel, was big on this) is landmark.

Anyways, I was reading All Life is Problem Solving, a short collection of some of Popper's lectures, essays, etc, when I found this, from an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel in 1992:

Spiegel The collapse of Soviet Communism and the end of the bipolar system have not made the world a safer place. Everywhere we have to face the return of nationalist demons, loosely controlled nuclear weapons, and the migration of people stricken by poverty. Are these the new enemies of liberal democracy?

Popper Our first objective today must be peace. It is very hard to achieve ina world such as ours, where Saddam Hussein and other dictators likehim exist. We should not shrink from waing war for peace. In present conditions that is unavoidable. It is sad, but we have to do it if we want to save our world. Resolve is crucially important here. [emphasis added]

Spiegel War to stop the further spread of weapons of mass destruction?

Popper At the moment, nothing is more important than to prevent the spread of these lunatic bombs, which are already being traded on the black market. The states of the civilized world that have not gone mad must work together on this. For I repeat: just one Sakharov bomb is several times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. This means that, in any densely populated country, the detonation of just one bomb would cause millions of deaths, quite apart from the victims of radiation who would die of the effects over a number of years. We must not get used to such things. Here we must take action.
Somehow I had imagined that Popper would have sided with the liberation of
Iraq, despite the overwhelming opposition of intellectuals, had he been alive
today. Next, Popper proposes something I've always thought would make the
world a better place:

Spiegel Should the Americans act against Saddam again if it looks as if he is making bombs?

Popper Not only against Saddam. There should be a kind of task force of the civilized world for such cases. To be pacifist in the outmoded sense would be madness. We must wage wars for peace--obviously in the least terrible form. Since it is a question of force, force must be used to stop the bomb being used.
A task force of the civilized world, to wage for peace. Obviously the UN doesn't fit this bill; it sits passively by while thousands die in Darfur, and millions perish in the gulag state of North Korea. But, if the other nations of the world could set aside, momentarily, their anti-American animosity, and join us in the liberation of Iraq, and then of other countries, think how much better the world would be. What backwater tyranny could stand up to the collective migh of the developed countries?

Obviously, in this form, such a proposal is naive. But it does underscore the righteousness of the American cause and the cowardice and expediency of France, Germany, et al. If they were truly worried about the destabilization and deaths to be caused by the Iraq war, then they would have sent troops. Such a course would've reduced the number of dead, and more quickly brough pacification to the country. As it sits now, though, these countries position on the war in Iraq remains one of utter moral hypocrisy.

All You need to know about the wiretapping rent-a-scandal in two paragraphs

From the same AP news article:

Angry members of Congress have demanded an explanation of the program, first revealed in Friday's New York Times and whether the monitoring by the National Security Agency violates civil liberties.

[...]

Without identifying specific lawmakers, Bush said congressional leaders have been briefed more than a dozen times on the program's activities.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Meditation on my MDX

So mountain dew has a new energy drink called MDX which sounds rather extreme but I suppose thats the point the taste isn't so great but it packs a punch I mean jeez having Mountain Dew make an energy drink is like having Kurt Cobain design a new type of heroine just a little overkill you know it also comes in a sturdy little bottle highquality craftsmanship for just a beverage although I guess red bull has a nice little container to and it gives you wings but not literally hey do you think that's false advertising I guess probably not because most people would realize it's just like metaphorical for energy and such but still its misleading I feel like Gulliver and tiny little Lilliputians that might be spelled wrong have built struts to keep my eyes open I can't close them and I think a fly just landed on my cornea but its cool because I can see the little guys wings slowly batting back and forth its kind of like the Matrix except I'm not inside a giant computer or at least I hope I'm not.

update: Meditations on my second bottle of MDX, three minutes later
Cartoon my jibber jabber for the red cyclone with SASSAFRASS for the caption under what what KAAAACHING! gloriously carbuncled syllogisms take fruit under the multiple ladders snakes abound amidst abounding midst standing round the oven mitts holding ground my seven snits colored orange for the holidays are here here hearing what holidays hear NOISE abuzzbuzzruzzing in my ears I wazzing SNUZZING solipsism the individualism for group collectivism organically molding the gypsy travelling statically moving still under over the dead bridge made of eyeballs and other people named Fred who SHOPSHOPSHOPPING CART the what because its that time of year for HELLO to the silent cats that stare stare stare at the mere ear roar.

update: Meditations on my third bottle of MDX, three minutes later
MuurrrrrrrrzzzlUGUGUGfinililicathroodillSAKAfwip!SHNANK-SHNANKafurloopPOPPOPsidridiferousCANillroostiviggGLACK-sorpporsprosNEEDLEBEEDLEWEEDLEsafganifganiferontilig-OntontonsiligrinquestobEBELLINGERsigcantheumpaliderium-HORPIDORPIRORPselfforigommontolistogGROBclobsiggle-wiggleniggleHACKACKACKACKriddlidlidsifROPROPniliminilim-onilonopcropSORDORDsifflewoggiescrogglehoggiesSTATSRATS-condithitherOTHODsopoprytoZZZZZZZZZZZfillosSSSSSScralli-briousCRADDLEWONKERSoggletogglefoggleimperiogglesipling-erouscrrrrrRRRRRAAAAMMMPPPPLLLLES!!!!

update: Meditations on my fourth bottle of MDX, three minutes later
You know, maybe pulling troops out of Iraq is a good idea.

Conclusive proof...

...of something. Of what, I can't quite figure out.

h/t gannon

update: An afterlife? Or Hell, at least, because you know that's playing 24/7 on every channel down there.

update2: A challenge. Can you watch it without looking away? Okay, let's make it realistic: just for 20 seconds. Can you watch it for 20 seconds without averting your eyes? Because, personally, as a moral being that knows the concept of shame, I find it impossible.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Quote of the Day--updated

Russel Roberts, of Cafe Hayek, on European outrage over Gov. Schwarzenegger's decision to continue with the execution of murderer Stanely Tookie Williams:
But the really strange thing about this article is the invoking of the Holocaust as the reason for European outrage. Capital punishment is too close to state-organized murder? Executing a murderer is too close to trying to exterminate the Jews? Sorry, but I don't quite see the parallel. If Europeans were really affected by state organized murder, they'd let their citizens carry lots of guns and they'd make their governments less powerful. [emphasis added]

Talk about learning all the wrong lessons. Instead of the proper realization that state power is an inherent evil (in that it contains within it the latent capicity for abuse by the few over the many, by the maniacal over the masses) they instead learn a lesson of extreme moral equivalence--that two radically different actions (in this case the extermination of the Jews vs. the extermination of a duly convicted murderer) are morally equal due to superficial similarities.

In addition, such a stance of opposition to capital punishment predicated on the somber lessons of the Holocaust does not reinforce the moral enormity of the Holocaust--in fact, it trivializes it. The argument can just be run backward. For if the execution of Tookie Williams is equivalent to the Holocaust in some respect, then the Holocaust is similar to the execution of Tookie Williams in that same respect.

update: It should be noted that this post does not constitute an argument either way for whether capital punishment is good and just--it is just to point out that one form of argumentation is misguided and, indeed, dangerous. On the whole, I remain agnostic on the issue. From what I've read, the Catholic Church is not opposed to the death penalty itself, as it is to abortion, but is rather opposed to the unfair manner in which it sometimes operates.

The one thing that irks me about the debate, though, is the manner in which leftists assume--as they often do--that their position is obviously morally right, and that only a moral cretin could believe the opposite. But this is not the case. Immanuel Kant, a model of Enlightenment reason and probably THE most influential liberal philosopher of all time, felt that the death penalty was owed, as a matter of obligation, to those that killed other people. He felt you denied them their autonomy if you didn't treat them like rational agents by levying out punishment equal to the crime--death for death. He would argue that it is unjust to deny a person the death penalty if they've, so to say, earned it.

So, as in most other issues, there is room for disagreement on both sides without self-righteous moral posturing.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Top Ten

Here's my list of the top ten most exciting punctation marks.

1. )
2. !
3. '
4. ?
5. ;
6. "
7. --
8. ,
9. (
10. :

Monday, December 05, 2005

I sure hope the FBI doesn't sift through google queries

Here's a sample of what research for my columns looks like . These are some of the google searches that go into making the totally coherent and logically structured columns I'm known virtually house-wide for:
Genital herpes discolored urine

Wonder Years

Jean Claude Van Damme

Ayn Rand altruism

Heaven’s Gate

“What are boogers made of”

Interesting stuff, really. And, to answer your question, dirt mainly, and bacteria and such. Or, if you're me (which I'm virtually 100% sure you're not, unless I'm reading this right now, which I could be if you're me, which I'm virtually 100% sure you're not), would also include such substances as legos, sunflower seeds, Steve Irwin, magical schoolbusses or whatever else happens to embark on the scenic journey up my highly traveled nasal cavities.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Opposition opposition

From an interview with Roger Scruton, he details why he wrote his landmark book on conservatism, "The Meaning of Conservatism":
It should be added that I would not have written the book, had I not been commissioned by Ted Honderich, then politics editor at Penguin and also a University colleague, who was desperate to find someone, somewhere, however feeble, to defend the conservative position. Without The Meaning of Conservatism, the intellectual left -- whose ideas, emotions and very existence depends upon a stance of opposition -- would have had nothing to oppose. Hence the book’s appearance caused a huge sigh of relief among my colleagues, who were at last able to hate again. [emphasis added]

Heh.