Troy Leavitt on GamerGate and the Religion of Identity Politics

Game developer Troy Leavitt recently released a video on YouTube called GamerGate — Thoughts of a Game Developer. It’s very good, and I recommend you watch it.

But the thing that most caught my attention was his extremely clear and concise description of what he calls “The Religion of Identity Politics”—which could just as well be called “The Religion of Social Justice” (as I would probably call it) or “The Religion of Political Correctness.”

And he understands GamerGate, correctly, as a revolt against this aggressive Religion.

His words are good, so I am going to share them, because that’s what I do.

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troyleavitt

My explanation is that GamerGate was a consumer revolt against the Religion of Identity Politics.  I think the word ‘religion’ is the right word here, because there’s kind of a central dogma in identity politics, and that is that you are defined not by your behavior, not by your character, but by your demographic identifiers. For example, you start with your sex, whether you’re male or you’re female; then you move on to your race, whether you’re white, or black, or asian, or indian or whatever that might be; and then your sexual orientation, gay, straight, bi, and so forth—and this is supposed to be your political group. It’s how you’re supposed to be IDENTIFIED. And the Religion of Identity Politics goes on to say that the more rare your particular instances of demographics are, the more oppressed you are, and hence, the more righteousness within the religion you can assume. Conversely, the more commonplace are your demographics, the more oppressive you are, and hence the more evil secretly resides in your very existence.

To me, this is very much like original sin. If you just happen to be born into a majority position, within the Religion of Identity Politics, you are automatically sinful. Your behavior doesn’t really matter. That’s what they mean by ‘privilege’—it’s your position, you’re just born into it. Note that this is the exact opposite of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s plea that people should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Now also within the religion, the only way you can really be redeemed is to accept your inherent sinful nature as on oppressor—to whatever degree that is—and you confess your demographic markers. You say, “I’m sorry I’m white, I’m sorry I’m male, I’m sorry I’m straight!” and then you promise, you promise to do better, to have a change of heart, to strive to overcome your inherently sinful ways. And you do that be denigrating yourself, by putting yourself down, and elevating others who might be in a more oppressed state. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good person. Within the Religion of Identity Politics, it’s purely your demographic.

Go back and look at those articles [about gamers] that all dropped on the same day of August 28, and you can see pretty clearly that they’re evangelizing this religion of identity politics. And they’re saying “This is the solution to this scandal we see over here.” The authors, the press people, were kind of like priests and priestesses of Identity.

No! I reject your religion. I reject what you’re saying about me! And I’m going to push back. I’m going to fight back against anybody who says I have to suddenly buy into your religion to be a good person.” To me, that’s what GamerGate was all about and what it continues to be all about.

It’s a rejection of the Religion of Identity Politics.

David S. Oderberg’s “Why Abortion Isn’t Important”

This is an important article by philosopher David S. Oderberg, which first appeared in the Human Life Review, 2002. I highly recommend Professor Oderberg’s works, particularly his books on ethics, Moral Theory: A Non-Consequentialist Approach and Applied Ethics: A Non-Consequentialist Approach.  His work in metaphysics, Real Essentialism, is no less valuable, but is highly technical—I recommend in only for those already well versed in metaphysics.  It is dry and difficult, although the case he makes—for the reality of essences—could not be of greater importance.  My readers probably know that I hold the nominalism of William of Ockham to be GROUND ZERO of where Western Civilization went off the rails. Everything that has gone wrong since has gone wrong because of the denial of real essences and Platonic forms.  Indeed, I believe this is the basic thrust of Oderberg’s case below “abortion isn’t important,” he says, in the sense that, horror that it is, it is only one local manifestation of a much deeper sickness of the intellect and the will that has infected our civilization for a very long time now.  It is “not important” only in the sense that it is first of all a symptom of a much deeper and more pervasive disease.

But I don’t mean to interpret his words for you. I mean only to present them to you:

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Why Abortion Isn’t Important

Human Life Review | Summer 2002 | David S. Oderberg

Abortion is not important. I never thought I could write such a sentence. In fact, I never thought I could think it. But I do. That’s not all. I also think that euthanasia is not important. Nor cloning. Nor contraception. Nor IVF, embryo experimentation, genetic engineering, nor any other issue at the core of pro-life activity and policy. In fact, pro-life activity and policy themselves are not important. However, before you write a letter of outrage to the editor, or tear up your subscription, allow me to explain.

To clarify what I mean by these issues’ not being important, let me point out that I am not saying for a minute that pro-lifers should stop being pro-lifers, that we should spend our afternoons tending our rose bushes rather than campaigning, protesting, writing, or whatever it is that we do best in defending the pro-life cause. Like most pro-lifers, I am opposed to every single one of the things listed above. Every one of them is a moral crime, an attack on the sanctity of human life, and every one of them should be opposed in heart and mind and action by all people of good will. And yet—they are not important.

As a professional philosopher, I am trained to look at the big picture. True, most of my fellow philosophers, at least in the Anglophone academies, have pretty much given up on big pictures. We philosophers hardly ever talk about big pictures at our end-of-term garden parties, or in the common room between lectures. We don’t knock on each other’s doors and say, “Hey, Fred, what do you think of the state of Western civilization?” It’s just not done. What is done is to knock on a colleague’s door and say, “Hey, Fred, what do you think about Quine’s denial of the analytic/synthetic distinction? Don’t you think recent theories of meaning have cast doubt on his critique?”

Don’t get me wrong. Quine’s denial of the analytic/synthetic distinction is important and well worth debating. Plenty of good papers have been published on it. My list of things to research in philosophy would be a lot shorter if I didn’t have subtle or not-so-subtle technical distinctions to analyze. It was good enough for Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas (let alone all the other great figures in the history of my subject)—so it’s good enough for me. Yet through it all, through the endless training in technicalities, and even despite the best efforts of many of those who taught me to philosophize, I have, one way or another, been trained to look at the big picture.

Which is why I have come more and more to see that pro-life issues, including the ones on which I have published at length and will continue to publish, form a smaller component of the overall stance that should be taken against society than many pro-lifers would think. Social activism, like everything else in the marketplace of goods and ideas, inevitably involves a division of labour. Animal rights campaigners (for all the bad mixed in with their good intentions) campaign for animals and very little else; animals are their world, the abolition of the battery cage their raison d’être. Campaigners against paedophilia have the welfare of children as their sole social concern, and see social policy through the prism of their anxiety that children be protected at all costs. Anti-globalists interpret every facet of economic policy in terms of its promotion or reduction of the depredations of transnational big business.

Pro-lifers are no exception. Of course I exaggerate, but the basic point is correct, that when a person embarks on the defense of a cause (and why they pick one cause rather than another depends on all sorts of reasons both personal and political), they tend to focus exclusively on that cause and to see all other social issues primarily in terms of how those issues reflect upon it. The division of labour is a good and necessary thing, both in economics and in social activism. I am certainly not advocating the disappearance of single-issue campaigning, or of multi-issue campaigning (like pro-life activism) that revolves around one large chunk of social policy. No policy would ever change if activists regularly spread their campaigning too thinly, thus depleting their intellectual and emotional (not to mention financial) resources beyond their usefulness in any one specialized operation.

What I am advocating, however, is that pro-lifers as a whole spend more time thinking about bigger issues and how they relate to their primary concern to protect innocent human life from womb to tomb. Perhaps the single thing that contributed most to this realization was when I first read the famous paper published in 1958 by the eminent (and recently departed) Cambridge philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. Writing about the utilitarianism that has, since Bentham and Mill, taken over virtually all moral theorizing in the English-speaking departments of philosophy (perhaps less true today of high-level moral theory than of applied ethics, where of course the damage is really done—witness Singer and Co.), Professor Anscombe noted that it had become a serious topic of moral debate among philosophers whether it could ever be justified to kill an innocent man (e.g., to save five others). Her response was brave—brave because it went so contrary to the grain of philosophy as argument and dialectic. What she said (and here I paraphrase and interpret¹) was that when confronted with a person who really thinks it a live moral issue whether killing the innocent might ever be justifiable, even if that person offers sophisticated utilitarian arguments in support, the right thing to do is to walk away rather than argue; for such a person shows evidence of a corrupt mind.

Here is one of the (to my mind) greatest philosophers produced by England in the last century, telling people—especially other philosophers—that sometimes it is better to walk away than to argue. Why? Because a person’s conscience can become so corrupt, and lead to such equally corrupt rationalizations, that to engage them in serious argument about those rationalizations is both pointless—being unlikely to have the slightest impact on their thinking—and, what is worse, dangerous—bringing the thinker of good will into serious danger of having his own conscience perverted by the sophistries of the other.

Professor Anscombe did, nevertheless, write much in defense of life— though, notably, much of it for those who already valued life, arming them with arguments, rather than for those who could not even see the truth of the conclusions the arguments were arguments for. As to activism, well, it is not often that one sees a picture of an eighty-year-old female academic lying on the ground being dragged off by the police to the local lock-up. Her crime? Protesting outside an abortuary, of course.

Had she decided that protest against the devaluers of life was more rational than engaging them in argument over the futility of utilitarian thinking? I never got the chance to ask her, but the remarks in her 1958 paper gave pause for thought. After all, thousands of philosophers across the Western world (and it is the West with which I am solely concerned) continue to pose the very sorts of question Anscombe derided as showing evidence of moral corruption. Killing the innocent? No, that’s no longer even a question—most philosophers do not have a problem with it. Rather, it’s meatier territory they stake out now. In fact, when I first learned that the Doctor Exsecrabilis Peter Singer was now somewhat of a fan of bestiality,² I caught myself being not nearly as surprised as I thought I might be: surely this was the logical working out (by a thinker who satisfies G. K. Chesterton’s definition of a maniac—not someone who has lost his reason, but someone who has lost everything but his reason) of a moral position that had already been poisoned decades ago by those first thoughts about whether morality is all about costs and benefits, and whether the job of modern moralists was to overthrow tradition and replace it with a brand new morality for our brand new times.

I assume it will be paedophilia next. Or perhaps incest. (Only a few weeks ago I happened to listen on BBC radio to a learned discussion of incest [not involving Singer] that was as remarkable for its high seriousness as for the insouciance of its participants.) I ask pro-lifers: can we really expect to have a rational debate with these custodians of what’s left of our cultural norms? Perhaps we should keep trying, lest there be one single person out there who changes his mind because of what pro-lifers have to say. Nevertheless, we also play right into the hands of the modern moralists when we approach ethical debate with such a narrow focus. What happens when a pro-lifer publicly debates, say, the so-called “morning-after pill” (alias the early abortion pill) with one of its advocates? Usually, the pro-lifer is accused of an unhealthy obsession with what goes on in people’s bedrooms. Why all this fixation on sex? they want to know. Is it the usual “Catholic guilt” thing, or the fact that they want to deny to others what they secretly wish they could have for themselves? Why don’t they get out of other people’s private lives and worry about their own?

Of course, none of these responses is remotely rational. But the point is that listeners to such debates usually take the rhetorical bait, having long ago abandoned any pretense at rational thought about the issues themselves. And so pro-lifers are portrayed all too often as swivel-eyed, obsessive single-issue fanatics. Needless to say, the double standards are obvious, since such epithets are rarely applied to animal liberationists or anti-globalists. The pro-lifers always get the worst of it: partly due to the obsessions of their opponents, who are really the ones who are utterly fixated on all things carnal; partly through a genuine fear that pro-lifers still (more so in the USA than the UK, by far) have political clout and can actually change things, at least by clogging the courts and slowing down the passage of anti-life measures, at most by getting their own measures adopted (e.g. anti-euthanasia legislation). Partly, as well, due to a tiny trace of residual moral conscience left in their critics. But partly also, it must be said, to the pro-lifers’ own excessively narrow focus.

Does that mean I advocate that pro-lifers should stop being obsessed by matters affecting the sanctity of life? Of course not. If we are not obsessed by life and death, we might as well not be obsessed by anything. What I do advocate, however, is that pro-lifers increase their obsession—not just with life matters, but with the whole state of Western society. We need to be obsessed by the state of utter desolation into which Western society is throwing itself. It may well be (as I believe) that what is left of Western civilization is doomed to extinction—but doing and caring nothing about it is just not an option. It is not only on what we achieve (and we may achieve a lot in the short or medium term), but on what we defend that we will be judged. And we must come to the realization that when a society has reached a state in which abortion and other attacks on life are not only tolerated; not only legalized; not only accepted as normal; but are positively embraced by millions of people as the very solution to what ails that society—then we must realize that something has not only gone seriously wrong, but went wrong a long time ago, long before the Sixties, long before any of us was alive.

We do not need to become social or cultural historians to analyze the current state of things. We should also acknowledge that there is a feedback loop among the phenomena under discussion: explanation is not always in the one direction. A general state of slow-burning moral disintegration gave rise to the climate in which the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s could take place; but equally, with that revolution now secure and its aging vanguard installed as our rulers, the revolution feeds back into the wider state of decay and gives it added momentum. Which way the explanation should go in a given case is best left to the historians. What is more important is that we need instead to see that actions such as abortion can only ever become the norm in a society in which the very bonds that tie us together as human beings have been torn apart. We need to understand that the anti-life movement is a secondary cancer, a metastasis of a primary tumor that began to grow when the West began to lose its religious sensibilities, its sense of communal obligation, its norms of respect and due deference for the elderly, the wise, the experienced, those who govern in our name, its standards of gentility and politeness, when people began twistedly to interpret manners as hypocrisy, noblesse oblige as exploitation, civic duty as state oppression, state patronage as a human right, love of neighbor as poking one’s nose into the business of others, hypocrisy as the greatest vice of all (to which I reply—better double standards than no standards), and proper autonomy as the right to do as one pleases.

The primary cancer is as deep as it is old, and it is almost certainly terminal. But for us—as campaigners, writers, thinkers, activists—its terminal nature cannot be of prime concern. What we must attend to is the enrichment of our thinking about pro-life issues by studied consideration of just how the anti-life culture is rooted in a much broader social pathology. We need not, and must not, become self-styled experts on everything that is wrong with Western society (which of us can claim any such expertise?), and we must not dilute the pro-life message to the point where it no longer stands out against the cacophony of perpetual social commentary that clogs the exhausted airwaves and ever diminishing magazines of “opinion.”

Still, pro-lifers must widen their perspective. We must understand the simple fact that a society in which people are judged not by their looks but by their virtues is a society in which abortion would be impossible. That a society in which travelers regularly give up their seats to the elderly is a society in which euthanasia would be impossible. That the antithesis of a me-first society in which physical perfection is the ultimate goal is a society in which genetic screening for physical handicap would be considered not as a moral outrage, but as just plain absurd—unthinkable, even. This is what I mean by saying that abortion is not important. A society which has gone as far as devaluing the lives of its own members has gone wrong long before. It is not just the metastases which must be attacked, but their malignant origin. Sure, let us be obsessed by anything that touches on life and death—how could we not? But let us also be obsessed by much, much more.

NOTES

1. To read her exact words, see ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’ in her collected papers entitled Ethics, Religion and Politics: Philosophical Papers, vol. III (Oxford: Blackwell, 1981), pp.26-42.

2. See his review of Midas Dekkers, Dearest Pet: On Bestiality, published on http://www.nerve.com in 2001 and also in the British magazine Prospect (April 2001).

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Harambe the Gorilla and American Race Relations

As most of you know, in May 28, 2016, a three-year-old boy managed to get into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo.  The child was approached by the gorilla Harambe, whose behavior towards the child was ambiguous—since the incident was filmed, you can see for yourself—and one of the zookeepers, fearing for the boy’s life, shot and killed Harambe.

This was sad, and much like the case of Cecil the lion, gave many Americans an occasion to indulge in their over sentimentality about animals.  As far as I can tell, while unfortunate, the zoo worker acted reasonably under the circumstances.  It would have been very easy for Harambe, who as a gorilla and not a human being certainly bears no moral blame for anything, to have severely injured or killed the child, even unintentionally.

More unfortunately, the incident gave those Americans interested in race baiting an opportunity to indulge in that also, for example:

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 5.43.35 PM.png

So Hood Intellect tells us (1) this is was example of ‘white privilege’, and that (2) IF the boy had been black, there would have been a different outcome.

Hypotheticals Contrary to Fact are usually safe for rhetoricians and demagogues, since there is usually no real way to disprove “If things had been different from how they actually were, this other thing would have been different too,” e.g. “If the Nazis had won World War 2, the world in 2016 would be a better place.”  I tend to doubt that claim, but we have no way of testing it, since its basis is a hypothesis contrary to fact, that is, a hypothetical that we can imagine, but which isn’t true.

However, in this case, Hood Intellect had jumped the gun with his race baiting—this was one of those rare case where we were actually able to test a hypothesis contrary to fact, since as it happened, Hood Intellect’s information about the boy being white was incorrect. The boy was, in fact, black.

That serves as complete refutation of BOTH of Hood Intellect’s claims: Since the boy was, in fact, black, the killing of Harambe was (1) clearly NOT an example of ‘white privilege’ and (2) it is clearly NOT the case that, if the boy was black, which he was, “they would’ve found a tranquilizer,” instead of fatally shooting Harambe.  If anything, this shows that the workers at the Cincinnati Zoo are not racist, which is what we should expect, since there are almost no real racists in America.  (I do not count people who have never have never had much interaction with people of other races, and who therefore can be awkward and uncomfortable at first as “racist,” white or otherwise, and neither should you.)

But since Hood Intellect is, as I’ve said, a demagogue and a race-baiter, he was unfazed by the complete refutation of his claims by reality.  Like all ideologues, he merely adjusted the facts to fit his narrative:

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Hood Intellect NOW blames the shooting of Harambe on ‘whiteness’ in a DIFFERENT way.  Before, Harambe was shot “for a white boy’s safety,” but oops, the boy was black—so now, Harambe was not shot to ensure a black boy’s safety (which he was) but because of the inherent violence of white people.  (What Hood Intellect is overlooking is that tranquilizers TAKE TIME TO WORK, especially on 440 lb gorilla, time the child in immediate danger might not have had—not that I expect a rational argument to move Hood Intellect’s intellect.)

The incident caused such a big reaction, I think in part, because a large segment of the American public are getting very tired of this kind of dishonest rhetoric, in which white people are damned if they do and damned if they don’t—and not just white people either. I think most Americans, black, white, asian, whatever, are generally fair-minded, and really dislike race-baiting.  It clearly DOES NOT MATTER to Hood Intellect what the people involved were thinking or what they did or why they did it—no, he is going to USE this incident to race-bait, no matter what. He has a narrative in which “white people” are the villains and he is going to TELL THAT STORY come hell or high water.  For all I know, the zoo worker that shot Harambe was also black.  Was he? I don’t know. Do you? But I don’t need to know that, to know he made the right call, even if the death of Harmabe was unfortunate, which it was.

What I don’t see ANYWHERE in the story of the death of Harambe is ANY kind of malice, especially not any kind of RACIAL MALICE or RACISM.

The only place I see POISON is in the race-baiting rhetoric of Hood Intellect and those like him, who don’t give one damn about the facts, but only want to demonize white people, a kind of rhetoric that is all-too-common in many parts of the American left.  Nor is this kind of anti-white rhetoric something on which black people like Hood Intellect have a monopoly.  There are plenty of white people who take great delight in white-hate.  (And of course, for all I know, Hood Intellect might be white. A Twitter avatar of a black man doesn’t prove he is a black man after all).

This same kind of venomous rhetoric is endemic in feminism also, where it is men, rather than white people, who are demonized.  Although now, thank to the magic of “intersectionality” you can double, triple, or quadruple down, and damn not just whites or men, but white men, or straight white men, or cis het white men.  Or able-bodied, thin cis het white men.

This rhetoric is poisonous because it privileges narrative over reality and gives a license to hate the demonized and dehumanized other—all in the name of condemning those who demonize and dehumanize the other.  The irony is amusing and ironic, but ideologies don’t get ironic; that requires one to step outside one’s monomania for blame and revenge.

We live in a world of tarantulas.

 

 

Liberalism and Protestantism: The Same Dilemma

Classical liberalism is fast becoming a conservative position, in the face of neo-Progressivism aka the Regressive Left aka the Social Justice movement/cult.

Classical liberals are seeing their most dearly held values and beliefs tossed on the rubbish heap of history, as being “on the wrong side” of history.  Basic individual rights and freedoms, such as freedom of speech and freedom of belief are nowadays under constant attack.

The trouble is, as classical liberals are waking up to this reality, more and more, they are sounding the alarm, and even the call to arms: “We must fight for our culture and our values! We must endure struggle and sacrifice.  We cannot allow these things to be taken from us!”

Well, why not?

“Because otherwise another culture with different values, which are equally valid, will as a matter historical fact replace our culture and our values, which again, are not more or less valid than the alternative.”

That isn’t a terribly motivating reason.

The dilemma that secular liberalism finds itself in is that it has, in the name of its principles, rejected all possible non-arbitrary foundation for its principles.

The secular liberal, it seems to me, is in exactly the same situation as the Protestant.

The Protestant proclaims the doctrine of sola scriptura, “scripture alone”, and that all we need as a foundation is the Bible. But instead of a foundation, what Protestants get is ten thousand different and incompatible interpretations of “what the Bible really says.”  (I don’t mean you, dear Protestant who belongs to a ‘church’ with 100 members. You are of course correct. The Holy Spirit speaks directly only to your tiny sect.)

The secular liberal, in fine ‘Enlightenment’ style proclaims the parallel doctrine of sola ratio, “reason alone,” and that all we need as a foundation is reason.  But reason works from premises to conclusions; and reason doesn’t supply its own most basic premises.  So just like the Protestants, secular liberals produce tend thousands sects and parties who all claim to know “what reason really says”—depending on which premises they start from.

Unfortunately for the secular liberal, the ‘Enlightenment’ conception of reason—I hope you understand why ‘Enlightenment’ requires enclosing in inverted commas—is of no help:

HumeContraryToReason

A minimalist, instrumental, reductions view of reason cannot help.

The classical view of reason as λόγος goes much farther but even that is insufficient. The only coherent grounding of Western culture and Western values is the Christian faith, which is entirely compatible with reason (unlike Islam), yet goes beyond it, and so can serve as its transcendent ground and anchor for reason and for the values the West dared to proclaim is eternal and self-evident truths:

DeclarationofIndependence

Without a transcendent foundation in the Creator, reason fails and falls to the level of sophistry, of merely competing narratives, a situation which many of  best philosophers of our day declare openly, either morosely or in celebration: at long last, the tyranny of reason is at an end! 

In abandoning God and Christianity, the West has not “liberated” itself, but rather has placed itself in the tyranny of an infinite number of “narratives”, all of which claim the sanction of reason, none of which can support this claim as true of them in particular.

How does the Protestant member of a tiny sect know that his version of Christianity is true, out of the ten thousand or so Protestant sects? He appeals directly to the Holy Spirit, who told him so.

How does the secular liberal know that just his version of liberal secularism and humanism is correct? “Reason” told him so.

Neither the Protestant sectarian nor the liberal secular sectarian can adequately explain why “the Holy Spirit” and “Reason” tell other people different things, and why he and he alone has the right of things.

Nevertheless, human beings are sturdy creatures, and the prejudice “I am right, while everyone else is wrong, because I am me, and they aren’t,” rarely fails us on a personal level.

It only fails us on a universal level when our existence as a community, as a culture and a civilization, depends upon unity and agreement, something the modern West now seems incapable of.

 

 

Werner Foerster, Assata Shakur, and Black Lives Matter

We begin at a grave.

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Werner Foerster’s Grave in New Jersey

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This is the grave of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.

Werner Foerster was born in 1939, in Leipzig, Germany, under the despotic Nazi regime. His earliest years were colored by the horror of Hilter’s Germany, and when the Nazis fell, in 1945, Foerster continued his lesson in tyranny, living under the police state that was communist East Germany. At age 19, he knew he had to take his chance for freedom, and escaped to West Germany, part of the flood of East to West German refugees that provoked East Germany in 1961 the year after Foerster’s flight, to build the infamous Berlin Wall, one of the great monuments of tyranny and oppression in the 20th century.

Foerster worked as a welder in Wilhelmshaven, in West Germany, where he met Rosa, the woman who would become his wife and the mother of his son. He rarely talked about his life in East Germany, not wishing to burden his wife with his memories of life first the communist dictatorship.  Eventually, the couple decided to move to the United States, to New Jersey, where they were married in 1964.

In 1970, two things happened in Werner’s life. He and Rosa had a son, and Werner joined the New Jersey State Police. He understood the difference between a land in which the police are a tool of oppression, as in police state East Germany, and a land in which it is the duty of the police to serve and protect the people from those who would harm them.

His memorial reads, in part:

“His service with the division was characterized by loyalty, fearless performance of duty and faithful and honorable devotion to the principles of the New Jersey State Police.”

and

Fearless Dedication of Duty and Service to the Citizens of New Jersey

His “End of Watch” occurred on May 2, 1973.

He died responding to a call for backup from a fellow office, who had pulled over a vehicle with three black people, who the officer rightly recognized as potential dangerous.  Werner Foerster went to give aid to his fellow officer.

The two officers were on alert, ready for trouble, but were attacked with a suddenness and extremity of violence that nevertheless caught them by surprise.  One of the men managed to get Foerster’s gun away from him and shot him dead with his own weapon, leaving Rosa a widow, and Forester’s 3-year-old son fatherless.

The three suspects the officers had had the misfortune to pull over that day were radical domestic terrorists, members of the Black Panther Party and the even more radical Black Liberation Army, Sundiata Acoli, Zayd Malik Shakur, and Assata Shakur.

Zayd Shakur was killed in the gunfight.  Sundiata Acoli and Assata Shakur were captured and sent to prison to await trial the murder of Officer Foerster.  Assata Shakur escaped prison and fled to Cuba, where she remains to this day, listed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, never having paid for her part in the murder of Officer Foerster. Acoli was sentenced to life in prison, although there has been sustained political pressure to free him.  He was granted parole in 2014, although has not yet been released, as the State of New Jersey is appealing the ruling at present.

The racial situation in the United States being what it is, attempts are constantly made to portray Acoli and the Shakurs as victims and heroes.  You can read one such tendentious portrayal here.

Assata Shakur, terrorist, criminal, accessory to the murder of a good man and a brave officer of the law is nowadays best known as the direct inspiration of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Her words have become one of the most commonly heard mantras not only of Black Lives Matter but of Social Justice Warriors on campuses throughout the United States. Anyone who follows the doings of Black Lives Matter or the regressive left in general will have heard these words, whether being spewed from a megaphone in the hand of multi-millionaire Jonathan Butler at Mizzou or students holding hands in a circle at Claremont Mckenna or Yale or Smith or a dozen or hundred other colleges and universities across the United States:

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

“Nothing to lose but our chains” is a direct quote from the Communist Manifesto, so we have an idea what the “freedom” being fought for here is.  It is the false freedom that Werner Foerster and millions of others risked their lives to escape in East Germany, not the real freedom of rights and laws that Werner Foerster dedicated himself to protecting when he took up the uniform and duty of a police officer.

“Love each other” is parody of Christ’s teaching “love one another.” Unlike Christians, however, who are also told by their Lord to “love your neighbors” and even “love your enemies,” this particular injunction to “love each other” is perfectly compatible with hating those who aren’t part of “the movement,” and being perfectly willing to call for their deaths, or to bring those deaths about.

Black Lives Matter draws its fundamental political inspiration from a women who advocated the violent killing of police officers, who took part in the violent murder of Officer Werner Foerster, as well as dozens of other crimes, who escaped justice for her crimes by fleeing to the protection of a dictator, and is a vile and evil human being.

It should surprise no one that Black Lives Matter frequently both advocates and celebrates the killing of cops, the official statements of various BLM propagandists notwithstanding. In our age of ubiquitous phone cameras, it is all too easy to catch the members of Black Lives Matter saying what they really think and believe.  Indeed, they often shout it, in mass chants such as “What do we want? Dead cops! When do want it? Now!” or “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon!” or in the explosion of celebration at the murder of five polices officers in Dallas in 2016 across social media—officers who, ironically, were present to provide security for a Black Lives Matter protest.  In the event, it turned out it was not Black Lives Matter protestors who needed protection, but the police themselves—from a member of Black Lives Matter.

So when ever you hear the above chant, please see past the empty rhetoric of “freedom” and “duty” and “love” and “losing our chains.”  That’s all air. “Words are wind.” It says nothing concrete, nothing specific.  If it means anything, it means what Marxists always mean, the opposite of what they say:

OrwellFreedomIsSlavery

Instead, when you hear it, turn your mind to this brave man, who lived through the horrors of Nazism and the worst kind of Communist tyranny, only to escape to freedom and a new life of family and public service in the United States.  And only to have his hard-won new life in freedom taken from him by black Marxist domestic terrorists.

When you hear that odious chant, see this.

WernerFoersterFuneral

Officer Foerster’s Funeral in 1973

This is the casket on which Black Lives Matter is built.

Proofs and Demonstrations

There seems to be widespread misunderstanding about what proofs are, or as I prefer to call them, demonstrations. The Greek word is ἀπόδειξις, which means “to make something manifest, to show something, to place it before one’s view as evident.”

For something to be evident (as you can surmise from the vid– root) is for it to be “fully seen, completely in view, manifest to one’s eyes”.

A demonstration aims to make the truth of something evident.  “Evidentness” is the aim or end of a proof or demonstration.  This is important, because “evidentness” is also involved in every demonstration, and not simply as its end.

For a demonstration to succeed in making something evident, it must be both logically valid and have true premises.  And the validity of the demonstration as well as the truth of its premises must themselves be evident.  Sometimes this requires further argument or demonstration, but sometimes it does not.

Demonstrations are arguments, and they take place at the level of λόγος or discursive reasoning.  The level of λόγος is also the level of language, so all arguments, proofs, and demonstrations (I am using these as synonyms now) are presented in language, which can be informal or highly formalized.

The dependence of demonstrations on evidentness is shown in that

  1. Demonstrations aim at making the truth of a proposition, the conclusion, evident.
  2. Demonstrations require evident propositions, i.e. true premises, to succeed.
  3. Demonstrations require evidently valid reasoning whereby the conclusion is reached.

What this shows is that there is a power of the soul upon which discursive reasoning, λόγος, depends, and to which it is inferior. In Greek, this power is called νόησις [noēsis].  In Latin, it is called intellectus.  It comes uncertainly into English, sometimes as “the intellect,” sometimes as “intelligence” sometimes as “understanding” or “the understanding,” and sometimes as “intuition.”  Modern English-speaking analytic philosophers sometimes call it “a priori intuition.”

Personally, I loathe to word “intuition,” since it connotes, to me and many people, something like “a vague hunch or feeling about something.” And νόησις is the opposite of vague.  It is, in fact, the very touchstone of certain knowledge.

Let me take an example I’m fond of, given by Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame).  One of the simplest logical forms is modus ponens, which has the following schema:

  1. P ⇒ Q
  2. P
  3. ∴ Q

or

  1. If P is true then Q is true,
  2. P is true.
  3. So Q is true.

Well and good. How do we know this is valid? How do we know it is the case that “If P is true then Q is true” taken together with “P is true” allows us to know that Q is true?

The answer is, we see that it is so. That is to say, it is evident. Or if you prefer, noetically evident.

There is no possible way in which modus ponens can be demonstrated to be valid. As with many other basic logical truths and axioms, it is “too simple” to be demonstrated. It is, rather, one of the basic elements any demonstration always and necessarily relies on.

Aristotle famously emphasizes this, that it is an error (and he adds, a sign of lack of sufficient education) to think that everything requires a demonstration. If this were the case, then every demonstration would require a demonstration, and that too another demonstration, resulting in an infinite regress, such that nothing would ever be demonstrated.  Demonstrations require that we can “go back” to evident starting points. If there were nothing that was evident without demonstration, that is, self-evident, there would be no demonstrations—remember, the very idea of a demonstration involves the idea of the evident.  Their purpose is to make something evident.

The reason one gives a λόγος is to make something evident, manifest to νόησις.  Two more Greek words are useful here. One of Aristotle’s favorite words is δήλον [dēlon], which means “clear, evident, manifest.”  Anywhere I’ve written evident in this post, you could substitute δήλον.  Another very important Greek word is ἀληθής, which means “true.” The noun form, for ‘truth’ is ἀλήθεια.  Note the initial alpha privative α-.  The Greek word for “truth” is a-lēthē-ia where λήθη (lēthē) like the river and the goddess Λήθη means “hidden, concealed, covered.” So the Greek word for truth means, literally, “unconcealment” and thus shows its connection to what is evident or δήλον.  What is true, ἀληθής, is what is evidentδήλον.

What is crucial to emphasize is that being evident/δήλον is something that relates to our power of intellectual sight, to the νοῦς and νόησις. νοῦς is the power or faculty of the soul. νόησις is the activity. νοῦςνόησις :: power of sight : activity of seeing. νόησις is the being-at-work or actuality or ἐνέργεια of νοῦς.

One consequence of this that Aristotle (and others after him, such as St. Thomas Aquinas) draws is that God is pure νόησις.  The divine knowledge, divine omniscience, does not need λόγος, because λόγος is both subordinate to νόησις and inferior to it. When Aristotle defines the human being as “the living being with λόγος, he is distinguishing us from both lower animals and higher divine beings, gods, and very emphatically from the Unmoved Mover, Aristotle’s term for God.

Unlike νόησις, which can only fail to happen, λόγος can be false as well as true, it can be ψεῦδος as well as ἀληθής.  Plato explores the ψεῦδης λόγος [pseudēs logos] at length in The Sophist. In that dialogue, the Eleatic Stranger and Theaetetus are attempting to answer the question posed by Socrates (who is present, but silent save at the beginning) “What is the sophist?” They arrive at what seems to be the correct definition, namely, that “the sophist is the one who gives the ψεῦδης λόγος,” when all of a sudden, an imaginary sophist (voiced by the Eleatic Stranger) pops up and declares this to be impossible. “To speak falsely,” he argues, “is to say that which is not. But that which is not—is nothing.  As nothing at all, that which is not can neither be said nor thought. Parmenides himself has shown than nonbeing or nothing or ‘that which in no way is’ cannot be thought or said, and therefore, since ‘that which is not’ cannot be said, there is no one who says ‘that which is not,’ and therefore, there are no sophists, and therefore,” the sophist concludes with a self-satisfied smirk, “I am not a sophist!”

I won’t fully go into Plato’s analysis of how it is possible to say that which is not (the short answer is what Hegel will later call determinate negation—one cannot say what “in no way is” or absolute nonbeing—but one can say what something is not, by saying it is something other than it is; the ψεῦδης λόγος is a kind of covering over or obscuring of something by means of something else, rather than making it manifest as what it is).

For our purposes here it is enough to note that the realm of discursivity/λόγος is the realm of both truth and falsehood, unconcealment and concealment, making evident and obscuring from view.

Now, every argument will have certain necessary components.  Arguments are not things that happen “all at once” (like νόησις) but rather step by step.  This means they have parts.  Arguments have a form; this form may be valid or invalid. Arguments are composed of propositions, the premises, which can be true or false.  And propositions in turn are composed of terms, which may be clear or unclear.  A sound argument will have clear terms, true premises, and a valid form.

This is not hard to understand. But because all arguments have this structure, all arguments may be challenged on any of these three grounds: the validity of the argument may be called into question, the truth of the premises may be called into question, and the clarity or meaning of the terms may be called into question.

What I want to emphasize is that this is always possible, for any argument, by the very nature of an argument.  It is therefore also subject to sophistical abuse.  The philosopher Peter Geach gives two examples of this:

PeterGeachDefineYourTerms

PeterGeachGivingReasons

It is trivially easy to use the sophistical tricks of

  1. demand terms used in a demonstration be defined. When they are defined, as they must be, in other terms, demand that the new terms be defined in turn. Repeat infinitely.
  2. demand that the premises of a demonstration be demonstrated. If a new demonstration is given, demand that its premises be demonstrated in turn. Repeat infinitely.
  3. demand that the validity of a demonstration be demonstrated. If a new demonstration is given, demand that its validity be demonstrated in turn. Repeat infinitely.

The trouble is that some of the ancient sophists and some people today believe that these sophistical tricks constitute actual refutations of arguments or demonstrations.

But they obviously do not, since they can be applied to any proof, argument, or demonstration whatever, regardless of what it actually says.

I bring this up because these are favorite techniques used by many modern atheists.  Frequently, one hears them say “There is no evidence for God.” If one gives a demonstration, they demand that the demonstration be demonstrated, and so on, ad infinitum, and when one fails to meet this impossible demand, they smugly conclude that one has failed to demonstrate the existence of God. This is sophistry.  One could ask them to demonstrate that one’s demonstration has failed, and if they answer, demand that they demonstrate the demonstration, etc.  Anyone can play sophistical games.

I think that a very common error today is that people misunderstand the nature of proof or demonstration.  They seem to believe proof is something that COMPELS ASSENT.  But that isn’t what proof does. The task of a demonstration is to make something evident, that is, to place it before one’s eyes as clearly true. No one, however, and certainly not a demonstration, can compel anyone to actually look at what is placed in front of them.  Whether or not to actually look at or follow a demonstration is a decision of the will.  And so is the act of  ASSENTING to the truth of a proposition. If I “know in advance” that a given conclusion is wrong, I need not pay any attention to any argument given for that conclusion—other than, as Peter Geach once put it, to locate the fallacy.

What can we take away from this?

One can willfully and sophistically reject a perfectly cogent demonstration.  The fact that one is unconvinced by a demonstration is not a refutation of that demonstration.  The mother of a criminal might refuse to be convinced that “her baby boy” committed the crime, regardless of any amount of argument or evidence presented to her. This is not, however, a refutation of the case for her son’s guilt.

One way to short-circuit at least some kinds of sophistical regress tricks is to invoke Socrates’ principle of fair play in dialogues, which boils down to taking turns:

SocratesPrinciple

In other words, in a dialogue, which is a back and forth, you get one.  If you ask me to demonstrate something once, that’s fair enough (assuming your are asking in good faith). If I comply, and you then ask me to demonstrate my demonstration, the proper response is “No. I gave you your one. Now it’s your turn to show there’s something wrong with my argument, if you can.  Until you do this, I have no more responsibility here.  But if you do give a refutation of my demonstration, then it will be my turn to show why your refutation fails.”

I’m constantly amazed that so many people think “I’m not convinced” is a refutation. It isn’t. It’s not even a statement about the demonstration, but about one’s own psychological state.  The mere fact that someone is unconvinced may be because the demonstration is defective; but it may also be because the person in question is stupid, or ignorant, or failed to follow the demonstration, or is willfully set against being convinced for some extraneous reason (like the mother of the criminal’s love for her son).

As I said, the purpose of a proof or demonstration is to make something evident as true. But “evident” means “can be seen to be true” not “must be seen to be true.”  A matter may be evident in itself, but not evident to some people. Nothing can be made evident to those who will not look, or who refuse to accept the testimony of their eyes. You can reasonably be said to have “fed” someone if you set food before them to eat.  If they refuse to eat it, that isn’t your responsibility, but theirs. There was food there to be eaten.

This is why it is almost always pointless to argue with the completely convinced ideologue.  It doesn’t matter what you say. He will refuse to hear you, or to look at anything that would contradict his ideology. Ideologues are often recognizable by their win/win stance: for example, many feminists hold that arguments for feminism are strong and sound, and also hold that any arguments against feminism are instances of “misogyny” and therefore are also arguments for feminism.  Marxists hold that arguments for Marxism are strong and sound, and arguments against Marxism show the ideological prejudices of the bourgeoisie, and are therefore arguments for Marxism. Freudians hold their arguments for sexual repression and neurosis to be strong and sound, and hold any arguments against sexual repression and neurosis to be evidence of sexual repression and neurosis and therefore as evidence for psychoanalysis.  And if you think it matters that strict Freudian psychoanalysis is not longer that popular, consider the way the pseudo-Freudian word “phobia” has invaded our modern political discourse, e.g. an argument for gay marriage is strong and sound; an argument against gay marriage is “homophobic” and therefore really an argument in favor of gay marriage. Any praise of Islam is justified; any criticism of Islam is unjustified, because it is “Islamophobia” and therefore indicative of mental illness, rather than reason.

“Racism” and “misogyny” in our day have also essentially become “-phobia” words.

Positions and arguments are dismissed as supposedly being signs of psychological and/or moral properties, e.g. “hate” and “fear.”

Witches, Patriarchy, White Supremacy

We need to talk about a serious threat to all of us: WITCHES.

Witches are evil. They are a great evil at work in the world right now, using their evil magic to cause great harm to humanity. I wish to make sweeping changes to our laws and public policies and social mores in order to combat the evil of witches and witchcraft.

But I don’t need to be able to say exactly what I mean by witches and witchcraft.  I just have the special ability, based on my personal experience as a victim of witchcraft , to be able to detect it at work nearly everywhere. It may be possible for me to teach you to be able to detect witchcraft everywhere, but maybe not: it could be you are blind to witchcraft because you are already under the spell of evil witches. That’s the thing about witches: they use their witchcraft to make witchcraft undetectable by anyone under the influence of witchcraft.

I also don’t need to produce any evidence that witches and witchcraft exist and are at work actively doing evil to us. My assertions are enough evidence, because I am a victim of witchcraft, and victims of something have special privileges. You may not have had such personal experiences as a victim of witchcraft, so you may not be able to see it. But since I am a victim, you are morally and intellectually obligated to take my word for it without requiring any kind of objective evidence! To ask for evidence would be victim blaming and also helping the evil witches!

I demand the power to conduct witch hunts, to seize witches on the suspicion of witchcraft, to try, convict, and punish witches on the basis of accusations.  Witchcraft is so heinous a crime, there can be no defense of it—not even innocence!

If you are not willing to grant me unlimited witch hunting powers to fight this clear and present evil and danger of witchcraft, then you are clearly under the spell of the witches, and I am justified in denouncing you as, if not a witch, then as a witch-apologist. And as a witch-apologist, you also need to be socially shamed and possibly fired from your job.

On the other hand, if you have a problem with allowing me unlimited power to conduct witch hunts and change our laws and social structures and whole way of life, if you have a problem giving me the power to ruin people’s lives with mere accusations, just on the basis of my claiming to be a victim of witchcraft, without being able to

  1. Say exactly what witches and witchcraft are,
  2. Show that witches actually exist, and haven’t been simply made up by me,

then surely you’ll agree that it’s fair for me not to grant you any special status or privileges or social powers or belief for your righteous political agenda to “smash Patriarchy” or “dismantle White Supremacy,” unless and until,

  1. if you are a feminist, you can prove that “Patriarchy” exists;
  2. if you are a leftist neo-racist, you can prove that a “White Supremacy” exists;

Unless and until you can do that, I’ll treat your ideas of “Patriarchy” and “White Supremacy” in exactly the same way I treat far-right ideologues’ ideas of “White Genocide” and “The International Jewish Conspiracy.”

That is, I’ll treat them as the absurd delusions of fanatical ideologues and will fight against making any substantial social or political changes on the basis of these delusions, no matter how much you assert they are real. I don’t doubt you believe these things, but then, neo-Nazis firmly believe in the international Jewish Conspiracy too—strong belief doesn’t make a thing real.  If you want to claim virtue or dictate behavior to others or make social policy changes to fight some evil—first you have to prove your evil isn’t imaginary.  Your belief in it isn’t evidence, even if you claim to be a victim of it.  Remember, I am a victim of witchcraft, and I say witches are real. You believe me, right?

Seems fair to me.