Fraters Libertas

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Bowling Alone

While I'd like to think that I still have many years of chasing the little black biscuit around the ice ahead of me, I realize that at some point in time I will have to hang up the skates for good. When that day does come, I think I've identifed my fallback favorite sport to participate in. In Deference to World Cup, Lawn Bowling Tones It Down:

The idea that lawn-bowling might pose a threat to the world's biggest team-sport spectacle might sound far-fetched. Bowling, after all, is a pastime where players often sip whiskey and smoke cigarettes on the field. But as in cricket and rugby—but not in soccer—South Africa is a global powerhouse in lawn bowling.

Italians like bocci.

Welcome

Welcome to my Posterous.

What's a Posterous you ask? It's where I post stuff (simply by emailing it) for you guys to enjoy. Use the tabs along the top to navigate the categories here.

liberal fascism vs classical liberalism

from http://bigjournalism.com/jdunetz/2010/06/22/new-yorker-editor-david-remnick-a...

"Liberal Fascism" Explained succinctly here:

More seriously, Obama did not just run on skin color (though that certainly helped). He ran on a platform of a sort of "liberal fascism," an ideology that is accepting of all ideas and parties so long as those ideas do not include private property, individual liberty, economic freedom, or any of the other ideas of classical liberalism including Christianity (Christianity has not always been an ally of classical liberalism, but I believe the reason the religion is targeted by the Left is because it is a religion which has made terms with and can coexist with classical liberalism). Understand they don't call themselves fascism, but if you read the book which goes by that name, you'll understand why I do call them that.
The ideology is extremely difficult to define because of this superficial diversity; you can be anything you want, so long as you're not a christian or an advocate of classical liberalism (they also don't work with fascists anymore, since fascism has been so UTTERLY discredited, but they did prior to WWII), but I'll give it a shot.

The utopian vision of this new liberal fascism is one of environmental friendliness, sustainable living, economic activity regulated for the good of the earth, and some new system of economic distribution such that everyone will always have everything they need (food, housing and health care, mainly) with nobody being truly poor and with only small differences between rich and poor. It focuses on group rights (women, minorities, gays) instead of individual rights, and on the welfare of the community (as necessary to preserve the environment and enact social justice) rather than the individual. Because of this, it must rely on coercion to enforce its tenents, and for human nature to change in order to destroy the basic idea of working for personal gain. These are the fundamental facts which link it to totalitarian ideas and sever it from classical liberalism, since classical liberalism believes in the right of the individual to his own life and happiness and only sanctions the use of force in retaliation.

Thoughts on Lincoln

Link: http://lehrman.isi.org/blog/post/view/id/313

Lincoln's Birthday
By Dr. Michael Burlingame, February 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

Today is the 201st birthday of America's 16th president.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln speaks to us not only as a champion of freedom, democracy, and national unity, but also a source of inspiration. Few will achieve his world historical importance, but many can profit from his personal example, encouraged by the knowledge that despite a childhood of emotional malnutrition and grinding poverty, despite a lack of formal education, despite a series of career failures, despite a miserable marriage, despite a tendency to depression, despite a painful midlife crisis, despite the early death of his mother and his siblings as well as of his sweetheart and two of his four children, he became a model of psychological maturity, moral clarity, and unimpeachable integrity. His presence and his leadership inspired his contemporaries; his life story can do the same for generations to come. -- from Abraham Lincoln: A Life

Xenophon on Lycurgus, the Lawgiver of Sparta

Link: http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/sparta-a.html

According to Xenophon, Lycurgus ...

" ... thought that female slaves were competent to furnish clothes; and, considering that the PRODUCTION OF CHILDREN WAS THE NOBLEST DUTY OF THE FREE, he enacted ...that the female should practice bodily exercise no less than the male sex..." ".....He ordained that a man should think it shame to be seen going in to his wife, or coming out from her. When married people meet in this way, they must feel stronger desire for the company of one another...and produce more robust offspring....

* ."....He took from the men the liberty of marrying when each of them pleased, and appointed that they should contract marriages only when they were in full bodily vigor, deeming this injunction also conducive to producing excellent offspring..."

* "An old man should introduce to his wife whatever man in the prime of life he admired for his bodily and mental qualities, so that she might have children by him... "

* "He also assigned some of the grown-up boys as ‘whip-bearers’ so that they might inflict whatever punishment was necessary (on younger boys), so that the great dread of DISGRACE, and great willingness to obey, prevailed among them. Lycurgus, though he did not give the boys permisson to take what they wanted without trouble, DID GIVE them the liberty to steal certain things to relieve the cravings of nature; and he made it honorable to steal as many cheeses as possible... "

* "He taught the children from a desire to render them more dexterous in securing provisions, and better qualified for warfare."

* "...I must also say something of the boys as objects of affection, for this likewise has some reference to education.... Lycurgus thought proper, if any man (being himself such as he ought to be) admired the disposition of a youth, and made it his purpose to render him a faultless friend, and to enjoy his company, to bestow praise on the boy; and he regarded this as the most excellent kind of education..."

* "Lycurgus prohibited free citizens from having anything to do with business.... they should not desire wealth with a view to sensual gratification. At Sparta the citizens pay strictest obedience to the magistrates and the laws. Lycurgus did not attempt to establish such an ‘Excellent Order of Things’ (EUNOMIA) until he had brought the most powerful men in the state to be of the same opinion as he was with regard to the constitution... OBEDIENCE is of the greatest benefit, as well in a State as in an army anda family..."

* "An honorable death is preferable to a dishonorable life.... At Lacedaemon everyone would be ashamed to allow a coward into the same tent as himself,or allow him to be his opponent in a match at wrestling...."

* "Lycurgus also imposed on his countrymen an obligation, from which there is no exception, of practising every kind of political virtue; for he made the privileges of citizenship EQUALLY available to all those who observed what was commanded by the Laws, without taking any account either of bodily weakness or limited financial means; but if anyone was too lazy to do what the Laws demanded, Lycurgus commanded that he should no longer be counted among the number of ‘equally privileged citizens’ (the HOMOIOI)."

You don't know, Jack

Ambrose Bierce, I think, said that “It ain’t what ya don’t know that gets ya into trouble. It’s what you know that ain’t so.” That is one way to look at epistemology. What do I know that ain’t so? Do my beliefs about the world or reality actually match it? Reality! The physis sought so ardently in Greece and Asia Minor by the Pre-Socratics exists. Things are. Reality Is. And my mind tries to grasp it. But does it succeed? Being human, I do not know reality as a god would know it. And yet, as a human, I have a mind that animals lack, and I can grasp something beyond the mere sensations of the body.

But if my beliefs about reality are false, is it possible to arrive at true beliefs about reality? Can I find the truth about things? Or, as the sophists claim, is there really nothing but opinion? If so, I should give up the philosophic search for truth and instead search for influence, as the sophists argue. I should learn how to use words to influence people. Learn from the sophists, for a steep fee, how to make “the weaker case seem the stronger and the stronger case seem the weaker.” Learn to manipulate the jury, the public, the democracy. Instead of the open search for truth through rational discussion and argument as Socrates taught it, I should learn to make arguments fit my personal preferences and interests. But I will not be dishonest if I am searching for reality, which, after all, may be knowable.

Then again, are intangibles like justice, wisdom, beauty and goodness also knowable? That is, besides knowing a good horse or a good chariot or a good anything else, can I come to know goodness itself? (This is the problem of the one and the many, the many a good thing versus goodness itself.)

It gets so abstract, so quickly. But the basic point is Bierce’s. There are people who know what God wants and how the world should and will be organized. The know what sort of killing is permitted. They know that they will win. And if you ask them how they can be so sure, they will tell you that they read it in a holy book that does not lie. If they were students of epistemology, if they listened carefully to Descartes and Hume and Locke and that strange bird Bishop George Berkeley they might not be so sure that what they know is actually so. At least, that is the main practical value I see in the study of epistemology.

I wasn’t really kidding when I wrote in an email today that the more I teach this course, the less I know...

Freedom or Equality

Last week I had dinner with old friends. My friends, who send their teenager to a private Catholic school at great cost even though they are not religious, tell me that they would support a law forcing all parents to send their kids to public schools. That way, they reason, there would be more support for public schools, so the schools would improve, so deprived kids would get a better start in life, so the country would become "more equal." It did not phase them when I suggested that the only way to get equality was for God to enforce it or to have a Tyrant do it. So what? As one of them put it, "We liberals are for equality of opportunity; it's the Republicans who are for freedom."

BTW, I do not accuse these folks of hypocrisy. Their position is collectivist, so until all are forced out of private schools and homeschooling they are free to do what they think best for their son. They argue for a new system while navigating the one they find themselves in.

I oppose their position on practical and principled grounds. I do not believe that creating a monolithic monopoly is the way to get creativity, innovation, and excellence.

But even if this scheme could work, and granting the importance of finding a solution to the dropout, failure, and illiteracy problem of so many of our young people, I would oppose the plan on principle. For the State to tell parents that the raising and educating of the young is no longer their responsibility but rather that of the State itself, seems far more totalitarian than liberal to me. A liberalism that goes this far has lost a claim to its own name!

Aristotle did think that the family cannot do the complete job of educating the young and that the polis must help. After all, "Man is a social animal" so experience outside the family is necessary for the good life. We need public schools. But we also need alternative schools, too, if the right to the pursuit of happiness is to have any meaning.