Kevin Carson on Authority: A Reply

Kevin Carson On Authority: A Reply

Authority is a sort of personal trust that we have for someone, say, our doctor. If we say he is a good doctor then we express that he has authority with us. Hobbes realised that the state was based on such authority. Locke later called it tacit consent and David Hume said that it was based on opinion. But the Beatles had authority with many teenagers in the 1960s.  Authority is like that. It is what we think is good about people or institutions, it mainly consists in what we value highly.

An anarchist is an individual who rejects the state’s authority within his own value system, but that hardly alters the fact that others are not with him there, so the anarchist can still see that the state is upheld by the authority it has with many others; maybe most others. So the state has power over him owing to the support for the state from other people, even though the lone anarchist has contempt for the state.

Locke made a serious error on the state, that Nozick, and also many libertarians, either made too or they might have followed Nozick, or other followers of Nozick or Locke, but it is one that Hobbes never made, and one that Hume rightly criticised as naïve, and that Burke and Bentham also rejected, maybe owing to Hume’s influence but that current common sense, greatly influenced in the UK/USA by Locke, tends to accept today. The serious mistake is that the state serves the public rather than governs them. It is the reason we call the state bureaucracy the “civil service”.

Authority is not over us but rather it flows from us. But the state does rule chiefly by authority rather than by force, as Nozick seemed to imagine. A massive part of Nozick’s error here is in his thinking that a defence agency in an anarcho-liberal society could be a candidate state. It is the naïve idea that the state even could be where it is today by mere brute force. Even in any gangster mob, we might, if we think a bit about it, get to realise that the best fighter in it rarely, if ever, leads it. The leader of the mob needs to have authority with the mob members he leads in order to lead it. Brute force is no good for that end but with authority from the mob then it might even be led by a cripple.

Kevin Carson has no authority with me, to say the very least. I feel only contempt for his contributions. But I bear him no ill will. Like St Augustine, we need to blame the sin rather than the sinner. Liberalism has no enemies. I would never wish to be unjust with him, or indeed, with anyone else. Carson merely seems to be an utterly confused Romantic reacting to the Enlightenment paradigm to me, and as well as the idea that the public are basically irrational he also pushes the rather stupid idea of a class divided society too. I tend to react to that as an ex-smoker who has successfully given up smoking.

That almost archetypical idea or meme of social or economic class is used in the midst of complete intellectual rubbish in the UK within every hour of any day on the mass media, where the idea of class is held as an obsession. It seems to satisfy many people in the UK much as an addictive drug might. It is certainly a fond national myth.  It is not good sociology, but then one wonders if there is even any good sociology. I think there have been some in the past, but not very much. There might well be some good sociology today too, but I do not know of any. However, class theory is even worse economics, for few of the supposed classes are usually also held to be economic interest groups. Karl Marx rightly said that we can classify people as we wish but he thought, or went on to say, that people objectively, or by their behaviour, form classes that are real. They may sometimes do so, but there were no very large interest groups relating to what the economists called the factors of production, as Marx held there once was. Nor was there any later development onwards from it, where the landed interest merged with the interests of the savers or of the capitalists/investors/entrepreneurs, in a new united bourgeoisie to face the rest of the people who had dropped into an enlarge ever impoverished proletariat, as Marx claimed there objectively was in his own day.  It was fine to classify the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as two big classes in mere logic, or in Marx’s own mind, or even in his books, but there was clearly no massive class conflict between them. History is utterly devoid of class struggle in the way he claimed it was. Nor was that fact ever hard to see but Marx, like his Romantic epigones in the history departments of the colleges, was too busy reading and writing fresh falsehoods ever to bother to check up on the facts of the matter.

Authority is never going to vanish, as I said in Free Life back in 1980. We can get rid of the state but not ever polycentric or anarchic authority. But authority is complex and it fluctuates.

Kevin Carson says the state is not legitimate. This looks oxymoronic, rather like Proudhon saying: “property is theft”. As Hobbes saw, legitimacy is positive in that only the state can make it but, presumably, Carson means the state should, ideally,  not have any authority.

Anyway, authority is not over us, that is power. It appears that Carson is saying that he has argued against state power in the past. But, if so, then, clearly, the state does have positive legitimate power over me, but no authority with me. The state has the political power that flows from the support of the wider public; owing to the authority it has with most, if not quite all, of them.  The state has legitimate authority over Carson too. But then he tends to conflate authority and power.

It is true that today that the state does not own me today, but it might soon gaol me, so then it would soon effectively own me. I am not sure I would make a useful slave for the state. But the state has power over me whilst I own myself, anyway.

Carson always seems to write a bunch of backward falsehoods. This stint that I criticise here seems to be typical of his output. It may as bad as it seems to me that it is because he hates criticism and debate thus he rarely sees the need to correct it. I have read his stupid excuses as to why he will not debate with me but, nevertheless, his bloated authority with fools needs to be checked; whether he likes debate or not. If he hates criticism then he should not attempt to communicate. He is in good company in hating criticism, as Isaac Newton also hated it, and daft David Hume rather foolishly set out to ape Newton in adopting that rather dysfunctional outlook. He, like Newton, refused to reply to his critics, leaving it to Joseph Priestley to knock the Scottish Common sense School of Reid, Beattie and Oswald into a cocked hat.

The backward Greens tell us, as they have read a little bit of science, that we have entropy. Julian Simon rightly says the meme of entropy is relatively new science but it nevertheless seems to be the case. However, it hardly aids the daft Green outlook very much but they imagine that it does just as they imagine they are basically right on other things. Entropy does mean we do always have less than perfect efficiency though. Some inefficiency is intrinsic to any project at all. We get this with information flow too, as with everything else.

We have to use our imagination to get to act in the world. Whether we can have a purely imaginary world is not clear, though it would seem not, but anyway we cannot have risk free assumptions about what there is. To think is to assume and all assumptions risk error.

Fortune 500 has no power but the late USSR’s Gosplan did. Fortune 500 seeks to serve, Gosplan to rule. Fortune depends on free customers to survive but Gosplan had access to taxation. Fortune seeks to serve but Gosplan set out to rule the public.

Carson imagines that the Gosplan had positive consequences. He fails to say what they are.

Nothing leads to irrationality in fact, but our Romantic, Kevin Carson, feels it is the normal state of the human mind. However, not even backward Carson is truly irrational.

We all find many different arguments, or ideas/memes, as cogent or forceful but Carson seems to imagine that there are some people, maybe most people, who do not. But if an argument that seems cogent to us seems insipid to others then that is usually because they find other ideas yet more forceful just now, either because they have yet to mentally digest your argument, to get it from the head to the heart, or from the syntax to the semantics [as John Searle might say], or because the ideas that leads them to reject it are better than your own, so that it is you who needs to learn from them rather than them from you. What we never get, well, hardly ever, is others completely ignoring what we say to them. They can choose not to reply but never quite choose to close their ears or to misunderstand at will, as Ray Percival explains in The Myth of the Closed Mind (2012).  But whether it goes to their gut, or whether they take it to heart, depends on the rival ideas they already have, as well as how the world seems to be to them on their current thought on it today.

Our feelings of authority towards others will be always felt as good ipso facto as it is just thinking that the doctor, or who it is that we feel deserves authority, knows his stuff, or whatever. Bad feelings towards the doctor will be a lack of authority that he has with us and, presumably, we will soon be seeking another doctor if ever that is the case.

Yes, the police usually mean trouble, as Kevin Carson rightly says. Most of us are pleased to dodge them. We know the police usually mean trouble to almost anyone that they deal with. So we do not want them to ever deal with us, as we realise it almost bounds to mean some trouble for us.

Carson wants to say that because the police are not welcome to pick on us, or we do not like to be sacked from a firm that we might work at, as both tends to make most of us feel bad, or troubled, then authority is evil. He seems to be merely confused. We ought not feel fear, he says but fear is useful for survival.  We should not feel powerless, he says, but power is something we should dissolve anyway in the political sense. In the energy sense all wanted it, as Matthew Boulton rightly said they did in the eighteenth century and most of us still want, at least some, today.  We should never feel as if we might have done something wrong, we are told by Kevin Carson. But what if we have done something wrong?

I do not think that the anarcho-liberal, or post state, society will ever lack authority. It will lack the state power and thus political power, ipso facto. What the police do today will most likely be way more diffuse by being spread amongst many other new occupations. Monopoly state policing of the streets today will not likely have any exact analogue but someone more like today’s UK traffic wardens, with way less powers, if any actual powers at all, will be nearer to what we [well, they!] will most likely have on the roads or on the highway in cars.

The idea of saying that society is sick does not look apt to me. It looks like a category mistake, the common collectivist idea that society is an agent rather than mere social interaction. Indeed, it was the very mistake that Mrs Thatcher attempted to correct when she said there was no such thing as society, a statement repeated still at least once a month if not once a week by the BBC. Society cannot be blamed for moral owe, as the TV presenter assumed for as Mrs Thatcher replied, only persons can be immoral, Society reified as a thing can hardly make be factual, or true, as society is no more a thing than it is a person. It is social interaction between people than to blame it is yet another example of Ryle’s categorical mistakes.

Carson then seems to say that it is not good to like the idea of the cops getting tough with others. It seems harmless enough to me, though we might agree that it is vicarious sadism. Do we not get the same sort of buss from many popular films [or movies, as they seem to say in the USA]? But Carson may actually have a point here in that vicarious sadism may well be a foolish indulgence, but surely the thought is distinct from the deed, such that watching, say, a Sylvester Stallone movie on TV is hardly on par with actually going out to attack anyone in the street. Ditto with the police videos that seem to also appear on TV. St Paul is surely wrongheaded in his daft idea that the thought is a sin just as much as the deed is. Mere thought cannot be illiberal, anyway, even if it is a sin in the Christian creed. But it might be a bad habit, nevertheless. I recall promising myself to read less fiction in the 1970s when I reflected on how often I had thought, and even almost said out loud  “kill him” whilst reading Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (1847). I have not read much fiction since.

Carson seems to be utterly unrealistic in thinking that people who enjoy vicarious sadism must have had such and such a socialisation, or childhood. Things are more superficial than his crass Romantic outlook has it. There is way more in his books than there is in the outside world.

There is no equality outside of arithmetic, there never was and only a blockhead would ever want it. Carson writes like a backward ignoramus.

85 responses to “Kevin Carson on Authority: A Reply

  1. I think Thomas Hobbes understood that the state is based upon force and fear – he just thought that it was less bad than the alternative (of course, to Thomas, the only alternative to the state is us all eating each other, or some such).

    Gough in his book on Locke, noticed the shift from individual consent to majority consent. Gough was no anarchist – but he did see how shifty Locke was at this point in his argument (trying to fudge the difference between individual consent and majority consent – a distinction that had been well understood for centuries).

    On authority versus power……..

    I do not see the stress on authority in Hobbes that David sees (perhaps it is just too lon since I looked), I do see it in Edmund Burke.

    To Burke a state has authority if it is of long standing and obeys the traditional rituals (and so on) – one gives it the benefit of the doubt in matters of law (because applying the principle of justice in the circumstances of time and place is very difficult – and society is always in danger of falling apart if there is a lot of violent resistance). However, the state can go too far – and then its moral authority is broken and one has a moral duty (yes it goes as far as that) to defend people unjustly attacked by the state, even if this means (if all else fails) using violence (power) against the state.

    The dfference between Burke and the French Revolutionaries – is that Burke viewed Louis XVI as he really was (a weak but well meaning man) whereas they thouht (or pretended to think) that Louis XVI was some sort of space monster. Also the French Revolutions confused “freedom” with a FORM OF GOVERNMENT (the elected form of government) a mistake Edmund Burke thought so crass he had great difficulty in believeing that any of the Frech Revolutionaries were sincere (as if a government that is elected is, somehow, automatically better than a government that is not elected…..).

    Burke supported the American Revolution because he thought that the lives and goods of people would be better protected (or less threatened) by the local governments in America than they would be by the government in London which had become threat to traditional liberties and, thus, had lost its moral authority (a similar view to George Washington, John Adams and some other Founders – although a very different view to certain other Founders of he United States).

    Burke’s view of the French Revolution was that the existing govenrment was bad (the state is “all in all” in France – as Burke’s son put it, and he was talking about the old state), but that the government of the Revolutionaries (a bunch of Rousseau admirers) would be even worse – which it was. Fundementally worse – and with its principle (that the only acceptable governments were governments claiming to speak for “the people” and their belief that private property had to be “justified” – proved to be for the good of “the people” or it could be taken…..) a threat to all other nations everywhere (President Adams thought the same – hence the Alien and Sedition Acts in the United States directed against agents of the French Revolution, although these Acts were a deeply bad idea)

    As for Kevin Carson.

    He appears to regard large scale private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange as evil. And (like Rousssau) seems to regard one person employing others (for pay) as evil also.

    I do not share Kevin Carson’s moral opinions – but they are his opinions (so fair enough – he can believe this if he wants to believe it).

    Where he does anger me is his pretence that large scale private enterprise is economically inefficient and would not exist without state intervention – and his citeing people (by taking their words out of context) as if they agreed with him on X, Y. Z, when they do not.

    If Kevin just wanted to create a “muturalist ” commune (or whatever) I would not have a problem with him (I would say “good luck to you”). It is because he is such a lying scumbag that I dislike him.

  2. Thanks for your reply, Paul.

    Hobbes is quite clear on authority, as you may well see when you next read the book, Paul.

    You are right that Hobbes wanted the state to deter crime, that he imagined might be tantamount to a war of all against all but note that the state never was very efficient so this was always largely a matter of bluff.

    Both Locke and Newton were avid readers of Hobbes but they pretended they were not. I seem to recall telling you this story in reply to another of your replies here.

    Burke is a follower of Hume, as Hayek makes clear. But he has plenty of his own insights, some of them a bit silly, as is Hayek too in not thinking enough about what he read in Burke.

    Burke feared reason, as did Hayek. But there is nothing to fear in the use of reason. Burke’s attack on Richard Price was silly but his analogue in France, the daft fellow Romantic, Jean Jacques Rousseau, had an influence on the upset caused by the French Riots of 1789 and the aftermath that made the French as mad as Burke predicted they would be.

    Tradition has authority, especially in apathetic times but it is not, itself, authority.

    Society is not ever likely to fall apart.

    This Romantic idea that you have of using violence against the state looks like folly to me, Paul.

    I do not see much difference between the Rioters in France from those in the Gordon or Birmingham Riots. Like the Riots of recent times, the Rioters saw it as fun. I do not think they aimed at better government, Paul.

    Burke defended the Englishmen in America but he was rather disappointed when it meant the end of empire. Like Adam Smith, he rather hoped it could survive but he felt the new taxes were too sudden thus that they were folly. He would have preferred taxation along more traditional likes with a view to conserving the empire. So he did defend the people in the new world but he did not welcome the breakaway.

    Burke is basically anti-liberal. The exceeding stupid idea of JFK is not alien to the Burkean outlook but it is to that of the LA:

    “And so my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. John Fitzgerald Kennedy

    I do not think there are any good political ideas, Paul. Politics is a mistake.

    I do not think that any of us can believe as we like. So I do not think that Carson can do so either.

    Employees work for firms as they do not want to court for work.

    In morals, we have a duty to see to it that others do right, we cannot tolerate murder, for example, but thankfully not many matters are truly moral matters, only that we should not murder, steal and the like.

    Lies hardly matter much when all ideas are to be tested as much as we can test them anyway.

    I agree that it most likely that big firms will arise free of any state aid.

    Morals are not the glue of society. Burke basically got it wrong.

  3. Yes David – and had the new taxes not been imposed most Americans would not have favoured independence. Unless the fantasy of the control of land (by the hangers on round the Court – not George III personally) come to pass. They even tried it in England……

    The Duke of Portland was suddenly asked for paperwork proving that his family had “justly acquired” their land (centuries before), there was even an attempt to pass a Statute in Parliament given the government the general power to look into issues of “doubtful title”.

    This was not really George III mutating into Kevin Carson – it was various greedy people thinking they could use the use to power of the Crown for their own ends (in America and on this island) and justifying it to themselves by saying that other people had used the Crown for such land grabbing in past centuries, so why not……..

    Thomes Hobbes – it is years since I read his various works, but I seem to remember he considered all moral principles part of the “Kingdom of Darkness” (which he associated with the Scholastics and the Roman Catholic Church).

    To Hobbes (like an extreme Calvinist or Islamist – whether or not Thomas Hobbes was really an atheist) “right and wrong” are about WILL (not reason) ,the will of the ruler. The ruler of the universe or the ruler of particular place.

    That is POWER – not authority (unless violence is done to the word “authority”).

    Hobbes even says that people have a right to defend themselves – but not a right to defend others.

    That is because he does violence to the whole traditional concept of both natural rights and natural law (see Brian Tierney “The Idea of Natural Rights” Emery University Press 1997) by cutting it off from moral reasoning.

    To Hobbes a human is not really a “being” at all – a human is just a machine. I know that many atheists firmly believe in agency (moral responsibity), but Thomas Hobbes (whether he is an atheist or not) is not one of them.

    Authority is a moral concept – and Hobbes (correctly speaking) has no morality.

    How one can tell if a ruler has authority?

    Whether people will stand with them when their cause seems HOPELESS – if they do then they have authority (for good or ill).

    When the armies of Frederick the Great defeated Marie Theresa, she fled to Hungary – and with her child in her arms appealed to the Magyars.

    By Hobbesian calcualtion they should have laughed (or used her and the chid for dog food).

    Instead they rose – and drove back the forces of Frederick.

    Was the Empress a good ruler – no of course not (even if there can be such a thing). but she has authority. As did her contemporary the Empress Elizabeth of Russia (another enemy of Frederick) – the armies of Russia would have charged the gates of Hell itself if Elizabeth had been at their head.

    And so, of course, did Frederick himself – evil man though he was (as you know “having authority” does not mean someone is good).

    On the other hand Louis XVI had no authority.

    Well at least he did not try to exercise authority – not when it counted.

    Even when the Swiss Guard (without orders from him) tried to fight for him – he ordered them to stop fighting and disarm (they were, of course, tortured to death).

    Louis XVI was a reader of David Hume (indeed Hume’s History of England was, supposedly, his favourate book) and he took from it the conclusion that the reason that Charles died was because he had faught (if one does not fight there can be no war, and if there is no war one can not get killed…….).

    There will always be people who seek power and will slaughter to get it – whether the be powerful landowners, and religous fanatics, in Parliament, or ones own kinsman (in the case of Louis – the Duke of Orleans or “Citzen Equality” till the butchers he had paid for years, in the hope they would bring him to power, turned on him). If one does not resist them it just makes it less difficult for the to win (and they must kill you , even if you do not resist, for fear you might strike back later). That is a basic fact – someone who does not know it is not a King, they are a child.

    It is hard to think down to the moron level of someone like Louis XVI.

    Hume is a writer of paradoxes – one should not take him litterally.

    At least that is one way of seeing him – there are worse ways of seeing David Hume.

    One thing more on France.

    Once there had been a group of knights who swore that they would protect the King till the blue sashes they wore were turned red by their own blood.

    By the late 18th century they had become a dining club – think what “Sacred Blue” now means in French.

    Oh people might still obey the King in ordinary times out of habit (convention, tradition….) but even then his orders were often ignored (even in his household),

    However, in times of crises – there was no authority.

    And it is time of crises (especially when all seems lost – indeed even when all is lost) when one sees if there truly is authority.

  4. Oh by the way – Burke, although a friend, was not a follower of Hume (Hayek was – to his cost).

    And without the virtues (justice, courage, loyality, honesty, benevolence….) all is lost.

    So Burke (like the Aristotelians before him) was right.

  5. Thanks for your reply, Paul.

    Well, I have no idea whether the American empire could have been saved. It was far off and there were many rather silly with restrictions on trade that imposed an unnecessary cost , like the Navigation Acts, that even held back nearby Ireland, let along far off America. Adam Smith also wanted to hold it together but to do so he proposed moving parliament to Philadelphia. That solves the distance problem of America but tends to neglect an energetic population in Britain.

    For Hobbes we have natural liberty that he assumes will be a war of all against all. Then there is positive rules made by fiat that he supposed that men have sort of contracted into, a social contract, or, better, a quasi-contract [QC] that Locke called tacit consent but that Hume felt amounted to mere opinion. Hobbes knew there was no actual contract, of course, but he held that men acted as if there was such a thing. Morals too emerged by agreement but he was not ignorant of philosophy that he had the idea that ethics came from religion. Not many informed Christians have ever held that, as texts from Plato reject it and most learned Christians know such texts very well and they usually accept them as sound on ethics. The lecturer who pointed them out to me at the University of Warwick was a Christian,

    Hobbes was a Unitarian, as was Newton and Locke too. But they did not come out as Unitarians as they lived in the wake of the restoration of 1660 where such Puritanism was outlawed.

    Yes, positive rights are by fiat, or power, but power itself exists only owing to authority.

    I think reason is the way to ethics myself, but I am no Hobbesian though I do love his willingness to debate on almost any topic. Anyway, we all know basic absolute morality, even if we fail to see it as sound.

    Hobbes held that we contract into the state but if the state attacks us that the contract is broken as far as we are concerned, according to Hobbes, so we have the right to defend ourselves but not to get others to join us, unless the state is already against them too, for Hobbes holds that they are still in QC with the state.

    I have not seen the Brian Tierney article “The Idea of Natural Rights”. I will attempt to find it.

    It is clearly false that Hobbes held there was no moral responsibility. As for machine, you might impose that term on Hobbes, but why would you feel that it could affect moral responsibility?

    The idea that Hobbes rejected moral reasoning looks very odd.

    Hobbes coined the term “authority, Paul. I can see Burke’s influence in you. However, you cannot be irrational nor have any prejudices, as both ideas are intrinsically null set. Nor can you ever be theory-free. All those is demented delusions that Burke fostered as he could not think through such silly ideas. Burke over rated society. And he over rated the Noble Lie. Actively supporting stupid and clearly false religion of Christianity shows a sign of a lack of self-respect. We all need to be more honest than lower ourselves to that claptrap. It is not moral at all. It is lying and cheating.

    Hume was right to realise that no one ever had no morality at all. The amoral person never existed.

    We can tell that a ruler has authority, as people respect him.

    It is not clear to me why you feel Hobbes would think that a ruler would turn down another ruler who had lost power. That idea does not seem to relate to Hobbes at all.

    I doubt if we can find in any of Hume’s history books the argument on war that you say Louis XVI found in one of the volumes, Paul.

    No, there will not always be people who seek power. Why should we ever think that?

    Anyway, if we get rid of the state then there will be no political power to seek. People soon give up what they see as being futile.

    Hume liked paradoxes but he was usually clear enough in conveying his ideas. He often wrote quite literally.

    A time of crisis for a king is when his authority has ebbed.

    Burke did follow Hume but Hayek did not. But Hayek was too much impressed by Burke on irrationality. Hayek followed first Mises then later Popper.

    How do you imagine that Hayek lost out owing to following Hume, Paul?

    Burke needs to keep honesty at bay. Tradition needs apathy to work. Honesty smashes it to bits. Tradition is an ace-high card in opposition to apathy but honesty deduces it to the number of one.

    You can get good commentary on Aristotle if you look in Peter Medawar’s Aristotle to Zoos (1984) p.26 ff.

  6. Thank you for the essay and follow-ups, David, and for publishing it, Sean. It amused me; though I fear that you may have fallen in the slack season between “Red Nose Day” and April 1st.

    I personally found the Kevin Carson article you refer to quite helpful to my thinking.

  7. Good to hear from you, Neil. By the way, your avatar looks on the border of the naughty. Or perhaps it’s just my own corrupt imagination at work.

  8. Do you want to give an exposition of your thinking, Neil?

  9. David – book not article. The great flaw of Tierney is that he holds that “positive rights” (the right to be given stuff at the expense of others) was a central part of the tradition from the start – I do not believe that to be true.

    However, his case (that the division between Natural Law and Natural Rights is overblown – as, even in the Middle Ages, thinkers used terms like this to mean much the same thing) seems to be true.

    As for Thomas Hobbes – he does not seem to believe that human BEINGS exist.

    One can be an atheist and still believe in morality (indeed many atheists are ethically superior to many religous people), but one can not deny the existance of the agent (the being) and still have any real morality – because one has denied the possibility of real CHOICE.

    If there is no CHOICE then there can be no moral responsiblity.

    It is a denial of the subject-object distinction.

    Meaning (for example) that there would be no moral difference between a human and a clockwork mouse.

    In short it is not the unitarianism of Hobbes that is the problem.

    It is not even his materialism that is the problem.

    It is his determinism that is the problem.

    However, if you wish to show that Thomas Hobbes was NOT a determinist – then I will stand corrected.

  10. I repeat that Edmund Burke did not follow David Hume (at least not in the matters that I am dealing with) and F.A. Hayek seems to have been strongly influenced by Hume. In fact Edmund Burke is wildly different to David Hume on virtually everything (religous faith, whether one should take an active part in politics, how one should live, and on and on……) – apart from economics (and we are not talking about economics here).

    Returning to Hayek…..

    For example the, utterly absurd, section in “Constitutiuon of Liberty” where Hayek claims that moral responsiblity is compatible with determinism – seems to come from David Hume.

    It all actions are predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back the start of the universe (the Big Bang – or whatever) then there are no real choices, and morality (moral right and wrong) does not exist.

    There would be no difference between subjects and objects (because subjects – reasoning, self aware, beings [the “I”] would not exist).

    For example, smashing a human (or a billion humans) would have no more moral importance than smashing a clock. Both because humans would NOT be beings (because beings, free will agents, would not exist) and because one would have no choice over whether or not one smashed the human – as (being another flesh robot with no real choice over its actions) “one’s” actions would be “really” the result of a series of causes and effects going back to the start of the universe (the Big Bang – or whatever).

    By the way I know that unitarians are not atheists – the charge against Thomas Hobbes (perhaps an UNFAIR charge) was that his materialist view of the universe left no room for God.

  11. As for Mises and Popper.

    Karl Popper endorsed agency-free will (which would come as a surprise to those who think he was a Logical Positivist – he was not).

    Ludwig Von Mises tended to avoid the whole discussion – although he did say (repeatedly) that he believed in the “unanalysiable I” (of course denial, explaining away of, the “I” is central to the Hume-Hayek position).

    There is, of course, no reason why someone who believes in the “I” (the agent – the self aware, free will BEING, subject in the subject-object distinction) need be religious.

    Mises makes nods towads a materialist view of the universe.

    Ayn Rand was a strong (indeed passionate) atheist.

    Antony Flew was a strong atheist most of his life – but maintained and upheld the view of humans as agents (i.e. took the free will side).

    As for economics….

    The Austrian School was founded by Carl Menger (an Aristotelian in his philosophy – via Franz Branteno).

    However, Mises was also influenced by Kantian thought – specifically by Ernst Cassirer.

    Hence the oft repeated Miseian position that the logical structure of mind is is uniform with all people of all races, ages and countries.

    Of course Burke would have said “soul” or “spirit” – but it is the same position, and it is the reason he both rejects the “geographical morality” Edmund (perhaps unfairly) believed that Warren Hastings held to (and the Burieian statements about it not making any difference if someone was brown or had the “lily and the roses” in their faces). AND rejecting the idea that one could not judge the conduct of past times by “modern standards” (to Burke there are no “modern” standards, just standards, which is why reading his, incompletem history of England is a rather different experience from David Hume’s work on the same subject).

    Ludwig Von Mises then (of course) denies that there is such a thing as “Nordic” or “Jewish” logic (a denial of National Socialism) and any such thing as “Capitalist” or “Working Class” logic (a denial of Marxism).

    The whole thing is NOT a denial that circumstances were different in the past (or in other countries) – of course they are different.

    It is a denial that PRINCPLES (what it is to be agent – a human being, the laws of reasoning and so on) are different in different times and places – a denial of “historical stages”.

    An opposition to the “Historical School” in German economics (see Carl Menger’s “The Errors of Historicism”) and historical “periods” in a PHILOSOPHICAL sense (see Karl Popper “The Poverty of Historicism”).

    There is an implied claim here that what is wicked about both the National Socialist and the Marxist is their denial of the universal essence of what it is to be a human BEING – specifically their acting on this belief by treating human beings as if they were not beings (as if there were lumps of wood – or whatever), acting as if what it is to be human is an “historical construct” or even an “illusion” (Karl Marx himself may have had some resistance to this view – but later “Frankfurt School” Marxists, did not, William James and Sorel’s influence on them was not good).

    There is also a claim that this view of humans goes back to Hegel (although that may be a bit unfair).

    .On the economic METHOD of F.A. Hayek.

    I think you are quite right David – I think he shifts about.

    And I think that Hayek shifts about in the way you describe.

  12. I think you raise some good points on the subject of national Socialism, there are indeed some cases where perceptions can be perceived as wicked, one good example shows this in some detail, german occupation, Ukrain, beware of the trains Notices rasied to AD, Reply 25-July-1942, Jodi is quite right when he says that notices in the Ukrainian language “Beware Of The Trains” are superfluous; what on earth does it matter if one or two locals get run over by trains, i think such an example is typical, thoughout recorded history we see such examples, not always specifically applied by the applications of NS, but in the main, any state or ideological machinery, where such a situation dictates, Roman Gladiators give good example of the values some systems placed on fellow man.

  13. I think paul you would not be able to dissagree, since the start of the birth of historical records, we see good examples of how fellow man compares fellow man to material value, all political systems have practiced such ideologies righ to the present day, one could put forward good argument this is not unique to any political system or state. We alway’s see the situation were fellow human beings are weighed as “Gold” “Copper” or “Silver”, it is true in comment to state some sytems would in fact consider a lump of wood to be of more value than a Human being, this is conclusive beyond any doubt whatsoever!

  14. The Roman tapdance was intererting.

    Their legal thinkers accepted that there was such a thing as “natural law” AND that it forbad such things as slavery (and forceing people to fight to the death for the amusement of others). BUT they then went on to say that the “law of all nations” (basically “other people do this – so we can…”) and state law (which became just the COMMANDS the WILL of the Emperor) trumped natural law.

    The legal thinkers of the Middle Ages took the same basic concepts and TURNED THEM ON THEIR HEADS (much as Karl Marx is supposed to have turned Hegel on his head – and the Frankfurt School of Marxism then utterly transformed basic Marxist ideas).

    To the legal scholars and theologians (normally the same people) of the post Roman age – Natural Law trumped state law (King’s law, “positive” law).

    To a Roman legal thinker that would have seemed like a green light for anarchy – with anyone being able to say “as long as fight for what is right, God is with me – CHARGE” (the Charlton Heston film “El Cid” is not real history – but it shows this sort of thinking, “but we are half a dozen men and you are alone” – “you have broken the law of God, and he fights for the law of God is never alone” – then there is blood everywhere), and, sometimes, the Middle Ages were a bit like that.

    To others it is just a cynical effort to put the Church above the State (accept that some of these legal thinkers and theologians were deeply critical of Church abuses, even by Popes).

    Such reasoning evolved (over centuries) into what is called Scholasticism (this aspect of which was summed up by Francisco Suarez “Natural Law is the law of God – but if God did not exist, Natural Law would be exactly the same”) – which Thomas Hobbes (with his rejection of its basic concept of the free moral agent) dismissed as “The Kingdom of Darkness”.

    Frederick the Great, Bismark, and a later German ruler were terrified of the idea that there was a law beyond that of the State – and that it was the duty of an honourable man to fight for this law (even if meant one’s own certain defeat and death – for true victory was in fighting for what is right, even if it leads to your own death, victory as the victory of honour over one’s own base instincts and desires, especially the desire to survive at any cost – the philosophy of a slave).

    The Hapsburgs and the Wittelsbachs kept their honour (rejecting the Nazi perversion, so despised by Tolkien, that “my honour is loyality”) even for a despised people – and even at the risk of humilation and degredation (for people like the Hapsburgs and Wittelsbachs at that time – a far worse fate than death).

    Turning right back……

    Of course there was also Artistotle himself (not the same thing as Aristotelinism – which is Artistotle hit by Christianity, and a bit of Stoic stuff as well) with his “natural slave” argument (which Scholastics hated).

    Actually Aristotle does not seem to have been convinced by his own argument – hence his (like George Washington) freeing his slaves in his will.

    Unless, of course, Aristotle’s slaves just happened to be not “natural” ones.

  15. Short version….

    The concept of the Paladin does not play a big role in Roman Imperal legal thought (about as big a role as it plays in modern legal thought), although (under different words) it may have played a role in the ideas of the Res-Publica.

    But it is the sort of thinking, that leads a middle aged, and short sighted, man (Edmund Burke) to get a musket and go to defend the house of a friend during the Gordon Riots of 1780, and to draw his sword when a group of rioters demanded that he curse the Catholic Relief Bill.

    This sort of thinking is about a million miles away from the thinking of Thomas Hobbes or David Hume.

  16. Thanks for your criticism, Paul.

    I am again going to test your tolerance by a frank reply.

    Facts matter more than the mere meanings of words, as you might learn from Hobbes, Paul.

    Popper was quite right to rant on against the rather stupid concern with mere meanings to the exclusion of the facts. It never all depends on definitions, as daft Cyril Joad always repeated on the 1940s Brain’s Trust radio programme. Hobbes was right to be a nominalist.

    The idea that Hobbes thought that human beings did not exist looks clearly false to me. Hobbes was no liberal, of course, but one does not need to be a pristine liberal to realise that humans exist as agents.

    Hobbes, rightly, held that we always do what we want to do, either as a means or as an end. So not only did he affirm choice but he also saw no escape from it in anything that we do: none whatsoever. Some fools feel that if we do something under duress then it is not really from choice at all but, of course, it still is from choice. However, we may rightly not keep a promise that we choose to give when under duress.

    One can hardly be anything other than an atheist. All Popes are atheists, but maybe some were too thick to realise the fact.

    No one would dare to sin who truly thought that an almighty God might punish them for doing so. No one would give credit to the sheer cant of a merciful God. Thus the Christian dogma that we are all sinners implies we are all atheists.

    Real choice means simply doing what we want to do.

    Determinism can only affirm choice. Fools feel that determinism denies choice but such fools need to think a lot more than they have done in the past.

    Yes, choice is to do with responding, which is to do with responsibility. Hobbes goes not deny that fact.

    The subjective exists as a part of the overall objective reality, so it is therefore a proper subset of objective reality.

    But Popper was right that what is objective in any debate is just what is recorded, such that we can both check on the account; or what was said, later on, such as we can do with this writing here.

    You do not seem to actually see any actual problems in Hobbes so much as to merely imagine there are some that you see, Paul.

    No, it is not Hobbes’ determinism that is the problem. Determinism affirms choice. If we are bound to choose then choice clearly exists.

    No, there is a dash of Romance in Hume. He has the exceedingly stupid idea that reason is the slave of the passions, an idea that Pascal also has. The Stoics knew better.

    Passions are often dissolved by reason. A man may be out to give his wife a beating, as he has lost his temper with her for some reason, but if she pulls a gun on him, then he may calm down and bust into lying that he never had it in mind to truly hit her after all.

    Burke has a silly turn of mind that tends to follow Hume and Pascal in thinking that the passions dominate reason.

    The absurdity over compatibilism is with you Paul. There can be no sound excuse for the mindless claptrap that determinism crowds out choice. The very idea is moronic. Hayek is right but you are very clearly wrongheaded Paul. But do try to excuse yourself on this mess if you wish to do so. We can discuss it for as long as you like.

    Yes, Hume, and Locke before him, took compatibilism of choice and determinism, along with most of their ideas, from Hobbes.

    No, determinism going back to the big bang does not rule out ethics or affect morals in any way at all. The idea that it does is merely silly.

    You are free to try to explain your confused ideas, Paul, but not ever from the concatenation of the world while you still live.

    Reasoning self aware people clearly do exist. Indeed, all normal people are like that.

    Clearly, smashing a person is immoral whereas smashing a functional clock is merely being wasteful.

    A human will free from the world does not exist. But all normal people have a will.

    Yes, Hobbes was no atheist.

    However. I am an atheist, so it the new Pope.

    Hobbes did feel that God was both material and not one whit evil, despite all the evil that men imagined that they saw in the world.

    Yes, Popper has an interesting book on indeterminism: The Open Universe (1981). Here, he falls for some of the silly ideas that you have Paul. He is not so hot on ethics and politics.

    However, he makes many excellent points against determinism. He may well be right that determinism is not the case with the world but Popper errs badly in holding that it can affect morals if ever it was the case.

    Yes, Popper was not against metaphysics as the logical positivists were. Logical positivism was a bit of metaphysics itself, as is Popper’s outlook, of course. Many catch the logical positivist there but they are deluded that it similarly affects Popper’s outlook, as he does not deny metaphysics. Nor have I ever been against metaphysics in any way. It seems harmless enough to me.

    Hume does explain away the ego but Hayek does not seem to follow him there.

    The less said about backward Ayn Rand the better.

    Antony Flew was all right most of the time.

    Most of what passes as being from Aristotle in the first place was taken from his teacher, Plato, including the idea that the human mind was basically the same in one and all.

    Mises errs on Marx being polylogistic: Marx was an Aristotelian.

    Hayek was won over by Popper. Mises said in the 1860s, after that event, that Popper got physical science right but not economics.

    I think that is all I have to say in reply, Paul.

  17. David – I have never said anything about the “nominalism” of Thomas Hobbes. The nominalist verus realist debate is not something I have touched on.

    Humans are beings – we make CHOICES (“free from the world”???? no – we change the world, but only within certain limits).. I can not make a choice to grow wings and fly to Plato – my choices are limited to by physical reality, but they are REAL.

    Thomas Hobbes a religious man – fair enough I will take your word for it.

    But he was a determinist he was denying that there were such things as human BEINGS at all.

    Why should God be interested in things that can make no choices?

    What is the difference between a “man” and a clockwork doll? Or is there no difference?

    If Hobbes was a determinist he can have no morality – as no morality can exist (as all moralty is based upon the possibility of real CHOICE).

    The Pope is an atheist?

    Is he?

    I have never met him David.

    Please explain to me how you know that Pope Francis is a atheist.

    Determinism does mean there is no real choice – that is the whole point of the idea that all actions are predetermined by a series of causes and effects that go back to the start of the universe,..

    Nothing “confused” about telling the truth David – if determinism is correct then there is no morality because there are no real choices (that there are no real choices is the DEFINITION of “determinism”).

    I am “moronic”.

    Well I love you to sweetheat.

    Have a nice day.

  18. By the way (as I have said before) an atheist can still believe in human agency.

    I assumed that you belived in agency David.

    You have a choice – either support agency or determinism (choose).

    You can not have it BOTH WAYS.

    “Compatiblism” is just a magic word or spell.

    In the real world compatibilism does not work.

    Harry Potter is fiction – magic spells such as “I can have real choices and all actions being predetermined” do not work in real life.

    And (contrary to David Hume) a thought DOES mean a thinker – an agent (a reasoning “I”) the basic concept that the doctrine that all actions are predetermined DENIES.

    • Thanks for your reply/criticism Paul.

      Nominalism is a concept we need to look at the fact that there never were any real Christians, but only nominal ones. All Christians assert the dogma that all are sinners but none of them would dare to sin if they truly thought that there was a God. Thus they do not believe in God. In fact, no one thinks so, certainly no Pope ever has.

      Hobbes was quite right that we choose to do all that we do, either as a means or as an end. But all choice is between options within the world.

      Yes, Hobbes was a Christian of the sincere sort that daft Burke found hard to tolerate. Hobbes was a Unitarian, like Price and Priestley.

      The Bible is determinist, as Hobbes and Priestley made clear. It is also materialist. They both made that clear too.

      No, you err badly in your thinking, Paul, Determinism means we are bound to be moral. Determinism hardly denies humanity, does it? For some remote reason, you seem to think it does.

      Why do you keep repeating that determinism means we lack any choice? Do you feel that repeating that crass absurdity aids it is some recondite way?

      There are many differences between men and clockwork dolls, the latter are not animals but the former are. Let us start with that one, shall we?

      We all know there never was any God. You seem to want to deny that very clear truth for some reason, Paul. Do you pretend to believe in God yourself?

      Determinism allows for real choice.

      Yes, the pope is an atheist who no more thinks there is a God than I do.

      I never met Burke but I do not need to in order to get his measure, do I?

      I have repeatedly explained to you how I know that all nominal Christians are atheists. They sin. No one could sin if they thought there was a theistic God.

      No, there is nothing in determinism that shows a lack of choice. That is merely a thoughtless folly, Paul.

      Going back in cause and effect to the big bang cannot affect choice, can it? However, it can and it must affirm choice. That I am bound to choose as I do means that I choose, not that I do not choose after all? You do not seem to ever even try to think, Paul! Why not?

      Whether determinism is the case or not, I have no idea. What is clear is that it cannot rule out choice.

      Being honest is one thing, telling the truth is another. We all have a duty to be honest. We might not know the truth.

      Definitions are always irrelevant to any fact, as Popper quite rightly repeats.

      If you were right that determinism ruled out choice then it would clearly be false, as we can all see that all normal people are agents so we all know that is a fact about people, but you are merely deluded in that idea that choice clashes with determinism, Paul.

      Of course an atheist believes in human agency. There is none who fail to believe that that all normal people are agents, is there? Yet all people normally tend to think in terms of determinism too. Anyway, there is no clash between the two ideas.

      We can say it must be so by definition but that is a very silly thing for anyone to say. Our late friend, Antony Flew, was paid to know better. Like you, Paul, he was not easy to put right on it.

      Yes, like everyone else, I think every normal person is an agent, Paul. But if you have arguments otherwise, let us have them.

      What both ways? Name them both.

      We have the word compatibilism, as there is a few fools around who imagine determinism can deny choice. Try explaining your ideas, Paul. Presumably, you will double-count, as most fools do on this topic. They usually say that, for example, as I choose to reply to you I had no choice as I chose as I did! Clearly, I can only choose as I choose but that affirms rather than denies choice.

      If my friends know what I drink when we go to a pub’ does that mean I do not choose what I drink? To say what will be will be says nothing.

      Predetermination has no affect on choice. That I am bound to choose as I do affirms choice, it simply cannot soundly gainsay it but only affirm choice as choice is bound to occur if it is the case.

      A thought certainly means a thinker, whether Hume said so or not.

      Why do you imagine that predetermination denies thought? Or thinkers?

      Whether metaphysical determinism is truly the case or not is another matter.

  19. Pingback: Kevin Carson on Authority: A Reply « Attack the System

  20. Hello David.

    I have already said that I have not dealt with the realist versus nominalist debate – I do not think it is relevant (and there were good thinkers on both sides of it – and Christians on both sides of it).

    Anyway it is contested whether Plato really thought there were such “forms” as “chairness” and “tableness” in the literal way that Sir William David Ross thought he did.

    Of course that only scratches one tiny aspect of the debate – but I will leave it there (and not go in to Thomas A,.versus William of O. and so on), because it is not really vital to what what we are dealing with.

    Determinism versus Agency.

    “Determinism” means (if it means anything) that all actions are predetermined – going all the way back to the start of the universe, with no real CHOICES involved (a “choice” being just that – a CHOICE, refutation in terms of determinism).

    Determinists sometimes concede that we think we make choices – but they hold that such choices are really “illusions” (although who is having the “illiusion”, if there is no agent, is unclear).

    If there is no possibilty of agency (possiblity of real CHOICES – NOT because we are tied up or something, but because our choices are really “illusions”) then there is no “agent” no “I” – no self aware, reasoning, BEING.

    Now just because (as Dr Johnson pointed out) it is obvious that there are beings (agents), this does NOT mean that any religion is correct.

    One can say (without any contradiction)……;

    I exist (i.e. determinism, the dectrine that we are just flesh robots, is wrong) HOWEVER – when I die, I will no longer exist (there will be “I”, no agent, no agency).

    I would love it if materialism depended upon determinism – as, if that were so, materialism would be false (as determinism is false). But I doubt that such an easy refuation of materialism is available. It may well be that the soul (the mind – the choosing agent) does indeed exist, but dies with the body.

  21. Of course in theology (to move away from philosophy) the debate about PREDESTINATION is relevant.

    Some philiosophers-theologians (for example James McCosh) have claimed that even full scale Calvinist predestination (there are various forms of the doctrine of predestination) is compatible with agency (free will).

    However, the only way that really works is if one says the following….

    “People have a free choice between good and evil – but God has already decided whether they go to Heaven or not, regardless of whether they choose good or evil”.

    And that does not seem very nice (in either senses of the word “nice” – old or new).

    Sorry for the theological aside.

    • Thanks for your reply/criticism Paul.

      Plato had three main philosophical outlooks during his life. The Forms was his second philosophy but he attacked it in his old age. Aristotle largely adopted this final philosophy but he added biology to it after Plato’s death.

      Determinism just means that cause and effect goes back to something like the big bang, or even further back. It affirms choice, as I attempted to explain to you the last few times, but you imagine that it cannot do that. It fact, it can only do that. Theories can never openly deny plain facts.

      Our choice being predetermined does not mean we do not choose after all but rather that we do choose. This means that there is bound to be real choice, not that there is no real choice; as you imagine.

      Choice does not refute determinism; nor vice versa. That idea is simply confused.

      Which determinist thinker ever held that choice was an illusion/delusion? Do try to sort out a candidate answer. I know no such accomplished famous philosopher and I do suppose that you do not know one either.

      You assume an opposition between determinism and choice but your assumption is clearly false. There is no such opposition.

      Anyway, choice is clearly a matter of fact so it is part of the phenomena that would need to be explained or “saved”. Choice cannot be explained away. Any theory needs to affirm it. So determinism needs to affirm it too and that is what it always does.

      But you think you are free to assert otherwise. However, when you do so you simply say false things, Paul.

      All religion is very clearly false.

      Yes, saying that you exist but that you will soon cease to do so is quite coherent.

      However, your madcap idea that determinism implies we are robots seems to be simply silly.

      It is not clear that determinism is false. I think it is that materialism is false, as no fact qua fact is ever material yet facts clearly exist.

      Why you feel what you like is germane to any fact is not at all clear.

      There are no souls for sure. Plato saw that at the end of his life, as did Aristotle.

      Theology cannot get away from philosophy. It is a proper subset of philosophy.

      Hobbes was right that the Bible is basically both determinist and materialist too.

      There is no God or heaven of course.

      We cannot wittingly choose evil. We do so thinking it is not truly evil whenever we do choose it [sin is quite absurd]. Moreover, Socrates and Plato both rightly held that sin [i.e. wittingly doing wrong by will power as daft St Augustine held we often did] is quite absurd. Aristotle attempted to refute them both on “sin” but failed very clearly; and very badly.

  22. Hello David.

    I will bow to your knowledge of Plato, I used to know his works well (in several different translations), but I no longer do (not for decades).

    Detereminisn is what it is – the DENIAL of real choice, the DENIAL of the agent (the reasoning “I”).

    Your response seems to be that such a line would make no sense – so determinism can not follow such a line.

    I would say that it just makes no sense – period (not “that does not make sense – so determinism must……”).

    If Thomas Hobbes holds that everything is covered by materialism, how does he reconcile that with his religious faith?

    Or is his relgious faith not sincere?

    Of course his determinism would be covered by total predestination.

    God (the only being – the only agent, at least according to total predestination) decides (at the start of the universe) exactly what everyone will do in their lives – and then sends them to Heaven on to Hell.

    All seems rather pointless – create flesh robots, plan out everything they will do (without exception) and then reward or punish them for stuff YOU MADE THEM DO.

    Still some people play with model trains……..

    • Thanks for your reply, Paul.

      No, determinism does not deny choice. But reasoning is never to do with choice anyway. Reasoning is automatic, like the digestion system, but cognitive rather than autonomic thus experienced rather than something that we can totally forget about. We do have choice; though never in what we think. We can say what we want but never believe as we want. Belief is a built in reality function; though not at all foolproof.

      I never choose to see you as a male but I did choose to speak to you when we met a decade, or more, back. I do not choose to taste beer but I do choose to drink it, whatever I indulge in drinking beer. I do not choose to be warm but I do choose to put the heating on that might well work by making me warm whenever the weather is cold. All those examples of choice seem to be plainly true but they seem to clash with what you want to say. You seem to think that thought is human action such as we choose, like drinking rather than tasting.

      Determinism cannot soundly deny the fact of human choice. But you further err in holding that choice is needed for thought. It never was.

      No, I say not that an absurdity makes no sense. The absurd clearly seems sound to many people, for they cannot see the absurdity as absurd, or they might that have the delusion that absurdity is realistic.

      What I have been saying is that we all actually do believe that the normal person is an agent, whether we admit this or not. We all also tend to think cause and effect applies to all things too. Such widespread beliefs could be false, but not many people feel they ever are. You feel that the two ideas clash, but, in reality, that is just so much confusion in your mind. Our minds might be full of paradox and contradiction, so might a book that we can write, but the external world never was.

      Hobbes rudely says that God is a material object. Priestley must admit that too, but I cannot recall him explicitly saying it. But he is not often shy, so maybe he said it explicitly too. I do not think they ever wittingly sinned, by the bye. These two did take God seriously. For them, whatever there is, it must be thereby material. As I said last time, I think that the facts, qua facts, refute that idea. Priestley extended the meme of material to incorporate electricity and other phenomena that others felt to be immaterial. He brought Hobbes up to date in the eighteenth century.

      My guess is that it is your religious faith that is not sincere. You are no more a Christian than I am.

      Yes, you can say that determinism is predestination if you merely mean what will be will be. But exactly no one is ever going to heaven, of course.

      God is no more free to change any fact than you are Paul [if we assume that He exists for the sake of the discussion]. Facts are very odd “things”. The truth seems to be that you just make silly assumptions about thought.

      Christianity is silly. Yes, I agree that it seems pointless. But every version of it does, even the version of Hobbes and Priestley. No one with self-respect can conform to it. It is an attempt to insult people with clearly stupid ideas. It is lying and cheating. It is clearly moral filth. But if it keeps out of immoral politics then it is harmless enough.

      Nowadays, the Church of England prefers Political Correctness to Christianity, of course. They have found something even more stupid that Christianity to worship: the crass false ideal of equality.

      Hobbes realised that there was never ever any faith, just as he realised that Moses never existed. There is no room in the living mind for faith, as Hobbes rightly says. We doubt all that we behold. Both belief and the opposite, of doubt, are as automatic as inhaling or exhaling of air. But Hobbes did not realise the fact that there was no Jesus, that no Greek word ever became flesh, nor that there was no God.

      Do you think you know a version of Christianity that is not pointless, Paul? I certainly do not. Nor is Christianity like the curates egg in being fine here or there, for all the parts seem to be silly.

  23. Hello David.

    Determinism does indeed deny real choice – indeed that is the definitition of the word “determinism”, it is the doctrine that actions are predetermined by a series of causes and effects going back to the start of the universe.

    A lot of people (include many mathematicians and physical scientists) hold that determinsm is not even a good description of the phsyical universe – but be that as it may.It certainly is not compatible with human agency – indeed the whole point of determinism, is that there is no human agency, that all actions are predetermined.

    This is nothing whatever to do with being free of physical limits.

    I can not fire energy beams from my eyes – and me deciding that I really want to do so, makes no difference whatever.

    However, I can decide to raise my right hand or my left hand – unless determinism is correct, in which case my choice is an “illusion” (although, as there would be no agent, who is having the illusion is unclear) and whether my right hand or my left hand goes up is predetermined by (unchangable) cause and effect that goes bakc to the start of the universe.


    If God exists is He subject to the laws of logic (and so on)?

    Islam says “no”. – God is “unfettered” – if God says that 1=1=78 it does, and if God says A is not A, then A is not A.

    Mainstream Christianity says “yes” – God does not contradict the laws of logic (and so on).

    This does not (not) mean that mainstream Christianity holds that God does not have free will – is not agent (a reasoning “I”).

    Free will does not mean that one can make 1+1=78 or make A not be A.

    Circles are not squares, and so on.

    But it does mean that God (if He exists) can choose to act or not to act.

    Just as a person can – if they make a real effort.

    This is what it means to say that humanity is “made in the image of God”.

    God does not have arms and legs and so on – it is not about a physical image.

    What it means is that God has freedom of choice (agency – moral responsiblity) and so do people.

    Whereas, for example, clockwork mice do not have freedom of choice (agency – moral responsibilty) and, therefore, can neither know good or evil.

    • Thanks for your criticism/reply, Paul.

      As I said earlier, definitions cannot affect facts.

      In any case, it is clear enough that determinism cannot crowd out choice and I can see no excuse for the rather stupid idea that it might be able to, given that choice is part of the phenomena to be explained if ever the theory is to be true. We cannot explain any fact away. The institutional object of all theory is to explain facts rather than to deny them. Of course, some eccentrics might not realise that, their personal motivation might be to lie but any liar is a hypocrite as to lie he pretends to tell the truth. Ditto the eccentric who uses theory to lie with.

      No, the whole point of determinism is not that there is no agency but rather to give a true account of the world. A few confused people have had the madcap idea that determinism means we have no choice but I doubt if that was ever the aim.

      As I explained earlier, those that fall for the folly that metaphysical determinism explains away choice usually want to try to double-count. They say as I was bound to drink beer at the last LA meeting then I had no choice after all, as it all followed from the concatenation of events. As I was bound to choose as I did where is the choice? So they unwittingly grant the choice but then they ask where it is, thus they attempt to double count. I might reply that the choice is explained by the earlier concatenation of events. Choice can only be affirmed by determinism.

      A lot of people, including many mathematicians and physical scientists seem to be utterly confused.

      The whole point of determinism is to give a true account. Whether it does, or not, is not going to be easy to settle. Popper puts a lot of good criticism of it in The Open Universe (1981). He also puts a lot of exceedingly silly points, like your own here that determinism rules out choice. He also, as does Hilary Putnam in his books, the very stupid idea that choice is vital to thought, or even to truth. This is clearly false.

      There is, in fact, no choice in belief. Yet belief often gets the truth. So that fact refutes Popper and Putnam. We can check this fact by introspection. Yes, I know that the Politically Correct who call themselves psychologists imagine that they have a good case against introspection.

      If we could choose our beliefs then I think we would be almost bound to be irrational, or even insane, so argument would then be a waste of time. The last thing that might matter in any debate is what the debaters want or desire. As people have no idea what they will believe in a moment’s time they are all open to reason. Reason is not a matter of choice. It is innate in humans. Popper errs very badly in holding it to be cultural. So the propagandist has a chance of success, but people can choose to go away so not to hear him, not to read his posts or books, or not to argue and so on. But no one can decide what he or she thinks.

      So if all actions are predetermined then thereby choice is too. You say it is not, by definition, but that is inept, as definitions cannot affect any fact. You say that determinism is meant to rule out choice but that is false as it mainly sets out to give a true account, but anyway what we intend to say does not ever decide what we do say. Indeed, what we mean is not even germane to what actually we say; otherwise we could never err in speech or in writing. As the old Roman, Martial, says “he means well is no good unless he does well”.

      Now I want you to have a go at refuting what I say here and above. Or you can make a case for what you say. Or you can do both. So far, you seem to only repeat the rather daft idea that determinism rules out what the great philosophers who held what they call nowadays call compatibilism are wrong; wrong by mere definition. And you think the nominalist/realist distinction is not germane!

      Why did Hobbes, Locke and Hume all fall for compatibilism then? Were they simply too silly to understand the mere definition, Paul?

      Yes, you can hold up either arm at will. But you cannot think as you like, can you? Try it. Try believing that you are really a cat. You have no choice in what you see as true. Nor does anyone else.

      Let us grant that God exists to discuss what seems to follow.

      First, there is no need for science. It has no chance whatsoever against prayer. Why do research when we can just ask God?

      Next, God is the perfect deterrent so no need for the law, the police and the like.

      God would need logic. God could not change any fact, as all facts would still be eternal.

      The question would arise, as Plato said, whether God was a good man or not. I take it that He would not be PC enough to be female or want to belong to Middlesex.

      Christianity would still be false, of course.

      I am not sure what you say about Islam is right. I would guess not, as Aristotle had a big impact on that, as he did also on Christianity and Judaism; but I need to check up on it.

      The Bible is largely determinist and materialist, as Hobbes and Priestley argue at great length. See the second half of Hobbes 1651 book.

      Yes, God is a man, as he made Adam in his own likeness, so he is thereby also an agent.

      He does have arms and legs. Why not? The Bible says he made Adam in his own likeness. That means God is material too.

      A real effort would be needed for any normal person not to act. You seem to get it wrong on nearly all things, Paul.

  24. Hello David.

    I think we have a fundemental disagreement – not just about philosophy, but about theology as well.

    You hold that determinism does not deny choice, it just “explains” choice – whereas I would say it tries to “explain away” choice (as it tries to explain away the human mind – the “I”, the agent).

    I think you know my opinion of Thomas Hobbes and David Hume – so there is no need to beat that dead horse again. John Locke seems to have held lots of differnet opinions. Not just on philosophy – but on politiclal philosophy also, for example his right to life mutates (without much warning) from a right not to be murdered, to a literal “right to life” with a ships captain who does not sell his cargo at a low price in a port where there is starvation (going on to another port instead), being “no doubt guilt of murder” (why not just say that water is dry and that circles are square?). Still let us leave this matter (which may be the bad influence of Samuel Pufendorf on Locke – who is fine at other times).

    More interesting is your view of theology.

    Your view of God as a physical being – with arms and legs and so on.

    Of course that is not your real view (you are an atheist – you do not believe in the existence of God at all). However, if you are correct that this was the opinion of Thomas Hobbes then mainstream Christians (Protestant as well as Catholic) were correct to have contempt (utter contempt) for Hobbes (as Jews were correct to have such contempt for the heretic Spinoza – a man who not only failed to grasp the essential character of the human mind, the reasoning “I” that makes real choices, but also confused God with the universe – a more crass error of theology would be hard to think of).

    If Thomas Hobbes really took such a literal minded view of the Bibile then he was a profoundly misguided man (with no understanding of the tradition of undertaning such a text).

    The “image of God” refers to man as a reasoning agent (the free will of human beings – our ability, within the physical limits upon us, to make real choices) in this we are like God (accept that He has no physical limits) in that we have the capacity (if we make the effort) to make real choices – and, because we can make real choices, we have moral responsibilty for out actions.

    There are two great dangers in theology.

    The first is a simple minded literalism (the Hollywood mocking sterotype of a Christian) – which takes the stories of the Bible as all true in a literal sense (without the need for understanding the traditions of those who told the stories – and what they were actually trying to say by telling these stories).

    The second great danger is to “interpret” everything away – to treat everything as metophorical even when it was meant in a literal way.

    Both the Orthodox Church and the Roman Church have a long tradition of dealing with these problems (of trying to avoid both great dangers).

    For a Protestant effort at avoiding both these dangers (the danger of total literalism – and the danger of explaining everything away) see the early 1900s essays on the “Fundementals” of the Christian faith (what is fundemental – and what is not) that were written in opposition to the “Social Gospel” of the (William James and Richard Ely influenced – which gets us back to Germanic philosophy and theology) American Progressives.

    From this we get the word “Fundementalist” – although that word has fallen into disrepute since the crusade against evolution started in the 1920s.

    The original “Fundementalists” (drawing on James McCosh and others) were quite clear that biological evolution did not (not) contradict any essential Christian doctrine – indeed sevreral of the early 1900s essay writers were evolutionary biologists themselves.

    People often talk of the breakdown of the great tradition as if was something recent (the 1960s perhaps), but I would suggest one can trace it back much further.

    Indeed, in the elite universities in the United States, the breakdown of the great tradition can be dated to the retirement of the generation of James McCosh, Noah Porter and others (not that they were always correct, no one is, but they were clearly part of the great tradition).

    In philosophy both the Common Sense School and (to a lesser extent) the Aristotelian School (with which it had much in common) went into decline – being pushed out by the “Pragmatists” and others (in Britain the Logical Positivists – inspite of the refutation of them by Joad, played a similar role to the American Pragmatists, replacing such common sense thinkers as Harold Prichard – only in the 1930s and 1940s, not the 1890s and 1900s).

    In theology the “Social Gospel” rose (in spite of the counter attack by the writers of the essays on “the Fundementals”).

    And in economics those who had followed Bastiat (such as A.L. Perry – the best selling American economist of the 19th century, and almost forgotten now) and the Austrian School (such as Frank Fetter- the refutor both of Henry George on land, and Irving Fisher on monetary policy – and almost forgotten now, ask someone in tiny Peru Indinana “did anyone of importance come from this town” and they may well mention Cole Porter, but they are very unlikely to have heard of Frank Fetter).

    The pushing aside of people such as Frank Fetter in economics took time – but Richard Ely’s union-guild the “American Economics Association” had no time for real free market people. Just as his campaign for “academic freedom” (which Frank Fetter was tricked into supporting) was really a campaign for academic conformity – conformity to the design to make education subversive of civil society (not supportive of civil society), to use perverted “education” in an effort to undermine and destroy civil society (and people think that the Frankfurt School of Marxism first thought up this idea…..).

    It is no accident that associations of academics target the handful of universities the left do not control (most noteably Hillsdale in Michigan – still true to the free will, moral responsibilty, free market principles of its founders) , Richard Ely would be pleased – his union-guilds of academics are acting just as he hoped they would.

    Of course the late 19th and early 20th century was also the period where to be called a Hobbesian stopped being insult (I am going to leave aside Oakeshott;s effort to fundementally reinterpret Hobbes – I mean Hobbesian in its normal sense, i.e. supporter of tyranny and denying of the basic moral dignity, indeed the existance of, the human mind).

    To any who deny that this is what Hobbesian really is. Do you see Thomas Hobbes (or those who really follow him) rushing off to join the National Rifle Association, holding a Samuel Adams (or John Adams) view that it is better to die fighting than to live as a slave? No I do not see it either. After all, to Hobbes, there is no difference (in kind) between human freedom and the sort of “freedom” water has when a dam is blown up. “Freedom” just means the wall has come down – it does not mean the water has made a moral choice to expand out into the fields (or that humans make real choices either). And if moral freedom does not even really exist, why fight to the death to defend it?

    And it is also when David Hume stopped being treated as a critic (and often amusing and paradoxical critic) of assumptions (vital assumptions) and started to be treated as a “System Builder” (I suspect that this would have half amused and half horrified him), with the Logical Positivists of Vienna (and so on) treating him as the ancestor of their own fallacies and absurdities.

    For the intellectual decay hit mainland Europe also.

    In Germany both rational philosophy and (even more) rational economics were basically driven out – forbidden from the universities.

    And even in Vienna dark forces gained strenth.

    Legal Positivism (Hans Kelson and those who came before him – drawing from Hobbes and others) destroyed the proper teaching of jurisprudence (indeed undemined and mocked the very idea that their could be rational legal principles independent of the whims of the state).

    And Logical Positivism undermined philosophy.

    Even those who announced themselves enemies of Logical Positivism were sometimes influenced (to some extent) by its “climate of opinion” . For example, Mises was a declared enemy of Logical Positivism (in spite of his brother being a Logical Positivist) but I can find terrible evidence of it is his writings – mistakes (in philosophy not economics) that Carl Menger (taught by Franz Branteno) would not have made.

    And, sadly, the terrible contempt for ordinary human beings that comes from such mistakes in philosphy. It is not there all the time (indeed Mises’ support for E. Cassier contradicts it), but it is there (see, for example, page 46 of the last edition of “Human Action”).

    Hayek also (indeed far more) – Hayek understood the terrible effect the assult of Hans Kelson and the Legal Positivists had had. But he failed to free himself from their influence.

    In the end the Hayekian position is almost an “as if” position – we should act as if there was such a thing as true law, as if there was such a thing as right and wrong. The great legal minds of the past (such as those who wrote the Austrian Legal Code of 1811) would have told Hayek that a view of legal philosophy based on consequientialst as-if, is both philosophically lacking, and also useless in practical terms (it is building your house on sand – indeed upon quicksand).

    But their philosophy was no longer taught in Vienna by the time Hayek (or even Mises) did their legal studies.

    Short Version……….

    The West did not start to die in the 1960s – it has been intelletually dying for a very long time, and the decline started at the top (with the elite).

    • Thanks for your reply, Paul.

      You seem to be way faster at typing than I am. But I hope to reply to all your posts eventually.

      Theology is philosophy, as fully explained earlier.

      There are no fundamental ideas. It is always an error to reify mere disagreements as if mere ideas matter more than they ever can. It is actions that are immoral, not mere ideas or thoughts. Me thinking about lying to you is not the immoral deed, even though that particular immoral deed can be done in mere speech.

      Yes, I say that determinism can only affirm choice.

      We may attempt to explain away choice but the effort is clearly futile, as we can hardly explain away any fact.

      Hobbes is no dead horse. He gets it exactly right in saying that all we do we choose to do; either as a means to some end or as an end in itself.

      Note that we still choose when under duress. But Kant had a point when he held that he had no obligation to honour any promise that he made under duress. It was chosen but not freely given Thus he had no reason to honour any promise made to any state. Kant might not have liked that implication of what he said.

      Kant’s idea/meme here makes nonsense of national treachery for there is no freedom from implicit coercion with any state.

      Instead of replying yesterday I watched a long interview on the Internet with Quinton Skinner. He ended up a second part of the interview with a sickening display of backward and immoral Political Correctness. I almost regretted watching the two parts but I did drop to sleep half way through part 2 anyway. But not before I caught a delusion of his that there was a third liberty to do with status that was the top idea in ancient Rome but is unknown today. But it was just concern with whether we were independent or not, which is not at all forgotten but rampant today, maybe more so that daft Isaiah [should be Isalower; though maybe it is fitting for anyone who talked to him] Berlin’s two types of liberty, that itself might be better put as state liberty, or coercion against the masses that Berlin was silly enough to dub liberty rather than statism, then pristine liberal liberty that the late fool called negative liberty.

      Spinoza looks way ahead of your outlook, Paul. The idea that God is just the cosmos begins to make theology look realistic.

      You ought to read Hobbes on religion. Expressing you dogma that as he is a determinist so he just must reject reason is simply absurd or incoherent. He clearly expects his readers to reason with his book.

      Your main error seems to be that there is more than one world, that if someone thinks about the world in an inept way then he lives in a different world. I fear that Popper tends to fall for that unmitigated stupidity also. But, like so many with false ideas, he still was willing to debate, so he acted in contradistinction to his bogus or false ideas, as I hope that you do too.

      There are no dangers in theology. Popper says we can let our ideas die in our stead. Ideas cannot die in any way but most readers comprehend what he means. Why he thought that mere debate was hostile in the first place is less clear. It is more like trade than war, but Popper often said, on reaching agreement that: “how we can be friends again” but if he now fully agrees then he does not have much to talk about, does he?

      It is not the case that Hobbes had no understanding of the Bible. Still less would that be the case with Priestley.

      It is clearly not better to die fighting than to live as a slave. That is simply crass Romance.

      Fighting ensures no liberty. Truth is not the first causality of war but liberty is. To fight means we have something like martial law, which ensures that liberty is replaced by obedience. Liberalism can never be gained by backward violence. All the Romantic freedom fighters actually fight against freedom.

      Hume’s first book was his nearest to being a system of philosophy and the largest of his books on philosophy. He later wrote on history. He was maybe the first to make the cavaliers popular with the public. He was a Scottish Tory.

      The logical positivists did adopt ideas from Hume but they made themselves incoherent by their total opposition to metaphysics, an opposition that cannot be found in Hume, though he is against what he took to be sophistry and illusion.

      Yes, I know that Oakeshott edited Hobbes’s 1651 book but that does not mean he has to have merit. He prided himself on opposing the Enlightenment and supporting backward Romance, just like daft Edmund Burke did.

      You show no signs of having ever read Hobbes’s book, Paul. You seem to be always unable to think about what ideas clash and what do not. That is why you keep repeating the silly dogmas that I have repeatedly attempted to explain to you as false but you have shown no proper criticism of what I have said to you so far, or even any sign of making an attempt.

      Yes, Hobbes felt he had a duty to the state unless the state attacked him. If ever it did attack him, then he held he had no right to ask others to aid him, as he held that they too had a duty to aid the state, thus not to aid him if ever the state attacked him.

      Yes, Burke said he hated metaphysics. He thought that was clever but it never was. When he attacked Richard Price he attacked a way better man that he ever was; or that he ever could be.

      You seem never to have read A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) by David Hume, Paul. Yes, Smith followed Hume on ethics, especially in adopting Joseph Butler on Hobbes’s egoism.

      The less said about the cretin Reid the better. Like daft George Moore around 1900, Reid held that common sense was enough. I grant that that fits in with backward Burke but that hardly excuses it.

      However, then you rebel against Burke thus:

      “The uneducated (not the same as “unschooled” of course) just accepts the principles of civil society – in an unthinking way.” That is exactly what Burke wants people to do. But you wrote this as if it was something that you opposed.

      I see no attempt to refute or even to explain in your posts, Paul.

      That progress is being made needs to be noticed by you. But never did the backward House of Commons do other than hold progress back, by first taxing firms then by using the taxes to mess society up.

      There are no foundational principles of society, unless we say that the division of labour is thus knowledge that it does so is a principle relating to the foundation of society. . Morals cannot hold society together. That is just Burke failing to comprehend society. Society needs no defence.

      That mere ideas can poison the minds of the young is hopelessly unrealistic, Paul. Why do you not think a little bit about such madcap ideas?

      Support of the Church and King mob on the part of Burke and backward King George III was not much better than support of the riots in France. Burke ought to have known that from his experience of the Gordon riots.

      Your own eulogy of fighting is merely silly. So is your Romantic idea that you have enemies.

      Yes, Hobbes held that rights were positive.

      Yes, I do like Popper but he is not error-free.

      I also like metaphysics.

  25. By the way…..

    For those who think the above means one must have a foundation of religious faith.

    I believe in God – but I do not believe that one has to have any religion in order to support right reason (the existance of the agent, of real choice, of moral responsbility).

    As the Scholastics often pointed out “Natural law is the law of God – but if God did not exist Natural Law would be exactly the same”

    For the Protestants Christian Thomasius (in Germany – I do not always attack German thought) made the same point – the basis of right and wrong is NOT scripture, it would continue to exist (in exactly the same way) if the Bible had never been written – of if God Himself did not exist.

    Almost needless to say – the forces of Islam reject all the above.

    • Thanks for your criticism/reply Paul

      Theology is philosophy, Paul. Why do you feel it is different?

      Yes, determinism is an explanation of choice. TINA. There is no scope to soundly explain any fact away but anyway that is not what determinists were trying to do in the first place.

      When Einstein said “God does not play dice” do you think he was out to deny choice in either God or in man? He was thinking that determinism is needed to make sense of physics, not of men or God. Popper told him he erred. Popper has a case against determinism that I have no adequate answer to. So Popper might well be right on determinism not being the case with the cosmos, but he errs badly on ethics. Determinism cannot affect ethics.

      Locke largely follows Hobbes.

      You refer to your opinion as if it was a bit of property, Paul. In fact, it is only what you think is the case.

      Why you think Locke somehow got away from philosophy is not clear.

      A right to life looks like one not to be murdered, nor does the right to liberty seem so far off. The idea that we owe the hungry food is distinct but one can imagine that he might make a case not to give food is murder, even if the case is not sound. It does not seem to me as bad as saying that water is dry. ,

      I know you have said odd things about Hobbes and Hume. What you had to say above did not seem even remotely true to me, Paul.

      It follows from what is said in the Bible that God is like man, does it not? My opinion is that the bible is all bosh, anyway, but this ideas still allows me to look at what is said. You may retort that it is an anthology rather than a single book with one author and if you did that would seem to be true.

      Hobbes said God was material but I do not recall him saying the argument from Adam that I put last time.

      Hobbes was way better than St Augustine or Thomas Aquinas. So was Priestley.

      I doubt if you have a good case against Spinoza, Paul.

      It is good that you try to criticise the philosophers, Paul but you would do well to cite passages from them so your readers can see that what you think about them is not really germane. Assuming that Hobbes holds that we are all robots is just wasting your reader’s time.

      There are no such things as dangerous ideas. Ideas are not agents, only humans are. That is why the pristine liberals are right to advocate free speech. There are no dangers in mere theology.

      As said earlier, Hobbes held that we choose to do all that we do, either as a means or as an end. Thus he held that we are responsible for all we do. Why you feel a big effort is needed for choice is not one whit clear. It always seems to me that you have no idea as to what choice is, whenever I read silly ideas from you like that.

      The truth is that the Bible has nothing truly worthwhile to say. But this seems to be a basic truth that you have yet to realise, Paul.

      The church may have a long tradition of explaining the Bible but they have never done well so far, have they? As already said, dangers in theology are imaginary. Mere ideas carry no dangers.

      William James has some merit, especially on religion, so I may well check his critics out.

      Science often does clash with Christianity. Geology tends to openly refute it.

      That biologists or geologists were Christians does not mean that natural selection or geology does not clash with Christianity, does it?

      I am not clear on what great tradition you are on about, Paul. I agree there was not much new in the 1960s.

      The Scottish Common Sense School were all first rate cretins.

      Aristotle is well summed up be Medawar in the book I cited earlier.

      Joad was a complete jackass. No fact ever depends on what we mean.

      Birmingham clergy were pushing something they called the social or civic gospel from the 1840s onwards.

      Nearly all who write are forgotten about a decade later, if ever they are noticed when their books come out in the first place.

      As I say above, you would do well to quote Hobbes if you want to criticise his book.

      Oakeshott seems as daft as Burke was on philosophy.

      The logical positivists did follow many of Hume’s ideas but Hume hardly thought that morals were mere emotions. He was right that no people are ever amoral.

      What Hume hit Hobbes with was the criticism of Joseph Butler. Adam Smith followed Hume in that in his Theory of the Moral Sentiments (1759). This shows that economics was not based on egoism, as many in the mass media tend to assume.

      Logical positivism cannot undermine philosophy.

      It is not clear what ideas in Mises that you wish to criticise, Paul, you need to cite or quote from what he said.

      It is a silly waste of time being an enemy of mere ideas. It is not much better being one of people.

      What do you object to on p 46, that Mises says that man is not metaphysically free?

      Thought is hypothetical in any case, so it is not clear what can be wrong with “as if” ideas. There is nothing remotely like a quicksand that we need to dodge in mere thought.

      I see no sigh that the west is dying intellectually, even though folly, as ever, is superabundant. The falling population may mean that it is dying out physically.

      I think there is an objective morality, as I think Hume did too. It is not empirical but, like number, it can be found by reason. Isaac Newton’s theological friend, Samuel Clarke, had the basic idea of how to find the moral law, as did Plato. Kant was also roughly right on ethics. He went back to Plato on the topic.

      I am not sure that you have Islam right on morals, logic and the like, Paul. It is a western religion, being a scion of Judaism. Aristotle has influenced it greatly, as with the parent religion and its sibling.

  26. Hello David.

    Islam did indeed have thinkers within it who argued that morality was a different thing from scripture (and that it could grasped by humans – humans being moral agents, independently of scripture), but such people lost more than a thousand years ago.

    Since then Islam has been “voluntarist” (not in the sense of supporting free will – but in another sense), it has held (as extreme Calvinists do) that “good” and “evil” (in the sense of right and wrong) are just words for what God happens to command and forbid. That this is a matter of WILL not REASON – the will of God.

    They also have held (since the defeat of the defenders of reason within Islam – over a thousand years ago) that the “hand of God is unfettered”.

    Of course they are not talking about a physical hand (God not having a body in the literal sense) – they mean that the the power of God is unlimited, even by reason.

    So if God declares that 1+1=77 it does, and if God declares that A is not A – A is not A, and if God declares that a square is a circle – it is.

    It does not take much thought to understand what such a theological view did to science in the Islamic world – which was once so promising (it did as much damage, to science, as the Islamic view of the power of rulers, especially over LAND, did to poltics and economic development – in contrast with the “Feudal” West, in such conflcts as the struggle between the Hapsburgs and the Ottoman Empire over about five hundred years).

    It undermined the very concept of “natural law” even in the sense of physics and other material sciences (not just in ethics and so on).

    Theology and philosophy are different subjects – but you are right David, they are closely linked. Bad theological positions “bleed over” into bad philosophical positions, and even effect the approach (the methological basis) of the natural sciences.

    As for determinism……

    Muslims (at least some Muslims) have a special form of compatiblism of their own.

    They understand that an action is not moral if it is not chosen and that to be chosen a person must have have the logical option of chosing otherwise (in short that classical determinism, where a “choice” could not have been otherwise, is nonsense), however they still hold that God decides events.

    How do they reconcile these positions?

    They hold that God decides what will happen – but that humans (being moral agents) do have a choice, the choice of whether to struggle against the will of God or to “submit to the will of God” (the meaning of Islam being “submission” of course – and all peace, to a pius Muslim, is submission to God – so when a Muslim offers you peace, he is offering you the option of submission).

    It must be noted that (the Islamic position is) what God wants to happen will happen – regardless of how much people choose to struggle against it. But people have the choice of struggleing against the the will of God if they so choose.

    One could argue that people who choose to struggle against the inevitable are being rather heroic – but this would not be the Islamic view.

    Remember, to the mainstream Muslim, there is no nonscriptual; yard stick with which to judge human conduct (no natural law – no ethics independent of religion).

    If people obey the WILL (the commands) of God they are good – if they resist them they are bad.

    For example, lying to achieve victory for Islam (decieving infidels to their deaths – for example by offereing friendship, in order to get the infidels to cease being on their guard, so that one can kill them) is an act of VIRTUE in Islam.

    Why would it not be? Remember what serves Islam is good, and what goes against the interests of Islam is bad (period). There is no nonreligious standard of conduct (not for the mainstream of Islam).

    This is why, for example, Western “nation building” in Afghanistan is (at best) pointless.

    And it is why comparisons between Iraq and Afganistan with post World War II Germany, Italy and Japan were totally wrongheaded.

    Although trying to explain such things to “neocons” just got them to scream “Islamophobe” or even “racist” (?) in reply.

    Of course many ordinary people do not follow the logical conclusions of the theological and philsophical doctrines which they nominally support.

    But that does not mean the logical consequences of those doctrines are unimportant – as General I-know-the-Sudan-the-people-there-are-good Gordon found to his cost.

    • Thanks for your reply/criticism Paul.

      There is nothing in cause and effect that messes up moral responsibility. The idea that there is seems to be merely empty.

      The will never wants to go against reason. Why, ever, would it? I might even quote Burke here:

      “Never, no, never did Nature say one thing and Wisdom another.” BURKE

      Francis Bacon quite rightly saw that language opened the door to the false idols. Religion is full of them and politics has a few but they are usually valued rather than believed or seen as true. But then it is what we value that usually motivates us rather than what we think is the external objective case, though beliefs sometimes can deter, or even motivate. Values also usually rest on some beliefs. But religion usually does not.

      It is not clear to me that the idea of a super-mighty beyond the ordinary almighty God, the one that could break logic, would close down science, though an actual belief in either God would almost automatically suggest to most of us that time spent on research would be better spent in prayer. But as there is no God, we would never get any answers. So such a belief would soon ebb, as would any belief in God whatsoever. God is not like Everest, which does not need to act to be believed. God suggests some activity. If God never does anything then he amounts to nothing.

      Theology is a proper subset of philosophy, as I said before. All theological thinking, like all ethical thinking, is part of philosophy. Why you want to say theology is not philosophy but instead merely linked to it is not one iota clear, Paul. It is false anyway.

      Tacitly, we all know that if determinism is the case then compatibility is also the case. We also know that cause and effect apply to things and to persons too. Most thought is tacit. All normal people are right most of the time. So it is not only some Muslims but also everyone else who has a version of compatibilism, including those few confused people who explicitly deny it.

      It is not nonsense to say we could not have chosen otherwise whenever we choose. But it is false to say that we do not thereby choose given that we were bound to choose one way. If we are bound to choose one way then we have choice.

      Some things we cannot choose, so we are there bound to not choose. We never choose to believe this or that but we always choose whatever we choose to say. I choose to write all this, for example. But I cannot be faithful to it by mere willpower. We choose to speak but never to believe. So we can pay lip service but never be loyal in what we think. Honesty tends to cut out our use of choice, as does other duties that we may have.

      I see no sound excuse for you here, Paul. But I do note that you do not even try to excuse yourself. You are completely satisfied by the daft dogma that cause and effect affects choice by negating it by mere definition. You seem to lack the wit to realise that this daft dogma is merely confused.

      A God that did not renounce His almighty power, as King Lear gave up his throne, would have to remain responsible for all actions in heaven and earth, of course. According to your confused daft dogma, we do not have choice if God exists.

      The reality is that such a God would not rule out choice, despite remaining responsible for all that is done. God would make us want this or that so we would then choose it. Choice is only ever doing what we want to do. However, in reality there is no all-powerful agent in the concatenation of events. The cosmos is clearly impersonal and it is clearly not created in any way. Even Paley said the stone was not created. The watch is not created but clearly artificial or manmade rather than created. None of us has ever known of any God. We all tacitly know that fact. As Szasz said: “a man who prays is devout but one who gets his prayer answered is a schizophrenic”.

      To blame is an attempt to deter. It might never be a perfect deterrent, as knowing the will of almighty God most certainly would be, but it is bound to have at least some impact, even if it is very small.

      Humans are always responsible and they usually respond to some extent.

      No one would bother going against God. We never attempt what we see as being clearly futile.

      You over rate explicit theory or what people say, Paul. Religion cannot decide what we think. You cannot find out what a Muslim actually thinks by reading the Koran, no more than we can discover the beliefs of any Christian by reading the New Testament. We cannot control what we believe. We have no powers of conforming to a creed just because we want to do so. Beliefs are somewhat anarchic.

      You write in here lots of non-stop hogwash, Paul, but I know you do not believe it, as what you say you believe is quite impossible for anyone to believe. I conclude that you are merely confused. Ditto the mainstream Muslim, he may mean what he says but he is merely confused.

      Ethics is independent of mere might, as Plato rightly realised. “Might is not right” as the adage says. That is objectively the case for all. Mere speech cannot affect any fact.

      Reality is not different for us just because we adopt a creed, or that we are born into one. The world is common to one and all regardless of what we believe but we never believe creeds anyway.

      There are many reasons why nation building in Afghanistan is pointless. I see no reasons, at all, why it might have a sound point behind it. It is just wasteful politics.

      Politics itself is totally wrongheaded, as well as being utterly immoral.

      General Gordon was no liberal, even if he thought he was one. The empire was a mistake, but so is any state.

  27. Further on Islam….

    The Sufi tradition (or traditions) is famous for its lack of stress on scripture (although it would be wrong to say they denied Islamic scripture) – but nor are they great defenders of reason (they are mystics – not automatically a bad thing of course, but not the same thing).

    For defenders of reason within Islam one should look at the Mutazilites (from Mutazila) (who even held that the Koran was created – not that it was always in existance), but they are associated with Caliph Al-Munsun (spellling alert) he of the “House of Knowledge” in Bagdad (i.e. known for his interest in pre Islamic philosophy and in natural science) – who persecuted orthodox Muslims, his tolerance for nonMuslims was also a matter of scandal. With his fall the Matazilites went into decline – although the the last great Mataziite philosopher was later, Abd al-Jabbor ibn Ahmed (of Basra – died about a thousand years ago). Later philosophers certainly exist – but very much as a minority point of view.

    On the question of agency (the ability of humans to make choices – real ones)…….

    The Shia stress it more than the Sunni do – but they do not attempt to create any independent philosphy of ethics from it.

    Of the Schools of Islamic Law.

    There are various Schools of Shia Islamic law. Although, these days, only the “12ers” are truly powerful – and the 12ers are divided between “hasteners”, those who hold that it the duty of a Muslim to “hasten” the return of the 12th or “hidden” Iman by spreading fire and death over the world (both the President of Iran and the Supreme Relgious Leader are “hasteners” – although they have a fundemental disagrement over which of them should lead the white horse of the 12th Iman as he rides over the bodies of the infidels), and nonhasteners.

    Of the four schools of Sunni Islamic law – the Hanbali are the most strict (the Salafhist, what we call the Wahabbi, are part of this school – the House of Saud have been allied with the Wahabbi since the 1700s ), but the other three Sunni Schools are basically “voluntarist” (in the Calvinist sense) also.

    Of course (as I may have mentioned before) there is nothing in Islamic doctrine preventing a Muslim from telling you he is part of the Sufi tradition (or traditions) when he is not, or even telling you that he has renounced Islam (when he has not) – as long as the intention is a sincere effort to lure a infidel (or infidels) to destruction, for the victory of Islam.

    In the sacred texts of the followers of Islam – those who have pretended to renounce Islam (and Muhammed personally) in order to get close to opponents of Islam, in order to kill them, are highly praised (those who sincerely renounce Islam are, of course, to be killed).

    In this way an old blind poet (who had mocked Muhammed) was killed, and a female poet (who was unwise enough to raise her voice against the killing) was also killed.

    Jews and Christians have (indeed) often been guilty of deception and murder (indeed there is an oft repeated story that a Jewess undermined the health of Muhammed by poisoning him – in revenge for the killing of her famly and her own enslavement).

    However, I do not believe Jesus ever praised such conduct.

    Those who are shocked by the murder of film makers in Holland (or where ever) really should not be. Muhammed would have celebrated the killings – and the killers would have held themsleves to have earned a high place in the afterlife.

    Muhammed was a politician and military leader of genius – he was not some sort of hippy pacifist type (for example a pius Muslim may believe that rocks and trees will call out to them if a pig [a Jew] or a monkey [a Chistian] is hiding behind them “oh Muslim, a Jew is hiding behind me – come and kill him!” – but Muhammed would have relied on careful observation and intelligence

    Although, of course, he had no problem with pretending to be one (if it led infildels to a false sense of security – so, filled with promises of peace, they were not ready for a surpise attack).

    The tolerant attitude that some Muslim rulers (at various periods of history) have shown for nonMuslims is a matter of great scandal and disgrace – in the eyes of sincere followers of Islam.

    • Thank you for this post on Islam, Paul.

      You know full well that the liberal outlook does tolerate religion, no matter how daft the religion is.

      Islam is not so different from the parent religion of Judaism or its sibling of Christianity. I certainly think those creeds are false, as you know but the main reason I think we should tolerate them is because, despite the oddities they have, I think all mere ideas are harmless. But if religion goes into active immoral coercive politics then we might be in for some trouble. Ideas are harmless but actions can be dangerous.

      Reason is innate in humans. It needs no defense.

      If G.A, Wells is right then Jesus did nothing at all. See Did Jesus Exist? (1975).

      What you say of the threat from Muslims may well be realistic in some cases, Paul. We need to beware of them to some extent.

  28. Oh by the way David…..

    M. J. Oakeshott was the great DEFENDER of Thomas Hobbes in the 20th century (did you really not know that?).

    Oakeshott did not formally deny the traditional attacks on Hobbes (after all the support by Hobbes for tyranny and his denial of a code of personal honour is a bit obvious to totally deny) but argued that there was much more to Hobbes than this – that Hobbes was a great defender of “civil association” (although, I would point out, that Hobbes would have done nothing if a ruler or rulers proved to be an enemy of civil association – indeed even if they were hacking people to death in from of Thomas, he would have done nothing to stop them) and so on.

    Edmund Burke famously “hated the very sound” of metaphysical distinctions – but that does not automatcally mean he made any major errors in this area. Even his famous attack on natural law (and more on natural rights) which he had so long supported – turns out (of one read closely) to be an attack upon the distortion of such things by the French Revolutionaries (as Stanlis spent so many decades pointing out about Burke).

    Adam Smith was indeed not egoist – you are quite right David, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” shows this is not so.

    Adam Smith a follower of David Hume in building an ethical system?

    I would deny that David Hume was a system builder at all – he was a critic (often an amusing and paradoxical critic) of ethics (and much else). The philosphical value of Hume exists in his inspiring others (such as Thomas Reid) to reply to his attacks on philosophy. It is a sign of a degeratate society (such as the modern West since the very late 19th century) that those who seek to attack the great tradtion are more highly valued than those who seek to defend it.

    The “tragedy of the half educated person”.

    The uneducated (not the same as “unschooled” of course) just accepts the principles of civil society – in an unthinking way.

    The first stage of education is to challenge those assumptions – but the next (and vital) stage of education is to answer (to refute) those attacks. In this way unthinking acceptance of civil society (and the principles on which it rests) is transformed into at least partial understanding and the possiblity of progress.

    The modern West is trapped in stage one – the attack on civil society and the principles (agency, moral responsiblity, right and wrong…..) on which it is based.

    If it stays trapped (if the critics of the basic principles, men like Hobbes and Hume, continue to be held as more important than the defenders of the foundational principles of society, indeed the latter are basically ignored today) then the West is doomed – for its educational system acts to undermine (not support) its foundational principles.

    Better the uneducated person than the half educated one. Especially the half educated teacher or academic – for these act to poison the minds of the young and turn all the forces of learning to the task of undermining and destruction.

    As for Logical Positivism…… which acts to undermine philosophy in the way that Legal Positivism (the position of Thomas Hobbes and other supporters of despotism) undermines jurisprudence.

    Logical Positivism denies the very possiblity of moral philosophy (and some other parts of philosophy). By dividing everything into “science” (meaning the physcial sciences – not science as a body of knowldege) and “nonsense”.

    As Karl Popper (an nominalist – so you should like him David) pointed out – this is an error.

    Things are either “science or nonscience” not “science or nonsense”.

    Just because such things as ethics can not be proved by the methods of natural science – does not mean they are not true.

  29. Hello David.

    Moral responsibity depends upon CHOICE.

    That I could have chosen to do otherwise than I did.

    If “determinism” held that I (the reasoning “I” – the agent) “determins” some things – then I would have no problem with it.

    However, tradtionally, determinists hold that actions are PREdetermined by a series of causes and effects that goes back to the start of the universe.

    That is held by many mathematicians and natural scientists to be a false description of even the physical universe.

    It is no description at all of agency, indeed it is a DENIAL of it.

    For the difference between randomness and agency – see Ralph Cudworth (and others).

    I do not really have the time for the rest of what you say (no disrespect meant by that – I really am running short of time).

    So I will confine myself to saying that disagree with some of the other things you say here – but agree with other things you say here.

  30. Yes – a position that held “all things are determined – but I determine some of these things” would be an interesting one.

  31. Paul Marks: Yes – a position that held “all things are determined – but I determine some of these things” would be an interesting one.

    You might call that compatibilist.

  32. David – I agree that all beliefs (religous or otherwise) should be tolerated, Only actions should be punished.

    However, I think you are quite mistaken about the doctrines of Islam – but as I have already written on the matter (indeed written too much) I will not write more.

    On the compaitbilist point – sadly not so (at least not as compatiblism is normally understood).

    The determinist seeks to “explain” (really “explain away”) choice, and to “explain” (really “explain away”) the chooser (the human agent).

    If the determinist simply said “all things are determined” (thus contradicting many mathamaticians and natural scientists – but let us leave that aside), “but I determine some things” leaving the I (the agent) un “explained” it would be better.

    Of course (contrary to William James) attempts to give an account of the human mind do not have to determinist. For example, Noah Porter’s examination of the human intellect (the standard 19th century text before the rise of the Pragmatists) is almost 700 pages long (yet does not need determinism – at least not as classically understood).

    One can talk about these matters as much as one likes (even for 700 pages -if one wants to do so). as long as one does not try to explain away choice and the chooser.

    • Thanks for your fresh criticism, Paul.

      And thanks for your reply too Julie but I have no time to answer to your longer and most welcome criticism till next week now as I have arranged to do other things; beginning soon.

      I am glad that you are tolerant, Paul. Ideas seem harmless to me.

      It is not clear what errors you feel that I make on Islam. Paul.

      Whatever we might say about the compatibilist philosophers like Hobbes, Hume and the like, they were clearly explicitly affirming choice rather than attempting to negate it.

      It is futile to attempt to try to explain away any fact. Mere words, or mere definitions, can hardly affect any fact.

  33. Julie near Chicago


    “…[A]n actual belief in either God would almost automatically suggest to most of us that time spent on research would be better spent in prayer.”

    Nonsense. I am either an atheist or an agnostic depending on the precise definition of “God,” but many Christians, perhaps even most Christians, take it that God may not see fit to answer their prayers, for whatever reason He may have. What they do not believe is that that reason is capricious or mere whim. So your major premise is faulty.

    Beyond that, I will tell you what I once said to a Christian friend who was spouting the “scientists have no soul, no spirituality” line, in the course of a discussion on whether scientists could believe in God. (In retrospect, I think he was yanking my chain, but that’s not how I took it then.) And I said, ” I can’t imagine anything more spiritual than studying God’s plan of the Universe.”

    If I were still a Christian, I would certainly believe that “God gave us a brain–He intended us to use it.”

    And I would believe that God is just but not cruel. I certainly would not believe in hellfire and all that rot (which was not taught in our church anyway, come to that). But I would probably believe that “eternal damnation,” if it exists at all, consists in being eternally denied the condition of being in the presence of God, in real contact with Him. (Something like the concept of “grace.” Which I think must be related to the idea of being eternally at peace with oneself. Not as in stasis, but as in no more feelings of worthlessness or self-dissatisfaction.)

    That’s rather like the Jewish teaching that the evildoer who appears to be and actually is perfectly happy in his wickedness is nevertheless punished, because he is diminished, he is less than he could be. He is, in other words, denying himself his full humanity.

    But, if I believed in God and believed He had those attributes — I could not believe that He interferes with Nature, the natural universe, nor with the affairs of men. (He may mark the fall of the sparrow, but for some reason he does nothing to prevent it.)

    For if He interfered with Nature, it could only be by some occurrence which we must take as a miracle, a divine Act that we cannot understand because it is not part of the cause-and-effect universe in which we live. To us, it would destroy our belief in a rational Universe. Just like the Muslims, to whom the world at any instant is as it is not through cause-and-effect (however much it might seem that way most of the time) but rather because that’s how God wills it to be at each instant. (See Paul above on this.)

    And God must have a rule, for some reason, of not interfering in the affairs of men, else he would not permit the terrible torture of the living who are the victims of other men or indeed of Nature herself.

    Of course, maybe some versions of Christianity teach that life on earth is itself Purgatory.

    And I’m only speaking about Christianity and its parent, Judaism. NOT Islam, which I understand was put together chiefly by taking some parts of the Bible and gluing them together to suit Mohammed’s purposes. I cannot accord it the same respect I give to the former two.

    And about other religions I know nothing.

    End of Julie’s Theological Exposition for Today. :)

    • Thanks for your criticism, Julie.

      I doubt if any of those nominal Christians truly believe that there is any God. If they did then they would hardly bother with science but as there is no God anyway, they will soon not practically think there is any God and they have been like that for 2000 years now.

      A God that cared would see fit to answer prayers, of course. What they do not believe is that there is any God. They see the world as impersonal as I do. It was clearly not made.

      There is no soul or spirit, anyway, of course. So the Christians were right about the scientists but the same is the case with themselves too.

      I do not think that anyone would ever want to be in the presence of God. If he existed they might have completely different values than they have today and things would be different but we all know there is no God and things are as they are owing to that fact.

      God would deter crime, science and all the rest that I said. That the Christians say they are content that God ignores them today is not much of a criticism. No one expects prayers to be answered, as we all know that, practically [i.e. in practise], there no God.

      There is no reason why God should not be cruel, of course. Why not hell fire? That your local church does not preach it seems a weak idea to conclude from that it does not thereby exist. What does it matter to any fact what your local church preaches?

      Why would God make the world less rational? It would be as he willed it at any time if he existed, anyway, for that just follows from God existing. If he is almighty then things are as he wilfully made them. He has therefore condoned all that there is.

  34. I think you are in error on Edmund Buke, David. I suspect it is a mistaken impression you gain from certain passages in “Relections….” (there is a lot more to Burke than those passages). Although I would argue that even if one ignored everything else that Burke wrote, apart from “Reflections….” there is a lot in there that does not automatically reflect the desire for unthinking people (even in the “Reflections…”there is a much that is a lot closer to Thomas Reid’s [taken byJefferson – not a person that Edmund Burke or John Adams always liked, to put it mildy] “we hold these truths to be self evident” than might be thought – a lot that is close to such people as Harold Prichard in modern times).

    By the way the logical mistake Burke believes that those in sympathy with the French Revolution (excluding the ones who are just in lust with power – who Burke thinks are a large number) are making, is to confuse majority rule (not that any French Revolutionary regime was actually elected in an honest election – but assume they had been) with “freedom”. More broadly to confuse a FORM OF GOVERNMENT with freedom – Burke traces this error to Rousseau (others might see it in John Locke himself). To Burke civil freedom is a state of affairs where people’s lives and goods are most their own (much as Charles the first said just before his head was removed – although Charles took the idea more from the “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius, rather than how he [Charles] actually ruled in real life). So Burke judges any form of government by the effects it is having, or is likely to have, in a given set of CIRCUMSTANCES (the conditions of time and place) on the security of the lives and goods of people.

    If replacing a monarchy, in a given set of circumstances, is likely to make the lives and goods of people (and private associations) more secure – good, if not……. then bad. And Burke assumes that things are far more likely to go wrong than go right (here he does differ from many in the Scottish Enlightenment) so the burden of proof is on the person who wishes to change the form of government. Of course (as an added twist) to Burke (as to John Adams and others) the radicals out to change the nature of government in the context of America – where the ministers of the Crown (and their advisers). The American Revblution was (to Burke and Adams and.Washington and….) an act of restoration – what the modern world would call “Reactionary” or even “Counter Revolutionary”.

    The French Revolution was (contrary to the position of Thomas Jefferson and others) quite different – although it used such words as “freedom” and “liberty” (and used them a lot – although even in the “Rights of Man”, if one looks carefully, the difference with the American Bill of Rights is profound – almost as striking as the difference betewen the Bill of Rights and the modern U.N. Declaration of Rights) it was NOT really about rolling back the centuries of growth in power (size and scope) of government in France – it was about taking that vast power and putting it new hands (indeed actually, in some ways, EXTENDING the already vast power of the French state). As for the argument that the power would now be in the hands of the representatives of the people rather than a weak and foolish King….. The Burkeian response would be “so what?” – or even that such vast power (if it really could not be rolled back) is better (or at least less bad) in the hands of a weak and foolish King, than it is in the hands of clever and vicious politicians (the Guardians of Plato – or the Lawgiver of Rousssau).

    As for Oakeshott – he was the leadting defender of Hobbes in the 20th century. Argueing that there was a lot more to Hobbes than certain readers (readers who. by his description, I would count as one of) see. Oakeshott did not formally deny the obvious in Hobbes – but he argued that the society that Hobbes actually wanted (his basic assumptions) was very much in the “civil association” tradition.

    I would reply “that may be so Oakeshott – but as Hobbes will do nothing to oppose a ruler or rulers who violate civil association (as long as he personally is not touched) does it matter?”

    On Islam.

    I have already explained the matter David – and great length (if anything I wrote far too much).


    Islam is “voluntarist” (in the extreme Calvinist sense of being anti scholastic – anti the idea that moral reason is independent of the commands of God) – it holds that right and wrong are the COMMANDS (the WILL) of God. and that there is no yardstick of morality to judge them by. “Good” is what God commands (as shown in scripture) and “bad” is what God forbids (as shown in scripture) and that is that.

    It is oddly similar to the view of Thomas Hobbes (against “a student of the common laws of England) on law. Legal Positivism – what the state says goes (accept that Islam places God in the place of the state).

    One way to understand it is to turn to the original Islamic cry against the Jews – this was the (seemingly inoffensive) “raise your hand”.

    This did not mean surrender – it ltterally meant RAISE YOUR HAND.

    It was the Jewish practice (at the time of Muhammed) to place one’s hand over particularly evil parts of scripture whilst reading aloud – in case one read out the evil parts of scripture by accident (and thus influenced people to evil).

    For example, read out the death penalty for quite minor crimes (if crimes at all) that parts of scripture law down. One can get such passages, and, with knowledge of the period they were likely to have been written, make some sort of sense of them – but there is always the danger than some simple minded person will say “well scripture says we should kill someone for doing X – so-and-so has done X, so I had better kill them then” (ditto Joshua wipes out whole towns, down to the babies, – so one does NOT just read this out without qualification and telling people NOT to do it, if there is no time for a full explination one does not read such things aloud in the hearing of those who might be influenced by them).

    The Islamic cry of “raise your hand” was NOT because they thought that everyone was such a strong individual that they would not be influenced toward evil by (unexplained) parts of scripture – it was much more radical than that.

    The Islamic view was (and is) that there is no moral reasoning yardstick of morality at all – that if scripture says (implies) something is right IT IS .

    This is even more dangerous with the Koran than it is with Jewish and Christian scripture – as the Koran is written in the first person, it is not various people (such as Joshua) interpreting the will of God. it is supposed to be the DIRECT WORD OF GOD.

    When an Islamic thinker says that “the hand of God is unfettered” they do NOT “just” mean not by scientific laws – they also mean not by moral laws either. As Islam holds that scripture is NOT to be judged by such things (indeed that they do not really exist at all). A radical denial of even the possibiltiy of moral reasoning (akin to the Logical Positivists).

    So if scripture says “do X” you do X – the objection “but that is EVIL” is meaningless (as there is no such thing as moral principle – apart from the will of the ruler-God).

    The nonaggression principle (the heart of libertarianism).

    This is based on the idea of humans as being – as moral agents capable of CHOICE (real choice)

    In short political libertarianism is based upon philosophical libertarianism – if philosophical libertariaism is false then political libertarianism is a non starter.

    The nonaggression principle is not just based on the idea that people can CHOOSE (really choose – do other than they might have done).

    The nonaggression principle is also based not just on people having the abilty to choose not to aggress (in spite of great desire to rape, murder rob…. their reason can overcome their passions, the idea that “reason is and, and ought to be, the slave of the passions” being evil), but also that is WRONG to choose to aggress, that it is EVIL to do so.

    If “right” and “wrong” do not exist (or are just names for the COMMANDS of the state) then libertarianism is also a nonstarter.

    In short….

    If one starts with the philosophical assumptions of folk such as Thomas Hobbes – the logical place to end up is the politics of folk such as Thomas Hobbes (i.e. the defence of tyranny).

    • Thanks for your reply, Paul.

      You do not say what you think the error is with Burke that I have. He clearly wants the immoral state to be endorsed, along with the immoral Christian creed, tradition and other forms of filth, like gratuitous war on other states like the France of his time.

      I see no merit in daft Reid. Do you? What does it consist of?

      The writings of Richard Price does not equate majority rule with liberty or freedom. Remember, Price was in a minority group. The Puritans wanted the laws against freedom of worship repealed, as did Burke but Burke wanted it only for Catholics not for the Puritans too. What he disliked about Price was the criticism he had of backward Catholicism. A lot of that hit the Anglicans too, of course.

      Nothing is self-evident.

      Burke knew full well that there was no chance of the riots of France moving to England, but he pretended otherwise. He was not surprised by the Church and King mob of Birmingham; no more than he was by the earlier Gordon riots in London.

      Price wanted to repeal oppressive laws on religion, not change any government.

      Revolution is a Romantic myth, of course.

      Burke was not happy for the USA to break away. It greatly disappointed him.

      1688 pristine use of revolution was to return to the status quo ante; to complete the circle back to how it was before James II. In the pristine sense, to complete the revolution was to return to 1685 for James II had brought things half a revolution away from when he took the crown. The later Romantic myth was the idea of a completely new beginning. The Romantic sense is way more like going off on a tangent to a new place.

      The guardians of Plato were designed to be indifferent to power.

      I see no merit in Oakeshott but lots of poor ideas in his books. Hobbes needs no apology. Hobbes writes clearly enough for himself.

      Between Burke’s love of war and Hobbes hatred of it I see Hobbes as better.

      We all know there is no God.

      Hobbes felt the bluff of state action might keep the peace. However, the state is, in reality, the sole cause of war. Hobbes got it exactly wrong in that the state introduces war whilst anarchy has no incentive to war.

      Seeing wisdom in backward religion is another aspect of daft Burke’s outlook.

      Price, by contrast, tended to use reason on the Bible. He did not tolerate daft actions on the madcap idea that it might well lead to some good later on.

      Burke, like Hayek, feared reason. Hayek thought that socialism was reasonable but it falls to the economic calculation argument as Hayek ironically knew all too well.

      The logical positivists did not deny moral reasoning but only that is was not a science.

      Liberty is at the heart of libertarianism, rather than some confused non-aggression principle. See Jan Lester’s talks on the LA site on that confusion.

      All choice is real choice.

      It is not clear what you mean by philosophical libertarianism. Do you mean freedom from the concatenation of events, freedom from the actual world?

      In any case, pristine liberalism is not a non-starter.

      Again, I see no attempt above to refute what I have said to you from you, Paul, beyond the rather silly idea that determinism has to rule out choice by definition, as if any mere definition could ever affect any fact,

      Hume means only that reason has nothing to do with desire, as that is the domain of the passions. He errs there, but what he says is not evil.

      Hobbes gives no defence of tyranny. He feels the state cannot be as bad as he imagines that anarchy must be. Thus he goes for what he holds to be the lesser danger.

  35. Julie near Chicago

    Well,David, in my view (and remember, I am not a believer–and certainly not a theologian nor even much of a student of Christian teachings), God, being just, does not condemn any person for being as he is; since He understands that the whole design is of His doing. But as someone pointed out on another forum, though Salvation is available to the individual–it consists in being welcome in God’s presence, PROVIDED that the person wishes to accept the invitation, that is, to reciprocate, to make God welcome in the person’s heart so to speak, one of the proofs of which is the understanding that he (the person) actually has committed evil and that he actually does repent.

    Otherwise he will live forever as an outcast from God’s family of those who accept Him in their hearts.

    “Hell…is other people.”

    Certainly this idea poses certain logical problems, but so does any other attempt to explain (that is, to fully understand, to truly grasp) the fundamental nature or the Universe and how it came to be. (The “Big Bang” explains nothing except–possibly, jury still out, as far as I can see–in the purely physical sense: For who or what caused or orchestrated said Bang, which itself is a theory about the material world, and not a metaphysical thesis at all, remains unanswered.)

    In the end, of course, as a matter of pure logic, no closed logical system (and metaphysics does try to achieve the state of being at the least a logical system) can explain itself: there are always basic principles, foundational premises or postulates which the system must assume in order to have the raw material, so to speak, with which to work.

    But different systems–including various theological systems–may build upon different foundational premises or principles or postulates.

    I think Catholicism dreamed up Purgatory in order to get around the problem of how a person who has done real evil proves he is truly sorry, and simultaneously undergoes punishment for his wrongdoings. But that’s how I might tell it if I were writing a story about Christian theology and teaching…it’s merely a speculation on my part. I have no idea of the actual history of the ideas and teachings of various strands of Christian thought/understanding/belief.

    David, you seem to me to see God as an authoritarian judge and severe punisher, like the God of the Very Old Testament as NOT re-interpreted by later generations. Whereas the story I tell is that the Jews and Christians, at least, have over millenia refined their moral sense (which is not to say they necessarily act on it!), and accompanying that refinement they demand more of their God in the way of true (that is, genuine, actual) justice (and, therefore, mercy). So God has “grown up” along with the rest of us.

    It is Islam, not (most understands of) Christianity nor of Judaism, that believes that the state of the Universe at each instant is solely the result of the Will of God at that instant..

    Which is why there can be neither peace nor justice in Islam, which understands that one attribute of Allah is that he is irrational. (In some eras and under some regimes, of course, probably the most obvious way to survive is to sit down and shut up: Don’t fight Reality, translated as “We must submit to the Will of God.” Of course, if your aim as a human is to subjugate every other person you come across, it’s a great strategy to sell the idea that you are the messenger of a god whose total aim is that you should shut up and accept your natural status of slavery.)

  36. Ah but Julie – David can reply that till specific Muslims actually DO something (including planning a specific act) a libertarian should do nothing to them.

    Various Muslims saying (in general terms) that it would be nice if infidels were dead in enslaved does not give us the moral right to act against them.

    And David’s moral logic is correct. Those who seek to uphold the right should not themselves break it (if there is another way to defend against a threat).

    “But then how can we defend outselves against Islam?” there are ways – and ways that do not include crimes against individual Muslims.

    For example, Islam is not a race – it is a set of ideas. And those ideas can be challenged – yes I am pointing at conversion, and perhaps not conversion to another religion…..

    Islam declares that those who reject Islam (having once been Muslims) should be killed – so converts would have to be defended (as well as defending themselves).

    • We use free speech to dissolve backward religion. This is what Richard Price recommended but Edmund Burke feared.

      The force of reason is a non-coercive force that respects the liberty of all. Arguments are like judo tricks that use criticism to exercise the persons own intelligence to reform in thought by mere peaceful reflection.

  37. Julie near Chicago

    All perfectly true, Paul, and of course I agree — but what does any of that have to do with what I said? :)

  38. Second David comment first – you are making a common mistake about Burke. You are assuming that because he supported the tests of doctrine in the Anglican Church he wanted people forbidden to be Dissenting Protestants (or Jews or Muslims or atheists) – not true. Burke did not want people who did not believe in the docrines of the Anglican Church to be Anglican Ministers – and why would an HONEST Radical Protestant (or atheist, or Muslim, or Jew, or…. ) want to be an Anglican cleric? He was quite happy for them to have their own Churches or meeting halls.

    As for the French Catholic Church – its corruption (the high positions of atheists, and simply people who did not care, within it) proved to be its undoing – and (many have argued) the undoing of France. Although, when put to test (the Civil Consitution of the Clergy – and please do not make the mistake of confusing an Established Church with a State Church, they are different) the majority of priests and bishiops proved to be loyal (and suffered the consequences of opposing the Civil Constitution of the Clergy). But it is not enough in any organisation (Church, intelligence organisations, whatever) for the majority to be loyal – a minority of traitors (even a few – if they are in key positions) can destroy the effectiveness of an organistation (indeed they can turn an organisation into the very thing it opposes).

    Of course this is also true of a state – whether in conflict with another country, or with traitors within. Those who might call “paranoid” or “McCarthyite” (“another hard drinking Irishman with a short temper”) at this point would do well to read M, Stanton Evans “Blacklisted By History”.

    As for Richard Price – I am not sure what you mean by “backward religion”. Are you claiming that Price was a closet atheist? If so I think you are mistaken.

    Dr Price was a well meaning man – just one of the many people who welcome any person who loudly talks of “reform” and “freedom” – without stopping to carefully consider that people do not always mean the same things by those nice sounding words. Ditto with Dr Price’s support of “virtue”.

    People mean different things that word. Does it mean the code of personal honour (which is what it meant to Edmund Burke or John Adams) or does it mean COLLECTIVE virtue? For example the cult of elected governments?

    In religion Richard Price was one of those people who hold that “spooky” practices distract attention from the basis of the Christian faith.

    He was, of course, entitled to his opinion – but his lack of charity towards those who held the opposite opinion (that ritual and tradition were a great support for the Christian faith – and that getting rid of them would undemine it, not strengthen it) was regretable. And his POLITICAL failure to understand that the French Revolution (and its supporters in Britian) as a Clear And Present Danger, was unacceptable (although a John Adams style. Alien and Sedution Acts, response to such a failure of political understanding, would also be wrong).

    First comment of David.

    As (what a later age would call) a High Church Anglican (indeed often accused of being a crypto Catholic) the LITERAL minded acceptance of every word of scripture is about the last thing that Burke was in favour of.

    None of his teachers (not the Catholic “hendge” teacher. or the Quaker school master, or the Anglicans at Trinity Dublin) taught that. It is true that Edmund Burke had read some books that argued for the literal interpretation of all scripture – but then (as he pointed out) he had read every book on theology published in the English language (that does not mean he agreed with everthing he read).

    As for Edmund Burke being an uncritical supporter of the state…….

    All his life Edmund Burke supported reform – but REAL reform.

    Not distractions such as changing the voting system (the confusion of the FORM of government with freedom) – but real reform. Such as getting rid of the Acts on Engrossing and Forestalling.

    Nor was Burke “just” interested in economic freedom (free trade and so on) – he was also interested in what we would call the “social freedoms” (actually Burke actually used the term “social freedom” – although he meant what we would call “civil freedom” as in “civil society”).

    Burke was (absurdly) accused of being a sodomite because of his opposition to the savage pushiments given to those who committed sodomy, He also supported the right of people to both drink and use drugs (indeed he did himself – to deal with the pain of his cancer).

    On the crimes of the powerful…..

    This was a man who spent his entire life attacking state crimes.

    Not just the French Revolutionaries.

    But also (from his most early years) abuses in Ireland (indeed he lost his first job, working for Hamilton, over his position on Irish policy).

    Then there were the decades of opposition on policy towards India.

    And the years of opposition to policy towards America.

    Indeed Edmund Burke was (even in his brief periods in government) a natural “opposition man” (to think if him as an uncrtical supporter of a imoral is just wrong).

    And there are those decades of influence at the “Annual Register” – which might be summed up as “Prussians are bastards” (taking a generally negative view of Prussia was a rather a minority position in the England of the 18th century – however, common it may have become in the 20th century).

    Edmund Burke a Puritan type in religion – certainly not.

    Edmund Burke failing to oppose the crimes of the state – certainly not.

    Edmund Burke failing to worship a FORM of government (represtative democracy).

    Now that is true.

    Under certain circumstances Edmund Burke might favour a wide franchise – but it was a matter of circumstances, it was not a matter of principle with him. Indeed in the circumstances of late 18th century Britain was actively hostile to changeing the franchise.

    “So he was opposed to freedom”.

    No – because Edmund Burke did NOT hold freedom and democracy to be same thing (quite the contrary).

    Freedom was a situation where the lives and goods of people were most their own. Kings (being human beings) could not be trusted with absolute power (a Marcus Aurlieus is rare – rulers like his son are more common) so the power of Kings should be limited by traditional insitutions – and if such controls had broken down they should be brought back (The power of the Crown, has increased, and is increasing – it should be dimished) or even invented (although that was dangerious) if they had never existed.

    Nor was a monarchy automatically the correct form of government – Republics, IF they were bound up with the correct insistutions and traditions, were an acceptable form of goverment. In some times and places.

    Such things as the vote were not the promise of freedom – they were the promise of POWER.

    And, to Burke, a dishonest promise anyway – as no system can have millions of people in charge. Representative democracy does not put “the people” in charge, it puts POLITICIANS (the best at using flattery and absurd promises to gain votes) in charge. If anything a government that can claim to “represent the people” is MORE in need of formal limits to its powers than some other forms of government.

    A thing that most (not Thomas Paine – who had as much understanding of this point as Radical Joe Chamberlain a century later, one of the reasons that Adams despised Paine) of the American Founding Fathers understood – but which modern teachers and academics (with their cult of “democracy”) do not.

    • Thanks for your criticism/reply, Paul.

      Burke wanted Catholics to be free but not really the Puritans to be free. This was because the Puritans thought that Catholicism was backward, as I said last time.

      Kant held that we do not need to honour what we say under duress. That clearly covers anything we say in political circumstances. Many Puritans might agree there, so that might carry an apology for the idea that joining the Anglican Church was not being truly dishonest. Hobbes and Priestley did not join but Newton and Locke did.

      I am not sure that I do err on Burke.

      It is true that many Catholic bishops in later eighteenth century France were explicit atheists but then I feel all men are de facto atheists though many are confused over what they actually see as false or true so I would not say that the clergy lack cheap honesty, to rob a phrase from C.S. Lewis.

      Turgot told Priestley he had invited six Catholic bishops to supper but every one of them was an avowed atheist.

      The whole idea of being a traitor seems to be intrinsically statist, Paul. Pristine liberalism is simply not about opposition to people. Rather it is about enlightenment, or free speech. It is not gong to be too fussed over mere error. It does seek to correct it, of course, but not really to blame people for mere intellectual error.

      Price held that Catholicism was backward. What is hard to comprehend in that, Paul?

      I see no lack of charity in Price.

      I do not recall claiming that Burke took the Bible literally, Paul.

      Burke was certainly a firm statist.

      It is not true that he was keen on reform. He preferred to leave well alone rather than to suffer change of any type, but he was keen on free trade.

      Free trade allows for social freedom. Indeed, it tends to foster it.

      Burke did not lose his job with Hamilton but rather Burke rejected Hamilton, who got Burke a pension that Burke turned down just to show his complete contempt for the man who got it for him, despite Burke badly needing the money. Burke wrote to many friends of how much he hated Hamilton. But Hamilton was keen to get Burke back working for him again. Hamilton rather seemed to think that finally getting the pension might get Burke back to work for him.

      I do not recall saying that Burke was a Puritan. I thought I had said the reverse, that he feared Puritan criticism on religion, especially on Catholicism.

      Yes, Burke was not too bad on democracy. I ceased to be a democrat back in 1971 owing to a reading of Political Parties (1911) Robert Michels.

      Yes, no government can be majority government. Logistically it has to be a minority or oligarchy, as Michels held. Burke is not bad on democracy,

      Yes, democracy had a bad name till James Mill put it up where it is today after 1800. He and Francis Place thought the public would use it to extend pristine liberalism but he and Mill were over optimistic, but not so far off as they might seem to most people today. Cobden was certain he won on a liberal programme in the 1830s but I thought, on reading about it, that he was merely deluded and I was hardly surprised to read he came last. But Cobden was shocked. He set out to see why and discovered that most of his supporters simply forgot to vote; or rather they were not clear on when the election was. Cobden claimed he would win that week if he could get a re-run and that he was bound to win next time. He simply needed to remind his supporters to get them out on time. Well, he did win hands down at the next election and it looks that he was as near winning as he thought the first time, despite being against the Factory Acts and many other statist things what might today seem to be very popular protectionism.

      There is a great deal that next to no one comprehends in the colleges, Paul. They do not even see elementary economics as true, not even in the economics departments.

      Few people seem to be interested in the church at all today. The church clergy themselves seem to be way keener on being Politically Correct than being Christian in any way at all.

      Why you call the Tory mind the liberal mind is far from clear, Paul.

      Anyway, you have written way better this time round, thanks again.

  39. By the way – the confusion between an Established Church and a State Church is common among recent generations of academics.

    The number of times I read (years ago when I was looking into these matters) nonsense such as the French Revolutionaries wanted priests to be civil servants “as in England” was astonishing.

    Both Burke and his foes understood the difference – but it appears that the moderns do not.

    Personally I have come to the opinion that being Established is harmful to the Church (so, I suppose, I am now disestablishmentarian) – but I do not pretend that an Established Church is a State Church.

    The “liberal” mind does not seem to see the difference.

    But then modern “liberals” have a weird language of their own – for example, to them, the “separation of church and state” is the confiscation of church property by the state (as in France in 1905 – Churches are still owned by the govenrment in France to this day) and the transformation of priests into paid employees of the state.

    When I was young I would be intested in how the “liberal” mind had come up with such a strange idea of what “separation”meant. [although in my mind that world should be spelt “seperation” anyway)

    But I am no longer young.

    Before I go…..

    It is also untrue that Burke believed that an atheist was incapable of being honourable.

    For example, it is clear from the (tortured) writings of Marcus Aurelius that he had no real faith in a God or life after death.

  40. The influence of Ralph Cudworth can be seen (at least I believe so) in Richard Price (Richard Price the philosopher) not just in his support for agency – but in his resistance to chopping up the human mind with scholastic (or other) terminology. Chopping it up into “understanding”, “will” and so on. Mises(at times – he varried, at other times Mises was prepared to bow the knee to determinism – at least verbally) showed the same dislike of the effort to chop the mind up into bits – hence “the unanalysisable I”.

    However, when we get on to things like moral reason (moral rationalism) versus the moral sense theory – the difference between the two ways of describing things can get very involved.

    As for Burke – Richard Price was one of Shelbourne’s people (Bowood Cirule) so they were never going to get on. The Bowood Circle (in the person of J. Bentham and the Mills) carried on the war against Burke for decades after his death.

    I also suspect that S. position as a big debter played a role in the people in backed – the old idea that an end to the National Debt also meant an end to PRIVATE debts.

    Although Price’s magic (magic because it someone reduces the debt without any real government spending cuts) sinking fund does seem to have been sincere – the man was sincere about everything (although “sincere” should not be taken to mean “automatically correct”).

    There may even be a Cudworth connection in theology – there is a sense in )Price than one can (by philosophy) PROVE the existance of God.

    Burke made his name with his attack on the “Natural Religion ” idea.

    Rothbard gets it totally wrong – “Vindication of Natural Science” was not Burke being a supporter of anarchism (the closest he get to that is a few passages in “Appeal from the new whigs to the old” written in old age. where he argues that things do not go back to zero if the state no longer exists [as the French Revolutionaries tended to claim] but that property rights and law would continue to exist even if the state DID NOT EXIST, it would just be very hard to defend them, although that can be contested…..) – with Burke “many years later” pretending it was a satire.

    Actually he announced it was a satire a few months after the original publication – and it was not even a satire of anarchism, it was indeed a satrie of Bolinbrook’s (spelling all wrong – yes I know) “Natural Religion” (which, supposedly, could do without both scripture and church tradition).

    Theologically someone who implied(even if he did not formally state it) he could prove theology from first principles (without any need for anything else) was not going to get on with Burke.

  41. Last point first David.

    The people who confisicated Church property (and so on) both in Europe and Latin America in the 19th century called themselves “liberals” – I would agree with you that they were not real liberals, but one can argue all day about what a “real” liberal or “real” libertarian is.

    The people who thought up the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (turning an Established Church into a State Church) did not call themselves “liberals” (as the term was not in political use in 1790), but there were considered “advanced” and “radical” (the sort of people the Bowood Circle liked).

    On the atheism of French Catholic bishops – it can be over stressed (most of them were not atheists), but certainly the Church (over which Rome had little authority) was in serious trouble (and orders that tried to fight the decay – sometimes got abolished). Louis XVI objected to an atheist being made Bishop of Paris – and the smart set thought it was a very silly objection.

    Edmund Burke did not want Puritans to be free? Who told you that David? It simply is not true.

    Radical dissentors (Puritan or not Puritan) should, in Burke’s mind, have the same right to set up their own places of worship (and their own schools) as anyone else. He did (post 1789) become more dubious about their involvement in GOVERNMENT positions (surely not part of freedom), due to their support for the French Revolution.

    An act not just of baffleing lack of judgement (as the Rousseau supporting Revolutionaries were not really friends of the hard core Protestants) but also ingratitude – as it was Louis XVI who had removed most of the restrictions on Protestants (and on Jews), the lack of gratitude was as baffleing a the lack of judgement. Of couse in modern history textbooks the dates of key reforms are either not given or are fudged (in case someone notices that the date is often pre 1789 – although August 4th 1789 was a time of real reform by the Revolutonaries, it was the one really good day of the Revolution).

    It is true that his book “The Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautitful” may (in part) have been an effort to irritate his Quaker headmaster (Burke went to a nonconformist, not an Anglican, school in Ireland) – by saying the idea of the beautiful came from sexual desire and the sublime from war (by a lot of very young men kick against their elders – some of Burke’s first political student speeches at Trinity were against Walpole, a man whose memory he came to admire).

    Burke a “statist” – if you mean he was not an anarchist, you are quite correct David. However, he was certainly LESS of a statist than his political opponents (in the context of domestic policy or elsewhere).

    I suppose it depends on whether you want to apply the Rothbard test.

    If you want someone who will press a magic button and make the state vanish – then Burke FAILS that test (as do I).

    But Burke did want a smaller government.

    Richard Price – his failure to see the French Revolution for what it was (the EXPANSION of the state – not the rolling back of it) may be explained by his extreme ill health.

    Dr Price was very ill – and soon to die. So his support of the French Revolution (perhaps blinded by the good events of August 4th 1789?) can be explained.

    Thomas Jefferson’s support is less understandable or forgiveable – after all he lived to 1826. Neither age or ill health can explain Jefferson’s attitude.

    Although, it should be said, that when Jefferson became President he certainly did not follow the policies of the French Revolutionaries.

    No fiat money, no confiscation of church property, no confiscation of the property of political opponents, no grabbing of what factories existed at the time (a “detail” that Marxist Revolutionaries tend to leave out of their account of the Revolutionary regimes – hardly a capitalist revolution if the capitalists get robbed).

    But then Jefferson tends to avoid the discussion of the actual concrete policies of the French Revolutionaries.

    To him the French Revolution is a great romantic adventure……. at least that is how I think he reacts to it….

    Even though there were no (straight) elections in Revolutionary France (one could not have all those conservative peasants out voting Paris…..) – Jefferson seems to have seen it as a great experiment in democracy, and ALMOST that democracy (not just liberty) is a good thing in-its-self.

    Did Richard Price have the same opinion?

    • Thanks for your reply Paul.

      I that think the LA would fit in the Bowood circle. I think that Burke would have joined the Tories, if he could, but they were laid low in his youth and, indeed, they remained so all his life. Burke loved the British Empire. Whilst he could tolerate trade he habitually thought that politics was on a higher plane. The truth was that it was on a way lower plane.

      The label “Liberal” since Radical Joe made the Liberal Party go Tory in the 1880s has, more or less, meant Tory, as does socialist. Robert Owen, too, was basically a Tory.

      The basic fact is that all politics are anti-social and wasteful or internecine and negative sum. Trade, by contrast, is positive sum where both sides gain.

      Turgot said the six Catholic bishops he had invited to supper to meet Priestley were atheists, so, I suspect, did the bishops themselves at the supper, for that seems to be why Turgot invited them to supper in the first place. Priestley did not deny it. He was not really surprised to find atheists amongst the bishops in the French church, and he would seek to convert them, but Turgot could not accept that Priestley was a believer, nor could Gibbon.

      Yes, Burke feared criticism of Catholicism. He realised that backward Catholicism could not face up to it.

      How do I know this? I read his books. That is where I get my ideas of what Burke thought was the case from.

      Why do you feel I get Burke’s fear of the Puritans wrong?

      Rousseau was all the fashion. Hume loved him, as did Smith and Kant. He maybe does not translate well but it is said that, in French, his style is wonderful. I cannot read French. He reads very badly in my copies of his books in English.

      He is said to have written that book at Trinity College, Dublin so why do you think the Origins book was written irritate his headmaster? He had by then left the Quaker school.

      I do not recall saying that Burke went to an Anglican school but note that Trinity College was Anglican, as was Burke and his father. Not so his mother and sister who were openly Catholic. The Anglican position is, basically, still a Catholic one.

      Burke is a extreme statist, Paul. I am not interested in any Rothbard test. Rothbard is all right but he does not have a lot of authority with me.

      Locke did err badly in thinking that the state serves us. Hume saw that was false, so later did Burke. But Priestley thought that Locke was right, so did Price, so have most since Locke’s day, including Nozick. Burke saw that the state was there to rule rather than to serve. This puzzled Priestley, who, in his reply to Burke’s 1790 book [one of 54 replies, no less] managed to tease out Burke as saying, in the Reflections, that the state is there to serve after all. Priestley was a great critic. I do not think that Burke was up to giving a proper defense to that particular reply to him. However, I think it was, nevertheless, in error. Burke was relatively confused. He agreed with Priestley that the state served but objectively rule is an anti-social menace.

      Burke was not less of a statist than was Price. Why do you think he was?

      Burke saw the state as a boon. Like JFK he might have, rather stupidly, said:

      “And so my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. John Fitzgerald Kennedy

      For he too thought the state came before the individual. It should be served. It should rule. But he was less clear on what that meant than was that bonehead, Machiavelli. Machiavelli realised the state was basically nothing to do with everyday life but had a purpose way nobler and alien to everyday life that was to do with power and war. The Reflections too was mainly a warmongering tome, just like the backward writings of Machiavelli.

      No, I am no seeker of magic buttons, Paul. We start from where we are. Every little bit helps as the Tesco Ad says. Even Burke says

      “No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
      Edmund Burke

      He also said:

      “The march of the human mind is slow. “
      Edmund Burke

      No, I think Price would have erred, even in the best of health, but he would have been shocked later on. He soon died, of course.

      I do not know much about Jefferson. The mob in Britain was for church and King, as Burke knew well, as he faced them in the Gordon Riots.

      Yes, the whole Romantic meme of Revolution is most unrealistic. Burke saw that the 1688 meaning was dropped for instead of going half way round to completing the revolution, to go back to the status quo ante [the exact meaning of reactionary too, of course] but then, after seeing that, Burke ironically adopts the new Romantic go-off-at-a-tangent-to-the-next-domain meaning that went along with his daft Romantic opposition to the enlightenment. He should have called the events of 1789 the French Riots, as I have done since the 1970s.

      Price and Priestley did not really know what was going on in France but they thought the public must be right and the state must be wrong. However, that was silly of both of them, given that they, too, had faced the church and King mob, that were very clearly not right at all, but thugs. Even the state can be less destructive than can a mob be, whenever it is in one of its silly riots.

  42. David.

    Radical Joe held that an elected government was “freedom” – that is hardly a “Tory” error.

    But it is the same error that the Bowood circle (incuding Price and Priestly) de facto made (not that the various French Revolutionary regimes actually were “freely elected” of course – that would have put all those millions of conservative peasants in charge, and the “Enlighented” could not have that).

    To Edumund Burke – what mattered was what the government did (not whether it was elected or not).

    I would say that there is a direct line between the French Revolutionaries to people like Cass Sunstein today – when they talk of freedom they really mean their freedom to tell other folk what to do (how to live) and to threaten them with force if other folk do not obey.

    In a way (as Ian B. would point out) there is a “Puritan” link there (alhough often a Puritanism without God.

    By the way – you did not use to say that Edmund Burke was wary of the Puritans (which is true – he was) you used to say he was against their freedom (which is not true).

    Edmund Burke supported the freedom of the Puritans (both religious and atheist) to live their lives as they wanted – as long as they did not try and use force to impose their ideas on other folk.

    • Thanks for your reply, Paul

      Why do you think that calling democracy freedom is not a Tory error? The Tories think of patriotism, of the state and democracy fits their outlook well, as Disraeli realised with his Tory democracy campaign.

      The pristine liberals, like Price & Priestley, were less collectivist or statist. . Price did not think of the nation as owning him, as Burke tended to hold that all men should. They did not think that daft or backward politics was more noble in some madcap imagined way than trade, as Burke did. They wanted religious freedom but Burke dragged his feet, as he feared that in free debate the Catholics would get criticism that they could not very well cope with.

      Price and Priestley were not particularly enthusiastic democrats.

      I have no idea who Cass Sunstein is.

      Why do you call the rioters of 1789 “revolutionaries?

      It is true that Burke resisted extending religious laws for Catholics [that he wanted] as it meant the same for the Puritans too.

      Burke felt it was right for him to tell others what to do whereas Price never did, nor Priestley. They related to others as free men without the need for state duress.

      The idea of an atheist Puritan looks silly to me.

  43. Why do I not associate the error of confusing “free” i.e. elected government with freedom, with the Tory folk? With the anti Cider Tax Tory folk that the Whig Edmund Burke cooperated with or the (rather more steely) Tory folk of John Reeves and his Liberty and Property Defense Association (read private army – with more armed men than the British army, establishment historians rarely write about such things). They made many errors – but not that error.

    Because it is no more a Tory error than 1+1=28. The confusion of freedom and “free” (i.e. elected) government is the classic “liberal” error – I think we would agree that it is misinterpertation of liberalism – but it is a misinterpretation that is common among liberals (and always was – even before the word “liberal” was commanly used in a politics).

    For your last point – take it up with Ian B. Or look at the evolution of either the New England Puritans (down the generations – all the way to Social Gospel atheists). Although not all (indeed far from all) developed in this way.

    It is much the same in England – some (not all) of the radical nonconformists got rid of their faith in God (over the generations), but they kept their radicalism, and for too many of them that meant STATISM (as long as it was “free”, i.e. ELECTED, government).

    Not all the radical Protestants were statists – for example the early 19th century voluntariist movement (in Scotland people like the Rev. Chalmers – in England such people are those associated with the Leeds Mercury).

    However, the other strain of liberalism defeated them. People like Edwin Chadwick and other followers of Bentham (in fact the tradition of the Bowood Circle – of which you think you know a lot, and do not).

    Where do you think,the tradition of the Bowood Circle comes from ? It comes from Shelborne – and before him from his kinsman Sir William Petty (with his mathematical statism) and before him Thomas Hobbes (with his statism) and before him the mentor of Hobbes – Francis Bacon (and so the statism goes back – and one can trace it to Thomas Cromwell and before).

    Price and Priestly?

    What you think you know of Edmund Burke is false.

    But you may know more of Price and Priestly.

    Price was in philosophy a libertarian (in that he believed in agency) Priestly denied agency (he was a determinist) and thus he was a philosophical opponent of Price.

    Dr Price himself was old and sick when he considered the French Revolution – you have (as far as In know) no such excuses David.

    The French Revolution was not a “riot” and nor was the true enemy “the mob”.

    The French Revolution was the setting up of a new regime – and a vastly MORE statist regime than the old one. August 4th 1789 was a good day (a day of deregulation) – but it was only one day (the rest of the French Revolutionary period was just about the opposite of it).

    Have you read historians such as Doyle on this period?

    Do you know much about the vast number of scientifically planned (by thinking planners) murders – hundreds of thousands of killings. mostly in the Provinces.

    The detailed statism covering every aspect of life?

    A riot?

    The work of “the mob”?

    No David – not so.

    Mathematical statism – worthy of Sir William Petty (see his plans for Ireland – never enacted but very real).

    As for Cass Sustein.

    “I do not know who he is”.

    One of the leading statist intellectuals of our time – the author of “Nudge” and ex regulation Chief. Inspriation to statists around the word (including that foolish man David Cameron).

    Know your enemy.

    • Thanks for your reply, Paul.

      I have been having problems with access to the address that links me in here of late.

      Radical Joe has in common with Burke that he ought to have joined the Tories in the first place.

      Democracy is certainly a Tory error, as is the state.

      It is not the case that Price and Priestly were enthusiastic democrats. They were mainly keen on religious liberty,

      The Enlightenment was not anti-peasant in any way. It is not clear why you think that.

      Burke was against the freedom of the puritans, though he wanted it for the Catholics. He lead men like Priestley to expect him to aid getting more freedom but he finally gave up this effort for religious liberty as the liberty of the Catholics was not finally worth there price of freedom for the puritans too, for Burke the de facto Tory. It is clear enough that he would have joined the Tories had they been on their feet and that Burke was a epigone of Bolingbroke. It is also clear that the 1790 book was warmongering, as that Burke feared that Pitt was not warmongering enough.

      You say that I think I know a lot about the Bowood circle but in reality I do not. I have no idea why you think either. You do not say.

      So Hobbes was a statist. I guess I did know that.

      What do you feel I have so far said about daft Burke that is false? Again, you fail to say, Paul.

      You grant that I may know more of Price and Priestley; do you mean than yourself, Paul? Or what? .

      Yes, Priestley flattened Price in debate. Like you above, Paul, Price had little to say apart from repeating daft confused dogma that determinism had to deny choice. Priestley himself was a bit confused over choice too but he followed Hobbes in compatibilism as in theology. So he got it basically right.

      There might not be the complete determinism, of course, as QM suggests there might not but there is very clearly choice. So if there is determinism then compatibilism is the case.

      Price needed no excuses. Why do you think he did?

      Price did not give much consideration to the riots in France. Daft Burke assumed they were a revolution, as have most fools since. Priestley too did not give much consideration to the riots in France but he thought that the state must be in the wrong, somehow. He followed Locke on the idea that the state was there to serve rather than to rule. That meme is a mistake.

      There is no revolution just as there is no God. It was a riot and the mob was the menace.

      I am not impressed by your Romance that because the state set up was totalitarian that war was needed with France, for you back the warmonger, Burke, there I suppose, though I grant that you do not openly say so.

      Yes, I have read Doyle. He is thick in the head in my opinion. Historians usually are. I would sooner have the calculators and the economists.

      Catholicism is one bit of filth but history is another. I was brought up looking far too long at both those bits of filth back in the 1950s. Henry Ford summed up history quite well.

      I have no enemies, Paul. I am not a Romantic.

  44. It looks as if USA has been hit again, just heard on the DR three bombs
    gone off, don’t know much more at moment. Off we go again!

  45. It’s funny you mention Thomas Cromwell, he comes up a lot in history, I
    have a book my father bought me the life and death of Tomas Wolsey, although I have not had time to read and only flick through the pages, Cromwell does appear to make his influence known. What you say about
    the french revolution is true, but this was unavoidable due to the vast
    numbers of people invloved, printers, freemasons, revolutionaries, and
    displaced people, once these broken segments of society fused together change was a forgone conclusion, an expression for violent change.
    Dr price, mearly fused the situation, what materialised were ingredients
    that effectively already existed, such a thing could be described as destin the
    political ground for revolution at the time was fertile, this was the reason
    for it’s success.

  46. Karl I do not think that Dr Price really understood what the French Revolution is about – and, therefore, he should not be blamed for it.

    I believe that Richard Price (very ill and close to death as it was) though of the French Revolution as a revolt against a bad regime (and Edmund Burke agreed with his son’s estimate of the bad regime as a country where the state is “all in all” – at least under Louis XIV, but the time of Louis XVI what has been “odious tyranny” had become “imbecilic weakness” as a weak, but well meaning, man tried to operate in a political system designed for a ruthless tyrant).

    In reality the French Revolution (financed by the Duke of Orleans, the richest man in France, – but planned by many clever fiends) was not about protesting against state power, it was about setting up an new state. A state whose tyranny would make even the shade of Louis XIV back away in horror. Of course there always something of the show-off (perhaps even the play actor) about the”Sun King” – that vast palace he built for himself (Versallies) to the west of Paris, rather than the sensible looking fortress that his ancestors operated from (Vicennes). A serious man (a man who really was going to change the face of Europe) would not have built or operated from somewhere like Versallies – still that may be my own puritan streak making itself felt.

    As for the nobilty of France – they had made a pact with the Devil (well the state) long before. Imunity from some (not all) taxes – in return for giving up political power (the power to check the will of the King). Certainly there had been aristocratic revolts from time to time – but the 18th century that was something of the past, the French noblity had become pretty people. Even their swords look like toys – compare an English gentleman’s sword to a French one, in the late 18th century. The English gentleman’s sword is designed to kill people – some French swords were also. But the normal one worn by French nobles was little better han a toy.

    The ancestors of the French nobles were fighting men – but most of the French nobles in the 1780s were not (I have already mentioned how the “Sacred Blue” degenerated). They were the sort of people who would call “police!” if attacked. In London one might as well call for the help of Gandalf the Gray – as there were no real police.

    The vast majority of the victims of the French Revolution were ordianary folk – but ordinary folk look to the gentry and aristorcracy to lead them. And most French gentry and aristocracy by 1789 could not lead a p…. up in a brewery. I know that is unfair to a few brave individuals – but it is not to most of them.

    The ordinary folk looked for leadership and found no leadership or bad leadership – and they died, died in their hundred of thousands.

    Versallies had achieved one thing – the completion of the castration of the nobilty of France, There were no French “Country” Whigs (such as Marquis of Rockingham) or “Country” Tories either – just Court, Court, Court (useless, pathetic, weak).

    Thomas Cromwell – yes he would have loved J. Bentham’s 13 departments of state controlling every aspect of life.

    The old Church was corrupted by the use of FORCE (it had been since the time of Augustine).

    But Thomas Cromwell wanted to put something worse in the place of he old Church – the all mighty STATE.

    England was fortutate that the Howards were able to destroy him.

  47. Of course some people may argue what you say about the IRA being scum is a good point, however, I follow world politics and the republicans are the fastest growning party in Ireland, they appear to get world wide support judging by the comments on the web, they have made great political gain, of course with world wide press, people have realised the british government have breached the Good Friday agreement, they are still illegally holding suspects by th use of corruption and conducting a proxy was against republicans, Scum or not the IRA are not going away, at the moment they are stronger now than they ever were politically, making so much gain in politics manly thenks to the British government, I fare the likes of Smith and her cronies might be disapointed, but the government policy on republicans is having a reserve effect without doubt, it is easy to conclude by watching the republican political campign on the web, all sorts of people are joining and voting for them from all around the world, as people turn their backs on the other parties. of course paul it is the ballot box that makes government, and whoever is elected is elected, even if scum.

  48. Karl – S.F. were clever (or the other parties in the Republic were stupid and cowardly), they were the only party to really oppose the bank bailouts (which were really the bailing out of German creditors). Indeed they are the only party that really points out the contradiction between Irish Nationalism and being ruled by the European Union (rule by the E.U. is clearly NOT “independence”).

    They are socialists, they are murderers, they are utterly corrupt (with their fingers in every criminal enterprise) but they are not stupid – and they are not shy of stepping forward.

    As for Northern Ireland.

    The U.K. establishment (Civil Service, media, unprincipled politicians) do everything they can to HELP the buggers.

    They wink at their election fraud. they hand out vast sums of money to them, and on and on,……

    However, SF still has a key weakness in Ulster.

    Privately (secretly) a lot CATHOLICS hate them (for many reasons).- and are willing to risk their lives helping in operations against them.

    And the Ulster Dissenters…..

    They are what Americans call the “Scots Irish” (althouth the Scots were an Irish tribe – unlike the Picts). The unkind name for them is the “Rednecks”. The always despised people – who have always been first to step forward for every war the Res-Publica has faught (and who either come back with a bucket full of medals – or come back dead). From the American War of Indepedence to the wars of now – if you go to where the fighting is, that is where the Rednecks will be (even if they are posted to looking after the files – as soon as they smell the fight ….. off they go to it).

    They have their faults (many of them) – but they are always ready for a fight (indeed they are at their best when things are at their worst).

    They do not like taking orders (from anyone) but if you are in danger – they will risk their lives to save you.

    They are sort of “antiHobbes” – people who are the exact opposite of Thomas Hobbes.

    A strange folk the Rednecks – for example they do not respect wealh. Not for the comforts it brings (for which they appear to care nothing) and nor for the wisdom that rich people supposedly have – they pay no more heed to the words of billionaire than they do to the words of anyone else.

    And yet they do not envy the wealthy or plot to take their stuff – not even if they hit hard times (even starvation times).

    Of course their religion never “evolved” either – well it did, but not in the “normal” way.

    It did not develop into the “relgion-without-God” Social Gospel stuff (“religion” and going on and on about “the poor” and comming out with cod sociology and cod economics).

    The American Redneck (and some of the Ulster ones) remain old style Bible thumpers – with one twist.

    To get a wagon through the mountains that bar the way into the great American interior (via the “Cumberland Gap”) one must unload them of many heavy things (that have to be left behind).

    As the Rednecks used to explain “Predestination is very heavy – we had to leave it behind at the Cumberland Gap”.

  49. Mr Justin Fox. On Pinochet.

    Yes, I think you’re right, but they have made outstanding political gains recently, to these fatcs there is no doubt, of course what you say might be true I can’t say for sure, but at least the people are free, under the likes of Smith is no better probably worse, people rotting in some prison cell on account forged evidence, or you money being stolen without an right of legal address, and taking the piss at the same time. And then having to endure their corruption rituals of disposing of evidence and having to pay for the privilege, the mechanisim they call british justice. I think truth the Tory authorities are involved in as much crime as SF, firstly people have realised freedom is important no doubt they don’t care who runs the country if they are free, it’s p roven fact under the likes of Smith people will not be free, they will have no legal rights, I fail to see anything good about her perceptions of justice for any alleged republicans, at least living under them people feel they are free, something people will never be under the cronies. No doubt this could explain their success, I don’t know, but success it is no doubt.

  50. Of course paul if their success continues they will be overall government eventulally many observers predict this, people are sick of police corruption, when cases go through courts, and you get findings the police have forged and falsified evidence to your prejudice, it is not good for democracy, Today we have more promises from Thersa May, she plans a Bent Cop shake up, claiming the IPCC is not fit for purpose or providing justice to the british public, this is all talk paul nothing will be done, people will still be rotting in some cell because some bent anti-republican psycho cop has has stiched them, the IPCC will still be loosing evidence or deleting evidence in favour of their chums in the police, the bent lawyers will continue to destroy evidence and lose files, people like Thersa May are all talk, is’t sound bites paul, nothing more, they know there’s a problem, but they do nothing about, this is why it continues, this is why parties like SF are getting votes, they know they will do something about it. So what if Ronnie Biggs is priminister as long as you are free, this is all what counts, under the police people will never be free they will alway’s be prisoners to the acts of disgusting corruption and crime, the promises of Tory May, are hollow paul, people know this, that is why other parties are breaking so much ground, people are sick to death of bent police, lawyers, and judges paul, it is the only truth of in respect of their gain.

  51. Of course paul, just look at SF campaigns, they hit all the right notes, they are attracting the crem del la crem. Jornanlists, writers, photographers, mamagers, media campaigners, finacial experts, professionals things you need to take up government, they are doing things about the police, and justice for the people, whilst we stuck with a cancer of sociopathic corruption in all areas of public office where no one has rights, the Words of May are Hollow, we will alway’s witness those subjected to injustice, falling victim to the file in the basement culture, and then finding it’s way to the shredder, this is the only way it will be in britain under the police state. SF are doing things in these areas, this is why they have become such a success, this is why they are attracting people who can run government, the electorate wants action not hollow words or promises, they doing something about the corrupt, injustice, this is what the electorate wants this is why so many people are voting for them. from all walks of life and religions.

  52. Karl (and Justin) I wish I could argue with you – but it would only be over details. The fundemental truth is on your side

    Sein Fein are evil – bone cold evil, and utterly corrupt. But they have energy (an evil energy – but energy). And they are tough – and the London government (and so on) is not tough.

    And they face (in spite of the noble ceremony I am watching as I type these words) a corrupt and a WEAK WILLED state – and they smell the weakness of the state (of politicians and civil servants and…..).

    It is like the Weimar Republic – corrupt, but also weak.

    And given a true crises (and the economic crises has hardly started yet) the forces of darkness may well sweep to power.

    They know this.

  53. Hello David.

    There are a lot of errors in your reply – so I aplogise if I miss some of them.

    Edmund Burke (the Old Whig) and Radical Joe (a ultra Bowood Circle type person – although years after most of them had died) held radically opposed opinions – on just about everything.

    Confusing democracy with liberty was actually a (indeed THE) classic LIBERAL mistake – although only some liberals made it.

    Tories on the state – some were favourable to it, some hositle. Tolkien (to give a modern example of the type) could never make up his mind whether he was monarchist (as long as the monarch did not actually do anything – much like the Thrain of the Shire) or an anarchist (of the pro private property type). So “Tory Anarchist” might fit this sort of person.

    Price and Priestly DID support the French Revolution – although (in practice) that is not really being a democrat (as the various Revolutionary regimes were NOT really democrat – they were disguised dicatorships).

    “Religious liberty” – surely that should include religious liberty for the MAJORITY of the population? Who, in the case of France, were Roman Catholics (the French Revolution was radically hostile to their religious liberty).

    Oh I forgot – the Catholic Chuch (by the way I am NOT one) is just “a bit of filth” so the freedom of Catholics does not matter?

    As for the Protestant minority – their freedom of worship had already been accepted by Louis XVI before the Revolution.

    The French Revolution (and the “Enlightened Ones” generally) not hostile to the conservative peasants?

    Pull the other one David it has got bells on.

    The “enlightened” elite HATED these people – in France they slaughtened them by the TENS OF THOUSANDS.

    And it was not just in France – the Illumanti of Bavaria (and on and on) also detested the peasants (nasty conservative religious types that peasants tend to be).

    “Determinism does not deny real choice” – YES IT DOES DAVID, that is why it is called “determinism”.

    You might as well say “I belive in predestination but people still have a choice over whether or not they choose to accept Jesus”.

    If it is PREDESTINED whether or not they will believe they do NOT have a real choice (in fact they do not even EXIST – not as agents, as reasoning as a reasoning “I”).

    Richard Price was enough of a thinking man as to grasp that. Pity he did not apply his mind to the REAL French Revolution (what was ACTUALLY happening, not what he WISHED was happening).

    Edmund Burke against the freedom of Puritan Protestants?

    That is FALSE David.

    Edmund Burke did indeed oppose the Puritan desire to impose things (such as regulations on drink or drugs) on other people – but he SUPPORTED their right to live their own lives their own way.

    Your abuse of the historian Doyle is duely noted.

    Theis may be becasue Doyle is interested in what ACTUALLY HAPPENED in Revolutionary France (in the savage dictatorships the radical INCREASE in the size of the state, the murder of vast numbers of people in the Provinces and so on) and you do not appear to be so interested.

    “There was no Revolution – it was just a riot”.

    Now you are just being silly David.

    There was Revolution – and it was not “the mob” that was the real problem

    It was the Revolutionary Regime (in fact several factions – leading to several regimes).

    France was covered in WELL PLANNED horror for year after year, leading to massive collecitvism, and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

    “I have no enemies”.

    Good for you David!

    • Thanks for your reply, Paul.

      You feel I err a lot. Good. Spell the errors out then.

      Like Popper, I expect to learn from errors. I do try to dodge them, of course. They do need to be eliminated but never to be denied once they have been made.

      Burke was really an old Tory.

      Radical Joe was also a Tory.

      Both were fond of the British Empire.

      As a true Romantic, you talk in terms of personal types, Paul. From a logical point of view, personality hardly matters. Memes are impersonal. But Dawkins errs that anyone can be irrational, as Ray Percival explains well in his book The Myth of the Closed Mind (2012).

      Some have called themselves Tory anarchists.

      Yes, Price and Priestley did support the 1789 mob in France, as they thought they must be right. That was as they both were biased. They did not go into it very much.

      There was no French Revolution; or any other revolution in the crass Romantic sense. 1688 was a return to the status quo ante, as Burke rightly said as a preface to his silly Romantic claptrap. As I think I said earlier, to go to a new domain, or make a fresh beginning, we might better call going off on a tangent that completing the revolution. But in any case, it is not realistic. There are n9o new beginnings.

      Democracy is dictatorship. Do you not even know that, Paul?

      Burke opposed pure democracy. He rightly saw it as totalitarian. He put up the idea of a measure of it that we now call “representative democracy” and that calls for different political parties, but note that delegative democracy requires only one political party. A true democrat would see the rotten boughs as a fault, but Burke never did. He took the pay of those who later began the USA but Dr Johnson thought that Burke was dishonest there, as on Burke’s account, he already represented them as well as those anywhere in England, for nothing.

      Yes, I said that Catholicism and history were filth last time. I also said Henry Ford was right in saying that history was bunk. You feel it follows that this means I am against liberty for Catholics! Do you think I am against liberty for historians too? Anyway, my opinion of the Catholic creed clearly has no implications for the liberty of Catholics. It is just a legacy of my childhood upbringing. But it explains why the de facto Catholic, Burke, tends to slightly irritate me. The Tory position is a Catholic one, of course. It also explains why I find the puritans relatively refreshing but the Christian creed is silly however we look at it.

      Burke opposed complete religious liberty. Do you want to deny that plain fact again, Paul?

      Why you want to see me as an opponent of liberty, religious or otherwise you do not make clear. A lack of drama in our exchange, I suppose.

      Yes, enlightenment thinkers had no opposition to the peasants, qua the enlightenment, why should they have?

      Why should thinkers hate peasants?

      Which enlightenment philosophe ever killed any peasant?

      Rousseau was, like Burke, an anti-philosophe. But not even he killed any peasants.

      Determinism is just a set of ideas, Paul. I fear you have no philosophical ability whatsoever. Keep re-reading our exchange above till you find a proper reply to it. Repeating your silly dogma is fine once or twice but I have repeatedly replied to it above already.

      Yes, predestination is on par with complete determinism.

      There never was a Jesus, of course. Like father, like son, both did not exist. Not existing runs in the Holy family.

      Nor is that fact remote or hard to see. It is very clear that the creed is tosh.

      Priestley flattened Price, as I said last time. I flattened you above, Paul. Re-read above and see.

      No, it is not false that Burke opposed religious liberty, Paul. Why don’t you read his 1790 book?

      You are, of course, free to say whatever you like. Tolerance is a liberal virtue so I am always willing to tolerate free speech but what you say remains false, nevertheless.

      Doyle gets on my nerves. Do you want a Politically Correct law against that? He may be keen on what went on but he writes Romantic bosh, as does Burke.

      Yes, I am not very interested in what the Romantics did in the riot, or after it, in France [though I have read a few books on it in the past, including one by Doyle]. It did not make the war liberal in some way or Burke any less of a silly warmonger, did it?

      I do not think that calling a riot a riot is silly.

      A riot may lead to a fiat currency. It did in the wake of 1789 in France. Ditto it can lead to nationalisation.

      Yes, the riot did not do what was done in reaction to it, just as no riot did not do what was done in reaction elsewhere. But a riot is still a riot, all the same.

  54. A “mob” or a “riot” – does not create a FIAT CURRENCY and spread it over France.

    It does not nationalise property (not “just” Church property – but a lot of other property also, including what factores there were in France).

    It does not ORGANISE activity (year-after-year) in a country the size of France.

  55. I should correct a mahor error of my own. David did not say the enlighented ones – he said the “enlightenment”.

    Now the French Revolution (which was not a “riot” David) was dominated by people influenced by Rousseau – Rousseau had many ideas in common with people who regarded themselves as enlighented ones (the desire to rule as the “Lawgiver”, a pretense of supporting freedom whilst actually DESPISING the “will of all” and so on) but he was not really an “enlightenment” figure”.

    When a British person (such as David) refers to the Enlightenment he (and, normally, ME also) means people like Adam Smith (or the rest of the Scottish Enlightement) or (if we think of the rest of Europe at all) we mean people such as Montesquieu and other thinkers who supported limited government and the the restoration of traditional insitutions to limit the monarchy (Monesquieu and Edmund Burke would have had a lot in common in this respect – although not in others).

    What was not normally thinking of when we talk of the “enlightenment” is what the major French Revolutionaries were about – i.e. total and absolute power in order to create a new society.

    This has more in common with the sort of thinking that goes all the way back to Plato (although Francis Bacon “The New Atlantis” would be a better fit).

    Sometimes the picture is mixed.

    For example, Thomas Paine was a critic of government when it was a monarchy – yet when it was not a monarchy he changed his tune.

    On such specific things as FIAT CURRENCY – and on power generally.

    Paine (although NOT all of the people whom a later age was to call “liberals”) was making the mistake of thinking that a certain FORM of government was “freedom” – not restrictiuons on government power (the upholding of property rights being freedom);

    Radical Joe Chamberlain was very clear on the point (it is the basis of radical liberalism – although other liberals would argue that it is NOT LIBERALISM AT ALL) what was bad for a monarchy to do was a thing for an elected (really an “enlighented” government – i.e. with people like him and his Fabian friends in charge) to do.

    This is why we get those wonderful limited government statements from Thomas Paine (still quoted by Americans who do not know Paine well) – and then STATIST policy proposals.

    Once there was a different FORM of government – it.was O.K (to Paine or…..) for the government to do MORE than it had ever done before.

    And, remember, that compared to many of the French Revolutionaries Thomas Paine was a hopeless moderate (which he was – compared to the sort of blood soaked PLANNED AND ORGANISED statism that they represented).

  56. As for David’s false statements (such as that Edmund Burke was against religious liberty, or that the “Reflections” is some sort of arguement for tyranny) I will not waste my time on such sillyness.

    • Thanks for your reply, Paul.

      Burke set out to reject the enlightenment outlook and to push silly Romance. I set out to reject the silly Romance but to push the Enlightenment.

      The Enlightenment never thought much of tradition or of religion. But it was usually tolerant of religion. Thus Hume had the religious Boswell visit him. He did not reject him owing to him being religious.

      Isaac Newton is the Icon of the Enlightenment, but he was a Unitarian, like Locke, Hobbes and Priestley.

      Burke and Hayek prefer tradition to reason. Hayek feared that reason tended to socialism, despite realising there was no socialism; or at least saying that. Mises too said that but still thought it an option too. Only Michael Polanyi writes as if it is not an option at all prior to 1950 but since the late 1970s, my friend David Ramsay Steele has done also. See From Marx To Mises (1992).

      I think you are somewhat confused Paul. Your talk of God looks most unrealistic to me. You seem to misread what I said above. I did say that Burke was against full religious liberty for the puritans. He says so repeatedly. He would like it for Catholics but not for critics like Priestley. Now make no mistake, Burke was not fit to clean Priestley’s shoes. Burke was a comparatively inferior jackass. I hold him in some contempt.

      However, I never said he was a tyrant. I did say he was a warmonger. I did say the 1790 book was a warmongering book. I did say that he was disappointed in Pitt was not wanting the war to go on. Are those words hard for you to comprehend, Paul? They seem clear and plain to me.

      I do not want to do Burke, or any man, an injustice.

      Rousseau hated the Enlightenment, as did Burke. Both preferred Romance. William Blake and other poets, like Byron, had the same Romantic outlook. Blake hated Newton.

      There is no new society.

      Yes, Tom Paine went from pristine liberalism to welfare state neo-liberalism in one book! Part 2 of The Rights of Man was for a welfare state.

      Radical Joe rightly joined the Tories, well, more or less. But he left a Paine part 2 Liberal Party behind him in the 1880s. Part 2 is very different from part 1. They are both called liberalism but part two was what the likes of Hobson pushed as against Herbert Spencer that pushes part 1. Both men were from Derby.

      The LA opposes part 2 but it advocates part 1.

  57. Man deserves his own enlightenment. remember! You are the centre of your own universe go-within. You are the truth and wisdom-remember who you are. Do not allow your soul to become prisoner to false proclaimant of anothers enlightenment, for forever you lose your very soul.

  58. David – if by “enlightenment” you mean what I think you mean then you are mistaken – Edmund Burke did not reject it. Which is why he carried on with both his Indian and his Irish campaigns to the end of his days – he believed there were universal standards of right and wrong, and rejected “geographical morality” as much as he (in history writing) rejected historical morality. Indeed his real attack on the French Revolutionaries and their regime was that they violatd the universal standards – the statist regime they set up robbed and murdered (on a vast and ORGANISED scale) and that they wished to spread their system of tyranny (in the name of “freedom”) to all other countries on Earth.

    And their claims to stand for “freedom” was a vast lie. They did not stand for civil freedom (it being the 1700s Burke was still able to use the words “social freedom”) they just stood for he “freedom” to be a tyranny.

    How far should one go in defending civil society from its enemies (people in real life do have “enemies” David)?

    Can one go too far? Undermining the freedom one wishes to defend?

    People from John Adams to Joe McCarthy have been accused of that (and perhaps rightly accused) – but that does not mean that the enemies of civil society they were opposing did not exist.

    “Be careful of spending too long looking into the void – for it will start looking back into you”.

    However, if you mean the “enlightened ones” (the tradition of Plato and so on of an “enlightened” elite telling everyone how to live for “their own good”) they you are CORRECT. Burke opposed them all his adult life. There must be clear distinction made between the enlightened ones and the enlightenment (Adam Smith and J. Tucker and Rosseau and the Abbe de Mably do NOT belong together).

    Roger Bacon was argueing for the rediscovery of old wisdom (by learning Greek and Hebrew and seeking lost texts) and trying to invent NEW things (aircraft, submarines – whatever) as far back as the Middle Ages – that does not mean that Roger Bacon was like Francis Bacon (of “The New Atlantis” – with his Cass Sunstein like dream of intellectuals ordering people for “their own good”).

    Roger Bacon could be described as an example of the “enlightenment” (although born much to early). Whereas Francis Bacon is more an example of the “enlightened ones”.

    “But Francis Bacon was a monarchist”.

    The idea of the “enlighented Prince” was a type of this sort of thinking – Rousseau style thinking was another form.

    Plato himself sometimes favoured an enlightened ruler – and, at other times. favoured the intellectuals openly ruling themselves (although with the phony mask of consent – about as real as the “elections” of the French Revolutionary period).

    As for tradition – Burke (like the sensible figures of both the Scottish and other areas of the enlightenment) valued it highly (the person who thinks he can invent everything from his own head, ignoring all the trail-and-error of pervious generations and what they have producved is not a “wise man”, they are an idiot – but then Montequieu had a silmilar position, one tries to improve things [to change them] one does not try and start all over again with all of human society preplanned on a bit of previously blank paper, – the “enlightened” LEFT THEM they did not “leave the enlightenment”) , but not in the same way as Hayek.

    Like Cicero (and Aristotle) Burke never denied that the individual human mind exists (not “we should act AS IF it exists” but really exists). This makes him very different from Hayek (or from David Hume). The “I” exists – and we have moral responsiblity for our choice of good or evil. A human being is foolish (not wise) if he or she tries to start again from a blank sheet of paper (in relation to society), but the human BEING does exist and can work to improve things (change them).

    This leads us to the soul.

    Edmund Burke believed in the soul in a Christian sense.

    This is the real reason you dislike him David – not because “he opposed religious freedom” (which is nonsense – although he did attack the INGRATITUDE of those who had their religous freedom accepted and then worked to MURDER the very person, Louis XVI [that weak but well meaning man] who had accepted their relgious freedom – although Burke was guilty of assuming that everyone could see where the Revolution would go as clearly as he could, Burke often wrote [and spoke] as if the crimes he was PREDICTING had already happened – for example the mass slaughter in the Provinces) – you dislike Burke because he was a Christian. Fair enough.

    But then Burke was unfair himself – denouncing people (as early as 1790) for supporting the French Revolution, in spite of mass crimes that HAD NOT HAPPENED YET (as well as things that had already happened such as the crushing of religous freedom for most people, and the introduction of fiat currency, and ….).

    Burke, with his knowledge of the Rousseau influenced intellectuals, could predict what was going to happen – but then he fell into the classic trap of ASSUMING HIS OPPONENTS knew what was going to happen. And if they denied it – then they were lying, and “in on the job” – to use the language of the crime movies

    However, one does not have to be a Christian to speak of “the soul”.

    Following Aristotle, Ayn Rand (whom you also dislike – although Rand was an atheist) talks of “the soul”.

    One can fully accept that the soul dies with the body – but still hold that humans are BEINGS (agents – with moral choice, and thus moral importance).

    In the great philosiphical conflict between “agency and necessity” being an atheist does NOT mean that one must reject the idea that humans are BEINGS (agents) who have moral choice and,moral importance. Being an atheist does NOT mean that humans are flesh-robots whose every action is predetermined by a series of causes-and-effects going back the Big Bank (with no real choices).

    “Paul if Rand means the mind she should have said the mind – not the soul. Ditto Aristotle”.

    Well, fair enough.

    • Thanks for your reply, Paul.

      I fear Edmund Burke was how he was not how you want him to be.

      He plainly did reject the enlightenment, as I think Hayek did too, largely owing to following Burke.

      Burke was a warmonger. Do you see a need for war, Paul?

      I think we all tacitly accept there are universal standards of right and wrong; even those who attempt to make out a case for the confusion that is relative morals.

      Burke’s work for the empire in America, India and Ireland seems to me to be all of a piece but I do note that others overlook that it is for the empire. They imagine that Burke changed over the French riots, but I do not.

      People in real life, maybe, do have enemies, Paul, but liberalism is for one and all so it is not utterly against any group. I might have many who hate me but I hate no one, nor do I feel that I have any enemies. So that is why I said as I did say on that topic.

      It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war but I fear that the adage errs, as liberty usually is lost under martial law. Thus a freedom fighter usually fights against freedom rather than fighting for freedom. Social liberty [I do use that term today] needs to respect the liberty of all but crass war will never do that. Martial law will end liberty.

      Plato is certainly an author in the philosophical tradition that made for enlightenment. Burke abhorred metaphysics. He thought that was clever. I see exactly no merit in his demented statements on metaphysics.

      You want to make distinctions that are silly to defend someone who was also a bit silly, Paul.

      You have a case against Francis Bacon, do you?

      One needs to think if he is to follow any tradition but most do not bother to check how loyal they are to it, they are largely indifferent to tradition. That we can adapt to tradition mindlessly is not one whit realistic. So we are almost bound to change it as we adopt it, or attempt to adopt it. Language is a good example of that, as fresh people change the language in their attempt to adopt it thus any used language is often called a living language, as it tends to evolve in usage.

      There is no soul.

      Christianity is unmitigated falseness. There is no truth in it, is there?

      No, the fact that he was a backward Christian is not the reason that I think Burke is aptly named. Anyway, I do not dislike him, by the bye but a few of the things he says in his books look silly to me. My chief objection to him is that he was a warmonger. I object to his warmongering deeds not to his thoughts.

      Burke certainly opposed religious freedom. You write as if you never read his 1790 book that repeats his statements that he wants no more religious liberty. He does not like criticism, especially from the Puritans.

      It is simply silly to keep denying the fact that Burke opposed religious liberty, Paul. But you remain free to say any falsehood that you are fond of saying.

      It was the religious freedom of the likes of Price and Priestley, both way superior to Burke as thinkers, that he opposed.

      I do not dislike any Christians. The idea of disliking someone because of his or her creed hardly looks sensible to me. In any case, it is not something that I have ever done [as far as I can recall]. With the necessary revision needs to put it into secular language, I would tend to go along with Saint Augustine in disliking the sin but never the sinner. My mother remained a Catholic till she died. I never disliked her one iota because of that.

      This criticism of Burke, that he jumped the gun, is the first bit of criticism I have seen of him from you, Paul. However, I do not think denouncing people is all that bad but breaking off with Fox was silly Romance. Denounce, by all means, but then listen to the retort.

      Yes, Price and Priestley erred badly on France and Burke got it brilliantly right; apart from recommending war as a cure. To preserve liberty we need to talk not fight. Liberty requires the non-coercive defence by the use of reason. You are quite right to think that we risk joining the enemies of liberty if ever we take up illiberal means to defend it. We need to beat the opponents of liberty, not to join them.

      I certainly feel some contempt for Ayn Rand. She writes as if she was stupid. She ought to have been honest enough to say it was Nietzsche that she followed rather than Aristotle but then she was facing a public not so tolerant of Nietzsche, another author I feel some contempt for. Nietzsche over -estimates himself, just as his jennyass epigone does. That is my chief objection to them both. But he choice of Aristotle to obfuscate her Nietzschean roots does show some merit in Ayn Rand.

      The later Plato and Aristotle rejected the soul but then Aristotle used it to mean only life. The Christian meme is the one they both rejected. Augustine adopted it, as did many of his forerunners, like Origin.

      I see no need to add anything to what is said by me above on determinism and choice. You seem to still need to read it, Paul.

  59. I have read what you have to say here David. Some of it I agree with – some I do not agree with.

    But I am not in the mood to continue the conversation – not your fault (and, I hope, not mine), but I have other things on my mind.

  60. Fair enough, Paul.

    Odd that you overlooked that Burke opposed religious liberty. You seem to be quite keen on him.

  61. Edmund Burke firmly supported religious liberty. Religious liberty does not include armed revolt – or any “right” to government jobs. Or any “right” to impose religous policies (such as Puritan ones) on people who do not wish to live that way.

    As for “warmonger” – Burke spent most of his life opposing various wars (Pitt the Elder’s wars for trade, Warren Hastings and Paul Benfields wars in India, the war on the Americans, the Prussian attack on Poland… and on and on), The threat of “Armed Doctrines” is where you and Burke would (I think) differ With Burke holding that if a doctrine claims universal application (not just application to one country – but to all countries) and takes control of the armed forces of a major nation (such as France) then it is a clear and present danger that has to be responded to.

    Someone like the (mid 18th century) Abbe de Mably, who had no army, could be ignored. And armed forces that had no hostile intent also warrented no response. Only the combination of hostile intent and military capacity was a real problem.

    Interestingly one of the counter arguments Burke had to deal with was what about Islam, after all this was a doctrine that claimed universal application and controlled armed forces – for example those of Morocco. Burk’;s reply contained three elements.

    That France was a vastly morte powerful nation than Morocco.

    That France was geographically close – whereas Morocco was far away.

    And that the Revolutionary Regime in France could count on a network of traitors in Britain – whereas Morocco could not.

    This meant that Revolutionary France was a clear and present danger – and Morocco was not.

    • Thanks for your reply, Paul.

      It is false that Burke wanted religious liberty for the likes of Price and Priestley and he openly says so in the Reflections and in later books too. You seem to have simply not noticed that fact.

      The 1790 book was out to make war. He eulogised the war when it emerged and he openly feared that Pitt might pull out of it. You, repeatedly above, overlooked that fact too.

      Yes, I would say there was exactly no clear and present danger to England in the post riot France after 1789. As Tom Paine saw on leaving England for France, the mob in England was for Church and King. Burke himself saw that fact way earlier in the Gordon Riots in London. So he knew the actual facts. He was a bit like Blair on the WMD.

  62. “It is false that Burke wanted religious liberty for the likes of Price and Priestly”. No it is not.

    You may have a different definition of “religious liberty” to other people David – but I am interested only in the normal definition of religious liberty.

    As for your comments about the French Revolution.

    You persist in describing a regime that murdered hundreds of thousands of its own people (and wished to impose its political system on the entire world – by force) as a “riot”.

    David I have nosehairs that know more about the French Revolution than you do.

    Athough, I admit, I do have a lot of nose hairs these days.

  63. Pingback: Director’s Bulletin, 26th May 2013 | The Libertarian Alliance: BLOG

  64. Pingback: An Update from the Libertarian Alliance « Attack the System