motto lotto

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

a fiction author's first encounter with Nietzsche

I stumbled upon this fiction author reading 60 of Penguin's Great Ideas series in 60 days. His post today is on Nietzsche's Why I am so Wise. I hate to think of this as a first encounter with Nietzsche. Birth of Tragedy or Untimely Meditations, The Portable Nietzsche (minus Zarathustra) are probably better places to start.
As I continued on into “Why I am So Clever,” “Why I Write Such Good Books,” and “Why I am a Destiny,” though, my ability to fight off feelings of ennui at the author’s approach began to fade. You have to do a lot of work to get to those nuggets, those secret pockets of substance. You have to wade through a lot of self-detail that began to take on a quality similar to encountering someone at a cocktail party who responds to direct statements with long, convoluted anecdotes about their childhood. It’s possible the details are what’s important, that Nietzsche is setting out parables like some kind of five-dimensional Aesop, but the thought occurred to me that perhaps he was just a raving lunatic who had managed by simple force of will to impress his “brilliance” upon the ages. Or that in this instance Penguin had failed in their selection–that there was some essential other text I required to make this verbiage less spittle-tinged. (I fully expect enlightenment upon reading the comments on this post.)

Jeff VanderMeer Reads Nietzsche

How to win an argument with Richard Dawkins

"A great man once said it is a tragedy when scientists turn theologians in their old age. Oh wait, that was you. Get back to work!"

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This is awesome

My latest attempt at not working is This one is particularly awesome. When you mouse over it on the webpage it says "They're both Tyler Durden."

Mike says I should say something about myself. I'm Chris. I met Mike at a "How to be a cult leader" convention he was hosting on a yacht on Lake Titicaca. Turns out it was a trap to get people into his "become a cult leader" cult. Lesson learned: don't drink the Kool-Aid. Pyrimid scams are a bitch. That about says it all.

soda should be the new sin tax?

Shaun Miller pointed out this video of Dr. Richard Daines, the New York state commissioner of health. I don't much care for sin taxes but perhaps soda could be seen more obviously as neosin given the obesity problem.

Disclaimer: I love beer, especially homebrew which is probably more healthy (in moderation).

Monday, December 22, 2008

not guilty

The case that I blogged about a while ago finally went to a jury trial today. Luckily (?) our Armenian friend lost her job so the court did end up appointing an attorney. More importantly, the court appointed attorney did a great job. Sarah was nervous but she did really well. Only one of the witnesses for the prosecution showed up. Chalk one up for the justice system.

Good to note the positive examples, especially when you hear some of the worst negative examples.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

fighting monsters

A cliché Nietzsche quote but this one seemed apt today.

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."

BGE #146 Kaufmann

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jorge Luis Borges on poetry, argument

Had the poet said so in so many words, he would have been far less effective. Because, as I understand it, anything suggested is far more effective than anything laid down. Perhaps the human mind has the tendency to deny a statement. Remember what Emerson said: arguments convince nobody. They convince nobody because they are presented as arguments. Then we look at them, we weigh them, we turn them over, and we decide against them.

But when something is merely said or--better still--hinted at, there is a kind of hospitality in our imagination. We are ready to accept it. I remember reading, some thirty years ago, the works of Martin Buber--I thought of them as being wonderful poems. Then, when I went to Buenos Aires, I read a book by a friend of mine, Dujovne, and I found in its pages, much to my astonishment, that Martin Buber was a philosopher and that all his philosophy lay in the books I had read as poetry. Perhaps I had accepted those books because they came to me through poetry, through suggestion, through the music of poetry, and not as arguments. I think that somewhere in Walt Whitman the same idea can be found: the idea of reasons being unconvincing. I think he says somewhere that he finds the night air, the large few stars, far more convincing than mere arguments.

This Craft of Verse p.31-32 - Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wittgensteinian foundationalism?

Bringing the views of Grayling, Moyal-Sharrock and Stroll together, I argue that in On Certainty, Wittgenstein explores the possibility of a new kind of foundationalism. Distinguishing propositional language-games from non-propositional, actional certainty, Wittgenstein investigates a foundationalism sui generis. Although he does not forthrightly state, defend, or endorse what I am characterizing as a "new kind of foundationalism," we must bear in mind that On Certainty was a collection of first draft notes written at the end of Wittgenstein's life. The work was unprogrammatic, sometimes cryptic. Yet, his exploration into areas of knowledge, certitude and doubt suggest an identifiable direction to his thoughts.

Recognizing Targets: Wittgenstein's Exploration of a New Kind of Foundationalism in On Certainty - Robert Greenleaf Brice (via Methods of Projection)
This sounds interesting, too bad I don't have access.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I'm really not sure what to say about this except maybe, "Is Laura Bush now participating in the war on Christmas?". She did say "happy holiday" instead of Merry Christmas there at the end. ;)

via Andrew Sullivan

Reading, 2009

books - Source: wikimedia commons
I thought I read a lot of books this year until I read Robert Archambeau's list. Better than what I read this past year (which you probably already know too much about if you read this blog) is what I want to read next year. If you are reading any of these as well that may guide my reading.
  • The Catcher in the Rye - Salinger
  • Breakfast of Champions - Vonnegut
  • Anathem - Neil Stephenson (I'm still in the first hundred pages.)
  • Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce (started but failed to finish both of these in 2008)
  • more by Camus, probably at least The Fall and The Stranger
  • Demons and The Idiot by Dostoevsky (Camus inspired me to re-read these, still trying to get a handle on those crazy Russians)
  • Nietzsche - Karl Jaspers (Still in the first hundred pages of this as well.)
  • I and Thou - Martin Buber
  • Cycles of Conquest - Spicer
  • Huenemann's book on rationalism
  • The Golden Sayings of Epictetus
  • The Federalist Papers
  • correspondence between Adams and Jefferson
  • lots of poetry - I'm open to suggestions.
  • more essays by Orwell, Montaigne and Emerson
  • something by
    • Max Stirner
    • Stendhal
    • David Foster Wallace
    • Epicurus
    • Rousseau
    • Jung
    • Jorge Luis Borges

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Whitman on wisdom

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.

Here a great personal deed has room,
(Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law and mocks all
authority and all argument against it.)

Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be pass'd from one having it to another not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the
excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes
it out of the soul.

Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the
spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing currents.

Here is realization,
Here is a man tallied--he realizes here what he has in him,
The past, the future, majesty, love--if they are vacant of you, you
are vacant of them.

Walt Whitman Song of the Open Road

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ashtekar's alternative to the big bang

Instead of a universe that emerged from a point of infinite density, we will have one that recycles, possibly through an eternal series of expansions and contractions, with no beginning and no end.

Did our cosmos exist before the big bang? ( 12/10/2008)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the way you think about Thomas Jefferson

If the story of the Sally Hemings liaison be true, as I believe it is, it represents not scandalous debauchery with an innocent slave victim, as the Federalists and later the abolitionists insisted, but rather a serious passion that brought Jefferson and the slave woman much private happiness over a period lasting thirty-eight years. It also brought suffering, shame, and even political paralysis in regard to Jefferson's agitation for emancipation.

Eric McKitrick has written perceptively that "the values of Thomas Jefferson's career are basic to the entire system of American culture," and "the way you think about Thomas Jefferson largely determines how you will think about any number of other things." But the way one thinks about Thomas Jefferson is conditioned as much by what others have written about him as by the inner needs of the reader in search of a hero. It makes some difference to the hero-seeker whether, on the one hand, he is convinced by the so-called historical record that Jefferson was indeed a brooding celibate Irish clergyman "holding down the lid in the parish"--in Carl Becker's words, "a man whose ardors were cool, giving forth light without heat" -- or whether, on the other hand, he considers him a casual debaucher of many slave women, as some blacks today believe. There remains, however, a third alternative: that he was a man richly endowed with warmth and passion but trapped in a society which savagely punished miscegenation, a man, moreover, whose psychic fate it was to fall in love with the forbidden woman. The fault, it can be held, lay not in Jefferson but in the society which condemned him to secrecy.

Once one accepts the premise that a man's inner life has a continuing impact upon his public life, then the whole unfolding tapestry of Jefferson's life is remarkably illuminated. His ambivalences seem less baffling; the heroic image remains untarnished and his genius undiminished.

From Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History by Fawn Brodie p.17-18

awesome flash drive

via Schneier

I imagine Sarah would accidentally throw it away.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Camus on Hegel(ian themes)

Hegel portrait - Source: wikimediaMore from The Rebel

Animals, according to Hegel, have an immediate knowledge of the exterior world, a perception of the self, but not the knowledge of self, which distinguishes man. The latter is only really born at the moment when he becomes aware of himself as a rational being. Therefore his essential characteristic is self-consciousness. Consciousness of self, to be affirmed, must distinguish itself from what it is not. Man is a creature who, to affirm his existence and his difference, denies. (p. 138)

It is others who beget us. Only in association do we receive a human value, as distinct from an animal value. (p. 138)

Then how can one live, how endure life when friendship is reserved for the end of time? The only escape is to create order with the use of weapons. “Kill or enslave!” – those who have read Hegel with this single and terrible purpose have really considered only the first part of the dilemma. From it they have derived a philosophy of scorn and despair and have deemed themselves slaves and nothing but slaves, bound by death to the absolute Master and by the whip to their terrestrial masters. This philosophy of the guilty conscience has merely taught them that every slave is enslaved only by his own consent, and can be liberated only by an act of protest which coincides with death.
A nihilist for Hegel was only a sceptic who had no other escape but contradiction or philosophic suicide. But he himself gave birth to another type of nihilist, who, making boredom into a principle of action, identified suicide with philosophic murder. [*footnote* This form of nihilism, despite appearances, is still nihilism in the Nietzschean sense, to the extent that it is a calumny of the present life to the advantage of a historical future in which one tries to believe.]
Another sort of follower, who read Hegel more seriously, chose the second term of the dilemma and made the pronouncement that the slave could only free himself by enslaving in his turn. Post-Hegelian doctrines, unmindful of the mystic aspect of certain of the master’s tendencies, have led his followers to absolute atheism and to scientific materialism. But this evolution is inconceivable without the absolute disappearance of every principle of transcendent explanation, and without the complete destruction of the Jacobin ideal. Immanence, of course, is not atheism. But immanence in the process of development is, if one can say so, provisional atheism. [*footnote* In any event, the criticism of Kierkegaard is valid. To base divinity on history is, paradoxically, to base an absolute value on approximate knowledge. Something “eternally historic” is a contradiction in terms.]
“Individuality has replaced faith, reason the Bible, politics religion and the Church, the earth heaven, work prayer, poverty hell, and man Christ.” [Feuerbach]
We must know Feuerbach’s final conclusion in this Theogony to perceive the profoundly nihilist derivation of his inflamed imagination. In effect, Feuerbach affirms, in the face of Hegel, that man is only what he eats, and thus recapitulates his ideas and predicts the future in the following phrase: “The true philosophy is the negation of philosophy. No religion is my religion. No philosophy is my philosophy.” (p. 144-146)

Hunter S. Thompson

"We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear—fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random terrorism, fear of getting down-sized or fired because of the plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges of being a Terrorist sympathizer."

Extreme Behavior in Aspen - February 3, 2003 (source)
Struck me as being Jack Handey-esque.

on being wrong

How many people can admit that they don't know?

I am a 'Cosmic Schmuck' (see: Robert Anton Wilson). I'm not always right and I am sometimes in error. I even find it difficult to discern when I am and when I'm not.

Are You a Cosmic Schmuck?

To reassess the terrain by acknowledging that interpretations change, that opinions differ and that sometimes we are wrong doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t have an opinion. In fact, it could be said that its impossible not to take a stance since taking the option of not deciding is itself a position and it clearly isn’t always the best one. Yet given this, acknowledging that your opinion is just an opinion means hopefully that one endeavours to make an informed decision. It also means that judgements are not made for the sake of judging but for the sake of understanding.

“My own opinion is that belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence.”

Robert Anton Wilson

(via a virtual primate)
Yes, I also am a cosmic schmuck.

Monday, December 8, 2008

bits of rubbish


I was voted "most conscientious" in high school.


The more fully we understand our historical context, the more capable we are of unearthing our major prejudices. We don't thereby gain so much power over these prejudices; at best we gain the ability to comprehend our resonant frequencies in relation to them and tune ourselves accordingly.

To change our prejudices more substantially than that takes a more substantial force (trajectory, the moment of crossing the Rubicon, no turning back, external reinforcers generally) and has a more substantial cost: time and the exclusion of other choices because of the limitations of time and the fact that you can only be formed in some ways at certain times in life.


Q: What do I call a person who needs the carrot on the stick called heaven/hell or some sort of divine command in order to behave morally and know what morality is?

A: an immoral person acting like a moral one

Which is certainly preferable to an immoral person acting like an immoral one.

I use the term "moral" in this way because the answer to the question "whose morality?" is ours. Meaning the culture in which our moral identity has been cultivated. The shape of this formative culture is increasingly varied and variable because of our increased use of technology to communicate across societies and cultures. Isolating your moral identity to your religious belief system or something else ideologically singular leaves you limited, blinded and dishonest. Refusal to take religious identity into account would also be a mistake.

"Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious? Or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?"

The Euthyphro [text | wikipedia]


Culture and language define the character of our consciousness.

Our consciousness is the ground from which everything else grows. It defines the parameters of everything else. It's analogous to the box in the expression "thinking outside the box" but it's the box that's impossible to think outside of. Not that it can't be shifted and changed but it can't be changed via thought experiments or propositional assent. Or at least I can't easily see how that'd be possible.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Camus on Nietzsche

From The Rebel

Surgeons have this in common with prophets: they think and operate in terms of the future. (p. 65)

Instead of methodical doubt, he practiced methodical negation, the determined destruction of everything that still hides nihilism from itself, of the idols that camouflage God's death. (p. 66)

If nihilism is the inability to believe, then its most serious symptom is not found in atheism, but in the inability to believe in what is, to see what is happening, and to live life as it is offered. (p. 67)

Christianity believes that it is fighting against nihilism because it gives the world a sense of direction, while it is really nihilist itself in so far as, by imposing an imaginary meaning on life, it prevents the discovery of its real meaning. (p. 69)

A nihilist is not one who believes in nothing, but one who does not believe in what exists. In this sense, all forms of socialism are manifestations, degraded once again, of Christian decadence. (p. 69)

He dreamed of tyrants who were artists. But tyranny comes more naturally than art to mediocre men. (p. 75)

From the moment that the methodical aspect of Nietzschean thought is neglected (and it is not certain that he himself always observed it), his rebellious logic knows no bounds. (p. 76)

There is freedom for man without God, as Nietzsche imagined him; in other words, for the solitary man. There is freedom at midday when the wheel of the world stops spinning and man consents to things as they are. (p. 78)

For Marx, nature is to be subjugated in order to obey history; for Nietzsche, nature is to be obeyed in order to subjugate history. It is the difference between the Christian and the Greek. (p. 79)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

contextual work

Still, I actually think most of the hard work that needs to be done in the world is contextual work-- convincing people to be kind to one another in spite of their insane ideological perspectives and differences. Attacking the particulars that need fixing as contextually as possible and orienting those who share your views on the particulars towards the change you're trying to create. That's the shortest distance between two points. That means you need to elevate the good examples inside religions along with condemning the violent and fundamentalist aspects.

Human psychology is really odd and religious belief is even more odd. In most cases you're unlikely to change religious beliefs. So the idea is to target those beliefs that most desperately need changing and use all resources at your disposal to do so.

Friday, December 5, 2008

political conversation

M: Since Obama is shutting down Gitmo I guess the question now is where will they transfer the inmates?

E: I hadn't thought about that, where will we put them?

M: My vote is we send them to a ranch in Crawford, TX. He made the mess...

E: That's a difficult problem. I'm still stuck on the fact we couldn't get the guy impeached. I'm putting my efforts behind whorePAC.

M: whorePAC?

E: It's my political action committee devoted to organizing prostitutes who are willing to be deployed to the White House on a moment's notice. Since congress won't impeach a president for more obvious reasons we have to resort to these more tried and true methods.

It's the only way I see to guarantee our ability to impeach when necessary in the future. Plus, whorePAC will create a new kind of American hero.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

back from Thanksgiving vacation

from the Smoky mountains just above Laurel falls
We've been in Virginia and the Smoky mountains (with the in-laws) for the past week and arrived back in town late last night. The photo above links to the album. One of the pics has a black bear in it though it's a bit hard to make out.