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larvatus prodeo - the opposite of a philosopher
April 3rd, 2005
01:45 pm


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the opposite of a philosopher

― for David W. Affeld

    Several credible sources have attributed excellence to Steve Sailer’s blog. Herewith a selection of its pearls of wisdom.
    Presentation: White inmates affiliate themselves with prison gangs so as to avoid yielding money or sexual favors to blacks and latinos. “If this country was [sic] serious about getting rid of white racist criminal gangs, it would do what it takes to eliminate their principle [sic] cause: minority-on-white prison rape.
    Annotation: The sole necessary and sufficient condition for an inmate to avoid yielding money or sexual favors to other inmates is not being a bitch. No one capable of retaliation is so abused behind bars. The risks are too high and safer prey is too plentiful. The jailhouse rapist is disadvantaged, in comparison to the free-range predator, by long-term propinquity of his victim. Not much strength or stealth is required of the aggrieved party to stick a shank in his tormentor’s kidney. All he needs is resolve. Coincidentally, an inmate resolved not to be a bitch is likely to gravitate to his own kind in opposing the authority of the screws. Whence come prison gangs. If this country were serious about getting rid of white racist criminal gangs, it would do what it takes to eliminate their principal cause: white men in prison.
    Presentation: Although Malcolm Gladwell is partly of African descent, he doesn’t look noticeably black in most of his pictures. He wrote and published a best-selling book about instant cognition, “the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye.” Both Gladwell and Sailer write about what the human sciences have to say about daily life. Gladwell makes $1,000,000 per year just from public speaking. Sailer hankers after this sort of compensation for his work as a race researcher. Gladwell conceived his book in the wake of police harassment that ensued from his decision, “on a whim,” to let his hair grow long into a loose but large Afro.
Gladwell “presumably wanted to shed his nerdy son-of-a-math-professor look and start making first impressions that reeked of that dangerous, sexy, black rebel glamour”. Whereas Sailer is a manly man, a lily white big galoot who cuts his hair short.
Ever the loyal lackey of multiculti capitalism, Gladwell declines to endorse such sterling examples of thinking without thinking along Sailer’s party lines of The National Review, as racial and gender prejudices. Sailer bemoans the fact that his fearless endorsement thereof is failing to make him filthy rich.
    Annotation: Boo-fucking-hoo.
    Presentation: “While engineers or farmers or bartenders have all learned a trick or two over the years, philosophers mostly either rehash the same old mistakes or dream up new ones that are even more ridiculous.Freud is a perfect example of a “magnetically self-assured charlatan who befuddled two generations via his implacable self-esteem”. Marx was similar. Philosophy is a useless word game, most practitioners whereof suffer from “Plato’s disease: the assumption that reality fundamentally consists of abstract essences best described by words or geometry”. “In truth, reality is largely a probabilistic affair best described by statistics.” In his capacity of a semi-numerate oracle of probabilistic affairs best described by statistics, Steve Sailer is our best candidate for Pantheon accommodations vacated by consigning Plato, Freud, and Marx to the dustbin of history.
    Annotation: Nothing that comes to mind.
    Je disois : « C’est une chose extraordinaire que toute la philosophie consiste dans ces trois mots : je m’en fous. »
Charles de Secondat, baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu, Mes pensées, 2075 (1178. II, fº 82 vº), Œuvres complètes, Paris: Gallimard, 1949, t. I, p. 1541
    I’d say: “It’s an extraordinary fact that all philosophy comes to these five words: I don’t give a fuck.”
― translated by MZ
The length of time your favor of June the 12th, 1809, was on its way to me, and my absence from home the greater part of the autumn, delayed very much the pleasure which awaited me of reading the packet [containing the French manuscript of Destutt de Tracy’s A Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, which was later translated and published under Jefferson’s direction] which accompanied it. I cannot express to you the satisfaction which I received from its perusal. I had, with the world, deemed Montesquieu’s work of much merit; but saw in it, with every thinking man, so much of paradox, of false principle and misapplied fact, as to render its value equivocal on the whole. Williams and others had nibbled only at its errors. A radical correction of them, therefore, was a great desideratum. This want is now supplied, and with a depth of thought, precision of idea, of language and of logic, which will force conviction into every mind. I declare to you, Sir, in the spirit of truth and sincerity, that I consider it the most precious gift the present age has received. But what would it have been, had the author, or would the author, take up the whole scheme of Montesquieu’s work, and following the correct analysis he has here developed, fill up all its parts according to his sound views of them? Montesquieu’s celebrity would be but a small portion of that which would immortalize the author. And with whom? With the rational and high-minded spirits of the present and all future ages. With those whose approbation is both incitement and reward to virtue and ambition. Is then the hope desperate? To what object can the occupation of his future life be devoted so usefully to the world, so splendidly to himself? But I must leave to others who have higher claims on his attention, to press these considerations.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Antoine Louis Claude, Comte Destutt de Tracy, Monticello, January 26, 1811

    Refuting Sailer’s misological ravings is child’s play. No one accredited for the grasp of civics at the level of a U.S. high school graduate deserves to be excused for gainsaying the foundations of this great republic in the most sophisticated philosophical doctrines of the Enlightenment. In composing The Federalist Papers that laid the foundation for U.S. Constitution, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison relied on an unbroken lineage of philosophical development of constitutional theory. In his Politics Aristotle considered the matter of the best conceivable constitution (πολιτεία) alongside with that of the closest approximation thereto attainable under the given circumstances. He defined a constitution defined by combination (σύνθεσις) or mixing (μῖξις). This mixed constitution incorporated features of democracy (δημοκρατία), oligarchy (ὀλιγαρχία), and aristocracy (ἀριστοκρατία), whereby no group of citizens would be in a position to abuse its rights. James Harrington revisited Aristotelian theories of constitutional government in his 1656 The Commonwealth of Oceana by linking the concepts of a mixed constitution and the separation of powers, declaring:
wherefore as those two orders of a commonwealth, namely the senate and the people, are legislative, so of necessity there must be a third to be executive of the laws made, and this is the magistracy; in which order with the rest, being wrought up by art, the commonwealth consisteth of the senate proposing, the people resolving, and the magistracy executing, whereby partaking of the aristocracy as in the senate, of the democracy as in the people, and of monarchy as in the magistracy, it is complete.
John Locke delineated this separation into executive and legislative powers in his 1690 The Second Treatise of Civil Government. Finally, Montesquieu contributed the principle of an independent judiciary that completed the system of constitutional checks and balances:
    Pour qu’on ne puisse abuser du pouvoir, il faut que, par la disposition des choses, le pouvoir arrête le pouvoir. Une constitution peut être telle que personne ne sera contraint de faire les choses auxquelles la loi ne l’oblige pas, et à ne point faire celles que la loi lui permet.
    Lorsque dans la même personne ou dans le même corps de magistrature, la puissance législative est réunie à la puissance exécutrice, il n’y a point de liberté ; parce qu’on peut craindre que le même monarque ou le même sénat ne fasse des lois tyranniques pour les exécuter tyranniquement.
    Il n’y a point encore de liberté si la puissance de juger n’est pas séparée de la puissance législative et de l’exécutrice. Si elle était jointe à la puissance législative, le pouvoir sur la vie et la liberté des citoyens serait arbitraire : car le juge serait législateur. Si elle était jointe à la puissance exécutrice, le juge pourrait avoir la force d’un oppresseur.
    Tout serait perdu si les mêmes hommes, ou le même corps de principaux, ou des nobles, ou du peuple, exerçaient ces trois pouvoirs : celui de faire des lois, celui d’exécuter des résolutions publiques, et celui de juger les crimes et les différends des particuliers.
    ― Montesquieu, L’Esprit des Lois, Livre XI, chapitres IV, VI. Genève, 1748
    To prevent abuse of power, it must be ensured by the nature of things, that power shall check power. A constitution may be such that no man shall be compelled to do things to which the law does not oblige him, nor forced to abstain from doing things that the law permits to him.
    Whenever within the same person or the same body of magistrates the legislative power is united with the executive power, there is no liberty; for fear that the same monarch or the same senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.
    Again, there is no liberty, if the judiciary power is not separated from the legislative and from the executive. Were it joined to the legislative power, the power over the life and liberty of the subject would be arbitrary; for the judge would be the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge could have the powers of an oppressor.
    All would be lost if the same men or the same bodies of chief personages, whether of the nobles or of the people, were to exercise these three powers: that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the crimes and disputes of individuals.
    ― translated by MZ
This philosophical insight engendered the U.S. Constitution. The soundness of principle worked out over two millennia of political accommodation and dialectical conversation is responsible for the resilience of our American Republic. As Jefferson acknowledges to Destutt de Tracy, the constitutional contributions of philosophy to governance never cease.
    Montesquieu’s other insight is just as transparent. It epitomizes the Stoic ethos of rational unconcern with emotion (ἀπάθεια), the indifference of the moral agent (ἀδιαφορία) that came to be regarded as the summit of classical morality in implicit opposition to the official religious doctrines. Its form of the first person anecdote (χρεία) connects the Cynic contribution to Stoic ethics to the fluid concision of La Rochefoucauld. In his aristocratic hands, this trait becomes imbued with the modern understanding of nobility of merit, open to everyone regardless of descent.
    As Socrates explains to Phaedo, misology (μισολογία) and misanthropy (μισανθρωπία) come from similar causes (γίγνεται δὲ ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ τρόπου). The man who trusts other men implicitly without sufficient knowledge is destined for disappointment in human nature. Likewise the man who has unsound confidence in the truth of an argument and afterwards comes to think that it is false, whether it really is so or not, and who has this happen again and again. That man especially who has spent his time in disputation may come to believe that he is the wisest of men and that he alone has discovered that there is nothing sound (ὑγιής) or sure (βέβαιος) in anything, whether in argument (λόγος) or in anything else, but all things go up and down, like the tide (Phaedo, 89d-90c). In Sailer’s jargon, he believes that reality is largely a probabilistic affair best described by statistics. In keeping with the modern idiolect, it is best not to dignify this antagonist of philosophy with the ancient title of a misologist. Thanks to Montesquieu, in virtue of his avoidance of philosophy leading to an incapacity to abstain from giving a fuck, we shall know him as a fuckwit.

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