Paradigmatic Awareness

 Why can’t we all just get along? When it comes to discussion, why can’t we seem to understand what each other are saying?

            As is outlined extensively in my yet-unfinished book, epistemology (how we know what we know) is a field of intense and voluminous study.  I will do my utmost to remain concise and direct today, but we will see if I can manage to get my point across.
Among thinking people, there is a disturbing trend of people missing each others’ points and progressively resorting to name-calling and physical altercation.  Friendships end, wars erupt, libraries are burned… all over a misunderstanding as to whether Star Trek ToS is better or worse than J.J. Abrams’ reboot.  This phenomenon is easy to see every four years in America, when just under half of the population suddenly erupts in closed-minded and aggressive rhetoric over which master we should be owned by and what behaviors we ought to compel with the violence of the state.  For many people, this argument continues on a daily basis (Thanks, Obama).

Very, very rarely does one actually change their mind or realize that oneself was wrong.  On the occasion that one does so, it is rarely a result of dialogue, but instead a result of a personal and concrete experience of their worldview and reality not comporting.  This sort of event is at the heart of every popular feel-good drama about a grouchy old person overcoming his racism.  My purely subjective standard by which I choose to judge a philosopher’s ability to philosophize is their willingness and ability to change their mind and admit error by way of dialogue as opposed to concrete experience.

While very few people my be called to be a philosopher, everyone ought to be capable and willing to do philosophy, lest they be vulnerable to misanthropy, self-dehumanization, and falling for vicious and criminal ideologies.  What is required in order to do philosophy?  There is a multitude of tools required and yet another multitude of tools that are merely useful.  The first two, the most fundamental and primary, of these tools are logic and paradigmatic awareness.  Of course, one is a prerequisite for the other.

What is logic?  Logic, contrary to popular belief, does not refer to “all of the not-emotional things that happen in my brain”.  Logic is a science and an art as old as man’s pursuit of knowledge.  As a science, the body of theories and research has been steadily growing through the generations.  As an art, the technique and skill of those who wield it waxes and wanes with times and cultures.  Logic is the place where language, reason, and objective observation meet.  Logic, in its purest form, is the exploration of the principle of non-contradiction and its application to our experience of reality.  The quest for knowledge requires a reliable and finely-tunes toolset.  The study of logic, epistemology, and phenomenology, has been directed towards the development of these tools since their inception.

Even though some high schools teach introductory classes on deductive symbolic logic and may touch on inductive reasoning, logic has been widely abandoned by our education system and, by extension, society at large. Without a working knowledge of and praxis concerning deduction, induction, abduction, and the interrelationship of the three, one cannot be expected to be consistent in their beliefs, claims, and behaviors. Unfortunately, a blogcast of this length and quality is insufficient to teach such a skill. Fortunately, there is a vast body of material available on the internet for those that wish to be rational.

A grossly oversimplified and brief introduction of the three is required, though, before I can address paradigmatic awareness. Deduction, then, is described as “arguing from the general to the specific”. A classic, if not entirely reliable, example is the famous “all men are mortal” syllogism.
“All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. ∴ Socrates is mortal.”
In this case, it assumes general premises such as “all men are mortal” and uses the principle of non-contradiction to reach the conclusion, “Socrates is mortal.” So long as the premises are factual and there is no error in the logic, the conclusion must be true.
Induction, in simple formulation, is arguing from specifics to the general. An example frequently addressed in modern philosophy is the claim, “the sun will rise tomorrow.” This claim is made based in the consistency of such an occurrence in the past as well as an absence of any predictors which indicate that such an occurrence would cease (for example, the sun vanishing would leave some pretty significant clues). Induction does not produce certainty in the same way that deduction may, but instead some well-reasoned and reliable guesses which have a particular utility about them.

Abduction can be considered “making the strongest case”. If the circumstance arises such that a question presents itself which requires an answer and neither a deductive nor an inductive argument is possible, one can produce an answer which does not contradict accepted deductive and inductive claims and is, itself, self-consistent. Using tools such as observation, occam’s razor, intuition, and a detailed understanding of one’s paradigm (we’ll address this is a minute), one can make a compelling case as to why their chosen belief is true.

This brings us to the interrelation of the three. Due to the certainty produced by valid deductive reasoning, one’s inductive claims cannot come into contradiction with such claims. If one is committed to a particular inductive claim which is found in contradiction with deductive claims, they must first demonstrate a flaw in the premises or logic of the existing deductive claim. This same priority is given induction over abduction for the same reasons.

Of course, this description ignores the source of our general premises that this whole process began with. In all reality, premises are produced by abductive reasoning and ratified by the simple Popperian principle of trial and error. This means that, per Gödel, any complete philosophical worldview cannot prove itself to be factual. Only by way of comparing a worldview’s predictions and claims against one’s experience of reality or confirming the strength of the premises’ defense can one ultimately justify any particular worldview.

This finally brings us to paradigmatic awareness. Those that have read this far, I salute you. Using a modified version of Thomas Kuhn’s definition of “paradigm”, a paradigm is the set of established or assumed claims which take priority before the claim in question based on the rubric I briefly described when addressing logic. Why does something so simple-yet-esoteric matter? It may sound intuitive once described, but despite its intuitive qualities, very few (if any) people truly possess paradigmatic awareness

For instance, when faced with a claim one may find absurd, such as “We need to tax every transaction possible in order to pay for government guns,” it is possible that the (clearly incorrect) individual may have a valid logical argument to reach that conclusion. More likely they hold, either implicitly or explicitly, flawed premises from which they derived an absurd conclusion. There is really no point in discussing the conclusion itself so long as the premises are left unacknowledged and unaddressed. Communication simply isn’t possible without commonly accepted paradigms between communicants.

This is where the standard of being able to change one’s mind comes into play; in the process of exploring the premises held by someone else which resulted in an apparently absurd claim, three beneficial results may arise. In exploring the paradigm of someone else, you may bring to light counter-intuitive or implicit premises that your conversant may never have previously critically assessed. Additionally, it will give you the opportunity to cast doubt on another’s premises, allowing them the otherwise impossible moment of self-reflection. Lastly, of course, by holding a counter-factual presented by someone else, there is always a chance (however slim) that you may realize that you, yourself, are wrong.

Now, one cannot always explore others’ worldviews without expecting the same intellectual courtesy in return. By following the advice given above and explaining what you are doing along the way, you can effectively provide an education in communication skills and logic that far exceeds what meager offerings most people are exposed to. This will give them a greater chance to entertain your correct but unpopular claims like, “Taxation is theft.” Additionally, anyone unwilling to explore their own premises or yours are clearly not interested in intellectually honest dialogue directed at obtaining truth and, therefore, are not worth your time or energy; a handy resource management tool, if you ask me.

So, why can’t we get along? Because no one is given the tools required to even consider getting along. Why can’t we understand what each other are saying? Because we don’t try hard enough. Remember, no unwilling student can learn, this includes yourself.

TL;DR: Listen to what people claim. Ask, “How did you reach that conclusion?” Make it a point to maintain an awareness of your opponent’s paradigm. Genuinely search for the truth in their words. Expect and demand that they reciprocate the effort, lest you waste both parties’ time and energy.
As I said on facebook the other day (while re-realizing some flaws in the AnCap worldview):
I love being a philosopher. My worldview is constantly shifting and undulating… but always gradually comporting itself more closely to reality. Where fleeting moments of intuition can, decades later, be given meaning and purpose and carefully constructed arguments and justifications can crumble, there is where humility and virtue can grow. The fires of truth and the crucible of reason can lay bare natural and artificial landscapes of mind alike, and enrich the soil for new growth and the return of the most robust ideas to carry on their existence.

A Preface to the Tragedy of Enforcement

A coworker of mine and I had an interesting conversation while preparing the sanctuary for Christmas a couple weeks ago. He’s been a friend of mine on Facebook for about a decade or so, but probably hasn’t seen many of my posts until recently. That is, until I began posting hundreds of statuses, articles, and memes daily. A while back, it would have likely been concerning evil democrats ruining our country… nowadays, it’s more about evil statists ruining everyone’s lives; a small but important broadening of perspective. Anyway, I had mentioned that I hate Christmas music, to which he replied, “Not as much as you hate cops.” A very interesting discussion ensued. I decided that a discussion which touches on the same points would serve as a nice blog post preceding the one on institutionalized states of war.

A different coworker jokingly followed up that conversation with a comment, “People might think you’re a Muslim, you hate pigs so much.” Which, while hilarious, was cause for contemplation. Do I hate cops? I mean, I’m an anarchist, so clearly the idea of laws and enforcers raises my hackles. But do I hate cops? Cops, like everyone else, are individuals living out their lives… so, as people, I would have to get to know each one individually before determining whether or not I hate them as a person.

Looking at the psychology of what would entice one into becoming a cop would likely illuminate the situation. In the interest of determining the truth of the matter, I will try to give everyone the benefit of a doubt. From people I know and stories I’ve read, many people who become cops do so “for the right reasons”. They want to protect the weak from criminals, want to protect society from the chaos of lawlessness, they want to carry on the family tradition, and they want to help those that can’t help themselves. It seems that the origin of these desires would be the warrior spirit and inculturation. The warrior spirit drives men to pursue virtue, lead others, and protect one’s community. The state has, in a history of calculated genius, always attempted to monopolize the ability to fulfill that telos. Within the confines of the state, in order to pursue the warrior’s path, one must become a soldier in service of the state. All other options are either outlawed or regulated out of existence. Before you tell yourself, “Wait, I thought he was talking about cops, not the military,” the only categorical distinction betwixt the two (and now, even a superficial one, given the equipment and “authority” they employ) is who they are aimed at. Military for citizens of other nations, cops for citizens of the same nation. When a young man has the warrior spirit burning within his chest and a DARE officer comes to his class and he watches G.I Joe on TV, it is only natural that they would pursue such a career; all other options for fulfilling that telos have been eliminated by the state.

These intelligent, driven, and virtuous men become cops. Unfortunately, helping protect the weak from the strong, protecting the community, and generally doing the warrior thing are not the only items in the job description. To be honest, I don’t even think that these are in the handbook, let alone the job description. These good people are trained, take an oath, put on a badge, and set out to do good. Their intention does not match their actions. The moral reality is such that one cannot both be a good person and be a good cop: one is a good cop at the expense of being a good person and vice versa.

What makes a cop a cop? A cop is a law enforcement officer. Contained within that statement is all of the material I have and likely ever will write about anarchy. Fore example, it contains the question “what is a law?” amongst many others. This question, though, is one that needs to be addressed in part, right here. Many of my friends have brought up laws of physics (aka: natural law) in discussions with regards to the tragedy of enforcement. There is little that can be said to deny that the universe has a natural order to it; gravity works, things live and die, the universal speed limit is 299,792,458 meters per second, and the lowest thermostat setting is 0° K. All in all, it seems logically consistent and can easily encompass the metaphysical. We call this whole of natural order “natural law”.

Of course, even the most staunchly Thomist theologian will deny a claim that God just sat in the clouds and wrote: “Article 1, Section 1, Paragraph 1: No particle shall travel at a velocity exceeding 299,792,458 meters per second. Any particle found exceeding such a velocity shall be charged with a misdemeanor…” In all reality, natural law is either a brute fact or an expression of the logically consistent nature of the divine. We use the phrase “natural law” allegorically, applying our common experience of the irresistible and pervasive desires of a king to our common experience of the irresistible and pervasive pull of gravity. This allegorical use of language is one-way. One can say that the natural order of things is similar to the laws of man, but the laws of man bear only a superficial resemblance to the natural order.

This one-way comparison is such due to one simple element: enforcement. Jesus and/or Carl Sagan don’t sit in a heavenly courtroom, sentencing those pesky neutrinos for speeding and anti-gravitons for obstructing the law. The natural order simply is. Every aspect of the material world simply behaves in a consistent manner, despite how much one may wish it to be otherwise. The laws of man, on the other hand, only exist insofar as there is a man willing to enforce it. One can argue that moral maxims are a part of the natural order. I do. For example, “Thou shalt not murder,” seems to naturally fall out of a rational understanding of the nature of the human person. For one to recognize and pronounce such a truth is to do a service to all men. However, to say, “Thou shalt not murder, or a man funded by public theft will hunt you down and lock you in a theft-funded cage for the rest of your theft-funded life (or, just kill you if he’s having a bad day)” is a crime. As will be addressed in future posts, the law of man is nothing more than an opinion backed by a gun.

Unfortunately for the good people who become cops, a law enforcement officer is that gun backing the opinion. Rather than protecting the weak from the strong, in becoming a cop one makes the strong stronger and the weak weaker. Whether it be a king demanding taxes, a representative setting an arbitrary speed limit, the democrats demanding Socrates’ death, or a mafioso selling “insurance”, the only way such a goal is accomplished is by way of armed enforcers. One who has internalized slave morality in its totality may say, “I pay my taxes voluntarily, I follow laws to uphold the social contract, and when a cop pulls me over I comply because I clearly fucked up.” The stark reality, though, is one of armed coercion. What happens if one chooses to disregard the opinion being enforced? If one fails to pay their property tax, will not cops come and tell him to leave their own property? If one refuses to have their land stolen, will he not be locked in a cage or shot? If one disregards the opinion that he has to drive 65 MPH on the open road or that he must stop for a car with flashing plastic lights, will he not wind up dead on the side of the road?

The truth of the matter is that every interaction one has with the law is one of coercion. If you don’t do as you are told, regardless of the moral quality of your actions, a cop can kill or cage you. This reveals one more reason why one could make a rational choice to become a cop. If one is intelligent enough to discover this truth, but lack the moral compass that many posses, they may want to become a cop. If one has few marketable skills, self-esteem issues, violent tendencies, and no scruples being paid with stolen money, there is a particular form of welfare available to these people, called law enforcement. One doesn’t need to look far to see evidence to bolster this claim.

I’ve brought up stolen money twice now. All I mean by it is that all forms of government payroll and protection are welfare, including police “authority” and paychecks. Welfare is stealing from those deemed “too well off” in order to give it to those who have been deemed unable to care for themselves.

So, do I hate cops? Yes, but only in the same way I hate all criminals. That is to say, all of the rules outlined in the post titled “What is the State of War?” apply no more or less to cops than any other person ( I don’t hate them as people, I’m sure they’re generally nice, good natured, and virtuous people… when they aren’t committing crimes in the name of the king. It’s simply tragic that they find themselves daily caught in the balance between paying the bills and being a good person.

TL;DR: A man cannot both be a good person and a good cop. Insofar as he is one, it is at the expense of the other. Every action a cop takes is done in a manner that is backed by the threat of death or imprisonment. This makes all cops criminals. I have already made my opinions on criminals clear.

An Untimely Religious Rant

I am really fed up with my friends and family quoting scripture piecemeal and appealing to Catholic Social Teaching with a superior tone, especially when doing the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and walking away.  By what authority do you dare to interpret Scripture at me?  Where is your Collar?  Your Holy Orders?  When half of the priests in this country can’t decide of Jesus was some flimsy hippie or a genocidal maniac, you think that you can somehow do a better job than they?

Very few of you, despite your years, have read more of the Scriptural Commentarries, Church Fathers, or Talmud than I.  In having read such things, I have found myself recalcitrant in taking the Divine and wrapping it up in my agenda.  When I was a child, I could find justification for all things in my benighted self-catechesis and sunday school preachers.  In my youth, I found a great confusion in the ways man can so horribly misinterpret Revelation and sacrifice their very relationship with God to fight an intellectually dishonest war with their fellow man.  How many saints are there who actively rebelled against their sunday school teachers?  Their priests?  The very Pope himself?  In every instance, it was due to a man overstepping his bounds, attempting to take the divine and make it a mere possession, a tool in a sorcerer’s bag of tricks.  You think you can do better than a Pope?  I challenge you.

I can take the Word of God, wrap it up in bullshit and throw it at you disdainfully.  I used to do it quite frequently.  It was probably one of the single most soul-rending behaviors I have ever engaged in, but it’s a skill that once-learned, never rusts or dulls.  Unless God Himself sends the Ophanim, with a golden scroll bearing the seal of the Tetgrammaton, carried by the cherubs and escorted by all the principalities and angels to tell you that you have his Divine mandate to carry out your deeds and preach what you preach, you had better make damned well sure that your heart, mind, and soul, are in the right place and are living in His heart.  For, if they are not, you blaspheme and sully His name, a sin that in earlier ages would wipe you from existence.
Humility may be a virtue that does not come to me easily, but do not mistake what little vestiges of humility, awe, and shame I bear with regards to His Word for ignorance or apathy.  I merely believe that it would be imprudent to claim I know His will with certainty when I am still fallible and sinful.  I urge you, my friends and family, out of my care for you to consider the same.