SCIENCE! and Epistemology

Today’s resource suggestion is a little more involved than previous ones.  Today’s resource suggestion is Karl Popper’s Conjectures and Refutations.  This book primarily concerns itself with the problem of doing science from an epistemic standpoint.  This may not seem to be too important to the project I have been engaged in with this blog, but to anyone who reads the book, you will likely see the connection very quickly.  My post on Paradigmatic Awareness is, essentially, a synthesis of this work and another by Thomas S Kuhn, which will likely be another resource suggestion soon enough.

While Popper was primarily interested in the philosophy of science in this book, I believe his insights apply to all of epistemology, not just the study of the material world.  As a classical liberal, Popper extends his epistemic reasoning out to his own version of social contract theory.  I think that, while he had a good basis to work off of and an amazing intellect, he made the mistake that many classical liberals made: he forgot that the institutions he advocated for would never go away; where tolerance, as he imagined it, was only supposed to be implemented so long as it was practically useful to collective flourishing, it has become the monster that it is today… inspired by his own words.

So, please read Conjectures and Refutations.  It will help broaden your understanding of how one can say that they know what they know, how science as an exercise ought to be done, and reveal a great deal of the social philosophy that has gotten the western world into the trouble that it is in now.

Get Your Pagan On!

Today’s Resource Suggestion is a little bit of a surprise, I think.  I have been doing a fair amount of research the last couple years concerning Saint Nicholas (from 3rd century Turkey, not the north pole), due to a family devotion we started.  Patron saint of the Byzantine Catholic Church, the man himself was really interesting, punching heretics in the face, writing philosophical and theological treatises…

Of course, research concerning St. Nicholas inevitably leads to researching the truth about Santa Claus.  Something about Santa Claus’ traditional genealogy back to the historical St. Nicholas has always bothered me.  After doing research, I think I’ve figured enough of it out; then, fortunately enough, yesterday I heard a podcast about a book concerning that very subject.  Now, instead of being a crazy old scrooge no-one listens to, I can be a crazy old scrooge with academic references that no-one listens to.

Yes, it’s an atheist podcast.  However, I dare you to find any factual inaccuracies concerning the Church and St. Nicholas/Santa Claus.


Freedom Through Agorism

The basic tenet of agorism is the belief that through simply disregarding laws and regulations, when coupled with technological advances that circumvent those laws and regulations, will be an effective tactic to either eliminate or escape from the clutches of the state.  I imagine that agorism, without violence and exodus, will not likely succeed.  This is a contentious area of discussion within the philosophies of liberty.

However, this is not a full-post concerning agorism and its strengths and weaknesses (that will have to come sometime next year).  Instead, today, I present to you something that both an agorist and a brutalist would shed a single tear of joy over:

3D printers are the means of production that Marx, Konkin III, and Bergmann each had envisioned as “the end (telos, reason for) of history”.  The AnCaps, also, have a particular place in their hearts for 3D printers, as they are the culmination of centuries of capitalist market forces.  More so than the internet, commercial space flight, or affordable quad-copters (all of which are excellent consumer products created by the free market), 3D printing is possibly the greatest contribution to society to-date.  Even though it is still in it’s infant stages as a technology, 3D printing is becoming increasingly affordable and more resilient.

Today’s resource suggestion is simply a website which showcases different 3D printer designs for things such as firearms.  It’s obviously mostly just an excuse to gush over 3D printers and an open endorsement of manufacturing firearms discreetly and outside the purview of law-enforcement.

Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature

The term “fair” comes up a lot these days.  I have only a limited chronological sample (26 years), and I have not always been as aware of its use as I could have been, but it would seem that my generation (unlike preceding generations) never learned to stop using that word.  When I was five, things being fair was a big deal.  Of course, “fair” meant something different to each person, even grown-ups.  The more conservative (RE: less-socialist) parents would try to make each instance one of desert: “who earned what?” while the egalitarian lefty parents would try to implement some form of social justice: “Your brother is younger and smaller than you, so he always gets to go first and gets more candy.”

Of course, when one grows up, a part of that process is the realization that “life isn’t fair”.  This is because “fair” doesn’t exist, and it’s a self-contradictory concept, no matter how one defines it, much like common conceptions of justice.

Today’s resource suggestion is more Rothbard.  This time, it’s the essay “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature“.  This is a scathing reductio ad absurdum of the very premise of any sort of “equality-oriented” philosophy (feminism, egalitarianism, socialism, progressivism, statism…).

You can read the text or listen to the audio for free, courtesy of the Mises Institute.

Holy Saturday



Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the marketplace, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!” As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, the madman provoked much laughter. Has God got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? Emigrated? Thus did they shout and jeer.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him — you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideways, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine putrefaction? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us — for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he flung his lantern to the ground, and it shattered into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said. “My time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars — and yet they have done it themselves.”

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

~Thus Spake Zarathustra

 In Catholic culture, it is common to describe someone’s personality, temperament, and spiritual charisms by way of a particular analogy. There are “Good Friday people” and “Easter Sunday people”. I believe there is a protestant equivalent of “Old Testament people” and “New Testament people”. Good Friday people tend to be more prone to despair, legalism, talk of duty and fire and brimstone; Catholic guilt runs deep in Good Friday circles. Easter Sunday people, alternatively, tend to be more prone to wearing rose-tinted glasses, overemphasis on mercy and forgiveness and belief in happy-surfer Jesus; liberalism tends to creep into Easter Sunday circles. Now, these are, of course, caricatures intended to convey a point to people who are less-involved in Catholic culture, but the claims are still valid. I used to think I was a Good Friday person, with my tendencies towards the Metal ethos and pathos. As time went on, though, I realized that my particular brand of duty, guilt, and forgiveness do not match the generally-accepted sense of a Good Friday person.

I live in the world of Holy Saturday. I live in a world in which we have killed God and have to live with his blood on our hands. What does such a world look like? It is a wold where, yesterday, we knew where we were going, what we were doing, and we had a direct line to the divine, He was sitting right next to us at the dinner table. Today, however, he is gone. He is somewhere we cannot see and we can’t even prove to ourselves that He didn’t just vanish altogether. Today, we don’t know anything more than the fact that we are lost, adrift in a world devoid of the meaning it once held. We hope that tomorrow, He will come back and fulfill all of the promises that were made… but we can’t be certain that it will happen. We thought we had it all figured out, and then (even though we were explicitly warned) we were surprised by the execution of our Lord and our subsequent despair associated with it.

If this world looks bleak and unrealistic, that’s fine. It certainly is bleak, but not unrealistic. We face certain epistemic crises that remain unresolved. The problem of induction, which has no solution, tells us that we cannot truly prove anything meaningful to our lives through experience or reason. The eschatological questions: “What happens when I die?” and “What happens if the world ends?” cannot be answered with any degree of certainty and all we have to go on are some well-reasoned guesses and books written thousands of years ago by people who claimed to have a direct line to the Truth. In other words, even though God himself may, in fact, be the cookie elevated in sacrifice over the altar tonight, I have absolutely no way to tell. All the empirical tools I have at my disposal tell me it is just a cookie, and the best logic can provide me is a well-reasoned guess that it may be more than it would seem. I have to accept that guess on faith, though, the same faith that tells me that the sun will rise tomorrow and that others experience consciousness in a manner comparable to my own. Even more difficult to rationally explore and prove would be the idea of life after death and redemption versus damnation.

However, as Paschal thoroughly explored in his corpus, there is quite a lot at stake here, and guesswork is ultimately all we have. I find myself compelled to carry out my affairs in a manner consistent with this tension between nihilistic despair and extra-rational faith. I must act in a manner consistent with my own human flourishing in this life, but always with an awareness of the possibility of an after-life as well. Ultimately, it is the only rationally self-interested way to approach the horns of this dilemma which surpasses our limited human perception and reason. This isn’t to say that I don’t try to engender a healthy and fulfilling relationship with God, only that it is incredibly difficult to do so when His only avatars are other human beings as equally repulsive as myself and a silent piece of bread.

The tension of Holy Saturday is the tension of being a rational creature both unwilling to despair and unwilling to forego the ratio which allows this tension in the first place. It is the tension of the philosopher, of seeking Truth, despite the impossibility of fully acquiring such a thing. It is the tension of the pilgrim in a foreign world. It is the tension of a moral actor amidst the amoral. It is the tension of a sinner, a criminal, a vicious creature striving for something greater, striving for perfection, a will to power, an upsurgence of life, and a desire to flourish in a world that is finely-tuned to allow for one’s existence but only barely so. It is the tension of being truly Catholic.

“I am reckoned among those who go down to the Pit; I am a man who has no strength, like one forsaken among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom thou dost remember no more, for they are cut off from thy hand. Thou hast put me in the depths of the Pit, in the regions dark and deep.” ~ Psalm 88


Do You Hate The State?

This article, by Murray Rothbard, was originally published in the Libertarian Forum, Vol. 10, No. 7, July 1977.

I have been ruminating recently on what are the crucial questions that divide libertarians. Some that have received a lot of attention in the last few years are: anarcho-capitalism vs. limited government, abolitionism vs. gradualism, natural rights vs. utilitarianism, and war vs. peace. But I have concluded that as important as these questions are, they don’t really cut to the nub of the issue, of the crucial dividing line between us.

Let us take, for example, two of the leading anarcho-capitalist works of the last few years: my own For a New Liberty and David Friedman’s Machinery of Freedom. Superficially, the major differences between them are my own stand for natural rights and for a rational libertarian law code, in contrast to Friedman’s amoralist utilitarianism and call for logrolling and trade-offs between nonlibertarian private police agencies. But the difference really cuts far deeper. There runs through For a New Liberty (and most of the rest of my work as well) a deep and pervasive hatred of the State and all of its works, based on the conviction that the State is the enemy of mankind. In contrast, it is evident that David does not hate the State at all; that he has merely arrived at the conviction that anarchism and competing private police forces are a better social and economic system than any other alternative. Or, more fully, that anarchism would be better than laissez-faire, which in turn is better than the current system. Amidst the entire spectrum of political alternatives, David Friedman has decided that anarcho-capitalism is superior. But superior to an existing political structure which is pretty good too. In short, there is no sign that David Friedman in any sense hates the existing American State or the State per se, hates it deep in his belly as a predatory gang of robbers, enslavers, and murderers. No, there is simply the cool conviction that anarchism would be the best of all possible worlds, but that our current set-up is pretty far up with it in desirability. For there is no sense in Friedman that the State — any State — is a predatory gang of criminals.

The same impression shines through the writing, say, of political philosopher Eric Mack. Mack is an anarcho-capitalist who believes in individual rights; but there is no sense in his writings of any passionate hatred of the State, or, a fortiori, of any sense that the State is a plundering and bestial enemy.

Perhaps the word that best defines our distinction is “radical.” Radical in the sense of being in total, root-and-branch opposition to the existing political system and to the State itself. Radical in the sense of having integrated intellectual opposition to the State with a gut hatred of its pervasive and organized system of crime and injustice. Radical in the sense of a deep commitment to the spirit of liberty and antistatism that integrates reason and emotion, heart and soul.

Furthermore, in contrast to what seems to be true nowadays, you don’t have to be an anarchist to be radical in our sense, just as you can be an anarchist while missing the radical spark. I can think of hardly a single limited governmentalist of the present day who is radical — a truly amazing phenomenon, when we think of our classical-liberal forbears who were genuinely radical, who hated statism and the States of their day with a beautifully integrated passion: the Levellers, Patrick Henry, Tom Paine, Joseph Priestley, the Jacksonians, Richard Cobden, and on and on, a veritable roll call of the greats of the past. Tom Paine’s radical hatred of the State and statism was and is far more important to the cause of liberty than the fact that he never crossed the divide between laissez-faire and anarchism.

And closer to our own day, such early influences on me as Albert Jay Nock, H.L. Mencken, and Frank Chodorov were magnificently and superbly radical. Hatred of “Our Enemy, the State” (Nock’s title) and all of its works shone through all of their writings like a beacon star. So what if they never quite made it all the way to explicit anarchism? Far better one Albert Nock than a hundred anarcho-capitalists who are all too comfortable with the existing status quo.

Where are the Paines and Cobdens and Nocks of today? Why are almost all of our laissez-faire limited governmentalists, plonky conservatives, and patriots? If the opposite of “radical” is “conservative,” where are our radical laissez-fairists? If our limited statists were truly radical, there would be virtually no splits between us. What divides the movement now, the true division, is not anarchist vs. minarchist, but radical vs. conservative. Lord, give us radicals, be they anarchists or no.

To carry our analysis further, radical anti-statists are extremely valuable even if they could scarcely be considered libertarians in any comprehensive sense. Thus, many people admire the work of columnists Mike Royko and Nick von Hoffman because they consider these men libertarian sympathizers and fellow-travelers. That they are, but this does not begin to comprehend their true importance. For throughout the writings of Royko and von Hoffman, as inconsistent as they undoubtedly are, there runs an all-pervasive hatred of the State, of all politicians, bureaucrats, and their clients which, in its genuine radicalism, is far truer to the underlying spirit of liberty than someone who will coolly go along with the letter of every syllogism and every lemma down to the “model” of competing courts.

Taking the concept of radical vs. conservative in our new sense, let us analyze the now famous “abolitionism” vs. “gradualism” debate. The latter jab comes in the August issue of Reason (a magazine every fiber of whose being exudes “conservatism”), in which editor Bob Poole asks Milton Friedman where he stands on this debate. Freidman takes the opportunity of denouncing the “intellectual cowardice” of failing to set forth “feasible” methods of getting “from here to there.” Poole and Friedman have between them managed to obfuscate the true issues. There is not a single abolitionist who would not grab a feasible method, or a gradual gain, if it came his way. The difference is that the abolitionist always holds high the banner of his ultimate goal, never hides his basic principles, and wishes to get to his goal as fast as humanly possible. Hence, while the abolitionist will accept a gradual step in the right direction if that is all that he can achieve, he always accepts it grudgingly, as merely a first step toward a goal which he always keeps blazingly clear. The abolitionist is a “button pusher” who would blister his thumb pushing a button that would abolish the State immediately, if such a button existed. But the abolitionist also knows that alas, such a button does not exist, and that he will take a bit of the loaf if necessary — while always preferring the whole loaf if he can achieve it.

It should be noted here that many of Milton’s most famous “gradual” programs such as the voucher plan, the negative income tax, the withholding tax, fiat paper money — are gradual (or even not so gradual) steps in thewrong direction, away from liberty, and hence the militance of much libertarian opposition to these schemes.

His button-pushing position stems from the abolitionist’s deep and abiding hatred of the State and its vast engine of crime and oppression. With such an integrated worldview, the radical libertarian could never dream of confronting either a magic button or any real-life problem with some arid cost-benefit calculation. He knows that the State must be diminished as fast and as completely as possible. Period.

And that is why the radical libertarian is not only an abolitionist, but also refuses to think in such terms as a Four Year Plan for some sort of stately and measured procedure for reducing the State. The radical — whether he be anarchist or laissez-faire — cannot think in such terms as, e.g., “Well, the first year, we’ll cut the income tax by 2 percent, abolish the ICC, and cut the minimum wage; the second year we’ll abolish the minimum wage, cut the income tax by another 2 percent, and reduce welfare payments by 3 percent, etc.” The radical cannot think in such terms, because the radical regards the State as our mortal enemy, which must be hacked away at wherever and whenever we can. To the radical libertarian, we must take any and every opportunity to chop away at the State, whether it’s to reduce or abolish a tax, a budget appropriation, or a regulatory power. And the radical libertarian is insatiable in this appetite until the State has been abolished, or — for minarchists — dwindled down to a tiny, laissez-faire role.

Many people have wondered: Why should there be any important political disputes between anarcho-capitalists and minarchists now? In this world of statism, where there is so much common ground, why can’t the two groups work in complete harmony until we shall have reached a Cobdenite world, after which we can air our disagreements? Why quarrel over courts, etc. now? The answer to this excellent question is that we could and would march hand-in-hand in this way if the minarchists were radicals, as they were from the birth of classical liberalism down to the 1940s. Give us back the antistatist radicals, and harmony would indeed reign triumphant within the movement.