German political philosophy

Let me bring some extension to a previous post. When I think of the political and philosophical tradition of the West, I think in relation to the Anglo-sphere, who run from Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Edmund Burke, David Hume, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Michael Oakeshott and also Roger Scruton, who I will mention just to bring it up to the immediate present. This is the philosophy of freedom of the individual and human rights. It is pretty well unknown everywhere else.

I am less keen on the Continental tradition. In actual fact, I am not keen on the continental tradition at all. Perhaps I don’t know these well enough, since I won’t claim any deep knowledge of any of them. Still, for most people, the most they might know about the German philosophical tradition comes from Monty Python’s Australian Philosophy Department.

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable

Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table

David Hume could out-consume
Schopenhauer and Hegel

And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel

There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya
’bout the raising of the wrist
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed,

So let’s do a little run-down, starting with Martin Heidegger.

Martin Heidegger (/ˈhdɛɡər,  hdɪɡər/;[12][13] German: [ˈmaʁtiːn ˈhaɪdɛɡɐ];[14][12] 26 September 1889 – 26 May 1976) was a German philosopher and a seminal thinker in the Continental tradition of philosophy. He is “widely acknowledged to be one of the most original and important philosophers of the 20th century.” Heidegger is best known for his contributions to phenomenologyhermeneutics, and existentialism, though, as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy cautions, “his thinking should be identified as part of such philosophical movements only with extreme care and qualification”. Heidegger was a member and public supporter of the Nazi Party. There is controversy over the degree to which his Nazi affiliations influenced his philosophy.

There is, of course, no doubt about the extent to which his philosophy influenced his Nazi affiliation. Not to mention his massive influence on the Green Movement, to this day.

Heidegger’s later work includes criticisms of technology‘s instrumentalist understanding in the Western tradition as “enframing“, treating all of Nature as a “standing reserve” on call for human purposes.

Let me now add Ludwig Wittgenstein to the list. This is from a previous post of mine:

If you are interested in a genuinely plausible fifth (sixth?) Cambridge spy, Wittgenstein who was at Trinity is a better bet. This is discussed in an extraordinarily fascinating book The Jew of Linz published by my fellow Australian, Kim Cornish. The title comes from a phrase in Mein Kampf in which Hitler traces his anti-Semitism to a ‘Jew of Linz’ with whom he had gone to high school. Although the family had converted from Judaism, Ludwig Wittgenstein had, in one of the most amazing coincidences in history, gone to the same high school at the same time as Hitler. The book then argues that Wittgenstein had been the person who had recruited Philby and the others. This is from Kim’s Wikipedia entry:

‘The Jew of Linz (1998) is a controversial book by Australian writer Kimberley Cornish. It alleges that the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had a profound effect on Adolf Hitler when they were both pupils at the Realschule (high school) in Linz, Austria, in the early 1900s. He also alleges that Wittgenstein was involved in the Cambridge Five Soviet spy ring during the Second World War….

‘Cornish also argues that Wittgenstein is the most likely suspect as recruiter of the “Cambridge Five” spy ring. The author suggests that Wittgenstein was responsible for British decryption technology for the German Enigma code reaching the Red Army and that he thereby enabled the Red Army victories on the Eastern Front that liberated the camps and ultimately overthrew the Reich.

‘He writes that the Soviet government offered Wittgenstein the chair in philosophy at what had been Lenin’s university (Kazan) at a time (during the Great Purge) when ideological conformity was at a premium amongst Soviet academics and enforced by the very harshest penalties. Wittgenstein wanted to emigrate to Russia, first in the twenties, as he wrote in a letter to Paul Engelmann, and again in the thirties, either to work as a labourer or as a philosophy lecturer. Cornish argues that given the nature of the Soviet regime, the possibility that a non-Marxist philosopher (or even one over whom the government could exert no ideological control) would be offered such a post, is unlikely in the extreme.’

Shall we try Hegel?

Hegel’s distinctions as to what he meant by civil society are often unclear. For example, while it seems to be the case that he felt that a civil society such as the German society in which he lived was an inevitable movement of the dialectic, he made way for the crushing of other types of “lesser” and not fully realized types of civil society as these societies were not fully conscious or aware—as it were—as to the lack of progress in their societies. Thus, it was perfectly legitimate in the eyes of Hegel for a conqueror such as Napoleon to come along and destroy that which was not fully realized….

The State is “objective spirit” so “it is only through being a member of the state that the individual himself has objectivity, truth, and ethical life” (section 258). Furthermore, every member both loves the State with genuine patriotism, but has transcended mere “team spirit” by reflectively endorsing their citizenship. Members of a Hegelian State are happy even to sacrifice their lives for the State.

How about Kant. Not that you can make sense of him without a few years of serious application, if even then, but let this be a taste. No natural law in Kant, that’s for sure, and he was certainly not a utilitarian.

In Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Kant also posited the “counter-utilitarian idea that there is a difference between preferences and values, and that considerations of individual rights temper calculations of aggregate utility”, a concept that is an axiom in economics:

Everything has either a price or a dignity. Whatever has a price can be replaced by something else as its equivalent; on the other hand, whatever is above all price, and therefore admits of no equivalent, has a dignity. But that which constitutes the condition under which alone something can be an end in itself does not have mere relative worth, i.e., price, but an intrinsic worth, i.e., a dignity. (p. 53, italics in original).

A phrase quoted by Kant, which is used to summarize the counter-utilitarian nature of his moral philosophy, is Fiat justitia, pereat mundus, (“Let justice be done, though the world perish”), which he translates loosely as “Let justice reign even if all the rascals in the world should perish from it”.

If there is a more dangerous political-philosophy position anywhere among the supposedly great philosophers than “let justice be done though the world may perish” I have not seen it.

And there is, of course, Nietzsche. He was not an anti-semite, but he was hardly a democratic liberal seeking the greatest good for the greatest number. Since, unlike Heidegger, he didn’t wear a Nazi pin on his collar to the very end of the Third Reich, he is separated as much as possible from having had a direct link to Fascism by all right-thinking individuals who still find his philosophy attractive. Yet between his Will to Power and the search for the Superman, not to forget his disdain for the bourgeoise and the high regard he had among the Nazis, you cannot expect to find in him anything that seeks to create the open society and the largest expanse of personal freedom for the greatest number. From Influence and reception of Friedrich Nietzsche we find this from an American, although there is more there if you would like to look.

American writer H. L. Mencken avidly read and translated Nietzsche’s works and has gained the sobriquet “the American Nietzsche”. In his book on Nietzsche, Mencken portrayed the philosopher as a proponent of anti-egalitarian aristocratic revolution, a depiction in sharp contrast with left-wing interpretations of Nietzsche. Nietzsche was declared an honorary anarchist by Emma Goldman, and he influenced other anarchists such as Guy AldredRudolf RockerMax Cafard and John Moore.

And do I need to enter into a discussion of Marx and Engels, both of whom took their turgid idiocies from Hegel? And just to bring these closer to the present, we must not leave out The Frankfurt School who dominate our universities to this very day.

My visit to the Berlin Wall

This being the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I thought I might tell the story when I was there myself. I was hitchhiking in Europe in 1973 and as we were at the East German border already, thought we (me and my girlfriend) might head off to Berlin by hitching along the highway from the West German border into Berlin. A longish way, but if you were picked up a ride at all, there was only one destination the driver would have been heading for. And we ended up being picked up by a man in a Mercedes, so that an hour and a half or so later, we were in Berlin. And the moment we exited the car, in the dead centre of West Berlin, right on the Kurfürstendamm, we were approached by three members of the American military who took out a joint which we smoked right there and then. Welcome to Berlin.

West Berlin was quite an adventure in so many ways, but I will stick to the main event which was to go to the Wall, and then afterwards to travel into East Berlin. Now I must confess that at the time, I was a very long-haired person, which in those days was something of a novelty, specially in Europe. So we went to the Wall, got up on the observation deck, looked through binoculars into this no-mans-land space between the two walls (both built by the East Germans so that they could trap anyone caught in the middle – barbed wire everywhere). I then looked over at the watchtower about 100 metres off in the distance in which there were two East German guards with their own binoculars looking back at me.

The next day – and how surprisingly vivid these memories are – we crossed over at the one checkpoint where crossings were permitted. To leave the Allied section for the Soviet Zone was nothing at all. You just went over the line and no one would stop you. But then there was the East German border where we each first had to change ten marks (which was actually real money back then) into the worthless East German currency. And then we got to the border guard who checked our passports who, when he looked at my passport photo and then at me, reached out and swept the hair from my face to make sure it was really me and that was really my passport. And with the passport stamped and the money exchanged – and this might have taken an hour or so – we went towards the gate into East Berlin.

And before we exited, there to greet us was a very upbeat official greeter from East Germany who spoke with a French Canadian accent. Incredible, I said, how did you end up speaking English with a French Canadian accent? Because, he said, he had been a prisoner of war in Quebec.

Then into East Berlin where we went first to the dreariest coffee shop I have ever seen. Near the wall, but the first place you could go to. If you wanted to demonstrate how awful communism is, that was the way to do it, and it did it very well.

Then past all of the buildings that were along the border wall, that were relics of the old German Reich. Every building still had bullet holes and chipped stone from the rifle fire that were relics from a war that had ended 28 years before. Nothing of the kind remained in the western half of the city.

Then went to the museum of course which I remember little of. But what is indelible was the War Memorial for which the changing of the guard was the highlight. I stuck around to watch it at least twice, and maybe even one more time after that. Was it at the museum, I don’t know. But what got me was that even with only two guards going and two guards plus their commander coming out and then returning, the goose-stepping of just five soldiers made the entire square shake. Have just found a video someone must have taken back then, but the sound quality gives you no sense of any of it. What an entire army must have sounded like would have been incredible.

Then as night fell, back through the gate which you had to get through by 6:00 pm or something. But along the way there were all kinds of men dressed in black who wanted to change money and would speak to you out of the side of their mouths and in very subdued tones. But with the unimaginable creepiness of it, there was no way I would have ever talked to any of them, never mind attempted to change money.

Whether this was an important part of my education in turning my back on the left, it was no doubt part of it. Communism is gone, but there are always enough crazies around who want to put it back. Dark, dark times, now gone, but you never know your future. There are always people stupid enough to give others genuine power who promise paradise on earth, or at least free stuff, but will only put you in chains. This is a bit of a reminder of what it’s like, but you know what, there are still socialists everywhere who think, this time it will be different.

Neither a socialist nor a libertarian be

You don’t often seem something like this, an article pointing out the dead heart of libertarian philosophy by a conservative who understands the problem: How Libertarianism Makes People Susceptible To Huge Government. Title doesn’t really get there for me, but the text of the article does.

:Libertarianism has become less about a commitment to limited government and more a philosophy of autonomous individualism. The latter is an ideology that undermines the possibility of the former, in large part because it really does leave people alone.

If libertarians were actually conservatives, I would take the point. But the article makes the case that what libertarians lack is an understanding of the fundamental point made by conservatives. Libertarian philosophy is as dead as socialism while pretending to be on the other side. Let me begin by pointing out from the article that what is missing is conservative philosophy. It is the presuppositions in libertarian thought that make it so empty.

Astute libertarians (or classical liberals, for those who prefer that label) recognize that political liberty has cultural prerequisites. We are born neither free nor rational, but come into this world dependent and lacking in reason. Care and instruction are necessary for us to attain even some freedom and rationality, along with the virtues needed to exercise them well.

In essence, for a libertarian society to exist requires everyone to be born into a classical liberal society, learn their morality from an existing social structure, not be continually menaced by socialists in their midst, and then, but only then, be allowed to get on with their lives.

Only a virtuous people is capable of sustaining self-government.

The often-tenuous conservative-libertarian alliance has rested upon this truth … while remaining aware that limited government is dependent upon cultural antecedents that promote and protect the virtues required for self-government. Practical libertarianism requires strong families, churches, and communities, which provide stability, a sense of belonging, and the moral instruction that enables self-government….

Many libertarians appear to have forgotten or never learned this insight, as they now seem eager to condemn cultural conservatism as incompatible with individual autonomy. Such libertarianism is hostile to traditional forms of community, especially the family and church, which it sees as repressive and restrictive….

Today’s libertarianism allows and even encourages the destruction of the virtues and associations necessary for successful self-government.

Here is the central point.

Those of us who value liberty must not only promote virtue in the private sphere, but also wrestle with how government intervention is to promote it and how much intervention is necessary….

The paradox of libertarianism is that it depends upon cultural capital it cannot replenish.

Libertarians presuppose the continuing existence of all of the institutional structures that make our societies operate, in the same way that socialists presuppose the continuing existence of all of the necessary elements of a productive economy. A libertarian society has never been attempted, nor is it even possible, so there will never be a real-world example to demonstrate its inevitable failure. But like socialists who have seen many failures in the many attempts to set up a socialist economic structure, the end result is always the declaration that real socialism has not yet been tried. It would thus be said when the first libertarian state had broken down that a real libertarian society has never been tried. In this case, it will always remain true because it never will be tried.

A wonderful series of discussions that help make the case for intelligent design

From Another scientist challenges Darwin’s theory:

Dr. Eberlin writes in 172 pages of energetic prose about the artful solutions to major engineering, chemistry, and biology in living cells of living things that are evidence of a factor of foresight and intelligence.

Dr. Eberlin runs through a wonderful series of discussions that make his case for design and not chance (Darwin’s theory is built on chance and random events):

  1.  The complex functionality of membranes.
  2. The ideal components and proportions of the atmosphere.
  3. The genius make-up of genetic material, DNA and RNA.
  4. Gene controls — operons.
  5. The magic of enzymes — they are made to work.
  6. Chaparones and chaparonins that modify and maximize protein synthesis and benefits.
  7. The special activities and makeup of bugs, bacteria, and carnivorous plants.
  8. Birds and their sense of direction.
  9. The extraordinary nature of bird eggs and bird gestation.
  10. The special provisions that are essential for human reproduction.
  11. Special provision for sight.

Chemicals don’t have a brain, can’t organize complex functionality; they just get pushed around by electric magnetic physical forces.  It is silly to propose that random chemical changes that occasionally find a survival benefit can create complex functionality of the magnitude described in any cell, much less the many living single to multi-celled and of course the higher forms of life.

Come on, be serious. Think of this as a random chance event.

Eberlin studies complex chemical chain reactions facilitated by enzymes of amazing size and complexity, and the whole thing managed by the nucleus of the cell that has genetic material essential to manage all the cell’s anatomy and physiological/chemical functionality to keep the cell alive and reproducing. Of course, if that cell were a part of a multicellular organism, the genetic material also determined the role of that cell in the larger organism.

As an example, membranes keep the cell intact but also allow nutrients and waste to go in and out, while protecting against toxins. Think of manufacturing and retail “just in time” inventory — a living cell is a “just in time” complex functional unit of life, directed by genetic material, DNA, that Bill Gates said “is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.”

Sure, sure. Just by chance. Anyone who believes that are among the most credulous people who have ever lived. Do not make offers to anyone who promises to sell you the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The joining of two liberation movements of historically oppressed, despised, and ghettoized people

Ray Charles in Israel. The final two paras:

By the late 1970s, though, many people on the left—including activists in African American communities—would begin to challenge the assertion that the two liberation movements of historically oppressed, despised, and ghettoized people should continue working together, or see their collective struggles as in any way equivalent.

Ray Charles never bought it. In 1982, a decade after his first visit, he returned to give a series of sold-out performances. And in 1987, on his last visit, he performed in the former Roman amphitheater at Caesarea. The Israeli jazz saxophonist Nadav Haber was at that performance. He told a Haaretz reporter that even in that large performance space, Charles managed to create a feeling of intimacy. “Ray,” Haber said, “is the kind of artist who takes you in a kind of trance; you leave altered. Many people in the amphitheater came to relax and enjoy themselves. I came to be with Ray, and that is what actually happened.”

Forcing people to pay other people’s bills

A comment from Medicare for All at Powerline.

When we reached a point that it became acceptable to force people to help pay the Dr. & hospital bills of others it resulted in a huge loss of freedom for Americans.

The talk about ensuring that we don’t become a socialist country would be funny if it were not tragic because it’s already here. And has been for a long time.

It has become accepted that Americans owe other Americans financial assistance in paying for their medical care. It is one thing to assist with the 2% – 5% of the population with chronic medical conditions and limited financial resources. It is entirely different to subsidize everyone’s medical expenses. And likely those most harmed are the middle range of financial resources. The poor receive more than what they pay and the rich can afford more than what they pay.

A huge opportunity was missed by the GOP in 2017 when they did not Repeal Obamacare completely.

Personality traits academic achievement requires

In order to calmly debate all ideas, you need to put emotion aside.

Similarly, new ideas, or being contradicted, will likely upset some people. But, in the pursuit of academic debate, you have to ignore this and calmly present both sides. Low in Conscientiousness (“rule-following”) and high in intellectual curiosity are useful personality ingredients. This means being better able to understand that the truth is ever more closely reached by being non-conformist—by questioning the current “truth.”

Academic achievement requires a combination of  high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and moderately low Conscientiousness. This means being clever enough to solve a difficult problem, but also low in rule-following, while also being able to “think outside the box”. And, being low in Agreeableness, not caring about offending people, which original ideas always do.

An aspect of Agreeableness is empathy—being concerned with the feelings of others and being able to guess what they might be. People who are high in “systematizing” (with systematizing being vital to problem solving) tend to be low in empathy.

Universities, traditionally, have in essence been about giving geniuses a place in which they can attempt to solve their problems, working at their chosen problems for years on end.

Genius breakthroughs are only made, ultimately, by causing offence.

Giving geniuses a place in which they can attempt to solve their problems

Now here’s a question: Are Women Destroying Academia?. In amongst the text we find this as part of the answer:

In order to calmly debate all ideas, you need to put emotion aside. But females are simply less able to do that than males because they are higher in Neuroticism—feeling negative feelings strongly. Thus, they more easily become overwhelmed by negative feelings, precluding them from logical thought. (Data on personality traits is drawn from Personality, by Daniel Nettle, 2007).

Similarly, new ideas, or being contradicted, will likely upset some people. But, in the pursuit of academic debate, you have to ignore this and calmly present both sides. However, this is more difficult for females, because they are more sympathetic, meaning that “not hurting people’s feelings” can become their highest ideal. Higher in Conscientiousness (“rule-following”) and lower in intellectual curiosity than males, females are also more conformist. This means they are less able to understand that, in academia, the truth is ever more closely reached by being non-conformist—by questioning the current “truth.”

Thus, argues DeGroot, female domination of academia will seriously damage academia as a place where ideas can be seriously debated.

Ed Dutton, in a video entitled “Do Female Reduce Male Per Capita Genius?” takes this critique of feminism even further. He argues that geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and moderately low Conscientiousness. This means they are clever enough to solve a difficult problem, but being low in rule-following, can also “think outside the box,”. And, being low in Agreeableness, they don’t care about offending people, which original ideas always do.

An aspect of Agreeableness is empathy—being concerned with the feelings of others and being able to guess what they might be. Dutton shows that people who are high in “systematizing” (which males typically are compared to females, with systematizing being vital to problem solving) tend to be low in empathy. Thus, Dutton argues, you don’t get many women geniuses because their IQ range is more bunched towards the mean; and also because they are too high in Agreeableness and Conscientiousness.

Universities, traditionally dominated by males, have in essence been about giving geniuses a place in which they can attempt to solve their problems, working at their chosen problems for years on end. But Dutton argues that female academics tend to be the “Head Girl Type” (chief prefect at all-girls schools in the UK) with “normal range” high IQ and high in Conscientiousness and Agreeableness—the exact opposite of a typical genius. Accordingly, once you allow females into academia, they will be promoted over genius males because they come across as better people to work with—more conscientious, easier to be around and more socially skilled. But this will tend to deny geniuses the place of nurture they need.

As females come to dominate, the culture of academia will feminize. High in Conscientiousness, women will create a rule-governed bureaucracy where research occurs through incremental steps and a certain number of publications must be presented every few years, rather than through genius breakthroughs. But geniuses typically work on huge problems for years. So this bureaucracy will make it impossible for them to do this and keep their jobs.

Women will also create a culture of co-operative “research groups,” anathema to the kind of anti-social loners who tend towards genius. And females will, of course, tend to create an atmosphere of emotion and empathy, the enemy of the unemotional, coldly systematic style of the genius—and, traditionally, of academia.

In this atmosphere, “not causing offence” will become much more important. But genius breakthroughs are only made, ultimately, by causing offence.

They are broken, loonies even, complete crackpots

I thought this was one of the most on-the-money posts I’ve seen at Instapundit: Denying the sky is blue because Orange Man Bad. This was some of it:


Yes, America is only 243 years old. But by the same token Italy is only 138 years old.

In any case, if you’re rolling your eyes at Trump’s statement – and thinking that the Italian interpreter is too – you’re missing the point, which is that countries like the United States and Italy – and Great Britain and Australia and Germany and Poland and Spain and Slovenia and so on – do indeed share a cultural and political heritage dating back to ancient Rome (and further back in time). It’s called the Western civilisation. You might hate it, but you’re still in it.

This is what got me right in where I found it at Instapundit!!.

OCTOBER 18, 2019

TRUMP DERANGEMENT SYNDROME: Denying the sky is blue because Orange Man Bad. “If Trump – or Obama or Scott Morrison or Hillary Clinton – saying that 2 + 2 = 4 makes you automatically deny the math because your bête noire simply cannot be correct, you might want to take a deep breath or two and reflect on your approach to life. You’re broken. Don’t be that person.”

Oh they are broken, loonies even. Complete crackpots. What kind of people live in places like Australia and want to get rid of air conditioning? Nutters through and through.