Philosophy – Rational Standard https://rationalstandard.com Free political commentary for the dissenting South African Thu, 15 Feb 2018 10:05:56 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 https://i2.wp.com/rationalstandard.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/cropped-RS-Logo.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Philosophy – Rational Standard https://rationalstandard.com 32 32 94510741 The Dangers of Power and the Glory of Liberty https://rationalstandard.com/dangers-power-glory-liberty/ https://rationalstandard.com/dangers-power-glory-liberty/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 11:37:34 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6761 Power Martin van Staden rightfully stated about the nature of government that “that those who are inevitably attracted to government are people who seek power. This is an absolute rule.” Sure, and people going to a steak restaurant are attracted to meat and people entering a liquor shop are attracted by alcoholic beverages, with me especially champagne. […]

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Power

Martin van Staden rightfully stated about the nature of government that “that those who are inevitably attracted to government are people who seek power. This is an absolute rule.” Sure, and people going to a steak restaurant are attracted to meat and people entering a liquor shop are attracted by alcoholic beverages, with me especially champagne. Politics won’t go without power but also not without law, constitutionalism and institutions.

Power is the capacity of one, a pair, a group or an organisation to command the behaviour of others without the necessity to convince them.

Power is not only related to political rule and force. We find it everywhere: in the family, in labour relations, and in schools. For the purpose of this article I concentrate on political power. That leads to the question of what the essence of politics is. The essence of politics is the distinction between friend and foe. Friend and foe and the criteria may change through the times, it can be republicans vs. monarchists, segregationists vs. integrationists, command economy vs. the free market, and today politically-correct totalitarian governesses vs. supporters of freedom and individuality.

Sometimes we wonder what in the past people thought worthwhile to fight against. But the political foe will always be the alien against whom in extremis a fight must be organised. That does not mean that it is always about war. Maintaining and choosing peace are also political decisions and the greatest danger to law, liberty, constitutionalism and institutions are never-ending wars without limits, borders and even a properly defined enemy as we see it since 2001 as ‘terrorism’ is in most cases one ill-defined term and not a concrete enemy.

If you wage war against an ill-defined term you will have war. But rulers do not always have to use the instruments of power, in many cases persuasion and convincing through debate and public discussion is an appropriate way to rule. Brute force may be the standard of all kind of tyrannies but even the most liberal and modest state cannot exist without institutions enforcing law and order; even an anarchic-capitalist one includes the concept of an order.

Everyone before starting to construct his “Weltanschaung” (worldview or ideology) must make the decision if man is fundamentally ‘good’ or ‘capable to become and do evil’. Utopian  ideologies like all kind of socialism maintain that man is basically good and only circumstances make him evil. The reign of terror and genocides this concept produced since the French Revolution is evident, but the Jacobin scum will never give up .

Power is an essential instrument in politics. As all instruments it can be used carefully and constructively, or abused.

A sceptical (in the sense of Karl Popper) view on the human being and his nature makes us recognize the need for law, constitutions and institutions.

Law

Law is the exact opposite of arbitrary behaviour. But we often see arbitrary decisions veiled in the dress of formal law. This is poisonous. Law is only ‘law’ if it is reasonable (measured on the basic believes and assumptions which led to its formulation), predictable, constant, measurable, reviewable (by courts) and generally valid. ‘Rule of law’ can never mean that the law makes itself efficient without a moderator. This moderator can always only be man. Rule of law is only secured if man consciously follows due process and rules. “Stick to the rules” if you win or lose is a most essential attitude and the essence of just rule. At present, in Germany, parliamentary rules were suddenly changed as they may benefit a new opposition party, the patriotic and pro-free market Alternative for Germany. That is the first step towards arbitrary and tyrannical rule.

Constitution

Carl Schmitt remarked that every state is a state of law and every state is a constitutional state. “Das Recht ist im Staat and der Staat ist im Recht”, a quip that cannot be translated without losing the sardonic sense. We may interpret this sentence in a libertarian but also in a very etatistic sense. For our purpose we should only speak of constitution if it is the fundamental law of a state, if fundamental rights are recognised, if the separation of powers is secured, if (most, I am a monarchist) office bearers can be voted in but most importantly, also be voted out, if the courts of law are independent, if powers are distributed between federal and regional, and if the rule of law is established in all institutions of the state. That still does not give us complete security against crass abuse of power.

Most important is that the citizens see themselves as such. This means they consider themselves courageous people endowed with specific political rights and duties, ready to exercise them and not vote as cattle or serfs. Finally, it is the freedom-loving  citizen who protects the law and guards the constitution. Tyranny only comes into being with ‘yes’-men. We must have the courage to say ‘no’ and ‘without me’.

Institution

A realistic, meaning a sceptical, view of human nature leads us to recognise the necessity of institutions. “Institutum” in Latin means an establishment, a custom, a way of life. Institutions support the human being, they serve him and preserve both his liberty and his independence.

The opposite of a legitimate institution is bureaucracy: the dominance (in ancient Greek language “cratos“) of administration, in reality the dominance of a self-serving, greedy, tax-consuming, incompetent, cancer-like growing bunch of suckers good only at chicanery and turning citizens into serfs. The development from the Roman principat, a monarchic order respecting liberty and the rule of law to the dominat, a bureaucratic, tyrannical, even totalitarian order is a warning. We may see this most dangerous tendency in all highly-developed states and especially in the European Union.

Bureaucracy, which in essence will always be socialist, is so dangerous that it finally consumes the whole body politic, society, culture, and economy. As the great Austrian writer Heimito von Doderer said:

“Socialism as a tremendous expense for the welfare of humankind which consumes itself so completely  that finally everyone has the remaining. Nothing.”

Bureaucracy is libertarians’, liberals’, and conservatives’ ultimate enemy. It’s very existence destroys constitutionalism, the rule of law, and law and order itself. It is the most arbitrary and stupid, inept, suspect and debile abuse of power. In fighting this monster, we are fighting the good fight.

Sources:

Hans Strotzka, Macht: A psychoanalytic essay, Paul Zsolnay, Vienna, 1985

Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, 1932

C. Northcote Parkinson, Parkinson’s law, Houghton Mifflin Comp, Boston, 1957

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Must stupid reign? https://rationalstandard.com/must-stupid-reign/ https://rationalstandard.com/must-stupid-reign/#respond Tue, 30 Jan 2018 20:04:05 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7208 On the sentence: the intelligent gives way the world domination of the stupid is built! Maria von Ebner – Eschenbach (19th century Austrian writer and novelist) Sometimes we ask ourselves why so many stupid people are in responsible positions. By “stupid” I do not mean people possessing a different opinion or ideology – I know very […]

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On the sentence: the intelligent gives way

the world domination of the stupid is built!

Maria von Ebner – Eschenbach

(19th century Austrian writer and novelist)

Sometimes we ask ourselves why so many stupid people are in responsible positions. By “stupid” I do not mean people possessing a different opinion or ideology – I know very intelligent Socialists (and stupid Conservatives) – but people of definitely below-average intelligence. But simple stupidity is also not the whole point. A simpleton who at least knows that he is one and therefore knows his place and does not forward any claims to society is not really dangerous and may life a happy life – at least not disturbing others [1]. The dangerous combination, the poisonous brew to borrow a phrase from Sir Karl Popperconsists of  stupidity in the sense of being inept to master rational questions, mixed with ignorance and arrogance. But it seems that this is a driving combination to the top of some (mainly political) hierarchies.

The whole thing was already some time ago scientifically investigated and has a name [2]. It is named the Dunning-Kruger-effect. This is a  cognitive distortion, meaning that relatively inept people posses the tendency to overestimate their own capacities and underestimate the capacities of others. This popular term derives from a publication by David Dunning and Justin Kruger, dated 1999. Within psychological literature it has not been used (maybe due to incompetence?) but is at home in academic and social media discussions outside of psychology.

“If someone is really incompetent then he not even realizes that he is inept. … The properties one needs to find a correct solution are exactly those you need to recognize if a solution is correct or wrong,” David Dunning says.

My addition is that you have to be learned and intelligent enough to recognize which challenge or question is beyond your intellectual capacities. That includes a certain abstention from vanity, as some people are to vain to admit to themselves or even to others that they have limits of erudition. As Otto von Bismarck remarked, vanity is the mortgage on the character of man which has to be deducted to get the net value.

Dunning and Kruger had recognized in previous studies that for example by learning a text, playing chess or driving ignorance leads to more self confidence than knowledge. So knowledge is not only power but also a burden. At Cornell University both scientists researched that effect in further tests and concluded in 1999 that less competent persons:

  • Tend to overestimate their own capabilities;
  • Do not recognize or see superior capacities with others;
  • Are not able to measure the amount of their own incompetence;
  • may through education and training not only raise their own competence but may also learn how to evaluate others and themselves better.

In other words, they might be able to go from puffed-up know it all (like me) to a decent, rational thinker (like me). My personal addendum is that nothing makes one more eager to make a decision than a profound under-nourishment of real information. That seems to be the ‘recipe for success’ of some generals and many politicians.

Furthermore, this lack of competence and intelligence seems to go hand-in-hand with the tendency to command other people around. Therefore, we may see such people blossoming in all types of authoritarian structures. On the other side, hierarchical systems are necessary and (modestly applied) most useful.

Popper reminded us [3] to teach the student how difficult it is to gain secure knowledge,  but the plethora of 3/8 more deformed than educated, half-wits, loud mouths and busy bodies forms a phalanx eager to steamroll the educated ones. Also, the outstanding French diplomat and statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord is reported [4]   to have made  a distinction as follows: intelligent and industrious at the same time does not exist (as the clever ones avoid work and can easily burden the stupid’s with it), intelligent and lazy he is himself, stupid and lazy may be useful for representation and protocol but stupid and industrious is a dangerous combination and the Almighty lord shall protect us then.

Dunning and Kruger did show that weak performances go much more hand-in-hand with over self-confidence than strong performances. Maybe real achievers are just more modest than the mediocre ones. [5]

The challenge is to select the right people, to have good schooling from the very beginning, to emphasize classical and philosophical education, and to strive for clean and decent heads of organisations. Because one thing is true always: ”The fish always rots from the head” and first class bosses have first class colleagues, employees and civil servants and second class ones, third and fourth class subjects. As Machiavelli taught us, “if you like to judge a prince, look at his courtesans”. If we look around, it does not look pleasant. And so we are back at Ebner-Eschenbach’s quote that giving way to inept men and idiots established their dominance. But why should that be ?

But we, the normal citizens, shareholders, or whatever, must stop being too polite to such people. Finally, there is only one good but harsh answer we should give the arrogant debili, inepti et suspecti , the one answer Charles de Gaulle gave them: “Ils sont censé allez merde”.

1) Horst Geyer, Ueber die Dummheit (On stupidity), VMA publisher, Wiesbaden, p 307f

2) Source: Wikipedia article on the ‘Dunning – Kruger’ effect.

3) The Open Society and its Enemies II, Francke, Munich, 3rd edition, 1977, p 353

4) Geyer, ibid, p 25

5) In the year 2000, Dunning and Kruger received the satiric Ig-Nobel prize in the field of psychology for their study.

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The long shadow of dwarfs (Part 2) https://rationalstandard.com/long-shadow-dwarfs-2/ https://rationalstandard.com/long-shadow-dwarfs-2/#respond Sat, 27 Jan 2018 19:49:40 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6660 To the true, the beautiful and the good. – inscription on the Frankfurt Opera house After having discussed in part 1 the aesthetic foundations of liberty, and one typical popular musical phenomena, yours truly likes to turn to the question of why tastelessness prevails at the moment, and why some of those phenomena die young. […]

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To the true, the beautiful and the good.

– inscription on the Frankfurt Opera house

After having discussed in part 1 the aesthetic foundations of liberty, and one typical popular musical phenomena, yours truly likes to turn to the question of why tastelessness prevails at the moment, and why some of those phenomena die young. I will then turn to glorious news (as I dare to be an optimist) of the development of fantastic young Opera singers in South Africa.

Making money with nihilistic art production is the one and only triumph of cultural Marxism. It did not abolish the materially rich; it made them vulgar like any gutter-boy. It shows us physically that richness has nothing to do with elegance or nobility. And more: you can become rich by producing and managing empty, lousy, and ugly works of art. Of course, all conservatives and other decent people did know that already, but the Marxists and Nihilists proofed it on the living object.

My domestic from Malawi dresses more elegantly and stylishly then 95 percent of Viennese women, and about the remaining 5 percent I am not quite completely sure. In addition they, made it a reality that it is not longer reluctantly admissible to be mean in order to get rich, but that it is totally all right and admissible in being at the same time rich, mean, and vulgar. That is the best prerequisite for culture managers, especially in the field of music. The more empty and devoid of quality, the better.

The result is that everything – nearly everything – can be sold to rich and middle class and poor alike, if it just has the right (i.e. trendy left) cheeky slogan attached. T&Cs apply: if you challenge the emptiness and obvious vulgarity, you are a fascist.

Upon entering museums of modern art, or listening to the supposed more or less melodic noises, yours truly cannot stop laughing. But the best – the really best, the very best – are the large depots there all the gems of modern painting and sculpture which even nihilist art managers do not dare to sell, expose, or to exhibit, are stored.

You need a lot of good Champagne to survive that visual or noisy  ‘aesthetic’ experience. But with about three crates of Pol Roger and a beautiful girl on your side (or wherever it may be tolerable), looking at it or listening to it could then be very amusing, as modern art and, especially, designed ‘plastic’ music have no moral effect, nor any spiritual effect – just the need to make your champagne bottle go ‘bop’!

If we no longer cultivate music, we produce noise from the caves. [1]

You may ask what that has to do with liberty or economic considerations for a free market system? First, we cannot be truly free and rational acting humans if aesthetically rotting in the gutter, and, second, it warns us that even in the framework of a spontaneous and free economic order, aesthetic nonsense may happen and should be avoided as it finally subverts liberty and order.

But why do some musical phenomena die young or take drugs up to the upper edge of the lower chin? No one is more critical of his own products and creations than one who really wants to achieve and is culturally consciousness of his own qualities. But those who most intensely feel the huge gap between their puffed up status, the propaganda, and the empty wind made among them are celebrities and global icons, who often have quite limited or even poor substance. No one who at least tries to achieve something  meaningful in art can live and survive with that very big discrepancy, and no big numbers on pay cheques can redeem that feeling of emptiness and inadequacy which knocks on the door daily and mercilessly. They must then escape from a false, fake world into an even more unreal dream world. Drugs and alcohol are then easy remedies. “The emptiness empties any substance” [2] and then destroys the remaining. But the manipulators of nihilistic art production – and a public which does not dare to say ‘no’, and swallows every bit of nonsense and noise out of fear of being called reactionary, outdated, un-hip, fascist and so on – are all also guilty.

The circle is closed and perfect. The clueless and the cowards finance the nihilist machinery, which employs producers of noise and nonsense, which serve the base needs of the masses, who are then motivated to finance more of the same. The whole thing is redundant but profitable and therefore works ad repetendum.

But not with people possessing a rational and aesthetic standard. The task is to make their standard dominant.

And with that said, we march into the realm of brilliant young classic musical singers in South Africa.

Of course, my few sentences cannot be an anthology of all those marvellous artists, but I may name a few – with an heart-felt apology to the unlisted – and introduce them shortly. The readers’ interest is encouraged: Google, social media, and ClassicFM may give you a plethora of further information. “El lucevan le stele”…

The Gauteng Opera is an all-round performing arts and entertainment company focusing on opera-related productions, concerts, and events in South Africa. They not only do performances, but also organize an Academy for talented young singers and train and develop for the Opera of the future, do auditions and various events. You may meet them online and see and hear them on the 18th of July in Johannesburg presenting La Boheme.

Pretty Yende is surely one of the most outstanding lyric coloratura sopranos of the present Opera scene. Coming from Piet Retief, she discovered classic Opera by coincidence. Over years and years, she trained and developed her voice, won prizes and eminent competitions, until a few years ago she achieved a break through at the Metropolitan Opera in Le Comte Ory. She is based in Milano, and covers the Italian and French repertoire. Her CD Pretty Yende – a journey gives fabulous examples from various roles she performed. I wonder if we will hear her once as Isolde. Many people believe that one is born with a great voice – this is not quite so. It is a very difficult and demanding task to form a natural talent. The quip about success being 90 percent transpiration and 10 percent inspiration is most true in that musical realm.

Levy Strauss Segkapane is a young lyric tenor performing the Italian repertoire, especially Rossini. He has already sung many roles throughout various European opera houses. At the age of 27, he already has a wonderful lyric voice, which is most promising. Recently, he impressed as Conte de Liebenskof in Viaggio a Reims and Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola. Juan Domingo Flores, watch out!

Pumeza Matshikiza is a soprano who studied at the University of Cape Town College of Music, graduated cum laude under Professor Virginia Davids, then at the Royal College of Music, London, with a full three-year scholarship, and in the Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House, where she made her début as a flower maiden in Parsifal. She released her debut studio album, Voice of Hope, in 2014 containing both classic arias and African popular and traditional songs.

Stefan Louw is an outstanding tenor, singing both heroic and lyric tenor roles like Alfredo in La Traviata, Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly, or Cavaradossi in Tosca. He is also active in popularizing the Opera genre; for example he founded a non-profit organisation called Sempre Opera, which produces operas in South Africa. The launch concerts for Sempre Opera took place in March 2012 in Pretoria and Johannesburg. He has produced a series of concerts called Aria! Opera for Everyone, which ran in 2013 and 2014 at the Roodepoort Theatre in Johannesburg. In 2014, he started the non-profit Big Wig Opera company, also based at the Roodeport.

Noluvuyiso Mpofu is from the Eastern Cape near Port Elisabeth. In summer 2016, she won the 2nd prize at the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition held in Cape Town. She is a lyric coloratura soprano, and recently sung Gilda in Rigoletto, Clara in Porgy and Bess and Micaela in Carmen. I believe she is a great promise.

Siyabonga Maqungo is a lyric tenor who, after his study at the North-West University, gained a stipend for Cologne to do a Masters at the prestigious Kölner Hochschule für Musik und Tanz. During summer 2015, he made his debut as Alfred in Die Fledermaus at the  Staatstheater Meiningen, a theatre with a very long tradition of cultivating opera. His first fixed engagement started there in the season of 2015/2016, where he appeared in five productions, singing (for example) the Normanno in Lucia di Lammermoor and the Conte Almaviva in the Barbiere de Seviglia. Check him out!

Nombuso Ndlandla is also from Piet Retief, and a promising lyric coloratura soprano, but I believe she also has a dramatic touch. She also studied at the North-West University, also got a stipend to Cologne to finish her studies, trained by Professor Protschka She concentrates in Belcanto and music of Händel, Vivaldi, Mozart and Bach. She is promising and we hope for a break through.

Jaques Imbrailo is a classic baritone. He grew up on a farm in the Free State province of South Africa, and first got into singing on a dare, at age 11, during open auditions after a concert by the Drakensburg Boys Choir. He later went to university to study law, but took singing lessons on the side, earning both a BA Law degree and a BMus degree at Potchefstroom Campus in South Africa, in 2002. Later, he studied at the Royal College of Music in London. His first major success was his performance as Billy Budd in Britten‘s opera at Glyndebourne in 2010. He has performed in Debussy‘s Pelléas et Mélisande with the Welsh National Opera and at the Aalto Theatre in Essen, Germany, Mozart‘s Don Giovanni with the Scottish Opera, Così fan tutte with the Houston Grand Opera, Die Zauberflöte with the Welsh National Opera, Le nozze di Figaro with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Purcell‘s Dido and Aeneas with Rome Opera.

Musa Ngqungwana is a bass baritone coming from Port Elizabeth. He graduated with Honors in Performance (First Class) from the University of Cape Town, and is also a graduate of the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) in Philadelphia. He wrote his memoirs, Odyssey of an African Opera Singer: From Zwide Township to the World Stage, which was published in 2014. His performance highlights have included the roles of Talpa in Puccini’s Il tabarro, Count Waldner in R.Strauss Arabella, the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Lorenzo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi, and Zuniga in Bizet’s Carmen, plus the following roles during his time at the Academy of Vocal Arts: the title role in Verdi’s Oberto, the four villains in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, Gremin in Tschaikovski’s Eugene Onegin, Sancho Pança in Massenet’s Don Quichotte, Samuel in Verdi’s Un ballo in Maschera, and Les Comte Grieux in Massenet’s Manon, and many many other roles and appearances.

With pleasure we may recognize a blossoming culture of classic singing among young or younger singers dedicated to the great musical heritage of Europe. Ex Africa lux!

  1. For an anthropological overview: Stanford and Forsyth, A History of Music, Macmillan & Co, London 1950; Chapter I and II. Music is more than just rhythm, voice, melody and instruments made with and by the hands and a more or less insecure and timid combination of that factors.
  2. My strongly subjective translation of Martin Heidegger’s sentence “Das Nichts nichtet”.

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The Fallacies of Fallist Philosophy https://rationalstandard.com/fallacies-fallist-philosophy/ https://rationalstandard.com/fallacies-fallist-philosophy/#comments Thu, 25 Jan 2018 22:01:22 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7086 Some, indeed most, fallists, their supporters and radical decolonists have a penchant for basing their actions on their interpretations of additional favoured continental philosophers. Perhaps the most cited one within UCT’s humanities faculty is the Frenchman Michel Foucault, described by T.B. Davie lecturer Noam Chomsky as “completely amoral” because he rejected the universal basis for a […]

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Some, indeed most, fallists, their supporters and radical decolonists have a penchant for basing their actions on their interpretations of additional favoured continental philosophers.

Perhaps the most cited one within UCT’s humanities faculty is the Frenchman Michel Foucault, described by T.B. Davie lecturer Noam Chomsky as “completely amoral” because he rejected the universal basis for a concept of justice. The underlying theme of all Foucault’s work is that “power”, rather than restricting “knowledge”, ubiquitously controls, defines and develops it relationally, past and present. Like neo-Marxist Antonio Gramsci before him, he viewed ‘power-knowledge’ as the primary means of socially controlling the masses. Foucault had a particular reverence for ‘madness’, which he regarded as the essence of individual expression, and a fascination with prisons. Where they differed in detail, Gramsci favoured the development of “public intellectuals” (whose ideas are derived from the oppressed masses) to replace “traditional” Ph.D.-educated scholars at universities.

At the 2017 dinner for the Fellows of UCT, research deputy vice chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng asked all the newly-inducted Fellows to focus their inaugural addresses on the theme of “Power”. Tellingly, in her address, new Fellow Law Prof Chuma Himonga referred to Lord Acton’s famous quote: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Close behind, if not in parallel with Foucault, is another Frenchman and Foucault-rival, Jacques Derrida, best known for developing a form of analysis known as deconstruction.   Deconstruction is the key tool CRPPists use to expose flaws and instability in normative structures or universally-accepted views in order to render them untenable. Deconstruction is ‘necessary’ because existence is inherently and irreducibly complex, unstable, and impossible to characterize with universal principles or laws.  In Derrida’s view, “there is no out-of-context”; there are no solutions; there is never a moment when meaning is complete and total, even in the short term. There is just endless deconstruction, described by some as “agnogenesis” — the intentional manufacture of ignorance.

A telling account of how “context” is being interpreted and applied at UCT is outlined in DVC Phakeng’s keynote address, titled “Without transformation, research excellence is unsustainable”, at the 2016 UCT Annual Research Function:

“[The] truth is that what made us excellent yesterday, is no guarantee that it will make us excellent tomorrow. To continue in our trajectory of excellence requires the keen ability to manage the change and master adaptability.”

“Excellence is not innocent, especially in a country such as ours, with a history of discrimination and oppression. Excellence always has a context.”

“Excellence, when it is too rigidly defined, leaves us valuing certain stories over others, leaves us assimilating instead of reaching towards newer and better ways of being.”

“The complexity of excellence means that it always has a context – it means different things to different people. This is the reason why, when I talk about excellence, some people ask, “excellence for whom?” and, when some people hear that I am committed to supporting excellence, they misguidedly think that I am only interested in supporting academic indulgence.”

“More than resources, excellence requires the right philosophy.”

Sadly, DVC Phakeng seems to favour one that is a mix of Foucault and Derrida. Let’s hear from her!

Next, there is Frantz Fanon, a Frenchman descended from colonial slaves and Caribbean indigenes. He adds the remaining essential remaining weapons to the fallists’ toolbox: violence and destruction. According to Fanon, everything colonialist must collapse, because colonization is an inherently violent process.  Living in a colonized racist space is violence in itself, even if the racism is subtle, nuanced and “invisible” (which Max Price maintains is the case at UCT). An overtly violent response to such racism isn’t violence. It is only through violence that the colonized can re-assert their own humanity. It is fighting for Dasein and trans-historical restorative (punitive retributional?) social justice. In the extreme, it is reparation at best and vengeful ‘pay-back time’ at worst.

The opening lines of Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth sum up his views unambiguously: “decolonization is always a violent event… it reeks of red-hot cannonballs and bloody knives”. “Colonialism is not a machine capable of thinking, a body endowed with reason. It is naked violence and only gives in when confronted with greater violence”, a process of exorcism endorsing the therapeutic power of violence. “The native’s work is to imagine all possible methods for destroying the settler. For the native, life can only spring up again out of the rotting corpse of the settler… for the colonized people, this violence, because it constitutes their only work, invests their character with positive and creative qualities. The practice of violence binds them together as a whole”. (Dasein?)

Fanon’s primary focal audience are those at the margins of society, i.e. disaffected lawbreakers and the institutionalized impoverished masses he called damnes or the condemned of the Earth. These are equivalent to Karl Marx’s lumpenproletariat.

After liberation, Algeria, perhaps the best example of an African country decolonized using Fanon’s ‘strategy’, soon descended into renewed violence resulting in the mass, often brutal, murder of +-100,000 harki, indigenous Muslim Algerians who had French connections. Thereafter, it became an authoritarian, one-party state in virtually perpetual conflict with Muslim fundamentalists. This had a profoundly negative effect on Fanon’s widow, leading her to commit symbolic suicide in protest. When a local UCT-based fallist heard that she was ‘white’, he immediately reversed his assessment of Fanon, calling him a “sell-out”.

All of the philosophers discussed above were male European citizens who are dead. Only one was non-white, but culturally European.

The consequences of decolonizing UCT along the lines suggested by these gentlemen are dire at best and frightening at worst.

I close with a quote from my favourite US gridiron coach, Vince Lombardi:

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

For fallists, perfection is a non-entity and excellence is determined by the powerful.

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The Fatal Flaw in Socialism https://rationalstandard.com/fatal-flaw-socialism/ https://rationalstandard.com/fatal-flaw-socialism/#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 22:01:19 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6908 Right-wing belief systems, such as capitalism, have certain characteristics that are unattractive to many socially-conscious people.  Socialism or social democracy, with their humane objectives, provide far more attractive alternative philosophies. Unfortunately, however, the left-wing belief systems seeking social justice and opposing the right, all currently possess a fundamental flaw which precludes them from providing a […]

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Right-wing belief systems, such as capitalism, have certain characteristics that are unattractive to many socially-conscious people.  Socialism or social democracy, with their humane objectives, provide far more attractive alternative philosophies. Unfortunately, however, the left-wing belief systems seeking social justice and opposing the right, all currently possess a fundamental flaw which precludes them from providing a genuinely rational and honest political alternative, and to retain their credibility this defect needs to be addressed.

The flaw is that for its implementation socialism requires people to behave in a way that is fundamentally against human nature. The fact of the matter is that the normal humans naturally dedicates, at the very most, 10% of their wealth or time regularly to assisting other, non-related individuals. And the average is in fact probably significantly less than this, closer to 5%.

Historically, this appears always to have been the case, and there is no reason to believe that it is ever likely to change. This figure applies equally to socialists, because there is no evidence whatsoever that socialists in their private lives are any more altruistic or generous than non-socialists. While, as a social animal, humankind is altruistic to a degree, we have clearly evolved with a primarily self-interested nature, which has allowed us as a species to survive, and this is an inescapable evolutionary fact, hardly in itself subject rationally to moral criticism.

To clarify: socialism is predicated upon the conjectural and unquantified claim that every individual in society has an overriding moral obligation to assist those significantly less fortunate than themselves.

The actual extent and degree of the individual’s putative moral obligation to the poor in society, however, are nowhere identified in socialist theory. The vitally important question is left entirely open. Nor is it made clear whether or not this moral obligation takes precedence over the individual’s natural self-interest.

Does altruism take precedence over self-interest or follow it? To exactly what extent is the individual morally obliged to attend to the interests of the poor, and why? Instead of providing an answer, socialism deliberately passes over the question (to which nobody has the answer) and the percentage of income to be extracted from the economically productive and redistributed in order to attain supposed social justice is determined entirely arbitrarily by the socialist politicians who control the state and coercively enforce the putative obligation.

Because no objective measure for the actual degree of our putative moral obligation to one another is known or exists, it is here that the flaw in socialism is manifest. While all humans are altruistic to a degree and altruism is an important voluntary social practice which obviously should be encouraged, the excessive and coercive altruistic demands that socialism makes upon the economically productive in the name of social justice are totally misaligned with actual human nature. The ambiguity and uncertainty of this problematic moral question is deliberately exploited by socialism. Fully aware that there is no answer to the moral question, in an act of intellectual sleight-of-hand it makes out that the answer is a given known to it and proceeds to provide the supposed solution, which is to extract the maximum wealth possible from the economically productive and redistribute it among the poor (thereby securing their votes by turning them into a permanent underclass).

A political system that demands on supposedly moral grounds that people do far more for strangers than is in accordance with human biological nature, even while the vast majority of its own individual supporters and leaders are failing its own proclaimed moral standard, is clearly neither rational nor genuinely moral.

The contradictory element of socialism revealed by this irrational demand on human nature indicates socialism’s true objectives to those who will see. These are no longer altruistic and genuinely concerned with the welfare of the poor, as perhaps they once were. Rather, they are purely political, aimed specifically at winning political power through the significant electoral support of the ingenuous, well-intentioned part of the public, as well as that large section which anticipates benefiting materially from socialism’s redistributive policies.

To eliminate the fatal flaw in left-wing thought, and offer a rational and genuinely moral alternative to right-wing beliefs, socialism has accordingly to do either one of two things: drop completely from its ideology its pseudo-moral demand that people behave in a way entirely contrary to their biological natures, or else somehow get every socialist actually to dedicate on a regular basis significantly more than 10% of their wealth and time to benefiting less well-off strangers, so that socialism can be taken credibly as a genuine moral force.

Society would no doubt benefit from an alternative belief-system challenging that of the right. But it needs to be a rational and genuinely moral system, which socialism is far from providing and not corrupt political expediency dressed up as virtue.

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The Morality of Tax Havens https://rationalstandard.com/morality-tax-havens/ https://rationalstandard.com/morality-tax-havens/#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 08:26:09 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7034 No one, whether individual, government or society, has a moral claim on the wealth that someone else has produced. This fact has been missed in the choir of condemnation of individuals and companies who place their wealth in foreign ‘tax havens’. Instead of questioning why someone might not want to expose their wealth to potential […]

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No one, whether individual, government or society, has a moral claim on the wealth that someone else has produced. This fact has been missed in the choir of condemnation of individuals and companies who place their wealth in foreign ‘tax havens’. Instead of questioning why someone might not want to expose their wealth to potential exorbitant taxes in their own country, people are roundly attacked for doing something perfectly moral – protecting their wealth as they see best. There is more to the leak of the ‘Paradise Papers’ than may meet the eye.

With the continual growth of the state, we have long jettisoned the premise that a person’s wealth is their own to do with as they please. Now the government is the arbiter of what a large part of your wealth should be used for. When government runs out of money, as is consistently the case in South Africa, the demand on the private sector grows bigger and bigger. We are told that business must ‘come to the table’ and contribute more, while at the same time business is demonised.

It is no surprise that those who are taxed more heavily will attempt to protect what they have earned – after the barrage of revelations surrounding the Zuma administration, can we in good conscience demand that those who are productive, run businesses and accrue wealth, be forced to keep their money in the country?

Both politicians and business-owners are mentioned in the Paradise Papers. It is interesting that we condemn both groups for tax evasion. One group contains people who made their wealth through growing businesses, employing people, investing in all types of sectors, trading, and raising the living standards of countless people around them. The other group contains people who ‘made’ their wealth through shadowy deals, cutting corners for government contracts, and using government force to compel others to do business with them. To place in the same bubble people who make wealth through voluntary trade as those who use force to get deals done, is the worst kind of moral error.

We love to call for higher taxes, to rail against inequality, to tell poorer people that their hardship was caused by the big bad man in the suit driving his Mercedes through Sandton. But when we call for higher taxes, we fail to mention that the taxes taken will not come “out of their consumption expenditures, but out of their investment capital” as Ayn Rand explains in “The Inverted Moral Priorities” from The Ayn Rand Letter. Thus, higher taxes mean less investment, which means fewer jobs, lower production, and higher prices.

Why higher prices? Because the businesses being taxed have to make up the hit somewhere, somehow, and the consumer is the one who will feel the slow, steady squeeze down the line. By the time that we’ve brought the rich down to an acceptable level, the standard of living of those lower down the rung will have been wiped out.

The vast majority of people agree that we ought to pay our taxes. But when we repeatedly see how corrupt and wasteful the government is, there may well be a line in the sand that, once crossed, enters the realm of government overstepping its bounds. When you see that the company you invested in is taking a nosedive, you divest and look at other options. The government must make the best possible case as to why you should invest in the country, even if that investment takes the simple form of taxes.

The consistent growth of government means that there are a myriad taxes imposed on both individuals and companies. There is a lot more at work than just an income tax, for example. The more wealth you create, the more you are punished for it.

It will be a lot more productive to combat corruption and lower taxes, thereby encouraging more and more people to pay their taxes in the first place. Shouting at the few productive rich who manage to protect their wealth before someone can steal it will not result in anything tangible. Instead of attacking tax havens we can render them pointless if we make South Africa the best place in which to invest and build businesses.

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How to measure political proposals https://rationalstandard.com/measure-political-proposals/ https://rationalstandard.com/measure-political-proposals/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 20:55:10 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6786 Unde venit? Quo dirigit? Cui bono? Cui nocet? – Roman wisdom From where does it come? At what it is aimed? Whom does it serve ? Who will be  damaged? That are the four essential questions a citizen should ask himself if a politician proposes something, like “Internet access being a human right”. Why not  horse […]

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Unde venit? Quo dirigit? Cui bono? Cui nocet?

– Roman wisdom

From where does it come? At what it is aimed? Whom does it serve ? Who will be  damaged? That are the four essential questions a citizen should ask himself if a politician proposes something, like “Internet access being a human right”. Why not  horse riding? It is also fine and I have enjoyed the Rand Fox hunt through the years!

Unfortunately, today most deliberations circle around the questions: Who might feel insulted? Which screaming mouth should be filled first? How can we draw out and delay matters? How can  bluff and dazzle be made looking respectable?

At the end of October, we received the ultimate message of etatist and socialist incompetence. Venezuela, the country with the richest petrol oil reserves is bankrupt. The good news: China and Russia will lose a lot of money. Well deserved. The bad news: This will have no, not even the slightest influence on the thinking habit of SJW. So be it…

Dizzy and sluggish citizens and irresponsible politicians are interlocked and interwoven. Active, liberty-upholding citizens will ask for responsible, liberty respecting politicians and politicians of that kind will see such citizens as partners in their political work.

Neo-feudalistic socialists and nihilists ask for lumpen-proletariat, create it, nourish it with the taxpayers’ money, and like to rule over a primitive mass of serves. No wonder cultural nihilism and vulgarity is promoted. The less brain, the less education, the less style, the less knowledge, the less culture, the less decency, the better. The hordes so created are then (see Antifa and BLM and other revolting organisations) let loose on society and the good, regular citizen.

Dante [1] tells us the anecdote about the princeps Trajanuns who marched with the legions to a military campaign, but was asked by an old woman to do justice in a criminal case involving her family. First, he wanted to put her off and told her to wait for his return. But she insisted and asked him who would do justice in his place, and said that if he neglecting his duties he, should also not be princeps. He stopped his journey and acted as judge fulfilling, thereby his duty. That anecdote might be propaganda, but it also tells us what responsible citizens and responsible rulers are about to do and how they should act.

Now let us adapt the four Roman practical questions to modern day politics – in South Africa, for example. But I assure you that the lessons can be used worldwide.

From where it comes ? Which party proposes something? Which special interest group may be behind? Which ideology has moulded the proposal? Who might have influenced the proposer? Are more material or more idealistic or ideological motives the motor of the proposal? In short, we have to analyse in a cool and rational way the essence of the proposer and his motives. That does not mean to denounce everything we dislike as “Bolshie” or undesirable, or to denounce the proposers as nitwits, but to get a fairly realistic picture of the motivation, the non-material and material reasons for a proposal, the open aims, and the maybe hidden aims.

At what it is aimed ? Maintaining power for some time, surviving from week to week, escaping diligently-formulated hard  opposition, feeding your underlings, once more surviving – as any kind of long-term approach is beyond their intellectual capacity – kicking someone down, awful intrigue of the lowest sort – in one sentence, petty party politics. Sometimes also a catchphrase like ‘internet access as a human right” is build up or the “r…”, “f…”, “c…” and “a …” words thrown around to distract from the fact that one is devoid of practical solutions to real challenges.

Whom does  it serve?  Bureaucracy and a small coterie of power-greedy manipulators and their entourage of brown-nosers. Also emotionally obliged venerators of Mother Gaia and a lot of people who cannot cope with a rational, industrial society based on science and technique. Now, I understand we must not have that and maybe living in the bronze age was also quite fine (I could cope with having a farm then – with a lot of servants – and breeding my horses, but is that the point?) but all these political romantics demand the state of wealth and comfort but without the consequences it must have. Therefore, electricity comes out of the plug and so called ‘renewable’ energy sources may easily cover the need of an advanced industrial society [2] .Nonsense is done and the alternative ‘long-term thinkers’ are actually extremely short sighted. Special interest of dubious international merchants, romantics, fanatics, blind folded and other assorted inepti left, right, centre – subsidy-suckers in one word – being the definite opposite to real entrepreneurs and industrious citizens.

Who will be damaged? Well, we know it already. In most cases, it is the taxpayer. But also the rule of Law, the independence of institutions, the normal economic way of life, the ‘normal’ – if that term is still admissible – until the fanatic eye of the proposers and progressive busy-bodies fell on their life, unmolested people who (surprise, surprise) can in many cases carry on in their own life as long as basic services like public security, including economic security by a balanced monetary, finance and budget policy, are effectively maintained, infrastructure and decent institutions of law enforcement are kept up. This piece of information must be given to all SJWs: Most adult people are capable of managing their own life; the fact that most SJWs are unable to manage their own life does not constitute a general rule. And – always to be considered – damaged are the people who should be helped by certain measures, as we can see clearly with all kind of basic income constructions and minimum wages. Damaged also – and we can see that for example for years in Germany – is the sense of quality and subsidized the emotional and ideological longing for rolling in the gutter so that finally a modern industrial state arrives in the 4th world.

Manus manu lavat! One dirty and corrupt hand washes the other and intermingled interests destroy law, liberty and rational rule. No, with a ‘rational standard’ as emphasized by the four classic questions, we can do a lot to improve public governance. We cannot drain all swamps, but we can make it very difficult for the corrupted one to bluff and dazzle us.

[1] Dante Alighieri , Purgatory, 10,77-94

[2] All that nonsense refuted  in a lecture by Knox Msebenzi at the Free Market Foundation on the 25 of October 2017 in Johannesburg

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According to Government, ‘uBuntu’ is Marxism Dressed in African Clothing https://rationalstandard.com/according-government-ubuntu-marxism-dressed-african-clothing/ https://rationalstandard.com/according-government-ubuntu-marxism-dressed-african-clothing/#comments Mon, 04 Dec 2017 20:13:56 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6933 In a recent newspaper advertisement of government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, the health department wrote the following in support of its implementation: “Currently due to rising costs of medical care, medical aid schemes have introduced several options which exclude a range of cover for the patients. Further more,many [sic] people exhaust their funds in […]

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In a recent newspaper advertisement of government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, the health department wrote the following in support of its implementation:

“Currently due to rising costs of medical care, medical aid schemes have introduced several options which exclude a range of cover for the patients. Further more,many [sic] people exhaust their funds in the scheme as early as June and they are without cover for the rest of the year. In other words,they [sic] are covered for sa long as they are not sick.

Not anymore. NHI will give cover to all, in line with the Ubuntu principle: from each one according to his ability, to each one according to his needs.” (my emphasis)

For those unfamiliar with the highlighted portion in the above quote, it is a slogan popularized by the founder of modern socialism, Karl Marx, in 1875.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to their need” is based on the fallacy that in a communist society, such abundance of goods will be produced that everyone’s needs and material desires will be fulfilled. Everyone is merely expected to contribute as much as their own capacity allows, but will get in return whatever they need, freely.

Those who understand basic economics, of course, know this is nonsense. The post-scarcity society envisioned by socialists is impossible, and even if it were possible, it wouldn’t make a difference to human relations. Socialism’s, and apparently now uBuntu’s, essence is compulsion. Liberty’s essence is voluntaryism: Do as you please as long as you don’t violate the same right of others.

With all the talk of ‘African solutions for African problems’, and the developing ‘Afrocentric’ criticism of South Africans adopting ‘foreign’ ideas and narratives now needing to be ‘decolonized’, the health department’s statement above is particularly amusing. We have long known that these same critics of so-called ‘Western’ ideas, who to no end proclaim that individual liberty and economic freedom are inherently incompatible with the ‘African context’ and the ‘African philosophy’ of uBuntu, are merely socialists who think their disastrous ideology will work in Africa.

Karl Marx was born in Germany and died in Britain, having lived his entire life in the West. His ideological influences and predecessors were all non-African. Now that uBuntu has been confirmed to merely be Marxism dressed in localized African nationalist rhetoric, surely the next step is to also bin it in the battle of ideas?

To the extent that its proponents want it infused with public policy, all the various conceptions of uBuntu are fiercely opposed to the notion of a society based on voluntaryism, peaceful cooperation, and liberty. As a matter of governance, it should be rejected.

National Health Insurance will be unaffordable and if tried, will seriously hurt our fledgling economy. The quality of South African healthcare will need to be compromised across the board, for no reason other than to satisfy the ideological desires of Aaron Motsoaledi and the ruling party. Going ahead with this disastrous scheme simply because uBuntu apparently requires it is suicidal.

Those who seek to practice uBuntu should do so within the comfort of their own homes and communities, and leave those of us truly committed to a way of life founded on interconnectedness, voluntary community, peace, and freedom, alone.

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Why Humans Persist in Believing in Universal Morality: Moral Opinion Presented As Fact (Part 3) https://rationalstandard.com/humans-persist-believing-universal-morality-moral-opinion-presented-fact-part-3/ https://rationalstandard.com/humans-persist-believing-universal-morality-moral-opinion-presented-fact-part-3/#comments Sun, 26 Nov 2017 09:37:00 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6902 Click here to read Part 1. Click here to read Part 2. We saw in Parts 1 and 2 that it is not only those who openly believe in God who rely upon the supernatural in order to facilitate their desire to believe that morality is universal. Every agnostic or atheist who also believes that […]

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Click here to read Part 1.

Click here to read Part 2.

We saw in Parts 1 and 2 that it is not only those who openly believe in God who rely upon the supernatural in order to facilitate their desire to believe that morality is universal. Every agnostic or atheist who also believes that morality is fixed and universal, and not simply the product of the human mind, without being aware of it implicitly infers a supernatural agency responsible for this universality; for what but a supernatural agency could originate and apply for all time a single moral code across all of humanity? This group probably includes a high proportion of all non-believers. This is presumably because they haven’t ever cared to think about where a universal moral code might originate, why it might do so, or by what mechanism it would enter the human domain.

As so many supposedly non-religious humans rely no less upon the supernatural than do religious individuals, in order to believe that morality is universal, even if this is implicitly and without their being consciously aware of it, does this mean that all, or virtually all, humans are significantly religious; and if so, what does this tell us about human nature?

Much of the most sceptical portion of humanity deliberately deceives itself intellectually, in order, for emotional reasons, to be able to believe that morality is universal and transcendental, so implicitly suggesting that life has more significance and meaning than appears empirically to be the case, and the less sceptical portion believes in the supernatural quite explicitly. Clearly, then, the general human need to believe in the transcendental is not merely an incidental need, but an enormously powerful and influential one. It would appear that humankind in general, including most of those who are avowedly sceptical, is indeed significantly religious, when this means implicit as well as explicit belief in the transcendental nature of human existence.

It is this transcendental emotional need, as we saw in Part 2, that is responsible for the existence of all political as well as religious ideologies, and for our inclination generally to embrace ideological doctrine willingly, no matter how irrational or absurd. Given that every society on Earth is, and appears always to have been, organised upon transcendental ideological principles, it would hardly be an exaggeration to state that humankind’s transcendental emotional need (crudely, its ‘religious gene’) to believe that human life is meaningful, is the single strongest determinant operating in respect of human social behaviour, other than morality itself.

It is through the process of gratifying this need, and particularly through their supposed link with the transcendental, that all ideologies derive their moral authority. This brings us to the critical role played by the presentation of mere human moral opinion as moral fact by ideologies, in facilitating their ideological capture of people’s minds.

As touched upon in Part 2, the whole point of any ideology, religious or political, in asserting the existence, either explicitly or implicitly, of a transcendental and supernatural existence or intelligence, (which, by definition, must be superior to humankind) is in order to be in a position to claim for itself four things; firstly, and most importantly, that the morality the ideology represents and speaks on behalf of, is the true, transcendental and universal morality, and its moral judgements therefore true facts; secondly, any potential adherent may be assured that there is indeed far more significance to life than empirically apparent, and that the ideology will grant access to this, provided that the ideology’s particular doctrine is followed; thirdly, that the ideology is aiming at the highest moral good; fourthly, that the  ideology is the supernatural existence’s bona fide representative on earth.

Whenever an ideology is accepted, this enables it to proclaim to its adherents that the moral opinions that it expresses are not merely the contestable human opinions of its leaders, but are incontestable, transcendental, and universally true moral facts. Anyone contesting or denying them therefore has absolutely no moral grounds upon which to do so, as the ideology, thanks to its link to the transcendent, is morally all-knowing.

In order to establish their moral authority over the masses, it is above all on creating the common belief that the moral opinions they express are actual facts and not mere opinions that all religious and secular ideologies rely.

Thus, the assertion of national socialists in Germany in 1940 that blacks and Jews were morally inferior to Aryans was accepted widely as fact. That homosexuality, divorce, eating pork, and capitalism and the profit motive are morally wrong are similar simple moral beliefs widely held to be actionable moral facts in today’s supposedly secular world. What are perceived by believers to be transcendental moral facts are far more likely to be acted upon than what are perceived to be mere arguable human opinions. Fanaticism is the fruit of moral certainty.

It is the moral authority conferred by the intellectual sleight-of-hand which enables mere human moral opinions to be transformed miraculously into transcendental moral facts that lies at the heart of the fervent advocacy of the concept of universal morality by all ideologies.

Rationally, to be accepted as a fact, a moral opinion or belief has to be shown to accord with reality, because that is what a fact is, by definition. While the holder of a moral opinion may believe that it corresponds with reality and is, therefore, a fact, unless it can be shown indubitably to correspond with reality, it cannot rationally be claimed to be a fact, and remains mere human moral opinion.

In religious terms, God’s moral injunctions are regarded, not merely as God’s opinion, but as moral facts. For example, that God loves mankind is taken to be a fact by Christians, not simply God’s opinion. From the secular viewpoint, rationally this cannot be accepted as fact because the statement cannot be shown to correspond to reality. Its truth status, therefore, is no more than that of any contestable human opinion.

For Christians, however, God’s word is held to be fact because it accords with another reality that they claim has been revealed to them by God. As the mystical religious concept of a reality accessible only through divine revelation is meaningless in secular terms, what Christians hold to be God’s word, and therefore fact, can be regarded as nothing more than human moral opinion in terms of secular understanding.

An understanding of the manner in which mere human moral opinion comes to be accepted as moral fact by the adherents of ideologies is of critical importance in understanding how morality has been, and is still today being used to control people’s minds through their beliefs. Those who accept untested moral opinion as moral fact, unwittingly confer virtually unlimited power and moral authority over themselves on the ideologue, dictator, cleric, politician, or leader whose moral opinions they come to subscribe to.

Political ideologies are the religions of a supposedly secular age. And, like the religions of old, they determine much of what each of us believes, as well as much of the course our life takes. Secularity, like rationality, is not readily accommodated by human nature. We believe what we are taught to believe.

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Reflections on Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ https://rationalstandard.com/reflections-ayn-rands-atlas-shrugged/ https://rationalstandard.com/reflections-ayn-rands-atlas-shrugged/#comments Sun, 29 Oct 2017 22:01:27 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6680 Tuesday, 10 October 2017, marked the 60th anniversary of the publication of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The novel was Rand’s fourth, and longest, work, and laid the groundwork for what would become the philosophy she formulated: Objectivism. As of 2010, 7,000,000 copies of the novel had been sold since 1957. While themes such as capitalism, […]

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Tuesday, 10 October 2017, marked the 60th anniversary of the publication of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The novel was Rand’s fourth, and longest, work, and laid the groundwork for what would become the philosophy she formulated: Objectivism.

As of 2010, 7,000,000 copies of the novel had been sold since 1957. While themes such as capitalism, free speech, and individualism are present, the novel is based on Rand’s view of man’s mind, and the role thereof.

Atlas Shrugged is set in a United States in which more and more “men of the mind”, creative people, go on strike because of the prevailing philosophy – altruism – chipping away at them and their lives. The productive and successful are vilified and the only way to ‘grow’ business is through government deals and influence. When characters such as Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart, and Franciso d’Anconia go on strike, Rand presents the consequences of the producers withholding their minds from society – the need of others is no longer a hold on them to produce their innovations, art, business leadership, scientific research, entrepreneurship or wealth.

In Atlas Shrugged, Rand develops the philosophy of rational self-interest – the philosophical position that your own happiness ought to be the standard by which you live. No one, no matter their social or economic position, has a moral claim on your mind, or your life. This includes everyone from a religious authority, to a figure of authority, to the government.

The title of the novel is taken from the myth of Atlas, a Titan described in the novel as “the giant who holds the world on his shoulders”. A reference to the title appears in a conversation between d’Anconia and Rearden. During their conversation, d’Anconia asks Rearden what advice he would give Atlas upon seeing that “the greater [the Titan’s] effort, the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders”. Rearden is stumped by the question, and d’Anconia gives his own response: “To shrug”. Once you intellectually refuse another’s claim over your life and mind, you take ownership.

The economy of the US at the time of the novel is, just as many countries around the world, of the mixed variety. While some elements of freedom remain, these are largely side-lined in favor of the social good, and the prevailing view that the needs of others take precedence over your interests and desires. The unit of measuring what is ‘good’ is the group; the individual, and individualist actions, are the fount of evil.

Atlas Shrugged is probably Rand’s best work. It presents a unique, radically different take on human reason and morality, and challenges many conventions we hold without ever really questioning why we hold them. For all the critiques of the novel, from both philosophical and literary avenues, there is something in it with which people identify. If you read the novel and end up disagreeing with Rand, that is good – she believed that each person ought to reach their own conclusions, not just listen to, and accept, what someone else says.

If you haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, there’s an ongoing reading group on Facebook. They’ve read up to, and including, Chapter 6. Read those first 6 chapters and then join in the discussion.

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