An Example of What I Call “Platonic Rationalism”

A “logical fallacy” is an error in logical reasoning. An error in logic can occur because of some “formal” flaw such as Affirming the consequent ( ). An error can also occur because of the use of a common method of argument that may be widely used but is actually irrelevant. I thought these were called “informal fallacies”, but I cannot find confirmation of that on the Internet now. (

Most of these informal fallacies have Latin names. For instance, “ad hominem” means “to the person” or “against the man” and involves making an irrelevant attack on the arguer and suggesting that this attack undermines the argument itself. For instance, if a medical doctor is trying to convince his colleagues that they should vaccinate their patients at age four instead of age two, and someone responds that he is having an extramarital affair, so he shouldn’t be listened to, that is clearly irrelevant to his argument.

I want to address a particular type of argument that is similar to argument ad hominem, but has its origin in a particular, mistaken, view of the nature of the concept of “rationality”.

I found an example of this while doing keyword searches on the Internet for “Black Lives Matters”. The article quoted a popular musician I am fairly unfamiliar with named Sean Combs. The article quoted Mr. Combs as saying:

“‘For the last couple of months we have experienced a lot of injustice and wrongdoings to a community. But there is a flip side,” wrote Diddy. He continued, “Yes #BLACKLIVESMATTER ! But no one will respect us if we as a people don’t have any respect for our own black lives. We are committing genocide on ourselves. We are always looking for scapegoats.’” ( , last accessed on 10-22-2016.)

The article then went on to say:

“Diddy added, ‘We as a people hurt ourselves more than anyone has ever hurt us. That makes no sense. We as a people including myself have to take accountability and do whatever we can do individually or together to stop the madness and realize that we are KINGS and QUEENS AND Must love ourselves and each other. I know I’m rambling a little bit’” ( , last accessed on 10-22-2016.)

Essentially, what Mr. Combs seemed to be referring to is the fact that a black person is more likely to be unlawfully killed by another black person than they are to be unlawfully killed by a cop. This can be confirmed by looking at the statistics on the number of people killed while interacting with cops where the killing is classified as a “homicide” versus the murder statistics kept by the FBI. I have referenced this in previous blog posts.

What is the author’s response to Mr. Comb’s verifiably correct factual assertion that a black person is more likely to be unlawfully killed by another black person than to be unlawfully killed by a cop?

“It must be nice to be black, rich and oblivious to issues that plague society.” ( , last accessed on 10-22-2016.)

In other words, Mr. Combs is wealthy, therefore he is mistaken.

The author of this article could be saying one of two things here:

(1) Sean Combs has some sort of interest in either lying or presenting only part of the facts (presenting half-truths). That his desire to acquire or keep wealth is serving as a motive for him to lie. This is what we would normally call “bias”. But, Sean Combs is correct that more black people are unjustifiably killed by other black people than they are by cops, and the sources of this information seem reliable. (FBI crime statistics.)

(2) Although Sean Comb’s factual assertion is correct -that black people are more likely to be unlawfully killed by another black person than by a cop- his *argument* is flawed because he is rich.

Since I don’t see any evidence to refute the fact that black people are more likely to be unlawfully killed by black people than by cops, then I think it is safe for me to assume that the author of this article means the second: that Sean Comb’s argument is flawed simply because he is rich. That his argument, while logical, is flawed because of his status as a rich man.

Argument “ad homenim” is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself. The author of this article is making a sort of “argument ad homenim” against Sean Combs. She does this by: (1) Stating that he is rich, and (2) by saying his “…rhetoric [is] similar to that of conservative voices.” ( , last accessed on 10-22-2016.) The author implies that since political conservatives make this argument, then Sean Combs use of the same argument is incorrect. But the author never bothers to address the argument of conservatives on this topic, or to show that it is mistaken.

So, this is probably argument ad homenim, but I want to address another, subtler point, aside from that. “Ad homenim” means “against the man”. Why is it “against the man” to say that Mr. Combs has wealth and wants to keep and acquire wealth?

Wealth, i.e. material values, are necessary in order to maintain your life. So, this is ultimately an argument that Mr. Combs’ desire to live is distorting what would otherwise be “objective truth”. The author believes there is a conflict between the interest to live and rationality or objectivity.

Before proceeding any further, lets discuss the concept of rationality. If you type the words “rationality” “logic” and “reason” into an Internet search engine, you will get some definitions of these terms:

“rationality” -> “based on or in accordance with reason or logic.” (define: rational on, 10-22-2016)

“logic” -> “reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity.” ( define: logic on, 10-22-2016)

“reason” -> “a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.” or “the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.” (define: reason on, 10-22-2016)

“Rationality” means something along the lines of: to conform your mind to reality by the use of a systematic methodology (logic). This is somewhat seen in the definition of “reason” above, when it says that “reason” is a “cause” or “explanation” “for an action or event”. (Although all of these Internet definitions are somewhat “circular”.) In other words, you make some sort of mental connection in your mind that explains why something you observe happens the way it does.

Here is an example of using a systematic methodology to build concepts or ideas from observations: If you see that when you give a plant light, it grows, while when you put the same type of plant in a dark closet, while keeping all other factors the same, it dies, then you recognize that light is a “cause” of plant growth. It explains the “action or event” of a plant growing. Furthermore, you have used some sort of system or method to determine this. Specifically, you took two plants, and put one in the sun while the other one you put into a dark closet. You tried to keep all other factors the same. You gave them the same amount of water and soil, and otherwise tried to control all other variables and make them the same for the two plants. This is because you recognize that if you are going to be able to say that light is a “cause” of plant growth, you had to keep all other variables or factors the same. This is a “methodology”, the “scientific method”, which is a type of “logic”. All logic is ultimately based on the principle that all things have a specific identity, and that they act in accordance with that identity. (Which is “causality”.)

However, when we speak of “rationality”, we can also mean something slightly different. We can also mean that an action achieves a particular goal. “Rationality implies the conformity of one’s beliefs with one’s reasons to believe, or of one’s actions with one’s reasons for action.” ( , last accessed on 10-22-2106) “Rationality” means that you conform you actions with your “reasons for action”. In other words, you conform your actions to achieve your goals. Ultimately, this is not a different definition of “rational”, since you are still recognizing reality, and acting in a systematic way in accordance with the nature of reality. For instance, if you want to eat, you must recognize that plants grow in a certain way, and that if you want to grow enough to eat, you have to give them sufficient food, water, and sunlight in order to grow them. If you want food to eat, you must work to grow crops. The goal of eating, means that you must recognize reality and act accordingly. If you want to have good health, you must eat certain types of food, you must exercise, take vitamins, etc. If someone wants to have good health, but they shoot up heroin, eat only red meat, never exercise, and chain smoke cigarettes, then their rationality will be questioned. Their rationality is questioned because they are not recognizing the principles of good health, or at least are not acting in accordance with those principles of good health, and they are not likely to achieve their goal.

If your ultimate goal is to live, you must take certain actions to achieve that goal. This is because life cannot be achieved without taking certain actions. You must grow crops, you must hunt for food, you must build shelter, you must avoid dangerous animals and dangerous people, etc. By contrast, if you do not want to live, then no particular systematic action or methodology is necessary. You don’t need to recognize reality if you don’t want to live. You don’t have to act in accordance with the methods of logic if you don’t want to live. What this points to, or suggests, is that, ultimately, “rationality” means conforming your mind and actions to the nature of reality in order to maximize your chances of living.

Now, there is another conception of “rationality” that is disconnected from the concept of “life”. This is a conception of “rationality” based in the idea that there is some sort of “pure knowledge” in some other realm that has nothing to do with the desire to live. Plato is the oldest example of this view of “rationality”.

“…Platonism can be said to have in common is an intense concern for the quality of human life—always ethical, often religious, and sometimes political, based on a belief in unchanging and eternal realities, which Plato called forms, independent of the changing things of the world perceived by the senses.” (See , last accessed 10-22-2016.)

Platonic philosophy suggests that there is a basis for knowledge not connected to reality and the desire to live. It suggests that knowledge, “true knowledge” exists in the “forms” in some other realm. “Rationality” then becomes psychologically or mentally disconnected in the Platonist’s mind from the desire to live or the requirements of living. In fact, for the Platonist, reality and the requirements of life, will be seen as a “distorting factor” towards “pure” or “genuine” understanding and “genuine” logic or reason.

There’s just one problem with this “Platonic rationality”. There is no evidence, in reality, for another world of “forms”. There can be no evidence for anything other than that which exists –so belief in another realm outside reality is a nonsense belief. When someone claims to have some sort of “intuitive” or “mystical” insight regarding some sort of “world of forms”, they are simply acting on emotional whim.

People who tend to hold the Platonic view of rationality will tend to disdain any desire to live as a disqualifying or “distorting agent” keeping you from “true rationality”.

Wealth is important because human beings require material values -food, clothing, and shelter- in order to live. The more wealth you have, the better you are able to live. Think about it in terms of personal health. A very wealthy person can afford to have a personal doctor that follows him around, which, other things equal, is going to promote his life. A very wealthy person can have a personal bodyguard to protect him from criminals, which also will tend to enhance and lengthen his life. At a mass level, we can see a difference in life spans between people living in the first world versus those living in the third world. This is because people in the first world are wealthier (on average).

The desire to live for the “Platonic rationalist” is a “distorting agent”. The desire to live means a focus on reality and acting systematically to achieve one’s goal of life. But, to the “Platonic rationalist”, true knowledge is based in some other realm, and has nothing to do with promoting your life. The desire to live, for the Platonic rationalist, is therefore a “distorting agent” preventing one from being “entirely rational”.

Mr. Comb’s argument is dismissed in the article because he is rich, but anyone can be criticized with this sort of argument “ad homenim” by those who hold the Platonic view of rationality. Because ascetic self-deprivation is the key to this Platonic view of rationality, and no one still alive can completely deprive themselves of everything. So long as one wants to live at all, and makes any effort to live, then they can be criticized as somehow “biased”. Mr. Combs is being criticized as biased because he wants to live.

The connection I am making here between “rationality” and “life”, with the “purpose” of rationality being the maintenance of one’s life, raises an interesting question. Is there such a thing as “bias”? What does it mean to say that someone is “biased”?

“Bias” generally means someone is either not telling the truth or is only telling half-truths, when it comes to reciting the facts. For instance, a witness in court is “biased” if he lies or only tells half the facts because of some “interest” he has. This “interest” doesn’t have to be *self* interest. He could be an altruist, and believe that he is serving that cause by lying. For instance, an environmentalist might believe that he is saving the planet by lying as a witness in a trial having to do with pollution. He isn’t lying because of any self-interest he has. He is lying because of his interest in saving others –in this case the environment.

Another example of “bias”: A news paper can have a “left wing bias” in that it reports only facts that serve its agenda while leaving out essential facts that would give a proper perspective. In both cases, we are talking about the reporting of facts, not logical argument. To say someone is “biased” is to say they are misreporting the facts, they are lying, to serve some interest. If someone is making a purely logical argument, and you agree with the facts they are using to make that argument, then you cannot say they are “biased”. You must refute the logic of their argument –assuming you agree with the facts and don’t believe there are any additional facts that need to come out to provide a more complete picture.

So, if the author of the article about Mr. Combs had said he was biased as a result of the facts he was reporting, about how black people are mostly being murdered by other black people, not cops, then perhaps the author could say he is “biased”. But, the author doesn’t seem to dispute the facts on homicide and murder rates. The author certainly didn’t present any additional facts, or show that that FBI and government statistics are wrong. The author simply said that his argument is flawed because he is good at acquiring wealth -i.e., because he wants to live. This is to claim that the desire to live and rationality are somehow at odds, but we are rational because we want to live.

How do we tell when it is proper to speak of someone as “biased”? Only when they are reporting factual observations. We say that they have some interest or motive that causes them to lie or to tell half-truths. But, if you agree with the facts they are reporting, and only disagree with their logical argument based on those facts, then I don’t think it is ever proper to claim they are biased. In such a situation, you are engaging in some sort of argument ad hominem. Furthermore, if you criticize someone’s logical argument because they want to live, or are successful at living, then you aren’t just engaging in argument ad hominem, you are implicitly accepting the “Platonic rationalist” view of reason, and are claiming that the desire to live is a distorting agent when it comes to reasoning. You are mentally severing rationality from it’s goal -which is life.

All Black Lives Matter, But Some Matter More Than Others

There is an aphorism that I find helpful when deciding what to focus my time and energy on. It’s the expression: “Pick your battles.” In my mind, it basically means you shouldn’t get caught up in minor conflicts and should focus on the “big picture” objective you are trying to achieve. You want to focus your time and energy on things that will most effectively achieve your overall goal.

I see something similar happening with white “liberals” and black “civil rights” groups that express concern over the “problem” of unjustified killings of black men by police. Are there bad cops out there? Sure. But, I suspect that the vast majority of cops are hard-working professionals. Are black men sometimes shot by police without legal justification? I’m sure that also happens. Everyone agrees that the unjustified killing of people in America, and the world, should be reduced to zero. But, what is the most effective method of achieving that goal? And, what does it reveal about a political movement when they seem unable or unwilling to recognize the most effective means of achieving the goal of reducing the number of unjustified killings of black people?

The “Black Lives Matter” web site is fairly short on specifics, in terms of what their goals are. They make a lot of claims but they back few of those claims up. For instance at “” we are told:

“How Black poverty and genocide is state violence.

How 2.8 million Black people are locked in cages in this country is state violence.

How Black women bearing the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families is state violence.

How Black queer and trans folks bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us, and that is state violence.

How 500,000 Black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows.

How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war.

How Black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy, and that is state violence.” (see, last accessed 9-5-2016)

I couldn’t find any actual proof on the web site to back up any of these assertions. The biggest “head-scratcher” for me was: “How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war.” Exactly what wars and conflicts are they talking about? What do they mean black girls are used as “negotiating chips”?

The Black Lives Matter web site does discuss why they were formed:

“#BlackLivesMatter was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year old Trayvon was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder. Rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country who actively resist our dehumanization, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes…When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state.…#BlackLivesMatter is working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. ” (See, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

There are numerous dubious assertions made here, but I’ll focus on the last one. The assertion that black people are “…systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” The assertion here isn’t just that black people are accidentally or unintentionally being killed due to certain bad government policies. An example of an unintentional death due to bad government policy would be something like this: The state highway commission passes a regulation requiring roads to be made out of a certain type of asphalt, and it turns out that asphalt is more likely to cause cars to skid off the road and wreck.

“Black Lives Matters” is asserting that black people are being “…systematically and intentionally…” murdered -intentionally killed without justification. Since “Black Lives Matters” tends to focus on black people who die while interacting with the police, which is why they tend to use terms like “state violence” and “extrajudicial killings of Black people by police”, it is the assertion that black people are intentionally targeted by police for murder.

To be clear, intentional murder by the state has happened before. It happened during the “rein of terror” in post-revolutionary France in the late 1700’s. It happened during the Soviet famine of 1932–33 when forced collectivization of farms by Stalin killed millions. It happened in Rwanda when the Hutu-controlled government ordered the slaughter of ethnic Tutsis in 1994. But are black people being “…systematically and intentionally targeted for demise…” by one of the fifty states or by the Federal government? It seems highly unlikely, and I think the burden of proof lies with “Black Lives Matter” on that assertion, and they haven’t met their burden of proof. It sounds more like a “conspiracy theory” than reality.

The belief that the major problem facing black people in America is the death of black men during law-enforcement encounters has led to the rise of an associated “Black Lives Matter” group, “Campaign Zero”. (See, last accessed 9-5-2016; see also,, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

This group says:

“More than one thousand people are killed by police every year in America. Nearly sixty percent of victims did not have a gun or were involved in activities that should not require police intervention such as harmless “quality of life” behaviors or mental health crises. This year is no different. There have only been fifteen days this year when the police have not killed somebody. Last month alone, the police killed 100 people. This must stop. We must end police violence so we can live and feel safe in this country.” (See, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

This group offers the following policy solutions:

(1) End Policing of Minor “Broken Windows” Offenses

(2) Community Oversight

(3) Limit Use of Force

(4) Indepenently Investigate and Prosecute

(5) Community Representation

(6) Body Cams/Film the Police

(7) Training

(8) End for-profit Policing

(9) Demilitarization

(10) Fair Police Union Contracts (See, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

Without going over all of these policy solutions in detail, I will note that some of them are worthy of consideration. For instance, requiring police officers to wear body cameras could be useful for both the officer and the civilians the officer encounters. However, there is clearly an issue of cost involved. Body cameras cost money, and the government’s funds are limited. So, the question is this: Is it worth the cost? Are we as taxpayers prepared to pay for body cameras for all police officers? Is this the best use of that money? I do not know the answer to this question, and this is why we have legislatures to help make a determination as to how to spend limited taxpayer money in a way that most effectively achieves the goals of government.

Is the major problem facing black people today the fact that some black males are killed by police? Even assuming for the sake of argument that some police officers are committing murder and intentionally killing black men for no legally justifiable reason, is this the major problem facing black people today?

This question is important to ask because, as I’ve alluded to already, resources are limited. Given the goal of reducing the number of unjustified killings of black people, is the best use of time, money, and energy, on things like additional training of police officers in use of force and not to engage in racial profiling when they pull black people over on the road? If we spend money on things like body cameras for cops will that most effectively reduce the number of unjustified black killings in America, given our government’s limited funds? How are most black people who are illegally killed in America killed? Is it at the hands of cops or someone else?

First, we should ask the following question: How many people are killed during a law enforcement encounter? The government tries to collect these statistics:

“After the passage of the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DICRA) of 2000 (P.L. 106-297), the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) began collecting data on deaths that occurred in the process of arrest.” (See, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

“From 2003 through 2009, BJS obtained reports on 4,813 such deaths through its Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) program. About 3 in 5 of these deaths (2,931) were classified as homicides by law enforcement personnel. The remaining 2 in 5 deaths were attributed to other manners, including suicide (11%), intoxication deaths (11%), accidental injury (6%), and natural causes (5%). In three-quarters (75%) of homicides by law enforcement personnel, the underlying offense of arrest was a violent offense.” (See, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

Since 2,931 deaths from 2003 to 2009 during an “arrest” were homicides by law enforcement, this means that approximately 489 people per year were killed by police over 6 years, where the killing was a “homicide”. A “homicide” is not necessarily an unlawful killing. Killing someone in self-defense is classified as a “homicide”, and it appears that these statistics include both legally justified and unjustified killings by police. (The “…three-quarters…of homicides…underlying offense of arrest was a violent offense…” language suggest this.) But, even assuming that all of these homicides were unjustified police killings, that is 489 killings of people (of all races) per year by cops.

Lets compare these 489 killings per year, of people of all races, by cops to the murder statistics.

In 2013, 2,491 people in the US classified as “black” were murdered, according to the FBI. (See,last accessed 9-5-2016.)

Of those 2,491 black persons murdered in 2013, the race of the offender was classified as “black” in 2,245 of instances. In other words, out of 2,491 black people murdered, 90% of the perpetrators of the crime were also black. How does this compare to the white murder victim rate? The same FBI statistics say that in 2013, there were 3,005 white murder victims, and that the race of the offender was white in 2,509 of those murders. This means that out of 3,005 white people murdered, 84% of the perpetrators of the crime were also white.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that all of the 489 persons per year killed by cops from 2003 through 2009 were black, and also assume that all of those 489 persons per year were illegally killed by a cop, as opposed to a police shooting in self-defense or pursuant to the cop’s legal right to enforce the law. How does that compare to the fact that in 2013, 2,245 black people were murdered by another black person? 2,245 divided by 489 equals 4.59. A black person is at least 4.59 times more likely to be murdered by another black person than he is to be unjustifiably killed by a cop. (Keep in mind, it’s actually much higher, since I made the “generous” assumption that all of those 489 people per year killed by cops between 2003 and 2009 are black and that all of those killings were unjustified.)

If you were betting on a team that was almost 5 times more likely to win than another team, you’d want to put your money on that team. It would be foolish to spend a lot of money betting on the team that is 5 times more likely to loose, and if you did so, people would question your motives and rationality.

So, why do “Black Lives Matters”, and white “liberals”, focus so much time and energy on the much less likely incidence of unjustified killings by cops rather than the much more likely incidence of unjustified killings of black people by other black people? I have a few possible theories:

(1) They are unintelligent. They simply cannot see the truth because they aren’t very good at making logical connections. There is no shame in this. Some people are just smarter than others.

(2) They are ignorant of the facts. They simply haven’t studied the issue in sufficient detail or have never been presented with the evidence. There is no shame in this, as long as one is willing to continue learning. Nobody is omniscient, and it’s impossible to know everything.

(3) They are irrational. They are deliberately, mentally, evading facts and refusing to make logical connections because it satisfies their unexamined and unquestioned emotional whims. There is great shame in this. Irrationality is a major vice. (It’s actually the major vice, but that is for another time.)

(4) Their actual goal isn’t reducing the number of black people unjustifiably killed. (This is actually just another version of theory #3.) Their goal is to find a scapegoat for the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of crime being committed by black people, and that most of that crime is aimed at other, peaceful, law-abiding, and respectable, black people. It’s a way for the “civil rights” movement to divert the attention of law-abiding and good black people onto something other than the fact that they are the victims of crime primarily at the hands of members of their own race. It’s also a way for white “liberals” to focus their attention and outrage on something that is more “politically correct” than the fact that black people commit a disproportionate amount of the crime in America, and that most of that crime is aimed at other black people.

I hasten to add, that with any group or movement, especially one with ill-defined goals and methodology like “Black Lives Matter”, different people within that movement can have different reasons for being involved. That means these theories aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. The movement can be made up of some mixture of people with mental states and goals that match all four of my theories above. It’s also possible there are other reasons, that better explain the facts, and I just haven’t thought of them. (I am certainly open to suggestions.)

A person’s time, money, and energy is limited. He or she should pick a cause that maximizes his or her goal. If your goal is truly to reduce the number of black people being unjustifiably killed, then you should focus most of your time, money, and energy on reducing black on black crime like murder.

How do we best reduce the number of black people being murdered by other members of their own race? I don’t have all of the answers, but I suspect many of them are not political solutions, which is probably why politicians don’t like to spend too much time on the subject –they cannot even appear to be doing anything to solve it if the problem must come from within the “hearts and minds” of individuals in society.

Some possible solutions that I see are:

(1) Ending the cycle of dependence and single-motherhood caused by the welfare state. That means ending welfare and requiring people to live with the consequences of their own choices, or to seek private charity if they truly are impoverished through not fault of their own.

(2) Changing attitudes about sex and birth control. Both the “left” and the “right” have some solutions that make sense on this front. (I also think both political groups share blame when it comes to educating young people about sex and when to have it, but that is for another time.) Young women should be encouraged to use birth control if they are going to have sex. (The “liberal solution”.) However, young women should also be encouraged to be more selective regarding the men that they sleep with, and to only have children with men they are married to. (The “conservative solution.”) If young unmarried women do have accidental pregnancies they should be encouraged to either (a) have an abortion, or (b) give the baby up for adoption. Although it is the subject of debate, it appears that there is a connection between being raised by a young single mother and becoming a criminal later in life. (See ) It would also seem to make sense that a young boy without a reliable father-figure to model himself on is going to be more likely to make bad choices.

(3) Encouraging young men and young women to educate themselves and to instill “bourgeoisie” values of hard work and thrift.

There are others possible solutions I can think of, but that’s not really the focus here. I also tend to think that inner cities need more police patrolling, not less. But, I am uncertain. I suspect, but cannot currently prove, that a large portion of people, both black and white, are murdered by a friend or family member, and I don’t know how much additional police presence in inner cities is going to change that.

It’s not entirely clear in my own mind how to reduce the unjustified killing of black people by other black people, but it is clear to me that focusing on the relatively low occurrence of unjustified police killings of black people in America is an effort to direct attention away from a much bigger problem. The title of the blog entry is a reference to George Orwell’s short novel “Animal Farm”. At the end of it, the pigs who have taken over the farm declare that while “All animals are equal”, as the revolution had initially declared, “…some animals are more equal than others.” “Black Lives Matter” activists apparently believe that the lives of people like Michael Brown matter more more to the “civil rights” movement and white “liberals” than the lives of people like Jamyla Bolden, and there are a lot more of the later than the former.

An Analysis of Murder Rates Broken Down By Race

My purpose here is simply to look at the numbers and see if the murder rate in the US is proportional to what it should be, given the white population versus the black population. I do so without trying to theorize about the reasons why murder rates break down the way they do between the races. In a subsequent blog post, I plan on using this analysis to discuss the so-called “Black Lives Matters” movement and to attempt to determine if they are focusing time, energy, and taxpayer money into areas that will most effectively reduce the unjustified homicide rate of black people in America.

In 2013, 2,491 people in the US classified as “black” were murdered, according to the FBI. (See, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

Of those 2,491 black persons murdered in 2013, the race of the offender was classified as “black” in 2,245 of instances. In other words, out of 2,491 black people murdered, 90% of the perpetrators of the crime were also black. How does this compare to the white murder victim rate? The same FBI statistics say that in 2013, there were 3,005 white murder victims, and that the race of the offender was white in 2,509 of those murders. This means that out of 3,005 white people murdered, 84% of the perpetrators of the crime were also white.

How does this compare to the proportions of population? Blacks make up roughly 13% of the US population. (See, last accessed 9-5-2016.) Whites make up about 73% of the US population. 5,496 people who were either black or white were murdered in 2013. (This is adding together the number of black people and white people murdered according to the FBI, see, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

The total US population in 2013 was about 317 million people. Therefore, the chance that a given person chosen at random from the US population in 2013 was both “black” and “a victim of murder” is 2,491 divided by 317 million times 100 which is 0.00079% . The chance that a given person chosen at random from the US population in 2013 was both “white” and “a victim of murder” is 3,005 divided by 317 million times 100, which is 0.00095%. In other words, the chance that one was both “white” and “a murder victim” was about 1.19 times greater than the chance that one was both “black” and “a murder victim”. (because 1.19 times 0.00079 = [roughly] 0.0009401)

This 1.19 times number doesn’t show the whole picture, however, Thirteen percent of the total US population is black, which means there are about 41 million black people in the US. There are 232 million white people in the US in 2013. As already discussed, 90% of all black people murdered are murdered by other black people and 84% of all white people murdered are murdered by other white people. So, 2,245 black people murdered by other black people means that a black person’s chances of being murdered by another black person are 2,245 divided by 41 million times 100 percent is 0.0055%. 2,509 white people murdered by other white people means that a white person’s chances of being murdered by another white person are 2,509 divided by 232 million times 100 percent: 0.0011%. A black person is five times more likely to be murdered by another black person than a white person is to be murdered by another white person (0.0011% * 5 = 0.0055%)

Since 2,245 intra-racial murders were committed by blacks and 2,509 intra-racial murders were committed by whites, the total number of intra-racial murders committed by blacks and whites combined was 2,245 + 2,509 = 4,754. So, out of the total number of intra-racial murders committed by blacks and whites combined, the percentage committed by blacks was: 2,245 divided by 4,754 times 100 = 47%. Out of the total intra-racial murders committed by blacks and whites, the percentage committed by whites was 52%.

Since blacks make up only 15% of the population compared to whites (who make up 73%), this means that if the total number of intra-racial murders committed by blacks were proportional to the population, it would be 15% of 4,754 intra-racial murders committed by blacks and whites, or 713.6 intra-racial murders committed by blacks in 2013. Since it was actually 2,245 intra-racial murders committed by blacks in 2013, then the number of intra-racial murders committed by blacks was 3.15 times higher than it should have been given the proportion of the black population to the white population.(See, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

The Bureau of Justice Statistics sets forth the percentage of homicides committed by blacks and the percentage of homicides committed by whites between 1980 and 2009. These figures can be found at page 12, Table 7 of “Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008”, where it said that of all homicides committed in the US, 45.3% of offenders were white and 52.5% were black. (See, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

Once again, since blacks make up only 15% of the population compared to whites, who make up 73%, this means that of all murders committed in the US, which was 5,723 in 2013, then if the homicide rate were proportional to the different racial populations, the number of murders committed by black people should have been 858.45 (0.15 * 5,723). But, the number of murders actually committed by blacks in the US in 2013 was 2,698.This means that in 2013, the proportion of murders committed by black people was 2,698 divided by 5,723 * 100 = 47%. Forty-seven percent of all murders in 2013 were committed by black people, despite the fact that they are only 15% of the population. The number of blacks committing murder in 2013 was about 3.13 times (2,698 divided by 858) higher than it should have been if the murder rate were strictly proportional by racial groups. (See, last accessed 9-5-2016. The 5,723 number of murder victims in 2013 was obtained by adding together “race of victim” numbers found in the far-left “total” column: 3,005+2,491+159+68=5,723. The 2,698 number of blacks that committed murder number was obtained by adding together the “Black or African American” numbers in the “race of offender” grouping: 409+2,245+27+17=2,698.)

As I said when I started, I am not looking to analyze the causes of this or suggest what this should mean in terms of government policy. I am simply crunching the numbers in order to see what they are. I will save my analysis for another blog posting.

Robert Heinlein: Some of His Writing I Love, But Some of It I Really Hate

I’ve decided that I have a “love/hate” relationship with Robert Heinlein’s fiction. I read “Tunnel in the Sky” the summer after eighth grade, and thought it was one of the best books I’d ever read. It was about a student in the future who takes a wilderness survival class, and the final exam is to be transported to another planet via teleportation to survive for a week -but something goes wrong and he and other students are trapped there indefinitely. At the time I was really into wilderness survival and science fiction, so I loved that book.

The “Door Into Summer” is a great novel about a brilliant inventor whose ideas are stolen, and his use of cryonics and time travel to get back what is his, as well as to meet the love of his life. It was a touching novel that almost moved me to tears.

“Orphans of the Sky” is about a “generation star ship” where the inhabitants have forgotten they are on a star ship and think that the “universe” consists of just the ship. The main character learns the truth, but the others don’t believe him -similar to Galileo. Also a great book about human institutions and superstitions in conflict with the facts of reality.

However, two of Heinlein’s books are quite possibly some of the most vicious science fiction novels I’ve ever read. First, there is “Stranger in a Strange Land” -arguably Heinlein’s most popular novel, but I absolutely hate it. It involves mysticism, non-monogamous “free love”, cannibalism, and some sort of mystical epistemology (“groking”). Heinlein said he wrote it to challenge every central tenet of Western Civilization. It was Charles Manson’s favorite novel with good reason, and, from what I’ve heard, Heinlein refused to take any responsibility for intellectually “aiding and abetting” that deranged mind.

“Waldo” is a shorter novella, and at the end of it I thought: “I’m not sure I want to believe Heinlein meant what I think this novella stands for.” Basically the main character is a misanthropic genius who is severely, physically disabled. At the end, he discovers some mystical power that lets him become physically fit again, and then slowly has pieces of his brain removed and becomes a vapid “every man” who gets along with everyone. What I took as the theme of the novel was: “You can either be intelligent, miserable, and physically deformed or you can be happy, stupid, and physically fit -but not both.” It seemed like a complete “mind-body false dichotomy” to me.

Thomas Hobbes on Accidental and Essential In “Leviathan”

In his book “Leviathan”, Thomas Hobbes prefaces his discussion of politics and the “social contract” with a discussion “Of Man”. ( (My references to “Leviathan” are to the Penguin Classics version, 1987, ISBN 0-14-043195-0 )

Hobbes recognizes that one must study the nature of man before discussing how men should be organized into society and what sort of political system they should adapt. He also recognizes that the nature of the human mind, and how it acquires knowledge, is key to understanding the nature of man.

In historical context, Hobbes lived in a time when some of the scientific assertions of Aristotle, which had been re-incorporated into Western thinking by Thomas Aquinas, were being questioned.

Galileo Galilei had presented evidence that tended to overthrow the Ptolemaic system, which had described the Earth as the center of the universe. This idea had become official doctrine of the Church with its adoption of Aristotle, through Thomas Aquinas, at the beginning of the Renaissance.

Hobbes wrote against this backdrop, in which all of Aristotle’s science, especially his cosmology, was starting to be questioned.

Despite his declared rejection of Aristotle, Hobbes didn’t go far enough in questioning the philosopher when it came to the distinction between “essential” and “accidental” properties of a thing. (

Although Hobbes was right to reject the Platonic/Aristotelian view of “essences”, his embrace of the idea of “accidental” features in things that are not man-made lead him to believe that definitions are based on mere “accidental” features.

An alternative to both Hobbes and the “realists” (Plato and Aristotle) holds that essential features are characteristics perceived by a particular type of mind, the human mind, to serve human purposes -ultimately, man’s life.

There is a long-standing debate in the history of philosophy about where the essential feature(s) that comprise a concept come from:

“The problem of universals is the problem of the correspondence of our intellectual concepts to things existing outside our intellect. Whereas external objects are determinate individuals, formally exclusive of all multiplicity, our concepts or mental representations offer us the realities independent of all particular determination; they are abstract and universal. The question, therefore, is to discover to what extent the concepts of the mind correspond to the things they represent; how the flower we conceive represents the flower existing in nature; in a word whether our ideas are faithful and have an objective reality.” (E.C. Moore, American Pragmatism: Peirce, James, and Dewey. New York: Columbia University Press (1961), quoting DeWulf, M. Catholic Encyclopedia, XI, “Nominalism, Realism and Conceptualism”(1909).)

“Since man’s knowledge is gained and held in conceptual form, the validity of man’s knowledge depends on the validity of concepts. But concepts are abstractions or universals, and everything that man perceives is particular, concrete. What is the relationship between abstractions and concretes? To what precisely do concepts refer in reality? Do they refer to something real, something that exists -or are they merely inventions of man’s mind, arbitrary constructs or loose approximations that cannot claim to represent knowledge?…To exemplify the issue as it is usually presented: When we refer to three persons as ‘men’, what do we designate by that term? The three persons are three individuals who differ in every particular respect and may not possess a single identical characteristic…If you list all their particular characteristics, you will not find one representing ‘manness.’ Where is the ‘manness’ in men? What, in reality, corresponds to the concept ‘man’ in our mind?” (Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd Ed., “Forward to the First Edition”. New York:Meridian (1990).)

Plato said that “essences” exist in pure form in some other realm, and that the world we see around us is just a vague, shadowy approximation of that real world of forms. This is probably what was meant by Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”

Plato said we are all like people who are chained and forced to face the wall of a cave with a fire behind us. We can see the shadows of people and other things as they pass by, but we cannot see the actual things. This is a metaphor for the idea that human senses do not perceive actual entities or things, just the shadows of things that actually exist. What actually exists are the “forms”, which are in some other realm. Human beings are merely perceiving the shadows of those forms. Those “forms” are what we mean when we speak of the essence of a thing. The “manness” that we perceive in men actually exists in some pure form in another realm, and the individual men that we perceive are just shadowy approximations of the “Platonic form” of man.

Plato’s student, Aristotle was somewhat more “this worldly” than his teacher. Aristotle rejected the idea that “forms” exist in some other realm. Instead, some scholars interpret Aristotle as saying that the “form” or “essence” of a thing exists within each concrete instance. The practical result of this would be that for Aristotle, studying concrete particular things is important to understanding them, since that “essence” of the thing exists somewhere within it, whereas Plato said the “essence” isn’t in the thing –the thing is just a shadow of that “pure essence”. Plato’s view of knowledge would tend to suggest that one gains knowledge by learning about some other world, other than the one you perceive, while Aristotle at least believed that you should study the things you can actually see and perceive in order to learn about their essence.

Starting in the late Middle Ages, the ideas of Aristotle were rediscovered by Western Scholars like Thomas Aquinas. By the time of the Renaissance, much of Aristotle had been incorporated into Church doctrine. The ideas of Aristotle and Aquinas became part of the “scholastic” tradition.

In the 1600’s, Hobbes, and other thinkers and scientists, began to reject the ideas of the “Schoolmen” (the Scholastics).

“Lastly, the Metaphysiques, Ethiques, and Politiques of Aristotle, the frivolous Distinctions, barbarous Terms, and obscure Language of the Schoolmen, taught in the Universities, (which have been all erected and regulated by the Popes Authority,) serve them to keep these Errors from being detected, and to make men mistake the Ignis Fatuus of Vain Philosophy, for the Light of the Gospell.” (Leviathan, Pg. 708)

Along with the doctrines of Aristotle, Hobbes also denounced, amongst others, the idea of Papal infallibility (“…that the Pope In His Publique Capacity Cannot Erre…” Leviathan, Pg. 706) and transubstantiation (“…they assure the same, by the Power they ascribe to every Priest, of making Christ; and by the Power of ordaining Pennance; and of Remitting, and Retaining of sins.” Leviathan, Pg. 708)

Hobbes likely regarded Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as an “abuse of speech”:

“Secondly, when they use words metaphorically; that is, in other sense than that they are ordained for; and thereby deceive others.” (Leviathan, Pg. 102)

The allegory of the cave could be considered a “metaphorical” use of words, aimed at deceiving others into doubting the evidence of their senses.

If Hobbes rejected the essentialism of Plato and Aristotle, what did he believe we were referring to when we speak of an essential, defining characteristic of a thing?

For instance, I read an article about a chimpanzee that lost all of his hair in a zoo because of alopecia –a disease. (

This is what Hobbes says the schoolmen would say:

“From these Metaphysiques [the philosphy of Aristotle], which are mingled with the Scripture to make Schoole Divinity, wee are told, there be in the world certaine Essences separated from Bodies, which they call Abstract Essences, and Substantiall Formes…” (Leviathan, Pg. 689)

Aristotle tried to draw a distinction between “essential” and “accidental” properties of a thing to account for something like a chimpanzee without hair, and why it is still a chimpanzee. (

The fact that most chimpanzees have hair on their bodies must be an “accidental feature” of a chimpanzee. Something else must be “essential”.

Although he is not always clear on this point, I believe Hobbes thought all definitions ultimately rest on “accidental qualities”:

“Of Names, some are Proper, and singular to one onely thing; as Peter, John, This Man, This Tree: and some are Common to many things; as Man, Horse, Tree; every of which though but one Name, is nevertheless the name of divers particular things; in respect of all which together, it is called an Universall; there being nothing in the world Universall but Names; for the things named, are every one of them Individual and Singular.

One Universall name is imposed on many things, for their similitude in some quality, or other accident: And whereas a Proper Name bringeth to mind one thing onely; Universals recall any one of those many. ” (See Leviathan, pg. 103)

“Secondly, it may enter into account, or be considered, for some accident or quality, which we conceive to be in it; as for Being Moved, for Being So Long, for Being Hot, &c; and then, of the name of the thing it selfe, by a little change or wresting, wee make a name for that accident, which we consider; and for Living put into account Life; for Moved, Motion; for Hot, Heat; for Long, Length, and the like. And all such Names, are the names of the accidents and properties, by which one Matter, and Body is distinguished from another. These are called Names Abstract; Because Severed (not from Matter, but) from the account of Matter.” (See Leviathan, Pg. 107.)

In the above passages, Hobbes says there are “accidental qualities” that make up “matter” and “body”. Hobbes initially did seem to suggest that one “…Universal name is imposed on many things, for their similitude in some quality, or other accident…” (Leviathan, Pg. 103)

This could be interpreted as meaning he made a distinction between “similarity” and “accident”. So, for instance, the chimpanzee with alopecia has no hair as a result of an “accident” (a disease). However, given what he then gives as examples of “accident” (“living”, “moved”, “hot”, “long”, etc), the logical implication is that all characteristics of any given entity would ultimately be considered “accidental”.

Additionally, for Hobbes, a “body without us” is what is commonly called an “object”. “Objects” are the things we perceive with our senses:

“Concerning the Thoughts of man, I will consider them first Singly, and afterwards in Trayne, or dependance upon one another. Singly, they are every one a Representation or Apparence, of some quality, or other Accident of a body without us; which is commonly called an Object. Which Object worketh on the Eyes, Eares, and other parts of mans body; and by diversity of working, produceth diversity of Apparences.” (Leviathan, Pg. 85)

Every “object” that we perceive, according to Hobbes, is a “Representation” of “Apparence” of “some quality, or other Accident of a body [an object] without us; which is commonly called an Object.”

The logic of Hobbes’ view of knowledge is to say that everything about a particular entity that we call “matter” or “body” is just an accidental feature. Therefore, all of our concepts must be based on “accidental features”. There is no “essence”, as Plato or Aristotle speaks of them.

One of the strengths of Hobbes is his commitment to good definitions:

“Seeing then that Truth consisteth in the right ordering of names in our affirmations, a man that seeketh precise Truth, had need to remember what every name he uses stands for; and to place it accordingly; or els he will find himselfe entangled in words, as a bird in lime-twiggs; the more he struggles, the more belimed. And therefore in Geometry, (which is the onely Science that it hath pleased God hitherto to bestow on mankind,) men begin at settling the significations of their words; which settling of significations, they call Definitions; and place them in the beginning of their reckoning.

By this it appears how necessary it is for any man that aspires to true Knowledge, to examine the Definitions of former Authors; and either to correct them, where they are negligently set down; or to make them himselfe. For the errours of Definitions multiply themselves, according as the reckoning proceeds; and lead men into absurdities, which at last they see, but cannot avoyd, without reckoning anew from the beginning; in which lyes the foundation of their errours. From whence it happens, that they which trust to books, do as they that cast up many little summs into a greater, without considering whether those little summes were rightly cast up or not; and at last finding the errour visible, and not mistrusting their first grounds, know not which way to cleere themselves; but spend time in fluttering over their bookes; as birds that entring by the chimney, and finding themselves inclosed in a chamber, flitter at the false light of a glasse window, for want of wit to consider which way they came in. So that in the right Definition of Names, lyes the first use of Speech; which is the Acquisition of Science: And in wrong, or no Definitions’ lyes the first abuse; from which proceed all false and senslesse Tenets; which make those men that take their instruction from the authority of books, and not from their own meditation, to be as much below the condition of ignorant men, as men endued with true Science are above it. For between true Science, and erroneous Doctrines, Ignorance is in the middle. Naturall sense and imagination, are not subject to absurdity. Nature it selfe cannot erre: and as men abound in copiousnesse of language; so they become more wise, or more mad than ordinary. Nor is it possible without Letters for any man to become either excellently wise, or (unless his memory be hurt by disease, or ill constitution of organs) excellently foolish. For words are wise mens counters, they do but reckon by them: but they are the mony of fooles, that value them by the authority of an Aristotle, a Cicero, or a Thomas, or any other Doctor whatsoever, if but a man.” (Leviathan, Pg. 105-106)

Here, Hobbes says that all authority must be rejected (specifically the authority of “…Aristotle…Cicero…[and]…Thomas [Aquinas]…” He says that one must “…examine the Definitions of former Authors…” to see if they are right or wrong. Hobbes says that failure to do so will cause one to “…find himselfe entangled in words…”

But, Hobbes doesn’t always follow his own advice on definitions. Hobbes uses the term “accidental” without thinking about what that means -what its definition is. The definition of “accident” is:

“a sudden event (such as a crash) that is not planned or intended and that causes damage or injury.”
“an event that is not planned or intended: an event that occurs by chance” (

An “accident” means something that was not planned or intended. With respect to “the metaphysical”, i.e., all aspects of reality that don’t involve human choice, the concepts of “planned” or “intended” do not apply. Only human beings, and, arguably, certain other types of living organisms, are capable of “planning” or “intent”. These concepts pertain to entities that possess a mind like human beings.

Similarly, the concept of “chance” means that an event occurs about which one does not have sufficient information to know for certain what the outcome will be. For instance, if I flip a coin, whether it will come up heads or tails is a question of “chance”, and I can speak of the probability that it will come up heads or tails.

If I had enough data about the original position of the coin prior to being tossed, the angle(s) and speeds of all the forces that worked on it when it was tossed, the wind and weather factors involved, etc., then I could know for certain whether the coin toss would end up heads or tails. It would no longer be a matter of “chance” because I have sufficient knowledge to know all the factors that are playing into its eventual resting state.

All inanimate things act in accordance with their nature, and the nature of other things that they interact with, and they absolutely must act that way. “Chance” is just a way of saying that a human being doesn’t have enough knowledge about the nature of certain inanimate things to know what the outcome will be.

For example, the fact that the Earth and the other planets came to revolve around the sun the way they do, and at the orbits they occupy, had to occur that way because of the nature of the Sun and the other planets. (Their masses, their speeds, their composition, etc.) The element of “chance” comes into play because human beings do not know all of the factors that led to the Earth orbiting the sun in the way it does. “Chance” is just a reflection of some human being’s level of knowledge on a subject.

As far as we know, only human beings make choices. Since only human beings can make plans or intend to bring about some event or goal, only human beings are capable of having their plans or intentions fail due to some ignorance, negligence, or irrationality on their part. Only human beings can have “accidents”, because only human beings can be mistaken.

This means that when it comes to reality, apart from those aspects that don’t involve human choice, nothing is “accidental”, because the concept does not apply. It’s like asking: what is the sound of one hand clapping? Or: what is outside the universe? Since clapping, by definition, is the striking together of two hands, it is a nonsense sentence. If the universe is all that exists, then you cannot speak of anything “outside” it, because anything that exists is part of the universe. “Outside” is also a relational concept, implying that something that exists is not within something else, so there is no “outside” the universe. (Arguably, there is no “inside” the universe, either.) Similarly, speaking of “accidental” aspects or features of reality, that don’t involve human choice, is a nonsense statement.

Going back to the chimpanzee with alopecia, the fact that he lost all of his hair is not an “accident”, nor is the fact that other chimps have their hair an “accident”. Chimps that don’t have alopecia have their hair because of their nature as a living organism, plus the nature of the rest of reality that they interact with. It isn’t an “accident” that chimps have hair. It had to be that way, because reality is what it is. There is no god making choices about how reality is going to be. Reality simply is. Only human beings make choices, that we know of, and only human beings can make plans. Human beings, not reality, are capable of having “accidents” -of making mistakes. If a chimp looses his hair for some reason that doesn’t involve human choice, it had to be that way because of the nature of certain diseases and the nature of the chimp’s body in reaction to those diseases.

What is the consequence of believing, as Hobbes appears to, that all features or characteristics of “matter” and “body” are “accidental”? He would have to believe that all concepts that human being hold must be, in some sense, “accidental”. Concepts for Hobbes are not going to be fully real to him. Hobbes is what is known today as a “nominalist”:

“Denying that concepts have an objective basis in the facts of reality, nominalists declare that the source of concepts is a subjective human decision: men arbitrarily select certain characteristics to serve as the basis (the “essentials”) for a classification; thereafter, they agree to apply the same term to any concretes that happen to exhibit these “essentials,” no matter how diverse these concretes are in other respects. On this view, the concept (the term) means only those characteristics initially decreed to be ‘essential’. The other characteristics of the subsumed concretes bear no necessary connection to the ‘essential’ characteristics, and are excluded from the concepts meaning.

Observe that, while condemning Plato’s mystic view of a concept’s meaning, the nominalists embrace the same view in a skeptic version. Condemning the essence-accident dichotomy as implicitly arbitrary, they institute an explicitly arbitrary equivalent. Condemning Plato’s ‘intuitive’ selection of essences as a disguised subjectivism, they spurn the disguise and adopt subjectivism as their official theory…Condemning Plato’s supernaturally determined essences, they declare that essences are socially determined, thus transferring to the province of human whim what had once been the prerogative of Plato’s divine realm. The nominalists’ ‘advance’ over Plato consisted of secularizing his theory.”(Leonard Peikoff, “The Analytic Synthetic Dichotomy.” In: Rand, A. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd Ed.” New York:Meridian (1990).)

Hobbes is correct that all definitions of concepts rest on human choices -that all essences are based on human choice. He is mistaken in believing that certain aspects or characteristics of the things we perceive, given certain contexts of knowledge, should be considered no more essential than all of their other features, though. This is because the human mind has a certain nature, and it must organize the material it perceives in accordance with that nature if it is going to function effectively. Since human thought serves human life, certain characteristics of the entities we perceive are more fundamental than others, because we adopt certain principles of “fundamentality” that serve our nature as living beings with a certain nature of mind.

“Now observe, on the above example, the process of determining an essential characteristic: the rule of fundamentality. When a given group of existents has more than one characteristic distinguishing it from other existents, man must observe the relationships among these various characteristics and discover the one on which all the others (or the greatest number of others) depend, i.e., the fundamental characteristic is the essential distinguishing characteristic of the existents involved, and the proper defining characteristic of the concept.

Metaphysically, a fundamental characteristic is that distinctive characteristic which makes the greatest number of others possible; epistemologically, it is the one that explains the greatest number of others.” (Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd Ed., Chapter 5, “Definitions”. New York:Meridian (1990).)

For instance, in the case of the chimpanzee, we know that it is a living organism that must obtain the fuel necessary for its continued existence. It must gather food and other resources. It will seek out females to reproduce with because all living organisms are capable of reproducing themselves, and, with the possible exception of humans, are driven by inexorable mating cycles to do so. Its internal organs are all aimed at sustaining itself. It reacts to its environment and attempts to adapt itself to that environment in a manner that will allow for its continued existence, so it behaves in certain ways. It possesses a consciousness that is, perhaps different from human beings, but a consciousness, nonetheless.

Take away its hair, and the chimpanzee is still a living organism, albeit one that is in a diseased state, so it might not be quite as successful at living. To the extent that human beings interact with a chimpanzee without hair, they will still do so in largely the same way. Hair, as far as human beings are concerned, is not an essential feature of the chimp. But, this is only as far as a human being are concerned. Outside of the way human beings organize certain entities that they perceive in their minds in order to serve human purposes, every entity is unique. No two chimpanzees are the same. The concept of “similarity” serves human needs.

What are some of the “principles of ‘fundamentality’” that human beings adopt in order to serve their purposes? Probably the most important one is the principle of causality. We try to find aspects of reality that we can use to bring about certain results. This is important because reason is our means of survival. So, for instance, we find that certain types of molds kill bacteria. A certain type of mold is the “cause” of bacteria death. We then extract the substance from that mold that leads to the death of certain types of bacteria, and make antibiotics. This means that when we form concepts we look for characteristics that are the “cause” of other characteristics of the thing. The more characteristics of a thing that a particular characteristic(s) causes, the more likely it is to be considered “fundamental”.

This isn’t always an easy task, since we may have incomplete knowledge, but this is what we are doing when we try to find “essential features” of a thing -and finding those essential features is necessary for successful living by human beings. The fact that the concept of essential features is necessary for living life means that there is a “right” and a “wrong” -that some ideas held by human beings are “true” and others are “false”. If one person believes that penicillin kills bacteria while another believes that voodoo incantations will cure disease, then the former is right and the later is wrong. If you want to live, then it’s not all just a matter of arbitrary definitions based on “accidental qualities”.

In the case of a chimpanzee, the fact that he has hair is not considered a fundamental feature. Other mammals have hair, and it doesn’t explain most of the chimp’s behavior patterns or the overall structure of his body. He also is still capable of reproduction with other chimpanzees, which is a strong indicator that an animal is the same species as another animal -although not always a definite indicator. (Wolves and coyotes can interbreed.) Why is interbreeding such a strong indicator? Because two animals breeding and giving rise to offspring tends to be very important to human beings in terms of farming. Agriculture, at least since the Neolithic period, is important to mankind because livestock for food and other purposes is important to human survival.

Essential features are neither “out there”, as Plato/Aristotle would say, nor “arbitrary creations”, as Hobbes would have to say. They are aspects of realty perceived and organized by a certain type of organism, a human being, who needs them to serve a certain purpose, which is living.

The legacy of Hobbes and of the Enlightenment is one in which tradition and authority is questioned. Hobbes just didn’t go far enough when he accepted, without criticism, the idea of “accidental qualities”, because the concept of “accident” does not apply to those aspects of reality that exist apart from human choice. (The “metaphysical”.) Only the metaphysical should be accepted, while all human choices and institutions should be judged, and, if necessary, reformed, if one wants to live.

A Review of “Altruism as Appeasement” by Ayn Rand

In 1962, Ayn Rand asked a student at MIT why so many of “…today’s young intellectuals were becoming ‘liberals’…” (pg. 32) A few weeks later, the MIT student wrote Miss Rand a letter, outlining his thinking on the subject. Miss Rand wrote “Altruism as Appeasement”, which expands on the response she got from this MIT student. This essay can be found in The Voice of Reason. (My page citations below are to the 1989 Meridian version, ISBN number: 0-452-01046-2)

In his letter, the student told Miss Rand that “The majority of college students…do not choose to think; they accept the status quo, conform to the prescribed code of values, and evade the responsibility of independent thought…’In adopting this attitude, they are encouraged by teachers who inspire imitation, rather than creation.’” (Pg. 32)

However, there is another group who are “…not willing to renounce their rational faculty.” Miss Rand then quotes at length from the MIT student’s letter: “‘They are the intellectuals -and they are the outsiders….They are teased and rejected by their schoolmates. An immense amount of faith in oneself and a rational philosophical basis are required to set oneself against all that society has ever taught…The man who preaches individual integrity, pride, and self-esteem is today virtually nonexistent. Far more common is the man who, driven by the young adult’s driving need for acceptance, has compromised. And here is the key -[the result of] the compromise is the liberal.’”

What is the psychological result? Most “liberal intellectuals” are driven by a strong guilt complex, because a person who sets himself against society in favor of rationality will feel guilt due to his rejection by the mediocrities around him. The “liberal” “…’loudly proclaims the brotherhood of all men. He seeks to serve his escapist brothers by guaranteeing them their desire for social security…’” (Pg. 33) “Liberals” are driven to atone for their false guilt, and they do so by working for “…’their welfare…’” (Pg. 33)

Miss Rand agreed with the MIT student regarding the psychological process he had identified, however: “…the situation he [the MIT student] describes is not new; it is as old as altruism; nor is it confined to ‘liberals’.” She says that this is the “…story of men who spend their lives apologizing for their own intelligence.” (Pg. 33)

Miss Rand then describes how this psychological process works out in the mind of the average college student. In an effort to avoid a massive quantity of quotations, I will summarize Miss Rand’s description of this process as best I can, as well as discuss some of my own observations that have led me to believe that Miss Rand is describing a psychological process that occurs very often in the mind of persons that usually self-identify as “liberals” or, more often today, as “progressives”.

When I originally read this essay in the mid-nineties, I was 19 or 20 years old. I hadn’t had enough experience to know if Miss Rand was right, so I just mentally “shelved” the issue. 20 years later, I’ve dealt with and seen enough people, and I’ve spent enough time thinking about their behavior, that I consider Miss Rand’s theory in “Altruism as Appeasement” to be a highly probable explanation for many people that are college educated, and self-describe as “liberals”, “progressives” or “social democrats”.

Miss Rand observes that bright children have a sense of being trapped in a “nightmare universe” when they are growing up. Growing up mostly in the Bible Belt and going to public school, I can relate to this description of childhood. In the South, large numbers of people will tell you that you are going to hell for some inherent moral vice called “original sin”, unless you repent your non-existent guilt to god. This could certainly be a frightening prospect for a child. In my own case, I started questioning the existence of god around age 13, and my mother must have sensed that because I was made to go to church despite the fact that I wasn’t particularly interested. Fortunately, the church that I was sent to was fairly “liberal”, and didn’t take the bible literally, so it could have been worse, I suppose.

Public schools, especially high school, were filled with their share of bullies -by which I mean children that would engage in low-level initiations of physical force, especially against anyone who didn’t seem to fit in, or that their emotions told them deserved such treatment. (By low-level initiations of physical force, I mean things like handing out quadriceps contusions —a “deadleg”- or being spit on, or having your books knocked out of your hands in the hall, etc.) Although in my case, by the 11th grade, most of the kids that were initiating physical force against others had either been removed from the school to a special “alternative school”, or were already in jail. Additionally, Plano Independent Schools contain a large number of children with parents that actually care about academic achievement and personal success, so my overall public school experience wasn’t what I’d call a “nightmare”. I suspect that an inner-city public school would be four years of complete hell all the way through, and make my experience look like I was living in Galt’s Gulch (a utopia).

I discovered Ayn Rand’s philosophy when I was about 15, and I did note that most people were hostile to Miss Rand’s ideas, if they knew about them at all. I did have a couple of teachers that seemed sympathetic towards her ideas, but that was rare. So, I can relate when Miss Rand says that the intelligent teenager wants to “…understand things and issues, big issues, about which no one else seems to care.” (Pg. 33)

Miss Rand goes on to say that most intelligent teenagers start college with the hope that it will be better, but their first year is too often a “psychological killer”(Pg. 33). He went to college hoping to find answers and meaning, and some companions to share his interest in ideas. She notes that he may find a handful of teachers that live up to his hopes, but “…as to intellectual companionship, he finds the same gang he had met in kindergarten, in playgrounds, and in vacant lots: a leering, screeching, aggressively mindless gang playing the same games, with latinized jargon replacing the mud pies and the baseball bats.” (Pg. 34)

I found Rand’s description of college to be fairly accurate at the University of Texas at Austin, which is easily the most left-wing school in Texas. One English professor was particularly terrible. He interpreted everything we read through the lens of “multiculturalism” and “feminism”. He told the class that Thomas Jefferson was a racist and a hypocrite when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. I raised my hand and disagreed with him. I told him that the Declaration of Independence may not have been consistently applied at the founding, but it formed the intellectual basis on which the nation eventually moved towards abolishing slavery. His response was that the civil war was the reason the slaves were freed. I disagreed, and said that slavery would have been abolished eventually anyway. In that professor’s mind, ideas had nothing to do with it. The use of physical force was all that mattered. It makes me wonder why he bothered to be a professor at all, if he thought ideas were so futile.

Going back to Miss Rand’s essay, how do too many intelligent college students deal with the intellectual wasteland that is college? “There are many wrong directions he can make at this crossroads, but the deadliest -psychologically, intellectually, and morally- is the attempt to join the gang at the price of selling his soul to uninterested buyers. It is an attempt to apologize for his intellectual concerns…by professing that his thinking is dedicated to some social-altruistic goal.” (Pg. 34) She notes that this is rarely a conscious decision on his or her part. It is done gradually and subconsciously and by semiconscious rationalization. She also notes that altruism “…offers an arsenal of such rationalizations: if an unformed adolescent can tell himself that his…subservience is unselfishness…he is hooked. By the time he is old enough to know better, the erosion of his self-esteem is such that he dares not face or reexamine the issue.” (pg. 34)

What is the psychology of an intelligent person who goes to college and professes that he is using his mind to serve others? Such a man or woman has some “…degree of social metaphysics [secondhandedness]…” (Pg. 34) The concept of “social metaphysics” requires some explanation, which Rand does supply: “Basically, a social metaphysician is motivated by the desire to escape the responsibility of independent thought, and he surrenders the mind he is afraid to use, preferring to follow the judgments of others.” (Pg. 34)

If you’ve read Miss Rand’s book The Fountainhead, the character Peter Keating is the ultimate “second-hander” or “social metaphysician”. If you haven’t read that novel, it could be thought of as the “go along to get along” type of personality. ( It does not mean never compromising on non-fundamental or trivial matters. So, for instance if you are going to dinner with a friend, and they prefer Italian food and you want Chinese, and you compromise by going to an Italian restaurant, with the understanding that next time you will pick the restaurant, that isn’t social metaphysics. That is simply recognizing that there are a range of food preferences that vary by person, you can only go to one place at a time, and that friendship is about shared values, which means showing an interest in what your friends are interested in.

The social metaphysician regards society -others- as the standard of reality. The social order as it happens to exist is accepted by him, or her, and then he or she operates within it. A social metaphysician can be quite successful at operating within that social order, but she never questions it. This is why Rand called them social metaphysicians.

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the most fundamental aspects of the nature of reality. Metaphysics are the principles that must be understood before one can study particular sciences like physics or biology. For instance, in Miss Rand’s philosophy, she accepts the existence of an external universe as the given. The entities that make up the universe have a particular nature and those entities act in accordance with that nature. According to Miss Rand’s system of metaphysics, an entity is what it is regardless of anyone’s desires or wishes to the contrary. If one is a social metaphysician, then the metaphysical, i.e., reality, is less important than the “man-made”. The man-made includes all of our social institutions and customs. Unlike reality, the man-made depends on human choice, and could be other than it is. For instance, America is a Republic and not a Monarchy because people chose to make it that way. It’s continued existence as a Republic depends on human choice. The social metaphysician simply accepts these man-made customs as the given, and rarely questions them. In fact, a social metaphysician has so internalized this way of thinking, that anyone who questions generally accepted social institutions will make her feel uneasy.

Social metaphysicians who are less intelligent, and didn’t go to college, are the “good old boys” and “rednecks” that one might see in a small, rural town. The social metaphysician is also quite common in inner cities, but I don’t know what the polite word to describe them would be. For lack of a polite term, I will call them “black rednecks”. A “black redneck” from a large inner city like Chicago or New York will be highly critical of anyone from his neighborhood who studies hard and tries to better his economic standing. He will accuse high-achievers in his race of “acting white”. This is a perfect example of the social metaphysician attitude. The “black redneck” believes there are certain social customs and institutions that are not to be questioned -unfortunately those social customs and institutions in minority communities include the belief that gaining knowledge and education is not in accordance with being of African descent. Anyone from his racial group who defies those customs is therefore a traitor in the social metaphysician’s eyes. There was once a great episode of a show that I didn’t typically watch that covered this topic, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” where the “nerdy” character “Carlton” is accused of being a race-traitor.

Another great essay by Rand describing basically the same mentality as this type of social metaphysician, the “anti-conceptual tribalist”, can be found in Philosophy: Who Needs It called: The Missing Link.

The intelligent teenager who goes to college and has the “social metaphysician” mindset will not become a redneck, though. He (or she) will become a “liberal” -which is the “educated” equivalent. To a social metaphysician college student, it seems like all of his professors and peers accept the idea that the individual must sacrifice himself to the “common good”. This means that in the social metaphysician’s eyes, the idea of self-sacrifice is one of the social institutions and custom of college. It is the social order that is not to be questioned.

The psychology of social metaphysics doesn’t entirely explain the “liberal mindset”, however. The college “liberal” is also engaged in “intellectual appeasement”: “…an intellectual appeaser surrenders morality, the realm of values, in order to be permitted to use his mind. The degree of self-abasement is greater [than the social metaphysician]; the implicit view of the mind -as functioning by permission of the mindless -is unspeakable. (Nor does the appeaser often care to speak of it.)” (Pg. 34)

“There are as many variants of the consequences [of being an intellectual appeaser] as there are men who commit this particular type of moral treason. But certain scars of psychological deformity can be observed in most of them as their common symptoms.” (Pg. 35) Rand then describes some common consequences of being an intellectual appeaser.

First, the intellectual appeaser tends to hate mankind in general, and to regard them as “…evil by nature, he complains about their congenital stupidity…” (pg. 35) I regard the “people are stupid” attitude as the hallmark of the “liberal” or “progressive”. “Liberal” politicians like Michael Bloomberg pass laws to restrict the size of sugary drinks because he thinks people are too stupid to regulate their own caloric intake. The “liberal”, intellectual appeaser view of “…the people at large is a nightmare image -the image of a mindless brute endowed with some inexplicably omnipotent power -and he lives in terror of that image…emotionally, he keeps feeling the brute’s presence behind every corner…The brute is the frozen embodiment of mankind as projected by the emotions of an adolescent appeaser.” (Pg. 35)

In my own experience, the belief that the majority of people are brutish is why most “liberals” are for gun control. They believe that most human beings are seething cauldrons of rage who will snap at the slightest provocation -that they are brutes. I saw this when Texas legalized concealed carry with a license in the mid-1990’s. “Liberals” claimed that it would lead to the “wild west” -with people shooting each other over trivial matters like parking spots. This is not to say that murder never happens, but the world today is arguably less violent than it has ever been. (“Steven Pinker: The surprising decline in violence” )

Second, a “…corollary symptom, in most intellectual appeasers, is the ‘elite’ premise -the dogmatic, unshakable belief that ‘the masses don’t think,’ that men are impervious to reason, that thinking is the exclusive prerogative of a small, ‘chosen’ minority.” (Pg. 36) In politics, this “elitism” manifests itself in the form of two types of “intellectual appeasers”. There are the more aggressive “liberals”, who believe in rule by physical force because “…people are unfit for freedom and should be ruled -‘for their own good’- by a dictatorship of the ‘elite’.”(Pg. 36) These are the Michael Bloomberg’s and Hillary Clinton’s of the world, who want to force people to buy smaller soft drinks or to buy health insurance because they are supposedly too stupid to take care of themselves.

Unfortunately, the other type of intellectual appeaser is predominately found in the Republican Party: “The more timorous type of appeasers, the ‘conservatives,’ take a different line: they share the notion of an intellectual ‘elite’ and, therefore, they discard intellectuality as numerically unimportant, and they concentrate on cajoling the brute (‘the masses’) with baby talk -with vapid slogans, flattering bromides, folksy speeches in two-syllable words, on the explicit premise that reason does not work, that the brute must be won through appeals to his emotions and must, somehow, be fooled or cheated into taking the right road.”(Pg. 36)

This analysis of conservatism provides a possible explanation for the popularity of Donald Trump in the Republican party. One thing I’ve noticed about Trump’s campaign is that it tends to be short on many specifics, but it contains a lot of emotional appeals, bromides, and verbal “put downs” of the other Republican candidates. This is not something new within the Republican party, though. Ronald Reagan was the master of “flattering bromides”, “folksy speeches”, and one-liners at debates. Trump is just a little bit more blunt in his delivery than Reagan was.

A third consequence of being an intellectual appeaser is moral cowardice, which is “…the necessary consequence of discarding morality as inconsequential.”(Pg. 36) For the “progressive” intellectual appeaser, the image of the brute is “…the symbol of an appeaser’s belief in the supremacy of evil…when his mind judges a thing to be evil, his emotions proclaim its power, and the more evil, the more powerful.” (Pg. 36)

This can be understood in terms of what the intellectual appeaser has accepted as “good” or “moral”. The intellectual appeaser is a proponent of self-sacrifice in the service of others, which is generally known as “altruism”. This means that “good” action for the altruist consists in destroying one’s own happiness and sacrificing one’s life in order to serve others. As a result, “good” and “right action” is self-weakening, and self-destructive. To the altruist, those who do not engage in self-sacrifice will be regarded as morally bad. However, the altruist can see that people who do not sacrifice themselves to others are more successful at living. For instance, someone who rejects altruism will have more wealth because they refuse to drain off their financial resources to help complete strangers. The person who rejects altruism has an easier life. In the altruist’s subconscious mind, the good has become associated with self-destruction, while the evil has become associated with the efficacious. The mistake lies in the intellectual appeaser’s belief that self-sacrifice is “the good”, when it is, in fact, the opposite of the good -if one wants to live.

The result of the intellectual appeaser’s inverted moral system is his belief that “…the self-assertive confidence of the good [the good by the standard of those who actually want to live] is a reproach, a threat to his precarious pseudo-self-esteem, a disturbing phenomenon from a universe whose existence he cannot permit himself to acknowledge -and his emotional response is a nameless resentment. The self-assertive confidence of the evil [those who violate individual rights] is a metaphysical confirmation, the sign of a universe in which he feels at home -and his emotional response is bitterness, but obedience. Some dictators -who boastfully stress their reign of terror, such as Hitler and Stalin -count on this kind of psychology. There are people on whom it works.” (Pg. 37)

The final result of this sort of moral cowardice of the “liberal” intellectual appeaser is to oppose those who want to live, the actual good, in order to appease those who want to violate individual rights, and eventually “…to pounce upon every possible or impossible chance to blacken the nature of the good and to whitewash the nature of the evil.” (Pg. 37) This is why so-called “liberals” were always quick to apologize for atrocities and human rights violations committed by the Soviet Union. It’s also why “liberals” engage in ad hominem criticisms of Ayn Rand because she collected social security -like we’re all supposed to be forced to pay into that system and then “fall on our own swords” and not try to collect out of it. (This is altruist thinking.)

A fourth consequence of being an intellectual appeaser can be seen in art. “Progressives” are always fascinated by movies and art that is a “…projection of cosmic terror, guilt, impotence, misery, doom…” (Pg. 37) “Liberals” and “progressives” are fascinated with movies that study “homicidal maniacs” (Pg. 37), like “Natural Born Killers” or “Dexter” because of their subconscious belief that such people are the norm. They believe destruction is the norm, while creation is an aberration, because they hate mankind.

A fifth consequence of being a “liberal” intellectual appeaser is “…the dry rot of cynicism…”(Pg. 38) that eventually sets in. As the “liberal” appeaser grows older, any “…pretense at any belief in altruism vanishes from his [or her] mind in a very few years, and there is nothing left to replace it: his independent capacity to value has been repressed -and his fear of the brute makes the pursuit of values seem hopelessly impractical.” (Pg. 38) I suspect that this is the point that has been reached by a politician like Hillary Clinton. At this stage in her life, she is probably running on fumes. Her denial of any responsibility in the attacks on the American embasy in Benghazi, and her attempt to shift blame onto a YouTube video shows this sort of cynicism. In response to Congressional criticism about Benghazi, Hillary Clinton said: “What difference at this point does it make?” ( It doesn’t make any difference in Clinton’s mind, because the truth doesn’t matter. All that matters to her is whether she can con the American people into making her President.

Sixth, the intellectual appeaser ultimately spends so much time pandering to her own image of the “the masses” as a stupid, irrational mob, that she eventually “…assumes the standards of those he [or she] professes to despise…Any man who is willing to speak or write ’down,’, i.e., to think down- who distorts his own ideas in order to accommodate the mindless, who subordinates truth to fear -becomes eventually indistinguishable from the hacks who cater to an alleged ‘public taste.’ He joins the hordes who believe that the mind is impotent, that reason is futile, that ideas are only means of fooling the masses (i.e., that ideas are important to the unthinking, but the thinkers know better…” (Pg. 38) In my own experience with self-described “liberals” and “progressives”, this has been true. They will imply to me that reason is just a means of tricking or fooling people, and that objective truth is not even possible.

Ayn Rand had a more realistic picture of the majority of mankind than the “liberal” appeaser: “No, men are not brutes; neither are they all independent thinkers. The majority of men are not intellectual initiators or orginiators; they accept what the culture offers them….their abstract range is limited…The truly deliberately evil men are a very small minority; it is the appeaser who unleashes them on mankind; it is the appeaser’s intellectual abdication that invites them to take over…When the ablest men turn into cowards, the average men turn into brutes.” (Pg. 39)

Ayn Rand was not pessimistic about the future, so long as the more intelligent people refused to become altruistic intellectual appeasers: “No, the average man is not morally inocent. But the best proof of his non-brutality, of his helpless, confused, inarticulate longing for truth, for an intelligible, rational world -and of his response to it, when given a chance he cannot create on his own -is the fact that no dictatorship has ever lasted without establishing censorship.” (Pg. 39)

How does one avoid becoming an intellectual appeaser? By being “…proud of his intelligence -regardless of their [the average person’s] approval or disapproval. No matter how hard this might be in a corrupt age like ours, he has, in fact, no alternative. It is his only chance at a world where intelligence can function, which means: a world where he -and, incidentally, they -can survive.”  (Pg. 39)

Regrettably, I suspect that by the time most people are about 30, it would be very difficult for them to change. They have too many habituated behaviors and thought patterns. But, Ayn Rand remains popular with the young, so I think that there is still a chance.

Bernie Sanders: The Pied Piper of Self-Sacrifice

Bernie Sanders will likely loose the Democratic Party Primary. Despite this, I want to take a moment to discuss his ideology and his philosophy, which must be resisted -if you regard your own life and the pursuit of your own happiness as important. This is true whether you are “rich” or “poor”. I will discuss Mr. Sander’s philosophy in the context of an interview I found online. The interviewer’s name was Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB CEO Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation. Mr. Rosica is a Catholic Priest. The interview with Bernie Sanders was posted on the Washington Post web site, and can be found in its entirety at:

I transcribed the portions of the interview that I considered to be relevant to what I want to write about here:

Bernie Sanders: [1:00 minutes] “What the Pope has done in a very bold way is not only talk about the dispossessed…people who just don’t have enough income to survive…but what he has also done is raise the issue of the worship of money, the idolatry of money, and to say maybe that’s not what human life should be about…”

Fr. Rosica: [1:40 minutes]“They call you a socialist…do you think he’s a socialist [Pope Francis]?”

Bernie Sanders:[1:54 minutes] “….Well, what it means to be a socialist in the sense of what the Pope is talking about, and what I’m talking about, is to say that we have got to do our best and live our lives in a way that alleviates human suffering, uh, that does not accelerate the disparities of income and wealth. Uh, when he talks about wealth being used to serve people – not as an end in itself- I agree with that. In this country, and obviously the Pope is a worldwide figure, the church is worldwide, we are the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and if you go out in the street and you ask people, “Did you know that we’re the wealthiest country in the world?” They’d say “No, I’m working two or three jobs, I’m making 8 dollars an hour, I don’t know that we’re the wealthiest. I can’t afford childcare for my children.” So, what the Pope is saying is that human life, our existence, should be more than just the accumulation of more and more wealth, and everybody knows that right now we have the wealth, we have the technology, to provide at least a decent standard of living for all of our people, and so few should not have so much, and I think that’s what the Pope is talking about.”

Mr. Sanders isn’t exclusively talking about more welfare for poor people here. This is made clear when he says: “What the Pope has done in a very bold way is not only talk about the dispossessed…people who just don’t have enough income to survive…but what he has also done is raise the issue of the worship of money, the idolatry of money, and to say maybe that’s not what human life should be about…” (emphasis added) Mr. Sanders claims that people “worship” money.

What is money? It is a medium of exchange used instead of the barter system. Money involves trade. It is used when people want to voluntarily exchange goods and services with each other. It presupposes that (1) Each party to the transaction has something that the other regards as valuable, and (2) that each party has a right to use and transfer what he has produced as he sees fit. Why does each person have the right to dispose of what he has produced? It can only be the case if one regards his own life as important to him -if he wants to live. Money is a tool -it is a means of satisfying your material wants and needs by voluntary trade with other people who are also interested in satisfying their material needs. We all have these material needs -we all need a certain number of material goods in order to live. We all need food, clothing, and shelter, and it isn’t provided by nature. It must be produced by someone. If some produce while other appropriate by force what they have produced, then those producers are not free to live their lives. They are slaves to those who don’t produce.

I would hasten to add that it is possible to be irrational about the pursuit of money. It’s possible to pursue it over and above other things that would be more important to a rational human being. In the novel “A Christmas Carol”, Ebenezer Scrooge chooses to pursue more money over a marriage to the woman he loved (Belle):

[Belle:] “Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor and content to be so, until, in good season, we could improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You are changed. When it was made, you were another man.”… [Scrooge:]“Have I ever sought release?” [Belle:] “In words. No. Never.” [Scrooge:]“In what, then?” [Belle:] “In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another atmosphere of life; another Hope as its great end. In everything that made my love of any worth or value in your sight. If this had never been between us,” said the girl, looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him; [Belle:] “tell me, would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no!” He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition, in spite of himself. But he said with a struggle, [Scrooge:] “You think not.” [Belle:] “I would gladly think otherwise if I could,” she answered, [Belle:] “Heaven knows! When I have learned a Truth like this, I know how strong and irresistible it must be. But if you were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a dowerless girl—you who, in your very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or, choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your one guiding principle to do so, do I not know that your repentance and regret would surely follow? I do; and I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were.” He was about to speak; but with her head turned from him, she resumed. [Belle:] “You may—the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will—have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!” (

Scrooge was not truly acting in a manner that promoted his own life. He chose a little more money over love of a “dowerless girl”. (A “dowry” was money or property that a wife or wife’s family gives to her husband when the wife and husband marry.) The problem here is Scrooge had already satisfied a certain level of material well-being, but he choose a few more dollars over the love of his life (Belle). Even in this case, who did Ebenezer Scrooge hurt -in the most fundamental sense? He hurt himself. (Belle went on to find a man that valued her in a more rational manner -as shown by a later scene in “A Christmas Carroll”.) Scrooge’s own life was (presumably) of utmost importance to him, but he damaged that life by pursuing more money over Belle.

Rational egoism means making your own life your ultimate value, and recognizing that reality demands that you must take certain actions in order to further it, such as working to produce the material values you need to survive. But, rational egoism means more than just acquiring material wealth. If you want to fall in love, you actually have to go out, and try to meet people, and you have to go out on dates. If you want friends, you have to find people that you have things in common with, and make an effort to make them a part of your life. If you want knowledge, you must read books, go to school, and study new ideas. If you want to be rational, you must study logic, and learn the method of objectivity. If you want happiness, you must discover what will make you happy, and then pursue it relentlessly. The level of wealth that each of us chooses to acquire in relation to other important values is a personal matter, and will often depend on your personal context and situation. One of the values of Capitalism is that it leaves each individual free to decide what level of wealth he will pursue. If he chooses to irrationally pursue additional wealth over love or friendship like Ebenezer Scrooge, that is his choice to make, and he will live with the consequences.

But, Bernie Sanders is not talking about the irrational pursuit of money like the case of Ebenezer Scrooge, because he does not accept the morality of rational egoism. He does not want you to live your life for your own sake. He reveals this when he discusses what it means to be a “socialist”. As a preliminary matter, it must be noted that the actual, accepted, definition of “socialism” is along the lines of: “…a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies…” Whether governmental ownership of the means of production is actually in anybody’s rational self interest is more of a question for Economics and History. (I refer you to the old Soviet Union for an example of how socialism just makes everyone poor.) Governmental ownership of the means of production is not what Bernie Sanders is primarily talking about:

Bernie Sanders:[1:54 minutes] “….Well, what it means to be a socialist in the sense of what the Pope is talking about, and what I’m talking about, is to say that we have got to do our best and live our lives in a way that alleviates human suffering, uh, that does not accelerate the disparities of income and wealth.”

Whose suffering is Mr. Sanders talking about here? Are we talking about you taking action to better your own life and maximize your own happiness? It’s doubtful, given the rest of what Mr. Sanders said, that this is what he means. Bernie Sanders is not advocating “socialism” per se here. He is advocating “altruism”. He does not believe that your own life is important for its own sake, or that you should pursue your own happiness -and leave others free to pursue their own as well. Mr. Sanders says we should all: “…do our best and live our lives in a way that alleviates human suffering…” Service to others and self-sacrifice, i.e., altruism, is what Bernie Sanders advocates. To Mr. Sanders, your own life is secondary to the purpose of alleviating the suffering of others.

Furthermore, for Bernie Sanders, the more successful you are -the more productive you are- the more you should sacrifice yourself to others: “…right now we have the wealth, we have the technology, to provide at least a decent standard of living for all of our people…” However, “wealth” is nothing but the material means by which you maintain your life and pursue your own happiness. Imagine that you want to spend more time furthering your writing career (or painting, or sculpture, or dance). If you want to buy a washing machine so that you don’t have to spend enormous amounts of time washing your clothes by hand, so that you can pursue your career in art, according to Bernie Sanders, you can’t -unless you first buy a washing machine for all the people in inner cities, Appalachia, and the Third World. Imagine that you want to get married to the love of your life. If you want to buy your girlfriend an engagement ring as a symbol of your love when you ask her to marry you, you cannot -unless you ensure that every unmarried bachelor in the world can afford to buy one for his fiance. Imagine that you want to have children. You can’t buy that toy for your child -until you buy a toy for every child, everywhere. Furthermore, would Mr. Sanders even limit this self-sacrifice to the material realm? Once this notion is accepted, shouldn’t you go out and marry a girl you don’t love out of charity? Hell, maybe you have to find a spouse for everyone else first? Shouldn’t you spend time with your worst enemy, who does nothing but denigrate you, rather than seeking out people who would value you and your friendship? What about the “suffering” of someone who chooses to be obnoxious and boorish in any social situation, such that no one wants to be his or her friend? Shouldn’t you put up with his or her undesirable behavior and be friends, even though you gain nothing from the relationship and feel totally “drained” by their toxic friendship?

What motivates support for Bernie Sanders? For some it may be genuine envy -a hatred of those who want to live and are successful at doing so. However, I have too much faith in the good will of my fellow man, so I refuse to believe that this is anything more than a small number of people. I think most people support Bernie Sanders out of fear. They fear loosing their job, they fear getting sick and having no way to pay for it, they fear their child will get sick or starve, and they won’t be able to pay for it. There are no guarantees in life, and that is a scary thought. I understand this fear, and I feel it, too, sometimes. But, the desire to use armed force to obtain from others the goods you need for survival must be resisted -and that is what we are talking about when we talk about the welfare state and socialism. If you refuse to pay taxes for the support of others, the police will come for you and arrest you. If you resist, they will use clubs and handcuffs. If you resist with a weapon, they will shoot you. If they put you in prison for not paying taxes, and you try to escape, you will be shot by the guards. Right now, you may regard someone else as “the wealthy”. You may think that you can “get away with” expropriating the goods produced by “the wealthy”, and make your own material circumstances better. Be aware that you’re playing a risky game. Someone, someday, may decide that you are “the wealthy”. They may also decide they have a big enough voting block and the necessary government force, i.e. a big enough gang, to take it from you. Then you will be the one to have his wealth expropriated.

Today I Will Vote For Marco Rubio In The Republican Party Primary

Today I am going to early vote. I’ve decided to vote in the Republican Party primary. (Texas is an open primary state.) I have decided to vote in that party’s primary because I do not want to see a continuation of the Obama Presidency, which is what I see with both of the major Democratic candidates. (I’ve outlined my critique of Obama here:

I have looked at the three most likely Republican candidates at this point, and tried to seriously weigh the pros and cons of each one. These three candidates are: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio.

I have decided to vote for Marco Rubio because I think his views are the “least bad”. I don’t consider any of the Presidential candidates of either major party to be ideal, but if I am going to vote at all, I have to operate within the realm of these choices and not some other candidate who doesn’t exist at this time.

I generally consider my political views to be so far outside the mainstream of American thought that voting is always a “lesser of two evils” approach for me. I also think there could be good reasons to vote Democratic, depending on your particular personal context. I think this is particularly true for women. If I were a woman, I’d probably vote Democratic on the abortion issue alone. I am very “pro-choice”, but since I am not female, that issue is just not as “visceral” or “personal” for me. I think it could be a very important issue for a woman who thinks that she has a right to live her own life and make her own choices free from governmental interference.

I’ve also seen a lot of infighting between different Republicans over their particular preference for the Republican Party nominee, and I hope that this will not step on too many toes. Just like I could see good reasons for voting Democratic for certain people in certain contexts, I think it is possible that one could have a knowledge context or background that would make Trump or Cruz appealing for very personal, and not necessarily irrational, reasons. At the end of the day, I am not prepared to say that my voting choice is the best choice for everyone because I am not omniscient, and there may be facts that I am unaware of. I’ve just tried to make the best choice I could make given my knowledge and context. This is my best attempt to reason it all out.

Donald Trump:


(1) A certain “emotional appeal” with statements like “Make America Great Again”.

(2) He is willing to discuss “uncomfortable issues” like race relations and Islamic Terrorism and refuses to be “politically correct” about it. (By “politically correct” I mean speaking in euphemistic terms on those issues, to pretend like the problem isn’t there, or to fear offending people when addressing the facts associated with the problem.)


(1) He seems to lack any clear, express, guiding political principles. Trump seems to operate on an emotional level, and I worry that his emotions could change for the worse later down the road -without any rhyme or reason for why they have changed.

(2) Trump seems to support some of the same things that Bernie Sanders wants. For instance, Trump seems to support single-payer socialized medicine.

Ted Cruz:


(1) Strong knowledge of the Constitution. Although I don’t agree with all aspects of his “originalist jurisprudence”, he would bring forth thought-provoking and challenging ideas when it comes to nominating judges for the Federal courts.

(2) His foreign policy seems to strike the right “balance”, in my mind, between being assertive in the use of military force to defend American interests while not becoming “the world’s policeman” or attempting to “right every wrong” out there. (This article seemed to set out the different Republican approaches on foreign policy in this election: )


(1) He is everything I hate about the Republican party -and I think he really believes it. He wants to erode the separation of church and state. In fact, I am fairly certain he thinks the very idea of “separation of church and state” is offensive. He is anti-abortion rights for women. Although they all claim to be “pro-life”, I suspect that of the three listed here, Cruz is the most opposed to respecting a woman’s right to make her own decisions when it comes to ending a pregnancy.

Marco Rubio:


(1) He seems to be very thoughtful on many issues. I watched a Republican Party debate between Rubio and Cruz on foreign policy, and, although I tended to side with Cruz, I thought Rubio had well-thought-out positions on these issues.

(2) Immigration reform. Although I’ve heard compelling arguments from people that I respect on why immigration should be greatly restricted, at the end of the day, I think there probably is some sort of right to immigrate into the country consistent with the government ensuring that those coming in are not here to commit acts of war against the United States or its citizens. I too am concerned that people immigrating into the United States will want to make this nation less capitalistic and less free than it already is -and I don’t just mean property rights. Have any of you Democrats thought about what happens when mostly Catholic immigrants start voting to restrict abortion and birth control rights? Also, last time I checked, the Pope is opposed to gay marriage. However, I think there are ways to mitigate this “cultural dilution”. For instance we can allow automatic legal permanent residency, but not automatic citizenship. (This seems to be Rubio’s plan. This will restrict the vote to native-born Americans, and hopefully, the children of immigrants will be more culturally assimilated than their parents. I also think that Hispanic immigrants can be reached and convinced that free markets and a government reduced to the protection of life, liberty, and property is best. All human beings have the capacity to think -so they can be reached. My, admittedly anecdotal, experience is that immigrants are very interested in working hard and making money -not on imposing international socialism on the United States.

(3) Rubio seems less strident on issues like abortion. He says he is “pro-life”, and I take him at his word, but I also don’t get the impression that it is going to be a major issue for him, whereas I think Ted Cruz would push that issue as President.


(1) He seems like more of a conventional politician. I think he is more interested in getting elected than he is in pushing any particular ideology. However, given the fact that I think much of Ted Cruz’s ideology is wrong, I guess I’d rather have someone who is more “middle of the road” or “pragmatic” like Rubio.

The Obama Presidency: A Postmortem

I consider the two serious candidates in the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary to be unpalatable. I think that both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders would be a continuation of Barack Obama’s Presidency, and I have become disgusted by Mr. Obama. I voted for Obama in 2008 because I considered him to be the “lesser of two evils” at the time.

Obama’s claim that he would be a “post-racial” President also made me hopeful. At the time, I thought Obama’s “More Perfect Union” speech struck just the right balance, and frankly discussed the complications associated with race. In the speech, Obama defended his decision to continue attendance at a church where the pastor had made racist and narrow-minded comments. The basic theme of Obama’s speech on that occasion was that there may be people we care about who hold racist views, but you don’t necessarily have to disown those people because a person’s views on race is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to judging a person’s character:

“ I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.”

Despite Obama’s optimistic tone in 2008, by 2013, I think Obama had abandoned any pretense of being a “post-racial” President. The event that solidified this in my mind was the George Zimmerman criminal case. I’m not going to go over the specifics of that case, or try to “re-litigate” that issue. I think the jury reached the right verdict in that trial. I studied the facts, and it was clear to me that there was reasonable doubt as to George Zimmerman’s guilt. However, for most of 2012 and 2013, I had to listen to the news media do it’s best to convict Mr. Zimmerman in the court of public opinion.

Mr. Obama, the President of the United States, chose to inject himself into a purely local matter of criminal law. ( He aided and abetted the news media in doing its best to ensure that George Zimmerman wouldn’t get a fair trial. The fact that Obama did that, regardless of his actual comments on the matter, spoke volumes to me. It said to me that far from wanting a “post-racial society”, where race doesn’t matter, he wanted to play the usual Democratic game of whipping up racial animosity within the black community to garner political support. This game consists of convincing black people that most white Americans are racist in order to get votes.

Race relations under Obama only got worse from the George Zimmerman trial. Next there was the unrest in Ferguson Missouri. In that case, the facts are also fairly clear to me: Officer Darren Wilson acted within the law and generally accepted notions of self-defense when he shot Michael Brown. Despite this, the Obama Justice Department conducted an investigation into the shooting, once again showing me that he was prepared to inject himself into a purely local matter. If a black police officer had shot a white man under similar circumstances, I have no doubt that Obama’s administration would not have concerned itself with it. The message from the Obama administration has been clear: he believes most cops, judges, juries and prosecutors are racist, and the Justice Department must step in to right that “wrong”. Since cops, judges, and juries are all drawn from the general population of America, it means Obama believes most white Americans are racist. Obama believes what his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, believes. He was lying when he talked about a “post racial America” where we can finally move beyond this issue.

There are a lot of other reasons that I have become disgusted with Obama. The Affordable Care Act involved another lie. I specifically remember a debate between Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary in which Obama said he was not in favor of an individual mandate for health insurance:

“OBAMA:…So we’ve got a lot of similarities in our plan. We’ve got a philosophical difference, which we’ve debated repeatedly, and that is that Senator Clinton believes the only way to achieve universal health care is to force everybody to purchase it.”

What did we get? An individual mandate to buy health insurance.

Obama says the Bush Administration was mistaken to invade Iraq because it created a power vacuum in that area that gave rise to ISIS. Regardless of whether this is true, what has Obama done? He used military force to topple the Gaddafi regime in Lybia, which has now been infiltrated by ISIS.

By virtue of the fact that Barack Obama was our nation’s first black President, his policies on race relations were probably always going to take center stage. His initial promise was that he would move us beyond racial animosity and strife, but instead he has fanned the flames of racial tension with his actions and words. Instead of saying: “I am the President, and I stand for the rights of all Americans regardless of color,” his actions have been otherwise. Obama has shown us that he is more in the “political camp” of Al Sharpton: someone who wants to use the animosities against white Americans that exist in minority communities to advance his own political power. Even on other major issues that don’t involve race, he has consistently said one thing, and then done another.

“The Martian”

I saw “The Martian” last night. I won’t do any plot spoilers, but it was pretty great, overall. A sufficiently faithful adaptation of the book that I was pleased. The overall theme -that reason is man’s means of survival- was translated to the movie fairly well.

They cut out some sub-plots that I would have liked to see, but I understand that has to be done in the interests of time. They also made a reference to religion -the rocket launch scene- that wasn’t in the original book (as best I can recall), but the book is such a powerful statement about the power of human reason that I’m sure the Hollywood PR people were nervous about how that would go over in middle America.

The other thing that really annoys me is how Hollywood has treated this movie. It got some sort of award for “Best Comedy”, which I think is a total back-handed compliment. The movie and the book definitely do have humor in them. You often laugh with the main character as he uses his reasoning skills to solve problems, but to describe the movie as a comedy is a slight on the part of the Hollywood elite in my opinion. It makes it clear in my mind that people in Hollywood don’t just have a left-wing bias, they have an “anti-man” bias. This translates into an anti-reason bias -because they don’t believe man is efficacious and capable of solving problems through the use of his reason. (This is also why Hollywood is so left wing -they think we need a nanny-state to take care of us.) They hate those who want to live life as men, they hate the faculty that is man’s means of survival -his reason, and they hate success. As a result, the movie is not fully “real” or “dramatic” to the Hollywood elite. In their minds, the idea that anybody could use their reason to promote their own individual survival is not fully real -hence the “comedy” label.