Consciousness as the Basis of Reality

In a recent Actualized.Org podcast entitled “What is Consciousness” Leo makes the assertion that consciousness is the basis of reality. This is opposed to the materialist paradigm which holds that matter is the basis of physical reality. It seems that materialists can be either atheist or theist. The atheist materialists would hold that there only exists matter and the physical laws that govern its interaction and that this makes up the entirety of reality. The theist materialist would hold that there exists a spiritual realm that is separate from the material but that we humans inhabit or are in contact with primarily the material realm.

I would describe the friendly folks over at the Orthosphere as theist materialists, believing they reside within a material universe created by God who declared it to be good and therefore the goodness of the material is not to be questioned. To them there is unquestionably a spiritual realm with which those of us inhabiting the material realm (if we’re good) will choose to align ourselves. Of course, I would not presume to speak for their point of view as I have been told on numerous occasions that I lack the capacity to fully understand their wisdom. I am merely presenting my interpretation of their world view based on what I have read from their contributors. I am sure Terry Morris will correct me if I have inaccurately described their beliefs.

It is unquestioned that most people are materialists of one sort or the other. One probable reason most people believe the materialist paradigm to be the correct description of reality is because it is easier to understand. Our senses seem to readily confirm the assumption that we are each individual units of consciousness living in a physical body, in a three dimensional, physical world of other physical objects. Some of these physical objects are living creatures with varying degrees of consciousness. In this model, consciousness seems to be an emergent quality of the physical universe. That is, consciousness naturally results when matter is arranged in a specific way.

By contrast, under the paradigm where consciousness is the basis of reality, consciousness is not an emergent property of physical reality but rather the fundamental property of physical reality. That is, the universe is created from consciousness. Two  counter arguments to this assertion readily come to mind. First, consciousness as I understand it is the quality of being aware and mere awareness which has no physical properties cannot logically be used to construct a physical universe. Second, (I suspect an Orthospherian would argue that) in order for there to be awareness there must first be someone or something that is aware which in turn presupposes that materiality precedes consciousness.

Leo contends that although consciousness has no physical properties, this allows it to take on all the infinite possibilities of physical reality. In other words, consciousness is a vessel for content. One could also justify consciousness as being the basis of physical reality through a thought experiment similar to Descartes “evil demon” scenario. In this thought experiment we acknowledge that physical reality is rendered through the mind therefore there is nothing necessarily physical or material about it but merely consciousness interpreting it as such. If one were to hold the point of view that consciousness is the fundamental basis of reality then one would have to discard the notion that in order for consciousness to exist there must first be a person who is conscious. In other words, consciousness would have to be able to exist independently which I suppose is not inconcievable.

Another aspect to consciousness is that it is both aware and self-aware. So not only is consciousness a building block (so to speak) of reality but it is also by definition aware of itself. Under this model consciousness is diffused throughout everything in the universe including biological objects and non biological objects. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that everything in the universe is diffused through consciousness. Of course certain things have greater degrees of consciousness. A chimp has more consciousness than a rock for example. From this perspective it seems entirely plausible that artificial intelligence will be able to have consciousness on the level of a human or perhaps greater because it was constructed in such a way so as to allow the underlying consciousness to manifest itself.

I suppose one might reasonably ask what difference does it make whether material or consciousness is the basis of reality and how might one confirm whether this is indeed the case? Leo contends that this can in fact be confirmed through spiritual practices such as meditation and use of psychedelics. If this has been so confirmed to an individual then I assume this knowledge will change the way he or she looks at the world. I am certainly open to this perspective but I cannot say that I have yet confirmed it one way or the other.

 

 

 

 

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Do You Want Your Self-Published Book Reviewed?

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In my short career as a self-published author I have published two e-books. The first, was an autobiographical look at my experience wasting time as a member of a Star Trek message board. The second, was a novel I wrote based on an attempt to write a novel in 50 days about a thirty something male who hated his office cubicle work life. Come to think of it, there was a nice chunk of autobiographical material in that one as well.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE SELF-PUBLISHING EXPERIENCE

Although neither one of these books set the world on fire, I did learn quite a bit during the process about writing, self-publishing and attempting to market them. The first lesson I learned was that writing and self-publishing a book requires time, effort and some (although not necessarily a lot of) money. It should not be surprising that writing a book requires a good deal of time and effort if one is concerned about creating a quality work product. As far as the money part goes, the actual publishing of the book is not that expensive. You can spend a bit more on editing, book cover design and marketing if you want. Personally, I would not suggest doing this if this is your first e-book or if you do not have a following of some kind. Because the truth is, you will probably spend more money than you will make in the process. All that considered, I still think the creative process of writing and self-publishing is a good experience. My advice to any newbies is to try to spend as little of your own money in the process.

The second lesson I learned is that once the book is published it can be challenging (to say the least) to get the book read and reviewed. My experience being a self-published author and milling about the various websites and forums that cater to self-published authors is that there are many people who have written books and are desirous of other people to read and review their work. Some are desperate. They want this for two reasons. The first reason is premised on the dream that their book will turn into a best seller and free them from their day job. Reviews are one way to boost the profile of the book on Amazon (or other self-published distributors) and the higher the profile the more theoretical sales they will make. The second reason most likely arises once the dream of self-publishing a best seller evaporates. This reason is the desire for some form of validation. The author has put all this time, effort and money into the process and although he or she has given up the hope of recouping that investment, he or she wants some form of acknowledgment. Another person (who is not a friend or family member) reading the book and writing an honest review can provide this validation.

THERE ARE MANY SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS WHO WANT THEIR BOOKS REVIEWED

When I look up the two books I self-published on Amazon I see that they are both ranked in the 2,000,000s for their particular genre. This means that there are at least 2,000,000 other people (and probably far more considering all the possible genres) who find themselves in this position. Most will never have their book read, let alone read and reviewed.

But this then means that there are millions and millions of people who are motivated  to get their books reviewed and the obvious solution (at least to me anyway) is to have these people read and review each other’s books. However, the problem with this solution is that if two authors read and review each other’s work there will be a motivation to provide a positive review in the hope that the other reviewer will do likewise. Conversely, there is a fear that a negative review will invite a similar negative reprisal. This dynamic calls the honesty of these type of review swaps into question and is probably why Amazon and other review platforms frown on the practice.

MY SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM

My solution to this problem is simple. Create a matching service that introduces self-published authors to each other in a non binary or non reciprocal manner. That is, create a system whereby Author A reviews Author B who reviews Author C who reviews Author A. In this way there is no longer the motivation to provide a falsely positive review. This is a simplified version of the process but it articulates the philosophy that if Author A reviews Author B, Author B cannot review Author A.

This is the service my website www.binderreview.com provides. For $5 you will be introduced to an author whose book you will review. In addition, another author will be introduced to you to review your book. Note, www.binderreview.com is just an introduction service. Once introduced, it is up to you and the other author to arrange the book’s transfer and decide on which review platform you want the review to appear. None of this is transacted through the website.

THE SALES PITCH (SORT OF)

Of course there are paid review services. Most of them cost over $100 and take a month or two for the book to be read and reviewed. Moreover, the review will generally appear on the paid review’s website and not on Amazon or another book selling website. But if a person has already sunk some money into their project do they really want to sink hundreds of dollars more into a project from which they will probably never seen any monetary return on investment? This is why the cost of www.binderreview.com is priced so low. My thinking was that $5 is a nominal amount to pay to be introduced to a self-published author who will review your work. Your review of another person’s work helps to defray the cost. If I could, I would provide the service for free because I understand the psychology of a self-published author in this position. But at the same time, I would like to recoup the cost I paid to develop the website and pay for hosting, etc.

The truth is, most self-published authors will never make money off of their effort. But I believe anyone who takes the time and effort to write and self-publish a book should at least have a chance that their book is read and reviewed by another person. This is the service I want to provide with www.binderreview.com.

ONE MORE THING

The only way to get this website to work is to have a certain number of people sign up to create a viable and available pool of people. I am also a little unsure as to whether the website is intuitive enough for a person attempting to use it. For this reason, for the first ten people who do sign up, in addition to being matched through the service, I will personally read your book and give it an honest review for free if you send me a copy. Also, please give me any feedback you might have on the website. My goal is to make it as user friendly as possible given my current resources.

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An Anti-Liberal’s History of Liberalism

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Over the course of my last two posts, The Sexual Left’s Ambiguous Definition and Wildly Failing to Make an Assertion, I engaged in a conversation (of sorts) with an anti-liberal named Terry Morris who is a regular commentator on the anti-liberal blog, The Orthosphere. My discussion with Mr. Morris continued in the comment section of a recent Orthosphere post entitled The Rectification of Grammar written by Orthosphere contributor Kristor. The substance of this conversation centered around my observation that although anti-liberals share a dislike for liberalism they do not share a common definition for liberalism. This is a problem in my estimation because I do not believe a meaningful conversation can be had on the subject of liberalism if the parties to the conversation each employ a different definition. Unfortunately, my observation seemed to rub Mr. Morris the wrong way.

However, a more interesting and thoughtful conversation sprouted from this interaction with Orthosphere contributor JMSmith. Mr. Smith took the time to write a series of comments on what he believed to be the genesis of modern liberalism and why he feels it to be a negative development. It is his position that I would like to explore in this post.

AN ANALYSIS OF JMSMITH’S POSITION ON LIBERALISM

JMSmith recounted the history of liberalism. Specifically he stated that liberalism began as a moderate position between the orthodox Christians and atheists in the West.

[T]he nineteenth-century liberal occupied a position between parties that made strong “truth claims,” …

The “truth claims” to which JMSmith refers are (1) the orthodox Christian claims of the existence of God and an objective moral law and (2) the atheistic rejection of both these claims.

[T]he liberal … espouse[d] the epistemic doctrine of skepticism/agnosticism. His basic line was that the truth … cannot be known, so anyone who is not a public menace should be left in peace. As a practical political doctrine, this tolerance makes some sense, although the parties making strong truth claims said is was just cowardice …

Here we see Mr. Smith imply authentic orthodox Christians and authentic atheists both share the belief that they should have the power to control the thoughts and actions of people who do not share their beliefs. This is contrasted with the liberal position which would allow the individual to think and act (lawfully) as he sees fit.

In the twentieth century, liberalism became less and less of a moderate position, and more and more of a stalking horse for soft leftism or Fabian socialism.

In other words, liberalism according to JMSmith while ostensibly maintaining the neutral and agnostic position actually evolved into a false pretext for implementing socialism and presumably atheism in a gradual (i.e., non-revolutionary and more subtle) manner.

[T]oday’s Liberals are either disguised Leftists or Cucks who are soft on Leftism because they have no principles of their own.

That is, modern liberals according to JMSmith are really either atheists who do not want to admit this truth (perhaps even to themselves) or they are agnostics who lack principles and therefore the backbone to stand up to the atheists by whom liberals desire to be accepted. Pathetically, the liberals are willing to compromise whatever limited beliefs they might have in order to achieve this acceptance (hence the term “Cuck”).

In theory it is a doctrine of moderation and tolerance rooted in dogmatic agnosticism. This means that, in theory, it has very little positive content of its own, and should act mainly to control the excesses of whatever dogmatic system is most aggressive at the moment. It’s battle cry is, “don’t be so sure about that! You might be wrong!”

I have two reactions to this statement. First, it is interesting to me that Mr. Smith seems to consider only unprovable truth claims to be positive content. In my mind, a belief that one person should not force a belief concerning an unprovable truth claim on another is itself “positive content” but we can agree to disagree on that. Second, if truth is a goal then why would JMSmith seek to force a person to believe something that he does not truly believe or about which he is honestly uncertain? Put another way, why would it be more truthful to choose to believe an unprovable truth claim than to acknowledge that one cannnot truly know what cannot be proven and therefore accept the most truthful position would have to be agnosticism?

Of course, accepting a truth claim is a more satisfying position to take than the limbo of agnosticism for many people. It seems Mr. Smith and presumably all anti-liberals look with disdain upon those who go the agnostic route as perhaps weak willed, risk adverse and cowardly. In his mind (I speculate) it is better to choose a truth claim even if it is actually untrue than to sit on the fence because living a life according to a truth claim is a life more worth living than otherwise. If this is in fact his position, I can respect it and agree with it to a certain extent.

This is the theory: liberalism is the playground monitor, its job being to keep potential bullies in line.

It is interesting to me that the anti-liberals seem to think that bullying is a virtuous position so long as a person is bullying in the name of an unprovable truth claim. Perhaps (and I am not sure the anti-liberals take this position) bullying (i.e., the intimidation of another person with physical force or the threat of physical force) is not necessarily morally bad and perhaps is even a moral good.

In fact, the agnosticism of most liberals is a sham, and this is evident in the gross partiality with which they police the playground. They obviously think feminists belong on university faculties and segregationists do not, and this means that they “know” more than they say they know. 

This statement seems to be comparing apples to oranges. It is one thing to choose to believe an unprovable truth claim as to the ultimate nature of reality such as “God exists” or “God does not exist.” It is quite another thing to decide what behaviors are or are not acceptable in polite society. For the record, I happen to be one of those who believe that God exists. But I do not agree that bullying other people into sharing my beliefs serves a moral or even practical good. That is, I do not believe God values inauthentic beliefs nor do I think a civilization populated with inauthentic believers could ever be a vibrant or successful one.

JMSMITH’S QUESTION TO ME

I would like to end this post discussing a question Mr. Smith posed to me.

I may have missed it, but have you given us your description or definition of Liberalism? It seems to me that we are playing a game of Guess What is in My Pocket[?]

His question displays an understandable level of distrust as to my motives. His distrust is understandable to me because the Othosphere was created to be a blog where like minded anti-liberals could commiserate, share ideas and perhaps win over converts. From this perspective it makes sense that a person such as myself who does not fully share their beliefs offering a critique might be seen as a troll. In my own defense, I can only say that I am interested in having a discussion of these ideas and for this reason it is important that everyone is using the same definition of a term that is so central to these ideas. For this reason I do not think my definition of liberalism is terribly relevant given that it was my intent to better understand the perspective of the Orthosphere.
However to answer his question, I never considered myself to be a liberal prior to reading the Orthosphere. At that time a liberal to me was a person who became outraged when the dictates of political correctness were violated (for example). But according to the Orthosphere almost every American is a liberal whether they are Republicans, Democrats, Nazis or Communists. If I am to use Zippy’s definition of liberalism (i.e., a political philosophy holding that governments should promote freedom and equal rights) then I definitely am a liberal. But, once again I am not sure if all Orthospherians agree upon this definition which brings me back to my original point.

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Wildly Failing to Make an Assertion

I asserted in my previous post that I found it unclear whether the contributors and commentators on the anti-liberal blog the Othosphere all defined liberalism in the same way. Terry Morris (a regular commentator on the Orthosphere and of late my blog), claims I “wildly failed” (somehow) to make this assertion. He expressed this in a brief exchange of comments following my previous post. I found this exchange interesting because it illustrates an unfortunate, adversarial dynamic I have experienced repeatedly in the comment sections of many blogs. This dynamic is characterized by two commentators ostensibly arguing the merits of a disagreement when they are actually (typically by means of passive aggression) trying to humiliate the other person because they feel the other person has offended them in some way.

Terry Morris began this exchange by taking issue with a passage from my post. In this passage I referenced a post entitled The Sexual Left Devours Itself made by Othosphere contributor Kristor. Specifically, I wrote:

If [Kristor] is talking about political liberalism then the counter example of myself refutes his assertion that political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time.

Terry Morris reacted to this passage by exclaiming:

That isn’t Kristor’s assertion; it’s *your* assertion about what he wrote.

I can see why Terry Morris reacted this way although I think he misunderstood the point I attempted to make. It is true that a plain reading of my comment could lead one to believe I asserted that Kristor asserted “political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all of the time.” To clarify, (1) the word “If” which begins my statement should have keyed Terry Morris into the fact that I did not know whether Kristor was in fact making this assertion and (2) the whole point of my post was that I found it unclear what exactly Kristor was asserting because I did not know what definition of liberalism he was using. Terry Morris is right, however, that I could have worded this specific sentence with greater clarity.

Proceeding with his misunderstanding Terry went on to say:

Having followed Kristor’s posts for years, dating back to our old VFR days, I can assure you that Kristor would *never* assert that “political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time,” your counter-example and any number of others you might cite (or the lack thereof) notwithstanding.

Two things are interesting here. First, we see Terry Morris speaking for Kristor based on reading his prior posts. I find this interesting because it demonstrates Terry Morris’s readiness to speak with authority as to the mental states of others. Another example of this behavior that readily comes to mind comes from a comment from another post where Terry Morris asserted with (apparent) authority that God could not get bored. Putting aside the question as to why Terry feels the need to speak for other people, I get the sense that he is motivated not so much out of a desire to set the record straight but rather to put me in what he perceives to be my place because what I have written has offended him in some way. Second, notice the passive-aggressive parenthetical phrase “or lack there of” he uses to describe my counter-examples. This reinforces the sense of offense I perceive as to his motivation.

Terry Morris goes on to say:

Concerning what definition of liberalism Kristor is working off of, yes, he would agree with Zippy’s definition. He would also agree with Zippy’s definition of what a liberal is further down Zippy’s post.

Again we see Terry Morris speaking on behalf of Kristor by stating with authority the definition of liberalism that Kristor would use. I admit that I have not been reading Kristor’s posts for as long as Terry Morris claims to have read them. I can only state that based upon my own experience have have not seen convincing evidence that Kristor  agrees with Zippy’s definition as Terry Morris asserts.

I then asked Terry Morris what I thought to be a reasonable question based on his comment.

So you are saying that Kristor’s post is discussing sexual liberalism only and that sexual liberalism is not necessarily related to political liberalism?

I thought this question to be reasonable because if political liberalism did not necessarily lead to sexual liberalism all of the time then it makes sense that they would not necessarily be related. That is, political liberalism could lead to sexual liberalism but not necessarily. Terry Morris apparently did not agree that this was a reasonable question to ask as indicated by his response.

Umm, no, that’s not what I’m saying and you know it. I’m merely pointing out that Kristor isn’t saying (in the post you cite) what you claim he said. Namely that political liberalism *necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time*. And I’m working off of your (sketchy) definition of what constitutes sexual liberalism at that. Hint: that you (or I, or anyone else for that matter) haven’t groped another woman in the 20 odd years you’ve been married does not make you a sexual conservative, or non-sexual-liberal if you like.

The phrase “and you known it” suggests to me that Terry Morris thinks I was being willfully ignorant or perhaps intellectually dishonest. This further reinforces my suspicion that my original post offended him in some way and that he sees our interaction as adversarial. He then goes back to the claim (I did not intentionally make) in my previous post as to what Kristor asserted. This is a great example of how adversarial comment section exchanges can easily go off the rails as both sides do not fully understand each other and are not motivated to do so. Rather, the primary motivation seems to be to punish the other either by demonstrating to them they are wrong or by making them look foolish to the viewing audience.

Terry Morris then asserts that he “is working off of [my] (sketchy) definition of what constitutes sexual liberalism.” This further illustrates that we are not really communicating because to my knowledge I never attempted to define “sexual liberalism” anywhere in my post. My point (once again) always was that I did not know what definition for liberalism Kristor was using in his post and I attempted to articulate this in my response:

I don’t use these terms. There does not seem to be an agreed upon definition which was the point of my post.

To which he replied:

Agreed upon definition of what? Liberalism, Political Liberalism, Sexual Liberalism, Moral Liberalism? What? You’ve made distinctions that certainly exist on a case-by-case, moment-by-moment basis, but what has that to do with anything Kristor said in his post?

I am not sure what he is accusing me of here. In my mind I have been clear that I do not know if the writers on the Orthosphere are using a common definition of liberalism. As such, I cannot be sure which definition Kristor is using. In my analysis of Kristor’s post I attempted to document my thought process as I parsed what he had written.

Interestingly, Terry Morris followed with this comment:

I don’t presume to understand what your overall point in the post was/is, but I’ll take you at your word and also say you’ve wildly failed to make it!

This statement leads me to believe that when Terry Morris’s emotions got the better of him. He was obviously attempting to be insulting. But even more interestingly, he immediately refuted his own assertion that he did not “presume to understand [my] overall point” in his next statement.

That *you* don’t see general agreement amongst traditionalists about what constitutes liberalism, is a failure on your part. 

If Terry Morris really did not understand my point then how could he clearly articulate my point in his next sentence? As to the failure on my part to discern a general agreement amongst traditionalists I can only say that this agreement Terry Morris asserts to exist is not apparent in the posts that I have read. Perhaps he can point me in the right direction.

In the final comment I wrote:

I think my point was clear but I take you at your word that you don’t understand it.

Obviously (to me anyway), this was a bit passive aggressive on my part. I do not take Terry Morris at his word (i.e., that he does not understand my point) based on his own articulation of my point. But whether we understand each other was not really the point of this exchange especially as it reached its conclusion.

I cannot speak with authority as to Terry Morris’s mental state (as he can apparently do of others). I can only say that the tone of his comments suggests to me that my post has offended him in some way. Of course, interpreting motivation and mood behind writing (especially in internet comment sections) is always an inexact science. This is why I always couched my interpretations as to his mental state by saying “I suspect” and the like. In some ways it is a shame that most adversarial exchanges in internet comment sections devolve in this way. On the other hand there is a certain joy that one experiences in doing it even if he refuses to admit it to others or to himself.

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The Sexual Left’s Ambiguous Definition

In a recent Orthosphere post entitled “The Sexual Left Devours Itself” contributor Kristor commented on the recent rash of sexual harassment charges being lobbed at public figures. He begins his piece by writing,

The Great Sex Harassment Witch Hunt of 2017 is mostly hitting liberals. It is leaving conservatives largely unscathed (at least so far). Why should this be?

My first reaction after reading this assertion was to think of two prominent examples of sexual harassment charges hitting conservatives. The first is conservative Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore who has been accused by numerous women of sexually assaulting them when they were minors. The second is the Republican and self described conservative President of the United States, Donald Trump who’s own voice was recorded describing his penchant for grabbing women by their genitals. Despite these two rather glaring counter-examples, I must admit that there is nothing factually incorrect about his statement that most of the the accusations seem to be directed towards liberals when viewed generally.

The real problem is in trying to know what definition of liberalism Mr. Kristor is using. This is actually a common problem on the Orthosphere. It is very clear that the contributors and most commentators on the Orthosphere are anti-liberal in their political philosophy. But it is most decidedly unclear whether they are all using a common definition of liberalism. In some cases it is clear they are not.

For example, contributor Alan Roebuck wrote in his post “A Basic Guide to Liberalism and Conservatism, Part I“:

There is no need here to give a full definition of liberalism. Like the famous quip about pornography, we know it when we see it. We know liberalism because its message is everywhere.

Obviously, leaving liberalism undefined as such makes it a convenient punching bag because it can mean anything a person wants it to mean. But not defining liberalism also makes it very difficult to have a meaningful conversation about liberalism because although there might be a meeting of the minds in terms of one’s dislike for liberalism, it is unclear whether there is a meeting of the minds as to the reason for this dislike.

Another Orthosphere commentator and blog writer in his own right Zippy Catholic provides a more concrete definition of liberalism on his blog. In a post entitled, “Definition of Liberalism,” Zippy defines liberalism as:

…the political doctrine that securing individual freedom and equal rights is a primary legitimate purpose of government.

Zippy’s definition seems to be a reasonable one in that it is not inflammatory on its face, nor is it vague. It also largely accords with the standard definition of liberalism one might find in a typical dictionary. For this reason I will proceed with my analysis of Kristor’s post with this definition of liberalism in mind even though I do not know if this is the definition he is using.

After making his original assertion, Kristor went on to say:

Conservatives typically and generally labor under and prosper by a strong sense of traditional morality, under which it is not just perverse, but wicked, horrifying, repellent, and so rather inconceivable, to behave ignobly or impolitely toward women or other lessers. Most conservatives, I think it fair to say, would never even think of groping a woman or boy, any more than they would think of torturing a cat. They’d rather rip out their own guts.

At this point it is conceivable that Kristor believes a correlation exists between a belief that government should secure the freedom and equal rights of its citizens with a belief in sexual depravity. I suppose an argument could be made that if a person believed in freedom as a general political proposition that this belief in freedom would naturally translate into a free sexuality. I have no doubt it can be true that political freedom and sexual freedom correlate to a certain extent. But this certainly does not hold true for everyone. Take myself as an example. I consider myself to be a liberal according to Zippy’s definition but I have also been married and faithful to my wife for almost 20 years. I certainly have not sexually assaulted a woman during this time period. All this is to demonstrate that it is possible for a political liberal to not also be a sexual liberal. I am not sure that Kristor makes this distinction.

But Mr. K might not really be referring to political liberalism at all as it relates to sexuality. When he uses the term “liberalism” in his piece he might just be referring to sexual liberalism and nothing else. The point is that I am not sure as to this point and I question whether his is sure as to this point as well.

He continues:

Almost all the pathetic gropers who have been brought to shame in the last few weeks, on the other hand, are liberals, who have long loudly proclaimed their allegiance to liberal moral nostrums. As liberals, they think there is nothing inherently, absolutely wrong. They think that what we construe as wrong is – like everything else in human life whatsoever – no more than a social construct; which is to say, a pure fiction.

Here we see the author painting all liberals with a rather broad brush, asserting they all must hold (perhaps by definition) a belief in moral relativism. Again, for myself I have to point out that I am a political liberal but also believe in absolute right and wrong. Although I have no doubt that some liberals believe in moral relativism this is certainly not the case for all. So to say that moral liberalism (or relativism) and sexual liberalism are the same is questionable in my mind. However, I am not at all sure this is what Mr. K is saying, because I do not know what definition of liberalism he is using. You might say he is being liberal in his use of language.

Insofar then as the scandal truly attaches to some putative conservative, he must be conservative in name only. He must, i.e., be at heart a liberal. He must not at bottom really believe in the traditional morality he publicly espouses, or therefore form his acts according thereto.

Acts betray convictions.

Here, I think we see that in the eyes of Mr. K a conservative is by definition a person who acts sexually according to a conservative morality and a liberal is a person who acts sexually according to a liberal morality. This seems to be true to him regardless of whatever political philosophy the conservative or liberal might also hold.

But again, the problem here is that I have no idea whether Kristor makes any distinction between the terms political liberalism, sexual liberalism or moral liberalism. If he is talking about political liberalism then the counter example of myself refutes his assertion that political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time. If he is speaking only of sexual liberalism then it seems like he is attempting to make a point that is obvious on its face. That is, sexual liberals are sexual liberals. If he is talking about moral liberalism it is unclear whether Kristor can see the possibility of a person acting morally in one situation (like speaking the truth) and acting immorally in another such as groping a woman against her will. Non moral relativists can differ in terms of what they believe morality to be. Would a person be considered to be moral if he acted morally but believed in divorce? Reasonable, moral people can differ as to this point. And just because a person is a moral relativist does not mean that they would go about committing murder and rape. Again, I doubt Kristor is making this distinction.

Liberal “morality” leads logically, and so inevitably, to boundless wickedness. It removes the ontological (and therefore ineluctable) limit of right action, that cannot be swayed by any means whatever; so then any act that can be rationalized… The result is not limited to a parade of petty personal pecadilli [leading to] things like the Katyn Forest Massacre, or the Holodomor. Or, indeed, Lidice, the Holocaust, the Terror, the Purge.

There is a certain logic to the notion that if political liberalism leads to moral liberalism then atrocities are a possible or perhaps probable outcome. However, the examples of the massacres in the Katyn Forest, Holodomor, Lidice and the Holocaust all occurred in un-free police states and as such, arguably illiberal regimes. If free societies lead to massacres the same argument could be made against hierarchical police states as well and if both arguments can be made then it is hard to make the case that liberalism has anything to do with it.

I have made this argument before and it does not seem to make any impact on a person who has committed himself to believing that the political philosophy which holds that the freedom and equal rights of citizens can actually be the exact opposite. Anti-liberals by definition are against liberalism. This sentiment is only reinforced by having no clear definition of liberalism because it creates a boogeyman that can then be blamed for anything one finds disagreeable.

Kristor concluded his opinion piece by stating:

If sexual predation is wrong, it is *wrong,* period full stop. And in that case, the moral relativism of liberalism, and with it the sexual libertinism of liberalism, is … absolutely wrong. In which case, feminism is dead.

To this I would clarify that the objectionable portion of the term “sexual assault” is that an “assault” (or predation if you prefer) occurs against the will of the other. I believe this is what the feminists primarily take issue with and not so much the sexual aspect of it except to the extent that a sexual assault is generally considered to be a higher degree of assault. Accordingly I think Kristor has exaggerated his report as to the death of feminism. I also think his anti-liberal tirade would be made stronger by clearly defining the term.

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My Experience With Stand Up Comedy – Thoughts on Misdirection

For a long time I have wanted to try stand up comedy. People have consistently told me that I have a good sense of humor and I experience pleasure and satisfaction when I make people laugh. I recognize there is a lot of ego and perhaps insecurity behind this motivation. There is very little that is altruistic about being on stage commanding the focus of the room’s attention, with my voice amplified by the only microphone in the room and speaking the words of my creation in the hopes that the people observing me will not only approve but will also be moved to laugh. I suppose an argument could be made that there is some aspect of altruism in the desire to make people laugh but (if I am being honest) any altruism involved would only account for a minute portion of my motivation. Altruism is there, I suppose, but it is vastly overshadowed by the ego in my estimation.

Anyway, recently I had the opportunity to perform stand up comedy in an actual comedy club. My performance went well enough for a beginner and the experience of facing my fear of standing before an audience, making myself vulnerable to their judgment and then coming out the other side unscathed was exhilarating. Although, the entire experience of developing material and seeing it through to its performance was not exactly how I had envisioned it, the process was satisfying. It was also educational in a lot of ways. One of the most interesting concepts I learned through this process was that laughter often results from a misdirection of the audience or by presenting the audience with an unexpected idea or take on an idea.

Making people laugh is to varying degrees both an art and a science. It is an art because effective comics have the ability to read an audience and react to them intuitively. I notice this both through observing experienced comics but also through my own experience. Indeed, some of the biggest laughs I got were in response to off the cuff remarks I made in the moment which were completely unplanned. On the other hand, making people laugh is also a science in that there are specific techniques used by comedians all the time to elicit laughter from their audience. Misdirection or surprising the audience is one of these techniques. What I mean by this is that a comedian will set an audience up by making them think he or she is going in one direction but will then surprise them by taking them in a completely different direction. The classic example of this is Henny Yongman’s “Take my wife… please!” line. By this line the audience is first led to believe that Mr. Youngman is making a point using a his wife as an example but then he takes the audience by surprise when he says “please” which changes the meaning of his original statement to mean, “please take my wife away from me.”

The question as to why misdirection produces laughter is more complicated to explain. As far as I know, there is no definitive answer to this but I think it has to do with creating a “vacuum of cognitive dissonance” which the mind must fill with something. In other words, the misdirection creates a void of confusion in the mind which compels the mind to come up with an explanation to dispel the confusion. The simple answer the mind comes up with to explain the misdirection is that the comedian is trying to be funny and the realization of this creates laughter which then breaks the tension caused by the confusion. Of course breaking it down like this sort of takes the funny out of the experience. But then again, observing comedians work their craft with this in mind can make their material funny for a different reason.

It is interesting that the pleasurable experience of laughter is elicited through misdirection or surprise. This suggests that there is something pleasurable about not being in control or by not being aware of what will happen next. This reminds me of Alan Watts’ description of human consciousness. As he described it, human consciousness is a divine self-delusion. That is, the omniscient, immortal divinity became bored always knowing what is going to happen next and devised a plan whereby it could be surprised. This surprised state of mind is the predicament in which we currently find ourselves according to Watts. Of course, if this were true that would make humans God with which I assume some people might take issue. However, all this is to say that there is something entertaining about  being surprised especially when contrasted with a regular experience of not being surprised. Just as there would be something comforting about resting in an unsurprising existence if one is constantly being surprised.

Here is a video of my most recent performance. I find it interesting to observe what lines actually elicit laughter in the audience. Some of this is explained by the idea that laughter is elicited when the audience is misdirected. Of course this does not entirely explain it because there are times when the audience is misdirected and they do not laugh.

Of note: The “Matt stole all my ashy skin material” remark in the beginning is an example of an off the cuff remark that got a good reaction from the crowd. This was in reference to a comedian who preceded me named Matt who is African American and talked about how his skin gets “ashy” when the weather turns cold. Anyone familiar with this would know that my being white is part of what makes this remark funny. It can be thought of as a misdirection because it was probably an unexpected thing for me to say.

Perhaps the misdirection has to be clever enough in some way in order to be funny. Perhaps it all depends on the state of mind of the audience and if enough people can relate to what is being said in order for it to be funny. Obviously, there are a lot of variables at play and what will or will not elicit laughter in any particular audience is a bit of a mystery.

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Is it Freedom or Ego that is the Problem?

There has been much discussion on various anti-liberal blogs that freedom (i.e., the idea behind liberalism) is the cause of all society’s ills. There is the notion that if only liberalism could be abolished then something better would take its place and all the social problems of modernity would be solved. I suppose the thinking is that anything is better than liberalism therefore there is no need to come up with a replacement for it. Or perhaps the reluctance to come up with a replacement reflects the subconscious knowledge that liberalism really is not the problem and that the same issues will come to exist under any type of regime.

One theory I see over and over again is that liberalism leads to evil and specifically mass murder because it is “incoherent.” The theory that liberalism is “incoherent” is based upon the premise that a government action is by its nature restrictive. Even if a government acts to promote the rights of one person or group of people it will necessarily restrict the rights of another person or group of people. Therefore, it is “incoherent” to say that a priority of government should be to protect the freedom of its citizens (as Western governments typically do) because in actuality a government cannot protect the freedom of one group of people without assaulting the freedom of another group of people. For example (the argument goes) if the government protects the right of one group to speak freely it will necessarily assault the right of another group to not have to listen to what the first group has to say.

Let us assume this analysis actually proves the incoherence of liberalism (and not the balancing of competing priorities). Does this incoherence really lead to mass murder as is claimed by the anti-liberals? The anti-liberal’s “go to” example of modern day mass murder is abortion. They argue that because liberalism is incoherent it can be used to justify abortion just as it was used (they argue) to justify the killing of Jews by the Nazis in World War II, the nuking of Hiroshima and the execution of opponents to Communist reform in the Soviet Union under Stalin. This justification arises under the “principle of explosion” apparently because under a contradictory logical construct such as is (supposedly) liberalism anything can be logically inferred to be true.

There are a few problems with this line of thinking. First of all, understanding the “principle of explosion” requires more than a bit of formal logic theory under one’s belt. It is not a theory that is readily grasped by the general public without this education. Therefore, to say that this principle is somehow used by liberals to justify their actions seems to be a bit of a stretch on its face. However, the argument might be that although expressing the principle of explosion in formal logic requires an education in logic that most people do not have, the principle itself is sound because most people on some intuitive level appreciate it to be true and use it to justify their beliefs psychologically. This too I think is a stretch because the intuitive level is governed more by emotion and ego than obscure rules of formal logic. But let us also assume this to be correct.

So then, we are now assuming it is correct that the belief in incoherent doctrines can lead to mass murder. It seems to me that from the perspective of the orthodox Christians who believe this this theory there is an obvious flaw they are ignoring. That is, the belief that incoherent doctrines lead to mass murder not only condemns liberalism (assuming liberalism is actually incoherent) but it would also condemn Christianity itself. There are many tenets in Christianity that are incoherent on their face (arguably). For example, the doctrine of the Trinity is logically incoherent. The belief that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man is logically incoherent. The belief that the Eucharist is actually transformed into the body and blood of Christ during the Roman Catholic mass is logically incoherent. The theodicy question suggests an incoherence to Christianity as well. These are but a few examples of arguments that could be made to demonstrate the incoherence of Christianity that are far more convincing (in my mind) than the argument that supposedly demonstrates the incoherence of liberalism.

All that being said, I do not consider either liberalism or Christianity to be incoherent. Nor do I believe that an incoherence of a doctrine logically leads to mass murder. So then the question arises what does give rise to these incidences of mass murder than take place in modern times? I think a far more logical explanation for the existence of mass murder in modern times is the modern technology that makes it possible.

The anti-liberals will argue that these acts of mass murder have only occurred under liberal regimes. But the fact that these events have (arguably) occurred only under liberal regimes does not prove that only liberal regimes are capable of committing acts of mass murder. Indeed the same people who argue only liberal regimes can commit mass murder are the same people who argue there are only liberal regimes in modern times. I think it is clear that this line of thinking easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy because if there are only liberal regimes in the world then any crime committed in the world can be blamed on liberalism. Moreover, examples of illiberal regimes committing acts of mass murder (albeit on a smaller scale) can be pointed to in the Inquisition and the Crusades. It is easy to conceive that these acts of cruelty could have been much more extensive had the perpetrators had access to modern technology.

I use these examples not to attack Christianity. I am a Christian. I use them to demonstrate that any political philosophy or belief system is capable of mass murder given the right circumstances and therefore to believe that the supposed incoherence of liberalism is responsible for these acts is a fallacy.

But modern technology is not the whole explanation. So what then is the discriminating authority that causes one person or group of people to commit an act of violence on another person or group of people? Might I suggest that it is ego. It is the voice within the self that says I am right and he is wrong. It is the voice within the self that says I am different than him (or her). It is the voice in the self that says I am better than him or her. It is the voice within the self that says if you disagree with me you must lack the capacity to understand me. It is the voice in the self that says you are my enemy. In my mind (and I would think most reasonable people would agree) this is the real problem.

 

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