An Analysis of “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill: Part I, Chapter One – Introduction

CONTEXT

I recently started my own web based business. Around the same time, I heard through multiple sources that I should read a curious book entitled “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. This book surprised me in that it described in unique detail how the psychology and physics of wealth and success function and interact according to the author. He claims to have arrived at this understanding by interviewing 500 people who climbed from nothing to great wealth. There is some controversy about the veracity of this claim. But enough sources recommended this book to overcome this controversy.

Hill first published the book in 1937 during the tail end of the Great Depression which he attributed to a generalized lack of confidence in the economic systems around the world. Obviously, this time period predates our current politically correct mindsets as is demonstrated by some of the examples he cites in his introduction including a “colored child who deliberately master[ed] an adult white person” demanding, “MY MAMMY’S GOTTA HAVE THAT FIFTY CENTS!” and the “Oriental” who described what he perceived to be the “queer slant” of an American’s eyes. For those easily offended persons take note. At the risk of being taken out of context and branded a racist, I actually found it refreshing to read the writing of a person who’s context and psychology is so different than the typical modern perspective.

The following series of blog posts will be an analysis of Hill’s book. I will also try to connect this material to other writings and ideas I have been exposed to recently as they all seem to relate in an interesting way.

THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

[W]e are the Masters of our Fate, the Captains of out Souls, because we have the power to control our thoughts. 

Hill bases his philosophy on the premise that people have the power to control their own thoughts. Ironically, if I do  not think about it too hard, this basic premise seems to be true. However, if I do think about it, it is not at all clear that this premise is true. To wit, I do not actually know where my thoughts come from. As I experience thoughts, they materialize “in my head” and I feel justified to take credit for them as if my mind manufactured the thoughts in some intentional way as an architect would plan out the construction of a house. But as far as I am aware, thoughts simply appear from nothing. It is just as likely that I created them as it would be that they are produced somewhere else and then transmitted into my head.

Then again, it is not clear how that thought would have been created by a third party and then transmitted to me. That third party would have had to create the thought themselves and that presumably would have taken some planning (i.e., other thoughts). As such, it does not seem possible that a thought could be created because to create requires forethought which itself is a thought. Perhaps thoughts exist independent of the people who think them as a cloud floating in the air that is encountered by the thinker. Perhaps what I can do is make myself more or less open to these thoughts by adopting a mindset. Although I am not certain of that because a mind set might be no different than a thought in the final analysis.

Alternatively, it seems as if I can genuinely influence my mindset through an act of will. If I am in a negative mood, I can recognize this mental state and then take steps to change it. There seems to be agency to this process. But perhaps this agency is merely the implantation of agency from a third party. It does not feel that way but I cannot be certain about that.

Obviously, this line of reasoning can lead down a rabbit hole. For example, if I am not the creator of my thoughts then what exactly am I? I seem to be the one who experiences my thoughts. That is, I am the consciousness that experiences the thoughts I think. Sam Harris in his book “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion” made the point that there is no “I” but rather consciousness and the content of consciousness. The perception that there is an I who is conscious is an illusion generated by the fact that consciousness seems to take place inside our heads where the brain is located. The nature of consciousness, however, is beyond the scope of “Think and Grow Rich”.  The point is, that thinking is a complicated phenomenon and this complexity is worth considering because the premise of the book is about thinking. In fact it is the first word in the title. However, meta-thinking is probably counteractive to thinking and growing rich in the manner Hill describes.

Accordingly, (I suppose) in order to properly use the book one must assume that the I of consciousness exists and that it (to some extent) controls the thoughts that pop up within it. Let us proceed with that assumption.

USING THE POWER TO CONTROL THOUGHTS

TRULY, “thoughts are things,” and powerful things at that, when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a BURNING DESIRE for their translation into riches, or other material objects. 

Regardless of where thoughts come from and how they are created (and if they are created) they are things that exist. Of this we can be as certain as we can about anything. Hill states with authority that when thoughts are combined with definiteness of purpose, persistence and desire the result will be the achievement or manifestation of what is desired. The more recent book written ostensibly to appeal to Stage Green, new aged women, “The Secret” made this claim as well. Implicit in this strategy is that the universe will supernaturally cooperate with the thinker as long as the thinker thinks in a specific manner. Indeed, Hill says exactly that.

[T]he ether is filled with a form of universal power which ADAPTS itself to the nature of the thoughts we hold in our minds; and INFLUENCES us, in natural ways, to transmute our thoughts into their physical equivalent [and] this power makes no attempt to discriminate between destructive thoughts and constructive thoughts… 

That is, people with negative mindsets sabotage themselves and the universe they live in through their negative thinking. In the introduction, Hill illustrates this principle with three stories. The first is the story of Edwin Barnes who had no money but through his will and persistence became a business partner with Thomas Edison. The second is the story of R. U. Darby a gold prospector who mined gold but quit when the seam ran out only to later find out that the seam continued three feet away. Subsequently, he became a millionaire by selling life insurance using this lesson of persistence. The third is Henry Ford who seemingly willed the V8 engine into existence when everyone else told him it was impossible.

The supernatural quality of the universe cooperating with a person who possesses the correct mental state is a central premise of this book. Certainly, it seems logical that a person who is motivated and confident to achieve a goal is more likely to achieve that goal than is a person who is lazy and lacks confidence. What seems less likely or unproven is that the universe works to manifest the thoughts that exist in the minds of people. However, as stated earlier, I do not understand how thoughts are created and if they are truly my own. As such, perhaps thoughts are more connected to the external physical universe than I know.

 

 

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Spiral Dynamics

Over the past two months Leo Gura of Actualized.org has been creating videos explaining the theory of Spiral Dynamics developed by Don Edward Beck and Clare Graves. Spiral Dynamics is a developmental, psychological model designed to map the historical evolution of both people and the societies of which the people are constituent parts.

There are eight stages to the spiral, each with its own set of characteristics. The first and most primitive stage is Beige characterized primarily through individual survival with little to no cooperation with other people. Modern homeless people are an example of the stage Beige mindset. The second stage is Purple characterized by primitive cooperation among people typically at the family or clan level. Cavemen are an example. The third stage is Red where stronger individuals within the relatively egalitarian Purple start to assert their dominance over the weaker members. Viking civilization and tribal societies are examples. The forth stage is Blue where we see authoritarian, communal societal structures begin to assert themselves in order to reign in the excesses of stage Red. The Roman Empire and Medieval Europe are examples of the stage Blue mindset. The fifth stage is Orange characterized by a rejection of the stiff Blue societal structures with a greater emphasis on individual achievement, science and materialism. Modern, liberal, capitalistic societies are examples. The sixth stage is Green characterized by a rejection of the excesses of Orange and a return to spirituality and communal responsibilities. Modern hippies and left-liberals are examples. The seventh stage is Yellow characterized by a rejection of the excesses and Green’s failure to solve societal problems with an emphasis on systems thinking and individual achievement. Albert Einstein is considered to be an example of a stage Yellow thinker. The final stage is Turquoise characterized by a shift from the individual Yellow to a more holistic world view. Very few people and certainly no societies have achieved stage Turquoise at present.

One important observation the spiral articulates is that humans and the societies they create evolve alternating from an emphasis on the individual to an emphasis on the community in a cyclical manner. From individualistic Beige to communal Purple to individualistic Red to communal Blue and so on. In a sense (according to this model), the development of mankind’s psychology is based on the confrontation between these two opposing forces. When one is taken to an extreme the other rises to counterbalance it.

Of interest to this blog is how well the system of Spiral Dynamics describes stage Blue. Specifically, the Orthosphere and Zippy Catholic (two blogs that I have been reading over the past couple of years) come to mind as two good articulations of the Stage Blue mindset. As described by the Spiral Dynamics Integral website, the general characteristics of Stage Blue thought are:

  • Values and norms, discipline, duty, regularity, and feelings of honor and guilt
  • WE versus They Thinking
  • Searching for meaning, order, routine and security
  • Self-control, discipline and loyalty to the doctrine and the rules
  • Absolute, literal and definite
  • Morality
  • Hierarchy, obedience and willing to sacrifice to a greater cause
  • Control and structures of authorities
  • Obedience based on a sense of duty and a sense of guilt
  • Organize, manage, concretize and structure
  • Values effort and responsibility and shows discipline
  • Rules, rights and duties are significant

This description seems to describe almost perfectly the mode of thought expressed on these blogs both by their contributors and the people who comment there. I suspect these people would reject the notion of Spiral Dynamics entirely. This would fit perfectly within the model. Because (according to the model) they see the world in essentialist terms and by definition reject nominalism they cannot see the world as evolving purposefully or in a healthy way. I suspect they would dismiss Spiral Dynamics without much consideration as a “liberal” idea. If the world is changing it must be for the worse because stage Blue (not that they would embrace the term “Stage Blue”) was the best possible stage. Anything, departing from stage Blue is ugly and it is appropriate to judge those who question stage Blue sensibilities and enforce stage Blue sensibilities through shame and guilt. This emphasis of “obedience based on a sense of duty and a sense of guilt” explains a great deal as to how my interactions with the people who comment and contribute to the Orthosphere and Zippy Catholic have played out.

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An Essentialist Making the Case for Nominalism

In a post entitled “‘Essentialist’ means just what I say it means…,” anti-liberal blogger Zippy Catholic described the terms “Essentialist” and “Nominalist”:

[A]n antiessentialist (or nominalist) will view a word like “liberalism” the way Humpty Dumpty views it. The word refers not to an objective external essence but to whatever internal state of his mind that Humpty chooses it to refer to; nothing more, nothing less, and always subject to Humpty’s will. Nobody else can impute an implication that Humpty does not agree to, because there is no essence to the referent other than just what Humpty wills. If Humpty is a liberal, it is only because Humpty agrees in every particular with what liberal means and implies, and further agrees that he is one. “Liberal”, if it applies legitimately as a label to Humpty, does so only because he chooses for it to apply and chooses all that it entails.

An essentialist understands a word to refer to some real essence that is external to and independent of the person who utters it. A speaker[‘s] … words refer to objective things and have objective implications about which he may be completely ignorant or mistaken. Humpty is a liberal if Humpty is in fact loyal to liberalism, which is an objective thing independent of Humpty.

In another blog post entitled “Definition of liberalism,” Zippy defines liberalism as:

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

More recently, in the comment section of a recent blog post on the Orthosphere entitled “Deplorable Gnon“, contributor Thomas F. Bertonneau stated:

Hillary’s gnashing of teeth belongs to her gnosticism, which … schemes to realize just as soon as it can derealize all those who stand in its way just by being. Like the witch-hanging Puritanism of which it is the heir, contemporary liberalism, which, as you say, is socialism, corresponds to a sacrificial cult.

Here I take Mr. Bertonneau to mean “witch-hanging Puritanism” is a form of liberalism. He repeated this point in another post entitled “What is Puritanism.” This struck me as odd given that I have been told on numerous occasions there existed broad agreement as to the definitions of liberalism among the people who contribute and comment both on the Orthosphere and its sister blogs like Zippy Catholic. To my knowledge, no puritan sect (especially not the witch-hanging sort) thought it was important to secure the freedom and equal rights of the people under its control. In fact, I would say it is obvious on its face that the contrary is true.

There are a few things I could draw from this situation. First, I think this only confirms my suspicion that those who contribute and comment within the anti-liberal community are using different definitions for “liberalism” (and probably other terms) and yet they are discussing these terms as if a common understanding was broadly understood. This makes a coherent conversation on the subject difficult in my estimation. Second, I assume based on the posts I have read written by Mr. Bertonneau, that he holds himself to be an essentialist. As an essentialist he would have to believe that a real definition of liberalism exists independent of his own mind. However, his recent writings seem to suggest that he defines liberalism not as Zippy defines it but rather as anything Mr. Bertonneau dislikes about modern Western culture. For example, in his post “What is Puritanism” he conflates Puritanism with Liberalism and asserts:

Many Catholic congregations in North America qualify as Puritanical in that they have liberalized themselves and so assimilated themselves to the Left, which is indeed a heresy of Christianity.  All humanities professors are Puritans – as are all college administrators.  Trumpskyites in North America and adherents of the Fidesz Party in Hungary are not Puritans.  Everything today describing itself as “comedy” is archly Puritanical and extremely unfunny.  It never smiles; it only smirks and scowls and uses four-letter language. Islam is ultra-Puritanical. That California, governed by an octogenarian ex-Jesuit, is the vanguard Puritan republic of the United States, the Salem Colony of its day, is in no way belied by the other fact that it is the home-state of the pornography industry.

This strikes me as a nominalist manner of thinking. In fact, it specifically reminded me of Zippy’s post on Humpty Dumpty cited above.

If one is being honest with himself, it is very difficult to take an absolutely “essentialist” world view. Because, even if one does believe there to be real definitions out in the world and independent of the mind, the mind must first make this decision to believe this truth. As such, an essentialist is really just a nominalist who believes with certainty that real definitions exist. Or perhaps asserting real definitions exist is to simply assert a state of mind. Moreover, because the essentialist believes these real definitions exist he naturally tends to believe that his beliefs are in accord with these real definitions and accordingly anyone who believes differently or expresses uncertainty must be wrong. This is not to say that I believe real definitions do not exist for some things, but as the so called “broad agreement” or lack thereof as to the definitions employed on the  Orthosphere demonstrates, one cannot be sure that his particular definitions comport with the real definitions existing external to his mind.

 

 

 

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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?

book

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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