Worthwhile Reading

Vitaliy Katsenelson writes worthwhile content for those interested in investing, art, classical music, and philosophical thoughts about life in general.  See his recent post about coveting and envy.

Doggedness, canine and human.

A piece about skateboarding and flying, with thoughts from St-Exupery.

Speaking about flying, TxRed the Cat Rotator writes about some of her aerobatic experiences.

Projecting (simulated) 3D images onto your plate.

Doctors and state borders.

The Nature of Things

Thanks to the site administrators, this long-time Chicago Boyz reader has joined the roster of authors. Perhaps a brief introduction is in order before I begin posting in earnest.

My earliest exposure to Chicago Boyz dates back to 2003 (with a tip of the hat to Jay Manifold), when Jim Bennett and Michael Lotus were actively exploring the ideas that would lead to the publication of their most excellent and still underrated book America 3.0. The very concept of the Anglosphere was deeply enlightening to me, and inspired a great deal of further reading on my part. Their focus on both the historical realities and the lofty ideals of the Anglo-American tradition has continued to inspire my own thinking to this day. Other perspectives I hope to bring to Chicago Boyz include ancient philosophy (thus the pseudonym Lucretius), Austrian-school economics, civilizational history, Internet technology (my current profession), personal finance and preparedness, contemporary culture, and the arts and sciences.

If you must pin me down politically I suppose I would say I’m a moderate libertarian, a classical liberal, or even a Jeffersonian; however, it seems to me that America and the world have a whole raft of systemic problems for which political activity is not the answer but instead one of the many causes. My goal here is to steer clear of both the ideological and the quotidian to elucidate what my Roman namesake in his great philosophical poem called The Nature of Things. At least we can aim high, can’t we?

Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

It is unwise to let your dislike for certain individuals to run away with you to the point that you publish attacks that can be refuted with a few seconds of research.

Speaking of publishing dumb things…

Philosophers and philodoxers

Thoughts on personal productivity from Marc Andreessen

This 19th century French philosopher sounds worth reading.  From Tyler Cowen’s summary:

He explicitly considers the possibility that the rate of scientific innovation may decline, in part because the austere and moral mentality of semi-rural family life, which is most favorable for creativity in his view, may be replaced by the whirlpool of distractions associated with the urban lifestyles of the modern age.

The 10 worst colleges for free expression…the 2020 edition.

Using albatrosses to track down illegal fishing boats.  A little advice for the captains of those boats: do not, under any circumstances, shoot an albatross.

France’s most beautiful stained-glass windows

Wild and Wasted Virtues

Some of the pre-election commentary, especially from the Left, reminds me once again of an interesting Chesterton passage from 1908:

The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful. For example, Mr. Blatchford attacks Christianity because he is mad on one Christian virtue: the merely mystical and almost irrational virtue of charity. He has a strange idea that he will make it easier to forgive sins by saying that there are no sins to forgive. Mr. Blatchford is not only an early Christian, he is the only early Christian who ought really to have been eaten by lions. For in his case the pagan accusation is really true: his mercy would mean mere anarchy. He really is the enemy of the human race– because he is so human.

Previous reference to this passage:  Sympathy for the Devil

Summer Rerun: Lewis vs Haldane

J B S Haldane was an eminent British scientist (population genetics) and a Marxist. C S Lewis was…well, you probably already know who C S Lewis was.  In 1946, Haldane published an article critiquing a series of novels by Lewis known as the Ransom Trilogy, and particularly the last book of the series, That Hideous Strength. Lewis responded in a letter which remained unpublished for many of years. All this may sound ancient and estoteric, but I believe the Lewis/Haldane controversy is very relevant to our current political and philosophical landscape.

In That Hideous Strength–my review is here–Mark, a young sociologist, is hired by a government agency called NICE–the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation–having as its stated mission the application of science to social problems.  In the novel, NICE turns out to be a conspiracy devoted to very diabolical purposes, as Mark gradually discovers.   See the review for more detail

Here are some of the highlights of the Lewis/Haldane controversy:

1)Money and Power. In his article, Haldane attacks Lewis for the latter’s refusal to absolutely condemn usury, and celebrates the fact that “Mammon has been cleared off a sixth of our planet’s surface”…clearly referring to the Soviet Union. Here’s part of Lewis’s response:

The difference between us is that the Professor sees the ‘World’ purely in terms of those threats and those allurements which depend on money. I do not. The most ‘worldly’ society I have ever lived in is that of schoolboys: most worldly in the cruelty and arrogance of the strong, the toadyism and mutual treachery of the weak, and the unqualified snobbery of both. Nothing was so base that most members of the school proletariat would not do it, or suffer it, to win the favour of the school aristocracy: hardly any injustice too bad for the aristocracy to practise. But the class system did not in the least depend on the amount of pocket money. Who needs to care about money if most of the things he wants will be offered by cringing servility and the remainder can be taken by force? 

This lesson has remained with me all my life. That is one of the reasons why I cannot share Professor Haldanes exaltation at the banishment of Mammon from ‘a sixth of our planet’s surface’. I have already lived in a world from which Mammon was banished: it was the most wicked and miserable I have yet known. If Mammon were the only devil, it would be another matter. But where Mammon vacates the throne, how if Moloch takes his place? As Aristotle said, ‘Men do not become tyrants in order to keep warm’. All men, of course, desire pleasure and safety. But all men also desire power and all men desire the mere sense of being ‘in the know’ or the ‘inner ring’, of not being ‘outsiders’: a passion insufficiently studied and the chief theme of my story. When the state of society is such that money is the passport to all these prizes, then of course money will be the prime temptation. But when the passport changes, the desires will remain.

2)Centralized scientific planning. Haldane: “Mr. Lewis’s idea is clear enough. The application of science to human affairs can only lead to hell.” While denying that this is a correct statement of his views, Lewis goes on to say:

Every tyrant must begin by claiming to have what his victims respect and to give what they want. The majority in most modern countries respect science and want to be planned. And, therefore, almost by definition, if any man or group wishes to enslave us it will of course describe itself as ‘scientific planned democracy.

and

My fears of such a tyranny will seem to the Professor either insincere or pusillanimous. For him the danger is all in the opposite direction, in the chaotic selfishness of individualism.  I must try to explain why I fear more the disciplined cruelty of some ideological oligarchy. The Professor has his own explanation of this; he thinks I am unconsciously motivated by the fact  that I ‘stand to lose by social change’. And indeed it would be hard for me to welcome a change which might well consign me to a concentration camp. I might add that it would be likewise easy for the Professor to welcome a change which might place him in the highest rank of an omnicompetent oligarchy. That is why the motive game is so uninteresting. Each side can go on playing—ad nauseam, but when all the mud has been flung every man’s views still remain to be considered on their merits.

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