August 4, 2019

This is from a letter Sigmund Freud wrote to his pastor friend Oskar Pfister:

I do not break my head very much about good and evil, but I have found little that is ‘good’ about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all. That is something that you cannot say aloud,...

July 11, 2019

Here's a blog post for you masochists who are interested in the debates that go on among Marxist intellectuals over questions around revolution, strategies to get from capitalism to socialism, Leninism and its relevance or lack thereof to the present, etc.

It's kind of remarkable, actually, how much collective time is devoted to these abstract questions, how many thousands o...

March 21, 2018

(Also see these notes.)

Reading Maurice Cornforth’s Marxism and the Linguistic Philosophy (1965). A good book, not dogmatic or closed-minded in the old Marxist way. It starts off with a historical overview of philosophical empiricism (which, as you probably know, eventually led into the “linguistic philosophy” of the mid-twentieth century). Summaries of Francis Bacon, Hobbes, Lock...

March 3, 2018

Sometimes I like to read about contemporary philosophy and science, to escape the dreariness and intellectual semi-sterility of writings on politics. I'll link here to some notes I've taken recently on cognitive science, and other notes on contemporary pragmatism and also the philosopher Wilfrid Sellars' famous analysis of the "Myth of the Given." Here's the first set of notes. A...

December 15, 2016

Richard Lewontin’s article “The Evolution of Cognition: Questions We Will Never Answer” is excellent. It counsels skepticism about humans’ ability to understand themselves and nature, in this case because of a lack of sufficient data (rather than a lack of cognitive capacity, as Chomsky and Colin McGinn argue—rightly, and obviously). All I can say is: are there actually people ou...

November 10, 2016

You should read Lance Hill's The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement. Persuasive argument that, despite the revered narrative, nonviolence as a tactic wasn't particularly successful,[1] and violence and the threat of violence were absolutely essential to the changes that took place. SNCC's peaceful local organizing in the early '60s actually didn't...

September 13, 2016

The following is a long comment I wrote on a Facebook thread months ago arguing against a left-wing friend that--in swing states--one should vote for Hillary Clinton over, say, Donald Trump. I find the arguments of leftists that one shouldn't vote for a "lesser evil" to be logically and morally imbecilic.


To the argument that because Democrats are terrible, like Republicans, one...

August 11, 2016

[Old jottings from my journal.] Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, from the selections I’ve read so far, is sensible. (That isn’t the academic consensus, but what do you expect from philosophers? He’s a Commie, after all.) Here’s one of his briefer summaries of George Berkeley’s thought: “Let us regard the external world, nature, as a ‘combination of sensations’ evoked in...

July 9, 2016

The following is the beginning of an essay I wanted to write years ago on the concept of pretentiousness, a phenomenon the ubiquity of which stunned me. And it seemed to me that looking at the world through that lens could be pretty interesting, if the essay were done well. I quickly gave it up, though, in part because I knew no publisher would want anything to do with something...

June 30, 2016

[Old notes from my journal.] A lot of mainstream people would criticize me for immersing myself in leftist scholarship and journalism, which they would say is a closed-minded or partisan thing to do. They would say I should expose myself to all kinds of writing, not only the leftist variety. Actually, such a criticism is silly because I do read writings from a variety of viewpoin...

December 19, 2015

On neoclassical economics.— Milton Friedman wrote a famous article in 1953 called “The Methodology of Positive Economics,” in which he argued that in science, the less realistic or more idealizing the model, the better.[1] A typically simplistic argument. But for a neoclassicist it served the function of making a virtue of necessity, thus allowing him to continue to believe his t...

November 9, 2015

[Notes from my journal.]

Reading parts of a collection of essays published in 1978 called Anarchism, edited by J. Roland Pennock and John W. Chapman. Pretty good philosophical essays, but I have to say that what I’ve seen of the literature on anarchism leaves much to be desired. Actually, the whole universe of anarchism, with all its different strains and movements and doctrines,...

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