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August 22, 2019

As a leftist, "I wish we could all just get along." Wouldn't that be nice? Maybe it would get boring pretty quickly. But a little less conflict between people, a little more peace and quiet, would be great. People have such trouble dealing with each other! So much cruelty and hostility, so little empathy and understanding. Relations between the sexes, for example, are so fraught...

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 20, 2019

A recent article of mine, called "Political Correctness Is Getting Out of Hand," elicited some angry emails. Not from people who disagreed with the thesis -- it seems that not only conservatives and centrists but even most leftists think political correctness sometimes goes too far -- but from people who objected to this sentence: "Ultimately it isn’t permitted....even to state m...

July 9, 2018

Questions Raised by 9/11, and Their Answers

[An old grad-school paper]

Lawrence Wright’s book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 is an illuminating account of Muslim terrorism prior to the attack on the Twin Towers. It describes the origins of such terrorism and specifically the rise of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. At the same time, it traces in great detail the hist...

May 6, 2018

Marxism is right, and postmodernism is stupid. That's the thrust of a paper I've uploaded on academia.edu, which actually consists of excerpts from my dissertation on the unemployed in Chicago during the Great Depression. Check out that 'paper' if you want to see why it's absolutely necessary for the sake of understanding and explanation to ground scholarship in the methods of hi...

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...

October 22, 2017

[Excerpts from this book.]

Collectivism comes in both noble and evil forms. In the former, the principle of the individual is paramount; in the latter, the principle of the mass. The one means the rule of mutual self-actualization, self-respect, sympathy for others, democracy, human diversity—“an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free devel...

March 30, 2017

[From an email.]

…Of course it's true that every event in history depends on contingencies. [I had said the Russian Revolution depended on a series of accidents, and my interlocutor had replied that’s true of everything in history.] The point is that the transition from capitalism to socialism is supposed to happen virtually by necessity (as Marx argued in the Manifesto and other...

February 23, 2017

I'm copying here a "statement of teaching philosophy" I wrote recently for job applications, in case it has any general ideas that others might find interesting or useful.

In the age of Donald Trump, knowledge of history is more important than ever. Such knowledge has always been empowering, for several reasons: it gives one a foundation for more effective and informed civic and p...

December 29, 2016

In an age when the State is daily demonstrating its willingness, or rather its extraordinary eagerness, to brutally repress dissent and democracy, it may be of interest to recall the experiences of survivors of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The following first-hand account was circulated in the weeks after the hurricane hit. As global warming intensifies, massively disrupting commun...

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...

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