Category: postmodernism


Global Warming

January 10th, 2010 — 9:00am

Politically, global warming and climate change have little if anything to do with climate science, and the fact that this subject has become such an overwhelming political issue is a fine testament to how poorly the world understands the legitimate functions of government, and why those functions are legitimate.

Indeed, it turns out that the whole anthropogenic global warming (AGW) position can be easily defused without any reference to science at all, because the error, at root, is epistemological.

The truth about global warming which many don’t want to hear is that it’s become so polarized only because it’s turned political. The essentials of the subject have thereby been swallowed up in a murky ocean of misinformation, equivocation, and propaganda.

Let us start by defining terms:

Statism is concentrated state authority; it refers to a government that believes it has legitimate power to any extent over individual rights and freedom of trade.

Opposition to laissez-faire capitalism derives in part from ethics, but even more fundamentally from the science of epistemology.

Ethically the fundamental political question is this: are humans free by nature?

The answer to that depends upon the answer to an even deeper question: why (if at all) are humans free by nature?

And the answer to that is epistemologic.

The human brain – to address the latter query first – is individuated and rational by nature; because of this, man by nature possesses the faculty of choice.

Rationality is choice.

And choice presupposes the freedom to choose. This is the locus of the inseparable, indivisible link between reason and rights. Ultimately it is only the individual who can exercise the power of volition, or not. Government bureaus cannot. The state cannot. The collective cannot. Only the individuals who make up these entities.

If humans did not possess the faculty of choice, humans would be neither moral nor immoral but amoral, just as animals for this very reason are amoral.

But human action is chosen.

This, then, is what finally gives rise to the fact of human freedom as an epistemological necessity.

It’s also what it means to say that humans are free by nature: we are born with a cognitive faculty that gives us the power of choice; since this faculty is the primary method by which we thrive and keep ourselves alive, we must (therefore) be left free to exercise that faculty — and leave others likewise free.

This is a form of contractarianism.

Please note that this is not just some esoteric theory on how human freedom could conceivably be defended: the rights of each individual are demonstrably rooted in man’s cognitive quiddity – and for this precise reason, human freedom without an accurate and thorough understanding of man’s epistemologic nature can never be fully understood.
Or defended.

In the words of Samuel Adams:

“Rights are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.”

And Claude Fredrich Bastiat:

“For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? … Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor, and by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources.”

It is precisely the lack of epistemological grounding that has made rights and therefore human freedom vulnerable throughout all of history.

The evolution of the human brain created rights; it happened at the exact moment when this same evolution created a rational animal called a human being – which is to say, when nature created the capacity of free will.

Philosophy, then, being the most general science, unifies facts from all disciplines into an indivisible whole.

Thus, without proper philosophical underpinnings, scientific facts, no matter how airtight they are, remain unincorporated.

It is this point that provides us with the real and final connection between global warming and individual rights; for the provenance of rights, including private property rights and the freedom to trade that property, is found ultimately in man’s freedom of will, and it is only statist politics – also known as coercive government – that can with impunity negate the individual’s natural rights.

It does so through force, either directly (as in physical expropriation or imprisonment), or indirectly (as in compulsory taxation or fines).

The statist politics that the AGW position explicitly calls for are in this way antithetical to the methods by which the human brain and the human species properly functions and flourishes.

That is the fundamental argument against statism, in any of its multifarious guises. It is a foolproof argument, and it is the first and strongest line of defense: because each and every individual is free by nature, we are free to, in Adam Smith’s words, “truck, barter, and exchange.”

But there’s much more to it than this.

It must first of all never be forgotten that the philosophy of science is only a species of philosophy proper.

This has crucial ramifications.

Science is the systematic gathering of data through observation and reason.

Science is built upon knowledge, and knowledge is built upon reason.

Reason derives from the nature of the human mind, for man is the rational animal.

Epistemology – one of the two main branches of philosophy – is the science of knowledge.
Epistemology, therefore, studies the nature of reason.

In this way, all science is hierarchically dependent upon epistemology.

In the realm of human conviction, there exists at any given time only three primary alternatives: possible, probable, and certain.

Possible is when some evidence exists, but not much.

Probable is when a lot of evidence exists, but not all.

Certain is when the evidence is so overwhelming that no other conclusion is possible.

Obviously, then, what constitutes possible, probable, or certain is the amount of evidence and the context of knowledge within which that evidence is found.

To conclude certain, or even “over 99 percent certain,” to quote James Hansen of NASA, requires a sufficient knowledge of all relevant data and all potentially relevant data.

This is as true in a scientific laboratory as it is in a court of law.

It means that nothing – the complexity of clouds, for instance, or aerosols, deep ocean currents, cosmic rays, sun spots, et cetera – nothing is poorly understood, or insufficiently understood.

It means that the science has culminated to such a degree that our knowledge of it is complete or near-complete – so much so, at any rate, that there is essentially very little left to learn.

It means that because the evidence is so great, the conclusion admits no doubt.

It means, moreover, that the data-gathering process is not biased or influenced in any way by anything extracurricular, like activism.

Such is the nature of certainty.

From an epistemological standpoint, certainty means absolute.

And yet it’s many of these same AGW scientists who, today, under the insidious influence of postmodernism, assure us that there are no absolutes in science – “science doesn’t deal in truth, but only likelihood,” to quote another NASA scientist, Gavin Schmidt.

Truth is only relative, you see.

Quantum physics and thermodynamics have “proven” that the only certainty is that nothing is certain; definitions are purely a question of semantics; a unified philosophy is “circular reasoning” (or, at best, “system-building”); all moral law and all social law is subjective and unprovable.

The mind, in short, cannot know anything for certain. Yet AGW is virtually certain.
These are all epistemological assertions.

Syllogistically, the entire anthropogenic global warming position can be recapitulated in this way:

Global warming is man-made. Man is ruled by governments. Therefore, government bureaus, centralized planning committees, and more laws are the only solution.

In philosophy, this is called a non-sequitur.

It does not follow.

It’s far too hasty.

Please read Chapter 15 of my book to find out why.




14 comments » | environmentalism, epistemology, Global Warming, Philosophy, Political philosophy, postmodernism, Skepticism

Epistemology: The Science Of Thought

December 23rd, 2009 — 7:23am

Epistemology is the science of knowledge. The word derives from the Greek episteme, which means knowledge.

Epistemology proper didn’t actually begin until Rene Descartes (1596-1650), but the stuff of epistemology — logic, reason, deduction, induction, et cetera — has been with us since the Ancient Greeks.

Epistemology is an extraordinarily complicated discipline that starts with three simple words:

Consciousness is awareness.

That is an epistemological axiom which cannot be refuted or denied: any theory of knowledge that purports to refute that consciousness is awareness must rely on the awareness of his consciousness to refute it.

First there exists the external world, and then there exists the awareness of it.

These two things are separate, but not equal: by definition, the external comes first, before there can be an awareness of it.

In the words of the philosopher Douglas B. Rasmussen:

“Consciousness is ultimately of or about something other than itself — it is ultimately relational.”

The argument that one cannot prove anything beyond one’s own consciousness was, contrary to what you may have heard, refuted long ago, and thoroughly so, by Thomas Aquinas, when he wrote the following:

“No one perceives that he understands except from this, that he understands something: because he must first know something before he knows that he knows.”

This insight was explicated upon by the neo-Thomist priest Celestine Bittle, in his 1945 textbook The Whole Man:

“Consciousness,” says Father Bittle, “is irreducible [because] consciousness can’t be reduced to other facts or broken into component parts.”

Father Bittle goes on to describe consciousness as “an ultimate datum of experience … at the very root of all mental activity.”

This is called by neo-Thomists “the reflexive nature of consciousness,” which means that consciousness, by its very definition — by nature of what it is — cannot be conscious of only itself since consciousness is awareness, which by definition means that it must first be aware of some thing.

In other words, “I’m only aware of my faculty of awareness” is a meaningless statement.

Why?

Quoting another erudite neo-Thomist epistemologist, Jacques Maritain:

“The first thing thought about is being independent of the mind…. We do not eat what has been eaten; we eat bread. To separate object from thing is to violate the nature of intellect” (Jacques Maritain, The Degrees of Knowledge, 1938).

The ramifications of all this may be summed up thus:

The existence of the external world (i.e. reality) and the awareness of it (which is to say, consciousness) form the very underpinnings of all knowledge.

Whether scientists know it or not and whether scientists like it or not, every field of every scientific endeavor, and every part of every field of every scientific endeavor, no matter how postmodernistic the curriculum, and no matter how relativistic the agenda, assumes the following:

There exists an external universe, which human consciousness does not in any way create but rather apprehends and measures.

That is the proper starting point of any philosophy of science, as well as the rest of learning.



3 comments » | epistemology, postmodernism

Postmodernism: The Destruction Of Thought

November 23rd, 2009 — 8:49am

pomo

Postmodernism, in all its vicious variations, is a term devoid of any real content, and for this reason dictionaries and philosophy dictionaries offer very little help in defining it.

And yet postmodernism has today become almost universally embraced as the dominant philosophy of science — which is the primary reason that science crumbles before our eyes under its corrupt and carious epistemology.

Postmodernism, like everything else, is a philosophical issue. Accordingly, postmodernism’s tentacles have extended into every major branch of philosophy — from metaphysics, to epistemology, to esthetics, to ethics, to politics, to economics.

In order to get any kind of grasp on postmodernism, one must grasp first that postmodernism doesn’t want to be defined. Its distinguishing characteristic is in the dispensing of all definitions — because definitions presuppose a firm and comprehensible universe.

You must understand next that postmodernism is a revolt against the philosophical movement that immediately preceded it: Modernism.

We’re told by postmodernists today, that modernism and everything that modernism stands for is dead.

Thus, whereas modernism preached the existence of independent reality, postmodernism preaches anti-realism, solipsism, and “reality” as a term that always requires quotation marks.

Whereas modernism preached reason and science, postmodernism preaches social subjectivism and knowledge by consensus.

Whereas modernism preached free-will and self-governance, postmodernism preaches determinism and the rule of the collective.

Whereas modernism preached the freedom of each and every individual, postmodernism preaches multiculturalism, feminism, environmentalism, egalitarianism by coercion.

Whereas modernism preached free-markets and free-exchange, postmodernism preaches Marxism and its little bitch: statism.

Whereas modernism preached objective meaning and knowledge, postmodernism preaches deconstruction and no-knowledge — or, if there is any meaning at all (and there’s not), it’s subjective and ultimately unverifiable.

In the words of postmodernism’s high priest Michel Foucault: “It is meaningless to speak in the name of — or against — Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.”

Why?

Because according to Mr. Foucault again: “Reason is the ultimate language of madness.”

We can thus define postmodernism as follows:

It is the philosophy of absolute agnosticism — meaning: a philosophy that preaches the impossibility of human knowledge.

What this translates to in day-to-day life is pure subjectivism, the ramifications of which are, in the area of literature, for example, no meaning, completely open interpretation, unintelligibility.

Othello, therefore, is as much about racism and affirmative action as it is about jealousy.

Since there is no objective meaning in art, all interpretations are equally valid.

Postmodernism is anti-reason, anti-logic, anti-intelligibility.

Politically, it is anti-freedom. It explicitly advocates leftist, collectivist neo-Marxism and the deconstruction of industry, as well as the dispensing of inalienable rights to property and person.

There is, however, a deeply fatal flaw built into the very premise of postmodernism, which flaw makes postmodernism impossible to take seriously and very easy to reject:

If reason and logic are invalid and no objective knowledge is possible, then the whole pseudo-philosophy of postmodernism is also invalidated.

One can’t use reason to prove that reason is false.



17 comments » | America, postmodernism

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