Category Archives: Political Philosophy

Noam Chomsky & The Scottish Vote

scotland2Today is the Scottish vote — exciting history! Yet this issue will really tell us nothing more about the nation-state than so much more in our news.

At the bottom of this post is a great interview with Noam Chomsky where he uses the Scottish vote issue to discuss several of the deep, complex political phenomena feeding this vote.  Chomsky puts today’s event in perspective to the rest of the world, as is his specialty.  He is brilliant.

Noam Chomsky (wiki) has taught me much through the years. I haven’t always agreed with him, but then that means nothing. His last line from the interview was one of my favorite.  He made it after many, far-from-subtle attempts by his clearly leftist interviewer to get him to give a aphoristic nugget of socialist wisdom.

“there are no illuminating single phrases that capture the complexity of human life”

Oh I loved that. And among his many anarchist insights he also discusses:

  • the tension between regionalism & centralization
  • the inherited disaster of imperialist borders
  • how Capitalism would be an improvement over what we have today, but still inferior

Pic source: amttravel.com
triangle_end_tiny

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Confessions of a Marxist & a Libertarian

This is an index of my posts on Marxism and Libertarianism.

I have embraced and then rejected many belief systems in my life. I am clearly an unstable character.  See my Confession Tales series.

Are libertarianism and marxism also such belief system of mine? Well, read the series and find out!

Four years ago, in this post, I called myself a “libertarian” and spoke of Michael Sherman.  In September 24th’s Scientific American, Shermer says he is turning in his “libertarian” label.  Well, that article inspired be to start this series.

Below I list my political experiences in chronological order

  • Before Marxism:  ooops, like the second post, minus the unions
  • Politics of my Childhood: Unions, Business, Teachers, Vietnam
  • Mao’s Little Red Book: My India Trip
  • Kibbutz Ambitions
  • Co-op Training
  • Marxist Coffee Shop
  • Marxist Professor
  • Marxist Disillusion
  • Labeled a “Libertarian”
  • Identifying as a “Libertarian”
  • Chairman of Libertarian Chapter
  • My Libertarian Disillusion

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My Marxism: before Marx

EagleScout

This is the first of a series of posts on “My Marxism“, it is autobiographical and used as background to help readers understand more why I view politics as I do.  The newspaper article to the right is indeed me, with some identifying information changed to protect the innocent — yours truly!

__________________

I used to be a good, upstanding young man. Just before my confirmation in the Lutheran church, I daydreamed of becoming a pastor.  At 13 years-old I earned my Eagle Scout rank and, for you folks who know Scouting, I later earned other wards such as “God & Country”, “Order of the Arrow” and several palms.

At the end of 11th grade, when I was 16 years old, I won a National Science Foundation fellowship to study for three months at Loyola University in New Orleans.  When my parents saw me off at the airport, I wore a pink pinstriped suit to the airport — a very proper boy. At Loyola University I was surrounded by kids much brighter, more insightful and exploratory than myself. They introduced me to lots of different ways of thinking.

When I returned, my father picked me up at the airport and found me wearing a headband and bell-bottom blue jeans and I came back with loads of experiences my parents never planned on me having before I left. To my father’s dying day, he always said, “I knew that was the day that I lost you.”

Prior to Loyola, all during 10th and 11th grade, I had been diligently applying to the United States Air Force Academy with a long-term goal of becoming an aeronautical engineer and then an astronaut. And shortly after returning from Loyola University I heard that my senator had chosen me to be one of the two Ohio boys to go to the Academy. My father was ecstatic and had hopes his son would resume a righteous path.  I was even assigned to the pilot’s program!

But that was the Vietnam era and though prior to Loyola University I was unquestioning of my government’s noble efforts to stop the spread of evil communism, after New Orleans I did not support my government’s war efforts and I was becoming skeptical of propaganda. I told my father that I did not want to go to the Air Force Academy — he wouldn’t talk to me for months.

In summer of my senior year, after losing my best friend (see here), I embraced Christianity right before going to college. Years later, after leaving Christianity, I started to explore Marxism and embrace Marxism. In my next post, I will give that outline. But here I wanted to share some pertinent experiences before that my Marxist days.  Why?  Because I don’t think out thoughts can be truly understood without understanding both our temperaments and our experiences.

_________

Note: See my pictorial, annotated biography index for more than you’d ever want to know about me.

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On Politics

This is an index of posts on politics.

I have found it frustrating how people are not systematic in understanding the difference between personal vs public morality.  Public morality is “politics” — it is your view on enforcing morality (behavior) on other people.  This index will slowly build my view on politics: my thoughts on enforcement of preferences.  I use another index to discuss personal morality.

I don’t really intend this blog to discuss politics, but instead to explore how we build, defend and change our beliefs.  To that end, I will share the evolution of my political beliefs.

My Political History: 

Thoughts on Marxism

  • Hermeneutics & Marxism (coming)
  • Religiosity of Marxists (coming)

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Mitt Romney — Good for American Religion?

I grew up being taught that Catholics were people to be avoided. We whispered about them. I even remember being scared to walk into my first Catholic church. Then, when I was as old as my children are now, I remember the tears shed over the assassination of John F. Kennedy — our first Catholic president. I remember all the documentaries about the tragic loss of our great president and all the books my parent bought about him. Catholic bigotry seemed to melt during the following years. And as differences between the two major Christian religions melted, religion itself seemed to loose yet another little part of its black magical power.

If Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee, many American Christians will have to face an extreme cognitive dissonance between voting for their religion (as most don’t consider Mormons to be Christians) or voting for their party. I imagine that most will vote for their party–though probably not enough to win the election. But if Romney becomes the President and does a fair job, I think that Christian exclusivism will fade further out of the American psyche via the mechanism I explained here.  We may then get little closer to a new milieu where people evaluate a person by looking at their values and behavior before they judge someone according to their religion (or lack thereof).

Who knows how Romney would effect economics, foreign policy, corporate welfarism or civil liberties? Only time and the new make-up of the Congress would make those issues clearer. But I am pretty convinced that religion would change for the better in America if Romney were elected.  Mind you, I am not an issue voter by any stretch — I am just doing some fun arm-chair speculation today.  Care to join me?

Questions for readers: How can you imagine a Romney win affecting the American religion psyche?  Am I being too simplistic or too optimistic? Do you think he would polarize and sharpen fundie’s voices in a destructive way? Would his presence strengthen the strangle hold of Mormonism? Go ahead, make a predication now and maybe in 8 years we can look back at our guesses and laugh at our pathetic arm-chair sociological speculation and the unpredictable twists of history!

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Share your Moral Foundations

Recently I watched an excellent TED talk by Jonathan Haidt on politics and morality.  In the talk Haidt has identified five foundational moral traits people have in various degree.  Haidt notices that Liberals value 2 of these traits highly while Conservatives more highly value the other 3 traits.  Haidt feels there is a way around the perpetual clash between conservatives and liberals.  He feels that political progress can be made by recognizing that all these foundations are useful even if we personally find some principals counter intuitive.  He feels we should view these qualities not as conflicting but as different tools.  He uses an image of Shiva and Vishnu to illustrate his point.  I was caught by how similar his view is to how I view Tara and Shiva in my shrine.

Haidt’s excellent lecture enticed me to his website where I took his on-line quiz to reveal my personal moral political foundations. His research has shown that liberals value #1 and 2 much more highly that conservatives while conservatives tend to value #3, 4, & 5 more highly than liberals. Five Moral Foundations

  1. No-Harm
  2. Fairness
  3. In-group Loyalty
  4. Respect for Authority
  5. Purity

My results (the green bar) show that for the classic conservative values (Loyalty, Authority, and Purity) I am far more liberal than even the liberals.  While on the classic liberal values (No Harm and Fairness) I am right between the liberal and conservatives.  This illustrates why I can anger both liberals and conservatives with my political opinions.

Haidt Survey Results

My position strikes me as classic for a libertarian (which I am, albeit a neo-libertarian, I guess).  So his model identified me pretty accurately.  So you can tell I like this model.  I love the view of the various modules of minds also and Haidt’s positive approach to community of people of different tendencies.  To discover your moral foundations, I supply the link below and suggestions on how to share them.

Share Your Moral Foundations

  • Go To YourMorals.org
  • Create an Account
  • Click on “Explore Your Morals” tab
  • Click on the “Moral Foundations Questionnaire”
  • After answering the short questionnaire, view your results
  • Cut and copy the table below into the comments or your blog
  • Translate your results into the table below — deleting my info

My Moral Foundations

No Harm:
Cons < ME < Libs
Fairness:
Cons < ME < Libs
In-group Loyalty:
ME < Libs < Cons
Respect for Authority:
ME < Libs < Cons
Purity:
ME = Libs < Cons

———
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Filed under Ethics, Philosophy & Religion, Political Philosophy

Comparative Studies Insights

The  Mahābhārata is written in Sanskrit.  For millennium, Hindus have claimed that Sanskrit is a  unique, sacred, and magically powerful language. I heard this claim over and over again in India and in Ashrams in this country. But is Sanskrit really unique, so special, and so precious?  After all, it is a dead language.

Most cultures view their languages this way.  I recently heard an NPR show about the Hopi language and how the Hopi have a prophecy that when their language is no longer spoken, the world will end. But, and I know this is not politically correct, I think the Hopi language will die just like Sanskrit did and the world will continue. Languages are not sacred !

Indo-European Language Tree

I have personally seen this “my-language-is-special-and-unique” attitude among speakers of Japanese, Arabic, Chinese, and Hebrew.  Human arrogance about what is special to them is universal.

That which is dear to us is sacred.  By sacred, I mean it is not open to negotiation and thus guarded with all the unconscious intellectual vigor our brains can muster.  For many, these guarded sacred items include our nation, our tribe, our religion and our language.

We often see that naive mono-linguists think their language is unique in its ability to express deep thoughts. Well of course they do — they have never mastered another language.  A good way to cure this parochial blindness is to do comparative studies.  Using comparative linguistics researchers have learned more about the very nature of language than by studying any one language in depth.

Comparative Embryology

Likewise, we started learning much more biology when we started doing comparative biology.  Likewise, studying comparative government can open the eyes of a person about the nature of government more than by just studying all the historical details of their own government.

I feel that religious folks who have never thoroughly understood another religion are handicapped in a similar way to mono-linguists.  And no matter how deep they dive into their religion, no matter how thoroughly they know their religious history, their scriptures original language(s) or the intricacies of their religion’s theologies, it will be the rare person who will see the deep patterns of all human religious thought.  It is by comparative religious studies that people can see how much their religion shares with other religions.  Doing comparative studies helps people to see the nature of human hearts which generates their faiths.

Comparative Anatomy

So instead of trying to argue the inconsistencies of the Bible, the inaccuracies of the archeology and history,  the bigotry of many doctrines and the subtle philosophical arguments, why not encourage comparative studies of religion.  Through this people can see what they share with others.  This will set up a cognitive dissonance between that insight and their religious teaching that their religion is unique, special and superior.  This may tip the scale for that person becoming more inclusive in their religious thinking.  And moving toward inclusivness is a huge step.

Do you have experiences where comparative studies opened your eyes?

____________
Related Posts:
1) The Mahabharata Series : posts on the famous Hindu epic
2) The Original Source Mystique:  on the misuse of the Bible’s original languages

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Filed under Critical Thinking, Linquistics, Philosophy & Religion, Political Philosophy

Mirror Neurons : Our Moral Imagination

WrightI am reading Robert Wright’s excellent book on “The Evolution of God”.  Over at “Liberty and Skepticism“, I wrote a short post on one of Wright’s recent essays — please go take a look.

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Libertarian Nut: Michael Shermer

shermer_michaelMichael Shermer, column writer for Scientific American and author of many great Skeptic books, blogged yesterday, “How I Became Libertarian” where he rationalizes how he can be, like me, a libertarian and a skeptic.   The post is a rather wordy mini-autobiography but it does stay focused on task.  It is nice to know I am not the only nutty, libertarian Skeptic out there !  Now I am going to his post to make a little Buddhist comment to complete my nuttiness.

Shermer Links:

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Atheism as a Worldview

spiderweb_globeWorldviews are Individualistic

Although I disagree with his definitions, I’d like to tip my hat to my excellent fellow blogger, Luke at Common Sense Atheism, who brought up the discussion of “Is Atheism a Worldview?” .   For though Atheism seems only a position on the existence of gods, each individual atheist weaves this position with many other of their beliefs to inform their worldview–they create a global web of beliefs (a worldview).  In this sense, a worldview is always personal.  Sure, any group of individuals may share beliefs and thus their worldviews (their global beliefs) are said to overlap.  But just because their worldviews overlap, does not mean they share the same worldview.   So sure, Atheism is only part of the Atheist’s worldview, but then likewise, Christianity is only a part of an Christian’s worldview.

Variety of Atheists & Christians

Like Atheists, Christians come in as many varieties.  Christians do not agree on their Christologies and these Christologies inform their world views.  Atheists likewise have Christoogies whether they are aware of them or not.

Atheist & Christians both weave Webs of Belief

So, if Atheism (seeing the world without gods) is not a worldview, then Christianity can not be called a worldview (seeing the world with a particular sort of god(s)).  Mind you, I don’t care how the world “worldview” is defined, I just care that we see that atheist hold implicit views just like Christians and that their web of beliefs are complex and unique to the indificual.  Neither Christianity nor Atheism has a monolithically consistent worldview among their adherents.  And just as a Christian from a given denominations may have large overlaps in their worldviews, I also find many atheist with large overlapping political and social agendas which though they may not declare these views or outright link them to their atheism, I feel the Atheists are indeed similar to Christians in that they mix their theologies into their worldviews.

Conclusion

I find that when someone tries to attribute a “Worldview” to a group, their intent always has a political flavor — they have some purpose in mind.  Worldview are individualistic — in that sense, there is no Christian and no Atheist worldview.  But if you want to say Christians have a worldview, you must admit that Atheists do too.

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