Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I've been thinking about some issues in libertarian thought today and I'm finding myself particularly confused about the notion of self-ownership that underlies (most?) libertarianism. For more on that notion, see Libertarianism at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

There seem to be at least two important issues with this notion: 

First, there's something decidedly odd in taking the ground of our morality from the relationship that we have to things we own, because whatever sense we might be able to make out of owning ourselves, our primary notion of ownership is our ownership of external objects. The idea that we own ourselves is taken by analogy from that epistemologically primary notion of ownership. 

Second, ownership looks like a two place relationship, one that must take two different things for its arguments. That is, ownership appears, at least in the normal case to be Oxy, where x≠y and Oxy>¬Oyx. This, at any rate, is the way the notion operates in the normal case; to allow self-ownership seems to be introducing a new notion that will be called "ownership" but that has little or nothing to do with ownership.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A thought on the Seven Deadly Sins

As another politician falls to the sin of Lust, but none seem ever to be shamed for their dedication to Greed, Envy, Pride, Wrath, Sloth and Gluttony, I cannot help but be taken by the religious and moral outlook that informs so much of our public discourse. 

Our moral scolds only care about certain of the sins, because their Jesus—and it generally is Jesus—is one who is seriously and always concerned about sexual morality, but no other sort, that is, He is clearly not the Jesus who appears anywhere in the Bible they so gladly and conveniently thump but never read or ponder.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

How to write a Dan Brown novel: Inspired by a viewing of Angels and Demons

Step 1: Have a barely literate, preferably drunken teenager recount to you his half-remembered reading of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, The Name of the Rose or Baudolino—all great novels dealing with esoteric distinctions in theological history, battles that these caused, conspiracy theories, secret societies both real and imagined, etc., and all undergirded by research—while paying as little attention as possible. This will replace you having to actually think up a plot or do research of your own.

Step 2: Read some New Age reinterpretations of either medieval mystics or "Eastern thought". While you are at it, learn everything you can about science from blogs on the Web—this might help you to think that 17th century scientists believed in the four elements. Come to think of it, you can do your research about religion on the Web, too.

Step 3: Forget everything you have ever known about the way that actual people act or talk. It is essential that you avoid all real human motivation.

Step 4: Invent a ridiculous academic discipline. Brown's choice is "Symbology", but you can pick your own. Just make sure that this discipline has an honored chair at Harvard, Princeton, Oxbridge, somewhere famous. Also, make sure that people respect the professors of this discipline; this is called "suspension of disbelief", since professors of disciplines are not respected. Finally, make sure that the deep wisdom this discipline makes available is of the sort to deliver common-sense wisdom and obvious pieces of information, while everyone else is totally unaware of what is nearly smacking them in the face. This helps the reader/viewer feel intelligent.

Step 5: Take some Ambien, don't let yourself fall asleep and begin writing.

Step 6: Wait for Tom Hanks and Ron Howard to call.