Commenter Archive

Comments by Wade McKenzie

On “Si Vis Bellum, Part 2: Catastrophes

"Both statements are in their form... completely alien to my approach to these matters"

No, MacLeod, that won't do. You have spoken of the impending Trump presidency in apocalyptic terms, you have fretted about Donald Trump ending liberal democracy in the United States, you have explicitly characterized the election of Donald Trump as "regime change"--and you have even characterized the nature of said "regime change" to be precisely analogous to the sort of regime change that President George W. Bush carried out in Iraq. You have said that what President Bush did to the "poor Iraqis" is just what President Trump intends to do to the American people (you know, the "Operation American Greatness" of which you are reminding us on a well-nigh daily basis--itself an analogue of "Operation Iraqi Freedom").

Of course, all this is an embarrassment and it's plain to see why you don't want to own it. But rather than pretending that you haven't engaged in this puerile discourse, perhaps you ought humbly to retract this silliness--or even just leave it behind--and begin offering instead the sort of detached analysis to which you claim to aspire.


"It’s a minor pet peeve of mine that many (not you) are going on about Donald Trump is about to upend the post WW2 order. At best, he’s about to upend the post Cold War order, but that order isn’t as orderly as everyone thinks."

I agree wholeheartedly with the gist of this paragraph--with one exception. MacLeod most certainly has been "going on about [how] Donald Trump is about to upend the post WW2 order." He has presented the election of Donald Trump in frankly apocalyptic terms, even fretting prissily that President Trump will terminate liberal democracy in the United States. So please don't neglect to include him as a proper object of your "minor pet peeve".

On “Operation American Greatness

Electing Donald Trump by no means constitutes a "regime change" or even an attempt at a regime change. A regime change is just that, a change of regime--in other words, converting an oligarchy into a democracy, or a democracy into a monarchy, or (as in Iraq) a tyranny into a democracy. Voting for Donald Trump is, by definition, a continuation of the present democratic regime.

Now, both his supporters and his opponents tend to imagine that the election of Donald Trump might usher in a dramatic shift in U.S. immigration, economic, and foreign policy--but dramatic shifts in each of those areas have occurred repeatedly throughout the history of the United States. Our current policies on these lines are themselves the result of a dramatic shift in U.S. policy in the wake of the Second World War and the ascension of the United States to "superpower" status. So major policy shifts are really nothing to wax apocalyptic about. We could have a lengthy discussion about dramatic policy shifts in U.S. history that make Donald Trump's advocacy of a return to the standard U.S. policies of the pre-World War II era seem relatively tame.

As to the claim that your exaggerated opposition to Donald Trump is emphatically not a register of support for Crooked Hillary and that it is "fallacious" of me to suggest that it is, I'll leave it to those who may be reading along to assess whether or not the logical implication of your overwrought contempt for Donald Trump is that Hillary Clinton ought to be elected President instead. But by the lights of your original piece, whereby advocacy of the notion that the present state of affairs is so degenerate that no plausible alternative could make things worse is a kind of political sin or hamartia--and where your specific example of the hazards of this notion is support for the Iraq War--one is minded (again, by your own piece) to be skeptical of the idea that Hillary would be a wise choice for President.

That support for Donald Trump is only speculatively subject to the terms of your analysis is due to the fact that we don't actually know what the outcome of a Trump presidency would be like. For all we know (as opposed to all we speculate) the Trump presidency might prove to be successful--we just don't know. By contrast, the outcome of the Iraq War is known--it isn't a speculation.

I don’t personally choose to participate in the “well-night universal consensus or groupthink” either on the war decision or on the assumption that the counterfactual, no invasion in ’03, would certainly have produced a “better” outcome.

Well in that case, I'm not even sure what the purpose of your citation of the Iraq War's origination in the sort of thinking that your piece clearly criticizes really amounts to and I think it testifies to a problem that haunts your negative stance regarding Mr. Trump--namely, it's an intense predilection, a passion, frankly an instance of "groupthink", that (at least occasionally) wants to masquerade as a point of sober political analysis.


Am I understanding you aright? We were led into the Iraq War--which, according to a well-nigh universal consensus or groupthink, had a more or less disastrous outcome--by a sense that no possible result of the war could be worse than the status quo ante, and now an analogous argument is being made for the election of Donald Trump (the election of Trump can't eventuate in anything worse than the way things already are)--so we must elect instead one of the major proponents of the aforementioned and notorious Iraq War. We must elect a woman who accepted the argument that the invasion of Iraq couldn't be any worse than the alternative courses of action, due to the hazards of the time--an argument of course that Daniel McCarthy didn't make, but that Hillary did.

Is your argument that Hillary--by virtue of having actually committed the error, having actually made the mistake (of believing the idea that a given state of affairs is so perilous that a worse state of affairs isn't plausibly conceivable), which can only speculatively be imputed to the supporters of Donald Trump--is, like the Ancyent Marinere, a "sadder and a wiser man" and we can count on her to possess the wisdom born of repentance, despite her prior foray into the hubris of not standing "idly by" while dangers gather?

You'll forgive me, but there does seem to be a little something "off" about this line of thought.

Build the Wall - Kill em All

On “Daniel McCarthy: New Class War – The American Conservative

Though I thought the McCarthy piece was interesting--and some of the responses to the piece from the commenters down below also interesting--I came away with the distinct impression that McCarthy's purpose in writing it was to recast the Trump phenomenon and all it signifies and portends away from its rather obvious racial implications and substitute instead an interpretation rooted in a (to my mind, controversial) understanding of contemporary class dynamics ("managerial elite" vs. "new class") all to the end of allowing Mr. McCarthy to salve his paleocuckservative conscience as he proceeds to vote Trump. "No racial interests here, just class interests."


Thanks for referring me to this piece of yours. I was inspired by your reading Lord Mahon's Life of Belisarius. I read my fair share of old books, but they tend to be classics of literature and philosophy (or translations of uber-classic histories like Thucydides or Livy) and I've long been meaning to delve into the less well remembered texts of now-obscure historians.

I'm afraid I don't find Ms. Alexander's interpretation, as you've summarized it, convincing. In her telling, Achilles was a kind of proto-John Kerry (recalling his leading involvement as a veteran in the anti-war movement). Tempted though I am, I'll refrain from characterizing it as "projection"--I fear I may have lost all credibility on that line.

Present-day moderns find war to be uniformly awful, for the reason, I think, that war is the negation of the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain which they reckon is the meaning of life, and so war is not only horrid but meaningless. Except, of course, when war is necessary to suppress even worse iterations of anti-hedonistic tendencies than war as such--the atrocities of the Third Reich, for example. War threatens political hedonism, but resolutely ant-hedonist regimes like Sparta or the Third Reich or the Soviet Union threaten it (or can threaten it) even more. It goes without saying that war is horrifying in any of its iterations--ancient, medieval, modern--but regimes and polities that don't orient themselves by the cynosure of pleasure and pain can find a virtuousness in war-fighting that transcends the horror of it.

I won't synopsize Udwin's rival interpretation of the Iliad, except to point out that Achilles doesn't withdraw from the fight out of new-found regret at the horror of war, but rather because of Agamemnon's failure to glorify him as the Achaeans' pre-eminent warrior. It is a traitorous act, whereby he seeks his own vindication precisely by consigning so many of his countrymen to their deaths by his absence. And the responsibility is principally Agamemnon's, who ought to have begun as he needs must end--appeasing his foremost champion.

On “An Ancient Peruvian Mystery Has Been Solved From Space – IFLScience

I've given a little more thought to your citation of the Roman aqueducts, and I realize that I missed something important about it--it posed far more of a challenge to my characterization of the "hydraulic project hypothesis" as a "projection from contemporary life" than I at first understood.

In my initial response, I focused on the distinction between the Romans as an antecedent Western people vs. the Nazca as a wholly extraneous, archaic people. But to the extent that the paquios are hypothesized as a "water distribution system" then they can be analogized to the Roman aqueducts, as you in fact did, and that is enough to make clear that the hypothesis--whatever its flaws may otherwise be--is not a projection "from contemporary life". So with deeply felt shame and contrition, I'm afraid I must retract that assertion of mine, despite my repeated asseverations to you and Bob that it was just obvious, etc.

I still think the substance of my criticism of the hypothesis stands--namely, that it is a guess, a belief, not knowledge, and that we can never actually know what the paquios are, but only speculate about them.

To the extent we’re referring to a particular narrative – “our history” or “history for us” – maybe we’re in the process of bringing or trying to bring Nazca civilization into “history for us.”

And to the extent that we are trying to bring Nazca civilization into "history for us" via imaginative speculations that are unlikely to be true in the sense of scientific truth, then (on analogy with Machtpolitik) we might term that undertaking Machthistorie--bringing the Other into our history by intellectual or imaginative force. Nor am I necessarily objecting to that undertaking. Like the Freund/Feind distinction that lies at the heart of the concept of the political--like Machtpolitik itself--Machthistorie may be so eminently natural and necessary as to be hardly objectionable.

On “World War Zero brought down mystery civilisation of ‘sea people’ – New Scientist

Just in case anyone's interested, I've read a fascinating book that bears on this subject (bronze age warfare). Here's the Amazon blurb:

On “An Ancient Peruvian Mystery Has Been Solved From Space – IFLScience

Bob, I really must insist that this business isn't as straightforward or clear-cut as you imply. Throughout the article you cite, verbs like "believe" and "suggest" preponderate to describe the scientists' newly-minted view of the paquios as a "water distribution system". In fact, I'm tempted to quote those sentences here and highlight those verbs in order to make my point, but I suppose it would be tedious of me. However, that this idea--"the paquios are a hydraulic project/water distribution system"--is a speculative hypothesis is made plain from the article itself.

The new "belief" and "suggestion" concerning the paquios is contrasted with the "mystery" and "puzzlement" that pervaded the study of the paquios before the new "belief" about them was formulated. If the paquios were as straightforwardly comprehensible as a "hydraulic project" as you imply, such that you can see no projection here, one might suppose that the baffling "mystery" of the paquios would have been solved considerably earlier. Yet both of the articles that we've looked at make clear that the perplexing "mystery" of the paquios is one of long standing.

In fact, the article you cite even makes clear that scientists don't actually know if the paquios were constructed by the Nazca. Again, they "believe" they were, but...

As to "some of the paquios [being] still in use today”--it sounds dubious to me. If some of the paquios were "still in use", I don't see how we could have had a "mystery" of such proportions in the first place.

As I said, the speculation that the paquios are a "hydraulic project" is obviously a case of projection. That doesn't necessarily mean that the speculation is proven false thereby--strictly speaking, I suppose, it's possible for an assertion to be "projective" yet somehow true--but it does prima facie undermine it. It won't do simply to insist that there is no projection here--I'm confident that it is as obvious to you as it is to me or anyone else. The problem with which you're faced is to account for why the projective nature of the hypothesis doesn't cast considerable doubt on same.


I tend to think that artifactual remains of prehistoric cultures are so far removed from any prospect of modern comprehension, etc.

I don’t see why we need to presume that what a civilization accomplished some 2,000 years ago must remain “far removed from any prospect of modern comprehension.” Around the same time the Romans, after all, were building their aqueducts, etc.

The Romans are certainly not accurately characterized as "prehistoric". Perhaps I myself am not accurately characterizing the Nazca as "prehistoric", since I know nothing about them other than what I read in this article. However, the fact that the artifactual remains in question--the so-called paquios--are characterized as a "mystery", such a mystery indeed, that some have invoked extraterrestrials in possession of high technology to explain them, itself testifies to a problem of incomprehension. It may well be that my "tendency", as I put it, to be skeptical about the prospect of accurately interpreting these things will prove to be wrong, but it at least acknowledges that the "mysterious" aspect of the problem is reflective of a supramundane, unusual degree of perplexity concerning these matters.

By contrast, though you're right that we don't perhaps understand the causes of the Second World War--and maybe we never will--few feel the need to invoke such superlunary explanations as space-faring aliens. The Second World War wouldn't appear to be quite as "mysterious" as the Pyramids. (However, even as I write these lines, I feel that I might be open to the idea that events like the Second World War, etc. are approximately as "mysterious" as are ancient monuments like the Pyramids--but I think that takes us into a worldview that is far removed from modern rationalism. I'm willing to go there, but I don't think you would be.)

The Romans are, in a very real sense, part of our own cultural and civilizational matrix--I think we could legitimately say that they are us or of us, in approximately the same way in which our fathers and grandfathers are of ourselves. The Romans left plenty of texts behind, which we can read. Their leaders and thinkers have always been held in the highest esteem by Western man, right on up to the present day. The Romans play an essential role in our religious tradition, having been the rulers of Judaea and the Mediterranean in the time of Jesus and his apostles. By contrast, the Nazca are disconnected from our own cultural matrix and I think that poses real problems to our understanding of their culture.

The most succinct point I was making, though, is that it is just obvious that characterizing the paquios as a "hydraulic project" is a projection from contemporary life, so one has to account somehow for why the "projectional" quality of the hypothesis doesn't undermine it.

A more obvious rejoinder to my skepticism about the possibility of interpreting prehistoric artifactual remains would be: are we not able to interpret spoons, cups, knives, houses, etc.?


I don't know if you bothered to scroll down and read the comments or not. The discussion there centers on the idea that the purpose of the ostensible "solution" of "An Ancient Peruvian Mystery" is to refute the "ancient aliens" hypothesis a la von Daeniken. Opinions seem to fall out about evenly--half or so argue that the scientific "solution" of the problem doesn't disprove the "ancient aliens" hypothesis, the other half trumpets the clarifying rationality that scientific scrutiny brings to bear on such "mysteries".

I suspect that both sides of the argument are misapplied. It's easy to pooh-pooh the "ancient alienists", less so to understand that the "modern rationalists" may be approximately as goofy. I tend to think that artifactual remains of prehistoric cultures are so far removed from any prospect of modern comprehension, that to supply any interpretation of them at all--be it "ancient aliens" or "the puquios were the most ambitious hydraulic project"--is to do little more than guess or project. That both the "ancient aliens" and the "hydraulic project" hypotheses are projections of our contemporary life seems obvious--and that even if one believes the former speculation or the latter has a certain plausibility.

On ““described fairly”

"And our foreign policy, described fairly, resembles the last weeks of a bloodthirsty crime family, led to its bitter end by demented octogenarians."

While I might sympathize with Dougherty's negative assessments of American domestic policy, his characterization of contemporary U.S. foreign policy as bloodthirsty, criminal and demented strikes me as outlandish or even silly. Obama administration foreign policy has been relatively prudent, restrained and moderate, in my view. By highlighting "described fairly" in your heading, I take it you're criticizing the notion that it is indeed a fair description and I concur--it isn't.


Cosmos means "world", as you know, and I've more or less used it in that sense. So "way of the world" isn't a bad shorthand for what I've been getting at, though I admittedly revel in the grandiose resonance of "cosmos". Without saying so, I've more or less referred to a concept of the cosmos or world that is broadly consonant with Christianity--wherein the devil is the kosmokrator and the cosmos itself may well be a living, sinful, fallen being.

Now, the "Christian" fallen cosmos is only a vague background thought that I don't think is crucial to my argument (such that I have an argument). I suppose that it goes without saying that what I have said is as well more or less consonant with the sort of Sartrean, lifeless cosmos which you have remarked as the prospective "cosmos-concept" of my argument.

So, I prefer a Christian "cosmos-concept" in either its traditional or secularized form, as I think it accords well with how things seem. For the purpose of our discussion, I'm not emphasizing Christianity as such, just its "cosmos-concept" or a near relation.

One of my key thrusts is that I am not a political hedonist and so I don't think that mitigating physical pain ought to be one of our pre-eminent moral-political concerns. That obviously puts me at odds with most folks, including you, and there's really nothing I can, or care, to do about that. You see that at the beginning of this exchange, where I portray an indifference to the suffering caused by school shootings. This has engendered a certain amount of "displeasure" on your part. But one of my contentions would be that, if we weren't in a political order consecrated to the individual pursuit of pleasure, we wouldn't be having "school shootings" as a distinct phenomenon. I won't unpack that idea--as you say, there's nothing I'm saying here (beside the specific connection to "school shootings") that's original. I think you can conduct the implied critique yourself.

The problem I think you want to address has been examined by many authors, but none of them required an approval of semi-random slaughter of children to make the point.

With all due respect, I think this is more clever than authentically challenging. Taking your remark at face value, is it really the case, for example, that Nietzsche doesn't require it--all the senseless cruelties of the ages? If he does, then I've refuted the "none of them" of your remark. Didn't Hegel require the slaughter-bench of history? You say he didn't approve? Oh, I suspect he was far less squeamish than you, CK. You don't think Kojeve approved of the slaughter-bench and even the purge? Do you know that Carl Schmitt called the Night of the Long Knives "the highest form of administrative law"? Didn't de Maistre require a little slaughter and sacrifice? Didn't the Florentine have some peculiar advice for his prince? Maybe they didn't urge an "acceptance" of school shootings, but then again they didn't live to see this new and strange fruit of the society consecrated to the pleasure-seeking individual.


Yet how could it possibly be sensible to view what sustains our lives as hostile or "inimical" to them?

It couldn't possibly be sensible--and so I'm glad I haven't viewed it that way. Is there, however, any prospect that "what sustains our lives" might at the same time be inimical to our idealisms? You might disagree about which or what sort of idealisms are inhibited by that which "sustains our lives", but surely you don't suppose that it lacks all sense to view it as a possible problem. In fact, isn't modern philosophy in general a response to the past grounded in the notion that that which sustains our lives doesn't sustain certain of our previously attempted idealisms? In effect, I criticize modern political philosophy on analogous grounds. It is an attempt at a kind of idealism of pleasure that I avow will not succeed.

All of which is a roundabout way of returning to the simple observation that there can be no meaningful concept of evil in the absence of a meaningful concept of the good.

Precisely so. And the gist of all my remarks is that the good is not to be identified with pleasure or happiness. More specifically, the political telos of any community ought not to be to facilitate the private pursuit of pleasure/happiness.

we or some of us apparently including you, propose a cosmos that is somehow both observed and never-observed

Including, say, Lucretius. I suppose that your architectonic criticism of De Rerum Natura would more or less track your criticism of the view I have put forward in this disputation. I only mention this because you're criticizing me for something that is rather commonplace in the tradition--that is to say, characterizing the cosmos as such. In fact, I'm not entirely persuaded that any philosopher abstains therefrom. But, as I say, I'm willing to entertain your view on this at further length if you would care to speak more about it.

I'm not against life and I'm not keen to overemphasize death. I guess my whole point would be that death needs to be emphasized to an appropriate degree, and that--despite the ongoing death of innumerable Fidos and the steady supply of memento mori they represent, as well as your assurance that we can be apodictically certain of immortality and thus have no need of memento mori--American society tends radically to underemphasize death and pain, as is natural to a political order that pursues pleasure above all else.


I intend to engage your comment more fully, God willing. Having just read it for the first time, I'd like to make one observation and ask one question.

The “better” may be a mad and twisted “better” understood and accepted only by the speaker, but, for example, when the nihilist sociopath rises to speak “in favor” of school shootings, his speaking is always a speaking toward “betterment,” toward, in this instance, a universe better somehow, or less worse, for acknowledgment of the truth of its truthlessness.

Yes--and so the "nihilist sociopath", it would seem, proves to be something other than that.

In your comment, you consistently impute to me the view that the amoral cosmos is inimical to "life", human "life"--whereas I thought I'd made more or less clear that I set up the amoral cosmos in opposition to a sociopolitical pursuit of pleasure/happiness--not "life" as such, in particular the "life" of virtue or virtù. Why do you do that?


The cosmos is so inimical to our moral aspiration and idealism, that it is as easy as to glance down at our desk as to become one with the perspective of amorality. So, if we hope to realize our moral aspiration and idealism in any serious way, we're going to have to work very hard to overcome the natural disposition--always ready to hand, just a glance away--to moral inertia. In other words, we must pursue virtue. Pleasure, the "pleasant" life, the pursuit of happiness, ain't gonna cut it. Societies dedicated to the realization of personal pleasure and happiness, must necessarily gravitate toward natural, ready-to-hand amorality, because it takes cultivated discipline to overcome it, discipline which the hedonistic political order fails to cultivate--and when societies, unlike pens, are amoral or "neutral", they really are immoral.


I view the angle at which the pen on my desk happens to be lying as neither moral nor immoral. I am neutral regarding the position of my pen. Why are we, my pen and I, immoral?

And--if I might be permitted, however unadvisedly, to tackle your reduction to absurdity--that it is as easy to step entirely out of the domain of the moral and the good as to glance down at one's desk... Ought that not give a man at least some pause?


“Is the world the sort of place where political orders dedicated to the realization of personal pleasure and happiness make sense?”

Alternatively, there must be some reformulation or rephrasing of this question that you would deem acceptable. What would that be?


Nice try, I guess, etc.

What you're saying--and what you've implied more than once--is that you don't care to characterize the nature of things, the nature of things "writ large". I suppose that's a legitimate option--in some respects, I think it's Nietzsche's option--but it still seems to me that to pose the question, "Is the world the sort of place where political orders dedicated to the realization of personal pleasure and happiness make sense?", is legitimate. By inference, you don't think it is a question legitimately posed.

And, if that's what you think, then I'd sincerely be interested in entertaining your further thoughts thereon. I'd like to hear them. Please don't think you'd just be wasting your time.


Also, because our most recent exchange has somewhat dislodged the controversy from its embedded context, I'd like to remind us both of that context.

If the world, the cosmos, nature, etc. is inimical to what is moral by virtue of being amoral--and is thus a relatively harsh place for human striving--how can a society dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure/happiness be viable in any long term?


I think you've rightly divided or parsed my remarks and their implications. Where I think the "popular" or societal view and the philosophical view do, in point of fact, coincide, has to do with the following observation.

In short, in your depiction, the philosopher appears neutral toward that which society calls good or evil, in line with a cosmos that is likewise neutral, and society interprets the former as “evil,” while refusing to accept the latter.

The morally "neutral", i.e. the amoral, is, by definition, immoral--and, in the popular or "religious" view, evil. Now, you might quibble whether the immoral equates to the evil, but I'd be very surprised if you were to attempt the equation of the immoral and the moral.

So, let's set aside for now my controversial deployment of the term "evil". What I finally asserted is that the cosmos is "better characterized"--not of course absolutely cognized, as you say (but surely it's a legitimate endeavor for a human being to characterize the cosmos, if not absolutely to cognize it, and I'll only remind you of your characterization of same as a place where memento mori are not in need of resupply)--as amoral than moral, and thus immoral. And therefore the philosophic mind, as the mind in search of universal, cosmic, natural, eternal truth, necessarily participates in the immorality of the universe, cosmos, nature, etc.

In other words, there really is no refuge in terms like "amoral" or "neutral"--an absence of morality is every bit as immoral as is an explicit opposition to what is moral. In fact, what is popularly called "immorality" usually takes the form of a particular departure from the canon of morality. Amorality, however, tends to negate the canon as such.

Of course, I grant that the path I have taken in my comments isn't the only path to be trod. As Longstreet said to Lee not long before the fateful charge on the third day of the battle of Gettysburg: "That way to the right is still open, General." Mutatis mutandis, you can take that way yourself, CK--as you yourself have hinted more than once. Namely--maybe the cosmos isn't best characterized as amoral/immoral/evil. Maybe it's better characterized as moral/good. I"m personally inclined to suppose that that's a very hard road to go down. But if you care to go down that road, I'm all ears.


Upon further review of my lengthy comment wherein I initially discuss what I term "the free and evil mind" of philosophy, I think it's clear that I did in fact endorse it--on the basis that the universe to which it needs must adequate itself is inherently evil. I characterize it as "necessary and useful".

I don't think the necessity and utility of the evil mind ("free thought", free inquiry) is incompatible with the notion of a "higher" (read: theoretical, intellectual, spiritual) truth of moral idealism. But I do think an evil universe so militates against the realization of a higher moral idealism that it is made de facto politically inconsequential thereby--and to the extent that we try to compel its realization, may well become another manifestation of the cosmos' underlying evil tendency.

But I think the key points of my previous comment stand.

You've yet to come to terms fully with the fact that free inquiry = amoral inquiry = evil inquiry. That is the point of the notion that, to thought as such, there are no thoughts intrinsically offensive in themselves--not even thoughts that entertain the notion that school shootings might be a blessing to society as a whole.

And again, given the fact that you appear to grant the truth of the idea that the cosmos is more realistically characterized as evil than good (I think it's very difficult not to grant that), you need to explain how a society dedicated to pleasure or happiness (high or low it makes no difference, but the USA is obviously committed to the latter sort) can realistically be durable in an inherently evil cosmos.

Would I be right to suppose that you will take what I understand to be the Hegelian route? Namely, that its durability is built upon precedent evil and vice, the proverbial "slaughter-bench of history"? If so, you'll almost be making my own case for me.


I think you elide an important distinction. In my comment, I described what I termed the "free and evil mind" of philosophy--taking flight from my own (undoubtedly tasteless) precedent attempts at black humor, Nietzsche's der freie Geist, as well as your own prior ruminations on the notion of philosophic thought's incapacity to experience any intrinsic offense in thoughts themselves.

Now, while my comment trafficked in a certain ambiguity, I don't think I in fact endorsed the philosopher's free and evil meditation. What I did in fact endorse is the notion that the universe is better characterized as an evil, rather than a good, cosmos. And thus I concluded--absent some mitigating factor or other--that the free and evil mind of philosophy might be so eminently natural as to constitute mankind's "nature" par excellence. That "might" is significant. And I leave aside as well, for now, the possibility that man's nature might be susceptible of an ascent to the supernatural.

It seems to me that, given your embrace of a philosophical sect, you are the one far more committed to the validity of philosophy's free and evil mind than I--despite your apparent reluctance to come to terms with the possibility that to practice "free thought" is necessarily tightly to embrace the amoral (and thus immoral), however momentarily. Just because we worship the devil one minute at a time, we aren't absolved thereby from the charge of devil-worship.

Oddly enough, in spite of your reply's aversion to my comment, you do indeed seem to grant its thesis--the universe is basically evil. Yet you go on to imply that, despite that unhappy basis, a kind of shallow sentimentalism is nonetheless warranted. Until you clarify how you coordinate an evil cosmos and a human response to it that warrants an attempt at the formation of states whose immanent telos is the pursuit of happiness, I'll have to assume that your reaction to my comment was animated by a certain frustration with my chosen means of expression rather than by "thought" as such.


I trust the black humorous quality of my preceding comments will be recognized by all and sundry. Nonetheless, "black humor" or dark comedy signifies something serious, maybe even deadly serious. That "something" is closely aligned with--if not identical to--the notion that, to thought itself, there is no thought offensive in itself. That notion I would call, following Nietzsche's usage, "the free mind"--der freie Geist.

Well, I claimed that I had an "incredibly offensive" take on the subject of school shootings--but surely you know by now that I'm a bit of a buffoon. In fact, I haven't really considered it at any length, only ever had a fleeting thought--one that puts me in mind of the first aphorism of Nietzsche's The Gay Science. While I would urge the gentle reader to review the aphorism in its entirety, allow me to quote just a few pertinent sentences therefrom (Kaufmann trans.):

"Even the most harmful man may really be the most useful when it comes to the preservation of the species; for he nurtures either in himself or in others, through his effects, instincts without which humanity would long have become feeble or rotten."

"The species is everything, *one* is always none."

"All ethical systems hitherto have been so foolish and anti-natural that humanity would have perished of every one of them if it had gained power over humanity."

"Again and again the human race will decree from time to time: 'There is something at which it is absolutely forbidden henceforth to laugh.'"

For the most part, I think I'll just leave it to the reader to ponder how the preceding quotations might be brought to bear on the subject of school shootings--and thereby to glimpse my own fleeting thought thereon.

I suppose it ought to go without saying that, from the standpoint of the non-philosopher, the free mind--the notion that, to thought as such, there is no thought intrinsically offensive--is itself an intrinsically offensive, or even evil, thought. From the perspective of the non-philosophic multitude, the free mind--which might alternatively be characterized as something like the sum and substance, the essence, of philosophy as a way of life distinct from religion or quasi-religion--is of necessity an evil mind. Keeping in mind (no pun intended) that that perception of the free mind as an evil mind is just that, a perception on the part of a non-practitioner, the ultimate validity of the free mind may well depend on whether the cosmos is best construed as a place that--speaking very generally, of course--is mostly friendly or mostly hostile to the sorts of pursuits with which the non-philosophic masses yearn to preoccupy themselves; things like safety, comfort, leisure, pleasure, fun. If the universe is a friend of such pursuits, if the cosmos is an ally of the multitude's yearning for a life of non-philosophic gaiety--and thus its yearning for an attendant political order that will conduce to the realization thereof--then the free and evil mind may well be a luxury (and even a perversity) with which we might safely dispense, there being no real need (other than the philosopher's private, and perhaps perverse, enjoyment) to leave any space in human thought for the contemplation of all that the multitude deems evil.

I am myself inclined to take the other fork in the road. The universe, as a whole and in the long run, is deeply unfriendly to the sorts of low pursuits which infuse the hearts of the masses (so long as any of those pursuits is upheld as man's summum bonum) and necessarily unfriendly to the sorts of political orders that seek principally to midwife those pursuits--and thus the evil mind of philosophy will always be necessary and useful as mankind goes his sempiternal way in what, from the point of view of the unwise many, is an evil cosmos.

To return to the issue of school shootings--. A school shooting in America strikes at the heart of all that Americans hold dear. While students pursue their various courses of technical education, so that they may one day take their place effectively in the highly articulated network of services that enable everyone's pursuit of safety, comfort and fun, a madman strikes and--well, takes all the safety, comfort and fun out of it. It is a disturbing reminder--one out of God only knows how many--that human life cannot be made safe for the pursuit of comfort and pleasure, so long as humanity (or a given politeia) fails to prepare itself for violence and harm. Any polity that aspires fundamentally to the pursuit of pleasure (whether high or low pleasure, noble or base, makes no difference) is doomed to fail without, at the same time, cultivating a modicum of martial virtue--and thus undermining its hedonistic rationale.

While the left and the right will continue stridently to debate the merits of their respective proposals to solve the problem (roughly, disarmament and rearmament), I don't think anyone can reasonably suppose that school shootings aren't going to be with us for a very long time to come, no matter what--and thus it might behove the devotee of philosophy authentically to accept them. If the free and evil mind has its validity, then it might be a kind of piety of thought itself--in a modest and gentle sort of way--to feel grateful for school shootings, to view them as relatively benign and much-needed reminders (in the midst of a polity whose pre-eminent virtue is liberality) of the cosmos' elemental opposition to all moral-political idealisms that aspire to realize a permanent state of communal safety, pleasure and non-violence.

To sum up: If the cosmos is inherently amoral (and thus immoral), then it is inherently inimical to mankind's moral aspirations--those aspirations being, in a sense, unnatural. In that case, I avow, the free or "evil" mind of philosophy proves to be mankind's most "natural" possession. I leave it to the fair reader to elaborate the disjunctive proposition.

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