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Comments by bob


@ CK MacLeod:

"Texts of Evil" is so judgemental. We usually use the NY Times and that bursts into flames practically spontaneously.


Last year we got a stainless steel grill with a built-in charcoal chimney - so no need to dump white hot charcoal into the grill. It works quite well and impresses the neighbors. Admittedly the impressing part is secondary. Cooking dinner ranks first and last night's chicken was delicious.

I just hope that cooked goose is not on the menu for Saturday.

On “Last Testament: Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt

@ CK MacLeod:

His essay I posted to Rec Brow does give a more historical view - and a pretty ferocious one at that.

Today, we can still hear sputtering echoes of the attempt to reignite the cold war around a crusade against “Islamo-fascism.” But the true mental captivity of our time lies elsewhere. Our contemporary faith in “the market” rigorously tracks its radical nineteenth-century doppelgaenger—the unquestioning belief in necessity, progress, and History.

Now that is quite a mouthful.

On “Two-Way Street – Frank Rich on Iraq

@ CK MacLeod:

I wouldn't have it any other way.

On “Last Testament: Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt

I agree with Fuster - well done.

Has Judt included in this an analysis of freedom as the organizing principle of the current Right?

Some time ago I saw part of a Glenn Beck show (I'm sure this is not precisely accurate) where he seemed (wiggle words) to place his idea of freedom somewhere between the idea of limited govt and anarchy.

However innacurrate my account may be, I think the thought I attribute to Beck helps to cohere the apparent incoherence (to my mind) of much of the Right.

On “Two-Way Street – Frank Rich on Iraq

CK wrote

though almost everyone brought to offer an opinion seems compelled to submit a judgment and assign fault

Assigning blame is pretty much the only thing we have left for creating a sense of control.

On “No alternatives

@ Scott Miller:

I was equating “attitude” with consciousness. My “attitude didn’t help” was your specific point. You were right. By extending that into a broader concept I lost you. Sorry. But as it always is with everyone, your attitude was involved. In this case, it didn’t help you roll with what I was getting at, even though your “I can imagine contexts in which I would agree with it, and others in which I would disagree” statement is evidence that you did at least understand me. In the future, how about we try to roll with each other’s points a bit more? I think it would lead to better dialogue.

As a practical matter, I don't know what any of this means. I can imagine contexts in which I would agee with it, and others in which I would disagree. I'm unclear which of these imaginary contexts is relevant.


@ Scott Miller:

Bob rightfully recognizes that every point of debate carries with it the consciousness of the thinker.

That particular thought isn't mine. I'm not really sure what you mean by it. I can imagine contexts in which I would agree with it, and others in which I would disagree.

As for "listening to the right people"... If we can agree who the right people are, then for the most part, we will agree on the substantive issues.

Mindfullness is a great thing, but it's just a tool. I once heard a Geshe hilariously describe someone mindfully killing another.

Peacefullness is also a great thing, but it too is just a tool.

Boredom resides completely in the one who is bored.


Now, let me be clear. I meditate. I think everybody would be happier if they did too. But I know that not everyone shares that view.

But as with everything, there are rules to follow. If you don't follow the rules it doesn't matter how long you spend doing something.


@ CK MacLeod:

Whatever ideas SM and I might agree on, I don't recognize in his comments so far, ways of relating to the world with which I agree.

With a lot of the discussions here that doesn't matter. Here it does.


@ Scott Miller:

I gotta say your attitude of superiority and sarcasm doesn't help to get your points across.

On “The great set-up

The logical and mathematical implications would seem to be either a political assault on entitlements and domestic spending… or general political gridlock heading into 2012.

I don't see why IF/THEN is the logical logical operator. The logical possibilities include both and neither. I tend toward the expection that they will find a way to find satisy all the possibilites, creating a kind of political Moebius strip. The only other question is whether the twist is clockwise or couterclockwise.

On “Summer Snow

@ CK MacLeod:

Yeah, in that comment I skipped a more complete discussion of the tree spirit thing.

The spirit concept is pretty impervious to reason. But after my brain injury (as a more dramatic example) I worked with a shaman. Her methods required a certain degree of faith in "non-ordinary reality".

Maybe other, more rational methods would have also worked, but that's how I found a way out of the post injury bubble. It worked because I was able to, not suspend, my rational beliefs, but to allow the non-ordinary to exist in its full manifest subjectivety.


@ CK MacLeod:

The content of faith absolutely matters. But that content always evolves - otherwise we would still believe in "tree sprits". Some content moves us forward, some leads us to muderous chaos. But the function is the same, and think necessary.

I'm not talking about faith in terms of ordinary utility. Rather, I think some kind of ontological faith is necessary for cognition to operate.


@ George Jochnowitz:

I believe faith is inherently wrong. The world is an enormously complicated place, and we are constantly trying to learn more about it. We learn through exploration, experimentation, reconsideration, and hearing what others tell us. When we close our minds, however, and simply accept something because our doctrine tells us to do so, we stop learning.

My objection is the equation: faith = closed minds.

Your model of rationality is irrational because it is not possible to apply your standard to everything. Faith in all kinds of untrue things is simply needed to function.

Your confrontational style prompts people to close their minds prematurely to to the wonderful things you have to say. Then you lay their closed minds on them. Then you do not learn about them. This is irrational.

I believe relgious faith is the result of a combination of biological and social evolution. For much of the history of humanity it was quite functional.

It may be that we as a species need to not rely on it so much. But that is a different discussion.


@ George Jochnowitz:

Islam and Marxism, as I always say, are the only two doctrines nowadays that people accept with blind faith.

I don't know what this means. Do all Muslims and Marxists accept their doctrines "with blind faith"? Are there no Christians, Jews, Unitarians, Wicccans, Republicans, Democrats, vegans, who accept their views on "blind faith"? You seem to equate "blind faith" with the worst elements and impulses, is this accurate?

Is there no room anywhere for Augustine's "I believe in order to understand"?

I just don't find the phrase "blind faith" terribly useful. There are no uncaused events or phenonomen. Everything anybody does is embedded in a matrix of causes and conditions. What these are may or may not be clear to those involved, but I have faith that it is true.


@ George Jochnowitz:

I confess, I'm not learning either. Could you elaborate?


Let me stipulate here that my comments here are based on current neuroscience, but that I problably take it further than many in the field would find comfortable.

In other comments, I have made a distinction between religion and spirituality. They are distinct (but only recently recognized as such) phenonomen neurologically. The spiritual brain is closer to the atheist brain than to the religious brain.

It is possible to be both spiritual and either religious or athiest. Certainly relgions have spiritual components, but to define them mainly in those terms is I think inaccurate.

The religious brain is functionally similar with the brain processes concerned with in-group identity and in-group altruism, and with how to deal with out-groups.

That is to say, the religious brain is political.

Even further, I think an interesting hypotheses is: Politics is religion by other means.

I probably have more to say here, but, Owl - Cognition - Dusk.

On “One Year Ago – Today: The Triumph of Obamaphobia

It would be too easy for me to say you were just all hopped up on dopamine.

The more interesting question (to me) is, What changed your perspective?

We didn't have a TV until sometime in the 80's. So we listened to the 1980 Presidential campaign on the radio. We found "the Great Communicator" all but incomprehensible. We were completely mystified why epople thought he was such an effective speaker.

My father in law just brought a TV over one day. Our TV-less lifestyle bugged him to no end. So it was there. We watched it. And then it all made sense.

Reagan was the Great Communicator - on TV.

It was thenthat I had an even more important realization. For good or ill, we always got the President we deserved.

On “America agonistes

@ Rex Caruthers:

Neurologically, religion (but not spirituality) uses the brain mechanisms also used in in group identification, preference for freedom rather than equality, greater stability of beliefs, among others. That is, religion operates out of the conservatively wired parts of the brain.

Spitiuality operates out of the liberally wired parts of the brain. Just reverse the list above.

As for the "opiate" part of it, the conservative brain looks more to authority figures in figuring out what to think. Having everyone on the same page certainly is useful a lot of the time. But it does slow down possibly useful innovation.

One reading of Marx might be that he used Hegel's method but transferred it to the liberal circuitry.


@ CK MacLeod:

Yes, I misreaqd the quote.

But still, to define religion as only inwardness is in fact to to deny its full and free expression. It is to yoke it to the intersts of the state.

Neurlogically, religion functions using the same structures as in-group identification. Religion is the mechaninsm for devloping in group altruism, thereby stregthening the group.

Many people are religious without being very spiritual, while others are spiritual without being religious. That it is also comon to be both obscures that they are 2 differnt phenonomen.

Hegel confounds spirituality with religion. Religion is primarily a social
mechanism, not an inward one.


Neuroscience is well on the way of establishing that reason and emotion are both necessary for what we think of as "rational decision making".

Hegel's use of religion as a stand in for the emotions (inwardness) perhaps anticipates this. But taken on its own terms, I find it unstaisfactory. His conception of religion is religion removed from its own ground and yoked to the service of the state.

So, from my view, the inevitability of the "turbulent priest" scenario stands.

I wonder though if another interpetation is possible. Earlier I observed that religion can embody the national identity of a people. Poland, Ireland and Tibet come to mind.

Each of these nations was dominated by another nation. Religion, the inwardness of the individual, became the unassailable fortress of the nation.

Hegel's Germany had Napoleon.

More to come perhaps, but the Owl of Cogniton...


@ CK MacLeod:

It's the end of my cognitive day now, so most of this will have to wait. But Hegel was deluded mistaken to think the State and religion could coincide so. When has it been so?

Certainly there have been many times when rulers asserted it was so. But it pretty much is going to end with "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?".

And really, "reason alone" from the state?

Religion has no natural direct relationship with the state except as an embodiment of national identity (ie frequently, before globilization, "blood".)


The Wiki article on facism contains a quote from George Orwell in 1948: "the word 'Fascism' is almost entirely meaningless ... almost any English person would accept 'bully' as a synonym for 'Fascist'".

"Blood and soil" however has possibilities. One one hand the pluralism of the US should work against any meaningful "blood" ideology. On the other, the lack of pluralism on the right suggests it has some power here too.

The Cordoba House controversy has become a blood and soil issue of the first rank. That it (allegedly) involves proposed monumental architecture in the shadow of obliterated, and then unrealized-memorial monumental architecture creates a situation made for the dopamine activation system favored by conservatives.

Looking up in dopamine induced anticipatory ecstasy, unreflective conservatives are crushed to see a star in the darkened sector of the crescent moon.

Culture becomes a stand ins for blood. Religion, almost always the side kick to blood, takes its natural place here.

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