Commenter Archive

Comments by CK MacLeod

On “In This Galaxy, Now

how far it suggests that group is from, well, just about everyone in their view of the film and what we all seemingly take it to represent.

Which group - the Alt-Right or the "Alt-Left" (or both)? Assuming we can't track down a readable version, perhaps you can summarize the view.


Something dysfunctional about the link, even when I locate it via Google search. Apparently a video, too?

On “The Stealth Self-Menace (Taking a side is the promise to ‘do it’)

I'd thought you might have something like the "fallen cosmos" in mind, but I think you'll accept that it qualifies as simply a Christian view (with a strong flavor of gnosticism), rather than as the Christian view. Declaring, as some have, that "Satan reigns in this world" poses problems, or introduces contradictions, in relation to any in theory Christian politics.

In general usage today, of course, "cosmos" tends to refer us to the modern astronomical concept and Carl Sagan's "billions and billions" of whichever astronomical objects. In the Medieval "cosmos," the heavens were a vault, a ceiling as though just beyond our fingertips, often the dwelling place of angels (who had brushed aside the Greek pantheon), not an all but unthinkably large expanse into curved spacetime. Some Medieval thinkers - for instance Ibn Rushd, usually taken as a rationalist among the primitives - took aspects of the Ptolemaic astrological model to be established fact. He also understood the Heavens to be obviously and demonstrably (his certainty on the subject is unambiguous) suffused with vitality and systematically connected to life on Earth, virtually the opposite of the common view today, according to which, as we are frequently reminded, we are unimaginably minuscule particles within an unimaginably vast and mostly lifeless universe. My own somewhat Idealist depiction, of the irreducibility of the observer or the subjective to any objective observation (in its achievement, in its enunciation, in its reception, in its being made meaningful) can be taken as an effort to make Rushdian sense of the materialist quantitative diminution of "beings" in relation to "mere being."

For Heidegger, the word "world" referred to the world as of concern to human beings. It amounts to "the human world," the realm of things that might possibly matter to us. Whether or not God, the angels, or Zeus and the Olympians, or Isis and Osiris, or the spirit of the brook, have anything to do with us and this world would be a separate question, unlikely to be answered by astronomical observations as normally performed.

As for your gallery of evil philosophers viewing the way of the world in the long view, or as though from orbit or maybe from 10 billion light years away themselves, I don't accept that even Nietzsche's unbounded yes to everything existing amounts to any simple approval of a school shooting, since the immensely and overwhelmingly negative response also "exists." From those thinkers and in such thought generally, we encounter some more or less secular theodicy, with, as I have pointed out many times by now, all of the problems of the more conventionally religious theodicy, in which the individual who would, say, praise God after the Holocaust, or after an earthquake in Chile, and see any higher purpose in it, is accused of simply praising the Holocaust and earthquakes, or approving of the Holocaust and earthquakes, or, likewise, of approving of war for its own sake, including all and especially the worst acts associated with war.

For "Holocaust" or earthquake or war we can substitute any other commonly acknowledged evil: chattel slavery, school shootings, the final episodes of LOST and SEINFELD. For a Christian the list includes the Crucifixion, of course. To say, loosely, that one might approve of a school shooting for all the good it does, for its reminding us that we are mortal and that a life or society dedicated to transitory pleasure is no life or society at all, is very much like saying loosely that one approves of the Crucifixion for all the good that it has done. Leaving aside the horrendous claim of a right and ability to judge the act as God's act, not ours, if we were simply to approve of the Crucifixion, on the basis of a theory - perfect moderns! - then we remove from it its power to do the good that we attribute to it. We obviate theodicy. Instead of turning us toward salvation, the evil or most evil act turns us toward the abyss, unmoved by the suffering of our fellow human beings.

All of those men viewed the vast body of humanity somewhat in the manner of doctors (if not with equal degrees of qualification for the operations they moved to perform). They did not (except perhaps in moments of madness) lightly proceed to vivisect that body. They understood the cries of pain and all the mess as unavoidable, but did not seek the pain and mess gratuitously. Without the presumption of our nearly universal, human-definitional actual inability to remain indifferent, their teachings would have no possible meaning at all.


Is there, however, any prospect that “what sustains our lives” might at the same time be inimical to our idealisms?

Of course, there is, but not as critique of "the cosmos" (though we would next have to define what you mean by "the cosmos"). As critique of "the way of the world" or "the way of our world": possibly. As criticism of a "deal" one might like to cancel: certainly.

As for the rest, see above regarding distinctions between pleasure and happiness, and between different notions of happiness. I don't disagree with you fundamentally about the inadequacy of conceptions of the good that we call typically modern, or necessarily with your criticisms of American society, or some of them, but blowing the latter up into theo-ontological questions the answers to which somehow lead to an approval, however tentative, of school shootings short circuits the inquiry. 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.


Yes–and so the “nihilist sociopath”, it would seem, proves to be something other than that.

Yes, that's true - or I think it's true in an important sense, though there's some question, as often in such things, about what the name is to be held to indicate. From a consistent idealist perspective, the word "nihilist," like "materialist" and even "atheist," is the name for someone who mistakenly believes that which properly speaking cannot actually be believed, since each is the name of a paradox, an "idea of no ideas." So, "nihilism" is the name for a series of wrong beliefs, including the belief that it is the name for an actually tenable position. But "nihilist" is also the name for "person called 'nihilist,' if with poor justification." The Nihilists of 19th Century Russia may have believed in the believability of many finally unbelievable things, and to have acted on that basis in certain characteristic ways. So though they were not, because no one can be, "really" rigorously nihilists in the sense that they didn't and couldn't really believe in "nothing" or in the nihilation of everything believed by anyone, they gave it the old college try.

Something similar is going on with the different interpretations of your notion of an amoral-as-immoral cosmos - and has to do with why I resisted getting into cosmology, and tried to get a clarification of what you meant by "evil."

Associating the question with the question of the philosopher vs non-philosophers pointed toward the absolutization of the question. I think that questions around the hedonistic society occur on a different level. As I suggested, "pleasure" and "happiness" become unstable as concepts, and I think ought to be separated. "Pleasure" mainly refers to a transitory experience. "Happiness" can refer to a transitory state, or it can also stand for a kind of overall judgment eventually connected to the highest human goals.

Whether typically modern and liberal individualist conceptions of "happiness" are flawed in a somewhat parallel way to the way that conceptions of "nihilism" are flawed isn't an idle question. Diverse thinkers have suggested more or less convincingly that the end point of the Enlightenment is realized nihilism, here as the nullification and annihilation of meaning: Technological progress as the complete triumph over nature and therefore the indistinction of mortality and immortality and in a certain way of truth and falsehood: The achievement of an infinite span of existence for a life not conceivably worth living - the true realization of the falsity of the untrue.


I'll take the last comment first, and see how doing so affects responding to the earlier ones:

The cosmos, in your depiction or according to your idea of the cosmos, is "inimical" to our "moral aspirations and ideas," since it is easy for me to divorce myself from the latter simply by considering the random arrangement of inanimate objects without imputing any moral significance to same. But "I" haven't divorced myself from morality. I have just engaged in an observation about which morality, or morality as I conceive it, has nothing to say. As a matter of fact, I have done so in defense of morality, or morality to me or the possibility of a meaningful morality, which would pertain to things that matter morally, not to things that cannot matter morally.

Apparently, if I were to find myself on the Moon without a spacesuit or spaceship, I would die within seconds. That makes the Moon inhospitable to me, and therefore possibly to any aspirations or ideals that depend on my actively seeking them - like much of the rest of the universe. Indeed, the interior of any mountain or the depths of any ocean would be for all intents and purposes equally inhospitable to my ideas and myself. Sheerly as a matter of so-called objective or physical measurement, the Earth is overwhelmingly more hostile than supportive of me, and overwhelmingly utterly unconcerned with or unmoved by my aspirations and ideals. The sun, upon which all life depends, cannot even be approached. It cannot even be looked at safely. We orbit a Medusa.

Yet how could it possibly be sensible to view what sustains our lives as hostile or "inimical" to them? If there were no cosmos, there would obviously be no lives for it to "endanger" or for "it" not to take into consideration as it goes unconsciously about its evil cosmic business.

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. At some level of reduction, not far from the point beyond which there is no "further" of relevance to questions of morality, around the one where words like "pleasure" and "happiness" become quite unstable, we have always already "chosen life."

What life, this "possession" of an inconceivably minuscule speck of matter, has going for it further is this: From the perspective of living-being or conceived-beings-conceiving, life is infinite. Death is always a theory or fantasy about something that hitherto has never actually occurred for us, and that by definition cannot occur, as it is the idea, or impossible fantasy, of the end of occurrences, or of possibility. What unites all of our "observations" of the vastly "inimical" universe is that, wherever we look, there is no looking without us (wherever you go, there you are).

We note the absence of people, or the absenting of people from our purview. We look at the hospital equipment and see the heartbeat stop, and we make educated guesses about what it means. We call our presence to ourselves "life," and assign and consign infinities of the past and future to non-existence, and, yet, at the same time, we or some of us apparently including you, propose a cosmos that is somehow both observed and never-observed - "mere being." So your cosmos inimical to us is not just a cosmos of death but a dead cosmos. The problem is that this cosmos does not exist and cannot exist. The only cosmos and only existence in which we believe is the one in which we are alive and observing, and that neither exists nor can exist except within our observation. What we know is that we are infinite exactly as far as we know, immortal so far. All else is speculation.

As for "good" and "evil," what we know to begin with and never escape is a presumption of a "better." There is no speaking, no conversing, that does not occur without the presumption on the part of the speaker in relation to the audience real or imagined that the world or a relations to it will be "better" for what is to be spoken to have been spoken than otherwise. 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. So, the will to the good, even if it's a twisted and actually pointless, false, and to others worthless good of a more authentically recognized as evil universe, remains ineluctable. In the universe as it really is known to us - including us, infinite and immortal, so far - all speaking is pervaded by the good, and so the cosmos, the real cosmos as we know and ever can conceive it, not the imaginary cosmos that would somehow be real but never imagined, is a cosmos of the good or goods, pervaded by seeking the better.


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.

According to whom or according to what rationale? 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?


As I said in my earlier reply, I don't quite see the need to get into the question of the cosmos, at least yet. I put my criticism in terms of "justification," but the point was as much to address contradictions in your treatment of the notion of "evil." You seem at some points to mean "evil from the point of view of people in general," but, in disassociating the philosopher from this perspective, you necessarily are disassociating the philosopher from the judgment. 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. Why should I or anyone choose society's judgment, which indeed you question fundamentally, over the alternative?

As I said, I'm leaving aside the question of whether the cosmos really can be consistently conceived in this way (since for the cosmos to be conceived, there must be a being conceiving, and a being-conceiving, and likewise a being judging or refraining to judge the cosmos as good or evil, and good or evil at all are all concepts that refer us to being as other than mere being...), because until I know what you can possibly mean by "evil," I would not want to venture into explaining why I believe it is nonsensical to describe the cosmos as evil or as simply evil. If there is evil, then there must be something other than evil. If there is something other than evil, than the universe isn't simply evil. You might urge upon some kind of weighing of the evil and the not-evil against each other, but I suspect it will turn out to be absurd.

On “Ordinary Times Is Currently A Left “Liberaltarian,” Mainly Cultural Site

Am working hard to make you less comfortable - or maybe comfortable in a different way, including with discomforts! - in the future.

Seriously, I do think there is a subtle yet powerful difference between having a "softly" ideological site and a self-consciously "ecumenical" site. The contradictions show up wherever the site seems to endorse non-negotiable political demands, or turn or try to turn political demands into non-negotiable moral-ethical premises. The non-negotiable demand that philosophy or free inquiry would make on liberal politics, including in this particular manifestation of it, is against the putting forward of non-negotiable demands. This demand is peculiarly non-enforceable, or enforceable only by threat of general strike or by simple non-compliance in the face of refusal. So, the site says you simply must not conceive opposition to marriage equality without facing banishment. Philosophy goes on conceiving anyway, as gently and often indirectly or even esoterically as the individual thinker, as citizen, finds necessary. One remains aware that banishment may come at any moment, fairly or not, with good cause or not, but that service to a decent even if in some absolute sense tyrannical regime may yield additional time. The regime's lack of sophistication and self-awareness - the fact that it does not quite know or want to know what it thinks or what its thinking if pursued consequentially would imply - provides an exploitable if not entirely dependable opportunity.

On “The Stealth Self-Menace (Taking a side is the promise to ‘do it’)

Nice try, I guess, at justifying the simply unjustifiable, the acceptance of which would also imply, as indeed per Nietzsche in ideas and in his life, the end of justifications.

Declining the implicit challenge to put my own or anyone else's comprehension of the cosmic all against yours, Mr. McKenzie, I'll rest for now on the obvious rejoinder: I do not notice any great deficit in need of supply by new memento mori - specifically in the form of dead children, bereaved parents, and hopelessly hopeful political initiatives - as I already am aware of and hour by hour so far interminably re-encounter a surfeit of death and suffering in the world or universe, which in your own description you constitute as nothing other or much more than one great memento and meta-memento.

The philosopher may encounter this type of nihilism and even try it on for size without approving of it or presuming that anyone's approval is needed, even before asking what the desire for same must imply. Justifying an attitude approaching indifference - merely approaching, so in its moment perfectly contradictory to its momentum - would be an easier task. Perhaps the violent deaths of several or tens of schoolchildren in Oregon or Connecticut or just over the hill should not matter to me as much as the death of my pets some years ago, or of my friend's mother two days ago, or of the spider spinning a web in my living room last night, but I can see no reason, given that information alone, to favor the erasure of the lives of the spider, the elderly parent, Annie or Buddy, or the schoolchidren some days ago. In your view, merely giving me something to ponder ought to be justification enough, but it would be pondering to no apparent or, indeed, according to your nihilistic precepts, no possible purpose.

On “Ordinary Times Is Currently A Left “Liberaltarian,” Mainly Cultural Site

hey bob!

One author - Mike Dwyer - who'd taken a beating in the comments section put up a closed-comments post. I was against it. Somebody else got afeared, for no good reason really, that the site was thinking about closing comments. That's all there is to that, and what I was responding to by calling the fear bizarre, considering how much work has been done (how much work yours truly has done), enhancing the OT comments section.

On “The Stealth Self-Menace (Taking a side is the promise to ‘do it’)

Such modest proposals ask to be taken as satire - for a narrow, likely an extremely or perhaps the right word is invisibly narrow, audience.


I would be happy to consider your views on this or any other topic, presuming they are expressed with due regard for the rules of discussion at this site (respect for intellectual adversaries, good taste, etc.) as I have explained them to you. If that ain't enough, wouldn't you rather avoid besmirching with shameful or unseemly expressions that avatar you've adopted?

So, take a deep breath, reflect on the fact that you yourself recognize that your views may be taken as offensive, and then go right ahead, if you still want to do so, taking care that irrelevancies or secondary faults of expression do not overly obscure your main argument, whatever it is. I'm curious!

(I wasn't, by the way, especially worrying about any of that when I posted the post: I needed to test out a certain on-publication function on a live site, and I decided for once to leave things as they were rather than overthought at length. Still, I see no good reason for you to follow my poor example.)


I shan’t put forward my incredibly offensive take

You find them terrifically amusing and wish only that there were more of them?

On “The internet is not a place – so not a terrible place

By that standard, Mr. McKenzie, all posts - and comments - are "about computer bullshit."

On “hardly nowhere to begin

That contradiction in that form, in which pagan virtues are turned upside down by Christian ones, was central to Nietzsche's work, and has led, to say the least, to many complex attempts at harmonization. According to Nietzsche and others, the drama began before Christ or is at the deeper origins of Christianity, given its form for us during the Babylonian exile of the Jews, and is possibly inherent in religion itself, but not alien to philosophy or, if the philosopher's life truly is the best life, to the challenge posed implicitly by philosopher to the city and its gods. [edited after garbled first try]

You are correct in your assumption about the general shape of MacIntyre's project. As he explains in his introduction to the 3rd Edition of AFTER VIRTUE, looking back from 25 years since first publication, he was an Aristotelian in moral philosophy (he puts the choice as Aristotle or Nietzsche, and prefers the former). In later years he found Aquinas to be a better Aristotelian than Aristotle, and also started a quest we've discussed at this site before, of, it seems, grounding a natural law philosophy in an updated understanding of biology.


Thanks - I'll be sure to inform my MacLeods about our prodigal cousin. As for Lewis, I don't know whether the Mackenzies, or MacKenzies, or McKenzies got it fair and square or more crookedlike.

I've been reading the work of another Scot, Alasdair MacIntyre. Am almost ashamed to have taken this long to get to him. His project is in broad terms Straussian, though not his approach to it (and I don't believe he ever mentions Strauss). Oddly, he invokes Hegel positively, but only briefly discusses him, and instead skips from Kant to Kierkegaard on the way through the 19th and 20th Century to us.


Seems to have worked as of now...

What's his name, and are you working on a post at OT on him?


It's been a long time since I added or updated a gravatar image, but, in my experience, changes generally have taken effect within minutes at most. It's possible something odd is occurring in gravatarland, but you might want to double-check your settings.


Hey VB - what happened to your regular avatar? Attached to some other email address only? I miss the dog, about whom I'm not sure the world has ever been much informed.

As for the main topic, there are millions of WP sites, so odds are against the copyright shysters ever getting to yours unless you're high profile AND lack an ability to defend yourself. I guess OT was just at the sweet spot of being noticeable and penniless both.

I realized I initially made it read in the post as though I'd devoted weeks just to the above plug-in. I've edited it to reflect the fact that this plug-in is just my first official, WordPress Repo'd plug-in. As you know, I've spend a lot more time and energy on much more complex applications - a lot of it with your help and advice...

On “Only a Zombie Walks in L.A.

Yes! Or a big part of it anyway.


The Mixxtail wasn't what I expected: more fruity than "hot," and went down very easy, kind of a beery sangria-like, thirst-quenching thing. I can see doing it again, especially during hot weather.


... one of these days, I'll try the Moonshine...


Marinated flanken ribs. Gonna try out a large pasilla chile, some zucchini. Maybe garlic-pepper "fries" from the Ore-Ida bag, maybe rice for filler. Do some tortilla and guacamole for starters.

The cheap booze ought to be TERRIBLE...

Firewalker Mixxtail

...but I've been curious, it was on sale, I'm almost out of rum, and I've been gradually replacing sugary desserts with spirits. Seems more manly.

On “Voegelin’s Gnosis, Part 3: Anismism

I'm going to rest on noting the divergence between Voegelin and other Christians/Catholics on the MBoC, and leave it at that for now.

As for the precise question of "existence of self," I am reminded of the discussions we've had - observing the usual suspects Heidegger, Cohen, Rosenzweig, and Aquinas here, too - about "existence of God" as a possibly nonsensical phrase, if "existence" is thought to refer to "mode of being of objects." One discussion we had on the subject previously was here (prior to a closer look at Aquinas): - (see comments as well as post). The topic is touched on in Part 2 of the Voegelin series, and we've struck glancing blows against it many times, especially in relation to Cohen's pre-Ontology ontology: