A Philosopher's Blog

Running & Freedom

Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy, Running by Michael LaBossiere on February 5, 2014
Photo by Paula O'Neil

Photo by Paula O’Neil

This past Saturday, I was doing my short pre-race day run and, for no apparent reason, my left leg began to hurt badly. I made my way home, estimating the odds of a recovery by Sunday morning. When I got up Sunday, my leg felt better and my short jog before the race went well. Just before the start, I was optimistic: it seemed my leg would be fine. Then the race started. Then the pain.

I hobbled forward and “accelerated” to an 8:30 per minute mile (the downside of a GPS watch is that I cannot lie to myself). The beast of pain grew strong and tore at my will. Behind that armor, my fear and doubt cowered—urging me to drop out with whispered pleas. At that moment of weakness, I considered doing the unthinkable: hobbling over to the curb and leaving the race.

From the inside, that is in my mind, this seemed to be a paradigm example of the freedom of the will: I could elect to push on through the pain or I could decide to take the curb. It was, as it might be said, all up to me. While I was once pulled from a race because of injuries, I had never left one by choice—and I decided that this would not be my first. I kept going and the pain got worse.

At this point, I considered that my pride was pushing me to my destruction—that is, I was not making a good choice but being coerced into making a poor decision. Fortunately, three decades of running had trained me well in pain assessment: like most veteran runners I am reasonably good at distinguishing between what merely hurts and what is actually causing significant damage. Carefully considering the nature of the pain and the condition of my leg, I judged that it was mere pain. While I could still decide to stop, I decided to keep going. I did, however, grab as many of the high caffeine GU packs as I could—I figured that being wired up as much as possible would help with pain management.

Aided by the psychological boost of my self-medication (and commentary from friends about my unusually slow pace), I chose to speed up. By the time I reached mile 5 my leg had gone comfortably numb and I increased my speed even more, steadily catching and passing people. Seven miles went by and then I caught up with a former student. He yelled “I can’t let you pass me Dr. L!” and went into a sprint. I decided to chase after him, believing that I could still hobble a mile even if I was left with only one working leg. Fortunately, the leg held up better than my student—I got past him, then several more people and crossed the finish line running a not too bad 1:36 half-marathon. My leg remained attached to me, thus vindicating my choice. I then chose to stuff pizza into my pizza port—pausing only to cheer on people and pick up my age group award.

As the above narrative indicates, my view is that I was considering my options, assessing information from my body and deciding what to do. That is, I had cast myself as having what philosophers like to label as free will. From the inside, that is what it certainly seems like.

Of course, it would presumably seem the same way from the inside if I lacked free will. Spinoza, for example, claims that if a stone were conscious and hurled through the air, it would think it was free to choose to move and land where it does. As Spinoza saw it, people think they are free because they are “conscious of their own actions, and ignorant of the causes by which those actions are determined.” As such, on Spinoza’s view my “decisions” were not actual decisions. That is, I could not have chosen otherwise—like the stone, I merely did what I did and, in my ignorance, believed that I had decided my course.

Hobbes also takes a somewhat similar view. As he sees it, what I would regard as the decision making process of assessing the pain and then picking my action he would regard as a competition between two pulling forces within the mechanisms of my brain. One force would be pulling towards stopping, the other towards going. Since the forces were closely matched for a moment, it felt as if I was deliberating. But, the matter was determined: the go force was stronger and the outcome was set.

While current science would not bring in Spinoza’s God and would be more complicated than Hobbe’s view of the body, the basic idea would remain the same: the apparent decision making would be best explained by the working of the “neuromachinery” that is me—no choice, merely the workings of a purely mechanical (in the broad sense) organic machine. Naturally, many would through in some quantum talk, but randomness does not provide any more freedom that strict determinism.

While I think that I am free and that I was making choices in the race, I obviously have no way to prove that. At best, all that could be shown was that my “neuromachinery” was working normally and without unusual influence—no tumors, drugs or damage impeding the way it “should” work. Of course, some might take my behavior as clear evidence that there was something wrong, but they would be engaged in poor decision making.

Kant seems to have gotten it quite right: science can never prove that we have free will, but we certainly do want it. And pizza.


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  1. T. J. Babson said, on February 5, 2014 at 9:22 am

    When I was 30 I did something similar, but instead of cruising on to triumph I ended up with a gimpy leg for 6 months.

    I highly recommend that unless you are absolutely sure you won’t do any damage, you stop and figure out why you are in pain.

  2. magus71 said, on February 5, 2014 at 10:10 am

    I say we are free. But I cannot prove that all people’s perceive pain the same.

    My evidence is my experience as an NCO, conducting daily physical training with the troops. Since we are support, not line infantry, toughness is not emphasized.

    I regard the cowardice as the defining disorder of our age, both the cause and effect of our decline. This manifests itself with an utter lack of motivation for anything that can cause momentary discomfort in our young men. Few feel exhilaration from the statement: vedi, vichi. veni.

    There are the weak in my platoon, whom, if allowed to train themselves, will never push themselves to improve their fitness. Without someone else pushing them, they consistently slouch back to fatness and slowness. That’s where I have to step in. I explained to them this morning that I was getting a bit tired of seeing the pouting and lack of motivation. These are un-soldierly attributes. And those attitudes bring me down, too. So I use the carrot or the stick. Today was the stick.

    Back to free will. Some in my platoon will not push themselves when they are alone, but when I conduct training and push them, using all the age-old techniques employed by NCOs since the Roman Empire and all the way to Sgt Zim in Starship Troopers(primarily, scorn) suddenly, they’re sweating it out until the end, going further than they would have otherwise.

    Of course, those with free but weak wills will begin to complain and grab body parts, trying to get the response their moms gave them: Sympathy. Again, a symptom of cowardice, because there is no real injury. One of the Lieutenants asked me how I knew it was not a real injury. I quoted the NCO Creed: “I know my Soldiers”. This NCO does this every time we do moderately difficult PT. I think next session I’ll tell them that every time I hear a grumble or someone grabs a body part hoping to get extra rest, we’ll do another circuit.

    Suddenly their free will will become even more apparent, I’m sure.

    What is interesting, is that the harder I push them, and the more scorn I heap on them for not keeping up, the more thanks I get after the training. I’m not joking. Few things are more transformation than achievement.

    • T. J. Babson said, on February 5, 2014 at 11:09 am

      I still remember in boot camp when we learned that a soldier in a neighboring company had died because he was pushed too hard during PT, our Company Commander said: “Too bad. He cost his Company 50 points.”

      I thought that was pretty cold.

      • magus71 said, on February 5, 2014 at 11:16 am

        I don’t go anywhere near that far. Running three miles indoors should not be tough for 24 year old soldiers.

      • magus71 said, on February 5, 2014 at 11:24 am

        There’s a part in Sabastian Junger’s book, War, where he talks about having to keep up with 25 year old sldiers at 7000 ft while he was in Afghanistan for his book. He states that what he learned from running cross country in college, was that when he started feeling pain he had much, much more remaining in the tank. Many people quit things in all aspects of life the second they feel discomfort. They don’t even wait for a second wind, which almost always comes.

        • WTP said, on February 5, 2014 at 11:43 am

          When younger, I quickly learned to differentiate between “good” pain and bad pain. I can’t describe it exactly, but outside of weight lifting it’s never been an issue for me. Though as a swimmer, it’s much easier to let up when you do hit bad pain, and thus less necessary to be paranoid about pain, as you have mobility options. A runner isn’t likely to walk on his hands when his knee gives out. I’ve never understood why people, especially some swimmers i’ve known, can’t make the distinction.

          • magus71 said, on February 5, 2014 at 2:35 pm

            I’ve found the exact same problem and constantly have to explain the difference to some I work with.

      • WTP said, on February 5, 2014 at 2:03 pm

        I thought you were Navy?

        • magus71 said, on February 5, 2014 at 2:42 pm

          Navy has companies and boot.

          • WTP said, on February 5, 2014 at 3:29 pm

            Didn’t know they used the word “soldier”. I have cousins, somewhat annoying ones at that, who are Navy and ex-Navy. I’ve heard Marines go vehemently either way.

            • magus71 said, on February 5, 2014 at 6:17 pm

              yeah, you’re right. I guess I assume he mistyped/spoke,.

            • T. J. Babson said, on February 5, 2014 at 6:43 pm

              Thought “soldier” was generic. We definitely would have said “sailor” at the time…1981 I believe it was.

            • T. J. Babson said, on February 5, 2014 at 6:49 pm

              Is there a generic term for a member of the armed forces? Maybe there isn’t one.

            • WTP said, on February 5, 2014 at 7:21 pm

              Of course…the oft repeated, yet lame “Our Service Men And Women In Uniform”.

            • T. J. Babson said, on February 5, 2014 at 7:31 pm

              I did not have a distinguished military career. E3 to E4, then back to E3, then back to E4 and finally to E5.

      • magus71 said, on February 5, 2014 at 8:44 pm


        I’m interested. What did the military teach you?

        • T. J. Babson said, on February 5, 2014 at 11:07 pm

          Many things, Magus. I had sort of a love-hate relationship with the military. At one point I had even applied to Officer Candidate School–and looking back it was probably a very good thing that they rejected me, although I wasn’t happy about it at the time. In hindsight I don’t think I would have been a very good Officer–though probably no worse than lots of others.

          Here are some of the things I learned from the military:

          1) I learned how large organizations work. There is very little difference between the (peacetime) military and a large corporation, and I have worked in large organizations my whole life.

          2) I met an amazing variety of very different types of people. I met very religious people, alcoholics, lifers, guys with connections to organized crime, sociopaths, dopers, people from the ghetto–just an amazing cross section of people from all across the U.S.

          3) On the negative side, I learned that if you make a helpful suggestion–“this hallway could really use a fresh coat of paint”–there is a really good chance that the reply will be–“good idea, why don’t you get started on it right away.”

          • WTP said, on February 5, 2014 at 11:13 pm

            Curious TJ, these large corporations you worked for, were they DoD or otherwise govt related?

            • T. J. Babson said, on February 5, 2014 at 11:22 pm


            • WTP said, on February 6, 2014 at 10:14 am

              Well there’s part of your problem. I worked for a NASA contractor for about 4 years and hated it. I took me 3 years to figure out that the f’n absurdities I was seeing were for reals. Went to work for 17 years with a phone company writing billing systems. While that wasn’t truly “free market” there was still considerable attention paid to getting the job done vs. the empire building and other BS I saw in govt contract work. Things got even better once we were jettisoned from the phone company into our own software development organization. Not that there weren’t problems as with all big organizations, but I never felt the people I was working with were “evil” in that they put their own ambitions ahead of the company’s objectives. Not that there weren’t conflicts and such, but the culture was far more rational. Now working for another DoD company. More of the same sort of BS that I saw with the NASA contractor. I try to spend most of my work on non-US contracts as at least the tax payer being robbed is less likely to be an American.

            • magus71 said, on February 6, 2014 at 10:43 am

              “Not that there weren’t problems as with all big organizations, but I never felt the people I was working with were “evil” in that they put their own ambitions ahead of the company’s objectives.”

              This is a problem in the Army, mostly emanating from the officer corps. Read the studies on what kind of people universities are producing (self-absorbed, arrogant, believe they are superior to all other generations even though they have lower test scores, all when compared against past generations’ views of themselves). The worst I’ve ever seen was a Major I worked for on my first deployment. He’d graduated from Georgetown and came with the appropriate amount of pretension, sprinkled liberally with a surprising amount of incompetence (the guy couldn’t write a paragraph that made sense–no joke) and a lethal dose of immorality (he insisted I falsify intelligence reports; I requested a move from higher and was granted such.)

              It doesn’t take many poison personalities to ruin the whole experience. My main reason for wanting to gain rank quickly has never been to be able to tell more people what to do, but to become more resistant to the evil forces that lurk in some positions.

            • WTP said, on February 6, 2014 at 11:00 am

              Well, I do attribute some of the evil in the DoD companies to a lot of former military people in charge. But the sad part is that most of those former military people who were creating the problems had been enlisted men. Don’t recall how high any of them were up the NCO chain but I can’t imagine it was very far based loosely on how they interacted with each other.

              But I do believe the root of the problem is that the larger the organization, the more “resources” it has to draw on. The organization can afford to bleed resources (men, material, money) until a breaking point is hit. The thing with free market businesses, their money comes voluntarily from their customers. Also their personnel are rarely handcuffed to the organization legally, though many are emotionally. With regulated monopolies, like the phone company I worked for, there is some push back from the customers via the politicos who regulate it. Though once cell phones took off, the monopoly was effectively broken for us, thus our being cut loose from the mama bell. Once you get into government and government contractors, the money comes involuntarily from the taxpayers. If deadlines are not met, features come up short of expectations, both the corporation and the government organization are incentivized to hide the problem and simply ask for more money because “we’re almost there”. Everyone is playing with everyone else’s money.

              I could expand/be clearer on this but no time at present.

          • magus71 said, on February 6, 2014 at 6:50 am

            As far as officers go, there’s a tshirt out there that says: Officers, making easy shit hard since 1775.”

            This pretty much sums it up for me. Picture the differences between modern intellectuals and a car mechanic. One bases too much on theory and every one else has to pay the price. The other actually does the work every day. Mechanics fix things. Intellectuals invent problems so they can have more reason to ponder and scheme.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm

              No intellectuals, no cars. No cars, no car mechanics.

              The practical machines are grounded on intellectual theories. For example, the computer is based, in part, on the mathematical work of Leibniz. Nuclear weapons come from nuclear physics and theory. Even automobiles are based on the theories of intellectuals.

              Why denigrate the minds that made such things possible? That makes as much sense as denigrating the hands that build and repair.

            • WTP said, on February 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm

              No intellectuals, no cars.
              What horse shit arrogance. Scratch a lefty and find a snob. Henry Ford was a farmer who took a job as a mechanic. The Wright brothers were not “intellectuals”, in fact they were high school drop outs.

              It’s this shit about Mike that really pisses me off. His contempt for the intellect of the working man. Not to mention his contempt for work. His post about his friend who had to take a “crappy” delivery job, etc.

              “For example, the computer is based, in part, on the mathematical work of Leibniz. Nuclear weapons come from nuclear physics and theory. Even automobiles are based on the theories of intellectuals.”
              You will note, speaking for “intellectuals”, he only claims things that, thanks to people who did the actual testing and such, the workers, engineers, experimental physicists and such, actually came to fruition. No accountability for the failures of perpetual motion machines, yadda-yadda-yadda.

              As Edison said, success is 1% inspiration and 99% persperation. Get a real job and WORK for a living. Maybe you will learn how much you don’t know.

            • apollonian said, on February 7, 2014 at 4:27 pm

              Theorizing Without Testing, Applying Is Empty, Arid

              Gosh WTP: for once I find I rather sympathize w. ur sentiment (I think); u make some excellent pt.s, unquestionably. But technically, Mike is surely correct, far as he goes–u gotta have that abstraction, hence theory, to be working w. as u apply it to reality and practicality, indubitably.

              I’d only disagree w. u that Edison and the Wrights were NOT intellectuals–they certainly were–but they were ALSO the best sort of intellectuals–who took their ideas seriously enough to go and experiment and make adjustments as they saw fit, etc.

              After all, what good is theorizing without criticism and experimentation to putting such theories to test to see if they’re actually real, true, and practical–hence truly worthwhile and virtuous?

              Mike’s sort of theorizing may perhaps be a little half-baked, incomplete, and inferior to that refined sort of theorizing which applies the theories, perfecting, advancing, and improving–like Edison and Wrights, as u so well note.

            • magus71 said, on February 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm


              Modern intellectuals are not inventing cars. Those are called engineers.

              I admit “intellectual” is a rather vague term. There is a specific type of person I’m speaking of. In the Army, we call this phenomena the “good idea fairy”.

              He’s the problem I have with many intellectuals:

              “It is not the formulation of ideas, however misguided, but the desire to impose them on others that is the deadly sin of the intellectual. That is why they so incline by temperament to the left. For capitalism merely occurs, if no one does anything to stop it. It is socialism that has to be constructed, and as a rule, forcibly imposed, thus providing a far bigger role for intellectuals in its genesis. The progressive intellectual habitually entertains Walter Mitty visions of exercising power.”~Paul Johnson

            • apollonian said, on February 7, 2014 at 5:20 pm

              Full-Fledged Capitalism: Product Of Advanced Civilization, Never Doubt

              Magus: ur situation is the classic “too many chiefs, not enough Indians,” ho ho ho–easily and widely understood.

              I disagree w. u, however, about capitalism which is actually quite diff. fm mere anarchy, though it surely can exist on small scale even without any formal and proper gov.

              For note capitalism in fullest form, which involves strategic investment of savings funds, absolutely depends upon proper gov.–which of course only lasts for a short time in the CYCLE of things and history, before it degenerates in “Decline of the West,” by Oswald Spengler.

              Thus capitalism, full-fledged, depends upon property rights, hence individual freedom, a principle which came later-on, but esp. rule-of-law and sanctity-of-contract, these things requiring advanced civilization.

              Socialism is mere dictatorship founded upon pretext of same old Platonic/Kantian/Straussian “noble lie” of “good-evil,” perfect “free”-will, pretext then to present SATANIC genocide of AGENDA-21 and Obongo-Care death-panels, all this in accord w. CYCLIC, Spenglerian “Decline…,” the corrupted, sated, perverted people now indulging in HUBRIS of “moralism”/Pharisaism, as we see.

            • WTP said, on February 7, 2014 at 6:48 pm

              apopo: I’d only disagree w. u that Edison and the Wrights were NOT intellectuals

              I was using the term as Mike applies it, not as I do. In my book, those men are far more intellectual than most any college professor in today’s world, excepting those who have actually been out in the world getting real experience and THEN retiring to a university to teach. Those are the real philosophers.

            • magus71 said, on February 7, 2014 at 7:01 pm


              The English used to use the term, intellectual, in exchange for “man of letters”. Thus an essayist, journalist or a critic. That is, the intellectual was, by trade, ONLY those things. His job could be labeled otherwise, but boiled down to those things.

              Would you consider Milton Friedman an intellectual? He was highly critical of intellectuals. I don’t dislike them anymore than any other class of people except for one thing: They always want to control the world. Car mechanics don’t.

            • magus71 said, on February 7, 2014 at 7:04 pm

              Remember what I said weeks ago about “hyper-rationalists”?
              Heyek in this video: “To him (the intellectual), what is not comprehensible must be nonsense.”

              Exactly. And again going back. Mike’s prediction about quantum theory,.

            • T. J. Babson said, on February 7, 2014 at 9:20 pm

              Harry Kroto, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, on intellectuals:

              With access to inspirational science and maths teachers restricted, the internet could make quality instruction into a universal currency

              The “developed” nations are easily recognised. They are the ones that have harnessed the innovative genius of scientists and engineers to provide sufficient food, shelter, clothing, medicine and other necessities of life.

              In fact, they have been so effective that many people now have time to contemplate their navels, if they can see them.

              A by-product of this progress has been the creation of a bunch of intellectuals (parasites who exude culture) and celebrities (parasites who exude no culture) who spend precious time slagging off science and science teaching. They must be rejoicing at their success as the numbers of science students and teachers drop catastrophically, mathematical incompetence becomes ever more ubiquitous, scientifically illiterate campaigns erupt daily and our science-based industries are forced to consider emigrating.

              But the problem is not “where have all the science students gone?” It is “where have all the science teachers gone?” The Economist claimed recently that of those teaching A-level physics, 70 per cent had no degree in the subject and 30 per cent had no A level. In chemistry, it was 50 per cent without a relevant degree and 10 per cent without the A level. In biology, it was 40 per cent and 30 per cent.


              Mike, I’m afraid Harry would regard you as an “intellectual.” But at least you exude culture 🙂

            • wtp said, on February 8, 2014 at 12:10 am

              As usual with Mike, we must consult Mr. Webster:

              Full Definition of INTELLECTUAL

              1 a : of or relating to the intellect or its use
              b : developed or chiefly guided by the intellect rather than by emotion or experience : rational
              c : requiring use of the intellect
              2 a : given to study, reflection, and speculation
              b : engaged in activity requiring the creative use of the intellect

              MY context-free, purest form definition of the word is 1a. Mike’s, AFAICT, is at best 2a.
              Magus: Would you consider Milton Friedman an intellectual? Yes. But he was rigorous in seeking out opposing views. There was a breadth and a depth to his intellect. Again, I believe that people who put their ideas to the test in the physical world are more intellectual than those who are commonly referred to in such manner as Bork does below. And Hayek? Friedman? Brilliant men in my book. True intellectuals. Yet the vast majority of the kind of people who generally fall under the category of modern intellectuals regard these men as either fools or tools. They may pay lip service to some degree, as Mike will when pressed at times, but privately these men are despised by ivory tower club. Steven Hawking is an intellectual, but his work stands the test of mathematics. Richard Feynman had a great line, upon observing a huge research facility built to test one of his theories, he looked around at the expense involved and jokingly asked, “What, don’t you trust me?”. He KNEW the value of real-world experience.

              TJ, But at least you exude culture. Perhaps I missed it. Was there a discussion of say Anna Karinina or Jphn Coltrane that I missed? The closest I’ve seen of culture here is Mike’s endorsements of graffiti as art or the occassional bashing of Ayn Rand.

              You will notice we are off into a semantics argument. What has raised my hackles is this condescending, snooty attutidude toward labor that many leftists have. Witness the latest obambicare spin regarding the CBO’s judgement that it would discourage work. The left is spinning this as a good thing because, hey, who likes work? Loose shoes, tight *&*&$# and a warm place to %^&#, right?

              As for where this may lead, forecasts call for a 70% chance of clown nose.

            • apollonian said, on February 8, 2014 at 12:49 am

              Moralism, “Freedom,” And The Noble Lie

              WTP: Mike is moralist above all, it seems; morality is end-all and be-all for Mike–that’s why he likes Kant, I suspect. Metaphysics for this ethicist-as-end, “good-evil” -type moralism has to be . . . flexible, hence quite subjectivist, I presume–it’s somewhat like the “noble lie” of Leo Strauss, I’d say–it requires lots of . . . believing.

              That’s why Aristotle, objectivity, and determinism keep things simple and un-complicated–thus we’re self-interested, and reason is the only temperance, according to Hobbes, Locke, and Adam Smith. Hence ethics for Aristotle and objectivity is means, not end.

              WTP, u really ought to consider Mike is actually quite consonant w. establishment which depends on the masses heeding to this supposed ethicism, as of Kant. Note it isn’t necessary that the masses actually understand such moralism–they just need to be “impressed” and intimidated enough to going along–that’s largest part of controlling and “leading” the masses–it’s how Obongo got “elected,” one can be sure–he even got the Nobel Peace prize, don’t forget.

              Lying through his teeth about keeping one’s doctor and health-plan is another part once the suckers have been set-up–it’s all part of the “noble lie,” which works so well–for such as the insurance corp.s, ho ho ho.

    • apollonian said, on February 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      Determinism Necessarily Follows From Basic Premise (Assumption) Of Objectivity

      Magus: I submit u’re mis-understanding the basic problem/issue. (a) The basic choice among assumptions is objectivity (Aristotle) or subjectivism (Plato, Kant, Descartes, et al.).

      Note this basic choice is assumption, necessarily, it being a first premise (metaphysics), so u CANNOT have “evidence” for it–which would indicate a prior criterion or premise. Objectivity (or not) is the first premise (metaphysics), necessarily. Objectivity (beginning assumption) then provides for all/any “evidence,” evidence being something that follows and cannot precede that first, basic assumption.

      (b) Objectivity then leads necessarily to determinism, absolute cause-effect; there couldn’t be a perfectly “free” God-like human will. This fallacious perfect “freedom” of will is literally HUBRIS (madness) and subjectivism, foundation of “good-evil” “noble-lie” of Leo Strauss, for example, the way one intimidates and beguiles the over-populated weaklings among humanity, always and so typically taught to, and assumed by, poor, ignorant children who struggle to learn and to know.

      Thus u see, there is no “evidence” (or not) for a perfectly “free” will–it merely follows in logic fm the preceding assumption of objectivity or not. Determinism is implicit in objectivity–like God the Father and God the Son, simply diff. aspects for same basic thing.

  3. WTP said, on February 5, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Spinoza, for example, claims that if a stone were conscious and hurled through the air, it would think it was free to choose to move and land where it does.

    So if a midget, or Mike for that matter, was hurled through the air, it is reasonable to think he was free to choose to move and land where he does?

    Re Magus, I was blessed to have coaches who pushed me hard when I was young (10-13), followed by a coach who pushed and inspired us (14-16), and finally a coach who mostly let me push myself (16-18). I think the early coaches were good for the team and laid down the fundamentals well. The second coach was a good leader for the team (the girls team were state champions one year) and me, last coach was best for me, but not for the team as a whole.

  4. T. J. Babson said, on February 5, 2014 at 11:40 am

    It is good to push oneself to the limits.

    It is stupid to injure oneself for no good reason.

    Actually the Diplomad has an apt post up:

    On Thursday, I go in for my long-delayed shoulder surgery. I have been putting this off for about, oh, uh, almost 40 years. I originally wrecked the shoulder in 1975 in a skydiving accident.

    Isn’t that dramatic?

    I, unfortunately, am kinda telling a lie.

    It wasn’t really skydiving. It was a pathetic static line jump in Massachusetts from about 1200 feet out of an old Canadian-built De Havilland Caribou. I came down kind of hard on my left shoulder and it has never been right (no pun intended) since then; I blame Canada, in case you are wondering.

    It got further aggravated when one of my sons and I got into a weight-lifting competition with each other a few years ago in Miami. I was bench-pressing way too much weight when I felt a “crack!” in that shoulder, and was basically left with only a right wing for about 18 months–I did, however, win the contest and that’s what’s important.

    It gradually healed, or so I thought, and then about six weeks ago, reaching up to a top shelf for a small box–wham!–the shoulder went out again. I haven’t been able to raise my left arm about my waist since; I would make a lousy Communist.

    So, off to arthroscopic surgery I go. I want to do it before Obamacare turns my local hospital into a Dickensonian DMV, or, anyhow, how Dickens would have imagined a DMV, if they had had DMVs when Dickens was around.

    I hope to resume writing by the weekend and will be in a foul mood, more foul than ever, so maybe I actually will write something interesting and good for a change. One can only hope and change.


  5. apollonian said, on February 5, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Scoffing At Reality Leads To Disaster: Pain Is Signal That Should Be Heeded

    Mike: when u feel pain, that’s a signal to u something is not right, comrade. And if its running that makes u feel this pain, then u ought to listen to that part of urself that’s registering the pain–there’s something not right, and u need to take it easy.

    U think will (“free” or not) can remove the source of the pain?–if so, u’re crazy and probably suffering that dread HUBRIS, pretending u’re God, capable of changing reality.

    Common sense should tell u the OBVIOUS–if u don’t heed the msg the pain is giving u, u’re going to COMPOUND the problem and really mess urself up but good.

    Note in the large scheme of things it’s MORE “courageous,” under the circumstances, to “take the curb,” as u put it.

    Given the objective, hence determined nature of reality, we couldn’t have a perfectly “free” will, like God’s, though we surely have some kind of will, limited as it is. And even though we should understand and consider the necessarily determined nature of reality, it doesn’t mean we know exactly what will happen five minutes fm now, so we make use of intellect and our limited will to choose among alternative scenarios.

    U say we “want” “free will”–but so what?–after all, we’re sinners and given to fooling ourselves, suffering the dread HUBRIS, pretending we’re like God. Wisdom is actually the courage to applying real knowledge against heady exhilaration, passion, etc.

    “Pride goeth before a fall,” as the saying goes, and if u’re not careful and truly wise to heeding things, u may find urself caught-up in serious disaster.

    • magus71 said, on February 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      There is a time to push through pain. There is no sustitute for wisdom. The Athenians at Marathon knew what had to be done. Military garrison is used to evaluate who is ready to make the sacrifice when called upon.

      In the end, we should be able to say:

      “I have fought the good fight I have run the good race.” `Timothy 4:7

      • apollonian said, on February 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm

        Philosophy & Strategy Require Perspective

        U’re absolutely right–so far as u go. But remember: being a soldier presumes u’re a soldier for a purpose (defense) REGARDLESS of the momentary health issue of pain.

        U’ve GOT to keep things in proper perspective, magus–this gets to things like STRATEGY. When it comes time for battlefield combat, OF COURSE u must ignore petty pain–it’s obvious and necessary duty. If u’re fighting a gorilla, for example, and the gorilla bites ur arm, u don’t throw-down ur weapon and say, “time-out”–I’m hurt. Ho ho hoo ho

        But when there’s no necessity for such urgent thing as battlefield defense U MUST observe the STRATEGIC necessity of heeding the signal ur body is giving u for sake of basic health, hence FUTURE utility of ur body for combat and defense.

  6. ajmacdonaldjr said, on February 5, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    With all due respect, I think you engaged in poor decision making. Pain is an indication of something wrong, especially an unusual pain. I think your masochism/marathoning is a psychological — not a philosophical — problem.

    Running Long Distances Is a Worthy Pursuit, Unless Your Running Runs You – http://www.ontherunevents.com/news/0188.shtml

    • apollonian said, on February 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      Psychology Always Consequence Of Basic Premises

      U’re right again, AJ: but I’d say this is case of basic philosophy on Mike’s part–he REALLY does believe this “free” will stuff he spouts, basis of his moralism/Pharisaism. Mike worships “ethics,” imagining it’s end, not means. And philosophy ALWAYS leads to psychologic consequences, healthy and not, never doubt. Psychology is consequence of philosophy, one’s basic premises.

      Interesting thing u say about “masochism”–but it certainly is matter of hubristic “mind” suppressing matter or bodily manifestation–which is NOT an empty or false manifestation–pain indicates something seriously going on somewhere, somehow–it MUST be heeded.

      Sure, it’s notable thing one can suppress pain by means of the “high” of running–but this can be done most notoriously by means of drugs too, and people KNOW that’s not good thing. A junkie goes into withdrawal, and what does the fool do?–does MORE drugs–this seems to be somewhat the mistake Mike may be making.

      And it’s well-known phenomenon that running gives one a “high”–I remember the famous runner, Jim Fixx who seems to have run himself to death, the “high” of running masking the serious problems he was otherwise suffering.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 5, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      The pain wasn’t unusual-I know it well from other times. Since I am feeling fine now, I did make the right choice: it was mere pain and not actual significant damage. Much of life is weighing pains and choosing wisely. Or not so wisely. 🙂

      • WTP said, on February 5, 2014 at 10:31 pm

        Some advice you won’t read but I offer it anyway. Pushing 50 is getting too late to push the envelope. Physically speaking, Your risk is way past the sort of reward you would expect when younger. And if something does break it is a much longer road back to recovery, to which you are far less likely to meet at even 95% depending on the injury. Not to mention being put into a more sedatory state precisely at a time when your metabolism is starting to slow and you don’t burn as many calories when at rest. Things can snowball at middle age too.

      • ajmacdonaldjr said, on February 7, 2014 at 12:10 pm

        That’s good. Have you ever thought about taking up another sport? Or are you planning on being one of those 90 year old marathoners? Assuming of course we don’t have “voluntary suicide” before then, to help alleviate the Social Security burden. 😀 I’m taking up mountain biking this spring. Cross country, not downhill.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm

          I also do Tae Kwon Do and I used to bike a bit. But, I’ll be a runner as long as I can move under my own power. 🙂

  7. WTP said, on February 9, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Regarding the discussion on intellectuals….Jonah Goldberg on the academic world and what it is teaching our youth (prepare for Mike to hide behind the trial of Socrates). This is written in reference to Generation Y, but could apply back to every academic generation since at least the late 1960’s.

    There’s a certain kind of elite student who takes himself very, very seriously. Raised on a suite of educational TV shows and books that insist he is the most special person in the world — studies confirm that Generation Y is the most egocentric and self-regarding generation in our history — he is away from home for the first time, enjoying his first experience of freedom from his parents. Those same parents are paying for his education, which he considers his birthright. Shelter is provided for him. Janitors and maids clean up after him. Security guards protect him. Cooks shop for him and prepare his food. The health center provides him medical care and condoms aplenty. Administrators slave away at finding new ways for him to have fun in his free time. He drinks with abandon when he wants to, and the consequences of his bacchanalia are usually somewhere between mild and nonexistent. Sex is as abundant as it is varied. If he does not espouse any noticeably conservative or Christian attitudes, his every utterance in the classroom is celebrated as a “valuable perspective.” All that is demanded of him is that he pursue his interests and, perhaps, “find himself” along the way. His ethical training amounts to a prohibition on bruising the overripe self-esteem of another person, particularly a person in good standing with the Coalition of the Oppressed (blacks, Latinos, Muslims, women, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, et al.). Such offenses are dubbed hate crimes and are punished in a style perfected in Lenin’s utopia: through the politicized psychiatry known as “sensitivity training.”

    But even as this sensitivity is being cultivated, the student is stuffed to the gills with cant about the corruption of “the system,” i.e., the real world just outside the gates of his educational Shangri-La. He is taught that it is brave to be “subversive” and cowardly to be “conformist.” Administrators encourage kitschy reenactments of 1960s radicalism by celebrating protest as part of a well-rounded education — so long as the students are protesting approved targets, those being the iniquities of “the system.” There is much Orwellian muchness to it all, since these play-acting protests and purportedly rebellious denunciations of the status quo are in fact the height of conformity.

    But it is a comfortable conformity, and this student — who in all likelihood will go into a profession at the pinnacle of the commanding heights of our culture — looks at this Potemkin world and thinks it is the way things are supposed to be. He feels freer than he ever has or ever will again, but that freedom is illusory. He is, in fact, a dependent: All his fundamental needs are met and paid for by others. This is what the political theorists call positive liberty — when someone else gives you a whole pile of stuff so you can be “free” to do whatever you want.

    • magus71 said, on February 9, 2014 at 8:56 am

      Outstanding. One reason I cannot be considered a libertarian. Really, I don’t think people should be able to vote until they’re 30. I think there should be rites that mark the passage from child to adulthood. I actually believe modern Germany has it right: Either 2 years public service or military service mandated by law. There is little that binds us Americans, now. We focused on diversity and reaped the appropriate crop: Chaos.

      Heinlein was on to something. Serve in some way, see that the system cannot support all individuals without individuals to support it. No support from the individual and they lose their rights to vote and welfare.

      Sounds fair to me. Sounds fascist to progressives.

      • T. J. Babson said, on February 9, 2014 at 9:48 am

        “One reason I cannot be considered a libertarian.”

        Those kids are undoubtedly progressives, not libertarians. Would you not agree?

        • magus71 said, on February 9, 2014 at 10:36 am

          Oh, I agree. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with much of what libertarians have to say. Almost all of it. Still, the ideas I posted above are not classically libertarian, though I argue that in the long run, they do a better job of ensuring freedom than does uber-liberality.

          And most libertarians could not be called Hobbesian. But I agree with much of what he had to say. Hobbes is seen as a proponent of Big Government, and I understand the belief. However, his put his ideas about the role of government in the context (people love to take Hobbes out of context) of his 19 Laws, and you get a very good picture on where I stand. Ultimately individual freedom should never outweigh individual responsibility,.

          The first Law of nature is that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war.

          The second Law of nature is that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth, as for peace, and defence of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.

          The third Law is that men perform their covenants made. In this law of nature consisteth the fountain and original of justice… when a covenant is made, then to break it is unjust and the definition of injustice is no other than the not performance of covenant. And whatsoever is not unjust is just.

          The fourth Law is that a man which receiveth benefit from another of mere grace, endeavour that he which giveth it, have no reasonable cause to repent him of his good will. Breach of this law is called ingratitude.

          The fifth Law is complaisance: that every man strive to accommodate himself to the rest. The observers of this law may be called sociable; the contrary, stubborn, insociable, froward, intractable.

          The sixth Law is that upon caution of the future time, a man ought to pardon the offences past of them that repenting, desire it.

          The seventh Law is that in revenges, men look not at the greatness of the evil past, but the greatness of the good to follow.

          The eighth Law is that no man by deed, word, countenance, or gesture, declare hatred or contempt of another. The breach of which law is commonly called contumely.

          The ninth Law is that every man acknowledge another for his equal by nature. The breach of this precept is pride.

          The tenth law is that at the entrance into the conditions of peace, no man require to reserve to himself any right, which he is not content should be reserved to every one of the rest. The breach of this precept is arrogance, and observers of the precept are called modest.

          The eleventh law is that if a man be trusted to judge between man and man, that he deal equally between them.

          The twelfth law is that such things as cannot be divided, be enjoyed in common, if it can be; and if the quantity of the thing permit, without stint; otherwise proportionably to the number of them that have right.

          The thirteenth law is the entire right, or else…the first possession (in the case of alternating use), of a thing that can neither be divided nor enjoyed in common should be determined by lottery.

          The fourteenth law is that those things which cannot be enjoyed in common, nor divided, ought to be adjudged to the first possessor; and in some cases to the first born, as acquired by lot.

          The fifteenth law is that all men that mediate peace be allowed safe conduct.

          The sixteenth law is that they that are at controversie, submit their Right to the judgement of an Arbitrator.

          The seventeenth law is that no man is a fit Arbitrator in his own cause.

          The eighteenth law is that no man should serve as a judge in a case if greater profit, or honour, or pleasure apparently ariseth [for him] out of the victory of one party, than of the other.

          The nineteenth law is that in a disagreement of fact, the judge should not give more weight to the testimony of one party than another, and absent other evidence, should give credit to the testimony of other witnesses.

          • magus71 said, on February 9, 2014 at 10:57 am

            But I do not think man is quite so warlike as did Hobbes. People really do form social bonds because they like each other, not merely to avert war.

        • WTP said, on February 9, 2014 at 9:49 pm

          Libertarians fall into two distinct groups: strict libertarians like Rand Paul and classical liberals such as myself. “Classical liberal” is not a term that rolls off of the tongue. Consequently, “libertarian” is the choice term in popular discourse when discussing policies that favor limited government. Libertarians of all stripes oppose President Obama’s endless attacks on market institutions and the rich. The umbrella term comfortably embraces both strands of libertarian theory vis-à-vis a common intellectual foe.

          The renewed attention to Paul exposes the critical tension between hard-line libertarians and classical liberals. The latter are comfortable with a larger government than hard-core libertarians because they take into account three issues that libertarians like Paul tend to downplay: (1) coordination problems; (2) uncertainty; (3) and matters of institutional design. None of this is at all evident from Tanenhaus and Rutenberg’s unfair caricature of the “mixed inheritance” among the “libertarian faithful,” which to them includes, “antitax activists and war protestors, John Birch Society members, and a smatter of truthers who suspect the government’s hand in the 2001 terrorist attacks.”


          Color me classical liberal, with libertarian sympathies.

          • apollonian said, on February 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm

            Hard Truth: Only Hope For World Is Currency Collapse–Which Is NOT Fun Prospect

            Problem is the iron-grip the Jew criminals, terrorists, and psychopaths, headed by US Federal Reserve Bank COUNTERFEIT scam, have, still, upon USA. Rand Paul is notoriously on-take for Jew money and backing Israeli terror-state. “Liberals” (now just a buzz-word for fascist leftists) are totally controlled by Jews, and libertarians are thoroughly subverted by Jews.

            Originally, way back when, “liberals” and liberalism was healthily Christian and anti-semitic, but then Rothschild money definitively took over the West; the rest is horrific history, the world presently descending into abject satanism and genocide, so gloriously led now by those dear Jews.

            Problem then isn’t merely political (“libertarian vs. ‘classical liberal'”); rather problem is cultural, having to do w. true rational society, hence anti-Semitic, the true, rational society grounded on Christian TRUTH, hence Aristotelian objectivity, hence against such fraud & criminality as the Fed COUNTERFEIT scam, Jews and satanists’ primary practical weapon which underlies the irrationalist/Pharisaic psy-ops and “noble-lies.”

            To call oneself libertarian, but then to seriously, genuinely supporting Israeli terror-state is laughable at best.

            Jews now SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO totally dominate the Western mentality and culture that “right/conservative” is construed as supporting Israeli terror state and “left” is supporting the equally Jew-dominated UN/world-dictatorship including AGENDA-21 genocide, ObongoCare death-panels, etc.

            Of course, Jews have their gentile cohorts on both wings serving as window-dressing for them, (a) the “Judeo-Christian” (JC–see Whtt.org and TruthTellers.org for expo) hereticalists and traitors, who support Israel on the right, and (b) the homosexuals, especially, and the few genuine “leftists.”

            So the ONLY hope for the world is currency-collapse of US Dollar, removing that Fed COUNTERFEIT scam, primary weapon of Jews and cohorts, exposing then the genocidal dictatorship being satanically imposed upon over-populated goyim suckers.

      • T. J. Babson said, on February 9, 2014 at 10:01 am

        Also, there seems to be a distinction between the terms “classical liberal” and “libertarian,” although I have always regarded these as synonyms.

        My view is that the U.S. government is becoming increasingly Orwellian and heavy-handed. The average person commits 3 felonies a day without even realizing it. This means that the government can find some reason to arrest anyone it wants.

        • magus71 said, on February 9, 2014 at 10:54 am

          I agree that there are far too many laws. Unfortunately, the trend shows no sign of reversal.

      • T. J. Babson said, on February 9, 2014 at 10:07 am

        Here is an example:

        A year ago a ruling went into effect by the Librarian of Congress that made it a crime to unlock your cellphone (changing the settings on the phone to be able to be used on a different phone carrier). When that ruling went into effect, there was public outcry across the technology community that such a basic technology was now illegal to use.

        Thousands of Americans became potential criminals for exerting their basic property rights by plugging their phones into their computers and running a simple computer program.


        • WTP said, on February 9, 2014 at 12:10 pm

          While such has no business bearing the weight of formal written law, the contract one has with the business producing the device should be enforceable.

          As for the numerous laws, I believe in just one law and one moral rule.
          1-L) Everybody leave everybody else alone.
          1-MR) Help a brother out when the opportunity presents itself.

          • magus71 said, on February 9, 2014 at 1:02 pm

            My relatively uneducated grandmother could have told us that those college students were being “spoiled.” It’s difficult to overestimate how much the “cutting analysis” of intellectuals has damaged what was once a synthesized morality which balanced sympathy with Aquinas’ four cardinal virtues:


  8. T. J. Babson said, on February 9, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Democrats at work:

    In 1992, Bill Clinton led a Democratic Party revival in large part because he realized that divorcing government benefits from work requirements did not resonate with working-class Americans. He coined a mantra about working hard and playing by the rules. When he accepted his party’s nomination that year, here is what he said:

    “In the name of all the people who do the work, pay the taxes, raise the kids and play by the rules, in the name of the hard-working Americans who make up our forgotten middle class, I accept your nomination for president of the United States.”

    Obama has used a truncated version of that passage, and he mentioned work and job creation repeatedly in his 2014 State of the Union address. The net effect of his policies, however, deemphasizes the “hard-working” part of the equation while stressing the “play-by-the rules” part. And under his leadership, playing by the rules includes accepting government largesse.

    To some, the Democrats’ glee over offering people health care so they’ll quit working reprised memories of a hilarious old headline in the satiric online magazine The Onion: “IBM Emancipates 8,000 Wage Slaves.”

    There’s a serious side to this, a seriously disquieting side: For years, it seemed that although Democrats profess to love jobs, they couldn’t stand employers. Now they’ve gone a step further: They don’t even favor work.


  9. WTP said, on February 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Just thinking about this nonsense some more:

    For example, the computer is based, in part, on the mathematical work of Leibniz. Nuclear weapons come from nuclear physics and theory. Even automobiles are based on the theories of intellectuals.

    Yes…And I presume Fire was based on the work of an intellectual primordial who sat around his stone tower thinking about how to make things hot. The wheel by another sits-and-thinkin’ philosopher who theorized on what it means to live in a world of friction, momentum, and torque.

    • magus71 said, on February 10, 2014 at 7:00 pm

      Remember this? I looked it up to remember if my views are the same. They are.


      • magus71 said, on February 10, 2014 at 7:15 pm

        Tom Kratman weighs in on intellectualism:

        So, you wanted to know if I really think the world’s going to be as bad as I present it in the COUNTDOWN series? Short answer: Hell, no; I think it’s going to get much, much worse than that. I’m just showing the early stages, when fighting the descent into barbarism is still possible, and brave men and women are still trying. They may not win, and the odds, frankly, are stacked against them. At some point in time, even the bravest get tired of slamming their heads into brick walls. That, or they die.
        Moreover, most of the dismal and depressing background in this series is already visible, in proto form, at least, in the world we live in, today. Give it a little time. Or you can just relax, because we probably don’t have that much time.

        But why are we crumbling? Read on.

        Anyone else could have told me this in advance, but I was blinded by theory. —Bertrand Russell

        I’m often accused of being anti-intellectual, a charge to which I can only reply, “Guilty! And why are you saying that as if it were a bad thing?”

        I make that reply, of course, largely for the outrage it causes.

        Even so, we are where we are, and we’re going where we’re going, because of where we’ve been over the last couple of centuries. And where we are and we’ve been is in the age of the intellectual: Rousseau, Kant, Marx, Shelley, Sartre, and even Nussbaum, for example, on the one hand, and Lenin, Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot, on the other. (“What? Hitler? Stalin? Mussolini? Intellectuals?” Oh, absolutely. The only real difference between the last six and the first is that the last were simply more effective at bringing their dreams to life, at remaking the world in their image, than the first six were or are.)

        In any case, that outraged charge of anti-intellectualism seems to me to be a bit confused and misguided. You see, it springs from the notion that intellectuals are, and intellectualism is, inherently and always intelligent and that to be against either is to be pro-stupidity. Are intellectuals intelligent? Always? Reliably? Enough to bet your future and your children’s on? I’d suggest not.

        One example: Jean Paul Sartre once—in 1935, I think it was—visited Nazi Germany. Upon his return he pronounced that he could see no difference between Nazi Germany and Republican France. Sartre also famously said, “We were never so free as under the German occupation.” Now, while I’m not a strong Francophile, it seems to me that there were a few nontrivial differences there to be seen between Nazi Germany and Republican France, as well as between France under its own rule and under Nazi rule, by anyone with eyes to see and a brain to process the information. How bright did one have to be to see them? And yet Sartre—an intellectual darling of the twentieth century—could not see them. This was intelligence?

        Nonsense. While there are intelligent intellectuals, surely, this kind of intellectualism is the opposite of intelligent. It is profoundly unintelligent, as any mode of thought must be considered unintelligent that reasons only within the brainpan, that rejects objective truth for things the thinker desperately wants to believe are true.

        Rather than burden the reader with more examples, let me suggest a couple of lines of inquiry you can take for yourself. Go think hard upon Marx’s insistence on there being a progressive income tax, and match that against what control over the means of production actually means. See how intelligent you find that disconnect. Similarly, turn to Rousseau’s A Discourse on Inequality, and ask yourself how probable it was that the first to declare ownership over property merely bluffed his neighbors, as opposed to credibly threatening them.

        In any case, when you get through those little exercises, you might come to agree with me that the case for granting a presumption of intelligence to go with the title of intellectual is, perhaps, something less than airtight.

        Let’s be charitable, though. Anyone can be wrong, on occasion; it’s only human. But how about a studied unwillingness to learn?

        I remember very vividly, a few months after the famous pacifist resolution at the Oxford Union, visiting Germany and having a talk with a prominent leader of the young Nazis. He was asking about this pacifist motion and I tried to explain it to him. There was an ugly gleam in his eye when he said, “The fact is that you English are soft.” Then I realized that the world enemies of peace might be the pacifists. —Robert Bernays, Liberal MP, House of Commons, 1934

        Another part of intelligence is ability to learn, to include learning the things that are unpleasant. Contemplate the phenomenon of pacifism, clearly an intellectual doctrine, though, of course, there are strong pacifist streams in a number of religions, too, as well as religions— Jainism, say—that are entirely pacifistic.

        I’m here to talk about intellectualism, though, not religions. I’ll leave them aside with the observation that, to the extent they’re unworldly, that they expect their judgment and reward in the hereafter, and scorn the material world of the day, they are, at least, internally consistent and have nothing of major principle that they really can learn. It’s already set in stone for them, graven articles of faith, and contrary temporal facts are irrelevant.

        But what about the intellectual and secular pacifist?

        Pacifism’s been around about as far back as we can see in history. Even so, it really got its start, in any big way, as a result of the Great War. You can understand—it’s not at all hard to understand—how pacifism got that big shot in the arm: Millions dead, millions more disabled and disfigured for life, entire landscapes ruined, cities blasted and crumbled, the Earth poisoned—in places it’s still poisoned—the economies essentially bankrupt, and over four years of waste almost beyond imagining, and all of that for a lousy cause and a poor resolution, with subsequent revelations that most of the wartime propaganda was lies, thus adding insult to injury.

        I’m not a pacifist, not even a little bit, but, you know, I could almost see myself becoming a pacifist, if I’d been through that and had no contrary factors to weigh. Sadly, however, and I do mean sadly, there are now, and have been since at least 1939, contrary factors to weigh. We may doubt just how much the Oxford Pledge, that “In no circumstances will this house fight for its King and country,” really swayed Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy. One suspects very little. It didn’t have to. It was not primarily a cause, but a symptom of the pacifism that swept the United Kingdom and France—to a degree the United States, too—following the Great War.

        It was that pacifism that caused France to acquiesce in Nazi Germany’s reoccupation of the Rhineland. It was that that caused Britain and France to acquiesce in the Anschluss between Germany and Austria. Pacifism saw the Sudetenland occupied, and then the rest of Czechoslovakia gobbled up or severed away. One suspects that the cultivated unaggressive, nonbelligerent, nonviolent attitude was at least in good part responsible for the most welcome break Germany got, during and after the invasion of Poland, up until the invasion of Denmark and Norway, and their assault on the west, in 1940. Too, it was at least a factor in American isolationism.

        Sixty million or so dead later, most of the world had learned. Yet the pacifist intellectual never did. Though Bertrand Russell bounced around quite a bit after the war, he ultimately ended up pretty much where he’d started, having apparently learned nothing he could accept from the events of 1939-1945. Perhaps . . . even probably, he never could have learned, because learning would have meant for him, and for the intellectual pacifist, generally, profound personal unhappiness at having to give up his fantasy. The pacifist still believes, despite the vast and compelling historic evidence to the contrary, that pacifism—though it can only be locally, hence dangerously, applied—is inherently and universally moral.

        Of course, the Second World War was not the only refutation of pacifism out there. Contemplate the Moriori people who inhabited the Chatham Islands. Total pacifists by the command of their (dare I say it? I dare; I dare.) intellectual king; when eight- or nine-hundred Maori showed up in 1835, the Moriori were conquered, killed, enslaved and eaten. The few survivors were forbidden by their conquerors to have children together and thus was their existence as a people effectively extinguished.

        In their defense, the Moriori really weren’t given a lot of time to learn, so rapid was their destruction. But the modern, intellectual, secular pacifist? What’s his or her excuse? Why haven’t they learned? How can that failure to learn be considered intelligent? And if the rest of us haven’t learned or won’t learn from pacifism’s grotesque and murderous misdiagnosis prior to 1939, and its continuing fraud cum idiocy after 1945, how unintelligent would we be?

        For those who subscribe to this view, the “manufacture of consent” metaphor gives them a clear conscience to undertake the wholesale reeducation of the deluded masses in order to get them to see their true good, which—no surprise—can be secured only by following the dictates of their intellectual superiors, whose capacity to think independently is proven by their rejection of all traditional and local values and their adoption of the ideal of rational cosmopolitanism. —Lee Harris, The Cosmopolitan Illusion

        I’ve dumped on Martha Nussbaum’s “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism” before, in Carnifex. Perhaps I owe her an apology. (If so, it would be a debt that rested very lightly on my shoulders, to be sure.) Not that I think I pegged it precisely wrongly, mind you, but—mea culpa—I don’t think I really understood what was going on there, at the core of the thing, at the time I wrote. I think I do now. And here it is, perhaps in somewhat convoluted form. (But then, we’re talking about some convoluted minds and trains of thought, so you’ll have that.)

        First, a question: What is happiness? (Oh, stop the Genghis Khan quotes. That’s, at most, how to get it, if you’re a fairly odd sort, not what it is.) The pshrinks and philosophers seem to differ. Some say it’s an emotion. Others disagree. No one seems to disagree, however, that, as a minimum, happiness is a derivative of emotions, an emotional state. Just shunt that off to one side of your mind for a bit, but we will get back to it. I presented it here, early, just to give you a little time to re-assimilate the concept.

        On to “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism”! More specifically, what I intend to do is show how Nussbaum’s thesis is objective nonsense and then postulate how it came to be that a well educated and eloquent woman could put forth and maintain such nonsense with a straight face.

        At the center of Nussbaum’s idea, I think, is the notion that logic demands that, once we’ve drawn the circles of nationality around ourselves, we must—having been exclusive, the once—continue to draw ever narrower circles. This is false, as I alluded to in Carnifex. Whatever the logic might be in a closed system, one with no external threat, we don’t live in that system. The system is, indeed, a fantasy. It would be intensely illogical—if survival and freedom have any value—to draw circles so narrow that successful collective defense becomes impossible. Just ask the Arabs, who usually have weak nations, but who have perhaps the most closely drawn circles in the world, how well they’ve been doing against the Israelis for the last six decades.

        Yes, that means that, in the real, the non-intellectual, world, we do not necessarily draw those circles narrowly because, logically, factually, objectively, and intelligently, we might well end up being kicked out of our homes if we did.

        Also, as I mentioned, in Carnifex, what does actually happen when national boundaries are erased, or at least weakened, in a theoretically closed system without an actual, admitted or perceived external threat, is that, contra Nussbaum, then people start drawing narrower circles. Scots and Welsh, for example, start ceasing to be Britons and begin to revert to much narrower identities, as the EU becomes more powerful and the nation states of Europe weaken. It is very unclear that the European identity the EU would like to foster will ever get out of the starting gate, except among a very few.

        Similarly, no useful pan-African identity has come from sub-Saharan Africa’s weak states. Less still does a pan-human identity develop, in a place without those nationalist circles. No, no, there the narrow circle of the tribe matters.

        So if logic demands it, why doesn’t it happen? Why, indeed, does the opposite happen? It’s really quite simple: Logic has little to do with it.

        Rather, the driving force, the one Nussbaum is loathe to admit to, is not logic, it is emotion. And reason’s part in this is only to realize, accept, analyze, and deal with the fact that emotion rules, not a distant logic, and especially not one with false premises, ab initio. Anything else would be illogical.

        It is obvious. It is intelligently applied emotion—not cold logic, except for the logic of defense against a threat—that makes people draw the largest circles to which they can feel an emotional tie.

        So why can’t a woman as well educated, eloquent, and apparently logically reasoning as Martha Nussbaum see that? I can’t be certain, of course, but I can offer a suggestion as to what I think was going on. I think it was a multistep process: 1) she was projecting her logic on to the rest of mankind, despite copious evidence that mankind is not logical, 2) she was simultaneously denying our right to be, and our existence as, primarily emotionally driven beings, 3) despite the probability approaching certainty that a people which loses its sense of nationhood will fragment into weak and possibly warring factions, and high likelihood that such a people will become, thereafter, subjects, or perhaps slaves, of those who did not lose their sense of nationhood, she would still have us do it, because, 4) the attempt would make her happy, which is to say, it would engage her emotions in a personally satisfying way.

        In other words, a) I doubt that even she, herself, realizes that she is as emotionally driven as the rest of us poor, ignorant ’eathens, and that that drives everything she says beyond the merely trivial, while b) though she does so differently from the way some other noted and notable intellectuals use others—financially and sexually—she has no more care than they do for what would happen to the rest of us, in the real world, should we be so silly as to follow her advice, so long as our doing so makes her happy.

        That, friends, is sociopathy. We do not exist as independent, morally significant, individual beings to Nussbaum anymore that we would to Sartre, Shelley, or Marx. Our function is merely to make them happy.

        If I am right in this—and I frankly do not see any other way for a clever person like Nussbaum to put forth such a factually fraudulent argument —can we reasonably call making that kind of misprediction, maintaining it in the face of copious evidence to the contrary, and that kind of lack of personal insight, truly intelligent? Again, glib and eloquent I readily concede, but intelligence is more than these.

        One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool. —George Orwell

        One of the ways to tell if a philosophy is inherently illegitimate is to ask and answer certain questions, the answers to which either must be historically and universally valid, or must postulate some profound change in the human condition such as to allow them to be valid in the future even if not in the past. These include: “Would the philosophy depend for its continued existence and prosperity on a particular kind of society, which society is its antithesis? Would it undermine the defense of the very kind of society it requires to continue to exist and prosper? Having undermined its home society, would it need universality to continue to exist and prosper while having no credible way of attaining that universality?”

        My typical reader will probably understand fully how those three apply to both pacifism and cosmopolitanism. But let me give one that that some of my readers are likely to choke on: Ayn Rand’s objectivism, coupled with her rejection of altruism.

        How would objectivism have dealt with Nazism or Stalinism, in the past? It would self-evidently have failed; only the intensely, stupid could imagine Rand’s self-centered egotists dealing effectively with either the altruistically motivated Wehrmacht or the Red Army. And don’t bother with, “Well, that just shows that altruism is inherently evil.” That’s simply nonsense; like a firearm, altruism is morally neutral, neither good nor evil except in respect to the uses to which it is put. (Yes, this does mean that generally pro-gun objectivists who make the claim have latched on to the moral and intellectual equivalent of the gun grabbers’ argument for gun control and confiscation.)

        In any case, what Rand was doing there was something profoundly intellectual, and profoundly unintelligent, fully equal to the stupidities inherent in pacifism and cosmopolitanism. She forgot that there was a real world outside her brainpan and beyond the limits of her fantasy, which world contained people whose emotions, whose altruism, could be harnessed for purposes inimical to Rand’s own, and which she could neither convert, defend against, nor conquer.

        You can call this intelligent intellectualism if you want. But why would you?

        I’ll be continuing the conversation in the next volume of the Countdown series, Criminal Enterprise.


        • apollonian said, on February 10, 2014 at 9:37 pm

          Neo-Con Liar Tries To Revise History To Favor Israel

          Magus: I absolutely guarantee u this utter, presumptuous fool, Kratman is stinking neo-con, war-monger. Observe he presumes so idiotically upon France under German occupation during WWII. Sartre, for example, was legitimate P.O.W., member of French armed forces, who was then released and allowed to go scot-free into Vichy France.

          And it’s remarkable the lenient regime the Germans maintained in occupied France, remarked by many French, not only Sartre, not to mention the freedom and autonomy allowed to Vichy France–which was actually fatal for some of the consequences, considering Germany could and should have taken control of N. Africa, preventing Operation Torch, and allowing Germany to control Egypt, the near east, linking up w. Iran for more effective pressure against USSR.

          Kratman is just gross, bald-face liar when he pretends pacifism was motive of France and Britain as they, esp. Britain, drove ruthlessly for war against Germany, esp. in the offensive alliance Britain made w. Poland.

          Note Kratman typically wants to conflate pacifism w. “isolationism,” which was obvious, rational, and traditional American foreign policy not to get entangled w. Europeans, esp. the criminals who ruled Britain. Nazi Germany was heroic defender of Christian West against Jew-Bolshevik satanism and mass-murder–it was eminent self-interest of USA to be “isolationist” and not interfere against Germans.

          “Intellectual” is one who thinks and analyzes such as the gross, moronic, and idiot lies of this putrid neo-con, Kratman who’s probably an Israeli himself, I wouldn’t doubt. U sure picked a winner for a spokesman, magus.

        • WTP said, on February 10, 2014 at 11:57 pm

          That was a good read. I agree with damn near all of it. Including the critique of Rand. Thanks for posting.

      • WTP said, on February 10, 2014 at 11:54 pm

        Yes, I do recall that post. Ever discuss it with Mike?

  10. magus71 said, on February 11, 2014 at 10:31 am

    How do you guys feel about this recent Obama quip?

    “That’s the good thing about being president, I can do whatever I want.”


    • WTP said, on February 11, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      It’s kind of an “eh” to me. I think he’s only said that in context of joking a bit. I only know that “I can do what I want” line from his showing the Frenchy pres around Tom Jeff’s place and in the context of who they were and what they were doing, it was a silly rule. Coming from most any other president, it would be no big deal. What irritates about stuff like this coming from him is that throughout his terms he’s demonstrated a considerable amount of arrogance elsewhere in governing, especially “I have a pen and a phone”, “the police acted stupidly”, his original “date night” to NYC after getting inaugurated,, etc.

      Something about power makes people arrogant and if they don’t have a sensitivity to the fact that upon acquiring power, their relationship with other people changes due to the power perspective. I remember once as a young analyst being in one of our real slow elevators at KSC with Chris Craft, the NASA bigwig. I was taking a large cart full of launch tapes down three floors to storage on the elevator at the end of the late shift as my last task for the day. He got on with some other bigwig I didn’t recognize. I knew they were headed up one floor for which there was a stairwell right next to the elevator. I said “this is going down”, he got in the elevator and said “not no more it isn’t”, opened the panel, futzed around for a minute, and changed the direction. Would have been much faster if they just walked up the one flight of stairs. That was some arrogance.

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