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Philosophy

Delicate Perfection

Maximally optimized systems are fragile systems.

Quoted from: NZC, a regular commenter at TJIC.

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Trust, but Verify

Suppose you decide to trust your neighbor and help her clear her driveway after a big snowstorm, with the understanding that when you are done she will help you clear yours.  Let’s say she reciprocates.  As a result of your trust in her, you’ve learned that she is trustworthy and for that reason you may engage in more frequent or more involved cooperative acts, such as picking up each other’s children from school or building and maintaining a common play area.

If she doesn’t reciprocate, well, you’ve learned that she’s perhaps not so trustworthy, and so in the future you will be careful in dealings with her.

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Understanding Everything, Knowing Nothing

The current President seems to have a flexible relationship with truth. And in that statement, I display a kinship with his philosophy.

The word at the crux is “seem”. I have made it a habit to qualify many of my perceptions with words like “seem” or “appear”. This habit was cultivated, in part, to recognize that as only one mind, I cannot embrace all that is true. I can only know what I know, which is not necessarily all that exists.

But I diverge from the President in my conclusion that there is an absolute truth. What seems true to me, or to him, or to anyone, is rooted in fixed concepts. Barry denies (appears to deny?) there is any fixed truth underlying each person’s perception. Everything is relative.

And nothing is real without someone to perceive it, and put that perception into linguistic terms. There are no absolutes. This is what is called “post-modernism”:

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Pharaoh -> Caesar -> Obama -> Pawlenty -> Rybak

Arnold Kling goes Old Testament:

Pharoah created jobs for us. Moses led us away from those jobs. Even though those jobs helped to complete public infrastructure. Even though they were green jobs, where we used our muscles and our backs instead of fossil fuels.

Moses could have been part of the ruling class in Egypt. He chose freedom instead. Those of us who followed Moses also chose freedom. Freedom brings risks. But we preferred the risks of freedom to the security of bondage.

Do not confuse government with G-d. Government cannot miraculously provide us with manna--or health care. When we look at government, we should not see G-d. We should see Pharoah. Government-worship is Pharoah-worship.

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Sin and Yang

From a Good Friday reflection by a committed Catholic:

The question has come my way several times in the past week: "How do you maintain your faith in light of news stories that bring light to the dark places that exist within your church?"

When have darkness and light been anything but co-existent? How do we recognize either without the other?

The darkness within my church is real, and it has too often gone unaddressed. The light within my church is also real, and has too often gone unappreciated. A small minority has sinned, gravely, against too many. Another minority has assisted or saved the lives of millions.

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An Unfriending

A Facebook friend, KL, posted the following status update:

KL is so tired of hearing about atheists molesting children, blowing people up, forming malitias in order to kill cops attending a funeral, etc. Er wait...

I commented:

The atheists spent most of the previous century murdering millions of peasants and eradicating Jews. It’s about time the religious types got in on the evil.

KL:

Stalin took the place of the deity and Hitler was a Catholic.

Conductor:

Don’t forget Mao and Pol Pot. Atheists win the body count by tens of millions.

KL:

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Where Interest Lies Honor Dies

I have engaged in several conversations with opponents who are not yet my enemies. They deserve the honor of being heard before commencing battle. And I am within my integrity to listen for my own arrogance.

These conversations, of course about Unicorn Care, begin with some statement of support for the ideal. “Getting sick should not lead to bankruptcy.” “Freedom is not having to worry about affording health care.”

I join not with my best argument, but with the economics. It is Unicorn Care because the numbers cannot work. Nothing is free. Hiding the cost of care does not remove the cost of care.

Here some opponents first show their selfishness. They do not care that someone else must pay. They want to be free from worry, but shirk the responsibility that is inseparable from such a liberty.

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The Enemy Within

The greatest threat to any living organism or nation is not to recognize danger in time.

Quoted from: Benjamin Netanyahu

via Dr. Sanity

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Do Not Be Under Him

In reaction to yesterday’s Congressional declaration of war, the righties appear to be rallying around the idea of repeal. They’re fools.

They also hold out hope for a Constitutional challenge. The legislation is so bad, there might be some success. But in the larger view, it is little more than wishful thinking.

Repeal requires not only a Republican Congress, but one sufficiently “conservative” to scrap the whole deal and start over. And these “conservatives” must be elected in sufficient number to override Barry’s veto. There are too many handouts, fiefdoms and legitimate local issues to expect Congress to go two-thirds conservative.

When certain provisions are tested by Supreme Court, the people are already fighting a rear-guard action. And remember, the majority of the Court is comfortable with the idea of a “Living Constitution”, which means whatever they want it to mean.

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Rhetorical Theater

Remember, when you're debating with someone, always keep in mind that what you're really trying to do is teach the audience.

Quoted from: Difster (in a comment at Vox Popoli)

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Atheist Morality

I was curious how atheists determine right and wrong. Without a command from G-d, isn’t good and evil just a matter of taste?

The google led me to a wealth of argument and testimony. Although they seem to spend far too much time berating non-atheists (mostly Christians), I saw an essential similarity in all the discussion.

Good, or right conduct, works out to be the same as what the faithful subscribe to. By culture and tradition, or for species survival, atheist morality seems to be rooted in the Golden Rule: Do on to others as you would have them do on to you.

The atheists seem very proud that they can reason their way to this shared conception without invoking a deity. They assure the audience that rape and murder are still wrong, and atheism is not (necessarily) just nihilistic hedonism. There are problems in the arguments I saw, but I expect those are issues of logical formality that somebody from Team Atheist has worked out.

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Choosing Surrender

We do not acquit ourselves morally by trying to abstain from a choice of evils.

Quoted from: Rant of the Day

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Is it Murder or just a Tragedy?

A drowning person is a danger to another who attempts a rescue.

The act of saving a drowning person is immensely complicated by the panicked struggles of the victim to stay afloat and breathing.

Imagine I am lost at sea with at least one person who can’t swim. If I can swim, but am not a trained lifesaver, to preserve my own life I must push away from the non-swimmer. The non-swimmer will likely drown.

Does that make me a murderer?

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High Expectations

God has a great work for you to do and if you are not doing it, it's not getting done.

Quoted from: Brian Dunbar

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Somehow Relevant

It ain’t stealin’ if you do it fast.

Quoted from: Moe Szyslak

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Active Cooperation

In general, you can get help if you are doing your share but not if you are sitting on your butt expecting the Lord to push one way while you are pushing the other way.

Quoted from: Maxed Out Momma

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War Restores Truth

I understand now. Finally, once and for all, what the purpose of war is. The purpose of war is to destroy myths. The purpose of war is to restore human faith in cause and effect. The purpose of war is remind humankind of its limits. And now I understand how that can be a good thing.

That’s Cobb, riffing on the pretty lies we tell to make us feel like good people. Advertisers create illusions to sell products. Light beer or gallons of cheap body spray do not attract hot girls. But young men want to believe this is so. It’s essentially the same operation when a giant food corporation touts its new organic brand to upper middle class shoppers. Or when a political action group makes believe that computer word games actually help feed starving children.

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Politics Problem

I regularly mention the illusion of false scarcity. My line usually goes something like, “It’s not a resource problem, it’s a technology problem. The best example is oil. Should Earth ever actually release all its oil for human consumption, any of the several substitues already known could be a viable replacement. Or something new will be found. If we put our minds to it.

What happens when the technology works too well? In Belgium and around the world, milk prices have dropped very low. At the current price, supply exceeds demand. In other words, for $4 per gallon, farmers will make more milk than people are willing to shell out $4 for.

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9/18

Here it is, the last day of my experiment with extended rememberance. It has been difficult. Life really does get in the way.

Maybe that’s the point. Life should get in the way. Those who sacrificed did so to allow me to follow the path of my life. If I spend too much time looking backward, I stop moving forward.

It calls to mind our mission here at NRR, and the words which inspired it:

A time will come when someone asks you: 'What were you doing about it?' You can't tell them: 'I was just watching it. I was just an innocent bystander.' Let me tell you something: There are no innocent bystanders in this.

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9/13

War is less costly than servitude…the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau.

Quoted from: Jean Dutourd

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