Category: Philosophy

A Neologism for a 20th-Century Malady

Friedrich Hayek

True: Knowledge, by its nature, is decentralized. Knowledge informs, directs, and fuels action. Therefore, action ought to be decentralized.

False: Centralized government action presupposes that knowledge, by its nature, is centered in a few experts. Knowledge informs, directs, and fuels action. Therefore, action ought to be centralized in the government.

The false approach is now known as “Faucism,” named after Anthony Fauci, whose positions and statements during the pandemic are unravelling faster a stripper’s clothes in front of a wad of Benjamins. His lies and incompetence were obvious to many during the pandemic, but now they’re becoming obvious to everyone else. Hopefully, it will forever destroy Faucism.

The above is just a summary of this excellent essay by Barry Brownstein: Liberating Yourself from Faucism. Excerpt:

Most Faucists have never read Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” They do not know why the idea of allowing one man to determine policy is absurd: 

“The knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.”

“Our ignorance is sobering and boundless,” observed philosopher Karl Popper. Faucists don’t believe that about their beloved leader. Who else should decide, they proclaim, but our most learned expert? 

Popper continued with what could be a credo for individuals willing to humbly explore their beliefs and admit the limits of individual knowledge: “With each step forward, with each problem which we solve, we not only discover new and unsolved problems, but we also discover that where we believed that we were … Read the rest

The Peasant Sentiment

The Greatest Game Ever Played is a true story about an unaccomplished young golfer, Francis Ouimet, at the turn of the century and how he beat the world’s top two golfers in an 18-hole playoff at the 1913 U.S. Open.

Francis’s goal to be a great golfer is juxtaposed against his father’s more mundane ideas. Mr. Ouimet is a hard-working immigrant from the old school. His attitude toward Francis’s ambitions is summed up by his words: “Being a man means knowing one’s place in the world and making peace with it” (quote isn’t exact). Although the movie is somewhat sympathetic to Mr. Ouimet, overall his thinking is portrayed as peasant-like: backward, old world, and as un-American as his foreign accent.

The movie portrays Francis’s struggle and eventual championship at the U.S. Open as the American way. His battle celebrates initiative (trying to be the best), democratic social leveling (crashing through barriers that surrounded the game at the turn of the century), and individualism (doing what he wants, even against his father’s wishes).… Read the rest

How to Raise a Sane Child

Rule Number One: Don’t be a Nominalist

My three-year-old son Jack received a menagerie of thirty-some plastic animals at Christmas to go with the dozen or so he already owned. He played with his “anmuls” constantly, carrying them around in different containers (wagon, bag, box, hat) and setting them up in odd places, like the piano.

One night he came running to me, terribly excited, saying I had to see a surprise in his room. It turns out that he and his big sister, Abbie (5), had put the animals on the dresser. But not in a haphazard fashion. In Jack’s awe-filled words: (the “r” is soft in Jack’s pronunciation): “See, yions, tigus, cheeeetahs! El’phants, then hippos. Dogs. See, yitto (i.e., “little”) anmuls then big anmuls, see!”

In short, Jack, with Abbie’s help, had arranged all the animals close together based on species and roughly in order of size. The elephants and hippos were first, followed by the various big cats, then horses and zebras and similar animals like deer and antelopes, then dogs.

It was riveting stuff for ol’ Jack.

Gilson and the Problem of Universals

By chance, I had just come upstairs after reading from Etienne Gilson’s The Unity of Philosophical Experience. I had been reading Chapter III, “The Road to Skepticism,” which deals with the problem of universals.… Read the rest

Dostoyevsky and Flannery O’Connor Reveal Something Ironic about Our Modern World

Essences become meaningless in both a perfect and marred world.

In one of his last works before his masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.

The Dream

In this story, the narrator goes to another solar system and lands on a planet where the inhabitants are people just like us, but untainted by the Fall in the Garden of Eden. They live, the narrator tells us:

“In the same paradise as that in which . . . our parents lived before they sinned.”

But the narrator, being a fallen man, corrupts the inhabitants:

“Like the germ of a plague infecting whole kingdoms, I corrupted them all.”

They then begin to act like us on earth. In the words of Russian literature professor Arthur Trace:

“They invent morality because now there was immorality; they make a virtue of shame, whereas before they had no need for shame; they invent the concept of honor because now there is such a thing as dishonor; they invent justice because now there is injustice; and they invent brotherhood and friendship because there is hatred.”

Arthur Trace, Furnace of Doubt (1988), 24.

In short, on the unfallen planet, there was no virtue or morality because there was no vice or immorality in contrast. There was no distinction between bad and good.

It was a morally-existentialist world: no essences; just existence.

I fear we’ve reached a similar point in our culture, where the moral essences, like bad and good, no longer carry meaning. But it’s not because we’re the perfect planet of the Ridiculous Man. I fear it’s because we’ve deviated so far from … Read the rest

If You Meet the Buddha, Kill Him

J.D. Salinger hit the jackpot in 1951. At age 32, he published The Catcher in the Rye, a novel about an alienated teenager named “Holden Caulfield,” and it became an immediate bestseller. He was a success.

But the novel met with considerable resistance from parents who thought it was subversive. Perhaps more cutting, the literature establishment didn’t take the work seriously and leveled pointed criticism at it. Salinger grew bitter at the criticism, so bitter that biographers say it drove him into his famed reclusion in Cornish, New Hampshire.

I’ve always found Salinger’s bitterness odd. It’s almost like, through the alienated character of Holden Caulfield, he scorned the offerings of modern culture, but then became disillusioned when success within that modern culture didn’t yield up happiness.

It was an illogical response given Holden Caulfield’s perspective on life. Holden wouldn’t have cared about the haughty literature establishment.

It was also the exact opposite of Albert Camus’ advice in his 1942 book, The Myth of Sisyphus.

Sisyphus was condemned by the gods to roll a huge rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down, for eternity. But Camus said Sisyphus is happy because he understands his fate and understands he can’t avoid it, so he ceases to expect that he’ll ever succeed in getting the rock over the top. In other words, he negates all hope. It’s frustrated hope that makes the punishment hard, Camus says, so if hope is negated, the torture ceases. It might be absurd, Camus said, but it’s our lot in life.

If Salinger was like Sisyphus, or even like Holden, he would have written the novels without regard … Read the rest

The Revolt Against Essence

Getting to know the most popular philosophy of the 20th century

brown pagoda near body of water
Photo by Aron Visuals on

Consider these popular subjects from the twentieth century:


Jack Kerouac

J.D. Salinger novels

Forrest Gump.

Each of them is soaked in the philosophical school of existentialism. There are many other popular subjects that are either tinged with existentialism or downright soaked in it as well, ranging from Taoism to psychedelics to St. Therese of Lisieux to the postmodern philosophy of Michel Foucault.

All these things have proven popular to the western mind over the past 100 years. The question is, why?

I believe it’s because existentialism might be the best individual response to our cultural condition.

What is It?

Experts often disagree about the definition of existentialism, but in general, the term refers to a type of thought that emphasizes existence rather than essence. Here’s how Will Herberg put it in Four Existentialist Theologians: “[G]enerally we can describe thinking as existentialist if it makes existence rather than essence the starting point of its ontological reflections.”

From ancient Greece through modern philosophy, it was widely accepted that essence took priority over existence. The general idea: in order to know something exists, you need to know its essence. Therefore, essence is prior to existence.

Essences are those things that define a class of things. If you find that thing that distinguishes one class from another, you’ve found its essence. For the class “elephant,” that thing might be its trunk. For humans, that thing is the rational faculty. Once you discern a trunk or a creature with a rational faculty, you identify the existence of an elephant or a … Read the rest

Is That Guy Stupid, a Jerk, or Both?

Noisiness tends to stem from an inability to look outside oneself, which is something both the unintelligent and the boors lack

Schopenhauer said, “The higher one’s tolerance for noise, the lower one’s intellect.”

I’ve long said a similar thing: “The louder a person is, the less intelligent he is.”

These are merely general rules and I’ve known a few notable exceptions.

They’re also rules that are subject to one’s situation in life.

Young people, for instance, are louder than older people. They haven’t fallen down 10,000 times like older people, so they lack the wisdom and resignation of an older person and, therefore, have the undiluted joyful enthusiasm we all ought to have. They also have more energy and are healthier.

They can also drink more alcohol.

All contribute to loudness and none of them mean the young person is less intelligent than the older. It’s a pretty big hole in Mr. Schopenhauer’s and my observations.

Still, I think the observations hold.

I think the reasons noise and stupidity tend to walk together are illustrated in this Taki piece, “Aural Rape.”

Last week, after yet another record snowfall, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, I was cross-country skiing and stopped for a picnic lunch with Lara and Patricia, two married friends of mine who had left me miles behind while skating, the new method of cross-country. (I remain traditional, gliding on the double track.)

A cloudless and very blue sky accentuated the beauty of the landscape. I haven’t seen so much snow in the 62 winters I’ve spent here, the mountains looking their best, their solemnity inaccessible as there is too much snow for

Read the rest

Libertarian and Conservative to Cuff One Another on Live Video

In this threatening age of The Great Reset and leftist rage at four years of Trump, the debate between conservatives and libertarians seems almost quaint. It would be like Great Britain and Ireland fighting over Belfast as a huge armada of Muslim Vikings starts to land.

Still, the debate is real. The two sides have so much in common (channel F.A. Hayek) and yet stand so far apart (channel Ayn Rand).

It’s a debate (more of a discussion, I think) that has long fascinated me, in part because I consider myself conservative and libertarian, which I’ve been assured is like thinking Belfast ought to be Catholic and Protestant. I’m not even sure how different the two sides are anymore. In a better world, the differences are real, but in today’s world of the most powerful western governments ever?

I’m just not sure the differences are significant.

But the differences are still worth exploring, just like I spend hours exploring the lines between anarchism and libertarianism, even though neither is going to exist any time soon (barring a nuclear war).

If you’re interested in the subject, I recommend an upcoming debate:

  • Prof. Nathan Schlueter, Hillsdale College
  • Prof. Nikolai Wenzel, Fayetteville State University
  • Mediator: Hon. Elizabeth L. Branch, United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

My friend Nathan Schlueter will be taking the conservative side. His friend, Nikolai Wenzel, will be taking the libertarian side.

It’s this coming Friday at 8:00 PM.

Odd day and time, that, but I plan on settling in with a large gin and tonic to enjoy the exchange.

Reference: Selfish Libertarians and Socialist Conservatives?: The Foundations Read the rest