Latest musings, analyses, and general madness

Great Moments in Government

If the history of civilization has taught us anything — and by “us,” I mean non-progressives, progressives being constitutionally opposed to learning from history — it is that government will never be perfect, will rarely be good, and will usually be dreadful. Tyrannical impulses, fatal compromises of principle, and catastrophic blindness are such intractable facts of the human condition that it is an...

Two Reflections On The Fate of the Soul

In the eternal battle between cats and birds, I am always on the side of the birds. Make no mistake, though: I know the battle is eternal, which is to say that it is both essential and without hope of ultimate resolution or victory. I have chosen my side nevertheless, or rather perhaps I ought to say that I have been chosen by...

AI and Intellectual Property

The world may already have ended: I just noticed that Noam Chomsky of all people has publicly stated something aligned with what I myself was thinking during my morning walk today. Specifically, he commented about a year ago that AI systems such as ChatGPT are “basically high-tech plagiarism. It’s a system that…accesses an astronomical amount of data and finds regularities and strings them...

Mirrors, by Jorge Luis Borges

I humbly offer here my own new translation of “Mirrors,” a poem by Jorge Luis Borges. The poem has existed in English translation for decades, and in more than one version, perhaps most popularly the translation of Alistair Reid, which is the one through which I first discovered this wonderful work. However, for reasons I will discuss below, I believe this new attempt...

Republicans Against Free Speech

The Republican Party in the U.S. Congress has advocated and voted for an anti-free-speech bill of the most extreme and unconstitutional sort. The Suck Up to Jewish Donors Bill, publicly known as the Antisemitism Awareness Act, explicitly adopts the arbitrary and absurdly broad definition of antisemitism created out of whole cloth by an “intergovernmental organization” calling itself the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and...

Smashing Stuff At Columbia

Columbia University is under siege, 1960s style, by violent “protesters” whose goals are, shall we say, mixed. From a brief news clip survey of the ongoing mess at Columbia’s Hamilton Hall, it appears that some of these “students” are merely hoping to win a Muslim holy war against Israel by screaming about it from the cozy campus of an elite American university. Others,...

The Ego As A Mechanism of Progress

One of the most universal and predictable bromides, spoken by people of all temperaments and political persuasions, in reply to any contemporary warning about the societal dangers inherent in this or that significant change in information technology, educational norms, economic relations, popular entertainment, or public mores: “But that’s what they said about X back in the day.” This rejoinder is meant to carry...

The Philosophers and The Gentlemen

Socrates, in The Republic, defines the five essential forms of government in rank order, from most to least just: aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, tyranny. His cleverest rhetorical trick, the most famous (and probably least understood) conceit in the dialogue, is his redefinition of aristocracy by means of the radical proposal that in order to realize a truly just city in practice, philosophers would...

Dream Come True: Dennett vs. Mary

In honor of the passing of Daniel Dennett, I offer the following foray into my misspent youth, in which I assess Dennett’s materialist critique of consciousness in some detail. Read at your own risk. Daniel C. Dennett’s Sweet Dreams, though concluding with some positive suggestions regarding avenues of future consciousness research, exists primarily as a clearing house for his most developed efforts to...

Dan Dennett

Daniel C. Dennett, one of the most famous and accomplished philosophy professors of the past fifty years, has died. I choose my words carefully, though I confess somewhat (certainly without intention) disrespectfully. Dennett was not a philosopher; he was a philosophy professor, a very different entity. And in saying that he died, I know that I am insulting his thought and that of...