Bad Poem Thursday

Gaining Perspective

It's tiresome but true that truth is vantage-bound.
The blood-splayed strife of beast against beast
May be seen as the peace of tiny things,
Dumbly and mutely bouncing around.

From one point of view we're all one race–
“From a distance,” as Bette might say.
But closer in we hate so well,
And so well we blow each other away.

No doubt there's a way of looking at love
As a shadowy figment of tedious forces:
Our fullness of heart, but Darwin's whip.
Adoring, we check the teeth of our horses.

But where I stand, the truth is full face.
The catch of my breath when you come near.
The sweep of your hair, the awe of your grace.
The terrible constancy of my fear

Has worn me on this pained paradigm.
So let's have a perspective wholly swell,
Where aches are apples and tears taste of lime,
And each tossed, sweating midnight hell

Is a token of heaven, a cherished gift.

I'll be moving in shortly,
Once I learn how to shift.

We Have a Winner!

— The winner of the Name the Car contest is the ebullient Lynne Kiesling! This weekend, at the Mercatus Center Capitol Hill Campus Chiefs of Staff Retreat, Lynne suggested Bucephalus, the name of Alexander the Great's awesome stead… and I like it! So I hereby christen the Civic Buchephalus. And henceforth and forever so shall you be known.

So, Lynne, you're entitled to a dollar or a kiss.

Prudent Predators, Sensible Knaves, and Fooles

Several years ago, debate raged on several Objectivist discussion lists about the the problem of the “prudent predator.” The problem, simply put, is this: Why should a rational egoist accept constraints on her self-interested behavior, such as respecting others' rights, if it is advantageous to throw them off in a particular case? The prudent predator accepts that the system of constraints is beneficial, given that others reliably accept them, but sees no reason not to “defect” from the pattern of general compliance when it pays.

It would have been to my immense benefit at the time of those debates had I read Hobbes' account of the Foole in Leviathan, and Hume's account of the conditions of justice and the Sensible Knave in the Enquiry. I'm making a study of compliance problems in contractarian moral theory this semester, and I'm astonished to see that all the moves that I tried to make in the Objectivist debates were anticipated by Hobbes and Hume. Of particular interest is Hume's analysis of the conditions under which we are obliged to practice the virtue of justice, which he conceives as respecting a system of several property. I had argued that the logic of Objectivist egoism is such that respect for rights is required only when there is a social order under which interaction to mutual advantage is possible. Although Hume is no egoist (his moral theory is based in moral sentiment), he justifies his theory of justice on grounds of self-interest. And Hume says exactly what I had said, and more. In conditions of scarcity, war, or in other systematically predatory social conditions, the practice of justice (the respect for rights to property) has no foundation. A consequence of this view is that rights to property cannot be conceived to exist prior to the solution of the problem of scarcity, and the existence of cooperative norms. In which case a puzzle arises: scarcity is solved by markets. But markets require stable property rights. So how do we get to either?

Good question! More later!

The Keen Wind of Understanding

The Keen Wind of Understanding — From Richard Holloway's review of Dawkins's new book, A Devil's Chaplain:

The goal of life is life itself. There is no final purpose, no end other than entropy and the end of all endings. But there is deep refreshment to be had “from standing up full-face into the keen wind of understanding”.


Blogoramalamadingdong — It was fun.

Blogoramalamadingdong — It was fun. We should do it again. I seem to be the coverperson (along with the lovely Miss Ahluwalia) over at Julian's wrap up page. Unfortunately, my expression seems to be of the sort elicited by a visit to the proctologist.

Also, here at Missy's page looking grave and deceptively conservative, and here, looking like I've just been shot (smoking gun just off camera). I may have been drinking.

Women and Children First —

Women and Children First —

I can't help but picture these grandmothers as charred corpses. Hussein hands out guns, thereby making his civilians combatants. The US kills them, then Hussein, and the NYT, claims them as civilian deaths. I'm somewhat heartened by the fact that people aren't dumb when it comes to self-preservation, and will very quickly lose the AKs and hide when the American troops thunder into the already decimated town. I hope for the best for the like of Faris Zubaid who says, “We will show them our bravery. We will show them we can fight. And we will fight until we win or die.” Once the heavens tear open, I figure a situational assesment of the odds of winning against death will reveal to Faris that fighting in this case is not an instance of bravery. Building a liberal democracy in fucking Iraq, now that takes bravery. So save it. Please, please save it.

Automobility! — I finally got

Automobility! — I finally got a car! I can stay out on weekends after the Metro stops running! I can LEAVE WASHINGTON! It's a cute vehicle, a 1996 Honda Civic EX in lovely shape with just 43,000 miles. So I'm jazzed. But I need your help. I like to forge a personal relationship with my cars. My last, a red 1988 Escort GT, which gave up the ghost in the middle of Manhattan in August 2001, was dubbed Mephisto by my Goethe-loving German freundin. The Civic needs a name! So I propose a little contest: suggest a name for the Civic in the comments box, and if I pick your entry, I'll give you either a kiss, a ride in the newly christened conveyance, or a dollar — your choice!

A sleek little black creature, it looks almost exactly like this: