Badnarik or Bust (Inclusive)

Matt aptly summarizes below why I'll be voting for the libertarian cadidate, despite the sisyphean absurdity of voting and the fact that the libertarian candidate is a honking bozo. But why not embrace the absurd, embrace democracy, and run a balls-to-the-wall if-you-have-libertarian-bone-your-goddamn-body-then-vote-for-Michael “Atrophied Felons” Badnarik campaign until the election!

Now, it's true, I had promised my friend Anna to vote for Kerry if she would buy me a sandwich. Well, Anna, I don't want your dirty sandwich! (And people wonder why Brazil is corrupt.) I want Michael Freaking Badnarik. Or at least the tiny sick thrill, like throwing pebbles at the IRS, that voting for Badnarik will surely provide. I want the constitution class, damn it!

Under the circumstances, it's no wonder the GOP feels free to take the libertarian vote for granted — it doesn't appear to exist. This may be because libertarians are, in fact, only a miniscule proportion of the population who just happen to be disproportionately represented in the Beltway policy community and the academy. Alternatively, it may be because the libertarian love of the cynical, anti-political pose prevents them from engaging in any sort of constructive political action. I continue to think that the best way for libertarians to advance the small-government cause over the long haul would be to try and convince the GOP leadership that the “miniscule proportion” theory is wrong by voting for Michael Badnarik. Thus, much as I would welcome a Stuart Benjamin vote for John Kerry, I think libertarians should pull the lever for the LP, the well-known problems with the LP and Barnarik notwithstanding. If Bush loses to Kerry and the LP gets a historically large share of the vote (not a hard hurdle to clear) then the GOP will hear the message that they need to pay more attention to the small government vote.

I don't think libertarian efforts will matter one damn bit. But, for heaven's sake, if you're going to vote throw your vote away!

Hey, Ohio! Be on the lookout for reasons why YOU should vote for Michael Badnarik in 2004!

We can think later about how we libertarians, no longer cynical and cooler-than-thou, can fight much, much harder in the exciting 2008 primaries. If not Certified Friend of Liberty Jeb Bush, then who?

Reality Based Community

I, too, am a proud member of the reality-based community!

That said, it strikes me as fairly unlikely that Suskind's source was really positing a kind of power-based ontological constructivism. Maybe, maybe. I have no doubt that much faith-based nutjobbery is afoot. But some people do have a bad habit of using 'reality' in a confusing de dicto sense according to which different people have different “realities” simply because we are separate centers of experience and hold sometimes conflicting assumptions. It strikes me as eminently plausible to think of the liberal-ish press corps as sharing a set of assumptions about the politically feasible, call it “the conventional wisdom,” according to which certain kinds of policies and programs are outside the pale, and this poses a serious public relations problem for politicians like Bush. It's the task of a conservative administration like Bush's the act forcefully in a way that shatters the conventional wisdom, shows the insufficiency of the accepted categories, and remakes the de dicto “reality” of all those pointy-headed pundits who are so blinkered that they confuse the CW, “reality,” for reality.

As Bush's hero Karl Marx wrote: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”

(The problem with reading too much Davidson and Dennett is that it makes it hard to accept that people are speaking perfect nonsense.)

The Fly Bottle Cash-for-Content SuperNovember Fundraiser

Have I got a deal for you! What would you say if I told you that there was a way to get hot, fresh Fly Bottle content three times a day???!!! After you changed your pants, you'd say, “How, Will? HOW?!” Well, I'll tell you how: give me money!

That's right! You know I'm a big believer in positive sum games. Well, here's a positive sum game for you… If I raise $250 by November 5, 2004, I will guarantee at least three posts per day for all of November (the first five days are FREE!) That's almost 100 new Fly Bottle posts! I know you can hardly wait!!! What will I say?! What kind of crazy philosophical hijinks will ensue? What kind of dirty jokes and funny pictures will I begin to relate as I run out of good ideas? Will I amuse you? Perplex you? Titillate you? There are only two ways to find out(my preference being your non-free-riding option).

willswing.JPGI have two goals in mind: (1) pay my November rent; (2) Increase the readership of The Fly Bottle manyfold. You will of course feel the warm glow of benevolence knowing you have helped me pay rent. But better than other-regarding moral sentiments (and noble they are!), you'll get MUCH more of what you come here for, you'll know that by providing me with incentive to increase my posting output, you will be increasing the readership of The Fly Bottle (my traffic unsurprisingly triples and more when I post regularly), which will provide a permanent incentive to post at a higher rate. Wouldn't that be great!

You can contribute to this exciting endeavor through the Pay Pal or Amazon buttons below (and on the right column). Give a dollar! Give dickety-twelve dollars! Give til you stop! Pairwise Pareto improvements or your money back!

Do you want a freer world?! Me too! Do your part in the battle of ideas today! Strike a blow against ideological nonsense and Will's poverty-induced weight-loss problem! The future of November is in your hands.

I love you. Let's put the “undrai” in “fundraiser”!

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Divided Sympathy

Having just completed explaining the role of sympathy in Hume's moral philosophy to my students at Maryland, I walked out of Francis Scott Key to see an unattractive couple kissing and experienced a dissonant chord of sympathetic reaction. I was happy for them because they were happy and kissy and in love. Yet I was, well “disgusted” is too strong… let's just say I had a sentiment of disapprobation at the thought of kissing or being kissed by either of them. This, clearly, is an imposition of my own standards upon innocent, unattractive, kissing bystanders. Yet I had the negative reaction only because upon seeing them I immediately, if only partially, put myself in their positions. I would not gross out watching someone eat shit unless I was imagining myself in their position, eating shit. Instead, I would say, “Well, that's very interesting, that guy over there eating shit.” But this is not how it happens. We sympathize and we react, we judge. Anyway, due to my natural human sympathetic impulses I found myself both glad for and put off by these mediocre, intimate Terrapins and their shiteating grins.

Fodor on Analysis

Fodor's review of Christopher Hughes's new book on Kripke in LRB is a must-read for practitioners and consumers of analytic philosophy. Straight to the end:

It's past time to draw the moral, which I take to be that a plethora of claims to the contrary notwithstanding, you can't escape Quine's web just by opting for a metaphysical notion of necessity. Not, anyhow, if the latter is grounded in intuitions about what possible worlds there are. That's because some story is needed about what makes such intuitions true (or false) and, as far as I can see, the only candidates are facts about concepts. It's 'water' being a material kind concept that vindicates the intuition that water is necessarily H2O. Well, but if Quine is right and there aren't any such facts about concepts, then there is nothing to vindicate modal intuitions. Accordingly, if the methodology of analytic philosophy lacked a rationale pre-Kripke, it continues to do so.

I think this is quite right. Analytic philosophy as a coherent methodological program rests on a number of extremely dubious epistemic theses. Once you give up on the idea that we have privileged access to the contents of our own concepts, then you give up on conceptual analysis. Once you give up on the idea that our modal intuitions reliably track any independent modal facts of the matter, then post-Kripkean metaphysics is in trouble. It took years, but at some point in the recent past, Quine finally sank in, and I found myself thinking that philosophy is proto-science, or an adjunct of science, if it's anything at all. The legacy of the analytic tradition, as I see it, is a fund of useful and clarifying critical and dialectical habits that can be applied with profit to any number of topics.

The Trail of the Human Serpent

I want to share this passage lovely in both content and form from Louis Menand's essay “Laurie Anderson's United States” in his collection of essays American Studies.

. . . most of the songs and stand-up routines Anderson delivered in United States were wan ironic tales about daily life in postindustrial–what we now call the digital–age, with repeated references to airplanes, televisions, petrochemicals, missiles, and outer space. The gadgets and the spaceships may have given people the idea that United States enacted a disaffection with creeping dehumanization, that it was a cri de coeur against the disenchantment But its effect on me was exactly the opposite. I took the point to be that the world can't be disenchanted, because enchantment is the mode in which human beings experience it. The trail of the human serpent (said William James) is over everything, even answering-machine beeps and aircraft safety instructions. Our electronics is no less an expression of ourselves than our poetry is.

I don't like Laurie Anderson, but I'm glad Menand does.

Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?

From Noel Malcolm's review of Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone? by Frank Furedi:

In the old days, according to Furedi, people pursued knowledge for knowledge's sake and art for art's sake, because they believed in the Enlightenment ideals of truth and beauty. Recently, however, sinister anti-Enlightenment forces have succeeded in persuading us that knowledge and art should be means or instruments towards other ends – whether economic growth (as in the Thatcherite approach to the universities) or social “inclusiveness” (as in the Blairite one).

In the old days people died in childbirth. Those who in the old days believed in knowledge for knowledge's sake were a surpassingly small minority, and just happened to be the surpassingly small minority who wrote all the books and dominated the culture. I will hazard to say that in absolute terms there are now many many more people who believe in the intrinsic worthiness of truth and beauty. There are very likely many many more works of science and art produced by these people. They, however, do not dominate the culture like they once did, which has become broader and more popular. Furedi is wistful for a time when the philistines were ill-educated and excluded from the manufacture of “culture” and opinion. Given broader access to education, leagues of people who never came into much contact with Truth and Beauty (although very experienced with truth and beauty) at least see that it's good for something. That's improvement! And it's dumb to ask where all the intellectuals have gone. They evidence that they continue to flourish is overwhelming.

My Suckitude

Yes. I suck. I have a blog, but I don't blog on my blog, which sucks. All apologies.

I returned yesterday from Tucson where I was attending the annual International Society for the New Institutional Economics conference, and enjoying the hospitality and company of Dave Schmidtz.

Let me say this about Tucson: when they say “dry” heat, they're not just saying it. I was drinking like a parched camel, yet my lips and mouth felt like I was slowly dying for want of moisture. I guess it takes getting used to for natives of >90% humidity climes. That said, the landscape was just astonishing for this Iowa boy. The saguaro forests (through which Dave took me on a hike) looked unearthly to my midwestern eyes, but beautiful all the same. The Desert Museum is lovely.

I caught up with a number of friends and acquaintances at ISNIE. Had a very nice dinner with Paul Edwards, Doug North, Timur Kuran, Mary Shirley, and Mat McCubbins at a very good, but comically pretentious, restaurant at a nearby resort. Kyle and his girl Carolyn (sp?) took me to South Tucson for Mexican hot dogs at a wonderful dingy joint with no walls and a spiffy mariachi band.

I'm working on some ideas for articles focusing on the intersection of the brain and cognitive sciences with economics. I interviewed a few folks at ISNIE, and plan on interviewing a few more. Almost none of what I get in the interviews will go in any sort of article, so I'm thinking that if I can get permission, I'll put some choice bits of interviews with smart people doing hott economic science here on the blog to satisfy your frustrated yearning for fresh Fly Bottle content. Whaddya think of that? Would it make you happy?