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The First Church of Mises

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That "places that don't exist" documentary covers quite a few countries where it is clear that the authorities don't give a rat's ass about the keeping the people safe but neither will they allow the people to organize their own protection, thus leaving them vulnerable to all sorts of private predation on top of the regular public predation they must endure. It isn't any wonder that such places are so economically backward.

The UN is the biggest threat now because under the guise of "foreign aid" they have a permanent bounty for destruction and tyranny on all parts of the world that are prone to transition.

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Clayton replied on Fri, May 11 2012 8:55 PM

The UN is the biggest threat now because under the guise of "foreign aid" they have a permanent bounty for destruction and tyranny on all parts of the world that are prone to transition.

I think it's crystal clear based on its track record that the UN has no other purpose.

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Clayton,

Sorry I got the reference wrong but the search function on my posts isn't working well and I can't find it. Can you remember which threads you started in arguing for a modified Epicurean position? If you can remember the title's I'll find my argument I posted. When I do that I'll answer your question as to how we go beyond the individual as it's all linked.

 

 

The atoms tell the atoms so, for I never was or will but atoms forevermore be.

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Clayton replied on Sat, May 12 2012 11:41 AM

After applying my ninja Google skills, I think I have dug up the thread you were looking for.

Based on a quick scan of the thread to refresh my memory, it appears that you are referring to a transcendental argument for the existence of God when you say "go beyond the individual" - is that correct?

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Physiocrat replied on Sat, May 12 2012 11:48 AM

Essentially yes. Most of my extensive argument can be found here though:

http://jollygreengiant.austrianforum.com/Community/forums/t/20887.aspx?PageIndex=1

The atoms tell the atoms so, for I never was or will but atoms forevermore be.

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AJ replied on Sun, May 13 2012 2:01 PM

z1235:

Merlin:

Clayton:

This is why I believe the way forward must lie through secession and political/cultural localization combined with the emergence of a credible global marketplace in law, language, commerce, and so on. Order (central-planning) in the small and chaos (marketplace, "invisible hand") in the large. This, I believe, is the only healthy future for human society and human flourishing. Social leaders who actually know a lot of the people they are leading by name would be a big improvement.

Several-folded

+1. 

Beyond Democracy, an excellent little book (I know, plug #6 or so here) also comes to the similar conclusion. I think the path to freedom and against parasitism could be distilled to a juxtaposition of political localization against political globalizaiton. After all is said and done, the size of the structure may be all that matters. 

I just have to re-quote this whole thing. I intend to look into that book.

What is most interesting to me is that if size is all that matters, and if this is a simple evolutionary argument to make, then spreading libertarianism just got a whole lot easier. Merely getting people to see that our tribal instincts have not adapted to the scale of the modern state seems pretty easy. No need to muck about with anything else; just downsize it!

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AJ replied on Mon, May 14 2012 12:48 PM

z1235:
Beyond Democracy, an excellent little book (I know, plug #6 or so here) also comes to the similar conclusion. I think the path to freedom and against parasitism could be distilled to a juxtaposition of political localization against political globalizaiton. After all is said and done, the size of the structure may be all that matters.

First few pages of the book: http://www.beyonddemocracy.net/beyond-democracy-first-chapter-2012-jan.pdf

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Clayton replied on Mon, May 14 2012 1:02 PM

getting people to see that our tribal instincts have not adapted to the scale of the modern state seems pretty easy

Actually, there are quite a few defenses against this argument already out there.

"You're right, and we have not adapted to the modern economy. That's why we need to stop globalization and regulate multi-national corporations and stop the raping of the planet by 'the free market.'"

"But what other alternative is there? Democracy may have its problems but it's the best we have. Until we evolve an awareness of the scale of the global community, this is what we're stuck with. The answer is not to throw away the best tool we have for preserving human rights: democracy. That's suicide."

"Malthus and Hobbes were right - we are not evolved to be able to handle the reality of massive populations. This is exactly why we need a technocratic class that specializes in the study and planning of society under these conditions. You don't need a technocrat bureaucracy in the African savanna."

"The libertarian ethic makes sense only in small communities with large amounts of natural resources where people aren't constantly 'bumping into' each other. The American West was libertarian because you could shoot your rifle in any direction and you wouldn't kill someone. But that ethic just doesn't work in downtown NYC. Our ape brains can easily process the rules for small communities and wide-open spaces but we have trouble with high populations in dense cities."

You get the idea.

I do think that we can benefit from folding in the observations of Evolutionary Psychology into existing anti-state arguments. But I don't think it's a magic cure as there are already lots of counter-arguments (however muddled) out there.

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AJ replied on Mon, May 14 2012 3:12 PM

The tribal scale argument is not a magic cure, but it does seem to minimize the need to get entangled with most of the other arguments. As long as people are convinced states need to be much smaller, I don't really care what their politics or economics are like - I can always move somewhere else.

Clayton:
"You're right, and we have not adapted to the modern economy. That's why we need to stop globalization and regulate multi-national corporations and stop the raping of the planet by 'the free market.'"

Taking the point of the tribal scale argument seriously either eliminates this objection or converts it into the third one below. 

Clayton:
"But what other alternative is there? Democracy may have its problems but it's the best we have. Until we evolve an awareness of the scale of the global community, this is what we're stuck with. The answer is not to throw away the best tool we have for preserving human rights: democracy. That's suicide."

Democracy (or whatever) at a tribal scale - sounds fine to me. This one also seems like it can be overcome simply by harping on the main point.

Clayton:
"Malthus and Hobbes were right - we are not evolved to be able to handle the reality of massive populations. This is exactly why we need a technocratic class that specializes in the study and planning of society under these conditions. You don't need a technocrat bureaucracy in the African savanna."

This is exactly where I'd like the debate to be. The proponents would then be at a fundamental disadvantage in that they would be arguing that we need to compensate for the tendency to simply scale tribalism upwards . . . by essentially creating a system that is an upward-scaled tribal model, a tribe writ large. The libertarian side then seems a very comfortable position to argue from. 

Clayton:
"The libertarian ethic makes sense only in small communities with large amounts of natural resources where people aren't constantly 'bumping into' each other. The American West was libertarian because you could shoot your rifle in any direction and you wouldn't kill someone. But that ethic just doesn't work in downtown NYC. Our ape brains can easily process the rules for small communities and wide-open spaces but we have trouble with high populations in dense cities."

Again, this is a very nice place for the argument to take place. Conceding this point just leaves us with small city-states, which would be a huge improvement. 

All in all, focusing the statism vs. anti-statism argument on how to compensate for the evolutionarily discordant conditions of the modern world seems to vastly limit the argument space and cast a steady light on those ever-hidden tendencies that are fundamental to the insidious plausibility of statist thinking. Tribe size has grown by literally about a million times. Once the evolutionary position has been presented and understood, it seems extremely difficult to argue against the need to compensate for our innate tendency to look up to "tribal elders" at that scale by simply doing the obvious: stop respecting and enabling large tribe-like structures. Whatever else need be done to compensate is surely readily seen as pailing in comparison to this. No other factor is anywhere near as evolutionarily discordant as the sheer size of the tribes.

In fact, where I see this argument going is to the middle ground. Ancient-tribe-sized state structures of 150 people could be argued to be too small for various reasons, so we may conclude that the ideal size is a few thousand, a few tens of thousand, or whatever. In any case it just seems hard to arrive at anything other than a massive reduction in the size of states, perhaps by micro-secession if this evopsych meme propagates, when one takes seriously the tremendous disparity between the size of ancestral tribes and that of modern "tribes." The enormity of the difference means that to simply raise the question and take it up for debate is to make the main compensating adjustment default to, "Whatever you do, make these tribes a whole hell of a lot smaller."

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Clayton replied on Mon, May 14 2012 3:58 PM

 it just seems hard to arrive at anything other than a massive reduction in the size of states, perhaps by micro-secession if this evopsych meme propagates, when one takes seriously the tremendous disparity between the size of ancestral tribes and that of modern "tribes." The enormity of the difference means that to simply raise the question and take it up for debate is to make the main compensating adjustment default to, "Whatever you do, make these tribes a whole hell of a lot smaller."

True dat. Perhaps this would make a good scholarly research area for some up-and-coming Mises University student. I've felt for some time that Austrian social science can benefit enormously from Evolutionary Psychology. EP provides us a way to actually fill in the particular contents of human nature in a way that is more scientifically rigorous than the armchair approach used by the natural-law theorists. It turns out that - like Nature herself - human nature is immensely intricate, subtle and in some ways f'd up. But above all, it is beautiful and I think we need a revival of the Renaissance values regarding human beauty, not only the exterior beauty of the human form, but also the internal beauty of the human soul. EP give us a microscope with which to do just that.

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z1235 replied on Mon, May 14 2012 6:25 PM

AJ:

z1235:

Merlin:

Clayton:

This is why I believe the way forward must lie through secession and political/cultural localization combined with the emergence of a credible global marketplace in law, language, commerce, and so on. Order (central-planning) in the small and chaos (marketplace, "invisible hand") in the large. This, I believe, is the only healthy future for human society and human flourishing. Social leaders who actually know a lot of the people they are leading by name would be a big improvement.

Several-folded

+1. 

Beyond Democracy, an excellent little book (I know, plug #6 or so here) also comes to the similar conclusion. I think the path to freedom and against parasitism could be distilled to a juxtaposition of political localization against political globalizaiton. After all is said and done, the size of the structure may be all that matters. 

 

I just have to re-quote this whole thing. I intend to look into that book.

What is most interesting to me is that if size is all that matters, and if this is a simple evolutionary argument to make, then spreading libertarianism just got a whole lot easier. Merely getting people to see that our tribal instincts have not adapted to the scale of the modern state seems pretty easy. No need to muck about with anything else; just downsize it!

Then it's only a hop, skip, and a jump to a size of onewink

What I especially liked about "Beyond Democracy" is how it unassumingly introduces the big guns through the back door, so to speak. The tone and language is so approachable. I've seen people who have never imagined a society without democracy come out almost fully converted after reading it (?!) asking for more material along the same lines. The strongest-punching 100+ pages I've ever seen. 

 

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AJ replied on Tue, May 15 2012 6:22 AM

That is an incredible endorsement. I would like to read it myself, but more than that I would like to try giving it out to random people and see what the conversion rate actually is. I always believe there is a shortcut to this type of massive changing of minds, particularly something that cuts through all the little details and small-fry debate fodder.

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z1235 replied on Tue, May 15 2012 7:04 AM

AJ, the Kindle reader app (for any device) is free to download. The book is $0.99. 

I think it's the freshness of the book -- talking about current events -- that's making it so effective. Unfortunately, some/most people have hard time extracting universally valid concepts from texts written 50-100 years ago: "Yes that may have made sense then, but how is that relevant for our modern society/economy now?" 

 

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Interesting: http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/from-mutual-aid-to-welfare-state

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Clayton replied on Mon, Jul 2 2012 6:43 PM

Some interesting thoughts on the subject of the role that culture plays in shaping individual morality. I think that the Deweyian approach that the author discusses at the end of the article is precisely the kind of thing I'm not interested in attempting. I think the Deweyian strategy cannot be implemented without the aid of an institution with virtually unlimited resources, such as the State, that is, it cannot be done without resorting to immoral means which moots the original purpose (cf the real-world outcome of the Deweyian experiment in our culture).

However, I think that we can look to the Catholic Church in the medieval era or the Charismatic churches in the modern era (just two out of many examples) as models of a more small-scale, less ambitious approach than the Deweyian model... remedial moral instruction combined with cultural refuge or cultural oasis. The goal is not to "get 'em while they're young" but, rather, to help the broken, the lost, the helpless, the people that have reached a point of despair and are looking for "salvation", that is, a life-change. The enduring success of religious institutions that cater to these sorts of people should be ample evidence of the effectiveness of this strategy. While you're not going to "change the world", you may be able to build a community of people who share a common belief that the wider culture is unhealthy for individual well-being and moral character and that it is in the individual's own interest to seek out a sub-culture where right-living is a more central concern than it is in the predatory culture of the Elites, the avaricious, ambitious culture of the bourgeois/commercial class or the hedonistic, layabout culture of the underclass.

I think one of the missing puzzle pieces is some kind of ritual. I am fascinated by Hindu religions. In many of them, there is no obligation to attend temple, though of course the most devout are those who attend regularly. Rather, the head-of-household is to have a private room in his house or area within the house (if he is not wealthy enough to have a separate room) where an image of the chief deity is set up, perhaps surrounded by supporting deities, and a daily ritual is observed involving some prayers and offering of incense, etc. On major holidays, a "puja" (feast/celebration) can he held in the home or, optionally, you might go to the temple. The details of the rituals are not interesting to me so much as the fact of the ritual and the "laissez-faire" nature of participation in temple ritual as well as the "privatized" and "individualized" nature of one's ritual obligations to god within the home.

What this tells me is that ritual need not be collective ritual to confer the benefits of ritual. If we are to have a ritual, a non-collectivist ritual seems to me the natural starting point. On its face, any ritual is inherently arbitrary but I think we can look to the example of religious traditions to identify key attributes that a personal ritual should have. It should involve quiet contemplation, it should have a separate physical space, it should occur regularly, perhaps with distinct daily, weekly, monthly and annual rituals, and it should involve performance of some kind of mental and physical action that occupies some meaningful duration, whether it be holding a pose, chanting, lighting candles, etc.

The purpose of having an individual ritual is to establish a sense of peace and gravity, to remind oneself that all is well with the world no matter what other circumstances may be unfolding outside of the ritual space. This provides a "psychological foothold" or foundation on which to ground all other actions throughout the day. It's nice to have a lot of theories about how one should live one's life and what sorts of decisions an individual should make but once you go out into the real world, that all goes out the window once someone ruffles your feathers or blindsides you with an unexpected development.

The idea here is that the organization provides guidance, role-modeling and reference information that allows the individual to begin reconstructing his own environment in a way that is more conducive to his own spiritual* health. A core part of this is not just "information" but detailed, specific behavioral recommendations** - including such things as establishing a personal ritual - that will help the individual begin rebuilding his life on a sounder footing than whatever he had before that led to the life crisis that impelled him through the front doors in the first place.

One of the competitive disadvantages of such an organization vis-a-vis established religions is that it is "young" and, therefore, untested. However, I think we can re-frame the matter not in terms of organization but in terms of ideas. The moral ideas of Epicurus (and, I'm learning, Aristippus), Aristotle, Buddha and others are extremely ancient - far more ancient than Christian teachings and at least as ancient as the written records of purportedly Jewish teachings.

I have also thought about funding. How do you pay the light bill and earn an income if this is your profession? Well, I have thought of simply charging a price because this is the most straightforward way to calculate costs and profitability and to allow customers to judge the benefits versus the cost to themselves but the more I read about alternative religions, the more convinced I am that donations really are the only way to go. The problem is that there is an inherent conflict-of-interest in having a personal, counseling, moral-instruction relationship with an individual and also having a commercial relationship with that individual. It's like how pscyhologists are forbidden to have sexual relations with their clients. It's just too easy to prey on an emotionally vulnerable person. And an organization that does not enforce a wall between the personal and the commercial will find itself fraught with conflicts-of-interest and pump-and-dump behavior. Not only does this undermine the purpose of such an organization, it would actually doom the organization to market extinction.

I don't think that funding will be lacking on a donational basis. Many churches do little if anything to help individuals and some even bring spiritual harm to them, yet people fund these churches on the delusion that they are being helped. How much easier to obtain voluntary funding from individuals who are actually being helped!

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*The word "spiritual" is here used guardedly - I simply mean "all of those aspects of human well-being which escape the grasp of medical science to measure"

**I want to emphasize that these must be recommendations in order to carry real moral credence - some religious organizations - such as the one that starts with "Scien" and rhymes with "tology" - use emotional, social, financial, legal and other forms of manipulation to induce conformity; these are bully tactics that render the moral legitimacy of such an organization null and void

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Clayton replied on Tue, Jul 3 2012 1:07 AM

I was doing some brainstorming today on how to get started. It costs quite a bit of money to rent even a small commercial space suitable for public meetings but you could probably get rent on the cheap from a liberal/ecumenical church (ELCA, Episcopal, Unitarian, etc.) This space would be suitable for lectures and other, participatory activities (singing, constructive activities, and so on).

Ideally, you would eventually get some dedicated space for meeting. One of the first things you'd want is a good library filled with the valuable books of ancient and more modern teaching on the basics of philosophy - particularly, sound moral philosophy - and some kind of reading space where people can sit and read quietly.

I think what is also needed is some kind of introductory text and an accompanying reader. The introductory text is simply an overview of the basic ideas motivating the organization and the key differences between these ideas and mainstream ideas - basically a brief introduction to Epicurean moral philosophy combined with buttressing metaphysical and social philosophical ideas (including economics). I'm currently working on a text along these lines and I hope to strike a comfortable, pedagogical tone.

The reader should contain relevant selections from the above-mentioned thinkers - Epicurus, Aristotle, etc. - that basically center around the idea of moral philosophy as the art of right living, where right living is judged by one's own satisfaction (nirvana, ataraxia).

The idea of the introductory text/reader is not to try to attenuate the reader's philosophical reading or to say that these are the truly important philosophical readings but, rather, to communicate these ideas to the individual in the most concise - yet persuasive and authoritative - manner. The introductory text should have a primarily pedagogical tone and should be accessible to, say, a 10th grader in bite-size chunks that don't require him or her to learn more than 2 or 3 new words in a single section. The accompanying reader should act as a kind of "first readings in the literature" - I'm thinking of excerpts from the first chapters of Human Action, whatever survives of Epicurus' writings, excerpts from the Nicomachean Ethics, perhaps some excerpts from Bastiat, Etienne de la Boetie, Hazlitt, Stirner, maybe even some Nietchze (Beyond Good and Evil), etc. Suggestions welcome.

The library should contain all the books exceprted as well as those which comprise a real, healthy intellectual's bookshelf, even those which may be antagonistic to libertarian ideas so long as they are based on truly sound thinking and rigorous intellectual debate (the writings of someone like Bryan Caplan, for example). Basically, I'm thinking of a bookshelf where the interested individual could put himself through his own classical education if he wanted to - in other words, it should include Euclid's Elements, Newton's Principia, the Greeks, the Scholastics, the Austrians, Descartes, Leibniz etc. etc. etc. Number theory and astronomy are the queens of mathematics and science, respectively and should be placed in the highest position of intellectual honor. Ideally, you would have star-charts on the walls and geometric proofs of the main theorems of number theory inscribed in the tables.

Lecture topics could be based on any of the literature but should tend to stick to the core of Epicurean moral philosophy over time. I'm thinking that special topics could include things like introductions to geometric constructions and proofs in order to teach rigorous, formal thinking. It could include lessons on logic, grammar and rhetoric. These would be "survey lectures" intended to give the audience a taste of the respective subjects, not actual courses. Specialists in these subjects (though somewhat rare these days) could be consulted or a sufficient degree of facility in the subjects to deliver a survey lecture could be taught within the organization itself.

Guest speakers on revisionist history - particularly local history (Native American history, the history of oppression and resistance, etc.) - the arts, life sciences, etc. could be invited in once you have a critical mass where such speakers would be interested in having a willing audience. Think "TED for local folks". It would be decisively less big-budget but just as healthy in terms of spurring critical thinking and healthy debate and discussion outside the prefabricated confines of the Establishment's narratives.

So, this would provide a big chunk of the "what to talk about" and "what to do". The next remaining thing is how to help people. After all, this would be the true purpose of the organization - help people learn how to help themselves and break their morphine-drip dependency on "the System." The very act of helping others and providing a forum through which people can help each other will be cathartic. This would involve really sitting down and talking to people about the specific problems in their lives and learning how to apply sound moral philosophy to solving those problems.

Finally, all this must be done with the acknowledged caveat that we are operating nearly in a cultural vacuum. One of the reasons I've been reading about culture and morality is that I believe that the culture - all those little things in your day-to-day life that condition your expectations from other people and the world generally - is the primary repository of knowledge regarding right-living. But when the culture itself is corrupted, you are left having to reinvent the wheel for yourself at every step of the way. There is no longer any division-of-labor in the accumulation of knowledge on right living. There's only what you figure out for yourself. This would be one of the key points of the introductory reader and would provide an impetus to create a sub-culture where there is active, non-judgmental sharing of notes on ways to live life to the fullest.

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I'm right with you Clayton, I've been thinking about the same sort of things for a while now.  Another thing could be the fostering of techne, specific skills of daily life that seem to have been swept aside by the inanity of a youth of compulsory indoctrination in propaganda.  They would be presented as ways to better one's life in small ways through self-reliance, and from them could develop further and more specialised skills for employment and entrepreneurship.  This is a step in reviving the family and community education that has been replaced with state-subsidised, useless schooling and college degrees - essentially deceptive welfare for the youth that leaves them without any rudder in life (except, perhaps, for 'employment' by the state).

This description calls to mind the school of Booker T. Washington.  Are you familiar with his work?

Also, your discussion of the fostering of the spirit and ritual element reminds me of Altucher's Daily Exercise: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/02/how-to-be-the-luckiest-guy-on-the-planet-in-4-easy-steps/

I suppose the moral and spiritual side of the Free Community (the 'Knights of Liberty', perhaps!) is a revival of Epicurus' Garden.

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Clayton replied on Wed, Jul 4 2012 2:35 AM

@Aristippus: Great suggestion on the "trade school" idea. My Dad attended a trade school here in Portland, OR as his high school - a school founded by one of the great entrepreneurs of the late-19th, early-20th centuries (Simon Benson) - and he has built a lifelong career on the skills he learned there, no college education required. He is "blue collar" but has done just fine for himself. I think you're right that there's definitely a market demand for more serious-minded education aimed at preparing high-school kids for something other than filling out community college entrance exams or flipping burgers.

I've heard of Booker T. Washington but don't know much about him. I'll look into it.

I saw that Altucher daily sometime back and it really stuck in my head. I'll relate a personal story on this point that I feel illuminates something about human nature, at least, gives anecdotal evidence of it. I was raised devoutly religious... we attended church every time the doors were open (at least 3x a week) and memorized copious amounts of Scripture and Protestant catechism, etc.

This past Easter, I was at home with my kids (I no longer attend church) and they asked me what Easter is. So, I figured I might as well read the relevant section from the Bible. So, I read to them from the end of the book of John about the resurrection of Christ and explained to them that Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Due to personal circumstances, I've been under tremendous stress for quite some time and I usually fall asleep hard. That night, I laid down to sleep and had this enveloping sense of peace and well-being - a feeling of being deeply happy and at ease that I haven't felt in probably three years. I went to sleep easily. On reflection, I believe that it was the fact that I read from to my children from the Bible.

I mentioned my devoutly religious background because I don't believe at all that the feeling of peace I had was from God, at least, not from the God described in the Bible. I suspect that it had to do with the fact that, when I was young, a strong sense of ritual had been cultivated in me and when I read from the Bible (one of those childhood rituals), it satisfied some deep-seated psychological need. But the fact that a sense of ritual could be so powerfully cultivated at all suggests to me that there must be some already-existing pscyhological "hooks" in every human's brain that are receptive to and benefit from engaging in ritual behavior.

And the Garden of Epicurus just sounds so amazing to me. I literally have this Edenic vision in my mind... you walk in under a stone arch and the Garden is surrounded by a stone wall - not too high like a castle wall, but not low enough to step over, either - and there are vines creeping on the walls and grape-vines and olive trees growing inside. In the center of the garden, there are stone or wooden tables arranged on the smooth stone floor of a spacious gazebo that is of very modest architecture and does not distract the viewer or impose on the garden. On the tables, there is always some kind of modest snack - bread, olive oil, almonds, dates - wine and a copper pitcher of water with a towel for washing your hands. The roof is open to allow the stars to be seen at night but plenty of trees and shrubs surround so that there is shade from the Sun during the day. Cots or benches suitable for outdoor napping or sleeping during warm nights are nearby. Footpaths meander through the garden which is not unkempt but is tended practically... kept free of weeds and planted with some desirable plants and flowers that are kept in serviceable condition but not obsessively trimmed for show like an English or Japanese garden. Of course, there are always people around to talk to, sleep next to, read alongside, or tend the garden with.

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Clayton replied on Wed, Jul 4 2012 2:53 AM

specific skills of daily life

On second-reading, I think this deserves highlighting - you're very right on this one, everything from how to cook yourself breakfast, to how to change a flat tire, to how balance a checkbook to how to iron a dress shirt. Ironically, my life recently (post-divorce) has been a school of hard knocks on a lot of these very subjects. I will note that the patriarchal culture of Christian conservatives can create the same kind of ineptitude on basic life skills among young men that the public schools engender by other means.

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Yeah, I think you're right about the importance of ritual.  I was mildly religious growing up (but an atheist by age 12), and I still sort of have a soft spot for it all - I could never be one of those fashionable lefty militant atheists.  I think because I was enamoured with religion when I was very young, I have retained a reverence for it; I don't really make jokes about religion even though they are in vogue and despite the fact that I think the basis of all religions is absolute fantasy.  I think a place like the Garden would be apt as an environment for this, and your description of it is much how I imagined it.

The first step is perhaps putting together a short collection of excerpts and quotations from various sages, perhaps no more than a couple pages long each.  I'm thinking of authors like:

Aesop
Socrates (in Plato)
Aristotle
Epicurus (in Lucretius, Diogenes Laertius, Philodemus, Vatican Manuscript, Diogenes of Oenoanda)
Stoics (in Seneca the Younger, Epictetus, Aurelius, Diogenes Laertius)
Confucians (especially the Great Learning)
Lao Tsu
Cicero
Montaigne
Benjamin Franklin - http://www.school-for-champions.com/character/franklin_virtues.htm
Modern authors such as Harry Browne, How I found Freedom in an Unfree World

What do you think about that?  Perhaps it could be about 50 pages altogether, split between short excerpts and quotes.

On the topic of teaching basic skills, I see their purpose as threefold:

1. Being able to achieve basic functions in life that enable you to live more happily and less stressed
2. Encouraging a spirit of self-reliance rather than one that imposes one's desires on others
3. Possibly being the beginning of more developed, marketable skills.  By being exposed to a wide variety of technai, individuals might find themselves particularly interested or skillful in certain ones.  They are missing this development of marketable skills in compulsory schooling and due to the monopolisation of the labour force which is particularly detrimental to newcomers and the young.
 

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Torsten replied on Wed, Jul 4 2012 6:22 AM

Clayton, are you familiar with Robert Nisbet? He argued that much of the influence of the state arose from the rise of individualism which broke apart the communities of former times and ultimately resulted in their replacement by statism rather than actual individualism.  It seems that you are arguing with him that in order to eliminate the destructive, false community of the state, it is firstly necessary to create healthy communities based on evolving knowledge and customs conducive to well-being.  


While I agree with Nisbet in many ways, I'd say that cultural individualism is mainly the result of the welfare state (or spoilt kids from rich parents which has the same effect, with similar causes). In a pre-state/failed state society the more group-orientated people will quickly out perform most of the cultural individualists. In a sense that also means that more free markets are incentives of more cooperative behavior as opposed to situations where there is more guaranteed income. This would be so, as there is a need for being more cooperative in order to stay in the game. 

Regarding this I recently came across something quite interesting:
http://iis-db.stanford.edu/evnts/6247/Bowles_paper.pdf

 

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Clayton replied on Wed, Jul 4 2012 11:31 AM

Aesop
Socrates (in Plato)
Aristotle
Epicurus (in Lucretius, Diogenes Laertius, Philodemus, Vatican Manuscript, Diogenes of Oenoanda)
Stoics (in Seneca the Younger, Epictetus, Aurelius, Diogenes Laertius)
Confucians (especially the Great Learning)
Lao Tsu
Cicero
Montaigne
Benjamin Franklin - http://www.school-for-champions.com/character/franklin_virtues.htm
Modern authors such as Harry Browne, How I found Freedom in an Unfree World

What you hear is the sound of rustling pages. I've got my introductory text probably about 50% done (timewise) and it's about 50 pages and shouldn't grow to more than about 80. Another 50 pages of excerpts would be the perfect companion.

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Clayton replied on Wed, Jul 4 2012 12:23 PM

2. Encouraging a spirit of self-reliance rather than one that imposes one's desires on others

Interesting... so do you see a connection between the tendency to demand subsidies and handouts and a basic, technical inability to meet one's own needs?

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gotlucky replied on Wed, Jul 4 2012 12:40 PM

Aristippus:

This description calls to mind the school of Booker T. Washington.  Are you familiar with his work?

Booker T. Washington was the man!  I highly recommend that people read Up From Slavery.  He identified the problems plaguing blacks at the time correctly and he actually went about solving them practically.  Sounds like you have probably read it, but it's a quick read if you haven't.

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What you hear is the sound of rustling pages. I've got my introductory text probably about 50% done (timewise) and it's about 50 pages and shouldn't grow to more than about 80. Another 50 pages of excerpts would be the perfect companion.

Fantastic, I'm looking forward to it.  If you'd like my help with the latter part, just let me know.

Interesting... so do you see a connection between the tendency to demand subsidies and handouts and a basic, technical inability to meet one's own needs?

Well yes, if people have little idea how to take care of themselves, and how to develop skills for employment or an entrepreneurial mindset, they will be more likely to feel the need for state sponsorship and the necessity of an overarching nanny and welfare state.  There is also simply the importance for an attitude of self-reliance.  Even at the time of the New Deal, many in American society felt it shameful to take government handouts and refused out of principle.  There is no way that there could have been the mass demand for more and more 'free stuff' that we see today.

Booker T. Washington was the man!  I highly recommend that people read Up From Slavery.  He identified the problems plaguing blacks at the time correctly and he actually went about solving them practically.  Sounds like you have probably read it, but it's a quick read if you haven't.

Yeah, it's definitely one of the great autobiographies, and a short but engaging read.  It's also interesting how he was - and still is - reviled by 'activists' who didn't care that he was dealing with workable solutions.  To them, it was ideology first and foremost that mattered.

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Clayton replied on Thu, Jul 5 2012 5:33 PM

If you'd like my help with the latter part, just let me know.

So, I'm looking at Aesop and I have to say that I'm impressed by the lessons on property rights, etc. However, there are two problems I'm running into - what's a good, free edition available online (some of the "translations" are just awful!) and what are, say, the top 20 or so fables that should be included? If I get a solid edition (this one looks pretty good), I can read through and select on my own, as well.

Can you point me to the sections of Socrates you have in mind?

Also, I'm looking at the Tao Te Ching and I like it overall but don't know what to excerpt. Did you have some other work by Lao Tzu in mind?

What do you think of the Dhammapada?

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Anenome replied on Thu, Jul 5 2012 9:21 PM
 
 

Aristippus:
The question is, how is such a community developed?

I might have an idea or two :P

 
Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
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Clayton replied on Fri, Jul 6 2012 11:47 AM

Here's my latest draft of the reader. I intend to trim Lucretius and Stirner because they take too many pages to make their point. I'm tempted to trim Aristotle but everything he says is just so damn relevant.

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Sorry for the late reply, I've been away for a few days.  The reader looks really good: there's a good balance between economics, philosophy and politics, as well as having a crossover between them.  Under each heading it would be good to have a description and context of the author, and a brief clue about the purpose of the passage.  I would add to the collection Franklin's short essay The Way to Wealth, and also possibly something from Horace and Montaigne (I'll have a look through and get back to you).

As for Aesop, perhaps include at least some of these:

The Ant and the grasshopper
The Goose that laid the golden eggs
The Dove and the ant
The Fowler and the blackbird
The belly and the members
The cock and the jewel
The Fir and the Bramble
The Fox and the Grapes
The Fox and the Sick Lion
The Fox and the Stork
The Frog and the Ox
The Frogs who desired a king
The Honest Woodsman
The Horse and the Donkey
The Lion and the Mouse
The Lion's Share
The Lion, the Bear, and the Fox
The Mountain in Labour
The Snake and the Crab
The Tortoise and the Birds
The Two Pots
The Walnut Tree
The Wolf and the Crane
The Wolf and the Lamb
The Woodcutter and the Trees

With Socrates, maybe it's better to just have some quotes from him which will suggest to the reader to have a look at him for themselves.  It is more his method of elenchus which is important rather than anything he says in particular.

I seem to remember Lao Tzu having some insightful fables in the vein of Aesop, I'll have a look when I can.  As for the Dhammapada, I'm not really familiar with it.

Also, I've compiled a small collection of quotes which I'll PM to you.


 

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Clayton replied on Mon, Jul 9 2012 12:53 AM

@Aristippus: Thanks for those... I've been reading the fables and even showing some animations of them to my kids (search "aesop hoopla kids" on YouTube)... the discussions they give rise to are just invaluable. We've talked about property, contract, retribution, deception, envy... and despite the fact they are only 6 and 7 years old, they are able to reason in depth about the issues involved.

Here's the latest draft of the reader. I'll incorporate your suggestion to put a brief blurb to preface each one to give the reader context. For convenience, here's a table of contents in order (most of these are excerpts):

  • Max Ehrmann – Desiderata
  • King Solomon – Book of Proverbs, NIV
  • Epicurus – Principal Doctrines
  • Cicero - De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum
  • Epicurus – Letter to Menoecus
  • Aristotle – Nicomachean Ethics
  • Ludwig von Mises – Human Action 
  • Ludwig von Mises - Theory and History 
  • His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama – The Four Noble Truths
  • Confucius - The Great Learning
  • Lucretius – On the Nature of Things
  • Henry Hazlitt – Economics in One Lesson
  • Frederic Bastiat – That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen
  • Frederic Bastiat – The Law
  • Max Stirner – The Ego and Its Own
  • Nicolo Machiavelli – The Prince
  • Etienne de la Boetie – The Politics of Obedience
  • Max Weber - Politics as a Vocation
  • William James – Principles of Psychology
  • George Boole – An Investigation of the Laws of Thought
  • Ernst Mach – The Science of Mechanics
  • Miscellaneous Quotes

The first two are supposed to act as an "exhortation" to the reader, encouraging him to read the rest of the excerpts. Then, I jump straight into Epicurus and just quote him en toto. Then I copy/paste the first whole chapter of HA, and selections from Theory and History that touch on some of the foundational things that are just assumed in HA or dealt with later in the advanced sections (such as the subjective nature of valuation, etc.) Then I reinforce the Epicurean/Misesean perspective with the Dalai Lama, Confucius, Hazlitt and Bastiat. Then I jump into some more advanced stuff with a challenging excerpt from Stirner talking about the true nature of love (that it is, essentially, selfish, even when it purports to be selfless). From there, I break over to politics with Machiavelli, Boetie and Weber.

From there, I shift gears into natural philosophy (because Epicurus underscores again and again that natural philosophy is the proper defense against mysticism and myths which are among the primary obstacles to ataraxia for most people). Here, I start with the science of the mind (James on psychology), then the science of deduction (Boole on logic) and then physics or, at least, mechanics (Mach). Mach's excerpt particularly impressed me and almost the entire thing has stayed with me since a couple years ago when I first stumbled across it. He effortlessly places a very "mathematical" discipline in its proper context alongside the wider issues of history and human action. This kind of perspective is very rare among scientists who tend to be very turf-oriented. "Not my department".

I expect to do a lot more editing before I settle down on a final list. Here are some of the criteria I'm using to decide what to include/exclude:

- Non-copyright encumbered material (preferably available in digital form so I don't have to type it... I might be willing to type up several pages if there's something mega-awesome that's just not available in digital form.) The Miscellaneous Quotes is a good idea because I can "fair-use" a lot of stuff that can't be excerpted in large blocks.

- Include enough context to really allow the author to frame the concepts in his own words and not edit him to death with ellipses.

- Reinforces the essential aspects of the science of human action both as regards internal action (psychological self-training) and as regards external action (application of means to the alteration of one's circumstances in order to attain one's ends)

- Challenges common dogmas antithetical to the above-mentioned aspects

- Ancient (but still relevant without significant modifications) preferred to novel. In part because it has "stood the test f time" and in part because we have a super-abundance of critical philosophy nowadays and I think we could use more of the old-fashioned positive philosophy (aka "This is how the world really works...")

 

- Newer treatments of a subject that substantially revise the ancients but still preserves the wider context of how the subject connects to human action and life is preferable to specialists who are "careful" not to step outside their "area of expertise" and speak only of the subject-matter in isolation from any other consideration.

- Accessible without excessive specialized jargon (Human Action kind of sets the bar here... if a 10th grader would have to look up more words than required to understand the same amount of text in HA, then it's too specialized)

 

- In a phrase: mind-expanding for the mainstream individual who has not been introduced to the philosophy of liberty, even someone who considers themselves "well-rounded", i.e. someone with a liberal arts education 

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Torsten replied on Mon, Jul 9 2012 2:08 AM

Some of the texts are already available on audio as well. 

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I yanked my motto from Tao Te Ching, "Better to rumble like rocks than tinkle like jade."

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Clayton replied on Tue, Jul 17 2012 3:11 AM

Another update to the Reader. Work-in-progress on the main book. I think the title is going to be "Morality and Self-Discovery."

I'll reproduce the Summary of the main book:

 

Summary

This book is not a short pamphlet or article only because there are so many fallacies surrounding the study of the subject of morality and right living generally. But the essential principles I am trying to communicate are the essence of simplicity so I will state them at the outset in summary form before proceeding to defend them at greater length.

We suffer, so we act. It is suffering which defines our particular ends and the application of means to the removal of suffering is called human action. When action succeeds in removing the conditions of our suffering, we are satisfied. Satisfaction[1] is the end which is never a means to any other end; it is the end to which every other end is a means. I will call this process of suffering and action the unfolding process.

As events unfold, so also our life unfolds. With the lessons learned from the unfolding of many events, our aptitude in removing suffering or avoiding it altogether should increase. I will call this the self-discovery process.

The study of the correct means for the attainment of a given, real end – on the condition of voluntary action – is the subject of economics. The study of the correct ends for the attainment of satisfaction is the subject of moral philosophy. There is no bright-line division between these subjects except to note that moral philosophy is, importantly, not restricted to conditions of voluntary action.

The process of self-discovery does not operate as efficiently in every individual at all times. More importantly, the conditions for efficient operation of the self-discovery process are complicated by the rapid changes in man’s environment since he settled down and became agricultural, roughly ten thousand years ago. Hence, in order to achieve efficient operation of the self-discovery process in one’s own life, it is necessary not merely to follow one’s innate developmental process of self-discovery but to augment this innate sense with methodical study.

This book is a methodical study of the self-discovery process.



[1] If you prefer, you can call it happiness, nirvana, ataraxia or something else; the correlation is strictly formal

 

 

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Clayton replied on Sat, Jul 21 2012 2:49 AM

OK, so I've done some preliminary research and I believe the correct answer is, in fact, astrology. Hold on before you flip out, and let me explain why I've come to this conclusion.

The popular version of astrology is bastardized. Of course, there's nothing inherently immoral in palmistry/fortune-telling but what people don't realize is that this is just one way of looking at astrology. I'm going to make the case that astrology is actually a serious art/science and is, when understood in this serious-minded sense, actually the glue that binds all of human thought together.

The primary interests that the public has in astrology are: fortune-telling and romantic prospecting (and, to a lesser degree, self-psychology). The first two interests are, I think, infantile - at least, they are based on an infantile concept of the relationship of the heavens to the self and to one's future. It's not that there's no relation between these, it's that "reading the stars" won't give you the magical answers you're looking for.

So, if astrology isn't about what popular culture gleans from it, then what is it about? I have to give credit to Santos Bonacci (lots of YT vids are available for the interested) for getting me started, though I will caution that he is a bit loose with his facts (his etymological theories, for example, are downright atrocious) and not too critical of sources. That said, the man is actually very insightful and he is nothing short of a real Renaissance man. What got my attention in Bonacci's presentations of astrology (what he terms "astrotheology" I think to distinguish it as the academic study, in contrast to the daily practice, of astrology) is that he shows how astrology connects everything. "Everything is interrelated" - Alexander von Humboldt (h/t Bonacci)

Bonacci doesn't offer a very thorough justification for why there should be a subject that connects everything but I think he has inuited the fact very well. In the modern age of hyper-specialization of the sciences, it is not at all obvious that there should be anything that "connects it all together" but I will argue that there should be. Basically, science - natural philosophy - consists of rules describing the structure and unfolding of the physical world. Some of these rules are geometrical (as in the principle that two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time), some of these rules are causal (as in the law of inertia which is deduced by thought-experimental extrapolation of real experiments) and some of them are merely correlational (as in the law of gravity* and a great deal of the other laws of physics that are, today, taken to be facts of reality on par with the geometrical or causal facts of physics).

In addition to these rules, modern science consists of a body of methods for uncovering the facts of relations between things. Rules and methods comprise "what is known", that is, that knowledge which has been distilled as far as it can be with the state-of-the-art techniques. But what rules and methods govern the discovery of the rules and methods for use in science? The answer is, necessarily, none. For if there were, these would then just become a part of the body of rules and methods we have already described. Hence - until human beings attain Absolute omniscience - there must reside in back of scientific knowledge (rules and methods knowledge, "left-brain knowledge" if you will) a permanent residue of human experience which is unsystematic, that is, mystical. I say "mystical" because it is a mystery. By definition, it's a mystery. It works, yet we have no idea how. That's the definition of a mystery.

Astrology has a wonderful claim for being the acme metaphor for navigating the terrain of the mystical. It is like the railroad-switching station of all knowledge. Here are some reasons why I think this.

1. The roots of astrology lie in the observation of the heavens. This is why astrological traditions have arisen independently multiple times in human history. This commends astrology as a basis for methodical thinking and living because the stars are both eternal and unmediated - you do not need to consult an expert to observe the heavens, you merely need to step out your front door and look up and you are in direct contact with the eternal background of human experience. This eliminates the problems of bias and conflict-of-interest that afflicts mediated knowledge (e.g. the AGW debate).

2. Astrology is extremely ancient, more ancient than written records of it and astrological ideas are at least as old as any recorded religious doctrines. Versions of astrology have arisen in every sophisticated culture (in several instances, independently - as in Mesopotamia, the Far East and the Americas) and have been extremely durable. Also, I think we have a disposition to be "conservative" and to feel more at-ease with the idea that our far ancestors whose minds were less tainted by the pushing-and-pulling of self-interested charlatans and myth-makers were in a unique position to think "purely".

3. Astrology and myth both have a deep interplay of give-and-take and this makes astrology, at least in part, a repository of cultural memory, which I will argue later is crucially important.

The progression of astrological science is so natural that its authority lies not in proofs or arguments but in its direct appeal to the intellect of the careful thinker. Again, Bonacci's presentations have been hugely influential on me in this regard.

First, man starts by noticing the rotation of the heavens - the most obvious fact of nature to the first contemplative humans to ever turn their eyes skyward. Observing the heavens, he intuited directly their influence on the daily and yearly cycles. The sun rises and sets and this gives us the day/night cycle. The next cycle man observed was that of the stars - the solar year. This cycle gives us summer and winter. In correlation with the solar year is the yearly rotation of the stars, which becomes quickly evident to anyone who observes the stars each evening. The next cycle man observed was the lunar - its monthly cycle affecting women's menses as well as the behavior of other animals. The final cycle he observed was the Platonic Year or great cycle, the 26,000 year precession of the equinoxes. In addition to the three great cycles (the day, the year and the great year), he observed the motions of the wandering stars (the Planets) and noted their epicycles with respect to the Earth, yet never do all 7 form the same pattern in the sky.

In order to track the yearly cycle, man had to create a reference in the stars. To do this, he needed some system for dividing the heavens. The lunar cycle divides the solar cycle almost in 12 - so man divided the heavens into twelve regions or "signs" and assigned to each of these regions a grouping of prominent stars as a mnemonic - these are the constellations of the zodiac. The twelve signs of the zodiac form a "stellar compass" by which we can track our movement around the Sun. This is the Indo-Persian-Mesopotamic-Greco-Roman-European system of astrology. Note that the Chinese zodiac also has 12 signs (I'm unsure if this is an independent development but my understanding is that Chinese astrology is independent of ours).

This ratio - 12 - is the basis of an astounding amount of organization within our cultural knowledge. There are 24 hours in a day (two divisions of each sign in its rotation in the heavens). There are twelve hours on the face of the clock. White light can be separated into 6 primary (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet) and 6 intermediary colors. There are twelve notes in the Western equal-temperament scale and 7 (the number of the Planets) notes in any major or minor scale.

Going further, 12 is also the basis of the Babylonian arithmetic system which, in many ways, is superior to ours. The Babylonians used base 60 (12 x 5) arithmetic with each "digit" being represented by a decimal sign from 0 to 59 (yes, they had something that acted like a zero!) One of the immense practical advantages of base-60 arithmetic is that the first several factors of 60 are 2,3,4,5,6,10,12 making it trivial to split things into these quantities. A shipment of 732 clay pots can be quickly split 12 ways (into lots of 61 each) in base-60 just using mental arithmetic. The mathematical sophistication of the Babylonians may be quite underestimated in the modern understanding.

But just as persuasive and satisfying - to the structured thinker - as the numerological divisions of light or sound, are the humanistic divisions that arise from the heavens. First, there are the binary divisions: day/night, summer/winter, pleasure/pain, good/evil, male/female. On top of these can be layered many other divisions (the five Platonic solids form the basis of further subdivisions within the astrological signs, etc.)

The true power of astrology lies in the fact that it operates on Humboldt's principle that everything is interrelated. Music, light, visual art, time, astronomy, myth, history, geometry, number theory, psychology, sociology, morality, virtue, commerce, relationships, health, anatomy, etc. are all connected through this metaphorical switching-station which doubles as a mnemonic map of all human knowledge.

I want to give what I think is the correct astrological view that has been bastardized in regard to the planetary influences. Firstly, there is no doubt that the planets influence us. The Sun provides daily warmth, the Moon gives us the tides and the planets actually "wobble" the Earth ever-so-slightly in its orbit around the Sun. But something more fundamental is at stake here. The ancients believed that we are connected with the rest of the Solar system and the stars and I think one of the great failures of modern science are these false notions of gravitational action-at-a-distance as the primary organizing principles of the Universe - we are adrift in a black ocean of "empty space", connected by the thinnest of threads only to the nearest star which is itself connected by an even thinner thread to the rest of the galaxy.

In this view, everything in the heavens is remote, distant, capricious, irrelevant. But we already know that this view is simply false. There is no empty space. Space is filled throughout with hot, electrically active plasma currents. There are currents flowing between the Sun and the planets, between the planets and their moons and between the planets and each other. High-frequency electrical signals are emanating from all the electrically active planets (most notably, Saturn and Jupitre). The Sun's immense gravitational field reverses and sweeps over the planets on a regular, 33-day cycle.

So, all this fortune-telling business is a lot of folly for fools - it is all that astrology has to say to the shallow-minded who just want to know "what does my future hold?" OK, I'll take that $15. Here's your birth-chart and horoscope. Have a nice day. The fact is that your fortune-teller is inside your skull. With that mystical crystal-ball in your head, you can peer into the future and predict what will happen hours, days, months, even years in advance. Go and figure out what the consequences of your actions are. That's what your future holds, dumbass.

As for the psychologizing aspect (personality types), I think that you have to understand that the signs refer both to man and to mankind at the same time. This is part of the fact that astrology is a switching-station. That is, we are all expressions of the whole zodiac, not just one particular sign. The psychological zodiac is not just a map of you, it is a map of man and you are a man. Can we actually systematically deduce the influence of the stars on particular individuals based on when they were born? Well, if we could, it wouldn't be astrology, now would it? The practical use of birth-charting is that it makes you think about yourself, about the heavens and about your fellow-man and how all of these are inter-connected, which is really what human action is all about.

Astrology is frankly human. It is individualistic and yet connectionistic at the same time. It forms a persistent pattern within the respository of cultural memory and this pattern is self-reinforcing (for example, consider the effect of the division of the globe into 24 time zones has on how people organize other activities and knowledge wholly unrelated to longitudes or the rotation of the heavens, etc.) And it provides a persuasive framework for organizing a moral science, which is where my primary interest lies.

Finally, I want to say a word on the relationship of astrology to individual ends, that is, the market. I've written before that I think our education and law systems are atrophied by the cartelization/monopolization in these areas. This is a huge blow to human knowledge, the social order and even individual morality. Astrology, likewise, is suppressed but in a less obvious way.

Astrology stands in competition with the "major religions" - that is, those religions which currently or in the recent past enjoyed State-guaranteed monopoly status - because it offers a humanistic cosmological framework for all human knowledge and action. In other words, I believe that astrology in its ancient roots and its long "marginal" history has always been a fundamentally market-driven art/science. The travelling gypsies coming through town offered services that people were willing to pay for - divination, palm-reading, horoscopes, birth-charts, life-paths, etc. They were consistently demonized by the bourgeois as charlatans, devil-worshippers, con-artists, and all-round lowlifes. Nevertheless, they still managed to make a living at it.

I think that we need a Renaissance in moral philosophy and religious ideas. And I think that a revival of interest in astrology - and, just as importantly, further refinement of the art through incorporation of more recent insights and ideas, such as binary numbers, for example - could form a foundation for this Renaissance and drive innovation in the art of helping people organize their lives, their values, develop their character and their thinking with the best available tools ever devised by man in every department of action and knowledge.

Clayton -

This is what Newton himself had to say about his "law" of gravity: "That one body may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of any thing else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to the other, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it." And yet we have. And not only have we fallen into it, we have multiplied this absurdity many times over with relativistic physics.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jul 22 2012 12:14 AM

<bump>

I just bought a deck of Rider-Waite tarot cards, LOL.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jul 22 2012 1:57 PM

So, I think I'm going to start organizing my ideas for a series of YT-casts; I even have a name for it... astro-liberalism. I thought of "astro-libertarianism" first but there are two problems with it... it's very close to "austro-libertarianism" which is already an existing label, and, the word "libertarian" itself was invented as a concession to the assault of the progressives on the word "liberal" in the English language, an assault which no self-respecting school of thought should yield to except as a concession to those interested in new ideas who may need some prefatory introduction to the subject in the vernacular language.

The central idea of astro-liberalism is to re-expand the foundation of liberal philosophy; liberalism arose during the Renaissance which was a broad-based revival of the humanities, that is, all aspects of human art, endeavor, commerce, study, etc. But later, liberal philosophy became very cerebral and I believe it has become almost "trapped in the left-hemisphere" and this is part of the reason why the vast majority of people simply can't relate to it.

Think about how a propertarian reasons out a conflict situation - "Adam attacked policeman Bob with a knife; Bob was forced to draw his weapon and fire in self-defense. The bullet ricocheted and hit Charlie. Because Bob caused harm to Charlie, Bob is liable." Contrast this with how the ordinary person reasons about the same situation, "The criminal Adam was attacking officer Bob who had to draw his gun to defend himself... Adam caused Bob to accidentally shoot Charlie, so Adam should go to prison not only for attacking Bob but also for attacking Charlie." And there is actually something to this latter view - after all, the person who first 'causes a ruckus' should be heavily censured and perhaps part of that is to pile on the punishments for all the ensuing actions from his crime. Who knows. But the propertarian way of thinking is so strange to the man on the street that it appears to him unhuman, alien. Even if it has the "correct" answers, there is no way for the ordinary person to relate to it.

In this way, liberal philosophy has inadvertently created a duality between the rational, on the one side, and the irrational, on the other. But this is not a holistic picture of man. Man is the whole package, rational and irrational together. I think people intuitively understand this and this is why they reject the idea that "reason overrides unreason" - unreason might not "make sense" when argued out, but it may also be a brute fact of human nature. And the rationalist worldview provides no answer to how to deal with this fact other than to simply pretend we've progressed toward greater rationalism.

So, I heartily believe we need to go back to our roots in the Renaissance - not by trying to have a Re-Renaissance - but, rather, by investing our energy into one of the true heirs of the Renaissance, astrology. Astrology reached new heights of popularity during the Renaissance and afterward - that despite the formal prohibition by the Church of many aspects of astrological practice, such as Tarot reading. Interest began to wane when the predictions of the astrologers regarding major astronomical events failed to come true. But the basis of this decline is the same false basis as people's initial interest in astrology - as a way to outsource rationality (serious thinking) in comprehending and predicting events within their own lives.

As I explained in my earlier post, I think that the substitution of superstition for reason in astrological theories of physics or fortune-telling, for example, are unhealthy. And these "lower" elements of astrology are the primary interest of the public (and, by the way, this was true even during its heyday when eminent rationalists like Newton were devoutly astrological). But that doesn't mean that that is what astrology is 'really about.' Astrology is the Holy Science - as Bonacci likes to say. It is universal (every culture has studied the stars) and it is comprehensive (all aspects of human life and existence fall within its compass).

Anyway, so there you have it ... astro-liberalism.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jul 22 2012 10:00 PM

OK, folks, here's my first YT video on the subject:

Perks: Hear my voice for the first time ever! (And, by the way, I swear I don't have a lisp, I don't know what was up with me today, I felt groggy all day and just could not enunciate correctly... *sigh)

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Good work on making a video  - I'm thinking of making one at some point but then you'd have to hear my god-awful accent (yours isn't bad to listen to at all).  I have to say I didn't see this astrological turn comingl!  It's an interesting way to incorporate non-rational aspects into the First Church so to speak, but I would like to hear more about how it applies to liberalism.  I've had a quick read on astrological topics, and there seems to be some instrospective elements within astrology, for example in Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos and in writers such as Dane Rudhyar.  Is this sort of what you're going for?

Also, the quote section in the reader is all screwed up from the glitchy Mises forum.  When I have a new version I'll email it or something in order to avoid that.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Jul 23 2012 1:05 PM

Absolutely. I think that astrology (of the serious variety ... there are many kinds) can add a "framework for discussion" of the introspective dimension as well as those things that we know are physical but we just don't understand well enough to pretend like we have it "pretty much nailed down".

To give an early indication of where I'm going with this, let's start with the day/night distinction - as Bonacci explains, the astrological wheel is divided into two halves that correspond to day/night, summer/winter, good/evil, pleasure/pain, etc. This association is literal not metaphorical! Good is what we desire, evil is what we shun, and the day brings the blessings of the Sun and warmth, where the night brings the curse of dangerous animals and privation. Summer brings the bounty of the Earth; the last summer we had is the only reason that 7 billion people are alive today. I think that's pretty profound.

But, of course, this association is not scientific in the sense that it consists of well-defined stimulus-response or phenomenological correlations - after all, there are dangerous animals even in the day and the night brings dreams which can be a vehicle for introspection and probably for less-well understood connections to our exterior environment.

From here, the association can be expanded into more speculative realms, such as the "Ages", i.e. the Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron Ages as delineated by the motion of the Spring equinox through the zodiac over the 26,000 year cycle, resulting from the precession of the equinoxes. At this point, we are into pure metaphor but the metaphor is so persuasive and beautiful that it deserves respect on that basis alone. As long as you don't slip into "astrological fundamentalism" and use the metaphor as a blind against genuine historical investigation, it is at worst harmless and at best may inadvertently lead us into discoveries we would never have otherwise made.

As for how this could be the case, I would point your attention to the much-ridiculed practice of alchemy - of course the alchemists were ignorant, why else would they have been doing alchemy? But if you look at alchemical writings, you see that the alchemical theories provided an impetus to try things. Without the impetus, experiment was largely relegated to accidental discoveries as a byproduct of other commercial activities. Someone left the salts laying next to the acid and both dripped onto copper and voila, a new discovery was made. But that's a very slow way to discover things about the world.

Alchemy, despite its wholly speculative nature, provided a framework that generated interest, discussion and experimentation... a process that continued until we learned how to learn scientific chemistry. And because it is an integral aspect of reality, chemistry should still be integrated into an astrological framework. For example, astrology has always associated gold and the Sun (male, most desirable) and silver with the Moon (female, less desirable). It doesn't matter that there is no "measurable" aspect of gold that would indicate that it should be the most liquid, most marketable commodity, the fact is that it is (or was and will likely one day be again). Gold is the most noble, the most desirable, the highest good, the center of the human economic order - just like the Sun.

And it goes further. Gold is money that "smart people can't fiddle." Just like the Sun - and astrology - is truth that smart people can't fiddle (though 20th century physicists have done their level best to befuddle public understanding of this topic).

And this is the basis on which I want to found a liberal-philosophy-inspired moral theory. The Sun is the thing to which everything else in our environment is connected, it is the most desirable thing, it is the highest good, it is the final end as well as the final means. And if you listen to Bonacci's lectures, he constantly underscores that the Sun is within you. You are the Sun. This is the principle of "As above, so below." That is, the world above our heads is a map of the world within our heads. The final end is your satisfaction and moral philosophy flows from this fact. And just like we don't need to prove that the Sun is the most important part of our environment (you can't fail to notice this fact that is pounded home by the Sun itself each and every day), so we don't need to prove that the final end is our own satisfaction. It's the sort of fact to which you might draw someone's attention only briefly in order to explain something else less obvious.

And this brings me to the "trinity": beginning/middle/end, past/present/future, birth/life/death, creation/time/annihilation, disequilibrium/motion/equilibrium - It is triune in that these three aspects each play a separate and distinguishable role in the unfolding of events, yet they are one process. And, in particular, the process that regards moral action is this: suffering/action/satisfaction. The metaphorical assocations are beautiful and persuasive in their own right. Just as the Sun mediates a constant process of disequilibrium/motion/equilibrium, so YOU are the medium of a constant process of suffering/action/satisfaction. And this is the golden foundation of good and evil, right and wrong.

I can go further but I'm going to stop here as I haven't worked out the rest in very much detail (I'm writing this post in part to jot down my thoughts so far) - basically, a lot of the Biblical language regarding the spiritual aspect of man can be meaningfully reclaimed and applied to this philosophy of morality. For example, consider the idea of sin. The bastardized understanding of this concept is violation of a divine statute. But the astrological view of sin is that it is self-treachery, it is forsaking the Sun, turning away from the blessings and abundance of the day and summer and instead bringing the curse and danger of winter and night upon oneself. As you see from above, this is not merely a metaphor, this is literally the case.

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William replied on Mon, Jul 23 2012 1:31 PM

 I don't have a lisp, 

That could just be a consequence of recording - your voice will always be distorted.  You have to figure out how to use a "recording voice" that works. 

"I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique" Max Stirner
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