Friday, July 06, 2007

On The Obvious:
In constraining any system of government, and fixing the several checks and controls of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave, and to have no other end, in all his actions, than private interest.
David Hume
That sentence carries in it every debate about society and politics of the modern period, but accepting the premise doesn't imply that people should be encouraged to act as knaves. The passage describes the logic of government and law not human interaction per se; laws are referred to after all only in a crisis. How many people raise their children to be schmucks? Even those who do try to find ways to justify their actions as moral; true objectivists are as rare as they are ugly.
vulgarize |ˈvəlgəˌrīz| verb [trans.] make less refined. make commonplace or less subtle or complex : [as adj. ] (vulgarized) a vulgarized version of the argument.
Government and law are maintained by the oversimplification of thoughts, ideas and experience. That vulgarization is necessary. But to begin all discussion as if that oversimplification were the base, the atomic structure, of imagination does nothing more than reproduce and reinforce knavish behavior. Both modern liberalism and modern conservatism are based on contract: the vulgarization of thought for practical ends. But society as opposed to government is not built on single contracts but multiple, interlocking and contradictory obligations. And obligations are not contracts: there is no single measure of their strengths and weaknesses.
See here.

Reading Chomsky on language. I'm amazed at his capacity for air-castle constructions, his anti-empiricism is pathological. But his political writings are nothing but empiricism and reportage. His capacity for intellectual grunt-work [and that's all it is] would seem to be a useful side effect of his contempt for empiricism as a higher methodology.

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