Wednesday, August 18, 2004

America Votes (or at least some of it does) 2004

Ok, since it seems to be the fashionable thing to do, I shall now throw in my two cents on the Bush-Kerry race.
First of all, I want to make clear one thing. Whichever candidate is elected, the policies of the United States vis a vis the rest of the world will change only superficially.
The United States is the biggest player on the international stage and neither Bush nor Kerry will jeopardize its interests in any way. Neither candidate wants the USA to take a less controlling role in world politics; nor do the interests who have their ear. It’s actually kind of annoying to see social activists supporting Kerry, especially since that support is out of all proportion to his views.

But that’s all obvious, more or less, and so I will now turn to less immediate things.
In particular, I want to discuss the misconceptions that many people have about the uses of international politics.
People from practically every part of the political grab bag seem to suffer from this misunderstanding of politics, from the social activists who call for humanitarianism and morality to be the guiding lights behind politics to conservatives who also want principled politicians, though with slightly different principles in mind.
Admittedly, those who call for an end to nation-states entirely do not run afoul of this problem.
So what is the problem? Quite simply, the perennial call for the principled conduct of international relations misses the point of politics. The sole aim of the politics of a state is to further the interests of that state, and the only interests of a nation-state is to become more powerful, be it economically or politically, and to last longer than other nation-states.
Principled conduct is almost inevitably detrimental to these goals.
Granted, it might be that the types of actions which best fit a particular nation’s goals could by some happy chance end up being those which also were consistently those which fit some particular principle, but this has never been the case (and probably never will be).
After all, what other purpose could there be to having separate nations at all? Was politics intended only to administer people and act domestically, there would be no such thing as international relations at all, and no need for nations. One single government with many administrative divisions would work just as well.
No, quite simply, the point of nations is to wage war against one another (be it open, economic, political, covert, etc.).
A nation which acts on principle will leave itself open to being outmanoeuvred and will risk giving up opportunities to gain advantage over its rivals. Calls for principled international politics therefore make no sense.

Now, I realize that all of this can be easily found by reading about such 19th Century politicians as Bismarck or Cavour, but it seems that somewhere along the way we began to delude ourselves about the nature of international politics. It’s not that those who actually practice politics do so any differently, though. In fact, the fact that they continue to aim for their nation’s selfish interests is the reason why so many people are frustrated when massacres such as that going on in Sudan are ignored by political leaders. Nevertheless, since World War One, the idea has grown in popularity that politics should be carried out morally. This idea is laudable, and I for one think that an end should be made of war, poverty, and all those other terrible things which afflict so many people. However, that goal cannot be coherently achieved within the nation-state structure. That structure was created for entirely different reasons, and attempts to change its nature seem to me to be fruitless.
The conduct of the United States is immoral, but is totally unfixable within our current system. One cannot blame a nation for doing what it was made to do, any more than a bomb is to blame for the deaths it caused.
Rather you, the people, who support the system of separate nations, are to blame for loosing them on the world, just as the bombardier… well, you get my point.

Besides the USA, I want to note that the war crimes trials of the German “war criminals” were a farce. Those men, whose crimes were admittedly unforgivable, were convicted on the charge of “waging aggressive war”! If such a charge were fairly applied, how many politicians either now or in the past would escape the hangman’s noose?


I’m afraid I’ve rambled a bit here, so I’ll wrap things up.

Stop campaigning for good politics and start calling for an end to nations!

“Success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong.”
--- Adolf Hitler

“Don’t talk to me of Great Men. Adolf Hitler was a Great Man. Personally, I’ll make do with ordinary men.”
--- The Doom of Fools

Monday, August 02, 2004

The Universe According to Me

Ok, this may be a little overambitious, but I am going to offer an explanation of the nature of the universe. I am going to, in offering this explanation, put forward a theory which describes the nature of the universe based solely on the facts I know to be true, without relying on claims which I am unsure of. I like to think that it's a little like Ockham's Razor (the simplest explanation which fits the facts is usually the correct one).

I call it
My Grand Unified Theory of Everything

It goes like this:
1.) I think, therefore I am. Descartes has established this point in sufficient detail, I trust. It is, in any case, self-evident that there cannot be thought without some existence, even if only of the thought.
2.) “I” am a thinking thing, and a thing which has ideas (in the broad sense -including all mental activities).
-These two statements constitute all the facts about reality which I can say with certainty I know.

-These next two points deal with only Descartes' attempts to reinstate bodies and other minds. They cannot, naturally, be dealt with in detail here, but suffice to say that I am satisfied that neither bodies nor other minds can be known by me to exist. A reading of Descartes' Meditations is recommended.
3.) Despite M. Descartes’ best efforts at providing one, I have seen no reason to assert that any outside bodies truly exist, for I can only experience ideas.
4.) There is also no evidence for supposing that other minds exist, either those of other people or that of God, once again, M. Descartes notwithstanding.

-In this next section, I offer some arguments to show the lack of evidence for bodies and other minds.
5.) What then is the “external world” which I seem to experience, and which is apparently populated with others who act and look like me, with my physical body, and with other objects? It is one of two things: Either a real physical world, or a phantasm or illusion of ideas and sensations. It also is either independently existing, or a creation of some other beings, or a creation of mine.
6.) When I say “illusion” I do not mean this necessarily in the malicious or contrived sense (for this would imply some inteligence which created the illusion), but merely in the sense of there existing nothing beyond ideas or sensations which I experience.

7.) The world also either contains only my mind or it contains many minds of other beings as well.
8.) The possibility that other minds than my own exist cannot be accepted based on the evidence at hand. There is not a scrap of evidence for them, as I cannot experience them. They thus contribute unnecessary complication to any theory of the universe.
9.) Any instance which involves real physical objects can also be dismissed on the grounds that it is needlessly complex. Why should I suppose the existence of physical bodies when all I can experience are ideas (sensations)? What need is there for them? I cannot prove that they do not exist, but they are certainly not the simplest explanation for the experiences I have.
10.) The alternative left, thusly, is that there only exist ideas and sensations. I shall therefore turn now to whether these ideas are independently existing, or created in me by me, or created in me by some other being.

11.) Under the criteria of finding the simplest explanation, the idea of independently existing ideas must be discarded. Under this supposition, existence consists of my mind and countless ideas; an unnecessary complication? Certainly.

12.) The idea of another being creating in me the ideas which I experience is also to be rejected, on the grounds that the very existence of other beings is unnecessary.

13.) The simplest description of reality, therefore, is that it consists in my mind. The appearances of other ideas or bodies existing being only creations of my own mind within my own mind.

14.) I therefore suggest that the only thing which I can be sure exists is me (my mind). Accordingly, the only theory of the nature of the universe which does not complicate matters by adding phenomena for which there is no evidence is the simple statement that I exist.

Thought for the Day:
“I wish I was Descartes’ ‘Evil Demon!’“

-The Doom of Fools