Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"We Are Fighting for the Rule of Law"

On the evening news last night, a Pakistani lawyer spoke these words as explanation for why hundreds of Pakistani lawyers were fighting policemen on the streets of Lahore and other cities in Pakistan. Conservatively dressed, black suited and tied lawyers threw rocks at policemen armed in riot gear who fought back with tear gas and truncheons.

The lawyers were outgunned. Lawyers do not make good soldiers. Used to fighting with words, their rocks were paltry weapons against modern riot gear. Armed in their proper suits and ties to battle in a courtroom, their uniforms were no match for the shields and handcuffs of the riot police. Scores of attorneys were arrested.

The riot was prompted by the actions of General Musharraf, the ruler of Pakistan, to assume dictatorial powers by dissolving the Supreme Court and Parliament, and closing private newspapers. The general also proceeded to install his puppets on the Supreme Court. So far, he has only found enough sycophants for just 5 of the 17 Supreme Court seats. One way the lawyers have said they will fight is by not participating in sham court proceedings headed by cronies appointed by the general.

A lawyer is the essential agent of a society of laws and not men. A lawyer and the courtroom he works in is a forum dedicated to the principle that force shall be governed by reason. Yesterday, we saw the supreme example of the inversion of this principle. Lawyers themselves are being bludgeoned by unrestrained force.

There is some hope for even an Islamic-infused society like Pakistan when scores of its lawyers, some of them trained at top British universities such as Cambridge, will fight for the rule of law. In the long run, reason and the rule of law that is its application in civil society, will always win. However, in the many years between now and that long run in Pakistan, we will see who wins the battle of the streets in Pakistan: the lawyers, the dictator, or the Muslim radicals at their doorstep.

27 comments:

Myrhaf said...

In the long run, reason and the rule of law that is its application in civil society, will always win.

Is this true? It looks to me right now that Western Civilization is heading toward unreason and tyranny.

madmax said...

Actually, I think that Musharraf is the better alternative right now. All of this is wrong in the sense that America should not be spreading "Democracy" or nation building or anything like that. But we see what happens when Islamic societies accept democracy. They end up Islamic tyrannies.

Musharraf is the only thing that stands in the way of a nuclear armed Islamic Pakistan. Is that ideal? Hell no. But given our given context, what else is the alternative? This makes America look bad in so many ways. Here we are lauding "democracy" as the ideal for everyone in the world and then out of necessity we have no choice to back a dictator.

But this is the problem with getting involved with Islamic politics. Recent history has shown that the only type of regime that can suppress Islam is one imposed by a strong man; Hussein, Attaturk, Mussharaf, etc. Islam in its current state (and perhaps by its very nature) can not exist in a Western-style right respecting political order. We were (and are) foolish to believe otherwise. The chickens are coming home to roost.

So while I agree with you in the abstract, in this case I'm actually on the side of Mussharaf. But this can only turn out bad in the end no matter what. At some point in the future, the true Muslims - ie the Jihadis - are going to gain control of the country and the nukes. Then we will have to wage war against Pakistan and take out their nuclear sites. But that wont be easy as its nuclear weaponry is advanced and those nukes essentially hold India hostage.

What a fucking mess.

Galileo Blogs said...

My long run is simply "eventually." Eventually, reason will triumph. We may have another Dark Ages before that happens. I don't have a strong view one way or the other on that issue. On whether reason will eventually triumph, I am certain. Man only needs a proper validation of reason and life on this earth. The Objectivist philosophy is that validation.

The remaining question is how quickly men become convinced of it and act on it. That will tell us whether society must collapse first before another Renaissance emerges a millennium from now, or our current society can pull itself out of the fire and be reborn.

Galileo Blogs said...

Madmax,

I don't disagree with you. I *was* making my point in the abstract. The image of lawyers throwing rocks at policemen in the name of the rule of law was one I wished to explain and memorialize.

Lawyers are the embodiment of a rational, civil society. They are the instruments by which force is subordinated to reason. Here we see that the first thing a dictatorship must do is to follow Shakespeare's advice and "kill all the lawyers" (in spirit if not always literally).

I do not know anything more about what these lawyers stand for. Democracy, of course, is not an ideal, but it is a term sloppily used to represent Western values. The lawyer quoted on television properly named one of those values when he said he was fighting for the rule of law.

Inspector said...

"In the long run, reason and the rule of law that is its application in civil society, will always win."

Galileo,

I disagree with this formulation. Reason and the rule of law are by no means inevitable. There could be a nuclear war or biological plague that wipes out all of mankind. There could be a dark age that lasts long enough for a comet to hit the earth and wipe us all out. Free will means that you cannot make a statement that reason must triumph.

That is why it is so crucially important to fight for it.

Galileo Blogs said...

Yes, one must fight for it, as the great scientists, philosophers and business innovators have done throughout man's history, and even the cavemen before them who harnessed fire, built the first spear, etc.

I am leaving out the possibility that a comet could hit the earth during a Dark Age. Fortunately, it didn't happen during any of the prior dark ages. In fact, I am leaving out any fantastic possibility that is truly outside of man's control. Along those lines, it is clear that the sun will, billions of years from now, consume all of its fuel and burn itself out. I am certain that man will observe and study that event from his remote viewing platforms positioned in solar orbit, while he lounges on planets light-years away.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Here are my suggestions for this discussion.

Democracy is a dictatorship by the majority. An Islamic democracy would be a theocracy that inessentially chooses to use mass voting as its decision-making mechanism. Since Islam ("submission") is hierarchically authoritarian by nature, it tends to encourage elitism rather than its false alternative, egalitarianism, which is the foundation of democracy.

The proper form of government, of course, would be one that is based on a written constitution protecting individual rights from attacks -- from the majority acting through government, as well as from other individuals. (The Ayn Rand Lexicon has an entry for "Democracy.")

Western Civilization is a complex of cultural elements logically integrated and standing on a foundation of focus on this world and the use of reason. The elements in the complex include respect for science and technology, and rule by law under a representative government. European culture contains many elements of Western Civilization but the terms are not synonymous.

"European culture" and similar terms/ideas are defined by nonessentials such as race, language, the accidents of history, or geography. Western Civilization is defined by philosophical essentials and is thus independent of factors such as race, geography, language, and the accidental confluences of history.

For a more complete description of "Western Civilization," see: Enemies of Christopher Columbus, by Thomas Bowden, available through the Ayn Rand Bookstore: http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/default.asp

Burgess Laughlin
www.aristotleadventure.blogspot.com

Inspector said...

"I am certain that man will observe and study that event from his remote viewing platforms positioned in solar orbit, while he lounges on planets light-years away."

I know you said that, but to believe you, I need you to prove it. Do you know what it means when I say, "free will precludes the possibility for you to be certain that reason will triumph?"

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector,

Yes, I understand your statement. Yet I remain certain that reason will eventually triumph. I base my conclusion on the observation of what men have already chosen to accomplish, and its result: the Ascent of Man. Although it was punctuated by severe declines and it was not present in all parts of the earth, man's path has been one of advancement as enough men of the mind have chosen reason in their spheres of action.

Thus, we had the civilization of the Ancient Greeks and then the Renaissance, and then the Industrial Age and the Age of the Computer. All of this occurred despite a philosophical battle where progressively worse ideas poisoned men's thinking and resulted in the horrors of Communism and Nazism. Also because of pernicious philosophy, we still have to deal with ghoulish religion that refuses to go away, whether it is Islam or fundamentalist Christianity.

Yet with Objectivism, the big philosophical questions that were unanswered and gave the opening for these pernicious historical trends have been answered. Man is now armed with the tools he needs to go even higher.

Men have free will, yet it is the decisions of a few that will determine the trend for entire societies. Enough men will choose reason in their spheres of action, as they have in the past. Given enough time, tomorrow's world will be even grander than today's.

As I said in an earlier comment, we could have another intervening dark age before that happens. But the end result will be progress.

None of my comments are meant to imply determinism or that there is no need to fight for reason. It is the fighting of people like my "namesake" Galileo and, of course, Aristotle and Ayn Rand, or Gutenberg and Bill Gates, et al., that will propel man higher.

Inspector said...

To say that, given the present context, you are certain that reason will eventually triumph, is not the same statement as "In the long run, reason and the rule of law that is its application in civil society, will always win."

Not that I agree with your first statement. I don't. You can't be certain of that - people have free will and can choose unreason until every last one of them is dead.

It's possible.

And with the existence of civilization-destroying weapons, more likely. Furthermore, with existing technologies such as pain-rays and biological weapons, and ones on the horizon that could very well crack the human mind, the possibility of a dark age that ends in human extinction is a very real one.

Furthermore, human existence being dependent upon reason, and reason being mostly unable to function in a dark age, extinction-level meteors are not the only thing that could wipe us out during a dark age.

The stakes in our current struggle against the looming dark age are high indeed.

Galileo Blogs said...

No, I do not think every last person will choose unreason until they are all dead. There will always be some men who choose reason. There always has been, in every era.

I do not share your pessimism or fear about what can happen to man. Yes, dictatorships have terrifying weapons they can use, but there is one tool they cannot fully have: the cooperation of enough men of the mind to be viable over time.

In part, it is that point that is eloquently dramatized in the climax of Atlas Shrugged when John Galt who is being tortured has to explain to his torturers how to repair the machine they are using.

Even in the midst of a dark age, the few rays of light of men using their minds, whether it is to make a better plow, rediscover an ancient, vital text, or whatever else they undertake to better their lives, eventually bring in enough light to dispel the dark age. That happened in the Dark Ages that followed the collapse of Rome, and in the Greek Dark Age that preceded the Greek Golden Age.

Fortunately, man is armed with a stronger, more complete, better philosophy now than he has ever had. That means that a dark age, if we enter a new one, will have even less hold over men's minds before reason ultimately triumphs.

Without actually *seeing* the future, which is an impossibility, I am certain that reason will triumph, somewhere and eventually.

Hopefully, America will be the place that it will triumph. Yet even if it does not happen here, in our era, it will happen somewhere in the future. That is what I am certain of.

Inspector said...

To call me "pessimistic" is to misunderstand my position. I am not saying any of those things I mentioned are the most likely outcome. I merely state that they are possible and therefore you can't be certain of your position.

"Without actually *seeing* the future, which is an impossibility, I am certain that reason will triumph, somewhere and eventually."

But that is precisely the point: In order to be certain that reason will triumph, you would have to see the future. You could say that you think that is most likely or that you are "pretty sure," but to say you are "certain" is an abuse of the word.

Burgess Laughlin said...

"... but to say you are "certain" is an abuse of the word."

The statement above raises the question, what does "certainty" mean?

I use "certainty" in two ways, depending on the context. Psychological certainty means to me being doubt-free. If I am walking down a dark street in a particular neighborhood under particular circumstances, and I see the shadow of a man behind a bush, a man with upraised arms holding a sharp object in his hand, I am certain I should leave the area. I have no doubt the situation is a threatening one. That is, I have no evidence to the contrary -- though I might imagine all sorts of scenarios to the contrary: A drama student practicing a theatrical move, for example.

By contrast, epistemological certainty requires that I understand the nature of the situation at a deeper, causal level. As a layman, I am certain the sun will appear to rise tomorrow morning because I know (crudely) that the earth rotates, and so forth. I have no evidence of any force counteracting that movement. Therefore I, as a semi-informed layman, can predict with certainty that the sun will appear to rise tomorrow.

I can seldom be certain of particular behavior of a particular man, because he has free will. But it is possible, I suspect, to be contextually certain of the behavior of groups over time in some ways and under specified circumstances. Perhaps an example is the effect on the supply of a product if a government restricts the price. I know the causal factors involved. I can make contextually certain predictions: "In the absence of other factors intruding, the availability of product x will drop ...."

Can the future course of "history" (the sum of human events) be predicted with certainty? I doubt it, but I am open to argument.

I try to be on guard against both philosophical pessimism and optimism. Both are corrupt. Both assume that the universe is made in such a way that it -- including human behavior -- will automatically behave in a certain way in relation to man because of its basic nature. Neither is justified, from what I can see.

Burgess Laughlin
http://www.aristotleadventure.blogspot.com

Galileo Blogs said...

Burgess,

Thank you for providing illumination on the term "certainty" in this discussion. I especially like your example from economics. Although any particular individual can behave contrary to economic norms, in aggregate groups of individuals perform in such a predictable manner that one can be certain of the law of supply and demand.

Interestingly, I am certain of the law of supply and demand even though, in certain instances it does not seem to apply, as in the case of "Giffen goods." However, as a general principle, supply and demand is a law of human economic behavior.

I would argue that the history of man, from cavemen days onward, validates the idea that reason will ultimately triumph, somewhere at some point in time. By that I simply mean that man will move to higher levels of achievement and civilization through the application of rational methods by various men in their areas of endeavor.

History shows that there are always some rational men who keep civilization alive on some level. It is the persistence of these men that will sustain man through another dark age, if it were to happen.

Irrationality can only go so far. If people wake up, look for food and shelter, and otherwise survive, they are exercising reason to that extent. To posit that man could simply self-destruct is to posit that a complete mass irrationality on the order of mass suicide is possible. I hold that it is not possible on a scale that applies to the whole earth. To use the economics example, it is like saying that all at once, people in large markets decide to buy more of a good that costs more, thereby defying the law of supply and demand. We just don't see such examples (or they are explainable through other factors, such as the case of a "Giffen good" which I won't explain here).

More than just surviving, some men of exceptional ability will use their minds in grander ways. They may invent a better plow (if we are emerging from a dark age) or even re-discover the principles of reason from a long-dead philosopher such as Ayn Rand. When they do so, civilization will advance to the extent they succeed.

Given that it only takes a few exceptional men of ability to move societies forward, and that no dictatorship can extinguish the mind completely, it is inevitable in my view that man will rise up eventually from any sort of self-imposed disaster such as a Dark Age.

So, in a similar manner that the law of supply and demand is valid to groups of individuals acting on their own free will, even though specific individuals can choose to be irrational, societies will eventually advance because some men will use reason to improve their own lives, and therefore the lives of those around them. I see it as a historical law similar to the economic law of supply and demand.

I use the word "certain" in a particular context. I am leaving out comets hitting the earth during a dark age. Yes, if that happens, man will be wiped out. I also don't think there is any technology in existence today, including nuclear weaponry, that could wipe every last human off the face of the earth. From my reading on that topic, nuclear bombs, which are simply big bombs, cannot achieve sufficient coverage of all parts of the earth for that to occur. From my layman's knowledge of biology and disease, the same conclusion applies to biological warfare, etc. Man cannot destroy himself completely.

As for other horrible technologies that dictatorships use, dictatorships themselves depend on the men of the mind for the development and maintenance of these horror devices. That dependence is their weakness and is why they cannot achieve permanent and all-encompassing dominion over men. Eventually, some policeman will take his "mind cracking machine" or whatever and turn it on the dictator, just as Hitler's henchmen were ready to blow him up after awhile.

Man could enter another dark age, even a very long and horrible one. But if he does, he will eventually pull himself out of it.

As for the age we are in now, the jury is out on whether we will enter another dark age. Personally, I don't think we will. I just hope that if we are to enter one, it doesn't truly happen until after I am dead.

Inspector said...

"Can the future course of "history" (the sum of human events) be predicted with certainty? I doubt it, but I am open to argument.

I try to be on guard against both philosophical pessimism and optimism. Both are corrupt. Both assume that the universe is made in such a way that it -- including human behavior -- will automatically behave in a certain way in relation to man because of its basic nature. Neither is justified, from what I can see."


I agree with Burgess on this one. His is a very good elucidation of the point I was making.

All the points you make are valid, Galileo, but none of them justify you claiming certainty of the triumph of reason.

Galileo Blogs said...

The universe is not "good" in the sense that men must succeed and prosper. However, because reason is efficacious and at least some men will choose to exercise it in any era, mankind will advance over time. That is my contention.

The history of mankind so far is consistent with this point of view. The fact is, man *has* advanced, even if that path of advance had many detours along the way. I would suggest that the natural efficacy of reason, and the fact that some men will employ it for their survival and prosperity, means that mankind will advance.

Another way to look at my thesis is that man cannot be static. Historically, societies either advance or decline, but they never stay still for long. But generally when any society collapses, a subsequent society is able to begin from a higher base than before. No achievements of the past are entirely wiped out. Observe that for Europe to emerge from the Dark Ages, at first it simply re-discovered and recreated the achievements of Roman civilization. Then it moved beyond that base.

Could anything completely wipe out the achievements of Western civilization? Short of an as yet undeveloped technology of destruction or an earth-shattering disaster such as a comet strike, nothing can. Any future society will have the fragments of Western civilization to begin from. That is a higher base than man had in the 600s A.D. Those fragments would also include an even better philosophical base than Aristotle, which helped Europe advance beyond the level of Rome and achieve the greatness of the Renaissance and subsequent centuries.

Inspector said...

I must repeat my previous statement:

All the points you make are valid, Galileo, but none of them justify you claiming certainty of the triumph of reason.

Galileo Blogs said...

I will let stand my argument. In essence, it boils down to the fact that nothing (with the exceptions I have already described) can completely snuff out the human mind. If that is true, man will advance, eventually.

In the end, none of us will be around to see who won this argument.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Galileo blogs.

Inspector is using the concept of certainty in the traditional philosophic sense by which omniscience is the epistemological standard. Hence, on this premise, Inspector is correct in pointing out that certainty about a future event or trend is impossible.

However, Objectivism rejects this epistemological standard. In this sense, Galileo Blogs is using the concept of certainty correctly, meaningfully, and as an Objectivist should. Also, Galileo Blogs has nicely elucidated his reasons for making his claims with certainty. Nicely done.

Burgess Laughlin said...

I see that the The Ayn Rand Lexicon contains an entry for "Certainty." One excerpt (from Leonard Peikoff's 1976 lecture series, "The Philosophy of Objectivism," produced under Ayn Rand's overview) notes:

-----------
"'Certain' represents an assessment of the evidence for a conclusion; it is usually contrasted with ... 'probable' and 'possible' ...."

"Idea X is 'certain' if, in a given context of knowledge, the evidence for X is conclusive. In such a context, all the evidence supports X and there is no evidence to support any alternative."

"You cannot challenge a claim to certainty by means of an arbitrary declaration of a counter-possibility ...."
------------

I see two related points worth highlighting, just to nail them down.

1. FREE WILL AND CHARACTER. It is true that every individual has free will and might choose to go out of focus so consistently that he and his offspring will perish. However, it is also true that an individual cannot be reduced to free will alone. (That would be the fallacy of reductionism, I suspect.)

An individual at a given time has a certain character, that is, a certain nature. One can be certain of an individual's behavior in general, based on the nature of his character -- while still accepting the fact that that individual "might" change, even though one has no particular evidence that he will change.

Further, I can be even more confident (as Galileo Blogs pointed out) when I am thinking of groups of individuals, that at least some of them will move forward.

2. REASONABLE EXPECTATION BASED ON PAST EVENTS. If asteroids have struck the Earth in the past, is it not reasonable to assume that they will strike again -- and that they "might" wipe out humanity? Yes, but I don't know of any way to factor that into a projection of what I expect humanity in general will achieve or fail to achieve.

I thus can remain certain, given a particular context of assumptions, that humans in general will go on striving, using reason along the way, to enough of an extent to survive and occasionally flourish -- barring earth-shattering astronomical events and other factors which one might imagine based on past history but for which one has no particular evidence of particular future events (if any).

As Anonymous said, certainty, in the proper meaning, does not depend on omniscience. Nor, I would suggest for discussion, should certainty be diminished even by valid knowledge of particular events of the past which cannot be proven to affect particular future conditions.

I welcome a short, "neat" formula for saying this, assuming it is valid.

Burgess Laughlin
http://aristotleadventure.blogspot.com

Inspector said...

Anon is attributing a common error to my position, which is not in fact what I am doing.

The objections I have made are not arbitrary. We do know from geological records that extinction-level collisions with space-borne objects does happen on earth on a fairly consistent basis. We also know that unreason is capable of ruling in dark ages for many thousands of years. Furthermore, we also know, from historical events such as the destruction of the library of Alexandria and the loss of classical knowledge that the progression of knowledge is by no means inevitably and irreversibly forward.

Galileo attributes the quick progression of the renaissance to the recovery of classical knowledge. I am not an expert, but I do not believe this is correct. Certainly, philosophic knowledge was recovered and with a good philosophy in place, progress was immense. But I do not think that the scientific advancement was based on recovered classical knowledge. It was fast merely because of the unprecedented environment, philosophically speaking.

It is not arbitrary or far fetched to posit the possibility that philosophic knowledge could be lost altogether. It very nearly happened historically. It may well have happened during the first, pre-Greek, dark age - the period before which we have almost zero knowledge.

Anonymous' assessment of the Galileo v Inspector positions here seems to fit the pattern laid out by the lexicon - but that is only because it is a rationalistic assessment. And I mean that literally, not as some kind of pejorative.

Galileo Blogs said...

I am leaving out a comet-strike during a dark age. Burgess gives good reasons for doing so. A quick glance at an astronomical web-site states that "ecosystem destroying" comets hit about every 100 million years on average. It adds that no comet strikes will occur in the foreseeable future, based on current astronomical observations.

Interestingly, mammals (humans are mammals) survived the great asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous period that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

Let's leave all that aside. I will simply grant your point. Yes, if man finds himself during a dark age on earth (and hasn't already colonized other planets or moons) and a sufficiently large comet hits earth, mankind will perish.

Apart from such catastrophic events outside of man's control, will man advance? My answer is in two parts. The second part is simply observation of the fact that man *has* progressed. Not without interruptions and retrogressions, but despite them, man has advanced. Despite the burning of the Library at Alexandria, the loss of Greco-Roman civilization and the emergence of a Dark Age, man recovered and advanced. Despite even a "complete lack of philosophy" during the Greek Dark Age (to the extent that was true), man advanced. Of course, one must keep in mind that China and India had achieved civilization by that time, and that primitive peoples were surviving around the world. The Greek world achieved a renaissance and the rest of mankind survived and most of them ultimately advanced.

The historical record suggests that man is not just a hardy animal, but that his rational faculty, to the extent it operates, tends to lift him up, and progress occurs. It is not a neat, nor an automatic progress, but given enough time, man tends to advance, somewhere.

That is the second part of my argument, which is an observation of historical evidence. The first part of my argument is an observation of the nature of man's mind. I made several points there.
(1) Irrationality can only go so far. A widespread complete irrationality would be mass suicide, and will not happen.
(2) It only takes a few men exercising their rational faculty to improve man's existence.
(3) Calamities such as dictatorships cannot achieve permanent dominion over men.
(4) Reason is naturally efficacious.
(5) The achievements of a prior civilization are never completely wiped out, but do contribute to greater advances (usually) of subsequent civilizations.

All of these points suggest to me that man will not retrogress inexorably to the point of non-existence. On the contrary, the durability of man's mind, the efficacy of reason, and the sheer numbers of people across the globe mean that mankind will tend to advance, somewhere, given enough time.

All of this is true even though individual men have free will and can choose to be irrational.

***

As an addendum to my argument, observe how different types of technological advances were developed independently in different parts of the earth. In particular, men independently invented agriculture in the New World and Old World, and in different parts of the Old World.

The independent development of agriculture, which made civilization possible, touches on points 1-4 above, and in particular points 2 and 4. Reason is man's means of survival and he tends to use it. Its use is evident across epochs and locations, even independently reproducing a crucial achievement in remote parts of the globe.

Inspector said...

Okay, that is the kind of argument I can respond to.

Although a question first: "complete lack of philosophy." Where did you get that? I didn't say that.

"(1) Irrationality can only go so far. A widespread complete irrationality would be mass suicide, and will not happen.
(2) It only takes a few men exercising their rational faculty to improve man's existence.
(3) Calamities such as dictatorships cannot achieve permanent dominion over men.
(4) Reason is naturally efficacious.
(5) The achievements of a prior civilization are never completely wiped out, but do contribute to greater advances (usually) of subsequent civilizations."


1) Widespread irrationalities are not necessary. There do exist certain disasters, such as nuclear or biological war, which could wipe out so much of the population that only a handful of people would survive. It would only be required that that surviving fraction be sufficiently irrational, especially given the harsh environment that might result from such a catastrophe.

2) The existence of civilization and technology is something that the vast majority of mankind has become utterly dependent upon. This is not a bad thing, for the most part, but it does mean that the collapse of said civilization would leave the vast majority of people without the ability to survive. Even with the application of reason, they would not be able to build up the skill set of wilderness survival quickly enough.

3) It is not necessary for a dictatorship to be permanent. The corollary of the fact that man's mind, when free, can bring him above the tooth and claw of nature, and the species-destroying calamities that it brings, is that when his mind is not free, he is reduced to the vulnerable state of the animal kingdom. Not just comets, but also asteroids, (which Burgess is scientifically wrong to say it is not reasonable to assume will strike the earth again) plagues, solar shifts, crop diseases, and all other kinds of disasters are the kinds of things that a post-dark-age dictatorship would be vulnerable to. It is not necessary for a dictatorship to be permanent - only for it to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

4) Reason is naturally efficacious, and it has given us such power that we can wipe out civilization itself. It is an awesome power that we wield, and also a sobering one - because in the hands of the wrong dictator, it could destroy us all. That is why it is so important to make sure that that does not happen. We stand at a crossroads: the physical sciences have advanced to such a degree that such powers are within our grasp, yet philosophy has so atrophied that such power is often left in the hands of mental midgets.

If reason triumphs, we could be looking at a sustaining golden age that is not vulnerable to the kind of philosophic failures of past eras. Within our lifetimes, we could see technology that extends lifespans sufficiently that we may live long enough to see further advances that would remove aging altogether. Stripped of the constraint of age, we could enjoy luxuries and technologies beyond our wildest dreams.

But.

We stand on a precarious edge. For without the guiding power of reason in philosophy, all that power could act against us.

Yes, all it would take would be a handful of survivors and some thousands of years to rebuild. But then again, those survivors would be especially vulnerable to the ravages of nature. As the number of men and the amount of civilization shrinks, the number of things they are vulnerable to increases. I mean, if we are talking about a small enough group of survivors, they could be eaten by bears for Pete's sake.

5) "The achievements of a prior civilization are never completely wiped out"

That is just completely not true. Or at least not in the way you seem to use the phrase. The achievements of prior civilizations can and have been wiped out, such that they are effectively unreachable to the survivors. The way that civilization and technology work is that they require larger and larger numbers of increasingly specialized experts to comprehend and operate.

Mankind, when you get right down to it, operates one generation at a time. Each new generation of men must learn, and sustain, the knowledge that was held by the generation before. With written and other records, we have bolstered this process somewhat, but writing can be destroyed. Records can be destroyed. This process is not invulnerable, nor is mankind and his civilization. Robust, to be sure, but not invincible.

As I have said, I am not claiming that any of this is the most likely outcome. I am simply saying that it is erroneous for you to claim that you can be CERTAIN of the triumph of reason.

When Objectivism speaks of how reason wins against unreason, there is a certain context involved in that claim - a context which you are dropping by making that claim as universal as you are.

It is not proper for you to make the kind of sweeping generalization about the future course of mankind that you are. Your claim needs to be properly delimited by a series of "if's."

Burgess Laughlin said...

Inspector says: "... asteroids, (which Burgess is scientifically wrong to say it is not reasonable to assume will strike the earth again) ..."

Where did I say that it is not reasonable to assume astreriods will strike the earth again?

Please quote an exact passage.

Burgess Laughlin
http://www.aristotleadventure.blogspot.com

Inspector said...

Burgess,

It appears I have misread you.

The quote I was drawing from was this:

"REASONABLE EXPECTATION BASED ON PAST EVENTS. If asteroids have struck the Earth in the past, is it not reasonable to assume that they will strike again -- and that they "might" wipe out humanity?"

I missed the "is," which critically changed the meaning of your statement.

My apologies.

Galileo Blogs said...

Inspector,

I am going to retire from this discussion with my current arguments, as I have made them. On the issue of certainty, I will lean on the analysis made by "Anonymous," with which I agree.

It is an interesting topic, but one which I am only willing to devote so much time on.

Just so you don't think I am dropping out of the discussion without addressing your points, I do believe I have addressed each one of your counter-arguments in my prior comments. I refer you to them.

While this topic is interesting, it is highly speculative. None of us will be able to live through a real-life validation of the argument, although I do think man's historical record provides a good deal of evidence of its validity.

The bottom line is that I am not too worried about man's survival, although the road ahead may be very rocky and characterized by many disasters. Man has had plenty of these disasters in the past. Despite those disasters, we stand where we are today.

GB

Inspector said...

I do agree with you on that this is not terribly relevant: after all, what do I care for the fate of mankind as such? It is more my future that concerns me.