Posts Tagged ‘Socrates’

Hating Tech? Hate Man!

July 30, 2018

Rampages against technology are fashionable: after all, we, and our entire world, depends upon it. Dependents are prisoners of their benefactor(s). The unwise will resent that. Technology is worse than a drug, then: it is the life support system of the most advanced apes who ever were. It is even more: our soul? The world-changing apes world-changed, and evolved for, and from, technology. If we have a creator specific to our species, here it is! Technology is out mother, father, what makes us possible. Hating our provider, our god: how pleasing!

Homo, the genus, and genius, is inseparable from technology. Saying technology doesn’t help, or doesn’t even help define what is human, is to have understood nothing to the genus Homo. Socrates took a stance: he posed as an anti-science, anti-tech, even anti-mental creativity type. Socrates refused even to write: after all, that’s tech too. But for his living, he depended upon an inherited stock portfolio, and his plutocratic friends and fiends. And, when, as a wealthy hoplite, he killed the enemy, it was because of his technologically superior, and very expensive armor and weapons. I can’t afford, as Socrates did, to be a hypocrite.

Diogenes too, was an anti-tech, anti-progress hypocrite: he lived in a barrel: that’s advanced technology, an expensive Gallic import… soon Gallic armies would battle down into Greece, thanks to their superior weapons due to superior metal works. Diogenes also had a dog:  another advanced technology, a Genetically Modified Organism, whose carefully twisted mind makes him love and obey his master. The reason Diogenes didn’t have to battle giant European Cave Lions was that those had been driven to extinction, thanks to superior weapons.

Also Athens existed, and could feed Socrates and Diogenes, because it imported grain from the Black Sea, two weeks of shipping away (at best). Or from Cyrenaica. Attica was too dry to feed the largest Greek city. And Athens paid back, with superior tech. Demosthenes, the philosopher, inherited also from his father. His 40 slaves were making advanced tech, sold throughout the Mediterranean. As I said, it paid for food of the last Athenian dog. It goes without saying that this imperial organization rested on the mightiest army and navy, which had persuaded cities such as Byzantium to reasonably cooperate…

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The more human we get, the more tech we get, and live from:

So on tech we go.
An interest of technology is to solve problems, which can’t be solved otherwise, lest we want to use massively the oldest methods, like cannibalism. There are countless examples, in history, of populations which have been reduced to zero, as needed by the sustainable ecological load.

As it is, we use much more planet than we have. We need another planet, or we need to quickly consume, say, 90% of humanity (the latter can easily be done, though… thanks to tech, both as an exterminator, and a redemptor).

Colonizing Mars would double the land area at our disposal. And yes, it can be done: there are giant ice cliffs on Mars: water was the big problem to terraform Mars. Up to last year, Mars looked desiccated, and it appeared one would have to crash comets into it to bring water. Now, no more. All we need is a mighty energy source. That too, tech could bring us: controlled thermonuclear fusion, already used in decent airports, looms, ever closer: a thermonuclear reactor connected to the grid is feasible… if we spent, say 100 billion dollars (5% US or EU yearly GDP).

The Counties of Alameda and Contra Costa (“AC”), in the San Francisco Bay Area form together AC Transit, which has purchased dozens of Fuel Cell Electric Buses. Those buses refuel hydrogen at dedicated service stations. Their waste? Water! Those buses aren’t just zero emission, they are the ideal complement of the photovoltaic energy rising in California. Some cities of AC provide free PV installations.

Elon Musk is an entrepreneur: he takes science invented by much deeper minds, and turns it into profitable technology. True, he got favored by Obama, in a shameless manner… while Obama killed important technologies such as Fuel Cells… to leave room to Musk, and other Silicon Valley friends Obama had (now busy making him rich). True the plutocratic connection between Musk and tech monopolies and the Obama administration was disgusting, and many involved should how be prosecuted. I wrote extensively against Musk and Bezos in the past, because they go so much help from the Obama White House. However, the fact is now both of these two plutocrat have made an important technological advance: rockets can be reused! “Space Shuttle” launches used to cost 1.5 billion dollars (yes, billion, with a b… per launch). Musk thinks he could launch a much bigger rocket for six million dollars. Indeed, doing the math, the cost of launch should be no more than a jumbo jet transcontinental flight… if the rocket is sophisticated enough.

Yet, the transition from deep science to a deeper socio-economy shouldn’t be neglected: they are entangled. No advancement of the socio-economy, no advancement of science, and reciprocally.

Rome failed because it couldn’t get going the science it needed, because its exaggeratingly fascist, pathetically impotent socio-economy (the combination of slavery and autocracy, too strong for enabling the People to contribute, not enough to crush plutocrats). Now, of course, the Romans weren’t too brainy to start with… and they kept Greece too subjugated, before finally snuffing it by mad theocracy (when the Academies were ordered closed by a Roman emperor.)

In the Tenth Century, new cultivars, of beans for the Franks, and of rice for the Vietnamese/Chinese, made a better fed Europe and East Asia forge ahead as ever more domineering civilizations… New cultivars are new technology…

Facebook is a different problem from the space adventures of Musk and Bezos. First, Facebook has no added value: all it does is spy, and find new fixes for its addicts (Instagram). Facebook is horrendously unethical, and a return to a primitivism worse than the Middle Ages. Facebook has indeed decided to censor artwork from the Middle Ages… “even if it has educational value“… Facebook grotesquely asserts. No wonder, it’s led by an uneducated grabster, used to wrap presidents around its little robotic fingers…

In general plutocracy is killing civilization. Always has, always will. However, the grandeur of Bezos’ and Musk’s missions is such, one has to make a grudging exception for them, as long as they keep on going… to Mars. That doesn’t mean we have run out of targets: all the financial derivative sector, worth 1,400 trillion dollars (yes, with a t, $1,400 thousand billions) should be destroyed. It is because it doesn’t exist in China, that China has become the world’s greatest economic power… Financiers bootstrapping themselves so they can crush us when they come down… What’s worse?
Patrice Ayme

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For comic relief, one can read Massimo Pigliucci’s and Correy Mohler’s”Diogenes the Cynic vs Elon Musk
What wisdom could the great Cynic offer to our modern-day Alexander?“. Dogs can bark, but thinking deep is not their forte… So I thank Massimo for the spark to the blistering critique above… And indeed, first, to compare Musk to Alexander the Great is beyond grotesque: Alexander is a serious, not to say mass lethal, subject. Musk is cute, but basically completely replaceable (first, consider Bezos, who is coming up with similar rockets…)

Super Earths, Or How The Exponential Function Can Matter

April 23, 2018

We live in the times where exponentials have come to rule, as they never ruled before. Ignore at the risk of everything we claim to hold dear. As mathematically challenged Silicon Valley nerds put it, all too simplistically, the coming “singularity” looms. Simple minds do not much understanding create, though, so here a little elaboration…

An example of exponentials in action, is graciously offered by so-called “Super Earths“, giant versions of Earths, hundreds of which have been discovered in our neighborhood.

Before I get into this, a short lesson on the exponential.

The Ancient Greeks thought they knew mathematics, but they were prisoners of linear thinking (especially after the top intellectuals spurned non-Euclidean geometry and arithmetic). The exponential is the most obvious, most crucial to understand, most vital to handle example of nonlinear thinking.

An exponential is any function which grows proportionally to itself.

Our present “leaders” (Putin, Trump, Xi, Macron, etc.), and their underlings have no idea what an exponential is, and that it feeds on itself.

Civilizations get ambushed by exponentials. This is why they so often irresistibly decay: the effect is blatant, be it the Late Roman empire, Tang China, the Maya…  

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Socrates:The unexamined life is not worth living“. That was HIS (wise) feeling. His own feeling. Others don’t have to share it. Actually vain, self-admiring, erroneous, hateful people detest nothing more than self-examination. They deeply dislike, hinder those, and what, promotes self-examination.

And tell me, Socrates, you who didn’t like knowledge you didn’t already have, and you thought everybody had, when did you learn about the exponential function? How can you know something that important you never even suspected existed? And, absent that tool of the spirit, you thought you could examine everything? How stupid was that? And you, out there, the ignorant admirers of Socrates and his ilk: you don’t even have the excuse to have been dead for 24 centuries! To extract you from the gutter, seize the exponential!

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After discovering a few thousands exoplanets, Super Earths are, so far, more frequent than simple Earths (it may be a bias from our present telescopes, but I don’t think so…). If the Super Earth is slightly bigger than Earth, depending upon the nature of its core, its surface gravity doesn’t have to be much higher than Earth (I computed). However, the present article considers Super Earths were the gravity is much higher than on Earth…

“Super-Earth” planets are gigantic versions of Earth. In some ways, they are more likely to be habitable than Earth-size worlds: their thicker atmospheres protect them better from radiations, either from their parent stars, supernovae, gamma ray bursts, galactic core explosions, etc.. However, it would be difficult for any inhabitants on these exoplanets to access to space. At least with known, or imaginable technologies.

To launch a vehicle as light as the Apollo moon mission capsule, a rocket on a super-Earth such as (potentially inhabitable) Kepler 20b would require more than double the escape velocity.

To leave Earth (“⊕”)’s gravitational influence, a rocket needs to achieve at minimum the escape velocity vesc = s 2GM⊕ R⊕ ∼ 11.2 km s−1 (2) for Earth, and vesc ∼ 27.1 km s−1 for a 10 M⊕, 1.7 R⊕ Super-Earth similar to Kepler-20 b. Computation shows one would need a mass of about 400,000 metric tons, mostly due to the exponential demand of fuel. That’s 5% of the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt (still by far the Earth’s most massive monument, excluding utilitarian walls and dams).  

That means a chemical rocket there should have one hundred times the mass of one here (Apollo’s Saturn V launcher was 3,000 tons). However, that’s not a show stopper: our largest ocean-going ships are more massive than that, and a massive rocket is imaginable. So Hippke is not correct when he says that:

“On more-massive planets, spaceflight would be exponentially more expensive,” said study author Michael Hippke, an independent researcher affiliated with the Sonneberg Observatory in Germany. “Such civilizations would not have satellite TV, a moon mission or a Hubble Space Telescope.

This is of great practical interest. Research has revealed that Super Earths are abundant, and obvious targets for human colonization. They can reach up to 10 times the mass of our own Earth (after that, they retain light gases, and turn into mini Neptunes, unsuitable for direct colonization, although Pandora like scenarios are highly plausible). Many super-Earths apparently lie in the habitable zones of their stars, where temperatures can theoretically support liquid water on the planetary surface and thus, potentially, life as it is known on Earth. Although I have had reservations about this: I view the presence of a nuclear reactor inside the planet as necessary for life, since it provides with a magnetic shield, and the recycling of the atmosphere through plate tectonic, let alone continents… (Being in the water belt and the nuclear belt simultaneously is a miracle Earth’s biosphere profits from.)

This being said, it is true that some ways to access space that we potentially have, won’t happen on Super Earths. Rockets work better in the vacuum of space than in an atmosphere: super-Earthlings might want to launch from a mountaintop. However, the strong gravitational pull of super-Earths would squash down super Alps (it’s a pure application of Quantum mechanics). Super towers won’t be be feasible, either…

Using space elevators traveling on giant cables rising out of the atmosphere depends upon the strength of the cable material. The strongest (per unit of mass) material known today, carbon nanotubes, is just barely strong enough for Earth’s gravity (it is not at this point possible to imagine stronger materials, putting in doubt the feasibility of space elevators on super-Earths). Here is Michael Hippke (Submitted on 12 Apr 2018):

Spaceflight from Super-Earths is difficult:

 

Many rocky exoplanets are heavier and larger than the Earth, and have higher surface gravity. This makes space-flight on these worlds very challenging, because the required fuel mass for a given payload is an exponential function of planetary surface gravity, ∼3.3exp(g0). We find that chemical rockets still allow for escape velocities on Super-Earths up to 10 times Earth mass. More massive rocky worlds, if they exist, would require other means to leave the planet, such as nuclear propulsion.

Comments: Serious version of the April Fool’s idea (arXiv:1803.11384). Submitted on April 4th 2018
Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1804.04727 [physics.pop-ph]
(or arXiv:1804.04727v1 [physics.pop-ph] for this version)
  1. INTRODUCTION Do we inhabit the best of all possible worlds (Leibnitz 1710)? From a variety of habitable worlds that may exist, Earth might well turn out as one that is marginally habitable. Other, more habitable (“superhabitable”) worlds might exist (Heller & Armstrong 2014). Planets more massive than Earth can have a higher surface gravity, which can hold a thicker atmosphere, and thus better shielding for life on the surface against harmful cosmic rays. Increased surface erosion and flatter topography could result in an “archipelago planet” of shallow oceans ideally suited for biodiversity. There is apparently no limit for habitability as a function of surface gravity as such (Dorn et al. 2017). Size limits arise from the transition between Terran and Neptunian worlds around 2 ± 0.6 R⊕ (Chen & Kipping 2017). The largest rocky planets known so far are ∼ 1.87 R⊕, ∼ 9.7 M⊕ (Kepler-20 b, Buchhave et al. 2016). When such planets are in the habitable zone, they may be inhabited. Can “Super-Earthlings” still use chemical rockets to leave their planet? This question is relevant for SETI and space colonization (Lingam 2016; Forgan 2016, 2017).

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Pessimistically, Hippke considered another possibility, a staple of science-fiction which originated in the very serious “Orion” project of the 1950s, an apocalyptic period: nuclear pulse propulsion. It works by detonating thousands of atom bombs below a shield cum shock absorber attached to the vehicle, hurling it through space. This explosive propulsion has much more lifting power than chemical rockets, and might be the only way for a civilization to leave a planet more than 10 times Earth’s mass, Hippke (naively) said.

However, slaying the radioactive dragon he himself brought up, such a nuclear-powered spacecraft would pose not only technical challenges but political ones as well, he said: “A launch failure, which typically happens with a 1 percent risk, could cause dramatic effects on the environment. I could only imagine that a society takes these risks in a flagship project where no other options are available, but the desire is strong — for example, one single mission to leave their planet and visit a moon.”

Unwittingly, Hippke then demonstrates the danger of the single mind (in this case, his!) Indeed the most obvious way to use nuclear propulsion is simply to run a liquid, even water, through the core of a nuclear fission reactor. That was tested, and it works extremely well… and very safely! It’s much less prone to failure than a chemical rocket.  On a planet with ten times the Earth’s surface, there would be plenty of space to do such dirty launches by the thousands.

Besides, it may possible to engineer absolutely giant thermonuclear PROPULSION reactors (thermonuclear fusion is easier, the larger the reactor: the exponential at work again; if we just made a fusion reactor that was large enough, it would certainly work). The radioactivity generated would be neglectable.

So we don’t have to worry about colonizing Super Earths… We just have to worry about weight (that is, surface gravity)….

But, here, now, we have to worry about all those exponentials going crazy. Last I checked, the Arctic ice was running one million square miles below its old minimum: at some point the so-far linear decrease of Arctic ice is going to decrease exponentially, as warming there is highly self-feeding (that’s why it runs already at twice the rate of the rest of the planet…).

And as usual, let’s remember what the arrogant, stupid imperial Romans never learned, and the Maya never reached: inventing completely new, liberating, energizing technologies is how, and the only way how, to break the strangulation from the ecological, political, economical and moral exponentials which smother civilizations. A most recent example is diffuse, dim light solar cells, dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), a tech already in full deployment, which has just made spectacular progress in the lab.

Even language acquisition is exponential… Let alone thought system acquisition. You want to examine life, in ultimate depth? Learn to think exponentially!

The coming “singularity” looms. How to manage it? First by understanding what makes it tick, exponentials.

Patrice Aymé

 

Science Is Always Right

February 17, 2018

Science is Right, By Definition, and ever more knowledgeable, from evolution.

What is science? What we know, for sure. Yes, because there is such an emotion as certainty, or quasi-certainty. It’s because we were pretty sure that we came down the trees into the savanna. To discover plenty of new, life saving truth, plenty of science. Like how to drink from, and cook tubers. So yes, there is a notion of truth, and it made us, our species, our genus, Homo, whose genius is to have mastered truth.

Prehistoric men were found with fire starting kits comprising dozens of parts. Humans have used science, what is sure, for millions of years. Fire for 1.3 million years, clothing for two million years (up north), stone tools and weapons for millions of years before that (monkeys and apes, even some birds do). All this was made possible by, and demonstrates sure knowledge: science.

Volcanic lightning is caused by friction (creating electric charges), and then dynamics. Separating small particles from big ones, an application of Newton’s F = ma; F is a given, from supersonic gas, but a, the acceleration, varies, as m, the mass of particles, vary. Hence charges get separated, something lightning solves.

We understand why a violent volcanic explosion generates lightning (one of thousands of triumphs of recent science). That does not mean that the prehistoric science of making fire with sparks from flints or friction from wood are wrong. Just the opposite: both mechanisms come into play to generate lightning from volcanoes. Science goes deeper, darker, ever more. 

Similarly, the twentieth century theories of gravitation did not make Newton wrong (as the naive is won to believe). Actually, the recent theories made Newton twice more right. Indeed. First, Newton pointed out exactly a problem with his theory, which he excoriated as “absurd” (and he used even more vigorous words): Newtonian style gravitation was supposed to be instantaneous, through empty space, Newton hated that. Laplace, a century later, invented the simple mathematical picture of a field propagating at finite speed; that caused waves (1807). A century later, Henri Poincaré, main author of what he called the “theory of relativity”, rolled out relativistic gravitational waves (1905).

After Poincaré’s death (1912), Einstein, working with Hilbert, produced a specialization of Poincaré’s general gravitational theories. That theory was just a MODIFICATION of Newtonian theory (which is its first order, that’s how the Einstein equation is found). Basically, as Poincaré found in 1899, light in Maxwell theory has inertial, thus gravitational, mass. As light was used as the metric in Poincaré’s Relativity, the metric of spacetime was mass dependent. (Those who have the Einstein cult can’t possibly understand the logic underlying the science just alluded to, and that includes many physicists!)

Claiming that science is always wrong is equivalent to saying that we know nothing. It was tried before, and not just by Karl Popper. The confused Socrates perniciously tried to impose that notion, that men were ignorant, and knew nothing (however Socrates knew more than the rest…). Of course, the elites knew everything (or acted as if they did): thus Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander, Antipater and Craterus were all friends, united in their belief that the people knew nothing. And thus 23 centuries of dictatorship was necessary.

Instead, the truth is the opposite: there is such a thing as truth and knowledge. Science is always right, and this is why planes fall off the sky so rarely, and we are going back to the Moon. That doesn’t mean that science can’t be made to become always more refined, powerful, all-knowing. Newtonian mechanics is good enough for rocket science, but, for GPS, one has to be a bit more subtle, and use Relativity (as clocks run slower in a gravitational field, and the greater, the slower…)

Science being right, doesn’t mean that scientists are always right each time they open their mouths. Science is right, scientists are wrong. Example? When physicists come around, and speak as if they were god, this being demonstrated because they apparently witnessed the birth of the universe, they are clearly crazy, and calling them “scientists” is a bit too quick: generously one could say that they are specialists driven to madness by all too many years of hard studies. 

We have gone a long way since Anaximander proposed we all evolved from fishes, and research professor Lamarck, after decades studying mollusk fossils in microscopes, confirmed that, indeed, life had evolved over millions of years (1800; parroted by others later). The Ancient Greeks were perplexed by static electricity. Now we understand it very well, and soon we will understand it better (as Quantum Computer fabrication will force us to understand better atomic and single electron dynamics).

Science is an exploration always renewed, but real knowledge has been accumulated, and when 2,000 Athenians lifted the general amnesty, to target Socrates specifically, and him alone, they showed us that epistemology should be taken seriously. Socrates claimed ignorance, the 2,000 jurors claimed he should have known. No, indeed, science is not fake news! Besmirching science with error painted all over is error unbecoming a deep thinker.

Patrice Aymé

P/S: The approach above is antipodal to that of Karl Popper. Popper basically believed that to be science, science ought to be demonstrably false (OK, I can never resist ridiculizing him, although I like Popper!) This silliness causes real damage: consider the essay linked above:”Why Science Is Wrong” it clamors in its click-bait title (the article is not as bad as its title, but the damage is done). 10,000 people applauded, thus identifying science and fake news, damaging knowledge, thus everything, and validating fake news. So you see, Popper may sound like an ethereal subject, considering the notion of science in the 1930s. But now, nearly a century later, we have popular authors regurgitating the same notion, that, if it’s science, it’s wrong. Popper would say, and did say, that it is not at all what he wanted to say. Yet, he said it, no mistake about that.

Is Philosophy Just About Death? Should Religion Be Mostly About Suffering? No! Such Moods Underlay Plutocracy!

December 27, 2017

Abstract: DEATH AND SUFFERING, THE FUNDAMENTAL PSYCHO DRIVERS inherited from Platonism, Stoicism, Abrahamism (Judeo-Christo-Islamism), Buddhism & Nihilism weaken minds and resolve. This is exactly why they have been imposed on the (clueless) masses.

Philosophy, especially the philosophy obsessed by death and suffering, drives politics. Death and suffering obsessed philosophies, and religions are Pluto friendly, and make it easier for plutocrats to govern us all.

Politics is practical philosophy. Plutocracy made sure that the ruling philosophies, and religions, would serve it well, by rejecting life and threatening the masses with pain and anxiety. The obsession they nourished with death and suffering, both of which have to be avoided at the cost of enjoying life in optimal honor and comfort, are the twin pillars of the sheep mentality they have imposed on most of humanity. Islam is a death cult, right: it’s all about Allah, who, in the end, throws nearly everybody “into the fire“. However the root of that disease are much deeper, they pervade the Greco-Roman West. The cult of Jesus Christ is basically a cosmetically improved version of Socrates’ Death Cult.

And no, Hinduism provides no relief. It is more of the same, from a different angle.

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Plato, Or Philosophy As Fake News:

Some philosophers, to this day, claim that philosophy’s justification is to prepare for death (the same critters generally boast that philosophy is just “footnotes to Plato”, as if they should be proud of their lack of progress; notice in passing that philosophy as footnotes to Plato is an Anglo-Saxon notion, and it partakes to the general Anglo-Saxon plutocratic will to dismiss philosophy as a “worthy object of study”, to quote Bertrand Russell) .

The idea of reducing philosophy to a death rehearsal is presented by that old fascist, Plato, as an exposition from Socrates. Plato claims that life is all about making nice with the “Gods”. Life with the “Gods” will be better, so we may as well not be too attached to life.

Of course Plato and his savant parrot, Socrates were lying: their ives demonstrate it. They were actually party animals, depraved drinkers indulging in a life of wanton sex, luxury and commerce with all the dictators they could find or fabricate.

Even the judgment and execution of Socrates couldn’t stop them. The smartly vicious Aristotle was back with the same trick on steroids later, and when he fled Athens, made the self-aggrandizing statement that he wanted to save Athens from sinning against philosophy again. In truth, Aristotle was busy demolishing Greek democracy, and succeeded. 

Montaigne and his castle, as seen by Salvador Dali, 1947. Notice the “Hommage to France” at the bottom, by the Catalan Dali. The infuriating secret of Western Civilization, now world, is that it’s anchor has been France. Not sure it will be the case looking forward considering the results of children scholastic tests TIMMS, PIRLS, and PISA.!

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The idea that life is nothing, and the “gods” everything, enabled the rule of the 1%:

The idea was recycled first by the Stoics, modest critters crawling by the feet of tyrants, while protesting of their soothing capacity to endure any abuse. The Christians five centuries later, were loud and clear that this world was nothing and making love to Jesus in the after world was all what matters. The Muslim ran away with the idea another half millennium after that. In the Qur’an the Jews are condemned because they “would like to live 1,000 years”, and nothing is more noble and richer in rewards to die for “God”..

Was Socrates the first Jihadist? Jihadists, apparently following Socrates, claim that life is nothing, while pleasing and obeying the “God(s)” everything. An Athenian jury thought so that Socrates’ advocated preference for death should be honored, and condemned him accordingly, for “perverting the youth” (long story; notice similarity with what should be done to Jihadism). Socrates was given an opportunity to escape, but as genuine Jihadist are won to do, he prefered to die for his Great Beyond, full of nice “Gods”.

This “lust for death”, the most acute form of nihilism, went so far that it was condemned by Seneca in “Moral Letters to Lucilius”:

“The grave and wise man should not beat a hasty retreat from life; he should make a becoming exit. And above all, he should avoid the weakness which has taken possession of so many, – the LUST FOR DEATH. For just as there is an unreflecting tendency of the mind towards other things, so, my dear Lucilius, there is an unreflecting tendency towards death; this often seizes upon the noblest and most spirited men, as well as upon the craven and the abject. The former despise life; the latter find it irksome.”

Seneca explains in other parts that the description of Socrates’s death was much meditated upon and emulated by many in the Roman elite, including Scipio, of the famous Scipio family, one of Cato’s generals, in the war against Pompey. A little example of how Plato inflected history… Christianism is the lust for death writ so large, with the brandishment of the nailed, writhing naked Jesus as its very grotesquely cruel and threatening symbol. It is astounding that Islam succeeded to lust for death even more than Christianism itself.

In some sense even the Aztecs were less lusting for death than the Christians were. The Aztecs tried to capture in war their enemies alive, so they could sacrificed on the top of magnificent pointy pyramids; that made the Aztec religion in a sense less bloody than Christianism, as the Aztecs discovered to their sorrow, too late! The Aztecs were in particular disgusted by the elaborated tortures the Conquistadores inflicted. Roasting Aztec nobility alive all night long was standard treatment, as far as the Spaniards were concerned. It no doubt reflected in their minds what their “Lord” had supposedly gone through, and had redeeming values.

As Nietzsche pointed out, European nobility’s operational morality was the opposite of Christianism. Yet, they were entangled: Christianism lust for death and suffering enabled the nobility to inflict maximal death and suffering, in the name of “religion”. When the commander of the crusade against the Cathars was told that one couldn’t tell who was Christian, and who was a Cathar, he famously replied:“Brulez-les tous, Dieu reconnaitra les siens” (Burn them all, Allah will recognize his own). That was not immediately cathartic. It should have been. This explains why Western Europe got rid of “God”. Now He is back in Arabic translation (“Allah”). And should be equally repulsed, lest Europe wants to end up like Syria.

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Montaigne thought the obsession with death was poppycock:

Ever since they made a superficial reading of the Old Ones, simplistic “philosophers” have claimed that the aim of philosophy is to prepare for death. This reflects a lack of experience on the part of the beholders. Montaigne corrected this. Once, Montaigne was knocked of his horse by another horseman going at a full gallop. He described the incident in great detail in his “Essays”. He nearly died. His conclusion is that death can come unannounced, all of a sudden, and does not have to be painful. The whole experience was so disconcerting and weird, preparing for it would be completely impossible.

At this point he adds [free translation by yours truly, to make Montaigne more understandable]

“Nature herself assists and encourages us: if the death be sudden and violent, we don’t have the opportunity to fear; if otherwise, I perceive that as I engage further in my disease, I naturally enter into a certain loathing and disdain of life. I find I have much more difficulty to digest the perspective of dying, when I am well in health, than when languishing of a fever; and by how much I have less to do with the advantages of life, by reason that I begin to lose the use and pleasure of them, by so much I look upon death with less terror. Which makes me hope, that the further I remove from the life, and the nearer I approach to death, I shall the more easily exchange the one for the other.”

In case one does not get it, Montaigne hammers away:

“Not only the argument of reason invites us to it — for why should we fear to lose a thing [life], which being lost, cannot be lamented? — but, also, seeing we are threatened by so many sorts of death, is it not infinitely worse eternally to fear them all, than once to undergo one of them? … What a ridiculous thing it is to trouble ourselves about taking the only step that is to deliver us from all trouble! As our birth brought us the birth of all things, so in our death is the death of all things included. And therefore to lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago. … Long life, and short, are by death made all one; for there is no long, nor short, to things that are no more.”

It is of course not that simple: most painting of old famous men have a young girl, probably a granddaughter praying and crying on the death-bed (consider the deaths of Presidents Jackson and Washington). Desolate persons are always in attendance, crying. When we die, we live our loved ones behind. And if they loved us too, and they probably do, they will be deprived forever of our company. So, contrary to what Montaigne says, the loss of life can, and is, lamented. Simply, not by us. But what would we have been without the others?  

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Is Buddhism A Pampered Caprice from The Wealthiest, For the Wealthiest??

The next prey we will devour today is the plump, jolly Buddha. Buddha, a pampered Prince (not just a plutocratic multi billionaire), naturally feared suffering more than anything. After all, he was not used to it. Suffering is something his class offered common people in abundance: if lower classes touched upper classes, they would be burned with a red-hot iron, where they touched, etc. From Buddha’s young perspective, as a princeling, suffering was not just something to fear, never having experienced it, but it was an humiliation, a descent to join the lower classes’ misery.

Make no mistake, suffering can be a horrendous thing, defying comprehension. Actually, it defies comprehension so much that, in its extreme forms, the brain just disconnects it. The brain probably does this with a massive release of endorphins, and other mechanisms not yet understood which block completely the pain pathways.  

Let notice in passing an important point here: the ultimate acceptance of pain, and its attendant dismissal is an evolutionary trait. But not an evolutionary trait to insure the survival of the individual (who, in the wild, when submitted to extreme pain can’t be far from death). Instead, the negation of pain profits the group, as a heroic defender will be free to concentrate on attacking the enemy, or then, counterintuitively, precisely not to hurt the predator during its dinner. This is a case where evolution acted at the level of groups and even ecosystems. (So much for the silly “selfish gene”! The real world is closer to the biosphere described in the movies “Avatar”!)

The brain is mostly in charge of ensuring survival of the individual, or the group. That’s why it evolved. Thus, in an ultimate struggle, this is the only thing the brain does. At least once, falling off a mountain in a rock avalanche in a mile high ice gully, my brain did just two things: finding an unlikely camming position between ice and granite, and mobilizing all the motor neurons, bringing hyper human strength. According to the usual mathematics of sportive performance, say at the Olympic Games, survival was impossible. But the usual parameters didn’t apply.

I had more than one close call, although another where survival was impossible. Each time, I have noticed that the brain blanks out all and any non sensory functions (in particular memorization). This happens during solo climbing: the brain shuts down unnecessary brain activity, immediately achieving what the great meditation masters are looking for (hey, it’s this, or death!) Once I was up a very pretty red and yellow, extremely exposed “Naked Edge” of Colorado front range rock, quasi-soloing the rope going straight down. I was laybacking, feet walking up close to my walking up hands holding a vertical edge. A gust of wind came, pushed and slowly turned me like a weather wane. I had to convert from laybacking position to lousy jamming. Then the wind blew the other way, and back I went. During this weird sequence, back and forth, fall forbidden, I was just making one with the rock and the wind. I clang to dear life.

Thus those who talk of death as if it were to be feared know little: as Montaigne more or less say, it will not come when our brain is in a normal state.

If one wants to embrace the future, where progress will hopefully shine, one has to dismiss the past. Contemplate for example that youthful, vigorous invigorating, open-minded vision of Palestine: young Palestinians dancing, some dressed like so-called Father Christmas, embracing modernity, life, the world, the future! The right direction for the embattled Middle Earth. (If Jesus is Socrates death cult v 2.0, Islam is Socrates death cult v. 3; and the fact Aristotle’s love of monarchy underlays the entire world political system is also something which has to be detected, understood, condemned and discarded.)

Giving an exaggerated mental space to death and suffering, while despising life, discourages rebellion against the established order. People besotted by common sense will think twice before fighting an established order whose symbol of goodness, brandished all around, is a squirming naked guy nailed on a cross.

Egyptian and Indian Plutocracies found another tricky metaphysics to discourage rebellion against the masters: the Eternal Return of the Same. That, too demonstrated the unworthiness of life, and how useless it was to try to change institutions: after all, everything will go back to what it was before.

In truth there is plenty of evidence that the “gods” were all in Socrates’ head (as he readily admits, when he talks about the “deamons” in his head; said “daemons” are so convenient an excuse, they are even found in the Qur’an!). There are no god(s), it’s all lunacy, but there are evolutions. On every sustainably habitable planet, life no doubt evolved (for indigenous life to survive, though, a long shot). And the universe also obviously evolves (although I am against the Big Bang theory, the evolution of the universe itself is in no doubt).

To be obsessed by death, suffering, and the eternal return of the same are ways to cast a maleficent spell on life, to make life, or, at least, rebellion, not worth living.  To claim that this is how to love wisdom, is equating philosophy with the love of what sustains plutocracy. Science, that means what is known with (more or less greater) certainty offered us plenty of proof for evolution. In particular evolution of our genus, the genus Homo, and of our genius, the genius of our culture, and what is now a worldwide civilization.

Rebellion against the established order is intrinsic to civilization: lack of appropriate evolution and revolution is why the Roman Republic collapsed. The Republic found itself hemmed by savage ideologies (some home-made) and tribes, while its industry became unsustainable (from a mix of social and ecological reasons). Rome had to turn back to the more total democracy it had known, and develop further coal combustion for energy production and the use of steam energized machines. Rome could have done it, it didn’t. Greatly because it was so inspired by the Socratic death cult (as we know from historiography). Lust for death? Rome itself died. Because the Greco-Roman empire didn’t embrace the future to get out of the predicament its very success had brought.

A few men, a few families took all the decisions in Rome, during the Principate and the Dominate. They were the worst, because excess select for the excessive (including Marcus Aurelius, the cruel and demented saint of the Stoics, who always sound so reasonable to the not-so-knowledgeable…)

Being completely penetrated by a death wish is exactly what the elites want their subjects to be driven by: death wish critters are easier to manipulate. If all one can look forward is death, hoping to foster a revolution against said elite is pointless. This is why death-wish superstitious religions are so frequent. A contributor to this site, SDM concurred: ‘Well said. Keep them worrying about unknowns such as an “afterlife” to accept the abuses inflicted in life.’

Indeed, yes, and even telling the low lives that, the more they suffer in real life, the greater their rewards in the famed “after life“. Thus, suffering is good, and the more suffering, the more of a gift of the elites is made to them, commoners.

In the Roman context, the death wish superstition was so-called Stoicism (not really started under a “Stoa”, but by Socrates, as I showed above). As it rejected emotions, thus full logic, Stoicism brought despair, and was a secularized prototype of Christianism (which it gave birth to, in mood space). The rise of Stoicism coincided with that of “Hellenistic” dictatorships (and contaminated the Roman Republic).

Verily, philosophy is not just to prepare death. and avoiding suffering. Philosophy is for life. And not just the life of bacteria, but the life of the mind, and the human spirit which extends it. Better philosophy is how to think better. And better is something we do, because, why not?

Patrice Ayme’

Socrates On The Lake Of Selfishness

October 3, 2016

I write complicated essays using knowledge which is all too often so esoteric as to leave readers frozen in disbelief. This is the times of brainmolded masses (an attempt is made to get out of it by using Trump as a ‘human Molotov cocktail’). (“Brainmold” is a useful neologism: we are beyond ‘brainwashed’. Appropriately molded brains never need to be washed. They are always clean, approved by our rulers.)

Oftentimes a simple cartoon can go to the heart of the matter, giving a more marking sketch of a particular point. Such is the case with Socrates, a fundamentally inhuman philosopher, prominently driven in his actions, Plato wrote, by sex, drink, food, and delirious sophistry to better drown the subjects at hand. As long as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle enjoy a quasi-divine status, civilization will be at bay (Nietzsche nearly said). But enough said, sometimes it’s easier to drown that to drone on. Here we drown:

Socrates In A Nutshell. What's Wrong With Him? The Big Picture.

Socrates In A Nutshell. What’s Wrong With Him? The Big Picture.

[From “Existential Comics“.]

Highest, and deepest reasons are not about the next micro-step done right. If it were so, ants would be the most reasonable organisms. Highest, and deepest reason is about getting the big picture right. Humanity is a social phenomenon, where we learn not from the gods (as Socrates believed), but from the wisdom piled up by others. Thus, taking care of others is taking care of wisdom.

Somebody sent me mysterious messages I could not answer directly, coming to the defense of Socrates, telling me Plato was the real fascist, and that he, Plato, built up a fake Socrates, etc. Whatever: intellectuals have been in love, not to say awe, with Plato’s Socrates, fake or not. The fact the general amnesty was in the end overridden, just for Socrates, after the latter was to his old tricks, show that the “real” Socrates was surely anti-democratic, just like the “fake” one.

Socrates depended upon his rich friends, boyfriends, and lovers’ money, the money of Athens’ golden youth. That makes his critique of the Sophists all the strangest, and reflecting an hypocritical mood.

Verily, when thinking depends upon money, civilization turns into barbarity.

Nobel laureate says his scientific breakthrough on the accelerating universe ‘would not be possible’ today. Saul Perlmutter says that there is a ‘fundamental misunderstanding’ of the purpose of research: ‘the current funding climate means researchers are “very good at not wasting any money and also not good at making any discoveries”. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011 after leading one of two teams that simultaneously discovered the accelerating expansion of the universe.

Speaking at the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit at Berkeley on 28 September, Professor Perlmutter said: “In the modern-day context there’s a tendency to ask: ‘What is it that you are planning to research? When will you finish it? And what day will your discovery be made?’”

Perlmutter said that it took 10 years for him to make the discovery that led to the Nobel prize, during which time he was working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is supported by the US government’s department of energy. “I don’t think this particular project I’m describing would have happened in today’s funding environment. I think that would be very difficult in a world where you are managing every last cent and making sure you don’t waste any money.”

We are coming onto a world where machines will do the work. A world in which machines will do most of what constitute work now. What will humans do, what should they do? They should think as deeply as possible, and that means as sincerely as possible. Socrates’ refusal to see when people, or a civilization, his civilization was drowning, is not the most educational paradigm to emulate.

The age of robots & Artificial Intelligence will also be that of the deepest thinking, or won’t be. Because never have been the problems we can solve and have to solve, been as complex. The sustainability of the biosphere itself depends upon the deepest thinking imaginable, or won’t be. To strive towards the deepest methods, we have to eschew the Socratic method of cutting hair into pieces, somewhere out there, irrelevant to the situation at hand. Hypo-crisy means to be under-critical. By refusing to address what the problem really is, by claiming no animal knows anything,  Socrates is not just ridiculous, he insults the very concept of brains, and thus civilization itself. That puts him roughly at the level of the Islamist State, and this is exactly what a jury of 2,000 of his peers in Athens decided.

Patrice Ayme’

Socrates A Poisonous, Unexamined Fascist?

September 22, 2016

The Pathos Of Truth Seeked & Violated. Unexamined Fascist, Unexamined Prostitute? Both. Why Was That Covered Up, So Long? For The Same Exact Cause Which Made Socrates Famous!

The death of Socrates keeps haunting philosophy. And that, per se, is a sad, yet very revealing tale. The old common wisdom was that Socrates died, as a martyr to truth (as Hypatia, Boetius, Giordano Bruno, and many others certainly were). You want a hero for philosophy? Celebrate Jean Cavaillès. In the presence of Cavaillès, Sartre nearly wetted his pants. We will see that the mood behind Socrates’ actions is significantly different. Socrates was rather on the side of those who killed Cavaillès.

Indeed, a casual look at the basic setup of Socrates’ trial contradicts the theme that Socrates was mostly a martyr for truth. Socrates was simply accused to be the mastermind of the young dictators who ruled Athens after her tremendous defeat, and half annihilation at the hands of Sparta, the tool of Persia. Socrates was also mentor, friend and lover (!) of the young Alcibiades who, deprived of a generalship by Athens, then betrayed her for her lethal enemy, fascist, ultra-racist, Persian financed Sparta.

Agreed, philosophy needs heroes, and has plenty. Here is one:

Jean Cavaillès. Here Is A Hero For Truth & Philosophy. Socrates Was Nearly The Exact Opposite.

Jean Cavaillès, Anti-Fascist Martyr. Here Is A Hero For Truth & Philosophy. Socrates Was Nearly The Exact Opposite.

[Jean Cavaillès was tortured and assassinated by the Gestapo in 1943-1944. He is buried in the crypt of the Sorbonne.]

Thus Socrates was a sort of Charlie Manson of serial traitors and killers, whose mental actions led, or accompanied, Athens’ near-death experience in losing a devastating war, and the resulting dictatorship by Socrates’ students. Temples of democracy such as Britain, France, and the USA have gaily executed traitors, or incompetents, for much less than that.

Socrates Used To Look At People As A bull Does. Ugly Inside Out? To Reveal the Truth, Some Will Say Torture Works Even Better

Socrates Used To Look At People As A bull Does. Ugly Inside Out? To Reveal the Truth, Some Will Say Torture Works Even Better

Stanford political science and classics professor, Josiah Ober opines in “The Civic Drama Of Socrates’ Trial” that:  “Conventional wisdom sees Socrates as a martyr for free speech, but he accepted his death sentence for a different cause… In his influential interpretation The Trial of Socrates (1988), the US journalist-turned-classicist I F Stone saw this trial as an embattled democracy defending itself. In Stone’s view, Socrates had helped to justify the junta’s savage programme of oligarchic misrule and was a traitor. More commonly, Socrates is seen as a victim of an opportunistic prosecutor and a wilfully ignorant citizenry. In truth, politics is indispensable to understanding the trial of Socrates, but in a slightly more sophisticated way.”

I love sophistication, philosophy is all about increased sophistication (so is science). Sophistication, translated, is wisdomization: sticking to reality ever better by ever more subtle, complex logic.

The point was not so much that Socrates justified the savage programme, but that he formed the minds who organized said programme, “corrupting the youth”. And he was at it again, even after being amnestied. Professor Ober describes the problem well (although he fails to fathom the enormity of what he describes).

Stanford’s Josiah: For what people today call ‘the wisdom of crowds’, Socrates had nothing but scorn. Athenian democrats who argued that the many, the group, were collectively more likely to get important matters right than any individual expert earned his antipathy. Whether or not anyone actually was expert in the art of politics, Socrates certainly supposed that there could be such an expert, and that the Athenians were deluded in thinking themselves collectively wise.”

The “experts” would have been naturally his rich, best (“aristos”) boyfriends. Professor Ober is led to the obvious question, but fail to recognize that he does not answer it:

“How did Socrates both scorn the idea of collective wisdom and yet maintain obedience to Athens’ laws, even when he disagreed with how they were interpreted? The rudimentary answer lay in the foundation that Athens (as opposed to, for example, Sparta) provided in its laws and political culture. Athens mandated liberty of public speech and tolerance for a wide range of private behaviour.”

Yes, but public incompetence could lead to trial (as happened to Pericles and many strategoi, generals and admirals). Anyway, that is not an answer. I will give a better answer: Socrates himself had no answer to his drastic self-contradictions, so hise self-delusion fatally committed him to self-destruction. Yet political science professor Ober sees the problem:

“By 399 BCE, however, four years after the end of the tyranny, and with Socrates doing the same things in public that had seemingly inspired the junta’s leaders, the Athenians regarded his speech very differently. In the eyes of the majority of his fellow citizens, Socrates was no longer an eccentric with potential for contributing to public life. He was now either a malevolent public enemy, or deluded and dangerously unable to recognise that his speech predictably produced seriously bad outcomes. And so the way was left open for Meletus to launch his prosecution.”

Right. What professor Ober fails to mention is that only the intervention of mighty Sparta prevented Athens’ annihilation after she surrendered, having lost already half of her population (other cities wanted to do to Athens what Athens did to Melos). Try to imagine this: the city-state half annihilated, democracy destroyed by Socrates’ students, and then? The strongest mood that Socrates had been instilling was to oppose democracy. And he was again at it, after the amnesty he had profited from. What could motivate such a rage?

Unsurprisingly, Socrates was put on trial for “corrupting the youth and impiety”. (The City was to some extent divinized, with Athena as her protecting goddess.)

“With unsettling metaphors and logical demonstrations, he made it clear that he [Socrates] opposed democracy… Xenophon implies that Socrates chose that sort of speech as a method of jury-assisted suicide: he was… tired of life and allowed the Athenians to end it for him.”

This is what I believe. And I go further than Xenophon, by explaining the cause of Socrates’ depression. Socrates may have been tired of his own contradictions.And may have been ravaged by regret. (Regret, I reckon, is a powerful human instinct.)

The Socrates’ worship interpretation is due to Plato. It poses Socrates as martyr to civic duty. But, as it turns out, “civic duty”, for Socrates, seems to be mostly blind obedience to “the Laws”, while viciously criticizing the Direct Democracy which gave birth to them.

That Socrates respected the laws of Athens while despising the Direct Democracy which had passed them is illogical in the extreme. Yes, I know Socrates said he respected “the Laws”, as if they were disembodied gods with a life of their own. But We The People passed said laws, and they lived only because We The People had created them, and We thge People could extinguish them just the same.

The “Laws” were nothing. We The People was everything. Socrates behaved as if he could not understand that.

Insisting that the Laws were everything reveals that the concept of blind obedience was more important to Socrates than arguing about the nature of what one should be obeying to, and why. Blind obedience is also the traditional ultimate value of standard fascism: law and order as supreme.

Blind obedience had been what the junta’s rule was all about. What the rule of Socrates’ young students and lovers had been all about. That’s also what fascism is all about. However, arguing, debating, fighting is how to get to the thorough examination necessary for the “examined life”.   

The contradiction was, and is, blatant. Socrates’ mental system was shorting out. Socrates had been shorting out for half a decade or more: he ambitiously wanted to “examine life”, but he could not even examine the minds of his followers, let alone his own, or why he was hanging around them. Why was he hanging around them? They were rich, he was not, but he lived off their backs and crumbs. And the feeling of power they provided with (after Obama got to power I saw some in his entourage becoming drunk with power).  

Arguably, Socrates was a martyr to fascism, a Jihadist without god. There is nothing remarkable about that. The very instinct of fascism is to give one’s life, just because fanatical combat is the ultimate value, when one gets in the fascist mood. In this case, the fanatical combat was against We The People.

Posing Socrates as a martyr for intellectual freedom is farfetched: fascism, blind obedience, passion for oligarchs are all opposed to the broad mind searching for wisdom requires.

Some will sneer: you accuse Socrates to be a fascist, why not a racist? Well, I will do this too. The golden youth Socrates loved so much and drank with were hereditary so. Socrates believed knowledge was innate (so an ignorant shepherd boy knew all of math: this is the example he rolled out!) If knowledge was innate, one can guess that the “aristos”, the best, were also innately superior. That is the essence of racism.

Logically enough, Socrates disliked science: nothing was truly new under the sun (as all knowledge was innate). So much for examining life.

It is more probable that Socrates was indeed, just a stinging insect buzzing around, stinging the idea of Direct Democracy. In exchange, his rich, young, plutocratic boyfriends would fete and feed him. Such was Socrates’ life, a rather sad state of affair, something that needed to be examined, indeed, by the head doctor.

Socrates may have been clever enough to feel that he was an ethical wreck. His suicidal submission may have been an attempt to redeem himself, or whatever was left of his honor (which he also tried to regain with his insolence to the jury).

Plato would pursue the fight for fascism (“kingship”). Aristotle, by teaching, mentoring, educating, befriending, advising a number of extremely close, family-like friends, the abominable Alexander, Craterus and Antipater, finally fulfilled Socrates’ wet dream: Athenian Direct Democracy was destroyed and replaced by an official plutocracy overlorded by Antipater (supremo dictator, and executor of Aristotle’s will, in more ways than one).

This trio of philosophical malefactors became the heroes 22 centuries of dictatorship (“monarchy”) needed as a justification. A justification where “civic duty” was defined as blind obedience to the “Laws” (whatever they were, even unjust “Laws”). This amplified Socrates’ hatred of Direct Democracy. So the works of the trio were preciously preserved, and elevated to the rank of the admirable.

It is rather a basket of deplorables. We owe them the destruction of Direct Democracy for 23 centuries, and counting.

And what Of Socrates’ regret for being so deplorable? (Which I alleged he had to experience.) A dying Socrates lying on a couch, uncovered his face and uttered— “Crito, I owe the sacrifice of a rooster to Asklepios; will you pay that debt and not neglect to do so?”  Asklepios cured disease, and provided with rebirth, symbolized by the singing of the rooster calling the new day. This has been traditionally interpreted (by Nietzsche) as meaning that (Socrates’?) death was a cure for (his?) life. Nietzsche accused Socrates to be culprit of the subsequent degeneracy of civilization (and I do agree with that thesis). Certainly, Socrates, a self-described “gadfly” was deprived of gravitas.

Wisdom needs to dance, but cannot be altogether deprived of gravitas, as it is, after all, the gravest thing.. Maybe Socrates felt this confusedly, besides having regrets for his status of thinking insect. Socrates could have easily escaped, and Crito had an evasion ready. By killing himself Socrates behaved like a serious Japanese Lord opening his belly to show his insides were clean, and its intent good. Well, many a scoundrel has committed seppuku, and hemlock is nothing like cutting the belly.

Human beings are endowed with the instinct of regret, because we are the thinking species. It is crucial that we find the truth, and when we have lived a lie, indulged in error, the best of use are haunted by the past, and revisit it to find what the truth really was. Regrets has many stages, like cancer. The most correct philosophical form of regret is to re-established the truth. The cheap way out is to flee from reality, as Socrates did.

How to explain Socrates’ insolence to the jury? There again, it was a desperate attempt at reaching the sensation of self-righteousness and trying to impart it to the jury (this is often seen  on the Internet, with the glib one-liners and vacuous logic which pass for depth nowadays).

The inexperienced democracy in Athens did not always behave well. Athens behaved terribly with Melos (see link above). But the case of Socrates is different. Ultimately, the train of thoughts and moods promoted by Socrates weakened those who wanted to defend the free republics of Greece against the fascist, exterminationist Macedonian plutocracy. Demosthenes and Athenian Direct Democracy was mortally poisoned by Socrates.

Thus, Socrates execution was not just tit for tat. It was not enough of tit for tat. It was a preventive measure, in defense of Direct Democracy, which failed, because it was too meek.

Democracy does not mean to turn the other cheek, to have the golden beast eat that one too. In ultimate circumstances, democracy has an ultimate weapon too, and that is fascism. This is why the Roman, French and American republics prominently brandish the fasces. Fascism is the ultimate war weapon. But fascism is not the ultimate society. Far from it: political fascism, just a few individuals leading entails intellectual fascism, namely just a few moods and ideas leading. Before one knows it, one is in plutocracy, where not only wealth rules, but so does the cortege of the worst ideas and moods which characterize it.

Socrates often talk the talk, contradicting completely the way he lived (for example he said one should never return an injury, but, as a hoplite, he killed at least four men in combat!)

Socrates spoke so well sometimes, that he can stay a symbol of truth persecuted. But, because it is a lie, replacing him by Hypatia, Boetius, Bruno and, or Cavaillès, and, or, others, is urgent. Indeed, the reality is that Socrates was not just inimical to democracy. The current of thought he floated by was inimical to science, mental progress, and the truth he claimed to be pining for.  And even him may have been so overwhelmed by these astounding contradictions, that, in the end, assisted suicide for his pathetic mental writhing was, indeed, the optimal outcome.

Patrice Ayme’

 

No Philosophy, No Progress, No Civilization

September 17, 2016

Progress is necessary: all ecologies, and thus technologies, get exhausted, or exhausting. Civilization rides a bicycle, and cannot long stop anywhere.

Progress does not happen out of the blue. It is instigated by the love of wisdom (philosophy). The progress of humanity is propelled by exerting a mind, one mind, at the highest level, first, and find a new idea, or emotion. And then to make that new wisdom blossom, and propagate throughout society. How exactly this happened can help figure out how it may happen again.

The explosion of philosophy in Ancient Greece was not sparked by Socrates (contrarily to legend). The reason for the veneration of the trio constituted by Socrates, his student Plato, and  Aristotle, student of the latter, is rather sinister. Socrates launched a weasel denunciation of Direct Democracy. demolishing it because of technicalities. That turned into the Politically Correct justification of more than 20 centuries of fascism (“monarchies”) from Eire to India.

Thus Socrates was a sort of famous counter-revolutionary. He helped demolish what he profited from, Athenian civilization (Aristotle did much worse, he demolished democratic civilization itself, promoting instead a fascist plutocracy led by his most intimate friends). The ascent of wisdom and progress was fully evident by the age of Pericles, decades before. Pericles’ top advisers, including his wife, were top philosophers. They promoted the concept of Open Society (lauded in Pericles’ Funeral Oration). Arguably, the concept of Open Society, and the progress of mind it brought, was important than the entire work of Socrates.

But to understand the rise of wisdom in Greece, one has to go much earlier than Pericles’ generation. The great legislator Solon, a bit more than a century before Pericles, replaced the draconian Draco style of legislation with the opposite orientation. 

On The Left, Representation Of Solon In The US House Of Representatives. On the right, a statue of Solon.

On The Left, Representation Of Solon In The US House Of Representatives. On the right, a statue of Solon.

Solon was born around 638 BCE. He was also a poet and war leader (he secured to Athens the possession of the island of Salamis through battle and Sparta’s arbitrage). Solon replaced systematic execution for any crime, by subtle and appropriate laws. More controversially, he erased debts (the ones in the know, his friends, profited from it).

Solon launched Athens into that Open Society managed around ideas and progress. Solon was a great traveller, and left Athens for more than a decade. Even earlier, Homer played an important role, with his tales of how the deepest emotions mess up with the world, or lift it beyond heavens. 

So why was Greece so wise? Because that’s how it rose to prominence. 

Similarly, the renewed rise of wisdom in the European Middle Ages did not happen just in the famed “renaissance” around 1450 CE. It had started much earlier. A full millennium earlier, when the Franks founded their civilization on tolerance. By 650 CE, the Merovingian Franks, by then the great power of Europe, thanks to their control of Gallia and Germania, outlawed slavery (under Bathilde, the slave who became queen). That was followed by nationalization of the Catholic church, fighting off three massive Islamist invasions, mandatory education, total religious tolerance, and a “renovation of the Roman empire”. By then all religious establishment had to teach everybody secularly, founding the university system. 

The Economist wrote a critique of “The Dream of Enlightenment” (by Anthony Gottlieb) “on some of the great Enlightenment thinkers, including Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, Rousseau and Voltaire…

They were freelance philosophers working independently of the universities, criticising mainstream views and liberating thought from its academic straitjacket and neo-Aristotelian dogmatism. They were dangerous thinkers all, one publication away from exile, imprisonment or worse for their radical views on religion, politics and morality. Spinoza was the subject of a cherem, the equivalent of excommunication from the Amsterdam Sephardic synagogue; Locke disguised his authorship… spent a number of years in self-imposed exile; Hume chose to publish his “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion” posthumously; and Rousseau fled to England when persecuted in mainland Europe”. 

One cannot underestimate the terror generating new thinking brings. Most of the top thinkers where on the run, or in terrible trouble, fleeing here and there, from Giordano Bruno to Kepler, Galileo,  to Descartes, Hobbes, etc. In “What is Enlightenment?” (1784), Immanuel Kant used the motto Sapere aude (“Dare to know”) 

This all started five centuries earlier. By 1100 CE, the great philosopher, lover and songwriter Abelard was called “our Aristotle” by Peter the Venerable, head of Cluny (the largest religious establishment). Abelard fought Saint Bernard. Cathars and later Vaudois appeared in short order. Abelard got excommunicated, then readmitted to the Church (?), etc. 

It was even worse under Islam. A bit after the war between Abelard and Saint Bernard, the famous Ibn Rushd (“Averroes” in Western historiography), an Islamist judge, philosopher and doctor to Caliph (of Spain) was banned, and his books destroyed for writing “The Incoherence of the Incoherence” against a religious fanatic who had attacked philosophy in The Incoherence of the Philosophers  (Ibn Rushd got rehabilitated, shortly before his death, after a great victory of Caliph Al Mansour). 

In the next five centuries, many thinkers would be legally executed. Executed for offenses such as printing books; the Sultan Francois Premier of France (soon imitated by the Sultan of Turkey) outlawed printing for a while, under the penalty of death, some of Rabelais’s friends and printers were burned alive; Rabelais himself, a well-connected top doctor, was not touched, but implicitly threatened. This courage is what the Enlightenment was built on.

Bringing people together on yesterday’s consensus is easy. Politicians love to do that. Philosophers, the real ones, do the opposite: they bring people asunder, down to the bottom of their souls, to establish tomorrow’s consensus, with superior, yet unborn ideas. The greatest leaders were definitively either advised by philosophers (for example, Charlemagne, and the US Founding Fathers) or philosophers themselves (Cicero, Caesar, Clovis, Solon, Pericles, Queen Bathilde, etc.)

We are the thinking species. Yet thinking means creation, anew. And creation means destruction, at least neurologically speaking. Loving is giving, yet the gift of really truly new thinking, is a gift of destruction. This is definitively a paradox, common people have a hard time embracing the concept and the mood behind it, as they rather embrace the mood that being a sheep in the flock is much safer.

No wonder humanity is ambivalent about real philosophers, except when they are safely dead already. 

Patrice Ayme’

Is Oligarchy Intrinsically Evil?

January 28, 2016

Yes and no. Unjustifiable Oligarchy Is Intrinsically Evil. Unfortunately, be it in China, Russia, the USA, the EU, and nearly all states, this is what we are enjoying now. Here is a little recapitulation of why it’s deeply inhuman, and unfathomably stupid. Considering the mental crisis out there, it’s something to fix as a priority.

Oligarchy is the rule of the few (oligo in Greek). The fundamental problems of the concept of oligarchy are two:

First, the rule of the few is fundamentally anti-humanistic. Human beings evolved in smallish groups. Various experiments have shown people cannot know more than around 150 people. Beyond that human neurology cannot handle it.

Second, in these small human groups, brains were made to be used in parallel: everybody think, their thinking is considered more or less equally, and the best ideas blossom out of debates. One can see this, if one thinks carefully. Moreover, an experimental proof has recently surfaced. It has been discovered, last year, that the most important decision making in baboon societies, where to go, is made DEMOCRATICALLY.

The Problem Was Not Just With Hitler. All Present Regimes Have It, More Or Less. One People, One Kingdom, One Guide. However One Brain For Tens of Millions Proves, Unsurprisingly, Brainless

The Problem Was Not Just With Hitler. All Present Regimes Have It, More Or Less. One People, One Kingdom, One Guide. However One Brain For Tens of Millions Proves, Unsurprisingly, Brainless

Let me give a few details on research recently published. It was made possible by fitting all the 25 adults of a baboon troop with GPS receptors endowed with a precision of 30 centimeters (a “foot”), recorded every second. It is well known that alpha males often dominate the rest of the troop for acquiring food or mates (they are also prominent for defending the troop) . However, and that is stunning, the alpha males do not  monopolize the decision-making for the all-important function of determining where to go!

A new distinction has appeared in baboon society: the “INITIATORS”. Just as there are alpha males (and alpha females, often mothers of alpha males), there are baboons who specialize in showing the way.

Notice the difference with today’s human society where the alpha males (those Obama, and not just Obama, calls the “leaders”), and the “initiators” are the same who lead the way to implementing new ideas.

In all of the world’s countries, politicians dominate. Even in the USA. The USA has the world’s largest government in money spent, as it spends more, than the entire GDP of Russia. It is actually about as large as Germany’s GDP. In fiscal year 2015, the federal budget is $3.8 trillion. These trillions of dollars make up about 21 percent of the U.S. economy. Much of them are distributed at the discretion of a handful of politicians, who, in turn decide who to finance (Elon Musk’s Space X, Tesla, and Sun City being examples of firms partly financed by the state) or who not to prosecute (the various technology monopolies being another example; in another times, under other governments, they would have been broken up).

Another way to think about it is that one fifth of the U.S. economy is directly controlled by the a few politicians. (Or maybe just one, the president!) That’s about 65 million people whose livelihood depends only upon the government of the USA, at the whim of just… one man.

Instead of going into detailed examples, as I often do, squeezed between bronchitis, antibiotics and a lack of time, I will just evoke fateful choices presidents of the USA made recently. To wit: deregulating finance (Clinton), invading Iraq, without, moreover, imposing order there (Bush), letting the derivative madness and banks run amok (Clinton-Bush), a liberal killer drones policy (early Obama), dropping fuel cell research (Obama), privatizing space (Obama), cutting down taxes on the hyper rich (Bush-first term Obama) etc. Obama did just one notable positive (besides following France on Libya): breaking the incredibly disgusting practice of American health insurance companies to insurance only healthy people… (OK, that was a tiny, but decisive step.)

Instead I will wax philosophical, going back to Socrates. The executed philosopher spent a lot of his philosophical time whining that Athenian Direct Democracy could not work. Socrates’ arguments were correct: if you want a good general, you should not elect him because somebody who talked well wanted to be a general.

The Roman Empire, followed by the European Middle Ages, and especially France, the successor state of Rome, found a solution. What I call “Democratic Institutions”. Those are meritocracies of expertise, organized as oligarchies. Guilds were examples in the Middle Ages. Medical Associations, for centuries, have decided who was a medical doctor in good standing, and who was not. Similarly for masons (free or not), architects, barbers, etc.

Philippe Le Bel arrested all the Templar at daybreak on Friday, 13 October 1307. It was a beautiful, and the first, example of a national police in action. The police of a state is another democratic institution.

Direct Democracy has to work hand in hand with Democratic Institutions. One cannot just decide what is the truth, just because it happens to be popular. Otherwise Kim Kardashian’s buns would be the only truth to be had.

But one has to keep in mind that Oligarchy is intrinsically anti-human. Not just anti-humanistic. It is deeply averse not just to our species, not just to our genus, but even to the order of primates.

And why is that? Because intelligence has been the evolutive strategy which has propelled the humanoids to supremacy over the biosphere, and now made us strong enough to be the main factor influencing it. Intelligence is higher, the higher, better, more subtle, richer, more powerful the ideas it produces are. Such ideas are born from the minds of the many, because they need debates, the equivalent of sex for ideas, to advance towards greater understanding.

Direct Democracy enables initiators all over, initiators of ideas, it’s the best enabler higher civilization ever had. And believing that oligarchy is better, the greatest enemy civilization has: not only it ends up promoting plutocracy, but, first of all, and worst of all, stupidity itself.

Notice this, though: most of the world society and economy is organized along oligarchic lines (although they are often hidden in suitably dark pools). It’s time to turn politics on its head.

Patrice Ayme’

Ancient vs modern ethics: a comparison

September 17, 2015

Ethics As The Enlightenment Of The Dark Side

Morality is about the behaviors (“mores”; from “mos” genitive, “moris”; one’s disposition, manners, customs) which have long been viewed as best to the group. Thus morality is the software which (is viewed as) enabling group survival best. The word “morality” was coined by Cicero, and duplicated the etymology of the term used by the Greeks for the same purpose: “ethics”.

Ethics is the most important field for our times, as the power (kratos) of Sapiens is reaching some sort of singularity, from creating transgender people to wrecking the climate, let alone soon making quantum computers (and thus Artificial Consciousness).

All humans come equipped with an intrinsic, default ethics: human ethology, selected by millions, tenths of millions of years, of biological evolution. It’s the divinity inside. Still, culture enables it.

Our lives are influenced by, and, to a large extent made of, how we act. However, “life” is more general than just “acts”. It’s also all what was, and is experienced, felt, all what is imagined, dreamed for, and desired. Thus, our actions are often predicted by our inclinations. Indeed, one should go back to the Ancient Greek notion that philosophy and ethics are all about how we live. More than simply how we act.

Socrates is widely viewed as the father of, all too much of philosophy. All too much, indeed, because Socrates made a huge mistake. Socrates believed that lack of goodness was just about ignorance. Well, true, ignorance can cause a lot of evil. But was Stalin just ignorant? Ignorance is not what defined Stalin. Malevolence is more like it. Malevolent enough to crush Hitler, among other feats.

Hence malevolence does not need ignorance. It often does better without it. Had he been smarter, Hitler could have killed much more people: ignorance curtailed his achievements.

Evil is its own divinity, its own fundamental cause. Socrates, who valued knowledge so much, completely ignored the Dark Side. And that ignorance was, indeed, evil.

Ignoring the Dark Side is a mistake that neither Christianism nor Islamism committed… Perhaps to excess (as they both seem to laud it: both the Bible and the Qur’an have “verses of the Sword”, which, in both religions, required to kill “unbelievers”; see Luke 19; 27, and Sura 5 verse 9).

In any case, the Dark Side is real, and not very surprising in a species which reach supremacy by eating other animals. Ethics always ignored it at its own risk. As Socrates found out when he had to die, for his naivety in ignoring the Dark Side. Of his own students!

There are more comments to be made about the essay below:

  1.  Kant’s silly metaphysics of the “moral imperative“, up in the air, yet brought to ground as obscene submission to authority, helped to bring Nazism… In view of not just the blatant evidence, but according to what the Nazis themselves pretended (Nietzsche seemed to have guessed Kantian “morality” would lead to this unfathomable disasters, hence his wild attacks against what he condemned as German herd mentality).
  2. Not only did Nazism sink nearly all pretense to ethical authority that most of German inspired philosophy could have, but it revealed ethical problems similar to the famous Melian Dialogue, but writ much larger, and even more ominous.
  3. The discovery of ethology, and in particular human ethology, (ought to have) changed the entire field of ethics. No serious philosopher can pretend otherwise. And this brings us right back to the contemplation of the Dark Side, one of the two pillars human supremacy rests on, as if Atlas on two legs.

Patrice Ayme’

How to Be a Stoic

ethicsEthics — as a branch of philosophy — means a very different thing today than it did once. And that, perhaps, is a mistake. There is an excellent article over at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, by John-Stewart Gordon, discussing the topic, that is very much worth checking out. Here are the highlights.

The first, and arguably most important, thing to understand about how the Greco-Romans conceived of ethics is that they regarded it as the study of how to live a happy life, not (as in the modern sense) the study of which actions are right or wrong. Gordon mentions the example of “justice,” which the ancients saw as a character trait (a virtue), not as the idea of people having rights.

Accordingly, it is interesting to note that the words “ethics” and “morality” have revealing roots: the first one comes from the Greek êthos, a word related to our idea of character…

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SEXISM HOBBLES CIVILIZATION

November 4, 2014

DISCRIMINATING AGAINST FEMALES IS UNSAFE FOR CIVILIZATION:

Why did Athenian direct democracy fail? A case can be made that it did, because Athens was too sexist.

Some will raise their eyebrows, as I accused Aristotle to have fostered monarchism and plutocracy, by teaching directly the plutocrats who extinguished Greek democracy (for 22 centuries!) Thus, Aristotle destroyed democracy.

However, in the history I narrated, Sparta, urged by the (Athenian philosopher) Demosthenes and his friends, went to war against Macedonia’s Antipater, and his army of mercenaries… And Sparta nearly won. Athens sat on her hands (Athens went to war later, way too late, after Sparta had been completely defeated).

Why did Athens not support Sparta in a timely manner against Aristotle’s Executor (that’s Antipater)? It may have had to do with sexism.

Delphi's Sanctuary Of Apollo (Who Spoke Through The Pythia)

Delphi’s Sanctuary Of Apollo (Who Spoke Through The Pythia)

[The Pythia was a woman; the sanctuary started with the worship of Gaia. Ethylene vapors helped…]

Sparta was a fascist system, but, in some ways, it was way more advanced than Athens, or all other Greek cities. In particular, Sparta was a very anti-sexist society: girls were trained like boys, in the nude, for the toughest physical activities. They had lots of freedom, in many ways.

The enmity between Athens and Sparta may have been born from the former being sexist, and the other, just the opposite. The crowd of thinkers around Socrates, which was very attracted to Sparta’s charms, may have been so, because of this trait precisely: see below.

In any case, Athenian society suffered from an excess of aggressivity at the start of the Peloponnesian war, and  more caution from a feminine input may have made the difference (Athens’ annihilation of Melos, and attack against Syracuse, after throwing Alcibiades in Sparta’s arms are example of ill conceived aggression which voting mothers in the Assembly would have certainly voted down).

A sexist society is at a disadvantage: not only are the women forced to be moronic, but they can only teach their children moronically, being morons themselves.

Maybe that’s why the Middle East, thanks to the sexist interpretation of the Qur’an has been so stupid, for so long, overall. Sexism does not just oppress women, it oppresses boys: it makes them less intellectually performing than if their mothers were fully endowed. In any case, it clearly does not help. (The same argument can be extended in favor of direct democracy: in a direct democracy people vote directly on laws and decisions, as they did in Athens; so they are motivated to become more intelligent, creating a virtuous spiral up of ever greater smarts, as evidenced in Switzerland.)

Giant corporations imposing the notion that female nipples are unsafe, are not just moronic, but are themselves, considering their enormous clout and power, unsafe for civilization (be it only because they foster stupidity).

Why we need sexual equality to be institutionally imposed has to do, ultimately, with brains. Yes, female brains may be different in some genetic ways, from males ones (because, maybe, of different neurohormones, sometimes). And it’s true that, overall, female mental performance in the last 3,000 years, has come short.

The latter situation is entirely due to sexism, the poor man’s plutocratic impulse. Up to around 1850, even in the USA and Britain, a woman who married entered what was called “civil death.

The general abuse women were submitted to is in striking contrast with the long recognized fact that top female brains have been as capable as males ones: this is evidenced by the many leaders, who, even millennia ago, were women. The Magna Mater, Great Mother, Cybele Cult, which reigned over Middle Earth for millennia had God as a woman (the Virgin Mary of the Christians is a pale echo of that).

Carthage was founded by a queen, Dido, nearly 29 centuries ago. Even earlier, there had been famous, important, female pharaohs. When the Frankish empire became Western civilization, in the Sixth Century, replacing the decaying Roman State, there were no less than seven reigning queens in a century (I counted them). The last Frankish Queen, Bathilda, is the world’s first monarch on record, who had slavery outlawed. (That’s how slavery disappeared from Europe.)

Even Plato had recognized that females were the intellectual equivalent of men. And he may even have implicitly stated that they were superior: Plato adulated Socrates. And yet…

It is striking that all teachers of Socrates are women. And some are listened to religiously. By everybody. Pythia, the oracle at Delphi, was a towering figure of Ancient Greece: “Know Thyself and nothing in excess” was her motto. Delphi’s Oracle was actually an institution of wisdom managed by women over centuries. Delphic puzzling wisdom taught Socrates what came to be known later as the Socratic method. Socrates claims that the Pythia launched him on his quest for wisdom.

Asphasia of Miletus was Socrate’s teacher of rhetoric. She was a top philosopher (and became Pericles’ second wife, after he divorced, and married away his first one!)

In Plato’s symposium, Socrates says: “…the philosophy of love I learned from Diotima of Mantinea… [she] was my instructress in the art of love, and I shall repeat to you what she said to me….”

The Pythia invented the Socratic method, and Diotema Platonic love.

For the longest time, we were told women could not do science, or mathematics. However Emilie du Chatelet discovered ENERGY, and distinguished it from momentum.

Newton had confused momentum and energy; discovering energy makes Emilie more important than her boyfriend Voltaire… and a more original, and important, thinker than Einstein.

Energy is the core concept of contemporary physics. No less.

In the Twentieth Century, Emmy Noether was a towering mathematician.

There is a problem with women, though: Emilie du Chatelet went one boyfriend too far, and died from the birth of her fourth child, at age 42 (and, slowed down by three children, she had blossomed late as an intellectual; she was a global thinker). Emmy Noether died of an ovarian cyst at only 53.

The fragility of women’s health was greatly due to childbirth. In the European Middle Ages, the average child bearing woman would survive only ten years to the birth of her first child (who would die soon, too!) Now this is history, thanks to higher technology.

In prehistoric tribes, women collaborated intellectually as much as men. A civilization which can make female brains all that they can be, is a civilization with twice more brains… And intelligent children (as women are in the closest contact, and educate them for the first few years). Sexist societies are in contradiction with basic human ethology (the normal behavior of humans, their default state, what they are made to operate optimally in).

The easiest way to a superior civilization, is to let women become as brainy as men are allowed to be.

There are encouraging signs, such as more women registered now in universities of the USA than there are men.

Yet… How can we preach against sexual discrimination while discriminating against female skin?

Patrice Ayme’