Friday, February 29, 2008

Reflections: Something to Ponder

Ask yourself how this could be.

Readings: Quote du Jour

...being a commentary on what's wrong with the world:

Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. “Patriotism” is its cult. It should hardly be necessary to say, that by “patriotism” I mean that attitude which puts one’s own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice; not the loving interest in one’s own nation, which is the concern with the nation’s spiritual as much as with its material welfare—never with its power over other nations. Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one’s country which is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.

~ Erich Fromm, The Sane Society

Thursday, February 28, 2008

WWWtW-Watch: #2 - Sockin' It to Him

Dedicated to the proposition that it can happen here.

At WWWtW, no event is too trivial, or too grand, to serve as an occasion to hate. Thus it was with the passing of iconic right-winger and Ur-conservative, William F. Buckley, Jr. After posting a standard, hagiographic eulogy, WWWtW author, Maximos, just couldn’t resist embedding on the site the video clip of the infamous, but legendary, television exchange between Buckley and leftist author, Gore Vidal, in which Buckley threatens (as I hear it): “Now listen you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face, and you’ll stay plastered.” According to Maximos, Vidal had been “trolling” for that epithet, or something similar. Blame the victim, why don’t you? And, indeed, Vidal had previously referred to Buckley as a “crypto-Nazi”, a plausible characterization, given the fact that Buckley had just gotten done attacking the right of assembly on “constitutional” grounds. He did this in response to Vidal’s defense of the peaceful anti-war demonstrators who had been clubbed to the ground by Chicago cops, who had removed their badges in order not to be identified. (It was known in advance that what they were going to do to the demonstrators would be extra-legal). It was this incident, outside of the 1968 Democratic Convention, that ensured the defeat of the Democrats and put Nixon in office. While Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi”—not without some justification, given Buckley’s take on the Chicago “police riot”—he neither took the name of the Lord in vain, (like Catholic champion Buckley) nor threatened WFB with bodily harm. And it was Buckley who had introduced the concept of “Nazi” into mix by referring to the demonstrators as such.

All that said, the incident did not, and does not, reflect well on Bill Buckley, and it is telling that WWWtW finds it an appropriate item to bring up as they “honor” his memory.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Readings: Through Angel Eyes

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night

I am very close to the end of On the Road: The Original Scroll and I am beginning to experience the separation anxiety, beginning to miss living in it already. The passage that follows is from the last road trip; a hell-bent dash by jalopy from Denver, all the way to Mexico City. Kerouac’s great themes, the endless road, the search for the self at the heart of existence, the quest of the missing father, are present here; as is the raw ecstasy of pure being. Kerouac muses on the nature of human existence as he drives into the heart of Mexico, having taken the wheel from the original angelheaded hipster, his exhausted friend, Neal Cassady:

The boys were sleeping and I was alone in my eternity at the wheel and the road ran straight as an arrow. Not like driving across Carolina, or Texas, or Arizona, or Illinois; but like driving across the world and into the places where we would finally learn ourselves among the worldwide fellaheen people of the world, the Indians that stretch in a belt around the world from Malaya to India to Arabia to Morocco to Mexico and over to Polynesia. For these people were unmistakably Indians and were not at all like the Pedros and Panchos of silly American lore---they were not fools, they were not clowns---they were great grave Indians and they were the source of mankind and the fathers of it. And they knew this when we passed, ostensibly self-important moneybag Americans on a lark in their land, they knew who was the father and who was the son of antique life on earth, and made no comment. For when destruction comes to the world people will still stare with the same eyes from the caves of Mexico as well as from the caves of Bali, where it all began and where Adam was suckled and taught to know. These were my growing thoughts as I drove the car…

This may not be sound anthropology, but it is kick-ass poetry, Jim.

Monday, February 25, 2008

WWWtW-Watch: # 1 - A Putinist Paradise?

This is the beta version of WWWtW-Watch - dedicated to the proposition that it can happen here.

The article that presents itself for the initial installment of WWWtW-Watch is a current events piece entitled "Reflections on Kosovo, in the Wake of Independence", by Jeff Martin, whose nom de guerre is Maximos. Martin, who is one of the company of eight regularly contributing authors, is not among the most egregious practitioners of the adjectivally-gravid purple prose that, along with what I call “Academic Esperanto,” characterizes much of the writing on WWWtW. Neither is Martin one of the authors whose ideas I have found to be the most objectionable. He concludes this piece, for example, with a pronouncement on hegemony with which I am in basic agreement:

…[Hegemonism] is unpatriotic, a deformation of the native love of place into a will-to-dominate, the subordination of the rational part of the national character to the spirited part, as though thumos, and not nous, is to rule. Empire is not merely the senescence of republicanism, its overthrow, but a disorder of the soul, individual and collective.

That said, both the paranoiac Islamophobia and the anti-liberal ideology of which the philosophical essence of WWWtW is compounded are present in this piece, making it a suitable one with which to kick-off this new feature. The article links to, and quotes at some length from several sources, including an article by Charlie Szrom, in the Weekly Standard. All of this contributes to an in-depth discussion of the Russian role in the former Yugoslavia, especially Serbia. You have the links, should you wish check them out, but that discussion is not germane to my purposes here.

What is pertinent is what comes immediately prior to the quote on hegemony above:This is worthy of denunciation, not because we ought to admire the Putinist regime in its totality, but because hegemonism…etc.

The “this” referred to here is the idea that, The West should resist Russia…in order to pursue hegemony; and the strategy of resistance entails efforts to prise open the debate the Russians have recently closed: that of the status of the Roaring Nineties. Our solicited conditional admiration for Putin, then, is to be based on his resistance to pressure from the U.S. and the EU to democratize, which is to say, to liberalize, the Russian political machine.

It so happens that the New York Times is currently running a series on life in contemporary Russia, which has several things to say about the modus operandi of the semi-admirable Mr. Putin:

Shortly before parliamentary elections [in Nizhny Novgorod] in December, foremen fanned out across the sprawling GAZ vehicle factory here, pulling aside assembly-line workers and giving them an order: vote for President Vladimir V. Putin’s party or else. They were instructed to phone in after they left their polling places. Names would be tallied, defiance punished. …And: The city’s children, too, were pressed into service. At schools, teachers gave them pamphlets promoting “Putin’s Plan” and told them to lobby their parents. Some were threatened with bad grades if they failed to attend “Children’s Referendums” at polling places, a ploy to ensure that their parents would show up and vote for the ruling party.Finally: Around the same time, volunteers for an opposition party here, the Union of Right Forces, received hundreds of calls at all hours, warning them to stop working for their candidates. Otherwise, you will be hurt, the callers said, along with the rest of your family.

This is the regime that the mind-set at WWWtW finds to be compatible with its own overall philosophy, in that its impenetrable consolidation of power renders it highly resistant to the encroachments of “self-loathing” Western liberalism. To wit (again per the New York Times):

Over the past eight years, in the name of reviving Russia after the tumult of the 1990s, Mr. Putin has waged an unforgiving campaign to clamp down on democracy and extend control over the government and large swaths of the economy. He has suppressed the independent news media, nationalized important industries, smothered the political opposition and readily deployed the security services to carry out the Kremlin’s wishes.

After all, murdering a few investigative reporters in the defense of fascism is no vice. If stifling dissent were not, in some quarters, considered to be a good thing, this post would be unnecessary.

Thence, on to Martin’s words on the topic of the WWWtW article’s title:

The drama of Serbia and Kosovo is a mystery play intended to instruct the Europeans of the future: you are to hate that you are, that you are everything that you are, and, indeed, that you are not the Other, who is entitled by everything that you are and have been to rule over you. And when the Other comes for you, you are to go quietly.

Here we have the characterization of Kosovo, according to Martin:

Kosovo is emblematic of the West's desire to curry favour with the Islamic world, its self-loathing effort to placate the implacable, to demonstrate by means of favour in one place that resented policies elsewhere cannot be so bad after all, and that Muslim opinion should reconsider openness to the West. We are supposedly destined, after all, to dwell in an integrated world, and so ways must be found of propitiating the Muslims. We are additionally informed that:The sordid reality of Kosovo is that of a mafia state ridden through with jihadists, flesh merchants, gun smugglers, drug runners, and irredentists nostalgic for the halcyon days of the Ottoman Empire, when Albanian and Bosnian Muslims were the local jackboots trampling the necks of Balkan Christians - all right under the noses of NATO and the EU.

The population of Kosovo is about 80% Albanian and, Martin implies, a hotbed of Muslim jihadists, whose primary interest in independence is to be able to slaughter all the gentle and pacific Serbian, or Croatian, Christians in their midst. But, strangely enough, according to Wikipedia:

The majority of Albanians today are either atheists or agnostics. According to an official US Government Report: "No reliable data were available on active participation in formal religious services, but estimates ranged from 25 to 40 percent.", leaving 60 to 75 percent of the population non-religious (or, at least, not practicing a religion in public). …Moreover: The country does not have a history of relgious extremism and takes pride in the harmony that exists across religious traditions and practices. Religious pragmatism continued as a distinctive trait of the society and inter-religious marriage has been very common throughout the centuries, in some places even the rule. There is a strong unifying cultural identity, where Muslims and Christians see themselves as Albanian before anything else. This has been solidified historically by the common experience of struggling to protect their culture in the face of various outside conquerors.

Ah, but that’s in Albania, you say. We are speaking of Albanians in Kosovo here. Well, then, consider is this, also from Wikipedia:

Culture-wise Albanians in Kosovo are very closely related to Albanians in Albania. …The most widespread religion among Albanians in Kosovo is Islam (mostly Sunni but with significant number of Bektashis). The other religion Kosovar Albanians practice is Roman Catholicism. There used to be a small Albanian Orthodox community, but their status is uncertain.

Hmm. As offering competing generalizations, Maximos and Wikipedia can’t both be right. We report; you decide.

When I do the math, I come up with a sum something like: We are to tolerate, nay, admire the fascist regime of KGB veteran, Vlad Putin, because he stands with us, dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers…: the Jihad and Liberalism…

If only we had more crusading men of character like Vladimir Putin here, eh? (Yes, well, we’re working on that.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reflections: From Boom to Tomb...


The following shall serve as counterpoint to, and reality check of, my previous paean for my generation.

There’s room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill

~ John Lennon, Working Class Hero

I’m nearing the end of Cathy Wilkerson’ s autobiography, Flying Close to the Sun. That means that I’m nearing the climax of the story of her life as a revolutionary. It means that I’m nearing the part where Weatherman blows up the Greenwich Village townhouse of Wilkerson’s father, attempting to construct bombs to be used in the insurgency against the power structure; the explosion that kills three members of Weatherman and sends Wilkerson underground.

The lesson to be learned from Wilkerson’s confession is that the essence of every collective is coercion and conformity. In resisting the violence of Vietnam; in opposing the violence of racism; idealistic youth, in frustration, finally turned to violence as a means. The outside is the inside. The microcosm of SDS/Weatherman came to mirror the macrocosm of the military industrial complex against which it aspired to revolt.

In the end there was only coercion and conformity in society-at-large, and coercion and conformity in SDS/Weatherman. In the end, Wilkerson found that while a woman faced male chauvinism in society-at-large, a woman faced similar sexism in SDS/Weatherman. If she had to use her sexuality to ascend the ladders of the work world, she was also defined by her gender in the revolution. If pedagogy, Madison Avenue, and State Department briefings were thought-control, there was thought-control in the ideological posturing and in the self-criticism sessions of SDS/Weatherman. In the end it is coercion and conformity in school; coercion and conformity in the family; coercion and conformity at work; coercion and conformity in middle-class propriety; coercion and conformity even in church. The same pressure that impels one to join the revolution, forcefully reconfigures one to fit in: a round hole for every square peg in the collective.

All worldly relationships are power relationships:

The only truly free man is the man who finds himself totally emptied out by affliction and alone in a hole in the earth, or locked in his room, flat on his face, begging God to come fill the void where his ego formerly raged like a holocaust, fed by the inexhaustible fat of his gluttonous appetite for sin.

One could say that the Boomers’ collective dream of an activist solution began its slow death under the rubble of that townhouse, just as the morbidity of the ‘Sixties began to spread like a sepsis through the crowd at Altamont, while Mick Jagger wandered about helplessly on the stage, at a loss for a tune to fit the occasion:

We had met the Pig, and he was us.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Interlude: Banned, by Jingo!

Two days ago, I had the not unexpected experience of being banned from a blog called What’s Wrong With the World. This is the second time I’ve been bid farewell with extreme prejudice by blog authors, the first having been several years ago now; this time the event had seemed inevitable from the start.

What's Wrong With the World (WWWtW) is a site the central theme of which is that Islam is the evil and eternal enemy of civilization and all that’s good and decent in our world. Circling this massive ideological sun is the satellite notion that liberalism is a companion evil, dedicated to the suicidal task of enabling Islam to destroy our world. To be successful in this Satanic project, liberalism will enlist the aid of cognate evils, including, but not limited to: socialism, multiculturalism, pacifism, feminism (esp. Pro-choice feminism), the teachers’ unions, the European union, secularism, and Affirmative Action. There is, indeed, a long laundry list of other items most Americans have been willing to tolerate, if not support, on the principle that the pursuit of happiness is not defined by Natural Law, as interpreted for the rest of humanity by the auctorial SWAT team at WWWtW. If the WWWtW staff (who in their jingoistic grandiosity fancy themselves to be “crusaders”) had their way, we would all be trading the threat of a Shari’a-dictated existence of humiliating dhimmitude, for its home-grown, nativist, “Christian” equivalent. I previously directed your attention to this threat by providing a link to WWWtW at the end of my post on the topic of Chris Hedges’ book, American Fascists.

That one of the authors of WWWtW should ban me from commenting there is certainly in the best interests of WWWtW. I was present amongst them as a subversive element, and was clearly hitting some exposed nerves with my contributions to the discussions I joined. Ironically, the comment for which I was 86’d was a relatively obvious and non-controversial observation that there is a deep cognitive dissonance at work in people who favor bombing Muslim neighborhoods in order to kill terrorists--and, as the commenter to whom I was responding had already pointed out, their babies--but oppose abortion and living wills. Following is the brief exchange leading to the coup de grâce.

Here is the quote from the original post:

In Iraq, the basic principle has been demonstrated (again) that the Jihad is no match for the force of American arms.

Here is the response of commenter, Russ:

I'm not so sure this is an accurate statement. Southern afghanistan is unraveling. Our UN friends there are too afraid to even go to southern Afghanistan. Also, if one carefully looks at Iraq, things may at any time go awry. We've taken to bombing them five times more than in previous years and have increased innocent civilian causality accordingly. Just a week ago we killed nine, including babies!
Posted by Russ February 21, 2008 1:40 AM

Here is my response to Russ's comment:

"Just a week ago we killed nine, including babies!"

It's A-okay to kill baby jihadists, once they're born.

Posted by Rodak February 21, 2008 5:17 AM

Here comes the knife thrust resulting from my comment:

[And that, ladies and gentlemen, will do it for our friend Rodak.
For the sake of clarity: no matter what your level of disagreement or frustration, there can be no defense of accusing, by caustic insinuation, that your opponents in some debate favor the death of innocent babies.
-- Ed.]

Posted by Paul J Cella February 21, 2008 8:51 AM

Here is the link to the post that generated the discussion.

It was not, I’m convinced, that relatively tame comment that got me banned. My fate had been determined in advance by the comments that I was making simultaneously in on-going discussions here and here, on the topics of euthanasia, abortion, and the hypocrisy of many professed Christians. My comments on the latter were quite clearly taken personally; as well they should have been (I can now say openly).

As fate, or the Angel of Synchronicity, would have it, just as I was being banned at WWWtW, there was a discussion on the topic of being banned going on at Disputations,(2/12 “Three syllables, sounds like…”) concerning a commenter who had been banned at Catholic and Enjoying It!. (see the comments following "My Parish Knows How to Throw a Birthday Party").

It just goes to show, boys and girls, that one should always practice safe blog, ‘lest you come home with a dose of whatever is going around out there.

Enough for now. I am seriously considering introducing a new regular feature entitled “WWWtW Watch” in order to continue to oppose the dangerous ideas being presented there.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Reflections: Who's Boomin' Who?

Boomers tend to hear a lot of vapid shit laid down against them by those who came after. They call us selfish and self-absorbed; we know that that's not where it’s at. We know that we put our actual, physical butts on the line--and we did it for others. If we talked, we also walked, and we marched, and we sat-in, and we got gassed, and jailed, and beaten, and harassed, and busted, and verbally abused by morons wearing Nixon buttons. Some of us got killed.

Today, there’s 24/7 blogging and incessant talking. Walking? Not so much.

We were brave and we were creative. We transformed pop music into an art form. We made movies that were worth watching. Many of us were spiritual seekers. We bequeathed to subsequent lame ass generations their sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Say 'Thank you.' You know you love it.

Today everybody runs. Everybody’s a hard-body. They all got the six-pack. But inside (where it counts) they’re soft, self-pampered pussies and impotent whiners. Mom-my! The liberals stole my lunch money! Wah! Wah!

Two of the books I’m currently reading, Black Glass, by Karen Joy Fowler and Flying Close to the Sun, by Cathy Wilkerson, both fellow Boomers, are bringing back to me the danger and excitement of just being on the streets in the ‘Sixties as a young person engaged in the movements for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam.

Here is an excerpt from Flying Close to the Sun which is a graphic and typical example of why I remain so fond of cops to this day:

On January 17 [1969], John Huggins and Hunchy Carter, leaders of the LA Panthers, were gunned down at a meeting of UCLA students, called to establish a black studies department. The Panthers had been invited by some students to provide a counterbalance to members of another black organization, Ron Karenga’s US (United Slaves), because some students had felt intimidated by the armed men from US that had recently insisted on speaking on their behalf to the administration. Several people at the time saw who had done the shooting, but those identified were not arrested. Instead, police jailed seventy-five members of the Panthers that night. One was the widow of slain John Huggins, even though she was the nursing mother of a three-week-old baby. John Huggins was a Vietnam vet who had left Lincoln University in Pennsylvania to work with the Panthers. Many suspected at the time that US had been infiltrated and as being used by the LAPD to get rid of the Panthers.
When news of the shooting reached us (SDS members), I was stunned. The police response, to do a sweep of Panthers and not arrest anyone from US, seemed strong evidence that informants or agents were somehow involved.
[Flying Close to the Sun, pp.246-247]

And here is an episode that explains in part the genesis of my great love and respect for Cowboy Ronnie:

Militant demonstrations erupted on several campuses that April [1969]. In Berkeley, black students and white supporters went on strike, demanding an autonomous black studies department. Governor Ronald Reagan called in the National Guard. [Flying Close to the Sun, p.248]

Wilkerson writes of the aftermath of the disclosure of the secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia. Check out the amazing words of the governor of the great State of Ohio, anticipating the kind of hyperbole that today is used to characterize al-Qaeda, spoken to vilify the sons and daughters of ordinary Ohioans who were demonstrating against the escalation of the war:

…Nixon announced the US bombing of Cambodia. … The response by hundreds of thousands of students on hundreds of campuses around the country is now legendary.
The government reaction to these uprisings is also legendary. Ohio Governor James Rhodes derided Kent State student activists, already in the midst of antiwar demonstrations, saying, "They’re worse than the brownshirts and the communist element and also the nightriders and the vigilantes. They’re the worst type of people we harbor in America. I think we are up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group in America.” Days later, the nervous young National Guard troops under his leadership shot and killed four young students, shocking the country.
[Flying Close to the Sun, p.356]

In her story “Letters From Home” in Black Glass , in which she imagines writing to a boyfriend who has disappeared in Vietnam, Karen Joy Fowler, who was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley from 1968 to 1972, recalls what it was like to be a college student on an activist campus in those days. (More reason to love cops. More reason to love Ronald Reagan):

By the spring of 1970… I had gone out to protest the Cambodian invasion and come home in a cast. The police had removed their badges, donned their gas masks, and chased us down, catching me just outside Computer Sciences. They had broken my ankle. Owlie [one roommate’s boyfriend] was gone. His birthday had been drawn seventeenth in the lottery, and he’d relocated to a small town in Oregon rumored to have a lenient draft board. Gretchen had acquire a boyfriend whose back had been injured in a high school wrestling match, rendering him 4-F with no tricks. …We heard that the National Guard was killing people on the campus of Kent State. I heard nothing from you. [Black Glass, p.111]

Long before Iran-Contra, more reason to love the memory of Ronald Reagan:

They didn’t want me at any more demonstrations. “When you could run,” Lauren pointed out, “look what happened to you.” But I was there with them when the police cordoned off Sproul Plaza, trapping us inside, and gassed us from the air. …Governor Ronald Reagan and all the major networks assured you that we had been asked to disperse but had refused. Only Poncho [PBS reporter] told the truth. We had not been allowed to leave. Anyone who tried to leave was clubbed. A helicopter flew over the area and dropped tear gas on us. The gas went into the hospital and into the neighboring residential areas. [Black Glass, p. 116]

So, go ahead—mock the Boomers. We can take it. We’ve heard worse than you’ve got. To steal a line from SNL, “We got chunks of guys like you in our stool.”

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Readings: American Samsara

Samsara is derived from "to flow together," to go or pass through states, to wander. Mostly a great revolving door between life and death and a new life reincarnated…. – Wikipedia

From On the Road: the Original Scoll by Jack Kerouac:

What is the Mississippi River?---a washed clod in the rainy night, a soft plopping from drooping Missouri banks, a dissolving, a riding of the tide down the eternal waterbed, a contribution to brown foams, a voyaging past endless vales and trees and levees, down along, down along, by Memphis, Greenville, Eudora, Vicksburg, Natchez, Port Allen, and Port Orleans and Point of the Deltas, by Potash, Venice and the Night’s Great Gulf, and out. So the stars shine warm in the Gulf of Mexico at night. From the soft and thunderous Carib comes electricity, and from the Continental Divide where rain and rivers are decided come swirls, and the little raindrop that in Dakota fell and gathered mud and roses arises resurrected from the sea and flies on back to go and bloom again in waving mells of the Mississippi’s bed, and lives again.

Go ahead, ignore the dharma--you bums.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Readings: Quote du Jour

Einstein’s favorite composer was Mozart. Beethoven created his beautiful music, but Mozart discovered it, Einstein said. Beethoven wrote the music of the human heart, but Mozart transcribed the music of God. There is a perfection in the humanless world which will draw Einstein all his life. It is an irony that his greatest achievement will be to add the relativity of men to the objective Newtonian science of angels.

~ Karen Joy Fowler, Black Glass: short fictions, “Lieserl”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Interlude: Cuttin' Ron

I am being urged elsewhere to turn my audio-visual attention to YouTube clips of that malt shop cowboy, Ronald Reagan. Sorry, boys. Been there. Done that. Wouldn’t be prudent. Not gunna do it. It’s a nightmare best forgotten, though I vaguely remember a kind of greenish-orange pompadour, floating like a greasy cloud above an empty suit. In my nightmare, there were mobs of large, grinning men in tobacco-stained bib overalls and John Deere baseball caps, stomping their big, flat, shit-caked feet and making crude sounds like the bellowing of barnyard animals, as a mellow, reassuring voice carefully enunciated “There you go again…” You could almost smell the manure. Off in the distance, to the south, a repetitive cha-ching! cha-ching! drowned out the heart-wrenching screams of dying nuns. To the east, in the direction of Mecca, bearded Ayatollahs passed out their windfall Yanqui dollars to terrorist chieftains, while back down in Banana-land, strutting bean-fed and tassel-festooned colonels deployed jackbooted death squads to do the bidding of Grandees with lifetime passes to the White House. No-no-no-no. YouTube. Me no Tube. Homey don't play dat.

On a more positive note, I’m reading a collection of essays entitled Faith and Philosophy, edited by Alvin Plantinga. The one I’m currently working my way through is “The Ethics of Jonathan Edwards”, authored by Henry Stob. The name Jonathan Edwards has formerly brought to mind brilliant sermons of the hellfire and brimstone variety. I knew, of course, that he was a Puritan preacher—the greatest sermonizer that America ever produced. What I hadn’t realized is that Jonathan Edwards was also a world-class theologian whose writings on religious philosophy rival anything produced in Europe. This essay on Edwards has also taught me something about the role of Calvinism in the genesis of that characteristic optimism for which America is famous, and of which the play-acting piety of Cowboy Ron was but a Thespian echo. Here’s Stob on Edwards:

Behind the human society Edwards discerned the divine. Existing unchangeable in the eternal heavens he saw a goodness of which every earthly good was but the shadow and witness. Behind the society of men stood God, the absolute standard for all relationships between beings. The rules of right, the laws of conduct, and the principles of spiritual intercourse are not, he saw, provincialisms of this planet. They reign beyond the stars. Their seat and fountain is in God himself. Here lies the root of optimism. Whatever else the Puritan philosophy of life may have been it was neither petty nor pessimistic. The Puritan strode two worlds like a Colossus. He lived under the controlling conviction that the moral life had its source and issue in the eternal, and he was unafraid.

Yeah. That’s the real deal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Interlude: Politico-Racial Genetics

When Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, you'll hear conservatives talking about Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Then you'll hear conservatives talking about Louis Farrakhan and Malcolm X. Next you'll hear conservatives talking about Mumia Abu-Jamal and Eldridge Cleaver and H. Rap Brown and Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael. In the end, we may even hear Newt Gingrich talking about Frantz Fanon. Conservatives will be talking about Obama's whole pedigree of uppity n*****s, going straight back to Ham.

Liberals, meanwhile, will be talking about George W. Bush.

Readings: More-doch and More

Before I did my last cannonball into the cesspool that is politics, I probably left the impression to all the indifferent that I had taken my leave of Iris Murdoch. And so, at the time, I thought I had. I had read two of the three essays in the volume and had decided to take a pass on number three. Then I changed my mind and read it anyway. A flip-flop of a different magnitude. Needless to say, there are essential excerpts to be posted here. You can read them and think about them, or you can continue to scratch your ass and think about what you're going to buy next, and how you can get a better deal on yours than Jones got on his. G'head: flip a coin on it.

I am also reading this book. I saw the author on C-SPAN and decided to check it out. Anybody who didn't live through the 'sixties and would like to get a visceral feel for what they were like from the autobiography of a woman who was totally engaged in what was going down, should check it out.

Now, without further comment, Iris Murdoch, from the essay “The Sovereignty of Good Over Other Concepts” in The Sovereignty of the Good:

Asking what Good is is not like asking what Truth is or what Courage is, since in explaining the latter the idea of Good must enter in, it is that in the light of which the explanation must proceed. …Even the concept of Truth has its ambiguities and it is really only of Good that we can say ‘it is the trial of itself and needs no other touch’.

The indefinability of Good is connected with the unsystematic and inexhaustible variety of the world and the pointlessness of virtue. In this respect there is a special link between the concept of Good and the ideas of Death and Chance. (One might say that Chance is really a subdivision of Death. It is certainly our most effective memento mori.) A genuine sense of mortality enables us to see virtue as the only thing of worth; and it is impossible to limit and foresee the ways in which it will be required of us.

We are largely mechanical creatures, the slaves of relentlessly strong selfish forces the nature of which we scarcely comprehend. At best, as decent persons, we are usually very specialized. We behave well in areas where this can be done fairly easily and let other areas of possible virtue remain undeveloped. There are perhaps in the case of every human being insuperable psychological barriers to goodness. The self is a divided thing and the whole of it cannot be redeemed any more than it can be known. And if we look outside the self what we see are scattered intimations of Good. There are few places where virtue plainly shines: great art, humble people who serve others. And can we, without improving ourselves, really see these things clearly? It is in the context of such limitations that we should picture our freedom.

This attempt…[to turn the] attention away from the particular, may be the thing that helps most when difficulties seem insoluble, and especially when feelings of guilt keep attracting the gaze back towards the self. This is the true mysticism which is morality, a kind of undogmatic prayer which is real and important, though perhaps also difficult and easily corrupted.

Good is the magnetic center towards which love naturally moves. False love moves to false good. False love embraces false death. When true good is loved, even impurely or by accident, the quality of love is automatically refined, and when the soul is turned towards Good the highest part of the soul is enlivened. Love is the tension between the imperfect soul and the magnetic perfection which is conceived of as lying beyond it.

The humble man, because he sees himself as nothing, can see other things as they are. …Simone Weil tells us that the exposure of the soul to God condemns the selfish part of it not to suffering but to death. The humble man perceives the distance between suffering and death. And although he is not by definition the good man perhaps he is the kind of man who is most likely of all to become good.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Interlude: Maximum Flip-Flop

In my post of January 24th, feeling both disgusted and enraged by the dishonest, race-baiting tactics to which the Clinton campaign had resorted in an attempt to forestall the gathering momentum of the Obama insurgency, I called for a boycott of the 2008 election. Today I am going to eat humble pie, liberally laced with minced crow, and shamelessly—nay, proudly—flip-flop on that position. My reasons are three, the first two of which are starkly political. These are:

1) The Democratic leadership, as personified by Teddy (and Caroline) Kennedy, has gone out of its way to make amends for the sins of the Clinton branch of the party. And, while I thought at the time that the Clinton dirty tricks were working, and would win Hillary the nomination, it is now apparent that Obama is more than holding his own. I am appeased on that issue.

2) At the time I called for the boycott I believed that Mitt Romney would eventually be the Republican candidate, and I thought that he would lose the national election.

But--it has now become clear that—barring a miracle--John McCain will be the Republican candidate. As I have stated elsewhere, I believe that he has the gravitas to be a viable national candidate: I think he might win.

Many people believe John McCain to be a hero. My position is that if he is a hero it is only within the context of his enthusiastic participation in what I then considered to be a criminal enterprise (viz., the bombing of North Vietnam, a country with which the United States was not officially at war) and which today I still consider to have been war crimes. I am a Conscientious Objector; or a Draft Dodger, if you will; or a Hippie Faggot, if that’s your bent. That’s your problem -- I don’t really give a rat’s ass how you look at it. That said, my firm belief is that John McCain would be a step down from even George W. Bush in terms of foreign policy. I must oppose him.

My third, and by far--to me--the most persuasive reason for my about-face, is that a link provided in a February 9th post on The Corner at NRO by Kathryn Jean Lopez jogged my memory concerning some entries I made years ago in a journal I was keeping. I dug through some boxes of stuff in my closet and located the spiral notebook containing these entries. I found that these thoughts were committed to writing in December 1991. I share them below, combined, and edited for brevity:

December 16 and 17:

Europe is currently in a state of flux and transition. The groundwork is being laid for a “U.S. of E.”. A common currency is in the works, to be followed by some kind of federal government. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union has collapsed and the newly independent states are busy realigning themselves into new federations. This country stagnates. The monied and propertied class is in the process of consolidating its wealth, with no clear goal in sight. In short, there is hoarding going on. The working people are being stripped of whatever property they had managed to accumulate through years of struggle. People are going from homes they “owned” right into the streets [due to the failing economy]…People cannot afford health insurance. People cannot afford daycare. People cannot afford housing. People cannot afford food. The United States is no longer even ostensibly a leader of the community of [developed] nations – except in terms of firepower. This country is in need of a leader. Out of this disintegration a change must come. …[This leader] will not, in my opinion, be a White man.... He will be an African-American and he will lead the disenfranchised in a revolution of values that will seek to rebuild this country from the ground up.

…What the Blacks have going for them that the Whites do not…is what is called on the playing fields “hunger.” They’ve never been on top. I also believe that, despite racism, a Black man possessed of dignity and strength and armed with an irrefutable message and a workable plan would be listened to with [a] respect…bordering on awe. …Such a Black man would represent an upheaval of values in his person alone – which would make his message all the stronger. Martin Luther King Jr. …demonstrated …the potentialities inherent in the rise of a Black leader. …Malcolm X…further demonstrated the capacity for leadership that is latent in the Black soul. It is significant that both men were gunned down (as was Gandhi in Asia). To put Satan on the run is to court death.

This must not be allowed to happen to Barack Obama. It is possible that Barack Obama is the very man for whose advent I perceived a crying need more than a decade-and-a-half ago. It would therefore demonstrate a lack of intellectual integrity – a sacrificing of the Possible on the altar of the Ideal -- for me to continue to call for a boycott of the election at this time. I cannot in good conscience turn my back on the Obama phenomenon. OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Riffs: Tempus, Fug It!

In the wake of my earlier reflections on the passing of the two great jazzmen, Frank Morgan and Oscar Peterson, I have been spending more time in the enjoyment of my collection of recorded jazz. This collection consists of about a hundred vinyl albums, several dozen commercial cassettes, maybe a hundred CDs, and a couple hundred mixes that I put together on 90-minute cassettes, back in the day before computers began to come equipped with CD burners. This old computer doesn’t have one, but even if it did it wouldn’t help me with combining tracks from vinyl, tape, and CD in a program on a single medium; only my ever-so-pre-9/11 stereo is up to that task. (MS, I’m not investing in the gadgets that will do it. I’m good with what I’ve got.)

I’m listening to a newly-acquired retrospective CD covering the career of Oscar Peterson as I type. But mostly I’ve been listening to my long-neglected collection of vinyl albums. This current kick of mine can be referred to as: Jazz at 4 AM.

One thought that has hit home as I’ve made my way through my collection is that in several instances I’ve been listening to albums that I last put on the turntable twenty years or more ago. At that rate, I realized, it wouldn’t be difficult to find an actuarial table somewhere to predict that I am now listening to most of these records for the last time. Ever.

Sic transit gloria mundi…

Of the albums I’ve listened to during this binge, let me mention a couple in a little detail:

The first is a CD that I gave a listen to because one of the primary artists on it, George Shearing, was mentioned in On the Road: the Original Scroll, which I am still reading. In addition to Shearing, the album also features a female vocalist about whom not enough is heard, imo—Dakota Staton. The title of the album is In the Night: the George Shearing Quintet with Dakota Staton. In addition to the title tune, a few of the outstanding tracks include: Confessin’ the Blues; The Thrill is Gone; and The Late, Late Show. Highly recommended. Goes well with Jack Daniels.

But the brightest gem that has turned up during this jazz kick has to be a double vinyl album featuring sax man, Oliver Nelson. Released in 1978 on the Impulse! label, as Volume II of The Dedication Series and titled Three Dimensions (MCA Impulse 2-4148), my copy has a notch cut in the cover, indicating that I pulled it out of a discount bin, probably at the Tower Records on either upper or lower Broadway, in Manhattan. (I also have volume VIII in the series, waiting on deck).

The tracks on sides A and B of the double album were recorded on February 23, 1961, in New Jersey, and engineered by Rudy Van Gelder. The band on these sides is: Oliver Nelson, tenor and alto sax; Eric Dolphy, alto sax and flute; Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; George Barrow, baritone sax; Bill Evans, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; and Roy Haynes, drums. It would be difficult to come up with a better band than that. I have been sent into special paroxysms by Dolphy’s flute and Evan’s keyboard work on these sides.

The band on sides C and D is: Oliver Nelson, soprano sax; Steve Kuhn, piano; Ron Carter, bass; and Grady Tate, drums. (Why is the drummer always listed last, Ringo?) These tracks were laid down at Capitol Studios in New York City in 1966, engineered by Bob Simpson. Again outstanding. Nelson wrote all the tunes on sides A, B, and C. Side D features Thelonius Monk’s classic, Straight, No Chaser, and the tune The Shadow of Your Smile (J. Mandel & P. F. Webster) from the movie The Sandpiper.

If you’re not an audiophile collecting old vinyl, I’m sure that this music is available on CD somewhere. Find it. Buy it. Dig it. Tempus fugit. Or as Norman Mailer might have put it: Tempus, fug it!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Readings: Quote du Jour

The gang sat around playing Billie Holiday records in the Texas bayou night. Hunkey predicted the end of the world would start in Texas. "There's just too many chemical plants and chain gangs around here, I can feel it in the air."

~ Jack Kerouac, On the Road: the Original Scroll


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Reflections: Getting Away With Murdoch

I had intended to be done with Iris Murdoch’s essay with my previous post. I had a new topic all picked out, and had even taken a few notes in anticipation of starting to write. But as I read the final ten pages of the Murdock piece I kept coming across passages that seemed essential; passages that struck a sympathetic chord with elements of my belief system. I didn’t want to return the book to the library without preserving these. So, here they are:

It is not simply that suppression of self is required before accurate vision can be obtained. The great artist sees his objects (and this is true whether they are sad, absurd, repulsive or even evil) in a light of justice and mercy. The direction of attention is, contrary to nature, outward, away from self which reduces all to a false unity, towards the great surprising variety of the world, and the ability so to direct attention is love.

Think of that one in terms of the command to love your enemy.

Freedom is not strictly the exercise of the will, but rather the experience of accurate vision which, when this becomes appropriate, occasions action. It is what lies behind and in between actions and prompts them that is important, and it is this area which should be purified. By the time the moment of choice has arrived the quality of attention has probably determined the nature of the act.

Think of that one in terms of the saying: The Truth shall set you free.

If the energy and violence of will, exerted on occasions of choice, seems less important than the quality of attention which determines our real attachments, how do we alter and purify that attention and make it more realistic? Is the via negativa of the will, its occasional ability to stop a bad move, the only or most considerable conscious power that we can exert?

I have never been convinced by the teaching of the Church that Quietism is wrong.

I think it is more than a verbal point to say that what should be aimed at is goodness, and not freedom or right action, although right action, and freedom in the sense of humility, are the natural products of attention to the Good.

Consider how humility, the ability to free oneself from the urge, the ego-driven compulsion, of competing to keep on top of Mr. Jones, would liberate the spirit.

Right action, together with the steady extension of the area of strict obligation, is a proper criterion of virtue.

Wrap your mind around the seeming paradox of obligation as freedom. If you are in need, and I pass you by, to what have I subordinated myself?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Reflections: The Elusive Butcher Knife of Love

In yesterday’s Quote du Jour we saw Iris Murdoch finger the ego as the enemy of the moral enterprise. Today we quote, from the same essay, her identification of the ego’s chief product, fantasy, as the antagonist of excellence in either the moral, or the artistic life:

The chief enemy of excellence in morality (and also in art) is personal fantasy: the tissue of self-aggrandizing and consoling wishes and dreams which prevents one from seeing what is there outside one. Rilke said of Cézanne that he did not paint ‘I like it’, he painted ‘There it is.’

Murdoch is here again speaking in terms of Simone Weil’s concept of attention; attention as the form of prayer:

Prayer is properly not petition, but simply an attention to God which is a form of love. With it goes the idea of grace, of a supernatural assistance to human endeavor which overcomes empirical limitations of personality.

Through attention one transcends the ego. Through attention one defeats the runaway imagination. Through attention one approaches the Real, the ‘There it is.’ A bit further on Murdoch states:

Almost anything that consoles us is a fake…

Consolation, then, is a function of the imagination; an attachment to and reliance upon the unreal.

Several days ago, as I was looking for a roll of tape in one of those catch-all drawers of which there are several in almost every human dwelling, I came across a 3x5 card, yellowed with age, upon which I had many years ago scribbled a quote by Canadian novelist, Robertson Davies. The card has been clipped to the monitor of this computer since I found it. It reads:

The business of art is not beauty. The business of art is to butcher whatever coddles the mind.

Remarkable, is it not, how this card turned up just in the nick of time, to add a layer of understanding to my reading of Murdoch’s essay?

The message, then: Truly objective art, made possible by attention, “butchers” false consolation—that coddler of daydreaming minds—and, like supernatural grace, renders the moral agent capable of love.

Ah, but if one still has God in this decadent age, that attention is known as prayer.
Note: The Davies quote is probably taken from The Deptford Trilogy

Monday, February 4, 2008

Readings: Quote du Jour

In the moral life the enemy is the fat relentless ego.

~ Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good, "On 'God' and 'Good'"

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Reflections: All That and a Place for Grace

Iris Murdoch concludes her essay “The Idea of Perfection”, on which I based a previous post, with the following sentence:

[The] sketch which I have offered, a footnote in a great and familiar philosophical tradition, must be judged by is power to connect, to illuminate, to explain, and to make new and fruitful places for reflection.

Her purpose in the essay was to refute the analytic, positivist, existentialist-behavioralist proposition that morality meets reality only in action. I think that she proves her point. But I do not want to paraphrase her argument here. Her book is in print and, if you care to, you can find it and read it for yourself. What I will do, in the spirit of her closing sentence, is provide a few excerpts containing ideas that helped me understand the plotting of her thesis, and which, in themselves, are “fruitful places for reflection”:

In suggesting that the central concept of morality is ‘the individual’ thought of as knowable by love, thought of in the light of the command, ‘Be ye therefore perfect’, I am not, in spite of the philosophical backing which I might here resort to, suggesting anything in the least esoteric. In fact this would, to the ordinary person, be a very much more familiar image than the existentialist one.

The argument for looking outward at Christ and not inward at Reason is that self is such a dazzling object that if one looks there one may see nothing else. But as I say, so long as the gaze is directed upon the ideal the exact formulation will be a matter of history and tactics in a sense which is not rigidly determined by religious dogma, and understanding of the ideal will be partial in any case. Where virtue is concerned we often apprehend more than we clearly understand and grow by looking.

As Plato observes at the end of the Phaedrus, words themselves do not contain wisdom. Words said to particular individuals at particular times may occasion wisdom. Words, moreover, have both spatio-temporal and conceptual contexts. We learn through attending to contexts, vocabulary develops through close attention to objects, and we can only understand others if we can to some extent share their contexts. (Often we cannot.)

The notion of privileged access to inner events has been held morally suspect because, among other things, it would separate people from ‘the ordinary world of rational argument’. But the unavoidable contextual privacy of language already does this, and except at a very simple and conventional level of communication there is no such ordinary world. This conclusion is feared and avoided by many moralists because it seems inimical to the operation of reason and because reason is construed on a scientific model.

It is totally misleading to speak…of ‘two cultures’, one literary-humane and the other scientific, as if these were of equal status. There is only one culture, of which science, so interesting and so dangerous, is now an important part. But the most essential and fundamental aspect of culture is the study of literature, since this is an education in how to picture and understand human situations. We are men and we are moral agents before we are scientists, and the place of science in human life must be discussed in words.

I have used the word ‘attention’, which I borrow from Simone Weil, to express the idea of a just and loving gaze directed upon an individual reality. I believe this to be the characteristic and proper mark of the active moral agent.

If we ignore the prior work of attention and notice only the emptiness of the moment of choice we are likely to identify freedom with the outward movement since there is nothing else to identify it with. But if we consider what the work of attention is like, how continuously it goes on, and how imperceptibly it builds up structures of value round about us, we shall not be surprised that at crucial moments of choice most of the business of choosing is already over. This does not imply that we are not free, certainly not. But it implies that the exercise of our freedom is a small piecemeal business which goes on all the time and not a grandiose leaping about unimpeded at important moments. The moral life, on this view, is something that goes on continually, not something that is switched off in between the occurrence of explicit moral choices.


Moral change and moral achievement are slow; we are not free in the sense of being able suddenly to alter ourselves since we cannot suddenly alter what we can see and ergo what we desire and are compelled by. In a way, explicit choice seems now less important : less decisive (since much of the ‘decision’ lies elsewhere) and less obviously something to be ‘cultivated’. If I attend properly I will have no choice and this is the ultimate condition to be aimed at.

This is something of which saints speak and which any artist will readily understand. The idea of a patient, loving regard, directed upon a person, a thing, a situation, presents the will not as unimpeded movement but as something very much more like ‘obedience’. … This is what Simone Weil means when she says that ‘will is obedience not resolution’.

If we picture the agent as compelled by obedience to the reality he can see, he will not be saying ‘This is right’, i.e., ‘I choose to do this’, he will be saying ‘This is A B C D’ (normative-descriptive words), and action will follow naturally.


We often receive an unforeseen reward for a fumbling half-hearted act: a place for the idea of grace.

Amen to that!

Interlude: The Matrix - Roll, Roll, Roll, Your Blog

Since I stubbornly refuse to add a permanent blogroll to this site, it behooves me, from time to time, to direct attention to the goings-on at some of the other sites that make up my blogospheric neighborhood. So here goes:

In the comments section of Postmodern Papist, Kyle was asked to define the term “postmodern” as he understands it. Kyle modestly directed the reader to the Stanford University philosophy site to which I hereby link again. It is an excellent resource to which I have often been conducted in the past in my wanderings across the universe of directed cognition.

As I was eavesdropping, I went there myself and came across the following citation touting Kierkegaard as a precursor of postmodernism:

Kierkegaard…describes modern society as a network of relations in which individuals are leveled into an abstract phantom known as “the public”. The modern public, in contrast to ancient and medieval communities, is a creation of the press, which is the only instrument capable of holding together the mass of unreal individuals “who never are and never can be united in an actual situation or organization”. In this sense, society has become a realization of abstract thought, held together by an artificial and all-pervasive medium speaking for everyone and for no one.

Substitute “the blogosphere” for “the press” in the above, and understand how Kierkegaard continues to define our common lot today. (I should not neglect to mention here that Kyle has also made available for your perusal and delight some new art by his wife, Genece. Check it out.)

Speaking of art, over at Disputations, reigning sage and guru, Tom, posted a mysterious cartoon graphic well over a month ago. And then vanished. His loyal readers hope that his dramatic reappearance, with or without more cartoons, is imminent.

While Tom remains on the lam, over at Sex, Politics and Religion, our MC, Civis, has returned from a lengthy sabbatical with this timely post. He solicits your advice.

At Ragged Thots, host Robert A. George continues to have a hell of time keeping his rowdy crew of regulars within the bounds of propriety universally recognized as orthodox by members of a civil society. Go there armed.

Anthony, The Catholic Libertarian, has gotten the most response recently to his post on the antics of everybody’s favorite Hugo Award winner, Senor Chavez. Go there and rip the Venezuelan Pol Pot a new one for Jesus.

On the eve of the Super Bowl, at Politics and Pigskins it’s all pigs and no pols with resident maven, Ed. You can’t tell the swine without a scorecard, folks. But in the spirit of redneck unity, it must be remembered that, before there was “Andy of Mayberry,” there was “What It Was Was Football”.

Keesey claims to be fo’ Sheezy, but I’ve been watching all the debates I didn’t even know that Sheezy was running. This is the place to hang if you’re looking to meet the blonde-all-over, slanty-eyed, slinky, Slav-ette of your dreams. And a quirky topic, or two, or three…

Finally, go here to keep an Ever Vigilant eye on what the hyper-edumacated, hard-right-reactionary set is all a-buzz about, as we are swept by the currents of history inexorably toward the End of Time.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Reflections: Does Action Exhaust Goodness?

Many moons ago, when I was taking a few philosophy courses as an undergraduate, I was bored by the analytic school and sent into a coma-like state by the logical positivists. I wanted to talk about Plato, or else I wanted to talk about Sartre. I still want to talk about Plato.

That said, there is a little corner in my billfold into which I tuck, scribbled on little scraps and ripped-off corners of paper, the titles and library call numbers of books that some other book, or maybe a book review, or a website, has prompted me to want to look into sometime in the hazy future. Yesterday I came across the tiny tatter bearing the title The Sovereignty of Good, by Iris Murdoch. I have no memory of why I noted that title for future reference. Nor could I give you any reason why I went up into the stacks, found the book, and checked it out two days ago. Nonetheless, consider the following excerpt and see if it doesn’t bring a new angle of consideration to the thoughts expressed in my last post. Consider especially the statement “Morality resides at the point of action.”

Does it? I didn’t think so...

From Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good, “The Idea of Perfection”:

(Here, Murdoch lays out the worldview, according to theories of analytic philosophy, which she intends to refute)

[Along with others] Wittgenstein has created a void into which neo-Kantianism, existentialism, utilitarianism have made haste to enter. And notice how plausibly the arguments, their prestige enhanced from undoubted success in other fields, seem to support, indeed to impose, the image of personality which I have sketched above.* As the ‘inner life’ is hazy, largely absent, and any way ‘not part of the mechanism’**, it turns out to be logically impossible to take up an idle contemplative attitude to the good. Morality must be action since mental concepts can only be analyzed genetically. Metaphors of movement and not vision seem obviously appropriate. Morality, with the full support of logic, abhors the private. Salvation by works is a conceptual necessity. What I am doing or being is not something private and personal, but is imposed upon me in the sense of being identifiable only via public concepts and objective observers. Self-knowledge is something which shows overtly. Reasons are public reasons, rules are public rules. Reason and rule represent a sort of impersonal tyranny in relation to which however the personal will represents perfect freedom. The machinery is relentless, but until the moment of choice the agent is outside the machinery. Morality resides at the point of action. What I am ‘objectively’ is not under my control; logic and observers decide that. What I am ‘subjectively’ is a foot-loose, solitary, substanceless will. Personality dwindles to a point of pure will.
* "This ‘man’ the hero of almost every contemporary novel. ...He says ‘all problems meet in intention’, and he utters in relation to intention the only explicit ‘ought’ in his psychology. We ought to know what we are doing. We should aim at total knowledge of our situation and a clear conceptualization of all our possibilities. Thought and intention must be directed towards definite overt issues or else they are merely day-dream. ...Mental life is, and logically must be, a shadow of life in public. Our personal being is the movement of our overtly choosing will [which is] separated from belief so that the authority of reason, which manufactures belief, may be entire and so that responsibility for action may be entire as well. My responsibility is a function of my knowledge (which tries to be wholly impersonal) and my will (which is wholly personal). Morality is a matter of thinking clearly and then proceeding to outward dealings with other men."

** "Actions are, roughly, instances of moving things about in the public world. Nothing counts as an act unless it is a ‘bringing about of a recognizable change in the world’."