The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

The Limits of Reason January 28, 2005 by RedStar2000

Once again I wade into the shallows of philosophy, asking those who are expert in the field to bear with my limitations.

My thesis is that the victory of reason occasionally requires unreasonable methods.



Personally I find the idea that using racist language is any more consequential than any other directly offensive language to be odious.

The racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic epithet robs the target of their individuality in a fashion that other offensive language does not...or at least not in the same way.

If someone calls you "a fucking Arab", the implication is that all Arabs are the "same" -- including you. And the qualities that "all Arabs" possess are negative.

Thus your own thoughts, ideas, personality, words, and deeds are all reduced to zero -- you as an individual no longer matter.

And, in consequence, there's nothing you can do to "escape" that stereotype.

To the Nazis, a Jew that converted to Christianity was "still a dirty Jew". A Jew that served in the German Army on the front-lines during World War I was "still a dirty Jew". Even the great Jewish chemist who invented a process for extracting an essential ingredient for gunpowder (allowing Germany to continue the war) was "still a dirty Jew".

No matter what you did, in the eyes of the Nazis you were "still a dirty Jew".

And so it is with racism, sexism, homophobia.

That's why, in my opinion, those forms of offensive language are are the people who use that sort of language.

I don't want to "debate" those people; I want to wipe them out.

Or, if that's impractical, to entirely remove their language and the ideas reflected in that language from the realm of acceptable public discourse.

I think this is the reasonable response.
First posted at RevLeft on January 1, 2005


If you used reasoning you might get somewhere. That is, assuming that other people were willing to use reasoning as well.

A crucial admission on your show a marked tendency to assume that others "are" or might be persuaded to "be reasonable".

In the long run, reason is stronger than least that's been the trend for a couple of centuries.

But you seem to think "the battle has been won" -- whereas it strikes me that it's barely begun.


But as far as I'm concerned the real world can go stuff itself.

Big mistake...and unreasonable at that!

Whether you know it or not, you have many enemies that are very powerful and very unreasonable in the real world. You may forget about them; they will not forget about you.

If you think you can use "sweet reason" with some BNP thug who wants very much to smash your commie face against a wall...well, let me know when you get out of the hospital.


Abuse of any type cannot be countered by unreasoning measures.

Don't tell me...tell it to that BNP thug.


There is no realm of acceptable public discourse. You may stop them from saying what they want here, but they will go elsewhere and continue to propagate those ideas which you find odious.

For the time being. Eventually, I hope to deprive them of all outlets for their views.

As to your assertion that "there is no realm of acceptable public discourse", go see what happens to you if you set up a paedophile website.

It is, you will find, very unacceptable.


Where they are not themselves being reasonable, I suggest the first step is to convince them to be reasonable.

Give it a try.

I'm in favor of a pre-emptive strike, myself.
First posted at RevLeft on January 2, 2005

The ability to articulate "reasons" for an opinion or an action is not the same as speaking or acting reasonably.

The "reasons" might be very bad ones...even totally irrational/clinically insane.

"God told me to kill her for her sins."

In such circumstances, it is sometimes (often?) necessary to "by-pass" a reasoned argument and take direct action to stop the prospective opinion/action.

Most people in the world today are not very reasonable about many things...although, reason is "gaining" in influence.

But progress is "slow" and learning to counter and frustrate the unreasonable behavior of others is still necessary.
First posted at RevLeft on January 2, 2005


When talking with another person we can usually come up with a reason for why something totally irrational or clinically insane is wrong.

Of course we can...but they might stubbornly resist our "appeal to reason" (assuming we have time and opportunity to make one).

God spoke to me, not you!


The burden of proof is on them.

To be sure...if they are trying to convince you to help them in some fashion.

But if they are content to proceed to action by themselves and do not require your assistance, then the "burden of proof" is weightless.

They already "know."
First posted at RevLeft on January 10, 2005


This is because the only way I can actually convince them of anything is through reasonable means. If they change what they say/believe for any other reason it is not because I have convinced them, any other method may force them to accept a point, but it will not make them understand the point or it's importance.

Well, yes and no.

It may be thought necessary and even desirable to convince some "unreasonable" people that however deep and abiding their hatred of certain others may be, speaking or acting on those hatreds will result in "unreasonable" violence being directed against them.

I do not think it likely that one could convince a cop through reasoned argument that torturing immigrants is undesirable behavior.

Nevertheless, he may well refrain from such behavior if he fears becoming a "crispy critter" as a consequence.


The real world, to me, is the perceptual and conceptual world which I can prove to be real. The real world as far as I can see you meaning is the one which supposedly exists as a world of source objects for our perceptions that correspond in some meaningful way to them and are perpetually present without confirmation.

Whew! I read that second sentence several times and I'm still not sure I grasped its meaning.

But...yeah (I think), the real world that you can't tell to "go stuff itself" without tripping over your own feet.


Anyhow, I never said you could use reason against a thug...

That's what it seemed to me you were saying...with your emphasis on reason "above all things" as it were.


I'd like to see how exactly you intend to manage to deprive them of all outlets for their views; last time I checked you weren't in control of the world's media.

Naturally, I did not mean that in a literally personal sense.

I meant that I expect the revolutionary working class to create its own range of acceptable public discourse...and that range would exclude racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

I leave the details to future generations.


There are some people who find some views acceptable, and others who do not. There is no set of things which is definably acceptable to the public, and no set of things which is definably not acceptable to the public.

Sure there are. If you asked around, I think you'd find that most people would agree that sexual abuse of children is not something that it's "ok" to advocate.

Or slavery. Or cannibalism. Or the principle of hereditary aristocracy. Or incest. Or torture.

How strongly people might feel about those things might vary quite a bit...some would take sterner measures than others.

But as a general rule, those are things the advocacy of which would arouse immediate hostility in present-day western societies...without regard to the "reasons" of the advocate.

Every social order has a range of things which may be spoken of and acted upon and a range of things which may not be spoken of or acted upon without risking severe consequences.

Parts of those respective ranges may be reasonable and parts may be unreasonable. The progress of civilization involves the growing prevalence of the reasonable and the suppression of the unreasonable.

But it's a tricky road with lots of twists and turns.


A pre-emptive strike that achieves what, exactly?

That it's the BNP thug's head that gets smashed and not yours.
First posted at RevLeft on January 11, 2005


Show me anywhere where I said it required every dolt on this planet to agree with it to make it true.

I don't think you said that and certainly I didn't.

The problem is when a "dolt" is about to act unreasonably and is, in fact, "immune" to reasonable appeals.

Someone who is convinced that they are "carrying out God's Will" is "unreachable" by matter how well articulated or constructed and no matter how many people disagree with him.

Can you imagine what it "would be like" to have a "reasonable argument" with a Nazi? Or, just look at what gets posted in the Opposing Ideology forum on this board.

It's not just that our cappies are ignorant (some of them know some things)'s the apparent inability to develop and present a reasoned argument or comprehend such an argument from anyone who disagrees with them.

This is not a "cappie thing" I hasten to add -- some lefties here suffer a similar disability, sad to say.

I could see a "reasonable exchange" with an editor of The Economist, for example.

But when you get down to the level of the "hard-core" reactionaries, I think reason is powerless.

The only form of "reason" that they respect is violence or the threat of violence. They are "the barbarians in our midst"...and if we "appeal to reason", they will simply kill us!

Unless we kill them first.
First posted at RevLeft on January 20, 2005


The only point on which I think we really disagree is that you want to carry out a pre-emptive strike on such people. Whereas I think that it is best to first exhaust all channels through which reasoning might be carried out.

This does seem to be a central "bone of contention".

On what basis do we decide that the "channels of reason" have become "exhausted"?

Must each of us, for example, engage in an exhaustive (and exhausting) discussion with an articulate Nazi (if we can find one that's unarmed) before concluding that reason is useless with such vermin?

Isn't the Nazi experience prima facie evidence that reason is useless in this context?

In other words, there are real world situations where it's entirely reasonable to be "completely unreasonable".

Do you recall the infamous quip from Joseph Goebbels? "When I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver."

Unless you have reached for your revolver first, guess who's going to "win the argument"?

As civilized humans, we would naturally prefer to arrive at meaningful truths in a reasoned way...that's our "first choice" whenever possible.

On occasion, it's not possible...and we'd better be prepared for that.

After January 30, 1933, it was "too late to reason".
First posted at RevLeft on January 20, 2005


I don't think it's a central bone of contention for anyone other than you, I frankly don't care about methodology, nor do I particularly care whether many people within this world become reasonable or not.

Putting aside your first two assertions, the third one sounds completely unreasonable.

You've started a bunch of threads about reason and written a large number of words on the subject...and "you don't care" whether or not reason "wins out" over unreason???

Well, as you wish; I "care" a great deal!


However, I would say that it is probably impossible to exhaust the channels of reason, as there is always the possibility of a method as yet unrealised.

A truism...but too abstract to be very useful. If implemented in a literal sense, debate would be infinite.


The contention I have with your idea that we should strike them first is that: 1. You have not even begun to find out whether they might be reasoned with which leads to 2. You do not even know if they are the ones being more reasonable, since you have not explored their reasons for taking the stance they do 3. There are violent ways by which a person can be made reasonable, and there is no need to extinguish or overtly harm life.

1. As I noted in my last post, historical experience in many cases has demonstrated their lack of reason (and corresponding willingness to settle disagreements by violence).

2. Not so...I'm probably one of the few people alive today who has actually plowed through the 600+ pages of Mein Kampf. True, it was a very long time ago...but it's the sort of book that "stays with you" (like an ideological tapeworm).

3. Yes, there are violent ways that one can force someone to temporarily "see reason" which do no permanent harm...unfortunately, their "conversion to reason" lasts only as long as your methods are employed.


I think though, that you may have succumbed to the paranoid lies of the western media. You seem to think that every street corner you turn, you will be faced by hordes of BNP thugs, Nazis and jabbering maniacs.

The jabbering maniacs are usually harmless...I don't worry about them. The BNP, the Nazis, and their ilk are quite another matter altogether.

I hope you won't have occasion to discover that personally.
First posted at RevLeft on January 21, 2005


Oh I care very much whether reason 'wins out'. But it doesn't win out by being the most popular concept, it wins out by being the most correct.

As I have said, reason has already won.

I don't understand the empirical basis for either of these assertions.


And what exactly would be wrong with debate being infinite?

Because if reasonable conclusions are "never reached", then there's no foundation on which to proceed to further and more advanced debate.


Historical experience? Are you here saying that because fascists 60 years ago did x and not y, this implies that fascists now will do x and not y?

Yes...if they think they can get away with it.

Just as I think those "nice, progressive Christians" that people are always bringing up in the Religion subforum would burn a witch if they thought they could get away with it.

An inherently unreasonable "world outlook" will always (sooner or later) generate unreasonable behavior...usually of a rather nasty sort.


Every person has their own take on any given belief they have, you cannot expect all fascists to agree with or even care about Mein Kampf.

True, there are the "hard core" and the "soft periphery". What seems to be the case, however, is that the followers generally do what their hard-core tells them to do.

There are certainly occasional exceptions...but I think they are trivial in number and impact.


Furthermore, do you mean to imply that the temporary nature of such a 'conversion' makes it such that it is functionally worse than exterminating the person in question?

Well, consider that fellow who killed a woman "for her sins".

What we do now is put him someplace where (hopefully) he can't ever do it again. We impose a reasonable behavior on him by depriving him of the opportunity to act unreasonably.

However...this takes resources.

In particular, it takes human resources...people who have to spend an important part of their lives doing nothing more interesting than watching this guy so he doesn't get the opportunity to act unreasonably.

I suggest that requiring some (otherwise reasonable) people to do that is is, at best, a waste of the watchers' lives and, at worst, can negatively affect the reasonableness of the watchers' behavior...they may, for example, become attracted to the "pleasures" of sadism -- an obviously unreasonable form of human behavior.

Therefore, when one is so unreasonable as to engage in unreasonable violence against another, execution (or exile if that is practical) seems to me to be the reasonable response.

The violently unreasonable must be removed from the community of the reasonable.


Luckily I won't ever have to, the BNP and Nazis are a joke and present no danger to anyone, except maybe those who deliberately throw themselves into danger's path.

You know the one about the fellow who jumped from the top of a very high building, right? Passing the 50th floor, he was heard to yell, "So far, so good."
First posted at RevLeft on January 21, 2005


I wrote this...

quote (redstar2000):

Do you recall the infamous quip from Joseph Goebbels? "When I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver."

Unfortunately, he never said it...however much it sounds like something he would have said.

The line was actually "When I hear culture, I release the safety catch of my Browning."

It comes from an ultra-nationalist play called Schlageter which premiered in Berlin on April 20, 1933 (Hitler's birthday). Hitler and his inner circle attended the play and it was widely applauded in the Nazi press.

Many people (correctly) took this line for the general attitude of the new Nazi regime towards culture and it was subsequently attributed to a number of leading Nazis and recast in the punchier wording.

See The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans, pp. 417-8.
First posted at RevLeft on January 22, 2005


But seriously, it is actually very empirical. Something is empirical when it is an observation that is capable of being verified or disproved.

Indeed...and I don't see any empirical demonstration of your statement that reason "wins out because it is correct".

I will grant a measure of probability in that direction and one which is increasing in magnitude...slowly.

In science, reason does (usually) "win out" over unreason...because it is correct.

But in most (all?) other human spheres, reason "wins out" because it has put a stop to unreason by violence -- an "unreasonable" measure.

Nazi unreason was not overcome by reason...but by soldiers.

Or, as Marx quipped, by "passing from the arms of criticism to the criticism of arms."

Likewise, I see no empirical verification for your contention that "reason has already won"...unless, of course, you're speaking personally.

Indeed, you go on to admit as much...


I would argue that the vast majority of humankind has an 'unreasonable world outlook', and it does generate a hell of a lot of unreasonable behaviour, some of it simply a hindrance to the unreasonable person, some of it which harms the welfare of others. I don't see why you should single out particular types of unreasonableness.

Because they are the most harmful to the welfare of others, of course. Unreasonable behavior that is "trivial" in its effects can safely be ignored. Drinking to excess is unreasonable...but rarely harms others.

The behavior of capitalists, fascists, religious fundamentalists, etc. -- though subjectively "reasonable" in their own eyes -- is directly harmful to most of the world's population.

So, I attack it as best I can.


I agree with placing a person where they cannot harm others if they act in some particularly injurious manner towards someone, so long as that place has all the comforts that any other person could expect...However, I think that one of the primary aims of such an incarceration should be rehabilitation.

But what of the "unreasonable" human desire for justice?

Yes, it would be humane (ethically desirable) to impose no penalty on the violently unreasonable save that of confinement -- to prevent them from acting unreasonably violent again.

But, if you or someone you cared about happened to be the victim of unreasonably violent behavior, would you be "happy" with such an outcome?

Perhaps you would...and that would be a demonstration of your commitment to reason above all other considerations.

I, frankly, would not "be happy". And I think my reaction would be a near-universal one.

There's also an empirical question here: how do we determine when someone has been "rehabilitated"? A mistake here has serious consequences -- it means that we have unknowingly condemned some innocent person to injury or death through the failure of our methodology.

I'm not "comfortable" with that seems unreasonable to me.


As for the guard watching him, there would be many jobs that society requires to be done to keep it running and in order. I would expect that there would be some system for people to do these jobs voluntarily (after all, no one wants the garbage to build up or anything else of that ilk). It would just be another one of those jobs to care for killers.

Yes, there are "unpleasant" jobs that must be shared out in some fashion. But this would not be, I don't think, "just another one of those jobs".

Some years ago, a psychology professor tried an experiment with his students. He divided his class into "half prisoners, half guards"...just to see what would happen.

After three days, he had to terminate the experiment, as the threat of violence loomed. The "guards" engaged in verbal sadism and humiliation towards the "prisoners" and the "prisoners" responded with sullen servility and smoldering anger.

Caging people as if they were "wild animals" seems to have the effect of turning the jailers into particularly nasty animals themselves.

That's why I think it's an unreasonable response to the problem.


However, I generally find it more practical to not act on the supposition that paranoid delusions are correct, as it is time consuming to prepare for every eventuality. It is best, I think, to only prepare for those problems which one has reason to expect.

To be sure...but what if the "delusions" are not delusional after all? Were the people who started leaving Germany in 1930-32 "paranoid"...or perceptive?

A draft-age male (18-26) living in the United States, if he's sensible, would permanently depart for some European country now.

That's not "paranoia" in my opinion; it's a reasonable response to an imminent danger.
First posted at RevLeft on January 23, 2005


No, all I was saying was that they are no longer relevant to me. They were relevant to me when I was a child, but now I am not, and so they are not.


You are finding something which does not exist within your perceptual world to be unpleasant. That is irrational, and could prove a hindrance for you.


You seem to feel threatened by people who have no direct impact on your life.

I put all these quotes together because they seem to me to illustrate the extremely narrow range of your position.

The way children are treated does affect your life and mine...even if we're not close enough to actually hear the screams.

Children grow up to be adults; and adults who have been treated unreasonably as children are not likely to be reasonable adults.

Adolph Hitler was treated like shit when he was a kid. He took his revenge on "an unreasonable world" in a rather drastic and most unreasonable fashion.

The same is true of other forms of unreasonable behavior. You can't pretend that "it doesn't affect me at the moment -- and therefore I don't have to worry about it."

It's a little late to start developing a reasonable critique of Nazism when the Gestapo is pounding on your door.

Trying to "reason" with the Grand Inquisitor while you are being tied to the stake is unlikely to be very successful.

"Bad stuff" -- violently unreasonable behavior on the part of large social collectives -- takes time to develop.

You have to pay attention to what could happen if you want to prevent it ahead of time.
First posted at RevLeft on January 23, 2005


What is more, you also work on the supposition that a person's professed beliefs represent the actions they are likely to take. While this is true (to the extent that if someone says "I am going to hit you", this makes it likely that they will hit you), it is not true in the case of if someone professes to be in a pigeon-hole of beliefs that you can extrapolate their likely actions.

Why is that not true?

1. We've observed in the past that devout Christians have a marked propensity for torturing and murdering heretics, people of non-Christian religions, and unbelievers (atheists).

2. Mr. Jones has revealed himself to be, in his own words, a devout Christian.

3. Why should we not then conclude that Mr. Jones will, if given the opportunity, torture and murder a heretic, a non-Christian believer, or an unbeliever?

Is it reasonable to wait until he actually does it or attempts to do it?

To be sure, a "marked propensity" is not the same as a "lead pipe cinch". Mr. Jones may have a personal distaste for torture and murder -- he doesn't reject the idea in principle, but he does not wish to personally participate or even observe. Or he may wish he could do those things but favorable circumstances never, as it turns out, appear. Finally, he may (falsely) believe that devout Christians "don't do those things"...and therefore refrain from them even if opportunity presents itself.

We can't predict the future in useful detail...we simply don't know what Mr. Jones will do. But we can make a perfectly valid generic prediction -- if some version of Christianity has the opportunity to torture and murder heretics, etc., some among them will do it!

One can argue the details, of course...some would say that my estimate of the probability of that outcome is "too high" and others might even say it's "too low".

But given any unreasonable paradigm, I can't see how anyone could argue that the probability of the emergence of unreasonable behavior is zero.


If the means by which you are identifying unreason is whether a person advocates one or another of a set of broad philosophies, then you cannot even confirm the belief that they are 'the most harmful to the welfare of others'. Though it might well be the case that they are, it is not valid to believe that they are with no good cause.

I quite agree that "good cause" is a necessary requirement...that's the role of historical interpretation.

The Greater Brighton Gardening Club may be possessed of the unreasonable conviction that royal palm trees will flourish in that mildest example of British climate -- but there's no historical evidence that gardening clubs do any harm to people in fact, most would probably agree that their efforts have a positive effect on human welfare.

Other kinds of social groupings have a different history.


It is better to identify unreason as a whole, and to meet it irregardless of what particular pigeon-hole belief the person professing the unreason fits into. If there are particular practices of unreason that you think more damaging than others, then again I think it is best to pay attention to the practices themselves, irregardless of who is carrying them out.

But that would be a-historical. The people who are in the BNP and those who support them in Brighton are (potentially) far more dangerous than the misguided folks in the garden club (who will plant palm trees that will die)...even though they are equally unreasonable in their views.

The BNP has a does fascism itself.


The idea that the state of mind of another person can in any way directly impact upon our own state of mind is, I think, quite obviously incoherent. There is no means by which we can feel directly tied to the states of mind of other people. The only means is indirect.

If by "directly impact" you mean a formal mechanism...well, that's obviously true.

But it seems to me that the "indirect impacts" are often strong enough to usefully substitute for "direct impacts" in actual experience.

If we engage in play with a friend's child and note his pleasure while playing, are we not pleased as well? When we see unjustifiable pain and suffering, do we not also suffer even if we can't feel the pain "directly"?

I think there are many such examples of "indirect impacts" that have the force -- or nearly the force -- of hypothetical "direct impacts".


Funny, I don't remember advocating caging people like they were wild animals...

And indeed you did not. I am guilty of badly summarizing both your view and mine.

I should have said this:

The practice of caging people, even in the most humane of circumstances, is unreasonable on its face...because a caged human becomes less than human (more unreasonable) and so do the cage-keepers.

My apologies.


Because something proves, in the end, to have been right, does not mean that it has [been] proven to be right to have held the belief at the time.

If I grasp your point correctly, you are saying that a reasonable conclusion based on the available evidence at that time could later turn out to be unreasonable; while an unreasonable conclusion at the same time could later on turn out to be reasonable.

Well...sure. Such things have happened in science.

Kant had no real evidence on which to base his "nebular hypothesis" (the origin of the solar system in a cloud of cold gas and dust) was "a lucky guess" and completely unreasonable in the light of the evidence available at the beginning of the 19th century.

The reasonable position then was "we have no fucking idea of how the earth or the solar system began."

Still, something had to have started the processes that ended up with a solar system -- divine creation was starting to look kind of shaky even then.

And Kant's hypothesis didn't call upon any outright important consideration.

Perhaps we should allow for people to occasionally make "quasi-reasonable" propositions -- ideas that are not absurd on their face -- and then see how they work out.
First posted at RevLeft on January 24, 2005


Personally I believe that society will change to become 'reasonable' in response to how well developed and how well expressed a reasonable position is.

That would be nice...but history suggests that things rarely run so smoothly.


Rather, I think that reason has to clarified before there is any point in trying to make people in the world believe in it.

Greater clarity is always desirable...but surely what we have now is sufficient to confront the major sources of social unreason that presently exist.


I would argue that the most important line of defense is one's own mind, and the extent to which it has a developed and valid concept of the world.

That's a really tough conjecture to refute.

And yet, I think there's "something" wrong with it...because it implies the "cultivation" of one's own mind and the neglect of the "social dimension".

That is, one can understand the world to "near perfection"...but if one does not act to change it (confront unreason and defeat it in its practical manifestations) -- then what has one accomplished?

To be sure, one's highly developed reason will allow one to foresee and escape most of the really outrageous manifestations of unreason (you move from Germany to Uruguay in 1930).

But it somehow seems a waste...a supercomputer used only for balancing one's checkbook or keeping track of one's grocery list.

In the end, the enormous power of reason should be used to do something besides merely contemplating the world.


As for damaging unreasonable behaviour on the part of large social collectives... well, that's just how society as it stands IS.

True enough...but should we tolerate that?
First posted at RevLeft on January 24, 2005


Yes, you can say that "if some version of Christianity has the opportunity to torture and murder heretics, etc., some among them will do it!" but that's akin to saying that we should get rid of all humans because "Some version of humanity has the opportunity to torture and murder heretics, etc., some among them will do it!"

Yes, that's also a perfectly reasonable generic prediction...but too vague to be useful. There's nothing there to act on until one or more of those humans actually does torture and murder.

And that's too late!

By carefully noting what kinds of paradigms generate an unusually high probability of torture and murder and acting to confront and destroy them, we reduce the overall probability of torture and murder.

That seems to be to be the reasonable thing to do...based on our present knowledge of course.


Where their history is as large and diverse as that of Christianity, there is nothing you can say about the behaviour of individuals.

I must reading of their history and their present actions in the U.S., Latin America, etc. is much grimmer than yours.

In the U.K. (and western Europe generally), I realize that things are different. Outside of Islam, unreasonable superstitions appear to be "withering away".

You're fortunate.

But beware of complacency!


In fact, much more dangerous than any fundamentalist is the mainstream administrator. How much better could this World be were it not for the fools who came up with the current system. What makes them especially dangerous is how little attention they receive.

I would hardly be likely to challenge your contention that the prevailing social order and those who run it are unreasonable.

And they do get quite a lot of negative attention...though not nearly enough, to be sure.

But capitalism was not the product of "unreasonable fools" -- quite the contrary, it was the reasonable choice over feudalism.


To predict what a member of the BNP is going to do is much easier than predicting what a fascist is going to do, as fascist is a catch-all term for a lot of different views and types of view.

Certainly it has been used irresponsibly as an "all purpose" political term of abuse. That doesn't negate the common characteristics that all fascist states and parties have historically demonstrated.


We are all caged.

Do you claim to be able to travel limitlessly?

Do you claim that for the limits of your travel you are less human?

Yes, we all suffer under the constraints of nature itself in many, many ways. And yes, it does make us "less human" than we might be if some or many of those constraints could be overcome.

Humans have had some limited success in overcoming some of those constraints...and few would wish to return to a time when we were still utterly helpless in the face of nature's unreason.

When we impose "man-made" constraints, however, we enter very dangerous territory...dangerous to ourselves.

Some of those constraints may be reasonable and hence desirable, but our suspicions should be aroused.

For example, it's pretty well-known that prison guards exhibit a fascist mentality in both their words and their behavior.

Is that because "fascist types" are attracted to that line of "work" in the first place...or is it because the experience of being a prison guard generates a fascist-like consciousness?

The same questions might be asked of many of the existing society's institutions -- military schools, law enforcement, military career paths, etc.


As for the cage-keepers, thats a pretty brave hypothesis considering the lack of evidence.

Well, I mentioned the psychology experiment. There is a plethora of anecdotal evidence regarding how prisons actually work...even including accounts by ex-prison guards who couldn't handle the experience.

To be sure, that's very far from conclusive -- the plural of anecdote is not data.

But it strikes me as "quasi-reasonable" and involves no known impossibilities.


We have a science which is confused, self-contradictory, and more often than not that supports its benefactors and the profit-motive, not the truth.

Well, scientists have to eat. Of course that will distort their findings in some situations...particularly with regard to human behavior and medicine.

What I find most encouragingly reasonable in science is that, sooner or later, the truth comes out. No matter how much a given scientific explanation appears to be "set in stone"...there always seems to be a young scientist who starts to wonder if that's really true -- and sets to work with hammer and chisel. Usually, to be sure, without success -- but sometimes...
First posted at RevLeft on January 25, 2005


Anyway, do you deny that if we had an argument which was both indubitable and understandable to the vast majority of people that society could not change?

It would help...but I don't think it's necessarily a "sure bet".

"The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong," etc.

And the reasonable have trouble with chance and circumstance as well.


In fact, I would say the very fact that major sources of social unreason have NOT been confronted successfully highlights the fact that the argument for reason has not been articulated sufficiently well.

Or perhaps it's been quite well articulated...but is powerless (for the moment) against guns in the hands of the unreasonable.


That in response to any given act of unreason we should respond with an attempt to establish reasonable grounds for communication. Failing this all we need do to stop the impact of an unreasonable person's actions upon our life is to ignore them. Failing this, relocating either them or oneself would seem the next best course of action.

That seems to boil down to: (1) Try to reason with the unreasonable; (2) Ignore the unreasonable; or (3) Flee the persistently unreasonable.

I see no space here for a different option: confront the persistently unreasonable and by force put an end to unreasonable behavior and, if necessary, the unreasonable themselves.

Or: the capitalist class cannot see reason in terms other than their own advantage; they cannot be ignored; and there's no place to run to in order to escape them.

The only reasonable option is to overthrow them.
First posted at RevLeft on January 25, 2005
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