This Country

I find it increasingly difficult to live in this country. The people are solipsistic, deluded, gullible, prejudiced, violent, histrionic, puerile, stupid, and callous. And there are some pretty terrible people outside of universities too.

Anthem

I’m in favor of Colin K’s “taking the knee”. I used to go to Halle orchestra concerts when I was a student in Manchester and I would “take the rump”: I would remain seated during the national anthem. My reason was the content of that anthem–all about the Queen. I would have stood for a non-royalist anthem. I was not “disrespecting the flag” or the country, just expressing my opposition to monarchism. I see Colin K. as expressing a specific protest (racial injustice) not some generalized disrespect for America–just as I was not expressing some general disrespect of England.

This Time

I don’t think Trump can recover from his latest “error”. When Jimmy Fallon denounces him you know the jig is up. The contempt for Trump is palpable across the board. Well deserved. Probably the worst thing I have ever seen from a politician in America.

Provocations

My new book Philosophical Provocations: 55 Short Essays (MIT Press) came in the mail the other day (publication date 18 August). I won’t comment on the content but the form struck me immediately: it is unusually wide, about an inch wider than a standard book. I don’t know if this is because the publisher wanted to avoid too many pages so made the pages wider. In any case, I rather like it—such heft! 300 pages and hardly any footnotes.

Einstein

I’ve been reading Thomas Ryckman’s careful and informative book on Einstein’s philosophy. He strongly opposed Newton’s absolute space and time for Machian reasons, as he also opposed  unobservable causes. What I’d like to know is whether he followed Mach into other positivist claims–about other minds, the past, the future, ethics, atomism, the self.

Question for Don Jr

Someone needs to ask Don Jr a simple question: “What would you have done with the information about Clinton if you thought it was genuine and damaging?” It’s hard to believe he could now answer by saying he would have handed it to the FBI and not used it.

Lies and More Lies

I picture a cartoon in the New Yorker: a child with her mother watching Trump on TV–“Mommy, how do I stop myself becoming a billionaire?”

The level of lying reached by Trump and his associates has reached epic proportions. People appear on TV telling outright lies and clearly know they are. Trump himself will say absolutely anything to get out of trouble (usually self-created). I wonder what this is doing to the national (and global) psyche: is it creating disgust for lying or is it legitimizing lying as a tool of persuasion? What would Kant think? Can lying become so prevalent and so tolerated that it eclipses truth-telling? Will it all become a question of who can tell the best lies? My sense, though, is that the disgust at lying might well counterbalance the epidemic of it.

Truth, Reason, and Clinton

I enjoyed watching Hillary C. extol truth and reason in her Wellesley commencement speech, and denounce the idea of alternative facts. But then she went on, in characteristic modern style, to commend “diverse viewpoints”. But these are incompatible ideas: there is only one set of truths (and many sets of falsehoods) because reality is only one way. We should not welcome “diverse viewpoints” on the shape of the Earth or the correctness of evolution. The notions of truth and reason inevitably generate an elite of believers–those who believe the truth and employ reason. The rest are just wrong. I don’t welcome Trump’s beliefs about crowd sizes.