The Irrefutable Doctrine

As a philosophical doctrine, Solipsism cannot be formally refuted. All is grist to its mill; for you, who are now arguing against it, are no more than a figment of my imagination. The interesting question is, then, why there are so few explicitly believing Solipsists – I mean this in a more declarative sense than mere insensitivity and egotism, which is clearly commoner. Most of us, and perhaps all normal people by definition, instinctively revolt against Solipsism. We may not always do well by others, but we simply do not like a doctrine that proclaims they do not exist at all. Why might this be?

The generous answer might be that it is inherently morally offensive. We recoil because it reminds us of the way some people actually behave, people we are accustomed to regard as dangerous. That is, while committed solipsists need not be serial killers, they makes us think about them. This might even be a sound and healthy instinct, uncannily analogous to our distaste for the smell of bodily decay. As Aristotle pointed out, we are social beings and to live alone you have to be an animal or a god. If there are no gods, a solipsist has to be an animal.

A ruder answer, however, might be that it is precisely because of our self-love, which borders on the very thing we are endeavouring to condemn. In a world in which only I truly existed, I could get no narcissistic supply, other than my own self-admiration in a vacuum. This is probably not enough. Indeed, the central paradox of narcissists is how much they actually need other people, if only to bore and abuse them.

(Fiddle date-stamp to December 1, 2013)

Posted on December 2, 2018 at 16:45 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, A Theory Of Everybody

Humanity And The Sense Of Humour

Hugo has heard it said that women have no sense of humour. At first blush, this seems too much for even a misogynist. If funny women are not generally as famous as funny men (there are, for example, no Marx Sisters), one does not need to be a SJW to wonder whether this is for the same thoroughly bad reason as there are no top female chefs or conductors.

On the other hand, even were the majority of women to be found truly unfunny, this would achieve nothing but to reaffirm the fundamental equality of the sexes. For the majority of men are not very funny either.

This is something we need to think about in the hope of insight into what this regrettably non-universal quantity, a sense of humour, actually is. To me it seems intuitively obvious that a sense of humour must be connected with not taking oneself too seriously, which excludes narcissists, the unflinchingly ambitious and all fanatics. “The devil is a prowde spirit,” said More, “he cannot endure to be mocked”.

A sense of humour must then exist at a tangent to one’s own advantage and to one’s own prideful place in the scheme of things. One cannot be calculating one’s advantage and maintaining one’s place at the same time as one is finding them intrinsically absurd.

Now, there will never be many people who step aside from the struggle to rise in the social hierarchy of their sex, because this is very serious business indeed. And this applies to women as much as to men, and more so the moment we regard the species as actually controlled by the female hierarchy, like elephants but under false flags.

Some individuals do step aside, of course, including but not limited to monastics and those with a secular vocation to serve. Are nuns funnier than women still “in the world”? I have no idea, but someone who moves in those circles might know. If, of course, a nun is utterly consumed with trying to become abbess, then she will have no more sense of humour than the woman utterly consumed with becoming the boss female in any other hierarchy. Analogous to a genuine religious vocation might be caring very deeply about art, or music, or gardening, or indeed about anything at all, provided only that it is cared about for its own sake and not for any social dominance it might bring.

Suppose, purely for the sake of argument, and I repeat suppose, that most women, wholly absorbed in the game of poking one another in the eye, have less of this sense of humour even than male cutthroats. If that were to be the case, an entirely new question would then arise: why do women of this kind, who cannot create humour, still appreciate, reward and even demand it in men? The humour must be some kind of signal of biological superiority. It has long been suspected that wit or word-play, being a by-product of intelligence, is such an evolutionary signal; but why should that apply to a sense of humour, which requires a stepping-back from vicious social competition? That is not at all the same thing.

That humour is socially valued even by people of both sexes who do not actually understand it is only too clear. Whenever people are out “enjoying themselves” they exhibit the infamous Stadium Effect. That is, the noise level rises as everyone attempts to be heard above it. The men roar with what they call laughter, as loudly as they possibly can; and the women squeal as loudly as they can, both competitively intent (with total lack of real humour) on demonstrating that they themselves can do this thing called humour and are therefore proper human beings. Even when they can’t and aren’t.

(Fiddle date-stamp to December 21, 2012)

Posted on November 26, 2018 at 16:53 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: WHAT WOMEN WANT, On Sovereignty And Hierarchy

Letting The Fly Out Of The Fly-Bottle

“Philosophy is a struggle against the bewitchment of our understanding by the resources of our language,” said Wittgenstein. And again: “The results of philosophy are the discovery of some piece of plain nonsense and the bumps that the understanding has got by running up against the limits of language.” Reading the Philosophical Investigations very late in life, I keep finding things like this that I could have said myself and probably have. The reason is that a key part of my education was provided by people obviously taught by this book, so that readers of Hugo, if any there be, are getting Wittgenstein at third hand.

However, this must not be understood in defence of any kind of mystical wittering about special intuition by some grifter who proposes to take us beyond the limits of language and into bankruptcy. My take-away is much more the first leg of the second quote above. And the worst of the plain nonsense, which might for all I know be a part of Chomsky’s “deep structure”, is the treatment of existence as a predicate. The notion that our “lives” are something possessed by some “us” or other, something that “we” can acquire, have or lose.

Imagine a man called William who recently had an appointment with Henry VIII’s headsman, for which he had to take his boots off. Well then, his boots are now here and his head is over there. Should these statements rightly share a single syntactical form like that? William without his boots we understand; but is William without his head the same sort of thing?

(Fiddle date-stamp to May 10, 2009)

Posted on November 20, 2018 at 18:33 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Religion And Conceptual Muddle

Bow Down Before My Reproduction

Orlando Figes’ book “The Whisperers”, on silence and trauma during and after Stalin’s Terror, is a heartbreaking read. Despite the incredible cruelty and misery he chronicles, however, some part of my mind could not help responding in a way he would neither have intended nor wanted.

I noticed, in the many old Russian family portraits now being published for the first time, how uncomfortable the children always looked. Of course, in those days it took a lot longer to make a photograph. I remember my own grandfather, who always looked grimmer than the Reaper. This was partly because he was a Welsh Baptist minister, and so was obliged to look suitably stern, piety being indistinguishable from bellyache. But quite apart from the worm theology, it was surely easier to hold a grim expression for the long exposures than to hold a smile. On this take, children looked uncomfortable in old photographs because it was simply not given them to intimidate the viewer like the patriarchs and prophets, and their natural expressions could not long survive that particular technology.

That is one explanation. But the parade of uncomfortable children in this collection made me wonder: could it also be because they knew that the whole point of a family photograph was to document their progenitors’ reproductive success, and the point of that in turn was to poke contemporaries in the eye? That is to say, the children looked uncomfortably aware of being merely Parental Status Technology.

Funnily enough, it was not long after reading Figes that I was looking at the family-bragging portrait of Henry VIII with his three children. It has been suggested that the columns are there to show that the two princesses (Mary and Elizabeth) were “spares” to the true family unit – the absolute monarch together with his male offspring and with Jane Seymour, who was long dead at the time but as Edward’s mother more valuable for propaganda purposes than the living queen Catherine Parr.

Of course, as sovereign Henry had the excuse that his successful reproduction affected the welfare of everybody in the kingdom. The individuals in Figes’ book, in the albums of my childhood and for all I know on Facebook today, seem equally full of themselves – without having that crucial justification but still demanding the same admiration.

On Snow White As The Centre Of Male Attention

The potential of Snow White and her seven devoted male companions has been amply exploited in porn – it is easiest to do in animation, of course. There are even cartoons floating around online showing Snow White solo but with her breasts bare; she is much older than in the 1937 version but nevertheless instantly recognisable by her bodice, slashed sleeves, high collar and hairstyle.

Some people find even the still image offensive. They should then be asked why exactly. What is it about the combination of Snow White and sex that we so earnestly wish not to think about? The European folk tales in general are after all chock-full of sex and sometimes very nasty sex too. Did Disney set out to de-eroticise the genre, and actually succeed?

We need not be detained by the fact that in the originals, she offers only to “keep house” for the dwarves. We all know what that really means, for Catholic priests and everybody else. If at the beginning the character herself did not know, in time she would be enlightened.

In the principal source story, Snow White is pre-pubescent, and that is definitely icky, but most modern visual treatments are of a post-pubescent female. Which serves to revive my question as why a cartoon character shown as mature and with superb perky breasts should be so offensive. And in any case, how on earth can being “the fairest of them all” fail to relate somehow to sexuality, whether present or future; what else would it be for?

So perhaps it is the idea of a nubile girl with seven bearded partners that is so upsetting. The stumbling-block would then be the age-discordance, which our culture finds more outrageous than most. Now, the seven miners did not necessarily have to be ancient. Old Germanic “dwarves” probably began as some kind of nature spirit, and it is thought that their being small and ugly is a later development. In all modern visuals, however, the dwarves are neither Dark Elf metalsmiths nor Tolkienesque axe-wielders, and certainly not the Velasquez achondroplasics, but merely short bearded men in their fifties and upwards. And the sexuality of “dirty” old men is the last redoubt of popular opprobrium, which political correctness has not touched and for good reasons of evolutionary biology never will.

Offensiveness can hardly lie in the polyamory per se. If a lady chooses to have seven bedmates, who nowadays can object to that? You go, girl! Perhaps the problem is how victim theology now demands that gangbangs be perceived as invariably coercive rather than (at least sometimes) a woman wanting the narcissistic supply – that is, wanting to be the centre of male attention. And this is a definite choice on our part, driven by male fear of female capacity.

Snow White might therefore be an extreme case of the theme that dominates all chicklit, namely a female keeping several men in play and thus drawing on the multiple economic and emotional resources of a de facto harem. While at the same time spouting off about romance and fulfilment and what have you. The thing that we really, really do not want to think about is not so much the very young girl of the original Snow White story having sex as it is female strategising.

Posted on November 6, 2018 at 16:05 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Fairy Tales

The Starbucks Psychometric

Every day I spend some time on a comfortable bench in my local Starbucks, drilling my kanji. For I have set myself to learn as many Chinese characters (actually via the Japanese elementary-school syllabus) as possible, primarily as a way of staving off senility: “use it or lose it” as they say. Other people may do crosswords or Sudoku in the same spirit, and good luck to them, but these puzzles simply do not interest me.

Chinese tourists and students generally take an interest in what I am doing, presumably because they do not see very many old codgers learning to write their ideograms. Exactly the same goes, of course, for Japanese, while educated Koreans are familiar with the classical Chinese characters. Such curiosity can trump even the Asian Millennials’ addiction to their smartphone screens. Some Europeans and Americans also enquire. Norwegians ask but rarely, for they are in general an astonishingly incurious people.

Or perhaps this is because higher-educated Norwegians are not the core Starbucks market. This consists of teenagers with unlimited funds – they often order food and drink then leave without having touched it – combined with an unlimited indifference to everything beyond fashion and Facebook. Which is exclusively what they talk about, hour after hour. Females who are concerned only with cliques, it has been said, remain fourteen forever; and this is the best place to watch them doing it.

At my Starbucks there is a minority of intellectual types, even a philosophy professor, but also a minority of pigs. This type may be defined by his shoving past a person standing two feet from a door labelled W.C. in foot-high letters to rattle the handle or even enter first. Even when not doing this, they exude an air of menace, it is something about the way in which they take up space. Meanwhile, other customers are whereas other exuding an air of general inoffensiveness. Is this the general division of humanity into predators and prey, or is it something more specific to Starbucks? I am by no means sure, but would suggest that if the theme of being stuck at a certain age is part of the subculture, then the Starbucks customer base includes not only does not apply solely to the female students who clearly intend to remain fourteen forever but also men in their forties who just as clearly intend forever to remain the 14-year-old schoolyard bully.

Probably the teenagers of all countries are squealing narcissists. It should be noted that they are the core market for practically everything, on the grounds that they have such low sales resistance. Cerebral underdevelopment combined with extreme others-dependence is a lethal combination for world culture.

Given the core market, therefore, I do wonder whether the clinical psychologists should borrow the name of this actually well-run chain to create a new psychometric. They could measure everyone along the dimensions not only of extroversion, risk aversion, authoritarianism and so forth, but also of “Starbuckery”. One end of the spectrum would be nerdhood, which is self-evidently uncool and risible, the other extreme would involve an extremely limited mental horizon. Perhaps the indifference to everything outside the cool-kids status bubble is related to attention-deficit disorder.

I have noticed that children as young as three know what Starbucks is, and bully their parents to go inside. So the test could be applied at primary school.

Finally, I wonder whether the astonishingly long-winded ordering options that seem so mandatory at a Starbucks are powered by the lack of choice in other aspects of life. If Marcuse said something similar in his day, well, it has all gotten so much worse since the Sixties.

Posted on October 29, 2018 at 19:47 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, The Monkey Agenda

The Nightmare Of Juventus

Everyone will surely be well aware that the film “If …”, in which bullied schoolboys gun down the prefects, masters, stuffed-shirt Governors, rich parents and so forth at a public-school Speech Day, was a fantasy sequence. In the Britain of 1968 not even gangsters, let alone alienated teenagers, had access to automatic weapons. But the audience will at least know what a Speech Day was.

My own school also maintained Combined Cadet Forces, with enough square-bashing to delight the heart of an 18th-century king, not only on Speech Day but also on all Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Some weekends under canvas, I think. The masters held whatever rank they had achieved during the war and the prefects doubled as corporals and sergeants; on certain days of the week, therefore, you would be taught your languages or math by people in military uniform.

Of course, this sort of thing was only considered absurd or offensive when the Communists did it. Schoolchildren under Mao Zedong wickedly marched with wooden guns, whereas ours were the real thing, even though I am not sure about the ammunition. The whole thing was designed to train the boys of a particular class to be officers in the next war. Because in twentieth-century Britain, “mudbloods” did not rise from the ranks, neither in the Army nor in industry and finance. You were born to command, or not.

You think that is weird? My own school also had an annual public exercise in swimming strokes and in breaking the grasp of a drowning person, performed in pairs by the whole school whether they could in fact swim or not. This might have been part of Speech Day or else a separate department of the petting zoo, I cannot now remember.

In itself the idea of an annual school concert is far from weird. Probably most scholastic institutions do it, as well as a school play. People brought up under a different system might find two particular aspects more bizarre. One, that it was both universal and not in the least voluntary. Ability to sing was not remotely a requirement, and there was no possible excuse other than having been run over by a train the previous day. The boys were not even taught to sing as a choir; that was simply not how this school’s mind worked. You were put on a stage and ordered to sing, end of story. I do not remember what they did about the solo parts; that did not concern me.

The second bizarre aspect was the choice of material. It was always Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. Why Elgar? Other than his being a native of a country that had not distinguished itself in music for centuries, I have no idea. The roots of the school were Church of England, the work had been banned by the local Anglican bishop a generation previously, so the choice could have had nothing to do with Cardinal Newman. (Unless, perhaps, the school in general was modelled on the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.) Why the journey of an old man from death to judgment? I have even less idea. We were not even told that this is what it was; for all we knew at the time, Gerontius was just the guy’s name. Telling us that it was Latin for “old man”, or why we were singing about his post-mortem experiences, was equally well not how the school’s mind worked.

Performing unpleasant and utterly meaningless tasks is a vital part of the life of the soldier, so my only hypothesis is that having to sing (for some values of the word “sing”) Elgar’s oratorio was deeply connected with the Prussian strutting of the masters and prefects pretending to defend the Brutish Empire.

(Fiddle date-stamp to February 11, 2011)

There Is No Alternative

For millennia, probably ever since the Agricultural Revolution, people have been complaining about one another’s pursuit of wealth and worldly success. All right, all right, grinding the faces of the poor for the sake of gold-plated bathtubs is indeed horrible, but wait a moment. Do we ever wax moralistic about a lamb’s wanting to eat grass, or condemn a lioness for chasing down gazelles? No, we are content to accept the “nature” (feeding and reproduction) of all species other than our own.

The difference appears to be threefold. One, we expect more from human beings than the pursuit of food and sex. Which is wishful thinking. Two, the animals do not have our so very complicated forms of feeding themselves and accumulating for the future. At any rate neither the grazers nor the predatory mammals can store more than they can eat at the moment, and enslaving others of their kind to gather their food is quite beyond them. Although it may not be quite true to say that predators never kill more than they can eat; perhaps the fox in the hen-house agrees with human plutocrats that “who dies with the most, wins”.

Three, once we invent a critique of extraction above and beyond one’s own needs, there is nothing to prevent us applying this further and further down the scale, until at the last we arrive at the equation of sinful materialism with someone else’s money. It would be amusing to watch someone try to translate that into Rabbit. “I support myself on this meadow here; but browsing that meadow there is Materialism”.

I would like to graze that patch or eat that prey myself rather than watch you do it. That we humans can express this desire as an abstract principle, the mere vocalisation of which gets us immediate self-esteem and perhaps even the esteem of others, is no doubt a side-effect of the big brains we evolved in order to screw one another over.

If this sounds like something Ayn Rand might say, well, I am wondering whether she actually had the right of it in purely descriptive terms: whether the language of redistribution does in fact boil down to “Thanks for catching that, now let me eat it instead”. The main difference between Rand and myself would then be the way in which she failed to take the final step between her ethic of selfishness and outright Gnostic misanthropy. She squared the circle by means of her aristocratic sense of being a superior variety of human. Myself, I would keep her sense of anti-materialistic dogmas applying only to the other guy’s nutrition while rejecting her megalomania.

(Fiddle date-stamp to October 8, 2010)

Posted on October 15, 2018 at 17:01 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, Robber Bands Great And Small

A Prize Essay – Where Ricardo Went Wrong?

Throughout my lifetime everybody has been incessantly informed what a mistaken notion was mercantilism and how cosmically correct was Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage, which mandates international trade even in those goods you can actually produce for yourself. Ye shall know the tree by the fruits thereof, and an economic theory that produced the world described by Charles Dickens (now making a comeback) must surely have something wrong with it. Not that Soviet Communism was any better, but the capitalist system as modified by a holy terror of bloody revolution was not in fact so bad. I say this having myself grown up under it.

It is a great and valuable principle that whatsoever everybody knows to be true generally just isn’t so. Humanity believed for a long, long time in the Galenic theory of humours and in astrology. If David Ricardo, who tended to derive his opinions from mathematics rather than practical experience, had made a fundamental mistake back in the early nineteenth century, would his paradigm then be discredited? Or would we continue to teach him as orthodoxy, ignoring even the caveats of the man himself? When, for example, Ricardo wrote that “most men of property [will be] satisfied with a low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek[ing] a more advantageous employment for their wealth in foreign nations”, he was plainly wrong. Even then, and far more so now. Indeed, the consensus history of his own country’s later decline seems to be that its businessmen scorned investment in domestic plant in favour of overseas get-rich-quick schemes.

Although Schumpeter and others have criticised certain logical fallacies inherent in Ricardo’s theory of free trade, I wonder how deep they actually penetrated. Might there be a case for offering a big cash prize to the person who first demonstrates, not merely that “comparative advantage” does not apply under all technological and developmental conditions, which is pretty well accepted, but that Ricardo made a more fundamental error still. Might he have confused some notional good of all with the good of a few corrupt operators? Yes, free trade and deregulation has brought economic expansion, and will continue to bring it, provided that we define “economic expansion” as the good of said corrupt operators, who find it very convenient to be identified with “society”. Yes, free trade brought cheap food, but was it self-evidently such a good thing to allow metropolitan populations to grow far beyond sustainability?

If, on the other hand, crude protectionism helped lead to the Second World War, no wonder people have subsequently been so afraid of it. So perhaps we need someone to make an intellectual case for a more level-headed kind of mercantilism. Perhaps the mere prefixing of mercantilism with a “neo” will be enough to win this battle. After all, it worked for liberalism, didn’t it?

(Fiddle date-stamp to December 17, 2011)

Posted on October 8, 2018 at 18:39 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!, Some Modest Proposals

The End-Point of Dualism?

I was reading somewhere that for a Gnostic Dualist the biggest bad guys after the Demiurge himself were Adam and Noah, because these accomplished the continuation of the evil that is Creation. Yes, I see how that must follow. But I was startled by a rider to this doctrine, that the moral life is “just another temptation of satanael”. What, then, are we supposed to do? It was not made clear. David Lindsay seemed to be taking the same line in his Voyage to Arcturus, which I must confess to not understanding one bit.

(Fiddle date-stamp to 27 February 2011)

Posted on October 2, 2018 at 21:01 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: AGAINST NATURE, Defying The Demiurge