The Psychiatric Question: Is It Fair to Analyze Donald Trump From Afar?

Aug 29, 2016

By Benedict Carey

In the midst of a deeply divisive presidential campaign, more than 1,000 psychiatrists declared the Republican candidate unfit for the office, citing severe personality defects, including paranoia, a grandiose manner and a Godlike self-image. One doctor called him “a dangerous lunatic.”

The year was 1964, and after losing in a landslide, the candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, sued the publisher of Fact magazine, which had published the survey, winning $75,000 in damages.

But doctors attacked the survey, too, for its unsupported clinical language and obvious partisanship. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association adopted what became known as the Goldwater Rule, declaring it unethical for any psychiatrist to diagnose a public figure’s condition “unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

Enter Donald J. Trump.

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156 comments on “The Psychiatric Question: Is It Fair to Analyze Donald Trump From Afar?

  • In my view, whether the drumpf is psychologically ‘normal’ or not isn’t the most pressing issue.

    The real goal should be to thoroughly understand why and how his ‘message’ resonates so effectively within a large portion of the electorate.

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  • Phil,

    I don’t know about those studies of yours. What did they do, give IQ tests to 6000 people? (Is there a Green Party in the UK too? I guess so.)
    I resent Nader and Stein. Nader took votes away from Gore. Not smart.
    Trump: my diagnosis is that he is a man to be feared, and his ability to rouse so many people is deeply disturbing. I must say his supporters do strike me as stupid. But this gets us nowhere.
    Your study seems like something a racist right-wing fringe organization would conduct to try to prove that conservatives and whites are superior. I regard that study with suspicion, as pseudo-science and as dangerous.
    Perhaps you were joking.

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  • Jokey topic. But racists clearly don’t need the neurons.

    But Trump himself is a classic psychopath from his Psychopathic Personality Inventory scoring, and that ain’t funny.

    Dan, don’t read too far. Hilary is on there too.

    Our leaders often figure among these high PPI numbers. Its how leaders happen. But Donald has excelled himself (by two points).

    Its still a jokey topic BTW, just a bit more shuddery now.

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  • “Is It Fair to Analyze Donald Trump From Afar?”
    As a Veteran, you’re fucking right it is!
    What kind of idiot would “serve” this fucked up country with his “orders”?
    (excuse me for my lack of manners, it comes with my lack of medical care from the VA.)
    Maybe I should take out a “fund me” account so the taxpayers can pay twice for the same services?

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  • Bonnie,

    Is that an allusion to my post on the other thread or a coincidence? I mentioned that episode recently! 🙂

    (You won’t reply. That’s not your style.)

    Phil, Hillary is not a psychopath. And Trump scored higher than Hitler. Great study.

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  • alf1200 #9
    Aug 29, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Maybe I should take out a “fund me” account so the taxpayers can pay twice for the same services?

    I don’t know if you have seen this before, but Americans have a history of paying twice the usual rate for poorer medical services!
    Cost of Health Care {per person} by Country | National Geographic

    New Zealand: $2,510
    Japan: . . . . . . $2,581
    Spain . . . . . . . $2,671
    Finland . . . . . $2,840
    OECD average . $2,986
    UK . . . . . . . . . . $2,992
    Australia . . . . . $3,137
    USA . . . . . . . . . $7,290

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  • @ the headline.
    “Fair”???? Fair???? Fair is where you get cotton candy. Is anything that comes out of his mouth “fair”? Is fox news “fair”? Is lying Hillary “fair”? Is a single politician in it for anyone but themselves? Public servants? HA!!! What an absolute shit farm american politics is.

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  • Crooked shoes, Anyone asking me to be “fair” anymore is going to get a face full of attitude.
    This is what the great USA has come to.
    The most dangerous country in the world with the worst health care and the largest percentage of the religious in the developed world.
    We like torture, child malnutrition, nuclear weapons and capital punishment.
    But we have our morality? Nope.
    And the shit farm isn’t about politics, it’s the “americans” that put them there and keeps them there.

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  • I don’t think Hillary is a smiling deceiver. I don’t think she is a liar, and I don’t think she is a greedy capitalist. That’s just a crock, and sexism. They keep calling her a liar, and now people believe it – on the left and right.
    She may have lied a few times but it is not morally wrong to lie when you are being persecuted by relentless and unscrupulous enemies.
    If an unscrupulous enemy was hellbent on derailing your career and heaped accusation upon accusation you would lie to, wouldn’t you?
    Btw, Whitewater: nothing. Emails: almost nothing. Benghazi: nothing.
    I do think she is too hawkish.

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  • Dan, let me explain. In my opinion, ALL politicans are smiling deceivers, and capitalists.
    Its what we asked for. It what gets them past the filter to reach that position..
    So, its not sexism, and not a crock. Please don’t accuse me of sexism. That shouldn’t be the first gun you pull.
    I will vote for Hillary. But it’s not my choice, its my available choice.
    And as far as the emails go, there is still nothing to remark about them. There is no proof of any deceit. And Benghazi ………there was a gop waste of a large amount of money and time.
    Twenty more Veterans died yesterday. And we are still talking about four killed ,,,,,,,,when was that?
    Are their lives worth that much less?

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  • Lillenfeld, the creator of the PPI, wrote this:
    Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience
    (I actually posted a quote from the book a while back, and didn’t know who he was.)
    You love neuroscience.
    So is this guy a pamphleteer, to use your language, or a serious thinker?
    You must be pulling my leg.

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  • Alf,

    Not accusing you of sexism. I meant in general.

    If all politicians are bad, who would be your choice? Anyone running for president would have to be a politician.

    FDR was pretty good, wasn’t he?

    I like Hillary.

    And my pills. Thanks a lot.

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  • Dan, Pat Paulson would be my choice…….from Laugh In, circa 1970.

    All politicians are run through the parties filter. We are not getting a politician. We are getting a party.

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  • Twenty more veterans committed suicide yesterday.

    Along with the 9/11 first responders and cleanup crews and their ensuing health problems, this ongoing toll of so many of the best and bravest from simply trying to do the Right Thing for their country and countrymen is beyond tragic. It would be laughable, the fuss over 4 casualties in Libya, were it not for the vast tragedy of what’s happened to those Americans who just tried to serve their country, and swallowed the lies of their leaders since 2001. And the altogether vaster tragedy of the lives the US destroyed in foreign lands, and the ongoing consequential tragedies that continue to afflict those lands.

    I doubt any official statistic will record these twenty as direct victims of US policy.

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  • 25
    rocket888 says:

    The most important issue with Trump vs. Hillary is (or should be): Who is more likely to start another war, especially with the Russians? If we can tell from afar, so be it.

    As my compatriots of the ’60s used to say: One nuke can ruin your whole day!

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  • rocket888 #25
    Aug 30, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    As my compatriots of the ’60s used to say: One nuke can ruin your whole day.

    Or as the fire-fighters at Chernobyl or in the reactor room of the malfunctioning Russian submarine found out – it can ruin the rest of your life – not that that is likely to be for very long!

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  • @Alf,
    we are in general agreement. I just cannot be ok with the evolution of American politics. I was going to say the evolution of America, but if am to stay honest….. my neighbors have not changed. my neighborhood has not changed. my taxes have really not changed. Believe it or not, my existing local government has not changed ( all that much in the last 5 years). My America has been pretty status quo (yes, even though a black man is my president — best one we’ve had in my lifetime IMO)…But the shit farm that has been allowed to evolve in the arena of the up and coming politicians and the “to be” elected officials is abject dog shit.

    So so so many people think that the roman empire fell one day. It fell over decades and all the hallmarks that are on macho display right now, were on display back then. We are witnessing the middle decade of the fall of the American Republic. When the smoke clears, the ole US will be lucky to still be mentioned as a “superpower” whatever contrived bullshit label that is.

    It has become the land of “do whatever you want”. We treat women like shit. We treat people of color like shit. We treat “foreigners” (as if this term even means anything) like shit. Religion is a cesspool and gets an eternal pass on it’s bad behavior. Civility? GONE. Manners? Gone.

    Rape is COMMON. Murder is COMMON. It has spiraled into an untenable top heavy teetering skyscraper that can only collapse under it’s own weight.

    Sorry, “patriots”. Sorry, “nationalists”…. if any of you were what purport to be, you’d be sounding the fucking alarm. The sky actually IS falling.
    Can you imagine? One of these complete lunatics will have their finger on the button. It’s like DOCTOR EVIL has won the election no matter which of these two clowns gets the nod.
    SHAME SHAME SHAME on the republicans and democrats for foisting such a no win situation on the American public. And shame on the American public for settling for a choice between two sinister characters. Anyone who craves office and power should be excluded from having it. President, congressman/woman, representative, should be your second job. Get some fucking people in there who know how much a gallon of milk costs AND the value of a gallon of milk. Someone who has actually ridden a bus not a private jet.

    You’d think this made me feel better…. a little catharsis???? Nope. Depressing hateful roll in the dregs. Saying either of their names makes my breath immediately stink and my heart hurt.

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  • @crookedshoes

    Anyone who craves office and power should be excluded from having it.

    That was one of the central notions of (I think) Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction. Government required good administrators, and the right people essentially had to be drafted, against their will, and compelled to govern, for a limited term before being released back to their usual lives (which generally involved being a very successful something or other that didn’t involve political power).

    Or was it Isaac Asimov? I forget.

    I can sympathise from afar, living a longhaul flight from the USA, at life under such a broken political system. Long ago (before the internet) I read, somewhere, an introduction to US politics that explained there were only 2 parties, one extremist party so far to the right that it bordered on fascism, and another even farther to the right.

    The ongoing hollowing out of Middle America, leaving only the 1% rich and the 99% poor, shows no sign of abating. End of an Empire, you’re dead right. It didn’t even last as long as the British one.

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  • Crookedshoes, there is not one thing in your post I disagree with.
    It is a scary time but I’m sixty something and not gonna make it much longer.
    I’m not sure it would do any good with the global warming. Forget the wars, forget the shit farm we call the USA. If the next generation doesn’t take global warming seriously, there is no point.

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  • I think there are obvious problems in trying to psychoanalyse politicans based on what they say because they all say what they think they need to say to appeal to their base. That leaves the more cogent matter of why the hell do so many Americans even give the time of day to nutters like Trump, Palin, Bachmann etc who would be laughed out of town in the UK and I suspect any other “normal” country. The American right wing mentality is completely incomprehensible to me despite having spent years trying to understand it. The obsession with guns and religion, the apparent complete lack of concern for the sick and unemployed who are called “scroungers” for daring to need social help instead of taking care of themselves, the paranoia that someone, somewhere is coming to get them which has morphed from commies, to jews, the chinese and now into muslims over the last 50 years. The belief that market forces will always do the best thing and perhaps the most bewildering thing is the complete refusal to acknowledge that a health care system which costs between two and three times as much as in any other developed country and still generates a lower average lifespan is utterly unfit for purpose.

    If being sane is trying to do the best thing for oneself and others based on the available evidence at ones disposal then a large section of the American electorate would appear to be insane by most nation’s standards. What I would like to see is a psychoanalysis of what makes these strange people tick.

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  • crookedshoes #29
    Aug 30, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    I’ll tell you what. Someday down the road, China will call the debt and and and then what?

    Didn’t a place called Kuwait have a debt issue and trade issues with someone call Saddam? – and an argument over oil and oil prices?

    According to Saddam, Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran would have occupied all of the Arab world if it had not been for Iraq. As such, Iraq expected the Arab world to support them during and after the war.

    However, Iraq saw the opposite regarding support, especially from Kuwait. At the end of the war as Iraq began the rebuilding process, the price of oil was approximately $7 (Dh25.71) per barrel.

    In Saddam’s opinion, Iraq could not possibly rebuild its infrastructure and economy with oil prices at this level. Kuwait was especially at fault regarding these low oil prices.

    Regarding loan debts owed to Gulf countries as a result of support received during the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam stated these were not loans and were supposed to be free aid from these countries.

    The countries had originally used the word “loan” as a formality only to disguise the purpose of the funds from Iran. When Iraq was informed the money was actually from loans, Iraq held discussions with these countries, including Kuwait, in order to resolve these debts.

    Because the money had been “registered as loans” to Iraq, Iraq could not secure loans from other countries in order to rebuild.

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  • 34
    bonnie2 says:

    I suggested to a lawyer friend, he should run for some kind of public office, but he said “no way”.

    Just being on the school board was enough to turn him off (disgruntled parents, pressure, lack of private life). Shame, for he’s honest/smart/compassionate, the kind that get eaten alive in the political arena, unfortunately.

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  • Crooked.

    Rape is COMMON. Murder is COMMON. It has spiraled into an untenable top heavy teetering skyscraper that can only collapse under it’s own weight.

    This is just bonkers and a distraction. These are always too high but they have spiraled down.

    But US politics is indeed broken and the access Money has to the levers of power is the root of the real social disgrace, a burgeoning inequality. It is a burning shame to a pioneer of democracy.

    The common herd cleave to the stories they are told by their “elders and betters” even when these are wolves. Success is alluring.

    Fix politics and decency will follow.

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  • crookedshoes #13
    Aug 29, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    @ the headline.
    “Fair”???? Fair????

    This simply needs translation from political NewSpeak into English!

    When a political spokes-person say “fair”, that means their supporters and sponsors, are to be made fairly free to help themselves to the lion’s share of whatever is going, while others may get their “fair-share” of a few left-over scraps!

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  • Dan

    So is this guy a pamphleteer, to use your language, or a serious thinker?

    Your understanding of some ordinary words just defeats me sometimes. Remember I said I don’t do put downs. Soap opera was not a put down. Pamphleteer was not a put down. Plastic is not cheap and tacky but shape-able.

    Thomas Paine and John Milton were two of the most notable pamphleteers. Both used rhetoric and emotional entreaties to achieve political and social ends.

    Psychopathy is a thing. Like all neural diversities it sits on a spectrum. There isn’t single switch and a single outcome for any of these things. PPI addresses this. Leaders tend to have high PPI scores. There is probably a reason for this.

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  • Phil—

    Sorry for the confusion. I never heard of the PPI. I looked it up and asked a few people I know who are in the field about it. They had never heard of it. It was created by someone named Lillenfeld, who wrote a highly critical and questionable book about neuroscience. (I used some of it, as I can be a “pamphleteer”.) So I was wondering what you thought of that book and what you think it says about the author.

    Is the PPI recognized by the psychiatric community or is it controversial?

    Pamphleteer is not very flattering. What you are describing doesn’t sound like art. Are you referring to Milton’s famous essay? How can an entreaty not appeal to the emotions? Was it manipulative? Was Dr. King a pamphleteer? Was Pericles? I don’t like that word unless you are describing something manipulative. That word would be propagandist, wouldn’t it?

    I hate plastic. I don’t like how it feels.

    Soap opera! Must you remind me of that? (Perhaps there are culture-specific idioms that have to be translated.)

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  • Crookedshoes (27)

    You and others are making a terrible mistake when you see and present the two candidates as symmetrical. You are sipping the cool-aid. The Republicans have tried to discredit Hillary. This widespread inability to distinguish one candidate from another is just irresponsibility and gullibility, and an expression of emotion and anger, and an indication that the Republicans have succeeded to a large extent. Obama has done a lot for the African American communities, and sent many illegal immigrants back, was against the Bush tax cuts. Look it up. Hillary supports increasing the minimum wage, wants to cut taxes for the middle class, is for making college more affordable, and much more. Trump and the other Republican assholes want to privatize everything, and is absolutely a bigot. The wall is BS! Hillary is not the Devil incarnate, is not devoid of any good qualities. The way you lump them together is what that sick demagogue wants people to think. My impression is that most people on the fence will not vote or will vote for libertarian asshole Johnson or Trump. Trump says he is “not part of the establishment.” (Well monsters aren’t part of the establishment either.) But he IS the establishment! Go the HC. website. You can see what her policies are there. They are very different than Trump’s.

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  • Folks, help me out a bit, I have absolutely no idea what the media in the US are currently doing. I do remember that they totally kid-gloved Dubya beginning with the primaries in 2000 (maybe even in his previous run for governor of Texas against popular Democratic incumbent Governor Ann Richards.) The Dubya camp, basically (I exaggerate minutely) piled on the lies by the ton (kiloton? megaton?) and was not only not hammered for their bald-faced lies, almost all of the media (most pathetically the mainstream straining hopelessly to maintain a “balanced” stance in the face of Fox “News” fascist carpet bombing) ran with the lies and made mountains out of – nothing! – against Gore. Is something of the sort happening now? I have the books by Greg Palast, David Brock, John Dean, Arianna Huffington (having recovered from a mysterious case of dementia during the Clinton administration), Joe Conason, Barton Gellman, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Naomi Klein, not to forget Michael Moore, and others about the total cesspit period 2001 to 2009. Unfortunately all written retrospectively after a kangaroo court masquerading as the US Supreme Court putsched and declared Dubya the winner in 2000. Palast makes a plausible case for the suspicion that the 2004 election was robbed by the Republicans by more subtle, but nationwide efforts based on what they had learned about Florida 2000. Is the Evil Empire poised to strike again? Will a future incarnation of Alan Bullock be writing a very fat book about Trump? How someone being the head of a company involved in a sector more criminal and corrupt than anything (if that) this side of illegal drugs and weapons smuggling, the building sector, became president? Don Corleone for president! Or what?

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  • GK,

    I am very concerned right now about the media coverage of this election.

    Why is Trump getting so much coverage? It’s annoying! These people on MSNBC and CNN are a bunch of phonies. He is getting tons of exposure and publicity for free. And where is Hillary? The reporters are doing the public a terrible disservice. They ask softball questions with no aggressive follow-up questions or comments. It’s awful.

    Right now Trump is in Mexico and is going to be speaking about immigration later. Who gives a shit? All this coverage makes him seem more legitimate.

    At this very moment that dangerous demagogue Trump and the mexican president just entered the podium. It’s being covered live on all three major cable news networks. He looks very presidential.

    The reporters are caving to economic pressures, as Obama said.

    “A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone. It’s to probe and question and to dig deeper and to demand more,” he said. “The electorate would be better served if that happened.

    “There is enormous pressure on journalists to fill the void and feed the beast with instant commentary, and Twitter rumors, and celebrity gossip and softer stories,” Obama said.

    “That has consequences for our lives and the life of the country,” he said, adding that media corporations — while still beholden to deliver profits for shareholders — also have an “obligation to invest a good chunk of that profit back into news, back into public affairs, and to maintain certain standards and to not dumb down the news.”

    Here’s someone, a liberal, on Trump’s victory after the primaries. It’s gotten worse. Free advertising. Trump’s dream come true.

    Here’s the rub: MSNBC is as responsible as anyone for Donald Trump’s victory. The coverage of The Don was non-stop. The discussion about The Don was non-stop. When The Don held a rally, MSNBC was there more than any other network. The reason is crass-clear — MSNBC wanted the ratings.

    Had MSNBC been principled, had they truly wanted to make a unified effort to stop Trump (which would have reflected their political views, which I’m sure, each MSNBC host would tell you, are based on principle) then they would have put their coverage where their collective mouth was. They would have limited Trump coverage. They would have given their air time to Hillary and Bernie and to some of the larger political issues that this country faces. —Adam Berlin

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  • Dan

    Pamphleteer is not very flattering

    That was my impression as well when Phil and you were discussing this earlier. I’m thinking about why I had such a bad impression of the word then. Why does this sound so negative to my American ear?

    First of all, I think it’s a low frequency word (usage) on this side of the pond. And then the image of a rabble rousing, brash, kook comes to mind. But then, when Phil gave us a few names of those he would consider to be pamphleteers, I saw that these are some people that I admire. They are activists.

    So I think it’s a matter of you and I becoming accustomed to the usage of this word and nothing more.

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  • Perhaps, but isn’t a pamphleteer someone who shoves pamphlets at you – like born-again homeless people on the subway?
    Kidding, but what kind of thing is that to say about Milton, one of England’s greatest poets? Was Shakespeare a pamphleteer? All great writers are political and want to change society.
    I think Phil is being passive-aggressive. 😉
    Laurie, let me know if you agree with me that Trump is getting too much coverage on MSNBC and CNN.

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  • Re: too much coverage

    Dan, he’s the Republican nominee so I don’t expect anything different and since they guy keeps putting on daily circus with himself in the role of the carnival barker I don’t see how his media coverage would be reduced. I think Trump is the darling of the media! They must be very pleased with this bombastic oaf. He’s writing their shows for them. Those of the short attention spans must be thoroughly entertained in the past months. No need to think deeply, just listen, snort and laugh, then break into a round of USA! USA! USA!

    What did you think of his Mexico speech?

    Was Shakespeare a pamphleteer?

    I don’t know about Milton but Shakespeare had the ability to make us cry from despair and feel sublime beauty too but as you know he also wrote passages that were snarky, insulting and what we would call inappropriate today. So maybe old Will wouldn’t really mind the pamphleteer description. I think he often had an agenda that was on full display.

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  • I actually felt sorry for trump, Laurie. He wasn’t too good. (But he was kind of nice.) Outclassed by the Mexican President.

    The reporters on MSNBC and CNN are doing the public a terrible disservice. Non-stop coverage of Trump. They ask softball questions with no aggressive follow-up or criticism. And free advertising for Trump. Every politician’s dream. Rachel Maddow is gleeful and talking about Trump non-stop (and she didn’t grill Trump’s attractive campaign manager), and comparing him to Mussolini almost a year ago. Well look, you reap what you sow! O’Donnell devoted a full hour to Trump last night.

    I don’t think Maddow and O’Donnell are bad people, but the whole thing is bizarre, and confusing.

    I hope Hillary doesn’t lose.

    Here’s a Harvard study.

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  • Bonnie (46), Phil, others:

    Good post, Bonnie. I never considered that aspect of the issue. Thanks.

    Trump said, at a rally, that he thinks global warming is a hoax and then added: “I’m freezing.” And he has all these supporters! Why! Do these people ever read? Do they care about anything? Or are they just a bunch of idiots? Where are their “better angels”? It’s enough to turn a pollyanna like me into a misanthrope.

    Unlike Phil, I blame the people as much as the “psychopathic” politicians.

    My own “better angel” just reminded me that there is a lot of propaganda and poorly educated people out there (inequality); so no one and no one thing is entirely to blame.

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  • Dan

    there is a lot of propaganda and poorly educated people out there (inequality); so no one and no one thing is entirely to blame.

    That’s pretty much what I was going to remind you of; how lucky we are to have a decent education with the resources and the skills to analyse situations with skepticism and rational thinking. I actually think we are the odd ones, Dan. 😉

    Pollyanna? I can hear Phil slamming his fists down on his desk even as we speak! haha

    You know how Trump supporters often have those double names? Like Billy-Bob or Jimmy-Joe..So I now dub you Polly-Dan.

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  • Extended, cumulative dumbing down of The Masses, the total failure of mainstream media to maintain any kind of standard of public service, or sense of responsibility, turning everything into infomercials and sound-bites. Trump selling his own bottled water as a sideshow to the main sales pitch — himself for CEO of USA.

    And the lack of a credible replacement, the internet has demolished traditional journalism without replacing it with anything broadly accepted. Instead, you can find what you’re looking for, and with tailored searches, you only find what you’re looking for, less and less do you find anything else, confirmation bias confirmed.

    No gatekeepers on the rants and raves, or hardly any. Moderators, that’s all we have left. No peer-reviews as in the scientific method, who are the peers who should be reviewing? The baying rabble-rousers, drowning out the voices of Reason and Sanity: all who say “excuse me….” are shouted down by those who never do. Reasoned debate drowns in vile bullying attacks, and the bullies are officially approved, praised and promoted.

    The Emperor is buck-ass nekkid, as only an innocent child would dare to blurt, Hans Christian Andersen was spot on there. Or 2 + 2 = 5, if your job, your career, depends on you not questioning this bit of bogus arithmetic, if it comes with the seal of approval from the center of Power.

    Trained and conditioned by Hollywood blockbusters, with us-vs-them narratives, massive plot holes and inconsistencies, a total disregard for physics, and paper thin characters, the voting public gets only that kind of offering to choose from.

    Simple to bamboozle a population already conditioned to suppress questions about any form of religion, willing to embrace even the weirdest fringe cults, from the con-man inventions of LDS and Scientology thru to the vile ravings of Westboro or the deadly ones of Jones or Koresh or Manson.

    And if you dare to say too loudly that the 1% have been (sometimes, when they’re not robbing each other) colluding amongst themselves about how to take even more from the 99, then your credibility, and possibly your livelihood, are at risk. We used to shudder at the horrors of the Soviets, who put their political opponents in mental hospitals — you’d have to be crazy to question the State, well, that’s pretty much self-fulfilling, when you consider the consequences. You’d have to be very brave, or very foolish, to blow any whistles in the West now too.

    Trump is exactly what America has been heading for step by miserable step since at least the 2000 election and its hideous consequences. Perhaps since Reagan, with the US arming both sides of the Iran/Iraq war, striking a secret deal with a foreign power to swing a presidential election. Or is that not how it happened?

    Maybe with a bit of luck and a massive effort by those who can see this coming and won’t let themselves be frozen powerlessly in the headlights, USA (and the world) will dodge this particular calamity, but will it learn enough to avoid the next one?

    Sorry for the long rant. It’s been building for a while. Dan, I’m sure you understand.

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  • Dan, Laurie.

    “I am Pollyanna!” he says standing. (Well at the weekends at least). Whilst situations are multi-causal and sometimes hopelessly complex, because of how culture works and people’s lack of thought and introspection (even when educated), most often the best place to start is to tackle the quality of leaders and notice the influences upon them. We should indeed notice and talk about psychopathic tendencies of leaders and captains of industry and discuss their merits and de-merits. (In the UK the legal but heartless behaviour of Sir Philip Green brings howls of disapproval across the parties. This would not happen in the US so much because this is all within the capitalist rules.) Leaders as a breed “win”. Fairness is not their usual thang. We should notice and howl about the access Money has to power and that motor for inequality. We should notice the lack of a viable fourth estate, howlers for the people, reduced to brown nosing advertisers and paymasters…Money.

    I am Pollyanna because tackling these singular levers can make the most change most quickly. Beefing about the stupid masses may be a feelgood but its a self-indulgence and fatuous. Of course, stupid people. They voted against their own best interests. So? I think Americans with their ideal of “free men” fail to see how unfree men and women are.

    I am Pollyanna because Bernie happened. I never would have dreamed…

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  • LaurieB #48
    Aug 31, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    You know how Trump supporters often have those double names? Like Billy-Bob or Jimmy-Joe.

    . . . . and leading the imprinted bunch . . . . . the quackers – Donald Duck-egg?

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  • Pamphleteer. Wiki it. Very much an Enlightenment phenomenon.

    Political and social activism using published rhetoric.

    O’Hooligan #49


    Bleating about the sheep is to be one. Focus of the shepherd/wolf.

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  • Drumpf seems to be doing a good job of making sure he loses the election so to be honest I’m not too worried about him these days. The website has Clinton on 303 votes, Drumpf on 191 and 44 ties at the moment. For those who aren’t familiar with it it’s a site I’ve been following since the 2004 election. It’s run by an American ex-pat living in Holland and every day there’s a summary and commentary on the election news which is excellent and he counts every reputable pollster’s results state by state to estimate the election result. Well worth reading every day.

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  • It’s enough to turn a pollyanna like me into a misanthrope.

    You see this site has educated me (Again) I had to look up “what is a pollyanna” , I did vaguely remember that it was the title of a book – presumably about a little girl. I clearly haven’t read the novel. But the internet instantly provided the necessary information.
    “Phew” – I thought, and got the images of Dan as Grayson Perry out of my mind.
    Trump won’t win.
    But his Toupee might!

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  • The terms, “pathological liar and fantasist”, come to mind!

    US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has insisted Mexico will pay for a border wall “100%”, in a major immigration speech.
    He told a cheering crowd in Arizona that he would secure the border, and left open the possibility that millions of illegal immigrants be deported.

    Hours earlier, he met Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto but said they had not discussed financing the wall.

    The president later insisted he had told Mr Trump Mexico would not pay.

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  • M27Holts

    this site has educated me (Again)

    Join the club. At least I know who Pollyanna is. I read the book as a child. I thought she was a sap at the time.

    I have now looked up pamphleteer having been off the mark on that definition and I have just looked up Grayson Perry, having never heard of the guy. I don’t get the connection between Dan and Grayson Perry but it doesn’t matter. Plenty of things I just don’t get and probably never will.

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  • Phil, others

    “I am Pollyanna because Bernie happened. I never would have dreamed…”

    Where is he now? If he had any interest in preventing a national disaster, he’d be out giving speeches and on TV and doing everything he can to get the young ambivalent, insipid, unencumbered, independents who aren’t voting to support our perfectly able and qualified nominee. What’s Bernie doing now?

    Revolution! There is no revolution. He’s a good man, but he’s a pretentious pamphleteer. Revolutionary leaders don’t run for president. I never felt the burn.


    aka Mensa-thrope (Bonnie’s epithet)

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    Consumate politicking. Perfect timing.

    No stealing her limelight whilst folk got the hang of the two horse race and he didn’t feed those loons doing the no Bernie, then Trump switch…

    No revolutions needed, just the start of better policies on funding of and purchased access to politicians. Some better support for fourth estate activities with stricter monopolies control. I’m not an ideologist.

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  • Devil’s Advocate > Frau “Frump”.

    -swoon- I love women in hats.

    –uh, I mean, uh, while it’s true that analyzing personalities is difficult work even face to face, it’s not unheard of for experts to offer opinions from afar. If engineers can guesstimate in their field, then why not psychoanalyst in theirs? So long as they have the relevant experience I’m okay with best guesses provided they do it with a bit of humility.

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  • Hi Dan [#59],

    Phil: ” … Bernie happened. I never would have dreamed…”

    Where is he now? If he had any interest in preventing a national disaster, he’d be out giving speeches and on TV …

    Whoa there Tiger!

    In the Presidential race the candidates need to be allowed to stand alone – just as they would as president – to allow the electorate to see them as figureheads as much as leaders. That’s the American way – right or wrong.

    Having lost his party’s nomination Bernie is merely doing the decent thing at this point in the election cycle.

    … [is Bernie] doing everything he can to get the young ambivalent, insipid, unencumbered, independents who aren’t voting to support our perfectly able and qualified nominee.

    I don’t know. You’re much closer to the action then Phil and me – that’s a question we should be asking you!

    On a more co-operative note, I hope that’s what the Clinton campaign are doing: aligning Bernie to the disaffected youth vote in order to get them to the polls. He clearly has great talent in that direction. There”s also an urgent need to get the Bernie or bust crowd to understand that on polling day, power is about compromise. Because the real choice will be between some influence and no influence.

    Let’s be clear: No political influence translates – directly – to: Negative government policies.

    There are reasons to think that Bernie is fully in the Clinton campaign – not least his long negotiations before backing Hilary. Democracy is about horse-trading and deals in back rooms just as much as it’s about railing on the stump.

    What’s Bernie doing now?

    One word: Google.

    I never felt the burn.

    I have no words …


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  • I guess it’s “fair” because Trump is a candidate and a public figure. But it’s stupid and ineffecrive, because who cares? Trump opponents. Trump supporters expect him to be attacked. He’s already been called every name and epithet in the book.

    Besides, assume Trump is a psychopath/megalomaniac/etc – who’s empowered to get the butterfly net?

    I was far more scared of Cruz than Trump. I think HRC will crush Trump. But the next guy will try to be Trump without the tweets.

    And I agree that Bernie should be actively campaigning for HRC. The Bernie Bros and their ilk who claim they’ll vote for Trump or sit it out are far worse than Trump supporters.

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  • What bothers me about it is how plain it always is. It’s always perfectly ordinary. What’s the point of a long winded analysis that concludes in agreement with what everybody and their dog already knows? It makes me suspect that what we’ve got isn’t so much an accurate and insightful analysis, as a bunch of bias.

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  • Mutually Assured Destruction. For most of the last half century this policy is all that’s stood between us and nuclear annihilation. I have not, yet, been burnt to a cinder, and I’m here to write this post, because of MAD. But MAD only works when sane people are at the controls. In 1980 we elected Ronald Reagan and put the lunatics in charge of the asylum. Somehow we got through it. I fear that with Trump we may not be so lucky.

    All of his other, considerable, flaws pale in comparison to his issues of stability and temperament. His policies in immigration, on trade, on taxes, on the economy? Bad, bad, bad. But the nation will recover and move on. A nuclear war would send us back to the stone age, or at the very least the 14th century, so this is a really big deal for me. So far the polls seem to favour Hillary but I won’t be able to sleep peacefully until after I see this nutcase lose in November and return to reality TV where he belongs.

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  • Dan,
    Perhaps I am not writing clearly or the point has just not been scrutinized. In no way are the two candidates symmetric in their platforms or promises. Hillary’s campaign is much much more like something I’d get behind. I do not think lowly of the promises she’s made. I think lowly of her as a human being. As a person. She would not be welcome in my house or life. She is a lying shitball just like the bigoted piece of garbage across the aisle.

    I would support her platform over his no matter who pitched them (the old cult of personality song pops into mind). But she will not deliver on most of the things she has promised. And, hear this loud and clear, she is no different from the majority of these politicians who sincerely are not living in the same world as me. I do not “like” any of them. But that does not mean that I cannot discern differences in their messages, demeanor, and “electability”. They are not nice people. they are not good people. They are not public servants. I have had enough of these bullies and megalomaniacs spewing out lie after lie after lie.

    Mind you, the frustration indeed stems from living in a society where the reader is chastised for not fact checking the stories that REPORTERS deliver.

    And @ Phil
    I never said that murders and rapes were increasing. I said they are common. I am not sure where you draw the line for something to be common, but here in the US, we have

    (from the FBI)
    Here are some highlights from Crime in the United States, 2014:
    There were an estimated 1,165,383 violent crimes (murder and non-negligent homicides, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults) reported by law enforcement.

    That’s 3000+ murders, rapes, and aggravated assaults a DAY. I’d say that that is common. you?

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  • Stephen:

    I felt “the bern”, agreed with everything Bernie said, and was inspired by him. But I did not think that he would be able to make the changes he said he wanted to make. I don’t really know why. An instinct. Maybe it’s his holier-than-thou-outsider persona, his save-the-day attitude. He’s an orator.

    Phil, Stephen

    I stand corrected. I should have googled Bernie campaigns for Hillary. Sorry.

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  • Crooked,

    I never said that murders and rapes were increasing.


    Rape is COMMON. Murder is COMMON. It has spiraled into an untenable top heavy teetering skyscraper that can only collapse under it’s own weight.

    spiraled down or spiraled up? This can only be taken as up …

    so, in fact, down.

    As we have discussed here recently. It is the religious right who sell us the fact that we are going to hell in a handcart. We should be the ones telling it like it is.

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  • 70
    Pinball1970 says:

    I think it’s fair to analyse trump it’s a question of whether anyone would risk and get sued as per the OP
    It’s also a question of whether it’s accurate or not, we don’t really know the guy and what makes him tick from a few speeches and looking at his business history.

    @Dan (from a previous post)

    I don’t think there is any big mystery on why he is popular, most people are simple minded and selfish.
    We want simple things, jobs, a stable mortgage, a stable economy and we want money back on investments including what stick in the exchequers pot as tax.
    People see immigration as someone taking from the pot and not giving much in return, he has adopted and fostered that view, with anyone un-American.
    Throw in a few crimes stats and you have a simple argument for simple people.
    “They are stealing from you let’s chuck anyone out who is here illegally.”
    We have evolved to be suspicious, insular, fearful and aggressive towards outsiders and we not that far out of the trees in that respect.
    I have concerns about immigration, crime and Islamisation but oversees development, secularism and education does not carry the same punch as, “lets build a wall”

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  • Laurie B # 57

    I have just looked up Grayson Perry, having never heard of the guy. I don’t get the connection between Dan and Grayson Perry

    Pollyanna = Fictional little girl.
    Little girls stereo-typically wear frilly dresses.
    Dan = Pollyanna
    Grayson Perry = Transvestite Potter who wears frilly dresses.
    Ergo, Dan in Frilly Dress as Pollyanna looks similar to Grayson Perry in my mind’s eye.


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  • Sorry Phil,

    This is an example of poor writing. The thing that is top heavy and spiraling out of control is our country because of the list of things that precede the statement. NOT murder and rape spiraling upward but rather America in our death spiral because of the shit politics, endless violent news cycle, the frequent violence, the lack of manners, civility, and religion being a cess pool. And, hell is not a construct that I subscribe to, so the religious can sell the “going to hell in a handcart” line of thought all day and it will never influence me one iota. So America going to hell?? Huh, what is hell…. But, America losing status and power and traction in the global scheme of things? well….

    And so, I do not think i am falling victim to the over reporting and the heavy handedness of the religious and the media since i am outside of both of those things. I did state that my everyday life has not changed all that much etc… but, I cannot help but think that we are watching the end of the era of US dominance. If you look up “fall of the roman empire” you will read some parallels that exist between the decades (even centuries) of roman decline and the situation at hand.

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  • Thanks, Crooked.

    I got the wrong end of the stick. Sorry ’bout that.

    Falling from top dog position is a chastening experience. The UK did that a hundred years ago and I think improved immeasurably as a culture. Victorian England was a moral nadir in my estimation.

    My son, just a few years ago, wrote on his personal statement to get into university why he wanted to study literature and social history and noted that “the USA manufactured narratives on an industrial scale. It both makes them and is made by them.”

    The key made up story the USA tells itself is that its wealth is the result of enterprising individuals left to do, what a man (sic) has gotta do. Never is it told that much of the inevitable success came from a near virgin continent, ravished in the usual way. Losing its self image might be the best thing for all. Narratives of failure contain the roots of resilience and realism.

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  • 75 – But, America losing status and power and traction in the global scheme of things? well….

    It’s magical thinking to believe that the American Dynasty (what Gore Vidal referred to as Imperial America) will be everlasting. This seems very obvious. What’s not as obvious is when and how this dynasty will end. I think we’re clued in to the when part as it’s certainly already begun. So I wholly agree with crooked’s last paragraph. Both the aspect of life not changing all that much, and the certainty that this is the beginning of the end of American global dominance. How long will this process take? Who knows?

    During this election, as usual, there is much talk of ‘patriotism’ and what it means to be a patriot. I have personally always felt that overt appeals to what is considered patriotism – flying the flag at your home at all times, bumper stickers declaring our country as “number one”, whatever that means, flying mini flags on your car, etc, is really nothing to be so proud of (try to imagine a country where everyone, in the name of patriotism, did all these things; it would be ridiculous). For a patriot, who by definition is a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors, to me, is one who is inclined to violence at the slightest provocation. Why do I say slightest? Because to my knowledge we haven’t defined degrees of provocation in the context of an individual, who in the act of being “patriotic”, feels it’s their duty to defend their country against enemies or detractors however they choose to define them. I am open to hearing a convincing lesson here from someone who feels they are a patriot based on the actual definition of the word. In the States there is also a current controversy over a prominent athlete who is refusing to stand during the pre game performance of the Star Spangled Banner. Clearly he is well within his rights, but it’s caused a firestorm in the States where the slippery word ‘patriotism’, which by definition is “is an emotional attachment to a nation” is defined individually much differently by many individuals.

    I personally prefer the word ‘liberty’. The great jurist Learned Hand defined it thusly (my emphasis below):

    “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it […] The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interest alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded.”

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  • Re: Trump/Vote from (#72)/reference to Hillary

    Trump should be stopped now,ousted. Enough of the bullshit. He is a nationalist (See speech to American Legion), a liar, is incompetent, is surrounding himself with bigots (is himself a bigot I’m sure), surrounding himself with vile yet clever white nationalist scum from the far right, is a fraudster, huckster, egomaniac. Nativism has returned. Nativism, at times of stress, always to be expected.

    Obama deported record numbers of people, by the way. But Illegal immigration is a problem and some of Trump’s ideas are sensible; but that isn’t the point. He is doing exactly what other dictators have done: fear mongering, scapegoating always effective with the masses of angry, stupid, narrow-minded, cap wearing, flag waving, USA-shouting trailer-trash. (Education is what we need. We must end stupidity, which is a choice. I honestly believe that. We are not all gifted or geniuses; but stupidity is a choice. We can’t afford to let people make that choice. They need our help.)

    A lot of opinions on these Votes from Abroad pages, although most seemed reasonable. I didn’t like the comment about Kaine’s wife “making” Hillary’s image. So she talks about her being a grandmother. So what? She is a proud grandmother. Why is that a way of softening her image? It doesn’t need softening. That’s cynical. She’s a nice, caring person, from everything I have heard. She’s a highly capable person. The hatred and distrust out there is moronic and savage. Even that little dig about Kaine’s wife being there to “create the image” of a decent and likable person is unfair. Sexism.

    Go to any YouTube video about Hillary or any article about this election. The vitriol, the hatred, of Hillary is intense, offensive and disturbing. I don’t believe any of the attacks. Her enemies have no credibility at this point, and all the angry nobodies who delight in writing such things, are betraying their own pathology.

    I’m sick of the hatred of Hilary, the distrust. Say what you disagree with her about or what specific lie she has told – and provide proof; don’t just dehumanize and vilify her. Get some help instead.

    And what is this here from one of our own regulars? I don’t get it and it offends me. (#66)

    “She is a lying shitball just like the bigoted piece of garbage across the aisle.”

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  • No expense spared to “investigate” Bill for some minor personal misbehaviour.

    No expense at all for investigating the crime of the century (21st), just an underfunded whitewash. No demotions, no disciplinary action against the incompetence required to explain that event, perhaps because the incompetence ran all the way to the top. Similarly, Katrina, how much effort went into investigating critical failings in FEMA and other agencies and taking to task those responsible?

    And the rest of it, Benghazi, emails, property deals, investigated investigated investigated….

    A bit of investigation is a good thing, but politically driven desperate attempts to discredit…. one very black dirty old republican pot calling out an almost new democratic electric kettle.

    And all along the way, the media reports each little bit in isolation, never joins the big-picture dots, keeps a straight face as if it’s actually reporting real events, not party-political machinations.

    Anyone else sick of this?

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  • OHooligan,

    I wouldn’t call MSNBC right or far-right. But they are covering Trump non-stop, and they are so damned passive when interviewing Trump supporters. I don’t quite understand that. It’s insidious.

    President Obama put it well, although I don’t think it’s just about ratings.

    “The reporters are caving to economic pressures.

    “A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone. It’s to probe and question and to dig deeper and to demand more. The electorate would be better served if that happened.

    “There is enormous pressure on journalists to fill the void and feed the beast with instant commentary, and Twitter rumors, and celebrity gossip and softer stories.”

    Look at this. Trump has thugs working for him. This is his latest hire.

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  • OHooligan, Phil

    P.S. Even the author of this piece is sort of anti Hillary. It’s awful. The article is ambiguous – neither for nor against this dirt bag.

    I am beginning to think that most of the country is just plain sick and in some kind of regressive mode, and that people secretly want fascism. Trump is Big Daddy. That impulse combined with greed and bigotry and nationalism equals possible disaster.

    I do not think we can survive a Trump administration. America is volcanic. There will be civil uprisings and then fascism.

    I have never been this pessimistic ever. Phil, Pinker is wrong. We may be entering into a truly nightmarish period in American life. Maybe less violent too, after Trump establishes law and order with an iron heel. Shame on you, Pinker, for your worthless statistics and your absolutely unwarranted optimism. We might get past this and we might not. If we don’t Pinker will smile till the bitter end. I abhor optimism, but will hope for the best. (There’s a difference; optimism implies knowing what cannot be known and predicting what we cannot control.)

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  • The problem in America since the rise of the religious right in the 80s courtesy of Jerry Falwell et al is that there is no longer one America but two and the gulf between them, and the hatred that has created it, is of a sort that you only tend to see when religion poisons everything. Catholic v Protestant in Ireland, Sunni v Shiite. It’s explored here.

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  • OHooligan #83
    Sep 2, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    Similarly, Katrina, how much effort went into investigating critical failings in FEMA and other agencies and taking to task those responsible?

    Or perhaps more to the point, why those failings were on-going when the National Geographic had published detailed warnings MONTHS before the disaster happened! Here is their article:

    But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

    The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

    Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

    When did this calamity happen? It hasn’t—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

    The National Geographic was wrong about “thousands drowning”, and even they were not aware of the shoddy nature of the so-called flood defences which failed under much less stress than they predicted, but they were spot on about the depth of the water, the extent of the flooding and the unpreparedness of the administration!

    However, Republican priorities were met to some extent. – Armed police were preventing “low-class” people from New Orleans escaping across the Mississippi Bridge into posh suburbs!

    The military was also sent in to “protect property”, and to shoot looters!

    Fortunately they failed to shoot the band led by a doctor who was raiding shops for the bottled water and medicines which the administration had failed to supply to the evacuation centres.
    They did however manage to shoot one of the contractors men who was carrying materials to make repairs!

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  • Dan

    Pinker is wrong.

    This is climate denial when the local weather is pants.

    Your parochial problems may indeed lead to a generation of grief and downturn. Investment will flee. The Pacific rim will flourish lifting much around with less risk of colonial meddling.

    For myself I see in the US that this is a feverish storm that will break just as soon as ordinary, clever, rich Americans get a better glimpse of their selfish selves and the fantasy of omni-competent individuals; that all anyone has to do is have faith in themselves and what they want; that all they have to do is think everyone is perfectly well until they get sick, when doctors will make them well again; that people are blank sheets with no genetic, epigenetic and early cultural hard wiring; that negative re-inforcement is more satifactory than positive.

    Understanding that we are a raggle-taggle mob all with some defecit or other, needing support and tolerance and that this very variety creates strong, problem solving societies, is within the American grasp, but for those tragic shiny narratives that seem religious in their perfection.

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  • Dan

    Optimism or pessimism as a personallity attribute may be seen as something of a sub-conscious survival strategy.

    “Given the facts, I am optimistic/pessimistic.”

    is, however a reasonable statement whatever.

    On this issue it also depends on your perspective. A historical analysis would demand a historical perspective. Your personal and immediate survival is not addresed by such and your coping mechanisms are your own.

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  • 92
    Pinball1970 says:

    @76 Bonnie
    Thats really sad Bonnie!
    I have read a fair bit out her but nothing like that.
    All those injuries including the first rib which according the piece is a good indicator the trauma was severe. She fell from a considerable height. Sounded like a RTA listing all those fractures.
    I like to think of her lying down on some shaded part of the savannah somewhere three million years ago, old, tired and read to leave us her legacy.
    Now we have trump, with his ultimate selfish genes, no bananas for anyone outside the tribe!
    He has had his 15 minutes, Hillary will win no problem.

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  • Dan,
    I will cast my vote and Hillary will get it. I like some of the things she has said and sincerely hope she sticks to and sees through some of the excellent ideas she has (especially the solar initiative). I just do not support any politician in any way and she has plenty of things for me to be leery of. In reading your stuff i see that you seem to think highly of her and I just don’t.

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  • Phil,

    “Given the facts, I am optimistic/pessimistic…

    Is a reasonable statement.” I agree.

    That is why I distinguish between philosophical pessimism and this use (above) of the word.

    As a personality trait or tool, optimism is not objectionable to me either (glass half full, we’ll get through this, etc.).

    Philosophical pessimism I would describe as a principle, based on nothing but false premises, that the world is a good place and that we are moving inexorably toward something better, being guided by something, toward something final – an end of some kind. That’s Hegelian-like charlatanism dressed up as pseudo science. There is no end, are no guarantees, and the world is what we make of it in each given epoch…

    The fact of evolution is irrelevant in this context and proves nothing.

    “Climate denial when the weather is…”

    Not at all. There is no evidence to affirm or deny. Is Pinker saying that we must necessarily get better? And what does “better” mean? I am not saying that we must necessarily get worse. . Pessimism is like atheism: the onus is on others to prove that optimism as a principle can be defended by reasoned argument or evidence. First it must be defined. You will see that such an attempt in itself is absurd.

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  • 93

    Thanks, C,

    I know what you mean about politicians, but some, as you know, are still better than others. Perhaps with comprehensive campaign finance reform, we can all regain some of the trust that has been lost. That won’t be easy (reform or the regaining of trust).

    [Comment 195 was copied and pasted onto Pinker thread, where it fits better. I forgot to delete it, however.]

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  • Dan

    Is Pinker saying that we must necessarily get better?

    You don’t know?!!! You’ve been shooting your mouth off about this all this time? “His theory of optimism” or whatever bunk it was?

    Strawmanning like a good ‘un. I have disconnected your coupling of Pinker to the parochial ideological travails of the USA. I suggest you do too.

    If you define your parameters (violent death, say, along with the presumption that less is generally better) you can then say if things have got better or worse. The end.

    Yours is climate denial in the face of specific facts, that are not yours to dispute unless you have specific new facts to point us at. Strawmanning Pinker into effectively having promised a nicer America is contemptible. His findings demand some explanatory hypotheses and he offers some, but these are might bes, no necessarilly about it.

    What it does mean though is that you cannot be manipulated by false moral panics about violent death. The very end.

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  • Dan,
    I see that you are approaching the future of politics as an optimist. Good! We need more optimists and I hope you are right. I’d like to see a few things occur. Politicians should not be permitted to load up a “war chest” of money, rather, they should have limits on their spending and any surplus should revert into the public coffers and offset some of the taxes we are saddled with. If we then tax the fucking churches, we could literally see the middle class getting the break that we need.

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  • Phil,

    I said to forget about Pinker on the other thread, where I re-posted and edited, and had intended this comment to be read. So without the reference to Pinker, what did I say that was objectionable?

    My point is pretty basic. Not only is there no basis for optimism (in the philosophic sense); it isn’t even possible to establish a plausible theory of optimism or to even define the concept of optimism without sounding absurd.
    “Better” is a superficial concept. Yes, “better” is important and better than worse, but it is, finally, a superficial concept. I am not interested in the surface. Things will get better and then worse and then better…

    (Less violent death is generally to be preferred to more. But you can have a society with zero violence that is a hundred times worse than a society with many violent deaths. And vice-versa. Pinker is an ass.)

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  • Pinker is an ass

    Sorry about that. I take that back. But fewer deaths or better health or a better standard of living—All those things are good; but are we here to enjoy health or to enjoy a better standard of living or not to die a violent death? Is that why we live? Or could it be that there is no purpose? And suffering cannot be avoided. Moreover, the more we enjoy life, the more we must revolt against the cruelty of having been allotted such a short span of time by nature, and look upon death with horror; death: life’s final and inevitable end-point. Aristotle said something similar.

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  • “Better” is superficial.


    Things will get better and then worse and then better.

    We are never made sustainably happy. We are not built for heaven. Its not how our aesthetics work. Read the Solzhenitsyn. Our joy and sorrow expand or reduce to fit the circumstance. The closest to heaven is a slow incremental betterment.

    Or could it be that there is no purpose? And suffering cannot be avoided.

    We make purpose where and when we can. Besides, happiness paints white. Suffering may be essential. (Don’t admit this in front of Christians.) I predict increases in extreme sports. Besides kids today, as Swedish doctors note, appear to be suffering a dearth of suffering.

    Moreover, the more we enjoy life, the more we must revolt against the cruelty of having been allotted such a short span of time by nature, and look upon death with horror; death: life’s final and inevitable end-point.

    Nonesense. Dying makes everything, including happiness, adventure and poetry valuable or even possible. Sweeping away the brains that have lost their plasticity for culture or limbs that no longer meet nature’s new challenges for evolution MUST happen if we were not to remain pond scum. We look back and they, the dead, all gift us the best seat in the house so far. Well, except for Eeyores.

    Freedom evolves. We have more and better choices now than ever before to author our lives for better and for worse. Adventuring is the extreme sport that keeps on giving. Love too will keep breaking hearts. Suffering need not be in short supply.

    But you, Dan, you desperately need religion, mate.

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  • @OP – In the midst of a deeply divisive presidential campaign, more than 1,000 psychiatrists declared the Republican candidate unfit for the office, citing severe personality defects, including paranoia, a grandiose manner and a Godlike self-image.

    What is needed is what some psychiatrists have done and what some posters here have done – That is to cut away his campaign’s superficial bluster, and look at Trump’s history in business, attitudes, relationships, and delusional self image. – Admittedly grim reading!

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  • Phil

    Can you or someone tell me why MSNBC and CNN are not covering Hillary’s rallies? Right now she is speaking in Tampa and the führer is speaking about the military. Just like yesterday, Clinton’s rally is being eclipsed. Could it be that the corporate owned press supports Trump?

    I have no more respect for MSNBC. None.

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  • Phil,

    Right after I posted, they did switch and covered a lot of Clinton’s speech. But in general, Trump is getting way too much coverage. Hillary spoke about gun control and global warming and made some good points about her opponent.

    (Sorry if my comments about Pinker angered you. I have some work to, don’t want to be part of the problem.)

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  • Dan

    Sorry if my comments about Pinker angered you.

    Thats not it. I am blithe about others having different views or feelings or aesthetics. Variety is our strength. Its that you are so prepared to give vent to such extensive opinion on the ostensible basis of so little fact. You don’t read and try to fully understand the other position before engaging. Such enthusiasm for your own conformation bias is dispiriting.

    John Gray is the informed exponent of your position (especially in Straw Dogs, my copy metaphorically battered by being so often thrown around the room). I have read all about it, his sources, his supporters his denigrators. (My son is reading it at the moment. The debates are long and detailed.)

    Only in such knowing can you decently give this or that opinion in a way that isn’t preceded by “possibly” “I worry that” …

    This is a site for science and reason. I am always aware that it needs to put on an intelligent show for adolescents and young adults passing through. I’d love it to have proper high level and decently informed debates more of the time. Between us I hope we have helped more people have a fuller and more varied idea of what philosophy can be.

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  • Hi, Phil,

    A fair criticism. I have not read Pinker and I have not read Gray. (And, from what you describe, Gray would be right up my alley!) I have expressed prejudicial, negative opinions of several other authors that you had recommended. This is wrong, not productive, a weakness that I must overcome.

    I will read Gray.

    I would like to remind you that I too have encountered massive prejudice from other members of this site. Ironically, it is, or appears to be, mostly from the most scientifically oriented members. Even you, for example, refused to take a fresh look at the Transcendental Aesthetic, the foundation-stone of Kant’s thing-in-itself, and refused to acknowledge that your understanding of critical (true) idealism is adequate, or equal to my own.

    I look forward to many more rich interactions with you down the road.

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  • Phil,

    and refused to acknowledge that your understanding of critical (true) idealism is adequate, or equal to my own.

    Freudian slip? I unwittingly paid you a compliment by (accidentally) alluding to your modesty.

    Corrected sentence:

    and refused to acknowledge that your understanding of critical (true) idealism is INadequate, NOT equal to my own.

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  • There is clear evidence that Trump is a world military disaster waiting to happen if he is elected.
    American public services will be further sacrificed and more public debts accrued (in addition to Bush’s $6 trillion) in support of reckless military aggression.

    Donald Trump has said he will expand all areas of the US military if he wins the presidency in November.

    The Republican candidate said he wanted more soldiers and marines, more planes and more boats.

    He also said he would come up with a plan to destroy Islamic State (IS) in his first 30 days in the White House.

    He said his plan would be paid for by cutting government waste, collecting uncollected taxes and slimming down the federal workforce.

    In a speech in Philadelphia, he also said he wanted “peace through strength” and for all America’s Nato allies to meet their obligations to spend 2% of national income on defence.

    “I am proposing a new foreign policy focused on advancing America’s core national interests, promoting regional stability, and producing an easing of tensions in the world. This will require rethinking the failed policies,” he said.

    He added: “Our adversaries are chomping at the bit.”

    Earlier this week, Mr Trump was endorsed by 88 former military leaders in an open letter.

    The group of retired generals and admirals declared the Republican nominee “has the temperament to be commander-in-chief”.

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  • Isn’t Dunning Kruger confidence a wonderful form of self-delusion!

    Trump will produce THE ANSWER to fighting ISIS in 30 days!!!

    Donald Trump has said he will expand all areas of the US military if he wins the presidency in November.

    The Republican candidate said he wanted more soldiers and marines, more planes and more boats.

    He also said he would come up with a plan to destroy Islamic State (IS) in his first 30 days in the White House.

    Mr Trump, who has not served in the military, also created a stir last month when he accepted a veteran’s gift of a Purple Heart.

    “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart,” he said of the medal, which is awarded to soldiers wounded in war. “This was much easier.”

    Also on Tuesday, Mrs Clinton released a campaign ad featuring veterans who are critical of Mr Trump.

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  • Dan

    I tried bargaining over getting you to read more than the twenty five percent of the universe of ideas. I failed. You seemed not to notice the suggestion of a quid pro quo.

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  • Seconding Phil. Hey Dan, I read a bit of Schoppingfellow. (BTW I liked what I read, might do more sometime.)

    Now, you go read some science. Any of Phil’s recommendations. I’d suggest Feynmann and Dawkins.

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  • Schopenhauer is hugely quotable and has many great insights.

    However, this,

    It is a clear gain to sacrifice pleasure in order to avoid pain.

    makes me suspect I am a masochist; that, or that this is a mark of cowardice in the face of life.

    In truth it is probably just the varieties of our temperament and the solipsism that we are all heir to,

    Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.

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  • It is a clear gain to sacrifice pleasure in order to avoid pain.

    As opposed to: “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”.

    (Approximately, from memory).

    Personally I recommend the 2nd quote over the first any day.

    Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world

    Perfect. A timely reminder to us all. And still true after all these years, no matter what else we’ve learned.

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  • Phil, OHooligan—

    “It is a clear gain to sacrifice pleasure in order to avoid pain.”

    Better to read him than quote him.

    The quote on top about sacrificing pain is not familiar to me; I don’t recall reading it; I assume Schopenhauer means, by “sacrificing pleasure” to avoid pain, that it is a gain to sacrifice pleasure when the pleasure is the cause of the pain. A perfect example would be the pleasure of alcohol. How many times, during a painful hangover, have we all said: I wish I had stopped?

    Plato also said that excessive sexual pleasure or gratification often “unsettles the mind no less than physical pain.” (Republic)

    The quote is not for the masochistic; neither is it for the coward; sacrificing pain in favor of pleasure is not cowardice per se, and is not what he is advising either. It is a basic maxim, ages old: practice moderation, if you can; the pleasure you sacrifice will help you avoid greater pain.

    As for the Stoic principle of reducing expectation in order to avoid pain, that has its pros and cons – and I am sure he was aware of them. (His Counsels and Maxims are not rules of conduct, and should not and cannot be followed blindly or indiscriminately.)

    I love Dawkins. Superb writer. I’ve read some Dawkins. I look forward to reading The Extended Phenotype and the others. I also have heard that Feynmann is a very good science writer. Dawkins and Feynmann. Good suggestions.

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  • Read Dawkins. Do so very much. I have all twelve of his books, in a somewhat curious German / English mix.
    What was available in German, I bought in German.
    “River Out Of Eden”, “A Devil’s Chaplain” and “The Magic Of Reality” (yes, his children’s book!) I have in English only.
    “The Extended Phenotype” first in English, then (apparently some German publisher took up the challenge in the German 30th anniversary edition of “The Selfish Gene”) in a hardcover German version. Still a somewhat tough read.
    If I say twelve, it is because the two English volumes of Dawkins’ autobiography “An Appetite for Wonder” © 2013 and “Brief Candle in the Dark” © 2016 were published in a single 700 plus page volume in the © 2016 German translation. And “Richard Dawkins: How A Scientist Changed The Way We Think” © 2006, edited by Alan Grafen and Mark Ridley is also eminently readable. For diverse reasons, I have re-read most (all?) of my Dawkins books, all of my Douglas Adams books, and a bit (including The Lord of the Rings) of my J.R.R. Tolkien books. And some of the year 200x books rightly bashing Dubya. Dubya. I was certain it couldn’t get any worse …

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  • Dan

    it is a gain to sacrifice pleasure when the pleasure is the cause of the pain.

    This changes nothing. OHool’s riposte still applies.

    It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

    Hangovers? Schopenhauer may be a proficient cynic but he is not the giver of fatuous health and lifestyle advice.

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  • Chaps

    For Dan

    as a move on from Dawkins whom I think Dan will grok readily, I propose Neil Shubin, “Your Inner Fish.” For me this gives a feel for how evolution really works and is a bodger from immediately available genetic materials. I thought it also a splendid account of how science actually works, from the discoverer (almost by the power of thought) of the most important “missing link” to date.

    Rather than physics, which abstract stuff will not challenge Dan particularly (I think he will accept all that is offered), I propose, neuro-psychology. And though decades old, I propose, to start, Antonio Damasio, Descartes Error, The Feeling of What Happens, or Looking for Spinoza. These syntheses of neurological considerations and philosophy come closest to helping one understand how feelings happen, how purpose can emerge from the proto-purpose of homeostasis. His proposed refined uses of the terms emotion and feeling are precious to me in understanding myself.

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  • Re: #118

    Hi, brother,

    Well, if Schopenhauer was advocating “never having loved” then I disagree. But I don’t think his quote has anything to do with that, as I indicated. Straw-man! You, Phil, have a problem: you have to be right too much of the time. (Honesty.) We are quite similar.

    S was not a cynic.

    You know as much about S as I do about Pinker.

    I love Dawkins. The only reason I haven’t yet finished all of his books is because I fear being finished with them. (When I had finished the Dickens canon I felt a sense of real woe. Same feeling when I finished Dostoyevsky’s and Mailer’s and Rex Stout’s and Asimov’s novels. Many, many others too. I devour the books and then feel bad when there’s no more to read. But…better to have read all of an author’s books, and have no more left, than never having read at all.)



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  • To my friends OHoo and Phil:

    Again, sacrifice of an unwholesome pleasure to avoid a greater pain, pain that is caused by the pleasure, is a gain.

    “No pain no gain” is true and completely irrelevant. So is the “love” thing.

    Unbelievable. Such stubbornness.

    Philosophy envy?

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  • Dan,

    I read most of the big S pieces in the mid seventies along with much classic philosophy. Modern philosophers came quite a bit later (didn’t realise their value). Topped up a little recently to debate you, though felt mostly confirmed.

    Play the ball not the man, Dan. I thrill to be wrong. Make me happy. I can sure take the pain.

    Unwholesome pleasure? What kind of aphorism comes with such small print? Love’s loss causes pain. We are not built for heaven, Dan. No pleasures sustain. But satisfactions, feelings endure rather more than their seeding emotions and memories sweeten. What is S expecting? His world of experience seems impoverished to me.

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  • Phil (123), others—

    Your interpretation of this simple maxim is, in my opinion, off-base.

    Avoid pleasures that cause pain. I interpret that as a simple admonition, expressed throughout the ages, to either exercise self restraint or accept the consequences of one’s excessive indulgence in certain pleasures.

    This has nothing to do with “Love and loss.”

    S did not think too highly of existence and regarded love as a mask for the will to procreate and continue the species. Would Darwin have thought otherwise? S was never married and fell madly love with a young woman toward the end of his life. He offered her grapes on a boat and she threw them in the water. We all need love. Even Schopenhauer. We all try and fail, and experience the pain of lost love. His criticism of romantic love was theoretical. Theory and practice are often at odds with each other. He would not have advised anyone not to pursue his beloved at the risk of failure and pain. (He might have advised them to read his own works, however.) But a defense of such continuous amorous pursuits as worthwhile (leading to some ultimate end), the implicit affirmation of the will-to-live the species, which such a defense would imply, would not have been consistent with his philosophy, with his doctrine of the denial of the will to live.

    I (as a hopeless romantic) don’t agree with this entirely, but it has merit:

    “Every kind of love, however ethereal it may seem to be, springs entirely from the instinct of sex; indeed, it is absolutely this instinct, only in a more definite, specialised, and perhaps, strictly speaking, more individualised form.” —S.

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  • …while (leading to some ultimate end), the implicit affirmation of the will-to-live the species, which such a defense would imply…

    Corrected sentence:

    while (leading to some ultimate end), the implicit affirmation of the collective will-to-live of the species, which such a defense would imply…

    Phil, Alan, others:

    Re: diagnosing Trump from afar.

    Howard Dean hit the nail on the head yesterday: “At this point I have to say that Trump is just a crackpot.”

    Phil, loyalty! All these Republicans are supporting Trump! There is more than one explanation for this, but Loyalty (Haidt) is a large factor. Is there any evidence to support an evolutionary biological component to such loyalty? Does it harken back to the days of early tribal man? Is this vestigial yet still powerful will-to-Loyalty lodged in the brain somewhere, as an unconscious, inherited phylogenetic trait run amok, and operating, and acting upon these loyalists, with a life of its own and independently of reason?

    (There is too much loyalty on the left as well. Jill Stein’s groupist, anti-pragmatic supporters are “loyal” too.)

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  • Dan, I think you are trivialising S’s claim here. He simply wishes to prioritise pain (assert its primacy) over pleasure. That is his schtick. This is still a hugely impoverished idea, neglecting that the real neural process of reward is rich and extensive in its psychic and physical results. It misses the first and most important discoveries of behaviourism and the primacy of positive reward over negative. Rather more it misses joy and nostalgia and peace. My dad just a few hours before he died, very agitated had his hair and head stroked by my mum. He always loved that. Peace.

    I find S and the Will still shuddery to discuss. He means our subconscious/”animal” drives so often and blames our better rational and conscious selves for these failings. His integration of these disparate aspects of us is two hundred years out of date. It both flatters and excuses wrongly.

    Loyalty and subjection to authority, the evo psych explanation has it, is the evolutionary response, in social groups, to external threat and therefore the individual response correlated will be anxiety and fear. These are more often conservatives, fearing the changes threatened. This opens them to manipulators selling stories of going to hell in a handcart. The religious right leaders scare to show they care.

    The wonderful Onibaba is a perfect account of scaring with hell to control, incidentally. Watched it the other night. Brilliant parable. Grown ups controlling the unruly young with made up terrors……and its consequences.

    Trump is let off by “crackpot”. He has highly identifiable character traits/flaws. There are specific lessons to be learned not least by our fourth estate.

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  • Phil—

    Trump is a crackpot and that needs to be recognized. “If Iranian boats ‘make gestures’ they’ll be shot out of the water.” —Trump (yesterday)

    Complete lunacy. Enough is enough! He needs to quit now!

    I don’t understand the loyalty of Republicans in general. It does not appear to be fear of eternal damnation. It does seem like they are indoctrinated, however. Nothing one says can sway them. The fact that so many Republicans are supporting this candidate is proof that there is something highly insidious and irrational going on. It borders on masochism or perhaps some kind of death instinct. I thought you might have some insights into this.

    No, the pain of life is an insight that is produced when one has succeeded in recognizing that all or most pleasures in life are fleeting and that pain is essential, a permanent condition, and inseparable from being and existing. There is the implication of asceticism, which is merely the renunciation of that which obfuscates and distracts. It is similar to what Jesus advocated: self-denial is the only way to get in touch with one’s primitive self and to feel in oneself the pain of all creatures that blindly and without thought or reason perpetuate themselves, come-to-be and pass-way. The cycle of birth and death (Samsara).

    Now this idea, and all that it implies, of a acquiring insight (through rigorous self-denial and a sense of truth) into the true nature of existence (of which we are no less a part than any other existing thing in nature), insight that produces resignation, and which may lead to the the decision (and only Man can do this) to cease willing (continuing the species) may be hard to stomach and terrifying to consider; but remember this: there is no rational argument in favor of existence. One might prefer existence on an emotional level – how could one not?— But what would you tell a couple who were considering not bringing a child into this world? What rational, all-compelling, definitive argument is there that existence is to be preferred to the eternal repose of non-being? On the contrary, given the shortness of life, and the infinite number of disappointments and indignities we all must face along the way, and the misery of having to lose our loved ones, and given the reality that we all must face, and very soon, our own eventual annihilation (which usually follows a series of long, painful illnesses), I would say that Reason is on the side of saying, to that couple: do nothing, do not perpetuate this endless cycle of suffering, of coming-to-be and passing-away. (Such advice would not affect them, however.)

    As for the quote, it has nothing to do with all this; it is a simple practical bit of advice: it is a clear gain to avoid pleasure in order to avoid pain. Not in order to feel pain! That would be an invitation to masochism, which is fruitless and senseless.

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  • Analyzing Trump’s voters from afar: what are these people thinking? (guess: assuming they’re thinking is probably the error). I’ve read about some of the crackpots. Rush Limbaugh’s dittoheads come to mind. Do they really believe the total crap senile Duhnald spouts? Thinking of two (or more) foreign guys listening to him: Putin of Russia, Erdogan of Turkey. Both of them are a lot closer to the mess in Syria. Duhnald commits mental diarrhea. Dittoheads might believe Duh. P and E are probably thinking “Yo, dude, you must have Harry Potter’s magic wand to accomplish what you claim to do. But more probably, you are suffering a severe case of mental diarrhea.” It is just so thunderingly obvious, this mental diarrhea. Why are more that 40% of US voters so pathetically ignorant? In totalitarian China, I might be able to understand, but the US? Or are the Murdochs of the US media (conglomerates) to be equated with the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China? US media has dropped severely in some rankings, into decidedly crappy company. Since the US still has some respected newspapers (probably first thought error), and perhaps the odd respected TV and radio stations (perhaps the next thought error), how bad must the Rush Limbaugh’s dittohead crap as an example be to drag down the US’s rating into such dregs?

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  • are the Murdochs of the US media (conglomerates) to be equated with the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China?

    I think, increasingly, that the answer to this is YES.

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  • What bothers me is all the coverage Trump is getting on the other networks: CNN and MSNBC. It’s either ratings or a conspiracy. The coverage of this election by MSNBC is horrible and infuriating. CNN is worse. Why won’t MSNBC cover Hillary’s speeches? They cover Trump’s speeches. Way too much coverage of Trump. As i said, I fear that the corporate owners are either pro Trump (who supports big business) or are just interested in money (ratings). It is infuriating. You reap what you sow. All this free publicity is benefiting Trump. And Chuck Todd is clearly biased against Hillary.

    They were interviewing some vets who are supporting Trump. I appreciate their service but these people sounded like they had had no more than a fourth grade education. (This is not true of all or even most vets.)

    This is the most precarious time in our nation’s history .

    (GK, I replied to your last comment on the Pinker thread.)

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  • Dan

    Going to hell in a handcart is a quite general non-religious metaphor, but it does include religion for some. This all works at the level of childhood indoctrination. The fear of moral decay survives even the acquisition of atheistic reason just as does Catholic guilt. Though you know you are no longer fallen you daily feel so. Like so many terms and cultural ideas these are religion spawned memes set free and childhood over-imitation is the ideal way to give them a leg up for the politically manipulative.

    Crackpot is under analysis. Like “evil” or “lunatic”. This is not terminology for those who seek to understand but those who seek to manipulate.

    No, the pain of life is an insight that is produced when one has succeeded in recognizing that all or most pleasures in life are fleeting and that pain is essential, a permanent condition,

    We agree pain is essential. But pains (they have identity) are not essentially contiguous. Cortisol and oxytocin and dopamine are permanently available. Unless anhedonic, bonding and reward are permanently available.

    there is no rational argument in favor of existence.

    There is no rational argument for existence, yet here we are.

    The nihilist position needs to grow up from Darwinian despair. Whats the point? Only the achingly slow revelation of unfolding species development? That would certainly take the wind out of my sails. Well, the point can be… cultural evolution and adventure! The delight and satisfaction of making and doing and adventuring. Generation upon generation of change and knowing more.

    Gods know too much to have adventures. Pond scum doesn’t know enough for adventure. We are poised perfectly for the stuff.

    The underlying question is Purpose. Physics (thermodynamics and the principle of least action) and natural selection bring us the undergirding proto-purpose of homeostatsis. Return to an earlier mean of least energy usage. This desire for passivity (and when achieved, rewarded with dopamine) is richly exploited by primal needs, but also by a host of overlaid aesthetic needs developed as more sensor devices and detection heuristics are installed by genetic and cultural evolution to give us quick access to an outside world evolving rapidly itself. These aesthetic detectors are itch making, need making. We are uniquely needy of stimulus, feeding those detectors to keep them from being taken out of service as too costly in energy by our use-it-or-lose-it energy police, Hebbian unlearning and apoptosis. Taken together these create ever curious, voracious consumers of experience, with interior caverns of unexplored complexity, increasingly marked with their exploits.

    Reductio ad nihil narratives are always possible. Traveling the other way leads to delicious uncertainty.

    Sadly, nihilism is a self fulfilling prophecy for the non-engaged, anhedonic, unlucky, or the naturally aesthetically religious cursed with a surfeit of intelligence.

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  • Hello, Phil

    “There is no rational argument for existence, yet here we are.”

    Yes, we are here. We agree about this.
    Crackpot. Good word: not all there, irresponsible. Very informative word.
    There is no Darwinian despair. People who study Darwin are not the despairing kind. Scientists are usually too busy to even think for one second about renunciation as a viable alternative in their own lives, or to reflect upon the blindness of their own own urges, which spring from the will, to continue the species. (One has to spend one’s whole life thinking about this.)
    There have not been many true pessimists. That is my assumption, although m,any have presented it as a theory or doctrine. (Nietzshce said of S that he wasn’t a pessimist, although he wanted to be one. This is true of most, presumably.)The affirmation of the will to live is very strong and deeply ingrained in all of us: The denial of the will to live usually accompanies depression and despair or appears after suffering with an intolerable illness and no hope is in sight; then people begin to consider the possibility that nothingness is to be preferred; but this is not real pessimism. The true pessimist would be someone who, with a clear head, could renounce his attachment to life, in his prime, while enjoying perfect health and vigor. Nietzsche was half-right: many ascetics were half-dead to begin with, and that might explain their morbid fascination with nothingness. And half-wrong: perhaps pessimism is confused too often with escapism or weakness. It may require the utmost strength, a profound sense of purpose, of obligation and understanding. Perhaps.
    Nihilism. I tried to explain and present pessimism; I am not saying that I myself desire nothingness – yet.
    Ideas, not personalities, right?—And I told you before that I am not really a pessimist; but I do think it is a most respectable philosophical doctrine. And it has nothing to do with God or religion per se; I would say that the issue of hereditary sin or original sin, has been, like so many sublime truths, mischaracterized by the vast numbers of simple-minded people throughout the ages, appropriated by the religious fools to serve their ends, and unjustly dismissed by non-religious shallow-pates. That is the way it goes: sublime truths are wasted on
    “Great things for the great. Abysses for the profound” (Nietzsche)
    On a lighter and more positive note, I am deeply concerned and disturbed about this nightmarish election and the relentless demonization of the candidate that I am supporting.
    (I did not get the paragraph that began: “The underlying question…” I wish I could have gotten it. Sorry.)

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  • The low level of the media – an unprecedented level of degradation– is definitely an indication of decline.

    “The media will eventually hurl 20th-century man back to tribalism.”— Marshall Mcluhan in conversation with Norman Mailer

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  • Nietzsche said of S that he wasn’t a true pessimist (?) because he enjoyed his pessimism too much.

    Your hankering after the thrilling violence of 70’s New York is interesting and makes sense to me. My parents always claimed they felt most alive during WWII. The privations, danger and sense of common purpose added much to the quality of their lives.

    In the past here whilst urging the welfare model of Scandiwegia I noted the flatness of culture that can arise in places like Denmark. I note also that some protections (traffic lights, playgrounds) are experimentally being rolled back, because an expectation of an all-nurturing safety makes things less safe. There is a balance to strike and we will probably never actually find it.

    But this is why Teens from curling parents need to get out to Africa, why we all need to take responsibility for our own sense of danger and adventure. Thrills are in our hands to provide, to not take the cushy job, but to risk doing something worthwhile, worry on someone else’s behalf and not fuss over our own petty discomforts comically bloated. Captain Fantastic may have a few ideas for us.

    I’ll be honest none of S’s true Pessimism makes any sense to me except in the context of his own life. I truly find zero logical engagement possible as I do over other aspects of S’s thinking. Pain is not a singular substance, not even a metaphysical one.

    That play is not going to write itself, Dan.

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  • Phil

    “Your hankering after the thrilling violence of 70’s New York is interesting and makes sense to me. My parents always claimed they felt most alive during WWII. The privations, danger and sense of common purpose added much to the quality of their lives.”

    We meet again!


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  • Phil, everyone

    Flatness of culture in Denmark? Have you been there?

    Good article about Hillary from Daily Kos. Author unknown. (It was forwarded to me.)

    Coverage of Hillary Clinton during this campaign has been stomach churning. Ridiculous standards few human beings could meet are set and then when Clinton delivers, the goal posts are moved so that she still fails. Each day, talking heads and keyboard hacks who could never measure up to the standards they set, lay in wait to judge every little thing about Clinton as if she is prey. It isn’t her proposed policies they judge. It isn’t her actual record. It is her value as a human being that gets ripped to shreds on a daily basis.

    She can’t speak right. Her hand gestures are suspicious. She doesn’t smile enough or she smiles the wrong way. She can’t take bathroom breaks right. She can’t dress right. She isn’t authentic enough. When she authentically jokes around, she has a debilitating disease. She isn’t accessible enough to the media. When she is accessible, she must be desperate. She made a mistake, she should own up to it. She owns up to mistakes and she is a failure.

    Her guilt is decided in advance and all eyes watch until the tiniest misstep — real or perceived — validates them.

    Unlike any male candidate, ever, she is forced to bare her soul again and again and again. Her life is an open book but that still isn’t enough. She is holding back from us. She must be. If the media can’t find something, it will just cherry pick information and make it up. Issues don’t matter. Policies don’t matter. Substance doesn’t matter. It is all about the “optics” of a moment in time.

    It is relentless.

    It is exhausting.

    It is abusive.

    I have never appreciated Hillary Clinton more than I do today. Her strength in the face of what has been thrown at her during this campaign is the stuff legends are made of. She is an inspiration. I am thrilled to have her representing me in this race. #IAmSoWithHer.

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  • Ollie, Dan

    I wrote a lot about the Danes a couple of years ago and managed to offend a Dane here, who believed they had achieved some kind of perfection. There was a dissenting voice a BBC R4 essay drawn from a book if I recall, talking about the flatness of its culture. I’m trying to find the reference again.

    Denmark is the poster girl for equality and welfare states. 78% total personal tax burden (all charges summed). They are described by Wilkinson and Picket of the Equality Trust thusly, “The American dream is alive and well and living in Denmark”. More personal freedom in terms of mobility and money and job availability and health and support for ill health etc. to do what you want.

    But this account I still want to find as evidence painted a picture of a polite but rather dull suburban world with little inspiration for change or adventure. Like domesticated animals, the sessile sea squirts and professors after achieving tenure, the need for brains, for active thinking recedes as needs in general reduce mostly to the bland.

    Denmark is no longer a land of adventurers. Another skim of culture is needed to put some colour, some dynamics back into everyday life. Wider challenges, world poverty, climate catastrophe can help if engaged at the personal level. Immigration is certainly pushing them (though an ugly resentment seeing their life’s investment at 78% diluted is apparent). This isn’t a bad thing. They (we) need to understand countries will never be free of each other.

    We need intellectual grit in our lives to make intellectual pearls.

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  • Phil

    I already sort of had a go at Dan for saying that he would hate to live in a world with no danger though he did say he was only joking afterwards.

    I can see the logic behind what you are saying but aren’t we just reacting to what is needed? If we need less and are are feeling safer then we get rid of the need don’t we? If there is no cancer, say, then we don’t need a hero to cure it.

    I suppose I am riding that wave where women say they should be responsible for their own orgasm…. we should all be responsible for our own enjoyment/motivation and not rely on living on the edge to move forward. It’s just another direction we might be able to move in and not have to bother with all the other bad(der) stuff.

    The Danes can only be placed on the present sliding scale and be judged. A different world mindset would have them much further up the scale if not perfect as yet…. maybe?

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  • Ollie,

    If we need less and are are feeling safer then we get rid of the need don’t we?

    No. Dangers and problems exist outside our comfy little home, overseas. under that flexing bit of crust, circling the sun in that CO2 index. We need to be ever mindful of danger.

    We need resilient and responsive societies. Our whole success as a species has been our ability to respond to threat and adapt quickly. Comfort isn’t wholly safe.

    More to the immediate point is that we don’t get to turn our sense of suffering down. We swap third world problems of genuine existential threat for first world problems. I was SO angry at Waitrose for failing to stock MY preferred chorizo. We see kids with no problems in their cushy lives become really rather monstrous SJWs with a skewed sense of proportions suffering from micro-aggressions, being “triggered” by trivia.

    In a Swedish town they took out the traffic lights at junctions seemingly making things more dangerous. Accidents went down. Taking buffered surfaces out of children’s playgrounds, helps children learn to be safe. It can reduce injuries overall. Expecting offense, preparing for challenge builds resilience.

    I am 100% for greater equality and greater societal insurance against outrageous fortune, BUT, that doesn’t mean attempting to flatten and insure against so much that we lose our sense of proportion. It does mean that we educate to look outside our new easy lives to find problems to solve for others and for our kids’ kids eyc., to have adventures and to put some real risk back into our lives. We need to become vigilant about a descent into pettiness in each other. A disapproving metaphorical smack is needed for the micro-aggression noticing, triggered.

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  • I wasn’t joking, Olgun. Nor was I expressing a callous lack of empathy for victims of crime; I made several points. One was that less violence (Pinker) under fascism is worse than more violence in a free society. And danger is good, is of the essence, is vitally important in life – and it is bad; depends on the context.

    We can all hold hands (which is fine up to a point) but life is more active than that.

    Phil, I don’t understand your point at all. Economic equality and security does not engender flattening. Not as much as TV. It might take the lust for money away. But there are other things to be passionate about. Another Dan-straw-man again? Sorry.

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  • P.S. My comment was rather superficial and one-sided, Phil. The need to earn a living has been a great motivating force, and I do admit that many people who had to write or do other things (like paint, or act, or invent) in order to eat, or to get ahead, might not have been as productive if they had been born economically secure and remained that way. But, conversely, it is also true that many people who never had to work have been very productive and many people who need to make money remain unproductive.

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  • Dan

    But there are other things to be passionate about.

    But most people prefer not to think and would become couch potatoes. The great majority I suspect, unless culture can turn this into a sufficient disgrace.

    I am passionate about what I do. I cannot imagine how people do that day job they hate. If nothing else jobs are a motor to socialising.

    Myself I do see the continued withering of all but the most creative jobs. This is why I propose a huge state. I propose we all have two jobs, one for the state (itself funded increasingly by taxing hyper efficient businesses for access to rich happy markets) that involves social and environmental helping, the old, the lonely, gardening, infrastructure maintenance, public artist, learning/teaching beyond national curiculum. I see groups of youngsters working overseas far more, learning and learning to help. Could be smiley ghastly. It could be great.

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  • Phil

    Would you be passionate if you had all the money you needed? I would say yes, or quite possibly. That was what I was responding to – the idea that economic security engenders complacency and apathy. I may have misconstrued your remark about Danish culture, however.

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  • The more treacherous, vile, and disgusting he is the more his racist followers love him. The racists who never voted before are coming out now. That is why his numbers are high. That is why this is a scary time

    “We are the platform of the alt-right.” Steve Bannon (Trump’s campaign CEO)

    From New York Mag article:

    On Friday afternoon, Richard Spencer, president of the innocuously named National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, took the podium at a tiny conference room at the Willard Hotel in downtown Washington. Earlier this week, Spencer and his guests, Jared Taylor, editor of the white supremacist site American Renaissance, and Peter Brimelow, of the anti-immigration site VDARE, announced they would hold a discussion called “What is the alt-right?” ahead of Trump’s speech at the Values Voter Summit across town at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

    The alt-right, as you may have heard, is having a bit of a moment. In earlier years, the movement — which combines elements of racism, anti-Semitism, and a general preference for nationalist strongmen over the candidates of either party — was mostly confined to the realm of dark web message boards, 4chan, and obscure blogs. About a year ago, they burst onto the scene and established a new home for themselves in Donald Trump’s campaign. In Trump, they found a candidate uniquely suited to the movement’s interests: funny, eminently meme-able, and promising to fix America’s worst problems through the sheer force of his will. Perhaps most important, they found a man willing to say the racist things no other mainstream politician would. As Trump steamrolled his way through the primaries, the newly emboldened alt-righters emerged as a force on social media. Among their targets were liberals (otherwise known as libtards), Jews, feminists, the media, and insufficiently reactionary conservatives, whom they called “cucks” — an insult that reveals more about the person delivering it than it does the target of the insult.

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  • 152
    Pinball1970 says:

    @116 I would leave the Extended Phenotype till last.

    Read some more technical books on evolution first, “Evolution” Mark Ridley is a good one

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  • 155
    Pinball1970 says:


    Yes Trump has opened his big mouth about the bombing/devices in New York
    Sketchy details
    I think he has shot himself in the foot Dan and Clinton’s e-mails and pneumonia won’t change the outcome.
    I think you will like Origin Dan it was published in between Little Dorrit and Great expectations!
    Seriously though I would start with the Blind watchmaker, then read a few technical bits around that.
    There are decent summaries on wiki, natural selection genetic drift saturation mutation speciation etc.
    The Selfish goes into more detail about sex kinship and ESS’s
    I enjoyed Origin more after reading Dawkins.
    Jerry Coyne’s “Why evolution is true” is a good one too.

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  • 156
    Pinball1970 says:

    @153 Hi Dan
    Our own evolution has its own interesting story.
    Real heroes in the spirit of the Victorian adventurer, Eugene Dubois, Raymond Dart, Louis Mary and Richard Leaky.
    Bones of Contention – Roger Lewin
    The origin of Human Kind – Richard Leaky
    The origin of our Species – Chris Stringer (a little bit tricky this one – lots of info)
    There are a few chapters in The Ancestors Tale – Richard Dawkins too.
    Plus I missed out “the greatest show on earth” – Richard Dawkins – You can easily start with this, in fact I would start with it.

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