The New Clarion

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Epistemological Primitivism in Action III

By Jim May · September 22nd, 2009 11:01 am · 11 Comments ·

Back in July, I pointed out a certain mainstream view of the U.S. Constitution, in particular the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, as an example of that epistemological primitivism we all know and love as pragmatism.  In that post, I linked an article that outlines the legal argument that conservative pragmatists use to defang the Ninth Amendment (the author of that article, Clayton Jones, shows up in the comments, and puts on a clinic in pragmatist “thinking”).

Against that backdrop, now observe how a Leftist builds upon the mainstreaming of the defanged view of the Ninth and Tenth Amendment in coining a new epithet: “tenthers”, which is a classic smear of the principled view as being on a level with 9/11 “truthers” :

More important, there is something fundamentally authoritarian about the tenther constitution. Social Security, Medicare, and health-care reform are all wildly popular, yet the tenther constitution would shackle our democracy and forbid Congress from enacting the same policies that the American people elected them to advance. After years of raging against mythical judges who “legislate from the bench,” tenther conservatives now demand a constitution that will not let anyone legislate at all.

The author, Ian Millhiser, is telling us, with a straight face, that a clause which restricts State authority, is “fundamentally authoritarian“.  Earth to Millhiser: “shackling our democracy” was literally the precise and exact point of the entire Constitution.  Millhiser has just told us that the Founders were authoritarians.

This, I submit, is obviously insane, and conservatives will simply dismiss it as the usual Leftist insanity.  But they evade the real point here in doing so.

What IS the point, is that Millhiser is in fact correct in describing the principled view of the Tenth Amendment as “fringe”.   This Orwellian insanity is mainstream — the “American Prospect” is hardly fringe, and neither is The New Republic, who echoes their dismissal of the principled view as “mad ravings” (!)

What sets the stage for Millhiser’s bold-faced contradiction?  What — or who — is responsible for the “fringe” status of the so-called “tenther” (principled) view?

You get one guess.  Without this marginalization of the principled view by pragmatists, it would be Millhiser and his insanity which would be on the fringe.

The left-right synergy of the insanestream marches on.

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lionell Griffith // Sep 22, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    The argument that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are “authoritarian” and therefor restrictive of democracy is an example of the use of a stolen concept: a concept disconnected from the context from which it was derived. Once that is done, language is no longer a tool of thought or communication. It is a weapon. The exact opposite of the concept is achieved by such practice. Which is the intent and purpose of such intellectual crimes.

  • 2 Bill Brown // Sep 22, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Good point. It’s like Roosevelt’s “freedom” from want or these jokers’ “tyranny” of individualism.

  • 3 Bill Quick // Sep 22, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    “as approvingly written by a conservative, Clayton Jones …”

    I tried to be polite, earlier, but enough of that. You’re either a bald faced liar or an idiot to twist Clayton’s posts like that. I’m not quite ready to concede that you are both, but I’m strongly considering the possibility.

    I doubt this comment will last long on your site, so isn’t it lucky I have a site of my own on which to fry you crispy.

  • 4 Jim May // Sep 22, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Quick: are you sure you want to put your foot in it like that? Mr. Jones has already made clear that the viewpoint in his article, is indeed his…. making YOU the liar.

    Go read it, if you dare.

    I wouldn’t dream of deleting that comment. It’s just too rich.

  • 5 Jim May // Sep 22, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Just to make it easier for folks wanting a quick view of things:

    In the original article where the DP gentlemen paid us a visit, Clayton Jones links a second article he wrote on the same topic in this comment.

    My evaluation of it is in this comment.

    At no point did Mr. Jones indicate that he did not approve of that view; in fact, he attempted to argue *for* this viewpoint; it in several comments.

    If he wants to say otherwise, he is welcome to do so.

  • 6 Clayton Jones // Sep 22, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    It’s not that he’s twisting it, Bill, it’s that he doesn’t understand it. This is pretty much par for the course: Not many persons do, so they make up something else and try to make it fit. As I’ve had occasion to mention before, it’s not an easy thing to explain, either. The crowd here is doubly handicapped, in that they don’t understand very well the distinction between legislative, executive, and judicial powers, and the modes of thought appropriate to each, and thus their attempts in this area slither all over the place. Ayn Rand wasn’t all that clear on those distinctions either — see, for example, the botch she made trying to discuss Roe v. Wade — and those who take her writings as holy writ are pretty much constrained to follow her lead. Here they see, as Rand saw, only the policy they want; they see nothing of how their choice of means rips the foundation out from under what they’re trying to build.

  • 7 Grant // Sep 23, 2009 at 1:29 am

    It’s not that he’s twisting it, Bill, it’s that he doesn’t understand it. This is pretty much par for the course: Not many persons do, so they make up something else and try to make it fit.

    His Objectivist opponents translate his vague legalese into it’s real world consequences, but because he doesn’t like those consequences, Mr. Jones accuses them of misinterpreting his argument.

    As I’ve had occasion to mention before, it’s not an easy thing to explain, either.

    “If you don’t know, I can’t tell you.” (A grown up version of the popular leftist refrain: “Mom, Dad, you just don’t understand”).

    The crowd here is doubly handicapped, in that they don’t understand very well the distinction between legislative, executive, and judicial powers, and the modes of thought appropriate to each, and thus their attempts in this area slither all over the place.

    If one branch of government bases it’s actions on first principles, the other two must not. If two of them do, the third must not. Just so long as pragmatism has a home. (“I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.” – Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 1781)

    Ayn Rand wasn’t all that clear on those distinctions either — see, for example, the botch she made trying to discuss Roe v. Wade — and those who take her writings as holy writ are pretty much constrained to follow her lead.

    Ms. Rand should have “understood” that judicial power (or legislative, or executive – whichever you’d like) had a “[distinct mode of thought]”, and somehow used that unprincipled approach to come down firmly in support of the first principle that rights are intrinsic (see below).

    Here they see, as Rand saw, only the policy they want; they see nothing of how their choice of means rips the foundation out from under what they’re trying to build.

    Rand “slithered all over the place” because she didn’t hold an out-of-context, absolutist, Platonic, intrinsicist, faith-based view of rights. Funny, considering what he is accusing her of here, one would expect Mr. Jones to praise Ms. Rand for putting into practice her “understanding… [of] the distinction between [different parts of human life] and the [different] modes of thought appropriate to each.”

    On the one hand, Ms. Rand is to be criticized for acting on principle (ie: throwing out Roe v. Wade entirely), but on the other she is also in the wrong for failing to consistently protect the “foundation” of individual rights by opposing abortion. The truth is simply this: Mr. Jones doesn’t approve of Ms. Rand’s position. All of the epistemological wreckage is just camoflage meant to smuggle in one result: religious dogma, enforced by the state, as a stand in for reason. Reason is fine when dealing with the “law”, but when it comes to how our society will be governed, we’ve got to search out other means. Hence, Mr. May’s original point: neither the left nor the right are equipped to protect against tyranny because, well, at root, they are the tyrants.

  • 8 J.S.Bridges // Sep 23, 2009 at 9:25 am

    “It’s not that he’s twisting it, Bill, it’s that he doesn’t understand it. This is pretty much par for the course: Not many persons do, so they make up something else and try to make it fit.”

    So…what you’re saying – in a rather nice way – is that he’s not straight-out lying; rather, he’s ignorant on this particular subject, and therefore lying by implication through misunderstanding.

    Sounds about right…

    “…because he doesn’t like those consequences, Mr. Jones accuses them of misinterpreting his argument.”

    No – that’s not what he said, nor is it implied by what he said.

    He said you – and May, as well – didn’t understand, and therefore try to crunch what he said into the context that you prefer to argue – and he was pretty clearly correct on that.

    This “Epistemological Primitivism” stuff has been pretty entertaining – seems almost a shame to have to leave all this “how many Randians can prance on a single philosophical point”, and return to the real-world context.

  • 9 Jim May // Sep 23, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    So…what you’re saying – in a rather nice way – is that he’s not straight-out lying; rather, he’s ignorant on this particular subject, and therefore lying by implication through misunderstanding.

    How about identifying the subject, pal?

    Here, let me do it for you.

    The “particular subject” was and is the primitive epistemology of pragmatism (the inability or refusal to think in terms of principles) and its consequences in a particular application (politics, and law). I’ve been the only one actually discussing it in all of this, to date.

    Believe me, if any of you guys were to start doing that, I’d notice.

  • 10 madmax // Sep 24, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Bill,

    Auster’s view of individualism is pure whim worship. Auster is on of those types of conservatives that believes that “liberalism” must reduce to egalitarianism and whim worship because once you reject god and traditional morality there can be no basis for a moral code.

    Thus, rejecting god leads to a “radical atomistic individualism” which leads to ethical subjectivism which leads to whim worship which leads to societal collapse. So individualism becomes the great enemy of morality and society and even crazier – the Left is defined as the essence of individualism because they dedicate themselves to fulfilling their individual desires instead of adhering to a “restrained individualism” (whatever that means) that revolves around god, faith, family, traditions, nation.

    Essentially its the old whim-worship vs. religious dogma false alternative. IMO, this is one of the conservatives’ most frequently used tactics to slander individualism. Auster uses it relentlessly. If he ever debated a skilled Objectivist on the subject he would get his clock cleaned.

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