A is A, Except for Book Reviews

Stephen Hicks continues the venerable if mortifying Objectivist tradition of “reviewing” a book he hasn’t read, then accusing the authors of superficiality, low intellectual standards, and wanting to exploit buzz words for click-bait. Would he endorse this procedure for reviewing his own books? Or is that too Kantian a question?  

This has been installment #2 in my continuing series on Standard Objectivist Procedure or Studies in Objectivist Propaganda, or whatever I called it, not that it matters. Here is installment #1. 

The Wizards of Uz

From E.M. Cioran’s The Trouble with Being Born:

According to the Bible, it is Cain who created the first city, in order to have, as Bossuet puts it, a place wherein to hide his remorse. What a judgment! And how many times have I not felt its accuracy in my night walks through Paris!

So can we can infer that “the perfect and upright” Job created the first suburb in order to have a place wherein to display his self-satisfaction? Or was it to hide his despair? Or both? 

Nor Custom Stale Her Infinite Variety

Every time (or nearly every) that a new artistic style or movement emerges (in literature, think e.g. of romanticism or naturalism or modernism; in painting, think of impressionism or cubism or abstraction), it’s accompanied by two narratives.


One narrative comes from defenders of the Older Art. The burden of this narrative is that the Newer Art is not merely inferior, but pernicious – that it represents a betrayal of the very principles of art itself. Think of the hostile reviews of the first Impressionist Exhibition in Paris (such as “Wallpaper in its early stages is much more finished than that”); or the singers who refused to learn Wagner’s operas because they were “unsingable”; or the Vienna Musikverein’s initially rejecting Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht because it used “nonexistent” chords; or the literal violence that broke out in the theatre at the first production of Victor Hugo’s play Hernani for its violation of the rules of classicism.

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“An Unjust Law Is Not a Law”

According to Augustine, Aquinas, and Martin Luther King, Jr., an unjust law is no law at all. I’ll call this thesis ULNL, relying more on Aquinas’s version of it than Augustine’s or MLK’s. ULNL is, famously or notoriously, a staple of natural law theorizing. Though sympathetic to what he calls “the minimal content of natural law,” H.L.A. Hart takes issue with ULNL in The Concept of Law on both theoretical and deliberative grounds. Continue reading

Law’s Empire

When I was younger, I had this conviction that the law was a noble calling allied with rationality and justice. The more I learn about it, and see of it, and deal with it, the more it seems a grotesque parody or subversion of those things. Necessary? Yes. Noble? Not really. Often, it just seems like a game played by the rich, educated, and powerful, intended to rationalize whatever needs to be rationalized so that the world stays the way it is.

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Cautionary Tale

From the US State Department’s periodic safety advisory to travelers, Nov. 23, 2021:

Reconsider travel to Israel due to COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Israel due to terrorism and civil unrest.

No need to “exercise caution” due to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank or the Israeli siege of Gaza, apparently. Sporadic terrorism and vague hints of “civil unrest” are cause for concern, but a military occupation/siege enforced by M-16s, F-16s, phosphorus bombs, tear gas, armored vehicles, militarized bulldozers, and state-sponsored vigilantism is nothing to worry about.

Could the selectivity of the worries expressed by Foggy Bottom reflect the selective nature of its intended audience?

A Puzzle in Aristotle: Why Must There Be an Unmoved Mover?

A well-known doctrine of Aristotle’s is that of the unmoved mover, the first cause of the eternal motion of the universe. Aristotle’s key argument for the necessity of an unmoved mover is presented in Physics, Book VIII, chapters 4–5, where he argues, first, that everything that is in motion must be moved by something (ch. 4) and, second, that a thing cannot move itself (ch. 5). I have long been puzzled by this argument, and lately I have come to think it’s not just my ignorance—there really is something wrong with the argument. My aim here is to explain what it is.

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Studies in Objectivist Propaganda: Robert Tracinski’s “Woke Kant”

I’ve been thinking for awhile of starting a series at PoT called Studies in Objectivist Propaganda (SOP). Technically, this post will have to be SOP #1, though I suppose I could go back and dig up some prior posts that fit the bill: there’s never a shortage of Objectivist propaganda out there, and I rarely seem to resist the temptation to take pot-shots (or PoT-shots) at it. As a recovering Objectivist myself, I guess I owe it the world to undo some of the damage I did by contributing my own share of Objectivist propaganda to Existence. That said, I don’t think I contributed anything half as bad as the stuff I now regularly see on the Internet. Which gives me standing to attack it when I see it.

Was Kant the first “woke” philosopher? Yes, says Robert Tracinski, who makes sure to tell us that he’s read The Critique of Pure Reason, and therefore damn well knows what’s he’s talking about. I’ll let you wend your way through Tracinski’s tendentious, cherry-picked, convoluted argument for yourself. I wouldn’t want you to miss (or myself want to misrepresent) anything he says, and independence, as we all know, is the crown of the Objectivist virtues. Continue reading

The Invisible Casualties of CBT

This article just below reads like a companion piece to my earlier post on my late wife’s Alison’s struggles with chronic pain.


I agree almost entirely with Alana Saltz, the author of the article, and am saddened that Alison isn’t here to read it (in fact, I had to fight my initial impulse to send it to her). Saltz lays out many of the criticisms of CBT that Alison had made to me over the years, both as a therapist herself, and as someone with chronic pain. Before hearing those criticisms, I’d always had some vague unease about CBT that I wasn’t quite able to pinpoint. It wasn’t until Alison started expressing her criticisms of CBT in the direct, concrete, and vehement way characteristic of her that I was able to re-focus my own vague, nebbish doubts about it. I wrote some of those criticisms up for grad seminars in CBT back when I was a grad student in counseling, but never did anything with what I wrote. Saltz’s piece reinforces my confidence in my criticisms; maybe I ought to take the time to write them up. Here, in any case, is a quick summary.

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