Milgram Experiment

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 19th, 2008

I have been interested in the implications of the Milgram experiment – the test involves a volunteer being orders to give electric shocks to another “volunteer” (who is really a confederate of the experimenters). The majority (65%) of subjects, when ordered, were willing to give the victim apparently painful, then lethal electric shocks. Most volunteers were very uncomfortable doing so but still followed instructions to continue. This has implications on morality: an authority figure can usually override peoples ethical views – in some cases, even to go so far as to kill.

I noticed an amusing article on if programming languages were religions, if you are into that sort of thing.

Anti Citizen One

Kierkegaard’s Attack Upon “Christendom”, Part 2

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 15th, 2008

Common Themes – The Fire Chief and the Superman

I was interested in “What Says The Fire Chief?” and thought it had overtones of Nietzsche’s superman. I have read comparisons of the superman with Kierkegaard’s Knight of Faith but I can’t comment on that without more research.

The Fire Chief begins by saying, in promoting any cause, the one thing that is more dangerous than it’s enemies is well intentioned incompetent allies. The footnote in my Lowrie translation says “Evidently S. K. was embarrassed by his would-be defenders” but SK’s point might be generalized to any popular support for a cause. When called into “serious” activity, the fire chief takes control and any who obscruct his work are dismissed as “a company of twaddlers”. This is a un-democratic view but in modern military or nautical emergencies, one person commander is in usually most effective. The core idea seems to be the fire chief is capable of action that is independent of the twaddlers. “If he has a notion that it is they [the twaddlers] who are to help, and that he must strengthen himself by union with them, he eo ipso is not the right man.”

Kierkegaard applies this principle to “all matters of the mind, and so it is also in the religious field”. What exactly independent action would imply in this domain is not simple to deduce. It certainly implies that the “mind” fire chief is capable of disagreeing with the majority view. But presumably the fire chief still has a responsibility to extinguish fires (and similarly, the Knight of Faith obeys God).

This has some overlap with Nietzsche’s superman. Both seem to be beyond considering the sensitivities of bystanders. Both realize they are separate from the majority view on what action needs to be taken. The differences are perhaps subtle – for example the fire chief’s work is “serious” while the superman’s view of his role cannot easily be categorized. “Innocence is the child [the superman], and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self–rolling wheel, a first movement, a holy Yea. (Zarathustra)”

Kierkegaard describes the fire chief is a public figure and probably was modeled after his own situation. The superman, in contrast, is rarely a public figure “around the inventors of new values, doth the world revolve; inaudibly it revolveth. (Zarathustra)” except perhaps becoming a public feature after death. Nietzsche probably did not consider himself to be a superman (although I would be interested if someone thinks so) but probably associated himself more with Zarathustra – the self appointed herald of the superman.

To mix metaphors, if there was a fire and the superman was first at hand, he would probably ask himself “of what value is fire to me? what value is extinguishing the fire to me?” before acting. The fire chief has a set relationship with fire – to extinguish. Even the twaddlers agree the fire should be extinguished. Of the superman, very little can be assumed in his fire fighting opinion.

“Are you one who looks on? Or one who lends a hand? Or one who looks away and walks off? Third question of conscience.” (Twilight)

Anti Citizen One

Kierkegaard’s Attack Upon “Christendom”, Part 1

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 9th, 2008

I started reading Kierkegaard (SK) due to is alleged similarity to Nietzsche (FN). For SK’s later work, I was struck by the similarities to FN and pleased by SK’s style which is generally straight forward and clear. His pamphlet series The Instant and articles in The Fatherland had a general readership in mind. Since they were published separately, there is a certain amount of repetition but this must be forgiven as circumstantial. I have decided to focus on comparing the similarities between SK and FN. I am less sure how they would have disagreed, if they had actually met beyond the obvious point that one was an atheist and the other Christian.

(Although SK said he is “not a Christian” – this reminded me of Confucius: “When a country is well governed, poverty and a mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is ill governed, riches and honor are things to be ashamed of.” Analects of Confucius)

Christian Suffering

The main thrust of SK’s late writings was that the “official” Danish church of 1850’s had diverged from New Testament Christianity into paganism or Judaism. His main justification for his argument is that Christianity is a religion of earthly suffering. This is also the assessment of FN and their agreement on this point could hardly be stronger!

The religion of suffering has become the religion of mirth, but it retains the name unchanged. SK, The Instant No.4 (What is really shocking)

Above all beware of the priests! It is a mark of being a Christian (if one is to be a Christian in such a sense that it will hold good in the Judgment) that one has suffered for the doctrine. SK, The Instant No 5

What can be remembered eternally? Only one thing: to have suffered for the truth. If thou wouldst have a care for thine eternal future, take heed to suffer for the truth. SK, The Instant No 8

ONCE on a time, Zarathustra also cast his fancy beyond man, like all backworldsmen. The work of a suffering and tortured God, did the world then seem to me. FN, Zarathustra

Ye cannot divine how sorely prophetic men suffer: ye think only that a fine “gift” has been given to them, and would fain have it yourselves […] But it never occurs to us that it is their sufferings –that are their prophets! FN, Gay Science, 316

But how did such an “improved” Teuton look after he had been drawn into a monastery? […] there he lay, sick, miserable, hateful to himself, full of evil feelings against the impulses of his own life, full of suspicion against all that was still strong and happy. In short, a “Christian.” FN, Twilight of the Idols

Both thought that suffering should be sought but for different ends – SK to prove that a man was a true Christian and eventual self annihilation. FN demanded suffering to follow his ideal of “what does not kill me makes me stronger”.

And according to the New Testament what is it to love God? It is the will to become, humanly speaking, unhappy for this life, yet blissfully expectant of an eternal blessedness – in no other way can a man love God who is spirit. The Instant No 6, Fear most of all to be in error

For enjoyment and innocence are the most bashful things. Neither like to be sought for. One should have them,- but one should rather seek for guilt and pain! FN, Zarathustra

One point of disagreement between the two is their valuation of earthly life. But both have, at least, considered the possibility that non-existence is preferable to existence.

Suppose now that this child in its naiveté were to say to its parents, “But if this is such a bad world, and if this is what awaits me, then indeed it is not well that I have come into this world.” Bravo, my little friend, thou has hit the mark! SK, The Instant No 7

[Quoting Silenus:] Suffering creature, born for a day, child of accident and toil, why are you forcing me to say what would give you the greatest pleasure not to hear? The very best thing for you is totally unreachable: not to have been born, not to exist, to be nothing. The second best thing for you, however, is this — to die soon. FN, Birth of Tragedy

I have yet to discover why SK and FN came to opposite views on Silenus’s challenge – is earthly life to be valued highly or lowly. Since SK believed in an afterlife, he could arguably afford to highly value the spiritual world while being pessimistic about earthly life. FN seemed to alternate between saying earthly life is “good” while also saying to assign a value of life is in fact meaningless.

To be continued…

Anti Citizen One

UK DNA grab illegal

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 4th, 2008

I had to laugh. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled the UK police retaining DNA samples of people not convicted of a crime is a violation of human rights. Instead of saying “that is a victory for human rights”, the UK government disappointed and apparently has higher priorities than human rights (something about “crime detection”).

This highlights an interesting contradiction (or convenient deception) – are law makers above the law? or should they be? or can they be? If something is legally displeasing to them, they can simply legislate. (Of course, I am aware they occasionally ask to be re-elected but what we have is 1 day of democracy then 4 years of one party rule.) The recent arrest of Damien Green MP is a recent example of this. As Dominic Grieve MP asked: “Who is in charge of the police, if she [the home secretary] isn’t?”

I would imagine the home secretary would proclaim respect for the law as necessary and inherently good ideal. But then she ignores European human rights law! Or even more ironically, she claims the law can be abridged because it interferes with upholding other laws! If she can pick and choose which laws to obey, how is that not hypocritical? Should people who wilfully violate human rights (like the current home secretary) be punished as a law breaker?

This hypocritical attitude is actually necessary – strangely – because to establish new values, it is necessary to lie that these values are “true”.

Anti Citizen One

Favourite Bible Verses of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche

Posted by Anti Citizen One on December 1st, 2008

To preface by comments on Kierkegaard, I thought I would reproduce his and Nietzsche’s favourite* quotes from the Bible. The verses they use share a common theme, so well done if anyone recognises which philosopher used a particular quotation. At least one verse is used by both.

And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, Mark 12:38, Luke 20:46

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Matthew 19:21 (also Luke 12:33)

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Matthew 18:9

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. Mark 12:38-44, Luke 20:45-47

But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Matthew 5:34-35, James 5:12

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 1 Corinthians 1:27

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

I will save any reaction until after I have finished reading my current book.

* my knowledge of Kierkegaard is still very narrow so their might be even more relevant quotes. Plase add any additional verses as comments.

Anti Citizen One