Wittgenstein’s Philosophy Of Humility. Part II: The Philosophical Investigations And Thereafter

The edifice of your pride [LW’s emphasis] has to be dismantled. And that is terribly hard work (Wittgenstein, Culture and Value).

Philosophers tend to be a proud lot and why should they not be? After all, whereas the other sorts of thinkers and scholars, physicists, chemists, mathematicians, psychologists, biologists, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, etc., each investigate their own particular region of reality, philosophers investigate the nature of reality itself.

The philosopher is not content to discover particular facts about this or that region of the world, e.g., that momentum equals mass times velocity. The philosopher has contempt for mere facts. The philosopher insists on asking the most fundamental questions one can possibly ask, e.g., questions about the very nature or essence of matter, mind, knowledge, language, logic, numbers, values, the divine, etc., questions that are prior to the questions of these other disciplines, e,g., metaphysics asks questions that are prior to those of mere physics.

Philosophers even refuse to be confined to reality and must also investigate the nature of unreal entities in literature, poetry, and dreams. Philosophers investigate both the nature of the real and the unreal. No self-respecting philosopher would limit themselves to the investigation of mere reality. There is literally nothing, neither being nor non-being, that escapes the philosopher’s scrutiny (and judgment).

Ludwig Wittgenstein, however, is something of an exception to the rule. Although Wittgenstein battled his own prideful feelings, one of the most basic motivations of his philosophical work in both his earlier and later periods, is to defend a more humble vision of philosophy, one that acknowledges the limits of human understanding.

In Part I of the present series, this case is argued for Wittgenstein’s Tractatus-logico-philosophicus, specifically, that his Tractatus is not a “proud” defense of the “omnipotence” of physical science as the “logical positivist” Rudolf Carnap and others believed, but, rather, that it is a humble reminder of the complete impotence of human reason to solve the deep “problems of life.”

However, in Wittgenstein’s second period, beginning with his Blue and Brown Books and Philosophical Investigations, but including his Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Zettel, On Certainty and other “later” works, he develops a new philosophical view critical of his earlier Tractatus.

It may be a bit simplistic to distinguish an earlier and a later period in Wittgenstein but it should be sufficient for present purposes, for, as Norman Malcolm points out in Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, Wittgenstein makes this distinction himself. For simplicity, call these, respectively, Wittgenstein’s “early” and “later” philosophies and call the Wittgenstein of the “later” philosophy “(the later) Wittgenstein!” The present paper argues that Wittgenstein’s “later” philosophy represents a more consistent and refined philosophy of humility but the case is not quite the same for his earlier and later periods because his views have undergone considerable evolution.

I. The “Ethical” Interpretation Of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus

In his correspondence with Ficker, Wittgenstein [says] that we [can] relate to language in three ways, two of which he considers legitimate, the third of which is not. We can assert what is or is not the case; we can be silent about [the] transcendental issues that arise in ethics and logic, concerning which we can only show things by our mode of procedure; or we can babble about the things we ought to relegate to pregnant silence. Alan Janik, Essays on Wittgenstein and Weininger.

Although Wittgenstein’s Tractatus has been seen, almost universally, as a treatise on the philosophies of logic, language, mind and science, and by Carnap and others, as “proudly” stating the “omnipotence” of the rational natural sciences, it is argued in the first article in this series that Wittgenstein meant what he said to Ficker, that the Tractatus is an “ethical” work, where the central part of its ethical” message is that the rational sciences are impotent to solve any of the great “ethical,” in a broad sense, “problems of life.”

The “ethical” interpretation also holds that although the vast bulk of the Tractatus is an extensive detailed account of all of the sorts of things that can be expressed in meaningful propositions, where the true meaningful propositions turns out to coincide with the (factual) propositions of the natural sciences (4.11), Wittgenstein told Ficker that the book delimits the “ethical,” broadly understood, by being silent about it. That sounds paradoxical but Wittgenstein’s idea is that by specifying precisely the domain of the (factual) natural sciences and drawing a line around it (the line representing the limits of meaningful language), he thereby shows that none of the important “ethical” “problems of life” (6.52) are even touched by anything within that scientific domain.

Wittgenstein’s method in the Tractatus may seem quite peculiar, even perverse, but not if one looks at it from his perspective. For, if one really believes that the “ethical,” broadly speaking, is “mystical” and “unsayable,” how does one mark out its limits? One cannot do it by listing all the “ethical” propositions because, ex hypothesi, the “ethical” cannot be expressed in propositions. One can only do this, therefore, by delimiting the domain of everything that can be “said” and then pointing out that there is nothing “ethical” in there. It is only in this way that one can “show” “by one’s procedure” that “the ethical” cannot be expressed in meaningful language (Tractatus, Preface, 6.54, 7). Anything else would be the sort of “babbling” about ethics that consumes the lives and careers many professors. But does he retain this view in his “later philosophy?”

II. The Official “View” Of Wittgenstein’s “Later Philosophy”

Don’t ask for the meaning [of a word], ask for the use (Wittgenstein, quoted in Garth Hallett’s A Companion to Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations).

The very form of Wittgenstein’s “later” works, beginning with the Philosophical Investigations, is entirely different from that of his early Tractatus. Whereas the Tractatus is presented as a series of numbered “propositions [Sätze]” linked by a complicated, sometimes bewildering, numbering, system, Wittgenstein’s later works are usually, with a few minor exceptions, presented as a series of numbered paragraphs. The interlocutor in these paragraphs often moots a certain typical philosophical claim. This is followed, sometimes in the same paragraph, sometimes in later paragraphs, by a critique of that claim.

For example, Philosophical Investigations (para. 46) begins by raising the view that names really signify “simple” objects. Plato’s Theaetetus and unnamed works by Bertrand Russell (clearly Russell’s works on logical atomism) are cited as examples of other philosophers who held such views, but he could have cited his own Tractatus. This suggests that in the Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein is often critiquing his own earlier views in the Tractatus.

The odd format of the Philosophical Investigations, therefore, conforms, to a degree, with Plato’s description in the Sophist (263e-264a) of thinking as “the soul’s dialogue with itself.” Wittgenstein confirms this: “Nearly all my writings are my private conversations with myself” (Culture and Value, p. 77). That is, Wittgenstein is often dialoguing with his own earlier self in the Tractatus. However, by occasionally citing other philosophers who have held similar views, e.g., Plato, Bertrand Russell, William James and others, (the later) Wittgenstein indicates that he is also critiquing certain recurring types of views in philosophy.

The formulation of these mistaken philosophical views is often followed by a critique of those views. The critique is seldom, however, to the effect, that the view is simply false. For example, in the case at hand, the discussion in para’s 46-47 of the view that names stand for simple objects is followed by a discussion in para. 48 of a kind of case in which one can say correctly that names stand for simples. What Wittgenstein describes in para. 48 is a “language game” in which there are 9 colored squares on a board, each of which can be “named “R,” “G,” “W,” or “B” (that is, respectively, “red,” “green,” “white” or “black”). Call this Game 1.

The point is that within the context of Game 1, the squares on the board do resemble simples in a sense because it is part of the rules of the game that each of the 9 squares is treated as a single indivisible (logically simple) patch and not a composition of more elementary parts. Each square is, so to speak, logically simple within Game 1 by virtue of its rules. Para. 48, however, goes on to say that one might imagine a similar “game” in which each square is treated as a composite of two triangles. Call this Game 2!

Thus, the square that functioned as a simple in Game 1, and, accordingly, was named “R” might, in Game 2, have to be described as “R/R” in order to indicate that each of the two triangles that make up the square are red. In Game 2, therefore, that same patch does not function as a simple but as a composite of two juxtaposed simple triangles!

The point Wittgenstein is making by using these kinds of examples is that the words “simple” and “composite” do not have an absolute context-free meaning as he had thought in the Tractatus. Rather, he now holds that what is treated as simple or composite is, so to speak, relative to the “language game” involved. The implication is that Wittgenstein’s own earlier mistake in the Tractatus was to assume that the “words” simple” and “complex” designate context-free absolutes closely associated with the very nature of logic itself. That is, the Tractatus purported to be talking, not about something that is simple according to some “human all too human” game (the expression from Nietzsche’s book of the same title), but about absolute simple objects that form part of “the logical scaffolding of the world” (Tractatus, 6.124).

Wittgenstein’s aim in his later philosophy is, therefore, analogous to Socrates’ mission, as Cicero described it in his Tusculan Disputations, to “call” philosophy from the heavens “down to earth.” Wittgenstein has come to see that his own view in the Tractatus had purported to escape the limitations inherent in the human condition and describe reality from some heavenly (impossible for human beings) point of view. Indeed, on the very first page of his Blue Book Wittgenstein uses Cicero’s precise language to describe his new Socratic mission in his later philosophy, that is, to bring the baffling questions about linguistic meaning “down to earth.”

(The later) Wittgenstein’s method is almost always the same. Whenever someone says something philosophically problematic, for example that each human being can know when they themselves are in pain but no one can ever know when someone else is in pain (Philosophical Investigations, para’s. 303), he asks whether that is how the relevant words, words like “consciousness,” “know,” “pain,” etc., are used in real life. His point is that many philosophical paradoxes are created when, so to speak, language “goes on a holiday” (Philosophical Investigations, para. 38), that is, when philosophers use words in novel ways dissociated from human life. Wittgenstein puts this quite forcefully at para. 194 of the Philosophical Investigations,

When we do philosophy we are like savages, primitive people [Wilde, primitive Menschen], who hear the expressions of civilized [people], put a false interpretation on them, and then draw the queerest [seltsamsten] conclusions from it.

Wittgenstein’s point is that when philosophers generate philosophical paradoxes they do not resemble themselves. Rather, they resemble “savages” that do not even know their own language! Surprisingly, the philosopher suffers from a lack of self-knowledge (an embarrassing failure because, beginning with Socrates, self-knowledge was supposed to be the philosopher’s specialty). Much alleged philosophical wisdom is in fact a kind of ignorance (about one’s self and one’s own language).

The philosopher draws these “queer” conclusions from ordinary civilized expressions because they are “bewitched” by their own language: “Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language” (Philosophical Investigations, para.103). The grammar of natural language misleads one into making false inferences. For example, the grammatical similarity of expressions like “I have a thought in my head” with expressions like “I have a coin in my pocket” misleads one into incorrectly thinking that just as coins are objects that are in the pockets that contain them thoughts are also objects that are “in” the minds that contain them.

Compare the depth grammar, say, of the expression, “to mean,” with what its surface grammar would lead us to suspect. No wonder we find it difficult to know our way about. (Philosophical Investigations, para. 664)

The remedy for fake “philosophical” wisdom is always the same,

When philosophers [use words in perplexing ways] one must always ask oneself: is the word ever actually used that way in the language-game that is its original home?—
What we do is bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use.
(Philosophical Investigations, para. 116).

One particularly important example of these vain metaphysical pretensions in the contemporary world is called “reductionism,” the attempt to reduce one sort of phenomena to another sort of phenomena, e.g., biology to chemistry and physics, or mind to matter, or values to social practices, etc.

Since (the later) Wittgenstein largely holds that each kind of “language game” generally plays a particular role in human life he holds that the philosopher should simply describe the way words are used in a language game and show what purpose that use has in the relevant “form” of human life (Philosophical Investigations, para’s 109, 124-126). As a consequence, (the later) Wittgenstein generally opposes the reduction of one “language game” to another, e.g., the “language game” of biology to those of chemistry and physics. For this reason (the later) Wittgenstein opposes “scientism,” that view that one “language game,” that is, the language of the natural sciences, takes precedence over all the others (See Gordon Baker and P.M.S. Hacker, Wittgenstein: Understanding and Meaning. Volume 1, p. 281).

The vain pretensions of “metaphysicians” are actually fed by the misuse of words. This misunderstanding of the “grammar” of one’s own language is misconstrued as a great discovery when in fact it is only a comical new way of talking disconnected from human life,

Let us ask ourselves: why do we feel a grammatical joke to be deep [LW’s emphasis]? (And that is what the depth of philosophy is) [Philosophical Investigations, para. 111].

These vain pretensions can be corrected by demanding that metaphysicians explain the meanings of their words by reference to the uses of those words in their “everyday” “language-games.” In the following section, it is shown that (the later) Wittgenstein conceives of his attempt to combat the philosopher’s misplaced pride in explicit ethico-religious terms.

III. The Ethico-Religious Dimension Of Wittgenstein’s “Later” Philosophy

Here again [in thinking about the problem of other minds] we get the same thing as in set theory: the form of expression we use seems to have been designed for a god, who knows what we cannot know; he sees into human consciousness. For us, of course, these forms of expression are like pontificals which we may put on, but cannot do much with, since we lack the effective power that would give these vestments meaning and purpose (Philosophical Investigations, para. 426).

The philosopher “bewitched” by the problems of philosophy suffers from a lack of knowledge of how their own language works and, therefore, has a massive lack of self-knowledge of their own limitations. They have literally forgotten what they know in everyday life and must be “reminded” of it (Philosophical Investigations (para’s 89, 127, 253). The error generally takes a certain form. The philosopher believes they have achieved insight into a level of truth that far transcends that level available to ordinary human beings,

We are under the illusion that what is peculiar, profound, essential in our investigation resides in the incomparable essence of language. That is, the order existing between the concepts of a proposition, word, proof, truth, experience, and so on. This order is a super-order between—so to speak—super-concepts [all emphasis, LW’s] (Philosophical Investigations, para. 97).

(The later) Wittgenstein’s point in describing this order as a “super” order and these concepts as “super” concepts is that this order and these concepts are, so to speak, for use in the heavens, not by mere human beings down on the dark earth. Such super-concepts are, to borrow Aristotle’s words from Book X of the Nicomachean Ethics, “too high for man.” It would seem that the philosopher has a very hard time remembering that he or she is a human being as opposed to a privileged inhabitant of the bright celestial spheres. For example, Tractatus (6.124) purports to state the absolutely objective truth about “the logical scaffolding of the world” from what Hilary Putnam in Reason, Truth and History (p. 74) calls a “God’s eye” point of view,

The propositions of logic present [darstellen] the scaffolding of the world [Gerüst der Welt]. … It is clear that certain combinations of symbols … are tautologies. This contains the decisive point. We have said that some things are arbitrary in the symbols that we use and some things are not. In logic it is only the latter that express: but that means that logic is not a field in which we express what we wish with the help of signs, but rather one in which the nature of the natural and inevitable [die Nature naturnotwendigen] signs speaks for itself [aussprechen].

It is important to recognize that the Tractatus holds that no mere mortal wrote the Tractatus. The fiction that the mere mortal named Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote the Tractatus is needed for the purposes of publication where it is necessary, borrowing Bishop Berkeley’s expression from his Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, to “speak with the vulgar.” But, as the author of the Tractatus saw it, the book was, so to speak, dictated to him by “the natural and inevitable nature of the signs” (the tautologies) that “speak” for themselves. The only thing Wittgenstein had to do was figure out how to hear what “the natural and inevitable nature of” the signs was expressing to him.

The quasi-religious symbolism here should not be ignored. Wittgenstein was, so to speak, only the vessel through which the absolute necessary essence of the signs speaks. Further, since the tautologies are absolutely true, that is, trivially analytically true by virtue of the meanings of the terms involved (6.11), and since they “present [darstellen]” “the logical scaffolding of the world,” the Tractatus’ descriptions of the “logical form of language and the world” shares in the absolute necessary character of the tautologies that “present” it. There is no more room for human error here than if Wittgenstein had gone to the mountain and heard the Tractatus dictated to him by a voice coming from out of the heavens.

The moral is that the philosopher all too readily gets into the position of thinking that they can see the world as God would see it (see epigraph above). The author of the Tractatus feels entitled to this hubris because the views in the Tractatus are derived from the crystal-clear nature of modern truth functional logic itself. (The later) Wittgenstein gives this Tractatus-view as an example of one of those “grammatical jokes” mentioned in the preceding section,

Thought is surrounded by a halo.—It’s essence, logic, presents … the a priori order of the word: that is, the order of possibilities, which must be common to both world and thought. But this order, it seems, must be utterly simple. It is prior to all experience, must run through all experience, no empirical cloudiness or uncertainty can be allowed to affect it—It must rather be of the purest crystal. But this crystal does not appear to use as an abstraction; but as something concrete, indeed, as the most concrete, as it were, the hardest thing there is (Tractatus-logico-philosophicus 5.5563) [all emphasis, LW’s], (Philosophical Investigations, para. 97).

As shown in § II, Wittgenstein’s method in his “later philosophy” for combating this kind of quasi-religious hubris that he later came to recognize in his own earlier Tractatus is to ask how the words that make up such superlative philosophical claims, words like “knowledge,” “object,” “experience,” “structure,” “world,” etc., are actually used in real life. His aim, following Socrates, is to bring such superlative philosophical claims “down to earth” where the people who use those words live, and not just any place on earth, e.g., not just to the philosophy classroom that all too often remains sublimely other-worldly, but, into people’s homes and everyday lives where language meshes with human activities. Once one does so one always finds the same thing,

Of course if the words “language,” “experience,” “world,” have a use it must be as humble a one as that of the words, “table,” “lamp,” “door” (Philosophical Investigations, para. 97).

Wittgenstein’s “later” philosophy of language is, like that in his earlier Tractatus, a philosophy of humility. However, although Tractatus may have espoused a philosophy of humility, its residual hubris had to be purged. Indeed, it is an important part of (the later) Wittgenstein’s message that there is an important sense in which the philosopher needs to be humbled if they are to find the truth – just as the author of the Tractatus had to be humbled if he was to evolve and state a purified philosophy of humility in the Philosophical Investigations and thereafter.

Wittgenstein’s new method in his “later” philosophy is to demand of every philosopher, including the author of the Tractatus, that they show how one is to use their metaphysical words in everyday linguistic contexts, to show how the use of these words meshes with human activities. It is important to see that (the later) Wittgenstein does not object to any philosophical or metaphysical statements. In his “Big Typescript” (Philosophical Occasions, p. 161), he stresses that “philosophy does not lead me to any renunciation for I do not refrain from saying something ….” (The later) Wittgenstein is not led to “any” renunciation at all. The metaphysician is free to say what he or she will.

They might assert that “Reality is an illusion,” or that “Reality is not an illusion.” It does not matter what one asserts. One of (the later) Wittgenstein’s most important insights is that it matters not a whit what sentences one utters but only what role those utterances play in human life. If the relevant sentences have a role in human life, no matter what that role is, then those utterances have as much meaning, and the kind of “meaning,” determined by that role. If, however, those utterances have no actual use, no actual role in human life, then no matter how impressive those utterances sound, no matter, that is, how useful those utterances are for impressing undergraduate students, they have no genuine meaning for us.

Thus, what (the later) Wittgenstein will do in the case of each of these utterances is demand that the philosopher or metaphysician who made them explain how their words and sentences are to be used in actual concrete linguistic contexts, that is, explain what role they play in human life, for it is in human life, in human activities, that, borrowing a metaphor from the Tractatus (2.1515), language “touches reality.”

(The later) Wittgenstein provides a useful mathematical example of just such an utterance in the Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics (IV. 9),

We only see how queer [seltsam] the question is whether the pattern … ‘770’ … will occur in the infinite expansion of π when we try to formulate the question in a quite common or garden way.

The context to this remark is the following. Let it be assumed that we have calculated the expansion of π up to several thousand places and have not come across the sequence “770.” Since π is an infinite sequence, the question arises whether that sequence “770” occurs anywhere further out in that infinite expansion. At Philosophical Investigations (para. 352) the interlocutor (who changes the sequence from “770” to “7777” (which has no bearing on the philosophical point) takes the “Platonist” view that although human beings may never know the answer to this question, one can be entirely certain that there is an answer, i.e., that the entire infinite expansion of π is already there, fully determinate, even though no human being will ever know it all,

“In the decimal expansion of π either the group ‘7777’ occurs or it does not—there is no third possibility.” That is to say, God sees but we don’t know.

Recall that this is the interlocutor’s statement, not (the later) Wittgenstein’s. Rather, (the later) Wittgenstein is criticizing the interlocutor’s invocation of the “God’s Eye” point of view. For the sake of example, take the negative claim that “770” does not occur in the expansion of π. (The later) Wittgenstein’s reply to the interlocutor is that they are uttering a statement that they literally do not know how to use. That is, as they admit, there is no conceivable circumstance in which they or any human being at any time could be in a position to assert that “770” (or “7777”) does not occur in the infinite expansion of π. For even if human beings have calculated the expansion of π to the one billionth place and not encountered “770” (or “7777”), it is always possible that somewhere further out, perhaps near one hundred trillionth place, “770” (or “7777”) occurs.

By contrast, (the later) Wittgenstein’s “use-criterion” of meaning requires that the meaning of words is limited by the human condition. Since no human being could ever conceivably be able actually to use the sentence, “‘770’ does not occur in the expansion of π,” that sentence has no meaning for us. Yes, it looks like a meaningful sentence. The grammar resembles that of a meaningful sentence. One gets certain images of long lines of numbers stretching into the distance when contemplating that sentence. However, since we can cite no “common or garden” circumstance in which we could actually apply it, it is cognitively meaningless for us! The philosopher, seduced by the possibility of speaking a certain picturesque way, can assert that “‘770’ does not occur in the expansion of π,” but such expressions “are like pontificals which we may put on, but cannot do much with, since we lack the effective power that would give these vestments meaning and purpose.”

Similarly, the claim that we might not be able to see the entire infinite expansion of π but that there has to be a determinate answer to the question whether “770” (or “7777”) occurs in that infinite expansion because God already sees the entire infinite expansion gets one no further. All one does in this case is substitute one statement that we do not know how to use about what God allegedly knows for another statement that we do not know how to use about what is not in the infinite expansion of π. These two related metaphysical statements are, in fact, a perfect example of what (the later) Wittgenstein means when he talks about language “going on a holiday,” that is, a holiday from human limitations:

We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk; so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!” (Philosophical Investigations, para. 107).

The frictionless crystalline purity of the logical ideal in the heavens is always tempting. Unfortunately, that crystalline ideal in the heavens is not meant for human beings with their human limitations. The philosopher needs realize that they cannot, so to speak, fly with the gods and come, instead, back down to earth where they can humbly “walk” (i.e., speak and think in terms suitable to human beings).

The effect of (the later) Wittgenstein’s application of his “use-conception” of meaning is to undermine the vain metaphysical pretensions of philosophers. Human language is thereby brought down to earth. The beliefs of certain logicians, scientists and philosophers like Carnap in the “omnipotence” of human reason is exposed as “a superstition (not a mistake)” (Philosophical Investigations, para. 110), the superstition that linguistic meaning can be detached from the use of words in the world and contemplated purely intellectually. Indeed, this is not merely a “superstition.” It is exposed as a “grammatical joke.”

IV. Wittgenstein’s Method

It is not our aim to refine or complete our system of rules for the use of words in unheard of ways. … Instead, we now demonstrate a method, by examples; and the series of examples can be broken off.—Problems are solved (difficulties eliminated), not a single problem (Philosophical Investigations, para. 133).

The present interpretation is founded on the view that there are certain similarities, but also certain differences, between Wittgenstein’s views in his earlier Tractatus and the views beginning with his later Philosophical Investigations – specifically, that whereas both earlier and later philosophies defend a philosophy of humility, the view of the later philosophy is a more consistent and more refined view that eliminates some of the residual hubris of the Tractatus. One way to show this is to compare the way each of Wittgenstein’s two philosophies stands up to Carnap’s criticism that the Tractatus is inconsistent because Wittgenstein there tells us that whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent and then instead of being silent he writes a whole philosophical book.

Recall that Carnap’s criticism has a certain plausibility because the Tractatus does appear to “say” the things that it claims cannot be “said,” e.g., that “Objects are simple” (2.02). In order to be completely clear, recall that on the “traditional interpretation” of the Tractatus, Carnap is misguided. For, the “traditional interpretation” holds that the Tractatus is not really inconsistent because it only attempts to “show [zeigt]” these “unsayable” things. Yes, the way it uses language makes it look like it attempts to “say” what by its own lights cannot be “said” but this misconstrues the fact that the language in the Tractatus is, so to speak, “showing” language, not “saying” language. I believe that, with a lot of additional qualification and commentary, this “traditional” view is basically correct (See Richard McDonough, The Argument of the ‘Tractatus’, §’s VIII.2 and VIII.3). However, there is a sense in which the purified philosophy of humility and the associated more humble way of using language in Wittgenstein’s “later” philosophy escapes Carnap’s criticism at an even more basic level.

The reason is that whereas the Tractatus does make prima facia philosophical assertions, e.g., “Objects are simple” (2.02), it is essential to Wittgenstein’s “later” philosophy that it makes no philosophical assertions at all. (The later) Wittgenstein does not assert that objects are simple or that objects are not simple. He is not interested in denying his earlier views in the Tractatus, indeed, in denying anything at all: “What gives the impression we want to deny anything?” (Philosophical Investigations, para. 305). At para. 128 of the same work he implies that it is not even possible to state “theses [LW’s emphasis]” in philosophy.

Wittgenstein’s aim in the later philosophy is different than Plato’s in his Republic, Aristotle’s in his Metaphysics, Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason or Russell in his Lectures on Logical Atomism… and so on. All of these philosophers, and many others, attempt to state philosophical theses of one sort or another. Plato tells us in the Republic that physical objects are imperfect perceptible images of immaterial Forms. Aristotle in the Metaphysics tells us that the most ontologically basic category is that of substance. In the “First Analogy” in the Critique of Pure Reason Kant tells us that the quantum of substance in Nature is neither increased nor decreased. Russell in his Lectures on Logical Atomism (Chap. VIII) tells us that the entities physicists speak of, the smallest bits of matter like electrons and protons, are “logical fictions” and do not exist, and so on. Wittgenstein’s own Tractatus (1.1) tells us that the world divides into facts, not things. By contrast, (the later) Wittgenstein does not state any theses at all but only attempts, humbly, to provide one with a method for dealing with philosophical problems.

We remind ourselves … of the kind of statement that we make about phenomena. Thus Augustine [in his investigation into the nature of time] recalls… the different kind of statements that are made about the duration, past, present or future, of events. (These are, of course, not philosophical statements about time, the past, the present, and the future [All emphasis, LW’s] (Philosophical Investigations, para. 133).

Rather than, with Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Russell or his own Tractatus, pontificating about the nature of reality, (the later) Wittgenstein does not state any theses whatsoever about reality but only provides one with a method for dissolving philosophical puzzlement. This is why in para. 133 of the Philosophical Investigations he states that “Problems are solved (difficulties eliminated), not a single problem.” (The later) Wittgenstein is not attempting to solve any “single problem.” He does not attempt to solve the “problem of perception” and then move on to the “problem of the false proposition” and then move on to the “problem of the mathematical infinite” and so on. Rather, he provides his readers with a method that can then be used whenever anyone raises any philosophical problem whatsoever: “not a single problem!”

The normal situation goes something like this: Someone makes a philosophical assertion, perhaps that the basic objects in the world are logically simple. Call this assertion “P.” (The later) Wittgenstein neither affirms nor denies “P.” Rather, he asks what “P” can mean. He uses at least 3 techniques for showing what “P” might mean. In the first of these, he simply reminds this philosopher about the multiplicity of ordinary sorts of examples in which one might say that something is simple. The fact that there will normally be a many different contexts in which such assertions of “simplicity” are made is already enlightening for it breaks the grip of the idea that the word “simple” has some single essential sense: “The main cause of philosophical disease [Krankheiten]—a one-sided diet: one nourishes one’s thinking with only one kind of example” (Philosophical Investigations, para. 593).

In the second of these methods, (the later) Wittgenstein asks how one learned the meaning of that word: “In such a [philosophical] difficulty always ask yourself: How did we learn [LW’s emphasis] the meaning of this word (‘good’ for instance)?” (Philosophical Investigations, para. 77). In the case at hand, how did one learn the meaning of the word “simple?” It will normally turn out that one learns to use the word “simple” in a great variety of contexts using a great many of very different kinds of examples.

In the third of these methods, (the later) Wittgenstein asks whether and in what sense sentences using that word can be verified: “Asking whether and how a proposition can be verified is only a particular way of asking ‘How d’you mean?’ The answer is a contribution to the grammar of the proposition” (Philosophical Investigations, para. 353). Note that (the later) Wittgenstein does not here assume that all meaningful propositions can be verified. This is no logical positivist “verifiability theory of meaning.” The point is rather that if a proposition, for example about God, cannot be verified, this contributes to clarifying whether and in what sense it means something. It says something about the meaning of the statement, “you can’t hear God speak to someone else, you can only hear Him if you are being addressed (Zettel, para. 717),” that it cannot be verified in the way a statement about the movement of projectiles in gravitational fields can be verified.

The most important point for present purposes is that (the later) Wittgenstein makes no philosophical assertions whatsoever. Instead, he gives one a method, or, to be more precise, several methods, for showing what words and sentences mean: “There is not a [LW’s emphasis] philosophical method, though there are methods, like different therapies” (Philosophical Investigations, para. 133). (The later) Wittgenstein does not, for example, say with the Tractatus, that “Objects are simple” (2.02) or that “There are indeed things that cannot be put into words” (6.522).

Since (the later) Wittgenstein makes no philosophical assertions but only gives one several methods for examining philosophical assertions by reminding one of the ordinary meanings of the relevant words, the criticism Carnap made of the Tractatus, that it is inconsistent because it says that one cannot “say” philosophical things and then writes a whole book about what cannot be said, does not apply. Since (the later) Wittgenstein does not make any philosophical assertions, he cannot be accused of trying to “say” what cannot be said.

(The later) Wittgenstein really is silent about all these “unsayable” things and, therefore, is, in that sense, more consistent than the Tractatus. Carnap’s criticism of the Tractatus, that it tries to “say” what by its own lights cannot be “said,” fails completely against (the later) Wittgenstein’s more humble and consistent “later” philosophy. Both Wittgenstein’s “early” and his “later” philosophies are philosophies of humility, but this is perfected the “later” philosophy to the point that (the later) Wittgenstein’s silence about all the important “ethical” matters in the “later” philosophy is unbroken.

V. Wittgenstein’s “Later” Philosophy As A Personal Confession

For Wittgenstein, all good philosophy, insofar as it is pursued honestly and decently, begins with a confession. He often remarked that the problem of writing good philosophy and thinking well about philosophical problems was more one of the will than the intellect – the will to resist the temptation to misunderstand, the will to resist superficiality (Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, p. 365).

Although both Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and his “later” philosophy are philosophies of humility, the latter takes a very specific form not shared by the former. Whereas the former takes the form of a set of numbered “propositions [Sätze]” organized according to a curious mathematical numbering system, Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations takes the form of a personal confession.

(The later) Wittgenstein hints this by beginning the Philosophical Investigations with a quotation from St. Augustine’s Confessions in which the “name theory” of linguistic meaning, also found in his Tractatus, the view that words have meaning by virtue of naming an object, is defended. Note, however, that (the later) Wittgenstein only raises this theory of meaning in order to critique it. He is, so to speak, confessing one of his earlier mistakes in the Tractatus. (The later) Wittgenstein could have begun the Philosophical Investigations with a quotation from other great philosophical works by Plato, Frege, Russell, or his own Tractatus that state versions of the “name theory” of linguistic meaning (Garth Hallett, A Companion to Wittgenstein’s “Philosophical Investigations,” pp. 73-74), but he chose a quotation from St. Augustine’s Confessions to hint that he was beginning a process of confession analogous to that found in Augustine’s Confessions.

To be sure, Augustine’s Confessions concern sins in the more ordinary sense of the word, such as lust and greed, whereas Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations concern the sorts of “thought-sins” he had committed in the course of his earlier philosophizing in the Tractatus period. These “thought-sins” might not be sins in the ordinary sense, but, as Monk points out in The Duty of Genius (p. 365), (the later) Wittgenstein thought that error in philosophy is not so much due to an error in intellect, e.g., a logical mistake, but to an error in will, specifically, a failure to resist the temptation to superficiality and making thinking easy for oneself with some completely unhelpful generalization, e.g., “All linguistic meaning is like naming an object.” (The later) Wittgenstein was influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche (Culture and Value, 9, 59) and his view here is similar, in some respects, to Nietzsche’s view, referring to philosophical thinking generally, that “Error is not blindness…. Error is cowardice (Ecce Homo, Preface, § 3).

Although (the later) Wittgenstein’s view is more cautiously stated, both agree that there is an essential ethical, in a broad sense, dimension to philosophical thinking. It is not the person with the highest IQ and education that is best suited to achieve philosophical wisdom, but, rather, certain “ethical,” broadly speaking, strengths of character, such as courage and determination, are required if one is to do so.

As a consequence, (the later) Wittgenstein felt that the errors he had come to see in his Tractatus reflected his own “ethical” shortcomings at the time he wrote that first book. Writing the Philosophical Investigations is, therefore, a very personal act for (the later) Wittgenstein. Just as he had stated many years earlier that writing the Tractatus is an ethical deed, so too, writing the Philosophical Investigations is a new “ethical” deed in which he confesses and corrects some of the mistakes he had come to see in his earlier attempt at an “ethical” deed.

(The later) Wittgenstein makes explicit that many of the specific “sins” he wishes to “confess” in the Philosophical Investigations were made by himself in the Tractatus. In the Philosophical Investigations (Preface) he states that he even wished to publish his Philosophical Investigations alongside his earlier Tractatus because he had become aware of “grave mistakes” in his first book and felt that “the latter [new thoughts] could only be seen in the right light by contrast with and against the background of my old way of thinking [in the Tractatus].” Note that this is an extremely strong statement. It is not merely the statement that it would be useful for understanding his “new” way of thinking in the Philosophical Investigations to compare it with the views in his earlier Tractatus but rather that if one is to understand his “new” thoughts it is necessary to compare and contrast them with those in the Tractatus. This advice has not always been heeded by scholars of (the later) Wittgenstein. (The later) Wittgenstein also explicitly mentions the criticism of his Tractatus in the body of the Philosophical Investigations (para’s 23, 97 and 114).

Although that one might balk at the idea that the Philosophical Investigations is, so to speak, (the later) Wittgenstein’s “confessions” of his earlier philosophical “thought-sins,” in fact, the notion of a confession plays a very large part in (the later) Wittgenstein’s conception both of an ethical life and of a philosophical life (where the latter requires the former). This is because he holds that “all good philosophy, insofar as it is pursued honestly and decently, begins with a confession” (Monk, The Duty of Genius, p. 365). This also illustrates his quasi-Hegelian view that “One must start with error and convert it into truth (“Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough,” in Philosophical Occasions, p. 119).

(The later) Wittgenstein believes this because he holds that we all live, so to speak, in a de facto state of sin and must struggle to escape it: “We don’t want anyone else to look inside us because it’s not a pretty sight in there” (Culture and Value, pp. 46). Since human beings exist in a de facto fallen state, achieving the philosophical truth requires a conversion from the false to the true, from the sinful to the sinless. Thus, the necessary form of a philosophical life is this: One must “convert” one’s present “sinful” state into a more ethical state.

Further, confession is important to Wittgenstein’s later philosophy because, as he wrote in 1931, “‘a confession’ has to be a part of your new life” (Culture and Value, p. 18). One might object that philosophy only concerns how one thinks, not what kind of person one is. However, although that might be the standard view, (the later) Wittgenstein disagrees,

Working in philosophy – like work in architecture in many respect – is really more a working on oneself. On one’s own interpretation. On one’s way of seeing things. (And what one expects of them). [Culture and Value, p. 16].

That is, writing the Philosophical Investigations is not merely (the later) Wittgenstein’s attempt to solve some academic philosophical problems (such as the “problem of the false proposition”). Since philosophy, like architecture, is a kind of working on oneself, on “one’s way of seeing things,” and since genuinely improving one’s self must begin with a confession, philosophizing, or, to be more precise, philosophizing “honestly and decently,” must begin with a confession.

If, however, one is to understand the sense in which the Philosophical Investigations essentially involves a confession of (the later) Wittgenstein’s earlier philosophical “sins,” one must understand how he saw the context, both external and internal (to himself), in which he makes this confession. In the Preface to the Philosophical Investigations, (the later) Wittgenstein is very pessimistic that the publication of the book will actually help anyone understand anything better,

It is not impossible that it should fall to the lot of this work, in its poverty and in the darkness of this time, to bring light into one brain or another—but, of course, it is not likely.

It is significant that references to one’s own spiritual “poverty” and to “the darkness of this time” are expressions often used in religious contexts. For example, Augustine, in his Confessions, refers to his own poverty and the darkness of his own time. One can therefore infer that (the later) Wittgenstein sees an analogy between the spiritual “poverty” and the darkness” of his time with the spiritual poverty and the darkness of Augustine’s time. Specifically, (the later) Wittgenstein writes the Philosophical Investigations in full awareness of his own fallen state and the fallen state of the world in which he writes. These are together so bad that he does not merely doubt that his book will help anyone but he states that “of course” it is not likely his book will help anyone. The worldly situation is so dark that the pessimistic conclusion is simply taken for granted. It would not be “news” if no one learned from his book. It would be “news” if one person did.

This is not a man who proudly proclaims that his book will solve the problems or make the world a better place. Recall that he did do something like that in the Preface to the Tractatus when he stated that “I … believe myself to have found, on all essential points, the solution to the [philosophical] problems.” The tone in the Preface to the Philosophical Investigations has become much more humble, even pessimistic and dark. Indeed, in a 1944 remark in Culture and Value, very close in his “later” period to the publication of the Philosophical Investigations, (the later) Wittgenstein gives a hint how he poorly thinks of his own fallen state,

The Christian religion is only for the man who needs infinite help, solely, that is, for the man who experiences infinite torment. The whole planet can suffer no greater torment than the single soul. The Christian faith – as I see it – is a man’s refuge in this ultimate torment. Anyone in such torment, who has the gift of opening his heart rather than contracting it, accepts the means of salvation in his heart. Someone who in this way patiently opens his heart to God in confession lays it open for other men too. In doing this he loses the dignity that goes with his personal prestige and becomes like a child. That means without official position, dignity or disparity with others. A man can bare himself before others only out of a particular kind of love. A love which acknowledges, as it were, that we are all wicked children. … We don’t want anyone to look inside us since it’s not a pretty sight in there. Of course, you must continue to feel ashamed of what’s inside you, but not ashamed of yourself before other men. No greater torment can be experienced than One [LW’s capitalization] human being can experience. For if a man feels lost that is the ultimate torment.

(The later) Wittgenstein could have departed the world, as Carnap saw him, as the proud author of the Tractatus, one of the most powerful philosophical books of the 20th century, and as the author of the Philosophical Investigations, a powerful sequel to the Tractatus that adds new dignity and pride to its author, the originator of two entirely different philosophical movements in the 20th century. That may be how others see (the later) Wittgenstein but it is not how he sees himself.

(The later) Wittgenstein sees himself in the “ultimate” and “infinite torment” of one who is “lost.” He does not suffer from the illusion, common among intellectuals, that because he has written great books he is a great man. Since he believes that our age is dominated, not by great cultural figures but by the “crowd” (Culture and Value, p. 6), he believes that the esteem in which he is held by his contemporaries is virtually meaningless. (The later) Wittgenstein knows, painfully, that he needs “infinite help.” He knows, painfully, referring to himself, that “it’s not a pretty sight in there [inside himself].” He knows, painfully, that he needs a “refuge.” He knows, painfully, that he needs “salvation.” But he also knows that in order to achieve his salvation he must be able to “open his heart to God in confession” and “lay it open for other men too.” He knows that in order to do this authentically he must “lose the “dignity” and “disparity with others” that goes with [his] personal prestige as the great philosopher and “become like a child.”

In fact, all of this language comes out of the Bible. The same language is also found in Augustine’s Confessions which Wittgenstein “revered” (Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir). One can give only a fraction of the Biblical references here. There are numerous references, as at 1 Peter 2:25 to the “lost sheep.” Luke 15:20 refers to being “lost” and then “found.” Psalms 31:10 refers to living in spiritual poverty due to one’s own iniquity. Isaiah 9:1 refers to the difficulties of living in a time of darkness. Proverbs 22:11 refers to the necessity of loving out of a pure heart. Matthew 18:4 states that anyone who humbles himself as a child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven, which, in fact, is a way of stating (the later) Wittgenstein’s main point that humility, true humility, not posturing, is necessary for salvation.

In order to understand the Preface to (the later) Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations one must recognize its Biblical language. It is clear that he takes this Biblical language as describing his own fallen state. (The later) Wittgenstein believes himself to be suffering from spiritual poverty and living in a time of spiritual darkness. Since all changes in one’s life must begin with a confession, he publishes the Philosophical Investigations as a confession that constitutes the first step towards his journey of salvation. This is why he humbles himself in the Preface by explicitly confessing his doubts and his own spiritual poverty.

Even his remarks in the Preface that his “vanity” had been stung by seeing some of his ideas circulated in mangled or watered down form is a confession of his own tendency towards being prideful, something he must combat. And the final sentences of the Preface he confesses that he “should have liked to produce a good book” but “this has not come about” and he can no longer make it any better. Given his own view discussed earlier – that philosophical error is a failure of will to avoid the temptation towards superficiality – that is another confession of his “ethical” shortcomings.

One can only infer that just as he conceived of the publication of his Tractatus as an “ethical deed,” he also conceives of publishing the Philosophical Investigations as a new ethical deed, specifically, as the first step towards his new journey of salvation. The self-depreciating words in the Preface to the Philosophical Investigations are not, therefore, simply the standard scholar’s statement of debt to others: “I was helped immeasurably by so and so and by so and so and by secretary so and so and typist so and so but of course all the errors are mine.”

Rather, in the Preface to the Philosophical Investigations, (the later) Wittgenstein humbles himself by confessing in front of the whole world that he does not regard himself as the great philosopher who impressed Bertrand Russell and wrote the Tractatus but as, so to speak, a sinner who has given up any “official position, dignity or disparity with others” and has, so to speak, willingly “become like a child.” He has done this, so that he can offer the Philosophical Investigations to the world in the right spirit of an “open heart,” that is, with that “particular kind of love …that acknowledges that we are all wicked children.”

Note that nowhere in the Preface to the Philosophical Investigations is it stated or implied that he will be successful in this new journey of salvation or that his confession will actually be given in the right spirit. To do so would be another act of pride. Rather, (the later) Wittgenstein’s words from the 1944 remark from Culture and Value describe his ideal confession, which does not mean that he can himself measure up to it.

On the other hand it is illuminating to recognize that (the later) Wittgenstein does not publically grovel in his confession in the Preface to the Philosophical Investigations. The reason for this is that, as he also states in that 1944 remark from Culture and Value, one “must continue to feel ashamed of what’s inside you, but not ashamed of yourself before other men.” There is no need to grovel publically before other people because they are all “wicked children” too. If (the later) Wittgenstein grovels, it will be silently before himself or before God.

His remarks about suffering “infinite torment” in Culture and Value hint that he does grovel in silence: “No cry of torment can be greater than the torment of one man” (Culture and Value, p. 45). It is hard not to see that as an autobiographical remark. Indeed, if he were to publically grovel in his confession that could be seen as another act of pride: “Look at how great I am in the degree to which I can debase myself before the world by trumpeting my enormous torment!” Even the fact the he is confessing his former “thought-sins” in the Preface to the Philosophical Investigations cannot be made explicit because there would be no point in doing so except to glorify himself. Thus, (the later) Wittgenstein does not even use the word “confession” in the Preface to the Philosophical Investigations.

That the Philosophical Investigations is a confession is something that can only be “shown” rather than said out loud. That is, it can only be “shown by [his] mode of procedure” in, among other things, beginning the Philosophical Investigations with a quotation from a classic book of spiritual confession while being silent about the true nature of his own book (see the epigraph from Alan Janik to § I above). For, confession, if it is to be done in the right spirit, not proudly, must be done silently to oneself, before God, not trumpeted to the world. Thus, it is precisely his silence in the Philosophical Investigations about its status as a personal confession that “shows” that it is a philosophy of humility.

(The later) Wittgenstein does not even try, as he had in the Tractatus, to write a book filled with deep sayings about logic or mysticism. The time for posturing or, as he had earlier said to Ficker, “babbling” about these “ethical” matters is over. The time to impress the world with one’s deep sayings is long past. That is replaced by “a quiet weighing of linguistic facts” (Zettel, para. 447), that is, weighing the various kinds of statements human beings make about objects, facts, mind, knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, God, etc., while humbly remaining silent about one’s own views or virtues. If one is authentic only one thing is important at this point: “Attend to making yourself more honorable!” (Culture and Value, p. 30).

Richard McDonough is the author of two books, numerous articles, encyclopedia and dictionary entries, and book reviews. He has taught previously at Bates College, the National University of Singapore, the University of Tulsa, the University Putra Malaysia, the Overseas Family College, the PSB Academy, the University of Maryland, the Arium Academy, and James Cook University. In addition to philosophy, he has taught psychology, physics, humanities and writing courses.

The featured image shows, “The Conversion of Saint Augustine,” by Fra Angelico; painted, ca. 1430-1435.

Wittgenstein’s Philosophy Of Humility. Part I: The Tractatus

Wittgenstein [in his Tractatus-logico-philosophicus] has clearly formulated the proud thesis of the omnipotence of rational science (Rudolf Carnap, The Logical Structure of the World, § 183).

Ludwig Wittgenstein is often ranked as one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century for his contributions to the philosophies of logic, language, mind, and mathematics. This contribution is made in two different periods. First, in his early Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and Notebooks, 1914-1916, and many years later in his Philosophical Investigations and subsequent related works, like Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Zettel, and On Certainty. Call these, respectively, “Wittgenstein’s Early Period” and “Wittgenstein’s Later Period.” Call the view that Wittgenstein’s main contribution to philosophy is constituted by his work in these areas in the aforementioned works “the Official View.”

I do not deny the importance of Wittgenstein’s contributions to these fields, in these works. Quite the contrary. Wittgenstein’s contributions to these areas of philosophy in these works are incomparable. However, I argue that “the Official View” misses the fundamental aim of Wittgenstein’s philosophical endeavors in both his early and his later periods and argues instead that his aim in both of these periods is, broadly speaking, religious or ethical in nature. Although this may seem paradoxical, the paper argues this despite the fact that there are very few remarks about religion or ethics in any of his philosophical works, and the fact that Wittgenstein explicitly denied that he is “a religious man.”

Thus, I argue that there is nothing whatsoever “proud” about Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and the related and Notebooks, 1914-1916. Rather, the Tractatus is, as a first approximation, most fundamentally a philosophy of humility inspired by Wittgenstein’s unique species of religiosity. The argument that Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations and the other works in his later period also express that a similar religious humility is argued later in a separate paper. It is commonly said that Kant denied knowledge to make room for faith. One might say that Wittgenstein denies the excessive “pride” associated with rationalistic science to make room for religious humility about the limits of human reason.

I. The Official View Of The Tractatus

The whole sense [Sinn] of the book might be summed up as follows: what can be said at all can be said [sagt] clearly, and what we cannot talk about, we must pass over in silence (Tractatus, Preface).

The official reading of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus-logico-philosophicus is familiar. The Tractatus is one of the seminal works in “analytical” philosophy. It is very similar in this respect to several of Bertrand Russell’s early works on “logical atomism.” The Tractatus holds that the resolution of philosophical problems can only be achieved by “logical analysis.” The only things that can be “said” or “put into words;” that is, the only “genuine propositions,” are contingent factual propositions about the structures of objects in the world.

The Tractatus’ (4.11) “scientistic” view that the totality of true genuine propositions coincides with the propositions of natural science is a corollary of this. All other alleged “propositions,” except for the “senseless [sinnlos]” logical propositions, are viewed as “mystical [mystische]” “nonsensical [Unsinnig]” pseudo-propositions that cannot be “said [sagt]” (Preface, 3.24, 6.54).

What such pseudo-propositions attempt to “say” can actually only be “shown [zeigt]” (4.1212). That is, what these “mystical” pseudo-propositions try to “say” is beyond the limits of language (Preface, 7). Since the Tractatus understands the “mystical” very broadly to include almost everything traditionally of philosophical interest, including ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, cosmology, religion, and the self (the “metaphysical Subject”), the better part of the history of philosophy is seen as “unsayable” “nonsense,” leaving only science and logic standing. Indeed, the Tractatus even views its own sentences as nonsensical pseudo-propositions that must be discarded after one has used them to obtain the correct view of the world,

My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: Anyone who understands me eventually regards them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it). (6.54).

This passage from the Tractatus is reminiscent of Hume’s statement in the Enquiry on Human Understanding that the works of metaphysics must be consigned to the flames. After one has used the Tractatus’ own pseudo-propositions to obtain the correct view of the world one must “throw” them away like a “ladder” one no longer needs. This is the “proud” scientistic interpretation that inspired Carnap and other logical positivists. Everything that can legitimately be said can be said by the natural scientists with some ancillary support from the logicians.

II. The “Mystical” Dimension Of The Tractatus

There are [Es gibt] indeed things [allerdings] that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest [zeigt sich]. They are what is mystical [mystische]. (Tractatus, 6.54).

Astonishingly, although the Tractatus describes its own “propositions,” as well as all the “propositions” of ethics,” understood broadly to include all value sentences, as “metaphysical” “nonsense,” the book, in its final passages, appears to take all this back, when it informs the puzzled reader that “there are” mystical things that cannot be put into words. In a letter to the publisher Ficker, at the time he was trying to get the Tractatus published (see Ray Monk’s Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius), Wittgenstein explains his own perspective on the significance of the Tractatus:

[My book] consists of two parts: of the one which is here [in the submitted written text] and of everything which I have not written. And precisely this second part is the important one. For the Ethical is delimited from within, as it were, by my book; and I am convinced that, strictly speaking, it can only be delimited in this way. … All of that which many are babbling today, I have defined by remaining silent about it [All emphases, Wittgenstein’s).

Wittgenstein holds, paradoxically, that there are two parts to the Tractatus, the part on the logical foundations of the language of the natural sciences that can be written, and the “mystical” part on “ethics” that cannot be written – where, astonishingly, the mystical part that cannot be written is the most important part.

It would appear that what the Tractatus takes away with one hand, the “mystical,” “metaphysical,” “ethical” “nonsense,” it gives back with another. For despite the fact that the Tractatus stresses that the “mystical” part of the Tractatus is “unsayable” “nonsensical,” Wittgenstein tells Ficker that it is precisely the “unsayable” “nonsense” that is the most important part of the book. The most important part of the book cannot be part of the book!

This paradoxical view expressed both in the Tractatus itself and by Wittgenstein commenting about the Tractatus quite naturally leads to the objection, discussed by Max Black in his A Companion to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, that the Tractatus is inconsistent or “self-refuting.” For example, in “Philosophy and Logical Syntax” (§ 7), Carnap states that the Tractatus is simply inconsistent.

According to Carnap, Wittgenstein tells one, in the final sentence of the Tractatus, that “whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent” and then “instead of being silent he writes a whole philosophical book” about the very things about which he said one must be silent. Carnap’s approach to the Tractatus is to divide the book into two parts, the salvageable eminently “sayable” parts about “logical syntax” that he finds useful for his own logico-scientistic program and the unsalvageable “unsayable” “mystical” part that he just discards.

The Tractatus states that its own sentences must be thrown away like a ladder that is no longer useful so Carnap just throws away the better part of it. The purified consistent skeleton of the Tractatus, written originally as a Ph.D. thesis for a department of physics at the University of Vienna rather than for a department of philosophy, is, roughly speaking, fleshed out in Carnap’s The Logical Structure of the World in which not a single “unsayable” “mystical” element remains. What remains is only a description of the logical syntax of the language of physics.

In opposition to Carnap’s interpretation, many scholars hold that there is no inconsistency in the Tractatus because it only claims that there are “mystical” things that can be “shown [zeigt]” and cannot be said [sagt].” Call this “the Charitable Interpretation.” The sentences in the Tractatus do not attempt to “say” anything but only to “show” something. On this “Charitable Interpretation” there is no inconsistency because the Tractatus does not try to “say” what cannot be “said.” It only tries to “show” what cannot be said.

One obvious problem with the “Charitable Interpretation” is that it must explain the obscure notion of “showing.” Another is that it must explain how the sentences in the Tractatus “show” what they try to “say.” For even if one clarifies the notion of showing and explains how Tractatus sentences “show” something, there is still a clear sense in which those sentences “say” something. For does not “Objects are simple” (2.02), in some sense, “say” something, namely that objects are simple? It is a remarkable fact that the claim that Tractatus sentences “show” but do not “say” is generally not recognized as the pure dodge that it is for the straightforward reason that claiming that Tracatus sentences “show” something does not automatically rule out the possibility that there is also another sense in which they do “say” something.

The moral, for present purposes, is that no matter which way one turns, the Tractatus appears to be a baffling work. On Carnap’s kind of logic and science-friendly view, one must literally discard the better part of the book like a diseased spleen. The “Charitable Interpretation” appears to be more promising at first glance, but, first, it is fraught with obscurity (the notion of “showing”), and, second, it does not even seem to solve the one problem it purports to solve. For even if one gives an account of the sense in which Tractatus sentences “show” something, that does not by itself eliminate the fact that they also seem to “say” something.

I do not deny the importance of these questions, but suggest that the exclusive focus on these kinds of disputes reflects an overly academic way of thinking about the Tractatus, a way of thinking about it that leaves out what Wittgenstein himself saw as its point. Wittgenstein did want to solve these academic problems about the logic of language, but solving these kinds of problems were not his reasons for writing the book. A surgeon may obsess endlessly about the strength of a certain kind of suture she uses to stitch up wounds, but she does not obsess about them because she is fascinated by engineering questions. She does so because it is her purpose to save lives. What was Wittgenstein’s real purpose in writing the Tractatus?

III. The “Ethical” Interpretation Of The Tractatus

Those Austrians who were closest to Wittgenstein insisted that whenever he concerned himself with anything, it was from the ethical point of view; in this sense he reminded one of them directly of Kierkegaard. The Tractatus was more than a book on ethics in the eyes of his family and friends; it was an ethical deed, which showed the nature of ethics. (Toulmin and Janik, Wittgenstein’s Vienna, p. 24)

Wittgenstein obsessed endlessly to make sure that he got the technical “logical” issues in the Tractatus right. But he did not write the Tractatus in order to solve technical problems in logic. His aim in writing the Tractatus was, as he stated to Ficker, fundamentally “ethical.”

It is, however, important to recognize that in these kinds of contexts, Wittgenstein uses the word “ethical” in a very broad sense to include all fundamental questions of value. In the Tractatus itself (5.641) he identifies ethics with aesthetics and in his 1929 “Lecture on Ethics” he explains that he understands ethics quite broadly to include “what is valuable,” “what is really important,” “the meaning of life,” “what makes life worth living,” “the right way of living,” as well as religious matters and questions concerning the existence of God.

Further, in that same “Lecture” he explains that he is not interested in mundane problems of value, e.g., whether it is better to wear a plain or a checkered tie with a striped shirt, but with issues involving “absolute” value. Questions about dress codes may, in a sense, be value-questions but by “ethics” Wittgenstein means fundamental questions about the absolute values. In this same “Lecture” Wittgenstein makes clear that these attempts to discuss absolute values represents the same attempt to go beyond the limits of language he had discussed years earlier in his Tractatus,

For all I wanted to do with them was just to go beyond the world and that is to say beyond significant language. My whole tendency and, I believe, the tendency of all men who ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to run against the boundaries of language.

Indeed, Monk, in Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (p. 541), reports that Wittgenstein had a “fundamentally ethical conception of religion.” Since Wittgenstein includes this broad range of issues concerning absolute values, including religious questions, under his notion of ethics, his concept of ethics is the concept of an interrelated set of ethico-religious issues broadly understood.

If Wittgenstein understood writing the Tractatus as an “ethical” “deed,” what deed was it? What, that is, was Wittgenstein trying to accomplish by laying out the general form of all meaningful propositions, that is, the general form of the sorts of genuine propositions that might be included in a true scientific description of the world. Wittgenstein does address this question. After stating, in the Preface to the Tractatus that he believes that the “truth [Wahrheit]” of what he says in the Tractatus is “unassailable and definitive,” he goes on to say:

And if I am not mistaken in this belief that the second thing in which the value of this work consists is that it shows how little is achieved when these problems are solved.

In what respect does Wittgenstein mean that “little” is achieved by the Tractatus? For many logicians and philosophers of science believe it accomplishes a great deal. Carnap certainly thinks the Tractatus accomplished a great deal, specifically, that it “proudly” shows the “omnipotence” of rational science. Carnap appears not to have noticed that Wittgenstein explicitly rejects this claim of the “omnipotence” of rational science at Tractatus (6.52),

We feel that when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched.

That is, if it is one’s aim is to solve “the problems of life,” roughly, the fundamental ethico-religious problems that from the time of Socrates until relatively recently were understood as the signature mission of philosophy, then solving the logical problems that the Tractatus goes no way whatsoever towards solving these “problems of life” or these traditional problems of philosophy.

In brief, rather than, as Carnap thinks, stating the “proud” thesis of the “omnipotence of rational science,” the Tractatus actually exposes the impotence of human reason and the physical sciences for solving “the [ethico-religious] problems of life.” That is, the ethical meaning of the deed accomplished by writing of the Tractatus is not pride but the precise opposite – humility, which happens to be one of the most basic of all Christian teachings.

Wittgenstein’s actual relation to Christianity is controversial, but it is clear from his many remarks in Culture and Value that he was deeply sympathetic to many Christian teachings. The following remark from Culture and Value (13) makes Wittgenstein’s attitude to Jesus quite clear:

What would it feel like not to have heard of Christ?
Should we feel left alone in the dark?

Further, part of what appeals to Wittgenstein about Christ is his humility. In a 1937 remark in Culture and Value, after criticizing St. Paul’s Epistles because he sees in them “something like pride or anger which is not in tune with the humility of the Gospels,” Wittgenstein writes,

In the Gospels – as it seems to me – everything is less pretentions [Wittgenstein’s emphasis], humbler, simpler. There you find huts; in Paul a Church. There all men are equal and God himself is a man; in Paul there is something like a hierarchy; honors and official positions.

Thus, the meaning of the “ethical deed” of writing the Tractaus is reflected in precisely this kind of Christian humility. The Tractatus does not take pride in outlining the sorts of grand scientific edifice that human beings can possibly build. Rather, by clearly “showing” that this logico-scientific edifice can have no bearing whatsoever on the great ethico-religious problems of life, he aims to illustrate the sort of humility appropriate to limited beings such as ourselves.

Carnap, presupposing his own very different scientistic goals, gets the real purpose of the Tractatus precisely backwards. The Tractatus is actually attempting, so to speak, to expose the sin of pride in scientistic philosophers who ascribe to human reason properties like “omnipotence” that can only properly be attributed to God. Whereas the ethical meaning of the Tractatus mirrors Christ’s teaching of humility, the meaning of Carnap’s scientistic belief in the “omnipotence” of human reason traces to the opposite kind of source:

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof [from the tree “in the midst” of the garden], then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4 – 3: 5).

IV. Wittgenstein “Not A Religious Man?”

When Wittgenstein was working on the latter part of the Philosophical Investigations, he said to his… close friend… Drury… “I am not a religious man but I cannot help seeing every problem from a religious point of view” (Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein: From a Religious Point of View?).

Since the present interpretation holds that Wittgenstein understood the Tractatus as an ethico-religious deed that reflects the Christian teaching of humility found in the Gospels, a doctrine of humility explicitly endorsed by Wittgenstein in Culture and Value, and since Wittgenstein himself admitted to his friend Drury that he is not a religious man, one might infer that the present interpretation must be wrong. For if writing the Tractatus is an ethico-religious deed, then the man who wrote it is by definition, to that degree, a “religious man.” How does one resolve the conflict between the present interpretation that writing the Tractatus is an ethic-religious deed and Wittgenstein’s own self-evaluation that he is “not a religious man.”

In fact, Wittgenstein is simply wrong in that he is not a “religious man.” First, Wittgenstein satisfies many of the ordinary requirements for being a religious person. Indeed, Monk, in The Duty of Genius (p. 540), remarks that “Wittgenstein’s Hebraic conception of religion was, Drury suggested, based on the sense of awe one feels throughout the Bible.”

Malcolm reports in his Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir that Wittgenstein “reveres” St. Augustine. Wittgenstein also reveres many religious figures like Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Bertrand Russell complains that Wittgenstein, when he first met him, reads Silesius (who, significantly, is a 17th Century Catholic monk who also believed in the ineffability of mystical truth). One could go on. In fact, Wittgenstein’s mistaken claim that he is “not a religious man” is based on the enormously high standard he sets for being genuinely religious. In Culture and Value (53), Wittgenstein writes,

[R]eligious belief could only be something like a passionate commitment to a system of reference. Hence, although it’s a belief, it’s really a way of living, a way of assessing life. Instruction in religious faith, therefore, would have to [involve] an appeal to conscience.

Call this “Wittgenstein’s Passionate Commitment” criterion or WPC. By this strong criterion, Søren Kierkegaard and Thomas Merton would clearly classify as religious men because they each had a passionate commitment to their religious beliefs and tried to live in accord with them, but many people who regularly attend church or temple and sincerely hold religious beliefs but do not “passionately” devote their lives to their religious views would not be religious people.

Since WPC is Wittgenstein’s criterion for being a genuine religious person, it is clear why he stated to Drury that he is “not a religious man.” Wittgenstein leads the life of a philosopher, not the life of a monk or saint. He does not make WPC’s “passionate commitment” to a religious “system” in that sense.

Thus, Malcolm is correct in his remark in his Memoir of Wittgenstein that “If ‘to be a religious person’ is to ‘lead a religious life’ then… [Wittgenstein] was not a religious person” – but the “If” in Malcolm’s statement is the operative word. For, it is important to recognize why Wittgenstein does not satisfy WPC. Malcolm remarks in the same work that Wittgenstein understood “religious belief [to be] based on qualities of character and will that he himself did not possess.” That is, Wittgenstein felt that he is himself too flawed as a person to be a genuinely religious person.

From this perspective, Wittgenstein’s denial that he is “a religious man” is actually evidence that he is a religious man, at least in the ordinary sense. For it is an unfortunately fact about the world in which we live that the people who trumpet that they are religious people are often not and the people who deny, out of harsh self-criticism, that they are genuinely religious people are in fact the genuinely religious ones.

Although Malcolm, when he first wrote his Memoir of Wittgenstein in the 1950’s, agreed with Wittgenstein’s self-evaluation that he is not a religious man, he later, after he read Wittgenstein’s remarks about religion in Culture and Value, reversed his opinion and came to see Wittgenstein as a religious person. For, in the ordinary sense, Wittgenstein is a religious person, indeed, a very religious person. Wittgenstein denies that he is a religious person because he feels too unworthy, given his almost impossibly high standards for being a genuinely religious person, and that, ironically, is a sign of a genuinely religious person.

Wittgenstein’s denial that he is a religious person is, therefore, not to be taken straightforwardly as a statement of fact. For that denial is actually an expression of Wittgenstein’s Kierkegaardian religious despair. Wittgenstein denies that he is a religious man for exactly the same reason the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 5:6), whose religiosity is not in question, was overcome with a sense of unworthiness when he received his vocation and confessed: “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6: 5).

The objection that the Tractatus cannot be a religious deed because Wittgenstein admitted that he is not a religious man fails. Wittgenstein is, both in the ordinary sense and in Wittgenstein’s own almost impossibly high sense, an extremely religious person and the Tractatus is his courageous ethico-religious deed.


I find scientific questions interesting, but they never really grip me. Only conceptual and aesthetic [ethical] questions do that. At bottom I am indifferent to the solution of scientific problems; but not the other sort (Culture and Value, 79).

On Carnap’s view, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is a “proud” statement of the “omnipotence” of rational science (specifically, the physical sciences). The truth is quite the opposite. Wittgenstein was not particularly gripped by the accomplishments of the natural sciences. He did, of course, have a normal healthy human interest in these accomplishments and he did have an interest in the conceptual questions concerning the nature of the natural sciences.

However, what primarily gripped him, as both he and the Austrians who knew him well, stated, was ethics (broadly construed to include aesthetics and religion). One must therefore infer that Wittgenstein’s primary interest in the logical foundations of the natural sciences in the Tractatus was “ethical” (in his broad sense of that word).

Indeed, that is precisely what he told Ficker. Specifically, his aim in the Tractatus was to show the ethical role fulfilled by the natural sciences in human life. The message of the Tractatus is that it has no role. It is one of the mistaken beliefs of our shallow time that science will provide the answers to the problems of human life. That is, the Tractatus attempts to “show” the impotence of rational science to say anything whatsoever of importance toward solving “the problems of life” (the precise opposite of the message Carnap somehow saw in the Tractatus).

Wittgenstein gives the Tractatus to the world as a humble ethical deed intended to counter the proud belief in the omnipotence of the natural sciences. The reason Carnap and so many others get the fundamental message of the Tractatus precisely backwards is that they simply assume that Wittgenstein shares with them the modern reverence for the physical natural sciences and the associated scientistic view that these sciences will provide solutions to the ethico-religious problems of life.

When, therefore, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus lays out in minute detail the logical foundations of everything that can be meaningfully and scientifically “said,” they automatically assume that he is endorsing their own proud rationalistic and scientistic project. The “mystical” remarks at the end of the Tractatus are dismissed either as an inconsistency, a logical mistake, or as an idiosyncratic belief of an eccentric Austrian that actually reads the likes of Silesius.

In fact, however, Wittgenstein humbly admits in the Preface to the Tractatus “how little is achieved” when one has solved “all” the philosophical problems concerning the limits of language and the logical foundations of the natural sciences.

Admittedly, Wittgenstein does, in the Tractatus, obsessively attempt to solve the logical issues of philosophy, but, like the surgeon who obsesses over the strength of a certain kind of suture even though she is not interested in engineering facts about materials but only in saving lives, Wittgenstein in the Tractatus obsessively attempts to engineer solutions to numerous “logical” problems even though what really interests him is, in a sense, to save lives (or, perhaps better, souls).

As such, the Tractatus is an “ethical” deed intended to invite the reader to turn inward, towards one’s silent self, and away from the distractions of the empty “idle talk” in the noisy marketplace of the proud but sterile pretenders to wisdom.

Travel within thyself! The Stone
Philosophers with wisest arts
Have vainly sought, cannot be found
By travelling in foreign parts.
Silesius, The Cherubinic Wanderer, § V.

Richard McDonough is the author of two books, numerous articles, encyclopedia and dictionary entries, and book reviews. He has taught previously at Bates College, the National University of Singapore, the University of Tulsa, the University Putra Malaysia, the Overseas Family College, the PSB Academy, the University of Maryland, the Arium Academy, and James Cook University. In addition to philosophy, he has taught psychology, physics, humanities and writing courses.

The featured image shows, “The Raising of Lazarus,” by Jan Lievens; painted in 1631.

The “News” Media’s War On Donald Trump: A Retrospective

Socrates: Do you mean the so-called ruler or the ruler in the most precise sense [of the word]?
Thrasymachus: I mean the ruler in the very precise sense of the word.
Plato, Republic(341b)

In Book 1 of the Republic Plato portrays an argument between Socrates, sometimes cited as the creator of “moral philosophy,” and the sophist Thrasymachus, about the nature of justice. Sophists are people who, as they were described in Plato’s time, seek “to make the worse appear the better cause,” that is, use deceptive techniques to make the bad and the false appear good and true (or vice versa).

In Book 1 of the Republic, Socrates puts forward a view about the nature of justice that Thrasymachus regards as the typical drivel of philosophers with “their head in the clouds.” Plato describes Thrasymachus as “gathering himself up like a wild beast” and “hurling himself upon [Socrates and his companions] as if he would tear [them] to pieces.” In brief, Thrasymachus is a bully. Socrates even admits to being “frightened” and put into a “flutter” by Thrasymachus’ savage attack, but after regaining possession of himself Socrates gets Thrasymachus to make a seemingly innocuous admission that changes the whole course of the argument, namely, to admit that if one is to have any faith in the conclusion of arguments one must couch the arguments in precise speech. For if one is not scrupulously precise in one’s language then any conclusion reached in the argument cannot be trusted.

By the end of Book 1, Socrates, employing precise speech, has shown that the views Thrasymachus states with so much arrogance and venom are the very opposite of the truth and he is reduced to sulking in the corner. Socrates has, so to speak, employed precise speech as an instrument of genuine reason to tame the “wild [sophistical] beast” and make him gentle and harmless. Since sophists have only proliferated since Plato’s day, and now control most of our government, our “educational” establishment, our “entertainment” industry, the “news” media and even, regrettably, most of our “woke” corporations, Plato’s insights are as relevant today as they were in the 4th century B.C.

One of the areas in which Socrates’ and Plato’s critique of sophistry is relevant to the contemporary political scene is the treatment of Donald Trump by the “news” media, the “educational” establishment and other contemporary “experts.” Trump has been viciously attacked from the moment he came down the escalator in 2016 to announce his candidacy for the presidency. It is difficult to imagine any heinous sin of which he has not been accused. One of the most basic of the accusations against Donald Trump is that he is “a divider.” The other charges are just special cases of this. He “divides” us by virtue of being a racist, a sexist, a bully, a homophobe, a dictator, a traitor, and so on. The “evidence” that he is all of these heinous divisive things is there for all to see in what he says, sometimes in what he “tweets.”

Trump, we have been told by our moral betters, has said that all Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers. He has bragged about grabbing women by the p—y. He has said that immigration is bad. He has even said that immigrants from Mexico are “animals.” He has demeaned Haitians and Africans by saying they come from “shithole” countries. He has said that the coronavirus is a hoax. He has endangered a plethora of lives by suggesting that people inject themselves with bleach to cure themselves of the virus. He has said that there were good people among the white supremacists at the Charlottesville rally. He lied that there was election fraud in the 2020 election. In early January before the two crucial Georgia senatorial elections had taken place, the Washington Post reported that in a phone call with a Georgia state official he told the Georgia official that they “would be a national hero” if they fabricated votes for him in the 2020 Georgia presidential election. Many national “news” media outlets, including the New York Times and CNN claimed they had independently verified this story.

One could add many more charges made daily against Trump by the “Democrats” and their media collaborators but these should suffice for the present. Admittedly, anyone who said such things would deserve to be criticized. In fact, however, should facts still be relevant, Trump has said none of these things. In some cases, he said the precise opposite of what has been attributed to him. In this essay, following Socrates’ method, should this still be permissible, I analyze Trump’s precise words in these and several other accusations and show that each of these is a fabrication, specifically, that the “Democrats” and their media colluders regularly embellish what Trump said with a bit of creative writing, so to speak, in order to pin an irresponsible “divisive” view on him.

Although it should not be necessary to do so, the inability in our age, given what has been done to our “educational” system over the last several decades, to make simple distinctions requires me to emphasize that the argument of this essay does not imply agreement with Trump’s actual statements or the way he said them. I myself would not have said the things Trump has said and certainly would not have said them in the way he said them. The present article is not about Trump. It is not an attempt to defend what he actually said. That would be a separate very different kind of article. This article is about the “news” media and their “Democrat” collaborators. It is concerned only with the specific question whether Trump actually said the things the “news” media and the “Democrats” regularly attribute to him.

I. Trump’s Alleged Unacceptable Claims

1. All Mexicans Are Rapists And Drug Traffickers

Consider one of the first of the Trump statements that set the Democrat Party and the “news” media into a frenzy, his statement, upon first coming down the escalator in 2016 to announce his candidacy for the presidency, that all Mexicans are rapists and drug traffickers. This accusation has been repeated over and over and over again by “Democrats” and members of the “news” media for over 4 years. Consider a small sample!

On April 6, 2018 Byron Wolf of CNN said that “Trump basically called Mexicans ‘rapists’ again” and adds that “Trump continues to generalize such allegations against a large group of people.” On Aug. 31, 2016 Tessa Stuart of Rolling Stone published an article titled “Donald ‘Mexicans are Rapists’ Trump Goes to Mexico.” On June17, 2017, Amber Phillips of the Washington Post published an article titled “They’re Rapists: President Trump’s Campaign Speech Two Years Later, Annotated,” in which the accusation is repeated.

On April 6, 2018, Michelle Mark of Business Insider published an article titled “Trump just referred to one of his most infamous campaign comments: calling Mexican’s rapists.” On June 25, 2015, Greg Allen, in an article titled “Univision Cuts Ties with Trump After Comments about Immigrants,” quotes a rather confused Sean Spicer as saying that that Trump’s “broad brush” on Mexican Americans is “not helpful to the cause.”

In fact, Trump did not “basically call Mexicans ‘rapists’ again,” he did not “generalize such allegations” about all Mexicans, he did not “disparage Mexican immigrants,” he did not paint “Mexican-Americans with a broad brush,” and so on. However, in order to see this one must not allow one’s personal prejudices, emotions or political affiliations from distorting one’s understanding of some relatively simple sentences. Rather, one must take Socrates’ advice when dealing with the sophists of his day and examine Trump’s precise words:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.

Trump explicitly says that not all Mexicans are rapists and drug traffickers, for he concludes by saying that some of them are “good people.” In fact, some of his critics, after a lot of hard thought with which they are evidently not accustomed, eventually admitted this. Even so, one might accuse Trump here of tokenism, that is, of only admitting that a few Mexicans here and there are good people. However, that is not the main reason why Trump did not accuse all Mexicans of being criminals. For, Trump makes no claim whatsoever about “all” Mexicans (This is the point where “Democrats” and the “news” media may need to look up what the word “all” means). Trump’s statement only refers to that subset of people that Mexico is “sending.”

Further, since Trump explicitly contrasts this subset of Mexicans that Mexico is “sending,” with Mexico’s “best,” the one’s Mexico is not sending, one must infer that Trump does not ascribe these vile qualities to Mexico’s “best.” That is, put directly, Trump’s remark implies that not all Mexicans are rapists and drug traffickers. The “Democrats” and the “news” media have in this case ascribed to Trump the exact opposite of what he actually said.

It is worth noting that even Politifact, a left-leaning “fact-checker” with Democrat party connections, has, on August 8, 2016, pointed that Trump never said what Hillary’s vice-presidential choice, Tim Kaine and many others, have accused him of saying:

Kaine has embellished the controversy by saying Trump has said “all Mexicans are rapists.” The Democrat doesn’t come close to proving his claim; all of the Trump quotes Kaine’s campaign sent us pertain to unauthorized [emphasis added] immigrants crossing the Mexican border into the U.S.

Despite the fact that even Politifact admits that Trump never made that stronger statement about “all” Mexicans, the charge is repeated ad nauseam by Democrats and media personalities and it often even goes unchallenged on Fox “News.” Further, although more accurate than some outlets, Politifact still did not get it completely right. Trump did not say that it is only the “unauthorized immigrants” that are rapists and drug traffickers. He said that the immigrants that Mexico is sending are rapists and drug traffickers. Trump made no statement whatsoever about some ordinary person who crosses the border illegally on their own. Trump’s statement clearly refers only to organized efforts to “send” people illegally into the United States from Mexico. Does the word “coyote,” that is, a human trafficker, ring a bell for the “news” media?

It is, finally, worth referencing a conversation between CNN “star reporter” Jake Tapper with Trump reported by Theodor Schleifer in a June 5, 2016 article titled “Trump defends criticism of judge with Mexican heritage.” Schleifer reports how Tapper’s accuses Trump of racism. The precise wording of the conversation is reported by Schleifer as follows:

Trump: “He’s proud of his heritage. I respect him for that,” Trump said, dismissing charges that his allegation was racist. “He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico.”
Tapper: “If you are saying he cannot do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?”

It is, apparently, necessary to go very slow here for CNN’s “star reporter” and the rest of the “news” media that has an unhealthy obsession to find racism in everything Trump. In the case at hand, Jake, a little too eager to do his bit for the cause, has apparently forgotten that “Mexican” is not a racial classification. The point is not difficult. The people from Mexico are Mexicans regardless of their race, and there are people of many different “races” in Mexico. There are “white” Mexicans, “black” Mexicans, “brown” Mexicans and so on.

The current Wikipedia article titled “Demographics of Mexico,” providing multiple references for documentation, lists the demographics of Mexico as follows: 47% of Mexicans are called “Castizo” or “mostly European or white European descendants. 27% are “Mestizo” with a mixture of European and indigenous populations. 21% are indigenous native Americans. The article also lists 18% of the natural hair color in Mexico as blonde and 2% as red.

One well known example is Canelo Álvarez, perhaps Mexico’s most famous boxer at the present time, who has reddish hair and looks like he hails from Dublin. The current Wikipedia article on Canelo explains that many people in Mexico associate their red-haired citizens with the Irish soldiers who fought in the St. Patrick’s Battalion in the Mexican-American War. This is all apparently news to Tapper, who, as I understand it, studied history “modified by visual studies” as an undergraduate (perhaps, from the look of it, a bit more of visual studies than history).

2. Trump Called Mexicans “Animals”

On May 17th 2018 Miriam Valverde, in an article titled “In context: Donald Trump’s comments about immigrants, ‘animals’” quoted Diane Feinstein’s (D-California) condemnation of Trump for calling Mexicans “animals.”

Immigrants are not ‘animals.’ The president’s statement was deeply offensive and racist. Immigrants are our family and friends, and they make significant contributions to our country,” tweeted Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California.

Of course, this accusation was repeated over and over again in the “news” media. The only problem is that Donald Trump did not make a racist remark about immigrants. Fortunately, Miriam provides Trump’s exact words again, not the words conjured by Diane Feinstein and adopted uncritically by a friendly “journalist.”

Margaret Mims, Fresno County Sheriff, after thanking Donald Trump for his support, has the following exchange with Trump:

Mims: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 gang member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.
Trump: You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.

Trump is here explicitly referring to the immediately preceding statement made by Sheriff Mims about MS-13 gang members. He was not talking about all immigrants. He was talking about the gang that is regularly accused of torture, beheadings, child prostitution and terrorism, that is, as AG Bill Barr, in a July 15, 2020 press conference said, a gang in which “being the most savage, bloodthirsty person you can be and building up a reputation as a killer” is admired. Needless to say, comrade Feinstein and many other demagogues who momentarily forgot their occasional opposition to torture (when this is politically useful) saw this as an excellent opportunity to embellish Trump’s remarks to suit the Democrat Party-media narrative that Trump a racist.

3. Trump Is “Anti-Immigrant”

It has also become an article of faith among Trump’s critics on the left that Trump is “anti-immigrant.” In fact, Trump has never stated a general “anti-immigrant” position. His main focus has always been to stop illegal immigration. The following is typical of Trump’s statements on the matter:

This sustained influx of illegal aliens has profound consequences on every aspect of our national life — overwhelming our schools, overcrowding our hospitals, draining our welfare system, and causing untold amounts of crime. It must end NOW!

Usually, children acquire the ability to distinguish between snakes and poisonous snakes by the third or fourth grade, which is fortunate because this is an essential survival skill. However, for some reason, the “Democrat” Party and much of the “news” media seem unable to distinguish between immigrants and illegal immigrants. Trump has always opposed the latter, not the former. It is true that at points during his presidency Trump has attempted to reduce legal immigration as well, but the key word there is “reduce.” Trump has never called to end legal immigration.

Even when Trump moved to reduce legal immigration, he never moved to stop it altogether and claimed only to want to attract more talented immigrants (e.g., on May 16, 2019 the Wall Street Journal reported on Trump’s proposal for “a ‘common sense’ plan that ‘builds upon our nation’s rich history of immigration.”). In fact, it would be possible to have a reasonable discussion of Trump’s immigration policies if one could find serious people in the “Democrat”-media complex willing to do so.

Unfortunately, they have done what they usually do, namely, call Trump names and accuse him of being anti-immigrant by conveniently losing the ability to make the sort of mundane distinctions that should be mastered by a competent 3rd or 4th grader.

4. Trump “Derided Immigrants From Haiti And Africa”

In Jan. 12, 2018, the Democrat party and the media were sent into a frenzy when someone leaked a private conversation in which Trump allegedly referred to various countries populated largely by blacks and Latinos as “shithole” countries. One cannot recall ever seeing the Democrat Party and the “news” media so excited. Call this Trump’s Alleged Shithole Statement or TASS. One must say “allegedly” because Trump and others have denied that this is a correct description of what took place in that meeting and there is no direct evidence of what precisely he said, e.g., no tape recording. This did not of course prevent the Democrat-media complex from attributing the unqualified statement to Trump.

However, for the sake of argument let us assume that Trump did assert TASS and examine whether the interpretations put on it by Trump’s detractors are justified. Most of his accusers do not provide any precise interpretation of TASS but simply assume it is a racist statement, that being the easiest option since it requires no thought or mastery of the English language. The Atlantic claims that in TASS Trump “placed whites over Asians, and both over Latinos and blacks from “shithole” countries.”

In a report on Jan. 12, 2018 CNN announcers Eli Watkins and Abby Phillip state that in the remark Trump is “deriding immigrants from Haiti and Africa.” On January 12, 2018, Anderson Cooper, after, as usual, reminding viewers how great he is, how very much he cares, slammed Trump, sometimes choking back tears, for what he “has said… about Haitians.” Similar remarks were repeated endlessly by “Democrats” and in their agents in the “news” media. In fact, however, TASS is not even about Asian, black and Latino people. It is about certain of the countries in which they, along with “white” people, live. The specific type of inference used by Cooper and others to generate their talking points can be found in critical reasoning and logic texts in the chapter titled fallacies, or, more precisely, in the sub-section in that chapter that deals with “the fallacy of division” (e.g., in Copi and Cohen’s Introduction to Logic, 12th edition, Chapter 5, section 5.6, A5).

The fallacy of division is the fallacy in which one fallaciously infers that what is true of the whole is also true of the parts of that whole. For example, it would obviously be a fallacy of division to infer from the claim that an F-22 fighter is expensive that one of its parts, such as a rivet, is expensive – and this is precisely the kind of fallacy that proved so useful to so many in the Democrat party and the “news” media to convict Trump of racism (again). And, although this might come as “news” to the “news” media, one says very different kinds of things about countries and the people who live in them. A country C has a “gross national product” but John who lives in C does not have a “gross national product.” A country C has a certain population but Maria who lives in C does not have a certain population.

Trump’s TASS is about certain countries as wholes, not their citizen parts. It is, therefore, fallacious to infer from the claim that country C is a “shithole” country that the individual people who live in C are “shithole” people. TASS does not even imply that there is anything wrong with the people in C. A freshman critical reasoning text should be sufficient to settle the matter if the “news” media can find one.

Further, the claim that country C is a “shithole” country is not a racial statement. It is most naturally taken as a statement about that country’s standard of living, its gross national product, the quality of its educational system and medical system and so on. Thus, the claim that a country is a “shithole” country might actually be used in an argument that the people in C, being lovely people, deserve better. This more charitable interpretation did not, however, fit the Democrat-“news” media narrative and, accordingly, never made its way to their conscious minds.

Since Cooper’s award-worthy performance is representative of the rest, it is instructive to discuss it in some detail. I again leave aside the claim that the claim that Trump asserted TASS is alleged, not proven – something Cooper conveniently forgot to mention. The point here is that it appears that Cooper, with all his wealth (listed at Celebrity Net Worth as 200 million dollars), is unable, on the required occasions, to distinguish between a collective and its parts – that is, unable to recognize that from the claim that a whole state is a “shithole” one cannot legitimately infer that the parts of that state, its people, are “shithole” people. Presumably even Cooper, if he can choke back his virtue-signalling tears, is capable of realizing that if one calls the Soviet Union a “shithole” country, one is not calling its people “shithole” people or disparaging them in any way. Comrade Cooper can distinguish between a government and its people, right?

Something does not cease to be a fallacy just because Cooper and the “news” media needsto use it in order to run their mandated narrative du jour. For Cooper himself criticized the country of Haiti, not its people, when he referred to what the people of Haiti have “suffered” from their government and added: “For days and weeks without help from their government or police, the people of Haiti dug through the rubble with their bare and bloodied to save complete strangers.” That is, Cooper, his reasoning faculties apparently blinded by his lucrative emotional theatre, does not realize that he agrees with Trump’s alleged TASS. The country of Haiti, the collective whole, failed its people. That is what Trump’s TASS is saying. Cooper and Trump are in agreement, although Cooper’s need to virtue signal prevents him from seeing this.

The Atlantic article goes on to speculate what meaning TASS has to Trump supporters. Let me repeat this in order to make sure the point is clear. The Atlantic did not go out and ask Trump supporters what TASS means to them. That would require leaving their air-conditioned rooms and their pumpkin spiced latte – which is not in the cards. The Atlantic simply speculates what TASS means to Trump supporters,

Perhaps… the leaked conversation would resonate with [Trump’s] base. … Perhaps racist Americans see the browning of America as the shitholing of America. Perhaps, as former Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric L. Richmond responded, they hear “Make America Great Again” as “Make America White Again.”

The keyword, of course, is “Perhaps.” Such words also have a name in critical reasoning and logic texts. It is called a “weasel word.” When Bob’s used car dealer tells him that this car gets “up to” 36 miles per gallon, he is weaseling Bob because the statement does not mean that the car gets 36 miles per gallon. It is consistent with the car dealer’s statement that in ordinary driving it only gets 18 miles to the gallon. Weasel words are popular with used car dealers, politicians and “journalists” because almost anything can be said to be “perhaps” true. Perhaps America’s enemies are laughing at the damage the “news” media is doing to the United States right now. Perhaps “journalists” use “perhaps” so much because they don’t actually know anything. Perhaps unscrupulous people engage in racial demagoguery involving “weasel words” to advance their own career while they hurt innocent people and damage the nation.

In summary, the Democrat-media frenzy about Trump’s “shithole” remark is a complete fabrication that employs textbook reasoning fallacies to stir emotions for a political agenda. This is not serious journalism. It is a freshman critical reasoning homework assignment – one that the Democrat-media complex failed – but there is nothing new in that.

5. Trump Admitted To Grabbing Women By Their Private Parts

Another charge leveled against Trump prior to the 2016 election and repeated endlessly by the “Democrats” and the “news” media ever since is that Trump admitted to Billy Bush in the infamous Access Hollywood tape that he “grabs them [women] by the p—y” and gets away with it. In fact, Trump said no such thing. Once again, one must examine Trump’s precise words, should this be permissible. But before we do that, it is necessary to recall the context of Trump’s remark. First, Access Hollywood is, putting it mildly, not 60 Minutes, and Billy Bush is, putting it mildly, not Mike Wallace.

Setting the bar even lower, he is not even Chris Wallace. Second, in that conversation Billy Bush could be heard egging Trump on, trying to get him to make outlandish statements about his relations with women. Bush succeeded, but the whole tone of the conversation is unserious. Trump’s defense that this is locker room talk” is, therefore, in this context, somewhat plausible. However, to turn to the most important matter, Trump, even being egged on by Bush, did not say that he “grabs [women] by the p—y.” On the outside chance that today’s sophists cannot prevent us from following Socrates’ ancient call for precision, here are Trump’s precise words in that discussion:

I just start kissing [beautiful women]. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.

Trump does here admit that he just starts kissing beautiful women without permission. That sort of behavior is not acceptable. However, that is not the present issue. The present question is: did Trump admit to grabbing women by the p—y in this conversation? The answer is that he did not. Trump goes on to say that “stars” can grab women by the p—y, indeed, that “stars” can “do anything” to women, but he does not say that he personally does these things. The reply will be that everyone knows what Trump means. But, in fact, it could be argued that Trump draws a line here between what he admits to doing, automatically kissing beautiful women when he sees them, and grabbing them by the p—y. He explicitly admits to the former, not the latter.

It is worth noting, as an aside, that Bill Maher, apparently suffering from another temporary self-congratulatory bout of moral outrage, (mistakenly) criticized Trump for admitting to grabbing women by the p—y, but Jill Jameson, the former porn star, has, as reported in the Jan. 24, 2017 article titled “Ex-porn star Jameson claims Bill Maher a ‘p—y grabber’,” stated that she has seen Maher at the Playboy Mansion do precisely what Maher has wrongly said that Trump admitted to doing. Jameson’s accusation has not been proven, but it reminds one that one actually needs evidence to support such a serious charge, not just the usual media and Maher word-play.

6. Trump Called The Coronavirus A Hoax

On Feb. 28, 2020 Thomas Franck of CNBC published an article titled “Trump says the coronavirus is the Democrats’ ‘new hoax’.” This claim was repeated over and over again by many “Democrats” and people in the “news” media. Trump must certainly be ghoulish to call the coronavirus a hoax at a time when many thousands were already dead in the United States and several hundred thousand more were certain to die from it in the coming years.

In fact, what Trump actually said in a campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina is that “The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. This is their new hoax.” That is, Trump was not calling the coronavirus itself a hoax. He was calling the Democrat’s politicization of it a hoax. This is a neat trick. The Democrats politicize the coronavirus. Trump calls the politicization as a hoax. Then the Democrats and the “news” media, in a continuation of the original hoax, do a dishonest switch and claim that Trump called the virus itself a hoax. Fortunately, Hope Yen, in a Sept. 18, 2020 Associated Press “fact check” concluded that Biden distorted Trump’s words on the virus hoax.

7. Trump Told People To Inject “Bleach” To Kill The Coronavirus

On July 9, 2020, in a speech, Joe Biden, who used this claim to help him become the “president” of the United States, states that Donald Trump said that “maybe if you drank bleach” you can cure the coronavirus. Others have said that Trump also suggested introducing dangerous ultraviolet light inside the body to kill the virus. “Journalists” and “Democrats” with no appreciable scientific background were horrified. These claims were picked up, embellished to make them sound even more stupid and repeated by “Democrats” and the “news” media ad nauseum. Matt Perez, eager to do his bit for the cause, published an article in Forbes on April 23, 2020, titled “Trump suggests Injecting Coronavirus Patients with Light or Disinfectants, Alarming Experts.”

In the article, Perez quotes Dr. Vin Gupta, an NBC “news” commentator, also eager to do his bit for the cause, who said that “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and its dangerous” and cautioned that this is what people do “when they want to kill themselves.” Trump is, apparently, so stupid that he is going to kill us all before it is all over. On April 24, 2020, Kate Kell and Raphael Satter published an article in Reuters titled “Trump’s COVID-19 disinfectant ideas horrify health experts.” In this article Patrice Harris, President of the American Medical Association, also eager to do her part for the cause, is quoted as saying: “It is unfortunate that I have to comment on this, but people should under no circumstances ingest or inject bleach or disinfectant.”

On the same day, Kirsten Brown and Justin Sink published an article titled “Trump’s Idea to Disinfect Lungs Leaves Medical Experts Aghast.” On April 25, 2020, in an article titled, “Trump recklessly suggests injecting disinfectant to kill coronavirus. Why he’s wrong,” Jackson Ryan, a “science editor” at CNET (short for “Computer Network”), also eager to do his bit for the cause and show how much he cares, states authoritatively that “Disinfectants, like bleach and isopropyl alcohol, are toxic and should not be consumed, ingested or injected to fight COVID-19.” Overseas media, equally appalled, and wishing to do their bit for the cause as well, chimed in to show how much they care. On April 24, 2020, Poppy Noor of The Guardian published an article titled “Please don’t inject bleach; Trump’s wild coronavirus claims prompt disbelief.”

In fact, Poppy is right about one thing. The flurry of “news” articles about Trump’s alleged statement should “prompt disbelief” but not about Trump. It should prompt disbelief in the ability of the “news” media to read in the English language at the 7th grade level. For, in fact, should this still be relevant, Trump never said that people should drink or inject bleach or disinfectants into the body to cure the coronavirus. On July 11, 2020, even Politifact published an article titled “No, Trump didn’t tell Americans infected with the coronavirus to drink bleach.” Further, Politifact provides Trump’s precise words, which will make Socrates, but not Biden, Dr. Gupta, Patrice Harris (President of the American Medical Association), Poppy Noor, and Thrysamachus happy. Here are Trump’s exact words, spoken while talking to a group of doctors about possible treatments for the coronavirus:

And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? …[It would] be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me.

With a modicum of effort, our “news” media, Dr. Gupta, the president of the American Medical Association and Poppy Noor can verify that the sentence in which Trump mentions injecting a disinfectant has a question mark at the end. Even American “journalists” should be competent to recognize that this means that Trump was asking a question, not instructing anybody to do anything. That is, Trump’s real sin was to ask a question to a gathering of doctors which, one would have thought, is precisely what a president should do when speaking to a group of doctors about a pandemic. This is why Politifact rates Joe Biden’s claim, and by implication the rest of these unhinged claims, as “mostly false.”

This story does have an addition dimension that actually presupposes a certain amount of scientific literacy. For, despite the Democrat and “news” media glee at how stupid Trump is to suggest injecting disinfectant or shining ultraviolet light into people’s bodies to cure diseases, there is a long scientific tradition of investigating precisely these possibilities. It is not possible to do justice to this topic here so only the most basic points can be made.

Hypochlorous acid, commonly known as Eusol, is used as a disinfectant to clean surfaces. For example, Eusol, that is, sodium hypochlorite equivalent to 0.05% – 0.1% is listed at pharmacy.nhg.com.sg as a disinfectant to treat floors furniture and mops but also, undiluted, on wounds. Despite the fact that one would not be advised to put sodium hypochlorite on one’s salad when one runs out of oil and vinegar, The Journal of Hygiene published a paper in 1943 by D. G. ff. Edward and O. M. Lidwell titled “Studies on Air-Born Virus Infections: III: The Killing of Aerial Suspensions of Influenza Virus by Hypochlorous Acid.”

The paper gives a result of a study that found that the influenza virus in the nasal passages is susceptible to mists of Eusol. Similar studies have continued to the present day. In 2011 Myeong Sang Yu, Hyung Wook Park, Hyun Ja Kwon, and Yong Ju Jang published a paper in the American Journal of Rhinol Allergy titled “The effect of a low concentration of hypochlorous acid on rhinovirus infection of nasal epithelial cells” that argues that introduction of hypochlorous acid (Eusol) into the nasal cavities does have some effectiveness in neutralizing rhinovirus present there.

The “news” media also expressed considerable glee at Trump’s stupidity in suggesting that ultraviolet light might be used to kill the coronavirus inside the human body. However, in an April 23, 2019 news conference, Chaunie Brusia announced that a research team led by Mark Pimentel, MD at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital is performing research on a UV light therapy, called “Healight,” that delivers intermittent ultraviolet (UV) light through an endotracheal catheter to treat coronavirus and other respiratory infections. Dr. Pimentel stated that “Our team has shown that administering a specific spectrum of UV-A light can eradicate viruses in infected human cells (including coronavirus) and bacteria in the area while preserving healthy cells.”

In addition to Eusol, methylene blue is a substance sometimes used as a disinfectant outside the body but also in photodynamic therapy (PDT) inside the body. The general idea is that there are certain substances that are normally dangerous to the body but which one can introduce into the body in such low concentrations that they are not dangerous because they can be rendered effective by light at the point in the body where the desired effect is needed, e.g., the site of a cancer or infection.

In fact, there are a plethora of articles on these subjects to those willing and able to search for them, which does not, apparently, include the “Democrat Party” or the American “news” media. Further, since Thailand was not working for the Biden “campaign” at the time, Thailand Medical News published an article on April 16, 2020, over 6 months before the US “election,” titled “Breaking News! President Trump Could Be Right After All. Photodynamic Theory and the Disinfectant Hypochlorous Acid Are Interesting Research Prospects to Treat Covid-19.” That is, it is not just that disinfectants and light are being introduced into the body in PDT o treat some diseases or other, but even coronavirus specifically is mentioned as an area of promising research.

On the assumption that scientific research is still permitted in the United States by a “news” media that is no longer in election mode, some American “journalists” might profit from tracking down some of the scientific papers listed on the Thailand site. There is a plethora of additional scientific papers on this topic, some of which specifically involving the use of the disinfectant methylene blue in PDT, are, given below.

The disinfectant Methylene blue is also used in PDT. See the IARC Monograph on the evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risks to Humans No. 108 titled “Some Drugs and Herbal Products” at The International Agency for Research on Cancer at Lyon France in 2016. A 2005 paper by João Paulo Tardivo, Auro Del Giglio, Carla Santos de Oliveira, Dino Santesso Gabrielli, Helena Couto Jungqueira, Dayane Batista Tada, Divinomar Severino, Rozane de Fátima Turchuello and Mauricio Baptista titled “Methylene Blue in photodynamic therapy: From basic mechanisms to clinical applications” discusses the in vitro (in the test tube) and in vivo (in the living body) applications related to PDT.

The authors conclude that methylene blue has the potential in PDT to treat a variety of cancerous and non-cancerous conditions, including basal cell carcinoma, Karposi’s sarcoma, melanoma and virus and fungal infections with low toxicity and no side effects. What this means, in layperson’s terms, is that although methylene blue is toxic, it can be safely introduced into the human body in low concentrations to cure some serious diseases because the medical efficacy of those low concentrations is increased by UV light introduced at that site within the body.

Similarly, in a 2019 paper in Scientific Reports titled “Photodynamic effect of Zirconium phosphate biocompatible nano-bilayers containing methylene blue on cancer and normal cells” Reza Hosseinzadeh and Khatereh Khorsandi describe the effective use of methylene blue in PDT of human breast cancer cells. The argument of this paper is more complicated than the one discussed in the previous paragraph because it begins with the recognition that the use of methylene blue, especially in PDT, has been limited due to its rapid enzymatic reduction within biological systems (that is, enzymes within the body break it down too fast to be useful).

As a consequence, the paper argues that nano-platelet zirconium was used as a “drug delivery vehicle” for methylene blue to enhance its photodynamic therapy efficiency in human breast cancer cells. The results suggested that not only does Zirconium Phosphate-methylene blue nanoparticles decrease the “dark” toxicity (i.e., in the absence of light) of methylene blue but that zirconium phosphate-methylene blue nano-hybrids significantly enhance the photodynamic efficiency against human breast cancer cells.

This study is cited here because it provides a concrete instance of the way in which scientists are always trying to find ways safely to introduce otherwise toxic substances (e.g., disinfectants) into the human body, sometimes in common with light or ultraviolet light to enhance their potency at the required area in the body, in order to render them effective to treat diseases.

The introduction of the “disinfectant” into the human body need not merely be to put it in a syringe and squirted into the bloodstream – as the Democrat-media alliance imagined Trump to be suggesting in their joint campaign slogans. More sophisticated applications are possible in which the “disinfectant” is synthesized into a “hybrid” molecule that decreases its toxicity and makes it possible to introduce it safely into the human body to treat diseases.

8. Trump Has Never Condemned “White Supremacists”

During his “campaign” for the presidency, Joe Biden, who currently finds himself in the White House, referring to Trump’s remarks at Charlottesville that there were “very fine people on both sides” at the protests against removing various historical statues from public places, stated that Donald Trump has “yet once to condemn white supremacy, the neo-Nazis.” Indeed, Biden has claimed that it was Trump’s remarks at Charlottesville that convinced him that he had to run for the presidency. Similar claims were repeated endlessly by the “news” media.

However, in a Feb. 11, 2020 article titled “Trump Has Condemned White Supremacists,” Robert Farley points out that “contrary to Biden’s claim, the president twice specifically condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and he has repeated that condemnation since.” Farley provides a complete transcript with a timeline of Trump’s precise words on these issues. On the day of the Charlottesville incident Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.” Farley also reports that Trump stated that he and Democrat Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe had met earlier that day and we “agreed that the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now. We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and true affection — really — and I say this so strongly — true affection for each other.” That is, the aim of Trump’s message that day, worked out jointly with Democrat Governor McAuliffe, was to provide a unifying statement. Trump explicitly condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence … on many sides.” Trump’s unacceptable statement, for which he absolutely cannot be forgiven, was that he alluded to the fact that “hatred, bigotry and violence” come from both sides und das ist streng verboten by the “Democrats”-“news” media complex because it is one of their ground rules for any discussion that their side of the aisle must be protected from any criticism whatsoever.

Farley further reports that two days later, on Aug. 14, 2017, Trump issued a statement that “referred to KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” Farley quotes Trump’s exact words:

[A]s I have said many times before: No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans. Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.

That is, Trump’s real sin on Aug. 14th is not that he did not explicitly condemn the KKK and White Supremacy. He explicitly did just that. In an attempt to be unifying, he called on us to love each other no matter what the color of our skin, followed by an explicit condemnation a day later of the KKK and white supremacy. His egregious sin was that he did not do this fast enough to meet the joint Democrat and “news” media’s political timetable. Accordingly, Farely concludes that “Joe Biden’s claim that President Donald Trump has ‘yet once to condemn white supremacy, the neo-Nazis,’” is just wrong.

Finally, since Joe Biden claim that it was Trump’s divisive remarks about white supremacy that led him to run for the presidency, and since Trump explicitly did condemn white supremacy and attempted to be unifying, it follows that Joe Biden’s rationale for running for the presidency, the office he now holds, is based on a fraud.

9. Trump Pressured Georgia Officials To Create Votes For Him In The 2020 Election

On Jan 3, 2021 the Washington Post published an article titled “‘I just want to find 11,780 votes.’ In an extraordinary hour-long call Trump pressures Georgia election official to recalculate the vote in his favor.” The article claims that Trump told the election official to “find the votes.” On Jan 9 2021 the Washington Post published another article titled “Trump Pressured Georgia Election Investigator in Separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction.”

This case is especially important because these media reports were cited in the second impeachment of Donald Trump to support the claim that he illegally attempted to pressure Georgia election officials to overturn the Georgia vote. Note as an aside that, difficult as it is to believe, media reports were used as evidence in an attempt to impeach the president.. As of March 18, 2021, Wikipedia, which generally attempts to promote the impression that it is an encyclopedia (as opposed to a political tool for the Left), reports the event this way: “The [second] article of impeachment addressed Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results (including his false claims of election fraud and his efforts to pressure election officials in Georgia).” This was also important because reports of Trump’s alleged Georgia election interference might have influenced the voters in Georgia in the election of the two Georgia senators that took place several weeks later. As it turned out, the two Democrats that had not been expected to win their elections did, so to speak, “win” them.

The problem is that the Washington Post articles were completely false. In mid-March 2021, the Georgia election official released the actual audio recording of the conversation. In their retraction the Washington Post wrote the following:

Trump did not tell the investigator to ‘find the fraud’ or say she would be ‘a national hero’ if she did so. Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find ‘dishonesty’ there. He also told her that she had ‘the most important job in the country right now’… The headline and text of this story have been corrected to remove quotes misattributed to Trump.

Imagine that! Trump is opposed to dishonesty! Clearly that is an impeachable offence. The Washington Post did not make a simple mistake here. They did not say that Trump called someone a fool when he really called them a jerk. They did not misread a number or a word. The Washington Post, during an election season crucial to the country, apparently unable to find a competent 7th grader to properly transcribe the simple wording in Trump’s actual conversation with the Georgia Secretary of State, made up the accusations, later used in the second Trump impeachment trial, out of whole cloth. What Trump actually said was nothing like what the Post reported. The “journalists” at Pravda could do no better.

10. Trump Lied That There Was Election Fraud In 2020

Immediately after Trump claimed that there had been fraud in the 2020 election, he was accused of lying, spreading false information, and even sedition. Although none of the “news” media ever told this to Stacy Abrams, who still thinks that she is the legitimate governor of Georgia, it is now, apparently, seditious, or, to be more precise, seditious for members of one party only, to question the results of an election. It is fine when members of the other party do so. In the following days, weeks and months after the 2020 presidential election, one “news” story after another informed the public that there was no election fraud whatsoever and repeated the claim that Trump is lying and spreading false information.

On Jan 15, 2021, Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune instructed Trump that he “must apologize for his lie that the election was stolen.” On Jan 20, 2021 Libby Cathey of ABC News, in an article titled “Trump’s Legacy of Lies: How Trump weaponized mistruths during his presidency” called Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen “the big lie” that “ended in the capital siege.” Unfortunately, Libby did not supply any evidence for her causal assertion about the capital siege. Needing an “expert,” Libby enthusiastically quotes Dr. Bandy Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at Yale, author of Profile of Nation: Trump’s Mind, America’s Soul (which claims, basically, that Trump’s mental illness gives insight into America’s spiritual illness), who claims that Trump’s “pattern of lying seems to consist of beginning with a conscious lie intended to deceive others – or to cover up who he really is – but as more people believe him and the adulations of the crowds gratify him in irresistible ways, he comes to believe it himself.… His grandiose sense of himself, on the other hand, does not allow for any possibility that he is wrong.”

For good measure, Bandy, possessed, apparently, by a novel theory of psychiatric disease and a grandiose vision of causation not found in any scientific textbooks, adds that Trump’s “psychosis” had spread to his followers like Allen Dershowitz. Dershowitz contacted the American Psychiatric Association to ask if Bandy’s behavior contradicts their rules that a psychiatrist should not diagnose someone that they had not personally examined. For the record, comrade Bandy was informed by Yale that if her behavior did not change, she would be terminated and she was in fact terminated on May 17, 2020. One could go on, but that should be enough documentation for present purposes.

Despite the grandiose confidence of Trump’s critics, possessed, apparently, with such vivid visions that they cannot conceive any possibility that they may be wrong, it is noteworthy that Trump just won a major legal victory in Michigan where an elected 1st District Court of Appeals Judge Christopher Murray declared that the Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, broke the state election laws by changing the rules that had been set by the state legislature, for legal ballots, ballot signatures and the like. Judge Murray put it this way:

Nowhere in this States election law has the legislature indicated that signatures are to be presumed valid, nor did the Legislature require that signatures are to be accepted so long as there are any redeeming qualities in the application or return envelope as compared with the signature on file. Policy determinations like the one at issue – which places the thumb on the scale in favor of a signature’s validity – should be made pursuant to properly promulgated rules under the APA or by the legislature.

The effect of Secretary of State Benson’s illegal changes was to relax the conditions of legal ballots, set by the legislature, in order to make many more ballots acceptable than would have been acceptable under the existing laws. As a result of these illegal changes to the rules, about 3.1 million additional ballots that would have been illegal under the existing laws were accepted in the 2020 Michigan presidential elections.

Since Trump only “lost” the state by about 150,000 votes it is easily possible that he would have won Michigan, thereby placing him within striking distance of the needed 270 electoral votes. If similar shenanigans were discovered in another major state like Pennsylvania, and if this could have been corrected before the election, Trump would be the president now. As Matt Margolis, in his March 21, 2021, in his article titled “Trump Vindicated as Judge Rules Michigan Secretary of State Violated Election Laws,” puts it:

Michigan was not the only state where Democrat state officials unilaterally changed election laws, so this ruling certainly raises legitimate doubts whether Biden truly won the election without invalid votes.

Naturally, the “news” media, eager to do its part for the cause, not the cause of “journalism” but the cause of the Harris-Biden campaign, led the charge to declare the 2020 vote to be certified quickly before precisely this sort of fraud could be discovered and corrected. As the Michigan judicial decision shows, however, once again, Trump was right and the hasty “news” media was wrong. Trump did not “lie” or spread false information about election fraud in the 2020 election. Rather, Trump was censored by partisans from exercising his first amendment rights to tell the truth, as he saw it, about the election, a right that used to be guaranteed in the United States that we all grew up in – but no more.

In fact, although this verdict by the Michigan judge is important, one does not actually need it in order to know that the “news” media was behaving in an inappropriate partisan way in this case. The enormous haste in the “news” media’s insistence that Trump had lied about election fraud gives them away. For, in fact, there is no possible way that the “news” media could know at that early date, days and weeks after the 2020 election, that there had been no election fraud.

The “news” media has apparently never heard of these things called “investigations.” Nor had they managed to remember that, unlike reading Democrat party talking points, which only takes a few minutes on the nightly news, investigations take time, sometimes months or years. One actually needs to check the facts, difficult as that is to believe. The “news” media, instead of just reporting the “news,” collaborated with the Democrat Party and the Harris-Biden campaign to solidify a certain fraudulent election result (illustrated by the result in Michigan). That is, the “news” media played an important role in subverting the Democratic process in the 2020 election but, because of the censorship operation by much of the “news” media, “Big Tech” and “social media,” one is not allowed to talk about the fraud. Das darf man nicht sagen!

II. Trump’s Alleged Support For The 2003 Iraq War

Many supporters of the “Democrat” party and the “news” media have repeatedly claimed that Trump asserted another falsehood when he claimed that he never supported the 2003 Iraq war. This case is slightly different from those discussed in the preceding section because Trump never said any of those things but there is actually a tenuous thread of support for their claims in this case. Most “Democrats” and members of the “news” media admit that Trump began to speak against the war after it started, but many of them refuse to give up the claim that he expressed support for the war in his 2002 interview with Howard Stern. However, this case is, at best, not clear cut. It is useful discuss this case because it displays another strand of the “Democrat” and “news” media strategies of misrepresentation.

In a 2/18/2016 Eliza Collins published an article in Politico titled “Trump supported invading Iraq in 2002: The GOP candidate says he opposed the 2003 invasion, but a year prior he told Howard Stern he supported going in.” The first sentence of the article is “Donald Trump often touts that he was against the war in Iraq, but in 2002 he expressed support for an invasion.”

In fact, Eliza is wrong that Trump “supported going in” in his talk with Howard Stern. First, it is important to remember the context. This is not a conversation with Morley Safer on 60 minutes. It is a conversation with “shock jock” Howard Stern on the radio Howard Stern Show, the most common subject matter of which, give Stern’s own obsessions, is women’s underwear. Second, this was a phone conversation between Trump and Stern. It was not a face to face sit down in which one can gage the intentions of the questioner (e.g., how serious is Stern in asking this question?). Third, the question was sprung on Trump, which does not permit a considered response. In this context, the best Trump could possibly do was to give a hasty response. Finally, and this is the most important point, Trump did not say that he “supports going in.” Fortunately, Eliza, who, apparently, does not understand the sentences in her own article, provides the precise wording of the exchange:

“Are you for invading Iraq?” Stern asked.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Trump responded. “I wish the first time it was done correctly.”

Saying “I guess so,” in this context is not a statement of support. It is, most obviously, a guess, and one of the most common dictionary meanings of “guess” is speculation. If John asks Jill if she loves him and Jill says “I guess so,” that is not the answer Jack wants. It does not mean that Jill, so to speak, supports “going in.” Jill’s response in that case is not an affirmative answer.

It is an attempt to stake a position in the safe indecisive middle. It is, perhaps, an attempt to postpone the final verdict on the issue until later. If one wished to give a fair appraisal of the cognitive meaning of Trump’s response it would be something like this: “I suppose, given what I know about it now, that it might be the right thing to do, but we’ll see.” Unfortunately, the media has never been interested in giving a fair appraisal of the meaning of Trump’s statement in the context of a phone-in discussion on the patently unserious Howard Stern Show.

By contrast, Joe Biden did unambiguously support going to war with Iraq in 2003. He voted to authorize the war it in the US Senate. Despite that, he several times denied having ever supported the Iraq war. In a Sept. 10, 2019 article titled “Biden’s Record on Iraq War,” Robert Farley states: “Twice in the last five weeks, Joe Biden has claimed that despite voting to authorize military force against Iraq in 2002, he opposed the Iraq war from “the moment” it began. That’s not accurate, and Biden now says he misspoke.”

The contrast between Biden’s explicit support for the authorization to go to war and Trump’s momentary “guess” what he would do is stark. Biden voted for the authorization to go to war in Iraq in 2003 on the floor of the United States Senate and later denied that he had ever supported the war. Biden’s support for the war in a vote in the Senate is as unambiguous as one can get.

By contrast, Trump’s “guess” what he would do in response to an unexpected question in a phone conversation on an unserious radio show is not unambiguous support for invading Iraq. Once again, the Democrats and “news” media seem totally incapable of fairly evaluating context and nuance when it comes to Trump. Instead, the method is to get a word or a sentence that can be taken out of context and embellished so that it can be repeated endlessly by partisans as a weapon against the despised conservative. That is not fair and it is not journalism. More important, it is a disservice to the American people.

III. The “News” Media’s Admitted Abandonment Of Objectivity And Fairness

The fact that the “news” media consistently misrepresents Donald Trump should not be a surprise. This is not an opinion. Many in the media have admitted it themselves. They have explained why they are doing this and many of them have even bragged that they are not going to be objective or fair.

On June 26, 2017 Mitchell Stephens, a professor of “journalism” at NYU, published an article on Politico titled “Goodbye Nonpartisan Journalism and Good Riddance: Disinterested Journalism is Overrated.” Stephens begins the article by claiming that Donald Trump’s “candidacy and presidency are already remaking American journalism … including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the network evening newscasts and CNN,” although what Stephens really means is that American journalism is remaking itself to join the Democrats in their war on Trump. That is, the decline of “objective journalism” is not something Trump did to American “journalism” but something American “journalism” did to itself, namely, break its traditional ethical commitment to neutrality. Stephens’ representation of the media as a passive victim here is what criminals typically do to escape responsibility for their crimes. “I didn’t mean to stab her 36 times. The Zoloft made me do it.” In this case, Stephens’ representation of the media as a passive victim here is an attempt to blame the media’s abandonment of objectivity on Trump. “Trump made us do it!” Stephens needs, like an adult, to learn to accept responsibility for his behaviour.

In the course of giving a self-serving history lesson to the effect that American “journalism” has always been partisan, Stephens explains that it has simply become time for American “journalism” to return to its partisan roots:

Is this the end of all that is good and decent in American journalism? Nah. I say good for them. An abandonment of the pretense to “objectivity”—in many ways a return to American journalism’s roots—is long overdue. Journalism in the United States was born partisan and remained, for much of its history, loud, boisterous and combative.

Stephens is, of course, wrong that American journalism has always been loud, boisterous and combative. The way “journalists” behave depends on who is in power. For example, it was not loud, boisterous and combative when White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny “became a mini-celebrity (or rather a national laughing stock)” when he asked Obama in the first days of his presidency what “enchanted” him most about being the president. Of course, even the Times, embarrassed by this unprecedented embarrassing level of groveling, which is saying something, buried Zeleny’s remark.

By contrast, on the first day of his presidency Zeke Miller of Time Magazine incorrectly reported that Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King from the Oval office and had to issue a retraction soon thereafter. The message, of course, a crucial part of the narrative being constructed by the “Democrat” party and their colluders in the “news” media, is that Trump is a racist. Time later stated that this was a “good faith error” because “the bust had been obscured from view.” Apparently, it is too much to ask a “journalist” covering the first days of a new presidency to walk a few steps and crank his or her neck 45 degrees to check whether the bust is still there. It’s a tough job, especially for shills.

Stephens celebrates the fact that our “most respected mainstream journalism organizations,” by which he means the one’s that dependably skew to his leftist side of the aisle, have abandoned the former practice of not calling politicians “liars:”

Our most respected mainstream journalism organizations are beginning to recognize the failings of nonpartisanship—its tepidness, its blind spots, its omissions, its evasions. It was news when the patriarch of American journalism, the New York Times, finally used the word “lie,” in a headline on atop its front page on September 17, 2016, to describe a Trump assertion (albeit one he claimed no longer to hold: “birtherism”). Other legacy journalism organizations began more regularly calling out Trump’s “falsehoods,” if not actually accusing him of lying. About a week later, the Los Angeles Times declared, also on page one: “Never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has.”

After “the patriarch of American journalism” (an odd sexist description of a “newspaper” whose nickname is “the Old Grey Lady”) abandoned tradition and began accusing Trump of lying, many other “journalists,” feeling that they had been given permission to do the same, followed suit. This is, of course, the same “patriarch of American “journalism” that had to delete a tweet claiming that Brett Kavanaugh thrust his penis in a girl’s face in a drinking party more than 30 years ago at Yale after being reminded, perhaps by a 3rd grader, that one actually needs evidence if one is going to publish this sort of smear about people.

On Aug. 8, 2016 Jim Rutenberg, eager to do his bit for the cause, in an article for the same “patriarch of American journalism,” titled “Trump is testing the norms of American journalism,” asked the trenchant question that, apparently, “everyone is grappling with,” namely, “Do normal standards apply? And if they don’t, what should take their place?” Many other “journalists” were soon to follow suit and abandon their traditional standards in order to do their bit for the cause.

With normal standards in the rear-view mirror, “journalists” began discovering Trump “lies” everywhere. It was remarkable, almost like a miracle, how many “lies” they found. Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper, Rachel Maddow, etc., regularly found Trump “lies” to entertain their remaining “news” base (the one that pays their inflated salaries). It was not long, with objectivity banished, before the “news” media “discovered,” so to speak, that Trump had “lied” much more than any other American president.

The Huffington Post, with a straight face, claimed in January 2021 that by Nov. 5, 2020 Trump had made 29,508 false or misleading statements of which 16,421 were lies. In order to understand this, however, one must remember that “lied” does not mean what it meant in the bad old days when a lie was defined in terms of objective truth. One must now understand that “lied” means “whatever admittedly non-objective left leaning ‘journalists’ say is a lie,” which, in many cases, turns out to be the truth (like Trump’s true claims about the illegality in the Michigan election). That is, most of Trump’s alleged “lies” were cooked up in America’s “news” rooms by the newly created species of non-objective “journalists.”

Further, it was not true that “everyone” was grappling with comrade Rutenberg’s question. Tucker Carlson was not “grappling” with it. Sean Hannity was not “grappling” with it. Glen Greenwald was not “grappling” with it. Lara Logan was not “grappling” with it. That is, in keeping with our Orwellian age, by “everyone” Prof. Stephens does not mean “everyone.” He means “everyone” is his “woke” bubble, the members of his tribe. Of course, the whole premise of Stephens’ argument is false, for there is nothing that says that a fair journalism must be tepid, have blind spots, or evade or omit things.

More recently, Lest Holt, of NBC “News,” while accepting the Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism, stated that it has “become clearer that fairness is overrated” and added that “The idea that we [in the “news” media] should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in.” Lester, one recalls, is the “journalist” who, while “moderating” a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016, intervened to contradict Trump and back Hillary’s claim that the “Stop and Frisk” policy in New York was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of New York. It is also worthy of note that the Washington Post, which cannot, apparently, read in the English language anymore, gave “kudos” to Lester for his “fact checking” to help their preferred candidate, Hillary, in the debate. But even the left-leaning Politifact admits that Trump was right:

The judge made it very clear that she was not finding stop-and-frisk as a general practice unconstitutional,” said David Rudovsky, a leading civil rights attorney and senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Holt’s claim [that] “stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York” … makes it seem as if the judge decided that all stops and frisks were unconstitutional in New York, when really her ruling said New York had to “stop and frisk” differently. New York cops still stop and frisk today.

In fact, Holt was simply following the Candy Crowley “school” of presidential debate “moderation” pioneered at CNN in the presidential debate between Obama and Romney in 2012. Crowly, like Holt, eager to do her part for the cause, intervened in the debate to state that Obama was right and Romney wrong about the language Obama had used to describe the terrorist attack on the Benghazi compound. A few days later Crowley had to admit that “Romney was right in the main.” Of course, millions of people saw her support for Obama in the presidential elections broadcast to the entire nation, but only a few thousand saw the “correction” a few days later, which means that the strategy to help Obama, despite the later correction, was successful. For the record, Comrade Crowly permanently left the field of journalism two years later.

Further, the fact that Crowley’s taking sides in the debate was clearly against the town hall rules did not stop some “journalists” from arguing that she was right to do so. Yes of course! The cause comes first! One only needs to wait until some debate moderator breaks the rules to intervene in a 2024 presidential debate to help Donald Trump or Ron De Santis against the Democrat to see how much these “journalists” believe any of what they are saying, if they really believe anything at all anymore. For, in fact, authenticity, that pesky old phenomenon the existentialists tried to remind us about in world that had become totally false, is no longer a part of the equation.

The fact that Lester Holt of all people, who intervened in a presidential debate with false information to hurt the conservative du jour, is shamelessly praised by the former “news” paper, the Washington Post, for doing so, and later, comically, received a major journalistic excellence award, illustrates that in today’s Orwellian world promoting untruths to hurt conservatives can be a major career booster.

Despite the lucrative new career-enhancing enthusiasm in the “journalistic” profession for discovering Trump “lies,” there were, in fact, a few journalists left who managed to retain some of that old-fashioned but now much despised “fairness” and “objectivity” – and keep their integrity to boot. Sharyl Attkisson, in a talk at Hillsdale College on Feb. 25, 2021, titled “Slanted Journalism and the 2020 Election” (currently on youtbe.com under the same title) explains the common-sense reason why real journalists have traditionally been reluctant to accuse someone of lying, namely, that lying is not simply saying something that is false. It is intentionally asserting something false and intentions, being subjective, are intrinsically very hard to verify. Thus, it is easy to decide if someone has said something that is false but much harder to determine if they intentionally did so, that is, if they have lied.

Of course, the inability to verify subjective matters is no problem once one abandons objectivity and fairness, as the “news” media did during the 4 years of the Trump presidency in order to protect the American people, the “basket of deplorables,” from being able to decide for themselves who they wished to vote for in the 2020 election.

Attkisson goes on the list a number of additional “mistakes” by our self-admitted non-objective admittedly non-fair thought police. It would take far too long to list all of Sharyl’s examples here, but one particularly amusing case is the report by Newsweek’s Jessica Kwong on 11/28, 2019 titled “How is Donald Trump spending Thanksgiving? Tweeting, Golfing and More.” As Sharyl puts it, the story implies that “Trump is once again goofing off unlike his heroic predecessor Barak Obama who used to only do selfless things.”

Predictably, however, for the non-objective “news” media, Kwong’s story was false. Trump had actually left the United States the night before to fly to Afghanistan where he served dinner to US troops. When Trump turned up in Afghanistan, and it became impossible, even for Newsweek, to maintain the false storyline any longer, Kwong claimed she had made an “honest mistake.” Kwong reported on Twitter that she was deleting her previous tweet because “It was written before knowing about the President’s surprise trip to Afghanistan” – yes of course, just like the article claiming that Trump removed the bust of Martin Luther King from the Oval office was written before the “journalist” found out he had not removed the bust.

It had not, apparently, occurred to Kwong before writing her original story to wonder whether the president might be making a surprise trip to visit the troops because, as Attkisson notes, “all recent presidents have done this at one time or another.” Who would have thunk it! The answer is: Anybody with common sense and basic decency but not, apparently, Jessica or her editor at Newsweek. Attkisson adds that in the Trump era “reporters,” like Kwong, commonly report stories unattributed to a source as if they had personally confirmed the story when they had not! In other words, Kwong reported the original story as if she had an internal White House source to lend it credibility when she did not.

However, Newsweek did not, Attkisson notes, correct the report. On 11/28, 2019 Jessica Kwong republished the story, which Newsweek described as an “update,” with the new title: “How did Trump spend Thanksgiving? Tweeting, golfing – and surprising US Troops in Afghanistan.” Kwong forgot to mention that Trump had also surprised Newsweek. Unfortunately, the new story is not an “update.” The fact that the original story was false, Attkisson notes, merited a correction and an apology but none was given. Attkisson adds that as of the date of her Hillsdale speech, Newsweek still had the false information that Trump golfed on Thanksgiving on the Newsweek page. It may be worth mentioning that in 2010 Newsweek, which had once been a fine news magazine, known for its objectivity, sold for one dollar.

The “news” media, Attkisson remarks, never seems to learn its lessons. Remarkably, NBC “news” had made virtually the identical mistake one year earlier! 8 hours before the end of Christmas day in 2018, NBC published a headline “blaring” that “Trump becomes first president since 2002 not to visit troops at Christmas time.” The article took multiple jabs at Trump to prove that he could not live up to the standards of his predecessors – that being a crucial part of the script the newly non-objective non-fair “news” media, eager to do its bit for the cause, was putting together.

In fact, however, Trump had left the White House late on Dec. 25th 2018 to visit the troops in Iraq. When the mistake was revealed, Attkisson notes that NBC, “like Newsweek, was unable to admit its mistake.” Instead of issuing a simple apology and stating that it had published a story “without bothering to verify it,” NBC published a lengthy editor’s note “parsing the definition of what constitutes a Christmas visit” and claimed that “the original article was technically correct.

As Attkisson puts it, “[It] depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” She goes on to give many more embarrassing instances of media’s inability to tell the truth or to admit that it has made a mistake even when it has been caught red-handed. This is, of course, the same media that has made a major effort to promote the impression that it is deeply concerned about Trump’s alleged “lies,” most of which it concocted itself.

None of this should be any surprise. This endless list of “honest mistakes” that always seem to skew in one direction (against conservatives), followed by various comical excuses by “journalists” whose bias and/or incompetence have been exposed, is what one gets when the “news” media announces that they are no longer going to be “objective” or “fair” because they, or, perhaps to be more precise, their paymasters, have decided that someone like Trump is too dangerous (to their establishment power) to cover objectively or fairly.

IV. The “News” Media’s Censorship Operation Against Trump

The program to censor Trump and his supporters by Facebook, Twitter, Youtube.com and other parts of the “news” media is an essential part of the “news” media’s current Orwellian operation. Twitter’s admission, after the election, that it was a “mistake” to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story before the election, is pathetic. It was as obvious before the election as it is now that the American people have the right to make up their own minds about such issues despite the grandiose self-conceptions of social media’s child billonaires. Since the constant “news” media misrepresentation of the facts is so easy to expose as soon as one applies Socrates’ insistence on precise speech, its dishonest operation can only be maintained if the people who attempt to expose the fraud are prevented from doing so (that is, if they are censored).

The “news” media’s censorship operation only makes sense if one believes, with these craven elites, that the American people are too stupid to think for themselves. Freedom of thought cannot be permitted by a “news” media that considers itself so superior to the “basket of deplorables” (half of the American people) that they need, for their own good, to be manipulated by their intellectual and moral betters on the coasts and in Silicon Valley.

This kind of censorship operation is practiced by all dictatorships. The dictator pumps out false or misleading information to maintain their own power and then censors anyone who points out that it is false or misleading on the grounds that their critics are giving false or misleading information. The attempted “justification” of the anti-American censoring behaviour by Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other media is literally comical. For it is easy enough to determine who is lying (or spreading false information) and who is not. One need only determine who needs to censor and who does not, that is, who is afraid of a free discussion and who is not. If one does not have the truth, one has nothing and, as usual, the censors, by their fear of a freedom of speech admit thereby that they know they cannot win a free and fair debate.

It should be noted that the present article only focuses on the media misrepresentations of Trump’s tweets and statements. It does not even begin to cover the whole other category in which various members of the “news” media fabricated stories, not based on anything Trump himself said, designed to destroy the Trump presidency and his chances for re-election in 2020. For example, the present article does not cover the media fabrication, in June of 2020, before the election, reported as fact at the time, that Russia was paying Taliban militants bounties to kill US troops. The “news” media and the “Democrats” had not been this happy since they were running their “shithole” hoax. Biden even used this story in his election “campaign” to keep alive the main idea of the first Russia hoax that Trump is somehow under Russia’s thumb. The new version is: Trump cannot even stand up to Putin to protect our troops! In April of 2021, however, after the election, Biden had to admit that the intelligence agencies did not have much confidence in those reports about bounties on US troops. That is precisely what Trump said at the time and he was pilloried by the “news” media and the “Democrats” for it. It would require another whole article to analyze this entirely different category of “news” media malfeasance against Trump.

The crime is not only against Donald Trump and conservatives. The crime is against the American people, the much despised “basket of deplorables” in “flyover country” for whom the coastal elites and the “news” media have nothing but contempt. The “journalists” at Pravda would be jealous that it was so easy to pull this off in America.

V. The “News” Media As The True Dividers Of The Nation

Michael Smerconish of CNN, referring to the massive polarization in the country, in a Jan. 13, 2021 Twitter remark, asks “How the hell did we get here?” Of course, many in the “news” media blame a large part of this polarization on Donald Trump. One of the media’s main criticism of Trump is that not just that he is lying but that he is the “dividing the country” by doing so. His various outrageous statements about Mexicans, women, “shithole countries,” injecting bleach to cure the virus, etc., polarize the nation.

It is entirely fair to criticize Trump. He is coarse. He, apparently, has no filter. If he thinks something, he says it. However, a precise examination of Trump’s statements reveals that once again the media has got things exactly backwards. If, as demonstrated in the previous 3 sections, Trump did not make these divisive statements but, rather, they were fabricated by the media and put into his mouth and broadcast to the nation and around the world, then it is the media that has divided the nation! It is the media that has turned Americans against one another. It is the media that has created ill will in Haiti and Africa against the United States by promoting the worst possible interpretation of Trump’s TASS. It is the “news” media and their comrades in the “Democrat” Party that has poisoned the nation internally and damaged the reputation of the nation abroad. Further, despite the discredited Democrat-media accusations for years that Trump colluded with Russia in the 2016 election, it was the “news” media itself, including the censors in “social media,” with their constant, demonstrably false hit pieces about Trump that have interfered in US elections far more than Russia ever did.

The American people have noticed. Smerconish might want to take note of the fact that according to a Jan. 18, 2020, Hill-Harris X poll, an overwhelming majority of voters say the news media is making the United States more politically divided. The survey of 1,001 registered voters found that 75 percent believe that the way news media reports the news increases the political divide, compared to only 7 percent who believe it diminishes the divide. The ratio there is almost 11 to 1 against the media.

Further, both Democrats and Republicans, by strong majorities, believe that the media is dividing the country. 84 % of Republican voters, 74 % of Democratic voters and 69 % of independents believe the news media has contributed an increase in political polarization throughout the nation. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reports that “journalists” are “purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know to be false.” The public also see which way the media bias trends. A December Edelman Trust Barometer U.S. Election Poll found that 57 percent of Biden voters trust the “news” media while only 18 percent of the Trump voters trust the media to tell the truth. This is not a close call. It is not as if 59 % of Biden voters that trust the “new” media while only 53% of Trump voters do. The real ratio is almost 3 to 1. Biden voters trust the media much more because it helps Biden.

One does not, apparently, need a Master’s degree in Mathematical Logic to notice that the US “news” media is unwilling or incapable of doing its job properly. This should not be a surprise. See James O’Keefe’s surreptitious tape at CNN exposing Jeff Zucker’s instructions to his “journalists” about what stories to cover and how to cover them, for example, his instructions to his “journalists” not to cover the Hunter Biden laptop scandal before the 2020 election. In another surreptitious undercover video Charlie Chester, a technical director at CNN, admitted that CNN was “creating stories” to get Trump out of office. Chester also stated that “I am a hundred percent going to say this and I a hundred percent believe it that if it wasn’t for CNN, I don’t know that Trump would have gotten voted out.” In one video Chester admitted that CNN targeted anti-Trump voters by focusing on climate change because “fear sells”. This is not “news”. It is theatre, choreographed tears and hysteria and all, not “news”, or, to be more precise, democrat party propaganda in the form of theatre. Naturally, Twitter, given their high standards for censoring conservatives, permanently suspended James O’Keefe’s Twitter account for exposing their comrades at CNN.

Apparently, the American people do not deserve to know the facts that the elites do not deem suitable for them. See also O’Keefe’s discussion with Ben Shapiro, currently on youtube.com titled “James O’Keefe’s Takeaways from Listening to CNN’s Editorial Meetings for 2 Months.” Finally, see James O’Keefe’s undercover video titled “BUSTED: James O’Keefe Confronts CNN Director About His Claims That the Network Used ‘Propaganda.’”

In this last video, Charlie Chester, CNN Technical Director, brags, among other things, that CNN uses “propaganda” and even “created a story [about Trump’s mental capacity] that we knew nothing about” to get Trump out of office. If Smerconish really wants to know how America became so divided, he can begin by watching James O’Keefe’s undercover videos of his own network’s dishonest divisive behaviour followed by viewing some of Sharyl Attkisson’s videos about the behaviour of the “news” media. If the “news” media and “social media” censors really care about suppressing lies and misinformation they would need to start censoring themselves.

A glance at the series of comical theatrical performances on CNN “news” programs, including Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources, on any given day enables any fair-minded person easily to make up their own mind about how quickly CNN’s “journalists” kneeled to Zucker’s instructions how to cover or not cover stories. While the “news” media regularly fabricate unacceptable statements to attribute to those with whom they disagree, or, perhaps, to be more precise, with whom they are told by their paymasters to disagree, the country is the loser.

VI. “The Enemy Of The American People”

The “Democrat Party and the “news” media were horrified when in 2017 Trump called the “news” media “the opposition party” and the “enemy of the American people:”

The president has referred to the media as the “opposition party” to his administration, and he has blamed news organizations for stymieing his agenda. But the language that Mr. Trump deployed on Friday is more typically used by leaders to refer to hostile foreign governments or subversive organizations. It also echoed the language of autocrats who seek to minimize dissent.
“Oh boy,” Carl Bernstein, the journalist who helped to uncover the Watergate scandal, said on Friday, after a reporter read him Mr. Trump’s tweet.
“Donald Trump is demonstrating an authoritarian attitude and inclination that shows no understanding of the role of the free press,” he [Bernstein] added.

That is, when Trump fights back against a “news” media that, as documented in the previous sections of this article, consistently misrepresents what he says, unable even to get simple sentences right, and sides with the party that opposes him, he is called an “authoritarian” and compared with “hostile foreign government” and “subversive organizations.” Of course, in our Orwellian world, to understand this one must understand that “authoritarian” no longer means authoritarian. “Authoritarian” now means fights back against Democrat-media tyranny. Indeed, in a lecture at Lehigh University, comrade Bernstein claimed that Trump’s criticism of “fake news” “drips with Stalinist imagery.”

Bernstein should know all about Stalinist imagery because, speaking of subversives and hostile foreign governments, comrade Bernstein grew up in a home with communist parents who supported both Stalin and the Democrat party. In fact, Carl was 9 years old in 1953 when his parents’ friends, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, were executed for transmitting nuclear weapon secrets to the Soviet Union. As comrade Bernstein knows well, the first thing dictators and subversives do is to call the people who oppose them “dictators” and “subversives.” Bernstein can be grateful that the Washington Post now helps him do this.

Leaving comrade Bernstein behind, and returning to the real world, the actual problem with Trump is that if he is “subverting” anything it is the establishment “news” media’s own demonstrated record of incompetence and malfeasance. Although the American “news” media can carelessly and malevolently “dish it out,” that is ruin everyone from the humble decent man, in fact, a hero, Richard Jewell, who was just trying to do his policing job and save lives, which he did, to the Covington children, they cannot take it when anyone fights back. What terrified them about them about Trump was that he was not the least bit afraid of them and could not be controlled. Unlike most of the “Republican” establishment, who generally drop to their knees faster than Fang Fang, Trump was unmoved by their attempts to bully and intimidate him.

In fact, Donald Trump was not the first person in recent times to accuse the US “news” media of being an enemy of the American people. That honour belongs to Jimmy Carter Democrat Pat Caddell in response to the “media’s” flagrantly biased coverage of the 2012 race between Mitt Romney and the media’s darling Barak Obama. As Caddell, defending the old- fashioned view that the “news” media should neutrally report the news, as opposed to picking a side and supporting one of the two major parties, puts it:

[W]e face a fundamental danger here. It is this: I talked about the defense of the First Amendment. The press’s job is to stand in the ramparts and protect the liberty and freedom of all of us from a government and from organized governmental power. When they desert those ramparts and go to serve—to decide that they will now become an active participants—when they decide that their job is not simply to tell you who you may vote for, and who you may not, but, worse—and this is the danger of the last two weeks—what truth that you may know, as an American, and what truth you are not allowed to know, they have, then, made themselves a fundamental threat to the democracy, and, in my opinion, made themselves the enemy of the American people. And it is a threat to the very future of this country if that—we allow this stuff to go on, and we cross—we’ve crossed a whole new and frightening slide on the slippery slope these last two weeks.

The media bias certainly did not begin with Donald Trump. It has been going on for some time, indeed decades. It just got much worse under Trump, probably because they knew they could not control him. The fight against such sophistry must be carried out, at the intellectual level, in the same way it was carried out by Socrates 2500 years ago, by employing precise speech to expose their techniques of deception.

A “news” media that cannot seem to get anything right, a “news” media that cannot even tell the truth about the Martin Luther King bust in the Oval Office even when they were in the room; a “news” media that sometimes cannot even transcribe a simple sentence about grabbing a woman’s p…y without distorting it with their political bias; a “news” media that cannot even make the sophomore year distinction between the Supreme Court saying that a certain policy is unconstitutional and their saying that it is constitutional but that one must not apply it in unfair ways; a “news” media that cannot even recognize that Trump only asked a question of doctors and did not tell anyone to inject anything, let alone “bleach,” to cure the coronavirus, is unworthy of trust.

The fact that Trump never even used the word “bleach” seems to be beyond them, as are all the scientific articles on photodynamic therapy. A “news” media that censors people who disagree with them politically, especially conservatives, a “news” media that, offering up laughable excuses for its constant errors in one direction, refuses even to cover stories, like the Hunter Biden scandal before the 2020 election, that might hurt their chosen political candidates, a “news” media that, days after the 2020 “election,” when they cannot possibly know the truth, announces, comically, there is no evidence whatsoever of Democrat cheating in the election, a “news media that even admits that it is no longer “objective” or “fair,” a “news” media that displays contempt for half of the country, and so on, is a “news” media that no longer deserves the trust of the American people, trust which it has in large measure already lost. It is a “news” media that comrade Bernstein’s communist parents would love to have. It is a “news” media that comrade Bernstein himself does have.

It is no wonder, therefore, that Federal Judge Laurence Silberman found himself compelled to point out that the overwhelming level of bias in the “news” media has reached the levels that it is a threat to democracy:

The New York Times and The Washington Post are “virtually Democratic Party broadsheets,” while the news section of the Wall Street Journal “leans in the same direction,” U.S. Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman said. He said the major television outlets and Silicon Valley giants were similarly biased.
“One-party control of the press and media is a threat to a viable democracy,” Silberman wrote. He exempted from his criticism of “Democratic ideological control” Fox News, the New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page [but not the Wall Street Journal “news” division]. Silberman ended his treatise with a warning that democracy could be thwarted by liberal control of the media. “The first step taken by any potential authoritarian or dictatorial regime is to gain control of communications, particularly the delivery of news.”

John McCain stated that “suppressing free speech is how dictators get started.” The irony is that in contemporary America there was no need for the dictators to “seize” the news media. A compliant American “news” media, corrupted by money and celebrity, eager to further increase their inflated salaries and get their virtue-signaling faces on camera, were already all in. The crime is not only against Donald Trump and conservatives. The crime is against the American people, the despised “basket of deplorables” in “flyover country,” the actual moral core of the country, genuine heroes in the real world like Richard Jewell and Nick Sandman – as opposed to the spoiled bubble dwelling virtue-signaling Lilliputian coastal elites and their equally unimpressive lightly educated “news” media collaborators who are all “heroes only of words.”

Richard McDonough is the author of two books, numerous articles, encyclopedia and dictionary entries, and book reviews. He has taught previously at Bates College, the National University of Singapore, the University of Tulsa, the University Putra Malaysia, the Overseas Family College, the PSB Academy, the University of Maryland, the Arium Academy, and James Cook University. In addition to philosophy, he has taught psychology, physics, humanities and writing courses.

The featured image shows, “The fin de siècle newspaper proprietor,” by Frederick Burr Opper; political cartoon published March 7, 1894.

The Decline Of Universities: A Recent History

They are little children rioting and barring out the teacher at school. But their childish delight will end; it will cost them dearly” (Fyodor Dostoevsky, “The Grand Inquisitor” in The Brothers Karamazov).

1. The Destruction of Evergreen College

In September of 2017, biology professor Brett Weinstein, a “progressive” Bernie Sanders and “Occupy Wall Street” supporter, at the very progressive Evergreen College, in very progressive Washington state, along with his similarly progressive wife, professor Heather Heying, were forced to resign from their positions at Evergreen. Professor’s Weinstein’s crime was to write a letter to the faculty at Evergreen objecting to a change in the college’s annual “day of absence” which, in past years, had been a day in which “students of color” absented themselves from the campus “in order to highlight their vital and unappreciated role” on the campus. In 2017, however, “white” students were “invited to leave the campus” for the entire day after “students of color ‘voiced concern over feeling as if they are not welcome on campus, following the 2016 election’.” Since the Evergreen campus had nothing whatsoever to do with the election of Donald Trump it is not clear what the 2016 election has to do with minority students “feeling unwelcome” on the Evergreen campus but that doesn’t matter because actual reasons are no longer required for a “felt” grievance.

Professor Weinstein’s letter objected to barring members of a particular racial group, Caucasians, from the campus because that is not “a call to consciousness” but rather is “a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.” His wife’s sin was that she wrote a public letter to the staff and faculty at Evergreen in which she criticized the college’s handling of the situation. She made no racial remarks whatsoever, but was, of course, immediately accused of being a racist.

Professors Weinstein and Heying were foolishly operating under the old rules that one should treat people on the basis of the content of their character, not the color of their skin, as opposed to the new rules that one should treat people on the basis of the color of their skin as opposed to the content of their character. As the New York Times, not exactly a bastion of white supremacy, put it, Professor Weinstein “had the gall to challenge a day of racial segregation.” Professor’s Weinstein and Heying, like many of us, had not, apparently, digested the new view that racial segregation is not racism any more, even though it had been the very definition of racism not so long ago (before it was miraculously redefined as the opposite of racism).

Indeed, the current “President” of the United States, Joe Biden, announced that he would pick his Vice-Presidential running mate on the basis of her gender and skin color, not the content of character; and he was, of course, celebrated for this racism by the “news” media. This is a turning point in American history. One now picks someone for a major position, not because he or she is qualified but because they check the boxes of “identity politics.” This is how nations end.

For his unforgiveable sin of objecting to racist segregation at Evergreen, Professor Weinstein was confronted by about 50 students outside his classroom who called him a racist and accused him of supporting white supremacy. Professor Weinstein had, of course, made no assertion of white supremacy whatsoever. However, the criterion of being a white supremacist is no longer that one is a white supremacist. The new criterion is that one disagrees with the leftist cause du jour. The college president, George Bridges, exhibiting the level of courage and commitment to principle that one has come to expect from college “presidents” and administrators these days, ordered the campus police to stand down, whereupon they informed Professor Weinstein that they could no longer guarantee his safety on campus.

As a consequence, Professor Weinstein had to hold his class in a public park (which would, no doubt, raise some thorny insurance issues, but no one was thinking of what would happen if a student were injured off campus because no one was thinking at all). President Bridges, apparently working on a comedy routine, perhaps for Saturday Night Live, called the “protestors” courageous, expressed his “gratitude” to them, and reminded everyone that freedom of speech is of great importance and must be protected – even as he allowed one of his professors and his wife to be run off the campus for exercising their right to freedom of speech. As everyone now knows, at least on our university campuses, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.”

The truth, of course, is that the students who drove Prof. Weinstein and Professor Heying off the campus were not “protestors.” A protestor is someone who holds a sign that says that racism is wrong, or perhaps, with a flower in their hair, says, “Make love not war.” These Evergreen “protestors” were thugs employing force and intimidation to get their way. In these kinds of contexts, the word “protestor” is now an Orwellian euphemism employed by college presidents and other overpaid unfunny comedians on late night television to avoid their responsibility to describe campus thugs for what they are.

As all this was going on, photographs and names of Professor Weinstein’s students were circulated online and graffiti, “Fire Brett!” appeared on campus buildings. It is, apparently, not sufficient to destroy the professor’s career because he was not sufficiently obedient. It is now also necessary to endanger his students as well. The New York Times, commendably, quoted a line of Allen Bloom’s book, The Closing of the American Mind: “A few students discovered that pompous teachers who catechized them about academic freedom could, with a little shove, be made into dancing bears.” The students did not turn Professor Weinstein or his wife into dancing bears, but they did bag the college president quite quickly, although, admittedly, that is not the coup it once was because this is now the preordained outcome.

As a result of the student activist attacks on a distinguished faculty member who resisted racial segregation, resulting in both him and his wife being forced off the campus permanently, thereby damaging the quality of education offered to the students at Evergreen, and the President’s incomprehensible praise for the student mob, Evergreen College later had to pay Prof. Weinstein and his wife a $500,000 settlement for failing to protect them from race-based hostility and “threats of physical violence” on campus.

Further, Evergreen is being rewarded by cuts of more than 10 percent from its operating budget for 2018-2019 and raises in student fees because of declining enrollment. It would appear that parents do not wish to send their children to a “college” in which distinguished professors are threatened and forced to resign, and in which even the completely innocent students caught in the middle have their personal details posted online by perpetually aggrieved leftist thugs. Who could have seen that one coming? Not, apparently, the brilliant “president,” faculty, and student “protestors” at Evergreen.

The New York Times article also acknowledges that leftist attacks on conservative speech on university campuses have become quite common. What makes the Evergreen case noteworthy is that it is not just conservatives who are now attacked by leftist mobs but anyone, even a seriously “progressive” professor and his wife, who have had their careers as professors ended for opposing the Left’s narcissistic effort to gain an entirely symbolic token of appreciation of their vital role on campus.

Although the Left has created these ignorant snarling adolescents, believing they will be of use in achieving their political agendas, they are now relearning the hard universal truth that since these thugs will by nature never be satisfied, because their demands are based on whim, not reality, they will inevitably always want more, which, since “more” cannot be given indefinitely into the future, eventually turn on their own. Thus, progressives are now beginning to experience what conservatives have suffered for decades.

For example, immigration activists have recently protested naming a school in Chicago after Obama because he has now been designated an “oppressor.” As one of these activists put it: “If you’re removing the name of Thomas Jefferson, one oppressor, the name of Obama is another oppressor, and our families do not want to see that name.”

2. The Unmitigated Horror Of Permitting A Ben Shapiro On Campus

Another illuminating example of campus intolerance for conservatives is provided by Ben Shapiro’s attempt, sponsored by Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), to give a speech titled, “When Diversity Becomes a Problem,” at California State University at Los Angeles. Faced by the prospect of the unmitigated horror of an articulate conservative on campus (although, admittedly, Shapiro is probably smarter than most of the professors at that university, and is, therefore, not actually harmless where left wing dogma is concerned), the President of the University, William Covino, tried to have Shapiro’s event cancelled entirely and replaced by a different kind of event.

After YAF and Shapiro pushed back hard, the school backed down and said that the event could go forward without interference. However, student “protestors” (another mob) formed a human chain to prevent people from entering the event through the front door, thereby interfering with the civil rights of the people who wanted to hear Shapiro. This is not, however, seen as a problem on college campuses because the expression “civil rights” no longer means civil rights. For the uninformed, “civil rights” now means, roughly, “latest leftist preferences.”

Eventually, small groups of two or three people were able to enter the Shapiro event with escorts through the back door. When the “activists” became aware of the back-door entrance, they began to block it as well. Some of those who tried to enter the Shapiro event claimed that they were punched and (not surprisingly) called white supremacists. Recall that the expression “white supremacist” does not mean white supremacist anymore, but, rather, now means person of any race who attends a conservative lecture.

The fire alarm was pulled, a regular strategy employed by “protestors” opposed to conservative speakers on a university campus, perhaps because doing so requires no intelligence whatsoever, making it the perfect tactic for today’s leftist thugs. Students were also harassed when they tried to leave the event. Professor Melina Abdullah, one of the professors fearful of inviting such a terrifying conservative to speak on campus, called Ben Shapiro, a “Neo-Nazi” but latter admitted that since Shapiro is Jewish this is a tad ironic, and, in a minimal fake concession to reason, changed “Neo-Nazi” to “KKK.”

In order to understand Professor Abdullah, one must recall that “Neo Nazi” no longer means Neo-Nazi. It now means: someone who disagrees with the Left’s latest demands. It is also noteworthy that after the event was over, the university held a “Healing Space” to enable the university community to “heal” after Shapiro illuminated them. At this “Healing Space,” President Colvino (perhaps working with President Bridges of Evergreen University for the same comedy routine on Saturday Night Live) states that he would never invite someone like Shapiro to the campus and floated several ideas how the administration might work with student groups to find a way to prevent any similar illumination in the future.

3. Dave Rubin’s Trials At The University Of New Hampshire

Another highly illuminating example of intolerance for conservative speech on university campuses is provided by the exchange between David Rubin, a self-identified gay Jewish former leftist and a self-identified oppressed female student at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). The video (which, at the time of the writing of this article is present both on youtube.com and on Rubin’s own Facebook page under the title “Dave Rubin handles protestors at UNH”) is well worth watching because it illustrates the critical reasoning abilities, or, more precisely, the lack thereof, of the students on our contemporary university campuses. The reader is strongly encouraged to watch this video for themselves in its entirety at some point.

When Rubin opens the floor to questions, a young woman takes the microphone, but immediately complains that someone is holding the microphone for her. She says, “Free speech but he’s going to hold the microphone.” How can she survive the indignity of a male holding the microphone for her? Rubin remarks that her complaint seems silly because she is coming in “ready to fight” – to which she replies that she’s not ready to fight but that “it’s interesting that he’s holding the microphone.” In fact, it is not the least bit “interesting” that someone is holding the microphone for her and she gives no reason why it is “interesting.”

This is a typical tactic of the Left. They complain about trivialities and insinuate, without providing any evidence whatsoever, that that there is some deep and dark conspiracy behind insignificant events, in this case, the horror of someone being nice to her. If you don’t see it, you must be stupid or you are not “woke” (“woke” being the approximate synonym for the “consciousness raising” of the self-indulgent 1960s drug culture). She then proceeds to accuse Rubin of painting people at UNH of having “a victimhood complex” and adds: “As if I wake up every morning and I think, wow, how can I be a victim?”

In fact, the first thing this young lady did upon reaching the microphone was to demonstrate her “victim complex” in her comments about the microphone. The reason it is “interesting” to her that a man holds the microphone for her is that this can be used to suggest, which, of course, it objectively does not, that the man is assuming that a woman cannot hold their own microphone. It is an indignity as great as a man holding the door open for a woman.

In fact, if one watches the entire tape, one can see that the attendants hold the microphone for males as well (but that is, apparently, not as “interesting” to privileged perpetually aggrieved adolescents). In fact, the attendant is merely being “polite,” and what is actually interesting is that this kind of politeness is no longer recognized or welcome on college campuses. If one doubts that these students at UNH are privileged, the current UNH financial aid page lists the total estimated cost, including tuition, room, books, fees, etc., for state residents for the year 2020-2021 as $34,830, for regional students as $47,220 and for out of state students as $52,920.

Since this privileged young woman implies that she is an oppressed person, and since Dave Rubin is nothing if not polite, he gives her the opportunity to describe her oppression. She replies that she “has no reason to sit and talk about my own oppression because that is, like, only mental energy unless I am going to be paid to talk about my oppression” (at which point, as an alternative to pulling the fire alarm, a group of black females stand up and begin chanting “Hate speech incites violence” over and over again in order to disrupt the exchange and deny some students their civil rights to hear the talk.

After trying, unsuccessfully, to silence the chanters, Rubin offers to pay the woman at the microphone $20 dollars to describe her oppression, at which point, someone in the crowd yells, “It’s worth more than that, asshole,” to which the woman herself replies, “Yeah.”

In fact, Rubin makes a mistake here. He should not have offered to pay this woman to describe her alleged oppression. It sets a bad precedent to start offering to pay people, especially privileged college students, to complain about their lives. Further, if this woman were actually oppressed, she would not need to be paid to take such a golden opportunity to explain to a cruel world how she is oppressed. The fact that she had herself implied that she should be paid to do so, and then, after being offered money to explain how, refuses to do so, shows that she is putting on a show, in particular, a virtue-signaling show, not making a serious point about oppression. The fact that she refuses to give the reasons why she is oppressed suggests that she does not have any (at least, none that would not be greeted with derisive laughter upon being articulated). Indeed, despite the posturing about concern about oppression, the young woman makes clear that she really wants to be given money without have to work for it.

In fact, her entire bearing and attitude and contemptuous remarks to Dave Rubin, who been entirely respectful to her, suggests that the truth is the exact opposite of what she alleges. She actually sees herself as a member of a privileged group whose members are entitled to oppress perfectly decent people for no good reason except that they have different political views from her own, such as they are. The self-identified oppressed woman is actually the oppressor.

It is necessary to say “her views, such as they are,” because the young woman actually failed to articulate a serious “view” during her entire sojourn at the microphone. It used to be that one of the first things one learned upon arriving at a genuine university was that articulating a serious view is not as easy as one thinks it is, but, apparently, no more. For example, at one point, she asks Rubin if he thinks “there is a correlation between hating Jews and wanting to kill them” and informs him that “It’s a yes or no question.” She expresses astonishment when Rubin declines to answer that sort of “question” when, in fact, Rubin was entirely correct not to do so.

In order to answer a “question,” it must be formulated with sufficient precision that it is possible to answer it, and the “question” she asked, such as it is, is not formulated with anything close to the necessary precision to render it answerable, let alone, answered by either a “yes” or a “no.” The point is not difficult. If one does a serious search for scientific studies on the “correlation between hate speech and wanting to kill people,” one will not find any.

There are many quite obvious reasons why one will not find such studies. The first is that in order to set about establishing such a correlation, one would have to define “hate” speech, and the definitions of “hate” speech vary enormously in countries that have such laws. Rubin informs her that in the United States the Supreme Court (Brandenburg vs. Ohio, 1969) ruled that one cannot outlaw inflammatory speech unless it is a direct call to lawless action, a fact which she, apparently never having heard of the first amendment to the constitution, did not seem to know and which she simply dismisses because it is incompatible with her narrative.

One would think this is especially relevant to the issue since the discussion is being held in the United States. Some countries do ban “hate speech,” but she did not specify which definition she is might prefer. To take just a few examples, the definitions of “hate speech” in Iceland, Malta, Sweden and the United Kingdom vary greatly. In Scotland there are specific “hate speech” laws targeting football matches. In Norway, section 135a of the penal code includes speech that “ridicules” someone’s “philosophy of life” as “hate speech.” The horror!

One would think that students who have been inundated with lessons on respect for the differences between different cultures would not need special instruction on how difficult it will be to provide universal definitions of such problematic concepts. However, the problem with the young lady’s question is even more basic than this. She refers to a “correlation” between “hate speech” (undefined) and “wanting to kill Jews.” How would one establish such a correlation?

Perhaps one has some idea how one might go about trying to establish a correlation between people who use certain kinds of very explicit hate speech, like NAZI’s who actually call for killing Jews and the actual killing of Jews, but one has no idea how one would go about establishing a correlation between someone’s “saying hateful things about Jews” and their “wanting” to kill Jews. For, many people say hateful things about various groups all the time but do not actually want to kill them or even hurt them. As difficult as this may be for privileged adolescents to grasp, Red Sox fans who express hate against the evil Yankees do not actually “want” to kill them.

It takes only a moment’s reflection to realize how enormously difficult, except in very special narrowly circumscribed cases, it would be to attempt to establish a correlation between “hate” speech (even if one had an agreed definition of it) and what the people who use such speech actually “want” to do. To put it briefly, “wanting” is a subjective phenomenon, and, therefore, refers to something that is inherently very hard to measure. The young lady’s purported “yes or no” question is not a “yes or no” question after all. It is far too indeterminate, as formulated, to answer at all.

Indeed, that is precisely why such fake questions are so useful on today’s college campuses. Since these are not genuine questions it is impossible to answer them, which means that the sacrificial conservative will not answer it and can, therefore, be accused of not answering (unanswerable) “questions.” Rubin was attempting to have a serious discussion. The young woman who challenged him so haughtily is engaging in a childish virtue signaling exercise that clarifies nothing and helps no one.

In the distant past, in another less privileged and more serious age, one used to go to university to acquire the skills and knowledge to engage in fruitful discussions of such issues. At the present era, apparently, many people go to college to engage in narcissistic self-glorification.

Before leaving the subject of Rubin’s talk, it is useful, briefly, to consider another exchange between Rubin and a different student towards the end of his question session because it too shows much about the sorry state of our college campuses. Another young woman takes the microphone and, after making the same point about wanting to hold the microphone herself, thereby striking another completely meaningless symbolic blow for female empowerment, points out that since “women, people of color and other marginalized identities were not written into history and, therefore, into the foundation of our country… my question is, how do you think that everyone is equal and represented, if this country was founded on the principle of exclusion?”—to which the crowd erupts in a great cheer.

The woman appears to regard herself as having made the definitive point and many in the crowd apparently agree. Since this particular kind of “question” (actually, it is an assertion, specifically an accusation) is routinely raised by privileged adolescents on college campuses, it is worth addressing it directly. Rubin replies with an historical discussion about the founding fathers and their faults.

In fact, there is a much simpler three-word answer to her alleged “question;” namely, that “we have evolved.” However, in order to understand this simple answer, one must be able to understand the distinction, apparently quite elusive on many contemporary college campuses, between “then” and “now.” Once again, the young woman might have raised legitimate issues about exclusion, for there are legitimate issues that might be expressed by people serious enough to articulate them, but her aim was not to raise legitimate issues or clarify anything. It was to show that she is a member in good standing of the in-crowd—that she “cares” (in some impotent symbolic sense).

4. From The “Berkeley Free Speech Movement” To The “Berkeley Censorship Movement”

Consider next the riots that occurred at the University of California at Berkeley when, on February 1 of 2017 at 8 P.M, Milo Yiannopoulos, a British conservative, who identified as “gay” at the time was scheduled to speak (although for the record, Milo has recently announced that he is no longer “gay” and that he is now planning to open a Christian conversion therapy facility in Florida). Despite the proud tradition of supporting free speech at Berkeley, more than 100 Berkeley faculty, prior to his appearance, signed a petition urging the university to cancel the event. A group of about 1,500 people gathered on the steps of Sproul Hall to protest Milo’s talk. The protest was non-violent until another group of about 150 “black bloc” “protestors,” including members of “Antifa” and members of the left-wing group “By Any Means Necessary,” entered the crowd and began setting fires, damaging property, throwing fireworks, attacking members of the crowd, and throwing rocks at the police. The University cancelled the event soon thereafter. After the event was cancelled, the “protestors” (mob) moved downtown where they continued to break windows at businesses and banks. A Syrian Muslim was attacked by a “protestor” with a rod and pepper sprayed by a “protestor” who said “he looked like a NAZI.”

The violent reaction to Milo’s event is especially noteworthy because Berkeley was the home of the “free speech movement” in the 1960’s when many students, mostly on the Left, argued for the right to engage in political speech on campus, in particular, speech in favor of civil rights and against the Vietnam War. The “free speech movement” eventually won the argument and the political speech, much of it to the left, has spread throughout US universities.

The situation has now changed into its opposite. Whereas Berkeley, and American universities generally, defended freedom of speech as a fundamental right, these same institutions now go to great lengths to shut down conservative political speech. Jeffrey Selingo of the Washington Post contrasts the light security required when conservative Phyllis Schlafly, who opposed the “Equal Rights Amendment,” was invited to speak at his school in his undergraduate days with the fact that the appearance of conservative speakers on college campuses nowadays result “in protests with armed police officers reminiscent of a war zone and with students doing their best to interrupt speakers.”

The home of the free speech movement has now, under the influence of the Left’s conceptions of tolerance and equality, transformed into its precise opposite. Whereas the Berkeley “Free Speech Movement” of old proudly defended the right of all to free speech, the home of the free speech movement now shuts down speech by “conservatives.”

In fact, a variety of philosophers, including Hegel and Marx, have pointed out the curious way in which certain kinds of views and social systems seem inevitably, over time, to transform, dialectically, into their precise opposites – and, in fact, as if to prove them right, the leftist “peace and love” movement of the 1960’s has transformed into the leftist violence and hate movements of the present day.

One need not, however, plumb such deep and difficult philosophical notions as “dialectical logic” to see how this has happened. For the method of this precise reversal is much more mundane. Specifically, the Left has, by employing a variety of techniques, achieved sufficient numerical dominance in the faculties and administration of our colleges and universities that they are able to shut down opposing views. Now that they are in power, they do not extend the same courtesies to the “establishment” that the “establishment” formerly extended to them.

The domination of American colleges by the Left is discussed by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a non-profit non-partisan organization dedicated to upholding academic standards and defending the free exchange of ideas. Members include Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrat Colorado Governor Richard Lamm, and Republican Lynn Cheney among its founders.

ACTA states that “freedom of speech is threatened on today’s college campuses” largely because of the pervasive influence of Marcusean ideas. Herbert Marcuse, one recalls, is the “father” of the “New Left,” which was founded in order to counter the fact that well-known leftist regimes like those in the Soviet Union and Communist China had an unfortunate tendency to murder many tens of millions of people in order to advance their particular visions of “equality” and “brotherhood.”

The “New Left” was marketed to American audiences as the more humane alternative that retained what is good in leftist ideas but dispensed with the distressing penchant of the “old” Left for killing people who get in their way. However, the “New Left” Marcuseans do “claim the right to silence ideas [that they] consider to be false or reactionary” because the Marcuseans see themselves “in the possession of truth and therefore entitled to impose this truth upon the rest of the academic community and eventually upon society as a whole.”

Since Marcuse sees ordinary people as incapable of making the right choices, he holds that they must be “forced to be free” by an “elite” “educational dictatorship,” an idea which Marcuse says is “easy to ridicule but hard to refute” (One Dimensional Man, Chap. 2). That is, he holds that it is acceptable to use “undemocratic means” to attain leftist goals, which, it must be admitted, is progress of a sort because censoring dissidents is preferable to killing them.

However, Marcuse does not completely eschew the use of violence to achieve the Left’s goals. In the same book, he states that “no third person, least of all the educator and intellectual, has the right to preach” non-violence to the oppressed. Marcuse here conveniently tries to have it both ways. Although he does not himself call for violence to achieve leftist goals, he states that intellectuals have no standing to criticize those who do. ACTA singles out the speech codes at the University of New Hampshire, the scene of the discussion between David Rubin and the oppressed female discussed earlier, and those at Bates College, to illustrate these points about leftist suppression of freedom of speech on college campuses.

5. The “Port Huron Statement

It should be no surprise that the contemporary university has become a vehicle of undemocratic leftist activism. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) explicitly set this out as their aim in their 1962 “Port Huron Statement.” Its author, Tom Hayden, had figured out when he reached the wise old age of 23 how the world should work if he is to judge it to meet his personal standards. The 6 key points of the Port Huron Statement for re-making the university along Hayden’s “New Leftist” lines are listed here:

  1. Any new left in America must be, in large measure, a left with real intellectual skills, committed to deliberativeness, honesty, reflection as working tools. The university permits the political life to be an adjunct to the academic one, and action to be informed by reason.
  2. A new left must be distributed in significant social roles throughout the country. The universities are distributed in such a manner.
  3. A new left must consist of younger people who matured in the postwar world, and partially be directed to the recruitment of younger people. The university is an obvious beginning point.
  4. A new left must include liberals and socialists, the former for their relevance, the latter for their sense of thoroughgoing reforms in the system. The university is a more sensible place than a political party for these two traditions to begin to discuss their differences and look for political synthesis.
  5. A new left must start controversy across the land, if national policies and national apathy are to be reversed. The ideal university is a community of controversy, within itself and in its effects on communities beyond.
  6. A new left must transform modern complexity into issues that can be understood and felt close up by every human being. It must give form to the feelings of helplessness and indifference, so that people may see the political, social, and economic sources of their private troubles, and organize to change society. In a time of supposed prosperity, moral complacency, and political manipulation, a new left cannot rely on only aching stomachs to be the engine force of social reform. The case for change, for alternatives that will involve uncomfortable personal efforts, must be argued as never before. The university is a relevant place for all of these activities.

In each of these 6 points the Port Huron Statement identifies the university as the central place to initiate and disseminate these “New Left” programs. The language is explicitly anti-democratic. The call for political life as an “adjunct” to academic life in the university is not the call for a fair debate between the Left and the Right on university campuses. The aim is solely to advance “New Left” ideas and programs. Further, there is no suggestion that the “New Left” must attempt rationally to persuade people to accept its vision of the proper “distribution” of the “New Left” across universities and the country. On the contrary, the “Declaration” states that this distribution “must” be done.

The “Declaration” then goes on to state, categorically, that “The universities are distributed in such a manner,” not that this distribution might happen if the relevant parties agree. This is the language of religion, not democracy: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done,” except that in this case it is the will of the “human all too human” “New Left,” not that of an omniscient Deity, that “must” be done.

One might object that the reference to “action informed by reason” and “intellectual skills” in the first point does call for rational persuasion. But the Port Huron Statement only recommended intellect and reason as tools” for “action.” That is, it does not propose that the relevant communities must be rationally persuaded to accept the goals of the “New Left” but only that reason and intellectual skills must be employed by the activists to advance “New Left” causes. One requires smart activists. It does not matter if the people are smart because they are to be led by the all-knowing activists.

One might make numerous comments about the other points in this “Declaration,” but points numbers 5 and 6 are especially worthy of comment. If one ever wondered why American society is constantly being uprooted and torn asunder, why, for example, one cannot go to a baseball or football or basketball game without being lectured about alleged police brutality, why young children must be subjected at school to the “transgender bathroom” issue and other delicate topics about human sexuality that seem more appropriate for a much older age; why religious institutions, especially Christianity (for example, the “Little Sisters of the Poor”) seem to be constantly under attack, why one cannot even talk about the “Boy Scouts” anymore but only about the “Scouts,” why one is constantly being told that historical statues, even statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, must be torn down; why the names of sports teams, like the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins, and the names of High Schools, must be changed to reflect “woke” agendas, and so on, Point 5 gives the explanation.

The explanation is that “A new left must start controversy across the land” and “The ideal university is a community of controversy, within itself and in its effects on communities beyond”. There is, once again, no suggestion that the university community itself should be consulted on the question whether it wants to abandon its traditional mission of pursuing a neutral search for the truth and become a tool for starting “controversy” both within itself and “across the land.” There is no mention of any democratic process here. These are certainly not ideas to be put to “the people” for a vote. Although the Left constantly claims to want to “liberate” the people, it actually has only contempt for them (“the basket of deplorable”, “flyover country,” “Donald Trump’s credulous rube 10-toothed base,” etc.).

On the contrary, this is stated as fait accompli: “The ideal university is a community of controversy.” The university community is going to be turned into a community of controversy whether one likes it or not, and whether this interferes with learning organic chemistry, the differential calculus and Shakespeare or not. Further, this controversy will be spread to the “communities beyond” whether they like it or not. These changes will not rise up organically from “the people.” They will be imposed by all-knowing activists pursuing an a priori agenda. As Herbert Marcuse puts it in One Dimensional Man (Chap. 2), since the “slaves [the American people]” have been indoctrinated by the allegedly evil “capitalists,” they must be “forced to be free” (whether they want to or not and as the “New Left,” not themselves, understand freedom).

There is one more statement in Point # 6 that deserves special mention. If one ever wondered where the “victimhood” culture came from, part of the answer is in the statement in point # 6 that “the university must give form to people’s feelings of helplessness and indifference.” The claim here is that the Left can shape these feelings so that they can exploit them to advance their radical agenda. That is, it is no longer merely the aim of the universities to understand whatever actual objective “helplessness and indifference” may exist in society. It is to “give form” to “feelings” of helplessness and indifference,” that is, to convince people that their “private troubles” are really not private! It is to convince people that all of their private troubles are really caused by their political institutions and move people to change them. This comes straight out of Karl Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point is to change it.”

The Students for a Democratic Society has been highly successful in enacting these reforms in our universities and in the “community beyond.” One might reply that this is a good thing. For, universities have always produced people who have gone on to change the world for the better, to take just a few examples, Jonas Salk, Barbara Jordan, and John Kennedy. The problem with the Port Huron Statement is that it states, so to speak, a priori, that the universities must be organized to produce people who change the world in one direction, towards the ideals of the “New Left.”

This leftist orientation was not reached by democratic means or by consensus. Although the Left standardly claims to stand for “the people,” they would certainly never think of actually asking them what they believe or want. It will be done SDS’s way. Period. As befitting our Orwellian age that they helped to create, the Students for a Democratic Society would be more accurately named the Students for an Undemocratic Society.

This should not be controversial. In fact, many points could be made here, but only one can be discussed here, namely, SDS’s treatment of women from the beginning. Although Sandra ‘Casey’ Cason (who later married Tom Hayden and became Casey Hayden) first led Tom Hayden to SDS, there was no woman’s plank in the original SDS charter. Indeed, Casey describes how at the beginning she was regarded as “one of the boys.” She also recalls how early SDS meetings were characterized by endless debates driven by young male “intellectuals” posturing and any women who made the mistake of speaking up was treated like a child who had interrupted adults. In 1962 she left Tom Hayden and SDS and returned to her home in Atlanta.

Jonathan Leaf’s A Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties quotes a male delegate’s report how at the 1965 SDS convention women were made to “wait on tables, clean up, get laid. That was their role.” A woman who criticized this chauvinistic attitude from the floor was shouted down with the remark “She just needs a good screw.”

In later years, when a Woman’s Liberation Workshop at SDS managed to get a resolution accepted, the New Left Notes printed the resolution with a caricature of a woman in a “baby doll dress” holding a sign that said, “We want our rights and we want them now.” See, Miriam Schneir’s 1994 article “An SDS Statement on the Liberation of Women” for additional information. In the 1969 convention, women were given just 3 hours to caucus and their call on women to struggle against their own oppression was rejected by the main body. The “Students for a Democratic Society” was never about democracy. It was about power for a certain group of “posturing” radical males who, having just arrived at the vestibule to adulthood and discovered how the universe works, decided that they deserved to dictate to the women and the rest of “the deplorables.”

Since the Left has been willing to achieve its goals by undemocratic means (that is, according to the leftist slogan of the 60’s, “by any means necessary”), they have been massively successful. The degree of their success is illustrated, for example, by the fact that “Obamacare architect” Jonathan Gruber could, while laughing, say, in front of multiple university audiences, without fear of pushback or punishment, and encouraged by the supportive laughter of these audiences, that it was “the stupidity of the American voter” that enabled the Obama-administration to hide the true cost of “Obamacare” from them.

If one is to appreciate the intolerance on contemporary American university campuses, the attacks on conservatives, the assaults on freedom of speech, the glorification of mass murderers and woman abusers like Che Guevera, the contempt for the American people (Hillary’s “basket of deplorable”), and so on, one must understand that the American university has become dominated by the Marcusean ideas enshrined in the Port Huron Statement.

With the conservative opposition banished, our universities have abandoned their traditional mission of producing tolerant good constructive citizens trained to solve problems, and have instead become left wing indoctrination tools that aim is to produce “social justice warriors (SJW’s)” determined to impose their views “by any means necessary,” first on the universities and later on the unsuspecting good-natured country at large.

The claim is not that most students and faculty are conscious card-carrying Marxists or Marcuseans or even card-carrying leftists. There was a Youtube video online for some time of a group of students at Evergreen College during the Weinstein incident who were sitting in the library trying to study but were assaulted by a screaming mob. They had just to sit there and take it until the mob was finished. It is assumed here that many, if not most, of the students and faculty on US universities, even those who are genuine tolerant liberals, wish that all the silliness and intimidation would just to away so that they can get back to learning, science, math, history, and the arts. Unfortunately, Marcusean ideas, enforced by the Left’s anti-democratic intimidation tactics, have become the “default” position, at least in public, of most university students and faculty who feel they have no choice but to kneel to the Leftist script du jour.

6. The Socialism Fantasy

The critique in the previous section does not mean that there are not problems with our heritage and history of the sort that motivate the Left. Of course, there are! But the most basic reason there are problems with our American heritage, even our “founding fathers,” is, as Plato remarked in the Theaetetus (176a), that “Evils … can never be done away with … [and] they must always haunt this region of our mortal nature.” That is, these flaws derive from human nature which is spread evenly thoroughly all the races, genders, political and economic systems and epochs.

The common leftist idea that the advent of socialism or communism will precipitate the development of a new “socialist man” and woman that will magically be free of the flaws present in human beings raised under capitalism is a childish dream more suitable for a 9th grade science fiction club than it is for serious adults. There is no evidence whatsoever that greed, violence and unhealthy competition are a product of capitalism or that these will be eliminated under socialism. The record of poverty, oppression, and mass murder in socialist and communist regimes is in fact far worse than anything one finds under capitalism.

Estimates vary, but that great socialist man of the people, Vladimir Lenin, initiated the “Red Terror” in Russia after the 1917 revolution in which, according to the Cheka Weekly, between 10,000 and 15,000 people were “summarily executed” in a few weeks alone, and that is not all of Lenin’s killings. That great socialist man of the people, Josef Stalin, is estimated to have murdered 20-27 million people for the glorious cause. That great “socialist man of the people,” Nikita Khrushchev, sometimes viewed as a “moderate” Soviet leader, is associated with purges in Ukraine that killed over 400,000 people.

It is difficult to know the number of murders that take place in North Korea because the ruling Kim family will not let anyone in to see the glorious socialist paradise. However, Hwang Jang Yop, the former chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly in North Korea, a position he held for 11 years, defected to the South Korea in 1997 and described the millions of deaths in North Korea due to starvation. In April 2010, the South Korean National Intelligence Service arrested two North Korean agents who had allegedly been sent to assassinate Yop. Asked about the assassination attempt, Yop remarked, “Death is just death. There is no difference from dying of old age or being killed by Kim Jong-il.” After his defection, Yop wife, still in North Korea, died by suicide, and one of Yop’s daughters died under mysteriously by falling off a truck. Yop’s other children, a daughter and a son, as well his grandchildren, are thought to have been sent to labour camps; perhaps to refresh their revolutionary zeal.

That great socialist man of the people, Mao, is estimated to have murdered 80 million people. In December 2005, a Wall Street Journal article estimates that the regime of the great socialist man of the people, Fidel Castro, may have murdered up to 14,000 people. It may explain a lot about our so-called “news media” that Ted Turner, the former owner of CNN whose net worth is estimated at 2.2 billion capitalist dollars, told Bill O’Reilly that there were some things he admired about this mass murdering communist.

In October of 2017 a Washington Post article states that the regime of this great socialist man of the people in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, murdered many thousands of people. A 2019 article in Reuters reports that human rights groups estimate that the great socialist and Marxist “man of the people” Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe killed “as many as 20,000 people… in western Zimbabwe, most of them ethnic Ndebele.” People forget that Jim Jones, who murdered 918 commune members with poisoned Kool-Aid, 304 of them children, described himself as a Marxist and an admirer of Cuba and the Soviet Union and promised a “socialist Eden” on earth to his followers.

Of course, that great “socialist man of the people,” Che Guevara, did not have time to murder as many people as the true greats, Stalin or Mao, but a March 2020 History.com article estimates that 144 people were murdered on Che’s extra-judicial orders in Cuba. Guevara further increased his body count after Castro got fed up with him and kicked him out of Cuba.

Eric Luther, in his 2001 book on Guevara explains that Guevara’s first murder by his own hand was of his “friend,” Eutímio Guerra, a peasant army guide who admitted that he gave information on the rebel’s position to the Cuban government. There was, of course, no trial. There was no time for real justice, so “social justice” had to do. Che put a pistol to Eutímio’s head and blew his friend’s brains out. Jon Lee Anderson in his 1997 book on Guevara describes how this great “socialist man of the people” eventually developed a “remarkable detachment to violence.” One could go on, but at a certain point one must realize that the mass murder in socialist and communist regimes in not an accident but is standard practice.

Despite the excellent socialist marketing campaign in our universities and now in the US congress, socialist leaders are not magically immune to greed, just as they are, astonishingly, not immune to the rest of human nature either. Quite the contrary! It is almost impossible to measure the total wealth of that great “socialist” man of the people, the ruler of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920’s until 1953, Joseph Stalin, because, as a complete dictator, having mingled his wealth with that of the state, he is estimated to have acquired about 5.8 Trillion pounds (about 9 Trillion dollars).

Nikita Khrushchev, who ruled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 1953 to 1964, is estimated to have amassed 50 million dollars while his beloved “workers of the world” were standing for hours in queues to get a head of cabbage. Nicolae Ceausescu who rose through the socialist ranks until he became the communist ruler of Romania from 1974 to 1989 is estimated by Idol Net Worth to have amassed about 5 million dollars while at least a hundred thousand children suffered and died from malnutrition in his orphanages.

Celebrity Net Worth estimates the net worth of that great “socialist man of the people” Fidel Castro at 900,000 dollars while his people were going blind from malnutrition and vitamin deficiency. Celebrity Net Worth estimates the net worth of his brother, that great “socialist man of the people,” Raoul Castro, who had not been in power long enough to grab as much as Fidel, at a paltry 100 million dollars. Celebrity Net Worth estimates the net worth of that great “socialist man of the people” Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua as a mere 50 million dollars. In 2018 the New York Times reported that the adult Ortega children have somehow managed to run everything from gasoline distribution to the television stations in Nicaragua. Celebrity Net Worth estimates the net worth of that great “socialist man of the people” Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as a mere 20 million dollars, but, of course, there was not as much in Zimbabwe to steal so his relatively small portfolio is forgivable. Celebrity Net Worth estimates the net worth of that great “socialist man of the people,” Hugo Chavez, at about 1 billion dollars for his short tenure as president of the country.

For the record, Salon is a strongly “progressive” website that, based on its self-proclaimed superior “capacity for intelligence and rational thinking,” in 2013 praised Hugo Chavez’ socialist “economic miracle” in Venezuela – which was, of course, prior to the more recent Venezuelan socialist economic miracle of people eating their pets and trees in order to survive

Celebrity net worth estimates the net worth of that great socialist-communism “man of the people” Kim Jon Un at 5 billion dollars, with up to 20 palaces scattered around North Korea for his personal use, perhaps to rest as he refines his vision of the socialist utopia, while children in his country, genetically identical with south Korean children, are up to two inches shorter due to malnutrition.

Closer to home in the United States, the revered “socialist” pioneer “man of the people,” Bernie Sanders, who stated with practiced moral fervor in the 1970s that no one needs more than 1 million dollars, is now estimated to own 3 homes and be worth 2.5 million dollars. This does not count the take of Bernie Sander’s wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, who managed to amass about 1.5 million dollars as a social worker and college administrator. There is good news and bad news about Jane’s tenure as President of Burlington College in Vermont. The good news is that when she resigned in 2011 from her 139,000 dollars a year salary, with substantial additional benefits, after her “ambitious plans” for the college, in which she overstated donations to it, failed to work out, costing a local Catholic Church dearly, Jane received a $200,000 dollars severance package to soften to blow to her portfolio. As a reward for her brilliant “leadership”, she was soon, perhaps in a poor attempt at humor, appointed to the Vermont Economic Development Authority. The bad news is that, due to “longstanding financial woes,” including the “crushing weight of the debt” undertaken by the college when Jane led them to buy the property from the Catholic Diocese, Burlington College shut down completely several years later, throwing many socialists and non-socialists alike equally out of work and ending the education dreams of many students. In any case, this makes Bernie and Jane a socialist American “power couple” with a joint net worth of 4 million capitalist dollars and multiple homes in which to plan the utopia.

The great “socialist man of the people,” Tom Hayden, who authored the Port Huron Statement, ended up, according to Celebrity Net Worth, with about 33 million capitalist dollars in his bank account, most of which he got in a divorce settlement from Jane Fonda. Jane herself, much beloved in North Vietnam and Hollywood for her picture with the anti-aircraft guns being used to shoot down American pilots in the Vietnam War, has amassed a quite respectable 200 million dollars. Quite surprisingly, Jane, unjustly stuck at a paltry 200 million dollars, is not giving her “Workout Collection” video tapes to the oppressed “workers of the world” for free but, rather, the tapes can now be purchased on Amazon.com for a mere 49 capitalist dollars.

Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek argue that there are reasons why, far from producing a new “socialist man” free of the greed and violence that characterizes the evil “capitalists,” socialism actually tends to produce far more ruthless and greedy leaders than anything seen in capitalist countries. One might make many points in support of Friedman’s and Hayek’s contention but I give only two here.

First, in contrast with capitalism, in which the “ownership of the means of production” is spread out over a plethora of competing capitalists, “the means of production” in a socialist regime is concentrated in one central authority,” usually the state. But it is inherently dangerous to concentrate so much power in one central authority. For, if the state controls the means of producing houses, cars, houses, factories, medicine and health care, then it is very easy for state actors to use that exclusive power to help political supporters and punish political enemies.

In a capitalist state, by contrast, with a genuine free market, if person X does not like the health care they get from supplier A, X may simply decide to patronize a different supplier B. Further, since it is in A’s interest to keep X’s purchasing loyalty, A is motivated to deliver the best possible health care to X. Thus, in a “free market,” it is inherently difficult to employ ownership of “the means of production” to punish people, but if any one supplier does become unfair or dictatorial, as they sometimes do (“woke” corporations Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook come to mind), that fact alone provides an incentive for a competitor to arise to capture this new group of disaffected buyers.  This liberating competition does not happen in a “single payer” system.

By contrast, a socialist system is perfectly designed to make it easy for the government to punish political enemies and provide a perfect excuse for doing so: “Please get into the queue, comrade, for the liver cancer operations and wait your turn! The Central Committee of the Party is compiling the list as we speak.” The common belief in the United States that a “single payer health care” system, that is, a system in which the single payer for all health care costs is the government, will eliminate injustice in the field of health care is foolish in the extreme. For control of the “single payer” system by a single central government authority is tailor made for political payback and government abuse of power.

The second reason a socialist system is inherently dangerous derives from the very thing that makes it so attractive to people, especially young people lacking in self-knowledge and inexperienced in the ways of the world. For the socialist leader does not merely claim that they are going to produce a better kind of car, perhaps a car that gets 5 % better gas mileage than the nearest competitor. The socialist leader claims they are going to produce the utopia of a universal “brotherhood” characterized by absolute equality and “social justice,” and, following upon that, the emergence of a new kind of “socialist man” and woman free of the oppressive greed of the “capitalist man” and woman.

But this means that the stakes of leadership in a socialist system are enormously high. For example, the former “comrades” and friends, Trotsky and Stalin, with their competing visions of the socialist state, vied for control of the emerging Soviet Union. Whereas the differences between two different visions of the 1971 Mustang is not likely to be seen to be sufficient to justify the murder of the proponent of the one design by the proponent of the other, Trotsky and Stalin promoted quite different visions of the glorious Soviet socialist utopia. The differences between these two visions are literally cosmic. A whole new world (and a whole new “socialist man” appropriate to that world) never before seen on the face of the earth is being created. Stalin is not just trying to produce a better Mustang than Trotsky. He is trying, like God, to create a whole new and better world than Trotsky. Since the stakes are so high, Trotsky cannot be allowed to succeed.

In 1929 Trotsky was exiled to Turkey by Stalin, but eventually ended up in Mexico. After surviving one failed assassination attempt in May of 1940 in Mexico, Trotsky wrote an article titled “Stalin seeks my Death.” In August of that same year, Trotsky was attacked in his study by Spanish communist Ramon Mercader with an ice axe. The blow penetrated 2.4 inches into Trotsky’s brain but failed to kill him immediately. He died a day later from loss of blood. And Trotsky and Stalin and once been close friends and comrades. So much for the heroic socialist brotherhood. The Messianic quality of socialism, the adolescent dream of a whole new world free of injustice, is among its most dangerous features.

7. “Social Injustice Warriors” and Sophistry

Since indoctrination and obedience can only be maintained when they are “justified” by a plethora of sophistries, the most popular arguments in our universities, and the arguments routinely regarded by the Left as definitive, are the arguments that a view is wrong if it is racist, sexist, homophobic and the like. In fact, these kinds of arguments can be found in the section titled “ad hominem fallacies” in any standard logic and critical reasoning text book. The claim that a view is wrong because it is racist, sexist, homophobic and the like is an attempt to avoid the onerous necessity of arguing against that view by employing legitimate rational methods. If, for example, someone says that it is racist to say that illegal immigration should be stopped, the proper response should be, “But is that true? Let’s look at the facts and the relevant moral principles and discuss the matter.”

It is a fundamental logical point that one cannot determine whether a view is racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., without first independently determining the relevant facts and moral principles. Thus, these arguments also commit the fallacy of “begging the question,” that is, assuming what they purport to prove.

For example, if there is in fact a crisis at the border, that is, if there is an abusive people-smuggling ring exploiting laxity at the southern border, if there is a large amount of dangerous drugs smuggled across the southern border, if there are not sufficient resources available in place to care for people who enter illegally through the southern border, thereby putting them in danger, if a large influx of people illegally entering depresses the job market for poorer American citizens and so on, then it cannot be racist to say that illegal immigration should be prevented.

The immediate jump by the Left to the charge that it is racist to make these sorts of points is a transparent attempt to avoid the discussion of these relevant issues (and the main reason the Left usually wants to avoid a fair discussion of these issues is that it cannot win in a fair debate). The easy accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia and the like by the Left are an attempt to exempt themselves from the onerous trouble of thinking – that is, to excuse themselves from what used to be the whole point of an education. Thus, the various left-wing indoctrination tools employed in the university must at the same time be supported by a pervasive set of left-wing sophistry tools.

It is worth mentioning, at least briefly, the role of “Post-Modernism” in honing the systematic use of sophistry to achieve political ends in our universities. Although “Post-Modernism” deserves a more sustained treatment, the basic point for present purposes is that it is a relativist view that dispenses with the notion of “objective truth” in favor of the view that there are just different narratives about the world.

Whereas Marx believed in objective truth, later leftists, perhaps because of the perceived failures of Marxism, formed an alliance with “post-Modernism” that has cleared the way for the wholesale embrace of sophistry in order to achieve their political ends. For, the elimination of the notion of “objective truth” leaves a lacuna in human thought that will be filled by something. Since the notion of “objective truth” places limits on the tendencies toward excesses in human thought, the elimination of this notion gives free reign to the idea that it is legitimate to use one’s cognitive faculties simply for the pursuit of power.

Since SJW’s are prepared to use undemocratic means, including, not only systematic sophistry, but also intimidation and violence, to achieve their ends, the expression “social justice warrior” is, in fact, a euphemism for “social injustice warrior.” The fact that our universities are largely run by “social injustice warriors” is amply illustrated by the treatment of progressive Professor Weinstein and his wife, but also by the infantile and thuggish reactions to harmless conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro on college campuses. The students who pull fire alarms or chant slogans like “Hate speech promotes violence”) are more than happy to violate other people’s civil rights and dole out social injustice to those who disagree with them.

Once a certain tipping point is reached, and there is no longer any check on leftist ideas in the universities, there is no limit on how extreme the Left can become. A professor at Drexel University in October of 2017 can tweet, “All I want for Christmas is white genocide” and then claim victim status after he was forced to resign his position, but not, of course, by the university, which, apparently, does not consider the call for mass murder as a firing offence. In an additional pathetic chapter to this story, this former Drexel professor later put the following comment on Facebook: “I’m glad to announce that, starting today, I will be a Visiting Scholar at NYU’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. Happy New Year!” It is, apparently, not inconsistent with NYU’s enlightened system of values to call for the genocide of a whole race of people – as long as one is murdering the right people. One does not have to be a conservative to recognize that calling for mass murder may not be the best way to solve the problem – should, that is, actually solving problems, as opposed to virtue-signaling (and other forms of self-promotion), even be the aim anymore.

8. “The Worse Things Are, The Better They Are”

Since many of the proposals put forward by the Left are transparently not designed to solve any problems, but are more like to exacerbate them, one should make the obvious inference. These members of the Left do not actually want to solve the problems. They want to make them worse. Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Russian communist revolution, is reported to have said that “the worse things are, the better they are.” What this means is that that one is not going to bring about the glorious socialist or communist revolution if people are content with their lives. Recall SDS’s view that one must convince people that their private troubles are really caused by societal factors and require political change.

On the contrary, if the glorious socialist or communist revolution is to take place “the people” must be maintained in a state of misery. If they are content with their lives, they must be changed to become discontented with their lives. The left often does not, therefore, actually want to solve problems. If conservatives, or even what remains of the genuine liberals, are permitted actually to solve the problems and lift the poor out of poverty, thereby enabling them to achieve dignity and self-respect, the socialist or communist revolution is off (and with it the well-paid careers of a bevy of leftist politicians and functionaries).

For example, one would think that the Democrat Party and the Black Caucus in Congress would have been pleased when Donald Trump was able to announce at his first State of the Union address that black unemployment was at an all-time low (a claim that Politifact, not a right-wing outlet, rated as “mostly true”). Instead, the Democrat side of the aisle and large majority of the “Black caucus” scowled and sat on their hands at the good news for the black community. Sometimes the most obvious inference is the best one. The left is not interested in solving the problems of the poor. They have a different agenda. For the elite Left depends on a dependent miserable aggrieved underclass to justify their own existence and keep themselves in wealth and power.

9. The Decline In Our Primary And Secondary Educational Institutions

Since the university is the source of much of our current political discourse, and since many of our political and cultural leaders come through the university system, the corruption of the universities has led to the corruption of most of our cultural institutions, including not only the “media” and the “arts,” such as they are, but also our primary and secondary education.

Consider the state of our primary and secondary schools in the United States! Since the teachers and administration at these institutions are almost invariably a product of the university system, the effect of leftist intimidation of the universities is reflected there as well. The Brookings Institute, which is not a conservative organization, and whose employees tend to support democrats, describes the poor state of US primary and secondary education:

For private education, from pre-K through secondary, prices are 8.5 times higher now than in 1980. For public schools, the rise is lower—4.7 from 1980 to 2013 —but still far above general inflation… but learning has stagnated. For the nation’s 17-year-olds, there have been no gains in literacy since the National Assessment of Educational Progress began in 1971. The long-term stagnation cannot be attributed to racial or ethnic differences in the U.S. population. Literacy scores for white students peaked in 1975; in math, scores peaked in the early 1990s.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the United States is outperformed by many countries at the international level, not only by Singapore and Hong Kong, but even countries like Vietnam that had not so long ago been bombed to oblivion during the Vietnam war and now spend much less per student on education. Singapore tops the list in primary school math, secondary school math, primary school science and secondary school science. In 2016 it was reported that the United States only scores 10th for secondary school math, outperformed even by the relatively poor country of Kazakhstan. The United States is not even in the top 10 for primary school math. The United States is not in the top 10 for secondary school science, outperformed by Slovenia and Kazakhstan. The United States scores tenth for primary school science education, outperformed by Poland and Kazakhstan.

There are, no doubt, many factors for this poor showing. However, since the primary and secondary schools are staffed predominately by people who go through our universities, leftist bias in education, and the ensuing cultural decline, starts long before college. Since the Left emphasizes “social justice” over basic education (reading, writing, mathematics, and science), students from US primary and secondary schools will have learned to feel aggrieved, or, perhaps, learned to feel guilty for other people’s grievances in which they personally had no hand whatsoever. What they will not have learned, unfortunately, is mathematics, science, or reading and writing skills that will enable them to compete with students in Singapore, Hong Kong, Poland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan or Vietnam. The problem is now severe enough that it is a matter of national security.

The fact that America’s educational system, from primary school through university, is in such a state of decline should not be a surprise. When, under the pressure of leftist activists, one prioritizes “social justice” (sometimes social injustice of the sort witnessed at Evergreen University, the University of New Hampshire, Berkeley and so on) over a neutral pursuit of the truth, one gets waves of students highly sensitized to their series of grievances but not very good in math, science, or writing (or, as at the University of New Hampshire, for formulating a coherent position at a public talk).

Since the decline in education standards is evenly spread across the board, the average American may not feel the effects of the decline in at the present time. But when America’s chief competitors, like China and Russia, surpass it, Americans will soon learn the difference between the “woke” grievances conjured by privileged political activists in Sociology 101 and the real grievances that will be imposed on them by their rather less gentle external enemies.

10. What About Real Grievances?

It may be objected that the present article makes light of the real grievances experienced by many groups, for example, black people, Native Americans, women, handicapped people or LGBT people throughout in American history. In fact, the present argument makes no effort whatsoever to deny that such grievances exist, that many of them have considerable merit, and that the university is one of the places in which it is appropriate to address them. The present argument is only opposed to the a priori political activism imposed on our universities at the expense of the traditional mission of a neutral pursuit of the truth as laid out by the Port Huron Statement.

It is only when the discussions of social problems and human grievances is framed a priori in favor of the Left (“A new left must be distributed in significant social roles throughout the country. The universities are distributed in such a manner”), that the university is turned from its proper mission to understand the world to an improper Marxist mission to change it. For, the latter alternative makes the decline in standards that is evident throughout our educational institutions today inevitable.

Putting on a pair of “blinders,” especially ideological blinders, is never a wise way to set about actually solving social problems. If one structures the university around leftist agendas then the results of studies and investigations within the university will be that capitalism, “the Patriarchy,” Systemic Racism” and the like are the cause of all our ills – because that is the a priori assumption one begins with. Tautologies may be comforting, as our political class and the “news” media know very well, but they never yield any real insight into the problems.

Since history shows that the problems are best resolved when the universities maintain a free and fair environment undistorted by any a priori political ideology from either the Left or the Right, the leftist domination of the American university beginning in the 1960s, accompanied by the usual threats and censorship, can, therefore, only guarantee that the real problems will not be satisfactorily solved and that a more just and fair society will not be produced. Quite the contrary! Ideological blindness can only lead to injustice and misery. The present paper does not, therefore, argue that the various social problems and grievances should not be addressed within the university. It only argues that these can only be properly addressed in the free and fair environment that preceded leftist intimidation that began in the 1960’s.

The usual reply to this argument is that things were not very good to the various minorities prior to leftist intimidation of the universities. After all, “the Patriarchy,” “capitalism” and other abstractions, we have been told, ruled with an iron fist. In fact, this is easily refuted. The fact that the Left is so well represented in the contemporary university and is permitted, even encouraged, to make their criticisms and demands, testifies to the fact that these exaggerated claims are not true.

For, once a group claiming victim status stand up in America and makes its case, the culture generally responds quite quickly at multiple levels. It is, of course, true that aggrieved groups must step up and make their case. They cannot expect “the System” or “the Patriarchy” to make their case for them – or do they? There is, therefore, a sense in which the exaggerated left-wing criticisms of “the system,” “the Patriarchy,” and “capitalism” are self-refuting. For, if those criticisms were true, if, that is, the “System,” “capitalism” or “the Patriarchy” were really were so oppressive as the Left claims they are, the plethora of aggrieved anti-democratic university activists making them would not occupy their present privileged positions.

11. Choosing Ignorance

In the “old days,” when children went to the university to learn, rather than to teach, the traditional mission of the university was understood to be to provide a neutral free and fair environment for the discussion of all views as the best means for arriving at the best ideas and solutions to problems. When problems were pointed out, e.g., the dearth of women and minority students, rational arguments were put forward to rectify this situation and female and minority representation in the universities increased dramatically.

For example, whereas male enrolment in US universities 1967 was almost double that of female enrollment, Wendy Wang and Kim Parker for the Pew Research pointed out females caught up with males in university enrolment around 1990 and that the United States now experiences “a ‘reverse’ gender gap where women are more likely than men to go to college. By 2009, a record 44% of young women were enrolled in college, compared with 38% of young men.” The same study points out that the female graduation rate has now surpassed that for males.

Similarly, a 2015 article in The Atlantic by Andrew McGill describes the changes in black enrollment in tertiary institutions:

Since 1994, black enrollment has doubled at institutions that primarily grant associate degrees, including community colleges. In 2013, black students accounted for 16 percent of the student body there, versus 11 percent in 1994. Universities focusing on Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees also broadly saw gains, with blacks making up 14 percent of the population, compared to 11 percent in 1994.

Not everyone, however, was happy with these successes. Since solving social problems does not produce enough unhappy leftist revolutionaries, a group of radical “New Leftists” in the Students for a Democratic Society plotted to change American universities as a first step towards changing America as a whole. They did not, however, as their name might suggest, propose to do this by democratic means. They did not set out to convince the American people by open and transparent rational arguments that the traditional neutral mission of free and fair discussion needed to be changed. Since the traditional university system had been so successful, this would be almost impossible to do. Rather, they developed a plan to “distribute” leftists across the universities and set about carrying this out. In response to grievances, whole new departments, programs, and hiring practices were quickly established in response to these leftist demands.

Since the primary aim of the leftists is the advancement of their ideas and programs, once they achieved a “critical mass” in the universities, they used their newfound power, conferred on them surprisingly easily by the implacable evil oppressive “Patriarchy,” to make adherence to these leftist ideas, as opposed to the neutral pursuit of the truth, the primary criteria for hiring and policy decisions. As a consequence, the Left’s power in the US universities grew, leading to further control over the hiring and policy decisions, in an ever-repeating cycle.

The notion of a meritocracy, intrinsically suspicious because it had been so successful at producing a level of national wealth and power unmatched in human history, was decreed to be verboten by the intolerant Left and had to be abandoned. As a result, the Left now enjoys a dominant position of power in most university faculties and administrations. Conservatives, and sometimes even moderates and progressives that do not follow the script du jour closely or quickly enough, as at Evergreen University, are literally afraid to express themselves in the “Ivory Tower” citadel of ideas. The Port Huron “New Left” plan has been successful beyond its wildest dreams. In this way, the traditional formula for success in US universities was replaced by a formula for failure.

The fact that the Left was able to take over the universities so quickly and so easily might lead a neutral observer to think that these abstractions conjured in Sociology 101, such as “the Patriarchy” and “the Capitalist System,” to explain all of our sins, real and imagined, do not really exist, but, since the neutral observers no longer exist, or, to be more precise, since the ones who do exist in the university are afraid to speak up, no one is left to point this out.

As a consequence, over a period of time, the peaceful environment for the free and fair discussion of issues was replaced by the leftist mobs that threw progressive Professors Weinstein and Heying out of Evergreen University for questioning their adolescent racist plans, that insulted Dave Rubin for talking politely, even when they gratuitously insulted him, to students in a public talk, and that rioted, set fires and beat people at the home of the Berkeley “free speech movement” when gay British conservative Milo Yiannopoulos attempted to state his point of view. Ironically, it was often “conservatives,” who still retain the old-fashioned notions of freedom of speech and other fundamental democratic principles, that spoke up in defense of the progressive professors Weinstein and Heying and “gay” speakers Rubin and Yiannopoulos.

In the Gorgias, Plato has Socrates argue that it is better to lose an argument than to win it (because one learns something new when one loses the argument but not when one wins one). The current state of our universities can be explained by the fact that, dominated by the censorship and intimidation employed by the Left, they have chosen not to learn anything new. They will not lose any arguments because they will not engage in any arguments they cannot “win.” Anyone foolish enough to argue against the Left will be driven off campus; or, if they are lucky, will merely have to endure students, sometimes, unfortunately, supported by members of the faculty and administration, ringing cow bells, pulling fire alarms or chanting juvenile slogans to prevent them from being heard. As a consequence, discussions in the universities are reduced to a continuous virtue-signaling rehearsal of leftist ideas, which, inevitably leads to even sillier ideas.

Since the a priori goal of the universities is now the promotion of leftist ideas on and off campus, objections to these ideas will either be censored altogether or “refuted” by invoking transparent sophistries. When, therefore, reality intrudes and these leftist ideas fail, perhaps leading, in “progressive” cities, to soaring poverty and crime rates, sprawling unhealthy tent cities, “poop” maps to protect tourists from the odoriferous truth, and discarded needles everywhere, it will be impossible to solve these problems because it will be impossible even to “see” them (describe them) for what they are. For it has been decreed, a priori, that social problems cannot be caused by the leftist ideas or policies because everyone knows the Left only seeks equality and “social justice” and that these problems must be “caused” (in some notion of “causation” not found anywhere in the history of science or in any leftist’s head) by “the class struggle,” “the Patriarchy” or “systemic racism.” If anyone disagrees with this, let them formulate a properly formulated testable causal law, hopefully in grammatical English, linking “the Patriarchy” or “systemic racism,” with the presence of used needles and poop all over San Francisco streets.

12. Reversing The Decline

The question arises whether this decline of the United States into an intolerant “war of all against all” can be reversed? There are many reasons to think that it is already too late. For a psychosis of intolerance involving an obsessive unrealistic way of thinking has entered our national mentality and one feature of the psychosis is that those who have it do not see it as a psychosis, but, rather, as wisdom incarnate. Another feature of the intolerance-psychosis is that those who have it see those who do not have it as evil. Normally, one would look to the more rational elements in our institutions, in particular, our universities, to resist this kind of destructive movement.

The problem is that since the root of the psychosis is the universities, and since they provide the people to fill the rest of the influential positions in society, none of these leading influential institutions are interested. In some cases, the remedy lies as close as the nearest critical reasoning textbook but since that was written by “the Patriarchy,” it cannot be trusted and is only invoked in special cases when it can be useful.

Something similar can be said of other parts of the “education industry,” the “news” media, and the “government,” most of whose members have been produced by the same “cookie cutter” assembly line in the universities. Filled with the massive pride and self-certainty of people who live inside the leftist bubble and suffer only to talk with the faithful, they are certainly not going to do it themselves. “It is the pride of a child and a schoolboy.” (Dostoevsky, “The Grand Inquisitor”).

This leaves only “the people” to repair the situation, and it may be that students and parents, finally appalled by the kind of intolerance, censorship, hate and rank infantilism exhibited at so many other universities may begin looking for alternatives to traditional university education in sufficient numbers to force the universities to reform. Unfortunately, since “the people” have been declared by the all-knowing elites to be “a basket of deplorables,” the all-knowing elites in the ‘Biden administration’ are currently preparing “domestic terrorism” guidelines to monitor these dangerous individualistic freedom-mongers more closely for thought-crimes.

In the United States, “the people” used to be respected as the ultimate authority in the American democratic system. Unfortunately, since they, with their dangerous tendencies towards individuality, self-respect and freedom of thought, stand in the way of the elite’s plans to control everybody’s lives, prospects for individual freedom and human dignity in the United States do not look very good at the moment. However, reality can be surprising. The massive levels of transparent “in your face” greed, incompetence and corruption in Washington D.C. may help the Constitution and the rule of law make a comeback. It is, therefore, necessary to keep working toward the recovery of our freedom and dignity should the chance arise to claim it.

But one thing is for sure. No matter what changes one makes in other parts of the society, no matter how many laws one passes, no matter how much money one raises and spends, no matter how many conservatives one puts into office, no matter how many constitutionalist judges one puts in the courts, no matter how many carefully reasoned books and articles one publishes,, the intolerance psychosis that infects our society will not be healed until our universities, and, consequent upon that, the rest of our “educational” system and other societal institutions are “liberated” from their leftist “liberators” and returned to normalcy.

It is important, however, not to deceive oneself. Since a corrupt leftist dominated university system will continue, following SDS’s plan, to “distribute” leftist anti-American activists throughout the entire society, poisoning every institution against the country and its traditions, if we cannot return our universities to their traditional proper mission of providing a genuinely neutral free and fair forum for the discussion of all issues, nothing else we do can make any real difference to the emerging tyranny. Conservatives require only a free and fair discussion. Nothing more. The censorship and “cancel culture” that have poisoned American society began in the universities; and they must be ended there before the country can heal itself. Conservatives are happy to let Marxists, communists and socialists have their say. It is the Left, supported by their capitalist child billionaires in Silicon Valley and the partisan Lilliputians in the “news” media that, knowing the outcome of free and fair discussions, fears freedom.

Richard McDonough is the author of two books, numerous articles, encyclopedia and dictionary entries, and book reviews. He has taught previously at Bates College, the National University of Singapore, the University of Tulsa, the University Putra Malaysia, the Overseas Family College, the PSB Academy, the University of Maryland, the Arium Academy, and James Cook University. In addition to philosophy, he has taught psychology, physics, humanities and writing courses.

The featured image shows and anonymous work from the 18th century.

Karl Popper’s Critical Rationalism And The Notion Of An “Open Society”

I liked America from the first, perhaps because I had been somewhat prejudiced against it…There was in 1950 a feeling of freedom, of personal independence that did not exist in Europe and which was stronger than in New Zealand, the freest country I knew… On my return to England I had an argument about this with Bertrand Russell… I admit that things might have developed in a very different way. “It cannot happen here” is always wrong: a dictatorship can happen anywhere (Karl Popper, Unended Quest, §28).

I. Introduction

Karl Popper, often named as one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, is known primarily for his work in the philosophy of science and political philosophy which are, on his view, related. Popper’s constant opponent is dogmatism, whether this occurs in philosophy or science or politics. His surprising view is that even the view that what makes a theory scientific is that it can be empirically verified supports a particularly insidious species of dogmatism. In other words, it is not just rationalism, the view that certain views are demonstrable by reason alone, but even empiricism, with its verificationist doctrine, that is prone to dogmatism. In opposition to all species of dogmatism, Popper attempts to build anti-dogmatism into the very logic of scientific reasoning by replacing the standard verificationist criterion with his view that what makes a theory “scientific” is that it can be empirically falsified.

Since he sees scientific knowledge as the paradigm of all knowledge, he generalizes this anti-dogmatic view from scientific reasoning to all forms of reasoning, in philosophy, morality, aesthetics, politics, etc. His healthy concept of reasoning, which he calls “critical rationalism,” can only be realized in a “open society,” a society in which all views, even one’s own most cherished ones, are subjected to rigorous criticism and in which one, like Socrates, subjects oneself to rigorous self-criticism.

Popper’s anti-dogmatic philosophy is especially relevant to our own time in which dogmatism is tearing us apart. For, it is safe to say that if the children at Evergreen University who scream at their teachers and threaten them, the child billionaires in the media who censor people with whom they disagree, and the partisans in the “news” media that are committed to advance a cause rather than report the facts, and so on, were Popperian “critical rationalists,” they might realize how little they actually know and abandon their destructive (and self-destructive) totalitarian behavior.

The present article lays out the basic planks in Popper’s philosophy of science and “critical rationalism” as a means towards explaining Popper’s critique of totalitarianism (that is, Popper’s criticism of what he sees as most Western philosophy and of the dominant movements in much contemporary Western “culture”).

II. Biography

Karl Popper was born in Vienna Austria (Austria-Hungary at the time) in 1902 and died in 1994 in London. His grandparents were Jewish but he was raised a Lutheran. He dropped out of school at age 16 to attend lectures in mathematics, physics, philosophy, psychology and the history of music at the University of Vienna as a guest student. While at university, like so many young people, Popper became attracted by Marxism, socialism, and communism, and by the oft heard claim that such leftist views are supported by science. In his excellent intellectual biography, Unended Quest, he writes that for a time he joined several socialist clubs but resisted full-fledged communism until, “in the spring of 1919 [when he was about 17 years old], I, together with a few friends, was converted by their propaganda [and] for about two or three months regarded myself as a communist” and a Marxist.

Karl Popper

However, an event happened that led Popper away from communism and Marxism. A shooting broke out at a demonstration in which he was involved that left several demonstrators dead. Popper was horrified at the police behavior but also at that of his own side which, he thought, rationalized the necessity for such violence.

This left him with a “life-long revulsion of feeling” for such views. Although anyone can get involved in some feel-good political movement and become repulsed when it rationalizes violence, Popper’s unhappy experience with socialism, communism and Marxism as a student affected him in an entirely different way that had a major impact on his later philosophical development. For Popper realized that he had accepted these leftist views, as well as the claims that they are supported by science, uncritically. This led him to ask what a genuine critical rational appraisal of any purported theory would be like, eventually leading to develop his theory of falsifiability and his associated notion of “critical rationalism.”

It is also worth pointing that in his quite varied life Popper also worked in construction for a short while but could not cope with the heavy work. He became an apprentice as a cabinet maker and became a journeyman in the trade. He wanted to start a daycare center for children and did voluntary work at one of the psychoanalyst Alfred Adler’s clinics for children.

In 1922 he became a regular student at the university and completed his examination as an elementary school teacher in 1924 before working at an after-school care club for endangered children. He continued studying education, philosophy and psychology and in 1928 earned his doctorate in psychology under the supervision of the psychologist Karl Buhler and the philosopher Moritz Schlick at the University of Vienna for his thesis titled ZurMethodenfrage der Denkpsychhologie [On Questions of Method in the Psychology of Thinking].

In 1929 he earned an authorization to teach mathematics and physics at the secondary school level and began doing so. Despite all this, already enough for one life, he still found the energy and time to marry his colleague Josefine Anna Henninger (1906-1985). Around this time politics intervened. Nazism was raising its head in Austria and, being of Jewish extraction, Popper felt it might not be healthy to remain in Austria. In order to get an academic position in a country safe for people of Jewish descent, he needed a book.

In 1934 he published his groundbreaking Logik der Forshung [The Logic of Scientific Discovery] in which he criticized psychologism, naturalism, inductivism and logical positivism and advanced his view that the capacity for falsifiability, not verifiability, is the proper criterion for distinguishing genuine scientific theories (like Einstein’s Relativity Theory) from pseudo-scientific theories like astrology.

In 1935-1936 he took unpaid leave to study in the United Kingdom at Cambridge. In 1936 he was offered a lectureship in Canterbury University in New Zealand. He had the opportunity to remain at Cambridge but when he found that his study position at Cambridge could be transferred to someone else, he suggested that it be given to the young philosopher and member of the Vienna Circle, Friedrich Waismann. This was agreed: Waismann went to Cambridge and Popper went to New Zealand.

In 1946, Popper accepted a position in the London School of Economics which, he later said “was a marvelous institution… in those days.” In later life he attempted to obtain a teaching position in Austria, but he was unsuccessful and returned to the UK.

III. The Verificationist Criterion

Recall that the lesson that Popper learned from his unhappy youthful association with leftist radicalism was that he had accepted these sorts of views uncritically, which led him to construct an account of what a proper critically rational way of evaluating theories would look like. In order, however, to understand the force of Popper’s falsifiability criterion, it is necessary first to understand the view he was reacting against, namely, the view (defended, for example, in A.J. Ayer’s classic 1936 book Language, Truth and Logic and still invoked by many influential philosophers), that what makes a theory scientific as opposed to superstition is that it is empirically verifiable. The verifiability criterion was also the standard view of the influential Vienna Circle (a distinguished group of logicians, philosophers of science and economists, including Rudolph Carnap, Otto Neurath, Herbert Feigl, Richard von Mises, Karl Menger and Kurt Gödel, operating in Popper’s own Vienna at the time).

The verifiability criterion has a simple naturalness to it. Consider some theory T. For the sake of simplicity, let us choose a very simple theory, namely, the theory T1 that a certain Virus V1 causes a certain disease D1 in rabbits. That is, T1= V1 → D1. How does one verify that T1 is true? Perhaps one introduces V1 into a healthy rabbit R1 that has been determined to be free of V1.

If, a few days or weeks later R1 develops the disease D1, this is taken to verify T1. However, to say that T1 has been verified by this test does not mean that T1 has been conclusively verified. After all, a single positive result might be a coincidence, a so-called “false positive.” Thus, on the standard view, these test results must be repeatable. Only after T1 passes multiple such tests can it be regarded as highly verified. For example, Newton’s “theory” T2 that an object close to the surface in earth’s gravitational field falls at an acceleration rate of 32 ft/sec2 has been tested, not once or ten time or even a hundred times but literally thousands of times. Thus, T2 is seen as highly verified and no one any longer doubts for a moment that it is true.

What could be more obvious than this that this is how science comes to accept certain theories and reject others? Theory T implies a certain fact F. One does a test to determine if fact F is observed. If F is not observed, the theory is not verified. If, however, fact F is observed, T is verified and if, after repeated tests T continues to be verified, it can be accepted as virtually certain.

Popper noticed, however, both that 1) It is very easy to find verifications for one’s theories and 2) It is a psychological fact that human beings prefer to see their own theories verified.

Consider the case of astrology! A person P1 goes to see an astrologist A1 who makes the prediction that P1 is going to come into a lot of money soon. P1 is very excited because they need the money for a cancer operation. A few days later P1 wins $300 dollars in a lottery and A1 brags that her “prediction” has come true. But has it? What does one mean by “a lot of money?” In the case at hand, $300 is not a lot of money when one is talking about a cancer operation that will cost upwards of $100,000 dollars. The point is that no matter what happens, astrologists can find something to claim their prediction has come true. This is because an astrologist’s “predictions” are generally so vague that they are consistent with virtually any possible outcome.

To see this, consider another case. A1 again predicts that P1 is going to come into a lot of money soon. P1’s stockbroker calls them the following week with bad news. P1’s stock went down in value by 30% and P1 has lost tens of thousands of dollars. P1 angrily complains to A1 that her prediction has not come true. P1 has not “come into a lot of money.” In fact, P1 has lost money. However, A1 points out that many experts had predicted that the stock market would drop by 60%. A1 claims, therefore, that a stock market loss of 30% is actually a gain over the 60% drop that had been predicted. P1 has gained money in that sense. The vaguer the prediction, the more likely it is to be verified by future developments. As Popper observed, pseudo-sciences are generally easily verified. But that means verifiability cannot be the criterion that distinguishes a genuine scientific theory from a superstitious pseudo-science like astrology.

One might reply that astrology is a trivial kind of example. No one would seriously propose that astrology is a candidate for being a genuine science. In fact, Popper briefly mentions astrology several times in his Conjectures and Refutations but makes precisely the same point. He makes his central argument by reference to the alleged new “sciences” that were causing a lot of excitement in the universities in his student years, Darwinian evolutionary theory, Freudian psychology and the Marxist theory of dialectical materialism. Popper argues that all of these “theories” are easily verified, in fact too easily, but none of them is a genuine science because none of them can be falsified. Thus, each of these, under close scrutiny, looks more like astrology than it does like a genuine scientific theory like Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

IV. Three Pseudo-Sciences: Marxism, Freudian Psychology, Darwinian Evolutionary Theory

Popper states that during his university days there was great excitement about three allegedly new sciences: Marxism, Freudian Psychology and Darwinian Evolutionary Theory. One might add Adler’s psychology as well (recall that Popper worked at one of Adler’s clinics for a time), but since Adler’s theory is, in the relevant logical respects, similar to Freudian psychology, only the former need be discussed here.

The excitement was due to the fact that these three alleged new “sciences” appeared to open up to scientific understanding three areas that had long been believed to be the province of philosophy and dreamy speculation, the laws concerning the genesis of life (Darwin), the laws that govern the mysterious working of the mind (Freud), and laws behind the historical development of human societies (Marx).

However, after, in his youth, being initially impressed by these new theories, Popper came to see each of them as a pseudo-science. Each of them turns out to be a kind of seductive story about their respective subject matters, but none of them is a genuine science. It is, therefore, useful to sketch the basic claims of these three theories in the present section before Popper’s arguments that none of them is a genuine science, because none of them is falsifiable, are taken up in the subsequent section

Consider Darwinian evolutionary theory first. In his famous book, The Origin of Species, Darwin was trying to explain why certain species (the ones we actually find in existence) rather than others (the one’s that went extinct) are the ones that survived. His purported explanatory principle is “the survival of the fittest.” That is, the reason the African lion survived to the present day rather than one of the other large powerful saber-toothed cats in existence a million years ago is that the ancestors of the African lion were more “fit” than their saber-toothed competitors. This is interesting.

After all, if one compares the African lion with one of its massive saber-toothed competitors 1 million years ago, the saber-toothed cat certain appears, at first glance, more “fit.” The saber-toothed cat was more powerfully built and one can imagine an African lion heading for the hills at the sight of those 11-inch-long saber-like fangs. Despite the more fearsome sight of a saber-toothed cat, the African lion with its less muscled body and smaller fangs was actually, all things considered, more “fit” to survive in that specific environment than the saber-toothed cat.

One can even tell an interesting story about why the African lion with its smaller muscles and fangs was more “fit.” It was more agile. Its method of killing, cutting off the air supply of the prey, was more efficient than the saber-toothed cat’s strategy of slashing the prey and letting it bleed to death, etc. Darwin “explains” why the African lion survives today and the terrifying saber-tooted cats went extinct! Thank you, Mr. Darwin!

Consider now Freudian psychology. Freud claimed to be able to explain the genesis of all neurosis in human adults. Specifically, he holds that all neuroses are explained as the result of repressed sexual trauma in childhood. Consider the following example! A patient S has a frozen right arm but medical doctors can find nothing physically wrong with the arm. The “cause” of the frozen arm must, therefore, be “psychological.” Freud “discovers,” sometimes in long “sessions” with the patient on the couch, that the patient was sexually abused in childhood. Freudian psychology claims that the fact that S was unable to express this trauma to anyone, that is, the fact that S had to “repress” this trauma, caused S’s neurosis.

On Freud’s model, a repressed trauma, like the steam building up in a tightly covered boiling pot, will have to be let out one way or the other. If the steam is not let out of the boiling pot in a measured way, the pot will explode. If the sexual trauma in childhood is not let out (expressed) over time, the person will, so to speak, “explode” (develop a neurosis). Since sexual trauma cannot in most societies be expressed openly and honestly (one simply does not talk about such things), it must be expressed in some other way. It will, therefore, be expressed symbolically, perhaps by a frozen arm or by some other neurosis.

This, it must be admitted, is interesting. It sounds plausible. One knows people who have suffered sexual trauma in youth and who do display neurotic symptoms. Perhaps they cannot trust people, even to the point of irrationality. When they talk it out with a therapist, that is when they, so to speak, “let off some steam,” they sometimes report a decrease in their neurotic symptoms. Thank you, Dr. Freud!

Consider now the alleged new science of historical development: Marxism. In the Preface to Capital [Das Kapital], Marx states that just as the Newtonian mechanics states the laws of physical motion in the physical world, his theory of historical development states the laws of economic motion in the human historical world.

Specifically, Marx holds that human society, beginning with feudalism, necessary develops in a certain very specific way. Just as a plant necessarily moves from seed, to stem, to blossom to fruit, human society necessarily moves from feudalism to capitalism to socialism and finally to full-fledged communism. Further, just as a plant cannot go directly from seed to blossom, but must necessarily traverse all the intermediate stages in the proper order, human society must move from feudalism to communism without skipping any of the intermediate stages.

In addition, any given stage of human society will break down and give way to the next stage in the sequence only when it is most advanced. For example, a young immature capitalist society will not break down into socialism but, rather, only a mature capitalist society, in which all the internal problems of capitalism have become fully developed, will break down into socialism. Since Marx, when he penned his theories, was living in the most advanced capitalist society of his day, England, he predicted that the socialist revolution would occur in England first.

In addition, since Russia was still in a backward feudal stage, he predicted that the revolution will not occur in Russia until it goes through the capitalist stage. Popper calls any theory that purports to be able to predict the future development of human societies “historicist” theories. He sees “historicist” theories in Plato, Vico, Hegel, Marx, Comte, and Spengler and traces of “historicism” in Jaspers and Heidegger.

Marx’s “historicism” also seems plausible, but why? First, it is reassuring. Whereas the history one learned in grammar school seemed an incomprehensible chaos of dates, treaties, wars and betrayals, Marx reveals that there is a discernable order to it. Marx makes one feel like the actors in Hollywood who know the end of the script (the butler did it!), and if one knows the end of the script, one can prepare for it. For example, if human society is necessarily moving towards socialism, one knows where to place one’s bets. Indeed, since one knows how things are going to turn out, perhaps one can even exert some control over the process. Since capitalism is necessarily going to fall, why not give it a little push to help things along?

Indeed, Popper points out that “historicists” tend to be attracted to social engineering, the effort to control history to fit the theory (script). Further, if one lives in a capitalist society, one cannot avoid seeing the gulf between the rich (capitalists) and the poor (workers) and feel compassion for the latter. It is reassuring to know that the oppressed classes will win in the end. In fact, Marxism sounds just like a religious salvation story: “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 19: 29-30).

Finally, there have been various revolutions around the world in which the poor have risen up against their greedy oppressors. It is very reassuring, not to mention profitable, to be on the right side of history, but, for that, one must know what side is the right side. Marx’s new “science” of dialectical materialism is more useful than any portfolio manager. Thank you, comrade Marx for the interesting and profitable insights!

Despite the fact that each of these theories seems plausible, and despite the fact that Popper himself was initially attracted to them, he came to the conclusion that each of them is actually pseudo-science, not genuine science. These arguments are discussed in the following section.

V. Popper’s “Falsifiability” Criterion

Popper claims that each of Darwinian evolutionary theory, Freudian psychology, and the Marxist theory of historical development may look like genuine sciences, and each may appear to satisfy the verifiability criterion, but each fails his falsifiability criterion. That is, each is a species of seductive dogmatism disguised as science. It is important to note at the beginning that Popper holds that the specific ways each fails the falsifiability criterion is not exactly the same in all three cases. For this reason, the case of Marxism, with its unique problems, is separated out and considered in the subsequent section.

Consider Darwinian evolutionary theory, which was, and continues to be, touted as an established scientific theory, first!  It is important to stress that Popper does not reject Darwinian evolutionary theory altogether. He accepts that Darwinian evolutionary theory is useful for science. Popper calls it a useful “metaphysical research program,” that is, a schema that guides one in discovering the specific mechanisms that take place in the evolutionary process. His claim is only that it is not itself a scientific theory. Popper’s reasoning is illuminating.

Recall that Darwin’s evolutionary theory purports to explain why the species we find in existence today, e.g., the African lion as opposed to some other big cat, has survived. His explanation is that the African lion has survived to the present day rather than one of the other large powerful saber-toothed cats in existence a million years ago because it was more “fit” than its competitors.

But what is the “empirical content” of the claim that it is “more fit” than its competitors?  The answer, Popper points out, is that the African lion is the one that has in fact survived. But we already know that independently of Darwin’s “theory!”  Darwin’s “theory” of the survival of the fittest reduces, therefore, to the claim that the one’s that survived up to the present time are the ones that are most survivable – but that is akin to the tautology: The ones that survived are the ones that survived: “[A] considerable part of Darwin’s theory is not … an empirical theory but is akin to a logical truism” (Objective Knowledge, Chap. II, §16).

One can make the same point from another direction. Although Darwinian evolutionary theory claims it can explain why the African lion survived and its large saber-toothed competitors did not, consider the following thought experiment. Suppose that Darwin is magically transported back to the African plains 1-2 million years ago and provided with an exhaustive list of the facts on the ground about the various competing big cats in existence at the time. Popper points out that even if Darwin were given that knowledge, there is no way he could, with his theory of “the survival of the fittest,” have predicted which of these species of big cats would survive into the 20th century!   Darwin would have wait, with the rest of us, to see that it was actually the African lion that survived, at which point it would be declared, on that basis, to be “the fittest.” But that is no explanation whatsoever. It is just a coronation after the fact.

For this reason, there is no way to show that Darwinian evolutionary theory is false. Since Darwinian evolutionary theory cannot make any predictions, none of its predictions can be falsified … and that is very convenient. Since Darwinian evolutionary theory confines itself to “explaining” known facts, it can never be wrong in claiming that this known animal (e.g., the African lion) is the fittest. But, of course, it is!  It is the one that survived. Further, since explanation and prediction are the two sides of the same coin, and since Darwinian evolutionary theory cannot predict anything, it cannot actually explain anything either. Its purported “explanations” are the result of a “rigged game” in which it already knows the correct answer (the African lion is the one that survived). Thus, a big part of Darwinian evolutionary theory is a logical truism, the ones that survived are the ones that survived, disguised as a scientific theory.

Popper claims that something similar is true of Freudian psychology. For example, Freud purports to explain S’s frozen arm as the consequence of repressed sexual trauma in S’s childhood. In fact, however, Freud’s theory explains nothing. Consider the following thought-experiment. Suppose Freud is presented with a young child, S*, who we know has just now, today, suffered sexual trauma. Can Freud predict whether S*, when they have reached 20 years of age, will present neurotic symptoms and, if so, what form these will take?

The answer is obviously “No!” First, since neurotic symptoms take a plethora of forms, and since Freud cannot formulate any psychological laws that correlate specific forms of sexual abuse with specific symptoms, he cannot predict whether S* when adult will have a frozen arm, or a fear of intimacy, or insomnia, or constant headaches, or agoraphobia, or fear of the dark, etc. Second, Freud cannot even predict whether S* will display any neurotic symptoms at all in adulthood because, on his view, it is possible that S*’s repression mechanisms will prevent any neurotic symptoms from becoming manifest by any given time. Just as Darwinian evolutionary theory can only say which species is most “fit” after the fact, that is, after evolution has declared the winners, so too Freud can only claim to be able to explain neurotic symptoms after the fact. That is, only after S presents the frozen arm can Freud claim to be able to explain that it is the result of repressed sexual trauma in childhood – but he could not have predicted the frozen arm in advance! 

Further, if one were to present Freud with a child S* that his just suffered sexual trauma in the present, he can predict nothing about S*’s future development. He cannot predict which neurotic symptoms they will have. He cannot even predict that they will have any neurotic symptoms at all because their “repression mechanism” might suppress any symptoms. Freud’s theory is another example of a theory that purports to be able to explain everything but can predict nothing, and that, for Popper, is the hallmark of a pseudo-scientific theory.

Further, since Freud’s theory purports to be able to explain everything, but can predict nothing, it is compatible with all possible outcomes. It is compatible with the view that when S* reaches adulthood they have a frozen arm, but it is also compatible with the view that when S* reaches adulthood they do not have a frozen arm. It is compatible with the view that when S*reaches adulthood they will suffer from agoraphobia, but it is compatible with the view that when S*reaches adulthood they do not have agoraphobia, and so on.

In fact, Freud’s theory is compatible with the view that when S* reaches adulthood it has no neurotic symptoms whatsoever. Freud’s theory, like Darwinian Evolutionary theory, is unfalsifiable. This is concealed by the fact that Freud already knows the outcome, the frozen arm, before he purports to provide the “explanation” for it!  But he could not have predicted it in advance. Since explanation and prediction are the two logical sides of the same coin, Freud cannot actually explain nothing. Freud tells an interesting and compelling story about neuroses and sexual trauma, but he is not doing science. The following section argues that Marxism suffers from defects similar to those in Darwinian evolutionary theory and Freudian psychology.

VI. Marxism As Pseudo-Science

The reason why Marxism fails the falsifiability criterion is somewhat different from the reasons why Darwinian evolutionary theory and Freudian psychology fail it. Recall that Marx holds that the “historicist” view that human society, beginning with feudalism, necessary develops in a certain specific predictable way, specifically, that feudalism necessarily breaks down into capitalism, which necessarily breaks down into socialism, which necessarily devolves into full-fledged communism. Further, Marx holds that these successive breakdowns occur in a specific order. First, one cannot skip a step. Second, the breakdown of any form, e.g., capitalism, happens when it is at is most advanced stage. Specifically, Marx, predicted that the socialist revolution would occur in England first and that it would not occur in feudal Russia.

Unlike Darwinian evolutionary theory and Freudian psychology which cannot make predictions at all, Marxism does make predictions. Marx does not wait until capitalism falls into socialism and say, after the fact, “See, I told you so.” Marx predicts the collapse of capitalism into socialism in advance. This is the sort of risky prediction that for Popper is the hallmark of genuine science.

Thus, the problem with Marxism does not lie in the logical structure of the theory. The problem with Marxism is that when these Marxist predictions fail to come true, which they virtually always do, Marxists refuse to acknowledge this failure and make ad hoc hypotheses designed for the sole purpose of saving their cherished theory. For example, whereas Marxism predicts that the socialist revolution will occur first in the most developed capitalist country, England, and not in the still feudal country, Russia, the revolution actually occurred first in Russia and has still, to this day, not occurred in England.

Thus, Marxism got two of its central predictions wrong. A genuine scientist, like Einstein, faced with two major failed predictions, would have gone back to the drawing board and either abandoned the theory altogether or at least made major revisions to it.

To take just one example, when the socialist revolution occurred first in Russia, where Marxism states that it will not occur, Marxists have claimed that the revolution occurred first in Russia because of the great genius of Vladimir Lenin who understood where the historical dialectic was heading and was, therefore, able to push it along a bit faster than it would normally have gone. Unfortunately, the whole point of Marxism, without which it fails to have any predictive power at all, is that the historical dialectic cannot be influenced by individual human beings.

Thus, this “hypothesis,” that it was Lenin’s unique genius that enabled Russia to skip directly from feudalism to socialism, without going through the capitalist stage, is an ad hoc (after the fact) hypothesis designed to save original Marxism from falsification. To put it in the most basic terms, the Marxists, faced with falsifying observations, cheat to save their cherished theory. Faced with the choice between their cherished theory and reality, Marxists by and large choose their theory and give up on reality.

The consequences of the decision to eschew reality can be seen in Marxist countries, like the Soviet Union, Cuba and Venezuela, around the world.
It is an interesting question why Marxists, as opposed, for example, to physicists or chemists, tend to cheat on this scale to save their pet theories. However, only a few brief remarks can be made here.

The reason why Marxists tend to cheat to save their cherished theory of historical development from falsification is that Marxism, dealing as it does with things that people value very much (e.g., socialism over capitalism, the comforting belief in the possibility of a utopian socialist “brotherhood” in which everyone is absolutely equal, etc.) readily changes from a purported scientific theory to an ideology believed with all fervor of a religious dogma. In this way, Marxists transformed their purported scientific theory into a matter of faith (and there is no end to the irony in that).

Asserting that “the workers of the world” would rise up in a socialist revolution to take down capitalism was changed from a scientific prediction into a religious ritual. In order to be accepted into the in-crowd of caring “woke” Marxist utopians one is required to chant such lyrics in unison and human nature being what it is, there is no end to the number of people willing to sing along in order to be accepted into the “woke” in-crowd.

In summary, Darwinian evolutionary theory, Freudian psychology and Marxism all turn out to be unfalsifiable pseudo-sciences, but for different reasons. Whereas it is in the nature of Darwinian evolutionary theory and Freudian psychology to be unfalsifiable, Marxist “historicism,” as originally articulated by Marx, is, at least potentially, a genuine falsifiable scientific theory. But Marxism was transformed from a genuine science to a pseudo-science when Marx’s major predictions turned out to be false and Marxists chose the comfort of their own tailor-made quasi-religious faith to the trials and tribulations, but also the wonder, of reality.

VII. Einstein’s Example

Since it might be difficult to obtain an overview of the abstruse philosophical arguments of the preceding four sections (III-VI) about the distinction between genuine scientific theories and pseudo-scientific theories, one might illustrate Popper’s central insight in the following easy to understand way. Popper was extremely impressed with Einstein as an example of a genuine scientist to contrast with pseudo-scientists like astrologists, Freudians, Adlerians, Darwinian evolutionary theorists and Marxists. The pseudo-scientists typically put forward some theory Fx and set out to verify their theory. The schema should now be familiar:

Theory Tx → Fx.
Fx is observed.
Therefore, Tx is verified.

However, since, as Popper points out, verifications for one’s favored theories can easily be found, it is not surprising that the pseudo-scientists typically find that their theories are verified. By contrast, Einstein, a genuine scientist, looked at his theories in precisely the opposite way. Popper puts it this way in Unended Quest, §9):

If somebody proposed a scientific theory, he [or she] should answer, as Einstein did, the question: ‘Under what conditions would I admit that my theory is untenable?’ In other words, what conceivable facts would I accept as refutations, or falsifications, of my theory?

That is, instead of trying to verify his own theories, Einstein tries to specify the conditions that would falsify his theory and then attempts to falsify it. This leads directly to Popper’s main idea: What is important about a theory, what gives it its “empirical content,” is not what it rules in, not what “verifies” it, but what it rules out; what, if observed, would falsify it.

Once again, it is very easy to find things that verify a given theory, e.g., all of Freud’s patients who were very happy by Freud’s diagnosis of the sources of their neurosis. But what gives a scientific theory empirical content is not that it can produce verifications, many of which are “safe,” but that it makes risky predictions that, if these turn out to be false, refute the theory. Freud’s hysteric patients, the African lion, and the fact that a revolutionary banner is flying somewhere in London in 1848 do seem to verify, respectively, Freud’s theory, Darwinian evolutionary theory, and Marx’s theory of historical development.

But, Popper argues, verifications are cheap. The genuine scientist, like Einstein, asks what would falsify their theory and then they try to falsify it. When one genuinely tries to falsify a theory Tx and fails, one has the right to count Tx, not as a verified theory, but as an unfalsified conjecture. Indeed, part of the significance of the title to Popper’s excellent book, Conjectures and Refutations, is that we should replace talk about “verified theories” with talk about “conjectures that have not been refuted yet.” The “yet” is important. For this fosters an undogmatic attitude in science.

VIII. Critical Rationalism And An “Open Society”

Popper develops his notion of falsifiability specifically in connection with the philosophy of science. His aim is to demarcate genuine scientific theories like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity from pseudo-scientific theories like Marxism and Freudian psychology. However, Popper aims to expand his anti-dogmatism from scientific reasoning to all reasoning. This, he holds, is justified because, as he states in the Preface to the first English edition of The Logic of Scientific Discovery, scientific reasoning is a kind of paradigm of all of our different kinds of reasoning: “The growth of knowledge can be studied best by studying the growth of scientific knowledge.” Thus, Popper aims to extend his falsifiabilty criterion, by analogy, to reasoning in philosophy, religion, morals, aesthetics, etc. Obviously, one cannot require that these mostly non-empirical theories and views are empirically falsifiable. However, one can require that theories and views in each of these areas is open to continual criticism.

In order to ensure that this critical spirit is preserved one requires what Popper calls an “open society” rather than a closed one, that is, 1) a society that honors and cultivates problem solving, 2) a society that promotes bold risky theorizing accompanied by unfettered criticism, and, equally importantly, 3) a society that permits the possibility of genuine change as the result of that criticism.

In his 1994 book All Life Is Problem Solving, Popper argued that modern Western liberal democracies are the closest approximation we have yet found to open societies and he defended them as “the best of all political worlds of whose existence we have any historical knowledge.” The value of these open liberal democracies lies primarily in their ideal of individual freedom and ability to peacefully self-correct over time.

Other philosophers, J. S. Mill, etc., have defended the liberal democracies, but Popper grounds his defence of these systems of government in his epistemological views, specifically in his concept of critical rationalism, which, in turn, is grounded in his account of scientific reasoning as problem solving by means of trial and error, what Popper recasts as “conjecture and refutation.”

The United States, which Popper much admired in the 1950’s for its cultivation of individuality and freedom, has, until recently, aspired to the idea of an “open society.” Unfortunately, both elected and unelected individuals who believe, apparently, that they have some privileged access to the truth and some greater claim to morality than ordinary citizens have begun censoring people, including the elected president of the United States, with whom they disagree (or, perhaps, to be more precise, people who stand in the way of their unfettered accumulation of wealth and power).

One might believe that the United States, with its “Bill of Rights,” its first and second amendments to the constitution, the hallmarks of a free self-governing people, and its traditions of tolerance and respect for others can never turn into a dictatorship. However, as Popper, who had to flee Austria during the rise of Nazism knew only too well, one can never be complacent, for “dictatorship can happen anywhere.” The following section discusses what Popper saw as the two main intellectual threats to an “Open Society.”

IX. The Two Intellectual Threats To An Open Society: “Historicism” And “Holism”

In the Introduction to the 2012 edition of The Open Society and its Enemies, Popper begins by describing the fragility of our own short lived Western “open society:”

[This book] sketches some of the difficulties faced by our civilization—a civilization that… [aims] at humanness and reasonableness, at equality and freedom; a civilization that is still, as it were, in its infancy, and which still continues to grow and despite the fact that it has so often been betrayed by so many of the intellectual leaders of mankind. It attempts to show that this civilization has not yet recovered from the shock of its birth—the transition from the tribal or ‘closed’ society, with its submission to magical forces, to the ‘open’ society, which sets free the critical powers of man. It attempts to show that the shock of this transition is one of the factors that have made possible the rise of reactionary movements [that try to] overthrow civilization and return to tribalism. [The book] suggests that what we now call totalitarianism belongs to a tradition that is just as old, or just as young, as civilization itself… It tries thereby to contribute to our understanding of totalitarianism, and of the significance of the perennial fight against it.”

Popper warns that the citizens in the Western democracies take much in our “open” rational Western civilizations for granted and fail to appreciate how fragile it is, how easily it could fall back into the magical thinking and totalitarianism of the closed societies from which it so recently emerged. In Chapter 5 he describes the nature of these “closed” societies in greater detail:

It is one of the characteristics of the magical attitude of a primitive tribal or “closed” society that it lives in a charmed circle of unchanging taboos of laws and customs which are felt to be as inevitable as the rising of the sun, or the cycle of the seasons, or similar obvious regularities of nature. And it is only after this magical “closed society” has broken down that the theoretical understanding of the difference between nature and “society” can develop.

According to Popper, “historicism” and “holism” are the two main intellectual currents in the modern world that attempt to return us to such a comforting “magical ‘closed society’” of “inevitable” totalitarian and tribal laws and customs. Both of these tendencies are exemplified in Marx’s claim to have discovered the “laws of economic motion” that govern human history.

The particular “laws of economic motion” that Marx purports to have discovered tell us that human history is moving inevitably, just like the inexorable natural cycle of the seasons, towards the triumph of the ultimate tribe, the charmed circle” of the “chosen people,” an abstract communist brotherhood (updated recently to include an absolutely equal sisterhood as well that Marx, in what Kierkegaard might call a moment of “world-historical absent-mindedness,” himself forgot to mention at the time), chosen, not by fallible human beings, but by the cosmic historical dialectic itself (the closest thing to a God that remains after the grand “scientific” historicist purge).

The greatest virtue (if one may still be permitted to speak of virtues) of this magical historical dialectic is that the human beings that survive it are relieved of the burden of being free individuals existing in and for themselves by being reduced to a “comrade,” a member, just like any other, of the abstract historically chosen brotherhood and sisterhood. Should one be curious about what individuality means for Marx one will be disappointed. The notion of individuality only occurs once in the one thousand and eighty-four pages of Volume 1 of the 1990 edition of Capital, and that not in the work itself, but in the Preface to the first edition. Marx there explains that “individuals are dealt with here only insofar as they are the personification of economic categories, the bearers [Träger] of particular class-relations and interests” and goes on to add that his standpoint, “less than any other [can] make the individual responsible for [class] relations whose creature he remains…” One must read the last clause carefully, Marx holds that the individual remains “the creature” of [class] relations” for which he is not responsible, or, as Popper might put it, Marx holds that the individual remains “submitted” to magical forces that are, in a “primitive tribal or ‘closed’ society,” seen as just as inevitable as the natural cycles. That is, Popper sees Marxism as a return, under the guise of a new “science,” to the magical fortune-telling of totalitarian tribal primitivism.

For Popper, it is no more a surprise that Marx’s predictions failed to come true than that the primitive shaman’s prediction about the future of the tribe based on his reading of the cracks in a tortoise shell fail to come true. For, there are no secret cycles of history accessible to primitive shamans and Marxists. It is worth pointing out that Popper also sees Freudianism as a return to this same primitive magical thinking based on belief in insight into the secret cycles of history (sexual trauma in child is causally linked to neurosis in adults – but don’t ask for any precisely formulated laws linking the two because the link can only be glimpsed by the well-paid shaman sitting beside the paying patient on the couch). Since, however, Marx’s magical mode of thinking is our main subject here, Popper’s more detailed critique of Freud’s brand of fortune-telling must be left for another occasion.

Popper’s basic argument against all species of historicism, given in schematic form in the Preface to his The Poverty of Historicism, is that since it is impossible to predict the future growth of human knowledge (because, roughly, that would require one to know something before one knows it), and since the growth of human knowledge has a major influence on the development of human history, it is literally impossible to predict the future course of human history (as Marx and other “historicists” purport to do).

The failure of Malthus’ prediction about the inevitability of mass starvation in England illustrates Popper’s point. For, there is no way Malthus could know on the basis of the scientific knowledge of his day how the future growth of human knowledge would enable human beings to avoid his dire predictions.

The failure of Marx’s prediction of the necessary collapse of capitalism into socialism is another. For there is simply no way Marx could know on the basis of the scientific knowledge of his day how the future growth of human knowledge would enable human beings to modify their institutions to escape the collapse of capitalism. There is, for example, no way he could know that capitalism would produce so much wealth that the worker and capitalist classes would begin to merge, thereby defusing the antagonism between them.

Astonishingly, “historicists” in general forget the mundane fact that human beings can actually learn new things that enable them to change the course of their history. Human beings are not termites that build their castle to the cycle of the seasons. Indeed, it is the ability to learn new things and take one’s destiny in one’s own hands that distinguishes the emergence of human civilization from blind nature.

Popper holds that “historicism” is a threat to an “open society” because historicists tell people that their future is not in their hands but is already determined by the great impersonal forces of history. That is, if the collapse of capitalism and rise of socialism and communism is inevitable, why should one fight to save capitalism? Similarly, since capitalism is doomed by virtue of Marx’s “economic laws of motion,” why should one not help hasten its demise in order to usher in the inevitable glorious era of socialism and communism?

Since socialism and communism are “necessarily” coming anyways, it is much better, not to mention more healthy and more profitable, to be on “the right side of history” (much better to be one of the comrades in the communist Ministry of Truth than one of the dissidents in a gulag), but to know what “the right side of history” is one must consult the right shaman or Marxist. It is just a shame that history shows that Marxists and other shamans regularly get their predictions wrong.

Similarly, “holism” (or collectivism) also tells people that their nature and destiny are not in their own individual hands, not something for which Marx’s “creatures” are individually responsible, but something that is only determined by the whole collective. In Marx’s version of “holism,” the whole is one’s “class” (defined solely in economic terms). Thus, in a capitalist society, one is either, with a few exceptions, a member of the “worker” class or the “capitalist” class which are, according to Marxist edicts, by their very nature, “antagonistic” to each other. As Marx states in “The Coming Upheaval” (excerpted from the end of his The Poverty of Philosophy), the worker’s class “constitutes itself as a class for itself,” which means that the worker’s interests are its “class interests” (period).

Consider, for example, a hypothetical worker Mary. Since Mary’s interests are her “class interests” and since the worker’s class is intrinsically “constituted for itself” against an antagonistic class of capitalists, Mary’s interests are reduced to her working classes struggle with the capitalist class – whether Mary likes it or not. For example, Mary, left to her own individual devices, might not have any intrinsic antagonism towards capitalists. In fact, a capitalist, Rob, gave Mary her job. The two might actually, on the personal level, like and admire each other. However, Marx’s holism, his communism, refuses to see Mary as anything other than an abstract representative of the working class (“the personification of economic categories”). Thus, any possibility of a mutually beneficial relationship between Mary and Rob is verboten. For the great historical dialectic has determined that Mary must be intrinsically antagonistic to Rob. There is no point resisting this class antagonism because it is a necessary consequence of the great impersonal economic forces of history.

Thus, in the same document, Marx asks, “[I]s it at all surprising that a society founded on opposition of classes against classes should culminate in brutal ‘contradiction’, the shock of body against body [violence], as a final dénouement?” Too bad for Mary and Bob, both of whom, had they been free to be themselves, might have been quite happy together!

It is also worth pointing out that Marx’s theoretical assertion of the necessity of violence (“brutal… shock of body against body”) between the different classes can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, teaching that class war is necessary to generations of students can lead to the creation of conflict where none need exist.

After all, if Marxian “science” states that Z, as a worker, is intrinsically antagonistic to members of the capitalist class, then Z is likely to cultivate such antagonisms where none need exist. Why should Z not cultivate these antagonisms? Z is taught that they are written into the structure of the cosmos. It could be, therefore, that the class war is inevitable, not because of Marx’s great impersonal forces of history, but because indoctrinating generation after generation of students with these radical theories instills these antagonisms in people that might otherwise have learned to work together to solve problems.

The primitive, magical, tribal belief that there is a necessary antagonism between the different classes, not Marx’s fictitious “laws of economic motion,” itself makes the destructive cycle of class struggles inevitable. Eldridge Cleaver, a violent socialist, communist and Marxist in his youth, eventually saw through this self-destructive policy and joined his capitalist benefactors.

It is noteworthy that Marx sees his theory of dialectical materialism as a “scientific” antidote to the magical religious superstitions of the past. In his commentary on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx describes religion, which he aims to replace by his “science” of dialectical materialism, as “the opiate of the masses.” Popper holds that the shoe is on the other foot. That is, Popper sees Marxism (and Freudianism) as a return to the magical tribal superstitions of the “closed” totalitarian tribes of the primitive past.

These kinds of tribal superstitions are seductive for just that reason. Since the human race has only recently escaped its tribal totalitarian past with its seductive magical thinking, the egg-shells of those primitive beliefs still cling to human society. Since, however, the human race has acquired the beginnings of critical rationality, these old magical ways of thinking can only be revived if they are cloaked in the guise of science. Since no genuine scientist could possibly confirm the magical connections conjured by Marx and Freud, it must be a new kind of science, not like Newton’s or Einstein’s genuine testable sciences, but an unfalsifiable science that resembles a new religious dogma.

Indeed, this is one of the reasons that Marxism is so hostile to religion. For Marxism and religion are competitors. Specifically, Marxism is attempting to occupy the position formerly held by theistic religions like Christianity. Marxism is the translation, so to speak, of the theistic salvation story into a purely “materialistic” medium. The Christian’s spiritual pilgrimage through the trials and temptations of human life is replaced by the dialectical advance through the trials and temptations of capitalism.

When, in a footnote to the end of Chapter 32 of Capital, Marx describes the “proletariat” (the working class) “alone” as the “really revolutionary class,” he is describing the group redeemer sent by the inexorable dialectical process to save humanity from its capitalist sinners. The spiritual heaven, the absolute unitary whole of God’s kingdom that awaits devout Christians in the afterlife, is replaced by the unitary whole of the communist paradise at Marx’s “end of history.” This is Christian eschatology (the “end of times” story) translated into Marx’s materialist terms. The absolute truth of the Christian story of salvation is replaced by the absolute laws and cycles of history as consecrated by the new unfalsifiable “science” of dialectical materialism, the closest thing to a “God” remains for completely material (economic) beings. There is no use resisting the inexorable (“necessary”) laws of dialectical materialism for the same reason there is no use resisting the Almighty in heaven. For neither can be resisted. Marxism is cosmic totalitarianism made (pseudo) “scientific” as a new opiate for the “materialist” masses to replace the religious views it attempts to replace.

X. Popper’s Ideal Of Socratic Humility

This article begins by noting the totalitarianism currently overtaking society in the United States, the ignorant angry snarling mobs of children at Evergreen University and other universities around the country threatening their teachers and administrators, the censorship of conservatives and the President of the United States by all-knowing leftist tech billionaires, the Lilliputian members of the “news” media whose shows with their tiny arrows more resemble Saturday Night Live than they do a genuine “news” shows, the “cancel culture” that is so afraid of hearing an opposing view that, like the old Soviet Union, it “disappears” people that might hurt its feelings, the return to tribalism in “identity politics” that divides people into antagonistic camps based on their skin color, gender, ethnicity, etc., the calls by transparent partisans about setting up a Ministry of Truth to enlist government power, Soviet-style, to impose their views on the oppressed masses, the unfalsifiable (and, in fact, unformulable) assertions of “white privilege” and “systemic racism,” and other recently popular forms of magical thinking used to bully people into submission, etc.

Popper formulated his criterion of falsifiability in his philosophy of science, and, later, his more general notion of “critical rationalism,” in order to enable one to distinguish genuine rational thinking from just these sorts of dogmatic nonsense. Unfortunately, fed by the decay of rational standards in our universities led by Marxists and other tribalists and shamans, all these lessons have been lost in the rush to the bottom. Talk of “rational standards” has become mere words, quickly sacrificed to the emotional cause du jour. As Popper, who lived through a similar national psychosis once before and had to flee Austria because of it, knew, there is literally no way that this ends well.

There is no better way to understand Popper’s anti-dogmatic ideal than to realize that although Popper opposed Plato, who he saw as one of the greatest dogmatists of all time, he considered himself as a disciple of Plato’s teacher, Socrates:

The encounter with Marxism was one of the main events of my intellectual development. It taught me a number of lessons I have never forgotten. It taught me the wisdom of the Socratic saying, “I know that I do not know.” It made me a fallibilist, and impressed on me the value of intellectual modesty. And it made me most conscious of the difference between dogmatic and critical thinking (Unended Quest, §8).

One often thinks of Socrates and Plato as virtually indistinguishable because Plato is Socrates’ most famous student and because we know most of what we know about Socrates from Plato. However, there are some respects in which the two appear to be virtually opposites. Whereas Plato, in his Republic, outlines a very totalitarian political system in which certain views, even lies (“noble lies”) are enforced by the state, Socrates, as reported in Plato’s Apology (21d), taught the opposite, that human wisdom consists in one thing only, that one knows that one knows nothing. Socrates in that passage also adds that wisdom consists in humility before God.

Popper’s entire mission is best understood as a call to return to the humble wisdom of the Socratic ideal. He implies this on the very first page of his Unended Quest where he explains how he became “a disciple of Socrates.” The students at our universities who think they know something because they have taken a course, or read a book, or attended some lectures, or acquired a degree, the Lilliputians in big tech and the mainstream “news” media who have somehow acquired the idea that their huge bank accounts somehow imbues them with genuine philosophic wisdom, many of our “educators” and politicians who are blinded by the sin of pride that, unfortunately, seem to infect these professions, and many others that, similarly, have no sense whatsoever of their own great limitations, could benefit by lesson in Socratic humility.

Perhaps every people need a Socrates to make them examine themselves but ours more than most. For acquiring genuine wisdom about the great issues of human life requires a kind of commitment and personal sacrifice, and the humility that only one who makes that kind of commitment and sacrifice can understand, that, as Plato’s brother Glaucon, puts it in the Republic (450b): [F]or intelligent people, “the proper measure of listening to such arguments is a whole life.”

Richard McDonough is the author of two books, numerous articles, encyclopedia and dictionary entries, and book reviews. He has taught previously at Bates College, the National University of Singpaore, the University of Tulsa, the University Putra Malaysia, the Overseas Family College, the PSB Academy, the University of Maryland, the Arium Academy, and James Cook University. In addition to philosophy, he has taught psychology, physics, humanities and writing courses.

The featured image shows, “View on L’Étang-la-Ville from the ruelle de la Coulette,” by Be de Waard, date unknown.

Eldridge Cleaver: From Violent Anti-Americanism to Christian Conservativism

Eldridge Cleaver (1935-1998) is a name not well known to many Americans today, not even to today’s disaffected youth in our universities and the culture at large. This is a surprise, although there are also reasons for it, because Eldridge was, at various times, an admitted criminal and “insurrectionary” rapist (rape as a way of striking back at “white” society), a member of the Black Panther Party, a “Black Muslim,” and one of the leading socialist, communist and Marxist revolutionaries of his time.

His book, Soul on Ice became the Bible, so to speak, of the Black Power movement. It also led Cleaver to become, for a time, the favorite black radical of American intellectuals. Eldridge was obviously highly intelligent. He was, in fact, a truly remarkable man. He did, it is true, have his demons right up to the end; not surprising, given his brutal start in life. But his life, taken as a whole, is a testament to the ability of a person to learn from his experiences. Indeed, that is precisely why he is out of favor today, when conformity to the script is the most prized quality.

Eldridge Cleaver was born on August 31, 1935 in the tiny town of Wabbaseka, Arkansas. His father, Leroy Cleaver was a nightclub entertainer and a waiter, and his mother an elementary school teacher. His father was reported to be a violent man who beat his wife. Eldridge stated that he wanted to grow up to be tall and strong like his father, but “bigger and stronger,” so that he could “beat him to the ground the way he beat my mother.”

His father was offered a job in the dining car of a train that ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. During this time Eldridge’s family moved to Phoenix Arizona and later, in 1946, to the Watts area in Los Angeles. While a teenager Eldridge got into petty crime and was sent to reform school for stealing a bicycle and selling marijuana. In 1954 he was convicted for marijuana possession, which was a felony at the time, and incarcerated at the California State Prison at Soledad for 2 ½ years. It was at this time he began reading widely and earned his high school diploma.

Despite this promising turn around, a year after his release, he was arrested for rapes, convicted of assault with intent to murder and sent to San Quentin prison first, and later to Folsom for a term of 2 to 14 years. In these years, Cleaver voraciously read the works of Karl Marx, Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Vladimir Lenin and W.E.B. Du Bois. For the record, Du Bois (1868-1963) was an American sociologist, historian, author, editor and activist and probably the most important black activist in the United States during the first half of the 20th century. Cleaver also began to engage in serious self-reflection and criticism. In Soul on Ice, the product of these self-reflections, Cleaver describes himself at his most depraved:

“I became a rapist. To refine my technique and modus operandi, I started out by practicing on black girls in… the black ghetto where dark and vicious deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of the day – and when I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically — though looking back I see that I was in a frantic, wild and completely abandoned frame of mind.
Rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women — and this point, I believe, was the most satisfying to me… I felt I was getting revenge.

“There was little doubt… that if I had not been apprehended, I would have slit some white throats.

I took a long look at myself and, for the first time in my life, admitted that I was wrong, that I had gone astray – astray, not so much from the white man’s law as from being human, civilized — for I could not approve the act of rape… I lost my self-respect. My pride as a man dissolved and my whole fragile moral structure seemed to collapse, completely shattered.”

After his release from prison, seeking a more moral and disciplined life, Cleaver joined the Black Muslim movement and became friends with Malcolm X. But after the assassination of Malcolm X, he denounced the Muslim faith. He did, however, retain a determination to realize Malcolm X’s dream of African Unity.

In 1966 he began writing for the Ramparts magazine, a glossy expensively produced and illustrated magazine associated with the New Left, and met the leaders of the young Black Panther Party, including Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. Eldridge joined the Panthers believing that Newton would carry on Malcolm X’s dream of African Unity and became the party’s Minister of Information and leader of the “Free Huey” movement.

While a member of the Panthers, he called for an armed insurrection to overthrow the United States government and its replacement by a black socialist government.

On April 6th of 1968 Cleaver, with 14 other Black Panthers armed with M16 rifles and shotguns, was involved in a shootout with police, which the Panthers blamed on the police, and in which the seventeen-year-old Panther, Bobby Hutton was killed.

Cleaver was charged with attempted murder and ordered back to prison. However, a judge ordered him released from prison two months later, and Cleaver gave a series of lectures at the University of California at Berkeley. The Governor of California at the time, Ronald Reagan, attempted to prevent Cleaver from speaking at Berkeley. In addition to calling Reagan “Mickey Mouse,” Cleaver once challenged Reagan to a duel:

“I challenged Ronald Reagan to a duel and I reiterate that challenge tonight. . . . And I give him his choice of weapons. He can use a gun, a knife, a baseball bat or a marshmallow. And I’ll beat him to death with a marshmallow.”

In the Reason interview, Cleaver also admits to plotting to kill Reagan. Cleaver’s parole was revoked and he was ordered back to prison. But, on Nov. 24, 1968, three days before he was due to turn himself in to the authorities, Cleaver fled to Cuba. He then spent the next seven years travelling through various socialist and communist countries, including Algeria, North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union, before, finally, settling down for a period in France.

Although Cleaver was initially treated to a life of luxury in Cuba, relations with Castro soured and Cleaver left Cuba for Algeria. Elaine Klein got him an invitation to attend the Pan-African Cultural Festival, which temporarily rendered him safe from prosecution. His work in the Festival enabled him to meet revolutionaries from all over Africa to discuss the evils of white supremacy and colonialism.

Cleaver again called for violence against the United States and stated his mission to “position the Panthers within the revolutionary nationalist camp inside the United States, and as disciples of Fanon on the world stage”.

Fritz Omar Fanon (1925–1961), born on the island of Martinique under French colonial rule, is difficult to classify. Fanon had an eclectic range of influences, including French Marxist and “Existentialist” Jean-Paul Sartre and French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. But it is fair to say that he combined Marxism, black existentialism and critical theory in his struggle against “Atlantic colonialism.”

During his travels through various socialist and communist countries, Cleaver even developed a curious alliance with the communist government in North Korea, and his Black Panther Party began publishing excerpts from its strange reclusive leader, Kim Il Sung.

Although Americans were forbidden to visit North Korea at the time, Cleaver and several other Panthers made two visits to the country in 1969-1970 to determine whether North Korea’s “juche model” could be adapted to the cause of black liberation in the United States.

Juche deserves a longer discussion but this is the basics: It was described as a program of national self-reliance, as a means of getting rid of Soviet domination of North Korea, which sounds positive enough, but it was actually used as a justification for the creation of the bizarre North Korean closed-door policy to the outside world and, internally, to justify getting rid of Kim Il Sung’s political rivals and achieve total dictatorial control of the country. After being taken on an official tour of North Korea, Cleaver expressed his admiration for North Korea’s “stable crime free society which provided guaranteed food, employment, and housing for all, and… had no economic or social inequalities.”

By 1975, however, after experiencing the joys of socialism and communism first hand in multiple countries around the world, as opposed to celebrating them in the comfy confines of a Berkeley sociology lecture, or while sitting cross-legged in a circle passing around the “peace pipe,” Cleaver had reversed his opinions.

In the interview with Reason magazine, he explained that in the United States he had sought to “fight against what I saw as the evils of our system.” But when he went “to a country like Cuba or Algeria or the Soviet Union and [saw] the nature of control that those state apparatuses had over the people – it was shocking to me. I didn’t want to believe it, because it meant that the politics that I was espousing was wrong.”

In that same interview, Cleaver also addresses Marx’s idea that after the glorious socialist revolution a “dictatorship of the proletariat” will be necessary for some temporary period until the state “withers away” and everyone achieves complete freedom. After his actual, real-world experience of these regimes, Cleaver begged to differ:

“The communists teach you that the dictatorship is a transient phase—that once capitalism is eliminated, then the state will wither away and you will have freedom. Well, when you look at those governments up close and see how they treat their own people, you can’t believe in that. You see that people are using that preachment of the withering away of the state as their excuse to justify their own dictatorial power.”

When asked in the Reason interview why so many American “intellectuals,” like Barbara Walters or George McGovern, visit these socialist and communist regimes and come away impressed, Cleaver stated that this was because they just “scurry” right though quickly, while getting the red-carpet treatment. That is, they are enormously gullible. By contrast, Cleaver said, “I lived in those kinds of places and I got to know people and made friends. I got to know the governments, the people in the military, people in the Communist Party or whatever they called it. That gives you a different perspective.” Indeed, this one-time communist told Reason magazine that he now thought stopping communism is “a noble cause.”

Since leftist accusations against the police are once again the most useful cause du jour to manipulate the public and get their way, it is significant that in the interview with Reason magazine, Cleaver also addressed the gunfight with the police in which Bobby Hutton was killed – but describes those events entirely differently than he had during his days as a Panther:

“We went after the cops that night, but when we got caught, we said they came after us. We always did that. When you talk about the legacy of the ’60’s that’s one legacy… [I]t helped to distort the image of the police, but I’ve come to the point where I realize that our police department is necessary.”

Whereas in his days as a Black Panther, Cleaver had accused the police for the gunfight that killed Bobby Hutton, he now admitted that it was his group that provoked the violence so that they could blame it on the police: “We always did that.”

This duplicitous strategy continues to the present day. “Protestors” still chant the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” slogan from the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri even though the Obama-Holder Justice Department, after a thorough investigation and testimony from six black witnesses, cleared the police Officer. Truth is not of major concern to leftists when dictatorial control of a whole country is the goal.

In the Reason interview Cleaver also returned to the night while living in France when he had his political and spiritual turnaround. He describes how, sitting with a gun in his hand, he was contemplating suicide, when he suddenly had a vision, in which his former Marxist heroes disappear in smoke and a blinding light led him to Christianity.

Disillusioned with the socialist and communist worlds, indeed, “shocked” by the way they treated their people, and homesick for the United States, Cleaver returned to America, even though a murder charge and a charge for skipping bail were still hanging over his head.

In 1977 he surrendered to the FBI under a deal in which the he pled guilty to the assault charge and was sentenced to 1,200 hours of community service in exchange for dropping the attempted murder charge. Facing a murder charge in the United States is, apparently, preferable, and not by a small margin, to being given the red-carpet treatment in the various socialist and communist paradises around the world.

In a 1998 article in the New York Times titled, “Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther Who Became a G.O.P. Conservative, Is Dead at 62,” John Kifner describes how Cleaver continued his evolution, after returning to the United States. Having witnessed the devastation wreaked by socialism and communism with his own eyes, he became an entrepreneur (apparently realizing that capitalism, far from being evil, gives individuals the freedom to turn an idea and some hard work into a good, even a great, way of life, creating jobs for others along the way), and marketed a new type of men’s trousers called the “Cleaver Sleeve” featuring a codpiece.

Cleaver became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) for a time, before becoming a Christian conservative, a member of the Republican Party and a supporter of Ronald Reagan, the man he had once plotted to kill. What a difference growing up makes! He even ran for public office as a Republican but lost. Cleaver had come full circle.

As a result of his real education living in socialist and communist countries, he went from being a Marxist revolutionary who called for the assassination of Ronald Reagan to being a Christian conservative Republican Reagan supporter.

At the time of his interview with Reason magazine, Cleaver lived in a modest apartment in Berkeley California where he was working on a book on the history of the 1960s. A large American flag, testimony to the fact that some people are actually willing to learn from their experience, flew from his front porch. With his prominently displayed large American flag, the former Marxist was clearly trying to send a message.

Cleaver’s turnabout was not, predictably, appreciated on the Left. The same New York Times article describes a case in the 1980s when Cleaver demanded that the Berkeley City Council begin its meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, a practice that they had once followed but had abandoned several years earlier. The Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport responded: “Shut up Eldridge. Shut up or we’ll have you removed!”

Cleaver might be forgiven if he thought he was back in one of his other former socialist or communist paradises. Further, at the time of the writing of this article, Wikipedia, which is sometimes, perhaps in a poor attempt at humour, described as an “encyclopedia,” has a reasonably sized article of about 630 words, not counting the footnotes, for Cleaver’s youthful angry anti-American book, Soul on Ice.

Since, however, Cleaver’s later book, Soul on Fire, which describes his conversion to being a Christian conservative, pro-American Republican is much more positive and hopeful, and most unforgivably, his conversion to support Ronald Reagan, it does not merit a Wikipedia article at all, not even a brief one, and is not even mentioned in the Wikipedia article about Soul on Ice.

Despite Cleaver’s remarkable evolution, it must be admitted that some of his demons remained with him in later life. In 1990 and 1994, he had police issues over the use of crack cocaine. But that is not why he is criticized and rejected by the Left where self-destructive drug use is just a part of life.

Cleaver’s mistake, for the Left, is that he had actually allowed himself to learn from his experiences over the years and see though his youthful leftist follies – for the ability to learn from experience is precisely what the Left cannot abide.

Richard McDonough is the author of two books, numerous articles, encyclopedia and dictionary entries, and book reviews. He has taught previously at Bates College, the National University of Singpaore, the University of Tulsa, the University Putra Malaysia, the Overseas Family College, the PSB Academy, the University of Maryland, the Arium Academy, and James Cook University. In addition to philosophy, he has taught psychology, physics, humanities and writing courses.

The featured image shows, “Unite,” a color screenprint, by Barbara Jones-Hogu, printed 1969.

Karl Marx’s Exuberant Praise Of Capitalism

The bourgeoisie [the capitalist]… has accomplished wonders, far surpassing Egyptian Pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic Cathedrals… [D]uring its rule of scarce of one hundred years, [it] has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than… all preceding generations together… [W]hat earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor? (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, Chapter I).

Karl Marx (in collaboration with Friedrich Engels) is known as the greatest foe of capitalism. Further, his views have recently made a considerable comeback in the United States and around the world, first in the “Ivory Tower,” and from there into the culture in general. In fact, Marx made many claims about capitalism, some very positive and some very negative, but he is generally known only for the latter. However, history has shown that most of the negative things Marx said about capitalism have turned out to be false and most of the positive things he said about capitalism have turned out to be true, which leaves his exuberant praise for capitalism standing as Marx’s real legacy.

I will discuss Marx’s Marxism, here called “original Marxism,” but which also touches upon Herbert Marcuse’s Marxism of the “New Left,” a peculiar combination of Marxism with Freudian psychology that became popular in the 1960s, and the more diffuse “Cultural Marxism” that arises from an inconsistent alliance between the various species of Marxism and Post-Modernism (the relativist view which rejects the notion of objective truth).

Finally, Marxists, and others on the Left influenced by it, generally called “progressives,” often claim the moral high ground, asserting that it is the Marxists and “progressives” that care about the poor, while the evil capitalists, motivated only by the profit motive, aim to “exploit” and “oppress” them. This is the opposite of the truth.

1. Some Key Terms

It is necessary, first, to begin with a few basic definitions of several key terms, specifically, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism, and Marx’s “original” Marxism. The discussion of the controversial notion of “cultural Marxism” is postponed until later on in this discussion.

First, feudalism is an economic system in which feudal landlords own the land and permit the serfs to work the land in exchange for “protection.” However, feudalism appears to be exploitative since the serfs do all the actual work, while the feudal landlords take a considerable portion of what they produce.

Capitalism is an economic system founded on “free markets” in which all economic decisions are made by households or firms that are assumed to act in their own self-interest to maximize their own profit. These markets are “free” because these households and firms make their own economic decisions without being controlled by any central authority, such as the state. Economic freedom is based in the notion of private property. For example, Bill Gates, not the state, owns Microsoft. It is his to do with it as he wishes. He can even destroy the company if he wishes. That is, there is an important connection between capitalism, private property and economic freedom.

One might also add that economic freedom is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for political freedom. Further, since the market is free, there are normally many different private planners throughout the economy. That is, a free market presupposes competition, which, in turn, motivates the competing capitalists to continually improve the quality of their product in order to attract buyers and increase their profit. The fact that the capitalist operates on the basis of a self-interested profit motive opens it to the charge that it too, like feudalism, is exploitative. Marx certainly thought so. However, I will argue later that this gets it precisely backwards.

Socialism is an economic system in which land and capital are collectively owned. Usually this means that land and capital are owned by the state (although it could, theoretically, be owned by some smaller collective such as a commune). A socialist economy is often called a command economy because the state controls the economy in three different ways:

  1. It plans the allocation of resources between current consumption and future investment;
  2. It plans the output of each industry or firm, and
  3. It plans the distribution of the output (goods) between the consumers.

A socialist economy is, therefore, centrally planned because all economic decisions are made by the central commander (the state). In a socialist economy, Bill Gates does not decide what kind of computers to produce. The central planner, the state, tells him what kind of computers to produce. Note that in a socialist economy there is still private property, but it is owned by the state, not by private households or firms. The state owns and controls the airline industry, the automobile industry, the oil industry, and so on.

It is more difficult to give a concise definition of communism, but Marx thinks of communism as a more extreme purified version of socialism in which all vestiges of private property, including that held by the state, have been eliminated. In fact, Marx has theoretical considerations that commit him to the view that it is impossible to know exactly what the communist economy will be like until one actually produces it. This is reminiscent of Nancy Pelosi’s remark: “You have to pass the bill to know what’s in it.” This is quite alarming, but this particular potential objection to Marx’s communism is not something that I will take up here.

One must also carefully distinguish between Marxism and communism. There is an infamous interview in which a presenter on a New Orleans television station asks Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John Kennedy, if he is a communist, and Oswald gives a somewhat garbled reply that he is a Marxist but not a communist. The presenter, shocked, asks, “What’s the difference?”

In fact, Oswald’s position is logically consistent, if a bit odd. For communism and Marxism are not even the same kinds of theories. Marxism is a theory about historical development, specifically, the view that, starting with feudalism, feudalism necessarily breaks down and turns into capitalism, which, in turn, necessarily breaks down and turns into socialism, which, in turn, necessarily devolves into its purified form, communism. Communism, by contrast, is not a theory of historical development at all but an economic theory. Nevertheless, there is an internal relation between Marxism and communism. Specifically, the Marxist theory of historical development holds that human history is necessarily developing towards the final stage, namely, the economic system of communism.

Despite this internal connection, a communist can consistently reject Marx’s theory of historical development as complete nonsense. Further, a Marxist, who holds that human history is necessarily developing towards communism, might consistently hold that he or she is not happy about this. Such a position would be odd but only because it would represent a certain kind of extreme pessimism: The world is necessarily moving towards communism but one rejects communism. Of course, it is more likely that Oswald, not being a Rhodes Scholar, just did not understand either theory very well.

Although Marx is generally known as a “philosopher,” he claims that Marxism is a scientific theory. Marx sees his view that feudalism necessarily turns into capitalism, which in turn necessarily turns into socialism, which in turn necessarily devolves into communism as perfectly analogous with the view in the science of botany that a seed necessarily turns into a shoot, which in turn necessarily turns into a stem, which in turn necessarily turns into a bud, which in turn necessarily turns into a blossom.

Whereas Hegel had produced a view of historical development that invokes unscientific notions, e.g., the notion of the “World Spirit,” Marx purports to transforms Hegel’s romantic philosophical theory into a scientific theory, which he called dialectical materialism, in which the moving forces in human history are all empirically accessible entities, like material human conditions and behavior. In the Preface to the first German Edition of Capital, Marx compares his discovery of “the economic law of economic motion” of modern societies to Newton’s discovery of the “natural laws of motion.” As an alleged scientific theory, Marxism purposes to render scientific explanations and predictions. It should, therefore, unlike Hegel’s mystical theory, but like Newtonian mechanics, be testable.

In fact, the 19th century witnessed the production of a new range of allegedly “scientific” theories in regions that had previously been the province of philosophers and mystics, specifically, evolution, psychology, and historical development.

Darwin’s evolutionary theory purported to be a scientific theory, invoking an empirically observable mechanism (“survival of the fittest”), to explain why the observed species of living organisms have in fact evolved.

Freud’s psychology purported to be an empirical scientific theory that explains key aspects of human behavior, specifically, human neurotic behavior, by reference to sexual trauma and mental mechanisms of repression.

Finally, Marxism purports to be an empirical scientific theory that explains why human history necessarily moves from feudalism to capitalism and predicts how the capitalist society of his day will necessarily develop in the future.

2. Marx’s Basic Theory Of Historical Development

According to “original” Marxism, the single driving force of history, from feudalism to capitalism to socialism to communism, is class struggle. The guiding idea is that each of these economic systems contains certain “contradictions” that are successively eliminated as history develops. In the feudal system there is an internal “contradiction” between the feudal class that owns the land and the serfs who must labor on the land at a bare subsistence level. This “contradiction” causes the serfs to revolt against the feudal landlords in order to obtain a fairer arrangement. Thus, feudalism breaks down and gives way to the next stage, capitalism.

Marxists hold that capitalism solves some of the “contradictions” in feudalism, e.g., in a capitalist system people are permitted to own their own property rather that work the property of the feudal landlords, but capitalism has its own internal “contradictions.” The “contradiction” between the feudal landlord is replaced by the new “contradiction” between the capitalist, who “owns the means of production,” the factories, machines and so on, and the “workers” who are forced to work for the capitalists. There is a “contradiction” between the two because it is in the self-interest of the capitalists to maximize their profit by getting the maximum productivity out of the workers, while paying them the bare minimum. In brief, the capitalists must push the workers to work harder and harder for less and less until the “workers of the world,” pushed to the brink, revolt and create a more equitable socialist society in which “the means of production” is owned by the collective, the society as a whole, and shared out among the workers.

In a socialist society, the “contradiction” between the capitalists and the workers is, allegedly, eliminated because the workers are themselves parts of the social cooperative that “owns the means of production.” Gone are the feudal overlords who control the lives of the serfs. Gone are the capitalists who control the lives of the workers. In socialism, with these class distinctions gone, the workers are, so to speak, their own bosses, at least in theory. They are members of a cooperative group that decides for itself, not being told what to do by a separate antagonistic class, how economic resources are to be produced and distributed in society. That is the whole point of socialism. Marx divines that since there are, allegedly, no more class oppositions in socialism, the resources will be distributed equally.

In the final stage, the Marxist formula changes slightly. Since all history is driven by class struggles, and since there are no class differences in socialism, the transition from socialism to communism is not driven by class struggle. Since Marx thinks of socialism as a kind of preliminary form of communism, it need not undergo the massive revolutionary change one sees in the transition from feudalism to capitalism, or from capitalism to socialism. The problem with socialism is more minor. It is only that various vestiges of the old capitalist system still cling to the socialist system. Human beings, reared in a capitalist system that values private property, will retain some of these views and desires in the new socialist system. The transition to full-fledged communism, therefore, merely requires eliminating these vestiges in a piecemeal purification process until the full-fledged communist society, completely devoid of private property, is produced.

At this point, there are no longer even the vestiges of class distinctions. Since the dialectical process is driven by class distinctions, and since, in communism, these have all been eliminated, the dialectical process (historical development) comes to an end and human beings can, for the first time freed from the inexorable class struggle, freely decide what they want to do. As Herbert Marcuse, in the last line of his An Essay on Liberation, puts it, “For the first time in our life we shall be free to think about what we are going to do.” Note that this reflects Marx’s (alarming) view that it is impossible to say very much about the last stage of human historical development, communism, until one gets there.

Marx gives a very specific description of this pattern of historical development.

First, Marx holds that human history, like the history of a plant from seed to stem to bud to blossom, necessarily unfolds in precisely the sequence of stages he describes.

Second, Marx holds that it is not possible to skip a step, i.e., not possible to jump directly from feudalism to socialism by skipping the capitalist phase, any more than it is possible to pass from stem to blossom in the history of a plant by skipping the bud stage. For this reason, it would be a mistake, impossible of success, if an overly enthusiastic communist were to try to push the feudal phase to break down into the socialist phase by skipping over the intermediary capitalist stage. It is entirely necessary that human society passes through the specified sequence of stages in the proper order.

Third, the breakdown of one economic stage of a society into the next stage also follows a particular pattern. For example, given two capitalist societies in different stages of development, the one that is at the more advanced stage will break down into socialism before the one that is still at an earlier stage. If, for example, in the late 19th century, England is at a more advanced stage of capitalism than America, then England will fall to a socialist revolution before America does. Marx has a particular picture. In its early stages, capitalism is not fully developed. As such, the “contradictions” in capitalism are also not fully developed.

The further development of capitalism, so to speak, further exposes both the negative aspect of capitalism. Accordingly, there is no danger that capitalism will collapse into socialism at those early stages. It will only be when the “contradictions” in capitalism are fully developed, that is, when capitalism itself is fully developed, that the socialist revolution can and must happen. Since Marx, banished from Germany, was living in England, the most advanced capitalist economy at the time, he witnessed William Blake’s “dark Satanic mills” in which child laborers are mercilessly exploited in order to maximize the profits of the capitalist. Accordingly, he predicted that the socialist revolution would first occur in the most advanced capitalist economy at the time, England.

Finally, Marx explicitly states that the transition from capitalism to socialism involves violence. In his 1872 speech, “The Possibility of Non-Violent Revolution,” he states that “we must also recognize that the lever of our revolution must be force; it is force to which we must someday appeal if we are to erect the rule of labor.”

Marx also endorses the need for dictatorship. In his Critique of the Gotha Program, Marx describes the “rule of labor” in the transition to socialism as “the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Similarly, Marcuse endorses the need for both force and dictatorship: “The [idea] of “educational dictatorship” … [is] easy to ridicule but hard to refute … [for] to the degree to which the slaves [the American people] have been preconditioned to … be content … in that role … they must be “forced to be free.” (One Dimensional Man, Chap. 2).

Force and dictatorship are central to “original” Marxism. Indeed, this is only common sense. Since people will not freely give up the private property that they believe they have earned, the Marxist or socialist will have to take it from them by force.

3. Marx’s Exuberant Praise Of Capitalism

Although Karl Marx, the man, was emotionally invested in the eventual triumph of communism, it is important to note that Karl Marx the aspiring scientist was no more emotionally invested in the triumph of communism than a botanist is emotionally invested in the fact that the bud normally turns into a blossom. Karl Marx qua scientist simply purports to describe the alleged laws of human historical development, just as Isaac Newton simply describes the laws of mechanics. Karl Marx the scientist simply holds that this is how history does develop, namely, from feudalism to capitalism to socialism to communism in accord with a certain necessary pattern. Qua scientist, Karl Marx does not hold that capitalism ought to collapse into socialism. Karl Marx the scientist simply holds that this is what, in fact, happens and what must happen.

This is, perhaps, why Karl Marx, unlike many of his more enthusiastic followers over the years, was able to acknowledge the enormous virtues of capitalism. Indeed, Marx’s praise for capitalism in the Communist Manifesto is far more enthusiastic than that of many current defenders of capitalism.

Capitalism, Marx tells us, has produced “wonders” far beyond anything produced by the ancient Egyptian, Roman, or Gothic architects. Since those ancient “wonders” are, even today, reckoned among the great accomplishments of humanity, Marx’s elevation of the “wonders” of capitalism above them is high praise indeed.

Further, Marx stresses that capitalism has accomplished all this in a very brief span of about 100 years! During this brief span of time, capitalism has released “more massive and more colossal productive forces” than “all preceding generations” combined! No one in earlier centuries has even had a “presentiment” that such “massive … productive forces” were even possible.

Then, Marx goes on in the same passages to explain that capitalism, by unleashing these massive productive forces, does not merely improve economic conditions, but, rather, “In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature… The bourgeois [capitalists], by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian nations into civilization. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate.”

That is, capitalism draws the various nations out of their prejudicial self-seclusion and fosters intercourse and interdependence between them. This is not merely economic interdependence but intellectual interdependence as well, leading even to the establishment of a “world literature.” The Chinese and the Japanese now read Shakespeare and the English-speaking West reads the Tao te-Ching and Zen poetry. Thus, capitalism begins to break down “national one-sidedness and narrow mindedness,” which, in turn, brings “civilization” to “barbarian” nations and forces the different peoples to end their “intensely obstinate hatred” of the other.

It needs to be stressed that it is in the very nature of Marxism that capitalism must produce many goods results. Since Marxism has a developmental view of history, in which human societies move through a series of ever-improving stages toward the final resolution at the end, and since capitalism is the intermediary stage just below the glorious advent of socialism, Marx is committed to hold that capitalism must, and has in fact, created many goods results.

Thus, the contemporary “Marxist” who, failing to understand the inner logic of Marx’s system, expresses bitter hatred for the evils of capitalism, is a bit like a botanist who expresses bitter hatred for the bud because it is not the blossom. Marx, by contrast, recognizes that the bud is entirely necessary in order to get the blossom; and, therefore, following the logic of his own system, he is committed, by analogy, to acknowledge the greatness of capitalism. That is why, in the passages quoted earlier, Marx expresses the same kind of wonder at the accomplishments of capitalism that a botanist might express at the blossoming of life in a plant.

For Marx, capitalism is, so to speak, a necessary stage in the blossoming of human development. It is in some ways a shame that Marx is not with us today to correct some of the misunderstandings and excesses of his confused emotion-driven progeny in the “Ivory tower” and the Hollywood hills.

4. Marxism Falsified By Historical Facts

The problem, for original Marxism, is not that capitalism has not accomplished a great deal of good, but that, on Marx’s view, will necessarily collapse as its (alleged) internal “contradictions” become manifest and give way to the even more wondrous economic blossoming of socialism.

However, this has just has not happened as Marx predicted. Whereas Marx predicted that the socialist revolution will occur first in England, where capitalism was most advanced at the time, it did not occur in England but in Russia in 1917, which was still in an abject feudal state at the time. Indeed, although the English economy has become more socialistic in some ways, this has been due to an evolutionary process and a great deal of capitalism has been retained. No socialist revolution has ever occurred in England.

Marx is wrong on at least two counts. First, he was wrong that the revolution would occur first in the most advanced capitalist country at the time, England. Second, he was wrong that it is not possible to “skip a step” and go directly from feudalism to socialism, which happened in Russia in 1917. According to the allegedly “scientific” Marxism, none of this was supposed to happen in the way it did in fact happen. The observed historical facts contradict Marxist theory.

Marxism was also wrong in an even more obvious way that should have been evident to Marx himself, which, surprisingly, has not received sufficient attention. Note that prediction is always risky. Einstein took a great risk when, on the basis of his theory of general relativity, he predicted that when Mercury passes behind the sun, on a certain date, its light rays would be bent by the sun’s gravitational field in an unexpected way that enables observers on Earth to see it when it is still behind the sun. Since that specific rare event had not been observed before, who could be sure what would happen? As it turned out, Einstein was right. His risky prediction was verified. That is good science. Had Mercury not been observed as predicted, a good scientist like Einstein would have been forced to go back to the drawing board and reject or revise his theory.

By contrast, explanation of past events is normally not so risky. For when one attempts to explain past events, one normally already knows the facts about what happened. One would, therefore, expect Marxism to do quite well in its explanation of the collapse of feudalism and the rise of capitalism. All Marx had to do was to make sure his theory fit the known historical facts.

However, as Milton Friedman has pointed out, Marx never solved the problem of feudalism that was staring him in the face. The collapse of feudalism and rise of capitalism did not come about as the result of any “class struggle” between serfs and feudal landlords. There was no “revolution” of that sort at all. Feudalism collapsed for a multiplicity of reasons that had nothing to do with its alleged “internal contradictions,” but because of a series of external historical accidents. Recall that there is no place in Marxism for accidents. The inexorable onward march of history is necessary!

One of these historical accidents was the opening up of trade around the Mediterranean and the emergence of the “Black Death” plague (probably brought into Europe via Turkey from China) in the 14th century that killed between 30 and 50 percent of the European population. The combination of these two external historical accidents simply made labor much more valuable. As a result, serfs were enabled to walk off their feudal plots of land and travel to the cities where their labor in that newly emerged market commanded much better wages than they received from their feudal masters. Thus, feudalism collapsed, not because of any Marxist “internal contradictions” in feudalism, but because of accidental external developments that simply made the free labor market of capitalism much more desirable!

In summary, Marxist theory is refuted by the facts.

First, two of Marx’s most basic predictions turned out to be false. The predicted socialist revolution did not occur in the most advanced capitalist economy of the time, England. It occurred in Russia by skipping a step and going directly from a feudal economy to socialism, which is, for Marx, not possible.

Second, even more surprising, Marxism does not correctly describe or explain the collapse of feudalism and the rise of capitalism. There was no rising up of serfs in a “revolution” leading to the demise of feudalism and the emergence of capitalism. This was already evident in Marx’s own history books. That is, Marxist theory fails, and rather spectacularly, on all major fronts considered here. One wonders, therefore, why Marxism, like the monster in a cheap monster movie, keeps coming back after one had been entirely certain that it is finally, completely dead.

5. Marxism Is Quasi-Religious Dogma

Karl Popper states a powerful objection against all three of the remarkable alleged new “sciences” that appeared in the 19th century: Darwin’s evolutionary theory, Freudian psychology and Marxist historical materialism. Popper does not argue that these “theories” are false but that they are not even scientific theories. That is, Darwin, Freud and Marx each purport to have created a new science, but there is, in each case, something fraudulent about the claim to scientific status.

In order to make his argument, Popper must provide a criterion that a theory must satisfy in order to be judged to be a genuine scientific theory. Part of his criterion is that the theory must be falsifiable. That is, theory T is a genuine scientific theory only if there are precise specifiable conditions which, if these were to be observed to be the case, would show that the theory is false.

Once again, to avoid any possible misunderstanding, Popper does not argue that these three kinds of theories are false. He argues that these three kinds of theories are not even falsifiable because there is either something about the way they are logically structured or the way they are applied in practice that makes it impossible to falsify them.

Popper’s reasons for judging that these three types of theories are not falsifiable (ergo, not scientific), is different in each case. Unfortunately, since Marxism, not Darwinian or Freudian theory, is our present subject, only Popper’s critique of Marxist historical materialism can be considered in detail here.

Popper’s argument that Marxist historical materialism is not a genuine science is that when Marxist explanations or predictions turn out to be false, which they regularly do, Marxists do not, as a genuine scientist would in such circumstances, go back to the drawing board and revise their theory to take account of the recalcitrant facts.

Recall that, as argued in the previous section, the Marxist explanation that feudalism collapsed because of a “class struggle” between the feudal landlords and the serfs is not verified by the facts. Rather, the emergence of the “Black Death” in Europe had more to do with the collapse of feudalism than any alleged “internal contradictions” in feudalism.

Recall also that the great socialist revolution did not occur in England, where Marx predicted it would occur, but rather that capitalism in England, in a plethora of ways, evolved into better and better forms, for example, in the development of a large middle class that was not in the least interested in a revolution.

Finally, recall that the socialist revolution did occur in Russia, which, as a feudal society, is precisely where Marxism predicts it cannot occur. How, in general, did Marxist “theorists” react to such failures in Marxist theory?

To put it bluntly, they cheated. Consider the fact that the socialist revolution occurred in Russia, precisely where Marxism predicts it cannot occur. Many Marxists have argued that the reason Russia “skipped a step” and went directly from feudalism to socialism is because of the emergence of the great genius of Lenin. That is, normally, the historical process must proceed as described in Marxist theory from feudalism to capitalism to socialism, but in this one special case Lenin appeared and, by virtue of his unique understanding of the historical process, he was able to push Russia, so to speak, fast forward directly from feudalism to socialism.

The problem with that is that it is the essence of Marxism that the development of human history is determined by great impersonal economic forces alone, specifically, class struggle, not by the emergence of individuals. If the development of human history can be altered by the appearance of some individual genius, a Socrates, a Newton, or a Lenin, then obviously Marxist theory cannot predict the future development of human history. For the one thing that Marxist theory cannot, in principle, take account of is individual genius (or even individuality in general).

Just as Newtonian mechanics must fail if individual chunks of matter can sometimes “choose” to diverge from Newton’s laws of mechanical nature and begin to move in their own individual way, Marxist theory must fail if individual human beings, whether this be Socrates, Newton or Lenin can move history in their own individual ways to transgress the vast impersonal, inexorable economic laws of human historical development “discovered” by Marx.

However, faced with these falsifying observations, Marxists have typically made ad hoc hypotheses, e.g., that this direct jump was due to the unique genius of Lenin, solely in order to preserve their theory from falsification. Ironically, although Marx, fancying himself a “scientist” (not some dreamy philosopher or prophet), said that “religion,” in contradistinction to science, “is the opiate of the masses,” Marxism, in the hands of many subsequent “Marxists,” itself became a quasi-religious opiate of the Left that must be protected from falsification, i.e., from the facts, at all costs.

6. All “Historicist” Theories Fail

Popper does not merely argue that Marxism is in fact unfalsifiable and unscientific. He also offers an explanation why all historicist theories, that is, theories that purport to predict the future development of human history, cannot, in principle, be correct. Many “philosophers,” including Plato, Malthus, Hegel, Marx, and Spengler have produced historicist theories that purport to predict how human history must play out. Popper argues there is a fatal, and rather obvious, flaw in all such “historicist” theories.

Popper’s argument is based on the premise that any theory that purports to predict how human history will develop must fail because no theory can, in principle, take account of the future growth of human knowledge. F.A Hayek agrees: “The mind can never foresee its own advance.” (The Constitution of Liberty, Part I, Chap. 2). That is, since it is impossible in principle to know how human knowledge will develop (because, roughly, that would require one to know something before one knows it), and since the development of human history depends upon the growth of human knowledge, it is impossible in principle to predict how human history will play out.

Consider a simple example first. The British economist Malthus (1766-1834), in his Essay on the Principle of Population invoked his “law of diminishing returns” to argue that the trends in population growth in his era must inevitably end in mass starvation. Specifically, he argued that population, when unchecked, tends to grow in a geometrical ratio, while “subsistence” grows only in an arithmetic ratio” and a “slight acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power in comparison with the second.”

Thus, Malthus infers that the point will quickly be reached in which the capacity for food production will not be able to keep up with the needs of the rapidly growing population, ending, inevitably, in mass starvation. But Malthus thinks of the human race too much on analogy with a bacterial colony on an agar base in a Petrie dish. The bacterial colony begins growing at first at an exponential rate when its “food” is plentiful. However, the “colony” soon expands to the point that the finite quantity of the food in the agar base in the Petrie dish runs out leading to mass starvation and the complete collapse of the “colony.”

Malthus also forgets that human beings are not like bacteria. Human beings can become aware of the limitations in themselves and in their environment and take measures to escape his tragic predictions. He forgets that human knowledge will itself increase during this period in ways that he cannot possibly predict. Scientists may discover new kinds of fertilizer or cultivate new more productive species of crops that massively increase the level of food production for a given area of land. New more efficient methods for storing food without spoilage may be discovered and so on.

Malthus’ pessimistic predictions about the inevitably of mass starvation are relative to a certain set of assumptions, e.g., Malthus could not possibly have known anything about current methods in the genetic modification of food, or of human beings themselves, that will enable humanity to sustain itself indefinitely. Taking a bit of poetic license, one might put this by saying that Malthus just assumes that human knowledge will not also increase at a geometrical rate to keep up with the geometrical growth of human population!

In fact, Marxism fails to account for the growth of human knowledge in an even more intimate way. Whereas Popper’s general point is that historicist views cannot possibly take account of the growth of human knowledge, Marx himself provided the new knowledge required to ensure that his own predictions fail! For Marx’s publication of his theories about the “internal contradictions” in capitalism itself represents a growth in human knowledge. His publication of these theories, therefore, adds a factor to the historical equation that is not taken account of within Marx’s theories, namely, the factor that the capitalists themselves can read Marx’s works, learn about those pitfalls in capitalism, and take measures to neutralize them.

The irony is that capitalists, having read Marx’s works, and having no pressing desire for their head to end up on a stake in the town square, can change their behavior in order to prevent Marx’s predicted socialist revolution. For what the great enemy of capitalism, Karl Marx, has actually provided in his published works is a handbook for capitalists to enable them to prevent the glorious socialist revolution. There are, in fact, few thinkers who have done more to protect capitalism from the socialist uprising than Karl Marx. For this alone, capitalists owe Marx a great debt of gratitude.

7. Marxism Replaced By “Cultural Marxism”

Since the “workers of the world” did not go along with the Marxist script and rise up against their capitalist oppressors in a violent socialist revolution, but rather became more and more enamored with capitalism, one might have expected that Marxism would quietly wither away like so many other unsustainable “philosophical” theories. However, since Marxism had become too important to too many people, even becoming a “battle cry” in many parts of the globe which resulted in a plethora of murders, it was destined to be revived, not as a true philosophical or “scientific” theory, but as a cultural force, that is, as “cultural Marxism.”

This is not the typical fate of most failed “philosophical” theories. When, for example, Bertrand Russell’s “logicist” attempt to reduce arithmetic to logic failed, one does see it live on in massive worldwide movements that insist that despite the decisive objections, the failed doctrine must be retained anyways as some kind of cultural tool. At most, one finds a few diehard scholars tinkering with Russell’s “logicism” in some obscure academic history journal or other, perhaps attempting to revive it – which is fair enough. It was, however, inevitable that Marxism would be treated differently and would reappear in the culture in new more deceptive forms.

To hear the cultural Marxists in the “news” and print media describe it, the term, “cultural Marxism” is an extremely controversial term. Wikipedia has an article titled, “The Conspiracy Theory of Cultural Marxism.” Normally, in a real Encyclopedia, as opposed to an indoctrination tool, one would expect to find an article titled “Cultural Marxism” in which some recognized experts are cited who argue that the phenomenon of “cultural Marxism” is real and others who argue that it is not real and, perhaps, that the view that there is such thing as “cultural Marxism” is a conspiracy theory. That is what used to be understood under the rubric of a “fair discussion” in the United States.

By contrast, Wikipedia, by titling its article as it does, is “framing” the discussion of “cultural Marxism” so that the reader begins with a negative attitude towards the whole notion before they even read a single word. The psychological notion of framing is roughly equivalent to the ordinary notion of “spinning.” One “spins” a story, often deceptively, in a way favorable to one’s own agenda in order to prejudice one’s opponents against it, and, in fact, Wikipedia is simply spinning the notion of “cultural Marxism” so that it is already framed by the title for the reader as a discredited notion. Only extremely unsavory “conspiracy theorists” believe that there is such a thing as “cultural Marxism.”

The Wikipedia article proceeds to associate “cultural Marxism” with the extremist Anders Breivik who gunned down 77 people, including many children, in Denmark in 2011 because he referred to “cultural Marxism” in his Manifesto. There is no need to respond to that “argument.” In brief, the Wikipedia article creates a “straw man” notion of “cultural Marxism” that can easily be knocked down and then ritually proceeds to knock it down.

Needless to say, my present claim that the phenomenon of “cultural Marxism” is real does not support any doctrine that justifies any such violent lunacy. For the sake of brevity, I discuss only one example of what I mean by “cultural Marxism” in any detail, the unjustifiable censorship of conservatives and President Trump by Facebook, Twitter and the “news” media that has recently distorted the “culture” in the United States. However, I do briefly mention several other current “cultural Marxist” phenomena that could be profitably taken up in future discussions.

Prior to the presidential election of 2020, Facebook, Twitter and many outlets in the “mainstream media” began censoring “conservatives” on the grounds that they “violate their community standards,” and censoring President Trump because he (allegedly) lies too much. As this article is being written, circa Dec. 4th, 2020, Anderson Cooper announced that CNN would not be showing the speech that President Trump described as “the most important speech he ever made” on the grounds that it is (allegedly) full of lies.

One would think that since most of the anchors and presenters on these “news” outlets have been raised in the United States, as opposed to the Soviet Union or Cuba, it would not be necessary to explain why there is no possible justification whatsoever for censoring conservatives or President Trump on such grounds, that is, no need to explain that it is the “news” media’s job to present all sides of the issues neutrally, because it is the American people alone, in free and fair elections, who are entitled to decide who is lying and who is not. It used to be understood, generally by the 8th grade, that to begin censoring is to start down the road to full tyranny. But, unfortunately, given what has become of our “educational system” over the decades, that is no longer true.

In any case, it is easy enough to determine who is lying in any given case by observing who needs to censor and who does not. However, that particular point goes beyond my present topic. My present more limited aim is only to point out that the “justification,” such as it is, currently offered for the censorship of conservatives and President Trump has its provenance in the “New Left” “Marxism” of Herbert Marcuse that became the rage on American university campuses in the 1960s with the rise of the psychedelic drug culture. That is, Marcuse’s “justification” of censorship, currently practiced by a plethora of privileged organizations like Twitter and Facebook and CNN is itself an example of “cultural Marxism.”

In his essay, “Repressive Tolerance,” the “New Left” “Marxist” Herbert Marcuse begins with a statement of the ultimate conclusion of his essay: “The conclusion reached is that the realization of the objective of tolerance would call for intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed.”

That is, Marcuse holds that “objective tolerance” actually requires “intolerance” by Marxists, towards established views. Tolerance is intolerance towards the opponents of Marxism. Yes of course! And “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” (George Orwell, 1984).

Marcuse’s argument for his “repressive tolerance” (i.e., intolerant repression of those he disagrees with) is that even a “liberal democracy,” which purports to allow for an objectively completely free discussion, may actually conceal a “totalitarian organization:” “…In a democracy with totalitarian organization, objectivity may fulfil a very different function, namely, to foster a mental attitude which tends to obliterate the difference between true and false, information and indoctrination, right and wrong. In fact, the decision between opposed opinions has been made before the presentation and discussion get under way–made, not by a conspiracy or a sponsor or a publisher, not by any dictatorship, but rather by the ‘normal course of events.”

That is, since, even in a liberal democracy that guarantees freedom of speech, there is already an established body of opinion that, “in the normal course of events,” resists “alternative” views, the deck is stacked against the Marxists and other rebels. For this reason, “persuasion through discussion and the equal presentation of opposites… easily lose their liberating force… [and] are far more likely to strengthen the established thesis and to repel the alternatives.” Marcuse is clearly disturbed that the Marxists seem always to lose the arguments with “the establishment,” thereby leaving “the establishment” even stronger.

There must, Marcuse is certain, be a reason the Marxists always lose the argument and it cannot be that they have dreadful arguments (See IV, V and VI above). Since the Marxists are completely certain of their views, and since they are certain that they must lose the arguments because of an entrenched advantage “the establishment” possesses “in the normal course of events,” Marcuse infers that Marxists are justified in intolerance towards the established views that the Marxists do not see as “liberating” enough.

This sort of intolerance is currently on full view in the censorship of conservatives on Facebook, Twitter and the “mainstream media.” It is on full display in the attacks on gay conservative Milo Yiannopoulos at the “home” of the “free speech” movement, Berkeley, California, for attempting to state views the Left sees as contradicting its view of “liberation.” It is on display on the attacks on teachers, even “progressive” professors, at Evergreen College for stating simple disagreements with leftist students. It is on display in the censorship of the president of the United States, and the 74 million people who voted for him, for having the temerity to disagree with their self-appointed cultural overlords… and so on. In fact, Marcuse’s argument for leftist intolerance against “the establishment” is a textbook case of “question begging.” For the question what is genuinely “liberating” cannot be legitimately assumed by Marcuse but must itself be part of the free and fair discussion.

If Marcuse sat on high above the human fray like a god with a privileged view of the truth, he would be in a position to judge that the establishment has an unfair advantage in debates with Marxists. However, he enjoys no such position. He and his fellow Marxists are human beings, like any other, subject to the same foibles and weaknesses as everyone else. That is, Marcuse simply begs the question against the view that capitalism is more liberating than Marxism. One would think, given Marx’s own exuberant praise for capitalism (discussed in section 3 above), this would have occurred to Marcuse, at least as a possibility. But, apparently, it did not.

Many on the Left today, such as the uberwealthy owners of Facebook, Twitter and “mainstream media” establishments, also, apparently, think they occupy such a superior position, like gods, above the “basket of deplorable” “workers of the world” that they are justified in censoring both them and the president when the latter decline to go along with the script. However, if these uberwealthy cultural actors do occupy some superior position over the “basket of deplorables,” it is their vast accumulation of capitalist dollars, sometimes by dishonest means, that grant them this position, not any privileged relationship to the truth.

One might add, as an additional example of “cultural Marxism,” Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s (AOC’s) complaint in February of 2019 that workers are exploited because they are regularly paid less than the value they create. After all, it is the workers who transform the cow into a pair of shoes that can be sold in the market for a price. The market “value” of the shoes is, therefore, completely created by the labourers. But that is just a re-statement of Marx’s theory of “surplus value,” the view that workers in a capitalist society are not paid for the full value of the wealth they create.

Let us assume Marx and AOC are right. What AOC, who, apparently, has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Boston University, fails to point out is that if the worker were paid the full value of what they “create” from the cow, the factory in which they work would go out of business due to an inability to meet their expenses. That would put the worker who “creates” the shoes on the unemployment line, because the factory in which the cow is transformed into shoes will have expenses that cannot be paid. How, precisely, is providing the worker with a job “oppressing” them? But this is no place for a basic lesson in economics or arithmetic. F.A. Hayek is reported to have said that “If socialists understood economics, they would not be socialists.” (Dan Duggar, “Letter to the Editor”).

One might also mention as “cultural Marxism” the sustained contemporary attacks by “progressives” on traditional religious organizations, the family, and the police. The prejudice against traditional religion, the family, and the police comes straight out of Marxist texts. For Marx, religion is “the opiate of the masses,” and the police are an instrument of the capitalists to control the working class. Governor Cuomo’s differential treatment of religious and secular gatherings during the COVID-19 lockdowns is a case in point. The same is true of fact-free “progressive” attacks on the police. To take just one example, “progressives” still routinely use the “hands up, don’t shoot!” slogan from the 2014 Michael Brown case even though the Obama-Holder justice department exonerated police officer Wilson. Given, however, that “progressives” and other “cultural Marxists” have dispensed with the depressing notion of truth, they have been enabled to make this slogan a very useful but false “narrative.”

It does not matter to many of these “cultural Marxists” that many of the poor actually want a greater police presence in their communities. Since, according to Marcuse, the “deplorables” have been deceived by the capitalist oppressors, it is not necessary to take their views into account. Rather, the “basket of deplorables” must, as Marcuse, in One Dimensional Man (pp. 43-44), makes abundantly clear, be “forced to be free.”

Marcuse, like Marx, makes clear that force will be needed to subdue the recalcitrant workers who decline to follow the script. The Marxists certainly cannot permit the “deplorables” to state what they mean by “freedom.” The notion of freedom will be defined by the all-knowing Marxist elites and “forced” on the “basket of deplorables” who, in their appalling ignorance, consistently reject it.

It is crucial to point out that the present claim is not that Gov. Cuomo, Anderson Cooper and other members of the privileged elites are card-carrying Marxists. That completely misunderstands the argument. For the last thing these uberwealthy and powerful elites want is a real Marxist revolution. One does not even want to think about what that would do to the price or availability of Dom Perignon champagne or white truffle oil.

What they want is to enjoy all the fruits of capitalism for themselves even as they display their “moral” bona fides by imposing various Marxist views about censorship, religion, the family and the police on the “deplorables,” who manifestly do not want them. Indeed, these self-gratifying elites see themselves, just as Marcuse sees himself, as moral warriors doing what Marx’s great historical dialectic failed to do when they “force” the “basket of deplorables” to be “free,” not, of course, as the “basket of deplorables” understand freedom, but as they, the “cultural Marxists” define it for them.

“Cultural Marxism” is as real as the censorship of conservatives and the president by the aforementioned massive cultural institutions. It is also real in the constant assaults by “progressives” on the police, the nuclear family and traditional religions, especially Christianity. The purported justifications for this kind of censorship by “progressives” traces precisely to Marcuse’s Marxist notion of “repressive tolerance.”

But Marcuse’s argument for his notion of “repressive tolerance” rests on the childish assumption that Marxists are superior to “deplorable” “workers of the world” whom they purport to represent – that is, it rests, ironically, on the elitism of the all-seeing Marxists or “progressives.”

The truly astonishing fact is that the transparent problem with Marcuse’s self-indulgent question-begging argument for the right to censor his political opponents does not require a journey into the obscure nature of “dialectical materialism” but is as close as the nearest freshman critical reasoning textbook.

8. Marxism In Universities

The common view that there is a strong presence of various species of Marxism, including “cultural Marxism,” in our universities has been challenged. For example, Byron Caplan reports that as the Iron Curtain crumbled, people often joked that “Marxism is dead everywhere… except at American Universities” – but is this an exaggeration?

A representative 2006 survey of university professors by Neil Gross and Solon Simmons concludes that, except in isolated areas, the percentage of Marxist university professors is very small. Specifically, only 17.6% of professors in the social sciences and 5% in the humanities identify as Marxists, but that this number falls to 1.9% in business, 0.7% in computer sciences and engineering, and 0% in the physical and biological sciences. This works out to a mere 3% of university professors overall. Gross and Simmons conclude that this is not particularly alarming.

In fact, Gross and Simmons’ reassuring conclusion is wrong for a number of reasons. Even given their own formulation of the results, they only take account of those professors who self-identify as Marxists. This does not account for the many additional professors who may subscribe to Marxist views but either do not admit to this or do not even know themselves the Marxist provenance of their views. Nor does it apply to the much larger group of “cultural Marxists” in which the “original” Marxist views are reformulated in new, sometimes deceptive, terms to avoid direct association with the discredited Marxist theory of the necessary “class struggle.”

Whereas it was central to original Marxism that classes are defined exclusively in economic terms (ownership of the “means of production”), the purely economic classes of Marx have been replaced by “classes” redefined by “cultural Marxists” in racial, gender or sexual preference terms, which then, in a project called “intersectionality,” must be artificially stitched together into “class” of highly diverse oppressed people. Instead of the class struggle between the “capitalists” and the “proletariat workers,” each defined in strict economic terms, the new “cultural Marxists” refer to the struggle between the “Patriarchy” and the oppressed “class” of females, or between “systemic racism” and the oppressed “class” of “people of color.”

This revisionary project is facilitated by the fact that contemporary “cultural Marxists” represent a curious combination of Marxism with “Post-modernism.” A great deal could be said about Post-Modernism, and in fact, in another context, deserves to be said, but one thing that is manifestly clear is that classical Marxism is incompatible with the Post-Modernist’s relativist replacement of the idea that there is an objective truth, with the idea that there are simply different “narratives” about human history.

One should not be surprised when the Post-modernist “narratives” about “the Patriarchy” and “systemic oppression” turn out to be new unfalsifiable “theories.” For, when the Post-modernists, conveniently, abandon the notion of truth, they also abandon the idea that one can objectively falsify any of these “narratives.”

Indeed, the point and utility of these “narratives” is precisely that it is impossible to falsify them. But since, according to the Post-Modernists, there is no objective truth in these areas anyways, they are still very useful.

Marx, by contrast, was sufficiently old fashioned that he still believed in objective truth and in Marxism as a “science” that will sit alongside the other objectively true sciences like Newtonian mechanics. Marx did not think of Marxism as a mere useful “narrative.”

Thus, although it may be true that only a relatively small percent of professors in the social sciences and the humanities explicitly self-identify as “Marxists,” the relativist language of the “cultural Marxists’” unfalsifiable assertions of “systemic racism and sexism” by “the Patriarchy” are ubiquitous on university campuses. The 2006 study may be correct that there are relatively few self-identifying “original” Marxists on campus; but there is an enormous additional number of professors on campus that embrace the safety of a whole raft of the vague unfalsifiable “narratives” of the Post-Modernist “cultural Marxists.”

It is important to be clear that each of these groups cited by the “cultural Marxists,” black people, Native Americans, women, gay people, transgender people and others have every right to raise objections about the way their group has been treated – and some of these complaints will be correct. The present point is simply that “cultural Marxism” is an artificial framework invented to frame these issues under one unifying quasi-Marxist formula that has far less to do with the reality (another difficult notion for “cultural Marxists”) than it does with social activism.

Unfortunately, linking together what is different just to subsume different issues under some impressive sounding net of jargon can distort the original problems. To take just one example, although there is an ostensible alliance between the “gay” and the transgender community, some “gay” establishments do not permit entry to transgendered individuals on the grounds that the latter are not really “gay.” The unity between the two communities that is useful at election time rapidly disappears on the ground. Further, the tension between the transgender and the “gay” communities can have nothing to do with “the Patriarchy” or “systemic racism.”

The reason gays have tensions with transgender people is the same reason that black people sometimes have problems with brown people, or Westerners sometimes have problems with Asians, or Chinese sometimes have problems with Japanese, or the Northern hemisphere sometimes has problems with the southern hemisphere, or males sometimes have problems with females, or “old money” sometimes has problems with “new money,” or moderate feminists have problems with radical feminists and so on is that this is the way human beings are. These tensions and “struggles” are universal and cut across all the different classifications of human beings. These conflicts cannot be reduced to any simple formula suitable for a sociology syllabus or a fortune cookie.

Since much contemporary “cultural Marxism” is really an inconsistent combination of relativist Post-Modernism and “original” Marxism, the resulting view, having abandoned the notion of truth and, with that, the need to provide intellectually cogent definitions, argument, and evidence, is really an easy conglomerate of unfalsifiable “narratives” that are prized precisely because they are unfalsifiable.

Whereas an “original” Marxist, like, for example, Maurice Cornforth, felt the need to reply vigorously to Popper’s charge that Marxism had become an unfalsifiable dogma, the contemporary “cultural Marxist” takes grateful refuge in precisely that unfalsifiability. Since many of the “doctrines” of the “cultural” Marxists are unfalsifiable “narratives,” there is no chance that one of the remaining intellectually rigorous persons will falsify them in the way that “original” Marxism was falsified.

9. Why Are Marxist Theories Popular?

There is another reason why Marxism has enjoyed considerable popularity and why, in some circles, it continues to do so, namely the extraordinary simplicity of its basic picture. The first sentence of Section I of the Communist Manifesto is: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

That is, all of human history, the astonishing genius of ancient Greece, including, for example, the great ancient Greek tragedians, scientists, artists, mathematicians and philosophers, the magnificent development of Roman Law, the emergence of Christianity and Islam, the artistic glories of the European Renaissance, the simultaneous development of the differential calculus by Pascal, Newton and Leibniz, the customs concerning gender relations in China and Japan and throughout all human history, the development of existentialism, phenomenology and analytical philosophy in the early 20th century and so on, are all “explained” as the result of the “class struggle.”

Is this really to be taken seriously?

In his Lectures on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, Wittgenstein, discussing Freud’s view that all neurosis in adults is the result of repressed sexual trauma in childhood, states that people have a tendency to believe Freud’s view because it is “charming.” That is, in opposition to Freud’s claim that human beings have an aversion to contemplating his radical theories about human sexuality, Wittgenstein claims that people actually find such “theories” to be quite charming. People want to believe these kinds of “theories.”

Given the worldwide spread of Freud’s unfalsifiable theories, Wittgenstein is, prima facia, correct. Wittgenstein points out that there is a magical feel to such “explanations” because they purport to explain a whole raft of mysterious phenomena by reference to some secret principle that, once articulated, is seen to be self-evidently true. Jones, learning of Freud’s theories concerning sexual repression, says, “It all becomes clear now. The reason I can’t sleep at night has nothing to do with the fact that I dropped out of school because I partied all the time. It has nothing to do with the fact that I can’t hold down a job because I sleep until noon every day. It’s all because I suffered sexual trauma in childhood, where the fact that I cannot remember any sexual trauma in childhood only goes to show how effective the repression really is!”

Wittgenstein holds, transparently correctly, that such (Freudian) theories explain nothing. What they do that makes them so “charming” is to give people a narrative about their lives that they find comforting in certain ways. The same is true of Marxism.

“Original” Marxism literally explains nothing. It certainly did not explain the transition from feudalism to capitalism about which Marx should have been informed. It certainly did not explain the transition from feudalism to socialism by skipping a step in Russia in 1917. It certainly did not explain why the socialist revolution never occurred in England.

What the simplistic Marxist formula about class-struggle does is give people a narrative that provides a comforting meaning to their lives. The fact that members of community X cannot seem to improve their economic lot in life is not their fault. It is not because members of community X tend to drop out of high school at a rate much higher than the general population. It is not because there are few fathers in the home community X. It is not because there is rampant drug use in community X. It is not because community X has babies out of wedlock at a much higher rate rather than the national average. On the contrary, it is because of the “class struggle” that community X is stuck where it is. It is because community X is “oppressed” that it cannot better itself in life.

The fact that some members of community X, in fact quite a lot of them, the ones who finish high school, the ones who do not use or sell drugs, and the ones who do not have babies out of wedlock manage to get into good universities and end up multi-millionaires is not to be mentioned because the vacuity of the Marxist “explanation” is immediately exposed.

In response to all such simplistic explanations, not just Marxism or Freudianism, but even “mechanistic” theories in the philosophy of language that purport to “explain” some vast range of hitherto mysterious phenomena, Wittgenstein, in his “later” period of philosophy is said to have told his friend Drury that he considered using as a motto for his book the sentence from King Lear: “I will teach you differences.”

Wittgenstein explained to Drury that his method is the opposite of Hegel’s. Whereas Hegel always wants to say that things that look different are really the same – his aim is to say that things that look the same are really different. That is, Wittgenstein’s point is that human life is far too multifarious, nuanced, and unpredictable to be explained by such simplistic theories.

Theories like Marxism and Freudianism are comforting because they purport, by means of some simplistic formula, to enable one to escape the mystery and challenges of life. In fact, the problems of human life can be resolved, to the degree that they can be, only by getting into concrete situations and working to resolve them. This is a hard business. There are no guarantees. No one was given an instruction manual at birth that explains what one must do to be successful.

This is the correct intuition behind parts both of “American pragmatism” and “existentialism:” Solving the problems of human life and society will not be achieved by adverting to some “philosophical” theory, but, rather, this essentially requires work, sometimes by trial and error, even working blindly in real world contexts. This is the way the world is. It would be nice if the key to understanding human life and society could be summed up in such a simplistic formula, but, alas, it cannot.

The German “existentialist” and “phenomenologist” Martin Heidegger, in Section 4 of Being and Time, makes an analogous point that is worth explaining: “The question of existence never gets straightened out except through existing itself.” That is, Martin Heidegger, the arch- philosopher, who sat forever in his little shack in the Black Forest filling notebook after notebook after notebook with endless philosophical remarks, is attempting to convey that one does not solve the real problems of existence by philosophizing. Philosophy’s attempt to conceptualize the entirety of life and existence in all its elusive dimensions is a wonderful thing. It is among humanity’s greatest achievements. But do not expect some “philosopher,” whether it be Plato, Hegel, Marx or Heidegger to propound some simple formula (“All human history is the history of class struggles”) that resolves the genuinely hard problems of life, e.g., the problems of economic inequality, mental illness, gender differences and inequities and so on.

The attempt to resolve such problems by citing simple philosophical formulas is, rather, an escape from the problems of life (philosophy as an “escape mechanism”). It is among the greatest of ironies that philosophy, which, ideally, is supposed to help one understand human life, and which, done properly can actually, within limits, do so, can also readily become a means to escape from the challenges of life into simplistic unworldly dreams. As the French existentialist Albert Camus observed in The Rebel, with considerable anguish, “philosophy… can [unfortunately] be used for anything, even for turning murderers into judges.”

10. Marxism Does Not Solve Any Problems

It is a noteworthy fact about Marxists, and others on the Left influenced by Marxism, that faced with a dire social problem, they never seem to take the most direct and obvious ways to solve the problems! Since Marxists do little else but talk about solving social problems, this might seem like an astonishing claim. However, there is a vast difference between talking about solving social problems, or, in the case of Marxists, talking about a future social revolution that will somehow solve them, and actually setting out to solve them.

But before we discuss the Marxist reluctance to solve any actual social problems, it may be useful, by way of analogy, to discuss the difference between the way a “common sense philosopher” like Norman Malcolm (influenced by Wittgenstein and G.E. Moore) attempted to solve philosophical problems, for example, the problem of perception, and the way a great German philosopher like Immanuel Kant approaches such problems. Consider as example the problem how we can know that this little item on the dining room table is a real acorn and not a plastic replica of one.

Malcolm will first look at the contexts in which we say that someone claims to know something about a perceived physical object. He then examines the sorts of things we normally say about the perception of physical objects, including what we say about errors in perception and how we correct mistakes in perception. He then looks at scientific views about the causal relations between physical objects and human observers and asks how we integrate these scientific views with our ordinary views about perception of such objects. Finally, he proposes a certain common-sense solution to the question how we can know that this item on the table is a real acorn and not a plastic replica of one.

The great Kant will not, of course, condescend to do any such thing. Kant wants a revolution (to be more precise, a Copernican Revolution) in the way we think about virtually everything, of which the “solution,” such as it is, to the question how we can know that the object on the table is a real acorn and not a plastic replica of one, is one tiny (vanishing) part.

In order to bring about his “revolution,” Kant distinguishes a plethora of mental faculties, sensibility, understanding, imagination, apperception, judgment, Reason, and a few more that he discovers along his laborious journey, not to mention that he also distinguishes between empirical and transcendental versions of some of these. These are all linked together into a vast system that reaches into virtually all areas of human life, including even religion, morality, aesthetic judgments and the nature of human freedom.

After three Critiques and a plethora of lesser works, and approximately several thousand pages (depending on how one counts) of dense near incomprehensible text, which, he tells us only constitute the “Propaedeutic” to “The System,” not “The System” itself, Kant informs the exhausted reader that the “solution,” such as it is, to the question how one knows that the item on the table is an acorn and not a plastic replica of one requires one to accept the whole system. Nothing less will do because the “System” of human knowledge is an “absolute” unity. One is either all in or not. If you do not accept the whole System there is no helping you.

The present point is that Marx’s “solutions” to social problems are much more like Kant’s “solutions” to conceptual problems than they are like Malcolm’s solutions to conceptual problems, although Kant’s revolution” clearly involves less rioting and bloodshed than Marx’s.

Since both Kant and Marx are German philosophers that worship “The System,” in one or another in the plethora of its “Absolute” but vastly different manifestations, Marxists, like Kant and Hegel, cannot not go directly at the problem. That is the strategy of lesser human beings like Malcolm. Rather, Marx tells us, one cannot really solve the problem per se but must rather bring about a “revolution” that will somehow, in a way specified only in the most general terms, someday “solve” the problem. The communists at the end of history will, in ways we cannot yet quite understand, settle the matter for us once and for all.

To illustrate with a concrete example, consider a Marxist confronted by a community of starving children. The Marxist does not typically propose feeding the children. But not only do Marxists not propose feeding the starving children. They do not even want anybody else to feed them either. Marxists are particularly outraged by the practice of charity, particularly any religious practice of charity, from coming in and feeding the children.

As Cihan Tuğal points out, “The Left usually dismisses charity as demeaning intervention into the lives of oppressed classes, an obfuscation through which exploitation is legitimated. Few arguments by Marx and Engels are as deeply ingrained in Marxism as their statements on charity. [For such traditional conceptions of charity] upheld interdependence between God, the rich, and the poor as sacrosanct.”

That is, for the Marxist, feeding the starving children is “legitimating” the exploitation that led them to starve in the first place. Indeed, Marxists tend to hold that by feeding the starving children one reinforces the denigrating picture of rich people (that would be the capitalists), motivated by their superstitious religious beliefs that were created for no other purpose but to prop up the exploitative capitalist system, pseudo-beneficently swooping in from above to save the starving poor in the name of their illusory tyrannical God, thereby defusing the social pressures that, if allowed to fester, will eventually explode in the glorious socialist revolution. It would be an outrage, and simply will not do, to permit the “oppressors” to solve the problem (feed the children).

In fact, of course, this Marxist view is a cynical caricature of charitable giving. There is literally nothing about charitable giving per se that “legitimates” exploitation. Further, there can be no doubt that many of these starving children will, having been able to survive because of the charitable giving, grow up into careers of their own and work to raise the standard of living in their communities – if, that is, Marxists actually want to solve the problem.

Fortunately, however, one need not stoop to the horror of charitable giving, especially charitable giving by religious organizations, in order to see the way in which the Marxist always prefers some future “revolution” to actually trying to solve the social problems. For, in contrast with the Marxist, the capitalist does directly address those social problems.

Consider again our community of starving people! Rather than attempt to foment a revolution that might, someday, somehow, find a way feed them, the capitalist looks at this community as a possible market. They do a study and conclude that the community can, at its current level of poverty, support one profitable McDonald’s restaurant with about 10 staff (2 managers and 8 helpers).

The McDonald’s is set up and begins operation. Let us suppose that all the managers and staff come from the poor community and that some of the patronage at the restaurant comes from outside the community. After the McDonald’s has been in operation for a few weeks, the community has the same monetary resources it had before the McDonald’s began operation, but now it has in addition the wages of the 10 workers that have been working at the restaurant.

After a sufficient amount of time has passed, another capitalist does another study and concludes that given that its spending power has been increased slightly by the addition of the McDonald’s, this poor community can now also support a profitable gas station that will employ 2 managers and 8 staff. After this gas station has been in operation for some time, the spending power of the community has been increased again due to the addition of 10 new wage earners.

After several more of these small capitalist ventures have added several new small establishments, each with a new group of wage earners, to the community, perhaps a small newsstand, a coffee shop, and a drug store, the number of wage-earners added to the community makes it capable of supporting a much larger profitable operation, perhaps an Olive Garden that employs 10 managers and 40 employees. This kind of establishment can pull in much more wealth from outside the poor community.

The community is, by means of the productive power of the capitalist profit motive, the one to which Marx himself admits extravagant praise, gradually increasing its spending power and standard of living. This will not happen overnight, but in a few decades some of the members of this formerly poor” community will have risen to the point that they can themselves become capitalists who launch additional profitable enterprises in their own community or other poor communities, thereby, step by step, raising the standard of living in those other poor communities as well.

As an aside, this illustrates another false assumption of Marxists, namely that capitalists and workers constitute two exclusive classes, where the one oppresses the other. In fact, in the natural progression of capitalist societies, workers, over some time, can themselves become capitalists and fund new operations that raise the standard of living in their own or other poor communities. The Marxist does not give due regard the fluidity of the two “classes.” It is as if, when an economics textbook distinguishes buyers and sellers, the Marxist forgets that buyers are also sellers.

Let us then suppose that one of these newly emerged capitalists eventually become wealthy enough to buy him or herself a Mercedes, while the other members of the community are by that point still stuck with small inexpensive vehicles. The Marxist or socialist sees this as the establishment of an oppressor class driving fancy cars and an oppressed class still stuck with small unimpressive vehicles.

But this too is a mistake. For someone, to be more precise, a factory (in fact, it will take several factories) of people, will have to build that Mercedes, and additional workers will be needed to service it. It is true that this Mercedes-factory may be in some other community, but since the labor is cheaper in poor communities, this will likely be another poorer community. This means more jobs for poorer communities, which means, in the long run, more spending power in those poor communities. Eventually, some of the sons or daughters of these poor communities will themselves be driving a Mercedes, and when they do, they are not “oppressing” other members of the poor community. On the contrary, they are helping to make it possible for future members of poor communities to raise themselves, over a period of time, to the point that they too can afford a Mercedes.

The “profit motive” of the capitalist is not, as Marxists and “progressives” often claim, an evil exploiter of poor communities. Quite the contrary – the profit motive is a concrete consumer satisfaction mechanism for lifting poor communities out of poverty. Marx is right that capitalism’s economic productive power is literally one of the great “wonders” of human history.

Recall also that Marx states that in addition to its enormous economic productive power capitalism has fostered the “universal inter-dependence of nations.” It has made “national… narrow-mindedness… more and more impossible.” It has fostered the rise of “a world literature.” It has drawn “the most barbarian nations into civilization” and forced them to abandon their “obstinate hatred of foreigners.” It has, borrowing Ronald Reagan’s words, forced formerly hostile nations to “tear down that wall” and start trading and talking and befriending each other.

This is not Adam Smith or Milton Friedman speaking. This is Karl Marx speaking. Indeed, Marx celebrates the fact that capitalism has produced “wonders” like nothing else that had been seen in the entire history of the human race up to the time of its inception, not merely economic but intellectual and cultural. As Marx himself knew, the capitalist profit motive is the greatest boon, by far, to poor communities in the history of mankind that the world had ever seen to that date.

Given that Marx celebrates the fact that capitalism has been such a force for raising people out of poverty in the world, indeed, according to Marx’s “dialectical materialism,” a necessary force for raising people out of poverty in the world, one wonders why capitalism is denounced today by “Marxists” and other “progressives” in such shrill terms as evil and oppressive. Have these “Marxists” and “progressives” forgotten that Marx held that capitalism is a necessary stage in the gradual liberation of the human race? For if they do remember this, why do they not acknowledge all the goods that capitalism has produced and then set about in a calm and reasoned manner, in partnership with the rest of us who do acknowledge that there are remaining injustices that need to be eliminated, to solve these remaining problems?

The answer is that Marxists (and the “progressives” influenced by them) in capitalist societies positively do not want to solve the social problems. Although it has been disputed, Vladimir Lenin is said to have affirmed the claim by the Russian revolutionary “philosopher” and Marxist theoretician Georgi Plekhanov (1856–1918) that “the worse things are, the better they are;” by which he means that the more desperate suffering people there are in society the closer one is to the glorious socialist revolution. That is, as difficult as this is for normal people in Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” to believe, the Marxist requires poverty and hopelessness if its socialist and communist goals are to be realized one day. R.C. Tucker remarks that “in the present [capitalist] phase of society” this principle, “the worse the better,” is implicit in “the Marxist structure.”

Thus, if one ever wonders why things never seem to get better in “progressive” US cities, despite constant complaining by their progressive governments about “systemic oppression,” and also why these “progressive” governments react angrily at attempts by outsiders to step in and solve the problems, as Nancy Pelosi and others reacted angrily to Donald Trump’s exposure of the poverty in these communities, and even called him a racist for wanting to solve these problems, this is an important part of the answer: Marxists and “progressives” need lots of poor desperate people, if their “revolution” is ever to succeed, and place themselves, the “progressives,” in full power.

The fact that Marxists and “progressives” are not actually interested in solving the problems is, however, an embarrassment. It does nothing for the Marxist or progressive cause du jour. One must, therefore, by a variety of means, ensure that no one is permitted to say this in public; ergo the Marxist and “progressive” support for censorship, perhaps by accusing people of racism for the sin of trying to solve the problem.

11. Marxism “Abolishes” Morality And Religion

It is, given the argument of the preceding section, ironic that Marxists and their “progressive” leftist progeny often claim the mantle of “morality” and “compassion” for their views. In fact, Marx explicitly rejects “all morality” and religion: “Communism … abolishes all religion, it abolishes all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis” (Communist Manifesto, Sect. II).

The communist “abolishing” of “all” morality and religion should not be surprising. Since the scientist as such merely describes what happens and does not say what ought to happen, the Marxist, qua alleged scientist, cannot consistently assign any moral superiority to the socialist or communist stages over the capitalist stage of society.

Since, however, many scholars correctly detect moral language in Marx’s account of the historical dialectic, Marx appears inconsistent. He seems to want a socialist or communist morality under the guise of a descriptive scientific theory. Marx qua scientist tells one what must happen, while Marx qua moralist reassures one what ought to happen. What is the truth? Can Marxists consistently claim the compassionate moral high ground or not?

Many scholars have argued that Marxism does have a moral dimension (e.g., the claim that socialism and communism are morally superior to capitalism), and that this can, by the usual scholarly procedure of making numerous distinctions and qualifications, be seen to be consistent with Marxist claim to be a “scientific” theory. These discussions are very interesting and good points can be made on both sides. However, these discussions are suitable for the philosophy classroom. Note, however, that the argument in the preceding section that Marxism cannot legitimately claim the moral and compassionate high ground is not based on such abstract theoretical points. It is, rather, based on the way Marxism treats people in the real world: “The worse things are, the better they are.” Far from being “moral” or compassionate, the Marxist in reality typically sees human beings as pawns whose well-being and happiness must be sacrificed for the sake of the ultimate goal, the establishment of a full-fledged communist society.

It is one of the ironies of the way Marxism, “progressivism” and capitalism are commonly represented in American society, especially in the “Ivory tower,” that Marxism and “progressivism” are described in glowing moral terms, while capitalism is represented as immoral and heartless. The Marxist or progressive will “liberate” the poor from their oppressors, while the heartless capitalist will view the poor solely through the lens of the evil “profit motive.”

This imbalance is, no doubt, brought about by the massive and effective marketing (note the irony) campaign by the Marxists and the “progressives,” who quite effectively play the “victim card” for the poor (the workers). In fact, the truth is the reverse of this (which is one of the reasons recent “cultural” Marxists had to abandon the notion of truth). Whereas Marxism and its “progressive” progeny are theoretically committed to see individual flesh and blood human beings as pawns in the historical dialectic, and, as argued in the previous section, do in fact see them that way, even to the point that they have no wish to ease the social pressures by actually solving any social problems, it is the free-market capitalists who are committed, not just in theory, but in the real world, to value the wishes of real flesh and blood human beings. For, in a genuinely free market, the capitalist can only succeed by satisfying the consumer.

That is, in a genuinely free market, it is the consumer who, with their decisions what products to purchase or not purchase controls the behavior of the capitalists! Whereas the Marxist sees individual flesh and blood human beings, the “proletariat,” as pawns of the historical dialectic, capitalism reverses this and makes the capitalist the pawn of the real flesh and blood consumers who, by their purchasing behavior in a free market determine which capitalist ventures succeed and which do not. It is the capitalist who, truly, can say: “Power to the people (the consumer)!”

The moral of this section is that the capitalist needs more effective spokespersons throughout the culture and in the “news” media. For capitalism, properly understood, actually owns the “moral high ground.” In the real world, as opposed to Philosophy 101, the verdict is not even close. The proper image of capitalism is not “oppression.” It is freedom (the free market in which the consumers exert control over the capitalists).

Unfortunately, the Marxists and “progressives” have, because of their dominance in the “Ivory tower” and the “news” and entertainment media, many effective marketing agents (again note the irony). By contrast, the capitalists, who actually have the much stronger “moral” case, need better marketing agents. It is the supreme irony that Marxism and socialism sell so well in capitalist countries where their unscrupulous agents can market (again note the irony) them, earning for themselves many capitalist dollars and acquiring considerable power with slick slogans about “equality,” “the redistribution of wealth,” “economic justice” or “economic democracy” and the like.

Marxism and socialism do not, however, sell so well in Marxist or socialist countries, as in Cuba, where the desperate citizens will often risk their lives floating on patched inner tubes across 90 miles of shark-infested waters to leave the socialist paradise and get to the capitalist United States.

12. Conclusions

Karl Marx is most well known as the preeminent critic of capitalism. Capitalism, he tells us, in the jargon in which he has couched his “theory,” harbors an internal “contradiction” between the capitalist oppressors and the oppressed workers that determines that it will necessarily fall to a socialist “revolution.”

However, as history has shown, most of the negative things Marx said about capitalism have turned out to be false. Feudalism did not collapse into capitalism because of a “necessary” revolution by the serfs against their feudal landlords. Various historical accidents, including the emergence of the “Black Death” in Europe, in ways entirely comprehensible in free market economics, made feudal labor more valuable and the serfs simply picked up their knapsacks and left their feudal landlords for better wages in the cities. The socialist revolution did not occur in England, where Marx predicted it, but in Russia, where he said it could not possibly occur, etc.

However, Marx also said many very positive things about capitalism. Indeed, his exuberant praise of capitalism is unmatched by many of capitalism’s most famous supporters – and most of the positive things Marx said about capitalism have turned out to be true. In fact, Marx agrees with Milton Friedman that capitalism has been the greatest mechanism for lifting people out of poverty the world has ever seen to date. Although Marx got that part right, subsequent “Marxists” have not, in general, noticed.

Furthermore, as Popper has shown, Marx may have intended Marxism as a “scientific” doctrine, but he failed to recognize that his publication of his Marxist views changes the historical equation that he describes in his publications. There is nowhere in Marx’s works that recognizes the possible influence that his publication of his views about the flaws in capitalism will have on the historical development of capitalism – a stunning blind spot.

Fortunately, capitalists, warned by Marx’s publications about the inevitable fall of capitalism in a socialist revolution, modified capitalist behavior in order to avoid Marx’s predicted dire outcome. That is, it is partly thanks to Marx’s publication of his theories that his predictions did not come true – a particularly intriguing instance of Popper’s view that no “historicist” view can be successful because no “historicist” view can predict the future growth of human knowledge. For, Marx’s own contribution to human knowledge, his publications of his theories, added a factor to the historical equation that is not recognized within any of his theories – and, in fact, that factor had a role in falsifying his predictions about the inevitable downfall of capitalism!

As a result of these great failures of Marx’s “original” Marxism, subsequent “Marxists,” were faced by a dilemma. They must either retain Marx’s original view that Marxism is a “science” and admit it has been falsified by the historical facts, or they must decide that Marxism is a mere “narrative” that is neither true nor false but is only useful in advancing various activist political agendas. The “Cultural Marxists,” in an inconsistent alliance with “Post-Modernism,” have chosen the latter. That is certainly the easier path.

Having abandoned the notion of truth and retreated into their own “safe spaces” of unfalsifiable quasi-religious dogmas, they need not accept the burden of showing that their version of “Marxism” is falsifiable or genuinely scientific because it is not falsifiable and is not a genuine science. Nor need they accept the burden of showing that Marxism is true because it is not true. Once one dispenses with the notion of truth, everything, even the impossible, becomes possible, and very easy, at least in the academic “world of words,” if not in reality.

As a consequence, what is left of “Marxism,” such as it is, only lives on, for the most part, in those self-enclosed bubbles most far removed from reality, certain privileged parts of the “Ivory Tower” and the capitalism-created walled mansions in the Hollywood hills. Engels said that even in his own day, Marx himself stated, “cequ’il y a de certain c’est que moi, je ne suis pas marxiste” (“what is certain is that [if they are Marxists], [then] I myself am not a Marxist”).

Marx himself was a genius, though ultimately wrong about a great deal. That is no shame. It is the normal judgment of history about geniuses. But most of the views that pass for Marxism now are pale quasi-religious dogmas of utility, both for profit and self-gratification, for certain privileged, out of touch elites (but that does not make them less dangerous).

Given that Marx’s critique of capitalism has failed in multiple ways, while his exuberant praise of capitalism has largely been vindicated, it would be foolish to abandon capitalism in favor of these dreaming quasi-Marxist “narratives” prevalent in the “Ivory Tower” and the walled compounds in the Hollywood hills.

Indeed, capitalist countries would do even better at lifting their people out of poverty if their privileged and well-heeled “Marxist” and “progressive” elites did not oppose solving social problems in the hope that fostering hopelessness will hasten the glorious socialist revolution. For if there is one thing that Marxists of all stripes fear even more than Christian charity, it is capitalist solutions to social problems – for the simple reason that capitalist solutions work; and, for the sake of “the revolution,” that is the one thing Marxists and their “progressive” progeny cannot tolerate and, therefore, must censor.

Dr. Richard McDonough works in Anglo-American analytical and Continental philosophy, with a special focus on post-Kantian German thought, as well as psychology. He is the author of The Argument of the Tractatus and Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time. He has taught in various countries, retiring from James Cook University in Australia. He lives in Singapore.

The image shows a detail from “Mexico Today and Tomorrow,” a mural by Diego Rivera, painted in 1935.