Sunday, 8 April 2007

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) on Enlightenment

Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! “Have courage to use your own reason!”—that is the motto of enlightenment.

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a portion of mankind, after nature has long since discharged them from external direction (naturaliter maiorennes), nevertheless remains under lifelong tutelage, and why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. It is so easy not to be of age. If I have a book which understands for me, a pastor who has a conscience for me, a physician who decides my diet, and so forth, I need not trouble myself. I need not think, if I can only pay—others will readily undertake the irksome work for me.

(Immanuel Kant, What Is Enlightenment? in Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals and What Is Enlightenment? trans. Lewis White Beck, The Library of Liberal Arts [Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1959], 85-92, at 85 [footnote omitted] [essay first published in 1784])


Italian Alessandro Ballan has won the 2007 Tour of Flanders. This one-day race covers 160.9 miles. The course is filled with cobblestones and steep climbs. Ballan attacked on one of the climbs with about 10 miles to go. He was joined by Belgian Leif Hoste. The pair stayed clear of the charging peloton the rest of the way, with Ballan outsprinting Hoste for the victory. Hoste has now finished second three times, including twice in a row. Ballan’s average speed was 26.08 miles per hour. Next Sunday: the Hell of the North.

The Military Imperative

Let me run an idea past you. The idea is that, if we have a military, there will be pressure to use it. The military is a technology, no different in principle from a television. Its purpose is to fight. We may wish to avoid fighting, but there will be pressure to use the fighting technology we have. Generals and admirals are itchy to formulate and deploy strategies. Soldiers, airmen, and sailors are itchy to exercise their skills. Politicians are eager to wield power. Citizens who identify with their country (in the form of patriotism) are inclined to throw their weight around. If this is correct, then there should be mechanisms in place to prevent rash uses of the military. We have such mechanisms, to be sure, but perhaps they are insufficient to counteract the forces for aggression. Another solution is to reduce the size of the military, i.e., to make it a weaker technology. Libertarians advocate a bare-bones military, one that is just large and strong enough to repel invaders. Our military is far too big by this standard. Any thoughts? First, do you think there is a military imperative? Second, if so, how strong is it? Third, is the imperative dangerous? Fourth, if so, what can and should be done about it?


I’d like to wish my Christian readers a happy Easter. Somebody tell me what it signifies.

North Texas Weather

Our weather has been flat-out nutty for the past few days. Here are the high temperatures since Monday: 78, 84, 66, 66, 54, and 44 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s right: In the space of six days, we’ve seen the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, and the 80s. It’s supposed to start warming up. Although I enjoyed the cool (48º) weather during today’s run (3.1 miles at a 7:10 pace), I’m looking forward to warmth. Not heat, which will come soon enough, but warmth.


Here is a review of a new book on Darwinism. Note the reviewer’s disdain for religion. It is gratuitous, offensive, and, in the end, stupid.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Running for Dollars” (editorial, April 5):

What if nobody gave? The problem with the American political system is that it is not controlled by the voters and has not been for many years. Major corporations, the Republican and Democratic National Committees and the media dictate who the nominees will be, and to a large degree, who our next president will be.

The Electoral College system also skews the results, and deprives voters in certain states of the opportunity to see and hear the candidates up close.

The system needs to be reformed, and I would cast my vote today for any candidate who stated that if nominated he or she would run a presidential campaign on public financing only.

Henry A. Lowenstein
New York, April 5, 2007

Note from KBJ: Three comments. First, nobody “dictates” nominees. Voters select them. It sounds as though the letter writer doesn’t like their selections. Too bad for him. Second, the electoral college is a work of genius, created by men far more intelligent than Henry Lowenstein. Leave it alone. Third, public financing of presidential campaigns is a disaster—and even if it weren’t, it would be an intolerable infringement of liberty.

A Year Ago


Safire on Language


Addendum: While I link to William Safire’s columns every week, I don’t think highly of him as a wordsmith. In fact, he’s quite bad in several respects, as any philosopher would tell you. One of the most annoying things he does is fail to enclose words he mentions in quotation marks. Please don’t say that his readers will eventually figure out what he’s saying. Good writers don’t make their readers figure things out, or even pause to wonder what’s meant. How Safire reached old age without learning this simple but important rule is beyond me. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, compare the following sentences:

Dogs have four legs.

“Dogs” has four letters.

See the difference? In the first sentence, I’m using the word “dogs” to refer to dogs (and to predicate something of them). In the second, I’m mentioning or referring to the word “dogs.” The first sentence is about dogs (the animals). The second is about “dogs” (the word). If I left the quotation marks out of the second sentence, you might eventually figure out what I’m saying, but by then you’re distracted. Good writers don’t distract their readers.