Category Archives: Uncategorized

On jumping to conclusions

Lewis at the locus
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Another commenter wrote that she felt that Lewis was saying that everyone should be Christian.

Is this a feeling, or a thought? Where does this feeling (or thought) come from?

Perhaps Lewis did feel this. How can we prove whether this speculation is correct or not? We cannot go back in the past and look into Lewis’ heart or head to check whether our guess is right or not. What can we do? We have only Lewis’ writing to help us. Does he say this in Chapter 2 of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? We must look here to find evidence to prove or disprove our theory. Or perhaps Lewis wrote this in some other book or lecture? If we can find such evidence, we can prove our theory. Without such evidence, our theory is not even a theory, it is a guess, based not on evidence but on our imagination, or our preconception.

Studying literature, as opposed to reading for private pleasure, involves the discipline of training our minds. It assumes an objective reality against which we can check our ideas or guesses or intuitions. In the case of literature, the “objective reality” is the author’s writing. Everything without evidence must be classified as “speculation”.

What does “gentleman” mean? Perhaps we assume that a gentleman is a gentle man. Without evidence, however, this is just speculation, although a reasonable one. Let us check our guess or “feeling” against objective reality. In fact, “gentle” originally meant “highborn, noble”. (Apparently, this is not only a Western idea.)

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CS Lewis and the reductionists

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smok...
Image via Wikipedia

A reader sent me this comment:

someone said that rose represents a woman and worm that eats rose is a man, and I had similar idea at that time I remember. Now I notice that ideas of Freud has influenced on people’s consciousness much more than we expect and it became like common sense.

I mentioned a lecture that C.S. Lewis gave in 1942 concerning psycho-analysis and the ideas of Freud. Lewis had read Freud. He disagreed with Freudian psycho-analysis of literature. Specifically, he disagreed with the idea that everything in literature, as in dreams, has a sexual meaning. He agreed that the sexual meaning is part of the literary meaning; but only part of it, not the whole thing. In addition, the psycho-analytic view can hide the

Reductionism is the term often used to describe the psychoanalysis that Lewis was arguing against: the idea that, for example, a garden in a story only means the female body, that it has no further meaning or value.

Other writers and thinkers have also argued strongly against reductionism: Ayn Rand was one. In Atlas Shrugged, a character called the Wet Nurse is someone who has been educated in the ideas of reductionism: that the human being is only a bundle of cells and chemicals, and that human life, therefore, has little or no meaning (to quote Shakespeare, “It is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing”). Through working and talking with Hank Rearden, the Wet Nurse comes to understand that a human being is so much more than that. Rand expressed herself angrily in other writing, too, about the terrible effect such ideas can have on young people, when their minds, ideas and values are still forming.

If the commenter is correct and Freudian ideas have become accepted as “common sense”, then perhaps the reductionist ideas have also become accepted, without examination. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” 吟味されざる生に、生きる価値なし。

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Ron Paul interview and other matters

In recent Reading sessions, we discussed a Senator from Texas named Ron Paul. Paul is a free-market supporter, he has read Ayn Rand’s novels, and he has proposed 2 new laws regarding the Federal Reserve:

  1. is to audit the Federal Reserve, because the Federal Reserve refuses to say what it has done with all the money it has received from Congress;
  2. is to close the Federal Reserve, to end it. Ron Paul wrote a book recently called End the Fed (if you find a Japanese translation, please let me know)

Here’s a short news interview with Ron Paul:

In Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged (in Japanese 肩をすくめるアトラス) , she describes a fictional United States sometime in the future. In the world of Atlas Shrugged, the government intrudes increasingly into private business and private affairs. Well, here is some news from New York. This is not fiction. Bloomberg is the mayor of New York City:

New York City is considering banning smoking in public parks and beaches as part of a multi-pronged plan to make New Yorkers healthier, the health commissioner announced today.

“We don’t think children, parents when they’re standing at soccer games should have to be breathing in smoke from the person next to them,” Commissioner Thomas Farley said after unveiling the city’s plan. “We don’t think our children should have to be watching someone smoke.” [Emphasis mine.]

Farley said since the indoor smoking ban instituted in 2003 has been successful, so the city wants to expand the effort through either legislation or a simple change in policy with the Parks Department.

The free-market blogger who wrote about this points out that New York City has already banned smoking inside many private business and restaurants.

My third bit of news refers to MIT. MIT has put all of its courses online. Now, they  have gone one step further, and put all their courses onto iTunes University.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has begun the most revolutionary experiment in the history of education, stretching all the way back to the pharaohs. It now gives away its curriculum to anyone smart enough to learn it. It has posted its curriculum on-line for free. These days, this means a staggering 1900 courses. This number will grow.

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The importance of knowing the meanings of words

In the previous blog entry, I wrote,

it is important to be clear about the meanings and definitions (of words).

Do you know the meaning of “capitalism“? I thought I did… until I read Ayn Rand. Then I realized I did not really know what capitalism was. I had not thought deeply about it in detail.

In the previous blog entry, I quoted a free-market journalist (Bill Bonner) and a British libertarian (Sean Gabb).

The reason I quoted them was because reading what they wrote can help us think about and understand more deeply, and more accurately, the meanings of some important concepts, such as “the free market”, “capitalism”, “big business”. Sean Gabb points out that “big business” does not mean capitalism.

We think we live in a “free” society, a “capitalist” economy; but do you remember being taught these things in school? In college? Anywhere?

So, here are some more quotations I found today. My purpose is not to persuade you to believe in capitalism or libertarianism. I merely hope that you will find these quotations interesting and “food for thought”.

Here is part of an interview between Milton Friedman and Phil Donahue, conducted onFebruary 11th, 1979. (Who was Milton Friedman? Click here to find out in English and here to read in Japanese. Who is Phil Donahue? Click here to find out. From Donahue’s questions, we can guess that his philosophy is “left-wing” or socialist rather than capitalist. Donahue also interviewed Ayn Rand shortly before she died. You can see part 1 of the interview on by clicking the YouTube image above). (I found the quote below in an article by Marc Faber, who is a well-known investor who is in favour of free-market capitalism – read about him in Japanese here). Marc Faber’s article is on the Lew Rockwell website, a libertarian website.)

Phil Donohue: When you see around the globe the maldistribution of wealth, the desperate plight of millions of people in underdeveloped countries. When you see so few haves and so many have-nots. When you see the greed and the concentration of power. Did you ever have a moment of doubt about capitalism? And whether greed is a good idea to run on?

Milton Friedman: Well first of all tell me, is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed? You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course none of us are greedy. It’s only the other fella that’s greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The greatest achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty that you are talking about, the only cases in recorded history are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it’s exactly in the kind of societies that depart from that.

So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear, there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.

Phil Donohue: Seems to reward not virtue as much as the ability to manipulate the system.

Milton Friedman: And what does reward virtue? You think the Communist commissar rewards virtue? You think a Hitler rewards virtue? Do you think… American presidents reward virtue? Do they choose their appointees on the basis of the virtue of the people appointed or on the basis of political clout? Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest? You know I think you are taking a lot of things for granted. And just tell me where in the world you find these angels that are going to organize society for us? Well, I don’t even trust you to do that.

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Capitalism and philosophy

Sean Gabb by the Baltic
Image via Wikipedia

In the last session, someone asked “what is capitalism?” and said that there are many different kinds of capitalism, e.g. “Japanese capitalism”.

First, it is important to be clear about the meanings and definitions. The kind of economy in Britain, the United States, and Japan, is not pure capitalism because it includes a great deal of government control and regulation. Such an economy should correctly be called “a mixed economy“. “Japanese capitalism”,  therefore, should more correctly be called “Japanese mixed economy”, i.e. a mixture of capitalism and statism or socialism.

Secondly, is America a truly capitalist country? Here is a quote from a financial newsletter “The Daily Reckoning” June 3 2009 “The Eye of the Economic Storm”.

Americans are not necessarily in favour of socialism… But the country has clearly moved towards more government intervention in the economy. In 1986, 40% of Americans thought government regulated the economy too much. Now, 40% think it doesn’t regulate enough. And get this… The Economist reports the results of a worldwide poll. When asked if “people [were] better off under free markets,” 75% of Indians say ‘yes’ and so did about 72% of Chinese. But put the question to Americans and only about 69% think so. Even Italians are more in favor of free enterprise than Americans. Go figure.

Another comment, this time from a British libertarian, Sean Gabb:

big business capitalism we see around us is not the same as a free market”

Finally, another comment from a free-market financial commentator, Bill Jenkins, writing in the Daily Reckoning of May 28th, 2009: To Hell in a Bond Basket:

In a larger sense, the US is at war with capitalism…and with nature herself. Markets have natural rhythms. They go from boom to bust…from inflation to deflation…from expansion to contraction naturally. Trying to stop the bust is futile. It is a fight against Fate…a losing proposition. And it is diabolically unnatural. You have to take the bad with the good in life.


“The idea is ‘to make holding money less attractive’ so people will spend it.”

In other words, this is not free-market capitalism: the Federal reserve holds interest rates artificially low to “force” people to spend instead of to save. But where does capital come from? From savings. If people are discouraged from saving, where will capitalism’s capital come from?

Writes Bill Jenkins,

“What we need is to be left alone. The market has been, and remains, the most efficient system for regulating itself. Is it perfect? Not in a moral or theological sense.  Not even in a fairness sense. The market will make some men rich while impoverishing others. Many people do not consider that ” fair”. But it doesn’t matter. The market does what it does because it is the most efficient way of doing things. .. The ironic thing is, bubbles are created by regulation.”

Here is what Ayn Rand wrote about capitalism:

Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

We must understand the meanings of the words we use. Then, we must look around at the world around us, and see clearly through our own eyes, not through the eyes of the media, or what we read in the newspapers, or what the politicians tell us.

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