20 June 2017
Before I start my long and critical review let me state some facts. I don't read much philosophy and as a scientific thinker, I believe philosophy is just mostly unjustified word masturbation for the brain. So my critic is going to be not philosophical, but science-oriented. Also, I have just read the first few pages, and the amount of misunderstandings that Jordan had abounded too much that I thought I will review this right away and perhaps edit it later as I get time. Also, having read a bit about the author and having watched it lectures, I must say I do agree to many of his positions, and I think we need more such intelligent people in this world.
The following points have the part of the book I am referring to in quotes, followed by my thoughts.
1) "I could not rationally accept the premises of religion as I understood them. I turned, in consequence, to dreams of political utopia, and personal power. The same ideological trap caught millions of others, in recent centuries."
I do not understand why the urge for a political power or a political utopia must be a consequence of not accepting religion. At best, I can ask why does the author think it is exclusive to atheists (if it did exist). Even a religious person can aspire for political power (say, to impose his religion directly or indirectly) and aspire for a political utopia (which would be having a specific definition for him). However, if the author meant that this was his consequence, then it is alright though the very next sentence doesn't seem to support it. He calls this consequence as a trap that many fall for.
2) "I did not admire many of the individuals who believed the same things I did."
This concluding statement is the summary of the above few lines in which he observes that the right had educated, economically stable,confident and outspoken people (but with not sharing his ideas) while the left had people who had unaccomplished lives such as no career, no family, no completed education (but sharing his ideas). While I think that current data will dispute this, if this is a motivation to think that the leftist ideas are wrong, then it is indeed a shame. An idea's usefulness/truthfulness is not based on the idea-bearer's social status.
3) "Orwell said, essentially, that socialists did not really like the poor. They merely hated the rich"
This seems to be true in practice, but then, people don't practice what they preach, and Jordan must know that.
4) "What could possibly justify the threat of total destruction?"
Well, I am not being sinister, but, this is apparently easy to answer: Total destruction becomes justifiable to oneself when one's own destruction is confirmed.
5) "They held or tied him down and pulverized one of his legs with a lead pipe. I was taken aback, once again, but this time I tried something different. I tried to imagine, really imagine, what I would have to be like to do such a thing. I concentrated on this task for days and days—and experienced a frightening revelation. The truly appalling aspect of such atrocity did not lie in its impossibility or remoteness, as I had naively assumed, but in its ease. I was not much different from the violent prisoners—not qualitatively different. I could do what they could do (although I hadn't)."
While a worthy conclusion, it definitely isn't a scientific conclusion. Morality can be vaguely as the degree with which two qualities manifest in us in reaction to coming in contact (through, eyes, ears, nose, etc) with something- sadness and happiness. These are produced by well-documented chemical molecules in the brain in varying levels person to person. It is therefore subjective and evolutionary. This is a more rational and scientific explanation that enables one to at least theoretically predict the moving zeitgeist.
6) "At the same time, something odd was happening to my ability to converse. I had always enjoyed engaging in arguments, regardless of topic. I regarded them as a sort of game (not that this is in any way unique). Suddenly, however, I couldn't talk—more accurately, I couldn't stand listening to myself talk. I started to hear a “voice” inside my head, commenting on my opinions. Every time I said something, it said something— something critical. The voice employed a standard refrain, delivered in a somewhat bored and matter-of-fact tone: You don't believe that. That isn't true. You don't believe that. That isn't true. The “voice” applied such comments to almost every phrase I spoke."
This, I think, is normal. This is why resort to the scientific method. It doesn't matter what you think of the truth value of a statement, but what matters is the evidence, the data. That is how science has been so successful by letting go of the imaginary voice that insists one to be tied in the world of what we have evolved to perceive. I hate quantum mechanics and evolutionary biology but it doesn't matter. What matters is what the data suggests and where the evidence leads us to.
7) "I couldn't understand what to make of this [his inner voice]. I knew the source of the commentary was part of me, but this knowledge only increased my confusion. Which part, precisely, was me—the talking part or the criticizing part? If it was the talking part, then what was the criticizing part? If it was the criticizing part—well, then: how could virtually everything I said be untrue? In my ignorance and confusion, I decided to experiment. I tried only to say things that my internal reviewer would pass unchallenged. This meant that I really had to listen to what I was saying, that I spoke much less often, and that I would frequently stop, midway through a sentence, feel embarrassed, and reformulate my thoughts. I soon noticed that I felt much less agitated and more confident when I only said things that the “voice” did not object to. This came as a definite relief. My experiment had been a success; I was the criticizing part. Nonetheless, it took me a long time to reconcile myself to the idea that almost all my thoughts weren't real, weren't true—or, at least, weren't mine."
This is embarrassing. The experiment, one must agree, is not designed to find the truth but to find out whether stating something as truth what you think is true in your head will give you satisfaction (and of course, it would and it did!)
8) "All the things I “believed” were things I thought sounded good, admirable, respectable, courageous. They weren't my things, however—I had stolen them. Most of them I had taken from books. Having “understood” them, abstractly, I presumed I had a right to them—presumed that I could adopt them, as if they were mine: presumed that they were me. My head was stuffed full of the ideas of others; stuffed full of arguments I could not logically refute. I did not know then that an irrefutable argument is not necessarily true, nor that the right to identify with certain ideas had to be earned."
No one is asking to steal ideas but to understand it and accept it if you find it acceptable. I agree with the author that irrefutable ideas aren't necessarily true (or false and that is why we ignore such things in science because any statement must be falsifiable for science to consider it seriously). As the author indirectly claims that this is the reason he leftist principles , I hope he also knows that this is also applicable to God. "God exists" is an irrefutable argument.