Stoicism, Polytheism, and the Problem of Evil™

Chrysippos_BM_1846

Chrysippus of Soli, third head of the Ancient Stoa, and prolific writer on Stoic Physics and cosmology.

One of the major theological struggles of the past (and, arguably, still one today) is trying to reconcile belief in an all-powerful deity, with the existence of evil in the world.  This problem, which has particularly plagued monotheists, is known as theodicy, and is going to be the main focus of this week’s post, from a Traditional Stoic/polytheist perspective.

The Stoics were asked this question themselves.  Chrysippus, the third head of the Stoa after Zeno and Cleanthes, was once asked how evil could exist in a good universe, to which he replied:

“Evil cannot be removed, nor is it well that it should be removed.”

 

What, exactly, does this mean?  Why should evil not be eradicated?  Without evil, argued the Stoic, there can likewise be no good.  Without injustice, justice could not exist, courage could not exist without cowardice, etc.  Additionally,

“Evils are distributed according to the rational will of Zeus, either to punish the wicked or because they are important to the world-order as a whole. Thus evil is good under disguise, and is ultimately conducive to the best.”

– Chrysippus, as quoted by Plutarch, De Stoicorum Repugnantiis, 1051 B

But before we get too ahead off ourselves, we should probably begin by examining what is good, and what is evil.  But even this is problematic, since our modern conception of evil does not exist in Stoicism.    Rather, only the results of our personal choices/actions are good/evil; everything outside of our control, i.e., all external events, are neither good nor evil.

All of the seemingly terrible things which befall people are, in actuality, neutral indifferents (adiaphora). They are indifferents because they are outside of our control. Furthermore, they are the product of a providential Cosmos (pronoia).

The only good things in life are virtue (specifically, courage, justice, wisdom, prudence), while the only bad things are vice (essentially a lack of virtue). Now, there are certain ‘bad’ things, but even then, it is not our modern sense of the word ‘bad’. Rather, kakon refers to the opposite of virtue: stupidity, lack of self-restraint, injustice, cowardice.) Therefore, Stoics deny that many of the seemingly bad things in the world are actually bad. First, because they are externals out of our control, and secondly, because death, sickness, poverty, etc., have nothing to do with virtue, and thirdly, because these are the events unfolding in our providential cosmos.

Now, when one is being tortured, it might be hard to say that one is not experiencing a terrible evil. However, the Stoic position is not meant to deny that these externals can be unpleasant, but rather that they are irrelevant to living a good life, which is the whole point of the philosophy.

Seneca himself says that “nothing bad can happen to a good man”, since no external thing is either good or bad.

Also, using Seneca as an example, the Cosmos (Zeus) is a deity which is a tough, albeit loving father, who sets challenges in our way to test our strength.

“I shall show how true evils are not those which appear to be so: I now make this point, that the things you call hardships, that you call adversities and detestable, are actually of benefit, first to the very person it happens to, and secondly to the whole human race, which matters more to the Gods than individuals do [… because we find out who we are truly only when we are put to test by events…]”

– Seneca – On Providence

Note, that the misfortunes experienced are not evil, but rather “judging them to be bad and then struggling against what Nature has decreed will generate the sort of internal mental conflict that constitutes vice,” and “the truly virtuous will always welcome adversity,” since “disaster is the occasion for virtue.”  (Sellars, The Stoics on Evil)

Now, this is all good to say if one has never experiences any personal hardship.  This os precisely why Seneca says that we must train ourselves for when Fortuna tests us next:

“How do I know how calmly you will bear the loss of children, if you see all the ones you have fathered?  I have heard you giving consolation to others: that was when I might have seen your true worth, had you been consoling yourself, or telling yourself not to grieve.”

– Seneca – On Providence

John Sellars asks in his commentary on this passage:  “How can anyone know how well they would bear the loss of a loved one until they go through with it?”

The Stoics have always linked their ethics to their theology.  Chrysippus wrote extensively on Stoic physics.  Sadly, most of his writings are lost, and we must rely on secondary and tertiary sources.  Greco-Roman historian and Priest to Apollo at Delphi, Plutarch wrote that Chrysippus held that theology goes ahead of ethics:

“For there is no other or more suitable way of approaching the theory of good and evil or the virtues or happiness then from the universal nature and from the dispensation of the universe… For the theory of good and evil must be connected with these, since good and evil have no better beginning or point of reference and physical speculation is to be undertaken for no other purpose than for the discrimination of good and evil.”

-Plutarch, Stoic Self-Contradictions, 1035C-D

Everything which occurs is the result of divine providence, which is fate (The Goddess Heimarmene (Εἱμαρμένη), who orders the fate of the Universe as a whole, rather than the destinies of individuals.)  The fourth-century philosopher Calcidius quoted Chrysippus as saying:

“For providence will be God’s will, and furthermore His will is the series of causes.  In virtue of being his will, it is providence.  In virtue of also being the series of causes it gets the additional name “fate”.  Consequently everything in accordance with fate is also the product of providence, and likewise everything in accordance with providence is the product of fate.”

But Chrysippus did think about this issue deeply, suggesting that

“In some cases providence inadvertently neglects some details when aiming for the general good.”  – John Sellars, The Stoics on Evil

But, this can be explained by the limitations to divine providence re: omniscience and omnipotence.  Specifically, that the Gods are not all-powerful, nor all-knowing, powerful and great as they are.

Now that we have seen (very brief) explanation of the Stoics on evil, what about polytheism?  The Gods are not omnipotent and omniscient, powerful though they may be. The argument from evil is a significant challenge to monotheists, yet it offers little challenge to other belief systems. If a God is not omniscient/omnipotent, suffering may be explained by the God’s limitation.

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John Michael Greer (far left), whom I had the pleasure to meet (briefly) in person in late March.

 

From John Michael Greer, who is worth quoting at length:

Christian philosopher Augustine of Hippo argues that suffering is caused by the misuse of free will by created beings, not by divine actions.  Human evils such as murder and rape are the product of free human choice, while natural evils such as earthquakes and plagues are either the product of free choices by nonhuman beings such as devils, or punishment for human sin.  Thus the evils in the world are not the God’s fault.

This theodicy, as Friedrich Sheleiermacher pointed out in the early nineteenth century, is an evasion of divine responsibility.  An omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God who created the universe would have known in advance exactly what evils would follow, and could have adjusted the details of creation to prevent many of them.

Greer then brings up second century Christian thinker Irenaeus, who  argued that the Christian God permits suffering because such evil allows mankind to “develop spiritually and morally.”  Now, on the surface, this might seem rather similar to what Seneca was saying earlier, since, Irenaeus says, without evil and suffering, mankind cannot develop the virtues of courage, etc.  But, as Greer notes, since Irenaeus is working within the monotheist worldview,

“The problem with his defense is that it conflicts with the claim of divine omnipotence. […] Some defenders of this theodicy have claimed that the only alternative to the world we see is a “playground paradise”in which weapons and poisons do no harm[…] Yet if a God is omnipotent, he has many more choices than these.

Consider the case of childhood cancer.  An omnipotent God could just as well have created human bodies so that cancer in children did not cause excruciating pain.  In such a world, parents of dying children would still have to confront the reality of transience, loss, grief, and their own mortality; on the other hand, there would be a good deal less pointless misery in the world. […]

Again, if divine omnipotence means anything, it means that the words “has to” do not apply to the God in question at all.

I can go on and on quoting Greer on theodicy, but I’ll leave you with the following, again from Greer:

If a God is not omnibenevolent, suffering may be explained by the fact that the God may have no motive to eliminate them.

If more than one God exists, and if conflict between Gods is possible, then the argument from evil loses nearly all of its force, since the benevolent action of one God could be countered by the opposing action of another.

Since the many Gods of traditional polytheism are limited in power and knowledge, and are associated with specific moral ideas and qualities (rather than goodness in general), the existence of evil and unnecessary suffering in a polytheist universe causes no logical difficulty.  Indeed, the absence of evil and unnecessary suffering in such a universe would be a good deal more surprising.

 

Throughout this post, I have made oblique reference to the polytheism of Ancient Greece, which permeated its philosophical schools, including the Ancient Stoa.  While the majority of modern practitioners of stoicism may be the New Atheists, that certainly was not the case two millennia ago.  But even Traditional Stoics ascribe to the notion of a Cosmic God (what is often referred to by Epictetus et al., as Zeus), and (falsely, I believe) charges of monotheism have been leveled against the ancient school.  Much like the argument that Epicureans were atheists (they were not), this notion doesn’t seem to hold much water.  And so, next week, dear reader, we will be examining the polytheism of the Stoics.

For more information, see:

  • The Stoic Concept of Evil, by A. A. Long,
  • The Stoics on Evil, by John Sellars.
  • A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism, by John Michael Greer.

 

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Book Review: The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State

25016279William McCants’ history and analysis of Daesh highlights just how unique Daesh is among Islamic jihadist movements. Whereas Al-Qaeda and other jihadist movements sought to foster popular support among local populations before declaring a caliphate, McCants shows how Daesh disregarded this conventional thinking and opted for extreme brutality instead. McCants also stresses just how incredibly important apocalyptic prophecy is to Daesh, and he shows how this goal of fulfilling prophecy is driving many of Daesh’s actions, including the capture of militarily low-value targets (Dabiq) to its dreams of reviving the Abbasid Caliphate and implementing the hudud. McCants concludes that despite disregarding conventional thinking about jihadist insurgency, Daesh has managed to expand and consolidate its power and holdings. Despite this, the so-called Islamic State’s continued survival is unlikely, and the author argues that the current coalition strategy against the jihadi militia, while imperfect, is the best option available.
One of the key questions of the reading is whether or not the coalition strategy as McCants lays out is the best one available. It seems highly suggestive that is ineffective, since over the course of a year, the air bombing-campaign hardly seemed to slow its advance nor successfully target the long convoys of tanker trucks going into Turkey to finance Daesh’s operations.

The latter half of William McCants’ book examines the resurgence of Daesh and the apocalyptic prophecies which pervade much of the group’s ideology. McCants shows how Daesh, has succeeded in attracting foreign fighters from myriad countries much better than any other Islamic terrorist group. These foreign fighters, men and women, exhibit extreme conviction and belief, and are some of the most vocal supporters of Daesh and they actively seek to fulfill apocalyptic prophecy. They await the imminent return of the Mahdi and the Sufyani, eagerly anticipate the climactic battle-to-be at Dabiq, and even point to scriptures which state that Jesus the Prophet will descend from the heavens and fight on their side. (McCants, 106-11)
Daesh has throughout its lifespan sought to explain events as fulfillment of prophecies, and they have used this is as an effective recruiting tool; even their almost-defeat in 2008 to their meteoric resurgence in 2014 has been explained as prophecy fulfilled. McCants’ in his conclusion notes several ways at tackling the upstart ‘caliphate’, but neglects to mention attacking the underlying prophecy. McCants argues that “reducing the mass appeal of [Daesh] is pointless,” however, it can be argued that attacking the apocalypticism of the group may prove fruitful in stemming the tide of recruits or at least diminishing its legitimacy-through-prophecy. McCants is correct when he says “the ideological fight is an actual fight.” (McCants, 156) Furthermore, McCants notes that Daesh ideology is not immutable: having been modified post-2008 to focus more on state-building rather than preparing for the Mahdi. (McCants, 154) Could its ideology be further altered as time goes on, perhaps as a result of new ‘caliphs’ or internal instability?

What is the best way to deal with the Islamic State? While McCants argues against a renewed presence of American land forces, and for good reason, the alternative: a long-term bombing campaign to contain and degrade, will not destroy Daesh. McCants also argues that the best way to undermine Daesh is to directly assault its two slogans: “enduring and expanding”. McCants argues that this can be done only when the “Shi’i governments in Syria and Iraq reach an accommodation with their Sunni citizens.” (McCants, 157) McCants’s argument, while superficially sound, ignores the fact that such accommodations are unlikely to be reached due to the tribalist and sectarian views in the Islamic world, and the fact that such a policy is based on continuing the artificial borders set up by the Sykes-Picot agreement, which artificially created the boundaries that Daesh disdains and which contribute to sectarian violence. (McCants, 124) One question which can be asked is whether or not undermining the spurious prophecies Daesh relies on may contribute to undermining its influence. Finally, McCants argues that disrupting Daesh’s finances “will be difficult because the group does not rely much on outside funding,” however, it may certainly help undermine the fiscal health of the Islamic State to destroy the illicit oil trade into Turkey and target its internal funding and disrupt the utilities and services it provides to erode support.

Book Review: The Genocidal Mentality

8352597In the first five chapters of Lifton and Markusen’s The Genocidal Mentality, the authors put forth a compelling argument that a genocidal mindset has rooted itself in the modern world’s psyche as a result of the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons. This danger is quite real, and has not dissipated, despite the end of the Cold War. The authors link this mentality to the Nazi genocidal mindset, and argue that both share alarming parallels. Notably, much like ‘ordinary Germans’ became swept up in the Nazi movement and became increasingly radicalized and genocidal, the same may be said for the world today, such as with the belief that Mutually Assured Destruction, a form of “psychic numbing”, is actually not only effective and rational, but ethical. The dangers of “launch on warning,” are very real, as the authors point out, and the slightest mistake or error is capable of jeopardizing the entire future of our species.
The second chapter examines just how this mindset arose, from the strategic bombing campaigns of the Allies, to the atomic bombings on Japan, to the development of MAD, which made official public policy the genocide of millions of people in retaliation, and, as the authors put it, “massive brutalization.” Lifton and Markusen go on to discuss the ‘normalization’ of nuclear weapons in the modern mindset, and argues that the mindset has evolved through three waves, the second of which is the notion that we are ultimately helpless and must, in effect “learn to live with them,” which seems terribly fatalistic even if it is a common enough argument.
The authors go on to discuss Nazi ideology and the beginnings of the genocidal mindset in the third chapter. That Nazi’s practiced “apocalyptic biology” whith a goal of “killing to heal.” The authors then examine how American victory in WWII, not loss, engendered the nation with a universal trauma due to fear of these weapons. Ultimately, the authors argue that the genocidal mindset had arisen long before the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons to extreme lengths. Due to this collective trauma, the American people went through alternating paroxysms of fear and numbing before finally, rather like an abuse victim with a case of Stockholm Syndrome, embracing nuclearism – nuclear weapons as something which was fundamentally necessary and a source of “strength, protection, and safety.”
In the following chapter, the authors go on to examine nuclear technology, and argue that ultimately the pursuit of harnessing and attempting to control nuclear science is a form of psychism and an expression of man’s need to be able to control the totality of our external environment. This psychism is also embraced by radicals such as apocalyptic Christians in the U.S., who eagerly anticipate a nuclear armageddon which will usher in the Second Coming. (p. 85)
The fifth chapter again returns to a discussion on the Nazi genocidal mentality, and draws parallels between Nazi professionals and American physicists in regards as to how both sides attempted to rationalize and justify genocide.
While somewhat dated, this book is intrinsically important to understanding the danger posed by nuclear weapons, which are arguably a far greater threat to the world than terrorism. This idea is touched on in more recent works, most notably Eric Schlosser’s seminal Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. Lifton and Markusen’s work is incredibly relevant today, as contrary to popular sentiment, nuclear deterrence, is not assurance, and it is important to understand the risks of even a limited nuclear genocide, such as is possible between India and Pakistan.

The latter half of The Genocidal Mindset examines more of the psychological aspects of nuclearism and how we may overcome these through a “species mentality.” Chapter six examines the concept of learned helplessness, and the feeling ordinary people experience as they decide they must go along with something just because it is already in place, and regardless of whether it is right or wrong. Whereas Nazis dehumanized the people they killed by describing them as vermin or bacteria, proponents of nuclearism engage in the same process by viewing victims of nuclear genocide as numbers on a computer screen. Chapters 7 and 8 continue viewing nuclearism through a psychological perspective, with the former examining deterrence and dissociation through psychic numbing, doubling, and denial. At the end of chapter 7, the authors argue that there has been in recent years a decline in the “cult of deterrence.” While this may prove true with the general public’s perceptions of deterrence, that is not the case with strategic planners, as both the U.S. and Russia have not abandoned Launch on Warning, and 2014 Russian nuclear doctrine permits first use of nuclear weapons against a conventionally armed enemy.
The fundamental argument behind chapter 8 is that we are all potential victims of nuclear self-genocide, and that we also collude with nuclear proponents, much like victims of Nazi genocide colluded with their killers as a means of psychic numbing. Furthermore, the authors argue rather convincingly that nuclear devices are inherently dangerous to the democratic process since by their very secretive nature they tend towards extreme centralization.
The authors conclude their work on a rather too-optimistic note, arguing that it is necessary to replace our current genocidal mentality with a species wide mentality. While this seems ostensibly a good idea, and indeed would be the preferable outcome, it ignores that humans are intrinsically tribal, and divide themselves between nations, politics, religions, and ethnicities.
This book is all the more pertinent since last week saw Washington D.C. host the Biennial Nuclear Security Summit, and recent years have seen a rise in nationalism in the U.S. and Europe. In the U.S., jingoistic presidential candidate Donald Trump recently announced his preference for non-nuclear states, such as Japan and Saudi Arabia, to possess nuclear weapons without relying on the umbrella of U.S. protection. This reckless disregard for the cataclysmic dangers of nuclear proliferation is coupled with the fact that he has also not ruled out using nuclear weapons should a general European war break out. Likewise, in Europe, due to the failure of the European Union in the last few years coupled with the ongoing immigration crisis, Europe has seen the rise of similarly jingoistic rhetoric and poll numbers from Marine Le Pen from France’s National Front, Greece’s Golden Dawn, and the UK Independence Party; It seems unlikely that Lifton and Markusen’s goal of a species-wide mentality is attainable.

Book Review: Until the Fires Stopped Burning: 9/11 and New York City in the Words and Experiences of Survivors and Witnesses

11782045In Until the Fires Stopped Burning, Strozier examines the human perspective of the events of 9/11, exploring the myriad, varied, personal responses of New Yorkers and those watching the events unfold on television. Dividing the population in several zones, Strozier examines how the reactions to the event varied between survivors in Zone 1, witnesses in Zone 2, participants in Zone 3, and onlookers in Zone 4.
Within Zone 1, survivors experienced shock and many believed that what was happening was impossible, and experienced psychic numbing. Whereas accidental disasters end eventually and knowledge of that eventual end may be comforting, the attack on 9/11 was viewed as an apocalyptic attack. Those in Zone 2 were ‘one-step removed’, and since their senses were not stimulated as those in Zone 1, they experienced different psychological consequences. Those in Zone 4 were even further removed, having been restricted to watching the events unfold over television. This can clearly be seen in the example given of the television anchor Jennings, who experiences dissociation when he is unable to comprehend the collapse of the towers.
Strozier makes links to several historic parallels between disasters and the psychological response exhibited immediately afterwards – the 1904 sinking of the General Slocum, the Triangle Waist Company Fire, and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. In all three of these examples, there is an underlying understanding of the sacredness of the body, and the importance of recovering corporeal remains. Strozier argues well that the events of 9/11 violated these human norms of body identification and recovery.

Furthermore, the number of deaths involved is not as important as the nature of the event itself. Using the example of a typhoon killing tens of thousands, Strozier argues that attacks such as 9/11 are apocalyptic and have no ‘end’, whereas natural disasters do. This can be seen throughout all of human history, and is exemplified in the example of the Greek historian Thucydides, who gives a mere passing mention to the disastrous 464 BCE earthquake which killed ~20,000 Greeks but devotes large spaces of text to the Peloponnesian War; natural disasters affect us differently psychologically than man-made disasters such as wars or terrorist acts.
Chapter 7 explores the notion of ‘traumasong’, and how rhythmic language is a way for survivors to engage in psychological healing. Chapter 8 examines further the role of television, and while I strongly disagree with the statement that television “has enriched the cultural experiences of many hundreds of millions of people,” the chapter raises several salient points. Most notably, Strozier argues that television confuses the senses of viewers and fosters psychological numbing. Furthermore, two of the four psychological effects of television stood out in the reading: the overstimulation effect caused by the endlessly repeated images of violence, and the numbing effect caused by the overwhelming coverage. Most interesting is the argument that this distance from personally experiencing the events of 9/11 led to a diminished sense of agency, manifested in the response to kill in retribution for the 9/11 attacks. This is contrasted with the events of Chapter 9, in which the ‘hidden children’ exhibit none of the jingoism or calls for retribution others experienced.

In Part 2 of Until the Fires Stopped Burning, Strozier examines the psychological and physical effects the events of 9/11 had on New Yorkers even ten years afterwards.
While the psychological and mental impact the events had is enormous, equally important yet less emphasized are the toxins and hazardous material which lingered over the area like a sickly miasma, and which undoubtedly contributed to many survivor’s chronic illnesses. Additionally, the criminal negligence of government agencies, which sought to reopen the financial district at the cost of human health, is deplorable. Yet one agency performed as well as could be expected under the circumstances – Hirsch in the OCME. In this case, as well as throughout the book, Strozier draws myriad comparisons to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima – the intense heat and ‘vaporization’ of many victims, the lack of recoverable and identifiable remains, This lack of a physical body affected many people deeply psychologically, as the author discussed earlier in the work the importance is of the body to living kin and remembrance.
Strozier goes on to examine the disrupted lives of those affected by 9/11, and lays particular emphasis on the common survivor trait of “failed enactment”, or the belief that he/she has failed to act correctly, or that he/she may have done something different in the moment. Survivor guilt and religiosity also play an important part in the psychological response many people exhibited to the attacks.
The author takes a detour to examine the impact of 9/11 on the pregnancies of several women, and the psychological responses they exhibited. One woman, Leslie, is notable for experiencing a continually growing sense of fear which became more and more apocalyptic as she felt that “everywhere danger lurked.”
Part III is more of a ten-year retrospective, and Strozier argues that it is necessary to contextualize the terror attacks historically, writing: “[9/11] seemed like such an incredible surprise […] though in retrospect we failed to heed many warning.” Strozier goes on to argue that at the time the U.S. was distracted and overly-confident in its own capabilities and global position, and “that sense of exceptionalism”, made the trauma and shock of 9/11 all the more visceral. The result is an ouroboric “enduring culture of fear,” and again, it is hard not to draw parallels to Lifton’s The Genocidal Mentality. In a sense, the spectre of apocalyptic violence we now live under as a result of 9/11 and the resulting destabilizing conflicts in the Middle East, are not new. During the Cold War, the entire world lived under the threat of mutually assured destruction from the two superpowers. With the ending of the Cold War, Americans no longer viewed nuclear weapons as as dangerous as they once were considered to be; yet, the nuclear threat had never disappeared or diminished. 9/11 perhaps reawakened the underlying apocalyptic feelings and rudely brought them into the 21st century.

Conservativism and Stoicism

So I just started watching this interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson and popular Youtuber Sargon of Akkad, and it got me thinking about several things.

One of the themes was individualism and careerism, and the lack of community/family ties in the modern world.  The modern over-emphasis on individualism I find particularly destructive to society. The lack of (pride is not the right term, but I’ll use it ) pride in public service/duty is another.

From a review of a biography on Edmund Burke: “the individual is not simply a compendium of wants; human happiness is not simply a matter of satisfying individual wants; and the purpose of politics is not to satisfy the interests of individuals living now. It is to preserve a social order which addresses the needs of generations past, present and future.”

Cato the Younger is one of my heroes. Not only was he opposed to the brutal Conservative dictatorship of Sulla when he was young, but he fought to preserve the Roman Republic against the populist dictatorship of Julius Caesar. And while I admire his steadfastness to his ideals, as Massimo notes in his review of a biography of Cato, “Cato being trapped by his own ideals is a recurrent” theme.

I am a Burkean Conservative, and a Monarchist, but I also ascribe to Polybius’ Theory of Anacyclosis, which argues that society is never fully stable, and cyclically devolves from Monarchy to Tyranny, and from Democracy to Ochlocracy (mob rule), and back again. Much like the Stoic pneuma, society is always active and organizing, and like the pneuma, when the end of a cycle is reached in a conflagration (ekpyrôsis) the Cosmos (and society) regenerates itself. Yet while Society is organic and evolving, social change is not necessarily always a good thing.

To quote one of my favorite authors, John Michael Greer:

It’s always possible that a given change, however well-intentioned, will result in consequences that are worse than the problems that the change is supposed to fix. In fact, if social change is pursued in a sufficiently clueless fashion, the consequences can cascade out of control, plunging a nation into failed-state conditions, handing it over to a tyrant, or having some other equally unwanted result. What’s more, the more firmly the eyes of would-be reformers are fixed on appealing abstractions, and the less attention they pay to the lessons of history, the more catastrophic the outcome will generally be.

That, in Edmund Burke’s view, was what went wrong in the French Revolution. His thinking differed sharply from continental European conservatives, in that he saw no reason to object to the right of the French people to change a system of government that was as incompetent as it was despotic. It was, the way they went about it—tearing down the existing system of government root and branch, and replacing it with a shiny new system based on fashionable abstractions—that was problematic.

 

I’m Back!!! (sort of…)

Well, it’s been an interesting (weird/sad/happy) seven odd years since I began this blog (and posted any content).

 

Well, it’s time for a direction change…

 

I’m keeping the blog name and logo, mostly because I’m too lazy to change it, but also because I like the name.

 

I’ll post occasionally on paleo-topics, but the main focus of the blog will shift to Stoicism, polytheism, philosophy, politics, history, etc.

 

 

New JVP issue out: Cardabiodon ricki is now known from North America

Cover of JVP
The newest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology has been published by Taylor and Francis and is available online.  Lots of new and interesting things out.  One of the more interesting articles in my opinion is the discovery of Cardabiodon ricki in North America.

Previous to this new description, C. ricki has only been known from scant fossilized remains from Australia and Europe. (Siverson & Lindgren, 2005) Cardabiodon ricki was first described in 1999 by Mikael Siverson from a tooth found in Australia, and since then numerous other examples of this species have been found. In Europe, C. ricki is uncommon, but some nicely preserved examples do exist, particularly from the Grey Chalk in Bonchurch, Isle of Wight, England. (Siverson, 1999) Now we have evidence of a much wider distribution for this species that has been suggested before in the literature. The new paper by Cook et al. (2010) describes C. ricki from a late Cenomanian deposit in Alberta, Canada.
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