Ab absurdo, ad libertatem

A while back, I happened across the Atheism Resource's "Rational Debating" flow chart. The goal of this flow chart is to familiarize readers with rationality, and the chart is certainly useful in helping us reflect on how we can facilitate rational discussion. However, the termination points in this chart -- "This is not a discussion. I will not talk to you about this topic." and "You cheated. The discussion is terminated." -- are problematic, because they terminate discussion entirely, when the given rules of rational debating are not observed. This makes rational debating an ends, rather than a means.


Although the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was dissolved as a political entity in 1991, no definite consensus has emerged regarding the relationship between Lenin, socialism, and the USSR. Investigation of this relationship remains important however, as consensus agrees the USSR was totalitarian; and, if Lenin was a socialist, then socialism may have been the primary source of the USSR's totalitarian bent. This matters today because Leninist-style, single-party communism remains a political force in China, Cuba, and Vietnam, and many observers insist these countries have totalitarian inclinations. Furthermore, popular support for communist and socialist ideas appears to be growing, and if socialism is innately totalitarian then modern socialists are effectively praying to Shiva, misdirecting social energies that should be aimed at reforming capitalism rather than replacing it with a system that could prove even worse. For these reasons, the question remains: was Lenin a socialist?


What is the relationship between biology and politics? This question emerged even before biology and politics were well-defined fields, as political leaders and natural philosophers ruminated on the nature of knowledge, and the connection between human society and the universe. The question came into sharper relief during the nineteenth-century, and in particular after the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859. Darwin's theory provoked reactions and developments in a number of fields far removed from biology, and in connection to politics, the most conspicuous development was social Darwinism.


What are the foundations of mathematics? Early answers to this question were closely related to geometry, and historically, the philosophy of mathematics and the mathematics of geometry maintained a unique connection for more than two thousand years. During this period absolute certainty reigned, and here we shall survey major developments in the evolution of geometry and metamathematics in relation to certitude. We will begin with the origins of the belief in mathematical certainty in Classical Greece, then survey its connection to science through to the seventeenth-century. In closing, we will examine the decline of certainty in the early nineteenth-century, when the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry forced uncertainty on to mathematics and philosophy.


What is Facebook, and what are its implications for the authenticity of Dasein? Here, Facebook itself replies, declaring; "Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life," in pursuit of its "mission ... to give people the power to ... make the world more open and connected." (Hereafter, Facebook is referenced as FB.) Thus FB describes its relation to Dasein using the characteristics: "helps"; "connect"; "share"; "open"; and "power." Structurally speaking therefore, FB believes it "helps" facilitate "open" relationships between people, and positions itself as "the power" that "helps" "connect" "life" on "the world."

With respect to physical extent, FB's claims are accurate, as its digital community involves over 800 million users, and those users span the entire planet. However, these details are not ontologically illuminating, and we observe that FB's response to our question is decidedly ontical, and offers little more than a categorical enumeration. Furthermore, additional investigation of the FB web site reveals no deeper answer, but yields only an expanded feature list. Therefore, the self-descriptions of FB do not open a path towards the answer we seek.


As violins wax maudlin, viewers of the BBC documentary Dangerous Knowledge are introduced to "a small group of ... brilliant minds," who in the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries, "unraveled our old, cozy certainties about math and the universe." These brilliant minds we are told, unraveled certainties that were so unassailable and beguiling that "once they had looked at these problems, they could not look away, and pursued the questions to the brink of insanity, and then over it to madness and suicide." Here, and through the rest of documentary, the presenter suggests a direct, and even mono-causal relation between deep mathematics and deep disturbances of mind, as apparently revealed by the life and works of four brilliant thinkers, including the mathematician and philosopher Kurt Gödel (1906 - 1978).

Gödel, it is true, exhibited paranoia, and the idea that mathematics induced his mind to madness is certainly a romantic one, suggesting the image of a tragically brilliant Narcissus, who observed the reflection of logical structures so beautiful he could not turn away, and was thereby psychically diminished. Quite apart from romanticism however, this begs the question: is this so? Can mathematics push a mind "to the brink of insanity, and then over it"? Is mathematics dangerous knowledge?


For more than ten years, Albert Speer enjoyed unparalleled success working as a Nazi technocrat, ultimately enjoying a degree of political power second only to that of Adolf Hitler himself. Breaking with his bureaucratic success however, Speer claimed at the Nuremberg Trials that even before Germany had lost the war, his apolitical technocratic weltanschauung had been shattered, and that in 1944 he underwent a political awakening that led him to reject his technological achievements, so that he could focus on undermining Nazism. Because Speer's political transformation was motivated by the "nightmare ... danger of ... technocracy," and because the modern world rests atop substantially technocratic foundations, it is imperative that modern students and citizens analyze and understand the nature of Albert Speer's politicization process.