Re: Neal Stephenson's new essay

Mark Phillips (
Sat, 14 Aug 1999 11:25:20 CDT

Admittedly, I am joining this thread *in medias res*, but it seems to me that Molloy has the better (more verisimilitudinous) point(s). Surely, it is *not* just "Ahh, Politics and Theism---run away, run away." It is that
*religion-as-so-far-historically-manifested* AND
*politics-as-so-far-historically-manifested* are, both cognitively (i.e.,
conceptually) AND socially, highly entropic, and, indeed, ludicro-pathetic
*games* (*games* in the sense of a hybrid combination of meaning(s)
combining Berne/Harris, Von Neumann/Morganstern, and Wittgenstein).

As for Politics, please make a close study of Public Choice Theory in general, and, in particular, please read Anthony de Jasay's truly excellent treatise, *The State* (reprinted, with a new preface, recently by LibertyPress out of Indiana). Jasay clearly and masterfully demonstrates that the institution *The State* does indeed have an *inherent* agenda/trajectory toward authoritarian/totalitarian socialism, precisely as Molloy suggests. Need I even argue that this would be highly problematic (i.e., dangerous if not catastrophic) in the context of nanotech, AI/SI, and pico-, femto- and hyperspatial-technologies? Now, I am open to slight (or, as some might see them, not-so-slight) revisions/modifications to pure libertarian "anarchism" (see the works of Louis O. Kelso, for instance), but it is surely the case that the Nation-State as we know it is inherently an illegitimate, oppressive, expropriative, and bullying monstrosity which needs to be radically modified, if not, indeed, more-or-less scrapped altogether. Any broad-and-deep reading of history coupled with economic and political/jurisprudential theory leads virtually inevitably to such a conclusion. See also Randy Barnett's excellent *The Structure of Liberty* (Oxford U. Pr., 1998)
If we keep playing the *politics-as-usual* **GAMES** within
*political-institutions-as-we-now-know-them* (the institutions themselves
being ossified *games* of decades and centuries past), then we *may* be in for some deep doo-doo in the not-too-distant-future.

As for religion and theism....Pul-leeeze, give me a frickin' break! Surely, organized religions are, for the most part, little more than rackets. (With the exception, maybe, of "free thought"---as in "Think for Yourself, Schmuck!"--RAW). One need not be "religious" to be "spiritual", and one need not be exactly "spiritual" (depending upon what one means by this latter term) to nonetheless be *philosopically contemplative*, concerned with metaphysical (more-or-less literally meta-physical, if this is coherent) issues, (meta)cosmological issues and (meta)normative/axiological/jurisprudential issues, etc.

As for theism in particular, while I must give respectful credit to Mortimer J. Adler's fine attempt to come up with a coherent cosmolgical argument for "God" and thus give the term "God" some sort of specific meaning (instead of the *de facto* ultra-vague notion of some sort of "ultimacy" or "ultimate entity")---see his book *How to Think about God, an Argument for the 20th Century Pagan* (HarperCollins)---surely, again, anyone who takes the time to really survey the literature, will come out more-or-less atheist. See not only George Smith's classic, *Atheism: The Case Against God*, but, especially, Michael Martin's *Atheism: A Philosophical Defense* (Temple U. Pr., 1989), and the late J.L. Mackie's *The Miracle of Theism* (Oxford U. Pr., 1986). Also important here is the late Robert Wesson's *Cosmos & MetaCosmos: An Argument for a Non-theistic Non-Materialism* (Open Court Pr., 1986).

I'm all for "spirituality" in the sense of, say, "(meta)cosmological appreciativeness/contemplativeness" coupled with an extropian/eudaimonistic benevolence and goodwill-toward-others, but one can *HAVE* all this and yet be utterly secular and (more-or-less) atheistic.

Just my 2 (or maybe 3 or 4) cents, guys and gals!

Ciao for now!

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