the atomists

Conservatism, then, is not a commitment to limited government and liberty…These may be the byproducts of conservatism, one or more of its historically specific and ever-changing modes of expression. But they are not its animating purpose…[It] is impelled by a more elemental force – the opposition to the liberation of men and women from the fetters of their superiors, particularly in the private sphere. Such a view might seem miles away from the libertarian defense of the free market, with its celebration of the atomistic and autonomous individual. But it is not. When the libertarian looks out upon society, he does not see isolated individuals; he sees private, often hierarchical, groups, where a father governs his family and an owner his employees.
—  Corey Robin
The current ruling ontology denies any possibility of a social causation of mental illness. The chemico-biologization of mental illness is of course strictly commensurate with its depoliticization. Considering mental illness an individual chemico-biological problem has enormous benefits for capitalism. First, it reinforces Capital’s drive towards atomistic individualization (you are sick because of your brain chemistry). Second, it provides an enormously lucrative market in which multinational pharmaceutical companies can peddle their pharmaceuticals (we can cure you with our SSRIs). It goes without saying that all mental illnesses are neurologically instantiated, but this says nothing about their causation. If it is true, for instance, that depression is constituted by low serotonin levels, what still needs to be explained is why particular individuals have low levels of serotonin. This requires a social and political explanation; and the task of repoliticizing mental illness is an urgent one if the left wants to challenge capitalist realism.
—  Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher
The current ruling ontology denies any possibility of a social causation of mental illness. The chemico-biologization of mental illness is of course strictly commensurate with its depoliticization. Considering mental illness and individual chemicl-biological problem has enormous benefits for capitalism. First, it reinforces Capital’s drive towards atomistic individualization (you are sick because of your brain chemistry). Second, it provides an enormous lucrative market in which multinational pharmaceutical companies can peddle their pharmaceuticals (we can cure you with our SSRIs). It goes without saying that all mental illnesses are neurologically instantiated, but this says nothing about their causation. If it is true, for instance, that depression is constituted by low serotonin levels, what still needs to be explained is why particular individuals have low levels of serotonin. This requires a social and political explanation; and the task of repoliticizing mental illness is an urgent one if the left wants to challenge capitalist realism.
It does not seem fanciful to see parallels between the rising incidence of mental distress and new patterns of assessing workers’ performance.
—  Mark Fisher - Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?

Outline for an essay I don’t have the energy to write or sufficiently research right now (all highly speculative!):

Thesis: Colonizing Mars is a bad idea, with very little to gain (except the aesthetic, which for some people–including me–is quite compelling). It absolutely shouldn’t be done right now, and certainly not by Elon Musk.

I. Economic considerations:

A. It’s expensive, of course; but beyond that there is no economic incentive to put a permanent human settlement on Mars. Mars has no resources which can’t be found on Earth, and very many that can’t (including many that would have to be imported, like oxygen).

B. Self-sufficiency would be extremely difficult. Lack of oxygen; lack of Earthlike soil in which to grow plants; lack of a microbiome to support a ground-up ecology; minor equipment failures could be catastrophic. Even if self-sufficiency was attained, a Mars colony would have trouble exporting anything of value to create wealth. Resources would have to be lifted out of Mars’ gravity, and sent all the way to Earth, and any imports back to Mars would be even more expensive (Earth’s gravity is greater, and air resistance is worse). Non primary/secondary sector industries would have to contend with the primitive state of the Martian economy, lag times between Mars/Earth communication, difficulty of establishing a high-bandwidth connection.

C. This doesn’t even get into power generation issues (dust storms and further distance from the sun inhbit solar a bit, but it’s the best option; no fossil fuels unless you ship them from Earth; nuclear fuel also a good choice, but IDK if you’d have to send that from Earth or you could expect to find it in situ; Mars’ atmosphere is very thin, so wind power probably wouldn’t work so well).

D. Any useful resource extraction will be badly outcompeted by much more profitable applications of the same engineering breakthroughs that would support Mars colonization, that is to say, asteroid mining, where there’s only one gravity well to contend with (Earth’s), and you can just schlepp the thing into orbit. Or lunar mining (gravity is still much weaker than Mars, no dust storms or air resistance to contend with).

E. This is more of a footnote really, but: any useful unique scientific breakthroughs to come out of getting a permanent population to mars are more likely to be engineering breakthroughs, with narrow applicability. Good science can be done easier, more safely, and cheaper with robots. Or even with putting humans in orbit of Mars and sending robots to the surface. This is the problem with all manned space exploration, especially as robotics and AI improves.

II. Environmental considerations

A. Mars is a nearly pristine environment about which we know comparatively little. Compare Antarctica; it would be better to preserve it as it is for all of humanity and for future generations, than to colonize it and risk damaging that environment (especially if it has native life!).

(Speaking of Antarctica: Antarctica is much closer, much more hospitable to humans, and we’ve been going there for centuries. Its current population is… a whopping 1 to 5000 depending on the season, roughly zero of which is permanent. This is a good proxy for the actual usefulness of Mars colonization, I feel.)

B. (This part could also go in economics section) No sustained environmental pressure on Earth makes Mars colonization attractive; Earth can support billions more, emigration to Mars would remain expensive and difficult, Mars unlikely to be able to support large human population for decades or centuries after colonization.

C. From a purely environmentalist standpoint: even if Mars doesn’t have life, it’s still an *environment*, if a dead one; it’s as unique and interesting in its own right as any other environment in the Solar System. Wantonly invading that environment is morally suspect (from certain perspectives), especially in the absence of a compelling utility to humanity (”it would be awesome” probably doesn’t count).

III. Political considerations

A. Recapitulating atomistic individualist politics in an environment which will demand high degrees of cooperation is dicey. (I may be very wrong about this, but) Musk’s flavor of intrepidity (is that a word?), while admirable, seems very much based on this outlook.

B. Under this worldview, colonization in an environment where profits are unlikely to be had, disagreement is likely to exist between competing people with highly articulated visions for a future society, and individuals play an outsized role in political organization–but a high degree of cooperation is necessary to be successful–such an enterprise seems dicey at best.

C. Add to this the fact that oversight from existing legal structures will be nil, and actual ability to send people to intervene virtually nonexistent. Compare, by way of example, the political chaos that existed in early colonization efforts in America (h/t to @femmenietzsche‘s podcasts on the subject), where the environment was much *more* hospitable, and economic incentives to colonization existed at least in theory (gold, tobacco, acquiring slaves for sugar plantations).

(Luckily, Mars has no native population, so we can at least be assured that particular kind of monstrosity will not be recapitulated.)

D. There exist forms of political organization, and visions of civil society, that I think would be well adapted to the Martian context (consesus decisionmaking, anarchosyndicalism, even just the comparatively modest reforms to modern liberal capitalism proposed by people like Yanis Varoufakis that would minimize wealth inequality and prevent the emergence of huge social divisions in an early colony). They haven’t been tried at large scale though; I don’t think Musk is a particular supporter of those ideas (could be wrong); and any colonization attempt steeped in atomistic individualism/strong libertarianism is likely to be skeptical of such forms of organization.

E. Incidentally I think any group of initial colonists should be stacked so as to encourage a unique Martian ethnogenesis: it should be diverse, favoring no nationality or ethnic group (as much as possible), but with a strong common ideological reference point. It should try as much as possible to take the positive lessons of historical settler colonialism, while learning from the negatives (again, luckily no natives to displace; but nativism still possible, and the importing of old prejudices from Earth.)

F. But I think it would be better to hold off colonizing Mars at a large scale until we’re better about dealing with political tensions in general, and we can apply well-tested lessons learned on Earth to any attempt to build a new society on another planet.

IV. Miscellany

A. Trying to build human-hospitable environments on Mars is difficult and kinda dumb. Trying to terraform it is even dumber. Better to just genetically engineer humans and Earth biota to survive better on Mars (or at least to survive on a semi-terraformed Mars, or isolated environments that don’t have to be made entirely Earthlike). The energy cost is far lower, for the simple reason you don’t have to move millions of kg of stuff around to accomplish it (or worry about your terraformed atmosphere leaking off into space, because Mars is a low-gravity shithole that only seems attractive for colonization because Venus melts lead).

B. But honestly, if we’re going to go that far, just genetically and cybernetically engineer humans to live in asteroids, or a hard vacuum or something; much science fiction, and actual ambition, around human colonization of other worlds and spacefaring in general is predicated around the assumption we must make the universe hospitable to us; why not make ourselves hospitable to the universe? The essentially good things about humanity are not our number of toes or the spectrum of light we use to see, so there’s no reason to be too attached to them–and if we indeed want to ensure the survivability of our descendants, while being a multi-planet species is a start, being able to exist somewhere other than the very narrow shell of temperatures/air pressures/chemically favorable environments found on the surface of the Earth would be even better.

Individualists have always been accused by their enemies of being ‘atomistic’–of postulating that each individual lives in a kind of vacuum, thinking and choosing without relation to anyone else in society. This, however, is an authoritarian straw man; few, if any, individualists have ever been “atomists.” On the contrary, it is evident that individuals always learn from each other, cooperate and interact with each other; and that this, too, is required for man’s survival. But the point is that each individual makes the final choice of which influences to adopt and which to reject, or of which to adopt first and which afterwards. The libertarian welcomes the process of voluntary exchange and cooperation between freely acting individuals; what he abhors is the use of violence to cripple such voluntary cooperation and force someone to choose and act in ways different from what his own mind dictate.
—  Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty

anonymous asked:

So i'm trying to find a way to articulate to peeps about how the whole "privilege checklist" thing is not functionally helpful but I'm struggling a lot due to the fact that the nuance can be very easily misunderstood and upsetting if miscommunicated, do you have any advice for saying this? Thanks!

i guess you can say something about how “privilege checklist” mentality turns things that are supposed to be social relations into a series of individual atomistic attributes. also how placing the emphasis on what traits are attached to specific individuals encourages slippage that ignores historical-cultural contexts and whatnot

I actually really like the term “atomistic individualism” because the original greek word means “unbreakable” which is good and it also evokes imagery of the recreational nukes which is better.

Consider mental illnesses an individual chemico-biological problem has enormous benefits for capitalism. First, it reinforces Capital’s drive towards atomistic individualisation (you are sick because of your brain chemistry). Second, it provides an enormously lucrative market in which multinational pharmaceutical can peddle their pharmaceuticals (we can cure you with our SSRI’s). It goes without saying that all mental illnesses are neurologically instantiated, but this says nothing about their causation. If it is true, for instance, that depression is constituted by low serotonin levels, what still needs to be explained is why particular individuals have low levels of serotonin. This requires a social and political explanation; and the task of repoliticalising mental illness is an urgent one if the left wants to challenge capitalist realism.
—  Capitalism Realism - Mark Fisher
Perhaps most famously, Malcolm X recounts in his autobiography that when a white college girl heard him speak on white racism and agonizingly asked him “What can I do?” he dismissed her with a terse reply “Nothing.” Up until the last year of his life, Malcolm X argued that the white “man” was the devil, destroying black lives, families and communities and thus there was nothing that white people could do to help the United States achieve racial justice for black people and other people of color. White people inevitably were the problem, according to Malcolm X, and the only positive thing they could do was stay out of the Black people’s way.

White people are a big part of the problem. So too, of course, are white-privileging institutions, tax codes and other societal structures that help sustain white domination. But not all white domination operates on an impersonal level. A great deal of it functions through the practices and habits of individual white people and the predominantly white families and communities to which they belong. This does not mean that white people are atomistic individuals, sealed off from the world around them. On the contrary: like all human beings (and other living organisms), white people are constituted in and through the transactional relationships with their environments. Their experiences, beliefs and behaviors both are shaped by and contribute to a white-dominated world. And so the personal question of what white people can do still needs to be asked and answered. To say that white people can do nothing is to let them off the hook too easily. It says that they do not  have to respond to the racist damage that white people historically have and presently continue to cause and it countenances their continued negligence and inaction with regard to white domination of black people and other people of color.

Racial justice movements are not dependent on white people for their success. The struggles, protests and demands of people of color have been and most likely will continue to be the main motor driving racial justice movements. But white people can play a positive role in those movements as well. In fact, I think they have a small but somewhat unique role to play given the persistence of de facto racial segregation in workplaces, neighborhoods, school systems, places of worship and so one. Just as feminist movements need men who are willing to speak out against sexism and male privilege - especially in all-male settings such as lockers and fraternity houses - racial justice movements need white people who are willing to speak and act against white racism when they encounter it in their families, neighborhoods, workplaces and elsewhere. As important as women are to feminist change, eliminating sexism should not be reduced to “women’s work.” Likewise, white people who care about racial justice should not sit back and wait for people of color to clean up the mess that white people have made. White people need to make a positive contribution to racial justice even though their contributions will be secondary to those of people of color.
—  Good White People: The Problem with Middle-Class White Anti-Racism
By Shannon Sullivan

wnrvz  asked:

Bacteria interacting with nanoparticles sounds like an interesting topic. Do you have any articles you'd recommend reading? I'm more of a theorist, so articles without too much biology would be easier to understand. Also, I followed your twitter and was curious of what the liquids in the picture are.

One very comprehensive review that covers bacteria and more is:
Analytical aspects of nanotoxicology. Ian L. Gunsolus and Christy L. Haynes. Analytical Chemistry, 2016, 88 (1), 451-479.

I also do know computational chemists who work on bacteria/nanoparticle interaction problems and one such paper from those friends would be:
Ab initio atomistic thermodynamics study of the (001) surface of LiCoO2 in a water environment and implications for reactivity under ambient conditions. Xu Huang, Joseph William Bennett, Mimi N. Hang, Elizabeth D. Laudadio, Robert J. Hamers and Sara E. Mason, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 2017, 121 (9), 5069-5080.

Also, I occasionally write blog posts at Sustainable Nano which is mostly written for the layperson but is still really fun to read! 

And like…again shameless plug for following me @Smilesnvials on twitter, my cover photo is a set of “glowsticks” we made for an outreach event. I cannot remember exactly which each molecule was but it was very similar to this activity: https://science.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-your-own-homemade-glow-sticks-0146580/

 This outreach event is a day-camp for 7th and 8th grade girls interested in science and it is hosted/run by the women graduate students in chemistry here, so we run the activities and give them tours of the chemistry building and eat lunch with them and talk to them about science. It’s pretty cool.

The Roman poet Lucretius (ca. 94–ca. 55 BCE) wrote a poem in 56 BCE describing the views of Greek philosophers who, like him, believed the universe to be composed of atoms. This poem is the only record of the beliefs of these early atomists whose works were lost due to their unpopular views. Lucretius’ poem was lost as well, but a copy was discovered in 1417. The veneer of venerable ancient scientists helped convince classics-mad chemists during the Enlightenment to investigate (or at least consider) the atomic theory. Today it is widely accepted.

Finally, we note that distinguishing Christian uniqueness by isolating metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics is somewhat artificial and atomistic. All these separate elements are necessary interconnected strands of a unique and unified system of thought, or more correctly, a  unique historical and eschatological story/meta-narrative, which places all humanity within an epic cosmic drama of creation—fall—redemption—consummation with a particular focal point. This history of redemption and redemptive history is thoroughly Christocentric—it is the good news of Jesus Christ which is both the message of Christianity and the heart of the Christian worldview and philosophy. It is the transcendent uniqueness of his person and his work that distinguishes Christianity from all other “faiths” and gives Christianity its exclusive or particular claims.
— 

Daniel Strange

anonymous asked:

Hello, what do you think is the error of Ayn Rand? please i expect an intelligent answer not a fanatic answer because i think you are an intelligent person and all the answers i get refering Rand are so straw man or they simply give me links to other people´s opinion.Hope you don´t mind my english lacks.

i’ll try and deal with this as comprehensively as i can. obviously my own worldview is so far removed from that of liberalism and in particular “libertarianism”/objectivism that i could write an entire book’s worth of arguing with it, but i’ll try and keep it as brief as possible here. i’ll deal with objectivist metaphysics first, from there move onto rand’s epistemology and then by way of ethics, discuss the political dimension of objectivism. i’ll leave aside aesthetics because it’s not as relevant to the discussion and my own views are less well defined in that area.

before i launch into this, i want to clarify some things beforehand in case this gets notes; i am a marxist-leninist but i used to be an anarcho-capitalist and a libertarian. i was never an objectivist but i was friends with people who were, and my views aligned with theirs on most occasions. i have read atlas shrugged plus numerous other libertarian works before. this isn’t something i’m approaching without previous knowledge.

anyway, to start with, objectivist metaphysics. ayn rand basically posited that there’s three “axioms” which are irrefutable - existence, consciousness and identity. what’s basically said is that “a=a”; something is what it is, and not part of a wider framework. from this one obviously derives that the individual is the smallest part of society, the “atom” which forms part of the body politic. anything transcendent and immaterial is false, so objectivism largely requires atheism.

at first this metaphysical model appears all very well, but it in fact forgets two important things; first of all that the “ego” or “individual” isn’t something which comes about through some deterministic self-formation but instead via contact with what is radically Other. one can only know what one is if one can distinguish oneself in “contradiction” to other objects around you, and this isn’t something inherent at all; it only becomes clearly expressed as we enter the “Symbolic Order”, in which language defines relations in firm though unconscious terms. the only relation whereby we aren’t in ego-based contradiction to something is when this consciousness does not exist at all; i.e. in death

an approach which sees relations, rather than objects as the core is what’s required. all things exist dialectically, in contradictions. life is opposed by death, capitalism by socialism, positivity by negativity, cause by effect and so on ad infinitum. everything is, as heraclitus said, in flux and stable essential “identities” are a fiction - uneven dialectical relations constantly shape and change the objects in those relations

this fantasy of a sovereign, self-determining atomistic subject is in fact the core of objectivism, and once blown apart the entire structure of objectivism crumbles with it. nevertheless, i’ll continue to show how this underlying weakness (plus others) manifest themselves in other aspects of objectivism.

objectivist epistemology is based on an “objective” view of “logic” which is similarily pinned to the idea of identity - rand claims that consciousness is identity, yet fails to make clear how this relation neccesarily is and doesn’t elaborate on how identity forms from consciousness, because that would require her to admit the idea of the atomistic identity unaffected by outside forces is idealist and immaterial; in direct contradiction to her claimed materialism. 

what follows on from this is objectivist ethics, which are notorious for their worship of selfishness and greed. every ego is only “rational” in acting in their own self interest, since they have no obligations to any kind of other outside them. everything is phrased in terms of “rationality” and in particular on the liberal myth of “homo economicus” who is a rational actor and always acts in their own interest. the fact this homo economicus is based in an idealist, anti-scientific fantasy about a univeral, fixed “human nature” is something many of them don’t realize, or do but don’t acknowledge.

finally we come to rand’s politics and when we look at it in the light of what we’ve discussed before, and with regards to rand’s writings, we’re left with a concluson: the entire system is built on ahistorical presumptions; objectivism would proclaim that all modes of production prior to capitalism were inherently “immoral” since “laissez-faire capitalism” is the only moral system. seen in this light, objectivism is guilty of the same kind of historicism and teleology that many of them fault marxism with (the fact marxism doesn’t live up to the hegelian distortion of it perpetuated by many is a subject for another ask). this isn’t even something rand tried to hide - she openly engaged in racist diatribes about how native americans and arabs were “primitive” and stood in the way of “progress” (progress being defined in terms of Western liberal Enlightenment terms of course). rand also saw any arab objections to zionism as being “jealousy”, and not of course based in the oppression of palestinians.

rand was also a notorious homophobe and anti-feminist; she claimed that homosexuality was “immoral” and that the essence of femininity was to worship men and to want to be dominated by men. objectivism is very much a deeply patriarchal ideology.

finally, even rand’s vision of “laissez-faire” capitalism is ridiculously contradictory. ayn rand wasn’t an anarcho-capitalist; she supported a state, and in particular state courts which meant she inherently favoured the state regulating the market, even if only through prosecuting fraud and the like. even then, her vision has never existed, because the “minarchist” state always expands to help reproduce the relations of production and stave off revolt by the lower classes, as well as to ensure domination in other matters; “laissez-faire” britain’s wealth was built on colonization, protectionism and multiple other violations of what “laissez-faire capitalism” is supposed to be (in theory). clearly, this means that since “laissez-faire capitalism” is the only moral system, we’re living immorally and always have been. and since “laissez-faire capitalism” is an impossibility, we always will be.

all of this taken together, we then realize that objectivism isn’t “scientific” at all, as it would like to claim; it is in fact a fallacious ideology created for the purpose of justifying the evils of capitalism. it claims its very narrow, enlightenment view of the world is “objective”, when in fact it simply expresses all the typical shibboleths of liberal ideology; idealism, humanism, historicism, eurocentrism and justification for capitalism.

president-greyshades-deactivate  asked:

what problem do you have with libertarianism?

Moral bankruptcy, atomist-individualism and in many cases support for things that are downright hostile to my people’s way of life (open borders and free migration, for one). Also mental gymnastics like suggesting that the solution to freeloading migrants is cutting the social safety net for everyone including natives instead of just no longer letting them into the country.