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Three books in one day — splendid!!

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Imagination, Joan of Arc, and Coronation ]
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Oh, the other day was a great day, bringing me three terrific books:

  • Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi: Alone with the Alone
  • Marina Warner, Joan of Arc: the Image of Female Heroism
  • Matthias Range, Music and Ceremonial at British Coronations: From James I to Elizabeth II
  • The Corbin is simply the most dedicated book on spirituality I would take with me if I could, and which I’d dearly love to crack. Marina Warner was a stellar presence in the cofe I frequented in Little Clarendon Street in Oxford, and hijacked me once to help paint her new digs. And the Range? It’s a book I’ve long wished to read and finally, here it is.

    Quite a trio!

    Heather R Higgins on Jordan Peterson, from The Hill

    Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

    [ posted by Charles Cameron — a direct share of Higgins‘ piece, How philosopher Jordan Peterson will change the world ]
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    How philosopher Jordan Peterson will change the world


    © YouTube

    Your first sign that something different is afoot: the event is immediately sold out. The second clue: scalpers want over $500 for rear orchestra seats, and over $1,000 for prime. Yes it’s New York. But this isn’t “Hamilton”. It’s a bloody lecture.

    And when you get there, there isn’t just one line around the block — there are two, one running in either direction. The audience to this beyond-sold-out event is disproportionately male, many young. And in line you overhear references to Jung, identity politics, biology, responsibility, faith, Nietzsche, the importance of not lying, and Solzhenitsyn. Whoa.

    Why is Dr. Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, who recently gained meteoric attention in taking on the thought police and their language criminalizing legislation in Canada, attracting such a huge following of devotees, and eliciting both hatred and real fear among ideologues?
    If you’re a young man, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced socially-approved condescension, because, well, it’s all patriarchy and social injustice and men are privileged (unless they are also part of an approved minority or sexual/gender orientation).

    Young men hear falsehoods peddled as “truths”: That the sexes are not only equal, they are the same in everything but reproductive organs, and that any differences between males and females are socially constructed. That their opinion on any issue of gender is inherently inferior due to their Y chromosomes. That they are implicitly biased, and must have this bias “trained” out of them.

    Additionally, they have observed a movement, where emotions matter and facts don’t, that shuts down critical thought as unsafe, and silences debate through vilification.

    They know these things are wrong. But they don’t know why. They are parched for understanding, hope, and purpose to their lives. And into that desert comes the clear water of Dr. Peterson.

    The first reason Peterson has had such impact is that this is no ordinary psychologist or professor, staying in his narrow lane. Peterson not only is extraordinarily intelligent, but also widely learned. Listening to him is like wrapping your mind with a Paul Johnson history, an interdisciplinary, intercultural, time-traveling tapestry of transcendent themes and truths — where evolutionary biology, history, literature, philosophy, psychology, music, art, religions, culture and myth are all interwoven.

    People find him because of viral YouTube clips, where he dismembers sanctimonious ideologues with a mike-dropping command of fact and logic; they stay for two hour lectures on psychology, mythology, and religious texts — there are more than 400 hours online — on their new-found quest for understanding and meaning.

    Peterson’s focus for decades has been what drives human beings to do evil, particularly the great evils of the 20th century, from Auschwitz to Soviet gulags, as well as helping people have agency over their own lives and the ability to endure and transcend the inescapable suffering of life.

    That empathy makes him singularly effective and compelling: unlike most intellectuals’ arrogant pieties that are driven more by resentment than concern, Peterson is obsessed with actual human suffering. He cares deeply about real people, and particularly the unnecessary suffering caused by others, about which he becomes passionately angry. The high purpose of doing what he can to prevent the evil that human beings do — whether out of malice because they believe there is no meaning to life, or through lofty intentions because that is the price of their putative utopia — permeates his work.

    His third atypical quality is exceptional humility. For Peterson, growth comes from constantly questioning himself, and being open to seeing another person’s point of view, even where the disagreements are profound.

    In consequence, for all the attempts to pigeonhole his beliefs, he can’t be neatly put on left or right, Christian or not. To him routine questions are complicated, and modesty is called for.

    If he does have defining principles, they would seem to be recognizing complexity and nuance, applying deeper wisdom than simplistic materialist explanations, being absolutely truthful, refusing to lie, and speaking out — whatever the cost — against those pernicious ideas and efforts that will hurt others. And because he has been teaching for a long time, he is skilled at taking grand concepts and challenging ideas and accessibly transposing them into everyday lives.

    People may not like what Jordan Peterson says, but he is hard to disagree with. He serves as a role model for many, teaching them that facts do matter, to not assume conventional wisdom is right, to not be simplistic, and that it is not intentions that matter, but consequences.

    Even more importantly, for many individuals, he reconnects them with responsibility for their lives, giving them agency and purpose — and not just for themselves, but in the effect they will then have on the world around them. Peterson is very insistent that each individual decision moves the entire world closer to either heaven or a bottomless hell. Because those aren’t just theoretical places we may go to after we die, but apt descriptions of the worlds we create around us.

    Peterson is in part a font of self-help wisdom, a modern Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, drawing not on faith but on Jung, Nietzsche, Solzhenitsyn, biology, evolution, psychology, and learned wisdom, perceived through myth, religions, and history, all to provide better ways of being.

    But he is also a cultural force. He is the scourge of simplistic, pernicious pieties, including: bias and social oppression as the presumed causes of inequality of outcome, equality of outcome as an unquestioningly desirable and enforced goal, identity as a subjective choice and the sexes as the same, patriarchy, white privilege, implicit bias, safe spaces, affirmative rights, postmodernism, nihilism, neo-Marxism, and identity politics.

    As Peterson gets better known, he seems to find fewer and fewer on the left who will debate him. That’s no surprise — watch the debates that do exist, and be reminded of the attempted mugging of “Crocodile Dundee”, when he smiles pityingly and says “That’s not a knife. THIS is a knife,” before reducing his assailant to a quivering blob.

    But those who like orthodoxies that would limit the speech, ideas, and freedoms of others in order to enforce a social construction of their own should be afraid. Like the boy who had the courage to tell the emperor he had no clothes, or like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose lone voice of truth helped topple a totalitarian empire, when this too crumbles, Jordan Peterson will be seen as the courageous catalyst that exposed the lies and made us a wiser people.

    Heather R. Higgins is CEO of Independent Women’s Voice, an organization promoting conservative free market solutions that advance prosperity, freedom, and greater choices. Follow her on Twitter @TheHRH.

    **

    Shave off a dozen percentage points for over-the-top, and you have what I’d consider the single simplest and best account of Jordan Peterson and the reasons for his astounding popularity — which inckude a refusal to concede anything much to nuance and an a considered and measured indifference to applausee or dismisal alike. Having found a pair of great teachers in Jung and in his clinical patients keeps him deep and humble respectively. And he saves me a whole lot of work I thought was my obligation, while stretching me intellectually — not always an easy feat, although the comments section here certainly keeps me on my toes.

    I am almost as grateful to Heather Higgins for this introduction as to Dr Peterson himself, the introductee. Brava,bravo, bravo!

    New Book: Redefining the Modern Military by Finney & Mayfield

    Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

    [Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    Friend of ZP, Nathan K. Finney who with Tyrell O. Mayfield are among the co-founders of the excellent The Strategy Bridge blog, have edited an important compilation entitled Redefining the Modern Military: The Intersection of Profession and Ethics (due out October 2018). From Finney and Mayfield:

    Major Nathan Finney (USA) and Lt Col Tyrell Mayfield are founding members of The Strategy Bridge, an online professional journal for national security, strategy, and military affairs. The Strategy Bridge is in its fourth year of publication and has since incorporated as a 501c3 Non-Profit. Multiple The Strategy Bridge articles have appeared in PME curriculum.

    In 2015 The Strategy Bridge ran a series on Profession and Ethics. Nate and Ty took 12 of the articles and worked with the contributors to expand them to chapters, and then edited the work into a book. The book, entitled Redefining the Modern Military: The Intersection of Profession and Ethics, will be published by US Naval Institute Press with a release date of 15 October 2018.

    Gen (Ret) Martin Dempsey wrote the forward for the book, and it has been endorsed by Gen McChrystal, Admiral Stavridis, RADM Peg Klein, USN (Ret) former Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense for Military Professionalism, LTG Robert Caslen, USMA Superintendent, MAJGEN Mick Ryan, Commander of the Australian Defence College, and others.

    Summary:

    This edited collection will expand upon and refine the ideas on the role of ethics and the profession in the 21st Century. The authors delve into whether Samuel Huntington and Morris Janowitz still ring true in the 21st century; whether training and continuing education play a role in defining a profession; and if there is a universal code of ethics required for the military as a profession.

    Redefining the Modern Military is unique in how it treats the subject of ethics and the military profession, as well as the types of writers it brings on board to address this topic. The book puts a significant emphasis on individual agency for military professionalism as opposed to broad organizational or cultural change. Such a review of these topics is necessary because the process of serious, intellectual self-reflection is a requirement–especially in a profession that involves life and death of people and nations.

    Pre-Order now here.

    New Book: Strategy, Evolution and War

    Sunday, May 6th, 2018

    [mark safranski / “zen“]

    Strategy, Evolution and War: From Apes to Artificial Intelligence by Kenneth Payne

    This book by Kenneth Payne of King’s College  is newly released by Georgetown Press. I saw it mainly by chance while perusing my twitter feed and ordered a copy. At first glance, it looks very promising, albeit I have a bias toward cultural evolutionary frameworks. Perhaps it will get me more up to speed on the implications of Ai for emerging warfare.

    Just thumbing through, Payne has a solid bibliography and some intriguing chapter and section headings. For example:

    The Hoplite Revolution:Warriors, Weapons and Society
    Passionate Statesmen and Rational Bands
    The Ai Renaissance ad Deep Learning
    Chimps are Rational Strategists, Contra Humans

    Enough to whet the appetite. May discuss Strategy, Evolution and War further after I finish it.

    What have you been reading in the realm of strategy or war lately?

    What is “a multicausal and multilevel understanding”?

    Friday, April 27th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — if you can lose your car in a multilevel parking garage, imagine how easy it is to lose your mind in a multilevel understanding ]
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    I mean, what is multicausal and multilevel understanding anyway?

    We know what the words mean, and can possibly gloss over them without pausing for the question as I intend it. But pause, please. What is it, in terms of brain function and or training, that gives us access to multicausal and multilevel understanding?

    **

    I came across the phrase in the publisher’s abstract for Bart Schuurman‘s book Becoming a European Homegrown Jihadist:

    How and why do people become involved in European homegrown jihadism? This book addresses this question through an in-depth study of the Dutch Hofstadgroup, infamous for containing the murderer of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was killed in November 2004 in Amsterdam, and for plotting numerous other terrorist attacks. The Hofstadgroup offers a window into the broader phenomenon of homegrown jihadism that arose in Europe in 2004 and is still with us today. Utilizing interviews with former Hofstadgroup participants and the extensive police files on the group, Becoming a European Homegrown Jihadist overcomes the scarcity of high-quality data that has hampered the study of terrorism for decades. The book advances a multicausal and multilevel understanding of involvement in European homegrown jihadism that is critical of the currently prevalent ‘radicalization’-based explanatory frameworks. It stresses that the factors that initiate involvement are separate from those that sustain it, which in turn are again likely to differ from those that bring some individuals to actual acts of terrorism. This is a key resource for scholars of terrorism and all those interested in understanding the pathways that can lead to involvement in European homegrown jihadism.

    **

    I’d expect Bart Schuuman fills the void in our understanding as described. But I was in another discussion today, in which a friend of mine, Mike Sellers, said he’d been trying to teach analysts at Ft Meade the kind of thinking that can hold two ideas, possibly contradictory, in the mind at one time. He found the task both interesting and difificult. But how do you manage the task of multicausal understanding without what I call contrapuntal thinking — the ability to hold two or more thoughts in mind at the same time?

    My friend’s teaching is strongly influenced by systems thinking, as first devised by Jay Forrester of MIT. Mike has a great lecture on systems and systems thinking in the context of games — he was lead designer on games like Sims 2

    My own approach in the HipBone Games is to ask players to create a single, deeply connected “thought” out for ten individual ideas on a suitable ten-move game-board — with a “two idea” board for my DoubleQuotes games:

    Over the course of twenty years experimenting, I’ve realised my DoubleQuotes is the ideal format for teaching / learning “contrapuntal thinking” — basically, that same “ability to hold two or more thoughts in mind at the same time” — or “how to think in terms of systems” — or “multicausal and multilevel understanding”..

    **

    Hay, this is relevant and more than relevant. Macron‘s address to the joint session of Congress today included an appeal for a renewal of multilateralism:

    This requires more than ever the United States involvement, as your role was decisive in creating and safeguarding the free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism, you are the one who has to help to preserve and reinvent it.

    Here, see how that works:

    **

    Multilateral means many-sided, eh? — and considering many sides at once requires the by-now familiar “multicausal and multilevel understanding”.

    On Iran, he repeated his support for the nuclear trade deal and outlined a four-part solution to Trump’s concerns about the deal and Iranian expansionism in the Middle East.

    So just the Iran deal requires a four-sided understanding at minimum. And let me remind us, four-fold vision was the highest hope of William Blake, who wrote to Mr Butts — but I’ll show you the poem alongside one of his illustrations of the concept:

    Multicausal and — particularly, perhaps, in view of Blake — multilevel understanding may be more demanding than at first we think.

    And the world? The world requires this of us.

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    Helpful books:

    Amazon:

  • Bart Schuuman, Becoming a European Homegrown Jihadist: A Multilevel Analysis
  • Mike Sellers, Advanced Game Design: A Systems Approach

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