Monday, May 12, 2008

Stefan Molyneux, His Crazy Libertarianism, Segue Into Philosophy and Action

Dude's not too heavy on the logic.

It's a shame, because he has some good ideas.

I've tried to change Stefan Molyneux's mind before. I wouldn't have, but first he claims to be a very 'healthy and honest' human being, went to therapy and everything, and second because he solicited it. If I think he's wrong, I'm supposed to let him know.

However, each time I've tried I get the impression that either I'm not making it through, that he just doesn't understand (in which case I'm just a better philosopher than he is) or that I'm getting the runaround - that his desire to be proven wrong is insincere at best.

So I decided to call him. Get him to call me and a bunch of other people, actually.

Basically, the result was, "Go proselytize, and maybe I'll talk to you then." (Right at the end, 63:00) In short, I got the runaround, exactly as I predicted. (I did get a few questions answered, and indeed I'm grateful, but as soon as he felt the noose tightening, lo and behold he's done talking to me.) While I knew he would cut me off if I asked enough questions in a row, I had hoped that a person who's such a self-described master philosopher would at least know to give me a semi-real reason. Such as, "I'm tired of answering your questions." "You haven't donated, I have better uses for my time." "I don't feel like it anymore." You know, just something honest. Or even, "Well, I can't be honest with you."

Basically, some RTR* from the supposed inventor of RTR. *(Near the bottom of the list, FDR #3)

(He did say, "I'm going to end up with one video image per second if I keep going." But when I said that I had more questions, why didn't he repeat that?)

As he would no doubt ask, "What does this remind you of in your childhood." It reminds me of my mother, "Go play outside, and let me do the dishes." It reminds me of my teachers. "Just do the work." Way to act like a public school teacher, Stef.

Also, if this is such an important objection, if it's really so much more important for me to proselytize rather than understand the theory, why didn't you point it out four days ago when I posted my analysis of tax rates?

(Also, the dude doesn't get math. Which, considering he said, "mathematics isn't real," is not surprising at all.)

In other words, his line "I'm perfectly happy to hear about expansions of UPB," is bunk. If he were, if he had any kind of intellectual curiosity at all, he would actually carry out his threat to listen to me. No, if he releases the recording, skip to the last quarter or so (sometime after 50:00 in the video). When you find that line, see if you can hear the fear in his voice. I could.

In fact, his whole community has a problem with listening to me. I saw it in action by testing their forum instant-message app. I put some random deep thoughts into the stream and saw...exactly nothing come back. No agreement. No refutation. No gentle correction. No heads-up that it's not important to them (it was). This despite randomly pulling crap, like my signature, that I really don't care about, and praising it to the skies. (When you wound a soul, it bleeds fear.)

No, Ockham suggests that Molyneux is high on being the top man. He delights in being the leader of his little community...not a member.

No, every time I try to figure out if Molyneux really is "happy to hear about corrections" he changes the subject. Finally, this time, he actually told me to shut up and go away. He actually told me, point blank, to ask questions relevant to other people.

Since he never has nor ever will take any of my suggestions, I guess this makes sense. Bit of a waste of time for me to make them, really. But, I have to know if I'm right or not. I have to know what someone who's gone to therapy is like, what someone who has a therapist as a wife is like. I have to know if even someone who knows all the theory of how to treat people will actually do so.

I have to know how important mental knowledge is for moral and compassionate behavior, so that I know how to advise anyone who may ask me. So I know how important it is to spread correct principles vs spreading correct special-case solutions.

You would think, for someone who understands how badly children are treated, that if someone came to him confused and asking for things, he would respond by being compassionate.

Instead, for a dude who's supposed to be so fond of the Socratic Method, I really have trouble getting a question in edgewise, let alone a statement. If I have to stop and think about things, he just continues on. The basic strategy seems to be eyes-glaze-over-waiting-for-him-to-shut-up. I was going to ask him if there's a better solution, because he sometimes stops repeating himself and says something new, but if my eyes have glazed over I'm liable to miss it. I can't though; haven't "proselytized" yet. Even if I was able to get more than a few words in, the proofs I use are obviously beyond him. "Me no understand." Indeed. (Consciousness isn't physical, bub. I would like give you not only one but three old college tries at proving me wrong, but since that's not what you want to talk about, it's not in the cards.)

If I met a philosopher who was smarter than me, who could understand my works, I would be ecstatic. I would have nothing but questions for them. I would want them to understand so that I wouldn't have to do all the work. So that they could help me find the truth.

Instead, with him I have the opposite because of his (apparent) rampant contradictions, in his podcasts, articles, and books. Certainly, he has a lot of good ideas in there. However, I have to do all the legwork, to see if they're logically consistent, myself. His ability to think in straight lines is strangely schizophrenic. It goes on and off like a loose connection.

It's exactly how he sounds - his arguments, especially when he's not reading written-down arguments, are suggestive but never coherent- so that makes sense.

It's infuriating. Since he clearly isn't using logic to find his ideas - if he were then I wouldn't have to correct him all the time - I want to know how he's doing it. If most people who just guess get like 2 or 3, he gets like 40. (Mencius Moldbug gets like 90, but he isn't guessing.) Is he just cognitively unfit? (Lacks logical sense.) Is he cancerous like the anti-logicians, meaning anything related to his basic misunderstanding gets eaten by anti-logic? Does he have a novel method of find the truth? If he kept telling me to "Go proselytize," I would never find out. I wonder if this is by design.

(I'm hoping to get 100 or better, and indeed if my logical consistency is really as high as I think it is, I'm totally succeeding. I can explain all of MM and yet also point out his mistakes. Yes, this is a falsifiable theory - I'll even help you falsify it. Since I want to be that good, I need to constantly make sure I haven't confused my current destination with my actual goal.)

Moreover, Stef's philosophy, which even he isn't particularly good at, (as one would expect of new ideas) is supposed to make one happy. Indeed, Stef appears to me to be pretty happy. This is doubly infuriating. If I tried to get by with that many contradictions, I'd be crushed. If I let myself get that loose around the intellectual middle, waking up every day would be torture. Is it just me? Of course it is! Stef's quite happy! Stef's forum is quite happy! In fact, lots of people are pretty happy! But if I tried to slack off even a tenth that much, I'd be slaughtered instantly by my conscience.

In short, if I tried to use Stef's philosophy, I'd be wracked hourly with guilt, doubt, self-recriminations, and the nagging feeling that there is something better.

And indeed, that's why I want to score 100. I have to score 100. I have no real choice. Just be thankful that you are not me.

No, my offense is to have the gall, the gall, to think I might be an equal. That I may actually have something to contribute to the conversation beyond what Stef himself has thought of.

No, that simply cannot be allowed. And heaven forbid that you criticize him personally. No, Stef's gone through therapy. His wife's a therapist, even. He's perfect. Unless you suggest he is, then he's not. You're just abusive. You need to go to therapy, too. All that desperate pain you feel when you listen to a therapist? Just a fluke of nature. Never because they're causing you harm. Unless you ask him, then of course he's happy to listen to potential philosophy-relevant character flaws, but for now you should "Go proselytize."

Still, this conclusion is not ironclad. There's lots of ways to falsify it, and indeed I would be ecstatic if I could do so. (Notably, I could also have misunderstood, and a misunderstanding of this magnitude is, shall we say, 'serious,' and very much the problem of the thinker so misunderstood. If so, fix it!) So, on the off chance some random FDR person actually reads this, I want to ask Stef the following:

"Okay, I agree with you. Yes, the principles are more important than the instances. (We're going to ignore the fact that I don't see how UPB is anything but an argument from effect.) I am trying to learn how to proselytize. If I can't convince you to listen to a little expansion of your theory, how am I supposed to convince people, completely illogical people, to throw away values they've held their entire life?"

I was unable to ask this question. Since I have to "Go proselytize" for a while, I am in fact not allowed to ask this, right now, at all.

I have this blog. I'm trying to bring people to it. (Not with this post.) I already am trying to proselytize. In fact, I have to hold myself back! I have found that I'm terrible at spreading my beliefs, yet every time someone says something I disagree with, even if they're named Stef, I feel ethically compelled to at least try to correct them. (Though admittedly, as Stef presumed I went overboard on the holding-back phase of development.)

No, you cannot tell me to "Go proselytize" as a way to prevent me from doing so. I am proselytizing, Stef. To you.

This is how Stef always treats me. Yes, always. He honestly couldn't care less about the ideas of others unless they directly support his own. This is flabbergasting for someone who claims to be a philosopher, who wants to help people.

Yeah that 'heroin' you were talking about? It's not helping people. It's superiority. It's the high of authority, and I don't want any part of it. I want to ask people what they want help with, and then do so in a logically consistent manner. I want them to decide what they need help with, because if I'm logically consistent, I can't help but lead them to the truth. If I listen to them carefully, I can't help but know what they're really asking for help with - the real, personal problems that truly trouble them.

No, I don't understand how anyone could be anything less than pleased with someone who asks all sorts of questions about their theories and in fact comes to agreement with you most of the time. I totally agree with UPB. I simply don't understand it completely. Why is he intentionally blocking my understanding?

Here's something else I want to ask Stef:

"If I don't properly understand UPB, how am I supposed to proselytize properly? Why are you asking me to get behind something I cannot yet logically get behind?"

Again, I don't mind if Stef was just bored of talking, if he was starting to feel put upon, if he just wanted his podcast not to be a million years long, (it would help if he could stop repeating crap I already know) if he just said, "Come back for the Sunday call-in show," if he truly suspected I was just being difficult, or any of a dozen other reasons...provided he tells me that's the reason. If honesty is the first virtue, why can't I get any out of Stef?

Why, Stef, does it feel like it's all about you? Why is your board a total echo-chamber? Why are you so fond of your own voice? Why have I almost never seen your beliefs evolve? Why do you apparently resent my questions and misunderstandings so much, since I've demonstrated that you can resolve them? Why is it your ideas I must spread? Why can't I make them into my ideas? Why do you never attribute your ideas to others?

It's very mysterious.

Unless, of course, Stef is exactly what he appears to be; a messianic wannabe. He probably just finally did what I've been complaining about since elementary school. Since he wants to be a messiah, he actually figured out what it would take, (some useful, but anti-social truths, along with some cultesque follower-manipulation)* and then put them into action. Since it worked, he now spends his time expanding and defending his turf.

*(You don't get a following that size with just actual truth. If you did, based on my successful prediction rate, I wouldn't be able to go anywhere without tripping over followers. Am I right? Well, is this post going to generate only universal disparagement on his board? Yes, a recursive test of my predictive ability. Also, is the sky blue?)

Why is it that everyone on your forum was abused? And not just like, a little. Sure, no one is parented well. I knew that already. There's also Alice Miller who predates Stef by a solid margin. Did he steal her ideas, intentionally or not? He's stolen mine before. I don't mind, but it sets a bad precedent - taking my ideas without acknowledging, at least to me, that you've done so. (Latest offense; used a concept of mine in his hideous Free Will youtube videos. Dude couldn't understand determinism if we tied him down, taped his eyelids open, and paraded all of history's most polite, logical, and eloquent determinists in front of him until he collapsed from exhaustion. We've practically done so already.)

Again, "why is it that there's no one on your board who A: agrees with you yet B: wasn't abused? Are you telling me that there's like a one in six billion chance of being raised well, meaning that we have no one from class B to compare to? I've seen less abused people on your board before, so that's patently false. I even met one in person. These people don't stick around on your board."

This also makes sense. I used to be a messianic wannabe. (My mother actually thought I was Jesus Christ reborn. Not all the time, I was sometimes demoted because she was crazy, but some of the time.) I know exactly what it feels like. I know exactly what it looks like. I know exactly what kind of people are susceptible to it, because I used to be horrified by how they listened to me. Honestly I have to say that damn that guy knows how to pull it off. Of course maybe this is just projection. But, much as he likes to say, "If I run a cult, it seems to be the worst cult in the history of cults," if I'm a messianic wannabe, I'm doing a shit poor job of it.

Also, Stef agrees with me. "It feels like messianic craziness and I don't want it!" (Feed 3, Podcast 628, The Die is Cast.) Also, "Trust your feelings." Well, Stef, trust your feelings. You're a messianic crazy. Also, you've met god. Yours is a big blue eye-thing that hates freedom and music. I suggest you get a new one. I guess I can see why you don't want to trust your feelings completely. That plus the therapy thing. If you listened to your feelings as completely as you advise, you would never have been able to go.

No, my stated goal is to make more people with my skills. Ideally, I would make people with superior skills so that I wouldn't have to work so hard. I want to be able to justify being intellectually lazy to myself. (Also one of the reasons I will happily present evidence and let you draw your own conclusion. I know that it helps antidote any remaining messianic urges. Also, once you know the evidence I'm using, you can see if my logic is faulty. Directly, and on your own. While I'm massively right, I do make mistakes, I just wish more people could spot them.)

But I can't. While I won't, as Stef did, say there is no one else, I'm sure having a devil of a time finding them. Seriously, if you know where one is, please please point them out to me.

The sad, sad, tragic thing is that Stef is better than the vast majority. He at least puts his ideas down in a somewhat logical way. I can understand what he's trying to say, and he doesn't start equivocating as soon as I prove him wrong. Which is part of why it's important; if I can't get him to agree with me, why the fuck am I trying to get average Joe to agree with me?

Sadly these very virtues are why he has to give me the runaround. Deprived of obfuscation, deliberate mind-fucking, changing the subject, and declarations of 'irrelevant,' (remember, he does score 40 or so) he has to use other tools. He can't engage me in conversation for too long. He can't ever let himself understand my ideas, just as he can't let himself understand determinism. He sure as shit can't ever expand my ideas.

So I guess, compared to the rest of the population, I understand where he's coming from. Compared to the people that surround him, he does rule the roost.

So what have I learned from this? Many things, of which I'll list a few.

First, there may be an alternate way of finding truth. True, I have at least five already, but more is always welcome. (Logic, hunches, inspiration, 'feeling it out' - I've learned what contradictions and truth feel like, so basically I've taught my emotions to reason, and reading - what I like to call the theft of ideas. I've stolen quite a few of Molyneux's. All of these have to produce beliefs that do not contradict any of my existing beliefs. Notably, sometimes existing beliefs are displaced.) Especially one that can score 40 all on its own.

Second, that the task of convincing someone of the truth is probably much, much, more momentous than I thought it was.

Third, I found out that even if you know the truth, putting into action is almost totally unrelated. (I have since confirmed this on my own with reddit comments. I am susceptible as well, though at least now I know it's a problem, so I know I need to solve it.) Knowing the principles may be a completely fruitless approach to engendering honesty, compassion, and morality.

Fourth, that I really have to make sure that you, dear reader, can see when I change my mind, so that you know I'm not static like Molyneux is.

Fifth, I found that I was wrong about therapy. I thought it was worthwhile. However, their methods are simply too traumatic to lead to anything but more insanity.

Sixth, I have a quick acid test. Am I being like Molyneux? If so, I should probably stop, especially if I can't justify doing so from first principles.

Seventh, while I've learned that my friends aren't all that good at logical consistency either, what does it matter? They beat the crap out of everyone else on every other measure that does matter. While logical consistency is as necessary to me as air itself, apparently all my friends can get along fine without going overboard on it.

Eighth, I've learned how important it is to make sure people can just be honest with you, whatever that means for them.

Finally, I absolutely, totally, completely, and passionately hate Stefan Molyneux. From his first email to this last straw, he has been nothing but derisive to me. This article or a quotation thereof will the absolute, final chance Molyneux has.

Since I'm going on about showing first email was a response to a Lew Rockwell article where he asked about if he's wrong. I gave a long a detailed explanation of my beliefs. They were, admittedly, somewhat false. His only response? "Ha ha. Go check out my site." It's wonderful that you find my attempts at reason funny. Good job dismissing the deep thought of a "clearly very intelligent person." Your words, not mine. (You went on to praise my specific techniques. Thanks! I stole them from some generally twisted bastard, that's why they're 'slippery.' Effective though, as you found out.)

(Today, May 12, you asked in chat 'why would anyone find me insulting' or something of that nature. The above is why.)

That hurt, Stef. That was the first, and apparently the last, time you were ever able to do so. And then I went to your site. Guess what I found? I found that you said if I was hurt by things you say, it's because I was abused. And that, if I told you how you were insulting, that would be simply more abuse. If I'd been stupid enough to do bring it up, you would have told me it was my own fault for being insulted.
What a mind-fuck. What fucking bullshit.

Stef, you've given me a lot of your time, which I appreciate knowing how much derision you have for me. You answer all of my forum posts, (though your first was also a laugh - at a joke at my expense) even when I'm being 'very catty,' which makes me believe you think I have hope, relative to your philosophy. But now, I've stolen all your good ideas. I've absorbed and tested the results of the philosophy, which I can clearly see on your forum.

All that is left is hate. Unlike you, I can deal with learning from people I hate. Truth is truth, regardless of the mouth that utters it. Nevertheless, it does not make sense to keep visiting people I hate who are of no use to me. I don't talk to my sister anymore either, now that I've got my own place, and have taken the relevant furniture that I inherited out of her house. I would even refrain from letting you know this post exists, but you haven't come up with anything new for at least a year. Further, if you continue to put out books for free, I can continue to skim them for accidental truths. I find reading full-length, clear but wrong thoughts is challenging and keeps me on my toes. The podcasts are just too inefficient.

So this is the last, absolute last chance at repentance. This is not just because I'm going to get banned for posting this. Instead, because you've given me no reason to believe that my first suspicions were anything but right. If you don't do it now, I'm not going to ask again.

I'm DeFooing you.

But fear not, if you ban me I will read the responses to this article. If your forum starts insulting me, I'm sorry - 'analyzing,' knowing that I cannot respond, much like they have done to others, it will reflect very badly on you.

Also, just like my first email, this post has some mistakes. There are things I will happily admit are abusive - if you can spot them. If you can refute them even slightly. They're a test of your intellectual ability. If I had sincerely made those mistakes - and it's not like I planned to include them, my subconscious handles that - you would be doing me a great service by pointing out my error. Unfortunately, I already know how it will turn out. It will turn out exactly like it turned out in my first email.

You may respond, "But if you want compassion and repentance, why are your words so harsh?" But, why a thinker of your caliber (remember, about 40) would expect me to treat you better than you've treated me is beyond my comprehension.

So help me god, if one philosopher can't talk to another in brutal honesty, then there's just no point to the entire endeavor. And so help me god but I believe everything put down in this post. (Yes that phrasing is just to annoy you - it shouldn't. What do you care what I think? I'm just some asshole on the intertubes, relative to you.)

Apparently, I am that mythical sociopath that can indefinitely hide their true beliefs, because I would hope to god that if you'd noticed before, you'd have gone "proselytizing" at me to try and change them.

For non-FDR people: Could you kindly see if anything in this post doesn't fit with another part of the post? I've read it over several times and I think it all works out, but it's mine so I can't ever be quite sure that I'm not just remaking the same mistake.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more! Stef is not in the least bit objective which is something vital in philosophy and as far as his politics go well.... I live in a country where anarchy is running ramped as we prepare for the possibility of civil war I invite Stef to come and live his dream in a country with no government, law, taxes or order.

I have been personally attacked by Stef and his cronies when trying to interject a bit of reality and all I can say is I get paid a salary to teach philosophy and don't depend on donations.

In any event great blog!

Alrenous said...

I'm glad my blog can be useful for you!

Have you found Liberating Minds?

I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, myself.

I now call myself anarcho-formalist, as you may have run across. No government? Great! No taxes? Awesome!

No order, or law? Umm...shit.

Anonymous said...

Great post and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Although I am commenting on a blog a couple of years old. Your article is as relevant today as it ever was.

I logically have to agree with what you have observed, because it was and still is, truth.

The forum still displays all signs that it's as cultish as ever it was. Elron Hubbard would be proud of moly.

The wagons still circle when a debate is critical to moly's drivel. The brainwashed followers, the regular "rent-a-crowd" (except they're the ones paying?) still attack in numbers.

Ad homeins, straw man and the trusty amateur psychoanalysisysis (negative of course)are still the weapons of choice to use against anyone with a critical opinion of the leader. And of course banning!

The recent posts of Noesis (a intellectual giant in comparison with regular fdr'ers) and the drama that followed is proof of this.

What a mess he\they made of that encounter! A real thorn in moly's side she must be. moly must be seething, right?

Much kudos to you and Noesis

Noesis drama

Alrenous said...

"Although I am commenting on a blog a couple of years old. Your article is as relevant today as it ever was."

I do try to write timelessly. If what I'm going to say will be out of date in a few days, why wouldn't I just wait a few days and then save myself the trouble?

However, I should probably point out that liberating minds is getting a bit creepy by now. Moly is crazy - definitely. We've established that. Get it out of your system and then find something profitable to do with your time.

Some other details are probably also important, such as not discounting Alice Miller just because crazies seem fond of her work. (I'm not sure what to make of it, myself. It would be handy if true, though.)

Alrenous said...

Haha! Lew Rockwell has punted Molyneux and the link to my introduction to him is dead.

Dr. Archibald said...


I myself remember reading a portion of UPB that some anarcho-cappie on facebook linked.

Having just taken a rudimentary sentential and predicate logic course, I was astounded at the amount of deductive invalidity (nevermind the unsoundness).

And I am just a simple undergraduate, not even majoring in philosophy.

Alrenous said...

It's kind of amazing how much penetration Molyneux has achieved. Something to be learned there, perhaps.

Though naturally I responded by trying to finish my own version of objective ethics, because there's no cure for hubris. I figure I may as well try to match my actual skills to my perception, rather than the reverse.

It's based on values and symmetry.

You value stuff. But if you don't value the values of others, then by symmetry you think there's no justification for them valuing yours.

Assuming you want your values respected, I can derive basically all of classical morality - don't kill and such - including self defence, from values and symmetry.

It seems to get complicated after that, though.
Only certain preferences can be values, as otherwise they lead to contradiction. Property is a mess internally, though it works out neatly in the end. Explaining in human English why a morality only applies to the holder turns out to be, currently, beyond my skill. Work continues.

Anonymous said...

Accurate observations regarding Molyneux and his antics. He's about as far from applying the Socratic method than anyone I've come across. But then people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder usually are.

Alrenous said...

I'd be glad you agree, except I'm fairly sure you don't. This is purely pattern recognition, though. When someone declares they agree without demonstrating, there's usually a misunderstanding on one side or the other, making agreement illusory. Which makes me a bit worried that it is on my side.

Nick Catton said...

Thumbs up!

I was brought here by a concerned friend who found it a bit disturbing that I was listening to Molyneux. I don't think he himself has heard/read any. He must have read enough of the turn offs to feel concerned for me. (he's a racist, misogamist, cult leader with no academic credibility)

It tends to upset and slightly offend me when people show their concern by posting the thoughts of others.. But I also accept that this is just part of the deal... as we wade through life trying to find people that are not only willing to do the grammar but manage to live it half decently in the every day.

"Knowing the principles may be a completely fruitless approach to engendering honesty, compassion, and morality."

Bang on. I really appreciate what you've written. You'd done an excellent job. I rarely come across things that speak to this level of consideration. I really look forward reading more of your blog.


Ps. Have you heard of the Trivium?

Alrenous said...

The Trivium I've heard of is the basics of Ye Olde university educations. My knowledge of it is slight, I just learned quite a bit reading the Wikipedia entry on it.


If you have the time to listen to his repetitions and the Sophism resistance to filter out his crap, Molyneux can provide a decent education in anarchist philosophy.


If you find anything racist on my blog, feel free to let me know. Perhaps I'll use it to practice something; if not Socratic method, than at least asking enough questions to ensure I didn't misunderstand the objection.