Martin Luther King’s 90th: a friend remembers

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Prince George Motel, Miami, 1960

Hugh Murray, Civil Rights Movement veteran, Scottboro Boys historian, and my fellow Herbert Aptheker research assistant, marked the 90th anniversary of the King’s birth today (which was actually last Tuesday) with an email to friends. I share it with his permission:

To All,  HAPPY MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY.  I certainly do not believe King was a saint; few people are. He is memorable because of the courage he showed in standing up when it was difficult, and in the end, standing up against all the forces of the US government. While he was preaching non-violence, the Feds paid various Blacks to join his movement and use violence to discredit King. I think the Feds even supplied the weapons. One such was a civil rights photographer, and recently it was discovered just what he was doing for the Feds to undermine King. There is a reason that many documents relating to the assassinations of JF Kennedy and ML King are still kept from the public. Trump angered the Deep State when he opened some of the material, but eventually Trump caved and kept some materials secret. About murders in 1963 and 1968!? It is not to protect the reputations of Lee Harvey Oswald or James Earl Ray. It is to protect government agencies. Well, as the Scots say, cheerio! Hugh Murray

In summer of 1960 King and others (including Jackie Robinson) trained about two dozen civil rights activists, including Hugh, in the strategy and tactics of non-violent civil disobedience. The sessions were held in the Prince George Motel in Miami. The photo at the head of this post was taken at one of them. Here’s the other side of the room. Hugh’s on the right:

A month after this session Hugh helped integrate a Woolworth’s lunch counter in New Orleans, his home town. Forty years ago he recalled this event and others, including the workshop with King, in “The Struggle for Civil Rights in New Orleans in 1960: Reflections and Recollections.” Here are other pix from long ago:

Jerome Smith, a 21-year-old Hugh Murray, and others integrate Woolworth’s counter during the first New Orleans sit-in. September 9, 1960. Here’s the same scene from a different angle. (Hugh’s third from the right.) Both from

It has been my pleasure to provide a platform for my good friend’s papers over the past fifteen years: Hugh Murray: Independent Scholar. His autobiography will be well worth reading. I pray he’ll get around to writing it.


Evidence that demands a worldview: or how apologetics requires a metapologetics

Image result for evidence that demands a verdictThe new edition Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World, edited with his son Sean, recently caught my eye on Amazon. The first edition did that over 40 years in Christian Publications’s bookstore in Manhattan (8th Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets).

Gabriel Monheim (1936-2015: this pic is circa 1979-80), who preached on Wall Street, recommended it to me in 1978. The occasion was my asking questions that someone (certainly an ex-Marxist graduate philosophy student) might have about the Bible.

The McDowells’ 700+-page tome is a compendium of orthodox Christian answers to (mainly) historical and archaeological objections to belief in the Bible as the Word of God written and to the many propositions that this belief logically commits the believer. That is, it’s a contribution to apologetics.

Mainly, but not exclusively. To address new versions of perennial philosophical objections the McDowells have added six chapters: “The Nature of Truth,” “The Knowability of Truth,” “Answering  Postmodernism,” “Answer Skepticism,” “Are Miracles Possible?,” and “Is History Knowable?”

Complementing this approach to apologetics for me are the works of Norman  Geisler (PhD, Loyola, 1970; b. 1932), whom I met at the 1982 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. Geisler starts with defending theism, grounding his premises in principles that one cannot coherently deny. He then defends the historical reliability of the Bible. On its basis he argues for the deity of Jesus. Whatever Jesus teaches is true, and He taught the divine inspiration of the Old Testament and promised an inspired New Testament. Image result for norman geisler

Geisler’s apologetical method is commonly labeled. “evidentialist.” It’s also categorized as “classical” as distinct from the “presuppositional” approaches of Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) and Gordon H. Clark. (1902-1985).

Image result for cornelius van til

But facts bear an evidential relationship to each other only if certain background conditions obtain. They connect (a) facts to each other causally and (b) each of them to our evidence-weighing minds (c) within a world created by God. That’s the worldview that grounds the premises of sound classical apologetical arguments. It would take me years to accept that from Van Til (above, on the steps of Federal Hall, Wall & Broad, NE corner, 1978, the year I met Monheim; the man in front of him, resting his chin on his left fist, is my old friend Eric Sigward. ). My reading and interacting with Greg L. Bahnsen (1948-1995) made the decisive pedagogical difference.

God has (as it were) encoded these conditions into every human mind (Genesis 1:27; John 1:6; Romans 1:18-20), even minds that reject the Bible. The worldview expressed in the Bible, and only that one, explicates them. The Bible confirms as divine revelation what every human knower tacitly and spontaneously works with, but can justify (when justification is called for) only on the basis of the Bible.

When apologists argue with an unbeliever about, say, the authorship of Isaiah, they should be prepared, at a moment’s notice, to foreground the conditions of intelligible discourse.

Continue reading “Evidence that demands a worldview: or how apologetics requires a metapologetics”

Happy Birthday, Lord Acton!

John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834-1902), Catholic historian in Victorian England and thorn in Pio Nono‘s side (to whom he nevertheless dutifully submitted when he could do no other) was born 185 years ago today.Image result for lord acton israelites

As the Enlightenment’s embers flicker out I continue to engage his writings for their style as well as substance. Below are quotes (including the aphorism “everyone knows”) culled from Roland Hill, Lord Acton, Yale University Press, 2000.

Here are links to my review of Lazarski’s Power Tends to Corrupt and my essay on the limitations of Acton’s liberalism from a dozen years ago.

On Liberty

By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influence of authority and majorities. The State is competent to assign duties and draw the line between good and evil only in its immediate sphere. . . . In ancient times the State absorbed authorities not it own, and intruded on the  domain of personal freedom. In the Middle Ages it possessed too little authority, and suffered others to intrude. Modern States fall habitually into both excesses. The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities. Liberty, by this definition, is the essential condition and guardian of religion; and it is in the history of the Chosen People, accordingly, that the first illustrations of my subject are obtained. The government of the Israelites was a Federation, held together by no political authority, but by the unity of race and faith, and founded, not on physical force, but on a voluntary covenant. (278) Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Lord Acton!”

Murray Rothbard: on my late friend’s lamentable error

“I was sure I was going to predecease him.”

That’s how my friend Father James A. Sadowsky (1923-2012) confirmed the news of the passing of Murray Newton Rothbard (1926–1995) two dozen years ago today.

Picture 1It was after Sunday Mass at St. Agnes. Finishing breakfast with friends in a 42nd Street a coffee shop, I excused myself to call (using a 20th-century pay phone) my wife who, enduring a cold, couldn’t join me in Manhattan that wintry day.

“Father Sadowsky called,” she said. “Murray Rothbard died yesterday.”

It’s now been almost 36 years since the first chat that began my friendship with Murray, which continued through his last dozen years. His writings, illuminated by conversations, formed a major part of my education in economics, history, and politics. His personal influence makes it difficult to make a selection among the many memories.

Reading Man, Economy & State , a project I began on March 22, 1983, inspired me to call him one evening. Barely two months into it, I looked up his number (in a 20th-century phone book) and made bold to use it on May 18 (my diary says): “I got six new [libertarian] leads from him, including a Fordham [University] history professor who lives in Jackson Heights [John McCar­thy] . . . . Rothbard is so easy to talk to and make laugh. . . . Look for­ward to meeting him in the Fall [at the Libertarian Party National Convention].”Image result for murray rothbard

Finishing that stout tome on June 19th marked the end of my political wilderness-wandering to which I had sentenced myself after breaking with Marxism six years earlier. By the time my “Jürgen Habermas’s Critique of Marxism” was published in the Winter 1977/1978 issue Science & Society, a Stalinoid academic journal, I was in the free market camp.  (Its text with corrections and editorial notes is freely available here.) But I didn’t find National Review conservatism sufficiently inspiring.

Less than a year later I was invited to particiapte in Murray’s 1984 seminar on the history of economic thought:

Last Rothbard class was a damning critique of Adam Smith.  Smith has almost no libertarian credentials. Marx can have him. . . . [T]here’s an essay in the latest Libertarian Vanguard that Rothbard wants me to read, and Mark [Brady] is going to copy for me . . . . Murray Rothbard was very friendly again with me after class. He’s busy packing for his move to Stanford CA, so, he says, he’s sorry he couldn’t have invited Gloria and me to dinner. Discussed my Christian libertarian idea with him on the bus. I’m flattered.” (May 4, 1984; unless otherwise marked, dates refer to diary entries.)

I met him for first time at the 1983 Libertarian National Convention at the Sheraton Hotel in New York. (This pic was taken there.) “He re­membered my name,” I recorded, “and when I discussed [Bernard] Lonergan’s economics briefly, he said Lonergan struck him as an ‘institutionalist.’” (September 4, 1983)

Continue reading “Murray Rothbard: on my late friend’s lamentable error”

What kind of Muslim is Wajahat Ali?

Every year around Christmas illiberal “liberals” (aka Progressives) lecture Christians, mostly those of the white conservative persuasion, about the “true meaning” of Jesus and how they obscure it. This year is no different.

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez. D-Ill., questions Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as she testifies before the House Judiciary Committee Dec. 20, 2018. The congressman could have benefitted from getting manners for Christmas. Photo: SARAH SILBIGER /NYT / NYTNSRetiring Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) recently shouted at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “Shame on everybody that separates children and allows them to stay at the other side of the border fearing death, fearing hunger, fearing sickness,” he fulminated. “Shame on us for wearing our badge of Christianity during Christmas and allow the secretary to come here and lie!”

He  bolted from the hearing room before she could respond to his slander.

Gutierrez’s rhetoric was on par with his manners: the Roman Empire had impressive walls, but none prevented migration from Judea to Egypt, i.e., from one Roman province to another.

A few days after Gutierrez’s theatrics, the day after Christmas, Gustavo Perez Arriaga—gang-banger, DUI violator, and illegal immigrant—murdered Newman California Police Corporal Ronil Singh, thereby separating his child and wife from him. Permanently.Image result for ronil singh

Arriaga had snuck into the U.S. through Arizona. How many others like him are in the caravan passing through (if you can believe it) Arriaga, Mexico? Is it un-Christian to ask how likely any of them are to make orphans out of American children?

Or are we morally allowed to fixate solely on the tragedy of children whose migrant parents expose them to harm, sometimes fatally?

Wajahat Ali is a Muslim, perhaps the way Gutierrez is a Christian. He’s a Progressive who focuses on combating “hate,” especially “Islamophobia.” Cafeteria-style, he picks out what he likes about Islam and ignores the embarrassing remainder as if they were accidental features of Islam.

Image result for Wajahat AliThat is, Ali provides what William Kirkpatrick calls the “smiley-faced version of Islam which emphasizes the commonalities with Catholicism and leaves out the scary parts.” (“Pope Francis, Indifferentism, and Islamization,” Crisis Magazine, December 31, 2018)

Continue reading “What kind of Muslim is Wajahat Ali?”

My philosophical “credo”: all right (mostly) after all these years

“Elements of a Credo” was probably the first piece I wrote for my antique (i.e., not mobile-friendly) philosophy site in 2004. (Compare the edited version below with the original.) I wrestle with its applicability to my current thinking. That is, I’m unhappy with its pretension to theological “neutrality.” But reading it as though it were written by someone else, I think it good enough to share in the hope that it might provoke conversation.—AGF

“He who tells me only what I already know, what I already believe, and what I like to hear, may please me, but he does not contribute to my grasp of the subject.  Whereas, he who compels me to face aspects of the matter which I would like to avoid really does something for me.”

  George Andrew Lundberg 1

I am a philosopher. That is, I seek to “frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted.” (Alfred North WhiteheadProcess and Reality).

I am also a commentator on the passing scene.  Apart from any degree of success I may enjoy as a philosopher, I feel compelled to venture provisional, qualified judgments in advance of the completion of my speculative philosophy.

As philosopher and commentator, I seek the truth. To do that, I need the cooperation of some and, more importantly, the noninterference of all.

Some may not refrain from interfering.  They would even coerce my cooperators into shunning me.  For the unfettered seeking of truth invariably leads to the expression of particular truths, or just the exposure of falsehood, which threatens to harm the (at least short-term) interests of the coercers.

That has ever been the nature of the truth-seeking business. It has never been merely about straightening out someone else’s muddled thinking within the ambit of a journal article and then repairing to one’s study for a cigar and a glass of sherry. Socrates made that clear. Nothing has changed since his day. Continue reading “My philosophical “credo”: all right (mostly) after all these years”

Adolf Hitler: Socialist Activist

Going over articles by my friend Hugh Murray, a veteran of the civil rights movementImage result for hugh t. murray, jr (third from the right;  New Orleans lunch counter sit-in, September 9, 1960), I noticed in one of them his elaboration upon an inconvenient (for some) fact of Adolf Hitler’s political trajectory.

Rejected by several journals in the late ’90s, Hugh’s “Affirmative Action and the Nazis: Or: Why Liberals Cannot Understand a Holocaust” at last found a home in 2004.  Here’s the salient passage (lightly edited; my commentary follows):

Turmoil erupted inside Germany.  On New Years 1918-19, the radical Spartacists attempted a coup, but were foiled by soldiers returning from the fronts [of the Great War] who formed into new groups, the Freikorps (free corps). They killed the two Spartacist leaders, Karl Liebknecht and the Jewish Rosa Luxemburg.Karl and Rosa Elsewhere events went in the opposite direction. In the large southern German province of Bavaria a republic was also proclaimed, led by the Jewish journalist Kurt Eisner, then by the Jewish playwright Ernst Toller, and finally by the Jewish Communist Eugen Leviné . Apparently, one of the supporters of this radical Left regime was a young corporal, recently released, who had been gassed in the trenches toward war’s end, Adolf Hitler (far right, seated, with his Bavarian Reserve Infantry comrades).

The television program The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler: [Part] I, The Private Man contains some revealing sequences. [It’s available on YouTube.] I quote from the narration:

With the defeat [of Germany in 1918], revolution broke out across Germany. In Bavaria a revolutionary government was set up. Image result for kurt eisnerThe socialist president Kurt Eisner was shot on the street in [25] February 1919. The people turned out to say farewell. Hitler had returned to his Munich regiment, his only foothold, his only home. He was threatened with demobilization and a return to the hostel. A fellow soldier later remembered that Hitler seemed like a stray dog, searching for a new master. In the funeral procession for the Jewish Socialist Eisner was a detachment from Hitler’s regiment wearing both red armbands and black armbands. The film clip shows a lance corporal marching with the officers—Adolf Hitler. Continue reading “Adolf Hitler: Socialist Activist”

Hans-Herman Hoppe’s 2017 Property and Freedom Society talk repays study and debate

When it comes to the fate of Western civilization, I often wonder whether “it’s all over but the shouting,” whether the odds favor our enemies.

(Secularly speaking. The Kingdom of God will interrupt the current evil flow. If you think the secular is all there is, we need to have another conversation.)

The sheer volume of material one has to grapple with to come to a responsible answer overwhelms me. And then there’s what one might call the secondary literature, the thousands of worthwhile blogs and other platforms on which pro-Westerners can hash things out and find their way through the maze. One cannot responsibly dismiss it with a wave of the hand or pretend to have mastered it.

Only today I stumbled upon the text of the talk that Hans-Hermann Hoppe‘s gave to the Property and Freedom Society last year. (Once upon a time I was au courant on all things libertarian. Better late than never.) Hoppe’s frank discussion of our parlous estate is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time (but you may discount the appraisal of one who’s just admitted to being late to the party).

It’s long. You’ll probably skip it. After all, life is short. I understand.

It ends with a list of imperatives I agree must be carried out. But how? I’m left with skepticism, if not despair, about what those who agree with Hoppe’s diagnosis can reasonably hope to do. It seems there is much more sand in the bottom of the hour glass than the top.

I invite debate not only about Hoppe’s remedies but also about the prospects for their ever being applied in time. Ludwig von Mises‘s aphorism* doesn’t allay my pessimism. (Yes, Mises believed this while escaping the grip of the Nazis, and the Institute that bears his name promotes his ideas, and yet . . . here we are.)

Let’s affiliate, help each other find the truth of the matter, support each other’s efforts, build each other up, encourage each other.

Our enemies need to be more than ridiculed, exposed, and refuted. They need to be defeated.

Here’s the link: The Alt-Right and AntiFa—A Libertarian Strategy for Social Change


* Tu ne cede malis [Virgil wrote] sed contra audentior ito. That is, “do not give in to evil, but proceed ever more boldly against them.” (Part of it is the motto of The Bronx.) Is giving up tantamount to giving in?

Blanshard, Langer and Voegelin on Cassirer

Over the years I’ve collected short essays by and about the morphologist of the human spirit, Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945)* by diverse thinkers I also admire and posted them on my other site.  Image result for ernst cassirer

In his 1944 review of Cassirer’s An Essay on Man, Brand Blanshard sounded a note of disappointment:

It is hard not to think, as one reads a book so wealthy as this in historic and scientific erudition, but at the same time so oddly inconclusive, that Cassirer was rather a distinguished reflective scholar than a great speculative philosopher. The learning is not mobilized in the interest of any theory; the book is not so much an ‘essay on man’ as a series of essays, all suggestive and enlightening, which converge on—what? It is hard to say. Perhaps there is no end, or harmony of ends, toward which all these activities are moving. But then, on Cassirer’s own showing, no philosophy of man would seem to be practicable; there would only be a theory of art, a theory of religion, and so on. This is in fact what he gives us. And an admirable gift it is, for which I, at least, am thankful. Only it is not what he sets out to give, nor all that the reader hoped to gain.

Image result for cassirer an essay on manWilliam Schultz commented on Blanshard’s assessment:

Here is the assumption of a continental philosopher that a system must ‘converge’ on something or lead to an overall unity of experience, an ideal unity. To some extent, the criticism is correct, for the main arguments are not in An Essay on Man, yet Cassirer’s claims about the need for unity should have alerted Blanshard that they were in his previous books, as Cassirer himself said in the Preface to that work written almost twenty years after the three-volume masterpiece [The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms]. Ironically, both Blanshard and Cassirer share some of the same assumptions about what philosophy should do, but Blanshard did not study Cassirer’s work enough to recognize the revolutionary way in which Cassirer satisfies traditional expectations about what a philosophy is and does. (Cassirer and Langer on MythRoutledge, 2000, 51)

The other subject of Schultz’s study was Susanne Langer, whose thought was shaped largely by her absorption of Cassirer’s writings in the original German as they were published. She contributed an essay on his theory of language and myth to the Library of Living Philosophers volume dedicated to him.Image result for susanne langer anthony flood

. . . myth and language appeared as genuine twin creatures, born of the same phase of human mentality, exhibiting analogous formal traits, despite their obvious diversities of content. Language, on the one hand, seems to have articulated and established mythological concepts, whereas, on the other hand, its own meanings are essentially images functioning mythically. The two modes of thought have grown up together, as conception and expression, respectively, of the primitive human world. . . .

The first dichotomy in the emotive or mythic phase of mentality is not, as for discursive reason, the opposition of ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ of ‘a’ and ‘non-a,’ or truth and falsity; the basic dichotomy here is between the sacred and the profane. Human beings actually apprehend values and expressions of values before they formulate and entertain facts.

Continue reading “Blanshard, Langer and Voegelin on Cassirer”

“Philosophy vs Misosophy”: Paul’s theology and my (admittedly peculiar) terminology

Christians believe that the ultimate truth is a divine person. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” says Jesus Christ. “No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus, the Son of God, the creator of the heavens and earth (Genesis 1:1), is the express image (eikon) of the Father (Hebrews 1:3).

He is also the Word (logos) of God (John 1:1) as well as the wisdom (sophia) and the power (dunamis) of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). Jesus Christ is before all things (ta panta), and by him all things cohere (susesteken) (Colossians 1:17). Every human being is surrounded and penetrated by creation, as the Apostle Paul wrote:

Because that which may be known (to gnoston) of God is manifest (phaneros) in them (enautois); for God has made it evident (ephanerosen) unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:18-19

This is our epistemological situation with respect to God. We either responsibly affirm or ignobly suppress God’s plainly evident existence in creation. Reason is a tool, not a court before which God may appear as a defendant.

Philosophical theology as it is practiced rejects the epistemological situation as Paul described it.

Continue reading ““Philosophy vs Misosophy”: Paul’s theology and my (admittedly peculiar) terminology”