May 22, 2013
me+ME: Reading old books
1. "Introduction to logic"
2"Report from Iron Mountain"
3"The Dying Generations"
4"The managerial revolution"
About ME/CFS


I am still paying back my walk of almost 4 weeks ago, so I am still not feeling very well. But it may be improving some, and here is another prooflet.

As I have said yesterday, when I published my Dutch essay "Over geestelijke gezondheid en gestoordheid" i.e. "On mental health and being disturbed", I have some physical improvements, and used that mostly to dive into old papers and books.

Today there is no translation of the Dutch essay, but some brief reviews of some old books, that I bought and read between 1969 and 1983, and that all are still - somewhat to very - interesting. I will discuss them in the order I bought them.

1. "Introduction to logic"

This is the first book about logic that I bought, on August 4, 1969, which is also the month I read most of it. This is nearly 44 years ago (and was then my 239th book that I bought).

Also, this is not just an introduction: It is by Alfred Tarski, one of the greatest logicians of the previous century, and in fact I bought its Dutch translation made by the by far greatest Dutch logician and philosopher of the previous century, Evert W. Beth. (About the only time I bought a translation into Dutch: I was 19 at the time, and my English was not as good as it is now, having lived in England and spoken it for years as my main language).

This book really influenced me, turned me away from my parents' Marxism, and started a very long haul on logic, mathematics and philosophy of science, that in fact was "ended" on 1.1.1979, when I fell ill, in what was effectively the second year of my studying, and never recuperated - except that I did not know it then, and also that it did not stop my reading in these subjects, or any other subjects, at all, though it must have slowed my pace, and totally destroyed my desire to publish, on paper at least. [1]

However, because logic - especially mathematical logic - seems to be a severely impopular topic, I will not say more about it, except that this is a really good introduction.

2. "Report from Iron Mountain"

This is something quite different from the previous one, and caused a scandal, because (1) it was widely assumed to be a secret 1967 report by the US government, that (2) contained judgments like this - and I quote the first paragraph of its "Summary and Conclusions" (and you have to read carefully):
The Nature of War

War is not, as is widely assumed, primarily an instrument of policy utilized by nations to extend or defend their expressed political values or their economic interests. On the contrary, it is itself the principal basis of organization on which all modern societies are constructed. The common proximate cause of war is the apparent interference of one nation with the aspirations of another. But at the root of all ostensible differences of national interest lie the dynamic requirements of the war system itself for periodic armed conflict. Readiness for war characterizes contemporary social systems more broadly than their economic and political structures, which it subsumes. (p. 111)
And from the beginning, by the writer of its Forword: This is by
a commission 'of the highest importance'. Its objective was to determine, accurately and realistically, the nature of the problems that would confront the United States if and when a condition of 'permanent peace' should arrive, and to draft a programme for dealing with this contingency.
It was much like Herman Kahn's books, such as "Thinking about the unthinkable" (?!) and "On Thermonuclear War", and fairly well-written if clearly also in governmental bureaucratese.

Its contents are on summarized as follows on Wikipedia in "The Report from Iron Mountain":
The heavily footnoted report concluded that peace was not in the interest of a stable society, that even if lasting peace "could be achieved, it would almost certainly not be in the best interests of society to achieve it." War was a part of the economy. Therefore, it was necessary to conceive a state of war for a stable economy. The government, the group theorized, would not exist without war, and nation states existed in order to wage war. War also served a vital function of diverting collective aggression.
I bought this on 24 April 1972, and read it almost immediately, at that time not knowing it was a hoax prepared by Leonard C. Lewin.

In fact, that came out only on March 19, 1972, and then there was no internet (so I may not have known that till the 2000s). Also, to this day the fact that it was a - clever, successful, in 15 languages translated - hoax is sometimes denied, it seems mainly by GOP rightwing extremists, as you can find from the last two links.

What is my point mentioning it here? There are at least two reasons:

  • While it definitely is a hoax, it is not less plausible than many other (usually secret) reports for the US government (which is in fact how I took it in 1972, though indeed I did not take it very seriously), and
  • there are many reports and books that are quite fraudulent if not hoaxes, such as the DSM-5.
The main reason for both facts are that no one knows everything or the majoirty of what there is to know, even if we restrict this to important things, and most know very little, so that most reports are judged, by both journalists and the public, by the plausibility of the language, rather than by intimate knowledge of the subjects treated. (And this cannot be helped.)

3.  "The Dying Generations"

This I do not know when I bought it. It is from 1971, and I probably bought it in the late 1970ies, when I read about half of it.

In fact, this is a very small part from the quite large interest in ecological subjects that then had started, after Rachel Carson had initiated that in 1962, but that only started blossoming from 1970 onwards for publishers, and it seems a fairly good choice, because it has many contributions from all over the political spectrum, also including three by Henry David Thoreau.

Its flap says, possibily a bit over the top (I say, 42 years later):
We now know that 20th-century man's misuse of nature has damaged it and him - perhaps irreparably; the generations now on earth may be the last.
   Can we survive this self-created danger? What are the technological, political and psychological problens that must be solved?

Then again, it may have been right, in principle. My own view is uncommon, and  dates back to the early seventies: I do not think mankind can do much about it, simply because the sums of money and the work required to do it are beyond the present governments and men.

Note that I am not denying the magnitude of the problem - on the contrary! - : What I am doing is to deny that men, as they are and are organized, can do much about it, other than take a few not very effective measures. Also, I am not saying these measures should not be taken: I am saying that such measures as can and have been taken will do little to solve the problems.

4. "The managerial revolution"

This is by James Burnham, and it is a - minor - classic. It turns out that I bought this on the 20th of April 1983, which is over 30 years ago, read part of it, and then laid it aside, I think because I found it a bit too semi-marrxist, and then lost it, until May 19, 2013.

I may return to this, or to a later book of his, that I consider a lot better: "The Machiavellians".

Here and now I will only make a few points:
  • In 1941, when Burnham first published the book, he had just ceased to be a Trotskyite and a Marxist.
  • He thought then - and that is what the book is about - there was a fundamental change going on, that he guessed would be finished within a generation, of capitalism to managerialism: The owners of the means of production cease to be the rulers; the managers take their place.
  • He certainly was mistaken about many details and about the speed of the revolution.
  • He may not be wholly mistaken about managerialism, but
  • if so, he was mistaken about the speed of the transition, and about many of its details.
If I return to this book by Burnham, I will probably treat him together with Orwell, who was considerably influenced by him, and wrote at least one essay  about him.

[1] Maybe I should say why: I was removed, briefly before taking my M.A. from the faculty of philosophy, and after some years decided that I then would take an M.A. in psychology - but found it not a real science, small parts excepted. (I did take an excellent M.A. in psychology, but finished mostly on logic, mathematics, programming and physics.)

Apart from all that, and being ill, rather seriously also since 1991, although it is lately a bit less, I am in the dole since 1984, and cannot publish anything and receive payment for it.

So... since I am kicked out from philosophy - the only student to have been removed for his opinions since 1945 from a Dutch university, and here these opinions are - and do not regard most of psychology as a real science, and do not really like any Dutch writer that lived while I lived, I have had singularly little stimulus to publish.

For which reason more than 21 books of philosophy, and 2500 or more Dutch and English essays, in spite of being ill, all published on my site, must be counted as something.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

       home - index - summaries - mail