December 15, 2010


me+ME:  Truth and Value


I continue being not well, and otherwise also as before, so I cannot do much. But I can reproduce something in English that I published over two decades ago, that still is quite true and quite relevant - and I mostly repeat an earlier intro to an earlier translation of an item in the same series: Real Science and real psychology = joy

This Nederlog of today moves back all of 21 years, to the month of November of 1989, when I published my "Waarheid en Waarde" which is in English "Truth and Value" in "Spiegeloog", which was the monthly of the faculty of psychology, where I wrote a monthly column at the time.

It still seems to me quite excellent - yes, I am not a humble man - and "typically me", while most of the literature I list is as excellent and useful as it was, though I could make a few additions or alterations, which for the moment I will not do (but see my Some Favourite Books & Authors and Ten good modern philosophy texts for more about good books I've read).

Here it is - and there are a few notes and comments following it written today, and also some links have been added to my Philosophical Dictionary, and some policies and teachings that ruled and were taught at the University of Amsterdam from 1971-1995 (at least) have been made bold here, which they were not in the printed version:

  • 'everybody knows that truth does not exist'
  • cultural relativism: every culture is supposed to be an equivalent attempt to create some human society
  • objective knowledge is impossible

These doctrines, let it be repeated, where the staple good that emanated from 25 years from the Board of Directors, publicly lecturing professors, and the University-Parliament, always as THE central teachings the UvA had to over to the world, next to many courses in feminism, emancipation, queer studies, and environmental studies. For decades the main policies of the UvA, always led by a board of directors from the Dutch Labour Party or the Dutch Trade Unions, and by radicalized students with CP membership cards, pretending to be "marxists" or "feminists" but really out for careers as lecturers or professors in something very close to their own political positions, were these (as this was the official end of the university of Amsterdam from 1981-1986):

  • to further the interests of the feminist, environmentalist and trade union movements

Anybody who protested that this should not be the aim of a university was told he or she was "a fascist", "an elitist", or "a supporter of US imperialism". I opposed it, even to the extent of setting up a student party to do so, with a few others, and was removed from the UvA as student of philosophy, briefly before taking my MA in philosophy: 39 questions

Truth and Value [1]

"There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes that truth is relative."

Thus goes the first sentence of Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind - How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students."

Professor Bloom is very worried and quite angry about such relativism and wrote his book about it. Unfortunately, he expresses himself in bombastic philosophers' English. Because I agree on mostly with him about what he says, I'll try to briefly explain this time what is the sort of cause of his worry and anger. [2]

Knowledge is rationally justified true belief: Human beings have knowledge, human beings know something (that Peking is in China; that water may freeze; that men and women differ somewhat anatomically, which offers interesting opportunities for mutual enjoyment, and much more) if (1) they believe that something is so in reality (for example, that Peking is in China) (2) what they believe is the case, is in reality so (for example, it is really the case that water may freeze), and (3) they have valid reasons for their belief, empirically or theoretically (for example, they have verified by their own observations and investigations that, indeed, men and women do differ somewhat in anatomy, etc.)

And what is truth? The relation between what is thought (imagined) and (independently existing) reality, that consists in that what is being thought (imagined) is an adequate representation of reality. A falsehood, accordingly, is the relation between what is thougt and (independently existing) reality, that consists in that what is being thought does not form an adequate representation of reality. ("Adequate" means: Up to a point and for certain purposes: You do not need to know the chemical formula for water to know that water is potable.)  

This notion about truth, and this postulate that human beings possess knowledge, is the basis of human society: To engage socially with each other implies the ability to make and keep agreements, to cooperate on the basis of shared understanding: To know that the other person - whatever he or she may believe about philosophy - shares tens of thousands of judgments about the reality we and our fellow human beings are part of. The knowledge that is presupposed in the ability to run a household; the exercise of a trade; or, in more general terms, the taking part in a human society is enormous, and takes several decades to acquire.

This general human knowledge also is the fundament from which arises specialist knowledge: What you do not know about a car, a mechanic may know; what you do not know about the human body, your doctor hopefully knows, and so on and so forth.

The existence of knowledge is the fundament of justice, for courts must judge on the basis of facts; and of empirical science, that consists in true theoretical and empirical knowledge. And it is the fundament of purposive action: Only on the basis of some adequate and truthlike understanding of reality are we able - whatever our purposes may be - to realize our ends (apart from rare luck). And whoever believes falsehoods and acts on the basis of false beliefs probably will harm himself or others.

There is nothing "relative", nothing arbitrary, about what I just said. It is true (!) that human beings often lie; use their personal interests to arrive at beliefs about what the facts are; look at reality through coloured spectacles; and make mistakes in reasoning. But this is all, as I indicated, simply true - that is how human beings are in reality, and that is also one reason why the truth often is more difficult to ascertain than it would be otherwise. [3]

Is what the above paragraphs say trivial? Is it all self-evident what I wrote? The learned gentlemen Brand, Van Heerden and Maris, all valued doctors of science who are employed by the University of Amsterdam, believe or believed differently.

When I started studying psychology I and many others were told in the main lecture room of the university, in a lecture by dr. M.M.A. Brand, that 'everybody knows that truth does not exist'; dr. van Heerden since many years has been teaching the doctrine of cultural relativism (every culture is supposed to be an equivalent attempt to create some human society - a claim most East Germans, Chinese, and others in socialist workers' paradises definitely will not agree to) [4]; whereas professor Maris, professor of philosophy for students of the law, insists that "objective knowledge is impossible".

What does such charlatanesque bombast always remind me of? For example, of those 6 million Jews about whom, according to prof.dr. Maris, one can not say truly that they have been murdered by a totalitarian regime. [5] Or of those 20 million Chinese who were killed during the Cultural Revolution, although not according to dr. Brand's ideas. And of this:

Did you ever read Orwell's "1984"? [6] No? Well: After Winston, the protagonist, has been so gruesomely tortured by O'Brien that Winston does belief that "Two Plus Two Equals Five", if the Party wants that, and that "Freedom equals slavery", because the Party insists so, and that, in brief, truth is totally relative and depends on the whatever the Party's ends may be on any given day, the novel continues as follows:

He paused, and for a moment assumed again his air of a schoolmaster questioning a promising pupil: ‘How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?’

Winston thought. ‘By making him suffer,’ he said.

‘Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery is torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy — everything. Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. But in the future there will be no wives and no friends. Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.’

Pathetic? Orwell knew about the tens of millions of victims of Stalin. Since then tens of millons of Chinese have been murdered (in the so called Cultural Revolution); some 4 million Cambodians, and the list could be made much longer.

And all these gruesome killings happened in the name of the highest ideals, ordered by leaders of parties with ideas like O'Brien: Truth is relative; true is what serves the Party; false is what opposes the Party.

Well, maybe it has become clear to you: The idea that truth does not exist or is relative is a totalitarian idea; those who teach that truth does not exist teach totalitarian delusions; and I ask myself what such persons are doing in a university: Whoever believes that truth does not exist or objective knowledge is impossible does not belong in a university but in a madhouse. [7]

Notes (December 15, 2010)

[1] There could be many more notes, just as there could be (and should be, and hopefully soon will be) more notes to the essays I published in 1988 and 1989 in Spiegeloog, but since my health is bad, I am limited for the moment to translating them into English, when I can, and adding notes once I have done that, if I can.

So for the moment there are a few notes to this piece, since I can, and links to the other translated essays in the series:

Have fun! (At note least one Dutchman had courage and intelligence when it mattered - and dared to use them, even while being horribly discriminated for doing so. And as the last two links may show or clarify, I have meanwhile concluded this is mostly genetical - for which see also my On a fundamental problem in ethics and morals).

[2] The link in Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind - How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students." is to an interesting and praising review of it that I found today - Dec 15, 2010 - by an American professor of computational biology, Ram Samudrala, with an interesting site. It also includes his review of Chapter 1 of Bloom's book, that starts thus:

This is a review of the introduction to The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. Almost every page of the book, when stripped off of the extravagant words, presents a lucid idea that excites me for its outrageousness, clarity, and truth! It's so easy to simply slip off on a tangent from each page, but I'll try to refrain from doing that. The book describes "how higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today's students." Even using abstract terms such as "soul", Bloom gets the essence of his message across pretty vividly.

Incidentally, also being more than 20 years older than professor Samudrala:

When I wrote my own review of Bloom's book over 20 years ago (the presently translated above text), Bloom was THE FIRST person, first academic, first intellectual, who had written such things - that I had been saying and writing since 1977, when I first was confronted with the totalitarian horrorshow that were the curriculum and courses in the faculty of philosophy of the University of Amsterdam, at the time, according to its Board of Directors and its University Parliament, a feminist, socialist, leftist institution with a five-year plan (!) that I now quote, dedicated to

"the furthering of the interests of the trade unions, the feminist movement and the environmental movement"

as if those ends are the purpose of a university! But they were, for over 20 years.

And indeed... eventually I was duly removed from the University of Amsterdam, namely as "a fascist and a terrorist", for publishing the following "fascist and terrorist" diatribe, as 16 academically employed extreme leftist - presently: extreme neo-cons, of course - screamed and yelled at me at the time, not knowing that in fact I have a background that, at the time, they would all have liked to have:  Why my family was in The Dutch Resistance  in WW II:

[3] I think that till this very day nothing like this is being taught in Dutch schools and universities, where relativism (the first refuge of the scoundrel) and pomo bullshit - see my Scientific Realism versus Postmodernism - still rule and still inform almost anything that reaches me from the corrupt and degenerate academic bureaucrats - for every Dutch academic is a bureaucrat, i.e. a "civil servant" of the state or municipality, and nearly all have contracts for life, whatever they omit doing, or whatever totalitarian non-science they utter or publish, with the credit of their phony academic titles and university positions.

[4] See Laudatio Neerlandica for the Dutch society the Dutch owe to betrayers of civilization and science, and moral relativists Maris, Brand and Van Heerden, also co-responsible, as professors, for the total corruption of Dutch education, all because they choose to betray civilization and science and morality, for a career, and without having the excuse of being pressurized into betraying civilization, science and morality in a totalitarian state: It was all perfectly free, perfectly sick, perfectly willful personal corruption: See my Whores of Reason for their description.

[5] The relativity of all moral and the non-existence of truth were and are the mainstays of the HINAG, being the post WW-II organization of ex-SS and ex-Wehrmacht officers in the 1950ies, when these teaching first became known to me as such: As what former Nazis used to try to clean up their reputation (while getting and having jobs through their mates in the German government who also, it since transpired, helped many ex-SS'ers to find refuge in Argentina and Paraguay, through German diplomats, who of course denied for decades they were doing or did so).

This totalitarian teaching was for over 20 years the mainstay and central teaching of the University of Amsterdam as well, and for the same kinds of reasons: If truth does not exist, nothing can be truly proved about the most awful crimes, collaboration and degeneracy; if all morals are totally relative, nothing one does, whatever it is, even if it can be proved one did it, is reprehensible. Thus, one can say and do what one pleases, and be a liar, a bastard and a criminal while denying anybody may have any objective basis for criticizing one's degeneracy, failings, egoism, greed, careerism or corruption: "It's all relative, you know".

And then the fundamental moral norms taught in the UvA for decades, as they still are, kick in: (1) "Everybody is equivalent" (= "gelijkwaardig" in Dutch, which means literally "of equal value"), so now you know your true human value, o equivalent of Einstein and Eichmann, and if you don't like this, e.g. because of Eichmann, then still, according to the vast majority of the professors of the UvA this great norm applies (2) "Everybody owes respect to everyone", because of that much needed most moral respect you owe all, you see.

See my Yahooism & democracy, that is also over twenty years old, and my more recent Laudatio Neerlandica for what these teachings brought about in the country I was born in: Why my family was in The Dutch Resistance  in WW II.

[6] In case you did not, Orwell's "1984" links to a fine Russian site with the complete texts of Orwell's books and essays, in fine html-editions, and with much supplementary information about Orwell.

[7] But in Holland they made careers, and destroyed what remained of civilization, and laid the foundations for the degeneration of education and of the universities, thereby and by their total relativism of truth and morality, laying the foundations of massive very widespread stupidity and moral relativism, joined to ignorance and incompetence, for the reasons explain in Mandarins with an IQ of 115 - all is now relative in Holland to one's nationality and four grandparents, it seems: "Dutch names good, no Dutch names bad", as Orwell's morally awakened sheep almost bleated - that produced the neo-nazi (sorry... pomo-nazi: one would not want to demonize...) like Dutch government that presently rules, under the aegis of the hairpaint freak Wilders.

Thank you, Jaap van Heerden! Thank you, Sybolt Noorda! Thank you Frank Jacobs, Renate Bartsch, Maarten van Nierop, Theodoor Bolten, Otto Duintjer, Rene Marres etcetera: You are all willing moral, intellectual degenerates, in the tradition of the spineless pieces of human evil professorial Dutch shit that the Dutch author W.F. Hermans, also much pained and persecuted but this manner of hardly human - or human-all-to-human freaks, criticized thus:

Een van de laatste keren dat hij de kranten haalde, was met het bericht dat hij zich alsnog op een paar Nederlanders wilde wreken. Aan de organisatoren van het literaire festival Winterschrift in Groningen, die hem als eregast wilden, liet hij een brief geworden met de boodschap dat hij slechts op één voorwaarde op de uitnodiging wou ingaan: "U moet de (ex-?)professoren Tamsma en De Koning op de Grote Markt halfnaakt aan staken binden, langzaam half dood martelen, vervolgens lichtelijk roosteren boven een kittig houtvuurtje en ten slotte ophangen aan de Martini Toren."
    -- From: Interviews met W.F. Hermans

And why not, if everything is relative, you bunch of moral and intellectual degenerates?

O yes: Professor Jaap van Heerden let it be know, by way of his secretaries, anno 1989, that

"the scientific staff of this university should much like to see Maarten Maartensz dead"

- I suppose in reply to my statement that

Whoever believes that truth does not exist or objective knowledge is impossible does not belong in a university but in a madhouse.

But then see e.g. Laudatio Neerlandica for the fruit of Van Heerden's, Brand and Maris teachings, example and betrayals of civilization, science and morality.

"And thus it goes..."

P.S. Corrections must wait till later.

P.P.S. It may be I have to stop Nederlog for a while. The reason is that I am physically not well at all. I don't know yet, but if there is no Nederlog, now you know the reason.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon
     insufficient evidence
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

    "Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)


See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

Maarten Maartensz

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