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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)


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 Post subject: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 05:53am
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"The liberty of the individual is no gift of civilization. It was greatest before there was any civilization." - Sigmund Freud, German psychologist (1856-1939)

This quote becomes more baffling every time I read it. Is he opposed to liberty, or to civilisation? And why is Freud taken as an authority on anything on a 'rational' board?

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 06:35am
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Regarding your first question: at a guess, I'd say that he's pro-liberty, but is probably arguing against the idea that authority somehow guarantees liberty, and is making an argument against those who use "civilization" and "government authority" interchangeably. He's probably also being an iconoclast and a contrarian, I understand he used to do that a fair bit.

As for your second question: no idea.



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 11:47am
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Leaving aside that the claim is ludicrous anyway, unless you don't think that women are individuals capable of liberty.



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 12:04pm
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Call me crazy, but I like this quote. I don't support it, but I like a quote that is obviously wrong and yet thought-provoking. I like that it engenders discussion.

My take on it is that Freud's referring to the strictures imposed on us by civilization. Those can be confining; to follow rules, even when they stop you from doing what you want, isn't always easy. A Lone Survivor is more "free" than a civilized person in the sense that there's no-one there to tell the Survivor what to do.



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 12:56pm
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HMS Conqueror wrote:
This quote becomes more baffling every time I read it. Is he opposed to liberty, or to civilisation? And why is Freud taken as an authority on anything on a 'rational' board?

1) Consider this statement as Freud's rebuttal to the attitude summed up by Benjamin Franklin: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Freud's point is that if you really believed that horseshit you should go out into the wild and become a hermit. Civilization is all about balancing liberty and security needs, among others. It doesn't function otherwise, because people with too much freedom tend to tear civilization apart for short term gain and damn the consequences. Actually, on that note you might argue that Freud is wrong about how free people are in anarchy-- those who are stronger or meaner can bully the weak and take away even that freedom.

2) Mike Wong has a couple books full of these kinds of quotes (don't we all? :) ) plus a thread in OT where you can suggest them, and his picks reflect his beliefs and prejudices more than anything. Their placement as the quote of the week should be understood in the context of who Mike is. In particular, this point comes up a lot when arguing with libertarians and other kinds of right wingers who practically worship the idea of "freedom" without thinking about what freedom means. Frequently, it comes down to thinking anything society might do that inconveniences an individual is automatically bad (especially if mandated by a government), or just an "I've got mine, society can go to hell for all I care" attitude. Now, you might not agree with that extreme interpretation of freedom and that is fine... but that is (almost certainly) the context under which Mike found the quote appealing.

3) Quotes need not be from an authority, so long as they make their point well. One of my favorite quotes of all time is Philip K. Dick's poignant definition of reality, but what authority is a career sci-fi writer on anything, especially reality? :wink:



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 01:17pm
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Formless wrote:
1) Consider this statement as Freud's rebuttal to the attitude summed up by Benjamin Franklin: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Freud's point is that if you really believed that horseshit you should go out into the wild and become a hermit. Civilization is all about balancing liberty and security needs, among others. It doesn't function otherwise, because people with too much freedom tend to tear civilization apart for short term gain and damn the consequences. Actually, on that note you might argue that Freud is wrong about how free people are in anarchy-- those who are stronger or meaner can bully the weak and take away even that freedom.

So he is against liberty - on balance that is how I was reading it, but one can never be sure with these mystics.

Quote:
3) Quotes need not be from an authority, so long as they make their point well. One of my favorite quotes of all time is Philip K. Dick's poignant definition of reality, but what authority is a career sci-fi writer on anything, especially reality? :wink:

May I suggest a quote with a similar meaning, and a little more poetry?

"Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" Mathew 22:21

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 01:51pm
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HMS Conqueror wrote:
So he is against liberty - on balance that is how I was reading it, but one can never be sure with these mystics.

Keep in mind that Freud was a German, and that Europeans in general have always seen American ideas about the meaning of Liberty as... well, fucking batshit crazy. Like, "anthropomorphizing a goddamn IDEA" kind of crazy. Have for some time, no idea how long exactly. That's why I used the word "balance" there-- because most people can see freedom in terms of degrees of freedom, as indeed Freud's own quote references. I would refrain from talking about what Freud intended this quote to mean unless we know the context he said it in-- and who translated it as well. A lot of misunderstandings start when people over analyze little things like this.

However, given Freud's views of the Id in his theory of psychology/personality/human nature, that's probably true, yeah. A human free of the norms of society to constrain him might seem a tad bit fucking dangerous when you assume all human beings are suppressing some kind of fundamental disfunction. Still, the idea has its merits and Freud would hardly have been the first to elucidate it.

Quote:
May I suggest a quote with a similar meaning, and a little more poetry?

"Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" Mathew 22:21

I don't think that quote means what you think it means. And I bet you won't find much consensus on what it means either, because anything from the bible is going to get a dozen different opinions based on each person's theology or even the most recent sermon they've heard. That's kinda the problem with using biblical quotes. Besides, good luck getting Mike to use a biblical quote for anything but the sake of irony.



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"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 01:57pm
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Formless wrote:
Frequently, it comes down to thinking anything society might do that inconveniences an individual is automatically bad (especially if mandated by a government), or just an "I've got mine, society can go to hell for all I care" attitude. Now, you might not agree with that extreme interpretation of freedom and that is fine... but that is (almost certainly) the context under which Mike found the quote appealing.

Is that an accurate representation of what they believe? People have misrepresented what they believed, arguing that libertarians favor Somalian-type society.

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 02:13pm
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amigocabal wrote:
Formless wrote:
Frequently, it comes down to thinking anything society might do that inconveniences an individual is automatically bad (especially if mandated by a government), or just an "I've got mine, society can go to hell for all I care" attitude. Now, you might not agree with that extreme interpretation of freedom and that is fine... but that is (almost certainly) the context under which Mike found the quote appealing.

Is that an accurate representation of what they believe? People have misrepresented what they believed, arguing that libertarians favor Somalian-type society.

Check the oldest Coliseum thread we have. Or check any one of numerous threads on this board that deal with libertarians, involving libertarian posters. There are, in fact, plenty of such morons in the world who seem to think in these terms. Most of them just don't want to connect the dots and see that their paradise is actually Somalia, and its only this side of a hellhole because you don't have to stay in a foxhole dodging bullets and bombs all day. Alternatively, read (about-- its really fucking horrible prose by any standard) Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, the bible for a lot of libertarians. Its plot literally revolves around all the Rugged Individualists (who just so happen to be the only vaguely competent people on earth, if you want to start talking about straw men) leaving society to live in an Objectivist Utopia.... never mind none of them have farmed so much as a flower garden in their lives and would starve within a couple years or sooner.

Turns out some people are delusional. Imagine that! :lol:



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"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"

The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 03:32pm
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HMS Conqueror wrote:
"The liberty of the individual is no gift of civilization. It was greatest before there was any civilization." - Sigmund Freud, German psychologist (1856-1939)

This quote becomes more baffling every time I read it. Is he opposed to liberty, or to civilisation? And why is Freud taken as an authority on anything on a 'rational' board?
The quote of the week isn't necessarily authoritative. It may just be something that whoever put it up happened to think was witty or thought-provoking or amusing.

“I liked the store detective who said he'd seen a lot of people who were so confused that they'd stolen things, but never one so confused that they'd paid twice.”

“A memorandum is written not to inform the reader but to protect the writer.”

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”

“The lion and the calf shall lie down together, but the calf won't get much sleep.”

And so on.

Lord Zentei wrote:
Regarding your first question: at a guess, I'd say that he's pro-liberty, but is probably arguing against the idea that authority somehow guarantees liberty, and is making an argument against those who use "civilization" and "government authority" interchangeably. He's probably also being an iconoclast and a contrarian, I understand he used to do that a fair bit.

As for your second question: no idea.
The quote gets an interesting interpretation of you add "Which was a bad time" to the end of it:

"The liberty of the individual is no gift of civilization. It was greatest before there was any civilization. Which was a bad time." So liberty may be better than not-liberty, but it's not a new invention, so you can't call it either a state-created thing or a result of progress.

Feil wrote:
Leaving aside that the claim is ludicrous anyway, unless you don't think that women are individuals capable of liberty.
The problem with perfect liberty for everyone is that it's mutually exclusive. If your right to swing your arm doesn't end at my nose, then whichever of us looks weakest gets punched in the nose a lot.

This ties into the Hobbesean version of the state of nature: the "war of all against all." Unless you consider "liberty" to be a buzzword that means "good by definition," unlimited liberty for everyone isn't necessarily a good thing, any more than unlimited food for everyone.

HMS Conqueror wrote:
So he is against liberty - on balance that is how I was reading it, but one can never be sure with these mystics.
What does it mean to be against liberty?

Does that mean "I am opposed to your right to do everything, whatever you wish to do I wish for you to not do?"

Or does that mean "I am opposed to your right to do anything, there are some things you may not do?"

If the latter opinion is "against liberty," then it's impossible for civilized life to exist without everyone being a freedom-hater or whatever. Which is ridiculous.

Quote:
Quote:
3) Quotes need not be from an authority, so long as they make their point well. One of my favorite quotes of all time is Philip K. Dick's poignant definition of reality, but what authority is a career sci-fi writer on anything, especially reality? :wink:
May I suggest a quote with a similar meaning, and a little more poetry?

"Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" Mathew 22:21
This does not convey the same meaning, especially not to an atheist. Or a Christian. Or, for that matter, anyone else except you, I think...

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 03:39pm
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Feil wrote:
Leaving aside that the claim is ludicrous anyway, unless you don't think that women are individuals capable of liberty.

How were women not individuals with liberty before the creation of the family, be it mono- or polygamous?



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-19 11:37pm
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Stas Bush wrote:
How were women not individuals with liberty before the creation of the family, be it mono- or polygamous?


I have made no such claim. However, given that the patriarchal family unit predates civilization, and most likely predates Homo sapiens itself, I think that is a meaningless question for the topic at hand.



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 02:15am
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Without knowing the context of the quote, I thought it was obvious what he was driving at.

Civilisation imposes rules, which by definition opposes liberty in the sense that you can't do what you want. Hence before civilisation you could (without these rules). Thus its silly to attribute liberty to civilisation (which is the main point).

This makes sense in the context of what Formless said in terms of Freud's exchange with Franklin. Society has trade offs. We restrict your "freedom" to do whatever you want because this restriction benefits society more. For example a driver cannot speed even though it obviously goes against freedom to do whatever you want. The benefit is we reduce the amount of road fatalities.

As to appealing to Freud, I don't see how its appealing to Freud as opposed to merely acknowledging he was the one who said the quote. Anyone who sees this as appealing to Freud is frankly reading too much into it.



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 02:17am
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Formless wrote:
amigocabal wrote:
Formless wrote:
Frequently, it comes down to thinking anything society might do that inconveniences an individual is automatically bad (especially if mandated by a government), or just an "I've got mine, society can go to hell for all I care" attitude. Now, you might not agree with that extreme interpretation of freedom and that is fine... but that is (almost certainly) the context under which Mike found the quote appealing.

Is that an accurate representation of what they believe? People have misrepresented what they believed, arguing that libertarians favor Somalian-type society.

Check the oldest Coliseum thread we have. Or check any one of numerous threads on this board that deal with libertarians, involving libertarian posters. There are, in fact, plenty of such morons in the world who seem to think in these terms. Most of them just don't want to connect the dots and see that their paradise is actually Somalia, and its only this side of a hellhole because you don't have to stay in a foxhole dodging bullets and bombs all day. Alternatively, read (about-- its really fucking horrible prose by any standard) Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, the bible for a lot of libertarians. Its plot literally revolves around all the Rugged Individualists (who just so happen to be the only vaguely competent people on earth, if you want to start talking about straw men) leaving society to live in an Objectivist Utopia.... never mind none of them have farmed so much as a flower garden in their lives and would starve within a couple years or sooner.

Turns out some people are delusional. Imagine that! :lol:

Funny you should mention it. HMS Conqueror who started this thread had demonstrated some LOLbertarian madness elsewhere before.



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 02:26am
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If we're going to start talking about hunter-gatherers I doubt the human males lived in anything remotely like perfect liberty before civilization either, or necessary more individual liberty than us. I'd bet a big chunk of change human societies before civilization had social rules and taboos and authority structures just like modern human societies from criminal gangs to giant nation-states do.

The idea of the time before civilization as one of anarchic innocence of authority and law (for better of for worse) strikes me as one that might have more to do with the ideas, projections etc. of "civilized" people than actual reality.

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 05:37am
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Formless wrote:
There are, in fact, plenty of such morons in the world who seem to think in these terms. Most of them just don't want to connect the dots and see that their paradise is actually Somalia, and its only this side of a hellhole because you don't have to stay in a foxhole dodging bullets and bombs all day.

Yes, and every libertarian agrees that Somalia is a constitutional republic governed by the rule of law.

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 06:11am
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Feil wrote:
Stas Bush wrote:
How were women not individuals with liberty before the creation of the family, be it mono- or polygamous?

I have made no such claim. However, given that the patriarchal family unit predates civilization, and most likely predates Homo sapiens itself, I think that is a meaningless question for the topic at hand.

Really?

1. Family unit does not predate civilization (see modern research on early human kinship in tribes, which did little if anything to support the notion of a monogamous family existing in tribal conditions).
2. Monogamy itself is rare as a biological phenomenon in humans and once again research and historical records of tribal societies suggest that monogamy was a recent invention, not one which predates the collapse of the tribal order.

So the question is far from meaningless. If early human kinship was more structured along matriarchal lines, monogamy was absent or at least not widespread and if we note something like this:
Wikipedia wrote:
In Herodutus's Histories, which contained some of the earliest anthropological writings, Herodotus noted a few societies and tribes that did not even opt for social monogamy at the time (circa 500 BC). One tribe he mentions had open relationships in the villages and then after puberty the boys were assigned their 'fathers' by who they most resembled. He mentions other socially open tribes, where mating openly in the daylight outside was observed. It is postulated that the reason he noted these was more likely as they were not the norm at the time in Ancient Greece where monogamy prevailed.

We would have to assume that women enjoyed a greater role in tribal societies and that they were, in fact, not bound by patriarchal family units.



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 10:00am
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Formless wrote:
Keep in mind that Freud was a German, and that Europeans in general have always seen American ideas about the meaning of Liberty as... well, fucking batshit crazy.

To be fair to them, I am a European and I regard the German ideas of non-Liberty to be pretty crazy, as evidenced by the millions of people who were murdered and enslaved as a result.

I think the quote states an interesting side in an interesting debate, but as objectively as anything is in philosophy it advocates the 'wrong' side.

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 11:06am
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Formless wrote:
amigocabal wrote:
Formless wrote:
Frequently, it comes down to thinking anything society might do that inconveniences an individual is automatically bad (especially if mandated by a government), or just an "I've got mine, society can go to hell for all I care" attitude. Now, you might not agree with that extreme interpretation of freedom and that is fine... but that is (almost certainly) the context under which Mike found the quote appealing.

Is that an accurate representation of what they believe? People have misrepresented what they believed, arguing that libertarians favor Somalian-type society.

Check the oldest Coliseum thread we have. Or check any one of numerous threads on this board that deal with libertarians, involving libertarian posters. There are, in fact, plenty of such morons in the world who seem to think in these terms. Most of them just don't want to connect the dots and see that their paradise is actually Somalia, and its only this side of a hellhole because you don't have to stay in a foxhole dodging bullets and bombs all day.

A discussion of the different flavors of libertarian would be an interesting thread by itself. There are the objectivists, who have completely erased all responsibility from their moral codes except those codified in explicit, written contracts. There are the anarcho-libertarians, who believe that everything, including contract enforcement, should be privatized. There are the Austrians, who believe that government should exist only to enforce contracts (they criticize monetarism on the grounds that tinkering with interest rates causes asset bubbles). There are the straight-up libertarians, like Milton Friedman, who think that most everything should be privatized, but the government should exist and be responsible for contract enforcement, mitigating extreme poverty (I have heard one say that basic provision of food should be free for those in extreme poverty, or c.f. Friedman's proposed negative income tax), and ensuring monetary stability. There are the classical liberals, like Adam Smith or Friederich Bastiat, who run the gamut from effectively Austrian to believing that almost markets should be free, but government is responsible for provision of welfare to the poor and working-class. There are the "soft libertarians", I call them, like Paul Krugman, who believe that most markets should be free, that international trade should be free, but that there is a role for a large modern government. Then there are the de-facto libertarians, who haven't really thought through their economic beliefs for consistency, but believe that there is a basic moral difference between actively causing a consequence X and passively causing X by not intervening: it's immoral to shoot someone, but it's not immoral to let him shoot five people.



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 11:50am
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HMS Conqueror wrote:
Formless wrote:
Keep in mind that Freud was a German, and that Europeans in general have always seen American ideas about the meaning of Liberty as... well, fucking batshit crazy.

To be fair to them, I am a European and I regard the German ideas of non-Liberty to be pretty crazy, as evidenced by the millions of people who were murdered and enslaved as a result.

I think the quote states an interesting side in an interesting debate, but as objectively as anything is in philosophy it advocates the 'wrong' side.


Are you a fucking idiot? Explain what you mean by German "ideas of non-Liberty" and also explain how Freud is backing the Nazis.

You might also start by explaining how Freud is suddenly German. Last I checked, he was Austrian.



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 11:59am
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Not just Nazis; the international strain of socialism also originated from Germany.

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 12:14pm
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HMS Conqueror wrote:
Not just Nazis; the international strain of socialism also originated from Germany.


a) Which got what to do with Freud?
b) Actually, it was started by Germans living in England after being influenced from the radical Jacobin strain of the French Revolution.



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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 12:50pm
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a) The comment to which I was referring compared general German and US attitudes and intellectual climates, not just those of Freud.
b) Germans tend to originate from Germany.

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 01:50pm
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HMS Conqueror wrote:
a) The comment to which I was referring compared general German and US attitudes and intellectual climates, not just those of Freud.
b) Germans tend to originate from Germany.



Ah, so the general German philosophical attitude is anti-freedom in your opinion?



Whoever says "education does not matter" can try ignorance
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A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! - Chief Judge Haywood

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 Post subject: Re: The Quote PostPosted: 2012-05-20 03:30pm
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Glamorous Commie
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Joined: 2003-02-26 12:39pm
Posts: 17297
Location: 差不多先生
Babeuf and many other international socialists somehow "originated" from Germany? HMS Conqueror, do you even think before you post, or you're just... posting?



Misereor

A short story of humanity's first contact

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