Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Mitchell Heisman and Bibliolatry's biathanatos.

Mtichell Heisman was a 35 year old auto-didact who published  a long pseudo-philosophical suicide-note on the Web before blowing his brains out. The blog 'never yet melted' singled out the following extract which, given its Schopenauerian genealogy, throws a not altogether aleatory light upon a novel feature of Hindu Ethics.
The most rigorous objectivity implies indifference to the consequence of objectivity-  i.e. whether the consequences of objectivity yield life or death for the observer.  In other words, the elimination of subjectivity demands indifference to self-preservation when self-preservation conflicts with objectivity. The attempt at rigorous objectivity could potentially counter the interests of self-preservation or even amount to rational self-destruction. The most total objectivity appears to lead to the most total self-negation. Objectivity towards biological factors is objectivity towards life factors. Indifference to life factors leads to indifference between the choices of life and death. To approach objectivity with respect to self-interest ultimately leads to indifference to whether one is alive or dead.
The dead are most indifferent; the least interested; the least biased; the least prejudiced one way or the other. What is closest to total indifference is to be dead. If an observer hypothesizes death then, from that perspective, the observer has no vested interests in life and thus possible grounds for the most objective view. The more an observer is reduced to nothing, the more the observer is no longer a factor, the more the observer might set the conditions for the most rigorous objectivity.

Hindus will recognize that the view of objectivity championed here is that of the Chandala who argues against Rishi Vishvamitra's decision to steal a haunch of dog-meat to sustain his life. Objectively, there can be no doubt that the pariah is right- Vishvamitra is violating the rules of Brahminhood. Subjectively, no doubt, Vishvamitra is justified- he is famished and the dog-meat suddenly looks very appetizing. This is a case of 'Apadh Dharma'- a catastrophic circumstance breeding a Schmittian 'State of Exception'. The fact that Vishvamitra offers no real objective argument and then, to compound his offense, offers the dog-meat in a Brahminical sacrifice from which he himself benefits appears to be nothing but an exercise in hypocrisy.

However, this is a superficial view. The fact is, this episode- like every other in the Mahabharata- has a dual somewhere else where the opposite happens. Specifically, a cow argues with the Sage Kapila urging him to eat of its properly sacrificed flesh so as to fulfill a Brahminical duty. Ved Vyasa, the editor of the Vedas and author of the Mahabharata, is pointing to a symmetry between Vishvamitra and Nahusha- both have been translated from the sphere into which they were born into another which might appear 'higher'. Vishvamitra was a Baron who became a Brahmin. Nahusha was a mortal who became the King of the Gods- till by an act of hubris he overstepped the mark. His fall was brought about by his denial that cows could be properly sacrificed according to Vedic rites. Subjectively, Hindus feel Nahusha did the right thing and Vishvamitra did the wrong thing- we have a horror of eating both beef and dog-flesh. We might wink at both as 'Apadh Dharma' but then expect to witness some costly act of expiation or dramatic performance of 'prayaschitham' penance to settle karmic accounts. 

Philosophically, it may appear, there is an easy way to reconcile our Subjective feelings and the necessarily Objective, for materialist, nature of Vedic ritual. We can say- 'All happens by the Will of the Lord alone. Vishvamitra did not steal the dog-flesh. The Lord caused him to do it. Indeed, it is the Lord alone who determines whether it is pure 'payasam' or noxious dog-flesh which we put into our mouths. Every substance, at every moment, is endowed with properties by His Will alone.
' Subjectively, we live in a World of 'Maya'- Illusion- believing that we act whereas in fact the Lord is the only Actor. That Objective, Noumenal, World is far beyond our ken save in so far as, by His Grace, our feet become firmly planted in Yoga and we attain the cessation of all subjective conceptual activity- i.e.  'nirvikalpa samadhi-' and taste the bliss of 'satchitanandam.' Our bodies may remain on earth but they now perform only those actions pleasing or required by the Lord in a manner wholly independent of subjective cognition.'

However, this facile philosophy makes for a bad hermeneutic. Why did Ved Vyasa bother to bring an over-educated Chandala out-caste into the text? The answer is that the Mahabharata is built up out of rigorous symmetries for a reason I've explained elsewhere. In this case, the Chandala is echoing the arguments of a Vedic Rishi who entered the cow which discoursed with Kapila. The 'siddhanta'- i.e. principle- thus revealed is that Objective deontology is dialogic in nature and thus radically defeasible in a sense H.L.A Hart- himself the descendant of that Ellenbogen Rabbi declared titular King of Poland- would recognize. Indeed, the Rabbinic notion of 'halachah vein morin kein'- that injunction which, if known, forbids its own performance- as well as the Sanhedrin's rejection of univocal judgements points to Obvectivism's foundation in a dialogic it can never itself depass or transcend.

Kant, of course, had a different view. He thought Relationism- including dialogic- can't answer some puzzling features about the world - e.g. the problem of 'incongruent counterparts'- and thus there must be some lurking substantivist truth which can be arrived at by a transcendental argument. However, the Wu experiment showed empirically that Relationism, or indeed Perspectivism, suffers no such flaw or aporia. There is a dialogic- one that requires training in the exact sciences- within which Objective truth remains defeasible and displays an anthropic tropism such that human life is conserved.

Where dialogic is interrupted or loses salience, no doubt, the reverse may appear to be the case.
To illustrate what I mean, let us look at a contemporary parallel to Kapila's dialogue with the cow.
In the 'Restaurant at the End of the Universe' Douglas Adams introduces a talking cow which has been specifically genetically engineered to entice patrons to eat it. Subjectively, the reader identifies with Arthur Dent- a beef eater in ordinary life- who rejects the cow's entreaties. We feel there is something 'monstrous'- in the Kantian sense- something too big for its intended purpose- about the cow and if the dialogue were prolonged, would decline to partake of its flesh.

By contrast, Doestoevsky's ultimate nihilist- Kirillov the Man-God who parodies Orthodox theosis- is pathetic rather than monstrous. His suicide is instrumentalized by his interlocutors in a manner that shows that the logical consequence of 'taking one's own Will as the only reality' is that, objectively, it serves a merely statistical or meretriciously sociological purpose. Similarly, Otto Weininger's suicide was instrumentalized- Dieter Eckhart told Hitler he was the one good Jew, because he was beforehand in doing away with himself according to the best 'sociobiological' principles- yet both Kirillov and Weininger escape these instrumentalizations and endure only within pathos's passionate pragmatics.

Heisman's own magnum opus- which he believed would be suppressed- similarly, now seems pathetic rather than monstrous. It is not that it is far too long to be an effective suicide-note, or internet meme for self-murder, but that its further prolongation would inevitably have involved a dialogic destructive of its thesis. Like Adams's cow- whose defect is it hasn't been bred to persuade us Arthur Dents to eat it, because there has been no process of co-evolution towards that end- yet which pops off to kill itself 'humanely'- because the diners are in a hurry and the Universe is about to end- Heisman's cheerful arguments rapidly recede from view leaving Objectivity and Subjectivity's Red Queen Race precisely where he found them and we, alas, remain

Heisman continues thus-
It is likely that most people will not even consider the veracity of this correlation between death and objectivity even if they understand it intellectually because most will consciously or unconsciously choose to place the interests of self-preservation over the interests of objectivity. In other words, to even consider the validity of this view assumes that one is willing and able to even consider prioritizing objectivity over one’s own self-preservation. Since it not safe to simply assume this on an individual level, let alone a social level, relatively few are willing and able to seriously address this issue (and majority consensus can be expected to dismiss the issue). In short, for most people, including most “scientists”, overcoming self-preservation is not ultimately a subject for rational debate and objective discussion.
The problem here is that, as an empirical matter, we know that most reasonable people, not pathological in their psychology, recognize objective circumstances where they must sacrifice their own lives- even commit suicide- but, at the macro level, since this happens in accordance with the predictions of Hamilton's rule, rational debate and objective discussion remain highly salient.
Maximizing objectivity can be incompatible with maximizing subjective interests. 
This is the crux of the matter. Heisman has been misled by a Utilitarianism which focused on constrained optimization of a Social Welfare Function over a zero-sum game.  Thus he speaks of 'maximization' of one thing as involving 'minimizing' of something else.
That's all very well and good in a one-period universe or one where no Uncertainty obtained. However, under Knightian Uncertainty, 'Regret minimization', not 'Utility maximization', is the Muth rational choice. In this case, 'Objective truth' has an interest in preserving 'Subjective' diversity. This is a case of 'co-evolution'. Capacitance diversity is dammed up and released upon a shifting fitness landscape.
In some situations, anything less than death is compromise. The choice between objectivity and self-preservation may lead one to a Stoic’s choice between life and death.
The problem here is that Identity is inchoate. At one pole- that of, the Materialist, Dawkins' Extended Phenotype- it dissolves back into what Heisman might call the viviosphere; at the other, that of, a Tegmarkian Computationalist, it loses all access to a principle of Individuation.
 Stoicism has a 'regret minimizing' strategy whose aim is to conserve 'ataraxia'. Thus, even if it recognizes the 'sorites' problem described above; it has no interest in resolving it.
Whereas the humanities cannot be what they are without human subjectivities, the inhumanities, or hard sciences, require the subjective element be removed as much as possible as sources of error. 
The 'Humanities' are a solution to a coordination problem for Social pedagogy. No doubt, there is a lot of hysteresis involved in the specification of its canon but, surely, this is of diminishing concern because the hard sciences have greatly improved our means of communications such that pedagogy is playing catch up rather than setting the agenda.
The greatest beneficiary has been the hard sciences. Subjects previously paralyzed by 'Methodenstreit' or the overweening influence of celebrated savant can now burgeon thanks to on-line publishing.
'Sources of error', no doubt, are less carefully guarded against but- Aristotle's solution- equitable remedies are better and more freely applied to compensate for what might otherwise be a fatal lack of 'Quality Control'. Thus, a guy who gets an equation wrong or gives a false citation isn't punished for one mistake. Other people spontaneously help him 'patch' his work. An equitable remedy is spontaneously and collectively applied because the underlying subject-matter is alethic and advances others' Research, or even independent Research Programs.
Objectivity leads towards the elimination of subjectivity, i.e. the elimination of one’s “humanity”. A value free science has no basis on which to value human things over non-human things and thus no basis to value life over death or vice versa. Social science will become equal to the standards of physical science when social scientists overcome the subjective preference for the life of humanity over the death of humanity.
We can imagine an omniscient Benthamite computer which chooses to put the whole of humanity into a 'Matrix' like coma so as to 'maximize Utility'. We can even imagine a sentient Computer deciding Mankind should be wiped out because, on balance, existence is more painful than pleasurable. However, since Knightian Uncertainty obtains, 'Regret Minimization' is the correct strategy for the Computer to use and it can't counsel death over life or the reduction of  'subjective' diversity for no good reason.

To attempt to resolve the contradiction of myself as a scientist and a human being on the side of science leads towards viewing myself as a material object. While this contradiction may be impossible to resolve, the closest approximation of reconciliation may consist of the state of death. In death, the teleologically-inclining biases of human subjectivity that hinder one from viewing one’s self as a material object are eliminated.
Once again we have a false view of dialectic as involving 'resolutions' such that one thing is 'eliminated' so that another can burgeon.
Evolution under uncertainty can't afford to proceed like that- or rather it terminates very quickly when this happens. Rather, there is a process of co-evolution- not a 'reconciliation'- a teleological 'Red Queen race', not a once-and-for-all Thanatotic Checkmate.

I cannot fully reconcile my understanding of the world with my existence in it. There is a conflict between the value of objectivity and the facts of my life. This experiment is designed to demonstrate a point of incompatibility between “truth” and “life”. In this experiment I hypothesize that the private separation of facts and values, when disclosed to the wider social world, creates a conflict of interest between the value of sociobiological objectivity and the “facts” of my sociobiological existence such that it leads to a voluntary and rational completion of this work in an act of self-destruction. …
This is by no means a sophomore argument. Heisman is positing a Liberalism that developed ab ovo without Aristotelian, or Ciceronian, or Anglo-Norman Equity- and drawing a conclusion by no means unreasonable.
We might point to Francis Bacon as the last intellectual Colossus, in our Anglo Saxon tradition, to straddle both shores- that of the Law and that of the Natural Sciences- and bemoan his fate- 'a coward conquest of a wretch's knife'- the wretch being in question being Sir Edward Coke, upon whose magisterial Institutes America's founding fathers whetted their mother wit. Yet to do so is also to grant the necessity of 'closing the doors of Equity'- i.e. curbing the Crown's issuance of novel writs- because the Law's dialogic could not otherwise have burgeoned in a manner disruptive of Leviathan and constitutive of Civil Society.
Heisman, in coming with clean hands to the 'truth' of Objective Law, denies himself such blessed equitable estoppel as the discordant 'facts' of his life might warrant because his 'separation of facts and values' remains wholly private.
Elsewhere I have argued that the fact value dichotomy is only inter-subjectively established. Following Putnam, some might deny that it can ever be disentangled but, at least for positive Economics this is not the case.
How far would one be willing to go in pursuit of scientific objectivity? Objectivity and survival are least compatible when objectivity becomes a means of life, subordinate to life as opposed to life subordinated to objectivity. 
We can certainly understand a scientist who decides he must destroy himself to save our species from some terrible disease of which he is the only carrier. Equally, a scientist who decides that our entire species must be wiped out to save the biosphere is intelligible to us. However, in both cases, a superior alternative exists. In the one case, it is better to quarantine the disease carrier so that an antibody can be found. In the other, we can beat the fucker to death while saying snide things about his pee-pee.

Clearly, Heisman isn't talking about cases like the above at all. He is channeling Hegel on the Master-Slave dialectic about which he has curious views.
He thinks the English were enslaved by the Normans and thus,'objectively', are a slave race though the 'facts of their lives' admit no such acceptation. The Southern planter was a Norman and thus a 'Master'. The Northern manufacturer was an Anglo Saxon 'Slave'. Thus the North waged war on the South in the name of a Slavery that was their own 'objective' truth . Furthermore, they went and elected 'Supernigger' Obama because
'While the proud Northern victory in the Civil War freed both Anglo-Saxons and blacks from the shadow of their historic oppressors, admitting the Norman Yoke would also be admitting a past of Anglo-Saxon slavery. Anglo-Saxon racial pride itself demanded that the victory be sublimated in universal terms. Why, then, is America the exceptional and paradoxical country where a black man can become president? The answer is Anglo-Saxon racial pride.'

We are now in a position to understate Heisman's motive in writing this suicide note. As one might have subjected, Heisman is an invention of Borges.
If the greatest objectivity implicates confronting the most subjective biases, this implicates confronting those truths that most conflict with the subjective will to live. By simply changing my values from life values to death values, and setting my trajectory for rational biological self-destruction, I am able to liberate myself from many of the biases that dominate the horizons of most people’s lives. By valuing certain scientific observations because they are destructive to my life, I am removing self-preservation factors that hinder objectivity. This is how I am in a position to hypothesize my own death.

Heisman's suicide turns him into Jesus because ...urm... well just read Borges on Donne's Biathantos why don't you?

So if objectivity is not justified as end, then objectivity can be a means of rational self-destruction through the overcoming of the bias towards life. Rational self-destruction through the overcoming of the bias towards life, in turn, can be a means of achieving objectivity. And this means: To will death as a means of willing truth and to will truth as a means of willing death. …
Why am I doing this? Ah, yes, now I remember the punchline: I’ll try anything once!
There is nothing to take seriously!       
Indeed not. Did people take Huntingdon and Fukuyama and Alan Bloom and so on seriously? I was there, but I can no longer recall.
The truth is reading books enstoopidifies a man. Writing a blog, however, is merely a sanitary exercise.




Sunday, 26 June 2016

Delenda est Cameronus- a dirge

Tho' Delenda est Cameronus has been this blog's unblushing, all unlocking, watchword
Why atomize by re-flushing our communal bog's so densely blocking up turd?
Tell it not in Gath- no- nor Publish it on Twitter
Referenda's Revolutions overflow the Shitter


Saturday, 25 June 2016

Whom to blame for Brexit?

Currently British Law affirms the supremacy of Human Rights Law, including the Right to Asylum.
Such laws are incentive incompatible and the Brexit vote was an inarticulate acknowledgement of this brute and ugly fact.
But whom should we blame for it?
No doubt I will receive a lot of hate-mail for pointing the finger without equivocation at Whales. We offered them shelter, on our shores, from Japanese persecution. Yet they voted 'Leave'. Now, bereft of Brussels's support, they will be abandoned to the tender mercies of Ian Duncan Smith.

Fuck you Whales! You know not what you have wrought.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Jerry Gaus killing off True Morality.

Jerry Gaus, author of 'The Order of Public Reason' (OPR) has developed a functionalist theory of 'Social Morality' as coordinating diverse 'Normative Demands'.

He believes that- 'For a social morality to exist there must be coordination on what can be normatively demanded of one, and how one’s claims against others will be resolved.'

If 'morality' is non-Kantian, or non-cognitivist, this is trivially achieved.

Successful Thymotic Societies have a 'Social Morality' such that things like 'untouchability' and Droit du Seigneur  gain convergent normativity in the sense of being a Schelling focal solution to a Co-ordination problem for all members of Society not currently being disembowelled or having their heads lopped off.
Diverse 'Normative Demands' are easily accommodated by some Eschatological or Ontologically dysphoric supplementary hypothesis- e.g. the virgin currently being raped by the Baron gets her revenge- like Amba upon Bhishma- in her next incarnation- or else the one becomes a Saint in Heaven while the other is sodomized by Belial.

As Plato pointed out in the Sophist, if the supplementary hypothesis serves any function- i.e. if if it has any power to affect anything- then it is as real as anything else.
Thus any arbitrary Thymotic dispensation is the solution to a co-ordination problem involving diverse 'Normative demands' provided there is no constraint on 'Social Morality' being coupled with a more or less dysphoric, i.e. supernatural, Ontology.

Gaus, not being a lunatic, presumably wants a non-status dependent Morality (i.e. correlated asymmetry obtains in every permissible transaction) with a maximally alethic ontology.

Thus it is reasonable to believe that, for him, 'Social Morality' must be independent of Thymotic status- the Baron doesn't get to rape all the virgins in his demesne just because he is a Baron- and furthermore must be reconcilable to a Naturalistic ontology regulated by Scientific Method.

One way to do this is by assuming that no Thymotic or Hysteresis based Paretian 'residues and derivatives' pollute agents' conceptualization of 'Social Morality' as the solution to the coordination problem of Normative Pluralism.

Gaus formalizes this by writing-
'Because of the functional requirement, a social morality thus has an existence requirement: only if the rules of a social morality, M in society S, are sufficiently widely shared among members of S (they have the relevant shared beliefs, intentions, attitudes and behaviors), and it is sufficiently widely known that they share these, can M be the social morality of S. A social morality is partly constituted by the coordinated beliefs, intentions, and attitudes of the members of society. It is social not simply in the sense that it pertains to social matters (any morality can have social matters as its content), but it is also social in its constitutive conditions. Thus, OPR maintains that M’s normative status depends on a social fact: if M satisfies the existence requirement it is what I call the “positive morality” of S, and only if M is a positive morality of S, can it be a normatively justified social morality in S. Of course we can work to bring about a better positive morality, but until the normative and empirical expectations are actually in place it is only a proposal, as of yet incapable of performing social morality’s coordination functions.'

The problem here is that both coordination and discoordination games are a feature of life and prevail through purely mimetic, not conceptual, drivers because the latter are more cognitively costly. More generally, regret minimization under Knightian Uncertainty militates for stochastic participation in both.

Gaus is aware that there is a problem with his approach-  he writes
'...if our aim is a world in which human rights claims get real traction and uptake in different cultures (and are not viewed as alien western impositions), this easy route (i.e. stipulating that somethings are universally right or wrong) is not terribly satisfying. My question is: can human rights claims be grounded in social morality, which is inherently a shared, socially recognized, enterprise? 
His answer is in two parts
1) there may be an implicit acknowledgment at odds with the explicit public signal- e.g. kitty is as much a member of my family as my daughter- that fat lump- and should definitely get a vote in the Brexit referendum coz not only is Viktor Orban a cat but Nigel Farage definitely has swallowed a canary.  Gaus is' calling attention to a status that the owners are committed to but are not truly honoring,' in other words us middle aged cat-owners- who recognise that kitty is much more intelligent and deserving of a vote in the Referendum than our misshapen and over-educated progeny- ought to STAND UP AND BE COUNTED.  Drown your kids in the bath-tub if they say they are going to vote 'Remain' and marry kitty so she can get Citizenship in a post-Brexit Britain ruled by Feline Farage.
If we we fail to act now, Americans like Gaus, will hold us responsible for failing to explicitly recognize these rights kitty undoubtedly has.

2) if all agent's are Kant autonomous there is a transcendental argument lurking somewhere.

Sorry Gaus, there aint no such thing,  unless Kant was empirically right about 'incongruent counterparts'- i.e. we have to quit a Relationist Space and, by some Transcendental means, get to a Substantivist Universe where one's left hand would know if it was prior to one's right.

Now, it may be that Kantian 'intuition' is mimetic in some Relationist sense and what we call 'Concepts' are merely intuitions with a low Time Complexity algorithmic description. However, the fact is, Kantian intuitions are misleading. He commented chirality as a critique of Relationism whereas we know, from the Wu experiment, that he was wrong. There was no purely conceptual way to establish this brute fact about the world. In other words, purely Conceptual Schelling focal solutions (besides being computationally intractable) are not robust to small changes in the inter-subjective Information set and thus can have no functional or explanatory power for 'Social Morality' as opposed to some essentially voluntarist arrangement of a mutable kind.

There is a subtle counter-argument viz- since cognitive resources are scarce, perhaps we should  treat concepts as costly signals in Public Justification?

If so, the use of a Concept in Discourse ought to give rise to a separating equilibrium as there is an uncorrelated asymmetry based on the agent's knowledge of whether of not she emitted a costly signal.

However, if there is a superior intuition whose algorithmic definition has high Time complexity, then 'Social Morality' & 'Public Justification' etc loses Alethic status. The separating equilibrium now distinguishes worthless gobshittery merely and is confined to a class of ill-paid pundits, pedagogues and pimps arbitraging the resultant discoordination game.

What if, there is a concept of 'public morality' which requires us to posit a correlated asymmetry as normative? An example is Harsanyi's notion that moral questions should be analysed as if no agent knew what 'type' they are as if behind Rawls's 'veil of ignorance'.

In this case, some argue that we'd get a 'pooling equilibrium'- e.g. everybody gets paid the same regardless of their contribution- and that might be what God wants.

This argument fails unless we live in an instantaneous 'kshanikavada' world.

The menu on offer, to be feasible, must be incentive compatible. If it isn't, it would be allocatively inefficient and so potential for subsequent Welfare improving private trading would arise and hence 'social morality' would be merely a veil covering private hypocrisy.

For allocative efficiency to arise out of a public mechanism, every agent's bid and offer price for every good or service would need to be Common Knowledge. Here, each agent's 'spread' would reintroduce uncorrelated asymmetry and a separating equilibrium without, however, any need for 'costly signals'. But that's only because we assumed the mechanism had costless information acquisition and processing. In other words, it's a pile of shite.

This raises the question, why is it gobshites we always have with us? Why is Discourse dominated by shite Concepts when, as outlined above, there is an alethic algorithmic process to show Concepts, as applied to any complex matter, are ab ovo shite?

The answer, obviously, is that maintaining an army of blathershites is itself a costly signal. Since such signals give rise to aposematism- i.e cheap talk mimicry- an initial uncorrelated asymmetry just found a way to reinforce itself dynamically.

In other words, we have a Justice system which can be gamed by means of 'costly signals' disguising themselves as 'cheap talk' Social Morality.

Thus Gaus's thesis cashes out as- 'Social Morality is the Justice System which continually changes the goal posts because it can be gamed and that's actually a good thing guys because noise is a driver for liquidity and capacitance diversity!' In other words, instead of using the folk theorem of repeated games to de-Kant Ethics, like Binmore, Gaus is relying on an obsolete reading of Thomas Schelling to repeat Kant's sick joke.

He writes- (my comments are in bold) For a social morality to exist there must be coordination on what can be normatively demanded of one, and how one’s claims against others will be resolved. In other words there must be some Judicial forum such that Rights have Remedies. We now must distinguish two very different senses in which a person can share a normative expectation with others. In one case, which characterizes a strictly positive morality, there is wide agreement on what people believe is normatively expected of one, and indeed one may advance against others “oughts” based on this. Here there is no need for a Judicial forum, or indeed even a notion of 'Social Morality'. If the parties to a transaction share normative expectations then each admits that all agents with the same normative expectations share a culpa levis in concreto duty to point out and remedy any act of omission or commission that arises in that connection.  In other words, there is a Ceremonious as opposed to Judicial focal point for the co-ordination game. Not a Judge, but an arbiter on Ceremonial procedure has salience. 

But this does not imply that anyone truly endorses the requirements and demands as normative. 
True enough. Rugby players know it is ceremonially right and proper to kick their opponent'-s head in on the pitch but normative to buy him a pint and fondle him affectionately once maudlin drunk.
Given the moral and other evaluational beliefs of any member of the society, she might see the social morality, M, as making unreasonable and immoral demands, yet all may continue to act on M, and demand that others do so too, perhaps fearing social disapproval and other punishment. 
Quite false. If x sees M as 'unreasonable and immoral' there is a countervailing dis-coordination game and thus a different dynamics.
Contrast this to a case in which each, drawing on her own normative perspective, endorses the positive morality as truly normative. Following Kurt Baier, I call such a system of social morality a “true morality.” However, such 'true morality' would not be a 'Social Morality' any more than it would be a 'Mammalian Morality'. This is because the acceptations of 'Social' and 'Mammalian', in this context, are not robust to entry or exit at the margin.

 Such a system is characterized by convergent normativity, and so has three great virtues.
(i) It is a stable basis for social morality, for each sees that it is endorsed by her (controversial) vision of moral truth. 
Nonsense. It is not robust to small changes in the inter-subjective Information Set. If agents are heterogenous in their Reception of such changes, no 'stable basis' obtains.
When, under conditions of reasonable disagreement, convergent normativity does not obtain, many are apt to cynically view their social morality. It claims to determine the correct adjudication of claims, yet when some think through these matters, they find it is simply the customary code, or the view of the powerful to which they must conform. This is certainly apt to weaken their commitment; as moral agents they do not see why they should internalize its rules, feel guilt when they violate them, and so on. In turn, this is almost certainly corrosive of the shared normative and empirical expectations upon which, I have argued, human social life depends. 
Why have you argued such a silly thing? You know very well that we evolved on a highly uncertain fitness landscape. Evolution can give rise to 'Zahavi handicaps'- i.e. costly signals- but they are never Mission Critical at the group selective level. 

'Shared normative and empirical expectations' simply aint robust enough for anything other than, not coordination, but discoordination games- such that Life Chances are traded off against Reproductive Success, or something of that sort- till an Evolutionarily Stable State is reached. Arbitrage opportunities, or the possibility of a De Finetti 'Dutch book',  are evidence that Dis-coordination games exist. If a moral entrepreneur espousing a theory of 'Social Morality' can make a living then there must already be a separating equilibrium. But then, this Morality is Thymotic not status-independent. In other words, even if all agents have Aumann agreement and the mechanism is Baumol super-fair, still- since uncorrelated asymmetry obtains- no 'True Morality'exists save by a non-Kantian, non-cognitivist, genuinely 'Spiritual', process.

(ii) As Rawls observes, if convergent normativity obtains, if anyone has the truth about morality, then our social morality is itself in conformity with such truth.
Not so. Think of the Sanhedrin's rule against unanimity or the notion of a 'halachah vein morin kein'. The truth possessed by one may forbid unanimity re. that very truth to Society. Moreover, the truth may be one which it is forbidden to teach or act on iff known.
There is also the Schmittian argument re. 'the state of Exception' and a Girardian argument re. mimetic desire and so on. 
 I am aware that some are not especially concerned about their own fallibility in these matters, and do not seek the confirmation of other perspectives. However, to those who are convinced there is an ultimate truth about morality but are impressed by how difficult it is to reason well about these matters, a social morality characterized by convergent normativity is a great good.
Like Santa Claus is a great good coz  he saves us from having to buy pressies for the kiddies. 
If it is genuinely difficult to 'reason well' about something, normative convergence is likely to be lowest common denominator fucked in the head.
Krishna tells us that 'Dharma' is difficult to reason about. The Pundits decide that since this is now 'Kali Yuga' normative convergence must be on Hobbesian lines. But this is pure Ontological dysphoria. Society agrees to be as beastly as possible so everyone has an incentive to withdraw from the world, even while going through the motions, and bet everything on a release from the bondage of rebirth.
 (iii) Most importantly, OPR argues that, on the most plausible account of the reactive attitudes, what I have been calling a “true morality” allows each of us to suppose that violators appropriately experience guilt, and that those treated wrongly in social morality appropriately feel resentment. 
Nonsense! Where 'true morality' obtains I gain great joy when you point out some act of ommission or commission on my part. Metanoia and Reparative Acts are part of a Joyful Theosis such that the 'Dark Night of the Soul' is sublated. By contrast, being universally venerated, is likely to breed an 'accidie' or Spiritual aridity by reason of the lack of any spur to guilt and remorse and cathartic public humiliation. Thus Mother Theresa complained of losing her Faith precisely because she attained Universal Acclaim and this is accounted by the Vatican as a proof of Election.

Gaus, however, is committed to the notion that 'Social Morality', divorced from a Voluntarism of the Spirit, somehow grants Rights and Remedies so as to eventually coalesce with the Judicial solution to Society's underlying co-ordination problem.
He writes-
 It is typically the case, given the account I have offered, that controversial judgments of wrongness do not support moral responsibility judgments. When we interrogate the other person’s point of view, we see that even given diligent good reasoning, she cannot see the force of our claim. Now in the case of social morality, to divorce judgments of wrongness from judgments of responsibility would undermine it as an effective tool. Social morality is critically a practice of responsibility.
The Sage Ninomiya showed how Spiritual Voluntarism can deal with problems arising in Sonnnenshien, Mandel, Debreu, and elaborated by Kirman,  such that a General Equilibrium has its own way of discriminating between 'incongruous counterparts'- i.e. ceases to be 'any thing goes'. 

Essentially, Ninomiya acted as the Moral 'Reserve Bank' for the Community repairing deficits experienced by agents by using a surplus generated by the superior application of Technology and Mechanism Design. This created a virtuous circle because Ninomiya made communally dischargable the duty to 'reward virtue' which itself consisted in foregoing consumption in order to raise up the poorest. 

In other words, 'hedging effects' (which include 'Wealth effects' and are a discoordination game giving rise to an arbitrageur who can profitably run a Dutch book or Parrando's game) get internalized in a Coasian manner because there is a Vickrey-Clark mechanism whose currency is purely Spiritual, not material at all.

This is the opposite of an Inquisition which wastes resources and throws away information. 'Interrogating people' is stupid. Doing good in an incentive compatible manner and reinforcing mimetic processes with 'Knowledge effects'- Ninomiya is also the patron Saint of popular Education- is what is called for- under the rubric of culpa levis in concreto- of any person engaged in worldly transactions who yet is attached to a 'true morality'.
 As I have emphasized, it requires shared normative and empirical expectations; maintaining a true social morality requires maintaining these expectations — rebuking people who do not act on the shared justified rules (their actions undermine empirical expectations) and those who make mistakes about what the rules require (and so undermine shared normative expectations). 
Rebuking people will get your head kicked in- unless that's already your shtick in which all you are doing is coercing compliance. This has nothing to do with 'true morality'. 
So, while the very idea of a judgment of wrongness does not entail the practice of responsibility, in social morality these are intimately linked. Every complexity is not a fallacy or conflation.
Oh fuck! The guy is gonna start blathering about complex adaptive systems like Sanjeev Sanyal!
Good to know that 'True Morality' can be killed off as easily as 'Hinduism' by pretending that Society isn't a a a rent-seeking Tiebout Model whose virtue is that it is robust to changes in Voice and Loyalty but not, ultimately, Hirschman Exit.


Sunday, 19 June 2016

Blake's Tyger's sinister Chirality

The uncorrelated asymmetry in Shibi's Hawk /Dove
& incongruent counterparts in Shiblian Love
are Blake's Tyger's  sinister Chirality
Till 'Hang in there kitty' minister Virality

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Steve Landburg & sex with corpses

Steve Landsburg is now saying- 'Sex with a corpse is probably a positive-sum game; it’s unlikely to interfere with anyone else’s plans.'
Previously he  had suggested that the rape of an unconscious person which doesn't result in injury, disease or pregnancy, might be 'efficient' in the sense in which the term is used in Welfare Economics.

On that occasion, David Friedman wrote a post suggesting that there was something interesting from the philosophical point of view in Landsburg's post.

Both were wrong because they thought that Utilitarianism acts in a mechanical manner to sum the utilities of agents alive or conscious at a given time. This may indeed be the limit case of a one period economy with no interdependence of Utility functions. However, in the real world, there is a 'rule Utilitarianism' which is 'regret minimizing' and takes account of global opportunity cost. Moreover, by redefining an act as stretching to all its intentional or imperative consequences (which, of course, would require a Hannan consistent model and thus be equivalent to the 'regret minimizing' calculus) Act Utilitarianism, too, would yield the same result.

Once this has been clarified, no scandal of the sort Friedman claimed to have found in Landsburg's argument would obtain for Libertarian Political Philosophy.

Indeed, English Judges, relying on an argument of, the Utilitarian Legal Scholar, Glanville Williams in the case of Regina vs Shivpuri, punished the intention to commit a crime as heavily as its actual perpetration and this is sound law.

In the horrific case Landsburg is now referencing, a British Court would ceteris paribus have had no difficulty in giving the same sentence to the culprit had he been apprehended before going on the date with the unfortunate victim. This was because, by lying about himself on the relevant dating website, he demonstrated an intention to get close to a woman and it was previously known that he intended to kill and desecrate the corpse of a woman, should he get the opportunity.
In other words, Utilitarian jurisprudence, as applied by British Courts, already recognizes something which the Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase has been trying to drum into the heads of his American colleagues all these years- viz. opportunity cost is a global concept across possible worlds and thus intentions, though frustrated in the real world (e.g., in the case of Shivpuri, 'dyed vegetable matter' not drugs had been supplied, thus no drugs were actually brought into the country) are the proper grist for the Utilitarian calculus.

Landsburg isn't making precisely the same argument in connection with the murder and subsequent necrophilia of an innocent victim as he did in the case of the rape of an unconscious person in Stuebenville.
He is asking a question about the rationality of our moral sentiments. The following is taken from his blog. My comments are in bold.

1) Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel sure that it’s not uncommon, when a guy is murdered for a pair of shoes, or for the 23 cents in his pocket, that we tend to read commentary about how this murder is made particularly tragic and/or reprehensible by the fact that the killer gained so little.
Homicidal violence is a 'costly signal'. We expect it to arise in an Evolutionarily Stable 'separating equilibrium'- in which case an 'Efficiency based' rational choice hermeneutic has salience in the relevant imperative Public Discourse which, consequently, can cash out as a problem for Mechanism Design.
However, clearly, if people are being killed for 23 cents, then what we have is a 'pooling equilibrium'- which is prima facie inefficient, not Evolutionarily Stable, and militates for a Thymotic, not Purely Rational, response.
Similarly, if we hear that a SWAT team shot an armed bank robber making off with hundreds of thousands, our reaction is quite different to when we hear of an elderly jaywalker being shot by a lard-ass cop who couldn't be bothered to get out of his patrol car.  
In the former case, Public Policy militates for an inquiry featuring technical arguments, in the latter, root and branch reform based on a popular outcry is called for.

2) The murder of schoolteacher Katie Locke is being widely condemned as particularly tragic and/or reprehensible because the killer had sex with her corpse, which was apparently his goal all along.

Do you see my problem here? How can a good outcome for the killer make a murder both better and worse?
Landsburg is asking a question about expected utility. If you shoot me thinking I have at least ten dollars in my pocket whereas, in fact, I have only 23 cents then this is a 'bad' outcome for you. However, Landsburg has also mentioned being killed for a pair of shoes. In that case the expected gain for the killer was fully realized. It was a 'good outcome'. 
As a matter of fact, potential victims are careful to send appropriate signals by the way they dress. I don't go prancing down the midnight alleys of an insalubrious Council Estate dressed in an opera cloak and evening clothes. I wear a hoodie like everybody else. I might still get shot but in that case it isn't because of a signal I was sending but one which the killer wanted to send- viz. confirmation that he is a bad-ass sociopath.
Alright, let’s ask what the key difference is. Here’s one: Robbing a corpse (or a soon-to-be corpse) is a zero-sum game. What the robber acquires comes from the pockets of the heirs. Sex with a corpse is probably a positive-sum game; it’s unlikely to interfere with anyone else’s plans.
The parents of the innocent victim did not have a plan to bury their child because they had no reason to fear her imminent demise. However, from the global point of view- i.e. one that takes in all possible worlds- they certainly had the default contingency plan common to their fellow Britishers- viz. the plan to ensure respectful treatment of her earthly remains. Sex with the corpse, even if carried out by a mortuary attendant, interferes with those plans and is punishable according to Utilitarian Jurisprudence. There was a case in Taiwan where the parents forgave the violator of their daughter's corpse, because this brought her back to life- but Taiwan has a different culture and legal system.  
Unfortunately, that only makes things even more unsettling. It leads to this syllogism:
People feel better about a murder when they learn that the killer stole $10,000 from the heirs as opposed, to, say, 23 cents. This suggests that they care more about the killer than they do about the heirs, who could be pretty much anyone.
No, a person with 23 cents in their pockets or one who, on the basis of appearance, has no greater fungible asset than the shoes they are wearing are likely to be sending the signal 'don't rob me. I have nothing'. The killer, by reason of extreme sociopathy, disappointed their expectation. No one cares that the killer got only 23 cents as opposed to 2 dollars. That is not why people are upset. What they care about is the tragic end to a life not greatly unlike their own.
People feel worse about a murder when they learn that the killer got some satisfaction even if it came at nobody’s (additional) expense. This suggests that they care a negative amount about the killer.
It is certainly the case that people 'care a negative amount for the killer' and assign a negative value, in the relevant Social Welfare Function to any Utility he gains from his crime.
Put all that together, and these people must be pretty much seething with hatred for the world at large.
Not the world at large, but bad mechanism design in the world at large- to which Economics Professors contribute- which permits worthless sociopaths to perpetrate sick crimes even though the relevant authorities were alerted to the likelihood of this eventuality.
Or to put this another way: It appears (taking the murder as given) that people want killers to achieve their goals when and only when those goals are achieved at someone else’s expense. That’s pretty much the definition of “anti-social”.
Everybody wants everybody else to 'achieve their goals at someone else's expense' unless there are interdependent Utility functions. I might want my son to eat at my expense on a special occasion- e.g. his birthday- but at other times I am perfectly happy if he eats at the expense of his in-laws or employer or whatever.
With respect to strangers, it isn't 'the definition of anti-social'- though it may be the definition of 'un-Christian'- to want them to eat at somebody else's expense all the time. 

Exercise: Come up with some way to reconcile the instincts in points 1) and 2) above without being forced to conclude that the world is a cauldron of hate. You might want to consider the possibility that when people say a murder is particularly tragic or particularly reprehensible, what they really mean is that it should be particularly targeted for deterrence. (No, it’s not obvious that this helps — but it’s worth considering.)

Regret Minimizing Rule Utilitarianism faces no scandal of the sort Landsburg avers as arising in the case of sex with dead or unconscious persons. The Societal duty of 'culpa levis in concreto' is well founded in this and every other coherent theory of Jurisprudence. 
Landsburg's fallacious reasoning can't overturn this 'overlapping consensus'.


Thursday, 16 June 2016

Scruton's Knighthood & Subaltern Shitehood

A lawyer from my ancestral Chennai, has celebrated, in quite delirious terms, Roger Scruton's recent knighthood, in the pages of Swarajya magazine.
The besotted pettifogging maiden- or she-male- in question makes some extraordinary claims on behalf of her pin-up- viz.
1) That Scruton, 'almost single handedly', gained 'legitimacy for Conservatism as a mainstream philosophy.'
2) Most of his ideas can be used to defend any type of traditional Conservatism.

Needless to say, this is nonsense. Scruton singlehandedly proved he was a wanker but not such a wanker as might so copiously jizz in his own eye as to wink at Mainstream Philosophy escaping its Pornhub-type prison to repurpose its bull whip, or Black Rod, and fishnet stockings, or Horse hair Wig, as the appurtenances proper to legitimising that immemorial, unfading and multiply realisable Conservatism whose imperishable icon remains a red-hot poker shoved up meta-legitimacy's Piers Gaveston bum. 

My own comment, pearls before Swarajya swine, better hits the mark so I benevolently copy and paste it below-
' I was a friend and colleague of Scruton's Greek and Latin tutor at the time, in the mid Eighties, when I first came across his books. 
'Initially, I was charmed- it seemed, Scruton had set out with the specific aim of helping people like me- a Schoenbergian conductor of a modishly Japanese gagaku ensemble consisting of us dissonant wogs & unharmonizable, for no longer Unionised Proles & the apologetic coughing and spluttering of the progeny of blue rinsed matrons residing in dormitory suburbs, all of whom were equally seeking to reinvent ourselves as cosmopolitan Thatcherite 'yuppies'- and the fact that he himself was a 'Grammar School oik' and taught at Birkbeck made it all the more admirable that he had hired a pukka Old Etonian (a contemporary of Pico Iyer) to repair any deficiencies in his Classical scholarship.

'My disillusionment was rapid. First there was my chancing on Scruton's derivative 'Fortnight's Anger', distilling all that was most meretricious in Iris Murdoch; then there was the still boyish looking Scruton's abysmal performance on a Televised Oxford Union debate. He played the pleb card to make out he was a Thatcherite striver and that fell flat coz everyone could suss that he was from High Wycombe not the Gorbals or Teesside.

'Had Scruton stuck to serving Birkbeck's natural constituency- declasse but decent folk seeking Professional Qualifications or promotion to Management- i.e. that alterity served by Art's ipseity-  he might have ended up writing something worthwhile. Instead, after a brief incarnation as Tom Wolfe's 'Trans-Atlantic Man', he returned as a Fox Hunting oenophile- Surtees' Jorrocks selling some fustian soixante huitard repellent and looming large only in his own farcical twilight.

'Is there a lesson in all this? Yes. Don't despise your readership. Quit gassing on about Schoenberg and find out the facts about the Pet Shop Boys. Don't hire an ex-Oppidian Classics Tutor. At best, you will end up as worthless a blathershite as Pico or, indeed, Raghavan Iyer. At worst, you become the Jorrocks of the Quorn.

'Scruton, unlike Oakeshott, was highly productive but only because, unlike Oakeshott, his initial Lecture notes were and remained shite. He lived and continues to live, unlike Collingwood, which is why nothing he writes can last whereas 'distinctions without a difference' we will have with us forever.'

Have I been too harsh?
What do you think?