Saturday, 28 September 2013

Dies illa, dies irae

You never thought your wrath would have its day
The Woe you wrought have its say
  Till your Saqi's lips sullied the wine 

Friday, 27 September 2013

Edward Said & the Zahirites

 A lover more in love with Love than any actual fair one found, as all such lovers must, that love was in the words of Love, its gestures, its language but those words, those gestures, that language were as a veil on both sides of which stood vanity and feigning.

   But what if that veil was the Koran? God might feign from behind that veil but God's feigning yet is Man's Law. Thus was born in this lover, now out of love with Love, a zeal for the Zahiri School of Jurisprudence which, from love-of-the-Veil, postulated that God might lie and, to keep open that possibility, permitted no imperative avenue of closer approach, thus banishing both analogical qiyas reasoning and esoteric batini  hermeneutics as a blasphemous availing against that Veil.

   In an incoherent chapter of an incoherent book, Edward Said abruptly declares a fascination with Ibn Hamz, this Zahirite. Why? Violence appeared suddenly as that Veil truer than Literature's Love for one whose motherland was- like Ibn Hamz's Andalus at the time of the Arab Berber wars- now ruled by the wrong bunch of Semites.

   In the end the great Professor ended up throwing stones like a barefoot gamin.

 Better, the Batini say, the street urchins throw stones at us, for it is Majnun's nakedness alone which veils Lailah from him and ever of such weaving is the tapestry of true Zahiriyat- an Emergence which never Emerges- such that tears are but tears and that tearing up of what is inward all Violence as aught avails.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Genus irritabile

Hammer struck sparks of Strife's Heraclitean fire
A dog in the manger is our inner poet's ire 
Tho' Philosophy's leash is no less choking
All give up Love to take up Smoking

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Pinchas paradox

Abihu and Nabadh, the two eldest sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses, offered an improper sacrifice to the Lord and were themselves consumed in the flame. They left no offspring.
Pinchas was a grandson of Aaron, but he was not a 'Kohain' (part of the hereditary priesthood, because his father was elevated to the Priesthood after he was born). However, he was raised to the Priesthood by the Lord after he killed Prince Zimri who was co-habiting with the beautiful Kosbi.
Pinchas' action was correct because the Lord approved it even though the Law did not. In other words, by reading the Bible we know that it is algorithmically verifiable that Pinchas acted correctly- because that is what the Text says- yet his action is not algorithmically computable by the Laws revealed in that same text- i.e. there is no process of halachic reasoning that can arrive at the same conclusion.
Thus, at least on one interpretation, it is a paradoxical sort of action- a halachah vein morin kein- a teaching which, if known, prohibits the very action it would otherwise enjoin.
When Pinchas realized the terrible nature of what he had done, according to a mystical interpretation of the Bible, his soul fled him in fear. The Lord then caused the ibbur (entry into his body) of the souls of Nabadh and Abihu who thus became the spiritual progenitors of the Kohain- or Cohens.
Interestingly Pinchas is said to lose this ibbur at a later time for somehow failing to avert the tragedy of Jephthah sacrificing his own daughter as a holocaust to the Lord as a result of a rash vow. In other  words, the Hassidic commentators are making clear that Jephthah's fire sacrifice was not legitimate or ordained by God, just as Abihu and Nabadh had made an improper sacrifice.
The interpretation given by the Zohar, or other mystical sources, may seem bizarre or superstitious to a lot of ordinary Christian people. However there can be no doubt as to the humane message of the Rabbis which we can summarize thus
1) Yes, Abihu and Nabadh did something improper from the ritual point of view. Maybe they'd had too much wine. But their intentions were good and so though they perished in the flesh yet the Lord's mercy was upon their Spirit. They could still serve the Lord- which was their only desire.
Thus, on this interpretation, from the Spiritual point of view, the Cohens- who are their descendants in the direct male line- need not fear that the Lord will judge them too harshly for some small ritual mistake or over hasty halachic decision- i.e. there is no grounds to hold Judaism to be a 'fossil' religion inculcating Kantian 'heteronomy'. On the contrary, the teaching of the Hassidic Sages is that Autonomy, Creativity, unremitting Zeal for Universal Welfare is what is pleasing to the Lord. The nightmare vision of a capricious God who punishes you for an unknown or unintentional crime has no place in our reading of the Old Testament because the keepers and transmitters of that text- who surely know more about it than ordinary people like you and me- have given a far more closely reasoned and hermeneutically rich interpretation which we can all feel to be more in consonance with the promptings of our own humble and heartfelt Faith in our Creator.
2) Political assassination, or Religious persecution or whatever it was that motivated the slaying of Zimri and Kosbi- though perhaps 'necessary' in some sense, is nevertheless very strictly forbidden precisely to those who know of this legal precedent and who might use it to justify fanatical persecution, or even genocide, of other peoples.
The paradoxical halachah here does not have the effect of crashing the whole deontic system, rather it enables it to evolve in a more humane manner. Yet, from the logical point of view, this is a very difficult problem. After all, the Rabbis say if we break one law we break all laws. If we slay one person we slay all humanity. Furthermore, though ignorance of the law can be an excuse, surely knowledge of it can never be so. Yet, there are situations where something which is enjoined is forbidden because it is known to be enjoined. This paradox resolves itself under the gentle guidance of the Rabbis who show that the only way to escape from the quicksand of Legalism is through moral and spiritual evolution- by opening oneself to the ibbur of the self-less tzadikkim. I have written more about this here.
3) The concern shown for the daughter of Jephtah indicates that the truly enlightened person- even if born in barbarous times, when the weaker was enslaved by the stronger- rejects the creed of Male supremacy. It has no place in Religion and Spirituality.

One interesting aspect of the manner in which the Hassidic Sages enrich our reading of the Bible is that, like Umaswati, they formulate the problematic of 'incarnation' (ibbur is actually more like partial incarnation as found in the Mahabharata) as a 'matching problem'. Essentially, a resource is cached in a liminal state- like the Bardo of the Tibetans or the Barzakh of Ibn Arabi- so that it can be drawn upon to resolve paradoxes in a manner that 'climbs the local hill', on the relevant Hermeneutic landscape, so as to grant the reader an expanded Moral and Spiritual horizon.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Virginia Woolf & Judith Butler

I suppose my own initial inculcation in to the English literary canon could be considered a vindication of Judith Butler's theory of performativity, albeit in an abstracted sense, in that though I represented a hyper-mechanistic male phenotype, my reception landscape was markedly hypo-mechanistic and 'feminized'.  
This was because my elder sister was reading English literature at Delhi University and I got into the habit of flicking through her course books and joining in the discussion when her College friends came to visit. True, some of these bluestockings were rather low brow in their tastes- preferring 'the Mill on the Floss' to 'Middlemarch', for example, or Charlotte Bronte to Mrs. Gaskell- but there were others whose intellectual horizons were already spiraling towards the vertiginous mise en abyme of Spivak's Derrida, though not, at that time, the strong meat of Judith Butler.
It is interesting that my sister's friends, though prepared to take my devotion to Joyce and D.H.Lawrence at face value (I should mention, Joyce was particularly well taught at my School because it was run by the Irish Christian Brothers) expressed a sullen incredulity at my cult of Virginia Woolf. '''Flush' is a charming book,' they'd say, 'but you can't tell me you liked 'the Waves' or 'to the Lighthouse'?
'He does too like 'the Waves'.' my sister would loyally reply, taking umbrage on my behalf, 'Vivek is very intelligent. He drew a picture of Leonard Woolf constructing a specially big typewriter so Virginia could get her paws on the keyboard and type out her masterpieces while still tearing the heads off chickens and devouring rabbits with her slathering fangs.'

To my mind it is that aspect of the divine Virginia which Judith Butler's theorizing fails to grasp.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

So little its rending does the Veil resent

So little its rending does the Veil resent
As the Unseen to All ay represent
That Eyes might drink at Beauty's fount
Tears flow to my arrears' account.

That Autumn is-  of aught else dumb
I am Summer's worn out drum
I don't mind it's getting cold
But its doing what I'm told

Wine is bitter in Morning's cup
As is, to Anthems alien, standing up
Love's luck is that it so often die
In the bed where yet I lie.

Whither Walras?

What sort of mathematical claim is made by theorems in Welfare Econ? Essentially, it is that Walrasian Equilibria- which can be shown to have a representation as computably enumerable reals- aren't dominated by non-enumerable solutions.
What happens when we introduce information asymmetry into a model? Essentially, we are saying that there is a missing market for that information. If its being missing makes a material difference there will be both demand and supply and stuff on sale. The fact that the stuff on sale doesn't do the job doesn't matter. Indeed, strictly speaking, all markets are missing since all demand is derived demand, all supply is joint supply. Simply by redefining markets as lotteries (when I buy a beer I'm taking a gamble that it will get me drunk, when I sell a beer, I'm taking a gamble that whatever action I take is in joint supply with the shipping of  what the market judges to be beer) we get back to an Arrow Debreu Platonism albeit with things like negative probabilities for incompossible states of the world and weird stuff like that..
In other words, information asymmetry- though of historical interest as a 'paradigm shifting' heuristic- isn't worth mathematical treatment- as in Greenwald-Stiglitz- unless it incorporates mathematical objects of fundamentally different orders of complexity.

Stiglitz's 'Whither Socialism?' drew plenty of criticism in its time but what if we think of markets as a canalisation upon capacitance diversity? Essentially, the real 'Socialist calculation' debate isn't about existing preferences or production functions. It's about Muth rational preferences. The interesting question is how to target and get epigenetic stabilization around something in capacitance diversity space which is almost definitely not computably enumerable.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

New Warmonger- Mary Kaldor

The old type of war was wicked enough, but at least the old type of warmonger advanced obviously wicked reasons to go to war so the equation between war and wickedness was crystal clear.
Mary Kaldor, daughter of the not entirely crap economist, Nicholas Kaldor, is both a mendacious theorist of, and mongering activist for, a new type of war which she defines as 'a predatory social condition' in which 'Identity' usurps the place of State Sovereignty & Territoriality and 'production collapses and armed forces are sustained via remittances, diaspora fund-raising, external governmental assistance and the diversion of international humanitarian aid.'
In elaborating this concept of 'New War', is she pointing an accusing finger at the West's Romantic or Politically Rent Seeking indulgence of Paranoid, or Refugee, Identity Politics?
Is she condemning the sort of fuckwitted 'Civil Society' activist who thinks Che Guevara was Christ and Franz Fanon His Paraclete and that assorted bunches of bandits with AK47's beheading all and sundry are in fact the meek who should inherit the Earth?
Not at all.
Mary is a Professor at the L.S.E. She taught Dr. Saif Gaddafi  a course on 'Global Civil Society' as part of his MSc. Yet, very uncivilly, she refused to become his PhD supervisor just because the lad was as stupid as shit and got his dissertation ghost-written. J'accuse Mary Kaldor of being an Intellectual War Criminal. Not till everybody supervises everybody else's PhD in Global Governance can true Humanitarianism emerge so as to steer us towards an univocally Civil World Society in which every innocent little child can view the sodomized corpse of its daddy on T.V while itself awaiting trial for Genocide.
Mind it kindly.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Barzakh, Bibliothetic Order & Borges's Library in Babel

Note- this has been edited on the basis of a negative comment.

The books in Borges's Library of Babel are a random distribution of unique character strings of equal length. One way to generate the Library would be to start with the book that consists entirely of the letter a, then the one which is entirely a except that its last letter is b and so forth. This would generate the lexical ordering of the Library in a time factorial to that of producing one book. The actual order of books is random and we don't know where the Library starts and finishes. Still, we can just arbitrarily choose an anchor book and say, this is in the right place and every other book must be moved to correspond to the lexical ordering. More generally, for any bibliothetic ordering, two variables arise for any given book- first, its vector distance from the anchor book, and second its vector distance from its assigned place- both of which have polynomial form.
Thus catalogs of the Library have existential Second Order Complexity which,by Fagin's theorem, is non deterministically computable. But, since we know the books have a lexical ordering such that there is a least fixed point, it follows that algorithmic orderings are deterministically computable in exponential time. Moreover, if the catalog of the Library must also be a book in the Library then, since we know that there is no 'sparse language' in the one case which is not in the other we have no grounds for hoping that some non deterministic computation would be shorter than exponential time.
This is one approach, a pessimistic one, to answering the question-
'Could there be a specified bibliothetic order for Borges's library that you or I could create and describe in, say, a 100-page document? Not a complete cataloguing, obviously, but an algorithm that sensibly placed the books in an order explainable to a bright and interested human? I don't think so—at least I wasn't able to dream anything up!—but nor did I see any path to a proof that no such ordering could be possible. And maybe I'm being redundant, but it wouldn't need to specify hexagon and shelf for each possible book, but rather a compelling way that set the books so that were you to find yourself in a particular hexagon, you'd have a good sense of what might be in nearby hexagons. I got nuthin'.'

What happens if we abandon the idea of a universal descriptive language and replace it by something arising out of the theory of co-evolution? Do we thereby escape the tyranny of Time hierarchy theorems?
One reason to hope so is that co-evolution is stochastic, not deterministic, and generates 'advice strings'.- i.e. an extra input becomes available- in a particularly useful manner. The Red Queen, in Lewis Caroll's 'Through the looking glass', manages to run just as fast as the scenery- which is in 'state space explosion'- thus staying in the same place. 
How might this work in practice?
Suppose 'interesting books' in the Library of Babel are traded and used as a store of value and suppose preferences are epigenetically canalized to not-too-much, not-too-little diversity (Graciella Chichilnisky- an Argentine Mathematical Economist- did path-breaking work on this in the Seventies) then over infinite time we are likely to see all sorts of bibliothetic orderings corresponding to all possible Wealth distributions which would exhaust polynomial complexity. Now, if a steady state obtains at any point, then we know from a result by Axtell, that this is also a Walrasian equilibrium- which is an exponential time algorithm for fixed points. Under certain conditions- e.g. if we assume that the race of Librarians have homothetic preferences and thus the same satiation point- this corresponds to the notion that a bibliothetic ordering has been implemented.

My feeling, however, is that there is more to this. Essentially, the Economic evolution of biblothetic ordering itself adds meaning and, what's more, the fitness landscape (assume guys more successful in the book trade live longer or have more progeny) for hermeneutics now has a sort of built in 'Red Queen' predator-prey type driver for complexity. I think this means that though any given bilateral trade is still only of complexity class P, the co-evolved complexity of the system is much greater. Indeed, Borges-the-writer-who-was-also-a-librarian's own sequential bibliothetic orderings of the books that simultaneously created his precursors - which corresponds to a non computable real- could have a representation. (This is because a few typos don't make much difference, so there can be a lot of book sequences corresponding to how specific works stood in relation to each other on Borges's mental book-case at different points of time)
Elsewhere in the library, variorum editions of Schelling focal 'interesting books' might themselves end up with higher prices because of baked in hysteresis effects. Parallel to this is that 'important' book dealers have epigenetic canalisation- i.e. they behave like each other even though they have different origins and preferences. I think this means that a lot of the time we are going to see fractal patterns with provincial 'collections' mimicking (mutatis mutandis) those of the 'metropolitan' Merchant Princes. My guess, or particular brand of Economic Romanticism, is that this still wouldn't give us a substantive 'catalog' except as a degenerate state.

Still the co-evolved descriptive complexity I am attributing to the librarians could, of course, be a property of a discrete math simulation. We just need to tinker with the rules of the game till we get a sufficiently rich steady state fractal. But would the result be something we would find humanly cognizable or intuitive? 
The problem is that, whereas librarians can have a canalised tropism to value 'interesting' books- a guy running a simulation doesn't have that ability to pick out 'interesting books' in the same way. I suppose one could breed genetic algorithms to do something which looks like Librarian Economics but the only way of knowing if what they produce is something interesting is to look inside the thing. But that's clearly illegitimate. I mean why not just put in a predator which goes through the lexical order and either quarantines or eats anything that looks meaningless when compared to the Google Books database? 

Another approach, of whose legitimacy I'm not sure, is to appeal to Intutitionistic mathematics.
Suppose there is an ideal ordering such that the Expected value of the sum of randomly teleported visitor bewilderment is minimized (i.e. some visitors, by reason of their lucky location, can quickly work out the ideal order while some, who are stuck in low structure stacks, take a very long but finite time to do so). Suppose further that the visitors are of a specific mathematical race such that Total bewilderment is a function of the spread of choice sequences they construct in comparing adjacent books. Muth rationality is the notion that one's choices or expectations conform to the prediction of the correct theory. Since the best thing for the visitor race as a whole is that the library be ordered to minimize total bewilderment, it makes sense if their choice functions reflect this (i.e. they choose to be bewildered by any empirical deviation from the ideal order). So we know there is an ideal ordering (albeit only for ideal visitors). 
We also know there are better than random orderings- e.g. the lexical.
I am tempted to say that by the Brouwer's continuity principle (an illegitimate use in this context?) this means there is a canonical bibliothetic ordering for all visitors who are the product of natural selection. In other words, there is some way to extract phenomenological information about us- on the assumption that we have evolved in a Darwinian manner- and make it available to Mathematics in the same way that the Anthropic principle might yield information for Physics.
I also think, because of the nature of choice sequences, one can keep changing the genotype of the visitors so that there is a trade-off between Total bewilderment minimization and other things we value- e.g. the chance for a lucky few to quickly get to a 'good' book-stack. 
But, can Brouwer's principle be used in this way?
Neither books nor information about ordering poses a difficulty. Everything is well defined and therefore continuous. But is it legitimate to stipulate that choice sequences be constructively Muth rational?- doesn't that make them impredicative?
On one horn of the dilemma- the Kantian horn- we can have a priori Muth rationality but no intuitive idea of how the choice sequence is constructed, on the other horn- the Darwinian horn- we know that choices are epigenetically canalised and thus something like ex poste Muth rationality obtains only we can never be sure it is optimal, and therefore really 'rational', in any sense.
One way to resolve the dilemma is to embrace a peculiar sort of monadology in which whatever is interstital is constantly populated by virtual particles which themselves spontaneously create choice sequence bridges. This, I suppose, is the Ibn Arabi's concept of the barzakh- the incompossible, phantasmal Limbo which unites what it separates- the world of the 'command', i.e. what is possible, and the world of 'creation'- i.e. what exists- which is also the pure virtuality represented by the 'superficies of the Mirror' in the Library of Babel of which Khwaja Mir Dard was surely speaking when he wrote-

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Muzaffarnagar riots- why Modi is to blame

A couple of guys knife or shoot another guy who may have been harassing a female relative of theirs and are themselves caught and beaten to death in a village in U.P.  The Senior Police Superintendent, a woman with an excellent record, quickly arrests 12 young people. But, she is transferred and those arrested are released on the orders of the local M.L.A who belongs to a 'minority' community. This enrages the 'majority' community who soon prevail in terms of numbers killed and families displaced.
A politician from the ruling party makes a statement- '"Ultimately, the responsibility is ours. Obviously our image has taken a serious drubbing and I have apprised Mulayam Singh about it," said Shahid Manzoor, minister of state for labour and employment. "But it is also not the opportune time to point out faults. Firstly, we are concentrating on restoring normalcy. We understand the lapse has been ours but it will be discussed later."
Manzoor belongs to Meerut and was summoned by Mulayam Saturday to take stock of the situation in western UP. He said Muslims in his constituency ask him about recurring communal riots when the SP is in power.  "We try to explain that the real cause is Narendra Modi and Amit Shah who are now concentrating on UP," he said.

The problem is that Western U.P- the putative Harit Pradesh- has seen quite a big demographic change over the last thirty years.  Muslims are now about 33 per cent of the population, rising to 48 percent in the district of Muzaffarnagar- in other words, they are the  single largest vote bank. The Jats are a traditional dominant caste but maybe only 6 per cent population wise.  They are traditional oppressors of Dalits but this is changing as the balance of power shifts. In any case, events in Myanmar and Sri Lanka have put Muslims and Buddhists on collision course. Furthermore, Jats still control a lot of land and can retaliate through ethnic cleansing in a manner that becomes a game changer for Commercial Land Acquisition. In other words, if agricultural land is going to be made available for Development, it's a darn good idea to first have a spot of ethnic cleansing to get rid of the small holders.
Still, it remains to be seen if Ajith Singh, the ineffectual son of former P.M Charan Singh, can win back leadership of the sturdy Gangetic yeomanry from the educationally backward Yadavs for his own equally accomplished community, the Jats. 
How will Mayawati react? If she could reach out to Brahmins, why not to Jats? However, it may make better sense to take a long term view and let the BJP pick up votes for the moment. In that sense, of course, all blame belongs to Modi because short term the benefit goes to Modi. Longer term, the question of land ownership gains salience. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Jain monks and Dworkin's morons

The late Ronald Dworkin, in 'Justice for Hedgehogs', defines a 'moron' as a truth-making particle for moral judgments. He thinks they can't exist.

He says - One might say that moral judgements aren’t made true by anything, because they’re not true. Maybe they’re not the kind of thing that can be true, like emotional outbursts. That’s one view, and it’s wrong, and we can have an argument about that.”

“Someone else might say that some moral judgements are true, and when they are true they’re made true by something real, something out there, some moral particle … “morons”. If you think that, then you have no reason to deny that there are fundamental conflicts of value. If moral judgements are made true by morons, there could be different kinds of morons. But that’s very silly, because there are no such things as morons, but that is a view you could have.'

Jainism is a pretty ancient religion which has a lot of substantive moral content arising out of a 'hedgehog' value- viz. Ahimsa, that is non-injury. It also has a realist ontology of a dynamic and relationist type such that mechanism design is an internal property of the system and, hence, aporias and antinomies have a work-around.
Jainism specifies different sorts of 'karma binding' particles whose influx (aashrav) is dependent on one's actions and which can ultimately be terminated by some monastic practice. Jainsim has a relativistic epistemology and so its 'morons' can be considered as mere mental constructs- i.e. the name given to a class of heterogenous sub-atomic events which appear to us to have had a particular karmic result.
Furthermore we are welcome to stipulate that all karmic events only occur over one life-time- i.e. belief in reincarnation is not required for a thought experiment using Jain morons. Indeed, one could reinterpret the experiment such that morons become purely nominal markers conforming to our subjective value system- thus ending up with something like Gandhian karma-yoga philosophy.

Dworkin isn't saying morons of a Jain type are bound to be utterly unreal. They may be real in the same way the valency of an emotional outburst is real. He just thinks there are no such things as morons because they are silly.

This is the other side of Hume's Guillotine- belief in an 'ought' causes us to arbitrarily restrict the domain of what 'is' for the purpose of our argument. In other words our preferred ontology is no longer at home in the world. What we are doing is an exercise in ontological dysphoria. Which is fine, if we are up-front about it. But is that what Dworkin is doing? Perhaps, he has found some sub-set of things in the world which are necessary and sufficient to fully determine a truly 'Hedgehog theory of value'- i.e. something based on knowing one 'big thing'- and so Hume's Guillotine isn't relevant. There is a way to partition the Universe such that only the good bit- which Dworkin knows about- counts.

Thomas Nagel, Dworkin's old partner from the NYU colloquium on Law & Philosophy, has aroused considerable ire from Darwinists by coming out as a supporter of Natural Teleology, not because the data looks that way to him, but for a priori reasons. In his new book, Mind & Cosmos, he says- “Each of our lives is a part of the lengthy process of the universe gradually waking up and becoming aware of itself.”- which is sweet except he fails to add, 'and blowing its head off coz doing the walk of shame out of a middle-aged Tam Bram's flat is simply not an option what with all the mean things them other Universes will text and twitter each other and OMG was I wearing granny panties last night? That's it. Goodbye cruel Multiverse. Remember me on Facebook.'

Dworkin's argument isn't teleological but based on the Aristotelian conception of the good and worthwhile life in which self-abnegation, or the Kantian sort, and self-aggrandizement, of the Nietzchean, are kept in equipoise. Addressing an interlocutor equally harmoniously constituted, Dworkin writes-

Let us say you are required to serve on a Jury. To determine the defendant's degree of guilt, you have to answer the substantive, first order, question- would a reasonable person consider this person's action to be morally wrong? Dworkin says that you, as a member of the Jury, have an additional obligation- viz. to find answers to 'meta-questions' like 'is our morality really moral?' which are consistent with your decision in the jury room and to affirm those answers with equal moral conviction simply as matter of good conscience.

At this point, alarm bells should be ringing. Is it really a requirement for Jurors to have a full fledged Moral philosophy?
After all, if evidence is produced that Jurors typically have a cognitive bias resulting in their awarding damage awards markedly divergent from what they would have assessed if properly trained in Bayesian methods, then there is a legal remedy- either Legislative or Judicial.
Does the fact that I now know I have cognitive biases and that I also know that the Judiciary will seek to compensate for this, somehow change either the nature of the moral work I am required to do in the Jury room or my own confidence in my ability to discharge that work?
No. I still have a duty to help administer Justice as part of the Social Compact by which my own life and property are safeguarded. The Judge can still clarify to me what a phrase like 'morally wrong' means in the context of the trial.
Let us suppose I hold heterodox meta-ethical views. During the course of discussion in the Jury room, I might well say something like 'Well, I can see that what the Judge requires of me is not a decision according to my own beliefs but according to what I judge to be the commonly accepted belief amongst ordinary people. So, from that point of view, I agree or disagree with this verdict.'
Dworkin thinks there must be 'internal reasons' by means of which everybody can have a Morality consistent across all orders of questions. There should never be a need to look at 'external reasons'- which bracket questions of morality- and which have to do with what exists and how things work in the World we inhabit.
Trivially, one such person must exist- at least in the eyes of the holder of this opinion. Equally trivially, we could define that person as living the Aristotelian good and worthwhile life, at least in a certain respect. Everything else follows by mimesis.
But Dworkin is not making this trivial claim. Rather, he describes the first order, substantive, moral decision situation, regarding whether certain actions are right or wrong, as operating in a very particular way such that information from the external world is grist to a purely 'internal' moral mill which, once its wheels have begun to grind, can soar aloft to tackle second order and third order questions re the morality of our morality or the morality of our moralizing over our morality and so on.
Dworkin thinks there is a Morality engine which can operate like a Research Program in Mathematics- it is independent of the external world, in terms of its inner consistency and though an 'internal sceptic' can arise (in the manner that Constructivists are sceptical about some Mathematical entities) still, the discipline is sheltered from 'external sceptics'. But this begs the question- Mathematics is not just tolerated but widely taught because it has proved 'unreasonably' successful in advancing Technology and Productivity and Military Power. The same is not true of Moral Philosophy. Even if it could be reconstituted in a manner analogous to Mathematics (indeed, there are systems of deontic logic which are mathematical) it is still not safe from the external sceptic because either
a) it yields unequivocal answers even to first order questions- e.g. is abortion wrong? Is it wrong to attack Syria?- whose salience as wedge issues arise from considerations of strategic dynamics involving the inertia of preference falsification availability cascades. Here, there is a clear signal extraction problem- because of an entangled political element and a moral element. How can there be a truth making cascade of purely moral arguments, as Dworkin prescribes, which yields a bright line judgement WITHOUT reliance on a signal extraction mechanism? Either information is being thrown away- which is a defect in a truth maker- or else Dworkin's solution is not genuinely interpretative
b) it doesn't answer tough questions. It weeps and turns back when faced with hard cases. Ergo it's a waste of time. That's first order immoral.

Dworkin and Rawls and Nagel and Putnam and Sen and Nussbaum and so on, aren't going to come out and say 'abortion is wrong' because that would upset the Feminists. Sen and Nussbaum can harp on about female foeticide, but won't attack abortion itself, because clearly killing boy babies is a good thing. Similarly, Nagel might niggle about Global Justice, but he isn't going to come out and say anything substantive which might get him labelled an Islamophobe or as against us darkies or as a hater of little children.
Now, there is a way round this which is to say, well it doesn't matter what we think is right or wrong, what matters is that we have a passionate interest in the subject. Thus, the serial killer stalking Lailah is just as good as the heart-broken poet Qais Majnoon. Both are passionately interested in that obese maiden though the stalker wants to peel off her skin to make a roomy garment for himself, while Qais just wants to Email her a few more plaintive ghazals preparatory to broaching the topic of a Neo Platonic three-way with God.

Does Dworkin's 'internal error sceptic' really advance Moral Philosophy? Suppose he says- 'if x is wrong, then our moralizing is wrong because in some respect what we are doing is like x'. Following Dworkin we might reply- 'Dude, you just said x is wrong. That's moralizing and it can't be wrong in the same way that x is wrong coz that's a category mistake. Words aren't like the thing they describe. The word hot isn't hot. Nor is saying 'eating babies is wrong'  itself wrong because no babies get eaten when we make the statement. What? You ate the baby while I was busy saying 'eating babies is wrong'? And that makes it my fault? I will beat you with my hockey stick.'
Clearly, this is pointless.
On the other hand, if, as I have suggested, Moral Philosophy is considered to be a bunch of Research Programs then one can have a sensible type of 'internal status sceptic' who says- 'look you guys are deriving a result by assuming something- like Dworkin's simultaneous equations which perfectly capture everything related to Income distribution in an economy- which not only can't but ought not to exist in a world where Morality isn't empty. Stop it. You are being silly. Look, I've found a workaround which derives the same substantive result but in a manner that gives more insight into the decision situation.'
If we admit that this type of internal status sceptic (who says some moral claims are neither true nor false because they can't be constructed or are impredicative or incompossible) can help Moral Philosophy to move forward- on an analogy with Mathematics and Physics- then Dworkin is hoist by his own petard. His disbelief in any such animal (a disbelief which arises from the way he has set up his definitions) makes him a particularly egregious type of external status sceptic. He is using morality to denigrate morality. More importantly, Dworkin's notion in this regard prevents him from seeing that if Moral Philosophy is driven by 'internal reason' then it must also be the case that it's trajectory is unknowable, at any given moment in time, for computational reasons. Either the subject is empty or it has the capacity to surprise its assiduous students.
Dworkin's criticism of the external sceptic also misses the mark. It doesn't matter that, by definition, whatever the guy is doing isn't Moral Philosophy because we don't know in advance that it isn't isomorphic to something which is. The notion that a process of external reason is necessarily separate from, or can set limits in advance to, the cognitive space generated by an 'internal' process of reasoning is sheer question begging Scholasticism. Granted, internal reason is either Nagel's bat or it is nothing. But bats are genetically canalized. We don't know if Dworkin's 'Moral Philosophy' might not generate the same phenotype as something like Binmore's Whiggish Game theory. Chances are, they will if they address the same substantive issues.

There is a way- the Jain method of anekantavada- whereby Public discourse can admit Dworkin or Putnam type arguments without committing intellectual hara kiri- but the only reason Jain Epistemology doesn't cash out as anything-goes relativism is because it is founded on both Monks and what Dworkin also calls 'morons'. For Jainism to work properly, the Monks have to go out into the world. They have to enable incohate situations to evolve to a point where there is a bilateral moral claim which is either true or false. One way of determining how and when to 'ripen' such a claim has to do with being sensitive to the 'aashrav' of karma binding particles. Morality is Physics, it is zero-intelligence Agent Economics, it deals with 'morons'- but only because what is truly moronic is metaphysics and, at that Circe's Symposium, we are all drunken swine.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Sonia Gandhi summoned re. 1984 anti-Sikh riots

Universal Jurisdiction is dead- but Civil Society advocates have never fought shy of necrophilia. Which we, on this blog, are totally cool with coz our 401k is totally invested in the online retail of dentures for vaginas and mortuaries are our biggest target market.
I don't know why I just said that.
Sometimes I embarrass myself.
Which is non linear but still a segue to the Federal Court's summons to Sonia Gandhi, currently in the U.S for medical treatment, on a charge of having sheltered some of the guilty men behind the 1984 anti Sikh pogrom. This seems prima facie frivolous because Alien Torts no longer covers crimes on foreign soil and the Torture Victim Protection Act is restricted to persons, not organizations. Clearly, Mrs Gandhi has no personal responsibility for what happened in 1984. However, some justiciable issue might arise relevant to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in a previous case- but the whole thing looks a bit of a stretch.
In any case there is no danger that proper service of the summons will occur as the Indian Embassy will have arranged meticulous security for her. The case against Kamal Nath, it will be remembered, collapsed on the grounds of improper service. Even if proper service is made, the State Dept. will be quick to issue a Statement of Interest for Soniaji, so there really isn't much mileage in this case. Indeed, politically it can only win sympathy for the dynasty- especially given Soniaji's ill health.

Soniaji's would be nemesis is a truly marvelous organization called 'Sikhs for Justice,'.
They believe that Amitabh Bacchan, despite having a Sikh mother, bayed for Sikh blood on Delhi Doordarshan and only this one riot victim noticed coz she happened to be channel surfing to distract herself from the spectacle of everybody else in Delhi horrifically murdering her very numerous family.
This is an argument which has a lot of appeal. Clearly only a truly gifted eye-witness to a TV program- not its videotape or transcript- can convict people of committing genocide live on camera.
Clearly, 'Sikhs for Justice' still have a lot of mileage in terms of going after U.S. based organizations- like Disney & Pixar- which are linked by eye-witness testimony to Congress Party sponsored genocide.
This is not glamorous nor is it viscerally satisfying but, longer term, it may prove invaluable in prodding the Indian Supreme Court, which is jealous of its prerogative, to take suo moto action equivalent to extending the Right to Information over Political parties. In other words, the need to protect exclusive jurisdiction becomes a driver for the Indian Supreme Court to develop an indigenous Alien Torts type body of case law at precisely the time when the Americans are reining in its scope.
This raises the possibility that organizations outside India which raise funds or provide logistical support for illegal actions within the Indian State can be targeted by way of P.I.L. By shifting the focus from individuals, who certainly have extensive First Amendment rights, to organizations whose primary purpose might not be purely expressive in nature, many careerist Civil Society advocates might find that their habitual reckless disregard for the Truth unfeathers their own foul Institutional nests. Those who file nuisance law suits should have nuisance law suits filed against them. Why are Sikhs for Justice not prosecuting Subramaniyam Swamy? He himself admits that he disguised himself as a Sikh to escape Indira Gandhi. If he could do that, what was to stop him disguising himself as Amitabh Bacchan?

What died with Dworkin & Coase?

Ronald Coase has passed away at the age of 102.  Earlier this year, another Ronald, Ronald Dworkin, also departed this vale of dissertations. What died with the two Ronalds?
I suppose it's the idea that the margin matters, what happens at the margin is always amenable to a globalized doctrine of harmonious construction such that no repugnancy attaches to what is novel nor can any revolutionary danger lurk in that marchland or beyond its equivocal pale.
Yet, phenotypal plasticity or 'capacitance diversity' must face epigenetic canalisation of some sort or other for Law and Economics to have a subject matter.
Still, if one had to choose a credo in which to grow old and merge imperceptibly into God's gloaming, one might go farther and fare worse than with the two Ronalds.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Narendra Modi & Exclusive Jurisdiction

What would happen if Narendra Modi were arrested in London and put on trial for the post Godhra riots?
The BJP win big in 2014 on an anti-British ticket. All the streets and buildings currently named after Gandhi or Nehru get renamed for Savarkar and Dhingra and Bhagat Singh.
That's not a good thing.  It would confuse the fuck out of elderly people like me who still demand the auto driver take us to Curzon Road and Connaught Place as opposed to Kasturba Gandhi ki Bakri ki Marg, and Rajiv ki gandi chaddi ki Chowk or whatever the fuck such places are now called.

In keeping with its long tradition of being behind the times, Kafila, the favorite forum for jhollawallah circle jerks, has a foolish article by Subash Gatade, quoting the no less foolish N. Jayaram, regarding the possibility of arresting Modi in London for human rights violation
Gatade writes-
It may be recalled that for more than eleven years Modi has been yearning to visit the UK, but because of a consistent opposition put up by the secular forces there exposing his alleged role in the 2002 ‘riots’ and with the British government denying any guarantee for his security the plan could never materialise. In fact, he had to cancel his last planned visit to the UK looking at the massive protests which awaited him there accompanied by the inability shown by the British police to defend him as he was to go on a private visit. (2005)And since the families of two British Muslim citizens who had been killed by the frenzied mobs in Gujarat in 2002 were thinking of filing a case against Modi in a British court then, it was considered risky for him to travel there.
...In an important write-up, ‘Narendra Modi, British Invitation and Universal Jurisdiction’ (http://www. / jayaram160813.htm), a leading journalist N Jayaram tells us why ‘for human rights groups, the prospect of Modi’s London visit is not a crisis but an opportunity.’
According to him
“Should he take up the invitation, they could move courts for his arrest and trial under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction for crimes against humanity.( Although Universal Jurisdiction was not invoked in the 1998 arrest of Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet in London, it put worldwide focus on the principle. Judge Baltasar Garzon in Spain called for his arrest on the ground that some of the thousands of victims of human rights abuses in Chile after the 1973 coup were Spanish citizens. Britain’s Law Lords ruled that Pinochet could not cite diplomatic immunity as certain crimes were too serious for that international arrangement to be invoked. Pinochet spent nearly a year and a half under mostly house arrest.
It may be mentioned here that Pinochet had to spend more than one and half years in London effectively under house arrest and his supporters in the western world like Margaret Thatcher – who had supported Pinochet’s coup against the elected government of Salvador Allende and the bloodbath that followed and the then US President George Bush had to lobby hard for his release. He was ‘freed on health grounds’ despite protests from Jurists and medical experts. This incident was ‘one of the greatest episodes in international legal history’ and ‘the words Universal Jurisdiction gained currency beyond the groves of academe.’
The author discusses other examples of leading personalities or army commanders who had to cancel their trips abroad for similar fear of litigation. He talks about the cancellation of former US president George W, Bush’s trip to Switzerland (2011) in view of the threat of large scale protests. “Amnesty International had asked the Swiss authorities to investigate his role in torture. Amnesty was told that the authorities had no plans to prosecute Bush. But there have been rumblings in other countries, including Spain and Germany, with threats of investigations against leading US officials for torture and other crimes against humanity.”
It was in 2005 that Doron Almog, a former Israeli army commander, had to literally fly back from London without getting down from his aircraft as he was told that some Palestinian groups had moved a court to charge him with crimes against humanity. ( Similarly, Tzipi Livni, former foreign minister of Israel, cancelled her proposed trip to Britain (2009) when reports came in that an arrest warrant was out for her role in alleged war crimes in Gaza. The author adds:
She was invited back by Foreign Secretary William Hague in 2011 after an amendment that prevents private individuals from seeking such arrests. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 might make it difficult for private individuals to call for Modi’s arrest should he visit Britain. But nothing prevents foreign governments and judges from issuing warrants to be acted upon by the British authorities.
Definitely Modi is not the only Indian politician whose visits elsewhere have become subjects of controversy. Jagdish Tytler, a senior Congress leader, who has been under the scanner for his alleged role in the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984, was similarly dropped from a delegation (2009) which was to visit Britain following protests.
The author concludes with this observation:
“India has not signed the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court in 2002. China, the United States and Israel are among a number of countries that have chosen to stay out. Thus far the ICC, which has 122 members, has only been able to net perpetrators of mass crimes in Africa. The idea that crimes against humanity such as those that occurred in New Delhi in 1984 or Gujarat in 2002 need to be investigated and punished has yet to catch on in India. But it is an idea whose time may yet come.” 

My comment on this egregious nonsense will of course not be shown by Kafila's, oh! so democratic, editors but I make it available here out a spirit of genuine sadism towards all Humanity.

Gatade''s article, by reason of its reliance on Jayaram's misleading article, is disingenuous in the following respects

1) A British Muslim did not just think of bringing a case against Narendra Modi under International Law, he actually did help Suresh Grover, Prof. Gautam Appa & Jagdish Patel bring such a case. A British judge dismissed it because it lacked substance- i.e no evidence, as opposed to paranoid lies, was presented to the court despite the sedulous 'research' of Indian ex-Judge H. Suresh. That same British Muslim has returned to India, relinquished his British residency, grown rich and is now a fervent acolyte of Narendra Modi. His name is Zafar Sareshwala and he is prime witness for the defense in Madhu Kishwar's 'Modinama''.

2) Britain changed the law in Sept 2011 such that prosecutions in cases of this sort require the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

3) Suppose an International Arrest Warrant is sought from a Universal Jurisdiction country like Spain. Witnesses will still be required to tell the truth. They will face jail time if they tell stupid, self-serving lies. Their character and criminal record will come under scrutiny. Still, let us suppose for a moment that a foreign court grants an International Warrant for Modi, can a U.K judge enforce it? Remember, Judges in this country aren't stupid. They don't cite Wikipedia in their judgments. Still, they are fearless. So what stands in their way? The answer is Modi, as the current Chief Minister of an Indian State, visiting London in his official capacity and with the complaisance of the Govt., enjoys not just clear functional immunity- because, as the Judge said in the Barak arrest warrant case,  “under customary international law, he has immunity from prosecution as he would not be able to perform his functions efficiently if he were the subject of criminal proceedings in this jurisdiction.”- but also, more equivocally, immunity rationae personae. This is because, if the proposed grounds for Modi's indictment comes under the rubric of Command Responsibility, then, clearly, his current position is similar to that of a Head of State or head of Government and thus the action fails. Only if Modi doesn't have Command Responsibility and he is charged with specific acts does the question of jurisdiction arises. By Act of Parliament, Britain recognizes India as a Sovereign Republic with exclusive jurisdiction- this means that whereas a British Court can proceed in the matter, the British Govt. either has to procure a nolle prosequi to stop the proceedings or else risk the ire not just of the Indian Executive but also the Indian Supreme Court. I will return to this point in a moment.
Suppose Modi held no official position and was visiting the U.K in a private capacity. The Court may still prima facie conclude he enjoys immunity rationae materiae. One reason militating for this conclusion is the widespread belief in judicial circles in Britain that India is under the rule of Law. Indian Courts have jurisdiction. To enforce an International Arrest Warrant- for example one issued by Pakistan- against an Indian citizen for a crime committed in India would be an affront to the dignity of the Indian bench.

This brings me to the crux of my complaint against Gatade and Jayaram

4) Jayaram believes Indians are horrible and inhumane people. They commit heinous atrocities against cows by stealing their milk and drinking it or putting it in their coffee. Menaka Gandhi has spoken out on this issue. She tells us her son, Varun, has never had dairy products in his life. No wonder that fat fuck is such a lovable guy.

No doubt Jayaram is entirely correct in saying that Indians are heartless monsters who torture animals. But is he also correct in saying that Indians have not yet caught on to the idea that crimes against human beings, not cats or cows, need to be investigated and punished? Let us suppose he is right. In that case India, from the judicial point of view, is a terra nullis. Indian courts do not have jurisdiction over crimes against humanity- e.g. rape and murder- committed on Indian soil because Indians lack the concept that killing or raping people is wrong. That is why such acts are not illegal in India. This means India is not a country under the rule of Law. Can such a country be sovereign? Yes. Sovereignty is a function of power. As a matter of fact, not conjecture, the Indian Supreme Court has asserted its jurisdiction over crimes committed in India or (in the Enrica Lexie case) on board Indian registered ships. Italy sought to defy the Indian Supreme Court. The Supreme Court cancelled the Italian envoy's diplomatic immunity and was preparing further draconian action. Italy made an ignominious volte face.

Suppose a Spanish Court tries to play a monkey-trick on India by claiming jurisdiction over crimes committed on Indian territory. Would the Indian Supreme Court suffer this insult to its puissance? First the diplomatic envoys of Spain would be placed in jeopardy, secondly Spanish assets would be sequestered, third, Spain would face the treat of War. India is not Liberia. It is not a failed State. It is a nuclear power.

Still, suppose Jayaram and Gatade are right. Suppose India is a country of savages. Suppose the Indian Supreme Court is incapable of punishing crimes like rape and murder because Indians still have not caught on to the idea that these are crimes against human beings and therefore crimes against humanity. In that case, even though the Supreme Court can- as a matter of proven fact, not conjecture- prevail over countries like Italy and Spain, even so, from the moral point of view, should we say 'Foreign Courts should fearlessly take jurisdiction over crimes committed in India'?

What are the logical consequences of our making this demand?

1) We admit that Indian courts suffer some infirmity such that they have no effective jurisdiction over certain types of crimes.

2) By admitting (1) we admit that India is not properly under the rule of law

3) Since a key element of sovereignty in a legalistic sense is that of exclusivity of jurisdiction- by admitting (2) we admit that, de jure, India is not fully Sovereign

4) By admitting (3) we have no prima facie way of rejecting territorial claims by other nations against India. This is because we admit that India's Sovereignty is de jure imperfect, even if de facto it is absolute

5) By admitting (4) we class any and all Indian combatants who forcefully resist the invasion of India as no different from terrorists and thus not protected by the Geneva Convention.

6) By admitting (5) all Indian citizens are de jure guilty of financing and supporting Terrorism. India isn't just a failed state, it is a pariah nation which deserves to be wiped off the face of the Earth.

The fuckwits who write for Kafila are, no doubt, very proud and happy to advocate treason. But, they are not doing so on this occasion. They are merely being stupid and illiterate. So don't start popping the Champagne yet. They will have to work a little harder to be sure of getting the Magsaysay Award .