Friday, 29 November 2013

Razborov-Rudich proves Tejpal was raped

Tarun Tejpal- a fat, fifty year old, fucking horrible Indglish novelist, same as wot I am- was raped in an elevator by Hindutva hooligans working hand in glove with the Feminist Taliban. Yet, irony of ironies!, it is Tejpal who is being pilloried!
What makes it all the more unfair is the universal derision which greeted his assertion that ' CCTV will prove I did nothing wrong in the lift' (i.e. the elevator- you say tomato, we say tamattar) because, as he well knew, there was no camera there.
Surely, as responsible Secularists, we have a duty to find a more charitable interpretation of Tejpal's enigmatic statement?
But how are we to proceed?
The answer, of course, as so often happens on this blog, is by taking recourse to the theory of computational complexity.
Briefly, the character string 'CT,' in Tejpal's reference to CCTV, refers to the Church Turing Thesis- i.e. Tejpal was giving an informal proof of a purely mathematical, not empirical type. Thus, the absence of a camera in the lift is NOT AT ALL germane.

 The fact is, as Wikipedia says (hat tip to ex Chief Justice Katju) 'Proofs in computability theory often invoke[43] the Church–Turing thesis in an informal way to establish the computability of functions while avoiding the (often very long) details which would be involved in a rigorous, formal proof. To establish that a function is computable by Turing machine, it is usually considered sufficient to give an informal English description of how the function can be effectively computed, and then conclude "By the Church–Turing thesis" that the function is Turing computable (equivalently partial recursive).

Now, it is a well known axiom of Modern Indglish Secular Socialistic Mathematics, that Narendra Modi is constantly prowling around raping everybody and then slitting open their bellies to tear a fetus out of their womb so as to rape that fetus and slit its belly open etc, OBVIOUSLY that's what happened to Tejpal by Church Turing, at least once you take into account the underlying Lyapunov candidate function- conventionally represented as 'V' (Lyapunov functions are useful because they make a Schelling focal point (like Modi's endlessly increasing degree of guilt) a stable solution to the underlying Co-ordination problem in a manner that is robust to empirical refutation). Thus, Tejpal is saying 'See, by Church Turing, the existence conditions for a Lyapunov candidate function proves I was raped by a Feminist Taliban/Hindutva Hooligan of a Madhu Kishwar type ACTING ON ORDERS OF NARENDRA MODI.
"BTW & FYKI all this is explained on page 2 of my 'Alchemy of Desire'- which isn't a totally crap book by a worthless needle-dick rug-muncher at all- but you didn't bother to read it, did you? Just skipped through to the dirty bits except you didn't even persevere with those sections coz the only purple and engorged thing that therein arises is my own insufferable ego plowing my spinchterless colon of prose.
' But enough literary chit-chat. Look, just fucking face facts why don't you? Either Narendra Modi is a Machiavellian monster orchestrating every verifiable Evil or else everything us Indglish 'intellectuals' have been banging on about post Godhra has been just meretricious, mendacious shite.

'Now, by Razborov-Rudich, we know that, since we can't prove Modi's guilt (because the psuedorandom generators used by Modi to cloak his Satanic conspiracy are indistinguishable from the real thing) it follows that our 'natural proofs' of Modi's guilt can't decide PvNP. This is important because, though bilaterality (as for example between me and my rapist in the lift) is in complexity class P, the 'alchemy of Desire' is not. Why? Alchemy is not algorithmically verifiable. This is shown by the fact that whereas what actually happened was Modi's minions totally ass raped me, still I go down in history as a creepy Uncleji type going down on all and sundry whereas, since my English and Punjabi and Inglish novels are way better than Vivek Iyer's, I am not the least cunning linguist ever. Also I've made a lot of money peddling my trash. Iyer is just sad.'
Q.E.D

Gandhi on khaddar

My former neighbor, from when I lived in West Ken, Barrister Gandhi has written as follows-


WILL THEY DO IT?

(Harijan 25/5/1934)

Since I have taken up the walking pilgrimage, hundreds of villagers have been following the pilgrims. Some even talk about their woes. Thus, whilst I was reaching Sakhigopal, a representative weaver himself told me that the weavers were in great distress as there was no demand for their cloth.

I told him I had prophesied fifteen years ago that it would not be possible for them to co-exist with mills, so long as they used mill yarn, and that the natural supplier and sustainer of the handloom was the spinning-wheel. In his reply I heard, to the best of my recollection, for the first time, ‘Give us hand-spun and we shall weave it.’

‘I will, if you will do as I tell you’, said I.

‘We will’, the old man replied. The weaver was an old man with a bent back.

I was overjoyed at his replies and said, ‘That is very good. Then I would teach you, your wife and your children how to gin, card and spin. You will then have enough yarn for your loom. You will spin good, strong, even yarn, you will avoid waste. I shall expect you from your first out-turn to take your khaddar for your own use and then I shall buy all the surplus khaddar you weave. I shall try to become a member of your family and give you the benefit of my experience.

Thus, I shall ask you to give up drink and intoxicating drugs if you are addicted to them. I shall go through your family budget and wean you from incurring debts.’

The old man’s face lightened up and he said, ‘We shall surely follow your advice. At present, starvation stares us in the face.’ I asked him to bring some of his friends to see me at 3 o’clock at the
Gopabandhu Ashram in Saikhigopal.

He came with his friends, I repeated much of the morning conversation and said, ‘I know you can’t spin at once enough yarn to start your looms. I shall, therefore, supply you with enough yarn to start with for the most promising families. By the time you have woven it, you will have spun enough to feed your looms. The first khaddar you weave from this supplied yarn will be taken over from
you. For the second lot, if you have not yet enough yarn of your own, I will again supply you with some. After that you should become self-supporting and you should make all your own family
requirements of cloth and then only sell the surplus.

I regard this as an experiment of the highest importance and potency. There are probably ten million weavers in India. No one has the correct number, to the thousand even. But ten million is a safe guess. If these added all the previous processes to the art of weaving, they would not only ensure their own existence, but cheapen khaddar to the lowest possible limit and turn out much more durable and beautiful khaddar than has yet been produced.

The readers of Harijan know that there are in the Central Provinces several Harijan weaver families which do their own carding and spinning. I would add to this ginning. The future of khaddar can be assured if the weavers realize the necessity, for their own sakes, of themselves doing all the processes antecedent to weaving.'


Was Gandhi right in the advise he gave the elderly weaver? Could hand spinning yarn yield the weavers enough income to stave off starvation?

Gandhi's acolyte, Vinobha Bhave made the experiment-


On September 1, 1935 I started a new practice, though in fact it was not really new, it merely became more noticeable. The whole spinning exercise was designed to demonstrate that a man could earn his living by spinning, provided he received the wages I had calculated, and the market prices remained steady. On this basis I reckoned that one should be able to live on six rupees a month; the diet included fifty tolas of milk, thirty tolas of vegetables, fifteen to twenty of wheat, four of oil, and some honey, raw sugar or fruit.
This principle, that a spinner should be able to earn his living by his work, had always been accepted from the first years at Wardha, 1922-23. The new practice we began at Nalwadi in 1935 was that at four o’clock each afternoon we reckoned up how much work had been done. If it was found that by six o’clock (after eight hours of work) the spinners would have earned full wages, then the evening meal was cooked. Otherwise, the workers had to decide whether to forego the evening meal, or to work extra time and earn the full wages. Sometimes the ration was reduced when the earnings fell short. My students were quite young lads, but they worked along with me enthusiastically to the best of their power.
The Charkha Sangh (All India Spinners Association) had fixed wages which amounted to only five rupees a month for four hanks daily, that is, for nine hours’ work a day. In my opinion a spinner should receive not less than four annas (a quarter-rupee) for his daily quota; Bapu would have liked it to be eight annas. But that would have put up the price of khadi, and the gentry would not be prepared to pay a higher rate. What could be done? The only way was for someone like me to experiment in living on the spinner’s wage.
Bapu soon heard of my experiment. He was living at Sevagram, but he was alert to everything that was going on. When we next met he asked me for details. ‘How much do you earn in a day,’ he enquired, ‘calculated at the Charkha Sangh rate?’ ‘Two annas, or two and a quarter,’ I said. ‘And what do you reckon you need?’ ‘Eight annas,’ I replied. ‘So that means,’ he commented, ‘that even a good worker, doing a full day’s work, can’t earn a living wage !’ His distress was evident in his words. At last, thanks to his efforts, the Charkha Sangh accepted the principle of a living wage, though in practice we are still a long way from achieving it.
This debate about wages went on for two or three years. The Maharashtra Charkha Sangh made the first move, and as no adverse consequences followed, they were emboldened to take a second step, bringing the wage to double what it had been. An ordinary spinner could earn four annas by eight hours’ work, while a good spinner could earn six annas. Some specially skilful and hard-working individuals might occasionally earn as much as eight annas—the amount Gandhiji had proposed as the standard. But though the Maharashtra Charkha Sangh adopted the principle, it still seemed impracticable to people in the other provinces.
After I had succeeded in spinning four hanks of yarn in nine hours on the wheel, I planned a similar experiment with the takli (i.e. using a spindle). But my speed was so slow that I felt it was beyond me to achieve satisfactory results. I wanted some more capable person to take it up, because it was only by such experiments that the idea of khadi could really gain ground. I myself experimented for a full year with takli spinning by the left hand, and found that there was a difference of twelve yards in the production of the right and left hands. The purpose of the exercise was to find out whether a full day’s wage could be earned on the takli, spinning for eight hours with both the hands. My fellow-worker Satyavratan was able in this way to produce three hanks of yarn in eight hours.
In those days, about 1934, we used to come together every day at noon for takli spinning. I looked upon this as a form of meditation, and I told my fellow-workers that while I had no wish to impose my ideas on others, I did hope that there would be a better attendance at this takli meditation even than at meals. If this does not happen, one reason is that we do not pay attention to the principles upon which it is based. Meditation stands as it were midway between practical affairs and knowledge—knowledge of the Self—and acts as a bridge. Its task is to enable us, who are preoccupied with practical activities, to reach the Supreme Truth. Meditation appeals first to practical benefits, and by concentration on these benefits leads us to the further shore, to peace, contentment and knowledge of the Self. Let a person begin with the thought that if every inhabitant of India were to take to the takli or the charkha, many of the country’s ills would be remedied. If he starts spinning for that reason it will bring peace of mind. Whatever we undertake in this spirit of reflection or meditation brings both outward and inward benefit, and experience of the takli is of this kind.


So there we have it. Spinning might have some value akin to meditation but it didn't yield an income sufficient to stave off starvation. No doubt, the Gandhian fad meant that hand-spun cloth could be sold at a premium, but even so spinners couldn't feed themselves adequately on the basis of their earnings. By contrast, good weavers using machine yarn were doing quite well for themselves because they were producing a luxury product with a high market price.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Gandhi as negotiator

'Mahatma Gandhi is possibly one of the best negotiators the world has seen. He accomplished many incredible things in his own way and managed to rally people together for a cause.' Prof Peter. Hiddema.

Suppose we are neighbors. I say to you 'if you dig a ditch, my garden won't get flooded.'

You reply- 'if you let me use your parking space, I wouldn't keep getting tickets.'
Clearly, there is a possibility for some sort of deal to be struck here. I might be prepared to sacrifice my parking space so as not to have my garden flooded. You may be prepared to accept occasional use of my parking space in return for digging the ditch. There is a 'contract curve' describing feasible mutually beneficial deals we can make. Negotiations is about getting the best deal for oneself.

Was Gandhi a good negotiator?

Gokhale and Smuts thought he was a good man but a poor negotiator because he wouldn't press his advantage when he had the upper hand.
However, on the occasion when he could have got 'Swaraj'- i.e. self-rule for India along the lines Allenby had granted the Egyptians- he messed up in a manner which suggested that he wasn't a good man at all.
To see why, let us go back to story about my flooded garden and your coveting my parking space.
Suppose we have agreed that my parking space is worth much more in money than the cost of your digging the ditch and that whatever agreement we make is going to include an additional douceur.
Yet, next time we meet, you say to me 'I'm glad you've realized your moral obligation to give me your parking space. It is sad that you only came to the realization of the terrible injustice you were doing me by reason of your selfish interest in saving your garden from being flooded. Still, because I'm a truly charitable and morally exceptional person, I'm going to forget all about our negotiations and simply use your...I mean my parking space, without giving a thought to the sordid motives which led to your handing it over to me.'
Your response is to get my car towed and to bring a suit against me for damages caused to my garden by flooding due to your negligence in not attending to the proper drainage of your property. You promptly run around the neighborhood telling everybody I'm a thief and a rapist and Satanist and so on. I bring an action for libel. You refuse to pay and so your assets are sold. You are now homeless but squat in your old property. I get you arrested for trespass and property damages. You begin a campaign of Civil Disobedience in the Court room. You get done for Contempt and languish in prison because you refuse to purge yourself of contempt.  Your baby starves, your wife goes mad, your daughter becomes a prostitute but gets knifed by a sicko, your sons become terrorists and are either shot or shipped off to Gitmo. You, however, are supremely happy. You have acted righteously. The parking space was yours because I said I was prepared to give it to you for a consideration. But it is immoral to do something for a consideration. The fact that I was prepared to give it to you meant I was morally obliged to give it to you. For you to offer a douceur to me to fulfill this moral obligation would be a corrupt practice on your part. The path of virtue, of non violence, of Christian Charity and Moral Righteousness, forbade you any course of action other than the one you have taken. You are truly a 'Mahatma'- a great soul.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

'True Blood', Hysteresis Costs and Repugnancy Markets.

(I'm reposting this from a year or two ago because the link seems to have broken)

Vampires like human blood. Humans are willing to sell blood, preferably that of somebody else, for a price. So long as Vampires are willing to sell their services to humans- say as night-watchmen-the conditions for a co-operative equilibrium exists.
However Vampires may be very impulsive by nature and so their  Hoppe style 'time-preference' may be too extreme to permit them making binding contracts. However, since Vampires by their nature are immortal unless killed, it follows that so long as they have non zero phenotypal polymorphism- i.e. so long as small differences in 'time preference' exist in that species- then there must be an evolutionarily stable equilibrium in which some older vampires kill young vampires for humans in return for a steady supply of blood.

The problem here is that this is a 'repugnancy market'- Vampires may feel it infra dig to do deals with humans and humans may find it disgusting to live peacefully with their historic predators- and so irrational barriers or restrictions may arise which make the co-operative equilibrium infeasible.

The TV show, 'True Blood' deals with a synthetic food for Vampires which allows them to 'come out of their coffins' and enter Civil Society by getting rid of the overt repugnancy cost associated with blood sucking. However this is an unstable equilibrium on both sides for purely thymotic reasons and, in the current episode, militant Vampires are planning to dynamite the 'True Blood' factories so as to restore overt repugnancy costs and set the stage for a final conflict between the dead and the living.

From the human point of view, what lies at the root of this repugnance? Is it that something which is dead is having commerce with the living? The same 'repugnancy cost' was associated with usury- the notion that 'dead' money can multiply in the same way as cattle or sheep. At a later stage, Marx introduced the idea that Capital- i.e. some fungible asset vital to the production process- was 'dead labor' and that it was morally repugnant that Capitalist Vampires get to dictate how and when and where 'living' Labor is to be employed.

More broadly, we can say that anything created before today which nevertheless has a bearing on our present decisions, is an example of the 'dead hand' of something or other constraining us in a morally repugnant way. Let us take an example. Suppose a new Bank wants to set up its H.Q. in the City of London. The Govt. could say 'look, the City of London already has plenty of Banks. Why don't you set up in Liverpool?' The Bank may reply- 'It is precisely because there are plenty of other Banks in London that we need to set up there. London has 'external economies of scope and scale', for the Banking industry.'
The Govt. may reply (and in the Seventies quite often did reply) 'but these 'external economies' are merely a historical accident. Why should we let the 'dead hand' of Capitalism's vampirical past dictate the future shape of Britain?'

Moving away from Govts., in the de-regulated Eighties, we find a lot of factually inaccurate memes cropping up which protested against 'lock-in' inefficiency by reason of historical accident.

Thus, people asked- Why should we be stuck with the qwerty key-board? It was only introduced to slow down professional typists who might otherwise type too fast and break the primitive machines which were available a Century ago. Why should the 'dead hand' of past typewriter technology constrain us to a sub-optimal keyboard which, going forward, imposes an ever rising Social Cost? (Actually, qwerty reduced jams and thus enabled people to type faster.) Similar, generally mistaken, points were often made about VHS vs. Betamax or the Windows Operating System and so on- i.e. there was a notion that 'historical accident' had got us stuck with an inferior product because producers were too stupid or unimaginative or downright sucky to understand that they needed to be competitive just as much against potential rivals as actual rivals.

Why did these 'memes' gain such widespread and unquestioning currency? Is it because of an irrational repugnancy cost attaching to the notion that 'the dead past' still constrains us modern, living, human beings?
In Economics, 'lock-in' effects are studied under the rubric of 'hysteresis' or 'path dependence'.
One reason why Moral Philosophers were attracted to 'Neo-Classical' Welfare Economics was because it used hysteresis-free models. This meant that the opportunity cost of breaking with the past- what we might term hysteresis costs- was set to zero. Thus, a playground was created where all manners of pseudo repugnancy costs could be conjured out of thin air.

Any form of intersubjective Just Proceeding, that is widely acknowledged as such, is going to have hysteresis effects as it is a sort of moving target for successive co-ordination problems. But, by simply ignoring hysteresis- the way most Economists do in their models (because hysteresis is less mathematically tractable)- Moral Philosophers got to re-label every form of Just Proceeding as an example of a grievous injustice. The comedy here is that Philosophy's own in-built path dependence is the reason it has been shunned by all sensible people and not just starting from Aristophanes either. But this itself is an example of a hysteresis cost becoming the basis of an irrational repugnancy effect! Equally, had philosophers been alert to the hysteresis ridden nature of their own profession, they wouldn't have made fools of themselves by so sedulously manufacturing bogus repugnancy costs! This stricture applies not just to Moral Philosophy but also to every Philosophically informed Methodenstriet (dispute over what constitutes proper methodology and thus what results can be thought of as valid) such that there was a repugnancy cost attached to truths only derivable by one method of proceeding or which violated some preferred ontology. Empirical results, e.g. experimental confirmation of Bell's inequality, ought to have killed this sort of Philosophy off, but the evidence is it didn't.

As a case in point, Putnam argues that the Many Worlds interpretation is wrong because any time there's a Schrodinger's cat type situation then, no matter what the probability of the cat being killed, half of the observers across multiple worlds will see a dead cat. This because there are only two possible worlds- dead cat and live cat world. What about a sequence of Schrodinger experiments- so we have sequences of dead or live cats? Surely, the Universe splits every time the Schrodinger box is opened such that you have a bunch of these Universes out there. Putnam asks ‘What is the probability in the naive sense—not the ‘‘probability’’ in the quantum mechanical sense, this real number which I calculate by finding the square of the absolute value of a certain vector, but the probability in the sense of the number of my future histories in which I will observe that, say,( the cat was dead) half of the time plus or minus 5% of the time divided by the total number of my future histories?’

Putnam thinks it very strange that this naive probability is 50 percent and not whatever the chance of getting a dead cat was according to the Q.M probability theory. Yet, what else could it be? These multiple worlds (generated by the experimental sequence) differ only according to the criteria dead cat/ live cat. In every other respect they are indistinguishable. Putnam is ascribing a repugnancy cost to the Many Worlds interpretation based on discerning a bogus hysteresis. To see why, consider the following- is there anything in Many Worlds which constrains the arrow of Time to a particular direction? If your answer is yes, then Putnam is right- there is some sensible use of the word 'probability' such that he can say 'On the Many Worlds interpretation, quantum mechanics is the first physical theory to predict that the observations of most observers will disconfirm the theory.' In other words, if path dependence is a feature of Many Worlds, then its use has a repugnancy cost. But, if Many Worlds is hysteresis free- i.e. if it says there's a block Multiverse containing all the possible worlds- then Putnam's use of the word 'probability' is not logically coherent. As a matter of fact, Many Worlds doesn't have to make any ontological commitments at all and can plume itself as a paradigm of, hysteresis free, 'logically coherent thought'
Bearing this in mind and returning to take a closer look at repugnancy markets- prostitution, abortion, drug dealing etc.- the problem with each of these is that once hysteresis effects are taken into account, the picture changes. In each case, the relevant information- viz. was this particular act of prostitution/abortion/drug dealing, welfare and capability enhancing or was it deleterious?- is difficult to extract because it is so highly correlated with everything else that was happening or had happened or was likely to happen. Contemplating this mess we find there are no easy answers. It may be that licensing a repugnancy market reduces the social evil and enables Society to move more quickly to a better path in which that evil diminishes to a purely medical problem affecting very small numbers of people. On the other hand, it could happen that a small increase in the Social evil has a run-away effect. How are we to know in advance what sort of attractors are lurking in our vicinity on the fitness landscape? Might not hysteresis effects save us from disaster? But is it not somehow repugnant that we can even ask ourselves this question? Whatever are we to do?
The answer, of course, is watch more TV, because the Series Finale of 'True Blood', will reveal that beverage not to have been synthetic at all. It was ordinary human blood purchased from willing humans out of wages paid by humans to Vampire night-guard guild. This guild contains the oldest Vampires with lowest time preference. They secretly manipulated the militant Vampires to blow up the True Blood factories not so as to re-establish overt repugnancy costs and thus drive a wedge between the dead and the living, but to show that repugnancy costs are irrational and ought to be abandoned when a stable co-operative equilibrium exists.
Thus it turns out the 'True Blood' fraud had two objectives

1) to get the dead and living used to living together
2) to shake out the low time preference or high repugnancy cost militants and hate-mongers on both sides.

My question is, once this co-operative Utopia is established, would sex with Vampires still be hot?

No. Not at all. Think about it, what would women need tampons for if Vampires were on tap?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Tarun Tejpal was raped by BJP goons.

I am not saying Narendra Modi personally molested Tarun in a lift. Nor is Tejpal- yet. What is undeniable is that the hydra headed monster of Hindutva, allied with the Feminist Taliban, raped Tejpal and sent him into a 'shame spiral' such that he started to blame himself and began Emailing all and sundry apologizing for his provocative pony tail and beard which caused a young journalist to force him to perform oral sex upon her in a lift.
In the old days, the khap panchayat would have compelled her to marry her victim so as to restore his 'izzat' and it was probably only to arrange something of that sort that his people contacted her family. But, nowadays, us middle aged men are considered as just 'piece of meat', nothing more. Nobody has even mentioned that it is a violation of mandatory Health and Safety procedures, if not International Human Rights, that Tejpal was raped by Hindutva Feminists who also cut open his belly and dragged out a fetus and then raped the fetus before ripping open its belly and raping its fetus.
I have conducted a sting operation which proves this to the hilt.
Here is the transcript-
Vivek Iyer- Some call you Babu Bajrang, others refer to you as the Hindu Hitler- why did you rape and cut open the belly of Tarun Tejpal, dragging out a fetus which you also raped and then cut a fetus out of? Say Miaow if your answer is 'Modi ordered me to do it. President Obama and his bibi Netanyahu were also present and laughing evilly and making snide remarks about how Secularism is like totally gay.'
Neighbor's cat- Miaow
Vivek Iyer- Okay. Have some milk. Tomorrow, Asaram.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Porus and Alexander

Conquered, yet, a great King was Porus
Said a Bacchic Bong born to bore us
Must Bucephalus, in Ind, like Glory, die?
Or, Iqbal, Pegasus as but carrion fly?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Matthew 19.14


Dulce et decorum est Teens blown to smithereens
So Kipling teach Tyrtaeus what Christ means 
& the Empire's Evil more comfortably retire 
May the Bourse be.. with whomever it sire.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Is it permissible to eat Peter Singer?

Purvapaksha- No. Singer will die at time T, where T is known to lie in the region 0 to 50 years from now. Thus, at time t < T, Singer is a person and has rights and shouldn't be eaten.
Khandana- At time T-1, Singer is a person who is going to die anyway. Eating him is the smallest sin one can incur under conditions of scarcity . Hence, it is permissible to eat him. Since it is permissible to eat him, thus killing him, at time T-1, eating him is the smallest sin one can incur at time T-2 because he only has one more instant to live, under conditions of scarcity. The same is true at T-3 and so on. Thus it is permissible to eat Peter Singer, so long as food is scarce and necessary to support the life of a person- which on Singer's view includes animals.
Siddhanta- Don't eat Peter Singer. You'll get a tummy ache. Feed him to the dogs.

Note- Under scarcity, if you eat, someone else does not- so, for Singer, a least possible sin is already occurring. Because Singer fails to distinguish between the margin and the norm, this argument, albeit only with respect to him, goes through.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Angels braver than the Lord

Why, tho' Wine is my Saqi, do I yet drink tears?
I haven't been 'Sectioned' these many years
Must, in Caritas, Christ, thou sore conflicted,
Madder my lips thy worse afflicted?

Thy Rock a Scandal by Common Report
Am I thy Peter of Peer Support?
That, my first morning in the mental ward
I saw Angels braver than the Lord.

Envoi-
This, thy prothalamion, midons, sows a patripassian scion
So Peace have a Prince, let Bedlam widow Zion.

Nagarjuna's Madras Curry

When I first came to London, as a carnivorous Carnatic lad, I was compelled to choose between only three types of curry.
 Korma was too mild. Phaal blew your arse off. Madras was in between. 
(Goan Vindaloo is sour-sweet shite and only suitable for spoiled pork)
I wish I could say I always chose Madras, more especially as that's where I'm from. Sadly, I didn't. I'd drink till closing time and then order Phaal at the tandoori. 
However, when it came to Soteriological Epistemologies, I was partial to Buddhism- Jainism was constipating, Hinduism crapulous, but Buddhism was just right especially after I learnt to economise by getting drunk only on an empty stomach and could nurse a hangover with the comforting thought that-
Whatever is dependently co-arisen, 
That is explained to be emptiness. 
That, being a dependent designation, 
Is itself the middle way. 
Nagarjuna (MMK XXIV : 18)
What's more, a mid-morning hair of the dog shows you that Sansara really is Nirvana.
However, in omitting my post pub Curry, I now realize I showed a lack of true Vivek. Curry is important for understanding Nagarjuna. Not Curry, the dish, but Haskell Curry the logician.
Here's an example of Curry's paradox.
'If this sentence is true, then Nagarjuna's Madhyamika is a Madras Curry.'
With a two cornered Logic, with an excluded middle, this sentence is true even  if Nagarjuna was actually from Andhra & cooked Phaal.
A four cornered Logic need not be dialethic if there is some intensional criteria (rather than a conditional) such that two corners have a pragmatics (i.e. an interpretation or uniformly presentable ideal of a certain sort) which can be shown to be empty or asymptotically approach emptiness. However, because Set theory uses extensional definitions, and thus can't distinguish between the recursive and the recursively enumerable, it is condemned to glutty or gappy pragmatics.
Nagarjuna has Scriptural authority to make emptiness intensional in a particular way which side-steps problems caused by Time. Being a brainy guy, he formulates a Curry type tetralemma which omits mention of this Scriptural authority and yet which entails nothing he doesn't assent to.
This annoys the fuck out of the Nyaya pundits but doesn't blow the arse out of ontology and that's why Umasvati and Sankara, in their different ways, do something similar for their own traditions.
But this doesn't mean Nagarjuna is always a Madras Curry.
For incautious Westerner's he's viciously Phaal.
Take the case of Graham Priest, who has proposed an 'Inclosure Schema' to tackle various types of paradoxes, like the sorites. But we know it can't tackle, or even effectively spot, Curry paradoxes. So what could be funnier than watching Priest tackle Nagarjuna because we know in advance that he is chewing on, not Korma or Madras, but blow-your-arse-off Phaal?
Let's play the video-

This is Priest (with Jay Garfield) on Nagarjuna
'The contradictions at the limits of thought have a general and bipartite structure. The first part is an argument to the effect that a certain view, usually about the nature of the limit in question, transcends that limit (cannot be conceived, described, etc.). 
This is Transcendence. The other is an argument to the effect that the view is within the limit-Closure. Often, this argument is a practical one, based on the fact that Closure is demonstrated in the very act of theorizing about the limits. At any rate, together, the pair describe a structure that can conveniently be called an inclosure: a totality, Q and an object, o, such that o both is and is not in Q. On closer analysis, inclosures can be found to have a more detailed structure. At its simplest, the structure is as follows. The inclosure comes with an operator, 8, which, when applied to any suitable subset of Q, gives another object that is in Q (that is, one that is not in the subset in question, but is in Q). Thus, for example, if we are talking about sets of ordinals, 8 might apply to give us the least ordinal not in the set. If we are talking about a set of entities that have been thought about, 8 might give us an entity of which we have not yet thought. The contradiction at the limit arises when 8 is applied to the totality Q itself. For then the application of 8 gives an object that is both within and without Q: the least ordinal greater than all ordinals, or the unthought object...
Central to Nagarjuna's understanding of emptiness as immanent in the conventional world is his doctrine of the emptiness of emptiness. That, we have seen, is what prevents the two truths from collapsing into an appearance/reality or phenomenon/noumenon distinction. But it is also what generates the contradictions characteristic of philosophy at the limits. We have encountered two of these, and have seen that they are intimately connected. The first is a paradox of expressibility: linguistic expression and conceptualization can express only conventional (Vyavaharika) truth; the ultimate truth (Paramaartha)  is that which is inexpressible and that which transcends these limits. So it cannot be expressed or characterized. But we have just done so. The second is a paradox of ontology: all phenomena, Nagarjuna argues, are empty, and so ultimately have no nature (svabhava) . But emptiness is, therefore, the ultimate nature of things. So they both have and lack an ultimate nature. 
That these paradoxes involve Transcendence should be clear. In the first case, there is an explicit claim that the ultimate truth transcends the limits of language and of thought. In the second case, Nagarjuna claims that the character of ultimate reality transcends all natures. That they also involve Closure is also evident. In the first case, the truths are expressed and hence are within the limits of expressibility; and in the second case, the nature is given and hence is within the totality of all natures. 


We'd better stop the video here. I mean it's one thing to muffle one's giggles while watching a guy eat a Phaal curry but quite another to follow him in to the toilet.  More especially as Priest has Jay Garfield in tow and at this point the shite they are spouting is that Nagarjuna was headed out of Buddhism into a supposedly rational Dialethia without any soteriological features. This is as bad as David Kalupahana's attempt to turn Nagarjuna into a William James type pragmatic or Ewing Chinn's attempt to turn him into John Dewey. Why not just say, Nagarjuna was headed towards a career as a singing waiter at an Elvis themed Diner soon to be opening in suburban Toledo?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not whining about them Whiteys stealing our Tribal totem pole- not only are they welcome to it, they will also preserve it better than we would. On the contrary, I'm saying don't pretend your Philosophy campus is built over an old Indian's burial ground. And definitely don't order Nagarjuna's Curry coz it aint Madhyamika Madras but blow-your-arse-off Phaal.

There are plenty of pious Western Buddhists who do the Meditation and who work for Universal Welfare and so on. But they understand Buddhism is a Religion and have a Religious attitude towards it. Certainly, Buddhism has what we call Philosophy. But it isn't Psilosophy because even in the form of Nagarjuna's Curry it isn't shite. Not yet.


Buddhism can have a concept of the limit as antarabhava or (Tibetan) bardo, similar to Ibn Arabi's barzakh. This, by itself means that it can have a dynamic conception of substance similar to Jain parinami dhravya. However, if it also has kshanikavada- i.e. a doctrine of momentariness- then the dynamics are stalemated and instead you have spatial entanglement- i.e. dependent origination, which Nagarjuna defines as svabhava emptiness, but we also know- on the authority of the Buddha- that there can be a 'cetana' (intentionality) such that the entanglement is severed. Since Buddhism is radically ontologically dysphoric, this is the aim of meditation and study. Followers of Nagarjuna thus hold that 'at the limit' both instantaneous enlightenment (when sansara becomes identical with nirvana) and Bodhisattvahood are possible.

Given that all this is the case, Priest's dialethia looks pretty silly. What Nagarjuna has done is show that there is an intensional pragmatics consistent with Buddha's all manumitting message- 'Truth is One. There is no second'

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Citizen Diplomacy & Open Democracy

What is Citizen Democracy?
Wikipedia defines it as the 'political concept of average citizens engaging as representatives of a country or cause either inadvertently or by design. Citizen diplomacy does not have to be direct negotiations between two parties, but can take the form of: scientific exchanges, cultural exchanges, and international athletic events.'

As a youth in New Delhi, in the mid Nineteen Seventies, I became involved in Citizen Diplomacy when a Bulgarian class-mate suggested we put up notices in his native language at various tourist attractions so as to discourage the culturally insensitive practice, prevalent amongst visiting dignatories from his country, of using Muslim 'Minars' and Hindu 'Stambhas' for the reprehensible purpose of anally pleasuring themselves. Purporting to be members of the Youth Congress, acting on the orders of Ambika Soni, we were successful in our task. Soon, the practice spread to other Schools and Colleges and a brief golden age of Citizen Diplomacy was inaugurated during which them filthy foreigners visiting Ind's sacred tourist attractions were properly instructed by notices written in their own obscene lingo to kindly desist from shoving our ancient monuments up their own capacious arses.


Something similar seems to be happening on the website, Open Democracy, except all the signposts are written by pointy headed PhD types and so I don't understand which ancient monument it is that I'm not supposed to be stuffing up me jaxie.



Saturday, 9 November 2013

Property rights vs Bodily rights

 Kevin Vallier writes- 'I think that all coercive claims must be justified for each person subject to them in terms she can reasonably be expected to accept.'

 What if she believes
 1) rights are 'essentially contestable concepts' and infinitely defeasible for that reason.
2) she makes a positive contribution- a 'paradigm shifting' one- to Ethics or Public Justification theory by always finding a reasonable argument not to accept any given coercive claim.
In this case, no coercive claim can be justified for this lady no matter the quantum of sweet reason used.
Indeed this sort of idionomia or even antagonomia might crop up more frequently in those who would otherwise stipulate for a personalized justification of any coercive claim.
Kevin claims that 'the reasons that speak against extensive property rights do not speak against other liberal rights... because political practices that protect highly articulated, extensive property rights in external objects require more deference from others than less controversial liberal rights. That is, property rights place relatively more restrictions on the actions of others in contrast to other rights'
Is this true? Surely, less deference is exercised and only the threat of an action in tort prevents wholesale appropriation? We gaily trespass on another's field while we would hesitate to take a similar liberty with their genitals except, obviously, on a DTC bus at rush hour.
A second point re. the difference between property and 'bodily' rights- what about things like the 'Right to Publicity' which is assignable and survivable and thus like a property right though arising from the state of being embodied?
As a matter of fact, with a little ingenuity, we could always find a structural analogue between a bodily and a property type right. What would be difficult is to find a counter-example.

Distributive justice & Contracts

Adjudicating Contracts can have the appearance of giving Judges the chance to strike a blow for distributive Justice and, as Kronman pointed out thirty years ago, there is no purely legal or philosophical reason for them not to take advantage of this fact.  However, from the Economic point of view, assuming unrestricted domain and stare decesis, such intervention is likely to be highly counter-productive iff market power correlates with higher elasticity of demand or supply and there is free entry and exit into the market.
In this case, the knowledge that considerations of distributive justice obtain in a particular jurisdiction would have the effect of
1) encouraging forum shopping- bilateral contracts would migrate to distribution neutral jurisdictions to ensure privity. Unilateral contracts or contracts of adhesion would carry a risk premium, whose incidence would fall on the party with less market power, to nullify the distributional consequences of adjudication.

Over time, distribution-neutral jurisdictions would score better for equity because
2) Greater social exclusion- i.e. diminished ability to profitably contract for those with less market power. Essentially, a middle man capable of privity by, for example, making a bilateral contract in a distribution neutral jurisdiction, takes over the risk of issuing unilateral contracts to those whom the Court wishes to favor.
3) Dividing the disadvantaged into a class of short to medium term 'winners' and everybody else into permanent 'losers'. Essentially, some economic rent gets redistributed in the short run but in the long run everybody is worse off- except those with market power who have found a way to evade the jurisdiction of the Court.
Taxes, including negative taxes, aren't a perfect instrument for redistribution but they are a whole heck of a lot better than tampering with the law of contract. One possible exception is where redistribution is associated with a negative externality in which case, however, tort law is the way to go.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Istiqsa al ma'ani & Baroque poetry

Ibn al Rumi is the acknowledged master of 'Istinfad al-ma'ani'- the poetic technique of exhausting a theme by ringing every possible change upon it. It appears he was also riddled with phobias and OCD.  Rumi was the son of a Greek convert and a Persian woman living in one of the most cosmopolitan and intellectually adventurous cities that ever existed. Yet, there were reasons to be anxious. In the South, the African slaves had rebelled. In the North, power was shifting from Arabs to Persianized Turks and at the center of Abbasid rule was the time-bomb of Shia dissent. Yet, the Islamic Golden Age still had plenty of mileage. By contrast, the pessimism of the Portuguese or Spanish baroque seems better founded. For the Iberian peninsula, the Renaissance had failed, Rationalism had failed, Cosmopolitanism had failed, Religious toleration was anathema. Kings were getting madder and madder and listening to the bat shit crazy likes of Maria de Agreda. On the other hand, Catholic cultural pessimism had not racial component. The Arabs were aware of having conquered culturally superior civilizations. But for the prophesy encoded in the Quran, their language and achievements could all too easily be wiped away.Western Europeans apprehended no similar danger from the one continent they conquered and the others which they had engrossed into their globalized mercantile system. Perhaps that's why Iberian baroque poetry never developed beyond 'brusque theological magic' whereas the Arab baroque opened itself to the truly philosophical.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Fulham Joe

Gone is the chippy & the caff where we'd  meet
So hollowed out, now, our hallowed High Street
Till, down my stretch of Fulham, for a cup of joe
Costa's had become the cheap place to go.

But Costas un-persisted on account of the Depression
Its memory too a Marcusian Repression
Cocooned in caffeine, scarce exchanging a nod
You with your I-pod, me hearing God

Till a mad fucking Ozzie built like a brick fucking dunny
Opened a Jazz Improv gaff  that's right on the money
& suddenly we are talking ; too late, yet it's neat
I've reason again to Irish my bitter treat







Saturday, 2 November 2013

Jappa Pallikathayil & why I should have been blonde.

The following is from a Tea Party affliated Christian blog which thinks the 'just price' of Aquinas is also always the market price- ' All market-generated prices are just. They are just because they are voluntarily achieved through interactions between buyers and sellers. Buyers tell producers what they want, and producers use up scarce resources to meet demand.' 
' Stewardship: Colossians 3:23-24 says,
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
The scarce resources God has endowed us with have multiple and competing ends. We must make tradeoffs: should we buy another car or send our child to private school this year? Market-established prices help us make these tradeoffs between resources.
Cooperation: Philippians 2:3-4 tells us:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
God calls us into community to work with and serve one another. Prices guide us in serving others by coordinating our activities. They also give us signals about how to best serve each other.
Friedrich Hayek recognized this coordinating power of prices. He wrote in The Use of Knowledge In Society that,
Prices can act to co-ordinate the separate actions of different people…
Prices help us attain a level of flourishing that otherwise would remain unknown. They harness decentralized knowledge.'
My response was-
'All market-generated prices are just.'- is this true? Suppose there are just two people on a desert island. One has both food and water, the other has nothing but a bag of gold. It may be that compelled by thirst, the latter trades all of his gold for a little water after drinking which he perishes of starvation.

This is a market transaction- indeed, it could be said to be somewhat altruistic in that the other party could just have waited till the thirsty man died and then taken his gold without making any payment.

Would we call this price just?

My feeling is that it is the essence of a market transaction that it is not a one-off but a repeated game with potential positive sum outcomes. Indeed, prices serve no signalling function if transactions are one-off.
The Quaker Economist, Kenneth Boulding- author of numerous beautiful hymns- laid emphasis on the sort of positive 'psychic capital'- trust, mutuality, goodwill- created by markets working on the basis of repeated transactions engendering long term mutually beneficial relationships. The true wealth of a Nation lies in this sort of psychic capital. Good business practice fosters a good Legal and Administrative infrastructure. The 'robber baron' approach of oligarchs, on the other hand, goes hand in hand with corrupt Politics and a dysfunctional Legal system. Long term, there is both 'capital flight ' and 'brain drain' from such countries. People vote with their feet an migrate to more salubrious environments.

From the Christian p.o.v. the notion of just prices, at least under conditions of imperfect competition- i.e. the sorts of markets that obtain in manufacturing and services where product differentiation or local monopoly/ monopsony exists- i.e. market power is asymmetric- can help guide us to better business practice, more 'X efficiency' and greater dynamism in the exploit of potential internal and external economies of scale and scope.

More generally, a notion of just price can be made rigorous with reference to the shadow vector of correlated equilibria in a repeated game such that all exigent circumstances get insured against- i.e. arbitrageurs operate in the market in a manner to equalize risk premiums and also all external effects, information asymmetries (and preference revelation problems) get 'internalised' in the Coasian sense by the co-evolution of Mechanism Design along with the Market. 
Govts. aren't really going to be able to compute that just price and are likely to create deadweight efficiency losses if they intervene in markets for populist reasons. The Shah of Iran lost his throne because he attempted to bring down the price of bread by throwing innocent bakers in jail. Needless to say, he took no action against the greed and profligacy of his own supporters whose reckless spending was responsible for inflation.

A more sophisticated view, from a  Libertarian perspective, is presented by Prof. Nina Bardwan in an essay on the distinction between fully voluntary actions and actions done under duress in the context of market exchanges. She writes-'What, then, is the just price for a kidney, and how is it to be determined? Locke proposes a general answer to the question of a just price when one party is in dire straits in his Venditio. He argues that a ship that is in danger of sinking in a storm because it has lost all its anchors should not be taken advantage of by a ship that has an anchor to spare. The second ship ought to sell the anchor to the first at the price it would charge if the first ship was not in desperate circumstances. This is the price it would charge in a competitive market. Munger and Ricardo A. Guzm├ín agree with, and offer a formal theory to justify, this analysis in *An Analytical Theory of Just Market Exchange” (2012). But what is a competitive market? Whatever else it might be, it is a market in which people are free to buy and sell. The kidney market, then, is decidedly not a competitive market, since kidney sales are banned in every country but one (Iran). If kidney sales were legal everywhere, or at least in most countries, and there was free legal trade in kidneys, many rich people would go to poor countries for kidney transplants (as they do for other medical procedures) and the price of kidneys would rise in those countries. Ironically, it is the attempt to save people from exploitation by banning kidney markets that has led to the unimaginably high levels of exploitation and injustice that we see in underground kidney deals.
'Some libertarians might be inclined to reject my argument in the belief that it implies that all cases of profiting in a disaster, such as selling salt at a higher price when most of the salt mines supplying a community have been destroyed, are unjust. But my argument does not imply this. It condemns injustice, but there is nothing unjust about raising the price of a commodity when it is in short supply, and lowering it when it is abundant. Doing so neither takes advantage of people by making grossly disproportionate exchanges, nor treats them as mere means to the seller’s own ends. Nor is it unjust in any other way that I can see. Rather, it is the only economically and morally rational way to act.'
Why is the above stupid? Well, it ignores Insurance and Reputation effects. Locke's ship captain would have taken out Insurance. He gets lower premiums if he abides by a certain code- e.g. always give a spare anchor at the open market price to a distressed ship likely to have Insurance- and so the market internalizes the problem. Similarly, once our Insurance brokers get organized, organ sales cease to be a 'repugnancy market' because prices begin to look like corrleated equilibria outcomes from a positive sum repeated game. Burdwan can't say that because she'd be doing herself out of a job- Philosophers have a vested interest in remaining ignorant of the subject on which they pontificate.
This brings me to Jappa Pallikathayil who has just penned a blog post on the Morality of Markets. Jessica Flanigan, at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, writes- 'Drawing on a Kantian framework, which says we must never treat others merely as means, Japa explains that we may be blind to the ends of others when we enter into market arrangements with them without treating them merely as means. This is because voluntary exchanges generally further the ends of both parties by enabling buyers and sellers (of labor or goods) to make decisions that reflect their own assessments of the value of a service or a product relative to the wage or price.
But Japa is concerned about exchanges that happen against unjust background conditions. She writes: “there are some contexts in which the use of the norms of marketplace is inappropriate because of the circumstances of the potential participants.” First, market norms are allegedly morally suspect when one participant in the exchange is a victim of injustice. So, for example, if you were only selling a product to me because your landlord is unjustly evicting you from your home it would be wrong for me to profit from that injustice. Instead I should not use an injustice to further my ends in part because I should recognize that you are entitled to greater control over what you are selling than you currently have as a victim of injustice.
Second, when one participant’s ends are clearly more urgent and weighty than another’s, like if you are only selling me something to pay for your child’s chemotherapy, then participating in an exchange “reflects a misunderstanding of the values at play.” She therefore concludes: “those of us who are not subjected to injustice or struggling to survive should be very troubled by most of our market transactions.  These transactions involve us in a blindness to the ends of others that is not justifiable.”
As someone with Kantian leanings, I especially enjoyed reading this post. But it left me with some questions:
1) How is this not the case for a lot of (if not all) market exchanges? It seems like even ordinary exchanges, e.g. most employment arrangements, are motivated by the need to provide for our basic needs or the basic needs of those we love. Of course there are other reasons to work, but I imagine that some people wouldn’t work if they could ensure that their needs were satisfied even if those same people love their jobs. And insofar as at leastsome taxation is unjust, but we must work more to pay those taxes, then some of our market exchanges are also premised on an injustice. If I am an employer, does the fact that my employee is only working for me as much as she is because she is a victim of injustice or so that she will not struggle to survive mean that my transaction is unjustifiable to the extent that this is true? In this way, the account seems over-inclusive.
2) Say that it is true that a transaction is not justifiable if one participant in the transaction is struggling to survive or a victim of injustice. Does it follow that I should not participate in the transaction? Even if there were something objectionably ‘blind to the ends of others’ when someone participates in a transaction instead of addressing the underlying injustice or need, as Matt Zwolinski often points out, this is rarely the relevant counterfactual. Instead, most people who encounter victims of injustice or those in great need don’t do anything at all. In this way participants in voluntary exchanges may do more to further the ends of others than anyone else, even if those participants could do more.
3) Japa argues that the duties to refrain from certain market transactions—duties that we have to people who are victims of injustice or those who are struggling to survive—needn’t be explained by duties of beneficence. Instead she references Kyla Ebels-Duggan’s Kantian account of love, which argues that we should share in our loved one’s ends rather than in aiming to promote their happiness. But most market exchanges do not involve loved ones, and in these circumstances it’s not clear that the same special duties apply. It might even be a mistake to aim to further or share in a stranger’s ends if that distance means that you are not well-suited to fully understand their ends beyond what they express to you, which in this case is an exchange.
4) In at least some exchanges, both participants in the exchange are either desperate or the victim of injustice. For example, Ann might sell a kidney to Bill only because Ann needs to pay for her daughters chemotherapy, and Bill may purchase the kidney only because he will die without it. In these desperate circumstances, there may be no other way for Ann or Bill to further their ends. But Ann and Bill do not treat each other in ways that misunderstand the values at play because presumably the values at play are comparable. Yet why would the permissibility of Bill buying something from Ann at a given price depend on whether Bill is as desperate as Ann or not? Would this view imply that whether exchanges are problematic depends not only on the circumstance of each participant but also on the degree of inequality between the participants? If so, does this mean that it is generally problematic for people who are well-off to enter into exchanges, but not for the badly off?'

Japa responded thus-
Thanks for these really interesting and helpful questions. My thinking on this topic is still in the very early stages and so I’m really grateful for the feedback. Here are some thoughts about the questions:
1) It is worthwhile here to treat the injustice case and the survival case separately. I do think that there is something morally troubling about using market norms in the face of any kind of injustice and that may well mean that all of our market transactions should be troubling. (And I actually think that it is not surprising that fully living up to the demands of morality requires a background of justice, but I won’t try to say more about that now). The post may have been misleading, though, because the main example was of an isolated case of
injustice. And in that case, it does seem to me that moving away from market norms and moving toward a more collaborative interaction is the right response. But systematic or pervasive injustice, of the sort I mention toward the end of the post, may call for a different response. That is, I think this kind of injustice
should also unsettle our use of market norms but it is less obvious what we are
required to do in light of this. Rather than adjusting our attitudes towards particular participants in particular transactions, we may instead need to adjust our attitudes towards our institutions more generally. So, it may be that we are permitted to engage in market transactions in the familiar way in the face of pervasive in justice, but that if we do so we acquire a new source of obligation to work for institutional change. Anyway, that’s an example of the general strategy – injustice should unsettle our use of market norms but the way it unsettles their use may differ depending on the kind of injustice in question.
Regarding the survival case. I think you are right to press on what counts as struggling to survive. It is true that I need a job to be able to afford a place to live and food to eat. But it doesn’t seem plausible to me to describe myself as struggling to survive. I think there is an intuitive distinction here that needs to be drawn out. I am not sure how to do that yet and would welcome any suggestions.

2) Two things here. First, I don’t want to claim that we should never engage in transactions with people who are struggling to survive or the victims of injustice. In the post I was primarily putting pressure on the terms on which we transact and whether the terms that would have been the result of abiding by market norms are appropriate. (And as per the clarification above, there may even be cases in which the market terms are appropriate so long as one responds to the problem in another way.) Second, though, I appreciate the worry that I seem to be impugning interactions that do actually help those in need. And I’d hate
to advocate making others’ lives worse for the sake of keeping clean hands, so
to speak. But I do think it is important to notice that not all ways of helping are morally benign. Suppose I happen upon someone who is on the brink of starving to death. I feed and nurse him back to health but then enslave him for the rest of his life. He may regard himself better off my slave than dead – but this would still be a morally impermissible way of interacting with him.

3) Ebels-Duggan’s account of love is, I think, intended to be broader than the love we have for those we are close to – it is an attitude we are supposed to have generally towards others. I would probably not describe the attitude she has in mind in terms of love but rather in terms of respect. I agree that the language
of sharing ends might be a bit too strong for what I am looking for – regarding
others’ ends as reason giving might be more apt for my purposes. But what I really wanted to draw on from her piece is that taking on the attitude of a benefactor can be dangerous and I think it is often more appropriate to aim to work with others rather than treat them as passive beneficiaries.

4) You are right to point out that in the post I was combining two problems that ought to be distinguished, one about relative circumstances and one about absolute circumstances. The problem of misunderstanding the values in play only obtains if the circumstances of the two parties are significantly different. I’m actually inclined to think, though, that the absolute circumstances matter too and they call out for a particular kind of engagement even among those who are all badly off. I don’t yet have much to say about what kind of engagement this is – it may amount to just a difference in the attitude toward the transaction rather than
the terms. My thinking is still very much in flux about this and I am very interested in what others think.

My response to the above is-
I don't think 'market norms' has a current interpretation in Econ. such that this statement is meaningful- 'it may be that we are permitted to engage in market transactions in the familiar way in the face of pervasive in- justice, but that if we do so we acquire a new source of obligation to work for institutional change.'
This is because there is always a missing market which it is permissible to institute such that the perceived 'pervasive injustice' disappears. Since there is a implicit market for any given market which becomes explicit if information costs change sufficiently and since the information contained in implicit markets themselves get reflected in actual markets (because they contribute to 'derived demand' or 'joint supply') no 'scandal' for 'Market norms' arises- at least for current Economic conceptions of the Market.
Specifically in
1) there are 2 separate issues- information asymmetry (for which there will always be a Welfare improvement through better Mechanism Design) and the problem of meta-preferences (for which there is an Impossibility type result by reason of the underlying impredicativity).
2) the existing Economic analysis of 'repugnancy markets' suggests that Philosophers have no business in this neck of the woods because the ways forward are highly pragmatic and context specific.
3) can be subsumed under the rubric of Ken Binmore's sort of Evolutionary Game Theory or Mechanism Design which aims to' de-Kant' the subject
4) Before speaking of absolute and relative circumstances one needs to understand the difference between what is algorithmically computable and verifiable. After all Markets are a way to compute a certain type of solution. Just saying that they cant compute something else proves nothing because no one can show that the stuff in question is computable at all.
In short, philosophers writing about Markets only do so because they are ignorant of current Market theory. If this weren't the case, they'd be doing Econ. not Philosophy and that sort of thing can become a habit.
The subset of psilosophers writing about Econ who also mention Morality require not just ignorance but also stupidity in order to function. This is because Morality is either Substantive or Procedural or else it is Strategic (i.e. Machiavellian) which is not Moral at all. If it is Substantive, it is empty because even if solutions are verifiable they aren't computable in the life time of the Universe. To suggest otherwise is stupid. If it is Procedural then either it is linked to this world or it isn't. If it is Secular it isn't philosophy but Law & Econ. If it isn't it is ontologically dysphoric and thus merely the Poetry of the untalented which is stupid, but in a pathetic manner, and thus worthy of the attention of this Blog.
The most glaring shortcoming of Jappa's paper- an otherwise estimable example of the ostrich of Humanist Philosophy, escaping the fate of the dodo of Hermeneutic deconstruction, by stupidly sticking its head into the sands of ignorance-  is that she is mistaking a mechanical sort of Social interaction for a considered, rational,' market transaction'.
 She writes- 'I have been puzzlingly lately over the morality of market transactions. My puzzlement has been inspired by Elizabeth Anderson’s “The Ethical Limitations of the Market.” In that piece, Anderson argues that the norms of the marketplace are in tension with the norms of personal and civic relationships in various ways. She uses that tension to argue against the commodification of various goods and activities – some things ought not be available for purchase. I am interested in a somewhat different problem that her framework makes apparent – there are some contexts in which the use of the norms of marketplace is inappropriate because of the circumstances of the potential participants rather than the nature of the items up for exchange.
The central feature of market transactions that Anderson identifies is their impersonality: “The producers and consumers of economic goods are typically strangers. Each party to a market transaction views one’s relation to the other as merely a means to the satisfaction of ends defined independently of the relationship and of the other party’s ends” (Anderson, 182). For anyone with Kantian leanings, and maybe for anyone at all, this language is striking. How could it ever be appropriate for me to view you merely as a means to my ends?
Suppose you are having a garage sale. I come to consider your offerings and spot an attractive vase. You have listed the price as $15 but I judge the vase to be worth only $10 to me. I offer you $10 and you accept. I don’t consider what you would have done with the extra $5 and in that way I am blind to your ends. But I take you to have considered what you valued more – the $10 or the vase – and so I take it that the transaction furthers your ends in some way. And this way of mutually furthering each others’ ends is straightforwardly more efficient than deliberating together about our respective ends. So, I think it is important to distinguish between the blindness towards others ends involved in market transactions and indifference towards those ends. It may be that there are circumstances in which I best attend to your ends by, in a sense, ignoring them.
But there are at least two types of circumstances in which this way of respecting you and your ends is untenable. First, consider someone who has been subjected to injustice. Suppose, for example, I discover that you are having the garage sale because you are being unjustly evicted from your home (your landlord is violating the terms of your lease but you lack the resources to defend yourself.) There are two respects in which this situation should unsettle my use of market norms. First, you lack the control over your resources that you are entitled to have. In this way, your willingness to accept $10 for the vase becomes suspect – it may not reflect the discretion you are entitled to have over your ends. Second, I should worry about being the beneficiary of injustice. Although I am not the perpetrator of the injustice, using the injustice to further my ends taints them.
Before gesturing towards a strategy for dealing with this kind of situation, let me introduce the second type of circumstance in which abiding by the norms of the marketplace does not suffice to respect you and your ends. Suppose that I discover that you are having the garage sale to pay for your child’s chemotherapy. Here the direness of your circumstances should unsettle my use of market norms for two reasons. First, the use of market norms presupposes that I am entitled to discretion about whether to contribute to your ends or not. But I may not be permitted to simply walk away from your plight. Sorting out our duties to aid is, however, a difficult task. I won’t attempt to do that here and, in any case, the second reason market norms are inappropriate in this context does not rely on a view of duties to aid. This second reason focuses on the kinds of ends that are under consideration. There is something grotesque about treating your end of saving your child’s life and my end of decorating my home as equivalently important. But market norms suggest this very comparison – I help you save your child, but only to the extent that this helps me decorate my home, as if these ends were somehow on a par. In this way, using market norms in this context reflects a misunderstanding of the values in play.

Jappa doesn't seem to get that the cases she quotes have to do with either information asymmetry- I don't know why you are selling something, if I did my own Preferences would dictate I give you more money- or with meta-preferences- the preferences I wish I had. Information asymmetry creates arbitrage opportunities and Mechanism Design is internalized by the Free Market. Meta-preferences is bullshit. Once you have the relevant information, if you behave like a scoundrel quoting a stupid reason, you are a stupid scoundrel. Them's your preferences and your statement that you want to want to be nice is worthless.

Jappa is writing about Markets but doesn't know Market theory or else she is strategically choosing to simulate ignorance so as not to do herself out of a job. She writes about coercion but hasn't read Ken Binmore. 
In any case, her analysis fails because her notion of interaction, as applied to the market, could be applied equally well to any social exchange.
Suppose you've seen me a couple of times at the water cooler. Last time I nodded to you, so this time you smile and say 'Hi'. I immediately go to my cubicle and slit my wrists because 'Hai!' in my language signifies extreme disapprobation and woe. If even some random stranger from another Department is saying 'Hai!' to my face then everybody in the firm must hate me and wish for my death. Goodbye cruel world.
Is your saying 'Hi' to me morally wrong?
You may say 'I did nothing wrong. I was just being friendly when I said 'Hi''
My reply is 'you acted with reckless disregard to your duty of care because you did not acquaint yourself with every possible meaning of the phoneme 'Hi'.'
You- 'That was no part of my duty.  As David Lewis has explained, Conventions are Schelling focal point solutions to Co-ordination problems which themselves only arise because information acquisition and processing is costly. Conventions are closely linked to norms. I observed the right convention and thus normatively I have nothing to reproach myself with. I mean, people who come to this country should learn our conventions...'
Me- 'You fucking racist cunt! I knew it! Mum said I should have been blonde!'


Friday, 1 November 2013

Sack the Bankers, hire Actors

I spend more and more of my time watching TV. My excuse is that acting has just gotten so much better over the last few decades that, at last, Chekhov's dream has been realized and there are no small parts in the Theater just giant assholes shitting all over the Global Economy.
My solution? Sack the Bankers, hire Actors. 'What's my motivation?' they will ask. 'Not fucking up our Pensions,' we reply.  But, and here's the problem, Acting has only got better because Scripts have gotten better. Scripts have gotten better only because writers have become more socially inclusive- depicting blacks lesbians vampires etc. Bankers have had the reverse problem. Increasingly, Economists are writing their scripts.