Sunday, 25 June 2017

Daniel A. Kaufman predicts the next great scandal of the Trump era

Is Philosophy useless to Economics?
Positive Economics replied with a resounding 'No!' a long time ago.
Philosophy can help us become better housekeepers.
Good housekeeping, that is Economics, concerns itself with Choice under Scarcity while Philosophy concerns itself with parsimonious tools to demarcate 'embedded' or 'conventional' quid juris decision situations from alethic, ergodic, quid facti decision situations. Consider my decision to eat a biscuit just now.  It might have got me thrown in jail for violating the law applicable to fasting during Ramadan in some jurisdictions. However, in the country where I live, it is classed a wholly private self-regarding act without any signalling or strategic function.
Nevertheless, some actions which are legal can come to be regarded as repugnant- because they violate something which we feel has the moral force of a law- and Philosophy plays a role in illumining why this should be which in turn enables Economics to frame a theory of repugnancy markets.
A similar point may be made regarding data used as inputs for Economic models. Philosophy objected to 'interpersonal comparisons of Utility' and Economics found that new, more fecund, vistas where opened by complying with what initially appeared to be a purely epistemological scruple.

On this view, Philosophy is complementary to Economics and supplies it with a demarcation criteria.
It turns out, I'm behind the times.
Apparently, while I was watching Netflix, a new type of Philosophy has arisen.
It is called 'mainlining' (as opposed to free-basing)  philosophy'
But first let me introduce Daniel A Kaufman who sued the University which employed him for barring him from campus because of his disability which he describes as 'depression with psychotic features'.
This circumstance alone lends a melancholy interest to a recent article of his from which I quote.

In “Excessive Reason,” an essay I published in these pages last year, I argued that mainline philosophy is characterized by a pervasive and systematic rationalism, the main characteristics of which I summarized as follows:
1) The acceptability of a belief, activity, practice, institution, etc., rests entirely on whether or not it can be rationally justified.
The rational justification of beliefs is comprised either of empirical evidence or of inductive or deductive proof. The rational justification of activities, practices, and institutions may include appeals to utility, where this notion is grounded in a scientific conception of human nature (like Bentham’s), or to duty, as long as it is grounded in some clearly definable, logical conception of reason (such as Kant’s).
Rational beliefs and actions are the logical and causal products of rational intellection.
Rejected categorically are those beliefs, activities, practices, and institutions grounded in the authority of individuals, classes, customs, or traditions—the collective sources of what Burke called “prejudice”—adherence to which is broadly identified with pre-modern civilization and is considered intellectually and behaviorally atavistic.
Also rejected are those beliefs, activities, etc., which are grounded in common sense, intuition, or sensibility, obedience to which, inasmuch as they do not constitute rational grounds for obtaining knowledge or motivating action, is also treated as regressive; the province of children or of incurious or otherwise unreflective adults.
Truth is the end of all inquiry and belief and trumps all other intellectual ends. The fulfilment of one’s duty (service to the Good, the Right, and the Just) is the end of all activity and consequently, supersedes all other practical ends.

I also suggested that these ideas support an ethos or conception of the Ideal that is also characteristic of mainline philosophy and which is defined as a conjunction of the following

A. Disinterestedness (impartiality) in belief and conduct: one must eschew bias, prejudice, and any other form of pre-judgment, in everything that one believes and does, and go wherever the evidence, logic, cost-benefit analysis, or other rational calculus leads.

B. Dispassion in belief and conduct: one must believe and act solely on the rational merits of the case at hand. One should never believe because of appealing rhetoric or wish-fulfilment or act on the basis of critically unexamined sentiment.

C. Autonomy: The ideal person is a free agent, both in belief and in action, but this freedom must be rigorously defended: from the forces of nature, by having one’s reason sit in constant judgment over one’s inclinations and sensibility; and from the forces of social conformity, by maintaining one’s independence from the influences of others and especially from the often unconscious influence of habit, custom, and tradition.

D. Consistency and Fairness: As inconsistency is the most obvious manifestation of irrationality, consistency is a bedrock rationalist virtue. Fairness is a manifestation of both consistency and dispassion, so it too is a rationalist virtue.

E. Purity of Purpose and Perfectionism: Absolute fidelity to the supremacy of truth, goodness, rightness, and justice in everything that one believes and does, over the course of one’s life. 
Kaufman's paradigmatic 'mainline philosophers' are Peter Singer & ditto Unger.
However, they are not generally considered to be doing philosophy any longer.
They are merely engaged in polemics of a silly but bien pensant kind.
If philosophical activity uses up scarce resources, their sort should be banned- and, indeed, it is all too obvious, they no longer make a pretence of taxing their brain cells before dashing off articles. So what? Lots of philosophers give up even the pretence of thought and take to writing stupid nonsense as they grow older. Why is Kaufman working himself up into a lather over senile Singers and Ungers?

The answer is Kaufman has been reading that master of paranoia, GK Chesterton, who anticipated UKIP by visualising an England where Muslims would ban Pubs and the Edwardian equivalent of the NHS would lock us all up as lunatics.
Kaufman, warns-
If there is a general characterization of what is wrong with rationalistic philosophy it is that it represents rebellion against our humanity; one that has played and in my view will continue to play a negative role in the lives of individuals and in the civilization of the modern West. 

Oh dear. Did those naughty rationalistic philosophers rebel against our humanity again? Whatever are we going to do with them? I know! Let's just ignore them. After all, rationalistic philosophers don't have any power. Also they tend to be stupid as shit and teach a worthless subject. They can rebel against plants or atoms or our humanity or anything else and it still won't make any difference to anyone. 

Philosophy does not matter unless it changes the incentive structure- i.e. it has some means to inscribe itself as Polanyi type 'embedding' or else can change behaviour in an ergodic manner. But, in that case, there is always an Economic path to put down its anti-human rebellion. We don't need Philosophy to fight Philosophy when only Economics can do the job.

 This rebellion ranges from rationalism’s hostility to our natural and customary beliefs, sensibilities, and inclinations, to its outright rejection of our humanity, if conceived of as an integrated, organic unity of mental and bodily capacities that is only fully realized in a social and cultural context and which possesses a complex and heterogeneous good. 

Irrationalism and the conviction that my neighbour's cat is talking to me are equally hostile to our natural and customary belief that cats can't talk and that people who speak of  the 'integrated, organic unity of mental and bodily capacities' are either stupid careerists or mentally ill.

 Rationalist philosophy rejects this on behalf of a wholly abstract personhood which, in “Excessive Reason,” I identified most strongly with Descartes, Locke, and Kant,
why not Grotius, Spinoza and Lessing? All philosophers say silly things. It is child's play to show that Grotius was actually more Cartesian than Descartes or that Locke is more Spinozan than Spinoza and so on.
 but which I traced back to Plato and even earlier, to the Pythagoreans and the Orphic mystery cults. 
Orphic mystery cults! What's next? David Icke's theory about Lizard people from Planet X?
 Two significant areas in which modern mainline philosophy has persistently urged resistance to our natural and customary beliefs and inclinations, in the service of rationalist perfectionism, are ethics and epistemology.
All philosophy resists customary ethics and folk epistemology. So does all Jurisprudence, all Economics, all Science, all Medicine- every useful Art or Science begins by showing that one's knee jerk reaction is wrong. There is a Techne here which is initially counter-intuitive and which it takes patience and perseverance to master.

With respect to ethics, modern mainline moral philosophy’s perfectionism — particularly, its requirement that one adopt a disinterested, dispassionate, and impartial stance, in identifying and carrying out one’s moral duty, and its rejection of sentiments such as love, hatred, sympathy, attraction and aversion as morally legitimate motives — far from advancing the cause of goodness and justice, in fact constitutes an obstacle to it.  
Nonsense. I love my son and hate Maths. I still should send my son to School to learn Maths because my hatred of Maths is irrelevant when it comes to determining  what's best for my son's future. In fact, I would be easily persuaded to do the right thing  if a successful man in my neighbourhood came to me and said 'My friend, like you my father loved me and hated maths. Yet he made me study maths. The result is that I am now rich and happy. If you want the best for your son, you may please emulate my father in this respect.'

No doubt, there are philosophers who said stupid things like - 'don't kiss your baby coz you love him but act dispassionately.' However this is the reason philosophers are a laughing stock. 

On the epistemological front, the rationalist’s rejection of nature and custom as legitimate sources of belief and insistence that every belief be rationally justified do not serve the cause of liberal, democratic politics, as mainline political philosophers have liked to claim, but instead create intellectual conditions conducive to totalitarianism, by leaving a vacuum at the foundations of social, civic, and political belief and thereby exposing the public to the manipulations of propagandists and demagogues.

Is this guy serious? GK Chesterton had some very odd ideas about the Jews. Nazis claimed these ideas were 'natural and customary' and rejected rational arguments, such as those Fredrick the Great employed, to refrain from robbing and killing patriotic citizens of Jewish origin.

There is no 'vacuum' at the 'foundations of social, civic and political beliefs'- there are people. If we get the mechanism design right, then those people have proper incentives to ensure proper preference and information aggregation and Hannan consistent checks and balances on Social Choice.

Philosophers are too stupid and crazy to be allowed anywhere near the foundations of anything unless, like Radhakrishnan, Philosophy was just their day job- a way to pay the bills, nothing more.

Kaufman must know that Singer & Unger don't represent philosophy as opposed to virtue signalling. He approvingly quotes Bernard Williams who did have some influence as a member of the 'great and the good' when I were a wee lad.
'Some writers aim to increase a sense of guilt in their readers. Peter Singer is an example, and in his book Practical Ethics he is evidently more interested in producing that effect than he is in the theoretical basis for it, which gets very cursory treatment. As moral persuasion, this kind of tactic is likely to be counterproductive and to lead to a defensive and resentful contraction of concern. This can be seen in research and, at the present time, all around us.'

Of course, Singer & Unger's arguments fail immediately because of information asymmetry. They still make them anyway because that is their brand in a globalised market for nonsense. If Kaufman's philosophy is too stunted mathematically for him to see why what he calls 'mainline philosophy' is mainlining the intellectual equivalent of heroin, Economics can come to his rescue. There is no need to jump to some extreme Pyrhhonist scepticism about even sense data.

Skepticism, when understood as a position rather than as a method, is the product of a frustrated rationalism — the result of the rationalist being convinced that the high epistemological standards to which he adheres cannot be met — and would seem, therefore, to entail that we should suspend all of our beliefs and activities and adopt the posture of the Pyrrhonist or at least, the Pyrrhonist of popular legend. 
I tell you that I am your mother and that you owe me Rs. 123 for my breast milk because the neighbour's cat said so and cats are well known to be perfectly rational. What do you do? Do you say to yourself- 'Oh no! Since cats are perfectly rational it must be the case that this fat and ugly black man is really my own Mumsy-wumsy!' Do you become frustrated with rationalism and become a sceptic? Let us suppose you do. Now set fire to your foot. You can see your foot is on fire, but can't be sure it is really on fire. You feel a lot of pain but don't know if it is your own pain. You burn to death because of your scepticism all because I told you a stupid lie about a perfectly rational talking cat.

Perhaps I'm being unfair to Kaufman. Judge for yourself-
 Now, on first glance, the risk here, would appear to be purely theoretical: even though Hume warned that such a person would suffer “pensive melancholy” and would receive a “cold reception” from others and Reid thought that “a man who did not believe his senses, could not keep out of harm’s way an hour of his life” , both were convinced that the rationalist-skeptical stance was unsustainable; that the force of natural belief and inclination and inherited habits and customs would always overcome even the most hardnosed rationalist philosophy and that consequently, neither rationalism nor skepticism posed any real danger to individuals or to mankind as a whole. 

Hume & Reid were shrewd and canny Scottish. They had a sense of humour. They never endorsed the notion that if some worthless philosopher made a ridiculous claim then any sensible person was obliged to go completely bonkers. Yes, at the time, the Established Church did require a certain mental elasticity, or outright hypocrisy, of the clerisy. But, there has never been a tradition in these Kingdoms of believing the absurd claims of psilosophers. 

By contrast with Hume, Chesterton was actually mad- not in his personal life but in his writings. It is to him Kaufman now turns, having first shown that Hume & Reid did not endorse his claims at all.
He quotes 'Orthodoxy'-
“Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea,” he wrote, “so one set of thinkers can prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought.” 
This is nonsense. Thinkers don't engender other thinkers in the same way that humans give birth to babies. It may be that a particular School gains complete control over a Society and so a subjugated and brutalised clerisy pretends that they don't have any valid human thoughts. Maybe that could happen. However, we can point to no such Society extant today. Why? They get invaded or overthrown or sink back to the stone age.
Chesterton, poor booby, had a theory of Economics.
It was shite.
So what?
Everybody had a more or less shite Economic theory back then.

He never claimed to be a Philosopher, but did claim to be a Christian.
Since he was charitable in his personal life and bore no malice to Jews or infidels, his claim stands.
His intellectual mistakes were those of his age.
His affectionate and convivial nature was entirely his own as was a brooding demon of psychosis.
What is imperishable in his wit, if not all his works, is the former's victory over the latter.

Oddly, Kaufman doesn't move on from Chesterton to Voegelin and shiter gobshites yet in order to stake a claim to being an Alt Right Guru. This suggests that his character is better than his intellect.

Unfortunately, he believes that Heidegger helped the Nazis. This isn't true. Heidegger didn't know from Math. He couldn't have helped anybody. He was engaged in something wholly worthless. So was Hannah Arendt. Still, there is a globalised market for nonsense and they built up their brands and made a bit of money- so let us leave it at that.
Why pretend they had any influence at all?
One answer is- we have even less, in so far as we waste our time writing worthless shite like this blog post. Why not just pretend that the neighbour's cat has achieved Nirvana and is dictating the New New Testament to us? We might actually make a bit of money out of that scam. 

Another, sadder, answer is that it may be that philosophy can serve a therapeutic function if one is suffering from psychosis. However, failure to understand Economics can lead a Philosophically inclined person to adopt a Paranoid Hate ideology- like Chesterton's anti Semitism. 
Diminished Rationality leads us to take shortcuts. Financial Markets become personified as 'the Capitalist' who in turn can turn into 'the Jew' or 'the Arab Sheikh' or 'the gnomes of Switzerland' or 'Marwari industrialists' etc.

Kaufman invokes Jung to mourn the 'disenchantment' of the World and the end of 'embedded' Social processes.
'More serious still is the alienation effected by the withdrawal of the conscious self from its body, its world, and its history, on which Carl Jung hung the ongoing and currently metastasizing pandemic of neuroses, afflictions that arise not simply from a sense of distance from the world, from others, and from one’s past, but from the horrible over-awareness of self that results.
Freud and Jung et al. discovered it paid better to treat healthy people who thought they were ill than to treat ill people who couldn't work and thus couldn't afford bogus treatment. Neuroses don't exist. Psychoses do. Jung started by treating psychoses but shat the bed in predictable manner. Still, he had some personal experience of schizophrenia and so was probably less dangerous to his patients- unless they were wealthy or sexually attractive- than his peers. 
 “Whenever there is established an external form, be it ritual or spiritual, by which all the yearnings and hopes of the soul are adequately expressed, then no spiritual problem, strictly speaking, exists,” Jung wrote. 
This is not the Hindu view. The Ashtavakra Gita teaches that the spiritual problem only becomes acute enough to be addressed when such external forms become full fledged and thus recognisable as as duality.
 The modern man, however, “has become ‘unhistorical’ and has estranged himself from the mass of men who live within the bounds of tradition,” the consequence of which, he explained, is that we have “suffered an almost fatal shock and fallen into profound uncertainty.” Indeed, the very need for clinical psychology, Jung believed, “is symptomatic of a profound convulsion of spiritual life.”
Clinical psychology can improve outcomes as part of a Care Plan, but the need for it was delusive- a case of advertising creating a market for a bogus product. Modern man has experienced 'no profound convulsion of spiritual life'. He has been fucked over by stupid politicians and worthless economists. I recall older people, in Baghdad, discussing the impact of the televised moon landing on the Bedouins of the desert. Would they rise up and destroy every vestige of modernity in their path? No. They were cool with it. They did however show a shrewd appreciation of cross border arbitrage opportunities. That's all that rationality is. Arbitrage. Trade. Swapping your camel for a pick up truck.

Economics at one time was about substantive solutions to macro problems. However, thanks to its mathematical basis, it was able to see it couldn't be any such thing. Rather, its role was in facilitating co-ordination games (which, since David Lewis, is the Philosophical explanation of Conventions and 'embeddedness') and arbitrage through discoordination games. Some philosophers have made contributions to Econ but it is the latter's mathematical foundations which have made such 'distinctions without a difference' useful in motivating open research programs. However, it is John Muth's notion of Rationality, coupled with Schelling on focal points, which shows the way out of 'mainlining' Philosophy's cul de sac. Put briefly, 'moral properties' are a Muth Rational solution to a Co-ordination game. One can't be sceptical that such games exist. However, evolutionary game theory predicts that, under Knightian uncertainty, Hannan consistency requires hedging- i.e. arbitrage on dis-coordination games. This is not a scandal for current Economics. Why should it be one for mainline Philosophy?

Kaufman, who believes 'moral scepticism' has special standing, is innocent of any such notions. If he ever starts thinking about the money in his wallet, or the fact that Banks create credit he'll probably turn into a Chartalist nutjob because he doesn't get that Human beings have to be good at spotting focal solutions to Co-ordination games and that Muth rationality, too, is pretty much hardwired which is why we don't contantly bump into people in the street but either keep right or left by some unconscious mimetic process. Actually, full disclosure, I do bump into people a lot on the street coz I tend to be drunk off my head. Still, most other people don't, and that's what's important.

Kaufman, being untroubled by any such reflections, is able to end his essay with this fine rhetorical flourish-
There is no one more enslaved to his nature then one who is unaware of it or who was once aware of it, but has denied it to the point where he believes his own lies and has forgotten it. 
WTF is this supposed to mean? Kaufman is saying two types of agent are equal with respect to a property x. One is unaware of it. The other was aware of it, denied it, then lied about it and then forgot about it. What can we reasonably say about property x? The most parsimonious thing is that property x is meaningless. It is similar to 'being a gfullis hoxxjw'. The predicate is nonsensical. 
 If someone says 'you don't even know you are a gfullis hoxxjw', and you go crying to Mummy what she will say to you is 'Just ignore that silly boy. There is no such thing as a gfullis hoxxjw. It is a meaningless word.'
Suppose, years later, at your Senate confirmation hearing, that silly boy shows up and accuses you of having denied that you were a gfullis hoxxjw, and then lied about it,  what should you do? Clearly you should masturbate vigorously. 
Well, as Kaufman explains-
' For the person who accepts the fact that his every act of reasoning is ultimately grounded in the uncritical acceptance of his world, his faculties, and his inclinations and habits, reason remains a real, active force for sound behavior and thought. But for the person who insists on the rationalist’s rarefied conception of reasoning, reason is no longer a real, active force for soundness in his life, but at best an empty proceduralism, taking place in a vacuum; a void that will be filled either by his own unreasoned, unrecognized nature or that of others. In either event, he is controlled.'
You were being controlled when you masturbated vigorously and jizzed in Mike Pence's eye.
How it happened was this.
Your parents sent you to College and, stupidly, you studied mainline philosophy.
This caused you to start insisting on the rationalist's rarefied conception of reasoning.
This created a void inside you.
The void was quickly occupied by some evil person who wanted to jizz in the Vice President's eye.
Something similar happened to Trump when he went to Moscow and ended up getting a golden shower from various prostitutes.
Mainline Philosophy is aiding and abetting the fake news of the mainstream media.
 The greatest irony of all, then, is that a philosophical movement that for two and a half thousand years preached the rational ascendance of man over nature and the wills of others may very well be responsible for effecting his utter subordination to both.
That's the greatest irony?
You come up with a theory which states that 2500 years of Western Philosophy can lead to a Supreme Court nominee jizzing in the Vice President's eye and your biggest worry is that Man will continue to be subordinate to nature and the wills of other men?
Give yourself some credit, Kaufman.
Your theory predicts the next great scandal of the Trump era.

No comments: