Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Pico Iyer as read by Graham Greene

The Protestant is born to read the Bible.The Catholic is born into its reading of him- both the enormities he can confess to and those greater enormities which the risen Christ reckoned up and redeemed in those 40 days whose Book of Chronicles, if written down,  were vaster than the World.

There is another type of writing- G.K Chesterton's, Evelyn Waugh's, Graham Greene's- which is fundamentally uninterested in reading or being read-  Scription being to Oikumene as is Conscription to Empire- because what they aim at is an affect or attitude of an adolescent sort.

Pico Iyer speaks of reading and having been read by Graham Green- 'With Greene, moreover, I always felt that I could have the most intimate conversations with him on the page, in silence. He read me perfectly without ever seeing me. Were I to have met him, it's not just that the public Greene might not have matched the unflinching soul I met on the page; it's that that surface self, making small talk, might actually detract from, and would certainly complicate, the soul beneath the personality I regularly met in the books...With Greene, the kinship lay in some more shadowy ground that was deeper and more unsounded in me: the contradictory feelings many of us have with fathers who were teachers; the school that seems to have shaped me, for better and worse, for life; the unease with commitment that can become a distinct liability. Greene would push me into the abysses I otherwise avoid.
Greene has the sovereign virtue of never giving himself the benefit of the doubt. I thought that the best way of paying tribute to that was trying to do the same in return.

What effect did being read by Greene have on how Pico read the old satyr? The answer is quite extraordinary. Pico reads completely different novels to the rest of us. They aren't better or more complex. Quite the reverse. They are saccharine confections wholly innocent of complex real world agendas.

Thus, in the same interview, he says-
I often tell my friends to begin with The Quiet American, his novel about an aging English journalist in Saigon in the 1950s, the young American who comes into the country, eager to "save" it by destroying it and the Vietnamese woman they both love.
Greene, as a Catholic convert of a certain sort, felt obliged to support truly shite Catholic regimes- like that in South Vietnam- with a deeply provincial, paranoid, type of propaganda which made out the true enemy was not the Reds but the State Department.
Post McCarthyite American analysts, however, blamed the loss of China on their having been hoodwinked by corrupt 'Christian' Kuomintang leaders. Despite Kennedy's election, they lost patience with the Catholic dictator- Ngô Đình Diệm- who was assassinated in a CIA backed coup because he and his idiot brother had hopelessly antagonized the Buddhist majority.

Greene, like Morris West- who also  wrote a Vietnam novel a decade later- was just doing his bit for Mother Church in a manner its suave but deeply silly plenipotentiaries encouraged at that time.

Pico, however, takes a different view-
Of course, on its surface it offers an uncannily prescient look at the clash of empires,
What clash of Empires is Pico thinking of? Britain was out of the Empire business. America had never been in it. Even France had accepted the bitter truth that Imperialism was a mug's game.
Britain mocking America as it feels its own power on the wane,
In 1955, Britain's power wasn't 'on the wane'. It was an increasingly distant memory. No Britisher was so foolish as to 'mock' America. On the contrary, the upshot of the Suez crisis was that the 'special relationship' became one with a distinctly Dutch and minatory Uncle Sam.
young America beginning to feel its strength as it goes around the world importing the latest ideas of Democracy from Harvard Yard (and Asia swaying in the middle, seeming to give itself to either and therefore remaining outside the grasp of both).
To which country, in 1955, did America 'import the latest ideas of Democracy'? None. Its policy was to support military dictators. It ultimately got rid of the crazy Diem brothers in Vietnam because, quite apart from infuriating the Buddhist majority, the younger was even trying to assassinate Ambassador Cabot Lodge.

Asia was not 'swaying in the middle' of anything. It understood very well that Britain and France were shit. Greene had no illusions on this score- he has the Vietnamese demi mondaine swap postcards of Cheddar Gorge for picture of the Grand Canyon- but the comedy here is scarcely deft; it evokes the frigid torments of suburban 'Greeneland'.
It's somewhat typical of Greene that when it was filmed, earlier this century, with Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser, the release had to be delayed because it was screened for its makers on September 10, 2001, and not long thereafter it seemed too accurate, and incriminating, a portrayal of America's latest adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This is foolish. Hollywood's first version of the book exonerated the young American and shows the old Brit to have been a dupe of the Commies. The second version was shelved for a year because patriotic sentiment peaked after 9/11. However, it was released before the invasion of Iraq. It couldn't have been an 'incriminating portrayal' of anything at all because the Taliban had given the Northern Alliance a walkover and, for once in its life, the C.I.A was actually looking pretty good.

Yet even as it catches the larger dance of nations as no other work has done so economically—it's barely 200 pages long and written with a taut elegance Greene had honed by writing for the movies—it is also a deeply rending, very private story about how we destroy the things we love, and betray ourselves in going after the things we think we want.
This is nonsense. An elderly hack who smokes opium and can't get a divorce from his wife back in suburban England isn't in the love business which is why he can so easily get into the betrayal business. But, that's okay coz he can go to confession- or not and be a great big misery-guts about it.
A reader soon comes to see that the Englishman, Fowler, is only mocking the young American, Pyle, because he envies him; the younger man's idealism and innocence and chivalry are what Fowler had himself once upon a time and now he can't forgive the other man for having them.
Pyle doesn't have a soul. That is why Fowler mocks him. He has some sort of 'plastic' but it can only blow things up. Greene takes a bitter pleasure in imagining that the crazy Cao Dai cult is the natural bedfellow for these soul-less Americans with their shiny teeth and horn-rimmed glasses and plastic toys that blow kids up.
And Pyle is so driven by pure intentions that he can't begin to fathom a world that's less than pure, and so undoes the very ideals he's come to Vietnam to honor.
What is this shite? Pyle is bringing in plastic explosives for car-bombs which will kill innocents and create a panic so some crazy General takes over from the good and virtuous Catholics who are fucking things up.

Why is Pico pretending that Pyle is a preux chevalier? Did some unkind soul switch the book jacket of Graham Green's novel with one by Barbara Cartland? Is that the book Pico read?

But, it's not just 'the Quiet American' which Pico hasn't read properly.

Consider the following-
In his travel-writing, likewise, Greene was always on the outside of what he was observing, ever more English, seated in a corner, pouring abuse and scorn on the alien scene around him. Yet as soon as he worked up the material he'd seen in Mexico into a novel—The Power and the Glory—he was so deeply inside his characters, both the whisky priest protagonist and even the lieutenant in pursuit of him, that he wrote perhaps his most affecting and compassionate novel, and the one, liberatingly, without a single English character in it.
The English girl- Carol Fellows- is the moral center of the book. We don't greatly care about the other characters. Only when Carol decides to care for the Whiskey Priest do our own emotions become engaged.

How can Pico not know that there are English characters in one of Greene's greatest novels? The answer, I suppose, is that Graham Greene read Pico and thus turned him into a comic character of a vaguely Racist, Babu, sort.







Sunday, 23 December 2018

Paul Rusell on Bernard Williams' legacy.

Prof. Paul Russell, in the TLS, writes that Bernard Williams was 'sceptical about “moral theory”, understood as an effort to provide secure philosophical foundations for the morality system.'

This seems rather strange. Surely, if a 'morality system' has a representation as a deontic logic, then its philosophical foundations are as secure as any mathematical system? Of course, these philosophical foundations would be utterly shite but, still, why be skeptical about shite? The better course is to acknowledge its reality and take care not to step in it.

Prof. Russel explains that Williams was a prominent man- a member of the great and good- and that in the pre-Trump era his type of shitheadedness represented an ongoing public nuisance.

Thus, Russel writes-
 Although many of Williams’s critics take it to be a failing of his philosophy that he offers no substitute for the various “theories” that he rejects, he is clear that it is possible to make sense of human ethical life without relying on “moral theory” of any kind or any of the illusions and distortions it encourages.
A contract can have a 'morals clause'. This means there is already a judicial, protocol bound, method that can be extended to cover an entire 'morality system'. There is no reason to believe that some deontic logic isn't equivalent to that of a 'Judge Hercules' who has a univalent method of harmonious construction for all present, past and future questions of morality.

Courts weigh up obligations of different types all the time. So do we all. Why should philosophy make heavy weather off something which well paid lawyers and learned judges have been getting on with since time immemorial? No doubt, the thing is messy and complex but so are one's problems with the plumbing after one's relatives come to visit. Why involve philosophers? What possible contribution could they make- other than clogging up the toilets even worse than your obese cousins?

Prof. Russel clarifies William's contribution-
What, then, is “the morality system”? Its most fundamental feature, as Williams describes it, is a special notion of “obligation” that aims to generate a sharp boundary between “moral” and “non-moral” considerations, giving the former overriding weight that uniquely serve as “practical necessities” for all rational agents. This sense of obligation is intimately related to concepts of voluntariness and blame. It is a core feature of the morality system that agents who voluntarily violate its demands are subject to blame and retribution. With these concepts in place, we are invited to see ourselves as members of a community of rational, free agents governed by demands that apply equally to all – what Williams memorably describes as “the notional republic”. The moral community, so ordered, generates a kind of “harmony” whereby our human needs and interests neatly dovetail together with the claims of morality itself. One especially significant feature of this “peculiar institution” is that it transcends luck and aims to ensure that human existence can be “ultimately just”. In this sense, there is a “purity” to morality that expresses a strong degree of optimism about the human predicament. Although Williams does not deny that morality, so understood, has been in some respects a constructive or positive influence (for example, in promoting the ends of justice), it is, nevertheless, fundamentally untruthful about our ethical predicament and situation. We would, Williams maintains, be “better off without it”.
If there is an 'ultimately just' solution to the Transportation problem for a given Society then there can be a 'morality system' which, if subscribed to, would yield the same outcome as a frictionless Command or Market economy with perfect information. The same notion can be expressed in terms of the folk theorem of repeated games.

The fact that these outcomes aren't effectively computable doesn't matter very much, provided we can easily spot 'holes' or agenda control or concurrency problems as they arise. It is sufficient that we know the general direction of the focal solution to the underlying coordination problem. Furthermore, by adopting a regret minimizing methodology trade-offs can be made in the name of Uncertainty. There is no need to get hung up on notions of 'purity' because, if we evolved under conditions of Knightian uncertainty, the thing has no survival value- ergo, it can't exist.
While “morality” is not “an invention of philosophers”, it is intimately bound up with philosophy and its particular way of “theorizing”.
This is nonsense. Morality has nothing to do with philosophy. Nor does anything else. Philosophy is worthless shite. Why?

Prof. Russell explains-
The aim of “theory” is to provide us with a general test for the “correctness” of our ethical beliefs and principles (or to show that this cannot be done).
Wonderful! We have 'ethical beliefs and principles' in the same way that we have sexual preferences. Some Prof. who says our ethical beliefs are incorrect is no different from a paedophile who claims we secretly want to suck his cock. This type of shite is gaslighting- nothing more.
The paradigmatic representative of the morality system in this respect is Kant
who forbade masturbation but was cool with slavery
, although utilitarianism is, at least, a “marginal member”.
though Utilitarianism militates for giving hobos blowjobs not writing worthless shite.
Among the features of ethical theory to which Williams specifically objects are its propensity to reduction and denial of diversity, along with its efforts to compress various ethical considerations and concepts into “one pattern”. All theorizing of this kind conceals the messy and problematic features of ethical life.
D'uh! I like corn chips and abhor peanut butter. Your saying I don't really like corn chips and want to have sex with the peanut butter jar isn't theorizing. It is stupidity.
It also diminishes the resources available to us for critical, ethical reflection.
Right! It's a waste of everybody's time.
In general, Williams is “deeply sceptical” about “philosophical ethics” conceived in these terms. Although we can certainly think about ethics in a critical and reflective way, according to Williams, “philosophy can do little to determine how we should do so”.
Why not just say the subject is worthless? Williams was a big shot. Why didn't he use his influence to get this shite out of the Academy- or at least prevent tax-payer money funding 'Research' into it?
The fundamental reason why moral theories fail, on this view, is that they do not provide an adequate conception of moral agents as individual and distinct persons who have a life of their own to lead. (It is no coincidence that Williams made significant contributions to problems of personal identity, as this issue is of central concern for him.) For Williams, each person should be understood as a situated and embodied being with a wide range of particular attachments and projects. It is these attachments and projects that provide life with whatever meaning and significance it has for the agent. Without them we have no reason to want our lives to continue – and, failing this, the very condition of our thinking about morality would simply evaporate.
Williams was wrong.  Coordination and concurrency problems exist. Everybody benefits if we have a 'representative agent' theory- e.g. the 'reasonable person' test in Jurisprudence- to provide focal solutions for these problems. Mechanism design faces 'open problems' of a STEM type in this context. Such 'open problems' are 'philosophical'. Ethical conduct consists in doing some first order good and only then speculating, on the basis of a causal structural model, how more could be achieved by the application of 'philosophical' heuristics.
In contrast with this, “moral theory” insists that we begin our investigations from some God-like, impartial and impersonal perspective – such as that described by Henry Sidgwick as “the point of view of the universe”. This starting point for thinking about ethics is further encouraged when moral theory models itself after science, with an aspiration to secure some form of knowledge and truth about ethics. We are also encouraged to find value and obligation as somehow embedded in “the fabric of the world”, as seen from the same “absolute conception” that is available to science. When we follow any model of this general kind, Williams maintains, morality simply collapses under its own philosophical weight.
Oddly, the reverse is the case provided there has been genuine progress in STEM subjects. Evolutionary theory does help us to affirm that masturbation and homosexuality and so forth aren't terrible sins. Philosophy can get lipo from this type of scientific progress. It doesn't have to collapse under its own weight. Of course, it should quit the Academy- where it will just pile on the pounds once again- and get a proper job as a lap dancer. Timon of Phlius, it will be remembered, started off as a dancer. I'm not saying Amartya Sen should have given Manmohan Singh a lap dance, but he could at least have done one or two Bollywood bhangra items with his old chum.
Perhaps the most disturbing and destructive aspect of “morality” and the forms of “theory” on which it depends is that it transforms the demands of ethics from an important part of human life into the whole of human life – leaving little or nothing for whatever else we may find valuable and worthwhile.
A stupid guy who tells you that you don't really like corn chips and that you want a peanut butter enema is acting in a disturbing and destructive way- because you tend to get disturbed and to break a chair over his head- but stupid people of this type don't matter very much. They end up writing blogs like this one. So long as they are kept out of the Academy no great waste of resources arises.
Where “morality” comes to dominate, it tends to consume all of human life.
Fortunately, 'morality' has never dominated anything.  Money and Violence can dominate things in the short to medium term. Long term, only productivity and preferences matter.

No doubt, there is a niche market for stupid pedagogy which will always
 ... need a very different starting place for our reflections about ethics and its proper place.
A better place to start, Williams suggests, is with Socrates’ question: how should we live?
Why? Socrates fucked up big time. We no more need to start with the question 'how should we live?' than we need to bother with 'how should we breathe?' or 'how should we fart?'.
In order to answer this question we must draw on a set of motivations and interests that are richer and more diverse than those provided by moral theory.
A moral theory can have an infinitely rich and diverse set of motivations and interests. Why must we do something which is impossible? What is the point?
The motivations and interests available to us must be those of a person situated in a particular historical and social location, an individual with a particular identity.
Such a person is wholly inaccessible to us- even if it is our own self just one micro-second ago.
It is only from this perspective that we can make proper sense of the force and weight of ethical considerations and the extent to which they can or cannot be integrated with other concerns we may have – keeping in mind that not all (important) claims and interests in human life are ethical claims and interests. In taking this approach, however, we must not expect that nothing will change – or that there will be no costs involved in abandoning “morality”.
Of course! We have just tied our hands and blindfolded ourselves. This may reduce the amount of mischief we can do, but there is a cost in terms of being able to do the job we are paid to do.
The alternative to trying to make sense of ethics from “the point of view of the universe” or some analogue of that is to consider ethics from a human point of view – which is, as Williams wryly notes, “not an absurd thing for human beings to do”.
But, experience shows, it is a waste of time.
To a considerable extent, Williams’s critique of “moral theory” is based on the moral psychology provided by David Hume.
Coz Hume had access to cutting edge medical technology and thus his 'moral psychology' is empirically state of the art.
This includes, among its most important elements, an emphasis on the role of desire and emotion in moral life. According to Williams, it is our ethical dispositions themselves – as constituted by the matrix of our attitudes and sentiments – that serve as “the ultimate supports of ethical value”.
Wow! Our ethical dispositions underlie our ethical values. What a great discovery! It is like saying 'our preferences underlie our likes and dislikes'. But is it true? No. Our ethical values may change without our dispositions changing. That is why one may wish to have a different disposition.
Many Humeans regard this as enough to sustain our existing ethical commitments and practices and assume that nothing much needs to change when this is made transparent to us.
Many Humeans? How many of these stupid fuckwits are there? Who is paying their salaries? Do we really need so many?

Williams finds this response too complacent. For him this Humean response underestimates the importance of ethical and cultural diversity and overestimates the uniformity of the general sentiments of mankind.
So, why not just say 'Philosophy is a shite subject. It features 'many Humeans' at a time when one Humean would be one too many coz Science has moved on dude.'
Although our shared human nature may well demand a commitment to some form of ethical and social life, it radically underdetermines what the options are.
Utter gibberish. Phusis is wholly unconnected with Nomos. We don't need to have commitments to breathe or fart or fraternize.

On the other hand, the set of commitments ascribable to an agent is the dual of the set of options even in games against nature. There is no 'radical under-determinacy' here. If there is no option, there is no point having a commitment.
Faced with ethical diversity and the modes of “confrontation” that accompany it, we are liable to lose the moral knowledge that comes with belonging to a society where our normative and descriptive concepts are so fused together that they structure our sense of reality itself.
Nonsense! Such 'moral knowledge' is vector not scalar. Nobody thinks the duty of a waiter is the same as that of a guest. 'Normative' and 'descriptive' concepts don't exist. No concept does. There is nothing in them which can be fused together save conceptually. But, conceptually, they can also be sodomised by the neighbour's cat while being confused together by catted sodomy so as to become more deeply interfused.
To this extent the growth of reflective consciousness is not entirely positive and involves what some might experience as a kind of “Fall”.
This isn't growth, it is silliness. Reflective consciousness has to pay for itself in terms of increased productivity because cognition is costly of calories. Experiencing a kind of 'Fall' isn't productive unless one is stuck in a repugnancy market for shite pedagogy.
What is lost in these circumstances is belief in some objective grounding for our values.
Why? Does saying values are grounded in dispositions not sound smart any more? But when was it ever smart? So what if some stupid belief is lost? These guys weren't producing anything worthwhile in the first place.
We are, moreover, forced to abandon the hope that we can make “ultimate sense” of the way in which ethical life, in its various forms, neatly and reliably integrates with human needs and interests of a broader kind.
So what? We are all forced to abandon hope, sooner or later, that we'll wake up tomorrow. Compared to the fact that we will all die, the fact that we won't make 'ultimate sense' of some stupid shite only pedagogues pretend to care about is pretty small beer.
In light of reflections of this kind, the world must be viewed as a less accommodating place for those who seek an answer as to how they should live.
On the contrary, we have made the world too accommodating to worthless pedagogues who seek answers to meaningless questions.
Our response to this situation may well be one of disenchantment.
Which fool was enchanted by such fatuity in the first place?
What does not follow from all this, Williams argues, is any form of nihilism.
Right! Coz the fact there is no ultimate answer to 'what is the ultimate question' does not mean nothing is ultimate nor that existence is illusory.
On the contrary, even without any “objective foundations of ethical life” we still have basic desires and interests to structure and direct our reflections about how to live.
But these are 'objective foundations'.
The stance we take here is not one that rests on either knowledge or arbitrary decision, but is rather a matter of what Williams calls (reflective) confidence.
Fuck me! Confidence is a knowledge based decision. Robinson Crusoe displays it in games against nature just as much as Warren Buffet displays it when making investment decisions.
Confidence, he suggests, is essentially a social phenomenon and it is fostered and supported by means of certain forms of social institutions and relevant forms of upbringing.
Confidence exists without any fostering or supporting. Conversely, Society can foster and support a guy as much as it likes without the fellow developing any confidence whatsoever.
Most importantly, however, it is best secured by means of public discussion guided by rational argument (which does not itself demand or require objective foundations).
Public discussion is useless. Protocol bound alethic discourses are the opposite of public. We can sit around in the pub discussing how to cure our friend's cancer. This discussion is worthless. By contrast, the senior oncologists dictat as adhered to by the attending Doctors and nurses may actually cure the bloke.

Rational argument is not necessary. Expert cognition may use non-linear or wholly apophatic methods. There is nothing wrong in plugging into a 'black box' provided there is empirical evidence that this is the best alternative.
While there is “no route back from reflectiveness” – and this has its costs – we have no reason to collapse into nihilistic despair.
I disagree. You guys should collapse into nihilistic despair because your subject is shite.
Williams is, of course, well aware that this response will do little to reassure those who seek to satisfy the aspirations of the morality system. As such, the position that he takes leaves plenty of room for pessimism. Retaining ethical confidence is not, he points out, a matter of optimism but comes closer to what Nietzsche described as “the pessimism of strength”.
In other words, talking high falutin' shite about morality is an adolescent type of hooliganism- or just the most boring sort of sociopathy.
What Williams emphasizes most, particularly in his later work Shame and Necessity (1993), is the loss of our belief in “harmony”. What makes his later work different, however, is that Williams takes what he describes as a “historicist turn” in order to elaborate on these important points. In Shame and Necessity his discussion focuses primarily on the ideas of the ancient Greeks, particularly Homer and the tragedians.
Coz if pedagogues of a particular Academic lineage have consistently fucked up for over two thousand years, the proper way to proceed is to go back and do the same thing all over again.
Unlike the illusory understandings of the concepts of freedom and moral responsibility encouraged by the morality system, Williams explains, the Greeks acknowledged the extent to which human life – including ethical life – is shaped by luck and contingency. While we cannot return to their world, there is, in this respect, much that we can learn from them.
Bad luck does not shape 'ethical life', it shapes the insurance industry. Everybody, everywhere understands the benefit of risk pooling. Even the stupid pedagogues who write this shite take out insurance. Economic, not ethical, life is what deals with risk- i.e. 'luck and contingency'. In this field, 'moral hazard' arises. But this does not involve morality. Only incentives and mechanisms matter.
Williams ends his study on a related (dark) note, concerning the lack of “harmony” in the world. The question we encounter when we consider the works of the ancient Greeks, he suggests, “is whether or not a given writer or philosophy believes that, beyond some things that human beings have themselves shaped, there is anything at all that is intrinsically shaped to human interests, in particular to human beings’ ethical interests”.
We can encounter this question anywhere but it is a silly question because the fact that our species evolved means this Universe is anthropic but needn't have been.
Greek tragedy has no room for a world that supposes that, if we understood it correctly, we could learn how to be in harmony with it.
Nonsense! If we don't arrogantly or unthinkingly overstep the mark- i.e. if we avoid hubris and hamartia- then our lives would be harmonious, not blighted by tragedy.
With the collapse of the illusions that “morality” fosters, we are now well positioned to recognize that our ethical situation is much closer to that which is portrayed in the works of the Greek tragedians.
Garbage! Our ethical situation simply does not feature oracles and Gods and guys marrying their own Mums coz while MILFs exist, Mums I'd Like to Marry is an empty set.
Do these conclusions leave us trapped in a world stripped of all optimism and without hope?
Sure- if you are teaching a worthless subject.
Williams makes very clear in his closing remarks in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy that this is not his view, and much of his later philosophical work is devoted to elaborating on this point.
Coz he was earning good money teaching that worthless subject.
One vital source of hope still available to us is that of truth. In Truth and Truthfulness (2002) Williams employs a genealogical method to account for the value of truth by way of an account of the twin virtues of truthfulness: accuracy and sincerity.
There are no such virtues. Accuracy is not truthful, it is speculative or experimental. Sincerity is intentional, not alethic.
The immediate target of these reflections and observations are those “deniers”, like Richard Rorty, who question whether there can be such a thing as “objective truth” and what value it might have.
What is the point of targeting Rorty? What great discovery did he make? There is a 'buck stopped' objective truth for any protocol bound, juristic, discourse which can 'pay its way'- i.e. which raises productivity by more than what it costs.
Another source of hope available to us is to be found in politics. In his posthumous collection In the Beginning was the Deed (2008), which includes a number of his later papers, Williams seeks to show that, whatever the failures of the Enlightenment, there is no reason to abandon our respect or hopes for freedom and social justice.
Why seek to show something tautological. There is no reason to abandon something which has nothing to do with reason. I hope to levitate and respect those able to do so. I have no reason to believe anyone can levitate. But that does not mean I have a reason not to hope to levitate or to respect those who can.
What these values and ideals do not need, however, are political philosophies that are simply extensions of moral theory applied to the realm of politics.
Nonsense! Values and ideals do need extra stuff- like political philosophies which are extensions of moral theories derived from those values and ideals- so as to flourish. The realm of politics would be bare indeed if this were not the case. The thing would simply be a market place- like the Stock Exchange.
In place of projects of this kind Williams suggests that we embrace a form of “political realism” as a way of thinking about and justifying our institutions and practices.
Realists will embrace 'political realism' precisely because they think both Williams and the shite he is critiquing represent an absurd and wholly unreal academic availability cascade or pedagogic shibboleth.
An approach of this kind would place proper emphasis on the relevance of historical circumstances, the need for a credible understanding of human psychology, and, in particular, it would take “the first question” of politics to be about securing conditions of safety, trust and cooperation.
But an approach of this kind is still useless. The 'first question' of politics is wholly context dependent. Most of the time it would be about safeguarding what obtains and building upon it, but- at least some of the time- it will be about reducing safety, trust and cooperation, more particularly with respect to the operations of crooks or tyrants.
Suffice it to say that Williams’s discussion of all these matters is even more pertinent in the present state of the world than it was when first written.
More pertinent to whom? Only to stupid pedagogues ploughing a sterile furrow.
One particular danger when considering Williams’s thought is to approach his work on a piecemeal basis (practical reason/ moral luck/ utilitarianism/ etc). Viewed in that way, it comes across as haphazard and lacking direction. The truth, however, is the opposite: the individual contributions that Williams made all relate to his wider and more ambitious programme. Taken as a whole, Williams’s philosophical contribution is greater than the sum of its parts – a point that deserves some emphasis.
But that sum still amounts to a pile of shite.
What, then, are we to say about Williams’s legacy? Perhaps the most powerful source of dissatisfaction with Williams’s philosophy is that he does not provide “good news” of any kind. Delivering good news, however, is not something that Williams is interested in, since it involves sacrificing philosophy’s commitment to the value of truth. Williams remains confident, nevertheless, that we can lead worthwhile lives and that there are values and pursuits that matter and that can and should be protected and preserved.
This isn't news- good, bad or indifferent. We already know that we can breathe and fart and lead worthwhile lives and so forth. We don't need some shithead to tell us this.
Beyond this, as Williams points out himself, an author’s legacy depends in large measure on what his or her readers make of the work. Like so much else in life, an author’s legacy is subject to luck.
But only if the author is part of a repugnancy market in pseudo profundity. A guy who writes well or who makes some useful discovery leaves a legacy not at all subject to luck. Williams was an important man in his day- probably because of some personal quality of his- but that day is done. His legacy is stupid shitheads writing illiterate shite.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Gudakesha's avekshe 'ham, Craig interpolation & Appayya Dikshita's Atmarpana

Gudakesha means 'conqueror of sleep'. It is an epithet of Arjuna who mastered archery by practicing it through the long watches of the night. This is not to say that Sleep is a bad thing. It has been called the tamasic form of sadhana. Even a lazy bum can dream of Divine worship and wake to some less quotidian, or downright criminal, purpose than has happened hitherto.

However, from the Philosophical point of view, Arjuna's status as one who has conquered sleep means that, by the Craig interpolation theorem, his trajectory is a model of every coherent deontic logic.

Yet, the Mahabharata tells us, Arjuna isn't so very different from worthless shitheads like you & me.

Much is made, in the Mahabharata, of the fact that he too receives the benefit of 'tamasic sadhana'- the night before his duel with Jayadratha. In his dream,  Krishna- whom he had already accepted as the Lord of his Yoga- helps him propitiate Lord Shiva & Goddess Shakti, who jointly preside over this type of sadhana, thus enabling Arjuna to keep his vow and avenge the killing of his son, Abhimanyu, who is also Krishna's nephew.

Jayadratha is a comic book villain. He is cowardly and lustful. He tried to abduct Draupati. We feel angry,  not so much with her-  she is, after all, a mother- but with her goody goody husband, Yuddishtra, for not permitting Jayadratha to be killed there and then.

The episode of Arjuna's dream- this tamasic sadhana of the archetypal rajasic sadhaka- shows ordinary people like me that our epimethean impulses are constrained, not by a Nietzhchean 'slave morality' but all mind's equality in the heart's deep cave of sleep such that there is a voice within us, a melody, which has the power to put us in harmony with this waking world which otherwise imposes itself upon us only as continuous, cacophonous, contumely.

Why may we not experience the Universe as orchestral of our own sublimity? Why should we not be capable of what Nelson Goodman called 'World Making' such that we ourselves would be the Krishna of our own Gita, the Napoleon of our own self-enfranchising Revolution, the Hitler of a  Thousand Year Reich which would permanently avenge our own, exponentially massing for exiguously trivial, ever more lumpen for more atomised, humourless rancour & characterless ressentiment?

The answer, of course, is nothing stops us. We could take 'speed' or join a brain laundering cult or simply contract a psychotic illness and 'conquer sleep' that way.

But, what we lose thereby is our own capacity to dream our own Arjuna's dream and know that, when we wake, we can keep our vow before the fall of night or the pain of once again being fulminated in sleep. Our Jayadratha might be addiction, it might be an impulse of unkindness to those whom we are put in authority over, or- in my case- it may be eating too much and writing pseudo-Hindutva shite when I could easily not eat so much and, given that my cacoethes scribendi arises from dyspepsia simply, not write at all.

Yet, for a reason Noam Chomsky has, not given, but incarnated, the Schopenhauerian Mara of Recursivity is powerless against a true Buddha precisely because us worthless bums deploy it even more promiscuously. Craig's theorem cuts both ways. I-languages must exist but at the price of being, save by some intuitionist, id est oneiric, protocol- wholly meaningless. Why? Ask Razborov Ruditch. Blame Randomness for, like Kant's God, defying proofs of its ipseity. Thus, at best, an oneiric economia establishes such oikumene as we share such that even Chomsky's chauvinistic nightmares can have some utile, alethic, and, only thus, ethical, id est properly action guiding, effect. But there too only in the manner of those dreams where responsibilities begin.

For smart people acting selflessly, things that matter- and matter coz they matter to everybody, could we but see it- can have 'univalent foundations'. Everything else gets dammed up behind gates of ivory as 'capacitance diversity'. But smart people acting selflessly, thanks be to God, don't exist. Dreams do and, so the Bible tells us, presage the Paraclete.

I suppose Nelson Goodman's notion of 'World Making' links to our power of simulation. But Craig's interpolation theorem had already told us that either our simulation fulminated us- rendering us that sorcerer of Novalis- or shaman of Borges- who has forgotten that he made his own world- but, it can do so, in the sense that a gaslighting, pederastic, psilosophy forgets that making one's own world means being made wholly by it- which entails, not becoming the horcrux of late Capitalism's, Cohn Bendit, P.I.E Crisis, but being blown away by every bubble blowing Lysis and his elder brother who will kick your fucking head in- pedo scum that you are- regardless of colour, class or creed.

Of course, this is not to say that the late Sixties produced only pedophiles, drug addicts and anorexics. There were stupid cunts too same as there always have been. Careerism is like that. It has no genealogy. It just is.

 Which is another way of saying one has conquered sleep only to be defeated by a silly dream.


This is not to say 'simulation', like 'i-language', can't 'carve up the world according to its joints' and yield a day-dream of perfect Social felicity.


The truth is, early in his career- before ever he dreamed of Shiva- Arjuna received the boon of 'chakshushi vidya'- the ability to see anything he desired in the manner he desired- from a demi-god. Arjuna chose not to accept this boon but the demi-god didn't take it back either. Thus the boon was 'asvamika svatva' (unvested property). However, Vishada (aboulia or depression) is a situation where one is no longer master of oneself. Thus an 'asvamika svatva' can vest in the man who is no longer his own swami. Thus, when Arjuna desires to see (avekshe') whom he must fight at Kurukshetra, he gets more than he bargains for- thus setting in train the events of the Bhagavad Gita which culminates in a dread theophany.
Avekshe, which means 'let me see' but which also has the sense of deliberating or pondering on a matter, is related to Darshan Gyan- philosophy. It has the power to change your preferences. It may lead you somewhere you don't want to go. Is this what happens to Arjuna? Some contemporary academics believe it is. Arjuna has a principled objection to violence but Krishna, a consequentialist, overcomes this deontological scruple of Arjuna's by using his Divine power of 'shock and awe'. 
The problem with this view is that Arjuna was a happy warrior who had never displayed any aversion to fighting or killing. There is nothing 'deontological' about not wanting to kill your own beloved Guru or great-Uncle.  Nor, contra Sen, can there be a 'consequentialist' objection to fighting them, because they were  mighty warriors and thus their being killed was by no means a foregone conclusion. Indeed, Bhishma's true killer is Shikhandin (who was born for no other purpose) while Drona was laid low because Yuddhishtra permitted himself to tell a lie. Arjuna does kill Karna- but had he known Karna was his eldest brother, not only would he not have fought him, there would have been no war in the first place.
If the philosophy in the Gita isn't about 'deontology vs consequentialism', then what is it about? 
Let us look at the exact words Arjuna uses to set in motion the actions of the Gita-

योत्स्यमानानवेक्षेऽहं य एतेऽत्र समागता: |
धार्तराष्ट्रस्य दुर्बुद्धेर्युद्धे प्रियचिकीर्षव: || 23||
yotsyamānān avekṣhe ’haṁ ya ete ’tra samāgatāḥ
dhārtarāṣhṭrasya durbuddher yuddhe priya-chikīrṣhavaḥ
yotsyamānānthose who have come to fightavekṣhe ahamI desire to seeyewhoetethoseatraheresamāgatāḥassembleddhārtarāṣhṭrasyaof Dhritarashtra’s sondurbuddheḥevil-mindedyuddhein the fightpriya-chikīrṣhavaḥwishing to please

Karna, Arjuna's eldest brother, not Drona or Bhishma, is the only warrior who fits the bill. He and he alone wishes to please Duryodhana. The others are obligated to do so- or, indeed, have been tricked into it- Karna alone is as attached to Duryodhana by a strong a bond of friendship as is Krishna to Arjuna.

Karna's secret is known to Krishna. If the Pandavas learn it, there will be no war. Obedient to their eldest brother, they would be vassals to Duryodhana.  Of course, Duryodhana may still want the war to go ahead- but he could always change his mind if his side begins to lose.

Thus everything comes down to Karna.  Yet, Karna himself wants the war to go ahead in a manner such that the one brother of his he has sworn to kill, or to be killed by, will fight him in the grip of 'manyu' (dark anger) rather than in obedience to his order. Karna's unfortunate history, his resentment at the many insults and injuries he has had to bear, makes him desire this agon.

Whom does Arjuna wish to please?

Whom can he- in a reliable manner?

Only some co-evolved 'being pleased' module within himself.

Fuck! Appaya Dikshita's Atmarpana is the Craig interpolation of Tirupati's trap!

Vadamam muthi Vaishnavam!

When the tsunami came, eldest scions- big, broad shouldered, karmayogis like my Dad- wept for their Akkas and that was King Ranthideva's  counter-tsunami of compassion against the indefeasible Justice of Varuna- the Pralaya of the Flood.

Yet, like Bhishma, like Drona, they and they alone are disclosed by every Arjuna's 'avekshe 'ham'.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Should Dr. Noah Carl be ostracized?

Dr. Noah Carl is a 28 year old 'Social Scientist' who has just been awarded a fellowship established by a wealthy Canadian historian. This has outraged a large section of the Academic community.

Why?
He is accused of stoking “racist, xenophobic, fascist and anti-immigration rhetoric”.

As a case in point, consider the following abstract of a published paper of his-

Several reports have highlighted that, within Britain, allegations of electoral fraud tend to be more common in areas with large Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. However, the extent of this association has not yet been quantified. Using data at the local authority level, this paper shows that percentage Pakistani and Bangladeshi (logged) is a robust predictor of two measures of electoral fraud allegations: one based on designations by the Electoral Commission, and one based on police enquiries. Indeed, the association persists after controlling for other minority shares, demographic characteristics, socio-economic deprivation, and anti-immigration attitudes. I interpret this finding with reference to the growing literature on consanguinity (cousin marriage) and corruption. Rates of cousin marriage tend to be high in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, which may have fostered norms of nepotism and in-group favoritism that persist over time. To bolster my interpretation, I use individual level survey data to show that, within Europe, migrants from countries with high rates of cousin marriage are more likely to say that family should be one's main priority in life, and are less likely to say it is wrong for a public official to request a bribe.
This is utterly mad. Democracy took root peacefully and permanently in India but not in East or West Pakistan. Elections were always more or less fraudulent. It is no great surprise if a culture of criminality evolved around the ballot box in Pakistan but not India and if this was carried over into the diaspora in Britain.

Cousin marriage is normative in Islam and certain strains of Judaism but prohibited in Hinduism & Sikhism both of which, however, have a more complicated way of achieving the same objective- viz the maintenance of strong kinship bonds of reinsurance.

Electoral fraud is also a function of levels of literacy. Here, a gap opened up between some Muslim and most non Muslim immigrants from the sub-continent because of greater urbanization and upward mobility in the non-Muslim areas which exported labor to the UK. Furthermore, whereas undivided Pakistan actively encouraged migration from rural areas like Mirpur, the Indian authorities discouraged it in response to pressure from the British until the Indian judiciary prohibited the practice. However, Britain then imposed immigration controls on Commonwealth citizens. Nevertheless, poorer, more rural, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were still favozred over Indians under the 'voucher scheme' precisely because the need was low skilled factory workers, cleaners and so on.

However, better educated and more entrepreneurial Indians found themselves under greater pressure to migrate at this time. Furthermore, the arrival of East African Asians, with sound English medium education and entrepreneurial drive, tended to lift up the aspirations and life-chances of other Hindus in Britain. Thus, the 'political culture' and socio-economic trajectory of Hindus started to diverge from that of Muslims and, to a lesser extent, Sikhs. As Hindus moved out of factory jobs and deprived neighbourhoods, the scope for, and rewards from, electoral fraud disappeared.This was not the case for low wage, low education, Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations stuck in deprived areas and working in 'ethnic' service industries rather than gaining access to well paid jobs in manufacturing or construction. It was among these 'ghettoised' populations that higher incidence of electoral fraud prevailed. It had nothing to do with the permissibility of cousin marriage as leading to greater nepotism or closer kinship ties.

Is it possible that Noah Carl is ignorant of all this? Or is it rather the case that he expected his paper to be read in the light of, a former Tory Cabinet Minister, Sir Eric Pickles' claim that 'political correctness' was causing the police to turn a blind eye to widespread electoral fraud and intimidation based on Religion, by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis (who voted Labor)? This was a time when some Tory candidates in London targeted Hindu and Sikh voters with thinly veiled Islamophobic pamphlets.

Brexit changed the political landscape in Britain at the same time that the election of Trump broadened the horizons for Junk Social Science. Dr. Carl attracted ire for attending a Conference on 'Intelligence' last year. He published a paper in April in which he gives examples of

 the violent lengths to which some people will go to in order to stifle debate around race, genes and IQ. Why does this area of research incite such vitriolic indignation?
The reason for this is historic. There was a Eugenicist 'Race Science' which was adopted by Hitler's Nazis. It was utterly foolish. The Slavs turned out not to be inferior to Teutons. Jews and Blacks and so forth were not just excellent soldiers, they were also superb scientists and artists. The same was true of women. Britain's superior female participation rate was a factor in its victory over Germany. The reason all countries- even Iran and now Saudi Arabia- want women to be economically and scientifically active is because that makes everybody better off. Irrational prejudices based on race or gender mean falling behind in an increasingly competitive world.

Dr. Carl takes a different, a bizarre, view.
A likely reason, as Winegard and Winegard (2015) argue, is that for a large number of academics in the West, the notion of biological sameness between groups (classes, sexes, races) has become what Tetlock (2003) calls a ‘sacred value’ (and see Ginges et al., 2007).2 
That's a likely reason? Do a large number of academics in the West really believe chicks got dicks same as wot blokes do? Is that a 'sacred value' for them?
Sacred values possess at least two important properties. First, they are incommensurable with respect to instrumental values: no amount of a sacred value can be traded off for any amount of an instrumental value.
Nonsense! A sacred value- e.g. getting into heaven or out of purgatory- can be traded for an instrumental value having to do with the opportunity cost of time and money and whom you beat or burn to death. If no trade-off is possible then sacred values can have no effect on revealed preference- i.e. actual behavior. But, in that case, sacred values would be worthless.
And second, proposals to accept such trade-offs are met not merely with rejection, but with moral outrage.
Moral outrage is appropriate if there is no trade-off between something inherently repugnant and some concrete benefit. Stem cell research sounds a bit yucky but if it can help people like Michael J Fox then there is a trade-off.

However, in the case of Dr. Carl's own work, there is no possible benefit. The thing is Junk Social Science of a click-bait kind.
Because arguments such as Wilson’s, Jensen’s and Murray’s clearly threaten the sacred value of biological sameness between groups, it is not enough simply to attack the arguments; the defenders of those arguments must be hounded, and their characters impeached.
Wilson, Jensen and Murray were not hounded, their characters were not impeached, by at least some people whose 'sacred values' consecrated the eschatological sameness of groups. This readily translates, in a Thomist manner, into a notion of biological sameness from the point of view of telos.

Furthermore, there is a large body of research in psychology showing that people are quite bad at objectively appraising risk (Kahneman, 2011, Ch. 13).
But, if you know that, why stick your neck out? You are likely to be underestimating the harm you do or the harm that will be done to you.
For example, we tend to be more afraid of snakes, spiders and large carnivores than of loaded guns, faulty electrical wires and driving without a seatbelt (Pinker, 1997, Ch. 6.) One particularly important source of error is the ‘affect heuristic’, whereby people judge things to have worse consequences if their mental images of those things are imbued with more negative emotional content. As Slovic et al. (2007) note, “activities associated with cancer are seen as riskier and more in need of regulation than activities associated with less dreaded forms of illness, injury, and death (e.g., accidents)”. The existence of the ‘affect heuristic’ should give us pause before concluding that the degree of moral outrage associated with a phenomenon constitutes a good measure of how much risk that phenomenon actually poses to society.
But, if you know about 'affect heuristics' why pretend moral outrage poses a risk to society? The thing is silly.
Although a great many areas of science (e.g., the germ theory of disease, the chemistry of particulates, the psychology of manipulation) are open to misuse, there are few if anywhere the putative asymmetry between societal costs and scientific or other benefits is held to be as great as in the area of race, genes and IQ.
Carl can't write a proper English sentence. No doubt this is because of something to do with his race, genes and IQ.
Of course, the main concern among commentators who subscribe to this asymmetry is that evidence of a genetic contribution to IQ differences between human populations would be used by racists to justify oppression or exploitation of populations with lower average IQs.
Don't be silly. If you are oppressing and exploiting someone you can't justify it by saying 'the fellow is a cretin.' You have to say 'this guy is real smart- indeed, he is so smart that he understands that I'm actually doing him a favor. You aren't as smart as him and so you'll never understand the reason for this even if he could be bothered to explain it to you. So just take my word for it already and let me exploit and oppress you in the same way.'
For example, if it were found that the difference in mean IQ between European Americans and African Americans is partly genetic, the difference would be in some sense fixed, and the worry is that racists would then have a justification for oppressing or exploiting African Americans.
Carl, have you ever met an African American? Do you really think it would be easy for you to oppress or exploit one? Let us suppose you are able to capture a cretinous little African American. What would happen if you started oppressing and exploiting the wee creature? You'd get arrested, mate. You may say to the Judge- 'I have evidence that this African American is an utter moron. This justifies my oppressing her. Coz, like that's the Law, right? Smart people are allowed to fuck over the mentally handicapped.'
I don't know much about the Law, but even I know that the statement given above is not exculpatory, rather it is damning.
One can't justify evil actions- like oppression or exploitation- by pointing to the mental or physical inferiority of the victim.

Carl, bless his cotton socks, believes otherwise-

It goes without saying that this concern should be taken seriously; the possibility of an asymmetry between the costs and benefits of discussing race, genes and IQ is not one that should be dismissed out of hand.
I have long contended that Iyers are stupider than almost everybody else. Indeed, my entire oeuvre is a testament to the right of all Iyers everywhere to be categorized as an 'Educationally Backward' Caste by the Government of India.

In the West, where Caste does not exist but Color does, I'd enthusiastically support any research which purports to show that Whitey be smarter than me. Why? The theory of optimal taxation would then militate for higher taxes on White people- and also Iyengars. I fucking hate Iyengars. It is because of them only that us Tambrams got stuck with a reputation for being brainy. Anyway, Rajaji was Iyengar and it was his idiocy which destroyed our caste's political prospects in Tamil Nadu.

Returning to Carl, who is Amia Srinivasan (& therefore Iyengar) level stupid, we find
his paper argues that.. that stifling debate around taboo topics can itself do active harm.3 To the extent that the paper’s argument has force, it cannot simply be taken for granted that, when in doubt, stifling debate around taboo topics is the ethical thing to do.
This guy writes worthless shite about how cousin marriage correlates with electoral fraud. The 'Structural Causal Model' he is appealing to can't be tested by picking out the one ethnic grouping in the UK for whom cousin marriage is normative and which also has a historical record of electoral fraud. You have to compare like with like- i.e. Indian Muslims settled in the UK who practice cousin marriage with undivided Pakistan origin Muslims. Immediately you do this, you understand the absurdity of the underlying 'structural causal model'.

Would it be a good thing for the Academy to stifle junk social science of this sort? No. These guys are monkeys playing with their own faeces. Let them do it in the Academy, where they earn peanuts- which is cool coz they iz monkeys- rather than let them loose on the City.

It is not ethical to let our future Ivy League Professors do anything useful in their late Twenties and early Thirties. They too, like the rest of us, must keep their nose to the grindstone of 'meticulous nonsense' or mindless shite. Since people wot go to posh Skools & Collidges are more at risk of ending up as junk Social Science monkeys, it follows that allowing that shite to flourish cancels out an aspect of their 'moral luck' and is thus part and parcel of providential theodicy.
Dr. Carl's main claim is that-

By equating particular scientific statements (e.g., “the difference in mean IQ between European Americans and African Americans may be partly genetic”) with racism (e.g., “African Americans are genetically inferior to European Americans”), those seeking to stifle debate commit the moralistic fallacy of concluding that a statement cannot be true if it has unpleasant moral implications (Davis, 1978)4.
WTF?! 'the difference in mean Spiritual Quotient between Iyers & Iyengars may be partly epigenetic' is as unscientific as the one Carl quotes. Both lack a coherent, not utterly absurd, Structural Causal Model. If it had been shown that a selective breeding program in a particular population had indeed permanently changed expected I.Q- in other words, if eugenics worked- then, there would be a coherent, not absurd, SCM. However, it would militate for an inter-racial selective breeding program such that 'Caste' would get delinked from Race. It may be that 'assortative mating' is already doing this amongst Ivy League STEM subject hotshots. But there is nothing 'Racial' about the fact that this leads to the existence of Iyers whose moms are Italian or Korean and whose brides or grooms are Ghanaian or Israeli. What matters is that the grandkids understand that the real enemy is the Iyengars. Fuck you Iyengars! How dare you deny the possibility of a jivanmukta? I'm sure, if I can just finish this bottle, I will attain complete metaphysical liberation while still alive in this body.  That will afford scientific proof that the difference in mean Spiritual Quotient between Iyers & Iyengars is almost entirely epigenetic.

But you and I and the next guy know this will never actually happen. Why pretend otherwise? Carl's next assertion explains the reason for this cretinous hypocrisy-

And in doing so, they make a rather perverse assumption, namely that if the relevant scientific statements were ever shown to be true, then the unpleasant moral implications would be valid.
Why impute so perverse an assumption to anybody? Ordinary people are perfectly happy for scientists to study genetic predispositions if this improves their own health. I don't call my Doctor a racist when she tells me that, because of my South Asian ancestry, I am more at risk of certain diseases.
The problem here is that Carl is not a scientist. His Junk Social Science isn't helping anyone. It is immoral to call it scholarship.
No doubt, a 'blank state' or 'Social Constructivist' dogma can hinder science, but useful discoveries persuade people to abandon such dogmas.
It is not the case that attacking those dogmas helps anybody. You actually have to do some useful science or put forward a better Structural Causal Model.

Carl claims that
 there are clear examples of where stifling debate has done material harm to both individuals and societal institutions.
The example he gives is that of Asian grooming gangs who targeted young white girls. However, these girls were regarded as delinquents by Social Workers. It was their policy to let them fend for themselves. They considered it inevitable that they'd end up 'on the game'. Theodore Dalrymple, a psychiatrist who had worked in the NHS as well as the Prison system, wrote an article in the Spectator about the plight of these young girls 'in care'. One 12 or 13 year old had her teeth knocked out by the older girls because she was undercutting the going rate for blow jobs- which was 50 pence. It was in this context that Asian pimps were considered a better option for these girls. They would be accessing a slightly safer and better paying client network. Indeed, shockingly, Social Workers still think it a good idea for these girls, who have given birth to children, to keep in touch with their rapists and to give them visiting rights. Why? The answer is that it reduces the case-load for the 'caring profession'.

The Police do want to put bad guys in prison. These were clear cases of (at least) statutory rape, pimping and so forth. This was organised crime. But it was a type of crime condoned by Society. It was assumed that these girls would end up as prostitutes. If their pimps were Pakistani origin taxi drivers, the crime statistics would go down because street-walking would decrease. The girls would be less likely to spend their time bashing each other up so as to prevent the price of blowjobs going down by ten pence. Hopefully, some of them wold convert to Islam and put on hijabs and stop showing up at the A&E or in the drunk tank.

No doubt, the Police Force is sensitive to claims that they are racist. Perhaps they genuinely are racist. But, the truth is, if Society at large believes the Police are racist then, in England, the conviction rate will go down. Juries will have a reasonable doubt. The CPS will use this as an excuse to drop the prosecution. Thus, it is very much in the interest of the Police to reach out to ethnic communities. Here in Fulham, we see personable officers in our Churches and Mosques and Gurudwaras chatting to the Vicar or Imam and smiling warmly at young people. I once made a complaint about what I thought was a case of the Police ignoring my call. Two officers turned up at my door and listened to me patiently. The younger explained that police procedure was to first locate the injured person, then apprehend the assailant and only return to the scene of the crime to take statements after that had been accomplished. I said I was perfectly satisfied with the explanation but the older officer reproved the younger. He said that the Force was grateful for my input and was always looking to improve its procedures. I got a follow up letter from the Superintendent.
This encounter showed me that even if the Police are racist and don't care about poor people, still, their rational self-interest will cause them to ignore race and economic status. It saves money in the long run. During the hoodie riots, Hammersmith and Fulham were unaffected. Why? Working class people trusted the Police.


It is quite true that 'Political Correctness' is counter-productive. But so is Carl's own work. What is needed is not yet more Junk Social Science but actual Science. A guy who has made a new and very useful discovery has a right to gas on for a bit about his beliefs. After all, his discovery is based on a better Structural Causal Model of some aspect of existence. No doubt, he is likely to say many absurd things along the way but there may be a grain of wheat among the chaff.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Chomsky & the 'Independence of Journalism'.

Chomsky's latest essay begins on a promising note-
Mark Twain famously said that “it is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.”
I suppose one might, with equal justice, credit not the Deity but Darwinian evolution for this happy circumstance.  A freedom is either a Hohfeldian immunity or a residuary control right which corresponds to a duty or obligation under a bond of law. Exercising a freedom imprudently can lead to its loss. Thus, the regret-minimizing course is to assert and exercise freedoms in a self-interested manner. Why? It is the self which is the holder of the freedom. That which kills the rights-holder extinguishes the right.

Of course, there will always be self-publicists who pretend not to care about themselves and gas on about how something very very stupid must be done to save the suffering masses who are too stupid to speak for themselves.

Chomsky picks upon an Old Etonian of this type.
In his unpublished introduction to Animal Farm, devoted to “literary censorship” in free England, George Orwell added a reason for this prudence: there is, he wrote, a “general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact.” The tacit agreement imposes a “veiled censorship” based on “an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question,” and “anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness” even without “any official ban.”
Chomsky knows that Orwell was writing about a very peculiar time in English history. Hitler had just attacked Stalin who thus became Churchill's ally. It was vital that the Soviets have faith in the Brits and not seek a separate peace with the Nazis.
It was in this context that the Ministry of Information advised that Animal Farm not be published.

However, Orwell himself says ' Any fairminded person with journalistic experience will admit that during this war official censorship has not been particularly irksome.'

Moreover, there was no 'tacit censorship'. Orwell's book was published and became a best-seller. The man would have looked an utter fool if this 'unpublished introduction' had in fact been allowed to stand.

Chomsky knows all this. Yet he quotes Orwell as if he were a Prophet rather than an Old Etonian silly-arse of a type we will always have with us.

Indeed, Chomsky- whose family background was quite modest- is now an ever sillier-arse of a patrician stripe who thinks that the opinions he hears at the dinner tables of the Great & Good represent the mind of the common man.

Evelyn Waugh, writing around the same time, satirizes the Ministry of Information and, later on in his 'Sword of Honor' trilogy, descries the shameless manner in which the British establishment kowtowed to the Soviets during this period. Waugh and Orwell, in polemical mood, might attribute this to some spiritual or ideological malaise. However, both knew the facts. Stalin was an ally. England was in dire peril. For God's sake, keep mum about Trotsky.

Orwell wrote-
The servility with which the greater part of the English intelligentsia have swallowed and repeated Russian propaganda from 1941 onwards would be quite astounding if it were not that they have behaved similarly on several earlier occasions. On one controversial issue after another the Russian viewpoint has been accepted without examination and then publicised with complete disregard to historical truth or intellectual decency. To name only one instance, the BBC celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Red Army without mentioning Trotsky. This was about as accurate as commemorating the battle of Trafalgar without mentioning Nelson, but it evoked no protest from the English intelligentsia. In the internal struggles in the various occupied countries, the British press has in almost all cases sided with the faction favoured by the Russians and libelled the opposing faction, sometimes suppressing material evidence in order to do so. A particularly glaring case was that of Colonel Mihailovich, the Jugoslav Chetnik leader. The Russians, who had their own Jugoslav protege in Marshal Tito, accused Mihailovich of collaborating with the Germans. This accusation was promptly taken up by the British press: Mihailovich’s supporters were given no chance of answering it, and facts contradicting it were simply kept out of print. In July of 1943 the Germans offered a reward of 100,000 gold crowns for the capture of Tito, and a similar reward for the capture of Mihailovich. The British press ‘splashed’ the reward for Tito, but only one paper mentioned (in small print) the reward for Mihailovich: and the charges of collaborating with the Germans continued. 



Orwell, as an Old Etonian, may not have known that England has never had an intelligentsia- its Universities produced 'flanneled fools' & 'muddied oafs'- but, surely, Chomsky grew up in a very different milieu- that of the immigrant Yiddish worker who debated Socialist or Anarchist ideologies with a Rabbinical passion. Thanks to the War, the children of these immigrants were lifted up into positions of power and influence thanks to their mathematical genius and skill at expounding complex ideas in an idiomatic and impassioned manner. However, by the mid Sixties, the Trotskyites were beginning their metamorphosis into neo-cons. Chomsky took a different tack- but, the truth is, his Research Project had crashed and burned and so his 'political' writings represented a jejune 'displacement activity'- like Cantor dashing off a monograph about who really wrote Shakespeare's plays.

Chomsky was right to be wrong about Language- thinkers should pursue a promising hypothesis if only to show why it is incoherent- but he was wrong to use an absurd theory of Language to write arrant nonsense about something ordinary people understand- viz Political rhetoric.

Consider the following-
We witness the exercise of this prudence constantly in free societies. Take the US-UK invasion of Iraq, a textbook case of aggression without credible pretext, the “supreme international crime” defined in the Nuremberg judgment. It is legitimate to say that it was a “dumb war,” a “strategic blunder,” even “the greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy” in President Obama’s words, highly praised by liberal opinion. But “it wouldn’t do” to say what it was, the crime of the century, though there would be no such hesitancy if some official enemy had carried out even a much lesser crime.
Why do people not denounce themselves for crimes they have committed with the same alacrity and vehemence that they denounce crimes committed against themselves? Chomsky thinks it is because of some sinister 'orthodoxy' which casts a cloud over people's minds. Would it surprise him to learn that it is irrational to confess to things for which one could be punished? If the people of the US and the UK went around saying 'we committed the crime of the century', then they would be under pressure to pay vast sums in reparations. This would mean higher taxes.
The prevailing orthodoxy does not easily accommodate such a figure as General/President Ulysses S. Grant, who thought there never was “a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico,” taking over what is now the US Southwest and California, and who expressed his shame for lacking “the moral courage to resign” instead of taking part in the crime.
This is sheer nonsense.  Grant, a drunkard, was writing 30 years after the event. He was seeking to influence how history would view him. There was no chance that either he, or his country, would suffer any financial or other loss as a consequence of his admission. Indeed, confessing to crimes which aren't crimes at all is just a cheap form of hypocritical virtue signalling.
Subordination to the prevailing orthodoxy has consequences. The not-so-tacit message is that we should only fight smart wars that are not blunders, wars that succeed in their objectives – by definition just and right according to prevailing orthodoxy even if they are in reality “wicked wars,” major crimes. Illustrations are too numerous to mention. In some cases, like the crime of the century, the practice is virtually without exception in respectable circles.
It is rational to only do costly things- and war is a costly business- if one is likely to benefit or, at least, avoid a greater loss.
 No 'subordination to the prevailing orthodoxy' is required. The Iraq War was supposed to turn a profit and some influential people did make a lot of money. However, the occupation of Iraq was mismanaged so badly- partly because of the greed of vested interests- that the voters ended up having to pick up a hefty tab.

I don't know much about 'respectable circles' and their 'prevailing orthodoxy' but how important are they? Did they really put Trump in the White House? If not, why should we care about them?
Another familiar aspect of subordination to prevailing orthodoxy is the casual appropriation of orthodox demonization of official enemies.
WTF? Orthodox demonizations are part of 'prevailing orthodoxy'. Subordination to orthodoxy means being orthodox. It means you already subscribe to 'orthodox demonization'. There is no need to 'appropriate' it.

Chomsky may be senile but the stupidity he is displaying here has always been a feature of his oeuvre. He confuses a pompous circumlocution- 'subordination to orthodoxy'- for something concrete. The phrase means 'x is orthodox'. It does not mean that 'orthodoxy' has an independent existence and that x has become subordinate to it for some occult reason.
To take an almost random example, from the issue of the New York Times that happens to be in front of me right now, a highly competent economic journalist warns of the populism of the official demon Hugo Chavez, who, once elected in the late ‘90s, “proceeded to battle any democratic institution that stood in his way.”
What's wrong with that? Chavez fucked up Venezuela. Everyone admits it.  Also, it is obvious that 'Democratic institutions' could have pulled the country out of a tail spin. Anyway, 'a highly competent economic journalist' isn't going to say anything sensible- least of all in the pages of the New York Times- so why rake up the matter?
Turning to the real world, it was the US government, with the enthusiastic support of the New York Times, that (at the very least) fully supported the military coup that overthrew the Chavez government – briefly, before it was reversed by a popular uprising.
So, the US didn't really 'fully support' the coup. Otherwise Caracas would have a Green Zone like Baghdad.
As for Chavez, whatever one thinks of him, he won repeated elections certified as free and fair by international observers, including the Carter Foundation, whose founder, ex-President Jimmy Carter, said that “of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” And Venezuela under Chavez regularly ranked very high in international polls on public support for the government, and for democracy (Chile-based Latinobarómetro).
Yes, but Chavez undermined democratic and other institutional checks and balances such that, when oil prices fell, his Nation suffered enormously. Seldom has a 'resource curse' proved so utterly venomous.
There were doubtless democratic deficits during the Chavez years, such as the repression of the RCTV channel, which elicited enormous condemnation. I joined, also agreeing that it couldn’t happen in our free society. If a prominent TV channel in the US had supported a military coup as RCTV did, then it wouldn’t be repressed a few years later, because it would not exist: the executives would be in jail, if they were still alive.
'if they were still alive'? What is Chomsky saying? Does he think the US Supreme Court would hang TV executives for treason? Or is he hinting that they would have been the victims of extra judicial killing?
But orthodoxy easily overcomes mere fact.
What fact is Chomsky talking about? That the American judiciary would consider a military coup to be an event which abrogates the fundamental right to free speech?
Does Chomsky really believe the Bench would permit a President to use his influence to cancel the licence of a TV Station which had been critical of him?
Failure to provide pertinent information also has consequences. Perhaps Americans should know that polls run by the leading US polling agency found that a decade after the crime of the century, world opinion regarded the United States as the greatest threat to world peace, no competitor even close; surely not Iran, which wins that prize in US commentary.
I didn't know about these polls. What pernicious consequence have I suffered as a result? None at all.
Perhaps instead of concealing the fact, the press might have performed its duty of bringing it to public attention, along with some consideration of what it means, what lessons it yields for policy.
The Press reported it but readers didn't find it interesting. It yielded no lesson for policy whatsoever. A recent poll shows that half of Americans believe in UFOs. So what? Neither US bellicosity not Alien anal probes matter to us in our daily lives. Sure, after a few drinks, we might be willing to wax eloquent on such subjects but only because they allow us a momentary escape from reality.
Again, dereliction of duty has consequences.
Very true! Chomsky's asshole is at risk of being probed by Extra Terrestrials- or so almost half the American population believes- and yet 'subordination to orthodoxy' is preventing the FBI from taking this threat seriously!
Examples such as these, which abound, are serious enough, but there are others that are far more momentous. Take the electoral campaign of 2016 in the most powerful country in world history. Coverage was massive, and instructive. Issues were almost entirely avoided by the candidates, and virtually ignored in commentary, in accord with the journalistic principle that “objectivity” means reporting accurately what the powerful do and say, not what they ignore.
Right! Important stuff like Alien anal probes is totally ignored! But, why blame the Press when it is the Judges- who focus only on what people say and do, not what they ignore or are ignorant of- who are more greatly at fault? Even worse than the Judiciary, are the great mass of ordinary people who ignore paranoid nutjobs who think 'orthodoxy' is making people so irrational that they refuse to confess to their own crimes while complaining about crimes committed against themselves.
The principle holds even if the fate of the species is at stake – as it is: both the rising danger of nuclear war and the dire threat of environmental catastrophe.
Where is there a 'rising danger' of nuclear war? Not even in the sub-continent. What about 'environmental catastrophe'? There is zero danger of any such thing wiping out the species or greatly altering our collective fate. The only question is, who can be persuaded to pay 'carbon taxes'. The French 'yellow vests' have shown Macron that the embattled middle class won't pay. But, economists had already observed that 'green taxes' are only politically feasible if there are compensating cash transfers.

It is perfectly rational, if you don't want to pay higher gas prices, to vote for a guy who claims not to believe in climate change. Chomsky must know that it was blue collar voters- of a type not subservient at all to the 'prevailing orthodoxy' of bien pensant 'respectable circles'- who put Trump in power and who have now given Macron a bloody nose. Yet, he accuses the Press of 'neglect'!
The neglect reached a dramatic peak on November 8, a truly historic day. On that day Donald Trump won two victories. The less important one received extraordinary media coverage: his electoral victory, with almost 3 million fewer votes than his opponent, thanks to regressive features of the US electoral system. The far important victory passed in virtual silence: Trump’s victory in Marrakech, Morocco, where some 200 nations were meeting to put some serious content into the Paris agreement on climate change a year earlier. On November 8, the proceedings halted. The remainder of the conference was largely devoted to trying to salvage some hope with the US not only withdrawing from the enterprise but dedicated to sabotaging it by sharply increasing the use of fossil fuels, dismantling regulations, and rejecting the pledge to assist developing countries shift to renewables.
Trump's victory was newsworthy. Marrakech wasn't. Chomsky writes as though Trump had some personal animus against the Paris agreement. He didn't gave a damn about it because his business is unaffected by gas prices. If anything, it stands to gain by killing off commuting and forcing people to abandon McMansions for inner city developments.

To get elected, Trump had to pretend to be a 'climate change denier' so as to deliver lower gas prices- which is what blue collar voters needed.
All that was at stake in Trump’s most important victory was the prospects for organized human life in any form that we know.
Sheer nonsense! 'Organized human life' is not under any threat from climate change. The quality of life of billions of people in less organized, or poorer, countries may be adversely affected. But they themselves will have to first become 'part of the problem' before they can be 'part of the solution'. Telling stupid lies helps nobody.
Accordingly, coverage was virtually zero, keeping to the same concept of “objectivity” as determined by the practices and doctrines of power.
Wow! The Press should have been in Marrakech listening to boring speeches instead of focusing on Trump having pulled off the most incredible upset in American politics since Franklin Delano Roosevelt tugged off Wendell's Willkie.
A truly independent press rejects the role of subordination to power and authority.
Nonsense! The press is subordinate to legitimate judicial power and authority. The fact that no Democratic country permits the press to flout a judicial injunction with impunity does not mean that no element of its Fourth Estate is not 'truly independent'. On the contrary, it is the Rule of Law which safeguards that independence and confers legitimacy on its operations.

Chomsky believes otherwise. He thinks the Judiciary is useless. Only 'orthodoxy' matters. It has occult power. It can brainwash people. That's why people don't confess to their own crimes and yet lodge complaints regarding crimes against themselves.

Chomsky's 'independent press' would not bother with the Law- nor with the facts that the Law insists upon- rather it would liberate ordinary people from the strange delusion that they should act in a rational, self-regarding, manner.

He dreams of a world where the Press
casts the orthodoxy to the winds, questions what “right-thinking people will accept without question,” tears aside the veil of tacit censorship, makes available to the general public the information and range of opinions and ideas that are a prerequisite for meaningful participation in social and political life, and beyond that, offers a platform for people to enter into debate and discussion about the issues that concern them. By doing so it serves its function as a foundation for a truly free and democratic society.

So, this means the Press should take as its model the National Enquirer and Fox News. Forget Murdoch, Berlusconi has shown the way forward. We must all have topless TV presenters interviewing alien abductees who personally witnessed George Soros turning into a Lizard Person.
But what difference would it make? None at all. In the short run, people may be taken in by virtue signalling windbags and vote against their pwn economic interest. Longer term, there is a backlash. Venezuela would be on the path to recovery if Chavez hadn't destroyed the foundations of its Democracy. America could go the same way if its Judiciary and Legislature are similarly subverted. The Press doesn't matter. Professors don't matter. The Law does. The Economy does. But only if people behave rationally and act in a self-regarding manner.

By contrast, what people pretend to believe, or pretend to find shocking, doesn't matter at all. Orthodoxy has no occult power. It is 'preference falsification' merely.