Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Gandhi as Zeno & solvitur ambulando

 American diplomats used to complain that their |Indian counterparts were always eager to reach an agreement. Sadly, this was only so they could disagree the more loquaciously about what had been agreed to.

Woodrow Wyatt, at that time a Labor MP, was quite close to Mahatma Gandhi during the run up to Independence. He says that Gandhi believed that his 'sharp lawyer's mind' could find something in the agreement Congress had made which nobody else knew was there. 

In law, an agreement is a meeting of minds. If one side says that what was agreed was different from what the other side believes, then there was no agreement. However, there may be an enforceable contract. But that is a justiciable matter. 

Gandhi's political philosophy appears Socratic. An agreement has been reached. One side can say that it actually means much more than either side envisaged. The other side may welcome this interpretation. We have moved beyond anything transactional or contractual or protocol bound. This is a burgeoning of a relationship of a mutually supportive type. I am tempted to use the Aristotelian word 'sumphusis' to describe it. There is a growing together which is also a growing towards and within each other. As the Good Book says 'can two walk together except they be agreed?'

However, if either side says the agreement actually means something adverse to the other, then far from there having been an agreement, there was merely an exercise in deception and treachery.

More generally, an agreement which does not involve agreement as to what has been agreed is subject to a Zeno type paradox. There is an infinite regress which paralyses movement.  "Diogenes the Cynic", is said to have replied to Zeno's paradoxes on the unreality of motion by standing up and walking away. This gives rise to the Latin phrase- solvitur ambulando- it is solved by walking. 

Consider the following 'Address to American newspaper readers' given by Mahatma Gandhi published in 1937

Notice that every paragraph in it is sophistical and self-contradictory. Gandhi simultaneously claims to have no power and total power over Congress. Remarkably, he claims to have invented and patented 'non-violence' as a political technique! Thus so long as Congress is non-violent (and it would have been slaughtered if it were not) Gandhi guides it.

In the second paragraph, Gandhi says the Secretary of State for India thinks the 1935 Act was only implementable by force. This is utterly mad. Indians were eagerly queuing up to stand for elections so as to gain the fruits of office. Gandhi pretends that Indians were being dragged from their homes and forced onto the hustings. They would only form Ministries and feather their own nests at the point of a bayonet. 

The Brits had imposed a solution on India which minimized the headache for themselves while maximizing their ability to borrow from India and use its resources for the coming War. This may not have been their intention, but that was the outcome. 

The truly bizarre aspect of Gandhi's peroration is his claim that Zetland, who helped pass the 1935 Act and who was answerable, as Secretary of State of India to Parliament, was being presumptuous in interpreting that Act. Gandhi goes further. He says no Parliament can interpret its own Acts. But if it can't interpret it, that it can't understand it and had no business passing it in the first place. 

Americans knew very well that in their system, there is a separation of powers. The Bench can strike down a Law. But England had parliamentary sovereignty. Gandhi was displaying his ignorance to a nation of lawyers at a time when FDR was having to pack the bench to push through his New Deal. Gandhi says no man can take the law into his own hands- yet, his Salt March (which the Americans had seen on their newsreels) had shown him doing precisely that. He had made salt when the law said he must not make salt. By contrast, because of Parliamentary Sovereignty, Zetland was welcome to exercise the law as he saw fit subject to Parliamentary oversight. 

Gandhi could have said- 'the British are wrong to have Parliamentary Sovereignty. They should become like America and have separation of powers. Also they should get rid of their monarch and their hereditary peerage'. That would have been a reasonable assertion. But pretending Britain did not have Parliamentary Sovereignty was simply ignorant and stupid. 

Of course, if Congress had really boycotted the Assemblies and refused to form Ministries, one might say Gandhi was speaking of some ideal constitution which the Indians wanted for themselves. But, as a matter of fact, Congress formed Ministries wherever it could. 

Gandhi was popular in America but statements of the sort given below caused the Americans to view him as a fool. No doubt, had he been born White, he would have been better able to make an argument. But God had caused him to be born as black as any pickaninny.  


Congress was asking for assurances that the 'reserved powers' of the Governors would not be misused. The problem was that Governors needed those 'reserved powers' to prevent Elected Ministries misusing their own powers.

Popular politicians had some coercive power- that of mobs running riot at their command. Governors had some coercive power at their command- that of disciplined soldiers shooting the rioters while the police arrested seditionists and Judges sentenced them to long spells in prison.

This was the reality. However, this reality had not come into existence as a result of an agreement made between Gandhi, or Congress, and the Brits. Rather it had been imposed unilaterally by Westminster. The Marquess of Zetland was a member of the British Legislature. He was answerable to it as Secretary of State of India. When Churchill became Prime Minister, he resigned. Why? Churchill hated the fucking Hindooooos and their 'naked fakeeeeers'. By contrast, Zetland- who had published a book in 1904 about his travels in the Far East- had come to the conclusion that Islam was incompatible with Constitutionalism whereas the Eastern Religions- once you got past priestly elites (e.g. Brahmins in India) and once modern education had begun to reach the masses- permitted rapid progress towards the Western ideal. 

In fairness to the Mahatma, it must be said that his illogical interjections seldom represented his own political instincts. Zetland knew that Gandhi had been initially very conciliatory with regard to the 1937 elections as well as the declaration of War two years later. Thus Zetland always referred to Gandhi, when addressing Parliament, in the most laudatory terms. By so doing, Zetland was keeping his real enemy- Churchill- in check. Indeed, his own party had come to see Churchill's views on India to be those of a crackpot. Sadly, Churchill became Prime Minister just as the Congress Ministries resigned. This was a 'day of deliverance' not just for the Muslim League but also Churchill who imagined that he could somehow reverse all the progress that had been made over the previous twenty years and preserve India for the King Emperor. 

Furthermore, in drawing attention to Gandhi's lies, we have to admit that other Indian politicians were not just liars, they had an inveterate hatred of anything that might, in howsoever aleatory a manner, pass for veracity. My favorite example is Satyamurthy telling the Secretary of State that 'A purely communal Party, with no political faith or programme, has been put in power' and the inevitable result would be that a peaceful province would soon 'become the Ulster of India'. Was Satyamurthy complaining about the Muslim League? Did he foresee the ethnic cleansing of people of his own religion? No. The guy was talking about the Justice Party in Madras which was Hindu but, quite rightly, objected to a bunch of arrogant and ignorant Brahmins pretending they were superior to their own erstwhile patrons- the aristocrats and merchants and prosperous cultivators. Brahminical arrogance could be called 'elitism' but it was not 'communal' because a community is bound together by a common religion. Hinduism requires the Brahmin to subsist on alms freely donated by members of ruling, mercantile or productive communities. Indeed, a person of Brahmin heritage who takes up employment as a bureaucrat or lawyer is not a Brahmin at all though, for purposes of arranged marriage, this can be overlooked. On the other hand, Scripture shows that non-Brahmins can become Priests by performing certain ceremonies. But few would want to do any such thing. 

Olivier, like Chirol, Zetland etc. was under the impression that Brahmins- for reasons of religious fanaticism- were behind every extremist movement against the British. He told Parliament 

'In the Madras Council, owing to the enormous preponderance of non-Brahmins, a wholly non-Brahmin Ministry has been set up, and I noticed a movement in the Madras Council to protest that the interests of minorities were not being properly considered; that is to say, that the communal system, giving an enormous preponderance of non-Brahmin voters in Madras, was, in the opinion of the Swarajists, being somewhat misused.

It is clear, from the context, that Olivier thought Brahmins should be included so that some common-sense might rub off on them and their fanaticism might be moderated. However, it is ludicrous to suggest that Brahmins- by definition a priestly Hindu class- belonged to a different community to other South Indian Hindus. Why on earth did Satyamurthy make such a strange suggestion? He was a good man, but in this case parochial prejudices blinded him. 

The reason Indians found it easy to agree only so they could then disagree as to what had been agreed was because their recent History had made them pessimistic.  Fears for the future overmastered hope. Everything might turn out to be the thin edge of the wedge. Thus the 'argumentative Indian' preferred stasis to motion of any type because, recent history had taught them, change tended to be for the worse- at least as far as they were concerned.

Olivier, who had repudiated a similarly paranoid type of Socialism in his youth, told Parliament-


The Party to which I belong did not start off as did the earlier Socialists. The first thing it had to have was an intelligent and understanding constituency which would know what they were driving at and would support unitedly their representatives in Parliament. Here, as in all our political developments, we did not begin at the top but at the bottom. We saw that there could he no Parliamentary stability whatever and no progress in any kind of change or revolution unless the Parliamentary constitution and representation were based upon a real, vital, organic constituency of common interests and understanding, which, as I have said, is singularly absent in India.

Technologically driven Industrial Capitalism had created a class of people in England who were paid money wages for the work they did. The vast majority of Indians were not employees of any type. Capitalism had not- and still has not- created such a class which might come to power through the ballot box or, at the very least, have great influence over the Legislature.

Olivier was aware of this. He thought Indian politics would start at the village level and expand upwards and outwards. 

We say that it is impossible for the Indian people, for the Indian politicians, at once to leap into the saddle and administer without disastrous religious and other dissensions the most ideal constitution which might be framed. When we contemplate the interval which shall occur before the revision of the Constitution, we do not look at it in this way, We do not say. I mention that some offence has been taken at this—: "We will make you a nice little half-way Constitution, we will put in nice Governors and intelligent officials to show you how to work British Parliamentary institutions." We say : "You have to arrive at the other side of the river. You have to arrive at responsible Government. We provide you, according to the best of our abilities, with what we think, and what many of you think so far as we can make out, is a seaworthy boat. The only way you can get to the other side of that river is by getting into the boat and rowing. It is no use whatever to stand on the bank, to refuse to get into the boat, and to say : ' We are not going to go anywhere without responsible Dominion Government.' "

This is a case of solvitur ambulando. You must get into the boat. If you want to make a political constitution stable you must become a member of Parliament and have a constituency. You must learn to work with persons who differ from you without at once calling for a holy war from your followers—an experiment, however, which has been largely followed in Ireland, where they resorted to methods which seem likely to be popular in India. There is, of course, that danger, and it is the view of the Labour Party that you must build up not only your political party, but your political constituency. That can only be done by Parliamentary experience ranging over a certain number of years

Olivier seems to have predicted that- as in Ireland- there would be two boats. Independence was only impossible once this was admitted. Till then, Gandhi's imbecility had to prevail. 

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Pankaj Mishra's Brazilian waxing wroth

The always irate Pankaj Mishra writes in Blomberg-

Two decades ago, a Goldman Sachs executive coined the label BRICs to describe four big emerging nations: Brazil, Russia, India and China. 

Jim O'Neil was right about China. Manmohan lost the battle in 2012 to reform India so it could compete. Goldman Sachs had closed down its BRIC fund which had lost 80 percent of its value since 2010.

Rapid growth and expansion of the ranks of the wealthy in these countries vindicated the faith of investors. 

Capital appreciation vindicates investor fate. That's all that matters.

Their leaders started to hold annual summit meetings and even established their own development bank.

That was India's idea. It will probably turn out to be an own goal.

 They invited South Africa to become a member in 2011, conveniently completing the catchy acronym.

Yup, the thing turned to shit quickly enough.

But conceits devised by Western boosters of globalization had become obsolete well before the pandemic dramatically altered global realities this past year. China, for instance, long ago graduated from “emerging” status. 

So the 'conceit' wasn't a conceit at all. India could have reformed. Brazil could have avoided corruption. Russia needn't have invaded Crimea. 

With its hydrocarbon-dependent and isolationist economy, Russia never belonged in the group.

Russia could have gone in a very different direction. It has some successful industries.


Today, the heedless celebration of fast growth and wealth creation seems to belong to a naive and unreflective age. 

No. Today we understand why things went wrong and how easy it would have been to prevent things going wrong. On the the other hand, there can be no doubt that the growth potential was there.

Meanwhile, evidence that post-pandemic inequality will be lethal to everyday social order, let alone democracy, in emerging economies is mounting

For Mishra evidence of a return to the Soviet ideology he worshipped as a kid is always mounting. 

This became blindingly clear last month as South Africa, by
some measures the most unequal country in the world, descended into its worst violence since the end of apartheid.

Because Zuma was put in jail.

Looters, vandals and arsonists rampaged across the country, destroying shopping malls and industrial warehouses, and burning lorries. Hundreds of people died. Property and business losses amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, and recovery will take years.

Mishra was jizzing in his pants as he typed this.


The immediate provocation for the rioting was the sentencing of former president Jacob Zuma to 15 months in prison for refusing to cooperate with an inquiry into corruption during his nine years in office. The pandemic that has killed more than 70,000 South Africans and plunged many more into destitution played its part. But rage had long been building up in the country, where unemployment stands at record levels (33%), and where many people lack food, power and running water as well as jobs.

Similarly the hoodie riots under David Cameron were caused by rage building up. Looters aren't opportunistic. They have anger management issues.

Those same factors will play a central role when — and there is no “if” here — similarly extensive breakdowns occur in India and Brazil.

Not if the Indians and the Brazilians shoot the rioters and beat and imprison those who instigate them. 

The necessary ingredients — extreme social divisions of race, religion, class and caste; widening gaps between city and country; and a baleful, incompetent, if not corrupt, ruling class — have been present for many years in both countries. They’ve only become more toxic in recent months.

Mishra, by contrast, has always been just as toxic as he now is. 

Inequality has grown more concentrated in India, home to two out of the three richest tycoons in Asia — Mukesh Ambani (whose wealth is now estimated at $78 billion) and Gautam Adani ($53 billion). Meanwhile, in probably the largest-ever implosion of the middle class, the heart of any modern consumer economy, more than 200 million Indians have gone back to earning less than $5 a day.

Which is why the Left has disappeared and economic policy will now move towards the right. Manmohan wanted to do this ten years ago. 

India already accounted for nearly a third of the world’s malnourished people.

because it stuck with stupid Socialist policies longer and did not transfer rural girls into giant urban factory dormitories or otherwise suppress fertility amongst the very poor. 

 Aiding the wealthy with tax cuts for corporations, India’s Hindu nationalist government presently presides over an increase in hunger, even in urban areas, and among middle-class Indians.

Who understand that the country is over-populated. There isn't enough food to go around. That's good for a Hindu nationalist party in an overwhelmingly Hindu nation. 

In Brazil, where half a million people have lost their lives to the pandemic, the rich increased their share of national wealth by 2.7% last year; they now possess almost half of it. At the same time, the poorest 40% of Brazilians lost a fifth of their income, while average income per capita fell to its lowest level in a decade.

This does not necessarily mean Bolsanaro will be re-elected. But it does mean Lula or whoever he puts in will follow right wing policies. The alternative is to become like Venezuela. Peru however may go down that road.

As in India, widespread immiseration has been accompanied by an assault on democratic institutions. 

Truly democratic institutions would yield ethnic cleansing on a massive scale. 

Deepening his country’s Covid nightmare with his virus-denial and vaccine-baiting, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has undermined governance with a series of arbitrary decrees. In March, he fired his defense minister, evidently for resisting the president’s efforts to get the military to back him politically.

The Army has grown tired of that lunatic. Lula is out of prison.

Much attention since Brexit and Donald Trump’s election in 2016 has been focused on the ruinous political consequences of unchecked inequality in the world’s most advanced economies: permanent and rancorous polarization, a collapse of trust in democratic institutions, the rise of conspiracy theories and entrenchment of demagoguery.

But, in the UK, the 'Red Wall' collapsed and bumbling BoJo seems stronger than ever. Meanwhile Biden has delivered boondoggle on a massive scale but nothing else. Let's see if Nina Turner- who said voting for Biden was like eating shit- gets the Ohio congress seat she is after.

This process of social and political disintegration was always far advanced, though little noticed, in emerging economies. Moreover, it seems to have no corrective. The pandemic has now accelerated it. South Africa provides a glimpse of what might lie ahead for the onetime stars of globalization.

Shoot protestors. Do it now. Follow sensible economic policies. Ignore virtue signalers who gas on about human rights and hunger and inequality and so forth. The alternative is turning into Zimbabwe or Venezuela. 

In Mishra's alternative universe, evidence is always mounting that Bernie Sanders will pave the way for a Bolshevik takeover. History will at last conform to what he believed as a child. 


Monday, 2 August 2021

Is Jonah Blank the stupidest anthropologist ever?

Jonah Blank wrote a couple of books about India some years ago. Sadly, because he trained as an anthropologist, he is as stupid as shit. Consider the following article of his in the Atlantic-

When the G7 group of rich democracies assembles this weekend in southwest England, it will discuss issues including COVID-19, taxes, and climate change.

This is because people who didn't study anthropology tend to talk about stuff which matters.

 One item overhanging the formal agenda, however, will be the global deterioration of democracy itself, '

This is simply untrue. Trump has demitted office without the Army having to be called in. Brexit has not caused the outbreak of widespread cannibalism in Great Britain or even Northern Island. 

and the nation on which this question may hinge won’t be any of the hosts, but a guest invited to this year’s confab: India. 

South Africa was also invited. The situation there might be a bit troubling, but India's position isn't troubling at all. Russia used to be part of the G8 but was suspended after the invasion of Crimea. India has attended these conferences as a guest of the presiding nation for some years now.

Democracy’s fate there may determine its fate throughout the world.

Nonsense! The Americans aren't suddenly going to demand to become a colony again if the Indians decide to become a monarchy. 

 At the moment, the signs aren’t looking good—and that should be a flashing-red warning beacon for the rest of us.

Coz America may decide to become a Hindu Rashtra if India does. 


Why is India the hinge point?

It isn't.  Blank is pretending otherwise because he has written a couple of books about India and is trying to make out that they may be worth reading. 


 The most obvious answer is the optics: When propagandists in Beijing describe democracy as a Western ideal unsuited to non-Western peoples, having a standard-bearer from the formerly colonized rather than the former colonizers is vital.

That was Kennedy's idea. But it failed almost immediately. After 1962, the newly independent countries of Africa drew the conclusion that a One Party State was preferable- if you could get away with it. Authoritarian 'tiger economies' did well economically. So did Franco's Spain. On the other hand, some polities had no alternative but to be multi-party democracies because the Army couldn't or wouldn't grab power or prop up a dictator. India fell into this category. 


 But India’s importance goes far beyond narrative.

For Indians- sure. Nobody else greatly cares. Look what happened when credentialized nutters like Blank got Modi banned from entering the USA. Modi's stature grew. The Indian Security Establishment cooled towards the US because, as Obama said, its foreign policy consisted of doing stupid shit. Sadly, Obama new foreign policy of trying do less stupid shit did not succeed. Then came Trump and now we have Biden who has basically given up on Diplomacy. His big aim is not to let China overtake the US on his watch...which, given his age, can't be very long. 

The world’s most successful democracies are mostly small, wealthy, and homogenous. 

India is a successful democracy because Hindus, who are the majority, want to hang together because experience has taught them that they soon hang separately if they don't unite.

If Islam hadn't posed an existential threat, it is possible that Hindus would have preferred to have lots of small states- some monarchical, some not- and thus gained the benefit of 'Tiebout sorting'- i.e. mobility between localized regimes with different fiscal and external economy mixes. 

As Gandhi said in 1939, Congress was a Hindu party and feared domination by the more aggressive Muslims and Punjabis (including Hindu Punjabis who would throw in their lot with their Muslims and Sikh brethren. Gandhi was a deeply silly man but many Hindus shared his fears.)


 In any case, India couldn't maintain territorial integrity while being anything else because the Army won't back up a dictator and no party is cohesive enough, or free enough of virtue signaling blathershites, to create a 'Liberation Army' of its own. An anthropologist might add that 'segmentary societies' tend to have more factionalism- e.g. in India there were a number of different Congress parties and Janata parties and Communist parties and Samajvadi parties and Dravidian parties and so on. Often these coalesce around a particular individual or 'caste' interest.

 The US too is a successful democracy- a big one. Why isn't it a bunch of small democracies? The answer is that the US fought a Civil War, in which more Americans died than during both World Wars, to preserve and extend its territorial integrity. 

Is America homogenous? I'd say- sure. All Americans are insufferable in exactly the same way. Americans may disagree.

The European Union may evolve into a single country. This would mean lots of small democracies becoming one big democracy. There can only be a few big countries. There will always be lots more small countries. Blank is a cretin. He has never heard of Pareto power laws. 

Any list you might consult will highlight nations such as Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway.

This cretin is supposed to be a 'foreign policy expert'. Yet he consults lists. What will his next big revelation be- that he looks up countries in an Atlas before giving his sage advise to the 'Council on Foreign Relations'? Why not simply consult the kids at the local Elementary School playing 'Model U.N'?

 The Economist Intelligence Unit gives all of the top 10 spots in its annual Democracy Index to rich Western nations—most of which have populations smaller than that of Maryland. But these nations look nothing like the places where the mass of humanity lives.

What a profound observation! What's next? Will Blank discover that poor countries have more poor people while rich countries tend to look kind of affluent?

Of the world’s 10 most populous nations, only the United States and India are long-established democracies. Two (China and Russia) are undisguised autocracies, and the other six can be charitably described as “democracies in progress.” That a political system works for Iceland—which has 341,000 residents, almost all of them practically relatives—means little to Brazil, Indonesia, or Nigeria. 

Blank's writings mean nothing to everybody.

A real proof of concept can be found only in a nation that is big, low-income, and abundantly diverse—in ethnicity, language, religion, and every other way a society can be divided.

This cretin does not get that 'proof of concept' relates to things which don't currently exist but which may be feasible. 


That’s India. If democracy can make it there, it can make it anywhere.

No. It is obvious that India can't be anything other than a democracy. The Emergency might be said to be an experiment in Dictatorship. But it was a disproof of concept. The problem with autocracy is that it is vulnerable to assassination. What India does not offer is an example of a political party which is cohesive. The fact is people denied a seat by one party go to the other party. Thus, one of Indira Gandhi's grandsons is with the BJP while the other is with Congress. In bigger families, we often find cousins belonging to four or five different parties. 

Until recently, democracy clearly could make it there.

What was the alternative? The Army was too narrowly recruited, geographically speaking, to make a bid for power while the Communist parties were too factionalized. Typically, in India, you vote for one party in the municipal or panchayat elections, a different party for the State Legislature and a third party for the Central Parliament. That trend has been reinforced over the last few decades. 

 Upon gaining independence in 1947, India established a parliamentary system and enacted a liberal, far-reaching constitution.

So did everybody else- then the Army took over or the Commies grabbed power or there was Civil War as happened in Sri Lanka.

 Its sole deviation from the democratic path was a period of “Emergency” (1975 to 1977), which stemmed more from then–Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s paranoia than any challenge to her party’s rule.

Sheer nonsense! Indira had split the Congress and her faction was challenged by the older generation of leaders. The 'Janata Morcha' did displace her but proved incompetent. 

 With this and several other notable exceptions (periods of insurgency in Kashmir and Punjab, too-frequent local injustices against marginalized communities), rule of law has done better in India than in most other nations.

India uses extra judicial methods against insurgents as well as criminal gangs if their activities get out of hand. Speaking generally, Voters deeply approve.

But India’s democracy has seen worrisome erosion. On The Economist’s list, the country has slid from No. 35 in 2006 to No. 53 today. 

In 2006, the Economist listed India as a flawed democracy. By 2020, France and the US too were listed as flawed democracies. Nobody noticed. The ranking system is garbage and, anyway, the thing has no commercial implications.


And the ways in which democracy is being undermined there provide a wake-up call to those watching from afar—including in the United States.

Sadly, nothing can 'wake-up' the brain dead.

At the root of the backsliding, in India as elsewhere, 

e.g. France or Italy which are both listed as 'flawed democracies'.

is a rejection of the core democratic principle that all citizens are equal. 

So, Britain is not a democracy coz I have inferior rights and prerogatives compared to the Queen Gor' bless 'er. 

India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) champions Hindutva, an ideology that privileges the Hindu majority over religious minorities. 

The UK is listed as a full democracy. It has an Established Church. The Head of State must belong to it. Only Christianity, not any other religion, is protected by blasphemy laws. Norway too has a State Church, though- since 2017- priests aren't state employees. 

First articulated a century ago, Hindutva has grown from a fringe movement into the focus of national politics. Its immediate target has been the country’s Muslims, who represent 14 percent of the population.

Really? Then how come there are Muslim Ministers belonging to the BJP?

 If India transforms itself from a secular democracy (as is mandated by its constitution)

by an amendment made by Indira 

 into an avowedly Hindu nation, 276 million non-Hindus will become second-class citizens.

Just like non-Anglicans in England or non-Lutherans in Norway- two countries long recognized as full democracies. India could change its constitution to declare itself a Hindu nation or a Scientological nation but, so long as the thing is done as by law established, it would not cease to be a Democracy. 


Sectarian tensions flared throughout the BJP’s rise to power, and the flames were often fanned by the party itself. In 2014, Narendra Modi supplanted a generation of soft-edged figures and led the party to electoral victory.

Why? Because Rahul refused to run for the top job. Had he done so, Advani would have been the BJP pick. They'd have kept Modi in reserve till Rahul fucked up like his dad fucked up in his first term. But Rahul was, quite understandably, gun-shy because granny and daddy had both been killed. 

 Although the only previous BJP prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had downplayed Hindutva in favor of less divisive center-right policies, Modi has made it the centerpiece of his governing strategy.

Nope. He made governance the centerpiece of his governing strategy. Since voters prefer governance to a greedy grabbing of as much money as you can while in office, he grew stronger in office. Meanwhile the Left  committed suicide by championing jihadi terrorists and opposition to the Ram mandir. The only Indian this cretin quotes in this essay is a Lefty who left India long ago and who now teaches some shite at Princeton or somewhere of that sort.

The first illiberal thrust was launched not against the hardware of democracy (the electoral system) but the software that enables it to operate—that is, an apolitical judiciary, a free press, and other elements of civil society.

Indira demanded, and got, a 'committed' Judiciary when I was in short pants. 

Some Indian politicians and public intellectuals kept did babble nonsense about 'Civil Society' and 'illiberalism' till they stopped being politicians or found they had resigned from any University that would take them and thus weren't intellectuals anymore- just unemployed academics. Meanwhile Prashant Kishore- an engineer who can crunch numbers- has become the king-maker of Indian politics. Nobody listens to Anthropologists or Sociologists or Political Scientists because they have all proven to be ignorant and stupid.

India’s judicial system has bent to the wishes of politicians since 2014. 

No. The Supreme court has imposed its will on the Government. They decided the three big issues which, it must be said, Modi has taken advantage of.
1) The Bench carried out the Nationality Register exercise in Assam. They threw a grenade into the lap of the Government. Shah brought in the CAA to save face and, thankfully, the Left rose to the bait. Elderly Muslim women protesting against non-Muslims being able to escape forcible conversion, helped Modi consolidate the Hindu vote.
2) The Bench decided Kashmir did not have 'even a shred of sovereignty', which then meant Shah could scrap its 'special status'.
3) The Bench awarded the Ram Mandir site to the Hindus. The BJP was somehow able to prevent the various Hindu sects from quarrelling over the spoils and so the thing has been a big success for them. 

In the early years of Modi’s premiership, Uttar Pradesh, India’s biggest state, whose population is larger than all but four of the world’s nations, saw dozens of murderous attacks on Muslims by Hindu mobs, who accused their victims (in almost all cases falsely) of cow slaughter. 

But UP was not ruled by the BJP at that time. Draconian laws relating to beef were brought in by Congress, not the BJP. However, what the UP voter wants is the extra judicial murder of gangsters. They seem to be getting it under Yogi Adityanath. 

The BJP sided with the killers: 

In UP you side with your side. If a Brahmin gangster is killed, Brahmins are miffed. It must be said that when Muslims are being killed- if they are the minority- everybody joins in. Mahatma Gandhi noticed that people from his party were very vigorous in killing innocent Muslims. Indeed, Nehru presided over the biggest mass-murder of Muslims the sub-continent has ever seen. Congress, it must be said, was always the muscular Hindu party. The RSS was the weak and provincial sister of the Congress Seva Dal. When you needed Muslims killed, you didn't go to Shyam Prasad Mukherjee, of the Hindu Mahasabha; you went to Gandhi's Marwari financiers who ensured that tough Biharis and Punjabis would turn out to do the needful.


When the party won state elections in 2017, it appointed as chief minister a firebrand Hindu cleric who had promoted this vigilante action.

He is doing very well. But, as I said, killing gangsters is what will get him re-elected. 

 Since then, the state’s judicial system has declined to punish most of the offenders—and the nation’s Supreme Court has contented itself with issuing only tsk-tsks.

Tushar Gandhi's petition was too vague for any other result. Virtue signaling PILs are a nuisance which should be curbed.

Likewise, attacks on India’s press have grown brazen. Of the past decade’s 405 cases filed against journalists under a colonial-era sedition law, all but a few have been registered since Modi took office.

Those laws were beefed up after Independence. Fucking up journalists is popular with voters because journalists are now seen as fearless seekers after hush money. Blank may not be aware that India's First Amendment is exactly opposite to America's. 

 The Caravan, an outlet known for its dogged investigation of the BJP, has been singled out for special harassment

And nobody gives a shit. Caravan was crazy enough to claim that a Judge had been killed by fellow Judges who were angry that he was not taking a big bribe from the Chief Justice of the State. This defies logic. Judges don't kill people- they get killers to kill people. They may fall out over the division of bribe money- they don't the one or two non-corrupt judges within their ranks because they benefit by being able to overturn their judgments, for much larger consideration, on appeal.

 Junior judges have to bribe senior judges so as to be assigned lucrative cases. Caravan should simply have said that the Judge who died of a heart-attack had been viciously raped to death by his fellow judges because he had excited their lust by impersonating Rahul Baba. This is plausible- at least compared to the yarn they were spinning. 

Still, rags like Caravan help Modi because they incarnates everything Anglophone Indians hate about the Left. 

Less than a month ago, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram acceded to government demands to block some journalists’ posts. The bans are under review by the platforms, but they have achieved their purpose. Many feisty Indian journalists now choose their words carefully.

Unless they are paid to be careless. Being feisty is so not worth it if you don't get paid. 

Weakening these civil-society foundations enabled the next stage of Modi’s program: the use of democracy’s mechanisms to undermine democracy’s core.

This is utterly mad. The vast majority of India's voters have zero interaction with Anglophone journalism or the higher ranks of the judiciary. TV anchors can have an influence but some are pro BJP and some aren't. 

The Bench can't enforce its orders- e.g. water sharing between States- where the thing is politically infeasible and knows this very well. Its activism was a function of policy paralysis- successive Administrations kicking the can down the road by referring the matter to the Courts. 

In 2019, Modi returned to office with an absolute parliamentary majority. Shortly after, he abrogated the special status written into the constitution for Jammu and Kashmir (India’s sole Muslim-majority state). Protests in Kashmir were met with a months-long clampdown. Modi followed up with actions that officially and unofficially advantaged Hindus over Muslims nationwide. Demonstrations against these moves peaked in December 2019, and were extinguished only by a COVID-19 lockdown three months later.

The minority protested against being a minority. Sadly, this did not turn it into a majority. It was hoped that the Left-Liberals would be able to create a 'rainbow coalition'. But they were useless. Meanwhile every Indian politician is desperate to get Prashant Kishore to work for them. 

All of these moves would have been anathema to the drafters of India’s constitution.

Really? The guys who deprived Dalit Muslims of affirmative action, which they had previously enjoyed, and made Hindi in the devanagari script the official language, and put Cow Protection into the Constitution would have had a problem with Modi? Are you kidding me? These guys changed the law so that Muslims who had fled in panic could not return to their property. Nehru, in Delhi, presided over a plummeting of its Muslim population and the deliberate ghettoization of the small fraction who remained. In the Fifties and Sixties, the Custodian of Evacuee Property kept harassing wealthy Muslims till they were forced to emigrate. Has Blank never read Midnight's Children? That's what happened to Salman Rushdie's daddy. 

 Yet all were within the technical limits of the law, and none has been seriously challenged in the nation’s now-quiescent courts. 

Hold the front page! The legal Government does legal things. What a shocker!

The fecklessness of opposition parties made the BJP’s task easier, but the tools were provided by the governing system itself: The BJP has never earned anything close to a majority of the popular vote, but because of India’s first-past-the-post electoral system,

like America's or Britain's first past the post system

 its lock on power is firm.

To the same extent that the Democratic party's lock on the White House is firm

 In 2019, 37.4 percent of the vote (the BJP’s highest total ever) translated into 55.8 percent of the seats in Parliament.

No party has ever won 50 percent or more of the vote- even Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 who got almost 80 percent of the seats.


Gyan Prakash, a scholar of the Emergency,

a stupid Leftist whom nobody bothers with in India.

 sees the greatest threat to democracy in this “shadow legality”: the use of lawfare to subvert the foundation of constitutional government. 

But Indians see him as a cretin. Which Indian politician is saying 'guys, what does Gyan Prakash think about this?' None at all. Prashant Kishore- on the other hand- they will always take a call from. 

And he sees India’s example as having global implications. “Modi is part of a much larger phenomenon,” he told me. “This is a project to mobilize all state institutions, and change India’s democratic and plural politics and culture.”

Who in their right mind would listen to Gyan Prakash or Vivek Chibber? You may as well talk to the cat about quantum mechanics.

Do constitutional questions matter to a farmer scraping by on $4 a day (the national average)? They should. As the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen once noted, “No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy.” 

Sen was from East Bengal. There were two big famines there under popular, elected, Muslim leaders. Sen was lying. Indians now consider him a fool and blame him for the Nalanda fiasco.


India is now facing its most serious natural disaster since independence, in the coronavirus pandemic. Even by official figures (which significantly undercount the victims), India is the world’s coronavirus epicenter: 29 million sickened, more than 350,000 dead, and no end in sight.

But the US has twice the number of deaths with a much smaller population! The Spanish flu killed 14 million Indians when the population was about a quarter of what it is now. 

 A great many of these cases were preventable. Modi’s response to the pandemic has swung from oppressive lockdown to maskless political rallies and the encouragement of a super-spreader Hindu pilgrimage with 9 million attendees. A political system in which the government could be held accountable might have yielded a different outcome.

Not if people refuse to comply. You can't jail the majority. 

All of this may sound familiar to American ears. 

Because it is written by an American. The problem is that once Americans understand that many Indians earn just 4 dollars a day, they realize that it is very foolish to compare Indian politics with American politics. 

President Donald Trump labeled the press the “enemy of the people” and attempted to intimidate sitting judges.

But he wasn't re-elected. Modi was. But Modi knows very well that he owes his ascent entirely to the Left Liberal media. They insulted Gujarat when they calumnied Modi and so the Gujaratis rallied behind Modi giving him an unprecedented longevity as Chief Minister. The same thing is happening again with Modi as PM. His rival- Rahul Gandhi- is believed to be so stupid and ignorant that he thinks Amartya Sen, not Prashant Kishore, is worth listening to.

 A critical mass of the Republican Party is at least as motivated by white grievance as the BJP base is by Hindutva. And laws recently passed in Georgia and proposed elsewhere would let partisan state officials rather than voters determine elections. This might be technically in accord with the Constitution, but would be at odds with—well, democracy.

No. A democracy can decide to disenfranchise or even to ethnically cleanse a minority. America has plenty of experience with such things.

Perhaps the most dangerous threat of all is complacency. Whether doomscrolling Twitter or ignoring politics completely, most Americans share a baseline confidence that democracy will endure. But will it? American democracy isn’t nearly as deeply rooted as we like to believe. Half of the population (that is: the female half) weren’t generally permitted to vote until 1920. Black Americans in Jim Crow states (that is, most of them) had to wait nearly another half century. If measured by universal suffrage, how long has America been a true democracy? For less time than the Rolling Stones have been touring.

So India was a true democracy before America. Big whoop. 

This is why Americans should be paying close attention to the politics of India. The U.S. is not Iceland; it’s huge, diverse, and tough to govern. Only one other country with comparable size and complexity has given democracy a sustained, multigenerational shot. If the system fails in India, it can certainly fail closer to home.

This guy has a PhD from Harvard. Sadly, it was in Anthropology. He has advised the Senate on Foreign Relations and is high up with the RAND Corporation. No wonder China is eating America's lunch. 

Are there any other Americans who believe that if a poor country far far away decides to elect some guy Jonah does not like then the Red States will secede and reintroduce Slavery and strip Women of the Vote and force them all to have babies incessantly? Sure- because it has already happened. Trump modelled himself on Modi! If you listen carefully to his speeches, you will find he is actually speaking Gujerati! Not that Joe Biden (real name Jodhabhai Patel) is any different. On the other hand, Kamala Harris is the King of Norway- which isn't yet a flawed democracy (according to the Economist) and thus is superior to the USA or India. America must become a Monarchy like Norway, with a State Church, if it is to rise up in The Economist's rankings from being a 'flawed democracy' to join Denmark and Sweden as a proper Democracy with a crowned head of state. 

Saturday, 31 July 2021

Agnes Callard shitting on Socrates


Behind every great man- lesser men like to think- is a woman trying to push him out of her way so as to claim all the credit and hog the limelight. In the case of the golden age of Athens, that woman was Aspasia. 

Athens briefly attained a truly populist democracy, after Cleisthenes' reforms, under Themistocles and, more briefly yet, greatness under, Aspasia's protector, Pericles who though, like the first named, was of the cursed Alcmaeonid family, began his career- funding the production of Aeschylus's 'The Persians'- signaling support to Themistocles and solidarity with the poorer thetes. This meant prioritizing maritime military operations (where the thetes' contribution- rowing galleys- was vital) while remaining on the defensive on land (which gave less scope for the aristocratic cavaliers).  Though maritime Imperialism has its dangers- unless, like Britain, you are an island and relatively immune to land invasion- it can be associated with burgeoning trade and cultural exchange provided there is a democratic element to the polity and the native population sees the presence of foreigners, who can provide high value adding services, as beneficial to their own social mobility. I suppose, it was in this particular that Solon's reforms- e.g granting citizenship to those who brought their families to settle in Athens- paved the way to that City's pre-eminent glory.

On the other hand, high taxes and costly liturgical duties (like financing the plays of Aeschylus & Aristophanes) imposed on the elite caused a revolt against Democracy once war ceased to be a source of profit and became a drain on resources. Socrates, because of his supposed influence of sprigs of the aristocracy, became a casualty of this civil strife. Part of the charm of Plato's dialogues is that they recall a happier time when it seemed that maritime Imperialism could somehow magically pay for itself and thus the different social classes could prosper together. 

Pericles died when Socrates was about 40. Athens' decline, geopolitically speaking, was swift. The Menexenus is a Socratic dialogue which parodies Pericles's great funeral speech which, Socrates says was actually cobbled together by Aspasia who, it seems, had favoured Socrates in a like manner. The guy also says he will dance naked. Clearly the thing is a parody and there a lot of 'in-jokes' which can scarcely matter much to us. 

However there are two more general points which might usefully be made

1) Athens attained greatness and won immortal renown because it possessed men whose deeds were as impressive, if not more so, than their words. Experts of all types had flocked to Athens. Pericles himself enjoyed the company of the philosophers Protagoras from Abdera, Zeno of Elea, and, most particularly, Anaxagoras, from Persian ruled Asia Minor. Socrates himself was condemned to death for championing the role of the expert rather than trusting to the wisdom of one chosen by lot. The irony here is that the 'elenchos' cross examination by Socrates's accuser (kategoros) succeeds because what may be true of Mathematics or Aesthetics is not true of the Law- which is protocol bound and 'buck-stopped'. 

This is because where there is an accusation, there must be categories such that behaviour which is excusable under one rubric is found not to be so under another. Reality must be 'carved up along its joints' or, as St. Paul says, methexis in Ecclesia is achieved when you 'Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth'.

Socrates failed to establish that what he was accused of fell under the category of things healthful to the polis, not destructive of it- unlike the actions of Critias or Alcibiades. But, the curse of the autochthone is the opposite of that of aristocratic Alcmaeonidae whose oikos may be nourished by exile or Spartan alliances. As is a woman, of light reputation but a heavy protector, nevertheless entirely buried with her disgraced son, so too with the poor, the native, what yet lights up Athens and Jerusalem above cities- which, like Liverpool or Alexandria, Music might abandon, not God- is that which Cavafy could easily find a ship to take himself from. 

Words may be categorically different from deeds but they are not mere wind- or the 'wind-eggs' of Socratic maieutics. Denying the gods, if Justice is a god, provokes the vengeance of deeds on words- even such as represent eudoxa (sound conventional opinion) but which fail to defend themselves successfully under 'elenchos' (cross-examination of the Socratic type).

 But Plato has Socrates suggest that his death will bring Athens a great windfall- as when Orithuia was abducted by Boreas and, becoming his wife, caused that God to intervene against the Persians at Cape Sepias. This recalls to my mind the first book in the English language known to be written by a woman which invokes the Word made flesh in the figure of our tender Mother Jesus (who) can lead us easily into his blessed breast through his sweet open side, and show us there a part of the godhead and of the joys of heaven, with inner certainty of endless bliss.  This book was published by a chaplain to a foreign Queen some three hundred years after it was written.

Aspasia, herself a foreigner,  was supposed to have had an affair with Anaxagoras (and also one with the young Socrates before he saw the light shone out of the backsides of beardless youths) was accused of corrupting the women of Athens to satisfy Pericles' perversions. However, Pericles had introduced a law barring those with a non Athenian parent from citizenship. Thus 'perversion' had been kept at bay.  It is noteworthy that Anaxagoras, a foreigner, was attacked by the
ecclesia for his religious beliefs though, unlike Socrates, he was not killed. After all, laws differ in different jurisdictions. Exile is not death nor the fact that far away folk have different customs any outrage to what we consider eusebia.

Of course, a polis may abstain from striving for hegemony while still attracting high quality immigrants with valuable skills. The problem with going in the other direction is that lots of your own most talented people may be driven into exile because they object to costly wars and demagogic corruption. Medea's children, had they been of an age to reason, would have abandoned her before she could slaughter them, thus gaining immortal renown for her spiritedness.

Still, the fact remains, if greatness departs a City so does a particular aura which would otherwise envelop its thinkers and poets. They would be seen as merely providing a service, competing with the hair-dresser or the personal trainer or the accomplished courtesan. 

2) When the substance departs and only a shadow remains, Love becomes an end in it itself, not a means to some other sort of mutual burgeoning or 'sumphusis'. This may be good for literature- Dante droning on about Beatrice- but literature is merely a type of entertainment, though no doubt it may be colonized by a credentialist paideia. 

Anaxagoras settled in Athens at about the time of Salamis. His proto-scientific and humanistic attitudes appear reflected to us in the lapidary yet lucid periods of Euripides which ever flash and melodiously flow the more dazzlingly for destined to a sunless sea. 

 Socrates too, with Socratic irony, dissimulates ignorance even when it genuinely was ignorance rather than an incontinent, or superbly spirited, embracing of a fate Anaxagoras, a foreigner, avoided. There can be no doubt that Socrates loved Athens as only an autochthone could. But Love is about deeds as much as words, substance as much as shadow, and making babies as much as babbling meretricious shite about maieutics. Socrates, it is true, did not commodify his ultracrepidarian irony. But Plato, with the sure-footed cunning of the rich, did well out of it. 

Why did Socrates, a native born Athenian man, follow Aspasia- a mere woman and that too a foreigner- in eroticizing the cultivation of Intelligence or the skillful application of Reason? It is tempting to say that wealthy, or well born, men could make choices and change the fate of polities. Women and the poor- Socrates was the son of a stone-mason who seems not to have profited in any way from his undoubted charm and intelligence- might have little choice but choose to protest greater love and devotion to... not things as they are but as they might be viewed in an idealized world. In this sense, a mistress might claim to be enchanted by- not the balding old coot who supports her financially- but the dashing gallant burnished by his own legend. 

Wisdom is valuable in so far as it enables us to choose wisely. If one has little choice in one's life, it may be wise to profess a love of wisdom- perhaps people will trust you with more choices to make- but with this proviso. The Wisdom one loves is not one which always decides in one way or another. Rather, as Socrates says, love of wisdom is about being able to give as good a reason against as for any matter at issue. Thus love of wisdom might burgeon as the profession of talking about choices without ever making any. The ageing prostitute and more useless type of pedant- though unlovely and ignorant- may yet, by the charm of their conversation and the passion they simulate without stimulating, make a shabby genteel living. By contrast, anyone can be a martyr, a witness to a truth of Thymos and, ironically, dissimulated ignorance is as an Adamic fall or Cross-tree's portion of gall. The Logos puts on flesh, while yet the flesh puts off death but only so death triumph over death. 

Meanwhile, life becomes more effortlessly itself as when a boat speeds to its destination, sails big-bellied with wind. 

The fact is, wise man may make great choices without ever being able to give reasons for them. However, for those not so favorably constituted, it is useful to have a science of 'formulaic' optimization. True, this is a 'second best' solution- as when the wind fails the galley sails and many hands must work the oars. 

 In category theory- a more abstract and generalizing branch of mathematics- 'adjoint functors' often arise when we are looking for a 'most efficient' solution. In particular, adjointness obtains where directed or directive determinations yield the same results as indirect determinations by 'factorized' universals. 

Consider Socrates. Either he is wise and his action is decipherable through such a 'factorization' or else his wisdom is directly determinative. Alternatively, there are no 'universals' and the man was a fool. A middle way would consider in what respects Socrates was different from those whom he talked to or those who preserved his memory. What was wise for him may have been folly for them and vice versa. Reading Socrates, who himself spoke of 'palinode'- i.e. reversing oneself while in the full flow of eloquence- we may ourselves perform its hermeneutic equivalent- i.e. we reverse the meaning we are receiving. Plato, it seems, had a gift of capturing this process. We 'participate' (μέθεξις- methexis) in a mimesis (a representation rather than an exact record) of a philosophic conversation among well bred Greeks who lived in a place and a time which the memory of our Race gilds and glorifies.

 However, Plato is also known for instituting the first school to be known as an Academy and for insisting that Maths be taught there. It would thus behoove present day academics, more particularly those who write about Plato's Socrates, to apply developments in category theory to a type of moral philosophy which is 'categorical'- i.e. similar in its method to jurisprudence but to an epistemic end. After all, if Plato was right then- in some sense- mathematics is adjoint to philosophy though they are very different in form.

 A ‘‘heteromorphic’’ theory about adjoints is an abstract way of looking at how autonomous behavior can emerge within a system obeying certain laws. Natural language, intelligently used or understood, is- of course- much more useful in evaluating moral claims. However, if one wants to do 'moral philosophy' then one needs to keep up to date with developments in mathematical logic if only so as to avoid programmatic errors. The theory of adjunction deals with situations where two different 'mappings' satisfy many of the same criteria but not all. This is like distinguishing terms which may in ordinary conversation be used interchangeably so as to gain a fresh insight or resolve a particular problem in a superior manner. The reason words which originate in mathematics are particularly useful is because a lot is known, at the most abstract level, about how they can be used and for what very useful purposes.

Making good decisions involves looking at what a thing is related to as its dual or adjoint- in other words something 'symmetric' in one sense but, in another sense, distinguishable by reason of a process. In doing so one has to be careful to see what limits both have. Examining this enables better 'hermeneutics'- i.e. interpretation- without much new contextual information- as well as  better 'heuristics'- i.e. smarter 'self-learning' rules which may enable one to make qualitatively better decisions or else to yourself be qualitatively changed. Equally, it may turn out to be a waste of time. It depends on what you are looking for and where you are looking. Studying to be wise if you are as stupid as shit may make you more ignorant and  prejudiced than when you started off. 


As a case in point, Agnes Callard- despite knowing some Maths and Greek- writes in Boston Review.

Philosophers aren’t the only ones who love wisdom.

Not all Philosophers acknowledge that 'wisdom' exists or that it is lovable as opposed to bitter and disillusioning nor that they love philosophy because they themselves can, as Socrates stipulates,  give as good a reason against anything they have argued for. 

To be wise, Socrates says, is to be like unto a God. One may love or otherwise aspire to that condition. But one may simultaneously loathe and studiously avoid any step towards it. 'Ye are as Gods' says another man in another City and the punitive stone falls from our hands. 

 Everyone, philosopher or not, loves her own wisdom: the wisdom she has or takes herself to have.

Only in the same sense that everyone hates her own wisdom. Indeed one may say that this hatred is in proportion to her love, or that her wisdom is the apotheosis of her ignorance, or that her cat is her beloved dog, or her beloved dog which is a cat is the lost pizza she delivers to herself in the realm of metaphysical pepperoni and mushroom. 

 What distinguishes the philosopher is loving the wisdom she doesn’t have. 

No. A philosopher is distinguished by the fact that she talks a lot about philosophy. If she gets paid for it- as Callard does- she is a professional philosopher. This does not necessarily entail loving anything- a philosopher may conclude that nothing should be loved- nor does it involve positing the existence of any type of 'wisdom'. 

Philosophy is, therefore, a form of humility: 

in the sense that dogs are cats and cats are a form of philosophy.

The truth is, Philosophy arises out of a desperate desire to acquire or gain a reward for purveying a Credential of a more or less bogus type. Far from representing humility, it can only arise out of an arrogant type of garrulity predicated on an usurpation of epistemic superiority.

being aware that you lack what is of supreme importance.

We are all aware that we lack immortal felicity and the ability to confer this on anyone we like while being able to eternally fuck over those we hate. 

It is of supreme importance to the continuation of your life at this moment that all sorts of things of which you are completely unaware continue to happen or happen in a different way. This is as true of biological processes going on within your body as it is of all sorts of political and economic and military operations occurring which are far beyond your ken. It is not the case that 'being aware of what you lack'- e.g the fact that you lack knowledge of whatever shite you happen to be blathering about- is of 'supreme importance'. 

There may be no human being who exemplified this form of humility more perfectly than Socrates.

History does not remember the truly humble. That's why humility is worth cultivating. 

 It is no coincidence that he is considered the first philosopher within the Western canon.

This is false. Thales of Miletus is considered the first philosopher in the Western canon. There has been considerable interest in pre-Socratic philosophy.

Socrates did not write philosophy; he simply went around talking to people. 

At the close of his life, he neglected not having dedicated himself to 'mousike'- i.e. poetic compositions which could be sung or chanted to a musical effect. He was writing some such shite but, despite his broad hints, his disciples refused to touch the thing with a bargepole. The reason Socrates has left no writings of his own, clearly, is because his admirers were firmly opposed to reading or transmitting his effusions. 

On the other hand, Socrates did criticize writing as tending to weaken the memory and solemnly averred that there was a time when people listened to oaks and stones. 

But these conversations were so transformative that Plato devoted his life to writing dialogues that represent Socrates in conversation. These dialogues are not transcripts of actual conversations, but they are nonetheless clearly intended to reflect not only Socrates’s ideas but his personality. Plato wanted the world to remember Socrates. 

Plato wanted wealthy young people to attend the Academy he had set up.

Generations after Socrates’s death, warring philosophical schools such as the Stoics and the Skeptics each appropriated Socrates as figurehead. Though they disagreed on just about every point of doctrine, they were clear that in order to count themselves as philosophers they had to somehow be working in the tradition of Socrates.

Then Christianity triumphed. Socrates's gods and daimons and oracles were condemned as the lures of the devil. Some theologians did claim to follow Aristotle- but Aristotle had said that Socrates, though coming later and speaking better than Pythagoras, was wrong about virtue. It is not to be found in the rational part of the soul. Faith, for the Church, remains a mystery to this day.

What is it about Socrates that made him into a symbol for the whole institution of philosophy?

Plato could be said to create the 'institution of philosophy'- i.e. the Academy- and the Academy may claim to systematize and further extend the work of those who lived in a ruder, perhaps happier, age. However, it was Plato's emphasis on Mathematics which set his Academy apart.

 Consider the fact that, when the Oracle at Delphi proclaims Socrates wisest of men, 

Everyone immediately assumed he was a babbling fool who was bound to fuck up his own life in the silliest way possible.

he tries to prove it wrong.

Which he could do just by opening his mouth and blathering away. 

 As Plato recounts it in the Apology:


I went to one of those reputed wise, thinking that there, if anywhere, I could refute the oracle and say to it: “This man is wiser than I, but you said I was.” Then, when I examined this man—there is no need for me to tell you his name, he was one of our public men—my experience was something like this: I thought that he appeared wise to many people and especially to himself, but he was not. I then tried to show him that he thought himself wise, but that he was not. As a result he came to dislike me, and so did many of the bystanders. So I withdrew and thought to myself: “I am wiser than this man; it is likely that neither of us knows anything worthwhile, but he thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas when I do not know, neither do I think I know; so I am likely to be wiser than he to this small extent, that I do not think I know what I do not know.”

I am myself the oracle which declared me to be the richest of men. Hoping to refute the oracle, I went to examine the richest man I know. Yes, he owned mansions and luxurious limousines and yachts and had beautiful mistresses. But none of these enviable possessions could turn into emanations of the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat. Nor could mine, but at least I knew this- by 'synoida'- whereas that poor beggar didn't have any inkling of the extent of his own poverty and immiserization in that respect. Indeed, I'm not just the richest of all men, but by similar arguments, the sexiest of all women and the most feline of all cats.

If Socrates’s trademark claim is this protestation of ignorance, his trademark activity is the one also described in this passage: refuting the views of others. 

There is no such trademark. If there could be intellectual property in stupidity, philosophers would be rich. 

These are the conversations we find in Plato’s texts. How are the claim and the activity related?

By stupidity.

 Socrates denies that his motivations are altruistic: he says he is not a teacher, and insists that he is himself the primary beneficiary of the conversations he initiates. This adds to the mystery: What is Socrates getting out of showing people that they don’t know what they take themselves to know? What’s his angle?

He gets to feel he is superior- e.g. by asserting he is wiser than a guy reputed for wisdom. 

Over and over again, Socrates approaches people who are remarkable for their lack of humility—which is to say, for the fact that they feel confident in their own knowledge of what is just, or pious, or brave, or moderate.

Taking arrogant or self-satisfied people down a peg or two is not the act of a humble man more particularly if he ends up saying he has more of the quality for which the other guy is famous. 

 You might have supposed that Socrates, whose claim to fame is his awareness of his own ignorance, would treat these self-proclaimed “wise men” (Sophists) with contempt, hostility, or indifference. 

The sophist (σοφιστής, sophistes) was a master of a craft or, more generally, one reputed wise and prudent. A wise man, or sage, was called σοφός (sofós). Arguably, Socrates- though appearing polite- was treating his interlocutors with contempt- he genuinely didn't think they deserved their reputation or lived up to their own self-image. Displaying great passive aggressive hostility- he sought to twist their words and make them look foolish- while remaining indifferent to anything useful that they might impart. 

But he doesn’t. The most remarkable feature of Socrates’s approach is his punctilious politeness and sincere enthusiasm.

Plato was a gentleman- i.e. rich and leisured- and is at pains to depict Socrates as a 'diamond in the rough'. The fellow may have been poor but he could dine with his betters without disgracing himself or his host. The fact that he was of lower class robbed his words of any sting they might otherwise have had. Indeed, he was a mere step above a licensed buffoon. 

 The conversation usually begins with Socrates asking his interlocutor: Since you think you know, can you tell me, what is courage (or wisdom, or piety, or justice . . .)? 

Parmenides showed how to shut Socrates up. It was by saying 'you have sought too soon to determine a particular 'eidos'- i.e. you are a premature ejaculator. 

Over and over again, it turns out that they think they can answer, but they can’t. 

Because, the thing is premature. Suppose I see a renowned painter who has set up his easel at a scenic spot. I go along and ask him what he is going to paint. He may, for politeness sake, say enough to give me an idea of what he is aiming at and how he is likely to proceed. What he can't give me is a perfect 'ekphrasis' or description in words of what he will produce. This doesn't mean he doesn't know what he is doing or that the painting he will ultimately produce would be the mere product of blind chance. 

Socrates’s hope springs eternal: even as he walks toward the courtroom to be tried—and eventually put to death—for his philosophical activity, he is delighted to encounter the self-important priest Euthyphro, who will, surely, be able to say what piety is. (Spoiler: he’s not.)

Euthyphro is not a priest- a hereditary vocation among the ancient Greeks- though, no doubt, he participates in family rituals. His father had caused the death of a 'thetes'- a paid servant- on their estate in Naxos. He has come to get a judgment against him- presumably so that the family might be purged of blood guilt by paying some small fine while gaining a reputation for 'eusebia' such that, in the future, even larger Colonial estates might be leased out to them. Christians may find this dialogue difficult to understand. For Hindus, the thing is clear. The Indo-Greeks translated 'dharma' as 'eusebia'. Dharma is very difficult to know, but by scrupulously reporting one's own family's crimes (e.g. if the daughter-in-law accidentally killed a cat or a grandson harmed a monkey or peacock) and performing the correct 'prayaschitham' ritual one gains a reputational benefit and becomes eligible to become the 'shebait' of new temples or to administer larger Trust properties etc. etc. 

Euthyphro is helping his family. He is using the law as a way to enhance its reputation in a prudent manner. Athenian gentlemen might make fun of these Colonials who pretend great piety so as to get richer and richer, but the fact is Socrates should have gone to the Court and found out how that slimy fellow ingratiated himself with the judges while loudly demanding condign punishment (spare my aged father! Torture and kill me in his stead!) actually secured a goodly reward for himself. 

What is Socrates getting out of showing people that they don’t know what they take themselves to know?

He gets to feel better about himself and to impress which ever beardless youth he happens to have in tow.

Socrates seemed to think that the people around him could help him acquire the knowledge he so desperately wanted

he was only pretending.

—even though they were handicapped by the illusion that they already knew it.

Bill Gates thinks he is rich which is why he is pending so much money on Africa. What a fool! I am actually much richer than him and if even I don't have a pot to piss in just imagine how utterly impoverished Gates is! No wonder his wife is getting shot of that beggar!.

 Indeed, I believe that their ill-grounded confidence was precisely what drew Socrates to them. If you think you know something, you will be ready to speak on the topic in question.

Only if you have nothing better to do. Why did Gates refuse to speak to me when I tried to call him on Skype? It was because the guy was on his knees in a truck-stop giving beejays so as to to put together enough money to buy a burger. 

 You will hold forth, spout theories, make claims—and all this, under Socrates’s relentless questioning, is the way to actually acquire the knowledge you had deluded yourself into thinking you already had.

But no one actually gained any knowledge from Socrates. That's why mathematicians and generals and businessmen were not queuing up to chat with him.

Let me sketch a little dialogue you might have with Socrates.

Callard is stupider than even dudes wot died long ago. That is why her worthless shite is being promoted.


Socrates: What is courage?

Me= bravery. Not that shitting yourself if some dude gives you the stink eye isn't a demonstration of exemplary courage. Anyway, I have IBS.

Courage is to act in the opposite manner of a person overmastered by fear.

You: Courage is being willing to take big risks without knowing how it’s going to work out.

That's not courage. It is risk proclivity or gambling addiction. Some people may gain pleasure from taking risks. They may be very cowardly in every other respect. Max Beerbohm has a story called 'James Pethel'- about a Edwardian gentleman who, at first blush, seems a nice enough guy though a high stakes gambler. Then Max realizes that Pethel, having grown jaded with success at the Casino, is now gambling the lives of his loved ones so as to get the same kick. Like, 'Zuleikha Dobson', 'James Pethel' seems to foretell the slaughter in the trenches which put an end to that gilded age. 

Courage may involve risking your life in a good cause but it precludes endangering it simply for the thrill of the thing. 

Socrates: Such as risking your life?

You: Yes.

Socrates: Is courage good?

You: Yes.

Socrates: Do you want it for yourself and your children?

You: Yes.

Socrates: Do you want your children to go around risking their lives?

You: No. Maybe I should’ve said that courage is taking prudent risks, where you know what you are doing.

Socrates: Like an expert investor who knows how to risk money to make lots more?

You: No, that isn’t courageous. . . .

At this point, your pathways are blocked. You cannot say courage is ignorant risk-taking, and you cannot say courage is prudent risk-taking. You do not have a way forward. You are in what Socrates’s interlocutors called aporia, a state of confusion in which there is nowhere for you to go.

This is nonsense. You can say 'prudent risk-tasking involves courage of some sort.' You can also say that if Knightian Uncertainty obtains then all risk-taking is ignorant of some possible state of the world. A 'type theory'- i.e. dividing things up into categories- resolves all 'aporias' and 'paradoxes' and so forth.

Suppose that the conversation goes no further than this—that, as is typical for Socrates’s interlocutors, you storm off in a huff at this point. Where does that leave you, and where does that leave Socrates?

It leaves both unchanged.

Let’s start with you first. You might be in a worse mood than you were when you encountered Socrates, 

or you may be in a better mood because you told that loser to go fuck himself. 

but he hasn’t harmed you. 

He may have triggered memories of sexual or financial abuse by some other similar fast talking swindler wot got you to take down your panties or trade your cow for a bunch of 'magic' beans. 

In fact, you are better off than you were: you’ve learned that courage isn’t as easy to define as you initially thought it was. Being improved isn’t always pleasant.

Courage is easy enough to define- at least for the purpose of a lexicographer. Any protocol bound, buck stopped, juristic process has little difficulty deciding what is courage and what is shitting yourself and running away. 

Second, Socrates has learned something. Courage seems to involve something like endurance or holding fast, 

But Callard did not mention endurance or holding fast. She babbled nonsense about taking risks. 

but it cannot straightforwardly be identified with such a state—not even when we add some other ingredients, such as wisdom. 

This is nonsense. In any given social context, the predicate 'courageous' solves a coordination problem of a particular type. This may involve risk, or disutility, or the breaking of a habit or norm or something else of that sort. But, equally, we may speak of a person as showing courage simply because they remain cheerful under adverse circumstances. 

Before this conversation, Socrates didn’t know what courage was.

It is ironic that Callard does not know that Socratic irony is defined as pretending to be ignorant.

 Now his ignorance can take a more specific shape: he doesn’t know what the connection between courage and endurance is. 

The connection is merely linguistic. We may metaphorically speak of courage as endurance or vice versa. Endurance obtains even absent anything to fear. Courage obtains even if it is momentary and expires in the moment it is exercised. 

He still knows that he doesn’t know what courage is, but his knowledge of his own ignorance has been improved, made more precise.

Callard's ignorance seems to increase the more she writes. Why couldn't she look up 'courage' in the dictionary and see that it means 'bravery' and is linked to mastering fear. 

Being improved isn’t always pleasant.

It’s one thing to say, “I don’t know anything.” That thought comes cheap. One can wonder, “Who really and truly knows anything?” in a way that is dismissive, uninquisitive, detached. It can be a way of saying, “Knowledge is unattainable, so why even try?” Socratic humility is more expensive and more committal than that. He sought to map the terrain of his ignorance, to plot its mountains and its rivers, to learn to navigate it. 

I have long sought to map the terrain of my super-sexiness and... well, lets just say that I now have very hairy palms. 

Category theorists and other really smart mathsy dudes are certainly mapping terrains of relevance to philosophy and hermeneutics. But Callard is simply shitting higher than her arsehole. Socrates never gave us a 'joined-up' theory of Justice and Beauty and Truth and so forth. Plato has 'Forms' but how do Forms connect to each other?

That, I think, is why he speaks of knowledge of his own ignorance.

Which he gains by 'synoida'- direct consciousness, not a chain of reasoning or with reference to some 'navigated' terrain. Unlike Pericles or Plato, who were descended from people whose 'knowledge' gave them power to change the destiny of Athens, Socrates- even more than Aspasia (while Pericles was alive) had no power at all. No doubt, he could have believed the things he was told to believe- but that would have been 'false consciousness'. Unlike Anaxagoras, Socrates was condemned to death and, it may be, woke from a dream.

 He’s not just someone who acknowledges or admits to his ignorance, but someone who has learned to dwell within it.

As opposed to all those other guys wo are dwelling outside their ignorance and, to add insult to injury, are getting free Cable. 

Admittedly, this may seem like a paradoxical project. It’s one thing to be missing your wallet—you will know it once you’ve found it. 

How stupid is Callard? You know you are missing your wallet when you reach for it and can't find it.

But suppose you’re missing not only your wallet, but also the knowledge that you ever had a wallet, and the understanding of what a wallet is. 

Then we may say that your wallet is missing- not that you are missing your wallet. The fact is you may have had your skull bashed in and thus aint missing shite.

One of Socrates’s interlocutors, Meno, doubts whether it’s possible to come to know anything if you know so little to begin with. 

The context is whether virtue can be taught.

If someone doesn’t know where she’s going, it doesn’t seem as though she can even take a first step in the right direction.

She can. She just can't be sure it is the right direction.

 Can you map in total darkness?

Yes. Shut your eyes and map the route from your bed to the toilet. You may have to do some such thing if there is a power cut. 

Socrates’s answer was no.

He was wrong. He babbled some shit about remembering everything from previous births. 

 Or at least: you can’t do it alone. The right response to noticing one’s own ignorance is to try to escape it by acquiring someone else’s knowledge.

Callard is making this shit up. The right response to noticing one's own ignorance of what your neighbor's poop smells like is to than your lucky stars. 

 But the only way to do that is to explain to them why you aren’t yet able to accept this or that claim of theirs as knowledge—and that is what mapping one’s ignorance amounts to.

No. You may know more than the guys you are interviewing. You keep asking them questions to see if their knowledge claims are well supported. 

 Socrates stages an exhibition of this method for Meno by demonstrating how much geometrical progress he can make with a young slave boy by doing nothing but asking questions that expose the boy’s false assumptions.

We know Socrates knew shit about geometry.

 It is when he refutes others’ claims to knowledge that Socrates’s own ignorance takes shape, for him, as something he can know. What appears as a sea of darkness when approached introspectively turns out to be navigable when brought into contact with the knowledge claims of another.

I was waking one night on a beach near a pensione in 
Santa Maria de Leuca. My companion asked me if we were looking at the Ionian Sea or the Adriatic, which during daylight are distinguishable by their color. I replied that it was the Indian Ocean we were looking at. Only a fucking racist would suggest otherwise. Our subsequent conversation did not make that body of water- whatever it might be called- more navigable to either of us. 


Socrates was an unusual person. Consider his response to the oracle. Most people who are proclaimed wise by a trusted authority don’t have the impulse to disprove that authority.

They do if that Oracle had the habit of being really sarky. 

Instead, they bask in the glory of the assessment of themselves that they have spent their whole lives longing to hear.

They are more likely to do so if they can make a living thanks to that 'assessment'. 

 Most people steer conversations into areas where they have expertise; 

unless they can bill you for access to that expertise.

they struggle to admit error; 

and positively refuse to admit that they eat dog turds

they have a background confidence that they have a firm grip on the basics.

as opposed to a nagging suspicion that they absent mindedly devour dog turds.

 They are happy to think of other people—people who have different political or religious views, or got a different kind of education, or live in a different part of the world—as ignorant and clueless. 

In which case they are very very happy people coz there are lots of little babies on the other side of the world who are plenty ignorant- though, not sadly, for very long. 

They are eager to claim the status of knowledge for everything they themselves think.

This is not the case. Having knowledge- even if it is only what you believe to be knowledge- has costly consequences. True, we may say 'I know x' in casual conversation but, if pressed, readily admit that the matter in question was not something we had any good reason to acquire knowledge about. We were merely speaking figuratively or for some non-epistemic purpose.

But Socrates did not take this difference as grounds to despise or dismiss this group, aka Most People (hoi polloi). 

The class of the poor and powerless, to which he himself belonged. Themistocles and Pericles might make great play of their fondness for the great unwashed but Socrates was not fooled. He made it his business to talk with guys from good families rather than the likes of Simon the Shoemaker. 

He saw, instead, that he and Most People were a match made in heaven.

Till hemlock did them part. 

 Most People put forward claims,

Rubbish! Every single guy Socratic dialogue featured a rich, well-born, or otherwise distinguished interlocutor. True, a slave might sometimes be called in to illustrate that 'knowledge is innate' or something of that sort. Consider the Theaetetus. Two rich guys call in a servant to read out the dialogue. They don't ask him his opinion of what he is reading. 

 and Socrates refutes them. 

Hoi polloi means 'the masses'. Callard thinks it means socially prominent people.

Most People see the need to possess truths. 

About useful things- sure. 

Socrates saw the danger of acquiring falsehoods.

& continued to see that danger till his cup of hemlock arrived.

 Most People feel full of rich insights and brilliant thoughts.

The ancient Greeks weren't precious little snowflakes on a University Campus studying or teaching shit.

 Socrates saw himself as bereft of all of that. Without the help of Most People, Socrates wouldn’t have anything to think about. 

This is not the case. Maieutics is merely a method of exposition. 

Socrates’s neediness did not escape his own notice. In the Theaetetus, he describes himself as a kind of midwife—barren of knowledge himself, but engaged in “delivering” the wisdom-babies of Most People.

In other words, he was claiming to be able to lead a person to arrive at good conclusions that were their own just as a mid-wife enables a woman to deliver her own, not the mid-wife's, baby. Sadly, such maieutics is useless. Aristotle etc, gave lectures and compiled books. 

Socrates was unaware that a mid-wife need not be old. Indeed, a virgin could be trained to be a midwife. Agnodice went to Egypt for medical training. She was acquitted of perverting the women of Athens because she lifted her skirt to show she didn't have no dick. She was a medical professional useful to the Polis.

How could Socrates be, according to his own theory, be a 'midwife' unless he had healthy offspring? In this case, he must know something other than that he knows nothing- viz. what his 'thought-baby' has been getting up to after he left School. 

More and more our politics are marked by unilateral persuasion instead of collaborative inquiry.

Very true. Trump and Biden aren't collaboratively inquiring into anything. Who did? Obama and McCain? Kennedy & Nixon? Lincoln & Jefferson Davis? Washington & George III?

There may be polities where decision making is collegial and there is no adversarial element in leadership contests. But this wasn't true of ancient Athens or modern America. 

Socrates saw the pursuit of knowledge as a collaborative project involving two very different roles. 

No he did not. He never said 'Let's split up our investigation so that each of us inquires into the are where we have expertise. Then let's all report back and see if we get a picture of what's going on.'

There’s you or I or some other representative of Most People, who comes forward and makes a bold claim. 

Callard is making a bold claim. I am showing she is ignorant and stupid. Does she care? Fuck, no! She get's paid- that's what's important. 

Then there’s Socrates, or one of his contemporary descendants, who questions and interrogates and distinguishes and calls for clarification. 

So Socioproctology is the Socratic maieutics of our age.

This is something we’re often still doing—as philosophers, as scientists, as interviewers, as friends, on Twitter and Facebook and in many casual personal conversations. We’re constantly probing one another, asking, “How can you say that, given X, Y, Z?” We’re still trying to understand one another by way of objection, clarification, and the simple fact of inability to take what someone has said as knowledge. It comes so naturally to us to organize ourselves into the knower/objector pairing that we don’t even notice we are living in the world that Socrates made. 

But this adversarial method was already a feature of Athenian legal and political life before Socrates was born. There were philosophers and philosophical disputes before him and these continued after him. What people gave up on was the ridiculous notion that we know everything already from a former life. 

The scope of his influence is remarkable. 

Academics are named such because Plato's School was called the Academy. Aristotle became Alexander's tutor and Alexander conquered a lot of territory thus ushering in the Hellenistic Age. The Romans came under the influence of Greek philosophy and belles- lettres. The Byzantine Empire restored Greek primacy. The Arabs, in their turn, came under the influence of Greek knowledge. Thus both Christianity and Islam had savants/Saints who referenced Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Judaism had already been Hellenized. Second Maccabees was written in Koine Greek. 

But equally remarkable is the means by which it was achieved: he did so much by knowing, writing, and accomplishing—nothing at all.

Actually, we know he wrote stuff which- no doubt for very good reasons- his admirers did not care to preserve.


And yet for all this influence, many of our ways are becoming far from Socratic.

Some branches of the Academy- e.g. moral philosophy- have turned to shit. This is because they recruit stupid peeps to teach stupider peeps who then write articles for the Boston Review thus blowing the gaff on the whole scam.

 More and more our politics are marked by unilateral persuasion instead of collaborative inquiry. If, like Socrates, you view knowledge as an essentially collaborative project, you don’t go into a conversation expecting to persuade any more than you expect to be persuaded.

Callard still doesn't get that Socratic irony is merely a pretense. This is because it pays her to be stupid.

 By contrast, if you do assume you know, you embrace the role of persuader in advance, and stand ready to argue people into agreement. 

Nonsense! There are professionals who specialize in 'persuading' though they may have no relevant knowledge. 

If argument fails, you might tolerate a state of disagreement—but if the matter is serious enough, you’ll resort to enforcing your view through incentives or punishments. 

Very true! When you go into McDonald's, you first try to get the burger flipper to agree that you are deserving of a cheeseburger. Only if there is a disagreement do you pull out your wallet and purchase it. 

By contrast, the cat may well agree with you that you deserve a cheeseburger. But securing that agreement doesn't help you get a cheeseburger. Sad. 

Socrates’s method eschewed the pressure to persuade. 

He did persuade some rich kids that he was one smart old pederast. 

At the same time, he did not tolerate tolerance. 

But only in the sense that he did not not do or practice practice or breathe breath or politic politics or humiliate humility or dispute dispute.

His politics of humility involved genuinely opening up the question under dispute, in such a way that neither party would be permitted to close it, to settle on an answer, unless the other answered the same.

Yet Parmenides settled his hash but good. 

 By contrast, our politics—of persuasion, tolerance, incentives, and punishment—is deeply uninquisitive.

Callard's writing is deeply uninquisitive. She won't even fact-check her own articles by Googling stuff. Maybe it's because she won't get paid more if she takes a little trouble over the shite she dashes off.

Plato depicts Socrates’s final moments in the Phaedo. Before he fulfills his death sentence by drinking the hemlock, he offers up a series of arguments about the immortality of the soul.

It must be said, this is a very rich text from the literary point of view. Together with Socrates's notion of 'palinode', the 'labyrinth' created by these four, orthogonal, arguments is suggestive of an interlocking 'spread' of choice sequences which, it may be, is what, 'at the end of time' would yield 'univalent foundations' to...everything. 

Plato, it must be admitted, was a gentleman and had genuine literary talent of a type rare in his successors. 

 Each argument attempts to improve upon the previous one’s failure to show the people around him that his death is not something to be mourned.

Which is like an argument for why you shouldn't get me a birthday present- just come to the party, already! I've spent my life-savings on it coz I luv youse guys. You mean everything to me. Anyway, how many more such birthdays can I expect to see... So please please don't get me anything just coz you are all very rich- at least compared to me- and I love you more than life itself.

 Despite the brilliance, refinement, and detail of argumentation, he does not convince his interlocutors.

Coz he isn't saying 'fuck off. I always hated the whole bunch of you. Indeed, I had planned to poison you at my birthday party. BTW, I will come back as a ghost and haunt the fuck out of you if you don't all tear your fucking hair out in grief weeping over my grave.'

The fact is, showing pleasure at your friend's birthday party and grief at his funeral...actually feels kind of right. Weeping copiously as the guy cuts the birthday cake or getting naked and running around with a radish up your bum as his coffin is lowered into the ground just doesn't give you the same feeling of satisfaction. 

 From much experience teaching and reading the dialogue, I can say that he does not convince its readers, either. Arguably, he does not even manage to convince himself. He died as he lived, ignorant and inquiring.

No. He died as he lived- an Athenian who made the best of his opportunities and did so with charm, eloquence and his own idiosyncratic brand of attic salt. 

Aspasia's son by Pericles was granted citizenship. Sadly he was executed after a naval battle where the leaders were accused of failing to rescue survivors. The ship of state, it seems, steered on other currents than those of Love. Yet, what Sappho did in poetry and Aspasia did in Politics, Socrates- it might be said- achieved in Philosophy- viz. nothing for his own people but more than everything for generations of aspirants to high culture forced to submit to a fraudulent paideia.