Sunday, 13 June 2021

Chris Daly's 2 awkward facts

Chris Daly says- 

HERE ARE TWO AWKWARD FACTS about philosophy: no philosophical problems have been solved and philosophers can’t agree about anything beyond that.

The basic philosophical problem is 'how to make a living- better yet a career- one with a medical plan and pension benefits- out of the sort of stuff Plato, who set up an Academy, and Aristotle, a Lyceum, gassed on about?' It has been solved. That's why Daly and the guys he is talking about are getting paid. 

It would be nice to think that, if a University stopped paying its Philosophy faculty, there would be even one Philosopher who would not agree that the University was being very wicked. Suppose the University said 'we will pay you with air-kisses. They are just as valuable as dollars'. Would there be a single member of the philosophy profession who would agree to this proposition? 

No. Ergo Daly is lying. 

The two truly awkward facts about Liberal Arts' shite pedants get paid to peddle are: firstly, it solves no problems- otherwise its votaries do themselves out of jobs; and, secondly, pedants can only agree on not unanimously admitting this fact so as not to do themselves out of jobs. 

The contrast with the natural sciences is evident: many scientific problems have been solved

so bigger ones can be tackled and tech can get yet cooler and more productive of wealth and utility 

and there is appreciable agreement between scientists in scientific matters.

No. There is more disagreement w.r.t open questions. This is because Science more than pays for itself- i.e. is not rent-seeking simply- and thus there is no point enforcing a barrier to entry. A patent clerk could become the World's top Theoretical Physicist if he takes a novel tack and hits on something promising. 

At one time, this was true of Philosophy too. But then it became Credentialist in an adversely selective way because the Knowledge- as opposed to Epistemically Rent-Seeking- Economy took off. 

What is wrong with philosophy and what is wrong with philosophers?

They won't, they can't, admit they are shit. 

There are various closely related questions here that do not quite come to the same thing. There’s the question of why no philosophical problems have been solved.

Tarski has explained this. The 'primitive' terms of a discourse must be undefined otherwise there is an infinite regress. No philosopher has stood against Tarski on this. True, Kripke gave a workaround, but it would involve having the reasoning capacity of a pigeon.  

There’s also the question of why there’s been no appreciable progress in philosophy.

It's because refugees from other disciplines- e.g. Amartya Sen from Development Econ- barge in and resurrect old fallacies. Daly thinks Sen is a 'profound' thinker. But, this was not 'intellectual affirmative action'. Arrow, Tarski's student, created an availability cascade based on defining a Tarskian primitive- viz. Dictator- as something which obviously was the opposite of a fucking Dictator and, moreover, which would actually be, his brother-in-law, Samuelson's, if not omniscient, then bien pensant, Benthamite planner. Sen did point out to Arrow that Szpilrajn's Extension theorem meant he and his wife's sister's hubby weren't really at odds. Yet, this foolish tiff 'twixt Nobel Laureates persisted for reasons wholly Hebraic- sharing a shvigger is a heavy yoke only if you are as teamed oxen not snake and mongoose-  and the resulting shanda fur dei goyim sealed Sen and thus Nussbaum etc to but Dialethia's doom, Athena's abortion, Sarasvati's suicide. 

Chris Daly & why Philosophy is chrap

Aeon has an essay by Chris Daly- a Professor at Manchester University. In this connection it invited comments on the question -  

Why doesn’t philosophy progress from debate to consensus?

Chris Daly says that he 'didn't follow very much' of the comment I left.  Since he is a native English speaker whereas my idiolect is decidedly Indglish overlaid with Curry & Chips Cockney and variegated by 'Valley Girl' Buffy-speak it is entirely possible that he can't understand me because he belongs to a superior racial and social class in this country. For him, I am that subaltern which is no better than it ought to be- viz obscene not heard.

However, Daly is also a 'Philosopher of Language'. If his pursuit of this chimera has left him less able to understand what a fellow British citizen- albeit of the wrong color and class- is saying then, I suggest, there is something wrong with the way his discipline is being taught and practiced in Manchester and elsewhere. Taxpayers subsidize this availability cascade. If it has mischievous effects, citizens have a right to protest against it. Defund the thing now!

I will now go through my comment (given in italics) with a line by line explanation.

Philosophy does militate for ‘overlapping consensus’- i.e. agreement on particular principles absent any similar agreement on substantive or normative matters.  

This is merely an expansion of a term of art associated with John Rawls- perhaps the most famous philosopher of his generation. Let me further 'unpack' it. Daly must have heard of David Lewis. He must know Lewis used Schelling's notion of focal solutions to coordination games to arrive at his notion of 'Conventions'. Daly may not know that wherever there is a coordination game, or 'pooling equilibrium' based on 'cheap talk', there will also be a discoordination game- a separating equilibrium featuring more or less 'costly signals' or difficult to disguise 'uncorrelated asymmetries' such that income or hedging effects arise, or, if Baldwinian channelization is 'robust', then, nevertheless, capacitance diversity gets dammed up so there is no loss of information to the system. 

In other words, my first sentence should be intelligible to Daly though he may be unaware of the manner in which progress in game theoretic Econ/Life Science has increased the scope and salience of 'overlapping consensus'.

What is not clear to me or anyone else is why Daly thinks that progress in Philosophy- like progress in any other field- isn't about the expansion of 'overlapping consensus' rather than 'finding answers'. Medicine still hasn't figured out how to prevent us dying. Econ hasn't gotten rid of scarcity and opportunity cost. Literary Theory can't tell us in advance how we can be the Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde of our age. 

My next sentence, I must admit, assumes that econometrics or the formal semantics of 'intensional' languages involve 'judgements'- i.e. Kripkean  'buck stopping' mechanisms. 

If two different discourses appear ‘observationally equivalent’ in their judgments then philosophy clarifies why this might be so. 

I use the term 'philosophy' in Collingwood's sense- i.e. an activity concerned with an open question which it can't itself close.

The plain meaning is 'if Philosophy and Economics, or Philosophy and  Jurisprudence, or Philosophy and Theoretical Physics, agree on what is right and what is wrong then it is Philosophy, not the other discourse, whose job it is to clarify why this might be so. 

Why can't Daly 'unpack' or 'follow' this claim? 

My next remark is Indological. Daly is excused from having to 'unpack' it. 

In India, there could have been great strife between the various sects but the work of Umasvati, Nagarjuna and Sankara- though expressive of radically different ontologies- nevertheless cashed out as pretty much the same thing so all the various Brahmanic and Shramanic sects could co-exist or, indeed, provide a sort of mix and match smorgasbord.

It is simply a fact that Hindus like me can be simultaneously Jain, Buddhist, Advaitic and repudiative of all ontology and epistemology preferring to depend wholly on an absent Grace and perishable prosopoi of God's face- i.e. the sort of nonsense soteriology and eschatology which must eventually comes to pass when Buffy the Vampire Slayer teams up with the Avengers to defeat the machinations of a Veronica Mars who has gone over to Darkseid. 

I think it was my next stricture which Daly found indigestible

Applied philosophy- in jurisprudence, economics, and scientific method- may appear unproductive ‘methodenstreit’, but it can drive utile research programs- e.g. Intuitionism in Mathematics,

In Jurisprudence, 'Hohfeldian analysis' has been highly productive. The thing is 'Californian'- i.e. ab ovo philosophical as opposed to Careerist or Scholastic. I won't take the name of Pierce but will mention Victoria Lady Welby whose 'Significs' circle is associated with the giant Brouwer from whom Turing took 'choice sequences' to achieve what Husserl failed to do in the Thirties. Weyl, Heyting, Martin Lof, Voevodsky- this is applied philosophy. What Daly does is just ignorant scholasticism.  He doesn't get me. But I get him and can show he is shit. 

 Revealed Preference in Econ, too, was 'applied philosophy' but, sadly, Tarski, who clarified matters, couldn't stop his student Ken Arrow from 'throwing away information' by violating Tarski's notion of a 'primitive concept' so as to turn Relation Algebra into a mechanism for showing the impossibility of ever talking sense if guilty of the Aristotelian sin of 'Akrebia'. Sen was seduced and wasted his time writing worthless shite- which, however, Indians rejoiced in coz it was like 'the Empire Strikes Back' right? Clearly Sen was fucking up privileged White kids coz his ancestors had been forced to memorize Shakespeare and Wordsworth and so on. Then, the Scandinavians, with Viking wit, gave him a Prize and he turned into a menace to our own ability to rise, or even survive, as a nation. 

Daly may be forgiven for not understanding what I am getting at here. His teachers and those who employ him made the boy stupider than he needed to be. 

 or weeping tears of laughter at Amartya Sen’s oxymoronic virtue signalling in Welfare Economics. 

Daly says 'One point of detail: it seems thoroughly unfair to accuse Amartya Sen of virtue-signalling in welfare economics. He is a dedicated and profound thinker with highly influential work on the global poor.

Daly is not Indian. He is not an Economist. He is unaware that
1) the Sen-Dobb thesis required the freezing of real wages for the working class to permit capital transfers to the 'advanced sector'. Yet, Economists knew that only by raising real wages and incentives for primary producers could productivity rise.  In any case, it was blindingly obvious that actual workers in Bengal were very very fucking thin. If they ate more food and got some medical help ( i.e. if real wages went up) then productivity would rise. 
2) Sen blamed the starvation deaths of millions of Bengalis on.... less poor Bengalis who, cruelly, bought and ate twice as much rice as they had done previously so as to starve the 'bottom tenth'. 
The truth is that poor Bengalis were, if anything, MORE, not less noble in their attitudes to sharing-food. However, Bengal had a big famine for reasons well known to B.R Sen and everybody else from Amartya's type of socio-economic background in India.
3) Other Bengali economists have actually helped the poor. Sen's foundation has not. This is a purely empirical matter.
4) No initiative or policy recommendation associated with Sen has helped poor people. But, virtue signallers loved him. He predicted a big famine in the UK in Thatcher's early years. Since he was presented as a 'survivor' of Famine, some fools on the Left thought he was helping their cause. This is like Auschwitz survivors who can be trotted out to say Blair is Hitler or Cameron is Hitler or Theresa May is Hitler or BoJo is Hitler- while it is poor old Jezza who lost votes because we genuinely thought he had crossed the line into 'the Socialism of Fools'- viz. anti-Semitism. 

Sen is a repetitive and derivative thinker. He is not profound. His influence has been wholly mischievous. 

I suppose this is the point where Daly stopped reading what I had written. Good for him. Sen is his model of Sen-tentious Careerism. But, like Sen, he needs to show that he was the victim of Famine and Ethnic Cleansing and being Brown in order to gain intellectual affirmative action. I suggest Daly wax eloquent about his years as a rent-boy and chimney sweep. Philosophy rescued him from having to work for a living. He is his own Mother Theresa. 

The rest of my comment applies so severely to Daly that it would be otiose to gild this particular lily of pure shit. 

At one time, very bright people would stray over from Maths or Physics into Philosophy-land thus driving out the belles lettrists, but since the Sixties, the reverse has happened. Philosophy is adversely selective and it represents a good dumping ground for failed economists or semioticians etc. Initially arising as a ‘discoordination game’ permiting a type of hedging and ‘income effect’ based arbitrage, it enabled the creation of a new, ab ovo, unintelligent, market for popular philosophy. This solves a coordination problem such that low IQ professional philosophers express the paranoid ravings of refugees from high IQ disciplines with the result that the darkening clouds of cognitive elitism are punctured by the sulphurous thunderbolts of toxic wokeness.

This is Schelling focal because, for ordinary people, the one abiding motivation for joining a language game is the assurance that the other people playing it are stupider than you. If others in the room are smarter than you, you keep shtum for fear they will fleece you. If the others are very obviously a bunch of babbling fools- but not smelly or incontinent- you give ear to them sneeringly before chiming in with your own meretricious thoughts and thus get to feel you too participate in Plato’s symposium.

Obviously, any ‘buck stopping’ mechanism could give a protocol bound discourse ‘univalent foundations’. If there were currently any Philosophers anywhere in the world who were not known to be senile or plain stupid, and if they exercised a ‘buck stopping’ function, then one could accord Philosophy a similar evolutionarily optimistic ‘history of concepts’ or Begriffsgeschichte as more prestigious, or better paid, academic disciplines. As things stand, it is the new clothes of various epistemic Emperors of failed research programs which enable us to more bruisingly target them for ridicule. Philosophy could now be compared to revenge-porn of a type which highlights impotence or a deficit of a humiliating type. Thus we must forgive it its flings with various Social or Behavioural ‘Sciences’ of a once much vaunted kind.

Philosophy is not a beautiful Hellenic Queen. It is old. Yet, as Nietzsche said, it is perhaps that truth which is a woman who has reasons for not showing her reasons? Perhaps her name is Baubo, to speak in Greek?’

For now let us agree that Philosophy, precisely by reason of its barren senility, yet incessantly displays that which startled Demeter into laughter and saved Earth from dearth.

Compare the engagement with Philosophy the above displays- and the dismal reality of Philosophy as a profession which corresponds to the nonsense Daly actually wrote- 


Philosophy seems to be on a hiding to nothing.

No it doesn't. Ordinary blokes like me use it the way it was always meant to be used. Guys who teach it may be shit. So what? Literature still exists though folks who teach it are utterly illiterate. Intellectually, Daly was and will remain nothing. He hasn't been on any fucking hiding whatsoever. He was too stupid.  

It has a 2,500-year history in the West and an extensive back-catalogue – of problems.

No. The problems were universal. The West has an extensive back-catalogue of arguments- e.g Aristotle's 'Third Man'- which are still useful. Indeed, understanding the akrebia/economia distinction is enough to exorcize Daly's own puerile poltergeistism. It is enough to abstain from seeking a greater precision than the subject matter permits for a discourse to contribute to an 'economic' episteme productive of good outcomes.

There are questions about what exists, and what we know about it, such as: Do we have free will?

That's an empirical question.  

Is there an external world?

Again empirical. 

Does God exist? and so on.

This cretin does not get that philosophy is concerned with 'second best' solutions- like using oars when wind fails the sails- which, however, improve correlated equilibria via 'public' or 'Muth rational' signals. 

This is not to say that 'oracles' and 'witnesses' have no role in algorithmic decision processes, nor is it to say that one isn't 'doing' Philosophy when interpreting them. But it is to say that Daly is shit and was taught by shitheads and will only teach shitheads. 

Still, the good news, is that these cunts won't be able to understand what a poor Black British man has to say. Who says these cunts are wasting their (and our) money and time? 

There are also questions of analysis and definition such as: What makes a sentence true?

A 'buck-stopped' mechanism based either on an uncorrelated asymmetry or a protocol bound juristic process. This gives rise to a type theory with univalent foundations. Of course, 'truth' here is of a more or less conventional type. 

What makes an act just?


What is causation?

An empirical matter. Essentially that Structural Causal Model which most improves models gets to  use 'causation' as its Tarskian primitive.  Others must be content with correlation.

What is a person?

That is a matter for the Law.  

This is a tiny sample. For almost any abstract notion, some philosopher has wondered what it really is.

No. For any truly abstract notion some non-philosopher has wondered what it really is.  Philosophy tries to use commonly available Tarskian primitives to illuminate this matter. This is useful. We want to turn 'expert cognition' into something with an, albeit 'buck stopped', algorithmic expression so as to exploit economies of scope and scale or secure gains from trade based on comparative advantage. 

Daly boasts that he has got a well paid job where he is expected to do nothing. Indeed, one bonus is that he can tell low class darkies like me to just fuck off coz he can't understand what we iz saying. 

Yet, despite this wealth of questions and the centuries spent tackling them, philosophers haven’t successfully provided any answers. They’ve tried long and hard but nothing they’ve said towards answering those questions has quite made the grade. Other philosophers haven’t been slow to pick holes in their attempted answers and expose flaws or dubious assumptions in them. The punctures in the attempted answers then get patched up and put up for discussion again. But what happens is that new punctures appear, or the patches fail and the old punctures are revealed again. Philosophy emerges as a series of arguments without end, and its questions settle into seemingly intractable problems.

Daly then crosses the line of ignorant, epistemic, arrogance by mentioning something anybody could just Google  

Here is a little gem from the 18th century. It’s known as Molyneux’s problem in honour of the Irish scientist and politician William Molyneux (1656-98) who posed a question that has stumped philosophers ever since. Imagine someone completely blind from birth who’s been able to explore both a cube and a globe by touch. This person learns to identify and name these shapes. Now, suppose that this person is later able to see. Would they then be able to identify which is the cube and which is the globe, just by sight? Imagine them standing at a distance from the shapes. Would they be able to tell simply from looking which was the globe and which was the cube?

Medicine has given the answer to this question.  Why does Daly not know this? Is it coz he was too busy 'respecting' Amartya Sen?  

Here is a companion thought experiment, now called the knowledge argument. By reading the appropriate books, you could learn all about the chemistry of ammonia. By reading more books, you could learn all about how the human olfactory system works and, in particular, how it reacts in response to ammonia molecules – what distinctive changes occur in the mucous membrane and in the olfactory nerves. Given all this textbook information, though, could you then know all there is to know about the smell of ammonia?

No. D'uh. This aint about 'qualia'. This is a coordination problem. You get 'trained' to smell ammonia. The thing is done with groups. The instructor has to spot the guys with different receptors and work out a way to get 'overlapping consensus'. This is stuff which matters. It is part of any type of vocational training. Essentially, different 'black boxes' have to be trained to give the same result. 

Or is there something about the smell of ammonia, the qualitative experience of that sharp, pungent aroma, that you won’t understand from this learning, independent of experience?

Yes. Smells are things we learn about in groups for an excellent reason- viz genetic channelization in this respect would reduce fitness on an uncertain fitness landscape. So we have to have an epigenetic mechanism to achieve the same thing for certain tasks.

These thought experiments and others like them generate debates that run and run.

If you are stupid and teach shite. 

It’s not simply that there are different sides to take on any one of these puzzles. It’s that a strong opening case can be made and sustained for each of these viewpoints, despite the fact that these viewpoints conflict.

But the same could be made about any essentially rhetorical discourse- e.g. Batman vs Spiderman Studies. 

Take the second thought experiment. It seems that knowledge of the aroma of ammonia – what it actually smells like – is not the kind of information you can get from reading books.

But Science requires you to do more than read books. You have to do 'practicals' in a smelly lab.  

But then are there facts about human experience that can’t be captured by science and what it can report in its textbooks?

Yes. Science has never made a contrary claim. Fuck is wrong with Daly? 

Is there more to us than is scientifically describable?

Yes. Science must pay for itself whereas other discourses can themselves yield utility of a phatic kind.

If so, it implies that humans aren’t purely physical systems

Nope. It implies there is a cost and a benefit to analyses of physical systems whereas mental masturbation is the benefit of its own cost. 

– a remarkable exception to what the natural sciences otherwise tell us about the world.

This is merely a stupid lie. No wonder this guy rates Amartya Sen! He likes stupid lies. 

Is the thought experiment illuminating about human nature or has it gone badly wrong?

Or is it merely some shite a fucking cretin teaching shite talks about?  

The jury remains out on this, and indeed on every other, problem in philosophy. Philosophy displays increasing ingenuity without an emerging consensus.

Daly has never displayed 'ingenuity'. Still, someone must teach this shite at Manchester. Why not him? 

Progress doesn’t require consensus, of course: some philosophers might have solved a given problem without this being acknowledged across the board. But the degree to which there is, or isn’t, consensus in a given field can be one indicator of how much progress has been achieved.

No. The only indicator is whether people think you are a bunch of worthless shitheads. This does not mean we won't tolerate your shite as a way to cross-subsidize STEM subjects or consign our epistemic rejects to a, not too shaming, oubliette.  

The contrast between science, which had a much later start date, and philosophy is striking.

No it isn't. Initially, when Science couldn't pay for itself it sheltered under Psilolophy's wing. Now, as I have described, it is a dumping ground for its rejects.  

Philosophers can’t even agree about what they’ve achieved, other than remorseless argument and debate. Within the natural sciences, however, there’s widespread consensus and significant progress. Many scientific problems succumb to experimentation and hypothesis testing, whereas philosophy appears to be constantly faltering.

The opportunity cost of being a philosopher has gone up- i.e. there are better things to do with one's time- and this means that the quality of the students- who then become professors- has been falling for many decades. Thus philosophy can no longer engage with anything save its own stupidity.  

This contrast with science might prompt two rejoinders that each query this reassuring picture of science building up knowledge brick by brick. In The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959), Karl Popper maintained that science is open to experimental disproof, falsification by experiment and observation. But, Popper continued, this consists in showing that proposed scientific theories are false, falsified by experience, and it never shows that any scientific theory is true or even probably true.

Popper was wrong. What matters is whether there is a Structural Causal Model such that outcomes improve, in which case the thing pays for itself. Epistemology may as well be pragmatic or instrumentalist if its being anything else can't pay for itself.  

We might extend Popper’s account of science to philosophy.

No. Otherwise you could also do it to my neighbor's cat and conclude that it doesn't really exist.  

Perhaps philosophy can be seen as following the same method of bold conjectures that, although they’re never confirmed, can be refuted by evidence.

But philosophy doesn't make our life better with cool new tech. It can't pay for itself.  

Popper’s view that observation has only a negative, falsifying role in science has the starkly sceptical consequence that there’s no observational evidence for any scientific theory.

There's no evidence that Popper wasn't just a big fat waste of time.  

But let’s set aside whether he has correctly described scientific method, and consider this extension of his account to philosophy. For the most part, philosophical theories don’t make predictions about what we observe.

Unless pushed to do so- but this is also true of economic or physical theories. In themselves they may predict nothing. By giving them a mathematical representation, or merely using a gedanken, we predict what we would observe as certain parameters change. If this turns out to be incompossible then we know the theory is wrong. 

So those theories can’t be refuted by the discovery that they make false predictions about what we observe. When George Berkeley in 1710 set out his idealism, according to which physical objects are collections of ideas either in our minds or in God’s mind, he wasn’t making predictions about any particular observations we might have – predictions contrary to ones that rival philosophical theories make. According to Berkeley, it’s simply that whatever we observe are ideas in the mind. Observe all you like, and you won’t refute Berkeley.

Consider the Wu experiment. It implies that either ideas are the product of an Occassionalist God or else that Berkeley and Kant were silly asses.  

So we need to consider what the counterpart to observation would be if we were to extend Popper’s account of scientific method to philosophy.

No we don't. The thing can't pay for itself.  Why bother disproving the existence of the neighbor's cat if it is prone to leaping through your window and pouncing upon your computer mouse? 

And that’s just where the problems start.

If we were foolish enough to bother with this shite. 

Any interesting philosophical view makes claims that aren’t obvious – otherwise there’d be little point in making them. The claims then need to be argued for, and that’s why the philosopher’s stock-in-trade is argument.

But stupid people produce shite arguments. Philosophy could be interesting in smart people did it. But they don't any longer.  

Now, an argument has to have premises; that’s what the conclusion of an argument supposedly follows from. The premises provide reason to believe the conclusion. This raises two questions: what provides the premises of a philosophical argument? And why accept those premises?

The premises are provided by the stupidity of other philosophers. They are accepted because even very stupid people like to have arguments.  

One answer to the first question that appeals to many philosophers is to say that the premises of their arguments are supplied by their ‘intuitions’

i.e. stupidity and ignorance 

– by what they were inclined to think after being acquainted with a philosophical problem. After you’ve heard about Molyneux’s problem and (we’ll suppose) it strikes you that the person couldn’t identify each shape, that’s an intuition of yours.

No. It is a guess. Only if you have personal experience of something like that could you have an intuition. Of course, you may have read of cases where it takes months of years for a person to re-learn to see or may have some vague notion of the underlying structural causal model, in which case this is a deduction or 'background knowledge'.

If it just strikes you that there has to be something irrational about people’s committing wrongdoing, that’s another intuition.

No. It is a claim which may be strategic. I often say 'who in their right mind would open the fridge and scoff down the entire box of chocolate eclairs? Only a raccoon. OMG, there's a raccoon loose in the office!'  

As opinionated people, philosophers have lots of intuitions of their own.

No. The borrow each others stupidity.  

One difficulty, though, is that different philosophers have mutually contradictory intuitions, so not all their intuitions can be correct.

Only if they are intuitions about a nomothetic structural causal model. If the thing is ideographic, it is a case of different strokes for different folks. 

Another difficulty is that, even where a majority of philosophers find that they share the same intuitions, the intuitions of non-philosophers from non-Western cultures apparently often diverge from these.

Racist much? There have been some 'experimental' research seeking to show this but the thing is junk social science.  

And, lastly, even if we all shared our intuitions, so what? Unless we know what the sources of our intuitions are – and we don’t – we wouldn’t know what we would be relying on by appealing to our intuitions. We could all be wrong. The intuitions of philosophers seem a poor counterpart to the observations of scientists.

But they are like determinations of facts, which are made by a jury while determinations of law are made by the Judge. If there is 'overlapping consensus' re. a given set of intuitions, Philosophy can move on to making judgments. The question is whether there is a principle of 'harmonious construction' for those judgments. This will tend to impose a type theory on the corpus of laws.

I said that there are two rejoinders that could be made to the way in which philosophy contrasts unfavourably with science.

Science produces cool shiny new tech. It more than pays for itself. Popper & Kuhn are irrelevant. They didn't produce any shiny new tech. Scientists don't give a shit about Scientific Method. Maths, on the other hand, they need. 

The second rejoinder draws on the very different work of another philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Kuhn rejected the popular picture of science as having a steadily progressive history in which the successive contributions of generations of scientists smoothly improve on one another, building up scientific knowledge in steady increments. Kuhn thought that such a view naively accepted a self-serving history written by the victors, where the victors are the scientists of whatever the reigning research programme happens to be. In place of this view, Kuhn defended a historical account whereby there’s no continuity in ideas between the research programmes on opposing sides of a scientific revolution. There’s no common currency of ideas, he claimed, between Aristotle and Galileo, or between Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. The different parties talk past one another. Accordingly, where scientific progress occurs, it’s localised to the span of a given research programme. The programme is born, becomes dominant in its field for a time, then subsequently passes away.

No. Science gets embodied in tech. 'Research programs' may fall out of the University or otherwise fail to get funded. If the tech remains, Science can still progress on the basis of heuristics.  

Kuhn’s views are disconcerting and controversial.

They are useless. 

For the purposes of contrasting science with philosophy, it’s enough to make a restricted response. There is much that has changed over the decades in the scientific understanding of things. At the more speculative end of science, the cutting edge of its research, no doubt more will change in the future. But much in the scientific understanding of things hasn’t changed. Many scientific problems have been solved, the scientific community remains confident in the solutions, and there’s little prospect that the solutions will need to be revised or abandoned. Witness the raft of such reliable empirical laws as the inverse square laws governing light and sound, the Coulomb laws of magnetic and electric interaction, and Ohm, Ampère and Faraday’s laws of electricity. These physical principles are well confirmed and stable; can the same be said about anything in philosophy? Not really. It’s even up for debate what the laws of logic are.

We know they are mathematical. It is likely that, like Godel's proof of God, computer's can play a role in finding exactly where the laws of logic are violated. Philosophy was making progress in resolving 'paradoxes' and detecting fallacious arguments. I suppose a Smullyan or Kripke won't now bother with philosophy if they want to keep abreast with math.  

Having got some sense of the state of play in philosophy, we can turn to the task of diagnosis.

No. First we must admit that Philosophy is adversely selective. Stupid professors get stupid students who become even stupider professors. Poetry once attracted the brightest and the best. Look at it now. The same thing happened to Philosophy of the sort Daly teaches.  

What’s gone wrong? Why do philosophical problems resist solution? I will consider five answers, the last being my own.

The first answer challenges the pessimism. The good news, it says, is that some philosophical problems have been solved. For example,

The paradox of Value or Zeno's paradoxes etc.  

Noam Chomsky claims that the mind-body problem was solved centuries ago.

He's not a philosopher. He believes in some magical Language gene. 

When René Descartes posed the problem, he took ‘body’ to be a substance that’s extended in space. Moreover, bodies can affect other things, or be affected by them, only by contact. ‘Mind’, by contrast, is a substance that’s conscious but lacks extension. Since minds can’t literally come into contact with bodies, they can’t interact. The problem then arises of how minds and bodies can interact. But, by positing a force of gravitational attraction, Newton allowed that things can affect one another without contact. The mind-body problem dissolves because there’s nothing answering to one side of the distinction: there’s no such thing as body.

Chomsky wrote stupid shite like- 'The mind-body problem in its scientific form did indeed vanish as unformulable, because one of its terms, body, does not exist in any intelligible form'. But, there is no 'scientific form' of the 'mind-body problem' that we know of. If there were, there'd be ongoing research into how to switch minds and bodies. We definitely know bodies exist. Moreover we can change their dimensions by chopping off arms and legs. We don't know if the mind exists separate from the brain and spinal cord. Perhaps 'mind' is merely a figure of speech. 

If successful, this would be not only an example of a solved philosophical problem, but the solution would have been provided by science.

What is this shit? Has this guy never heard of the proposed 'graviton'? 

Still, I’m unconvinced. As I see it, Newton exposed a deficiency in Descartes’s thinking about what body is. That’s to say, Descartes had a false theory of body. So there’s no such thing as body as Descartes construed it. But that’s not to say that there’s no such thing as body. There have been false theories of stars and of human beings, but that’s not to say that there are no such things as stars or humans. All that follows is that there are no stars or human beings as those false theories construed them. And there is such a thing as body, the physical, as typified by such things as planets and our heads. There remains Descartes’s problem about how minds with their remarkable properties are related to bodies and their apparently quite different properties. The persistence of this problem illustrates the more general fact that it isn’t easy to find clear examples where a philosophical problem has been solved.

The paradox of Value is a philosophical problem. It has been solved. Nobody is getting their knickers in a twist over the fact that diamonds cost more than drinking water- though the latter is vital for life.  

The second diagnosis is dismissive: philosophical problems aren’t genuine problems. Philosophy’s failure to answer its own questions exposes it as vapid, a sham. Philosophers invent a bunch of artificial problems, parlour games, and then just kick them around among themselves.

We pay a lot of money to watch games where the players are much more talented than ourselves. Philosophy, at certain times and places, has been a game of that sort. But those days are long gone. Philosophers are stupider than us or become so quite quickly. David Lewis ended up babbling nonsense about Maths as megethology.  

To my mind, however, it’s exactly this diagnosis that’s vapid and glib. One point is that it does nothing to explain why philosophical problems are resistant to solution.

They aren't. Some 'paradoxes' have been solved. Philosophy has open problems because Maths has open problems. However, philosophers today are too stupid and ignorant to know that Maths has closed some problems which they still vomit over.  

If they were simple word games – games trading on puns or other forms of wordplay – it shouldn’t require much time or effort to solve and dispose of them.

Poetry could be considered a 'word game'. There may well be a way of putting words together such that some important change in our politics occurs. But since only very stupid or damaged people now write poetry, we don't expect poets- as opposed to guys in advertising- to come up with any such thing. 

Something similar could be said of philosophy. Every Professor of it is clearly stupider and more ignorant than we are.  

They should be polished off as easily as the morning crossword puzzle. The reality is that problems in philosophy are nothing like that. They resist cheap, easy answers.

And these cretins can't supply difficult, cognitively costly, answers. But Mathematicians can. At one time, philosophers interpreted advances in maths for us. But they are too stupid to do so now. Instead we have journalists who specialize in explaining Mathsy stuff to us in a vivid manner. Look at Malcolm Gladwell. He may not know what an eigenvalue is but he can hold our interest. 

A second point is that this dismissive diagnosis, this incipient anti-intellectual response, seems especially wrongheaded when we think about philosophical problems that concern some of the things that most matter to us. These are issues about how we live our lives and how we are to live with others – issues about morality and politics.

But developing a moral sense or political instincts is rewarding in itself. Smart philosophers could certainly insert themselves into this but there are no smart philosophers left. The discipline is coprophagous.  

Our lives are regulated by, among other things, moral codes, codes prescribing what’s off-limits (what’s morally wrong) and what isn’t (what’s morally permissible). Just what is a moral code though?

The attempt to describe a hypothetical person's moral sense as applied to various situations. We could equally speak of an aesthetic code or a code of propriety or one which regulates exchanges of cuddles and kisses.  

What is the source of morality? Is it our emotions or our reason or something else again? And there are further questions: why should anyone be moral? What’s in it for them? Plato gave these questions close attention. He took the view that a wrongdoer is someone who makes a cognitive mistake by not thinking things through clearly enough. Plato thought that, if only we had a clear idea of what moral goodness is, if only we could know it for what it is, we’d be bound to avoid wrongdoing. To know the good is to love it.

Plato wrote well. He set up a school for posh boys where they were taught a bit of Maths instead of just such rhetoric as would help them in the law courts. But that was a long time ago. Maths is very very useful. Smart peeps do it. Philosophy is adversely selective. Professors are morons and, naturally, only even more cretinous morons become their acolytes.  

Other philosophers disagreed and found no route from reason to morality. David Hume thought that only emotion, not reason, could provide direction to our lives. There’s nothing contrary to reason, Hume provocatively said in his Treatise of Human Nature (1739), to care more about scratching your finger than the fate of humanity. Something we should take from this debate between Plato and Hume is that it’s not at all like a parlour game on which nothing of consequence hangs. 
In fact, it’s hard to think of a problem that could have more consequence than one about how we’re to live our lives.

But that's an economic problem of an ideographic, not nomothetic, type.  

Dismissing this debate as empty wordplay would be a cop-out, an evasion of an especially difficult intellectual problem.

But, if a difficult intellectual problem has salience, we must screen out cretins. But within 5 minutes of hearing any contemporary philosopher we can convict the fool of gross ignorance and stupidity. So philosophers get disintermediated from problems which they claim to be philosophical. Notice this guy hasn't mentioned a single professional philosopher alive today. 

It is, moreover, far from being an isolated example. Debates about the reality of moral responsibility, the rationale for punishment or the moral status of animals raise other intellectually and morally pressing issues.

But philosophers are stupid and, because they are wasting their time on stuff only smart peeps can say anything interesting about, they are immoral. Vanity prevents them getting jobs as janitors.  

A third diagnosis says that philosophical problems are just much harder than science problems – that’s why no one has solved them yet. But the claim that philosophical problems are hard would be a poor explanation of why none of these problems have been solved.

There are plenty of paradoxes which have been solved. Consider 'Moore's paradox'. Newcombe type problems are actually very useful in mechanism design.  

The degree to which a problem is hard just means the degree to which it resists solution.

Hardness is related to the time class of the proof with respect to that of verification. However, a better measure would be to say a problem is 'hard' if it is solvable only by really smart people. Stupid people saying 'this is hard!' are merely stupid. The problem may be easy, if not for the rest of us, then, for a Freeman Dyson- e.g his recent contribution to game theory which is unsettling for moral philosophy. Essentially, if some are immoral, the moral majority must consider extinction to be eusocial. Indeed, Saintliness consists in pushing the Doomsday button. 

I don’t see by what other measure every philosophical problem should be rated as harder than any scientific one.

Currently, any 'philosophical problem' can be shown to arise out of stupidity. Smart peeps have already closed problems these cretins think are still open.  

The fourth diagnosis takes up where the third leaves off. According to it, philosophical problems are genuine, but it’s a serious understatement to say that they’re hard. The problem is that we’re cognitively not up to solving them. The hardwiring in our brains makes us good at some things – like learning a language or judging where a tennis serve will land – at the expense of others. Solving philosophical problems is among these other things. We’re just not cut out to be good philosophers – not any of us.

So, you are a bunch of cretins. Also you smell bad. That's why nobody wants to play with you. Thus, you've cordoned off a piece of the playground for yourselves and pretend that nobody crosses that boundary coz you are getting hard for philosophy.  

This is an interesting piece of speculation. Just what is cognitively closed to humans seems an open empirical issue. But the diagnosis is awkward in claiming that solving philosophical problems is cognitively closed to us while allowing that everything else we do in philosophy – understanding the problems, offering hypotheses about them, criticising or refining those hypotheses – is cognitively open to us. That seems a curiously uniform and neat split.

One could say that these cretins have a restricted type theory- by reason of stupidity- and thus the time class of their ratiocinative solutions is exponential with respect to natural language 'verification'. There is nothing 'curious' about cretins being able to parrot one or two sensible phrases but never being able to reason themselves out of a brown paper bag. Still, if they are not incontinent and have learnt to tie their shoe-laces why not give them a PhD? 

The fifth diagnosis, the one I think explains the most, doesn’t single out any one factor to explain philosophy’s lack of progress. Instead, it takes this to be the interaction effect of a cluster of things.

So it is not a diagnosis at all. It's all, like, dude, shit happens, right?  

As we saw in the case of intuitions, there’s controversy not only about the theories that philosophers devise but also about many of the methods or kinds of data that they appeal to in support of their theories. Also, philosophical problems have ‘entangled’ natures: proposed solutions to one problem require contentious assumptions about other live problems.

Only in the same sense that problems of 'entanglement' arise when cretins try to  tie their own shoe laces. If you take off your shoes to put them on the table so as to tie the laces properly then they are no longer on your feet. What's more it is now impossible to put them on your feet. Anyway, that's why I now only wear slip-ons.

For example, there’s a problem in saying what morality is about – what it is for actions or people to be morally good or bad.

Morality is about the moral sense- which has a Tardean mimetic component. Saying what morality is about is only moral if it solves some exigent problem- e.g. immoral peeps shitting in my slip-on shoes and laughing their heads off when I put them on. Fuck you Amartya Sen! Fuck you very much!

But this problem is not compartmentalised. Accompanying this problem about the nature of morality, there’s a problem about why we should accept some moral views rather than others. And, as we’ve seen, there’s also a problem about why anyone should care about morality. So, we have a nest of problems here: a definitional problem (what is morality?), an epistemological problem (how can we tell what’s moral?), and a motivational problem (why does morality matter?). Solutions to these problems will make assumptions about reality and our minds that raise fresh problems of their own, and so the issues ramify.

No they don't. It is immoral to shit in my slip-ons. Amartya Sen may have got his jollies doing this when he taught at the LSE and, no doubt, he told John Rawls  and Martha Nussbaum and they all cackled away at my predicament. I complained to Mother Theresa who asked the Nobel Prize committee, when she went to pick up her medal, to take action against Sen. Sadly, they got hold of the wrong end of the stick and thought Sen was the Mother Theresa of Economics. True, that saintly lady was perhaps a tad injudicious in her decision to shit in the shoes of the committee but when you've got to go, you've got to go.

If that’s the diagnosis of what impedes philosophical progress, what’s the remedy? How might we do philosophy better?

By getting smart peeps to do it. Sack the cretins. 

It’s goes without saying that we should try harder, but that doesn’t tell us which methods to rely on and which to renounce. Perhaps advances in artificial intelligence could help. As the saying goes, predictions are difficult, especially about the future. What would be wanted is software that executes patterns of reasoning. The difficulty of formalising some of these patterns raises difficulties in programming. Moreover, the reasons being assessed would need to be assigned weights in various ways, and that would shift epistemic responsibility back to human programmers. In a related point, a greater employment of formal methods has enhanced rigour and precision in philosophy. Decision and game theory, for instance, have sharpened up thinking in areas of moral philosophy concerned with rationality and the making of contracts.

But these cretins still don't get that Knightian Uncertainty means regret-minimization is salient while coevolved processes (with eusocial extinction as the Saintly option) are required to tame Kolmogorov complexity. 

Decision theory in Econ can pay for itself. When Philosophy gloms on to it, all you get is yet more worthless dissertations and peer reviewed poop.  

Input from the sciences might not settle philosophical problems but it’s a valuable reservoir on which to draw. Empirical psychological research (involving, for example, cataract surgery) has supplemented armchair thinking about Molyneux’s problem.

Supplemented? It has wholly displaced it. 

Adopting scientists’ practice of working collaboratively in research teams might also benefit philosophers.

But some scientists are smart. No philosophers are. 

The individualistic and contrarian streak of many philosophers, however, might generate in-house disagreements of an all-too-familiar character.

They will pull each others hair and shit in each others slip-ons. 

We have, then, something to add to our stock of philosophical problems: why is philosophy so difficult and how can we get reliable results in it?

This isn't a philosophical problem, it is a childish cry of rage at having to do a bit of homework before it can get its supper.  

Reflecting on this gives us all the more reason to form our philosophical views tentatively and provisionally. And, I might tentatively add, that’s not such a bad approach to forming views about anything.

There is nothing tentative about our considered view of the cretinism of Daly and his ilk.  

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Joan Robinson & the Capabilities Approach

Like many students of Economics in the late Seventies, I was brought up to believe that Joan Robinson had subverted Marshallian orthodoxy not so much by her theory of imperfect competition as by her Keynesian elision of the conventional term 'sex-donkey' in referring to Amartya Sen as 'young, hung and full of dung'. Needless to say, the verdict of history has not been kind to my adolescent pieties. By the time  Nahid Aslanbeigui & Guy Oakes published 'The provocative Joan Robinson' in 2009, it was clear that Alfred Marshall was right. Women are good Economists but terrible theorists. They don't understand that the true function of a sex-donkey bears little correlation with its capacity to produce dung. It is only within a broader Capabilities approach to Development as Freedom to achieve Equality of Autonomy as a Sex Donkey that Public Reasoning can be properly grounded. 

Why was this not always obvious?

Friday, 11 June 2021

Alexander Piatigorsky & Yoneda's lemma

Can concepts like 'sacred/profane', 'pure/impure' be used by phenomenology in the same way as they are used by religion and anthropology? 

Alexander Piatigorsky, a Russian orientalist and dissident who came to London in the Seventies and taught at SOAS, thought not. Swami R. Vaidyanathan- a physicist trained under Lord Rutherford who became a music composer and author of a philosophy of 'Masquism'- would have agreed. 

Piatigorsky gives this example

It is certainly true that an Iyer who became a monk- e.g. the Kanchi Shankaracharya- would have been disabled from crossing the black water in line with the Boston philosopher's argument. However such a monk has no caste. An Iyer priest or pious householder would not be able to maintain 'madi' rules of purity and thus during his foreign sojourn would not be able to discharge his dharmic functions. He could not be said to be a Smarta Brahmin at this time- save in so far as such may exist in other places under such modified rules of conduct as are applicable outside the 'paratakantam' sub-continent. 

However, on returning to his natal place, if his character showed no blemish, he could be readmitted to caste status by a prayaschitham ceremony. However, some Iyers did not bother with any such mummery though, obviously, at the time of marriage or other samskars, something of the sort may have been done by the priests. Absent such ritual, his status would be as a lapsed 'Brahminbandhu' but his progeny from a wife of the same ritual status could always be admitted to full Brahminical rites. The complicating factor had to do with property inheritance contingent upon the performance of a prescribed ritual activity. If this had been properly delegated, they could be resumed but the matter was justiciable. To keep clear of the Courts, some Smarthas would have to reject a chance to travel abroad lest some jealous relative try to seize what was effectively ancestral property on the grounds that a required ritual duty was not being properly discharged. 

Such is the religious, or legal, view. It appears compatible with the 'phenomenological' doctrine put forward by the prospective 'theoretical physicist'.
Strictly speaking there are only 'interactions'.  Any 'category theory' which seeks to interpret such interactions must, if broad (and thus useful) enough, ultimately put all groups (which we may think of as mini-categories) on an equal footing. This yields something like a Yoneda lemma. To know everything about an entity it is necessary and sufficient to know everything about its interactions. It is foolish to think of it as either establishing or following rules. Invoking the Kantian Transcendental subject or the Upanishadic Atman doesn't change the fact that interactions exceed their scope. 

Piatigorsky gives the example of the Iyer physicist to illustrate his point that

Christianity is a universal flight from that Devil which the Koine speaking Rabbis of the Second Book of Maccabees called 'kategoros'. Universal Religion is in the sphere of Yaami, Life, Evolution, the River breaking its banks as it swells towards its annihilation in but itself as Ocean. On the other side is the Law, Justice, and Yama- Death- who presides over both. But the same thing could be said of Mathematics and thus the 'meta-concepts' of Science which regulate its canonical representation. 

I don't suppose I'd have gained much had I had the chance to drink with Piatigorsky. Indeed, I may have done, all unawares, back in the Eighties. I hope he now drinks with Voevodsky and that at the Tavern at the end of the river of stars, Tamil's fugitive Melodies and Time's fruitless Mathematics now have univalent foundations. 

Thursday, 10 June 2021

How Amartya Sen achieved immortality

Amartya Sen, back in his Tanner lecture of '79 said- 

Discussions in moral philosophy have offered us a wide menu in answer to the question: equality of what?

This can't possibly be the case. If there is a rational discussion, as opposed to just a bunch of randos shooting their mouths off, then the 'what' must already have been decided. There is no menu. There is just a discussion. True, if someone starts talking of the equality of dick sizes and waving a scalpel around, the other moral philosophers will say 'Sorry this isn't a discussion about that sort of equality. We are discussing the equality of something else entirely. Try down the hall.'

Sen is pretending there is some choice involved in a rational discussion. This is true of a chat but not of a discussion. The topic must be prespecified. True, a particular topic may be abandoned and separate one taken up. But they are separate discussions.

In this lecture I shall concentrate on three particular types of equality, viz., (i) utilitarian equality, (ii) total utility equality, and (iii) Rawlsian equality.

These are not different types of equality. They are different conceptions of what economic equality might entail. But because they ignore the fact that work has disutility- i.e. people need to be rewarded for giving up their leisure- they are utterly useless. 

One could stipulate for equality with respect to economic rent- i.e. surplus over and above what would be required to match disutility- as opposed to reward. But this just means raising the elasticity of supply or demand by permitting greater factor mobility or by increasing competition or regulating 'natural' monopolies and monopsonies. But, that is something we should be doing anyway to raise growth and improve allocative efficiency. It would tend to reduce equality- at least initially. But then this is what happens when each receives, as Marx recommends, according to his, not need, but contribution. Improving efficiency by eliminating rents increases the contribution of those who are productive. This may also provide more funds to help weaker sections of Society but though they benefit yet inequality has increased- a good thing for all concerned save censorious moral philosophers or 'normative' economists. 

I shall argue that all three have serious limitations, and that while they fail in rather different and contrasting ways, an adequate theory cannot be constructed even on the combined grounds of the three.

The reason they have serious limitations is because they are silly. They seek to look at distribution separately from production. Yet, people only work for a reward unless coercion is used. But if coercion is used, then distribution is a function of coercive power- nothing else. Robin Hood may give to the poor. Then again, he may not. Arrows cost money. Besides 'merry men' drink lots of expensive beer to stay merry. 

Towards the end I shall try to present an alternative formulation of equality which seems to me to deserve a good deal more attention than it has received, and I shall not desist from doing some propaganda on its behalf.

Why not desist from 'propaganda' and stick to accurate reasoning? 

First a methodological question. When it is claimed that a certain moral principle has shortcomings, what can be the basis of such an allegation?

That it involves or condones an immoral action.  

There seem to be at least two different ways of grounding such a criticism, aside from just checking its direct appeal to moral intuition.

No. It is both necessary and sufficient to show that some substantial immorality  flows from or is involved in the application of that principle for one's allegation to be upheld. 

One is to check the implications of the principle by taking up particular cases in which the results of employing that principle can be seen in a rather stark way, and then to examine these implications against our intuition.

There is no need to mention intuition. The context is a discussion between moral philosophers. It is enough for the thing to be reasonably proven even if the thing is felt to be counter-intuitive.  

I shall call such a critique a case-implication critique.

But 'case-implication' is not critique. It is a line of reasoning which must be evaluated for plausibility at every link of the chain. Intuition is irrelevant. This is a rational discussion.  

The other is to move not from the general to the particular, but from the general to the more general. One can examine the consistency of the principle with another principle that is acknowledged to be more fundamental.

No one can't. All that is impugned is that same 'acknowledgment'. But, it is not germane. Judges, it is true, may hold some principle more fundamental and then apply 'harmonious construction' or strike down what is inconsistent with the 'basic structure of the Constitution'. However, Jurisprudence is 'buck-stopped' as well as protocol bound. Moral philosophy is not. What Sen has said simply isn't true about the subject he claims to be discussing.  

Such prior principles are usually formulated at a rather abstract level, and frequently take the form of congruence with some very general procedures. For example, what could be reasonably assumed to have been chosen under the 'as if' ignorance of the Rawlsian “original position,” a hypothetical primordial state in which people decide on what rules to adopt without knowing who they are going to be - as if they could end up being any one of the persons in the community.

Depending on what Econ 101 module Rawls provides his subjects with anything at all could have been chosen. Suppose you are told that everybody must be the impoverished slave of Stalin otherwise humanity will perish, then that is what you must choose even if the odds are stacked greatly against your being Stalin. It is pointless to say 'but no reasonable Econ 101 module would prescribe this option'. The fact is, Econ has an empirical, ideographic, aspect. It is certainly possible that, because of non-convexities, concurrency problems and so forth, only if humanity becomes the slave of a Stalin will we escape the deadly plague which will be brought to earth by Halle Berry's comet in 2088. 

As a matter of fact, if 'regret minimizing' Econ is taught, everybody in the original position would just tell Rawls to fuck off. Uncorrelated asymmetries should be allowed to dictate 'bourgeois strategies' and thus get incorporated into mechanism design as well as change our notions of justice and fairness through lived experience. Not to do so would be to throw away information and thus reduce our biological and other fitness on an uncertain landscape. 

In real life, we know we might be hit by a bus and become a cripple. So we pay into insurance schemes and may favor compulsory insurance of an incentive compatible type. We would be mad to stipulate that Society should constantly reorder things to help the least well off. In any case, 'least well off' is a movable feast. You help x, but y is now poorest so you tell x to fuck off and help y but now x is the poorest. This is stupid shit. 

Rawls is only valuable because he helps us justify slavery and Stalin and so forth in a language holier than fucking Harvard.  

Or what rules would satisfy Richard Hare’s requirement of “universalizability” and be consistent with “giving equal weights to the equal interests of the occupants of all the roles.” 

The problem here is that cognition is costly. Thus applying Hare's principle has some cost but we can't be sure it has any benefit. But if we waste resources applying, or even thinking about, Hare's principle, then on what basis can you deny equal time and resources to Iyer's principle which is that to apply any principle before Iyer's principle is racist? Since the observable world in fact adheres to Iyer's principle, it has a concrete model. This does not mean it is consistent with Hare's principle but rather that Hare's principle is immoral. 

I shall call a critique based on such an approach a prior-principle critique.

But this critique is empty because 'principles' are 'anything goes'- i.e can always be made congruent with even the most evil outcome.  

Both approaches can be used in assessing the moral claims of each type of equality, and will indeed be used here.

Neither approach is relevant. The moral claims which arise in a discussion about economic equality must only be evaluated in moral terms. The moral sense- like the sense for beauty, or elegance, or lovability- is wholly independent of any ratiocinative process. In economics, we recognize that some markets are repugnant and some contracts are unconscionable. This is an ideographic matter. It is not nomothetic or derivable from more fundamental principles nor is it linked to outcomes. 

The correct economic theory Moral philosophers should rely on would have 3 components 

1) Since Knightian Uncertainty characterizes our fitness landscape, only regret-minimizing strategies, not utility maximizing ones, should be used. Further aggregation should be done through multiplicative update weighting algorithms which have certain robustness qualities we might term 'evolutionarily stable'.

2) Who owns what, or controls what must depend on observable uncorrelated asymmetries or their effects- these are John Maynard Smith's 'bourgeois strategies'. Ignoring them may seem cool, or rad, or woke- but the alternative is just sophomore sophistry. 

3) Cognition is costly. Don't try to plan or legislate for Society. Crack a book. Learn about Mechanism Design and incomplete contract theory- that shit is hard, but it pays for itself.  Give free reign to mimetic effects and Schelling focal points which track non-computable equilibria or which give rise to co-evolved processes which tame complexity something fierce.

Obviously, this means everything which has been written under this rubric up to now is utter shit. Defund this branch of pedagogy. It is immoral to continue to teach worthless rubbish. 

Of course, if the Professors who discussed this nonsense had been good at reasoning then we might still read their shite. But they were terrible at reasoning.

Consider Sen's objection to Utilitarianism-

Insofar as one is concerned with the distribution of utilities,

Sen was concerned with distributing a certain type of utility in that year. Instead of telling me, in so many words, that I was a cretin and should fuck off, he could have said something nice about the question I asked in his class. But Sen wasn't concerned with distributing utility equally. He was interested in commanding the attention of students who weren't obviously mentally retarded. Why? He wanted to advance his own research program. He wanted the best and the brightest to gravitate towards him. He didn't want to get stuck with losers.

it follows immediately that utilitarianism would in general give one little comfort.

If Sen wanted comfort, why did he not buy a teddy bear? Comfortism is about having a nice teddy bear which, when you pull a little string, says 'I wuv you! You are so special!'.  

Even the minutest gain in total utility sum would be taken to outweigh distributional inequalities of the most blatant kind.

Only if that is what we wanted when we decided how to measure total utility. 

This problem would be avoidable under certain assumptions,

It could only arise under one, very stupid, assumption. 

notably the case in which everyone has the same utility function. In the pure distribution problem, with this assumption the utilitarian best would require absolute equality of everyone’s total uti1ities.

If we assume everybody is equal and equally enjoys more cake, then the division is equal. There is no need to calculate anything at the margin.  

This is because when the marginal utilities are equated, so would be the total utilities if everyone has the same utility function. This is, however, egalitarianism by serendipity: just the accidental result of the marginal tail wagging the total dog.

No. It is how mathematics works. Suppose there are two trains, 50 miles apart, hurtling towards each other. One is travelling at 20 mph the other is travelling at 30 mph. There is a bumblebee which travels at 60 mph which zig zags between the two. At what time will the fly be squashed as the trains collide? The answer is one hour, which is when the two trains meet. You don't have to calculate the limit of the series describing the flight of the bumblebee. Only the two trains matter. The bee does not. Sen is like the stupid mathematician who calculated the limit of the series when it was blindingly obvious to everyone else that the trains will collide when their combined speed covers the distance between them.

Sen, I suppose, would say, it was just serendipity that the two trains collided at exactly the moment that the limit of the bumblebee's flight's infinite series was reached.

More importantly, the assumption would be very frequently violated, since there are obvious and well-discussed variations between human beings. John may be easy to please, but Jeremy not. If it is taken to be an acceptable prior-principle that the equality of the distribution of total utilities has some value, then the utilitarian conception of equality - marginal as it is - must stand condemned.

This is nonsense. Absent any other information, the proper way to cut up a cake is into equal slices. John may feed Jeremy while stroking his hair and whispering sweet nothings in his ear. We whisper to Jeremy that John is easy to please. Everybody else at the party is a size queen. Anyway, that's the sort of thing I imagine happened in Sen's Cambridge. At the LSE we were all difficult to please- or so we let it be known. 

Human diversity gives rise to uncorrelated asymmetries which in turn give rise to eusocial 'bourgeois strategies'- i.e. differences in preference-intensity resulting in different credible threat points. We understand a guy might fight harder to protect what is his than risk injury making off with something to which he has no title. It is eusocial to have public signals in this respect. However, there could also be strategic preference falsification and bogus threats. Unless we have an informational advantage we should not impose a coercive solution. However we can arbitrage between coordination games- pooling equilibria- and discoordination games- separating equilibria. But that is economics, not moral philosophy.

Sen is doing neither when he says-

The case-implication perspective can also be used to develop a related critique, and I have tried to present such a critique elsewhere. For example, if person A as a cripple gets half the utility that the pleasure-wizard person B does from any given level of income, then in the pure distribution problem between A and B the utilitarian would end up giving the pleasure-wizard B more income than the cripple A.

Change 'cripple' to 'miser' and we approve this outcome. Clearly the problem is not with Utility, it is with our feeling of sympathy for the cripple- unless, obviously, he lost his legs escaping from a prison camp for Nazi war criminals. 

Sen thinks this is 'case implicature'. It isn't. It is a blatant manipulation of our feelings by the use of emotive words like cripple and 'pleasure wizard'.  

The cripple would then be doubly worse off: both since he gets less utility from the same level of income, and since he will also get less income.

This is 'double counting' which Economists are warned against. The cripple is worse off only because he is worse at turning money into utility. A good and moral person would work with cripple so as to help him get more out of life. A smart person might figure out a way to turn the cripple into a gold winning medalist in the Paralympics. A STEM subject maven might find a way to given this guy better legs and a bigger dick and a hair transplant and so forth. 

Sen, moral imbecile that he is, has wheeled in this cripple just to make his rivals look bad. But Sen fails. He has merely shown himself to be a cretin.  

Utilitarianism must lead to this thanks to its single-minded concern with maximizing the utility sum.

Under existing informational constraints. Change those constraints and you could get a different result. The Nazi war-criminal cripple should get no Income at all. He should be hanged. The pleasure-wizard, whose entire family was butchered at Dachau, should get a lot more income so he can travel the world spreading his gospel of how to be happier with unchanged income.  

What of Sen? He now tells an outright lie- 

The pleasure-wizard’s superior efficiency in producing utility would pull income away from the less efficient cripple.

If Income has been distributed equally it must be the case that everybody's total utility had been set to the same level. The pleasure-wizard got the same Income as John or Jeremy or Adolph the cripple. Nothing 'pulled income away' from Adolph. It came to him the same as it came to John or Jeremy. 

As a matter of fact, physically disabled people enjoy life and enable others to enjoy life to the max. Sen is a disgusting, 'ableist', piece of shit. However, it is certainly true that there are people who get very little extra utility from extra income. But this represents a market opportunity. We need to figure out ways to get them spending and enjoying their income. The result would be more jobs and a 'multiplier' effect for the economy. 

The problems of Utilitarian theory are easily solved. I just say, if I were the Benthamite Social planner, I'd attribute more utility to this guy coz I sympathize with him and less to that guy coz I don't approve of his way of life. You may say something different and we could have a reasoned discussion. This could be part of moral philosophy or welfare economics but only if we discard Sen's 'case-implication' or 'prior principle' approach. Why? They falsely create the impression that this isn't just a story about my prejudices vs your prejudices. It has something to do with maths or econ. The truth is, a reasoned discussion in which I say 'fucking Estate Agents! Tax them at 90 per cent!' and you reply, 'actually, having a good Estate Agent saved my Aunty Mary's life. We needed money quickly for an emergency operation and luckily the guy my cousin Andy bought his flat from was able to get a cash buyer and arrange a bridging loan.' I suddenly realize there are good and bad Estate Agents just as there are good and bad Sens. 

Marginal Utility, in Microeconomics, is the pleasure received from the last unit consumed. Bizarrely, Sen confuses it with 'marginal propensity to consume'- which isn't about utility except indirectly- and is a term from Macroeconomics. 

First of all, while we economists often tend to treat the marginal and the total as belonging to the same plane of discourse, there is an important difference between them. Marginal is an essentially counter-factual notion: marginal utility is the additional utility that would be generated if the person had one more unit of income. It contrasts what is observed with what allegedly would be observed if something else were different: in this case if the income had been one unit greater.

A counterfactual refers to something in the past- which can't now be altered- e.g. if Hitler had won the war then such and such would have happened... But Hitler is dead. He can't win shit. However, Income could go up and consumption could go up and marginal utility could go up. Why? This is because, unlike the Past, the Future is still open. 

 Total is not, however, an inherently counter-factual concept; whether it is or is not would depend on the variable that is being totalled.

No. A total only depends on what it sums over. If these  entities are posited, or otherwise given, there is a total which can be checked and rechecked. If nothing exists to be summed, no summation is possible. 

In case of utilities, if they are taken to be observed facts, total utility will not be counter-factual.

It does not matter whether they are taken to be facts or are merely posited for some other purpose. So long as there are numbers which can be summed, there will be a total. I can say 'if Hitler had won the war and if he had continued his genocidal policies with the same virulence then, I estimate, that the total death toll would have been higher than that of Stalin plus Mao. So Hitler was more evil than either.' People could check my sums and give reasons for why I might have underestimated the death-toll. That maniac would probably have started killing such of his people as had even a remote non-Nordic ancestor.   

Thus total utility equality is a matter for direct observation,

No. We can't directly observe and measure utility or beauty or truthiness or lovability. However, we are welcome to adopt a convention such that everyone has equal total utility and total cuddliness and total lovability etc. 

whereas utilitarian equality is not so, since the latter requires hypotheses as to what things would have been under different postulated circumstances.

No. It merely requires an equally false convention to be adopted.  

The contrast can be easily traced to the fact that utilitarian equality is essentially a consequence of sum maximization,

of what? Values imputed by convention. 

which is itself a counter-factual notion,

No it isn't. Anything at all can be imputed to anything at all. I can say 'forty fairies dance upon the tip of every rose and, best beloved, in the garden of the Sultan, forty roses grow. How many fairies dance in the Sultan's garden?'

Similarly I may babble about pleasure-wizards and cripples and impute utilities to them till I am blue in the fact. But this is mere fantasy, not anything which rises to the strict and demanding standards of a truly counter-factual debate- e.g. could Spiderman beat up Dracula?

whereas total utility equality is an equality of some directly observed magnitudes.

 No. It is something imputed by convention- like saying everybody is equally loveable and beautiful in the eyes of God. 

Second, utilitarianism provides a complete ordering of all utility distributions

No. Some guy may make some such imputation- e.g saying I award ten utiles to peeps I like and zero utiles to cunts I dislike- and, sure, it could be a total ranking, but so what? Hitler had one and, take it from me, he was not a good guy.  

- the ranking reflecting the order of the sums of individual utilities- but as specified so far, total utility equality does not do more than just point to the case of absolute equality.

By a fucking imputation you stupid cretin! 

Do you not get that saying 'forty fairies dance on a rose, while only twenty dance on a dandelion' you are doing exactly the same thing as saying 'all peeps score 100 per cent in beauty and intelligence and being beloved of God' ? This is just idle talk is all- though, it must be said, Medical panels may indeed use some such scoring mechanism to decide who gets a liver transplant etc. 

In dealing with two cases of non-equal distributions, something more has to be said so that they could be ranked.

No. Ranking could be purely arbitrary or done by a drunken lunatic. The algebra wouldn't change.  

The ranking can be completed in many different ways.

No. It can either be completed algorithmically or non-algorithmically (i.e. by relying on the judgment of some person or committee or else by tossing a coin or consulting an oracle or using a non-deterministic type of computation). 

One way to such a complete ranking is provided by the lexicographic version of the maximin rule, which is associated with the Rawlsian Difference Principle, but interpreted in terms of utilities as opposed to primary goods.

Where do the utilities come from? If they are being plugged in from outside then the resulting ranking is non-algorithmic. It has been imposed from outside. 

Here the goodness of the state of affairs is judged by the level of utility of the worst-off person in that state;

but both 'level of utility' and 'worst-off person' are determined outside the system. Thus this is an imposed ranking. It is not 'intensional'. Mathematics can say nothing here.  

It is easy enough to rank imaginary things. However, if you gather information to do a ranking such that Income distribution might change then everything changes. For a start, some people currently in the society will exit it. Others will invest in getting 'least well off status' while, more generally, non-economic inequality will rise as people substitute non-economic positional and other goods for earned or unearned income. 

This is the reason, the quest for economic equality ran out of steam in the Seventies. Workers didn't want to be taxed to subsidize the supposedly work-shy. Even where this was not the case, Income had to compensate for the disutility of work. Thus Social Justice simply became a repugnant market for its own utterly futile supply. 

Sen quotes Rawls in connection with the 'obtuseness' of welfarism. Sadly, it is its imbecility which is more to the point.

In calculating the greatest balance of satisfaction it does not matter, except indirectly, what the desires are for.

Yes it does. Consumption is itself an input for Production. People who demand things which raise their productivity will get richer. Trying to tax them will fail because they will either flee or discover ways to get greater utility from leisure than suffer disutility from work. 

We are to arrange institutions

no you are not. You are too stupid. 

so as to obtain the greatest sum of satisfactions; we ask no questions about their source or quality but only how their satisfaction would affect the total of well-being. . . .

but 'source' or 'quality' have 'externalities' they also directly affect the production function.  

Thus if men take a certain pleasure in discriminating against one another, in subjecting others to a lesser liberty as a means of enhancing their self-respect, then the satisfaction of these desires must be weighed in our deliberations according to their intensity, or whatever, along with other desires. . . .

No. It is perfectly legitimate to get people to find pleasure in things which are good for them and for society and to wean them away from sadistic or vicious pleasures.  

In justice as fairness, on the other hand, persons accept in advance a principle of equal liberty

either one has liberty or one doesn't. Accepting a principle of equal liberty won't magically create it. There has to be a more or less costly means of defending liberty which, at the margin, excludes those less able to pay for it or who lack a sufficient threat point. 

and they do this without a knowledge of their more particular ends. . . .

but they do know if they are men or women, straight or gay and they have lots of other unconscious biases arising from 'uncorrelated equilibria'- e.g. skin color, size and build, sexual attractiveness etc. It is perfectly possible that there was a time when many Gay people would have agreed that a homophobic Society was 'Righteous' because of the manner in which they had been brainwashed. 

Is it rational to want equal liberty for all? No. Maniacal serial killers should have none. On the other hand, Sherlock Holmes should have more liberty so that he can track down the dastardly Moriarty.  

An individual who finds that he enjoys seeing others in positions of lesser liberty understands that he has no claim whatever to this enjoyment.

Nor does he have any 'claim' to any other type of enjoyment. That's why you can't go to court to force rainbows to appear and fill your heart with delight the way they used to when Trump was in the White House and all was right with the world.

The pleasure he takes in other’s deprivation is wrong in itself: it is a satisfaction which requires the violation of a principle to which he would agree in the original position.

But this is the reason he wouldn't agree to it in the first place. Why bind yourself for no immediate consideration? Which lawyer says to you, 'agree to any contract- social or otherwise- offered to you?' They would say 'don't agree to shit. Suggest that you require a douceur to even consider the proposition.' 

Sen doesn't get that Utilitarianism can put a negative value on vicious pleasures while putting a multiplier on meritorious sentiments. 

It is easily seen that this is an argument not merely against utilitarianism, but against the adequacy of utility information for moral judgments of states of affairs, and is, thus, an attack on welfarism in general.

No. It is merely stupid shit. Rawls thought people were queuing up round the block to sign on to a particularly stupid Social Contract which would have quickly caused the collapse of Society if implemented.  

Second, it is clear that as a criticism of welfarism - and a fortiori as a critique of utilitarianism - the argument uses a principle that is unnecessarily strong. If it were the case that pleasures taken “in other’s deprivation” were not taken to be wrong in itself, but simply disregarded, even then the rejection of welfarism would stand. Furthermore, even if such pleasures were regarded as valuable, but less valuable than pleasures arising from other sources (e.g., enjoying food, work, or leisure), welfarism would still stand rejected. The issue— as John Stuart Mill had noted-is the lack of “parity” between one source of utility and another.

Which is also a reason there should be a lack of parity in liberties and entitlements 

Welfarism requires the endorsement not merely of the widely shared intuition that any pleasure has some value - and one would have to be a bit of a kill-joy to dissent from this- but also the much more dubious proposition that pleasures must be relatively weighed only according to their respective intensities, irrespective of the source of the pleasure and the nature of the activity that goes with it.

No. There is a useful Structural Causal Model of 'pleasures' which can be used to change what people like so they have better lives and Society improves.  

Finally, Rawls’s argument takes the form of an appeal to the prior principle of equating moral rightness with prudential acceptability in the original position.

But this could lead to bizarre outcomes like a ban on sex. I definitely don't want to be fucked by a man. If there's a 50-50 chance I could be a woman then my leximin strategy is to say no fucking way should anyone have sex. Women too may want to stipulate for this because they know the truth about whether size matters and how few men are blessed in that respect. 

Even those who do not accept that prior principle could reject the welfarist no-nonsense counting of utility irrespective of all other information by reference to other prior principles, e.g., the irreducible value of liberty. 

But everybody could do so because no good purpose is served by this silliness.

 The relevance of non-utility information to moral judgments is the central issue involved in disputing welfarism.

But if moral judgments can have a metric then we could say this was the utility function of those engaged in that activity.  

Libertarian considerations point towards a particular class of non-utility information,

information useful to Libertarians yields a utility function for them.  

and I have argued elsewhere that this may require even the rejection of the so-called Pareto principle based on utility dominance.

It could require any stupid shite whatsoever.  

But there are also other types of non-utility information which have been thought to be intrinsically important. Tim Scanlon has recently discussed the contrast between “urgency” and utility (or intensity of preference), He has also argued that “the criteria of well-being that we actually employ in making moral judgments are objective,” and a person’s level of well-being is taken to be “independent of that person’s tastes and interests.” 

That is certainly true. But it is also true that we soon realize that it is immoral to make moral judgments unless, obviously, we are paid to do so and can't get any other job because of our issues with incontinence.  

These moral judgments could thus conflict with utilitarian - and more generally (Scanlon could have argued) with welfarist - moralities, no matter whether utility is interpreted as pleasure, or - as is increasingly common recently - as desire-fulfilment.

why not just say utility is what is useful?

However, acknowledging the relevance of objective factors does not require that well-being be taken to be independent of tastes, and Scanlon’s categories are too pure.

We could easily say- 'by taste we mean some subjective bias which we would abandon if we knew it led us to make worse choices'.  I recall, when first reading praise of JK Rowling's Harry Potter novel, I thought to myself 'It's bound to be some politically correct shite and thus not to my taste'. Then I saw a little kid engrossed in reading a copy of 'Philosopher's stone'. I have the same tastes as little kids. So I bought myself a copy and, though I did get so scared that I wet myself a couple of times, gained great 'well-being' from Rowling's books. 

Categories in natural language are either useful or pure. Scanlon's are useful enough. Nothing could be more 'urgent' than that an addict get her next 'fix'. But heroin in this context is not utile at all. It harms well-being. 

For example, a lack of “parity” between utility from self-regarding actions and that from other-regarding actions will go beyond utility as an index of well-being and will be fatal to welfarism, but the contrast is not, of course, independent of tastes and subjective features.

This is nonsense. We do get utility from the well-being of others. Of course, we may be wrong about what yields utility to them. But we may equally be wrong about what is good for us.

“Objective” considerations can count along with a person’s tastes. What is required is the denial that a person’s well-being be judged exclusively in terms of his or her utilities.

But this is not what is happening. It is enough to say, ceteris paribus, people are better off when they have more money- i.e. transferable utility. Let us move on to figuring out how to raise productivity so that this can happen sustainably.  

If such judgments take into account a person’s pleasures and desire-fulfilments, but also certain objective factors, e.g., whether he or she is hungry, cold, or oppressed, the resulting calculus would still be non-welfarist.

Only in the opinion of a pedant who thinks it is important to define 'welfarism'. But nothing utile is gained by doing so. 

Welfarism is an extremist position, and its denial can take many different forms - pure and mixed - so long as totally ignoring non-utility information is avoided.

We don't know that any information whatsoever is 'non-utility' information. If the thing has a use then it is utility information. Even establishing that it isn't useful, can be useful for moving forward more rapidly across a wide range of problems.

During periods of National Emergency- e.g. during a total war- the Government may have to decide what consumer goods and services should be distributed to the population. A similar calculation may have to be made for a Space Station or Rocket Ship. At that point, 'tastes' will be irrelevant. Experts will agree on what gives and what doesn't give utility and a minimum material standard of living for all will be drawn up. This may make life somewhat grey, but the dramatic nature of unfolding events more than makes up for any monotony of diet or dress. 

Sen, in pushing for 'Basic Capability Equality' asks-

Can we not construct an adequate theory of equality on the combined grounds of Rawlsian equality and equality under the two welfarist conceptions, with some trade-offs among them.

No. Rawlsian equality will be rejected in favor of a collective insurance scheme. The other two conceptions will be dismissed because, absent some pressing emergency- or the possibility that we are going to be shot out into Space with some minimal life-support equipment- there is no point measuring utility because everybody thinks you are stupid. They will tell you to fuck off if you try to talk to them. Also, you actually are stupid.  

I would now like to argue briefly why I believe this too may prove to be informationally short. This can, of course, easily be asserted if claims arising from considerations other than well-being were acknowledged to be legitimate. Non-exploitation, or non-discrimination, requires the use of information not fully captured either by utility or by primary goods.

No it doesn't. There is exploitation or discrimination if transferable marginal utility from the same extra hour of labor is different for a systemic reason- e.g market segmentation by a monopsonist or pervasive gender or racial or educational discrimination. 

Other conceptions of entitlements can also be brought in going beyond concern with personal well-being only. But in what follows I shall not introduce these concepts. My contention is that even the concept of needs does not get adequate coverage through the information on primary goods and utility. I shall use a case-implication argument. Take the cripple again with marginal utility disadvantage.

He has no transferable marginal utility disadvantage. He is in the same boat as an old man like me who can no longer eat and drink to surfeit. But I can gain utility by treating young people to a slap up mean with plenty of wine or beer going around the table.  

We saw that utilitarianism would do nothing for him; in fact it will give him less income than to the physically fit.

No. We saw he'd get the same income. Sen double counted- i.e. cheated. In a market economy, the 'cripple' may earn more because of lower disutility from work. He may gain higher transferable utility by helping other people. But his position is the same as an older man like me. Suppose I was given a pair of expensive roller-skates. I can't use them. But I do know a young person who would be delighted to receive them. I'd gain a lot of utility seeing this person zipping around on those handsome skates.  

Nor would the Difference Principle help him; it will leave his physical disadvantage severely alone.

No. It would militate for disabled access to offices etc. That's a worthwhile investment. The young and able-bodied feel happy when they see that the 'cripples' are getting an equal chance to contribute. Indeed, their contribution may be proportionately much greater.  

He did, however, get preferential treatment under leximin, and more generally, under criteria fostering total equality. His low level of total utility was the basis of his claim.

The disabled have never made any such claims. They want the chance to contribute. They aren't whining about their miserable life. Even old fools like me aren't complaining that we can't enjoy our food as much as we used to. It would be crazy to give lots of money to very old billionaires in the futile attempt to make life as enjoyable to them as it is for teenagers.  

But now suppose that he is no worse off than others in utility terms despite his physical handicap because of certain other utility features. This could be because he has a jolly disposition. Or because he has a low aspiration level and his heart leaps up whenever he sees a rainbow in the sky. Or because he is religious and feels that he will be rewarded in after-life, or cheerfully accepts what he takes to be just penalty for misdeeds in a past incarnation. The important point is that despite his marginal utility disadvantage, he has no longer a total utility deprivation.

But he may have lower disutility of work. It makes sense to help him have better access to high productivity employment. His total transferable utility may then be greater but all can see that Society as a whole has benefited.  

Now not even leximin— or any other notion of equality focussing on total utility - will do much for him. If we still think that he has needs as a cripple that should be catered to, then the basis of that claim clearly rests neither in high marginal utility, nor in low total utility, nor of course - in deprivation in terms of primary goods. It is arguable that what is missing in all this framework is some notion of “basic capabilities”: a person being able to do certain basic things. The ability to move about is the relevant one here, but one can consider others, e.g., the ability to meet one’s nutritional requirements, the wherewithal to be clothed and sheltered, the power to participate in the social life of the community.

Good people can see that providing facilities which overcome such obstacles is good for Society. It may be that the large number of people left disabled after two World Wars helped improve matters in this respect. However, it is the sterling contribution made by disabled people which has led all enterprises to see the wisdom of finding ways to gain their very valuable help. 

The notion of urgency related to this is not fully captured by either utility or primary goods, or any combination of the two. Primary goods suffers from fetishist handicap in being concerned with goods,

no they don't. It is not the case that pervs are constantly wanking over them. 

and even though the list of goods is specified in a broad and inclusive way, encompassing rights, liberties, opportunities, income, wealth, and the social basis of self-respect, it still is concerned with good things rather than with what these good things do to human beings.

A senseless distinction worthy only of a fetishist. 

Utility, on the other hand, is concerned with what these things do to human beings, but uses a metric that focusses not on the person’s capabilities but on his mental reaction.

Nonsense! Anyway, 'mental reaction' is itself a capability.  

There is something still missing in the combined list of primary goods and utilities.

It is positional goods and ontologically dysphoric hedges.  

If it is argued that resources should be devoted to remove or substantially reduce the handicap of the cripple despite there being no marginal utility argument (because it is expensive), despite there being no total utility argument (because he is so contented), and despite there being no primary goods deprivation (because he has the goods that others have), the case must rest on something else.

Sen fails to see that disabled people are productive. Removing obstacles and improving accessibility yields a bigger cake- i.e. more transferable utility.  

I believe what is at issue is the interpretation of needs in the form of basic capabilities. This interpretation of needs and interests is often implicit in the demand for equality. This type of equality I shall call “basic capability equality.” The focus on basic capabilities can be seen as a natural extension of Rawls’s concern with primary goods, shifting attention from goods to what goods do to human beings.

Goods gain a market by being designed to do good to human beings. Sen assumes that they exist only because of some perverse fetishism.  

Rawls himself motivates judging advantage in terms of primary goods by referring to capabilities, even though his criteria end up focussing on goods as such: on income rather than on what income does, on the “social bases of self-respect” rather than on self-respect itself, and so on.

Self-respect is not an economic good. No scarcity or opportunity cost is involved. There is nothing to stop everybody self-respecting themselves and also respecting everybody else to an infinite degree.  

If human beings were very like each other, this would not have mattered a great deal, but there is evidence that the conversion of goods to capabilities varies from person to person substantially, and the equality of the former may still be far from the equality of the latter.

So what? These capabilities vary over the course of the day for every person. They tend to decrease with age. It is not possible to have equal enjoyment of food or sleep or kisses at all moments in the day- or even the hour.  

There are, of course, many difficulties with the notion of “basic capability equality.” In particular, the problem of indexing the basic capability bundles is a serious one.

The game is not worth the candle. That's why it hasn't been done. Still, it may be, for a Human colony on Mars, some such index may be devised.  

It is, in many ways, a problem comparable with the indexing of primary good bundles in the context of Rawlsian equality. This is not the occasion to go into the technical issues involved in such an indexing, but it is clear that whatever partial ordering can be done on the basis of broad uniformity of personal preferences must be supplemented by certain established conventions of relative importance.

In other words, there has to be a 'buck-stopping' mechanism. 'Public reasoning' can't go on vomiting over the subject. Decisions have to be made. Sen has to be told to fuck off.  

The ideas of relative importance are, of course, conditional on the nature of the society. The notion of the equality of basic capabilities is a very general one, but any application of it must be rather culture-dependent, especially in the weighting of different capabilities.

Societies engaged in a war or other such emergency may have to produce 'basic goods' and distribute them equitably. Israel in the Fifties and Sixties is an example as was Ireland at one time. Since then, their productivity has grown enormously and they have a much more consumerist life-style because they are 'knowledge economies'.  

While Rawlsian equality has the characteristic of being both culture-dependent and fetishist, basic capability equality avoids fetishism, but remains culture-dependent. Indeed, basic capability equality can be seen as essentially an extension of the Rawlsian approach in a non-fetishist direction.

Or it can be seen as Sen's own fetishistic need to pretend he is a 'moral philosopher' rather than a crap economist. 

The fact is, utility theory was only useful because work had come to be seen as 'disutility'. Owners of factors of production preferred to let them stand idle rather than take the trouble to make them as useful as possible to the nation. Was there a non-coercive way forward? Yes. One could tell stupid moralists- guys like Sen who think 'luxuries' are wicked- to fuck off and encourage the supply of all sorts of positional goods or even 'ontologically dysphoric' hedges against mortality. The burgeoning of the Arts and Sciences and various novel Spiritual and Ethical and 'Life-style' services was one result. Another was that 'transferable utility' gained orient horizons. Life became richer and more colorful. Hundreds of millions escaped the Malthusian trap of involuted agriculture. Meanwhile Sen, fetishist that he is, was jizzing all over this stupid 'Capabilities' approach bullshit. Still, he got paid for the disutility he was creating. There is a niche, but Globalized, market for virtue signaling stupidity. Cramming himself into it, Amartya has achieved immortality, not by any great feat of erudition, but simply by refusing to just fucking die already. In so choosing, Sen has turned his back on the one true agent of equality and of Justice- Yama, the god of death, who alone knows our capabilities.