I have said that to see the world as enchanted is a pre-condition for possessing agency and therefore for living an unalienated life.Why say such a silly thing? It is perfectly possible to take drugs and see the world as enchanted without possessing any agency- even sufficient to pick yourself off the floor or stop drooling.
Alienation in the Marxist sense can exist side by side with enchantment. A guy could design a contraption which obviates the need for his own labor power while taking drugs which cause him to see fairies all over the place.
And to see the world as enchanted in a sense that we can accept in our own secular frameworks, is to see it as suffused with values.I may sneak into a Shopping Mall and make it my home- my world, so to speak. Every object in my world isn't just suffused with value, it has an actual price tag. I may also suffer from a mental illness which causes me to believe that lots of stuff is enchanted. So what? How is this a good thing?
Though such a notion of enchantment sits more comfortably with our more self-conscious secular commitments than previous more sacralized notions such as Gandhi‘s (or the seventeenth century dissidents), it is still highly discomfiting to a familiar conviction of our time.Why? The thing can easily happen if we take the right drugs.
It brazenly contradicts the widely held view that there is nothing in nature (and the world) that is not countenanced by natural science.Nonsense! Take enough drugs or develop a specific mental illness and the thing is bound to happen in a manner countenanced by natural science. Indeed, it would be very difficult to envisage any event or observation- even something 'miraculous'- which some research program in natural science could not explain away.
So it is a notion that is bound to be dismissed as unscientific.No. It is bound to be dismissed as worthless gibberish.
I won‘t pause too long to confront this confused prejudice in detail except to say this. All that asserting the presence of value in nature (and the world) does is to imply that science does not have full coverage of nature (and the world).A foolish assertion. We don't know the limits of natural science. All we know is that we have barely scratched the surface of what it can reveal.
How on earth can this be unscientific? Something is only unscientific if it contradicts a proposition in some science.The proposition 'Gxxwx is the kxq of the qumwwx' is not scientific. It doesn't contradict a proposition of any science but it is still nonsense.
But no science contains the proposition that science has comprehensive coverage of nature.No science has the proposition that something in nature can't have a comprehensive exposition within a properly constituted research program.
Only a philosopher (or scientists and journalists, like Dawkins and Hitchens, playing at being philosophers) would assert such a proposition.So, in Bilgrami's view, philosophers or people playing at being philosophers assert foolish propositions. That sounds about right.
And one can find the assertion to be bad philosophy, without being told, in turn, that one is doing bad science since it is not doing science at all.How can find any such thing out?
The point – surely a simple one-- is that it is only unscientific to give unscientific responses to science‘s themes (as ‗creationism‘ or ‗intelligent design‘ do to the scientific theme of the origins of the universe), it is not unscientific to assert that not all themes regarding nature are scientific themes (and that is all that is asserted by asserting the presence of values in nature and the world).But science's themes are only known post hoc. All we can tell, from moment to moment, is which research programs are generating falsifiable predictions or else appear promising by the criteria of a robust utilitarian decision process.
Unlike this confused objection to enchantment, the picture of value found in Hume and Adam Smith, which also opposes the idea that values are perceptible properties of the world, is not so easily dismissible.Why? The objection is the same- viz. values are subjective. They aren't 'out there'. Rather they arise by some biological process and are wholly internal.
There is no simple confusion in their picture, and if it is wrong, it is wrong for very deep and significant reasons. On their picture of values, values are constructed out of our psychological states such as our desires and sympathies and so are ontologically reducible to them.They may be emergents or display stochastic properties such that they are not reducible at all.
By contrast, the picture of values that is being presented in this paper claims that our desires are responses to desirabilities (or values) in the world (where ‗world‘ is to be understood in the broad sense that I attributed to Gandhi at the very outset), a quite different ontology of value.This is merely playing with words. What difference does it make to say 'I desire x' rather than 'x is desirable. That is why I desire it.'?
Gandhi did not say that there was anything outside himself in the world which had an independent value. Rather he repeated the Vaishnavite prayer- vaiṣṇava jana to tene kahiye- which is associated with a specific occassionalist doctrine such that the Lord has taken possession of the heart and, by His Grace, turned the worshipper into a perfect tool or instrument of his own. The Vaishnav rejects any higher Gnosis or Liberation other than remaining a perfect servant of the Lord for as long as it please Him. Absent that glory, oblivion is preferable.
Suppose we see a true Vaishnav walking down the road. He encounters an elderly woman carrying a heavy load. The Vaishnav immediately stops and bending down tenderly towards the frail creature, spits in her face and then knocks her teeth out with his fist. If that's what the Lord wanted him to do, then he remains a perfect vessel of the Lord- even if these actions were deeply repugnant to him.
Similarly, Al Khdir acts in a strange, seemingly repugnant fashion because he has perfect knowledge. A Shaivite Jivanmukta could act in the same way. What is different about Vaishnav theology is that Gnosis is not wished for. One does not even want to know why one has to perform a repugnant action.
This ontology may be resisted because of a fear that it aspires to some sort of implausible objectification of value.Post hoc, one could always find a way to objectify value in a consistent manner. That isn't the problem. The problem is that this ontology is stupid. It involves alienating one's own subjective valuations and placing them in the world as though they were alive and capable of a mutual relationship with one. I might say- I have torn the heart out of my breast and placed it there where her shadow departed from my gaze. I may go regularly to water my heart with my tears so it yield a fruit more bitter than sorrow. I may do numberless things of the same description till my family gets fed up with me and arranges my marriage to some harridan who will beat me savagely if I start spouting such nonsense ever again.
That is a fear that quite misses the point of this ontology. This paper‘s interest in such an ontology and in finding the Humean picture wrong, its interest, that is, in seeking a secular enchantment of the world, is only to secure one of the most basic metaphysical sources of an unalienated life.How can your life be unalienated if you yourself invest your own evaluative power in some object or the other? This is nothing but idolatory of a particularly foolish sort. To say I have placed my heart in that Ming vase so it may always know harmony and beauty is silly. The vase is bound to break.
Its interest is not to mount an objectivist resistance to ethical relativism by making values part of the external world and therefore the same for all human beings capable of a clear and unmyopic perception of the world.It does not matter what its motivation is. The fact is any imputation of values to the external world can always, post hoc, be found to have some social configuration which accedes it this objectivity. In other words, any set of externalist values must always be the dual to constraints on a community univocal in that regard.
That's actually a good reason to abandon externalist value schemes. It's also the reason Economics abandoned any sort of 'just price' theory. The constraints on society are counterproductive. It is a case of Procrustes and his bed.
To say something is part of the perceptible world cannot, in any case, be sufficient to repudiate relativism. Even natural science recognizes that many of the objects and properties of the perceptible world that it studies are observed through the lens of theories, so if observation of even physical properties is theory-laden, differing from theory to theory, it is hardly likely that the value properties in the world will not be differentially perceived by different cultures and even, often, by different individual subjects. Though, I have general opinions on the subject of relativism, and am not a relativist in politics or morals, those opinions are of no relevance in the pursuit of my present preoccupations in this paper.Relativism can always be repudiated post hoc. But doing so is silly. That's why it gets a pass.
In opposing the Humean picture, I am far from denying that the human subject and human agency are an essential part of the idea that values are in the world.If 'values are in the world' then some human subject has alienated a portion of its agency. Something within which could be immediately changed has been fossilised and expelled. Like the worker who fabricates the machine which will put him out of work- a foolish bargain has been made.
Indeed I insist on their essential part and am about to give an argument for it.Yes, the guy who chops off his own head in order to shove it up his rectum does indeed have agency, indeed it is essential to his project, however that agency fails at some point and thus his project of talking through his arse is frustrated.
What I deny is that to say that values and human agency are of a piece with our agency in this way amounts to saying that values are in some sense created by us and projected onto the world rather than perceived by us as being in the world.If values are perceived by us as being in the world then our agency has diminished. If they are perceived as something we create then our agency is enlarged. So long as Labour considers itself only valuable once assigned a task by the Capitalist- so long as its value is alien to itself- Labour will indeed remain enchained to some 'iron law of wages' and only earn enough to reproduce itself. Once people see that it is their own labour power which creates value, they can form a Co-operative or other Social type of Enterprise. Their alienation will cease not just in an Economic sense but in a Social and Psychological sense.
That would be a confusion and philosophy is sometimes prone to it. To sum it up again in a sentence or two, the confusion is this. No one is tempted to say, on the basis of variable perception of physical properties in the world owing to the theory-ladenness of observation, that we create physical properties and project them on the world.Quite true. We are physical objects and bump into other physical objects. This is not some projection on our fast.
Yet, we are constantly being told by the picture of value that I am opposing, that we must say this of value properties on the basis of variable perception of these value properties.Bilgrami may have been told this by someone who does not know Economics. Actually any set of values can, post hoc, have a consistent 'externalist' definition. This is the reason Economics has stopped worrying about the Theory of Value. The thing is 'anything goes'.
The one big difference between values and physical properties is that my agency increases when I decide to devalue something dangerous or inutile to me. However, if I decide that the fence over there is only 2 feet and not 5 feet tall, I will rip my trousers in getting over it. This reduces my agency because a guy with ripped trousers, ceteris paribus, makes a worse impression than one with an intact trouser seat and thus has lower life chances.
What, finally then, is my argument for the idea that we cannot understand the very idea of our agency without also seeing values as properties in the perceptible world around us? To answer this, we need to look a little harder at the relationship between desires and agency that I first presented in my earlier discussion of a distinction derived from Spinoza. The philosopher Gareth Evans had once said illuminatingly that questions put to one about whether one believes something, say whether it is raining outside, do not prompt us to scan our mental interiority, they prompt us to look outside and see whether it is raining. That is to say, one not only looks outside when one is asked, ―Is it raining?‖ but also when one is asked, ―Do you believe it is raining?A trivial point. Language is a coordination game. For politeness, we may accompany a statement with a physical action so as to indicate a cooperative or obliging mind set. However, this is only because other people genuinely exist in the world out there. People of no account to us, or those we believe likely to sponge off us, would get short shrift.
Now, let‘s ask: Is this true of questions put to one about whether one desires something? When someone asks one, ―Do you desire x?,‖ are we prompted to ponder our own minds or are we prompted to consider whether x is desirable?The only way to decide whether x is desirable is by pondering our own minds. It is not the case that we can evaluate x's desirability without using higher cognitive functions.
There may be special sorts of substitutions for x where we might ponder our own minds, but for most substitutions, I think, we would consider x‘s desirability.How would we consider x's desirability? Only by pondering our own minds. Can Bilgrami really be making such a foolish argument? What is wrong with him?
This suggests that our desires are presented to us as having desirabilities in the world as their objects.No it doesn't. It suggests that pondering our own minds is how we decide whether we desire x or consider x desirable. Nobody and nothing is presenting us with our desires as having desirabilities in the world as their objects. Similarly, when I say 'I hate Mondays', nobody and nothing is presenting me my hatred as having hatabilities for such Mondays as may arise in the world as objects.
Am I right to have extended the point that Evans makes about beliefs to desires as well, and to have argued on that basis that the world contains desirabilities or values?No. You are being silly.
Suppose for a moment that I am wrong to have done so. What would that imply? That is, what would be implied if one thought that when asked ―Do you desire x‖, one didn‘t look to the desirability of x itself, but instead scanned our own interiors to see if one possessed that desire of x.Looking to the desirability of x itself involves scanning one's interior to see if one possessed the desire of x.
It would imply that our desires were presented to us in a way such that what they were desires for was available to us only as something that we could have access to when we stepped back and pondered our own minds in a detached way—in the third person.There is no reason at all to ponder one's mind in the third person. You say 'do you desire P. Chidambaram?' I say- 'I'm not gay, but.. drape him in a wet veshti and who could resist, yaar?'
But now, if the presupposition of Spinoza‘s point is right and if agency is present in the possession and exercise of the first person rather than the third person point of view, that makes it a question as to how this conception of our desires could possibly square with the fact of our agency.Spinoza was wrong. He was a silly man. He died a long time ago. Get over it.
There are some people who habitually refer to themselves in the third person. They tend to be assholes. But their agency is not affected by this linguistic tic.
By contrast, a conception of desires as reaching down all the way to desirabilities in the world requires us to be agents because what we desire is presented to us in the experiencing of the desiring itself, rather than presented to us when we stepped back to observe our desires—thereby abdicating our agency.Our agency increases, not decreases, when we step back and think about not just what we want but what we ought to want to want. Regret minimization is known to be a rule that Evolution itself uses. That's how come our agency has increased.
Compare two utterances I might make ―This is desirable‖ and This is desired‖. In the latter, I am reporting something about myself, reporting what I desire, having stepped outside of myself and perceived myself and my mind from the outside, as if a third person, scanning it for what I desire.But you haven't actually done this at all, have you? We can no more step outside ourselves as we can step outside the Universe.
It is precisely, in the Spinozist distinction I began with, a detached conception of oneself as an object rather than an agent. By contrast, in the former, I express, not report, what I desire, I make an utterance conceiving myself fully as an agent or subject rather than object --but notice that, in doing so, I necessarily see what I desire to be in the world, a desirability, a value property of something in the world.Sheer nonsense. You can change your mind. It doesn't matter whether you call this expression or a report, the fact is this is something internal to you which you can change. You are not bound in some stare decisis fashion by your own statements.
Thus it makes all the difference to being an agent that we, in being so, possess states of mind such as desires that are responding to value properties in the world.If desires respond to things in the world, why not simply speak of instinctual triggers? I may salivate when I see a chocolate eclair- but I don't desire it because I know it will ruin my diet.
Agency means something more than Pavlovian responses which can be used to enslave or otherwise oppress a person.
To experience ourselves as agents we must in the very experience itself, also perceive the world as value laden.No. We are agents when we deny that the world is value laden save in such manner as we ourselves freely choose.
The agent within cannot be what it is, it cannot have the experience of its agency and its states of mind such as its desires upon which it acts, without that experience itself also being the perceptible experience of values making demands on it from without.Certainly it can. If my agency is impaired- for example by mental illness or some intoxicant- I may indeed become so disinhibited that I only experience 'agency' when responding to some overwhelming signal from outside. In such a state, I may commit a criminal offence. My lawyer may mention evidence of my impaired agency as part of a diminished responsibility plea.
That experiential identification of agency within with value without is what –at the most general level-- makes us (our inner world) unalienated in the (outer) world we inhabit.Marcusian shite. No doubt, the fact that Bilgrami is not anally pleasuring himself on every traffic cone and bollard he sees is evidence that he inhabits an alienated inner world impoverished of such polymorphous perversity as is his birthright. Still, we feel Bilgrami has actually asserted more, not less, agency by refraining from what would in any case just be repressive desublimation and, I'd imagine, painful to boot.
This equation or identification (to experience yourself as an agent is nothing other than to be engaged with value in the world) is due to a conception of desires that disallows us from being subjects who are merely the passive or detached receptacle of our desires and their fulfillments.This identification is due to stupidity. There is no 'conception of desires' that disallows us from being subjects who are merely passive at least in some instances. This is because some desires can only be satisfied in that way.
And to disallow that, to see our desires and moral sentiments as active engagements with a world enchanted with values that normatively demand our desires and moral sentiments as responses, is the first and most abstract precondition for living an unalienated life.No. It is stupidity. The first precondition for living an unalienated life is not to give your power to anything or any person. Desires are useful things to have, which is why Evolution has endowed you with them, but they must be made well-conducted servants not tyrannical masters. No object in the world is desirable in itself. Rather a principle of gross substitutability linked to regret minimization must rule sustainable agency and characterise any moral economy.
One no doubt needs other things too in order to be unalienated, things about which Marx wrote with depth and insight and which bear more directly on resolving the tension between liberty and equality in orthodox liberalism, but without this more fundamental and underlying condition that makes agency possible, one does not have, as it were, the first thing. In this sense, for all their differences, Gandhi‘s ideas were quite continuous with Marx, not something we should be surprised by, if we even so much as glance at his remarks on capitalism in Hind Swaraj or his account of the effects of the Lancashire cotton industry on India. ―Continuous‘ may be the wrong word, however. The idea of value and alienation he probed within a conception of ‗the world‘ as I have been expounding it, did not develop as much as it underlay and provided the more basic backdrop for Marx‘s more detailed social and economic analysis of those ideas.Utter gibberish. Gandhi was paid by Indian industrialists to boycott Lancashire mill cloth. The man was a politician. Marx was talking about something else altogether- viz. the manner in which Labour needed to realise that it itself produces all Value and thus must not allow itself to be short-changed or swindled.
Without such a conception of the world in which value without us is just the other side of agency within us, one would live in a quite real sense as aliens in the world;Really? So, if instead of impulse buying the new QLED TV I just saw at the full price, I wait a couple of months for the Black Friday Sale, have I indeed become 'in a quite real sense' an alien in the world?
the world around us, in such a case, would be alien to our own sensibility and we could have no angle on it but one of either detached study on the one hand or conquest and control of something alien on the other -- an impoverishing disjunction that pretty much describes the dominant tendencies of the modern period and the distinctive anxieties they have generated.Sheer stupidity. Evaluating decisions on the basis of a Hannan Consistent or Regret Minimising decision rule is about living a richer fuller life in company with others who can equally flourish.
Gandhi, like Wittgenstein, saw that it is this alienation from the world, so conceived, that thwarts the ‗natural‘ and the ‗ordinary‘, both prompting us to construct a whole metaphysics around the detached outlook of science (a quite different thing than merely doing science), and prompting our practical agency to intrude into nature and into our own ordinariness, transforming each.Gandhi saw no such thing- he wasn't a mechanical genius but he was interested in manually operated gadgets. Wittgenstein did a little applied Science. Both were wrong about what was important about their milieu. But they had charisma- I'll give them that.
No doubt, given their differences, each is transformed by different methods, the first is made over by systematically extractive forms of political economy, the latter by the politics of codes and principles that emerged in tandem with those economies.Political economy has no systematic extractive force of it own. It does not create Technology or conjure Capital out of thin air. Rather, it is the focal solution for a particular type of coordination game which may or may not subsequently arise- it depends on what sort of educational signalling is going on and what type of jurisprudence obtains.
But the point is that both methods are a fall-out of the same systematic attitude of alienated detachment generated by the Early Modern exile of the father, which produces the wrong understanding of practical agency, one that undermines the practical temperament that ‗leaves the world alone‘ and that allows ‗us‘ (by which, as I said, he meant mere people, not citizens) to be at home in the ‗world‘.So, Bilgrami is saying that Christian Europe 'exiled the Father' (this is his misinterpretation of Isaiah's reference to the 'God who hides himself)- but he does not understand that Daddy doesn't matter for Christianity. Everything is about the Son who took on our Sins and offers us Salvation if we accept him into our hearts.
Bilgrami has some crazy notion that 'political economy' has magical powers. If it did, how come India- the country where he was born- remained such a shit-hole despite having the best Economists in the world come and work on its 5 year plans?
I suppose it's coz we exiled Daddy or summat of that sort.
The phrase ―at home in the world‖ is a cliché that marks the most fundamental form of an unalienated life, which was, in Gandhi‘s understanding the most cherished ideal that politics, in the end, must strive for.Why? What is the fucking point of striving for something we all already have- if we want it? How about preventing malnutrition and child poverty and poor people having to slave away for 30 cents a day?
The effort of much of this essay has been to integrate -- through a somewhat non-standard genealogical reading of Gandhi linking him to an early dissenting tradition of the Radical Enlightenment-- a whole range of seemingly miscellaneous themes from metaphysics, science, politics, and morals, so as to give some substance and point to that cliché.
This essay says nothing about Gandhi, nothing about 'dissenting traditions' of any sort, and uses a silly Spinozan conceit to say that we should alienate our own evaluative power and agency by, utterly foolishly, investing value in objects which could break or get stolen or remain unattainable.
Why is Bilgrami writing so stupidly? Is his entire profession now as worthless as that of a Spivak or an Amartya Sen? Is this an Indian thing? For the life of me, I don't know.
Look, its cool being a shite Professor in England- revenge for the Raj, right?- but what did America ever do to us which was so evil? Oh. Fair point. I agree 'Love Guru' was terrible. Bilgrami is getting badla for us desis by writing this shite. I can understand. Still, as Mahatma Gandhi said 'an eye for an eye will leave the whole world bland'. This is because the practice of poking people's eyes out will decline in popularity. This will cause alienation as the desirability of poking eye is disallowed. People will become alienated. Their natural joie de vivre will decline. Cooks also will not be putting nice spices into fooding. Whole world will become bland and disenchanted and Daddy will go into exile and so Neoliberalism will be coming and doing all type of naughty things. Fuck you Neoliberalism! Why you are all the time being so nasty?