Saturday 30 June 2018

Ghazal of the Ottoman typewriter

 So many black shrouds of carbon interleave our each white faced foolscap
& I, of Thy Night of Strangers, a but blind copy struck
Saved from Ishq's dangers, tho' Sukhan still c.c's me crap,
 By Thy living in Kufic- Know Beauty giving a fuck.

Caliph! Herzl's thoughful gift has no power, sedition's hand to disguise
Why teach Zion thrift, so our perdition more prodigally arise?

Univalent foundations and identity politics

Staffan Angere has a wonderfully lucid paper titled  'Identity and intensionality in Univalent Foundations and philosophy' which can be found here.

Perhaps to pique the interest of the generalist, he quotes the following paragraph by, the Number Theorist, Michael Harris from the marvellously idiosyncratic book he has recently published-
It’s impossible to overstate the consequences for philosophy, especially the philosophy of Mathematics, if Voevodsky’s proposed new Foundations were adopted. By replacing the principle of identity by a more flexible account modeled on space, the new approach poses a clear challenge, on which I cannot elaborate here, to the philosophy underlying “identity politics”; it also undermines the case for analytic philosophy to seek guidance in the metaphysics of set theory, as in W.V.O Quine’s slogan “to be is to be the value of a variable.” (Harris 2015, p. 219)
This puts us in mind of Sam Harris, the nueroscientist and professional atheist's, view that Identity Politics has become a political religion. By this he means that people, on the basis of identity, have ready made preferences, or prejudices, across a range of unconnected issues- e.g. abortion, gun-control, immigration etc.

The problem with this view is that all political coalitions display a similar structure under 'first past the post' voting systems. This explains why, to Sam Harris's dismay, people mention their Identity (whose own most salient 'single issue' would be known to others in the coalition) when voicing their opinions. Thus, when I stand up at my local Labour Party meeting, I might say 'as a Hindu, who like most Hindus in West London, is highly dependent on Public Transportation, I oppose Brexit because it will inevitably lead to higher fares, cutbacks on routine maintenance, and the God Shiva opening his third eye and destroying the Universe.' Clearly, there is a large tactical element in what I have said and very little alethic content. Nevertheless it conveys a lot of information and would have a far bigger impact than anything else I could say.

Mention of one's religion or other predominating 'identity class' adds imperative force to one's signal. It serves as a proxy for preference intensity. Moreover, particular identity classes may be 'swing voters'- i.e. have a high Banzhaf power index- and thus we should expect, under an imperfect voting rule, a hypertrophy of identitarian statements.

Nevertheless, it may be, some people would find my mention of my religion somewhat jarring.

Amartya Sen, who won a Nobel Prize for applying set theory to Social Choice, voiced an unease that Harris shares, when he wrote in 'Identity and Violence'-
‘a major source of potential conflict in the contemporary world is the presumption that people can be uniquely categorized based on religion or culture’.
Sen presumes that the set of agents can be neatly partitioned into two disjoint subsets- in one of which are people who make stupid presumptions- this box would contain Sen, if he really believed what he was saying rather than just writing in a facile and sententious manner- while the rest of us who hold no such view would belong in the other box.

The truth is, the opposite proposition to Sen's has some justification- viz. if people can be uniquely categorised, with respect to a motive, by religion or culture, then an irenic movement within that culture or religion could greatly reduce conflict and promote peace. Since such irenic movements could create incentives and penalties of a novel kind for their own members in a way which no outside arbiter could- we might say they internalise the creation of positional goods or a currency of a certain kind so as to permit the Revelation Principle to incarnate in a 'Vickrey Clarke Groves' mechanism- it follows that neither the motive of Justice nor that of conflict resolution should reject unique, intensional, definitions of identity out of hand.

Indeed, both would in fact show a homotopy of their own to that of irenic religion or  'civilizational' culture, or even ethnicity. Thus, as has often been remarked Harris & his fellow 'four horsemen', preside over what looks very much like a cult.

What endogenous, not purely circumstantial, factors would determine whether it is an irenic or a violent motive which reconfigures an identity class?

Well, violence is a learned skill. One may wish to fight an external enemy so as to learn how to be better at fighting or to gain a reputation for bellicosity. This might feed into the differential determination of economic or political outcomes within one's identity class.

By contrast, if  a reputation for peacefully resolving conflicts and abiding by contracts boosts one's status or life-chances within one's in-group, then the identity class as a whole may be intensionally reconstituted by an irenic motive. However, in the latter case, it is also likely that the community will be able to devote resources to collective defence- or profitable aggression. If this sort of professionalised violence is more effective than the thymotic sort, then Identity will still correlate to, not open, but delegated and disguised Violence- except, paradoxically, some members of the class being coerced would be voluntarily, if more or less unconsciously, contributing to this outcome.

Much actual 'identity politics' is about challenging this manifestly unjust situation. Why should women pay taxes or otherwise support a machinery of Law and Justice which blames the victim for rape? Why should African Americans support a system which incarcerates a large proportion of their own rising generation?

This raises the further question- what is to be done? Whither our next step? Clearly if this step- whatever it might be- is taken in a coordinated, or otherwise unanimous, manner, it will speed the desired outcome. Is there some way in which Identity politics can have a compelling logical expression such that one particular step become Schelling focal for everybody almost simultaneously without the need for any hysterical propaganda or dubious 'moral entrepreneurship' based on telling stupid, paranoid, lies? This seems a tough call. It is invidious, but seemingly necessary,  to distinguish between strategy from tactics and methods from objectives and so forth. However, this can split the movement before it gets off the ground so all one ends up with is more and more internecine conflict and name calling.

Univalent foundations is an approach whose motive is to make mathematics much more productive. It may be that. by using it to clarify our notion of identity, identity politics too can be rendered utile rather than antagonomic.

Angere's paper begins thus-
Abstract The Univalent Foundations project constitutes what is arguably the most serious challenge to set-theoretic foundations of mathematics since intuitionism. Like intuitionism, it differs both in its philosophical motivations and its mathematicallogical apparatus. In this paper we will focus on one such difference: Univalent Foundations’ reliance on an intensional rather than extensional logic, through its use of intensional Martin-Löf type theory. To this, UF adds what may be regarded as certain extensionality principles, although it is not immediately clear how these principles are to be interpreted philosophically. In fact, this framework gives an interesting example of a kind of border case between intensional and extensional mathematics. Our main purpose will be the philosophical investigation of this system, and the relation of the concepts of intensionality it satisfies to more traditional philosophical or logical concepts such as those of Carnap and Quine.
Identity- even self-identity- isn't unproblematic. It requires the sort of close analysis that Hohfeld gave to jural relationships. Consider the following passage from Amartya Sen-
Some years ago when I was returning to England from a short trip abroad (I was then Master of Trinity College in Cambridge), the immigration officer at Heathrow, who scrutinized my Indian passport rather thoroughly, posed a philosophical question of some intricacy. Looking at my home address on the immigration form (Master’s Lodge, Trinity College, Cambridge), he asked me whether the Master, whose hospitality I evidently enjoyed, was a close friend of mine.
Why did the immigration officer (many such are of Indian origin) ask this particular question? The answer is that Sen had not stated that his occupation was 'Master of Trinity' but used some more modest description. Obviously, the Master resides in the Master's Lodge.

Sen, being an economist, was of course blissfully unaware of the nature of the exchange between him and the immigration officer.
This gave me pause since it was not altogether clear to me whether I could claim to be a friend of myself. On some reflection, I came to the conclusion that the answer must be yes, since I often treat myself in a fairly friendly way, and furthermore, when I say silly things, I can immediately see that with friends like me, I do not need any enemies. Since all this took some time to work out, the immigration officer wanted to know why exactly did I hesitate, and in particular whether there was some irregularity in my being in Britain. Well, that practical issue was eventually resolved, but the conversation was a reminder, if one were needed, that identity can be a complicated matter.
This is bizarre. The immigration officer had a job to do which involved pouncing on anyone who appeared nervous or was acting suspiciously.

Sen failed to see what aspect of his identity was relevant to the immigration official. It may be that the official could have expedited matters by putting a different question to Sen. He couldn't ask 'is that your own house?' because that would defeat the purpose.  He needed to hear Sen say something to that effect in his own words. Why? Most people hesitate or have a quaver in their voice when telling a lie.
Still, the immigration officer could have asked another question, one less ambiguous- instead of 'is that your friend's house?'- so as to elicit the substantive assertion 'no, it is my house'- he could have said 'is that your boyfriend's house?' However, in that case, the officer may himself have found himself roped into the Dungeon Master of Trinity's hi-jinks up to at his 'Lodge'.
There is, of course, no great difficulty in persuading ourselves that an object is identical to itself.
Nonsense. Some things can be identical with themselves according to one or more criteria of identity, others can't at all. There is no way of determining in advance, or independently of pragmatics, why and when this will happen.

That chair there is not wholly and verifiably identical with itself because of the Uncertainty principle. No physical object is. It may be identical with itself for some purposes- e.g. certification as the antique chair Dr, Johnson sat upon- even if every part of it had been repaired or replaced. Something similar is true even of purely mental objects.

Sen is aware of this- he writes
Wittgenstein, the great philosopher, once remarked that “there is no finer example of a useless proposition” than saying that something is identical to itself, but he went on to argue that the proposition, though completely useless, is nevertheless “connected with a certain play of the imagination.”
More than in the realms of imagination, it is in juristic, economic or chrematistic, or 'buck stopped', protocol bound discourse that identity relations have salience. They are highly utile. What matters is the motive behind the seeking of a cohomology or identity relationship.

Angere writes-
It seems to be a common assumption in analytic (but of course not continental) philosophy that identity is a fairly simple concept. A forerunner here is Frege, who in the afterword to the second volume of the Grundgesetze—the one in which he reacts to Russell’s paradox—argues against taking classes to be improper objects since this would require them to have their own notion of identity. Identity, he says, “is a relation given in so determinate a way that it is inconceivable that different kinds of it could occur” (2013, p. 254). More recently, we find David Lewis expressing quite similar feelings: Identity is utterly simple and unproblematic. Everything is identical to itself; nothing is ever identical to anything except itself. There is never any problem about what makes something identical to itself; nothing can ever fail to be. (1986, pp. 192–193) Making a distinction with the notion of reference, McGinn rather matter-of-factly writes in his book Logical Properties that “one could not write a good book entitled The Varieties of Identity” (2000, p. 1). 
But such a view can only be defended if one has already decided that the concept of identity of, say, classical predicate logic, is the correct one, in which case the simplicity and lack of problems that Lewis alludes to naturally spring from the fact that a decision has already been made, even if unconsciously. As soon as we leave classical logic’s safe confines, the conceptual landscape opens up. In the classical presentation of his type theory Martin-Löf (1984) distinguishes four forms of identity 
(i) The definitional equality a ≡d.f b. This is “the equivalence relation generated by abbreviatory definitions, changes of bound variables and the principle of substituting equals for equals” (Martin-Löf 1984, p. 31). It is a purely syntactic notion, and is therefore not strictly the same as the identity judgment a ≡ b : X, which— to start with—also makes reference to a specific type. In Martin-Löf (1984), it is the only form of identity that the author holds to be intensional.
Definitional identity, thus, is motivated by a potential gain from substitutabilty. This can either be licit or illicit. If it is licit, it is possible that our knowledge base will expand. If it is illicit, noise will drown out signal. Thus, in Ambedkar's view, Gandhi dressing up as a peasant or cleaning toilets like a bhangi was an illicit type of claim to definitional identity- Gandhi was substituting himself for large sections of society so as to gain a salience and obligatory passage point status, during a transition to Democracy, much larger than would accrue to him as a lawyer from a mercantile caste.

Of course, the same point might be made about Ambedkarite identity politics. Highly educated people rely upon a hereditary definition of themselves as 'Dalit' 'broken people' so as to gain an advantage in the higher echelons of the administration without concerning themselves any further with the plight of that particular class from which, at least notionally, they themselves have sprung.
(ii) The equality of elements a ≡ b : X, where X is a type of which a and b are elements. This is perhaps the version most like classical identity in that it allows replacing equals for equals arbitrarily, subject only to type restrictions. This is what we have referred to as the judgmental equality. 
The Law does create judgemental identity and such 'identity politics' as is concerned with changing the Law or improving access to judicial remedies may have some utility- or, as too often happens, disutility, if the underlying vinculum juris is incentive incompatible.

(iii) The equality of types X ≡ Y , which consists in them having judgmentally equal elements.
This permits different separating equilibriums to form a pooling equilibrium thus rendering different types equivalent or grossly substitutable. Thus, according to prevailing exchange rates, I- as a working class Hindu from Hammersmith who is heavily reliant on Public Transport- have a judgmental identity perfectly expressed by the term 'Fat Bastid'.
(iv) The identity type family IdC(x, y)through which every pair of elements a, b of C is assigned a specific type IdC(a, b). Using the Curry–Howard correspondence, the elements of this type are interpretable as proofs of the proposition a = b, and this form of identity is therefore also referred to as propositional. Furthermore, if a : C, there is a postulated element reflC(a) of IdC(a, a) called a’s reflexivity proof, which corresponds to a canonical proof that a = a; e.g. the one obtained by a single application of equality introduction
Propositional identity, then, can motivate canonical solutions to coordination problems which are independent of what is focal to a particular identity.  Because of Girard's paradox, we know, Identities won't dissolve into an undifferentiated mass because then every truth would be provable.  Thus you get a rational 'representative agent' theory- or to put it another way you can work with 'centre's of gravity' rather than unwieldly shapes. This one reason why definitional identity is always worth sticking with rather than dissolving because to do so would be to reduce degrees of freedom. Rather every intensional identity should be admitted to achieve Hannan Consistency. This means equilibria have robust defences against suddenly becoming 'anything goes'.

This is the Holy Grail of Economics in which Preference diversity displays a Goldilocks condition, there is no chrematistic hedging nor do any significant 'Income effects' obtain and so the Revelation Principle is univocal with its Mechanism.

Granted, the above is impressionistic, if not wholly incoherent, still, it seems to me, there is an obvious link between motivic cohomology, univalent foundations, and redeeming 'identity politics' from its Gadarening trajectory on such campuses as we read about or see represented on Netflix.

A more modest claim would be that a proper analysis of the notion of identity can make such Public Discourse as it motivates, at least marginally, useful to the commonweal.

As a first step, perhaps we can agree to distinguish between

1) intensional identity- whereby the fulfilment of all necessary and sufficient conditions  establishes identity. Amartya Sen fulfilled the conditions for admission to the UK because he had both a legal right of abode as well as sufficient means and suitable accommodation- and thus was unlikely to become a charge on public funds.  Had he been a British citizen, the economic criteria would not have been a necessary condition for his admission.

2) extensional identity- i.e. as arising from membership in a list of a certain sort. Prior to Sen's immigration to the UK there was a time when his holding an Indian passport would have been sufficient for him to be admitted to the country. However, the law was changed. It is likely that Sen's granted permanent residency in the UK on the basis, not of his identity as an Indian, but rather because of some skills he possessed which initially made him worthy of a work permit on the basis of which he would have been granted indefinite leave to remain. However, this could have been revoked for criminal misconduct. His name would have been struck off a list.

Intensional identity, in socio-political contexts, naturally arises wherever there is a monopoly or monopsony or where unconscionable contracts may arise by reason of great differences in market power.
Things like the colour of one's skin or one's gender are difficult and costly to disguise. Mother tongue, ethnicity, Religion, Sexuality, too may become easier to detect over the course of an incomplete contract and may become the basis of price, wage or service provision discrimination.

The relevant economic theory here predicts that the establishment of a countervailing power by a discriminated against identity class may increase allocative and dynamic efficiency.
We all benefit, even if we don't all acknowledge it, when merit rises to the top regardless of historic prejudices or the vested interests of rent-seeking cabals.
How can this countervailing power arise? The answer is that some people have to send a 'costly signal'- they have to sacrifice something or undergo some suffering for the collective good- such that a new 'separating equilibrium' is established.  One way to sabotage this is to pretend that the original was a 'pooling equilibrium'- everyone was treated equally- and this will generate some worthless pi-jaw or 'cheap talk'.  Some 'activists' may get misled by this availability cascade and start babbling about Total Revolution or Universal Human Rights or some such shite- i.e. postpone fixing things till everything is fixed once and for all.

One way of looking at what is going on is to speak of discriminated against people, or those with lower market or institutional power, as needing to enter a 'discoordination game' so as to get 'judgmental identity' or 'process equality' with respect to the hegemonic 'coordination game'.

Extensional identity, too, has significance though it corresponds to a widening 'pooling equilibrium' under a cheap talk regime. However, at the margin, we can expect dramatic saltation events. Thus, when Prof. Ranajit Guha, the great Marxist, emigrated to the UK, his being an Indian citizen was a sufficient condition for his being admitted to the country. By the time, the far less Left wing, Professor Sen emigrated, this was no longer the case. However, at that time, there seemed little prospect that immigration officers would bar the re-entry of people of Commonwealth origin who had established domicile in England and who were neither criminals nor a charge on public funds. Thus many Commonwealth citizens of Sen's generation did not bother to acquire British nationality. Going forward, this is unlikely to be the case.

Economic, Political and Juristic processes often have a nomothetic framework with idiographic contents. There is a subtle interplay between intensional and extensional notions of identity. This can confuse the hell out of elderly Professors like Dr. Sen who jump to the conclusion that most people have adopted an absurd view of the world- probably because they didn't read some particular footnote in a book by a long dead White Dude- and who thus become ready to play the Chomsky to the Media's Ali G.

This is by no means inevitable. If Economists and Philosophers give up a silly, supposedly set theoretic, notion of identity, and embrace recent advances- like 'univalent foundations'- they need not talk worthless shite so incessantly. Campuses can purge themselves of antagonomic culture warriors whose antics have provoked a Trumpian backlash.

 How? The answer is that they must focus on the motive behind the identity being claimed. Motivic cohomology allows us to go beyond puerile name-calling. Consider the following tweet by Dr. Priyamvada Gopal who thinks the porters at Kings College are racist. She says they refused to call her 'Dr. Gopal' instead of 'madam' and one actually said 'I don't care who you are'.

Kings is standing by its porters and Dr. Gopal is refusing to teach there.

 Jun 18MoreWith deep regret but with 17 years of consideration behind it, I have finally decided on my behalf & of other people of colour to refuse to supervise any students at . ENOUGH IS ENOUGH of the consistently racist profiling & aggression by Porters.

I also need to take this action because most people aggressed by the mostly white doorkeepers and all white all male Porters (as far as I can see) @Kings_College are not going to be in a position to do even this little. I call on those who ARE in a position to join me in this.
'Please address me as Dr Gopal.'
'I don't care who you are.'
This is @Kings_College Head Porter who then launched into a tirade about how people treat him. I am sorry but my brown body isn't taking the hit for that. He'd never talk like this to actual white men who behave badly.

Racism does not have a univocal trigger. The fact that those same porters treated me deferentially does not mean they might not have mistreated Gopal simply because of her colour. In my case, it may be that the friend I was visiting was an old fashioned, gentlemanly, 'wog'- i.e. a liberal tipper. and even more liberal toper, who was wont to engage the porters in maudlin conversation when of strong drink taken. They may have mentally pigeonholed me as some sort of declasse Accountant or Solicitor who had been dispatched by the Family to rake the young prodigal over the coals.

What is interesting here is that Gopal says that she is making a decision on behalf of 'other people of colour'.  Presumably she means 'other people of colour whom the porters were racist towards'.  The problem here is that it may be that there is no racism here at all- even if it is shown that the Porters use terms like 'nigger' or 'Paki' amongst themselves. After all, plenty of people who don't like me call be 'Fat bastid'. They may be portly themselves or enjoy close friendships with people more obese than myself but they use this pejorative term in referring to me so as to express their animus against me and relieve their feelings a little.

Gopal, however, takes a different view, in a subsequent tweet she says-

Yes, absolutely. The porters, in this case, are simply the front end of systemic racialised gatekeeping: it's worse, in fact, up the chain.

This may be a reasonable claim. Perhaps Kings College has been taken over by a racist cabal who are creating a 'hostile environment' for coloured people so that they will stop teaching or studying there.

Colleges are themselves a sort of gatekeeper. They admit some- perhaps to liweves of erudition or affluence- and reject others- it may be to lives impoverished of intellectual, aesthetic or financial rewards.

If Gopal really believes that Kings is a racially discriminatory gatekeeper- in other words, it is breaking the Law- then. surely, something more is demanded of her than a couple of tweets and the decision not to teach at a place where the custodial staff are rude?

To answer this question, we need to consider what Gopal's identity might be. We normally think it incumbent on the subject of a tort, or crime, to report the matter or otherwise set the wheels of justice in motion. Failure to take such action does not however mean that the issue is de minimis or otherwise not justiciable. It may be that the victim is of diminished capacity or that there is some necessary aspect of her identity which both militated towards her being victimized as well as prevents her securing justice in proprio persona. The problem here is that there may be evidence that Gopal has been quick to secure her rights in the past where the facts of the case permitted her to do so. This does not however wholly invalidate her assertion that she is the victim of systemic top-down racism at Kings. It may be that she has multiple identities arising out of being subject to different regimes of power. Thus, in some other context, say if I steal her bicycle, she may be able to go to the Police because her identity as victim of a theft is not problematic for the Constabulary. Even in that situation, however, it may be that she will be unable to bring to book the true motive force behind my stealing her bicycle- viz. the nexus between comprador neoliberalism and alt right misogynistic White Nationalism orchestrated by David Attenborough and the sneezing Baby Panda on You Tube.

This represents a scandal for Sen's notion of multiple identities. Why should we subscribe to a theory which says Gopal, for a priori reasons, can get justice when I steal her bike but not when Kings constructively dismisses her purely because of her colour? Is it not better to admit that she has identical litigation capacity in both instances? By doing so, identity can give rise to a useful political action- Gopal could file a class action suit which would have a demonstration effect and perhaps lead to a clarification by way of an amendment to existing statute law. After all one of her multiple identities, as Sen might say, is that of an educated person. Why should this identity not function even in the context of her supposed abject status?

The answer is that Priyamvada Gopal specialises in Feminist Post Colonial literary theory. Its univalent foundations are not in identity but counterfeiting a dispossessed alterity so as to justify fraudulently cashing the pension cheques of Dead White Men.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Is this a moral judgement?

Consider the following moral judgement-
It is morally wrong to lie to parents that you’re taking their children away from them for 20 minutes to give them a bath, but then instead separate the children from their parents indefinitely, imprison the parents, and confine the children in giant holding facilities where they can no longer be contacted, as United States border agents are apparently now doing.
On examination, it is wholly foolish. Parents do not hand over their kids to strangers who evince a desire to 'bathe' them even for five minutes.

What is happening here, if there is any truth to the underlying allegations, is that either

1) certain border guards want to separate kids from a  specific type of parent for some reason of their own which may or may not be 'moral'. In this case, they are guilty of a justiciable wrong and have no defence of sovereign immunity. It is pointless to ponder the moral rightness or wrongness of their reason for acting as they did because the fact that they did so by their own choice and without any explicit order is sufficient to bring them to trial and, hopefully, such condign punishment as might serve to eliminate this obnoxious practice.

2) the guards don't want to do so but are being illegally constrained by their employer to a morally repugnant course of action. In this case, the original moral wrong is part of something wider of which the border guard too is a victim. Here the remedy lies in enabling borders guards to avail of statutory and administrative protection of their rights- in this case as 'whistle-blowers'.

Simply saying these people are morally wrong to act the way they do does not help anybody.  Moral judgements which have no conceptual tie to action can't claim to deal with real world wrongs at all. An example of a 'conceptual tie to action' rendering our moral judgements efficacious in righting real world wrongs is the work done by the Government Accountability Project which seeks to help border-guards and other such people maintain their moral integrity without being excessively and illegally penalised for doing so.

There is no great 'moral wrong' in telling a 'common knowledge' type white-lie which does more to soothe the child than mislead the parent.
There is a legal wrong, if a civil servant either tells this lie to make his own life easier or for some other purpose of his own. However, there may not be any moral wrong at all.

However, in this case, it seems that there is a moral wrong done, not by border guards, but some person or combination of persons not all of whom can be held legally accountable for their actions.

What is the nature of that wrong? It is one of inflicting avoidable suffering for no good purpose. This policy has no deterrent effect. On the contrary, it creates a perverse, adversely selective, incentive to enter the country with a minor. It can have no deontic or utilitarian justification. Further, it shows its sponsors as lacking a moral compass, or even basic common sense, and thus demoralises those who might otherwise support them.

Sunday 24 June 2018

Amia Srinivasan on Animal Equality

Equality can mean having the same value or that the same object is meant. Thus, we may say that one hundred pennies is equal to a Pound as well as 'one quid' is equal to 'one Pound'.

Human equality means either that any two humans have the same value for some purpose or else that they represent the same object with respect to that purpose.

Thus in cutting up a cake, human equality could mean giving an equal share to all the humans present. Alternatively, it could mean that, with respect to the actual cutting and sharing of the cake, it is a matter of indifference as to which human cuts the cake. Thus if the cake cutting procedure has the following protocol- 'the order in which people cut out the slice they want must be the reverse of the order in which slices of the cut cake are selected'- then there is a different sort of equality which has been asserted which, under certain ideal circumstances, would yield the same outcome.

Human life consists of far more complex sharing arrangements than cutting up a tangible cake. It is tempting to say that some value inheres in every human being and that this value attracts the good things in the world. By equalising this value, surely all human beings will get an equal share in those good things?

The answer to this question is that value has no power to attract what is good. Rather, it may attract what seeks to loot or defile it. It is sheer magical thinking to assert that equalising the notional value of human beings will result in equalising the good they receive in this world.  Only an occassionalist God could work this miracle, but in that case even the assertion by which notional value was equalised was His doing, not our own.

The objection might be made that Just Institutions could do the work of an Occassionalist god. However, as Ralf Dahrendorf quipped, men are equal before the Law, not after it. I suppose, one way out would be what the Greeks called 'antidosis' where a person charged with a liturgical duty might ask to swap estates with some other named party. This is rather like the solution to the cake cutting problem where the one who slices the cake gets the last pick. However, the same purpose would be served by a stare decisis judicial process such that Judges themselves would be bound by the Law they hand down. Here, 'equality' means substitutability without changing the outcome. Thus a ratio concerning Richard Roe uttered by Justice John Doe would, if the Judge commits the same crime as Roe, apply equally to him. A little thought will show that the judicial process is not concerned with the value of actual human beings- Roe may be worthless and Doe a Saint- but rather with a notional value arising out of the judicial process. It is a separate matter that equitable considerations or a statutory provision for leniency alters the quantum of punishment arising out of the same judgment.

Since judicial processes only arise when some human takes up a matter as justiciable, it can't be the case that institutionalised Justice, by itself, endows actual human beings with equal value. Rather it does so only with respect to its own protocol bound judicial processes. Still, we may hope that if access to Justice is cheap then Schelling focal solutions to coordination or concurrency or cake cutting problems will approach some ideal of equality we might have. The problem here is that the existence of a coordination game militates for hedging on discoordination games if Knightian Uncertainty obtains. This in turn means that arbitrageurs gain a niche and rent contestation is likely to occur in a manner which would always threaten to reduce effective equality.

In view of this scandal- which Economic research over the last four decades has more and more clearly delineated- it is tempting for philosophers to espouse an 'intrinsic value' type fallacy and to engage in hand waving pi jaw.

This, it seems, is what has happened with Prof. Jeremy Waldron, who deserves praise for resisting the mania for judicial review, but who has now written a book on Human Equality which, on the evidence of Amia Srinivasan's comments in the NYRB,  appears wholly fallacious, indeed mischievously so.

Srinivasan, who fails to spot Waldron's fundamental fallacy, adopts it in a ludicrous manner. It is good to see that young philosophers can be sillier than the old.

Let us now savour her essay- (my comments are in bold)

A helpful way of thinking about basic equality, Waldron says, is that it denies that there are fundamental differences of kind between humans.
How is this helpful? There are no fundamental differences of kind between integers yet some are bigger than others. By contrast, there are fundamental differences of kind between the microwave ready-meals in my freezer- one is 'Indian', the other is 'Chinese', a third is 'Italian' and so forth. Yet they all taste the same and are equal in terms of the number of calories they contain. 

Integers are of the same kind but not equal to each other. My calorie controlled ready meals- designed to give me the illusion of gastronomic cosmopolitanism- are different in kind but equal in every other way for my purposes or those of their vendor.

There is no reason why equality should be based on some supposed homogeneity. The Law may grant legal personality- and thus an equal status with respect to some due process or Hohfeldian bundle of rights- to a Corporation or even, in India, to a God. No great scandal arises thereby.

Equality is either a purely ontological postulate or it is a Jurisprudential program embodied in a widening range of justiciable Hohfeldian rights and access to due process remedies.
While there are humans in different conditions—children and adults, the married and unmarried, citizens and aliens—there are not humans of different sorts, demanding fundamentally different forms of moral attention.
How do we know they are not of different sorts? Suppose my neighbour is discovered to be a humanoid alien from the Planet X, whose ancestors settled here and underwent gene therapy so as to appear indistinguishable from the rest of us, would it really be the case that he would cease to enjoy the protection of the law? Would he suddenly become our inferior?  

Consider what sort of precedent would be set if we decided this humanoid alien was not our equal. A lot of people would try to wriggle out of their contractual obligations or criminal convictions by arguing that the injured party was, to their knowledge, not human.

Of course much turns on what we mean by “fundamentally” here. Clearly, the particular vulnerability of children means that they demand certain kinds of moral treatment that adults do not. More controversially, we might think that distinguishing between citizens and aliens involves treating some humans as if they were more deserving of our moral consideration than others. (How much of a consolation is it to tell a Syrian refugee that, while the border is closed to her, we are all created equal?)
The word 'fundamentally', as used by Waldron, is either mere hand waving or it means that Corporations or Indian Gods or other entities with legal personality, which are of a different kind to human beings, ought not to stand in a relationship of equality with us in terms of due process or justiciability.

But Waldron thinks that in neither case are we drawing fundamental distinctions of kind between humans: being a child or an alien is (in principle) a contingent condition, one that justifies different forms of moral treatment, but that does not speak of fundamental differences in moral worth.
So, Waldron says there are no fundamental differences in moral worth but this does not matter in the slightest. We must treat people differently anyway. So, fundamentally, this equality of moral worth is utterly worthless. It changes nothing.
Or, to put it another way, insofar as our differential treatment of children and adults, or citizens and aliens, is justified, it is only because we can show how it is mandated by a principle that applies equally to everyone, including children and aliens.
 But we can always find a principle that will mandate any action no matter how outrageous by saying we would apply it equally to everyone.  I may kill and eat your children on the principle that all children should be killed and eaten. You may point out that I have spared my own obese offspring. My reply is that I will get round to eating them eventually.
So what kind of “fundamental” distinction between humans does a commitment to basic equality rule out? According to Waldron it is the sort of distinction that has historically been drawn between free men and natural slaves, civilized people and barbarians, noblemen and serfs, white people and black people, and men and women. On the one side of each of these divides we have people who have been taken to simply count more or be worth more, who have been thought to demand a moral consideration and respect that would be simply inappropriate if shown to those on the other side.
History shows that it has always been perfectly possible to believe no fundamental distinctions between humans, or indeed any sentient beings, exist while also practicing slavery, misogyny, xenophobia, untouchability, and so on. 

A commitment to 'basic equality' is perfectly compatible with the nomenklatura living high on the hog while the proletariat, whose supposed Dictatorship they enforce, quietly starves. 

 Waldron says that we, thankfully, do not draw such distinctions anymore.
Why did we phase out such distinctions? The answer is that they imposed large dynamic costs and deadweight losses on the economy. The thing wasn't worth doing. We saved money by getting rid of these distinctions and denying tenure to the sort of savant who was wont to pontificate about their Divine origin.
(The recent rise of right-wing nationalism in the United States and Europe, however, suggests we should not be too optimistic about how encompassing this “we” really is.)
Why? Amia Srinivasan is of Indian origin. India, like other Developing countries, discourages illegal migration and accords superior rights and entitlements to its own citizens as compared to those who may be merely domiciled there. Thus, certain types of land and certain offices of influence can only be held by Indian citizens. 
Or, rather, we no longer draw distinctions of fundamental worth among humans.
Really?  How is it that Obama had to get the permission of the National Security Council to kill al-Awlaki, who was an American citizen and thus entitled to due process, but did not need any such permission to kill Osama? It appears that we do draw distinctions of fundamental worth among humans if there is a vinculum juris, a bond of law, enforceable against us.
For most of us do draw a fundamental distinction in worth between humans and nonhuman animals: while we cannot treat animals any which way, they are not generally thought to be our fundamental equals.
We treat some animals very well just as we treat some other humans very well. In general we prefer to injure another human rather than suffer him to injure an animal we are fond off.  
Proponents of this view often say that humans are possessed of a “dignity” lacked by nonhuman animals.
But this view does not correspond to the facts. We are certainly entitled to ascribe dignity to some pedo getting his rectum wrecked in prison. But why stop there? Let us also speak of the dignity of the young bicyclist who fell under the wheels of a bus and who screamed and screamed as her entrails were smeared over quarter of a mile of motorway.  That was a very dignified way to go. 

What about the lady on the Graham Norton show who confessed that she had come home in a drunken state, taken off her clothes and then crawled to the loo to vomit. Her dog, seeing her naked rump, mounted her. This wasn't humiliating for her at all. She was human and thus had great dignity. It was the dog who looked a fool.
They endorse not only the thesis that Waldron calls “continuous equality,” that there are no differences in fundamental moral worth among humans, but also the thesis of “distinctive equality,” that there really are such differences between humans and nonhuman animals.
Neither humans nor animals greatly care about what some silly Professor says about 'fundamental worth'. The thing is fundamentally worthless.  
Waldron is a believer in not just continuous but also distinctive equality: all humans count equally, and they count significantly more than animals. He does not propose to offer a proof of either claim. Only someone who is already committed to basic equality, Waldron says, will find what he has to say about it persuasive.
So, he is only interested in preaching to the choir. But, if I come along and say 'all humans count equally because my neighbor's cat told me so', will my argument be equally persuasive? This is the crux of the matter when it comes to persuasive speech. What additional baggage is one getting saddled with? We know very well that the person who starts talking about Equality or Justice or Universal Peace will turn out to be recruiting for some cult or cabal or else ultimately reveal himself as a virtue signalling windbag championing some fashionable nostrum du jour which, if adopted, is bound to work a great mischief upon the commonwealth.
For the opponent of basic equality will invariably see the differences between humans—in intelligence, ability, race, sex, character, culture—as justifying different kinds of moral concern.
Why bother opposing something entirely vacuous? Who in their right mind is going to stand up and say 'Down with Equality', 'We demand Injustice', 'Hate thy Neighbour' and so forth?

Why pretend any such people exist? What is the point of telling so stupid a lie?
For example, a sexist will see the differences between men and women as legitimate grounds for excluding women from various social and political goods.
While still canting on about the 'basic equality' of the various genders.
Only the egalitarian will be able to recognize these differences as mere differences.
Nonsense! An elitist seeking to maximise economic output would arrive at the same conclusion and what's more put in place a mechanism to reduce exclusion so as to improve allocative efficiency.
Seeing humans as equal, we might say, requires us to first believe in their equality, rather than the other way around.
Why might we say that? Seeing Spiderman as Wonderwoman does not require us to first believe anything at all. A hypnotist could plant this suggestion in our minds. Alternatively, we could be subjected to some type of conditioning so that every time we see the gorgeous Gal Gadot, we think we are looking at a skinny dude wearing our kid's pajamas.

No beliefs are involved in seeing something as something else unless the belief also caused us to condition or hypnotise ourselves in a particular way.
Still, Waldron proposes to “bolster” our antecedent commitment to basic equality, first by showing that it guides our political decision-making in substantive and demanding ways, and second by explaining how it is grounded in certain facts about the kinds of creatures we humans are.
Why would this 'bolster' an antecedent commitment? Nobody thinks our political decision-making is rightly guided at the moment.  Moreover, both Biology and History tells us we are the kind of creatures who are wholly unconstrained by any notion of 'basic equality' which is why human societies are highly diverse across space and time.
Showing that basic equality makes serious demands on our politics is important if Waldron is going to answer the skeptic’s accusation that acknowledging the principle of “basic equality” does little to limit real, material inequality. One straightforward way of refuting this charge is to show that a genuine commitment to basic equality severely constrains the permissible political arrangements in a society—for example, by requiring an equal distribution of goods and benefits, or a distribution according to need, or a strict, state-enforced ceiling on material and social inequality. If so, then the dramatic economic and social inequality we witness today is inconsistent with our commitment to basic equality—and defenders of gross social or material inequality who say they are committed to basic equality would turn out to be mistaken.
We know that there is no Society anywhere, or which existed at any time, where the phrase 'permissible political arrangements' meant anything at all. Why? There is no supernatural force which permits or forbids things. That is why Constitutions don't matter. They can be interpreted any which way. or be abrogated in whole or in part, or otherwise simply  disregarded.

There is no point pretending otherwise.
But Waldron does not take this route. Instead he says that a genuine commitment to basic equality is compatible with various political arrangements regarding distribution, entitlements, and rights. This is because, in Waldron’s view, basic equality is not a first-order moral principle—a principle we can apply directly to questions about how to treat one another—but instead a second-order principle that constrains how we must apply any particular first-order moral principle. Basic equality tells us that, when it comes to applying the principles of utilitarianism, or libertarianism, or socialism, we must do so in a way that is disciplined by the logic, as Bentham said, of “everybody to count for one, nobody for more than one.”
In which case Utilitarianism will never be implemented. Bentham's Social Choice rule is either Dictatorial (in which case at least one person's vote counts for more than that of others) or can only be applied in a Society where there are only two choices.
If we are making decisions on the basis of a utilitarian calculus, we cannot discount the happiness of some people while weighing the happiness of others. If we are allocating resources according to need, we cannot, consistent with basic equality, count one person’s needs as greater than another person’s.
Nonsense! A utilitarian calculus must have some system of weighting to account for dynamic effects. The need of a ninety year old for medical treatment which might prolong her life by a month should get less weighting than a similar need on the part of a nine year old whose life span might be increased by eighty years. The sort of actuarial calculation which must be made for this sort of calculus yields, as the dual of its constrained optimization, 'shadow prices' which serve as a weighting index.
This characterization of basic equality as a second-order principle, compatible with various sorts of political arrangements, leaves Waldron vulnerable to the skeptic’s charge that basic equality doesn’t amount to much. Consider the principle that societies should distribute goods strictly according to natural talents.
Why consider it? Natural talent is unknown and unknowable. 
It’s possible to apply this principle in a way that respects basic equality as a constraining second-order principle, so long as we apply the principle consistently across all people, talented or not.
It isn't possible at all. Suppose I possessed the ability to judge how much natural talent any given individual had. I would make millions in sports betting which the uncannily prescient hedge fund managers I hire will soon turn into billions. My political party will sweep the polls and all over the globe my handpicked candidates will be installed as Presidents or Prime Ministers. 

No one possesses this ability otherwise this outcome would have materialised by now.
And yet this principle, so constrained, would lead to serious inequality, since the distribution of natural talents is far from uniform. Indeed one might think that such a distribution was moreover plainly unjust, in that it would allocate resources to people simply on the basis of the luck of their natural endowments.
Why say luck? Why not 'karma' or 'Divine favour'? Better yet, why say anything at all? We are talking about impossibilities. Society can't do any of the things being described. Why speak of the injustice of an incompossible outcome? I might say 'you are very unjust because you are Spiderman and yet you don't look anything at all like Gal Gadot. I've been catfished!' You should simply get up and walk away. There is no point in talking to an idiot.
I suspect that Waldron would say that such a “meritocratic” principle is in fact inconsistent with the demands of basic equality. But it remains something of a mystery just why. (Early on in the book Waldron says that “basic equality sometimes has distributive implications all by itself,” but he doesn’t tell us what those concrete implications might be, or how they follow from basic equality.) How does a principle that merely constrains how we apply our favored political ideals ensure that we do not select manifestly unjust and unequal ideals, like distribution according to talents, birth, or beauty? And if a commitment to basic equality does not rule out such ideals, in what sense does it really amount to a commitment to equality, except in the thinnest, most procedural sense?
In no sense, because the thing is nonsense. 
Waldron is insistent that basic equality, despite its status as a second-order principle, is morally demanding. It requires us, he writes, to “insist unflinchingly that the benefit of basic principles of human worth and human dignity accrues equally to every human being.” His central example is a decision made by the Israeli Supreme Court in 2005 on targeted killings of Palestinians, including those not directly involved in terrorist activities. In his opinion, Supreme Court President Emeritus Aharon Barak argued that a ruling on the question had to respect the fact that “unlawful combatants are not beyond the law. They are not ‘outlaws.’ God created them as well in his image. Their human dignity as well is to be honored.” Barak went on to argue for an expanded notion of what counts as “direct participation” in terrorist activity, so as to make Israel’s killings compatible with international customary law. The other justices concurred. Waldron finds Barak’s invocation of basic equality moving, a sign of “the hard and desperately difficult work” that the principle does. A skeptic might think it a prime example of how talk of basic human equality can be used to dignify profound inhumanity.

Israel is a booming knowledge economy. It has an interest in promoting the Rule of Law.  No 'hard and desperately difficult' work was done in this case. Rather, a judicious signal was sent. This had nothing to do with 'basic human equality' and everything to do with Hohfeldian rights- including those of investors or customers of Israel- including countries like Saudi Arabia.
Related to but distinct from the worry that basic equality is an empty notion is the worry that it is a redundant one. (“Be nice to your sister” isn’t empty, but it’s redundant if you’ve already said “be nice to your siblings.”)
Imperative statements are not alethic. There is no redundancy here because the imperative force has been doubled. 
For Waldron, basic equality tells us to apply our moral principles to people irrespective of their race, sex, class, and so on. But is this not just to say that we ought to apply our moral principles consistently—something that follows from their very nature as principles?
No. Waldron's statement is imperative. Suppose he had said 'irrespective of their race, testicle size, gender, or being a bit fat Ozzie pooftah with ginormous balls' then the informational content of this statement would be greatly modified.  
Consider, for example, Marx’s dictum “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” So long as we apply that principle consistently, we will find ourselves attending to everyone’s needs, regardless of race or sex, caste or creed—just as the egalitarian wants us to. What is gained by saying, in addition, that all humans are equal?
WTF? Our needs are known to us and have great plasticity- they are potentially infinite. The abilities of others can only be elicited by incentive mechanisms. Thus, the only principle here is 'from each according to some unknown criteria, and to each according to a criteria only I know with respect to myself'.  It is not actionable. Nobody can act consistently on it. 

Suppose all needs and abilities were known in advance. Marx's dictum would still not mean that 'we will find ourselves attending to everyone's needs'- because we have no such ability. 
Waldron’s response to the redundancy challenge is twofold. First, he argues that the invocation of basic equality is essential when it comes to matters of comparative justice. Consider a case in which we are more confident that two people who have committed similar crimes should get a similar sentence than we are confident of what that sentence would be. Here it seems that we cannot simply consider how each person, in turn, ought to be treated; we must make interpersonal comparisons in order to bring our treatment of both into alignment. An appeal to equality is required.
Waldron is speaking of 'horizontal equity'- treating people in like circumstances alike- but this does not require any interpersonal comparisons at all which is lucky because we have no Momus window into their soul. 
But as Waldron admits, comparative justice covers a fairly small range of cases. His second response to the redundancy challenge is meant to apply more broadly. “You can ditch the word ‘equality’ if you like,” he writes, but insofar as you want to signal your “steadfast opposition” to racism, sexism, and other such forms of discrimination, “the use of the word ‘equality’ is as good a strategy as any.” This is a pragmatic rather than principled argument, one that may be truer in some political moments than others. No doubt calls for equality have been vital in historical battles against oppression, most obviously the feminist and civil rights movements. Whether such invocations are still helpful today is less clear. Online, the term “egalitarianism” is increasingly used to signal opposition to feminism. (The subreddit r/Egalitarianism features posts by men’s rights activists on false rape accusations, the “myth” of the wage gap, and “female privilege.”) On the other hand, the rise of white supremacism, with its proud embrace of natural hierarchy, might mean that it’s too soon to give up on talking about equality.

Does Amia think that White Supremacists will soil their pants and run away if you talk about equality? If not, what is the point of doing so? Equality could mean putting an end to affirmative action, gender quotas, Title IX actions and so forth. It could also mean that if Blacks use the N word, Whites too can use it.
The second part of Waldron’s project to bolster our commitment to basic equality involves explaining the particular qualities of human beings that provide grounding for this principle. His task here is to identify a property that reveals our equal, deep, and distinctive worth—a worth that extends to all humans “but not to teapots or tadpoles.”

Humans form relationships and enter into contracts precisely because they want something more than 'first come first served' basic equality. Scarcity is at the root of economic activity. Opportunity cost is what gives rise to the stable marriage problem. Thus to identify human qualities as founding that which those qualities evolved to get away from is wholly foolish. 
Waldron is most taken by the human capacities for personal autonomy, reason, moral thought and action, and love. He urges us not to choose among them, saying that basic equality might well be grounded in a complex combination of all of them. Of course, each of these capacities can be found to varying degrees in different humans. Thus Waldron appeals to Rawls’s notion of a “range property”: what matters, at least for the purposes of basic equality, is whether a given creature falls within the “ordinary range” of each human capacity, not the degree to which he or she has it.
If a human capacity has an 'ordinary range' then it must also be subject to selection pressure in which case, the regret minimizing strategy would be to depart most steeply from 'Justice as fairness' at  precisely those points on the fitness landscape where the selection pressure is most intense. 
Waldron’s proposal to ground equality in the “ordinary range” of certain human capacities threatens to leave out not just teapots and tadpoles but many humans too: babies and young children who have not yet developed capacities for autonomy, reason, morality, and love; and also those humans with cognitive impairments (chronic or as a result of old age) so severe as to deprive them of these capacities.
That isn't a big problem. Evolution has taken care of it for us. Not even the Nazis could get away with killing off the elderly or disabled as a matter of principle.
(Waldron uses the term “profoundly disabled” to refer to the latter group, and means it to indicate “a relatively narrow range of cases”; for “many people who are regarded as disabled,” he writes, “there is no question but that they fit within the ordinary range of human functioning.”) The case of the very young and the very old is easier to deal with, since in the usual course of things they go on to develop these capacities or once possessed them. Thus Waldron tells us that the subject of basic equality is not a particular human at a particular time, but “whole human lives.”
The case of those profoundly disabled from birth is more pressing. Waldron agrees with philosophers like Eva Kittay and Lawrence Becker who insist that any good theory of justice must vindicate the rights of people who are profoundly disabled.
There is no need for it. Even the Scandinavians have given up eugenic programs of this repugnant sort. We no more need a theory of Justice to vindicate the rights of the disabled than we need Gad Gadot to admit she is Spiderman. 
He is thus not open to, as philosophers like to say, “biting the bullet” and concluding that those who are profoundly disabled are not our equals after all. Nonetheless, one might worry that Waldron has needlessly put himself on unstable ground. In an encyclical, Pope John Paul II warned against any attempt to ground human worth in capacities that are not shared by the most vulnerable among us; we owe one another equal care and love, he said, because God entrusts us to one another. Such a view is of course not available to someone of a strictly secular bent. But one need not appeal to the divine in order to assert that equality is simply a foundational commitment, ungrounded in any natural human attribute. Thus the philosopher Margaret MacDonald argued that to declare a conviction in human equality “is not to state a fact but to choose a side.” To ask why this side rather than the other, she went on, was “a bit like asking somebody why do they love their child, or why do they love their spouse or partner. They just do.”
Waldron does not want to give this sort of answer to the question of why the principle of basic equality extends to profoundly disabled humans. This is not because of a lack of religiosity. Waldron’s Christian perspective is “hinted at throughout,” as he says, and is the topic of one of the book’s chapters. (The book is based on Waldron’s 2015 Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh, a lecture series dedicated to “the study of Natural Theology.”)
In that chapter he suggests that a religious foundation for basic human equality might well be needed—a thesis he first advanced in his 2002 book God, Locke, and Equality—to explain why the human capacities for reason, morality, autonomy, and love have the power they do to ground human equality. For these capacities, Waldron suggests, take on a deeper and different significance when they are seen for their place in a story of free will, sin, repentance, forgiveness, communion, and salvation. Here Waldron departs from the philosophical mainstream; as he wrote in God, Locke, and Equality, articulating a nontheological foundation for equality is a “maneuver on which modern secular liberalism…depends absolutely.” Waldron’s implication is that if we really want to be egalitarian liberals, we might have to give up on our secularism.
But whether speaking in a secular or religious register, Waldron thinks we must be able to explain why profoundly disabled humans are our equals: it’s not enough to say they just are. His preferred account is that profoundly disabled humans have bodies, whatever their impairments, that exhibit a natural teleology, one that means that profoundly disabled humans potentially have the capacities that ground human equality. Whether or not a child is ultimately able to speak, Waldron says, her body’s organic structure—tongue, larynx, the neural pathways of the brain—are “unintelligible except on the assumption that they are developing for speech.” Likewise, a profoundly disabled person’s body has an organic structure that is similarly unintelligible except on the assumption that this is a creature meant for human reason, autonomy, morality, and love.
So, abortion is wrong. So is euthanasia. We must prolong the suffering of anyone at the point of death as much as we can because to be able to suffer is to have value if kept alive. At the margin, if I see some young sprig about to engage in an activity which risks his life, I should be entitled to confine him to a hospital bed and stick needles into him to make him cry day after day of a life I will artificially prolong.

How cool is that! Also, it is wrong to cremate dead people. Who knows? Maybe there is some way to reanimate their corpses. We need to cryogenically freeze any corpse that has not specifically refused the procedure while of sound mind.
Waldron does not mean to be invoking any spooky metaphysics: the “underlying account here is evolutionary, not theological.” His point is underscored by the fact that biologists often explain physiology with reference to evolutionary function: eyes evolved so that we can see, wings evolved so that birds can fly, and so on. But it is not entirely clear how such talk should come into our ethics. If a profoundly disabled human is in some significant sense “meant” to be able to reason or be autonomous, is a deaf person also “meant” to be able to hear? Or for that matter, is a gay person “meant” to be a straight one? Is a happily childless woman “meant” to procreate? Disability theorists, among others, have taught us to recognize multiple forms of flourishing human life, a vision that Waldron very much shares and endorses. But holding faith with that vision might be in tension with the view that biological function carries ethical weight.
Ethical weight? This is a theory that justifies zombies! What ethical weight can it have?
In offering his account of what makes profoundly disabled humans our equals, Waldron also means to “confront and refute” an argument famously made by the philosopher Peter Singer. Singer notes that most of us would be instinctively horrified by the idea of treating a human with severe cognitive impairments in the ways we routinely treat animals with similar cognitive capacities. But this, Singer says, is inconsistent; if profoundly disabled humans are our equals, then surely chimps, dolphins, pigs, and elephants are too.
Singer is assuming that we treat equals as we would ourselves wish to be treated. This is never the case where scarcity exists.  We are horrified by the thought of treating a human with severe cognitive impairments in the same manner that we treat someone equal to us in mental capacity. Neither Singer nor Waldron would wish to come and debate Ethics with me precisely because they don't think I am their equal. I don't either. They make money out of their stupidity. I merely advertise mine by highlighting theirs.
As a believer in distinctive equality—the idea that humans have significantly more worth than animals—Waldron must resist Singer’s conclusion. This is why Waldron does not simply expand what counts as the “ordinary” range of human capacities to include those capacities actually possessed by profoundly disabled humans. By instead locating the grounds of equality in a profoundly disabled human’s potential capacities, he hopes to defend the thesis of basic human equality without granting equality to non-human animals.
My sperm has potential capacities. But eggs are scarce. As a result of a complex socio-economic mechanism, it is likely that a globally 'regret minimizing' number of my sperm got to inseminate eggs.
There is a mathematical theory which can describe this mechanism. What's more this mathematical theory can yield very useful results in a variety of applied fields.
What can Waldron or Singer's ignorant babble achieve? Nothing, save to further lower the prestige of the subject they profess.
Waldron calls Singer’s disability-based argument for animal rights “opportunistic,” since “it takes the difficulty that theories of human equality face in dealing with profound human disability as an opportunity for rethinking the separate question of the rights of animals.” Another way of putting it is that Singer’s analogy is as likely to get people to treat disabled persons worse as it is to get them to treat animals better. (The impression that Singer is not merely interested in elevating the status of animals is not helped by the fact that he defends the permissibility of euthanizing disabled infants, including those with relatively mild disabilities.) It is a moral disappointment that defenders of animal rights sometimes try to make their case by leveraging the rights so precariously afforded disabled humans.* That Singer chooses to make his case in this way is especially disappointing as the case for animal rights can be persuasively made on the basis of what is special about animals: instinct and intelligence, practices of community and caretaking, susceptibility to emotional and physical suffering, and the capacity for affection, love, and joy.
What is special about a lot of animals is that they taste good or are useful in some way. What is special about humans is that we can make other humans with them. We know that the humans we make will have better life-chances and greater inclusive fitness if they form emotional bonds with at least some humans unable to care for themselves.
One gets the impression, reading One Another’s Equals, that Waldron does not think there is anything terribly special about animals. Humans appear to outstrip their animal counterparts in every way. (God’s command in Genesis to make man after his own image is immediately followed by God’s gift to man of dominion over “every creeping thing.”) We are told by Waldron that there is not much point trying to teach a cat, but little is said about the extraordinary capacity for learning evinced by chimps, dolphins, crows, or octopuses.
All of whom would teach Amia philosophy- if only there were Justice in the World.
Waldron speaks about the universal human concern with death rituals but does not remark on the complex cultural practices of grieving elephants.
Naughty Waldron! Why are you being so mean to bereaved pachyderms? Is it coz they laughed when they saw you naked and asked 'how do you manage to pick up anything with that tiny trunk of yours?'
He celebrates the human capacity for moral deliberation, without celebrating the capacity of some species for unthinking sacrifice and service. Most of all, he does not dwell on animals’ vulnerability to suffering and death, a vulnerability that we humans not only share, but that so often feels like the most important thing about us.
Nonsense! Life would be unbearable if this vulnerability had any great salience save in terms of precautionary measures and the exercise of forethought. 
A thought central to Waldron’s book is that basic equality neither presupposes that all humans are identical nor requires that we receive identical treatment. Equality is consistent with tremendous individual difference. Once we have such a thought in hand, why must we insist that animals are not our equals?
Many animals have pecking orders- social hierarchies- as do we. Treat your dog as an equal and he may sodomise you when, like the lady on the Graham Norton show, you are naked and vomiting into the toilet bowl.

Amia does not see that Waldron is wrong to think equality arises from some fundamental homogeneity or identity of worth. This is not the case. Equality arises only with respect to a process- like due process of Law. A Corporation may be treated identically with a Human Person even though the two are not alike in kind.
Animals are not identical to us, and they do not demand or permit identical treatment. Lions do not have the right to education any more than we have the right to hunt gazelle on the open plains.
Humans have always had, till very recently, an absolute right to hunt gazelle on the open plains.  Neither Lions nor Humans have any right to education save under a vinculum juris.
And yet it might be that animals deserve equal, if different, concern and respect. Of course Waldron does not see it this way: when he compares a human with an animal he sees two creatures of fundamentally different moral status. But here we might say what Waldron himself says of those who deny human equality, that seeing equality requires that you first believe it.
Waldron wrote a silly book. Amia can't see why his book is silly. Instead she says something sillier yet- viz. that if you believe animals are equal to humans then the World you see around you would be like a Disney cartoon. The crow will descend to give you legal advise. The cat will prescribe an ointment for your haemorrhoids.  The dog will get its own permanent guest slot on the Graham Norton show. That strange orange fur-ball which sits atop the Donald's head will abandon him at his impeachment hearing and set up on its own as a purveyor of ethically sourced scented candles. 

Come to think of it, I do need some scented candles for the bathroom. Perhaps I should give Amia's philosophy a try. Go thou and do likewise.