Are people with developmental disorders or who are neuro-atypical or just of a different age, gender, class or gender- and thus who have emotional responses which are different from us- inferior to us in some way? Do they matter less? Are there, in fact, appropriate emotions 'normal' people should have in different situations? If so, Martha Nussbaum is a philosopher and her prolific writing about emotions is worthy of appreciative attention. If not, her work is either worthless or wholly mischievous.
It may be that Nussbaum is herself nuerodiverse. However, in that case, if she had a good epistemology, she would have compensated for this by now. It is possible, however, that a combination of stupidity and developmental disorder warped her world view.
However, it may equally be the case that she just wrote whatever shite she could get away with. Nobody every lost tenure underestimating the intelligence of shitheads wot read psilosophy books
Still, one wonders- where did it all go wrong for her? Was it before she met Amartya Sen? Or is there some more subtle correlation which, it may be, features Huw Price type backward causation?
Let me now take you on a trip down memory lane.
Remember how back when we were chaddi buddies we heard about this super-hero named Hercules, who, though the son of some God or other, died a miserable death because his wife had shit for brains and gave him Nessus's shirt of pain instead of a nice cardi for Xmas.
A guy called Sophocles wrote a play titled 'Women of Trachis' about this unfortunate lady who killed herself once she realised how badly she'd fucked up.
Her son says, addressing the girl his father had passed on to him to wed-
'You see the great indifference of the gods to these things that have happened,
They begat us and are called our fathers and look on such sufferings.
What is to come no one can see, but what is here now is pitiable for us and shameful for them, but of all men hardest for him on whom this disaster has fallen.
Maiden, do not stay in this house: you have seen death and many agonies, fresh and strange, and there is nothing here that is not Zeus.
That last line is good. It raises the tone of what otherwise be grand guignol.
Obviously, speaking of you and me, or Nussbaum or Sen, our Dads don't happen to be Gods or the sons of Gods or have mutant powers or whatever. But, still, they may not have come to our crucial Little League game or bought us a sports car when we turned 17 and thus are responsible for ruining our fucking life. True, our Dads are not horribly punished but they will die sooner or later and get cremated or buried or whatever. Still, it is shameful for them that they didn't buy us that car coz otherwise we'd definitely have used our birthday wish to grant them eternal life. Well maybe not, coz birthday wishes don't grow on trees. Still one wouldn't gloat too much over Dad's being in pain and dying horribly.
In Sophocles play, the son of a super-hero reflects upon an ironic twist in the mythos of the franchise in the same manner that Magneto's son may reflect upon the irony that Ninja Vixen was fooled by the Inhumans into collaborating with General Knowledge to sabotage the Ultra Box needed to restore Prof. Xavier's powers. As everybody knows this directly led to him getting gay with Magneto which, coz it was the Eighties, was like totally not cool.
However, Sophocles ends with a remarkable line- 'there is nothing here which is not Zeus'. After all, Magneto's Auschwitz back-story is kinda sympathetic. And Ninja Supervixen was a sex slave in Japanese occupied Korea. The Inhumans, too, weren't totally shit till the disastrous Scott Buck reboot. But that reboot happened and we just gotta deal. That's why we can't say 'there is nothing here which is not Zeus.' Prof Xavier getting gay with Magneto is like so
the opposite of Zeus.
This, at any rate, is the common sense view.
Martha Nussbaum, instead of referring to canonical texts- like the X Men Comic books- chooses, instead, a truly bizarre comparison-
Think of an Indian onlooker, surveying the carnage after Generai Dyer's massaere of thousands of innocent civilians at Amritsar. He might well have spoken such a speech, ending it with the line, " ... and there is nothing here that is not the Raj."
WTF?! Those innocent civilians were protesting the Rowlatt Act precisely because it wasn't Raaj- which is based on Nyaya- but it Atyachaar based on Anyaya.
Dyer & O'Dwyer's actions were unconstitutional. They were the equivalent of the Ulster Mutiny. The British officer class was saying 'we won't do Nation building- i.e. play second fiddle to local politicians. We will shoot first and keep shooting till either we all have to be evacuated by ship or else the Indians crawl on their bellies.'
Indian onlookers understood very well what was happening- as did Britishers like B.G Horniman. It was their view of the matter which was adopted by the Viceroy and the Secretary of State for India- which is why Dyer was denied further employment in the Army and put on the retired list.
Nussbaum takes a different view-
In other words, how dare these powerful people come here claiming to be our superiors and parents, and then conduct themselves in this disgraceful and evil way?
This is quite extraordinary. She is saying Indians thought the British were Gods and that the Raj rested on some more than human power. But, if so, why would there have been any protest against the Rowlatt Act?
Why does Nussbaum take such a dim view of the rationality of the Indian people? Is the answer that she had gotten real close to an Indian dude and noticed that he himself displayed this infantile mentality?
Did Amartya Sen really have a maai baap
conception of the India he was born into? How the fuck could he have acquired it? India was a country under the rule of law. Nobody of the period said 'White people' are Gods. They are your fathers. They will come and wipe your bum for you. It is disgraceful and evil if they fail to do so even if your bum is really shitty and stinking very badly.
If a woman poisons her husband by mistake, thinking perhaps she is slipping a love potion in his soup, the Coroner at the inquest does not say 'Fuck you God! You could have stopped this!'. Accidents happen. Only idiots think God should intervene wherever anyone acts negligently.
However, if you have a mythos where a super-hero is the son of some even more super hero- then it makes the mythos more credible to dwell upon the irony that Daddy forgot to use his super-power to freeze farts just when his daughter Diarrhoea Girl was spraying out Nussbaum's next book with the result that she lost priority and tenure and shite.
Because the Greeks saw their gods as anthropomorphic agents, and not as morally perfect such agents either, questions about the justice of their actions were live questions, and it was not inappropriate to press such questions - or, even if some thought that it was (Plato certainly did), it was regularly done anyway. (Imagine how shocking it would still be to see a play that depicted actions of Jesus as "shameful" and callously obtuse, and you will see something of the difference between Greek and Christian perspectives.)
Nussbaum grew up in the American South- so...okay...but, no, not okay. Jesus Christ Superstar wasn't banned there. It was in South Africa, but not Dixie. I recall seeing the film in Nairobi. Judas is Black- a Panther type- he is saying Jesus is callously obtuse while everyone else thinks hanging out with the Magdalene is shameful. But, it's okay, coz there's an 'everything here too is Zeus' type epiphany at the end.
The play does not say that such things must happen; far less does it say (what a Judaeo-Christian text probably would have said) that everything that has happened is just and good...
Nussbaum tells us what Sophocles' text does not say- to her.
But she is too stupid to tell us what his text does say. She just doesn't get it.
In the foreword to a new edition of 'The Fragility of Goodness' Nussbaum writes-
For it could hardly be denied that the ability to
function as a citizen, the activities involved in various types of love and friendship,
and even the activities associated with the major ethical virtues (courage, justice,
and so on) require external conditions that the agent's goodness cannot by itself
In so far as the agent's goodness is good for something, as opposed to the fellow being a good-for-nothing, external conditions are irrelevant because he kicks their ass if they try to fuck with him. Indeed, fear of being slapped silly, causes external conditions to go all smarmy and anxious to please when this hero is around.
... events beyond our control may do harm,
including ethical harm.
Harm, as critics of Mill pointed out long ago, is a meaningless word. It suffices for scarcity to exist- i.e. for actions to have an opportunity cost- for all events, whether or not they are in our control, to cause harm.
If ethics is concerned with harm, then all harm is ethical harm.
However, the remedy is not far to seek. What is required is a Structural Causal Model- i.e. the discrimination of arrows of causation and the determination of how to disrupt and change their outcome.
The contemplation of possible harm, without the thing actually happening, is sufficient for good people to carry on in an ethical manner. External conditions don't matter- only their possibility does. A regret minimising course would already have been established, either that or the information set would expand, and thus no exogenous change in circumstances poses any scandal to ethics or the lived life of the polity.
That is, events beyond our control may affect, for good or
ill, not only our happiness or success or satisfaction, but also central ethical
elements of our lives: whether we manage to act justly in public life, whether we
are able to love and care for another person, whether we get a chance to act
Nonsense. Either events were stochastically anticipated and a Regret minimising course was already charted- and this includes provision against Knightian Uncertainty- or else what Nussbaum is describing is a wide eyed virgin wandering naked through a forest of dicks. It may be, by sheer luck, that she emerges from that forest with her maidenhood intact and the right dick firmly in her grasp or she may drown in a torrent of splooge emitted from a host of Brett Kavanaugh type dickheads.
Regret encompasses notions of happiness, success, satisfaction, doing the right thing, acting justly in public life, loving and caring for another person and being able to act courageously and to acquit oneself well in the resulting combat.
Regret minimisation need involve no tragedy of a Promethean type. It need not bar us from Empimethean experimentation. It merely puts eggs into different baskets and hedges its bets and maintains an epistemic curiosity about the world. Thus 'luck' does not affect it because it is alert to detect changes in the information set before they crystallize into events.
No doubt, Greek poets living a very long time ago didn't spell all this out in the language of Measure theory or by the use of directed graphs. Still, they weren't stupid. There is no reason to read into their effusions a stupidity or savage mentality that simply wasn't there.
Thus even without raising the issue of luck's role in making us wise,
or courageous, or just in the first place, we can see that it appears to have an
important ethical role, in making us able or not so able to act virtuously, and thus
to lead ethically complete lives.
Luck can play no role in our choosing to minimize regret precisely because it is a Muth rational, Hannan consistent, strategy. If I bet all my savings on a horse- I am relying on luck. If I invest my savings according to the canonical portfolio choice theory, people would say I was prudent and not relying on luck at all.
To the poets, as to at least some of the philosophers,
it seemed difficult to deny that a person incapacitated by a long-term
disfiguring disease, or a person thrown into prison and tortured, or a woman raped
by the enemy and cast into slavery, has been denied at least some ethically significant
elements of human flourishing.
It was also difficult to deny that cats are not dogs. So what? Not denying the bleeding obvious does not constitute anything epistemic. It is stupidity or Sophistry, nothing more.
Such people are not only unhappy: they also
do and exchange fewer of the things that make for a completely good human life.
Only by identifying the flourishing life with a virtuous state of character, then,
or with certain activities, especially intellectual contemplation, whose performance
seems to be least dependent on external conditions, could one even plausibly
maintain that the good person cannot be dislodged from flourishing.
It is not plausible to maintain that a person of any sort cannot be dislodged from flourishing. Why? Suppose you are making this argument. Your opponent smashes your head in. You start drooling and can't finish your sentence and stagger around for a few moments before toppling down emitting vast quantities of fecal matter from your anus. Not only do you lose this particular debate, but you start getting frowny-face Awful emojis on 'Rate my Professor' with a lot of student's complaining about the smell emanating from your rotting corpse which is just so disrespectful and like totally as much a trigger as your notorious refusal to recant your 'first wave' criticism of Judith Butler.
narrow views of human flourishing were, as they still are, profoundly controversial.
Nonsense! The workaround was to believe in the immortality of the Soul- Heaven and Hell or Reincarnation and Moksha or some combination of all four.
There was no profound controversy. The thing was foolish. Regret minimisation required the creation of ontologically dysphoric hedges and so they were produced quietly and without fuss. It is a different matter that rents associated with the creation of monopolies or monopsonies of such hedges generated a lot of heat and dust, obscuring matters but there was no controversy regarding the notion that a guy who had had his head kicked could continue to enjoy life and have a lot of mates round for his birthday party or continue to have a flourishing practice at the bar.
To omit friends from an account of flourishing, for example, seemed to Aristotle,
despite his generally strong interest in stability, to leave human beings with a life
that is so impoverished as to be not worth the living.
To omit food from an account of flourishing would not impoverish life. It would not lead to starvation. Why? An account of flourishing has zero connection with actual flourishing. Nussbaum says that Aristotle said something very very stupid. But he didn't actually. The stupidity is all on her side.
That exposure to luck was a central theme
of post-Aristotelian Greek philosophy
had never been doubted, although that aspect of Hellenistic ethics remained to be
more systematically scrutinized.
What is this shit? Human beings know that bad shit can go down. They also know that windfalls can occur. Like every other species which arose by natural selection, at the macro-level, human beings follow a Regret minimising strategy. They also do this in the management of their households. This is Economics. The underlying maths and stats was not known to the Greeks but their heuristics can be explicated by our more advanced algebraic apparatus. We can repair the defects in their reasoning to recover something meaningful and worthwhile.
Nussbaum, however, is determined to treat the Greeks as ignorant imbeciles so as to say the stupidest possible things about them.
But the extent to which Plato and Aristode shared
the preoccupation of the tragic poets with luck's role in shaping the lives that
humans manage to live was less widely acknowledged, as were many related lines
of continuity between the poets and the philosophers.
WTF? Luck has no role in anything save slapstick comedy. The Chorus, in Oedipus Rex, doesn't go 'OMG! How unlucky can one guy be? You killed your Dad & are fucked your own Mummy! Like the fella once said, ''aint that a kick in the head?'
Why is Nussbaum writing such shite? The answer is that she has very stupidly translated 'tuche' as 'luck'. Actually the word means contingent outcomes- a fate- which is what 'Regret minimization' concerns itself with. Thus, Oedipus could have protected himself against fate by exercising prudence- more especially by not making himself the possible subject of his own decree. There is an impulsive, Epimethean, angle to his tragedy but, chastened by suffering, he becomes instrumental in teaching the akrebia of the implacable Erinyes, a mellowing economia or rule of equity, such that those ghastly hags turn into gracious Euminedes.
Plato was saying- as Indians or Jews of the period might have said- if you have perfected yourself, nothing bad can happen to you. It is only your body, not your soul, which is subject to contingency. Aristotle was saying what the Yoga philosophers or the Shraman Saints also said- viz. you can only cultivate your soul in company with like-minded others (suhrit praapti) and thus there is an economic and even political aspect to the Community (Sangha) needful for Platonic flourishing.
This is perfectly reasonable. The reason 'Regret minimization' is a good individual strategy is because it is Muth rational, even if the transmission mechanism is only mimetic or such as might be modelled by cellular automata. Thus, at the macro-level the thing is Evolutionarily Stable. It is precisely an intuition that there is a coordination game here and that the Schelling focal point can be made salient in a culture's Paideia, which causes all archaic Cultures to appear similar or to arrive at the same Wisdom literature.
Robert Aumann has found Game Theory in the Torah. In the Mahabharata, the Just King must explicitly learn Statistical Game Theory. Greek Literature can be viewed through this prism. After all, these guys were very successful traders and administrators and wrote books on Economics as well as Geometry and Biology and so forth.
Nussbaum didn't grow up in some shack in war-torn Southern Sudan. She attended the best schools and Colleges. She could have used the tools of contemporary Decision theory to help her understand the public intellectuals of a vibrant and dynamic period in Greek history. She refused to do any such thing. Instead she shacked up with the idiot Sen because she already believed that everybody else is very very stupid and doesn't get that a very poor person who keeps getting raped and robbed is worse off than a very rich person who doesn't keep getting raped and robbed.
It seemed to me that the segmentation of the professions in modern life had
obscured from us the evident truth that in Athens of the fifth and fourth centuries
B.C.E., the tragic poets were widely regarded as major sources of ethical insight.
WTF? Obscured from whom? I suppose Nussbaum means people teaching Classics at Ivy League. But, that is a shite subject. People teaching it are bound to be as stupid as shit. So what if they remained blind to the 'evident truth' that Aeschylus and Sophocles were writing about maintaining one's character under adversity and how a person's character may be so strengthened by suffering as to offer Society an avenue of collective redemption? All that these worthless pedants were required to do was to show up sober for classes and not masturbate in public.
philosophers set themselves up as competitors, not simply as colleagues in a related
WTF? A philosopher set up an Academy. It contained no Literature Dept. offering Chairs to the Tragic Poet du jour
. It did feature some instruction in Maths. That's why it became famous. Maths aint shite. STEM subjects are the only thing which should be studied at Uni. Otherwise, even bright kids will turn into Nussbaums writing shite like-
And they competed in form as well as in content, selecting strategies
that seemed most likely to reveal to their pupils the sorts of facts about the world
that they took to be true. Thus, an ancillary theme of the book is the debate about
those strategies and the faculties that they address. The tragic poets maintained,
and in their choice of literary forms displayed, the belief that powerful emotions,
prominently including pity and fear, were sources of insight about the good human
Emotions may or may not give insight into the good sandwich or cozy human life or nice Nicraraguan horcrux of the neighbor's cat. A belief regarding this can't be action guiding. Nor is it something that a class of people might wish to maintain. Why? The thing is stupid.
Perhaps Nussbaum means 'the Greek tragic poets thought that getting the audience to experience profound emotions would cause 'catharsis'- they would be purged of quotidian shit and emerge chastened and refined by the spectacle.' Unfortunately, that thing is better done by getting people together to stone an adulterer to death or to watch a heretic burn. Even an animal sacrifice can have this effect. The Greek tragic poets whom we remember were far removed from any such grossness. No violence occurred on stage. Nor was any demagoguery tolerated. The redemptive suffering of the ancestors associated with specific places was dwelt upon in a grave and stately manner. The emotions of pity and terror were transmuted into an acceptation of wisdom as minimising regret for the transitory nature of all things.
Then, before the audience dispersed, a boisterous comedy was put on and so the evening ended on a note of surfeit and good cheer.
Plato denied this, developing a view of ethical understanding that separates
intellect as much as possible from the disturbing influences of sense and emotion.
Coz, he was into Maths. That was his big innovation. He linked elite paideia not to writing high minded shite for the Law Courts but rather to a type of intellectual achievement whose success was not contingent.
A sensible person, reading Plato, would study the Math of their own period. That would enable them to interpret Plato in a manner adequate to their own age.
Failure to do so leads to the writing of stupid shite-
Aristotle, I argued, returned to at least some of the insights of the tragic poets,
both about the vulnerability of flourishing to disaster and about the ethical relevance
of emotions in informing us about the significance of such reversals.
Coz he wasn't much cop at Math. On the other hand, he was Alexander's tutor and, as such, the subject of attack by the older type of Sophist who had no time for abstract study and saw rhetoric as the 'applied' aspect of every discipline which, by reason of its direct relation to Power, should constitute the exclusive Paideia of the rising elite.
In contemporary moral philosophy, discussions of vulnerability and luck had
been surprisingly absent at the time Fragility was published, despite their ongoing
Thirty years later we can see that 'discussions of vulnerability and luck' were wholly useless. The thing was an availability cascade allowing some Professors, like Nussbaum herself, to pose as saviours of the subaltern. Ludicrously, Nussbaum lectured the people of Gujerat for re-electing Modi. How fucking self-deluded can you get? Did she really think Indian people were going to say 'Nussbaum is smart? She knows about India?' No! They said 'this woman has shit for brains. She is ignorant.'
'Fragility' has died a death. The term 'anti-Fragile', however, has entered the vocabulary of Decision theory. Anti-Fragile mechanisms are Regret Minimising. They can be assessed for Hannan Consistency. Saying very poor people who are constantly being raped and robbed have fragile well-being doesn't help anybody- even yourself. Why? People soon understand you have shit for brains and are a shameless self-publicist.
Few of us now believe that
we live in a world that is providentially ordered for the sake of the overall good;
few even believe in a teleology of human social life moving toward greater perfection.
Nobody ever believed that, under conditions of diminishing returns, very poor people having more and more babies, for whom nobody would provide, would participate in a 'teleology of human social life moving toward greater perfection.'
True, there will always be STEM subject mavens who think they have, or who actually have, figured out a way to create increasing r
eturns. Then, provided Nussbaum or Sen type shitheads are disintermediated, some coalition can adopt that new mode of production and things start to improve. That's what happened when scientists like Norman Borlaug & Swaminathan managed to shout down the stupid assholes at the Planning Commission and get the Green Revolution off the ground. Shitheads like Sen kept carping about how this increased inequality but they couldn't stop Indian people getting enough to eat for a change.
And yet, or so it seemed and seems to me, the contemporary ethical consequences
of granting that we live in a world that is in large part indifferent to our
strivings had not been fully investigated.
Nonsense! We have all fully investigated this before the age of 5. I recall telling Mummy to stop all War and Poverty and Naughtiness otherwise I'd refuse to go potty. She said she would but she didn't.
The sad thing is I still go potty all the time.
Fragility was thus also intended as one
preliminary step in such an investigation.
Dr. Nussbaum, standing in for Dr. Watson, says to Sherlock Holmes- 'before we investigate the mysterious case of the world being indifferent to our strivings, a preliminary step would be...'
'I'm way ahead of your, Dr. Nussbaum', Holmes replies, 'our preliminary step must be to sodomise the cat. I was able to deduce that from the cigar ash upon your vagina which you thrust at me over the breakfast table when Mrs. Hudson told you I'd eaten the last of the kippers. Anyway, don't worry about the cat. I have buggered it already and so we can quickly solve the enigma of the world being indifferent to our strivings because of the dastardly machinations of Dr. Moriarty. Kindly stop thrusting your vagina at me. I've been doing a lot of coke and feel kind of fragile.'
I still support most of the arguments of Fragility, both interpretive and substantive.
For example, I still think that Aristotle's conception of the human being, and
of practical deliberation, is of great importance for contemporary ethical and
Contemporary ethical and political thought is done by people well versed in contemporary decision theory. Darwin's conception of the human being is important. Aristotle's isn't. This doesn't mean we need to interpret what Aristotle wrote in the stupidest possible way. On the contrary, we can always repair Aristotle in such a manner that kids forced to study his texts don't get dumber than is needful.
and I believe that the depiction of the plurality of goods and of
conflicts among them that we find in both the poets and Aristotle offers insights
that are absent from much of contemporary social reasoning.
WTF? Contemporary social reasoning is nothing but Political Economics in which trade-offs are evaluated all the time. Maths is needful here. Nussbaum type pi-jaw or Sen-tentious shite can go hang.
Consider Nussbaum's theory of the emotions which, she says, is influenced by the Stoics-
I believe that (the Stoics) provide us with the nucleus
of the account we need, if we are to make plausible the idea that emotions reveal
Anything can reveal anything to anyone provided an appropriate signal processor supervenes. Cigar ash on a vagina can reveal to Sherlock Holmes that Dr. Moriarty is up to his old tricks- in this case, his machinations are causing the world to become indifferent to individual strivings.
It is plausible to say that some people, as part of a wider evolutionarily stable strategy, have an emotional detector for fraud or malfeasance or injustice or mendacity or whatever and that if follows that emotions can reveal ethical reality. It is equally plausible to say some people have ESP. What happens next is laboratory testing and an examination of the underlying research methodology and statistical analysis.
Alternatively, if someone has given a 'white box' account of the Structural Causal Model involved, then we can tinker with the thing directly. This would mean we could have a targeted recruitment and training initiative such that our Homeland Security Agents would 'emotionally' know whom to strip search, thus giving the anal cavities of the rest of us a much needed respite.
Arguing that emotions are forms of evaluative judgment that ascribe to things
and persons outside the agent's own control great significance for the agent's own Flourishing, the Stoics go on to argue that all of these judgments are false, and that
we ought to wean ourselves from them to the extent that we can.
That is perfectly sensible. You shouldn't stalk the girl you fancied in High School. You should accept that what you saw in her was actually something inside you and that you should store it up and cherish it till you find that 'life-partner' who feels the same way about you.
An externalist theory of value is stupid. It's the first fallacy one learns about in Econ. Diamonds aren't intrinsically better than pieces of coal. In some circumstances, you might trade a beautiful diamond for a shovelful of coal. Everything depends on what you need at the time.
I ultimately reject
that normative vision in its simple form, although I do think that it has a lot to
offer us in the area of unwise attachments to money, honor, and status.
Money, honor and status are positional and strategic. They expand the choice menu. It is perfectly reasonable to trade some or all of these things for a superior menu. It is wholly foolish to detach oneself from them because of a stupid misprision of what the Stoics said. Obviously, if holding money makes you vulnerable, that is reflected in your choice menu. Under certain circumstances you trade the thing for something which will make you safer. The Chinese have a saying 'when the Empire is well governed, appear as a savant; when it is ill governed, appear as a drunken beggar'.
No one ever said 'attach yourself to something which is a mere instrument'. Everybody always says 'keep the thing till you can trade it advantageously- that is in a regret minimizing manner'.
The Stoics' analysis of emotions as value judgments, however, is independent of
their controversial normative theses. Suitably modified, I believe that it can provide
the basis for a contemporary philosophical account of the emotions
Why hold such an absurd belief? Emotions are biological. They are 'Darwinian algorithms of the Mind' which have a signalling and screening function. Thus they affect Social Choice. So, a contemporary philosophical approach to Emotions would be game-theoretic (because that is the discipline which unites Evolutionary Biology & Social Choice theory).
If one is shite at Maths and is paid to study the Stoics, one can look at Stoic Economists- or, at least the manner in which they are critiqued by Epicurean Economists- and reconstruct their philosophy in terms of Analytical Economics.
It is easy to verify which 'open problems' in Math underlie contemporary Econ and thus one can identify the questions where philosophy has not been foreclosed.
Nussbaum didn't bother doing anything of this sort. She produces a 'contemporary philosophical account' which we already know is shite coz. it makes assumptions we know to be false because Mathematicians have closed the underlying question. In particular, she assumes no Complexity or Concurrency problems in cognitive processes. So we know for sure she is ignorant and not contemporary at all.
Furthermore, she is a hermeneutic vandal destroying the meaning of the texts she is supposed to study and teach.
In order to
be adequate, the Stoic theory needs three major sorts of modification. First, it
needs a plausible account of the relationship between adult emotions and the
emotions of children and nonhuman animals. (The Stoics implausibly denied that
children and animals had emotions.)
This is sheer nonsense. All that is necessary is to say heteronomous beings (whom we can define as not benefiting by adopting a regret-minimizing strategy) have moods. Autonomous people have emotions. If a kid is crying or a cat is purring anxiously, we can do something very quickly which causes a completely different mood. A guy with a hangover is being obstreperous. He appears to genuinely be in a rage. Buy him a drink and the transformation is instantaneous. Why? The guy is an alkie. He needs help. Only after he has been cured of his addiction can he take responsibility and genuinely express remorse or act in a regret-minimizing way.
The Stoics weren't really speaking of emotions. Rather, the word they used, signified 'passions' of a certain type. However, we can interpret them as inputs into a Regret minimising strategy.
Developing such an account leads us to
broaden the Stoic cognitive analysis to include a wider range of types of cognition,
such as perceptions and nonlinguistic beliefs.
Crap! Stoicism has no difficulty with perceptions or nonlinguistic beliefs or apophatic types of knowledge. It is comfortable seeing ghosts and reading the past lives of humans in the faint lines crisscrossing the palms of their hands.
However, these things can remain a 'black box'. There is no need to give an account of them. It doesn't matter whether a Schelling focal point, or a Muth Rational solution, is effectively computable. It is enough that the neighborhood is salient.
Second, the theory needs a good
account of cultural variation in emotion.
Why? The thing can be a black box. The only reason to demand it be a white box is if the Stoics had a white box for emotions in their own culture.
They didn't because otherwise they could reverse engineer the thing and do mechanism design on that basis. They never claimed to be running the world, so we know they didn't have a white box. Rather, their 'epoche' was not 'bracketing' but a black box simply.
The Stoics convincingly demonstrated the
extent to which social norms become internalized in the architecture of our emotions;
No they didn't. The thing can't be done. Emotions don't have an architecture any more than they have indoor plumbing or a futon or a poster of a girl holding a tennis racket in one hand while the other lifts her skirt to scratch her naked bum.
but they thought the relevant norms were basically similar in all societies,
and thus devoted too little attention to subtle variations.
That was sensible. Stoicism flourished at a time when the homonoia of Empires was expanding at the expense of idiosyncratic Tribal Republics.
Finally, the Stoic theory
needs a genetic story of the how adult emotions develop out of the archaic
emotions of infancy and childhood.
If a story is needed, an inveterate story-teller can quickly concoct one. Here's an example- once upon a time there were some archaic emotion of infancy and childhood. They started getting gay with each other. Nanny beat them and sent them to bed without their supper. The Pumpkin Fairy took pity on these archaic emotions and waved her magic wand turning them into adult emotions. This enabled them to beat the fuck out of Nanny and steal all the money in her handbag. After that, they set forth into the world and had lots of adventures.
This genetic story complicates the theory in
many ways, suggesting that adult emotions typically bear the traces of powerful
early experiences that involve a disturbing ambivalence toward loved objects.
This 'disturbing ambivalence' would only arise if you were sick in the head and needed to spend a lot of money seeing a therapist. Unfortunately, the American Medical Association decided that the Therapy was bogus. The whole thing was a scam.
If one adopts a version of the Stoic theory of emotion, even in this highly
altered form, one will need to acknowledge, in consequence, that the guidance
given by emotions is sometimes ethically good and sometimes bad.
The guidance given by tossing a coin or examining tea leaves is sometimes good and sometimes bad. That is why a proper Hannan consistent Regret minimising strategy should be computed.
Only an idiot would first vandalise the Stoic theory- which we can interpret as 'take the Regret Minimising course' rather than act upon your passion of the moment- and then admit that the result was just as random as tossing a coin or examining the entrails of a sacrificial animal.
only as reliable as the cultural material from which they are made
That is why sensible people ignore 'cultural material', just as they ignore what astrologers say or whether they are feeling happy or sad or angry at the time when the decision has to be made.
A good philosophical
critique of cultural norms will entail a critique of culturally learned emotions.
But such a critique would still be worthless. I have a good philosophical critique of Vultural norms- where Vultural means Culture as viewed from the Vulture's perspective- but the thing is useless. It isn't worth doing so it doesn't matter whether it is done well or very badly. Academic Research Programs, where worthless shite- like Nussbaum's- predominates, concern themselves with useless things so as to continue to burgeon in an adversely selective manner.
If Nussbaum had just kept her mouth shut about Modi, Indians would have thought a PhD under her supervision might not be useless. But that's the thing about useless subjects- they cause useless pedants to witter on in an useless manner about anything under the Sun.
While the Stoic view thus poses some problems for anyone who would rely on
the guidance of emotion, it also holds out hopes for societal enlightenment that
are ignored by at least some Enlightenment theories, for example Kant's, which
tends to treat emotions as relatively unintelligent elements of human nature. The
Stoic view suggests that while change is not easy, it is possible for the personality
as a whole to become an enlightened one, by combating the value judgments that
constitute unwise anger and hatred.
The use of positivist methods featuring Structural Causal Models and equations does an even better job. What matters is using the right techniques. The more successfully one does so, the more irrelevant emotions and value judgments become.
Suppose we are appalled by the cruelty inflicted by Hitler and his minions. Our anger and hatred motivates us to action. However, it may misfire- as the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris misfired by triggering Kristallnacht which in turn showed the Nazi regime that Anti-Semitism, even of the most bestial kind, was actually a vote winner. However once anti-Nazis could start work on things like the Manhattan project, they could put aside 'value judgments' and 'anger' and 'hatred' or anything else that might cloud their judgment.
It may or may not be desirable to have an enlightened personality just as it may or may not be nice to have an engaging sense of humour or a third nipple. The fact is 'enlightened personalities' have achieved nothing. Dispassionate Scientific Research has achieved a great deal. It may be that reading about Stoicism helps some people to feel better. So what? Others may feel better after watching Buffy the Vampire slayer or having a wank.
Nussbaum takes a different view. She thinks her worthless shite has magical powers to change Society and purge it off negative emotions. There was once a Maharishi who made a lot of money claiming to be able teach his disciples to levitate. His big idea was to have teams of 'yogic flyers' hovering in the air all over the place. This would cause Society to let go of naughty tendencies and become very nice. I believe this Maharishi founded a University.
Now, it may be that 'Transcendental Meditation' has some health benefits. Maybe it helps people who would otherwise get addicted to drugs or run around humping anything with a pulse. Nussbaum's shite, on the other hand, can have no such health benefit. It just makes a stupid Academic Availability Cascade stupider yet.
the adoption of a cognitive type of emotion theory still suggests
directions far societal improvement that will not be evident to us if we consider
the emotions to be simply urges or pushes, without rich intentionality or cognitive
content. We should think that the proper goal for a just society, for example, is not
merely the suppression of racial hatred; it is the complete absence of such an
emotion, to be brought about through forms of public discourse and (especially)
public education that teach mutual respect among all citizens.
Anything that happens in 'public discourse' or 'public education' has an opportunity cost. Time spent on saying 'be nice. Don't be nasty.' is time which could have been used to draw attentions to new techniques and technologies which could make lives safer and more satisfying.
Any shit-head can say 'Be nice. Don't be nasty.' We need to disintermediate shit-heads from public discourse and public education. Experience shows that shit-heads- even if they are Mahatmas or Maharishis- are wholly useless- or, indeed, actively mischievous. By contrast, spreading useful ideas or techniques enables a Society to rise up.
Vinobha Bhave left rural Bihar worse off than he found it. Nitish Kumar has done the opposite. Why? Bhave talked about Virtue. Kumar helped spread a Scientific attitude and a popular resistance to corrupt practices, even if such practices enriched their caste-fellows.
'Mutual respect' is meaningless. In the abstract, I may respect the hell out of you while watching you starve. What is helpful is trade based on comparative advantage. If you are starving, I provide you with food in return for some service for which you have a lower opportunity cost ratio.
My accountant and my personal trainer have no respect for me at all. The one thinks I'm a profligate, the other that I'm a fat sack of shit. But both are very helpful to me because I pay them so as to stay out of the Bankruptcy court or the Clinic for the morbidly obese.
What one does matters. What one feels or thinks or intends does not matter unless it causes you to do something useful. Nussbaum has done nothing useful. She thinks she has helped 'international development' but hasn't at all.
During the past twelve years, I have drawn on Aristotle to develop a political theory and a theory of the ethical bases for international development that is a
form of social-democratic liberalism, closely related to the views of Maritain,
Green, and Barker.
Maritain, T.H Green & Earnest Barker were stupid. They helped nobody and inspired nothing. Their views were incoherent if not vacuous.
Drawing on Aristotle is drawing on stupidity and ignorance. Science has moved on a lot. Draw on evolutionary game theory by all means. Don't keep banging on about some long dead pedant.
Althougb at times I bave been interested in close textual
interpretation of Aristotle's views, I have primarily aimed to develop a view of my
own that, though in some sense Aristotelian in spirit, departs from Aristotle in
many ways, both in the direction of liberalism and in the direction of feminism.
And what was the result? Are societies more liberal because of your work? Have women benefited at all?
In collaboration with economist Amartya Sen, but developing a normative political
proposal that is independent of Sen's comparative use of capabilities as a
measure, I have argued that an account of certain central human capabilities should
provide political planning with a focus: as a necessary minimum condition of social
justice, citizens should be guaranteed a threshold level of these capabilities, whatever
else they also have. Capabilities may also be used comparatively, as an index
of quality of life in diverse nations.
What has been the result? You and Sen added noise to signal. Your approach meant that Venezuela, under Chavez, was held up as a shining example even though it was sowing the seeds of a humanitarian disaster.
'Political planning' has to do with incentive compatible mechanism design expressible as a vinculum juris- a bond of law. States can claim to be providing a 'threshold level of capabilities' by borrowing money or taking advantage of a windfall, but they soon renege on that commitment. Bernie Madoff too claimed to be providing a 'threshold'- i.e. a stable rate of return no matter how the market performed- for his clients. But Madoff does not have sovereign immunity which is why he is in jail.
There is no need to drag Aristotle into the argument that we should look after vulnerable people in our Society. Indeed, there is no need for Professors to get involved. It would be better to have a You Tube video, uploaded from a camera phone, showing some poor and desperate person asking for help. There are good Economists- i.e. those who do 'first order' work- who can quickly work out how to help such people at a very affordable price. They can also ensure that the thing 'pays for itself' in the long term- i.e. it can create a virtuous circle.
By contrast, saying we must establish a minimum threshold for everybody- including refugees from far off places- causes voters to oppose Social Insurance schemes. They believe that they will pay more and get less. Thus Sen & Nussbaum's virtue signalling is actually highly mischievous and counter-productive.
Goodness is anti-fragile because it concerns itself with solving 'first order', idiographic, problems. It learns from its mistakes.
Nussbaum's notion of Goodness is fragile because it is 'second order' and nomothetic. It can grapple with nothing real. Thus it just gets stupider and shriller and more and more nonsensical. The consequence has been that the West, under pressure from voters, has increasingly resiled from a 'Rights based' approach. The US has quit the UN Human Rights Council. The Brits want out from the EU Human Rights Court. China, whose status keeps rising as Trump is more and more reviled, is now trying to shift the whole focus of the UN towards defending National Sovereignty and letting Human Rights go hang.
There may have been a time when Sen & Nussbaum appeared 'on the right side of History'. It is now clear that their stupidity actually helped change History's course. By adding useless dimensions to the Policy Space they paved the way for 'McKelvey chaos'- i.e. corrupt agenda control.
To reverse this trend, it is important that young people ignore or deride Sen-tentious shite or Nussbaum-nonsense. Do 'first order' work. Don't shit higher than your arsehole by pretending to have a handle on Aristotle or some other Dead White Male. Also, if you are doing a non-STEM subject, quit Higher Education as soon as possible. It will rot your brain.