Back in 2006 Amartya Sen said to Pranab Bardhan in an interview-"In some ways people had got used to the idea that India was spiritual and religion-oriented.
Sunday, 30 January 2022
Amartya Sen's atheism & Madahva's Sarvadarshansamgraha
Saturday, 29 January 2022
Love's ladder vs. Jacob's
Friday, 28 January 2022
Nick Zangwill- stupidest Aeon article ever!
A crude hedonic calculus- i.e. adding up pleasure and pain- has nothing to do with Utilitarianism though, absent 'externalities', it may correspond to 'utility maximization' in a one period economy with perfect information. Since nobody lives in any such thing, Utility actually means minimizing regret with respect to whatever might be 'useful', under some opaque contingency, in preserving 'conatus'- a mode of life- regardless of pain or pleasure or some 'quality' we might find valuable'. Thus, as a matter of historical fact in Victorian England, Benthamite arguments were replaced by Darwinian arguments. Utility became success in navigating a fitness landscape. Disutility was what reduced inclusive fitness.
Since then our horizons have widened. Science has made great strides. Academic Philosophy has become, or is in the process of turning into, a Grievance Studies ghetto for the terminally stupid. Utility is pragmatic and has to do with coevolved, strategic, regret-minimizing or 'robust', methods of changing both the fitness landscape and the phenotype. However, this involves 'discovery' of an extensional and empirical type. Nothing a priori can be said about it and no intensional deontic system can have a concrete model. An attempt to construct any such thing quickly degenerates into outright imbecility or an absurd type of moral inversion and hysterical virtue signaling.
A case in point is Nick Zangwill's essay "Why you should eat meat''. Judging by the unanimous condemnation in the comments column, it appears to be the most reviled article every published on Aeon. Another Aeon author, Adrian Kreutz, has taken the trouble to write a detailed rebuttal. Strangely, though mentioning 'modens ponens' and 'modus tollens', he does not say 'Zangwill's argument is NOT modus ponens. It is the fallacy of 'affirming the consequent'. 'If animals are reared for food they are eaten is true'. But 'if animals raised for food were not eaten, those animals would not exist' is false. Those animals might or might not survive on their own or thanks to the efforts of those who care about them. Modus tollens, 'denying the consequent', applies. Zangwill has made a false deduction. We can immediately dismiss his whole argument because it is founded on a logical fallacy. More interestingly, we can think of modus tollens as being an admissible 'cut' on Gentzen sequent calculi and appeal to Curry-Howard-Lambek correspondence so as to recast deontic logic in terms of computer programming or category theory. This would make 'moral philosophy' useful to lawyers and economists and environmentalists concerned with piece-meal reform rather than 'woke' activism or 'cancel culture' of a mischievous and counter-productive kind.
What Kreutz has written is foolish and reflects on the stupidity of his profession. Furthermore, Kreutz thinks Animal rights activists don't deserve a 'slap in the face' though it is obvious that activists of every type represent a public nuisance which must be curbed. This is because 'activists' are only a good thing if 'second order public goods' are good things- i.e. if clamoring for more of a 'first order good' actually has that effect. Sadly, second order goods are substitutable for first order goods. Furthermore, concurrency and agenda control problems arise such that 'heresthetics' of a malign, Fascist or populist, sort may prevail. Even if this does not happen- i.e. trumpeting Trumps are replaced by banal Bidens- every agent has an incentive to create a 'threat point', based on some grievance or ethical shibboleth, of her own so as to counter the activism of any other agent with some equally absurd and mischievous demand. The result is 'dimensionality' of the social choice space increases. Noise has been added to signal. Correlated equilibria become fragile. Separating equilibria- based on costly but inutile signals- increase the scope for hedging and rent seeking by 'arbitrageurs'. Trust me, that's not a good thing.
This is not to say that proactive 'mechanism design' is not required. But it should be boring and technical and involve actual econometric research, not junk social science, as well as patient and thorough legal and legislative work. In the UK, it appears something like this is actually happening because the nutjobs prefer to froth at the mouth about Israel or Brexit or compulsory vaccinations etc.
Speaking of nutjobs, Zangwill's central stupidity- but one common enough in his line of work- is to think any proposition in moral philosophy can be an unconditional (i.e. Hilbert type) tautology. If this were not the case there must be at least one 'intensional' or 'non-arbitrary' ethical truth or 'ethical truth' of a substantive kind. We know of no such 'Archimedean point' and can know of none till 'the end of time'. This means that all propositions are conditional- i.e. Gentzen type. This means modus ponens is the 'cut rule' (for single conclusion sequent calculi). But (because of 'admissibility') this means nothing not already deduced or 'constructed' can be added by the 'cut'. In other words, the conclusion can't follow unless it already followed by another method. Thus, this is a type of argument which, if not an ex falso explosion of nonsense, gets nowhere because no argument of a logical type can get anywhere. Thus, apart from 'imperative' virtue signaling or vituperation, nothing at all is achieved- which is fine because nutjobs just want to get it on with each other while creating a nuisance for everybody else.
My initial comment, given below, summarizes what I consider the appropriate 'Law & Econ' response to Zangwill's garbage. On the other hand, it may just be socioproctology venting its spleen.
We may care about animals without caring whether some animals eat each other while denying that Human beings are animals of that sort. We can always make special provision for any endangered species without eating them.
Rights have been found to be useful in Jurisprudence. They are subject to Hohfeldian analysis and linked to remedies under a bond of law. If this represents an incentive compatible ‘mechanism’ then rights are meaningful. They have ‘cash value’.
Kant was guided by judicial reasoning which however is protocol bound and ‘buck stopped’ in a particular sense. Nothing similar can be said about ‘rights’ as discussed by philosophers. Why? One might say that, for jurisprudence, ‘rights’ are ‘adjoint’ to ‘remedies’. This is a matter of ‘economia’, not ‘akriebia’- i.e. it is about ‘management’ not the application of an algorithm. Recent developments in Category theory have clarified much in this regard but Gentzen type calculi could have been used to get rid of many psuedo-problems decades before that. Sadly, to the best of my knowledge, moral philosophers remain wholly oblivious to such developments in logic and mathematics. Thus, this is a ‘degenerate’ research program’.
Consider the following ‘But a veterinary surgeon may, I believe, cut open one innocent ownerless dog who wanders in off the street to save five other ownerless dogs. In that sense, animals do not have ‘rights’.
This is foolish. An ‘ownerless dog’, in law may still have rights. Indeed, in Islam, Hinduism, but also British Law, such is the case. There may be a positive immunity for a particular class of people to kill such dogs. But the existence of an immunity does not mean the absence of rights.
Is it the case that ‘caring about x’ means ‘having a moral duty with respect to x’? No. We may agree a certain class of people are incapable of having ‘moral duties’. It would be repugnant to suggest that this also means they can’t care about anybody. This yields an inductive argument such that eventually we realize that ‘robust’ duties must be linked to specific, highly restricted immunities. They can’t be Kantian. Thus a proctologist may have a moral duty to perform actions which I, a mere socioproctologist, am justified in wholly abstaining from.
The author probably means, ‘if you care about animals the last thing you should do is to demand crazy laws inspired by stupid virtue signalling psilosophers.’ But why not simply say ‘Ignore philosophers. They are stupid. They gave up on Mathematical Logic decades ago. Let jurists worry about laws provided they are of the ‘Law & Econ’ persuasion and understand ‘mechanism design’. Similarly, call a plumber, not a philosopher if your toilet backs up and overflows even though the latter, not the former, may have a work product more similar to the nuisance by which you are afflicted.
The fact is, most of us accept that meat of many sorts is nourishing and fulfills the purpose for which we eat. This is because we can see that there are plenty of people who eat various types of meat and who live long and healthy lives. Furthermore, they undoubtedly relish the stuff.
In this sense 'you should eat meat' is as true as 'you should eat vegetables'. Of course, there may be some inorganic product which chemists can fabricate which is equally nutritious so nobody must eat either meat or vegetables or other organic produce. Equally, it may be that eating is not required to sustain life. We may soon be genetically modified so as to subsist by photosynthesis. Furthermore, perhaps we are wrong to seek to sustain life. It may be that by starving to death, we gain Paradise. Still, we can imagine a mother or other concerned party saying 'you should eat meat to become big and strong' or 'you should eat up your vegetables to have a healthy complexion'. It may be that certain people- perhaps those with anemia or other medical conditions- need to start eating meat because that is the cheapest or most convenient way they can improve their health. Indeed, in India, this argument is used to promote greater consumption of eggs and meat by segments of the population who appear less robust and whose religion may prevents them availing of such sources of protein as they can afford. However, this is a matter of empirical observation and economic common sense. It is not a philosophical issue.
What is repugnant in Zangwill's essay is his attempt to link the morality of a self-regarding action to a duty he himself appears to consider essentially immoral. This is more than antinomian. It is sadistic and perverted.
If you care about animals, you should eat them.
Should implies could. We could eat a properly cooked portion of an animal. But many of us are incapable of killing and chopping up an animal- more particularly ones we care about. Even if we have this ability it does not follow that we should eat animals we care about. There is a reputational benefit in refraining from killing the family pet and tearing into its flesh at your kid's birthday party. However eating something is not the same thing as butchering something. There is a disutility we may impute to butchering which may, depending on our subjective sensitivities, extend to eating that which has been butchered. But, evolutionary biology itself explains why there will be considerable diversity in the range of such sensitivities. But the existence of diversity is not itself a scandal for moral science. In this case 'should' may refer to an optimally self-regarding action. Thus a vegan may say to his carnivorous friend- 'you should try the steak. I hear it is the best in the city.' The meaning of 'should' here is- 'given your preferences, ordering steak is optimal'. However, this 'should' is not really a 'must' because only the self can decide what is self-regarding. Zangwill pretends otherwise.
It is not just that you may do so, but you should do so. In fact, you owe it to animals to eat them. It is your duty. Why? Because eating animals benefits them and has benefitted them for a long time.
You should also shoot up heroin. Poppies benefit from heroin production. If you don't become a drug addict you are failing in your responsibility to flowers. Fuck is wrong with you?
Breeding and eating animals is a very long-standing cultural institution that is a mutually beneficial relationship between human beings and animals.
The shepherd is certainly considered to have a beneficial relationship with his sheep. Christ is 'the good shepherd' who lays down his life for his flock. Moreover there are mutually beneficial relationships between pastoralists and agriculturists even if the latter didn't eat meat. Indeed, it may be that animal sacrifice as a feature of Iron Age religion enabled a harmonious relationship between pastoral peoples and settled agriculturists. In this case, the sacrificed animal was deemed to gain heaven. You should eat of its flesh to participate in its felicity. Christ himself says 'eat of my flesh'.
We bring animals into existence,
Zangwill is the proud mother of a litter of cute little piglets.
care for them,
Zangwill may well mistake his cretinous students for some particularly stupid type of swine
rear them, and then kill and eat them.
It is a shame that Zangwill's parents did not do so to all their progeny
From this, we get food and other animal products, and they get life. Both sides benefit. I should say that by ‘animals’ here, I mean nonhuman animals.
Yet, Iron Age religions had a notion of 'korban' or 'pharmakos'- a human 'scapegoat' sacrificed so as to purge the sins of the community. But, equally, we can imagine a benevolent person offering their own body to starving ship-mates so that some might live rather than all perish. As a matter of fact, those who say 'we should eat meat' agree that if nothing else is available even cannibalism is permissible.
It is true that we are also animals, but we are also more than that, in a way that makes a difference.
Not in this respect. The law accepts that though murder remains murder even if occasioned by hunger and deprivation, cannibalism may not be a crime.
It is true that the practice does not benefit an animal at the moment we eat it.
Not if we assume that the animal has kin selective altruism which, because its behavior is in accordance with Price's Equation, is a reasonable assumption. In this case we may say that the animal's 'estate' benefits in that its kin retain their place in the food-chain.
The benefit to the animal on our dinner table lies in the past. Nevertheless, even at that point, it has benefitted by its destiny of being killed and eaten.
Not really. The turkey pardoned by the President on Thanksgiving benefits even more. On the one hand the succulence of his kin is publicly acknowledged; on the other the bird itself gets a reprieve and may end up teaching philosophy at UCL.
The existence of that animal, and animals of its kind, depends on human beings killing and eating animals of that kind.
No. Unless the species is not viable save when attached to a bunch of tubes, the animal would exist though its population may be smaller. However, market forces would have the same effect. In water scarce regions, poultry may replace pigs because of 'supply side' factors. Similarly, leaner types of poultry may replace duck or goose because health concerns cause tastes to change.
Domesticated animals exist in the numbers they do only because there is a practice of eating them.
Human beings- but also dogs and cats- only exist in the numbers they do because there is a practice of not eating them. Furthermore, humans generally band together to kill, or place in captivity, animals who prey on human beings. On the other hand, head hunting and ritual cannibalism would be a great way of preventing a Malthusian disaster.
For example, the many millions of sheep in New Zealand would not begin to survive in the wild.
There would be a Volterra type predator-prey cycle. Sheep would survive, albeit in smaller numbers but with greater phenotype diversity unless some other ruminant took over their ecological niche. But market changes might have the same effect. It may be that goat meat comes to be more highly prized than lamb and New Zealand switches from sheep to goats.
They exist only because human beings eat them.
No. They only exist because they better fit an ecological or market niche. Fitness is all. Suppose sheep are more susceptible to new strains of viruses or are more vulnerable to climate volatility, then we can easily imagine New Zealand being famous for not its lamb but its llamas.
The meat-eating practice benefits them greatly and has benefitted them greatly.
No. What benefits them is being better at fitting an ecological or market niche. Preference for lamb as opposed to beef might increase their numbers. But then it would be the Lamb Marketing board, not the fact that we are carnivores, which benefits them.
So, we should eat them. Not eating them is wrong, and it lets these animals down.
This is an argument for the continued incestuous rape of children conceived by such rape and who were reared for that atrocious purpose.
What is the reasonable view in this matter? It is that, absent externalities, people's market behavior should be self-regarding. The vegans may say there is a great negative externality associated with meat consumption. They may be wrong. Consider the 'schweinemord'. German bureaucrats decided, during the First World War, that pigs were 'co-eaters'. Kill them and you can grow more corn and thus feed an increasingly desperate population. The opposite happened. Pig manure turned out to be valuable. Other sources of fat and protein were not as nutritionally efficient or effective. More Germans starved because of the holocaust of the pigs.
On the other hand, the Indians were probably wrong to think that agricultural prosperity depended on banning cow slaughter. It may be that Yogiji loses in U.P because marginal farmers are sick and tired of barren cows destroying their crops.
Of course, the animals we eat should have good lives,
Why? So long as the animal is not hypertense at the moment of slaughter- which might affect the quality of the meat- we should prefer to eat animals who find their lives utterly miserable and who were planning to top themselves anyway.
and so the worst kind of factory farming is not justified by this argument, since these animals have no quality of life.
Actually, this is an argument for only eating animals who died of natural causes or those who evinced a strong desire to quit this mortal coil. I suppose genetic engineering will reach a point where a particularly tasty type of animal will die and baste in its own necrotic juices immediately after completing its reproductive cycle.
Life is not enough; it must be life with a certain quality.
One my life sadly lacks. The problem with the quality life actually requires to continue to be life is that it has nothing to do with any 'quality' we might think desirable. In Paradise, no doubt, such qualities will abound. But for life to be life it has to keep going no matter how shitty things get.
But some farmed animals do have good lives overall, and sheep farming in New Zealand is an example.
Sheep exist because sheep, or their distant ancestors, put up with really shitty conditions. The reason we think all life is valuable is precisely because life has the quality of carrying on when any concern for quality would counsel extinction.
Perhaps a minority of meat produced in the world today involves such happy animals.
And only a minority of those who consume those animals will have any descendants on earth within a few hundred years.
But it is a significant minority, one that justifies much eating of those happy animals.
Oddly, the notion that you are ending a happy life by reason of your dietary preferences makes the thing repugnant. Douglas Adams tells us of a cow at the Restaurant at the end of the Universe who assures diners that it will feel great pleasure in shooting itself so that they may enjoy its flesh. There is a similar story in Hindu Scripture featuring a sage (Syumarashmi) who has taken the shape of a cow and who is seeking to get another sage (Kapila) to do the right thing and sacrifice him already. In both cases, our instinct is to refuse. The fact is we are not obligated to maximize the utility even of ourselves, let alone a cow which wants to be eaten or one which demands to be sacrificed so as to gain Paradise.
If demand shifted to these animals, there would be fewer animals in existence than there actually are.
Animals, like human beings, do better when there aren't too many of them.
But that is OK, since the argument is not a maximising one, but an appeal to history
But science and technology are advancing so rapidly that history is irrelevant.
Yes, there is the day of the abattoir, and the sad death of the animal, which is not usually as free from pain and suffering as it might be.
For whom is that death sad? Is it really the case that the absence of pain or suffering abolishes grief for a death? Isn't bereavement about missing someone you love or were fond of?
Zangwill adopts a crude hedonic calculus and pretends that it represents Utilitarian orthodoxy
And there is other pain and suffering in the lives of those animals, such as when mothers are separated from their young.
Which is why it is cruel to have compulsory education. Also wifey shouldn't insist I stop sleeping in my parent's bedroom.
However, the pleasure and happiness of animals also matters,
only in the sense that their souls or religious destinies matter- in other words, this is purely a matter of stipulation.
and it may outweigh pain and suffering – something usually overlooked by most of those who affect to care for animals.
Tell those who 'affect to care for animals' that they mustn't be a pain in your butt or else you will shit copiously on them. Such defecation can be quite pleasurable- if only in wistful reverie.
The emphasis among the defenders of so-called ‘animal rights’ on animal pain and suffering while ignoring animal pleasure and happiness is bizarre and disturbing.
Because those cunts are only concerned with making our lives miserable. The Puritan condemned bear-baiting not because of the suffering caused to the bear but because of the pleasure received by the audience.
Human beings suffer, and their deaths are often miserable. But few would deem their entire lives worthless because of that.
Because life is life and only living beings can, if only by reason of pathology, ascribe worth to things.
Likewise, why should the gloomy and unpleasant end of many of the animals we eat cast a negative shadow over their entire lives up to that point?
This is a perfectly reasonable point often made by Television advertisements in my youth. Happy cows- some quite sexy- were always trying to sell me butter or cheese. But then the jolly green giant tried to get me hooked on some sort of vegetable.
I suspect that the pleasure and happiness of animals is overlooked because they are not of our species.
A foolish suspicion. The fact is, we overlook pleasures and happiness not conducive to our own flourishing. The groom eager for the pleasures of the matrimonial bed overlooks the opportunity cost in terms of the pleasures and happiness derivable from wanking. There is a good reason for this. Wifey can bring you breakfast in bed whereas your jizz encrusted gym sock evinces no similar tender concern for your welfare.
This is a kind of speciesism that particularly afflicts devotees of ‘animals rights’.
They are afflicted with antagonomia and the desire to be a nuisance. Get your own back. Accuse them of being racist or sexist or being crypto-Iyengars.
Zangwill repeats his fallacious argument- viz. that duties can meaningfully arise absent Hohfeldian incidents- with a truly mulish obstinacy.
It is this ongoing history of mutual benefit that generates a moral duty of human beings to eat animals.
It may create an entitlement- as under a contract- or an immunity, but it can't generate a duty unless that 'mutual benefit' itself arose out of an arrangement of a deontic, not utilitarian or economic, nature. A religion may certainly make some such stipulation. God gives you this land to farm but you must not glean some portion of it. God gives you these sheep to look after but you must only take them for slaughter to the Temple after which you are entitled to a portion of the meat. But, in this scheme, it is the 'soul', not the self, which is important. There is a soteriological, not a hedonic, calculus.
Were the practice beneficial only to one of the two parties, that would perhaps not justify persisting with it. But both benefit. In fact, animals benefit a lot more than human beings do. For human beings could survive as vegetarians or vegans, whereas very few domesticated animals could survive many human beings being vegetarians or vegans.
But they would rapidly evolve into non-domesticated strains. Zangwill is suggesting that we have a duty to persist in any mutually beneficial relationship no matter what the opportunity cost. However, if that relationship did not arise from a prior obligation- if it was a purely voluntary, self-regarding, and economic relationship- it is difficult to see how it could have binding force for all eternity.
Consider what happens when I tell the g.f. that I will starve to death if she leaves me. As she herself admits, there is some mutual benefit in our relationship. Yet, she is perfectly justified in leaving me because, frankly, she can do a lot better for herself.
Indeed, if many human beings became vegetarians or vegans, it would be the greatest disaster that there has ever been for animals since the time that an asteroid strike wiped out the dinosaurs and many other species.
This simply isn't true. The more affluent probably should become more vegetarian or even vegan while the poorer sort, in less advanced countries, should begin their rise by consuming more meat and fish. Furthermore, because of the high income elasticity of outdoor leisure activity as well as the likely further erosion of the terms of trade for primary products, we should expect (where there is demographic transition) more open spaces and more wild life and more ecological diversity. This is already apparent in some affluent countries.
Vegetarians and vegans are the natural enemies of domesticated animals that are bred to be eaten.
Japan banned the slaughter of four legged creatures for many centuries. This did not lead to their extinction. They became highly prized as draught animals. Incidentally, the indigenous Japanese cow features one or two feral sub-types. Apparently, these are cows which decided to emancipate themselves and set up a polity of their own.
Of course, not all vegetarians and vegans are alike. Quite a few vegetarians and vegans are not motivated by animal rights or welfare, but by a feeling of taboo or pollution – a revulsion at the idea of eating animal flesh. For such vegetarians and vegans, roadkill is off the menu. Unlike the appeal to animal rights or the welfare of animals, this is a reason I respect. But such vegetarians and vegans should admit that acting on these feelings is bad for animals.
In the same sense that the repugnance felt by some motorists for having sexual congress with such attractive young people as they happen to run over and kill with their vehicles is bad for those corpses.
Do the motives of carnivores and farmers matter?
Not qua carnivore or qua farmer, because the name applied to them fully describes the relevant behavior they exhibit. Thus, if you see a wolf biting a chunk out of a person, it is enough to recognize that it is a carnivore to be fully apprised of its motives.
Typically, they are not high-mindedly concerned with the welfare of animals. But if there are beneficial effects on animals as a side-effect of impure motives, we might think that is all that matters.
Similarly we may be grateful for the attentions of animals whose motives are 'impure'. They simulate affection for us so that we give them food or take them for walkies where they studiously ignore our attempts at engaging them in peripatetic dialogue, preferring instead to shit copiously- forcing us to pooper scoop- while sniffing the butt of any other passing dog with great inquisitive zeal and critical interest.
Or: we might follow Immanuel Kant in distinguishing between treating humans or animals as a means, which may be acceptable, and treating them merely as a means, which is not.
We may follow Kant by considering his theory merely as a means to make fun of him for his stupidity rather than as an end in itself.
So long as carnivores and farmers have the former motives, not the latter, there is no complaint against them.
We might well complain of a carnivore which kills in a wasteful manner- regarding the death of its victim as the proper end to be pursued- just as we might complain of a farmer who considers possession of land an end in itself and who refuses to use that land as a means to boost agricultural production and thus alleviate the problem of hunger and malnourishment.
It is because history matters that we should not eat dogs that were originally bred to be pets or for work.
We should not do things which cause us harm- e.g. killing and eating Fido at your kid's birthday party- even if that harm is merely reputational.
The dog-human institution licenses only the behaviour that is in accordance with its historical function.
So don't screw the pooch.
Eating dogs would violate that tradition. The reason that these domesticated animals exist makes a difference.
Human beings 'domesticated' themselves. Slavery and various hierarchical social arrangements exist not too far back in our history. However, violating such traditions may be very good for Society.
Carnivorous institutions do not exist in isolation.
Very true. The Wolf Institute of Sheep eating is closely located to the Institute for eating Rabbits. Some wolves complete joint-degree programs from both institutions.
Whatever may be the benefit or harms to the animals and human beings that are its participants, there are also further effects of the practice that may be considered. First, consider some positive effects. There are the gustatory pleasures of human beings.
Why stop there? What about sexual pleasures or those of a sadistic type?
There are some health benefits to human beings.
It probably is the case that for the majority of the world's population, such benefits outweigh any other consideration.
There is employment for many who work in the meat industry. There are the aesthetic benefits of countryside with charming grazing animals in elegant, well-maintained fields.
Or deer. More venison, less beef!
However, the big negative, for many people is climate, and the effects, mostly, of cattle burping and farting.
India's cows- a lot of whom are barren and, for legal reasons, can't be killed or eaten- are certainly said to be a big producer of methane. There was a proposal to change their diet so their farts would be 'greener'.
Does not climate give us reason to be vegetarian or vegan? Well, since the problem mostly comes from cows, one option would be to move to eating other kinds of animals in greater numbers. Moreover, the climate damage is mostly due to very intensive factory farming, which I do not defend because the animals do not have good lives. Indeed, the evidence is that small-scale farming in which animals have good lives does not harm the environment much, and it may even benefit it.
This is a reasonable proposition. But it isn't philosophical. It is empirical.
The argument from historical benefit does not apply to wild animals, which are in an entirely different category. Human beings did not create these animals with a purpose,
But if we believe Humans were created for a purpose then human purposes with respect to other life forms- which we certainly didn't create, though we may have helped sustain them- are wholly irrelevant.
If human beings evolved, then talk of purpose, like the notion of teleology, is either narrow and context bound or else meaningless.
and so we do not owe them anything in virtue of that relationship, although, as sentient beings, their lives deserve respect. Can we hunt them for food if we are hungry, or kill them if they harm us? Probably yes, depending on the degree of need and the degree of harm. Can we hunt them purely for sport? Perhaps not. They have their conscious lives, and who are we to take it away from them without cause?
We may do a thing 'purely for sport' but that sport may exist for a utilitarian reason- e.g. fox hunting.
The lives of wild animals are an endless cycle of trauma, pain and death. Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s phrase about nature ‘red in tooth and claw’ hardly begins to do justice to the extent of the hunger, fear and agony of the lives and deaths of animals in the wild. They kill and eat each other relentlessly, by the billion. This awful truth about wild animals is concealed from children in the vast majority of children’s books and films in which fictional animals of different kinds are represented as chummy friends, instead of ripping each other apart for food. Where they get their food is usually glossed over. Most of what adults tell children about animals is a spectacular lie.
We also don't tell kids that Professors of Philosophy are stupid, ignorant and should be euthanized.
The ‘problem of evil’ is a standard problem for belief in God’s existence,
only for those disappointed that their prayer for a bigger dick went unanswered. Fuck would I care about billions dying miserably if God gave me a ginormous dong?
and the usual focus is on human suffering. But the suffering of wild animals should also be a major headache for God, and perhaps more of a headache than human suffering. Why would an all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful god make animals suffer so much? The nature and extent of animal suffering makes an even more compelling argument against God’s existence because the usual replies in the human case, especially the appeal to the value of free will, are not available for animals. If there is a good god, we might well wonder why such bloody horror was unleashed on these creatures.
I may not have a ginormous dong but any really beautiful and wealthy woman who has sex with me will gain eternal felicity thanks to a boon God gave me. In return, the Almighty asked me to overlook some shitty things he has done. I was cool with that. You should be too if you are a hot, but also rich, woman and can pop over to have sex with me.
Human beings are in fact a rare light in the darkness of the animal kingdom when we nurture some animals in order to eat them. Many domesticated animals are bred and raised for food in conditions that should be the envy of wild animals. The daily life of some of the animals we eat is almost like a spa! If vegetarians and vegans are the natural enemies of domesticated animals, carnivorous human beings are their natural friends. Indeed, in nurturing and caring for animals that we raise for food or other purposes, human beings seem to do better than God.
Why not tenderly rear philosophers in University Departments with the intention of feeding them to wolves? We'd be disposing of a nuisance while providing sustenance for the research of carnivorous Institutions. Many people would like to know whether a professor of aesthetics, whose I.Q may be equal to a sheep, is equally tasty. This is the sort of question post-grad wolves should be answering.
Does this pro-carnivorous argument apply to eating human beings? Does it imply that we should enslave, kill and eat some human beings if it is to their benefit? No. For one thing, the situations are entirely different. Domesticated animals, such as cows, sheep and chickens, owe their existence to the fact that we prey upon them, whereas human beings do not owe their existence to being preyed on.
Actually, human beings do owe their existence as sapient creatures to the fact that humans have always been, at least potentially, both prey as well as predators.
As far as I know, there are no human beings who owe their existence to a cannibalistic meat-eating practice.
Yet, if we go far enough back in our genealogy we may find that such practices exerted selective pressure. It may be that some distant ancestor of ours made a practice of eating the runts of the litter.
And even if there were, they could survive without it, if liberated, which is radically unlike domesticated animals.
Douglas Adams imagines a planet on which the most useless types of people- marketing managers, phone sanitizers, professors of philosophy- are dumped. They quickly go extinct.
The situation of human beings and domesticated animals is entirely different.
Though domestic servants may have a worse life than the Queen's corgis.
More fundamentally, human beings have rights of a kind that animals lack.
They may do but equally they may not. Specific animals in specific jurisdictions may have superior rights. Thus I may be barred from a private nature reserve whereas migratory birds may have strong legal protections in that location. Indeed, a man may be ejected from his own estate if some endangered species is found to dwell within its boundaries.
Having rights does not just mean that the lives of human beings and animals matter – of course they do. It means something more specific, which implies that it would be wrong to kill and eat human beings against their will, even if the practice were to benefit them.
But there is no 'immunity' regarding eating a person even if they give their consent. Thus no such 'right' exists.
So, for example, when one human being innocently goes for a hospital checkup, a doctor should not cut them open for the purpose of harvesting their organs for transplants that will save the lives of five other human beings. But a veterinary surgeon may, I believe, cut open one innocent ownerless dog who wanders in off the street to save five other ownerless dogs.
This depends on whether the vet has a specific immunity in this respect. In the UK, a vet would not kill an 'ownerless dog' in this manner. Under a new law, even for healthy dogs brought in by their owners, the vet is required to check the animal's microchip.
In that sense, animals do not have ‘rights’. These rights mark a moral line between human beings and animals.
This is not the case. Dogs have rights just like humans under British law. However, humans have superior immunities with respect to killing dogs under circumstances where killing a human would be illegal. That is why my parents were not allowed to put me down though I kept biting the post-man till I was 40 years old.
Suppose, though, that we are less particular about how we use the word ‘rights’, and animals having ‘rights’ just means that their conscious lives matter.
As a matter of facts, in most jurisdictions many animals do have rights in some justiciable sense. Only those who have an immunity with respect to killing or otherwise harming them can override those rights provided due care is taken and unnecessary suffering is not caused. In the UK it appears likely that an animal sentience law will be passed
In that case, we respect those ‘rights’ when we kill and eat domesticated animals. Indeed, if we did not do that, there would be no such animals to have rights.
This does not follow. It may be that humanity will- as is depicted in Star Trek- find ways to synthesise whatever nutrition they need without harming plants or animals. But the result may be more space dedicated to highly diverse flora and fauna.
What, then, is the source of these rights, which human beings have and that animals lack?
Bonds of law enforceable to a greater of lesser extent by judiciaries or administrative tribunals.
Along with many others, I think that source is our ‘rationality’, where that is an ability to think things, do things or make decisions, for reasons.
This is foolish. There are many highly rational fields- e.g. mathematics- where no 'rights' or 'immunities' exist. Nobody can stop me showing the Mochizuki proof of the abc theory is right or wrong. I have no entitlements or obligations in this respect. It is a different matter that for some economic or political motive, my ability to do this type of Maths may be interfered with. But that may be a highly irrational proceeding.
Of course, we do not always reason as we should. But all that rationality means here is that we often do or think things because we think it was the right thing to do or think.
But we more often do or think things without any such thought crossing our minds. Indeed, when acting as self-regarding principals we should do 'wrong' things as a matter of 'discovery' or 'regret minimization'.
The philosopher Christine Korsgaard seems to have got this right with her idea that reasoning, or at least the kind of human reasoning that is self-conscious, involves what she calls ‘normative self-government’.
Though what she gets paid to do is gormless gobshittery
This is more than the ability to think about our own thoughts (often called ‘metacognition’) but is also the ability to change one’s mind, for instance, in forming beliefs or intentions, because we think that our mindset demands it.
The problem here is that doing this sort of stuff may not enhance inclusive fitness. It may destroy it. Stuff which looks like 'reasoning' may turn out to be mischievous shite.
The truth of the matter is that Law & Econ can improve social coordination and cohesion. But reasoning in these disciplines is either protocol bound and buck-stopped or else entirely moot. Philosophy- unless guided by Category theory- is not reasoning. It is a hysterical type of misology.
In reasoning, of the more self-conscious kind, we apply normative concepts to ourselves and change our minds because of that.
But, like the author, remain as stupid as shit. The solution is to study mathematical logic, category theory etc and then find a 'concrete model' for the application of any innovation you may have hit upon. If that doesn't have cash value, give up. You are a cretin. Become a socioproctologist like me.
We should kill and eat them, so long as their lives are good overall before we do that
I suppose I could be persuaded to order Kobe beef if assured that nubile Japanese geishas give the cow body massages for ten years till it expires of erotic exhaustion. Then I find out how much the thing costs. I storm out of the restaurant and get a Big Mac on my way home coz that's all I can afford and also I'm fucking starving.
It is true that human babies cannot yet use reason, and that there are adult human beings who cannot reason, due to a mental disability. Rationality theorists have stumbled over these cases.
Hilarious! I can just picture this happening. 'Madam, this small gentleman who is attached to your nipple appears unable to reason!'
Sadly, everybody tells rationality theorists that they got shit for brains.
But they can easily be finessed if we say that human beings have reasoning as their nature or telos, as the ancient Greeks might have said.
In which case, philosophers aint human. They are vegetables.
Being rational is a function of human beings, which they do not always fulfil, just as not all hearts pump blood
this cretin's pumps shit
and not all coffee machines make coffee. We may say that dogs have four legs even though there are a very few unfortunate dogs with only three legs who have had an accident or were born with a genetic deformity. Likewise, we may say that human beings are rational animals, despite human babies and adult human beings with mental disabilities that preclude reasoning, because mature human beings often have reasons for what they think, do and decide.
But what is the point of saying any such thing? We could equally say human beings sometimes exist. Nothing follows from such a statement.
In 1780, Jeremy Bentham said of animals: ‘The question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?’
Either Darwin was right- in which case Bentham is irrelevant- or he was wrong- in which case Bentham is irrelevant. If life evolved by natural selection, suffering exists where it promotes inclusive fitness. If the Universe is the work of an occassionalist God, suffering only exists because God has arranged matters in that way.
I agree that the suffering of animals is important, but, as I have complained, so is their pleasure and happiness.
We agree that it doesn't matter what these stupid pedants agree to. We are content if they don't jizz upon their students.
And I would also like to complain that just because suffering is important does not make reasoning unimportant.
If suffering is important, and x is suffering then any reasoning about x which does not reduce that suffering is utterly unimportant.
Perhaps both are important, in different ways. If, unlike Bentham, we admit rights (he thought they were ‘nonsense upon stilts’
unless an incentive compatible remedy under a vinculum juris exists
), then the question is very much ‘Can they reason?’
Nonsense! A 'bond of law' stands even if a 'rights holder' is incapable of reasoning. It is sufficient that an advocate make his case for him. It is certainly possible to argue against a ban on fox-hunting by showing picture of cute fox-hounds and explaining that they will be culled if the ban goes into effect. But this has nothing to do with philosophy.
Because they reason, human beings have rights,
This simply isn't true. It is sufficient for there to be an incentive compatible remedy under a bond of law for rights to exist, be justiciable, and enforceable.
whereas animals lack rights because they cannot reason. Since they lack rights, we can paternalistically consider what is good for them.
Unless people laugh at us and we get sacked coz our employer feels ashamed to have hired such a cretin
And this good dictates that we should kill and eat them, so long as their lives are good overall before we do that. They have no rights standing in the way of the mutually beneficial carnivorous practice.
I may have a pet pig or sheep which I wish to butcher and devour. Does UK law permit me to do so? The answer is no- unless I can show that I am au fait of the complicated rules and procedures involved. It seems there is a 'right' which animals have which stands in the way- for example- of a Muslim slaughtering his own sheep on his own property in accordance with the rules of his own religion.
British judges tend to be very smart- smarter at any rate than British philosophers- and it is their reasoning, not this cretin's ignorant babble, which should have salience.
Someone might wonder whether we should rest all of our special worth, and our right to protection from intraspecies predation, on our rationality.
This cretin thinks that if a Lion pounces on him or a grizzly bear attacks him then his 'rationality' will magically create a 'right' which the Cosmos will enforce against the predator.
We have other impressive characteristics that might also generate rights.
Instead of rights, why not stipulate for super-powers?
However, one of the advantages of the appeal to rationality is the way that it embraces many other aspects of human life that we think are important and valuable.
I've got super-powers and rights due to my sexiness. Your smelly farts may generate something similar for you but don't hold your breath because that's our shtick as we run far away from you.
Consider our impressive knowledge or creative imagination – these might also be intrinsically valuable in such a way as to generate distinctive rights, including the right not to be eaten against our will.
Coz tigers in the Sunderbans always check that you aint Jamini Roy before chowing down on you.
These valuable characteristics also seem to be distinctive of human beings.
This guy hasn't met me. I'm human but have no fucking valuable characteristics whatsoever. On the other hand, I'm plenty litigious.
However, many of these characteristics depend on rationality.
No. Rationality depends on the fitness landscape. If it doesn't increase inclusive fitness it can't pay for itself in terms of calories.
Knowledge, of the extent, and acquired in the way that much human knowledge is acquired, is also possible only for reflective rational beings.
This cretin thinks he acquired knowledge as opposed to a head full of shit
The scientific project, for example, is predicated on a certain self-reflectiveness about methods and evidence – especially measurement.
Which is why I go metric when measuring my dick size while remaining staunchly Imperial when it comes to my height and weight.
So, these phenomena seem still to be within the orbit of rationality. What about the creative imagination? Many Surrealists thought that excessive rational thought was responsible for the horrors of the First World War, and as a response they valued creative imagination over rational deliberation, as in André Breton’s Manifesto of Surrealism (1924).
The reverse was the case. The problem was the crazy French doctrine of attaque à outrance- i.e. get your best troops to charge like maniacs at second rate German divisions which, however, had longer range artillery, till you are bled white and have to hope the Anglo-Saxons can get your chestnuts out of the fire.
However, what is human creative imagination? Do animals imagine in this way? Perhaps a pet dog can imagine being taken for a walk. But this is not like the creative imagination of human beings who invent interesting or beautiful works of art or literature, who revolutionise scientific theories or who envisage novel ways of living.
Most people aren't like that. However, there are sound evolutionary- which means economic- reasons why our species will provide niches for people with those traits. But that's also why there is a market for paintings by particular elephants as well as an audience for animal acts- chickens which can do arithmetic and ducks who teach philosophy.
Only the reflective rational mind can have creative imagination of this sort.
But any cretin can babble shite like the above.
Thus, it seems that many phenomena of human beings that seem special and distinctive, and that are of moral significance in the sense of having potential to generate rights, turn out to depend on rationality.
But rights are only generated by a vinculum juris- a bond of law. A pedant talking nonsense generates shit.
With this conception of rationality in hand, let us now turn the spotlight on the minds of animals.
What is lacking here is any evidence for what Indian judges call 'application of mind'. There are plenty of Sciencey types who are turning a spotlight on the minds of animals. Fuck does this fool think he can accomplish?
Let us begin with our close cousins – apes and monkeys. Do they share the rational capacities of human beings?
They have a wholly different ecological niche. Tarzan needed to be all 'monkey see, monkey do' when living among apes. No doubt, this includes observing ethological norms- e.g. reciprocate grooming services. Rationality is what promotes inclusive fitness. It has no separate platonic existence.
The research on apes and monkeys is currently inconclusive. Researchers do not agree. There is some evidence suggesting that some such creatures can engage in a kind of reasoning, or at least that they have modes of thought continuous with human reasoning. In fact, the best evidence for primate reasoning is a kind of upside-down evidence, that some apes and monkeys appear to suffer from irrationalities similar to those besetting human beings. The psychologists Laurie Santos and Alexandra Rosati argued this in an article in 2015. And surely: if the animals are reasoning badly, then they are reasoning. The conclusion that they reason is controversial but, if it were right, it would mean that such animals should be protected by moral rights like those of human beings in virtue of their rationality. However, at present, we do not know enough to go one way or the other with full personhood rights for apes and monkeys.
It looks as though it will be illegal to keep primates as pets under Britain's proposed animal sentience Bill. The plain fact is that rights of this sort have sometimes been even more expansive at some places and at some times.
If Science and Technology can advance so poor and stupid like me have a decent enough life, we will make no objection to animals getting a better deal.
By contrast with these cases, the research is less ambiguous concerning most of the domesticated animals that we eat: cows, sheep, chickens, and the rest. Hardly any researchers think these animals reason. They are conscious, they have pleasures and pains, and they show intelligence of a kind when they use tools, for example. They can pursue means to an end. However, many highly intelligent species, such as elephants and dogs, pursue means to an end, but only inflexibly, so that they carry on pursuing the means when the two are visibly disconnected.
Like this cretin digging the grave of his own academic career.
Such inflexibility suggests that the psychological mechanism in play is association, not reasoning. And if elephants and dogs are not reasoning, it is unlikely that cows, sheep and chickens do better on this score.
Thanks to this article, nobody will take this pedants other work seriously.
Even Lori Marino, who is an enthusiastic advocate for the sophistication of the minds of domesticated animals does not suggest that these animals have anything like the self-conscious reasoning that is characteristic of human beings.
Lori Marino wrote in the comments section ' I’d like to believe this essay is parody but, unfortunately, I think Zangwill wants to be taken seriously.'
There just seems to be no evidence suggesting that cows, sheep and chickens can reason in Korsgaard’s self-reflective sense; and that means that they lack rights.
I have written of Korsgaard elsewhere.
Of course, lacking rights does not mean that their lives have no value, unless one deploys a uselessly obese notion of rights.
Actually, so long as value of arises in rem, then a Hohfeldian incident can arise and thus rights would exist.
Their consciousness matters. But that is exactly why we should kill and eat them.
Why not start chowing down on them while they are alive? You can read out this article to your victim while sauteing their tongue.
With these animals, we are doing them a favour if we kill and eat them.
And yet it was Mother Theresa who got a Nobel, not the guy who eats ten chickens a day.
The exceptions among the animals that we breed to eat are pigs, whose surprisingly adept operation of computer joysticks demonstrates cognitive flexibility that may indicate reasoning.
I'm shit at Playstation. On the other hand the last couple of lasses who handled my joystick were porkers. At my age, there's a trade-off. Either a young fattie or a slim lady who took up aerobics at the same time as Jane Fonda. Maybe things are different for rich men.
In all, the state of play of the evidence in animal psychology suggests different degrees of certainty for different animals. There is uncertainty concerning our nearest relatives – apes and monkeys – while there is more clarity about most of the domesticated animals that we breed to eat. Apart from pigs, it is clear that farmed animals cannot reason reflectively, and therefore they lack the rights that would prevent us eating them for their benefit. With cows, sheep and chickens, we do not have to wait to see what the research turns up; we may proceed directly to the dinner table.
Who would want to have a right which entails their being killed and eaten? The whole point about a right is that it can be waived for a self-regarding reason. Perhaps what this cretin is getting at is 'informed consent'. But this can't be given for an operation where death is certain. Furthermore a vinculum juris can't be so wildly asymmetric. Whatever benefit one receives, it is unconscionable that one be required to pay for it with one's life.
A chicken may cross a road, but it does not decide to do so for a reason.
Things ethologists can usefully attribute such reasons to chickens and this can improve Animal Welfare.
The chicken may even be caused to cross the road by some desire that it has; and the chicken may exhibit intelligence in whether or not it crosses the road. But the chicken makes no decision to follow its desires, and it makes no reasoned decision about whether or not it is a good idea to cross the road. We can ask: ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ but the chicken cannot ask itself: ‘Why should I cross the road?’ We can. That’s why we can eat it.
So, Zangwill's argument cashes out as 'we should eat animals dumber than us provided we are dumb enough not to know about Hohfeldian incidents and Gentzen calculi or are simply too stupid to spot stupidity when it is so amply demonstrated for us.'
My final comment on this was
Misology- ‘hatred of logic’ or developing an argument with a reckless disregard for the established conventions of debate and ‘common knowledge’ facts or ‘eudoxa’- often features in the works of academics, including philosophers, who wish to show that their passionate devotion to a particular cause has blinded them and overriden their judgment. This is a good rhetorical strategy. Since the actual content is imperative, not alethic, it is better to violate the rules of logic in an obvious and egregious manner. Ross’s paradox arises. It is better to say ‘don’t send the check to the Insurance Company. Just burn the house down already!’ because it has a bigger psychological effect even though the statement is utterly illogical.
Is Zangwill indulging in misology for an imperative and strategic motive? After all, simulated stupidity or moral imbecility can have a much bigger impact than a calm and well reasoned peroration. However, for people living in Britain where it appears likely that quite significant Animal Sentience laws will come into effect, I feel that this is no longer the case. We have ‘activism fatigue’ and now prefer the slow but methodical methods of jurists and economists and environmental scientists. I have given a line by line analysis of this essay here- https://socioproctology.blogspot.com/2022/01/nick-zangwill-stupidest-aeon-article.html- where I come to the conclusion that Zangwill’s intervention was unwise though it may be considered courageous. The tide of battle in the UK has already turned. First they came for our cigarettes and we set up a great hue and cry till we realized that life was better if curbs on that noxious weed were gradually strengthened. Now, on the advise of our doctors, we are reconciled to gradually going not cold turkey, but down the road of only relishing meat occasionally- in which case we can pay much more for ‘free range’ products. The big problem is that the Income elasticity of factory farmed meat is increasingly negative at a time when income inequality is increasing while real disposable income, after housing, transport and energy costs, is shrinking. Thus further progress requires solidarity between ‘those who care about animals’ (who may not be shrill and antagonomic ‘activists’) and those who care about the struggling working and dependent population of this country.
Paradoxically, for very poor countries like India, we may first want less animal rights- e.g. that of cows in Yogi Adityanath’s U.P- before we can get back to the trajectory which the Hindus and Buddhists have always themselves wanted.
In my opinion, moral philosophy- or other types of philosophy- must resist perverse incentives generated by incestuous citation cartels and a peurile type of tropism to ‘Grievance Studies’ or ‘wokeness’- so as to once again engage with actual mathematical logic and developments in jurisprudence and economics.
Wednesday, 26 January 2022
Mary Robinson & Amartya Sen
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which is as utterly useless as its name suggests, maintains that “Poverty can be defined equivalently as either the failure of basic freedoms – from the perspective of capabilities- or the non-fulfillment of rights to those freedoms – from the perspective of human rights.”
• The human rights involved are those that correspond to the capabilities that are considered basic by a given society;
• Inadequate command over economic resources plays a role in the causal chain leading to the non-fulfillment of human rights
The OHCHR argues that the widespread use of Sen’s “capability approach” is an appropriate conceptualization of poverty from a human rights perspective and that there is a “natural transition from capabilities to rights”.
Amartya Sen's parodic pluralism.
In an article in the Statesman titled 'Reflections of a Master Mind' Amitabha Bhattacharya writes-
While reading Amartya Sen’s Home in the World (Allen Lane, 2021), I remembered my brief encounter with him at the India International Centre, Delhi in the early nineties. A senior colleague of mine wondered, in the context of Sen’s idea of Indian pluralism, why the divisive issue of casteism, a unique feature of our society, remains unexplored.
Sen had given a lecture at the IIC about Indian pluralism- apparently it had to do with being nice to Muslims and pretending Muslims hadn't chased you out of your ancestral homeland and that Aurangazeb used to build plenty of temples for any Hindu he happened to come across.
Hilariously, Sen invokes a Baghdadi poet whom he names 'Al-Sabhadi' in connection with the Indian origin of Chess. I need hardly tell you there is no such poet. Al-Safadi- a Turk from Safad not Baghdad, had written on Chess and his work was drawn on by Ibn Abi Hagalah- who was the actual author of the statement George Irfah, whom Sen quotes, attributes to this imaginary 'Sabhadi'. This was a type of literature which delighted in solving problems such as (this is from Al-Safadi's al Gayt as mussaggam which was known to Europe through Thomas Hyde) 'how to ensure only Christians are killed if you have 30 passengers, half of whom are Muslim, and the rule is that every ninth passenger must be thrown overboard'! What a wonderful advertisement for pluralism! Incidentally, Ibn Taymiyya quotes Al-Safadi in a work calling for Chess to be banned. In other words, Sen- while trying to show off his intellectual sophistication- has made a fool of himself. Why not say- 'Hutler was a German Painter who liked drawing Swastikas all over the place?'
At the IIC, there were always some Muslim savants who knew their Al-Safadi and their Ibn Taymiyya. They must have laughed themselves silly- as did everybody else once they remembered that Sen's family had fled from Islamic rulers in their ancestral Dacca. Thus his praise of the tolerance of Muslims was belied by the fact that he had an Indian, not a a Bangladeshi, passport.
Indian casteism is a solution to a 'stable marriage problem'. This means that when a person converts to another religion, it is in his interest to get more and more of his caste fellows to convert so that his own descendants have access to a larger pool of marriage partners. Furthermore, castes form alliances of an intricate sort such that 'Consociationalism' appears to prevail. But it is very fragile. The thing can disappear overnight- as Sen's parents discovered when they had to flee Dacca.
Why is this so? The answer has to do with something Sen neglected to study- viz the game theoretic notion of uncorrelated asymmetries (which give rise to 'bourgeois' strategies) and the related notion of Aumann type correlated equilibria. An example would be small birds which act cohesively to 'mob' predators and drive them away. The problem here is that the dynamics can change very quickly. Predators- under pressure from exogenous scarcity shocks- can adopt the same tactics. Indeed, this eusocial strategy could be 'gamed' till it itself becomes a threat to the species.
Pluralism, or consociationalism, has failed in the two places where it was touted as a panacea- viz. Burma and Lebanon. This was because, long run, only dynamics matter. Gassing on about the nature of the 'uncorrelated asymmetry'- e.g. the fact that you are male not female or Hindu not Muslim- and suggesting we can all transcend such distinctions is simply a waste of time. Sen's sententiousness was fine and dandy so long as there was no strong motivating reason for retaliation. Then 9/11 happened and once it was obvious that the West had lost that war, Trump rose and appears now to be rising up again.
Ivy League Professors had been living in an Ivory tower. Their complacent lucubrations had lubed up the West to take Chinese dick.
A few days later, while Sen was enjoying his breakfast, I thought this was the opportunity to confront him with the question. He was cordial, didn’t mind my intrusion, looked for a few seconds out of the glass panes, and explained why the traditional caste system, an attempt to structure the society, did not qualify to be termed pluralistic in the sense he had defined it.
But India's 'jati' system was not 'an attempt to structure society' because neither the Brits nor the Turks had any notion of the thing. The structures the Brits created are still very much with us. Indeed, they have been used to tackle obnoxious aspects of casteism.
What Sen has said is sheer nonsense unless you believe some Ruler invented all the thousands of jatis we have in India. It is obvious, that caste is 'spontaneous order' and represents a 'separating equilibrium' based on 'costly signals'. That is why Iyers have a different caste mark from Iyengars. There is huge 'pluralism' in Hinduism- a Vadadesi Vadama has different customs from a Brhatcharanam Iyer- and it must have arisen spontaneously, not by administrative fiat. Since this 'pluralism' is spontaneous, ecumenism too is spontaneous. It is obvious that we don't want Vadamas fighting with Brhatcharanams in the street- though that may actually have happened some centuries ago- and that is why we like Godmen and Devijis and Gurus and Swamys and Mahatmas and so forth.
Sen in his lecture pretends that the Indian state has the power to change the personal law of Muslims. This was certainly not the case when he gave this lecture. Since 9/11 however the willingness of non-Muslims to react to violent protest by Muslim minorities has greatly increased. Still, this is a hornet's nest nobody in their right mind would want to kick.
It doesn't matter how you define pluralism or whether you think it is a good thing or a bad thing. What matters is whether your head will be kicked in- or your people chased away- if you try to mess with a stronger, or simply more fanatical, opponent.
An office is also hierarchically organised for a purpose – can it be called a pluralistic office?
But caste is not hierarchically organized at all. Who can say whether Iyengars are higher than Iyers? Are Baidyas, like Sen, above or below Kayasthas? In Gujrat, non-Nagari Brahmins would not be considered superior to Banias. In Punjab, a Jat would scoff at the notion of Brahmin superiority. In Tamil Nadu, the Brahmin pipes very small indeed.
An office could be hierarchical and pluralist if, for example, only White officers are allowed to decide on matters pertaining to Whites and so forth. Indeed, this was a feature of the Raj till about 1922 and prevailed to great effect in apartheid South Africa.
I was not sure if I understood him fully,
There was nothing to understand. The man was a fool.
but I was deeply moved by his willingness to listen, and engage with this question.
He would have been even more deeply moved if Sen had stood up and urinated in his face.
As an economist, Sen is reckoned as one of the great minds who has enriched the world of ideas and actions,
he may be reckoned as such by equally stupid people but when we discover that China doesn't listen to Sen whereas India did, then we realize the fellow was useless.
augmented by his erudition in fields as diverse as Sanskrit grammar and literature,
The guy is so ignorant he translates 'Niti' as 'Justice' when everybody knows it means 'Policy'.
mathematics and philosophy.
But mathematics includes Category theory which, sadly, philosophy has refused to learn from with the result that is now utterly shit.
When he tells the story of how such ideas had taken root, of incidents triggering his imagination and of people whose company and friendship helped him refine such ideas, the personal and the impersonal, the past and the present fuse to create a masterly narrative.
But it is a narrative of stupidity. The guy sees people starving because food is not available and then comes to the conclusion, many years later, that the famine was not caused by food availability deficit.
Tracing the first thirty years of his life – through Dhaka, Mandalay, Santiniketan, Calcutta, Cambridge, other places in the West, and Delhi [where the book ends] – reflecting on the drama of this remarkable phase, he has avoided certain aspects that would have made the book more saleable.
But where people still alive would have had a motive for denouncing this guy as a selfish, stupid, liar.
There are glowing references to his association with relatives, friends, teachers, students and colleagues, but none to romantic love, for example.
Meghnad Desai says Sen's divorce is what forced him out of India. The dude ran off with his best friend's wife.
This book is not soaked in emotions; it chronicles the adventure of ideas collected in tranquility, erring sometime on the side of grace.
This is a guy who never failed to utterly misunderstand any idea he came across.
In his continuous stream of interactions with people of all hues, two persons stand out, his maternal grandfather Kshiti Mohan Sen and his Cambridge professor Piero Sraffa. K.M. Sen’s well-known primer on Hinduism is actually the version translated by Sen, while in his twenties, from the Bengali original. Kshiti Mohan’s lifelong search to understand and bring to wide public attention the syncretic relationship between various religious communities influenced many including Rabindranath Tagore.
The arrow of causation goes the other way. Sen was an employee of Tagore's.
The ideas of Sraffa, a close friend of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein
he had no patience with Wittlesstein and, finally, that fool repented his stupidity only to engage in greater stupidity yet
and of the Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci,
Gramsci was an activist who only turned into a thinker because he was stuck in jail. Incidentally, the lady Sen ran off with had family connections with both Gramsci and Sraffa. Partha Dasgupta went one better that Sen by marrying Nobel Laureate Meade's daughter.
deeply impressed Sen.
What did Sraffa achieve? Nothing. What about Witlesstein? Von Neumann's Game theory is useful, Witlesstein's 'language games' are useless. As for Gramsci, how come the Italians aren't impressed with him? Why is it only stupid Bengalis who went ga ga for that shite?
After his graduation from Presidency college, Sen applied only to the Trinity – ‘the possibility of working with (Maurice) Dobb,
who was producing nothing
and (Dennis) Robertson
who had parted ways with Keynes. Perhaps he could be seen as in the Wicksell tradition. History has forgotten him.
was altogether thrilling… In effect I decided, ‘Trinity or bust’.’ He completed his doctoral dissertation in one year on the choice of techniques,
stupid shit. It is obvious that Tardean mimetics drives choice of techniques- i.e. you imitate what some smarter guy is doing. Development Econ was utterly useless because it didn't get that maths didn't matter. Imitation did.
became a Prize Fellow there and many years later, the Master of Trinity College.
Full disclosure- I campaigned vigorously for Nicholas Bates to be appointed to that august position- because a truly pluralistic Social Choice theory would deem Master Bates the mot juste for one who presides over Trinity College.
While Santiniketan school, Presidency and Trinity colleges, in a sense, shaped Sen, his personal observations of the Bengal Famine in 1943 and the communal killings later, contributed no less.
His family certainly fled East Bengal where they might starve or get hacked to death.
His seminal work on the causes of famine and his steadfast fight against man-made divisiveness
such as his growling at Modi while purring at Mamta.
demonstrate how a perceptive and analytical mind can transform day-to-day experiences into profound lessons of life.
such as those imbibed from Trinity's Master Bates.
Every page of this autobiography is illuminated by examples of such observation followed by discussion and arguments, leading to the revelation of truth.
I have shown that the reverse is the case. The guy gets everything wrong.
He brings to our notice how decisive intervention by the media can make government see reason.
This simply didn't happen. The Bengali media wouldn't attack Shurawardy- the Minister of Supply responsible for the famine deaths- because Shurawardy's goons would have kicked their heads in. The Whites in the Statemen attacked Whites in Delhi though they knew full well that under the 1935 Act, Food was a Provincial subject. What enabled Wavell to take some action was that he was a General. Defense was a Central subject and Wavell knew the Army had the relevant capacity because the tide of War was turning.
About the catastrophic Bengal famine, The Statesman, Calcutta, under its editor Ian Stephens attacked severely the British policy regarding the famine. ‘The British Parliament had not discussed the man-made disaster before Stephens spoke. All that changed immediately after The Statesman’s reporting.’
Was the Muslim League Government dismissed? Was Viceroy's rule promulgated? No. Don't be silly.
The Buddha, Tagore, Panini and to some extent Gandhi, were among those impacting Sen’s thinking.
But they weren't economists. So Sen's thinking was 'impacted' by the wrong people.
He discusses Tagore’s disagreement with Gandhi’s comment that the devastating Bihar earthquake ‘was a divine chastisement sent by God for our sins’. Tagore was dismayed at this linking of ethical principles with a cosmic phenomenon.
But Gandhi could get Tagore money for his Shantiniketan. So, in the end, Tagore had to play along. As a matter of fact, a religious leader is welcome to link earthquakes to sodomy or masturbation or whatever bee he has in his bonnet. That's how religion works. I myself have frequently stated that neglect of Socioproctology caused the COVID pandemic.
Sen pondered over this as also on Gandhi’s insistence on ‘charkha’, for instance, and was generally on Tagore’s side.
Sen did some empirical work showing 'charkha' was wasteful and stupid- as if everybody didn't already know this.
Later in life, however, Sen wondered if they, including Tagore, had misunderstood Gandhi in certain respects.
Sleeping naked with your grand-niece can give you super-powers.
He draws pen portraits of his friends and acquaintances, teachers and colleagues, gurus and chelas. Whether it is Kenneth Arrow whose ‘impossibility theorem’ in the context of social choice inspired much of Sen’s work,
Arrow, though taught by Tarski, ignored the fact that 'Preference' is a 'Tarskian primitive'- i.e. can't be defined or given a univocal mathematical representation. Sen, being as stupid as shit, jumped on an utterly foolish bandwagon.
or Paul Samuelson
Arrow's brother-in-law, whom he was scoring off
or Joan Robinson or John Rawls, Nicholas Kaldor or Oscar Lange, Sen has covered their contribution while highlighting his own gains from such interfaces. About Samuelson, Sen notes ‘He remained entirely focussed on the truth that could emerge from the argument, rather than being concerned with winning the battle…’
That fool was still insisting the USSR could overtake the US when the Berlin Wall fell.
Sen also alludes to his days at Jadavpur University where he led the founding of and headed the economics department (at the age of twenty-three), and at the Delhi School of Economics where he was chosen by V.K.R.V. Rao to be his young successor.
DSE turned to shit after becoming part of DU. However, measuring poverty does not actually alleviate poverty just as measuring your dick every five minutes won't actually cause it to grow in size.
Anyway, Accountants not Economists, should do that kind of work. A background in auditing, not algebraic topology, is the sine qua non.
All through this work of love, as he moves from despair ,when diagnosed with cancer at the age of nineteen, to satisfying achievements,
which helped him but did not help India
he weaves stories and dialogues, laced with humour as if in an adda, and combines them with serious deliberations as on issues like ‘What to make of Marx’.
in other words, he thriftily recycles his old papers so as to make a little money while the going is good. We appreciate his entrepreneurial instincts but not his sententious stupidity.
His years with wife Nabaneeta have also been recounted with tenderness and respect.
Good for him.
Sen’s relentless espousal of causes like empowering the disadvantaged through enhancement of their capabilities,
Did Sen enhance any one's capability? No. He chose students who had already got high marks and turned them into mindless drudges in Academia or the Bureaucracy where they created no value but simply captured a rent.
Sen believes 'second order public goods'- i.e. campaigning for more 'first order public goods'- is itself a public good. It isn't . The thing is a fucking nuisance. Bengali students may have thought burning buses was a good way of campaigning for better public transport but they were wrong.
deepening democracy and freedom through discussion and persuasion,
doesn't fucking work! Did Sen's stint at Harvard defend that country from Trump? Will it result in fairer voter registration? No. Of course not. Don't be silly.
A smart guy may persuade you but a senile fool can only exhibit his own prejudices.
enhancing investment for universal coverage of basic health and education
means creating wealth and thus permitting extra resources to be used in this way. But that means making and selling useful things- not worthless shite.
– well over the last fifty years – has altered global thinking in no small measure, leading to almost universal acceptance now.
Do these Bengali cretins really not know that Europe and America were for better health and educational coverage hundreds of years ago? Is it really the case that Bengalis say to each other 'Amartya told Queenji she must open schools for British kids. She said 'Fuck off you stupid wog' but Amartya did not lose patience. He tenderly stroked first her corgi and then her pussy till she became amenable. Indeed, she even opened National Health Service because Amartya explained to her that Kant had told Marx that it was a very nice thing to do.'
In the book D. School (Ed. Dharma Kumar and Dilip Mukherjee, OUP,1995), Prabhat Patnaik wrote ‘Students discussed whether Amartya Sen was better than Sukhamoy Chakravarty in the same way that people elsewhere discussed whether Madhubala was better than Meena Kumari..’,
i.e. whom do you toss off to? Is it Maliyn Monroe or Amartya Sen?
though he found the comparison unwholesome.
Till Trinity College Master Bates.
Sen’s star-like profile has often eclipsed his renown for complex mathematical work,
which is shit. He has made no mathematical discoveries whatsoever. On the other hand, Mahalanobis had and he was a terrible Planning Commission chief. Sukhamoy looked more Mathsy than Sen back in the Sixties- he appeared to be getting into Pontyragin type control theory which can be useful- but nothing came of it. His fellow Bengalis thought he was sub-par in Maths. Sen, very wisely, didn't stick his neck out in that direction and escaped from India before his pal could drag him into the Planning Commission.
articulating serious philosophical concepts,
which he wholly misunderstands. That's the problem with 'intellectual affirmative action'- the Whites think this darky knows his own culture and so maybe there's some subtle point to his otherwise obviously foolish perorations. But the truth is nobody really cares. Once a citation cartel gets off the ground you can publish any shite and then say you are fighting Fascism.
and expanding the frontiers of economics as a discipline.
But those frontiers were expanded into utter nonsense.
Taken as a whole, his systematic body of work over a lifetime to create a world – just and equitous, inclusive and free –
which does not exist. This fool merely gained a rent as part of a Credentialist Ponzi scheme
has made a difference that no Nobel Prize could capture.
Mother Theresa's Nobel probably helped her become a Saint. That's cool because you can pray to a Saint for miracles. Fuck is the point to Sen?
The memoir helps us understand this man and the influences that made him what he is.
It helps us understand that he didn't have any common sense as a kid. This wouldn't have mattered if he had stuck to STEM subjects. He might have some local renown as a good Physics or Mathematics lecturer. Instead he got sucked into the fraud that was Development Economics from which he managed to escape by embracing 'Social Choice theory' which is sheer nonsense.
Unlike Tagore, who saw that Bengal's problem was lack of food and who sent his son to study Agricultural Science in America, Sen could never see what was right under his nose. Bengal wasn't growing enough food so its people starved once Bengalis were running things. His family gets chased out of Dacca by Muslims, because the Brits were no longer running things, and so he decides that nothing of that sort ever happened.
He says pluralism is important for two reasons. Firstly democracy needs heterogeniety. Yet every single democracy ever has reduced heterogeniety. The language and mores of the majority have been imposed on the minority- unless it has been killed or chased away. Empires encourage heterogeniety. Indeed, the earliest Empires forcibly resettled people so as to reduce nationalistic sentiment and democratic institutions.
Sen says the practice of pluralism produces cultural riches. The opposite is the case. If minorities go their own way then they don't compete with each other. America has produced 'cultural riches' because the Jews stopped going to their Yiddish theaters and Catskill entertainment shows. Instead they competed with the Goyim in a homogenous entertainment industry- Hollywood, Broadway etc. Suppose Mindy Kaling had stuck with bharatnatyam dancing- who would have heard of her? If Aziz Ansari had concentrated on making a name for himself at 'mushairas', he wouldn't be on Netflix. Both Mindy and Aziz began their ascent by being ultra-American not by playing up their Indianness. Anyway, it would have been a fake Indianness- like Sen's- and would have only cornered a small rent based on aesthetic 'affirmative action'.
Sen concludes his talk on Pluralism with an oxymoron. Practicing pluralism involves looking at the fairness of social arrangements. But since there are plural conceptions of fairness, pluralism means either suppressing pluralism so as to hit upon a common notion of fairness or else it means doing nothing- i.e. the practice of pluralism isn't actually a practice at all.
Bengalis might think Sen is smart for saying shit like this, but we now think of such Bengalis as shitheads.