Wednesday 30 November 2022

Matilal's relativism- tatparya & nirnayaka

Was Matilal utterly stupid? He was a Professor of a shite subject- so the pro tanto answer must be yes. But Matilal attended the Calcutta Sanskrit College which had a navya nayaya theory of 'tatparya' or 'intention'. Moreover, intuition as 'synoida' would have a buck-stopper or 'witness' in the 'nirnayaka' interpretation. Bearing this in mind, Matilal was merely as stupid as his profession required him to be- nothing more or less, pace Nicolas Bommarito & Alex King who write-

Matilal argues against cultural relativism, which he characterizes essentially as the view that there are no cross-cultural moral standards.

If so, Matilal is foolish. Cultural relativism says that a person's beliefs and practices should be understood based on that person's own culture. A Cultural relativist can believe that there are 'natural' or 'non arbitrary' moral standards while affirming that no existing culture has evolved sufficiently to have adopted such standards. Equally, a person may believe that 'moral standards' are hypocritical nonsense while also affirming that culture doesn't matter in the slightest. Only economic motives explain behavior. As for beliefs, they are strategic solutions to Newcomb type problems. 

He bases his objections on two principles. The first he calls the Impossibility of the Individuation of Cultures (or IIC).

Which is foolish. We 'individuate' cultures all the time. People refer to me as an uncultured swine. By contrast, they consider other members of my family to be courteous and refined.  

Real cultures, Matilal thinks, are not “dead watertight compartments”;

nobody said they were. We differentiate Smith from Jones though neither is dead or watertight. Indeed, Smith may now have a kidney Jones very generously donated to him.  

rather, they flow into each other.

Jones is bumming Smith. So what?  

The second principle is a relatively familiar one. It says that, if relativism were true, we would have to call the intuitively worst moral offenses morally right, as long as the offenders behaved according to the norms of their own culture.

This is nonsense. We would only have to do so if that is what our culture required us to do. But that's not how cultures work. Ours is always best while other cultures are about nasty furriners bumming each other incessantly.  

The best we can do is to call them wrong “from our point of view”.

Only if that is what our culture requires of us. A cultural relativist is welcome to belong to a particular culture- or none at all if he don't got no friends and was brought up by wolves or Republicans.  

Matilal calls this the Repugnant Consequence (or RC).

What's so repugnant about not incessantly passing judgments on furriners wot bum each other incessantly because they don't know any better?  

Matilal distinguishes two species of cultural relativism, which he calls soft relativism and hard relativism.

Matilal had an obsession with 'rigid' vs 'flaccid'. As I get on in years, I am beginning to understand why.  

Both claim that there are no cross-cultural moral standards.

Neither necessarily does. It depends on their own culture which may consider making claims of an obviously inutile sort to be the conduct of a boorish pedant whose place is well below the salt.  

He sometimes puts this in terms of mutual incommensurability: there is no fact about whether one culture’s standards are superior to another’s.

There is an uncorrelated asymmetry. That's all that is required for a bourgeois strategy to be eusocial.  

So both forms of relativism share an anti-realist metaphysics of value.

Not necessarily. Anyway, any anti-realist ontology can always be recast in realist terms by the introduction of virtual particles.  

They are differentiated by their epistemic claims.

Not if they don't make epistemic claims- which only boorish pedants do because teaching rich kids makes you stupider than God intended.  

According to soft relativism, the moral standards set in a culture different from one’s own are nevertheless still intelligible or comprehensible.

But, within any culture there will always be certain shibboleths or mysteries which remain unintelligible or are incomprehensible. If this were not the case, Universities could guarantee to turn out alumni who have so mastered a specific culture as to be able to produce literary and artistic works instantly recognizable as rivalling that of that culture's greatest poets and sages.  

According to hard relativism, moral standards in different cultures are mutually incomprehensible.

But, the way acculturation proceeds in any culture is in one recognizing that there is a grading principle within it and not comprehending how to rise in grade till, without knowing how, one suddenly finds one has indeed ascended.  

The hard relativist thinks that the moral standards of a culture different from our own are forever foreign objects, untranslatable into our own concepts or paradigms. On such a view, this mutual unintelligibility underwrites the mutual incommensurability. We cannot rank one culture’s moral standards against another’s because we cannot even get the two to be talking in the same terms.

But this also applies within a culture. Eliza Doolittle was very smart. Thus she could become a cultured lady. Sadly, no Professor Higgins could turn me into a darker complexioned version of Her Very Gracious Majesty the Queen- Gor' bless 'er.  

Matilal’s two main targets are the sophisticated versions of relativism endorsed by Bernard Williams and Gilbert Harman. Before really addressing these, though, he first dispenses with a form of relativism that Williams calls vulgar relativism.

Because it was a form of relativism which used to expose its buttocks to him saying 'you are shit, you are.'  He'd reply, 'Mum, do you have to be so vulgar more especially now your daughter-in-law, Shirley is in Callaghan's Cabinet?' 

Vulgar relativism claims that (1) we ought to tolerate other cultures’ moral perspectives, since (2) terms like ‘right’ just mean ‘right for a given society’ – in other words, ‘right for them’.

Nothing wrong with that if we also tolerate them guys living among us or else feel as strong desire to take over their territory.  

Matilal here simply defers to Williams’s own refutation of vulgar relativism, one that contemporary readers will likely recognize. In saying (1), we implicitly endorse a universal, nonrelative moral claim, namely that we should tolerate the views of other cultures.

No. We may only be implicitly endorsing a utilitarian thesis- e.g. if we want smart peeps to live among us, let them keep up their own traditions- e.g. not eating their first born 

But (2) bars us from endorsing any non-relative moral claims.

No it doesn't. The fact is, any society which keeps doing stupid shit will go extinct. Nature itself doesn't tolerate cultures which make it normative to eat all your babies. 

So the view looks incoherent. The version of relativism that Williams defends is more restricted. For Williams, there are two ways in which cultures confront or come into contact with each other.

Williams was real smart. He could count up to two.  

There are real confrontations and notional confrontations.

A real confrontation can be notional and notional confrontations can get real very very quickly.  

A real confrontation occurs when one culture’s moral system is a real option for members of another culture.

This is foolish. Williams came of a stock which had completely wiped out members of other cultures who happened to be living on land on which White people could thrive.  

And a moral system counts as a real option for someone when they could adopt that system and “not engage in extensive self-deception”,

Extensive self-deception is a feature of cultured living. The fact is people only invite me to dinner parties because of my uncontrollable flatulence. Yet I have to deceive myself this is not the case because otherwise I'd turn up wearing adult diapers rather than a dinner jacket.  

“retain their hold on reality”, and perhaps even make retrospective sense of their conversion. What Williams means here is not at all clear,

it is clear enough. The man's wife was a politician. He'd had to suffer through dinner parties featuring gormless donors.  

but that need not distract us, as this is not the point that Matilal takes issue with. What is important is that, if one culture’s system is not a real option for members of another culture, then those two cultures can confront one another only notionally.

But all confrontation has a notional component- even if it is wholly imaginary.  

As examples, Williams offers the moral systems of bygone eras: Bronze Age chiefs

whose code was similar to that of Gangland Godfathers 

and medieval samurai,

upon whom the Yakuza model themselves 

as well as traditional societies whose systems and ways of life are incompatible with current, irreversible technological advancements.

They are perfectly compatible provided some innovation and adaptation is permitted.  

Whatever exactly counts as a real option, those moral systems are simply inaccessible to us.

Only in the sense that all moral systems are inaccessible to those who hold them.  

Finally, it’s only in the context of notional confrontations that we face relativism.

But there is no confrontation unless there is a notion of confrontation. I angrily confronted the door which was refusing to open for me because it was under the impression that I was drunk. But the door didn't think it was confronting me at all. It was incapable of having any such notion.  

When two cultures can really confront each other rather than merely notionally confront each other, we aren’t pushed to relativistic conclusions.

A convenient doctrine if you belong to a race which, in the recent past, had committed genocide on distant continents. However, most young British people today feel that in the 'real' confrontation with indigenous peoples that occurred, some of their own ancestors acted wickedly. 

Williams writes that it is only in real confrontations that the language of appraisal – good, bad, right, wrong, and so on – can be applied to [the other moral system]; in notional confrontations, this kind of appraisal is seen as inappropriate, and no judgments are made.

He was wrong. When Britain had to confront the Luftwaffe, it didn't bother with moral appraisal. It concentrated on getting the technically inferior Spitfire into the air in numbers that overwhelmed the  Messerschmitt.

He calls his view the relativism of distance.

It was foolish. On the other hand, he'd actually flown Spitfires during this stint of National Service. 

Matilal counts this view as a form of relativism because two moral systems that can only notionally confront each other are incommensurable, that is, we cannot think that one is better than the other.

Sure we can. We do so all the time when we amend laws or do 'mechanism design'.  

Furthermore, he counts it as a form of soft relativism, since Williams nowhere claims that systems that allow for only notional confrontation must also be mutually unintelligible.

Because one can have a notional confrontation with a door that refuses to open for you coz it thinks you are drunk off your head- which is a total lie coz, for religious reasons, I have always been a complete teetotaler.  

Matilal presents two worries for this view. First, he argues that it’s unclear why we should think that any moral system is not a real option for any culture. We can’t literally go back and be Bronze Age chiefs. But surely that isn’t all that Williams means. He seems to be saying something stronger, such as that some cultures are so conceptually or socially distant that only notional confrontation is possible. But why think that we couldn’t, for example, disavow our modern technologies and opt for life in a traditional society? The only barriers to this are practical (if there actually aren’t any such communities left) or epistemic (if we don’t know enough about its moral system). Aside from these philosophically uninteresting senses in which bygone cultures are inaccessible, there’s no further sense in which they are. Moreover, any living culture is a real option for any other living culture. No actual culture is a windowless monad perfectly sealed off from the rest of the world. This is Matilal’s IIC principle, the Impossibility of the Individuation of Cultures.

There is no principle here. There is merely loose talk. For any particular purpose, anything at all can be individuated well enough. This is also why Witlesstein's private language argument fails. 

His second objection provisionally grants that some cultures can only confront each other notionally but denies that this entails their mutual incommensurability.

because nonsense entails nothing. The fact is, culture is itself a notion. Any predicate applied to it is notional.  

First, it is question-begging to suppose that such cultures couldn’t apply non-relative standards to each other.

One 'non-relative' standard involves the existential predicate. If the thing doesn't exist we can't be sure it might possibly have done so or will do so.  

Moreover, this supposition conflicts with the linguistic data: we do in fact apply appraising language when talking about bygone moral systems. We say that slavery was wrong, for example, and that our current system is better.

Unless were are African patriots who realize that the slave trade helped African kingdoms maintain their independence from the likes of King Leopold's rapacious minions.  

And if we deny this, we must face RC, the Repugnant Consequence.

Why not face the true Repugnant Consequence which is that studying or teaching Philosophy makes you as stupid as shit?  

Matilal then turns to Harman’s relativism, according to which our judgments (and statements) about how people ought to act or which actions are wrong are relativized to groups that have formed agreements or have come to understandings with each other.

This is descriptive of what actually obtains.  

Harman offers a few examples, involving Martians, a band of cannibals, a mob-like group called ‘Murder, Incorporated’, and Hitler. Harman thinks that, whatever we might say of members of these groups – that they behave unjustly, that it is a bad thing for them to go around killing others, even that they are evil – we fall short of saying that they ought not kill others or that it is wrong for them to do so.

We too avail of a right to self-defense.  Uncorrelated asymmetries give rise to eusocial bourgeois strategies. Why do you wipe your own bum but not go around wiping the bums of everybody? The answer is that your bum is yours. That's an uncorrelated asymmetry. 

Such statements strike Harman as sounding very odd because such agents are “beyond the motivational reach of the relevant moral considerations”. They are simply beyond the pale – creatures that we, in some deep way, just cannot make sense of.

Unless we read John Maynard Smith and understand why Professors of Moral Philosophy only wipe their own bums not those of all who stand in need of such services.  

There are three objections Matilal offers here. First, he thinks that Harman, like Williams, unfairly represents the linguistic situation. We hear people call Hitler’s and the mob’s actions wrong all the time.

No we don't. We only give a hearing to people who say nice or useful things to us.  

More importantly, though, Matilal argues that Harman runs afoul of both IIC and RC.

But so does Matilal himself. He has no way of individuating Harman's claim and thus can come to no conclusion about it.  

Harman’s choice of Martians is telling.

I suppose he means 'a class of beings with whom we can't come to any agreement'. But there may be a 'Schelling focal' solution to a coordination or discoordination problem. That's all that is required. Agreement is otiose and doesn't actually exist in any actual society. There is only Schelling focality.  

As others have more recently argued, it’s hard to know what to make of these bizarre cases. It’s not clear how reliable our linguistic or metaethical intuitions concerning them are. This is because real cultures are not hermetically sealed things,

but they may have a Kripkean rigid designator. That's all that matters.  

and imagining cultures this way will not, Matilal thinks, be philosophically revealing.

Philosophy reveals that philosophers have shit for brains.  

In order to get Harman’s relativist intuitions we have to imagine cases of Martians, that is, literal aliens, or else “monsters (Hitler), mentally deranged or impaired persons (Murder, Inc), or subhumans”. In short, these cases implicitly try to circumvent IIC.

No they don't. If cultures can't be individuated, nothing can. It is enough for a sentence to have a reference for IIC to be circumvented.  

But real cultures do flow into each other, and no culture is so sealed off that we have no moral purchase on it.

We don't know that. There may be people who can say that I am really uncultured relative to the rest of Britain or Tamil Nadu but nobody can say if I am not really cultured according to some other lights.  

Last, Harman effectively attempts to avoid RC by allowing that we can call a figure like Hitler evil –

if we get paid to do so- or gain some other benefit- sure.  

it’s just that we can’t call his actions wrong

He ended up eating a bullet. His actions were wrong. Don't declare war on the US of A. Don't fight the Russians on their own soil during Winter. Flatter the French. They make marvelous cheese. 

or say that he did things that he ought not to have done. But in giving up these latter claims, Harman still says something quite repugnant.

Stick with 'judge not lest ye be judged' or else 'answer a fool according to his folly'. 

Matilal’s insights about culture draw on

the fact that Culture (Samskriti) is a Samskar- i.e is conventional and lacking any deep ontological property. Still, there is a 'vigyan' such that all doctrines (matam) are observationally equivalent. Perhaps there is 'aashrav' of karma-binding particles which are merely virtual. Who knows? Who cares? Just don't sleep with your Guru's wife- more especially if your Guru is me. 

an important concept from classical Indian philosophy, the Buddhist notion of emptiness (in Sanskrit, śūnyatā). Matilal draws on this idea in claiming that it is impossible for any culture to be completely isolated and self-reliant.

But Buddhist sunyata implies kshanikavada- momentariness. Every thing is isolated and self-generated. That's why only intention (cetana) matters.  

Emptiness is most closely associated with the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism and its founder Nāgārjuna (~150–250 CE), who makes frequent appearances in Matilal’s writings.

But, hopefully, not in his toilet. Apparitions of that type are a leading cause of constipation. 

Nāgārjuna famously claimed that everything is empty. But what does that mean? Being empty does not mean simply not existing; emptiness is not to be understood as nothingness. To be empty is to be empty of something. The mug on my desk is empty of coffee but not of air. In the context of Buddhist philosophy, what all things are empty of is a static and independent nature (in Sanskrit, svabhāva).

Nope. They lack a kinetic or dynamic nature. That's where Jainism scores. But low IQ peeps like me are perfectly content with devotional Buddhism or Hinduism or Sufism or ecumenical Christianity. In matters of Faith, it is us cretins who are privileged. Sadly, we often get into confrontations with our door which has somehow got the idea that I get drunk at the pub. I don't. I only go there to hold philosophical conversations with people- till they punch my head repeatedly. 

One way that a thing can be empty is temporal. Think of the spoke on a bicycle wheel.

It is where it belongs. Don't stick it up your bum.  

Though it may seem to be a singular object, it is really a collection of particles organized in a certain way.

but not, sadly, for the purpose of being stuck up your bum. 

So to say that it has no static essence

is meaningless if the predicate 'no static essence' is incompossible.  

isn’t just to say that it is, for example, slowly corroding or turning to rust. There is no spoke to corrode, a spoke just is the relational interplay between the particles that make it up.

Nor is there anyone to speak or to hear or to feed Buddhist monks who therefore starve to death or else have to get proper jobs.  

What appears to us as the spoke rusting is just the particles that make it up changing their relations.

Nope. The relations stay the same. The particles undergo oxidization.  

There’s no thing that went from shiny to rusty.

Only no things exist.  

But there is also another, non-temporal way in which the spoke is empty.

No there isn't.  

Even at any instant, it exists only relationally.

in which case it isn't empty. Nothing is relational to what is no thing.  

To be a spoke is to have a kind of relational identity, one that is dependent on other things.

but not in the instant and, because there is nothing before or after the instant, anywhere else.  

What it means to be a spoke is to play a certain role in a wheel and in a bicycle.

But this also the meaning of everything which isn't a spoke in the bicycle including that meaning or meaninglessness.  

And what it means to be a bicycle is to play a certain role for humans, to ride around and travel places.

But that's not what it means to be my bicycle.  There are lots of people like me who make New Year's resolutions and buy bikes and then let them rust away in the garage. 

So a spoke, to be what it is, depends on its relations to other things, on its place in a larger content.

Which is how come my bike has turned into an ornamental fish tank. It wants to improve its relations to other things- especially fish.  

This, according to Madhyamaka philosophy, is true of everything: spokes, the particles making it up, bicycles, people, toads, helium, even emptiness itself.

Not to mention its own doctrine.  

Everything depends on everything else to be what it is.

Unless it doesn't and quits Skool to get a proper job.  

This is not to say that Matilal fully endorses this Buddhist view.

Nor is it to say that he isn't a gerbil. All things that are are gerbils.  

You can, however, see the influence of this idea of emptiness in his discussion of culture.

You can see that his head was empty of everything except shit.  

Just as a spoke is a constantly changing collection which depends on other things

some other things 

to be what it is, so too do cultures. So we find Matilal taking Bernard Williams to task for assuming that cultures interact like billiard balls, as independent things that occasionally crash into each other.

But crashing billiard balls exchange some particles. So do cultures. 

As someone with a multicultural background,

i.e. the guy did not always take a lota of water with him in order to shit in the fields.  

Matilal saw clearly that though the atomistic, billiard ball way of seeing things might be useful, it isn’t how reality works:

Reality can't find work in India so it emigrates.  

But in practice, in today’s world, cultures and sub-cultures do flow into each other, interacting both visibly and invisibly, eventually effecting value-rejection and value-modification at every stage.

Sadly, this isn't the case. Nobody thinks people like me combine Western and Eastern culture. They are merely grateful if I don't take to shitting in their gardens.  

This shows the vitality of cultures, which are like living organisms, in which internal and external changes are incontrovertible facts.

Very true. The cat flows into me when it sits on my lap. That is why I spend a lot of time trying to clean my own arse with my tongue.  

 To be clear, Matilal does not explicitly claim that cultures are empty, but the lesson is similar. His choice of metaphor is telling; he pictures cultures as liquids flowing into each other.

In Indian culture, a swan's wing can separate water from milk. But nobody trusted the 'doodhwallah'.  

Cultures, like liquids, are dynamic, changing entities with vague borders. Thinking of ‘Indian’ or ‘Italian’ culture as something singular, static, and independent, as something with a non-relational essence is a mistake.

No it isn't. You can make money gassing on about Indian or Italian culture. Nobody will pay you to pretend Italian culture is actually Chinese. 

Not only do they change over time, but they are deeply relational, intertwined and dependent upon other cultures in ways that are subtle and difficult to see.

because they don't exist.  

Views about cultures that ignore these facts are doomed to fail

yet no such view has failed yet.  

because they treat a complex living thing as if it were a fossil.

this is more especially true if you are trying to add a hefty gang-bagger to your fossil collection. Still, if you shoot the fellow in the head repeatedly, your views of culture are not doomed to fail. Indeed, you could become rich.  

Matilal uses this insight to highlight how philosophers wishing to see cultures as static and independent must lean heavily on semi-fictionalized examples of past cultures and science fiction.

They don't have to lean on shit. They can just gas on about 'essences'.  

These artificial examples of cultures with independent essences are then generalized, giving the illusion

to whom? Guys who want that illusion for some purpose of their own. It is the purpose that matters.  

that all cultures work this way. One need not accept Nāgārjuna’s more radical metaphysical stance to see this, though it can help illuminate Matilal’s lesson: real-life cultures just don’t work that way.

But Mahayana Buddhist culture did work that way in Tibet- till the Dalai Lama was forced to run away.  

Given his


denial of relativism, it may be unsurprising that Matilal endorses

stupid shit 

a version of moral realism, according to which there are universal moral facts.

You can always find an existence proof for them- but they may be inaccessible.  

Matilal does not, however, consider other views that have become commonplace in contemporary metaethics, views like speaker subjectivism,

Whitey be debil!  

error theory,

why evaluate what is a priori false? That's not a theory, it's a reason for not getting out of bed. 

or expressivism.

which forbids itself any reference 

Instead, he contrasts cultural relativism with what he calls singularism, the view that there is only one set of moral standards for everyone,

there is no necessary opposition between the two. Our culture is the right one. Those whom God hates are born into other cultures. Even good foreigners are constantly bumming each other.  

and introduces his rival view, pluralism, in terms of this contrast.

But 'singularism' can be 'plural' by subscribing to a type theory.  

He characterizes singularism (sometimes calling it monism) as the view that there is only one set of moral standards to which everybody should conform, and it is possible to discover this singular standard of universal morality through rational means.

But rationality is a movable feast. Nothing prevents a relativist from saying that his own culture was especially chosen by God or represents a privileged frame of reference for some pseudo-scientific reason.  

Like soft and hard relativism, singularism consists of both a metaphysical and epistemic thesis.

Only if you hold them down and shove those theses up their arse while they scream their lungs out.  


or materially 

it posits a set of standards that apply to everyone, making it a view sometimes called absolutism in contemporary parlance. Epistemically, it claims that this set of standards is rationally accessible to us all. In essence, if we each thought about morality long enough and clearly enough, we would discover the universal moral truth of the matter.

Sadly, mathematical logic has moved on greatly. Such truths may not be accessible even at the 'end of Time'.  

He has in his sights arch rationalists, and in this he follows fellow pluralist Isaiah Berlin, who characterizes singularism in the following way:
first, that all men have one true purpose, and one only, that of rational self-direction; second, that the ends of all rational beings must of necessity fit into a single universal, harmonious pattern . . .; third, that all conflict, and consequently all tragedy, is due solely to the clash of reason with the irrational.

This is a wholly arbitrary characterization. Why not say 'singularism involves shitting into your hands and flinging your feces about.'

Rejecting singularism makes Matilal sound like a relativist.

whereas actually the guy just didn't want to be the target of Isaiah Berlin's flung feces.  

Though we won’t cover all of the details here, it’s worth noting that he argues that not all divergence is the result of irrationality. Sometimes it is the result of completely reasonable, understandable diversity of moral opinion. In fact, Matilal is keenly concerned to take seriously the fact of moral diversity. It’s this seriousness that leads him to pluralism.

It was okay for Radhakrishnan to fling his feces about. But when Akeel Bilgrami does it, it's so not cool.

Pluralism holds that there are multiple, potentially incompatible, moral standards.

It can hold what it likes except my penis.  

Still, it’s possible that some are better, i.e., to be prioritized, over others. In other words, Matilal accepts a certain amount of diversity of moral standards but denies that this commits him to relativism.

Sadly, relatives is the reason most Indians want to emigrate. But there is no escape from that type of relativism. Wherever you go, you will find some Mamaji who will suddenly turn up on your doorstep with a marriage proposal to a nice sanskari girl with an astonishing resemblance to a camel. 

He takes diversity to be compatible with an underlying moral realism. This metaphysical picture may sound a bit like W.D. Ross’s view.

Though the Indians arrived at it through Navya Nyaya linguistic analysis. The 'tatparya' intention is associated with 'the good' but there is some lack in it such that a separate consideration of what is right arises.  

For Ross, there is a listable plurality of goods, and these different goods are not reducible to one another.

save for some specific purpose. 

We can even think of Matilal’s standards as continuous with Ross’s goods (justice, non-maleficence, etc.).

but they are hermeneutic or purely linguistic, not ontological in any way.  

However, Ross thinks that there is always, in each situation, a particular right thing to do. Matilal disagrees.

The good is multiply realizable. Considerations of right are secondary and arise by some lack or unrealizability in the intention.  

First, Matilal leaves it open that these different standards or goods are simply incompatible.

for some purposes, they may be.  

That is, there might be cases where we cannot comply with all of the standards or realize all of the varying goods.

But only for the same reason that we can't say everything while speaking correctly.  

Second, Matilal leaves it open that these different standards or goods cannot be prioritized – that they are incommensurable.

but can always be made so for some particular purpose.  

So he thinks that we might be unable to fully realize all of the plural goods, and that we might furthermore be unable to even weigh the different goods against each other.

Why do it if it doesn't pay to do it?  

By contrast, while Ross thinks it doesn’t make sense to prioritize the goods in the abstract, he thinks that they can be properly ordered in any particular situation.

which is true enough. The Szpilrajn extension theorem explains why.  

In these ways, Matilal’s form of pluralism is more thoroughgoing than Ross’s.

If it existed- but did it? Why not admit that Matilal was in a linguistic, not ontological, tradition?  

Matilal doesn’t claim that moral standards definitely are incompatible. Instead, he leaves these possibilities open. This brings us to Matilal’s epistemic thesis, which unfortunately is not always clear.

Unless you iz Hindu and know about tatparya and how, by God's grace, a 'nirnayaka' can always clarify or certify what is intended.  

He generally sounds quite skeptical about compatibility and commensurability, denying that there is any way to determinately rank moral standards.

Save by God's grace which may be operating in even a cretin like me.  

But even though we might never be certain about our rankings, they are (justifiably) important to us.

Or not. Generally not. Adolescents may spend a lot of time ranking supermodels they want to sleep with. Then they get married and find the thought of cuddling with anybody else laughable or repugnant. 

That said, he does offer an account of how we come to know the different particular moral standards, as well as how we can come to know the universal moral standards. Given all this, it’s still not clear how exactly we should understand his pluralist account. Fleshing it out will be the job of the rest of the chapter.

The rest of the chapter is tedious shite. See for yourself-


Matilal’s pluralism appears in an incipient form the Indian notion of dharma.

Only if you are as stupid as shit. Matilal was Ind-fucking-ian. Any dharmic notion of his must build on some highly developed dharmic notions. How the fuck could he have a doctrine anterior to, or an incipient form of, stuff he learnt in his mother's lap and then at Sanskrit College? 

The term dharma is one of the most important in Indian philosophy; it is also one of the most complex, having many, many meanings.

It has a rigid designation for Europe. The Greeks translated it as 'eusebia' which is the Latin 'pietas'. Dharma has the sense of pious upholding which, by metonymy, can extend to what has been ordained to subsist by its own conatus or 'svadharma'.  

Built on a root meaning to hold up or to support, it sometimes means teachings or instructions; this sense is typically capitalized in English, as when people write about the Buddhist Dharma. It is also commonly used in a metaphysical way referring to something like instantaneous experience events.

Only under kshanikavada. In that case everything is instantaneous because there is no future or past- there is only this bare and empty moment illumined by the lightning flash of the intention. 

The term also has an important normative sense, referring to social, ritual, legal, and moral obligations. There are many distinctions made within this sense, but here we will focus on one that distinguishes two different levels of obligation.

ordinary and special- sadharan and vishesha. Uncorrelated asymmetries means there's one person- e.g. the guy who owns the property- who is special and who must be treated differently, or must act differently, from ordinary folk. 

One level is contingent and specific; these are called viśeṣa dharmas, literally particular or individual dharmas.  ... which  are contrasted with universal duties, known as sādhāraṇa dharma. Literally meaning general or common dharma, these are obligations that apply to all people everywhere. As you might imagine, what exactly is included in this category is a substantive ethical question.

For whom? Only the nirnayaka or 'buck stopper' who decides or certifies what was intended or should be intended.  The substantive question which is resolved when what obtains as de dicto is deemed de re. 

It commonly includes things like telling the truth, not stealing, and not hurting others. These apply to everyone regardless of their job, social role, or relationships. As we’ll see, Matilal has this in mind when he talks about the ‘basic moral fabric’ – general obligations that are not relativized to any particular person or place.

These are niyams which are positive- be clean, content etc. 

It’s not that sādhāraṇa dharma is real and viśeṣa dharma is not, nor do viśeṣa dharmas always reduce to sādhāraṇa dharmas.

But can be made to do so by the nirnayaka. 

Many Indian philosophers assume that there are multiple distinct types of value.

Indians assume all philosophers are shit. 

Naturally, there are disagreements about whether different values can conflict and, if they can, which ones override others.

There are disagreements where there is scarcity- i.e. where not everything everyone wants can be done. But meaning arises only in the same way. Otherwise any statement can mean everything.  

The classic example of this comes from a critical scene in the Bhagavad Gītā, a part of the much longer epic called the Mahābhārata. In it Arjuna, the best archer in the world, finds himself looking out over a battlefield just before the fighting is about to start. Because of a complicated web of promises, he must fight against his relatives and teachers.

No. Arjuna has two choices. Either be an agent- in which case he takes orders from the guy whom he thinks is his eldest brother- or else he could be an autonomous principal. The duty of the agent is to do what he is told. But an agent can decide to be a principal and do whatever the fuck he wants.  

Arjuna experiences intense inner conflict.

Why? The answer is he knows his side will win and his Guru and 'Grandsire' and lots of cousins will be killed. How does he know? After all, his Guru and 'Grandsire' have the boon of immortality- though they can lay down their lives by their own wish. There is no conflict here whatsoever- unless Arjuna, by supernatural means, is certain of the outcome and, what's more, this is 'common knowledge' which Krishna shares.  

As a warrior and as royalty it is his duty to fight. On the other hand, he also feels the more general duty to avoid bloodshed.

This is nonsense. The guy has been doing nothing but shedding blood- like the Vyadha (butcher) in the Vyadha Gita. Indeed, the two Gitas are 'dual' but the Vyadha deals with the duty of the principal while the Bhagvad deals with the duty of the agent- who, in this case, happens to be a Vaishnavite theist.  

These are known as satya, asteya, and ahiṃsā respectively. 24 Matilal (1991a/2002, 255ff.). 

Matilal was as stupid as shit. Satya means truth. A warrior is welcome to change occupation and become a farmer or an ascetic. That's the truth. Asteya just means not stealing. It is irrelevant in this context. Ahimsa means non-harming but, in an Occasionalist Universe- which is what the Vaishnavite inhabits- only God is an efficient cause.  

For an overview see the discussion in Perrett (2016, 29ff.) of what he calls ‘Value Pluralism’ in Indian philosophy.

It is stupid shit.  

Though his focus is on the puruṣārthas, the four main goals in life (morality, wealth, pleasure, and spiritual liberation) the point about a plurality of values is the same.  Spoiler alert: Arjuna’s charioteer is the god Kṛṣṇa, who convinces him that he should fight after all. Matilal often wrote about this famous scene, particularly in the context of moral dilemmas.

Because the man had shit for brains but had to make out to Whitey that he was a savant of some ghastly heathen sort 

So we find him writing: The situation is this: As a human being, as a loving member of the royal family, he feels that the killing of a grandfather and other relatives is bad; but as a kṣatriya [member of the warrior caste] he is told that it is his sacred duty to fight and kill – a classic case of moral conflict, which tends to inspire moral skepticism. (1989b/2002, 14)

This is hilarious! Prince William, as a human being, as a loving member of the British Royal Family, feels that killing the Duke of Edinburgh is wrong- more particularly if it involves chopping off his head and shoving it up his rectum. But, as a European Royal (i.e. a member of the caste descended from reigning European monarch), he is told- by some cretinous Matilal or Bhattilal- that it is his sacred duty to fight and kill and decapitate and shove his gramps' head up his rectum. This is not a classic case of moral conflict. It is stupid shit. What writing nonsense of this sort inspires in Indians is not 'moral skepticism'. It is utter contempt for Professors of Moral Philosophy. 

A full understanding of the scene would require contextualizing it in the much longer epic.

But Matilal was too stupid to do so. He didn't realize that a Gandharva had given Arjuna the boon to see anything he wanted to see in the manner he wanted to see it. But Arjuna didn't take the boon so it was unvested- asvamika svatva. But, due to 'vishada' Arjuna himself became 'asvamika'- i.e. not in control of himself- and so the boon vested temporarily but such that Arjuna's tatparya was under the regulation of Krishna as nirnayaka.  

What is important for our purposes is that Matilal reads this scene as demonstrating a case of a genuine moral dilemma.

When what it actually is, is great drama, great poetry. It simply isn't true that Arjuna would have suffered any reproach if he, like Krishna's elder brother Balram, had quit the battlefield taking with him a plough, on one shoulder, and, on the other, a big pot of wine.  Alternatively, he could have become an ascetic. The drama of the Gita arises because Arjuna's true eldest brother, Karna, wants the battle to go ahead though it can only do so if Arjuna does not know he is the true eldest brother. By a series of dramatic turns and twists, the Gita shows how the providential outcome is achieved. 

The conflict is not merely apparent

there was no fucking conflict. This is a superbly plotted, highly dramatic, poem.  

and the values in question cannot be satisfactorily reconciled. He finds that accepting the possibility of such a case does not threaten moral realism. 

What threatens realism is the fact that we know shit about reality.  

highlights that values and duties must be flexible and dynamic but nevertheless real.

Why not say, vampires and werewolves must be flexible and dynamic but nevertheless real? In this way, one can be a vampire while being a mail carrier while moonlighting as a werewolf who never actually wolfs out but just delivers pizza.  

To see why, it is helpful to look to his discussion of metaethics itself. 

Metaethics must be flexible and dynamic and do the fucking washing up. Otherwise, it and its bum-chum, Ethics, will be dropped from the curriculum.  

 Matilal’s discussion of the Mahābhārata reveals a deep sympathy to the relativist’s recognition of moral diversity.

But Matilal stopped short of giving it a pity fuck. That's what we should focus on. Stupid savants can reveal deep sympathy for cretinous shite but that does not mean they necessarily put out.  

So while he doesn’t think that diversity proves relativism, Matilal thinks the relativist gets some important things right.

if by 'important things' you mean useless nonsense- sure.  

Recall that on Matilal’s pluralist picture, there are multiple potentially incompatible moral standards,

Only to the same extent that they are actually perfectly compatible. That's the problem with pluralism. The thing is anything goes because dialethia is on the table.  

a fact we see revealed in Arjuna’s dilemma.

There is no dilemma. Arjuna want's theophany as the gratuitous gift of the God and that's what comes to pass. One may as well speak of Spiderman's dilemma in that if he doesn't get bitten by a radio-active spider he can't be a web-slinger.  

How this could be compatible with realism, however, is not obvious.

The answer, obviously, that vampires and werewolves and values and everything else should be very flexible and dynamic and thus, though wholly imaginary, yet perfectly real.  

To elucidate his view, he draws on the notions of sādhāraṇa dharma and viśeṣa dharma, which he compares to Stuart Hampshire’s “two faces of morality”.  For Hampshire, morality admits of a rational side and a less-than-fully rational side.

Whereas the two ass cheeks of morality display heart and soul respectively.  

The former side is broadly continuous with singularist views, such as the familiar Kantian view on which morality is both rational and absolute.

by arbitrary stipulation- sure.  

The latter side involves those aspects of morality that are contingent: historically, geographically, and perhaps in other social ways.

so there is 'hysteresis' or path dependence. But analysis can reveal the underlying ergodics. This must focus on uncorrelated asymmetries to get to the 'bourgeois strategies' which are eusocial. That's the whole story here. Philosophy can only shit on what Econ has clairified. 

This side of morality is typically not fully articulated and may not be fully articulable,

Paetian 'residues and derivatives' ae as articulable as anything else.  

whereas the rational side is at least articulable.

No. Our math isn't good enough. It may never be. Till then all we can have is a tatparya for nirnayaka- if that's the sort of waste of time we are into. 

Monday 28 November 2022

Szpilrajn's Extension's Intension

Shema Yisrael! By but Cohen forcing ; Cantor's Continuum coursing ; amongst Gods, God is One
Nor, fled from, is Fear fractal : Pinchas' Halachah Diophantine- id est None
Vein Morin Kein- a view not popular
Sans Wine- Grief's Gaussian copula.

Sunday 27 November 2022

Mercedes Valmisa & Chinese banality

Are we 'interwoven beings'? Or is Darwin's theory of evolution correct? If it is, then an uncertain fitness landscape would militate against any deep interconnection between the members of the most successful species. 

Arguing otherwise and appealing to ancient Chinese philosophy, Mercedes Valmisa writes in Aeon-

What if I told you that there’s no such thing as an individual action?

In which case, you, as an individual, can't tell me shit.  

That every time you eat, walk up the stairs or read a book, you are not the sole agent behind what you are doing, but are engaged in a process of co-creation – as much acted-upon as acting?

So what? The motive for action is to experience some change in circumstances. But this isn't 'co-creation'. We don't say that the cook co-creates the turd we proudly expel.  

To grasp what I mean here, imagine riding a horse. While I can effortlessly distinguish between myself and a horse, I’m aware that neither I nor the horse alone can produce the action of riding.

Nor can we produce it together unless the horse has been broken and I have received some training in horse-riding and a saddle has been provided.  

Riding emerges as a kind of co-action between myself and others,

Nope. Riding emerges as an action of the rider. The horse can't actually train people to ride it. Similarly, raping is the action of the rapist. It isn't a 'co-action' in which the victim plays an equal part and therefore bears equal responsibility.  

and these others are not limited to the horse: they extend towards the particularities of the terrain, the open space that affords movement,

fuck you Space and Time! You are contributing to RAPE! 

the training that the horse and I have undertaken together, the bridle and saddle, and even the food we have ingested to give us energy. All these agencies and many more collaborate to produce the event of riding.

There is only one agency- that of the rider. The horse is acted upon. The saddle is wholly inert and can't do shit on its own. As for the food- it no longer exists or is in the process of being digested and turned to shit.  

I’m going to suggest that, just like riding, all actions are collective.

In which case, you aren't suggesting shit. Either there is no action- we live in a block universe which either evolves or merely appears to evolve- or else in any action, there is a distinction between actor and acted upon. In the process of riding, it is true, the horse may do things the rider does not want- e.g. throw him off and trample him under its hooves. There may also be 'co-actions'- the polo pony may contribute, by its own agency and initiative, to the rider scoring a goal. Alternatively, the horse may know which way to go when the rider does not. Many a drunkard has been brought home by his sagacious horse.  

While this would be close to common sense for a Chinese philosopher of the ‘classical period’ (roughly 6th to 2nd century BCE), it might seem counterintuitive to those of us raised in Western contexts.

Or, it might seem bullshit to the vast majority of ancient Chinese or modern Western people. Philosophers have shit for brains.  

There’s currently a dominant tendency in what we call ‘the West’ (the Anglosphere and some parts of Europe) to buy into the myth of individualism: the notion that individuals alone are responsible for their failure or success, that we are self-reliant and independent from each other and the natural world.

Which is why we get up and go to the toilet rather than just shit the bed and then expect the office to come to us rather than catching a train to get to work.  

Basically, that we can do things by ourselves.

As opposed to letting the dog and the homework do each other.  

A prominent manifestation of individualism is the American Dream – which in her book Cruel Optimism (2011) Lauren Berlant

an American who dreamt of gaining money and fame by writing stupid shite 

called a desire that becomes ‘an obstacle to your own flourishing’.

the obstacle to Berlant's flourishing was all the stupid shit in 'their' brain.  

Individualism promises prosperity and success

not to those who do stupid shit 

based on individual effort and merit,

as opposed to expecting the dog to write your book for you in collaboration with the furniture

but it delivers ideas and conditions that make those things unattainable for all but a privileged few.

whose privilege consists in not doing stupid shit- or expecting the dog and the furniture to do it for them.  

Under this ideology, drug addicts are blamed for their weakness,

it was the dog and the furniture which stole Mummy's money to buy the heroin which the potted plants injected into sonny boy's veins. 

pregnant women who choose not to become mothers are shamed for their recklessness,

by the co-action of the dog, the furniture and the potted plants- right? If addicts and sluts aint to blame for their predicament it follows that nobody can be blamed for blaming them for their predicament. The pusher who sold the drugs, or the rapist who got the slut preggers, are not responsible for their supposed actions. If you have to blame somebody, blame the universe.  

and the unemployed are condemned for their laziness.

but being condemned by the dog and the furniture and the potted plants is no big deal. 

Yet in a world where corporations manipulate doctors to overprescribe drugs,

no corporate executive is guilty of anything because everything is the co-action of the dog and the furniture and the potted plants and so forth.  

where reproductive rights are in retreat,

because of the dog and the furniture and so on- no fucking Republicans are to blame.  

and where jobs are often humiliating, exhausting and poorly paid,

there are no jobs. Why hire a guy and pay him a wage when he is incapable of doing anything on his own?  

individualism has become a cover for those very entities responsible for these grave injustices and inequalities.

But nobody is responsible for injustices because they are incapable of doing anything on their own. 

The performance of an ideology that supposedly benefits the person but brings about the opposite of what was intended – that’s the notion of cruel optimism.

No. That's the product of stupidity. These guys have some sort of ideology and political agenda. But their stupidity makes that ideology and that agenda hated and reviled by everybody else.  

What happens, though, if we dispense with the individualistic way of framing reality?

This silly lady can't keep her story straight. How can we have an 'individualistic way of framing reality'? Everything is a co-action- right?  

In parts of contemporary academia,

the stupid parts 

the countervailing notion of relationality has become a prism to rethink both the humanities and the sciences.

if by 'rethinking' you mean writing paranoid nonsense- then, sure.  

There are Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s assemblages;

Guattari was madder than his psychiatric patients. Deleuze was ignorant of contemporary developments in mathematical logic. Neither understood that Marxism is shit.  

Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory;

Callon was actually quite witty. But guys who write about Science are still shit compared to those smart enough to actually do it. 

Donna Haraway’s posthumanism; and Karen Barad’s entanglement,

Barad was supposed to be smart. Then they went mad and started writing nonsense.  

among many others.

to be found in lunatic asylums.  

And this is just in the West. Asia has more resources to think through relationality simply because it’s been doing it for a longer time.

I knew a bloke from Asia once. I asked him if he knew Bruce Lee. He pretended to be Tamil but I persisted and till he confessed that Bruce Lee was his Uncle. All them Asians are related to each other you know. They also all manage to squeeze into the same pair of underpants. True fact.  


Along with classical Chinese philosophers,

who died long ago 

I support a form of relational and process metaphysics, which favours flowing interrelations, interconnectedness and interdependence.

Very kind of it, I'm sure. Sadly, it is related and interconnected with its co-actor- the Universe- which is guilty of RAPE,  not to mention scratching its bollocks incessantly.  

These concepts can help us think differently

but only with the cooperation of the dog and the furniture and the potted plants and the Universe- which is constantly scratching its bollocks.  

about issues that affect our daily lives, reframing agency in terms of our relations and dependencies with others.

Don't blame me for the dirty dishes piled up in the sink. The dog and the furniture and the potted plants refused to co-act with me which is why the washing up didn't get done.  

Much as we can’t ride a horse by ourselves,

unless we actually have a horse and know how to ride 

there’s nothing in our social and political life that’s entirely up to us as individuals.

Which is why we can't be arsed to vote.  

We are co-constituted, co-acted and co-dependent on others – from the air we breathe

but we don't breathe. Respiration involves a co-action in which doggie and the furniture and the potted plants all have an important role to play.  

to the ground that affords our walking. If we start seeing the world like this, it has the potential to make things much better for the many life forms that inhabit this planet.

Especially the worms that will eat us when we starve to death while waiting for the Universe to deliver us a pizza.  

According to an influential strand of thought within Chinese philosophy,

philosophers don't get paid enough. This is also an influential strand of thought within Indian philosophy which is why Indians set up Tandoori restaurants, or qualify as Cost and Management Accountants, any chance they get.  

humans and other animals are not the only entities with the capacity to act.

Ghosts and fox spirits get pretty frisky. 

We are in turn acted upon by everything around us: objects, ideas, laws, genes, food, rules.

ghosts, fox spirits, genies etc. 

The claim that these things can act subverts our conventional understanding of agency.

especially if we've been drinking 

Traditionally, in the West, agency is linked to intentionality: we have agency – the capacity to act – only insofar as we can represent our intentions and goals.

Nonsense! There is such a thing as subconscious or unconscious intention.  

But in classical Chinese philosophy, things like drinking vessels and dress attires, while not animate, have tendencies to behave in certain ways,

My drinking vessels tend to fill up with booze which is strange coz I'm a teetotaler. On the other hand, my tie tries to strangle me. 

and such behaviour affords certain possibilities for action.

You could marry your vacuum cleaner. 

The Daodejing – a work attributed to Laozi, written around the 4th century BCE – notes that the emptiness of a house allows room for lodging.

Which is why Laozi's neighbors, very kindly, kept stealing all his furniture.  

And in the Zhuangzi, a compilation of philosophical writings from the same era, the tree is said to afford shade in which to lie down.

because your neighbor's have stolen your bed. Also they are keeping pigs in your house.  

Such affordances can affect, inspire, encourage, invite, forbid, prevent and enable us to do certain actions.

Unless one's drinking vessels show a tendency to fill up with booze in which case, why bother? 

Whatever is entangled or related to an agent in a certain situation becomes a co-actor and participant in what is happening.

But this could void your warranty from Dyson.  

In classical China, these ideas are the bedrock of what I call the co-action paradigm.

Which tended to yield to the opium smoking paradigm. 

If we unpack it more carefully, it contains three claims. The first is that all actions are collective rather than individual (hence ‘co-actions’).

Since perception too is an action, and all actions are co-actions this means there can be no certainty that any action is perceived. But this also means co-actions can't be distinguished. So this is a claim that claims it can't ever be verified. Why not just claim that all 2w2cwe are garbb223u89v? 

Also called distributive agency and intra-action by Jane Bennett and Karen Barad, respectively, the idea is that no single subject is the root cause of any event; rather, agency is the result of a dynamism of forces distributed across a diverse field of actors, both human and nonhuman.

So, there's just one 'slingshot' such that all true, and false, statements refer to the same one big fact. But the same could be said of goats bleating. 

The second claim, related to the first, is that things also have agency.

My sofa is actually a Talent Agent. I'm waiting for it to get me my break in Hollywood.  

A thing is something without awareness and intentions.

Like Rahul Gandhi.  

How should we understand this non-subjective and non-intentional form of agency?

We should understand it by co-acting with the dog and the furniture.  

I understand this agency – the agency of laws and books and landscapes – in terms of efficacy and propensity.

Ever feel the Universe is out to get you? It actually is! Also cats are surveilling you for the Illuminati.  

When applied to actors with intentions, efficacy is about the way we use certain tendencies and affordances to achieve a goal: say, training, saddling and collaborating with our horse in order to ride it.

marrying it, however, is frowned upon- unless you are a member of the Royal Family.  

But when it comes to inanimate objects or non-intentional agents, efficacy can also be the power to effect change, to make things happen, to generate a stimulus that calls for a response (ganying 感應: ‘resonance’).

It means 'induction' or 'influence' or to impart a vibration 

Propensity becomes a collective capacity to self-organise by harmonising with others

by joining a choir along with your dog and furniture and a tasteful selection of potted plants. 

I believe that things have efficacy in the sense that they can make things happen.

Why not stare at the fridge till it fills up with  

We might think, in line with Confucian moral theory, about how different types of music excite different moods,

We don't need no Confucian moral theory to know what mood  will be excited by putting Barry White on the stereo which is why we keep trying to get Mum to switch to listening to M.S Subbalaxmi. 

some inviting peaceful reflection, others instigating rebellion and violence.

 listening to MS singing Bhaja Govinda does have that effect on Mum. The only thing which can calm her down is Tom Jones singing 'What's new Pussycat?' 

Or, based on the political philosophy of Shen Dao and Han Feizi, how it’s the position of a ruler – rather than his personality, achievements, or virtue

or skill at ping-pong 

– that allows him to effectively exercise power, authority and influence.

By contrast, Russian political philosophers thought Stalin effectively exercised power thanks only to his cute mustache and the charming way he threw up his skirt while dancing the can-can. 

Propensity, in turn, is a tendency to behave in certain ways that can be anticipated: like the way we can expect fire to burn.

Which is why you don't invite a bonfire to dinner unless you want your house to burn down. 

But when we think about things in assemblies rather than in isolation, propensity becomes a collective capacity to self-organise by harmonising with others,

which is why its not your fault if your house burned down just coz you invited your friendly neighborhood bonfire to dinner 

in ways that generate new configurations and emerging processes and events

which is how come you end up in ER at 3 AM on a Saturday night with your duck stuck up a vacuum cleaner nozzle.  

(he 和: ‘harmonisation’; shi 勢: ‘propensity’; the emergent collective power of an assembly of things).

My furniture got to chatting about me when I was at work. They decided I wasn't meeting their emotional needs. I've had to move out while they see other people.  

In the Huainanzi, a 2nd-century BCE collection of philosophical and political essays, natural entities such as trees, birds, fish, rocks, gorges, wind and rain all collaborate to nourish and provide each other with the conditions to thrive – and all this without a plan or desire to do so.

Then a tiger turns up and eats you which is odd because it was actually only planning to pop down the pub for a drink after which it might have gone for a doner kebab. Still, a nice Chinese takeaway always hits the spot. 

In these accounts, neither efficacy nor propensity need an intentional subject.

  like wanking- right? 

Yet, when humans participate in co-acting along with things,

they end up in ER at 3 AM on a Saturday with a mobile phone up their butt 

there is more than resonance and harmonisation at play, because intentions are introduced into the equation. This leads us to the third claim embedded in the co-action paradigm: that humans should design their actions so as to take into account all the others participating along with them.

Also, they should remember to breathe in and then breathe out and keep doing so if they want to stay alive.  

In classical Chinese philosophy, the principle of acting along with others is called adapting (yin 因).

 But classical Chinese philosophers are called worse things by guys they owe money to. 

Adaptive actions are effective because they make good use of the available affordances and the agency of things to accomplish a goal.

Only so long as people remember to breathe in and then breathe out. Failure to do so could lead to your getting behind with your Student Loan repayments.  

A metaphor that I particularly enjoy speaks of ‘riding’ the power of things,

get the Universe between your legs and ride it ragged.  

like the Chinese wingless dragon rides on clouds to fly, according to Chinese culture.

unless Cathay Pacific is running a Black Friday promotion 

Adaptive actions start,

quickly otherwise they aint adaptive. Tiger eats you.  

first, from understanding the interdependence of all entities in a given situation;

by which time Tiger is chomping down on your head 

second, from acknowledging the agency of things in terms of both efficacy and propensity;

Honorable sofa, I acknowledge your Talent Agency but it is totally inefficacious and is showing no propensity to secure me my big break in Hollywood.  

and finally, in consequence, from being able to put the power of things to good use.

i.e. selling them on Ebay 

In short, the idea is that humans must adapt ourselves to the agentive power of the things we are co-acting with.

But it is a shit idea. Why not adapt things to us? Shit. That would involve doing the washing up. Agentive power of the dishes, kindly form a propensity to clean yourselves. After that you could fill yourselves up with tasty things for me to eat.  

In the Zhuangzi, Butcher Ding adapts to the particular piece of ox he’s cutting up.

He carves up the meat along its joints. Then his kids buy him an electric carving knife. He totally loses his shit.  

In the story, he’s said not to see with his eyes nor listen with his ears,

same thing happens to me when I've drunk too much. But I can still fart mightily with my asshole.  

since these perceptual processes are understood to posit things as dead and passive,

Ding was chopping up dead animals. Live ones would have tried to bite him.  

upon which we exert effort and violence. Instead, the butcher resonates with the piece he’s working on, allowing himself to respond to its tendencies, efficacy and propensity; that’s how he can collaborate with it in raising new events in a more effective way.

Or he could just toss the thing in the mixer.  

Examples of the agency of nonsubjective entities also abound in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War (c5th century BCE).

But a soldier whose spear kept getting stuck up his ass was still sacked.  

Here, we see that individual actors are not the source of effective actions;

like Rahul Gandhi 

instead, their agency relies on coordinated efforts with others.

but they can still be totally ineffective- like Rahul Gandhi 

These others include mountain ranges and fire, and changing weather and terrain conditions, all of which can trump a commander’s strategy unless this is created in adaptation to them.

Also, don't try to cross the ocean on foot. You will get very wet. The Red Sea, on the other hand, might part for you if your name is Moses.  

These collectives or assemblages of things display emergent efficacy and propensity in their own right. In The Art of War, the skilled commander is like water:

In a fight, I am like water- in the sense that I piss myself.  

fluidly shaping his strategies according to changing conditions in the configuration of collective power.

The US Air Force just bombs the shit out of everything.  Sometimes, nothing else will do.

But how can we perform the final claim in the co-action paradigm, the praxis of adapting in order to harness the agency of things around us?

Wicca. Invest in a broomstick and a big bubbling cauldron. Then find some suckers who will buy your love potion which- btw- Amazon now delivers.  

First, we must displace our sense of self as a privileged source of values,

by carefully cracking open our skulls and removing our brains 

preferences and reasons. Instead, the self becomes just one more interconnected element in a larger situation; it’s not the only standard (not even the main one) by which to decide a course of action.

Though maybe it should be as you ruefully realize after your insurer refuses to pay for having your phone removed from your butt.  

Chinese philosophers called this approach forgetting and emptying the heart-mind.

Which is how come Chine ended up being ruled by Mongols or Manchus. 

The rationale is that, when our sense of individual self is too strong, it’s hard to invite others in.

Which is also why some people end up on a Saturday Night with their mobile phone up their butt.  

We can even become blind to the efficacy and propensity of things around us; we tend to act forcefully, arbitrarily imposing our will without taking others and their context into account.

Your mobile phone doesn't really want to be up your butt. It had dreams of making it big in the fast moving world of competitive fly fishing.  

What made Butcher Ding the best at his trade was

that it didn't really attract the finest minds in the world 

how he adapted to the particular configuration of flesh, bones and tendons he was facing each time.

But everybody does that- unless they have a really kick ass electric saw.  

After many years, his knife would still look like new, because

he didn't let his wife use it.  

he avoided the hard parts

His wife complains that he has no hard parts 

and moved freely in the open space between them.

Which is what he replies.  

The unskilled butchers, on the other hand, would either follow preset guidelines on how to cut an ox or do it forcefully, with the result that they constantly bumped into bones and tendons, and their knives deteriorated quickly.

Which may have been a big deal when knives were expensive.  

Classical Chinese philosophers don’t agree on much, but they agree that holding individualistic, forceful and self-centred attitudes inevitably leads to clumsiness, conflict, harm and failure.

unless it leads to tremendous success and you and your descendants getting to be Em-fuckin-peror.  

Philosophers interested in adapting also claim that the success of a plan of action lies in its being an ad hoc response to unique, impermanent circumstances.

or in circumstances being too crap to prevent the plan from working- even if there is no fucking plan.  

That is, truly adaptive agents should also avoid following inflexible scripts or preset responses for behaviour, and should instead

drop acid or just go on holiday 

adapt to the tendencies of things available at a given moment. 

or else, you could call in a plumber coz an overflowing toilet has a tendency to just go on overflowing.  

The states of emptiness and readiness to tailor a response to ever-changing situations are

quite useless if you brought a samurai sword to a gun-fight. Mankind has prevailed over the tiger and the wolf by changing situations such that we can slaughter our enemies while talking about the Great British Bakeoff.  

illustrated in the Zhuangzi and other texts with the metaphor of the mirror, which perfectly reflects any and all forms it encounters without preconception or judgment.

Tell that to my shaving mirror. The thing wants me to bleed.  

But it doesn’t store or retain those forms.

Because it is as dumb as shit- unless it belongs to Snow White's Evil Stepmother.  

The mirror ‘forgets’ those forms as soon as they are gone,

unless they use lipstick to trace their outline on it.  

so there aren’t expectations to make us rigid and inflexible

which is what mirrors tend to be 

in our future responses to the world.

Very true. You should get a surgeon to remove your skeleton.  

The parable of the hare in the Han Feizi, attributed to the political philosopher Han Fei, 3rd century BCE, offers a sarcastic illustration of this point. A man witnesses a hare bumping into a tree and breaking its neck,

there's something wrong with that hare. Don't eat it or your brains, too, might turn to shit. 

and then he patiently waits for another hare to break its neck against the same tree (it happened once, why shouldn’t it happen again?). The man is presented as an absurd and ridiculous figure that we can all laugh at comfortably.

If paid to do- sure. Otherwise we'd tell the dude to fuck off coz he's as stupid as shit.  

Yet, as much as we may want to laugh at his silliness, we can also recognise ourselves in it.

If we are studying or teaching worthless shite- maybe.  

We often hope for things to go in the same way that they’ve unfolded in the past, and we make plans accordingly.

Which is why we are the dominant species on the planet.  

We also tend to jump to hasty generalisations based on insufficient evidence.

See above. Enough of us jumping to conclusions is a great way to explore the fitness landscape. On the other hand, if you aint getting paid to jump, don't.  

And we look for reliable standards to guide our actions: for example, we might commit to certain fundamental values,

or skip this step coz we aint in College nor are we teaching stupid shite 

and let them serve as unmovable universal standards against which we measure different courses of action.

Till folk tell us to go measure stuff somewhere else if we don't want our heads kicked in.  

In contrast to the flaws and foibles of the man in the Han Feizi, the figure of Confucius is an embodiment of variability and inconstancy.

Nope. He is an embodiment of wisdom and public spirit. His boo on the other hand was an utter slut which is why he took up philosophy. 

In the Analects we learn that, in seeking to do what is right, there’s nothing that Confucius invariably accepts or rejects, affirms or denies.

Don't fuck your Guru's wife. That is the one thing all great teachers are agreed upon.  

What’s right for Confucius necessarily changes along with situations, contexts, actors and their tendencies. Confucius claims to have no preconceptions about what is or isn’t valid and legitimate, and that his lack of preconceptions is precisely what separates him from all other influential moral and political figures.

He didn't get to be Emperor. Still, his descendants did well for themselves. Sometimes its safer not to have the top job.  

In one memorable example, Confucius gives radically opposing advice on the same issue to two different students: one is urged to move forward with what he’s learned because he’s naturally withdrawn, while the other is encouraged to hold back before he acts, because he’s too eager.

Premature ejaculation isn't that common. It doesn't happen to everybody and, yes, it is a big deal! 

Confucius stands out among aspiring sages precisely due to his inconstancy.

He was pragmatic and focused on training not future Kings but those who would serve them. That way, if a Confucian achieved nothing, the blame could always go to the King or his Court.  On the other hand, it must be admitted that Confucius was a great improvement on Xan Shi, the previous Great Sage of the Warring States period whose one great insight was 'I am not a gerbil'. 

This isn’t something we typically value; we don’t usually admire people for lacking reliable standards,

unless they happen to be likeable.  

nor do we praise them for being noncommittal

unless we happen to be chatterboxes 

and inconstant in their actions.

unless what they were constantly farting and we want to encourage their taking a break from that activity.  

But that’s precisely what made Confucius the greatest sage of his time: his variability, his self-contradiction, and his capacity to waver.

He said 'Maybe I am a gerbil. Not one of those fancy-shmancy Hollwood gerbils but a proud, blue-collar, Coors drinking, gerbil who fought in Nam- well I would have done if I hadn't been having it off with Jane Fonda'.  

Of course, this inconstancy is neither arbitrary nor individualistic; his variable positions were a result of his adaptability, his ability to act along with things, according to the needs of the situation before him.

The guy was a regular MacGyver.  One time there was this dragon which was out riding a cloud and his Missus realized he'd forgotten to take his packed lunch. So, she gave Confucius a bell and the guy quickly improvised a functioning jet-pack out of a bottle of Mou Tai and a pair of chopsticks, so as to give deliver the dragon his cheese sarnie. 

Adapting, then, is an open process that allows agents to be temporarily guided and filled with a plurality of possible courses of action.

Unless they are Mormons or their wives take a dim view of that sort of thing. 

What shapes an adaptive action is not its content (what is done) nor its goal (why it is done). Rather, it is the procedure (the how, or the means by which it’s planned – suoyi 所以).

This just means 'cause and effect'. If you have a good Structural Causal Model and the money for the tech, you don't need to bother with adaptation.  

This implies that all sorts of actions can be adaptive as long as they are planned ad hoc along with the agency of things.

No. It implies nothing at all. When it comes to adaptation, only the fitness landscape matters.  

For example, in the military classic the Sima Fa (4th century BCE), we see kings and strategists who publicly engage in divination, prayers and sacrifices in order to persuade the people and the soldiers that Heaven and the spirits are favourable to the battle.

Back then, Kings who kept getting defeated didn't remain Kings.  

Ritual and prescriptive-looking actions, then, can actually be adaptive if they are responding to people’s psychological or emotional needs, and are not the result of pure conformity.

The reverse is equally possible. Rumors of a defeat could be taken as an omen that the Will of Heaven had changed and so the Empire collapses without a fight. Why is this silly women pretending that 'divination and prayers' are adaptive? China is doing fine without either.  

This also means that adapting is not a model of action per se,

unless turning into a gerbil gets you a modelling contract and then your sofa gets you your big break with Disney and suddenly there's action figures of gerbil-secret-agent-you selling like hotcakes and you find yourself very rich and married to a Kardashian. 

but a method, or meta-model; it’s a kind of flexible structure for producing an endless number of adaptive co-actions. Some texts refer to this meta-model of action as wufang 無方, a method without a (fixed) method – embracing all available courses of action as possible, and using them as needed. Not having a method (wufang, where wu means ‘absence’, and fang also means ‘place’ or ‘location’) implies not being tied to nor getting stuck in any fixed position, rooted to a place and unable to shift and wander (you 遊).

This is what happens when you go for a walk. 

The adaptive agent can take unambiguous and distinct positions each time without fully committing to any of them;

unless that is required of him to get paid his salary. 

they do not define her as an agent, and she can let go of them as soon as the situation is over.

Or she gets the sack.  

Like water,

which is famously low I.Q. Fire is always saying to Water 'you are one dumb bitch, you know that?' and Water just giggles and carries on pissing on him. 

which can adapt to any sort of terrain while none of its shifting shapes ever becomes definitive.

Till I pour it into my ice- tray.  

I’ve become fascinated with a silk manuscript discovered at Mawangdui, a burial site from the Han dynasty, titled ‘Entities Necessarily Have Forms Chart’ (Wu ze you xing tu 物則有形圖; thereafter WZYX).

Tangible things are tangible. Intangible things aren't. But tangibility is not itself a thing.There really isn't much more that canbe usefully said on the subject. The plain fact is, if you are doing something which you wouldn't get paid for doing, don't do it. Adaptability is only worthwhile if it involves quitting low paid work for something more remunerative.  

The WZYX is a performative text

It is decorative in the manner of a cultic object

that not only tells us something about the co-action paradigm, but performs its message. It affords readers the experience of adaptive co-acting as they manipulate the silk manuscript in their hands. The standard way to read a manuscript in classical China, whether on bamboo slips or silk, was from right to left and top to bottom.

But people had been twisting vases around to read their inscriptions for centuries before that! 

But not so for readers of the WZYX. As Luke Waring has shown, to decipher the round design on the piece of silk, we must rotate the physical manuscript in a clockwise direction and read the text from the inside outwards.

This sort of spiral text is associated with incantations inscribed on votive bowls, wine-cups etc.  

That’s a unique way to read a text,

unless you are used to reading inscriptions on vases, drinking bowls etc.  

both for us and for classical Chinese readers. Precisely because it’s unfamiliar and requires an effort,

not very much of one 

it allows us to see the praxis of adaptive co-action very clearly in the event of reading the WZYX.

but we can see that praxis in walking or taking a shit 

As the text itself notes, the action doesn’t come fully from the outside (the manuscript doesn’t force me to read or rotate it);

unless that is what you are paid to do.  

and it doesn’t come fully from the inside either (since I’m not independently deciding to read the manuscript through a rotational operation).

Because you may be independently deciding to wipe your ass with it. 

The successful reading of this silk text

as with the successful reading of any text 

is the result of a co-action: a cooperation between a person and other agencies,

because my sofa really is a talent agent and is gonna get my break Hollywood break any decade now.

where the human, an intentional agent, must adapt to the tendencies of things to effectively accomplish a goal.

Fuck that. Use things in ways they'd find morally repugnant. You think toilet paper really wants to wipe your ass?  

Notice that this would happen with any successful event of reading (if we hold a book upside down, we’re also co-acting, but in quite an ineffective manner!).

The same is true if we shove it up our ass. That's the sort of thing you only learn in a very expensive Collidge.  

What the manuscript does, and where its pedagogical force lies, is to nudge the reader to realise the extent to which the ‘outside’ world constitutes what she conceives to be ‘her own’ individual actions, by offering an unusual kind of reading experience.

Not that unusual. We aren't speaking of some really kinky type of porn.  

As the contemporary philosopher C Thi Nguyen argues, games demand we temporarily suspend our ordinary goals, values and means.

certain sorts of video games- sure. Some people play poker for a living. 

We must flex our agency to fit the game designer’s art (who has created its environment, aims, rules and the limited means by which to achieve the goal). For example, putting a ball through an elevated basket is not an ordinary goal of mine, and if it were I’d probably raise myself to the height of the basket by using some steps, which is sure to enhance my efficacy. Nevertheless, I can easily adopt the game of basketball’s goals and the available means to achieve those goals (like putting a ball through an elevated basket by aiming at it from the court).a

Similarly, operating a cash till is not an ordinary goal people have, yet if that's what they are paid to do, that's what they do. Thi Nguyen was talking about immersive role playing video games.  

Using the co-action framework, we see that games force us to jump into an adaptive-agency mode where we adapt our actions to different tendencies in our environment –

but this is also true of walking or operating a cash till.  

even in ways that wouldn’t be reasonable in ordinary, non-ludic states.

Some ludic activities involve rules- e.g. playing Ludo- some don't.  Most games are stylized versions of some utilitarian activity. They are a substitute for 'real-time' experience of a useful type. 

Much like the WZYX manuscript invites us to rotate it clockwise,

No. The author of the manuscript had that intention. The thing itself can't invite shit.  

games invite us to adapt to their unique or unusual rules;

The game designer had that intention. But the game itself has no such ability. On the other hand, maybe this lady thinks Jumanji is a real thing.  

they afford some possibilities of action while prohibiting others. 

Gravity does the same thing. Fuck you, gravity! 

that enable our possibilities to act and to become who we want to be, both personally and as a society.

Cool. Soon we will be able to fly around shitting on the heads of statues.  

The way individualism makes us see social reality is the heart of its efficacy

Individualism has no efficacy. Some individuals do but most are useless. As for social reality- we have no means of knowing it- though having a better picture of aspects of it would make us very rich. 

The efficacy of relationality, and co-action in particular, is how it lets us see the extended network of co-actors that participate in our actions.

We have no means of seeing that extended network.  

It brings to light the structures that enable some to succeed, such as growing up in a safe neighbourhood

That explains nothing. Having parents who take care to live in a safe neighborhood and good school district makes a difference. But a criminal family living in a safe neighborhood are likely to get sloppy and end up being bullied by their cousins from the 'hood.  

or having access to high-quality education,

in which case, the vast majority of kids are fucked.  

as well as those that hinder success, such as being unable to secure a safe and legal abortion when you can’t care for more children.

Why not give them up for adoption? 

Another pressing example is the climate crisis – I’m currently writing from Seville in southern Spain, where we have been experiencing Zoe: the world’s first named heat wave, involving constant extreme temperatures of above 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) for the past two weeks. More than 1,000 people have died across the country as a result. We must finally acknowledge that our planet, with all its tendencies and affordances, is a co-agent in all of our actions,

which is why it is equally responsible for getting incessantly raped by big corporations.  

and that we can’t act forcefully and individualistically as if we were independent from the natural world.

Thus we can't end global warming till the globe takes grows up a little some fucking responsibility for its actions. You don't hear of the Home Counties getting raped. It's always the fucking Amazon. Obviously, the Environment got high on ayahuasca and then Big Meat porked the fuck out of it. Rain forests are notorious for that sort of thing. Meanwhile, the Cotswolds went to Secretarial College, joined the Young Conservatives, and is now happily married to a rising young Fund Manager. That aint individualistic behavior. It takes discipline and a will to conform. 

We’re learning this the hard way, by means of death and destruction of everything we love.

Unless we act forcefully to prevent that death and destruction.  

Yet we don’t seem capable of effectively changing our lifestyles to adapt to the tendencies of things, and so to survive.

Some members of our species will adapt and survive. If not, some other species will get to be top dog.  

Classical Chinese philosophers emphasised that thinking of human agency as an individual and independent activity is misguided.

Then, it turned out Classical Chinese philosophy was misguided. Study STEM subjects.  

At best, individualism leads to clumsy and ineffective courses of action

if the individual is clumsy and ineffective- sure.  

and, at worst, to conflict, chaos and harm.

Which may happen anyway if a militarily superior force finds it worthwhile to take your territory and enslave you.  

Yet nothing in this theory of co-action intends to take power and control away from humans.

Which is why humans haven't slapped it silly.  

Counterintuitively, it’s in the act of acknowledging that we aren’t in full control of our actions that we gain more control over their outcomes,

coz that's how magic works- right?  

and greater imaginative scope to create more harmonious and effective social structures.

Which Philosophy Department could be considered an 'effective social structure'?  Where in the world would you find a place less harmonious? 

In order to more justly attribute responsibility, guilt and merit across the field of entangled actors,

one would need to be a better judge of such matters.  

and to design social systems that offer more equitable and nurturing paths for the future,

we'd need to understand 'Mechanism Design' as well as the prevailing economic conditions- in particular, what resource constraints obtain.  

we must look to the others around us who participate in our agency.

No. Just get the incentive mechanism right and find cheap screening and signaling devices.  

Casting human agency in a more distributive and collective mode will help us to become more genuinely autonomous – as interwoven, interdependent, relational beings.

No it won't. The thing is a waste of time. On the other hand, Chinese philosophy enriches your appreciation of Chinese literature which, in turn, has substantially influenced English and other literature. Anyway, Chinese is worth learning purely for the beauty of the thing. It may be that a lot of their literature really is fortune-cookie level banal- as this author suggests- but, my guess is, there is something consummate in the way that banality is expressed.