East and West: The Reach of Reason
Reason doesn't matter. Utility does. Failure to understand this led to a stupid 'War on Terror' whose motto was 'when America fucks you in the ass, Democracy is the reach-around'. Sadly, no Democracy or 'Public Reason' or 'Rules based World Order' was created. America's enemies gained breathing space to rise and rise.
W.B. Yeats wrote on the margin of his copy of The Genealogy of Morals, “But why does Nietzsche think the night has no stars, nothing but bats and owls and the insane moon?”
The answer was that the fellow had Syphilis and had gone mad. He was literally insane.
Nietzsche outlined his skepticism of humanity and presented his chilling vision of the future just before the beginning of the last century—he died in 1900.
He was a crap philologist and had been made a Professor at a young age for an essentially political reason. Then he got syphilis and went completely bonkers.
The events of the century that followed, including world wars, holocausts, genocides, and other atrocities that occurred with systematic brutality, give us reason enough to worry whether Nietzsche’s skeptical view of humanity may not have been right.
Nope. Those events clearly show that what is important is having an effective offensive doctrine to frontload pain on whoever disturbs the balance of power. Sadly, that balance may leave territory we covet outside our grasp. Nietzsche's witless whining is irrelevant.
Jonathan Glover, an Oxford philosopher,
who was utterly useless. Fuck did he do about our disastrous 'war on terror' which has shifted power towards a Chinese led Eurasian power block? Glover's consequentialism is useless because Blair & Bush didn't know the consequences of their actions. Nobody did.
argues in his recent and enormously interesting “moral history of the twentieth century” that we not only must reflect on what has happened in the last century, but also “need to look hard and clearly at some monsters inside us”
Blair, morally speaking, really was a monster. Who'd have thunk it?
and to consider ways and means of “caging and taming them.”
Coz 'caging' is totes ethical right? Why not find ways of fucking them all to death like Mr. Garrison?
The end of a century—and of a millennium—is certainly a good moment to engage in critical examinations of this kind.
Not if, like Sen, you are as stupid as shit.
Indeed, as the first millennium of the Islamic Hijri calendar came to an end in 1591-1592 (a thousand lunar years—shorter than solar years—after Mohammed’s epic journey from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD), Akbar, the Mughal emperor of India, engaged in just such a far-reaching scrutiny.
No, he didn't. He wanted to weaken his Muslim rivals and thus allied with Hindu Rajputs and Jain Banias. He even started playing footsie with Jesuits. That didn't end well.
He paid particular attention to the relations among religious communities and to the need for peaceful coexistence in the already multicultural India.
No. Akbar's actions were provocative for Hanafis. That's why he kept killing them or threatening to kill them till they performed sajda to the throne.
Taking note of the denominational diversity of Indians (including Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Parsees, Jews, and others), he laid the foundations of the secularism and religious neutrality of the state, which he insisted must ensure that “no man should be interfered with on account of religion, and anyone is to be allowed to go over to a religion that pleases him.”
This was aimed at his Muslim rivals or enemies. Akbar's strategy worked because the Rajputs proved loyal and valiant while Todar Mal improved the finances of the State.
Greater than Akbar's Empire was that of the British whom Hindus supported wherever they were menaced by Islam. They made 'peaceful coexistence' a reality.
Akbar’s thesis that “the pursuit of reason” rather than “reliance on tradition” is the way to address difficult social problems
there were no difficult social problems because those who created difficulties were killed immediately.
is a view that has become all the more important for the world today.
But Bush & Blair's war of revenge failed. Drone striking random dudes is useless. You have to kill the right people and then take their cool, shiny, stuff. Emperors are 'stationary bandits'.
It is striking how little critical assessment of the experience of the millennium took place during its recent worldwide celebration.
No it isn't. Why do useless shit?
As the century and the second Gregorian millennium came to an end, the memory of the dreadful events that Glover describes with devastating effect did not seem to stir people much;
Fuck Glover. Nobody had or has heard of him because he teaches worthless shit.
nor was there much detectable interest in the challenging questions that Glover asks. The lights of celebratory glory not only drowned the stars but also the bats and the owls and the insane moon.
There are no bats or owls or insane moons- unless, like you have syphilis and have gone loco.
Nietzsche’s skepticism about ethical reasoning
wasn't a patch on our skepticism about his ability to reason. The fucker was totally insane for the last 11 years of his life. This is not a guy who discovered the cure for cancer. This is a nutter who wrote stupid, crazy, shite.
and his anticipation of difficulties to come were combined with an ambiguous approval of the annihilation of moral authority—“the most terrible, the most questionable, and perhaps also the most hopeful of all spectacles,” he wrote.
before shitting himself incessantly coz his brain had turned to mush.
Glover argues that we must respond to “Nietzsche’s challenge”: “The problem is how to accept [Nietzsche’s] scepticism about a religious authority for morality while escaping from his appalling conclusions.”
This hasn't been a big problem for anyone not teaching worthless shite.
This issue is related to Akbar’s thesis that morality can be guided by critical reasoning;
because if you don't bow down to the throne your head will be chopped off and your reasoning won't be critical. It will be fucking extinct.
in making moral judgments, Akbar argued, we must not make reasoning subordinate to religious command, or rely on “the marshy land of tradition.”
But if your reasoning said you should not bow down to a despot, you'd better run the fuck away from Akbar's goons.
Interest in such questions was particularly strong during the European Enlightenment,
when both King and the gentry wanted to despoil the Church of its properties
which was optimistic about the reach of reason.
Reason says I should be allowed to grab a lot of land currently owned by charitable trusts- right?
The Enlightenment perspective has come under severe attack in recent years,
but only from shitheads nobody gives a toss about coz being 'attacked' by them is like being attacked by a dead mosquito.
and Glover adds his own powerful voice
pull the other one! Nobody ever knew or cared about the cunt
to this reproach.
He argues that “the Enlightenment view of human psychology” has increasingly looked “thin and mechanical,” and “Enlightenment hopes of social progress through the spread of humanitarianism and the scientific outlook” now appear rather “naive.”
So stop teaching that shite. It was useless then and is useless now.
Following an increasingly common tendency, Glover goes on to attribute many of the horrors of the twentieth century to the influence of the Enlightenment.
Horrors cost money. Economics not some shitty pedagogy is what produces atrocities. Being ethical can promote a good type of Economia. Teaching worthless shite is not ethical.
He links modern tyranny with that perspective, noting not only that “Stalin and his heirs were in thrall to the Enlightenment,”
Nope. They believed some nonsense about 'class conflict'. Kill off the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie and the kulaks and the lumpenproletariat and the Right Deviationists and the Left Adventurists and anybody else you can think of and everything in the garden will be lovely.
but also that Pol Pot “was indirectly influenced by it.”
As was Glover. That's why he is bound to commit genocide sooner or later.
But since Glover does not wish to seek solutions through the authority of religion or of tradition (in this respect, he notes, “we cannot escape the Enlightenment”), he concentrates his fire on other targets, such as reliance on strongly held beliefs. “The crudity of Stalinism,” he argues, “had its origins in the beliefs [Stalin held].”
This is silly. Stalin gained power by killing people. He was perfectly sensible- as his advise to the Indian Communists illustrates- but did drink a lot and felt strongly that if any Old Bolshevik needed killing, he should be doing it. This was because he was one himself.
This claim is plausible enough, as is Glover’s reference to “the role of ideology in Stalinism.”
Leninism was bound to become Stalinist precisely because some Old Bolsheviks might plausibly be thought to have an 'ideology' rather than a desire to fuck up their own country and kill lots of people.
However, why is this a criticism of the Enlightenment perspective?
Coz the cunt was being paid to teach stupid shite. Gassing on about some soi disant Enlightenment (which, essentially, consisted of saying 'boo to the Church! Religion sucks ass big time!' ) is only cool if you get paid to do it. You'd look decidedly odd if you babbled this type of nonsense while earning your living as a rent-boy.
It seems a little unfair to put the blame for the blind beliefs of dictators on the Enlightenment tradition, since so many writers associated with the Enlightenment insisted that reasoned choice was superior to any reliance on blind belief.
Sen is too stupid to understand that reasoned choice is based on beliefs about possible states of the world. Such belief is blind iff it doesn't change even though acting on on it keeps causing things to get more and more horrible.
Surely “the crudity of Stalinism” could be opposed, as it indeed was,
Not in the Soviet Union. If you pointed out that Communism was shitty, you were, to put it crudely, royally fucked.
through a reasoned demonstration of the huge gap between promise and practice, and by showing its brutality—
the odd thing is that even those who understood that the system was hugely inefficient still got hard when they thought of the vast numbers of people Stalin had slaughtered. Mega-death is sexy. Romain Rolland started off by worshipping Beethoven and Gandhi. Then he totes lost his shit to Stalin coz of the millions he butchered.
a brutality that the authorities had to conceal through strict censorship.
Sen doesn't get that you don't need to censor stuff if you keep killing people who might possibly write something critical.
Indeed, one of the main points in favor of reason is that it helps us to transcend ideology and blind belief.
Nope. That's why Sen's people ran away from East Bengal rather than sticking around to hold a reasoned discussion with those who believed that the only good kaffir is a dead kaffir.
Reason was not, in fact, Pol Pot’s main ally.
Nor was it the ally of the Vietnamese who overthrew him. Guns matter. Polite discussions don't.
He and his gang of followers were driven by frenzy and badly reasoned belief and did not allow any questioning or scrutiny of their actions.
But they came to power because they were good at killing people. Not as good as the Vietnamese, but still good.
Given the cogency of Glover’s other arguments, there is something deeply puzzling about his willingness to join the fashionable chorus of attacks on the Enlightenment.
Glover was saying something simple. Enlightenment said 'boo to Religion'. There is some rational, canonical (i.e. something everybody would agree, if they thought about it long enough) solution to the problems of the world. Sadly there is no such solution. What is called 'naturality' in category theory does not obtain for a whole bunch of reasons to do with
1) uncorrelated asymmetries which dictate 'regret minimizing' strategies which can be eusocial under Knightian Uncertainty
2) complexity, computability and concurrency
3) McKelvey Chaos or Kuhn 'no neutral algorithm'- there is no non-arbitrary way to
Try to build a Heaven on Earth and you create Hell. Enlightenment thinking was stupid thinking. Condorcet's fate proved this. Incidentally, Malthus developed his theory to show why Condorcet's vision was fucked in the head.
There is, however, an important question that emerges from Glover’s discussion on this subject, too.
No there isn't.
Are we not better advised to rely on our instincts when we are not able to reason clearly because of some hard-to-remove impediments to our critical thinking?
Nope. Just do what you see smart peeps are doing or are known to have done. My instincts tend to involve shitting myself and weeping copiously.
The question is well illustrated by Glover’s remarks on a less harsh figure than Stalin or Pol Pot, namely Nikolai Bukharin,
who helped Stalin come to power
who, Glover notes, was not at all inclined to “turn into wood.” Glover writes that Bukharin “had to live with the tension between his human instincts and the hard beliefs he defended.”
The fucker should have topped himself or run the fuck away.
Bukharin was repelled by the actions of the regime,
i.e. the reason it was a regime in the first place. The alternative was a victory for the 'Whites'. The plain fact is, one way or another, Russia would have faced a 'scissors crisis'. The question has always been how to get a potentially self-sufficient countryside to transfer surpluses to the cities.
but the surrounding political climate, combined with his own formulaic thinking, prevented him from reasoning clearly enough about them.
Had he been capable of clear reasoning he would have run away to Amrika. The plain fact is that killing lots of people enables stupid shitheads to stay in power or, at the least, retain influence, and thus flatter themselves they are smart and are making some marvellous contribution to their nation.
This, Glover writes, left him dithering between his “human instincts” and his “hard beliefs,” with no “clear victory for either side.” Glover is attracted by the idea—plausible enough in this case—that Bukharin would have done better to be guided by his instincts.
Strangely enough, most people don't like the slaughter of women and kiddies
Whether or not we see this as the basis of a general rule, Glover here poses an interesting argument about the need to take account of the situation in which reasoning takes place—and that argument deserves attention (no matter what we make of the alleged criminal tendencies of the Enlightenment).
How is this an interesting argument? It is fucking obvious that if you are being beaten and sodomized, you should be reasoning about how to stop being beaten and sodomized not about whether all footballers are cats.
The possibility of reasoning is a strong source of hope and confidence in a world darkened by horrible deeds.
No it isn't. Guys in Gulags or queuing up for the Gas Chamber may have known that reasoning was possible. This didn't give them any hope or confidence because reasoning has no magical powers.
It is easy to understand why this is so. Even when we find something immediately upsetting, or annoying, we are free to question that response and ask whether it is an appropriate reaction and whether we should really be guided by it.
Kids discover this by the time they are about 5 years old. They find it annoying and upsetting when bigger kids grab and eat their lunch but they have figured out that the appropriate reaction is to feign pleasure at this outcome.
We can reason about the right way of perceiving and treating other people, other cultures, other claims, and examine different grounds for respect and tolerance.
It is better to just show respect and tolerance to those who do the same to you- more particularly if they can fuck you up if you don't.
We can also reason about our own mistakes and try to learn not to repeat them.
Even little puppy dogs and kittens figure this out.
For example, the Japanese novelist and visionary social theorist Kenzaburo Oë
whose books weren't boring.
argues powerfully that the Japanese nation, aided by an understanding of its own “history of territorial invasion,” has reason enough to remain committed to “the idea of democracy and the determination never to wage a war again.”
That reason was that it would be fucking nuked to Kingdom come. Still, he was beaten up by some right-wing nutters.
Intellectual inquiry, moreover, is needed to identify actions and policies that are not evidently injurious but which have that effect.
Observation is good enough. If you also have a Structural Causal Model such that the problem is remedied- well and good.
For example, famines can remain unchecked on the mistaken presumption that they cannot be averted through immediate public policy.
Nope. It is obvious that famines remain unchecked when those in power have a reason for wanting poor people to move elsewhere or just fucking die already. Bengal, it must be said, was exceptional because Bengalis believed that foreigners should come and feed them and wipe their bums and give them Professorships. As Mujib ur-Rahman observed Bengalis wouldn't even bury their own dead- leaving it to White soldiers sent from Britain to help with the floods, to do so.
Starvation in famines results primarily from a severe reduction in
food availability deficit. This is what causes the decrease in
the food-buying ability of a section of the population that has become destitute through unemployment, diminished markets,
During both Bengali famines in Sen's lifetime, there was an entitlement to food. But endemic corruption led to vast excess mortality.
disruption of agricultural activities, or other economic calamities.
Elected Bengali politicians are a fucking economic calamity. But so are Bengali Economics Professors.
The economic victims are forced into starvation whether or not there is also a diminution of the total supply of food.
There is always a food availability deficit. Sen has been lying about this ever since his Dad- who knew the truth- popped his clogs.
The unequal deprivation of such people can be immediately countered by providing employment at relatively low wages through emergency public programs,
such provisions existed during both Bengali famines during Sen's lifetime. But, if politicians are corrupt, the poorest in the countryside will die. BTW Amartya was related to B.R Sen, head of the FAO, who knew the truth.
which can help them to share the national food supply with others in the community.
The silly man neglects the cost of distribution. A country may have plenty of food in one area- e.g. Punjab- but little in another- e.g. Bengal. If politicians won't allow farmers in Punjab to make a good profit by selling to Bengalis, then some Bengalis may starve.
Famine, like the Devil, takes the hindmost (rarely more than 5 percent of the population is affected—almost never more than 10 percent),During the 1980 famine in Karamoja, Uganda, 21% of the population died, including 60% of infants.
and reducing the relative deprivation of destitute people by augmenting their incomes can rapidly and dramatically reduce their absolute deprivation in the amount of food obtained by them.
Only if there is enough food. B.R. Sen, at the FAO, helped increase both global food supply as well as the ability and willingness of Western countries to get the food to where it was needed. The trouble is, as Macron says, 'the age of abundance is over.' Old fashioned food availability deficit based famine will return to places where poor women have babies like crazy.
By encouraging critical public discussion of these issues, democracy and a free press can be extremely important in preventing famine.
But Pop Stars are more effective. Just upload videos of starving people and money will pour in. Writing stupid nonsense- which is what Sen did- was harmful.
Otherwise, unreasoned pessimism, masquerading as composure based on realism and common sense, can serve to “justify” disastrous inaction and an abdication of public responsibility.
Nonsense! Not wanting to hand over money is what justifies inaction which, to be frank, isn't disastrous at all. North Korea may have another big famine. We don't care.
On the other hand, if you own shares in agri-business, you may well want big Food programs for Malthusian shitholes. Obviously, when world food prices rise, those poor people are welcome to starve. That's what happened to Bangladesh in 1974. That country has since quadrupled food output while undergoing demographic transition by making it easier for rural girls to move into big factory dormitories.
Similarly, environmental deterioration frequently arises
from population pressure.
not from any desire to damage the world but from thoughtlessness and lack of reasoned action
like having babies like crazy
—separate or joint—and this can end up producing dreadful results.
actually fucking up the environment to get rich, achieve demographic transition, and then clean up the environment seems to work very well.
To prevent catastrophes caused by human negligence or obtuseness or callous obduracy, we need practical reason as well as sympathy and commitment.
No. We need money. Reasoning or Empathizing won't cut it.
Attacks on ethics based on reason have come recently from several different directions. Apart from the claim that “the Enlightenment view of human psychology” neglects many human responses (as Glover argues), we also hear the claim that to rely primarily on reasoning in the ethics of human behavior involves a neglect of culture-specific influences on values and conduct.
This is stupid. Culture doesn't matter. Money does. But money is linked to productivity. That's what increases utility.
People’s thoughts and identities are fairly comprehensively determined, according to this claim, by the tradition and culture in which they are reared rather than by analytical reasoning, which is sometimes seen as a “Western” practice. We must examine whether the reach of reasoning is really compromised either by (1) the undoubtedly powerful effects of human psychology, or (2) the pervasive influence of cultural diversity.
What compromises 'the reach of reasoning' is stupidity, ignorance and being a fucking blathershite- like Sen.
Our hopes for the future and the ways and means of living in a decent world may greatly depend on how we assess these criticisms.
Don't be silly. Out hopes for the future of this planet center on science and technology, not on assessing criticisms made by people who teach worthless shit.
Jonathan Glover’s arguments for the need for a “new human psychology”
why not a new human respiratory system which will enable us breathe under water? That would be cool.
take account of the ways that politics and psychology affect each other.
They don't. Political changes occur without any fucking psychological changes whatsoever.
People can indeed be expected to resist political barbarism if they instinctively react against atrocities.
But they instinctively run away or become very quiet and sweet if they get shot or beaten.
We have to be able to react spontaneously and resist inhumanity whenever it occurs.
Which is why the guys doing the atrocities have some back-up forces who can shoot 'spontaneous' reactors. But this is also true of guys doing sensible things.
If this is to happen, the individual and social opportunities for developing and exercising moral imagination have to be expanded.
By whom? Angels? These stupid professors can't do shit.
We do have moral resources, including, as Glover writes, “our sense of our own moral identity.”
But if we don't have any money we still can't help anybody. It's no good voting for guys who says they will give lots of cash to the poor. Once in power, they discover a little thing called the fiscal cliff. There is an entitlements collapse.
But to “function as a restraint against atrocity, the sense of moral identity most of all needs to be rooted in the human responses.”
as opposed to canine responses. My big mistake was to say 'woof, woof' and try to bite Idi Amin.
Two responses, Glover argues, are particularly important: “the tendency to respond to people with certain kinds of respect”
e.g. licking their faces and saying woof woof.
and “sympathy: caring about the miseries and the happiness of others.
by licking their faces and saying woof woof. How come people like this when cute puppy dogs do it but object to any such behavior on the part of an elderly Tamil man?
” Hope for the future lies in cultivating such responses, and this line of reasoning leads Glover to conclude: “It is to psychology that we should now turn.”
Very true. By changing everybody's psychology maybe they'll stop thinking Professors of shite subjects are shite.
Indeed, the importance of instinctive psychology and sympathetic response should be adequately recognized,
coz if they are inadequately recognized your dick will fall off.
and Glover is also right in believing that our hope for the future must, to a considerable extent, depend on the sympathy and respect with which we respond to things happening to others.
No he isn't. We may feel a lot of sympathy for the Tibetans and respect for the Dalai Lama but we can't do shit to help them.
For Glover it is therefore critically important to replace “the thin, mechanical psychology of the Enlightenment with something more complex, something closer to reality.”
What is important is to recognize that Science matters. Moral or Political Philosophy is stupid shit.
While applauding the constructive features of this approach, we must also ask whether Glover is being quite fair to the Enlightenment (even without Pol Pot and assorted criminals blocking our vision).
Back when Sen was writing this Tony Blair looked and sounded like a moral and decent man. Now, in his own country, he is a leper.
Glover does not refer to Adam Smith, but the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments would, in fact, have greatly welcomed Glover’s diagnosis of the central importance of emotions and psychological response.
No. Smith was smart. He'd have understood that uncorrelated asymmetries dictate bourgeois strategies and there is 'Tardean mimetics' of superior bourgeois strategies. Smith was part of a class of Scottish people who were imitating the commercial cultures of richer metropolises and rejecting the thymotic code of the proud Scottish gentry as well as the Presbyterian puritanism of the middling sort in favor of the manners and mores of the burghers of Holland or the bourgeoisie of France or the aldermen of the City of London.
Smith, like Hume, thought Whites were superior to dusky folk and that no sin or crime was committed in enslaving them or wiping them out and taking their land. But then even Bertrand Russell and JM Keynes shared this view.
While it has become fashionable in modern economics to attribute to Smith a view of human behavior that is devoid of all concerns except cool calculation of a narrowly defined personal interest,
which is still better than pretending he thought that the people of 'Indostan' and China weren't savages.
those who read his basic works know that this was not his position.
His position was that he wanted to get money by writing stuff without putting the nose of any influential person out of joint.
Indeed, many issues in human psychology that Glover discusses (as part of the demands of “humanity”) were discussed by Smith as well. But Smith
was influential. The Germans loved him.
—no less than Diderot or Condorcet or Kant—was very much an “Enlightenment author,” whose arguments and analyses deeply influenced the thinking of his contemporaries.
Because they wanted to get richer. People, even now, will read books which show how they can gain in 'opulence'. Sadly, Sen can supply no such thing.
Smith may not have gone as far as another leader of the Enlightenment, David Hume, did in asserting that “reason and sentiment concur in almost all moral determinations and conclusions,”
Hume said only utility matters. He was a radical skeptic.
but both saw reasoning and feeling as deeply interrelated activities.
They also saw shitting and farting as deeply interrelated. So what?
In fact, Hume (to whom Glover also does not refer) is often seen as having precisely the opposite bias by giving precedence to passion over reason.
Hume merely meant that we need to reason about stuff that is useful to us- which satisfies an appetite or a 'passion'. This is related to an older notions of synderesis and oikeiosis.
Indeed, as Thomas Nagel puts it in his strongly argued defense of reason,
'Hume famously believed that because a “passion” immune to rational assessment must underlie every motive, there can be no such thing as specifically practical reason, nor specifically moral reason either.'
No. Hume merely says that there is an arbitrary element at the origin of a chain of reasoning. There is no 'punctum Archimedis' from which everyone would naturally begin to reason so as to arrive at the same answer. Kant, stupid booby, tried to find some such 'synthetic a priori' judgments. Sadly, none exist.
The crucial issue is not whether sentiments and attitudes are seen as important (they were clearly so recognized by most of the writers whom we tend to think of as part of the Enlightenment), but whether—and to what extent—these sentiments and attitudes can be influenced and cultivated through reasoning.
Fuck off! All we get is hypocrisy or guys doing stupid shit.
Adam Smith argued that our “first perceptions” of right and wrong “cannot be the object of reason, but of immediate sense and feeling.”
Otherwise there is an infinite regress. It is also the reason that 'Tarksian primitives' must be left undefined.
But even these instinctive reactions to particular conduct must, he argued, rely—if only implicitly—on our reasoned understanding of causal connections between conduct and consequences in “a vast variety of instances.”
but the thing works just as well without any reasoning. The unconscious part of us can do 'associationism' or induction just as well as some conscious or articulate process of reasoning. Better still just do what smart people are doing or outsource the decision to someone with expert knowledge.
Furthermore, our first perceptions may also change in response to critical examination, for example on the basis of empirical investigation that may show that a certain “object is the means of obtaining some other.”
If the decision is important, outsource it but hedge your bets. That is the regret minimizing solution.
Two pillars of Enlightenment thinking
which was shit
are sometimes wrongly merged and jointly criticized:
(1) the power of reasoning, and (2) the perfectibility of human nature.
are open questions. It is likely that reasoning can greatly increase in power. Who knows? Perhaps our natures can be greatly improved before our next evolutionary leap. What we can be certain of is that Professors of useless shite will play no part in this.
Though closely linked in the writings of many Enlightenment authors, they are, in fact, quite distinct claims, and undermining one does not disestablish the other.
They are open questions. They can't be undermined save by arbitrary stipulation of a bigoted or foolish type.
For example, it might be argued that perfectibility is possible, but not primarily through reasoning.
But for verification, some reasoning would be required. Anyway, reasoning is part of human nature. Thus reasoning is one of the faculties which will be updated on the road to perfection. This is a foolish argument.
Or, alternatively, it can be the case that insofar as anything works, reasoning does, and yet there may be no hope of getting anywhere near what perfectibility demands.
Fuck off! One can hope for anything whatsoever. If you say 'you have no hope of marrying Beyonce', I can tell you, you are wrong. The Nicraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat will send me back in time, with a much improved body and personality, to the set of 'Austin Powers' and I'll land the part of 'Foxy Cleopatra' thus breaking Beyonce's heart. She will then be too demoralized to resist my importunities and thus will in fact wed me.
Glover, who gives a richly characterized account of human nature,
no he doesn't. The guy writes like shit.
does not argue for human perfectibility; but his own constructive hopes clearly draw on reasoning as an influence on psychology through “the social and personal cultivation of the moral imagination.” Glover has more in common with at least some parts of the Enlightenment literature—Adam Smith in particular—than would be guessed from his stinging criticisms of the Enlightenment.
People who utter stinging criticisms of my flatulence have more in common with me, in that department, than might be guessed. So what?
What of the skeptical view that the scope of reasoning is limited by cultural differences?
It is obviously false. An Iranian scientist reasons the same way as a Chinese scientist. Both Iran and China are willing to pay good money for this outcome. The West is welcome to kill off sound reasoning with DIE or Sen-tentious 'Capabilities'.
Two particular difficulties—related but separate—have been emphasized recently. There is, first, the view that reliance on reasoning and rationality is a particularly “Western” way of approaching social issues.
This was before 9/11 and the West's war of revenge on towel heads.
Members of non-Western civilizations do not, the argument runs, share some of the values, including liberty or tolerance, that are central to Western society and are the foundations of ideas of justice as developed by Western philosophers from Immanuel Kant to John Rawls.
Which, however, are not enshrined in actual jurisprudence because they are as stupid as shit. Kant's big mistake was to think that judicial decisions- which are restricted in scope (justiciability) protocol bound, defeasible and 'buck stopped'- could create moral laws or 'transcendental judgments' similar to Newton's laws.
That centrality is not in dispute; indeed the long-awaited publication of Rawls’s collected papers allows us to see, in a wonderfully integrated way, just how significant and pivotal “the principles of toleration and liberty of conscience” are in the ethical and political analyses of the foremost moral philosopher of our own time.
The cretin didn't get that if we are afraid we may end up poor and sick we get insurance. We don't have a pre-compact to lexically preference the welfare of the least well-off. There is an obvious moral hazard problem.
Someone should have told the old coot about incomplete contract theory.
Since it has been claimed that many non-Western societies have values that place little emphasis on liberty or tolerance (the recently championed “Asian values” have been so described), this issue has to be addressed.
No it doesn't. The fact is, Western societies restrained the fuck out of liberties (e.g. the right to form Trade Unions) and were as intolerant as fuck (it was better to be a homosexual in Turkey or China than England till not too long ago.
Values such as tolerance, liberty, and reciprocal respect have been described as “culture-specific” and basically confined to Western civilization. I shall call this the claim of “cultural boundary.”
Why not call it racist shite?
The second difficulty concerns the possibility that people reared in different cultures may systematically lack basic sympathy and respect for one another.
Coz, as Adam Smith says, they are 'savages'.
They may not even be able to understand one another, and could not possibly reason together. This could be called the claim of “cultural disharmony.”
Nope. It is the notion that non-Europeans say 'ooga booga' and eat each other.
Since atrocities and genocide are typically imposed by members of one community on members of another,
or members of one class on members of other classes.
the significance of understanding among communities can hardly be overstated. And yet such understanding might be difficult to achieve if cultures are fundamentally different from one another and are prone to conflict.
No. Plenty of people from fundamentally different cultures operate restaurants on my high street. There has to be an economic motive for conflict- e.g. who gets a particular piece of real estate.
Can Serbs and Albanians overcome their “cultural animosities”?
Sure. Tito kicked ass and thus kept the peace.
Can Hutus and Tutsis, or Hindus and Muslims, or Israeli Jews and Arabs?
They all got along well enough at some point in the past.
Even to ask these pessimistic questions may appear to be skeptical of the nature of humanity and the reach of human understanding; but we cannot ignore such doubts, since recent writings on cultural specificity (whether in the self-proclaimed “realism” of the popular press or in the academic criticism of the folly of “universalism”) have given them such serious standing.
Nonsense! It was obvious, that catching and killing troublemakers could nip any such problem in the bud. The problem is that it could be more profitable to do arson in your spare-time while holding a pensionable job with the fire brigade.
The issue of cultural disharmony is very much alive in many cultural and political investigations, which often sound as if they are reports from battle fronts, written by war correspondents with divergent loyalties: we hear of the “clash of civilizations,”
which proved prescient. But then Huntingdon was an IR professional. Sen was a virtue signaling fool.
the need to “fight” Western cultural imperialism, the irresistible victory of “Asian values,” the challenge to Western civilization posed by the militancy of other cultures, and so on.
23 years later we have to admit that 'Asian values' have prevailed- as has Islamic civilization. Western Christendom is on the back foot only because it sought to shit higher than its arsehole.
The global confrontations have their reflections within the national frontiers as well, since most societies now have diverse cultures, which can appear to some to be very threatening. “The preservation of the United States and the West requires,” Samuel Huntington argues, “the renewal of Western identity.”
Nothing wrong with admitting that the West is 'Christendom' and all the better for it.
The subject of “the reach of reason” is related to another theme, which has been important in the anthropological literature. I refer to what Clifford Geertz has called “culture war,” well illustrated by the much-discussed differences over the interpretation of Captain Cook’s sad death in 1779 at the hands of club-wielding and knife-brandishing Hawaiians.
This is foolish. English villagers might have killed the Captain of French ship who suddenly turned up on their shores. They too would have been wielding clubs and knives. As a matter of fact, White people did pose a threat to Hawaiians.
In his article Geertz contrasts the theories of two leading anthropologists: Marshall Sahlins, he writes, is “a thoroughgoing advocate of the view that there are distinct cultures, each with a ‘total cultural system of human action,’ and they are to be understood along structuralist lines.”
Sahlins was stupid. All anthropologists are unless they come from backward shitholes and take to the subject so as to earn a little money and the chance to emigrate.
The other anthropologist, Gananath Obeyesekere, is “a thoroughgoing advocate of the view that people’s actions and beliefs have particular, practical functions in their lives and that those functions and beliefs should be understood along psychological lines.”
Ganananth had the sense to get the fuck out of Ceylon with this skin intact.
Whatever view we find persuasive, however, the question still should be asked whether the people involved must remain inescapably confined to their traditional modes of thought and behavior (as cultural determinists argue).
The answer is no- which is why Sen could speak English and babble about Smith.
Neither Sahlins’s nor Obeyesekere’s approach rules out communication between cultures, even though this may be a more arduous task if we follow Sahlins’s interpretation
But Sen wouldn't be able to if his view of Sahlin were correct. (It isn't, but it was still stupid shit).
. But we have to ask what kind of reasoning the members of each culture can use to arrive at better understanding and perhaps even sympathy and respect.
Economic reasoning. This also works with animals. If a dog cooks me tasty food and takes me walkies, I say woof-woof and lick its face. What can I say? Tambram culture is like that only.
Indeed, this is one of the questions Glover poses when he advocates moral imagination as a solution to the brutality and ruthlessness with which groups treat one another.
Glover would often advocate this to crazy football hooligans he met. I'm kidding. The guy only wrote stupid shit. He didn't actually do stupid shit which would have got his head kicked in.
Moral imagination, he hopes, can be cultivated through mutual respect, tolerance, and sympathy.
But if you had these things fuck would you need moral imagination for?
The central issue here is not how dissimilar the distinct societies may be from one another, but what ability and opportunity the members of one society have—or can develop—to appreciate and understand how others function.
This is wholly unnecessary. We see pictures of starving kiddies and we want to send money to places whose complex social arrangements we neither know nor care about. On the other hand, if we don't have any money, or we don't want higher taxes, we might think it preferable for our leaders to offer 'thoughts and prayers' and leave it at that.
This may not, of course, be an immediate way of resolving such conflicts. The killers of Captain Cook could not instantly revise their culture-bound view of him,
These guys understood that guys who turn up in ships and see a nice island might go away and bring back more of their people who will kill or enslave the natives. Stuff like that had already happened in Hawaiian history and it could certainly happen again.
nor could Cook acquire at once the comprehension or acumen needed to hold his pistol rather than fire it.
But Cook probably knew a thing or two about how to conduct oneself in such circumstances. Hearing a pistol go off might have scared off hostile natives. Still, the big lesson here is that automatic weapons are better than single shot pistols.
Rather, the hope is that the reasoned cultivation of understanding and knowledge would eventually overcome such impulsive action.
This is why the Army hires Professors of Moral Philosophy or Social Choice to advise them on how to fight.
The question that has to be faced here is whether such exercises of reasoning may require values that are not available in some cultures. This is where the “cultural boundary” becomes a central issue. There have, for example, been frequent declarations that non-Western civilizations typically lack a tradition of analytical and skeptical reasoning, and are thus distant from what is sometimes called “Western rationality.” Similar comments have been made about “Western liberalism,” “Western ideas of right and justice,” and generally about “Western values.” Indeed, there are many supporters of the claim (articulated by Gertrude Himmelfarb with admirable explicitness) that ideas of “justice,” “right,” “reason,” and “love of humanity” are “predominantly, perhaps even uniquely, Western values.”
What the West values is money. So does the East. Professors publish worthless shite for money. Students get degrees in worthless shite to get jobs which pay money. Money makes the world go round.
This and similar beliefs figure implicitly in many discussions, even when the exponents shy away from stating them with such clarity. If the reasoning and values that can help in the cultivation of imagination, respect, and sympathy needed for better understanding and appreciation of other people and other societies are fundamentally “Western,” then there would indeed be ground enough for pessimism. But are they?
The West was willing to pay for this sort of shite when it thought it would inherit the earth. Now, it appears it will diminish at least relative to a Eurasian power-block headed by China which will extend into the MENA, parts of Southern and Eastern Europe not to mention sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
It is, in fact, very difficult to investigate such questions without seeing the dominance of contemporary Western culture over our perceptions and readings. The force of that dominance is well illustrated by the recent millennial celebrations. The entire globe was transfixed by the end of the Gregorian millennium as if that were the only authentic calendar in the world, even though there are many flourishing calendars in the non-Western world (in China, India, Iran, Egypt, and elsewhere) that are considerably older than the Gregorian calendar.
We just call it the calendar. The plain fact is that Millennium celebrations were about merchandizing and making money. Still, Yetsin did resign on that day.
It is, of course, extremely useful for the technical, commercial, and even cultural interrelations in the world that we can share a common calendar. But if that visible dominance reflects a tacit assumption that the Gregorian is the only “internationally usable” calendar, then that dominance becomes the source of a significant misunderstanding, since several of the other calendars could be used in much the same way if they were jointly adopted in the way the Gregorian has been.
A calendar solves a coordination problem. The Schelling focal solution has no importance of its own. It is merely a matter of convenience. Why is Sen spending so much time on this? Were fellow Professors constantly sidling up to him and saying mean things about the traditional Bengali calendar? I suppose so. Sen obviously has been deeply traumatized. On the other hand, when James Meade tried to score off Partha Dasgupta in a similar manner, Partha said ''you fucking Proddy dogs are following a Catholic calendar! Popes rule. Anglicans drool!'
Western dominance has similar effects also on the understanding of other aspects of non-Western civilizations.
Martha Nussbaum was Sen's dominatrix- right?
Consider, for example, the idea of “individual liberty,” which is often seen as an integral part of “Western liberalism.”
Though Bengalis in Calcutta in 1820 enjoyed more of this than Englishmen in London in that year. The fact is liberty is a set of Hohfeldian immunities of a type found in all legal systems.
Modern Europe and America, including the European Enlightenment, have certainly had a decisive part in the evolution of the concept of liberty
for Americans or Europeans- sure- because that is how geography works. In India- and later in the China of foreign 'concessions'- people and capital moved to European ruled territory if they got both more Hohfeldian immunities and the chance to make and keep more money. The two things went together. Medieval Kings created 'liberties'- i.e. areas where regal power was revoked or otherwise limited. The Inns of Court in London are one surviving example. But all polities had something like these 'special economic zones' for economic reasons.
and the many forms it has taken. These ideas have disseminated from one country to another within the West and also to countries elsewhere,
through the law. The comity of nations is based on the fact that all legal systems have similarities for essentially economic reasons. Cultural differences didn't forbid treaties and trade deals between distant kingdoms and empires thousands of years ago.
in ways that are somewhat similar to the spread of industrial organization and modern technology. To see libertarian ideas as “Western” in this limited and proximate sense does not, of course, threaten their being adopted in other regions. For example, to recognize that the form of Indian democracy is based on the British model does not undermine it in any way.
But Indian democracy is not based on the British model. Some Brits helped create it but the guys who wanted it were Indian. India has things like a Supreme Court and an Election Commission which Britain only acquired after the Millennium.
In contrast, to take the view that there is something quintessentially “Western” about these ideas and values, related specifically to the history of Europe, can have a dampening effect on their use elsewhere.
Nonsense! The opposite was the case when the West was pre-eminent. Then, guys like Sun Yat Sen discovered that their countries could not be ruled in a parliamentary way. What has a 'dampening effect' on the use of a thing is the fact that it can't be implemented or doesn't fucking work
But is the historical claim correct? Is it indeed true (as claimed, for example, by Samuel Huntington) that “the West was the West long before it was modern”?
Yes. That's how geography works.
The evidence for such claims is far from clear. When civilizations are categorized today,
the guy doing the categorization hopes to make a little money writing a worthless book
individual liberty is often used as a classificatory device and is seen as a part of the ancient heritage of the Western world, not to be found elsewhere.
Twenty years ago, people thought China would have more and more liberty as it got richer and richer.
It is, of course, easy to find the advocacy of particular aspects of individual liberty in Western classical writings.
Anything at all can be found in it.
For example, freedom and tolerance both get support from Aristotle (even though only for free men—not women and slaves).
Free, Greek, men- not barbarians.
However, we can find championing of tolerance and freedom in non-Western authors as well. A good example is the emperor Ashoka in India,
who, like Alexander, was promoting 'homonoia'.
who during the third century BC covered the country with inscriptions on stone tablets about good behavior and wise governance, including a demand for basic freedoms for all—indeed he did not exclude women and slaves as Aristotle did; he even insisted that these rights must be enjoyed also by “the forest people” living in preagricultural communities distant from Indian cities.
Moh Tzu was better than either Alexander or Ashoka.
Ashoka’s championing of tolerance and freedom may not be at all well known in the contemporary world,
for a good reason. His history was uninstructive and his Empire did not endure. Indians had forgotten his name till the Brits made a big deal of him. Turkish invaders did a very good job of effacing India's Buddhist past.
but that is not dissimilar to the global unfamiliarity with calendars other than the Gregorian.
Few people in England know that the calendar is Gregorian and thus should feature pictures of choir-boys not topless ladies.
There are, to be sure, other Indian classical authors who emphasized discipline and order rather than tolerance and liberty, for example Kautilya in the fourth century BC
who is like Shang Yang- though shittier.
(in his book Arthashastra—translatable as “Economics”). But Western classical writers such as Plato and Saint Augustine also gave priority to social disciplines.
St. Augustine was a Sociology Lecturer at the Polytechnic.
In view of the diversity within each country, it may be sensible, when it comes to liberty and tolerance, to classify Aristotle and Ashoka on one side, and, on the other, Plato, Augustine, and Kautilya.
Rubbish! Kautilya is similar to Ashoka- indeed, he had helped found the latter's dynasty. The Arthashastra does mention Moksha just like Manusmriti. After all, the guy was a Brahmin.
Plato has nothing to say about Greek customary religion. Augustine is a theologian like Ramanuja. Ashoka could be compared to Alexander- or, better yet, Constantine. He had inherited a bureaucracy similar to that of Shang Yang in which there was notional equality before the law. But that was a matter of asserting Imperial paramountcy and increasing fiscal capacity.
Such classifications based on the substance of ideas are, of course, radically different from those based on culture or region.
Sen is too stupid to get 'the substance' of any idea whatsoever. Who the fuck would pair Kautilya with Plato? Aristotle thought Greeks should fuck over barbarians. That was not Alexander's view. The Mauryas were influenced by the Macedonian.
Even when beliefs and attitudes that are seen as “Western” are largely a reflection of present-day circumstances in Europe and North America, there is a tendency—often implicit—to interpret them as age-old features of the “Western tradition” or of “Western civilization.”
How utterly useless do you have to be to get worked about implicit tendencies of a foolish type?
One consequence of Western dominance of the world today is that other cultures and traditions are often identified and defined by their contrasts with contemporary Western culture.
What matters is dominance and who has it. The West has lost much of that dominance over the last 20 years because it did stupid shit.
Different cultures are thus interpreted in ways that reinforce the political conviction that Western civilization is somehow the main, perhaps the only, source of rationalistic and liberal ideas—among them analytical scrutiny, open debate, political tolerance, and agreement to differ. The West is seen, in effect, as having exclusive access to the values that lie at the foundation of rationality and reasoning, science and evidence, liberty and tolerance, and of course rights and justice.
Why not just say 'Whitey has big brains. Darkies have ginormous cocks'?
Once established, this view of the West, seen in confrontation with the rest, tends to vindicate itself.
Only if the West is economically and militarily dominant.
Since each civilization contains diverse elements, a non-Western civilization can then be characterized by referring to those tendencies that are most distant from the identified “Western” traditions and values. These selected elements are then taken to be more “authentic” or more “genuinely indigenous” than the elements that are relatively similar to what can be found also in the West.
Sen is merely describing the exotic.
For example, Indian religious literature such as the Bhagavad-Gita or the Tantrik texts, which are identified as differing from secular writings seen as “Western,” elicits much greater interest in the West than do other Indian writings, including India’s long history of heterodoxy.
The Gita is superb literature but so is the Pancatantra which is secular.
Sanskrit and Pali have a larger atheistic and agnostic literature than exists in any other classical tradition.
No. They have a theological literature in which hedonism is mentioned and rejected.
There is a similar neglect of Indian writings on nonreligious subjects, from mathematics, epistemology, and natural science to economics and linguistics.
Fuck off! Panini was and is hugely influential. Nobody gives a shit about ancient math or science or econ for the same reason they don't rate ancient software.
(The exception, I suppose, is the Kama Sutra, in which Western readers have managed to cultivate an interest.)
I wonder why. But Indian secular literature intended for the political education of princes had a big influence.
Through selective emphases that point up differences with the West, other civilizations can, in this way, be redefined in alien terms, which can be exotic and charming, or else bizarre and terrifying, or simply strange and engaging. When identity is thus “defined by contrast,” divergence with the West becomes central.
This is foolish. Guys who write travel books need to say things like 'all over the world, people make their eyes bigger when getting amorous. In Japan they make their eyes yet smaller'. This gem is from Pico Iyer.
Take, for example, the case of “Asian values,” often contrasted with “Western values.”
Which cashes out as Permissive Society values contrasting with old fashioned Victorian values.
Since many different value systems and many different styles of reasoning have flourished in Asia, it is possible to characterize “Asian values” in many different ways, each with plentiful citations. By selective citations of Confucius, and by selective neglect of many other Asian authors, the view that Asian values emphasize discipline and order—rather than liberty and autonomy, as in the West—has been given apparent plausibility.
China started promoting 'Confucius institutes' in 2004 to create what Chairman Xi, in 2013, said was 'a good Chinese narrative'. The notion was to piggyback on Lee Kuan Yew's success. Malaysia's Mahathir too joined in. The context was pushback against 'Human Rights' hegemonism and the need for regional cooperation. But the thing proved useless during the 1997 Asian financial crisis and thus was taken over by the Chinese Communist Party as a Trojan Horse.
This contrast, as I have discussed elsewhere, is hard to sustain when one actually compares the respective literatures.
Because literatures don't matter. People do. Are there lots of Chinese origin people- or people who adopted Chinese culture and tradition- in a particular place, or are there not? If so, there will be a difference in values which is by no means a bad thing.
There is an interesting dialectic here. By concentrating on the authoritarian parts of Asia’s multitude of traditions, many Western writers have been able to construct a seemingly neat picture of an Asian contrast with “Western liberalism.” In response, rather than dispute the West’s unique claim to liberal values, some Asians have responded with a pride in distance: “Yes, we are very different—and a good thing too!” The practice of conferring identity by contrast has thus flourished, driven both by Western attempts to establish its exclusiveness and also by the Asian counterattempt to establish its own contrary exclusiveness. Showing how other parts of the world differ from the West can be very effective and can shore up artificial distinctions.
Those 'artificial distinctions' proved useful because the West, in Obama's words, 'did stupid shit'. Asians have good reasons not to do stupid shit.
We may be left wondering why Gautama Buddha, or Lao-tzu, or Ashoka—or Gandhi or Sun Yat-sen—was not really an Asian.
Buddha referred to himself and his religion as 'Aryan'. Ashoka was a member of that religion. Gandhi came from the same place as the founder of the Arya Samaj. He embraced celibacy after Bhai Parmanand, of the Arya Samaj, came to visit him. His title of 'Mahatma' was given to him by an Arya Samaji Swamy. There's a pattern here is all I am saying. Sun Yat-sen first got international recognition when he was kidnapped in London. He was foreign educated. Lao-tzu, like Moh Tzu and Shang Yang is one of the canonical Chinese thinkers. Indeed, 'dialectical materialism could be called Taoist. It featured collective acts of repentance just like the 'self-criticism' sessions of the Maoists.
Similarly, under this identity by contrast, the Western detractors of Islam as well as the new champions of Islamic heritage have little to say about Islam’s tradition of tolerance,
which Sen's people ran away from
which has been at least as important historically as its record of intolerance.
Muslim rulers can be very tolerant for fiscal reasons. Akbar, btw, was considered a kaffir who founded a religion of his own. Nadir Shah, too, had that reputation.
We are left wondering what could have led Maimonides, as he fled the persecution of Jews in Spain in the twelfth century,
they were persecuted by the Almohads- an Islamic dynasty
to seek shelter in Emperor Saladin’s Egypt.
No we are not. The guy was the physician of Saladin's Chief Minister.
And why did Maimonides, in fact, get support as well as an honored position at the court of the Muslim emperor who fought valiantly for Islam in the Crusades?
Because he was a good Doctor. His brother had tried to get to India- which was always safe for Jews- but drowned.
Despite the recent outbursts of intolerance in Africa, we can recall that in 1526, in an exchange of discourtesies between the kings of Congo and Portugal, it was the former, not the latter, who argued that slavery was intolerable. King Nzinga Mbemba wrote to the Portuguese king that the slave trade must stop, “because it is our will that in these kingdoms of Kongo there should not be any trade in slaves nor any market for slaves.”
The guy was a tool of the Portuguese. He had no objection to slavery but, rightly, felt that the Portuguese were getting greedy. The future lay with African potentates who wouldn't bother with conversion but just sell slaves to buy guns and trade goods and thus maintain their independence. Ending the Slave Trade enabled, after a lag, European domination of a disarmed African population without the military or fiscal means to put up much resistance. But Africans are superior, not inferior, to any race of people and European domination did not last long. But the problem of 'immeserizing growth' remained. Still, the second half of this century will belong to Africa. We will all discover that what we have is 'African values'- though no doubt some non-Africans have a bit of Neanderthal or Denisovan. I myself am closely related to penguins.
Of course, it is not being claimed here that all the different ideas relevant to the use of reasoning for social harmony and humanity have flourished equally in all civilizations of the world.
Reasoning isn't about social harmony. There are other ways of achieving that- e.g. ceremonies inculcating a participation mystique. Public Reason is likely to create 'wedge issues' which take on a symbolic importance far greater than any practical consideration would warrant.
That would not only be untrue; it would also be a stupid claim of mechanical uniformity. But once we recognize that many ideas that are taken to be quintessentially Western have also flourished in other civilizations, we also see that these ideas are not as culture-specific as is sometimes claimed.
But 'wedge issues' are likely to be resolved according to 'uncorrelated asymmetries' which have to do with historical shibboleths or else tactical considerations to do with maintaining alliances or acknowledging hegemony.
We need not begin with pessimism, at least on this ground, about the prospects of reasoned humanism in the world.
Humanism can be wholly divorced from reasoning. It can be- indeed, perhaps it is- essentially sentimental.
It is worth recalling that in Akbar’s pronouncements of four hundred years ago on the need for religious neutrality on the part of the state,
No it isn't. He created his own religion for political reasons.
we can identify the foundations of a nondenominational, secular state which was yet to be born in India or for that matter anywhere else.
The British Raj was nondenominational. Its successor states were not. That's why the Indian constitution has a Directive Principle re. cow protection.
Thus, Akbar’s reasoned conclusions, codified during 1591 and 1592, had universal implications.
No. They were parochial and lasted only so long as the Emperor was willing to kill those who opposed it.
Europe had just as much reason to listen to that message as India had.
No. England, in the nineteenth century, only did Catholic Emancipation, and granted Dissenters and Jews the right to hold various sorts of office for political and practical reasons.
The Inquisitions were still in force, and just when Akbar was writing on religious tolerance in Agra in 1592, Giordano Bruno was arrested for heresy, and ultimately, in 1600, burned at the stake in the Campo dei Fiori in Rome.Akbar had Qutb-ud-din Khan Koka and Shahbaz Khan Kamboh drowned. On the other hand, he did give a sort of Islamic legitimacy to this by calling in a Qazi from Bengal. Indeed, the current view is that Akbar was cautious in persecuting the orthodox. However, the Islamic view was that he was a kaffir who killed Muslims who objected to his innovations.
For India in particular, the tradition of secularism can be traced to the trend of tolerant and pluralist thinking that had begun to take root well before Akbar, for example, in the writings of Amir Khusrau in the fourteenth century as well as in the nonsectarian devotional poetry of Kabir, Nanak, Chaitanya, and others.
This is foolish. Secularism doesn't arise from the compositions of devout religious leaders.
But that tradition got its firmest official backing from Emperor Akbar himself.
Who created a new religion. That isn't secularism.
He also practiced as he preached—abolishing discriminatory taxes imposed earlier on non-Muslims,
because he was allying with Hindus against Muslim noblemen and theologians who opposed him.
inviting many Hindu intellectuals and artists into his court (including the great musician Tansen), and even trusting a Hindu general, Man Singh, to command his armed forces.
He trusted Man Singh because he was Hindu. Tansen converted to Islam.
In some ways, Akbar was precisely codifying and consolidating the need for religious neutrality of the state that had been enunciated, in a general form, nearly two millennia before him by the Indian emperor Ashoka, whose ideas I have referred to earlier.
Akbar knew nothing of Ashoka though he did listen to Jain savants who hated Ashoka because he killed Jain monks.
While Ashoka ruled a long time ago, in the case of Akbar there is a continuity of legal scholarship and public memory linking his ideas and codifications with present-day India.
Nonsense! India has followed the path set down by the British.
Indian secularism, which was strongly championed in the twentieth century by Gandhi,
who was very religious and insisted on 'cow protection
who was agnostic and socialistic. However, he was consecrated as Prime Minister with ancient Hindu rituals.
who was the head of a religious sect
and others, is often taken to be something of a reflection of Western ideas (despite the fact that Britain is a somewhat unlikely choice as a spearhead of secularism).
Britain is tolerant. It's policy in India was to rule according to established customs.
In contrast, there are good reasons to link this aspect of modern India, including its constitutional secularism and judicially guaranteed multiculturalism
there is no such thing. Different States are welcome to be as religious as they like.
(in contrast with, say, the privileged status of Islam in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan), to earlier Indian writings and particularly to the ideas of this Muslim emperor of four hundred years ago.
This is sheer nonsense. Nobody gives a fart for Akbar or Ashoka.
Perhaps the most important point that Akbar made in his defense of a tolerant multiculturalism concerns the role of reasoning.
And killing those who posed a threat to him.
Reason had to be supreme, since even in disputing the validity of reason we have to give reasons.
Unless we kill those who are doing the reasoning. That tends to shut them up.
Attacked by traditionalists who argued in favor of instinctive faith in the Islamic tradition, Akbar told his friend and trusted lieutenant Abul Fazl (a formidable scholar in Sanskrit as well as Arabic and Persian):
'The pursuit of reason and rejection of traditionalism are so brilliantly patent as to be above the need of argument. If traditionalism were proper, the prophets would merely have followed their own elders (and not come with new messages).'
Akbar had brought in Fazl's dad as a counterweight to the orthodox. One practice of Akbar's that Aurangazeb continued was that of cherry-picking the rule of a mazhab most favorable to the Emperor's purpose.
Convinced that he had to take a serious interest in the religions and cultures of non-Muslims in India, Akbar arranged for discussions to take place involving not only mainstream Hindu and Muslim philosophers (Shia and Sunni as well as Sufi), but also involving Christians, Jews, Parsees, Jains, and, according to Abul Fazl, even the followers of “Charvaka”—one of the Indian schools of atheistic thinking dating from around the sixth century BC.
This turned out to be a stupid idea. In particular, the Jesuits started making trouble by insisting that their religion alone was valid.
Instead of taking an all-or-nothing view of a faith, Ashoka liked to reason about particular components of each multifaceted religion. For example, arguing with Jains, Akbar would remain skeptical of their rituals, and yet become convinced by their argument for vegetarianism and end up deploring the eating of all flesh.
No. He ate meat on some days but not on others. I think he turned to vegetarianism after falling violently ill because he had eaten some stale meat.
All this caused irritation among those who preferred to base religious belief on faith rather than reasoning. There were several revolts against Akbar by orthodox Muslims, on one occasion joined by his eldest son, Prince Salim, with whom he later reconciled. But he stuck to what he called “the path of reason” (rahi aql), and insisted on the need for open dialogue and free choice. At one stage, Akbar even tried, not very successfully, to launch a new religion, Din Ilahi (God’s religion), combining what he took to be the good qualities of different faiths. When he died in 1605, the Islamic theologian Abdul Haq concluded with some satisfaction that despite his “innovations,” Akbar had remained a good Muslim.
This was indeed so, but Akbar would have also added that his religious beliefs came from his own reason and choice, not from “blind faith,” or from “the marshy land of tradition.”
There were different attitudes to 'taqlid'. Furthermore, because of the Safavis, sectarian tension between Sunnis and Shias was increasing.
Sen must know that Islam in the sub-continent hasn't become more liberal. If Akbar could not influence Muslims, how could he influence Hindus? Why bang on about him at this late hour?
The plain fact is, Europeans at that time were more fanatical than Indians on religious matters. But the Europeans were also better at Scientific reasoning. They rose and rose while India- whether on not it was tolerant and incessantly engaged in reasoning so as to promote social harmony- fell and continued to fall. By the Fifties and Sixties, the country could neither feed nor defend itself.
Akbar’s ideas remain relevant—and not just in the subcontinent.
They remain stupid.
They have a bearing on many current debates in the West as well.
Telling stupid lies does not help any 'debate' to make progress.
They suggest the need for scrutiny of the fear of multiculturalism (for example, of Huntington’s argument that “multiculturalism at home threatens the United States and the West”).
That turned out to be true. Lots of Americans and Europeans joined Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Similarly, in dealing with controversies in US universities about confining core readings to the “great books” of the Western world, Akbar’s line of reasoning would suggest that the crucial weakness of this proposal is not so much that students from other backgrounds (say, African-American or Chinese) should not have to read Western classics, as that confining one’s reading only to the books of one civilization reduces one’s freedom to learn about and choose ideas from different cultures in the world.
Sen doesn't get that people are free to go to the library and read anything they like. Still, if you graduate from a Western university in the Humanities and haven't read the Western canon, people will think you are a cretin.
And the counter-demand that the great Western books be banished from the reading list for students from other backgrounds would also be faulty, since that too would reduce the freedom to learn, reason, and choose.
Sadly, the market will decide outcomes. If only illiterate morons sign up for a course, you have to substitute finger painting for reading books.
There are implications also for the “communitarian” position, which argues that one’s identity is a matter of “discovery,” not choice.
To deny this would be to commit the intensional fallacy. It is obvious that you discover what the Chef's special tastes like after you choose it and start eating it.
As Michael Sandel presents this conception of community (one of several alternative conceptions he outlines): “Community describes not just what they have as fellow citizens but also what they are, not a relationship they choose (as in a voluntary association) but an attachment they discover, not merely an attribute but a constituent of their identity.”
Oikeiosis works that way. You know you are the son of Mummy and Daddy. As you grow older, you understand more and more about what being a son involves.
This view—that a person’s identity is something he or she detects rather than determines—would have been resisted by Akbar on the ground that we do have a choice about our beliefs, associations, and attitudes, and must take responsibility for what we actually choose (if only implicitly).
Akbar wasn't stupid. He didn't choose to be born into the ruling dynasty. He discovered what he needed to do so that his dynasty continued to rule.
The notion that we “discover” our identity is not only epistemologically limiting (we certainly can try to find out what choices—possibly extensive—we actually have), but it may also have disastrous implications for how we act and behave (well illustrated by Jonathan Glover’s account of the role of unquestioning loyalty and belief in precipitating atrocities and horrors).
But atrocities and horrors get precipitated in a mimetic manner without any 'unquestioning loyalty or belief'. The guys who nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a variety of beliefs. They chose to go ahead on the basis of a cost benefit calculation.
Many of us still have vivid memories of what happened in the pre-Partition riots in India just preceding independence in 1947, when the broadly tolerant subcontinentals of January rapidly and unquestioningly became the ruthless Hindus or the fierce Muslims of June.
The carnage that followed had much to do with the alleged “discovery” of one’s “true” identity, unhampered by reasoned humanity.
No. It was mimetic or else strategic- i.e it had to do with gaining power and real estate.
Akbar’s analyses of social problems illustrate the power of open reasoning and choice even in a clearly pre-modern society.
Very true. He was elected Emperor after a series of debates with other candidates for that job
Shirin Moosvi’s wonderfully informative book Episodes in the Life of Akbar: Contemporary Records and Reminiscences gives interesting accounts of how Akbar arrived at social decisions—many of them defiant of tradition—through the use of reasoning.
Shirin lurves Akbar. She wants to marry him and have his babies. Sadly, the dude is dead.
Akbar was, for example, opposed to child marriage, then a quite conventional custom. He argued that “the object that is intended” in marriage “is still remote, and there is immediate possibility of injury.” He went on to remark that “in a religion that forbids the remarriage of the widow [Hinduism], the hardship is much greater.”
But this kept the numbers of caste Hindus down.
On property division, he noted that “in the Muslim religion, a smaller share of inheritance is allowed to the daughter, though owing to her weakness, she deserves to be given a larger share.” When his second son, Murad, who knew that his father was opposed to all religious rituals, asked him whether these rituals should be banned, Akbar immediately protested, on the ground that “preventing that insensitive simpleton, who considers body exercise to be divine worship, would amount to preventing him from remembering God [at all].”
So the guy was a theist not a rationalist.
Addressing a question on the motivation for doing a good deed (a question that still gets asked often enough), Akbar criticizes “the Indian sages” for the suggestion that “good works” be done to achieve a favorable outcome after death: “To me it seems that in the pursuit of virtue, the idea of death should not be thought of, so that without any hope or fear, one should practice virtue simply because it is good.”
Vaishnavas agreed. In any case, God's grace alone grants or denies salvation.
In 1582 he resolved to release “all the Imperial slaves,” since “it is beyond the realm of justice and good conduct” to benefit from “force.”
There had been plenty of slave dynasties. Akbar was being prescient.
Incidentally, the fact that reason may not be infallible, especially in the presence of uncertainty, is well illustrated by Akbar’s reflections on the newly arrived practice of smoking tobacco. His doctor, Hakim Ali, argued against its use: “It is not necessary for us to follow the Europeans, and adopt a custom, which is not sanctioned by our own wise men, without experiment or trial.” Akbar ignored this argument on the ground that “we must not reject a thing that has been adopted by people of the world, merely because we cannot find it in our books; or how shall we progress?” Armed with that argument, Akbar tried smoking, but happily for him he took an instant dislike of it, and never smoked again. Here instinct worked better than reason (in circumstances rather different from the case of Bukharin described by Glover). But reason worked often enough.
What was important about tobacco was that it could raise a lot of money for the exchequer.
There was good sense in Akbar’s insistence that a millennial occasion is not only for fun and festivities (of which there were plenty in Delhi and Agra as the first Hijri millennium was completed in 1591-1592), but also for serious reflection on the joys and horrors and challenges of the world in which we live. Akbar’s emphasis on reason and scrutiny serves as a reminder that “cultural boundaries” are not as limiting as is sometimes alleged (as, for example, in the view, discussed earlier, that “justice,” “right,” “reason,” and “love of humanity” are “predominantly, perhaps even uniquely, Western values”). Indeed, many features of the European Enlightenment can be linked with questions that were raised earlier—not just in Europe but widely across the world.
But the only reason the European Enlightenment is remembered is because it succeeded in limiting the power of the Church and, in some countries, it allied with the 'Commons'. Economics matters. Reasoning doesn't- unless it improves economic outcomes. Sen's own work was utterly useless from that point of view. He was given a Nobel for being a stupid brown monkey.
As the second Gregorian millennium
or the Julian millennium- they two were only a few days apart
began, India was visited by an intellectual tourist in the form of Alberuni, an Iranian who was born in Central Asia in 973 AD and who wrote in Arabic. As a mathemati-cian, Alberuni’s primary interest was in Indian mathematics (he produced, among other writings, an improved Arabic translation of Brahmagupta’s sixth-century Sanskrit treatise on astronomy and mathematics—first translated into Arabic in the eighth century). But he also studied Indian writings on science, philosophy, literature, linguistics, religion, and other subjects, and wrote a highly informative book about India, called Ta’rikh al-hind (“The History of India”). In explaining why he wrote it, Alberuni argued that it is very important for people in one country to know how others elsewhere live, and how and what they think. Evil behavior (of which Alberuni had seen plenty in the barbarity of his former patron, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, who had savagely raided India several times) can arise from a lack of understanding of—and familiarity with—other people:
So, the guy only visited India because his boss had invaded it. What does this tell us? Armies and the money to pay for armies matter. Reasoning has no magical power to prevent your country being conquered.
…In all manners and usages [the Indians] differ from us to such a degree as to frighten their children with us, with our dress, and our ways and customs, and as to declare us to be devil’s breed, and our doings as the very opposite of all that is good and proper. By the bye, we must confess, in order to be just, that a similar depreciation of foreigners not only prevails among us and the Indians, but is common to all nations towards each other.
The Ukrainians might have got along very well with Russians, but currently they hate the very sight of them. Many Russian speaking Ukrainians are consciously changing the way they speak.
That insight from the beginning of the last millennium has remained pertinent a thousand years later.
But this insight only applies when there is military conflict. Otherwise plenty of Iranians had sojourned in India over the course of the previous two thousand years.
In trying to go beyond what Adam Smith called our “first perceptions,” we need to transcend what Akbar saw as the “marshy land” of unquestioned tradition and unreflected response.
No. We need to find a way of increasing utility by improving our 'Structural Causal Model' of the underlying phenomena or else by transacting business according to absolute and comparative advantage. Tradition is merely 'samskar' or 'matam'. It has nothing to do with 'vigyan'. That is what Hindu India teaches. Sen has managed to talk about India as if only Ashoka- a Buddhist- and Akbar- a Muslim- had the capacity to reason. Yet neither Buddhism nor Islam prevails in India now. But Sen prefers to remain ignorant of the religion of his ancestors. He mentions Tagore, but won't acknowledge that Tagore was a Brahmin and the hereditary leader of a Hindu sect.
Reason has its reach—compromised neither by the importance of instinctive psychology nor by the presence of cultural diversity in the world.
No. Reason only has reach if it is associated with a utilitarian vigyan- science or praxis. Doctrines don't matter. Conventions don't matter. There is always a workaround which permits utility to triumph. This is India's immemorial 'Arthashastra'.
It has an especially important role to play in the cultivation of moral imagination.
Which is misleading. I recall meeting a guy back in the early Eighties who made a lot of money going to small towns in America and getting people to donate so as to save the benighted Hindu from his habit of worshipping snakes and elephants.
We need it in particular to face the bats and the owls and the insane moon.
Which you only have to face if you have got syphilis or some other disease which rots your brain.
Post a Comment