Monday 11 September 2023

Amia Srinivasan, Cartesian Privilege & Vivek's superior stupidity

Hindu epistemology distinguishes between 'matam' (doctrine) which is arbitrary and which you might well doubt but for scriptural or other supernatural authority, and 'vigyan' (science) which you can't doubt without appearing a crackpot or acting in a perverse manner or in bad faith.

Descartes said the same thing. 'Knowledge [scientia] is conviction based on a reason so strong that it can never be shaken by any stronger reasons'. However, facts are not reasons. Is there a fact such that no possible uncovering of some other fact would give us a reason to doubt it? If so, is there some such fact that is also a reason- that too the strongest of all- which can stand as the foundation for every other chain of reasoning?

If the answer is yes, then then there is an algorithmic procedure by which all knowledge can be uncovered. This is because all facts of a particular sort are connected by a particular type of reason- because that is what 'reasoning' means. Of course, it may be that the case that, facts about the 'Mind' may be of a different type from facts about 'Matter'. Still a mental fact that is also a reason, is sufficient to, if properly applied, yield all other mental facts. 

I should qualify the above. Descartes is speaking of 'conviction'. Thus, all we are saying is that if you are convinced there is a fact that is also a reason then you will be convinced that a 'mathesis universalis' exists. But being convinced of something does not mean that the thing is true. It just means you are sure it is true. It is 'matam', not 'vigyan'. As the champion of 'reverse mathematics' put it, a 'divine axiom' can assure you of consistency. That may be enough for conviction. It isn't for certitude. One can be consistently wrong. Indeed, we can be certain this is so when it comes to our current applications of notions of optimality, naturality and what is or isn't an absolute proof. 

All this has nothing to do with either norms or categories which are merely 'second best' solutions (like what happens in Economics where there is a missing market) . Socrates speaks of categories as being like having to use the oars when there is no wind to billow out the sails. The problem is that a method of approximation may produce the same 'knowledge' as the real thing but though, for the moment, the 'extension' is the same, the two are distinct 'intensions'. Failure to accept this, however, lets you write worthless shite based on the 'intensional fallacy'.

Of course, for any particular purpose, an intensional term can be given an arbitrary extension. This is very useful. Consider 'uncorrelated asymmetry' as giving rise to 'bourgeois strategies'. This is an eusocial solution concept in 'hawk/dove'. The arbitrary symmetry breaking condition- who owns what, who is the eldest son of a previous King or Prime Minister, or who is natal to a particular terrain- has the virtue of creating 'unicity' or, strictly weaker, 'essential uniqueness'. One may speak of an uncorrelated asymmetry as a 'privilege'. I have privileged access to my own thoughts. This does not mean I occupy a 'privileged frame of reference' or violate some metaphysical version of the 'principle of relativity'. It is simply the case that, for a large class of coordination / discoordination games in economics or pragmatics, there is an uncorrelated asymmetry which becomes the foundation of an eusocial 'bourgeois strategy'. But the thing is defeasible. I can stipulate that x knows my mind better than myself. A Court can judge that I don't know my mind at all. I should be placed under conservatorship. This can happen so as to protect certain 'unfair' privileges I enjoy to the detriment of less fortunate mortals. But the thing is arbitrary. It is not based upon any category theoretical assertion of 'naturality', nor is there any Godelian 'absolute proof' associated with its 'reasoning'.

One may say 'bourgeois strategies' are normative or that objecting to their existence is normative for Leftie Academics who are trying to pretend they are cool and rad and not bougie at all. But all such assertions are arbitrary or imperative. There is no deeper logic or 'reasoning' to them.

Everything I have said so far was already fucking obvious by the time Amia Srinivasan was in diapers. Yet, some five years ago, the silly bint published a ludicrous paper titled 'Normativity without Cartesian privilege'. 

The fact is, since both 'Normativity' and 'Cartesian Privilege' are 'intensional', Liebniz's law of identity does not apply. No logical substitutions can be made. All that you have is an algorithmic method for cranking out nonsense. Still, even cranking out nonsense need not involve illicit substitution of a puerile kind. This is what Amia does. She conflates being in a position to know a thing- e.g. subscribing to a newsletter containing a type of information- and actually knowing it- i.e. reading the fucking newsletter. Why did no one call her on this? The answer is that she is a cretin who writes for cretins as part of a citation cartel of cretins whose careerism is solely concerned with weaponising cretinism to combat Penises or Whiteness or White Penises or something of that sort.

Amia, perhaps hoping to be taken for a Marxist, begins thus

Cartesian epistemology is characterised by a dialectical relationship

in which case, as Lawvere pointed out 50 years ago, the thing has a category theoretical representation provided it is purely Hegelian or Idealistic. If it isn't, we are speaking of Magic- which would be way cooler.

between doubt and certainty:

in which case there is a synthesis between them which itself will have a dialectical relationship with its antithesis and so on.  You could have cascading hypostases not dissimilar to those which supposedly obtain with respect to some hereditary Godmen of Amia's ancestral sect. 

radical doubt about the outer world is quelled by the epistemic security of the inner.

In which case there is no dialectical relationship. There is something like Socrates's 'synoida' by which only he can know he knows nothing.  

In viewing the phenomenal realm as a safe harbour from error, much contemporary philosophy has embraced the Cartesian worldview. 

That may be true. Amia is a contemporary philosopher- i.e. is as stupid as shit.  

But recent arguments from empirical psychology and armchair epistemology alike suggest that the Cartesian presumption of privileged phenomenal access should be rejected.

There is no such presumption. It is possible that a smart person knows better than a stupid person what is actually on her mind. But, speaking generally, I know my mind better than anybody else because I benefit more from having that knowledge. True, this may not be the case if I suffer a brain injury or go bonkers. Still, ceteris paribus, we have privileged access to what is our own. I can scratch my bollocks at any time. You can't and, I hope, are properly heartbroken that such is the case.  

If these arguments are sound, we can only conclude that there is no realm to which we enjoy privileged access.

Privilege is a relative term. Amia enjoys privileged access to the smell of her own farts. True, she may seek to redistribute that privilege in an egalitarian manner but this is by no means required by her contract of employment.  

For if we do not have such access to our own minds, then presumably we do not have it to anything whatsoever.

Amia thinks she does not have privileged access to her own farts. It is deeply unfair if she alone gets to smell them.  

My question is this: what does this rejection of Cartesianism imply for our relationship to the normative?

Nothing at all. Norms are solutions to coordination or discoordination games. There are utilitarian reasons for abiding by them or violating them.  

My answer is that it implies that the relationship is more fraught than many think.

NO-ooooooo! I am clutching my pearls and fainting away as I read this! Amia is totes triggering me coz I have a very fraught relationship with my Dyson Vacuum Cleaner.  Could somebody kindly loosen my stays and bring me my smelling salts? 

Without privileged access to our own minds, there are no norms that can invariably guide our actions, and no norms that are immune from blameless violation.

But even with privileged access there are no invariable action guiding norms. Amia may be thinking of Pavlovian reflexes. I'm kidding. She isn't thinking at all. 

 As for blame, anybody can be blamed by anybody for utterly blameless behaviour.  

This will come as bad news

involving yet more pearl clutching and fainting away 

to those normative theorists who think that certain central normative notions – e.g. the ethical ought or epistemic justification – should be cashed out in terms of subjects’ mental states,

who has seen a 'mental state'? The thing is merely a figure of speech. Nothing 'cashes out' as a metaphor, though 'cashing out' is nothing else. 

For Hindus 'Artha' means 'meaning' as well as 'economic motivation'. Everything, save 'Matam' (doctrine ultimately founded on some arbitrary 'Revelation' or Charismatic authority or theophanic intuition), is pragmatic, utilitarian and instrumental- or as, the Indian Constitution puts it, Scientific, Socialistic, Secular and (more is the pity) sans sexy shenanigans. Mind it kindly. Aiyayo. 

precisely in order to generate norms that are actionguiding and immune from blameless violation.

Amia's farts may be bad news. Her stupid arguments provoke hilarity.  

Meanwhile AntiCartesianism will come as good news to those normative theorists who resist cashing out norms in terms of mental states. For AntiCartesnaism implies that no norms – however closely tied to the mental – can be perfectly action-guiding or totally immune from blameless violation.

How do we know? Such norms may be proven to exist 'at the end of time'. We can't be sure there isn't really just one big fact or a unique higher dimensional algorithm which generates everything which is useful and true.  

Thus one apparent reason for cashing out normative notions in terms of mental states falls away. More generally, once we have accepted that our relationship to our own minds lacks the perfect intimacy promised by Cartesianism, we are, for better or worse, left with the view that the normative is a realm of tragedy: a realm suffused with ignorance and bad luck.

No. We are left with the common sense view that norms, like concepts, are useful in particular contexts. Comedy is about ignorance and bad luck. My life story is wholly comic. Tragedy is about a noble soul laid low by some inner flaw compounded by an ironic concatenation of events  

Following Timothy Williamson (2000, ch. 4), let us a call a condition C luminous just in case whenever one is in C one is in a position to know one is in C;

In which case we may always be in C. To be in a position to know something doesn't mean one has to know it if that isn't what one wants to do. How can we be sure our ignorance of anything isn't, in some sense, self-willed?  

absent-luminous just in case whenever one is not in C one is in a position to know one is not in C;

but one may not want to know that 

and transparent just in case C is both luminous and absent-luminous. Thus a condition C is transparent just in case one is always in a position to know whether one is in C.

or not in C.  

I can now more precisely state the form of AntiCartesianism of interest to me here: ANTI-CARTESIANISM: There are no conditions that are transparent for creatures like us.

Sure there are. Everyone can know they are not scratching my bollocks at this moment. That's a transparent condition right there.  

Anti-Cartesianism is not merely the claim that for any condition we can sometimes fail to know whether we are in it. For even Cartesians will agree that we can sometimes fail to know whether we are in a given condition because of inattentiveness or negligence. AntiCartesianism is the stronger claim that for any condition we can sometimes fail to be even in a position to know whether we are in it.

Amia can't know that she isn't scratching my bollocks. Her expensive education was a complete waste of money. 

For no condition will assiduous attention suffice to guarantee knowledge of whether it obtains. Non-transparency is an unsurprising feature of most conditions. Take the condition of my car being parked on Main Street, CAR.

If your car is sentient it knows this. You don't, unless you are sitting in it and are compos mentis.  

It is possible for the condition to obtain without my being in a position to know that it does.

You don't have any mental state corresponding to knowledge (as opposed to expectation) of your car's whereabouts. 

For I might have insufficiently strong evidence (only a vague memory of having parked the car on Main Street), or misleading evidence (a false report of its having been stolen).

So, this isn't knowledge at all. It is a suspicion or a memory or a guess or an expectation.  

Like countless other conditions – that it’s raining in Paris, that Peter is coming to the party, that the President is in New York – one can fail to know whether CAR obtains simply because the world and one’s position in it preclude such knowledge.

This is because CAR has been wrongly specified. It is a claim about a car. If the car is sentient, or you are sitting in it, then there is a knowledge claim. Otherwise there is nothing.  

The radicalism of Anti-Cartesianism lies in its

radical stupidity 

insistence that what is true of CAR

which is not a knowledge claim unless the car is sentient or you are sitting in it

is true of practically all conditions.

but it isn't true of CAR because you may be sitting in the car saying to yourself 'this is a good spot I've found on Main Street to sit in my parked car and have a crafty wank'. 

This includes even paradigmatically Cartesian conditions like feeling cold, possessing evidence that p, believing that p and its seeming to one that p 

None of these are knowledge claims. Amia is comparing apples to oranges. Why not make an even more radical claim- viz that everybody is paradigmatically a Cartesian radish because you have one stuck up your bum but you left the bum on your car-seat which may be in Main Street and thus is likely to have been subjected to radish insertion by the Neo-Liberal Patriarchy?  

In Knowledge and Its Limits (2000), Williamson

a boring cretin 

puts forward a general argument intended to show that there are no non-trivial conditions that are plausibly luminous for creatures like us. Roughly, the argument is this. Consider the condition of feeling cold.

A feeling is not knowledge.  

Since feelings of cold come in degrees of strength,

unless they don't. Yours might, mine might, but then again they might not when circumstances alter or we start getting gay with each other.  

it is possible to be in what we might call a liminal case of feeling cold: a case of feeling cold that is nearly not a case of feeling cold. Imagine that S, a normal agent like ourselves, is in such a liminal case of feeling cold: if S were just slightly warmer than she actually is, it would be untrue that she feels cold. As it happens, in α S has the true belief that she feels cold. Is this true belief knowledge?

It is true that S truly believes she is cold if that is what she truly believes. This is Liebniz's law of identity. Beliefs about feelings may themselves be feelings and have nothing to do with knowledge. They are 'intensions' which may have no epistemic 'extensions'. 

Williamsons argues not. For S, being a creature much like ourselves, has dispositions to believe that are not perfectly fine-grained. That is, there plausibly exists a very similar possible case ß in which S has the untrue belief that she feels cold. Knowledge requires safety from error: for S to know in α that she feels cold, she cannot have in a sufficiently similar case an untrue belief that she feels cold. But there exists such a sufficiently similar case of untrue belief: ß. As such, in α S cannot know that she feels cold. Feeling cold is thus not luminous. Equally, we could imagine a case in which S is in a liminal case of not feeling cold; by analogous reasoning, S would be unable, in such a case, to know that she was not feeling cold. And so feeling cold is not absent-luminous, either.

This is foolish. It is sufficient to specify a margin of error to get rid of this 'sorites' type silliness.  

Williamson’s general suggestion is that safety from error precludes knowledge of whether one is in a condition C whenever one is in a liminal case of C’s obtaining or not obtaining.

So there is a grey area. But that does not matter very much provided the danger zone is above or below the thresholds specified.  

A simpler armchair argument in favour of Anti-Cartesianism turns on the possibility of creatures like ourselves being psychologically or philosophically manipulated. Suppose that, under the sway of psychological priming or hypnosis, one ended up systematically mistaking feelings of lukewarmth for feelings of cold; plausibly, one would thereby lose the ability to know, at least in cases near the lukewarm/cold border, whether one was cold. Or suppose that one were presented with an extremely powerful philosophical argument to the effect that one’s judgments about one’s own phenomenology were systematically mistaken; one might thereby lose one’s ability to form justified beliefs about, and thus know, one’s own phenomenology. Insofar as one thinks these are genuine possibilities, one has reason to embrace Anti-Cartesianism.

No. We understand that 'hard cases make bad law'. We simply look at the preponderance of evidence or appeal to the Condorcet Jury theorem. It is unlikely that resources would be wasted on carrying out complicated surgical interventions or resorting to mass hypnosis for some paltry end.  

Perhaps the most powerful reason to embrace Anti-Cartesianism is introspective. I sometimes find myself uncertain, even after careful consideration, about my own phenomenology: whether I’m angry or merely annoyed, whether I’m desirous or indifferent, whether I believe or am agnostic.

You are as stupid as shit.  

Of course, the uncertainty at issue here is not an uncertainty about whether my phenomenology is thus: I’m always in a position to know that I’m feeling just this, the way I’m feeling.

Then you are cool with Descartes. You do have privileged access to some stuff about yourself.  

Instead, the uncertainty lies in the categorisation of my phenomenal experience under the appropriate concepts: anger, annoyance, desire, indifference, belief, agnosticism.

But categorization is not itself knowledge. It is merely a way to sort or manage knowledge. We can change the categorization without changing the knowledge base in order to meet some new challenge.  

My own introspective feelings of uncertainty deepen when we move to conditions of particular philosophical interest,

but epistemology is not itself knowledge. Philosophy is love of Wisdom, not Wisdom itself. Engaging in meta-epistemology- e.g. farting as a way of refuting Popperian falsifiability- is not itself considered a valid way of passing a course in Metaphysics and Epistemology as I, very sadly, discovered when I was at Collidge.  

such as my having a credence x in p or p’s having probability x on my evidence.

which is like my feeling that x is totes cool or that I get good vibes about x happening real soon.  

For these conditions, I very often feel that no amount of assiduous introspection will reveal whether they obtain. Perhaps not everyone finds her own phenomenology so recalcitrant to epistemic grasp. But to the extent that this kind of experience strikes one as familiar, one has reason to embrace Anti-Cartesianism.

No. One just has a feeling or a vibe or something woo woo of that sort.  

Of course, embracing Anti-Cartesianism doesn’t mean accepting the sceptical verdict that one is never in a position to know whether one is in various mental state conditions – any more than it means embracing the sceptical verdict that one can never know the location of one’s car.

We don't know what we are in a position to do or be or know. We may know what we are or are doing or have knowledge of though this may put us in an uncomfortable position. 

One very often is in a position to know whether one’s car is on Main Street,

only if such knowledge is possible. But what you have in reality may not be something compossible with any 'position'. This may sound like a vacuous claim. Yet, looking at recent progress on the P not equal to NP question using 'machine learning' (which is like evaluating a function rather than specifying an algorithm) we find something like this. Essentially, in learning you can gain something which you lose when you cease to be in statu pupillari, so to speak. Another way to say this, is one has a good enough approximation by a different method, but it isn't the real thing. The highly trained kung fu fighter knows she can kill a bunch of goons. But till she has killed she doesn't know that she actually will use the 'poison fist' strike. But, using it, may destroy the 'learned' skill of killing, replacing it with something else- a killer instinct which will develop and burgeon according to different laws or norms. 

and one might very well often be in a position to know whether one is in various mental state conditions. We might say that conditions like CAR and feeling cold are contextually transparent, meaning that at certain contexts one can know whether they obtain. But contextual transparency is not the same as transparency simpliciter.

Nor is transparency simpliciter the same thing as transparency simpliciter. These are epistemic or intensional objects and thus anti-reflexive. They change as the information set, or intentionality, or something else changes. They may be 'dialectical'. They may feature 'hidden variables'. But then again they may not.  

According to Anti-Cartesianism, no conditions are transparent simpliciter.

The problem with intensional objects is that they can always be given any arbitrary extension for some useful purpose. Thus, according to the sort of shite philosophy Amia & Co. go in for, no conditions are not not conditions or radishes up your bum or a Godelian absolute proof that Biden is a Nazi.  

While I think that there is good reason to embrace Anti-Cartesianism, those of a strongly Cartesian persuasion are invited to read the remainder of this paper as offering further reason to cleave to the Cartesian orthodoxy – indeed, even to read it as a reductio of AntiCartesianism.

or of everything being a radish up your bum which is an absolute proof that Biden is a Nazi.  

Why think Anti-Cartesianism has any interesting implications for the normative sphere?

It can open the door to a mystical interpretation of customary morality. Consider the notion of 'teshuga' as being a type of repentance which changes the Past. But this repentance can be greatest at the moment of most extreme transgression.  

Many normative theorists maintain that one or more fundamental normative notions –

fundamental notions are 'Tarskian primitives'- good, bad, ugly, cool etc. 

epistemic justification,

is meta-normative or wholly arbitrary

the subjective ought, rationality– must be spelled out in terms of subjects’ mental states.

which are a metaphor for brain states though it may turn out the whole body is involved in producing them- unless 'Quantum entanglement' of the Deepak Chopra type is a real thing.  

For example, epistemic internalists think that whether one is epistemically justified or epistemically rational supervenes only on one’s mental states.

Fuck is 'fundamentally normative' about this? This is simply the cretinous cul de sac of 'Philosophy of Mind' trying to knock down a wall so as to get on to the Normativity super-highway to Cretinism and Gesture Politics. 

Why not speak instead of Alchemical adepts wondering whether normative justifications supervene on Astrological states? How about Socioproctological savants getting a look in on the basis that everything supervenes on the smelliness of farts?

Ethical subjectivists think that whether one ought to perform such action supervenes on the evidence that one possesses. 

Sadly, 'supervenes' is meaningless because the relevant extensions are unknown.  

An obvious question is: why think that these normative notions should be spelled out in this way?

So as to recycle worthless shite under a different rubric. 

Why not think, as epistemic externalists do, that the justification of one’s belief can supervene on non-mental facts, e.g. whether that belief is the product of a mechanism adequately hooked up to the world?

Why think stupid shit? Will it help you find a cure for cancer? Nope. This is just a zombie careerism. Still, no doubt, talking about 'Cartesian Privilege' will over throw White privilege due to Descartes was a gora right?  

And why not think, as ethical objectivists do, that the important sense of ‘ought’ is the one that supervenes on all the facts, not only the ones within one’s epistemic ken?

The important sense of 'ought' is wholly imperative. It has nothing to do with any supposedly alethic information set.

An obvious answer is this: only mental states possess a crucial property, namely transparency,

Fuck off! You know when you have shat yourself. So do other people in the room. On the other hand, your mental state at the time may be wholly opaque to you coz you are drunk off your head.  

and only norms that feature transparent states can meet some basic desiderata of norms.

Sez who? The fact is the norm- 'don't shit yourself in class'- applies even to those whose mental states are not transparent because they are drunk off their heads.  

 Consider a norm that is not tied to the mental: the classic act consequentialism norm that says that one ought to perform whichever action would maximise the good.

Which can only be done by arbitrary stipulation. 

A familiar complaint about the norm is that one isn’t always in a position to know which action would in fact maximise the good.

Then, one ought to find out.  

One’s evidence might, after all, be insufficient or misleading on this score.

In which case it isn't fucking evidence at all! There is a difference between what might be 'admissible' evidence and stuff you collect from other people's garbage bags so as to prove that Lizard People from Planet X really did fake that video of you on Youtube trying to have sex with your Dyson. I'm not saying that's what happened to me. Anyway, a thing like that could happen to anybody. My point is what you did or did not stick up the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner should never void the warranty.  I've written to Vivek Ramaswamy about this. Once he becomes POTUS, those fuckers at John Lewis will be obliged to give me a refund. Incidentally, Vivek is an Iyer. Amia is an Iyengar. Fuck. I've just realised. The whole point about 'Socioproctology' is that it exists to prove Iyers deserve 'Educationally Backward not to say Mentally fucking Retarded Status'. Yet Amia, an Iyengar, by writing shite stupider than any fucking Iyer retard like myself could write, has stolen a march on me! Kamala Harris is half Iyer and has become Veep. If Vivek- a full blooded member of the Iyerarchy- becomes POTUS while Amia is content to remain a Professor of Psilosophy at Oxbridge....what then? 

Oh. Being POTUS, as Obama said, means doing stupid shit. Oxbridge Professors are welcome to do smart stuff. Vivek isn't really letting the side down. On the other contrary, he is advancing the cause I've devoted my life to- viz. showing Iyers are stupider than the shit Amia is merely as stupid as.

1 comment:

Mitchell said...

Amia enjoys privileged access to the smell of her own farts

Amia thinks she does not have privileged access to her own farts.

Amia's farts may be bad news.

farting as a way of refuting Popperian falsifiability

everything supervenes on the smelliness of farts

"And what, pray tell, is the five-point-palm-exploding-fart technique?"

"Quite simply, the lowest blow in all of Socio-proctology. He hits you with his mockery at five different pressure points in your argument. And then he lets you walk away. But after you've taken five steps, your audience explodes with laughter, and your dignity falls to the floor, dead."