Tuesday 31 October 2023

Fatima's Father for this Malamati Soak

Wouldn't an inarguably Good Shepherd herd wayward Cats rather than witless Sheep?
Even a Nobodaddy Daddy, with Baby, would rather play, than pray for more Sleep.
How heed the Muezzin save, for Muezza, by cutting a hole in your cloak?
As Fatima's Father yet does for e'en this miserable old soak.

Abbadon! Prince! Like Job, you too were cured by what winged angels endured wholly for the Lord
I still watch them die, like the Summer fly, on discharge from the Psychiatric Ward. 


Ben Bradley, Tim Sommers & stupidity as genidentity

Tim Sommers asks at 3Quarks if you can have an obligation to your past self? The answer is- sure. Why not? The problem is you have no remedy if you decide not to honour such obligations. Still, going forward you can pay a Mafia dude to enforce obligations to your present self against your future self.

A different approach would be to assert that ethical beings have 'genidentity'. They generate themselves through time in an ethical manner such that they have an existential authenticity based on keeping faith with themselves. There are two problems here

1) is purely mathematical. The fact is, only certain 'eigenstates' of a quantized dynamic system have a determinable parameter. This is why 'genidentity' could not resolve problems in quantum physics. The 'holistic' Gestalt of the object is only graspable in a global, non-local, manner. Of course, a non quantized dynamic system would not necessarily have this problem. But it would have another- St. Augustine's 'vanishing present'. That sounds more like spiritual theology than scientific theory.

2) something superior to obligation and entitlement arises with respect to what you were and what you will be. There is a type of 'self ownership', or conatus, which endows the self in the moment with a superior Hohfeldian immunity with respect to all past and future selves- including those of the other people you might have become or who might have become you.

Sadly, having 'genidentity' would be a serious handicap in any competitive field. Things which don't have 'survival value', subtract from 'conatus'. To remain yourself, you need to stop doing stupid shit and start imitating what smart people are doing. Tardean mimetics is 'regret minimizing'. You'll feel pretty darn stupid if you remained 'authentic' and starved while everybody else does sensible things and enjoys affluence and security.

One might say, for some immediate purposes it is better to see yourself as a a member of a statistical class and behave 'ergodically' (either mimetically or in response to Schelling focal solutions to coordination games). The alternative is to surrender to 'hysteresis' and do stupid sub-optimal shite so as to remain 'authentic' or some such retarded shite.

The same point can be made of those who go to Grad Skool but choose shite subjects. It may be a promise they are keeping to their younger, stupider, selves, but this does not change the fact that they are authentically cretinous- unless, of course, they are just phoning in shite of the following sort-

The question, as philosopher Ben Bradley puts it is, “If you desired something in the past but you don’t desire it anymore, do you have any prudential reason to bring it about?”

You may have a 'regret minimizing reason'. However, it may counsel against prudence. You may regret not throwing caution to the winds on certain occasions. This is why though 'prudence' is required of a Financial accountant, Regret-minimization is not. The story is different for Fund Managers, a particular Investment Strategy may be 'Hanan consistent' and yet be highly risky. 

Some philosophers – Bradley focuses on Richard Pettigrew and Dale Dorsey – argue that you do. Dorsey’s view is that “[in a case where my future self ignores my current projects] my future self has failed me—failed to do something that my future self had reason to do given the effort I’ve put in.”

This is foolish. You future self can't be said to ignore something it can remember about its past. But it is entitled to refuse to do stupid shit you once thought cool.

According to Dorsey, Bradley says, “I now want my future self to carry out my current plans; so, it would be unfair of me to deny my past self the same courtesy. Expecting my future self to give some weight to what I now want, while denying my past self that courtesy, would be, in a way, inconsistent or ‘unsavory.’”

You should not want your future self to carry out your current plans. Plans must be changed in the light of unanticipated developments or fresh information. Perhaps what is meant is 'I want my future self to have the same commitment or objective that I currently do'. 

Still, it is good to know that some people feel it would be unsavoury not to try to suckle on their aged mother's titty just because it is what they wanted to do when they were a baby. It must be said, courtesy can be taken too far. 

In other words, we might be tempted to think about prudence (using reason to guide our actions) “as involving some sort of cooperation between one’s past, present, and future selves. When I make decisions, I should think of my past and future selves as other people. Just as I must take other people’s welfare into account in order to act morally, I must take my other temporal selves into account in order to act prudently.”

This is not the case. Regret minimization is one thing- the notion of regret is psychological. That is what is at work here. Prudence is associated with foresight and the sagacity to understand that things might not turn out as you fondly imagine they will. The difference between prudential considerations and regret-minimizing considerations in this case is that the former has to be sceptical about your notions of what you owe to 'past' or 'future' selves. Regret-minimization is more loosey-goosey. I think the advantage is it permits more low risk 'discovery' which is why it is ubiquitous as an evolutionarily stable strategy.

In his fascinating new paper, “The Sacrificer’s Dilemma,” Bradley offers a unique argument against the view that we should “think of prudence as involving a negotiation or compromise between distinct temporal selves, each of which makes claims of justice on the other selves.” It’s this argument I want to focus on.

Hopefully, Bradley's next paper will argue against the view that people who start negotiating with their future and past selves aren't either crazy or stuck in a deeply stupid profession. 

But first, there’s a well-known counterexample to the idea that the desires of our past selves might matter at all to us: Brandt’s Roller-Coaster. Suppose as a child you fervently wished to ride a roller-coaster on your fiftieth birthday. Now, it’s your fiftieth birthday, your joints ache and you have a bad back. You are not interested in riding a jerky coaster. Most people have the intuition that having wished to do so as a child, given that you don’t want to now, is no reason at all to ride the coaster.

At least not till you've gone and sucked the titty of your eighty year old mother because that was what you wanted to do on your actual day of birth. 

Pettigrew and Dorsey respond that, while not every past desire – this one, for example – creates an obligation, some do.

A binding obligation is a vow or oath or a contractual or sacramental or other such grave undertaking. Speaking generally, there are reputable people you can consult on the circumstances in which such obligations are defeasible.  

But Bradley uses time travel as a heuristic to get at how this view goes wrong.

But, if we had a time travel machine we wouldn't bother with stupid shit of this sort.  

Suppose the most painful sacrifice you made for yo-yos was persisting in your work on the yo-yo museum despite your partner, first, threatening, and then actually, leaving you. You told yourself at the time that the sacrifice would be worth it – one day you would be a part of yo-yo history. Now that you don’t care about yo-yos you feel bad about the sacrifices made by your former self, but you still don’t want anything to do with yo-yos. Luckily, since you have access to a time machine, you can go back to the past and make sure that either your partner does not leave your past self or that you can compensate your past self in some other way. But wait! If the partner never left, because you prevented it via time travel, then your past self didn’t suffer the suffering that you were motivated to go back to alleviate. “We have a reason to travel back if and only we don’t do it,” Bradley says.

This is silly. We don't need a reason to do something novel- like revisit the Eighties or go ten thousand years into the future to see if dolphins have taken over the world. 

But if you do it, you have no reason to have done it. Time travel always ends in paradox.

There is no paradox here. It's cool to visit the past or the future even if you gain nothing by it. 

So, is this just another time travel paradox? Maybe not.

Bradley argues that we can get stuck with “some of the same kinds of paradoxes and dilemmas that genuine time travel or backwards causation would generate” in these cases even without the time machine.

Only if we are as stupid as shit or are condemned to teaching nonsense to retards.  

One might try to capture the central claim of the ‘you owe your past self’ view with something like Pettigrew’s “Beneficiary Principle: A current self that has justly benefitted from certain sorts of sacrifice made by some of its past selves has an obligation to give a certain amount of weight to the preferences of these past selves.” My former self sacrificed an important relationship to be on the stage and yo-yoing at the grand opening (and more!), I now have some obligation to either follow through or compensate my past self in some way.

One can certainly speak of things you owe yourself. But this is merely a metaphorical way of speaking. It doesn't matter if you genuinely made sacrifices or not. The thing is not justiciable in any real sense. It is merely ipse dixit. You are judge and jury in your own case. The problem is that you may also be the sexy court stenographer. Next thing which happens is you are arrested for outraging public decency. Worse still, it turns out you yourself are the arresting officer. Shit. Maybe going off your meds wasn't such a good idea.

For this to make sense in the case where we don’t have a time machine, we must accept something like “The Redeeming the Past Principle (RPP): someone’s welfare at [a time] can be affected by things happening after [that time].” Dorsey explicitly endorses that principle. “If I value now climbing Mount Everest in [the future], and I do it, that I do so makes me better off now.”

So does valuing valuing climbing that mountain as does valuing that valuing and so on. Equally, not valuing infinite regresses of valuing may be said to make you better off but only in the sense that every goldfish is the cat's whiskers.  

So, here’s Bradley’s argument. Even if sacrifices in the past mean your past selves deserve compensation,

an investment is not a sacrifice. Going to Medical School may involve giving up many of the pleasures your peers enjoy to the hilt. But you believe you will be much better off than them. True, you may be stricken down by mental illness or suddenly suffer some sort of spiritual crisis. But the odds are in your favour. 

and there are ways to compensate your past self in some cases (since someone’s welfare can be affected by things that happen later).

It is true that a guy going to Med School is treated with more respect by other people. Expectations do affect reality and you may be extended credit which is just as good as cash. But this has nothing to do with actual past or future selves. 

To the extent that you compensate your past selves

which is the same extent to which every goldfish is the cat's whiskers 

(time machine or not), you necessarily also take away any reason to compensate them.

But not the reasons why that extent may not suffice. 

RPP allows you to change the past, in a way. But just like changing the past with a time machine, if you do it, you give your present and future self no reason to do it or have done it. If you do it, you have no reason to do it.

But there may be a reason you haven't done enough of it. The other problem is that once you admit liability in a particular case, you may find yourself on the hook for a large class of similar claims. This may involve your trying to suckle on your very elderly mum's titties just the way you planned to do when you were born. 

“This conclusion is unacceptable; it cannot be the case that someone has reason to do something if and only if they do not do it.”

I have a reason to take a piss precisely because I am not currently pissing. What's wrong with that?  

But here’s an objection to that argument. If I am thirsty and I drink a glass of water, I no longer have a reason to drink a glass of water. How is that different from the Bradley case? I had a reason to do something until I did it and now, having done it, I have no reason to do it. Isn’t that a case of someone having a reason to do something if and only if they haven’t done it?


In the water case, first, at a specific time that we will call t, I am thirsty; then, at time t+1, I drink water; until finally, at time t+2, I am no longer thirsty. There’s no time at which I have a reason to drink the water only if I don’t drink it.

Yes there is. At time t you had a reason to drink water because you weren't drinking water.  

I always have or had a reason to drink at time t. But in the RPP case the moment at which I act to change the past is itself one of the moments in which I have no reason to act if I do.

You don't act to change the past.  Still, the RPP nutter can point out that you didn't stab yourself so as to frustrate your own thirst. Surely, this is at least partial redemption? 

The kind of thing that I can do to affect the welfare of my past self is to now honor a preference of theirs that I no longer share. That doesn’t look paradoxical.

It is arbitrary or ipse dixit. Anyone is welcome to say they are honouring their past life as the Queen Victoria by shoving a radish up their bum and running naked around the Albert Memorial. Indeed, if you studied Chemical Engineering at Imperial College, I believe the thing was de rigueur. 

I think Bradley’s argument, again, is that changing the past – even without retrocausality – creates a paradox because it still makes the past different in a way, say drinking water, does not. Once I fulfill my past self’s’ desire, there is a sense in which it was always fulfilled (because it was always in the past). If I can compensate myself in the past, even if just in this quasi-logical way, I am eliminating what would give me a reason to change it.

Sadly this is not the case. Elimination a reason to do a thing does not eliminate a reason for thinking that reason hasn't been fully extinguished. I may admit I have a reason to do the washing up. I may actually do the washing up. But I still have a reason to do the washing up because apparently washing up involves using soap and a scrubber and then stacking dishes in the dishwasher. Fuck that.  

Here’s where Bradley’s titular “sacrifice” language helps. My former self sacrificed a relationship to make the yo-yo venue happen, that’s why I owe it to them to fulfill their desire to go inside and yo-yo. But if I fulfill that desire at any point, what my past self did is no longer a sacrifice,

because it is a radish up your bum?  

and so I have no reason to compensate them for a sacrifice they ended up not making.

You may do or you may not. The thing is purely arbitrary.  

Bradley says that “the agent has reason at t to bring it about that P if and only if the agent does not at t bring it about that P.”

Nothing wrong with that. You can have antagonomic reasons and only do things you have no reason to do except maybe you don't for that same reason. The fact that a lot of reasons are useless, silly or not action guiding in any way doesn't change the fact that they are reasons though, obviously, there's no reason you can't call them the goldfish that is the cat's whiskers.  

You have a reason, hypothetically, to fulfill your past selves preference in this case, but if you do, you no longer have a reason.

We don't know that. 

The point is that “Paying back one’s past self is not a good way to think about the reasons we have, if any, to care about our past values,” Bradley says. That seems right.

It is arbitrary. It may be right in some situations. Gassing on about what you owe your past self alerts your interlocutors to your solipsistic narcissism. This lowers their expectations of what they can get out of you.  

There’s a lot more there detail-wise. And philosophy is all in the details. But let’s hope we got this part straight. I will let you know when a full version of the paper is available. A few final comments.

(1) Recall the “Beneficiary Principle.” A current self that has justly benefitted from certain sorts of sacrifice made by some of its past selves has an obligation to give a certain amount of weight to the preferences of those past selves.

But those past selves have obligations to each other and obligations to you which they didn't meet and so 'netting out' is an infinite process because of impredicativity. Thus, this is a line of reasoning which can't be action guiding. 

What kind of obligation?

An unquantifiable or wholly arbitrary one. 

Do the preferences of past selves have moral or prudential weight? Any given past self is either you, or it isn’t you. If it isn’t you, you could only have a moral, and not a prudential, obligation. If it is you, then why shouldn’t you always do what you want now, and not what you wanted in the past – but no longer want. Derek Parfit, the most influential precursor to the kind of view Dorsey and Pettigrew take, intentionally blurred the line between morality and prudence – our obligations to our own future and past selves are very much like our obligations to others.

Not if those obligations are legal or otherwise enforceable against ourselves.   

But I wonder what happens to the Dorsey/Pettigrew position if the obligation to past selves are not prudential. If you’ve changed enough to be a new person, it seems to me, you have no prudential obligations to a former selves.

Why not? You may have become a worse person. It might be safer to stick with your original plan.  

If you have a moral obligation, why is stronger than your obligations to anyone?

For some ideographic reason. 

Either way, this is not a good model of prudence.

It is not prudent to have a model for prudence though, if you don't have a good Structural Causal Model, you have to content yourself with doing what the guy with a reputation for prudence is doing.  

(2) Finally, under all the abstractions, it seems to me, the view that you can owe it to your past self to do things that you no longer want to do because your past self put so much effort into it, hides some very bad advice about prudence. Saying “my future self has failed me—failed to do something that my future self had reason to do given the effort I’ve put in,” as Dorsey does, seems to embed the fallacy of sunk cost into our very conception of prudence. 

The exception to sunk cost is if it is 'discovery'. You need a model with Knightian Uncertainty.  

(3) Since I wrote (2), Bradley pointed out to me that Dorsey and Pettigrew would likely simply deny that “honoring sunk costs” is a fallacy, as some other recent philosophers also have (e.g., Doody and Kelly). This doesn’t seem promising to me. For example, Doody’s defense of following sunk costs as a rational way to act is “so that a plausible story can be told about you according to which you haven’t suffered.”

But you can always tell a plausible story about how doing stupid shit and ending up being sodomized in a South African prison gave you the dynamite idea for a new crypto-currency which is guaranteed to give early investors a ten thousand percent return.  

A joke from my graduate school days seems apropos here. That’s not a counterexample to my argument, that is my argument. But I have gone on too long.

The joke was that he went to graduate school. The point about pointless arguments is that making them in some contexts has greater imperative force than shitting into the palms of your hand and flinging your faeces around.  

Monday 30 October 2023

Blowing Opium Smoke in Subaltern Mirrors

Can we prevent addictive drugs being consumed? Yes. We can also prevent cannibalism, incest, and, worst of all, the smoking of cigarettes. This is because beating, torture, and killing are highly effective in eliminating a wide range of behaviours. On the other hand, we may refuse to do any of these things because it would involve trouble and expense and there is no 'external effect'- i.e. we receive no substantial cost and forego no benefit, outside the market, from the activity in question.

The fact is drugs are a gross substitute for things which may be yet more harmful. Anyway, people can always top themselves. Thus, the proper way to look at addictive substances which people don't really want to see disappear is legalization and taxation. The Chinese fought two futile 'Opium wars'. Once they legalized and taxed opium production they produced way more of the stuff than India. By 1905, their output was 35, 000 tons- i.e. ten times that of India. Between 1934 and 1937 India produced 6.7 percent of the world supply of raw opium; 65.4 percent was produced in China. This meant the Chinese could use the tax revenue from opium to pay for soldiers to put down rebellions and strengthen their Army. At a later point, there was a time when 40 percent of the Communist revenue in their war-effort came from Opium. The little poppy enabled Mao's Party to triumph. 

No doubt, it is in the interest of the Chinese Government to pretend the Opium wars represented unspeakable evil and, equally indubitably, that it is the duty of a Bengali buddhijivi to repeat such lies, but the fact is, the KMT and the Japanese and the Hong Kong government all depended on the opium tax. Addiction, it seems, can expand the tax base and permit better, if not governance, then the ability to kill the invader or the rival for power. A salt tax is all very well, but there's a limit to the amount of salt you can eat. It helps if a population rising above subsistence takes to ciggies and beer and other stuff you can tax so as to increase State capacity. 

On Amazon webpage for 'Opium's hidden histories'  I read-

When Amitav Ghosh began the research for his monumental cycle of novels the Ibis trilogy ten years ago, he

must have known at least as much as I do about the Opium trade. Yet, he 

was startled to learn how the lives of the nineteenth-century sailors and soldiers he wrote about were dictated not only by the currents of the Indian Ocean but also by the precious commodity carried in enormous quantities on those currents: opium.

Most Indians of my generation knew that the Tatas had sold opium to China. So had various other merchants based on the West coast of India who had access to smuggled 'Malwa' opium which was sent through Portuguese ports to China.  Many prominent 'bhadralok' families of Bengal as well as Kayasth and Khattri families in Bihar and elsewhere had held posts in the Opium Bureau or had profited from that trade in other ways. But this was also true of indigo or cotton during the Civil War and various other commodities at different times.  

Most surprising of all, however, was the discovery that his own identity and family history were swept up in the story.

Opium was used in the treatment of cholera and dysentery. I suppose few of us have ancestors who did not require opiates at one time or another. The bhadralok buddhijivis of Bengal, however, are likely to have an ancestor directly involved in administering the Opium monopoly or profiting by its trade.  

Smoke and Ashes is at once a travelogue, a memoir, and an essay in history, drawing on decades of archival research. In it, Ghosh traces the transformative effect the opium trade had on Britain, India, and China, as well as the world at large.

This is nonsense. The discovery of tobacco in the New World meant that the practice of opium smoking became more addictive and accessible to the poorer classes. It appears the Portuguese introduced the practice which the Chinese refined. India was already a high quality opium exporter but China had the bigger market.  What is noteworthy is that those nations which mastered oceanic, globe-girdling, transport rose at the expense of Empires which had turned their backs on the Sea. Japan, South Korea and now China are big ship-building countries. They have understood that imitating what the West did to rise up will enable them to rise yet higher.

As Britain rose in affluence thanks to maritime trade as well as improved techniques of production at home, it imported vast quantities or Rum and Opium and Cotton and Silk and Tea and Sugar. But its traders also found new markets for these products. China supplied Tea in plenty and took Opium in exchange. Sadly, the Central Government wasn't getting its cut. Also, productivity tends to fall more if you get addicted to opium rather than tea or coffee. Britain and America and France fought 'Opium wars' to open up China to trade. But, they wanted to buy stuff from the industrious Chinese- some also wanted to convert them to Christianity- and didn't want the place to turn into a den of lethargic addicts. Once Japan, and then China, had more sensible, nationalistic, leaders they rose rapidly by taking the same path as the Western Europeans and Americans. They built factories and ships to transport their produce around the world. There is a lesson here. What is transformative is not Opium. It isn't even Slavery or Genocide. Nor is it Capitalism or Greed. It is the 'gains from trade' and the discovery of new commodities or new techniques to produce commodities. 

The trade was engineered by the British Empire,

It pre-existed it. It is likely that the Portuguese were the first to smoke opium and sell it for that purpose in South China. England was initially purely an importer of opium from India. 

What was distinctive about John Company was that it did quality control and restricted supply such that opium from both directly controlled territory as well as Princely India was higher grade and commanded a premium over the inferior, Turkish origin, opium their American competitors were supplying. This is an example of how a centralized marketing board, or monopoly, can make everybody down the supply chain better off. The Brits didn't have a big impact on most parts of India but, thanks to Opium and Indigo, there was a brief period when Bengal was 'golden' for the bhadralok. Ghosh, perhaps atavistically, hopes to cash in on the thing once again.  

which exported Indian opium to sell to China to redress their great trade imbalance,

The Chinese had turned opium smoking into a fine art. The Brits- philistines that they are- turned the sacred rites of the tea ceremony into a petty bourgeois dissipation. But, Britain had plenty of silver with which it could buy what it liked. John Company needed the revenue from Opium to finance its administration of India- one which bhadralok buddhijivis like Roy & Tagore were greatly in favour of. Why? The alternative was Muslim rule. 

and its revenues were essential to the empire’s financial survival.

No. John Company would have found other markets, or other commodities to trade in, if the Chinese Emperor had been strong enough to enforce the long standing ban on opium smoking. Alternatively, they could have reversed the Permanent Settlement from which the bhadralok profited and taxed them a lot more in return for protecting them from Muslim daggers. 

In any case, the fact is, the Brits brought in some Chinese people to grow tea in Assam. Soon, the Indians couldn't get enough of it. Our current PM started off as a 'chai-wallah'. 

Tracing the profits further, Ghosh finds opium at the origins of some of the world’s biggest corporations,

which would simply have traded in something else if the Chinese government had been able to crack down on opium use. Incidentally, it was a Chinese merchant, not an American or a Britisher who became the richest man in the world as a result of trade with the West.  

of America’s most powerful families and prestigious institutions (from the Astors and Coolidges to the Ivy League), and of contemporary globalism itself.

This is silly. People who grew opium or who got others hooked on it did not get rich. Those who had the best ships and the smartest factors grew rich. But they would have got rich trading in some other commodity if the Chinese had decided to punish opium smoking. 

Moving deftly between horticultural histories,

 that of tobacco or the potato may be important. Opium- not so much. 

the mythologies of capitalism,

are less interesting than the truth. The fact is governing a territory is itself an enterprise which requires capital. If revenues fall, there will be less governance and the territory may be lost. Taxes are 'the price of Civilization'. They pay for public defence, law and order, and perhaps some nice palaces for the ruler and some good enough mansions for his principal supporters. 

and the social and cultural repercussions of colonialism,

Whatever they were they ended before Amitav was born. Hong Kong, however, remained British till about 25 years ago. That is why people in Hong Kong are starving while people in Calcutta are wealthy.  

in Smoke and Ashes Amitav Ghosh reveals the role that one small plant had in making our world, now teetering on the edge of catastrophe

That small plant was known to the Sumerians. It played no part in making 'our world'. Cod did. Western European fishermen had to sail farther and farther out into the Atlantic to catch the fish which would keep their families from starvation. This is the reason Portugal and the Atlantic coast of Western Europe rose up through globalized maritime commerce. In the process, they brought plants and animals and people from one place to another. Sadly, recent research reveals, some of those Western Europeans had penises. Penises cause RAPE! Why have they not been banned? Is it not because some of the wealthiest families in our Societies are descended from people who had penises? Isn't that the reason that ENVIRONMENT IS BEING RAPED! Globe is getting too warm due to excessive number of penises are constantly raping it. Only by seeing through Neo-Liberalism's 'smoke and mirrors' can we at last begin to delineate the genealogy of the smoke of the poppy as reflected in the mirror of the Subaltern. 

Today, entire multiverse is teetering on edge of catastrophe due to continued existence of penises. Such organs can only be permitted to exist if they are used solely for purposes of LGBTQYX butt sex.  Ghosh Babu may kindly mention this to Bannerjee Didi so that needful action can be taken. 


Erlangen & Reichenbach's fall

 3Quarks has a well written post by Gimbel & Suilebhan to mark the centenary of the Erlangen Conference organized by Reichenbach & Carnap which, the authors aver, was when Analytical Philosophy got off the ground.

My impression is that Russell and Moore's 'rebellion against Kant and Hegel' in 1898 (after Russell published his critique of Reimann) was the traditional founding date for analytical philosophy in this country. Sadly, it was foredoomed to be nonsense. Consider what Russel wrote of Reimann's 'vicious disjunction'- viz. the uncritical assumption that a metrical coordinate system can be set up independently of any axioms as to space-measurement. 

What's wrong with this assumption? Metrical coordinate systems are useful. People have been using them for thousands of years. Geometry needn't be Euclidean and axioms are merely assumptions of an ad hoc or heuristic sort. 

Riemann has failed to observe, what I have endeavoured to prove in the next chapter, that, unless space had a strictly constant measure of curvature,

It will be sent to bed without any supper. Time on the other hand will be allowed to stay up late and watch the late Victorian equivalent of Netflix. 

 Geometry would become impossible; also that the absence of constant measure of curvature involves absolute position, which is an absurdity.

No. It only involves an arbitrary choice of meridian- e.g. Greenwich. Analytical philosophy, or game theoretic approaches seeking to de-Kant ethics ends up as ipse dixit hand waving. On the other hand, maybe there is a Godelian 'absolute proof' in which case God exists. Boy, is Richard Dawkins fucked!

There is nothing bad in itself in arbitrary 'uncorrelated asymmetries' dictating eusocial 'bourgeois strategies'. But for the long Nineteenth Century, arbitrariness came to be seen as declasse or despotic.  Moreover, the charge of psychologism is hurtful to posh and very clever people. Women and the working classes had psychology. Dons, more especially those in line to inherit an Earldom, might have a philosophy- if they were that way inclined.  Karl Pearson, seeking, it seems to me, to reconcile Kant to Darwin by saving the laws of nature by asserting the evolutionary inevitability of a truly perceptive observer, directly influenced Einstein. But it was 'zero knowledge' verification- e.g. an astronomical observation- not some a priori desiderata which enabled Physics to go forward.

 Ultimately, as we would now recognize, the basis of statistical mechanics is not mechanical. It is statistical merely. Causality is Granger Causality or correlation. There is no 'genidentity' or 'ultimate fact of nature' or 'atomic proposition' or way of 'carving up the world according to its joints'. Analysis, standard or non-standard or completely bonkers, may be useful but it may also be a waste of time. 

Turning to the Erlanger Conference itself, our authors write-
The two-day schedule was divided; on the first day, attendees examined questions concerning the foundation of mathematics and logic,

we now know both can be given good enough 'univalent foundations' for any useful purpose. But, it is likely that there will be not 'more monks than Reason' but 'more systems of mathematics than there can be mathematicians'. 

and on the second, they considered physics and scientific reasoning.

Physics burgeoned when the money for its burgeoning became available thanks to the useful tech it produced. The authors draw attention to Reichenbach's skill at getting rich people to pay for the Erlangen conference.  

To everyone’s surprise, both days were quite contentious, with a range of views on the different questions. Believing that scientific reasoning ought to be the basis for life did not guarantee that careful thinkers would agree on the basis of scientific thinking.

The basis of life is economic. Reasoning or emoting or praying either has survival value or it doesn't. Stuff which helps us survive tends to get reinforced.  

What emerged from the conference wasn’t a unified platform, but rather the structure of an ongoing project.

That project was a waste of time. CS Pierce and LEJ Brouwer were important. Kurt Lewin, in his own field, was useful. But Carnap and Reichenbach added little value though, no doubt, they chronicled the death pangs of mechanistic or idealistic epistemologies of a categorical type. There can be no Scientistic 'Religion of Man' or 'Natural Law' (though the Maharishi did found a political party with that name).

Attendees agreed that they would need to be able to distinguish between questions that had answers that must be true and those that might be true.

the former are Hilbert calculi while the latter are Gentzen type sequent calculi.  

They would need to understand how to approach questions of necessary truth—those of mathematics, for example—and those that are contingent, like science.

Why? This is just ipse dixit hand waving. If some says 'because you have affirmed X, you must necessarily also affirm Y' you tell them to go fuck themselves.  The fact is, if X is a term in natural language it is likely to be intensional or epistemic to some degree and thus its extension is not well defined. Thus 'restricted comprehension' or a type theory is required to avoid cascading intensional fallacies or silly paradoxes which are merely semantic. 

That project became what we now know as analytic philosophy. It was launched as both an intellectual movement to understand the world in terms of observation and rationality,

which had been happening all over the world for tens of thousands of years. 

without recourse to spiritual metaphysics,

Nothing wrong with the occasional recourse to strong spirits or even poetic or mystical intoxication.  What matters is whether what you are doing is useful. Who cares if Ramanujam got his theorem from some nice Hindu Goddess? 

and as a political movement opposed to hypernationalism.

Imperialism, on the other hand, was just fine and dandy coz darkies are closer to monkeys than to proper human beings. 

If we believe in science, analytic philosophers asserted, we will make more rational choices in terms of policy and personal behavior and create a better society for all.

Sadly, such 'better societies' tend to be boring and stupid.  

We see echoes of what happened in Erlangen today in the fight over global warming and vaccines.

No we don't. Erlangen was about constructing a new logic which would construct a unified system of reality. This was because the old logic had been encouraging systems of reality to scratch each others' eyes out though, if they got drunk at a speakeasy, they ended up bumping uglies. 

Meanwhile the pragmatic- i.e. money grubbing- Americans were taking an interest in 'mathematical philosophy'- i.e. what new vistas relativity and QMT were opening up. Many of the Berlin and Vienna Circles did end up emigrating and, no doubt, they were diligent scholars and inspiring teachers. But their political and moral influence was nil. Pragmatic money making mattered. Logical empiricism did not, even if the thing wasn't an oxymoron. Any way, Frege- it turns out- was a raving anti-Semite and proto-Nazi. 'Logic's lost genius'- Gentzen- was a Hitlerite moron. 

Those of us who take science seriously, who make it the basis of a worldview, should think back 100 years to that gathering in Erlangen as a historic, foundational moment.

No. Either you can have science- which is pretty darn useful- or you can have hand waving guys who are a bit Sciencey or Mathsy but who are merely adding noise to signal. My point is, even a drunken Socioproctologist can sound Mathsy. This isn't because of the fourteen dimensional turbulent interaction of the post-Kristevan Chora.  It is because of the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbour's cat. 

If there is indeed a Religion of Man,

There are plenty such. Christ was a man as was Buddha and Confucius. There are great Religions, highly Humanitarian Religions, named after them. A lot of people feel they are complementary rather than competing.  In Hinduism, we distinguish 'matam' (doctrine) from 'vigyan' (Science). This is like Reichenbach's realization, around the time of Erlangen, that observational equivalence means only a semantic difference. But we don't know this will continue to hold. Still it is good to know that posh dudes wot write for 3Quarks are just as 'Hindutva' as this old fart. 

which we might now call a Religion of Humanity, Erlangen is where it was born.

So, Analytic Philosophy is actually a Religion. Cool. We can go on pilgrimage to Erlangen and hope that our sins against Science will be forgiven us. That way, we may be gain entrance to Cantor's Paradise or get reborn as an inaccessible Cardinal. Into that Heaven of boredom, may my enemies awake! 

For me, Erlangen was about smart dudes like Reichenbach not focussing on something useful- which Kurt Lewin actually did- but instead going in for 'second order' work- i.e. clearing the ground for first order work or agitating for more first order work to be done. But the former can crowd out the latter. There is endless clearing of the ground and proposals for more solid foundations. There is no actual construction.

 Worse yet is the notion that philosophers must exercise 'analytic control' over 'the products of the scientific machine'.  This is hubris, a Satanic 'non serviam', and this is where Reichenbach falls.

 Sherlock Holmes, the ultimate logical empiricist, famously did not know that the Earth revolved around the Sun. But he could identify the murderer by examining the cigar ash left in an ashtray. On the other hand, Holmes was fictional. But a Religion need not object to having fictional Saints. 


Kaushik Basu destroying Democracy

 Fighting takes strength and uses up resources. The worst off can't do very much fighting before they keel over and die of exhaustion and inanition.

Kaushik Basu doesn't understand this. He writes in 'Project Syndicate'

The world must fight inequality to safeguard ideals of democracy

The ideals of democracy were first realized in highly unequal countries which became more and more unequal while subjecting darker skinned people to intense exploitation. In recent years some rich countries have slaughtered plenty of Muslims in the name of democracy and human rights. This has worsened economic inequality.  

Neoliberals got it wrong: Pursuing greater equality without reducing incentives is entirely feasible

 What is even more feasible is that pursuing greater equality will lead to much more inequality.

Globalization of finance and supply chains has enabled wealthy and powerful countries to affect the well-being of people far beyond their borders.

For the better- sure. The weak and the poor can make stuff for the strong and the rich who will pay them more than they could otherwise gain. Moreover, rich countries often export very useful goods and services which enable the poor to rise up in terms of productivity and security.  

In these tumultuous times, it often feels like one shock quickly eclipses another. Just a few weeks ago, the war in Ukraine dominated headlines, but the recent outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas has since taken centre-stage.

Basu won't admit that Hamas attacked Israel in a barbaric manner. 

To be sure, during times of crisis, our instinct is to focus on extinguishing the fire that is closest to us. But it is equally crucial to understand and address the root causes so that we have fewer fires to fight.

No. Fight a fire close to you or run away from it. Don't hang around trying to understand why there is fire. 

As populist forces have polarized electorates and deepening social divides worldwide,

 The Dynasty Basu served was and is populist. It does not claim any special knowledge or skill in governance. It just says 'we are angels. Modi is the devil'. Currently, it is using caste and creed to divide India. It seems to be encouraging separatism. 

the global political climate has grown increasingly volatile. While determining the causes of this shift will undoubtedly take some time,

No. We are aware that China has risen, Iran's position has improved, and that America is becoming isolationist and losing its lead in various technological fields. That is why the global political climate has deteriorated for America. 

one could argue that the rapid advance of digital technologies, unchecked globalization and rising inequality have transformed our political and economic systems, fuelling sociopolitical unrest.

Trump checked globalization. Digital technologies became ubiquitous a dozen years years ago. Inequality fell under Trump. There has has been no 'transformation' of Western, or Indian, 'political and economic systems'. 

While the debate over whether economic inequality has increased over the past few decades is still on, the question is moot.

No it isn't. The question is irrelevant. Voters showed they didn't care about equality from the early Seventies onward.  

We know for certain that global economic inequality increased steadily between 1820 and 1910.

We know for certain that political inequality fell during that period. So what? It is obvious that as new tech becomes available, some will rise much faster than others. Moreover, assets will get concentrated in fewer hands where there are 'non-convexities'.  

Since then, it has fluctuated, and any estimate depends on the specific methods and metrics researchers use.

Wars and Reconstruction can reduce measured inequality though it may actually be rising.  

But the data clearly show that economic disparities have reached intolerable levels, with the world’s richest 1% gaining 38% of the increase in global wealth between 1995 and 2021, compared to just 2% for the bottom 50%.

But wealth isn't just about financial assets. It is defined as the stock of assets needed to generate current Income. For the working class, it doesn't matter if they have no assets for which they have to provide 'depreciation'. What matters is their real income or material standard of living. It makes sense to have no assets if you are living off means-tested benefits.  

Moreover, it is undeniable that the concentration of wealth continues to increase.

A good thing for poor people like me because I don't know what sort of tech is worth investing in. I want smart peeps with 'skin in the game' and 'residuary control rights' to control enterprises which generate my considerable 'consumer surplus'.  Most older people live off 'transfers'. It is in their interest to run down their asset base. Once you die, you can't spend.

Between 1995 and 2021, global wealth grew by 3.2% annually.

No. It grew much much more than that. China and even India increased their resource base by so much that they can afford to give transfers and thus end 'extreme' poverty. Sadly, as Partha Dasgupta points out, this may not be sustainable for environmental reasons. It is likely that ageing populations will end up net debtors not creditors of the Economic system. Thus, even if they have no assets, still State Pensions and Health Care will be providing them an income for longer than was envisaged by actuaries. 

If you have an entitlement which won't suddenly collapse- e.g. a 'triple locked' State Pension- then you have wealth in the Economist's sense even if you have no assets. This is not picked up by the Statistics.  

Over the same period, the richest 0.000001% increased their wealth by 9.3% per year.

So what? Extreme poverty has fallen farther and faster than ever before in human history. Sadly, there are some places where inequality has fallen. They are referred to as starving or Socialist shitholes. People run away from them. 

When future generations look back at today’s world, they will likely be shocked by

the ignorance and stupidity of Bengali economists 

the extreme levels of inequality and social injustice we tolerated, just as we are horrified by our ancestors’ acceptance of practices like slavery and feudalism.

Practices which caused productivity to stagnate and inequality to be much less than it became once serfdom ended and the Industrial Revolution took off.  

Beyond their inherent immorality,

It is inherently immoral that smart or beautiful or hard working people have more money than lazy, talentless, sods like me.  

the political implications of today’s economic disparities often go unnoticed.

Not by Bengalis. They try to emigrate to where there is more inequality. Basu isn't teaching in Cuba or Venezuela. 

In this age of digital connectivity and globalized commerce, excessive wealth concentrations undermine democracy in two main ways.

What undermines democracy in India is Dynasticism.  

First, the globalization of finance and supply chains has enabled wealthy and powerful countries to affect the well-being of people far beyond their borders.

This much more the case back when there was mercantilist Imperialism. Globalisation meant that poor countries could start to climb up the manufacturing value chain. That's what lifted 700 million Chinese people out of extreme poverty. 

But while citizens of Burkina Faso, for example, cannot vote in US presidential elections,

Whereas, when it was a French possession, its people voted in French elections- right? On the other hand, it is true that people in poor African countries are eagerly invited to vote in Cuban or North Korean elections. 

the decisions of US presidents affect their daily lives as much as those made by their own leaders.

But, what the Chinese do is more important still. But, if there is a coup, the people of that country are likely to blame France.  

Imagine a scenario where only residents of the District of Columbia were allowed to vote in a US presidential election—such a system would hardly be called a democracy.

Nor would a situation where every Chinese citizen were given a vote in American elections. 

This dynamic suggests that globalization erodes global democracy.

No. This suggests Basu is as stupid as shit. There is no 'global democracy' for the same reason there is no global monarchy. The world is not a unified political entity with a King or a President.  

Yet, there is not much that developing countries can do to challenge American hegemony,

the Taliban may beg to differ.  

given that the US is not going to let the whole world participate in its presidential elections.

which country is? Will the good folk of Burkina Faso permit all the citizens of India and China to vote in their elections? 

Incidentally, stuff done by a small group of people based in Afghanistan triggered the 'war on terror' which cost Americans thousands of lives and about two trillion dollars. Does this mean Americans should get to vote in Afghan elections?  

Second, given that extreme wealth often translates into political power,

As does being the widow or the son of a previous Prime Minister who was the widow or son of a previous Prime Minister. Basu was happy enough serving such a dynasty. He didn't raise a peep about democratic backsliding. Incidentally, it was Manmohan's economic policies which caused inequality to rise greatly in India. This was a good thing for all Indians. Nobody wants to go back to the days of the license-permit Raj.  

the concentration of wealth in a few hands is anathema to democracy.

No. It is anathema to Communist dictatorships.  

This is particularly evident in the age of Big Tech, when billionaires can gain an outsize influence on public discourse by taking over critical media platforms or manipulating search results.

Basu is battling Elon Musk. But Musk is smart. Basu is stupid and useless.  

One can hope that advances in generative AI will level the playing field in the technology sector and thus help curb inequality.

No one can't.  The reverse is more likely. No doubt, Basu is under the impression that peasants in Burkina Faso are using generative AI and quantum computers to develop new operating systems and large language models.

As an economist,

a shit one 

I recognize the potential damage that poorly designed interventions can cause.

Nobody will let Basu intervene in shit. Manmohan only tolerated the fellow as window dressing. The same was true of Raghuram Rajan.  

History is replete with examples of well-meaning but ill-conceived policies that sought to reduce inequality, only to backfire and inadvertently bolster the right-wing narrative that all government intervention is inherently problematic.

History is replete with examples of 'moral panics' about things which did not matter in the slightest. It wasn't the case that the presence of a a Jewish minority harmed Democracy or the Commonweal. Nor is it true that greater inequality isn't a good thing. Entrenched privilege- e.g. the right of the Dynasty to rule the country even if it is as stupid as shit- is a bad thing but Basu had no problem with it.  

Nevertheless, by combining moral intentions with thoughtful design, such policies can yield significant returns.

Only in the sense that they can yield cats who are actually dogs when they aren't busy as pigs with wings.  

In a recent paper that I co-authored with my students Fikri Pitsuwan and Pengfei Zhang, we explore the megaprofits generated by Big Pharma and Big Tech companies.

How can we ensure that only China ends up with a big pharma or tech industry? Listen to Basu.  

While imposing patent waivers might reduce the incentive to innovate, just as placing profit caps can cause production to fall, it is possible to design mechanisms that limit excess profits without sacrificing efficiency.

Excess profit is monopoly profit and, ceteris paribus, is associated with lower output and a bigger dead weight loss to the economy. Thus mechanism design should raise allocative efficiency while getting rid of 'super-normal' profit. However, dynamic efficiency may work in a different way. Still, assuming 'the best monopoly profit is a quiet life', it is possible that the monopolist might use his accumulated profit to prevent 'disruptive technology' from burgeoning. This can be done by increasing compliance costs and creating artificial barriers to entry.  

One such strategy is to use a commodity tax to cap the profit of a group of companies.

This may cause total tax revenue to fall. Supply may be way more elastic than you think. You can harm some of your own companies. But other countries may be more sensible.  

By heightening competition within the group, this intervention can neutralize the incentive to cut production.

But competition may come from outside the group. 'Dumping' is a real thing.  

We must also recognize that beyond a certain threshold, what matters most to people, including the wealthiest, is relative rather than absolute inequality.

No. What matters is the absolute standard of living. People want more cool shiny stuff. They don't care if other people have way more cool shiny stuff. Nobody wants to be the least emaciated beggar in a shithole country. They'd rather be the poorest slob in a rich country provided they can afford a lot of beer, pizza, and a 75 inch telly. 

Therefore, we can levy significant taxes on the rich without reducing their incentives, provided that they maintain their relative standing.

You can't levy significant taxes on people who are smarter than you or who have more elastic supply into your jurisdiction. The incidence of the tax will fall on the inelastic factor or else on the consumer. 

India had significant taxes on the rich. They maintained their relative standing. But, they also did very little. If a scion of a business family had the itch to build big new industries, he fucked off to Indonesia or Thailand and did it there. 

In other words, as long as billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos understand that such taxation will not alter their rankings among the world’s wealthiest individuals, they will remain motivated to increase their earnings, and the rest of us will reap the rewards of their efforts.

Musk and Bezos were motivated by the ambition to improve their world ranking. If America decides to turn into a Socialist shithole, they will move elsewhere so as to remain ahead of Chinese or Indian or French entrepreneurs. Alternatively, they might just spend more time having sex with super-models or focusing on their own pet projects. 

In short, neoliberals got it wrong: pursuing greater equality without reducing incentives is entirely feasible.

There is no incentive to 'pursue greater equality'. Poor people don't care if Musk is as rich as fuck. We get that he is hella smart and can deliver cool tech. Maybe that stuff is good for the planet or helps the Ukrainians. What is certain is that he isn't a lame ass libtard loser.  

By mitigating inequality and curbing the outsize influence of a few ultra-wealthy individuals, we can establish a fairer society.

Basu can't establish shit. Nor can his students. They may be able to earn a modest living saying 'boo to inequality!' but, meanwhile, some of their peers are getting rich working on the next Amazon or the next Tesla. Consumer surplus matters. Tech can greatly increase it. That is the welfare effect which swamps all others. There's a guy in India named Poonawalla whose wealth increased greatly during COVID because he was producing the vaccine serum. But the billions he made are nothing compared to the trillions in consumer surplus gained by people all around the globe. We don't grudge Poonawalla his wealth any more than we grudge J.K Rowling or Celine Dion her wealth. They generate consumer surplus like nobody's business.  

If we want to save democracy, we cannot afford to wait.

Which democracy has Basu saved? Did he go underground to battle Indira's Emergency? Did he protest when her son succeeded her and then that son's widow succeeded him? Has he expressed any reservations about the moon-calf Rahul remaining the INC's candidate for PM? 

Jimmy Carter said Chavez held 'the best elections in the world'. Chavez certainly tackled inequality and was unafraid to tax the rich. What was the outcome? Democracy got fucked in the ass. Smart Venezuelans ran away. Then more and more followed simply so as to avoid starvation. No doubt, Basu would say this was because of an exogenous shock- viz. the collapse of oil prices. But where there is profit, there is risk. You can't rely on the golden goose delivering more and more golden eggs more particularly if that goose can fly away.

Foucault in India

 Why did Foucault exercise such great fascination for Indian intellectuals of my generation? France was nothing like England or the India the British constructed and bequeathed to Nehru & Co. Moreover, Indian Leftists could absorb Marxian economics directly from Socialists in the London of the 1880s while, after the Bolshevik Revolution, Indians like Chatto and M.N Roy were part of the Kremlin inner circle. The French Left, meanwhile, had chased its own tail. Leon Blum's Popular Front proved useless whereas in India, Congress moved inexorably to the Left under the leadership of Nehru, Bose, and many others. 

The Americans always had a special relationship with France and the Paris of the Jazz Age. Their interest in existentialism was understandable more particularly in a Cold War context. But neither existentialism nor phenomenology has anything to offer India which had come to the conclusion long ago that Samsara was Nirvana, Sat and Chit coincided in the taste of Bliss. Moreover, Islam too endorsed this view. An'al Haq- Being is Truth though the latter may be a pathless land. 

Why then did Indian intellectuals turn to a French misinterpretation of a German brand of philosophy which Indians had acquired directly from Lutheran Missionaries or at places like 'Benares on the Rhine'? One straw in the wind was the cretin Ranajit Guha. He had attended a KGB sponsored 'youth conference' in Paris just after the war and spent some time behind the Iron curtain. On his return, the Party finding him useless for Union organization, he had tried to get a PhD in History. But, at that time, to do economic history in Calcutta you actually had to learn Persian and do research in the archives. Writing high falutin' nonsense wouldn't get you a credential. Still, some foreigner published that nonsense and Guha emigrated on that basis. But even on a Lefty 'white tile rather than red brick' English campus, his nonsense couldn't get him a PhD. So he started sounding more and more like a proto-Naxal Foucault. Since it had become obvious, by about 1958, that Socialism meant begging Uncle Sam for food, Indian academics had no desire to join the Party and surrender half their pay check to it or to become subject to a 'revolutionary morality' which objected to your running off with your best friend's wife. Thus, to be safe on campus, you needed to pretend to be, not a 'useful idiot', but an utterly useless idiot writing illiterate gibberish. Citation cartels might enable you to escape to Amrika/Yurop where you qualified for intellectual affirmative action by reason of being a drooling imbecile. 

Gayatri Spivak and Homo Baba showed that even illiterate English Literature Professors could pretend to be Marxist ideologues. Edward Said enabled them to pose as victims of racist epistemic self-abuse of a horrendous sort. This was the way forward. Write nonsense and go teach retards to write yet more illiterate garbage. Say boo to the BJP at regular intervals. You are already brain dead so just ensure your body is fed and medicated. 

The above may be considered unfair. Perhaps, Indians wanted to flesh out a notion of 'Insaniyat'- Humanitarian concern- so as to have something to replace their ancestral spiritual science.

 What does Insaniyat actually mean? Is it simply the notion that God and Religion have no place in social discourse? Or is it itself a theology of some type whose Holy Book is the Constitution? Is there a 'Religion of Man' involving inviolable 'Sacred' Rights attaching to citizens but not cows? Does it involve worship of the Dynasty? More practically, does it enable entry into the Paradise of an Ivy League campus? 

Since Foucault could supply no answers, it was to him imbecilic Indian intellectuals turned.

Consider the following from the Stanford Encyclopaedia's entry on that paranoid and perverted devourer of frog's legs. 

At the very heart of man is his finitude: the fact that, as described by the modern empirical sciences, he is limited by the various historical forces (organic, economic, linguistic) operating on him.

Biology is an 'empirical science'. It has a Structural Causal Model of the human body and this has permitted many medical advances. But this Model has no concept of finitude or infinitude.  Economics merely means management of production and distribution. It is ideographic. It is concerned not with what is finite but what is feasible.  Linguistic forces don't matter at all. It isn't true that Language thinks you or that Chinese people think differently from French people because their language is very different. One may say a language is infinite because there is no limit to what can be said or expressed. But this is the opposite to the 'finitude' Foucault claims to have found.  

This finitude is a philosophical problem because man as a historically limited empirical being must somehow also be the source of the representations whereby we know the empirical world, including ourselves as empirical beings.

We don't know the empirical world through 'representations'. I may have seen 'representations' of Paris and of Paradise. But I only have empirical experience of the former. 

Terence Tao has the same bodily limitations as other people of his age and level of physical fitness. But nothing limits his ability to make new discoveries in mathematics. It is not the case that the day will come where no future progress in that subject is possible.  

I (my consciousness) must, as Kant put it, be both an empirical object of representation and the transcendental source of representations.

But Kant's consciousness had and has no representation. That is why I can't check and find out what Kant really though about Fredrick the Great.  A cheeky kid may be able to make a cartoon which other kids agree 'represents' the teacher angling his head so as to be able to sniff his own farts. What 'transcendental source' is involved in this? Why beat the kid and not that source? 

How is this possible? Foucault’s view is that, in the end, it is not—and that the impossibility (historically realized) means the collapse of the modern episteme.

But the modern episteme wasn't worthless shite the French force High School students to pass an exam in. It is sciencey stuff.  

What Foucault calls the “analytic of finitude”

is gibberish. Mathematical analysis is useful. 'Non-standard' Analysis, featuring infinitesmals is useful for some purposes. Essentially, the notion here is that Leibniz's 'law of continuity' whereby what is true of the finite can also be usefully predicated of the infinite (provided no intensional fallacy arises), can give rise to a model theoretic 'transfer principle' whereby what is true in one model is true in another. 

Foucault sounded a bit mathsy but wasn't really. This was a major failing of the French pedant.  

sketches the historical case for this conclusion, examining the major efforts (together making up the heart of modern philosophy) to understand man as “empirico-transcendental.”

Gibberish! Man should be understood as peeps like wot me iz. 

The question—and the basic strategy for answering it—go back, of course, to Kant, who

was proven to be wholly wrong about synthetic a priori judgments and the 'transcendental deduction' etc. Category theory was really taking off- Lawvere even recast Hegelian dialectic in mathematical terms- in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Foucault and Chomsky and other such shitheads did not bother with it.  

put forward the following crucial idea: that the very factors that make us finite (our subjection to space, time, causality, etc.) are also conditions necessary for the possibility of empirical knowledge.

We can't be sure we really are subject to shit. Indeed, the universe may be a hologram. Whatever the conditions for empirical knowledge might be, they will only be revealed by STEM subject mavens. What's more, once they have a good enough Structural Causal Model, they will be able to invent 'Total Recall' type tech so that we can take holidays in which we have all the experiences of Scuba divers or Secret Agents or Astronauts.  

Our finitude is, therefore, simultaneously founded and founding (positive and fundamental, as Foucault puts it).

But Foucault wanted the thing put up his own fundament while the Pope, wearing a gimp suit, and President Pompeeedoodoo, in a blonde wig, looked on laughing maniacally.  

The project of modern (Kantian and post-Kantian) philosophy—the analytic of finitude—is to show how this is possible.

But that project is stooopid shit.  

Some modern philosophy tries to resolve the problem of man by, in effect, reducing the transcendental to the empirical.

Meanwhile, the Maharishi made billions selling Transcendental Meditation. But, empirically speaking, he didn't get to sleep with Mia Farrow. Sad.  

For example, naturalism attempts to explain knowledge in terms of natural science (physics, biology),

We don't want an explanation for knowledge. We just want the thing to be useful or, if not useful, then embodied in cool, shiny, tech with Bluetooth. I still don't know what Bluetooth is, but I won't buy shit which doesn't have it.  

while Marxism appeals to historical social sciences.

It appeals to cretins.  

(The difference is that the first grounds knowledge in the past—e.g., an evolutionary history—whereas the second grounds it in a revolutionary future that will transcend the limitations of ideology.)

In other words, the first is a Just So story and the other is a paranoid fantasy which features the Pope, in a gimp suit, shoving things up Foucault's fundament while the President of the Republic, got up as Marilyn Monroe, stands by laughing maniacally.  

Either approach simply ignores the terms of the problem: that man must be regarded as irreducibly both empirical and transcendental.

Why stop there? Why not regard man as irreducibly a cat who is actually a dog?  

It might seem that Husserl’s phenomenology has carried out the Kantian project of synthesizing man as object and as subject by radicalizing the Cartesian project; that is, by grounding our knowledge of empirical truths in the transcendental subject.

Husserl didn't achieve any fucking eidetic reduction . Turing did something approaching that using Brouwer's choice sequences.  Husserl started off as a mathsy guy. But when Hermann Weyl, whose wife was a disciple of Husserl, turned his attention to that shite he moved in the direction of Brouwer. 

The problem, however, is that, as Foucault sees it, the modern notion of man excludes Descartes’ idea of the cogito as a “sovereign transparency” of pure consciousness.

Nothing wrong with taking an ipse dixit approach such that the starting point is arbitrary, because it is your own. Think of it as a Gentzen type sequent calculus. All that matters is that you reason to some good purpose or, if not, get paid to do so. 

Foucault’s key claim in the dense chapter 9, “Man and his doubles,” is that thought is no longer pure representation and therefore cannot be separated from an “unthought” (i.e., the given empirical and historical truths about who we are).

This wasn't Thought. It was shit. One can say that STEM subject stuff or alethic research in the Social Sciences is 'pure representation'- i.e. presents a 'positive', not 'normative', structural causal model- but one can also make farting noises or pretend to be a cat. 

In other words, I can no longer go from “I think” to “I am” because the content of my reality (what I am) is always more than the content of any merely thinking self (I am, e.g., living, working, and speaking—and all these take me beyond the realm of mere thought).

But one can go from 'a living thing which exists is a thing which can do stuff' to 'I exist because I can think'. This removes the problem that what I am may be more than can be said because is epistemic or 'intensional'.  Existence however is extensional. The Library Police can verify that I still exist and can  arrest me for failing to return Longfellow's Hiawatha when I was a seven year old student at Highridge Primary School. 

Or, conversely, if we use “I” to denote me simply as a conscious being, then I “am not” much of what I (as a self in the world) am.

This is irrelevant. It is relatively easy to verify if a person actually exists though this may be very difficult for a mentally ill person to do. John Nash was very brilliant but even his 'beautiful mind' could not work out that he was hearing the voices of people who did not exist.  

As a result, to the extent that Husserl has grounded everything in the transcendental subject,

that extent was nil, zero, zilch, nada. I may claim to have founded everything in the farting subject, but this isn't really true.  

this is not the subject (cogito) of Descartes but the modern cogito, which includes the empirical unthought.

Which one? The 'unthought known' or the 'unthought unknown'? The former poses no big problem while the latter can be wholly disregarded.  

Foucault contends that phenomenology, like all modern thought, must accept the unthought as the ineliminable “other” of man.

Why? The 'unthought known' is not our alterity. It is our ipseity. We may term it 'background knowledge' or speak of 'embedded consciousness' but the thing is no big deal. It frequently happens that a person who is an expert in a particular field says 'I've always known that but didn't know I knew it till such and such person expressed it in such a succinct and memorable manner. Truly, this is a canon used in my subject which was never previously articulated.'  

Nor are the existential phenomenologists (Sartre and Merleau-Ponty) able to solve the problem.

Because there is no problem. 

Foucault recognizes that they avoid positing a transcendental ego and instead focus on the concrete reality of man-in-the world.

Occam had a razor which was useful enough.  

But this, Foucault claims, is just a more subtle way of reducing the transcendental to the empirical.

Only in the sense that it is a more vulgar way of reducing my farts to a proof of the Reimann hypothesis.  

Foucault argues that some philosophers (Hegel and Marx in one way, Nietzsche and Heidegger in another) have tried to resolve the problem of man’s dual status by treating him as a historical reality.

as opposed to a futuristic fantasy. But man only has a dual status in the sense that he has a triune status a vulgar method of reducing a particular fart I emitted in September of 1982 to a proof of the Reimann hypothesis.  

But this move encounters the difficulty that man has to be both a product of historical processes and the origin of history.

But man's history may stretch back to the ape and, ultimately, to some overactive amoeba.  

If we treat man as a product of history, we find ourselves reducing his reality to something external to him (this is what Foucault calls the “retreat” from man’s origin).

Which is why historicism is silly. But Popper patented that idea.  

But if we insist on a “return” to man as his own proper origin,

most men were born out of their own anus after being buggered by the Pope while the President of the French Republic looked on laughing maniacally. 

then we can no longer make sense of his place in the empirical world.

Is his place up Foucault's butt? No? Sad- for Foucault.  

This paradox may explain the endless modern obsession with origins,

That obsession was settled once and for ally by 'Origin of the Species'. Nobody greatly cares if our ancestors went in for wipe-swopping with Neanderthals rather than Denisovans.  

but there is never any way out of the contradiction between man as originator and man as originated.

But there is a way out of the chicken/egg dilemma. It turns out that the egg really did come first.  Some non-chicken laid an egg of what became the progenitor of all modern chickens. 

Nonetheless, Foucault thinks that the modern pursuit of the question of origins has provided us with a deeper sense of the ontological significance of time, particularly in the thought of Nietzsche and Heidegger, who reject Hegel’s and Marx’s view of the return to our origin as a redemptive fullness of being, and instead see it as a confrontation with the nothingness of our existence.

This may have been a pursuit for a few Continental pedagogues but it wasn't particularly modern. It was boring and stupid. I suppose that's the real reason non-STEM Indian intellectuals went in for it.  

Sunday 29 October 2023

Bernard Williams & genidentity

Genidentity is the notion that a thing which persists through time, or which is assumed to do so, in some sense generates itself from moment to moment.

 However, for any practical purpose, it is always possible to say that a thing's 'genidentity' is outsourced. or generated by some distributed process generated by cellular automata of some type. Like the Vienna Circle, the Berlin Circle could not find any 'ultimate fact of nature' corresponding to an 'atomic proposition'. This does not mean there might not be an 'Absolute Proof' at the 'end of Mathematical Time'. It just means that positivism of any sort is a pipe dream. Pragmatism is the first step to not bothering with Philosophy at all. 

Since Hume, the Anglophone sphere has always been sceptical of 'genidentity'. We understand that a work colleague or a guy we elect to Parliament may display a discontinuous saltation in identity- today our colleague sucks up to the Boss. Tomorrow he sides with those trying to get the Boss sacked. Today, our MP is against the war. Tomorrow he says any pacifist is a traitor to the country. 

Obviously, for the Oxbridge elite of the 'great and the good', such saltations were even more extreme. Today the guy who heads MI5 has an identity as a Red baiter. Tomorrow he is in Moscow, getting the highest award for which a KGB officer is eligible. 

Bernard Williams- who was married to a lady who was once on the left of the Labour party but who suddenly went so far to the Right as to quit Labour and join the SDP which merged with the Liberals and which ended up in a coalition with the Tories- gives the following thought experiment in a paper titled 'The Self and the Future'.  

SUPPOSE that there were some process to which two persons, A and By could be subjected as a result of which they might be said-question-beggingly-to have exchanged bodies.

Then we could never be sure that we have 'genidentity'- i.e. continuity through time. After all, this same process could be used to swop you out of your body while you sleep into one of a different gender and a different endocrine system such that when you are swopped back a few hours later your mind is different because your brain and limbic system has been bathed in different chemicals and been affected by different configurations of neurons. 

That is to say-less question-beggingly-there is a certain human body which is such that when previously we were confronted with it, we were confronted with person A, certain utterances coming from it were expressive of memories of the past experiences of A, certain movements of it partly constituted the actions of A and were taken as expressive of the character of A, and so forth; but now, after the process is completed, utterances coming from this body are expressive of what seem to be just those memories which previously we identified as memories of the past experiences of B, its movements partly constitute actions expressive of the character of B, and so forth; and conversely with the other body.

This does not fit with what we currently know about neurochemicals and neural nets and so forth.  

There are certain important philosophical limitations on how such imaginary cases are to be constructed, and how they are to be taken when constructed in various ways. I shall mention two principal limitations, not in order to pursue them further here, but precisely in order to get them out of the way. There are certain limitations, particularly with regard to character and mannerisms, to our ability to imagine such cases even in the most restricted sense of our being disposed to take the later performances of that body which was previously A's as expressive ofB's character; if the previous A and B were extremely unlike one another both physically and psychologically, and if, say, in addition, they were of different sex, there might be grave difficulties in reading B's dispositions in any possible performances of A's body. Let us forget this, and for the present purpose just take A and B as being sufficiently alike (however alike that has to be) for the difficulty not to arise; after the experiment, persons familiar with A and B are just overwhelmingly struck by the B-ish character of the doings associated with what was previously A's body, and conversely. Thus the feat of imagining an exchange of bodies is supposed possible in the most restricted sense.

In other words, we are merely speaking of some people saying this guy is like that other guy. But folks say the darndest things. I frequently accuse the neighbour's cat of having swopped bodies with President Biden. Sadly, it shows no inclination to swop back and so the Free World remains under the leadership of a pussy. 

But now there is a further limitation which has to be overcome if the feat is to be not merely possible in the most restricted sense but also is to have an outcome which, on serious reflection, we are prepared to describe as A and B having changed bodies-that is, an outcome where, confronted with what was previously A's body, we are prepared seriously to say that we are now confronted with B.

I am prepared to seriously say POTUS swopped bodies with a pussy. Indeed, I might even be prepared to say it in a preternaturally grave manner. But that doesn't make my claim any more true.  

It would seem a necessary condition of so doing that the utterances coming from that body be taken as genuinely expressive of memories of B's past.

Don't you hate it when utterances are fake expressive?  I mean a perfunctory 'miaow, miaow' doesn't really convey with sufficient seriousness and gravitas the proposition that the neighbour's cat hasn't swopped bodies with POTUS. 

But memory is a causal notion;

No. It is a cognitive notion. We know about 'confabulation' and will become increasingly subject to such false memories as we approach senile dementia.  

and as we actually use it, it seems a necessary condition on x's present knowledge of x's earlier experiences constituting memory of those experiences that the causal chain linking the experiences and the knowledge should not run outside x's body.

So, here again we find that Philosophy's 'thought experiments' are based on ignorance of developments in the natural sciences. 

Hence if utterances coming from a given body are to be taken as expressive of memories of the experiences of B, there should be some suitable causal link between the appropriate state of that body and the original happening of those experiences to B. One radical way of securing that condition in the imagined exchange case is to suppose, with Shoemaker that the brains of A and of B are transposed.

After the bodies were swopped to prevent organ rejection- right? I think this is what happened to Biden and my neighbour's cat. This doesn't change the fact that the POTUS is a pussy. 

We may not need so radical a condition. Thus suppose it were possible to extract information from a man's brain and store it in a device while his brain was repaired,

one way of extracting information is by talking to people. Brains get repaired during sleep. Sadly, if you had an alcoholic blackout you may need to have a lot of information replaced by in your brain by the desk serjeant or the public prosecutor or your ex on whose doorstep you threw up.  

or even renewed, the information then being replaced: it would seem exaggerated to insist that the resultant man could not possibly have the memories he had before the operation.

The truth, for many of us, is that we are highly suggestible. We can be made to remember things which didn't happen.  

With regard to our knowledge of our own past, we draw distinctions between merely recalling, being reminded, and learning again, and those distinctions correspond (roughly) to distinctions between no new input, partial new input, and total new input with regard to the information in question; and it seems clear that the information-parking case just imagined would not count as new input in the sense necessary and sufficient for "learning again."

Actually, memories firm up or get edited without our being conscious that there is new input. It may be that what we call memory is the repurposing of a database of smells. At any rate, what is certain is that we call memory isn't some Aristotelian database of experience which can be accessed in the way stuff on a hard-drive can be accessed. 

We imagine the following. The process considered above exists; two persons can enter some machine, let us say, and emerge changed in the appropriate ways. If A and B are the persons who enter, let us call the persons who emerge the A-body-person and the B-body-person: the A-body-person is that person (whoever it is) with whom I am confronted when, after the experiment, I am confronted with that body which previously was A's body-that is to say, that person who would naturally be taken for A by someone who just saw this person, was familiar with A's appearance before the experiment, and did not know about the happening of the experiment. A non-question-begging description of the experiment will leave it open which (if either) of the persons A and B the A-body-person is; the description of the experiment as "persons changing bodies" of course implies that the A-body-person is actually B. We take two persons A and B who are going to have the process carried out on them. (We can suppose, rather hazily, that they are willing for this to happen; to investigate at all closely at this stage why they might be willing or unwilling, what they would fear, and so forth, would anticipate some later issues.) We further announce that one of the two resultant persons, the A-body-person and the B-body-person, is going after the experiment to be given $ 100,000, while the other is going to be tortured. We then ask each A and B to choose which treatment should be dealt out to which of the persons who will emerge from the experiment, the choice to be made (if it can be) on selfish grounds. Suppose that A chooses that the B-body-person should get the pleasant treatment and the A-body-person the unpleasant treatment; and B chooses conversely (this might indicate that they thought that "changing bodies" was indeed a good description of the outcome). The experimenter cannot act in accordance with both these sets of preferences, those expressed by A and those expressed by B. Hence there is one clear sense in which A and B cannot both get what they want: namely, that if the experimenter, before the experiment, announces to A and B that he intends to carry out the alternative (for example), of treating the B-body-  person unpleasantly and the A-body-person pleasantly-then A can say rightly, "That's not the outcome I chose to happen," and B can say rightly, "That's just the outcome I chose to happen.'' So, evidently, A and B before the experiment can each come to know either that the outcome he chose will be that which will happen, or that the one he chose will not happen, and in that sense they can get or fail to get what they wanted. But is it also true that when the experimenter proceeds after the experiment to act in accordance with one of the preferences and not the other, then one of A and B will have got what he wanted, and the other not? There seems very good ground for saying so.

Fuck off! Suppose some nutter kidnaps you and ties you up and says 'I'm going to toss a coin. If it is heads, I will release you and make you rich. If it is tails I will torture and kill you. There is one proviso, to get released you have to say you freely chose to undergo this process.'

Would anybody in their right mind say that you had any choice or expressed any preferences? No! It is true that after you are released and get the money you may have a motive to deny you were kidnapped. You may say 'I voluntarily took part in a psychology experiment. It is not the case that I had no capacity to consent to what was in any case a repugnant, unconscionable and wholly illegal contract.  Thus I am entitled to the money though I would have no objection if you just beat that nutter to death.' A more sophisticated version of this story might reference 'Kavka's toxin' or Newcombe problems. 

The plain fact is, in Williams story, all people want to get money and don't want to be tortured. None has capacity to choose the body swap and though some desperate or irrational people may do so, still this provides no evidence about what they or anybody else believes about something which we currently believe to be impossible- viz. body swapping. 

For suppose the experimenter, having elicited A's and B's preference, says nothing to A and B about what he will do; conducts the experiment; and then, for example, gives the unpleasant treatment to the B-bodyperson and the pleasant treatment to the A-body-person. Then the B-body-person will not only complain of the unpleasant treatment as such, but will complain (since he has A's memories) that that was not the outcome he chose, since he chose that the B-bodyperson should be well treated; and since A made his choice in selfish spirit, he may add that he precisely chose in that way because he did not want the unpleasant things to happen to him. The A-body-person meanwhile will express satisfaction both at the receipt of the money and also at the fact that the experimenter has chosen to act in the way that he, B, so wisely chose. These facts make a strong case for

nothing at all. I distinctly remember your telling me to eat all the chocolate eclairs you bought to hand around at the office tomorrow. You distinctly remember telling me not to open the fridge because none of the food in there was bought by you. Why don't you get a fucking job you lazy sack of shit? I want a divorce.  

saying that the experimenter has brought it about that B did in the outcome get what he wanted and A did not. It is therefore a strong case for saying that the B-body-person really is A, and the A-body-person really is B; and therefore for saying that the process of the experiment really is that of changing bodies.

Why stop there? Why not say the Tichborne claimant really was a blue-blooded heir to a great fortune because he said he was? Why not believe that the Princess Anastasia hadn't been shot by the Bolsheviks because some crazy lady claimed to be that person? How about admitting that I really am Bill Gates and should have access to his Bank Accounts whereas Bill Gates is me and thus he, not me, is responsible for my alimony payments?  

...if I am appallingly subject to acrophobia, and am told that I shall find myself on top of a steep mountain in the near future, I shall to that extent be afraid; but if I am told that I shall be psychologically changed in the meantime in such a way as to rid me of my acrophobia (and as with the other prediction, I believe it), then I have no reason to be afraid of the predicted happening, or at least not the same reason. 

This is like a Newcombe problem or a Kavka Toxin. It may be that therapists say things of that sort to people with phobias. Imagine you are not scared of heights. Now think of yourself standing on the edge of a cliff. Imagine the delight you take in the sublimity of what you are able to gaze upon, secure and unafraid. 

Getting rid of phobias is one thing. Would such an approach also prevent cancer or your head being cut off by terrorists? 

Physical pain, however, the example which for simplicity (and not for any obsessional reason) I have taken, is absolutely minimally dependent on character or belief. No amount of change in my character or my beliefs would seem to affect substantially the nastiness of tortures applied to me; correspondingly, no degree of predicted change in my character and beliefs can unseat the fear of torture which, together with those changes, is predicted for me.

I don't understand this. Surely masochists gain pleasure from certain types of pain? It may also be that the great martyrs of the Church considered the tortures they were subjected to as a salutary purging of 'Original Sin' and gloried in their imminent entry into eternal Paradise.  

I am not at all suggesting that the only basis, or indeed the only rational basis, for fear in the face of these various predictions is how things will be relative to my psychological state in the eventual outcome.

Is it rational to fear something which doesn't yet exist? Why not take pleasure in the absence of that pain or misfortune? One may say one is not thrilled by a particular prospect- nobody wants to get old and physically and mentally feeble. Equally, is there any point to amplifying any pain you are suffering by fearing and loathing it?  

I am merely pointing out that this is one component; it is not the only one. For certainly one will fear and otherwise reject the changes themselves, or in very many cases one would. Thus one of the old paradoxes of hedonistic utilitarianism; if one had assurances that undergoing certain operations and being attached to a machine would provide one for the rest of one's existence with an unending sequence of delicious and varied experiences, one might very well reject the option, and react with fear if someone proposed to apply it compulsorily;

Perhaps because we know we can always find ways to turn every experience into a source of delight. After all, fear and pain and disgust are 'Darwinian algorithms of the mind' which have survival value. But once we note the information they seek to convey we may have enough mental plasticity to suppress them and to proceed rationally. True, this may take specialist training. My instinct is to run away from a fire. Perhaps, if I had joined the fire brigade my training would have enabled me to suppress this instinct and to heroically enter a burning building to rescue the occupants.  

In a sense, specialist training is about changing your identity and even your memories. In my memory, I have always been a weak willed coward. If I join the Army, it may be that my training causes me to identify as a member of a heroic regiment. I act as if it was always habitual for me to show valour and firmness of will. 

Williams concludes thus

 the principle that one's fears can extend to future pain whatever psychological changes precede it seems positively straightforward. Perhaps, indeed, it is not; but we need to be shown what is wrong with it.

Either pain exists for an evolutionary reason- in which case it is up to Williams to justify his assertion in terms of evolutionary game theory- or else nobody can show anybody what is wrong with their argument because maybe God put it into their head for some purpose it would be impious to inquire into.  

Until we are shown what is wrong with it, we should perhaps decide that if we were the person A then, if we were to decide selfishly, we should pass the pain to the B-body-person.

This says something about selfishness but it says nothing about the nature of the Self or its relationship with the Future. 

It would be risky: that there is room for the notion of a risk here is itself a major feature of the problem. 

Williams risked becoming a worthless tosser by going in for Philosophy rather than something useful. The major feature of the problems his Profession set itself were that they were stupid and childish. By contrast, when Kurt Lewin- whose work was useful and 'progressive'- came up with the notion of 'genidentity', he was reflecting on a fundamental problem facing young people- viz. what sorts of things they need to be doing now so as to become the sorts of people who didn't waste their lives. 

This is not to say that I find the notion intelligible. Sadly, Youth is a language that is unintelligible because its function is to encrypt Eden. The empiricist Anglo Saxon might have missed a trick or two known to the young German Romantic.