Thursday 30 November 2023

Why are Krishna's lovers so effing White?

Why do Lord Krishna's Truest Lovers, now look so goddam Sleek & most insufferably White?
 Must Ranchod's rigours discipline only disciples already most able & eager to fight?
Darker than my skin, Paro Ma!, my Manyu, or Math repelling mind
My sin, Devdas's, yet the` felix culpa of Dhritarashtra blind.

Purvabhashin! Prince! This, like every Wedge Issue conversation you initiate
Conserves so dissipated a Noetherian, that e'en Madhu, must Maryada imitate. 

Daniel Chandler's Rawlsian stupidity

In a 'Theory of Justice', John Rawls wrote- 

…We may reject the contention that the ordering of institutions is always defective because the distribution of natural talents and the contingencies of social circumstance are unjust, and this injustice must inevitably carry over to human arrangements.

Why should we reject such a contention? Is there any 'ordering of institutions' which everybody would agree to be just given that the population is heterogeneous? Suppose this were the case. Then there is some set of institutions which assign incentive compatible remedies to every rights' holder. But, we know from the Gibbard Satterthwaite theorem that this is impossible. Some injustice will occur because some agents will unjustly conceal their true preferences or 'type'. Perhaps, a divine Judge, able to look into men's hearts, could detect and punish such injustice. But no such Judge is available.  

Occasionally this ref lection is offered as an excuse for ignoring injustice, as if the refusal to acquiesce in injustice is on a par with being unable to accept death.

Being able to accept death does not involve renouncing the benefits of medical science. Nor does the fact that no ideal institutions exist, prevent us from seeking to curb crime and injustice.
The natural distribution is neither just nor unjust;
There is no 'natural distribution'. Every distribution is arbitrary. There are 'uncorrelated asymmetries' which promote eusocial 'bourgeois strategies'. 

nor is it unjust that persons are born into society at some particular position.

It may be. It may not. We may think it unjust that a baby is born to a captive girl who is being raped by her father. We would wish to punish the father, liberate the girl and her child. It may be advisable to make special arrangements for the care of the child if there is evidence that the mother is traumatized and may not be able to provide it with proper care. 

These are simply natural facts.

Facts are arbitrary. They lack 'naturality' in the Category theoretical sense. Moreover, a finer grained analysis may overturn their import. Rawls is committing an intensional fallacy. He doesn't understand that facts are epistemic. They change as the knowledge base changes. Moreover, 'Nature' does not display optimality or 'naturality'. It, so to speak, satisfices and thus is arbitrary and has no 'naturality square'. 

What is just and unjust is the way that institutions deal with these facts.

No. What is just and unjust is how people deal with each other. Institutions may be able to alter such outcomes for the better.

Aristocratic and caste societies are unjust because they make these contingencies the ascriptive basis for belonging to more or less enclosed and privileged social classes.

Not necessarily. It is perfectly possible to have a 'caste society' where every endogamous or occupational group considers itself the highest or the work that it does as the best 'imitatio dei'. Why should we object to some people taking pride in their ancestry? The Duke is welcome to think of his ancestors as grand people. The feckless drunk might celebrate the long line of wastrels from whom he is, albeit, anonymously descended. Then he discovers he is actually the heir to the Throne.

Rawls was ignorant of the big developments in mathematical economics occurring at the time he published his magnum opus. Because, following Arrow, Sen, Harsanyi &c, he ignored 'Knightian uncertainty' and problems to do with concurrency, computability and complexity, he was babbling ipse dixit dogmatic nonsense. 

Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.

Institutions cost money. Their 'first virtue' is that they generate much more Social Benefit than the cost of their upkeep. They avert existential threats to the polity. If they fail to do so, they are mischievous no matter how just they might be. A system of thought which confines itself to tautologies would exhibit 'truth'. But it would be useless. There is a pragmatic test which they must pass otherwise no cognitive resources should be devoted to them.

A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue;

No. It should be rejected if it is useless or mischievous. Arrow-Debreu is elegant and economical. It ignores Knightian Uncertainty. Thus the 'Arrow-Debreu security' can become a weapon of mass financial destruction. This is not because it isn't 'true'. It is because it assumes Knightian Uncertainty 'cancels out'- i.e. the world will be pretty much as we expect it to be though no doubt there may be some random fluctuations which, however, 'net out'.

likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust.

No. They can be replaced with things yet more efficient and well-arranged. They must not be abolished just because they aren't perfect or some cretin, like Rawls, objects to them.

Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.

Nonsense! Nobody is inviolable. The welfare of Society either overrides everything else or the Society can't defend itself against existential threats and ceases to exist in a sovereign and autonomous form. It is a different matter that people may virtue signal or pretend to be fanatically attached to various values. But these are imperative, not alethic, statements.


For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others.

Yet the Justice system incarcerates or even executes plenty of people. Moreover, a private citizen would be acquitted of murder if he could show he acted reasonably in self-defence. Fear of being killed may diminish the liberty of housebreakers and muggers.


It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many.

It may do. It may not. That is a matter for the Legislature though, no doubt, this may be subject to Judicial Review. However, under exigent circumstances, the Executive may impose sacrifices on a few to save the many. Again this may be a justiciable matter.
Therefore in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled;

Not if people in that Society knew about Hohfeldian analysis. The fact is liberties are a set of Hohfeldian immunities. They only exist if there are incentive compatible remedies for their violation. Furthermore, Justiciability is constrained by a cost factor. Justice is a service industry and, if it is a monopoly, there will be price and service provision discrimination. Rawls had spent a lot of time with economists but he didn't know Econ 101. He assumed it could be a 'plug in' for people in his 'original position'. Yet, such people would know from 'incomplete contract theory' that an once-and-for all Social Contract was bound to be utterly shit. Anyway, no Contract is binding till consideration passes. Where did Rawls think the money to bribe people to accept his stupid scheme would come from? How would he prevent 'exit', i.e. people running away once the arrangement was no longer beneficial to them?
the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests.

No rights are secured by justice. The judge may order Bernie Madoff to repay his investors. The judge may even order Jack the Ripper to restore life to his victims. But the Judge would be wasting his breath.

The concept of justice

arises out of justiciability and our concept of how rival claims might be adjudicated
I take to be defined,

Justice is undefined. It is a 'Tarskian primitive' just like the word 'definition'. Otherwise you have an infinite regress.
then, by the role of its principles in assigning rights and duties

Rawls just said that its principles assign rights and duties. That is its role. No further 'interpretation' is possible.

Yet, rights and duties may arise out of Love or Hate or the mere playing of an entertaining game. We don't say that two businessmen hammering out the terms of a contract are pursuing justice. We say they are pursuing profit. Mummy does not give us kisses and cake because Justice requires her to do so. She loves us and we love her. We would be indignant if someone suggested we wanted her to come live with us because we have a right over her or a duty towards her. We love her and think we can make her happy. But it is because she brings joy with her that we want her to move in with us. True, if she makes us some nice snacks from time to time, we won't say no. But that is not our motivation.
and in defining the appropriate division of social advantages.

Social advantages are decided by Sociological processes. I can't go to Court and get a writ saying I should be as popular as the witty and pretty girls who are in my Bharatnayam class. I suppose Rawls thought that people who want a boob job go to the Judge rather than the plastic surgeon. Also, instead of a plumber, you hire an attorney to sue the toilet into unblocking itself.
A conception of justice is an interpretation of this role

Justice does not decide who is popular or who is rich or who has a big dick. Conceiving of Justice in this manner interprets its actual role- which is adjudicating, for a price, conflicting claims- in a bizarre and crazy manner. It would be like saying that when Kenneth Branagh plays the role of Hercule Poirot in 'Death on the Nile', his interpretation was deficient to that of Albert Finney because he failed to find my TV remote- which should have been child's play for a great detective. This proves Branagh is a rubbish actor.
The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance.

Justice, like Education, is a service industry. Its principles are actually 'canons' of a type which experience has shown are effective in producing the desired effect and thus retaining market share. If you set up a Court on the basis of crazy principles, there will be mass exit from the jurisdiction or else the Courts will be disintermediated. Some other mechanism for conflict resolution or the detection and punishment of crime will gain salience.

It makes sense for Justice to be 'protocol bound' and 'buck stopped' because then outcomes are predictable. Stare decisis means a decision in one case clarifies the law for a very large number of cases. Rawls seems to have been entirely ignorant of how Justice is actually done.
Social and economic inequalities, for example inequalities of wealth and authority, are just only if they result in compensating benefits for everyone, and in particular for the least advantaged members of society.

The least advantaged members of society may be child abusers who are incarcerated and at daily risk of a beating from fellow inmates. Justice does not require the rich and powerful to compensate them in any way.
It may be expedient but it is not just that some should have less in order that others may prosper.

Because justice has nothing to do with Income distribution. One might as well complain about the fact that economic inequality is not a nice cat which will come and sit on your lap and make appreciative purring noises when you stroke it.

The fact is, provided the Law does not actively prevent people giving away their money, Justice is unconnected to what we think is required of a nice Society.

A conception of justice cannot be deduced from self evident premises or conditions on principles;

Why not? We can imagine a bunch of shipwrecked kids growing up on a remote island. At some point, they realize they need laws and a Judicial authority. It may be that they adapt notions of 'fairness' and 'rule following' from the games they play in order to arrive at a conception of justice. No doubt, there will be arbitrary aspects to this but then, as Lord Coke told James I, the law is 'artificial' not 'natural' reason.

instead, its justification is a matter of the mutual support of many considerations, of everything fitted together into one coherent view.

Nonsense! Justice is justified in the same way that Education is justified. It yields more good than harm. There is no need for 'everything'- e.g. your theological or aesthetic views- to fit together and be coherent.
An individual who finds that he enjoys seeing others in positions of lesser liberty understands that he has no claim whatever to this enjoyment.

I gain pleasure when I learn a vile child abuser is getting his head kicked in in prison. I suppose I don't have much claim to this pleasure. But, I'd gladly buy the detective who solved the case a nice pint of beer. He is entitled to take pride in his achievement.
An intuitionist conception of justice is, one might say, but half a conception

How do we know there isn't a superior intuitionist conception to any we find deficient? Still, it is true one might say stupid shit- if one is a stupid shithead teaching worthless shite.

Harsanyi had used a 'veil of ignorance' type argument to argue for Utilitarianism. Rawls imagines a more stringent, or silly, veil
First of all, no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status; nor does he know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence and strength, and the like.

If he knows his gender and doesn't ever want to have a penis up him and a baby trying to push its way out of his cooch, he may stipulate for a Gandhian world where there is no sex.
Nor, again, does anyone know his conception of the good, the particulars of his rational plan of life, or even the special features of psychology such as his aversion to risk or liability to optimism or pessimism.

Then he has no capacity to consent to anything. There can't be a Social Contract.
More than this, I assume that the parties do not know the particular circumstances of their own society. That is, they do not know its particular economic or political situation, or the level of civilization and culture it has been able to achieve. The persons in the original position have no information as to which generation they belong.

Rawls is describing people with some particular type of brain damage. But whatever Social Contract they agree to won't be binding on them once they recover from that cognitive impairment.
The circumstances of justice may be described as the normal conditions under which human cooperation is both possible and necessary.

Human cooperation is possible and necessary for making human babies- without which human society would quickly disappear. But the normal conditions for this are similar to those with obtain amongst many types of animals. This has to do with ethology, not Justice.
To each according to his threat advantage does not count as a principle of justice.

Yet, it is a principle of Justice that a judgment which can be safely ignored because there is no 'threat-advantage' associated with its issuance, is no judgment at all. Thus, I may judge that you should shit into your hat and then put it on your head. You'd look a fool if you either obeyed this judgment of mine or else appealed it in some higher court.

The point about the Justice industry is that solves a 'collective action problem' such that Society as a whole can gain a higher threat-point against the terrorist or the gangster.
Inequalities are permissible when they maximize, or at least all contribute to, the long term expectations of the least fortunate group in society.

Incarcerated paedophiles? People with severe mental and physical impairment because they come from a cult which considers only incest permissible? That's who we should worry about? Fuck off!

Not permitting inequalities may lead to exit of the smart and capable. But it may also lead to enslavement by a ruthless bunch of gangsters who don't give a shit about what is or isn't permissible.

Anyway, long term, the least fortunate members of a Society are those who listen to stupid shite and decide the country should do stupid shit.
Yet it seems extraordinary that the justice of increasing the expectations of the better placed by a billion dollars, say,

which is what happened to JK Rowling when a smart agent read her first book. He must have said to her 'you are a genius! This won't just be a best seller, it will become a Hollywood franchise! You will be a billionaire!'
should turn on whether the prospects of the least favored increase or decrease by a penny.

This was irrelevant. Even the least favoured can watch a Harry Potter movie on TV. They gain 'consumer surplus'. It is not extraordinary that Rawls should write nonsense. What is extrordinary is that people who studied Econ in Collidge don't understand this. A case in point is Daniel Chandler who has written a book titled- 'Free and Equal: What Would a Fair Society Look like' /

A reviewer in the FT writes-
Imagine being asked to cut a cake into five slices without knowing which slice you’ll end up with. Rational self-interest dictates you’d cut slices of roughly equal size.

No. If you want a small slice, you'll ensure there is a small slice. If you know three of the people who will eat the cake are young and have hearty appetites, while two of them are elderly and will merely take a piece for politeness sake then you will ensure there are two dainty slices and three big pieces. Rationality involves taking all relevant information into account. Self-interest just means promoting the interest of whatever or whoever you are interested in.
Similarly, the participants in Rawls’s thought experiment, behind the veil of ignorance, choose two fundamental principles of justice: a “basic liberties principle”, which says that everyone has an equal claim to a suite of fundamental rights and liberties,

Why the fuck would they do that? It is obvious that some people should have more rights and liberties whereas some others- e.g. crazy criminals- should have none at all. More generally, we want decisions regarding resource allocation to be made by patriots with special skills in doing so. We don't want everybody to have the right and the liberty to set up a Court of Justice or establish an Army. Similarly, we would prefer that medical R&D be done by ethical people who know a lot about Science rather than the local drug dealer.

It is a different matter that we might want 'careers open to talent' but, even in that case, we don't want guys known to harbour seditious or treasonous intent to get into positions of power.
obviously a precondition of liberal democracy;

It obviously is a recipe for disaster. Smart people will run away or 'disintermediate' the regime such that its strictures are a dead letter.
and a “difference principle”, according to which social and economic inequalities can only be justified to the extent that they benefit the worst off.

Sadly, anything at all can be justified by the reflection that the alternative is annihilation. What most benefits the worst off may be great bigotry against whichever traits are causative of extreme poverty. Incest and cannibalism may be actively persecuted but ending both is good for everybody.
Chandler would agree that it has far-reaching implications for the question of how economic institutions should be organised.

That is a question of 'mechanism design' or 'incomplete contract theory'. The answer changes as circumstances change. It is important that 'control rights' can get redistributed over the course of a contract. Rawl's theory is a 'complete contract theory'. If Knightian Uncertainty obtains we know in advance that it is either mischievous or meaningless.
It’s an open question, he says, what the “optimal level of taxes and inequality” might be,

Forget optimality. Just observe the canons of taxation. As for inequality- we don't know how much of it actually exists. This is because we don't know whether Income is sustainable which in turn determines whether Wealth has depreciated or not.
but the least we can say is that the difference principle is not a “justification for laissez-faire economics” or a welfare state that provides only a basic safety net.

We can't have laissez faire for prudential reasons to do with National Security. Also, 'basic safety nets' can disappear when most needed. The future seldom turns out to be anything like what we envisioned.
On the contrary, by asking us to “prioritise the life-chances of the least well-off,” Chandler writes, it challenges “prevailing ideas about economic justice on both left and right”.

We don't know our own 'life-chances' let alone that of people nothing like us. Justice is a service industry. It matches rights to remedies. But if those remedies aren't 'incentive compatible', the thing collapses or is rationed or otherwise arbitrary in application.
Now the realist critic would say that the whole enterprise of ideal theory is misbegotten and that Rawls offers no adequate theory of political power or change.

That's true enough. The silly man thought the working class would pay more in tax to benefit 'Welfare Queens'. But, not even the Scandinavians would go in for 'solidarity wages'. Once ethnic diversity increased, 'welfarism' became unpopular- just as the Price Equation predicted. Liberalism was turned into 'the L-word' which dared not speak its name.
And at the end of Free and Equal, Chandler concedes that, for all the detail of the progressive programme he has set out, we still need an account of the “art of politics” — how to “connect abstract values with the tangible realities of people’s daily lives”.

Show it will make everybody better off and you are onto a winner. But ceaselessly virtue signalling causes the great mass of voters to turn against you. You will probably raise taxes and hand the cash over to crazy Hamas type terrorists.
And unfortunately you’re not going to get that from Rawls.

Rawls was mislead by post-war mathematical economists who ignored Knightian Uncertainty- i.e. the fact that we are ignorant of the future . Harsanyi and Vickery had previously introduced something like the 'veil of ignorance' and Rawls was trying to snatch it away from the Utilitarianism so as to get something 'deontological' and Kantian. But his theory was anything goes. People in the original position might choose a Borgesian 'lottery in Babylon'. They won't choose stupid virtue signalling shite.

Turning to Chandler's 'wish-list', what do we find? The Guardian reports that it
includes a universal basic income sufficient to eliminate poverty (costing about 25% of GDP) awarded to everyone irrespective of wealth, any other income, or whether they’re employed;

cool! British citizens and those with the right to abode won't do boring or dirty jobs. We will bring in immigrants for that. Sadly, smart Brits will go abroad to earn and pay less tax while returning for a nice sabbatical.

Italy did have a 'Citizen's Income scheme'. They are getting rid of it now. The idea really is as stupid as it sounds.
tertiary education funded by a mix of free tuition and income-contingent loans,

Wonderful! I'll finally be able to do my PhD in cat impersonation so as to qualify to teach cat impersonation theory. Many illiterate people will be able to get proper sheepskins as a result.
and a transfer of wealth to every citizen when they reach adulthood (a reform historically endorsed by the two Thomases, Paine and Piketty, and similar to Gordon Brown’s child trust fund).

Kids from poor families ended up with betwen 660 quid or 1200 quid depending on whether their money had stayed in a Cash type account or been put into a Stocks and Shares. That's not a lot of money. Rich families who paid in the maximum allowable amount might have netted their kid 50,000 quid at age 18. The scheme cost about 2 billion but had to be discontinued after the financial crash.
I found Chandler’s suggestions inspiring, not least his call for the abolition of private schools.

Why stop there? Why not demand schools abolish literacy? Concentrate on training kids to be suicide bombers.
But surely that measure contradicts the freedom of people to spend their money as they wish? Rawls’s basic liberties, Chandler writes, are necessary preconditions to fairness and so take precedence over equality of opportunity.

Chop everybody's dick off. It is unfair to women that only they have to sit down to pee.
“But,” he argues, “the freedom to spend large amounts of money on a private education, or indeed to pass on unlimited amounts of wealth through gifts and inheritances, simply doesn’t have the same importance.”

Nor is it important to retain smart people in our country. Let them all emigrate. We can have CAT scans performed by actual cats. Brain surgery can be performed using a baseball bat.
Chandler’s programme of reforms amounts to a much-needed rebuttal of the idea that existing income and wealth distributions are unobjectionable.

They may be objectionable. How come JK Rowlings has so much cash while I, who have written even more books, am as poor as shit? The problem with reforming what we have is that it may cause poor people like me to die because all the good Doctors and Surgeons and other clever people have run away.
But it comes with an eye-watering price tag. He estimates that taxes at around 45-50% of national income would be needed (the UK tax take is currently about 33%).

But GNP would collapse. Thus you would need taxes above 100 percent- i.e. people would have to sell assets in order to pay their tax. This would cause GNP to contract even more. At this point nobody is paying tax. The currency has hyperinflated. There is a black economy based on the Euro.
“Building support for higher taxes is a long-term political project,” he says with heroic understatement. Who’s going to vote for massive tax hikes? Not, cynics might retort, the “red wall” Tories who Labour needs to seduce.

Actually, the pound would collapse if it seems likely that crazy nutters will come to power in this country. This would mean the country goes off a fiscal cliff and so the incoming administration has to do austerity of a very severe kind. Otherwise there is hyperinflation which causes the real economy to shrink so anybody who can runs the fuck away.

Chandler writes-

In a democracy, we share a collective moral responsibility for how we design the basic structure of our society, and the impact it has on each of our lives.

This is false. The fact that a particular country is a democracy may be because its people recognize they don't have the collective moral capacity- and without capacity, there can be be no responsibility- to replace the political realm by a more purely loving and compassionate type of communal life. Love is higher than Justice. The Spiritual is higher than the Political. Democracy may be a step towards a perfect society or it may be merely what obtains because every feasible alternative is worse.

The basic structure of a society is not something which has been designed. It has evolved or failed to evolve because of lack of selection pressure. What is 'basic' is a reflection of what we are powerless to alter. Basically, we all need to eat and we all need to shit. No doubt, we can, if we are affluent and disciplined, eat things such that our shit is less stinky and less painful for us to expel from our bowels. But this is a refinement of life. It is not basic to our condition.

For Rawls, this is what justice is all about, and he devoted his life to identifying a clear set of principles that could guide us in designing these institutions.

Fiscal policy may concern itself with 'Social Justice' or 'equi-proportionate sacrifice', more particularly in the context of financing a total war. But, if voters rebel or there is a disincentive effect then to shrink the deficit we may have to lower taxes and wave goodbye to the notion that it is a function of Government to redistribute income and wealth.

Rawls did not understand that the post-War world rejected 'equity' in favour of 'efficiency' and higher absolute material standards of living for the median voter.

His starting point was the idea that society should be fair – this is why he called his theory ‘justice as fairness’.

Rawls's starting point was that Harsanyi type utilitarianism was vulgar and materialistic. It cashed out as going for higher per capita Income. He thought a more virtuous, not to say Christian, way forward was to lexically preference the interests of the least well off. This is like Gandhi's 'sarvodaya'. Sadly 'least well off' is 'intensional'. The extension of the term changes as our knowledge base changes. Moreover, we have to take account of disutility from work rather than just focus on income. Thus the unemployed may be better off than those doing shitty jobs. Raising the 'replacement rate'- i.e. benefit to wage ratio- may cause the worst off to become those who can't quit their shitty jobs because that would cost them their entitlement to unemployment benefit.

His life’s work was, in effect, an attempt to unpack this fundamental idea; to think through what it would mean to live together on terms that everyone could accept as fair.

To be fair means to use all relevant information in a proper manner. But 'information asymmetry' is a basic feature of our society. True, advances in Information Technology can improve social judgments of fairness just as the use of cameras able to provide 'photo-finish' photographs, can improve the judgments made by umpires. But what Rawls was doing was mere armchair ipse dixit handwaving. It wasn't scientific. It did not expand the information set. On the contrary, Rawls wanted to destroy information about preferences and potential 'Pareto improvements'

...Rawls rejected the notion, associated with many followers of the classical liberal tradition, that freedom of exchange is on a par with, or should even take priority over, personal freedom or political equality.

Personal freedom involves being free to enter into mutually beneficial transactions with others such that Pareto improvements are realized. One may say 'this will reduce political equality' but it is an arbitrary assertion. One may as well say that the handsome Mr. Smith should not marry the beautiful Miss Jones because their child is bound to be better looking than average and this imperils equality. If economic growth is bad, so is eugenic improvement.

Various thinkers have offered their reasons as to why economic freedoms should have this privileged status.. But whatever the justification, the practical implication is always the same: if wide-ranging economic freedoms are given such a strong priority, this severely limits what the state can do to address poverty or inequality, or even to regulate markets in order to promote economic growth.

What the State can do should be severely limited. If it can regulate markets to prevent people getting rich, why should it not regulate marriages to prevent beautiful people having sex and making beautiful babies while ugly people have to be content to bump uglies and end up with ugly kids?

It is this strong precedence given to economic freedoms that explains the association between (classical) liberalism and laissez-faire economics,

Nope. It is the fact that economic freedom can result in rich but ugly people marrying beautiful people and thus having less ugly babies than would otherwise be the case. There would be little point being rich if this did not give you greater reproductive success. Economics is about the oikos or family lineage. Better economic outcomes, ceteris paribus, make for better outcomes for the lineage.

and it is this way of thinking that has prevented us from addressing many of the failings of contemporary capitalism.

There speaks the voice of paranoia. Were it not for evil mind-rays emitted by the rich, shit would not stink. It would smell and taste like chocolate cake.

Rawls, however, rejected this approach, arguing that questions about taxation and property should depend on how we can best promote the idea of economic justice defined by his second principle.

In which case tax revenue would collapse as would the State. This would not put an end to Wealth inequality or the existence of private property. It is just that the State would be disintermediated from the role of protecting either. The very rich would have private armies which would prey upon the middling sort and exploit the fuck out of the anarchic poor.
What justifies Rawls’s claim that personal and political freedoms are basic, but most economic freedoms are not?

Bigotry. Nothing else.
The answer brings us to perhaps the most original aspect of Rawls’s first principle: not its
assertion that some liberties are more important than others, but how it gives us a framework for determining which liberties are ‘basic’ and for handling the conflicts that inevitably arise between them.

That framework is shit. The whole thing is an Orwellian exercise in doublethink. Freedom doesn't mean being free. It means getting, by some magic, things free people should have and which, once they have lost all freedom, they will magically receive- but won't because of the evil sorcery of the Capitalists. Not till every last Capitalist warlock has been burnt at the stake will our free and equal citizens stop starving to death while queueing up for their ration of half a turnip.

Rawls's innovation was to show Liberalism could compete with Maoism as a means to completely fuck over the economy and reduce the nation to starvation.
In expanding on his first principle, Rawls explained that the basic liberties are those rights and freedoms that we need in order to live freely and to play our part in society.

So, they aren't basic in any sense. They are just 'liberties' defined as Hohfeldian immunities to do as we wish with what is ours. However, there may be a tort or even a crime if somebody else's immunities or entitlements are infringed thereby.
As citizens, he argued, we need two essential moral ‘powers’ or ‘capacities’.

Nope. A citizen just needs to be alive to be a citizen- if that is what he is.
First, the ‘capacity for a conception of the good’

 Rawls's conception of the good was evil shit because he had shit for brains.

– in other words, the ability to reflect on and pursue our own idea of how we want to live.

 We need to be able to look around and see people whose lives are better than us so as to have targets of Tardean mimetics. There is little point reflecting on how we want to live if we can't see 'concrete models' of better lives. Rawls had no fucking conception of anything whatsoever. He just imitated some other stupid Professors and wrote stupid nonsense.

Second, the ‘capacity for a sense of justice’ – the ability to form our own view about how we should organize society, and to cooperate with others on fair terms.

 Mathematical economists think Society should be organized such that the Pareto frontier is reachable. Sadly, we don't know how exactly this can happen. Still by increasing the 'common knowledge' information set and increasing elasticity of demand and supply, we get better allocative efficiency. 


Having these capabilities is what makes us free and equal citizens, and they are a precondition for the existence of a democratic society.

 This is sheer magical thinking based on an arbitrary assertion. I may say with equal truth 'only if we share a conception of Justice as forcing Professors of shitty subjects to eat dog turds can we become free and equal citizens. Ukraine would be able to regain its territory and flourish as a democratic society under the rule of law if only Chandler and other such Sen-tentious cretins devoted themselves to devouring doggy doo-doo.'

The basic liberties are the freedoms we must have if we are to develop and exercise these capacities.

 Yet democracies were created by people who singularly lacked those freedoms. The capacity to do a thing must pre-exist the legal condition for its exercise.

 The political liberties guarantee our freedom to discuss moral and political questions, to criticize the government and to take part in public life, without which it would be impossible to cultivate or act according to a sense of what is fair – our ‘capacity for a sense of justice’.

Those liberties are irrelevant. What matters is whether there is anything to be gained by such discussion. The answer, speaking generally, is no. It is a different matter that some people may be able to make a little money selling books or giving lectures filled with virtue signalling garbage. But that is merely window dressing.

We may as well say 'sexual freedoms guarantee our liberty to discuss string theory while engaged in sodomy. Without this freedom there can be no Scientific progress. For this reason, the Government must financially support compulsory education in sodomy for senior citizens who may be too frail and mentally confused to be able to arrange such things for themselves.'

At the same time, we need the personal freedoms of thought, speech, conscience and association in order to define and pursue the kind of life we want to lead – our ‘cap-
acity for a conception of the good’.

 Only in the sense that we need the sexual freedom to sodomize clouds so as to define and pursue the kind of immortality we want to gain- our 'capacity for a conception of ourselves as a God who fucks everything in the ass'.

These personal freedoms give us space to follow our own path and they are the foundation of a rich social and cultural world in which we can explore different ideas
about how to live beyond those we were brought up with.

 Personal freedom means not having to do stupid shit. Rawls's credential hungry students had to listen to his drivel. We don't.

We already follow our own path. Why pretend we are being forced by Society to become good little conformists? It is not the case that a guy who wants to babble paranoid shite first consults a lawyer who assures him he has this 'liberty'.

Being clear about the underlying purpose of our basic freedoms helps us to think about their limits.

 Freedom has no purpose save such as one may freely stipulate. I am free to suggest that the purpose of all Freedom is to get Professor Chandler to eat dog turds. There is no need to be clear about this. The limitation is obvious. It's just empty talk is all.

The basic liberties principle does not protect every instance of an abstract right like free speech: speech is protected as a basic liberty only where it is essential for us in devel-
oping and exercising our moral capacities. So, for example, we should
give the strongest possible protection to speech about political, moral
and religious questions, since that is integral to developing our sense
of what is fair and how to live.

Which is why I should be allowed to call up this cretin at two o'clock in the morning and shout 'Religion commands you to devour dog turds! Yea! Forsooth! Selah!'
But some forms of speech, such as commercial advertising, play no meaningful role in enabling us to develop or exercise these capacities.

 Fuck off! An advertisement showing me how my life could be made much better by buying an exercise bike. Being physically fit would enables me to develop and exercise highly utile capabilities.

While true basic liberties can be limited only in order to protect other basic liberties, freedoms like commercial speech can be limited, Rawls argued, for a wider set of
‘public reasons’, such as promoting public health or economic

Economic efficiency is achieved by doing useful stuff not writing worthless shite.
Keeping in mind the underlying purpose of our basic freedoms also
provides a way to resolve the conflicts that inevitably arise between

Nonsense! You can't resolve the conflict between equity and efficiency because they have different purposes.
When faced with such a conflict, we should seek to prioritize
them according to their importance for living freely and for cultivat-
ing our two moral capacities.

In which case, you aren't resolving a conflict. You are taking sides. One purpose is deemed to be higher than the other.
At the heart of this approach is a recognition that no basic liberty is absolute:

In which case some legal matters- e.g. guilt in a treason case- are deemed to be non justiciable. The Courts are forbidden from intervening. But this is a slippery slope to tyranny. One could say that any action whatsoever was treasonous.
in principle, we can limit any of them if doing so is necessary to maintain a ‘fully adequate’ set for everyone.

In other words, the tyrant can do what he like so long as he pretends that it is necessary to maintain 'fully adequate' provision for everyone. We must do ethnic cleansing to protect the majority- right?
As we shall see this flexibility is an important corrective to the absolutism about rights that is common in contemporary political debate, as if one basic freedom must always
take complete precedence over everything else.

The Executive can jail or execute anyone so long as it pretends this is necessary to save the basic rights of the masses.
We can see this, for example, in the way in which the US Supreme Court has repeatedly
struck down laws to limit political donations on the basis that these
are protected forms of speech, and that freedom of speech has an
almost absolute priority over the claims of democratic political equal-
ity; or in the notion that freedom of religious belief should always
trump the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, which has been used to
justify wide-ranging exemptions for religious believers from anti-
discrimination laws.

President Trump should have been allowed to ban people from donating money to his rivals. Heterosexuals must be forced to suck off the entire LGBTQ community even if it is against their religion.
Of course, the idea of ‘striking a balance’ raises its own difficulties.

Hitler had no difficulty striking such a balance.
We cannot simply look at Rawls’s first principle and read off a defini-
tive solution to any given clash of rights.

So, his principles are not 'action guiding'. They are mere hot air.
Resolving them inevitably involves a degree of judgement about the relative importance of different freedoms, and there may be a range of reasonable solutions.

The Courts use a better approach. They look at the facts of the case and decide which right or immunity trumps which other right or immunity. Giving money to a party which you like should be protected because you have a superior immunity when it comes to doing as you please with your own money. However, you may be prevented from giving money to a terrorist organization because the State has a superior right to defend itself against those who wage war upon it.
This flexibility is not a bug or a flaw, it is a valuable and intentional
feature of Rawls’s approach: rather than seeking to answer every
question in advance, it recognizes that democratic debate about the
precise scope of our basic freedoms is often justified, and provides a
coherent framework for conducting this debate.

But the current legal system does a much better job in this respect. Rawls has added nothing of value. He has merely provided a foolish argument for redistribution which is easily defeated by pointing to the superior efficiency of 'risk pooling' and collective insurance schemes of various types.
We are now in a position to understand why Rawls’s first principle
only includes a limited set of economic freedoms, like the right to
hold personal property. We have a basic right to own housing and
personal possessions like clothing, books and computers, because
otherwise it would be impossible to live freely and to express our-

That is an arbitrary statement. It may be that people would be just as happy renting or leasing.
To see how vital these liberties are, we only have to imagine
what it would be like to live in a society where the state, or indeed
other citizens, could come into one’s home at will, or tell us what to
wear or read.

The remedy here is provided by the Court such that a person who enters our property illegally is prosecuted for a crime- even if she is a government official. Rights without remedies are empty.
The same is true of freedom of occupational choice:
for many of us, what we do for a living is an important part of our
identity, and being free to decide what job to do is an integral part of
living our life according to our own beliefs.

Yet, we may accept conscription of a certain cohort so as to protect the country.
But most of the economic freedoms prized by classical liberals – being free from taxation, being able to run a business without regulation, and so on – do not pass this

Liberals don't say there should be no taxation. They accept the need to fund a 'nightwatchman' state. However, they may prefer property taxes and tariffs and excise duties rather than an Income tax.
We simply don’t need these rights in any absolute sense in order
to live freely or engage in democratic debate.

We don't want to engage in democratic debate. The thing attracts cretins and virtue signallers.
This way of thinking explains Rawls’s approach to the question of
who should own the ‘means of production’ – firms, machinery, raw
materials and so on – which historically has been at the heart of the
debate between socialism and capitalism.

The answer is 'investors'. People need to save for prudential reasons. Their savings should be invested in productive resources. Entrepreneurs may give themselves and their managers shares so as to create an incentive for efficient resource allocation. Rawls did not know 'incomplete contract theory' which is what is needed here.
While we have a basic right to own personal property, this does not imply that companies or natural resources should necessarily be privately owned.

In which case people will overinvest in housing and 'personal' goods. They won't bother to fund enterprises. Moreover, there will be 'capital flight'. People will form Trusts located overseas and use their savings to invest in foreign enterprises.
Rawls was clear that the basic liberties principle is compatible both with private ownership
and with ‘liberal socialism’, where firms are ultimately owned by work-
ers or by the state.

Worker owned enterprises will raise wages and restrict employment and output to the extent that they have market power. Public sector companies will make a loss because politicians will distort their decision making. Uneconomic units will be set up in key constituencies. Boards will be packed with useless political appointees. Unions will launch industrial action so as to force the Government to increase the subsidy to the industry. This is a recipe for 'stagflation'.
This is not to say that we can leave issues around ownership and workplace democracy unresolved – indeed, they are at the heart of the economic agenda that we will develop later in the book;

that agenda is the warmed up sick of the Seventies' Left when the tax payer had to bail out nationalized industries- like British Leyland which made crappy cars. The reductio absurdum of this approach was that (as inflation caused 'fiscal drag') workers got a subsidy to work but that subsidy was more than confiscated through the tax system. The whole 'Prices and Incomes policy' collapsed when 'Dagenham man'- (i.e. workers at Ford and other successful private firms)- voted Tory. You can't imprison the entire Trade Union movement. Once Mrs Thatcher got into power she abolished Exchange Controls. This meant that either Britain reformed itself or there would be massive capital flight. The gap between the rich and the poor would grow because productivity for the latter would collapse.
only that the basic liberties principle alone cannot provide us with an
answer. That requires a broader ideal of economic justice, which brings
us to Rawls’s second principle

If you say we will concentrate resources on the bottom 20 percent, everybody will try to show themselves as meeting that criteria. Otherwise they will leave or trade off leisure against work effort.

Harold Wilson gave up on redistribution when he realized that British workers cared only about their absolute, not their relative, material standard of living. They were deeply hostile to any reduction in 'wage differentials'. Even in Scandinavia, there was no support for 'solidarity wages'. Over the course of the late Seventies and Eighties more and more countries had to move away from the 'mixed economy with collective bargaining' model. You can't un-ring that bell.

Rawls was simply a silly man who applied an econ theory which neglected Knightian Uncertainty. Even then, as Harsanyi immediately showed, he got the math wrong. Chandler has wasted his time.


Wednesday 29 November 2023

Mani Rao misunderstanding the Gita

Mani Rao writes in 'Fair Observer' 

 It seems odd to think that Krishna would urge anyone to actually kill people.

It was the function of the charioteer to raise the martial spirit of the warrior. Warriors are supposed to kill other warriors on the battlefield.  

In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna to go ahead and fight, and persuades him that he would not actually be killing anyone, because they are all already dead, and ‘that which has the body’ is immortal. (Arjuna does not ask—if I am really not killing anyone when I kill them, why kill them at all?)

Krishna says he himself is God and is the efficient cause of everything in the Universe. Moreover, he takes on the sins of his devotees. This 'occasionalist' metaphysics is found in other Theistic religions- e.g. Christianity and Islam.  

Moreover, Arjuna is asked to fight his friends and relatives, people with whom he has grown up and people he cares about.

Because that is what his true eldest brother- Karna- wants. Karna could end the war by revealing his true identity.  

Arjuna’s refusal to fight tells us that he is a sensitive human being who values life and cares for relationships.

No. Arjuna has been given the gift of 'chaksuchi vidya' or second sight. He did not accept the boon but the demi-god who gave him the gift did not take it back either. It only required Arjuna to experience 'Vishada' for that boon to lodge in him. The drama of the Gita arises out of the fact that it is a 'balanced game'. Both Krishna and Arjuna have the boon of clairvoyance. But Arjuna does not want to use his gift though, if he is not master of himself, he will see the future anyway. It is obvious that if you say 'I don't want to fight because I don't want to kill' the other guy will reply 'how do you know you will kill? The other guy will probably kill you. Just try to protect yourself and your comrades as best you can. Krishna can't take this route because he knows that Arjuna has the boon of second sight. In other words, there is no information asymmetry here by reason of Arjuna's Vishada.  That is why it can be a 'yoga'. Otherwise, you can remove depression easily by saying 'you think your beloved Juliet is dead. Actually, she has taken a potion so as to appear dead. Rejoice! She will soon be yours.' 

The first (and obvious) response to this problem is to recapitulate the narrative context. In the backstory, there has been much injustice. Peace talks having failed, the only way to restore righteousness is to go to war.

No. If Karna reveals his ancestry then Yuddhishtra will obey his orders. He will tell the Pandavas to go conquer some other territory and bring it under the suzerainty of the Kuru Emperor.  

Arjuna has to fight his own family members—and this is also a way to illustrate that we must stand up for righteousness even if it means going against people who are dear to us.

Only if that is what we are paid to do or if we are specifically asked our opinion. We don't have to pretend to be police officers with a duty to investigate potential crimes committed by Mummy or Daddy. 

Another response to the problem is to think of the war as an allegory. Gandhi had such a point of view: he saw the war of the Mahabharata as the war going on in our selves between the forces of good and evil.

Gandhi had shit for brains. He only wrote a commentary on the Gita because Tilak, etc., had done so. War is waged by trained soldiers who are paid to follow orders. We don't need to chop off our dicks so as to avoid the temptation of wanking. Life is not a battle. It is more like cooking a meal. You avoid using bad ingredients. You try to select the best quality ingredients you can afford. True, if you feel a great temptation to use dog turds in your curry, you may need psychiatric help. Indeed, you may have to be restrained from eating your own poo. But the muscular psychiatric nurses who do so are not soldiers. They are not fighting a war.  

My own solution has been to look at what Krishna recommends when he speaks more broadly,

He reveals he is the only efficient cause in the Universe. But this doctrine is only of use to 'agents', not 'principals'. Yuddhishtra is a 'principal'. He only overcomes his Vishada by hearing the Vyadha Gita and learning statistical game theory.  

and to look for his assessment of violence.

It is the same as ours. Soldiers are supposed to be violent on the battlefield. They are not supposed to beat their wives or kill their drinking buddies. 

What is the sleight of hand that allows Arjuna to fight in battle and yet follow an ideal path?

There is no fucking sleight of hand. The guy is a trained soldier about to go into battle like all the other soldiers.  

Chapter 16, where Krishna describes divine and demonic natures, provides clues. Stanzas 16.1 to 16.3 are one unit:


abhayaṃ sattvasaṃśuddhirjñānayogavyavasthitiḥ |

dānaṃ damaśca yajñaśca svādhyāyastapa ārjavam || (16.1)

This translates to: Fearlessness, goodness, purity, steady with knowledge and yoga, charity, self-control and yajnas, self-study, austerity, uprightness…

ahiṃsā satyamakrodhastyāgaḥ śāntirapaiśunam |

dayā bhūteṣvaloluptvaṃ mārdavaṃ hrīracāpalam || (16.2)

This translates to: Non-violence, truth, lack of anger, renunciation, pacifism, non-slander, compassion for all living beings, absence of greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness…

tejaḥ kṣamā dhṛtiḥ śaucamadroho nātimānitā |

bhavanti saṃpadaṃ daivīmabhijātasya bhārata || (16.3)

This translates to: Radiance, endurance, courage, purity, non-betrayal, not too much pride—these are the assets/wealth of those who are born to a divine destiny.

Nope. These are godly, not divine, qualities. A godly man is not a God- though in this case Arjuna is indeed a partial incarnation of a God who was notoriously lacking in some good qualities- at least, at certain times.  

It is clear from the above stanzas that the Gita considers non-violence divine, and violence, demonic.

No. The Gita, like most sensible people, saw that there are godly and ungodly- even Satanic- qualities or characteristics.  

How, then, is it possible for Arjuna to be asked to go to war?

He is a soldier. That is what he does for a living. True, like Krishna's elder brother, he can say 'sod this for a game for soldiers' and depart with a pot of wine on one shoulder and a plough on the other.  

Is he being asked to be demonic?

No. He is also not being asked to be a cat.  

Krishna spells out the duties of each varna, and says that kshatriyas do not flee in battle.

Which is ironic because Hindus know one of the Lord's epithets is 'he who fled the battlefield'. 

śauryaṃ tejo dhṛtirdākṣyaṃ yuddhe cāpyapalāyanam |

dānamīśvarabhāvaśca kṣātraṃ karma svabhāvajam || (18.43)

This translates to: Heroism, radiance, courage, skill, not fleeing in battle, charity, and the spirit of being in charge—these are the natural duties of kshatriyas.

They are qualities not duties.  

Arjuna is a kshatriya, a warrior, and participating in a war is his duty. However, he is also told how to participate in battle. The answer to this is throughout the Gita, in the idea of conducting one’s duty without attachment. 

niyataṃ saṅgarahitamarāgadveṣataḥ kṛtam |

aphalaprepsunā karma yattatsāttvikamucyate || (18.23)

This translates to: The action that is controlled and detached, done without desire or hatred, with no wish for results, that is a sattvic action. An elaborate system of ‘gunas’ (qualities) is presented in the Gita. The material world is made of a combination of the qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. People’s characteristics depend on which guna is predominant in them—and everything from diet preferences to kinds of rituals and charity are governed by these gunas. Among the gunas, sattva leads to happiness. Krishna asks Arjuna to leave aside feelings of hatred and violence, to not seek the fruit of action, and to do his duty. These are sattvic according to Krishna’s own exposition, even though Arjuna was born in the kshatriya varna.

We know this argument was spurious. Arjuna kills Karna while in the grip of dark anger. It is obvious that attachment to non-attachment is still attachment. Theism is thus better, at least for 'agents' as opposed to 'principals', than an atheistic type of Samkhya theory.  

A reader may be troubled by these concerns and choose to reject the Gita entirely.

Which is the case if you don't actually convert to Vaishnavism.  

However, considering the depth of wisdom and the range of ideas contained in the Gita, I believe, such a rejection would be a colossal loss.

This stupid woman can't understand any of the ideas in the Gita. She is a colossal waste of space. 

Especially because Krishna says that his message is not a commandment or decree.

Save to his devotees. It is obvious that whatever message your spiritual preceptor imparts to you is indeed a commandment or decree for you to follow. Otherwise you aren't really a good disciple at all.  


At a public forum, once, someone in the audience asked me if I thought Gita was authoritative, and if yes, how did I reconcile the statements about varna. I explained my reasoning, and finally added—if you think God gave us an authoritative Gita,

If you are not a Kshatriya by descent and aren't a devout Vaishnavite you are welcome to completely ignore the Gita. The drunken reprobate can follow an 'easy' (Sahaja) path of relying wholly on God's grace.  

did he also not also give us the intelligence to think?

This lady is not intelligent. It is obvious that there are many different types of Yoga. Pick one that suits you- or don't bother. Get a nice hobby or just do well at work and use the rewards to create a happy home for your family. This is what the Vyadha (butcher) in the Vyadha Gita does.  

Reason has a respectable place in the Gita. There are many words for the mind in Indian conceptions—buddhi, chitta and manas are some of them. ‘Buddhi’ is typically associated with reason, the rational mind, and with commonsense. Gita also mentions samkhya, which is one of the schools of Indian philosophy. Stanza 2.39 first introduces the term ‘buddhi’ as part of ‘buddhi-yoga’.

eṣā te’bhihitā sāṅkhye buddhiryoge tvimāṃ śṛṇu |

buddhyā yukto yayā pārtha karmabandhaṃ prahāsyasi ||

This translates to: This is declared in samkhya to you. But listen to this, about buddhi-yoga, Arjuna: When you are joined with buddhi, you avoid the bondage of karma.

This only applies to bone-headed 'agents'- like Arjuna, who quickly forgets everything Lord Krishna said in the Gita. The Nalophkhanam, which together with the Vyadha Gita, Yuddhishtra has to master so as to be released from Vishadha, shows you have to use statistical game theory to make good decisions. Alternatively, if that is too much trouble, just imitate what the smart people are doing. 

Here, the reader may jump to the conclusion that everything that has been said up until then refers to samkhya, and that now Krishna is about to impart something about the path of ‘buddhi-yoga’. A quick review of samkhya philosophy, however, reveals that it does not really seem to have much to do with explaining the nature of atman. Instead, it is a dualistic system that explains the material world as the result of the interaction of ‘purusha’ and ‘prakriti’—and this concept is, in fact, covered later in the Gita. Moreover, samkhya does not call for the presence of a divine entity, Ishvara, and that again seems at odds with the Gita. A simple way to understand the reference is that it could have been an early form of samkhya philosophy, or simply a more generic word that means ‘philosophy’, one which Arjuna would have studied.

Nope. The actual Samkhya is the statistical game theory of the Nalophkyanam. But only smart 'bosses' need bother with it. Just do what you are paid to do and look after your family. Incidentally, statistical game theory is very useful to explain evolution- it may be even the evolution of the Universe.  

Understood this way, we are no longer caught up in the specifics of the reference. Instead, we begin to understand it as an official and formal system of philosophy or doctrine, and by contrast, ‘buddhi’ becomes an active application of Arjuna’s own intellect.

The guy is stoooopid. That is what provides the comic relief. Still, Arjuna has something better than buddhi. He has luck.  

This also works within the context of the next few stanzas, 2.42 to 2.46, in which Krishna speaks about the limitations of vedic information.

There are no such limitations. Vedanta is part of Veda. Purva Mimamsa however is more subtle than Kshatriyas need to know.  It is obvious that warriors should be good at fighting. They shouldn't waste too much time performing rituals to defeat the enemy. However, to raise morale or to send a signal re. higher resource endowment or commitment, such rituals and their 'flowery language' have their uses. 

This section ends with:

yāvānartha udapāne sarvataḥ saṃplutodake |

tāvānsarveṣu vedeṣu brāhmaṇasya vijānataḥ || (2.46)

This translates to: As much use there is for a well when water is plentiful everywhere; similarly, in all the vedas, for a brahmin who knows.

Among Vedas, Krishna is the Changogya which is for udgatrs (cantors). This is because we require them to have melodious voices, not bulging brains.  

‘Vijānataḥ’ is also derived from ‘jñā’ (to know), and here, Krishna has pointed out the difference between samkhya and the application of one’s own mind, and Vedas and the person who already has knowledge.

No. He has merely said, if you arrive at the same destination without using certain specified means, the purpose or goal of those means has yet been attained.  

Simply put, Krishna is asking Arjuna to think for himself.

No. If he was he'd  say 'figure it out for yourself'. He'd then stop talking. 

Krishna then proceeds to talk instead about a focus on action without the desire for the results of actions.

Which is what warriors need to do. You have to be 'in the moment'. Figure out how to kill the guy who is trying to kill you. Don't start day-dreaming about the fantastic victory parade the folk back home will arrange to celebrate your return.  

Those who think for themselves ought to figure out that the consequences and results are not in their control anyway.

Yes they are. When fighting you are in control. You need to defeat the enemy's tactics. If you are fatalistic rather than alert, you are likely to get killed.  


Finally, despite all of Krishna’s exhortations and recommendations, he gives Arjuna the choice to accept or reject them in 18.63—‘yathecchasi tathā kuru’ (do as you wish).

Because a soldier who wants to fight is likely to put up a better show than a guy who feels he is being forced to go through the motions. That was the problem with Bhishma and Drona. The Pandavas had more 'will-to-win'.  

The Gita is not a decree or a commandment.

Which is why it isn't a 'Smriti' or Vyavahara Sutra. This woman is truly as stupid as shit.  

Dump Dennett's inuition pumps!

 Qualia are 'introspectively accessible, phenomenal aspects of our mental lives'- stuff like what I feel when I see an apple when I'm in a certain mood. Dennett employed no less that 15 intuition pumps to deny they exist. All were shit.

In a chapter titled 'Quining Qualia' he explains-

Which idea of qualia am I trying to extirpate? Everything real has properties,

Nothing really real- i.e. the Noumenal 'Nirguna Brahma'- has properties save in the manner that wholly unreal things- e.g. flying unicorns which fart rainbows- have properties- viz. by arbitrary ascription for some specific purpose. 

and since I don't deny the reality of conscious experience, I grant that conscious experience has properties. I grant moreover that each person's states of consciousness have properties in virtue of which those states have the experiential content that they do. That is to say, whenever someone experiences something as being one way rather than another, this is true in virtue of some property of something happening in them at the time, but these properties are so unlike the properties traditionally imputed to consciousness that it would be grossly misleading to call any of them the long-sought qualia.

I often claim that it is grossly misleading to say that the whiskey in your drink's cabinet is your property. Surely, it belongs to he who very kindly breaks into your house and drinks it for you? 

It is easy to say that an ascription of a property is mendacious or defeats the purpose of the exercise or something of that sort. But this is merely an arbitrary assertion backed up by sophistry 

Qualia are supposed to be special properties, in some hard-to-define way.

All sorts of properties are hard to define. So what? Let them be 'Tarskian primitives'. It may be that, most of the time or in most contexts there is nothing special about a particular property. But it may turn out to be important or special in some other context. 

My claim--which can only come into focus as we proceed--is that conscious experience has no properties that are special in any of the ways qualia have been supposed to be special. The standard reaction to this claim is the complacent acknowledgment that while some people may indeed have succumbed to one confusion or fanaticism or another, one's own appeal to a modest, innocent notion of properties of subjective experience is surely safe. It is just that presumption of innocence I want to overthrow. I want to shift the burden of proof, so that anyone who wants to appeal to private, subjective properties has to prove first that in so doing they are not making a mistake. This status of guilty until proven innocent is neither unprecedented nor indefensible (so long as we restrict ourselves to concepts).

But it applies to itself. We could say any philosophical attack on any other philosophical argument is in bad faith and guilty till proven innocent.  

A scientific argument, e.g. one based on the existence of the aether- may be arbitrary and may be refuted by a crucial experiment. It may be that a philosophical argument against the aether motivated the experiment. The result was to show the 'extension' of 'aether' was empty in the real world. But such is not currently the case with 'qualia'.

Today, no biologist would dream of supposing that it was quite all right to appeal to some innocent concept of elan vital.

The term wasn't used by biologists at any time.  Still, there may be something like a 'constructor theory' in the Life Sciences.

Of course one could use the term to mean something in good standing; one could use elan vital as one's name for DNA, for instance, but this would be foolish nomenclature, considering the deserved suspicion with which the term is nowadays burdened. I want to make it just as uncomfortable for anyone to talk of qualia--or "raw feels" or "phenomenal properties" or "subjective and intrinsic properties" or "the qualitative character" of experience--with the standard presumption that they, and everyone else, knows what on earth they are talking about.

Why stop there? Why not try to shame all philosophers into giving up their utterly useless lucubrations? Suggest to them that everybody else is laughing at them behind their backs. Also, they are all serial killers and must prove their innocence with respect to any murder in the vicinity.

Intuition pump #1: watching you eat cauliflower. I see you tucking eagerly into a helping of steaming cauliflower, the merest whiff of which makes me faintly nauseated, and I find myself wondering how you could possible relish that taste, and then it occurs to me that to you, cauliflower probably tastes (must taste? ) different. A plausible hypothesis, it seems, especially since I know that the very same food often tastes different to me at different times. For instance, my first sip of breakfast orange juice tastes much sweeter than my second sip if I interpose a bit of pancakes and maple syrup, but after a swallow or two of coffee, the orange juice goes back to tasting (roughly? exactly?) the way it did the first sip. Surely we want to say (or think about) such things, and surely we are not wildly wrong when we do, so . . . surely it is quite OK to talk of the way the juice tastes to Dennett at time t, and ask whether it is just the same as or different from the way the juice tastes to Dennett at time t', or the way the juice tastes to Jones at time t. This "conclusion" seems innocent, but right here we have already made the big mistake. The final step presumes that we can isolate the qualia from everything else that is going on--at least in principle or for the sake of argument.

No it doesn't. We just need to distinguish it or infer it is a distinguishable causal factor. We don't need to presume we can isolate it anymore than we think we can isolate our nose from our face.  

 ...the mistake is not in supposing that we can in practice ever or always perform this act of purification with certainty, but the more fundamental mistake of supposing that there is such a residual property to take seriously, however uncertain our actual attempts at isolation of instances might be.

You can't separate your nose from your face even if you pull it really hard. Your fundamental mistake was to think you have a nose. Also, you got no dick and everybody is making fun of you. 

intuition pump #2: the wine-tasting machine. Could Gallo Brothers replace their human wine tasters with a machine? A computerbased "expert system" for quality control and classification is probably within the bounds of existing technology... Such a machine might well perform better than human wine tasters on all reasonable tests of accuracy and consistency the winemakers could devise  but surely no matter how "sensitive" and "discriminating" such a system becomes, it will never have, and enjoy, what we do when we taste a wine: the qualia of conscious experience!

I suppose a computerized system for quality control on juices or even beer might already have been implemented. Fine wines, however, are not beverages simply. We believe that to appreciate them, we need to develop a discerning palate. The expert wine-taster educates the oenophile community in the same way that the leading art critic explains to why the ghastly daubings of heroin addicts are actually aesthetic masterpieces. 

The fact that our 'qualia' when drinking expensive champagne change suddenly when we are told it is a cheap and cheerful Prosecco suggests that there is no simple supervenience on chemistry or biology here. There is some added cognitive factor of a subjective and perhaps 'dialectical' type. Qualia are 'intensions' which have unknown, perhaps unknowable, extensions. But perhaps this is also true of every other phenomena we can name.  

Whatever informational, dispositional, functional properties its internal states have, none of them will be special in the way qualia are. If you share that intuition, you believe that there are qualia in the sense I am targeting for demolition. What is special about qualia? Traditional analyses suggest some fascinating second-order properties of these properties

Qualia are themselves 'second order properties' ascribed to some imputed activity of the brain or nervous system.  

First, since one cannot say to another, no matter how eloquent one is and no matter how cooperative and imaginative one's audience is, exactly what way one is currently seeing, tasting, smelling and so forth, qualia are ineffable

only in the sense that everything is. What matters is whether for any given purpose you can convey useful information accurately enough. I can't tell the optician what I'm seeing but I can read off the chart as she swops lenses. The same is true of qualia. 'I feel sad when I see this apple- well, maybe not sad exactly- it's more a sort of sharp stab of remorse for lost innocence...but, no, that isn't it either. I am reminded of what Pushkin wrote about the Countess Anastasia whose misfortune it was to have been married off at a young age to a homosexual potato.' 

--in fact the paradigm cases of ineffable items. According to tradition, at least part of the reason why qualia are ineffable is that they are intrinsic properties--

ascribed to imputed, but equally intrinsic, brain functions.  

which seems to imply inter alia that they are somehow atomic and unanalyzable.

If atoms can be analysed into more elementary particles, why not anything else? Even if the thing itself is not irreducible, it might be simulated well enough for some specific purpose 

Since they are "simple" or "homogeneous" there is nothing to get hold of when trying to describe such a property to one unacquainted with the particular instance in question.

Simple things- like snow- may be easy to name. They are difficult to describe to people with no experience of them. 

Moreover, verbal comparisons are not the only cross-checks ruled out. Any objective, physiological or "merely behavioral" test--such as those passed by the imaginary wine-tasting system-- would of necessity miss the target (one can plausibly argue), so all interpersonal comparisons of these ways-of-appearing are (apparently) systematically impossible.

Interpersonal comparisons of utility are impossible but, for any useful purpose, they can be made easily enough. That's why the Economy works well enough. But the same is true of language. I suppose one could invoke a result by Chichilnisky which shows why if preference and endowment diversity doesn't meet a Goldilocks' condition, there will be no market or language game for the thing in question. Thus, some qualia are things we do talk about or which marketing guys have focus groups to discover. Other qualia may not be- at least for the moment.  

In other words, qualia are essentially private properties.

like our feelings- till the moment seems right to reveal them and you find out to your chagrin that the camel just wants to be friend. It is actually in this crazy complicated relationship with Barbara Streisland. What? I am not speaking of myself here.  Back in the Seventies, it was the sort of thing which could have happened to anybody. Anyway, I never resented Barbara for stealing my role in 'Hello Dolly'. But Yentl? Gimme a break!

And, finally, since they are properties of my experiences (they're not chopped liver, and they're not properties of, say, my cerebral blood flow--or haven't you been paying attention?), qualia are essentially directly accessible to the consciousness of their experiencer (whatever that means) or qualia are properties of one's experience with which one is intimately or directly acquainted (whatever that means) or "immediate phenomenological qualities" (Block, 1978) (whatever that means).

Nothing essential need be predicated of a property you ascribe to something imputed to brain functions. It is perfectly possible that there are possible worlds where that property might have a wholly different spectrum.  

They are, after all, the very properties the appreciation of which permits us to identify our conscious states.

Only by imputation. Scientists may discover an actual mechanism or, at least, a useful Structural Causal Model which will 'close' some of these philosophical problems.  

So, to summarize the tradition, qualia are supposed to be properties of a subject's mental states that are (1) ineffable (2) intrinsic (3) private (4) directly or immediately apprehensible in consciousness

So they are like having a crush on this really cool Drama instructor you have who also happens to be a camel who may or may not have had an on-off relationship with Barbara Streisland. 

Thus are qualia introduced onto the philosophical stage.

As a way for philosophers to say mean things about each other.  

They have seemed to be very significant properties to some theorists because they have seemed to provide an insurmountable and unavoidable stumbling block to functionalism, or more broadly, to materialism, or more broadly still, to any purely "third-person" objective viewpoint or approach to the world (Nagel, 1986).

You don't need to be a philosopher to reject crude types of reductionism. Just because I once asked out a camel doesn't mean I think I am Omar Sharif. I could be Barbara Streisland.  

Qualia seem to many people

especially in Sub-Saharan Africa 

to be the last ditch defense of the inwardness and elusiveness of our minds, a bulwark against creeping mechanism.

Minds can go fuck themselves. It is my immortal soul which will get me into a Paradise where all the camels have low self-esteem and are grateful for any smidgeon of attention. It is important that souls be unique- otherwise some other camel-fucker might get my spot- but minds don't matter because, truth be told, they are full of shit.  

They are sure there must be some sound path from the homely cases to the redoubtable category of the philosophers, since otherwise their last bastion of specialness will be stormed by science.

Their special place is their bum-hole. Dennett is saying the Scientists will fuck the philosophers in the ass.  

This special status for these presumed properties has a long and eminent tradition. I believe it was Einstein who once advised us that science could not give us the taste of the soup.

because it was a 'gestalt'- a whole bigger than its parts. I suppose we would speak of an 'emergent'. 

Could such a wise man have been wrong? Yes, if he is taken to have been trying to remind us of the qualia that hide forever from objective science in the subjective inner sancta of our minds.

Nope. Gestaltism was big back then. Reichenbach was a pal of Kurt Lewin.  

There are no such things. Another wise man said so-- Wittgenstein (1958, esp.pp.91-100). Actually, what he said was: The thing in the box has no place in the language-game at all; not even as a something; for the box might even be empty. --No, one can 'divide through' by the thing in the box; it cancels out, whatever it is. (p.100)

Schrodinger's cat was in the box. Witlesstein was babbling nonsense.  

and then he went on to hedge his bets by saying "It is not a something, but not a nothing either! The conclusion was only that a nothing would serve just as well as a something about which nothing could be said." (p.102)

Nothing good can be said about a shithead who didn't get that only game-theory can explain language games.  

Both Einstein's and Wittgenstein's remarks are endlessly amenable to exegesis, but rather than undertaking to referee this War of the Titans, I choose to take what may well be a more radical stand than Wittgenstein's.  Qualia are not even "something about which nothing can be said"; "qualia" is a philosophers' term which fosters nothing but confusion, and refers in the end to no properties or features at all.

Why not just embrace logical positivism and say Philosophy is just semantic confusion? The trouble is a lot of philosophers have tenure. Also, the thing is cheap to teach so maybe the thing can cross-subsidize the football team.  

The original version of intuition pump #3: the inverted spectrum (Locke, 1690: II, xxxii, 15) is a speculation about two people: how do I know that you and I see the same subjective color when we look at something?

We don't. But, if we were brought up in the same culture and have good eyesight, there are some complicated way to confirm that we are pretty similar in this respect for any particular purpose.  

Since we both learned color words by being shown public colored objects, our verbal behavior will match even if we experience entirely different subjective colors. The intuition that this hypothesis is systematically unconfirmable (and undisconfirmable, of course) has always been quite robust, but some people have always been tempted to think technology could (in principle) bridge the gap.

It does- if the thing matters enough commercially or for some other such purpose.  

Suppose, in intuition pump #4: the Brainstorm machine, there were some neuroscientific apparatus that fits on your head and feeds your visual experience into my brain (as in the movie, Brainstorm, which is not to be confused with the book, Brainstorms). With eyes closed I accurately report everything you are looking at, except that I marvel at how the sky is yellow, the grass red, and so forth. Would this not confirm, empirically, that our qualia were different? But suppose the technician then pulls the plug on the connecting cable, inverts it 180 degrees and reinserts it in the socket. Now I report the sky is blue, the grass green, and so forth. Which is the "right" orientation of the plug? Designing and building such a device would require that its "fidelity" be tuned or calibrated by the normalization of the two subjects' reports--so we would be right back at our evidential starting point. The moral of this intuition pump is that no intersubjective comparison of qualia is possible, even with perfect technology.

The problem with this argument is that it can be easily refuted thus 'You have just told us you eat your own shit. I don't know why you did so. We were actually discussing qualia. Still, it must be said, your confession of coprophagy explains so much about your personality'. You may deny that you admitted coprophagy. But how can you be sure that what you said wasn't only receivable by me as an admission that you eat your own shit? In other words, the moment you start saying you can't make interpersonal comparisons of utility or qualia, your interlocutor is at liberty to act as if no interpersonal semantics is possible. Everybody hears something different. 

The solution is easy. For some specific purpose, we can always do good enough interpersonal comparisons unless preference or endowment diversity is too great. 

So matters stood until someone dreamt up the presumably improved version of the thought experiment: the intra-personal inverted spectrum. The idea seems to have occurred to several people independently (Gert, 1965, Putnam, 1965, Tayler, 1966, Shoemaker, 1969, 1975, Lycan, 1973). Probably Block and Fodor (1972) have it in mind when they say "It seems to us that the standard verificationist counterarguments against the view that the 'inverted spectrum' hypothesis is conceptually incoherent are not persuasive." (p.172.) In this version, intuition pump #5: the neurosurgical prank, the experiences to be compared are all in one mind. You wake up one morning to find that the grass has turned red, the sky yellow, and so forth. No one else notices any color anomalies in the world, so the problem must be in you. You are entitled, it seems, to conclude that you have undergone visual color qualia inversion (and we later discover, if you like, just how the evil neurophysiologists tampered with your neurons to accomplish this). Here it seems at first--and indeed for quite a while--that qualia are acceptable properties after all, because propositions about them can be justifiably asserted, empirically verified and even explained. After all, in the imagined case, we can tell a tale in which we confirm a detailed neurophysiological account of the precise etiology of the dramatic change you undergo. It is tempting to suppose, then, that neurophysiological evidence, incorporated into a robust and ramifying theory, would have all the resolving power we could ever need for determining whether or not someone's qualia have actually shifted. 

Actually, our two eyes see colours slightly differently. We don't notice this till we have to use one eye only for a period and then only the other eye for a period.  

But this is a mistake.


It will take some patient exploration to reveal the mistake in depth, but the conclusion can be reached --if not secured--quickly with the help of intuition pump #6: alternative neurosurgery. There are (at least) two different ways the evil neurosurgeon might create the inversion effect described in intuition pump #5: (I) Invert one of the "early" qualia-producing channels, e.g., in the optic nerve, so that all relevant neural events "downstream" are the "opposite" of their original and normal values. Ex hypothesi this inverts your qualia. (II) Leave all those early pathways intact and simply invert certain memory-access links--whatever it is that accomplishes your tacit (and even unconscious!) comparison of today's hues with those of yore. Ex hypothesi this does not invert your qualia at all, but just your memory-anchored dispositions to react to them. On waking up and finding your visual world highly anomalous, you should exclaim "Egad! Something has happened! Either my qualia have been inverted or my memory-linked qualia-reactions have been inverted. I wonder which!" The intrapersonal inverted spectrum thought experiment was widely supposed to be an improvement, since it moved the needed comparison into one subject's head.

But we don't know if the thing is 'compossible'. We do know that our two eyes see colour slightly differently and there is a incrementally improving Structural Causal Model of this.  There are some serious illnesses which cause different eyes to see different colours. 

But now we can see that this is an illusion,

This guy tells us stupid fairy stories and then talks about seeing some nonsense is an illusion.  

since the link to earlier experiences, the link via memory, is analogous to the imaginary cable that might link two subjects in the original version. This point is routinely--one might say traditionally--missed by the constructors of "intrasubjective inverted spectrum" thought experiments, who suppose that the subject's noticing the difference--surely a vivid experience of discovery by the subject--would have to be an instance of (directly? incorrigibly?) recognizing the difference as a shift in qualia.

which is all it is. By definition 'qualia' belong to the brain able to report on them. Nothing else matters. 

But as my example shows, we could achieve the same startling effect in a subject without tampering with his presumed qualia at all.

If he sees something different his qualia have changed. Tampering does not matter.  

Since ex hypothesi the two different surgical invasions can produce exactly the same introspective effects while only one operation inverts the qualia, nothing in the subject's experience can favor one of the hypotheses over the other.

This is irrelevant. Either you notice a change in how you see colour or no change in qualia has occurred no matter what tampering may have gone on. It is a different matter that specific qualia may be multiply realizable 'emergents' or 'gestalts' with different degrees of 'redundancy' or 'robustness'. But that doesn't alter the fact that we can say they change when people say they are seeing colours differently 

So unless he seeks outside help, the state of his own qualia must be as unknowable to him as the state of anyone else's qualia.

Similarly, if somebody cut off his dick, he would not know this unless he got outside help because he would just assume his brain had been hooked up to some dickless person's body. True his peeing or wanking qualia may have seemed to change for him but how the fuck would he know if this were actually the case?  

Hardly the privileged access or immediate acquaintance or direct apprehension the friends of qualia had supposed "phenomenal features" to enjoy! The outcome of this series of thought experiments is an intensification of the "verificationist" argument against qualia.

Sadly, you have to a fucking scientific experiment to verify if sciencey things like the aether exist. Qualia however are like Utility of feelings of various sorts.  

If there are qualia, they are even less accessible to our ken than we had thought.

So what? They could be like 'inaccessible cardinals' which exist in most types of math we do.  

Not only are the classical intersubjective comparisons impossible (as the Brainstorm machine shows), but we cannot tell in our own cases whether our qualia have been inverted--at least not by introspection. It is surely tempting at this point--especially to non-philosophers--to decide that this paradoxical result must be an artifact of some philosophical misanalysis or other, the sort of thing that might well happen if you took a perfectly good pre-theoretical notion--our everyday notion of qualia--and illicitly stretched it beyond the breaking point. The philosophers have made a mess; let them clean it up; meanwhile we others can get back to work, relying as always on our sober and unmetaphysical acquaintance with qualia.

The problem is that we don't really need the word or the underlying concept. Why? We don't greatly care about minds. Bodies matter and souls might matter even more but mind stuff does not matter save in so far as it relates to mental health. But we'd rather take a pill for that. 

Philosophy of Mind like the Philosophy of language has proved useless and stupid. Dennett's 'intuition pumps' confirm this view. But it doesn't go far enough. Why not just say that Philosophy is shit? Engrams may be useful to scientists. Qualia aren't useful to man nor beast. But, if you have to have stupid and useless people to teach useless and stupid people as part of a Credentialist Ponzi Scheme, why not just turn a blind eye to the Philosophy Department? After all, there is plenty of other types of more actively evil craziness running amok on Liberal Arts Campuses.