Sunday, 26 June 2016

Delenda est Cameronus- a dirge

Tho' Delenda est Cameronus has been this blog's unblushing, all unlocking, watchword
Why atomize by re-flushing our communal bog's so densely blocking up turd?
Tell it not in Gath- no- nor Publish it on Twitter
Referenda's Revolutions overflow the Shitter


Saturday, 25 June 2016

Whom to blame for Brexit?

Currently British Law affirms the supremacy of Human Rights Law, including the Right to Asylum.
Such laws are incentive incompatible and the Brexit vote was an inarticulate acknowledgement of this brute and ugly fact.
But whom should we blame for it?
No doubt I will receive a lot of hate-mail for pointing the finger without equivocation at Whales. We offered them shelter, on our shores, from Japanese persecution. Yet they voted 'Leave'. Now, bereft of Brussels's support, they will be abandoned to the tender mercies of Ian Duncan Smith.

Fuck you Whales! You know not what you have wrought.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Jerry Gaus killing off True Morality.

Jerry Gaus, author of 'The Order of Public Reason' (OPR) has developed a functionalist theory of 'Social Morality' as coordinating diverse 'Normative Demands'.

He believes that- 'For a social morality to exist there must be coordination on what can be normatively demanded of one, and how one’s claims against others will be resolved.'

If 'morality' is non-Kantian, or non-cognitivist, this is trivially achieved.

Successful Thymotic Societies have a 'Social Morality' such that things like 'untouchability' and Droit du Seigneur  gain convergent normativity in the sense of being a Schelling focal solution to a Co-ordination problem for all members of Society not currently being disembowelled or having their heads lopped off.
Diverse 'Normative Demands' are easily accommodated by some Eschatological or Ontologically dysphoric supplementary hypothesis- e.g. the virgin currently being raped by the Baron gets her revenge- like Amba upon Bhishma- in her next incarnation- or else the one becomes a Saint in Heaven while the other is sodomized by Belial.

As Plato pointed out in the Sophist, if the supplementary hypothesis serves any function- i.e. if if it has any power to affect anything- then it is as real as anything else.
Thus any arbitrary Thymotic dispensation is the solution to a co-ordination problem involving diverse 'Normative demands' provided there is no constraint on 'Social Morality' being coupled with a more or less dysphoric, i.e. supernatural, Ontology.

Gaus, not being a lunatic, presumably wants a non-status dependent Morality (i.e. correlated asymmetry obtains in every permissible transaction) with a maximally alethic ontology.

Thus it is reasonable to believe that, for him, 'Social Morality' must be independent of Thymotic status- the Baron doesn't get to rape all the virgins in his demesne just because he is a Baron- and furthermore must be reconcilable to a Naturalistic ontology regulated by Scientific Method.

One way to do this is by assuming that no Thymotic or Hysteresis based Paretian 'residues and derivatives' pollute agents' conceptualization of 'Social Morality' as the solution to the coordination problem of Normative Pluralism.

Gaus formalizes this by writing-
'Because of the functional requirement, a social morality thus has an existence requirement: only if the rules of a social morality, M in society S, are sufficiently widely shared among members of S (they have the relevant shared beliefs, intentions, attitudes and behaviors), and it is sufficiently widely known that they share these, can M be the social morality of S. A social morality is partly constituted by the coordinated beliefs, intentions, and attitudes of the members of society. It is social not simply in the sense that it pertains to social matters (any morality can have social matters as its content), but it is also social in its constitutive conditions. Thus, OPR maintains that M’s normative status depends on a social fact: if M satisfies the existence requirement it is what I call the “positive morality” of S, and only if M is a positive morality of S, can it be a normatively justified social morality in S. Of course we can work to bring about a better positive morality, but until the normative and empirical expectations are actually in place it is only a proposal, as of yet incapable of performing social morality’s coordination functions.'

The problem here is that both coordination and discoordination games are a feature of life and prevail through purely mimetic, not conceptual, drivers because the latter are more cognitively costly. More generally, regret minimization under Knightian Uncertainty militates for stochastic participation in both.

Gaus is aware that there is a problem with his approach-  he writes
'...if our aim is a world in which human rights claims get real traction and uptake in different cultures (and are not viewed as alien western impositions), this easy route (i.e. stipulating that somethings are universally right or wrong) is not terribly satisfying. My question is: can human rights claims be grounded in social morality, which is inherently a shared, socially recognized, enterprise? 
His answer is in two parts
1) there may be an implicit acknowledgment at odds with the explicit public signal- e.g. kitty is as much a member of my family as my daughter- that fat lump- and should definitely get a vote in the Brexit referendum coz not only is Viktor Orban a cat but Nigel Farage definitely has swallowed a canary.  Gaus is' calling attention to a status that the owners are committed to but are not truly honoring,' in other words us middle aged cat-owners- who recognise that kitty is much more intelligent and deserving of a vote in the Referendum than our misshapen and over-educated progeny- ought to STAND UP AND BE COUNTED.  Drown your kids in the bath-tub if they say they are going to vote 'Remain' and marry kitty so she can get Citizenship in a post-Brexit Britain ruled by Feline Farage.
If we we fail to act now, Americans like Gaus, will hold us responsible for failing to explicitly recognize these rights kitty undoubtedly has.

2) if all agent's are Kant autonomous there is a transcendental argument lurking somewhere.

Sorry Gaus, there aint no such thing,  unless Kant was empirically right about 'incongruent counterparts'- i.e. we have to quit a Relationist Space and, by some Transcendental means, get to a Substantivist Universe where one's left hand would know if it was prior to one's right.

Now, it may be that Kantian 'intuition' is mimetic in some Relationist sense and what we call 'Concepts' are merely intuitions with a low Time Complexity algorithmic description. However, the fact is, Kantian intuitions are misleading. He commented chirality as a critique of Relationism whereas we know, from the Wu experiment, that he was wrong. There was no purely conceptual way to establish this brute fact about the world. In other words, purely Conceptual Schelling focal solutions (besides being computationally intractable) are not robust to small changes in the inter-subjective Information set and thus can have no functional or explanatory power for 'Social Morality' as opposed to some essentially voluntarist arrangement of a mutable kind.

There is a subtle counter-argument viz- since cognitive resources are scarce, perhaps we should  treat concepts as costly signals in Public Justification?

If so, the use of a Concept in Discourse ought to give rise to a separating equilibrium as there is an uncorrelated asymmetry based on the agent's knowledge of whether of not she emitted a costly signal.

However, if there is a superior intuition whose algorithmic definition has high Time complexity, then 'Social Morality' & 'Public Justification' etc loses Alethic status. The separating equilibrium now distinguishes worthless gobshittery merely and is confined to a class of ill-paid pundits, pedagogues and pimps arbitraging the resultant discoordination game.

What if, there is a concept of 'public morality' which requires us to posit a correlated asymmetry as normative? An example is Harsanyi's notion that moral questions should be analysed as if no agent knew what 'type' they are as if behind Rawls's 'veil of ignorance'.

In this case, some argue that we'd get a 'pooling equilibrium'- e.g. everybody gets paid the same regardless of their contribution- and that might be what God wants.

This argument fails unless we live in an instantaneous 'kshanikavada' world.

The menu on offer, to be feasible, must be incentive compatible. If it isn't, it would be allocatively inefficient and so potential for subsequent Welfare improving private trading would arise and hence 'social morality' would be merely a veil covering private hypocrisy.

For allocative efficiency to arise out of a public mechanism, every agent's bid and offer price for every good or service would need to be Common Knowledge. Here, each agent's 'spread' would reintroduce uncorrelated asymmetry and a separating equilibrium without, however, any need for 'costly signals'. But that's only because we assumed the mechanism had costless information acquisition and processing. In other words, it's a pile of shite.

This raises the question, why is it gobshites we always have with us? Why is Discourse dominated by shite Concepts when, as outlined above, there is an alethic algorithmic process to show Concepts, as applied to any complex matter, are ab ovo shite?

The answer, obviously, is that maintaining an army of blathershites is itself a costly signal. Since such signals give rise to aposematism- i.e cheap talk mimicry- an initial uncorrelated asymmetry just found a way to reinforce itself dynamically.

In other words, we have a Justice system which can be gamed by means of 'costly signals' disguising themselves as 'cheap talk' Social Morality.

Thus Gaus's thesis cashes out as- 'Social Morality is the Justice System which continually changes the goal posts because it can be gamed and that's actually a good thing guys because noise is a driver for liquidity and capacitance diversity!' In other words, instead of using the folk theorem of repeated games to de-Kant Ethics, like Binmore, Gaus is relying on an obsolete reading of Thomas Schelling to repeat Kant's sick joke.

He writes- (my comments are in bold) For a social morality to exist there must be coordination on what can be normatively demanded of one, and how one’s claims against others will be resolved. In other words there must be some Judicial forum such that Rights have Remedies. We now must distinguish two very different senses in which a person can share a normative expectation with others. In one case, which characterizes a strictly positive morality, there is wide agreement on what people believe is normatively expected of one, and indeed one may advance against others “oughts” based on this. Here there is no need for a Judicial forum, or indeed even a notion of 'Social Morality'. If the parties to a transaction share normative expectations then each admits that all agents with the same normative expectations share a culpa levis in concreto duty to point out and remedy any act of omission or commission that arises in that connection.  In other words, there is a Ceremonious as opposed to Judicial focal point for the co-ordination game. Not a Judge, but an arbiter on Ceremonial procedure has salience. 

But this does not imply that anyone truly endorses the requirements and demands as normative. 
True enough. Rugby players know it is ceremonially right and proper to kick their opponent'-s head in on the pitch but normative to buy him a pint and fondle him affectionately once maudlin drunk.
Given the moral and other evaluational beliefs of any member of the society, she might see the social morality, M, as making unreasonable and immoral demands, yet all may continue to act on M, and demand that others do so too, perhaps fearing social disapproval and other punishment. 
Quite false. If x sees M as 'unreasonable and immoral' there is a countervailing dis-coordination game and thus a different dynamics.
Contrast this to a case in which each, drawing on her own normative perspective, endorses the positive morality as truly normative. Following Kurt Baier, I call such a system of social morality a “true morality.” However, such 'true morality' would not be a 'Social Morality' any more than it would be a 'Mammalian Morality'. This is because the acceptations of 'Social' and 'Mammalian', in this context, are not robust to entry or exit at the margin.

 Such a system is characterized by convergent normativity, and so has three great virtues.
(i) It is a stable basis for social morality, for each sees that it is endorsed by her (controversial) vision of moral truth. 
Nonsense. It is not robust to small changes in the inter-subjective Information Set. If agents are heterogenous in their Reception of such changes, no 'stable basis' obtains.
When, under conditions of reasonable disagreement, convergent normativity does not obtain, many are apt to cynically view their social morality. It claims to determine the correct adjudication of claims, yet when some think through these matters, they find it is simply the customary code, or the view of the powerful to which they must conform. This is certainly apt to weaken their commitment; as moral agents they do not see why they should internalize its rules, feel guilt when they violate them, and so on. In turn, this is almost certainly corrosive of the shared normative and empirical expectations upon which, I have argued, human social life depends. 
Why have you argued such a silly thing? You know very well that we evolved on a highly uncertain fitness landscape. Evolution can give rise to 'Zahavi handicaps'- i.e. costly signals- but they are never Mission Critical at the group selective level. 

'Shared normative and empirical expectations' simply aint robust enough for anything other than, not coordination, but discoordination games- such that Life Chances are traded off against Reproductive Success, or something of that sort- till an Evolutionarily Stable State is reached. Arbitrage opportunities, or the possibility of a De Finetti 'Dutch book',  are evidence that Dis-coordination games exist. If a moral entrepreneur espousing a theory of 'Social Morality' can make a living then there must already be a separating equilibrium. But then, this Morality is Thymotic not status-independent. In other words, even if all agents have Aumann agreement and the mechanism is Baumol super-fair, still- since uncorrelated asymmetry obtains- no 'True Morality'exists save by a non-Kantian, non-cognitivist, genuinely 'Spiritual', process.

(ii) As Rawls observes, if convergent normativity obtains, if anyone has the truth about morality, then our social morality is itself in conformity with such truth.
Not so. Think of the Sanhedrin's rule against unanimity or the notion of a 'halachah vein morin kein'. The truth possessed by one may forbid unanimity re. that very truth to Society. Moreover, the truth may be one which it is forbidden to teach or act on iff known.
There is also the Schmittian argument re. 'the state of Exception' and a Girardian argument re. mimetic desire and so on. 
 I am aware that some are not especially concerned about their own fallibility in these matters, and do not seek the confirmation of other perspectives. However, to those who are convinced there is an ultimate truth about morality but are impressed by how difficult it is to reason well about these matters, a social morality characterized by convergent normativity is a great good.
Like Santa Claus is a great good coz  he saves us from having to buy pressies for the kiddies. 
If it is genuinely difficult to 'reason well' about something, normative convergence is likely to be lowest common denominator fucked in the head.
Krishna tells us that 'Dharma' is difficult to reason about. The Pundits decide that since this is now 'Kali Yuga' normative convergence must be on Hobbesian lines. But this is pure Ontological dysphoria. Society agrees to be as beastly as possible so everyone has an incentive to withdraw from the world, even while going through the motions, and bet everything on a release from the bondage of rebirth.
 (iii) Most importantly, OPR argues that, on the most plausible account of the reactive attitudes, what I have been calling a “true morality” allows each of us to suppose that violators appropriately experience guilt, and that those treated wrongly in social morality appropriately feel resentment. 
Nonsense! Where 'true morality' obtains I gain great joy when you point out some act of ommission or commission on my part. Metanoia and Reparative Acts are part of a Joyful Theosis such that the 'Dark Night of the Soul' is sublated. By contrast, being universally venerated, is likely to breed an 'accidie' or Spiritual aridity by reason of the lack of any spur to guilt and remorse and cathartic public humiliation. Thus Mother Theresa complained of losing her Faith precisely because she attained Universal Acclaim and this is accounted by the Vatican as a proof of Election.

Gaus, however, is committed to the notion that 'Social Morality', divorced from a Voluntarism of the Spirit, somehow grants Rights and Remedies so as to eventually coalesce with the Judicial solution to Society's underlying co-ordination problem.
He writes-
 It is typically the case, given the account I have offered, that controversial judgments of wrongness do not support moral responsibility judgments. When we interrogate the other person’s point of view, we see that even given diligent good reasoning, she cannot see the force of our claim. Now in the case of social morality, to divorce judgments of wrongness from judgments of responsibility would undermine it as an effective tool. Social morality is critically a practice of responsibility.
The Sage Ninomiya showed how Spiritual Voluntarism can deal with problems arising in Sonnnenshien, Mandel, Debreu, and elaborated by Kirman,  such that a General Equilibrium has its own way of discriminating between 'incongruous counterparts'- i.e. ceases to be 'any thing goes'. 

Essentially, Ninomiya acted as the Moral 'Reserve Bank' for the Community repairing deficits experienced by agents by using a surplus generated by the superior application of Technology and Mechanism Design. This created a virtuous circle because Ninomiya made communally dischargable the duty to 'reward virtue' which itself consisted in foregoing consumption in order to raise up the poorest. 

In other words, 'hedging effects' (which include 'Wealth effects' and are a discoordination game giving rise to an arbitrageur who can profitably run a Dutch book or Parrando's game) get internalized in a Coasian manner because there is a Vickrey-Clark mechanism whose currency is purely Spiritual, not material at all.

This is the opposite of an Inquisition which wastes resources and throws away information. 'Interrogating people' is stupid. Doing good in an incentive compatible manner and reinforcing mimetic processes with 'Knowledge effects'- Ninomiya is also the patron Saint of popular Education- is what is called for- under the rubric of culpa levis in concreto- of any person engaged in worldly transactions who yet is attached to a 'true morality'.
 As I have emphasized, it requires shared normative and empirical expectations; maintaining a true social morality requires maintaining these expectations — rebuking people who do not act on the shared justified rules (their actions undermine empirical expectations) and those who make mistakes about what the rules require (and so undermine shared normative expectations). 
Rebuking people will get your head kicked in- unless that's already your shtick in which all you are doing is coercing compliance. This has nothing to do with 'true morality'. 
So, while the very idea of a judgment of wrongness does not entail the practice of responsibility, in social morality these are intimately linked. Every complexity is not a fallacy or conflation.
Oh fuck! The guy is gonna start blathering about complex adaptive systems like Sanjeev Sanyal!
Good to know that 'True Morality' can be killed off as easily as 'Hinduism' by pretending that Society isn't a a a rent-seeking Tiebout Model whose virtue is that it is robust to changes in Voice and Loyalty but not, ultimately, Hirschman Exit.


Sunday, 19 June 2016

Blake's Tyger's sinister Chirality

The uncorrelated asymmetry in Shibi's Hawk /Dove
& incongruent counterparts in Shiblian Love
are Blake's Tyger's  sinister Chirality
Till 'Hang in there kitty' minister Virality

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Steve Landburg & sex with corpses

Steve Landsburg is now saying- 'Sex with a corpse is probably a positive-sum game; it’s unlikely to interfere with anyone else’s plans.'
Previously he  had suggested that the rape of an unconscious person which doesn't result in injury, disease or pregnancy, might be 'efficient' in the sense in which the term is used in Welfare Economics.

On that occasion, David Friedman wrote a post suggesting that there was something interesting from the philosophical point of view in Landsburg's post.

Both were wrong because they thought that Utilitarianism acts in a mechanical manner to sum the utilities of agents alive or conscious at a given time. This may indeed be the limit case of a one period economy with no interdependence of Utility functions. However, in the real world, there is a 'rule Utilitarianism' which is 'regret minimizing' and takes account of global opportunity cost. Moreover, by redefining an act as stretching to all its intentional or imperative consequences (which, of course, would require a Hannan consistent model and thus be equivalent to the 'regret minimizing' calculus) Act Utilitarianism, too, would yield the same result.

Once this has been clarified, no scandal of the sort Friedman claimed to have found in Landsburg's argument would obtain for Libertarian Political Philosophy.

Indeed, English Judges, relying on an argument of, the Utilitarian Legal Scholar, Glanville Williams in the case of Regina vs Shivpuri, punished the intention to commit a crime as heavily as its actual perpetration and this is sound law.

In the horrific case Landsburg is now referencing, a British Court would ceteris paribus have had no difficulty in giving the same sentence to the culprit had he been apprehended before going on the date with the unfortunate victim. This was because, by lying about himself on the relevant dating website, he demonstrated an intention to get close to a woman and it was previously known that he intended to kill and desecrate the corpse of a woman, should he get the opportunity.
In other words, Utilitarian jurisprudence, as applied by British Courts, already recognizes something which the Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase has been trying to drum into the heads of his American colleagues all these years- viz. opportunity cost is a global concept across possible worlds and thus intentions, though frustrated in the real world (e.g., in the case of Shivpuri, 'dyed vegetable matter' not drugs had been supplied, thus no drugs were actually brought into the country) are the proper grist for the Utilitarian calculus.

Landsburg isn't making precisely the same argument in connection with the murder and subsequent necrophilia of an innocent victim as he did in the case of the rape of an unconscious person in Stuebenville.
He is asking a question about the rationality of our moral sentiments. The following is taken from his blog. My comments are in bold.

1) Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel sure that it’s not uncommon, when a guy is murdered for a pair of shoes, or for the 23 cents in his pocket, that we tend to read commentary about how this murder is made particularly tragic and/or reprehensible by the fact that the killer gained so little.
Homicidal violence is a 'costly signal'. We expect it to arise in an Evolutionarily Stable 'separating equilibrium'- in which case an 'Efficiency based' rational choice hermeneutic has salience in the relevant imperative Public Discourse which, consequently, can cash out as a problem for Mechanism Design.
However, clearly, if people are being killed for 23 cents, then what we have is a 'pooling equilibrium'- which is prima facie inefficient, not Evolutionarily Stable, and militates for a Thymotic, not Purely Rational, response.
Similarly, if we hear that a SWAT team shot an armed bank robber making off with hundreds of thousands, our reaction is quite different to when we hear of an elderly jaywalker being shot by a lard-ass cop who couldn't be bothered to get out of his patrol car.  
In the former case, Public Policy militates for an inquiry featuring technical arguments, in the latter, root and branch reform based on a popular outcry is called for.

2) The murder of schoolteacher Katie Locke is being widely condemned as particularly tragic and/or reprehensible because the killer had sex with her corpse, which was apparently his goal all along.

Do you see my problem here? How can a good outcome for the killer make a murder both better and worse?
Landsburg is asking a question about expected utility. If you shoot me thinking I have at least ten dollars in my pocket whereas, in fact, I have only 23 cents then this is a 'bad' outcome for you. However, Landsburg has also mentioned being killed for a pair of shoes. In that case the expected gain for the killer was fully realized. It was a 'good outcome'. 
As a matter of fact, potential victims are careful to send appropriate signals by the way they dress. I don't go prancing down the midnight alleys of an insalubrious Council Estate dressed in an opera cloak and evening clothes. I wear a hoodie like everybody else. I might still get shot but in that case it isn't because of a signal I was sending but one which the killer wanted to send- viz. confirmation that he is a bad-ass sociopath.
Alright, let’s ask what the key difference is. Here’s one: Robbing a corpse (or a soon-to-be corpse) is a zero-sum game. What the robber acquires comes from the pockets of the heirs. Sex with a corpse is probably a positive-sum game; it’s unlikely to interfere with anyone else’s plans.
The parents of the innocent victim did not have a plan to bury their child because they had no reason to fear her imminent demise. However, from the global point of view- i.e. one that takes in all possible worlds- they certainly had the default contingency plan common to their fellow Britishers- viz. the plan to ensure respectful treatment of her earthly remains. Sex with the corpse, even if carried out by a mortuary attendant, interferes with those plans and is punishable according to Utilitarian Jurisprudence. There was a case in Taiwan where the parents forgave the violator of their daughter's corpse, because this brought her back to life- but Taiwan has a different culture and legal system.  
Unfortunately, that only makes things even more unsettling. It leads to this syllogism:
People feel better about a murder when they learn that the killer stole $10,000 from the heirs as opposed, to, say, 23 cents. This suggests that they care more about the killer than they do about the heirs, who could be pretty much anyone.
No, a person with 23 cents in their pockets or one who, on the basis of appearance, has no greater fungible asset than the shoes they are wearing are likely to be sending the signal 'don't rob me. I have nothing'. The killer, by reason of extreme sociopathy, disappointed their expectation. No one cares that the killer got only 23 cents as opposed to 2 dollars. That is not why people are upset. What they care about is the tragic end to a life not greatly unlike their own.
People feel worse about a murder when they learn that the killer got some satisfaction even if it came at nobody’s (additional) expense. This suggests that they care a negative amount about the killer.
It is certainly the case that people 'care a negative amount for the killer' and assign a negative value, in the relevant Social Welfare Function to any Utility he gains from his crime.
Put all that together, and these people must be pretty much seething with hatred for the world at large.
Not the world at large, but bad mechanism design in the world at large- to which Economics Professors contribute- which permits worthless sociopaths to perpetrate sick crimes even though the relevant authorities were alerted to the likelihood of this eventuality.
Or to put this another way: It appears (taking the murder as given) that people want killers to achieve their goals when and only when those goals are achieved at someone else’s expense. That’s pretty much the definition of “anti-social”.
Everybody wants everybody else to 'achieve their goals at someone else's expense' unless there are interdependent Utility functions. I might want my son to eat at my expense on a special occasion- e.g. his birthday- but at other times I am perfectly happy if he eats at the expense of his in-laws or employer or whatever.
With respect to strangers, it isn't 'the definition of anti-social'- though it may be the definition of 'un-Christian'- to want them to eat at somebody else's expense all the time. 

Exercise: Come up with some way to reconcile the instincts in points 1) and 2) above without being forced to conclude that the world is a cauldron of hate. You might want to consider the possibility that when people say a murder is particularly tragic or particularly reprehensible, what they really mean is that it should be particularly targeted for deterrence. (No, it’s not obvious that this helps — but it’s worth considering.)

Regret Minimizing Rule Utilitarianism faces no scandal of the sort Landsburg avers as arising in the case of sex with dead or unconscious persons. The Societal duty of 'culpa levis in concreto' is well founded in this and every other coherent theory of Jurisprudence. 
Landsburg's fallacious reasoning can't overturn this 'overlapping consensus'.


Thursday, 16 June 2016

Scruton's Knighthood & Subaltern Shitehood

A lawyer from my ancestral Chennai, has celebrated, in quite delirious terms, Roger Scruton's recent knighthood, in the pages of Swarajya magazine.
The besotted pettifogging maiden- or she-male- in question makes some extraordinary claims on behalf of her pin-up- viz.
1) That Scruton, 'almost single handedly', gained 'legitimacy for Conservatism as a mainstream philosophy.'
2) Most of his ideas can be used to defend any type of traditional Conservatism.

Needless to say, this is nonsense. Scruton singlehandedly proved he was a wanker but not such a wanker as might so copiously jizz in his own eye as to wink at Mainstream Philosophy escaping its Pornhub-type prison to repurpose its bull whip, or Black Rod, and fishnet stockings, or Horse hair Wig, as the appurtenances proper to legitimising that immemorial, unfading and multiply realisable Conservatism whose imperishable icon remains a red-hot poker shoved up meta-legitimacy's Piers Gaveston bum. 

My own comment, pearls before Swarajya swine, better hits the mark so I benevolently copy and paste it below-
' I was a friend and colleague of Scruton's Greek and Latin tutor at the time, in the mid Eighties, when I first came across his books. 
'Initially, I was charmed- it seemed, Scruton had set out with the specific aim of helping people like me- a Schoenbergian conductor of a modishly Japanese gagaku ensemble consisting of us dissonant wogs & unharmonizable, for no longer Unionised Proles & the apologetic coughing and spluttering of the progeny of blue rinsed matrons residing in dormitory suburbs, all of whom were equally seeking to reinvent ourselves as cosmopolitan Thatcherite 'yuppies'- and the fact that he himself was a 'Grammar School oik' and taught at Birkbeck made it all the more admirable that he had hired a pukka Old Etonian (a contemporary of Pico Iyer) to repair any deficiencies in his Classical scholarship.

'My disillusionment was rapid. First there was my chancing on Scruton's derivative 'Fortnight's Anger', distilling all that was most meretricious in Iris Murdoch; then there was the still boyish looking Scruton's abysmal performance on a Televised Oxford Union debate. He played the pleb card to make out he was a Thatcherite striver and that fell flat coz everyone could suss that he was from High Wycombe not the Gorbals or Teesside.

'Had Scruton stuck to serving Birkbeck's natural constituency- declasse but decent folk seeking Professional Qualifications or promotion to Management- i.e. that alterity served by Art's ipseity-  he might have ended up writing something worthwhile. Instead, after a brief incarnation as Tom Wolfe's 'Trans-Atlantic Man', he returned as a Fox Hunting oenophile- Surtees' Jorrocks selling some fustian soixante huitard repellent and looming large only in his own farcical twilight.

'Is there a lesson in all this? Yes. Don't despise your readership. Quit gassing on about Schoenberg and find out the facts about the Pet Shop Boys. Don't hire an ex-Oppidian Classics Tutor. At best, you will end up as worthless a blathershite as Pico or, indeed, Raghavan Iyer. At worst, you become the Jorrocks of the Quorn.

'Scruton, unlike Oakeshott, was highly productive but only because, unlike Oakeshott, his initial Lecture notes were and remained shite. He lived and continues to live, unlike Collingwood, which is why nothing he writes can last whereas 'distinctions without a difference' we will have with us forever.'

Have I been too harsh?
What do you think?

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Apotheosis of the Avadhani as Silly Ass.

The Swadesi Indologist- part II
Shatavadhani Ganesh writes-
'In the battle for Sanskrit, Rajiv Malhotra is like an enthusiastic commander of a committed army whose strengths and weaknesses he himself is sadly unable to reconcile.'
There is something mysterious about this sentence. It begins by taking a completely novel figure of speech- 'the battle for Sanskrit'- as a concrete reality and then assumes the equally real existence of a Commander in that battle who, ineluctably, has certain traits. Moreover, an actually existent person- the one who created the metaphor 'the battle for Sanskrit'- is said to have a mere likeness or semblance to this wholly imaginary Commander in an entirely metaphorical battle of whose existence most people would be hearing for the very first time.
This is all very strange. An imaginary person may be said to be like some actually existing person known to us. There is some point to the use of such a simile. It provides a prop to our imagination. Similarly, it makes sense to say a certain person, currently a stranger to us, is like an imaginary character from a well known work of art.  Once again, the simile serves the purpose of enabling us to picture this unknown person more clearly in our minds. 
However, Ganesh has done something entirely different here. He takes up a novel figurative expression- ' the battle of Sanskrit'-  invented, it appears, by Malhotra- and, completely forgetting that it is merely a metaphor, proceeds to imagine it as something that is really occurring and as possessing an 'enthusiastic commander' who has some lamentable deficiency.  He does not say Malhotra is this commander. No. He says he is like  this commander. Why? How can a real person be like an imaginary person in an imaginary battle which no one has as yet described?

If some one were to say- Vivek Iyer is like the enthusiastic commander in the battle for the catachresis of the purple cat under conditions of stochastic domination- how is anybody's knowledge advanced? What is the point of such rococco 'meta-metaphoricity'?

I suppose the reply may be given, relying on an argument of Ganesh's, that the epistemic element in the proposition re the purple cat mentioned above, though wholly imaginary, nevertheless has a 'svarupa'- id est, a Platonic form.
For Theists, this 'svarupa' would consist in the service it performs for the Supreme Personality of the Godhead and, as such, is well defined. However, the 'catachresis of the purple cat' has no 'rupa'- no actual representation- known to men. Yet, Ganesh says, a grievous error is made, as for example by Malhotra, when the 'rupa' of inter-subjective things or persons is emphasized and non inter-subjective 'svarupa' is neglected.
Since the 'svarupa' can't be known, at any rate for Theists, by any action of their own- thus, there is no 'pramana' or mode of acquiring valid, inter-subjective, knowledge about it- we can say a priori that whereas Ganesh talks nonsense, Malhotra, on Ganesh's evidence, doesn't necessarily do so.

But look at what nonsense on stilts it is!

How is it that this Commander, just this moment invented by Ganesh, already has incurred the lamentable disability of doing something, prima facie, impossible or, if possible, then highly undesirable- viz. 'reconciling strengths and weaknesses' within his army?

A General has a duty to eliminate weakness and reinforce strength among his ranks. Why would he want to reconcile the brave and doughty soldier to the cowardly poltroon who failed to rally to his aid? Does any such thing happen on actual battlefields? Apparently, in Ganesh's imagination, it is absolutely routine to see, prior to the commencement of hostilities, the Commanding General ride up to a group of arguing soldiers and say- 'Look here, those of you who are doing your duty properly should forgive and be reconciled to those of you who are shirking your duty, selling off your weapons to the enemy, and sodomizing the sentries at their post with the result that the encampment has become vulnerable to surprise attack'!
Ganesh expresses great sadness that Malhotra is like an enthusiastic commander who isn't spending his time in this delightful way.
Why? What is his major malfunction?
But let us hear more from Ganesh-
'Doubtless there is a battle for Sanskrit and one must wholeheartedly applaud Malhotra’s efforts for Sanskrit. Without hesitation, we shall stand shoulder to shoulder with him and fight this war till the end. We too are opposed to “those who see Sanskrit as a dead language… [and those who] would ‘sanitize’ Sanskrit, cleansing it of what they see as its inherent elitism and oppressive cultural and social structures…” (p. 30). But before the clash of weapons, an objective assessment of our ancient tradition is imperative.'
Wow! So Ganesh says there really is a battle and he and some other like minded people must stand shoulder to shoulder with Malhotra and 'fight the war to the end'.
Far from being some sort of Quixotic character, Malhotra, it appears, is not simply indulging in overblown rhetoric or tilting at windmills. He is warning of a clear and present danger.

However,  Ganesh tells us, though he wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with Malhotra- who is ready and willing to advance to meet the enemy- Ganesh himself is not willing to advance because he thinks it is imperative to immediately do something that doesn't involve fighting the enemy at all- viz. making an objective assessment of 'ancient traditions'.
Notice, that if Ganesh had said 'In the Battle of Sanskrit, Malhotra- as Commander- has committed such and such mistake, by reason of excessive enthusiasm'- he could not claim to be standing shoulder to shoulder in the War unless he had actually done so, thus gaining the moral right to criticize his Commander.
Alternatively, he could have said 'I think Malhotra, as Commander, is making such and such mistake which is why I am not standing shoulder to shoulder with him.' and escaped, if not censure, then the stain of mendacity.
Instead Ganesh has chosen a different tack. He says Malhotra is related merely by a simile, a figure of speech, to the Battle for Sanskrit in which Ganesha himself is genuinely about to engage- and will always remain, cross my heart and hope to die, about to engage.
But for the use of that cunning simile,  Ganesh's subtle dialectics would be immediately dismissed as puling cowardice or an egotistical refusal to observe military discipline.

Now it becomes clear why Ganesh went in for the meta-metaphoric mystification I drew your attention to in my first paragraph. Malhotra is not the 'rupa' of the commander and thus gets no say in determining its 'swarupa' because he has a mere semblance to the relevant 'rupa' and Ganesh himself is the only one has some inkling regarding that 'swarupa'.

I should mention that, for Advaitins- i.e. people of the sect Ganesh and I belong to- a conceptual 'rupa' constructed within the I-consciousness, and thus subject to vritti modifications, can nevertheless disclose its inerrant and unchangeable 'svarupa' if metaphysical liberation has supervened. However, Sanatan Dharma contains other sects who deny that a 'jivanmukta' can exist. Ganesh knows this. Yet he says 'means of transcendence may be through text, ritual, or art, but adherents aim to go beyond Form and internalize Content (by means of reflective inquiry into the Self), thus attaining what the Taittiriya Upanisad calls ‘brahmananda.’ T

Ganesh is either being foolish or disingenuous. The fact is, Vaishavs don't want to attain the bliss of Heaven or Moksha or whatever- they want to humbly serve the Lord, that is all. Like the Mussar, fulfilling the material needs of 'Daridra Narayan' fulfills their spiritual need to serve the Lord. Generally, they deny that any one actually attains this God-like 'svarupa' knowledge in this life. However, even if this knowledge were attained or vouchsafed by the Lord, nothing observable would change. In particular, no needful act- including the defense of something necessary for those in need- would be postponed just because some 'objective assessment' has not been seen to be done.

 Ganesh says 'Malhotra’s intent is noble (and something that we too share) but his understanding of the nature of sanatana dharma as a transcendental system is flawed.' Ganesh is lying. He knows that Sanatana dharma can only be a 'transcendental system' for sects which admit the attainability of jivanmukti- though even in those sects, the emphasis is now on doing selfless social work or other actions pleasing to the Lord.  Otherwise, Sanaatan dharma is perfectly at liberty to embrace Occassionalism, Deontologism, Pluralism etc.

I don't say that Ganesh has a flawed understanding of which sects are included in sanaatan dharma, nor do I suggest that he doesn't know that Iyengrars ridicule Iyers for believing in jivanmuktas.
What I do say is he telling stupid lies.

Malhotra, on the other hand, is not trying to pass off the beliefs of his own sect as obligatory on all Sanaatanists. Whether or not his 'Battle for Sanskrit' is well-founded, we can at least agree he is not waging war on Hindu unity. No doubt he has perpetrated a howler or two in the course of his voluminous writings but nothing as egregious and utterly riddled with bad faith as this- 'Malhotra’s understanding of Sanskrit and Sanskriti seems second hand since he puts a premium on form (rupa) as against content (svarupa) and uses pseudo-logic instead of non-qualified universal experiential wisdom to counter the enemies'. 
Ganesh knows full well that the truth value of the sentence (it is abominably written, but we know what he is getting at) remains unaltered by substituting the Holy Name of Sri Ramanujacharya for Malhotra in the above. Furthermore, he speaks of enemies. All that pious pi-jaw about being inclusivist and harboring no negativity was hypocrisy simply.
I suppose this is why, in disputation, pious Hindus are forbidden to descend to such low tactics. If you have a grudge against your Iyengar neighbor just call him a cock-sucking whore and leave it at that. No need to stir up theological controversies re. the scandal of divya rupa being left un-reconciled to svarupa in Vedarthasangraha, because that can only create sectarian tension and divide our own Tambram community. Incidentally, we now have the solution to the puzzle as to why Ganesh castigated Malhotra for being like a General who doesn't reconcile 'weakness and strength' in his Army. Ganesh was taking a dig at the founder of the Iyengar sect, who- we are proud to say- started off as one of us. In other words, Ganesh is writing about the 'Battle of Sanskrit' not because he cares about Hinduism but because he wants to work off his grudge against a rival sect. Either that of he is simply a very subtle comedian and the whole thing was tongue in cheek.

One final mystery remains. Why does Hindu tradition, according to Ganesh's account, refuse to license any action in its own defense till everyone involved has completed an 'objective assessment of it'? Is Hinduism stupid ab ovo?
Perhaps.
But there is one other possibility.
The fact is, if there is any truth in what he writes, it is clear that Ganesh himself hadn't bothered to do the requisite 'objective assessment' of Hindu tradition prior to writing this article, otherwise he'd have been ready to give battle right away. As a matter of common sense doing such an assessment could never have been a supererogatory duty- yet why does it occur to him to do it only now?

Does Ganesh think we can neglect 'objective assessment of our ancient traditions' at all times save when we have a duty to fight for their protection?
Apparently so. 
He and his like-minded ilk can't march forward because they have to start doing this 'objective assessment' which has only now become very urgent, and Malhotra should be blamed for this because he is 'like an enthusiastic commander' who has 'failed to reconcile' the fighters and the shirkers such that nobody fights and everybody shirks and Ganesh gets to propound his own theory of how to 'objectively assess our ancient traditions' w.r.t Sanskrit.

Ganesh does this by claiming
1) 'To ably carry out such an assessment, we must understand Hinduism’s underlying philosophy.'

In other words, only those who understand Hinduism's underlying philosophy can be allowed to fight for Sanskrit and that too only after they have waited for everyone else who claims they want to fight for Sanskrit to reach an equal level of understanding- otherwise 'weaker and stronger elements in the Army' won't be properly reconciled- which Ganesh thinks is very very important for some reason unknown to Military Science.

Notice, Ganesh has upped the stakes once again. Not only must Hinduism have an univocal underlying philosophy, everyone must grasp this philosophy- know its 'svarupa' or manner of serving the Supreme Personality of the Godhead- before actually doing any fighting in a particular battle regarding which only Malhotra, not Ganesh, has given an inter-subjective acceptation or 'rupa'.

This is batshit crazy! Unviocity of this type may exist among the choirs of Heaven, or the Sangha of the Saints, or for those who have attained kevalya, it can't arise at any moment of historical time for ordinary mortals by any method of 'objective assessment' that can actually be carried out; otherwise everything in the mind of God would be as easily knowable to all creatures as which of us is taller as opposed to which of us is more like unto the catachresis of the purple cat under conditions of stochastic domination.
Suppose Ganesh were to critique this post of mine in the same manner that he critiques Malhotra's book, then he might say 'Vivek Iyer is like an enthusiastic commander in the battle for the catachresis of the purple cat under stochastic dominance. Since he is a Hindu, and thus potentially a source of strength or weakness in the battle for Sanskrit, we have a duty to reconcile him in some way which involves delaying the commencement of hostilities (because otherwise we act like that impetuous Malhotra fellow). Iyer too has a similar, symmetric, obligation with respect to the battle in which he is like an enthusiastic commander- viz. that involving the purple cat. 
'By an argument given below, we can establish that 'reconciliation'- which I alone hold needful- can only be on the basis of 'objective assessment'. Thus, whether a Hindu is involved in the battle for Sanskrit or for the catachresis of the purple cat or for incentive compatible Human Rights or whatever, it must always be the case that objective assessment be first undertaken of not just Hindu traditions but also those that concern the catachresis of the purple cat under conditions of stochastic dominance. 
'If this were not the case, then what I am saying is not in accordance with Hindu traditions. I am talking nonsense and should be ignored.
'Since I am a Shatavadhani and have appeared on You Tube, this is unlikely to be the case. Thus let us do an objective assessment of the catachresis of the purple cat, because it is part of the wider battle for Sanskrit.
'Commencing this 'objective investigation' the first thing we find is that Vivek Iyer has only concerned himself with the 'rupa'- the phenomenological form- not the 'svarupa'- the noumenal form in the mind of God- of the catachresis of the purple cat under conditions of stochastic dominance. This is why he very lamentably failed to reconcile the weaknesses and strengths in his army.
'I, myself, however am free of this defect because I am able to transcend the phenomenal world by having recourse to a specific Hindu text thus gaining the noumenal knowledge necessary for the final victory to be gained in the battle for the catachresis of the purple cat.
'Indeed, there is no subject under the Sun, even obviously nonsensical ones, about which I can't make a similar claim.'

Does Ganesh not understand he is talking nonsense? No. Not at all. It turns out that Ganesh, though trained in the Sciences, believes there is a supernatural workaround, whose efficacy is 'Common Knowledge' such that he isn't talking nonsense on stilts at all.

His argument consists of two parts

1)  'The Hindu worldview is that of using a (scriptural) text and then transcending the text (see Rgveda Samhita 1.164.39).'
If this is the case, texts are purely instrumental. They are used, then transcended and this is a wholly mechanical procedure.
 If texts are encoded in a language- even language as sublime as this-
ṛco akṣare parame vyoman yasmin devā adhi viśve niṣeduḥ | 
yastan na veda kiṃ ṛcā kariṣyati ya it tad vidusta ime samāsate ||
that language has no special sanctity. Transcendence is all that matters. The 'Battle for Sanskrit' is not worth fighting because the proper 'objective assessment of Hindu cultural traditions' shows it is worthless even as an instrumentality because easier, less contentious, methods of gaining Transcendence have not been foreclosed.
Moreover, Hindus, for some reason known only to Ganesh, have a duty to reconcile 'stronger' and 'weaker' elements in their ranks, not on the basis of raising the weak to the level of the strong but doing the reverse. Thus, if I, though claiming to be Hindu, say 'Transcendence is more easily achieved by contemplating the catachresis of the purple cat under conditions of stochastic dominance' then Malhotra and Ganesh and all these other other vaunted 'battlers for Sanskrit' have to stop everything and concentrate on 'objectively assessing' my claim till univocity in this matter is achieved.

Is Ganesh pointing to some genuine defect in Hindu Scripture which enjoins such absurdity? Nope. He is displaying his own stupidity, nothing more.
The verse he cites does not say the text is to be transcended but that it has univocity with what can not be sublated and this truth is firmly established in those properly assembled there. Any other view of the text, like that of Ganesh, is labelled 'na veda' and considered to be utterly useless.

However Ganesh has a second string to his bow-
'On the one hand we have a tradition of the “ever-growing text” and on the other we have a tradition of “transcending the text.” The growing body of knowledge (made possible by the varied and original commentaries of scholars, e.g. Shankara) helps prevent the text from getting outdated. Going beyond the text (as demonstrated by avadhutas, e.g. Ramana Maharishi) helps prevent the text from becoming an imposition.'

Ganesh is making a vulgar error. He thinks textual cascades are like a Fibonacci sequence. There is an ur-text, then a commentary which yields an interpolated text, then we have commentaries on commentaries and, as a result of geographic dispersion, ultimately an 'ever-growing text'.

This account doesn't square with modern research or, indeed, the testimony of our ancient texts.
 The truth is there were far more sacred texts of any given level of antiquity known to our forbears and this winnowing process continues. The same point may be made about mystic lineages e.g. those of Avadhuts. However, there is no link at all between whether 'texts become an imposition' and the presence or absence of Avadhuts. Ganesh knows this very well just as I do because we are of the same age and sect. There were many more Avadhuts, like Ramana Maharishi, at a time when, to our own certain knowledge, 'texts were a huge imposition', than we commonly encounter nowadays.
In any case, there is no method of 'objective assessment' which permits us to determine who is or is not an Avadhut. I may claim to be one and Ganesh's argument might be used, with equal validity, to counsel the abandonment of Hinduism because meditating on the catachresis of a cat is an easier path to Transcendence- but nobody, hopefully not even Ganesh, would be convinced.

The problem with Ganesh is that he doesn't think before he writes. Why is he so lazy? Apparently, it is because he believes that 'When we enter into a debate with our opponents, we must ensure that the pramanas (valid proof methods) are mutually agreed upon.' In other words, don't debate unless there is nothing to debate about but, in that case, just utter any nonsense that chances upon your tongue and demand equal treatment with those who speak sensibly because 'Hinduism is inclusivist'.
This is as stupid as Ganesh's belief that the General should reconcile strong elements in the Army, that is courageous and conscientious soldiers, to the weak elements in the army, i.e. scoundrels and poltroons, on the basis that the Army as a whole should not move till the weakest and most cowardly have been persuaded to advance. 

The Swadesi Indologist, it seems - though trained in the Sciences and with a sound knowledge of Sanskrit- can taken up the gauntlet thrown down by Pollock, Witzel, Doniger, Pee Wee Herman et al and successfully show that he can say even sillier things and get away with an enhanced reputation.

Jai Hind!