Sunday, 31 December 2017

Nigel Biggar vs this random nigger- who is the bigger bigot?

Nigel Biggar is a Christian Theologian who thinks that the British Raj wasn't all bad. He could scarcely be called a Christian of any description- let alone a distinguished Anglican Theologian- if he saw no good at all in an institution providential in bringing millions of souls to Christ.

Biggar is White. I iz Bleck. He belongs to the Established Church. I am a howling heathen kept busy kowtowing to the elephant god and the monkey god and my neighbour's cat which might well be the vahana of Goddess Shashti. The only thing Biggar and me have in common is pride in British citizenship and love of England's sterling qualities and traditions. In my case, I suppose, my present enfranchisement was purchased by a racial and religious humiliation accepted by my ancestors. Biggar's, more honourably, was purchased by blood, sweat and tears. We both have good reason to condemn what was bad about the British Empire. Biggar probably lost family members to Pyrrhic battles that would not have been fought, or would have been fought very differently, but for the Fata Morgana constituted by the delusive chimeras of Imperial military doctrine & the mischievous chrematistics of Imperial Finance. But, precisely because we have both paid an eusebiac 'price of admission'- id est our sense of filial piety must reckon with the sorrows and sacrifices of our forebears- it follows that there is a univocal 'separating equilibrium' here based on an ancestral 'costly signal' we both ought never to forget. It would be dishonourable to suggest that Biggar's 'costly signal' was 'subaltern'- I'm certain his ancestors, of whatever class, thought it sweet and decorous to die for Britain whereas mine considered any service to the Raj only justifiable in so far as it benefited Indians or India- but it would, in an opposite manner, be vainglorious to suggest that some superior dispassion or transcendence of thymos animated my ancestors such that I can imagine my grossly ignorant and Falstaffian self, mutatis mutandis, univocal in Britishness with this slim, sober, savant.

There is a notion that Christianity is a 'narrative'. It isn't. It can't be. The deeds of the risen Christ, over a space of 40 days, were such that if they were all written down, Holy Writ were more voluminous than the World. Yet, as- of all people!- Oscar Wilde pointed out- there is one 'ipsissima verba' of the Judge of Judges which is also a 'hapax legomenon' such that the synoptic Gospels are a fractal Yoga Vashishta- not a narrative, but a knight's tour of all possible narratives, a Borgesian book of sand which can never fall open on the same page twice.  Christ is the Living Word because the Bible has infinite apoorvata.

In particular- the Lord's Passion is both subaltern- that of the patient, suffering, khorban or pharmakos- as well as a more Knightly vigil than that of all save who harrows Hell, overturns Law Minded Yama's primordial Kingship, so that the great crowd of our ancestral dead too, in our merely kairotic sortes Virgillianae, learns a King of Kings.

Biggar has now been denounced as a bigot.
His thought crime is 'parrhesia'- a Christian duty, a British reflex of 'fair play'.
No one is saying his statements aren't alethic.
No evidence has been offered that he has some dismal agenda.
But he is guilty nonetheless.
The man thinks there is a difference between Good and Evil!
That's jus' ignnirint, innit?!

His enemies say-
Good and evil may be meaningful terms of analysis for theologians. They are useless to historians.
Geography is about maps. History is about chaps. Maps don't care about Good and Evil. Chaps do. A good historian of Imperialism needs to understand Geography- because that's the fitness landscape for Empires. A bad historian of Imperialism needn't bother because he can just gas on about how good historians have a duty to tell stupid lies so as to prevent Nazi Zombies from the centre of the Earth rising up and grabbing power disguised as Narendra Modi or Donald Trump or Angela Merkel.

I know Biggar has received a lot of support from Black and Asian British people. The trouble is some of these people may be homophobic. To be frank, I was a homophobe myself. Why? Au fond, homophobia is a misogyny. Women have to sleep with men so babies can be born. If men sleep with men they are no better than women. I think my attitude only began to change when I saw women priests leading Churches and Synagogues and (to a much smaller extent) working as Hindu priests in Scandinavia (a boy from a good family known to me, went to Sweden to have a Hindu marriage to a fellow Doctor. Only a woman priest had the courage to conduct the ceremony.)

Okay, I agree that I'm a bigot. But, Biggar isn't. We should listen to what he has to say if for no other reason than that he is British and proud of it. He is Christian- not some wishy washy irenicist  but a full blooded Theist- and, quite rightly, proud to be so. No doubt, that pride is riding for a fall.  His Church- like a prostitute to her pimp- is most beloved to her Lord when/ most open to all manners of all men. That's the problem with being proud to be British or Anglican or whatever. This 'fex urbis' Curry & Chips Cockney legitimises the 'lex orbis' of both Church & Crown in the eyes of their Creator.

God must fall.
But first we must deal with Love.
That tramp!- don't you see, we've gotta do it for her own good!
Beeyatch be hooked on Truth.
These dyspeptic post Xmas days are a good time for the cold turkey treatment.
Do it now.
Who knows what will happen as this new Millennium gains Majority?

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Structural Holes, Topological Dictators & the Tertius Gaudens' 'free face'.

Structural Holes are 'a gap between two individuals who have complementary sources of information.'  Topological Dictators- situations where the Pareto rule is homotopic, i.e. continuously deformable, to Dictatorship- arise where there are 'holes' in the domain of the decision problem- i.e. it is not perfectly contractible. If preferences inform ethos- i.e. constitute some essential aspect, or ipseity, of the agent- then all information about an alterity's preference profiles is complementary- i.e. not univocal even if indiscernibly identical. But this means preference profiles are not collapsible. Thus, Social decision problems must have structural holes in their domain such that preferring a Pareto improvement is homotopic to Dictatorship. This does not however mean anything very much except that people who think it does must also accept Godel's proof of God. 

If we think of Structural Holes as arbitrage opportunities between co-ordination and dis-coordination games, then 

1) either there is a homotopy between preference profiles such that they can be deformed into each other across Lewis-Stalnacker 'closest possible worlds'. In this case, 'ethos' or 'ipseity' is 'contractible' such that agents share a potentially univocal identity.

2) no such homotopy exists. In this case, there can be no univocal shared 'Social' identity. Alterity is ubiquitous and irreducible.

If (1) then for any domain featuring ipseity and alterity with three or more agents- or just one agent with non-collapsible meta-preferences or meta-meta preferences and so on- a Teritius Gaudens must exist if Pareto improvements are univocally desirable- in which case the Social Welfare Function is collapsible. Since all contractible spaces are collapsible but not vice versa, the Tertius Gaudens' grinning 'free face', under (2), gains by making the opposite appear the case. 

This is the third, Deliberative Reason always has with it- a Jesting Pilate with a vengeance.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Zaheer Kazmi on the (im)possibility of Liberal Islam

Zaheer Kazmi is a Professor in Belfast. As if that isn't bad enough, he was published an essay in Aeon. My comments are in bold.
We live in a liberal world. Actually, very few people- even in the 'West', live in a 'liberal world'. Ask a homosexual who has to move from the neighbourhood he grew up in to a particular area of a particular metropolis so as to enjoy the benefits of 'Liberalism'. In some senses, liberalism enjoys a global victory. Really? What 'senses' are those? Perhaps the author means that countries like China and India and Turkey embraced 'neo-liberal' economic policies and, to encourage f.d.i or limit capital flight, also paid lip service to a 'rules based' World Order of a Left- Liberal type. Even its opponents often make their case based on essentially liberal ideals of a society built on political liberties or free trade to best maximise individual freedom. Unfortunately, making or not making a case has been shown to have no discernible effect on anything. People who do so have been increasingly disintermediated from even the appearance of salience. In the vital details, liberalism comes in many guises. In other words, it is a meaningless 'Humpty Dumpty' word. As the grounds for revolution or a midwife to empire, over the past two centuries it has shaped how we see ourselves and the world. This is sheer nonsense. The only 'grounds for revolution' are distributional. The only midwife of Empire is incentive compatible projection of military power.
While Europe’s empires may have worn liberalism like a badge of civilisation, liberal values were often taken up more vigorously in the lands they colonised, including in the Muslim world. Which European Empire 'wore liberalism like a badge of civilization'? The Portuguese Empire? The Russian Empire? The Spanish Empire? The Slave trading British Empire responsible for genocide in islands as distant as Ireland and Tasmania? Perhaps it King Leopold's Empire in the Congo which is meant. That was truly liberal. Debates about ‘liberal Islam’ are almost as old as the ideology of liberalism itself. Liberalism dates to the Seventeenth Century. 'Progressive', or 'Modernising' (jaddidi) or 'Reformist' Islamic ideologies date from the Nineteenth Century. 'Liberal Islam' does not exist. From the Aligarh movement in 19th-century British India to the al-Nahda, or renaissance, in the Arab world, Muslims have sought to synthesise Islam and liberalism to advance Islam’s civilisational progress. The al-Nahda predates the Aligarh movement and did bear the impress of 'bourgeois liberalism'. However, its 'Enlightenment' cashed out as a 'catch up' theory of Development which favoured top-down technocratic interventions supported by a Westernised army- not a Liberal Civil Society. Once it became apparent that a totalitarian 'catch up' model was more effective at building military power, the 'liberal' window-dressing was abandoned.
The ‘Christian’ West might have established liberal societies, but it has struggled to produce liberal citizens. So no 'liberal societies' as opposed to law-codes have ever been actually produced. The resurgent fascistic movements in Europe and North America today seeking to restrict the freedoms of others are distinctly Christian and Western identity movements. Europe and North America have always restricted the freedom of others so as to increase the life-chances of indigenous dominant groups. The US re-enslaved slaves previously freed by General Dunmore.  Mexicans were expelled en masse by both FDR and Eisenhower (Operation Wetback!). Britain ended free entry of Commonwealth citizens and is now seeking to restrict that of E.U citizens. It is foolish to speak of 'Fascism' in this context because no expanded role for the Army is envisaged by any recent political development the author disapproves of. On the other hand – and for largely historical rather than metaphysical reasons – Muslims have struggled to establish liberal states.  Muslims fought hard and made many sacrifices to achieve dominance and eject non-Muslim colonists, or economically successful minorities. Since the majority of Muslims, quite sensibly, don't want 'liberal states' where they won't enjoy the first fruits of their hard won dominance, it follows that they haven't established 'liberal states'. But then 'liberal states' stop being so if the dominant internal coalition feels that is no longer in its interest. 'Liberalism' is just window dressing. Yet, by and large, within the liberal societies of the West, Muslims have been exemplary citizens, claiming their rights and pursuing their interests rather than focusing on persecuting others. I'm afraid this is not true. British Muslims did want to persecute Salman Rushdie- but were prevented from doing so. Jews in France and Sweden face genuine persecution by Muslims. Why then can the projects of Muslim liberals – who see liberalism in Islam – seem so quixotic? There are two reasons for this
1) Like Don Quixote, these 'Muslim liberals' have read nothing but fairy tales. They lack contact with reality. They tilt at windmills because they are narcissists living in their own solipsistic world. Some may be well connected and serve as 'useful idiots' to add noise to signal in complex negotiations. Most are mere academo-journalistic hacks rehashing the same worthless article, or puerile sound-bite, on demand.

2) Sunni Islam, unlike Christianity, ab ovo invests every believer with an equal membership in all three Estates which share a common language and a common foundation. In England, the Crown had one language- Norman French- and type of Court- that of Equity. The Church had another language- Latin- and another type of Court- viz. Doctors Commons. The third Estate had its own immemorial Common Law with its own Courts whose language was English. In England, Liberalism meant identifying with English and the Common Law and the lower house of Parliament which alone could raise new taxes. English liberalism is not 'Quixotic'. Spanish liberalism generally was- as witness the wholly pointless Carlist wars. 
French liberalism was associated with anti-clericalism and faced challenges from both the far Right and the Left. It too had an atmosphere of unreality. Consider Macron. Is he a Liberal? If so, it is of a peculiar sort.
Islam could certainly have 'Liberal' mechanism design which would attract immigrants of other Faiths. This appears to already be happening in the Gulf and, perhaps, Saudi Arabia too is on this trajectory. But, there is no need to speak of this as 'Liberal Islam'. It simply is Islam. Prophet Muhammad was a Merchant. He was a law minded man. Islamic jurisprudence is inferior to none.
Liberal Muslim reformists see no contradiction between Islam and core liberal commitments to freedom, tolerance, human rights and the rule of law. So what? Marxist Muslim reformists saw no contradiction between Islam and core Stalinist commitments to 'class-war' based Gulags and genocide. No doubt, there are Wiccan Muslim reformists who see no contradiction between Islam and core Wiccan commitments to dancing naked around bonfires and riding around on broomsticks. It is true that many of them might not advocate a strictly secular state. Why not? Mohammad Ali Jinnah claimed to have created a 'secular state'. Turabi, in Sudan, claimed to have created a state where Jewish and Hindu and Confucian immigrants would be welcome to build their synagogues and temples while enjoying perfect equality under the law. Nobody believed Jinnah or Turabi. Why? Pakistanis and Sudanese had a deep commitment to the core values of ethnic cleansing and raping and robbing those of weaker sects or tribes. But there is nothing exceptional about this. The positions of many Hindu, Jewish or Christian liberals also allow various kinds of state recognition of and support for religious groups and values. 
Hindu Liberals- like Chief Justice Gajendragadkar, who was from a traditional Mimamsaka family- knew that, for Hinduism, local 'common law' takes precedence over 'Shastric' norms. However, these local customary laws could be changed to conform to 'the best practice of the best people' and Democratically elected leaders had the legitimacy to do so on a pan-Indian basis. However, they overplayed their hand. Absurd laws- like the draconian Anti Dowry Act- caused the Legislature to lose salience. Instead, the focus shifted to the Judiciary. Thus the brief decriminalisation of Homosexuality arose from a High Court decision which, sadly, the apex Court did not uphold. 
Christianity- especially in America- faced the problem of multiple competing sects. This permitted the separation of Church & State. 'In matters of Religion', as Jefferson said to Jewish leaders, 'divided we stand, united we fall.' This problem does not really exist in most Muslim countries where there is a dominant 'mazhab' unless, as has happened in Lebanon, that dominance is contested.
Muslim liberals are similarly a mixed bag, from the Qatari-based Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi to Ed Husain and Maajid Nawaz, the founders of the Quilliam Foundation, a British counter-extremism think tank. This is not a 'mixed bag'. It is a heteroclite list of incompossibles . The first named is a crazed Muslim Brotherhood fanatic who wants everyone he thinks is an apostate to be killed. The other two are young 'de-radicalised', State funded, tokenist British Muslims who have zero credibility or influence anywhere.
Despite disagreements, they share fundamental challenges to the flourishing of their agendas. Rubbish! The 'fundamental challenge' Qaradawi faces has to do with not being captured and tortured by the Saudi or Egyptian secret police. By contrast the two young Muslim Britons mentioned face 'fundamental challenges' to do with getting their funding renewed. These challenges have often been characterised by detractors as a way of highlighting Islam’s supposedly inherent backwardness, anti-Westernism, and a desire in Muslim societies to revive a certain idealised vision of medieval glory. Yet it is decidedly an Islam of the nation-state, not an Islam of the caliphate, to which Muslim liberals aspire. So Ed Husain and Maajid Nawaz want a 'Muslim Nation-state do they? Where? In Kilburn where Maajid stood as a Lib Dem candidate? Perhaps the author thinks the Qatari Royal family will let Qaradawi establish a 'Nation-State' in their Emirate.  I hope he is not holding his breath for that to happen. 
For the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb and the Indian Abul Ala Maududi – perhaps the most influential Islamist thinkers of the mid-20th century – God’s sovereignty took precedence over that of the people. Neither were liberals- why mention them at all? In their theological views of the world, secular compromise with the popular will was impossible. Rather than the people, they built their politics around the will of God, coining neologisms such as jahiliyya (pre-Islamic ignorance) and hakimiyya (God’s sovereignty) to flesh out their political visions. Equating jahiliyya with the West’s spiritually vacant secular culture, and contrasting hakimiyya with liberal democracy’s arrogation of divine authority, Qutb and Mawdudi’s thinking helped to shape Islamist movements throughout the world. Some of these movements, like the Muslim Brotherhood, have evolved towards the acceptance of key institutional practices of liberal democracies – popular elections and economic liberalism. Rubbish! What's next? Will the author claim that Erdogan is a Liberal? Why stop there? ISIS was very liberal wasn't it? While in the West, Muslims have largely accepted the parameters of liberal citizenship. Very kind of them to do, I'm sure.But the vexed issue of God’s sovereignty is far from settled in the politics of Islam. And navigating liberalism remains a preoccupation. Where? Is the Muslim Brotherhood, or are the Jamaati parties, sitting around holding seminars on Liberalism. Not at all. They have dispensed with any such eye-wash. They face more serious existential threats.
Non-political forms of Islam endure. So do non-political forms of Marxism or Monarchism or Voodoo. This includes non-violent ‘quietist’ Salafists who show their disapproval of what they deem to be un-Islamic regimes by simply staying away from politics. Curiously, their choice to disengage places them, along with some other non-Muslim citizens, in the familiar liberal ideal of separating religion and politics. This is not curious at all. A limited Sate means everyone has only a limited interaction with the political realm.By refusing to actively participate in the rites of liberal democracy, such as elections, they also share with some Western liberals the view that the procedural mechanisms of these states are hollow and lacking in legitimacy. For these Salafists, however, their objections are because the state is Godless, not because it isn’t liberal enough. D'uh!Anti-political currents also persist in protest movements in the Muslim world against both the centralising tendencies of Islamist parties and the encroachment of neoliberal ideologies. These forms of dissent were represented in the street protests at Taksim Gezi Park in Turkey in 2013, and also during the Arab Spring (2010-12). Resembling in some ways anarchist or Situationist modes of mobilisation, they have stood against Western liberalism – in the form of neoliberal globalisation – and against the authoritarianism of the state, Islamist or otherwise. The Arab Spring did succeed in Tunisia so the whole thing can't dismissed as being on an equal footing of imbecility as 'anarchist or Situationist' modes of mobilisation. In one sense, Western liberalism is inescapable.  Only in the sense that nonsense too is a sort of sense- at least for academics committed to failed Research Programs . Critiques of liberalism, including the ‘postcolonial’ and ‘critical theory’ projects which are wholly worthless  that appeal to notable Muslim intellectuals whom few Muslims have ever heard of, themselves come from within Western intellectual history which most Westerners ignore completely because it is written by idiots. This parasitic relationship has also coloured the way in which Muslim thinkers are sometimes categorised by idiots– from the political theorist Roxanne Euben’s reading of Qutb in her book Enemy in the Mirror (1999), which locates an understanding of his ‘fundamentalism’ against the limits of Western rationalist epistemologies, to the legal theorist Wael Hallaq’s The Impossible State (2012), which relies, in part, on the correspondence between Western critical theorists and pre-colonial Islam to recover distinctive Islamic contributions to contemporary politics. Hallaq has zero influence on Islamic jurisprudence. He himself says his book is only engaging with Western Academia. Not the good bits of Western Academia but the shite bits which no one pays any attention to.

Underlying concerns for an authentic Islam appear in public debates over contending notions of ‘moderate’ and ‘extreme’ Islam. That may once have been the case. ISIS changed the equation. Now everything is Intelligence led and, in any case, 'profiling' is back on the agenda. 
While this distinction is really energised by the concerns of Western states about their domestic politics, it also contains at its heart a deeper question about liberalism – that is, how ‘free’ are Muslims to be Muslim? We know the answer to this. They aren't free at all if convicted of terrorism related offenses. 
In the current climate of alarm in the West, we are seeing conspiracy theories enter the political mainstream. They have fuelled xenophobia and revived Cold War fears of ‘subversion’.In the United Kingdom, the emerging notion of ‘non-violent extremism’ seems to threaten the criminalisation of thoughts or aspects of identity. ‘Non-violent extremism’, in the parlance of government policy, is behaviour that might not endorse terrorism, but that contravenes ‘British values’ of tolerance, freedom, human rights and the rule of law. It is an ill-defined term and includes things such as forced marriages and racism – whose link to terrorism is not clear. But which are illegal even for Hindus or Buddhists or whatever. 
The British notion of ‘non-violent extremism’ epitomises the binary way in which discussion of Islam is now so often framed – where Muslims are seen as either liberal or veering toward militancy.  Framed by whom? Nobody is listening any longer so 'framing' does not matter. The presumptions that accepting or supporting aspects of liberalism inoculates Muslims from ‘radicalisation’, and that the only ‘good’ Muslim is a liberal one, are both, at best, dubious propositions. They are also outdated propositions. 
I appreciate that Belfast isn't a great place from which to pontificate on Islam but surely it has access to the internet? Why is the Professor publishing this wholly contentless essay at the end of 2017? I suspect that this was written a decade ago and that it was emailed by accident to the editors of Aeon. Still, what is the point of a 3000 word essay on 'Islamic Liberalism' which ends on so anodyne a note?-
 Liberal Islam must first find a way of accommodating difference, dissent, heterodoxy and heresy. This will not happen while liberal Islam is dominated by the nexus between traditional, or classical, Islamic authority, and the power of the state.
Why not simply say Liberal Islam won't be Liberal till it becomes so? Kazmi is aware of the very different trajectories of the Khoja and Bohra communities. Both are 'liberal' in terms of education, female empowerment, type of employment etc. Neither has been shaped by the contingencies of 'the nexus between traditional, or classical, Islamic authority, and the power of the state. Yet, in the latter, community activists come to your home to see if you have a Western type toilet or a proper Eastern one. If you don't demolish your Western toilet and install an Eastern one, you are penalised through your digital identity and may face a ruinous economic boycott. Khoja Muslims, by contrast, can have any sort of crapper they like. The Aga Khan is not concerned about how they poo. The Bohras have displaced the Khojas- because the Aga Khan and Muhammad Ali Jinnah backed Pakistan and so many Khojas emigrated to Pakistan- as the economically more advanced and entrepreneurially more successful of the two- at least in India. Yet, Eastern toilets and female genital mutilation have become an obsession of the Bohras, not the Khojas. Why? The Aga Khan is of mainly European ancestry and lives in an European manner. He is liberal and encourages his followers to embrace liberalism. The last two heads of the Bohra community, however, chose to go in the other direction. Both Khojas and Bohras are legally free to abandon their community. Conversion to the dominant sect would be supported by the State. Still, there are advantages in adhering to a 'costly signal' based separating equilibrium because this increases 'liberal' freedom of a purely economic sort. This in turn means that every other type of freedom becomes more, not less, achievable.
It also needs to discover a more creative form of political theory that moves beyond reviving a ‘Golden Age’ of Islamic polities, or duplicating the Western liberal state.
In other words, it doesn't exist and won't exist till it discovers it does so. 
This might imply a more de-territorialised and decentralised vision of Muslim politics in a globalised age.
So, something purely gestural. 
And if it is to retain any transcendent power as a form of faith – to be a viable alternative to both secularism and militancy in an age of voluntarism – a re-enchantment that also makes room for forms of individual spirituality not jealously guarded by traditional authorities might prove more effective.
Not just gestural but also involving fairies at the bottom of the garden. 
Whether or not any of this will happen, or is even possible, is, of course, an open question.
Nope. It is a silly and therefore closed question. 
But unless we interrogate the intellectual premises of liberal Islam more vigorously, away from the fallacious arguments of Islamophobes, no amount of support for an ‘Islamic Reformation’ or ‘moderate’ Islam, however well-intentioned, will lead to meaningful change and empowerment, nor solve the current quagmire of militancy.
You can't 'interrogate' a premise. 
It is something assumed to be true for the purpose of an argument.
You can interrogate the neighbour's cat.
Unless it is sleeping.
The Prophet cut off a portion of his cloak so as not to disturb a sleeping cat.
That is 'Islamic Liberalism' in a nutshell.
Because it is also Islam in a nutshell.
As for the lucubrations of the pedants- recall the hadith 'the stupidity of the savants is the darkness of the age.'- let those sleeping dogs lie and go interrogate the neighbor's cat.

Muth Rationalitty, Meta-metaphoricity & Kripkenstein's sceptical paradox.

 “this was our paradox: no course of action could be determined by a rule, because every course of action can be made out to accord with the rule.”
How can a rule determine or control anything? This is merely an emotive manner of speaking. We may say 'I am following such and such a rule' but this is merely a metaphor- a figure of speech. There isn't something ahead of me which shows me how to proceed. Suppose we believe that the rule creates some occult being who goes ahead of us and whose actions we imitate. Then we are treating a metaphor- viz. that of following a rule- as a concrete reality. We can go a step further and say that this occult being who goes ahead of us and whose actions we imitate is, so to speak, 'controlling' us. This is a meta-metaphor. It is a falsity based on another falsity.  It is not an interpretation of anything nor a theory about anything- rather, it is merely a lazy or emotive of speaking about something everybody already understands and knows to be other than how it is being presented.

Suppose my meaning is- 'I am imitating the actions- e.g. that of walking down a particular path- of some imaginary person whose actions are in complete consonance with such and such rule.' Could you object saying- 'you are not following the rule at all. Any action of yours would be in consonance with the rule.'?

The plain answer is- 'no. I can specify what course the imaginary person takes and I can specify what course I myself take. There are bound to be contingencies and personal preferences which cause the two courses to diverge.'

You might then makes some other objection but I am likely to lose patience and reply- 'thank you for endorsing my view by turning into a cat and licking your unmentionables and then saying 'O Long Johnson' on Jew Tube'. If you resort to meta-metaphors, so can I. If you say something silly, my best recourse is 'to answer a fool according to his folly'.

The cat now having got Kripkenstein's sceptical objection's tongue only a robustly cynical response- viz. barking and biting- can re-establish its position up the arse of the celestial choir of pre-established harmony. Either that or some other bunch of meta-metaphors which are equally meaningless.


The answer is that logic has nothing to do with a meta-metaphor- i.e. a figure of speech constructed by taking some other figure of speech as representing actual reality- though the result is not physically compossible or logically coherent in any way.

What about a Wittgenstein type 'language game'? Can it tell us anything about a meta-metaphor? Nope- unless the thing is 'dead' and is just an idiomatic way of referring to some univocal truth everybody already grasps. However, in that case, there is a Muth rational 'reflective equilibrium', or a canonical Schelling focal point, which lazy meta-metaphors are gesturing at.

This is not to say that philosophy's 'distinctions without a difference' are univocal. As Collingwood pointed out, some future 'fact of the world' may cause a branching event such that there is an independent discourse where the distinction points to an actual difference.

There are co-ordination games for 'pooling equilibria'- such that no branching of discourse occurs because there is no 'income effect', i.e. no agent gets a big enough pay-off by branching discourse- and these may or may not feature a Wittgenstienian 'language game' at some point in their trajectory. For extensional 'e-language' there is no big problem.

 However, where 'income effects' are substantial, intentionality and strategic behavior will feature 'costly signals', not 'cheap talk', and thus give rise to 'separating equilibria' and dis-coordination games. E-language can be studied as a statistical ensemble because it refers to the physical. I-language can't because it is meta-metaphorical and ontological dysphoric in an incompossible manner.

This is something we all already know. In a Law Court, one attorney may say to the Judge- 'the facts of the case are such that the rule in such and such case applies. Kindly pass judgment accordingly'.
The other lawyer may say, 'No! The facts here are quite different! It is the rule in a different case which applies!'

After the judgment is given, one side may appeal to a higher Court on a point of law. But how would that appeal be phrased? Do lawyers say 'the Judge said he was following the Rule in such and such  case. He was lying. What he should have said was 'I think I am following such and such Rule'. He couldn't possibly have known whether or not he was following that Rule or any other. This impugns his Ruling which should be struck down.'?

Obviously, such arguments are not made because they impugn the very possibility of Judgment. What actually happens is that an appeal is made on the basis that the Judge chose the wrong Rule or else, in certain jurisdictions, because new facts have come to light. It is not always easy to untangle questions of law from questions of fact but there is a protocol bound extensional language in which 'buck stopping' occurs- i.e. the doubt is resolved, at least for the time being.

What does this line of Wittgenstein's mean?
“there is a way of grasping a rule which is not an interpretation, but which is exhibited in what we call ‘obeying the rule’ and ‘going against it’ in actual cases.”
'Grasping a rule' is a metaphor. We can't actually hold a Rule in our hand the way we can hold a tool or weapon. Metaphors aren't facts. They can give rise to various interpretations or none at all. The same is true of 'obeying the rule' or 'going against it'.

Something different happens when you construct a meta-metaphor- like 'grasping x such that it is obeyed but not interpreted'. Here, something figurative- viz. 'grasping'- is treated as though it is real and concrete. Furthermore, it obtains in at least two different states- viz. that of being interpreted and obeyed and not being interpreted but nevertheless obeyed. But 'grasping' does not exist. It is an allusion to something else most of us don't have a name for. In specific, protocol bound e-languages, a term like 'grasping' could be 'buck stopped' such that we can say 'x grasped y and interpreted y and obeyed y'- and this would materially affect a judgment such that some loss or gain is sustained because 'interpretation' supervened on obedience.

Let us suppose you are a security guard employed by McDonalds. You see me approach the doorway. You block my entrance in obedience to the rule 'do not permit the ingress of prostitutes seeking to ply a nefarious trade'. I lodge a complaint of racial discrimination and seek exemplary damages. If, on the witness stand, you say- 'I interpreted the rule to mean 'keep out elderly Tambram cross-dressing prostitutes like Sanjay Subhramaniyam & Ramacandra Guha', then- clearly- an offense has occurred and I get my damages.

 On the other hand, if you had no interpretation at all in your head of the aforementioned rule and barred my entrance only because you were sure I actually was Sanjay Subhramaniyam or Ramachandra Guha, or some insalubrious conjunction of both, seeking to ply a nefarious trade on McD premises, then the outcome would be different.

The following quotations are from Wikipedia. My comments are in bold-
Suppose that you have never added numbers greater than 50 before. As a matter of fact, we have all at some time or another 'never added numbers greater than 50'.  Further, suppose that you are asked to perform the computation '68 + 57'. Our natural inclination is that you will apply the addition function as you have before, and calculate that the correct answer is '125'. Nonsense! I certainly would not have got the answer right the first time. Very few children would. I still make mistakes adding up quite small numbers. Take a bunch of mathematical economists trying to split a restaurant bill. Each is likely to make at least one mistake in adding up the cost of his own menu choices. But, these mistakes are seldom consistent. 

But now imagine that a bizarre skeptic comes along and argues:
  1. That there is no fact about your past usage of the addition function that determines '125' as the right answer.
Quite true. However, there is some protocol I am obliged to accept which confirms or denies that a particular addition is correct.
  1. That nothing justifies you in giving this answer rather than another.
It is the correct observance of a protocol which 'justifies' me in a court of law or before the bar of a professional association. Thus, if I am casting up accounts using the machine sanctioned for the purpose and, because of some mechanical glitch, the wrong answer is arrived at, I am still 'justified'.
After all, the skeptic reasons, by hypothesis you have never added numbers greater than 50 before. This is irrelevant. I may have incorrectly added such numbers in the past and been sacked as a result. If I carry on doing so in a professional context, I am likely to face serious censure.  It is perfectly consistent with your previous use of 'plus' that you actually meant it to mean the 'quus' function, defined as:
What you meant something to mean is known to you. In a court of law, your testimony can establish this as a fact. Of course, if you give an inconsistent or self-serving narrative regarding how you knew you meant something to mean something, you may be disbelieved and censured.
The skeptic argues that there is no fact about you that determines that you ought to answer '125' rather than '5'. Your own knowledge of your reasoning is such a fact. Your past usage of the addition function is susceptible to an infinite number of different quus-like interpretations. Not by myself- the only person in a position to judge. Other people may interpret my actions in a bizarre manner. However this only reveals a fact about their mental ill health or inveterate stupidity or pretence of doing philosophy. It appears that every new application of 'plus', rather than being governed by a strict, unambiguous rule, is actually a leap in the dark. This 'appearance' only arises if a person is 'interpreting' other people's actions in the manner of a lunatic or a psilosopher.
The obvious objection to this procedure is that the addition function is not defined by a number of examples, but by a general rule or algorithm. But then the algorithm itself will contain terms that are susceptible to different and incompatible interpretations, and the skeptical problem simply resurfaces at a higher level. Algorithms either have a protocol bound interpretation or they are not algorithms at all. In short, rules for interpreting rules provide no help, because they themselves can be interpreted in different ways. Protocols are a specific type of rule of an inter-subjective, 'social', character. They have some social process of binding adjudication. Or, as Wittgenstein himself puts it, "any interpretation still hangs in the air along with what it interprets, and cannot give it any support. Interpretations by themselves do not determine meaning" (PI 198a). Where this occurs, the interpretation probably has no social utility and cashes out as nonsense.
Similar skeptical reasoning can be applied to any word of any human language. The power of Kripke's example is that in mathematics the rules for the use of expressions appear to be defined clearly for an infinite number of cases. Only an infinite number of cases all belonging to the same class. But this is true of any rule- e.g. drive on the left is defined for an infinite number of cases. It applies me at every of an infinite number of instants of time 
 Kripke doesn't question the validity in mathematics of the '+' function, but rather the meta-linguistic usage of 'plus': what fact can we point to that shows that 'plus' refers to the mathematical function '+'. There is no 'meta-linguistic' usage of 'plus'. There is are 'meta-metaphoric' usages of 'plus'- I am non-plussed that I still take a plus size despite going on a juice cleanse. But this is not 'meta-linguistic' at all.
 Kripke, following David Hume, distinguishes between two types of solution to skeptical paradoxes. Straight solutions dissolve paradoxes by rejecting one (or more) of the premises that lead to them. Skeptical solutions accept the truth of the paradox, but argue that it does not undermine our ordinary beliefs and practices in the way it seems to. Because Kripke thinks that Wittgenstein endorses the skeptical paradox, he is committed to the view that Wittgenstein offers a skeptical, and not a straight, solution.[2]The rule-following paradox threatens our ordinary beliefs and practices concerning meaning because it implies that there is no such thing as meaning something by an expression or sentence. John McDowell explains this as follows. We are inclined to think of meaning in contractual terms: that is, that meanings commit or oblige us to use words in a certain way. When you grasp the meaning of the word "dog", for example, you know that you ought to use that word to refer to dogs, and not cats. Now, if there cannot be rules governing the uses of words, as the rule-following paradox apparently shows, this intuitive notion of meaning is utterly undermined.
Why? If there is some social utility in 'governing the use of a particular word'- e.g. 'plus' for any discipline or profession where it is important that addition is a protocol bound operation- then there will be some more or less formal or social method of adjudication which certifies or 'buck stops' acceptations of crucial words.

Intuitive notions of meaning don't have to be stupid notions of meaning. 
Kripke holds that other commentators on Philosophical Investigations have believed that the private language argument is presented in sections occurring after §243.[3] Kripke reacts against this view, noting that the conclusion to the argument is explicitly stated by §202, which reads “Hence it is not possible to obey a rule ‘privately’: otherwise thinking one was obeying a rule would be the same as obeying it.”
Actually, 'thinking one was following a rule' would be evidence one was following the rule if one were capable of following it. This would not be wholly 'private' provided one belonged to a species which evolved under conditions of scarcity and Knightian uncertainty. Hunger and Thirst and acute Pain focuses the mind. It informs you that you have been following the wrong rules or not following the right rules. 
Further, in this introductory section, Kripke identifies Wittgenstein’s interests in the philosophy of mind as being related to his interests in the foundations of mathematics, in that both subjects require considerations concerning rules and rule-following.[4]
This is one view- a wrong one- of 'the foundations of mathematics'.  The truth is maths has social utility. We are perfectly happy to use a heuristic or a lemma whose axiomatic'foundations' we don't understand if this means we can make better predictions or get better technology. It may be that, in the future the 'Reverse Mathematics' project will have salience and arguments like the one given above will seem absurd and unscientific.
Kripke's skeptical solution is this: A language-user's following a rule correctly is not justified by any fact that obtains about the relationship between his candidate application of a rule in a particular case, and the putative rule itself (as for Hume the causal link between two events a and b is not determined by any particular fact obtaining between them taken in isolation), but rather the assertion that the rule that is being followed is justified by the fact that the behaviors surrounding the candidate instance of rule-following (by the candidate rule-follower) meet the expectations of other language users.
What is important here is whether 'other language users' are bound to observe certain protocols adjudicated in a 'buck stopping' manner. However, this protocol bound adjudication would be defeasible by virtue of some new fact coming to light or some infirmity being revealed in the ratios used.
That the solution is not based on a fact about a particular instance of putative rule-following—as it would be if it were based on some mental state of meaning, interpretation, or intention—shows that this solution is skeptical in the sense Kripke specifies.
The 'expectations of other language users' cashes out as 'my expectation of the expectation of other language users'. But why should my expectations of other people's expectations be less susceptible to a sceptical challenge than 'my expectations of my own expectations as a language user'? As a matter of fact, in Economics, the notion of Muth Rationality solves the problem caused by 'expectations of others expectations'. The Rational Expectations solution is simply to expect the prediction of the correct Economic theory. 

The reason we use meta-metaphors is because we have an interest in 'hedging' on ontologically dysphoric worlds and incompossible 'dis-coordination' games. This shared inter-subjective world is one of humiliation and ultimate futility. Talking worthless shite is our only taste of personal immortality.

So un-Gandhian the rule of Music & the Grape

Wine being but the breast-milk of the heart's second childhood
For whose Sarasvati's Xoanon not Brahma can get wood
So un-Gandhian the rule of Music & the Grape
Love feasts on Love, not Romance fasts for Rape

Prince! Bhartrhari's Shatakas such a Parashuram appears
No Chatakas are left to drink thy Renuka's tears.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

That her flight is a Grace & our pursuit but a Fate

That her flight is a Grace & our pursuit but a Fate
Wine's river, in dark caverns, circles Taverns whose lighting we await
As the winds woo bitter waters to a like blighting retrace
 Memory's black fire consumes the mirror of her Face
Prince! If the Saqi's right hand, most graciously, Mercy's cup extends
'Tis so her left hand slap thee silly to the merriment of thy friends

Friday, 22 December 2017

My new favorite novel

I used to read a lot of novels, indeed, I've written a couple myself, but, as I get older- and maybe this is a male thing- I find fiction no longer does it for me. I prefer non-fiction- especially books that tell you how to do things- like 'How to kill a mocking bird' by Harper Lee, which is really high concept because you don't actually have to read the book, you just pick it up and keep hitting the bird with it till it's safely dead.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Aijaz Ahmad & Indian Literature as a category

Aijaz Ahmed quotes D.D Kosambi as saying-
'The outstanding characteristic of a backward bourgeoisie , the desire to profit without labour or grasp of technique, is reflected in the superficial research so common in India. Ironically enough, so much of what is published in the metropolitan countries displays this very characteristic of the 'backward bourgeoisie;' when it comes to the 'Third World'.

D.D Kosambi was a very promising Mathematician. He felt stifled teaching in Pune and so he got a well paid job with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research where he did no fundamental research of any kind. Instead, he published imbecilic proofs of the Reimann hypothesis in third rate Indian Journals. He also pretended to be an expert on Sanskrit and to be a great Historian. He certainly showed the outstanding characteristic of a worthless shithead who desires 'to profit without labour or grasp of technique' by publishing superficial 'research' which is praised by ideological allies and otherwise ignored.

What about India's 'backward bourgeoisie' as represented by the Tatas, the Birlas, the Bajajs, the various Mittals, and- later on- Ambanis and so forth? Do they 'profit without labour or grasp of technique'? No. If they were rent-takers in protected markets they shrivelled up and died. If they survive in competitive markets, they embrace state of the art technology and emerge as Globally dominant firms.

Something similar happens in Academia. Fifty years ago, there were good Marxist historians and social scientists who were doing genuine research. But, they closed themselves off from competition and became rent-takers simply. Their research was wholly incestuous and produced increasingly sterile imbeciles. Thus, they lost salience. Even the much vaunted 'Post Modernists'- who were good at publicising themselves- lost salience because they chose to become rent-seekers shielding themselves from competition by lending themselves to a Credentialist race to the bottom in terms of permitting Research Degrees to be awarded to very backward aspirants to Clerical status.

Portions of the Western Academy turned into Third World ghettos increasingly staffed by refugees from the actual Third World. This was an intellectual 'affirmative action' program which destroyed the intelligence of those it enrolled leaving them no horizon more Orient than that of whining about Dead White Men.

It also produced pseudo-profundity of this sort-

Why is the above fucked? The answer is that it presupposes that a Literature is a market of a specific type. Economics knows how to treat any given market as a 'theoretical object'. Marxism, after all, is an Economic theory. However, no Economic theory- even the Marxist one- holds that 'productions' can be or should be 'examined in relation to their objective determinations by the development of the culture as a whole.' Why? The answer is that 'objective determinations'- e.g. that of Value- fluctuate stochastically and for exogenous reasons. Even suppose there is a univocal 'golden path' for all Societies from which they only deviate briefly this would still be the case provided any given Literature production could have two different 'use values'. But this must always be true. Aijaz Ahmad may have intended the passage quoted above as 'Punditry' but we read it as a parody of a particular type of pseudo-Lefty mental masturbation.

The 'material condition' for everybody either ignoring Ahmad or using his worthless prose for some Careerist or merely Comic purpose is that no State thinks it worthwhile to beat us if we make fun of this silly man.

No difficulty arises in 'thinking of Indian Literature'. Why? India exists. It spends money teaching various types of Literature only some of which are considered 'Indian'. Thus there is already a 'buck stopping' extensional acceptation for the term. That acceptation may change. Some 'Indian' languages- like sabak-e-hindi Persian or scholastic Arabic- may one day be declared alien. So might the novels of R.K Narayan and the profound philological meditations of Vagina Dentata Choothopahdyaya.

It is a different matter that Academics who write about the difficulty of defining 'Indian Literature' are worthless shitheads who only indulge in a meaningless methodenstreit on this entirely made-up issue because they are too stupid and ignorant and lacking in taste to write about actual Literature of any description- let alone the Indian variety.

Unlike Indian academics, Aijaz- who is Pakistani-American- has no animus against the Indian State or, indeed, against the Hindu majority of that Nation. However, it must be said, this is a trait he shares in common with devout Indian Muslims. I am not charging Aijaz with being a crypto-Islamist but, I'm sorry to say that his ancestral background has prejudiced him and thus, as if motivated by the hadith 'hubb al watan min al iman' he makes a patriotic plea for more State support for inter-translation between Indian languages so as to foster  pan-Indian identity and values. However, by the Grace of Secularism's No-God, even his hereditary instinct in this respect is vitiated by the type of argument he is obliged to make-

Miran doesn't make sense in any Indian language save to a Theist. She can be translated into any language for Theists by Theists who have thrilled to the medieval theistic poets of the target language.
There are some differences due to climate and material culture. England is generally cold- an English poetess will speak of the Virgin holding the soles of the feet of her baby to her breast so as to warm the poor creature. India is generally hot. But we can make a mental adjustment so that we are equally affected by the image. Indian languages have no difficulty celebrating the Theistic traditions of far away countries with very different climates and terrains. Nor do European languages which is why Hinduism and Buddhism can flourish far from their place of origin.

Proficiency in a lingua franca or link language is not needed for successful translation between two wholly alien literary traditions. Good poets, truly imaginative writers, may hear a story at third hand and yet produce something equally imbued with mystery and significance. On the other hand, Professors- like Amul Dairy Mehrotra translating Kabir- write shite doggerel because they are shite. A 'Sarkari' Translation bureau won't produce poetry. It will just turn everything into a homogeneous mass of bureaucratic shite.

Aijaz thinks 'print capitalism' made a difference. It didn't. Books, qua books, as opposed to such reveries as they occasion, are shite. Only stupid people read because they like reading.

The Gramophone record and Film and Radio and Railway trains which permitted drama troupes to tour- stuff like that made a difference because the demand for them wasn't 'derived'.

 At one time, University Departments too had a contribution to make. The Professor of Punjabi at Godhulia Gornmint College wrote excellent Punjabi verse and was fluent in several languages. Nowadays, we are stuck with tenured Professors who published some worthless pseudo-Leftie shite in the Nineties and got tenure without being able to string two sentences together in any language. So what? Who cares? What matters is that artists continue to have an incentive to cultivate precisely that pan-Indian- indeed, universal- Literature which Aijaz thinks can be studied 'as a theoretical object' even though every meta-theory in the Social Sciences- Economic, Linguistic or Computational- denies that the feasibility of any such approach.

Literature isn't something just anybody can produce- witness the failure of my own worthless books- and the study of Literature isn't something just any one ought to do. Now, forcing students to regurgitate worthless shite about specified texts, for screening purposes or to ration clerical employment, may appear to be about 'hegemony'.  It isn't. It's a case of being forced to eat a peck of dirt so as to destroy your morale and teach you your place in the scheme of things.

Aijaz, poor fellow, doesn't get that the rise of the BJP wasn't about some sudden access of epistemic prestige to the Ramayana or Mahabharata. Rather, it was because the RSS came to be seen as the least corrupt and, at least potentially, the most beneficent political or moral force in the country. The educated elite was initially fearful that these guys from second tier cities would hamper economic development in the name of 'Gandhian 'Swadesi' economics' but this did not happen. Still, we remained fearful of these Hindi speaking provincials till our English speaking intellectuals started babbling outright nonsense- making out that urban India was as affluent as White America and ought to be ceaselessly harangued into more and more affirmative action.

 According to this trope, Hindus were equated with White Anglo Saxon Protestants and thus were guilty of some terrible crime against Muslims and Adivasis and so on. Manmohan Singh- a hero to the Right- suddenly started babbling about Muslims getting 'first call' on the Nation's resources- which would have been funny except the guy was presiding over massive corruption such that oily little Madrasis were looting the Treasury to their heart's content- and so, suddenly, we started listening to Modi- whose Hindi, unlike Rahul Baba's English, actually makes sense- with the result that, now, the BJP is the undisputed Indian National Party of Governance.

Aijaz may have believed that the indefeasible univocity of Indian literature- at least to Indians who are capable of producing literature- was a Brahman plot. After all, Vajpayee was a Brahman. But, now, it is Rahul Baba who claims to be a janeodhari Brahman Shaivite. Romila Thapar, a Khatri, who advised his Mother on Indian Culture (!), is no where to be seen.

Aijaz thinks that Jains and Tamils and so on were marginalised by North Indian Brahmans. The truth is, people of my father's generation did nurse some such fear- more particularly because it seemed inevitable that the P.M would be a Hindi speaker from U.P- where Brahmans are a sizable voting block. No such fear now obtains. Jainism has been granted minority status and, predictably, Congress under Rahul Baba is trying to create an anti-Jain backlash. Thus Amit Shah is accused (by Raj Babbar!) of being a crypto-Jain who murdered a Hindu Marwari Judge, with the connivance of Chief Justice Mohit Shah (probably a crypto-Jain), and who is propping up an out and out card-carrying Jain in the post of Chief Minister of Gujarat! Hai! Sanatan Dharma is in danger. Those money-grubbing Jains are running everything! Please vote for Rahul Baba. He is a janeodhari Shaivite and will slaughter those depraved atheists (who deny our sacred Vedas!) like the great Kings of old.

Aijaz thinks 'European Literature' can exist because European Universities produce large numbers of intellectuals who are multi-lingual and can cross translate. Poor fellow! He is living in the past. There was a time- as Edward Said reported- when Literature Professors in America and Europe knew two Classical language, were fluent in three modern languages and had a reading knowledge of perhaps a half dozen more. Those times have gone because Literature Departments have been colonised by the most 'backward' of the aspiring, not Bourgeoisie, but aspirants to Bildgungsburgertum status- i.e. white collar employment.

India always had multi-lingual savants which is why 'Indian Literature' existed- even in the Academy. It doesn't any longer- in the Academy, that is- because the Academy has turned to shit. Aijaz's own work- which is well written if foolish- has contributed to the fecalization of Indian scholarship in this regard. His ancestors must be turning in their graves.

Aijaz was born in 1932. Thus his English is good. He felt his 'bi-linguality' was suppressed by the Academic racket. What he didn't predict was that it would suppress even mono-linguality. There is no up and coming Professor of Comp Lit who, in good conscience, can write a proper sentence in any language whatsoever.

The bond market is indeed more profitable than Literature as a 'Social Science' (an oxymoron Auden asked us to abjure). Why? It's because even Communist countries- like China- need to ensure that there is an adequate real rate of return on bonds. This means that every country needs to observe certain canons derivable from the theory of riskless assets. By contrast 'Literature as a theoretical category' serves no useful function. It doesn't matter if it degenerates into ka ka. People capable of appreciating Literature will still do so. 'Multi-linguality' will arise spontaneously. The Academy can't stop this happening because it was disintermediated long ago. Becoming ashamed of its belletristic origins, it transgressed the first rule of Literature- viz. don't write shite- and lost its 'interessement' mechanism in consequence. True, in France, some academics were capable of the sort of purple passage we find in Edward Said, but when all is said and done they were French. Look at that Macron fellow. He was Paul Ricoeur's secretary. And he married his Drama teacher. I mean to say... what? what?

Monday, 18 December 2017

Muruga & Muhammad

Against its own eclipse what avails any Earthly prediction?
Or, upon the death of its Sun, the Moon's malediction?
 Spill blood upon the mirror of every Barzakh or Sarhad
Till the Pleiades suckle Ibrahim bin Muhammad.

Prince! Babur's Tawaf of Humayun's cot
 or Kumara's of all that can be thought
Being, both, of the hasty sort,
No Veil is but Love has wrought.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Amartya Sen & Indian academic freedom

In 1956, lack of academic freedom in the U.K drove a British couple to emigrate to India and take Indian citizenship.  Did J.B.S Haldane, or his wife (who had been sacked for drunkenness) do any great work in India? No. They indulged in gesture political silliness. Haldane, who had gone on a much publicized hunger strike because a Canadian Jehovah's Witness (who later came out of the 'broom closet' as a Wiccan) couldn't show up for a banquet, wrote-
(I) believe with Thomas Jefferson that one of the chief duties of a citizen is to be a nuisance to the government of his state. As there is no world state, I cannot do this. On the other hand, I can be, and am, a nuisance to the government of India, which has the merit of permitting a good deal of criticism, though it reacts to it rather slowly. I also happen to be proud of being a citizen of India, which is a lot more diverse than Europe, let alone the U.S.A, the U.S.S.R or China, and thus a better model for a possible world organisation. It may of course break up, but it is a wonderful experiment. So, I want to be labeled as a citizen of India.

During the same period, American Universities had substantially less academic freedom than Indian Universities, because of McCarthyism, Jim Crow and so on. Did American Universities fall behind India during that period? No. They thrived. India had not a single world class scientist or savant employed at any University by the end of the Fifties- a trend which has continued- initially because the State poached the intellectual cream for its own purposes but, later on, because a culture of intellectual excellence either declined or failed to establish itself in Indian Universities. Indeed, the Indian campus, by the end of the Sixties, was a byword for hooliganism and criminal caste based criminality.

One could scarcely blame Indian academics- including Leftists, like Ranajit Guha- for migrating to the West. Did they enjoy 'academic freedom' there?

Not in the U.K. In the Eighties, Mrs. Thatcher abolished tenure and placed severe limits on 'academic freedom'. Oxford, her alma mater, was peeved and denied her an Honorary Doctorate. Did Oxford's academic standing decline? No. It rose. Thatcher's reforms were salutary.

In 2015, the UK passed a Counter Terrorism and Security Bill which restricted academic freedom. A leading barrister has stated that it has a 'chilling effect' on academic discourse. India has nothing similar. Does this mean the UK will necessarily decline in academic standing while India advances? No. Of course, not. Don't be silly. Students will be better off it they aren't being targeted for recruitment to ISIS or to some bogus 'Revolutionary' gesture politics. The thing is a win-win. 

India too would benefit if students awarded generous stipends, like Rohit Vemula are forced to do actual Scientific Research rather than switch to Sociology and worthless caste based political hooliganism.

Amartya Sen disagrees,  He says-
“The stifling of academic freedom has been, I think, the biggest factor behind why we don’t have a single top university in India,” 
Indian Universities were created in 1857 on the model of the University of London which was incorporated in 1836. This was the first University in Britain, since the Reformation, which permitted Catholics, Dissernters, Jews etc to take degrees. Unlike British India, where Catholics or Dissenters or Hindus or Muslims or anyone else at all was permitted to set up a College, the letter of the law in the United Kingdom made this difficult though some Dissenting sects were powerful enough to run their own Academies more or less openly. The incorporation of London University breached the Anglican monopoly of Higher Education and soon many Colleges of various types affiliated themselves with London University. However, Oxford and Cambridge- despite their 'stifling of academic freedom' in the matter of confessional faith- retained their position as 'top Universities

By contrast, academic freedom has been always wholly unfettered in India. Nothing prevents or has prevented anyone from setting up an Academic institution and running it any manner they see fit . Nabadwip, which Sir William Jones, mentions as an alma mater equal to Oxford enjoyed perfect autonomy. Did this 'Oxford of the East' outshine the actual Oxford which did not have academic freedom? Nope. It was shite. It disappeared. Sen studied at Presidency College Calcutta- which started as Hindu College. It had academic freedom of a sort highly congenial to the Left. It has been in continuous decline longer than I've been alive. By contrast, Peking University has shot up so much since Tiananmen Square that it is in the top 20. Both Presidency College and Peking University have taken their present shape under Communist administrations. The Indian College had more academic freedom. Much good it did it.

Indian Colleges have always been free in a way which China and Singapore could never envisage. Affiliation with a University is a matter of choice and degree. Indian Universities, ab ovo,  did little save provide basic inspection and examination services to affiliated colleges. At no time was there any 'stifling of academic freedom' save such as would arise by the ordinary operation of the Law of the land. Thus the same laws regarding sedition and disturbing the peace would apply on or off the campus. But this is universally true.  'Benefit of clergy' disappeared long ago.

London University now has 3 Colleges which are in the global top 20. Indian Universities can make no similar boast. Why? London is rich. India is poor. This was true in 1857 and it remains true today.

One reason London  is rich is because Governments have not been afraid of pushing through pretty drastic reforms of a sort which Sen has decried. Indian Education would greatly benefit by similar harsh tactics- as indeed has begun to happen. But Sen is himself a road-block.

 Poverty, by itself, explains little. Israel was poor in the Fifties. A Professor at Presidency College, Calcutta, who moved to Technion University in Haifa, would have suffered a sharp fall in standard of living. But, he would probably have started to produce better quality research. Why? Israelis- rude, uncouth, and poor as they were at the time- had no interest in Credentials but, rather, possessed a genuine passion for Research. They weren't simply going through the motions so as to cash a salary cheque or get a bureaucratic berth. The first generation of Zionists, and then of 'sabras' were almost pathologically political. Technion had replaced German with Hebrew as the language of instruction at a time when Hebrew had less scientific literature than Bengali or Tamil. Yet, this was not a recipe for disaster. Why?  Israelis were happiest challenging paradigms and producing path-breaking work. By contrast, in India, even first class minds- like S.N. Bose and D.D Kausambi- got distracted by an essentially futile type of political posturing which however had greater prestige. Kausambi pretended to know Sanskrit and to be a Historian while presenting crazy 'proofs' of the Reimann Hypothesis. Was this because 'academic freedom was stifled'? No. It was because Indians- like Amartya Sen- prefer worthless political posturing to doing path breaking research.

I suppose, one could say Israel and China can draw upon their very talented diasporas to burnish their Academies. But, since the Sixties, so can India. The big difference is that India thinks of Higher Education as a positional good, not something which raises productivity and contributes to National Defence. China has no academic freedom and never will. It will have a lot of top Universities nevertheless because Universities can contribute to the Economy and National Defence. By some measures, two authoritarian countries, China and tiny Singapore have 10 percent of the top Universities. India has and will have none- unless Academic freedom is severely curtailed and the tax payer gets value for money. India won't take this sensible course because Universities are parasitical. Thus, by default, 'academic freedom'- as represented by Sen's numerous acolytes- means combating patriotism in all its forms.

Unlike Amartya Sen, Philip Albach actually knows a lot about both Indian Universities and what makes for global excellence. He says that India is like the USA in that the Federal Government has little control over Higher Education. Countries like UK and Sweden, on the other hand, can 'stifle academic freedom'- which, it turns out, is a good thing.

So there you have it. Britain has top universities because it stifles academic freedom. India does not because it can't be bothered. Japan has top university departments in Science and Technology because it has high staff to student ratios in these fields and uses the kenkyĆ«shitsu seminar system such that a successful Scientist has a 'Guru-chela' relationship with his students. This is purely feudal and stifles the shite out of politically conscious students- which is a good thing because political consciousness is a degenerative disease of the mind. Sweden is moving to more autonomy but, currently, students can only sue to get back their fees, not the opportunity cost of their time, if their degree is worthless. Since only non EU students pay fees, Swedish students will continue to get screwed. So much for autonomy without responsibility- except that of repaying fees for worthless degrees to litigious Americans.

Come to think of it Rahul Gandhi has a worthless degree from the College of which Sen was the Master.  Sue the bastids, Rahul! You will become a hero to hundreds of thousands of desis whose families have gone into debt to get them a phoren Credential.

Why Academic Freedom must suppress itself.

 The following definition of the subject of this post seems uncontroversial-
academic freedom guards the liberties of a professor in two broad areas:
1)  his right within the academic community to pursue and promulgate truth without restrictions or censorship from the University Administration, 
2)  and his right, in the public sphere, to enjoy the freedoms of association and expression which any citizen possesses. 
(1) is otiose. It is already covered by contract law. If I am hired as a member of a particular profession- be it Medicine or Accountancy or Pedagogy- it is understood that a breach of contract would arise if I were not permitted to do what right-minded members of my profession would do in the same situation.

2) is redundant. Everybody already possesses this right whether on not they practice a profession.

Clearly this definition of 'academic freedom' is meaningless.  We might as well speak of 'janitor's freedom' as consisting of
1) his right to clean up a pool of vomit rather than wait and get permission from the vomiter.
2) his right to go home and watch a bit of TV when his shift ends.

Why has such a worthless definition been offered? Let us see-
At the core of all issues of academic freedom is the question of tenure; it is the safeguard which allows a professor to to exercise his rights without fear of intimidation from either University or public officials.
This is foolish. What matters is not tenure but transfer earnings- if a person can get paid enough without loss of reputation by another employer, then no further safeguard is needed. If this is not the case, then no safeguard really exists, the University could find other ways to work its will. Moreover, there would be no genuine 'academic community' whom the Professor could address. There would be merely a bunch of needy and therefore pliable individuals whose more pressing concern would be the miseries of their lot rather than some abstract alethic project.

Professor Frank Donoghue argues-

The tenure system itself does more to constrain than to promote academic freedom. It may seem counterintuitive to argue that, but that position is now one to consider seriously. The American Federation of Teachers and former general secretary of the AAUP Roger Bowen have both recently made the same point. Consider too that academic freedom would matter only if professors had standing as public intellectuals, but that standing has never been more than a distant aspiration for us. If the public actually cared about what professors have to say, if academic speech and writing really influenced public opinion, then academic freedom would be important. People would either treasure the pronouncements of professors, and thus fight to sustain academic freedom, or they would fear the rhetorical power of professors, and thus try to deprive us of our special exemption from the obligations of employee loyalty, patriotism, and conventional thinking. The fact is that we’re not that important; therefore, the academic freedom we profess to stand for is unimportant too. The proof is that professors who are perceived as pushing the limits of academic freedom are punished on the most mind-numbingly procedural grounds, that is, in a way that focuses on their status as employees, ignoring their status as intellectuals. In other words, administrators can and do sidestep any ideological issues and challenge the “occupational” competence of professors whose opinions they find objectionable. They do so to remind professors that they are employees first and foremost.

Academic Freedom only becomes effectual if pedagogues have adequate transfer earnings in Industry- including the Service sector. But, in that case, Industry has the whip hand. The Academy will have to suppress inutile or absurd courses of instruction. It will be obliged to suppress its own more foolish availability cascades. In the short run, endowments or information asymmetry may provide a buffer. Long term, the freedom of the Academy must be suppressed if Academics are to enjoy freedom. The alternative is the whole thing degenerating into a cult.

Still, there will always appear to be an interregnum in which senile or Sen-tentious Professors can pose as battling some invidious 'Fascism' or 'Manufacture of Consent' by speaking 'Truth to Power' while actually defending only their own tenured cabal.

But, all too evidently, once Professors start talking this type of tripe, their Research Programs are dead in the water.


To be rigorous an Academic Research Program should be more selective of datum and to be productive it should have more 'variables' than the equivalent Public Discourse. Thus any alethic Academic activity will have fewer degrees of freedom than its Public Discourse counterpart.

Furthermore, if academics are independent, then some set of otherwise alethic Research Programs will nevertheless fail because of 'over-fitting'- i.e. their decomposition of Public Discourse variables is problematic. Ejected from the Academy these failed Programs get dammed up elsewhere in Public Discourse as capacitance diversity.

In other words, a 'free' and 'independent', ideal Academy will feature shakeouts and 'creative destruction' even of alethic Research Programs which continue to solve co-ordination or concurrency problems in the wider world. Thus, 'tenure' is a bad idea unless there is technological stagnation and the ageing process involves no diminution of mental powers.

Even if the Academy features Market Failure so extreme as to militate against adequate transfer earnings, there would be a Coasian solution such that the same feature reappears. In other words 'expulsion' and 'exclusion' and other narcissistic injuries enforcing Kantian heteronomy will be a more, not less, salient feature of the Enterprise of the Gown as opposed to the Town.

In recent years, some Academics, have suggested that Academic Freedom is as necessary as Judicial Freedom. Once appointed, an Academic must have security of tenure and emoluments and perquisites and so forth. This argument is obviously specious. Judges and Judges alone interpret laws for the whole of Society. The public is welcome to change those laws by pressurising the Legislature. Academics have no similar standing. A Professor, speaking generally, is stupider, more ignorant and of worse character than an expert practitioner or observer of the relevant field. We may listen to a Professor on TV speaking of some subject in which we have no real interest but we wholly disregard, or greet with derision, the pronouncements of Professors who teach subjects which affect us personally. Thus, I don't mind listening to some stupid Professor talking nonsense about Nicaragua on TV- because that is a country I have no interest in. I won't listen to a colleague of that same Professor talking nonsense about Brexit because Brexit affects me personally. If some Nicaraguan Professor comes on BBC and spouts nonsense about Brexit, I'll be outraged and lodge a complaint. Of course, there are some TV channels where only ideological nonsense is talked. That is a separate matter.

Suppose a mathesis universalis exists and some sub-set of Academics are guided to superior judgments on its basis. In this case, there is an argument for granting certain Academics an autonomous status similar to Judges. However, this would mean that Academics would be far less free than they are currently in the same way that Judges are less free when pronouncing judgment. Thus an Academic who knows that Brexit will be a disaster will be obliged to say 'There is no evidence that Brexit will be a disaster', just as a Judge has to pronounce a homicidal maniac innocent of murder because of some obscure point of law or procedural error.

There are two reasons why the Academy should have less freedom than Society at large-

1) It deals, at least in part, with alethic Research Programs for which algorithmic decision procedures are refined. Thus, its discourse needs to be more protocol bound

2) It deals with impressionable young people who face an information asymmetry problem.

Taken together, these two considerations explain why the Academy should always have less freedom than Society at large. It's fine if alchemists and astrologers are turfed out of the University along with some novel type of astronomy- like that of Galileo- provided Society at large has greater freedom to pick up that ball and run with it.

There may be Theological or Ideological or Legal objections to a particular Academic Research Program which is in fact alethic. These objections don't matter even if they result in an act of exclusion provided there is  some sector of Society which enjoys greater freedom than the University to find productive applications for that Program.

Conversely,  if the Academy has more freedom than the Society at large, it will have an incentive to uphold a Noble Lie doctrine which ultimately reduces freedom of thought for everybody. The same point may be made of a 'Bildungsburgertum', or Power Elite. If members of this class feel that their own freedom is only incentive compatible if the hoi polloi are subjected to a thought police, then both they and their Society ends up paying a higher price.

Obviously, when pedants speak of academic freedom they aren't talking about freedom of thought. They mean freedom from fear of the sack and/or criminal prosecution. This is perfectly natural.
Everybody wants a personal or class based immunity from Social conventions, Economic imperatives, and Civil and Criminal Laws. Pedagogues are no exception to this rule. However, because the Academy features a hegemonic relationship between elderly pedants and impressionable youngsters, it is important that more restrictions and safeguards be placed upon the Academy than upon Society at large. Where this does not happen, the intellectual capacity of both teacher and student declines because of incentive incompatibility and rent seeking behaviour.

Similarly, there is an asymmetry between the lethal force at the command of armed soldiers compared to civilians. This militates for greater restrictions on military personnel and a stronger code of obedience. Where this does not happen, sooner or later the Defence of the Nation is compromised.

Talking worthless shite is increasingly a profession. It is important that greater constraints be placed on the talking of worthless shite than upon worthwhile communication. Political correctness applies only to the former not the latter. Thus, if you shout 'Oi, fatty- your head is on fire', and I reply 'Fat shaming is Fascist!' and you say 'Listen, you big black sack of shit, your fucking head is on fire' and then I say 'Fuck, my fucking head is on fire- don't just stand there, gimme a golden shower quick you two bit ho-bag!', no breach of political correctness has occurred because communication was of an essentially worthwhile type. Also, it's the Office Christmas do for fuck's sake and when I say 'you' I mean me and when I say me I mean that slut of a photocopier on the third floor.
There is no truth to the allegation that I pissed upon it as part of an escalating cycle of depraved sexual harassment but, rather, only did so for the life-saving reason previously mentioned.

Academic freedom must be suppressed. What is important is that Filing Clerks like me get tenure so that we are free to develop innovative ways of dealing with threats to the integrity of Corporate information. Our civilization depends on proper filing and record keeping. Slutty photocopiers on the third floor need to be pissed on regularly, otherwise everybody just ends up Xeroxing their genitals on it and then faxing the result to Head Office.