Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Was Derek Parfit a Golem?

Peter Singer writes-
Derek shared the final version of On What Matters Volume Three with me, and it seems fitting now to share the final paragraphs, which give a brief statement of what Derek considered matters most, as well as an indication of what we have lost by his inability to complete his larger project.
“I regret that, in a book called On What Matters, I have said so little about what matters. I hope to say more in what would be my Volume Four. I shall end this volume with slight revisions of some of my earlier claims.
One thing that greatly matters is the failure of we rich people to prevent, as we so easily could, much of the suffering and many of the early deaths of the poorest people in the world. The money that we spend on an evening’s entertainment might instead save some poor person from death, blindness, or chronic and severe pain. If we believe that, in our treatment of these poorest people, we are not acting wrongly, we are like those who believed that they were justified in having slaves.
Some of us ask how much of our wealth we rich people ought to give to these poorest people. But that question wrongly assumes that our wealth is ours to give. This wealth is legally ours. But these poorest people have much stronger moral claims to some of this wealth. We ought to transfer to these people, in ways that I mention in a note, at least ten per cent of what we earn.
What now matters most is how we respond to various risks to the survival of humanity. We are creating some of these risks, and discovering how we could respond to these and other risks. If we reduce these risks, and humanity survives the next few centuries, our descendants or successors could end these risks by spreading through this galaxy.
Life can be wonderful as well as terrible, and we shall increasingly have the power to make life good. Since human history may be only just beginning, we can expect that future humans, or supra-humans, may achieve some great goods that we cannot now even imagine. In Nietzsche’s words, there has never been such a new dawn and clear horizon, and such an open sea.
If we are the only rational beings in the Universe, as some recent evidence suggests, it matters even more whether we shall have descendants or successors during the billions of years in which that would be possible. Some of our successors might live lives and create worlds that, though failing to justify past suffering, would give us all, including some of those who have suffered, reasons to be glad that the Universe exists.”
Parfit's parents were Doctors- missionaries in China, where he was born.
Parfit didn't study Medicine.
Was he lazy or stupid or simply callous?
He was a bright workaholic who cared deeply about the suffering poor.
Yet, at the end of his life, he all but openly tells us that, from the perspective of 'what really matters', his work was worse than worthless.
How so?
The poor, not the pedants, had a moral claim upon his working time- presumably his chief resource.
His Moral Philosophy acknowledges this claim.
Moreover, Parfit was actually a moral man- surely a rarity in his field.
He did not say 'I'm doing moral philosophy not for its own sake but for the sake of the poor' because that wasn't true. Singer suggests, however, that Parfit's work cashes out as whatever would have been required had it been true. In other words, Singer's Parfit was engaged in the provision of, not 'first order' goods for the poor- like Norman Borlaug or Jack Prager- but 'second order' goods- the stock excuse of the annoying 'chugger'-  because he was either too stupid or evil to do otherwise.

Alternatively, Parfit was just a bad philosopher (his first degree was in History) ignorant of developments in Choice theory (Tyler Cowan's reason for dismissing his recent work) who ended up producing such philosophy as would have been created by someone uninterested in that discipline whose motivation was to help the poor in a second order manner.

In either case, what is interesting here is that Parfit's Moral Philosophy is self defeating iff he espouses it. 
His oneiric 'can' is orthogonal to what his lucubrational 'ought' prescribes.
An Ethical Principle which doesn't hold doing Ethics, as opposed to Philanthropy, to be the highest good is obviously self defeating because we can easily envisage a situation where the former crowds out the latter. Indeed, the only situation where such crowding out would not obtain is one where Society consists only of one human programmer and a bunch of Robots or- to take an example for which an ancient philosophical tradition exists- a Society composed of one Rabbi and a bunch of Golems whom he animates by the Principle he hold to be True.

Professors of Ethics can't be either Programmers or Rabbis unless they actually do Programming or discharge Rabbinical functions.
Does this make Derek Parfit a Golem?
Let us see what happens when we map his theory onto a purely halachic universe.
A Golem, as readers of my blog are well aware, may, if need arise, count in constituting a Minyan but only if created by one of the 'Children of Israel' as 'nolad mahud'.
But no Golem, espousing Judaism and undergoing circumcision, becomes a Child of Israel thereby.
Well, the halachah re. ab ovo circumcised Golems is v’lo l’maaseh- theoretical- in a manner necessarily orthogonal to reality. How so? Because if real, it would be 'vein morin kein'- i.e. it would forbid the very action its cognizance would otherwise enjoin.
Put simply, 'Children of Israel' is a category either from God or else is Golem gameable. 
But, by permitting only 'nolad mahud' Golems, and forbidding self-circumcisers- every Levinasian, or merely clockwork Mussar, Moses such as is his own ethical castration's asymptotic Mohel- Halachic Judaism disposed of the quaestio juris/ quaestio facti, non commutative uncertainty, or fact/value entanglement problematic for Herzl Zionism in a manner the reverse of Duhring's and therefore, as we see with increasing surprise, actually quite incentive compatible. 
The Haskalah, obedient to a Parfit's Triple Imperative, subsidise the Haredi Malthusian...
Not at fucking all.
Israel works.
Parfit's theory has a concrete model.
But one which programmatically forbade the interessement of Old Etonian gentil parfit knights- like Sir Phillip Sassoon.
England too, my England of the poor, not Parfit's of the rich, forbids his, by Suffering uncircumcised,  philanthropy.
Well, the LSE was set up for no other reason than that Parfit persons and reasons can't be Children of...
 Fex Urbis filiality such as mine;
The Lex Orbis of West Kensington's Gandhian or Gadarene swine;
Stupidity and Ignorance as Suffering's guerdon.
Dementia's, or Drunkenness', confabulations as Deep Parrhesia's gravamen.

Mine is the only Moral Philosophy commissioned by the Malthusian Poor. 
It too easily disposes of Parfit or Gentile Knights or Fellows of All Souls.
Their 'Truth' is so not nolad mahud, it can only be a meretricious 'naamam'- or Golem 'amat'.

Judge for yourself.

Consider Derek's 'Triple Theory' of Kantian Consequentialism.
'An act is wrong just when such acts are disallowed by some principle that is optimific, uniquely universally willable, and not reasonably rejectable."
Either no act is wrong or at least one act successfully implementing antagonomia (i.e. 'dissent for dissent's sake') re. this Triple Theory is wrong. This is because antagonomia can always choose to express itself as that one wrong act. But, in this case, either antagonomia is itself wrong or else there is a principle within the theory which stipulates that antagonomia be disregarded. But this means, either dissent is forbidden or ignored, 'on principle'.  Clearly this is 'reasonably rejectabe', not 'universally willable' and, if Knightian Uncertainty obtains, or Darwin, not Deuteronomy, is Schelling salient, provably non-optimific.

Reading Parfit, clearly, is a waste of time- though, no doubt, lazy antagonomics get pleasure by trolling this golem, animated only by the 'amat' (the Hebrew word for Truth) inscribed on his forehead by a stupid academic availability cascade, who yearns for some Teilhardian Omega he thinks best achievable by us not eating nice things and spending all our money on fostering a Malthusian disaster in the Third World.

Yet, now the 'alpha' has been erased from Parfit's forehead, and he is turning back to clay, re-reading Parfit is suddenly useful to non-Golems because death has made the whited sepulchre a red Adam.
How so?
Well, we only need to replace every mention of 'Consistency' in his oeuvre with 'Hannan Consistency'- in which case his faux Buddhist theory of Personal identity is false- and every mention of 'Rationality' with 'Muth Rationality'- which immediately gets rid of all his Kavka type paradoxes as well as his 'Repugnant Conclusion'- in order to reclaim this lovely bloke for our own, not barzakh, but antarabhava where he can breed, not Malthusian golems, but the myriad Adams of Apurvata capable of such truly original sins as require expulsion into and the conquest of the ever Cantor re-diagonalized Lebenwelts of ontological dysphoria.


  1. 'replace every mention of 'Consistency' in his oeuvre with 'Hannan Consistency'- in which case his faux Buddhist theory of Personal identity is false-'

    1. Hannan Consistency means 'regret minimization'. Clearly this entails 'genidentity' i.e. identity persistence over time. Buddhist ontology doesn't have succession in Time but does have a workaround- viz. 'antarabhava'- such that its soteriological kernel remains globally (i.e. across all possible worlds) 'regret minimizing'. Parfit was clutching at a caricature of Buddhism- not the genuine article. I'll do a post soon to clarify this.
      Thanks for your comment.