Friday, November 29, 2013

Two photographs from the Auschwitz Album, images of people on the way to their death. I'm going to use them to discuss art.


I'm tired of people defending art because of something they want it to be. I'm tired of defenses of art as a means of "truth", and the use of that term without irony. The image on the left is made of pixels, as the original is silver halide on paper. And the child depicted was no more or less deserving of concern than the other figures in these photographs. If it's the most affecting image, the most painful to look at, if the child draws our sympathy more than the others, it's because of the presentation: the isolated figure, lagging behind, the slightly oversized head turned away,  the turn making us need to imagine a face, hands in pockets and small legs, an image of adulthood in childhood. If this is the figure we're drawn to, if this is the child we most want to help, whose loneliness in her fate fills us with rage, it's got everything to do with art and nothing to do with justice, or justice as fairness, but the reflex and the anger are part of being animal, and human. We've chosen her as we would choose our own child, because art has given us the illusion that she's close. And the others may mean less to us, or more than they would without her reflected light. Either way, there's no justice. Justice is impersonal; it's blind.

Humanity is in particularity and partiality; the universal is literally inhuman, and there's no way to resolve the contradiction without sacrificing one or the other. The unreflective unity of the particular and universal in the name of religion, the unity of art and science, is barbarism. The contemporary intellectualized and fantasized unity of art and life is fascism. Nietzsche knew the difference, though he didn't always face it, and when he did it was only with words. But unlike Borges who didn't knew the difference, or learned it very late, he left the library at least often enough to die of syphilis. People now confuse barbarism and fascism as they confuse humanism, which allows for contradictions, with anti-humanism, which doesn't. The Enlightenment as it's come down to us is more associated with the latter than the former.

It's inhuman to deny intimacy, even the illusory intimacy of art.  Yet if we communicate only through forms and gestures, the difference between communication of the dead and living and of the living amongst themselves is a difference only of degree.  Good artists know that art's defined by irony because they know that communication itself is defined by it, and it's hard to con a con. And art may be a lie, but it's less of one than claims of artlessness. Art is commitment limned by irony; camp is irony as art; kitsch is camp without irony.

Another example of art, another image that claims our sympathy, of a child with the burdens of adulthood. And the odds are very strong, though still not strong enough, that this girl is still alive.


Only a tiny minority of Israeli Jews fit the description of Nazis, and the state though founded on the ideology of blut und boden, blood and soil, does not fit the description of a Nazi state. But Israel is founded on the ashes and the memories of the survivors of Auschwitz. The victims of extremist particularity, without irony, have themselves become ideological particularists, arguing that irony regarding their own lives is an insult to their memories and to their dead. Israel is founded on particularity as justice, denying the contradiction between particularity, partiality, and universalism. In the minds of most Israelis Israel is just by definition.

Barbarism needs no defense, it simply is; it's dynamic because it's honest, violent because it can be, not because it needs to be. Israel is founded not only on conquest but on the erasure of that conquest, even in the memories of those who committed it. If they could have shrugged it off the state and the society would be stronger than it is, but it was too late: a colonial enterprise in the era of decolonialization was bound to fail.  Fascism was a pedant's parody of monarchy, after the age of monarchy was over. Culture without the possibility of irony is kitsch. The lie of "liberal" Zionism has done more damage to Israel and Zionism than all the attacks and protests of the Palestinians combined.

art and Reinhard Heydrich

2015,  Alan Kurdi

Thursday, November 28, 2013

When it rains it pours.
JPost, yesterday
Report: London is mediating indirect secret talks between US and Hezbollah 
The US and Hezbollah are in secret indirect talks managed by London dealing with the fight against Al-Qaida, regional stability and other Lebanese political issues.
Tagged, "determinism", because it was predictable, assuming that the US leadership would sooner or later choose rational action (and that Israel and Saudi Arabia would not).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

https://twitter.com/PatrickKingsley/status/405736305641795584

For holding balloons

At Sotheby's a few weeks ago I saw paintings by Norman Rockwell, in the flesh, maybe for the first time, tucked in a corner a few yards away from a much larger, and very large, Warhol.  Silver Car Crash [Double Disaster], from 1963, had a room to itself.  Even estimated as among the more valuable things on offer the Rockwells were treated with a touch of embarrassment, but along with the Warhol they've stuck in my head more than anything else there. The Warhol went for $105M at the Evening Contemporary auction on Nov 12th,  and the Rockwell is estimated at $20M, going under the hammer on Dec 4th, as American Art. [It sold for $46M]

Since I'd never stood in front of a Rockwell before I had no idea how they were made; I'd seen them only as images, in reproduction. And that's why they're famous. But their power is in the handling of material. I was surprised and embarrassed that I hadn't wanted to look before. I wasn't prepared for their physicality because I'd never thought of them as paintings.

Dumbo and Fantasia are major artworks of the 20th century, and Capra and Spielberg are given at least grudging respect, why wouldn't Saying Grace deserve a look?  Films are moving images, ephemeral, and the ephemeral nature of film helps to explain why literary critics in the age of film have made good film critics, but not good art critics. A painting in reproduction is like a novel in translation, and then only for events and plot, without even the approximation of the descriptive language. And Rockwells as images never interested me. And they still don't. But he was a compelling craftsman, and the craft gives the works' sense of empathy a depth and irony a bite that reproduction flattens out. Warhols work both as objects and reproductions, but Rockwell is the opposite of Fantin-Latour, whose works are physically mundane but gain a depth and darkness, a Seurat-like mechanical melancholy, when photographed and printed on glossy paper.  Fantin-Latour is (almost) better as an imaginary late 19th century Parisian painter than as a real one. And Rockwell was a very good painter, maybe even a brilliant one, hiding in plain sight behind the job of magazine illustrator.


I stopped reading Dave Hickey before he started defending Rockwell. I linked it to his fanboy praise of Ed Ruscha. And he's a music and literary critic who writes about art, so my comments above apply. But he's smart.

I remember reading Alexander Cockburn's review of Robert Hughes' American Visions. I've always wanted to call it, telegraph it, the best piece I ever read on art in The Nation, but it may not have been there.  Cockburn describes Hughes as struggling to extol the greatness of American art but that clearly his heart isn't in it. The greatness of Anglophone and thus American culture is narrative and linguistic not physical. Cockburn chides Hughes by describing the Mississippi panorama of John Banvard, saying Hughes had missed the chance to write a richer book, among other things on the origins of Hollywood. I'd never heard of Banvard, and I'd since forgotten his name, but I never forgot the story.

Christgau on Hickey.
And as a Perry Mason fan who boasts in this very essay that he helped convince Warner Bros. to sign Funkadelic, he must understand that strange and wondrous things sometimes happen to the hugely successful. Designed for mass consumption, Roots and Roseanne, E.T. and Superman III would feel altogether more commonplace if they weren't. Megasales didn't normalize Prince, whom he seems to like, and never playing to fewer than 3000 spectators defined Led Zeppelin's music, which he probably considers inferior to Aerosmith's. Well, too bad for him. 
But all this is simply to afford myself the opportunity of arguing with a rather large kindred spirit, which Hickey rightly identifies as one of the signal pleasures of democracy. His book survives this divagation, and indeed takes up a variant on the looky-loo argument in a more convincing finale called "Frivolity and Unction" before embarking upon an obscure envoi about a fictional Spaniard with whom Hickey discusses bean counting while attempting to collect a gambling debt. I wish I believed the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is quaking in its boots--it ought to be. Given how he feels about therapeutic institutions, do you think Hickey would turn down a National Book Award? My guess is that this old freelancer would cash the check. Here's hoping we get the chance to find out.
Robert Boynton in the New Yorker on Hughes, and Cockburn
When he wasn’t in the kitchen, Hughes was often riding his Honda CB-750, showing up at openings out-fitted in leather. At other times, he would have a macaw perched on his shoulder-“my Long John Silver period”-or display outrageous plumage of his own. The writer Alexander Cockburn recalls the time when he and Hughes pledged to finally pay their taxes. “Jason Epstein told us to see The New York Review of Books’ accountant,” Cockburn says. “When I met Bob with my shopping bags full of crumpled receipts, he was dressed in this incredibly dashing velvet suit.” As the pair approached the accountant’s desk, he eyed them warily and asked, “Will you be filing separately or jointly?”
The post below is wrong. I didn't read more than a few sentences of Lance's post; I judged it mostly from its title, which is a misnomer. His argument isn't against the fetishizing of procedures but the fetishizing of design. cf. the absurdity of Rawsliana, and Sandy Levinson's obsessions (and here).

Lance
There is, of course, an enormous literature - in philosophy, economics, political science, decision theory, etc. - on the rationality of voting procedures. And while focus on procedural matters is not universal in any of these disciplines, it is surely fair to say that such considerations dominate the intellectual discourse. But such a focus requires ignoring one very simple, uncontroversial, and devastating fact: No voting procedure, nor any other definable procedure for arriving at a group decision is guaranteed to be rational.
No shit.
The fundamental point here is that these things are not to be fixed by obsessing on procedures. Procedures are merely tools, and in the hands of vicious craftsmen - to steal a phrase from Ani Difranco - every tool is a weapon if you hold it right. If philosophers and others want to contribute to more rational deliberative bodies, they need to stop obsessing with problems that can be formalized, and turn to messier issues of moral education, the socialization of habits of rationality, even, dare I say it, the cultivation of care and perhaps a beloved community (to steal from another social visionary.) Again, I am aware that there is literature in this area, but I don't think anyone will claim that the cultivation of Aristotelian civic virtue is a dominant thread in the academic discussion of collective rationality.
Rather than spending our time designing 9 string guitars and new varieties of sousaphone, we should learn to play the instruments we have. If all the world's a stage, maybe we should become better, more aware, more intelligent actors. But the focus on rationality is still there, and that undermines his argument. We need structures to manage irrationality, which is in itself inevitable. But Lance is too in love with himself to imagine his own irrationality as something that would ever need management.

Virtue ethics means the end to "technical" philosophy, a move away from the "creation of concepts", and outgrowing dungeons and dragons.  Better craftsmen and better critics, better citizens thus better politicians, better lawyers, fewer philosophers and fewer "visionaries".

The original post:

Leiter and Mark Lance: Against Democracy.

There's no other way to describe it. Justice in a democracy is procedural: if the cops bust down your door on a whim and find evidence of a crime, the evidence is inadmissible in court. It doesn't matter if the evidence is a dime bag or a dead body. That's procedure. "Truth", as it pertains to any single case, is irrelevant.
The "nuclear option" is a term of art referring to a tradition; no more, no less. And the change in rules also followed rules of procedure.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

general notes, to refer to. partial repeat
11
MPAVictoria 07.09.13 at 5:58 pm
...Your impressions about how aristocratic they can be differ from mine. I have sat in on dinner parties where every single person there (besides me) arrived in an expensive German vehicle and listened to them complain about the gall of cashiers asking for 12 dollars an hour. So naturally your impressions made me curious.

12
Rakesh Bhandari 07.09.13 at 6:06 pm
Well that complaining does not seem very aristocratic to me, more petit-bourgeois.

13
Henry 07.09.13 at 6:09 pm
Rakesh – look up the etymology of the word aristocrat (‘aristoi’+'kratein’= …)
'Aristoi' - The best, the most noble.  Aristotle, Politics,  Book 4
The distribution of offices according to merit is a special characteristic of aristocracy, for the principle of an aristocracy is virtue, as wealth is of an oligarchy, and freedom of a democracy. In all of them there of course exists the right of the majority, and whatever seems good to the majority of those who share in the government has authority. Now in most states the form called polity exists, for the fusion goes no further than the attempt to unite the freedom of the poor and the wealth of the rich, who commonly take the place of the noble. But as there are three grounds on which men claim an equal share in the government, freedom, wealth, and virtue (for the fourth or good birth is the result of the two last, being only ancient wealth and virtue), it is clear that the admixture of the two elements, that is to say, of the rich and poor, is to be called a polity or constitutional government; and the union of the three is to be called aristocracy or the government of the best, and more than any other form of government, except the true and ideal, has a right to this name.
Programmatic liberalism, even that calling itself leftism, focuses on technical means of regulating behavior. Laws are seen as replacing the need for noble behavior as such. [See G.A. Cohen, Brighouse et al.]
Aristocratic "nobility" in modern practice: the military; education (teachers as opposed to researchers); medicine (practitioners, again as opposed to researchers); an ethic not of freedom but service to others.  Beyond that, the ethic of committed craftspeople who serve their craft.  Artists in this sense are not "free"; they study a tradition (whichever one) of which they hope to play a part.  Fiddle players serve their instrument, not the other way around. Ask one.

Broch, beauty etc.
---

jumping forward: Montesquieu,"the republican state, which has virtue for its principle", and Lefebvre.
How many of the Jews were denounced to the police?” I asked.

“None,” he said.

“So did everyone in Malzieu want the Jews to be there?”

“Not at all,” he said. “Some were anti-Jewish.”

“Why didn’t they denounce the Jews, then?” I asked.

“They may have had resentful thoughts, but they didn’t act on them. They would not act against the feelings of their community.”

So even the anti-Semites, through their silence, aided the resistance.

Recently, the Israeli government offered Robert the medal of the “righteous,” honoring Christians and others who saved many Jewish people. But Robert refused it. “I did nothing special,” he said, “Just the minimum that was my duty. And what we achieved, we did together, as a community.”
The first comment  by repeat commenter "js" on the most recent post by Corey Robin
(Around the time that I started commenting here, ~4-ish years ago, I remember being told that there was an informal avoidance of Israel/Palestine issues around here. I can imagine 15 very good reasons for such a policy, but I’m also glad you’re helping kick it right out the window, so to speak.)
Of course no one around is able -willing- to model the various changes in the Anglosphere that made this possible. People have been given permission to say things they would not have said in the past. A paradigm in the US has shifted; the situation of the Palestinians has not, etc.  "Value free science", "The disenchantment of the world", "Agnotology", The irrationalism of others,  ad infinitum

Robin gets into an argument (compressed here)
R--As someone who identifies as Jewish—who periodically goes to shul, celebrates some if not all of the holidays, and tries at least some (ahem) of the time to get off the internets for shabbos— 
MCJ--Since you mentioned it, may I ask, respectfully: ...are you a believer? 
R--The fact that you’ve since gone on to say that I am a believer — without me ever having said a damn thing about what I do or don’t believe of the Jewish faith — only confirms my initial impression of you (not just on this issue but several others): you assume you know more than you do.
Why not just read Philip Roth and Marx? "...get off the internets for shabbos."
What do you say to someone so confused about himself, and his motives for anything?

more comments, in order but unrelated except in their stupidity.
Roy Belmont- The point was that Polish anti-Semitism might have some real-world causes – not justifications, causes.

Robin- As for whether observant equals believer: the reason I don’t want to get into that is that in my experience many people come to that discussion with a lot of baggage about the relationship between ritual and belief, baggage that I think has its roots in Christianity.
Robin- To this Jew, when I hear that kind of talk — you’re a race, you’re a gene, you’re a this, you’re a that — I feel a bit like what I imagine some women feel like when men start talking at them about things they (men) know nothing about or at least know far less about than the women they’re talking to at the moment. Not a perfect analogy, but I hope you get the point.
Mattski- My perspective is shaped by being raised by parents, one from a Jewish lineage and the other Catholic, both of whom soundly rejected their religious traditions. But I have a lot of Jewish relatives and friends. So, how to understand? It is more of a community, or a tribe, and less a question of what you believe. Indeed, the whole belief fetish seems to me mostly a Christian thing.
MatF- Zionism… it’s pretty much a paradigm case of 19th century nationalism– particularly with inventing a new language…
Christianity was not the first religion to spread beyond its culture of origin, and Modern Hebrew is not Esperanto, but Jews don't proselytize. That's one of the reasons Judaism maintains not only a cultural but genetic continuity.  My father was bothered by the fact that the state would not allow him the option of claiming Jewish or Semitic as ethnicity. As it is he had to describe himself as white. Arabs now make the same complaint, except for those who can call themselves African American.

Robin's focus on religion is the result of his appearance; the remnants of faith are his only relation. In my own experience I've never met a non-religious Jew who worried about following specifically religious tradition. And Robin renders Judaism as Sheilaism, with added defensiveness and pedantry. Watching him I'm realizing he knows white people don't understand the Jewish experience, as they don't understand the black experience.  Whatever he'd said I'd never  really thought of him as Jewish; now I see his fear.

Zionism is Garveyism. Robin's insecurities make him sympathetic to fundamentalist nationalism but he can't allow himself to follow it. His moralism papers over his conflicts, but moralism is conservative by definition.  Hypocrisy creeps in. There's nothing religious about studying Yiddish, or even the Talmud. "The history of nonsense is scholarship." Robin wants think of himself as a humanist but he's too full of fear, and the pride that covers it like scar tissue.

Remembering an article I read by a religious writer who toured various immigrant religious organizations in NYC and became worried that the people he met and the communities they were a part of were isolated from the larger inter-ethnic community.  But of course he met people in temples and churches, not restaurants and bars.

Repeats of repeats of…  "The role of belief in religion is greatly overstated, as anthropologists have long known."

One mention in the post of the Palestinians as such. Four polite references to "Israel/Palestine".

Atrios has been on a tear recently. "I know almost nothing about Iran." He really is an amazing character.  A citizen of the most powerful nation in the history of the world and a proud know-nothing.
The posters and commenters at Crooked Timber would never be even that honest.

And the settlement expansion Netanyahu cancelled two weeks ago is back on.

Sunday, November 24, 2013





ABC: "Zbig Brzezinski: Obama Administration Should Tell Israel U.S. Will Attack Israeli Jets if They Try to Attack Iran."

The use of the diminutive is cute.

Not entirely happy hearing a Pole lecture the Jews about anything, but that's not the issue at the moment. The Saudis sponsoring Salafists and Al Qaeda in Syria scare the US more than Iran does; Israel's new partner is forcing the US to make the obvious choice.
Iran got much less than it was asking for, but it got its most important demand: respect. Iran and the west -and the world at large- have common interests. Iran, Turkey/Shia and Sunni, etc.  Realists never let religion or ideology get in the way of commerce, and most businessmen are not in the business of chaos.

WSJ
Calls came in to the presidential palace from Syrian allies Russia and Iran, as well as from Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group whose fighters were inadvertently caught up in the gassing, according to previously undisclosed intelligence gathered by U.S., European and Middle Eastern spy agencies. The callers told the Syrians that the attack was a blunder that could have profound international repercussions, U.S. officials say.
The US joining the adults in the room. Our children is learning.
---

The Israeli stock market is up

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Repeats, posted elsewhere 
A military in service to a democracy is an authoritarian order in service to a free one: every soldier is simultaneously both a soldier and a citizen. There's no way to resolve that contradiction; it has to be negotiated by each soldier individually. It doesn't matter if they're conscripts as part of a system of universal service, or volunteers.
Formal non-contradictory systems of democratic liberalism are bound to fail. And that's a good thing, not a bad thing.
The author, Jeff McMahan, is quibbling over details. A citizen has the responsibilities of citizenship, whatever other job he takes. You don't renounce your citizenship when you enlist and you can't be forced to renounce it when you're drafted.

Glenn Greenwald can't say the obvious when arguing with the idiot from the BBC


What he can't bring himself to say: "A policeman's job is only easy in a police state."

His opponents' arguments reduce to this: We spend billions defending police states, so it makes sense to limit freedoms here to defend the country from threats it would not face if we did not defend police states.

Any defender of democratic principles should be able to point out the absurdity, and be willing to challenge the complete range of government policy. Accepting a militarist foreign police weakens any argument for domestic freedoms.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A repeat for the third time (click the link for the argument) and the book.
I doubt I'll like it.  Clark loses his way moving into the 20th century; he begins less to read works than read into them, arguing for what he wants to see more than from the material. He's brilliant on cubism, but Picasso fades after WWI and very often so does Clark.



Leiter links to Coetzee without understanding what he's reading.
A certain phase in the history of the university, a phase taking its inspiration from the German Romantic revival of humanism, is now, I believe, pretty much at its end. It has come to an end not just because the neoliberal enemies of the university have succeeded in their aims, but because there are too few people left who really believe in the humanities and in the university built on humanistic grounds, with philosophical, historical and philological studies as its pillars.
The German revival of humanism was based on a hierarchy of the humanities over the sciences. Panofsky, a friend of Einstein and Pauli, referred to his sons, one with a doctorate in astronomy and the other a physicist who won everything shy of a Nobel, as "meine beiden Klempner"  ("my two plumbers").

The humanist academy has been weakened over the last century by Fordism, Taylorism, value-free science, Sputnik, Chicago school economics, the MBA, naturalized epistemology, and art and literary theory taken as more important than art and literature: by technophilic fantasies and scholasticism, and formalism taken for platonism.

We're watching an ideology that grew out of the 18th century Enlightenment fade into into corporate feudalism.

Crooked Timber:
A post on the Overton Window follows a post of Epistemic Humility.

The Overton Window applies to the opinions of others: nothing reflects back to the speaker. How do we model our own blindness, and how can we claim humility without trying?

Rashid Khalidi
Anybody who is talking about a Palestinian state is talking about Wizard of Oz stuff. It’s not a reality… There is one state between the river and the sea. The Palestinians have a fife-and-drum corps, and control over nothing.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nadelhoffer:
In a recent comment on the post about Greene’s work on moral psychology and moral philosophy, Seth Edenbaum made a passing remark about trolley problems and the standpoint of victims.
The post itself continues along the lines of a formal epistemology of morality, beggaring questions of the nature of formalism itself.

My first response to the earlier post is here. Also relevant, and just above, here. Or just scroll down.

I posted a total of three comments on the new post, none of which have been accepted, so either Leiter told him that he shouldn't have allowed the first one, or Nadelhoffer is just being snide.  That's not the problem. If it's Nadelhoffer's choice, he referred to me by name and hasn't allowed me to respond; that becomes a question not just of condescension but the power politics of cowardice.

My comments
I'll be brief since I don't think it will change the debate on this page.
-Our adversarial system of justice is built on the assumption that vantage points are a given, and that formalist systems of morality, or formal epistemology, get us nowhere. Due process of law refers to a formalism of process not of truth. Similarly our system of government is a system of decision-making not truth-finding. Greene's arguments don't seem much like discoveries to those who follow the history of human action, or the writing about it, and the response here seems more to come from an engrained Platonism. "Greene wants to persuade us that moral psychology is more fundamental than moral philosophy."  What evidence is there against that assumption?

-You can argue with Leiter that judges are swayed by ideology, but why should judges be any different that they rest of us? And political and legal realism requires that philosophers are no more exceptional than judges, while arguments for formal epistemology, to take the example at hand, are predicated on the intellectual and moral significance of ideas founded it seems to me in little more than hope.

-Perspectivism is the foundation of democracy; aristocracy not so much. It makes sense that the philosophical fixation on "the other" originates in cultures that operate under the inquisitorial rather than adversarial system of justice, and have a shorter history of democracy. Jack Balkin's view is that the Supreme Court "is sort of like the husband in the French farce. He's always the last to know."  Most practicing lawyers would say that lawyers are the center of our justice system. But philosophers identify with judges and so focus on them.

-The role of an aristocracy, even an intellectual aristocracy, in a democracy is hard to define. I think its best it stayed that way. Formal epistemology (even if it's not as I would call it an oxymoron) needs to be tested by observation much more than it has.
--- 
[Commenter Roger Albin responding to the OP: "In an army in wartime, is a soldier justified in refusing an order to serve in a frontline unit as opposed to a safer rear echelon unit?"

Roger Albin,
The military "solves" the trolley problem within military society by forbidding fraternization between enlisted and officers. Common sense morality functions as a system of morality among equals. Deciding the fate of your friends, if you were even capable of it, would tend to weaken your friendships.  The military is not a democracy. I don't want a democratic military any more than I want generals running the country.
"Military justice is to justice what military music is to music" etc.

Military authoritarianism demands and end to free and open sociability. Utilitarian universalism demands the end of intimacy across the board.
Commenter S. Wallerstein, answering another comment by Sam Rickless.
"Since when is it permissible for persons to kill others in order to prevent them from doing something permissible?"

I'm not a professional philosopher and I may be missing something, but let's say that there's a lifeboat with 10 people and if one more person gets into the lifeboat, it will sink. I'm out of the lifeboat and I'll trying to get into it (or to make room for my son in it). There's a person in the lifeboat trying to prevent my son from getting into it (because when my son gets into it, the whole lifeboat will sink with the ten people aboard, none of who can swim or have lifejackets.) Now it seems permissible for the person in the lifeboat to do whatever she can (including shooting my son and me) to keep my son out. It also seems permissible for me to shoot that person (assume that I have a gun) so that she falls into the water and leaves room for my son in the boat.
My final comment was to say that Rickless had made my point, that a non-contradictory formal logic of liberal morality was impossible.
---

A journalist acquaintance (not American) on FB
When it comes to France the Saudis are investing heavily in French agricultural, defence and food sectors. The farmers of Brittany have laid off thousands of workers of late and a Saudi firm is stepping in take control of 52% of Doux, a poultry firm based there. Just one example of the massive spending spree the Saudi's are on. France also has massive investments in Israel and vice versa. According to the French foreign ministry France is the 9th supplier and the 7th client of Israel. In the recent years major projects like a desalinisation plant from Veolia in Askhelon or the electric vehicle project with Renault have occurred.
Also @ Foreign Policy: How France Scuttled The Iran Deal at the Last Minute
and here, and elsewhere.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

France wants arms deals with Saudi
One gets in
Has anyone here ever thought to consider the possible intuitions of the victims in trolley problem scenarios?  I really doubt the "doctrine of double effect" would [get] more than a laugh from the dying.
dropped word in the original.
continuing from here 
C.P. Snow, The Two Cultures, last paragraphs. The whole thing should be subtitled the Decline of the West.
On the other hand, I confess, and I should be less than honest if I didn't, that I can't see the political techniques through which the good human capabilities of the West can get into action. The best one can do, and it is a poor best, is to nag away. That is perhaps too easy a palliative for one's disquiet: For, though I don't know how we can do what we need to do, or whether we shall do anything at all, I do know this: that, if we don't do it, the Communist countries will in time. They will do it at great cost to themselves and others, but they will do it. If that is how it turns out, we shall have failed, both practically and morally. At best, the West will have become an enclave in a different world—and this country will be the enclave of an enclave. Are we resigning ourselves to that? History is merciless to failure. In any case, if that happens, we shall not be writing the history. 
Meanwhile, there are steps to be taken which aren't outside the powers of reflective people. Education isn't the total solution to this problem: but without education the West can't even begin to cope. All the arrows point the same way. Closing the gap between our cultures is a necessity in the most abstract intellectual sense, as well as in the most practical. When those two senses have grown apart, then no society is going to be able to think with wisdom. For the sake of the intellectual life, for the sake of this country's special danger, for the sake of the western society living precariously rich among the poor, for the sake of the poor who needn't be poor if there is intelligence in the world, it is obligatory for us and the Americans and the whole West to look at our education with fresh eyes. This is one of the cases where we and the Americans have the most to learn from each other. We have each a good deal to learn from the Russians, if we are not too proud. Incidentally, the Russians have a good deal to learn from us, too. 
Isn't it time we began? The danger is, we have been brought up to think as though we had all the time in the world. We have very little time. So little that I dare not guess at it.
Earlier
They hear Mr. T. S. Eliot, who just for these illustrations we can take as an archetypal figure, saying about his attempts to revive verse-drama that we can hope for very little, but that he would feel content if he and his co-workers could prepare the ground for a new Kyd or a new Greene. That is the tone, restricted and constrained, with which literary intellectuals are at home: it is the subdued voice of their culture.

...I remember being cross-examined by a scientist of distinction. "Why do most writers take on social opinions which would have been thought distinctly uncivilised and démodé at the time of the Plantagenets? Wasn't that true of most of the famous twentieth-century writers? Yeats, Pound, Wyndham Lewis, nine out of ten of those who have dominated literary sensibility in our time—weren't they not only politically silly, but politically wicked? Didn't the influence of all they represent bring Auschwitz that much nearer?"

...And of the books which to most literary persons are bread and butter, novels, history, poetry, plays, almost nothing at all. It isn't that they're not interested in the psychological or moral or social life. In the social life, they certainly are, more than most of us. In the moral, they are by and large the soundest group of intellectuals we have: there is a moral component right in the grain of science itself, and almost all scientists form their own judgments of the moral life.

...The two cultures were already dangerously separate sixty years ago; but a prime minister like Lord Salisbury could have his own laboratory at Hatfield, and Arthur Balfour had a somewhat more than amateur interest in natural science. John Anderson did some research in inorganic chemistry in Leipzig before passing first into the Civil Service, and incidentally took a spread of subjects which is now impossible. None of that degree of interchange at the top of the Establishment is likely, or indeed thinkable, now.

...If our ancestors had invested talent in the industrial revolution instead of the Indian Empire, we might be more soundly based now. But they didn't. 
...More often than I like, I am saddened by a historical myth. Whether the myth is good history or not, doesn't matter; it is pressing enough for me. I can't help thinking of the Venetian Republic in their last half-century. Like us, they had once been fabulously lucky. They had become rich, as we did, by accident. They had acquired immense political skill, just as we have. A good many of them were tough-minded, realistic, patriotic men. They knew, just as clearly as we know, that the current of history had begun to flow against them.
A debate among Oxbridge dons in 1960, with all that implies. The study of history seen as a branch of literature, as civilized entertainment but not knowledge, but then the use of potted or even fake history as a direct warning. "If our ancestors had invested talent in the industrial revolution instead of the Indian Empire..." "They had become rich, as we did, by accident."  Written in 1959. The contradictions are too extreme even to be good for a laugh.

"...the books which to most literary persons are bread and butter, novels, history, poetry, plays," "History is merciless to failure. In any case, if that happens, we shall not be writing the history. "

History is bunk, until it's not.



"there is a moral component right in the grain of science itself, and almost all scientists form their own judgments of the moral life."


The mad scientist is the one ubiquitous image of evil or moral failure in the 20th century.
---
Statement by Mr. Shaha to the UN General Assembly on decolonization - 1960
The Flintstones meet the Great Gazoo
"We'll Meet Again" The end of Dr. Strangelove.
The videos may vanish at some point.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Ingrid Robeyns is the female Harry Brighouse: earnest, well-intentioned, myopic to the point of parody, but all boats rise and fall with the tide.

"Epistemic Humility"
My worry is that this category of experiences, differences, practices, and other features of human life that we cannot understand without first-person experience, is much larger than we generally tend to assume.
"We"?

Goliath is being read and well reviewed. Saudi and Israel actions are forcing US Iranian rapprochement. History moves on. If people can be said to drive change, the people driving change on the question of Israel and Palestine are those engaged directly in the process, first the Palestinians themselves, then outside advocates and their opponents.

repeats
QS 06.03.12 at 9:58
You’ve turned sexual harassment into an intellectual game, that is where the “creepiness” originates. How do you moderate that? You don’t. You realize that your ability to treat the issue so dispassionately, playing the game of Find the Universal, probably has something to do with your maleness and position outside this particular terrain. 
Sexual harassment was banned not because we found the Universal Principle Against Harassment but because women and men who believed it to be wrong fought successfully for prohibition. These people were likely motivated by a variety of ideas and experiences. The way we keep the libertarians marginalized is not by abstract philosophical games but by appealing to this concrete history. 
Chris Bertram 06.03.12 at 10:06 am
QS: your latest tells me that you see political philosophy as it is usually practised as involving a profound mistake. You are entitled to that opinion. It is not one that I share.
If the economists who defend their arguments as formal epistemology without predictive value are now mocked, what's there left to say about political theorists?


It's not a question of whether and when to join the march; it's not a purity test.  If you're going to stand on the sidelines you should at least be willing to stand as an observer. The fixation on "creation", of ideas and concepts, or ideal "truths", turning away from observation, is bad science and minor art. It's small beer; it doesn't matter if its domestic or imported, with a fancy label in French.

Martin Luther King was a small town preacher not a theologian; his actions are studied by historians not philosophers. That's not an argument for preferring irrationalism to rationalism, or arrogance to humility. All humility is false humility; it focuses attention on the person who desires it.

Curiosity results in humility; focus on the first and the second takes care of itself. That's a form of indirection technocrats can't fathom.  Equally incomprehensible is the arrogance of the performer: the zeal of the prosecutor or the indignation of the advocate, both paid to play their roles.

"Doing these cases, I began to find myself in a dangerous situation as an advocate. I came to believe in the truth of what I was saying"
"Lawyers are... the rule of law"

King was an advocate for the cause of his own freedom; lawyers are advocates for their clients.
Two models of engagement in democracy, both founded in first person experience. Robeyns comes from the cultural world of judges, not of participation but authority.

Someday maybe I'll be able to stop repeating this shit.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

reinventing the wheel, discovering the obvious.

Nadelhoffer links to Nagel on Joshua Greene's new book, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them.

Blurb
Our brains were designed for tribal life, for getting along with a select group of others (Us) and for fighting off everyone else (Them). But modern times have forced the world’s tribes into a shared space, resulting in epic clashes of values along with unprecedented opportunities.
The title of the review is "You Can't Learn About Morality from Brain Scans". An update on Nadelhoffer's post wonders if the title smacks of editorial interference by Wieseltier. [repeats]

A discussion of the trolley problem. The difference between pushing a fat man off the bridge and pulling a switch to redirect the train that kills him is described as "mysterious; it seems to call for, but also to defy, explanation." It's neither. [repeats]
Stanley Milgram’s 1963 experiments showed that proximity, of authority to subject and of subject to “learner”, was the main factor in affecting the level of obedience to the command to cause harm. An anthropologist will know why a guillotine is not like an ax and why a governor is not called an executioner even if the man who bears that title is only following orders.
Most people who eat meat would not want to be butchers. Call it the distribution of the sensible.

"And is, then, all which is just pious? or, is that which is pious all just, but that which is just, only in part and not all, pious" [repeats]

Euripides, Shakespeare or James Agee.
ALLNUT: Feller takes a drop too much once in a while. T's only yoomin nyture.
ROSE (remotely): Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put into this world to rise above.
Nagel
Greene wants to persuade us that moral psychology is more fundamental than moral philosophy. [No Fucking Shit] Most moral philosophies, he maintains, are misguided attempts to interpret our moral intuitions in particular cases as apprehensions of the truth about how we ought to live and what we ought to do, with the aim of discovering the underlying principles that determine that truth.
The history of the arts and of humanistic scholarship is the history of conversations and debates about the relation of loyalty to justice. Wieseltier is a lousy defender of his cause because he can barely remember what the others here were never even taught.

Cops bust down the door of a house. They don't have a warrant or probable cause. They find evidence that shows the owner is a murderer. Under our system the evidence is inadmissible in court. Why?

Literary critics have Montesquieu in their bones and legal philosophers have him only in their mouths.
---
update here 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

continuing the past post and a recent one

The Churchlands
For instance, both he and Pat like to speculate about a day when whole chunks of English, especially the bits that constitute folk psychology, are replaced by scientific words that call a thing by its proper name rather than some outworn metaphor. Surely this will happen, they think, and as people learn to speak differently they will learn to experience differently, and sooner or later even their most private introspections will be affected. Already Paul feels pain differently than he used to: when he cuts himself shaving now he feels not “pain” but something more complicated-first the sharp, superficial A-delta-fibre pain, and then, a couple of seconds later, the sickening, deeper feeling of C-fibre pain that lingers.
Quine
A felt need for meant entities may derive from an earlier failure to appreciate that meaning and reference are distinct. Once the theory of meaning is sharply separated from the theory of reference, it is a short step to recognizing as the business of the theory of meaning simply the synonymy of linguistic forms and the analyticity of statements; meanings themselves, as obscure intermediary entities, may well be abandoned
The Churchlands
“Well, given that they’re such a severe danger to the society, we could incarcerate them in some way,” Paul says. “We could put a collar on their ankles and track their whereabouts. We could say, We have to put this subdural thing in your skull which will monitor if you’re having rage in your amygdala, and we can automatically shut you down with a nice shot of Valium. It’s like having somebody who’s got the black plague-we do have the right to quarantine people though it’s not their fault.
“The blood of those who will die if biomedical research is not pursued will be upon the hands of those who don’t do it."

"These relationships [between parents and children] appear inegalitarian in deep ways. The parties to partial relationships may exclude others from the mutual benefits their association yields"

"...religious belief is not required, but at most just that self-evident religio without which there is no desire for knowledge, not even the desire for atheism." [also here]

"The triumph of the fact"

Monday, November 04, 2013

Alex Rosenberg on Shiller and Fama
Imagine the parallel in physics or chemistry or biology—the prize is split between Einstein and Bohr for their disagreement about whether quantum mechanics is complete, or Pauling and Crick for their dispute about whether the gene is a double helix or a triple, or between Gould and Dawkins for their rejection of one another’s views about the units of selection. In these disciplines Nobel Prizes are given to reward a scientist who has established something every one else can bank on. In economics, “Not so much.” This wasn’t the first time they gave the award to an economist who says one thing and another one who asserts its direct denial. Cf. Myrdal and Hayek in 1974. What’s really going on here? Well, Shiller gave the game away in a NY Times interview when he said of Fama, “It’s like having a friend who is a devout believer of another religion.” Actually it’s probably two denominations in the same religion.
repeat ad infinitum. If economics isn't science what's left for Rosenberg's definition of philosophy?
Cartesian dualism is transubstantiation and Rosenberg's arguments for determinism consistently exempt him from its grasp. Awaiting his next book: Bosons, Fermions and Me.

notes. need to make explicit
The only model for intellectual activity qua intellectual activity -as opposed to both technical activities and the arts- is history. No one now defends a science of history, a "historical science", and the present is as hard to grasp as the past: we do no more than interpret gestures and documents; distance in time and distance in space are more similar than not.

Economists and political scientists want to imagine subtext exists only in the words of others. Formalisms, mathematical or linguistic, function in a timelessness that is irrelevant to our lives as lived, if we are to see ourselves as agents and as agents among equals. If we are simply mechanics then all bets are off, including Rosenberg's about himself (cf. the Churchland's theater of will, like the ostentatious propriety of Puritan believers in predestination).
One afternoon recently, Paul says, he was home making dinner when Pat burst in the door, having come straight from a frustrating faculty meeting. “She said, ‘Paul, don’t speak to me, my serotonin levels have hit bottom, my brain is awash in glucocorticoids, my blood vessels are full of adrenaline, and if it weren’t for my endogenous opiates I’d have driven the car into a tree on the way home. My dopamine levels need lifting. Pour me a Chardonnay, and I’ll be down in a minute.’ ”
It's not a parody.

Ranciere argues from, through, the lineage of philosophical ideas and ideas about art. His logic means that he is unable to see artistic change as a product of cultural change. He requires the existence of an intellectual philosophical avant-garde in an age of scientific progress. No art historian would be faced with that dilemma. An observer rather than follower of that tradition might tend to argue that the "aesthetic regime" came about after the separation of perception from science that is one of the hallmarks of the modern period, and the development of separate regimes of subjectivity and objectivity.  Ranciere needs intention to be the key, and ironically or not he returns again again to his teachers, masters of western philosophy, explicitly for permission to continue the line of their still eternal authority. And as a critic he begins as a critic of literature, concerned with words and the images they create; when he talks about art he refers to images. He begins with Lascaux, paintings which few people have ever seen except in reproduction. He's a good film critic, but painting is not image it's substance. I wouldn't want to read him on Titian.

The best model of the arts is somewhere between history and law, the sincere irony of lawyers performing the roles representing their clients. Literature is ironic by definition, as philosophy is sincere.  The propositions of a work of fiction are inseparable from the form they take; it's why writers are called writers. Their worlds exist fully only in language.  All art is ironic by definition. We only know the ideal through the illusion of its presence and artists are illusionists, "all liars". Flaubert.
First Ta-Nehisi Coates and now Tressie McMillan Cottom: "Why Do Poor People 'Waste' Money On Luxury Goods?" (I'd seen multiple links to the original post on Facebook and Twitter.)  Mostly it's not about the arguments as such, though it is that too, but the relation of the speakers to the (white) audience they play to. The audience varies. The most self-consciously enlightened segment of it is the worst. But the the relation and the style of performance is still there.

On another level entirely -closer to American race (black-white) relations in the past- I've watched Trita Parsi, also on Facebook and Twitter, and cringed. Not quite as bad as Hussein Ibish. As Billie Holiday said about Louis Armstrong: "He Toms from the heart."  The quote reminds me I'd forgotten about Andrew Young.


Do the Right Thing is the newest entry in the expanding catalog of films inspired by Italian-American family virtues. If it is less engaging than Moonstruck, it can be commended for the earnestness of its effort to convey the suffering and final defeat of a rational man by an irrational world.

The protagonist of these struggles is Sal, proprietor of a pizzeria on a block identified as part of Bedford-Stuyvesant, a section of Brooklyn reserved for persons of color through generations lost in time. Sal is assisted by his two sons, Pino and Vito, and by his Afro-American deliveryman, Mookie, who lives down the block and is paid $250 a week. Sal incarnates the sentimentality that popular drama has accustomed us to associate with the Neapolitan peasantry. He is proud of an establishment whose every light socket he remembers wiring with his own hands, and his heart is balmed in its troubles whenever he reflects that these people “grew up on my food.”

That consolation is a special necessity whenever he feels called upon to reproach the bigoted ravenings of his elder son, who snarls at a point when the fit is especially upon him that these niggers are not to be trusted and that, when the chance comes, Mookie will be the first to throw the spear.

Their debate is resolved by a climax when the neighborhood rises up to sack, pillage, and loot Sal’s Pizzeria, and Mookie opens the assault by throwing a garbage can through its window.

And so it turns out that Sal has been the dreamer and that Pino has been the realist, however repellent his impulses and style of argument. American artists from Mark Twain to Spike Lee have confronted the conflict between white and black for more than a century, and it would not be easy to recall many scenarios that have so heavily and pitilessly loaded the dice against the better side.

Art cannot be art unless its hero has an antagonist worthy of him. Mookie is unfit for the challenge, simply because, if Sal is not without his flaws, Mookie is without anything else. He is not just an inferior specimen of a great race but beneath the decent minimum for humankind itself. He neglects his job, his child, and its mother, and, except for mistaking Sal’s clumsy kindnesses to his own hard-working sister for signs of lust, he shows no trace of feeling for any interest except his own.


Well here's a formal introduction
Something to make you ponder
The situation's ugly, like "In Living Color"'s Wanda (word up!)
Well everybody play dumb, but there's some that succumb
And fall victim, I will overcome any hurdle or obstacle that's in my path
Fast cash should be the last resort so make it last for the risk you took
Trick, you shook your ass for some hundred dollar heels and a designer bag
Now that's ass backwards
All you got in the refrigerator is bratwurst
Your stomach is balled in a knot, you got that phat purse
Pocketbook, stop and look, pockets look void
Destroyed by the need to indulge and enjoy the finer things in life right?

repeats: voting for the nigger.  Class, race, gender. Liberalism and the importance of being earnest.
Farrakhan, Kahane, radical nationalism, radicalism and self-hatred. Politics is a bitch. Dying is easy; comedy is hard.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Democrats claim America is threatened by the financial elite, who hog society’s resources. But that’s a distraction. The real social gap is between the top 20 percent and the lower 30 percent. The liberal members of the upper tribe latch onto this top 1 percent narrative because it excuses them from the central role they themselves are playing in driving inequality and unfairness.
[It's David Brooks.]

Atrios
But Why?
No particular interest in picking on Foer, [Jonathan Safran Foer Lists Park Slope Mansion for $14.5M] but I'm mystified by people who own giant houses.

I have about 2100 sq. feet plus a finished basement and a roofdeck and my house is way too big (rowhouses in the urban hellhole are bigger than people think). I don't know what I'd do with a house almost 4x that size. Spend your money on whatever you want, but I just don't get it.
67% white

John Holbo, a political philosopher of liberalism who lives silently, in a country ruled by its opponents, answers my question after deleting my comment.
Per the post: every major ethical theory has several problems. That means, pretty much, that all major ethical theories imply awful, repugnant results – or at least they can plausibly be made out to do so. Welcome to ethical theory!
My question, posted minutes before: "Utility as defined by whom? The Supreme Leader, the elite, or the masses? All have their absurdities."

related and repeat, a comment with a link back to here



The search for ideal authority is the search for a god. The preference for theory is the preference for authority, for the search for authority, with the goal of being its representative.

Universalism's search for singularities manifests in individualism and groupthink. And there is no god; there is no ideal authority; all there is, is animal. The primacy of practice is the primacy of the human, of us, of our experience, debates and decisions. The primacy of theory even at its best, is inhuman.

The blood of those who will die if biomedic al research is not pursued will be upon the hands of those who don’t do it."

Back to Holbo. A commenter makes an obvious point without making the reference: the trolley problem.  Universalism demands the end of intimacy

Friday, November 01, 2013

David Cole on Stop and Frisk quotes Scheindlin
All of the interviews identified by the Second Circuit were conducted under the express condition that I would not comment on the Floyd case. And I did not. Some of the reporters used quotes from written opinions in Floyd that gave the appearance that I had commented on the case. However, a careful reading of each interview will reveal that no such comments were made.