Anyway, even if you don't share my concerns about the general issue, I trust that this story is revolting enough to be worth a post on its own.
Being in Brazil this week (but flying back home tonight) allowed me to follow some of the local current debates more closely than I would have otherwise. One of the ‘hot topics' at the moment is the new legislation regulating the working conditions of domestic workers. It is still very common in Brazil for a middle-class family to rely on a wealth of domestic workers, including cleaners, drivers, gardeners and perhaps most importantly, the (almost always female) live-in domestic workers who are responsible for the big chunk of domestic chores (cooking, cleaning, laundry, caring for children), known as ‘empregadas’. (Here is the trailer of a very interesting film/documentary on the phenomenon of a few years ago.)
Up to now, these live-in maids were basically expected to be ‘on call’ 24 hours a day, starting with breakfast early in the morning all the way until washing the dishes after dinner. Needless to say, salaries are usually pretty low, and there was until now no control over the amount of hours they were expected to work; thus the concept of ‘doing extra hours’ did not apply to them. To most foreign eyes, it is a very strange arrangement, which can only be understood as a painful reminiscence of Brazil’s recent slavery past (where slavery was only officially abolished in 1888).
So I’m not going to get into the game of thinking thoughts too many, of trying to break down the wrong of raping an unconscious person in terms of psychic discomfort at disapproval. It’s the wrong game to play.--Jacob T. Levy at BHL.
This seems to me the right kind of response to the pseudo-philosophy [Trigger warning: the post discusses rape] of Steven Landsburg, an economist and popularizer at Rochester.
As Levy writes, Landsburg's post
demonstrates, first, the familiar problems with blunt hedonic utilitarianism that has been detached from utilitarianism’s roots as a moral theory, and, second, the selection effect about what kinds of people are attracted to that theory. Lansburg [sic] is entirely too pleased with himself for being willing to Think Challenging Thoughts (thoughts that pretty much get covered in a first semester moral philosophy class as the frosh learns why blunt hedonic utilitarianism is not a very good theory), and determined to get through his cute hypotheticals for the fun of it, regardless of whether they convey anything useful or not.
It's just a fact of the matter that economists are not trained to be philosophers (and they are no better at it [recall here and here] than we are at economics [here]). But (not unlike philosophers) they do get socialized into thinking they are really smart boys (recall this). Since the Samuelsonian, revealed preference revolution cut the link between economics and hedonic utilitarianism (utility curves are not supposed to refer to mental pleasure entities entities, they are just a ranking of choices--recall this post), Landsburg is not even bringing any of the standard economic's tools to bear on the case. He is simply out of his depth. (Of course, that's just a daily fact of life in blog-land, the problems start when one forgets this.)
Now, the interesting issues here pertain to Levy's decision to speak up about Landsburg's moral and intellectual obtuseness without giving Landsburg credibility in doing so.
I try to avoid commenting on economic events, and hopefully my pessimism means that the nadir has already been passed.--ES
In order to bail-out Cypriot banks, Cyprus's bank-depositors are being asked to contribute to the bail-out. Not just the rich Russians who treat Cyprus as a money haven, but also local depositors. It is quite predictable this will lead to bank-runs in Cyprus and any other country where citizens have good reason to fear future bank bail-outs (Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy come to mind, but even other countries dealing with the aftermath of real estate bubbles -- the Netherlands and Ireland -- may move back into the danger-zone). This development is quite ironic because nearly all of the European regulators' and politicians' actions since the start of the financial crisis has been in the service of preventing another liquidity crisis rather than confronting the reality that a majority of Europe's politically well-connected banks are insolvent if they were forced to do honest accounting (and absent more bailouts). Given that Europe's technocrats are running out of money and good options in light of ongoing economic sluggishness (and decline), I think the Euro's end may be nearing. We will either see (a) attempts to inflate our way of this (officially unthinkable in Germany); (b) a split-up of the Eurozone (officially unthinkable in Brussels), but not impossible in the aftermath of bankruns; (c) Greece-style austerity in a good chunk of the EU leading to considerable political instability (and more economic decline)--this is being tested in Spain; (d) attempts to postpone the big crisis decisions and muddle through until after 22 September (when Germany holds Federal ections) when German tax-payers can be asked to foot the bill for a genuine restructuring of European banks.
UPDATE: Cyprus' parliament has not approved this yet. Apparently they are trying to change the terms. The banks will stay closed for at least two more days. (They had been closed for a holiday-weekend.) One wonders at what point barter will replace cash.
In this week-end's New York Times, the economist, Tyler Cowen, reminded us of the noblest features of the history of economics: the "egalitarian and civil libertarian core." (On his his own blog, Cowen also calls it "cosmopolitan" for good reasons because the piece attacks the nationalist bias in much public policy economics.) In particular, he argues that these are linked: "If you treat all individuals as fundamentally the same in your theoretical constructs, it would be odd to insist that the law should suddenly start treating them differently." Cowen's additional claim, the economist's mantra that "economic analysis is itself value-free," is more problematic. Let's leave aside the non-trivial, problematic jump from positive analysis to normative advocacy (recall the Summers-Khan exchange.) As I have argued elsewhere, non-trivial values are inevitably smuggled into what counts as an "individual" (and "same") as well as any attempts to aggregate these.
I was especially pleased that Cowen linked his treatment to the scholarship of my friends and mentors, Sandra Peart and David Levy, on what they have called “analytical egalitarianism.” (Here and here [the latter contains a contribution by (ahum) me].) On Cowen's account analytic egalitarianism rejects the competing theoretical approaches that:
postulate natural hierarchies of religion, ethnicity, caste and gender, often enforced by law and strict custom. Economists too often forget that we are part of this broader battle of ideas, and that we are winning some enduring victories.
Quite right! But even so Cowen does not seem to have fully grasped the crucial insight of analytical egalitarianism. In effect, Cowen treats analytical egalitarianism as a theory that [a) postulates a homogeneity of human nature (when it comes to motives to action). This is indeed a necessary condition in analytical egalitarianism. But it is not sufficient: what needs to be added is that (b) the theorist has to be included in his or her model with the same motivational setup as the subjects studied. (To be clear (a) and (b) are jointly necessary for analytical egalitarianism, but they are also not sufficient.) Too often economists tacitly treat their own public utterances and policy-suggestions as themselves disinterested or un-incentivized (by considerations other than truth) and the product of a value-neutral method. Why does this matter?
We tend to associate the practice of genealogy, especially in its unmasking variety, with Nietzsche (or the emulators of Foucault). But teaching Toland's (1704) Letters to Serena reminded me that genealogy has a genealogy that precedes Nietzsche. One of Toland's genealogies focuses on the idea of the immortality of the soul, (the subject of the second letter). In paragraph 1, of Letter 2, the "immortality of the soul" is treated as a "truth" known to classical sources independent from and preceding Biblical revelation (p. 20; in fact, he insists that the doctrine is unknown to the Hebrew Bible (Letter II, p. 56)). In the very next paragraph (2) on the very next page, Toland speaks in his own voice and offers a concise statement of his methodology:
To persons less knowing and unprejudiced than Serena, it would [be] found strange perhaps to hear me speak of the soul's immortality, as of an opinion, which, like some others in philosophy, had a beginning at a certain time, or from a certain author who was the inventor thereof, and which was favoured or opposed as peoples' persuasion, interest or inclination led them. Letters II.2 (p. 21 [I have modernized spelling to some degree--ES].)
Serena is the official addressee of the Letters; she is a high status, educated interlocutor. The preface to the Letters has, in fact, a resounding defense of intellectual, gender equality. Toland suggests that it is either "inveterate custom" or the "design in the men" that causes female exlusion from the "world of learning." In general, Toland thinks nurture is responsible for much of our (very flawed) "second nature" in women and men. So, while Toland accepts a universal human nature, it is according to him extremely plastic. Echoing Plato and Malebranche, he suggests that belief and character formation starts in the womb and is developed (or degenerated by) our major social institutions (family, church, universities, etc.)--he treats our acculturation as inevitable, but as practiced as a form of social disease (cf. "infection.")
Posted by Eric Schliesser on 22 February 2013 at 07:32 in Analytic - Continental divide (and its overcoming), Deleuze (and Guattari, sometimes), Early modern philosophy, Eric Schliesser, Foucault, History of philosophy, Politics, Spinoza, Women in philosophy | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
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Reviewed by the excellent Scott McLemee at IHE. The original London production in 1936 (thus two years before the publication of The Black Jacobins) starred Paul Robeson as Toussaint! So two giants of the 20th century, James and Robeson, portraying a giant of world history, Toussaint.
James was, Høgsbjerg stressed, “acutely conscious of the need to challenge the mythological British nationalist narrative of abolition, one that glorified the role played by British parliamentarians such as Wilberforce. Indeed, in the original version of the playscript C.L.R. James mentioned Wilberforce himself in passing, but then later in a handwritten revision (one that I have respected) decided to remove the explicit mention of the abolitionist Tory MP. "The revision was almost certainly made “to help bring home the essential truth about abolition -- that it was the enslaved who abolished slavery themselves -- to a British audience who would almost certainly be hearing such a truth for the first time.”
I posted a while back on my frustration that those with economic power in cycling - and other sports as well - are never implicated or even much considered in the eternally recurrent drama of denunciation and punishment for performance enhancing drug use. Happily the economic engines of this spectacle are getting a bit of attention at a much higher profile outlet than NewAPPS. Below the break is a comment from a former professional cyclist Jorg Jaksche that gets to the heart of the matter, followed by a clause from a contract that cyclists signed with the team Rabobank, along with the corporate "explanation" - by which I mean "statement so insanely and obviously dishonest that in a just world one would burst into flames instantly upon completing it."
A movement called #Idle No More is sweeping across Canada and into the United States. First Nations from Haida Gwaii to Stephenville, Newfoundland, from Iqaluit to Windsor, Ontario – and Native Americans in New York, New Mexico, California, and many other states – have organized flash mobs in shopping malls and public squares to sing, drum, and perform traditional round dances. Some First Nations have blockaded highways and railways. Where did this movement come from, and where is it going?
As professors, current events often provide "teachable moments." For politicians, they provide what we might call "seizable moments." President Obama seems to be faced with a few of them right now: an election-generated seizable moment whereby he ought to be able to resist calls to cut Social Security and continue tax cuts on the wealthy; a Sandy-generated seizable moment to take more serious action to curb global climate change; and a Newtown-generated seizable moment to do something about gun control. Unfortunately, I'm only seeing movement on the third (a suggestion he will back Senator Diane Feinstein's bill to ban assault weapons); he seems to be backsliding on the first and mum on the second. Arguably, it is the third issue that seems to have the most people and emotion behind it. So, we can blame Obama for not having a stronger spine to follow through on what he said he woudl do (and I do blame him for that). Or, we can blame ourselves for not making more of a stink about the other two issues. As philosophers, do we have a role to play? Or are we too analytical to fire up an emotion-driven populace in order to spur the President to seize the seizable moments?
For the first century or so of the modern union movement, unions were esssentially extra-legal. They were conceived as alternative centers of power that challenged the state and capitalist control of production that was itself instituted by state-enforced property regimes. As such, unionization was not fundamentally about making better deals with capital, or improving conditions of wage-labor, but of changing the dynamics of economic control. The primary goal was worker control of the means of production. As such, there was no question of unions being legally sanctioned entities that would enter into state mediated bargaining with capital.
Despite recently haven been declared dead in the press, Occupy has recently launched two major new projects. In Brooklyn, Occupy Sandy has put on a massive aid effort, coordinated at a completely grassroots level, with very few capital resources, and by some reports outperforming the Red Cross. (When you factor in that the RC has, probably, 1000 times the resources to devote, ...) See also this, this, this, and perhaps most amazingly this
Nothing here will contradict Mark's analysis of the content challenges Americans face post-election. But following Ed Kazarian (blog, website) on Facebook, I found the formal elements of these passages about Obama in a piece by Charles Pierce to have a distinct Deleuzean echo:
He came into this office a figure of history, unlike anyone who's become president since George Washington. The simple event of him remains a great gravitational force in our politics. It changes the other parts of our politics in their customary orbits. It happens so easily ... that you hardly notice that it has happened until you realize that what you thought you knew about the country and its people had been shifted by degrees until it is in a completely different place....
It is - as a gay hating, anti-environmental, corporatist, war criminal of a former president once said - morning in America.
Obama was elected over Romney; the Democrats held or increased their lead in the Senate, gay marriage is legal in Maryland and Maine, and small victories were won against the insane drug war. Liberals were partying in front of the White House once again. I'm happy for all of that, and for them. Really, I am. Given the alternatives, these results buy us a bit of time for dealing with crucial issues, and will make significant differences in the lives of many Americans. So ok. Cool. I hope everyone had a nice celebratory evening. Now can we face up to the cold reality of the situation in which we find ourselves?
After I said that environmental issues loomed large in the U.S. Presidential campaign, we were treated to almost complete silence on the topic; notably, global climate change (GCC) was not mentioned in any of the four debates. Now, finally, with the tragedy wrought by Sandy, we are hearing about GCC and how the different candidates might handle it.
Even Mayor Bloomberg has gotten into the act, endorsing Obama over Romney in part because he now believes that "Mr. Obama was the better candidate to tackle the global climate change that he believes might have contributed to the violent storm, which took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and caused billions of dollars in damage."
Is this the point at which Americans will finally start taking GCC seriously and do something about it?
Public debate on the status of "free speech" seems to ebb and flow frequently in the US. In a spate of recent op eds and analyses, this debate has focused on campus "restrictions on speech" in the name of civility. Here is a representative piece published in the NYT. This latest cycle of the debate has framed the issue as "conservative" or "libertarian" defenders of unfettered free speech against "liberal" promoters of civility and opponents of hate speech and bullying. Along the way, the important ideal of free speech - the civic goal worth caring about - has been lost and this strikes me as a paradigm case in which philosophers could be of great public value were they to get out there and join the public debate.
Leiter reports that 14% of philosophers do not plan on voting in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Assuming only people who are eligbile to vote responded to the poll, what principled reasons can a philosopher give for not voting in the presidential race as well as the various other congressional and other positions/issues that are at stake? I am genuinely baffled by this.
I understand "third party" votes. Although they have been roundly criticized, given the dysfunctional state of the election process, at least they send a clear message. Not voting, on the other hand, could simply be apathy. Can apathy about the state of the country be justified? Or is it really the case that none of the candidates are satisfactory?
Any Californians reading, you have no excuse not to vote. In addition to everything else, CA will decide whether to label GMOs, abolish the death penalty, amend its "three strikes" law, and, oh yes, whether to slash budgets for public education.
Mohan's recent post on looming theocracy in America made me think more about why Americans would not want an atheist as president, or indeed in any other important political position. Research by Azim Shariff, for instance Gervais, Shariff and Norenzayan (2011) indicates that prejudice against atheists is widespread, and primarily fueled by a distrust in atheists. Remarkably, this research was carried out in Canada, with undergraduates from the University of British Columbia, not a particularly religiously zealous population. Nevertheless, the research indicates a pervasive distrust of atheists. Just to give a flavor of this, one experiment let people read a story about a 31-year-old man, Richard, who does some morally questionable stuff. "Richard is 31 years old. On his way to work one day, he accidentally backed his car into a parked van. Because pedestrians were watching, he got out of his car. He pretended to write down his insurance information. He then tucked the blank note into the van’s window before getting back into his car and driving away. Later the same day, Richard found a wallet on the sidewalk. Nobody was looking, so he took all of the money out of the wallet. He then threw the wallet in a trash can." Students were then asked whether they thought it was more probable that Richard was a teacher or that Richard was a teacher AND xxx. Where xxx was - between subjects - "Christian", "Muslim", "Rapist", or "Atheist". Remarkably (stunningly!) students thought it more likely that Richard was a teacher AND atheist or a rapist than they thought he was a teacher AND a Muslim or Christian. They committed the conjunction fallacy least with Christians, a bit more with Muslims, and most with rapists and atheists. The difference between atheist and rapist was not statistically significant….
These three things taken together – the simplicity of the theme of all these books, the way they are connected, and the fact that they were written by someone other than the person whose name they bear, many generations after the events related – lead us to infer that, as we have just said, they were all written by one Historian alone.--Spinoza, (1670) Theological Political Treatise (TTP), Chapter 8 [Here and below I use a draft of Curley's translation he kindly shared with me.--ES]
Yoram Hazony's The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture (recall also here) identifies "a single, largely unbroken narrative extending from creation of the world in Genesis to the destruction of Judah at the end of the book of Kings" at the core of the Hebrew Bible; this core he calls "The History of Israel." (140; disclosure: Hazony and I have written a piece on Hume & Newton together.) Hazony reads The History of Israel as offering an "instructional narrative," which conveys (among other things) a political philosophy. The History of Israel favors the anarchic, shepherding life, but as the story unfolds comes to recognize that anarchy is not self-sustaining. Political order is understood "as oscillating between the imperial state...and anarchy." (160) Hazony reads the Hebrew Bible as a search for a politics grounded in ethics--one that makes the state "limited in its aspirations" (153-4; recall this post).
Hazony sugests that Jeremiah "or perhaps one of his students, may have been the final author of the History of Israel as a unified work." (161; by "author," Hazony does not mean "the person who wrote all of it by himself," 37-8.) Hazony's argument for this is that The History ends "with the exile of Judag's leading political and spiritual figures, the most straightforward reading us that this history is the product of the exile from the land and its aftermath." (37; Hazony acknowledges he is echoing the Rabbanic opinion here.) The book would have been composed in Egyptian exile in the seventh century (BC). Crucially, it means that the viewpoint of the political philosophy of the Hebrew Bible is "the experience of the Jews in degredaton and exile, and the attempt to survive it." (38)
So, at the age of 32, I uncapped my pen to create a concept that could be popular in the East and the West. I would go back to the very sources from which others took violent and hateful messages and offer messages of tolerance and peace in their place. I would give my heroes a Trojan horse in the form of THE 99. Islam was my Helen. I wanted her back.
THE 99 references the 99 attributes of Allah - generosity, mercy, wisdom and dozens of others not used to describe Islam in the media when you were growing up. But if I am successful, by the time you read this, you will not believe that such an era could have ever existed.
Knowing that children will learn vicariously from THE 99 to be tolerant of all who believe in doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, makes me very proud.--Naif Al-Mutawa (Exerpted from here).
When it comes to law enforcement responses to organized crime, we hear constantly that the goal is to get the "kingpins" rather than the "little guys". I wonder why the opposite is the approach to drug enforcement in sports?
Yes, it's been slow here. I'm working on some actual philosophy posts, but life has been complicated. Anyway, continuing on the theme of Catarina's post today, I thought I'd share this fine op ed that is far more politically honest than anything one sees in the mainstream election coverage, and once again exposes the staggering abilities of music fans to miss the point. Tom Morello on Paul Ryan
And here's a sample. Since both are mentioned in the article, this one is Rage covering Springsteen. And then there's this. I'll be holding my breath for that pardon.
We've been a bit quiet here at NewAPPS this week, as presumably we are all sort of busy (speaking for myself anyway), and well, Eric is on a vacation... But (following a very sensible suggestion by Juliette Kennedy), here's a small token of support to Pussy Riot, the punk band on trial today basically for having been too critical of Russian establishment. Here is an overview Guardian article, and below the fold two videos: their 'concert' inside Russia's official church (which was the proverbial 'last drop' for their arrest), and a video with an earlier performance. (By the way, apparently one of them is a philosophy student, as earlier reported by Leiter.)
Free Pussy Riot! (The are so cool on so many levels...)
UPDATE: Apparently, they have been convicted, according to the Guardian live coverage.
Savage introduces the interview as follows:
John Corvino is the co-author of a new book, Debating Same-Sex Marriage, with Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage. It is the first and, without a doubt, the last book in the whole sordid history of books that will be blurbed by both me and Rick Santorum.
I had it in mind to write something interesting about bands that take politics and organizing seriously, but I'm just too tired - at least locally, and perhaps globally. So I'm going to quote Chris Crass, from his fb post that brought the news to me.
"The greatest anarchist pop/punkie band of all time, Chumbawamba, have ended after 30 years. Their impact has been epic. The CD of their First 2 albums was one of the most important political education experiences of my life. They were working class artists actively involved in organizing and movement building. Thank you Chumbawamba for all you have done. The last song on each album - Invasion and Here's the rest of your life were anthems. "Organize, here's the rest of our lives!""
I'll just add that to have had this effect on someone like Chris - look him up; check out his work! - is worth more in my book than most anything accomplished by most any pop band. And Chris is far from alone in the sentiment.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
the entire speech by Frederic Douglas
If "it is in the Internal Revenue Code, it is collected by the IRS on April 15th," then you can name it anything you want. [HT Neil McArthur.]