Ethics

United Against Forgiveness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/04/2019 - 9:05am in

Gilad Atzmon The Jewish world is outraged this morning [14/04/19] with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who apparently said he believes the crimes of the Holocaust can be forgiven, but not forgotten. The far-right leader made the comments on Thursday night at a meeting with evangelical pastors in Rio de Janeiro. “We can forgive, but we cannot forget. That quote is mine. Those that forget their past are sentenced not to have a future,” Bolsonaro said, adding that actions are needed for the Holocaust not to be repeated. Bolsonaro is probably not the most forgiving person around. He freely spews misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ, and racist statements. However, he is a devout Christian and forgiveness is central to Christianity of all denominations. Forgiveness is not an ‘option’ as far as Christianity is concerned, it is actually a must. Forgiveness in Christianity is a manifestation of submission to Christ. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not …

The Most Fundamental Test of Intellectual And Ethical Integrity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/04/2019 - 1:10am in

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Ethics

… is whether or not someone will argue against their interest.

If you are rich, do you ever argue for high taxes, perhaps? If you are a home owner, do you argue for policies which even the field with renting? If you have a job doing something harmful, do you argue that job shouldn’t exist or be changed to something less harmful.

People who always argue their interest are have no integrity and should not be listened to in public debates.

Of course interest has to be understood properly. One may be in a social group where arguing against apparent interest isn’t actually that. In certain left-wing circles arguing against women’s rights isn’t really against interest, because you’d be a pariah. And there is a reason why women married to right wing men, vote right wing: it’s not actually against their interest.

(These examples don’t mean I approve, they’re just examples.)

A lot of apparent insanity comes from people arguing what their social group believes, even if it’s against hard interest. It’s not in young right wing men’s interest to support climate change denial, but it’s part of what their ideology and group believes, so they do. Incels have some beliefs that make it less likely they’ll get laid or find love with a woman, but, again, changing those beliefs (or at least arguing from them) would leave them ostracized from their group.

A person with integrity has principles, and applies those principles. If one believes all people should be treated with dignity, for example, one might support another group’s rights even if that’s against one’s own interest and even if member’s of one’s own group would be angered by the stand.

Integrity.

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Surely we have a better story to tell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/03/2019 - 5:52pm in

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Blogging, Ethics

There is a moment in every day when I have had enough of politics, tax, economics and all that goes with it. I take the dog for a walk. Talk to the family or a friend. Or pursue a hobby. None of that are done just to get away from work. But they all help me do so. I find it helps. Balance has to be an objective in life, and however great my passion for the topics I write about here they cannot be everything in my existence.

But Brexit keeps intruding now. The seemingly never ending machinations of incompetence that have lead to paralysis followed by an inability to decide how to progress invades too much of my time. And even with my capacity for politics I have had almost enough of it.

So I sat back and asked myself why.

The first is that I do want balance. And there is nothing at all balanced about Brexit. It was always dogmatic and hopelessly thought through. Then it was pursued as if the case for it was emphatic, when it never was. Alienation was built in from the start.

Second, it has highlighted the failing of every neoliberal politician who, when they see a problem run away from it, presuming the market always has a better solution than they can offer. Only in this case the solution has to be political and there is no politician left in many parties in the Commons with any comprehension as to how to deal with such an issue. Most have for so long given up political thought in favour of market acquiescence that their DNA as politicians has had the ability to decide removed from its structure.

Third, there is the possibility in all this that by our own collective action we acquiesced in this failure. In fact, somehow by not stopping it we facilitated it. And that is uncomfortable.

Fourth, there is just that feeling that it’s time for for pain to stop. Surely the ibuprofen should work soon? And yet it doesn’t.

In that case is this, like a hangover, our own self-inflicted wound that we must live with? I hope it is not. But what does that mean then?

Have we to join a political party to effect change? Has that worked for Labour? 

Or to stand for office (ample opportunity for that in the upcoming local elections)? I personally am not inclined to do so, but hope others will. 

Or is it time to simply start telling a better story as the basis for change? I get to this last point for a reason. It turned out to be the theme of a discussion I took part in with the journalist Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland, at City, University of London, last evening. The talk was arranged by the English department and largely attended by students on the MA in non-fiction creative writing. 

Oliver and I discussed why we were storytellers. Because of course we are. Our characters are real. Our narratives are those we observe. We do not make them up. But the way we relate what we see is, of course, creative storytelling. I am unashamed about this. Story telling is powerful, appropriate and even necessary. If in doubt watch the video by New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern this morning. That is story telling to most powerful effect.

So what is the story that we need to tell?

That we are all one humanity, more bound by commonality than divided by any accident of birth?

That those accidents of birth are, however, part of our story and so must be respected?

That this respect enriches and does not diminish us?

That we stand or fall together now, on this our single planet that we call home?

And that we must work together to make it work for all is us? 

Isn’t that the story we must now tell, 8nto which we can weave all our preferences as to sub-plot, emphasis and character that we wish, so long as we remember our aim? I came away thinking so. 

And where does Brexit fit into that, as a narrative of alienation, promoted difference, indifference and contempt on so many levels (and yes I include Remain in some of the criticism; me too, if you like)? It does not fit with our humanity. It is not the story we need. And maybe the inability to decide upon it is because this really is not the story we want to tell, hear or partake in at some very deep level.

We know the EU is not perfect. 

We know it has had political failings.

As we have had, too.

But this was not the story to tell to find a solution to those problems. 

There is a better story to tell.

Mine is the Green New Deal in its broadest understanding, as a tale of survival, commonality, joint endeavour, enterprise, change, respect and hope.

Isn’t that a better narrative than the one we’ve got? 

Book Review: Reading Wittgenstein with Anscombe: Going on to Ethics by Cora Diamond

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/03/2019 - 10:36pm in

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Ethics

In Reading Wittgenstein with Anscombe: Going on to Ethics, Cora Diamond makes the case for (re)reading Ludwig Wittgenstein alongside the philosopher G.E.M. Anscombe, a former student of Wittgenstein’s and a key commentator and interlocutor of his work, as a means to see Wittgenstein’s thought anew and gain fresh perspectives on contemporary debates. Enabling a discussion of ethics that applies Wittgenstein’s logical considerations to conversations on justice, this book is a wonderful tribute to one of Wittgenstein’s most brilliant students and an admirable history of philosophy done philosophically, writes Adam Woods

Reading Wittgenstein with Anscombe: Going on to Ethics. Cora Diamond. Harvard University Press. 2019.

Find this book: amazon-logo

It has been just over a century since the completion of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s first masterpiece, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and still debate surrounds not only the genuine accomplishments of his work, but what exactly it was that he was trying to achieve. This has complicated the understanding of Wittgenstein’s position in the history of philosophy, which has undergone a number of permutations and led to various schools of thought claiming him as their own. We have seen Wittgenstein as a relativist, a proto-positivist, a Kantian, ‘a latter-day Hume’; and we have seen the Tractatus as offering a theoretical account of language that resolves all philosophical problems in essentials, as a simultaneously scientific and mystical text, as a positivist’s bible and as a work whose culminating sentence issues a rebuke to all of these doctrines. Wittgenstein aimed to revolutionise philosophical thinking by moving beyond uses of philosophical language in which recurring problems present themselves. He sought to transform philosophy into an activity that begins and ends in response to the kinds of confusion that arise when a person hasn’t given significant meaning to some signs in their propositions. One of his focal concerns is found at 4.116 of the Tractatus, where he declares: ‘everything that can be said can be said clearly’. That his position is nebulous and shrouded in ambiguity is no doubt one of the great ironies of intellectual history.

Part of the difficulty is due in no small part to a variety of framing assumptions that readers bring to the text itself, which confuse the understanding of Tractarian questions such as how a proposition hangs together, how thought and reality are related and how this relates to truth. But perhaps one final irony can be derived from Wittgenstein’s own style – at times telegraphic, synoptic, provocative and, in places, cryptic – which might be partly generative of these disputes. While the Tractatus is a highly organised text consisting of a tightly knit pattern of ratiocination, the apothegms that comprise it have been the source of enormous exegetical commentary surrounding whether Wittgenstein should be read ‘resolutely’ or not.

Cora Diamond is perhaps the paragon of the resolute reading and her new book sees her engaging with the thought of G.E.M. Anscombe, one of the early readers whose work is now deemed prototypical of the Orthodox school by this relatively new caucus. And while they ostensibly belong to two opposing camps, Diamond begins by making a case for the reintroduction of Anscombean questions, with the promise that through these we may come to see Wittgenstein’s work anew and gain fresh perspectives in contemporary debates. This allows Diamond to take a new angle on a number of disparate topics while retaining a thematic unity contained in the thought that, through reading both Wittgenstein and Anscombe, we can see them thinking about thinking, seeking to understand the unclarities and confusions that accompany our lives in language and thereby formulate effective responses to thought that has been interrupted by perplexity.

In her first section, Diamond exemplifies what Myles Burnyeat called the ‘history of philosophy done philosophically’: a practice of philosophical criticism aimed at accounting for the historical context of Wittgenstein’s own motivations to come to grips with the philosophical problems with which he was concerned (4). In doing philosophy in this way, both historically and against the grain of shared contemporary preconceptions, we find Anscombe and Diamond fighting on more than one front, effecting a dual movement that aims at working through the past to reposition the way our contemporary assumptions may shape what we take to be the Tractatus’ message.

Image Credit: Painting of  Ludwig Wittgenstein by Christiaan Tonnis (Christiaan Tonnis CC BY SA 2.0)

At issue here is the importance of the philosophers Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell and a debate over who holds the strongest claim to be Wittgenstein’s most significant intellectual progenitor. For Anscombe, it is the neglect of Frege and over-emphasis on Russell that obfuscates our understanding of Wittgenstein’s philosophy (98). Thus, her presentation of Wittgenstein’s so-called ‘picture theory’ points us to fundamental connections between his thought and that of Frege, thereby exemplifying the kind of philosophical activity to which the Tractatus was meant to inaugurate. Diamond broadly agrees with this ‘unRussellian’ starting point. But the source of her disagreement with Anscombe is the character of Wittgenstein’s unRussellianism. This might suggest that the difference between them is one of emphasis, but it ramifies into separate understandings of Wittgenstein’s conception of propositional sense and his use of the context principle. Extracted from this is a very different idea of where Wittgenstein ends up. Anscombe argues that he retains a Fregean conception of sense, albeit with ‘different theses’ about it (8); for Diamond, Wittgenstein ends up with a conception that is both unFregean and unRussellian and completely his own (23).

What Wittgenstein means by sense is linked to the analogy of propositions with pictures and their representing possible ways things can be in the world. Propositions are analogous with pictures to the extent that we can use them to say that this is how things stand and we can also use the very same picture to claim the inverse. Contained within this notion is the dual possibility of being used in two opposite ways to make two opposite claims: ‘this is how things are’, and, conversely, ‘this is how things aren’t’. A proposition derives its sense from its possibility of standing-for-something and the representational feature of these claims rests on the connection between the signs of the proposition and their relation to a person or object in reality.

This paves the way for the next two chapters in which Diamond explores Anscombe’s work on propositions and ‘What Can Only Be True’. Much of the discussion takes its leave from the two chapters in Anscombe’s Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus that deal with negation understood as the reversal of the logical directionality of sense. The possibility of propositional bivalence is what the picture theory is designed to account for, and Anscombe’s criticism of it is that it rules out the possibility of propositions that do not have a significant negation that can nevertheless be true. This is worked out in Anscombe’s willingness to speak of propositions that lack an intelligible negation and therefore escape the picture theory, but nevertheless hold true. Here we see that the negation of a philosophical truth represents a literally unthinkable scenario as logical truths do not have negations that we can understand. This provides the crucial context for Diamond going onto ethics.

 As Anscombe describes the matter:

there is a strong impression made by the end of Tractatus, as if Wittgenstein saw the world looking at him with a face; logic helped to reveal that face […] the world thought of, not as how things are, how as however they are – seen as a whole – is a matter of logic; thought of as my life, it is a matter of ethics.

To this, we might add Wittgenstein’s thought that ‘ethics does not treat of the world. Ethics must be a condition of the world, like logic.’ But this is another vexed topic in the commentary and a key issue is accounting for how ethics can continue in the wake of a philosopher who once said that there are no ethical propositions.

Diamond’s engagement with Anscombe provides a compelling avenue in this discussion. She shows that simply facing the world confronts us with ethical questions of how to comport ourselves in relation to it. Ethics, like logic, is something that we live by way of. It is not a distinct sub-field of philosophy, but something that imbues all of our thought and action in the world. In her final section, we see her interpose Wittgensteinian thought into the debate between the philosophers David Wiggins and Bernard Williams that gathers around meta-ethical commitment to a form of relativism on Williams’s part and the refutation of this by Wiggins in favour of a dogged insistence on the particular case.

This is explored by Diamond under the heading of ‘thinkables-with-no-alternatives’ (232): that is, propositions that have no intelligible negation. Through the innovative use of ‘solo propositions’ (270), Diamond introduces an ethical picture of what it means to think correctly. We see that there are not two possible responses to slavery: ‘slavery is bad’ and ‘slavery is justifiable because it is the backbone of the Southern economy’. Those who opposed the anti-slavery movement in the nineteenth century found themselves in a nonsensical position in which they were unable to think a just thought (305). They exempted themselves from the form of life constitutive of moral rationality and produced a failure of thought that rendered them morally unintelligible. In getting this into view, it becomes clear that there is only one genuine possibility for thought on this particular question.

Another innovation is the use of what Diamond calls ‘path-indicators and path-blockers’ (259). This is deeply connected to the Wittgensteinian concern with combating thought that has become confused and gone astray, interweaved throughout the book. Path-indicators show how we might go on in our thinking free of confusion; path-blockers can be used as philosophical responses to confusion that erect road signs of ‘no entry’ or ‘road closed ahead’ to put the stoppers on wayward thought. This is a novel way to combat what Wittgenstein calls at §131 in the Philosophical Investigations ‘ineptness or emptiness in our assertions’. These tools provide a persuasive backstory about why a path is open or blocked to get thinking back on track by showing that the connections our propositions make are tied to the kind of use they are meant to have (260). These add a preparatory level to Wiggins’s account of moral thought, contributing another consideration that Diamond sees as crucial for getting the character of the debate into view (268).

What we find at stake are questions about the aims and character of philosophical clarification, the ethical implications of which work to counteract the common assumption that Wittgenstein’s work rules ethical thought out ab initio. And what Diamond shows us here, through Anscombe’s particular brand of Wittgenstein-inflected Aristotelianism, is how logic and ethics are coeval. This shouldn’t, however, be taken to illuminate paths solely within Wittgenstein scholarship. Diamond contextualises her discussion through the Declaration of Independence and nineteenth-century slavery debates, and in doing so indicates the availability of Wittgenstein’s thought to interdisciplinary application across historical, political and juridical lines (234).

Stanley Cavell has suggested that the mark of a text’s worth can be measured by the texts that spring up in response to it. That Anscombe has served as a sounding post for some of the most resonant work that Diamond has produced might serve as an initial indicator of Anscombe’s lasting importance to the study of Wittgenstein’s thought. She is someone to struggle both with and against, and Diamond’s book reveals the promise that such an engagement contains to renew contemporary debates in epistemology surrounding truth and in ethics that apply Wittgenstein’s logical considerations to conversations of justice. What Diamond offers here is a wonderful tribute to one of Wittgenstein’s most brilliant students: a work of the history of philosophy done philosophically, in which Anscombe figures as interlocutor and inspiration to a contextual repositioning of the Tractatus and a new account of Wittgenstein’s inheritance from Frege and Russell. But the real payoff comes in the ethical part of the book that shows the practical consequences of taking up Anscombean questions in this way and the distinct and original picture it provides of the nature and character of Wittgensteinian philosophy.

Adam Woods is a PhD student at the University of East Anglia. His research focuses on applying Wittgenstein’s philosophy to a second-personal consideration of relationality. He doesn’t tweet from @adamianwoods.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Former ICTY Lawyer Comments on the Karadzic Verdict

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/03/2019 - 2:25am in

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Ethics, NATO

by Christopher C. Black, 20 March, 2019 The following was in response to a Vecernje Novine, Belgrade’s Evening News daily, request for comment. A Serbian journalist asked me what I thought of this expected judgement two days ago. Here are his questions and my answers to put this travesty in perspective: Question:  What do you think about the verdict? Answer:  The same thing I think about all the ICTY “judgements” so called.  They are not worth the paper they are written on.  The ICTY is an illegitimate tribunal.  Its decisions have no valid legal standing. On top of that the Karadzic trial, like all the other trials [held at the ICTY], was a travesty in which the main witnesses against him were NATO officers and “experts” and in which the judges relied heavily on statements of witnesses handed to them by the prosecution without any cross-examination of the people that made the statements; in which there seems to have been no cross-examination of the witnesses on how they came into contact with the prosecutors and …

Introversion: a part of the solution

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/03/2019 - 6:06pm in

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Ethics

This was posted as a comment on the blog last night by someone using the name Dambrill. I thought the name was apt. And so I am sharing it:

I am an introvert.

I am not a pathology, a diagnosis, a weakness, an incapacity, a challenge, a victim – in short I am not a problem and do not need fixing

I am not the same as shy or sensitive or socially anxious or on the spectrum.

(I can be any of these things but they do not make me an introvert)

I am not better nor am I worse. I am different.

I do not need a different workplace environment because I am a snowflake who can’t cope.

I want a different workplace because I want to give my best.

This is true whatever environment I work in, whatever job I do.

This is more than reason enough to make changes but let me go further

Look at the problems we all face.

Not just in this country but across the world and as a species.

If we are to rise to the challenges we face, if we are to make the changes necessary to stave off disaster then we cannot squander the abilities of any group when what we need is everyone at their best. This means embracing introverts and working to provide them with an environment where they can thrive. This applies equally to person or group that is prevented from thriving by any sort institutional bias whether intended or not.

The problems facing us will require radical change and they will require our best.

The answers will not come from business as usual, they will not come from billionaires putting all the money they don’t need into their charitable foundations, they will not come in an app or from having a carrier (with or without planes) with which to project force overseas, and they will not result from groupthink or be found by following the herd.

The answers will come from all of us, we will all have our parts to play.

They will come from diversity, not pc tokenism but a true diversity of people and their diversity in thinking, in problem solving, in ideas. The answers will come from lone geniuses and large teams, from experts and amateurs, from new technology and traditional indigenous knowledge, the answers will be shouted out and they will be whispered.

We must be prepared to let go of what we think we know and be willing to try something new.

We should consider what democracy means to us and how we want it to work (some form of PR and sortition), whether forcing people into ultimately unproductive, as regards the threats we face, work simply so that they can survive is an effective use of a human life (UBI), whether the creation of money should be shrouded in myth and its benefits accruing to a few or should be out in the open and used for societies benefit (MMT) and lastly whether we want to pretend that there is no problem or to make a start with some of the answers that we have right now (GND)

There's a lot to be done but let's start with something easy.

Be aware of who you work with, be aware that one size doesn’t fit all, be prepared to ask them what they need, understand that confidence is not competence and that the loudest voice is not necessarily right. Be prepared to invest some time in researching and understanding extroverts and introverts, this applies whether you are an extrovert or introvert, and then see what you can do to help people achieve their potential.

It’s a start.

I don’t think in straight lines.

I am an Introvert.

I am a part of the solution.

What would a world that was different, and which was better, look like?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/03/2019 - 5:59pm in

Tags 

Ethics

It is a strange morning when the country is in constitutional crisis; across the world there are people mourning deaths caused by those who have shot innocent people; climate change continues; economic justice carries on unabated and I feel that there is nothing much to write about. But looking at the news that is my reaction. And I have to ask myself why that is?

Have I become inured to these traumas? Is it now commonplace to suffer the stress that they create without really noticing? Why can I not feel that there is, despite the revulsion at what has happened in Christchurch, nothing for me to add? And have I simply become resigned to Brexit chaos, knowing that it will continue for years to come, whatever I say? And might we not win the war to save the planet? Is that possible, however well-intentioned some are? Will injustice always be with us, come to that?

I recognise all the risks: these things are possible. I recognise that I am distracted by work pressure as well, of which there is a lot right now.

What I also realise, simply by choosing to write this reflection, which like so many of my blog posts is an exercise in me seeking an answer to my own questions, is that it is vital that we accept that such risks exist.

I cannot be alone in frequently not wanting to watch the news these days.

I dislike the melodrama. I dislike the focus on negativity. I dislike that supposed balance seems to give credibility to those who do not deserve it. I dislike the fact that ethics appear to have disappeared. And that the question ‘why?’ rather than “what?, ‘when?’ and ‘how?’ seems to have fallen off the agenda unless it can be addressed in 15 seconds, which is always nigh on impossible.

But I realise that I have company in thinking better must be possible. And that it is something to aspire to, especially when so much of what we hear is so adversarially negative. By which I do not condemn those being adversarial, per se: I am condemning the negativity that seeks to oppose for the sake of it, which so much of populism does, as if finding a route to success requires elimination of alternative opinion when common ground is the usual bedrock of achievement.

I want to believe we can find common solutions when all I can see are far too many politicians and opinion-formers too readily looking to blame, when the situations they dislike are things for which they should be taking part of the responsibility in a great many cases.

In essence, on a morning where the world seems laden with problems I wish for a solution focussed way of thinking. The imagination to ask ‘what would a world that was different, and which was better, look like?’ And to hope that people will then try to achieve it.

That may not be newsworthy, and yet it is what we so often require. Mot especially when things are not working, as seems depressingly commonplace at the moment.

The Guru recipe

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/03/2019 - 9:25pm in

[I just read a self-help book and, like Don Quixote, need to vent…]

My 10 rules for becoming a successful guru:

  1. Appear popular at the start: humans are just like dogs that follow other dogs. So have a legion of disciples and followers. Make them up when you start out. Don’t hesitate to hire actors and internet helpers.
  2. Give the audience the keys to the universe: flatter your audience by giving them a story wherein they are the heroes capable of great feats as long as they follow a recipe that you are a part of. A good guru knows the secret worries and desires of his audience and orients his stories towards those. If the audience fears asteroids, spin them a story about how the mind can influence the forces of the cosmos responsible for the trajectory of asteroids. If the audience secretly wants to control the weather, tells them about the magical rain dances. If they want to be healed, tell them your theories cure cancer or whatever else they worry about.
  3. Fit the story within the culture of the audience so that the mechanisms sound familiar and validated. Truth is completely irrelevant for this and is often a hindrance, so you only need to use familiar words and concepts, replacing the actual theories with whatever suits your story. When you talk to a Western audience where science is the source of truth and power, you thus stack your story full of the latest terms in Western science, whether that is gravitational waves, Higgs-Boson particles, intergenerational epigenetic transmissions, blockchain, Modern Monetary Theory, or whatever it is that your audience is likely to have heard of in the news. Use those terms, explain them in a way that is roughly right, and then claim some theory about them that is complete nonsense but suits you.
  4. Do not tax the intelligence of the audience for if they were smart enough to understand all the things you refer to, they wouldn’t be interested in what you had to say in the first place. So explain things in a very light and emotional storytelling manner. Speak of quantum waves as if they are friends with whom you can have a conversation. Talk about the mysticism of the carbon cycle as if your audience was born with the buttons in their hands that ruled the minutest details of that cycle. Your audience will love you for it because it will make them feel they finally understand these things in a way that makes them feel smart and powerful. Indeed, you basically cannot overdo this part: all that happens if you are spectacularly wrong in one story about some part of modern science is that you lose those members of the audience that really know that part, a negligible number.
  5. Set your audience up slowly with a hook: offer them something cheap that draws them in and only when they are in so far that they become slightly dependent on more do you increase the demands on their purses. The key thing here is that the audience will trust you if they want to trust you and hence only after you have managed to create a continued need for your message. This is a subtle game of hints, ‘proof’, personal ‘testimonies’ of your previous disciples, stories of how you really are uninterested in money, etc.
  6. Your appearance is everything so look the part and be seen to believe yourself, ie walk the walk. Whether you truly do is irrelevant because what matters is the appearance. Truth is no obstacle at all. If your audience needs you to have travelled the stars, simply tell them aliens abducted you and took you for a ride. If the audience wants to hear you spent 10 years in a cave in Tibet, then just tell them that is what you did. If they need you to have 100 kids and 50 wives, just make them up. If there is too much well-known information out there to prove you couldn’t possibly have done what your audience wants to believe, pretend you were in contact with someone who did who was your guru and that you are now following in his footsteps. Similarly, dress and behave the way the audience expects you to, whether that means you must have an enormous beard or a weird antenna sticking out of your behind. Remember the important lesson of Machiavelli: people believe what they see and hear. Don’t worry about the very few who look at your actions and deduce who you truly are: they are not into gurus anyways so you lose nothing by not appealing to them. Your potential followers resent such skeptical characters, so they are no threat to you at all (indeed, the more noise skeptics make about you, the better).
  7. Entertain and be charming. You have to make the audience want to be you or sleep with you. If you can’t be entertaining and charming, don’t even start.
  8. Have a bible. If need be, you can have a follower write that bible, but you need a holy book that people can pick over and worship.
  9. Be ambiguous: no two people truly want the same thing. So in order to have many followers you must create enough ambiguity in your story such that they can all believe something different. Like the bible, tell many different sides of the same story such that different members of the audience can buy into different aspects.
  10. Be scarce: a guru is like a Ferrari and must not be seen to be available to everyone because that limits the value to the audience of having one. They want to feel special. So when things take off you must become sparing with your time and your new public utterances. Indeed, the best thing is then to die.

New Ethics Research Center Opening in Cameroon

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/03/2019 - 8:13pm in

The Ethics and Public Policy Laboratory (EthicsLab) is a new research center at the Catholic University of Central Africa that is officially launching this week. 

Located in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, EthicsLab aims to provide “high quality research in the domain of fundamental and applied ethics in the sub-region of central Africa.” From its website:

By stimulating an ethical reflection on issues of economic, social, and political importance, our aim is both to build a culture of integrity and to contribute to improve the public-policy-building capacity of countries of the sub-region of Central Africa that relies on it and that requires in turn better informed debates in the broader public on the big challenges that the region faces given its underdeveloped economy and fragile political institutions.  

EthicsLab strives to provide innovative perspectives and instruments to address and cope with such challenges considering the fundamental role that scientific research in general, and in the field of ethics, can play in the human and economic development of the sub-region of central Africa and advocate for fair public policies. We will build on the strong philosophical tradition in the sub-region of central Africa to define its scientific agenda, free from any political pressure, by focusing on the specific challenges that this sub-region faces, as opposed to western countries for instance, and more broadly by giving a voice to African perspectives of moral and political theories which are so lacking in the global justice debate.  

Its launch activities include a conference and workshops with an international roster of participants.

According to Ingrid Robeyns (Utrecht), who is participating in the events and wrote about the EthicsLab in a post at Crooked Timber, “the driving force behind the EthicsLab is Dr. Thierry Ngosso, currently a Berggruen Fellow at the J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, who has been working towards this launch for many years.”

You can learn more about EthicsLab and its opening activities here.


Pascale Marthine Tayou, “Chalk or Charcoal” (detail)

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The best way to reform corporation tax? That’s the only basis that reflects where all their activities take place

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/03/2019 - 6:46pm in

A found an odd postscript to last week's exchanges with Mike Devereux on corporation tax reform in the letter's page of the FT where I (and others) proposed a unitary apportionment method of solving the international corporation tax problem and Mike proposed an extension of what is, in effect VAT, which he calls a destination based cash flow tax base for corporation tax. That postscript is in the Guardian where Mike and Judith Freedman, also of the Oxford Centre for Business Taxation, suggested:

So what should be the basis for taxing multinational corporations? The Guardian sometimes seems to suggest that tax should be based on "residence", sometimes on "physical presence", and at other times "profits". But what do all these phrases mean when the taxpayer is a corporation? A corporation is a legal person, but in practice most corporate groups are made up of a network of companies. The group typically has shareholders across the globe, and assets, employees and customers scattered throughout many countries. In a system based on taxing profits, it makes sense for the group to move its profits to where the tax is lowest. The way to combat this is to find a new basis for taxing corporate groups, based on factors such as where assets are located, employees work or sales are made. The European commission has been working on proposals for such a system, but they are difficult to formulate and agree. A worldwide solution needs even broader international co-operation.

People are allowed to change their minds, of course. But it's worth noting that I have never seen explanation as to why Mike has done so. After all, he has moved from arguing for tax in all those places where a company adds value to arguing for a tax that will almost entirely be paid in the wealthiest countries on earth. Why has he chosen that new bias? It's a question needing an answer when ethically it is an argument that is almost impossible to sustain, even if the regressive aspect of the tax within those countries that would tax is ignored.

Hat tip to Nick Shaxson.

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