On the idea of hate

Everything that exists, inasmuch as it is what it is, is distinct from whatever it is not. Inasmuch as each being is distinct from other things, it has certain qualities that define it, whose opposite are not consistent with it remaining what it is.

Among beings, some, those that are living, are capable of actively protecting and opposing the previously mentioned qualities. This is the original meaning behind the Greek root of our word ‘autonomy’: a living being is one is capable of securing its nomos – i.e.  its essence, the inner law of its being – in, through, and by itself (auto), i.e. by its own behavior.

As such, each living thing must behave in ways which maintain those qualities and resist its contraries as a condition for its existence as what it is. Consequently, every autonomous creature has certain conditions that it must nourish, and others that it must repel in order for it to continue to be – it must advance certain conditions and repel others as a condition for its existence. The emotional form these basic imperatives in human beings are happiness and anger, which manifest themselves intentionally as love and hate.

Through our capacities for abstraction, we can arrive at a basic idea of hatred, in a way similar to how we abstract the idea of the number two from intuiting pairs of like things. But just as two-ness itself has conditions for existence which are abstracted from in the analysis of the concept, so also hatred has conditions of existence which are not included in the conditions required for thinking it. One such condition is the aforementioned intentionality: though one can think hatred without thinking of the hatred of any particular thing, hatred by definition involves the directing of wrath or anger towards something.

But because things that are hated, too, have conditions and qualities without which they cannot be what they are, any act of hating some given thing is simultaneously an act supporting those qualities which oppose the hated thing, and hence gives support to those beings whose existence flourishes under conditions contrary to those under which the hated thing would flourish. Consequently, inasmuch as hatred is an intentional act which must distinguish the hated thing from things which it isn’t, it is impossible to hate everything.

Since there is no such thing as an indiscriminate force of hatred, neither can there be opposition to such a force. In other words, one cannot coherently oppose hate as such.

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Authors picks, May 2019

Below, I provide a summary of my favorite posts from the month in the order they were published.

On passionate disagreement and self-identity argues that incorrigible disagreement fundamentally doesn’t arise from disagreement over present facts, but rather over disagreements about how present and past facts relate to a presently indeterminate future. Inasmuch as any individual’s sense of self is attached to a particular idea of and attitude towards the future in question, incorrigible disagreement always, albeit indirectly, involves an attack on identity, i.e. one’s understanding of oneself in light of an assumed trajectory.

A dilemma for a constitutionally protected, publicly funded right to abortion argues that based on the rationale presumed in current U. S. jurisprudence on the subject, abortion may be constitutionally protected or publicly funded. But it cannot be both.

On semantic ambiguity in St. Anselm of Canterbury’s argument for God’s existence examines St. Anselm’s famous ontological argument for the existence of God with an eye towards asking how many different interpretations of its key phrase ‘God is that than which nothing greater can be thought’, there are. I show that there are at least ten different interpretations of this phrase alone, and Anselm’s argument relies on at least two.

On logical fallacies employed in the philosophical use of the term ‘tautology’ shows that the term ‘tautology’ has two closely related uses. On one of these, a tautology is something that is true by definition. On the other, it is also grasped immediately. Philosophical tendency to regard tautologies as meaningless relies on the ambiguity between these two meanings.

Object-oriented objects aren’t objects is, at the time of this writing, now the most viewed post ever posted on this site. I argue that objects in object-oriented programming are closer to an obscure late 17th century theory of substance – Gottfried Leibniz’s theory of monads –  than they are to objects as commonly understood.

On the consequences of capital concentration and its addendum show how a wide variety of contemporary political problems are directly caused or otherwise conditioned by the concentration of capital according to class and location.

What non-cooperative games can tell us about suffering for a cause discusses a simple, real-world example of a non-cooperative game – a traffic jam – and draws from it the broader claim that even the possibility of obtaining the best, most harmonious outcome for any group considered as a whole requires some of its members to suffer gratuitously, so long as the ideal conditions sought after fail to obtain.

Another puzzle on logic and obligation

Yesterday, I showed that axiom commonly called ‘ought implies can’ (OIC), if applied to logical reasoning itself, implies that a good part of what are considered logically valid deductions in logic various logics, including the standard formalization of deontic logic itself, would have to be rejected. Today, I’ll discuss a different principle – that obligation implies contingency – and draw another counterintuitive conclusion from it.

If you’re not sold on the axiom, I offer the following argument. For any obligation, the weight of that obligation is only given in experience via the possibility of its absence: in other words, one can only feel obliged to bring about something if it is possible for that thing not to be. Consequently, if there were obligation to bring about what is necessary, it could never be given in experience. While an obligation does not be require its being recognized as such, it at least presupposes the possibility that it be recognized. No such possibility exists in the case of necessities. Therefore, it must be that

(O~□) OA → ¬□A,

which is equivalent to

(O~) OA → ¬A

Given (OIC), this gives us

(OI𝒞) OA → (A ¬A)

We can then define a contingency operator 𝒞 such that

(𝒞) 𝒞A A ¬A

This allows us to rewrite OI𝒞 as follows:

(OI𝒞) OA → 𝒞A

Now, apply this reflexively, as before, to the case of logical reasoning itself. The implication is that for any claim A and agent x, if x is obliged to infer A, x‘s actually inferring must itself be a contingent act.

Now there are two ways to understand this statement, depending on whether we understand reasoning to include in its domain reasoning that can be engaged in, but isn’t, or instead to refer to an act of reasoning actually engaged in. On the less controversial reading, Ought-implies-contingency means that x could simply not engage in a given reasoning process: perhaps our logician has chosen instead to spend the afternoon bingeing on Taylor Swift songs. But on the stronger reading, it means that x, while engaging, could fail to get it. The latter, if correct, would imply something about the kinds of beings to whom logic actually applies, viz. that logic doesn’t apply to ideal reasoners. Consequently, even leaving aside the problem of circular definition, a correct set of inferences or axioms would not be able to be defined by appealing to the kinds of inferences ideal reasoners would make.

A puzzle concerning logic and obligation

The standard axiom for deontic logic, (D), reads as follows:

(D) OA → PA

Where ‘OA’ is read as ‘A is obligatory’, and ‘P’ is read as ‘A is permissible’.

An equally well known principle, albeit more controversial, is that obligation implies possibility.

(OIC) OA → A

The principle the axiom captures is often referred to simply as ‘ought implies can’.

1 The problem

Logic itself, on at least one conception, is a normative discipline: it is about inferences we ought to make.

Applying (OIC) to the subject matter of logic conceived as such, the principle states: any axiom of the correct logical system is one capable of being inferred by the reasoners to whom the obligation to reason so applies.

A problem with this is that as is well known, some axioms of just about any propositional modal logic are infinite in length: for instance, □((p v ¬p) & (q v ¬q) & (r v ¬r)…) i.e. the conjunction of excluded middle for each propositional parameter in the language. If you reject excluded middle, then you can substitute some other example to make the same point (or not!).  The problem, then, is that deontic logic, applied to the domain of logic as such, requires those obligated to reason so to be capable of completing infinitely long chains of reasoning.

Thus, applying a claim of deontic logic reflexively to logical reasoning implies that most theorems of most logics, including those of standard deontic logic, should be rejected.

On economic growth and commodification, 1

There are (at least) two ways in which the growth rate of an economy may be increased.

The first is through an increase in the production of goods or services purchased, as occurred, for instance, when goods like automobiles, phones, computers, etc. first came to market.

The second is through an increase in  accounting of goods that previously existed, but weren’t previously accounted for – that is a movement of goods from non-inclusion in a market to inclusion in it. Letting other things be equal (and because of opportunity costs they usually aren’t), a person who purchases herself a meal rather than cook one, for instance, does not bring about an increase in the production of goods, but only trades in a non-market good, the time and labor used to make her own meal, for a market one, and leads to that good being accounted for. Likewise, if we imagine we line up all the parents of underage children in a given city in a circle, and suppose each parent pays the parent to the right of them the same rate – $20 an hour, say – to watch their children, the real value of services produced would not be greater than they would be in a situation where everyone watched their own children. But since the labor in the latter situation isn’t accounted for in market relations, the former situation would lead to an increase in the nominal value of goods and services relative to the latter. Something similar occurs when a previously illegal good is legalized.

A short remark on specialization in professional philosophy

Public discourse on the nature of philosophy and the future of the philosophy profession currently divides into two camps. One pushes for philosophy to somehow be more public, to move away from specialization by reaching out to the masses. The other holds that the future of philosophy is bound to be more specialized, with different kinds of philosophy available for different subfields, categories of individuals, or even different economic sectors.

Behind the latter view is a pair of assumptions about the nature and understanding of wholes: 1) that wholes are sums of their parts, and 2) that consequentially, distinct knowledge of a whole is built up from, and thus presupposes, distinct knowledge of its parts.

Both of these assumptions are false.

Weekly recap,May 12-18, 2019

This week the blog put up three new posts.

On the consequences of capital concentration and its addendum show how a wide variety of contemporary political problems are directly caused or otherwise conditioned by the concentration of capital according to class and location.

What non-cooperative games can tell us about suffering for a cause discusses a simple, real-world example of a non-cooperative game – a traffic jam – and draws from it the broader claim that even the possibility of obtaining the best, most harmonious outcome for any group considered as a whole requires some of its members to suffer gratuitously, so long as the ideal conditions sought after fail to obtain.

What non-cooperative games can tell us about suffering for a cause

The other day, I found myself stuck on the highway in traffic, which was caused by a lane that was blocked so workers could wash graffiti off of an approaching tunnel wall and trim trees reaching over the highway’s guard rail. The natural reaction of many, if not most drivers in this situation was to place themselves in the shorter and/or faster lane, switching back and forth as necessary up to the point where the traffic jam dissipated.

A traffic jam is a very simple, real-world example of what game-theorists call a non-cooperative game: it is an activity, essentially a very slow race, in which multiple participants have a goal, getting to the end of the jam in the fastest way possible.  It is non-cooperative in that under certain conditions, a participant can better secure that goal for themselves by inhibiting others from achieving it. For instance, if the traffic jam is caused, as they often are, by the imposition of a large blinking light followed by traffic cones blocking off a lane, one can drive as far as one can up to the blocked lane, then merge at the last possible moment, cutting others off and slowing down traffic in the process. In doing so, a driver makes his own position better, but makes the jam worse for everyone else.

People behave in non-cooperative ways for a variety of reasons. Some may have a compelling reason for doing so – emergency ambulance drivers, to continue with our example, can initiate a traffic jam in this way. Others are inattentive, e.g. a distracted driver who slows down and rapidly switches lanes to avoid missing an exit. Others may simply be aggressive or selfish. Others engage in non-cooperative behavior as a preventative and punitive measure against the bad behavior of others, e.g. a driver who refuses to let another merge and thereby contributes to the backup in the merging driver’s lane. Still others, recognizing that their own good behavior won’t be enough to change the underlying situation in light of the uncooperative behavior of others, abandon their natural disposition on the grounds of futility.

Given the assumption that others will behave badly in a given situation, one cannot secure one’s own best outcome by behaving in a cooperative way, e.g. by staying in one lane, driving at a slow, constant pace, and letting others merge when they wish, rather than shifting lanes and closing traffic gaps as quickly as possible. Conversely, the only way to secure the best available outcome for everyone is if everyone (or at least the vast majority) behaves cooperatively, and thus refuses to consider their own advantage under changing conditions.

Let us call the best possible outcome, with respect to a given end, for a community as a whole, just. Understood in this way, not reaction to bad behavior, but indifference to it, serves as a precondition of justice.

Furthermore, for a just outcome in the above sense to even be possible requires that some suffer voluntarily so long as ideal conditions don’t obtain. In doing so, those who suffer under such conditions witness to the possibility of harmony among members of the community, a possibility that they themselves may never see realized.

Lastly, call the harmony of a community, with respect to its natural and chosen ends, consequent on the self-abnegation of its members, its culture.

Voluntary suffering under unjust conditions, then, would serve as a both a witness to and a condition for the very possibility of a common culture.

On the consequences of capital concentration, addendum

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In a previous post, I showed how a wide variety of problems, from rural poverty to data mining, are consequent on or otherwise conditioned as responses to the problem of the concentration of capital resources both geographically and by class. Here, I’ll add a few further points that I neglected to mention in the previous post.

As capital concentration increases and capital itself improves, the number of laborers necessary to secure sufficient societal goods decreases. Hence competition among laborers becomes greater. One way this manifests itself is in a tendency for individuals whose production under earlier conditions had been within the context of household business or even outside of sphere of monetary economic activity, to enter (or re-enter) that sphere, particularly women, children, and the elderly. As a result, households, previously themselves diversified units of production, get drawn into the same kind of iterative non-cooperative game that we earlier saw befall businessmen in their competition for the accumulation of capital, and localities, states, and nations in their competition to secure sources both of revenue for their operations and of labor for their citizens. In short, women and, where legal, children, enter the labor force. Initially, this secures a competitive advantage for two-income households. But in the aggregate, this not only increases the supply of labor, leading to a corresponding decrease in its value; it also undermines the rationale of the household as itself a stable unit for production. Inasmuch as marriage was previously understood as a precondition for the well-being and stable operation of households, the need for marriage in this form is undermined, the absolute rate of marriages decreases, and the rationale for marriage itself, if it is to continue playing any important societal role, must shift, as it has in our society to romantic love. Initially, this leads to the possibility of expanding marriage to those who were excluded by the previous definition, e.g. homosexuals, the divorced, groups of individuals, or blood relatives (the exact groups to whom the institution is expanded will differ from society to society, but the underlying rationale is the same). Ultimately, as it becomes clear that marriage is not a prerequisite for romantic love, the institution itself loses its distinction and meaning.

In societies where public discomfort prevents children from working, they do not remain unaffected by effects of capital concentration. Instead, where the education of children was previously informal and conducted by households and local communities (generally as one activity among others), it later becomes the dominant focus of childhood, aimed at a) inculcating attitudes conducive to working conditions that prevent households from serving as economic units and drains societies of the power and opportunity to bring people together and b) providing the basic skills necessary to secure future advantage as skilled laborers in a capitalist economy. Today, these two aims take the form of a) cultivating an understanding of social relations themselves on the model of market relations, i.e. as transactions between consenting individuals free from natural ties, and b) an emphasis on skills in science, technology, engineering, and mechanics (STEM).

Lastly, as individuals are increasingly bereft of not only capital, but of property more broadly, this comes to affect not only the material conditions of life but also the attitudes and psychology of those thus affected. Bereft of the opportunities to meaningfully participate in productive activity that they can call their own, the economic activity of those lacking capital becomes increasingly concentrated on consumption. This brings with it a general slackening of attitudes of self-denial, such as those previously cultivated by religious belief towards the partaking of sex, food, and sleep. Second, it allows opportunities for consumption themselves to become a source of community substituting for kinds of social relations that economic conditions no longer support. This can take the form of associating only with those who have similar consumption habits (e.g. dining at luxury restaurants), or even of the creation of cultural icons and events (e.g. superhero movies, the Super Bowl) as substitutes for religious and other forms of community. As people increasingly identify themselves with what it is they consume, consumer attitudes are increasingly extended to things not previously thought of as consumer goods (e.g. gender, race). Likewise, if forms left over from a fading culture associate consumption with different types of individuals to different degrees (e.g. teenagers more than adults, women more than men, the wealthy more than the poor), those attitudes will be correspondingly more manifest in a society among those classes more associated with consumption, at least until the underlying logic of capital itself extinguishes the material conditions requisite for those attitudes to be sustained.

On the consequences of capital concentration

1 What is capital?

The term ‘capital’ is used in several senses.

In its most basic sense, ‘capital’ refers to physical goods that may be used in the production of other goods or services. In this sense, something as simple as a box of pencils counts as capital.

In another sense, the term may also include non-material goods, such as patents, proprietary code, or the value of a well-known brand.

In a third sense, the term may refer to those types of capital that, in a given era, would provide an advantage over one’s competitors in the provision of certain goods and services – as tractors did for some farmers, at the expense of others, at the turn of the 20th century, and as network effects did for some social media networks, at the expense of others, at the beginning of the 21st. This sense disregards capital which common to all or most participants in a monetary economy (or sector thereof) in order to focus on those granting distinction to their owners.

In a fourth sense, the term is used to refer to goods that, while not themselves capital in any of the above senses, are goods derived in some way from these more basic ones. Common stock, which signify ownership of the right to provide input concerning the direction of capital in these senses, is capital in this sense. A bank loan, which is a tangible signifier of the goodwill that a borrower has in the estimation of a lender, is also capital in this sense.

Capital may be concentrated by location, as, for instance, New York City has a greater quantity and variety of capital than the entire state of Wyoming. It may also be concentrated by class, e.g. if capital ownership is largely restricted to individuals within a given social or economic group.

2 The initial consequences of capital concentration

In all but the most basic sense, the concept of capital is correlative to that of labor power. While nothing prevents labor from itself being regarded as a form of capital, inasmuch as the capacity to work is exercised in the production of goods and services, it is typically regarded as a separate category. The original reason for this was that since labor is a cause of every produced good, and thus a source of capital in the sense of goods used in production, it itself could not be regarded as capital in the same sense that these goods themselves were. The distinction has remained, though the reason that originally grounded it has been abandoned by most mainstream economists.

A society in which capital is sufficiently concentrated in one class of individuals is one in which labor, rather than contributing for the most part to household production of goods for consumption, instead contributes to the sale of goods in a market economy. This occurs in a society where the use of money is directly or indirectly necessitated by law, e.g. via its collection as taxes for the provision of common goods like national defense. The necessity of the provision of taxes in monetary form itself conditionally necessitates formal participation in buying and selling.

However, when capital in the third of the above listed senses becomes available to some members of society, but not others, such individuals have the capacity to produce goods at greater speed than others. Inasmuch as money is itself a means for securing those external goods necessary for maintaining a life, the capacity to produce goods more quickly, and hence to increase sales where there is demand for those goods, may be used as a way of ‘purchasing’ additional leisure time, as a way of providing goods at a lower price than one’s competitors (thus increasing one’s gross profit by cutting into the number of items a competitor sells, while decreasing one’s profit per item sold), or a combination of both. However, since competition for sale of goods and services is not a one-time event, but one iterated indefinitely many times, any choice to not increase production is simultaneously a bet – and a bet against the odds – that competitors sharing the similar capital advantages will act likewise. Because of this, the prudential decision, at least outside of monopoly conditions, will be to use one’s advantage to increase production and thereby lower prices. These conditions provide an instance of a type of scenario call an iterated non-cooperative game, which is one of several kinds of games studied in a discipline called game theory.

As this process is reiterated, previous businessmen will find themselves unable to compete directly with those who have accumulated greater levels of capital, and may find themselves in a situation where rather than selling goods produced, their own competitive advantage lies in selling their labor, i.e. in working for a capitalist. By doing so, they avoid direct competition with their employer, and partake of the advantages that that capitalist has against other competitors, while those employing them are provided with greater labor power against those same competitors. However, since the remaining capitalists will themselves not be in a situation of equilibrium as long as they have competitors, this process will continue to iterate in such a way as to dispossess previous capitalists of their labor for so long as there is not a monopoly and/or the kind of economy in which economic activity operates remains one where access to goods for production plays a decisive factor in determining the place of individuals within that society.

3 Later consequences of capital concentration

For as long as tangible material goods play an important role in a capitalist economy, those goods will have to be located in some place. As those goods become more concentrated in a given class of individuals, they will also become concentrated spatially. As a result of this, those not in a position of capital ownership will compete with each other by offering their labor to the far fewer number in a position to productively employ them. Since opportunities for sale are limited, some will not be hired, and will become poor. In this way, capital concentration generates the problem of urban poverty.

At the same time, as barriers to sales across large distances decrease, certain entire areas will find themselves required and unable, in the absence of deliberate protective measures, to compete with those in possession of greater capital. Since this will be practically impossible, those in possession of sufficiently in-demand skills will leave their areas. The areas they leave will then lack not only the resources, but also the talent to compete with those businesses in the city. In this way, capital concentration generates the problem of rural poverty.

This situation then conditions several further shifts in the economy of the city. In order t secure the advantages of greater production in a situation where buyers of the goods are increasingly scarce, programs are developed to ensure that the poor have at least some purchasing power. In other words, the problem of urban poverty has, as one of its possible, albeit temporary solutions, the creation of the welfare state. This grows government itself as a sector of employment, on the one hand, and –  as these programs come to count the employed among their users – artificially lowers worker wages on the other, since it lowers the price of labor by providing for basic necessities that had earlier been secured by a wage. In this way, welfare provisions then act as an indirect subsidy to employers,  further accelerating the process of capital concentration.

Those workers who find work in the city will find themselves among others who lack work. Some of these will have recourse to participation in the sale of illegal items as a way to provide for their wants and needs. Others will have recourse to theft, sometimes violent. In this way, capital concentration should lead to a relative increase in criminal activity wherever it is located amidst sufficient poverty – which, given the draw of excess labor towards capital will be everywhere capital is located.

As capital becomes sufficiently concentrated in a small number of citizens in a small number of cities, those same citizens come to wield sufficient power that local economies come to depend on them. In this situation, those economies will be less able to extract taxes from them at a rate less advantageous to them than those of neighboring locales. That is, localities, then states will find themselves in the same sort of iterated non-cooperative game with respect to taxation that capitalists themselves were initially in with respect to conditions of leisure. In this way, capitalism, which arises within the context of strong states in great part out through forced participation in the monetary economy in the form of monetary taxation, ultimately inhibits the collection of taxes, and removes the capacity for meaningful self-governance from local political communities .

Correspondingly, those governmental bodies that are capable of exercising taxing power will be those relatively far removed from local communities. As a necessity of counteracting large capital accumulations at sufficient scale, government decisions will begin to be increasingly concentrated at the highest levels, leaving it both unresponsive to the greater mass of its citizens and susceptible to corruption by those parts of society it initially sought to regulate.

Given the absence of sufficient numbers of buyers for the kinds of goods typical of an early market economy, the constant fierce competition for those buyers among existing firms, and the relatively large accumulations of capital by those firms, economies develop to serve not consumers in the traditional sense, but those companies, whose consumption is itself ordered toward the augmentation of their own competitive advantage. These conditions of the lack traditional demand, large capital accumulations, and competition for scarce buyers provide the precondition for the outsized role played in today’s economy by ad revenue and data mining.

The need to ensure a market of buyers for goods that are consumed multiple times requires that buyers not create products that undermine their own demand. Within fields like medicine, the form this will naturally take is a preference for repetitive care on a subscription-like basis over one-time solutions, as instanced in a focus on the development of drugs for repeated use over the cures, and on the very notion of health-care – which emphasizes a concept of care as constant superintendence over the emphasis on recovery from sickness emphasized in the notion of medicine. In other sectors it will take the form of a lower product quality to ensure that users return to buy a given product in a sufficiently short amount of time to make good the money spent in securing one’s competitive advantage. In this way, capital concentration leads to the generation of excessive pollution and landfill.

This list of negative consequences of capital concentration is incomplete. In the following days, I intend to discuss ways not to address these problems, then better methods for doing so.