Posts

Showing posts from March, 2017

Mohist Trolley `Problem'

Image
Usually it's pretty light fare here, but I'm delighted to be able to announce that I recently rediscovered and translated a new ancient Mohist text! Read on, comrades, for some exiting new-old philosophy!

Master Mo Zi spoke, saying ``In ancient times, kings, dukes, and great men, if they genuinely desired success, designed roads and transportation systems, that the alters of grain and soil may be well tended to. One day, travelling down one of these roads, came a man with a heavy cart pulled by many tempestuous white horses. This man had failed to appease his ancestors' ghosts, and so when approaching a fork in the road his horses suddenly bolted, and would not slow down no matter what he said. If he failed to steer his horses they would surely bolt down the East road, but if he exerted great effort and pulled a special lever on his cart, he could direct his horses down the West road, for he could steer even as he could not halt the horses.

Now, as it happened there were w…

Keep Calm and Carry On

Image
Here's a thought I have been mulling in the wake of the terrorist murders in London the other day. I think the following is true: one should never change one's voting habits in light of terrorism. And, in the present context, I think that means: despite the fact that they often seem to gain electorally from terrorism, one should not in fact reward the far right with votes or support in other forms in light of terrorism. Here's my thinking.

Let's assume that politicians are largely short sighted and self interested. That is to say, they want power, and they want it now, and it is the striving of (immediate) power after power that governs their actions. In a broadly democratic system how does one get this power? Well, by convincing the population to vote for you or support you in other means. Suppose, then, it becomes apparent that the way for you to gain support is for people to be constantly afraid of terrorist attacks, for there to be the odd random murder, or even ma…

Akan Epistemic Democracy

Image
A colleague made a literature request of me, so I reacquainted myself with work on Asante political structures in order to be able to give him better advice. Just a very quick note on what I am finding.
I am struck by two features of the (I think largely 19th C.) Asanteman political order -- 1 ) the actual ideas behind it seem pretty good, as despotisms go. The author I am reading has somewhat different focuses than I do, so I'll redescribe what they said (or so it seems to me!) to try and make salient social epistemic features of this system. It seems that in the ideal case social decisions in Asanteman were made after a period of lengthy consultation that went as follows. Village elders host consultations with community members about the matter at hand, each elder taking testimony from their own clan. The elders then meet, discuss the matter until they reach a consensus to their own satisfaction, and either make a decision themselves if the issue only affects their village, or …

Memories and their Meaning

In which I am uncomfortably emotional (for a British person). I have recently accepted a (deferred) position at the London School of Economics -- I will be a professor there starting in August of 2018. This is the kind of thing that gives people moment to reflect on Where They Are, and, millennial that I am, I have decided to do at least some of that publicly on the interwebosphere.

Two things primarily come to mind. First, I miss my mother. Very cliché! But true for that. From a working class immigrant family, she is the first person in my family (well I only know with any degree of confidence: that I am descended from) to go to university; at Oxford no less, where she studied English literature. She died when I was 14, before I was really the person I am now. If all goes to plan, I will be the first person in my family to get a PhD, also in a humanities field, and with this job offer also the first to work as a professional-intellectual. I think I have grown into someone who has mor…