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Utopia. A lovely idea, but, you're right, it'll never catch on. Where's the profit in that?

John D Wheeler

Marshall Rosenberg, founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communications, considers "should" to be one of the most damaging words in the English language. If we are not describing the world as it is, then we are expressing our desires, so using words like "want" has a better effect.


It's interesting that whether George Scialabba "likes" Kant depends on what Kant means by "crooked timber", and to a larger degree whether Kant is a utopian liberal. I'm sure George misses the irony that someone who espouses his ideology of universal love and acceptance only loves and accepts those who perfectly mirror his same ideology, even if that individual lived 2 centuries ago. Part of the liberal religion, though is the idea that salvation lies in converting the masses. Cynicism is only warranted when we're talking about corporations, not governments, and especially not democratic governments.

But, while we're on the subject of corporate cynicism:


I enjoy this quotation: "She said that companies that are manufacturing the pesticides should take these findings into account when considering the safety of the chemicals."

Yes, take these externalities into account, corporate superorganism, driven only by profit motive. We trust you.


The idea that one can or should banish all normative judgments from one's repertoire (replacing 'should' with some kind of existential statement) is absurd, not least because normative judgments are the very life-blood of blogs like this. The fact that bankers do x, or governments do y is, of itself, utterly meaningless. They are only of interest because you believe that it ought not to be the case that bankers do x, or governments do y. If that were not the case, why would you have the faintest interest in their activities? Because of self-interest, perhaps? As would-be tough-minded unflinching realists (in its non-philosophical sense) - these blogs always cater to that kind of flattering self-description - that's probably an attractive view. Sadly, that still involves a statement with a 'should', even if it's tucked away as an unstated assumption.

As for Kant, Rortian pragmatism, Crooked Timber, realism, Marx as 'leftist activist', idealists (which, in the context of the quotation, I initially took to have a particular philosophical meaning), Americans' perverse attachment to that most useless of words 'liberal', etc., etc. I'm not sure this blog is really the place for it. In the past, I have at times enjoyed reading your blog but you seem to have made a very misguided turn into areas about which you're not totally qualified to comment.

Dave Cohen


Re: The fact that bankers do x, or governments do y is, of itself, utterly meaningless. They are only of interest because you believe that it ought not to be the case that bankers do x, or governments do y.

Really? Then what's life all about, Dan? Just everybody fucking each other over all the time?

Because that's what we're looking at, and it's not pleasant for most people involved. Lots of suffering, ya' know?

And all that suffering, I wouldn't call that meaningless, given the pain involved, but I guess you do.

Oh, by the way -- I wasn't describing the way I want it to be, I was describing the way it is, which admittedly, to your point, I do not like.

You're banned.

-- Dave


@Dan - I don't know why you feel you need to attack the author of this blog. Freedom of expression is one thing - and we need more of this in our fuzzy illogic society - but leveling accusations such as "misguided" and "not qualified to comment" in the direction of our host is judgmental, plain rude and lowers the tone of this meeting place of minds.


I don't dispute Dave Cohen's accurate observations of human nature but the fact is that we *have* made a lot of progress towards rationality and human rights. We in the 'first world' don't burn witches any more, or hang homosexuals. Women have the vote, and more freedom and equality than decades ago. And so on.

"My view predicts that great social inequality will always emerge (or re-emerge) in complex human societies, even if greater equality is temporarily achieved."

I agree, and it's been widely pointed out that our current state of 'greater equality', and the general progress towards human rights, tends to be a function of living in a rich and comfortable society.

Nevertheless, if we can analyse what's going wrong with society then it's also worth analysing what's going right, and trying to encourage those things. Why do some people - even those in positions of power - put themselves out to help others and fight for the rights of others? Are there any ways to encourage more of that and less of venal self-interest? If we're going to understand the human condition then we can try to sneakily use that to our advantage and encourage more goodness in the world.

Any thoughts on how to do that?

Aboc Zed

"If we're going to understand the human condition then we can try to sneakily use that to our advantage and encourage more goodness in the world."

But how we define "goodness"? No matter what our definition it is likely that it would not consider the so called "goodness of unborn posterity". This will continue for a very very long while simply becuase human condition is self-perpetuating evolution out of ignorance.

The human organism-whole continuously gets injections of neo-nate ignorance and because the current organization is not intelligent at all the ignorance is continued on a larger scale with more participants and more noise.

There are people who understand human condition but their understanding has no effect on the trajectory of organism-whole.

The masses at the bottom do not matter - there always be a hierarchichal structure of slaves and slave-drivers. The leaders on the top are as not-interested and as not-capable of understanding human condition as the average Joe at the bottom.

And from my experience of tryinrg to tsalk to those who I think understand human condition - most if not all are jaded,, tired and not interested in doing anything with their understanding.

And if they do not do anything with their understanding then it does not matter if they understand or not.

Back to "goodness in the world". In theory it can be defined. But like for anything else those definitions will begin with axioms that cannot be proven. And when we have so many groups that have no clue (I myself probably am clueless :) then the axioms that go into those definitions will most likely be either outright contradictory or atr a minimum interpreted differently. To fit the beliefs they acquired before they even knew what the word "belief" means. And this taskes us right back to square one of neo-nate ignorance and everybody talking to everybody making noise.

Now back to human condition and "making a living".

Havbe a good day everybody!


Have we made any progress toward rationality or human rights?
What is rational about destroying countries to make a profit? (Iraq/Afghan/Libya/etc.)
What is a human right when prisoners are tortured and held for years with no opportunity to prove their innocence?
What is rational about designing a system of exchange that requires continual debt to exist?
What is a human right when you allow jobs to be shipped out of the country and put your citizens into debt slavery?
How is plantation slavery different from a life of debt slavery? Is it rational? Or is it all about profit for the few? Are they concerned with human rights? Are they rational?

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