l’amour, l’amour

Pour l’Islam, ce n’est plus du mépris que vous exprimez, mais de la haine?
M.H. Oui, oui, on peut parler de haine.
Est-ce lié au fait que votre mère s’est convertie à l’islam?
M.H. Pas tant que ça, parce que je ne l’ai jamais prise au sérieux. C’était le dernier moyen qu’elle avait trouvé pour emmerder le monde après une série d’expériences tout aussi ridicules. Non, j’ai eu une espèce de révélation négative dans le Sinaï, là où Moïse a reçu les Dix Commandements… subitement j’ai éprouvé un rejet total pour les monothéismes. Dans ce paysage très minéral, très inspirant, je me suis dit que le fait de croire à un seul Dieu était le fait d’un crétin, je ne trouvais pas d’autre mot. Et la religion la plus con, c’est quand même l’islam. Quand on lit le Coran, on est effondré… effondré! La Bible, au moins, c’est très beau, parce que les juifs ont un sacré talent littéraire… ce qui peut excuser beaucoup de choses. Du coup, j’ai une sympathie résiduelle pour le catholicisme, à cause de son aspect polythéiste. Et puis il y a toutes ces églises, ces vitraux, ces peintures, ces sculptures…

—Michel Houellebecq, entretien par Didier Sénécal,
publié le 01/09/2001

  1. En amour, il y en a toujours un qui souffre et l’autre qui s’emmerde.
  2. Jésus qui nous aime a tant souffert pour nous, donc il nous emmerde.
  3. En faisant souffrir tout le monde, Mahomet a évité cette erreur.
  4. Ainsi l’Islam a devenu la religion la plus divertissante du monde…

liberal heroics

From: larvatus
Date: December 9th, 2012 12:27 pm (local)
I deny both the premiss, that liberal societies attribute an equal and unexchangeable value to each person, and the conclusion, that the figure of a hero is categorically improper therein. The former is belied by utilitarian reasoning that undergirds every public policy in modern democracies. As to the latter, we live in a country that made a secular saint of MLK after elevating Ike to its highest elected office. More recent examples can be found here.

From: aptsvet
Date: December 9th, 2012 12:43 pm (local)
The problem actually is more complicated than that. One has to defend a deontological position in a world of limited resources. So whether one wishes it or not, one has to recourse to utilitarian methods. Which does not change the validity of the principle. Even morals is not a suicide pact. Perhaps I will make an additional argument in my next essay.
As to the hero worship, examples do not matter, they are simply a way of pandering — could you direct me to a theoretical work? We live in a society subscribing to liberal principles, it does not mean we live in a liberal society.

From: larvatus
Date: December 9th, 2012 04:21 pm (local)
There is no duty to be a deontologist. Aristotelian virtue ethics is but one viable alternative that leaves plenty of room for heroics of all sorts in a society of your choosing. For Hellenic theory of our common ancestry, you might look into the Bernards: Knox and Williams. Likewise religious ethics, both within and without the Abrahamic lineage. On the moral importance of examples, please see Kant’s kasuistische Fragen.

From: aptsvet
Date: December 10th, 2012 07:13 am (local)
Actually, I do feel a duty to be a deontologist, it does not work any other way. At least where interpersonal relations are concerned. And I don’t believe one can treat ethics as a menu: utility today, virtue tomorrow.
Re heroes: personal moral example is something else; traditionally hero is somebody defending strictly parochial values, hardly compatible with the universalist aspirations of ethics.

From: larvatus
Date: December 10th, 2012 07:39 am (local)
I think some positions of social responsibility morally require a shift in deliberative criteria. The interrogator in charge of a “ticking bomb” scenario would fail his fellow citizens if he were to forgo otherwise blameworthy means of extracting information about defusing it from the terrorist in his custody. This is an instance of the common law doctrine of necessity that depending on circumstances can excuse acts both unlawful and immoral under normal conditions.
The notion that “strictly parochial values” are incompatible with the universalist aspirations of ethics highlights the necessity of Kantian casuistry. Thus: “Vedete come muore un italiano!” Generally speaking, a broad range of preferential treatments for members of one’s tribe, family, nation, or confession can readily pass the law of nature criterion. In this context, Bernard Williams took issue with the impersonal nature of moral systems. According to him, the idea of fairness and impartiality must have a limit, and in justifying one’s partiality in terms of impartial principles, one is in a sense removing the justification one already has — ‘she is my wife’. To specify some principle as to why and when is is permissible to show such partiality is to undermine the reality of oneself as a related and so moral being.

From: aptsvet
Date: December 10th, 2012 08:14 am (local)
On the “ticking bomb” issue: I find Nagel’s argument (in Mortal Questions) more convincing. Whoever tortures another human being and for whatever reason, should not pretend that he acts morally — even though the state ordering such a treatment may have used the best utilitarian logic.
On the second issue I would not dispute your point, I simply would like to emphasize again the term “strictly”. “She is my wife” is a passable argument; “she is my wife and perish the world” isn’t. Samson slaughtering the Philistines with an ass’s mandible doesn’t take their interests into account altogether.

From: larvatus
Date: December 10th, 2012 08:46 am (local)
As Saul Kripke might have retorted, whoever tortures another human being for reasons of necessity is acting schmorally. It bears notice that Kant interpreted “fiat iustitia, pereat mundus” as “es herrsche Gerechtigkeit, die Schelme in der Welt mögen auch insgesamt darüber zu Grunde gehen” [let justice reign even if it wipes out all the villains in the world]. Along these lines, slaughtering the Philistines in a just war serves their best legitimate interests in the best possible way.

мои авторитеты

В 1989 году на кампусе Калифорнийского университета в Лос-Анджелесе меня окликнул хасид.
—Молодой человек, вы еврей?
—Предположим, что да.
—Не хотите ли исполнить мицву, наложив тфилин?
—Спасибо, я это уже пробовал. Ничего из этого не вышло.
—Как это так? Исполнение мицвот является Вашей обязанностью.
—Наши мнения расходятся. Я так не считаю.
—А что же Вы считаете? Скажите, кто по-Вашему самый мудрый человек в мире?
Разговор явно шёл по направлению к Менахем-Мендлу Шнеерсону, предполагаемому Божьим помазанником. Я решил резко изменить курс.
—Я считаю, что самым мудрым человеком в мире на настоящий день является Алонзо Чёрч.
Хасид взволновался.
—Как так? Кто это такой?
—Это мой учитель логики. Он преподаёт в нашем университете. Если хотите, я могу Вас познакомить.
—Нет, спасибо… не надо.
На этом разговор и закончился.

Чёрч научил меня, что ничьё мнение никогда не является, и не может быть решающим. К сожалению, его больше нет в живых. В качестве нынешнего авторитета, я назову Карло Гинзбурга.

essays on man and woman

An Essay on Man
An Essay on Woman
Awake, my St. John! leave all meaner things
To low ambition, and the pride of kings.
Let us (since life can little more supply
Than just to look about us and to die)
Expatiate free o’er all this scene of man;
A mighty maze! but not without a plan;
A wild, where weeds and flow’rs promiscuous shoot;
Or garden, tempting with forbidden fruit.
Together let us beat this ample field,
Try what the open, what the covert yield;
The latent tracts, the giddy heights explore
Of all who blindly creep, or sightless soar;
Eye Nature’s walks, shoot folly as it flies,
And catch the manners living as they rise;
Laugh where we must, be candid where we can;
But vindicate the ways of God to man.
Awake, my Fanny, leave all meaner things;
This morn shall prove what rapture swiving brings!
Let us (since life can little more supply
Than just a few good Fucks and then we die)
Expatiate free o’er that lov’d scene of Man,
A mighty Maze! for mighty Pricks to scan;
A wild, where Paphian thorns promiscuous shoot,
Where flow’rs the monthly Rose, but yields no Fruit.
Together let us beat this ample Field,
Try what the open, what the Covert yield;
The latent Tracts, the pleasing Depths explore,
And my Prick clapp’d where thousands were before.
Observe how Nature works, and if it rise
Too quick and rapid, check it ere it flies;
Spend when we must, but keep it while we can:
Thus Godlike will be deem’d the the Ways of Man.
I
I
Say first, of God above, or man below,
What can we reason, but from what we know?
Of man what see we, but his station here,
From which to reason, or to which refer?
Through worlds unnumber’d though the God be known,
’Tis ours to trace him only in our own.
He, who through vast immensity can pierce,
See worlds on worlds compose one universe,
Observe how system into system runs,
What other planets circle other suns,
What varied being peoples ev’ry star,
May tell why Heav’n has made us as we are.
But of this frame the bearings, and the ties,
The strong connections, nice dependencies,
Gradations just, has thy pervading soul
Look’d through? or can a part contain the whole?
Is the great chain, that draws all to agree,
And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee?
Say, first of Woman’s latent Charms below,
What can we reason but from what we know?
A Face, a Neck, a Breast, are all, appear
From which to reason, or to which refer.
In ev’ry Part we heavenly beauty own,
But we can trace it only in what’s shewn.
He who the Hoop’s Immensity can pierce,
Dart thro’ the Whalebone Folds vast Universe,
Observe how Circle into Circle runs,
What courts the Eye, and what all Vision shuns,
All the wild Modes of Dress our Females wear,
May guess what makes them thus transform’d appear
But of their Cunts, the Bearings and the Ties,
The nice Connexions, strong Dependencies,
The Latitude and Longitude of each
Hast thou gone throu’, or can thy Pego reach?
Was that great Ocean, that unbounded Sea
Where Pricks like Whales may sport, fathom’d by Thee?
II
II
Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou find,
Why form’d so weak, so little, and so blind?
First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess,
Why form’d no weaker, blinder, and no less!
Ask of thy mother earth, why oaks are made
Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade?
Or ask of yonder argent fields above,
Why Jove’s satellites are less than Jove?
Presumptuous Prick! the reason would’st thou find
Why form’d so weak, so little and so blind?
First, if thou canst, the harder Reason guess
Why form’d no weaker, meaner and no less.
Ask of thy Mother’s Cunt why she was made
Of lesser Bore than Cow or hackney’d Jade?
Or ask thy raw-boned Scottish Father’s Tarse
Why larger he than Stallion or Jack Ass?
Of systems possible, if ’tis confest
That Wisdom infinite must form the best,
Where all must full or not coherent be,
And all that rises, rise in due degree;
Then, in the scale of reas’ning life, ’tis plain
There must be somewhere, such a rank as man:
And all the question (wrangle e’er so long)
Is only this, if God has plac’d him wrong?
Respecting man, whatever wrong we call,
May, must be right, as relative to all.
Of Pegos possible, if ’tis confess’d
That Wisdom infinite must form the best,
Where all must rise, or not coherent be,
And all that rises, rise in due Degree;
Then in the scale of various Pricks, ’tis plain
God-like erect, BUTE stands the foremost Man,
And all the Question (wrangle e’er so long)
Is only This, if Heaven plac’d him wrong?
Respecting him whatever wrong we call,
May, must be right, as relative to all.
In human works, though labour’d on with pain,
A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain;
In God’s, one single can its end produce;
Yet serves to second too some other use.
So man, who here seems principal alone,
Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown,
Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal;
’Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.
When Frogs wou’d couple, labour’d on with Pain,
A thousand Wriggles scarce their purpose gain:
In Man a Dozen can his End produce,
And drench the Female with spermatic Juice.
Yet not our Pleasure seems God’s End alone,
Oft when we spend we propagate unknown;
Unwilling we may reach some other Goal,
And Sylphs and Gnomes may fuck in woman’s hole.
When the proud steed shall know why man restrains
His fiery course, or drives him o’er the plains:
When the dull ox, why now he breaks the clod,
Is now a victim, and now Egypt’s God:
Then shall man’s pride and dulness comprehend
His actions’, passions’, being’s, use and end;
Why doing, suff’ring, check’d, impell’d; and why
This hour a slave, the next a deity.
When the proud Stallion knows whence ev’ry Vein
Now throbs with Lust and now is shrunk again;
The lusty Bull, why now he breaks the Clod,
Now wears a Garland, fair Europe’s God:
Then shall Man’s Pride and Pego comprehend
His Actions and Erections, Use and End.
Why at Celaenae Martyrdom, and why
At Lampsacus ador’d chief Deity.
Then say not man’s imperfect, Heav’n in fault;
Say rather, man’s as perfect as he ought:
His knowledge measur’d to his state and place,
His time a moment, and a point his space.
If to be perfect in a certain sphere,
What matter, soon or late, or here or there?
The blest today is as completely so,
As who began a thousand years ago.
Then say not Man’s imperfect, Heaven in fault,
Say rather, Man’s as perfect as he ought;
His Pego measured to the female Case
Betwixt a woman’s Thighs his proper Place;
And if to fuck in a proportion’d Sphere,
What matter how it is, or when, or where?
Fly fuck’d by Fly, may be completely so,
As Hussey’s Dutchess, or yon well-bull’d Cow.
III
III
Heav’n from all creatures hides the book of fate,
All but the page prescrib’d, their present state:
From brutes what men, from men what spirits know:
Or who could suffer being here below?
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed today,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
Pleas’d to the last, he crops the flow’ry food,
And licks the hand just rais’d to shed his blood.
Heav’n from all creatures hides the Book of Fate
All but the page prescribed, the present state,
From boys what girls, from girls what women know,
Or what could suffer being here below?
Thy lust the Virgin dooms to bleed today,
Had she thy reason would she ’skip and play?
Pleas’d to the last, she likes the luscious food,
And grasps the prick just rais’d to shed her blood.
Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv’n,
That each may fill the circle mark’d by Heav’n:
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl’d,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
Oh! Blindness to the Future, kindly given,
That each m’enjoy what fucks are mark’d by Heaven.
Who sees with equal Eye, as God of all,
The Man just mounting, and the Virgin’s Fall;
Prick, Cunt, and Ballocks in Convulsions hurl’d
And now a Hymen burst, and now a World.
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore!
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Hope, humbly, then, clean Girls; nor vainly soar
But fuck the Cunt at hand, and God adore.
What future Fucks he gives not thee to know
But gives that Cunt to be thy Blessing now.

— Alexander Pope

amazing gracelessness

As Heinrich Himmler helpfully pointed out, each one of the 80 million good Germans has his decent Jew. Correlatively, each one of the 307 million good Americans has his special candidate for being better off dead. Under these circumstances, it takes a special kind of moral obtuseness to join Ronald Dworkin in claiming nearly universal acceptance of the proposition that human life is sacred.

Likewise, given the record of faith-based reasons for the abolition of slavery, it takes a special kind of historical ignorance to join Anat Biletzki in her “reluctance to admit religion as a legitimate player in the human rights game”.

a brief visit to the red light district

Logical positivist Alfred Jules Ayer was renowned both as a fierce debater and an audacious womanizer. As his stepdaughter Gully Wells told his biographer Ben Rogers, in 1987, shortly after his seventy-seventh birthday party, Ayer cleverly conjoined these competitive qualities in an unexpectedly philanthropic encounter with a besotted raper wannabe:

It was at another party, given a little later in the year by the highly fashionable clothes designer, Fernando Sanchez, that he had a widely reported encounter. Ayer had always had an ability to pick up unlikely people and at yet another party had befriended Sanchez. Ayer was now standing near the entrance to the great white living-room of Sanchez’s West 57th Street apartment, chatting to a group of young models and designers, when a woman rushed in saying that a friend was being assaulted in a bedroom. Ayer went to investigate and found Mike Tyson forcing himself on a young south London model called Naomi Campbell, then just beginning her career. Ayer warned Tyson to desist. Tyson: ‘Do you know who the fuck I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.’ Ayer stood his ground: ‘And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent men in our held; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.’ Ayer and Tyson began to talk. Naomi Campbell slipped out.

In the following year, a no less competitive confrontation with a more formidable adversity left Ayer bested in a far less festive setting. In the articles reproduced and glossed below, he recounts and analyzes a near-death experience, which pitted him against a bright and painful red light that governed the universe, and the guardians of space and time. Some time later Jonathan Miller commented to Dee Wells, Ayer’s final and antepenultimate wife: “Freddie is in spectacularly good form!” To which she replied: “He’s so much nicer since he died.” A character-building opportunity of this sort would improve almost all of us.

What I Saw When I Was Dead
A.J. Ayer

A.J. Ayer post mortem, London, 5 October 1988, photo by Steve Pyke
My first attack of pneumonia occurred in the United States. I was in hospital for ten days in New York, after which the doctors said that I was well enough to leave. A final X-ray, however, which I underwent on the last morning, revealed that one of my lungs was not yet free from infection. This caused the most sympathetic of my doctors to suggest that it would be good for me to spend a few more days in hospital. I respected his opinion but since I was already dressed and psychologically disposed to put my illness behind me, I decided to take the risk. I spent the next few days in my stepdaughter’s apartment, and then made arrangements to fly back to England. When I arrived I believed myself to be cured and incontinently plunged into an even more hectic social round than that to which I had become habituated before I went to America.
    Retribution struck me on Sunday, May 30. Continue reading a brief visit to the red light district

no respect

Kwame Anthony Appiah derives his honor code from a universal right to respect wherein he presupposes all normal human beings to vest:

Some people think only hierarchical forms of the right to respect should be called “honor.” There’s a reason for this, beyond the insistence of a committed defender of social hierarchy like Edmund Burke: many of the most noticeable forms of honor from the Iliad to the Pashtunwali are, indeed, hierarchical. The issue here is not just a matter of a terminological stipulation, though: I think that much is to be gained by thinking about hierarchical and non-hierarchical codes that assign the right to respect together. The argument for that view is this book.
    What is democratic about our current culture, then, is that we now presuppose all normal human beings, not just those who are especially elevated, to be entitled to respect. But granting everyone recognition respect is perfectly consistent with granting greater appraisal respect to some than to others, because these are different forms of respect. From now, I’ll reserve the term dignity for one species of honor, namely, the right to recognition respect. So now we can say: Honoring some especially is consistent with recognizing the dignity of everyone else. Such dignity does not require the comparative forms of appraisal that go with more competitive forms of honor. It’s not something you earn, and the appropriate response to your dignity is not pride so much as self-respect; after all, if your humanity entitles you to respect, then it entitles you to respect even from yourself!

—Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, W.W. Norton & Company, 2010, p. 130

A fundamental problem with this approach to honor stems from the fact that honoring rational beings entails a recognition of their beliefs about God and life, right and wrong, good and bad. In our current democratic culture, this recognition involves an accommodation of what John Rawls calls the citizen’s comprehensive moral doctrine. One such doctrine subsumes the Christian articles of faith spelled out by Paul of Tarsus in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which counts homosexuals amongst the unrighteous (adikoi), debarred from inheriting the Kingdom of God. Elsewhere Appiah boasts of having reconciled with his homosexuality as a Christian before he eventually stopped being a Christian. But a Pauline Christian needs must discount this reconciliation of an arsenokoites with the Christian doctrine, as proceeding pursuant to a honor code of a congenital contortionist. Notably, Appiah makes an effort to acknowledge some congenital attributes as “relevant bases for partiality”, while altogether disclaiming their suitability as grounds for moral and social superiority:

The struggle to break the tight connection between honor and birth is nearly as old as the connection itself. Recall Horace—son of a freed slave—addressing Maecenas, the richest and noblest of the private patrons of the arts in Augustan Rome, some two millennia ago. Maecenas “says it’s no matter who your parents are, so long as you’re worthy,” but Horace complains that most Romans take the opposite view.6[6. Horace, Sermones, I.6, II.7-8.] Anyone who offers himself for public office, the poet grumbles, gets asked “from what father he may be descended, whether he is dishonorable because of the obscurity of his mother.”7[7. Ibid., II.34-37.] This is the feature of the old system of honor that we have rejected, as we have grown suspicious of the idea that some people deserve better (or worse) treatment on account of identities they did not choose. Social status—class, if you like—should grant you no moral rights, people think; nor should your race or gender or sexual orientation.8[8. Ascriptive identities to which one is assigned by birth, such as family membership, can, I should insist, be relevant bases for partiality. You are entitled (indeed, sometimes required) to treat A better than B solely because A is your sister and B is unrelated to you. But recognizing something as a form of partiality is recognizing that there is nothing intrinsically superior about those to whom one is partial: if there were, one’s reasons for favoring them could be impartial. See Appiah, The Ethics of Identity, Chapter 6.]

Op. cit., pp. 185, 245

For the purposes of Appiah’s argument, his moral gerrymandering is impotent in its extravagance. It is extravagant because rejecting the old system of honor based on the idea that some people deserve better (or worse) treatment on account of identities they did not choose, would leave our society with no means of legitimately honoring the fast runner or the brilliant mathematician. It is impotent in virtue of leaving room for the Christian pastoral policy of requiring that “homosexuals must certainly be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society”, while asserting “the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of”. And notwithstanding Appiah’s insistence on “granting everyone recognition respect” irrespectively of their sexual orientation, no such granting can take place between himself and and his fellow citizens of the Pauline Christian persuasion. Within the liberal bounds of Rawlsian reasonable pluralism, these latter cannot advocate the use of coercive political power to impose conformity with their views upon non-believers. But they have every right, not only to withhold respect from their fellow citizens whom they find morally wanting, but also to subject them to public displays of contempt.
    To those who object to the incorporation of religion into the range of doctrines subject to recognition by a democratic culture, let it be pointed out that moral objections to homosexual behavior can be and have been made on rational secular grounds, from Plato and Aristotle, to Immanuel Kant and Jean-Paul Sartre. And to those who would carve out sexual orientation from the purview of moral discourse capable of grounding human entitlements to respect, let it be pointed out that secular objections of comparable gravity attach, within comprehensive moral doctrines recognized as legitimate by our democratic society, to a spectrum of divisive issues ranging from abortion to welfare. While a democratic society may warrant the security of abortionists and welfare recipients, it cannot ensure their freedom from disparagement by reasonable citizens whose moral views equate welfare with theft and abortion with murder. That is why any reasonable pluralistic society whose citizens uniformly presuppose all normal human beings to be entitled to respect, is bound to harbor no end of disagreement on the scope of this presupposition, depending on the disparate construals of normalcy within its citizens’ comprehensive moral doctrines. In short, no democratic entitlement to respect can emerge from the mere fact of humanity. Democracy is the right to shame and shun the unrighteous through faith and reason.

Crossposted to [info]larvatus and [info]philosophy.

jokes of the moment

     Ray: Then I do know a Belgian joke. What’s Belgium famous for? Chocolates and child abuse. And they only invented the chocolates to get to the kids!

—Martin McDonagh, In Bruges


Roger Vangheluwe, Belgium’s longest serving bishop has stepped down after admitting to sexually abusing a young boy about 25 years ago.

Q: Why do arabs priests fuck their camels little kids?
A: Because they know that the camels the kids don’t like it.