Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

David and Me

Thursday, 14 February 2013

In 1980, I had two or three brief encounters with David Koch.

Yes, that David Koch — David Hamilton Koch, younger of the much maligned Koch brothers.

Koch was on the Libertarian Party ticket as the Vice-Presidential candidate. He was there because his candidacy precluded any statutory limit on how much he might donate to the campaign.[1]

One of these encounters was at a meet-and-greet sort of event for Candidate Koch, in Columbus, Ohio. The last was on the main campus of the Ohio State University, where he delivered a speech and then took questions from the audience. There might have been one other encounter that I've forgot. In any case, at the last encounter, he and his entourage got rather angry with me.

In 1980, the brothers Koch were not the bogey-men of the political left that they have become to-day. Their father, Fred C. Koch had been on the radar of those who lay awake at night in the '50s and in the '60s, fearful of what was then called the radical right. Fred Chase Koch, a founding member of the John Birch Society, was a wealthy and vociferous advocate of a view that United States policy, domestic and foreign, was largely driven by a Communist conspiracy, and he very much tended to reaction against change, rather than to seeing any of the social and political developments of the 20th Century as genuine advances. But Fred C. Koch, and people like him, were largely forgotten by 1980. Moreover, Charles and David had gone down a libertarian path, making them seem less threatening. Those in the libertarian movement were aware of the Kochs largely because they supplied much of the funding for the Cato Institute.[2] The business world was aware of the Kochs because the company that their father had founded was amongst the world's largest of those whose stock was not offered to the public. And that was about it.

At the meet-and-greet event, David Koch came across both as quite likable and, well, as a bit of a dork — somewhat socially awkwardly. And, no, I didn't get him angry by later calling him a dork. He and others got angry in response to a different assertion, framed as a question.

During the question-and-answer part of Mr Koch's appearance at Ohio State, someone asked him if he'd be up for another run in 1984. His reply was to the effect that he was really enjoying the present effort, and would be positively inclined to being on the ticket again. This response, which I took to be perfectly sincere, made me cringe. And so I raised my hand. I don't remember my exact words — it has, after all, been more than 32 years — but they were to this effect:

It was incredibly generous of you to agree to be on the ticket for this election, and to give as much of your money as you have; but don't you fear that, if you run again in 1984, you will be seen as having bought the party?
Koch, who gave some sort of dismissal (again, I don't remember exactly what), was visibly angry. There were grumblings from other parts of the room. Later, I was told that people (who never confronted me) had expressed their dismay at what I'd said, as if I'd insulted Koch. Which is, of course, not what I'd done. What I'd done was to warn him of how his efforts would be construed.

Well, David Koch didn't run again in 1984. Not because he took my warning to heart, but because the Libertarian Party Presidential campaign of 1980 was largely a waste of the money and effort that he and others had expended; it received far fewer votes than promised.[3] But he and Charles didn't stop contributing to political causes. And the claim has been made that they have bought those organizations and individuals to whom the Koch's have provided funding. The Kochs have been demonized, and the demonization has been used to depict those causes as villainous devices. Any rational calculation of the results of a contribution by the Kochs must account for this effect. And so, in spite of the fact that David Koch didn't run again in 1984, events have illustrated, in specific application to David Koch, the dynamic that underlay the point that I made in 1980.

Except for an episode of crusading against the prostitution of children, I withdrew from political activism in 1981. And, as an economist, I'd rather wrestle with abiding questions of fundamental theory than involve myself in the research of policy think-tanks. So I doubt that I'll ever meet Mr Koch again. And it's unlikely that, after more than 32 years, Mr Koch even remembers that moment. But, if I did talk with him again, I'd be tempted to say I told you so, … you dork!

[1] Campaign finance laws run smack into First Amendment protections of freedom of expression. A right to freedom of expression is no more or less than a right to use one's resources without constraints in response to the expressive content (as such) of the use. Lawyerly distinctions have been drawn amongst the ways that one might use resources to convey the political ideas that one supports, but these are always going to be logically incoherent. And, in the case of the law in 1980 (as still to-day), the absurdity of claiming that there were no infringement in limiting spending of one's own money on one's own campaign was too palpable for such censorship to be imposed.

[2] The Cato Institute is often characterized as itself libertarian, but the word libertarian is best reserved for a more thorough-going (classical) liberalism than that practiced by the Institute.

[3] The mainstream media did what it could to under-mine that campaign, first attempting to displace the LP with Barry Commoner and then, when that didn't take, actively recruiting John Anderson to run as the third candidate. Those who managed the LP campaign had banked pretty much everything on the expectation that the only Presidential candidates on all state ballots would be President Carter, Ronald Reagan, and the Libertarian, Ed Clark. There was no planning for the inevitability that the rules would be waived in order to get Anderson on nearly all state ballots. And the Libertarian message had been muddled to make it more appealing to moderates, and stayed muddled even after Anderson was positioned to take those votes.

Missing Links

Monday, 11 February 2013

Assuming that you do much surfing of the WWWeb, you've surely noticed that there are a great many sites that now require one to use an account with an external social-networking service in order to access functionality that previously would have been available without such an account. For example, to comment to some sites which are not themselves hosted on Yahoo! or on Facebook or on Google+, one must none-the-less log into an account with one of these services.

From the perspective of the site-owners, reliance upon such external services can reduce the costs of managing site-access. The external social networks provide this management partly as valued-added to their account-holders, but providing this service is a means of building a behavioral profile of those account-holders.[1] (To this day, most people do not assimilate the fact that most social-networking services exist largely as profiling services.) As you might expect, I feel that efforts to build such profiles should be resisted.

I understand both the problems of the client-sites instead independently managing access, and the difficulties of knowing just where to draw some objective line that would distinguish acceptable and unacceptable external services. (For example, it seems to be perfectly acceptable to require a verified e.mail account, and even to require a verified e.mail account from a service that is not black-listed. But, once one requires a verified e.mail account from a service that is white-listed, one may be pushing visitors into allowing themselves to be profiled (by an e.mail-service provider), if the white-list is overly constrained.)

What seems inexcusable to me is not simply handing access-control over to an external service, but handing it over exclusively to one external service that is a profiling service. The very worse case of such inexcusability is handing control over to the biggest of these services, Facebook, but it remains inexcusable to give exclusivity to any other external service (unless that service has some real guarantee against building profiles).

Which brings me to a policy change that I will be effecting for my own 'blog, not-withstanding that it has never required an external account to access its functionality.

At this and some other sites, a list of implicitly or explicitly recommended links is provided, outside of the body of principal content. (With the present formatting of this 'blog, they are in a right-hand column.)

In the case of my own list, I will be removing (or refraining from providing) links whenever I discover that the only evident way to access those other sites or to comment to them is by using an account with exactly one external social-networking site.

For example, if a 'blog is not hosted on Facebook, but the only readily seen way to comment to it is by using a Facebook account, then I will not wilfully provide a link to it. I will continue to link to Facebook sites; I will continue to link to sites where the only readily seen ways of commenting use social-networking accounts, so long as accounts from more than one social network may be used.

This policy only applies to the sort of generalized recommendations represented by that list. I may continue to link within principal content to such things as news-stories at sites that are enabling such profiling.

[1] I don't know that those handing access-management off to such services receive side-payments for doing so, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Voigt's Zahl und Mass

Thursday, 17 January 2013

I am making freely available a PDF file of Zahl und Mass in der Ökonomik: Eine kritische Untersuchung der mathematischen Methode und der mathematischen Preistheorie (1893), by Andreas Heinrich Voigt, which is encoded as text rather than as graphics.

I wanted a transcription for my own purposes — a resource that might be used for a paper on which I am working — and decided that I should make it available to other researchers, and do a proper job of its assembly.

Up-Date (2020:04/09): I have made the first-pass of an English-language translation as Number and Measure in Economics: A Critical Examination of Mathematical Method and of Mathematical Price Theory.

Fourteenth Amendment Re-Redux

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Perhaps I'm a Constitutional hipster, in-so-far as I was talking about section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment before it was cool to do so. After it had become cool, I felt moved to explain

[The Fourteenth Amendment] is indeed [the law that empowers the President to increase the ceiling] — where the only way not otherwise in violation of the Constitution to pay debt that has come due is to borrow beyond the existing limit. If the debt can be paid in some other way, then no special authority can be found for the President in section 4.

[…] The President doesn't get to say that he or she must raise the limit to continue funding institutions to which he or she can apply profound and moving terms, unless those institutions are indeed Constitutionally mandated.

With talk of the President raising the borrowing limit by decree again heating-up, I feel moved to labor aspects of what I'd earlier explained.

As debt comes due, for which sufficient funding has not been allocated, the Federal government can do one or more of five things:

  • Default.
  • Increase tax collections.
  • Decrease other expenditures to allocate more revenue for debt service.
  • Liquidate assets.
  • Engage in new borrowing to service the debts from previous borrowing.
Advocates of the President raising the ceiling by decree want to pretend that the Constitutional prohibition of the first of these five options empowers the President to effect the last of these options by decree. But there would be three other options; it is appropriate to ask why the President wouldn't instead be required to choose one or more of the other three.

And, if a decision must be made amongst some or all of the four options not prohibitted by section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment, it is not evident that it is the President's decision to make, even if the Congress will not. In the absence of Constitutional guidance, there is no apparent reason that abdicated legislative responsibility should go to the executive branch as opposed to the judicial branch.

But Baby Made Three

Monday, 31 December 2012

Various unhappy things have occurred in my life since my last entry here. The worst of these was the death of the beloved cat of the Woman of Interest.

Some years before she and I had ever had any contact, the Woman of Interest was passing by a dumpster, and heard a cry as if from a tomcat trapped in it. So she went to free the creature. What she found, to her surprise, was not an adult, but a truly tiny little black kitten, with preternaturally beautiful green eyes. He had been closed in a box with a toy, put in the dumpster, and left for death. (We can only speculate about this combination of apparent affection and ruthlessness.)

He was far too young to be properly weened and separated from his mother — the Woman of Interest was horrified when a veterinarian estimated his age — but she became the best possible substitute for that mother. He grew to be a cat with an rather large frame (though she took care not to let him become obese, and put him on a diet when he became a bit pudgy).

Actually, though, he really never ceased to be a kitten, and a pretty rambunctious one at that. And, as far as he was concerned, she was always his Best Mommy. When he and I would be alone in her apartment, he would spend a fair amount of time laying where he could watch the door, waiting for her return; I'd not before seen an adult cat do that. (My family had a cat, and I had a cat of my own, so I'm not without prior experience.)

He was a talkative cat, who usually made something more like the sound of a duck quack than a typical meow; and, if he were awake and she were at home, then he'd usually be vocalizing at her — I think that usually what he was saying could be translated as Mom! — though sometimes he'd just roam-about, engaged in apparent commentary to himself. I'd be especially amused when I'd hear him trying to tell her something after she'd fallen asleep while on the phone with me.

He and I got along quite well. I was looking forward to spending years hanging-out with him. Without conscious categorization, I thought of us as buddies.

I won't here rehash the details of how he was lost. Not long before he died, tests established that he had developed diabetes; this was caught much sooner than is typical in house cats (because the Woman of Interest was very mindful of his health), and she began treating it as per the veterinarian's instructions. But what was also discovered at the same time was that he had a common heart condition. Neither, by itself, would have proved fatal. But, jointly, they were too much. She found him dead on the morning of the fourth.

I'm not writing here to grieve (though I sometimes still cry about him), but because I observe something qua social scientist.

My relationship with the Woman of Interest wasn't well-bounded by just the two of us. Her cat played a significant rôle in our relationship, and it was the relationship more of another person than of an impersonal thing. A relationship that I would have categorized as between two persons was actually somewhat rather like one amongst three persons. With his death, the relationship of the three of us took a terrible hit, and the relationship of the two of us is henceforth informed by that injury. He did not mean — and could not have meant — the same thing to each of us individually, but he meant something shared in the relationship as such; and, even if the loss to the relationship could be fully decomposed into our losses as individuals (an issue that I don't propose here to labor), still it is important to recognize it as a sort of loss to the relationship, albeït not one to cause us to love each other less or to become more distant.

(Many years ago, I lost my dog while I was in a relationship, but the nature of that relationship was different. For my part, I knew that, without radical and unlikely change, I needed to be freed of that wretched woman; and, for her part, she had already been preparing to discard as much of her responsibilities as she might, including any that were had for the dog. He died before she left us, but she was going to leave him too. So I didn't observe then anything analogous to what I observe now.)

Lying Liars

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Without some basis in fact — without at least a basis in the recognized structure of reality on some general level — fiction would instead be gibberish. And most fiction involves considerable factual elements — it describes a familiar world and may even involve passing reference to specific, familiar, real-life persons. Some fiction makes more than passing reference.

Satire normally involves more literal truth than does ordinary fiction. because some element of the real-world is a target,[1] perhaps for purposes of commentary or perhaps merely as an opportunity for absurdity.

Harlan Ellison has sometimes asserted that he might be called a paid liar. He does, after all, state things as if they were true that he knows to be false. But his fiction doesn't quite fit the ordinary notion of lying. Under this notion, to lie is to make a statement which one knows to be false, and to make it with intent to deceive. Ellison makes false statements, but presumably expects his readers to identify the fiction as such, and hence not to be deceived. Backing-up, the key is not merely that the false statement is presented in just any way as if true, but in a manner that one might hope and expect to be presuasive. Even if we should insist that any statement that one knows to be false would constitute a lie, clearly there is an important difference between willfully false statements which are hoped to mislead and those which are expected to be treated as falsehoods.

Sometimes the author of fiction relies upon immediate context to indicate the work as fiction — the work is wrapped (as by the label novel). In other cases, the content is sufficiently at odds with expectations that it would not be believed by anyone with at least an ordinary degree of rationality.

Satiregenuine satire — reveals its fictional content, as distinct from its factual content, in that the fictional component is presented to amuse by violating established expectations, while the non-fictional component does not itself seem an attempt to be funny.

Unfortunately, this convention, like many social institutions, is not consciously discerned by most of those who rely upon it, and that lack of awareness creätes an opportunity to use ostensible satire as a vehicle for deception. If one insinuates false-yet-unamusing assertions within a work, these may be taken as part of the factual component by a large share of the audience. If someone should protest that false statements are being presented as fact, that someone can be dismissed as ignoring that the work be satirical. (This dismissal will be more effective if the work also has falsehoods that few would take seriously.) Few people will be positioned to respond that genuine satire does not present deliberate falsehood as fact is presented. And so purported satire becomes a vehicle for deliberately false statements made with the intent to deceive. Lying is labelled satire, and ordinary defenses fail against it.

The use of ostensible satire to lie has been very popular since the rise of the Baby Boom Generation. But it's not as if one can give a public lecture on how to lie in this manner without undermining the device. In consequence, a lot of people are using it to lie without quite understanding how and why it works; others, more oblivious, have concluded that all these falsehoods really have been amusing, and imagine that when they too string-together falsehoods, these must likewise be amusing.

Yester-day and to-day, there was a fiasco on the American political left. First, Roger Simon made what seems an attempt to satirize the circumstances of Paul Ryan. The attempt was perhaps sincere, but it's hard to find much funny in it. And it was taken to be mostly factual by some of Simon's own tribe, including various prominent members. Tobin Harshaw is blaming this confusion on the literalism of Americans, but the primary cause is not so much literalism as it is the degeneration of the concept of satire.

(Of course, I expect those on the left who believed Simon's claims to attempt to excuse themselves by claiming that the political right has become so absurd that it is practically impossible to tell fact from fiction.)

[1] The real thing satirized may be a story or idea of something that is itself unreal; but, without some real referent (such as a story or idea), one does not have satire.

Profitless Discourse

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Yester-day or this morning, I encountered yet another instance of argumentation over what Keynes really meant in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. I don't plan to labor here what I believe that Keynes intended to say; rather I want to draw attention to something about many of these arguments over the meaning or intention of some works.

When I consider the meaning or intention of the works of people who in turn attempt to interpret something else, I regard my interpretation of their interpretation as concerned with thought as such; I am thinking about how someone is or was thinking; my interpretation might be informed by my own understanding of the subject about which they thought, but the interpretation is of their thought.

It's good to know what any one of these people intended to say; it's good to know what they actually did say (whether intended or not); but it's almost always more desirable to have best approximations of the truth about which they ostensibly spoke than to have best approximations of the claims that they intended to make. It is a fortunate error when someone gets closer to the truth about the underlying subject by misinterpretting the work of someone who was mistaken about that subject. And, if one simply doesn't know which interpretation to make, but finds the truth amongst the possibilities, then there isn't even a positive misinterpretation.

It's different when one is attempting to interpret words which themselves impose rules, as in the cases of legislation, of formalized games, or of works of fiction. In those cases, the words creäte the relevant reälity.

Some people believe in prophets. By prophet I do not mean simply a forecaster, but a person through whom G_d (or something like G_d) speaks (perhaps about the future, but perhaps not). Amongst ostensible prophets I would count those believed to have a direct knowledge of external reälity, unmediated by the senses. Unsurprisingly, I do not believe in prophecy.

But, if one does believe in prophecy, then it makes sense to concern oneself with its meaning as-if resolving its meaning were the same thing as getting a best approximation of the underlying subject — because, indeed, prophecy would be just that best approximation. Of course, I take exception to the presumption that this-or-that work were holy scripture; but I take rather greater exception to an unacknowledged presumption to such effect.

And that brings me to what is so wrong with so many of the arguments about what Keynes really meant: Too many of the participants are perfectly sure that, whatever he really intended, it must have been right, and that it is for this reason that we must discover what he intended. One sees even more of this sort of thinking in debates about what Marx really meant. And I've seen basically the same thing in discussions about what Ayn Rand really meant. These three (and various others) are unacknowledgedly being treated as prophets. As far as I'm concerned, in such cases discussion has run off the rails.

Now, there are those who would insist that Marx, by way of dialectical reasoning, or Rand, by way of thorough-going objectivist epistemology, could apprehend things so very clearly that we should just take for granted that, indeed, whatever they said must be right. But those propositions each would strike me as highly dubious even if I didn't already possess what I regard as counter-proofs. (Certainly there would seem to be a claim of personal infallibility or a fallible claim on the part of whomever were testifying to the infallibility of Marx or of Rand.) And I've not encountered even that much of an argument for treating Keynes as if he were a prophet. (I have seen his economic intuïtion championed by reference to his having made a fortune investing in stocks, but I wasn't much persuaded by this argument even before I learned that, earlier, he had faced financial ruin through such investments, and been rescued by his father.)

There Are Worse Things, but…

Friday, 10 August 2012

[This entry may be superfluous, in that people who fall for any of the fallacies discussed are unlikely to read the entry, people who employ one of the fallacies are unlikely to reform if they do read the entry, and people who recognize that fallacies are involved may not see much use to analyzing them.]

I often encounter an argument, whose form is

P does A1;
A2 is better than A1;
therefore it would be acceptable/desirable for P to do A2.

It's easy to find P, A1, and A2 such that the intuïtion recoils from the conclusion that

it would be acceptable/desirable for P to do A2.
and, in the face of such intuïtions, most people will acknowledge the non sequitur (acknowledged or otherwise) in the argument. We could even add a further premise, that
P ought to be persistently active (if not necessarily in their present manner).
and still find P, A1, and A2 such that the intuïtion recoils from that conclusion. (Consider that non-profit institutions do facilitate child abuse, and that child abuse is worse than many other things that are still themselves unacceptable.)

Yet one encounters this argument frequently with P as the state, A2 is something that somebody wants done (such as space exploration) and A1 is something disturbing that the state is doing or has done recently.

A variation on this can be found with form

P1 approves when P2 does A1;
A2 is better than A1;
therefore P3 should not object to P2 doing A2.

A non sequitur is evident in cases where P3 is plainly no subset of P1; but this argument is often presented in a manner so as to obscure a distinction, as when an everyone or a no one is used as-if loosely (which is to say inaccurately) in the first premise, but P3 is some person or group of persons who aren't actually in the set labelled everyone or actually are in a non-empty set labelled no one.

However, this argument is fallacious even when P3 simply is P1. There may in fact be an incoherency in approving of A1 while objecting to A2, but that inconsistency could be resolved by changing one's position on A1. For example, if forcing people to pay for birth control is better than forcing them to pay for war with Iraq, then perhaps someone who objects to the former should cease approving of the latter, rather than embracing the former.

(And resistance from P1 to coherence wouldn't itself license A2 when A2 victimizes yet some additional party P4. One doesn't force atheists to distribute copies of Al Qu'ran on the grounds that neoconservatives would object to such distribution even while supporting worse things.)

Sometimes one even sees an argument of the form

P1 does not object when P2 does A1;
A2 is better than A1;
therefore P3 should not object to P2 doing A2.
Variations of this even go so far as to replace objection with more active opposition.
P1 does not actively oppose P2 doing A1;
A2 is better than A1;
therefore P3 should not actively oppose P2 doing A2.
The appeal for those who present these arguments is that, if they were accepted, then almost no A2 could be practicably challenged, as the objector could be dismissed for not having tackled each and every greater evil.

Of course, if this argument held, then it could virtually always be turned around against the claimant. For every P2 and A2, there is a P'2, A'1, and A'2 such that A'2 is the supposed ill addressed by A2, P'2 effects A'2, and A'1 is some greater ill effected by P'2. In other words, even if A2 were good, it would itself almost never address the greatest evil, so that there would always be something else that one would be required to do before ever getting to A2.

Just Pining

Sunday, 5 August 2012

On Sunday, 27 May, I received a pair of e.mail messages announcing formal acceptance for publication of my paper on indecision, and I ceased being braced for rejection. From 15 June, Elsevier had a version for sale on-line (first the uncorrected proof, then the corrected proof, now the version found in the journal). The issue itself (J Math Econ v48 #4) was made available on-line on 3 August. (I assume that the print copies will be received by subscribers soon.)

Reader may recall that, not very long ago, I was reading A Budget of Paradoxes by Augustus de Morgan, and that when de Morgan used the term paradox he did not use in in the sense of an apparent truth which seems to fly in the face of reason, but in the older sense of a tenet opposed to received opinion. De Morgan was especially concerned with cases of heterodoxy to which no credibility would be ascribed by the established mainstream.

Some paradoxes would later move from heterodoxy to orthodoxy, as when the Earth came to be viewed as closely approximated by a sphere, and with no particular claim to being the center of the universe. But most paradoxes are unreasonable, and have little chance of ever becoming orthodoxy.

I began reading de Morgan's Budget largely because I have at least a passing interest in cranky ideas. But reading it at the time that I did was not conducive to my mental health.

Under ideal circumstances, one would not use a weight of opinion — whether the opinion were popular or that of experts — to approximate most sorts of truth. But circumstances are seldom ideal, and social norms are often less than optimal whatever the circumstances. When confronted with work that is heterodox about foundational matters, the vast majority of people judge work to be crackpot if it is not treated with respect by some ostensibly relevant population.

In cases where respect is used as the measure of authority, there can be a problem of whose respect is itself taken to have some authority; often a layering obtains. The topology of that layering can be conceptualized in at least three ways, but the point is that the layers run from those considered to have little authority beyond that to declare who has more authority, to those who are considered to actually do the most respected research, with respected popularizers usually in one of the layers in-between. In such structures, absurdities can obtain, such as presumptions that popularizers have themselves done important research, or that the more famous authorities are the better authorities.

As I was reading de Morgan's book, my paper was waiting for a response from the seventh journal to which it had been offered. The first rejection had been preëmptory; no reason was given for it, though there was some assurance that this need not be taken as indicating that the paper were incompetent or unimportant. The next three rejections (2nd, 3rd, 4th) were less worrisome, as they seemed to be about the paper being too specialized, and two of them made a point of suggesting what the editor or reviewer thought to be more suitable journals. But then came the awful experience of my paper being held by Theory and Decision for more than a year-and-a half, with editor Mohammed Abdellaoui refusing to communicate with me about what the Hell were happening. And this was followed by a perverse rejection at the next journal from a reviewer with a conflict of interest. Six rejections[1] might not seem like a lot, but there really aren't that many academically respected journals which might have published my paper (especially as I vowed never again to submit anything to a Springer journal); I was running-out of possibilities.

I didn't produce my work with my reputation in mind, and I wouldn't see damage to my reputation as the worst consequence of my work being rejected; but de Morgan's book drew my attention to the grim fact that my work, which is heterodox and foundational, was in danger of being classified as crackpot, and I along with it.

Crackpots, finding their work dismissed, often vent about the injustice of that rejection. That venting is taken by some as confirmation that the crackpots are crackpots. It's not; it's a natural reäction to a rejection that is perceived to be unjust, whether the perception is correct or not. The psychological effect can be profoundly injurious; crackpots may collapse or snap, but so may people who were perfectly reasonable in their heterodoxy. (Society will be inclined to see a collapse or break as confirmation that the person were a crackpot, until and unless the ostensible authorities reverse themselves, at which point the person may be seen as a martyr.)

As things went from bad to worse for my paper, I dealt with how I felt by compartmentalization and dissociation. When the paper was first given conditional acceptance, my reäction was not one of happiness nor of relief; rather, with some greater prospect that the paper would be published, the structure of compartmentalization came largely undone, and I felt traumatized.

Meanwhile, some other things in my life were going or just-plain went wrong, at least one of which I'll note in some later entry. In any case, the recent quietude of this 'blog hasn't been because I'd lost interest in it, but because properly to continue the 'blog this entry was needed, and I've not been in a good frame-of-mind to write it.

[1] Actually five rejections joined with the behavior of Abdellaoui, which was something far worse than a rejection.

A Pair of Sophistries

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

I'm engaged in a fight with a corporation[1] in which I note its agents practice two, somewhat intertangled behaviors which are common to large or corporate enterprises, but which should be opposed whenever encountered.

The first of these is for the agent of the enterprise to confuse his or her rôle. For example: I gave agents of this corporation the same information repeatedly in the course of one phone call. In a later phone call, I told another agent that I'd given that information to you repeatedly, to which the agent replied, as if I were delusional, that she had never spoken with me before. This might be read as deliberate or incompetent misunderstanding of the word you (which of course must serve as a plural as well as a singular[2]), but it fits another pattern, in which the agent speaks as representative when it suits his or her immediate purpose, but instead as just an individual when that immediate purpose changes, and in which the agent doesn't announce changes in the entity for whom he or she speaks. I immediately told the agent in this case that, since she was representing the corporation in the conversation, you are the corporation, and that since I'd repeatedly given the information to the corporation, I had repeatedly given it to you.

The second behavior is to confuse endogenous policy with necessity, to represent the association as unable to do something simply because they have made a deliberate habit of not doing it. Actually, one sees people in general, in or out of a corporate frame-work, doing attempting this confusion. But the misrepresentation is more likely to be effective in the context of a formal, multi-personal institution, and the word policy is more likely to be invoked as if it represents something endogenous and fixed. (Does one often hear a neighbor insist that keeping his dog out of one's garden would be against policy?) And the misrepresentation is even more effective when the agent of the institution confuses the issue of whether he or she is speaking for the corporation or for his- or herself. Speaking for myself, I don't let an individual or association pretend that its chosen policy is not a choice, and I don't let the agents of an association off the hook of being its representatives when they try to claim that something cannot be done because it is against policy.

[1] Sprint Nextel Corporation.

[2] In standard English. And I'm not about to adopt y'all or youse or even you guys to humor a corporate agent.