Saturday, June 29, 2024

Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary

None of us actually lives as though there were no truth. Our problem is more with the notion of a single, unchanging truth. The word 'true' suggest a relationship between things: being true to someone or something, truth as loyalty, or something that fits, as two surfaces may be said to be 'true.' 

It is related to 'trust,' and is fundamentally a matter of what one believes to be the case. 

The Latin word verum (true) is cognate with a Sanskrit word meaning to choose or believe: the option one chooses, the situation in which one places one's trust. Such a situation is not an absolute - it tells us not only about the chosen thing, but also about the chooser. It cannot be certain: it involves an act of faith and it involves being faithful to one's intentions." 

~ Iain McGilchrist in The Master and His Emissary

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Daniel Kahneman’s book—Thinking, Fast and Slow

“Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance” : Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow.

I am now reading Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow. One important point that comes out of his book is that human reason is not infallible, as the Western atheists—communists, liberals, libertarians and fiction writers like Ayn Rand—claim and preach. 

Humans are fundamentally irrational—even our belief in the supremacy of reason can be taken as a sign of our fundamental irrationality. We don’t build our cultures and civilizations on the basis of mathematics and science—we build them on the basis of our mythologies and fictional stories. 

Most humans, especially the experts in advanced countries, tend to be overconfident that they possess a perfect understanding of how the world works and that they are in a position of predicting the future—the examination of human overconfidence is one of the theme’s of the book . 

“We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness,” Kahneman warns.

Kahneman’s primary thesis in Thinking, Fast and Slow is that the human mind operates by two systems of thought: System 1 is instinctive, stereotypical, emotional and unconscious; System 2 is slower, deliberative, logical and conscious.

I don’t agree or disagree with Kahneman’s views. The issues he raises in his book are complicated and we don’t know much about the working of the human mind—so agreement or disagreement are not possible. We know much less than what we think we know. 

But the book is thought provoking—it can make some readers introspect and examine the fundamentals of their beliefs about who they are and what kind of world they live in.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

The mirage & myth of Aristotelian non-contradiction

Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction is a mirage and a myth. It is a mirage because it creates a vision of a utopia that is governed by the deterministic principles of physics and mathematics. It is a myth because such a utopia cannot exist. 

Human beings do not live in a world governed by physics and mathematics. We don’t live in a utopia. We live in a chaotic world of mind and culture. The contradictions are an inseparable part of every human mind and every human culture. The contradictions are the drivers of our imagination. They are the fountainhead of culture and civilization. 

A culture without contradictions would be a dull and static culture. The more contradictions a culture can hold, the more dynamic and strong it will be—this is also what history tells us. The best way to strengthen culture is to fuel all the past contradictions.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Short note on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century

I am reading Thomas Piketty’s 2014 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I am not a socialist but I am not a capitalist either. Both systems are equally irrational. They lead to concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a tiny minority while causing large-scale deprivation and misery for the masses. 

I am convinced by Piketty’s argument that the rate of return on capital is over the long term greater than the rate of economic growth and it leads to concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny minority (the inheritor class). To address this problem, he proposes a global system of progressive wealth taxes on inherited capital. I don’t believe his solution is right. Higher taxes mean more power to the politicians and the bureaucrats who create even bigger problems for society. 

I don’t know what the solution to the problem of concentration of wealth is, but I am certain that the solution that Piketty is proposing will lead to vast increase in the powers of the government and weaken democracy. 

In fact, Piketty’s economic argument can be taken into the sphere of politics. It can be argued that the return on political power of charismatic politicians is over the long term greater than the rate of growth of democratic institutions and freedoms and this leads to the concentration of power in the hands of a tiny minority (the dynastic political families). Concentration of political power in the hands of a few dynastic families is as destructive as the problem of concentration of wealth. 

In his book, Piketty tries to deal with the problem of concentration of wealth but he has nothing to say about the problem of concentration of political power.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Stakeholder Capitalism by Klaus Schwab: Saving humanity is 'multinational corporation's burden'

In his book Stakeholder Capitalism: A Global Economy that Works for Progress, People and Planet, Klaus Schwab makes the case that the large private corporations should focus on taking care of the needs of all their stakeholders: customers, employees, shareholders, investors, community, society and humanity as a whole. 

There is nothing new in this thesis, which smacks of old fashioned egalitarianism. It is also an attempt to whitewash the sins of the big American and European capitalist corporations which fund Schwab’s global-scale junkets and other political and social activities. 

“Taking care of humanity” is a euphemism for exercising total power. What Schwab wants is a world ruled by his capitalist cronies, the ones who fund and attend the big junkets that his group World Economic Forum organizes in Davos. 

In the 20th century, Rudyard Kipling proposed the theory that saving humanity was the “white man’s burden.” This theory was quickly discredited as a tool for perpetuating imperialism. In the 21st century, Klaus Schwab and his cronies are proposing that saving humanity is the “multinational corporation’s burden.” 

The multinational corporations, mostly owned by the oligarchs of America and Western Europe, are supposed to save humanity, lead us all to the promised land where there is peace, prosperity and political power for all—this is Schwab’s utopian vision. 

In his Davos manifesto of 2020, Schwab said that there were only three alternatives in the world: shareholder capitalism, state capitalism and stakeholder capitalism. He said that since shareholder capitalism and state capitalism had failed, stakeholder capitalism was the only option. 

Why should anyone believe Schwab? The arguments that he presents in his book are flimsy, banal and biased in favor of big Western oligarchs. He is not convincing at all. 

Stakeholder capitalism might be the only option for American and West European oligarchs who would like to maintain their geopolitical hegemony. Why should people in Asia accept a global economic model which gives all power to Western corporations?

In his book, Schwab adopts the tone of a medieval mullah who is proclaiming the message of God to his flock. He shows no sign of wisdom and knowledge of history. He is not a deep thinker. I think that his strength lies in his networking skills and ability to organize junkets attended by the world’s top oligarchs, lobbyists, investors and politicians.