Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Posts tagged ‘Asia’

Condorcet method for choosing a religion

Making choices is hard! Particularly when there are multiple possibilities, differing in multiple dimensions. Like choosing the best religion.

There are many possible methods, leading to a variety of outcomes. The 18th century French mathematician Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, the Marquis de Condorcet, advocated privileging methods of deciding elections that will always grant victory to a candidate who would win one-on-one against each other candidate individually. (Of course, there need not be such a candidate.) Such methods are referred to as “Condorcet methods”.

I’ve just been reading The Jews of Khazaria, about the seventh to tenth-century kingdom in central Asia that converted to Judaism around the middle of the ninth century.

According to the Reply of King Joseph to Hasdai ibn Shaprut, one of the few surviving contemporaneous texts to describe the internal workings of the Khazar kingdom,

Each of the three theological leaders tried to explain the benefits of his own system of belief to King Bulan. There were significant disagreements between the debaters, so Bulan went a step farther by asking the Christian and Muslim representatives which of the other two religions they believed to be superior. The Christian priest preferred Judaism over Islam, and likewise the Muslim mullah preferred Judaism over Christianity. Bulan therefore saw that Judaism was the root of the other two major monotheistic religions and adopted it for himself and his people.

Nietzsche, China, and Tory politics

John Holbo has pointed out, in a post on Crooked Timber, that Nietzsche advocated in Morgenröte expatriating 1/4 of the European population, and replacing them with Chinese immigrants, who would

bring with them the type of thinking and living that would suit industrious ants. Indeed, they could generally help the nervous Europe that is jittering itself to bits to attain some measure of asiatic calm and contemplation…

Know we know where the Tories have been cribbing their social policies! Just a few weeks ago Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, made headlines by declaring that cuts to tax credits for the working poor were needed to inspire them to work as hard as Chinese and Americans:

My wife is Chinese. We want this to be one of the most successful countries in the world in 20, 30, 40 years’ time. There’s a pretty difficult question that we have to answer, which is essentially: are we going to be a country which is prepared to work hard in the way that Asian economies are prepared to work hard, in the way that Americans are prepared to work hard?

Unlike Nietzsche, Hunt believes in transfer of spirit without transfer of people. I’m not sure if this is what the UKIP voters thought they would get by keeping out the foreigners.

His cabinet colleague Michael Gove believes the Chinese have other lessons to teach. He wrote a few years back that

I’d like us to implement a cultural revolution just like the one they’ve had in China.

Old-time Darwinism

I’ve just been reading Adam Tooze’s book on WWI and its aftermath. I see Tooze as the great Marxist historian that never was — I don’t know anything about him other than his two books, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t like the comparison — since the grandest human affairs, in his accounts, end up in orbit around the black hole of capital. Anyway, I came upon an interesting quote there that reminded me of why some people of good will found themselves repulsed by Darwinism, particularly by Darwinian hangers-on who try to cite the “lessons” of Darwinism for human affairs.

The Japanese delegation to the founding conference of the League of Nations sought to have a ban on racial discrimination written in to the League covenant. (Not that they opposed racial discrimination in general, but they often enough found themselves on the unpleasant end of it.) Colonel House, a senior American diplomat and advisor to President Wilson, suggested to British foreign minister Arthur Balfour splicing the line from the US Declaration of Independence “All men are created equal” into the Covenant preamble. Balfour rejected this out of hand.

The claim that all men were created equal, Balfour objected, “was an eighteenth-century proposition which he did not believe was true.” The Darwinian revolution of the nineteenth century had taught other lessons. It might be asserted that “in a certain sense… all men of a particular nation were created equal”. Bot to assert that “a man in Central Africa was created equal to a European” was, to Balfour, patent nonsense.

Of course, one needn’t look far to find scientifically-interested chatterers — and occasionally scientists themselves — citing Darwin-themed research to prove that all the prejudices they ever had (these days they tend to emphasise difference between sexes rather than between races) are not only true, but indisputable because they have been proved by science.

I suppose it’s also worth reminding oneself what kind of racist colonialist swamp early Zionism got its start in.

“Continent cut off…”

The news this weekend is dominated by reports of how the entire EU failed last week to reach agreement with David Cameron on the next president of the EU Commission, and had to settle on a compromise candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker, supported only by the non-British faction of the EU. Only Hungary — despite its borderline fascist government — was able to garner Cameron’s support, while the remaining 26 EU members had to make do with the bare consolation of having their preferred candidate take office.

(This was right after soccer teams from many nations were brusquely snubbed by the England side, who could not be persuaded that the quality of the other team’s playing was such as to keep them from attending to other pressing engagements back home.)

Senior Conservatives were not magnanimous toward the defeated EU, accusing other national leaders of “cowardice” for refusing to publicly defame the EU leader whom they had agreed to, and would consequently be working with in the coming years, despite the fact that some of them had not at first considered him their favourite candidate.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said Britons “will be proud that at last they have a Prime Minister who has demonstrated that he puts the interests of Britain first — regardless of who or what is pitted against him.” Perhaps the leader most determined to assert British interests against Europe since King Harold II, who was also famous for keeping his eye fixed (on real reform). They were similarly disdainful of reports that Pope Francis has not completed a conversion to the Anglican Church, and are seeking further investigation of reports that a large ursine has been seen defecating in a forested tract. (more…)

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