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Category Archives: Middle east

Modernity struggles: how priests and clerics are unreliable moral guides

Priests and clerics tend to be unreliable moral guides, because their interests are served by complexity and differentiation. Which is not to deny that, for example, Christianity has been a major factor in the distinctive achievement of Western civilisation. The ambivalent civilisation The late Kenneth Minogue argued that (via) the Enlightenment saw a shift among Western intellectuals from belief that […]

Short observations 2

Smartphones slow down the restaurant experience (via). Time constraint means scarcity will always be with us. (That is scarcity in the trade-offs-have-to-be-made sense. Hunger and famine need not always be with us.) *** I find the notion that people without a state cannot have money risible. They may not have their own coins, but coins are merely branded […]

Short observations

Maverick Philosopher tells us that arguments don’t have testicles.  But they do have perspectives built into them. Including (in some ways especially) legal arguments. We should be wary of dismissing the importance of perspective, especially as a great deal of bigotry rests precisely on denying the legitimacy of particular perspectives. *** Currently reading an excellent popularisation […]

Regime matters

A recurring error in Western analysis is to not take ideology (particularly religious ideology) or regime structure seriously in analysing the behaviour of other states. Historian A J P Taylor’s famous statement that: In international affairs, there was nothing wrong with Hitler except that he was German. is a manifestation of this. But so is the […]

Migration, history and countries as club goods

This is based on comments I made here and here. Thin conceptions There is a line of argument which holds that if free trade in goods and services is good for economies, if free trade in capital is good for economies, then surely free trade in labour would also be good for economies. So, just as one should […]

The evolution of social bargains — operative not normative

I was reading Yoram Barzel‘s property rights analysis (pdf) of the rise of Parliamentary government in England, when the full force of his critique of normative concepts of the rise of parliamentarianism and representative government hit me. That Iraq is busily messily falling apart, following on from–and partly a consequence of–Syria doing so, with the advance of the Islamic State of […]

Revolutionary divides

It is in the nature of successful revolutions (successful in the sense of imposing a new political order which persists) to divide their society. They represent a political bargain implemented by force. Those against whom such force was applied are not participants in the revolutionary bargain, they have it imposed on them. The Glorious Revolution, the American […]

Sharia against success

When the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer, part of his call is “come to success” (Hayya ʿala ‘l-falāḥ, literally “hasten to success”). The idea is that Islam leads to success in this world and the next. For the key problem in Islam is ignorance, and the answer to ignorance is guidance; specifically, the instructions given to […]

Constrained by God: an epistemic event horizon

Reading about inadvertent patterns created by Islam brings to mind how adaptability is an advantage in a civilisation. While it is true that religious belief can be something of a moveable feast, it is nevertheless true that religious doctrine–particularly text-based religious doctrine within monotheism–can be a powerful and continuing constraint. This is particularly obvious in Islam. In the […]

The world has changed

A strain of thought I have noticed over the years with reference to international relations is “the world has changed” line: that circumstances have become so different that past fears or concerns are no longer germane to present realities. So much so, that such fears and concerns themselves have become the “real” problem. Two cases […]