In Barron’s, Paul Theroux argues that 150 years of aid to Africa has not helped much — and may have hurt more than it helped.
Theroux discusses the failure of several recent externally-generated efforts, including Jeffrey Sachs’s top-down Millennium Project and the long history of well-meaning “Telescopic Philanthropists,” as well as Africa’s internal problems of governance.
(1) Charity undercuts self-sufficiency: If goods are provided free by foreigners, local small businesses cannot compete and go out of business. A cycle of dependency is thus created.
(2) Corrupt governments are a major problem: Bribery, oppressive regulations, extortion, and theft on a grand scale are endemic.
So Theroux calls for fresh thinking about how economic development occurs: “the self-sufficiency of ordinary people” must be enabled, by getting the politicians off their backs and asking the well-meaning to stop creating dependency.
In the language of ethics, I’d frame the moral dimension of the overall problem this way: predation and altruism are both problematic, and egoism is the moral and practical framework.
Phrasing it positively: Respect the self-responsibility of individuals and allow them to develop win-win social networks — and they will prosper. Phrasing it negatively: Do nothing that undercuts productivity individually or free trade socially — and people will flourish.
Senegalese-American businesswoman Magatte Wade on entrepreneurship as the fundamental route out of poverty for everyone, not only Africans.
William Kamkwamba’s windmill.
Interview with Phyllis Johnson on entrepreneurship, coffee, and empowering women in Africa.
My “What Business Ethics Can Learn from Entrepreneurship” [pdf].
Posted 5 days, 11 hours ago at 7:26 am. 2 comments
Noam Chomsky is a mixed bag intellectually, but I like this quotation forwarded to me by Edward Fox:
“There are lots of things I don’t understand — say, the latest debates over whether neutrinos have mass or the way that Fermat’s last theorem was (apparently) proven recently. But from 50 years in this game, I have learned two things: (1) I can ask friends who work in these areas to explain it to me at a level that I can understand, and they can do so, without particular difficulty; (2) if I’m interested, I can proceed to learn more so that I will come to understand it. Now Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard, Kristeva, etc. — even Foucault, whom I knew and liked, and who was somewhat different from the rest — write things that I also don’t understand, but (1) and (2) don’t hold: no one who says they do understand can explain it to me and I haven’t a clue as to how to proceed to overcome my failures. That leaves one of two possibilities: (a) some new advance in intellectual life has been made, perhaps some sudden genetic mutation, which has created a form of ‘theory’ that is beyond quantum theory, topology, etc., in depth and profundity; or (b) … I won’t spell it out.” (Source.)
All of which reminds me of this excellent xkcd “Impostor” cartoon:
(Oh yes, and this book.)
Posted 1 week, 6 days ago at 8:02 am. 6 comments
My review of Allan Gotthelf and James G. Lennox’s Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge: Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013) is now out in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
Gotthelf and Lennox jointly edited the volume and provided essays of their own. The other contributors are Benjamin Bayer, Jim Bogen, Bill Brewer, Richard Burian, Onkar Ghate, Paul Griffiths, Pierre LeMorvan, and Gregory Salmieri.
The review’s opening: “The most important issue in modern philosophy is the relationship between consciousness and reality. Allan Gotthelf and James Lennox have collected a highly-competent set of essays …”
Posted 2 weeks, 6 days ago at 7:45 am. 3 comments
Stoic Week 2013 is from November 25 to December 2. (Yes, that span includes the American Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Hedonism Day, but who says the scheduling gods are perfect.)
I occasionally teach Epictetus (55-135 CE) or Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) in my courses. So to help you prepare for next week, here are some sample quotations:
Epictetus on philosophy: “If you have an earnest desire toward philosophy, prepare yourself from the very first to have the multitude laugh and sneer.” (Enchiridion, XXII)
On what can be controlled: “There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.” (I)
On controlling one’s mind: “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things.” (V) Also: “As in walking you take care not to tread upon a nail, or turn your foot, so likewise take care not to hurt the ruling faculty of your mind.” (XXXVIII)
Including one’s thoughts on mortality: “If you wish your children and your wife and your friends to live forever, you are foolish, for you wish things to be in your power which are not so, and what belongs to others to be your own. So likewise, if you wish your servant to be without fault, you are foolish, for you wish vice not to be vice but something else.” (XIV)
On worrying about the opinions of others: “If a person had delivered up your body to some passer-by, you would certainly be angry. And do you feel no shame in delivering up your own mind to any reviler, to be disconcerted and confounded?” (XXVIII)
Marcus Aurelius on Man:
* “A little flesh, a little breath, and a Reason to rule all — that is myself.” (Meditations, 2,2)
* “In the life of man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his senses a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful.” (2,17)
* “‘A poor soul burdened with a corpse,’ Epictetus calls you.” (4,41)
* “How small a fraction of all the measureless infinity of time is allotted to each one of us; an instant, and it vanishes into eternity. How puny, too, is your portion of the world’s substance; how puny too, is your portion of all the world’s substance; how insignificant your share of all the world’s soul; on how minute a speck of the whole earth do you creep. As you ponder these things, make up your mind that nothing is of any import save to do what your own nature directs, and to bear what the world’s Nature sends you.” (12,32)
Aurelius on self-mastery: “No one can stop you living according to the laws of your own personal nature, and nothing can happen to you against the laws of the World-Nature.” (6,58)
And on predestination: “Whatever may happen to you was prepared for you in advance from the beginning of time.” (10,5)
One more from Epictetus, quoting Cleanthes on our acceptance or not of destiny:
“Conduct me, Zeus, and thou, O Destiny,
Wherever your decrees have fixed my lot.
I follow cheerfully; and, did I not,
Wicked and wretched, I must follow still.”
Both Enchiridion and Meditations are well worth reading.
(My reading of Dominique Francon in The Fountainhead is that she’s a Stoic in her value philosophy; that is, she is trying to achieve apathia in a morally valueless world. Another compelling Stoic in contemporary literature is Conrad Hensley in Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full.)
Posted 3 weeks ago at 7:24 am. 1 comment
In 2006, Professor Smith published Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist (Cambridge University Press). In 2007, I reviewed it for the journal Philosophy in Review. Here is an audio version of the review in MP3 format or at YouTube. Eight minutes:
And here is a PDF version of the original print edition.
Related: My other posts and publications on Objectivism.
Posted 1 month ago at 8:22 am. Add a comment
I have a review forthcoming in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews of the impressive new volume by Allan Gotthelf and James G. Lennox. Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge: Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology was published in 2013 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Gotthelf and Lennox both edited the volume and provided contributions of their own. The other contributors are Benjamin Bayer, Jim Bogen, Bill Brewer, Richard Burian, Onkar Ghate, Paul Griffiths, Pierre LeMorvan, and Gregory Salmieri.
I’ll link to the review when it’s officially published.
Posted 1 month ago at 7:43 am. 3 comments
David Kelley’s The Evidence of the Senses (LSU Press, 1986) is a modern classic defense of direct realism in perception. I reviewed it for the journal Auslegung in 1989. Here is a 10-minute audio version of the review in MP3 format or at YouTube.
Posted 1 month, 1 week ago at 8:09 am. 1 comment
I’ve updated the Intellectual History page with links to my recent posts on Bacon, Galileo, Kierkegaard, Russell, and Rand.
Posted 1 month, 1 week ago at 8:08 am. Add a comment