PHILOMADRID

PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Friday, May 24, 2019

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Inefficient People

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Inefficient People.

The good thing about this topic is that we are all experts in it, but what are the philosophical issues? This is what Ruel and I try to do in our essays:

Inefficient People  by  Ruel
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2019/05/22/inefficient-people/

Inefficient people  by  Lawrence
https://www.philomadrid.com/2019/05/inefficient-people.html


Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Inefficient People  




Inefficient people


Inefficient people

We have all made mistakes and some of us are more prone to making mistakes then others. And if that was not enough, many people are also partial to some procrastinating, being lazy or simply doing nothing but contemplate the infinite like penguins.

True as this maybe, this is not our topic on inefficiency. So what is inefficiency and who are these inefficient people? And more importantly why should this be an issue in philosophy?

A standard meaning of inefficiency is not maximising benefits from a task we are performing for the time we have available to do it. In economics we might consider inefficiency to be wasting time and resources and thus not maximising productivity. Inefficiency is a big issue in economics and by definition in political philosophy. But we should not mix up inefficiency with redundancy or production below full capacity.

Redundancy is a sort of back up insurance and this is extremely important in the digital information age. Basically redundancy in information technology follows the rule of thumb that for every back up storage of information we have, in real terms we have at least one storage device less: for example, if we make a backup of the important data on our pc, we basically have zero backups. If we make four backups of this important data then we have the equivalent of three backup units. This is a well known principle amongst photographers ( e.g. Hard Drive Secrets & Tips by Theoria Apophasis on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nia-btvHx3o)

In productivity of goods and certain services, eg printing of books and magazines, production at full capacity means that one might miss deadlines especially if something goes wrong but there is no margin of error to play with. But more importantly one might have to turn away clients with an urgent job which might not be good PR but even worse if it affects relationships with an otherwise good customer.

So going back to the meaning of inefficiency, the two key factors are waste of time or reduced productive or both. At this point I feel obliged to point out that this depends on all things being equal. Sometimes life is really beyond our control no matter how much we plan or how diligent we are. But then the efficient person can probably cope with this.

We also have to distinguish inefficiency from incompetence and bureaucratic hell; and up to an extent waste which is also found in nature. These two factors (maybe waste too) do have a direct and causal influence on inefficiency. Incompetence is a matter of skill and abilities and hints at taking on responsibilities beyond one’s capacity. I would argue that in a work environment incompetent people are in their position because of the incompetence of their superiors or because of nepotism or some other form of corruption.

Inefficiency can happen in all aspects of our individual life: at home, shopping, travelling, at work, dealing with institutions and even our language. But inefficiency may also be the result of a group of people trying to solve a problem. I would, however, argue that when a group of people come together to solve a problem, the level of inefficiency in the solution would be a function of the lack of communication and exchange of information amongst the members of the group before the solution is implemented. Sometimes there are no such groups trying to solve problems.

Group originating inefficiency can not only cost us time and effort but can easily lead to safety issues. This is very common in a work environment especially in dangerous activities such as building sites. But even white collar workers can be surrounded by inefficiency that can lead to a bureaucratic nightmare if not company collapse. Take for example the inefficiencies built into the Sub Prime saga that practically led to the collapse of the global financial system.

The Measure of productivity, for example in economics and business, is usually a function of output of goods or services minus input of “raw material” (including services; basically costs). Productivity is usually accepted as a reference for efficiency or maybe inefficiency so by this score we can be proud to point out that basically Germany and Spain* are at the same productivity level; Germany only leading by one point (2018: OECD Data https://data.oecd.org/lprdty/gdp-per-hour-worked.htm) but as I said earlier economic and business considerations also affect political philosophy. But when we compare Quality of Life (2017: EU: Living in the EU https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/figures/living_en#tab-0-0) we find that Spain is at a score of 91 whilst Germany is at 126.

My scope here is not to make an economic analysis of anything but to point out that in business and economics, efficiency or inefficiency is not just a matter of adding figures, especially monitory figures. Indeed an often mentioned weakness of classical economics is that economics does not consider non-monetary values in a model.

The EU comparison is quite unique in economic history because for the first time we have 28 independent countries who belong to the same market and each under the same regulations. Maybe inefficiency at this level is not necessarily a matter of productivity numbers, but lost opportunities. And inefficiency is certainly a cause of lost opportunity. Are we making the most from what we have and the opportunities we can have? This is clearly a moral issue in Political philosophy, including economics. It is not enough to maximise but I would say it is also imperative to maximise opportunities.

At the personal level inefficiency in other people might cause us real and serious personal inconvenience. We are all familiar with the treatment of customers by some  customer services departments. Even if we accept that companies try to limit the number of callers to the department, sometimes inefficiencies here can put us off a company. This is why monopolies and cartels might lead to inefficiency, but this is another matter.

What prompted me to consider this topic was a case I experienced two or three years ago when I received a lens I bought from Japan; I left a comment and a photo on my Facebook on this. What is particular about this experience is that this is a case of inefficiency of the type when groups of people do not liaise with each other maybe even intentionally to annoy people.

The second hand lens I bought was 60Euros which included transport, but because the package came from Japan I had to pay customs duty. I first had to go to the Post Office near the airport, to get some paper from there; nothing spectacular here, standard post office stuff. From the PO I had to go to the Customs office across the road five minutes or so away. It took me 10 minutes to get through security, found the window, but after checking my papers the clerk told me that he couldn’t process the request because his colleague was not at his desk and he couldn’t find the relevant book. After fifteen minutes the clerk processed my paper: I had to pay 55 Euros duty. Apart from that nothing spectacular just standard bureaucracy. Except that now I had to go to a specific bank up the road in the sun which took about 30 minutes there and back. At the bank I had to wait for one person then it was my turn. It took me longer complaining to the cashier than for the cashier to process the paper and take my money. Back to the Customs Office, through security, find the clerk and give him a piece of paper. Then to the post office again to collect the lens. A whole morning gone. An inefficient system keeps creating inefficiency years after the event: look at the size of this paragraph.

I must say that all the people I met that morning were very helpful, efficient and professional. But what should have taken no more than fifteen minutes processing time took the whole morning. Hopefully the new trade agreement with Japan does not involve such infuriating processes.

To conclude, you will be justifying in pointing out that other countries and other people can be equally inefficient. Sure, but I did point out that we have to distinguish inefficiency from incompetence and bureaucratic hell. When I wanted to buy a modem in Italy my experience was a perfect storm of incompetence with perfect bureaucratic hell!

My point of the topic is how much does inefficiency cost us, be it our own inefficiency or that of others? And at the political level, how much does the inefficiency of governments and state cost the nation and the welfare of the population? But is inefficiency a natural phenomenon or a function of civilization?

Best Lawrence

* The figures I mention for Spain are factual historical facts and economic in nature therefore not subject to the Spanish politics embargo; blaming a party or another would be. But I will let you decide that.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The law of the jungle

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: The law of the jungle.

After seeing our topic "Modern feminism" (May 2015) Jane asked me if I
would share a guide for women with you on "…women's safety online" which
you can find here
https://www.vpnmentor.com/blog/the-empowering-internet-safety-guide-for-women/
. This is quite serendipitous since in my essay I do mention that the
jungle today includes the internet and social media.

The links for this week's essays are:

The Law of the Jungle by Ruel F Pepa
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/the-law-of-the-jungle/

The Law of the Jungle by Lawrence JC Baron
https://www.philomadrid.com/2019/05/the-law-of-jungle.html


Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid


from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The law of the jungle

The law of the jungle



The law of the jungle.



This topic takes us into one of the most disputed topics in philosophy. This idiom is usually used to mean such things as physical power dictates morality; or survival of the fittest although usually the expression is used as survival of the strongest. The law of the jungle is basically might is right.



Morality based on the law of the jungle does not respect other people and imposes no duty on us to consider others, even though in the jungle adult creatures do protect their young and in some cases their pack. Historically philosophers and moralists, such as religious groups, have always searched for reasons for people to consider others when acting. We are supposed to do what is good or right and avoid bad or evil behaviour.



Some have sought the rules of morality by imposing an ethical system based on a single source of authority. Many have advocated, in the form of religions, and still do, the authority of god as the single source of ethical rules. Others (eg Hobbes), identified the Sovereign as the single source of ethics, even through the sovereign was supposed to be a unique person though the doctrine of the divine right of kings (eg Henry VIII of England). To cut a long story short today we are in the doctrine of power through public representation. In other words, morality is based on the will of the people through the principles of democracy.



Of course, philosophers being philosophers have tried to justify ethical systems by appealing to either rational principles, such as Kant, or empirical principles such as Locke. In both cases legitimacy has moved away from pointing at a master or lord of human beings and started looking at the reasoning of human beings. Sure some like Descartes would say that a benevolent god would never give us malevolent ideas as a priori knowledge. All of a sudden the legitimacy of any moral or ethical system is derived from our own intellect as rational beings. And, of course, if someone is incapable of thinking like us then surely they are not human beings.



In effect, the devine rule of kings has been replaced by the rational rule of the categorical imperative, although the actual term differs from time to time for example: Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Fundamental Principles of The Metaphysic Of Morals, By Immanuel Kant https://www.gutenberg.org/files/5682/5682-h/5682-h.htm. Today this would be called something like win-win strategy and justified by a mathematical model of game theory or simply cooperation.



But with the categorical imperative relying on an empirical (the You and others) source of moral law is hardly a reliable sample population for a system that is suppose to bind everyone present and future. At best, the Good Samaritan story as an instance of the categorical imperative is a convincing case study. And if that was not enough where do we get the control group to test our one person experiment hypothesis?



So, have we managed to overcome the law of the jungle and what is the state of affairs with the law of the jungle today? One thing all these rationalist advocates and even empiricists who seek to reform the law of the jungle, is that they have not shown or argued why those who have might or strength on their side should give up their loot and share it with the rest of us? Their arguments have always been why we ordinary people should wish that others be like us, but never why those who are winning the jungle game should all of a sudden give up their position. Since hell has not worked, maybe in the modern world we should advocate such things as diabetes, strokes and heart attacks, cancer and fluctuating stock markets and currency meltdowns, but I doubt this will work. Those who are on top of the game already own the hospitals and pharma companies.



Up until now we can safely say that we, as humans, have not managed to tame or stop the law of the jungle. The fear of god or the threat of eternal punishment in a fire did not balance the law of the jungle with some supposed rational ethical system. Democracy has done very little to establish an imperative based ethical system. Only yesterday a supposedly democratic legislature enacted a law to take away the established rights of women to determine their physical well being but for good measure incest and rape are now afforded more social status than the dignity of an innocent human being. Imagine if a democratic legislature enacted a law that made it illegal to take pain killers for men with blond hair and are 5ft 7and ¾ inches tall.



Democracy might be a gigantic improvement over a bonfire, but it also has its weaknesses. Today people think that democracy is just putting pieces of paper in a box, count them and the winner is the one with the most papers. Of course, political parties still issue manifestos, leaflets outlining policies and other feel good promises, but injustices and inequities still happen. Democracy can take us away from some aspects of the doctrine of might is right. For example, women can vote today, but many still don’t have political control over their bodies, and men can go to the office without a tie but many are considered unreliable if they are not married.



Maybe democracy has changed the mould a bit by giving us more opportunities to share knowledge and travel more. This has driven a large part of society to economic prosperity based on merit and skill, although “inherited” wealth (I use inherited very loosely here to include well off) is still the best way to advance in society or the jungle.



If the law of the jungle hasn’t been tamed then surely the size of the jungle has grown even bigger in the 21st century. The jungle in the 21st century includes multinationals, black and corrupt money, social media, emails and web pages, politicians who are in the pocket of powerful groups and organisations and traditional foreign states.



Cooperation is still the best strategy to follow as an ethical system but cooperation is the consequence of a process and not the process. What we do must itself have a degree of outcome predictability. If what we do works for us and the other person or persons then we have achieved a degree moral behaviour. Our methodology to discover our ethical principles plays a crucial role in morality. The question is what do we do when we apply bona fide principles but the outcome is not reciprocal cooperation?



Best Lawrence 




The Law of the Jungle by Ruel F Pepa
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/the-law-of-the-jungle/

The Law of the Jungle by Lawrence JC Baron






philomadrid@gmail.com

Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/

MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/

Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid



16th May 2019


After seeing our topic “Modern feminism” (May 2015) Jane asked me if I would share a guide for women with you on “…women’s safety online” which you can find here https://www.vpnmentor.com/blog/the-empowering-internet-safety-guide-for-women/ . This is quite serendipitous since in my essay I do mention that the jungle today includes the internet and social media.



Friday, May 10, 2019

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Sense of Humour

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Sense of Humour

We never discussed Sense of Humour before, but we did discuss aspects of
Humour in the past. However, a key issue for us is: what is the
difference between humour and sense of humour?

Below I start with two links which Norma wanted to share with us of
articles she published in Spanish sometime ago. I then include the links
for the essay by Ruel and I on our subject Sense of Humour. And finish
off with links to past essays by Rule and myself.

Norma on Humour (in Spanish)
Reír, Crear y Reflexionar Con Las Distintas Modalidades Literarias Del Humor
Norma Sturniolo
http://pinakes.educarex.es/numero7/articulo5.htm

Máscara del humor / Norma Sturniolo
http://data.cervantesvirtual.com/manifestation/293254


Sense of humour

Sense of humour by Ruel
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2019/05/08/sense-of-humour/


Sense of humour by Lawrence JC Baron
https://www.philomadrid.com/2019/05/sense-of-humour.html


Past links on Humour:

The Humorous Human by Ruel Pepa
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/the-humorous-human/

Does humour make us human? By Lawrence JC Baron
https://www.philomadrid.com/2014/02/from-lawrence-sunday-philomadrid_6.html



Best Lawrence


tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid


from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Sense of Humour

Sense of humour

Sense of humour


We have discussed Humour in the past but not sense of humour. So what is the difference between humour and sense of humour, and more precisely for us, what is sense of humour?

It should be obvious that sense of humour is not about humour but our ability and skill to interpret and convey opinions or observations about real time events that will make people laugh. And, of course, our appreciation of the sense of humour of others. Sense of humour is more about seeing the funny side of things.

Sense of humour, as I said is not the ability to be funny, or tell jokes, or behave in a comic way. The “sense” part should tell us that it is a mental ability to identify, interpret and convey an original thought in the confines of a context; a context that’s usually time dependent. For a speech act of sense of humour it must be made within a fraction of a second. Time defuses the element or kernel of the retort and many times a delayed act of sense of humour can backfire and become an act to be ridiculed about.

So, if sense of humour is a skill and ability, can we learn this skill, or can we teach sense of humour? Furthermore, can we devise a model or an algorithm to enable others to learn, practice and develop a sense of humour. There is no doubt we can analyse the structure and identify the conditions for sense of humour but I doubt we can devise an algorithm for teaching purposes. In any case, why would we want to teach sense of humour to humans? Surely sense of humour is an innate skill?

A quick internet search of humour or humor will lead to an untold number of references. The more philosophical references highlight the issue that humour is not a common subject in philosophy. And one of the reasons is that for many centuries humour was frowned upon by religion and “polite” sections of society. Today comedy and humour are big business, but even today humour is not something we can use in all aspects of life. Unlike, for example, politeness, small talk, the weather and salutation: why is it unacceptable to turn up at a function with the president of a country and instead of greeting them with the usual diplomatic protocol pleasantries we start by telling them a joke? In effect humour can be more of a faux pas in society than say walking bare chestted in the middle of a city centre.

In defence of the traditional norms, maybe it is not the humour itself that is objectionable but the fact that good humour will always lead to heart felt laughter; and laughter as a sound can easily be offensive to the point of disapproval.

A question we can ask is this: for an act to be an act of sense of humour is it a necessary condition that someone will laugh at the act as expected by the speech actor? This issue is even more difficult than the classical sound of a tree falling in the forest test: if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? The problem is that just because someone intends a speech act to be an instance of sense of humour it does not follow that it is humour. Indeed, some sense of humour or just humour can be humorous precisely for not being humorous.

We can validly argue that after all is said and done, sense of humour is a matter of culture. In effect, in some cultures people like and participate in acts of sense of humour but not in other cultures.

As I have already suggested, the suppression of humour in society is not new, so it is not a surprise to suggest that humour can be a cultural taboo. But would it be enough to include a cultural factor in our algorithm of sense of humour? The problem with this question is that one needs to really know a culture to decide how relevant cultural taboo is in the context of sense of humour. Besides, many acts of sense of humour do not refer to culture at all.

But there is another element that makes sense of humour difficult to model, not to mention more difficult for non members of the culture, and that factor is language. Language is a more effective barrier against outsiders than the Great Wall of China. And this is a real issue for learners of a second language: humour is already a complex subject in teaching a language and maybe sense of humour is at the extreme end.

A function of language is to convey emotional sensations and feelings. And sense of humour is a very efficient language game that excels at emotions. We can identify various forms of sense of humour to express emotions and forms of speech for example: naïve sense of humour, cynical, sarcastic, dry, dark, black humour, cringing, quips, puns, innocent, romantic and many more.

It is not that learners of a second language do not understand the language and syntactical structure of the sense of humour act, but they just don’t get it. Language culture and historical culture might be a relevant factor here. Humour is very commonly associated with culture, for example: very few learners of British English, if any, would understand an act of sense of humour that would include the name of Screaming Lord Sutch. But this difficulty is not limited to culture a relevant factor is recent history within a society as my Screaming Lord Sutch element demonstrates. By the way, Lord Sutch (David Edward Sutch) was a British musician who failed to be elected to the British parliament 40 times. So we might not “get” an act of sense of humour simply because we lack some context that would give meaning to the speech act.

An act of sense of humour need not be a language act, for example gestures, facial expressions, body language, mimicking can also be used in the context of being sense of humour. However, we must be clear that sense of humour is not mocking others, or insulting people, or belittling people. Indeed, mocking people has always been a preoccupation of philosophers and religious people that created a barrier to accept humour as a respectable activity in society.

A relevant debate on humour, and by implication sense of humour, is the evolutionary function of humour. Because historically humour was thought to be an effort to humiliate and mock others a Superiority theory was often suggested, but it is unlikely that humour is a form of superiority over others.

In my opinion we have to look at the physiological effect of laughter: whatever laughter is, it certainly creates two effects in us. Firstly, we relax our guard when we laugh and secondly we feel good after a laugh. In effect, I would argue, when we laugh at someone’s act of sense of humour we give the message that we trust them because we are prepared to relax our guard to participate in the laughter. A police officer in a serious situation would never laugh at funny comments or acts of sense of humour. In other contexts they will join in the act of sense of humour precisely to diffuse a potential tense situation. Making others feel good is a power controlling strategy to manipulate or influence their behaviour.

As an intentional act, sense of humour must have an element of character trait deeply imbedded in our psyche either to win others or maybe even to deal with difficult inter personal relations to signal we are harmless or we can be trusted. In a social context sense of humour might be a barometer of the psychological state of mind of a person: are they insecure if they don’t participate in the act of sense of humour? Have they got limited language and intellectual skills? Are they sick so they cannot participate in such culture games?

Finally, we can also observe that not everyone is good at delivering scripted humour or tell a joke. Some might be able to write humour but not perform comic acts. Some might not even be able to laugh at obvious jokes. But can we say that everyone can spontaneously perform an act of sense of humour in the right circumstances?

 Best Lawrence





Norma on Humour (in Spanish)
Reír, Crear y Reflexionar Con Las Distintas Modalidades Literarias Del Humor
Norma Sturniolo
http://pinakes.educarex.es/numero7/articulo5.htm

Máscara del humor / Norma Sturniolo
http://data.cervantesvirtual.com/manifestation/293254


Sense of humour

Sense of humour by Ruel
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2019/05/08/sense-of-humour/


Sense of humour by Lawrence JC Baron
https://www.philomadrid.com/2019/05/sense-of-humour.html


Past links on Humour:

The Humorous Human by Ruel Pepa
https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/the-humorous-human/

Does humour make us human? By Lawrence JC Baron
https://www.philomadrid.com/2014/02/from-lawrence-sunday-philomadrid_6.html



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