30 December 2009

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Heroes in our time

Dear friends,

Our first meeting for the new year will be about: Heroes in our time.

In the meantime I wish you all a prosperous and happy 2010. See you Sunday,

All the best



+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Heroes in our time

23 December 2009

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Does Christmas have any point?

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Does Christmas have any point?

Of course, by the time we meet on Sunday we would have had this year's
Christmas celebrations. So happy Christmas and hope you will have a good

It was difficult for me to write an essay on the subject but had enough
time to come up with a few ideas.

The first is that the fate of Christmas as a religious festival depends
very much on the fate of the religion. However, it is interesting to
note that in Spain and other southern European countries, e.g Italy and
Greece, Christmas is not a big religious event in society. In Spain as
we all know Easter is the big social religious event. By religious
social event I mean an event that society as a whole gathers to
celebrate a religious festival in public.

On the other hand, Christmas is the big religious social event in
Northern Europe. But then again we know enough about this winter
festival to appreciate that Christianity basically took over festivals
that existed before the formation of Christianity: these included winter
festivals in the north or the sun festivals of the Roman empire. There
is no reason to suppose that such a similar fate won't befall Christmas.

Maybe it has already happened, today Christmas represents about one
third of turnover for many businesses. In effect, Christmas is big
businesses; maybe this Christian festival today is in an advanced stage
of being morphed into a festival of that religion we call capitalism.

Of course, just because we flock to the shops a few weeks before the 25
th December does not make this a religious festival in public; at least
not in the present meaning of religious.

Some might cringe and shudder at the idea that a holy festival such as
Christmas is being replaced by a capitalist orgy. But before you enter
into a depression for the next few days think again. The only other
human activity that brings together so many nations and peoples and
creeds into a single meaningful purpose is a world war.

Maybe there is a point for Christmas after all. Whether in the guise of
religion or capitalism if we are too busy being happy and enjoying
ourselves with friends and family and being generally nice to each other
maybe we won't have enough time to wage war and do herm to each other.

If I am pressed on the subject I would say that maybe we don't have
enough Christmases in a year. I would hazard a guess that the ideal
number of Christmas in a year should be once every two months or so. I
don't think there is any fear of hitting the roof the law of diminishing

Of course, this would mean that Father Christmas would have to work
harder and maybe even give more meaningful gifts for a change. For
example, he could also leave a pile of cash when he visits us on
Christmas night; preferably not too close to fireplace.

Take care



+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Does Christmas have
any point?

15 December 2009

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: What does handsome enough mean? + URGENT news for TODAY

Urgent News for today Tuesday

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: What does handsome enough mean?

Luckily I don't have to write an essay for this topic because I have no
idea what this is all about. However, for those who cannot wait till
Sunday, Carmen and Diana are meeting TODAY, Tuesday 15, in Moore's,
Barcelo/Tribunal as season's special at 7:30pm. I am sure they can tell
you a thing or two about what handsome enough means.

An don't forget that Ignacio and friends also meet in Moore's on Thursday.

Ceit will be organising the meeting on Sunday because I probably won't
be able to be with you.

Enjoy and take care



+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: What does handsome
enough mean? + URGENT news for TODAY

11 December 2009

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Perception of mental diseases in our society.

Dear friends,
This Sunday we are discussing a rather delicate but important topic of
mental disorders, precisely, Perception of mental diseases in our society.
It is delicate because mental health is a sensitive issue and important
because none of us can be guaranteed that we might not pass through
episodes when our brain in not functioning on all pistons. But does all
this sensitivity result in a well structure attitude towards mental
health? Maybe not, let's discuss it on Sunday.
See you Sunday,
Take care,


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).

Perception of mental diseases in our society.
The brain is a complex system, certainly one of the more complex systems
we find on Earth. It is also a mechanical physical and chemical system
subject to the limits of mechanics, chemistry, and physics.
That the brain sometimes does not operate at an optimal level is a
common phenomenon. We may even expect it not to function optimally
during periods of our lives, memory loss is a common example. Our topic
is therefore about how we react when things go wrong. How we react also
depends on how serious any problems with the brain are?
A question we have to ask ourselves is what can philosophy say about the
topic of mental disorder? A topic that is today the domain of medicine
and psychology. I am using mental disorder here to include terms such as
mental health, mental illness, and mental disease. Moreover, mental
disease is, in retrospect, too limiting for a philosophical discussion
as I hope to show later on. In the meantime a complete discussion on the
philosophical issues of mental disorders is found in the article by
Christian Perring, "Mental Illness", in The Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy (Perring, Christian, "Mental Illness", The Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),
I will therefore limit myself to a few ideas I think are worth
considering in themselves.
If you enter the web site of the World Health Organisation at
http://www.who.int/topics/mental_disorders/en/ you will see (as at 10
December 2009) a statement part of which includes: Mental disorders
comprise a broad range of problems, with different symptoms. However,
they are generally characterized by some combination of abnormal
thoughts, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.
This statement practically covers everyone on Earth that has lived or
will ever live. It is therefore not surprising that mental disorders is
a subject that is at best elusive and at worse an unfathomable part of
human nature. So what is a mental disorder is not an easy subject to
establish. Never mind establishing the meaning of "mental disorder" what
about the meaning of abnormal in the WHO introduction? Moreover, there
is also the language gap between the meaning of words such as "mental
disorder" in a professional context and in common day use.
And to compound the situation what we, in the west might call a mental
disorder, in other regions such problems might not even be considered as
mental problems at all. Christian Perring in his article goes even
further, "Indeed, other cultures may not even have a concept of mental
illness that corresponds even approximately to the Western concept."
So the first philosophical issue is precisely what is metal disorder and
what do we mean by it? The de facto references for mental disorders in
medicine, and other professions, are 1) the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) and published by the American
Psychological Association (a revised version will be published in 2012)
and 2) The International Classification of Diseases is published by the
World Health Organization, and according to the Wikipedia article on
this reference ICD-11 is due in 2015. There is also an European
classification, but we need not go into such finicky detail for our
But is philosophy, and for that matter other disciplines, bound to
accept these standard classifications? Even if for the sake of argument
we accept that these classifications are legitimate scientific
classifications, shouldn't a philosophical discussion take a broader
view of the topic? First, philosophy addresses issues that rational
agents usually have to deal with in life. And by rational agent I do not
mean the superhuman being which economists speak of, but rather the
opposite, the down to Earth "normal" or "average" human being who has to
live on this Earth. And that would include you, me and the people we
know. In other words, since the topic of mental disorders is such a
nebulous subject, it is a legitimate topic for philosophical discussion
and analysis.
The second reason why we need to take a broader view of the subject is
that the classifications themselves try to be all things to all people.
Consider this quote from the Wikipedia article (10/11/2009): "Robert
Spitzer, a lead architect of the DSM-III, has opined that adding
cultural formulations was an attempt to placate cultural critics and
that the formulations lack any scientific motivation or support."
However, the reason for a broader term of reference is precisely because
people have different opinions about what is and what might not be
mental disorder.
Take for example one of the current controversy with DSM-V: Gender
identity disorders; 302.85 In adolescents or adults; 302.6 In children;
and 302.6 Gender identity disorder NOS. This classification "describes
the attributes related to trans sexuality, transgender identity, and
transvestism." (Wikipedia, Gender identity disorders). The controversy
relates to the issue of whether transsexuality is a natural phenomenon
some people experience or a mental disorder. Most people in Western
society would regard this as a natural phenomenon and something for the
individual to decide what lifestyle they adopt. In many countries,
including theocratic states, homosexuals are still put to death if they
are caught or discovered. See for example the case of Nemat Safavi, in
Iran, who has been condemned to death for being homosexual.
However, our scope in taking a broader meaning is not to rearrange the
classification references that serves as practical guidelines for the
medical profession. But rather, by taking a broader view we can consider
behaviors that may or may not be part of the concern of other
disciplines. We only want and need to broaden our scope and not
reclassify a scientific document.
For example, by taking a wider view of mental disorder, we can consider
whether discrimination and racism are mental disorders or natural
phenomenon. Indeed, discrimination and racism are very serious issues
not only in our society but throughout humanity especially when bogus
science or bogus ethics are used to declare a mental disorder precisely
to discriminate. The treatment of homosexuality is an obvious case in
point. But it gets worse than that, discrimination against women, short
people, people with mobility problems or obese people are examples of
discrimination were perception plays a important part. Today there are
still countries and societies where discrimination against women is an
institutional and state policy.
Apart from being immoral and probably illegal by international
standards, shouldn't discrimination and racism be classified as a mental
disorder? Something that requires treatment rather than be enshrined in
institutional policies or collective beliefs, that sometimes go under
the guise of culture or religion.
And this is precisely another important issue for philosophy concerning
mental disorders: what kind of methodology is used to establish what is
to be considered a mental disorder? Indeed, the question of
methodologies is identified as an issue in the introduction of the
article on Mental Disorders in Wikipedia: "Mental health professionals
diagnose individuals using different methodologies, often relying on
case history and interview." In the other extreme Spitzer's comments
above suggest that sometimes non scientific criteria are included in a
reference manual that is supposed to be a scientific point of reference.
It is evident that what we perceive as mental disorder depends who we
are and from which point of view do we look at the issue. However, what
seems to be clear is that although establishing the extreme cases of
mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or depression, seems to be an
established science even if it is a difficult one, in many cases the
methodology used to establish a mental disorder is not always based on
the scientific method. What is the science behind homosexuality that
justifies it being a taboo, or worse, a crime? Of course there is not
such science.
One of the complaints against the classification of mental disorders is
that this is a Western classification based on what is taken as science
in the United States, Europe and other Western countries. The charge is
that our science does not take into consideration other cultures and
other beliefs.
Of course, culture can never be the basis or part of the scientific
method, and certainly not religion or collective beliefs. However, from
our point of view as philosophers we have to ask ourselves: is the
scientific method of experimentation, objective reporting of evidence,
statistical analysis and falsifiability of theories being applied
correctly? And once we have establish that the methodology we apply does
conform to the notion of what is science (errors and omissions not
withstanding) we then have to ask ourselves, why would someone want to
include non scientific criteria in the classification of what is or what
is not a mental disorder?
And this is why mental disorders raise important ethical issues that,
maybe, other disorders do not raise. For example, I doubt if a question
such as, what is our perception of cholesterol disorder? makes much
philosophical sense. In my opinion, mental disorders raise ethical
issues, first and foremost, because we all recognize the limitations, if
not imperfections, of the brain.
A number of ethical issues surround mental disorders. I have already
discussed the issue of discrimination and racism in the context of
mental disorder. An other ethical issue is of course treatment for
mental disorders. Never mind the extreme or obvious cases which are the
domain of psychiatrists and neurologists, how should other institutions
such as the law and business deal with mental disorder? And what is
mental disorder for jurisprudence and business? Are bosses or colleagues
at work who are jerks suffering from some form of mental disorder? See
for example a review article by Tom Davenport, Why jerks are bad
decision-makers (BusinessWeek online August 7, 2009)
A practical ethical issues is linked to treatment. If mental disorder is
a health issue, than our perception is that we have to be treated for
it. Indeed, this is the fundamental philosophy of Western medicine. The
anomaly, however, with the WHO and APA documents is that they don't
guarantee treatment. Some countries do not have universal health care at
the point of need and some others do not even have any heath care at
all, at least none to speak of.
The practical ethical issue we have to address ourselves is whether
mental health classifications are elitist charters. These
classifications are alright if we can get treatment for any of these
disorders, but what's the point of a universally valid science if it
does not benefit people universally. Science, after all, can still be
advanced with gentlemen-scientists or lady-scientists financing and
pursuing their hobby. But that is not our perception of science and
technology today. Incidentally, the same argument can used about the UN
Charter of Human Rights.
I introduced the subject of ethics regarding mental disorder by asking
the question, why would someone want to introduce cultural issues in a
scientific methodology? And I have already discussed the scope of
culture in science which is basically nil. But this does not mean that
culture or even collective beliefs do not have a scope in a debate on
mental disorder.
In fact, I would argue that the issues and scope of culture or
collective beliefs in a debate on mental health centres on two basic
questions: 1) is culture introduced in the debate on mental disorders to
protect and safeguard the rights of the person with such disorders? Or
2) is the cultural element introduced to take away the rights of the
And to answer these questions I will use the same example I used
already: is trans sexuality classified as a mental disorder to protect
the rights of the individual to pursue a life style of their choice or
is it there to institutionalize (or worse) these persons simply because
we don't like their lifestyle? Whether someone's lifestyle should or
ought to be subsidized by the state is a different issue although, maybe
in special circumstances it ought to. But as far as institutionalize
someone because of their lifestyle than most people on this planet
qualify to be institutionalized.
So once we have a genuine scientific classification of mental disorder,
the next obvious concern would be, is someone with mental disorder a
danger to themselves and to others?
Our perceptions of mental disorders also determine the morality we apply
to the debate. And I am not necessarily thinking about stigma,
discrimination and lack of charity towards people with serious and real
problems. These issues have already been discussed elsewhere including
the references I have used so far.
Indeed our perceptions determine directly or indirectly the very
treatment and therapy those who do have real mental disorders receive.
And our perceptions lead us to demand treatment that deals with the
overt and public behavior of people with mental health issues.
Basically, to put it bluntly, we are generally interested in the mental
health problems of others to the point where they stop bothering us.
This may or may not be a natural attitude, what is important, however,
is that this is more or less what happens in society in general. Very
few people take the time and effort, never mind the resources, to
discover and solve the causes of mental disorders. As long as the
behavior os under control, all is well.
Maybe this is unfair, since sometimes the effects (behavior) are
temporally very far removed from the cause. For example, mental health
problems experienced during adulthood as a consequence of child abuse.
Of course, an answer to child abuse is not necessarily to make treatment
available freely when needed in adulthood. But rather to introduce
policies, such as fair housing, income stability, non discriminatory
attitudes that might minimize, even if not eliminate, a hostile
environment in the home. But that's a tall order, certainly more
involved and complex than a forty minute session with a shrink or the
price for a pill.
Our natural distaste of unsocial behavior leads us to demand a short
term solution instead to addressing the causes of mental disorder and
deal with the problem at source. As I have just said, if behavior is
under control, all is well. I started this essay by saying that the
brain is a complex system and every human being on this earth is in
possession of one. However, up till now we have given the impression
that we used our brain precisely to block any perceptions of the causes
that affect many a troubled brain. Maybe the time has come to broaden
our perception enough to consider all aspects of the workings of the
brain and not just the effects.
Take care

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Perception of
mental diseases in our society.

03 December 2009

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Anarchism, Is it the right system? + Message from Milton

Essay + Message from Milton

Dear friends,

We all know, from last Sunday, that the world does not have to be anarchic to experience disruption. And some people do insist in disrupting the lives of others for no apparent benefit to themselves.

Therefore, as I wrote in my last email, this Sunday we are discussing: Anarchism, Is it the right system? Hope things go smoothly.

------Milton has asked to share this information with you. If you have any queries and need to contact Milton please let me know.

Os adjunto la información del curso en Madrid que impartirá un amigo mío, Peter González Miller y que explico a continuación, Peter es español y vive en los E.U.:

El PSYCH-K® te ayuda a cambiar las creencias subconscientes que te limitan. Crea un estado mental receptivo que reduce tus propias resistencias a hacer cambios a nivel subconsciente. Así se puede acceder a la mente subconsciente de una manera fácil, como si fuera tu ordenador personal para reescribir tu propio software.

El próximo 5 y 6 de diciembre (sábado y domingo de 9:30 a 18:00) tenéis la oportunidad de asistir a un nuevo curso básico de PSYCH-K®.
El Instructor es Peter González Miller que viene desde Austin (Texas) a impartir el curso.

Lugar: Punto de Encuentro, C/ Jaime El Conquistador 22, 28045 Madrid
Inversión: Euro 300 para el taller de 2 días.
Reserva: topeterg@yahoo.com

Información: http://www.transformomivida.com
Video: Peter González explica qué es PSYCH-K:


Take care



+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
-Group photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
-My tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at Moore’s Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).


Anarchism: Is it the right system?

In a way, how we understand a problem determines how we react to solve it. Anarchism, like communism, socialism, capitalism, is a reaction to a very fundamental problem. Some might wish to call this problem income distribution, wealth distribution, and even allocation of scarce resources.

Today we know two things which maybe a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago our ancestors did not know.

The first is that all these isms do not work, and the second is that human beings are none other than biological systems interacting with our environment.

This means that 1) resources are indeed scarce (there are physical limits to how much resources we can access at a give time, try carrying two hundred boxes of chocolates), 2) the more people there are, the more complex the distribution systems of scarce resources have to be (apart from being self-evident, we can test this empirically and calculate the complexity involved in sharing a box of chocolates with one person or with twenty) 3) The more complex the distribution system is the more evolved our epistemic resources have to be (apart from being self-evident reconsider the box of chocolates and the calculations involved in sharing it with twenty people).

But in terms of biology there are two issues that we have to consider a) at the collective level the scope of the biological system is to reproduce, but b)at the individual level the scope is to survive.

It seems that nature, or the biological collective, has sorted out the issue of reproduction because as far as nature is concerned it does not matter who gets to reproduce, what matters is that there is enough critical mass in the population to keep the collective going. However, the same cannot be said about individual survival. So far individual survival seems to be a chaotic and random process.

The state of affairs at the individual level seems to be that if we put an effort in the preparation and distribution of our scarce resources, which we need for our survival, we feel we are owed a fair share of those resources. Thus, a personal effort in bringing resources to the collective (or society if you want) implies a right to a fair share of those resources and a duty on those who distribute those resources to share them fairly with us.

You will notice that I have been using the word fair quite often. This is simply because the more complex our epistemic state is, the more likely we are to understand and use such concepts as: more, less, enough, equal, not enough, less than, more than me, you have, I have, and similar language that implies moral concepts such as fairness and justice . At the biological level there is no such thing as fairness or justice, what matters are two things: have I survived and have I reproduced before I cease to survive. How we get there, nature does not care.

This of course does not mean that at the biological level, systems do not adopt strategies that from our epistemic advantage do seem to be moral and just. After all, morality and justice, when applied correctly, do have the advantage of benefiting all. But morality and justice are very fragile epistemic systems that can easily be high jacked or innocently misapplied.

At the epistemic level, however we do care how we survive and we do expect fairness and justice to be part of our life. However, anarchism is just another epistemic strategy to deal with this issue of distribution of resources and survival.

A quick look at the Wikipedia article on anarchism will give you the impression that anarchism is a hoch poch of ideas that more or less deal with limiting the power of the state over the individual or the individual as a member of a group. Some anarchistic ideas might go so far as to prescribe and describe the rights and maybe duties of the individual and/or the state in the form of government.

However, it is clear that the central theme of anarchism is the opposition to the present model of statehood and its power over the individual. Many solutions do away with the government or the individual or both. But even anarchists recognize the basic biological system of human beings and the need to prepare and share resources. In other words anarchists, like most other “ists”, do not dispute that resources have to be shared, but disagree on how to share those resources.

Of course, what I mean by anarchists recognizing the basic biological system structure of human beings, I do not mean that they go out in the streets with banners and shouting, “we are biological systems”, maybe they ought to. What I mean is that in their ideologies, like everyone else, they make assumptions about human beings, without questioning the philosophical implications of these assumptions. For example, if we are to storm the palace, it is assumed that we can run or walk to the palace, have the energy to open doors and so on. But these are assumptions that we take for granted, but of course we do so either because of philosophical laziness or arrogance. Failure to consider such assumptions could lead to really unintended consequences.

The introduction to Individualist Anarchism in Wikipedia ends this way: Benjamin R. Tucker, a famous 19th century individualist anarchist, held that "if the individual has the right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny." Maybe this quote reflects the gist of individualist anarchism even if some might object that it does not reflect the substance. However, who or what ever is in the seat of government, even the individualist anarchist has to get out of bed in the morning and make his or her breakfast, metaphorically speaking. In other words, even the Individualist anarchist cannot escape the requirements of nature.

But then again what is tyranny? We have a good idea what tyranny was like in the 19th century, but I don’t see how we can arrive from the tyranny of the government to I’m best to govern my life. Some of us cannot even manage a fried egg for breakfast how on Earth are we individually going to manage such things as the defense walls of our utopia against invading organized bureaucrats? This is like saying that because our cars have a mechanical problems, we should give up mechanical transport and start walking to our destinations. Maybe we ought to, but I doubt that we’ll get far.

Social anarchism sees "individual freedom as conceptually connected with social equality and emphasize community and mutual aid." (Wikipedia: Social Anarchism) Individualist anarchism allows private property, but social anarchism, which also includes many shapes and forms of socialism and communism, do not allow for private property. Even still they do not reject the human model I described in my introduction.

Collective anarchism goes a step further, “[it]….is a revolutionary… doctrine that advocates the abolition of the state and private ownership of the means of production, with the means of production instead being owned collectively and controlled and managed by the producers themselves.” In fact a quick look at the cooperative movement in history, which developed independently of anarchism, is indeed a very successful movement both in business and politics.

A more modern business structure is the employee ownership of a company held in trust, for example the John Lewis Partnership in the UK, which owes department stores and Waitrose, is such a system. In this model, the business is owned by the employees, but they do not directly manage the shares of the business, this is done by the trustees. In others words, the employees get the benefits (i.e. profits) of owning the business but cannot sell their share in the business. (see About Us, at the John Lewis Partnership site or Wikipedia: http://www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk/) It seems to me that a lot can be achieved without having to do away with the government, we simply have to do away with the way we consider things. So maybe there is nothing new in extreme anarchism after all.

However, these doctrines look at the world from the de facto situation we find ourselves in, and not from the principle I described in my introduction that the more we are, the more complex the distribution of resources have to be and by a direct causal process our epistemic resources have to be equally more complex. For example, the John Lewis Partnership, requires a rather complex legal structure to survive, certainly more complex than simply taking all the profits for one’s self at the end of the year. And moreover, this Partnership does actually function by considering the needs of all individuals in the business. The issue about the JL Partnership models is whether it can be applied universally.

Private property has always been an issue in politics, and from the snippets I quoted above about social and collective anarchism property is also a central theme in anarchism. The idea behind the rejection of private property is that property should be for the benefit of society or the collective.

Fair enough, but such vague ideas can lead to some ridiculous, if not dangerous, implications. Our blood, our bone marrow, and some of our organs are of great benefit to society, does this mean these biological assets have to be made available to the collective? Should a healthy person be made to donate their blood or their bone marrow just because it can benefit society? Isn’t my blood my own private domain? Some philosophically deficient and incompetent societies, today, go to great lengths to find contexts to exploit individuals of their biological assets. This basically means that the individual in these countries is the property of the sate. (research the subject; hint, Asia)

Taking what there is, is by definition not a sophisticated epistemic resource since this was the strategy used many thousands of years go when the Earth was roamed by a handful of humanoid kind of creatures. Today there are some six billion people on this Earth, and adopting the policy of “just take what you want” is neither fair nor adequate any more. It does not work for the individual nor for the collective.

We therefore know for a fact that neither by reacting against nor by replacing the present centre of power, the power needed to distribute scarce resources by a system that purports to distribute those very same resources more fairly, is also bound to fail. And the answer to this problem is simple: the issue today is not how to distribute resources as was done during the hunting and gathering days, but rather, what resources to make available in the first place. And what to make depends on what the individual needs, first and foremost. Foe example, health care, housing, education, law and order, transport, are some of the resources we need today.

Thus, it is not enough today, not that it was ever enough, to say that the collective ought to own the means of production. What we want to know, and what really matters, is what are we going to do with those means of production, will they be fit for purpose, and how exactly are we going to measure what is a fair distribution of the results of those means for the benefit of those who helped make them? In my opinions these questions do not necessarily lead to models that are incompatible with a market system or differentiation in personal wealth.

To talk about ownership of the means of production, whether owned by the state or even the private investor, is of no consequence to the problem of why we need to change the present system of resource distribution. But this should not come as a surprise since ownership of production by itself does not address our needs. And as I have tried to set out we, as a biological system, have very specific needs.

Maybe the problem ought not to be seen as should the state have the power over us or over our scare resources or even our means of production. But rather the question we ought to be asking ourselves is this: how much power does the state require to bring about the resources we need?

Moving from addressing the means of production to addressing the needs of the individual, the issue of ownership becomes rather irrelevant compared to the issue of what are our needs. Take for example the matter of organ transplantation. The model today is to harvest organs from donors after their demise. There is even a growing industry of harvesting organs from exploited people, unfortunate people, poor people and certainly people who are not street wise when it comes to certain unscrupulous organizations.

But by harvesting organs (of dead people), in other words by relying on the old, very old, model of the hunter gathers, we have channeled most of our resources in this medicine and technology and not in a technology that can replace our key organs without having to resort to the benevolence of dead people. To put it in another way, why can we buy a 100 euro television set but not a lung or a heart at an equally reasonably price?

The issue is not that it is much easier to make a t.v. set than to find a replacement for a heart or a lung; although it might probably be the case. But rather, we have put more resources in making t.v. sets available at a cheap price, maybe even at the detriment of finding a heart replacement.

And how does ignoring the government, or maybe forcefully removing the government, help the poor peasant in some God forsaken country in Asia whose only choice is by much to be exploited by the organ harvesters? Harvesters who, I repeat, are only there because we are more focused on the means of production and not the needs of the individual.

Of course, I’m not saying that we should only focus on our biological needs, and forget our wishes, desires, whims and impulsive acquisitions. On the contrary, all experiments in social manipulation based on the theoretical collective failed to satisfy both needs and wants. However, whatever the ism we happen to be practicing a healthy dose of efficiency in running our means of production could release more resources to invest in both our needs and wants at the same time.

For example we know that automobiles use fissile fuels very inefficiently. Any major savings in this area could release enough resources to other worthy causes. The problem today is not that we are consuming more, but that we are consuming more things that are inefficiently produced and function inefficiently.

And although there is always some redundancy in a system, whether it’s an open biological system or a man made system inefficiency goes beyond the necessary redundancy. Consider this mental experiment; let’s say we want some chocolates. We can buy a box with eight chocolates in it, twelve or a whopping 36 chocolates. An example of redundancy would be buying the twelve chocolate box and you eat only ten; an inefficient purchase would be buying the 36 chocolate box and only eating twelve of them. Maybe this is a bad example because someone who is prepared to throw away twenty four pieces of chocolates need their head examined. But you get the point.

In fact many ideologies do not address this point of efficiency. For example all this cheap but useless stuff coming mainly from the orient today, no doubt tomorrow it will be another region, is an example of inefficiency. What’s the point buying a very cheap shirt for three Euros if it comes apart as soon as one puts it on? Of course, inefficiency is not only the domain of the Orient, European and American governments are masters in this practice: defense research that comes to nothing, event halls that cost millions that are not fit for purpose, mountains of wasted food, and so on.

Although I am very critical of anarchism we have to agree that this set of ideologies has highlighted in a forceful way the importance of the individual, the excesses of state power and even the need to cooperate. Of course, their methodology might not always be the best possible option or even an option in the first place.

Let me conclude with an example of what I mean. Take the ultimate expression of individualist anarchism, free love which is a “…….sexual freedom as a clear, direct expression of an individual's self-ownership.” (Wikipedia) Even if for the time being we do not consider the issue of how to get a prospective lover to say yes, something which the anarchists have failed miserably, why is it that today we do live in a world were free love is practically du jour?

It certainly did not come from ignoring the state or religion, although there was some of that, and certainly not from nationalizing the contraceptive industry. Free love is possible today because it was finally recognized that sexual matters were private and affected both men and women, and secondly by having the intellectual ability (epistemic resources) to create contraceptives and antiviral drugs.

Of course, we’ve known all this for quite some time now, but evolution is slow and cumbersome at the best of times, even if it is the only option we have. After all it was some two thousand years ago that Jesus Christ, in his usual succinct and clear way, thought us the principle, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Wikipedia) But it is only now that we can openly talk about separating the state from religion.

Maybe it is about time that we started to think of the principle, “Render unto the Individual the things which are the Individual’s, and unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

Take care


from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Anarchism, Is it the right system? + Message from Milton