Wednesday, 11 April 2018

An Anti-Temporal Account of Knowledge

An Anti-Temporal Account of Knowledge

Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal, for the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever (Watts, 1955)

Edmund Gettier brings up a fantastic point in regards to philosophy’s traditional account of knowledge. The traditional account states that to have knowledge one must possess true, justified belief. Gettier provides a selection of examples of true, justified belief, and thereafter demonstrates how such standards can actually result in beliefs which are incorrect to hold, and thus could not be considered knowledge, even though they seem to have met the criteria specified. This paper shall briefly examine the ‘Gettier Problems’, and also a particular response made by John Greco, before finally settling the matter with a fresh proposition concerning the backwards temporal-qualities of the Gettier issue, and moreso in epistemics at-large.

Gettier and Greco: the Everpresent Debate

When thinking about knowledge in the traditional sense, consider that if I awake tomorrow morning and observe that my phone tells me it is -35C in my area, I look out my window and see what I believe to be snow falling all around, and there is a strong whistling much like the sound of wind coming from the general direction of my yard, then I will form the belief that it is cold outdoors today. This is knowledge, because it is true, and I am justified in believing it to be true based upon the evidence I have acquired. But then consider for a moment, that I actually step outside and it is hot and humid. And through investigating this curiosity I determine that my phone thermometer had not been recently refreshed, the wind was actually a chinook which had come in overnight, and what I thought to be snow was actually just tiny pieces of iced cream that happened to still be descending from a recent iced cream truck explosion nearby. And as the iced cream rain descends upon my skin I come to be chilled to the bone and thus it does seem to be cold outside. This is the issue Gettier brings up: it is possible that one may hold a true, justified belief about something that is not necessarily true. One of Gettier’s examples involves two men applying for a job; one man is told by the owner that the other will get the job and thus the man forms a belief that the man with ten coins in his pocket will get the job (he happens to have awareness of the contents of the other man’s pocket). Lo-and-behold, the first man actually gets the job, and when he looks in his own pocket he too has ten coins of which he was formerly unaware of: true, justified belief, yielding non-knowledge (Gettier, 1963). This is how Gettier came to the conclusion that there must be something more, than justification and truthness, to an accurate account of knowledge.

Forty years later, John Greco takes a stab at adjusting for the Gettier Problem in our account of epistemics. Primarily Greco makes a definitional distinction between (a) belief arrived at by luck, and (b) belief arrived at by the exercise of cognitive faculties. For Greco, the process of justification itself is in need of justification, and it can only be justified when it is applied correctly, meaning that the agent, motivated by a desire for truth, exercised cognitive faculties in such a way as to provide an accurate reference of the truth claim itself. Gettier cases, argues Greco, while being beliefs formed by cognitive processes, are yet come upon primarily by luck (Greco, 2002). For example, a man is driving through rural Alberta and he sees a white quadrupedal thing with horns standing upon a hillock - the man forms a belief that there is a goat in the field. As it turns out, what the man saw was a ram. Out of sight behind the hillock, however, was a goat standing there also. In this Gettier problem it is easier to see what Greco is getting at, in suggesting that the man reasoned rationally, but his true knowledge was not justified explicitly by the process of his reasoning, and rather was justified by a simple stroke of luck.

Confutations of Yesterday

While there is certainly something curious going on in Gettier cases, and while Greco does a commendable attempt to solve the riddle, I find myself dissatisfied with his conclusion. My initial response appears to be that, in suggesting the agent may not ‘luck out’ in achieving knowledge, one must presuppose the existence of a quantifier such as luck. And in a world where a thing such as Luck holds a presupposed existence it seems not to follow that we would find ourselves so far down the rabbit-hole of specificities and internal necessitations as to arrive at our Gettier problem in the first place; although I will be the first to admit that such a counter-argument is a weak logical rebuttal. As I examine my thoughts more closely I am consumed by the idea that there could be a world in which luck does not factor, and yet in which the goat example above holds as knowledge. It is possible that the man believed the ram was a goat, quite simply because there was a goat in the field, and had there not been then the man certainly would not have mistaken the ram to be such a thing. I am, in fact, suggesting that the goat’s presence in the field opened up a possible-world in which a passerby could potentially mistake the ram for a goat.

Conceptions of Tomorrow

Sit back for just a moment and try to imagine: a world in which all true knowledge is justified, and in which all true, justified knowledge simply stops at that. There is no need to justify the justifications, and no need to verify the truths. In meditating on the many profound problems of epistemics, such as regression and Gettier cases, I find the mountain of difficulty to be purely insurmountable - for we seem to wind up going in circles with our reasoning: each justification needs itself to be further justified, and even if we pretend we can arrest the regression by some unlikely scenario such as foundationalism or externalism, then so too must we now worry about the Gettier Problem in our accounts of the arresting beliefs themselves. Whenever a problem becomes so insurmountable, I like to step back from seeking a solution to the problem, and instead examine the problem itself. My fiancée showed me a puzzle once which referred to itself as the world’s most difficult puzzle. It was a thousand pieces and the image was of dozens of nearly identical cupcakes. The box also mentioned that, on the back of the puzzle was printed an identical picture, only the whole image was rotated by 90 degrees. I imagined doing that puzzle and thought “Woah! How would I begin to figure out which face of the puzzle I was even working with, let alone put it together?” And so it is that I have begun to think of knowledge and justification. Perhaps we have the correct issue in mind, yet are trying to solve the wrong face of the puzzle. Could it be that the solution to the problems of knowledge are hidden within a problem which we are yet ignorant of? I believe that, by looking to the past for answers, we find ourselves in a stranglehold of feedback loops and unsolvable problems. I believe that to relieve ourselves of this self-inflicted disability we must turn our minds by 90 degrees and by 90 again. We must look to the future for the answers to our dilemmas.

The issues at hand simply melt away under this newly proposed lens. In the case of regression, my belief in the frigid outside temperature is justified by my eventual experience of a cold outdoor environment. At this point the experience of the cold outdoor environment may not have justification requested of it, for it is yet to occur, and is therefore non-existent; and justification may not be requested of non-existent things. In the Gettier Cases, the first man’s belief in a man with ten coins getting the job is justified by the getting of the job by a man with ten coins in his possession. So too with the man who thought he saw a goat: his belief in the presence of the goat is justified by there being a goat in the field. This occurrence is a little trickier because the goat did not wander into the field in the future, and thus was there presently as the man held the belief, but in this case it is to suggest that, should the man have chosen to spend his future examining the contents of the field then, in fact he would have found a goat there. And so too is my writing this paper justified by your reading it; and your reading it is justified by the thoughts it will cause you to have. Also is my birth justified by my life, and my life by my death, and my death by my decay. The difference in such progressions forward, as compared to progressions back, is that we can stop the regress at any point in the future and it does not cause a problem because we are referring to non-existent events, and non-existent events may have no justification required of them.

One is likely to raise the concern that, if non-existent events can have no justification required of them, then how is it that they may confer justification? To this I will respond that, technically, they do not confer justification before they are existent. They begin to confer justification for preceding events just as they phase into presence (and existence), and as existing things they now require justification. But just as they come to require justification they are replaced by that which justifies them and they themselves move into the past. The entire world of epistemic, and even metaphysical, realities are consistently being at once justified and relieved of the need to be justified. The whole world is justified, and most precariously perched, upon the temporal border between future and presence, amidst the ever-present denudement of the mysteries of tomorrow; placed perfectly out of human reach on the fringe of the untold moment.


Gettier, Edmund. (1963). Is Justified True Belief Knowledge? In L.P. Pojman. (2005). The Theory of Knowledge: Classical and Contemporary Readings (3rd ed., pp. 125 - 127). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Greco, John. (2002). Virtues in Epistemology. In L.P. Pojman. (2005). The Theory of Knowledge: Classical and Contemporary Readings (3rd ed., pp. 348 - 363). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Watts, Alan. (1955). Become What You Are. Shambhala Publications: Boulder, Colorado.

The Black Garden

The Black Garden

The politico-philosophical debate has been waxing and refining itself for so long that it comes as a slight surprise to find such corrupt and fallacious societies presently in place. The discourse has been moving in a liberal direction for hundreds of years now: human rights, social support systems, and the competitive capitalist market all vouching for a society in which each voice has a say and each say deserves to be heard. Perhaps though, we are moving in the wrong direction? Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau each have unique conceptions of the utopian society, and herein I would like to propose a conception which will take into account all three primary ideas: authority of the sovereign, ownership through toil, and sacrifice for the general will. I will take a moment to reiterate each of these philosophers’ points before coming back around to tie them all together in this ‘new utopia’. It is my opinion that the state of nature, rather than some abstract and archaic past-state, is actually something we still experience today --and likely we will never progress away from-- The state of nature, rather, is the nature of the human construct as it is expressed and manifested within and throughout the construction of the social. For this reason I do not find the theorists’ solutions to the state of nature to be fitting, as they are too weak and passive. I will propose a stronger and more active solution to the augmented issue which I suggest: the ever present state of nature. It is the purpose of this paper to argue that the state of nature is something which is not properly addressed by the liberalist agenda, and if we are to arrest the degeneration of society --per viam the state of nature-- then we must allow for a much stronger conception of the political.

Hobbes’ Leviathan

Hobbes’ argument is that man struggles within the state of nature due to the appetites and desires of himself and all other men. The aims of the ‘free’ man are “a perpetuall and restlesse desire of Power after power, that ceaseth onely in Death” (Hobbes, 1651, p. 161) which must be arrested by the Leviathan in order to manifest any sort of long term, functional society.

Thus, as a means of harnessing the countless array of individual desires for power, the Many must submit themselves to the One (Hobbes, 1651, p. 227) - that their conflicting aspirations for control, direction, and authority be filtered, and driven in a single direction; and to be channeled with the force of unity - for division yields a result which increasingly approaches nill, and yet multiplication does the opposite, so we must band these aspirations together and multiply them; and we do so through submission to the sovereign who will harness the power of our wills and direct the cumulation forth into the world of possibility.

Locke’s Ownership

Locke disagrees with many of Hobbes’ fundamental assumptions, such as the need for a Leviathan, and also the conception of the state of nature. Locke’s state of nature is much more harmonious in that he believes we are all equal before God and therefore no One man has the right to rule for the Many. But it is his beliefs regarding ownership and possession, of which we are currently concerned, for Locke claims that God has placed within man the property of labour, and that man may wield his labour as a means of taking ownership of that which is natural (Locke, 1690, p. 19) - “[h]is labour hath taken it out of the hands of nature, where it was common, and belonged equally to all her children, and hath thereby appropriated it to himself” (Locke, 1690, p. 20). But this process is not without its limitations, for “[n]othing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy” (Locke, 1690, p. 20) and thus no man may possess any more than he is capable of utilizing.

This is an intriguing conception due to the nature of social resources, which any political contract is concerned with moreso than even the physical resources of the time and place. It is intriguing because social resources do not spoil, and furthermore they may be effectively wielded, or made-use-of, in dizzying calibers. For a leader may speak unto a people and move the whole body to a certain work or another. The whole body then, regardless of size, is capable of being made-use-of by this leader - and, thereby his labour, he has --in a sense-- taken ownership of this body of people; for it is through his leadership that he possesses them, and it by his leadership that they are possessed.

The Will of Rousseau

Rousseau, in turn, disagrees with his predecessors mentioned above. He claims that they have started in the proper place, yet in such a way as is improper. The state of nature, Rousseau corrects, is not a state of existence in which one may accurately portray the presence of injustice, or the right to property, or even the authority of the strong - for justice, rights, and authority are all conceptions of the socialized man, and thus the world of the savage may not be attributed such characteristics (Rousseau, 1913, p. 50). The only truth we have access to from the state of nature is the inequality of nature itself (Rousseau, 1913, p. 49) and perhaps that is even going a step too far, as nature is perfectly imperfect and thus to ascribe a notion of equality to it is, again, an extension too far.

The natural society, claims Rousseau, is the family unit (Rousseau, 1913, p. 181) - and it is from this model upon which he builds his theory. Children are born into the family as free and equal individuals, and yet they give away this liberty and equality in exchange for protection and guidance from the leader, their father (Rousseau, 1913, p. 182). This model then scales itself as men come forth from the state of nature, for they encounter resistance against their efforts to subsist and propagate as a species, and it is at this time that men must alienate their equality and freedoms to overcome the resistance to their self-preservation and thus prosper. This ‘authority’ to which they submit, and which in turn harnesses and directs their cumulative powers as one, is known as the General Will, and the goodness and satisfaction of this General Will takes precedence over each individual’s Particular Will (Rousseau, 1913, pp. 190 - 195).

A Revised Conception

Throughout my experience with this world, and in the context of my musings and meditations on the nature of statelessness, I have come to believe that the state of nature is not some abstract philosophical construction of a time before time, but rather that it relates literally to the sociological environment, which is unique for each individual, and which is ever present as an often latent, although more often not, potentiality for motion or stillness, for drive or lethargy, for action or inaction --and we encounter support for such a claim in Hobbes (1651, p. 87)-- Therefore we are, in the same breath, at risk and at liberty to pursue our individual desires. Should one desire to lay motionless in a puddle of one’s own filth, then one is at liberty to do so; and yet should one choose to do so then that one puts all the rest at risk of coming to be motionless as well - for just as a large rock in a river will pile up other rocks behind its stagnant counter-force, so too shall people-at-rest bring people-in-motion to rest beside them!

I believe that all three, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, were each onto some very fundamental concepts with the work they were doing. I believe they each saw the same issues, and perhaps even each the same solution, and yet while arriving at three distinct conclusions they each missed the mark. They missed the mark because their views were tainted by humanism; they each afforded the individual such rights and liberties as the individual had not yet earned!

Looking at our society today, in which everyone gets a say and if anyone says something that disagrees with what someone else thinks about the world then the former must apologize to the latter and hug and make up and swear to not say such things again. We, as a society, are sinking a tremendous amount of resources into making sure everyone is happy and unoffended and feels like a whole person. To be clear, I am not against people being whole and happy, but what I am against is the social engine grinding to a halt for people who do not even respect the social engine in return. I believe that people must take ownership of their lives and the lives of all around them through toil! They must work, and learn, and experience, and fail, and keep getting back up! They must demonstrate that they are not a parasite of social concern, before society should be willing to bend to their whims.

The true power of humanity is not in the individual, but in the collective. We must find a way to harness the billions of conflicting desires and channel that power in a single direction! If we could manage to do this, then nothing would be out of reach - 100% green energy production and consumption, colonization of the solar system, interstellar travel, genetically-activated immortality - these things would all be rising on the horizon. The thing that holds us back from these aims is the natural inclination of humankind to conserve energy and focus entirely on the self. This is an understandable inclination when looking back on evolutionary needs, although in the modern world it has ceased to serve us. Now it only leads to people too lazy to properly feed themselves, growing too obese to hold up their own weight (Mitchell et al., 2011); people too driven by ego to properly steward their money, drowning amidst worlds of self-imposed debt, and too selfish to care (Cohen, 2009, pp. 413 - 415). These people are living in society and taking up societal resources at the expense of the few who do live virtuously, with compassion, selflessness, and a strong work ethic. People do not need more freedom, they need less - less freedom to lead deadly lifestyles, less freedom to overspend their unborn children into debt, less freedom to take all while giving nothing in return.

In truth, people are born equal, for they each have the opportunity to overcome all odds and restrictions imposed on them and burst forth in a bright ray of light to make a difference in the world, and to help others do the same. The issue is that, when given a choice between taking action and not taking action, the vast majority of people will choose not to act (and not to overcome). The most well-known example to such a claim is the wealth gap - 10% of the world’s inhabitants control 85% of its wealth (Davies et al., 2010, p. 227). That’s not because anyone is hoarding money, or keeping others from making it; it is because the 90% do not have the drive to do what it takes to become successful and significant --as is espoused by the skyrocketing epidemics of obesity and indebtedness-- and this makes the wealth gap a self-justifying inequality.

The Black Garden

The inequalities of the world are not right or wrong, they just are. It is improper to suggest that the present inequalities are an ethical concern. What does become an ethical concern is how we move forward - because that is the only thing that we really have a semblance of control over, and the potential for action is a necessitation of ethicism.

It is not the fault of the weak and meager that they are in such a way, and yet it is to the credit of the strong and significant that they are in such a way. For the weak may become strong, and the meager may become significant, but to do so they must be led - we need for the mighty to take responsibility for the meek! We need for those whom have taken ownership of their lives through the service of toil, to now take ownership of all other lives. And of the leaders, one must lead another in much the same way, for some leaders will be stronger and know more than other leaders, and in this way the leaders shall assimilate into a linear hierarchy with a single Supreme Leader at the top. It is necessary that the hierarchy be linear, and it is also necessary that there be but a single Supreme Leader, because it is in this way that one shall be accountable to the other, and that other to another, and that there be a precise and distinguishable Ultimate Causer - for it is in this way that we shall avoid the bureaucratic loopholes and passings-of-responsibilities that make democracy so truly detestable. It will be the responsibility of the Supreme Leader to take the council of the hierarchy of leaders, while avoiding the council of the meager, and come to a single decision regarding the most effective way to wield this massive hive-of-force what is the human collective. Whether that be reconstructing the industries of the Earth, or even pushing out into the final frontier to colonize nearby star systems. It is imperative that this sovereign, who will have come to be through the toil of his/her labours, interpret the received council and move forward in such a way as is in accordance with the principle of the General Will.

To Critique and Condemn

It will only be natural that my theory come under harsh criticisms from the Liberal Imperative and be accused of such things as ‘drastic’, ‘meritocratic’, ‘autocratic’, and to these terms I say Aye! It is foolish to think that each human can continue to lead itself in its own direction and we will all wind up in some happy, clappy, better-off utopia. History is not assembled from the leftover pieces of Particular Will - it is forged in the hellfires of conquest and direction! The truth will set you free, but even in our current societies we indoctrinate people to have no interest in the truth, and thus they will never be free regardless of their political system. It is more important to them that they be able to conquer imagined worlds from the safety of their computer desks, and that they be able to order-in pizzas and prostitutes without vacating their droll lives of seclusion and disharmony, wrapped amidst their fluffy blankets and sprawled across their couch.

Autocracy is only a pejorative because it has been wielded so irresponsibly by rulers of the past, who have been so blinded by their power that they sunk back into meagerness from their precipice of importance. I suggest neither some flimsy hierarchy of leaders, nor some corruptible Ultimate Causer - what I speak of is a strong, firm, established, and benevolent chain of men and women who possess the foresight to take humanity to heights it has never before dreamed possible, true leaders with brilliant morals and determination. For leadership is doing what is right for the masses, and not what the masses think is right (P. Brodeur, Personal Communication, March 6, 2018).


Cohen, M. J. (2005). Sustainable consumption American style: Nutrition education, active living and financial literacy. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 12(4), 407-418. doi:10.1080/13504500509469650

Davies, J. B., Sandström, S., Shorrocks, A., & Wolff, E. N. (2010). The Level and Distribution of Global Household Wealth*. The Economic Journal, 121(551), 223-254. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0297.2010.02391.x

Hobbes, Thomas. (1651). Leviathan. Strand, LN: Penguin Books.

Locke, John. (1690). Second Treatise of Government. C.B. Macpherson (Ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company Inc.

Mitchell, N. S., Catenacci, V. A., Wyatt, H. R., & Hill, J. O. (2011). Obesity: Overview of an Epidemic. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 34(4), 717-732. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2011.08.005

Rousseau, Jean Jacques. (1913). The Social Contract and Discourses. North Clarendon, VT: Orion Publishing Group.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Thinking for a Change

Thinking for a Change

Bonjour critiques the three foundationalist conceptions of epistemic regressive termination. He is quite effective at describing what is not the truth and why it is that such is not. However, he lacks effect in telling us what is the truth. In this article I will reiterate Bonjour’s arguments against the regression-solves of the three foundationalisms, and thereafter I will provide an alternative solution to this wicked epistemic crux. The three foundationalisms discussed are: Strong Foundationalism, Weak Foundationalism, and Externalism.

Regression and Foundationalism

When we speak of Knowledge, it is commonly thought that we are speaking of i) justified, ii) true, iii) belief. These attributes hinge on one another nicely, for belief is supported as belief by being true, and true belief is supported as true belief by being justified. But here is where philosophers feel the need to do such-as-they-do and apply the sequence-in-question to itself. In other words, they then ask ‘What is it that supports justified true belief as justified true belief?’. The common thought is that justification is itself based on auxiliary beliefs, and that those beliefs then require justification, which themselves require justification, and so on ad infinitum. So how do we stop this regression? There are believed to be four ways to deal with the regress: i) the regress terminates in a belief for which justification is simply unavailable, ii) the regress is unsolvable and thus continues ad infinitum, iii) the regress is circular, meaning that it terminates by justifying one belief with a belief previously justified in the sequence, iv) it terminates in a belief for which no justification is required (Bonjour, 1978). Vis-a-vis solution four, foundationalists believe that there are certain ‘foundational’ beliefs which justify themselves, and thus require no outside justification; this is known as the strong camp, or the ‘classic’ camp. These foundationalists believe that there are ‘basic beliefs’ which are “uniquely able to provide secure starting-points for the justification of empirical knowledge and stopping-points for the regress of justification” (Bonjour, 1978).

Weak foundationalism is next up to bat, and it is the argument of weak foundationalists that beliefs are not strong enough to stand alone, however there are still beliefs which possess certain --weaker-- self-justificatory attributes, and it is when many of these weak beliefs come together that they form a stronger, whole foundational claim - “[b]y combining such beliefs into larger and larger coherent systems, it is held, their initial, minimal degree of warrant can gradually be enhanced until knowledge is finally achieved” (Bonjour, 1978).

Bonjour is entirely unconvinced by these foundationalist arguments. He claims that the very concept of having a belief which is self-justifying (in either the strong or the weak sense) is inherently contradictory. For it is the nature of a belief in the traditional account to require independent justification, so any belief which requires no independent justification is therefore not true, and therefore not a belief, and thus is incapable of conferring justification on some other belief; for the concept of an unmoved mover is no more rational in epistemics than it is in theology (Bonjour, 1978).

The further move of the foundationalist is to escape from the sticky web of subjective inference, and go outside of the self. This concept is known as Externalism, and it makes the claim that the regression terminates in a belief which is justified by a source of knowledge from the world outside of the mind. For example, my belief that I am observing a white table is justified by the fact that there is a white table which I am observing - from the mind to the world we have now come, and it would be ridiculous to request further justification because there being a white table is not a belief, it is an observable fact, and therefore exempt from such justificatory requests. Bonjour, while seeming to enjoy this option more than the others, is still dubious of its authority over the regress. He brings up the concern that this seems like an ad hoc escape from under the thumb of the problem of regression, meaning that: the whole issue with regression is precisely the fact that it is internal. I find Bonjour’s proposition of the ad hoc-ness of the externalist account to be weak - I believe it to be a perfectly reasonable solve, to claim that: ‘listen, this problem is so insurmountable because you are fundamentally misunderstanding the scope of possible solutions; and when this wider scope is taken into account the problem actually becomes much less of a problem and more of an honourable mention’. Although I can see how such a solution would cause distress to anyone who has spent months or years attempting to solve this problem, only to be told ‘you misread the question’.

Another move of the externalist is one of ‘givenism’, and givenism rides the fence between the subjective and objective: positing that there exist certain ‘semi-cognitive’ states which are capable of justifying other beliefs without the need to be justified themselves (this sounds strangely familiar?). In describing givenism, Bonjour says that “[a given is when] mind or consciousness is directly confronted with its object . . . It is in this sense that the object is given to the mind” (Bonjour, 1978). In any case Bonjour remains unconvinced and suggests that, for givenism to be practical, the process of which the mind obtains objects would need, necessarily, to be infallible; which is plainly not the case - for I often see a face on the train of a person who it is not, and I often hear the voice of my mother calling me home when engaged in an unpleasant conversation.

Bonjour concludes that foundationalism “appears to be doomed by its own internal momentum” (Bonjour, 1978), and thus we may find ourselves right back where we started concerning the regressive epistemic crux. He does not leave us entirely high-and-dry though, for there is always skepticism. He also alludes to coherentism as a possible solution, while yet not suggesting that he is indeed claiming such - for “arguments by elimination are dangerous at best” (Bonjour, 1978).

Further Considerations

As I have digested the argumentation of Bonjour I have begun to formulate my own opinion of the solution to regress. It is not a foundationalist claim, and although I fail to pinpoint its precise location in the epistemic lexicon, I certainly sense elements of coherentism, contextualism, reliabilism, and even skepticism within it.

I find that the problem with knowledge is that we (humans) are the creators of the concept of knowledge, and are also the source-points of thought. Therefore we are attempting to determine objective facts about a subjective experience, and we are doing so by standing in the subjective and casting our gazes-of-longing out towards the unknown objective, and as they say - a fish cannot tell that it is in water. So how can we know the world for what it is, by means of that which creates it? The answer, I believe, is to step outside of it. God, for example, could be capable of observing human knowledge because God is from without that which it examines. But God would not be able to observe God knowledge because God exists within its own set, and therefore only Super-God would be able to observe God knowledge, yet even Super-God would not have access to Super-God knowledge. You likely recognize this pattern of problems - it is a regress, albeit an inter-being regress rather than an intra-being regress.

While this inter-being problem is the same, and just as impossible to solve, it does in fact provide an interesting potential solution to the intra-being problem. If we, as humans, were able to step outside of ourselves, then we could look back in and know knowledge! This, similarly too, may sound familiar (and familiarly problematic) because it is another solve vis-a-vis the unmoved mover, or the self-justifying justifier, or the unjustified justifier (depending on your perspective). And here we find our solutions, in precisely the last place anyone would look to find them: within the problem itself. The solution to epistemic regression is to step outside of the self without stepping outside of the self; to justify the unjustified without the use of justification.

I can demonstrate this paradoxical conception by reference to the evolution of astronomical theory. Let us examine the progression from Ptolemaic astronomy to Copernican astronomy, or more plainly: the evolution from the geocentric Universe to the heliocentric Universe. When Ptolemy posited that the Earth remained stationary at the center of the Universe and the heavenly bodies traveled in perfect paths of uniformity around the Earth his model was extremely useful for understanding, and accurate for predicting, many things about the cosmos and the world in general - but Ptolemy did not have knowledge. Then Nicolaus Copernicus comes along and develops a theory that the Sun is in the middle and the planets move around it! This theory also explained much about the Universe and had strong predictive capability. This is where it is going to get a bit weird for you linear-rationalists out there: Copernicus does not have knowledge of Copernican astronomy, but he does have knowledge of Ptolemaic astronomy! He is able to justify his knowledge of Ptolemy’s suppositions by reference to his own suppositions and their subsequent alignment or misalignment. In the scientific lexicon, the separation between Ptolemaic and Copernican astronomy (and other ‘sets’ of the like) is known as differing paradigms. Copernicus is able to observe Ptolemy’s paradigm from without, because he is within his own paradigm and this affords him an objective view of the past which is based upon, and justified by, his subjective view of the present.

The criticism will certainly surface that Copernicus cannot justify his knowledge of Ptolemy unless he is able to justify his knowledge of himself (which I have said he cannot). But to claim such is to misunderstand my argument - for Copernicus has no need to justify his knowledge of himself precisely because Ptolemy had no need to justify his knowledge of himself! As history will support: the Copernican theory of the motions of the heavenly bodies was certainly not the last development in astronomy. For after Copernicus come Galileo and Keplar, and thereafter Newton, and thereafter Einstein, and thereafter Hubble - each one, in turn, justifying the previous and further justifying all those before (justification by means of confirmation, or disconfirmation). Today, 1.86 millennia after Ptolemy, there are still elements of his theory that hold true - for example, the supposition that there are celestial bodies outside of the Earth and they move around: this statement can be claimed as strong knowledge for it is many justificatory iterations deep and yet still holds to be the apparent case.

One interesting development of this particular way of looking at knowledge is that one may never possess knowledge in the present, for one remains locked within one’s own paradigm. This is not to say that one must come to death before others may know whether or not one’s knowledge held merit, but rather to suggest that it is impossible to come into a belief and at the same moment possess that belief as knowledge. In the immortal words of Mario the Astrophysicist: “it is a temporal issue - wherein true, justified belief holds up over time” (Mario, In-Class Discussion, 2018).


Bonjour, Laurence. (1978). A Critique of Foundationalism. In L.P. Pojman. (2005). The Theory of Knowledge: Classical and Contemporary Readings (3rd ed., pp. 182 - 193). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

The Will[iam James] to Believe

The Will[iam James] to Believe

William James seems to set out upon a quest to critique W.K Clifford’s The Ethics of Belief in his own article The Will to Believe. James’ line of argumentation came across to me as disreputable based on the tone of the criticism, and also the apparent complexity of his premises.

In regards to the first point, I found that James came across as more of a character assassin than a critical philosopher. For he uses such vocabulary as “[d]oes it not seem preposterous on the very face of it to talk of our opinions being modifiable at will” (James, 520, emphasis added), and also referring to Pascal’s Wager as an attempt to “force us into Christianity” (James, 520, emphasis added) going on to reference the same argument as a “last desperate snatch at a weapon against the hardness of the unbelieving heart” (James, 520, emphasis added). Perhaps it was nothing more than such linguistic-choices which caused such repulsion at James’ later reference to Clifford as an “enfant terrible” or a ‘terrible baby’ (James, 521).

As I sat with this repulsion I set out to look past the emotions and seek James’ authentic argument; I was disheartened to find that this too I found fault with. James makes several binary classifications to setup his counterargument. The first is a Genuine versus Ingenuine option, of which he is only concerned with genuinity. Genuinity is then classified based on a tripartite binary distinction of its sub-attributes: Living versus Dead, Forced versus Avoidable, and Momentous versus Trivial. For the purposes of this paper I shall assume the reader is familiar with the particulars of each classification. The issues I find with these classifications are two-fold. The first is the complexity of the setup: for I am well aware that, given enough assumptions, one may derive any valid conclusion. Secondly, I find the distinctions themselves to be homogeneous. James allows that, to avoid the option of ‘believe this theory or don’t’, that I may choose to withhold judgement; but in the same breathe James manages to deny the possibility to withhold judgement from such an option as to ‘go with this truth or without it’. It seems perfectly reasonable to presume that I may entirely avoid the option of taking or rejecting the truth by simply walking away and forgetting I encountered such an option. The momentousness is similarly problematic, in that the true distinction between momentous and trivial seems to be complete bafflegab that could be twisted any-which-way to suit oneself. As I mentioned, the only option one need be concerned with is genuinity, and genuinity is defined by being forced, living, and momentous.

Chaos in The Deep

But allow me to suspend my disbelief and examine a later section of James argument which seems to hold some sound conclusions regarding the nature of belief. This is the argument for religion. James claims that religion says two things:
  1. “the best things are the more eternal things” (James, 524), and
  2. “we are better off, even now, if we believe the first affirmation to be true” (James, 524)
These two arguments land with me as a sort of mashup-flavour of Aquinas’ ontological argument for the existence of God, and Pascal’s wager -thus combining to create an argument that God exists and also that one ought to acknowledge that God does so exist- This is the beginning of the softening of James’ unbelieving heart towards the Pascalian position which he so quickly dismissed earlier on in the paper.

There are a few passages which follow this initial trailbreak, the sensibility of which particularly appealed to me:

We feel, too, as if the appeal of religion to us were made to our own active goodwill, as if evidence might be forever withheld from us unless we met the hypotheses halfway to take a trivial illustration: just as a man who in a company of gentlemen made no advances, asked a warrant for every concession, and believed no one’s word without proof, would cut himself off by such churlishness from all the social rewards that a more trusting spirit would earn - so here, one who should shut himself up in snarling logicality and try to make the gods extort his recognition willy-nilly, or not get it at all might cut himself off forever from his only opportunity of making the gods’ acquaintance (James, 525)

the essence of this passage seems to be: by seeking rationality for our faith, we disallow ourselves the experience of faith itself. Later down the same page James claims that “a rule of thinking which would absolutely prevent me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth if those truths were really there, would be an irrational rule” (James, 525). Which makes sense, especially in the light of the previously referenced passage. There seems, within this toiling narrative, to be an underlying taste of the thought that religious believers tend to commit a fallacy of thought by assuming that there is no possible other alternative than their particular religious narrative; but so too do non-believers commit this fallacy by assuming absolute certainty of the religious-foil.

James proceeds to conclude in an epic fashion, saying:

if we believe that no bell in us tolls to let us know for certain when truth is in our grasp, then it seems a piece of idle fantasticality to preach so solemnly our duty of waiting for the bell . . . We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist, through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? ‘Be strong and of good courage.’ Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes . . . If death ends all, we cannot meet death better (James, 526)

which serves to express the ultimate epistemic truth: ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’. Metaphysically speaking, everything is uncertain; even the uncertainty itself is uncertain. Methodologically speaking, however, we can only play with the toys we are given and thus the only position that actually does anything for us is the pragmatic position: believe whatever works best to solve the puzzle(s) of your own personal reality, and if those beliefs cease to serve you, then you ought to cease serving them, and progress to a more functional understanding of the mist you are obscured within.

I am now thoroughly satisfied with my choice of reading. I came in with the belief that James was an ignorant and unskilled critic, and I set out in this paper to break him down and expose his faults to the world. In my exercises to better understand the depth of his argument, however, I came to see him for what (I now believe) he is truly saying, and it is a position with which I firmly identify. Perhaps this was his plan from the get-go, to antagonize the reader into grasping his position. Or, perhaps more likely, is the possibility that the God of my own understanding is that which antagonized me into choosing this analysis, as a means of demonstrating to me that to claim objectivity in the frigidity of the unseen and unseeing tempests of metaphysical reality will be certain only in dashing me to pieces upon the rigid crevasses of the valley below.


James, William. “The Will to Believe” in The Theory of Knowledge: Classical and Contemporary Readings, 3 ed. Pojman, Louis P. (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2003), 518 - 526.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Systole & Diastole

Systole & Diastole

It is a hot, dry day in Africa’s most wealthy nation, Nigeria. A small contingent of soldiers mill about a checkpoint on a road running through the sub-saharan desert when, seemingly out of nowhere, there appear two women just a ways along the road and headed towards them. The women are walking strangely, with their arms held away from their bodies. As they come closer to the checkpoint the soldiers tell them to stop where they are. The response they receive to their demand brings a slight chill to the otherwise hot day, the women shout out: “[w]e are carrying bombs, we were forced to[!]”1 and they lift their shirts to show the suicide vests strapped beneath. It would be due to note, however, that this situation is not entirely alien to these soldiers. As a matter of fact, they are soldiers of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) and they are assigned to this post, in this area, as part of a counter force against the source of these bombs’ intent. You may wonder what sort of agency would deploy ‘non-determined’ suicide bombers in some sort of hopeful act of terror, and the answer is Boko Haram. Boko Haram is popularly understood as one of the world’s deadliest terrorist organizations. The group sprouted, and now thrives, in northern Nigeria and is fond of using women and children as human bombs to kill as many people as possible in an effort to overthrow the Nigerian government and install a Sharia Caliphate in place of it.2 This paper will argue that the Boko Haram and political corruption in Nigeria has become a cyclical storm of causation which will not be easily arrested. We will first look at the possessor of the state, the Nigerian government, and show the unrestful environment which it has bred, afterwhich we will come to examine that which has been bred within such an environment.

The Corrupted Landlord

Nigeria is a state which sits upon a horde of wealth. Tin, iron ore, coal, limestone, niobium, natural gas, lead, zinc, arable land, and especially petroleum3 reserves perpetrate the nation and stoke the fires of its national wealth. 34% of Nigeria’s annual income is generated by its oil reserves alone. Sitting at the number one African nation by gross domestic product (GDP),4 even when considering the 177 million citizens which that wealth is --or should be-- spread across, Nigeria still sits in the top 20 African nations by GDP per capita.5 We can imagine that, even if underdeveloped, it should be progressing towards development quite nicely. Unfortunately this is far from the case.

What we actually find in Nigeria is that most of the wealth it generates is sucked up by corrupt political elites. This can be understood through the lens of the Rentier State Theory and the Resource Curse Thesis. The former conception describes a phenomenon where “resource abundance causes weak and predatory state institutions,”6 while the latter conception “claims that oil rents generate economic stagnation, authoritarianism, and heightened vulnerability to civil war.”6 Rentier Theory is a blatantly appropriate framework, for when looking at the data we find that between 2000 and 2014 there were 1,632 separate charges of high-profile corruption being processed in the Nigerian judicial system. These 1,632 charges were spread across 46 defendants, 13 of whom were governors of state, which represented 12 of 37 states within the country. In total these 46 individuals ‘mismanaged’ the Nigerian equivalent of 1.123 billion USD.7 We can imagine that actually much more corruption is going on than just that which these elites have been caught for. While this staggering amount of high-profile corruption, in itself, screams ‘Rentier Theory’, the fact that the corruption is being arrested and dealt with judicially suggests that at least some of the Nigerian institutions are running as they should. However, this assumption quickly deflates when finding out that:

[I]n all these cases of corruption none of the culprits is currently being detained or serving jail term . . . a clear indication of the failure of the Nigerian judiciary to prosecute politicians and ex-public officials. Even Ayo Fayose, who is a chief culprit on the list, has recently been re-elected as the governor of Ekiti state. Also, the inclusion of one of the most corrupt political office holders Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha in the ongoing national conference play down the seriousness of the government to fight corruption in high places. Giving these two scenarios where these offenders are not held accountable for their corrupt crimes, and are in fact rewarded with political appointments, corruption in Nigerian governance can therefore be described as a viper draining the blood of the Nigerian state.8

Which leaves our rentier-framework standing strong in the face of such criticisms. This leads us to our consideration of the Resource Curse Thesis.

The Rebellious Tenant

With so much corruption within the state it is perhaps plain to presume the effects of economic stagnation and authoritarian-esque politics, but it is actually the third qualification of the Resource Curse Thesis with which we will be most interested in in the case of Nigeria: increased vulnerability to civil war.

It is important to note that Boko Haram has gone through several distinct evolutions during its extant period. The Boko Haram with which we will be concerned is the fifth of five evolutions through progressive radicalization. It was in 2002 that Mohammed Yusuf radicalized the group, and one year later they were put to work in the political sphere under the thumb of Ali Modu Sherrif. Sherrif used the group both for strong-arming political opposition, as well as to have a large body of decided votes in his favour.9 Boko Haram worked with Sherrif with the promise that he would implement sharia law once elected in 2003. He failed to live up to his promise and the group came to embody their fourth incarnation alongside the All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP). Still close with Sherrif, and also ANPP, Boko Haram would experience its most recent transformation seven years later in 2010 due to a severe straining of relations between themselves and Sherrif.9 This final incarnation is understood to be an embodiment of ‘pure terrorism.’ Now responsible for their own agenda, the terror group set their sights upon the politics and presidency of Goodluck Jonathan.9

The Unsigned Contract

Nigeria was formed by the British colonial-push through Africa, and thus its borders are not reflective of the demographics within. It is estimated that there are 250 distinct ethnic groups encompassed within the power structure of this contemporary state.10 And while this massive and complex array of distinctions certainly contributes to the turmoil of the political atmosphere, the true disquiet is manifested by --perhaps not surprisingly-- the differentiation of the Islamic North and the Christian South. These two groups truly struggle and strive, each for the other’s domination. This political contrast was, mistakenly, assumed to have been corrected for via an informal power-sharing arrangement where the North would hold power for eight years, followed by the South for eight.11 Unfortunately this arrangement spun out of control when the northerner Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died, unexpectedly, only three years into his supposed eight year hold of control. It was at this point that Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, contested the election and won, stealing power back from the North five years prior to the informally agreed upon reciprocation.11

It was precisely this ‘injustice’ which Boko Haram leveraged to truly embark upon its holy war in the country. The aims of the group are a harkening back to the 19th century Sokoto Caliphate, and the jihad orchestrated by Sheik Usman Dan Fodio. Fodio waged jihad upon the Hausa people and, in conquering them, installed a government, espousing sharia law, known as the Sokoto Caliphate, to rule the lands. The Sokoto Caliphate was an enormous political structure, covering an expanse of approximately 250,000 square miles all across northern Nigeria and parts of present-day Niger Republic.12 We can imagine this to be the kind of control, power, and reach that Boko Haram now thrives for in its own desire to dominate the southern, Christian, political arena and have sharia installed by the ‘true’ political elite, the Muslim North. Since the South is against entirely ceding their power and influence to a sharia caliphate of the Muslim North, we thus encounter our most prominent issue: the terror of Boko Haram and pursuant civil war, it is only now that we see clearly the qualification of the Resource Curse Thesis.

This informal power trading agreement, combined with the volatility of one towards the other (South towards North and vice versa), lays some particularly appropriate groundwork to begin to understand the essential nature of Nigerian corruption. The Christian South (and so too the Muslim North) only has eight years of prosperity before enduring eight years of political isolation. So those in power will certainly horde the wealth and power while it is in their hands. I know that if I could forsee a near-decade of coming hardship for my family, and I had access to wealth until that time came then I would certainly ensure I ‘set some aside’ to provide for them in the coming years.

Cultural Killing Fields

[T] he fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural.13

The above-quoted seems to be the case in Nigeria. For it is not simply Boko Haram which clashes with the state from the North, but so too is the state clashed with by groups such as Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), from the South.14 Onwuegbuchulam argues that the oppression and subjugation inherent in the power structure from British-Colonialism has simply been left in place and adopted by the contemporary Nigerian political elites,15 causing an unsolicited degree of ethno-religious diversity which then leads to a complex inability to agree on any sort of coherent and universal national identity. It can be supposed that this lack of national cohesion is the causal root behind both the corrupt practices of the governing powers, as well as the emerging splinter states of the common populace.

And thus we begin to see the true difficulty within Nigeria, what is the need for a cohesive and universally respected Nigerian identity; which sharply conflicts with the various demographics’ intense desire to not be ‘Nigerian’ per say. We can imagine that a thriving state and economy could hold the potential to pull these various independent actors together in some semi-coherent manner, but what is actually occurring is a rather unfortunate case of politico-economic entropy. Business people are no longer interacting with one another, foreign investors and businesses are pulling out of these areas of volatility, and domestic workers are leaving their jobs in volatile areas and relocating to safer states; this is all due to a fear of being killed in public spaces with multiple people present.16 We can see some correlation between figures 1A and 1B in that between 2011 and 2016 violence trends up while GDP trends down. While it is difficult to argue that the politico-economic distress inherent within Nigeria’s borders are causing deficiencies in its Human Development Indices (HDI), it is more straightforward to argue that such distress is withholding the growth potential in HDI. The United Nations Human Development Report states that a “[l]ack of social cohesion is correlated with conflict and violence, especially in situations of unequal access to resources or benefits from natural wealth.”17 So the way forward from violence could be to level out the distribution of resources, thereby raising the HDI, in an effort to sooth radicalization and terror. But to redistribute the resources we would first need to quell political corruption. And to quell political corruption we would first need to redistribute the resources --circular necessity-- Thus I propose that the only way forward is to remove both sides of this wheel of causation at once, by abolishing the Nigerian state and allowing it to remake itself how the people desire. While there are clearly issues and concerns with the ‘Balkanization’ of Nigeria, I remain convinced that it is a rational route.

Other Considerations

There are, of course, other ways to view the causal chain of the Nigerian quagmire. I have argued in favour of what might be considered a social constructivist approach that I shall term ‘social cyclicism’. This is based upon my line of argumentation that political corruption created the atmosphere and conditions appropriate for Boko Haram to develop, and whence developed Boko Haram reinforced the atmosphere and conditions appropriate for political corruption to thrive. So while one certainly came before the other, they have now begun to play off of, and reinforce, one another to such a degree that it would now be extremely difficult to separate one from the other in any sort of bloodless sense.

Another view of the matter is a Neo-Realist view, what is to suggest that the government is corrupt because the power (and money) is there to be taken and so they take it for the purposes of statism, self-help, and survival. Meanwhile Boko Haram thrives due to identical concerns: they feel that the state is threatening their way of life and so they attempt to seize back some control via the only self-help method they have available to them, terrorism.

We could also take a Post-Colonial view, what would be to consider that the 250 distinct ethnic groups within Nigeria combined with the multiple religious beliefs simply do not sum up to a coherent state unit. That the British were wrong to draw such arbitrary lines across the African continent to begin with, and that the world was wrong to keep those lines there after decolonization. This view, I believe would also support my recommendation for the ‘Balkanization’ of Nigeria.


This has been quite the adventure throughout Nigeria’s past-history and also history in the making. We began by examining the corrupt practices of the Nigerian political elites, and suggested that the corruption paved the way for socio-political dissent among marginalized populations. We examined the burgeoning socio-political unrest that resulted being, primarily Boko Haram, but also IPOB and MASSOB. Touching upon the informal political power sharing arrangement between the Muslim North and Christian South it then became apparent why it was that this tedious balancing act fell tragically apart, being the unexpected death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and the subsequent usurpation of control by Goodluck Jonathan. And just previous to a brief consideration of other theoretical lenses we dipped our toes into the slightly more murky waters of theoretical appropriation, with which we were able to look at the tense and deeply interwoven relationship between politico-socio-cultural atmosphere, economics, and HDI which finally supposed my supposition that the forces at work in the entropic Nigerian desert have actually begun to play off of and reinforce one another to such a degree that they are no longer separable.





  1. Maclean
  2. Onwuegbuchulam, p. 76
  3. “Nigeria facts and figures”
  4. “List of African countries by GDP”
  5. “List of African countries by GDP per capita”
  6. Waldner, p. 2
  7. Bamidele, pp. 76 - 80
  8. Bamidele, p. 80
  9. Mbah, p. 182
  10. Mbah, p. 180
  11. Mbah, p. 178
  12. Adeleye, p. 3
  13. Onwuegbuchulam quoting The Clash of Civilizations thesis, p. 77
  14. Onwuegbuchulam, p. 76
  15. Onwuegbuchulam paraphrasing -Amadi 2007-
  16. Imhonopi, p. 32
  17. Human Development Report 2014, p. 19
  18. Moody
  19. Holodny


Adeleye, R. A. “Introduction: The Uthman Dan Fodiye Jihad,” in Power and Diplomacy in Northern Nigeria 1804 - 1906: The Sokoto Caliphate and its Enemies. London: Longman Group Limited, 1971.

Akanji, Olajide O. “The Problem of Belonging: The Identity Question and the Dilemma of Nation-Building in Nigeria”. African Identities: Vol. 9, Iss. 2, pp. 117 - 132. May 2011. DOI: 10.1080/14725843.2011.556788

Bamidele, Oluwaseum, Azeez O. Olaniyan, Bonnie Ayodele. “In the Cesspool of Corruption: The Challenges of National Development and the Dilemma of Anti-Graft Agencies in Nigeria”. African Social Science Review: Vol. 7: No. 1, Article 5, pp. 103 - 129. June 2016.

Holodny, Elena. “Nigeria is Headed for a ‘Full-Blown Economic Crisis’”. Business Insider. 22 May, 2016.

“Human Development Report 2014: Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience”. United Nations Development Program.

Imonohopi, David, Ugochukwu Moses Urim. “The Spectre of Terrorism and Nigeria’s Industrial Development: A Multi-Stakeholder Imperative”. African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies: Vol. 9, Iss. 1, pp. 20 - 40. May 2009.

Onwuegbuchulam, Sunday Paul Chinazo, Khonldo Mtshali. “To Be or Not to Be? A Theoretical Investigation into the Crisis of National Identity in Nigeria”. Africa Today: Vol. 64, Iss. 1. pp. 74 - 92. Fall 2017. DOI: 10.2979/africatoday.64.1.04

“List of African countries by GDP”. Statistics Times. 22 February, 2017.

“List of African countries by GDP per capita”. Statistics Times. 22 February, 2017.

Maclean, Ruth. “Dressed for Death: the Women Boko Haram Sent to Blow Themselves Up”. The Guardian. May 05, 2017.

Mbah, Peter, Chikodiri Nwangwu, Herbert C. Edeh. “Elite Politics and the Emergence of Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria”. Trames: A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. 21: Iss. 2, pp. 173 - 190. 2017.

Moody, James. “Trend 1: Rates of Violence in 2016”. Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. 18 January, 2017.

“Nigeria facts and figures”. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. 2017.
Waldner, David, Benjamin Smith. N.p. 1 - 32. 17 August, 2013.

In the Place Where There is No Darkness

In the Place Where There is No Darkness

‘Global government’ in this paper shall refer to an international institution which has the authority to make decisions regarding all agents within the system, and the power to see its decisions through. The closest thing to global government today is the United Nations (UN). The UN is thought to have the capability to prevent future massive conflicts. Following, however, is an argument to the contrary of that belief. I will argue that the UN fails to meet the necessary requirements for a proper global government. We will first examine the need for such an institution’s presence, looking at transnational issues (issues which ignore the borders of states, and so too ignore state sovereignty). Thereafter I will integrate case studies into the areas of security, the developmental world, and climate change to demonstrate the failings of the current system (the UN). Finally I will suggest a few possible evolutions the global population might take to rectify the need for, and lack of, a world government.

Transnational Issues and the Need for Global Governance

The need for global governance has been apparent for quite some time. Especially in the last century or so there has been a very sharp rise in the number and variations of transnational issues. Herein we will focus on: security in Syria, developmental Africa, and climate change in the United States. The UN is the sworn moderator in the areas of such issues, and yet there is little being done about them. As we will discover, it is less that the UN is not doing anything and moreso that the UN lacks the authority to enforce its own decisions. The UN is no longer feasible, it is well past the time that the hall-monitor of the Earth could sway the hands of fate in its favour. The world desperately needs a behemoth actor to materialize and take rigid control of the chaos in the world for the betterment and prosperity of all humankind. This behemoth will be an overarching global officialdom comprised of a neutral bureaucracy and enforcement structure. The bureaucracy will be swift-acting and efficient, and the enforcement structure will be uncompromising and authoritative in executing the preventions and redemptions assigned to it by its bureaucratic counterpart.

Security and the Scandalous Syrian SNAFU

It is March of 2011 and violence suddenly erupts throughout Syria. The autocratic al-Assad regime is now in the midst of civil war. The chaos and unrest throughout the region allows a breeding ground and training camp for radical Islamists, and almost overnight the country becomes a quagmire of devastation and bloodshed. The UN was quick to react to the outbreak of violence, and began to attempt to mediate in 2012. Three attempts were made by three distinct, UN-appointed, mediators to resolve the conflict (Lundgren, 2016). It has now been six years, and yet war continues to dominate the country. Four-hundred-and-seventy thousand dead, eleven million displaced, and one million living in besieged areas (Human Rights Watch, (n.d.)), what could the barrier to resolving such a Hobbesian state of conflict possibly be?

It appears to be the fundamentally flawed nature of a democratic institution operating at an anarchic level. The UN Security Council had decided on a path forward as early as February 2012, agreed to by a majority three fifths of the permanent members. The blockage came from the minority two fifths: Russia and China (Lundgren, 2017). Who are able to, each, single handedly belay any action they disagree with due to the unrestricted freedom of veto held by each of the five permanent members. While the ‘Tyranny of the Majority’ is a valid concern, it seems to be a much more fundamental flaw when we experience the ‘Tyranny of the Minority’. Such has remained a massive issue throughout the UN attempts to defuse the Syrian situation. In fact, the first of the three UN-appointed mediators, Kofi Annan, became sorely dismayed and resigned his position whilst “criticizing the international and regional powers for failing to join up behind his effort and provide the kind of leverage that the execution of his plan required” (Lundgren, 2017). Lundgren goes on to determine that “repeatedly, the inability of the USA and Russia to join around a common approach for Syria pulled out the rug under UN mediation efforts”.

WHO Can It Be Now?

The UN document entitled Guidelines for the designation of Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace states that individuals invited to serve as Goodwill Ambassadors or Messengers of Peace shall: possess widely recognized talent, support the purposes and principles of the United Nations, possess the dignity required for such high level representative capacity, and promote the values of the United Nations (United Nations, (n.d.)). Contemporary dictator Robert Mugabe does not seem to fit these qualifications. Nonetheless Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) declared that Robert Mugabe would now act as the WHO ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ on NCDs in Africa.

Robert Mugabe, the current President of Zimbabwe, has held a tyrannical power for thirty-eight years. Coming into power through democratic process in Zimbabwe’s annexation from Britain in 1979 - 1980, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) immediately executed what is known as the Gukurahundi campaign, in which his forces carried out techniques of intimidation and systematic violence against his primary political opposition at the time, the Zambian African Peoples’ Union (Tendi, 2011). Furthermore, “in 1999 Mugabe ordered the invasion of white-owned commercial farms . . . in order to ward off [a] new political threat . . . the disastrous economic consequences that followed the farm seizures can certainly be put down to Mugabe's toxic decision to risk economic prosperity for the sake of retaining political power” (Tendi, 2011).

The world, fully aware of the autocracy and ruthlessness of Mugabe’s reign, was outraged and decried the announcement of his new position in the WHO. Ghebreyesus took this outrage under consideration and hastefully rescinded his decision to follow through with such an appointment. The question remains, however: how did such a decision get made in the the first place? Luke Allen, of Oxford University, speculates that the decision was made based on the Director General’s platform of universal health care, which coincided with Zimbabwe’s national policies of universal healthcare (2017). Some aspects of this ‘alignment’ that seem to have been overlooked include factors such as the WHO’s own assessment of the Zimbabwean state, finding that less than half the population is satisfied with the performance of the health system in place and further arguing that such a discrepancy is “mainly due to the deteriorating economic environment of the last decade which resulted in unavailability of essential medicines and critical health care workers” (World Health Organization, (n.d.)). Also looking at the World Bank’s data for Zimbabwe we can see that they have an extremely low life expectancy of 60 years, which actually took a significant hit for a stretch of 15 or so years from 1995 through 2009, during which it dipped as low as 44 years (World Bank, 2015) and has only recently begun to incline once more. This does not seem to correlate with a country who has a universal healthcare system worthy of such ‘goodwill’ recognition in the world’s most prominent international health institution.

All of this, seemingly satirical, business thus makes one wonder just how learnéd the UNWHO is when it comes to matters of their own device. The UN is the architect of human rights and development. Yet, here we have a savage violator of such rights being (nearly) praised with recognition and a position of status and power within the very organization which his actions so vehemently contradict. How could such a blunder possibly occur? Allen, who works as a consultant for the branch of the WHO that put on the fateful conference, alleges that “[i]t does not seem that the Director General shared his intention with any senior WHO staff; my colleagues were as dumbfounded as the international community” (2017), but further supposes

[h]is years of experience pragmatically overseeing significant health improvements within an oppressive [Ethiopian] government may explain his willingness to engage with other unsavoury regimes. This is a difficult line to tread. Non-communicable diseases advocates sympathise with his inclusive inclinations, but have drawn the line at having Mugabe as their figurehead (2017).

Even bearing such in mind, one would be hard-pressed to find a less suitable candidate for such a position. So, while likely well-intentioned, the UNWHO has done a very poor job in this case of advocating for and enforcing their own decrees in regards to the developmental indices of the African peoples. In this attempt to advocate for NCDs they have made a massive blunder and caused harm to the areas most in need of such advocacy. The failing of the UN in this case does not amount to anything foundational, yet rather to the poor potentiality for effective communication at such a mass and intricately interwoven level as is global governance. With so many departments, and sub-departments of sub-departments, it becomes difficult to blame Ghebreyesus for not bothering to clarify his intent.

Climate and the American Hot Topic

Our planet is changing, and with it we must change alongside, lest we risk becoming disharmonious with nature and the natural order. Should such a disharmony occur it would pit humanity against nature itself in a battle to the death. Therefore, when humankind’s most prominent and respected body of technical knowledge --science-- begins to say that the actions of our species are leading to such a disharmony, and so too begging the end-times, then there ought to be an institution in place to prevent such a catastrophe from occurring. Such preventative measures would necessarily require two stages of enactment. The first would be to define the problem and the according action plan to avoid it, and the second would be to enforce those measures should certain areas of the world choose not to comply.

The world currently has such a problem of potential disharmonization: emissions-driven climate change. The system we currently work with, the UN, realizes only a single of the two necessary stages to prevent the incoming heat-death-apocalypse. This first stage is realized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the ultimate objective of which is the “. . . stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system . . .” (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (n.d.)). From this convention spawned both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. Each of which are multilateral agreements to alter the way in which states operate, and allow their citizens to operate, such that the world as a cohesive unit can avoid catastrophic ecological meltdown in the near future. The issue, however, is that the signing of such documents is voluntary. Furthermore, even for those who do sign, the UN is incapable of enforcing the mandates of these agreements. Savasan reinforces this standpoint by arguing “in fact, [the Paris Agreement] can have a binding character only for those states expressing their consent to be bounded by the treaty . . . [and] regardless of its binding status that eventually it will take, the related party can resist to be in non-compliance with its commitments under the Agreement despite the existence of response measures it can come across with, because there is no enforcement mechanism under international law” (Savasan, 2017).

Alas, we find ourselves looking into the eyes of such an ignorant nation and wondering, fruitlessly, which seminar it was that they missed. By the estimates of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2014 there was a global emission count of greenhouse gases (GHG) summing 9855 million metric tonnes (MMT) (Boden, 2017), of which the United States was responsible for approximately 6740 MMT (Environmental Protection Agency, (n.d.)). One would expect them, based on this predominant percentage of contributions, to further contribute in taking a leading role in reducing the chances of our species dying an untimely death as a result of GHG-driven climate change. But, much like Honey Badger, America does not seem to care (Randall, 2011). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been around since 1988, and within its nearly 30 year lifespan it has made two gargantuan efforts at stabilizing climate change. The first effort was in the late 1990s with the declaration of the Kyoto Protocol (KP). To begin with there were 84 signatures on the protocol, the United States was one of them. This meant that the United States promised to go back and ratify the changes within its national governmental structures. The action stage of the KP came around in 2005 and at that time only 55 of the signatory countries had followed through with ratification of the protocol, the United States was not one of these. Presently there are 192 countries which have followed through with ratification, a grouping within which the United States is not included (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (n.d.)). The second effort by the IPCC is referred to as the Paris Agreement (PA). The PA came into being in 2015, and was signed, ratified, and brought into force by the United States on November 4, 2016 (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (n.d.)). However, they have now declared their intent to discontinue observation of the PA (Crilly, 2017. Harrington, 2017. Liptak, 2017). This decision is justified based on the argument that a reduction in GHG emissions would threaten the prosperity of the U.S. economy. Here we are able to see more clearly that the seminar that America seems to have missed was the one in which it was posited that the ability to make money is irrelevant when the scorching heat of the Sun has dried up all the fresh water, and the hundreds of millions of displaced coastal peoples march inland to avoid the catastrophic rising sea, causing disease and crime to embark on a malignant campaign throughout the over-dense urban centers. Still, even such misinformed terrorism is to be expected now and then in a world of seven billion and growing. The issue is not that such uninformed opinions continue to occur, but rather that such unfounded opinions are permitted to proliferate!

A Brave New World

Based on the aforementioned shortcomings on the UN as a form of global government, I now propose a solution. This solution may seem slightly radical, and too jarring to properly implement, but it should be viewed as a normative approach to fall piece-by-piece into place over an extended period of time.

It will be necessary to dissolve the notion of the state, and thereby the notion of sovereignty. Sovereignty is an archaic concept that no longer serves this globalized community we now all live within. Sovereignty and statehood are notorious at creating problems simply by their definition of ‘us and them’; and in fact the rising prevalence of transnational issues attests to this onwards progression past the ‘Age of the State’. This is especially apparent when looking through a realist lens, but is just as plain coming from other lenses as well: constructivism sees that by defining differences we therefore create and perpetuate them, liberalism has this notion of ‘freeing’ the others, which can be justified in certain cases, such as the responsibility to protect, but becomes quickly tarnished when looking at America’s efforts to violently democratize and liberalize the globe (Poh Phaik, 2009. Cordesman, 2014). What we should have left after such a dissolution of state is a single cohesive ‘state’, namely Earth; with a single cohesive ‘ethnicity’, namely Human.

This begs the question of just how we would go about governing such a unified world, and the answer is as plain as the problem: we do not govern ourselves. Rather we allow ourselves to be governed by an arbiter of equality and righteousness, an arbiter who is not twisted, and corrupted, and led astray by passion and emotion. This arbiter would be an artificial intelligence neural network (AINN), a computer which can think and learn for itself. Google has developed an AINN that, itself, builds other AINN, and in fact has begun to write code which surpasses human capability (Lant, 2017). While this technology is still very young, one can foresee a future in which an AINN could program another AINN which was free from all human bias and subjectivity --the perfect governor-- An AINN such as this would also be capable of always knowing what every other part of itself was doing.

But what good is a government that cannot enforce the decisions it makes? It is for this reason that this new global government structure which I propose is to be supported by its own enforcement structure: an army of robots sporting the non-bias AINN software from the governmental super-network. These robots would only activate should the need for enforcement of some type arise. Gone are the days of financing a standing army, this brave new world will have divisions of the most highly trained super soldiers --imagine ‘SuperTroop Battledress’ without the human inside (Jacobsen, 2015)-- prepared to deploy ad hoc, and for no more than the cost of materials and production.


We have spent the last number of pages discussing the UN in its various elements, and looking specifically at three case studies demonstrating its failings as a global government. We discussed Syria and the UN’s inability to effectively combat the vast suffering and abuses of human rights due to the faulty veto structure of the Security Council. Thereafter we discussed the foolhardiness of the WHO in its recent selection of an advocate for NCDs in Africa. Finally, we talked about climate change and America. To these problems was suggested an encompassing solution: the dissolution of the state and the introduction of a global non-aligned artificial intelligence neural network government, backed up by a politically-neutral robot enforcement structure. While seemingly science-fictitious, this solution is actually within reach technologically. The only real problem will be convincing the dark overlords of our current political climate to cede their power and subject themselves to a greater good.


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