Log 3: Megs Tried to understand philosophies.

Today’s day to say the least was eventful, let’s break it down in parts.

Philosophize this Episode 137 – John Rawls – A Theory of Justice

Podcast Notes:

  • Can human beings ACTUALLY LIVE and flourish for any extended period of time in liberal democratic societies?
  • He is EXTREMELY optimistic about the future of liberal democratic society, he does NOT think that we’re all being naive, but despite him ultimately defending liberal democracy, as we’ll see… his willingness… to ask these tough questions about the assumptions we’re making politically…like so many OTHER great philosophers…will cement his place in history.
  • The idea is this: we as individuals gather together and form groups that we call societies. We do this because it benefits us to…when we work together in groups we are just far more efficient than as mere individuals…and BECAUSE of this there’s a lot of surplus VALUE created that really, ONLY exists because we’re working together. The question becomes how does this surplus value get allocated, or how should it be DISTRIBUTED, as in distributive justice.
  • should inequalities exist within a just society? 
  • The fact is these inequalities DO exist within societies, in fact their existence is inevitable. The REAL interesting philosophical discussion begins when we ask ourselves, what type of inequality is just, what makes these inequalities just, and what criteria do we use to determine that?
  • perhaps an inequality is just as long as its based on some sort of work or effort that somebody has put in.
  • There’s an interesting metaphor for unfair advantages in the modern world that one of Rawls’ colleagues named Cohen offers and it goes like this: Say humanity reaches a point where we have a level of technology where we can travel vast distances through space and colonize other planets. One day an astronaut lands on one of these earth like planets, plants a flag in the ground and says this one’s mine. Now let’s say a couple years later astronaut 2 comes along and their ship breaks down, they need to find a way to survive on the planet…the planet’s completely empty except for astronaut one and their little house…for astronaut two to ever be able to carve off even a SLIVER of an existence on this planet…they will ALWAYS be at the mercy of astronaut one. The first astronaut will dictate all the terms of the agreements, the deals will almost certainly always favor the first astronaut, SIMPLY BECAUSE the first astronaut happened to get there first. Well this is a metaphor for how everybody enters into the world who wasn’t born into inherited wealth, power or opportunity. By complete chance… their lives are at the mercy of someone else who was born into THEIR place by complete chance.
  • People are born with all sorts of inequalities. You could be born really smart. You could be born into a family that doesn’t care about you. You could be born a really attractive person. You could be born into an area that has horrible resources for public schools and you have virtually no chance of excelling. You could be born into a family business where you’re the heir apparent to taking over when mom retires. You could have so much crime in the area you live that leaving the house and trying to do ANYTHING with your life is terrifying. We are born holding the Rstubs to this genetic and cultural lottery that will dictate the parameters of our existence…and Rawls would say that if we TRULY want the inequalities of our society to be based solely on a difference in work or effort, we need to be willing to not ask people to own the bad or good circumstances they happened to be born into.
  • This is what Rawls refers to as the Original Position..basically it’s HIS version of the state of nature…now imagine we’re all standing around on this new planet, formulating how a society should be structured. Rawls wants us to imagine a few other things as part of this thought experiment: imagine you are structuring this society through what he calls a “veil of ignorance”. You are asked to decide HOW THIS SOCIETY will be structured without knowing ANYTHING ABOUT your POSITION in that society once it’s founded. You can’t know whether you’re going to be living in Beverley Hills or the projects in New York City. You can’t know your age, gender, race, sexual orientation…you can’t know your IQ, your athletic ability, your charisma…you can’t know the family you will be born into or whether you’ll have some mental illness that makes every day miserable. Human beings have the capacity to be rational…Rawls wants to ask: how would rational beings WITHOUT a vested interest in one group or another create a society?
  • So how would rational beings structure it? They would follow what is known as the “Maximin Rule” or the idea that we would pick the structure of a society that provides the best situation for the least advantaged WITHIN that society in comparison to all other potential societies. Put another way: we pick the structure where the worst case scenario for a person is the best out of all the other possible worst case scenarios in other strategies. Rational beings would do this because they don’t know whether they’re going to be the ONE…the ACTUAL LEAST ADVANTAGED person in the entire society.
  • Social and economic inequalities must first be to everyone’s advantage
  • Such social and economic inequalities must be attached to positions that are equally open to all.
  • So with this second rule Rawls is trying to protect against any sort of system with different classes people are born into, or even figurative classes…no positions in society reserved for a specific person or type of person even if you’re the least advantaged person you can still apply for the position…doesn’t mean you’re gonna get it…just means that if there is an unequal position available, if we’re going to ACCEPT that inequality as part of the structure of our society, it should be open to everyone to apply. What Rawls is referencing is that…historically there have three primary ways people are blocked from prestigious positions in a society: one is legal, where there are actual legal barriers precluding a person from holding a position. One is by your birth status, which would make you disqualified from holding a position because of something about how you were born. And the third roadblock is having the talent or effort to be able to excel at the position. Rawls thinks a just society will stick to this third one and he says only one that DOES can be said to have true equality of opportunity.
  • Now, the FIRST rule…that these inequalities must first be to everyone’s advantage…this really is the cornerstone of what Rawls would eventually call his “system of liberal equality”.
  • But this extends beyond just inherited money…when Lebron James wins the genetic lottery and is born with athleticism and talent that warrants him making 10’s of millions of dollars a year…he uses his athleticism to achieve an exalted status as a cultural icon…that inequality is an example of justice… because his abilities go on display and provide entertainment for millions of people. When someone’s born with extreme intelligence and they go on to graduate from a prestigious school and become the tip of the spear in some new research program…their unequal position within society as a thought leader is justified… because their research will likely go on to improve the lives of the aggregate.
  • This way of thinking about inequalities in society is known more broadly as “the difference principle”…or that we should remove inequalities within society as much as we can until the REMOVAL of further inequalities would cause harm to the least advantaged
  • Based on that last sentence it shouldn’t be too far of a leap to reveal that what Rawls is ultimately doing with all this is providing a philosophical justification for a modern progressive income tax. 

Further reading
1. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rawls/

Bonus: Lunch at paper lantern, recommend everyone to try crystal dim sums!

Philosophize this Episode 136 – Hannah Arendt – The Banality of Evil

Disclaimer: My understanding: These are rough initial notes, have to read up more. Not claiming that I understand anything completely!

She makes an argument against philosophies that were born out of Enlightenment-era. She’s against both capitalism and Marxism.

People have three realms they engage in

  1. Labor (eating sleeping exercising)
  2. Work (what do toy do for living)
  3. Active Life (taking part in public and political discourse. Talking about stuff that’s going around you)

Because both capitalism and Marxism aim at having maximum economic gain or forget about political institutions at all, we are only engaging in first two aspects.

This is problematic because you become am economic man or a biological shells whose Identity is only associated with your work. You’re scared of not fitting into any groups or not having any kind of authority to give instructions.

She then explains this to be the reason why totalitarian regimes flourish because if you tell people with Identity crisis that they have something to believe in, they will. They aren’t used to having active political discussion!

The contrast between contemplative life (Plato) vs active Life (Aristotle) is what she believes is lacking. Like we glorify sitting in a room and coming with ideas more than having open discussion. People believe it’s unnecessary to participate in political discussion

Further Reading

Biryani-Thupka Overdose

@kalalombdi mentioned this one line from the book he’s reading, zero to one, whatever you do with the money you have will never bring you the amount of happiness that posessing that money will. In short, the possibility of spending that money is more valuable than spending it.

It is something that I can’t get out of my head. It’s stuck, like a magnet on a fridge. That’s a terrible example.

Having biryani for dinner and topping it up with a Thupka soup is the best feeling ever.

The long lonely night with tea 🙂

Intense perfume of cardamom followed by nutty, smoky and cinnamon-like notes

Corn poppy red

High-fired leaves lend a smoky quality to the tea, seized shortly by flavors of cardamom and cinnamon. The infusion turns nutty, biscuity in the middle, but finishes on peppery note. The flavors are reckless but not brisk. A dash of cream arrests this rashness cleverly.

Pumpkin pie, clam chowder, desserts with raspberry and strawberry.


I have this gift set that my dad gave to me and one of the teas in that is ember spice. After the tiring day, I just wanted to rest. So here I am sitting in my cosy blanket drinking hot tea. Goodnight

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