T2B24: Xiden 9


Philosophy has many purposes but one under-explored function is that of ‘intuition change.’ At any given time we find some ideas obvious and others outlandish. The goal of intuition change is to tweak what we find obvious. Good UX design makes it easy for the user to operate an app without instruction and therefore, to experience the app as an extension of one’s own mind. Similarly, the philosopher as conceptual designer should make it easy to think certain thoughts and design conceptual interfaces to make that happen.

For example, Plato (or Socrates, depending on whom you credit) made it easy to think that all knowledge is recollection. The medium is as important as the message - the dialogical format makes it easy for Plato/Socrates to pretend he knows nothing (say, in the Meno) and that he’s merely evoking the knowledge of his interlocutors.

The philosopher as conceptual designer should be indiscriminate in their sources of inspiration. In particular, they can learn a lot from anthropology, for cultures vary in their intuitions about the obvious. Modern (western and western influenced) culture assumes that nature is fixed and mechanical while society is dynamic and creative. Other cultures switch these roles - the order of nature is creative and dynamic while the order of culture is fixed and ritualized.

Read this (long!) piece about the ontological turn in anthropology to learn more.

How will Biden go to China?

I don’t get CIA briefings delivered to my inbox every morning so I can only speculate on what his administration will do once they’re in power. Speculation is unavoidable; what else can a layperson do? However, these are extraordinary times - COVID continues to rage and Trump hasn’t officially conceded, so take my speculation with more skepticism than usual.

The first principle is: Biden’s response to China is not about China but about America. It’s not just that nations respond to other nations based on their self-interest: it’s that even the way they see the world is colored by their history and position (see intuition change above 😀). Superpower actions are prone to being seen as benevolent by them and antagonistic by others.

Biden is a one term president. He inherits a pandemic and an economic crisis which will last at least through 2021 if not longer. Which means his administration will be defined by its response to the virus. Here lies crisis as well as opportunity, which I am going to state as a series of possibilities.

  1. Biden can’t afford to be seen as soft on China (Farage piece above).

  2. Anger against China as the source of the virus is intense and widespread (see the Farage piece).

  3. That anger gives Biden an opportunity to create a united front against China

  4. Recovery from the pandemic caused recession will need massive state investment, which will find approval among Republican constituencies.

  5. That state led recovery could be nudged in directions that decouple the US (and perhaps its allies) from China based manufacturing. A Green New Deal could mandate domestic rather than outsourced manufacturing.

Will any of the above come to pass? I don’t know, but Biden is in a position similar to Obama in that he’s coming to power when there’s widespread expectation of state intervention in the economy. That buys him some goodwill.

Of course, the Chinese might see the world in a very different way 👆🏾. They might believe their relatively successful response to the pandemic has tilted the balance of the world in their favor. Someone has to fund the global recovery from the pandemic; if the US won’t do it, China might be in the position to expand the BRI and become the banker to the rest of the world.

I will talk about the clash of intuitions tomorrow.