PHILOMADRID

PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Monday, April 30, 2007

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: URGENT news + Love without sex

Dear friends,

MEETING MUST START BY 6.30PM

I have been informed by the staff at Molly Malone's that they will need the
bar downstairs where we meet from 8.30pm onwards. This means that we have to
finish by this time on Sundays. I should therefore be most grateful if we
did START by six thirty at the latest. I took the opportunity to ask them if
they could open the bar for us during the meeting. They still have to come
back to me on this.

PETRA LOOKING FOR A FLAT SHARE.

Petra has asked to canvas you to help her find a flat share/bed sit in the
centre of Madrid if possible. Please contact her directly : petra@gmail.com
or tel 62011257

WALK TO COTOS/PEÑALARA THIS SATURDAY

Kim is organizing an unofficial walk to Cotos this Saturday, we meet in
Nuevos Ministerios Renfe station at 9.30am near the main ticket office. Some
real walking might be involved although the bars in Cotos are quite decent,
just in case.

Talking about pleasure and excitement, this Sunday we are discussing "love
without sex." I imagine that this is one of those subjects where experience
is desirable but not necessary.

Take care and see you soon

Lawrence

**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);

http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAY_FLAT_mayte_AlmerAVillaDeNJar

Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);

http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAYFLAT_Paloma_MarbellaNearElviria
*************************************


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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Love without sex

I think we need to set some parameters to this discussion. I will exclude
issues related to sexual problems due to infirmity or disease. This makes
the issue a medical problem and not a philosophical one. I will also exclude
the idea that sex, and indirectly love, should be something practiced only
within marriage. It might look like a moral issue, but in fact it is a
social engineering problem and not a philosophical problem. Although, of
course, the institution of marriage does have philosophical implications.

Hence, a philosophical issue would be what are the implications of love and
sex to normal people? To decide who is a normal person we need only apply
the 'duck test.' If a person looks normal, says normal things, and behaves
normally, then we can assume that they are normal until proven otherwise.

What do we mean by sex in the context of this discussion? For our purposes
we can distinguish four functions of sex. l) the mechanics of a male
physically fertilizing a female ovum. ll) the pleasurable and emotional
experience people have when in physical contact with each other. lll) the
physical appearance of individuals in a social context. lV) gender,
male/female.

By physical appearance (lll) I mean the effect we have on others purely on
what we physically look like. For example, the use of attractive models to
sell goods. Or our feelings about what people think if our partner was
attractive or not. Physical sexual pleasure (lV) is just that and I think we
more or less know what we are talking about. The fertilization process (l)
is of course nature's way of bringing together male and female genes
together to reproduce. However, today a male need not necessarily be in
physical contact with a female to make this happen. In Vitro Fertilisation
and genetic engineering have revolutionized how reproduction (of humans)
takes place, but this has only been the case these past few decades.

It is only now that we can distinguish the concept of sex into these four
constituent functions. Well into the 20th century, the idea that
fertilisation could be done without physical contact was unthinkable. Hence
if society wanted more members it was necessary to bring males and females
together. And in a wider social context, it was inconceivable that the
pleasure part (lll) was not linked to the reproduction process (l). At least
lip service was paid to this idea as some societies still do.

However, bring males and females together to beget children also had the
side effect of making the mechanical experience very desirable. Which is not
bad in itself, but of course, and I speculate here, it could easily lead to
an untenable situation. There might be more children in a family unit than
what the partners can look after. Marriage is supposed to create stability
for the offspring to grow in and mature. This is done through the
cooperation of the parents; one looks after the offspring and the other
provides for the groups, many times some activities can alternate between
partners. This must surely be the first institution to employ the concept of
division of labour. At least in mammals, an element of parental stability is
necessary for the up bringing of the young. But it is also true that others
can take the place of the natural parents should they be absent. (I will not
discuss the idea of group survival that seems to be liked the fostering
principle and which is rejected by Dawkins.)

In fact the monogamous model of a marriage partnership is not the only model
there is. The polygamous model is also very common and the tribal model,
where the offspring are cared for by the whole community, are also
prevalent. These two models also have their advantages and disadvantage,
which we need no go into here.

It is also not surprising that we should be considering an issue couched in
a dualistic language: love, being metaphysical, and sex being physical. And
whilst many philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibnitz, Spinoza and
others) have seen a problem in trying to link or find a causal relationship
between the metaphysical and the physical, this has never been a big issue
for those whose only interests were social engineering. For example,
religions find no problem with linking the metaphysical idea of a deity to
having more children (physical process). Or politicians from linking
national patriotism (metaphysical) with dying on the battle front
(physical). Hence, for many centuries we have been brought up to think and
believe that love-sex-reproduction go together in one package deal with all
the necessary infrastructure to support this set up.

If philosophy is the love of wisdom, then we can blame or praise philosophy,
or rather its agents or subcontractors (L Floridi's idea) , for separating
this packaged bundle into its constituent parts. Medical science has given
us reproductive rights without the need of physical contact. Engineering has
provided us with shelter, self defence and higher crop yields. And of course
commerce has given us a workable system, even if not totally fair, to
distribute scarce resources. In the past it was one package deal.

Today, we can not only pick and choose which part of the package deal we
want but we can also subcontract what we choose. For example, if we want
children, we can have the children and then subcontract their up bringing to
a nanny or an elite school. Or we can indulge in the physical pleasures of
the package and then leave it to some plastic surgeon or friendly
microbiologist to keep our body fit for purpose. And when our metaphysics
gets all tangled up with our physics we just go to a psychiatrist to sort it
all out for us. In the past we only needed one social engineer to sort
everything out and keep us going.

So what exactly are we talking about when we consider love without sex? We
can reasonably start by excluding sex to mean the reproductive function (l).
In any case, this is not what we usually mean in an utterance, love without
sex.

We can also exclude the social function of sex (lll), although this is not
as straight forward as sex as a reproduction process. Whilst the
reproduction function is value neutral, the social function is not void of
value judgment. Some would make it a necessary and/or sufficient condition
to be with someone who is also socially attractive before involving
themselves with them. But, of course, this condition being socially based
can change with what society accepts at a given time. A good example of this
racially mixed marriages, today this would be regarded as normal but a few
decades back it would have been considered a taboo even to talk about it.
Today it is acceptable for a women to partner with a shorter man. Although
social attraction is not a necessary condition it does have a baring on how
individuals and society evolve.

Sex as pleasurable euphoria (ll) is most probably what we are talking about
here. Indeed, why should this activity have this effect on human beings? It
cannot be a necessary condition for the reproductive process because as I
have argued; this can be done artificially without any physical human
contact. This leaves us with the pleasure part of the activity. So what is
the purpose or function here?

We can interpret this question as asking what is the biological function of
the pleasure part in sex? In which case it is beyond our scope. Or we can
mean the question to be, why make sex pleasurable? I would hazard a guess
and speculate that it is a form of communication. And a form of
communication that proves Dawkin's idea that communication is manipulation.

Think about it. The reproductive process is the most dangerous event all
human beings have to be involved in their life time. It is dangerous for the
newly born, it is dangerous for the mother and it is also dangerous for the
male. And if you are wondering how the reproductive event can be dangerous
for the male, this event means competing with others for a mate which can
turn into an aggressive fight out. And it can be dangerous because sex is
one of the quickest ways to transmit some serious and dangerous diseases and
infections. So, at least in principle, the male is no less at risk than the
mother and newborn. With such a high risk, there must be a pay off,
somewhere.

Of course, some will say that the pay off is having children, but that's a
metaphysical idea since it involves a value judgment about reproduction and
maybe a spiritual value as well. But nature did make value judgments when
the reproductive process in mammals was being evolved a few million years
ago. Hence, the pay off must be immediate and sufficient enough to make it
attractive. If the payoff came later we can say that the transaction was
based on payment being made in advance with delivery at a later date. I
doubt that this model would have been very successful. To start with, those
many millennia years ago, no one knew if they were going to live that long.
And today this model only works in the insurance industry (for different
reasons) and the exclusive sports car industry. In general human beings use
the cash on delivery model.

Nature is not stupid, even if it might be amoral. The physical euphoria (ll)
is very intense, very addictive and very short lived. In other words, the
right combination to make us come back for seconds helpings of this
pleasurable experience. And until we managed to control the sex package, a
sexual experience meant that the chances of the event resulting into
conception and reproduction were very high. This chance increased every time
we participated in this activity. I would suggest that the pleasure in the
sex act (ll) is none other than communication. It communicates the message
that this behaviour is desirable and it manipulated our behaviour by making
us repeat the experience.

Could it be that today love without sex we can only mean love without a
certain type of physical pleasure. But is this logically and grammatically
the same as love without, for example, a television or love without steam
pudding? The issue here is whether there is any difference between sexual
pleasure (lll) and any other sort of pleasure we experience? Of course, I am
asking this question in a moral neutral context or maybe no more neutral
than any other pleasure.

What is love? It has been some time since there was a block buster book
about love that promised to solve all our problems. Or I might have been too
busy to notice. One of the more popular of these books is Dr John Gray's,
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (1992). And I refer to this book for
no other reason that I happen to have a copy and we are discussing an issue
in applied philosophy.

This is what Gray has to say about men and women falling in love:

- "When a man is in love he is motivated to be the best he can be
in order to serve others. "

-

- "Women are happy when they believe their needs will be met. She
needs to feel loved and cherished." But this is qualified by, "They [women]
wanted to relax and just be taken care of for a while. They were tired of
sharing everything with others."

-

On Mars, men had a win/lose philosophy; I win and don't care if you lose. On
Venus, women had lose/win philosophy. I lose so that you can win and as long
as everyone was making a sacrifice everyone was taken care of. The theme of
this book is that "love is magical, and it can last, if we remember our
differences."

What is evident for us is that we might have a problem trying to define love
that applies to both males and females. This diametrically different male
and female strategies (they are also at diametrical ends of a game theory
matrix) might also explain why the physical euphoria has to be so intense
for males and females to come together in the first place. With such
opposite mind sets the pay off must be really high to bring these two
together, if that is there is going to be any reporoduction.

Of course, we know that love ought to be a win/win situation, but the
problem is getting there and staying there. However, a win/win situation
implies at least two things. Both parties have to give up something and both
parties have to receive something. But the necessary condition for a win/win
situation is that each party wants to give up something they want and
receive something they also want. So under normal circumstances (see
introduction) love without sex can exist if both parties agree to this state
of affairs. I am not, of course, including societies where marriage (the
complete package deal) is still strongly used for social engineering,
sometimes even to the point of physical harm if someone does not abide by
the rules. An element of free agency is necessary for this discussion.

The question then becomes, how important is sex for men and women today? Of
course, I don't want to be presumptuous to imagine how important sex (as
pleasure (ll)) is for women, but consider what Gray says about men.

".... He had glimpsed through his telescope a vision he described as awesome
beauty and grace, He had discovered the Venusians [women]. His body is on
fire." And so on until we are told that when a "man is in love he is
motivated to be the best he can be in order to serve others." Unfortunately,
we are not exactly told whether serving others also includes serving
breakfast in bed. Whatever it means, we are all best advised to remember
Gray's warning in chapter one: "But as the magic [of love] recedes and daily
life takes over, it emerges that men continue to expect women to think and
act like men, and women expect men to feel and behave like women."

Or as they say in the packaged tour industry, "you pays your money, and you
takes your choice."

Take care

Lawrence

p

{<>}

Friday, April 20, 2007

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Feminism

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing Feminism.

It was suggested to me that men won't be interested in this subject. Well, I
don't know about that since the men I know are always interested in matters
concerning women. Presumably men would also be interested in feminism
especially as I have tried to argue in my very short essay that
discrimination against women reflects a rather more serious state of affairs
than just women being disadvantaged by men.

See you Sunday,

Take care

Lawrence

**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);

http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAY_FLAT_mayte_AlmerAVillaDeNJar

Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);

http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAYFLAT_Paloma_MarbellaNearElviria
*************************************


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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feminism

Feminism covers a lot of theories and ideologies. It also covers a number of
actions to redress the imbalances feminists identify in the life of women.
It is therefore not easy to identify what feminism is and what it is all
about. This means that if we were to give a general criteria of what
feminism is and what it is concerned with we'll be doing the ideology an
injustice. However, I feel we have very little choice but to start, for our
purposes, by identifying such a general criteria.

One of the most important ideas of feminism is that biological differences
should not lead to social inequalities. Taking this idea a step further, an
idea of feminism is that society should not be organized in such a way as to
favour males in most walks of life, but especially in the work environment.
I think that we can generally agree with these two principles. The methods
or strategies required to bring about equality are of course another issue.

The first issue that feminism /should consider is the ability to distinguish
inequalities or discrimination which specifically affect women only and
other inequalities, which perhaps affect women more than men. What test
would we have to apply to distinguish between women specific discrimination
and other discrimination? If we can make this distinction we can then
perhaps be able to deal with the sex specific inequalities more efficiently
(quicker and binding solutions) than if we were solving the wrong problem,
so to speak.

A side issue which does not seem to be fully addressed in a debate on
feminism is who is doing the discrimination? It is generally assumed that,
for example, in the work situation it is men who discriminate against women.
Or maybe even in general society at large. What are the grounds for this
belief? Just because it seems that it is men who benefit from the
discrimination it does not automatically mean that it is only men who
discriminate against women. In fact it might not even be anyone as such that
holds women back from progressing in their career.

In Newsweek International, 27 February 2007*, in an article called Myth and
Reality it is suggested that one reason why women are held back is because
of the work system in Europe. The European system is more command and
control driven than the US system which is more objective based system. What
the article is suggesting is that under the European system what matters
most is how much time you spend at your desk, and the boss seeing you, and
not what you are capable of achieving. Under this system women lose out
because they have, more often than not, to be away from their desk to look
after their children. And this is where it becomes important to establish
women specific discrimination from general discrimination.

At face value, the command and control system seems implicitly, if not
explicitly, to discriminate against women. But if you read the article it
also refers to a study done by the London School of Economics which claims
that, "flex work tends to be some 25 percent more productive than office
work." It seems to me that command style management not so much
discriminates against women, but it rather discriminates against
share-holder value in favour of a few top echelon managers. A work system
which balances work life and private life means that not only people are
happier but that the system attracts better trained and better qualified
employees; which perhaps is the difference between market leader and average
trader. The Newsweek article quotes the BT case which has been operating a
flexi time system since the 1980's and has a 99% return rate on employees
who are mothers compared with the British average of 47%. Hence, it might
not be that men at the top discriminate against women, but that they also
discriminate against share holders.

The point about the flexi time system is that it benefits not only women but
also men. However, in Australia it is estimated that on average a women is
likely to be out of the workforce for six years to look after the young
family. (The Sydney Morning Herald. April 18, 2007*). This absence seems to
further support the claim that women are discriminated against because
they are women; they have to fulfil a biological necessity which does not
apply for men. But there again, I don't read this as evidence of women
specific discrimination. I read it as a flawed labour system and the problem
is not discrimination but an inadequate employment system for today's
economic system. From an economic point of view, today's global economy
means that more unskilled labour intensive jobs are moving to developing
countries where these costs can be quite low. On the whole, the developed
world cannot generally compete against this, but they can compete of the
skilled and the super skilled jobs: i.e. talent. Hence, by discriminating
against talent (in developed countries) is indicative that the employment
system is somehow flawed.

The Herald also gives statistics which show that women earn less than men,
especially if a women is out of the workforce for a long time. At face
value it might be argued that this is clear discrimination against women and
their inability to earn equal pay for equal work. In my opinion it is more
serious than that. What these statistics tell us is that companies wilfully
exclude talented people by offering them less than their market value. Are
companies forfeiting higher market valuation because they are intentionally
excluding potentially talented people from their workforce because they do
not pay market value salaries? Or simply because they are excluding talented
people purely on non-commercial grounds.

The term usually used to describe a woman's inability to go up the corporate
ladder is the "glass ceiling." This is an artificial barrier which women
experience when they seek high level promotions. This barrier is put there
by men to stop women from reaching the top jobs in a company. While no one
will dispute that some women are discriminated against and treated unfairly
in the workplace, and else where, discrimination is more wide spread than
that. The Wikipedia gives a long list of various types of discrimination,
including ageism, race discrimination, language discrimination, heightism,
religious and secularism intolerance, xenophobia and many more.

I would argue that a philosophical enquire should investigate the phenomenon
of discrimination and not just one form of discrimination. We all agree that
discrimination is unacceptable behaviour, but this does not add to the sum
total of our knowledge and eventually understanding. Something we know
already does not add new information (Theory of Information; Shannon.)

In a way, discrimination in general and discrimination specifically against
women started with nature. The only problem for us with this is that nature
does not make moral judgements the way we do. Or rather we have evolved
moral standards, as a survival strategy, long after nature had developed the
gene structure as survival strategy based on competition. In a way, we can
literally say that trying to stop discrimination goes against our nature.
And trying to reorganise society and humans in general to stop
discriminating is like trying to fix a problem with the car's engine whilst
doing 120km down the motorway. It's not easy.

The first source of discrimination in nature if of course the sexual role
the two sexes play in the procreation game. Females, have to carry the
unfertilised gamete, carry the fertilised gamete to term in a womb until the
offspring is born and then nourish and look after the newly born for a good
number of years. The male need only supply the fertilizing sperm, which can
be produced in large quantities and does not involve an elaborate biological
mechanism compared to the gamete. The male is not immobilised or
restricted when procreating, unlike the female who experiences a great
deal of discomfort during the gestation period and beyond. Theoretically,
males can also have an infinite number of children, whilst the female is
determined to have as many children as the number of eggs she is born
with. And as Dawkins puts it, female exploitation starts here.

The second source of discrimination in nature comes from living systems have
to compete against other systems, living or otherwise, for resources which
are needed for survival. Now, as far as the living system is concerned,
anything that is not an offspring or a relative it has to compete against.
It is immaterial whether this competition is direct or indirect. Of course,
we humans have created elaborate systems to cooperate instead of competing,
or rather systems that seem to limit who and how we compete. For example, I
would say that a company is such a system in the same way that a tribe is a
similar system. Although this arrangement does not do away with competition,
it sort of manages it. However, the bottom line is that, what matters is
winning that competition by fair or foul means. Discrimination is an unfair
way of gaining an advantage and as we know from evolutionary game theory
(and similar theories) it may benefit a few people to cheat in the short
term.

A more subtle discrimination, stems from the fact that males have to
compete for females. Or at least that is the received wisdom. Usually, we
forget the other side of the argument. Females also try and find the best
possible male they can be with. This selection process creates competition
amongst males, and we can clearly say that those males who do not get chosen
experience a form of indirect discrimination. I'm not thinking of extreme
cases but in terms of runners up. The challenger to the dominant male has
more going for him than the male who doesn't do anything. But of course it
is the loser in a contest that gets discriminated against. Another aspect of
this selection process is that even females compete with each other. All
females want the best possible male for themselves, so we're back to
competition.

Having established that discrimination can have some basis in nature does
this mean: that it acceptable to discriminate? That there is nothing much we
can about it? And that we shouldn't try to stop discrimination?

Discrimination in anture is still only one strategy that can be adopted. In
fact, one of the more successful survival strategy is to cooperate. We
already have the example of flexi work and it is not uncommon in biology to
think of living systems as genes cooperating together. Don't forget in an
Evolutionary Stable Strategy, it's not the morality that matters, but
whether one can be better off by adopting a different strategy. So, just
because discrimination is founded in nature it does not follow that we have
to practice it. There are equally valid strategies we can follow and
probably more rewarding.

The flexi time principle means that everyone in the company benefits. It
might be the ideal solution for working mothers, but in the end everyone
benefits. Contrast this with what is sometimes called
positive-discrimination. Under positive-discrimination, those groups that
are accepted to have been discriminated against in the past are given a head
start over other "normal" candidates when looking for a job, a place at
university or running for parliament. People from minority races and women
are usually the beneficiaries of such policies. Needless to say that this
is a very controversial issue, which I have no intention of entering into
here. The reason why I introduce it here is because it is nowadays a common
solution for certain discriminations.

However, this sort of strategy requires that we are clear about our
intentions. Do we apply certain strategies because we want to remove
discrimination or because we feel that it is about time that things went in
our favour? In other words, do we believe we deserve a bigger piece of the
cake because we believe that everyone ought to have a big piece of cake or
because we are the ones with a small piece of cake?

I would be inclined to think that we are better if we focused our attention
on reducing discrimination in general rather than fighting to remove
specific types of discrimination. This is not to say that causes like
feminism are to be disapproved of, but more to do with giving the wrong
impression. An impression that can be tested for by what I will call the
cake test: if we think that we deserve a bigger piece of cake because
everyone else has a big piece then this suggests that nature's original
strategy is still winning. If we try to find a fair balance between cake
supply and cake eaters then we are winning.

Take care

Lawrence

*Newsweek International:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11435567/site/newsweek/?page=3%20&

*The Sydney Morning Herald:

http://www.smh.com.au/news/superannuation/women-need-a-boost/2007/04/17/1176696767333.html

p

{<>}

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Feminism

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing Feminism.

It was suggested to me that men won't be interested in this subject. Well, I
don't know about that since the men I know are always interested in matters
concerning women. Presumably men would also be interested in feminism
especially as I have tried to argue in my very short essay that
discrimination against women reflects a rather more serious state of affairs
than just women being disadvantaged by men.

See you Sunday,

Take care

Lawrence

**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);

http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAY_FLAT_mayte_AlmerAVillaDeNJar

Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);

http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo/HOLIDAYFLAT_Paloma_MarbellaNearElviria
*************************************


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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feminism

Feminism covers a lot of theories and ideologies. It also covers a number of
actions to redress the imbalances feminists identify in the life of women.
It is therefore not easy to identify what feminism is and what it is all
about. This means that if we were to give a general criteria of what
feminism is and what it is concerned with we'll be doing the ideology an
injustice. However, I feel we have very little choice but to start, for our
purposes, by identifying such a general criteria.

One of the most important ideas of feminism is that biological differences
should not lead to social inequalities. Taking this idea a step further, an
idea of feminism is that society should not be organized in such a way as to
favour males in most walks of life, but especially in the work environment.
I think that we can generally agree with these two principles. The methods
or strategies required to bring about equality are of course another issue.

The first issue that feminism /should consider is the ability to distinguish
inequalities or discrimination which specifically affect women only and
other inequalities, which perhaps affect women more than men. What test
would we have to apply to distinguish between women specific discrimination
and other discrimination? If we can make this distinction we can then
perhaps be able to deal with the sex specific inequalities more efficiently
(quicker and binding solutions) than if we were solving the wrong problem,
so to speak.

A side issue which does not seem to be fully addressed in a debate on
feminism is who is doing the discrimination? It is generally assumed that,
for example, in the work situation it is men who discriminate against women.
Or maybe even in general society at large. What are the grounds for this
belief? Just because it seems that it is men who benefit from the
discrimination it does not automatically mean that it is only men who
discriminate against women. In fact it might not even be anyone as such that
holds women back from progressing in their career.

In Newsweek International, 27 February 2007*, in an article called Myth and
Reality it is suggested that one reason why women are held back is because
of the work system in Europe. The European system is more command and
control driven than the US system which is more objective based system. What
the article is suggesting is that under the European system what matters
most is how much time you spend at your desk, and the boss seeing you, and
not what you are capable of achieving. Under this system women lose out
because they have, more often than not, to be away from their desk to look
after their children. And this is where it becomes important to establish
women specific discrimination from general discrimination.

At face value, the command and control system seems implicitly, if not
explicitly, to discriminate against women. But if you read the article it
also refers to a study done by the London School of Economics which claims
that, "flex work tends to be some 25 percent more productive than office
work." It seems to me that command style management not so much
discriminates against women, but it rather discriminates against
share-holder value in favour of a few top echelon managers. A work system
which balances work life and private life means that not only people are
happier but that the system attracts better trained and better qualified
employees; which perhaps is the difference between market leader and average
trader. The Newsweek article quotes the BT case which has been operating a
flexi time system since the 1980's and has a 99% return rate on employees
who are mothers compared with the British average of 47%. Hence, it might
not be that men at the top discriminate against women, but that they also
discriminate against share holders.

The point about the flexi time system is that it benefits not only women but
also men. However, in Australia it is estimated that on average a women is
likely to be out of the workforce for six years to look after the young
family. (The Sydney Morning Herald. April 18, 2007*). This absence seems to
further support the claim that women are discriminated against because
they are women; they have to fulfil a biological necessity which does not
apply for men. But there again, I don't read this as evidence of women
specific discrimination. I read it as a flawed labour system and the problem
is not discrimination but an inadequate employment system for today's
economic system. From an economic point of view, today's global economy
means that more unskilled labour intensive jobs are moving to developing
countries where these costs can be quite low. On the whole, the developed
world cannot generally compete against this, but they can compete of the
skilled and the super skilled jobs: i.e. talent. Hence, by discriminating
against talent (in developed countries) is indicative that the employment
system is somehow flawed.

The Herald also gives statistics which show that women earn less than men,
especially if a women is out of the workforce for a long time. At face
value it might be argued that this is clear discrimination against women and
their inability to earn equal pay for equal work. In my opinion it is more
serious than that. What these statistics tell us is that companies wilfully
exclude talented people by offering them less than their market value. Are
companies forfeiting higher market valuation because they are intentionally
excluding potentially talented people from their workforce because they do
not pay market value salaries? Or simply because they are excluding talented
people purely on non-commercial grounds.

The term usually used to describe a woman's inability to go up the corporate
ladder is the "glass ceiling." This is an artificial barrier which women
experience when they seek high level promotions. This barrier is put there
by men to stop women from reaching the top jobs in a company. While no one
will dispute that some women are discriminated against and treated unfairly
in the workplace, and else where, discrimination is more wide spread than
that. The Wikipedia gives a long list of various types of discrimination,
including ageism, race discrimination, language discrimination, heightism,
religious and secularism intolerance, xenophobia and many more.

I would argue that a philosophical enquire should investigate the phenomenon
of discrimination and not just one form of discrimination. We all agree that
discrimination is unacceptable behaviour, but this does not add to the sum
total of our knowledge and eventually understanding. Something we know
already does not add new information (Theory of Information; Shannon.)

In a way, discrimination in general and discrimination specifically against
women started with nature. The only problem for us with this is that nature
does not make moral judgements the way we do. Or rather we have evolved
moral standards, as a survival strategy, long after nature had developed the
gene structure as survival strategy based on competition. In a way, we can
literally say that trying to stop discrimination goes against our nature.
And trying to reorganise society and humans in general to stop
discriminating is like trying to fix a problem with the car's engine whilst
doing 120km down the motorway. It's not easy.

The first source of discrimination in nature if of course the sexual role
the two sexes play in the procreation game. Females, have to carry the
unfertilised gamete, carry the fertilised gamete to term in a womb until the
offspring is born and then nourish and look after the newly born for a good
number of years. The male need only supply the fertilizing sperm, which can
be produced in large quantities and does not involve an elaborate biological
mechanism compared to the gamete. The male is not immobilised or
restricted when procreating, unlike the female who experiences a great
deal of discomfort during the gestation period and beyond. Theoretically,
males can also have an infinite number of children, whilst the female is
determined to have as many children as the number of eggs she is born
with. And as Dawkins puts it, female exploitation starts here.

The second source of discrimination in nature comes from living systems have
to compete against other systems, living or otherwise, for resources which
are needed for survival. Now, as far as the living system is concerned,
anything that is not an offspring or a relative it has to compete against.
It is immaterial whether this competition is direct or indirect. Of course,
we humans have created elaborate systems to cooperate instead of competing,
or rather systems that seem to limit who and how we compete. For example, I
would say that a company is such a system in the same way that a tribe is a
similar system. Although this arrangement does not do away with competition,
it sort of manages it. However, the bottom line is that, what matters is
winning that competition by fair or foul means. Discrimination is an unfair
way of gaining an advantage and as we know from evolutionary game theory
(and similar theories) it may benefit a few people to cheat in the short
term.

A more subtle discrimination, stems from the fact that males have to
compete for females. Or at least that is the received wisdom. Usually, we
forget the other side of the argument. Females also try and find the best
possible male they can be with. This selection process creates competition
amongst males, and we can clearly say that those males who do not get chosen
experience a form of indirect discrimination. I'm not thinking of extreme
cases but in terms of runners up. The challenger to the dominant male has
more going for him than the male who doesn't do anything. But of course it
is the loser in a contest that gets discriminated against. Another aspect of
this selection process is that even females compete with each other. All
females want the best possible male for themselves, so we're back to
competition.

Having established that discrimination can have some basis in nature does
this mean: that it acceptable to discriminate? That there is nothing much we
can about it? And that we shouldn't try to stop discrimination?

Discrimination in anture is still only one strategy that can be adopted. In
fact, one of the more successful survival strategy is to cooperate. We
already have the example of flexi work and it is not uncommon in biology to
think of living systems as genes cooperating together. Don't forget in an
Evolutionary Stable Strategy, it's not the morality that matters, but
whether one can be better off by adopting a different strategy. So, just
because discrimination is founded in nature it does not follow that we have
to practice it. There are equally valid strategies we can follow and
probably more rewarding.

The flexi time principle means that everyone in the company benefits. It
might be the ideal solution for working mothers, but in the end everyone
benefits. Contrast this with what is sometimes called
positive-discrimination. Under positive-discrimination, those groups that
are accepted to have been discriminated against in the past are given a head
start over other "normal" candidates when looking for a job, a place at
university or running for parliament. People from minority races and women
are usually the beneficiaries of such policies. Needless to say that this
is a very controversial issue, which I have no intention of entering into
here. The reason why I introduce it here is because it is nowadays a common
solution for certain discriminations.

However, this sort of strategy requires that we are clear about our
intentions. Do we apply certain strategies because we want to remove
discrimination or because we feel that it is about time that things went in
our favour? In other words, do we believe we deserve a bigger piece of the
cake because we believe that everyone ought to have a big piece of cake or
because we are the ones with a small piece of cake?

I would be inclined to think that we are better if we focused our attention
on reducing discrimination in general rather than fighting to remove
specific types of discrimination. This is not to say that causes like
feminism are to be disapproved of, but more to do with giving the wrong
impression. An impression that can be tested for by what I will call the
cake test: if we think that we deserve a bigger piece of cake because
everyone else has a big piece then this suggests that nature's original
strategy is still winning. If we try to find a fair balance between cake
supply and cake eaters then we are winning.

Take care

Lawrence

*Newsweek International:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11435567/site/newsweek/?page=3%20&

*The Sydney Morning Herald:

http://www.smh.com.au/news/superannuation/women-need-a-boost/2007/04/17/1176696767333.html

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Friday, April 13, 2007

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Conflict Resolution

Dear friends,

Hope you had a good holiday last week.

This Sunday we are talking about Conflict Resolution. I look forward to
hearing what you have to say on the subject. A modern source of conflict is
of course technology, for example how does one make a computer see things
one's way? Unfortunately, this might be outside the scope of our subject; at
least what we traditionally mean by conflict resolution. So I guess we'll
have to limit ourselves to old technology; human beings.

Take care and see you Sunday,


Lawrence

**********HOLIDAY FLATS**********
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);

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Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);

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*************************************


+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
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Conflict resolution


Ideally, Conflict Resolution should help parties with a dispute to solve
their problems before they become aggressive or show aggressive like
behaviour. For example, before actual fighting starts or court proceedings
are initiated. However, the main concern for most people is that differences
do not manifest themselves into aggression, especially physical aggression.

I shall limit my comments to conflicts between human beings, and by
implication between human characteristics. This means that for our purposes
a conflict can be between two parties, groups and even countries; we are
after all concerned about people. The term Conflict Resolution is very much
associated with nations and businesses, but most states also provide
conflict resolution services for married people.

Companies can use conflict resolution services, such as conciliation,
mediation, arbitration to settle disputes before taking their case to the
courts. (Wikipedia:conflict resolution) Some of the advantages of these
services is that they are probably cheaper, quicker and can be dealt with by
experts who are familiar with the industry or business involved. These
conflict resolution services can also make it easier for the parties to talk
to each, which might be difficult in a court of law; especially a court of
law based on common law. Where the parties have to prove their case which
means that they must promote their case at the detriment of their opponent.
It is not the best place to settle a dispute and restore relationships.

Ideally the resolution should also be to the benefit of both parties or at
least a resolution both parties can live with. The necessary condition for
there to be a resolution is of course a willingness by both parties to find
a resolution. A resolution does not mean that both parties get what they set
out to achieve, but maybe a party is not worse off than the other. An
element of comprise will always be expected in conflict resolution.
Compromise means that both parties are prepared to give up some of their
demands in exchange to settling the dispute. In a business context this is
much easier achieve than in the political context of a dispute between
countries. Especially a dispute that invokes a sense of nationalism. It is
much easier to settle a dispute about how much oranges should be exported in
exchange for shoes, but it is not that easy to settle for example
territorial boundaries.

Willingness to settle a dispute does not come easy as we all know from
experience, especially when we feel sure that we have been aggrieved. But
there is an equally important condition for conflict resolution to succeed.
In the event that one party is stronger than the other this party ought not
to exert undue influence or pressure on the proceedings. At face value this
means that the parties should be treated equally, which at face value is a
desirable condition. But is it? This situation can easily lead to a
paradoxical state of affairs because the stronger party not only has to give
up more of their natural advantage but that this will directly benefit to
weaker party. Hence, the weaker party seems to be put at an advantage at the
cost of the stronger party. But before I try to explain this paradox, there
is third requirement for conflict resolution.

In a way this third condition comes in two parts. The parties and the
referee. The role of the referee is first and foremost to establish a
channel of communication between the two parties. This does not have to be
face to face negations, but it does mean that there is an open channel of
communication for the parties. Compare this with what modern media have
termed Megaphone Diplomacy when two countries use their national media, and
most often the international media, to create sensational and headline news
to further their position.

However, we can easily see problems with communication whether done within
the confines of the offices of the referee or even the media. These problems
concern both the mathematical theory of information (Shannon; Theory of
Information) and the Semantic theory of Information (Philosophy of
Information.) Hence, not only are the parties faced with having to decide
what the other party really means, and the subsequent implications (Semantic
Theory), but also whether the message (and meaning) is somehow distorted
(Noise; Theory of Information). And to compound the problem we want to
include all the people as individuals involved in the dispute including, of
course, the referee. Distortion in communication can easily arise from a
genuine mistake, for example the use of language terms especially if the
parties do not speak the same language. Or a personal dislike to one of the
parties or simply bias or prejudice by the referee. Hence, at the very
least, the referee should be seen to be fair and able (to communicate.)
Maybe, technical professionalism might go a long way to establish this
trust. But it is not sufficient.

The process itself must be accepted as fair. A process that does not take
into account the arguments of the parties is of course flawed by nature, in
the same way that a process that favours one type of party is unfair.

But the main issue about conflict resolution is why should there be
conflicts in the first place? Which leads to the next question, why should
there be aggression? However, are conflict and aggression the same as
disagreement? Can there be a disagreement between two parties but that does
not imply conflict? Or are all disagreements conflictive if not aggressive?
I would tend to think that difference-of-opinion is at one end of the
spectrum and aggression (physical) at the other extreme end of the spectrum.
I want to argue that the source of this disposition in human beings (for
want of a better word) is the same source; much like the source of bad
feelings and acute physical pain have the same source, the brain.

The concept of aggression is discussed in detail by Dawkins in The Selfish
Gene. But what we need from chapter five is the following. "Survival
machines of the same species tend to impinge on each others' live more
directly. ....... members of the same species...are particularly direct
competitors for all the resources necessary for life."

This explains aggressions, scarce resources and competing for the same
resources means that we have to enter into a completive strategy. QED. But
it does not explain why a stronger party should give up some of their
advantage. "Why is it that animals do not go all out to kill rival members
of their species at every possible opportunity?" Even humans do not go all
out to destroy their enemies who must less restrained than animals in the
wild. One simple answer which Dawkins gives is that by eliminating one's
rival one can be giving someone else a bigger advantage, not to forget that
one can easily be fatally wounded in the process. Thus giving one's enemies
an ever greater advantage. For example, the demise of imperial Japan after
the second world war benefitted China as much as to bring peace to the
Americans in the Pacific region.

Although competition is a survival strategy, we can also say that
cooperation is a survival strategy. How else can we interpret "not killing
your enemy at the first opportunity?" But if competition gives rise to
aggression I want consider the possibility that there is an another source
of aggression apart from competition.

The idea of conflict is very repugnant to most people especially if there
had been a natural selection away from conflict and aggression but towards
cooperation. Cooperation has its powerful advantages, for example we do not
kill each other at every opportunity, which in turn leads to stability. The
idea of stability is very important and we find it under such theories as
the Nash equilibrium (google: John Nash) and the Evolutionary Stable
Strategy (ESS, Dawkins and Maynard Smith (Evolutionary Game Theory:Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy)). Taking Dawkins quick definition an
Evolutionary stable strategy is one which, if most members of a population
adopt it, cannot be bettered by an alternative strategy. Or simply do what
everyone else is doing. The Nash equilibrium is, "a game involving two or
more players where no player has anything to gain by changing only his or
her own strategy unilaterally." (Wikipedia:Nash equilibrium.) Like all these
things, the devil is in the detail which is beyond the scope of this short
essay.

What is important for us is that stability based on cooperation and
consensus is a very powerful strategy as much as competition. Of course when
all these technical theories speak of cooperation and stability they are not
saying that they are also ethical or morally acceptable theories. In fact
the idea of morality does not come into; it is all about the survival
machine principle and not the moral principles. Of course, this does not
mean that we cannot couch cooperation and stability is moral language but
that's a different issue.

Going back to our theme, on chapter six of The Prince, Machiavelli warns us
that, "..there is nothing more difficult to execute, nor more dubious of
success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new order of
things;..." Those who benefited under the old regime become enemies and the
supporters of the new changes can at best be lukewarm; for example due to
fear of the unknown. This might not be word for word the Nash equilibrium or
ESS, but I suggest that Machiavelli anticipated ESS and the Nash
equilibrium; he also understood the thinking behind them.

So how can stability lead to aggression. The above stable strategies, nor
Evolutionary Game theory, exclude the possibility that some might take
advantage of the stability created by these strategies and cheat. When we
read these theories one thing becomes clear, cheating pays in the short
term. For example, sending a few defective goods in a big consignment might
add a few extra bucks to the bottom line, but in the long run this might
lead to a dispute and maybe loss of contract. It is all a question of
whether in the long run we-re around to pay the consequences. In a way
stability makes it easier for a small minority to cheat. And this is how
stability can lead to aggression; people usually react negatively when they
discover they have been cheated. Is this state of affairs something we are
prepared to tolerate? And furthermore, it is something that we want to allow
given that it might lead to escalating aggression if cooperation is not a
stable strategy?

I have already referred to the importance of communication and the abilities
of the referee, but see what Machiavelli has to say that might impinge on
these two factors. Chapter six, "...people are fickle by nature; and it is
simple to convince them of something but difficult to hold them in that
conviction; and therefore, affairs should be managed in such a way that when
they no longer believe, they can be made to believe by force."

I think that Machiavelli understood the principle of a survival machine very
well. The question is, do we still understand it today?

Take care


Lawrence

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