anotherlongshot (anotherlongshot) wrote,

Intellectual Entertainment

I had a lot of fun today with the Jurisprudence people, discussing the third instalment of the Kramer-Simmonds debate at the Granta. The debate is essentially about whether a wicked regime has prudential reasons to adhere to the rule of law. We split ourselves into two camps (one for Kramer, the other for Simmonds). I was the jduge of the debate, and John represented Hamish Stewart who wrote an article about one of the finer points of the debate (in Josh's words: 'He's a busybody!'). I liked this format better than the usual 'read these chapters and we get together and discuss' because people were really explaining the arguments and counter-arguments in a way that was compelling and understandable. I must say that Raffael was a really good advocate; he ended up convincing me of the strength of Kramer's argument, even if the methodology was rather questionable. The argument is essentially that extra-legal punishments have an incentive-sapping effect on a citizen's inclination to obey the laws of a wicked regime because when such punishments are meted out at random, the citizen cannot predict whether his obeying the law would keep him safe from extra-legal punishments; and since the citizen's obeying the law seemingly has no impact on whether he would be punished extra-legally, he has no incentive to follow the law. Kramer uses some kind of economic analysis and anecdotal evidence to support his argument, and this I found rather dubious; but Raffael explained it so well that it ended up being more convincing than the Simmonds camp. In fact, I don't even know what Simmonds' argument is, only his counter-argument to Kramer (which is basically that even the extra-legal punishments meted out by wicked regimes follow some kind of pattern, and thus they are predictable and not totally random in the way that Kramer contends).

Nonetheless, I honestly think that this part of the debate is quite pointless and contingent on so many factors that it's not worthwhile to speak philosophically about it. The possible effects of extra-legal punishments on a citizen's inclination to obey the law depends on the kind of wicked regime in question, its set-up, the degree of its wickedness; it also depends on the individual citizen's reasoning process, his motivations, what he personally feels he has to lose if he obeys the laws of a wicked regime or not. It is essentially an empirical question. Also, both philosophers do not seem to be arguing from the same baseline. To me, both the regimes they describe are plausible, and so the consequences that flow from these regimes are also plausible - and so this discussion says nothing about whether there is an internal morality to the rule of law, or whether there is a necessary connection between law and morality. I'm also not sure if one can infer anything about the latter question by observing whether a wicked regime adheres to the rule of law. It could be that a wicked regime enacts evil laws that they adhere to, but it doesn't mean that the evil laws are not evil. But of course, this is an obvious objection which I'm sure Kramer has responded to already. I didn't read the first two instalments of the debate, so I don't know what's been said.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the fifth instalment (I'm not around when they discuss the fourth). This debate is quite entertaining because both men are quite unapologetic about using ad hominem attacks against the other, and the animosity on print is also present in real life. It is a rather sad state of affairs because Kramer was Simmonds' PhD student. Nevertheless, the entertainment value is real. Simmonds' article in the fifth instalment is titled 'Kramer's High Noon', which starts off thus: 'Hello? Is anybody there?' Like Visa said, I've never read an academic article that opens like that.

After the discussion, Raffael, Visa, Josh and I had an early dinner at Las Iguanas. I liked the mushroom fajita and the cocktail I chose for Josh and me (Jaguar Milk, consisting of milk, cream, chocolate liquer and something else - delicious) but the combination of everything made my stomach feel queasy. I had a mint tea while sitting in the Punter with Dominic which made me feel better, and so I got myself a glass of wine. I came back and released the toxins from my system (if you know what I mean) and I feel normal again now.

Today was a fruitful day. I'm sick of my doing so little on a day-to-day basis though. These days, I get up at 10.30 and watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica while having breakfast, then usually go to the gym, then cook lunch which takes about 45 minutes, then have lunch in front of another BSG episode, then I don't even know what I do after that. Tomorrow, I'll have breakfast at Fitzbillies and go to the faculty to do some reading. I feel useless and unmotivated, and I want to turn this around because I am tired of the loss of confidence, the bad mood, the angst.

Dominic and I are going to Prague this Saturday for four days. I'm so excited! It will be amazing.
Tags: cambridge, dominic, food, friends, law, philosophy, tv shows

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