This is the artwork for Wildcat General Strike‘s debut CD ‘Nobody’s Got A Gun To Your Head’. The CD’s finally showed up today. We are pretty happy with it. The cover image came from a NY artist named Shianne Rosenberg, who was kind enough to let us use it. The rest of the design was a team effort by me and Jarred, and our friend Shannon took the sleeve photo.

This Op Ed was published on Crikey’s ‘Rooted’ blog on Tuesday, giving rise to the War-And-Peace-Epic 11,000 word comment war I’ve included below for shits and giggles.

Don’t be fooled, Mantle are in it for the money

Few could accuse Mantle Mining company director Ian Kraemer of lacking rhetorical ambition. Attending a public meeting in Bacchus Marsh last week to explain his plan to turn local farmlands into a brown coal mine, Kraemer was keen to talk up his environmental credibility. ‘Brown coal’, he told locals present, ‘has the ability to be the saviour of the planet’.

Now, given brown coal’s status as one of the world’s most polluting fossil fuels, this seems an odd statement. Yet Kraemer is adamant it can be defended. Mantle, he says, plans to use a special technique developed by another company, Exergen, to remove moisture from the coal, thereby reducing its greenhouse emissions by up to 40%. Given that countries such as China and India are likely to use brown coal for some time to come, he argues, it makes good environmental sense to help them to burn it in a cleaner way.

But can we trust Kraemer’s reasoning here? To begin, let’s examine the claim that Exergen’s coal-drying technology will reduce greenhouse emissions from burning brown coal by up to 40%. A quick review of the company’s very own promotional material shows how deceitful that figure really is. Read the rest of this entry »

I recently watched Dig! on Youtube. I reckon you can probably tell. This was the design the band ended up settling on.

What have I been up to lately? A lot of rehearsing with the band, a bit of getting dodgy hipster haircuts(!), a fair bit of hand therapy for my broken hand (long story) and a fair bit of this (it’s a video I wrote, scored and directed for the Stop HRL crew I’m in here in Melbourne):

With this essay I will propose an account of autonomy that contrasts starkly with the majority of current philosophical discourse on the topic. Much of this discourse, I will suggest, has been misguided by an assumption shared by virtually all of its influential contributors – that agents are capable of actions that are within their power to avoid but nonetheless are not the result of their own autonomous agency. I will argue, however, that this in fact represents a mistake, and that autonomy is actually far simpler than this discourse suggests. By dispensing with this assumption, I will set out an alternate view – ‘autonomy as choice-responsiveness’ – that I believe allows us far greater clarity on the concept. Read the rest of this entry »

When we use names, we pick out things in the world. When I say ‘Barrack Obama’ for example, I use words to refer to a certain person. And it is often assumed that it is the beliefs I possess about Obama – that he spent time in Indonesia as a child, that he beat McCain, and so on – that make this possible. When we find the man who grew up in Indonesia and beat McCain, this view goes, we will have found my reference. This is ‘descriptivism’: the idea that the reference of names is fixed by their descriptions. It was this view that Saul Kripke sought to deny in his Naming and Necessity. Via numerous examples, Kripke argued that the beliefs a speaker associates with names are neither necessary nor sufficient to fix their reference. I will here examine Kripke’s claims, and suggest that while they do illuminate certain key modifications that should be made to descriptivism they do not ultimately damage its standing as the best available explanation for the way in which the reference of names is fixed. Read the rest of this entry »

This essay is about the relationship between science and common sense. I would like to admit at its outset, though, that it will lack any particularly strong arguments or points to prove, and will, as much as possible, avoid taking a position on any major philosophical disagreements. Instead, I will here take on a different mode of philosophical work, which while perhaps not as exciting as more direct argumentation, is nonetheless something that I believe needs doing – a thorough analysis of the concepts that are at play within the subject. By so doing, I will try to shed light on what I believe are some important and perhaps under-appreciated distinctions that are shaping current debates. Hopefully what results will have some value for that. Read the rest of this entry »

There is a common reaction I receive when I tell people I am partial to the moral theory of utilitarianism; it tends to occur when my interlocutors have a surer-than-average footing in the humanities, and is something quite like indignation. Utilitarianism is well known to these types; it is the villain of moral theories, and they exhibit great pride in their ability to recite its flaws. Utilitarianism ‘leaves some behind’ they say. It is ‘unfair to minorities’. It ‘justifies anything. A recent Internet video shared amongst a number of my friends captures this mood well. ‘We are not’ it informs us, ‘soft-wired for aggression, violence, self-interest, utilitarianism…’[1] Public intellectual Clive Hamilton fans the flames. ‘The utilitarian model,’ he writes, ‘in which agents calculate the best means of maximising social welfare without regards to its effects on individuals, is a sociopathic one…’[2] But this, I believe, has gone too far. In fact, I think that philosophical academia has done public moral discourse a great disservice by promoting the notion that these common charges against utilitarianism stand upon a firm theoretical ground. They do not. With this paper I will examine what are possibly the two most widely accepted moral arguments against utilitarianism, and contend that contrary to common belief, these arguments find virtually no theoretical support in any plausible philosophical doctrine. By so doing I will attempt to show how far I believe our discussion of utilitarianism has gone off the rails, and how a fresh look at some old arguments may be able to right its course. Read the rest of this entry »

Listen: The Kids And The Nation

Wake at night time
And say your prayers
You are the kids and the nation
You are the ultimate friends
I want to live in your future
I want to die in your arms
And I want to be naked
Like I never was

This life’s not good enough for our life
This time we kill deserves to die
And as we danced in circles we were brilliant
Like a burning star

So chase the fireworks
Through your dreams
Jumping over the fences
Tearing up your jeans
And for the love of your family
You would stand and fight
They can take your freedom
But they can’t take your life

This life’s not good enough for our life
This time we kill deserves to die
And as we danced in circles we were brilliant
Like a burning star

You’re so good, in the field where they lay you out
You’re so good, the community’s up in arms
You’re so good, and I’m not going to let you die
You’re so good, lift your hands up into the sky

The nation x32

Fantastic news today for all climate activists around the world: Ted Glick, Climate Justice Faster and policy director of the US NGO Chesapeake Climate Action Now was spared the ordeal of a jail sentence for peacefully unfurling banners reading “GREEN JOBS NOW” and “GET TO WORK” inside the U.S. Senate Hart Office Building last September. Hundreds of fellow activists and climate concerned citizens from all over the world wrote letters in support of Ted to his judge, and packed out his courtroom in solidarity, and it seems to have some effect. What was looking almost certainly like at least a few months, and quite possibly years, of jail time became simply a good behavior bond and community service, as Ted walked free from the court amongst friends and supporters.

Here is the poignant and powerful statement Ted read out in court:

Ted Glick’s Sentencing Statement, July 6, 2010

Your honor, I’d like to focus my statement on the “why” of the September 8th action, about which I was not able to testify at my trial. I’ll begin with a quote from a March 4th, 2010 press release from the U.S. National Science Foundation. It concerns the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas 70 times as strong as carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere. This release begins: Read the rest of this entry »

With this essay I will attempt to do a few things. First, I will introduce the concept of global justice, and will briefly sketch the positions of the most prominent schools of thought upon it. I will then outline the issue of climate change, and explain why I believe that we should arrive at much the same conclusions about the demands of global justice regarding it no matter which of the aforementioned schools of thought we adhere to. Given these conclusions, I will propose that there can be little doubt that the majority of affluent nations are today acting unjustly in regards to climate change. I will then discuss the implications of recognising this fact for individuals living within such countries, and argue that citizens of affluent nations are obligated, by a negative duty not to contribute to injustice, both to limit their own emissions of greenhouse gas, and to undertake further efforts to rectify the injustice involved in climate change and compensate its victims.

Global Justice

Traditionally, the boundaries of justice were seen to be national borders, and the only globally recognised standard of behaviour to which nations were held was a general moral duty not to violate other nations’ sovereignty. In recent times, however, it has become increasingly recognised that the issue of justice also concerns the interactions between states, and that people may owe obligations of justice to others who live beyond their own borders.[1] This thought, however, has given rise to a number of theoretical debates, and a number of different schools of thought have arisen about what global justice might be.

Four major schools of thought on this question are Liberalism, Utilitarianism, Libertarianism, and Communalism. Liberalism, while it has many different forms, generally entails the view that global justice should primarily be grounded in the provision and protection of a universal set of human rights.

Utilitarianism, on the other hand, is the view that a just international system would, so far as possible, serve to create the best overall outcome, or the greatest ‘utility’. It therefore does not admit of any in-principle recognition of national sovereignty or human rights.

Libertarianism differs from both these views, maintaining that the primary concern of justice should be the protection of individual freedom. Calling upon the common distinction between positive and negative duties – positive referring to duties to take certain actions, negative referring to duties to refrain from taking certain actions – libertarians insist that the only obligations that individuals should have under a system of justice are negative duties not to harm others.

And finally, Communitarianism is the view that there is no one standard of justice that has a claim to be universally recognised, and holds that it is the autonomy of states must be upheld as widely as is possible. Like with libertarianism, however, this autonomy of states is limited by the proviso that it must not be used to harm other states.

So given these widely divergent views, it is a rare issue that would lead theorists from each camp to achieve a consensus position about the demands of global justice. Yet in climate change, it seems, we may have just such an issue. But before exploring why this is so, we will first need to understand a little bit more about the problem of climate change itself. Read the rest of this entry »

This essay will argue against the second century CE Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna’s central theory that all phenomena are empty of svabhava, or independent existence. I will suggest that while the vast majority of our objects do not ultimately possess independent existence, the same cannot be said for the object proposed by monism – the undifferentiated totality of everything – for there is nothing else that this particular object could be dependent upon. Contrary to Nagarjuna’s claims, I will argue, the object of the Monist has svabhava.

Nagarjuna claimed that all phenomena exist only in dependence upon other things, which in turn exist only in relation to others, and so on. He accepted that entities exist in a conventional sense, meaning that conventionally accepted and useful, but insisted that from an ultimate perspective none could be regarded as existing in its own right.[1] Nagarjuna proposed numerous arguments in favor if this view, and it will not be possible to explore them all here. But neither, I believe, do we need to. For as mentioned, the project of this essay is to propose that, counter to Nagarjuna’s belief, there is a particular object that possesses svabhava – the object of the Monist. Due to the nature of this object, there are only a select few of Nagarjuna’s arguments that are applicable.

Yet before we examine these arguments, we should be clear about exactly what is being suggested. The object I have in mind is that proposed by the ontological position known as monism – or at least my understanding of it – which is the notion that on an ultimate level, there is only one thing that exists, which is the totality of everything (henceforth the TOE). To monists, all division of the TOE into a plurality of entities is inevitably based on observer-relative conceptualisations. They believe, to borrow a famous phrase, that there is no way to divide up the world ‘at the joints’, because such joints simply do not exist in an ultimate sense prior to the imposition of an observer’s own conceptual framework. And so, they claim, without any ultimately real divisions reality must be a single unified whole.

It is obvious why such a viewpoint would pose a problem for Nagarjuna. As mentioned above, he claimed that all phenomena exist only in dependence upon other phenomena. In fact, this assertion was the very basis of his entire philosophy. But there seems at least a prima facie impossibility of this being the case if we consider the TOE as an object, for the simple reason that there is no other entity outside of the TOE for it to be dependent on – by definition, the TOE incorporates all possible entities. Read the rest of this entry »

In The Sources of Normativity, Christine Korsgaard sets out to answer what she calls ‘the normative question’ of why it is we are obligated to be moral, basing her theory upon a modified Kantian conception of human agency. This essay will outline her theory, and will propose that it should be rejected, as the view of human agency it is founded upon is suspect.

The normative question is that raised by the moral skeptic. It asks what, if anything, justifies the claims that we make upon ourselves and upon others in the name of morality. It is therefore quite different from, say, questions about what our moral obligations are, or what explains morality in general. Asking about the nature of moral obligations presupposes that we have such obligations, which is precisely what the normative question calls into doubt. And while I can easily offer you an explanation of why my Muslim friends believe it is wrong to eat pork, in order to justify their belief I will need to show you that it is true, which is a different task altogether. Korsgaard, then, does not wish to debate what our moral obligations are, or why it is that we believe we have them. She wants to prove that our moral obligations are real.

She certainly cannot be accused of a lack of ambition. In fact, by attempting to provide a convincing philosophical response to the normative question, she has by her own admission made an attempt – and, in her view, succeeded – at solving a problem that no previous philosopher has conquered. The following is a brief attempt to outline how she purports to have done so.

Korsgaard writes that the normative question arises because of the reflective nature of our consciousness. Unlike animals, she argues, humans are able to abstract ourselves from our own mental processes, and make the content of our minds the object of our attention. So whenever we have an impulse, we are not immediately claimed by it, but instead have a choice, made from a reflective distance, about whether to act upon it or not. Due to the structure of our minds, we must answer this question, and this answer must be normative for us.[1] Read the rest of this entry »

The doctrine of anatta, or ‘no-self’, is possibly the most original aspect of the teachings of the Gotama Buddha. His view that humans possess no real personal identity or enduring soul contrasted with virtually all prior Indian thought, and remains to this day Buddhist philosophy’s primary point of departure from other Asiatic traditions. With this essay I will examine the central argument, based upon mereological reductionism, which Buddhists have used to establish anatta, and will argue that it fails to conclusively prove the doctrine.

One of the most instructive historical explanations of the doctrine of no-self is the first century CE text known as Milindapañha or The Questions of King Milinda. It presents a dialogue between the King and a Buddhist monk named Nãgasena, in which Nãgasena, upon being introduced to the King, promptly summarises the Buddhist position on the self:

‘Your majesty, I am called Nãgasena; my fellow monks, your majesty, address me as Nãgasena; but…it is, nevertheless, your majesty, just a counter, an expression, a convenient designator, a mere name, this Nãgasena, for there is no person here to be found.’[1]

His own name, Nãgasena insists, is a ‘convenient designator’, meaning it is a word that does not denote a real entity, but is simply a useful way of referring to a collection of parts. To explain this, he considers the word ‘chariot’. What we call a chariot, he argues, is nothing more than an arrangement of parts – an axle, some wheels, a pole, and so forth. And everything about it – the way it looks, the functions it performs, its weight, etc – can be explained purely by reference to these parts. So while it may be useful for a society to say ‘chariot’ when we mean such an arrangement of parts, we should recognise that this is just a pragmatic convention, and leave chariots out of our final ontology – that is, our view about which things truly exist.[2]

Nãgasena’s introductory statement to the King, then, asserts that what we refer to as a person, or a self, is the same – merely a collection of various parts. These parts, on the Buddhist view, are what are known as the five skandhas, or ‘bundles’, which are listed as physical matter, feeling, perception, volition, and consciousness.[3] The Gotama Buddha taught his followers that there can be no self, because like the chariot, there is nothing more to be found within individuals than parts ­– the skandhas – and no one of these skandhas is a self.[4] The word self, then, is merely a convenient designator that does not refer to anything ultimately real. Read the rest of this entry »

Everybody Series



Tiananmen Square

Listen: Tiananmen Square

I have come here with my brother
Carrying his memory
We talk with one another
About the day he passed away

And I know that I will join him
And that all that I will hear
Are songs we learned in childhood to sing

Here we are
Arm in arm, against the tide
I will wear your hand-me-downs
I will face the firing squad
You said that life is meaningless
Why are all these people here
Going to fight by my side?

And with the moment upon us
Bringing us eternity
Everything was golden

As far as my eye could see
We stood and faced the army
As the shots rang overhead
And the crowd began to chant ‘stop killing’

You said that life is meaningless
Why are all these people here
Going to fight by my side?

I wait to see your face again
Encased by a thousand years of pain
And when our blood is washed away
We’ll be back upon the rain

And I want you here
To sing with me
And fight by my side

When setting out to take part in Climate Justice Fast!, I steeled myself for a lot of negativity. After all, hunger striking is controversial- that’s part of the reason it can be so effective in focusing attention on issues and spurring debate. However, I have to admit that while preparing for a barrage of criticism, I completely forgot to prepare myself for being completely, and blatantly, lied about.

Was I naïve?

I guess so.

But I just did not expect to see bare-faced lies printed about myself. Perhaps I figured that there would be enough ammunition for people opposed to CJF to use if they wanted to criticize me, without having to resort to untruth. But how wrong I was.

Here is Malcolm Farr of the Daily Telegraph, reporting that “Connor isn’t going to give up all food; he’s just not going to have as much as he usually would.”

A lie. I have drunk water only since November 6th.

We have contacted Malcolm and asked him, in the name of journalistic integrity, to retract his report. But he hasn’t responded.

And here is a fellow called ‘Jack the Insider”, who surprised me today with the news that I am no longer on hungerstrike!

Also a lie. (Unless I have missed something rather pertinent!) Read the rest of this entry »

The Aftermath

Listen: THE AFTERMATH

We had your mother
So get a new one
And get her good
We’ve had such great fun
We had a ball

Make love with robots
Between their bomb runs
In the Third World
Make everyone there
Work for you

See you in the aftermath
When you’ve come down
We are going to take you there
And take our time

We’ve got psychoses
In every home
And we’ve got the drugs
We’ve got it all, but
It’s all too much

See you in the aftermath
When you come down
We are going to take you there
And take our time

Tasers In Your Faces

Listen: TASERS IN YOUR FACES

Scrape the skies till they bleed America
The slaves that made you famous are breaking down
The staff are going home forever

‘Cause all their work is done
Bombs are raining down
And we’re entertained as hell

But the revolution’s here.
Begging for your ear
Begging for your help

Your sacred banks are breaking America
Tazers in your faces
You’re never going to stop that suckling pig

So continue fading out
Rolling in your muck
Groaning with the weight

But the revolution’s here.
Begging for your ear
Begging for your help

Begging for your help
Nude and blindfolded
Begging for your help

We will love again
We will love
We will love

Ankle Bracelets

Listen: ANKLE BRACELETS

This is a night storm
-Is a neon sign
And I could pray forever
The rain will help me
Wash it down

I never imagined
We could be like this
With your pink and purple
Ankle bracelets
Sacred gifts

I’m not waiting round
Till everything is gone
After losing every battle
How dare you win the war?
But nothing ever matters
When you’re only seventeen
But heed me now,
Heed me now, please…

We’ll be forgotten
When the morning comes
We’ll face the army
And beg for money
From them

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