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Alternate history: Kerensky edition

March 8th, 2017

In the era Trump, it’s hard to avoid thinking about alternate histories. Most of my attempts focus on the Great War, and I’ve just had one published in the New York Times, leading off a series they plan on the centenary of the Russian Revolution(s). My question: What if Kerensky had responded positively to the resolution of the German Reichstag, calling for peace without annexations or indemnities?

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  1. Tom the first and best
    March 8th, 2017 at 22:38 | #1

    The chances of any positive responses by Kerensky to the resolution be the Reichstag translating into a treaty with the Germans were lower because of the Reichstag`s lack of control over the executive and military.

    However the ability to free up troops for the Western Front may have persuaded the executive and to agree to such a deal with the Russians.

  2. peter
    March 9th, 2017 at 07:46 | #2

    As you probably know, Kerensky lived in exile in Brisbane for a while.

    In an interview once (after his loss of office) on British TV, Mikhail Gorbachev was asked through an interpreter if he thought the Russian Revolution had been a good thing. He replied saying, Yes, the February Revolution.

  3. Ikonoclast
    March 9th, 2017 at 08:01 | #3

    Alternate histories would have to be subsumed, philosophically and in physics, under the heading of indeterminacy (IMO).

    In a key short paper, ‘Physics Laws of Social Science’, 21 June 2013, Wayne outlines:

    “Five New Physics Laws of Social Science – James J. Wayne

    “In this section, we will present five new physics laws. The explanation and discussion will be presented in next sections. These laws are applicable to any system that is made of elementary articles, including any physical and biological system, human being, and human society.

    First Law – Law of Indeterminacy

    For a closed system, the outcome of any future event in the system is indeterministic. The quantum uncertainty of the future is the fundamental property of nature and cannot be overcome by any means.

    Second Law – Law of Predicting the Future

    For a closed system, any future event in the system can be and can only be predicted precisely to the extent of a joint probability distribution among all possible outcomes. The joint probability distribution function exists and is uniquely given by quantum mechanics.

    Third Law – Law of Choice

    Actions, which are constrained by fundamental laws of physics, can be taken between time 0 and time T to modify the joint probability distribution function of time T of a closed system.

    Fourth Law – Law of Information
    The complete historic information of any closed system cannot be recreated based on today’s complete information. At any time-step, new information is created and some historic information is lost permanently.

    Fifth Law – Law of Equilibrium
    For a system under certain constraints, quantum uncertainties in the system will eventually push the system toward equilibrium states.”

    Wayne expands on the Law of Indeterminacy as follows;

    “The Law of Indeterminacy rejects the (more classical) mainstream idea in the scientific community that indeterministic behavior is limited to the microscopic world of atoms and elementary particles, and the macroscopic world can be completely described by deterministic Newtonian physics. Common senses tell us that the indeterministic radioactive decay could cause indeterministic events such as cancers due to the radiation damage. Radiation from a single atom is sufficient to break DNA molecules to cause cancers later in people. Indeed a report from National Research Council says that even low doses of radiation like X-rays are likely to pose some risk of adverse health effects. No threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial. Putting it simply, the true safety threshold is zero.”

    A key weakness I find in Wayne is a lack of philosophical rigour, especially in considering the issue of free will. Wayne appears to accept the existence of genuine free will as a priori true and self-evident. Wayne needs, in my opinion, to more critically examine this assumption. A more rigorous approach would refer, not to “choice” (which contains a supposition of free will), but simply to events of “determination”. I prefer the term “determinations” because it avoids making the a priori assumption that real free choice exists. Thus “determinations” made by a quantum event and “determinations” made by a complex “agent”, a human being, would be regarded equally by the theory and no unnecessary a priori assumption (that humans actually have free will) would need to be made. The free will assumption is strictly unnecessary in the formulation of Wayne’s Laws.

    Much of Wayne’s other writings I have big question marks over but these laws above appear to me to hold water. But a true philosopher or a true physicist might be able to tell me that these laws are just pseudo-philosophy or pseudo-science. I would interested if anyone here has any opinions on this matter.

  4. Greg McKenzie
    March 9th, 2017 at 08:02 | #4

    If it had not been for Stalin, the Russian revolution would have generated a viable Marxist state. Power hungry megalomaniacs tend to warp anything they control and this is the lesson from this particular chapter of history. Are you paying attention Asad, Putin, the rulers in the South Sudan and Mugabe?

  5. David Allen
    March 9th, 2017 at 09:30 | #5

    @Greg McKenzie
    or Peter Dutton

  6. Savvas Jonis
    March 9th, 2017 at 10:17 | #6

    Back to the Great War of 1911 (I am commenting here because comments are closed on the article), I find it remarkable that no one commented on the Christian take over of the leading Islamic city at the time.

    Whilst, and I say this as a Greek Australian, it may have been great for Greece, surely there would have been some consequences?

  7. Smith
    March 9th, 2017 at 10:48 | #7

    What if the revolutions of 1848 had turned out differently? What if France had defeated Germany in 1870? What if the Russian revolution of 1905 had turned out differently?

    All possible, all would have led to a vastly different Europe in the 20th century.

  8. Smith
    March 9th, 2017 at 10:51 | #8

    @Greg McKenzie

    Only one country had Stalin but all attempts at a Marxist state – and since 1917 there have been many, on every continent – have ended in tears. The problem might be in the concept rather than the execution.

  9. Historyintime
    March 9th, 2017 at 10:56 | #9

    @peter

    Didn’t he use to dine and wine at the Breakfast Creek Hotel.

    Might have run into Neddie Hanlon or Vince Gair there.

  10. March 9th, 2017 at 22:23 | #10

    Sydney small online magazine a a snippet about Alexander Kerensky and the antipodean love of his life Australian journalist Lydia ‘Nell’ Tritton …

    http://www.pittwateronlinenews.com/nelltrittonandalexanderkerenskybygeorgerepin.php
    https://randomalex.net/2015/08/15/alexander-kerensky/

  11. HED PE
    March 10th, 2017 at 00:39 | #11

    @Ikonoclast
    Seems like inelegant gobbledygook although I must admit I gave up about ten words in and skimmed the rest. IMO “free will” is a magic belief that belongs in the same category as leprechauns, immaculate misconceptions, an illiterate desert dwelling cultist parting the Red Sea, sky fairies and all manner of pseudo-science. We live in a caused world with everything set in concrete by the parameters of whatever natural creation event- be it the Big Bang or something else- started the ball rolling. (Of course something must have happened before the Big Bang as well). Sorry folks, but if we live in the caused world of science we are all just actors following scripts that were written at the dawn of time and there is nothing that can be done about it!

    In a nutshell, I don’t think alternative histories have any great intellectual value because they do not really represent possible alternatives. Nonetheless they can be fun. I quite enjoy the Man in the High Castle and I’ll probably also fork out to see Matt Damon battle monsters along the Great Wall!

  12. March 10th, 2017 at 01:11 | #12

    @Greg McKenzie

    Maybe, but I’m not so sure about centrally planned economies. I read a book recently that tells of a junior soviet diplomat visiting the UK. He asked who was responsible for organising London’s bread supply. The fact that the question is so laughable speaks to the strengths of markets.

    The problem with central planning is that the incentives always seem to become perverse, leading to the rise of the wrong sort of people. Mind you, the same could be said of big business. Which makes me think that maybe I only love markets where there aren’t huge companies messing them up.

    Our current problems are related to failure to properly address situations where markets don’t work, and failure to find a better method of determining who gets how much. I suppose Marx did say stuff about that. I really should read his stuff.

  13. Ikonoclast
    March 10th, 2017 at 07:03 | #13

    @HED PE

    You seem to be saying we live in a world of entirely deterministic causation. That is not the picture modern science is giving us with uncertainty or quantum indeterminacy. It is clear that free will cannot exist under conditions of determinism. Free will requires indeterminacy: the future must be indeterminate until a choice or determination is made. However, it is still not clear how free will would be generated, in the brain, under conditions of indeterminacy. We would more likely have a will that obeys a mix of macro determinism and quantum indeterminism”. I would see such a “will” as pseudo free will generator. It does appear the brain has some structures small enough to be influenced by quantum indeterminism, according to recent research. The indeterminate event is a small change in initial conditions. Chaos theory (which does deal determinism despite the name) then tells us that a small change in initial conditions in a deterministic system can lead to a great change in outcome. Thus indeterminism could play a role in generating novelties: new, emergent complexity in the behaviour of a complex agent, i.e. human.

    Alternative histories are fancies or fantasies. I too have no problem with people exercising imagination in this manner. However, I think it is more interesting if we are not content just with the fantasy but we then we use alternative history fantasies, and other imaginative explorations to develop hypotheses about our world. Hopefully, some might be testable hypotheses.

    An alternative history stemming from changed actions of one actor (Kerensky in this case) was possible (before he acted in said manner). J.Q.’s alternative histories contain the implicit assumption of indeterminism (if not free will) influencing history and then the assumption of chaos theory in that a small change in initial conditions could have generated a very different world. These assumptions are consistent with modern science so far as I can see.

    An unimaginative pragmatist would then argue that we are stuck with this world so the alternative history theory is of no use (no use value). I disagree. Alternative history imaginings could still provoke new thoughts or induce us to try something like or similar to the imagined initiating event of the alternative history. I am not necessarily saying the Kerensky alternative history is of this type but it could be and others also could be.

  14. Wirram
    March 10th, 2017 at 09:23 | #14

    @HED PE
    Ducking….Spot on Hed, though I enjoy historical ‘what if’s’ even if it’s difficult to see where they would have led…like the speculations about crucial random events. Someone speculated on the trajectory of pre WW2 Germany had Hitler been a talented artist, and not suffered rejection.
    In terms of military strategy, what if the French had channelled the huge expenditure of resources on the Maginot Line into mechanized armour, artillery….air force?
    The writings of neuroscientist Sam Harris as well as his podcasts with supporters and opponents on the subject are edifying as well as are the comments and writings of Lawrence Krauss, David Deutsch and Sean Carroll.
    It’s also no coincidence that religionists often use quantum indeterminacy in debates with atheist opponents who hold free will to be an illusion.

  15. HED PE
    March 10th, 2017 at 10:51 | #15

    @Ikonoclast
    The quantum stuff is a red herring. What happens at the quantum level is odd and offends our common sense but causation still rules. So yeah, everything that happens is predetermined, right down to the current position of an individual atom, by the initial parameters and rules of the game.

  16. HED PE
    March 10th, 2017 at 11:00 | #16

    @Wirram
    Thanks Wirram. Of course I agree with Sam Harris and I’m disappointed to see Richard Dawkins duck and weave on the issue of free will. I must admit I felt depressed about the idea of no free will for a couple of years and tried to convince myself that it must somehow exist but that was “God of the Gaps” thinking. Anyway, that was 20 years ago and I’m a spotted youth no more. Not believing in free will doesn’t change much, it just makes me a bit more compassionate and forgiving. But saying I have no free will doesn’t get me off the hook with the missus if I forget to put the bins out! 😉

  17. Tim Macknay
    March 10th, 2017 at 11:53 | #17

    Is the “free will” discussion on topic?

  18. HED PE
    March 10th, 2017 at 12:26 | #18

    @Tim Macknay

    Tim, I think it is very much on topic because “alternate histories” are only genuine possibilities if an “unmoved mover” of some type exists. The unmoved mover that is usually posited is “free will”, and I’m arguing it does not exist.

  19. OM
    March 10th, 2017 at 13:41 | #19

    If the will is not free, but our decisions are determined by ‘something inside us’, then they’re not determined by ‘us’, and we’re back to dualism. I don’t like it.

  20. Tim Macknay
    March 10th, 2017 at 13:46 | #20

    @HED PE
    Fair enough. I was wondering because on the one hand, I could see the potential connection with the OP (as you suggest), but on the other hand, the discussion seems to be threatening to move away from alternative histories entirely.

  21. may
    March 10th, 2017 at 13:52 | #21

    jeez hed i hope you don’t get religion or bitten by a non specific ideology bug.

    over and out.

    (maybe?)

  22. HED PE
    March 10th, 2017 at 16:18 | #22

    @OM
    If you are referring to Cartesian dualism, I think you need to refresh your understanding of the concept. It is the dualists who believe mind and body are separate- being immaterial and material respectively- and that the immaterial nature of the mind makes free will possible. Conversely us materialists reject dualism as poppycock (or twaddle if you prefer) and thus no excuse for elevating free will above the realm of magic and fantasy.

    @Tim Macknay

    ” but on the other hand, the discussion seems to be threatening to move away from alternative histories entirely.”

    OK, well let me try to say something closer to the heart of the hypothetical. I think the Soviet Union has a silver lining, and thus I’m not totally unhappy about the Bolsheviks ousting Kerensky’s mob, in that it made the Western capitalists afraid of revolution and afraid of working class militancy and therefore more willing to share the wealth, provide greater equality of opportunity and tolerate the emergence of a welfare state.

    I think this thesis is in part evidenced by what has happended since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which in my view emboldened the ruling class, shrunk the small but important red element of the working class (via demoralisation) that ran the unions etc, probably gave a big boost to neoliberalism, increased inequality and may be a causal factor in the slow death of the union movement.

    The working class has no alternative vision to believe in, so it is little wonder that so many of them are wooed by a certain shrill and inarticulate fish’n’chip lady in Oz and an orange-rugged con man and pussy grabber in the States.

  23. Ikonoclast
    March 10th, 2017 at 17:07 | #23

    @HED PE

    In my view of matters, I disagree that 1 to 1 absolute causation pertains at the quantum level. But as Tim Macknay writes, the arguments about causation and free will possibly take the discussion off-topic from where J.Q. might want the discussion arena to be. I think it’s on-topic as these issues are to me all logically linked. But then I’ve noticed I am an odd thinker and I disagree with many people on many topics.

  24. HED PE
    March 10th, 2017 at 17:08 | #24

    @OM

    If you are referring to Cartesian dualism, I think you need to refresh your understanding of the concept. It is the dualists who believe mind and body are separate- being immaterial and material respectively- and that the immaterial nature of the mind makes free will possible. Conversely us materialists reject dualism as mumbo jumbo and thus no excuse for elevating free will above the realm of magic and fantasy.

  25. HED PE
    March 10th, 2017 at 17:10 | #25

    @Tim Macknay

    ” but on the other hand, the discussion seems to be threatening to move away from alternative histories entirely.”

    OK, well let me try to say something closer to the heart of the hypothetical. I think the Soviet Union has a silver lining, and thus I’m not totally unhappy about the Bolsheviks ousting Kerensky’s mob, in that it made the Western capitalists afraid of revolution and afraid of working class militancy and therefore more willing to share the wealth, provide greater equality of opportunity and tolerate the emergence of a welfare state.
    I think this thesis is in part evidenced by what has happended since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which in my view emboldened the ruling class, shrunk the small but important red element of the working class (via demoralisation) that ran the unions etc, probably gave a big boost to neoliberalism, increased inequality and may be a causal factor in the slow death of the union movement.
    The working class has no alternative vision to believe in, so it is little wonder that so many of them are wooed by a certain shrill and inarticulate fish’n’chip lady in Oz and an orange-rugged con man in the States.

  26. HED PE
    March 10th, 2017 at 17:43 | #26

    @Ikonoclast

    Quantum randomness appears to be the last refuge of the free will scoundrel. If “free will” is a meaningful term then it must mean X can create a thought that is free of causation and that leads to action (i.e. an unmoved mover).

    All randomness means is that if I throw an unloaded dice there is an equal chance of the result being any number from one to six. There is nothing even remotely chosen or free about the result, in fact it is almost the exact opposite! Accordingly it is in my view woolly minded wishful thinking to say quantum randomness justifies free will mysticism. If you fall for such mumbo jumbo, you have no business criticising the Intelligent Design mob for the similarly sloppy/devious and contrived way they misuse science to arrive at a happy ending.

  27. Tim Macknay
    March 10th, 2017 at 17:56 | #27

    @HED PE
    I agree with you about the misuse of “quantum randomness”, but I think you are much too dismissive of arguments for “free will”, and too sure of your own understanding of what the term implies. I think it is clearly something on which reasonable people can and do disagree, which is why the “free will vs determinism” debate remains unresolved more than two and a half centuries after the pre-Socratics began the discussion.

  28. Tom the first and best
    March 10th, 2017 at 18:00 | #28

    There are 2 main arguments against “the communist victory was good because it made the western capitalists fearful and more likely to gave concessions”.

    Firstly, lots of people in the Russia/Soviet Union suffered a lot because of the communist victory, and in other places because of later Communist victories and it could be that this out-ways the benefits to western workers.

    Secondly, having a major world power, with tyrannical tenancies, as a major ideological bastion of a major leftist ideology caused much of the left to be more heavily undermined as agents or potential of the Soviet Union for many decades.

  29. Tim Macknay
    March 10th, 2017 at 18:05 | #29

    Dammit. I wrote a whole comment that doesn’t even mention alternative history. Now I’m contributing to the derailment of the thread. Apologies.

  30. Tom the first and best
    March 10th, 2017 at 18:53 | #30

    A Kerensky negotiated peace is only one of the alternate histories that might lead to a lack of a Bolshevik victory.

    Russian reform earlier, either under Alexander II or after 1905 (or probably both), causing better government may have lead to a more sustainable non-Bolshevik government.

    The Tsarist regime making a few better decisions, like not banning Spirits (depriving the state, via its spirit monopoly, of 28% of government revenue just as expenditure went up) among others, being another example.

  31. HED PE
    March 10th, 2017 at 21:07 | #31

    Back to the hypothetical, I think we should not underestimate the impact of the small red element in the working class, which is now close to extinct. I was a white trash kid in the South Australian sheep belt with unskilled working class parents who voted National Party, read the Murdoch rags and never watched ABC TV. It was a dumb space intellectually (sorry parents) but luckily I had access to a couple of old working class codgers who were proud and belligerent Marxists and they set me on the right path. I did not agree with everything they said but they gave me a new way of seeing things that was amazingly different from what I heard at the kitchen table and I’m very grateful.

    I do not believe these people would have existed with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union offered at the very least a glimmer of hope that the workers could run a country and make it a fairer place even if it was a (very) long way short of ideal. But today those old guys are dead and no one has replaced them and unless something can capture the imagination and offer hope in the way the Soviet Union did, there is no hope. Thanks to multiculturalism and the new fashion for cultural relativism and identity politics, the working class will continue to fracture, the unions will die, the ALP will whither and be dominated by the right wing opportunists, right populists will prosper and society will become harsher and harsher for those at the bottom of the heap.

    I’m not sure what the solution is. How can the working class be galvanised and put fear back in the hearts of the capitalist ruling class? Will blood have to spill?

    @Tim Macknay

    I think it is clearly something on which reasonable people can and do disagree, which is why the “free will vs determinism” debate remains unresolved more than two and a half centuries after the pre-Socratics began the discussion.

    I disagree. Free will is a zombie idea just sky fairies are a zombie idea. They live on because they are crutches that comfort the weak not because they have any merit I don’t think we should given undue respect to those who contrive happy answers to melancholy questions, at least not in intellectual forums such as this. But in the activities if daily living we should be graceful and respect the dignity of individuals even if they have strayed into erroneous thought, which is why I have very cordial relations (and share the odd beer) with a minister of religion who lives in my street 😉

  32. Tom the first and best
    March 10th, 2017 at 21:55 | #32

    On the other hand, the Russians might have collapsed sooner. One way this could have happened was if Admiral Essen had not been stopped from carrying out his plan to attempt to contain the Swedish fleet and likely bring Sweden into the War, fighting the Russians in Finland.

  33. Tim Macknay
    March 10th, 2017 at 23:15 | #33

    @HED PE
    Personally I think the “free will vs determinism” debate is something of a zombie discussion, since the holders of different positions use different definitions of the core concepts. Which is why the debate hasn’t really gone anywhere in two and a half millennia (I said centuries before – blaargh!). I also have trouble getting why people become invested in a position in that debate, as to me it has no relevance to real life. But it seems from your comments that you connect a belief in free will with religious belief, given you’ve linked it with biblical myths and the idea of an unmoved mover which IIRC is one of the Aristotlean/Aquinian “proofs” of the existence of god. So if you regard those concepts as related and it is important to you to stand in opposition to religious belief, that would explain why you also want to oppose the notion of free will.

  34. HED PE
    March 11th, 2017 at 01:17 | #34

    @Tim Macknay

    I also have trouble getting why people become invested in a position in that debate, as to me it has no relevance to real life.

    The real life implications are huge in terms of self-acceptance, compassion, forgiveness etc as various determinists have argued. It also invalidates the reactionary libertarian/conservative views on crime and punishment, poverty and so on, i.e. the view that although little Wendy may have been repeatedly raped and kept in a dark rat infested cellar for the first seven years of her life, thanks to the magic of free will she must accept total responsibility for her current dysfunction ‘cos ya know, she could have just picked herself up by her own bootstraps, got the prosperity gospel, attended a Tony Robbins seminar and become Prez just like that nice young man Donald Trump if only she really wanted to.

  35. Michael
    March 11th, 2017 at 02:19 | #35

    I think you are very much overestimating Kerensky’s and the entire Interim Government power at that time (not even discussing the seriousness of the German offer). The real power in Petersburg was with the Soviet at that time, and peace without annexations and indemnities was the program of Social revolutionaries and Communists. So if he answered that positively it would amount to handling the keys of the Winter Palace to those two. And Kerensky was nothing but a political adventurer with only power on his mind. I am not even mentioning his reliance on the Allies who obviously were not interested in a separate peace.

    So there was simply no chance for him to react to this positively.

  36. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2017 at 05:58 | #36

    @HED PE

    I questioned the idea of free will. I am not sure how you got the idea I supported it.

  37. Tim Macknay
    March 11th, 2017 at 10:23 | #37

    @HED PE
    The thing is, there are various positions in the debate that don’t make the assumptions you do, on both ‘pro’ and’anti’ ‘free will’ sides. It seems you’re now linking the idea of free will not only to religious belief, but also to conservative political ideology. If you believe it is linked to those things, that certainly explains why you dislike the idea, as I said before. But I still wonder how you came to adopt a framing that would lead you to make those assumptions, rather than some of the alternative framings of the issue that would lead to different assumptions but are no less plausible. But that is one of the enduring mysteries of philosophy, I suppose – why people intuitively arrive at particular interpretations, and why some people regard certain questions as important while others do not.

  38. Ikonoclast
    March 11th, 2017 at 12:34 | #38

    I should get back on topic. I enjoyed the article. I found out some snippets of history I didn’t know. I am glad J.Q. is encouraging people to think on these matters.

    There is the question of how much small local actions (individual initiatives I guess) affect or can affect the course of large events. I think they can do so sometimes but not in all cases. The idea of Chaos Theory is applicable. Small changes in initial conditions can lead to very different outcomes and emergent behaviours in the whole system. In other cases however, I think system momentum can steamroller over individual initiatives and the system can continue on in much the same way. The great difficulty I think would be predicting which outcome would happen in any alternative history and which could happen in our own imminent collective future given decision A or decision B at some important but still personal initiative level.

  39. HED PE
    March 11th, 2017 at 13:07 | #39

    @Tim Macknay
    To me the implications I have spelled out seem reasonable and straightforward to the point of being obvious. But I suppose almost everyone thinks that about their own invariably idiosyncratic take on reality! I did some checking and I found a no free-will determinist philosophical group, calling themselves naturalists, who have arrived at the same conclusions:

    Naturalism, as a view that might take hold in an open society, has the potential to change deeply rooted attitudes that shape our conceptions of a just society. What do people deserve, and why? Given a science-based naturalism, there are no reasons to suppose certain classes of human beings deserve greater opportunity for self-expression, autonomy, or advancement. Naturalism thus supports a progressive and egalitarian vision of human flourishing in which collective action to distribute resources and opportunities to all finds strong justification.

    Worldview naturalism has progressive implications for politics and policy, some of which are explored in this section. It is no coincidence that scientists and others with a naturalistic worldview tend to be liberals. They see no good justification for supposing any class of individuals, such as females, gays, religious minorities, races or ethnicities, deserves unequal treatment. Conservatives, on the other hand, are more likely to hold non-naturalist views about human nature that serve to reinforce inequalities based on such classifications.

    Naturalism encourages an empirically-based, comprehensive understanding of the causes of criminality. Knowing the full causal story behind the offender allows us to design effective interventions to prevent crime, abuse, and dysfunction. Seeing that criminals are not self-made undercuts retributive attitudes favoring the death penalty and punitive prison conditions. Realizing that but for the luck of circumstances, any of us could be standing in the criminal’s shoes generates compassion for offenders as well as for victims.

    With a naturalistic view of ourselves, we don’t have the sort of ultimate responsibility that has traditionally justified retributive punishment. Naturalism therefore implies a radical revision of our criminal justice system, moving away from unnecessarily harsh, retributively motivated sanctions (e.g., the death penalty, abuse of prisoners), toward crime prevention, rehabilitation, restitution, and minimally punitive deterrence and incapacitation.

    http://www.naturalism.org/

  40. HED PE
    March 12th, 2017 at 00:52 | #40

    @Tim Macknay

    To me the implications I have spelled out are sensible and straightforward to the point of being obvious. But I suppose almost everyone thinks that about their own invariably idiosyncratic take on reality! In any event, I did an internet search and found that a group for “no free-will determinists”, who call themselves naturalists, reach a conclusion identical to mine. They write:

    Naturalism, as a view that might take hold in an open society, has the potential to change deeply rooted attitudes that shape our conceptions of a just society. What do people deserve, and why? Given a science-based naturalism, there are no reasons to suppose certain classes of human beings deserve greater opportunity for self-expression, autonomy, or advancement. Naturalism thus supports a progressive and egalitarian vision of human flourishing in which collective action to distribute resources and opportunities to all finds strong justification.

    Worldview naturalism has progressive implications for politics and policy, some of which are explored in this section. It is no coincidence that scientists and others with a naturalistic worldview tend to be liberals. They see no good justification for supposing any class of individuals, such as females, gays, religious minorities, races or ethnicities, deserves unequal treatment. Conservatives, on the other hand, are more likely to hold non-naturalist views about human nature that serve to reinforce inequalities based on such classifications.

    Naturalism encourages an empirically-based, comprehensive understanding of the causes of criminality. Knowing the full causal story behind the offender allows us to design effective interventions to prevent crime, abuse, and dysfunction. Seeing that criminals are not self-made undercuts retributive attitudes favoring the death penalty and punitive prison conditions. Realizing that but for the luck of circumstances, any of us could be standing in the criminal’s shoes generates compassion for offenders as well as for victims.

    With a naturalistic view of ourselves, we don’t have the sort of ultimate responsibility that has traditionally justified retributive punishment. Naturalism therefore implies a radical revision of our criminal justice system, moving away from unnecessarily harsh, retributively motivated sanctions (e.g., the death penalty, abuse of prisoners), toward crime prevention, rehabilitation, restitution, and minimally punitive deterrence and incapacitation.

    www naturalism org/

  41. Ikonoclast
    March 12th, 2017 at 07:59 | #41

    Alternate history. If Kerensky had done what J.Q. advocated would we still have John Lee Hooker’s music? 😉

  42. QuentinR
    March 12th, 2017 at 16:18 | #42

    The thread needs derailing. What if … JQ didn’t get sidetracked onto useless hypotheticals and instead finished his book in two lessons.

    Or what if Donald Trump had fallen over and hit his head – would he make as good a President as he now is? Or better? Or did he fall? Or would JQ write anything about it, in decades time, when postulating what might be different under Clinton? Who knows? Who cares?

    NB:
    I don’t know who Kerensky is, and don’t care.
    I think I agree with the Physics analyses above.
    Good one JQ! – shows who can be lead off on irrelevant tangents at the slightest provocation. I don’t think it was worth the effort, but if you have time on your hands and nothing better to do …

  43. HED PE
    March 12th, 2017 at 20:13 | #43

    @QuentinR

    That is a tad gauche, Quentin. John Quiggin’s achievements in economics, including his publishing record, as well as his contribution to political and policy debates place him in the top tier of Australian intellectuals. Blogging is a recreational activity, so what makes it your business? How about you account for all your activities and list your achievements over the last 10 years so we can compare and contrast? Don’t be shy, we are all waiting to be impressed.

  44. QuentinR
    March 12th, 2017 at 22:46 | #44

    HED PE – Sorry if it came out that way. I know I can be abrasive, but given your number of comments above, you’re easily confronted. I doubt my comments would have troubled JQ in the sleightest …

    It’s my business because I have access to this site and haven’t been barred from contributing.

    I haven’t read the NYTimes article. And I still see no reason to contemplate the impact of some change in an historical event – things might be different to some measurable level, or not. So what?

    In flicking through the comments, I saw that someone (Tim Mackney, now that I look) mentioned derailing the thread. I thought that was worth pursuing – derailing was an appropriate direction to take, IMO.

    Of course JQ can write articles on any topic that makes money, or enhances his authority/standing; and post items here on whatever takes his fancy – it’s his blog. Very rarely(like this one) they seem to be a waste of time/energy.

  45. Nick
    March 13th, 2017 at 00:26 | #45

    “I haven’t read the NYTimes article.”

    QuentinR, you also like to post without reading *any* of the actual content? Me too. Let’s be friends.

    Thanks John. That was very informative.

  46. may
    March 13th, 2017 at 15:32 | #46

    yay!

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