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loaded dice

  What is happiness is an old and still pertinent question. I devoted a lot of time to this question in the 00s, when I was trying to write a book about what I called the Human Limit – the notion, overthrown in the Early Modern Age in much of Europe, that there was some limit as to what humans could do to the world. To my mind, the overthrow of that notion – the notion of fate, of nemesis, of some God with a balance in her hand – was made, I thought, under the banner of happiness – the idea that happiness, or well being, was not only the point of the individual life, but the shared premise of the preferred political and social order. The weird notions of longtermism derive, philosophically, I think, from one encoding of this notion of happiness. Because, in the end, happiness was justificative but not self-explanatory, the move was to simplify it: to make it a quantitative proposition. Thus, more of the x that “made you happy” was a good, so we should have more x, more and more. This
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A Long Sunday Read

  One of Foucault’s most ingenious lightning strokes comes at the beginning of the essay with a name like a telegram from the Hotel Abyss: Nietzsche, Genealogy, History. It was published in 1971, and it had a large effect in the world of scholarship – diffusing a p.o.v. through philosophy, literature and finally history departments worldwide. Geneology is gray : it is meticulous and patiently documentary. It works on parchment that is tangled , scratched and often re-written. Paul Ree was wrong, like the English, to describe linear geneses – to organize, for instance, all the history of morality under the tutelage of utility ; as if the words had kept hold of their sense, the desires their direction, the ideas their logic ; as if this world of things said and willed had not known invasions, struggles, rapine, masks, ruses. It is this standpoint that serves as an indispensable resource for geneology : to note down the singularity of events, outside of any monotone finality; to spy them