Saturday, 18 December 2010

Greetings and Many Thanks

Dear All

Many thanks for another year of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance. We explored so many themes utterly (but really really there is only One Philosophy) and are grateful to the many speakers and scores of participants who generously shared their knowledge and wisdom. I especially enjoyed the carefully choreographed reading sessions descending into screaming matches, signalling sugar lows and the need to find refreshment at Vapiano's or other restaurants a la Marylebone or Fritzrovia.

And many thanks for Rezi carrying on from Laura. Rezi salutes her favourite themes and guests in her roll call below--and those worthies she does not mention will go to Heaven as compensation for their contributions over infinite time.

"But I feel I really don't know what it is that we know."

That is, throughout this series I have never felt satisfied with any of the intentional rationalist methods (Plato, Kant, Cantor, Heidigger, Russell, Badiou) or extensional imperial empirical dictats (Aristotle, Van Fraasen, Big Science) and the theoretic clarity offered by calculative algebraic compositions of Category Theory (mainly Lawvere 2009) has only driven us further and further into collisions with dense impossibilities and , exceptionalities (Gerdt and Negrii) of order. Our dream is the mathesis universalis of Leiniz. But our own poetess Fiona and the Sirens of Danielle and Rezi have stab our hearts and plucked our eyes with the aesthetic, the brutale and the quizzical. We learned philosophy bleeds as well as bleats.

In our search for Truth, early on after reviewing the ancients we realised that the comforts of the old mysticism have been closed off. Our new knowledge with new tech and in the name of the new normale cuts into our body and re-attaches the desires of civilization to the net . And as the inimitable Dr. Laura Niada reminded us so often contra the rhetoric of Kirkegaard, Heidigger and Plato, that one should be extremely careful whose model you use for beneath them all is nothing. Nada for Niada.

Along this vagary, I'm reminded of one of my teachers, Richard Rorty, the best American philosopher of last quarter of the 20th century and its worst literary critic. I asked him once what is the function (the use) of a philosopher. He said he liked Nietzche's image of the watchman on the wall, waving a lamp and warning passer-bys of entry to the city.
And so here we are, snows are coming again, take care, be safe and look forward the 66th Session and beyond of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance in the coming year.



Dear All,

The 65th session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance represented the last session for another shaking year full of rich and complex issues that captured our attention and became the subject of many discussions and speculations among us. In only one year we joggled with ideas from philosophy, law finance, sociology and practice. We brought together in our table Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Descartes, Beltram & Thomas, FED, Agamben, Badiou etc.

Joe fascinated us with the potential of the discourse and methodology. Sky was our limit when it comes to the subjects of our discourse, varying among the foundations of law and finance, the art of rhetoric, God, faith, sacrifice, death, the concept of the groupoid, category theory, classification of rights, methodology, fraud, profession v. practice, globalisation and regulation, conflict of laws, Islamic finance, capital markets, financial crisis, business plans, ethymemes, mathemes , information, asymmetry, causality v. acausality, monetary policy measures, the Entropy of Law and Finance, risk measurement, certainty v. uncertainty, investment banking and recruitment etc. Special guest honoured us with their presence and their captivating presentations such as Andrea Calvi (partner of Loiacono e Associati), Ardeshir Atai (PhD candidate in International Investment Law at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies), Marco D'ercole' (LLM Corporate Finance at the University of Westminster), Fiona O’Connor (guest lecturer at the University of Westminster), Patrizia Cozzoli (CFO of Barclays Capital).

I would like to extend special thanks to Joe, Laura and all of you that joined our brainstorming of life and its natural or human ingredients. We enjoyed each others company not only during these sessions but also afterwards while exploring the restaurants and food in the area. We are looking forward to another interesting and challenging year. You are more welcomed to invite family, friends or acquaintances to this event by just inviting or suggesting their addition to the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance distribution list.

And last but certainly not least we would like to wish you enjoyable holidays with your loved ones.

All the best and see you next year,



Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Research Does Have Impact

The Legal Services Board has today published a paper published a consultation paper on its diversity priorities. The paper sets out its case thus:
This paper discusses our policy proposals in relation to increasing diversity and social mobility at all levels of the legal services workforce. It focuses on the role of providers (firms and chambers) and approved regulators in this process, and does not  directly address the separate but related issues of:
ensuring access to legal services for diverse groups of consumers the potential for reforms to the existing framework for legal education and training, which could create additional opportunities to open a career in legal services to the widest possible pool of talent.
What I find cheering about this is that it is based on the recommendations made by my colleagues' recent research on diversity. It's great to see a regulator taking care to make evidence-based decisions.

The consultation is open to 9 March 2011 and all responses are welcomed.

Friday, 10 December 2010

‘Ijere’: Questioning Ethnicity (2)

‘Ijere’ is an Igbo word for ‘soldier ants’. Widely known for their ‘ecological syndrome’ or ‘legionary behaviour’, soldier ants offer crucial metaphorical tools for interrogating the ethnic perspective.

Peter Kropotkin’s masterpiece on ‘Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution’, (first published by Heinemann in 1902, and republished in 2008, by Forgotten Books), employs a related metaphor, to argue the need for cooperation. On ants’ and termites' highly successful lives, based on cooperation, (Kropotkin: 2008) writes:
Their wonderful nests, their buildings, superior in relative size to those of man; their paved roads and overground vaulted galleries; their spacious halls and granaries; their corn-fields, harvesting and "malting" of grain; their rational methods of nursing their eggs and larvae . . . and, finally, their courage, pluck,and superior intelligence-all these are the natural outcome of the mutual aid which they practise at every stage of their busy and laborious lives.

Kropotkin’s observation inspires a nostalgic feeling. Growing up as a young boy in a rural Nigerian village, surrounded by beautiful green vegetation, I spent time with playmates searching and finding colonies of soldier ants, with the sole purpose of breaking their movement. We drew lines on sands to disorganise them, but we were often amazed by the ease and speed with which they re-grouped. Their forward -looking mission and resolve were unbroken by the predatory threats of mischievous children.

The metaphor of ‘ijere’ exposes the short-sightedness of the North-South discourse. At the national level, the ordinary Nigerians are hardworking and resilient people that are united in needs: electricity, clean water, efficient and effective transport system, access to healthcare, access to education, employment, speedy and efficient justice delivery system, winning the war on corruption. The list could go on and on. For the common Nigerians, whoever supplies these needs is a hero. Contrary to what the self-interested elites tell us, no one really cares whether this hero is tall or short, male or female, Northerner or Southerner.

At the trans-national level, we observe a striking similarity. In the counter-hegemonic struggle of the global commons, from Prague to Seattle, the common people are asking for accountability, responsible leadership, socio-economic justice and leveraging of the people’s power. The champions of the ethnic perspective, employ the tactics of ‘divide and rule’ to break the ‘ijere’ solidarity of the people, both at the national and trans-national levels. For quite some time, this tactics seemed to have worked, for them. The counter-tactical challenge of today is to institutionalise the ‘ijere’ consciousness of the people, both at the national and trans-national levels.

How we do it is to emphasise the things that unite us and de-emphasise the things that divide us. As (Appiah 2007: 97), rightly observed:
...the points of entry to cross-cultural conversations are things that are shared by those who are in the conversation…Once we have found enough we share, there is the further possibility that we will be able to enjoy discovering things we
do not yet share.

In the light of current realities, there seems to be no alternative to increasing and sustaining conversations/dialogue, within and across borders. Such conversations offer opportunity for learning as well as an avenue for dismantling stereotypes. In cross cultural conversations, however, carrying the victim stigma rarely strengthens a discussant’s case, it tends to weaken it. The illogicality of the exclusionary tendencies that tend to block such conversations must have to be exposed, using the contrasting methodology of inclusion. 'Methodological cosmopolitanism’ that (Beck &Sznaider, 2006) recommend, does not close its eyes to the reality of staggering inequality. What it does is to challenge inequality by demonstrating the power and potentials of egalitarian solidarity.

At the normative level, it is remarkable that every functional legal system endeavours to trace allegiance to the legitimising power of the people. ‘We the people...’ is the building block of the Nigerian constitution. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also founded on ‘we the people...Although, the invocation of people’s power in legislative documents/treaties may turn out to be a ploy to mask autocracy, with legitimacy, the invocation gives credence to the vibrancy of popular mandate; a vibrancy that every dictator detests and fears.

What the North-South discourse does, in Nigeria and anywhere else, is to break the ‘ijere’ consciousness of the people. When consciousness is broken and visions are clouded by primordial egotism and sense of revenge, the common people may abandon the ‘elephant' at hand and scramble for the ‘cricket’ in the bush, thus allowing the very few elites to unleash havoc in our name!

But something else is happening…There is resurgence of what (Sousa Santos, 2005) calls subaltern cosmopolitan consciousness. The ‘divide and rule’ strategy of the few power drunk elites has no future. Like ‘Ijere’, it is recommended that the common people, everywhere, endeavour to work together, no matter how difficult, and fashion a world where people can be whatever they what to be. The narrow perspectives of ethnicity, racism or other similar binaries, which the liberated political elites employ, in drawing lines on sands, will surely hinder progress, but these barriers are not insurmountable. As Beck himself rightly observed the ethnic perspective is a ‘monologic imagination, which excludes the otherness of the other. The cosmopolitan perspective is an alternative imagination, an imagination of alternative ways of life and rationalities, which include the otherness of the other’ (Beck, 2002).

In sum, my goal is to show in these blogs that our traditional understanding of ‘North’ and ‘South’; ‘local’ and global’; have been ruptured by complex interconnection and bundling of fates. At the local, national level, we continue to face the tensions of 'us and them'. At the global, trans-national level, the North-South discourse remains heated. What this reality demonstrates to me is that in order to comprehend the complexities of today, our frame of analysis must invariably change. The North-South methodology is too elementary to aid understanding of complex ‘glo-local’ issues that we face today. It seems to me that the way forward is for us to begin to see, on a consistent basis, ourselves in others; the local in the global and the global in the local. It stands to reason, therefore, that in this ‘age of comparison’, to borrow from Nietsche, it is more productive to choose the ‘dialogic’ over the ‘monologic’ and inspire a forward -looking -Ijere vision; capable of surmounting the barriers of binaries and other predatory threats of the vanishing ‘hegemons’.

[Excerpts from Wilfred Mamah’s Random Meditations]

Thursday, 9 December 2010

65th session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance (Friday 10 Dec, 6-8pm, Room 5.16, 309 Regent Street, University of Westminster)

Dear all,

this session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance promises to be attractive for all of you who are interested or even curious about the hiring experience with an investment bank. We will be graced from 7-8PM by the presence of our special guest Patrizia Cozzoli, CFO of Barclays Capital and the person in charge of hiring. During this time Patrizia will guide us through the bank’s procedure, policies, expectations and most importantly hints regarding hiring prospective employers and interns. We highly recommend participation in this Friday’s session as one of those rare occasions where you can meet the person who really matters. 

Before the arrival of Patrizia, from 6-7PM, the subject of our talks will be "Why Law and Finance are Social Experiments Gone Wild?". We will read and comment on the New York Times article To Test Housing Program, Some Are Denied Aid, (  drawing analogies to financial product experiments in the real world. Joe will also take up Professor John Flood's ideas of "legal profession" versus "legal processes" presented at the Legal Theory seminar at the University of Westminster, School of Law, and apply the distinction to "financial profession" versus "financial practices." He will advocate the need for a fundamental theory which enlightens us on the continual discovery of "humanity" versus "machinery" in our human-to-human communications.

Best regards,

Rezi & Joe


Friday, 3 December 2010

Questioning Ethnicity (1)

Why is it that the ‘North-South,’ discourse tends to become more heated, during election periods in Nigeria? Why is it that the discourse changes, dramatically, as soon as issues like ‘resource control’ are mentioned? Why is it that the leaders of thought, in this discourse are mainly ‘liberated elites’, whose eyes are fixed on the stool? Why is it that soon as elections are ‘won’ or ‘rigged’ the champions of North/South discourse erect other binaries, further fragmenting North into North West/North East; South into South West/South East, and so on? Could it be that something is fundamentally wrong with the ethnic perspective? Does it really matter where one comes from, or rather where one comes from, originally? Should relationships be created and sustained on the basis of accidents of birth or common humanity? Does it really make any sense, that at a time, like this, when realities of increased interdependence continue to demonstrate the inadequacies of ‘methodological nationalism’ and the urgency for ‘methodological cosmopolitanism’(Beck & Sznaider, 2006), one could be arguing for setting national priorities on the basis of North-South divide within ‘one indissoluble country under God’?
It seems to me that the paradigm has shifted irreversibly…Where one comes from is not as important as the fact that one is a human person; a mortal being that grows old and dies. There is certainly a lot of sense in the philosophical assertion: ‘I am a citizen of the world’, which although attributed to an ancient Greek philosopher, could easily be read in the largely undocumented sayings of thinkers across the world. In Africa, for instance, the philosophy of ‘onye biri, ibe ya biri’ (live and let live) is time honoured. To live happily alongside others, one needs to see oneself in the other. To do so, one must broaden one’s vision. At the national level, such a broadening of vision exposes the fallacy of North-South discourse. At the international level, it opens up the limiting and obfuscating nature of ‘political realism’.
To create the desired change at the national and trans-national levels, we MUST transcend the narrow and limiting binaries of ‘us and them’. The first critical step we must take is to challenge our thinking by shattering our comfort zones and tackling the illusions of gender, creed, colour and place. The second will be at the normative level: developing Kant’s (1795) third condition for ‘Perpetual Peace’. Ethnicity could become a ‘camera obscura’ and a clog on the path of progress/peace. Is it not better, therefore, to de-emphasise ethnic cleavages and in their stead accentuate what (Held, 2010) calls ‘the bundle of needs, desires, anxieties and passions that define us all as members of the same species’?