Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Legacy of The Enlightenment

A short note, where I’d like to make an observation. Seems to me that the age of enlightenment, or what one could call “its legacy”, was that it revived a radical interpretation of modernity. Descriptions of the enlightenment, if one were to contemplate it within historical periods, seems to ubiquitously situate it in what is known amongst historians as the “Long Eighteenth Century”.

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Getting Cross About Brexit?

Have you, like me, been getting cross about Brexit? I think there are a number of different reasons why I have been getting cross about it. And crucially, some of these reasons are not tied to the referendum result. Here, I thought to share my reflections. I would like to think that these reflections invite important questions about our understandings of “deliberation” in modern democratic societies. But its real merit may very well be just an opportunity for me to get something off my chest. If you wish to know why it weighs heavily on my mind, let me just say that most of my first year law students could not vote in the referendum in 2016. The future lawyers I train in 2017 did not vote on what will undoubtedly shape decades of their lives. It saddens me quite a bit.

Nonetheless, thought to share a short sketch of some reasons why I have gotten cross and why I think I should “take it easy”. I do not intend this piece to be an analysis of Brexit and its consequences. As reflection pieces go, it is a rather personal and messy one. The reader ought to be wary of presuming too many causal relationships between the various headings.

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On Keeping A Professional Distance From Global Inequalities

Recently, I was discussing my views about global inequalities with a couple of international trade law and investment law experts. Their experience and expertise was – both in sum and in comparison to me – rather considerable. Together, they had experience with advising governments in their negotiations at international institutional (eg, UN, WTO), in multilateral and bilateral negotiations (eg, free-trade agreements) and also in public-private partnerships (i.e. government investment in industry).

Rather significantly, after some fairly passionate discussions, they thought my reading of ‘public law’ and ‘economics’ was rather moralistic. That they viewed me in this way was not surprising. What surprised me was that they thought: 1) that I was unaware of my moralistic reading of international economic life; and 2) that their understanding of their jobs – as experts – did not involve moral questioning. They admitted it was rather ‘brutal’, but asserted that it was ‘true’.

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An Introduction: Hague Conventions 1899 and 1907


The following passages is a transcription; of an introduction written in 1915 for an edited collection that placed the Hague Conventions and Declarations of 1899 and 1907 in context. Albeit, ‘for the time’ it ought to be noted. Those interested in international legal and diplomatic history would find some use, I hope, in these passages. The writer of these passages is James Brown Scott (pictured above), who at the time was Director of the Division of International Law at The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Scott was an influential figure, in the American contribution to international law during the early half of the 20th century. (NB: Citations in the original text have not been transcribed.)

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“I Am 70” Video Series #UN70 #IWD2016

Came across a series of videos produced by United Nations’ Department of Public Information. The number of “views” for these videos were surprisingly low. I enjoyed them and thought to share it. Note, they are ‘feel good’ biographical stories rather than being of academic or professional interest. Continue reading

Have Appetites For Chomsky, Berlin and Foucault Waned?

It might seem like a rather odd comment to make on a Friday evening. However, I was struck by the ‘differences’ between the media being broadcast in comparison to the media I am simultaneously searching for and watching via the Internet. Of course, this juxtaposition is possible for many reasons that I would not be able to easily surmise. In this particular case, it might be my interest to revisit some discussions I’d seen in the past combined with my present boredom on what was being broadcast that may have proved significant. Usually not a problem, as I rarely watch anything as it is being broadcast. Continue reading



The year was 1983. On the tele, there was a news report about the tenth anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death. As a child, I knew nothing about fine arts and artistic movements. But, his name was instantly recognisable. The word ‘Picasso’, appeared often in family and school colloquialisms. To say someone was a ‘Picasso’, was, on occasion to mock. Mostly though, it was used to praise artistic talent. On the old living room carpet in 1983, it was likely the first time that I had seen Picasso’s face. Also, I think it might have been the first time I’d seen his paintings and had the experience of people chatting about what he’s done. Picasso’s face, often photographed with a steely gaze, lends itself well to news reports. A gaze that somewhat helped me be drawn into the stories of his influences on art and society.

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Banksy #WithSyria (Video)

A visual reminder/provocation from Banksy. Poignant as ever. The imagery in Banksy’s video, allows us to recognise that the many migrant crises are not just legal or military problems. It reminds us that we should see it as a moral problem. We need to build a moral aptitude. And by ‘we’, I mean ‘we’ who perceive ourselves as secure. If we can see the ‘fleeing’ in the video through the ‘deus ex machina’ of the red balloons. Then, we should be able to receive those who flee and come to us. This is not to say that nothing else must be done with regards to those crises, or that there would not be other consequences. We should not be morally vacant as we enjoy and feel entitled to our security. One should not think there is strong moral justification that permits confusing one’s anxieties about future needs with the present needs of those who flee.

Kant’s Moral Philosophy Has Retained Its Radicalism

The philosopher Kant, who in the 1700s, set such a challenging ideal that continues to make us blush. (Extracted and translated, from a Finnish article by Jyrki Alenius – LINK TO ORIGINAL TEXT)

It is impossible to think of anything at all in the world, or indeed even beyond it, that could be considered good without limitation except a good will. (Immanuel Kant (1785) Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals)

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) contributed one of the classic texts in moral philosophy with the publication of Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. In his 1785 book, Kant introduces a radical new foundation for moral philosophy, which he called the “categorical imperative”. Kant’s founding set a challenging ideal for the manner in which moral action is to be justified. An ideal that makes contemporary commercial actors blush, for, their lack of engagement of Kant’s challenge.


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Etymology online gives a description for the verb “The etymology of Gawk” as follows:

“stare stupidly,” 1785, American English, of uncertain origin. Perhaps [Watkins] from gaw, a survival from Middle English gowen “to stare” (c. 1200), from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse ga “to heed,” from Proto-Germanic *gawon, from PIE *ghow-e- “to honor, revere, worship” (see favor (n.)); and altered perhaps by gawk hand (see gawky). Liberman finds this untenable and writes that its history is entangled with that of gowk “cuckoo,” which is from Scandinavian, but it need not be from that word, either. Nor is French gauche (itself probably from Germanic) considered a likely source. “It is possibly another independent imitative formation with the structure g-k” (compare geek). From 1867 as a noun. Related: Gawked; gawking.

I wonder what people might have gawked at in the late 18th century for the term to have come into usage. It might have been public punishments, such as with the public burning of Hugh Latimer in Oxford in 1555. Public violence against criminals and subversives is a topic that Michel Foucault attended to in the chapter “Spectacle of the Scaffold”. Alternatively, one could think of the magicians, fortune tellers and snake charmers in historic squares such as in Jemaa el-Fnaa. Much like contemporary tourists gawking at astronomical clocks in Prague (photo).

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