The problem remains broad; I initially segment it into two bundles of questions:
For those we care for, we desire them to be happy, to succeed, to grow as people, and various other things. To that end, we offer them our support in various realms of life. This is a great thing, even if we don't care for everyone equally and don't provide the same kinds of support to everyone. However, I think unless we establish some nuances, we run the risk of getting some things very wrong. Our support for others, if excessive in degree or scope, can be detrimental to us or even to them. I have previously written about reasonable degree of care ; helping people to the extent that we injure our own interests or dignity to an excessive degree. Here, we should begin to address scope of care.
I present a divide:
I argue that care-in-judgement is almost always harmful or inappropriate, and care-in-assistance is how we generally should care for people. People require criticism and constant exposure to other perspectives to remain sane; sterile groups of people who agree on philosophy or contested events offer a certain comfort, but it is a comfort that creates inappropriate certainty in life and diminishes the ability of the person to deal with mainstream society; this is the disvirtue of surrounding oneself with yes-men. Safe zones are particularly pernicious towards this end; they offer the unhealthy comfort of closer relationships with people who act as yes-men, curbing the ability of the mainstream to moderate excessive perspectives and offer correction. They diminish the ability of people so humoured to handle disagreement, and incubate unacceptable demands of fidelity-to-their-views that they may place on society.
Beyond these ties, they diminish the person who offers care-in-judgement; the person's judgement is hijacked by their social needs. If our judgement is to mean anything, it must be independent of the people we care for, both in topic and from need for their approval. We must be able to judge our family and our closest friends the same as the people we despise through the same lens, and even handle the nuances of when victims are not wholly innocent (or to a lesser degree, not wholly helpful) or when a victim turns into an abuser. Justice is impartial; in order for our judgement to be true, we must place these realms of life outside responsiveness to social reprecussion. This is very difficult, and many people cannot manage it, but for those that cannot do it much, we must write off entirely their thoughts on matters of justice. For others who can only do it somewhat, we must at least consider their conflicts-of-interest, and criticise or doubt them as necessary to help them grow as people). We also should ignore the politics of the situation when we're asked for (or when the situation calls for) an honest judgement; even if exposure to how we see things would be very unpleasant for the hearer, we owe it to ourselves not to be dishonest with our views; we either must explicitly note that we're withholding their expression, or to tell them, rather than pretend they are what they are not.
With this, we achieve some integrity; a kind of integrity that should be a basis for a kind of self-respect (and, for those virtuous enough to admire this trait, respect of others). We must grow enough as people to offer the reciprocal though; to handle disagreements in perspective and judgements from those around us. That kind of tolerance is just as important as the expressiveness. We should finally avoid the idea of only offering the first in exchange for the second with a particular person; we should strive for both as much as possible with everyone, particularly those that lack one or both virtues.]]>
I say it's a partial explanation because it doesn't deal with memes in discourse, and those are pretty important; movements develop little verbal tics that are easily confused with actual points, and it takes an unusually careful person to be able to notice those and challenge them in order to get discourse back into good shape.
(I've been posting here a bit less often; been more active on G+ recently, and I'm trying to save this space primarily for longer original content rather than commentary)]]>
The fascinating thing is how much stronger the perceived and created differences are than is justified given the ease of communication; Manhattanites generally don't go into other Boroughs without a lot of arm-twisting, people don't generally like to move from Queens to Brooklyn or vice-versa despite similarities of many communities, and so on. There's little good reason not to build tech businesses in Brooklyn or Queens, but only recently have select parts of those Boroughs seen significant growth of those industries.
I've seen parallels of this in other cities I've lived in, although generally without the level of connectivity that NYC has. My constant thought experiment is to wonder, if the rivers were to be erased, how long would the current barriers exist? Would there remain a scar like the path of the Berlin Wall, years later?]]>
I assert that my perspectives on these topics are: 1) Sufficient to solve the problems worth solving 2) Sufficient to analyse historical and current injustices 3) Balanced against the rest of my values, and 4) By extension, easy to balance against reasonably-mainstream values, as they are not tailored narrowly to focus on a few problems in a way that damage the implementation of a lot of other values
The fourth point bears some elaboration; there are things that we think are generally good ideas for legal and social mechanisms, based on posibilities and often actualities of abuse. "Don't accept assertions of guilt without evidence", "permit a variety of perspectives to comfortably in society", "be extremely reluctant to accept strong notions of group responsibility", "be civil", "be data-driven", and so on. A reasonable person who is interested in many problems of society will have a longer list than this, and many of them will be reasonably firm commitments; if they discover a new activism, they're not likely to give up on general principles in order to pursue specific causes; instead, they'll try to persuade, they'll only police actions that cause a very concrete (if not always material) harm, and they'll take the long view that enough of this kind of activism will usually eventually achieve their ends.
Moving into the specific; racism and sexism. I see racism and sexism as being significantly about intent, and failures in them as being about a lack of personal virtue; the centre of my position is that, on the topic of race, we are one species, and we should emphasise that unity and accept some level of obligation towards each other regardless of race, and generally reject special obligations or treatment of specific races. On the topic of gender, I assert that while there are two sexes and our genetics shapes some of our tendencies and generally our body specifics, the social implications of whether we're male or female should be very small, not limiting who we can love, what jobs we can have, how we're treated in the workplace, or what hobbies or roles we're suited for.
I accept limited exceptions on both of those basic principles, but they need to be strongly justified, and the bar for doing so is, for me, very high. I accept/support affirmative action in schooling (and nowhere else), until certain conditions are met in which case the programmes will no longer be justifiable. I accept differences relating to birthing (meaning I think a longer maternity leave should be mandatorially offered than a paternity one). I accept different bathrooms, on the other hand, of being of trivial effect and as a comfort issue.
I see intent as being crucial for evaluating barriers to the radical weakening of gender/race roles in society; I trust that if we can root out actualised racist/sexist intent, the other problems worth solving will sort themsort out in time, and I am wary of stronger actions. I am also wary of calling things racist or sexist if they are not clearly driven by racist/sexist intent; to me, that's what those terms mean and absent the intent, the terms are misused.
I think we need to retain the ability to talk about culture that is sex-and-or-race-linked. By talk about, I include criticism, praise, and shaping.
I entirely reject use of guilt or race/sexual identity to exclude people from a conversation. Some forms of feminism are particularly broken on this front, and those forms are to be criticised for this failing. There are other aspects of bad discourse that occur in SJ-movements, and criticism of those problems is, I hold, mandatory if we are to keep those movements working properly. Finally, I hold that activism needs to be tailored primarily to move policies, and to move views of the mainstream. Radical theories, like Dworkinism or most forms of Trans-activism, should be rejected; they may have shades of truth in their analyses, but their end-goals trample reasonable diversity of perspective and their activism is not capable of producing more than backwards motion.
I significantly but do not entirely reject the goal of working for more than material notions of nondiscrimination. I believe the desired end-state of activism is a society that is deeply divided between perspectives on most issues of philosophy (including definitions of race, gender, and the like), where the philosophies are rival and oppose each other, where everybody mocks and feels free to disapprove of any and every other perspective and every identity, but where there is a solid expectation of physical safety, harassment along these lines is significantly absent, and an expectation that neither identity nor perspective will usually be relevant to employment nor will identity or perspective generally create special legal privilege, role, or disability. There will be no dignity, no enforced respect, and no allowance for history on these fronts. Appropriation is to be celebrated, and even revival of historical elements that were once tainted by racism or sexism, provided that revival is done absent real intent along those lines, is acceptable. People who want something more than that are marked by me as intolerant, even if they are liberal and working on behalf of traditionally disadvantaged groups, and I vow opposition.
This is my liberalism. It is rude. It celebrates mockery. It is also tolerant, and it achieves social justice. Its rudeness is a strength, like the medieval jester; it is not politically correct - it speaks truth to power, and speaks truth to weakness. It does not mandate dignity; it considers dignity something people and groups must pursue on their own, with no special support and with little ability to nag people into. It is, in my case, paired with a technocratic socialism that aims to materially provide for the well-being of society with strong social programmes, an academic bent, and well-designed policies. ]]>
Article 2 - Keep Your Identity Small. Not a bad set of points about how some kinds of conversations are difficult - the author notes that once people have a personal stake in an argument, they rarely are able to consider it fairly. Decent enough with a few little problems (his programming languages example is a bit weak because there are not always definite answers to what is best in a language). The article is a bit too pessimistic, I think; when he says 「More generally, you can have a fruitful discussion about a topic only if it doesn't engage the identities of any of the participants」, he neglects that there are probably ways to have such discussions despite identities being engaged. Many of these topics are too important to give up having fruitful discussion on them (and would in fact mean we have to give up on talking about race or gender issues because most people identify with a race or gender that they're categorised into). Instead, I think that by having standards of discourse (civility and a good conversational flow at the minimum, Oxford-style debate between people who have studied logic or philosophy if we want to do better) and perhaps as individuals trying to get used to less emotional responses to back-and-forth and being in the habit of writing and sparring on these topics, we can learn to do better. Likewise, having strong traditions of inner criticism and factionalism between movements organised around similar causes can help us learn to talk about these issues, and to expel radicals who are too consumed by anger to accept anything but the "purity" of having everyone around them agree with them entirely. The article is too pessimistic.
Article 3 - On Toxicity and Abuse in Online Activism. I consider this baby steps towards reasonability from a fundamentally unreasonable perspective; it still praises the most unhealthy features of a flavour of activism (Transfeminism and "allied") that should in my view be wholly rejected, but suggests dialing them down a bit because the author has realised that some of the features make being engaged in the communities that activism makes as unpleasant as dealing with broad society. It's a good observation and one I recall well from my past presence in a BIGALA community; one of the many reasons I avoid such communities nowadays is the intolerance and rage that I recall from my engagement back then. I'm glad to see people starting to address this issue, although I hope they go much further and step entirely away from radicalism. A few assertions:
Finally, to repeat a (bold) statement I made in a recent G+ post, activist discourse is fundamentally unhealthy, and activist communities should strive to replace it with philosophical discourse. Otherwise they don't deserve to win. Philosophers and others who study/perform healthy debate and sweet reason need to sort these things out, replacing radicalism with practices that will make it clear to the mainstream that it's not just possible, but common sense to adjust society to better serve people outside the mainstream (and that giving such people everything any of them ask for is not necessary to do that). That's how progress is made, and it's the mutual tension that will keep movements sane (and hopefully expel the radicals).
In general, if you want to send me articles for commentary that are related to philosophy, activism, transhumanism, or other topics, and if I find them interesting enough, I'll write about them.]]>
Usual disclaimer: You don't need to recognise or approve of all paths people take to decide to tolerate them; people with religious or other objections to others with non-traditional sexuality should realise that while an intolerant fringe will demand validation and will not tolerate any views but their own on gender/sexuality issues, most of us will tolerate people who tolerate us, provided that tolerance doesn't amount to discrimination in employment, requiring us to be silent about our sexual preferences in a way straight people never have to be, threats of private violence, or laws that criminalise our bedroom behaviour between consenting adults.
Kudos to Fry for making this.]]>
A recent instance of 「Wasted Talent」: here
I'm not normally the kind of person to post links to episodes of webcomics, but maybe I can spin this one into being about philosophical topics. It coincides with a recent XKCD(note 1): https://xkcd.com/1349/ , and together we can use them to approach three related topics: abstraction, framing, and deconstruction. In these two comics, the humour comes from choosing to look at a task (programming) from a very unusual frame, in particular one that's much more low-level than the one we normally use; the "typing in colours" and the "working with sand" are akin to a common flight of fancy from desperate programmers struggling against a deadline - we often quip that our job is to push bits around, and if only one could know some right sequence of keys to push that would generate a program (or program component) that meets the spec, one might meet a deadline that's looking like it's going to slip because .. well, we need to think and test a lot to actually work out the right code structure we need. Even though it's true that what divides us from being done is "just bits", what divides any person from being a great (and rich) novelist is "just words", or any person from being a great musical composer is "just notes"; the creative act is not that easy even if the physical motions are.
So, the terms. Abstraction is the layering of conceptual levels at which we might work with something, with the lower levels being a "zoomed in" view, the higher levels being a "big picture". Looking at humans at a high level of abstraction might have us seeing societies and their traits, at a lower level subcultures, at a lower level individual people, at a lower level organs, at a lower level yet cells, and at a lower level molecules, then atoms, and so on. In theory, most physical things have a common origin if you look low enough (although, interesting for epistemologically-focused people, we have a practical-world-outlook system where we don't know the root(note 1)). The further we get from reasonably physical areas of our abstractions from the universe, the more we're projecting meaning onto the universe (and treating things as pattern-object hybrids) ; does it make sense, for example, to include subcultures in our model? The question of whether conceptual objects in higher abstraction levels actually exist becomes fuzzy - not even necessarily empirically fuzzy, but philosophically fuzzy(note 3)
Framing is the act of wrapping around a set of relatively bare facts a set of ideas - metaphors, historical context, stories, other information, in order to suggest structure for (dealing with/thinking about) those bare facts. We may work with one framing (and this is easy to do; framing relieves the stress of not knowing how to think about something), or we may develop habits where we try to find multiple framings for the same relatively-bare-facts and compare/contrast them.
Deconstruction is a discourse-technique(note 4) in which one takes an existing framing, in whatever particular form it is exposed (a narrative? even a word?) and examines its roots enough that its hold is weakened; this works best on framings that have strong(note 5) competition or weak construction(note 5).
Abstraction and Framing have a complex relationship. One classic example is Margaret Thatcher's statement: "they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people". Here Thatcher offers an argument(note 7) to deconstruct the notion of society, noting that is composed of individuals and asking us to give up on the higher-level of abstraction because the lower level is adequate. It is a kind of "there are no forests, there are only trees" type statement, but it has a certain force to it (note that I am not sympathetic to the statement, but it is a good example of this). Not all framings are physical-chain abstractions - in fact, only a few are. Looking at an attack as an isolated event or as part of a historical chain that involves recent other attacks the other way is a type of framing. Although we might decide to build abstractions higher up from a chain of events, building some conceptual object that encapsulates features we find common and salient about them, and possibly dividing them from similar-ish events that have a few differences. "Freedom fighter" versus "terrorist", perhaps? "Justified response" versus "atrocity"?
One of the features of society is that we have a seeming coherence between people in the concepts and language and framing we use to understand the world. We can communicate, usually, and we don't seem mentally that alien to each other; we trust that the fact that we're living in the same universe and seem to be speaking the same language makes sharing meaning between our mental world to be easy. One of the great difficulties between people is that this is not particularly true. There are many degrees of freedom in the concepts and frames we use to parse the world, and the people who think deeply about these things(note 8) rarely enough converse with enough depth or discipline to expose the deep differences that are inevitable when people build meaning alone (or in subsets of society). Some people have enough skill with language and navigating differences in meaning to actively shape framing - debaters and philosophers both have this as their craft (with different emphases). Still, we expect the world to be full of people who haven't reflected enough on their own world-of-terms and concepts to really understand them(note 9), with innumerable differences between people lurking just beyond the surface - the differences are usually masked by language not being high-enough-bandwidth to expose the gaps, but the differences are also not usually so large that the basic ability to communicate, particularly on mundane/functional matters(note 10), has too low an actual conceptual bandwidth(note 11).