Thursday, September 21, 2017

Reverse Engineering my Goals

The year is 2075.  I’m on my deathbed.  I’m surrounded by family and friends.  My son and his two children, and several of their children.  Along with my closest friends collaborators in my business, Breath of Life Art Studio. They are a diverse bunch.  I took a lot of risks in hiring people based more on the shared value of propagating love than on raw talent.  I’m about to breathe my last and I’m content.  I feel like I accomplished just enough to have met my life’s goal: to make the world more loving with stories.  I know I can’t quantify that.  But I have evidence. The wall of my bedroom is covered with print-outs of letters from people who claim that their lives were changed for the better by the work my company has done.  I’ve highlighted the ones where a person has claimed that they respect and love others more because of the stories that Breath of Life has created, the characters that inspired or challenged them.  The metaphors they’ve drawn from the adventures and world of Talifar.  I’m especially proud of the letters from people who don’t care for the work that Breath of Life produces, but have been positively impacted by the community of fans who have formed a kind of family around the work.  A family that values love and acceptance in a fiercely self-sacrificial way.  They are finding new and creative ways to manifest that Love in the ever-changing technological landscape that the world has become.  

My death is not painless.  I want to be lucid as I slip away.  I want my last words to carry the weight of a life lived in the pursuit of noble goal.  A hush falls on the room as the cyborg doctor detects the immanent last breath.  I summon my remaining strength to hold my head off the pillow and look at everyone in the room.  “I love you all.  Keep it going.”  

As the white light subsumes my vision I fade, content, knowing that truly passionate, energized people will carry on the work of Breath of Life Art Studio.  They all share the vision of making the world more loving with stories.  
_________________________________________    

I have NO problem coming up with goals for myself.  But I ran across this interesting concept in a business podcast called Story Brand with Donald Miller.  The idea is pretty simple.  Start with your final perfect goal or scenario, then work backwards from there to implement a path to getting there.  Of course nothing ever goes according to that plan.  But the more specific your goal is, the more you can marshal what resources you have to accomplish it.  I mean, in regards to my deathbed scenario above, it’s far more likely that I’ll die of pancreatic cancer at 54 and my last words will be a fart.  That’s not the point.  This is not about making a prediction.  It’s about shooting for a clear target.

What this exercise has done for me is alerted me to several areas I need to start investing at least some cognitive overhead.  Just laying the tracks for what I hope to be able to create later, when I have the resources to put something ON the tracks.  For example, I’ve always had this hazy notion that I’ll need to find people with a very specific set of talents AND values in order to find collaborators with my vision.  Reading my deathbed scenario I’m reminded that finding those kinds of people is hard to do by interviewing random candidates.  Instead, I should be scouting right now for people I want to keep my eye on for recruiting 10 or 20 years down the road.  Nothing reveals character better than seeing how a person operates over an extended period of life.
Another aspect is the nature of the fanbase/community/family I want to cultivate around the work that my company does.  All the IPs I know grew a fan base mostly before social media.  The fans they attracted had to do with the aesthetic or themes of the IP.  For example, Star Trek fans tend to be introverted intelligent and philosophically oriented.  Marvel fans have a different profile.  Tolkien fans another, Star Wars another, Harry Potter another.  There’s a lot of overlap in the venn diagram of these fandoms, of course, but my point is that the communities are more an accidental organic growth than a purposefully cultivated garden.  Since I’m working on building a platform from which to launch this IP, I’m already thinking about how one might go about cultivating a fan community that embodies the values that I hope to propagate.  A top-down approach is pretty much out of the question in the digital age.  I can’t possibly hope to personally (or with a team) weed out toxicity from a fan community.  But I can be MORE articulate and vocal about it than other IP companies are. There is obviously some financial damage a company will sustain if it specifically prunes certain personality profiles since that can turn away a lot of fans.  Most community philosophy I see is about finding the balance of how MUCH toxic behavior and attitudes can be expressed in their communities, vs. the freedom of expression that inevitably gives space for them to exist.  If you go too heavy towards censorship you lose potential revenue.  If you go too lenient you get a toxic swamp that drives off every decent fan, leaving you with a toxic swamp.  I want to know if there’s another approach.  I need to be doing more research into community cultivation.  I have this (probably dumb) idea of finding a way to convert or drive away trolls with a kind of community sit-in.  Like a virtual group hug.  From what I can tell, trolls operate like predators with lone or weak herd animals.  Their techniques work because they are able to get what they feel they want from a person.  (a good, juicy reaction of pain and anger)  What if, instead, a community was SO organized and principled that they could, as a group, surround all trolling with a solid wall of love and acceptance?  If they could absorb the toxicity with no damage to themselves and smother the troll with loving words of kindness?  I doubt such a consistent community reaction could be coordinated, but if it could….

________________

One of the problems I’m running into with this visualization of my life goal, is that, as mentioned, the world is an ever changing technological landscape.  And that technology isn’t just going to be transforming the world around us with cooler devices and more efficient ways to live.  It’s going to be fundamentally altering what a human IS.  Cyborgism is here for the disabled, soon to be for enabling enhancements. Genetic engineering is here, soon to be applied to enhancements.  Truly deep AI is around the corner.  (Whether it gains the same kind of consciousness as us or not, it’s going to be indistinguishable to our perception at some point.)  XR is going to fundamentally change our perception of space and the value we put on our consumption of physical goods.  Robotics is going to put almost everyone out of a job and that cornerstone of civilization ‘you are worth what your job pays you’ will crumble.  And that’s just what I’ve heard LATELY from those who think about the future.  It’s all going to keep changing.  And as it does, our values will change.  They will NEED to, or we will drive ourselves into oblivion.  I think that sense is something that has subconsciously driven me deeper and deeper to find a sort of bedrock for values.  Something that doesn’t NEED to shift as what it means to be human changes.  That’s why I put a flag in the ground at Self-Sacrificial Love. It’s not a perfect foundation.  Like every other concept, it’s composed of words that can be twisted and perverted. (Like an abusive partner convincing you that you need to keep taking the abuse because your love should be ‘self-sacrificial’)  And I think that’s where the stories come in.  They demonstrate the way a value like Self-Sacrificial Love manifests in lived scenarios.  And people extrapolate ways to live out those values from there.  I don’t know that human psychology will ever be changed so much that stories won’t still be the primary conduit of values.  

___________________
So that’s what I’ve got so far.  There are my life goals with a very specific end point, and a very nebulous middle, and a quickly cementing foundation.  If I had to guess at a middle, it would be something like this.  

  1. Release the first three Tales From Talifar books to a mostly uncaring world.
  2. Launch The Cutscene Subversion Project, which has just the right amount of controversy to pull in a massive audience. Demonstrate my community cultivation theory to see how it holds up to a divisive topic about videogames on the internet.
  3. Convert 20% of that audience to fans of Breath of Life Art Studio in general, and Tales from Talifar specifically.  
  4. Grow that TfT fanbase by releasing regular videos and blogs about the worldbuilding and involving their thoughts into the design.
  5. Release more TfT books at about one or two per year.
  6. Attract a business partner who shares our values and goals.  They help me figure out how to split our resources/profits in a way that allows us to grow toward the remaining goals, while also demonstrating the company's values such as giving to charity, supporting/respecting our collaborators, etc.
  7. ???
  8. ???
  9. Create the first TfT video series.  (probably the Scarred King trilogy)  The format will be episodic, probably divided by book chapter, and can be any length.  This can only happen once the Uncanny Valley has been solved and there is no difference between a CG animated film and a live action film.  (The lines are already getting blurry)  
  10. The huge success of the video series attracts a huge amount of talented artists who are all knocking down the door to work with us. They think the idea that their stories will be canon in such an exciting IP is worth the price of suffering through the heavy scientific vetting and story consistency edits they will have to endure.  Leveraging their fresh takes on the world of Talifar we proceed to create more media of every type that exists.

So there you have it.  A simple 10 step plan to world domination.  How could it possibly fail?

Friday, September 15, 2017

When Our Evidence Doesn't Hold Up


We are in a funny time in culture when we have all these social science studies that are being cherry picked and used for political purposes (most of which I agree with) and in the last year or so it's been discovered that there's a major replication crises with so many of those studies. So now, if you point out the problems with the studies you get labeled as a racist/sexist/etc.
When I first heard of The Implicit Bias Test I was skeptical. Not because I didn't think that we all have implicit biases we don't acknowledge or admit. But because the core assumptions seemed inadequate to me. The idea that minute time gaps in associating words and pictures could only be explained by latent racism/sexism/homophobia/etc. seems preposterous to me. My understanding of human psychology (as a layperson with no official education on the subject) is that all kinds of biases fall under a giant umbrella bias, which is simply this: We are more comfortable with what we are familiar with. That seems so... like... DUH! OF COURSE that is the case. But it is not an evaluation of an individual, nor does it offer prescriptive solutions to what is simply human nature. I think this is why white people hire people with white sounding names more than unfamiliar names. I'd bet my left pinky finger that people in India predominantly hire people with familiar Indian names. It's not because they harbor deep distrust of a specific race. It's because they are naturally drawn to what is familiar and repulsed by what is not.
To me, what makes one more or less racist is not what the 'system 1' gut reaction is to less familiar races. It's HOW OFTEN and HOW ENGAGED we are with turning on our 'system 2' reasoning skills in order to challenge those gut reactions. Are we content with our gut reactions? Do we rationalize them and reinforce them? That is the path to racism. Having 'Implicit Bias' is not equal to 'being racist' any more than not being able to pronounce a foreign word the first time you see it.
Another problem I've not heard brought up with the racism form of these tests is another super basic part of human psychology. We evolved to be afraid of the dark. Night time is the scary bad time of being eaten or robbed. Black is almost universally seen as negative in most cultures. (OF COURSE there are exceptions) The idea that flashing a negative-association word, then a picture of a dark skinned face, and assuming that the time difference to react is indicative of racism seems fundamentally flawed to me for that reason.
Anyway, here's a great podcast where two liberals talk about the problems with the Implicit Bias Tests, but more interesting to me, the How and Why of why it got so popular. (among certain demographics) Racism is OBVIOUSLY a huge problem for all societies and as humans, we owe it to future generations to work towards ways to end it both on the personal side, and systemically. But that fact should not bind us to poorly done science.

Culture Bubbles and Purity




My thoughts about this piece.
1. I think Wong is totally wrong about (whatever percentage he's referring to... that's unclear) about people on the left who are willing to do violence to the alt-right. He implies they are only there (in the far left culture bubble) because they just want the fun adrenaline of doing violence. He accused them of not being FOR something and only being AGAINST something. I just doubt that's the case for many of them. I assume that like me (someone closer to the SJW end of the spectrum than most) they are doing what they do because they want JUSTICE for oppressed people. That's IS being FOR something.
2. I think Wong is absolutely right on the money about how culture bubbles compress, refine and 'purify' people to get more and more radical, which makes more and more of the world an 'enemy'. I spent most of my life on the Right, and in conservative religious circles. I've seen some of what he's talking about with the competition for righteousness. But I've NEVER seen it to the extent and abandon that I've seen it on the Left over the last couple years. My religious experience was seeing "the righteous ones" shake their heads and cluck their tongues at the "poor misguided souls" outside the circle. But so many of my friends on the Left not only vilify everyone slightly less-left than them, but have zero compunction at name calling, ridiculing, wishing graphically gory and violent deaths on them, and generally working themselves up into a frenzy. It's so surreal because the general consensus on the Left is the fundamentalist religious conservatives are the ones who act like that, and the leftists are about peace and equality. Anyway, I've harped on and on about this in the past, so I'll stop ranting now. I just find it sad that as someone who traveled so far from right to left (because of a LOT of research and soul-searching) I'm alienated by a culture of spite from the people who you would think would be welcoming me as an ally.... because I only see things 80% their way instead of 100%.
This is the part that stood out most to me:
""Nazis are bad and must be opposed."
Agree!
"People who enable or defend Nazis must also be opposed."
Makes sense!
"Unlawful violence is perfectly acceptable when opposing Nazis and their enablers."
Wait, I'm not sure I'm on board with that ...
"Anyone who opposes the use of unlawful violence against Nazis is also a Nazi enabler."
What? No! I'm one of the good guys!
"Also, if you think about it, all American institutions and capitalism itself help support white supremacy, therefore all are Nazi enablers and eligible for violent retribution."
Hey, I think you just declared war on literally everyone who isn't currently in the room with you."


For me, personally, I moved left MOSTLY because of research, reading opposing opinions, and coming to my own conclusions. But my understanding is that most people land on the opinions they have because of social/relational reasons, then they justify their positions with whatever rhetoric their social circle uses.  I’m sure I have MANY opinions that have formed this way, and I’m sure it is how PART of my political convictions were formed.  However, if I had moved left for primarily social/relational reasons I would have moved back right again. There is no acceptance or welcome here. No display of character that I find appealing or healthy. I wonder how many people the hard Left has turned away because they quickly realized they could never be Left enough to get the praise and adoration from the taste-makers in that bubble. This seems to be a prime example of "perfect" being the enemy of the good.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Morals without Morality

Below is a facebook thread spawned from someone sharing my last blog about “Ethical Street Violence” and why I disagree with the concept in the current context.  I don’t expect anyone to read this unless I become super famous, and then some poor biographer’s assistant is going to given the unenviable task of reading it.  And to that person, I apologize.  The reason I want to have it on the record is simply for myself because I think it illustrates a couple interesting things about my intellectual journey.  First, it demonstrates how a person’s choice with whom to engage in deep conversation can impact one’s thoughts and attitudes.  My primary interlocutor here is a very interesting fellow currently calling himself Rathaille.  I’ve e-known him for several years now and always find my run-ins to be… interesting.  He has a lot of positions that I’ve previously only heard from really stupid people, so it’s tempting to lump him in with them.  But for that one historian’s assistant who’s going to read this, they will find that’s clearly not the case.  Rathaille is one of a very small number of people that I’ve found to be able to speak in the same wavelength as I do.  Massive walls of text that actually engage with an interlocutor and challenge in appropriate ways.  (as opposed to the typical straw-manning, name calling, and red herrings that I usually find when I try to talk about deep things.) I love the unique quality of totally radical views that he holds, with tightly argued reasoning that you can follow all the way down to the roots.  Every other example of radical views I’ve investigated has proven to be as shallow and facile as an emotional bumper sticker.  (That was not meant to impune emotions.  I believe emotions drive all thought.)  

And that’s the second reason I want this for posterity.  In the event I ever want to do an autopsy of how I ended up with the particular constellations of convictions that I hold, conversations like this provide great insight.   

There are a lot of interesting topics here, but the one that interested me the most was the idea of transcending moral frameworks while still acting in ways that an outside observer would call morally good.  

Rathaille Bairéad Rathaille Bairéad Well, I think you and Josh both know how I feel about Ethics as a pursuit or source of "oughtness"...(for those of you who don't, I don't think Ethics can be done, that all moral and ethical systems are unfounded and unjustifiable and nothing more than the mystification and systemizing of assumptions and biases, or in other words I'm a Nihilist).

The other major argument I think Josh is overlooking is the pragmatic one:

I want Nazis not to be Nazis or do Nazi things. Some Nazis cannot be convinced not to be Nazis or not to do Nazi things. Violent opposition to Nazis has prevented them from continuing to be Nazis and continuing to do Nazi things historically speaking.

...and in many cases--not just WW2--this has been the only thing that has effected this outcome.

#1-3. Trying to systematize these values and cram them in to your rote ethical schema is going to lead to all sorts of problems, that's half of why society is so messed up. If society is inherently biased against certain groups of people--including its legal and ethical foundations and strictures--what makes your personal ethical systems any different? No one asked you to do whatever any random Person of Color says without question. No one asked you to turn that in to a principle, no one asked you to universalize that principle (Deontology is a load of bollocks, so is Kant). You did that all by yourself, you took what is a plea for understanding and empathy (i.e. prioritize the voices of people with lived experience and personal stakes over people who are abstracting from a place of ignorance and safety) and tried to transmute it in to something completely alien in order to satisfy the conditions of some arbitrary schema that you've decided to elevate over and above the well-being of people who are telling you flat out what they believe is best for themselves.

Sure, there are lots of different opinions among any demographic, but you don't need to do any of these arcane gymnastics to discern a viable path to follow. You can look at the aggregate voice of any demographic. You can weight that aggregate toward the people most affected and with the most lived experience (i.e. someone on the front lines of these struggles instead of someone who is wealthy and insulated from the day to day struggles, etc). Problem solved.

Race-to-the-bottom is a White Guy boogeyman. Sure, some people try to leverage their status to make up for the shortcomings of their attitudes, behavior, or positions. I've never seen that make a meaningful difference in any significant capacity. You're not automatically right because you're more oppressed, especially if your particular experiences aren't relevant to the topic at hand. Just because a Black Trans Woman is more oppressed than an Asian Man, it doesn't necessarily mean her opinion about some problem an Asian Man is facing is relevant or authoritative. Privilege is contextual and so is being disadvantaged, it's not some magical quality that grants you authority. The authority comes from relevance, experience, and knowledge (firsthand being best, of course).

White Guy voices can matter and be relevant when we respect others and know our place and don't behave like arrogant, entitled dickbags. You might know something about science, but in matters of Physics, your opinion is not going to be as important as an actual Physicist. It doesn't mean the Physicist is automatically right--let alone automatically right about something that doesn't pertain to their field of expertise--but if it's a matter of opinion, something subjective, their voice is going to and ought to be given more weight. Same goes for a Woman's voice on issues pertaining to Women, or PoC on issues pertaining to being a PoC, etc etc.

Keeping these things in mind, I have *never* been told my opinion didn't matter/wasn't welcome/stfu, white guy/etc, and I'm in Intersectional spaces pretty much daily.

#4-6:

1. Everyone always ultimately decides for themselves. That's the whole point of Antifa being a decentralized effort. Sure, people get caught up in mob mentality. People do the same thing at the voting booth with far more disastrous consequences. Violence is violence, whether systemic or directly physical. So far Antifa has killed one Nazi that I know of globally, and that's only because he attacked them first. These sorts of slippery slope fears about what Antifa might do are unfounded when you consider the facts. The fears about Nazis are not, because they're well in to triple digit casualties this year alone.

2. Of course it shouldn't be a single leader. That's why most of the people on the front lines are Leftists opposed to most forms of hierarchy. Curious why so many people claim to be opposed to Fascists yet only radical Leftists are out there doing something about it...?

3. "Sufficient and proportional force" seems to be the most common metric, and it's worked out pretty well so far. Like I said, very little real harm done by Antifa beyond some pain and minor injuries and property damage (the latter of which being intentional usually, but that's another discussion). Believe it or not, not everything needs to be a centralized, formal, chartered, neatly packaged system to function. Antifa--globally and throughout history--is proof of concept of "spontaneous order" and Anarchist values of defense and organization.

4. Yes we do, or at least we have some meaningful data toward that end. People are tracking affiliations, people are tracking activity on Nazi discussion groups, people are tracking hate crimes, etc etc. We've got all kinds of data, and all the data shows that it's a huge problem and it's getting worse, for example: https://qz.com/.../what-is-the-alt-right-a-linguistic.../

5. Police are inherently the enemies of most of the people who are on the front lines. Police--being agents of the status quo and power structures--will always weigh in favor of those structures. Routinely we've seen them fail to do their jobs when Fascists act out and routinely we've seen them protect and collude with these groups. Again, it's pragmatic. Police should be avoided, nothing good comes from interacting with them in any way. Whether or not one engages them directly depends upon how important it is to accomplish whatever they're trying to prevent. There is no central person to make a statement, that's the whole point of decentralized efforts, the whole point of utilizing the Black Bloc and other anonymizing tactics.

What you think about what might happen if they were ignored is factually incorrect. When they are ignored, they fester and grow and more or less slowly bolster their numbers. It didn't work for Germany. It didn't work for the UK in the 80s and 90s. In both cases, violence was the only solution that did.

Law enforcement isn't stopping their violence now. The FBI put out a report illustrating the infiltration of Law Enforcement by White Supremacists, and that's not even getting in to the background of White Supremacy that infects the whole "justice" system to begin with. Law Enforcement is just as much a part of the problem as the actual Nazis. They're not going to prevent the Nazis from escalating. They never have throughout history. Who do you think writes the laws they enforce? Who cares about "giving them more power than they deserve" or these abstract, imagined power struggles? What is the aggregate outcome? That's all that matters. Symbolic victories or defeats that have no real world measurable outcomes are just mental masturbation.

A huge percentage of our society *does* have implicit biases against the people Nazis want to harm and biases for Nazis because the Nazis look/sound/act like them. Just look at the responses by people to various forms of violence, violent events, catastrophes. Compare the way and kinds of responses they have. It's obvious. White Guys who explicitly hurt others for bigoted reasons are "mentally ill." PoC who explicitly hurt others are "thugs/terrorists/etc." Whatever is of the status quo and preserves and propagates extant power structures and current White Supremacist social, economic, and political arrangements always gets a pass, but anything that threatens or even criticizes this is met with all the venom and violence they can muster. I can't even count how many people I've seen completely silent about almost every other atrocity in our world and even this land, but if a Black Guy kneels for the national anthem or some masked Anarchists hit a Nazi with sticks, they're sounding off. You may be one of the few exceptions to this phenomenon. The vast majority of people I encounter are definitely protecting hidden or implicit biases, and all it takes is a little poking and prodding and out comes the bigot. I'm able to bring this out of such people routinely.

Mass action and direct action don't necessarily equate to mob mentality or frenzy. That's begging the question. Large groups of people can get together and do stuff without automatically becoming a lynch mob. What is their motivation, what are their values, what are their guiding principles, what are their emotional or affective states, how do these factors and their structure (or lack thereof) affect their behavior? It's a lot more complicated than you're giving credit. Again, look at the body counts, look at the outcomes. Antifa routinely throws down around the world and somehow manages not to murder or permanently injure people they despise, people who are sometimes actively trying to kill them. If all these slippery slopes you're worried about were reasonable, we'd see them manifest. We don't. They're not.

Josh Foreman "Large groups of people can get together and do stuff without automatically becoming a lynch mob."

Yeah I have no experience of that and most of my assumptions about crowds come from A: brain science research I've read or read about, and B: Movies. So it's a very fair criticism of my reasoning to point out my ignorance on that front.

Out of curiosity, if you or a loved one were caught off guard (I know you take many steps to prevent this) and were put in trouble that only the police could resolve, how would you deal with that? I'm genuinely curious. I've never known anyone who was so absolutist in their hatred and disrespect for police. (That's the impression I have.)

Rathaille Bairéad I'm perfectly capable of handling most situations in which the police would normally be called, but I understand that most people are not. There's also the issue of if you *do* handle those situations yourself, there's a good chance the police will come after you after the fact because they believe they're the only ones allowed to do those things. So generally, I avoid calling them unless I will face reprisal for failing to do so.

Of course I believe that in *any* society--Anarchist or otherwise--there need to be people who are both capable of and willing to use violence to protect those who cannot protect themselves. There will also need to be people to investigate wrong doing and seek remedies for injustices. I'm not certain these people ought to be let alone need to be the same people, and I'm highly skeptical that we need either of them just driving around looking for trouble (firemen don't go around looking for fires to put out or fanning cigarette butts until they catch something else on fire).

Many of these people might be the same people. I see these pictures of LEOs who are helping out in Texas who have passed out from working through the night. I see that and I can say "yeah, in another world, that might be my comrade."

The problem is nearly all of these people have willingly chosen to not only do these noble things, but also to use violence as part of a roving gang of other violent people to do a lot of other things I don't believe they should be doing for reasons I don't think they should be doing them.

Police are usually the first point of "contact" between the bigoted meat grinder known as our "justice" system and all the people who have been victimized by it, they're the hooks and talons that pull people in to it to be torn apart. They do this willingly, and gladly, for money, and expect to be lauded by the populace for doing so. That's unconscionable to me.

So much of the system is manifestly unjust and built upon layers and layers of horrible biases and exploitation, and they are the ones that not only stand in the way of its destruction, but are the ones actively propagating and expanding it. They're the ones who make documents written by old, dead slave owners and the fantasies of greedy businessmen more than pieces of paper and neural impulses. Without them, none of it would matter, it would be toothless. They (and soldiers, let's not forget "the troops") are the teeth of Capitalism, White Supremacy, Patriarchy, Queer-Antagonism, Classism, Colonization, Imperialism, etc.

That isn't just an unfortunate side effect, that's literally the majority of the reason they exist, to perpetuate this inherently toxic society and keep it the way it is and prevent the rest of us from doing anything about it. Sure, they do some good things along the way too, but it doesn't change what else they do, and every one of them, no matter how well meaning is complicit in this state of affairs.


You may or may not know, but in addition to the other stuff I do, I've been working in the security field nearly 15 years in various capacities (bouncer, corporate, bodyguarding, etc). I have routinely dealt with situations police do regularly (armed drunks, gang members, etc). I am always armed to the teeth everywhere I go. I have never had to so much as even *hit* someone in the line of duty, let alone gun them down. You probably know that US police are killing over 1000 people every year, but you may not know they're injuring far, far more (over 50,000, hard to know for sure because up until recently they haven't really kept record of that). Being a police officer isn't even that dangerous, statistically speaking. They're way more likely of dying of car accidents, heart disease, or suicide.

So apart from the over-arching, systemic, society-level stuff, they're just *bad* at their jobs, and they routinely clear themselves of obvious wrongdoing, re-hire people who are fired for misconduct and brutality, blackball/fire the rare cop that does try to root out corruption and stand up to their peers, etc.

Positions of power and authority attract the worst kinds of people, and these kinds of people are intentionally hired because they're less likely to turnover and more likely to adhere to the hierarchical power structure and follow orders.

It's an incredibly toxic, tribal culture.

If you ask what an alternative might look like, something like this minus the Capitalist incentives and Property Concepts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w2hpGhxAdw

To bring it full circle, part of the reason we can't have something like Dale Brown's organization nationally is because of the very kinds of moral operations you're trying to do right now.

People see police as "heroes," unassailable and noble and beyond criticism and certainly never corrupt, and if they are they're immediately "brought to justice," whatever that means; the "Just World Fallacy" writ large.

No really, most people have no real concept of justice other than the punishment of evil, which is a horrible idea and statistically doesn't even *work* when it comes to recidivism rates.

This infects every level of society. Police are the embodiment of "justice," which is seen as punishment of evil, so if you are a "suspect" (which is largely arbitrary in accordance with officer discretion), then you are practically a "criminal," a "law breaker," evil incarnate. If you are a *convict,* well then that just means you're evil for life; never mind what you actually did or didn't do or if it should even be considered wrong or bad.

If the heroes are punishing the evil, then that's good and everyone should be on board with that and despise those who oppose this state of affairs. This is where moralizing gets us.

Let's also not forget all the people who benefit from the status quo and are invested therein who knowingly rely on the police to maintain and perpetuate it. Think of all the rich people sitting in their homes, running their businesses (yes, I know, I am also a business owner, I wrote an essay about that), think of all the celebrities with their armed guards. Violence is a dirty business that is beneath them, better left to the humble blue collar folk. That's partially how my ancestors became White, and why the stereotypical Irish cop exists. Hell, I have several of them in my ancestry. We were good at violence and willing to do it for pay, better than having to pay someone else to fight us and lock us up instead. You'll notice many Latinx people are currently employed in law enforcement, they're making the transition to Whiteness as we speak on a societal level through the same blue collar channels. Whatever serves the status quo, Cops become the extension of the will of the powerful. Instead of those wealthy, powerful people pointing guns at everyone, the cops become their guns, and the wheel keeps spinning.

Caprise Sireay Adams I can see that I found Josh's thoughts compelling because I, too, like the idea of having organized schema regarding broad concepts and ways of thinking. I can easily subscribe to a moral imperative which is driven by reducing all harm or some other like goal. Not because a schema would always be true in every situation, but because it feels intuitively like a schema would help keep a person consistent and thorough when our non-computer meat brains fail us. For example, if I'm anti-capital punishment for myriad of reasons, but one particular case affects me more than others, say one of my family members was a victim of some kind; well if I can hold true to my belief system, I'll still do what I've decided is the "right" thing to do despite my emotional urges to do otherwise.

I'm NOT arguing that this schema would be "right" in the ultimate or objective sense. I'm not saying I know with absolute certainty that capital punishment is bad and wrong and should never happen again. I hear you there--it's all just bullshit we make up in our heads. But I still find it useful. Obviously that could change.

You'll get no argument from me about your points, Rathaille.

I'm too skeptical of people and of my own opinions to make my mind up about whether punching Nazis will ultimately help or hurt, when the goal is minimizing their power. I've read conflicting "articles" about it. I'm glad I don't have aspirations for world domination because I'm not very good at predicting or managing large groups of people.

I do appreciate knowing that they've cancelled rallies they had planned and that people are making them more afraid to exist out and proud. But I wonder which would be better; out in the light where they can be stamped out, or behind the walls, in the shadows, left to fester and spread away from public knowledge. I don't know.


Josh Foreman Rathaille Bairéad, it's good to hear you have a lot of experience on which to base your criticism of police. While your opinions on them are a statistical outlier, I still find outliers valuable both as conceptual counterpoints and as new anchors. I think until I have new or better data I'm still in the middle where I think the psychological composition of the average police officer is not power-hungry psychopath, but I agree that any position like that will certainly disproportionately attract those kinds of people.

Caprise Sireay Adams I'm reminded of the prisoner/inmate experiment. How everyone in the experiment changed, even though it was fake, based on a few outliers setting the bar of expected or excusable behavior.

Have you read The Lucifer Effect, Josh? I recommend it if you haven't.

Or the white lab coat experiment. How people will do things they know are "wrong" or horrific because someone in a position of authority told them to.



Josh Foreman Yes, I'm familiar with those experiments, Caprise Sireay Adams, and agree that they are certainly at work in all areas of authority to some extent or another. I haven't read The Lucifer Effect. I'll look into it.

Josh Foreman Rathaille Bairéad, I think where we differ the most is philosophically is on two fronts. First, I believe that the current social order we have has been >>overall<< a vehicle of positive change for humanity. It's so incredibly far from perfect, and it's easy to focus on the ways in which it has failed so many, but if you look at the moral arc of history you can see a clear trend of expanded rights and extended moral concern for all. A different kind of social order might have accomplished this better, and may in the future accomplish it better. But burning down the current system on a hunch that whatever replaces it will be better than the millennia of human degradation and tyranny we used to have seems like a bad bet to me. My estimation is that given the current trajectory, it's safer for everyone to play out the current social order and see how far it can sustain expanded rights, safety and respect for all people.

Secondly, my desire to systematize a moral matrix was summed up really nicely by Caprise Sireay Adams above. I don't subscribe to any particular philosopher or school of philosophy. But I do want inner coherence and a consistent blueprint for ordering my life because the more I've pushed in that direction the better I've found myself and my capacity for compassion and helping others.

Caprise Sireay Adams Good, innocent people, ostensibly killed other good, innocent people, because someone in a lab coat told them to. I don't think all cops have to be monsters to enforce systematic injustice. I don't think the people in the experiments were monsters. I think it's part of who we are to do monstrous things in a clumsy, uninformed, imperfect way.

Josh Foreman Agreed. It's the extent to which this process overrides people that perhaps we have different opinions on. I think there are other mechanisms at work in people of authority that counteract the lucifer effect to some extent or another, to some individuals more than others. I think we are all in agreement that there are many truly monstrous people in police uniforms.

Caprise Sireay Adams I'm trying to say that there are people who think they're doing the good, right thing, who are pushing the bar of behavior in worse directions.

A police chief who KNOWS ____ type of criminal will push back, so he trains his cops to be more forceful during arrests to prevent the cops from being hurt by ____ criminal and also to prevent ____ criminal from escaping--but now the cops have started doing this to every suspect, including innocent people.


Police chief isn't a monster. Not a racist. Not a bad guy. Not evil. Doing his best. Still made things worse.

Josh Foreman Yes, I agree that this is a thing. Perverse incentives are a problem in every area of life. A big part of social evolution is identifying them and reversing them.

Rathaille Bairéad @Caprise - The problem I have with moral imperatives or formal, systemic schemas on a pragmatic or aesthetic level is that it's basically outsourcing your volition to an algorithm. For every person who does it because it's helpful to them, there's a million who do it because it's easier and more pleasant to let someone or something else decide and to just go along with whatever the algorithm spits out. "I was just following orders," "I'm just obeying the word of god," "I'm just doing what's right," etc. When you systematize human behavior and choices--to the extent that you adhere to this system--you are beholden to its output which is based on how you or whoever else programmed it to begin with.

If you grew up in a bigoted society, chances are any formal schema you follow is going to be corrupted by the background radiation of bigotry in that society. It happens to burgeoning AIs to this day, even when they don't have any direct interaction with humans. They--just like developing humans--internalize these values even when they're not explicitly expressed. So what makes any schema or systemic treatment of behavior more or less likely to help you arrive at a particular destination?

If you have an explicit goal of where you want to be in how you perceive and treat others, then why do you need a system? If you don't have any idea of where you're going, then how is a system going to help you get there? It just seems superfluous to me at best, and at worst the shirking of responsibility for intimately wrestling with your own preferences and biases by passing that responsibility off to abstract technology.

In addition to there being no "right," there's also no reason to value a consistent point of view over an inconsistent one aside from demonstrable pragmatism or arbitrary aesthetics. So I get what you're saying, but what does it mean that these formalizations "help" you? What is the metric of "helping," what is the end goal that this "help" is enabling you to reach? If you need a secondary system to define what constitutes "help," then is it nested systems all the way down, or are these just smokescreens for what you really want anyway?



Rathaille Bairéad @Brian - I posted in this in your thread, but it's worthwhile for anyone else that hasn't seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcF1XfFnKK8 The issue of "timing" is one that has already been dealt with several times throughout history. There doesn't seem to be any incentive not to deal with them violently ASAP aside from the disapproval of people who don't matter, and there is *definitely* an incentive to deal with them before they become too much to deal with. I'm just not seeing any reason why we should hold off squashing them and save it for later when they're even more powerful.


Brian Smith Rathaille Bairéad I respectfully disagree. But, as I said earlier, the timing is subjective. I think dealing with essentially powerless splinter groups with violence right out of the gate is counterproductive. But, I agree there is a time.

Rathaille Bairéad @Josh - I'm not saying every cop is a sociopath, I'm saying that the police culture and how the job is done in our society produces sociopathic behavior and actively protects and defends both sociopathic behavior *and* the genuine sociopaths that find their way in to the system.

Caprise was right on with the Stanford experiment. You can take many decent, well-meaning people and put them in to the right context and they'll gladly commit atrocities. That's how we got altar boys in Vietnam making human ear necklaces too. *No one* should be doing that job the way that it is done. They wear too many hats and have too little oversight, the wrong kind of training, and one of the most toxic professional cultures that has ever existed.

The point is not that all cops are sociopaths, but that by agreeing to do that job, they are immersed in a toxic environment that poisons them and demands that they become complicit in toxic phenomena and implicitly defend this toxic state of affairs as something noble. I've seen it happen to several former friends. One week they're smoking pot with their friends, the next they're beating potheads, locking them in chains, and throwing them in cages, for 'Murica.

As for the trajectory of history. Umm...you do realize that we're on the brink of EXTINCTION, right? The positive curve is not due to our social order but to the proliferation of information and technology. The social order is why all of this ostensible progress will amount to *nothing* if Capitalism and its byproducts are not averted. We may already be past the point of no return, hard to say really.

The police are one of the primary obstacles to that change in social order, not only where Capitalism is concerned, but in the dismantling of White Supremacy and other forms of bigotry. We don't have time for gentle slopes, especially when we're not gainfully employed White Guys living in places mostly unaffected by Climate Change.

Who are you to decide what is safer for everyone who doesn't have a life as good as yours or a voice as weighty as yours? If I consult the aforementioned aggregate voices of those who are not like me, everything is *far* from OK. Everyone else doesn't have the luxury to look on the progress of humanity and stoicly resign themselves to breaking a few eggs. They're in the shit right here and right now and in many cases, that shit is getting worse for them. If people with fundamentally different experiences of and perspectives on the world are saying "it's not safe," then who am I to tell them "nah, it's safer for everyone" when I'm doing A-OK?

Most forms of violent crime have drastically decreased in the last 20-30 years. The exception to that is police violence, which has skyrocketed (though of course some of that is due to the fact that the technology is in place to catch them doing wrong and record it).

If your goal is compassion, then why not just be more compassionate? Why not just spend more time listening to others and taking their plight more seriously and suppressing your own desire to impose your will on the world? Why does this need to be run through an Ethics Machine (see my questions to Caprise on the subject)?

You continually pay lip service to being aware that there are problems and agreeing that those problems are problems, and yet your stated positions here are consistently dismissive when it comes to the severity of those problems and their implications. Are you just not aware of the data or do you just assume they're not a serious problem because they're not a serious problem for you? Something here seems incongruous.

Another general point I was thinking about earlier today and just remembered in another friend's post was that I think that there's a broad phenomenon where reliance on external algorithms for behavioral direction (morality, ethics, religion, law, etc)--to the extent and in proportion to the duration for which they are relied upon--can and often do lead to the atrophy one's empathic faculties.

Just like any other aspect of the brain and its operations, if you reinforce a pattern, it become stronger and your neural patterns will reflect this. If you de-emphasize a pattern or reinforce the opposite of that pattern, not only does it become weaker, but it becomes more difficult to re-engage that pattern that was subverted or contradicted.

Thus, if your behavior is dictated by some external source, the longer you live that way, the harder it becomes to genuinely empathize with others and their respective, contextual plights. I suspect that--and privilege, of course--are one of the reasons for this epidemic of apathy and antipathy that seems so pervasive.

As I also mentioned, your thoughts and actions will also inherit whatever inherent biases and shortcomings are present within those systems and how they were programmed.


Brian Smith My reasoning is not complicated. I believe the world works best with as little violence as possible. I'm not a pacifist in the sense that violence is never necessary, but I believe I proportional force. I have already outlined that I believe these people are marginalized and a weak minority.

Meeting them with violence brings them sympathy.

I don't have data. It's a general belief.

Rathaille Bairéad @Brian - Ok, you have this belief, but how do you reconcile that with the facts, with history? If both the Nazis themselves and the Jews that survived the holocaust (or whose writings survived) all say that the only way to prevent this would have been to crush the Nazi party in its infancy, then how do you reconcile that? If Antifa had to violently stop Nazis in the UK and realized by waiting they only made it more difficult for themselves later on, then how do you reconcile that?

Rathaille Bairéad There seems to be this general, widespread phenomenon where people just arbitrarily believe things and expect those beliefs will somehow correlate with reality but never bother to determine whether or not they actually do, or if the outcomes of their beliefs will be the same as they suspect, and it just baffles me. Like...do people just not consult facts before forming beliefs? Do most people just rely exclusively on assumptions and biases? It just baffles me. Why wouldn't someone base their beliefs on the data and evidence available? Why wouldn't someone pursue the data and evidence that can be obtained to the best of their ability before forming an opinion? If opinions are not based on facts and evidence, then what *are* they based on, where do people get the ideas they have?

Legislators do this all the time. "We're passing this law to reduce crime." Ok, so a year later, has it reduced crime? It doesn't matter if that was your intent; if it doesn't actually correlate with reality then what was the point, what is the point in continuing? Seems like they should figure out *why* and then *change* their models and strategies accordingly, but so few people seem to do this. I don't get it.

Josh Foreman Rathaille Bairéad: "When you systematize human behavior and choices--to the extent that you adhere to this system--you are beholden to its output which is based on how you or whoever else programmed it to begin with."

It sounds like you're talking about heuristics. My understanding of how the human brain works is that literally everything we do is driven by them. We can't perceive all the data that the world provides, so our brains automatically sort it for us into conceptual chunks via heuristics. The goal of cobbling together some kind of system of organizing our thoughts is to take some kind of control over that unconscious process. We can never parse every piece of data we encounter, but we can shunt that data into different conceptual buckets if we, as you say, reinforce a neural pattern.

I'm not claiming that this is an unambiguous moral imperative. I'm saying it's a process that I'm personally convinced has made me a better person. Maybe if I understood your alternative better I'd be able to evaluate my preconceptions. It sounds to me (which is naturally going to be filtered through my wonky heuristics) like you are saying it's better to react to every situation on a case-by-case basis, marshaling the necessary mental and emotional resources to the task. I agree that if we fail to use those faculties due to bad heuristics we can suffer atrophy. But because time and emotional/mental energy is a finite resource I don't see a logistical alternative to leaning heavily on heuristics. They are a naturally emergent tool of consciousness, and can be directed in good or bad ways. (as you alluded to.)

Rathaille Bairéad @Josh - Sure, I get the desire to have control over what would otherwise be an unconscious process, but the choice to use any particular kind of control mechanism is itself motivated by this same core intent. So what is this core intent and where does it come from and if the core intent is laying the foundations, then doesn't that sort of undermine this process of externalization and rationalization?

It's the same as the rest of philosophy, everything depends upon presuppositions and stem from them. Syllogisms depend upon initial premises. So no matter what your system of ethics is or how it's constructed, it's going to be motivated by and founded upon basic assumptions or presuppositions formulated by your core intent. So to me, it just seems like a *further* mystification of an already extant thought/feeling process which only serves to obfuscate a person's will rather than clarify and hone it.

Like, why go through the trouble of trying to systematize the products of this core intent and just do some introspection and know what you actually feel and why? Seems like a lot more work for not much of a benefit when you could just get to know yourself better. Even in developing these "tools," how do you know which direction or extent to take them if not for this core intent?

You're familiar with Haidt, you know his experiment with moral justification, how people's schemas are usually just rationalizations for their predetermined inclinations. Why go through the charade, unless you're trying to convince someone who is sympathetic to your schema? Why can't/won't people just say "I feel ____ about ____ because ____?" What's so hard about that, what's so shameful about admitting that--at the end of the day--it's all just what you prefer?

I'm not saying it's "better" (which is arbitrary), I'm saying that's what we *actually* do every time, and that the systems are just a mask we place over our intent to feel justified and sophisticated and objective and removed and above our "mere inclinations." I'm saying we always just react on a case by case basis, and then those of us with moral systems do a series of mental gymnastics trying to reconcile our core intent with the output of the moral system. Think of all the exegetical nonsense Christians do to justify their beliefs. I'm saying *all* people with codified systems of morality do the same thing, and that's way more work for what seem like pointless reasons to me to arrive at exactly the same conclusion.

My assertion would be that your perceived improvement as a person is due to your exposure to different perspectives and more data rather than the sophistication or efficiency of this system you constructed or method you devised.

Kevin Min "Positions of power and authority attract the worst kinds of people, and these kinds of people are intentionally hired because they're less likely to turnover and more likely to adhere to the hierarchical power structure and follow orders."

I think this is true, but I don't know what percentage are the worst kind of people vs good people who become corrupted by power vs people who manage to keep their humanity.

And I would argue that the key element that is missing from our police is accountability and that's the area, that if fixed, would put that profession more in line with other professions and positions of power. There do appear to be other cultures that don't have nearly the deaths or injuries and where being on the police force is viewed as a privilege that carries a level of responsibility with it.

That goes hand in hand with the experiments cited (which I've read about and studied) - the main missing component was authority without accountability.

Great discussion and points, btw.

Rathaille Bairéad @Kevin - Some data relevant to your point about accountability is that the vast majority (something like 70 or 90 percent as I recall) of complaints against officers are filed against officers without a college degree. Now there are many reasons as to why that correlation could exist, but it becomes narrower when you also realize that the courts have ruled that departments may legally discriminate against applicants on the basis of IQ, academic performance, and psych eval (a guy filed a lawsuit alleging he was discriminated against and the courts sided with law enforcement).

They're intentionally scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Kevin Min I'm not convinced that this is mostly true though, Rathaille. I've known many cops first hand over the years and while there are certainly good ole boy networks that keep a certain kind of person out, there has been a push lately in some cities for community based policing, deescalation and force as a last resort.

The other issue I think needs addressed is the militarization of our police forces. The more weapons, the bigger the weapons, the more power - the greater the temptation to use them.

Same goes for our society, btw - but I don't really have a great answer for that.

Rathaille Bairéad You know some cops, a dozen or so out of a million. I knew some as well. Anecdotes don't matter as much as data, and the data says the problem is worse now than it ever has been (noting reporting changed, etc).

It's not just a "good ole boy network" problem, though. It's a societal problem. Cops always get the benefit of the doubt from their co-workers (same people who investigate their alleged wrong doing), from the society that idolizes and depends on them to maintain the status quo from which they benefit, from the court system when they testify, you name it. Until we move past a punitive theory of justice on a cultural level and a reliance on hierarchies for organization, this isn't going tonchange.

Militarization is definitely a problem, agreed. If you think you're a soldier you'll behave differently than if you think you're a peace officer.

Kevin Min Agreed on the anecdotes vs data, but I would be interested to see the data. It's an area I studied in college, though I certainly wouldn't claim to be an expert on it.

I think the punitive emphasis in our justice system is horrific and causes all kinds of long term societal problems, as well as costs us a tremendous amount of money and resources.

That one I have seen a lot of data on (starting with college study) and countries that don't have our punitive approach have far lower recidivism rates than we do.

We've never really grown out of cowboy justice.

Rathaille Bairéad @Kevin - Look at the FBI stats over the last few decades. Killings by police have doubled on average since 9/11/01 despite the fact that nearly all other markers of crime have decreased, doesn't seem to be slowing down. Again, this could be at least pa...See More
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Josh Foreman " I'm saying *all* people with codified systems of morality do the same thing, and that's way more work for what seem like pointless reasons to me to arrive at exactly the same conclusion. "

I would say all people in all times without or without codified systems do the same thing. I guess we're deep enough in the woods that free will v determinism has to be evoked. I don't personally believe in free will, and I think that *all* reasoning is a post-hoc narrative imposed on the results of the unconscious heuristics one has. So I'm not motivated by an attempt to put lipstick on a pig here.

"Why go through the charade, unless you're trying to convince someone who is sympathetic to your schema? Why can't/won't people just say "I feel ____ about ____ because ____?" What's so hard about that, what's so shameful about admitting that--at the end of the day--it's all just what you prefer?"

I go through the charade because it makes me feel like the procedure leads me closer to what I aspire to be. *Of course* it all comes down to my preferences. What I aspire to is to be a person who can help the human race be better to each other. That's a guiding principle I use when I try to tweak my heuristics. Because ultimately my heuristics determine my actions and attitudes, and my consciousness paints a pretty narrative over the top of it. (Look, it's doing it now!)

So I'm not quite sure where we disagree except that I find systems healthy and good and you don't? Which still seems like a "system you constructed or method you devised" to me. But I'm sure I'm just no grasping a deeper truth you have access to.

Caprise Sireay Adams "If you have an explicit goal of where you want to be in how you perceive and treat others, then why do you need a system? If you don't have any idea of where you're going, then how is a system going to help you get there?"

"So I get what you're saying, but what does it mean that these formalizations "help" you? What is the metric of "helping," what is the end goal that this "help" is enabling you to reach?"

Well for example, let's say I am extremely overweight and my doctor urges me to adhere to a diet, for my own health and safety. I want to live. But, my urges to eat things that are antithetical to my living are powerful. I develop a system with my doctor that I adhere to EVEN WHEN my willpower is weak, or when I've had a bad day and would like to self soothe with food, or when it's an anniversary and I'm out at a restaurant known for cheesecake. I think "Should I eat this food?" And then I remember the system I've agreed to. I remember how many calories I'm allowed that day. I remember my priorities. It makes it easier for me to make a long term decision without inappropriately prioritizing my short term desires.

I get that there are problems with relying on a code. I totally agree with everything you said. But, I disagree with your conclusion as a result.

If I were a computer programmer and I were trying to write code for the computer, recognizing that the code wasn't always perfect and wouldn't be perfect forever, I wouldn't destroy the computer code and expect the computer to figure out another way to run. I would write another code that told the computer to be open to upgrades, and to periodically check for updates.

The problem isn't that people live by codes. It's that they don't allow for the codes to be changed when they're faced with better information.

I don't know if your brain works different from mine, but mine is incredibly inconsistent depending on what the weather is like that day, how I slept, what kind of food I ate the day before, how much water I've drank, how the cashier looked at me, etc. Inconsistency is sort of fine, I guess, except when it derails my long term goals or has me sacrifice my morals because I'm in a different state of mind. It's called mood-dependent behavior. Granted, mine's probably more severe than normal because I'm a borderline. But I need structure to rely on when my brain goes crazy.

When I'm in a different mindset, all of reality looks different. I am absolutely sure the people who love me are actually trying to hurt/kill/destroy me. I have to rely on my systems in those moments to correct my behavior, because if I analyzed everything moment by moment, my life would be in a shambles. Maybe you don't have variation like this. My life swings between an actual horror movie to a comedy to an apocalyptic dystopian film etc, sometimes in that same day. My system of how I'm supposed to treat other people is the only thing that keeps me from doing terrible things.

Caprise Sireay Adams Great discussion, friends. You have made me proud and happy to know I have such deep thinking and intelligent friends. I feel very lucky and fortunate to know each of you.

Josh Foreman "The problem isn't that people live by codes. It's that they don't allow for the codes to be changed when they're faced with better information. "

Yeah I guess that's what I was trying to say.

Caprise Sireay Adams It's ok, Josh. You don't have to apologize for being smarter than me and saying things with big words. We all still accept you.

Josh Foreman brevity is the soul of wit

Brian Smith Yeah. What Caprise said. I think, as societies, we have to codify things. But, on an individual level, we typically don't codify things. I could tell you what code I live by other than to try to do as little harm as possible and as much good as possible.

Rathaille Bairéad @Josh - I'm not settled on "Free Will vs. Determinism," I don't think it's something we can really know, ala the Noumenal Gap. I simply use the term "volition," making choices, regardless of "who" or "what" is making choices if there's even a singular, central source of will or if it's just a pareidolic, reductionist perception of discrete but interconnected processes.

It's not really relevant to my position, but in regards to your own, if you believe in Determinism, then why do you imagine you can have control over the processes? Would it not be more accurate to say that you are spurred to pursue a systematic assessment of behavior because your will perceives it as refining and honing your perceptions toward a particular end that you have already been predisposed to find favorable? Like, if it's determined, then this desire for control is just an illusion, and the act of moralizing is a meaningless ritual that may or may not have any significance or relevance to the task. Perhaps you're compartmentalizing the reality of Determinism from your perception of the delusion of will and the conclusions at which you arrive therein?

Also, if you believe all reasoning (including moral reasoning) is post hoc, then you're basically admitting that your desire to have control and the ends toward which you are pursuing these heightened abilities and awareness--that of increasing compassion--is already happening irrespective of this pursuit of moral framework construction and revision. If it's truly post hoc, then the operations that are pushing you toward what you perceive as a greater capacity for compassion are just your natural inclinations which you justify and rationalize as having obtained through intentional effort post hoc.

Essentially, if you claim to believe in determinism and that it's all post hoc, then it seems inescapable to me that you're admitting that these moral categorizations are all a meaningless ritual or mask that you overlay after the fact on an automatic process intrinsic to your personality and experiences which just happen to be making you more compassionate.

My assertion and contention is that this process of moralizing is unnecessary for this development, and in the cases of many people (perhaps not you) actually a hindrance to cultivating compassion because they abstract and formalize and externalize and needlessly complicate and obfuscate what is ultimately just an internal process of detecting preference which can--on its own--be honed and understood independent of formalization through introspection.

As evidence of this, I've submitted that for all your eruditing on the subject, you've overlooked basic, obvious features of the phenomenon you're attempting to put through your moral machine because your machine is programmed in accordance with and inherits your personal biases and the biases you have inherited from your place in the world and experiences. After all of this deliberation, your position can be simply reduced to: "it's bad and I condemn it, but it's not *that* much of a problem," which conveniently mirrors the conclusion of most people in your social, economic, and political classes and contradicts the aggregate opinions of those most aware of the phenomenon and most affected by it.

I'm asserting that even in your case--despite your apparent sincerity--that as I stated about formal moral systems in general, yours has only served to reinforce your own biases and shield you from the conclusions you would reach if you allowed your intent toward compassion to operate unrestricted by formal criteria.

Rathaille Bairéad @Caprise - Your point about dieting is well taken, but I'm not sure that's the same thing. The diet plan is something pre-established toward which you are trying to align yourself and your behavior. What Josh is doing in this article is trying to qualify the behavior of others and how that behavior fits in to his moral schema and justify why he takes the stance that he does. Your example makes sense as an example of the utility of systems. His seems to me an obfuscation for what is ultimately a post hoc rationalization of his inherent biases.

I know we've talked about the mind/computer metaphor extensively, but I'm hesitant to accept it in this case because you are not the only programmer of your own mind. Your mind is programmed heuristically (as Josh said) by all of its sense experiences, introspection and--if such a thing is possible and exists--whatever measure of volition we possess (at the very least deterministic and environmental feedback loops that push things in certain directions, like Natural Selection). That's why the mind--unlike a mere computer--*can* figure things out on its own without deliberate programming, because it's more like an AI set loose in the internet than a Commodore 64.

"The problem isn't that people live by codes. It's that they don't allow for the codes to be changed when they're faced with better information." -- Probably the most succinct formulation of one of the issues being discussed here, but not the only one. My problem is not only that people are not updating their models, but also that models can be fine when they are a ladder that you climb to a height but function as a cage/fence when you put them between yourself and others with fundamentally different experiences of the world and access to information that you don't have. The formal moral system of a Cis/Het/White/Middle Class/Abled/etc White Guy, even if he's open-minded and charitable, is simply not going to have the same inputs and outputs as someone with a fundamentally different life experiences unless the former is somehow able to obtain a facsimile of the information peculiar to the latter. When a person of privilege is trying to apply a framework constructed within that sphere of privilege and the bias that comes with it, it limits what information can be passed through from others both qualitatively in the kinds of things it can perceive/understand/allow/stomach/recognize, but also quantitatively due to the limitations that privilege places on experiences, opportunities, time to devote to pursuing and understanding alien perspectives, energy and resources to devote, etc.

Josh imagines he can weigh the actions of others in a more or less objective framework according to certain criteria of his own choosing and surmising because of course he can, and of course he's worked very hard on his moral machine so it's likely to produce a valuable and accurate output and he'll work very hard on tuning it further, but ultimately this rote assessment of the behavior and motivations of others is not the same thing as actually empathizing with people in fundamentally different situations and it is reflected in his statistically average conclusions output by his moral machine (again, which I assert is simply a convoluted post hoc smokescreen for his inherent biases).

You both say that it's an important tool and a help and not a hindrance, but I do not see the evidence of or reasoning for this in the case of the particular context of his article--even if it makes sense in the examples you provided, as I believe they are different contexts.

Josh Foreman " it seems inescapable to me that you're admitting that these moral categorizations are all a meaningless ritual or mask that you overlay after the fact on an automatic process intrinsic to your personality and experiences which just happen to be making you more compassionate. "

I don't find them meaningless at all. Or a smokescreen. They would be a smokescreen if I claimed that I was the author of my will, or that my finely tuned machine of reasoning lead inexorably to a correct conclusion. I do neither. I find moral categorizations meaningful because they provide context that tickles the parts of my brain that seek meaning. Are those provencal and average and product of my culture? Of course. Never claimed otherwise.

" if you believe all reasoning (including moral reasoning) is post hoc, then you're basically admitting that your desire to have control and the ends toward which you are pursuing these heightened abilities and awareness--that of increasing compassion--is already happening irrespective of this pursuit of moral framework construction and revision."

No, it's not irrespective because it's it's embedded in the iteration loop of my heuristics. If that component was removed I'd be thinking differently. Better or worse; I can't say. You claim better. I don't know that it matters unless I had a way to A/B test my brain with and without that module.

I don't have a problem with your critique of me or my thoughts and actions. I don't have a problem with you thinking I'm less moral than I should be. (But I seem to remember you have problems with 'oughts' anyway, so maybe that doesn't matter?) I do disagree with what seems to me an implicit argument that you have transcended what I have not, by taking the specific social and political stances that you have. You MAY have transcended. I don't know. But the perspective the "aggregate opinions of those most aware of the phenomenon and most affected by it." could be right and they could be wrong. Just as you or I could be right or wrong about issues that we are closest to and most affected by. I don't think proximity is an automatic authority maker. But I do think it's very important, and ought to be very carefully considered.

Josh Foreman "Josh imagines he can weigh the actions of others in a more or less objective framework according to certain criteria of his own choosing "

I don't think that's accurate. I'm happy to admit that all moral frameworks are social constructs. And happy to admit that my personal framework might not be best for me or anyone else. I'm just, (like most people in the world) trying to advocate for a system that seems like it's got the best shot for making life as fair and good for everyone. To the extent that my framework fails to to that, I'm happy to abandon it. But data to that effect is very hard to quantify, so I hold a lot (well, technically almost all) of these moral concepts lightly.

Rathaille Bairéad @Josh - I mean "meaningless" in the sense that the real operation goes on under the hood and the external rationalizations are not really informing the effects on your character or changes therein, they're just a superficial representation of how you feel about the changes you're going to undergo regardless. So "meaningless" in the sense of "not integral, not causal."

The fact that they might be average and in accordance with your station is not necessarily problematic in itself, but it suggests to me that they are not having an integral/causal/effectual impact toward your goal of becoming more compassionate, but are rather at best "meaningless" and at worst a hindrance toward that end.

I don't say "better" or "worse," but rather "at odds with your explicitly stated goal of becoming more compassionate." Whether that is better or worse depends upon a particular schema, of which I have little use. For my part, I could list *my* preferences and my reasoning of their pragmatic outcomes--and maybe even venture a guess as to why I have these preferences rather than other ones--but it lacks any sort of external oughtness or formal structure beyond coordinating my preferences with pragmatic chains. I believe it is pragmatically at odds with your stated goal because I do not believe it is making your perspective more compassionate, but rather enabling your bias of a predisposition toward moderation, which is one of the things I have observed about your stances in many other contexts. While moderation is not inherently at odds with compassion, it *is* at odds with compassion when there are inequitable power dynamics at play, particularly when the assessor and the system he programmed from his perspective resides on the upper echelon of those power dynamics and benefits from the perpetuation of that state of affairs. Perhaps we have different definitions and/or understandings of what "compassion" entails and that might be central to our disagreement.

I don't think you're "less moral" than you "should be," those are both qualifications and categories that aren't relevant to my perspective. The fact that you see the opinions of "the aggregate" as potentially "right or wrong" shows that you're begging the question from the onset by couching them in terms of your schema rather than allowing them to define their own. To be clear, it is not possible for their actions to be "right" or "wrong" in any objective sense without an objective frame of reference for morality, and I defy anyone in history or the future to substantiate any such a claim and the system that undergirds it. Literally every single person who has tried has catastrophically failed.

Perhaps it would be helpful if I explained how I relate to the actions of others, I think it's relatively simple. I have my preferences--again, can get into what/how/why, but that's not relevant right now--and my preferences desire certain functional or pragmatic outcomes. I desire some things, dislike others, and am lukewarm or apathetic to others still. If I am able to alter or affect events or agents or circumstances toward what I desire, I weigh the possibilities and probabilities and any foreseeable consequences against the other preferences I have. In the case of situations involving the plight of people who are not like me and/or those who have access to information I do not or cannot, I rely on their self-reported experiences both in abstract content and the emotional impact of their fervency by empathizing--usually on an aggregate basis if relevant, usually on an experiential basis if relevant--weighed against what relevant "facts" I'm able to surmise, keeping in mind the influence of power dynamics and systemic narratives on how facts and other information is represented, which of course is followed the same procedure of weighing preferences and probabilities, etc. I suspect you have a similar approach to pragmatic concerns, it's just that I believe you're adding an additional, extraneous layer (i.e. ethics/morality) which only serves to enable rather than mitigate your biases.

If I am to be compassionate--which is one of the preferences I have, noting again that we may have different definitions--I think it's important to weigh or sometimes even substitute first hand experiences and what I can glean by empathizing with them over and above my own distanced, biased, second-hand reasoning *about* their situation and its implications. Applying my own schemas does a disservice to my understanding of and relating to them and their position because they may not share my values and the biases of my own life experiences may inform my assessments in ways that are not conducive to my goal of being compassionate. I allow them to lead me as one in the dark instead of asserting my sight is better or even sufficient for the task of navigating their vision.

Basically, it's not surprising and quite predictable to me that someone of your statistical status or station with your bias toward moderation would look at the current unfolding of Fascism vs. Anti-Fascism and conclude "not a big deal, not worth being violent" based upon the post hoc rationalization of a moral schema of his own design founded in those biases. If I didn't know you at all and just had that information about you, I would wager this person that I didn't know would have the same opinion you do and I would probably be right most of the time. I would also believe it highly likely that this opinion would greatly differ from that of people far more likely to be affected by the phenomena and/or that of people with people more familiar with the phenomena and its history, the people with whom I would be inclined to have compassion and whose opinions I would more heavily weight when deciding how I would respond to said phenomenon.

It's not that you're wrong or that I'm better in some way, I just think your methodology is--unintentionally, mind you, I do like and think highly of you, believe it or not--a self-deluding smokescreen for your biases and the whole operation is not conducive to your goals.

@Josh - One other point, you've already asserted that my positions on a number of topics are outliers, and you could easily argue--and I might qualify but would not entirely dispute--that I have a bias toward radicalism, but I wanted to explain how this relates to the operations I just explained. My preference is toward being compassionate in the case of people who have had fundamentally different life experiences than me, and in this endeavor, every indication is that I have been successful in most respects. Since becoming aware of sensitive topics like these which pertain more heavily to people not like me, I have yet to be shouted down or ostracized or in any other way opposed in spaces dedicated to others and people from diverse groups routinely positively indicate that I both understand their position as well as can be expected with my biases and limitations and relate to them and their plight in a way that is favorable to them. By both my own assessment and the external assessments of those to whom I am intending to relate, it would seem to me that my goal of being compassionate in these contexts is fairly successful.

So if I do have biases--which I explicitly admit--it would seem that at least in these contexts, they are not interfering with the desired outcome of coming to an understanding of and consistence and rapport with those with the most knowledge and experience of the topics at hand, which seems like compassion to me, despite the absence of a moral framework or bias toward moderation. This seems like a strong indication that moral frameworks are not implicitly necessary, which is not a refutation of the claim that they might be necessary or voluntarily useful for you, but I wanted to make sure that point was covered.

Josh Foreman Ok, we've got a couple different plates spinning here. The one I'm least interested in is your assertion that my moral framework can't have an iterative impact on "informing the effects on your character or changes therein". Like you, I'm not passionate about whether or not free will or determinism is "true", but after studying the topic I find the arguments for free will extremely weak. And so, whether my moral schema impacts my stated goal of growing in compassion and facilitating equity for all, or not, is kinda moot. It is what it is.

I might move closer to your stated position of transcending moral frameworks if I could interpret your stance as anything other than a moral framework (that you deny exists). This could be the every-tool-a-hammer-problem, but let me poke at that for a paragraph, and then poke at myself in the next. So in your thoughts and political actions, you are ostensibly marshaling them to some end. It sounds very much like the ends that I articulated. (Equality) Maybe this is a matter of definitions, but I think once you have stated any goal vis a vis the human condition at is exists, and where you'd like it to move, you are under a moral framework. While we both agree that morality is a human construct, the language about morality still sticks to our actions and thoughts, unless you wanna go humpty dumpty. If I understand your position (and I'm sure I don't) your preference is to facilitate better the preferences of those with less privilege. To arrange the world in such a way that privilege is evenly distributed. I don't know how that can be anything *other* than a moral framework, or lens through which you interpret the world and act upon it. You clearly have a burning passion for acting on the world. You put a lot of time and energy into it. Maybe I'M the one who's stretching the definition of morality too far?

Now I'll poke at myself in the direction you have been. My stated goals could be a smokescreen for my bourgeois preferences for my own comfort, safety and prosperity. I don't doubt that's part of my motivation for the post-hoc reasoning that I do and my serial attempts at advocacy for moderation. How big a part? I don't know. I don't know how to be more honest with myself than I am at the moment. But having uncomfortable conversations like this can't hurt, so I appreciate the time and effort you've put in. Your assertion that my positions are utterly predictable could be a data point that tells me that the percentage of bourgeois motivation is very high. But it's not enough for me to be able to take any action on. (This is why I consider my epistemology to be broken, and I suspect that's a much larger percentage of my motivation than bourgeois preferences.) But take heart. These kinds of messages seep into my brain and germinate. I've been moved further and further left over the years and I'm sure contact with you has been a part of that. (Incidentally, I force myself to have these kinds of uncomfortable conversations because of my moral framework. And if my contact with you HAS moved me left, I think that lends credence my point about iterative causality for heuristics in a determined system. )

So besides me being a predictable bourgeois shill, it seems to me that our biggest disagreement comes down to the pragmatic strategic decisions and who should make them. As I said before, I agree with you that those most effected need to have the largest weight in the matter of how a culture ought to be changed so as to better facilitate their goals of equality. But I know from my experience, and from hearing others, that being too close to a problem also creates its own distortions. This fact can be used by those so inclined to completely ignore those closest to the problem. Or for a person/machine like myself, used as a moderating mechanism. I get the impression that you see moderation -in general- as antithetical to your goals of facilitating a world of equality. I think, like I said in my blog, and linked to Glenn Lowrey saying, the social order is foundational towards that goal. You want to destroy and rebuild the social order. I think we don't come back from that destruction. And in that destruction, the marginalized have a far far worse fate than they do with the slow progress we are currently making with the existing social order. If YOU are right, than I'm self deluded, and pretty much a villain. (Which... fine, I don't assign praise or blame to anyone including myself, so that doesn't sting.) If I'm right, and we were able to have some kind of magical devise that let people see the ramifications of their actions, and a violent antifa person saw that their erosion of social order lead to the world I'm proposing it would, I'm pretty sure they'd change their strategy. It would be out of sync with their proposed goals. I think that your strategy is out of sync with your goals, just as you think mine are out of sync with mine.

Rathaille Bairéad @Josh - The "end" toward which I am marshaling my efforts and interactions is nothing more than what I prefer. I think perhaps you're having trouble seeing what I'm describing because it is so simplistic. I simply acknowledge that my "morality" is nothing more than what I prefer, and I don't need to invent things like virtues or duty or other abstractions to justify the preferences that I have, nor do I have to reconcile preferences that might seem to be at odds with others, etc. For example Caprise talked about having a consistent position. I don't feel the need to pursue consistence as a goal in itself, though I tend to arrive at consistent stances and aesthetically prefer consistent positions. So I have preferences, and I work toward their fulfillment, but I don't think that qualifies as a "moral system." There's no "oughtness" attached to anything, no "good and bad" or "right and wrong" or "should or shouldn't" save for conditional pragmatics (i.e. if you want ____, then you should ____).

My goals are nothing as exalted or abstracted as that. I have developed empathy over the course of my life (I didn't always have it, or at least not to a meaningful degree), and if I empathize with others, I learn more about them and their plight, and sometimes I find them and/or their plight compelling. I like to introspect and ascertain my own thoughts and feelings about how I live and the choices I make. I notice that most of those with whom I empathize also like this. I prefer to facilitate that possibility for myself and others, even sometimes when I think my assessments or choices would be better for them (or even for me). It's not a moral imperative that I or anyone ought to always let people choose for themselves or any such thing. I don't do it because it's right or moral or virtuous or good. I don't have to qualify or justify it or universalize it or say I always agree with and unilaterally behave that way. It's just what I prefer at the moment in this circumstance. In another circumstance, I might feel differently, and that's my preference too.

Maybe an anecdote might be useful. Several years ago some friends of mine became Vegan. One in particular was very vocal and evangelistic about this position. He tried to make a multi-faceted case to me as to why I ought to become Vegan. His arguments were very strong in an academic sense. If someone adhered to most general ethical or moral frameworks, it would be difficult if not impossible to refute or confound his position. Yet, despite this, I was not compelled to become a Vegan. This was one of the several instances that led me to realize that the moral schemas and frameworks to which I believed I adhered weren't really how or why I made the choices I made, that ultimately I was actually a Nihilist pursuing whatever I preferred, and what I preferred happened to correspond to the outputs of various moral or ethical frameworks. A strong ethical argument didn't make me a Vegan, caring about the plight of sweatshop workers didn't compel me to stop buying or using electronic devices, being moved by the struggle of the Kurds and others in Rojava didn't make me volunteer for the YPJ. I didn't make the choices I made because I applied the frameworks and values and that was the output, I made the choices I made because that's what I wanted or didn't want, and then tried to interpret and couch my choices within that framework (or when they didn't fit or couldn't be rationalized within the framework, simply lived with dissonance or guilt).

I realized it was all based upon the arbitrary prioritization of my preferences and probabilistic assessment of pragmatic outcomes. Through introspection, I could sometimes discern why I preferred this or that, but there wasn't always some overarching principle or framework that explained or justified my preferences, nor did any such prinicples or framework determine or dictate the choices I made. I highly suspect this is the case with everyone, most people have simply deluded themselves or have been deluded by others to believe that it's something more than that, something sophisticated or righteous or sovereign. I think it's all really just what we prefer and everything else is mystification and obfuscation. Sometimes if someone is *really* committed to this or that framework and their preference for seeming like a rational/moral/ethical person is exceptionally strong, they might find their actions or positions will be at odds with other preferences, and this will bring dissonance. For example if someone claims to be a strict Utilitarian and what is determined to have the greatest utility according to the GHP is something they really dislike, they might bite the bullet just to demonstrate their commitment to the schema, prioritizing their preference for being consistent/adhering to their moral code over satisfying whatever preference is being confounded by the output of that code. I don't really run in to that sort of dissonance much anymore, I just do what I want once I recognize what that is.

Josh Foreman Yeah, that concrete example makes things hella clearer. thanks

"something sophisticated or righteous or sovereign"

Ah. See, I don't associate any of those words with morality. To me, your whole post was an outline of a moral framework. You say morality is nothing more than what you prefer, then explain the system that generates those preferences. And a couple posts above that above that you outline how you act in relation to those of less privilege. Yes, your preferences can change, but they tend not to. That tending-not-to *feels* to me like a framework. Whether it's articulated or not, externalized, or internalized, it still seems like a system that the word morality fits. So it sounds like we just have different definitions. But I think we agree in the broad strokes. I didn't know that acknowledging that morality is a fancy way of talking about our preferences makes one a nihilist. I also know next to nothing about nihilism.

Rathaille Bairéad @Josh - I don't think you're motivated by a conscious or unconscious bourgeois desire to preserve your own safety/status/etc, though certainly that might be why another person in your categorical cross-section might make the choices he makes (hence why I found it statistically predictable that you arrived at that conclusion). I suspect with you it's more of an unfamiliarity with the topic and inability or lack of opportunity to fully empathize with those affected and understand the gravity or weight of the topic coupled with your bias toward moderation, all of which exist largely *because* of your categorical status. I've no doubt your contact with others has stimulated shifts in your position and perspective. That's part of my assertion, that it is this *contact* and changes in your existential environment and the information to which you have access and experience that motivates your move toward being compassion, rather than some conscious tune-up of your moral machine. I definitely agree that your heuristics are responsible, I just think this box you've constructed on which you're turning all these dials and pulling all these levers isn't what's driving that engine, that the ethical system/framework is a placebo for what is going on beneath the hood, so to speak.

As for being too close creating distortions, I don't think avoiding distortion is possible, and to think otherwise is a common flaw of White Guys like us in general, that we can somehow be objective and reasonable and rational--it's a phenomenon I encounter extremely frequently. I'm not asserting that this is what you believe, necessarily, but suspect something like that might be motivating this bias toward moderation I believe you have. Of course I think I usually prefer avoiding distortions when I can recognize them, but the thing about distortions is they're hard to detect by definition, and sometimes what might seem like a distortion from one perspective is clarity to another. So I usually don't have much of a problem "going native" so to speak in empathizing with others. I haven't experienced (or at least recognized that I've experienced) any sort of distortions in my perspective from doing so. Really the only people with whom I routinely find myself at odds with any regularity are other White Guys and occasionally White Women who possess a large measure of privilege where the topic of contention is concerned, maybe rarely people from other categories who are higher on the spectrum of economic privilege or particularly religious. That's really about it. If my perspective had suffered from these distortions, I would suspect I would run afoul of a lot more people and a lot more different kinds of people, but I don't.

I don't know that I really want to destroy the "social order," because that's a very, very large and convoluted concept. I would definitely like to destroy certain aspects or byproducts of it, but I think there are enough workable and immediately substitutable replacements for the things I want to abolish that I would be ok with their immediate removal. My contention with this assessment of my position is that it begs the question, that the "social order" isn't really "order" to begin with. If it is, for whom? According to whom? For people in your or even our position maybe, but for others it's much more dire. For that matter, why ought we prefer "order" over "disorder" in general, let alone any particular definition or formulation? I may not even accept that this idea of "social order" even exists. I think that's probably a different discussion though.

Even if--for the purposes of argument--I accept your assertion that we're making aggregate progress, that doesn't discount the possibility of some things getting worse (temporarily or even permanently, depending on how you're weighting different things). All indications seem to suggest that Fascism and White Supremacy (especially where they intersect) is increasing and becoming more dangerous. Violence and other forms of direct action have been--and in most cases the only thing that have been--successful in thwarting the advancement of those phenomena in the past on several occasions. Pragmatically, that's my goal in accordance with my preferences, and that's the method most likely to bring the outcome I desire without making that particular problem worse. If I don't share your concerns about anti-fascist violence undermining general progress (it hasn't ever undermined it in actual history the numerous times it has been employed) nor the maintenance of a status quo, then it doesn't at all seem to be at odds with my explicitly stated goals, even hypothetically if we can expect the past to be at all relevant to the present.

However, I think you're creating a false dichotomy where our positions are concerned. You believe a specific strategy I advocate may be harmful to a specific goal that I have, whereas I'm asserting that a general methodology you apply to pretty much everything is in the worst case a hindrance to your fairly general but explicitly stated goal, and that the way in which it is a hindrance prevents you from fully understanding this particular situation and thus arriving at the conclusion you have.

I don't think it's the wrong strategy for this particular problem and I *definitely* don't think it is in any way a threat to aggregate progress (though Fascism and White Supremacy *definitely* are).

Rathaille Bairéad @Josh - The reason I would be hesitant to label that a moral framework is that it's not really consistent, certainly not universally, and there isn't always a demonstrable relationship between preferences. Sometimes I choose one outcome. Sometimes in the exact same circumstance I may choose another. To say that it's a framework to me would be to say that all human (and some animal) personalities are moral frameworks or have moral frameworks, at which point calling it a "moral framework" seems superfluous. It's also worth noting that I don't undergo any of the operations or categorization or organization that you or other moralists seem to, I don't abstract or extrude my choices in to unified, higher-order values, virtues, principles or nested trees because my "tendencies" aren't always consistent or universal or absolute or relevant to one another. I would assert that doing that is just pareidolia and mystification.

What I explained was my thought process in that particular context at that particular juncture so you could understand how my mind works. I didn't articulate a prescriptive, coherent framework. Again, seeing one there is--I believe--at least somewhat pareidolic.

Nihilism is simply the absence of belief in objective or inherent value or valuation, or the assertion that all value is arbitrary. It makes no prescriptive or positive assertions beyond that.

Caprise Sireay Adams Ok, wow, lots of great stuff going on here. Loving how deeply you guys are delving.

What I wanted to say previously was that my defense of "moral frameworks"--which I'll get into a little more later-- is something I would be willing to abandon if the case was made that more harm was done to disadvantaged groups of people as a result of employing those structures (which could very well be the case, this doesn't have to be hypothetical) rather than more harm being reduced to the same group by employing the structures (which is what, I think, most of us want to believe about our moral frameworks).

I take all your points about the schema though. They can easily cause atrophy, blindness, superiority, erosion of empathy, laziness of cognition, etc, etc. I -still- don't see that as a fatal blow to the load-bearing proposition. I see it as a potential risk, but I see potential risk everywhere. I think it's good to eat sugar, but not too much. Sugar itself is not the problem there. We shouldn't do away with sugar because some people can't regulate themselves.

As to the moral frameworks, you could definitely be right about it all, including about the topic at hand which is Josh's call for moderation.

For me, I see these things as lenses, probably the best metaphor I could come up with as a photographer. Sometimes I want a 35mm lens which allows for the whole picture to be in focus, background, subject, foreground. Sometimes I want a 125mm lens which allows for only the subject to be in focus. I see these frameworks as tools to be employed to gather information. It's not that holding the morality gives me the information inherently, or it's because of the morality that I wanted the information in the first place. But using the lens allows me to compare perspectives in order to explore the biases and blindspots in my mind.

For example, if I can feel compassion and empathy for the struggle gay people experience--which I can, being one of them-- but I don't feel any compassion at all for the prejudice and oppression people of color experience (which I didn't for most of my life) then I consider that a failure of exploration, a failure of thinking, a failure of reasoning. If one thing is like the other, like a glove and a sock, my brain should be able to recognize it so it can function in this reality. If I employ different lenses, different schemas and frameworks, like intersectionality, I can challenge my brain to see something in a way it wasn't seeing it before, like a magic eye picture. Or like that dancer who's spinning in a circle and you can decide which direction she's spinning.

That's not to say people can't get stuck in the frameworks and misuse them. It's not to say there are no risks. It's not to say you can't arrest progress or won't face complacency. I know plenty of photographers who pick one lens and think it works for all situations when it clearly doesn't, but they're afraid to experiment, they're comfortable, or they don't want to take risks, or they trust that one lens and *that's it*, all the risks you were talking about apply here. Maybe they were handed a 50mm early on and never knew a different lens existed. I don't know.

I'm not sure our cameras can function without these lenses. Like Josh, I'm sort of inclined to see your preferences as a result of some kind of moral framework. Why the self sacrificing preference? Why waste time and energy fighting for someone else? Why not use that time and energy to eat more ice cream? Why does wasting your own time and energy sacrificing for someone else make you feel good? Where's the payoff coming from? Why doesn't someone else have that preference?

If what you're saying is that we didn't choose those morals, I think you're probably right. If you're saying our preferences don't automatically shift to whatever moral frameworks we choose for ourselves, I can totally agree, and then identifying with the moral frameworks is bullshit. If you're saying we can't change them? I'm not sure. You clearly did.

Maybe I'm just not smart enough to really comprehend the next level you seem to be so comfortable with.

Josh Foreman "Nihilism is simply the absence of belief in objective or inherent value or valuation, or the assertion that all value is arbitrary. "

Huh. Well if that's the case I can add nihilism to my resume.

And yes, pareidolia is a sexier word for what I was proposing than Every-Tool-A-Hammer, haha. Your challenge as to my usage of morality covering all systems seems pretty strong. I'll have to chew on that for a bit. I think the core to me is that I think that all values are ultimately based on a conception that the thing which you value is *better* than its negation. Life/death, love/apathy, hard-work/stealing, etc. And you're not defining those valuations as values, but merely preferences. So maybe it's about shunting your worldview in another direction before it hardens into values. But then... that process of shunting still feels like it has to be motivated by a valuation of avoiding moral frameworks at all costs.

Rathaille Bairéad @Caprise - I suspect "harm"--as I perceive it--figures in to a lot of the calculations I make associated with my preferences. The trouble with "harm" as a metric is that it's sometimes hard to define, and sometimes disputed. What some people perceive as "harmful," others do not. Then there's the matter of some harm being necessary to obtain a particular goal, even the goal of healing. So even when you lay out this criterion, it's skewed by your preferences and perspectives on what is "harmful" and how that definition fits in to your larger framework.

Sure, those are "risks" I think we all agree are endemic to moral frameworks and their use. My contention is that if there are known risk factors associated with the use of moral frameworks, and the ostensible benefits are not really apparent, then they seem more of a liability than a boon, especially if--as I suspect--they're superficial and aren't the actual gears that are turning human behavior.

The lens metaphor is apt and it makes more sense if you're trying out different frameworks and perspectives instead of trying to tie everything back to some central, normative one. As we've already discussed, systematization is a useful tool for organizing, making more efficient, and mapping phenomena. As an exploratory tool, it makes sense and I have little disagreement with frameworks for that purpose, it's when they become prescriptive or normative that I look down my nose at them.

Still, as a tool for mapping, understanding, or sampling other perspectives, they're not completely sufficient for the task, as knowing *about* something is not the same as *knowing* or *experiencing* something. A framework will always be a simulacrum of a thing rather than the thing itself. For that matter all perceptions of a thing--including perceptions of oneself--are simulacra of things rather than the things themselves due to the limits of our perception and cognition, but an abstract framework based upon a simulacra is at least twice removed from the thing itself. To get closer to the thing itself, one has to experience, and when one cannot experience first hand, one can only empathize second hand, that's the closest someone without firsthand experience can come, as far as I can tell.

Now, of course neither of you are opposed to empathy, but when you have experience (even second hand), what can an abstract framework do but help you sort the details of that experience? If you try to *apply* the framework simulacrum to the experience, it's like turning a vector or analog image in to a digital raster image, it resembles and bears some similarity, but the majority of the information beyond the superficial similarity is lost, and the differences become quite apparent when closely examined. The "lens" can just as easily distort the reality of the image it attempts to capture, and in the act of capturing much is lost, you're a step removed and no longer dealing with the thing itself. When you deal with empathy, even if your experience is second hand, you always have "the original," or at least your recollections about the original (however memory actually works).

No doubt all our preferences are informed by our experiences and the things which have influenced us, and you might be able to draw systemic lines and associations between some of them and map them out to some degree, but like I said, when we're dealing strictly with emotion and preference, there's not always consistent relationships and those that there are many be inscrutable, and by trying to apply a systematic framework, you're just as likely to be engaging in pareidolia, but not only that, again you're removing yourself by a step from the experience of your feelings by extracting them in to a simulacrum of abstractions which may or may not have any relevance on what you actually think/feel.

Take, for example, the concept of "internalized misogyny." You may feel a way about something, but if you try to abstract those feelings in to a framework, the framework will inherit that bias and every operation you do will be systemically tainted by that bias. The bias can only be eliminated by changing the way you feel about yourself and other women on an emotional level.

Cameras by their nature--and I suspect it is the same with humans--do function without additional lenses. The camera itself does all of the heavy lifting, the lens just changes what/how it perceives, but that lens is always a distortion, an interruption between the camera and the thing(s) it observes.

My preferences are the result of lots of different inputs and influences. Like I said, sometimes you can discern what inputs and influences are responsible for which preferences or degrees or portions of preferences or why some preferences are more highly prioritized than others, but there's nothing prescriptive or normative or necessarily systemic about these facts. Suppose I had a negative experience with a dog that made me dislike dogs. It doesn't follow that my preference against dogs has any bearing on dogs as a category. Dogs don't magically become evil because I dislike them. They aren't inherently wrong for behaving like dogs, even the dog that triggered my preference. All that can be said is I don't prefer being around dogs because of my experience, and so my preference would be to avoid whatever creatures which trigger that preference. There's nothing more going on there unless I *make* more there. I suppose there are probably factors that might influence how my fear response and experience of negative stimuli manifests as a future or anticipatory emotion of future events (i.e. I could have a negative experience with a dog and not develop a fear of dogs, or only fear a particular kind or size of dog, etc). There could even be a systemic component to this operation, maybe I tend toward developing a fear of whatever I experience that is sufficiently negative. These are just facts, though. Somehow, through a moral framework, facts become something "else," though what "else" they become in addition to facts depends on the particular framework you employ. I don't really see the need for anything beyond facts and how I feel about them.

I don't think we choose our preferences, even if we choose our frameworks. I think frameworks can have an impact on the choices we make (I already stated they can lead to a lot of biases and intellectual and existential problems), but I don't think frameworks can or do change our preferences. I think experiences and new information change our preferences and that this process is mostly unconscious, though can be "unearthed" to some degree depending on the person and context. A case could be made that a framework might affect choices and choices might affect the experiences and information to which you have access which might in turn affect preferences, but I suspect our preferences dictate which choices we make (including which frameworks we choose), and most of the actual interaction we have with frameworks is trying to rationalize our preferential choices according to them post hoc, or trying to impose them on others or convince others to adopt them.

Rathaille Bairéad @Josh - I'm saying the imposition of these formal values/dichotomies is probably artificial and superficial, and that our preferences are probably not informed or governed or constrained by these neatly confined categories and spectra. I think while our preferences may be in a slightly plastic state (as they can change over time), the operations where they are employed occurs in real time ad hoc, and then our assessments of those preferences and their implications and any relationship they might bear with moral frameworks occurs post hoc.

I don't make active efforts to avoid moral frameworks like a vampire and garlic or whatever, I just don't perceive or attempt to constrain my experiences and feelings and thoughts in that way. Like I mentioned before, when I had moral frameworks, I often encountered dissonance and other byproducts of my preferences straining against my morality. I don't really experience that anymore beyond weighing how I feel about possible outcomes and choosing the one I prefer the most. It's possible that my assessment of how these operations occur within my consciousness are completely wrong, but there's definitely a huge difference between how these operations once worked and my experience of them then and how these operations work and my experience of them now. Something changed, something shifted, something is fundamentally different.

Josh Foreman Hm. I think your dog example helped me to articulate better how I feel like I'm using moral frameworks. I think I'm using them as leverage to be able to remove the big emotional rocks from my back. So in the dog hypothetical: 1. I'm bitten by a dog as a kid, and now I'm averse to dogs. 2. That aversion is now woven into my preferences and biases. 3. IF all moral frameworks were simply a post hoc justification for my preferences and biases, then I'd be helpless to ever change my attitude towards dogs. 4. However, I have other values such as holding truth as something to be attained over and above my preferences and biases about the way I think the world is. 5. That moral framework of seeking truth despite the way I feel, leads me to examine my attitude about dogs and interrogate it with facts. 6. That interrogation via commitment to truth above my feelings, leads me to change my attitude.

So to me, a moral framework is a ranking of values (preferences) that forces an order of operations that (over time) works to reduce cognitive dissonance. It seems that your challenge is to say that the forced order of operations would happen naturally anyway. And I guess that goes back to just how accurately we are capable of judging our interior processes. I certainly FEEL like many of my breakthroughs in overcoming cognitive dissonances in my worldview came from making uncomfortable decisions about following the evidence no matter where it lead. But I also think it's best to be skeptical about any narrative we create about ourselves that make us out be brave warriors of truth. Hahaha

Rathaille Bairéad @Josh - I agree that preferences are ordered and dissonance is created when preferences come in to conflict. It's a fact that I frequently exploit when debating people (intentionally pitting their preferences against one another to create dissonance). Again, though, I think it's the fact of dissonance that creates change or the need for change, rather than a conscious decision to make changes.

So in this instance, I would see the framework as descriptive rather than prescriptive, as incidental rather than causal. I see your defined steps as just the effects of heuristic feedback loops that were generated in your past--which at some point existed before you became conscious of or theorized about any sort of formal moral framework. So you could assert that you always had frameworks, you just weren't always aware of them, but I think the evidence for that is nebulous at best.

I don't believe that the existence of priority among preference propagates changes, but rather the active conflict between them in real time due to environmental stimuli. I suppose the argument could be made that becoming cognizant of your preferences and how and why you have them and how they are prioritized could increase the likelihood of dissonant events and subsequent changes, but I would see that merely as a function of attention due to introspection or external observation than the output of some moral framework or schema. I think the only role the framework or schema plays there is in labeling and categorizing the phenomena as it transpires, again, descriptive rather than prescriptive, incidental rather than causal.