Troy Leavitt on GamerGate and the Religion of Identity Politics

Game developer Troy Leavitt recently released a video on YouTube called GamerGate — Thoughts of a Game Developer. It’s very good, and I recommend you watch it.

But the thing that most caught my attention was his extremely clear and concise description of what he calls “The Religion of Identity Politics”—which could just as well be called “The Religion of Social Justice” (as I would probably call it) or “The Religion of Political Correctness.”

And he understands GamerGate, correctly, as a revolt against this aggressive Religion.

His words are good, so I am going to share them, because that’s what I do.

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My explanation is that GamerGate was a consumer revolt against the Religion of Identity Politics.  I think the word ‘religion’ is the right word here, because there’s kind of a central dogma in identity politics, and that is that you are defined not by your behavior, not by your character, but by your demographic identifiers. For example, you start with your sex, whether you’re male or you’re female; then you move on to your race, whether you’re white, or black, or asian, or indian or whatever that might be; and then your sexual orientation, gay, straight, bi, and so forth—and this is supposed to be your political group. It’s how you’re supposed to be IDENTIFIED. And the Religion of Identity Politics goes on to say that the more rare your particular instances of demographics are, the more oppressed you are, and hence, the more righteousness within the religion you can assume. Conversely, the more commonplace are your demographics, the more oppressive you are, and hence the more evil secretly resides in your very existence.

To me, this is very much like original sin. If you just happen to be born into a majority position, within the Religion of Identity Politics, you are automatically sinful. Your behavior doesn’t really matter. That’s what they mean by ‘privilege’—it’s your position, you’re just born into it. Note that this is the exact opposite of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s plea that people should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Now also within the religion, the only way you can really be redeemed is to accept your inherent sinful nature as on oppressor—to whatever degree that is—and you confess your demographic markers. You say, “I’m sorry I’m white, I’m sorry I’m male, I’m sorry I’m straight!” and then you promise, you promise to do better, to have a change of heart, to strive to overcome your inherently sinful ways. And you do that be denigrating yourself, by putting yourself down, and elevating others who might be in a more oppressed state. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good person. Within the Religion of Identity Politics, it’s purely your demographic.

Go back and look at those articles [about gamers] that all dropped on the same day of August 28, and you can see pretty clearly that they’re evangelizing this religion of identity politics. And they’re saying “This is the solution to this scandal we see over here.” The authors, the press people, were kind of like priests and priestesses of Identity.

No! I reject your religion. I reject what you’re saying about me! And I’m going to push back. I’m going to fight back against anybody who says I have to suddenly buy into your religion to be a good person.” To me, that’s what GamerGate was all about and what it continues to be all about.

It’s a rejection of the Religion of Identity Politics.

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Why Kristi Winters’ Recent Attempt at Politically Correct Shaming Fails

Recently, a group of feminists and social justice warriors made a YouTube video called “Reasonable Questions for Anti SJWs“.  The first thing to note is that the SJWs in question simply could not restrain themselves  from virtue signaling in the title—they just had to add that “reasonable” to the standard “Questions for Xs” title.  It’s almost as if our default assumption is that SJWs would be unreasonable—which is of course a safe assumption and borne out very well in this video.

I want to discuss one “question” by Kristi Winters, which wasn’t a sincere question, but an attempt at politically correct shaming couched in the form of a question.  She asked, given the loathing of feminist misandry among anti-SJWs, whether the anti-SJW community would “call out” instances of what Kristi Winters asserted were cases of misandry in the anti-SJW community, specifically the use of such terms as “beta male,” “cuck,” and “mangina,” particularly towards male feminists.

There is a slight amount of cleverness here, in that Winters is trying to catch the anti-SJWs out in a moral contradiction, of practicing something they condemn when feminists do it.  Unfortunately, her attempt fails. And I am going to explain why.

Feminist misandry is grounded in a genuine hatred and/or fear of natural, healthy masculinity—invariably stigmatized by feminists as “toxic masculinity.”  Hatred of nature is one characteristic of feminism, which leads very easily into biology denialism and, as a consequence, science denialism.

The main trope here is “gender is a social construct,” which anyone who has bothered to investigate the science of the matter knows to be false.  Human beings are a sexually dimorphic species, conditioned by hundreds of thousands of years of natural history.  Men and women are, in short, different by nature, and everyone not deeply in the grip of an ideology knows this.

If gender were not grounded in nature, it would be shapable by society in radical ways—anyone could, more or less, “choose” to be transgendered.  But transgenderism and gender dysphoria are real conditions that people have. They are not choices.  Similarly, we have overwhelming evidence in the case of John Money’s disastrous attempts to have boys born with abnormal genitalia raised and “socialized” as girls.  For years, he assured parents that gender was a function only of socialization and that a child raised as a girl would, in effect, be a girl.  This led to monstrously cruel suffering on the part of the children he had forcibly misgendered, placing their parents in the the unwitting role of tormentors of their own children, whom they only wanted to help.  I refer you particularly to the sad case of David Reimer, thoroughly documented in As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl.

Now, it is true that gender expression is in part social and variable from culture to culture. But what is necessary to keep in mind is that CULTURE is always built on the foundation of NATURE.  In this way, gender is somewhat analogous to language. It is natural for human beings to speak language.  It is not, however, natural to speak any given language, e.g. English or Chinese; this must be learned.  It was once assumed that human language was infinitely variable across cultures, that is, socially constructed in a way totally unconstrained by nature.  We now know this to be false.  Languages do vary in superficial respects, but all human languages reflect a universal underlying human grammar—this is what makes translation possible, among other things.  So, while gender expression can and does vary somewhat due to social factors and conditions, it does so within natural parameters. There is, in other words, a kind of natural grammar and syntax of gender.

And again, we all know this. Men and women do not act just alike or interchangeably, but with their own characteristic masculine and feminine modalities.

What does all this have to do with the matter at hand?

This: Kristi Winters and feminists like her, female or male, are misandrists because they hate or fear and want to suppress, extirpate, and replace natural, healthy masculinity (and to a large degree natural healthy femininity as well).  This is what misandry is—a hatred of men grounded in the way men are by nature.

Now, it is also human to become either virtuous or vicious (as Aristotle says) and the two sexes have their own characteristic “styles” in this regard, men being manly, and women being womanly.  It is probably going too far to say that men and women have different virtues, but I would say they perform the virtues in different ways—the virtue of modesty is a case in point. No matter how much and how often feminists whinge about double standards, promiscuous females are always going to be looked down on in a way promiscuous males are not.  There are reasons for this.

What do terms like “beta male”, “cuck”, or “mangina” signify? Are they misandric? Do they reflect a hatred of men?

No. They reflect a degree of natural contempt for males who are, in one way or another, failed men. Such men are emasculated males, who fall short of the proper realization of their masculine nature, for whatever reason.

They are contemptible, and especially so to women, who are not attracted to such emasculated males. It is something of an open secret that feminists despise male feminists—at least as potential mates.  Here is a literal cuckold, virtue signaling about how good a feminist he is to let is wife sleep with other men: What Open Marriage Taught One Man About Feminism. This man’s article was greeted with near-universal contempt. And rightly so. I defy you to read this article and not hold this man in contempt. I have no doubt that his wife holds him in contempt. If you succeeded, congratulations—you have managed to eradicate your natural sense of contempt by means of ideological brainwashing.  Good on you.

So, no, Kristi, we don’t hate men. That’s your thing. We do, however, have a degree of contempt for failed men. I know you think that their failure is really a “victory” over “toxic patriarchal masculinity”—but you are wrong, and the dating and mating preferences of women prove it and will keep proving it again and again. Pathetic, contemptible beta males will never be valuable commodities in human sexual interactions, no more than ugly, fat feminists will be, no matter how much both groups whinge about how unfair nature is.  Beta positivity is as doomed as body positivity.

I don’t mind being the one to break it to you: Nature is anti-SJW.  Nature could not care less about gender fairness.

And human beings will always judge others by the standards of judgment which are natural to them, because these are the natural standards.

When you declare war on nature, Kristi, you can’t win. All you can do is make a lot of human beings unhappy if they listen to your bullshit.

I recommend listening to a couple of Romans on this point:

ciceronaturecustom

horace

Why the Dictionary Definition of Feminism Fails

Definitions depend on usage.  For example, anyone is free to stipulate the definition of any word.  One could, if one wanted to, define feminism as ‘the doctrine that women are fundamentally inferior to men and should serve them.’  This would certainly create an odd sort of ‘feminist,’ which is the main reason we try not to do that with important words.  Definitions are meant to make something clear.  Dictionary definitions are meant to make clear how a given word or term is actually used or has been used in a given language.

There are of course many dictionaries, and thus many “dictionary definitions” of feminism (and everything else), but this is the go-to one used in most public discourse on the internet, the one given by Google when you type “define feminism” into it:

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Definition is something people do for a reason.  It is an action that has an end, namely,  to make clear the meaning or usage of the term being defined.  It is thus possible to fail in giving a definition, by failing to capture the actual usage of a term.  And like other human activities that aim at a definite end, definition has rules or guidelines; these rules are not compulsory rules, in the sense that “you morally ought to obey them,” but are similar to logical rules, in the sense that “if you violate these rules you will fail at your task”—whether that task be “making a valid argument” or “making a term clear in its usage.”

Briefly, the criteria of sound definition are

  1. A definition must be coextensive. It must catch every instance and exclude no instance of what is being defined.
  2. A definition must be unambiguous.  Ambiguous terms in a definition cause the meaning to be unclear.
  3. A definition must be concise, not lengthy.
  4. A definition must be positive, not negative.
  5. A definition must be literal, not metaphorical.
  6. A definition must be non-circular.

I grant that, as far as I can see, the “dictionary definition” of feminism meets criteria 3-6.

Where it fails are 1 and 2.

The first point is fairly clear, and it is why most people get very annoyed when feminists appeal to the dictionary definition of feminism.  It is annoying because they are very clearly NOT trying to explain what feminism IS, but trying to SELL IT to you by creating a false equivalence with something that sounds (and is) much better than feminism, viz. egalitarianism, as applied to the sexes.

This point  is so stupidly simple, it can be put in the form of a diagram that even a child can understand. I apologize for insulting your intelligence, but it really IS necessary to hammer this point home with this lack of subtlety—because the people who cite the dictionary definition aren’t even trying to be honest, it is necessary to rub their faces in how wrong they are:

feminismvenndiagram

This is the basic problem. The sets of “feminists” and “people who advocate for women’s rights on the basis of social, political, and economic equality with men” are just not coextensive.  Yes, they overlap somewhat, but there are very many feminists who do not advocate for equality, and very many people who do advocate for the equality of the sexes (and I am one of them) who are not feminists.  And the reason that so many of us advocates of women’s equality are NOT feminists, is precisely because so many feminists are NOT advocates of equality.

Since feminism (femin-ISM) is an ideology, and ideologies are belief-systems, no one can force anyone else to subscribe to an ideology against their will.  And yet, this is what those who cite the dictionary definition of feminism are trying to do: they are trying to FORCE you to self-identify as a feminist, on the basis of some of your beliefs, and they are trying to do it with a FALSE definition of feminism.  And one thing that is, or at least should be, anathema in a pluralistic liberal democracy is attempts to FORCE others to believe as you want them to believe.  In a free and democratic society,  we use PERSUASION rather than FORCE, and ideally, RATIONAL PERSUASION, which is different from COERCIVE PERSUASION and MANIPULATIVE PERSUASION.

To be clear, I was using “force you to identify as a feminists” in the looser sense of “coercively and manipulatively persuade you to.”  There have only been a few attempts to use genuine force (so far), as when a member of the E.U. Parliament attempted to make it a CRIME to criticize feminism.  And of course, governmental FORCE was what Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn were asking for when they went before the UN, asking that the UN put pressure on national governments to implement feminist ideology by law.  However benighted and ridiculous Emma Watson’s HeForShe campaign was, at least she wasn’t advocating that the UN take steps to see her ideology implemented by force of law.

So, while most feminists would LOVE to use actual FORCE to punish anyone who dissents from their ideology, they usually don’t have the power to do this, except in limited areas.  Rejecting feminism will indeed get you fired as a matter of course at many colleges and universities in the United States, where feminist ideologues essentially control those institutions.

But let me explain why this is DISHONEST PERSUASION: it is (1) COERCIVE PERSUASION in the sense that feminists will do whatever is in their power to harm you if you do not agree with them, and it is (2) MANIPULATIVE PERSUASION in the sense that feminists deliberately distort the truth in order to sell and push their ideology.  The basic move in the appeal to the dictionary definition is an appeal to shame. In a highly egalitarian society such as ours, people are very vulnerable to being socially shamed if they hold anti-egalitarian views.  Feminists, by simply equating feminism with the egalitarian view in regard to the sexes, attempt to socially shame and stigmatize anyone who does not identify as a feminist or accept feminist ideology as being an anti-egalitarian or sexist.

This tactic is of course not limited to appeals to the dictionary; many feminists as a matter of course label anyone who disagrees with their ideological position as “sexist” or even “misogynist.” This is DISHONEST because it isn’t true.  Most people in the modern West are egalitarians with respect to the sexes—ironically, the largest group in the modern West of non-egalitarians with regard to the sexes are certain kinds of feminists, who are female supremacists.  So, a feminist tells a LIE (manipulative persuasion) by saying feminism and egalitarianism of the sexes are the same, and attempts on the basis of this lie to SHAME and STIGMATIZE you (coercive persuasion) for not being a feminist on the false basis that not being a feminist is equivalent to not being an egalitarian regarding the sexes, or worse, is being a sexist, or still worse, is being a misogynist.

All this seems pretty obvious.  I’m only bothering to spell it out because I enjoy laying things out clearly.

The SECOND reason the dictionary definition of feminism fails is that it is not unambiguous. The problem turns on the word “equality.”  As the philosopher Roger Scruton has observed, there is hardly a more important word in modern political discourse that is so entirely resistant to clear definition:

scrutonequality

Almost everyone in the modern West is “for equality,” but at the same time is completely unable to say what it is, how we would get it, and why it’s so desirable in the first place.  Almost no one, in the West or anywhere else, thinks that people should be treated “equally” in every respect. Nor is it clear exactly what it even MEANS to “treat people equally” in many cases.

Which brings us back to the problem with using such an unclear term in a definition.  There are simply too many ways to take “equality” for the definition to actually make clear what it is talking about.  Let me give just two examples of why this is bad:

(1) Since one kind of equality is identity or sameness, a stupid person who desires “equality” will tend to desire what we could call exactly-the-same-ness.  The problem with this is the context of the sexes, is that men and women are NOT the same, but rather different in fundamental ways.  This doesn’t mean, of course, that they should be treated unequally in the sense of unfairly, but remember, this is the stupid person’s reasoning we are going through.  “The only way to achieve equality is by sameness,” the stupid person reasons, “so equality requires that men and women be treated the same, and even more, that they be made the same. And since it is a moral imperative that they be made the same, they must really be the same, metaphysically. So we must ignore any evidence of natural difference, for example, biology, and indeed more than ignore it, condemn it as sexist.”

Since stupid people tend to equate equality with sameness, they also tend to equate difference with inequality, and so a great deal of modern feminism, as an ideology, advocates biological denialism. MOST PEOPLE who are principled egalitarians and want to see justice between the sexes (which is most people) are NOT signing up for an ideology that requires them to deny biology and other inconvenient parts of reality.  The dictionary definition of feminism does nothing to rule out the interpretation of equality as exactly-the-same-ness, which entails biology denialism specifically and more generally reality denialism.

(2) This one is also fairly obvious, given that it has been a point of contention in the West at least since Rousseau and the French Revolution, although it is probably more associated in the popular mind with Marx and Marxism.  I am of course talking about the distinction between equality of opportunity, which holds there ought to be a “level playing field” in which no one “begins the game” with any unearned or unfair advantages or disadvantages, and that, so long as the game isn’t rigged, and the players play fairly, justice has been satisfied, even if the outcomes of the players may be widely different; and equality of outcome, which holds that the game must be rigged to ensure that no one wins or loses, and indeed, no matter what the players do or fail to do, they obtain exactly the same results in the game.

The trouble with the Marxist understanding of equality is that it is antithetical to the other primary modern Western value, freedom or liberty.  The classical-liberal view accepts inequality of outcome, because it values both equality and liberty. So once again, the dictionary definition of feminism fails to tell us whether a feminist is interested in preserving freedom and liberty, especially and including women’s freedom, or whether a feminist, in Marxist fashion, is an authoritarian or totalitarian who hates liberty because it results in a kind of inequality which is deemed unacceptable.  Most people in the modern West place a high value on liberty, and would not sign up for an ideology that is anti-liberty.  However, there is also a rather sizable and vocal feminist minority (perhaps even a majority, certainly a plurality) who are more than happy to sacrifice liberty for the sake of their (Marxist) vision of equality—most of them are delusional or catastrophically naïve, and advocate the suppression of liberty on the assumption that it will only be the liberties of others which will be restricted.

I’m sure that if Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn got the censorship laws they advocate put in place, they would expect not ever to be subject to them—but that isn’t how things work, when you give the state broad powers to censor and control.  For example, consider a case from the history of feminism itself: Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, thwarted time and again in their attempts to implement censorship laws in the United States (they were repeated blocked by the First Amendment) eventually turned their efforts to Canada, which has no equivalent of the US’s First Amendment.  And they partially succeeded!  It became part of Canadian law that certain kinds of books could not be imported into Canada nor sold in Canadian bookstores. Really, they should have seen it coming.  Now, since the laws banned books that contain thing X, and MacKinnon and Dworkin write books about how awful a thing thing X is, it naturally follows that their books contain thing X—yes, it is there only in order to be condemned, but the law makes no distinction between various uses of thing X.  So, to their surprise and horror, MacKinnon and Dworkin found that they had succeeded in banning their own books in Canada and among the most affected by the new censorship laws were feminist bookstores and publishers, who found they could no longer publish or sell feminist books thanks to the new feminist censorship law. Feminism had gotten what it had asked for, and it had succeeded in censoring itself!

In sum, the dictionary definition of feminism fails as a useful definition because it asserts something false to actual usage, namely, the identity of feminism and egalitarianism regarding the sexes—and it does this dishonestly, as a technique to coerce and manipulate by means of appeals to shame made on the basis of this conflation; furthermore, it fails to sufficiently make clear what “feminism” even means, with the result that entire point of giving a definition, to make the meaning of a word clear, is not achieved.

I could talk about some other things, such as the inherent sexism involved in term itself,

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but that is more of a meta-criticism of the term “feminism” than the failure of the dictionary definition of it.  So let this be enough for now.

I’ll leave you with a link to Satoshi Kanazawa’s article Why Modern Feminism is Illogical, Unnecessary, and Evil.  Read it and think it over.

Harambe the Gorilla and American Race Relations

As most of you know, in May 28, 2016, a three-year-old boy managed to get into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo.  The child was approached by the gorilla Harambe, whose behavior towards the child was ambiguous—since the incident was filmed, you can see for yourself—and one of the zookeepers, fearing for the boy’s life, shot and killed Harambe.

This was sad, and much like the case of Cecil the lion, gave many Americans an occasion to indulge in their over sentimentality about animals.  As far as I can tell, while unfortunate, the zoo worker acted reasonably under the circumstances.  It would have been very easy for Harambe, who as a gorilla and not a human being certainly bears no moral blame for anything, to have severely injured or killed the child, even unintentionally.

More unfortunately, the incident gave those Americans interested in race baiting an opportunity to indulge in that also, for example:

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So Hood Intellect tells us (1) this is was example of ‘white privilege’, and that (2) IF the boy had been black, there would have been a different outcome.

Hypotheticals Contrary to Fact are usually safe for rhetoricians and demagogues, since there is usually no real way to disprove “If things had been different from how they actually were, this other thing would have been different too,” e.g. “If the Nazis had won World War 2, the world in 2016 would be a better place.”  I tend to doubt that claim, but we have no way of testing it, since its basis is a hypothesis contrary to fact, that is, a hypothetical that we can imagine, but which isn’t true.

However, in this case, Hood Intellect had jumped the gun with his race baiting—this was one of those rare case where we were actually able to test a hypothesis contrary to fact, since as it happened, Hood Intellect’s information about the boy being white was incorrect. The boy was, in fact, black.

That serves as complete refutation of BOTH of Hood Intellect’s claims: Since the boy was, in fact, black, the killing of Harambe was (1) clearly NOT an example of ‘white privilege’ and (2) it is clearly NOT the case that, if the boy was black, which he was, “they would’ve found a tranquilizer,” instead of fatally shooting Harambe.  If anything, this shows that the workers at the Cincinnati Zoo are not racist, which is what we should expect, since there are almost no real racists in America.  (I do not count people who have never have never had much interaction with people of other races, and who therefore can be awkward and uncomfortable at first as “racist,” white or otherwise, and neither should you.)

But since Hood Intellect is, as I’ve said, a demagogue and a race-baiter, he was unfazed by the complete refutation of his claims by reality.  Like all ideologues, he merely adjusted the facts to fit his narrative:

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Hood Intellect NOW blames the shooting of Harambe on ‘whiteness’ in a DIFFERENT way.  Before, Harambe was shot “for a white boy’s safety,” but oops, the boy was black—so now, Harambe was not shot to ensure a black boy’s safety (which he was) but because of the inherent violence of white people.  (What Hood Intellect is overlooking is that tranquilizers TAKE TIME TO WORK, especially on 440 lb gorilla, time the child in immediate danger might not have had—not that I expect a rational argument to move Hood Intellect’s intellect.)

The incident caused such a big reaction, I think in part, because a large segment of the American public are getting very tired of this kind of dishonest rhetoric, in which white people are damned if they do and damned if they don’t—and not just white people either. I think most Americans, black, white, asian, whatever, are generally fair-minded, and really dislike race-baiting.  It clearly DOES NOT MATTER to Hood Intellect what the people involved were thinking or what they did or why they did it—no, he is going to USE this incident to race-bait, no matter what. He has a narrative in which “white people” are the villains and he is going to TELL THAT STORY come hell or high water.  For all I know, the zoo worker that shot Harambe was also black.  Was he? I don’t know. Do you? But I don’t need to know that, to know he made the right call, even if the death of Harmabe was unfortunate, which it was.

What I don’t see ANYWHERE in the story of the death of Harambe is ANY kind of malice, especially not any kind of RACIAL MALICE or RACISM.

The only place I see POISON is in the race-baiting rhetoric of Hood Intellect and those like him, who don’t give one damn about the facts, but only want to demonize white people, a kind of rhetoric that is all-too-common in many parts of the American left.  Nor is this kind of anti-white rhetoric something on which black people like Hood Intellect have a monopoly.  There are plenty of white people who take great delight in white-hate.  (And of course, for all I know, Hood Intellect might be white. A Twitter avatar of a black man doesn’t prove he is a black man after all).

This same kind of venomous rhetoric is endemic in feminism also, where it is men, rather than white people, who are demonized.  Although now, thank to the magic of “intersectionality” you can double, triple, or quadruple down, and damn not just whites or men, but white men, or straight white men, or cis het white men.  Or able-bodied, thin cis het white men.

This rhetoric is poisonous because it privileges narrative over reality and gives a license to hate the demonized and dehumanized other—all in the name of condemning those who demonize and dehumanize the other.  The irony is amusing and ironic, but ideologies don’t get ironic; that requires one to step outside one’s monomania for blame and revenge.

We live in a world of tarantulas.

 

 

Distributive Justice, Pattern Justice, Social Justice

Distributive justice is the kind of justice that is concerned with the distribution of goods.  Aristotle contrasts distributive justice with corrective justice, which “sets things straight” when there has been a violation of justice, either criminal or civil.

Aristotle further notes that distributive justice always involves some kind of idea of merit or desert, which will serve as the basis of the distribution.  Whether a distribution is regarded as just or not will depend on the standard of merit or desert brought to bear.

In some cases, a defective standard of desert will produce an obviously unjust distribution. For example, a racist might believe that his own race deserves more than other races (or that other races deserve less) just on the basis of using race as the criterion of desert.  Or again, in many legal situations (not all) Islam explicitly treats one man as worth the same as two women, so if a women deserves X, and man deserves 2X, just because he is a man.  Prima facie, these seem to be clear examples in injustice deriving from faulty standard of desert in seeking justice.

The philosopher Robert Nozick has argued that there are two basic kinds of theories of distributive justice, which I will call pattern theories and history of acquisition theories.

A pattern theory of distributive justice holds that a given distribution of goods, honors, wealth, income, and social opportunities is just if and only if it conforms to some sort of ideal rational pattern, e.g. “exactly equal for all” according to radical egalitarianism, or “whatever abstract pattern maximizes happiness” according to utilitarianism.

By contrast, a history of acquisition theory of distributive justice holds that a given distribution of goods is just if and only if all persons have acquired the goods they hold in the right way, e.g. via fair exchange.

Now, there is a good deal to criticize in Nozick, and I’m not endorsing him wholesale here, but this distinction seems cogent, as is the point he uses it to make:

Pattern theories of distributive justice are all necessarily incompatible with any significant amount of freedom or liberty for the simple yet profound reason that freedom disturbs patterns.

To illustrate this with an extreme example for clarity, suppose we adopt a radical egalitarian pattern theory and actually bring it about. We all have exactly an equal amount of wealth.  What am I free to do with my property? I cannot give away even the smallest amount of money to anyone, because the pattern would then be broken, and this would be, by definition, unjust.

And this will be the case regardless of what the pattern is: the free choices of agents will necessarily disrupt the pattern, which will then have to be restored, and for that matter, constantly maintained by coercive authoritarian force.

In other words, pattern theories of distributive justice necessarily destroy liberty and require authoritarian or even totalitarian policing to constantly force things to fit the pattern.

It goes without saying that Marxism is a paradigm case of a pattern theory, both in theory and in practice.

I also note that Social Justice is a pattern theory (not surprising, since it is cultural Marxism)—even if SJWs can never manage to say what the end state pattern is supposed to look like exactly.

Let me give another example. I’ve been playing a lot of Fallout 4 recently (fun game, highly recommended), and one of the things you do is manage a number of Settlements, assigning your settlers to different jobs.  You need food providers and guards, and you can have stores, including a general store, clothing store, weapons store, a medical clinic, and a bar.

Let’s say I have the following set-up

2 slots for farmers

3 slots for guards

1 each of the 5 types of store.

Suppose I have 10 settlers, 5 men and 5 women.

And now suppose I want to use a feminist pattern theory of justice that requires 50/50 representation in all jobs.

It should be obvious that I can’t have a static pattern. The guards can’t be 50/50 male/female because there’s 3 slots: it would have to be 2 men and 1 woman, or 1 woman and 2 men.  As for the stores, each is unique, so there can’t be 50/50 representation there either. Each merchant must be either male or female.  I can have 1 male farmer and 1 female farmer; that’s about as static as I can get.

So, to achieve “feminist pattern justice” I would have to rotate jobs around such that the male settlers and the female settlers changed jobs 50% of the time.

The math would get somewhat complicated, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that I could indeed do it. (It wouldn’t be that complicated: my famers are already 50/50, I keep one full-time male guard, and one full-time female guard, which leaves 6 jobs: I just make 3 sets of 2, and switch them back and forth between a male and a female.)

I would now have ACHIEVED feminist pattern justice in my settlement where every job is worked exactly equally by men and woman, either full-time or 50% of the time.

Now suppose that my settlers were real people and not video game characters who will do whatever I tell them. Suppose I have it set up as described above: both farmers and two guards static, the others switching 50% of the time, including a male and a female who switch between the weapon store and the clothing store.

Okay, now suppose this: My full-time female guard would rather farm and my full-time male farmer would rather guard, and they WANT to switch jobs (which would leave me with only female famers and always more male guards than female guards!  Also, my 50/50 weapons store/clothing store minders talk it over, and the woman wants to work at the clothing store full-time (rather than half the time) and the man wants to work at the weapons store full-time rather than half.

May I allow them their “liberty” for their “pursuit of happiness”?

I may not. To do so would necessarily to be to disrupt the pattern as dictated by feminist pattern justice.  It would not only not be morally allowable for me to allow these deviations from the pattern, it would be morally obligatory upon me to force my settlers to fit the pattern.

And what if they grew angry and resentful at me for thwarting their freedom to make life choices which they (rightly) believe to be in their personal best interest, in their interests of happiness and a maximally good life? What justification can I give for my totalitarian interference with their liberty and my deliberate thwarting of their happiness?

Why, justice of course! Specifically, SOCIAL JUSTICE.

Under the rubric of Feminist Pattern Social Justice I not only may act in totalitarian matter, crushing the freedoms of others and significantly impairing their happiness, I MUST DO SO.  

(SOCIAL) JUSTICE DEMANDS IT.

Yet it seems evident that by controlling the choices of others in a directly totalitarian manner in order to force actual living individuals to conform to an abstract pattern is extremely unjust. It is, in fact, evil. Obviously evil. It would deny what some have described as self-evident truths that all persons have unalienable rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Following the ideal of Feminist Pattern Social Justice morally requires that I disregard the rights of others to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Nozick regards this as reductio refutation of pattern theories of distributive justice. The argument in simplest form would be:

  1. Pattern theories of distributive justice entail an unjust from of authoritarian control to force people to fit the pattern and the eradication of whatever freedoms that would disrupt the pattern, including rightful freedoms.
  2. No theory of distributive justice can be correct or just if it entails unjust authoritarian control over people and the eradication of some or all of people’s rightful freedoms.
  3. Therefore, no pattern theory of distributive justice can be correct or just.

This seems basically sound to me, and a fairly obvious point. If justice requires distribution according to an abstract pattern, then a great deal of coercive force will be needed to implement the pattern (I’m thinking of Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot as real world examples) and an extreme and perhaps total curtailment of liberty will be necessary in order to prevent persons from using their liberty to make choices that disrupt the pattern.

And so I return to one of my perennial themes: ‘social justice’ is ethically wrong, because it violates justice, justice in its ordinary sense, without need of a qualifying adjective.

Therefore, I will continue to fight against social justice and SJWs in word and deed, wherever and however I can.

Proofs and Demonstrations

There seems to be widespread misunderstanding about what proofs are, or as I prefer to call them, demonstrations. The Greek word is ἀπόδειξις, which means “to make something manifest, to show something, to place it before one’s view as evident.”

For something to be evident (as you can surmise from the vid– root) is for it to be “fully seen, completely in view, manifest to one’s eyes”.

A demonstration aims to make the truth of something evident.  “Evidentness” is the aim or end of a proof or demonstration.  This is important, because “evidentness” is also involved in every demonstration, and not simply as its end.

For a demonstration to succeed in making something evident, it must be both logically valid and have true premises.  And the validity of the demonstration as well as the truth of its premises must themselves be evident.  Sometimes this requires further argument or demonstration, but sometimes it does not.

Demonstrations are arguments, and they take place at the level of λόγος or discursive reasoning.  The level of λόγος is also the level of language, so all arguments, proofs, and demonstrations (I am using these as synonyms now) are presented in language, which can be informal or highly formalized.

The dependence of demonstrations on evidentness is shown in that

  1. Demonstrations aim at making the truth of a proposition, the conclusion, evident.
  2. Demonstrations require evident propositions, i.e. true premises, to succeed.
  3. Demonstrations require evidently valid reasoning whereby the conclusion is reached.

What this shows is that there is a power of the soul upon which discursive reasoning, λόγος, depends, and to which it is inferior. In Greek, this power is called νόησις [noēsis].  In Latin, it is called intellectus.  It comes uncertainly into English, sometimes as “the intellect,” sometimes as “intelligence” sometimes as “understanding” or “the understanding,” and sometimes as “intuition.”  Modern English-speaking analytic philosophers sometimes call it “a priori intuition.”

Personally, I loathe to word “intuition,” since it connotes, to me and many people, something like “a vague hunch or feeling about something.” And νόησις is the opposite of vague.  It is, in fact, the very touchstone of certain knowledge.

Let me take an example I’m fond of, given by Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame).  One of the simplest logical forms is modus ponens, which has the following schema:

  1. P ⇒ Q
  2. P
  3. ∴ Q

or

  1. If P is true then Q is true,
  2. P is true.
  3. So Q is true.

Well and good. How do we know this is valid? How do we know it is the case that “If P is true then Q is true” taken together with “P is true” allows us to know that Q is true?

The answer is, we see that it is so. That is to say, it is evident. Or if you prefer, noetically evident.

There is no possible way in which modus ponens can be demonstrated to be valid. As with many other basic logical truths and axioms, it is “too simple” to be demonstrated. It is, rather, one of the basic elements any demonstration always and necessarily relies on.

Aristotle famously emphasizes this, that it is an error (and he adds, a sign of lack of sufficient education) to think that everything requires a demonstration. If this were the case, then every demonstration would require a demonstration, and that too another demonstration, resulting in an infinite regress, such that nothing would ever be demonstrated.  Demonstrations require that we can “go back” to evident starting points. If there were nothing that was evident without demonstration, that is, self-evident, there would be no demonstrations—remember, the very idea of a demonstration involves the idea of the evident.  Their purpose is to make something evident.

The reason one gives a λόγος is to make something evident, manifest to νόησις.  Two more Greek words are useful here. One of Aristotle’s favorite words is δήλον [dēlon], which means “clear, evident, manifest.”  Anywhere I’ve written evident in this post, you could substitute δήλον.  Another very important Greek word is ἀληθής, which means “true.” The noun form, for ‘truth’ is ἀλήθεια.  Note the initial alpha privative α-.  The Greek word for “truth” is a-lēthē-ia where λήθη (lēthē) like the river and the goddess Λήθη means “hidden, concealed, covered.” So the Greek word for truth means, literally, “unconcealment” and thus shows its connection to what is evident or δήλον.  What is true, ἀληθής, is what is evidentδήλον.

What is crucial to emphasize is that being evident/δήλον is something that relates to our power of intellectual sight, to the νοῦς and νόησις. νοῦς is the power or faculty of the soul. νόησις is the activity. νοῦςνόησις :: power of sight : activity of seeing. νόησις is the being-at-work or actuality or ἐνέργεια of νοῦς.

One consequence of this that Aristotle (and others after him, such as St. Thomas Aquinas) draws is that God is pure νόησις.  The divine knowledge, divine omniscience, does not need λόγος, because λόγος is both subordinate to νόησις and inferior to it. When Aristotle defines the human being as “the living being with λόγος, he is distinguishing us from both lower animals and higher divine beings, gods, and very emphatically from the Unmoved Mover, Aristotle’s term for God.

Unlike νόησις, which can only fail to happen, λόγος can be false as well as true, it can be ψεῦδος as well as ἀληθής.  Plato explores the ψεῦδης λόγος [pseudēs logos] at length in The Sophist. In that dialogue, the Eleatic Stranger and Theaetetus are attempting to answer the question posed by Socrates (who is present, but silent save at the beginning) “What is the sophist?” They arrive at what seems to be the correct definition, namely, that “the sophist is the one who gives the ψεῦδης λόγος,” when all of a sudden, an imaginary sophist (voiced by the Eleatic Stranger) pops up and declares this to be impossible. “To speak falsely,” he argues, “is to say that which is not. But that which is not—is nothing.  As nothing at all, that which is not can neither be said nor thought. Parmenides himself has shown than nonbeing or nothing or ‘that which in no way is’ cannot be thought or said, and therefore, since ‘that which is not’ cannot be said, there is no one who says ‘that which is not,’ and therefore, there are no sophists, and therefore,” the sophist concludes with a self-satisfied smirk, “I am not a sophist!”

I won’t fully go into Plato’s analysis of how it is possible to say that which is not (the short answer is what Hegel will later call determinate negation—one cannot say what “in no way is” or absolute nonbeing—but one can say what something is not, by saying it is something other than it is; the ψεῦδης λόγος is a kind of covering over or obscuring of something by means of something else, rather than making it manifest as what it is).

For our purposes here it is enough to note that the realm of discursivity/λόγος is the realm of both truth and falsehood, unconcealment and concealment, making evident and obscuring from view.

Now, every argument will have certain necessary components.  Arguments are not things that happen “all at once” (like νόησις) but rather step by step.  This means they have parts.  Arguments have a form; this form may be valid or invalid. Arguments are composed of propositions, the premises, which can be true or false.  And propositions in turn are composed of terms, which may be clear or unclear.  A sound argument will have clear terms, true premises, and a valid form.

This is not hard to understand. But because all arguments have this structure, all arguments may be challenged on any of these three grounds: the validity of the argument may be called into question, the truth of the premises may be called into question, and the clarity or meaning of the terms may be called into question.

What I want to emphasize is that this is always possible, for any argument, by the very nature of an argument.  It is therefore also subject to sophistical abuse.  The philosopher Peter Geach gives two examples of this:

PeterGeachDefineYourTerms

PeterGeachGivingReasons

It is trivially easy to use the sophistical tricks of

  1. demand terms used in a demonstration be defined. When they are defined, as they must be, in other terms, demand that the new terms be defined in turn. Repeat infinitely.
  2. demand that the premises of a demonstration be demonstrated. If a new demonstration is given, demand that its premises be demonstrated in turn. Repeat infinitely.
  3. demand that the validity of a demonstration be demonstrated. If a new demonstration is given, demand that its validity be demonstrated in turn. Repeat infinitely.

The trouble is that some of the ancient sophists and some people today believe that these sophistical tricks constitute actual refutations of arguments or demonstrations.

But they obviously do not, since they can be applied to any proof, argument, or demonstration whatever, regardless of what it actually says.

I bring this up because these are favorite techniques used by many modern atheists.  Frequently, one hears them say “There is no evidence for God.” If one gives a demonstration, they demand that the demonstration be demonstrated, and so on, ad infinitum, and when one fails to meet this impossible demand, they smugly conclude that one has failed to demonstrate the existence of God. This is sophistry.  One could ask them to demonstrate that one’s demonstration has failed, and if they answer, demand that they demonstrate the demonstration, etc.  Anyone can play sophistical games.

I think that a very common error today is that people misunderstand the nature of proof or demonstration.  They seem to believe proof is something that COMPELS ASSENT.  But that isn’t what proof does. The task of a demonstration is to make something evident, that is, to place it before one’s eyes as clearly true. No one, however, and certainly not a demonstration, can compel anyone to actually look at what is placed in front of them.  Whether or not to actually look at or follow a demonstration is a decision of the will.  And so is the act of  ASSENTING to the truth of a proposition. If I “know in advance” that a given conclusion is wrong, I need not pay any attention to any argument given for that conclusion—other than, as Peter Geach once put it, to locate the fallacy.

What can we take away from this?

One can willfully and sophistically reject a perfectly cogent demonstration.  The fact that one is unconvinced by a demonstration is not a refutation of that demonstration.  The mother of a criminal might refuse to be convinced that “her baby boy” committed the crime, regardless of any amount of argument or evidence presented to her. This is not, however, a refutation of the case for her son’s guilt.

One way to short-circuit at least some kinds of sophistical regress tricks is to invoke Socrates’ principle of fair play in dialogues, which boils down to taking turns:

SocratesPrinciple

In other words, in a dialogue, which is a back and forth, you get one.  If you ask me to demonstrate something once, that’s fair enough (assuming your are asking in good faith). If I comply, and you then ask me to demonstrate my demonstration, the proper response is “No. I gave you your one. Now it’s your turn to show there’s something wrong with my argument, if you can.  Until you do this, I have no more responsibility here.  But if you do give a refutation of my demonstration, then it will be my turn to show why your refutation fails.”

I’m constantly amazed that so many people think “I’m not convinced” is a refutation. It isn’t. It’s not even a statement about the demonstration, but about one’s own psychological state.  The mere fact that someone is unconvinced may be because the demonstration is defective; but it may also be because the person in question is stupid, or ignorant, or failed to follow the demonstration, or is willfully set against being convinced for some extraneous reason (like the mother of the criminal’s love for her son).

As I said, the purpose of a proof or demonstration is to make something evident as true. But “evident” means “can be seen to be true” not “must be seen to be true.”  A matter may be evident in itself, but not evident to some people. Nothing can be made evident to those who will not look, or who refuse to accept the testimony of their eyes. You can reasonably be said to have “fed” someone if you set food before them to eat.  If they refuse to eat it, that isn’t your responsibility, but theirs. There was food there to be eaten.

This is why it is almost always pointless to argue with the completely convinced ideologue.  It doesn’t matter what you say. He will refuse to hear you, or to look at anything that would contradict his ideology. Ideologues are often recognizable by their win/win stance: for example, many feminists hold that arguments for feminism are strong and sound, and also hold that any arguments against feminism are instances of “misogyny” and therefore are also arguments for feminism.  Marxists hold that arguments for Marxism are strong and sound, and arguments against Marxism show the ideological prejudices of the bourgeoisie, and are therefore arguments for Marxism. Freudians hold their arguments for sexual repression and neurosis to be strong and sound, and hold any arguments against sexual repression and neurosis to be evidence of sexual repression and neurosis and therefore as evidence for psychoanalysis.  And if you think it matters that strict Freudian psychoanalysis is not longer that popular, consider the way the pseudo-Freudian word “phobia” has invaded our modern political discourse, e.g. an argument for gay marriage is strong and sound; an argument against gay marriage is “homophobic” and therefore really an argument in favor of gay marriage. Any praise of Islam is justified; any criticism of Islam is unjustified, because it is “Islamophobia” and therefore indicative of mental illness, rather than reason.

“Racism” and “misogyny” in our day have also essentially become “-phobia” words.

Positions and arguments are dismissed as supposedly being signs of psychological and/or moral properties, e.g. “hate” and “fear.”

Planet of the Apes and Prejudice

Not quite a Jane Austen title, I know, but this is something I have found very fascinating for years.

Human beings seem to have a natural “love of their own.” Call it prejudice, if you want, but the truth seems to be that it is both deeply human and at the same time, superficial.

But let’s get to the story!

MCDPLOF FE007

PLANET OF THE APES, Charlton Heston, Linda Harrison, Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall, 1968, Tm & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

During the filming of Planet of the Apes in 1967, Charlton Heston noted “an instinctive segregation on the set. Not only would the apes eat together, but the chimpanzees ate with the chimpanzees, the gorillas ate with the gorillas, the orangutans ate with the orangutans, and the humans would eat off by themselves. It was quite spooky.”

James Franciscus noticed the same thing filming Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1969. “During lunch I looked up and realized, ‘My God, here is the universe,’ because at one table were all the orangutans eating, at another table were the apes, and at another table were the humans. The orangutan characters would not eat or mix with the ape characters, and the humans wouldn’t sit down and eat with any one of them.

“I remember saying, ‘Look around — do you realize what’s happening here? This is a little isolated microcosm of probably what’s bugging the whole world. Call it prejudice or whatever you want to call it. Whatever’s different is to be shunned or it’s frightening or so forth.’ Nobody was intermingling, even though they were all humans underneath the masks. The masks were enough to bring out our own little genetic natures of fear and prejudice. It was startling.”

(From Joe Russo and Larry Landsman, Planet of the Apes Revisited, 2001.)

PlanetOTApes_173Pyxurz

What is so interesting about this (to me) is that the actors self-segregated based entirely on their costumes, their outward appearance.  It made no difference if the actor was black, white, or asian; what seemed to be the sole determining factor (for the duration of filming) was whether he or she was chimpanzee, orangutan, gorilla, or human.

On the one hand, this seems like bad news: it suggests that a certain level of prejudice against people who “aren’t like us” in an obvious visual way will always be a part of human nature.  I’m certain it is the sort of thing that can be overcome with practice, but it seems to be our default state.

On the other hand, it strikes me as good news: it seems to show that in most cases racial prejudice is an incredibly superficial thing, that it is literally all surface, and that the greater part of this kind of behavior is not rooted in any deep antipathy or hatred of other races.

I suspect this common tendency is part of human nature, and we should certainly be aware of it—but that also means not making more of it than it is.  It should caution us about labelling every kind of tendency towards self-segregation as “racism”—assuming that word carries connotations of racial hatred or prejudice.