Your Morals – Part 3 of 3

Continuing my responses to Johnathan Haidt’s Morality survey…

25. I believe the strength of a sports team comes from the loyalty of its members to each other

Who TF cares about a sports team or where their loyalty comes from, whatever that even means. And the strength of what exactly? Players move from team to team with ease, and they are obliged to win in order to advance their own interests and personal glory. Weaker players can coattail by association to their team or their league.

26. I think children should be taught to be loyal to their country

Smh. No. I think that countries should be abolished. Children should be taught how arbitrary countries are and how they divide more than they unite.

27. In a fair society, those who work hard should live with higher standards of living

Weasel words—fair, hard, work, higher, and living standards. Perhaps the answer can be found in the definitions, like divining with tea leaves.

Hard Work & Enterprise

28. I believe that everyone should be given the same quantity of resources in life

What resources? A family with no children doesn’t need children’s shoes and clothing. A vegan doesn’t need a side of beef. What is this asking?

29. The world would be a better place if everyone made the same amount of money

I agree. And the amount should be zero. Didn’t I already answer this one?

30. I believe it would be ideal if everyone in society wound up with roughly the same amount of money

What is this obsession with money? I guess this is a reflection on Harvard. Get over it.

31. People should try to use natural medicines rather than chemically identical human-made ones

What? Sure. Maybe. I suppose if they are identical. Are they cheaper or free? Are they dosage- and quality-controlled? What is the function of the infinitive try to?

32. I believe chastity is an important virtue

Not more virtue. Make it stop. Chastity is defined as the state or practice of refraining from extramarital, or especially from all, sexual intercourse. This would be important why? And how would it be a virtue by any measure?

33. I think obedience to parents is an important virtue

Just why?

34. I admire people who keep their virginity until marriage

How would I know? Why would I admire them? I understand the traditional and statutory function of marriage, but this anachronistic chattel arrangement doesn’t need to exist.

35. Everyone should defend their country, if called upon

Perhaps we should abolish countries and property. What are the defending—their unique way of life? Their awesome achievements or prospects thereof? The dirt and natural resources? The buildings? Some mythos? Just no. If politicos want to fight for imaginary boundaries, let them fight it out in an old school cage match.

36. If I found out that an acquaintance had an unusual but harmless sexual fetish I would feel uneasy about them

Define harmless. Does this fetish involve me? If not, I don’t care. Might I roll my eyes? Perhaps. Might I laugh? Sure.

Summary

Having commented in some form or fashion on each of these questions, I can remain unmoral. Morality is an exercise in mental masturbation and power. As should be obvious by now, morality presumes that one subscribes to some underlying and supposed metanarratives.

In the end, reflecting upon other sources, a certain sense of what might be considered to be a moral compass may be present in infants and children, but these can be (and are) manipulated through education, books, entertainment from TV and movies to sports to civic instruction and all sorts of propaganda. So, the point that wee folk have propensities for certain behaviours is all well and good, but this feels an awful like confirmation bias in full view. Of course, it might be considered to be immoral to raise classless, less judgmental children especially if they make choices different to the leaders.

Equality. Equity. Egality.

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen takes on this equality versus equity meme. One appeared on by LinkedIn feed this morning and I wanted to comment. I thought I’d have posted on this before and wanted to link to it. If I did, I couldn’t find it, so here’s a fresh accounting. I searched Google for the original image and cobbled together my own versions, if only for visual continuity.

 L’homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Social Equality vs. Equity Meme

The meme renders something like this:

There are two frames being compared—equality and equity. In both, we see three people trying to view an event, but a barrier obstructs their view. The people are of different heights—tall, medium, and short—, metaphorically representing some intitial social status.

In one we see a representation of equality. In the spirit of equality, each person has one crate upon which to stand. This represents equality of condition. Each person is ensured to start the game on equal social footing. At a glance, it’s easy to discern that this intervention allows two of the people to see the event but leaves one of the three at a disadvantage and unable to view.

In the other, we see a representation of equity. In this frame, we see the same three people and a redistribution of the three crates. Equity is more in tune with equality of opportunity if not of outcomes. The taller person who had been standing on a crate had no need for it as he was tall enough to see over the barrier without it. The mid-size person, who could see the event with the crate but not without it, retained the crate. The shortest person was given the crate from the tallest person, now standing on a stack of two. The result is that each of the three people can now view the event unimpeded.

This comparison is such a nice conversation starter. It’s a hot button topic for some—and I’ll get to that presently. For me, it illustrates the concept of framing. There are several things left out of frame—at least one literally. In this meme, we are given a binary frame, but we can pull the shot back and there’s a third option: egality. This term has fallen out of favour in English, but the French retain it—égalité. In this frame, there is no need for crates, and the plank barrier is replaced by a chain-link fence.

Social Equality

Yet there’s the matter of metanarrative device. Why should there be any barrier? Why focus on these three in the foreground? Do the seated people represent the haves and those standing represent the have-nots? Might we interpret this as bourgeois versus proletariat with the focus on the struggle between the prols distracting from the broader issue? —being further distracted by the circus event? Have we lost the forest for the trees?

As it happens, people along the way have inserted their own social commentary through like-memes. I’ve similarly reconstructed these.

Societal Common Ground

In the beginning there are no crates. They are simply a device. At the start, only the tallest person can see over the barrier. At some point three crates appear ex nihilo and each person obtains one as depicted in the equality of condition frame, which leaves one of our participants better off and the other in no different of a social status, though a bit off the ground in the event of flash flooding. Small wins.

Past Burdens and Generational Wealth Transfer

Some shared the opinion that at least we all start on common ground, and yet others—likely Left- or Liberal-leaning—propose that some people start in a hole. Others might have noted that whilst some start out in a hole others start out with inherited boxes—or houses or networks—showcasing the transfer of generational wealth . Another might be able to view if there was a crate available. Given the negative starting place, the third would likely require three boxes to be on par to view, so even a redistribution of the three boxes would be insufficient.

For my first diversion, I’d like to spend a few moments defending a common response for the Right and Libertarians. Firstly, no one who supports this level-setting is suggesting that the advantaged be put into a hole like the disadvantaged. Nor is anyone asking for The Prince and the Pauper treatment where they trade places. This is a silly attempt at a strawman attack. Secondly, in a similar vein, no one is asking for the best off to relinquish everything and now be unable to see whilst the meek inherit the earth. As if that could ever happen.

Some people were overly optimistic—presumably representing the ‘if some is good, more must be better’ contingent. Why don’t we give everyone two boxes? Aside from the fact that only three are necessary for everyone to view the event, there was no mention where the original three crates came from let alone these additional three. I suppose they might have fashioned them from the fence. Who knows? But this leads us into contributions from the advocates of Capitalism.

Capitalism: Libertarian Vantage

Let’s chalk this up to the Right can’t meme syndrome. To this cohort, Capitalism is the solution. In fact, there will be more crates than one could possibly use. A rising tide rises all boats—and crates. None are left behind. In fact, this is what Capitalism is known for. Of course, this suffers from several cognitive biases: survivorship, selection and availability. But who’s really counting?

For this less fond of Capitalism, this illustrates excess and waste. We needed three crates, yet we produce over thirty. Moreover, these less-fond likely also notice a capital distribution challenge with Capitalism.

Capitalism: Democratic Vantage

The prevailing view by one cohort is that some of the excess crates ‘owned’ by the tallest person should be redistributed whilst the polar perspective holds that this person ‘earned’ those crates and is entitles to keep them. And why can’t that woman just hold her child so he can see? Don’t get me started.

Capitalism for Sale

You really do have to love Capitalists. The solution is always ‘you just have to pay for it. Duh’. Without going too far off track, many of these people—likely vastly most of them—can’t afford what they want, yet they stand by this mechanism.

Socialism Kills

Some people who despise Socialism have a rather macabre perspective on how socialism operates. To them, equality can only be acheived via some Harrison Bergeron mechanism—primarily because they choose not to distinguish between social and physical equality. And maybe they are simply sadistic and enjoy watching people suffer.

My personal favourite is the one for liberation.

Liberation is Liberating

We don’t need no fences. No barriers. No boundaries. Sit on the boxes. Fill them with food for the hungry.

But in the end, if all you are fighting for is free access to cricket matches and other circus events, you aren’t really liberated anyway. You are the slave that Rousseau wrote about, ‘Man is born free but everywhere is in chains’.


Disclaimer: For the record, I have been using the term, Capitalism idiomatically equivalent to a market economy because Americans just don’t want to separate them. I think they feel that if they can pretend they are the same, that criticising Capitalism would be tantamount to criticising market economics. This is wrong on so many levels, but, at least in North America, the terms are inextricable. The fact that Capitalism is a means of production, and the other is a distribution mechanism, people—from syndicalists and worker coöperatives to Mercantilists, tradesmen, and craft-workers—could choose to distribute goods and services through a market system without consequence. It’s not even worth expending a breath. Even English dictionaries have given up and conflated the concepts. Economic textbooks are the last bastion of academic sanity.

Gender Constructs

I’ve been following Philosophy Tube since Abigail was Ollie. Always top-notch material. Their content has gotten longer over time, so I’ve found myself skipping over in favour of shorter presentations. I am so glad to have decided to watch this one.

As anyone who follows me knows, I am a big advocate of social construct theory, yet I learned so much in this vid, which is proper well-cited AF. Lot’s of new content to add to my backlog, so I’ve got more than enough reading material for my next few incarnations at least.

The biggest takeaway for me is the notion that not only is gender a social construct, but so is sex itself. Previously, I have defended the sex-gender distinction, but in fact, scientific taxonomies are still social constructs—only in the scientific community rather than the greater community at large.

Abigail’s platypus drives home the point. Not that it’s some big reveal. Another less poignient analogy is fruit and vegetable classification. Tomatoes are fruits. Mellons—watermellons, pumpkins, and so on—are fruits. Say it ain’t so.

Give it a viewing and like or comment here and/or there.

The Bell Curve

Many racists, closeted and otherwise, cite The Bell Curve as proof that blacks are dumber than white people. Published in 1994, it’s controversial and bollocks. The first problem is with the notion of IQ testing itself, and then there’s the construction of the tests and relevance to aptitude. Anyone who’s read more than a handful of my posts know that I have long labelled the entire discipline of psychology a pseudoscience, so it would come as no surprise that a product of psychology is principally pseudoscience, too.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The impact of the Highly Improbable and Anti-Fragile: Things that Gain from Fragility, among other publications, Nassim is working on adding to his Incerto collection. At least a portion of the work focuses on the notion that IQ is largely a pseudoscientific swindle. Reviewing the material, it’s almost effortless to draw parallels to Foucault’s Mental Illness and Psychology, or even more so, sections from Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason.

I’ve already moving on to new topics, so my parting point is that ordinary people find interpreting statistics to be an almost insurmountable challenge. Mark Twain recognised this in his quip, lies, damn lies, and statistics.

lies, damn lies, and statistics

Mark Twain

The problem is many professionals don’t understand statistics—even those whose function requires it. I was a professional statistician decades ago, so I have a certain fondness for it. I was even working on another post on the subject of the Simpson’s Paradox, but not quite yet—though it’s been weeks in the works. I am thinking about a post related to René Girard’s conflict theory as a lens and framework to understand the ‘insurrection’ at the US Capitol. I also want to react to the notion of metamodernism as a reaction to the conflict between modernism and postmodernism.

So little time. Please stand by.

Diversity Frame

One if the biggest foci of postmodern philosophy is the metanarrative. Employment diversity is a place that the metanarratives go unquestioned by most. The most predominant aspect is the frame. Don’t accept it.

Inside this frame, some uncritically adopted narratives are as follows:

  • Work is good
  • Work builds character (proportionately to the effort exerted)
  • Work defines your value or worth as a human
  • Work signifies your place in society
  • Work is its own reward (except for monetary payment and recognition)
  • Value is defined by monetary achievement
  • Worth is defined by your place in an enterprise

And so on…

In this HBR article*, the frame has been established as a corporation and the diversity within this context. What this say by omission is that money and power is the measure of a meaningful existence. If only women were afforded a seat at this table—proportional to their population in society—, things will be even.

Women should start their own successful companies. Women should rise to the top of existing companies. Especially if they buy into the aforementioned narratives. Many women and men buy into this story lock, stock, and barrel (whatever that means), but only is you accept this as a frame is this relevant.

It’s easy to imagine a world where money is unnecessary, where labouring is unnecessary.

It’s easy to imagine a world where money is unnecessary, where labouring is unnecessary. Some have imagined a world without work, where people could instead pursue artistic endeavours, but this is just adopting a different set of narratives—like the person who exchanges drugs or alcohol for Jesus or some such. Out of the frying pan into the fire. This is the lie.

Interestingly, the HBR article makes these points:

  1. Quantify gender equity in terms of economic gains for the company.
  2. Hold leaders accountable for change by tying DEI metrics to performance reviews.
  3. Offer development opportunities to increase gender intelligence, empathy, and self-efficacy.
  4. Pull back the curtain on misperceived social norms.
  5. Establish cross-gender professional relationships.
  6. Frame, focus, and integrate interventions into core business outcomes and mission.

Notice that each of these operates from the perspective of the company. Granted, this is HBR, where the B is for Business, but still. Here’s the low down.

  1. Gender equity will at some point increase your bottom line.
  2. Create diversity metrics (and incentives) and tie them to performance review—presumably tied to the economic performance expected in bullet 1.
  3. Offer diversity training—notwithstanding the body of evidence and long history that diversity programmes are not only ineffective but sow seeds of discontent.
  4. Educate your executives and staff to the misconceptions—so long as you don’t question the deeper metanarratives.
  5. Essentially, the ask here is to establish male-female protégé-mentor relationships. Of course, this could be expanded to break binary gender stereotypes, too.
  6. Back to business, frame the frame. But to tell the truth, I don’t even know how to interpret and summarise the provided example. It seems this is an admixture of points 1 and 2, given metrics should ladder up to stated objectives and outcomes.

asking for this equity in diversity is a short-term fix

In any case, asking for this equity in diversity is a short-term fix, but it’s unimaginative and buys into the worldview of the patriarchy. There is no reason to accept this prima facie. As with the notion of Democracy, I’d be willing to argue that the system itself is the problem and that any tinkering within the system is limited by the system itself.


* Apologies in advance if HBR has a paywall. Typically, the first 3 articles are free, but if you are like me that exhausts on day one.

Diversity of thought

Je m’accuse. I’m such a bad blogger. I haven’t been focusing much lately, but given the recent events around #BlackLivesMatter, I’ve been doing some thinking. A lot has been said about diversity and inclusion—whether for black lives, females, LGBTQ+, or some other class—, but the issue is more complex and dimensional than a problem with intersectionality.

There is something to be said for experiential diversity, and the benefits of virtual cross-pollination may have some advantages, but much of this is superficial diversity-washing, enough to claim a public relations participation award.

I keep Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex close to the top of my mind much of the time, but this is more than just about feminism. It’s about otherism—the otherness that creates outgroups.

In Beauvoir’s parlance, there are men and there are not-men—others. This is similar to Baudrillard’s dog/not-dog distinction but with more intention, so we arrive at an orthodox/not-orthodox pairing.

Taking workplace diversity as a frame, that they accept blacks, or women, or disabled, or some other identified class is superficial because the common thread is an acceptance of the prevailing meta-narratives, not only of Capitalism, Democracy, meritocracy, authority structures, and the like. As long as you comply with this mindset, sex and gender, the colour of one’s skin, or disability is cosmetic.

To some extent, there will be some diversity of thought. There will be some cultural perspectives, some generational perspectives, and some gender perspectives, but all of these are aligned to the overarching narrative.

In the world—in the United States anyway—, it’s OK to be black or Hispanic as long as you act ‘white’ or ‘American’. Speak with a neutral accent. Listen to mainstream pop. Don’t wear culturally identifiable clothing. This will ensure acceptance. In a way, this is a faux pas of Donald Trump. He comes across as vulgar to those who hold this perspective.

The diversity that’s missing is one that would do things differently. When a woman ascends to a CEO position, she has done so by more or less mimicking the path a man would probably have taken, making similar decisions. Ditto for a black. Double ditto for a black woman.

People outside of this narrow path will not ascend. I’ll ignore the question of whether this is even a worthwhile aim, A woman who takes this path may have to break through a glass ceiling, but for those of us with a more diverse mindset, the ceiling is stainless steel—a meter thick.

But this is for more than CEOs. I am a self-aware eccentric, and although I colour within the lines my thought is typically outside of accepted boundaries. Luckily, I’ve had the good fortune to work with the right people in the right environments to capitalise rather than be hampered by this difference. I’ve been lucky enough to operate with relative autonomy because over the years I’ve generally met or exceeded expectations on my own path.

During a review—or at least a conversation—about a decade ago, a manager told me that he had no idea how I operated but that he didn’t want to interfere for fear of breaking the goose laying the golden eggs. I know this was difficult for him to do and to admit because he is a very structured thinker and felt compelled to create repeatable structures (despite ignoring the structure when it came to him—and, thankfully, me).

This same person—whom I admire despite our having different worldviews—also noted that I operate as a director or orchestrator rather than a typical leader. I feel this is spot on. Even as early as high school, I articulated that I did not consider myself to be either a leader or a follower. I was a self-professed adviser, so it’s no surprise that I find myself in consulting and advisory roles. I realise that in the United States, the world is constructed to be more diametrically than it would otherwise need to be, so I end up being a veritable unicorn in most settings.

As those who know me, my first career was in the entertainment field, where diversity is more part of the rule than the exception—though there are still many normies there, too. My ex-wife asked me countless time why I left the music industry, or didn’t stick to academics or activism, each with their own level of interest to me.

The problem is that this diverse perspective is not something a resume can convey very well as there needs to be a great deal of trust, which is not typically in place for new hires, so many, let’s say, organic and creative thinkers, get left out of the equation to the detriment of cultural diversity.

Humanism is Speciesism

Why is racism wrong but speciesism OK? Primarily, other species have no voice, and to have no voice is to have no say. This advert got my attention.

Joaquin Phoenix Advert

Humanism is part and parcel of specious Enlightenment tripe, where ‘coincidentally‘ humans put themselves at the forefront. Copernicus removed Earth from the centre — though to be fair, even Christians had elevated gender-non-specific-Man above other animals — , but Humanism makes it more poignant that it’s Man at centre not God. Gods be damned. In fact, it’s often an afterthought that humans are animals at all, despite only the slightest veneer of consciousness and, more to the point, language to separate us from them.

Otherness has proven itself to be an evolutionary survival aspects, one that has brought me tho a point where I can write this, so one can call it natural, another term fraught with connotational baggage. To be able to differentiate and discriminate appear to be valuable attributes, but how much is enough, and how much is too much.

Buddhism teaches that we are all one with the cosmos, that any distinction is an illusion. Buddhist Enlightenment — not to be confused with Western Enlightenment — is to understand this, to not be bound to the illusion.

But, if racism is wrong, why is speciesism OK? Humans do give some animals some rights, and some places give different animals different rights, whilst other give animals categorically more and fewer rights. Some places ascribe divinity upon animals, elevating them above humans.

Racism seems to be more wrong because humans are more genetically homogeneous — at least phenotypically. Other mammals and herptiles don’t look so much like us. In observation, when they do, we have an additional layer of empathy, so chimps and canines with expressive eyes gain sympathy not afforded crustaceans and pinnipeds.

I don’t have an answer save to say that it’s just convenient and some day we may see a world as portrayed by science fiction where some — mostly bipedal species — live quasi-harmoniously with humans. But even there, humans are always the start, front and centre to provide to moral POV.

Competition and Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson was interviewed by Joe Rogan, where he discussed gender and competition. I am not going to address his gender issues, but I’ll say something about competition. I’ll also ignore his stance that the world is ‘functioning unbelievably well, even though it has its problems’. He gets to competition through some comments on equality.


[Focus] on winning the largest number of games across the span of a lifetime.

Jordan Peterson

Firstly, Peterson differentiates equal playing fields from equal outcomes, a favoured Conservative talking point slash whipping boy. He then sets up a strawman argument relating to people favouring the ‘best of the best’ (which is to say, their personal favourites, I suppose) in lieu of exploring the vast universe of music available on the myriad streaming services, the result being that in the aggregate, the preferred acts make more money through this competition. Of course, this is the result of preference theory, which produces different outcomes based on inputs such a time and place, fads and trends, and the ‘winner’ is the one who attains the most listens.

There’s no accounting for taste.

Having had worked in Entertainment for years, I realised early on that the correlation between talent and financial success was fairly weak. In fact, I had several conversations with artists who felt ‘guilty’ for their commercial success over people they deemed more talented. This is a fundamental problem with market systems, the value calculus is influenced by what Keynes termed ‘animal spirits‘. As the saying goes, there’s no accounting for taste.

Peterson and Rogan both agree that competition is healthy and necessary, but they don’t define the scale and scope, so they sacrifice a participation trophy red herring on the altar.

Peterson does come back to discuss scope within a timeline of a lifespan, that a single game is less important than a championship—and, apparently, there is more than one championship. What never happens is a definition of what the rules of the game are or how you know you’ve won. I suppose, that’s a relative concern. They also don’t provide any guidance on where to set the dial between competition and cooperation.

If you are trying to get a job versus even some anonymous pool of applicants, then you’ve won this match. I see this as an evolutionary game. I remember a story by Clarissa Pinkola Estes where she tells about a guy who had been climbing the corporate ladder for decades, and when he got near the top, he came to the realisation that he had it up against the wrong building. Perhaps what he thought was a worthy goal (say acquisition of money) was in conflict with some higher ethical goals or deeper friendships.


It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

From what I can tell, Peterson is guided by a sense the virtue ethics are the way to go, and, judging from this interview, he’s more than just a bit of a Consequentialist. But it’s clear he is no Deontologist. Case in point, he claims that the adage, ‘it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game’ is a ‘sentiment confuses children’.

Play well with others.

He ends by saying that if you learn the kindergarten lesson to play well with others, you’ll temper your winning or redefine winning within the context, and somehow your goal should be ‘focusing on winning the largest number of games across the span of a lifetime’.

At the end of all of this—given Peterson’s pathological worldview—, it’s no wonder he’s so defensive, combative, and irascible: he is driven to win, and he thinks it matters. And it’s abundantly clear that he hasn’t learnt his own kindergarten lesson: Play well with others.

And now for something completely different…

I chose the cover image of this post on the merits of the upcoming competition between Peterson and Žižek on 19 April.

Utilitarianism

As I read his Utilitarianism, I want to like John Stuart Mill. He seems like such a clever man, but he is a victim of his Enlightenment Age. Attempting to fabricate order created by science’s encroachment on the absolutes of religion and the shifting sentiments toward monarchies, Mill tries to replace this moral compass with Jeremy Bentham‘s utility.

£1 ≠ £1

The problem is that despite (sort of) dispensing of religious doctrine, Mill was still fettered by the dogma of virtue ethics of dignity and duty. To this, he adds happiness. Not to go full-on Foucault, but these are concepts leveraged, like religion, to maintain power—take an elevated system in a constructed society, and the duty becomes a burden to the bottom, save for pretence of duty and dignity at the top.

I’ve had an issue with the concept of virtue and all of its offspring: duty, justice, and so on. I’ll likely write about this later. I expect that I’ll be reading Mill’s On Liberty next, so stay tuned.

Ignoring my contention that Utilitarianism is baseless, I have two other issues, using economic examples, each related to prospect theory (pdf):

  1. Regressivity: A person with less money values an incremental dollar more than a person with more money.

  2. Loss to gain asymmetry due to risk aversion: A person values losing a dollar more than earning a dollar, ceteris paribus.

Pareto efficiency, a cornerstone of Classical economics, does not take this into account. For this theory, all dollars are created (or perceived to be) equal, so it doesn’t matter whether person A, who earns £10,000 p.a., or person B, who earns £100.000 p.a.,  gets £100, but in the real world, person A would give it a higher value, so a transfer from A to B would be an inferior transaction to a B to A transaction.

This said, person B values the £100 more than having gained the amount, but it is not clear how to reconcile (in order to reach perceived parity) what the fair equilibrium would be, allowing that equality of outcome might not be the desired outcome.