Friday, October 21, 2016

A Challenge: Question 2

Thing of Things is hosting an Intellectual Turing Test where people mimic a competing ideology. The best thing about it is the way people answer question 2 “ What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?”

Every single respondent has thought deeply about what they believe. They’ve seen studies that back them up, thought about ethical principles, and seen the effects of oppression first hand. But when asked “why do you really believe this? what swayed you so much that it would change your mind if it was contradicted”… they often dissolve into vagueness and “everything shows I’m right!” Everything, of course, can never be disproven.

It’s a fascinating insight into how ideology works. Ideology isn’t formed by realizing our terminal values, or reading a study, it’s a much more osmotic experience than that. It involves quasi-believing things because so many other people we know believe them, and not questioning them *too* much because doing so is uncomfortable (both socially, and to our own identity as a good person.) Like Ra, ideology hates it when you try to pin down terms and reasons too precisely.

I challenge readers to cut through this cloud of vagueness, and write down somewhere, anywhere, What is the true reason deep down that you believe what you believe? What evidence could convince you that you were wrong?

I'll go second.

This particular blog is universalist. (Also atheist Christian existentialist Communist, quasi-Marxist and quasi-Lacanian.)

People are not happy. Material improvements (like more money) are not making people happy. Freedom through rights based liberalism is not making people happy. If these things were found to reliably make people happy through consistent, empirical measurements, I would support them more.

Oppression makes people really unhappy. Further, it reduces people into paranoia and status-mongering, which further the cycle of oppression, causing them to heap fear and persecution on others just to keep them unsafe. Everyone is obligated to fight this oppression, but because of the aforementioned paranoia and status-systems, fighting it can often take the form of furthering oppression unless you adhere to a clear ethical viewpoint. Otherwise you get vagueness. Vagueness leads to ideology. Ideology leads to oppression. Oppression leads to suffering. (Rimshot, Prequels reference.)

In fact, most anything related to the social sciences about human behavior is hard to replicate. If more reliable findings start coming out from the social sciences, my views will have to change. But otherwise, it appears we live in a chaotic universe, and so moral clarity can only be found through the existentialist path: accept nihilism, and then positively choose your ethical view based on no contingent evidence.

This also means a significant skepticism towards any categories, including what it means to be a human being. Much of the worst oppression in human history has been based on defining people as "not really human." As such, we should be extremely loose about giving respect for the well-being of anything that might remotely be like a human (including zombies, droids, and intelligent animals.)

Even if those groups were shown to be basically p-zombies, we should still oppose their oppression. Because oppression is a cycle that drags down everyone involved through insecurity and isolation. That's like the entire point of Blade Runner.

Because science is so bad at defining the human condition, and unwilling to accept "we just don't know" about many questions, I find art a lot more interesting. In particular, popular movies express both our ideological assumptions about the world, and the logic of universalist ethics that is pretty much unavoidable. (For instance a movie might have an oppressed and degraded character like Jar Jar, but our viewing of it can realize how he is mistreated via perspective.) Reading movies seriously can provide evidence that support various themes.

If you could actually just take any movie, and any theme, and argue for why this movie contains that theme as well as a genuine attempt to read the movie, then reading them would be pointless. But such exercises usually show how hollow an undertaking is. (Quick, swap the themes I discussed for "I Am Legend" and "Seinfeld" and try to argue that I Am Legend is about the emptiness of rules-based morality while Seinfeld is about how we would stop being lonely if only we embraced the subhuman rabble?)

Lastly, there is the question of "the inhuman excess", the quality people sometime possess of just being truly terrible and impossible to understand (like: Why did you scream at that simple question? Why did he murder her on their wedding night? Why the Holocaust?) Humanism believes that it's all a tragic trick of perspective, and everyone is acting fairly reasonably from the complicated situation they are put in, but when we look at their actions without the context they seem unfathomable. Univeralism believes that no, there is an inherent inhuman excess inside of us all that can not be explained and reduced to some contextual problem, and loving all humanity is the challenge of loving that intolerable excess, which is symbolized by Christ's love for the sinner.

Some empirical resolution about where the inhuman excess lies, could change my perspective.

Otherwise... most knowledge is false and worse, unfalsifiable, so your important decisions need to be made for their own sake. An increase in things we actually knew were true, would necessitate acceptance of other moral viewpoints, up to and including the dreaded moral realism.

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