Re: Self-Undermining Liberalism

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Wait, sorry, you'll have to go through this with me again. His big insight was that certain groups like evangelicals can see somewhat arbitrary rules like "life begins at conception" as a moral issue? And once he realized that, he was suddenly much more understanding and saw where they were coming from?

He's joking, right?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 8:53 AM
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If Haidt really believes that liberals aren't concerned with purity, he should meet the woman who pickets my farmers' market. Her sign says something like, "Don't Accept New Plastic Bags! Bring Your Own Bag!" Like, seriously lady, there are about a hundred stores in the adjacent blocks that generate about a bazillion plastic bags, and you're getting on the cases of the handful of farmers' market attendees who use, at tops, two or three bags to hold their organic fruits and veggies?*

Maybe there is some way of emphasizing in-group affiliation and purity that isn't so irrational, but man, the picket lady annoys the frak out of me.

*From my casual observation, more than half of the shoppers already bring their own bags.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:02 AM
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"A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." Robert Frost

Hope to return to this. For the moment I'll just say that modernity, freedom, equality, etc., all historically depend on weakening or transforming norms of hierarchy (except for the hierarchy of wealth), purity, and in-group loyalty (except for nationalism). If they were strengthened back to what they were before, we'd end up with some kind of Taliban feudalism. The conservative argument can't rationally be much more than "we've gone too far" without risking something like refeudalization.

Nationalism is often regarded as a pathological response to the destruction or weakening of more natural face-to-face groups. Nationalistic conservativism can be maximally cynically, since the same people in finance who are effectively weakening the local communities recruit the threatened loyalties of their victims into support for themselves.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:07 AM
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What about when the in group is your family, your union, your political party, or your nation?

It's not like there are no reasoned arguments for spheres of differential moral concern or "solidarity." I think the move is being made too quickly from in-group to as you say "some arbitrary group." And just because one's membership in a group is unchosen doesn't mean that relationship is not capable of rational justification and support.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:09 AM
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PMP: No no, Haidt's theory isn't about getting fixated on things like conception as a moral line. He's got a broad, empirically based theory of the moral emotions. (I'm teaching it this term, in fact.)

The purity intuition is one of these emotions. We have natural sense of revulsion to things like incest. The mechanism itself is likely linked to the mechanism that keeps us away from rotting food. Cultures can take advantage of this instinct to get people to feel revulsion for all sorts of things, typically things that are category breakers. The fundamentalist revulsion to homosexuals and the Brahmin revulsion of Dalits have their origins here. If the purity intuition is at work in the abortion issue, it is the revulsion some Christians feel towards "fallen" women.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:11 AM
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2: The purity instinct is working overtime in the environmental movement. No question about it. Also, environmentalists are not good at linking their purity instincts back to things like harm to others, even where "others" includes the earth as a whole.

Anytime you get people talking about naturalness, you are dealing with the purity instinct.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:13 AM
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JMS your example is trivially correct but pretty damn silly. You don't have people killing people over plastic bags. The US Supreme Court isn't appointed on the basis of recycling policy.

Haidt's insight is that liberals have learned to repress certain gut feelings that most people have. People who have repressed these gut feelings less are less conservative.

If the gut feelings were all bad, then we could say that anyone who doesn't repress these feelings is just wrong. But in-group loyalty does lead to mutual aid, and an attention to purity might prevent someone from getting too terrible fucked up. It's not the Christians I've known who have been totally wasted on tobacco, alcohol, amphetamines, and STD's at age 40. That might be the cost of freedom and liberalism, but it is a cost.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:13 AM
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The problem is that you can universalize the drive for freedom/justice/fairness, or for do-no-harm principles, but it's inherently very difficult to universalize in-group loyalty or purity as ideals when it's not your in-group or your taboos. You end up with things like Romney's hollow, inane praise of "the ancient traditions of the Jews."


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:19 AM
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But like any rational analysis of the benefits of the irrational, this is an area where depth of understanding is necessarily going to interfere with those benefits. The idea anything is meaningfully a moral issue, depends for all practical intents and purposes on a pre-rational understanding of that issue.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:20 AM
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There's a big difference between noisy conservative Christians and indifferent-yet-basically-conservative Christians. I think "purity" measures how worked up you get over something.

It seems like there are a lot of people who aren't interested in spending the airtime in their head on this, because they're interested in different things - (I'm really not feeling judgemental, it just feels like I'm coming across like I am) - and then when you ask them point-blank about their values, they'll be conservative.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:23 AM
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I know the woman in 2.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:30 AM
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A most excellent post.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:33 AM
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I don't see that having empathy or understanding of another's moral values is in any way an acceptance or approval of those values.

So I'm not seeing this point:

but there was something about the way he sounded so pleased and proud that through a process of intellectual reasoning, he had divested himself of some loyalty to liberals as a group, and become more sympathetic to (some) conservatives.

Earlier you used the word empathy and now use the word sympathy. Is it both of these? Also, what makes you say he has divested himself of some loyalty?

I'm not getting your point.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:34 AM
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11: That's awesome. Can you tell her to knock it off?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:35 AM
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John,

It's not the Christians I've known who have been totally wasted on tobacco, alcohol, amphetamines, and STD's at age 40.

A fair number of the Christians I have known got wasted when early adults and then got born again, in many ways substituting one drug for another. Then they raised their kids 'right' and the kids rebelled and got wasted themselves, sometimes getting born again and repeating the cycle.

I think it has a genetic component but I can't prove it.

And before you climb all over my butt for being too "anectdoty" please note you were the first to bring up personal observations.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:39 AM
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Sure, but a universal commitment to six billion people tends to add up to no commitment to any actual person. In group commitments, at best, involve actual commitments to actual people.

In this kind of argument I always end up arguing with people who see community only in terms of restrictions and demands, and not in terms of support and benefits.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:40 AM
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depends on a belief that the group or the purity standard really is different from all the others.

If I've understood baa in #4 correctly, I second him. Be it framed as solidarity or kinship claims, it seems that not only is there worth in valuing such thing, but that in many ways it is the most basic value.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:41 AM
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In this kind of argument I always end up arguing with people who see community only in terms of restrictions and demands, and not in terms of support and benefits.

Horrifyingly, we liberals may tend to act like libertarians in this way because it is inconvenient for our political program to admit that people can't achieve unlimited things with help from only themselves and government.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:42 AM
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Anecdotes are fine. Back in my cafe society days I ran into a lot of proudly impure folk, and they were pretty damn fucked up. Around here I do see a lot of Christians, and while they're fearful and small-minded, they aren't fucked up. Depends on the sect; some of the more desperate sects do have that revolving door sin and repentance thing going.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:43 AM
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I don't see why he shouldn't seem pleased with himself (other than the usual reasons not to seem smug); he has a way to explain something that previously didn't make sense and led to bad theories. I don't see Haidt saying that fairness and outcomes shouldn't matter, but just that 'god, they're so irrational, don't they see the outcome is fair?' really misses the point. (I also think that if he's right on the empirical grounds, then it would make more sense to try to steal those intuitions and use them to get liberal policies through rather than insist they have no place.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:44 AM
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So, leaving aside the arbitrary (pointless, stupid) five-way division, are people really willing to argue that there are irreducible and strongly held moral values based on rationality?

Because, haha, totally pointing and laughing at you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:45 AM
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13:I don't see that having empathy or understanding of another's moral values is in any way an acceptance or approval of those values.

I didn't really want to go into one of my usual spasms, but I remembered Levi-Strauss and Sontag on the Levi-Strauss as I was reading this. The problem with empathy or sympathy for opposing values or alien groups is that you become alienated from or dispassionate about your own. Liberals have values, but rarely will they kill for them.

Relativism (nihilism) has always been the danger in enlightenment liberalism, and why "tolerance" has been one of the core tenets, and why liberalism has trouble defending itself from illiberalism.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:45 AM
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Around here I do see a lot of Christians, and while they're fearful and small-minded, they aren't fucked up.

But their kids are, if the Christianness doesn't come naturally to them and their parents think it should. This guy, for example.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:49 AM
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Back in my cafe society days I ran into a lot of proudly impure folk, and they were pretty damn fucked up.

I don't quite know what to make of this. A big chunk of the serious Christians I've known have been pretty fucked up - chemically, sexually, what have you. As I aged and associated with fewer fucked-up people, I associated with fewer fucked-up Christians, but I'm not sure I see how the cause-effect thing works generally here.

I mean, even if liberals counsel tolerance about such things, Larry Craig wasn't being a liberal when he was tapping his foot on that restroom floor. Or was he? I don't think I'm comprehending your point.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:51 AM
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I think we should also be careful not to confuse liberalism with center-left policy positions, and I think that if Haidt is guilty of anything, it's this.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:51 AM
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The business of repressing all gut reactions as irriational is sort of definitive of one kind of technocratic, administrative, elite liberalism, and conservatives use it mercilessly against out Spock-like candidates. I actually think that it's a real weakness and lack of insight on our part, but regardless of that, it's an electoral vulnerability.

Libertarians have fun beating liberals at their own game by profaning the environmentalist purity feelings, by defining "fairness" in a competitive way leading to permanent inequalities, and by ignoring harm.

I think of this stuff in terms of secularization, in the sense of taking the government out of certain moral issues. Thus our government is secular with regard to aristocracy and religious authority, not supporting them in any way. It's now secular with regard to premarital sex after a certain age, and by and large, extramarital sex. We're working on making it secular WRT sexual minorities. The end of prohibition secularized alcohol.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:51 AM
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Sifu, you'll have a hard time getting tenure doing moral philosophy with that attitude.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:52 AM
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Also, bob is right in 12.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:54 AM
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20: Depends on the sect;

That is why I wonder about the genetic component. Since my family tree is prone to chemical abuse I see chemical abuse and the born-again cycle I mentioned. I suspect the two are related but I'll need to wait for further research to show that.

I suspect that their are at least a couple different genetic dispositions that lead to at least a couple kinds of religious behavior.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:54 AM
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are people really willing to argue that there are irreducible and strongly held moral values based on rationality

In some sort of "pure reason" sense? I doubt it. But I don't think I made it all the way through any of the Kant I was ever assigned, and I assume that's where you'd go looking for a justification. Fortunately, we know some philosophers....


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:55 AM
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This is one of the few bloggingheads I've watched (admittedly, I haven't watched very many) that was actually worth viewing. I like this guy.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:55 AM
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21: I guess I didn't get the 'self-underminingness' across well. What Haidt said came across like: "I'm a member of the liberal tribe. I used to view conservatives as frightening and alien, rendered unclean by their strange practices such as opposition to gay marriage. Then I developed this theory, which allowed me to understand the moral importance of ingroup loyalty and purity, and as a result, I have now become a better person because I no longer view conservatives as alien or impure."

Developing his theory on a rational basis made him, personally, less attached to his own feelings of ingroup loyalty and purity. It struck me kind of funny; as someone who approves of the liberal morality structure, I like him for having that reaction, but the paradox is worth pointing out.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:56 AM
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So, leaving aside the arbitrary (pointless, stupid) five-way division, are people really willing to argue that there are irreducible and strongly held moral values based on rationality?

Yes, I am, laugh away. Perhaps the problem is that we are not yet rational enough, that there remain under the rational-liberal values sentiments and taboos that vitiate and weaken our liberal convictions.

We liberals, and I am sometimes a liberal, value religious tolerance very highly, but not highly enough to kill the religiously intolerant. This may or may not be a very very good thing, but I am certain it is symptomatic of a core contradiction within liberalism, the reason liberalism does not and cannot work.

Gotta go. New Stanford articles on Pragmatism & Herder are recommended.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:59 AM
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Sife, my understanding is that no moral values are rationally grounded. The argument has to stop somewhere.

Basically I have contacts at the extremes of both ends of the spectrum, conservative Christians and cafe society. I am only really able to communicate to the cafe society end (the Unfoggetariat and its more-fucked-up acquaintances). I think that both sides' caricatures of the other are pretty false.

I don't take any comfort in it, but around here I see talented, capable people whose lives are going well but whose political ideas are vicious and ignorant. Back in Portland I saw politically aware people whose lives were such a mess that they were barely getting by. I think that when liberalism goes from secularity and tolerance to "Do what's forbidden" there's a big cost.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:00 AM
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Developing his theory on a rational basis made him, personally, less attached to his own feelings of ingroup loyalty and purity.

I don't think this follows. Valuing a feeling of ingroup loyalty doesn't entail thinking that everyone outside of the group is frightening and alien.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:01 AM
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To baa and SCMT: I'm not opposed to kinship or solidarity claims -- you'll note I say in the post that I'd like liberals to be less apologetic about their reactions along those axes. I just don't want them treated as claims with the same moral status as claims of fairness or harm reduction. Mutual support and solidarity are good things; where they turn into an excuse for injustice (racism, nepotism, cronism) they become bad things.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:02 AM
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30: I was, indeed, trying to use the ol' "rationality is a highly limited way of understanding the brain" troll on our local philosophers. Didn't really work, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:12 AM
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35: I'm not sure what you mean by saying "I don't think this follows." Possibly I'm mischaracterizing what he said (and this is quite reasonably possible -- I'm reacting to it impressionistically and only listened to it once). But I understood him to imply that he did actually have that emotional reaction; he did originally perceive conservatives as alien, and came to feel more kinship with them through development and application of his theories of moral reasoning.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:14 AM
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The idea that in-group loyalty to some arbitrary group, or adherence to some arbitrary set of purity standards, is meaningfully a moral issue, depends on a belief that the group or the purity standard really is different from all the others.

I don't see that with all instances of the in-group thing; loyalty is understood to be a virtue almost no matter what the object of it is, and there's a trope of scorning "traitors" even if they are traitors to your enemy and working on your behalf. Which is not to say that nationalism, etc, don't work that way. Maybe it's a matter of the size of the group involved, in that it's harder to rationalize that my little family is the best in the world, but out of 100 countries my country just might be.


Posted by: DonBoy | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:17 AM
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32:

Words like 'better' or 'better person' are pretty loaded and at least in my view meaningless without a context.

I generally support the premise that enlightenment and striving for total understanding are 'good.'

I can't see a paradox in stating, essentially, I have become more enlightened.

To me understanding something is not condoning it or agreeing with it. Many times understanding something is the first step to opposing it.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:17 AM
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38: came to feel more kinship

Well, there is kinship and there is kinship. I can feel kinship in the 'we all bleed red blood' way or the 'we all have moral principles but you are misguided' way as well as the 'you are my child and I would give my life for you' way.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:21 AM
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39: This is kind of true, but not exactly. We were talking about parochialism a while back, and I outed myself (unnecessarily to anyone who's listened to me much) as a chauvinistic New Yorker. Now on some level, like I did in that thread, I can say "It's right that I should boast about my city, as the finest in the world; it is equally right that you should boast about wherever the hell you're from because you think there's something worthwhile about it." But if I really don't think there's anything actually preferable to being a New Yorker than to being someone affiliated with somewhere else, I'm not much of a civic patriot (this is in fact the case. This isn't stuff I actually take very seriously.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:26 AM
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To me Haidt's 5-part division is very illuminating, both historically and as an insight into contemporary politics. It makes conservative behavior intelligible and pretty much explains why communication is so difficult.

It also makes libertarianism more intelligible. They just go a step further and define "fairness" to allow inequality, and make "harm" the individual's own problem. This is pretty much the way that liberals pretty much dismiss purity as a positive value.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:28 AM
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34

"Sife, my understanding is that no moral values are rationally grounded. The argument has to stop somewhere."

Depends on what you mean by rationally grounded. If you think of morality as a set of rules which allows groups of people to cooperate then some sets of rules will work better and thus are objectively superior in some sense.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:38 AM
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Infinite regress, James.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:40 AM
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Indeed. Those sets of rules work better within the context of human behavior, which is itself only occasionally, partially rational. QED.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:42 AM
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(Which is not say that there aren't other counter-arguments to James's point, e.g. sets of shared moral values never actually develop from that starting point in the real world, because the context of human behavior etc. etc.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:44 AM
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36

"To baa and SCMT: I'm not opposed to kinship or solidarity claims -- you'll note I say in the post that I'd like liberals to be less apologetic about their reactions along those axes. I just don't want them treated as claims with the same moral status as claims of fairness or harm reduction. Mutual support and solidarity are good things; where they turn into an excuse for injustice (racism, nepotism, cronism) they become bad things."

Liberal support of fairness often seems to me to be an indirect form of group loyality or pureness as liberals want to impose their notions of fairness on other groups.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:45 AM
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are people really willing to argue that there are irreducible and strongly held moral values based on rationality?

All right, I'll play. What do you mean based on? Do you mean "do I think the process by which people come to hold their moral beliefs is a rational process" or do you mean "do I think that there are irreducible and strongly held moral values which a rational person would hold"?

Also, I saw the Ex last night, thanks for that tip.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:46 AM
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My points may have been addressed since I started writing that comment. Except about The Ex.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:48 AM
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48 would prove that any form of moral belief whatsoever would simply be a form of group loyalty. James seems to be churning out the transcendentals and aporiae today.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:50 AM
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Do you mean "do I think the process by which people come to hold their moral beliefs is a rational process" or do you mean "do I think that there are irreducible and strongly held moral values which a rational person would hold"?

The former.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:55 AM
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Also, I saw the Ex last night, thanks for that tip.

Hooray!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:55 AM
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46

"Indeed. Those sets of rules work better within the context of human behavior, which is itself only occasionally, partially rational. QED."

Once again it depends on what you mean by rational. Humans behave in accordance with physical law just like dogs or sharks. Would you say adapting to physical laws is irrational?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:56 AM
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Sing it out, James! There's a 10,000-comment thread in the offing!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 10:59 AM
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51

"would prove that any form of moral belief whatsoever would simply be a form of group loyalty. James seems to be churning out the transcendentals and aporiae today."

No I saying liberals tend to privilege notions of fairness that simply reflect their groups norms rather than some universal standard.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:03 AM
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54: well that's a cop out. I mean that human behavior and decision-making is not, by-and-large, accomplished by means of logical, stepwise analysis of expected outcomes. More specifically, I mean that most human behavior and decision making is not the sole result (or even the partial result, in many cases) of activity in the parts of the brain strongly implicated in our ability to perform abstract reasoning of the type most commonly described as "rational". I further mean that while we may be able to describe our moral values as "rational", because they lead to outcomes that are rationally desirable, the process by which we come to hold those values as imperative is not a "rational" process, for the reasons described above.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:05 AM
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Some guy has discovered that water is wet, and feels better about it?

There's a tribe who's leader is a lying sack of shit responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and displacement of millions. There is virtually nothing this man can do that a significant hard core of his followers will not accept, because loyalty is such a paramount value. A great many of those followers invent other rationalities to describe their conclusion, though. Those other people had it coming. The other tribe is worse. Those people weren't actually killed. The displaced are better off. Many of these rationalizations are stupid. I'm beyond being concerned about whether the acceptance of this madness stems more from loyalty or stupidity: not only because it doesn't really matter, but because they're not at all mutually exclusive.

It's not loyalty that's a problem -- but blind loyalty. If people are apologizing for reasoned moderate loyalty, they're silly, but people sometimes are. It's not really an attribute of liberalism. Blind loyalty, however? Worship of stupidity? Yeah, we don't go for that.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:11 AM
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*yawn* You people need to stop being so boring.

Dance for me! Dance!


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:11 AM
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I just tried the www.yourmorals.org foundations quiz and am moderately disturbed to find I score lower than the liberal average on everything. Perhaps I'm just not very moral. Or maybe even liberals need to lighten up a bit.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:12 AM
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James, what would a universal moral standard look like? Something everyone would agree on, such "Don't go more than three days without drinking water" or "You are forbidden to stop breathing air"?

There arguments that every moral standard is a group standard and that none could be universal, since you need some malefactor to impose the morality onto.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:19 AM
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Sifu, I blame you! Don't be surprised if you come home and you find all the things you so proudly hung on your walls heaped on the floor.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:21 AM
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From The Beach Boys' "Be True to Your School":

When some loud braggart tries to put me down
And says his school is great
I tell him right away
Now what's the matter buddy
Ain't you heard of my school
It's number one in the state
This, especially the subtle message inherent in the fifth and sixth lines, is basically the greatest thing about loyalty ever written.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:29 AM
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I think I broadly agree with Shearer in #48. But I'm fine with it. Someone's got to win, and it might as well be us. (Though he mentions "liberals," and, for common values of the word, I'm not all that liberal.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:51 AM
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57

Ok, would you accept a statement that much of human morality has a rational explanation (as opposed to a rational basis)?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:52 AM
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So, leaving aside the arbitrary (pointless, stupid) five-way division, are people really willing to argue that there are irreducible and strongly held moral values based on rationality?

Because, haha, totally pointing and laughing at you.

Ha ha, you suck Plato, Spinoza, Kant, Habermass etc.

(Actually, I take the Hume/Haidt side of this debate, too. But you can't deny that the morality from rationality crowd has had some pretty heavyweight fighters.)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:52 AM
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But you can't deny that the morality from rationality crowd has had some pretty heavyweight fighters.

All, sadly, deprecated.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:53 AM
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Some guy has discovered that water is wet, and feels better about it?

Since the conversations about Haidt around here always interest me, I suppose I'm actually going to have to start looking at his work, but it seems to me that his key accomplishment is to find sophisticated arguments in favor of condescending to conservatives rather than loathing them.

As a liberal who who values in-group loyalty and purity, I think I prefer loathing.

Karl Rove is an atheist. I personally know a Unitarian union-buster. I get the sense that Haidt would find these peoples' beliefs contradictory, but I don't. They are, by my reckoning, evil people, for reasons that seem only loosely related to in-group loyalty and purity (though certainly an excessive emphasis on hierarchy plays a role).

Blind loyalty, however? Worship of stupidity? Yeah, we don't go for that.

I dunno. Are we defining Stalin as a conservative?

(My apologies if my musings are too stupid to address. I promise when I get a chance I'll at least watch the bloggingheads.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:54 AM
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I just don't want them treated as claims with the same moral status as claims of fairness or harm reduction. Mutual support and solidarity are good things; where they turn into an excuse for injustice (racism, nepotism, cronyism) they become bad things.

I see where you are coming from here, but I am not sure this phrasing gets at the hard problem. The hard problem is that it seems that we have duties that are not reducible to special cases of harm reduction or fairness. For example, I think we have a moral duty to care for our parents and our friends before we care for strangers. A person who neglects his family in order to care for others is, all things being equal, making a moral error. [There are, of course, attempts to explain these duties in terms of harm reduction or fairness, but a) these are controversial and b) would need to be argued].

Now it is true, of course, that a virtue of 'loyalty' can be carried to excess and lead to evil. But so too, a concern with fairness can be carried to excess and lead to evil. We are willing, I think, to admit that one can care 'too much' about fairness, and culpably overlook harm reduction, and vice versa. (these are classic left vs. liberal debates). So *if* we are willing to imagine that there might be rationally-supportable values independent of fairness and harm-reduction, then we will need to admit that a tight focus on harm-reduction, e.g., could slight these values.

As a matter of moral philosophy, it may be that the only rationally supportable values are fairness and harm reduction. But, speaking here in my capacity as philosophy grad school drop-out, option "b" is no slam dunk.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:54 AM
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James, what would a universal moral standard look like?

Always act so that you can will the maxim of your action to be a universal law?

Never treat a person solely as a means?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:58 AM
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Not true fairness, baa. The virtues, they are harmonious. My theory of flourishing: let me show you it.


Posted by: AristotFLe | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 11:59 AM
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Does the universal standard have to ground all morality? Adrienne McEvoy at the AAPT gave me a good example of a moral proposition which would get universal ascent: "Skinning a baby alive for your sexual pleasure is wrong."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:00 PM
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Haidt is pretty evolutionary psychology-y. I think he believes that humans naturally have the capability to use all 5 basises for morality, but there is a critical period in childhood development when the intensity of those basises are set. It isn't something you can realistically switch around alot when you are older. People's appreciation of the moral basises they don't have is always going to be pretty weak tea.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:00 PM
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Don't take the bait, rob. Sifu's just being a prick.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:00 PM
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Adrienne McEvoy at the AAPT gave me a good example of a moral proposition which would get universal ascent: "Skinning a baby alive for your sexual pleasure is wrong."

What is the point in such moral mountain climbing?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:02 PM
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All, sadly, deprecated.

No one takes Kant seriously these days.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:02 PM
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Just because somebody's old, dead, and famous doesn't mean they can't also be wrong.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:03 PM
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But, speaking here in my capacity as philosophy grad school drop-out

Wait a minute. Just how many philosophy grad-school drop outs do we have here? Me, parsimon, baa - any more?


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:03 PM
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A person who neglects his family in order to care for others is, all things being equal, making a moral error. [There are, of course, attempts to explain these duties in terms of harm reduction or fairness, but a) these are controversial and b) would need to be argued].

I'd find this very easy to explain in terms of harm reduction -- the harm to be avoided is the emotional harm to the family from the belief that someone who they expect to be concerned with their welfare is not so concerned. In circumstances where that emotional harm isn't present (e.g., a loving relationship between parents and a child who, rather than being present to care for the parents as they age, has chosen to go off and work for Mother Teresa in Calcutta (or some more appealing type of working for the poor)), I don't see any moral wrong at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:04 PM
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72, 75: No descent person can agree with Adrienne McEvoy.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:04 PM
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The virtues, they are harmonious

A man who turns his father into the authorities -- does he exhibit true piety?


Posted by: Plaabto | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:04 PM
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78: Ogged, no?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:05 PM
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I don't think I actually think Kant is deprecated.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:05 PM
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We don't have ogged here.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:06 PM
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A man who turns his father into the authorities -- does he exhibit true piety?

Or merely immense conjuring skill?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:06 PM
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You seem to be confused about the meaning of "deprecated", Sifu.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:06 PM
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61

"James, what would a universal moral standard look like? ..."

Actually I don't believe in an universal moral standard. Different sets of rules (moral systems) will lead to different societies. Some will be unstable or unable to defend themselves but there will still be considerable variety and which you prefer seems to me to be largely a matter of taste.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:07 PM
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You don't think there's emotional harm if your kid sticks you in some crappy nursing home so that they can go distribute food to children in Calcutta? I'd disagree, and think many others would too.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:07 PM
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86: no more so than the anonymous authors of man pages through the ages.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:08 PM
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A man who turns his father into the authorities -- does he exhibit true piety?

The only question is why he didn't take his father as an authority to begin with.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:08 PM
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Which is to say yes, I suppose so.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:08 PM
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82: Really?


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:09 PM
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When a man page says that such-and-such an option is deprecated and might be removed in the next version, or is present only for compatability with the NetBSD version, or whatever, they don't mean that it's wrong.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:09 PM
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No, I don't think so. Ogged was in a terminal MA program, IIRC, and I really hope that wasn't a secret or something, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:10 PM
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what's a man page?


Posted by: Mark Foley | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:10 PM
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Just how many philosophy grad-school drop outs do we have here?

Me.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:12 PM
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78 - I think Philosophy grad school is one of the only two where you can feel superior by dropping out. The other is Music.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:13 PM
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79: Once we pin down a metric, it seems like it would be relatively straightforward to create an example in which you could do more good by neglecting your kids, but we would still treat your behavior as immoral.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:15 PM
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LB, it is certainly possible to attempt these reductions --- all virtues boil down to harm reduction, e.g, is the classic Utilitarian move. A comments section is a tough place to make have this discussion but the following are some points to make about the moral philosophy:

1) the validity of utilitarian reductionism is highly contested
2) the idea that non-utilitarian considerations of justice can be adequately described as concerns of 'fairness' is highly contested
3) while recent Anglo-American philosophy has focused largely on matters of fairness and harm-reduction, this narrow focus is just one strain in moral theory as an historical enterprise.

So the point of Haidt lies not not *just* in pointing out feelings that people have, but that these 'alternate domains' of moral feeling in fact map on to elements in *moral philosophy* that have plausible support, and in fact correspond to traditions that have been less prevalent in the past, say, 75 years. Now, it may be that the One True moral philosophy will turn out to be a form of utilitarianism (it's all harm reduction) or will only find rational support for harm reduction and fairness. But the value of Haidt consists in drawing our attention to the fact that we are in deep waters here.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:16 PM
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I'm going to drop out to teach elementary school in Austria.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:16 PM
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88: No, I'm saying (albeit totally unclearly) that the emotional harm is why it's wrong to do that. Under circumstances where there wasn't that emotional harm (like, the neglected parents were completely and sincerely gungho with enthusiasm about their beloved and giving child going off to serve the poor, and damn any ill effects for the parents) it wouldn't be wrong at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:18 PM
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what would a universal moral standard look like?

Before a meal, drink only those liqueurs such that you can at the same time will that this choice should become universal law.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:20 PM
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93: yes it does. nslookup just ain't right.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:21 PM
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You don't think there's emotional harm if your kid sticks you in some crappy nursing home so that they can go distribute food to children in Calcutta?

Depends. I know a died-in-the-wool libertarian who swore that he would rather die than become a burden on his children or society.

I take him at his word. Of course then he went on to claim that since he felt this way everyone else should, too, and we should leave the weak and helpless out in the snow to die.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:25 PM
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I'm going to drop out to teach elementary school in Austria.

Interesting. Can you sing?

Sorry, I've seen three amateur productions of "The Sound of Music" already this year and my brain is alive with the sound of music.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:27 PM
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100: Sadist. You plan to be "very strict', tight?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:28 PM
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", right?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:28 PM
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106: He's going to draw obnoxious funny pictures in order to teach the children.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:30 PM
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I haven't read Haidt, but I'd quibble with one aspect. While intellectual liberals may, in fact, not consider in-group loyalty and purity to be moral values, I'm pretty certain that many, if not most, run of the mill liberals do. For an extreme example see Horowitz, David.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:34 PM
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...


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:34 PM
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108: "This, boys and girls, is a dick-rabbit."


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:37 PM
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101: why does the emotional harm infocted on the parents count more than the emotional harm suffered by children in Calcutta knowing that there are all these American kids who would rather spend effort to upgrade their parent's diet from "healthy" to "locally farmed and organic" than to prevent poor Calcuttans from starving?


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:38 PM
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112: Because the second category of emotional harm doesn't actually exist; no one's (to a fairly good first approximation) feelings are hurt by the fact that someone on another continent who they've never met or individually heard of is taking care of their parents instead.

Balancing different harms against each other is a genuinely difficult problem, so I'm not going to have a good answer between "What's the right thing to do -- give all your money to providing clean water in third world countries, which will indubitably save lives, but neglect your parents who will suffer and be impoverished and be emotionally hurt by your neglect, even if they won't die from it?" But it seems clear to me that there is a special harm from neglecting a family member that comes from the emotional expectations; how adding that into the calculus makes the final answer of what's the right thing to do come out, I don't know, but it's a factor that's present in family relationships and absent from relationships where there's no personal contact.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:50 PM
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My question is: Does placing the genesis of these moral categories (dare I say grammar? someone (Mikhail?) makes the Chomsky analogy) within an evolutionary-psychological context make any difference to how moral philosophers (or society) attempt to universalize some set of principles?

It seems obvious that it matters a great deal to how liberals and conservatives may want to deal with one another, which may be all that Haidt was suggesting.


Posted by: babble | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 12:59 PM
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19: "Around here I do see a lot of Christians, and while they're fearful and small-minded, they aren't fucked up."
34: "I don't take any comfort in it, but around here I see talented, capable people whose lives are going well but whose political ideas are vicious and ignorant."

This could be controversial but I don't see any place for fearfulness and small-mindedness in the good life/living well. Perhaps I'm too miserly with what I would consider "flourishing", but "not being fucked up" isn't anywhere near living well -- especially when it's traded in for fear, ignorance, vicious politics, etc.

Sure, we can say that they *believe* that they have good lives -- or even further: subjective happiness, and all that -- but isn't it open to us (in fact, required of us?) to say that they are mistaken? (That is, again, if we don't see a life ridden with fearfulness and small-mindedness as good.) Certainly it's not illiberal to say that people's perceptions of their own happiness can be wrong (i.e. critique of the self-satisfied bourgeoisie, etc.).

22: What say you about a sort of first-order tolerance, second-order intolerance? (Which is nothing more than having real confidence in one's convictions of the importance of (a certain kind of) tolerance.) E.g.: "Gay marriage will not be disallowed *cock the shotty* or else!" hehe


Posted by: Currence | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:03 PM
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no one's (to a fairly good first approximation) feelings are hurt by the fact that someone on another continent who they've never met or individually heard of is taking care of their parents instead.

Really? I've seen some of these people first hand. Some of these people seem to have very real hurt feelings and anger to boot.

I suppose one could argue they don't deserve such feelings but I assure you those feelings exist.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:04 PM
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113: absent from relationships where there's no personal contact.

I think that is one of the problems we face with increased globalization. How can we keep the world's poor ignorant and how can we keep them from having emotional expectations.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:07 PM
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Bah, my syntax is sloppy. Sometimes asterikses emphasize and sometimes they introduce actions or noises.


Posted by: Currence | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:08 PM
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116: There's a difference between being angry because you're materially deprived while other people who have resources that they could share aren't sharing, and being hurt because a particular individual is focusing resources on someone else rather than on you. You're not really saying that someone deprived in Kenya feels emotionally neglected because I spent $50 on a birthday present for my mother rather than sending it to that person -- if that person didn't believe themselves to be absolutely in need of material assistance, they wouldn't have any reason to give a damn what I did with my money. My mother, on the other hand, would feel neglected without the present.

See what I said above about balancing harms -- I'm not even trying to. I'm just identifying a category of emotional harm that exists within a personal relationship and doesn't exist where there is no personal contact.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:13 PM
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119: without the present s/b without the present from me.

And honestly, Tripp -- referring to emotional neglect as something with moral import that isn't an issue where there is no personal contact really doesn't imply that that I'm plotting to starve the global poor.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:17 PM
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A person who neglects his family in order to care for others is, all things being equal, making a moral error.

It's unclear to me what "all other things being equal" means in this context. I read LB's response as being an attempt to actually make all other things equal - that is, to eliminate any incidental emotional harm and measure the good done for strangers against the (equal) harm being done the family.

So the question for baa is: If mom and pop sincerely say, "Go forth and do good, and don't mind us" is it inherently wrong to do so? That is to say, is baa really proposing some basis for judging these things other than the utilitarian basis?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:17 PM
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119:

Let's not mince words. These people are starving. Right now. These people know that there are people, many people, in America who are doing exactly what you say, giving each other presents while they starve.

You may claim that since they do not know you personally they do not feel emotionally neglected but I assure you, they would disagree with you on that one. You might claim that if they knew you personally they would feel even more harm, but I'm not so sure of that. If feels pretty bad when millions of people ignore you. One special person may not be as hurtful.

Make no mistake - even though they do not know you personally they know of you. Few people in America want to come near acknowledging that fact because then we might actually feel some guilt and we are much more comfortable with being ignorant.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:20 PM
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Way back upthread to LB, Haidt did not seem to me to arguing that we should give up on harm reduction/fairness as the way we measure policies, but pointing out that these other axes influence people's moral intuitions in a way that isn't reducible to the harm caused or the fairness of the result. That seems to be just like defining the problem. The problem isn't that conservatives don't see the fairness and harm reduction; it's that they think that matters less than other factors.

So I don't think the takeaway should be 'he sells out liberals because he understand conservatives', just pointing out that the problem is different than we thought. (You could use the results as an argument for liberal structures, really. Or better rhetoric.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:22 PM
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120: I wrote 119 before seeing 120.

I want to be sure I understand you. Are you saying that in the absence of personal contact one should not (or won't) feel emotional neglect?

I think this comes down to expectation. If you do not meet my expectations then I will feel emotional neglect. So it comes down to the argument of whether these people deserve to have any expectation on us.

They feel hurt. Is it justified?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:25 PM
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119: One thing to keep in mind: same dollar amount spent does not mean same amount of good achieved. It would be easy to spot you the emotional harm of not getting a present and point out that $50 does more good when put towards medical care, clean water, etc. than it does when put towards a birthday gift for an affluent woman. Then, if you want to say that you're still morally right to buy your mom a present, the problem's a lot harder to solve.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:34 PM
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122: Come the revolution, people who care for their families will be the first up against the wall.

123: My point wasn't that he was selling out liberals, but that he was doing exactly what liberals do: intellectualizing his own feelings of ingroup loyalty and purity as unimportant. The paradoxical bit was that appreciating that it was valid and reasonable for other people to base their feelings of right and wrong on loyalty and purity made him, personally, weight his own feelings less strongly. Feeling warmer and fuzzier about conservatives made him more liberal, not less so.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:34 PM
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124, 125: See what I said above about balancing harms -- I'm not even trying to. I'm just identifying a category of emotional harm that exists within a personal relationship and doesn't exist where there is no personal contact.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:36 PM
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128: I think cashing out is where most of the problems arise.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:39 PM
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Err, 128 to 127.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:40 PM
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126.2 - and the really annoying thing is that liberal in-group loyalty is better than many other types of in-group loyalty because liberals actually give a shit about people outside the group, which is good, which means the in-group is worthy of loyalty as evaluated by the harm-reduction and fairness metrics.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:41 PM
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Ah, ah, 79! You said 'this problem is easy to solve: there is an emotional harm that is not balanced.' I say 'that is true, there is a special harm due to the emotional relationship, but you are talking harm reduction, and must add up all the harms and compare, and lo, your mom will get over it, for it is a small harm compared to all the good you could be doing.'

Haidt's point (might) would be that if we're still inclined to think that it's morally acceptable to do the least-best (utilitarian-counting) thing, we might think that because we value things like loyalty or family in a way that doesn't reduce to the good that brings about.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:41 PM
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I understood your point, LB, even if no one else did. I hope that makes you feel better as you allow the poor children of the world to starve.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:42 PM
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127:

I think it comes down to who gets to say if an emotional harm exists.

If someone claims an emotional harm exists then who decides if that is the truth? Who is the arbiter?

You claim a special harm may come from a personal relationship but what if someone else claims the same harm outside a personal relationship? Who is right?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:44 PM
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It was probably inevitable, but I still blame Sifu. Haidt's original insight is most useful if it's taken as psychological or descriptive, but we're getting lost in the meta-ethical weeds.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:48 PM
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Who is right?

I am. I don't know what planet you're from, but here people have personal relationships that can cause emotional harm in a manner that's distinguishable from the emotions relating to material need. Feeling that one's children don't love one enough is a harm. Perhaps not one that's all that important when you put it in the grand moral balance scales, but one that's distinct from the feelings engendered by being in need and knowing that there are strangers who could help but won't.

Denying that this is the case seems simply insane to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:51 PM
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132:
LB,
I think I get what you are saying. Are you saying that in your own moral judgments, when trying to weigh all the good with the bad, you will give extra weight to possible hurts your Mother may feel, and also your Mother will probably feel more hurts because she has bigger expectations for what she expects from you?

Without analyzing this very deeply I share those feelings. I think maybe we are talking past each other a bit and I certainly don't want to put you down.

That is why I am trying to paraphrase what you are saying - to increase my understanding, not to argue with you.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:51 PM
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Feeling that one's children don't love one enough is a harm.

You're not helpless, LB -- there are ways of getting back at them. If you play your cards right, they'll regret their heartlessness to their dying day.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:55 PM
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I'd have a response to that, but I suddenly find myself with 1.8 billion birthday cards I need to write something thoughtful in before sending them out.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 1:55 PM
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LB,

I hope I am seeing your point.

I agree that neglect from the people closest to us is the most hurtful. After that neglect from our community, our government, and finally the global community adds to that feeling.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:03 PM
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138: I know, one person can't do it all. We all balance the needs we see, starting with the most personal.

It just struck a nerve because it seemed like you were saying remote people feel no emotional hurt from our neglect and I know that to be untrue.

It was pretty overwhelming to experience first hand. Not the neediness, I was ready for that, but the huge expectations I came across. Huge amounts of people do expect help from the US, mostly because they are not getting it anywhere else and they see us as their last hope.

The needs and the expectations were extremely hard to face.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:09 PM
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My only point is that J. Random Starving-person doesn't give a damn that I don't love them; their only interest in me is as someone with resources that could be, and in a just world would be, shared. My mother would give a damn, and be harmed by it, if she thought that I didn't love her.

This fact does not by itself justify spending all of my resources on my mother rather than on the global poor. But it is a reason (perhaps not a sufficient reason, but something at least on that side of the equation) to weight my distribution of the resources I control more heavily toward my own family than to the other 6.5 billion people in the world.

Baa started this out with "all things being equal"; if all things, in terms of material need, really were equal, the personal relationship would be a good reason for weighting my mother's welfare above those of strangers. Obviously, all things are not equal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:12 PM
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LB, I agree that it's moral to take care of your parents before starving children in Calcutta. I'm just surprised by the lengths you seem willing to go to deny the influence of how close someone is to you to your moral obligations to them. I'd have obligations to my hypothetical sociopathic brother even if he suffered no emotional harm when I ignored him.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:15 PM
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Hypothetical sociopaths are the absolute worst.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:18 PM
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Spell that out a little more, if you would?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:18 PM
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I'd have obligations to my hypothetical sociopathic brother even if he suffered no emotional harm when I ignored him.

Do you mean the obligation to suggest to the FBI that he might be the one sending out the letter bombs?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:18 PM
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144 to 142.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:19 PM
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142: A prof I had used to describe this as the problem of distance. Surely how far someone away is shouldn't make a difference to whether the harm they experience counts. Yet that's how people's intuitions tend to stack up: it's worse to take the $10 and go to the movies instead of giving it to the homeless person right in front of you, but most don't think it's wrong to go to the movies even though they know they could donate it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:22 PM
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141, 140

My only point is that J. Random Starving-person doesn't give a damn that I don't love them;

Depending on what you mean by 'love,' yes, they do care. They crave it. If the opposite of neglect is love then they very much feel the absence of love and they desperately want someone to love them.

It is not as simple as "all they want is my money." Their need is greater than that.

I guess people need to see it to believe it.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:25 PM
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I haven't read any comments, but from the original post:

he could now see them as people reasonably applying a socially valuable and meaningful set of moral standards; he was now more empathic with conservatives, and less supportive of alienated liberal reactions to conservatives.

strikes me as saying:

he used to have an ingroup/outgroup reaction towards conservatives (liberals = good, conservatives = crazy), but now that he realizes that ingroup/outgroup feelings are fundamentally moral, he sympathizes with the outgroup more, and thinks his ingroup is kinda stupid.

This seems like Exhibit 3,567 in "Why Liberals are Losers." I will now read the comments.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:26 PM
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In a way this takes us back to the question about universalism vs. group loyalty. Universalizing and rationalizing morality, as Kantians or some utilitarians or many political idealists do, carries you away from most of the moralities that ever have been toward soemthing much different.

The intuitive kinds of morality Haidt mentions (harm, fairness, purity, hierarchy/respect, loyalty) tend to be most easily perceived in concrete here-and-now situations involving particular people. Extending them to the whole six billion people on the face of the earth becomes something different than what is usually called morality -- a replacement of the given morality with something very different.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:26 PM
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LB, I think you going through contortions to avoid acknowledging in group loyalty as a moral value. You can say you harm the group emotionally when you are disloyal and so say you value harm reduction rather than loyalty but this seems artificial to me.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:27 PM
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I'd tend to think of that as a matter of knowledge and access -- you have the information and the capacity to help out your sociopathic brother, or someone in need right in front of you, in a way that you don't with someone on another continent (for whom you'd have to find a trusted intermediary who knows where and how the money needs to go, and so on.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:27 PM
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One person you know is equivalent to three people in your town, one hundred in your region, one thousand in your country and ten thousand somewhere else. YMMV.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:27 PM
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152 to 147


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:28 PM
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It is not as simple as "all they want is my money." Their need is greater than that.

I'll get cracking on those birthday cards.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:31 PM
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152:

It is also a matter of emotional survival. If a person felt a strong emotional bond to everyone in the world that person would be overwhelmed with all the world's misery. I think the matter of distance Cala mentioned is important for our survival as emotional beings.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:35 PM
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Remember, not only are you obligated equally to the starving person in Africa and to your mother, but you are equally obligated to every single starving person in the whole world, so your compassion will end up being divided something like a billion ways.

To me this kind of argument is totally unreal. If taken seriously it leads to saintly forms of asceticism which don't even necessarily help starving people much. (The craziness of some asceticism comes from an awareness of the impossibility of this kind of thinking).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:35 PM
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151: The point of the contortions is to state the principle that loyalty doesn't justify cruelty or injustice -- that, as irritating as Tripp's being, his general position that people to whom we have no bonds of group loyalty still have moral claims is right.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:36 PM
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After reading the comments --

I do think Haidt is a smart guy who's on to something very important scientifically speaking, but his attempts to position himself as someone who can give advice to other liberals and Democratic politicians fall flat.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:36 PM
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149, 160: Precisely. This is really interesting (from a lay perspective) psychology and moral philosophy -- it seems likely to lead to really laughably bad political advice, and Haidt seems to want to go there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:38 PM
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Let them read birthday cards!


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:39 PM
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152: That's one way the utilitarian might try to save it; talk of rules. So you might say, as a rule, what brings about the most happiness is not everyone helping all children everywhere equally, but people prioritizing their own children. We should follows the rules that bring about the best results. (Then one has to hope that rule-utilitarianism doesn't collapse into act-utilitarianism.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:39 PM
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I think that Haidt does help explain the futility of some of our communications with conservatives, which in the US I think comes mostly from their feelings about purity and group loyalty. (I don't think that hierarchy is much in play here, but in India or a traditionally aristocratic society it would be a big factor. Even most conservative Americans seem to believe in some kind of equality -- they actually drive common-man fake populism into the ground).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:40 PM
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164: It gets at what's underlying the futility of some of the communications, but I don't think provides any useful structure for getting past it. That is, I think Haidt, as a liberal, has found a good structure from allowing himself to love conservatives for what they are, without judging them for their differences from him. He hasn't made much progress toward encouraging conservatives to love him.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:43 PM
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159: Sadly we will soon have bigger problems than irritation from somebody on the internet nagging at our consciences.

We face many unpleasant truths to come. Much of this debate will no longer be academic.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:45 PM
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163: Yeah, I had some inchoate thoughts along those lines.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:45 PM
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We're reinventing the wheel again. This is the root of the dispute between Mo Tzu and the Confucians about 2400 years ago. And between Bentham and lots of other people.

Group-loyalty ethics (Confucian) opens the door to graft, favooritism, etc., and the exploitataion of out-groups by in-groups. On the other hand, universalistic arguments tend to be used to justify the power of central governing authorities who may or may not actually be maximizing universal welfare.

I really hate pseudo-rationalist arguments which oppose hypothetical rational calculi to conventional morality. You really have to have a real way of calculating good and bad which holds up under examination, before you can propose that the traditional ways be replaced. But too often it's "Suppose that we knew that X, which would require us to violate traditional morality but would bring good results; then anyone who supported traditional morality would be irrational; and you support traditional morality, so you're irrational, whereas I'm arguing rationally". But you really need X first.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:51 PM
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If you read something nutty like the WSJ op-ed and letters pages, you'll very easily see the importance of ingroup/outgroup feelings. Names carry an irrational amount of meaning (Pelosi, Reagan -- need they say more?) and you'll see lots of references to the decadent French, radical liberals who want to take away YOUR money, defeatist losers who don't believe in America, environmentalists who want to send you back to the Dark Ages, etc. All Haidt is saying is that this obviously effective rhetoric has a "moral" basis. Knowing this doesn't help you at all to counter it though. Saying stuff like liberals need to play the same game is pointless (because they do play the same game, if differently and more in accordance with their own principles ).


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 2:58 PM
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Haidt does speak to one point I've made a bunch of times. Liberals tend to bracket out emotional reactions, back off, and coolly analyze the situation. But in-group loyalty requires that you treat certain sorts of things angrily, as insults and aggressions. Flag burning is an example.

On the one hand, conservatives are able to manipulate liberals into looking weak and timid. (Dukakis's legalistic, technocratic response to the hypothetical rape of his wife is the example I always use.)

Beyond that, liberals often react in a feeble or wishy-washy way to conservative aggressions against liberals. This again makes liberals look weak ("How can Democrats protect American when they can't even protect themselves?": Bartcop) and also often makes the Democratic counterattack genuinely weaker than it should be.

To say nothing of the way Democrats "fairmindedly" undercut other Democrats and make concessions to Republicans.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 3:04 PM
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I think that Haidt does help explain the futility of some of our communications with conservatives, which in the US I think comes mostly from their feelings about purity and group loyalty.

Agreed. However, I think the liberal-conservative distinction may be a little bit misleading (probably he is careful to specify and qualify and etc in his published work) because it makes us think of Democrats and Republicans. Probably there are vastly more moral "conservatives" than moral "liberals" in the world, many of whom have nothing to do with American-style "conservatism," and wouldn't dream of supporting GOP policies and etc, some of whom might actually be more "liberal" than your average American Dem (on economic/social policy, eg).


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 3:05 PM
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170: I've often wondered what would have been Dukakis's best reaction to that set-up. Walking over and throwing the contents of his water glass in Bernard Shaw's face, perhaps?


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 3:19 PM
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172: I've wondered too. How does "I'd want to kill him with my bare hands, Bernie. But there's a reason we don't allow vigilante justice to be dished out by the families of victims." work?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 3:23 PM
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173. That's what I would have said. Acknowledge the passion, the desire for revenge, and point out how while it is quite a human reaction, is not what civilized people do.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 3:27 PM
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This is a great post! Thank you .

Honestly, The Political Party system needs to be disbanded

Lets focus on what is similar rather then creating more differences.


Posted by: BPO | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 3:28 PM
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"Why don't you try it and see where it gets you?"


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 3:28 PM
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BPO's site is fascinating.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 3:38 PM
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welcome back, Bass Playing Ogged. You've taken his surname?


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 3:41 PM
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I saw Dukakis in an interview some years later. I forget where. He said that, even in retrospect, he thought that was a pretty good answer.

Of course, I agree.

And if Emerson says that makes me a meek, timid liberal, I'll saw off his fucking head and plant posies in his neck-hole.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 4:01 PM
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As somebody who grew up in a very liberal area and then moved to a far less liberal area my response is this:

1) Stop pretending that "harm-reduction and fairness" have meaning independent of underlying moral values. Harm-reduction and fairness are process values, not content values. If you don't believe me, spend 5 minutes trying to define the harm you are reducing without using moral language.

2) Acknowledge that liberals have purity rules. If you don't believe me read any Guardian "Comment is Free" post on either a) global warming, b) GM food, c) organic anything, d) breast feeding, or e) Israel.

3) Sit back and accept life for what it is! I will aggressively promote the policies that maximizes what I value. I will demonize the out-group, however that is defined, for the purpose of group cohesion. If I fail my children will hold me in contempt, as they will have the values of the culture which overwhelmed my own.


Posted by: Adam | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 4:06 PM
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159

"The point of the contortions is to state the principle that loyalty doesn't justify cruelty or injustice -- that, as irritating as Tripp's being, his general position that people to whom we have no bonds of group loyalty still have moral claims is right."

How is it just that your mother gets a birthday card and some equally deserving mother doesn't? Maybe the state should send everybody a birthday card and private birthday cards should be forbidden.

And group loyalty doesn't imply that people outside the group don't have moral claims just that out group claims will be weighted less. And we have group bonds of loyalty to everyone through being members of the same species.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 4:07 PM
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I will demonize the out-group, however that is defined, for the purpose of group cohesion.

Racist


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 4:11 PM
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Fleur has the proper spirit of liberal hostility and aggression, and should serve as an inspiration to us all.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 4:11 PM
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Haidt's observations just lead me to believe that conservatives are shittier people, and I'm not too inclined to take shitty people's moral intuitions seriously.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 4:26 PM
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179:
The second part of your post was sane at least, though you've got it backward, but the beginning was loopy. You were just trolling, right? Dukakis should never have been nominated.

180: The "liberals have purity rules" argument is, as I've said, trivially true but weak. From Haidt's point of view, you can certainly say that some of these are examples of purity rules, but most liberals are not intense about GM foods, breast-feeding, or organic food. (Breast-feeders are a right/ left hippie/ Catholic/ patriarchal coalition, and a lot of organicists are reactionaries too.) Israel and global-warming are weighty, contentious issues that really don't belong in the purity category.

In this country purity is about queers, sluts, Negroes, and dope. Which side obsesses about these?

Stop pretending that "harm-reduction and fairness" have meaning independent of underlying moral values.

You really seem to have missed the point. These are the moral values according to which liberals analyze policy. Liberals value these more, and hierarchy, solidarity, and purity less.

I'm open to arguments that liberals tend to be more deferential to academic hierarchies than they should be, and more than Republicans are.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 4:33 PM
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185

"You really seem to have missed the point. These are the moral values according to which liberals analyze policy. Liberals value these more, and hierarchy, solidarity, and purity less."

Are these actually the values by which liberals analyze policy or just the means by which they prefer to rationalize their policy positions? IE LB's elaborate explanation for why it is ok for her to send her mother a birthday card.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 4:57 PM
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Fairness and harm are things liberals are concerned about and in favor of, whereas purity, hierarchy, and solidarity / loyalty are things liberals are less concerned about, indifferent to, or in some cases opposed to.

The question as to whether liberals are really, truly, sincerely, effectively concerned about fairness and harm is a different one. By and large I don't think that your suggestion that liberals are just rationalizing is just sniping, as per usual for you, and I am unbothered by LB's birthday card policy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 5:09 PM
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Sorry, Emerson.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 5:09 PM
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Nothing on your wall is safe, Sifu. You might mark the things that Blume hung on the wall, because she is innocent in this case and I'm rigorously fair.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 5:12 PM
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Editing mishap: By and large I ... think that your suggestion that liberals are just rationalizing is just sniping, as per usual for you


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 5:13 PM
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I'lll perversely suggest that #174 is in some sense an accurate response to Haidt...reductions of the political to the moral/ethical are attempted by people who neither like nor understand the political--and surely one implication of this work is a such a reduction?


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 5:53 PM
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186

"... and I am unbothered by LB's birthday card policy."

I am not bothered by her policy, I just doubt her explanation.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 6:21 PM
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I'm a little bemused by the idea that I need to justify sending a birthday card to my mother, unless there's some unstated axiom that everything not compulsory is forbidden. Mostly, if I'm sending a birthday card to my mother, I'm doing so because I want to -- I have a familial relationship with her which makes me want to engage in that sort of affectionate gesture. (Tripp's detour into "Shouldn't we all sell everything we have and give it to the poor" is a red herring in this conversation -- it's not only, or even primarily, 'duties' of loyalty to family that keeps people from doing that.)

The question is whether in group loyalty, in the absence of considerations of harm, should be thought of as a matter of right and wrong or simply as an expression of human emotions and desires. It seems to me that largely people are loyal to members of their ingroup because they want to be.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 6:40 PM
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Oh, I didn't understand that. Your birthday card policy is troubling indeed.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 6:43 PM
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(Embarrassingly, I'm lying about my birthday card policy. It seemed like a nice simple affectionate gesture to talk about, but in practice I think they're idiotic -- I don't think I've ever sent one. But the principle of the thing is the same.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 6:50 PM
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192

"The question is whether in group loyalty, in the absence of considerations of harm, should be thought of as a matter of right and wrong or simply as an expression of human emotions and desires. It seems to me that largely people are loyal to members of their ingroup because they want to be."

They are also loyal because people will think less of them if they aren't just as people think less of thieves and vandals. People conform to group notions of morality because it is dangerous not to.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 6:50 PM
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If you knew the right spammers, you could send one of these to everyone in Sudan with an e-mail address.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 6:53 PM
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Also generous people are really selfish because they enjoy being generous and like to be praised. And charitable people are really cruel because they like seeing people in need. And tolerant people only show the depth of their contempt for the people they tolerate.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 6:58 PM
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In the politics of birthday card sending, are home-made cards preferable, or must we engorge the coffers of Hallmark to demonstrate the proper financial sacrifice that would otherwise be sent to Sally Struthers? Do ecards count if the proposed recipient has no email address? My head hurts.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 6:58 PM
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192: It seems to me that largely people are loyal to members of their ingroup because they want to be.

I hate to say this. But it's a lot more complicated than that. If you take "in-group" to cover things like, say, being a woman, or being black, or being gay, or German, or, indeed, human, as well as things like being a member of a particular family ... then in-group loyalty can rather easily (I assume) be seen to be constructed. That is, feeling solidarity with fellow whites or blacks is quite heavily situated, constructed, contingent. Take your pick of adjectives. Which means that *if* you want to say that people are (more) loyal to, say, fellow blacks than to others, the set of desires that gets them there is likewise contingent.

But this is obvious. The point is that there's no clear division between in-group loyalty being a matter of right and wrong, and its being a matter of individual desires.

Forgive what I fear is a slightly impatient tone, but somehow this thread is working with a distinction between what's *morally* relevant and what's (merely?) emotionally relevant. I gather that's part of Haidt's thesis; and I should go read about that more closely, I guess.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 7:16 PM
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Last sentence of 200.1 is a bit garbled (lacks a clause), but good enough.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 7:21 PM
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200 gets it exactly right about 200.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 7:33 PM
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LB, you are not exploiting the one advantage of parenthood! You have your children make the birthday cards. The more inept, the cuter.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 7:38 PM
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201: Yes, well, whoever is doing this apparently did not get the memo that it wouldn't happen again.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 7:43 PM
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Wrong thing to say, Walt. Newt and Sally are super ept.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 7:45 PM
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You're right, I just fucked up. The cease-and-desist order writes itself.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 7:47 PM
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Throw yourself at her feet and beg for mercy, Walt. The mother tiger stereotype has been activated.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 7:49 PM
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-


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 8:36 PM
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That is, feeling solidarity with fellow whites or blacks is quite heavily situated, constructed, contingent.

Okay, riffing off the book on my desk, one difference between the 1st two values (fairness & harm-avoidance) and the last three (purity, heiarchy/respect, and loyalty), especially for those who adhere to the latter set, is that purity, respect, and loyalty are communal values. An individual does not decide what is pure or impure, profane or sacred...his community makes that decision.

Liberals, believing in subjectivity and individual agency, really don't even accept the concept that community values can be morally binding on individuals. Not just laws or rules, but norms and values that must be internalized.

So of course we can't communicate on any level with somone who accepts that the Pope or an Imam or the Works of Lenin can tell him what is right or wrong. But we also can't really establish any sort of coherent liberal community.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 8:41 PM
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If you take "in-group" to cover things like, say, being ... human, ... ... then in-group loyalty can rather easily (I assume) be seen to be constructed.

Right. The whole notion of personhood has been contested, etc. It has been expanding. First they came for the black folks, and called them people; then they came for the women, and called them people; then they came for children, and called them people; then they came for the gays, and called them people ... but since I am not people, I kept quiet. The whole notion of who is people isn't quite as clear cut as has (apparently) been assumed in this discussion.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 8:45 PM
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So a liberal consciously attempting to value 'purity', for example, more highly, while recognizing the arbitrariness of the particular standard they're respecting, can't really inhabit that aspect of morality in a meaningfully sincere way.

Is liberalism in essence the denial, or the attempt to negate, of contingency?

All of us male feminists think we can be objective, rational, and overcome our privileged status in order to judge fairness and harm reduction in issues concerning women, until we learn to STFU and listen. I think that's an illiberal move.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 8:55 PM
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208

"So of course we can't communicate on any level with somone who accepts that the Pope or an Imam or the Works of Lenin can tell him what is right or wrong. ..."

You can believe in communal values without believing in a Pope.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 8:57 PM
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Hm. I'll try here. Fairness, at least, is supposed to be a function of something like a Rawlsian original position: bracket all things individually identifying and structure a political system that privileges the needs and wants of a pure subject or agent. Okay, okay, we leave out troublesome parts in that .... Works well enough.

It's on that view that something like 208.2 (or 207.2 now, maybe) might make sense as a diagnosis: Liberals, believing in subjectivity and individual agency, really don't even accept the concept that community values can be morally binding on individuals.

There's been a great mess in this thread over use of the "moral." Liberals certainly can and do accept that community values have significant moral weight for individuals, and can tell them what's right and wrong; I suppose we might say that they don't think these should be morallly *binding*, if that trumps the values of fairness and harm-reduction.

But they still have significant moral weight, of course, which is why I haven't understood from the outset the post's characterization of Haidt:

Haidt's theory is that liberals only value harm-avoidance and fairness as moral values, while conservatives also value in-group loyalty, hierarchy, and purity (liberals have similar emotional reactions to conservatives on these axes, but don't given their reactions moral weight).

I'd be happier if, in this, "political" were substituted for "moral."


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:05 PM
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211:But you have to surrender some agency or sovereignty to really have communal values or a community.

I decided a long time ago that I really didn't have a position or moral stance on abortion. I had a community I would respect and be loyal to, and whatever they said was right, what I would commit myself to. It is essential to my identity as a feminist that women (a subset) tell me what to believe and defend about abortion.

Is such a surrender of conscience repulsive to the liberals? I don't see it as a surrender or escape or cop-out, I see it as a committment.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:08 PM
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Liberals certainly can and do accept that community values have significant moral weight for individuals, and can tell them what's right and wrong

I disagree very strongly with this. The primacy of individual conscience is the foundation of liberal democracy.

Obama had to leave his church; it was politically impossible for Obama to say:"If my pastor and community say X is true, then it's true."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:13 PM
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I don't see what you're doing with "conscience" here, Bob. Is it supposed to be necessarily individual and therefore not communally flavored?

I take it from the nature of the Obama example that something like abortion, which many people personally regard as wrong though we still call upon them to be politically tolerant of it, illustrates the notion of conscience you're working with: those people consciences speak against abortion, so the liberal state is asking them to deny their consciences?

This is a strained conception of conscience, I think. We have the phrase "in good conscience": I can't in good conscience declare abortion illegal, even if I believe it to be wrong.

Again there seems to be a mash-up between the political and the moral.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:26 PM
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[I'm not caught up on this thread]

All the moral psychology I have read has me convinced that I have a basically conservative psychological makeup that has been pressed into the service of liberal values.

To move away from Haidt: The ethics textbook I use distinguishes between guilt and shame, following research by the early 20th century anthropologist Ruth Benedict. Guilt, on this scheme, is far more closely linked to liberal values, if only because it is supposed to always be tied to harm to others.

But when I look at my own emotional makeup, I see myself mostly motivated by shame. (One clue: Shame is linked to the visual. It is about being seen by others. It is not from a voice of conscience.) I have the values of a liberal, but the psychology of a conservative.

I don't know where I'm heading with this. (Other than to bed, because I am becks style.) But I think it is an advantage of Haidt's theory that this sort of twist is easily understood. That is, you can see how, for instance, the purity module is put to use for a liberal value.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:32 PM
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Rob has written a slightly opaque comment, but then this entire thread is slightly opaque to me.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-21-08 9:50 PM
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I don't see that having empathy or understanding of another's moral values is in any way an acceptance or approval of those values.

It isn't. But if you cast your mind back to the public reaction to 9/11, you will remember that an awful lot of people didn't accept that. Those people were mainly in the group wrongly described as "conservative":

Reasonable human being: "We need to understand what makes people do something like this, so we can try and stop it happening again."
Frothing-at-the-mouth Bushie: "No they're evil, evil, EVIL! We don't have to understand them! You're objectively on their side, saying that!"

I'm inclined to think the tendency to deprecate empathy with your enemies is probably a very deep instinct for some people - how else are you going to kill them? But "liberals" tend to turn to empathetic explanations very easily. I wonder whether there is actually a basic psychological (physiological?) difference in empathetic capacity between the two groups.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:58 AM
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Liberals, believing in subjectivity and individual agency, really don't even accept the concept that community values can be morally binding on individuals.

My problem with Haidt and the whole thread here is that I keep stumbling over definitions, and find generalizations like this, or like Haidt's, unhelpful. Obviously, bob understands that, say, single-payer health care is a liberal goal - and a moral imperative, too. Conservative opposition to single-payer healthcare strikes me as a rejection of "community values."

But I get the feeling that bob almost certainly means something different by "liberal" and "community values" than I do. I just can't work it out.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:00 AM
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All the moral psychology I have read has me convinced that I have a basically conservative psychological makeup that has been pressed into the service of liberal values.

I sometimes feel like this too. I am more and more confused about what I am.

Mary Catherine was right to point out that liberal and conservative doesn't necessarily line up with Democrat and Republican. Even in the Northeast, a lot of traditional lunch bucket Democrats aren't all that liberal on social issues. I'm not even talking about blue dogs. Their loyalty can be to their union, and some of them don't care much about the economic well-being of those outside of it. (I'm thinking of a particular type of white working-class male unionized worker. They're not great on women's issues, they don't particularly care about poor people--not enough to sign a ballot initiative in support of health care reform anyway--and they're probably uncomfortable with black people. But they show up to Mass and probably give money when some kid has really high medical bills. These people would never vote for a Republican. Someone in their family is probably a cop or a firefighter, and the union has taken care of them, but they're not remotely liberal.)

I have a lot of strong conservative tendencies when it comes to architecture. I'm particularly fierce when it comes to historic preservation. And I'm sort of a rebellious authoritarian. I totally sympathize with Jesus's (McQueen, that is) anti-authoritarianism, but I also have a lot of respect for tradition and think that we should defer to it a lot more than we do. I hate people who throw out beautiful vestments, because taking care of them was a lot of work and besides the new iron-free ones are so much more comfortable. And while I don't want to be hide-bound, the thing that gets me on a visceral level about evangelical worship is how little respect it shows for tradition.

This is all totally garbled. Should I take the moral psychology quiz or will I just find it hopelessly crude?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:19 AM
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For some time public choice theorists have been proving to their satisfaction that no social choice can be fair to everyone. Even if some form of collective choice or rule is better on the average, and better for almost everyone, if it is harmful to any individual or group it is wrong. They've spent decades attacking government "takings", "transfer payments" , etc. and denying the possibility of general welfare. You see this with libertarians especially, who feel that if any government action benefits someone else more than it benefits me, it harms me since I'm in competition with everyone else. (These people do not analyze the market this way at all; the market, according to them, is a way of integrating free choices of individuals who use their property as they see fit; if some are better off and some worse, that's OK, because no one is deprived of their property so the system is just and fair, though not necessary equal or kind).

This is free-market liberalism, which is regarded as conservative. What we call liberals believe in public choice, state intervention and transfer payments and are not averse to "takings", but they still argue in liberal, individualist terms and thus are not too effective in arguing against public choice conservatives.

The situation is messy because a lot of liberals are more like Social Democrats, and still believe in some sort of community, with an obligation of the better-off to support the worse-off. Social Democrats are vulnerable to the "takings" argument too, though, if their better-off citizens say "I don't feel any community with those people and feel no obligation to support or help them. Anyone who wants to give charity voluntarily should do so freely".

An example of a non-individual community standard is the zoning law of many European towns. There are quite strict standards as to what can be built, what color ir can be, what style it can be, etc., which defines the community and preserves its lifestyle. There are always within the community individuals who don't care about the lifestyle or who are harmed by the restrictions, and to the extent that these issues are important to them, they just lose.

Some of the prolems of liberalism in argument with libertarianism comes from the difficulties involved in arguing a somewhat communitarian point of view within a basically individualistic logic and political philosophy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:26 AM
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220: ...the thing that gets me on a visceral level about evangelical worship is how little respect it shows for tradition.

I totally agree, which is stupid because I'm an atheist. I can tap into a sense of the sacred at Catholic mass, Anglican and Orthodox services, rituals from Hinduism, Sikhism, and many more. Evangelical services just leave me feeling weirded out.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:54 AM
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220, 222: Funny. I haven't darkened a church door in many years, but I have more or less the opposite reaction. When I've gone to Orthodox or Catholic services, it has struck me as all form and no content, which seems really lazy and pointless.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:07 AM
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I think there's some confusion (which I share -- I'm not sure I'm getting it either) about what a high or low regard for the ingroup/loyalty moral axis means (and I've been oversimplifying all along, of course. I put some weight on that axis, liberals generally do, just less than people with a more conservative orientation (using 'liberal' and 'conservative' as Haidt does)).

It seems to me that the essence of having an ingroup is having an outgroup that's excluded from it -- someone who puts a lot of weight on that axis is committed to a belief that it's right that some people should be treated differently, and better, than others. An ingroup consisting of all of humanity (or even of the entire population of a nation) isn't an ingroup -- broadening your definition of ingroup that far means abandoning any sense of the importance of ingroup loyalty.

So while you can talk about ingroup loyalty as a community value, it's one that's in tension with political actions to provide broad social benefits impartially to all -- to someone with a strong sense that their group is different and more deserving than others, universal health care, for example, is a problem because it involves handing out free stuff to outsiders who don't deserve it. It's the Reagan 'Cadillac-driving-welfare-queen' argument.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:10 AM
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But I get the feeling that bob almost certainly means something different by "liberal" and "community values" than I do. I just can't work it out.

I usually use "liberal" in the sense of "classical liberalism". Wikipedia has a fairly good article. have

Communities should be differentiated from associations. Communities are contingent, associations are optional.

Who gets to decide if a particular woman has to wear a burqa? Liberals have two answers:1) The woman, according to the 1st Amendment rights of association & religion, 2) by majority rule of the community, understood as a free association of individuals, which reduces to 1.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:16 AM
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An ingroup consisting of all of humanity (or even of the entire population of a nation) isn't an ingroup

But I think Liberalism is incoherent without universalism. Freedom of Religion for Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Jews, Muslims, Catholics but not Episcopalians would be...unsane.

And we consider the previous communitarian Liberalisms, those that for instance denied the franchise to women and blacks, to be incoherent and inconsistent.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:27 AM
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that their group is different and more deserving than others, universal health care

I wonder whether part of the confusion is about what you mean by "deserving." Your kids are more deserving of your love than some kid on the street that we pick at random. That doesn't saying anything about whether your kids are somehow better or more moral than the random kid. It says something about the nature of your relationship to your kids.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:30 AM
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all form and no content

More absolutist than I intended. I meant the triumph of form over content.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:32 AM
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223: Lazily and badly done, it can indeed fall into that trap. I'm not even really thinking of baptists, though I would never be totally comfortable becoming one, because I do really respect common liturgies. (Even if your individual priest sucks, the people together can perform work, and it ties you to the past and to other people in the world using the same forms.) I'm thinking more about the style of worship found in some of the newer non-denominational churches. I know that God loves them just as much as God loves other people, and that they are praising God, but I hate the bouncing ball/ power point style of it. Last Sunday I saw an ad for a Time-Life CD or DVD of all-time great Christian songs, the only one of which I recognized was "My God is an Awesome God." The guitar was terrible, and the buildings were all ugly. But for me, it very much comes down to the idea of the sacred. I'm not really comfortable talking about this in terms of purity, because Jesus was really big on getting people to stop worrying about whether they were clean and pure, btu I really do want to shout when it seems like people are trashign what is good and beautiful.

I don't feel this way about the flag, but I do feel that way when they leave the ugly 70's department store up downtown and threaten to tear down the one from the 30's. My attachment to centuries-old churches is more powerful than my attachment to a particular flag. Now, if somebody wanted to burn a copy of the cartoon of the Boston massacre or a particular flag carried by a particular regiment during the civil war, I might get really upset.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:33 AM
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224: I wonder if the appropriate response here, politically, is more a matter of letting voices be heard rather than endorsing the in-group view. Sifu made fun of the rationality point, and he's right to if we take the view that 'I come to this position by reason', but there's a difference between saying 'that in-group intuition is just ABSURD' and 'it's valid, but ultimately overruled.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:35 AM
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When I've gone to Orthodox or Catholic services, it has struck me as all form and no content, which seems really lazy and pointless.

Now I'm a little curious what counts as "content" in your mind. We sing. We hear sermons. We pray. And we turn some goddam crackers and wine into the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ. What more do you want?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:37 AM
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the style of worship found in some of the newer non-denominational churches

Well, yeah, they seem weird to me too. Like a pop psych self-help book turned into an hour-long program.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:37 AM
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But I think Liberalism is incoherent without universalism.

Right -- that's exactly what it means to say that liberals put a low value on in group loyalty.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:37 AM
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128: Too late. You've outed yourself, Catholic hater!

The first (and I think only) Catholic service I ever attended paid insufficient attention to form. I believe--but it seems so wrong that I'm sure I must be misremembering--that part of the service included a guy with guitar singing from the sanctuary, and inviting us to sing with him.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:38 AM
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What more do you want?

Cash handouts and belly dancers.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:38 AM
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You know, like in real Christian churches.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:39 AM
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235: wait, do the Baptists have those now?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:40 AM
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228: I know what you mean, because I have nearly the same response in the opposite direction (err) w.r.t evangelical churches, viz., we are in a basketball gym fouling up scripture with bad interpretations.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:40 AM
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More seriously, I think I've only been to Catholic mass once, about twenty years ago. Other than that, I've only been to Catholic churches for weddings. My first set of in-laws, though, were Greek Orthodox, so I went to several of those but again, only at one specific church.

So it's possible I've not had a very representative sample.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:42 AM
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wait, do the Baptists have those now?

If they do, I'm signing back up.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:44 AM
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The majority of my friends who have married while I've known them are Catholic; come to think of it, I think I've only been to one non-Catholic wedding. But a majority of my friends are not Catholic, so it always cracks me up when they ask, slightly fearfully, what a Catholic wedding is like because they have to go to one and they've heard it goes on for hours.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:46 AM
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230: Something like that; appeals to the ingroup emotions in the service of universal goals ("We're all brothers") have been politically effective in the past, and if they're well done might be effective now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:47 AM
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I went to a Catholic service with some friends about 7 years ago only to have the Priest spend about 10 minutes encouraging his parishioners to protest at my dad's clinic.

My friends felt bad. I thought it was kind of funny.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:48 AM
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218: Empathy is hard work.

Actually I do think that hierarchy, purity and in-group loyalty all help greatly with information processing and decision making efficiency (avoiding the need to assess the "goodness" of the birthday card sending decision against all possible alternative actions at that moment, for an extreme instance). I do not mean to go all ev psych on that, it could be all just social construction from the development of early groups and societies. Its origin doesn't matter, but it certainly has served that role. Of course they are also a handy mechanism that can be exploited for the perpetuation of privileges, discrimination, status etc. within a group or society. I think one characterization of the traditionalist/liberal conflict is a disagreement on whether the or not the "good parts" of these tropes outweigh the bad, and of course those who are currently exploiting and winning under the traditionalist system have a very deep and immediate vested interest in its continuation. The interest in moving beyond them is much more theoretical and diffuse.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:49 AM
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When Baptist services are good, they are good because they are about this community of people right here. They pray openly about people in their own church and their friends, and individual members of the church will get up to give testimony or lead the singing or whatever. They sometimes have services where nothing happens except you sing the hymns that the congregation suggests, one by one. And church isn't just about Sunday mornings; there are Wednesday night dinners, Sunday night business meetings (because it is everyone's donations invested, everyone gets a vote on the board), Vacation Bible School, revivals, prayer meetings, social groups, etc.

If Baptists have a tendency to be in-groupy, it's because they spend most of their week involved in an in-group that wants everyone in the whole world to join, except that the thing they like about their in-group is that it's cozy. They're caught in a bit of a bind, there, and I think that's reflected in their political tendencies, too.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:50 AM
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I played in a brass quintet for a few years and attended a fair number of Churches, playing at services.

Since this is the upper midwest the churches were either Catholic or one of various Protestant denominations.

From my perspective in the balcony the Catholic church services did have more rituals, but I don't think it is fair to say they lacked content. In many ways the rituals are the content, and it seems like they are the one thing many estranged Catholics miss the most.

Rituals appeal to our reptilian brain, the oldest part of the brain. Depending on your values rituals are either fundamental, primitive, at our deepest levels, or down in our id. Whatever the popular term is nowadays, rituals definitely bypass our cognitive functions.

I figured different strokes for different folks.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:50 AM
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they've heard it goes on for hours

Lord knows, the Orthodox ones can. My ex was insistent that we not get married in the Greek church, largely because of the length but also because she didn't like the whole "handmaiden" language that went along with it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:51 AM
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If they do, I'm signing back up.

Do remember that you won't be allowed to spend the cash handouts on booze or cigarettes, and even so much as a stray eye towards the belly dancers with bring stern reproach from the preacher.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:51 AM
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Also, the last wedding I attended (with a long-term live-together gf), the priest praised the bride and groom for getting married and then spent 10 minutes trashing those horrible couples who live together.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:53 AM
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JP,

You know, ev psych gets a bad rap, maybe (probably?) deservedly so, but it does explain many behaviors and it does provide some testable hypothesis.

I do not put it in the same category as superstition or voodoo or simple rationalization.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:56 AM
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And one of the reasons I've really enjoyed going to Episcopalian and Catholic services since leaving the Baptist church is I began to realize, while still quite young, that a church that values the movement of the Holy Spirit as its content (in the form of "being led" to speak or choose a particular hymn) will be hypnotic. One gets caught up in the mass emotionalism of all these people being led by the Spirit. In Episcopalian services, I've felt that the ritual really allowed me to be in myself, at peace. Services aren't social in the same way, and so release you from a certain amount of pressure.

I have a new neighbor who's also ex-Baptist, and she asked, gigglingly, if I wanted to go to the Baptist church down the street with her sometime. I was like, girl, I'll go to any damn church in this neighborhood except the Baptist one. Too intense.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:56 AM
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I spent my formative years in a gymnasium-church, the services at which were 3 hours long (minimum--often they ran over), and were Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights. That's about 10 hours a week. And those motherfuckers were participatory.

The one-hour Catholic mass seems like a breeze.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:57 AM
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The last wedding I attended was mine, and the presiding priest since then has been removed from his pastoral duties following the accusation that he groped a woman in the parish. According to my sister, the accusation turned out to be unsubstantiated, but he cried, left quickly one his tenure as pastor ended*, and the bishop came in for a healing mass.

*I think they killed it by pocket veto, tbh. His tenure was up in a few months, so I think they just let that settle it rather than removing him formally one month early.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:58 AM
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you won't be allowed to spend the cash handouts on booze or cigarettes

Wow, you really *weren't* raised Baptist, were you?

Funny story. My strictly tee-totaling, Alabama Southern Baptist grandparents were going to a some store or other, but as they drove up to it, the building was empty and the parking lot was closed off. So my grandfather pulled into the next lot to go see if it had moved. The next lot happened to be the liquor store, and he left my grandmother sitting in the car in front of it while he went to read the sign on the door.

You'd have to know my grandmother to appreciate the full hilarity of this situation, I suppose, but by this point in the story, I was already starting to laugh. When he got back, she asked in a horrified voice, "Bob, what if somebody from Sunday School had seen me here?"

He grinned, patted her on the leg, and answered, "Oh honey, they would just assume you were looking for sinners."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:58 AM
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A thought I had on the 'self-defeating" aspect of some of Haidt's discussion of his otherwise useful theory, is how does he think an "academic who has a theory that helps articulate differences in liberal and 'conservative' thinking" is really viewed by the hierarchical in-group loyalty crowd?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:59 AM
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249:

At my cousin's funeral the 'born-again' preacher lamented his 'use-drugs die-young' lifestyle for about two minutes and then used the rest of the time to proselytize proselytize proselytize and that really pissed me off.

My cousin's druggie friends spoke very well of him, talking about how generous and kind and non-mean he was and then this dried up pinch-faced preacher got up there and started a God damned sale's pitch, using his death to try to sell his goods.

I was really pissed about that. I still am.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:01 AM
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254: That is so the kind of story a visiting preacher uses to warm up the crowd.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:02 AM
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I've been to three Catholic weddings in the past two-and-a-half years, but now all of Roberta's six siblings are safely married off, so it's likely to be a while until the next one.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:02 AM
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257: I'm available to preach at your churches, folks. Call me.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:04 AM
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256: geez, that's bad. Who chose him to preside at the funeral?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:04 AM
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250: Yes, Tripp, and I am probably more prone to accept some of that than many (most) others on this site. Since my general point was mostly independent* of whether there was some evolved psychological/biological basis for these ways of looking at the world, or they were just handy and useful ways to organize successful groups in the the way olden days, I was just trying to take that off the table.

*However, it is probably relevant to a discussion of prescriptions on how to mitigate or compensate or overcome them.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:04 AM
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259: will you bring cash handouts and belly dancers?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:05 AM
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259: OMG. You would be an awesome visiting preacher. It would be an easy gig to get, too.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:06 AM
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He grinned, patted her on the leg, and answered, "Oh honey, they would just assume you were looking for sinners."

Oh yeah - small town's and 'what will the neighbors think?'

I remember when I was fresh out of college and visiting my Grandma in MN. She asked *me* to go to the liquor store to pick up some Peppermint Schnapps for her! With my youth and out of state plates no one would know me.

The idea that my Gran needed me to make a booze run for her seemed so funny, but I did it. When I came back she asked how it went and I said the guy was really nice. I said he asked about my Illinois plates and I said I was buying the liquor for my Grandma L*nn in town.

She about died and it took awhile to convince her I made that part up.

Good times. She was a real sweety.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:08 AM
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will you bring cash handouts and belly dancers?

I'm reformed Baptist, so instead I just make my belly stick out and dance for cash. Some people think that's stomping all over tradition, but you know how some people are.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:09 AM
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260: Who chose him to preside at the funeral?

His born-again older sister. Their parents were dead by then. Hid sister had had drug problems of her own and overcame them by substituting Jesus for drugs.

I mentioned in another thread how the sister's kids, raised 'right,' still went on to drug problems and only a couple have been 'born again' but they sure pray for the others.

Sheesh. I suppose their version of "Jaysus" is better than drugs but it sure doesn't work for raising kids who may have a genetic disposition towards chemical abuse.

The cycle simply continues.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:13 AM
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AWB - I'd include many Baptists in the traditionalist group, but they are a boundary case. I was raised sorta-kinda Baptist, but it wasn't the kind of thing with the goddamn electric guitars and the like.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:14 AM
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Oh, God, the ongoing electric guitar debate. For a while, we had a music leader who played along on an acoustic guitar, but I think people thought that was pretty hippie. And long ago, there was a sort of Christian-country combo at church with steel guitars and stuff. They were great, but the church split (due to growth) about 12 years ago and the "moderner" half left.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:18 AM
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267: goddamn electric guitars

You remind me of when our Methodist church decided to reach out to the youth and start a Wednesday youth service that was going to be 'with it' and 'hip.'

We had the lamest 'rock' band you can imagine with volunteers from the church and electric guitars, a drum set, and even a banjo player!

Oh man, even a lily-white out of it old guy like me knew this was so watered down and lame it would have made a great Saturday Night live sketch.

They made the confirmation class attend but as far as I know nobody else under thirty ever came to the service.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:21 AM
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The Baptist church I grew up in was closer to Methodist or Presbyterian than it was to other Baptist churches (and, indeed, left the Southern Baptist Convention before they got expelled for being insufficiently unwelcoming to homosexuals). Very hands-in-the-lap mainline. When I was, oh, 14 or so, they had a Christian interpretive dance troupe come in and do their take on the creation story. Very hippie, and led by a portly fellow whose belly kept popping out between his tee-shirt and yoga-style pants when he'd reach heavenward. Which was constantly.

People were polite, of course, but it wasn't really received well. The whole thing was a little out there for our very staid congregation but, I think, the cool reception was probably more due to this round hairy guy's belly that kept flashing them throughout the performance. I guess what with it being the creation story and all, Adam having a belly button kept wrecking the realism of it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:30 AM
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Electric or not, guitars have no place in a Christian church. It's no cooincidence they have six strings.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:32 AM
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269: We had a game night for the 20's and 30's and another one for the college-25 year olds which involved playing guitar hero. That was fun and pretty well attended. The priest told me that at the college age one the girl from Emerson (where I think you can do a digital recording major) totally kicked his ass. (phrasing his).


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:32 AM
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271: So five-string banjos are okay, then? Banjo hymns would kick ass.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:37 AM
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I should google before I comment.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:38 AM
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This one is actually pretty cool.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:43 AM
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He grinned, patted her on the leg, and answered, "Oh honey, they would just assume you were looking for sinners."

We like your punchline, Apo, but please attach a better joke.

I met a woman awhile back who absolutely refused ever to listen to classical music because her mother had been a church organist and she hated it. When I was young Lutherans used classical music by Bach and others (Bach's chorales are still used to teach harmony in music schools) but they've popped it up in the last 40 years.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:48 AM
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Banjo hymns would kick ass.

In theory, yes. In practice though, when the banjo player is a really really nice retired guy who has just started learning the banjo, well, not so much.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:54 AM
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please attach a better joke

That's about as wild and crazy as my grandparents get, I'm afraid.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:56 AM
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LB at 224: It seems to me that the essence of having an ingroup is having an outgroup that's excluded from it -- someone who puts a lot of weight on that axis is committed to a belief that it's right that some people should be treated differently, and better, than others. An ingroup consisting of all of humanity (or even of the entire population of a nation) isn't an ingroup -- broadening your definition of ingroup that far means abandoning any sense of the importance of ingroup loyalty.

Ah. Thanks for this clarification of what Haidt (or you) mean by an in-group. It's not the way I'd generalize the larger issue with respect to liberal theory; there, national identity does indeed exclude those outside the nation, and does raise problems (cf. immigration, foreign policy). The group of humans, of course, excludes the non-human (cf. animal rights, environmentalism).

So, no, broadening your definition of an in-group that far doesn't really abandon any sense of the importance, or relevance, of the question of loyalty.

It's occurred to me that one might fruitfully view the fairness and harm-reduction goals of political liberalism as second-order values we'd like to inculcate in our fellow citizens, such that any first-order values or desires (some of which may appear along those allegedly conservative moral axes; I just mean private moral convictions, for heaven's sake) that are contrary to these liberal goals are subject to scutiny, at the very least.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:57 AM
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|| Hey, you know what? Y'all should update your Kevin Drum link.
|>

I met a woman awhile back who absolutely refused ever to listen to classical music because her mother had been a church organist and she hated it.

Growing up my Mom played Country & Western music on her electric guitar around the house and I really learned to hate that. I can still recite the words to "That fat Gal of Mine" and "Shoveling Coal" but the experience was not worth it.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:58 AM
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There is, in fact, a difficulty with national liberalism, which shows up a lot in globalization arguments. Krugman and DeLong are almost, but not quite neutral between American labor and Chinese labor. From a universalist point they should be, but as I keep telling DeLong, that doesn't work in national politics.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:08 AM
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281: Yes, no doubt nation-states are but a waystation on the road from extended family groups. The traditionalist/conservatives are right to worry, but of course it ain't gonna come via some freaking UN mandate of course.

Some day we will all be united by our love of McArugula Salads. Can't say it publicly yet, however.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:40 AM
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219

"... Conservative opposition to single-payer healthcare strikes me as a rejection of "community values.""

Single-payer health care may be a communitarian value but it is not necessarily a community value. Community values are those held by a majority of the community and can be anti-communitarian. IE everybody is responsible for their own health care and if they can't afford the best, tough.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:45 AM
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224

"... An ingroup consisting of all of humanity (or even of the entire population of a nation) isn't an ingroup -- broadening your definition of ingroup that far means abandoning any sense of the importance of ingroup loyalty."

I think this is just wrong, nationalism and patriotism are expressions of ingroup loyalty. And incidentally ones that cause liberals a lot of trouble politically. Most people expect the President of the United States to favor Americans over foreigners, liberals have a problem with this.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:51 AM
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This is an old, old, tired, tired, argument, but American free-market conservatives are market-worshipping liberals. They often claim to be more liberal than welfare liberals, who believe that he market is imperfect and its harsh effects should be reduced by government action. American welfare liberalism is a sort of halfway house between traditional communitarianism (which restricts the economy and minimizes market effects, but also restricts individual freedom) and pure capitalism. Often welfare liberalism and democratic socialism posit a national community and justify market interference in terms of that.

There are always some American conservitives vaguely becoming aware of the negative consequences of market liberalism, for example Douthat or Dreher, but they almost always fall in line in the end.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:54 AM
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I'm "in" with the vertebrates.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:57 AM
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John, I know you hate metaethics, but really it's what I'm all about. In other words, applied ethics (or political theory) is extraordinarily important, and must wind up acknowledging that liberal democracy is an ongoing experiment and adjustment, so that we will always be adjudicating between competing claims (American vs. Chinese labor) and making good-enough decisions thereon, and there is no such thing as a non-insane universalist point of view for *any* political system; but from a meta perspective, we can and should still talk about the ways in which liberal theory is asking people to change their existing narratives regarding self-government. And whether that's a viable project.

In other words (to bring it back around)! Part of the battle between current liberals and conservatives in this country is between narratives of second-order political values and first-order moral ones.* In The Old Days, people generalized from the private to the public: Just as I take care of my family, my neighborhood, my town (in-groups, these) ... so I take care of my country. The liberal narrative attempts a divide between the private and the public.

This is one reason we see Democrats attempting to resist campaigning in personal terms and Republicans embracing it. The electorate still has a terrible soft spot for the personal, the Old Ways, the guy you'd like to have a beer with.

* This glosses the fact that what I'm calling second-order political values can and do become, and are for some already, moral values.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:58 AM
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liberals have a problem with this.

Yeah, the liberals who live in your head.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:59 AM
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287 to 281 initially.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 10:59 AM
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286: World's oddest vertebrate


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:01 AM
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285 makes it clear to me that I'm not using "liberal" in the same sense John is. You'd think I'd have noticed that before.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:06 AM
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My problem with metaethicists is that they seem to think that by clarifying all possible issues in a formal, content-free way you will make it possible to deal better with the contentful here and now issues, whereas my perception is that you end up with an endless metaethical argument which doesn't answer the questions on the table.

Slightly related, I just read Inwagen's "Problem of Evil" and he said approximately that. His game seems to be o disprove all refutations of Christianity, rather on the Chesterton-C.S. Lewis line. I was not able to see that his analytic philosophy helped much.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:09 AM
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Hey that comment with no name that got deleted was actually by me, not by the ToS. But it wasn't important.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:09 AM
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288

"Yeah, the liberals who live in your head."

Ok liberals are perceived to have a problem with this, a perception they seem to have trouble refuting.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:10 AM
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290: World's oddest vertebrate

I'm "in" with the vast majority of vertebrates.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:12 AM
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The Caecilidae are too much for most people, JP.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:13 AM
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295: Mammals, man, mammals. Identifying with all vertebrates encompasses far too much nasty weirdness, like freaky-ass lizards and those fish that swim down the end of your penis.

Mammals are where it's at. Warm, fluffy, nipple-having mammals.


Posted by: Pernicious Q. Varmint | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:23 AM
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those fish that swim down the end of your penis

Synchronicity!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:27 AM
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292: My problem with metaethicists is that they seem to think that by clarifying all possible issues in a formal, content-free way you will make it possible to deal better with the contentful here and now issues

Oh, but no. They don't all think that. There's a lot of metaethical discussion (and political theory, dude) that incorporates the fact that it's not possible to clarify all possible issues that will arise in the here and now. That's what procedural liberalism is *about*.

Metaethics provides frameworks for discussion. Provides terms. I don't see how anyone could knock the value in that. You're being silly.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:28 AM
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parsi: Since I'm easily led, I've completely accepted John's critique of meta-ethics. I'm curious what you see as the positive value in it. Not in hand-wavy terms, but specifically, what does it clarify?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:35 AM
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298. They do synchronised swimming down your penis?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:35 AM
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"parsimon" is a name I like, because I can't parse (HA!) it. Is it short for "parsimonious"? Is it an alternate spelling of "persimmon"? Does it refer to a Jamaican zoroastrian?

And most important of all, I don't know how it's pronounced, making it more noticeable/memorable.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:46 AM
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Candiru. William Burroughs wrote about the candiru, as one might expect, but Henri Michaux had priority in his book "Ecuador".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:47 AM
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I've just never seen anything very helpful or useful. I keep reading books people recommend to me, but I never get to the good part. I was actually quite happy with Putnam's two books on "thick" concepts, etc., until I realized that he was merely proposing that we start undoing the damage done by 70 years of analytic philosophy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:50 AM
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One Unfoggetarian thinks i's "Par Simon".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:51 AM
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Yves calls for radical rethinking of the role of the central bankers.
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:58 AM
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300: Walt, I really don't know how to answer that without seeming hand-wavy. As I said, it provides terms for discussion without which we'd arguably be left pounding on the table. We can talk about deontology vs. utilitarianism, we can talk about the right vs. the good, about right acts vs. the pursuit of virtue (and the relationship between those); we can talk about variants on perfectionism in pursuit of the good life, the tension between that and liberal values, and whether that tension can be resolved. We can talk about the fact/value distinction, whether values are true in virtue of facts in the world independent of us, or whether and how we can comfortably accommodate something that seems like moral relativism, and whether the latter task is incumbent upon us in light of this our increasingly globalized world. No?

Fatman: it's short for "parsimonious." I can tell you how it's pronounced, but are you sure you wouldn't rather leave it open?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:03 PM
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Single-payer health care may be a communitarian value but it is not necessarily a community value.

See, this is what I mean about the trouble defining terms. As best as I can reckon, you use the word communitarian to mean "community value proposed by a leftist."

Community values are those held by a majority of the community and can be anti-communitarian.

Yep - looks like I had your definition right. My only point is that left-leaning views must be described as "community values" in the context of this conversation.

IE everybody is responsible for their own health care and if they can't afford the best, tough.

To be clear, I agree that this is also a potential expression of a community value. A community in which everyone fends for his or her self on healthcare is either a community with values consistent with that approach, or a community whose values don't address that matter.

But a community in which people cooperate to provide healthcare probably has a positive value system that requires such cooperation.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:10 PM
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304: I don't know what you've read. I've been rereading Rorty recently (Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity). My old marginalia is great!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:11 PM
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My old marginalia is great!

Is that what you call it?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:18 PM
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liberals are perceived to have a problem with [the US government favoring Americans over foreigners] ... a perception they seem to have trouble refuting

Could you possibly be more vague, James? Presumably, you think Jews have trouble refuting the perception they control international finance, too?


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:20 PM
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311: I think Shearer's pretty clearly right about this. Liberals, or at least Democrats, are uncomfortable with all but the most anodyne appeals to nationalism, etc. Even Emerson, who is as close to a pitchfork Dem as you're likely to find in the blogosphere, doesn't believe that liberals/Dems can make a nationalist appeal work. That, it seems to me, is symptomatic of the sort of problem that underlies the matter to which Shearer is pointing.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:26 PM
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I'd say that a community without any communitarianism would not be a commuity, bu just a bunch of individuals. That was the problem I had with the various alternative communities I encountered, that when push came o shove too many members were purely individuals with no committment (free riders).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:27 PM
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Is that what you call it?

That's what it looks like.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:28 PM
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306: TLL, I can't claim to have read every word, but the coherent parts look stupid. What strikes you as interesting about that essay?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:29 PM
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312: this is why if you want people to talk about American jobs going overseas, you need to look for Republicans.

Huh?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:35 PM
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315. Two things-
1. I thought the essay on how an entire generation of scientists has to die out before any change in conventional thinking can take root was interesting, esp as it relates to

2. Admission on the part of some in finance that the "old way of thinking" doesn't work. Finance will not right itself by patience. The Fed has become a muddle of mission creep and wishful thinking. Unfortunately, we can't wait for these guys to die off, because the economy is about to get a lot worse.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:35 PM
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Jeez, the coherent parts are boilerplate. Like in postcolonial theory, it's the incoherent parts that are groundbreaking.

Unrelated, this photo has definitely been doctored.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:36 PM
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Further to 316: this is like arguing that the Republicans' class warfare rhetoric means they don't believe in ingroup/outgroup dynamics. "Don't we all want to be rich?"


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:39 PM
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316: That strikes me as an economic or class argument: one set of Americans (the fat cats/the rich/whatever) hurting another set of Americans (normal people/the working class/whatever) by sending jobs to foreigners to line their own pockets. It's not, "Can we really consider these people Americans if they do X?" Or so it seems to me.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:41 PM
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Nationalism in this country is closely allied with militarism and white supremacism domination, and it's there that Dems are perceived as insufficiently unpatriotic.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:44 PM
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Nationalism everywhere is allied with militarism and (majority race) domination.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:46 PM
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307: But the reason why you'd want to talk about all that is because it someone illuminates specific issues, right? So how does it? (Though the things you talk about do seem reasonably important questions, but they seem far away from meta-ethics as practiced by the meta-ethicists that John describes. The fact that meta-ethics is sometimes useful to the generally educated person is a long way from showing that the day-to-day activities of philosophy professors is at all useful.)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:47 PM
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It's true that the Republicans seem to have been much more successful than the Democrats as portraying their opponents as "The Other."

On the other hand, a few years after people were talking about a permanent Republican majority we'll probably have 55+ Democratic Senators, a Democratic majority in the House, and a Democratic President, so maybe the effectiveness of those attacks is a little bit overblown.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:48 PM
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One of my most general criticisms of AP is that here's an insistence on developing concepts in abstraction from concrete historical contexts and the problems of the day. You have to avoid getting bogged down in transient fluff issues and meaningless factional feuds, but most a high proportion of classical ethics or politics was fully engaged in contemporary issues.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:52 PM
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Liberals, or at least Democrats, are uncomfortable with all but the most anodyne appeals to nationalism, etc.

I'm not sure what kind of appeals to nationalism aren't anodyne, except, I suppose, rallying a nation to war. If that's the assertion, that liberals dislike appealing to nationalism in order to take the nation to war, then I suppose that's true to a degree--certainly they like it less than many people who currently call themselves "conservatives," but that isn't what Shearer said. His first assertion was that "liberals have a problem with the President of the United States favoring Americans over foreigners." Which is nonsense. Then he asserted that people merely perceive that liberals have a problem with the President of the United States favoring Americans over foreigners. Which is practically nonsense because it doesn't assert anything about liberals or liberalism at all, merely what some other unidentified group believes.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 12:53 PM
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323: The day to day activities of philosophy professors are intended to produce critically thinking adults. Publications in philosophy are intended to provoke further discussion, shifts in terms of debates, which filter down through, yes, in this day and age, the talk of pundits and think-tankers. The concepts and language do infiltrate.

They also become reflected in literature, as the range of acceptable moral terms shifts.

they seem far away from meta-ethics as practiced by the meta-ethicists that John describes

I don't know who John is talking about yet. Names? As far as I'm concerned, the subject matter of metaethics is as I described it.

You know, people do face choices in life, about whether to bow down to the rules or strike out in pursuit of their dreams and such. They do feel the pressure, and *anything*, whether literature or philosophy, which provides support for alternative ways of thinking about and deciding the matter is an extraordinary boon. Invaluable, I say!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:07 PM
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I pronounce parsimon like hegemon.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:07 PM
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Velleman and Dworkin on Velleman's website. Putnam in "The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays" and "Ethics Without Ontology"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:09 PM
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327.1: example, please? I've heard use of "the veil of ignorance" in the wonkosphere, but that's the only example I can think of.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:12 PM
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Has liberalism been undermined yet?

2. Admission on the part of some in finance that the "old way of thinking" doesn't work. Finance will not right itself by patience.

Ok, well, I'm going to disagree; all the banking crisises (going back to 600 years ago) have featured the total meltdown of the lending institutions and often enough, the total destruction of the currency as well. Thereafter someone new comes along and reinvents the bank, because people need grease and there is so damn much money to be made from owning the printing presses.

We're not going to rid outselves of bankers, but we'll likely (hopefully) be rid of these bankers.

The Fed has become a muddle of mission creep and wishful thinking.

Yeah, that happened a least a decade ago. The housing bubble is where it simply became painfully obvious.

Unfortunately, we can't wait for these guys to die off, because the economy is about to get a lot worse.

That's where burning shit down comes in.

max
['The problem is, is the bankers own the government.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:14 PM
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I'm not sure what kind of appeals to nationalism aren't anodyne, except, I suppose, rallying a nation to war.

I'm not sure that's true. Witchhunts, for example, can be expressions of nationalist fervor.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:15 PM
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326:

Populuxe - yup, you've nailed Shearer. Good on ya.

FWIW I pronounce parsimon to rhyme with Parthenon, more or less.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:18 PM
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That's where burning shit down comes in.

At the least we must give Pres Obama a hotfoot.

This week it's Obameconomics, and fucking Cass Sunstein to the Supreme Court. I feel like giving up.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:19 PM
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334: Gotta agree. Someone linked to Kathy G's takedown of Sunstein.

His ex was Martha Nussbaum, his present is Samantha Power -- what a sexy dog.

Nussbaum says they separated prior to Sunstein's initiation of the Power-boinking. No word on Nussbaum's present sex toy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:33 PM
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317: Eh, the author bitches about the Fed taking entirely sensible actions, then gripes that the Fed is not making policy proposals, but doesn't really tell us what policy proposals the Fed ought to be proposing.

Meanwhilte, Bernanke is making policy proposals as reported on the front of the NYT web site.

Excerpt:

Most of the speech was focused on a series of proposals for an expanded and more stringent regulatory structure for the financial system. Mr. Bernanke suggested that the current design -- a patchwork of various agencies, each with a specific area of coverage -- should be broadened to encompass the global financial landscape.

Say what you will about the MoneyCons, their greed, and their opposition to American values - it's all true - but in a pinch, they've got enough sense to insist that Bush hire non-morons for the positions they care about: Treasury and the Fed.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:33 PM
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331. Complete currency meltdown might be inconvenient, don't you think? I agree that moneylenders and wills always be around in one form or another. Perhaps Obama could do a version of Mark 11:15, and throw the moneychangers out of the temple.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:33 PM
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330: example, please? I've heard use of "the veil of ignorance" in the wonkosphere, but that's the only example I can think of.

I'm not sure there are a lot of direct terms imported into semi-casual dialogue. The first thing that came to mind was George Lakoff's talk of "framing," though I understand he's actually a linguist (I'd encountered him via philosophy). More widely, though, liberalism itself is a direct outgrowth of moral/political *theory*; its language is now so much a part of our dialogue that we don't realize how relatively new it is. And the law, obviously, incorporates numerous closely-parsed readings of the differences between reasons vs. causes for actions (for example). Cultural relativism, or tolerance, is now a hell of a lot more normal for us than it once, in the not-too-distant past, was: it is now just morally *wrong* for us to have exterminated native Americans. We don't experience these changes in a vacuum; conceptual and linguistic shifts usher them in. Philosophy doesn't do that single-handedly, of course, but its role has not been minimal.

I hope it's clear that I define philosophy pretty widely, to include the sorts of thinkers Anglo-American phil. tends to exclude. I mean (some) literary theorists, anthropologists, and so on.

The earnestness in all this is beginning to kill me; I do it under protest.

Pronunciation of "parsimon" is as "specimen."


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:38 PM
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308

"See, this is what I mean about the trouble defining terms. As best as I can reckon, you use the word communitarian to mean "community value proposed by a leftist.""

No, community values are just the values of the community like the Supreme Court's community standards in obscenity cases. They can have any content. Communitarian values are anti-individualistic placing the interests of the community above those of the individual. They don't have to be leftwing, anti-abortion arguments can be communitarian. So it is wrong to say single payer health care is a community value (in the United States) since there is no concensus in favor.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:43 PM
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What earnestness? That's a fine response.

I picture the movie in parsi's mind has her ripping pages out of books a la Dead Poet's Society. "Go ahead, my commentariat! To hell John Emerson's definition of philosophy! Philosophy is the divine spark that spurs the revolution! It is the flutter in the butterfly that turns the artist's perspective inside out!"


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:47 PM
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321

"Nationalism in this country is closely allied with militarism and white supremacism domination, and it's there that Dems are perceived as insufficiently unpatriotic."

It is also things like Kyoto where liberals are seen as less willing to fight for America's interests.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:52 PM
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340.2: Why, why that's just lovely, Wrongshore. I must modestly turn aside, to ponder just what Walt's silly questions have done to me.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:55 PM
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Parsimon, I'm not against the whole history of philosophy. Just the dominant Anglo-American trends since about 1930.

And Finnish. Damn Georg Henrik Von Wright!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:56 PM
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So it is wrong to say single payer health care is a community value (in the United States) since there is no concensus in favor.

You're misreading me, James. I'm saying that single-payer healthcare is a community value in places where such a consensus exists, not in the U.S.

And you're still incoherent about why "community values" is an inappropriate phrase to describe certain liberal policy preferences:

No, community values are just the values of the community like the Supreme Court's community standards in obscenity cases. They can have any content. Communitarian values are anti-individualistic placing the interests of the community above those of the individual.

But James, this is precisely what the Supreme Court's standards do - place the interests of the community above those of the individual. Again: you're being incoherent here.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 1:58 PM
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Perhaps Obama could do a version of Mark 11:15, and throw the moneychangers out of the temple.

Hott.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 2:05 PM
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336

"... His first assertion was that "liberals have a problem with the President of the United States favoring Americans over foreigners." Which is nonsense. Then he asserted that people merely perceive that liberals have a problem with the President of the United States favoring Americans over foreigners. Which is practically nonsense because it doesn't assert anything about liberals or liberalism at all, merely what some other unidentified group believes. "

How is what I am saying different from what Haidt is saying when he says liberals have problems with appeals to ingroup loyality? Patriotism is an appeal to ingroup loyalty and liberals have a problem with it. For example according to this poll liberals are less likely than conservatives to describe themselves as "very patriotic". And conservatives are more likely to see liberals as less patriotic than conservatives than vice versa.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 2:19 PM
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343: Parsimon, I'm not against the whole history of philosophy. Just the dominant Anglo-American trends since about 1930.

Crap, John. I'm out of here, but have you read Rorty? He might cheer you. Get over it!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 2:27 PM
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Rorty was the one who got me re-interested in philosophy around 1980, but as I understand, his proposal for a new direction for philosophy were soundly rejected. Sorry to be a prick, but my experience has been what it's been.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 2:30 PM
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How is what I am saying different from what Haidt is saying when he says liberals have problems with appeals to ingroup loyality?

I thought the whole point of LB's post was to slam Haidt for his crap political advice to liberals.

In Haidt's framework, liberals have problems with appeals to ingroup loyalty because they (rightly) view it as contradicting the harm principle. When politicians in America start talking about patriotism, it's because it's time to start a war somewhere far away. What the fuck does that have to do with "problems favoring Americans over foreigners," dumbass?

And note how the "sending AMERICAN jobs overseas" talking point completely contradicts your narrative.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 2:30 PM
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It is also things like Kyoto where liberals are seen as less willing to fight for America's interests.

Break me a give, James. Liberals see "conservatives" as acting against American interests on this sort of issue just as much as vice versa. This is simply an issue of long term versus short term strategy. That "liberals" are crap at arguing their case I might grant you, but you're using "seen as" as a synonym for "reported by the Murdoch media", which is pretty sloppy.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 2:31 PM
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344

"You're misreading me, James. I'm saying that single-payer healthcare is a community value in places where such a consensus exists, not in the U.S."

So in 219:

"... Conservative opposition to single-payer healthcare strikes me as a rejection of "community values.""

you weren't referring to conservative opposition to single payer health care in the United States? If so then I was misreading you.

"But James, this is precisely what the Supreme Court's standards do - place the interests of the community above those of the individual. Again: you're being incoherent here."

No making community standards determining is communitarian but that has nothing to do with the definition of community standards. The Supreme Court could have ruled community standards were irrelevant (as it basically did in the flag burning case) but that would not have changed the meaning of community standard.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 2:34 PM
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Awww, James, are you forgetting context?

Is it surprising that during a terrible, bungled, republican-led era of stupid US government actions Democrats feel less patriotism than Republicans do?

Sheesh. All that poll did was show the obvious - people feel more group loyalty when their guy is the leader, even when he really really sucks.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 2:41 PM
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348: Rorty was the one who got me re-interested in philosophy around 1980, but as I understand, his proposal for a new direction for philosophy were soundly rejected. Sorry to be a prick, but my experience has been what it's been.

Not a prick. I just don't understand why you give a shit what contemporary academic philosophy is doing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 2:49 PM
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Opportunity cost. They are monopolizing territory others could use better. A lot of interesting work has been cut off because they control the grants.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 2:51 PM
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353, 354

Wow. This is why the internetz rocks! Where else would somebody publicly care about the grants given to contemporary academic philosophy?

What does a contemporary academic philosophy grant even look like?

Here is some money, now go and read and think about stuff?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:02 PM
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Rorty was the one who got me re-interested in philosophy around 1980, but as I understand, his proposal for a new direction for philosophy were soundly rejected.

Take heart, John! Rorty has had a fair bit of influence outside the borders of academic philosophy. I suspect he is one of the few American academic-intellectual types who is going to be remembered.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:03 PM
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Because whole schools of interesting philosophy have died out while uninteresting philosophy has flourished. It was done by power politics.

You don't really seem interested, so I won't answer your second question. Besides grants, there are also jobs.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:05 PM
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John,

I am a little interested. Does it take money to make philosophy flourish? I mean more money than the basics? I am mostly ignorant on this subject and am asking for information. I'm not trying to be snarky.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:11 PM
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Grants in philosophy are generally limited to the philosophy of science and applied ethics. For the most part what funds academic philosophy are tenure line jobs, which give people the time to do original research.

Things are different in continental Europe, though, where philosophy is more integrated with the other humanities and the humanities in general seem to be as grant driven as the sciences.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:17 PM
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this is a nice book on human genetic engineering funded by a grant from the Human Genome Project. The writing is overly complex, as you would expect from a committee of analytic philosophers, but the reasoning is sound.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:20 PM
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I am a little interested. Does it take money to make philosophy flourish? I mean more money than the basics? I am mostly ignorant on this subject and am asking for information. I'm not trying to be snarky.

There are jobs and a few grants, which take money. As important, the direction of academic philosophy is determined by what gets taught to graduate students and undergraduates, who gets invited to conferences, whose papers are accepted at journals, and whose books are accepted at academic presses.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:20 PM
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Probably it's more a matter of jobs without much teaching it is about than grants, but top rank philosophers do well for themselves and have lots of time to study and write. A friend of mine studied with a guy at Texas who thought he was being put upon because he had to teach two grad classes a year.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:26 PM
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Thanks all. I think I get it. Philosophy may have no need for large material projects such as the particle accelerator but there are still the basics that must be provided for. That goes along with the cost of publishing and other forms of communications, etc.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:28 PM
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311: Presumably, you think Jews have trouble refuting the perception they control international finance, too?

My guy at Goldman Sachs says that "Citigroup" is a Jewish name.

I hear that some conservatives are putting big bucks into funding an Ayn Rand Institute of Philosophy at the University of Chicago.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:28 PM
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352

"Sheesh. All that poll did was show the obvious - people feel more group loyalty when their guy is the leader, even when he really really sucks. "

This reference (pdf file) shows (p. 2 PSRA/PEW) similar poll results going back to 1987.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 3:38 PM
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James,

Your overall claim was that liberals have a problem with patriotism. You show data from 1987 to the present, which by my counting is twelve years of a Republican president and eight years of a Republican-lite president.

Show me what the patriotism numbers look like when we have a liberal president and then we'll talk.

People don't feel as much loyalty to a group when they disagree with the way the group is being run.

In addition the Republicans currently have a lock on the authoritarians who have extreme group loyalty and account for about 25% of the population and are a big part of the Republican base.

When we have a liberal president the authoritarians will still feel patriotic, the liberals will feel patriotic, but will the non-authoritarian Republicans feel patriotic?



Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 4:02 PM
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but you're using "seen as" as a synonym for "reported by the Murdoch media", which is pretty sloppy.

Watch your mouth! My man Rupert is no global warming denier. Plus, there's been an indisputable improvement in the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. (I think there's a strong case to be made that the news pages of the Journal have improved, too. Witness, for example, the scoop on Iraq linked here recently.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 4:20 PM
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News pages of the WSJ have always been good.

Has the editorial page really improved? It's always been terrible and I haven't noticed a change.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 4:34 PM
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366

So in other words, liberals are a disgruntled minority who don't much like the US as it currently is.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 4:36 PM
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Most people expect the President of the United States to favor Americans over foreigners, liberals have a problem with this.

Shearer can you apply your nitpicking skills to this comment (I forget which idiot posted it again).


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 4:50 PM
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Now that Shearer and Tripp have engaged each other, is it possible to seal the airlock and jettison that part of the ship?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 4:59 PM
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371: Unfogged does not torture.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:23 PM
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When we have a liberal president the authoritarians will still feel patriotic, the liberals will feel patriotic, but will the non-authoritarian Republicans feel patriotic?

We will go back to referring to the President as "That Man".

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=08Nd54lz4WUC&dq=that+man&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=E5HmT4Xx_G&sig=1jczSlMFUj9atFk__goRhqxIWZ8&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:28 PM
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372: Really, that's not true. And you know it. But even if it were, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the two.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:30 PM
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Roslin would airlock all the commenters.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:34 PM
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369: Yes, is there anything wrong with that?


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 5:51 PM
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375: Cala, you worry so about this.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 6:52 PM
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So in other words, liberals are a disgruntled minority who don't much like the US as it currently is.

You took the words right out of your own mouth, James.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:10 PM
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And James is a mystery man, always sniping from his undisclosed location. He has no opinions or commitments.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:24 PM
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Why are liberals so opposed to free-trade agreements? They spend so much time worrying about the poor, but the poor in America are much richer than the poor in the developing world. If the Democrats were really compassionate, they would recognize free trade as the greatest humanitarian device of all time.

But no, I guess "American jobs" are more valuable than jobs in China, or India, or Bangladesh, or Guatemala. Why are liberals so racist?


Posted by: Shames B. Jearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:43 PM
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James, given that conservatives have tried to destroy everything that is great and unique about America in the service of recreating the court of Augustus, I'm not in the mood to hear how liberals hate America anymore. My America, the America of skyscrapers and hip-hop, of little old ladies who go to the courthouse in San Francisco to get married after 50 years of waiting, where no one says that black players can't be quarterbacks, where intellectual effort is admired, where we believe in the American Dream so much that we think it should be true and not just a dream, is awesome. Conservatives hate that America. I say, enough. You're out, James. As an American patriot, I'm stripping you of your citizenship.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 7:51 PM
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I'm stripping you of your citizenship

Too much paperwork. Just seal the airlock, and push the button. No one can hear you scream in space.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:01 PM
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My America, the America of skyscrapers and hip-hop, of little old ladies who go to the courthouse in San Francisco to get married after 50 years of waiting, where no one says that black players can't be quarterbacks, . . .

That is great.

And the reference to quarterbacks makes it feel like an outtake from Bull Durham which is even better.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:08 PM
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What's interesting (and I use the word loosely) about Shearer is that he's basically a conservative/libertarian, who structures all his arguments as if he was a Haidt-style liberal.


Posted by: Lunar Rockette | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:12 PM
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But no, I guess "American jobs" are more valuable than jobs in China, or India, or Bangladesh, or Guatemala. Why are liberals so racist?

Why are conservatives adamant about asserting American interest, narrowly defined, in foreign policy, but not in trade?

(Rhetorical question, of course.)


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:24 PM
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379

"... He has no opinions or commitments."

This is silly, I have plent of opinions. For example
1. The Iraq War was a big mistake and the US should leave.
2. We don't have any idea how to significantly improve school performance.

As for commitments my 2000 vote for GWB didn't work out so hot and this has left me a bit gunshy.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:27 PM
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The language of Walt's 381 is truly remarkable.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 8:32 PM
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:-)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:18 PM
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No one can hear you scream in space.

If you were close enough, you could.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:20 PM
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Emerson, I think you mean >:)


Posted by: Lunar Rockette | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:23 PM
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^_^


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:25 PM
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Happiness bothers them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:35 PM
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:D:


Posted by: Lunar Rockette | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 9:42 PM
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In space, no one can see your emoticons.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-22-08 11:05 PM
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Why are conservatives adamant about asserting American interest, narrowly defined, in foreign policy, but not in trade?

It ain't necessarily so.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-23-08 4:09 AM
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We don't have any idea how to significantly improve school performance.

I think this is wrong: we just don't like the answer. Significantly lower class sizes costs real money. Money we'd have to spend on them.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-23-08 6:44 AM
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Right. The kind of comprehensive social support that means that poor kids have stable places to live, secure access to food and medical care, and individualized and attentive academic support might seem prohibitively expensive, but there's no real question about whether it would significantly improve academic performance.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-08 7:55 AM
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397

"Right. The kind of comprehensive social support that means that poor kids have stable places to live, secure access to food and medical care, and individualized and attentive academic support might seem prohibitively expensive, but there's no real question about whether it would significantly improve academic performance."

This has nothing to do with schools. I was talking about things like vouchers or paying teachers more.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-23-08 12:10 PM
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nothing to do with schools

And yet it would make a huge academic difference. Smaller classes would help too.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-08 12:50 PM
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Just to be clear by "school performance" I meant the performance of schools in educating children. I was not referring to the performance of children in schools and was not considering ways of raising performance by making changes outside the school system.

As for class size, there is no consensus that it improves performance significantly. See here for a negative take. I didn't read the whole thing but the abstract states in part:

"... In sum, while policies to reduce class size may enjoy popular appeal, such policies are very expensive and, according to the evidence, quite ineffective."


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-23-08 1:33 PM
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