For what it's worth, I've found the posts useful. They articulate a lot of things I have felt and complained about in private, but does so significantly more thoroughly than I have or probably would.
I agree that they don't in themselves propose any useful solutions, but I think that was inevitable. It's pretty hard to actually "solve" complex social problems, except by getting people to think differently and consequently behave differently. Hopefully the fact that they exist will in some small way improve things.
RE rationalists: I'm a small r rationalist in the same way I'm a small f feminist. Broadly supportive of the general idea, disagree on a few of the specifics, sufficiently put off by the community that I don't feel particularly inclined to join in as a semi-heretical member. I suspect there are a lot of us.
"These people are trigger-happy with their conceptual superweapon, and they're everywhere!" Okay, but if you say that, and everyone either agrees with you or else disagrees in an excruciatingly polite and rational manner, that sort of undermines the arguments.
ROFL! Thank you. And yes, I've been very impressed at how very high the signal to noise ratio was.
I disagreed with some of it, but I thought it had some very good ideas, and very amusing writing, and a lot of interesting responses. I think getting a lot of attention is a perk of writing interesting things about a controversial topic. It's an abuse if you just write the same things again and again and pretend they're interesting. But if you're saying something interesting, you have no reason to feel guilty because surprisingly many people were interested :)
That said, I did expect some vociferous disagreement. I think your criticisms of social-justice-type feminism are apt (and I know many feminists who I think would agree), but I also think social-justice-type feminism does identify many real problems that most other people don't recognise, and your post sounds dismissive of them (even if that's not what you meant), which is indeed likely to piss many people off.
At one of the Cambridge UK less wrong meetings we had a conversation about introducing feminist concepts to rationalists and vice versa, which wasn't perfect, but went better than I expected and was surprisingly interesting.
I've long been hoping someone will write a series of "feminism for lesswrongers" posts for the site.
I guess I need to work on my telepathy, as it hasn't happened yet. I did an extremely limited amount of research intending to have a go myself, but didn't find any good sources.
I need to come to one of the Cambridge LW meets again sometime :).
"-- I continue to underestimate the universality of the law that there is no argument so dumb or straw-mannish that someone somewhere has not made it."
I think you want to link to a specific comment about bad Bible arguments?
I hadn't heard of "social justice feminism" before, though I knew there were many strains of feminism; now I'm a bit annoyed because I associate "social justice" with economic equality concerns like _The Spirit Level_.
It's been an interesting series, though I'll be thankful to not have a long post on feminism in my friends page every day, it was starting to feel "oh no not another one already".
But you might make one last post indexing the series for handy reference.
for the bad Bible argument.
"Has been arrested for a violent crime" isn't the same thing as "is a rapist". One is about perception and the other other is about actual behavior.
I'm moderately sure that that the sort of attack (at least about race) you've been working on undermining is more likely to happen to sf authors. More generally, I think think it might be fair to say that the social justice conceptual superweapons have been spreading, but the influence of those superweapons is much less than it feels like if you happen to hang out in places where they're common.
Either this is another one of those weird dreams, or you are all the best people ever.
You too. :)
-- People who discuss the "war on women" or who seemingly uncharitably oppose people who make various policy proposals as "misogynist" are not just unreflectively failing to exercise charity. They have actually considered the situation and decided that charity is not deserved. I don't know if that's better or worse.
Oh, I'm sure there are plenty of people who are indeed unreflectively failing to apply charity, too.
...yeah, the aleithometer came up "meaningless". It turns out I never actually made any concrete statements. No moral prescriptions. No suggestions for things that would be better. I'm not sure I have them, either - I was planning on making some, but now I'm not sure about them. And now that a bunch of people have posted this all over the Internet I'm trying to figure out what the heck I thought I was doing.
What you did
do, however, is describe the problem
very well, which is valuable. If it were an easy problem to solve, it would have been solved already. As H. L. Menken once said, for every complex problem, there's a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.
"If it were an easy problem to solve, it would have been solved already."
Depends on what you frame as the problem. Lots of social problems have easy solutions on their own merits; the problem is implementing solutions against opposition, not designing solutions. So arguably the real problem is "how do we do X given opposition", because *it* is the real political problem, but the political opposition is often complicating what's a simple utilitarian problem with a simple, neat, and correct -- but unpalatable -- solution.
(See slavery as an extreme example. Simple neat and easy: ban slavery. But slaveowners had power. Reforming economic privileges and rents in general is often similar: good economic policy would be simple, but lots of people can block implementation out of self-interest.)
Not meaningless, this should be a prerequisite for anyone wanting to have a productive discussion with an identity politician (and who isn't an identity politician?). Most everyone gets stuck at the object level in these types of discussions, and they go nowhere. It's important to understand at the meta-level what you're actually doing and where you are, otherwise you'll end up somewhere you never intended or sputtering about in circles. I'd sum up these posts as "hey, let's take a step back and examine this like rational adults, because too often we miss the forest for the trees."
You learned something from it. That's awesome.
I hope this doesn't come off as patronizing, but your list of things learned was somewhat surprising to me-- it's partly evidence of how much people can miss because they're panicking and/or are getting information from other people who are panicking. (Ok, I'm guessing about the motivation, but it's the only guess I've got.)
You're intelligent and benevolent, but it still took a lot of thought and sticking your neck out to discover both that there are many sorts of feminism and that the current round of SJ feminism is a response to some actual problems.
I don't think you're mistaken about the existence of conceptual superweapons (thanks for the terminology), and I do think that there are feminists and anti-racists building new ones.
+1 enlightening. Just looking through all my previous comments, I don't think I mentioned just how educational this whole conversation has been. Thanks!
I found the use of 'Nice Guy (TM)' throughout these posts somewhat uncharitable, given that in every other context that I can recall seeing the term (which, admittedly, may be an inadvertently biased attempt at recall) it has been used to refer to the type of person who expects that his nice behavior will be rewarded with romance or sex. The implied problem isn't being interested in a romantic relationship with a friend, it's supplying friendship and building emotional dependence as a means of eventually making someone feel obligated to follow through with a relationship they don't really want.
I think I've addressed that point already, but part of the problem is that the phrase was co-opted from men who used it in a completely different way, and then used to prove that the men who were using it in a different way were wrong and bad people.
Hmm... I just realized that with these posts, you may actually have provided a superweapon against superweapons. In other words, if somebody accuses somebody of "mansplaining" or "privilege" or whatever, the other can resort to "superweapon!" and a link to these posts.
Which, in turn, gives me the belated realization that what you call "superweapons" is what Paul Graham is talking about when he talks about heresy
, and that "using a superweapon against superweapons" is basically the same as his "political correctness" defense:
One way to do this is to ratchet the debate up one level of abstraction. If you argue against censorship in general, you can avoid being accused of whatever heresy is contained in the book or film that someone is trying to censor. You can attack labels with meta-labels: labels that refer to the use of labels to prevent discussion. The spread of the term "political correctness" meant the beginning of the end of political correctness, because it enabled one to attack the phenomenon as a whole without being accused of any of the specific heresies it sought to suppress.
(Apologies if this has already been pointed out somewhere in your comments, or is just otherwise incredibly obvious.)Edited to add:
Graham also points out one encouraging thing about superweapons - they tend to become overused and then lose their power over time:
In every period of history, there seem to have been labels that got applied to statements to shoot them down before anyone had a chance to ask if they were true or not. "Blasphemy", "sacrilege", and "heresy" were such labels for a good part of western history, as in more recent times "indecent", "improper", and "unamerican" have been. By now these labels have lost their sting. They always do. By now they're mostly used ironically. But in their time, they had real force.
The word "defeatist", for example, has no particular political connotations now. But in Germany in 1917 it was a weapon, used by Ludendorff in a purge of those who favored a negotiated peace. At the start of World War II it was used extensively by Churchill and his supporters to silence their opponents. In 1940, any argument against Churchill's aggressive policy was "defeatist". Was it right or wrong? Ideally, no one got far enough to ask that.
And he also suggests that if a group is in a position where it ends up employing conceptual superweapons, it's in a position of weakness, so their victory is not inevitable. Even if the group wins, that may lead to an eventual decline in the power of their superweapon:
To launch a taboo, a group has to be poised halfway between weakness and power. A confident group doesn't need taboos to protect it. It's not considered improper to make disparaging remarks about Americans, or the English. And yet a group has to be powerful enough to enforce a taboo. Coprophiles, as of this writing, don't seem to be numerous or energetic enough to have had their interests promoted to a lifestyle.
I suspect the biggest source of moral taboos will turn out to be power struggles in which one side only barely has the upper hand. That's where you'll find a group powerful enough to enforce taboos, but weak enough to need them.
Though of course, by the time that the superweapon of one group loses its power, the mad scientists of another are busy putting the finishing touches on their own...Edited at 2012-09-20 09:34 am (UTC)
2012-09-20 11:56 am (UTC)
more people need to read this
I'm an MRA (boo, hiss, I know) and I've just spent the past hour or so reading your last 9 posts in this series (I found the link here (http://www.reddit.com/r/MensRights/comments/106ftc/for_those_who_have_absorbed_the_associated_memes/)) in case you were curious). When I saw this was a Livejournal blog, I was expecting another piece of crap because, well, Livejournal is filled with crap...instead I found brilliance. I decided to leave a comment because I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated what you've written...not only for your well-reasoned criticisms of the people who hate me, but also because you've led me to reconsider some of my own reactions/etc. as well as some of what I see emerging in the MRM. I am, and will continue to be, an antifeminist -- the reasons for which I've outlined here (https://femintology.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/why-im-an-antifeminist/) -- however, I'm going to try to be a bit more cautious about "super-weapons", as I do see something like that coming together within the MRM (though, as far as I know, we don't have any bingo cards...yet).
I also wanted to touch on something else: I agree with everything you've written from this (http://squid314.livejournal.com/327849.html) to this (http://squid314.livejournal.com/329561.html)...except for "patriarchy". I don't think it's a useful term for describing modern western cultures. First, there are major issues with falsifiability. Specifically, there are a bunch of different definitions for the term "patriarchy" ranging from the extremely vague and unfalsifiable, to the very specific and falsifiable...and the more falsifiable it gets, the more it gets falsified (http://www.reddit.com/r/MensRights/comments/e2vme/im_trying_to_put_together_a_solid_refutation_of/), while the vague and unfalsifiable definitions (e.g. "an unjust social system that is oppressive to women") are useless and don't really support much of the rhetoric criticizing "patriarchy" (especially those criticisms which closely resemble conspiracy theories).
Anyway, "patriarchy" is just a pet-peeve of mine. I really did enjoy reading your posts, and appreciate you taking the time (and risk) to share your thoughts on this complicated and controversial grouping of inter-related subjects.
P.S. I think you should consider compiling all of these posts into a single essay, and perhaps releasing an e-book version. I'm not sure of the "right" way to make an e-book, but if you have Open Office and Calibre, you can export a PDF from Open Office and convert it to a usable .mobi/.epub in Calibre.
I found this series interesting, and respectful-whilst-disagreeing; others may disagree but I think your thoughtfulness is a reason you didn't get superweaponed all over the shop (also the way you said these things *in your own space* not as a direct response in someone else's space where they may have looked more like a direct attack on an individual).
I always think there's things to be learned from sitting down and listening to people one disagrees with; but it does take a degree of patience and courage that not everyone is fortified with at all times (or even ever).
People who discuss the "war on women" or who seemingly uncharitably oppose people who make various policy proposals as "misogynist" are not just unreflectively failing to exercise charity. They have actually considered the situation and decided that charity is not deserved. I don't know if that's better or worse.
Third option: they believe that women were and are expected to exercise the Principle of Charity more than men. In the most extreme form, this means that refusing to be charitable while female is itself a blow against the patriarchy. In a milder form, it manifests as requiring serious evidence your opponent has thought through your position in a charitable manner first, before doing the same. Social justice feminists are more likely to believe this and more likely to take a more extreme form.
I think it's hard to deny that this was true historically, and is still at least somewhat true today, especially when it comes to dating. That is why I reacted so strongly to the comment thread on how to schedule a date
. "I know this pattern matches with people who are stalkerish or boring, but you should investigate before turning me down." is essentially demanding the principle of charity be applied, and I resented the implication that women were bad people if they didn't bear that investigation cost.
This series of posts was the first critique of feminism that actually made me considering distancing myself from the term. Thanks for that. But in the end, I'm not willing to surrender feminism to unreasonable people.
2012-10-11 04:15 am (UTC)
On a tangent related to your link here: I think it actually was appropriate to respond to Larry Summers in approximately the way he got responded to.
It's reasonable to respond to a series of arguments in a manner fitting the worst argument made, and that IQ argument was REALLY BAD. So, a strong response was appropriate, even though most of what he said was perfectly reasonable.
Of things you've discussed, conceptual superweapons seems like a particularly useful idea. This concept is another powerful heuristic for activating rationalist taboo, perhaps powerful enough to navigate mindkilling topics (it also partially overlaps the less clear heuristic from the Worst Argument in the World). It seems worth extracting from the context and writing up as an article.
2012-09-30 08:59 pm (UTC)
another self-defeating argument
Another self-defeating argument – or statement, rather – is “It goes without saying that [whatever]”. If it really went without saying, you wouldn’t have to say it. It is more accurate to say “It should go without saying that [whatever]”.