It seems to me that the cynical perspectives largely assume that deception and ignorance are intrinsic bads, while the postcynicism perspective assumes that truth doesn't matter much, and that people are basically domestic animals who need to be taken care of and kept out of trouble, yet the postcynical perspective would, in that case, seem to me to favor quite different policies as optimal. Ubiquitously drugging the population, or keeping them addicted to entertainments, while providing for their basic needs and conditioning them to be happy would seem to be called for, not the actual situation.
How about naturalism as an alternative.
All these things happen. They are natural phenomena, not good or bad, and need no justification. You don't need to feel bad about them, don't need to criticize them, and don't need to accept them, just like earthquakes, aging, and entropy. The only questions that make sense are 'what do you want, how much do you want it relative to everything else, and how can you get it?'.
Even without going that far, in the example of e.g. the TSA, if you actually just want to make people feel safer -- whether by means of security theater or not -- there are probably much cheaper (in terms of both money and other things like privacy) ways of doing so.
2013-01-23 09:53 am (UTC)
You should post this to Less Wrong so that I could upvote it.
I want to upvote this but I can't... It surprisingly frustrating.
2013-01-23 10:36 am (UTC)
Postcynicism 'Political parties - people are stupid' disappointed. I mean, the previous two were very good, as were the latter three. But I was expecting more, though not sure what. I guess, from Scott I expect to hear something fresh.
You think it's wrong, or you think it's obvious?
I'm totally on board with that! I've been annoyed a few times about how people consider a minor hypocrisy or irrationality as a sufficient reason to get all negative.
In the same line:
IDEALISM: Candidate Joe is a better person than Candidate Bob, so he got elected. And that's great
CYNICISM: Candidate Bob may be a bit of a promiscuous asshole, but he's also much more competent than 'nice' Candidate Joe, who only gets a good reputation because he never had any real power and responsibility. Electing candidates based on irrelevant personal characteristics rather than competence means a bunch of clowns end up running the country. And that's an outrage!
POSTCYNICISM: The competence of elected candidates may not make that big of a difference if they're surrounded by enough competent advisers and bureaucrats, who handle the details of the policies anyway. Sending a strong public signal that being an asshole is not rewarded can also have an effect on people's behaviors, and it's not clear whether the utility of that is smaller than the utility of electing a competent candidate.
(I admit it's not as good as yours, this one sounds a bit like a rationalization)
Edited at 2013-01-23 12:18 pm (UTC)
It may also not matter if they are surrounded by enough incompetent advisers and bureaucrats.
POSTCYNICISM: Both candidates are pretty much the same. This is exactly what the median voter theorem would predict if both candidates are trying to optimize to match the prevailing opinions of the American people as closely as possible. This proves that the system has done its work even before the final choice between the last two people, and that whoever is elected will agree the values of the majority of Americans. And that's great!
Only if the prevailing opinions and values of the majority of the Americans are a good thing for the candidates to campaign towards. History has shown all too often that the majority of people are willing to vote for their own destruction. (A flaw not limited to democracies. The French Revolution shows that the behavior that aristocrats choose is not necessarily that which will preserve aristocracy, or the aristocrats in it.)
I'm not saying democracy is necessarily a good thing, but it seems dumb to be in favor of democracy but then fault it for coming to the correct democratic result.
Of course, anti-depressants aren't all that safe; lots of side-effects.
SSRIs are a heck of a lot safer than their predecessors and really about as safe as you can reasonably expect a medication to be if taken correctly.
2013-01-23 03:05 pm (UTC)
This looks like a case of meta- contrarianism.
Most of what you said in the respective post on LW is probably also true in this case, especially: "You can't evaluate the truth of a statement by its position in a signaling game".
One more point: When you are incompetent on a subject, you can go meta or meta-meta all you want without getting any closer to the truth.
Wait -- so are you saying you endorse each of these postcynical positions?
Because you certainly don't have to. You can be postcynical about some things, cynical about others, and idealist about still others. For example, my own views on the matters you listed are as follows:
1. Cynicism (big time)
2. Idealism (but cycles through all three)
4. Undecided between cynicism and postcynicism.
5. Post-postcynicism (the fourth level)
6. Undecided between cynicism and post-postcynicism
Even if you don't fully endorse it, the postcynical position can be a reason for moderating one's outrage - from "this is stupid and hypocritical!" to "okay, there are nonobvious tradeoffs involved here, let's not make any sweeping assertions without a bit of thought ..."
2013-01-23 04:40 pm (UTC)
The Light Endarkenment
"Our society is built on a mountain of lies, one of which is that society shouldn't be built on a mountain of lies."
Regarding the religion one, my position is much the same as Flannery O'Connor
about the Eucharist: if it's just a symbol, then to hell with it.
If religion isn't true, then it doesn't matter if it's nice or has social benefits. Do away with it. "Religion as social work" is a mess; better have the social work on its own. To quote from C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters":
"On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything — even to social justice. The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist's shop. Fortunately it is quite easy to coax humans round this little corner. Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the ground that “only such a faith can outlast the
death of old cultures and the birth of new civilizations”. You see the little rift? “Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.” That's the game,
Your affectionate uncle,
Mere assertion fallacy is still mere assertion fallacy even when one can quote a demon in support.
...but it may help that I'm coming from the opposite position as you here.
2013-01-23 10:02 pm (UTC)
I don't get the impression that "elites" are a whole lot better at determining what will or won't make the economy implode catastrophically than the rest of the population. They're not philosopher-kings, they're just people with a lot of financial assets. Sure, they tend to be more educated than the general population, but that doesn't mean they're well equipped to judge what's in the public interest. They're well studied in the practice of making more money, and have a vested interest in believing that what make their businesses more money will not be bad for society in the grand scheme. The relaxation of laws that led to the 2008 crash was driven by people who wanted to make more money.
Not to mention that plenty of "elites" are themselves religious conservatives of the sort that, according to the Post-Cynical view, elites help guard against. Look at our last president, for instance, who suggested that Intelligent Design should be taught alongside evolution as a competing theory.
Priests tend to be better educated than the general public too, and also have a vested interest in the economy not imploding, but that doesn't mean that a theocracy is an effective way to safeguard the public good.
Simply put, I'm not convinced the "elites" we have are elite in the right way.
Elites are not great, and they may not be better than minimal government, but I think they're probably better than a government of about the same size run by average people.
2013-01-24 06:42 am (UTC)
Just for the record: just because I believe evolution is a lie, doesn't mean I vote for people with nice hair. In fact the people with nice hair tend to believe in evolution so I have to vote against them despite how nice their hair looks. Mhmmmm, hair...
> Antidepressants are probably no better than placebo in most (although not all) of the cases in which they are prescribed. By which we mean "Like placebo, they are very very effective, because psychiatric conditions are unusually susceptible to placebo effect". Attempts to prescribe traditional sugar pill placebo would collapse as soon as news of the deception got out and so be worthless. Antidepressants provide a plausibly deniable alternative so convincing that not even the researchers who study them are really sure whether they're placebo or not; this allows millions of people to be safely and effectively treated. And that's great!
I think this might be wrong -- placebos working as anti-depressants. My memory isn't very strong on this, but I half-remember that Ben Goldacre or maybe even Julia Galef pointed out that placebos don't work, or we don't know if they work. Something about not having a setup where you have control groups with placebo users, drug users, and people that got nothing. We're comparing the placebo users against the drug users and saying the drug is as strong as the placebo, but we have no basis for comparison of how strong the placebo is because we didn't have another control group for people that got nothing.
2013-01-25 03:36 am (UTC)
No, actually placebos are pretty good vs nothing: http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/3590/is-the-placebo-effect-effective. E.g.,
> We have performed four randomized controlled trials comparing acupuncture, minimal acupuncture (superficial needling at non-acupuncture points) and a no treatment waiting list control in patients with migraine (Linde et al., 2005), tension-type headache (Melchart et al., 2005), chronic low back pain (Brinkhaus et al., 2006), and osteoarthritis of the knee (Witt et al., 2005). All trials found a large effect of both acupuncture and minimal acupuncture over waiting list, but only the osteoarthritis trial showed a significant effect of acupuncture over minimal acupuncture for the main outcome measure.
In order to get specific data for this, I googled .
- Andy McKenzie
Antidepressants are significantly better than placebo--barely, sometimes. They aren't substantially better than nothing at all.
Yes, but the fact that psychiatric prescription often mandates attentive followup with a trained professional also means that those prescribed the antidepressants/placebos will (sometimes unwittingly) be enrolling in a support system, and therapy and counseling /have/ been proven effective at reducing symptoms of psychiatric disorders.
> But consciousness at unpleasant tasks is a heck of a lot more important to know than the capital of Bulgaria
I bet you meant "conscientiousness".
I read it as "consciousness" as opposed to "falling unconscious with boredom and/or disillusionment", which means our labour force will continue to work despite disagreement with their instructions, or "consciousness" as opposed to "mindlessness", which means that our labour force will continue to be aware of the effectiveness of their work, rather than, say, hammering their fingers and thumbs instead of the nail.
I usually describe myself as an idealist, but you have convinced me that I actually more often espouse postcynicism. Yay for new vocabulary!
* Except in the case of the two-party system, in which I am definitely post-postcynical. The two candidates are basically the same, so the work has been done for us in allowing the candidates to agree with a majority of the American people, who are equally as irresponsible, if not more.
I like the postcynism version in all cases but the religion one. Basically cuz this "religious have higher self-reported life satisfaction, longer lives with less disease, less psychopathology, and more friends" is not supported by research as far as I know .
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