October 18, 2012 § 29 Comments
There is a certain ritual in which many faithful Catholics engage regularly. In this ritual, we enter into a private booth and make a concrete act. That concrete act is an outward sign of an inner commitment: it expresses in a concrete act of the will what the person has committed to internally.
I am talking, of course, about voting.
Lets take a step back. Voting in its most abstract is just an act of making a personal endorsement of some particular candidate, resolution, law, or what have you. As with all concrete human acts the outer action necessarily reflects an inner commitment of the will.
Some human acts are pragmatic acts. Some human acts are principled or idealistic acts. Voting is sometimes a pragmatic act and sometimes a principled/idealistic act, depending on the context.
For example, if you are one member of a nine member Supreme Court or Board of Directors, chances are that your votes are pragmatic acts. That doesn’t mean that you are willing to violate your principles in how you vote; but it does mean that often your votes may involve material cooperation with evil and you will end up spending significant energy figuring out which votes or abstentions are justified by a proportionate reason. The reason these kinds of votes are pragmatic in nature is because as a practical matter, you have a substantial material say in the outcome.
Other human acts, though, are by their nature principled or idealistic. Praying for a miracle or buying a lottery ticket are both principled or idealistic acts in this sense, because the material chances of your own personal act “paying off” as a matter of material cause and effect are negligible. It doesn’t make any sense to buy a lottery ticket as a “pragmatic” strategy for generating a family income. And it certainly makes sense to pray for miracles, but to treat praying for miracles as material cause and effect would be indistinguishable from witchcraft: God acts in miracles, not you. The point is not that principled acts are irrational or impractical: the point is that treating inherently principled acts as if they were pragmatic is a mistake.
The same applies to voting in national elections, particularly the Presidential election. By its very nature such an act cannot be “pragmatic”. The material chances of affecting the outcome are literally negligible; so if you vote in national elections, it is quite literally irrational to do so as a pragmatic rather than principled act.
This isn’t something I am making up out of my hat. It is a manifest fact about the mathematics of elections, and that this sort of voting is a principled act has been understood by at least some reasonable people since the beginning of the American Republic:
“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” – John Quincy Adams
So there is a basic incongruence in the pervasive idea that we as individuals ought to vote for a less-bad national candidate in order to block the election of a more-bad national candidate. A vote for the less bad candidate is by its nature an endorsement of a bad candidate. Furthermore, it is being done in a context where it makes no sense – it is literally irrational – to treat one’s act of voting as a pragmatic rather than principled/idealistic decision.
As my regular readers know, I myself draw further conclusions. Because the function of these kinds of mass-market universal-suffrage elections is in my view not to decide how we are governed, but rather to build consensus around the liberal secularism under which we are in fact governed – to reconcile us to the king – I take the “extraordinary step,” as the American bishops call it, of not voting in these elections at all. I won’t light a pinch of incense to this Caesar, period, and voting third party still endorses the system which produced what we have now. I don’t back away from this and its implications: and yes, because I think I am right I think everyone else ought to do as I do, and I think the polity would in the long run be better for it. We haven’t gotten to where we are because too many Catholics have drawn a line in the sand and refused to vote for the lesser evil. Yes, because acting imprudently is wrong people ought to do as I do in the moral sense of “ought”. But that is the nature of honest disagreement.
Even if I am a fruitcake in taking it as far as I have, though, that doesn’t invalidate the basic truth here: voting in national elections is an inherently principled/idealistic act, and people who treat it as a pragmatic calculation are making a fundamental error in judgement. If we are praying for miracles, we must be able to come up with something better than “please Lord let the less bad candidate win”.
October 17, 2012 § 23 Comments
Suppose Planned Parenthood has a bet riding on the Redskins game: if the ‘skins win, Death, Inc. gets a million dollars. Suppose Fertile Hope has a million dollar bet against the ‘skins.
[Edit: the stake comes from some neutral third party. The important bit is that if the Skins lose, FH gets a million. If the Skins win, PP gets a million. Tomahawk CHOP, Baby!]
Fifty thousand people are expected to show up for the game.
Is it rational for you to go to the game and shout “Go Fertile Hope!” based on your calculation that Fertile Hope getting a million dollars is a less evil outcome than Planned Parenthood getting a million dollars? Does your expectation about how you can personally affect the outcome of the game create a proportionate reason to go to the game and wave a little “Fertile Hope!” flag?
October 16, 2012 § 1 Comment
Every decade or so I have to reiterate the point that reasoning well – that is, rigorously – isn’t the same thing as the form of moral relativism known as “rigorism”. Reasoning less rigorously is, by definition, an error in absolute terms. Setting up a false dialectic between rigorous reason and moral laxity just compounds the error, and the magic j’accuse “scrupulous” doesn’t help the cause of the unscrupulous.
October 16, 2012 § 56 Comments
I’ve argued before that to morally evaluate the act of voting in modern mass-market universal-suffrage democratic elections we have to look at more than just the possible election outcomes. In fact when we consider the effects of a personal act of voting in a national election the effect of your vote on the outcome is negligible. At the same time the outcome-independent effects of your vote are not negligible. So it is the latter, not the former, that rightly takes on the primary role in making a moral evaluation of the act.
One outcome-independent consideration I’ve discussed before is that for most people, voting involves formal cooperation with evil. So even when you, dear reader, are well-formed enough to avoid formal cooperation with grave evil in voting, there is the scandal that most people are not. I’ve also argued that because the effect you have on the outcome is literally negligible, the particular outcome you prefer cannot be invoked as proportionate reason to materially cooperate with grave evil, especially when that grave evil is some form of murdering the innocent. I’ve suggested that the main function of democratic elections is not what people think it is: it isn’t a process whereby we choose how we are governed, it is the process by which we pledge allegiance to the liberal consensus which governs us. If you are going to do it you should at least have a clear-eyed idea of just what the “it” is that you are doing.
But another consideration is that for a great many people, voting in Presidential elections seems to make them stupid. There are quite a few examples of epic dumb in that editorial and in the author’s comments in the thread below. I’m lazy, so I am just going to point out the one that interests me most from the author’s comments and leave the rest as an exercise.
It is true that bishops and individual citizens materially cooperated with the Emperor Constantine in many ways, and that the Emperor Constantine did some evil things. But material cooperation in general is a poor analogy for voting: there are as many different kinds of material cooperation as there are human acts. One might almost get the impression that the invocation of material-cooperation-in-general is a deliberate canard; but I think we can stick to the charitable interpretation, that the person invoking it is simply being obtuse.
Voting is a specific, personal, concrete act of endorsement of a particular candidate. When we look at the history of Christendom, there does happen to be a particular kind of act that is very analogous to voting, inasmuch as it involves a personal quasi-sacramental act of personal endorsement. But I don’t think the example of offering a pinch of incense provides much of a boost to the “you MUST vote for my candidate even though he supports murdering the innocent” shibboleth; because what is notable about such personal endorsements is when Christians refuse to make them. St. Polycarp’s choice isn’t notable because he offered a pinch of incense to the lesser pagan gods to limit the evil of the greater pagan gods. So if we are all called to become saints, as the Church teaches that we are, we can add “teach us not to do the saintly thing” to the list of lessons that regular ritualized personal endorsement of evil candidates teaches.
I can see the hagiography for St. Compromise now: “He voted for the lesser evil, even though his personal endorsement had negligible influence”.
October 15, 2012 § 17 Comments
I’ve been writing a series of posts taking a look at the “manosphere” and “Game,” an area with which I’ve only recently become acquainted. In the previous post I talked about the hypothesis or theory of hypergamy, the background concept underlying “Game”, in descriptive terms. Before we can come to grips with Game itself we have to layer a model of social/behavioural tendencies on top of the basic theory. Keep in mind that I’m not particularly interested in whether or not Game is useful to modernity’s sexual garbage collector, the pickup artist (PUA). I’m interested in whether, underneath the rather plastic label “Game”, there are any basic complementarity-of-the-sexes truths of interest to Christian men and women. That makes marriage integral to the analysis.
The first thing to be said here is that we are discussing social tendencies. Both the word “social” and the word “tendency” are indispensable. With respect to the former, it is important to point out that these are not implied (by me) to be universal tendencies in all women all the time; rather, they represent aggregate tendencies like “most people seem to like sweets”. In fact a substantial number of people do not like sweets. This disclaimer is represented in manosphere discourse by the acronym NAWALT, meaning Not All Women Are Like That. Despite the disclaimer many men in the jackassosphere, my nickname for manosphere comboxes, seem to think of these tendencies as iron rules; or at least to write their posts as if they were iron rules. This is exacerbated by the determinism implicit in the evolutionary psychology (hereafter evo-psych) “frame” with which many manosphere commenters seem rather taken. Any long term reader knows that I have my issues with evo-think in general; and adding “psych” into the mix turns the tommyrot meter into a fan strong enough to keep a Virginia mansion cool in August. That’s my “frame” and I’m sticking to it.
Furthermore, the tendency to say “NAWALT” with one face while invoking biological determinism with the other is just a way of denying women moral agency. If y’all want to jump off that cliff you can have a ball; but make sure you’ve got your chute packed right and count me out, ’cause I’m just gonna laugh at you as you bounce off the cliffside on the way down. Women are moral agents just as much as men, and are at least as intrinsically capable of introspection and self-control, in general, as men. I’m not going to let any man or woman off the hook for their choices by invoking evolution or implicitly assuming determinism.
But I believe in trying to extract the best from any group rather than treating the worst as representative; so NAWALT is an important limiting principle to keep in mind. At the same time, from the fact that NAWALT it cannot be deduced that the tendencies described are unreal, insignificant, etc. The key lesson from the disclaimer isn’t “don’t take manosphere claims seriously”; it is “don’t take manosphere claims personally.” In order to take manosphere claims seriously one also must take the NAWALT disclaimer seriously.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, one of the first things to keep in mind is that at least in modern conditions, the Beta himisphere tends to be composed of more steady, reliable men than the Alpha himisphere. This sets up a kind of paradox: the men that young women find themselves the most attracted to are men who are not likely to make good providers for the long term, and who most likely would never settle down with her anyway.
When our Pocahontas is young and free, out “dating” and getting her feminist merit badge (a degree and a career), she is using up her marriage capital in more ways than one. In the meantime, the nice guy she will eventually marry can’t get a date: he may be her “Beta Orbiter” friend, but she is not interested in him romantically. He sits on the other side of an impenetrable “LJBF” wall of her making. Meanwhile she “dates” and bonds to the alpha males that she finds attractive, who are just using her with no intention of ever marrying her. Often enough she is perfectly aware that this is what she is doing: she understands that “bad boys” are for fun, and she will “settle down” later if that’s what she decides to do. A nice prince will come and carry her away when the time comes; life is good, and her decisions are validated by just about everyone around her.
Then she crashes violently into that wall she built to keep out the nice guys. Rather suddenly even men she isn’t really attracted to, but who are good long term provider prospects, aren’t as interested in her. Still, if she plays her cards right she hopes to land a good Beta provider when the time is right. She spends her time with her nice-guy husband as an “alpha widow”, pining away in her own thoughts for the men she has been with who truly excited her at the time, but who would never have married her. As the years of being married to someone she isn’t attracted to grind on she eventually realizes that she is very unhappy, divorces him, and pursues an “Eat, Pray, Love” fantasy. Everything about the modern world supports her in this decision, including her Christian friends.
This is the basic narrative: hopefully I haven’t left anything crucial out. It is in this social context that the specific prescriptions of Game are said to be useful to Christian men.
October 11, 2012 § 74 Comments
“Hypergamy” is a term used in the manosphere to refer to the fact that women tend to be attracted to high status men. The hypergamy theory posits that social status in men is, for women, what physical attractiveness in women is for men. A man losing social status is like a woman getting fat. Men without social status become invisible as attractive men, although they can still fill other roles in a woman’s life.
The female zone of attraction is to men they perceive as being in the pink zone. The population of characteristics of actual men is the green gradient. (It is a gradient, denser toward the bottom and less dense toward the top, like the air in the Earth’s atmosphere). Notice that in this model, the great majority of men are invisible (in the pertinent sense) to women. Women have a tendency to be offended at the thought of men outside their own zone of attraction even considering the possibility of a love connection. Invisible men however can be in the “friend zone”, not pictured: in this case the woman finds his “beta orbiter” doting validating but he remains outside of her zone of serious prospects. The pertinent acronym is LJBF, “lets just be friends”.
As sexual mores have collapsed this has resulted in a situation where the great majority of men get little or no female attention as anything other than “Beta orbiter”, while the great majority of women spend their time in the “soft harems” of a relatively few “Alpha” men.
The premise of “Game” is that our modern feminist society trains men to live their lives on the bottom half of the model, and that there are specific steps a man can take to move himself into the top half, and especially the top right.
October 11, 2012 § 19 Comments
I realize that although the point I am trying to make is simple, it is at the same time extraordinarily counterintuitive to the modern mind. So I’ll attempt in this post to make a single, simple – though counterintuitive – point.
The conventional way of thinking about elections is that it is the means by which the free and equal citizens of the polity have their say in how we are governed. That conventional way of thinking is wrong.
In fact, during our national elections the polity presents to us a very narrow range of choices, all of which are conventional liberal choices within the governing liberal consensus. The function of the election is to get as many people as possible to make an act of personal allegiance to – a vote for – that governing liberal consensus. In so doing, and by turning it into a dramatic battle of supposed opposites, the liberal polity makes other philosophies of governance unthinkable.
Notice that what I am providing here is my own assessment of the factual situation: of how things actually work, as opposed to how they are generally thought to work. I am not making any particular suggestions as to what you ought to do or not do about it. Suggesting that the conclusions you would draw if I happen to be right are unthinkable to you is not an objection to my assessment of the factual state of affairs. I’m either right about this or I’m not right about it, and the test of whether I am right about it is to observe our political process, including the mathematical realities which are inherent to it, and see if it in fact functions the way I say it functions.
What you choose to do with that information is up to you, and I don’t at this point pretend to be offering advice on that question.
October 10, 2012 § 7 Comments
As all three of my regular readers know, I’ve been reading Dalrock recently and coming up to speed on “manosphere” subjects. I don’t recommend the experience for everyone. While I don’t think there is much if any daylight between Dalrock’s critique of the state of marriage and relations between the sexes and my own understanding, and he’s done yeoman’s work on statistics, the style isn’t for everyone and the jackass ratio in the comboxes can run pretty high. So I plan to translate some of the concepts for my own vast audience to spare you the trouble.
One of the things noobs like myself may not immediately understand is the Greek letter terminology used to describe … well, lets step back and talk about what it describes.
Because I have both a business and technical background I have all the liabilities of both the navel-gazing nerd and the slick-and-sloppy salesman. As a result, despite the rebellion of the analytic philosopher in me I do see value in the kinds of social tools and models used by business leaders, consultants, and the like. Instruments like the Meyers-Briggs assessment and lots of other simpler models can actually be quite handy for getting things done with people. The more you get to know particular individuals the less valuable these tools are; but as a way of doing quick-and-dirty categorization of folks you don’t know very well, in order to achieve particular goals, they can really short circuit the process. When you’ve got to grokk the team and get everyone charging up that hill together to the take the flag right now, it can be very helpful to quickly assess where everyone on the team fits.
These models can also help out with self improvement. Because using them tends to be a matter of some structured introspection followed by feedback on how others perceive you, you can learn to get outside your comfort zone and see yourself as others see you in order to further your own goals. Useful stuff.
These kinds of things do run into their inherent limits rather quickly, in my experience. When they become an ideology – I’ve seen people obsess over their own Meyers-Briggs profile in a way that just can’t be healthy – they go from useful-in-context to a kind of mental disease in a hurry. But the fact that a few fruitcakes will take the Meyers-Briggs down the rabbit hole doesn’t make it useless in every context, any more than the fact that a few commenters are off the rails invalidates a valuable blog.
Since the main obsession of manosphere “Game” (as distinct from manosphere critique of the current situation) is how a man can improve himself in a way that makes him more attractive to women, and the main source of knowledge of Game comes from the pickup artist (PUA) community, it makes sense that the basis of Game would be this sort of superficial but useful model. “Game” itself, when it has any stable meaning at all, appears to be a set of social prescriptions intended to help a man be perceived as “Alpha”, the personality type most attractive to women — or, at least, to the shallow and sleazy women who are of interest to PUAs. Given the state of the general population’s sexual mores it is perhaps forgivable to miss the difference between “shallow and sleazy” and “everyone”, certainly while generalizing.
But I digress. Before we can start picking the prescriptions of Game apart we have to understand the basis from which they are made; and the basis from which they are made comes from Game’s assessment of how women perceive men in terms of attraction. As with all things female and mysterious (but I repeat myself), how women actually respond to men is different from what they say they want: I’ve already discussed the appeal of badboys in a previous post.
So the Greek letters in Game refer to a man’s “frame”, or how he presents himself, as perceived by women. If you see a paradox in a man obsessing over how to be perceived by women as though he were indifferent to women as a means to the end of making himself more attractive to women, I’m right there with you. But right now we are working on a descriptive task. So here is my four-quadrant model of the way the manosphere categorizes men-as-perceived-by-women:
And … well, that’s all for now.
If there is a lesson in here for young men, I’d suggest that it is the following: if you are going to marry, marry the virgin sweetheart of your youth whom you know intimately, love intensely, and trust completely. Make sure she knows and agrees without reservation that you are the leader and final decision maker in your household. Act like a man, and don’t let the world convince you that you should be a supplicating whiner. And best of luck to you, because the world is against you in every way.
If on the other hand you need MBA-style four-quadrant models to manage your wife of ten years, you are in serious trouble and you’d better face that fact. That’s OK: you have lots of company. But understand what you are up against.
October 8, 2012 § 21 Comments
In this post I am going to talk about the “equality” that Christians refer to when we say things like “all people have equal dignity”.
I am not talking about the political concept of “equal rights.” “Equal rights” is much more obviously problematic, because a “right” is an exclusive discriminating authority while the “equal” part demands that, in the name of freedom, we don’t authoritatively discriminate. This forms the incoherent foundation of the political philosophy of liberalism, which is the political philosophy to which all respectable modern people are loyal, and to which respectable people pay tribute in civic ritual. This is the sort of equality that leads to dehumanizing certain kinds of people as a prelude to rights-based mass murder like abortion and euthanasia, and to other rights-based atrocities like the medical cannibalization we call “embryonic stem cell research.” It also leads people to mutilate their bodies and engage in in-your-face sodomy as a way of expressing their freedom and autonomy. The fact that this sort of equality can be interpreted as vacuous to neuter its incoherence doesn’t really help, as a practical matter. People like their core ideas to have consequences, so any interpretation of “equal rights” as a mere token without these consequences is inherently unstable when situated in an actual reality, even though it may be benign and vestigial in theory.
That’s not what I’m talking about.
When Christians use the term “equal dignity” we aren’t referring to politics, or to temporal authority or status relationships. “Equal dignity” is a token that is intended to represent the fact that human beings have – every human being has – intrinsic value and moral inviolability qua human being. As a practical moral consequence there are things we should and should not do to/for any and every human being. As a deontological matter each and every human being belongs to God, not to us, and must never be treated as mere objects or as nothing but a means to our own ends. Moral judgement as pertains to acts are our duty to make; moral judgement of the final destination of souls is beyond our ken (for which I, personally, am deeply thankful).
This is a crucial truth about Man, and we could use any invented token as a convenient representation of that truth. “Equal dignity” happens to be, in my view, a particularly unfortunate choice of token.
The reason “equal dignity” is an unfortunate token is because it carries with it an implication of commensurability, when in fact the objects to which it applies – persons – are incommensurable. Equal numbers are commensurable. Equal numbers of apples are commensurable. Equal numbers of dollars or man hours are commensurable. Equal numbers of anything at all are commensurable: this commensurability is indeed the very point of the term “equal”. Yet incommensurability is a core element of the truth that the underlying concept of “equal dignity” represents. The question “which of your children do you love most” doesn’t really have an answer, because love is not a quantitative concept. In a twist of Screwtapian linguistic irony Christians have selected a modern, utilitarian, quantitative term to represent a concept which rejects modern, utilitarian, quantitative anthropology.
I wonder if supposed moral dilemmas like the trolley problem, with their tendency to beg the question of utilitarianism, would carry as much force with Christians if we weren’t using inherently utilitarian terms of commensurability like “equality”. I wonder how much less appeal the numbers games people play with the casualties of the Hiroshima massacre and WWII would have if we adopted non-utilitarian language. I wonder if modern people could even come to understand non-utilitarian language, as embedded as the assumptions of materialist utilitarianism have become in our collective psyche.
When it comes to question-begging utilitarian language, modernity has no equal.