There’s a whole in your reductionism

April 19, 2013 § 19 Comments

One reasonable criticism of the notions of a “sexual marketplace” and a “marriage marketplace” is that as reductive concepts they fail to capture the full reality they purport to describe.

But of course this is true of all reductionism.  Reductive methods can be extremely useful as a way of finding or describing partial truths.  Reductive descriptions of real things are never complete: it is literally impossible to capture a part of reality and bottle it up into formal expressions.

At the end of the day, the concept of an economic marketplace is every bit as problematic as the concept of a sexual or marriage marketplace.  They are useful concepts, and they help us come to grips with true aspects of reality.  But they are also inherently limited, and the modern tendency is to be blinded by reductionism.

I realize I’m not saying anything especially new or novel here – hey, welcome to blogging.  These thoughts were prompted by reading this post over at Siris.  Whether “hypergamy” is or is not a good term for a largely intuitive and not rigorously researched-and-documented notion of the operation of the sexual marketplace and (distinctly) the marriage marketplace is certainly a legitimate question.  (Every time someone in the manosphere says “game theory” I think of John von Neumann and get mildly annoyed at the cooption of the term.)

But terminology aside, a lack of scientifically reductive rigor and comprehensive social science documentation isn’t enough to make me dismiss a whole set of ideas – especially ideas about as squirrelly a subject as sex – as moronic.  In fact when it comes to matters of sex, I tend to find pretensions to scientific rigor rather suspicious.

§ 19 Responses to There’s a whole in your reductionism

  • Vanessa says:

    I suspect that some Game principles do respond to a general tendency of women versus men. So, “women are more willing to obey a man who behaves in a dominant manner”. This is a general truism, but (as I addressed in my post today) , this doesn’t necessarily mean what the Gamers think it means.

  • Gian says:

    Siris is not questioning the notion of sexual or marriage marketplace but the notion of female hypergamy. To say that females prefer to mate with higher-status males is vacuous until one specifies independently male status. This is what he writes
    “Without precision — which it never really gets — the e-psych sense runs the obvious danger of collapsing into a tautology.”

    A person from traditional society would see it more easily- marriage is a bond not merely between two individuals but between two families and thus the anthropological notion of hypergamy where women from lower-status families marry into higher-status families.

    Thus the problem with e-psych is not it is a reduction but a vacant reduction.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    To say that females prefer to mate with higher-status males is vacuous until one specifies independently male status.

    But that is, itself, a load of tommyrot. In reality people understand social status reasonably well without reference to philosophically precise definitions. One doesn’t have to “specify” to a philosopher’s satisfaction what is and isn’t torture, or what is and isn’t pornography, or what is and isn’t any number of other things, in order to make meaningfully definite statements about those things.

    Siris is just playing the same “know nothing” game played by positivists and reductionists everywhere. This is disappointing, because he is not usually that stupid. Something about this subject makes him lose it, as he concedes himself in the comments.

    In the comments the strategy of gratuitous denial became clear when he said this:

    … involving the arbitrary mixing of social and biological explanation functions; sex drive is quite literally just a biological tendency to sex given genetics, hormones, stress levels, and the like. Identifying social status, however, (unlike identifying pornography) is an extremely complex cognitive activity, arguably one of the most complicated every-day evaluations human beings do. There is no known biological way for “female sex drive” to be “strongly linked to social status”;

    “Hypergamy” as used in the manosphere (and by James Taranto in that article) poses quite precisely that social and biological functions are mixed: that female sex drive is driven at least in part by the herd’s evaluation of male status, whereas male sex drive is not (or certainly not to the same extent).

    Suggesting that this is wrong is one thing; claiming (with a heaping helping of New Atheist style contempt, which is, not without irony, a grab at social status for one’s claims) that it is incoherent is another.

    I’ve claimed that plenty of concepts are incoherent: “equal rights”, for example. But I show how they are incoherent by engaging with the meaning of the terms.

    The notion that biological functions and social functions are mixed in human beings, though, is not incoherent. And it isn’t tautological except to the extent that social evaluations tend toward self-reference: in the comments I suggested that the “famous for being famous” social phenomenon is both ontologically real and apparently self-referential. But that self-reference is a philosopher’s abstraction from reality: real feedback loops are pervasive in reality, and it is ridiculous to (e.g.) suggest that operational amplifiers are an incoherent concept because of their self reference. Someone who suggests something like that is demonstrating the brokenness of his conceptual apparatus, not the incoherence of reality.

    Siris, in a nutshell, as far as I can tell, is mistaking the philosophical abstractions in his head for reality.

    I’d have to disbelieve my lying eyes to think the contrary, that sex drive in women has nothing whatsoever to do with social status in men. And nobody needs an advanced degree to understand what that means.

  • donalgraeme says:

    I hope you don’t mind my jumping in Zippy, but I think I might have something to contribute to the discussion.

    Part of the problem with understanding “Hypergamy” is that the word itself doesn’t accurately explain what it is that women are after. A strict definition encompasses a desire for a woman to mate with a man of higher status than her own. Status plays a part in this, no doubt, but it is not alone in determining female mating behavior.

    You see, the word Hypergamy is being used to describe the complex set of traits that women find attractive in men. It is attraction we are talking about here, because attraction drives mating behaviors. Women are driven to mate with the most attractive man they can. Rather than call such men “high-status”, it is more accurate to call them “high-value.” Women aren’t necessarily looking for a higher status man than themselves, or the highest status man available. Why? Because status is only just one of the different attributes that determines male attractiveness in female eyes. I wrote a guest post over at Sunshine Mary’s site a while back where I explained my own theory on what it is that women are looking for, and will leave the link at the bottom to a replica. But here is a short explanation:

    Women examine five different qualities or attributes of a man. I called them Vectors in my post, that is a matter for another time. But these five represent a fairly accurate distillation of what women want.

    Looks
    Athleticism
    Money
    Power
    Status

    I call it LAMPS for short. Power, for the curious, is my word for Masculine Power or Masculinity, that intangible quality that makes a man a man (consequently it is the most important attribute). Otherwise, the others are fairly straightforward. Looks encompasses physical features which a man has little to no control over, while Athleticism covers those which a man does control. Money includes all resources a man can call upon, while Status includes all of the perks, prestige and authority that comes with a man’s position in society.

    A man who has all of these “vectors” in large amounts is high-value, while a man with low amounts is low-value. Women are driven to mate with high-value men, and avoid low-value men like the plague. Once you understand what criterion women use to evaluate men for “value”, the rest becomes relatively easy.

    https://donalgraeme.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/the-5-vectors-of-female-attraction-a-restoration/

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    I have previously made on this blog comments to the effect that universal claims of the Game are untenable. At best, they describe the particular model of decay of particular segments of a particular culture- i.e urban West.
    Thus, Taranto’s statement that
    “Because the female sex drive is hypergamous, Princeton women, as Patton asserts, will be attracted to men who are their cognitive or educational equals or superiors.”
    is groundless. The proper use of hypergamy refers to marriage practices.
    Taranto implies that there is something essentially biological , that after stripping persons of their overlying culture, rules a person. But that is simply a false anthropology.
    1) If one believes in any religion i.e. has supernatural convictions, be it Christian or Hindu, then one believes that humans are supernaturally oriented.
    2) If one does not have supernatural convictions and one believes in evolution through natural selection, then how is “status” defined in biological terms?

  • Gian says:

    donalgraeme,

    “A strict definition encompasses a desire for a woman to mate with a man of higher status than her own”

    The status comparison can only be between like and like. Status of a man can not be compared with status of a woman.
    The correct way is, as Siris noted, status of the wife’s family vs status of the husband’s family.

  • Dystopia Max says:

    “I have previously made on this blog comments to the effect that universal claims of the Game are untenable. At best, they describe the particular model of decay of particular segments of a particular culture- i.e urban West.”

    Still, those claims are much less untenable than the claim that following all the rules and deferring to your church elders on all matters involving women will result in a successful marriage.

    “Thus, Taranto’s statement that“Because the female sex drive is hypergamous, Princeton women, as Patton asserts, will be attracted to men who are their cognitive or educational equals or superiors.”
    is groundless. The proper use of hypergamy refers to marriage practices.”

    Wrong: The proper talk about marriage practices refers to observed sex preferences and child-rearing necessities.

    “Taranto implies that there is something essentially biological , that after stripping persons of their overlying culture, rules a person. But that is simply a false anthropology.
    1) If one believes in any religion i.e. has supernatural convictions, be it Christian or Hindu, then one believes that humans are supernaturally oriented.
    2) If one does not have supernatural convictions and one believes in evolution through natural selection, then how is “status” defined in biological terms?”

    Incoherent and woefully ignorant. “Status” is easily recognized and celebrated by the lowest savages and inner-city urban dwellers (redundancy alert) and is generally understood to be expressed in the totality of your actions in the moment and in history. Watch five minutes of any BET programming and you’ll see some sort of status maneuver. Those who do not worship God will more often than not worship female beauty(if men) and male power/status (if women.) Marriage simply puts a limit to the constant striving for erotic gratification in both husband and wife so that both can work on higher things.

    Anything beyond this is useless sophistry and anger that non-Christians had to make something explicit that you really should have seen in the Bible to begin with, especially the Old Testament.

  • donalgraeme says:

    “The status comparison can only be between like and like. Status of a man can not be compared with status of a woman.”

    True on the first part. Which is why the use of word Hypergamy is not accurate.

    “The correct way is, as Siris noted, status of the wife’s family vs status of the husband’s family.”

    Perhaps as a matter of culture, but not as a matter of innate biology. Women are not seeking to “mate with a higher status male than themselves.” They aren’t comparing themselves to men re: status. Instead, they are seeking to mate with the highest value male possible.

    Hypergamy is simply put the wrong word to use.

  • Gian says:

    donalgraeme,
    Innate biology is what I am arguing against. For instance, marriage is not reducible to “observed sex preferences and child-rearing necessities.”
    It is mistake to view human behavior as culture wrapped over a bare biology. And you would still need to explain culture biologically.

    You say “they are seeking to mate with the highest value male possible. ”
    This would be speculative even for animals. Applied to people, it is entirely groundless It is the denial of the god Eros. Under this god, man seeks not the pleasure or profit but the beloved. And love rules out all calculations. If one calculates, one does not love.

    The LAMPS idea might be OK. It is possible to include the incalculable element into masculinity or even status. But the claim that one of the impulses that drive women is to have sex with the best available male is totally absurd. It needs to kept in mind that normal women do not behave like this but abnormal ones. As you write
    “The female does not want to be bound to the male “until death do you part.” She instead wants to be with him so long as he is the best available male; if a better male comes along she will seek to abandon her present mate and “trade up” to the newer, better man.”

    Is it true for women categorically?. In the sense that man is a two-legged animal. That is, is it the nature of women to be promiscuous?

  • Gian says:

    The broader Game theory is based upon a fallacy. That the observations of a wrecked culture would generate information about the bare human nature, that is reduced to biology and this information could be applied even to non- or partly-wrecked cultures with the supposition that underlying all human cultures, there is this bare human nature that is biological.

    By biological nature I mean non-rational and non-loving (in the Christian sense).

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    There is something you may be missing (in terms of understanding the theory, setting aside whether or not the theory is accurate).

    The theory posits that the attractiveness of particular men to women is – literally – a social phenomenon in addition to a physiological phenomenon, and that those two aspects are not separable. A woman (posits the theory) will find it very difficult to be attracted to a man who is (or who she considers to be) her social equal or inferior: a man who she does not look up to as her social superior will be unattractive, sexually. (This is not true of men, who easily find women who are their social inferiors attractive based on their physical attributes, personality, etc).

    (It is this posited connection that Siris gratuitously denies as outright moronic because it has not been verified scientifically, and which therefore in his taxonomy of knowledge does not constitute an “explanation”. That’s what prompted me to post in the first place, as well as to attempt to have an actual substantive discussion over there — an attempt which was rebuffed).

    Now there are many ways in which this inequality can manifest itself. In general hierarchy is not exclusively a phenomenon of nature abstracted away from society and culture; nor is it exclusively a function of culture. It is both/and not either/or.

    So in a perverse and twisted culture like ours, the specifics of “game” (goes the theory) work because they provide the men who practice them with ways to convince a given woman to look up to them rather than considering them her equal or inferior. In a different culture they wouldn’t work qua specific techniques, because that isn’t how the “pecking order” functions in those other cultures.[*]

    But the fundamental connection between a man’s attractiveness to a woman, and her perception of their relative positions in the social hierarchy and of his absolute position, remains more basic than the specifics of a particular culture.

    —-

    [*] I’ve expressed numerous doubts about this myself. At this point I view “game” as basically a form of sales training; and in sales training the specific techniques are not as important as learning confidence, learning to figure out on-the-spot how to push someone’s buttons to get the outcome you want, learning not to be discouraged by ten “no’s” but to persist just as exuberantly with the next prospect, learning to cut your losses and move on from a dead prospect rather than engaging in diminishing-returns effort, etc.

  • donalgraeme says:

    It appears that I misunderstood the context of this argument. Just goes to show that careful reading is always essential.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    Your careful positing of hypergamy I would not find fault with except I would replace of attractiveness of men with attractiveness regarding marriage. That is, the anthropological sense of hypergamy that Siris accepts.
    Regarding attractiveness of men to women, isn’t it a big gripe of menosphere that their women are running off with unsuitable men that are very much their social inferiors.

    As I see it, Taranto carelessly conflates social status with “cognitive or educational equality or superiority”. Perhaps in a meritocracy, women would marry by educational superiority? But it can not be simply assumed.

    My point is that basing upon a valid anthropological sense of hypergamy, a lot of people are making all kinds of invalid generalizations about female sex drive and without warrant going from particular customs of particular societies to universal statements. For instance, there is a notion of ‘state of nature’ posited in which men and women interact without any established customs. You should be able to see that it is nonsense. There has been and there can be no such ‘state of nature’. Man is a rational and political animal.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    You write
    :”a man who she does not look up to as her social superior will be unattractive, sexually. (This is not true of men, who easily find women who are their social inferiors attractive based on their physical attributes, personality, etc)”

    Now social status is given in a society, that is not by women alone. The masculinity presumably is not a factor in the social status since you also write that men find socially inferior women attractive based upon their personality.

    Frankly, I should like all statements to be prefaced, implicitly or explicitly, by the proviso that we talk of attractiveness in a society where marriage has been destroyed.

    Now you need to expand on this “social status”. I suppose you do not agree with me and donalgraeme that male and female social status can not be compared. Perhaps the society is egalitarian and feminist enough that now a single status exists for males and females.
    Notice that while you speak of a female seeking males that are superior to her in status, donalgrame talks of a female selecting the highest value male available to her. That is, the status or value is compared between males and not between male and female.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    Your careful positing of hypergamy I would not find fault with except I would replace of attractiveness of men with attractiveness regarding marriage. That is, the anthropological sense of hypergamy that Siris accepts.

    That was Siris’ terminological gripe, and I don’t have a problem with it: the “gamy” suffix in general refers to marriage not attraction, so the label “hypergamy” seems offhand to be referring to marriage patterns. But the way the androsphere uses the term it refers to the things that trigger attraction in women (and indeed it is a part of the theory, as I understand it, that the mismatch between attraction triggers and marriage choices is a big driver of divorce — 70% or more of which is initiated by women.)

    Regarding attractiveness of men to women, isn’t it a big gripe of menosphere that their women are running off with unsuitable men that are very much their social inferiors.

    Not social inferiors. I think the gripe is that because traditional marriage has been destroyed, women are choosing to have physical relationships with men who are unsuitable as providers, and are marrying men who they find unsatisfying as lovers: alpha f***s and beta bucks.

    There has been and there can be no such ‘state of nature’.

    Agreed.

    Frankly, I should like all statements to be prefaced, implicitly or explicitly, by the proviso that we talk of attractiveness in a society where marriage has been destroyed.

    There are still aspects that (goes the theory) would apply in every society. Every society is hierarchical, and therefore this inaptly-named “hypergamy” would apply in every society, though the particulars would differ quite a bit from one society to another. A rock band singer would be seen as bizarre and rather leperous rather than as high status in tribal Scotland, for example.

    You and donalgraeme raise interesting points about the nature of the “status” in question. Because this whole area is highly politically incorrect in an egalitarian society, most of us inevitably come at it from a standpoint of personal experience rather than by reading anthropological research, with all the caveats that implies. I expect that it cannot be hermetically separated into separate status ladders for men and women, because a big attraction killer for a woman is when she forms the impression that she is more manly than him. But how much of that is a function of the particular perversity of our modern society and how much is more universal than that is an open question in my mind. It does seem right that in a more functional society, the “ladylike ladder” and the “manly ladder” would be less conflated.

  • alcestiseshtemoa says:

    Game is a mixed bag, with long-term downsides, but since no other mainstream source is willing to publish and discuss the material it entails (sex differences, innate female language and behaviors), and would probably get banned in most avenues, it’s a necessary evil (for now).

    Game has hedonism and caddish tendencies in it (bad), but it also teaches someone a certain form of language (good). The best resort is for somebody to try to get all of the good stuff out and to leave, because staying there too long isn’t good.

  • Mike T says:

    I think the main reason people tend to “lose it” on this subject is that the implications tend to indict a lot of institutions and practices near and dear to many. For example, it’s a hard pill for many conservatives to swallow that many churches teach men to be beta males (in the roissy sense) because that immediately implies some uncomfortable things:

    1. Many conservative men are beta males (thus unattractive to most women).
    2. Many conservative women are married to beta males.
    3. The church is often a vehicle for degrading not regenerating the world now.
    4. The conservative movement is, in some respects, useful idiots for the very movement it opposes by breathing life into the cultural patterns its opponents need in order to thrive.
    5. Part of the reason for conservative failure comes from the betaizing process many of its institutions now perpetuate which means it is literally creating men who are less capable of being men.

    This topic goes against so many things our modern society values that it would be heretical were it not for the fact that there is more provable truth in it than in many of the values it challenges.

    I’ll also add contra Gian that male and female status are comparable, while not interchangeable. Innate sex differences are not enough to make us simply incomparable. If that were not the case, then most men could never gauge what sort of woman was likely to be a respectable match for them relative to their status in the male hierarchy. You’d have men that Vox would call Gammas utterly incredulous as to why women like Heidi Klum didn’t want anything to do with them. The reverse would likely be true as well. Furthermore, insults based on being able to “do better” would simply not make much sense unless a woman married a demonstrably terrible man because women would not be able to gauge what sort of man they should.

  • […] can be adapted – at the level of personal engagement with the virtue of chastity – to modern “SMP” or “MMP” realities through some sort of realpolitik, I would suggest that you don’t yet grasp what chastity […]

  • […] can be a very useful conceptual tool.  But it is a mistake to think that reality, as an ontological matter, is actually partitioned […]

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