What is moral foundation theory good for?

by novalis5 min read12th Aug 2012300 comments


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I've seen Jonathan Haidt mentioned on Less Wrong a few times, and so when I saw an article about (in part) Haidt's new book elsewhere, I thought it would be an interesting read. It was, but not for the reasons I expected. Perhaps it is unfair to judge Haidt before I have read the book, but the quotes in the article reveal some seriously sloppy thinking.

Haidt believes that there are at least six sources of moral values; the first five are harm/caring, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity/disgust. Liberty was recently added to the list, but doesn't seem to have made it into this article. He claims that liberals (in the American sense), care mostly (or only) only about the harm and fairness values, while conservatives care about all five. I myself am a one-foundation person, since I consider unfairness either a special case of harm, or a good heuristic for where harm is likely to occur; my views are apparently so rare that they haven't come up on Haidt's survey, and I haven't met anyone else who has reported a score like mine.

While Haidt describes himself as a "centrist", he argues that "you need loyalty, authority and sanctity to run a decent society." There are at least three ways that this claim can be read:

(1) Haidt's personal moral foundations actually include all five bases, so this is a tautology; of course someone who thinks loyalty is fundamental will think a society without loyalty is not decent. From the tenor of the article, this is at least psychologically plausible.

(2) The three non-universal values can be justified in terms of the common values. This is the interpretation that seems to be supported by some parts of the article, but it has its own issues.

(3) Haidt cannot tell the difference between (1) and (2). Most of the article makes this claim entirely plausible.

Here's one example of Haidt's moral confusion:

"In India, where he performed field studies early in his professional career, he encountered a society in some ways patriarchal, sexist and illiberal. Yet it worked and the people were lovely."

First, was Haidt surprised to find people with different politics than his to be personable? Had he literally never met a conservative before?

Second, what does it mean to say that the society "worked", or that the people were "lovely"? Indian society privileges men and certain castes over women and other castes. I say this not to denigrate India specifically, since there's no society in which women are treated equally to men, but to explain that India does have serious problems. Literacy rates among women are 68% of that of men, to pick a random statistic. And, of course, violence against women is endemic. Haidt reports that he "dined with men whose wives silently served us and then retreated to the kitchen." What does he suppose would have happened if one day one of those women refused to serve, or even, after serving, sat down at the table to join the discussion?

Of course, even this is an upper-class concern; lower class Indian women are far more likely to work outside the home, in order to survive. Apparently in some parts of India, public toilets charge women (who can ill afford it) but not men. And I can only assume that the situation was worse when Haidt was there, at least a decade ago.

Haidt rationalizes this by saying, "I was able to see a moral world in which families, not individuals, are the basic unit of society...". Perhaps this is the story that they tell (and perhaps they even believe it). But history shows that when women can find alternatives, they don't choose to live like this. So there is both a harm and a fairness concern here. Haidt, having seen the loyalty/authority story, comes to ignore the harm/fairness story. He follows this by an anecdote focusing on the harm caused by individualism, since he is apparently incapable of justifying the non-universal foundations on their own terms.

Here's another case of this confusion. Haidt claimed that among street children in Brazil, the "most dangerous person in the world is mom's boyfriend. When women have a succession of men coming through, their daughters will get raped," he says. "The right is right to be sounding the alarm about the decline of marriage, and the left is wrong to say, 'Oh, any kind of family is OK.' It's not OK."

In this instance, Haidt is switching the goalposts. His moral foundation test is designed to isolate the five foundations. But here, there is clearly harm in addition to any violation of tradition. He doesn't exactly say which non-harm foundation he wants to invoke here -- that is, what the mothers' violation is. Impurity is the only plausible choice. This, of course, brings to the front one of the most common real effects of the "purity" foundation: to disempower women.

I should add that there is no citation on this data; it also doesn't seem to appear in the book (at least, not that I could find via Google Books). A quick glance through Google does not reveal a plausible source for this. So where did he get it from? Probably not via direct observation (how would he have observed these rapes?). He must have heard it from Brazilians. Well, if that's true, then these Brazilian women must know it. And since nobody wants their daughter to get raped, this must mean that they have a very good reason for inviting these men in -- maybe the alternative is starvation. Recall that we're talking about "street children" here. I just can't imagine a woman saying, "yeah, he's going to rape my daughter, but I really love him!" But I think it's actually more likely that this is just the sort of rumor that the Catholic Church would want to spread, to combat unmarried cohabitation. It gets its memetic strength from blame-shifting/just-worldism: "If you didn't want your daughter to get raped, why did you shack (literally?) up with this guy?"

It's true that there are dangers from non-related men, as Sarah Blaffer Hrdy discusses in _Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species; there are also potential benefits. Hrdy's book (which I haven't finished reading yet) discusses both, and also vastly complicates the view of what "traditional" family is. She presents multiple equilibria, some more common among farmers and others more common among foragers (to use Robin Hanson's language). A Brazilian shantytown doesn't really fit well into either framework, so it's unclear whether norms adapted for either would be effective.

So does Haidt believe that nontraditional families are wrong because they violate purity? Or because they're harmful? The standard conservative reply to this is that our traditions evolved because they were useful (i.e. prevented harm), and to erase the traditions without understanding the value that they provided is an mistake. This is put in a delightfully patronizing way by Chesterton -- notice how he will "allow" you to clear away a tradition as though it were his decision to make.

And it is in fact relatively easy to come up with evolutionary psychology just-so stories as reasons for why loyalty, authority, and purity would have been useful in the ancestral environment. (The same is true of fairness). Authority, for instance, might help with collective decision making. Maybe it's best for the tribe to go take the left fork, and it might be better to take the right fork. But it is almost always better for them all to take the same fork, than it is to split up. If there's one tribal leader, then they can make that decision and have others agree with it. This isn't a case of group selection; every individual of the group benefits from coordination. I describe this as a "just-so story" here because it would be extremely difficult to find evidence for whether in fact a specific moral intuition evolved for a specific reason. Haidt's book apparently presents some of these arguments in the context of group selection, but in this particular example, group selection (or even kin selection or reciprocal altruism) isn't a necessary part of the hypothesis; treating groups as part of the environment (rather than as the unit of evolution) is sufficient.

Moral foundations theory is perhaps useful descriptively, in that, if it were shown to be something beyond a just-so story, it would explain why there are five (or six, or more) foundations as opposed to one or two. It is, however, missing a piece: why are there people who don't share all five foundations? The evolutionary argument is not useful prescriptively, because evolution only cares about harm (and only certain kinds of harm), and once we decide to see moral questions in terms of harm, then questions of actual harm can screen off the other evolved heuristics. Yes, humans are Adaptation-Executers, not Fitness-Maximizers. So there are lots of cases where we follow our evolved intuitions rather than the pressures that selected for those intuitions. But we are also apparently adapted to contemplate moral philosophy. So when we find ourselves justifying an evolved intuition A in terms of another evolved intuition B, we might consider B more fundamental. And if there are cases where A isn't explainable in terms of B, five-foundation people just get stuck. This, perhaps does explain the one- or two-foundation view; it's what happens when you ask "why?" once, and throw out everything that doesn't actually have an answer. When you ask a second time, you're getting into the realm of meta-ethics.  Instrumental five-foundation people (such as Haidt, probably), wouldn't get stuck -- but they would fall back to harm.

Maybe there's another argument for the three non-universal foundations, but Haidt doesn't make it. Does he feel that, by defining something as a "foundation", it doesn't need an argument? But if so, why does he keep reaching for harm as an explanation?

As a descriptive theory, Haidt's moral foundation framework helps explain some of the differing moral values people have. Haidt seems to wrongly interpret it as a useful prescriptive tool. However he has not presented any reason to think that it is, in fact, useful prescriptively, and has presented several reasons to doubt it.  

[Added later:]

None of this is to say that there are no reasons to be conservative.  You could be conservative instrumentally (as Haidt seems to be), or you could be conservative because you really do consider all five bases to be inherently valuable (you could also do both at once, but that should make you slightly suspicious that you're rationalizing).  There's no inherent problem with either of those.  Haidt's problem is that he wants to have it both ways; he want to present the non-universal foundations as inherently valuable, but all his actual arguments are about their instrumental value.

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It is, however, missing a piece: why are there people who don't share all five foundations?

You are right that Haidt is missing that piece, although judging by his recent writings, he might be slowly converging towards the answer. Namely, the answer is that, contrary to Haidt's model of contemporary ideologies, there are in fact no such people.

What does exist are people whose ideology says that harm and (maybe) fairness are the only rational and reasonable moral foundations, while the other ones are only due to ignorance, stupidity, backwardness, malice, etc. Nevertheless, these same people have their own strong norms of sacredness, purity, authority, and in-group loyalty, for which they however invent ideologically motivated rationalizations in terms of harm and fairness. These rationalizations are usually very flimsy, and often they amount to little more than an instinctive emotional urge to dismiss anyone who asks unpleasant questions as crazy or malicious. Yet, given the high status and institutional dominance of such ideologies, their adherents generally do manage to create a public image of themselves as concerned only with the "rational" foundations (and thus s... (read more)

I would actually go further and say that they are necessary for any sort of organized human society.

While they are likely necessary for organized human society, I think the argument is that their purpose is purely instrumental. It's sort of like how in the prisoner's dilemma, the concept of 'trust' ('tit for tat with forgiveness' variants) is an instrumentally useful strategy for winning points in a group of a certain kind of agents. Even if humans have loyalty, authority and sanctity built-in, they can still recognize their instrumental role and can only instrumentally optimize for those.

4Vladimir_M8yThe trouble is, absent certain unusually favorable circumstances, attempts at such optimization run into insurmountable practical problems. For start, such analysis would be tremendously difficult even for a superhumanly unbiased intellect. And then there is the even worse problem that realistic humans will be under an almost irresistible temptation to bias their analysis in favor of their own particular authority, sanctity, and in-group norms.
3fubarobfusco8yI wonder if the topic of "moral foundations" would better be considered as "human universals that sometimes contribute to some of the things that get labeled 'morality'." Because plenty of the time, the instrumental ones also contribute to things that get labeled "immorality". The purity universal includes the sexual jealousy of the abusive spouse; the loyalty universal includes Milgram's subjects; and so on. We recognize that these are morally significant, but in a negative sense: the abuser is not merely pursuing a positive purity ideal in ill-chosen ways, and Milgram did not find people longing for something to be loyal to, but people who responded with obedience even in situations where doing so was immoral.
1GLaDOS8yDon't forget pathological altruism [http://www.amazon.com/Pathological-Altruism-Barbara-Oakley/dp/0199738572] for the harm equality foundation.
0Viliam_Bur8yPerhaps fairness could also be interpreted as a sacred value, and a useful heuristics to reduce harm.
8Scott Alexander8yFallacy of gray [http://lesswrong.com/lw/mm/the_fallacy_of_gray/]? Arguably no one has completely removed all minor unconscious belief in purity/sanctity/authority based values, but I think endorsing harm/fairness values at least correlates with holding fewer values based on P/S/A, even secretly. I am also not clear whether you're saying only that mainstream large liberal parties like UK Labor or US Democrats secretly have many P/S/A values, or whether you would say the same is true of people like Peter Singer or the more pragmatic/less ideological strains of libertarian. I think the gradient from the Pope to Nancy Pelosi to Peter Singer is quite clear, even if the last might still have some P/S/A values lurking somewhere. If you disagree, can you name a few purity, sanctity, or authority based values you expect intelligent liberals or libertarians on LW to endorse?

Fallacy of gray? Arguably no one has completely removed all minor unconscious belief in purity/sanctity/authority based values, but I think endorsing harm/fairness values at least correlates with holding fewer values based on P/S/A, even secretly.

There are two distinct questions here:

  1. Are the standard liberal ideological positions (in the American sense of the word) really as low on the sacredness/authority/in-group values as Haidt would claim?

  2. Are there, generally speaking, significant numbers of people (perhaps weighted by their influence) whose ideological positions are truly low on the sacredness/authority/in-group values? (Whatever their overlap with the standard liberal positions might be.)

I believe that the answer to (1) is decisively no. And here I don't have in mind some minor holdovers, but some of the very central tenets of the ideology of modern liberalism -- which are largely liberal innovations, and not just unexamined baggage from the past. So even if I'm committing fallacies here, they're not fallacies of gray. In this thread and the linked older comments, I have already elaborated on one significant example where the standard liberal positions are heavy on... (read more)

I think my problem with your responses on this thread so far has been that you've taken various liberal positions, said "Obviously this a sacredness value, liberals say it's about harm but they are lying", and not justified this. Or else "Some people say they are utilitarians, but obviously they are lying and have sacredness and purity and authority values just like everyone else" and not justified that either.

For example, where exactly is this liberal sacredness around sexual autonomy? The place I see liberals really get worked up about this is tolerance of homosexuality, but the standard liberal mantra in this case, that it's okay because it "doesn't harm anyone", seems to me to be entirely correct - it's throwing out a conservative purity-based value in favor of a genuinely harm-based value. Liberals are pretty happy to oppose clear-cut cases of harm in sexual relations like rape or lying about STDs, not to mention that most of them oppose pedophilia and prostitution.

In order to demonstrate that liberal sexual values are sacredness rather than harm based, you'd need to point out some specific sexual practice that was harmless but which liberals stil... (read more)

I think my problem with your responses on this thread so far has been that you've taken various liberal positions, said "Obviously this a sacredness value, liberals say it's about harm but they are lying", and not justified this.

"Lying" is not the right word, since it suggests conscious deception. The term I have used consistently is rationalization.

In order to demonstrate that liberal sexual values are sacredness rather than harm based, you'd need to point out some specific practice that was harmless but which liberals still violently opposed [...] or harmful but which liberals supported [...]

Arguing against liberal positions on such matters is very difficult because they tend to be backed by a vast arsenal of rationalizations based on purportedly rational considerations of harm or fairness, often coming from prestigious and accredited intellectual institutions where liberals predominate. This is of course in addition to the dense minefield of "boo lights" where an argument, whatever its real merits, will trigger such outrage in a liberal audience that the discourse will be destroyed and the speaker discredited.

So, while I can readily point ... (read more)

So, while I can readily point out concrete examples of the sort you're asking, unfortunately in many of them, crossing the inferential distances would be an uphill battle, or there would be immediate unpleasantness that I'd rather avoid. Therefore I'll limit myself to a few more vague and general points:

I've often seen you say this kind of thing in your comments. Do you participate in another forum where you do describe the details? Or alternatively, are you preparing us to eventually be ready to hear the details by giving these vague and general points?

I think there is a good chance that many of your ideas are wrong and you are probably more confident about them than you should be. (Nothing personal, I just think most new ideas are wrong and their proponents overconfident.) I could argue against the vague and general points that you offer, but it feels pointless since presumably you have stronger arguments that you're not sharing so I have no way of convincing you or bystanders that you are wrong, nor is it likely that you can convince me that you are right (without sharing those details). I imagine other potential critics probably feel the same and also stay silent as a result... (read more)

5Vladimir_M8yI agree that this is a valid concern, but I don't think your evaluation of the situation is entirely fair. Namely, I almost never open any controversial and inflammatory topics on this forum. (And I definitely haven't done so in a very long time, nor do I intend to do it in the future.) I make comments on such topics only when I see that others have already opened them and I believe that what has been written is seriously flawed. (In fact, usually I don't react even then.) Therefore, while I certainly accept that my incomplete arguments may cause the problems you describe, you must take into account that the alternative is a situation where other people's arguments stand unchallenged even though they are, in my opinion, seriously flawed. In such situations, leaving them unanswered would create a problem similar to the one you point out with regards to my comments, i.e. a misleading impression that there is a more agreement with them that there actually is. (This even aside from the problem that, if I am correct, it would mean wrong arguments standing unchallenged.) In these situations, I take my arguments as far as I believe I can take them without causing so much controversy that the discourse breaks down. This is a sort of situation where there is no good outcome, and I believe that often the least bad option is to make it known that there is some disagreement and voice it as far as it can be done. (In the sense that this outcome, whatever its problems, still makes the best out of the unfavorable trade-offs that unavoidably appear whenever some controversial and inflammatory topic is opened.) Of course, there are many ways in which I could be wrong. Maybe the arguments I see as flawed are in fact usually correct and I'm just creating confusion and misleading people by parading my mistaken contrary beliefs this way. Maybe these topics are so unimportant that it's always better to ignore them than to raise any amount of fuss. Maybe my comments, however careful

I think the concrete objection from your comment fails to recognize the relevant concerns I outlined above.

Yes, it's quite possible that you've thought through these issues more thoroughly than I have. But one thing that makes me more skeptical than usual is that you're the only person I know who often makes claims like "I privately have better arguments but I can't share them because they would be too inflammatory". If your arguments and conclusions are actually correct, why haven't other people discovered them independently and either made them public (due to less concern about causing controversy) or made similar claims (about having private arguments)? Do you have an explanation why you seem to be in such an uncommon epistemic position? (For example do you have certain cognitive strengths that make it easier for you to see certain insights?)

If I were you, I would be rather anxious to see if my arguments stand up under independent scrutiny, and would find a place where they can be discussed without causing excessive harm. I asked earlier whether you discuss your ideas in other forums or have plans to make them public eventually. You didn't answer explicitly which I guess means the answers to both are "no"? Can you explain why?

Sorry, I composed the above comment in a rush, and forgot to address the other questions you asked because I focused on the main objection.

Regarding other forums, the problem is that they offer only predictable feedback based on the ideological positions of the owners and participants. Depending on where I go, I can get either outrage and bewilderment or admiring applause, and while this can be fun and vanity-pleasing, it offers no useful feedback. So while I do engage in ideological rants and scuffles for fun from time to time on other forums, I've never bothered with making my writing there systematic and precise enough to be worth your time.

Regarding other thinkers, I actually don't think that much of my thinking is original. In fact, my views on most questions are mostly cobbled together from insights I got from various other authors, with only some additional synthesis and expansion on my part. I don't think I have any unusual epistemic skills except for unusually broad curiosity and the ability to take arguments seriously even if their source and ultimate conclusion are low-status, unpleasant, ideologically hostile to my values and preferences, etc. (Of course, neither of th... (read more)

4Wei_Dai8yConsidering the source of the arguments, they most likely have not been seriously evaluated by many other careful thinkers, so you must have very high confidence in your ability to distinguish between good and bad arguments from object-level considerations alone. If you can actually, on your own, synthesize a wide-ranging contrarian theory from such diverse and not pre-filtered (and hence low in average quality) sources that is also correct, I would say that you have extremely unusual epistemic skills. I agree with your assessment of this as a problem and an opportunity. But instead of trying, by oneself, to gather such good insights from otherwise biased and irrational people, it would be a better idea to do it as a community. If it seems too difficult or dangerous to try to change LW's community norms to be more receptive to your mode of investigation, you should build your own community of like-minded people. (From Konkvistador's not entirely clear description in the parallel thread, it sounds like you've already tried it via a mailing list, but you can probably try harder?)
2[anonymous]8yI guess I should clarify, I organized a mindkiller discussion mailing list with interested thinkers from LessWrong, that was active for some time. Anyone who was invited was also invited to propose new members, we tried to get a mix of people with differing ideological sympathies who liked discussing mind killing issues and where good rationalists. The vast majority of people contacted responded, the end result was about 30 LWers. I don't feel comfortable disclosing who opted to join. I think I did send you a PM with an invitation to join. More information here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e20/what_is_moral_foundation_theory_good_for/77kk]. The reason I thought such a mailing list might be a good idea was partially because I've had very interesting email correspondences with several LWers in the past (this includes Vladimir_M).
7Tyrrell_McAllister8yTo offer another data point in addition to Konkvistador's, HughRistik made similar claims to me [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7fk/gender_differences_in_spatial_reasoning_appear_to/4s6g] . We had a brief private exchange, the contents of which I promised to keep private. However, I think that I can say, without breach of promise, that the examples he offered in private did not seem to me to be as poisonous to public discourse as he believed. On the other hand, I could see that the arguments he gave where for controversial positions, and anyone arguing for those positions would have to make some cognitively demanding efforts to word their arguments so as to avoid poisoning the discourse. I can see that someone might want to avoid this effort. But, on the whole, the level of effort that would be required didn't seem to me to be that high. I think that it would be easy enough (not easy, but easy enough) for Vladimir_M to make these arguments publicly and productively that he should want to do this for the reasons you give. (I'll also add that the evidence HughRistik offered was serious and deserved respectful consideration, but it did not move me much from my previous mainstream-liberal views on the issues in question.)
1sam03458yMerely expressing certain thoughts in a clear way is deemed to poison the discourse on this forum, whereas expressing certain other thoughts, no matter how rudely, aggressively, childishly, and offensively, is not deemed to poison the discourse. The only way to get away with expressing these thoughts on this forum is to express them as Vlad does, in code that is largely impenetrable except to those that already share those ideas. And as evidence for this proposition, observe that no one does express these thoughts plainly on this forum, not even me, while they are routinely expressed on other forums [http://www.thatsmags.com/shanghai/news-features/urban-future-blog]. Lots of people argue that we are heading not for a technological singularity, but for a left political singularity [http://blog.jim.com/tag/left-singularity], that will likely result in the collapse of western civilization. You could not possibly argue that on this forum. Indeed it is arguably inadvisable to argue that even on a website located on a server within the USA or Europe, though Mencius Moldbug did.
3[anonymous]8yThis post doesn't deserve the down votes it got. Up voted. Urban Future [http://www.thatsmags.com/shanghai/news-features/urban-future-blog] is a rather interesting blog, just read his Dark Enlightenment series and found it a good overview and synthesis of recent reactionary thought. I also liked some of his technology and transhumanist posts. It is probably true that we couldn't discuss this regardless of how much evidence existed for it. Ever since I've started my investigation of how and why values change, the process we've decided to label "moral progress" in the last 250 years, I've been concerned about social phenomena like the one described in the post seriously harming mankind. To quote my comment [http://blog.jim.com/economics/the-left-singularity-continues.html] on the blog post:
1Multiheaded8yI'd rather you refer to Three Worlds Collide than discuss such morbid fantasies! (I've read Land and he makes H.L. Mencken look kind and cheerful by comparison.) One (overly narrow) ideology-related interpretation possible is that of a Space-Liberal humanity having Space Liberalism forcefully imposed on the Babyeaters but resisting the imposition of Space Communism upon itself, despite the relative positions being identical in both cases. In which case... was the Normal Ending really so awful? :)
2[anonymous]8ySpace Communism is infinite sex with everything? People are right space makes everything better.
5Multiheaded8yNo, but seriously. Consider it. I mean, the Superhappies are a highly egalitarian, collectivist, expansionist, technology-focused, peace- and compromise-loving culture with universalist ideals that they want to spread everywhere. Aside from the different biology, that sounds like the Communist sci-fi utopias I've read of, like Banks' Culture and the Strugatsky brothers' Noon Universe. All three are a proper subset of "Near-Maximum Leftism" in my opinion. And I would hardly be terrified if offered to live in either one - or even a downgraded version of one, with a little Space Bureaucracy. Frankly, I wouldn't even mind a Space Brezhnev, as long as he behaved. I can name a dozen much worse (non-socialist) rulers than the real Brezhnev! (Can you imagine tentacle sex being plagued by bureaucracy? "Sorry, comrade, you'll need a stamp before I can give you an orgasm, and the stamp window doesn't work today.")
7[anonymous]8yI have privately discussed the arguments and found them convincing enough to move my position over the past year much more in his direction. The best course of action is perhaps a correspondence with assured privacy? The problem is that one to one correspondences are time consuming and have their own weaknesses as a means to approaching truth seeking. I tried to get more open discussion of such arguments on a mailing list but as your probably know most didn't participate or write enough material to make reasoning explicit in ways they do in regular correspondence. Also I felt this important enough to say to break my one month streak of staying off LW, I will now (hopefully) resume it.

I have privately discussed the arguments and found them convincing enough to move my position over the past year much more in his direction.

Thank you for this data point, but it doesn't move me as much as you may have expected. I think many flawed arguments are flawed in subtle enough ways that it takes "many eyes" to detect the flaws (or can even survive such scrutiny for many years, see some of the flawed security proofs in cryptography for important commonly used algorithms and protocols as evidence). I personally would not update very much even if I saw the arguments for myself and found them convincing, unless I knew that many others with a diversity of expertise and cognitive styles have reviewed and had a chance to discuss the arguments and I've looked over those discussions as well.

Typically the first thing I do after finding a new idea is to look for other people's discussions of it. I'm concerned that many are like me in this regard, but when they come to Vladimir_M's "vague and general" arguments, they see them highly upvoted without much criticism, and wrongly conclude that many people have reviewed these "vague and general" arguments a... (read more)

3[anonymous]8yOh I didn't expect it to, its not like I'm a particularly trustworthy authority or anything and your many eyes argument is a good one, I just wanted to share an anecdote. I was actually hoping readers would take more notice of the other anecdote, the one about the attempt to create an alternative for rationalists to discuss and update on such topics (a mailing list) that was tried and failed. To describe the failure in more detail I think inactivity despite some interesting discussion in the first month or so captures it best.
7Wei_Dai8yI was confused by your description of the mailing list so I put it aside and then forgot to ask you to clarify it. Can you tell us a bit more? How many people were on the list? Was it open or by invitation only? Was it an existing mailing list or created just for this purpose? How did you recruit members? Why do you think it failed to be active after the first month? Why did you say "as you probably know"? I have been on several highly active mailing lists, both open and closed, so my guess is that you failed to recruit enough members. (Another possibility is that people didn't find the topic interesting but that seems less likely.) Why not try to recruit more members?
4[anonymous]8yBefore I saw this reply I already talked about it more here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e20/what_is_moral_foundation_theory_good_for/77ke] since I saw it needed to be clarified. Now to answer all your questions. I'll do better I will share the introductory description sent via PM. To give context, a little before this there was an extensive discussion on the pros and cons of various approaches to discovering truth and gaining sanity on mind-killing issues. I think it was in one of the many sub-threads to lukeprogs rational romance article. Also to again emphasise a key point I fear might be misunderstood I'll quote from the temporary guidelines: Now to answer your specific questions. About 20 to 30. Invitation only. With people having to agree to new members being added. No proposals where shot down, however people didn't suggest many names. Newly created. PMs to people on LessWrong with contact info. I'm not sure, my best guess was not enough people. Perhaps people where also reluctant to open new topics since privacy protection was pretty much paper thin. My cynical side said it was because the list had too many contrarians who weren't motivated to write because they lacked a non-contrarian audience, and going metacontrarian one more step would require too muhc legwork. :) I thought you where a member of the list. I've now checked, you where invited but you never replied. Most likely explanation. It has been inactive for some time. Still some discussion did take place, so potentially harmful material may be in the archives, I wouldn't be ok sending new invitations unless the old members agreed.
2Wei_Dai8yI must have been busy with something at the time and then later forgot about the invitation. Can you PM me the details of how to join so I can take a look at the archives? Lack of a big audience would definitely also contribute to inactivity, especially if there's not even a feeling that one's contributions might eventually be synthesized into something that will be seen or used by many others. Maybe you can try a different format? Make the forum public but encourage people to use fresh pseudonyms for privacy, and be ready to ban people who are disruptive?
1[anonymous]8yYes you where on the original list people agreed to so there is I think no problem with you taking a look at the archives. I'll send you a PM. Perhaps this would be a better approach. I don't think I have the time for this right now and not for at least a month or two, so if anyone else is feeling motivated...
1NancyLebovitz8yIt's possible that the mailing list would be in better shape if you posted more. I used to be in amateur press associations [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_press_association]-- what people did before they had the internet-- and I'm pretty sure that the successful ones had substantial contributions by the people running them.
1[anonymous]8yThat sounds like good advice. But I honestly wasn't sure people where interested in my contributions at all, there where lots of excellent rationalist there, that's a pretty intimidating audience!
4NancyLebovitz8yThat's why someone has to go first. I nominate you.
-4siodine8yI think you're proposing an alternative because you're a C.I.A. agent trying to infiltrate LW and divide the community for your government's nefarious purposes -- which will remain unspoken lest they become memetic and drive the world towards the edge of insanity. /devil's advocate And, seriously, when was the last time anyone was punished on LW for posting their contrarian thought? The gestalt I'm getting is that LWers so desperately want to be accepting of contrarians that they'll take the most insane and unsupported propositions more seriously than they deserve (e.g. Will Newsome).
2[anonymous]8yContrarian =/= Mindkilling =/= Hurts the community if discussed =/= Something LW can't productively discuss Though there is obviously some overlap. Consider the exercises in frustration and mutual incomprehension that result when we talk about PUA/gender/sexuality. It is I would argue not that mindkilling a subject, there is little wild contrarianism, yet it is a debate I'd rather not see relaunched because of the fail that has consistently accompanied it on LW/OB for years. Also Will Newsome is a bit of a straw man no? I would argue he is seen by most posters as firmly in the people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall [http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html] territory.
-4siodine8yWhat is contrarian (for this community and re anything outside of AI) is what is typically considered mindkilling and what is mindkilling is what is typically thought of as hurting the community. When I use 'contrarian' in this context, I'm just putting a word to what you're referring to in your previous comment. What I generally see is people assuming conclusions based on flimsy science (e.g., a lot of the science brought in to support preexisting conclusions within the PUA community), and then assuming the push-back is entirely or mostly because of the offense caused (no doubt that offense is motivating for entering discussion, though). Yes and no. He is partly in the 2+2=5 territory in the context of the community as a whole, but then there are people who take him seriously (just saying he supports X gets him karma). In this thread, Vladimir_M is another example. eta: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/9kf/ive_had_it_with_those_dark_rumours_about_our/ [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/9kf/ive_had_it_with_those_dark_rumours_about_our/]
-2sam03458yPlainly expressed contrarian posts are downvoted, or silently and furtively deleted. The likelihood of silent and furtive deletion discourages people from posting.
5fubarobfusco8yIn case you weren't aware, your "deleted" posts are available for anyone who'd care to browse them on your user page [http://lesswrong.com/user/sam0345/]. You can check — go back a page or two and click on the permalinks, you'll see those posts are "deleted" from the perspective of the threads they were part of. Maybe this is a bug in the LW code, but personally I think it's kinda useful, because folks can verify the nature of your contributions and thereby the veracity of your claims here. Folks can draw their own conclusions of your work — but I was particularly impressed by your claims that stepfathers typically rape boys, while "girls without a natural father are apt to become whores"; and that "allowing blacks, mestizos, women, white males who have not been raised by their biological fathers, and homosexuals into the power structure has produced a general collapse of trust and trustworthiness in the ruling elite [...] because members of these groups are commonly less trustworthy"; as well as your assertion that the design intent of cervical-cancer prevention programs is to cover up for the evils of male homosexuality. Despite the fact that your claims are extraordinary and therefore in need of evidence to raise them to any probability worth consideration, you do not cite evidence for your claims. Instead you assert that your beliefs are themselves "evidence" and "fact" — that your map is the territory — and that people who cite evidence that disagrees with your claims are "pious" "PC" censors. It seems that you are operating what the Wikipedia folks call a "single-purpose account" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Single-purpose_account]. You do not participate in discussions on AI, x-rationality, cognitive science, game theory, timeless ethics, self-improvement, or any of the other subjects commonly discussed here; except insofar as you can turn these topics to your own unusual breed of far-right politics. This politics appears to be almost exclusive
-3sam03458yObserve that one of my previous replies to you have been silently deleted. The reason you don't see Vlad's arguments is that you don't hang out in the kind of forums where people such as Vlad are allowed to plainly state their arguments.

I've browsed Stormfront a few times (rather extensively). That is certainly a forum where people like Vlad would be allowed to plainly state their arguments, and might even reasonably get some cheering. However, there is a slight problem; I haven't seen any actual people like Vlad there, and that is understandable, since people like Vlad have some self-respect and probably wouldn't be caught dead posting at such crackpot shitholes.

(I certainly saw some people like Vlad in the comments on UR, but even there about every third comment is useless angry noise.)

8siodine8yComments like yours - where people hide behind unspecified claims of inferential difference, mindkilling, and unspoken reasoning - piss me off more than the most hateful comments I've seen on the internet. That's probably a failing, but an understandable one. Manipulating and teasing my curiosity with the intent of having me take you more seriously than you deserve is something I really don't appreciate. I dislike you.
1[anonymous]8yHave you considered ever just privately. ... you know .... asking him about details? He's always obliged when I did so. I also dislike your dislike because there clearly are things that are counter-productive to discuss on LW.
0pianoforte6118yVlad didn't reply to my request. I don't suppose you would mind summarizing one or two of his more salient arguments?
-3siodine8yReally? That seems self-defeating; I would happily tell everyone the details if he gave them to me. If that's how he wishes to communicate, by creating a veil for which you have to volunteer to get past, then why doesn't he just use rot13 prefixed with a disclaimer -- that seems more efficient. Like what? Give me something that's true, "counter-productive", and relevant to LW. (I recognize that the third criteria - relevant - makes it easy to dismiss a lot of what might seem "counter-productive" because generally those thoughts are more relevant in discussion threads like this one. Also, some things are simply irrelevant no matter what, like how to decorate your house.) I think the people complaining about these topics are expecting their conclusions to go over as easily as other conclusions more in line with LW consensus. But when you tell someone that their belief is wrong (especially when it's far from the edge of their beliefs as sorted by the date it was last modified), you should expect more opposition because those beliefs have survived the long onslaught of posteriors thereby making new conflicting and contrary evidence more suspicious. For example, "Kahneman-style rationality" is considered a worthwhile aspiration by LW consensus, and people like Vladimir and Will Newsome apparently disagree with that. And how do Vladimir and Will Newsome try to counteract that consensus? They post comments with unspoken or obfuscated (WN) reasoning. I think they're afraid of putting their conclusions out there in a more complete and graspable form because of the significant possibility for being wrong and "losing status" (especially WN). Or perhaps they're just too lazy to do the hard work necessarily involved and want to fuck with people.
8[anonymous]8yThose who contact someone for information will be on average I think more genuinely curious [http://lesswrong.com/lw/96j/what_curiosity_looks_like/] about the answer than a casual reader. Furthermore optimizing when writing for the public is different than optimizing for private correspondence. More can be said not just because it eliminates all sorts of bothersome social posturing but because the participants can agree to things like Crocker's Rules [http://sl4.org/crocker.html]. Are we discussing Vladimir M or Will Newsome? Why mix up these two different users? Just because one has cited the other as a favourite poster? I happen to think Multiheaded [http://lesswrong.com/user/Multiheaded/] has turned out an interesting poster worth reading and like him a lot, but one would be gravely mistaken to use one of our positions as a proxy for those of the other. I have respect for both posters, but they not only do they have quite different views but very different approaches. WN is very much playing the trickster deity, the fool [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jester], many of his arguments are educational trolls and should be taken as invitations to Socratic Dialogue. Vladimir_M is more the worldly mysterious man at the back of the tavern who tends to be right when you coax advice out of him, but who you won't manage to get out of retirement since he with a tired heart judges your quest folly.
1siodine8yYou significantly edited your comment after I replied to it. Not in the context in which they try to counteract the aforementioned consensus -- which is by "[posting] comments with unspoken or obfuscated (WN) reasoning". Which all fits within the weird, fawning description of their approaches you gave.
1[anonymous]8yI apologize that sometimes happens to me. I often post a comment find it unsatisfactory and then immediately edit it. Most of the time conversations proceed at a slow enough pace for this to not be a problem.
2siodine8yI don't care, I just needed to point that out as a reason for creating a second reply. I actually do the same thing.
-2siodine8yPeople willing to do a rot13 should also be more curious than average; that shits a pain in the ass. Or just make the process even more painful (Actually I think this is what WN does at times, but it also has the added benefit of plausible deniability). Social posturing is exactly what I see when people are too afraid to put their thoughts on the line (I mentioned this). I don't think it's healthy in a community trying to be less wrong. Both in the context of how they try to counteract the aforementioned consensus.
4DaFranker8y"I greatly hate your post because it makes me irrationally infer things about your nature despite my knowledge of relevant biases, which makes me hate your post and you even more, which is irrational. Now let's all discuss this because I don't want to make the effort to go read up and train myself to become stronger." ...seems like a decent enough fictive example. It's true (within the context of the thought experiment), it's directly relevant to LW (it's about the user's rationality), and starting a large discussion about it is very counter-productive since the user in question should just read and practice rationality skills, as that would be much more efficient and productive, and the discussion might slow down other people trying to improve themselves and generate lots of noise.
-4siodine8yYou're not using "counter-productive" in the same sense Konkvistador is (at least I think so). I.e., true and useful information for LWers but too outside of LW consensus for being productive. Also, I gave my comment as feedback for why I downvoted Vladimir and as a way for other people to also show why they downvoted Vladimir (or didn't like his actions). I did not give it with the intent of starting a discussion. I'm also not a robot in that I want to spend all my time reading and practicing rationality skills. I'm happy to make comments like these even knowing I could be doing something better with my time. (fictive example? don't be a coward.)
1Multiheaded8yI'd say that it's their very tone - diplomatic, refined and signaling broad knowledge and wisdom - that adds to the provocative value. After all, nobody would get very stirred up over a usual internet comment like "Your soooo dumb, all atheists and fagz will go 2 hell 4 destroying teh White Man!!" I do not suggest that you deliberately decrease your writing quality, of course.
-2sam03458yThen presumably you think that the entire progressive agenda must be wrong, seeing as for the last two thousand years it would have been perceived as evil and insane, seeing as pretty much every taken for granted progressive verity was, before it became an article of faith, dismissed by progressives as a slippery slope argument. For example, until the mid nineteenth century, everyone knew that female sexuality was so powerful, irrational, destructive, and self destructive that women needed their sex lives supervised for their own good, and everyone else's good. Everyone knew that democracy was stupid and evil because the masses would eventually try to vote themselves rich, and end up electing Caesar. Everyone knew that if you tried to tax more than five or ten percent, it would hose the economy, and you would wind up with less tax revenue. Everyone knew ... I expect you to agree with me that we went of the rails when we emancipated women and gave the vote to every adult male.
3Multiheaded8yOh, really? I was not aware that, say, Galatians 3:28 [http://bible.cc/galatians/3-28.htm] was a passage censored or denounced by the entirety of medieval clergy. Perhaps you're, ah, slightly exaggerating? "The last two thousand years" is the most hilarious bit of the above for me, given my view that the "progressive agenda" as broadly understood (or not understood at all, if you happen to be sam0345) basically appeared with Christianity, as its key part that was quite involved in its growth. See Robert Nisbet's History of the Idea of Progress for a conservative-progressive account, or Zizek's works on Christianity (The Fragile Absolute, The Puppet and The Dwarf , etc) for a communist one.
5fubarobfusco8yOne of the curious things about early Christianity is that it is a religion of converts. For the first few generations, Christians were not the children of Christians, and they were not people who had converted under threat of violence as was common later on. They were adults who had converted from the religions of Judea, Greece, Rome, or Persia. The idea of conversion may have descended from the idea of initiation, found in Mithraism and in Greco-Egyptian mystery cults. Christianity rather readily incorporated ideas from Greek philosophy, Jewish mysticism (of John the Baptist and the Essenes), and Mithraist mythology (the idea of a resurrected savior who was the son of God, which is not found in Jewish messianic beliefs). It opposed itself explicitly to Jewish legalism (the Pharisees, progenitors of Rabbinic Judaism) and nationalism (the Zealots / Sicarii / Iscariots). If anything new — such as "the progressive agenda" or specifically the universalism and tolerance expressed in Galatians 3:28 — did appear with Christianity, we might ask, how did this new thing emerge from Christianity's antecedents and influences? We can be pretty sure that despite their mathematical advances, the ancient Greeks did not have a formal basis for morality, for instance ....
0[anonymous]8yWell I do.

You're right, I shouldn't have used the word "lying". That mistake bothers me when other people do it, and I'm sorry for doing it myself.

But other than that...I'm afraid the whole point of my last post was to ask for examples, that we have different standards of what constitutes an example, and that I'm still not happy. For me, "Liberals have strong norms around equality" is not an example; I'm thinking something more along the lines of "You know how liberals are pro-choice? That's irrational for reasons X and Y and Z."

Laissez-faire in sex leads to all kinds of expensive negative-sum signaling and other games. Why not crack down on those, which would lead to a clear improvement by any utilitarian metric?

Can you give an example of a specific laissez-faire sexual policy that causes expensive negative-sum signaling games, and a practically workable less laissez-faire policy that would solve those negative-sum signaling games?

If it's OK for the government to ban smoking and other activities harmful for public health, why not extend such treatment to sexual activities that have obvious and drastic public health implications?

Can you give an example o... (read more)

9Vladimir_M8yOK, if you want to delve into a concrete example with all the inflammatory details, PM me your email address. (I find the PM interface on this site very annoying.) If the discussion produces any interesting results, maybe we can publish it later suitably edited. I'll also post a further reply later today, addressing some of your points that I think can be answered satisfactorily without going into too much controversy.

Laissez-faire in sex leads to all kinds of expensive negative-sum signaling and other games. Why not crack down on those, which would lead to a clear improvement by any utilitarian metric?

Are there liberals who try to crack down on commercial advertising wars? As far as I know, some liberals may grumble about the social waste of Coca-Cola and Pepsi spending millions to expand their relative share in a zero-sum competition, but they don't actually try to suppress it.

If it's OK for the government to ban smoking and other activities harmful for public health, why not extend such treatment to sexual activities that have obvious and drastic public health implications?

Smoking bans are not absolute, just in closed public places where the smoking affects nonconsenting third parties. Liberals tend to favor legalization of recreational drug use when no third parties are affected. They also would, I think, support criminalizing having unprotected sex if you knowingly have a STD and you don't tell your partner, which is the closest analogue I can imagine to smoking bans. So I don't see the inconsistency.

If the alleged vast inequality of wealth is a legitimate complaint against economi

... (read more)
7fubarobfusco8y"Traditional sexual norms" (and the power relations they entail) did not arise through a process that optimized for harm reduction; they arose through a process of cultural evolution. At various points in time, patriarchal societies — by treating women as baby factories and men as killing machines — could outbreed and conquer less-patriarchal ones. That's when and why those "traditional sexual norms" arose. It would be remarkable if this process had arrived at even a local minimum for harm, for the same reasons that it would be remarkable if biological evolution had arrived at a maximum for intelligence, happiness, or any other trait that we individually find desirable. (Heck, "traditional sexual norms" are optimized for sending excess boys to go kill other tribes' men and rape their virgin daughters. We call it "warfare" and it even today involves quite a lot of rape.) So proposing "traditional sexual norms" as a harm reduction appears to be some combination of naturalistic fallacy and privileging the hypothesis; we have no reason to bring this particular set of norms to mind when we think of strategies for harm reduction, since it was selected for other goals. But we can also ask, "For what reasons would it come to certain people's minds to politically advocate 'traditional sexual norms' if they don't actually want the things that 'traditional sexual norms' are optimized for, namely lots of conquest and rape?" Since we know about self-serving bias and privilege denial, we may suspect that at least some such advocates do it because it would serve their personal interests at the expense of others. That said, this runs the risk of fundamental attribution error. It is more likely the case that certain people find themselves in situations where they feel personally challenged by sexual laissez-faire, and respond by claiming the morality of traditional sexual norms, than that they do so because they are fundamentally misogynistic people.

When Vladimir_M uses the phrase "traditional sexual norms", he probably is not referring to those norms which you are referring to in your post. Rather, he is probably speaking of a certain subset of Western norms, likely lifelong heterosexual monogamy. This is extremely unoptimized for "lots of conquest and rape".

6wedrifid8yI don't know about automatic (and I am not presenting my own position) but it is certainly legitimate for a person to be hostile to being coerced into a worse situation because someone else believes (even correctly) that other people will benefit from said coercion. Similarly, it is hardly unreasonable for the one person who is being tortured for fifty years to be hostile to his own torture, even if that torture is a net benefit to the population. If you want to do harm to people (whether paternalistic control or counterfactual torture) you should expect them to fight back if they can. Martyrdom is occasionally noble but it is never obligatory.
6Vladimir_M8yI don't have any significant disagreement here, except that I'm not sure if you believe that people's ideological views tend to be actually motivated by this kind of self-interest. I certainly don't think this is the case -- to me it seems like a very implausible model of how people think about ideological issues even just from common-sense observation, and it's also disproved by the systematic evidence against the self-interested voter hypothesis [http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/e849/pf8.htm].
1[anonymous]8yNot completely sure they're actually negative sum. They might look like that from a purely materialistic perspective ("lotteries are bad because the expectation value of how much money you'll have if you play is less than if you don't play" -- it is, but that also applies to going to the cinema), but if you factor in Fun Theory aspects... I can't think of a way to achieve that (without large costs/risks/drawbacks).
3[anonymous]8yIf this was downvoted for disagreement: Why do you think signalling is negative-sum? How you think a ban on certain sexual practices could feasibly (costs not outweighing benefits) be enforced?
-1Eugine_Nier8yI'm not sure this case is as clear cut as you think. In any case I'd imagine you were around for the debates on this topic precipitated by Eliezer's Three Worlds Collide [http://lesswrong.com/lw/y8/interlude_with_the_confessor_48/].
-2sam03458yProviding that which was specifically requested, concrete examples of liberals sacrificing human lives to sacredness in the particular matter of sexuality, will of course result in this post being marked down, and were I to point to examples of the more obvious and extreme examples of sacrificing lives for sacredness, such as the environment, it would be marked down even more. But here goes: Let us suppose a capitalist was doing something that frequently caused harm to others and himself, for example operating a car battery recycling center where he dumped acid containing lead sulphates in on the ground, in drains, in a nearby stream, etc. Then he would be strongly regulated and supervised. But female sexuality frequently results in harm to their children, their husbands, and themselves, and it is pretty much unthinkable to restrict it, even in the case of a married woman with children. Similarly, the response to the AIDs epidemic was to invent an imaginary heterosexual aids epidemic, rather than shut down the bathhouses. I am pretty sure that if Chuck E Cheese's cheese was killing vast numbers of people due the frequent presence of dangerous molds in the cheese, it would be shut down very rapidly without anyone worrying about restricting the liberty of cheese eaters to eat as much cheese as they liked, in any form they liked, any place they liked. Similarly, vaccination against certain sexually transmitted diseases. They want to vaccinate vast numbers of people that are unlikely to need it at considerable expense, and possible risk of harm, in order that those that do need don't suffer possible stigma by having to request it. If you actually wanted to provide herd immunity, you would vaccinate the main disease reservoir, which is adult male homosexuals, not schoolgirls. If this was, say, an expensive rabies vaccine, people would get it on the basis of potential exposure, and animals would get it on the basis of being a potential disease reservoir. Instead it is
8fubarobfusco8yThe controversy over vaccination of young women for "certain sexually transmitted diseases" was over HPV, which is the predominant cause of cervical cancer in the U.S. and does not have any particular connection with "adult male homosexuals" any more than with other groups. HPV does cause other cancers (anal, penile, oral, etc.) but these are much more rare than HPV-caused cervical cancer [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cases_of_HPV_cancers_graph.png]. According to the CDC, every year in the U.S. there are 16700 new cases of HPV-related genital or anal cancers in women, predominantly cervical cancer; while there are only 1900 new cases of HPV-related genital or anal cancers in men — including both gay and straight men. In other words, vaccinating young women for HPV can be expected to directly and selectively help those young women — the specific young women who receive the vaccination, via individual rather than herd immunity. It secondarily helps their (male and female) sexual partners, although HPV-caused penile cancer is much rarer than HPV-caused cervical cancer. It does not appreciably help male homosexuals — who are, after all, a population not noted for having sexual contact with young women. Sources: * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HPV [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HPV] * http://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm [http://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm]
2Unnamed8yStigmatization is a concern with social norms about male homosexuality because gay men have, in fact, been heavily shunned/persecuted/stigmatized based on their sexuality. This has had large negative consequences in the lives of gay men, both for men who have faced stigma/shunning and for men who were prevented from having fulfilling romantic lives. There is no parallel concern with pizza parlors. Antagonistic sexual politics also make it harder to promote public health. It is generally extremely difficult to enforce restrictions against sexual activities, so it helps a lot to have buy-in from the affected community. That is unlikely to happen if "public health" efforts are seen as coming from the persecutors, which makes it important for public health officials to disassociate themselves from the generalized disapproval of men who have sex with men. But public health-motivated regulation of sexual activities does happen. After the AIDS epidemic hit the US in the early 1980s, many bathhouses [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_bathhouse#United_States] were, in fact, shut down or heavily regulated. In San Francisco, for example:
8sam03458yHusbands, fathers, and capitalists, are either demonized or ridiculed on every television show. This is clearly having undesirable effects - less capital formation, less family formation, and less enterprise formation. Why is some people's stigmatization horrid, shocking, and in fact sacrilegious, while other people's stigmatization is no problem at all? Imagine a public health campaign that told us that certain sexual behaviors were literally dirty, in that one was apt to catch a wide variety of diseases, and that people who engaged in these practices were apt to spread disease even to people who do not engage in them, so that people who engaged in these practices tended to be literally dirty.. Sacrilege Now substitute "production" for "sex", and perhaps "pollution" for "disease". Absolutely no problem at all. In fact such a campaign would be pious, even if those condemned were plausibly innocent. Even if the campaign was totally untrue, it would be deemed truthy.
0[anonymous]8yOK, let's put the Rawlsian veil of ignorance down. So I don't know who I'm going to be. I'd still prefer a few parts-per-thousand probability of getting AIDS than a 10% probability of having a sexual orientation for a gender with whom I'm forbidden from having sex with. (OTOH, a monogamous relationship, incl. marriage, is more-or-less-implicitly a contract where you agree --among other things-- not to have sex with anyone else, so I do agree that the behaviour of “the entire apparatus of state” you describe in the second part of the last paragraph is wrong.) EDIT: RETRACTED -- NUMBERS ARE WAY OFF (SEE BELOW [HTTP://LESSWRONG.COM/LW/E20/WHAT_IS_MORAL_FOUNDATION_THEORY_GOOD_FOR/77LR]). How much?
4CarlShulman8yWikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_sexual_orientation#Modern_survey_results] indicates that this number is substantially too high. Random representative samples seem to give results of a few percent or less, with higher figures coming from non-representative samples such as prisons, urban areas which concentrate the gay population from surrounding regions, and unscientific polls by condom manufacturers.
0[anonymous]8yI had also underestimated the probability of fatal STDs by an order of magnitude: AIDS alone caused 4.87% [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_death] of all deaths in 2002. (OTOH, the fact that there are quite a few countries with a two-digit prevalence of HIV [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_death] makes me seriously doubt sam0345's claim that “the main disease reservoir” “is adult male homosexuals”. There's no way gay men comprise a major part of 26% of Swaziland's population.)
2sam03458yLast I heard, $400 for a course, $100 for a dose. If this did not involve sex, such a vaccine would be targeted at at risk populations. A ten pack of combined tetanus and diptheria vaccine costs $20 and everyone is at roughly comparable risk, so it is reasonable to give the tet/dipth vaccine out like lollipops or McDonald's toys. Maybe the HPV vaccination should be handed out free at the sex clinic, but it seems to me that the reason that they want to give it to schoolgirls is because they do not want to give it out free at the sex clinic.
-2fubarobfusco8yThe mistakes you're posting have already been corrected by myself and paper-machine over in this branch of the thread [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e20/what_is_moral_foundation_theory_good_for/77bu]. You are entitled to your own opinions (values), but you are not entitled to your own facts. Please do some research on the subject from medical sources; and do bear in mind that mainstream scientific sources bear a much higher probability of being right (and not merely a much higher status) than fringe or speculative sources. If we lived in a world where fringe political columnists were an accurate source for medical facts and doctors were not, then we would all go to John Derbyshire to treat our diseases. We don't. Why not?
3sam03458yYour "correction" is that the purpose of the vaccination is not herd immunity, but individual and personal benefit - but the claim justifying compulsory and/or free vaccination is always herd immunity. If no substantial externality, no justification for compulsion and/or subsidy. In fact, of course, the reason for compulsory HPV vaccination is to avoid stigmatization. If girls get to individually choose whether they want a vaccination against a sexually transmitted disease, those who so choose might be stigmatized.
1fubarobfusco8yCheating is quite common; about 20% of married people have affairs [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infidelity#Incidence_of_infidelity] and the rate is higher in putatively-monogamous unmarried partnerships. Around 3% of children are the result of affairs. I'm not sure what other sorts of "contracts" have a 20% chance of default. I don't think banks would offer you a loan if they thought there was a 20% chance you wouldn't pay up. Even Florida's foreclosure rate isn't that bad! [http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2012/02/percent-of-mortgage-loans-in.html]
2[anonymous]8yEnd-user licence agreements of commercial software?
1Tyrrell_McAllister8yIf you can reduce autonomy to sacredness in this general sense, I wonder if you're employing a fully general counterargument [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Fully_general_counterargument]. If someone says, "My values aren't based on sacredness; they're based on X!", you could always reply, "Well, if X is the basis of your values, then you've elevated X to such a high level of importance that it's basically sacred to you. So, you see, your values turn out to be based on sacredness after all."
3Vladimir_M8yThat would indeed be a fully general counterargument, but it's not the sort of argument that I'm making. My theory is not that liberals elevate harm and fairness so much that they should be called "sacred" for them. Rather, my theory is that they have their own peculiar moral intuitions of sacredness -- which is evidenced by the fact that if these intuitions are challenged by arguments based on harm or fairness analogous to those they accept in other cases, they react with emotions and rationalizations in a manner typical of people brought into dissonance by an attempt to elicit conflicting moral intuitions. Of course, my view may be wrong, but I don't think it can be dismissed as a fully general counterargument.
0Tyrrell_McAllister8yRight. And, to be clear, I did not mean to accuse you of that. I did not mean that you were using the fully general counterargument to say that liberals don't care about harm and fairness. I was only considering the possibility that you were using the fully general counterargument to say that concern for sexual autonomy is really about sacredness. You seemed to be alluding to different arguments regarding harm and fairness, which you hesitate to give in full detail. I haven't read Haidt, so I don't know how he accounts for "concern for autonomy" under his system. Does he reduce it to fairness and harm somehow? Or does it arise incidentally out of diminished concern for authority?
1Vladimir_M8yI've read Haidt's book, and I'd say he skirts around the topic of autonomy (sexual and otherwise) in liberal thinking, never giving it a satisfactory treatment, and avoiding issues where it would unavoidably come to the fore. For example, as a notable and glaring omission, the book doesn't address the controversies over abortion at all. (Thus putting Haidt in a very odd position where he purports to have a general theory of moral psychology that explains the contemporary American ideological rifts, but nonchalantly refuses to apply it to the single most ideologically charged moral issue in the U.S. today.) Now, as you probably guess, I would hypothesize that he avoids autonomy-centered topics because they tend to contradict his theory of liberals as low on sacredness. But whether or not one agrees with this view, it seems clear that his treatment of such topics is incomplete and unsatisfactory.
3Unnamed8yI would taboo the word "autonomy" in this context, or at least give a clear definition, because there are at least 2 different things that it could refer to. In Haidt's six foundations theory, the closest thing to "autonomy" as it is being used in this discussion is probably the liberty/oppression foundation (the 6th foundation to be added): The liberty/oppression foundation is somewhat underdeveloped in Haidt's book, and discussed separately from the other foundations in a way that's organized a bit strangely, probably because the book was already in progress when he decided to count liberty/oppression as a sixth foundation. Haidt does not seem to have any published papers yet on the liberty/oppression foundation, but he does have one [http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1665934] under review which focuses on libertarians. In Richard Shweder's three-area theory [http://www.psychwiki.com/wiki/Moral_Psychology#Shweder_.28Community.2C_Autonomy.2C_Divinity.29] , which was the original basis for Haidt's theory, "autonomy" has a different meaning. It is one of the three ethics - "autonomy" is the blanket label given to the individualistic/liberal approach to morality which involves harm, rights, and justice. The ethic of autonomy is contrasted with the ethic of community (ingroup and hierarchy) and the ethic of divinity (purity and sacredness). In one of Haidt's earlier papers, which used Shweder's system, experimental participants were given this definition of autonomy: If you look at that definition and think "but that's all of morality, mushed together in one big category" then congratulations, you're WEIRD. In Shweder's approach, being obsessed with autonomy is precisely what is distinctive about liberals. The utilitarian, who applies cost-benefit analysis to everything and is willing to make any tradeoff, is just one member of the autonomy-obsessed family of moral perspectives. People who rigidly apply concepts of rights, liberty, or justice are
0Vladimir_M8yMost of the points relevant to your comment are covered in this reply to Tyrrell McAllister [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e20/what_is_moral_foundation_theory_good_for/78a9], so to avoid redundancy, please follow up on that comment if you think it's not an adequate answer.
-2Eugine_Nier8yFrankly, utilitarianism is also community tinged, specifically the whole "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one" aspect of it.
3Tyrrell_McAllister8yHow do you reduce autonomy to sacredness? I think of sacredness as something that inheres in some single object of veneration towards which a group of people can genuflect, such as a family shrine, a flag, a saint, or (for the left) "the environment". I would also extend the notion of a "single object" to slightly more abstract things, such as a single holy text (which might exist in multiple copies) or a single ritual way of eating (which might be enacted on multiple occasions). In other words, sacredness should have some close connection to group cohesion. While I haven't read any of Haidt's books, I've listened to a couple of interviews with him, and he seemed to be very interested in the "groupish" qualities of the values in his system. In his BloggingHeads.tv interview, he even seemed to go so far as to suggest that group selection explained how some of these values evolved. Autonomy doesn't seem like it would fit into such a notion of sacredness. "Individual autonomy" is a "single thing" at only a very abstract level. Every individual has his or her own autonomy. Unlike a shrine or a holy text, there is no one autonomy that we all can worship at once. In principle, we could all gather together as a community to worship the one idea that we are each autonomous — the Platonic form of autonomy, if you will. But I don't get the sense that most people have a sufficiently concrete notion of the general idea of autonomy to be able to hold it sacred. For example, they would lack the confidence that everyone else is thinking of precisely the same idea of autonomy. Something can't serve as an object of community worship if the community members aren't sure that they're all worshiping the same thing. People might have a sufficiently concrete conception of "my autonomy" or "your autonomy" or "her autonomy". These are things that we can easily latch onto as values. But then we're talking about a bunch of different "autonomies", which lack the unity that a sacred object

How do you reduce autonomy to sacredness? I think of sacredness as something that inheres in some single object of veneration towards which a group of people can genuflect, such as a family shrine, a flag, a saint, or (for the left) "the environment". I would also extend the notion of a "single object" to slightly more abstract things, such as a single holy text (which might exist in multiple copies) or a single ritual way of eating (which might be enacted on multiple occasions).

One way in which sacredness commonly manifests itself is through sacred boundaries that serve as strong Schelling points. In fact, I am convinced that any large-scale human social organization depends to a significant degree on Schelling points whose power and stability rests on the fact that the thought of their violation arouses strong moral intuitions of sacrilege. (Even though this might be non-obvious from their stated rationale.)

Take for example the ancient Roman pomerium, the boundary of the city of Rome that was explicitly held as sacred. In particular, bearing arms within the pomerium was considered as sacrilege, and this norm was taken very seriously during the Republican p... (read more)

9Unnamed8yHow much would someone have to pay you for you to be willing to slap your father in the face (with his permission) as part of a comedy skit? $ ___ People tend to give high numbers for this question (or aren't willing to accept any amount), much moreso than if they are asked about their willingness to slap a friend. It is a violation that crosses some important boundary which one might label "sacred". But in moral foundations theory, it is not a violation of the purity/sanctity foundation. It's a violation of the authority foundation. Conclusion: "sacredness" (in this sense of a special-feeling boundary which people feel a strong aversion to crossing) is not limited to the purity foundation. It can apply to other foundations as well. There are many more examples of taboo actions, for all five foundations, here [http://wiki.mgto.org/the_moral_foundations_sacredness_scale]. This collection is from a paper by Graham & Haidt (2011), Sacred values and evil adversaries: A Moral Foundations approach [http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~jessegra/papers/Graham&Haidt.in_press.Sacredness.Herzliya_chapter.pdf] ; many of the examples were developed in Haidt's earlier research. Graham and Haidt say that the examples from all five foundations are violations of sacred values (even the ones that do not involve purity/degradation). They define "sacredness" separately from the purity foundation: It's worth checking out the table at the end of the Graham & Haidt paper where they put together the pieces for a moral narrative based on each of the five foundations, including what people, things, and ideas that have become "sacred objects" and what evil they need to be protected from. For the Harm foundation, sacred values are "nurturance, care, peace", sacred objects are "innocent victims, nonviolent leaders (Gandhi, M. L. King)", evil is represented by "cruel and violent people", and examples of idealistic violence are "killing of abortion doctors, Weather Underground bombings". (Killing aborti
7Tyrrell_McAllister8yI'm having trouble distinguishing your notion of "sacred" from the very broad notion of "deserves respect". Is there something more to your meaning of "sacred" besides "deserves respect"? I agree that liberals believe that lots of things deserve respect. I agree that, typically, every individual's sexual autonomy is among these things. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of liberals added sexual autonomy to their list of things-that-deserve-respect because of some sort of Schelling-point-type phenomenon. Are you saying something beyond this? There's no denying that liberals use the language of respect a lot. Furthermore, I doubt that many liberals would want to deny it. So, in that sense, you could say that liberals appeal to sacredness a lot. But I thought that Haidt was using "sacred" in a different sense. How is your disagreement with him here more than semantics?
1Eugine_Nier8yI don't think sacredness/purity is just about group cohesion. Some purity rituals (from an evolutionary point of view) are clearly about avoiding contagious diseases. Other sacredness taboos are about not doing things that have short term benefits but cause long term problems, especially when the short term benefit of the action is much more obvious than the long term harm.
0Tyrrell_McAllister8yRight, group cohesion isn't the only reason for these rituals, but they can still serve that function (eg, kosher diets). Can valuing autonomy be explained by valuing purity? That doesn't seem plausible to me, since people so often want to use their autonomy to violate other people's purity norms (eg, sex 'n' drugs).
-2Eugine_Nier8yTo me it seems that valuing autonomy is an example of avoid things that may have short term benefits but cause long term problems [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ase/schelling_fences_on_slippery_slopes/].
0Tyrrell_McAllister8yThat sounds more like a concern about harm ("long term problems") than about purity, at least if you are trying to describe the thought-process of someone justifying their valuing of autonomy. If, instead, you are trying to describe the causal origin of the value, then wouldn't Haidt ascribe all of his foundational values to that cause? Doesn't he give ev-psych explanations (with a group-selectionist bent) for the origins of all of his foundational values? If I'm right about that, then he would probably argue that each of his foundational values persisted because, in the long run, it served the reproductive interests of the individual or the group. That is, the value led people to avoid short-term benefits that would cause long-term problems. Otherwise, this value would not have survived in the long run.
-2Eugine_Nier8yI wouldn't know, I haven't actually read his books. What bothers me is that unlike the other values, I can't even give a definition of what constitutes purity/sacredness without appealing to a black box in my brain [http://lesswrong.com/lw/sr/the_comedy_of_behaviorism/].
0Tyrrell_McAllister8yThis blog author [http://essayistlawyer.blogspot.com/2012/05/circling-back-to-haidt.html] critiques an analysis of the abortion controversy that he or she attributes to Haidt. So Haidt evidently applies his theory to abortion somewhere.
0Vladimir_M8yJust in case I don't remember correctly, I've just checked The Righteous Mind's index for "abortion." It lists three pages, each of which mentions abortion only in passing as an example of a public moral controversy, without getting into any analysis whatsoever of the issue. To the best of my recollection, there is no such analysis elsewhere in the book either, nor in anything else I've read by Haidt. As for the blog you link to, I strongly suspect that the author is in fact extrapolating from his (her?) view of what Haidt believes, not relaying an actual argument by Haidt. I might be wrong, but a few minutes of googling didn't turn up any relevant statements by Haidt.
0Tyrrell_McAllister8yUsing Amazon's "Search Inside the Book" feature, I found some discussion of abortion (along with birth control) on page 209 of Haidt's The Happiness Hypothesis. I wonder if that book is working with an earlier version of his theory, because he talks very explicitly about the importance of autonomy to liberals on those pages.
6Vladimir_M8yI haven't read The Happiness Hypothesis, but I've just read these pages on Amazon's preview. It seems to me that this was indeed an earlier phase of Haidt's thought, when he advocated a much more simplistic theory of the moral foundations and was still a partisan liberal. (I'm not just throwing around an ideological label here -- these days Haidt indeed describes himself as a "partisan liberal" in past tense [http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/exposing-the-righteous-mind-an-interview-with-jonathan-haidt/] .) In these cited pages, Haidt gives some clearly biased and unrealistic statements. For example, we are told that "On issue after issue, liberals want to maximize autonomy by removing limits, barriers, and restrictions." But obviously, you only need to ask a libertarian for his opinion about this claim to realize that in fact "removing limits, barriers, and restrictions" applies only to a strictly circumscribed set of issues, and the liberal understanding of autonomy in fact has a more complex basis. These days Haidt is far above such evident partisan biases, but I think he still hasn't come around to re-examining the issues of liberal autonomy in the light of his more recent insight, while at the same time he realizes at some level that it's incompatible even with his current view of the liberal moral foundations. I don't think he's avoiding these problematic discussions in a calculated way, so I think he simply has some sort of "ugh field" around these questions and thus fails to address them clearly and openly.
0[anonymous]8yAs an aside: To what degree do you agree with Haidt's analysis of religion and tradition in relation to human psychology in that interview? I would very much like to know. Feel free to PM me a one-sentence answer instead of posting, if you wish.
5Vladimir_M8yClearly it's a very complex topic, but generally speaking, I do believe that Haidt's recent work is more or less on the right track in this regard. That said, much of his insight is not very original, and can be found in the work of other, often much older thinkers, some of whom Haidt cites. Haidt's significance is mainly that he's trying to pull off a "Nixon in China," i.e. to leverage his own liberal beliefs and credentials to formulate these insights in a way that's palatable to liberals, who would be instantly repulsed and incensed by the other authors who have presented them previously. (I'm not very optimistic about his chances, though, especially since he has to dance around some third-rail issues that might destroy his reputation instantly. Similar can be said for other modern authors who delve into social theory based on evolutionary insight, like e.g. Geoffrey Miller.) Also, I think there are many other crucial pieces of the puzzle that Haidt is still missing completely, so he still strikes me as very naive on some issues. (For example, I don't know if he's familiar with the concept of Schelling points, but he definitely fails to recognize them on some issues where they are crucial. He also apparently fails to grasp what virtue ethics is about.)
3Kaj_Sotala8yGiven that my view of virtue ethics was considerably influenced by Haidt, I'd be curious to hear how his opinion of it is wrong.
0[anonymous]8yThank you.
4novalis8yWhat is the difference between an ideology and morality? The questions Haidt ask are about what we judge to be moral. I simply don't judge disrespect for authority (for instance) as immoral in itself. I'm also not convinced that purity is as instrumentally necessary as you say; and judging by that article, neither is Haidt. And loyalty can, at least in many cases, be replaced with the algorithm for which it is is a heuristic: reciprocal altruism.
9Vladimir_M8yI am not going to analyze you in particular, but what I write certainly applies to typical people who adhere to modern ideologies that claim to be concerned exclusively with harm and fairness. These people would presumably insist that they "don't judge disrespect for authority... as immoral in itself." But what people say are rationalizations, not the real motivations for their beliefs and actions. To employ Haidt's rider-elephant metaphor, you see the rider insisting loudly that disrespect for authority is not immoral by itself, while the elephant is charging to stomp you to death, infuriated by your disrespect. Whereupon the rider, if pressed to explain what happened, invents a rationalization about how your real sin is in fact something in terms of harm (and maybe fairness), or maybe how you're simply being delusional or disingenuous. It's similar for sacredness and loyalty, of course. Can you think of any functioning human society without strong norms of sacredness/purity when it comes to, say, sex or food? (Of course, with regards to the present-day Western societies, this applies to the entire contemporary ideological spectrum. In fact, people who supposedly have a "rational" harm/fairness-based approach to these matters are, in my opinion, characterized by particularly intense fervor [http://lesswrong.com/lw/by9/to_like_each_other_sing_and_dance_in_synchrony/6gp3] driven by their sacredness/purity-based norms.) Their overlap is only partial. Ideologies normally also include non-moral beliefs (although moral motivations usually lurk not very far underneath). In turn, some moral judgments are human universals, and others may be a matter of such strong consensus within a particular culture that calling them ideological would stretch the term beyond the normal variation in its meaning.
2novalis8yI certainly agree with the descriptive claim that people often rationalize, and that western liberals often do have their own ideas of sacredness. But I think it's probably wrong to say that all discussion of morality is rationalization. If that were true, nobody would ever be swayed by a moral argument. In fact, people do change their views -- and they frequently do so when it is pointed out that their stated views don't match their actions. I suspect that this will come down to a question of what is sacred. For instance, the French definitely have a very strong food culture, but I suspect that they mostly would not regard violations of that as immoral. And, of course, the particulars of which sexual arrangements are considered sacred has varied widely across human cultures. If the sacred in food and sex evolved to combat parasites, then it is at this point, in Western societies, an onion in the varnish. Like many other cases where changes in technology have cause unprecedented social arrangements (agriculture allowing cities, for instance), purity norms in sex and food may weaken or disappear.

But I think it's probably wrong to say that all discussion of morality is rationalization. If that were true, nobody would ever be swayed by a moral argument. In fact, people do change their views -- and they frequently do so when it is pointed out that their stated views don't match their actions.

This is a non sequitur. An argument may change people's moral beliefs and intuitions by changing the underlying tacit basis for their rationalizations, whereupon they get displaced by new ones. The most frequent way this happens is when people realize that a realignment of their moral intuitions is in their interest because it offers some gain in power, wealth, or (most commonly) status, or perhaps it will help avoid some trouble.

Moreover, pointing out that people's stated views don't match their actions is almost never an effective way to change their views. Usually it's effective only in provoking hostility and making their rationalization mechanisms work somewhat harder than usual.

If the sacred in food and sex evolved to combat parasites, then it is at this point, in Western societies, an onion in the varnish.

They have never been just about parasites, especially when it comes... (read more)

1novalis8yBut isn't that precisely what the west has done (not completely, of course), and what the polyamorous community has done to a much greater degree?

On the contrary -- it seems to me that the modern Western societies are, by all historical standards, exceptionally obsessed with sacredness norms on sex-related issues. See my old comment I linked earlier, in which I elaborate on some particularly striking manifestations of this.

(Also, among the most amusing posts on Overcoming Bias are those where Robin Hanson elicits outrage from the respectable progressive folk by putting some sex-related issue under dispassionate scrutiny and thereby violating their sacredness intuitions.)

As for the polyamorists, I don't have any direct insight into the inner workings of these communities except for a few occasional glimpses offered by LW posts and comments. But unless they are composed of extremely unusual self-selected outliers (which might be the case given their very small size), I would suspect that they are again just rationalizing a somewhat different (and possibly even more extreme) set of sacredness norms.

7Unnamed8yPurity is an unusual foundation, since it can apply at the object level or the meta level. On the object level, people believe things like "don't eat pork because it's unclean" or "don't have premarital sex because it takes away your purity." On the meta level, moral purity can apply whenever people hold firmly to a principle or policy. Republicans demand ideological purity in opposing all tax increases, and Kant gets accused of valuing his own moral purity more than another person's life for refusing to lie to the murderer at the door. More generally, any misdeed feels "dirty", so moral purity motivates people to avoid breaking any moral rule. This does seem to involve genuine feelings of purity/sanctity/contamination/disgust - witness the the large role of sin and purification in many religions, and the Lady MacBeth effect [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Macbeth_effect] in the general populace (i.e., college sophomores). Violating a moral rule is a stain on you, which you may or may not be able to cleanse away. Meta-level purity supplements a moral rule which has other bases. I don't think that moral values against taxes and lies are based primarily on purity, even if there is some purity thinking involved in treating them as sacred values and refusing to compromise or consider tradeoffs. Lady MacBeth may have become obsessed with washing her hands but that does not mean that the (felt) wrongness of murder is due to it being a purity violation. The principle that the government should not interfere in people's sex lives sounds like another case where purity is operating at the meta level, where the primary foundation is something else. In this case, it's probably foundation #6, liberty/oppression, which is activated particularly strongly for liberals because sexual restrictions have been a form of oppression against women and gay people. There are other cases where people vehemently want the government to keep its hands off (e.g. guns on the right, abortion
4Eugine_Nier8yThen why don't they apply the liberty principal to government regulation in other aspects of their lives?
4Unnamed8yThe unsatisfying answer is that moral foundations theory doesn't explain why the foundations get applied in the ways that they do - that differs between cultures and involves a lot of path-dependence through history. But Haidt's theory does at least provide some guidance for conjecture, so I'll speculate about why sexual liberty became important to liberals based on the liberty/oppression foundation. The way that Haidt describes it, for American liberals the liberty foundation is primarily about wanting to protect sympathetic victims from oppression. Telling the story from that point of view, sexual restrictions have been a form of oppression, involving shunning and other social punishments for victims like women who had sex outside of marriage or men who loved other men. With the sexual revolution, liberals threw off these arbitrary and oppressive restrictions, and brought us much closer to a world where no one can stop you from being yourself (holding your sexual identity openly without fear of reprisal) or from having sex with who you want to, how you want to (as long as you are consenting adults). Government regulation in many other aspects of people's lives has not involved such obvious oppression of sympathetic victims. Now, could someone return the favor and offer their speculation about how the purity foundation led liberals to value sexual liberty? Vladimir_M mentions that people tend to apply purity-based morality to sex, which is true, but they tend to apply purity at the object level as a reason to restrict sexual activities. Sexual liberty would be applying purity at the meta level as a reason to allow sexual activities. Sex can spread disease (the purity/contamination framework originally evolved for avoiding illness), involves the body in a way that is closely related to many elicitors of disgust [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disgust#Evolutionary_significance], and because of its evolutionary importance people are prone to having strong intuitions
3novalis8y(Let's leave aside, for now, the less thoughtful liberals and conservatives, since what they think isn't interesting). I don't understand why you put autonomy in the category of sacredness. Haidt considers liberty an independent foundation, and I don't think it requires rationalization to consider nonconsensual sex to be a case of harm!

The thing is, what determines when autonomy is absolute and inviolable, and when it should be weighed against other concerns?

When it comes to interventions in human affairs by the state and other institutions, modern liberals pride themselves on their supposed adherence to (what they see as) rational and scientific cost-benefit analysis and common-sense notions of equality and fairness. They typically assert that their opponents are being irrational, or acting out of selfish interest, when they insist that some other principle takes precedence, like for example when conservatives insist on respecting tradition and custom, or when libertarians insist on inviolable property rights. In particular, liberals certainly see it as irrational when libertarians oppose their favored measures on the grounds of individual liberty and autonomy.

However, there are issues on which liberals themselves draw absolutist lines and lose all interest for cost-benefit analysis, as well as for concerns about equality and fairness that are perfectly analogous to those they care about greatly in other cases. Sex is the principal example. Liberals argue in favor of comprehensive intervention and regulation ... (read more)

the sexual norms based on sacralized individual autonomy end up working very badly in practice, so that we end up with the present rather bizarre situation where we see an unprecedented amount of hand-wringing about all sorts of sex-related problems, and at the same time proud insistence that we have reached unprecedented heights of freedom, enlightenment, and moral superiority in sex-related matters.

The unprecedented amount of hand-wringing might not be indicative of an increase in the number or magnitude of sex-related problems if it turns out that previous norms also discouraged public discussions of such problems. What are the other metrics by which we can say that the current set of norms are working badly in practice? Are there fewer people having sex, are they having less enjoyable sex, or are their sexual relationships less fulfilling and of shorter duration or are these norms destabilising society in other ways?

8Vaniver8yQuality and quantity were the only sex-related problems that came to mind? Pregnancy, particularly pregnancy out of wedlock, and venereal disease are the traditional sex-related problems. Both of them are massively higher after sexual liberation. (Out of wedlock births are also exacerbated by welfare, which is part of a larger political discussion.) Births out of wedlock are somewhat difficult to hide from government record-keepers in developed countries like the US, though they may be possible to hide socially (which is what most people care about anyway). Out of wedlock births among African Americans are currently at ~70%; in 1940, a full generation before the civil rights era, it was 19%. Venereal disease is a bit harder to compare to last century (whereas we have out-of-wedlock rates going back quite a bit), and there are issues with diseases (like syphilis) becoming treatable and overall medical care (including reporting) increasing. But the impact of the Sixties on American gonorrhea rates [http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats07/images/trends-gonorrhea-800.gif] is still clear. (It also seems likely that gay liberation contributed to the AIDS epidemic- but the primary comparison there is to Cuba, where those with AIDS were quarantined. Unsurprisingly, quarantine reduces transmission rates.)
2OphilaDros8yHmm? You quoted the rest of my question which talked about other things. It really was a question. :) In any case, I must admit that unwanted pregnancies and venereal diseases (if these diseases have mostly become treatable then they're really not as much of a problem are they?) did not really spring to mind. I was thinking of effects on marriage and the impact through that on society at large. However, even your data speaks only about a specific class of people, and not for all of America. Which suggests that certain socioeconomic groups can deal with the change in sexual norms while others can not. So the problem may not be entirely with the change in sexual norms? Anyway, it is time for me to confess I am not American, nor familiar with the data trends on America and the effects of the sexual revolution there. I live in a country without too much sexual freedom and its own set of problems [http://www.ndtv.com/article/cities/mangalore-mob-attack-eight-arrested-for-thrashing-women-inside-a-resort-248726] . It is interesting to see what problems are expected to happen when things get more laissez-faire around here though. And I wanted to point out the problems of a society with far lower sexual autonomy. But this is tangential to Vladimir_M's point about some sort of double standards among liberals vis-a-vis sexual norms. For what its worth I don't consider autonomy as absolute and inviolable, and although I do place a high value on individual autonomy in sexual matters, I am not averse to a cost-benefit analysis either. Since we're on the topic, I'll link one analysis that I'd found interesting: From Gene Expression [http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2012/01/human-behavior-over-the-ages/]
0novalis8yWhat about Africa? Sure, there are all sorts of problems making that comparison, but it shows that anti-gay attitudes aren't particularly protective. Also, of course, attitudes were much more conservative in late-15th and 16th century Europe, but syphilis did pretty well. Looking at the rates of HIV infection by state, Cook's PVI only accounts for about 6% of the variance, about the same as urban density (the two are themselves somewhat more correlated). If we take PVI as a rough proxy for conservative attitudes about sexuality, it seems like conservatism isn't particularly protective. That's probably because illiberal attitudes towards homosexuality probably don't reduce homosexual sex all that much. They just drive it underground. That makes epidemics harder to trace and harder to stop. Also, these attitudes tend to preclude education about condoms and STDs (since it's hard to teach "don't do this but if you do, be safe"). Sex ed actually does seem to increase condom use, and thus reduce the spread of HIV.
-3jacoblyles8yOut of wedlock birth rates have exploded with sexual freedom: - http://www.familyfacts.org/charts/205/four-in-10-children-are-born-to-unwed-mothers [http://www.familyfacts.org/charts/205/four-in-10-children-are-born-to-unwed-mothers] Marriage is way down: - http://www.familyfacts.org/charts/105/the-annual-marriage-rate-has-declined-significantly-in-the-past-generation [http://www.familyfacts.org/charts/105/the-annual-marriage-rate-has-declined-significantly-in-the-past-generation]
3David_Gerard8y"Give your listeners the facts—the Family Facts from the experts at The Heritage Foundation." [http://familyfacts.org/about] I'm completely reassured.
-1jacoblyles8yI'm pretty sure they are sourced from census data. I check the footnotes on websites like that.
7Kaj_Sotala8yThis is probably the most insightful comment that I've seen on LW in a long time.
8Will_Newsome8yRead his entire comment history. [http://www.ibiblio.org/weidai/lesswrong_user.php?u=Vladimir_M] (FWIW Vladimir_M is I think my second favorite LW commenter.)
9GLaDOS8yI endorse this recommendation, but I can't help but wonder who is your favourite? (^_^)
5Will_Newsome8yRayhawk [http://lesswrong.com/user/Steve_Rayhawk], largely because he talks about more important things than does Vladimir_M. I sorta wish Vladimir_M would do more speculative reasoning outside the spheres of game theory, social psychology, economics, politics, and so on—I would trust him to be less biased than most when considering strange ideas, e.g. the Singularity Institute's mission.
0Eugine_Nier8yYou can get a good idea of which ideas Vladimir_M considers important, by looking at where he chooses to spend his time.
2GLaDOS8yI'm not sure that is a good heuristic, spending a lot of time in somewhere might mean he considers the ideas or at least debating them fun, which is not quite the same as important. If someone was studying my online habits they'd be better off assuming I optimize for fun rather than impact. (^_^')
-2Eugine_Nier8yMy mental model of Vladimir_M has this not being the case.
6Unnamed8y'Using the purity foundation' =/= 'Unable to think about it rationally and genuinely consider both benefits and costs.' The purity foundation involves specific patterns of thought & feeling including the emotion of disgust and modeling the world in terms of purity and contamination, or elevation and degradation. People can be absolutist and unwilling to consider tradeoffs for moral views that come from any of the foundations (including harm/care, e.g. not wanting to torture a child no matter how big the benefit). This is a wild exaggeration. There are large domains of life where liberals favor a large amount of freedom. See the 1st amendment, for instance. The standard distinction puts liberals higher on social liberty but lower on economic liberty; Haidt has used the term "lifestyle liberty" to describe the kind of liberty that liberals support. Liberals are relatively consistently opposed to legal restrictions on self-expression, for example, and they generally have social norms encouraging it (with some exceptions where it runs afoul of other norms). I don't see a very plausible story of how the purity pattern of thinking would form the basis for norms of sexual permissiveness (maybe you could fill in some of the details?). The simplest explanation that I see is that sexual restrictions became tagged, in liberals' minds (and in liberal culture) as traditionalist/oppressive/sexist/bad. (Because a lot of sexual restrictions did fit that pattern.) So, by pattern matching, now any proposed sexual restriction sounds bad, like something they support and we oppose. There are various particular psychological and cultural mechanisms that contributed to making this stick. For instance, it probably helped that sex can fit within the social/lifestyle/self-expressive category where liberals tend to be more laissez-faire. And it helps that they (the people who want to restrict human sexuality based on their retrograde puritanism) continue to exist (rather prominently, in ma
5bryjnar8yDo we actually see this hand-wringing from liberals, though? I'm not really sure what you're talking about, unless it's gay marriage, in which case most liberals don't seem to be hand-wringing so much as pushing forward along the same path as ever: towards more sexual freedom. There's hand-wringing from conservatives, but I don't see how this is relevant to your point.
5Emile8yI would guess - things like "less desirable" men not being able to find a mate, teenage pregnancy, single motherhood, STDs, rape ... But yes, those don't seem to be things liberals complain about more than conservatives; I'm not sure if Vladimir was implying they did, or talking about something else. (Personally, I can't tell if there really is "unprecedented amount of hand-wringing" or if it's just availability bias - it's easier to think of examples of people complaining now than of people complaining 50 years ago)
2novalis8yI think you and I must know very different liberals.
2Vladimir_M8yLooking back at my comment, I did perhaps use a very broad brush at certain points, which is unfortunately hard to avoid if one wishes to keep one's comments at reasonable length. However, I'd still be curious to hear where exactly you think my description diverges from reality.

I think part of the difference between my experience and your statement, is that the liberals I know tend towards the libertarian end of the spectrum. At least on the drug issue, this might be a function of age.

The liberal argument against libertarianism is not that it is irrational to have a preference for liberty, but that (a) liberty is a more complicated concept than libertarians say it is (see Amartya Sen, for instance), (b) that libertarians often equivocated between the moral and practical arguments for libertarianism (see Yvain's non-libertarian FAQ, for instance), and (c) that the practical benefits are often not as-claimed (ibid).

Similarly, many liberals are in favor of certain sorts of regulations on sexual autonomy -- many oppose prostitution and traditional polygyny, for instance (there are, of course, a number of complications here, as well as variance among liberals). Some liberals also oppose the burqa and would criminalize clitoridectomy (this is more of a live issue in Europe). Finally, liberals tend to favor regulations against sexual harassment, which, defined broadly, could include some consensual conduct such as a consensual boss-subordinate relationship. ... (read more)

In response to your final questions:

Liberals (myself included) tend to very much like the idea of using regulation to transfer some wealth from the strongest players to the weakest in society. We like to try to set up the rules of the game so that nobody would be economically very poor, and so that things in general were fair and equitable.

In the case of sex and relationships, the argument could also be made for regulation that would transfer "sexual wealth" and "relationship wealth" from the strongest players to those who are not so well off. In fact, it seems to me that very many traditional conservative societies have tried to do just that, by strongly promoting e.g. such values that one should have only one sexual partner (along with marriage) during one's life. Rock stars and other sorts of alpha males who take many hot girls for themselves would be strongly disapproved of by typical traditional conservative societies. The underlying reason may be that traditional monogamy produces a sexually more equal society, and that this has been one contributing factor why societies with such values have been so successful throughout much of human history.

Most liberal... (read more)

-3Roxton8yI believe you misframe the liberal position. Liberalism can be meaningfully defined as the erosion of the presumption of a privileged ontology. Rational debate is possible, to the extent that it serves to undermine privileged ontologies.* When somebody raises a proposal, the argument that might follow typically involves participants inferring and teasing out the relevant premises, and then arguing them. In contrast, Liberalism tries to identify the ontologies underpinning the premises, and then encourages you to recognize that ontology as arbitrary, have the self-awareness to treat that ontology as a rationalization for your motivations, and decide whether you're willing to be a bully and acknowledge yourself as such. (I suppose OCPD creates its own motivations, allowing elegant and/or simpler models to dominate for some people.) In the end, the policies adopted by liberals can't be argued for. They just can't be argued against effectively, except in a creative gut context informed by predictive models and evidence. *(or creatively flesh out and validate/invalidate predictive models) I would end the comment here, but I can't resist quibbling on one point. I believe you are confusing liberalism's erasure of the old regime with a rejection of regulation. Sex is more policed now than ever, in a state enforcement context, a social coregulation context, and a support system context – all this with dramatic consequences. "Sacredness" is a word we use to create moral models around feelings. If liberals choose to "make way" for those feelings, does that mean they've bought into a sacralizing mentality? No.
6Roxton8yI feel like I'm getting a communal "No. Just.... no." here.
5RichardKennaway8yQuite. The "erosion of the presumption of a privileged ontology" sounds more like postmodernism, and "a creative gut context informed by predictive models and evidence", when decoded, seems to mean "inventing the conclusion you want and selecting theories and evidence to fit it". This is an excellent example of the sort of bullying that constitutes postmodern discourse. You don't even say whether you agree with any of this or not, but it doesn't seem intended satirically.
-1Roxton8yCogently put. An accurate characterization, although I don't share your negative associations with the term. A reasonable decoding, which means I conveyed the point poorly. The core idea is that you recognize no particular framing as "special." Selecting theories and evidence to fit it would contradict that. There are a thousand framings in which to consider menial subjects like... food, plastics production, coffee consumption, pain, sexuality, population growth. These framings must be arrived at creatively. To illustrate the complexity, I will add that these framings are, in turn, framed in the context of whether people care about them; how it relates to individual experiences. These framings often present metrics. Mapping these metrics to a decision is not a deterministic process without arbitrarily privileging one or more framings. An example of a framing is the old LW yarn comparing torture and minor eye irritants. Where does evidence fit into this? Evidence is the one thing, the only thing, that can be privileged without allegations of arbitrariness. (That said, evidence of how people experience things is still evidence.) So, under this framing, a liberal is anyone who tries to capture all these framings (impossible!) and holding that massive ball of contradiction to their aesthetic eye, makes "educated" decisions pertaining to action or inaction, probably following the lessons of rational instrumentality. So here's a crazy contention – people who do this tend to, in aggregate, make the same determinations. That's actually not surprising, given ev. psych. Is it "correct"? No. There is no "correct." But it's a weird thing to argue against, because you'd have to privilege a frame to do it. For example, you could argue for embracing the naturalistic fallacy, because it works, thus, without thought or conscience, privileging your frame over all the anti-rape framings.
0Jayson_Virissimo8yHow many people that self-identify as liberal would agree that liberalism is "the erosion of the presumption of a privileged ontology"? I would guess < 1%. Also, in what way does the Ten Commandments rely on a "privileged ontology" that human rights does not?
0Roxton8y<1%. And that must be accepted as a criticism. However, I would contend that individual liberal battles can readily be perceived as fitting comfortably in this framing. I imagine you will agree that the concept of "putting presumptions under erasure" is not something that expresses itself well in dialog. You will notice that a hallmark of the occupy movement and human rights is that they are generally used vaguely. This is because they "happen to categorize" the kinds of policies that are advocated when the rationalization of the status quo is put under erasure. Now, I'll acknowledge that this framing fails because clearly powerful international organizations are asserting definitions of human rights. I will suggest that this is a tool in the service of the paradigm mentioned, and then I'll acknowledge that this is a fully general counterargument. And while I've explicitly lost the argument, allow me to ask you to hang onto it, because its corpse is still quite useful.
1RichardKennaway8yIt appears to me that you are not someone who expresses themselves well in dialog. I shall refrain from imagining that anyone agrees with me.
1Roxton8yExcept you totally do so imagine, because you could only get away with such dickish social signaling if my communication style was unacceptable in a group context.
-2Eugine_Nier8yWell, I for one agree with you.
0[anonymous]8yIt remains to be seen whether the polyamorous community can deal with the complex issues regarding raising children and passing their memes onto them. Judging by what happened to previous attempts [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oneida_Community] my guess is that they'll fail.
1duckduckMOO8y"Namely, the answer is that, contrary to Haidt's model of contemporary ideologies, there are in fact no such people." This seems to be obviously untrue. Unless "no such people" has finally become a synonym for "very few such people percentagewise" Even if you replace "morality" with "instinct" this is almost certainly untrue. Sincere utilitarians, labelled as such or not, do in fact exist. There are also people who naturally lack some or all such instincts altogether. "As for the claim that "you need loyalty, authority and sanctity to run a decent society," I would actually go further and say that they are necessary for any sort of organized human society. In fact, the claim can be stated even more strongly: since humans are social beings who can live and reproduce only within organized societies"" Humans can reproduce and live outside of organized societies (unless you define a pair as a society). Authority is a word that adds nothing to a neutral description other than a means for demonstrating deference. Perhaps some kind of policing type people are necessarry but calling it an authority isn't. Not all humans are social beings. "What does exist are people whose ideology says that harm and (maybe) fairness are the only rational and reasonable moral foundations, while the other ones are only due to ignorance, stupidity, backwardness, malice, etc. Nevertheless, these same people have their own strong norms of sacredness, purity, authority, and in-group loyalty, for which they however invent ideologically motivated rationalizations in terms of harm and fairness." Who are you talking about? (some group I assume) This doesn't sound implausbible. The vast majority of humans are hypocrites barring significant cost, or amoral enough enough in the first place to be incapable of hypocrisy (not that this is a bad way to be if you're optimising for politics.)There would have to be a hell of a selection effect for any group to not be made up of a majority of such people.

So exactly what was the point of this article? Boo conservative values, yay liberal values? I am sure we need more like this on LessConservative!

Sure, a conservative mindkilled person may fail to notice that women in conservative societies can be opressed and battered by their husbands, in the name of sacred family. Just like a liberal mindkilled person may fail to notice that some women don't mind their daughters raped by their sexy alpha boyfriends, in the name of sacred sexual freedom. What a coincidence -- biased people not noticing their biases!

However, liberal biases are OK, because liberal people say so; both here and in academy. On the other hand we should remove all topics that could offend... ahem... people other than conservatives. For example, discussions about "pick-up arts" -- their strawman versions could make women feel unwelcome. A "pick-up artist" would probably not make the same mistake as author of this article; but for our rationality, it is better if they take their evidence elsewhere. If my opinions are right, I want to believe my opinions are right; and if my opinions are wrong, I want to believe your opinions are harmful.

Seriously -- we ... (read more)

8GLaDOS8yI'm also starting to feel unwelcome here. I've been seeing more and more sings of an intellectual chilling in the past few months and a shrinking of acceptable ingroup political variation. Things like users commenting on there being concerned about there being " insufficient liberal spin [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dfk/link_why_the_kids_dont_know_no_algebra/6yll]". Now obviously the no mind-killer norm kept the concern unpopular and a well worded post [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dfk/link_why_the_kids_dont_know_no_algebra/6ymj] calling it out was written... but still what concerns me is that I don't recall things like this happening at all before. Not cool. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lr/evaporative_cooling_of_group_beliefs/]
4J_Taylor8yMultiheaded is a delightfully unusual case with delightfully unusual posting goals, who I assumed was rather unlike any other poster here. Was your usage of the plural 'users' solely for aesthetic concerns, or are there other users who have complained about "insufficient liberal bias"?

To use terminology I do not wager Multiheaded would object to, he takes the threat of certain right-wing political philosophies very seriously. Perhaps goal is the not the best term, however. See here for a glimpse of what I mean.

In a nontrivial number of his posts, one could say that a specter is haunting Multiheaded, the specter of fascism. As such, a good bit of his output consists of left-wing ghost-busting.

Indeed, your terminology is OK with me. (Just one qualification: "certain modern right-wing political philosophies") However, you forgot to mention my roguish charm, my irresistable allure and my gorgeous looks.

4Eugine_Nier8yMultiheaded is basically Barron the Green [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gt/a_fable_of_science_and_politics/].
6Multiheaded8yNo way, I'm not! I mean, yes, I'm certainly mind-killed (and flattered when my mind-killedness is described in dramatic language like above, thanks!) - but at least... how to put it.. I'm mind-killed about the mind! That is, I fret and read and (sometimes) post about social psychology and cultural processes and human ethics and stuff like that - which is, in the end, self-referential and self-fulfilling/negating to a degree. If e.g. everyone in known history thought that economic equality was massively evil and alien and harmful and undesirable - why, societies would simply increase wealth divergence without ever worrying whether it's practical or moral to - like, in real life, we feel and act the same about starvation, even when we let its victims die in other ways. If in 1936 or so 90% of Europeans got the idea that Hitler had unspeakably evil plans, he'd never be able to carry out those plans. {1} Therefore, if someone, like me, fervently believes that [religion name]/[ideology name] is (in its worldview and revealed preferences, not its description of reality) an enormous priority to pursue OR avoid, more important than even lives or happiness - and that humanity is blind to that urgent matter, then they're slightly better off than someone who fervently believes that e.g. Mars has a breathable atmosphere. The more people share the first "delusion", the less of a "delusion" it is internally and the more implementable it is in practice. Yes, of course some ev-psych facts - like selfishness, love of authority or envy - limit the phase space of working societies, but those realities can be stretched or hacked around, given how plastic our minds potentially are. The second one remains a delusion no matter how large and committed a group tries to live up to it; a lone atheist and a million good Catholics following a papal edict would choke with equal speed on Mars. "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away." Barron might hate the uni
1Eugine_Nier8ySo how did the Soviet Union's attempt to create the "New Soviet Man" turn out?
8Multiheaded8yThere was some serious work [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Vygotsky] in that direction in the 1920s, but with Stalin's ascent to power, left-wing education and indoctrination were in fact stamped out, to be replaced with Russian crypto-nationalism, imperial and militarist sentiment, and most notably an Asian-style cult of the god-king. In fact, by the end of his life Stalin had uprooted or completely subverted virtually every institution that the 1920s' Old Bolshevik leaders introduced (with the sole exception of the repression apparatus, which he expanded while purging most personnel) - from the "New Economic Policy" and legal free abortion (!) to the avant-garde artists' organizations and the Comintern. I'm not necessarily saying that those institutions were good (although the NEP objectively worked well enough); I'm saying that, since around 1930 and until the end, Soviet leadership only paid lip service to genuine radical indoctrination/reeducation, preferring the old staples of nationalism, feudal loyalty and leader-worship. Later, in the Brezhnev era, an official cargo cult of sorts was formed around Marxist phraseology and such, but no-one gave a shit whether, say, the "Marxism-Leninism" classes at universities were even functioning as propaganda. In fact, it was rather counter-productive as propaganda, as people began to mock even the several objective, verified achievements that it trumpeted - like the space program or the considerable infrastructure investment. The system became too stagnant even to attempt self-replication through indoctrination. So there. The USSR was mostly an ineffective (if somewhat orderly) conservative regime that would have shat its collective pants if a New Soviet Man suddenly appeared in flesh. And hey, a handful did appear, more or less by accident; e.g. Andrei Sinyavsky, Yuli Daniel [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinyavsky%E2%80%93Daniel_trial], Vasily Grossman (Socialist Realist writers!), Sakharov, the Strugatsky brothers
2prase8yHadn't NEP originally been conceived as a temporary policy for the interim when the society was going to be slowly transformed into communism, after radical immediate implementation of communist economics attempted in the first years after the revolution visibly failed?
-2Eugine_Nier8yWell, the many far left movements had a militarist element (directed against the bourgeois) to them from the very beginning. Also the nationalism didn't start going until WWII, and only after it became clear that appealing to people to fight for communist ideals wasn't working.
6Multiheaded8yThey sure had a culture of violence, as in street fighting and insurgency etc, but under Stalin it turned into proper militarism, as in: approval of army hierarchy and officer-caste ethics as not merely necessary but laudable; formal expressions of loyalty turning organization-based rather than class-based; displaying the expected World Revolution (in films, lectures, etc) as being in essense a conventional war, with near-identical armies facing off and some aid from working-class sympathizers - rather then the preceding image of a massive popular rebellion... A somewhat-revisionist Russian historian, Mark Solonin, describes how the massive military build-up was accompanied by this gradual shift in propaganda from "revolutionary violence" to "Red militarism". Believe me, it did! It was crypto-nationalism in the 30s, but back then Stalinist propaganda already began to lionize the historical achievements and the "properly" anti-feudal, anti-bourgeois sentiment of the Russian Volk. It appropriated 19th century authors like Pushkin who were previously fashionable to reject as retrograde. There's a sharp contrast between the 1920s' propaganda line on Imperial Russia (backward, miserable, completely lost but for the Communist guidance), the lambasting of "Russian chauvinism" as a right-wing deviation and the insistence that all Soviet nationalities should harmoniously melt into a purely political whole - and the 1930s' quiet suppression of all that, with Old Russia called less a benighted rural wilderness and more a supremely talented nation, naturally predisposed towards communism, that only needed to overthrow Tsarism to assume its rightful place of world leadership. I've read a few Russian studies about the relationship between Stalinism, Soviet culture and propaganda; they offer a far more nuanced view than the one you cite.
5Viliam_Bur8yThe lesson is probably that when you create a culture of violence, it tends to get out of the hand and go towards its own attractors.
2Multiheaded8ySounds reasonable.
3novalis8yDo you feel that the entire article is a problem, or are there specific bits that bother you?
-2GLaDOS8yJust a few minor political digs in it, otherwise it is an appropriate critique of H's work. I was more concerned with the overall LW climate as I tried to show with my cited example.
1novalis8yDo you mean the bit about Catholics, or another bit? I think I'm going to remove that bit. [edit] I did. (I'm asking because I would like to improve the article, not to start an argument) (Although I didn't read that comment at the time, I am also boggled by the "liberal spin" bit, for what that's worth).
3prase8yHow does the article celebrate the attitude that some biases are less harmful? There is a recognisable liberal (American meaning) undertone in the article but it can't see any definite attitude towards biases.
2novalis8yI don't think this comment has anything to do with the actual article. The central question of the article is about how Haidt interprets the five foundations. I point out that his interpretation is somewhat incoherent and question-begging. The article doesn't celebrate biases in any way. And, as I noted above, there is still no citation on the Brazil claims.

I don't think this comment has anything to do with the actual article.

It is a summary reaction to both this article and your comments in Admitting to Bias. I have read both these articles with discussions in a short time, and my mindkilling alarm started ringing. So I posted my comment here, because unlike in the other thread, here you received upvotes, which to me means that community standards (of avoiding politically motivated thinking) are in danger.

If I'd read only this article without any other context, I probably wouldn't write the same kind of reaction. So I guess a large part of my comment was "object connotationally".

Specifically, you are right in saying that if Haidt shows five foundations of morality, and then defends one of them by saying that violating this foundation causes harm, then this value is probably a heuristics for minimizing harm. Although you and Haidt may use different definition of "foundation" -- since you explicitly provided neither, I don't know. For you it may be "something that cannot be reduced to other values", and for Haidt "something directly percieved emotionally". In which case both of you could be ri... (read more)

3novalis8yI don't think that gets Haidt off the hook prescriptively, since when he defends non-harm foundations, he doesn't do so by pointing to his emotions. And as I noted, it's just fine as a descriptive theory. I'm not talking about any specific situation, where that indeed might happen. I'm talking about whether "When women have a succession of men coming through, their daughters will get raped" [emphasis in original]. That's the claim that I object to. If P(abuse|boyfriend) were even 0.3, it would be harder for mothers to deny what's going on, because their prior for it would be so much higher. When people see rape as rare, they are a lot less likely to believe any individual who claims to have been raped. I think that's actually very likely. But the question is not P(boyfriend|abuse), but P(abuse|boyfriend). Another reason I don't think much of Haidt's non-data, which I couldn't fit into the article, is that "street children", by definition, don't live in houses with their parents. I didn't propose not discussing data on female sexual behavior. I suggested not linking to a site which has nothing but bad things to say about people of color, which is really quite different. VDARE is a political site; they do sometimes post articles by real scientists, but they would be unlikely to do so if those articles contradicted their basic premise. I also noted that I was trying to avoid filtering, by actually having women and people of color on Less Wrong. My article did link to a book which mentions womens' boyfriends killing (but not, in the parts that I have read so far, raping) their infant children. So I'm certainly not opposed to data. I appreciate your concern for the community's health. I did make one change to the article to remove a bit which was more specifically political (a bit about the Catholic church), and I think it was an error to put that in there in the first place. I think you might be pattern matching my comments in the other thread, rather than re
9Viliam_Bur8yThere is, in my opinion, but a different kind of harm. Accusations of racism, whether based on fact or not, are contagious. Being social species, we cannot afford to ignore the questions of status.
0novalis8yThat's why I [http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2008/05/31/the-racist-white-democrats-in-ferraros-mind-who-are-angry-when-we-say-the-r-word/] never call anyone a racist [http://www.illdoctrine.com/2008/07/how_to_tell_people_they_sound.html]. We all fuck up and say racist things sometimes. But if we can't call each other on it, we'll never stop doing it. For a group of people who aim to be "Less Wrong" to say that we can't call something racism because we've been too mind-killed, or because our status would suffer, would be sad indeed. When you say "a different kind of harm", can you be a bit more explicit?
2BarbaraB8yI imagine Brazil "street children" occassionally return to the homes of their parents, but do not feel particularly wellcome, missed, or protected, so they spend most nights somewhere else. If it helps, I have recently seen a TV document on Brazil. The document mentioned, that the major source of street children are the families, where widowed or divorced mother has a new partner. And that boyfriends / new husbands tend to discourage such mothers from taking care of their children, they rather want to have new on their own. Raping was not mentioned, but clearly Brazilian culture puts a surprisingly low emphasis on duty and responsibility of a mother to take care and protect their own kids. After contradicting novalis (for searching ways how to dissmiss the data), I will now say something in his support. I thing there is still too long a step from situations, where women do not live in celibacy after leaving (or burrying) their first partner, to situations, when they fail to protect their children. I think the point is addressed by having a social moral norm, that women should protect their kids no matter what, rather than having a moral norm, that women should not have new sexual adventures after leaving the first partner. So the "avoiding harm / provide care" value is sufficient, you do not need purity and sanctity and whatever... Or is it actualy the sanctity of motherhood I am trying to advocate ??? Perhaps the confusion is the terminology. After reading several specific examples from the book, we would understand better what the author means by "harm/caring, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity/disgust". So far, I did not read the book, nor did the author of this blogpost.
0novalis8yAfter contradicting novalis (for searching ways how to dismiss the data) I was actually searching for data either way -- if it's true, I want to believe it's true, and if it's false, I want to believe it's false. I searched for papers on Google Scholar, and I couldn't find any. I want to find some, because I want to actually know the truth.
-1mrglwrf8yReligious variants of social conservatism aside, this site has traditionally been very sympathetic to the far right. There has been little or no Stalinism or Maoism advocated here, but quite a bit of the right wing equivalent. If the site becoming somewhat less welcoming to Neo-Birchers, PC-Paranoiacs, and other Reverse-Leninists upsets you, perhaps you might consider how the past political climate has been perceived by those left of center, or even those only slightly right of it.
8Viliam_Bur8yCould you please taboo [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Rationalist_taboo] "far right", and give specific details of what is LW sympathetic to? E.g. quotations from high-karma articles and comments (bonus points for being written by Eliezer or Luke or some other local celebrity). I am aware that this site is more sympathetic to ideas like "markets are good heuristic for maximizing utility" than to ideas like "we could make the world a better place by killing all people we consider evil, and brainwashing the rest". But I don't think this is because the typical correlations with 'left' and 'right', but because of the ideas themselves.
-1mrglwrf8yDisingenuous racism ("race realism" or "human biodiversity" or whatever euphemism it hides behinds currently). Libertarianism. Chest-beating displays towards right-wing boogeymen like political correctness and the media-academia complex. Multiple apparently respected posters taking "Heartiste" seriously, even though his entire shtick is gay-bashing and misogyny, and despite the fact that he's a grown-ass man who calls himself "Heartiste." And oh yeah, Mencius Moldbug. Is there a left-wing writer of similar obscurity and extremism so widely and approvingly quoted on LessWrong?
[-][anonymous]8y 12

And oh yeah, Mencius Moldbug. Is there a left-wing writer of similar obscurity and extremism so widely and approvingly quoted on LessWrong?

Well there are left-writers of similar extremism quoted approvingly on LessWrong. They just happen not to be as obscure as their right wing counterparts. Basically any far left position you can think of (say Stalinism ) has some unobscure figure arguing for it. But I can see why you'd mind Moldbug, he's just some dude with a blog, which he himself emphasises.

What I don't see is Heartiste/Roissy. He's one of several pick up artists that's name dropped and discussed when the subject of romance or sex comes up and while the online scene itself is somewhat obscure anyone who is at all familiar with it also knows about him. If PUA in general is your complaint why didn't you just say so? Our sister site Overcoming Bias does directly link to Heartiste's blog (under its old name of Roissy in DC) so maybe he is overrepresented in PUA discussions, but I'd argue a larger part of why he is overrepresented is that he makes a good target to straw man PUA.


Wait libertarianism is scary far right now?

Well ok I guess a third of LessWrong i... (read more)

0mrglwrf8yA libertarian who is also a fan of Moldbug and PUAs is in my estimation almost certain to be some way out on the non-religious branch of the right. Obviously my views are not unbiased, and I hope I have not claimed them to be. Your last paragraph is good snark, but I think it's pretty close to how a fair portion of those on the political left would see it. Anyone who identifies as liberal is likely to see Peter Thiel and Robin Hanson as far-right nutcases (assuming they've heard of them). Yudkowsky, as I see it, is libertarian by upbringing but generally indifferent to politics, so he can only be far-right by association. All of his really far-out opinions are elsewhere. He is a good target to straw man PUAs! I'm glad we found something we can agree on! Naming himself Heartiste was the greatest gift any man could give to snarky enemies of the PUA movement. But he also writes some truly messed up stuff (no links because I don't want to vomit right now), and he is linked to by Hanson, so I don't think criticizing him is unfair.
[-][anonymous]8y 11

Your last paragraph is good snark

Good, I was aiming for snark.

But yes I'm fully aware people really do think like that. Check out the link I put in "evil knows no bounds". I've seen hysterical diatribes elsewhere online of how utterly vile and wicked it is of Thiel to pay exceptional young people not to go to college since it RUINS THEIR FUTURE FOREVER. Contrary to all the data we have on what education actually does, which shows they will likely be fine since college is probably mostly signaling.

What I think you will have to admit, is that people like Thiel are also the kind of people who are more likely than average to take things like encouraging social or technological innovation, curing ageing, cryonic and existential risk seriously. Just inspecting the sources of funding of such efforts should give you overwhelming of evidence of this.

If you take away Robin Hanson and other people from that cluster away, cease to tolerate them, preciously little original synthesis and though beyond what academia already did would remain. I would go as far as to say that applied rationality and self-improvement that actually works is indeed a strong attractor in the context of... (read more)

0mrglwrf8yThat's the argument I wanted to make, so I think I'll steal it. The intellectually and socially invested backbone of the community was and is distinctly right-leaning. Hence, the site is in many ways unwelcoming to people on the political left, much as was earlier claimed that the site is unwelcoming to some on the right. Right. And I think this applies equally to the right-wing readers and commenters who feel the site isn't sufficiently sympathetic to their political views. Obviously I do not think that the political right deserves special treatment on account of somehow being innately more rational than the other tribes.
1[anonymous]8yI hope I didn't imply this.

Regardless of what you think of his opinions, Mencius Moldbug is, if nothing else, eloquent.

7Viliam_Bur8yI strongly disagree connotationally [http://lesswrong.com/lw/4h/when_truth_isnt_enough/], but thank you for the explanation. I think that you are selecting only a part of the story. For example, the official boogeyman here is the religion. (By the way, it happens to be associated with political right, at least today in USA.) Yet somehow, quotes from Chesterton often get many upvotes [http://lesswrong.com/lw/91s/best_of_rationality_quotes_2011_edition/5jbt] in "Rationality Quotes". Does it mean that LW is secretly very sympathetic to religion? Or just that we are able to appreciate a decent quote even from people with whom we disagree on other topics? Could the second explanation possibly apply also to Heartiste or Moldbug? If you found a good rationality quote from Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Che Guevara, or Fidel Castro, would it also get upvotes? You can try, if you want. With regard to political correctness, to me it seems that the current situation is unsatisfactory to both sides. Forbidden topics get mentioned, then they are verbally opposed and the discussion is stopped; later they are mentioned again, and then the discussion is stopped again; ad infinitum. This is what neither side wants. Some people would prefer to never see those topics reopened again. Other people would prefer to have an open discussion now and then, without being told to stop by people who don't want to participate. Both sides take this as a proof that the other side is winning.
2mrglwrf8yDefinitely. But there are groups associated with the US political right that are non- or anti-religious. Objectivists are an obvious example. Unsurprisingly, these groups are overrepresented on the internet (though this is becoming less and less the case over the years). My impression is that LW has traditionally skewed toward this branch of the right. Yes, but "possible" is a low bar. I do not believe it could entirely, or even in large part explain the frequency of references to Heartiste and Moldbug, or their reception. Chesterton is less famous and less respected than, say, George Orwell, but he is nonetheless a well-known and often quoted political writer in the English speaking world. Heartiste and Moldbug are not. They are so obscure that even having heard of them requires an unusual degree of familiarity with the fringes of the blogosphere. Your description of political correctness makes it sound a lot like the "Politics is the Mindkiller" gag-rule. The Boogeyman version of political correctness is more like a hybrid of the Cheka and the Inquisition.

It is interesting to see Ayn Rand, Heartiste, and Chesterton as examples of "the right". Makes me thinking what exactly does this concept mean; what exactly do these three have in common... which they don't share with George Orwell.

Your description of political correctness makes it sound a lot like the "Politics is the Mindkiller" gag-rule.

To me it seems more like a "Blue Politics is the Mindkiller" rule.

1mrglwrf8yNot being avowed socialists. Anyway, the fact that "the right" is an incredibly broad and imprecise category doesn't make the concept meaningless. It is empirically true that most politically aware Americans vote unerringly for one of two parties based on their identification with a broad and imprecisely defined category, even if you think they ought not to behave that way. A private citizen's specific policy opinions are of far less practical significance than their identification with "the right" or "the left."
7Viliam_Bur8yFunny thing that we agree on this, because when I was writing it, "not being socialist" was the only thing that came to my mind -- but I didn't write it in hope that you will tell me something else that I missed. So perhaps there is nothing else. But in the light of this explanation, your complaint [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e20/what_is_moral_foundation_theory_good_for/79ie] seems to translate as "LW has traditionally been very sympathetic to some non-socialists". Do you think that is a wrong thing? I feel like I'm making a strawman version of your arguments here.
2mrglwrf8yIn the lifetimes of Rand, Chesterton, and Orwell, socialist vs. anti-socialist was possibly the dividing line in the world of politics, so it's not a minor difference. I think a slightly better translation might be "LW has traditionally been very sympathetic to non-religious anti-socialists". I wouldn't call it a wrong thing, because I don't perceive this issue as having that much moral weight. I disagree on the facts with a particular assessment of site-wide political bias.
1Patrick8yTo give a flattering explanation for such activity (I cringe at the thought of being thought as far right) I can only think of the value placed by this community on tolerance of ideas. As Paul Graham says " If a statement is false, that's the worst thing you can say about it. You don't need to say that it's heretical. And if it isn't false, it shouldn't be suppressed." You could interpret people quoting reactionaries like Moldbug as an attempt to shock people and show how tolerant they are by seriously entertaining the ideas. The closest analogue I can think of is Salvador Dali saying he admires Hitler in the movie "Surrealissimo". Link to Dali here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM9E9O9tEHs [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM9E9O9tEHs]
0fubarobfusco8yReally? I doubt I'm the only one who thinks that religious faith is a cheap target for critiques of irrationality. It is the example that people fall back on when they don't have a better one, because it is so obvious. But religion isn't taken as much of a threat or a cause for outrage here. There are communities where it is — New Atheists, skeptics, and science educators concerned about creationism all come to mind.
0J_Taylor8yAstrology, alternative medicine, alien abductions, etc. are the usual targets attacked by entry-level skeptics. However, I do agree that in mainstream Western culture, religion is easy to attack.
6beoShaffer8yI will point out that LW is extremely sexually liberal - lots of polygamists, heavily pro-gay and relatively trans friendly.
6[anonymous]8yYeah you might want to reconsider [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jd/human_evil_and_muddled_thinking/f3f] that: When I stumbled upon this it was at 3 karma, though I'm not sure where it will be now. I would argue what LessWrong traditionally likes is metacontrarianism [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2pv/intellectual_hipsters_and_metacontrarianism/] of any kind. As more evidence of this I'd like to point out that metacontrarian left wing arguments by users like Multiheaded are well liked too. I think you are wrong on this. The argument in this thread was about making mainstream conservatives unwelcome not the cobbled together right-y ideologies people here come up with. To quote GLaDOS on why I think the distinction matters: She's not making any of that up I swear. That isn't far right, that's weird right.
1mrglwrf8yMy head feels funny, and I can't tell whether I have trouble expressing my thoughts clearly or if they're hopelessly disorganized to begin with. But I feel compelled to attempt sensible replies to your comments, so here goes(Jetzt Mit Bulletpoints!)... * mainstream conservatives feeling unwelcome In the US context, I would take mainstream to mean religious. In that case, LW is an atheist site, which is only attractive to atheists and religious eccentrics who enjoy arguing with atheists. US demographics being what they are, LW won't be welcoming to mainstream anyone, though the right end of the political spectrum will be most affected by this. * eclectic, eccentric, and weird right vs. far right I think the overlap between "weird right" and "far right" (and "weird left" and "far left") is extensive, to the point that it's rare to have one without the other. Political intellectuals almost always espouse eclectic and eccentric views, and are almost always on the fringes compared to the political rank-and-file. A politically centrist intellectual is a politically apathetic intellectual. My point here, assuming I have one, is that "he's weird-whatever" isn't a rebuttal to "he's far-whatever." * meta-contrarianism I agree with your general point. The difference in my take is that I think LW, especially in earlier times, has tended to express meta-contrarian views that align with the general politics of the techie-right. A rough description of what I'd consider the techie-right cluster: pro-libertarian, anti-gun-control, anti-religion, anti-environmentalist, pro-hard-sciences, pro-evopsych, pro-mainstream-economics, anti-the-rest-of-academia. * That Stalinist Guy Uh, yeah, well...exception that proves the rule, that was central to my point, but I equivocated "few or no" etc...nah OK, you got me there. I even remembered TGP's endorsement and still had that obvious hole in my argument. Didn't know he had ever posted here though.
5[anonymous]8yI kind of have to concede this point. I do still think the connotations of the kind of far and weird positions you are likely to see on LW are better matched by the weird left/right rather than the far right/left. "Even if utterly disagree with them they practically define themselves into demographic irrelevancy and are very unlikely to cause any damage. " vs. "Aggh this is memeticall virulent! Must stomp on their face with my boot for forever!" Maybe this is because I'm European. In Slovenia calling someone far right is usually always calling that person a dangerous nationalist or even a crypto-fascist. The implied context is that they should be suppressed or arrested since we don't have free speech [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_speech]. A dope smoking libertarian isn't called Far Right but a capitalist lap dog. ;) This seems like a good description and I agree LW is friendly to such stances. I think the main reason for this is that this cluster is disproportionately present among programmers and transhumanists. Many prominent early posters (I can't help but think of Michael Vassar) obviously fir into that frame as does Eliezer himself to a moderate extent.
1mrglwrf8yYeah, that's a very different context from the US. I don't have much direct experience of Slovenia, but I do have some familiarity with Serbia (my Mom's from there), so I hope you aren't too offended if my mental model of Slovenia is a smaller, richer, much less screwed up Serbia. In the US, capitalist lap dogs are generally lumped in with dangerous nationalists and crypto-fascists. It doesn't work the same when you've got some experience with really dangerous nationalists, like in 90's former Yugoslavia.

I just can't imagine a woman saying, "yeah, he's going to rape my daughter, but I really love him!"

You have a very limited imagination and limited experience in moving outside middle our upper class social circles or you are being dishonest. Go out and meet some young people in your nearest underclass neighbourhood. Or if that is too scary read up on the sociology papers on such communities.

Even outside of that, women find dark triad traits sexually attractive in men. Getting away with violence is also sexy. Now pause to consider in addition to thins things like Stockholm syndrome and do the math.

Also to add mere anecdotal evidence a good friend of mine in primary school was routinely beaten up by the trashy boyfriends his mother dragged home so I have very little patience for "oh noble mothers never make bad decisions for their kids in order to follow their romantic or sexual preferences!" sacredness signalling.

The whole article is mindkilling, and this is one of the reasons I downvoted it.

I personally know at least two girls (now women) whose mothers didn't mind too much the risk of their daughters being raped by their boyfriends. To be precise, their reasoning wasn't exactly like "he's going to rape my daughter, but I really love him", but more like "I love him, so I am going to ignore all the evidence that he is trying to rape my daughter, including my daughter's complaints".

Meta: How likely is it that author's political orientation made it more difficult to believe in existence of this kind of female behavior?

I once read an account of a person writing about the sexual abuse he (I think it was a he) had to undergo as a child, where his stepfather would routinely rape him if there was an opportunity for it. His mother was aware of this and considered it an annoying chore to try to ensure that the two wouldn't end up alone with each other, one that she would rather not have bothered with.

0novalis8yFair enough. Still, it would be nice to see some actual numbers from Brazil, which nobody seems to have.

Haidt believes that there are at least six sources of moral values; the first five are harm/caring, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity/disgust.

I distrust any long list of plausible-sounding but arbitrary entries (7 habits of..., 8 simple rules...)

Haidt doesn't have a fixed number in mind. He started with Richard Shweder's list of three moral foundations which seem to have a firm grounding in psychology, evolutionary biology, and anthropology, and then went looking for more. At one point he even offered prize money to people who suggested a promising new foundation. The sixth foundation that he added, liberty/oppression, was based on the suggestion of a prize winner (the psychologist John Jost, who has his own theory of political psychology and has been one of Haidt's harsher critics).

9 Peano axioms, 3 types of radioactive decay, 8 planets (are dwarf planets "arbitrary"?)...

I have an a priori distrust for social science theories, but only because of the heuristic, "there are far more ways to be incorrect than correct", not because "ways to be correct don't come in list form".

In particular, prepending the list cardinality with "at least" shows at least a bit of self-awareness.

2wedrifid8yYes, you lost me at planets. I don't know which group of people it was that collected enough status to declare that Pluto is not a planet (or more precisely to alter the rules by which planets are defined) but the list is arbitrary on approximately the same level as the categories of moral values---based on something that does exists in the world but sliced into fuzzy categories based on convention or authority.
1roystgnr8yStipulating agreement: aren't fuzzy categories better than no categories at all? Who was the first ape classifiable as homo erectus, and how distinguishable was he from his homo habilis parents?
0wedrifid8yOh, I agree with your conclusion---arbitrary categories are great. I'd go as far as to say indefensible (for us, at least).

(1) Haidt's personal moral foundations actually include all five bases, so this is a tautology; of course someone who thinks loyalty is fundamental will think a society without loyalty is not decent. From the tenor of the article, this is at least psychologically plausible.

(2) The three non-universal values can be justified in terms of the common values. This is the interpretation that seems to be supported by some parts of the article, but it has its own issues.

(3) Haidt cannot tell the difference between (1) and (2). Most of the article makes this claim entirely plausible.

I only glanced at the article, but from the book, it's obvious that (2) is correct. Near the end, Haidt recounts that after he had developed moral foundations theory, he thought that it explained conservative morality. But he still thought that conservatives were the enemy, and that judging by liberal moral foundations (which he shared), they were in the wrong. However, he was eventually shocked to run into convincing conservative intellectuals who sought to show that conservative policies would turn out as the best ones, even if they were judged using liberal criteria.

He is also explicit about conservative p... (read more)

And, of course, violence against women is endemic. Haidt reports that he "dined with men whose wives silently served us and then retreated to the kitchen." What does he suppose would have happened if one day one of those women refused to serve, or even, after serving, sat down at the table to join the discussion?

What would happen in a western country if someone say refused to pay their taxes? My point is that the implicit threat of violence underlies all societies so, yes, you can make any society look bad by selectively pointing this out.

Or to take an even more poignant example, what will happen if you refuse to be humble and obedient when you get pulled over by a cop? Historically, in many places and times, this example would have had similarly great emotional power as those employed by the author of the original post.

(In fact, I find it fascinating that present-day Americans would see it as a creepy totalitarian idea if you proposed that cops should be authorized to stop and detain pedestrians for random paper checks, even though the same thing is considered a normal and unremarkable fact of life for drivers. This example demonstrates especially clearly how random and incoherent human intuitions are when it comes to feelings of outrage at a perceived lack of freedom or equality.)

The number of instances that a typical American will need to be 'humble and obedient' - such as while getting pulled over by a cop, are possibly far fewer than the number of instances a woman in a traditional society such as the one described by Haidt is required to do so.

Possibly by an order of magnitude.

4Luke_A_Somers8yAN order of magnitude? Several. I get pulled over every few years...
7Lightwave8yIsn't randomly stopping vehicles a result of some cost-benefit analysis, e.g. if cops didn't stop drivers, more people would drive without a driver's license, while drunk, with a faulty vehicle, etc? Given that cars are fairly dangerous things (cause of many deaths), it makes sense to have stricter control than of pedestrians.
4[anonymous]8yWell... driving a car is much more dangerous (especially for others) than walking, so requiring a licence to do the former but no special requisite to do the latter doesn't seem that arbitrary to me.
0novalis8yIn the US, traffic stops are quite often not at all about driving, but about drugs. See, for instance, Jay Z's "99 Problems" [http://slu.edu/Documents/law/Law%20Journal/Archives/LJ56-2_Mason_Article.pdf]
1Prismattic8yI think you are seriously underestimating how negative US sentiment toward random vehicle stops is. This is quite distinct from being stopped for a traffic violation.
5Vladimir_M8yWell, yes, but that's basically a rationalization for the glaring inconsistency, which in fact exists as a sheer historical accident. Americans would be bothered by explicitly random traffic stops. But in reality, cops have the de facto authority to pull over whomever they want, and you have no right to defy them even if they decide to do it purely on a whim. Note that it's irrelevant for my point that you can get tickets and charges suppressed later if you somehow manage to convince the judge that you were pulled over without reasonable suspicion. I'm focusing purely on the interaction between you and the cop on the spot.
2novalis8yThe issue I have in this case is not specifically the threat of violence -- it's the unequal treatment of women. Of course, women are more vulnerable to violence as well, so the two are not entirely disconnected. Also, of course, it's not really possible (yet?) to have a functioning society in which people don't pay their taxes. It is perfectly possible to have a functioning society in which women are more than mere servants.
2Eugine_Nier8yTaxes aren't equal either for example it seems that many politically connected people pay less taxes despite having a higher income then me. Also, we're you claiming in another thread [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/e1b/link_admitting_to_bias/76qb] that an analogous complaint about Islam was the fundamental attribution error?
3novalis8yThat certainly sounds like a problem to me! Can you make this clearer? I have no idea what comparison you are drawing.
0[anonymous]8yIf the western country is Italy, most likely nothing. (There are regions where the majority of the population evade the television licence, for example.) :-(

I think it's good for modeling moral attitudes.

From what I've seen, Haidt has found a model of moral behavior with statistical validity - that people are clustered in state space for the moral modalities they find most compelling, and that these cluster correlate with observed political correlations.

To my mind, he's starting scientific analysis of morality as it actually exists, and identified particular pattern matching algorithms that form some of the components of morality.

2novalis8yI didn't want to get into the statistical validity bit in the article, but I am somewhat skeptical of this. Haidt started with a theory of the sorts of moral judgments people make, and developed questions to isolate the foundations he was looking for. The correct way to do this sort of research would be to ask a vast range of questions and see what clusters emerge, and then attempt to characterize or pin down those clusters. That would have avoided missing the liberty foundation, and might have given a broader version of the sacredness framework which includes things that liberals consider sacred.
2buybuydandavis8yIt's easy to ask a vast range of questions - a lot harder to get them all answered. Data isn't free. He targeted his data acquisition to modalities he had some evidence for. I haven't followed his work in detail, but I'd guess that he had other trial modalities that didn't pan out. Anyone know anything about other candidate modalities he looked at? I didn't mean to imply that he has totally characterized all the pattern matching involved in morality, and I doubt he has claimed that either. When confronted with new evidence - likely some squawking from libertarians - he updated his model. I'd expect him to do the same if someone came up with evidence for another moral modality. He's started the reductionist enterprise on morality as it exists. It's about time someone did.
0novalis8yThe impression I get from reading his research is that he came at it from an anthropological background (his advisor, IIRC, was an anthropologist). My worry is that he is making the same error that early personality tests (Myers-Briggs, for instance) made; yes, they tested something, but not necessarily what they thought they were testing. Statistical tools are more powerful now, but I'm not sure they protect against this sort of error. As others have pointed out, liberals do have a strong sense of the sacred (in the environmental, and in food in particular); Haidt's test doesn't measure this and doesn't have any way of detecting that this is missing.

Apparently in some parts of India, public toilets charge women (who can ill afford it) but not men.

Heh, was just about to post that I as an Indian woman who has done a fair bit of travelling around the country have NEVER ever seen this, but decided to google just in case. And found a New York Times article agreeing with the claim. Upper class privilege indeed. :)

In any case this doesn't look like an institutional policy, just petty corruption against those who are the least powerless to stop it. Which is sort of your point.

Moral foundations theory is a descriptive theory about human psychology, backed by research, which has tried to identify some of the main forms of thinking which underlie people's moral beliefs. People evolved with tendencies to think about moral topics in certain ways, including not just in their explicit reasoning but in their emotions and implicit theories. For instance, people often apply a purity/contamination model to social & moral subject matter, which is facilitated by the emotion of disgust. Different cultures build different sets of moral... (read more)

1Unnamed8yMore from Haidt & Graham (2009) on how two-foundation people appeared:

I should add that there is no citation on this data; it also doesn't seem to appear in the book (at least, not that I could find via Google Books). A quick glance through Google does not reveal a plausible source for this. So where did he get it from? Probably not via direct observation (how would he have observed these rapes?). He must have heard it from Brazilians. Well, if that's true, then these Brazilian women must know it.

Not necessarily. Or rather they might believe that, yes, some men are dangerous but my current boyfriend is an exception. Humans are remarkably good at this kind of self-deception.

4CharlieSheen8yWe have evidence precisely this is happening. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/cg7/open_thread_may_1631_2012/6mwh] Strongly recommend people follow the link to read K's comments on it as well as the original paper.

I've written quite a bit about Haidt in my work on Propertarianism. Perhaps I can move the discussion out of the psychological and often pseudoscientific (preferential experience) and into the legal and often scientific (necessary cooperation)

1) Haidt's Moral foundations are reducible to descriptions of those instincts necessary for the preservation of the disproportionately high rewards of cooperation through the various prohibitions on 'cheating' which disincentives and undermines that cooperation. He describes his work by referencing evolutionary theor... (read more)

I should add that there is no citation on this data; it also doesn't seem to appear in the book (at least, not that I could find via Google Books). A quick glance through Google does not reveal a plausible source for this. So where did he get it from? Probably not via direct observation (how would he have observed these rapes?). He must have heard it from Brazilians. Well, if that's true, then these Brazilian women must know it. And since nobody wants their daughter to get raped, this must mean that they have a very good reason for inviting these men in -

... (read more)
-2novalis8yThis is discussed in Blaffer as well; the reason that Blaffer gives is that younger children compete with the boyfriend for attention. She notes that only very young children have an instinctive response to strange males (bearded males especially). If that were Haidt's claim, I would say, yeah, there's definitely evidence for it. Note also that the alternatives to a boyfriend are often not two genetic parents, but one.