HughRistik's Comments

Muehlhauser-Goertzel Dialogue, Part 1

On the whole it seems that intelligent folk really are significantly more moral than the majority of humanity

That's been my observation, also. But if it's true, I wonder why?

It could be because intelligence is useful for moral reasoning. Or it could be because intelligence is correlated with some temperamental, neurological, or personality traits that influence moral behavior. In the latter case, moral behavior would be a characteristic of the substrate of intelligent human minds.

I'd like to talk to some LGBT LWers.

To a certain degree, different brands of feminism could function as different parties (certainly in academic feminism they do).

You are quite correct. There are large disagreements and fissures within feminism. These disagreements might not be obvious or cared about by non-feminists (similar to how many feminists don't recognize the differences within MRAs and PUAs). See out-group homogeneity bias.

As you also observe correctly, there are some common premises (and biases) even within these different groups of feminists. Although there are widely varying feminist opinions on porn, trans people, race issues, etc, there unfortunately seems to be a lot of homogeneity in how feminists view men's issues.

For example, the notion that "men are privileged over women" is very common, and I wish that there was more debate within feminism about whether that was an acceptable generalization, and what it means.

The acceptance of these concepts is merely a case of the availability heuristic. Women's oppression (and men's privilege) is more cognitively available to feminist women, so their theories often fail to account for oppression towards men and female privileges. This bias is not completely universal across feminist factions, but it's very broad.

I hope that if examples of male suffering, female perpetration, and female advantages were more cognitively available to feminists, then some of them would eventually update their theories into a form of feminism that is more inclusive.

I think you've been taking a step in that direction with your blogging, with your posts on undiagnosed brain injury in the military, how sexual violence, domestic violence, and abuse are much less gendered than the traditional feminist portrayal according to new surveying, and the underreporting and cover-up of sexual violence towards men in African conflict zones.

That said, I too would like more variation in the gender politics space; some groups (most notably, men) are distinctly underserved by the current gender discourse, and more competition in the marketplace of ideas can only be a good thing. :)

I couldn't agree more.

I'd like to talk to some LGBT LWers.

So, what would be an example of a "gender politics" that is "liberal" and "progressive", but not represented by any "party"?

The men's rights movement and pickup are both gender politics movements. Some segments of those movements are "progressive" (defined later), and some are not (just like feminism: some of it is progressive, some of it is not). These movements are not "parties" because they have very little political power. Feminism has quite a lot of political power.

First, some definitions.

In gender politics, a "traditionalist" is someone who believes that our ideas and cultural practices around gender are better the way they are, or were better in the past. A "progressive" is someone who believes that gender politics is flawed, and should be changed according to a set of values. These values might include equality, autonomy, bodily integrity, and more.

Feminists had a problem with gendered cultural practices, and they created a successful movement. By changing gender norms and fighting sexism against women, feminists managed to change society towards greater equality and autonomy for women. In these ways, feminism is a progressive gender political movement.

Unfortunately, feminism hasn't been a consistently progressive gender political movement. Thanks to bias in feminism (self-serving biases, typical mind fallacy, availability heuristic), there are many traditional ideas that are unchallenged by feminism. In some cases, feminist arguments or behaviors reinforce tradition.

Feminists don't believe that they are being traditional, because their typical idea of tradition is a "patriarchy" where men where unilaterally advantaged over women of similar class and race. Yet that portrayal is only sometimes accurate throughout history. Men have experienced disadvantages throughout history that feminists haven't fully recognized (see forced labor for instance). Yet since feminists haven't recognized them, feminists typically seem to think that to be "progressive," the only (or primary) thing activists need to do is to improve the situation of women.

As an abstract example, let's say that is a culture with 4 ideas or practices around gender:

A and B: disadvantage women C: disadvantages men and women D: disadvantages men

Here are how the arguments look to me:

Traditionalists: Pro-A, B, C, and D

Typical feminist: anti-A, anti-B, "C disadvantages women more than men, or women exclusively"

What feminism thinks tradition is: A, B, and C disadvantaging women only. D is not recognized as tradition, even though it is.

Progressive non-feminist: anti-C, anti-D, opposes how feminism misrepresents the effect of C on men

Right now, in the wider culture, there is a two party system in gender politics: feminism (a partially progressive movement) and conservatism (a mostly traditional movement). Yet this two-party system under-serves many people. Conservatism doesn't serve any progressives at all.

There are a lot of possible positions for people who want to change how cultures treat men and women, but neither towards the past, nor in the exact ways that feminists typically want to change things. There are lots of people like this, but they don't have an influential and high-status movement like feminism.

So for people who want change things, there is only one party in gender politics: feminism. The men's rights movement and the pickup community are growing into contenders in the gender politics space, but they lack influence and status in white middle/upper class liberal discourse.

Yet without status, organization, representation, or a political lobby, non-feminists who are progressive about gender politics just get stomped on by both feminists and conservatives. They remain isolated, or they get folded into feminism, the men's rights movement, pickup, or libertarianism. Furthermore, there are feminists who like to portray vocal non-feminists as wanting to put women back in the kitchen, when that's not true of progressive non-feminists.

Simultaneously, a lot of the people who criticize feminism have traditional views that will be unattractive to progressives, leaving feminism without any competition among progressives, even though competition should exist to either incentive feminism to evolve in a more consistently progressive direction, or replace it if it won't.

I'd like to talk to some LGBT LWers.

But is feminism unusually biased for the level of its status?

I'm not sure.

If feminism weren't occupying that position of status, some other ideology would be, and I wouldn't expect this other ideology to be less biased.

An alternative is that feminism would share space with other gender political ideologies in liberal political dialogue. Just like both liberalism and conservatism share status among different parts of the population, feminism would share status with other gender political movements.

Unfortunately, in white middle/upper class, educated liberal gender politics, feminism is the single party in a one-party system. I would like to see more forms of gender politics that are progressive, so there can be competition in the gender politics space.

I'd like to talk to some LGBT LWers.

It's true that there is a lot of painfully bad epistemology in feminist discourse. However, the proportion of bad epistemology is typical of most human discourse concerned with advocacy.

That's true. As far as ideologies go, feminism isn't that bad. It's really in a similar category to men's rights, and pickup. Mainstream politics (democrat vs. republican) are at least as ideological, and religion and multi-level marketing organizations are much worse.

What makes feminism special is that in white, middle / upper class society, people often don't look on feminism with the level of skepticism that they might apply in mainstream politics. Feminism has very high status relative to how ideologically biased it is. Pickup and men's rights are also ideologically biased, but they aren't high status, and pickup artists and MRAs don't have a powerful government lobby like feminists do.

Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism

Part of what's been going on is that your advocacy has left me feeling as though my fears about PUA were being completely dismissed. ... I don't know if it was unfair of me to assume that you hadn't performed a moral calculus--

On LW in general I've spilled gallons of ink engaging in moral analyses of pickup, and of potential objections to pickup techniques. In my PUA FAQ, I made a whole section on ethics. In general, I have trouble reconciling your above perceptions with my participation in pickup discussions on LW.

But my memory of those discussions isn't perfect, so it's possible that I've been lax in replying to you personally. If you raised an issue that I didn't satisfactorily respond to, that's probably because I missed it, or left the thread, or had already talked about it elsewhere on LW, not because I didn't think it was important.

On the other hand, when you've occasionally mentioned some doubts about aspects of PUA, I've felt better, but generally not posted anything about it.

I'm glad that you noticed, even if you didn't comment much. Perhaps I'll talk more about those doubts when people engage me more about them.

I'm pretty sure I didn't when someone (probably you) said something about some PUA techniques being unfair (certainly not the word used, but I don't have a better substitute handy) to women who aren't very self-assured, even though that's the sort of thing I'm concerned about.

Yes, I believe that pickup can be harsh towards women who aren't very self-assured, and who don't have good boundaries. Yet that fact has to be taken in context.

Particular sexual norms and sexual cultures (e.g. high status, extraverted, and/or gender-traditional cultures) are harsh towards people of both sexes who aren't very self-assured, and who don't have good boundaries. Pickup is merely one example.

I have a shortlist of particular behaviors and mindsets that I find especially objectionable about pickup. Yet when trying to assess PUAs, who is the control group? Who are we comparing them to? Over the years, my ethical opinion of PUAs (on average) has fallen, but my ethical opinion of non-PUAs has been falling perhaps even faster. Criticizing PUAs for doing what everyone else is doing turns PUAs into scapegoats, and lets the rest of the culture off the hook.

As for stigma, I actually think it's funny that both of us feel sufficiently like underdogs that we're defensive. From my point of view, posting against PUA here leads to stigma not just for being close-minded and opposed to rational efforts to improve one's life (rather heavier stigmas here than in most places), but also for unkindness to men who would otherwise be suffering because they don't know how to attract women.

Thanks for filling me in on some of the stigmas on your end... I hadn't thought of the "unkind to men" one. Still, do you think those stigma as symmetrical in impact to charges of misogyny and not caring about women?

I don't know if it was unfair of me to assume that you hadn't performed a moral calculus-- from my point of view, the interests of women were being pretty much dismissed, or being assumed (by much lower standards of proof) to be adequately served by what was more convenient for men.

I am skeptical that you have sufficient data about people's view of pickup on LW to be able to make those judgments. I don't think people's views have had a chance to unfold yet. Or maybe your perception of past discussions is different, or we are both talking about different discussions, or your priors are just very different from mine.

Ultimately, I do consider it premature to suspect that I, or anyone else posting about pickup on LW, is so morally illiterate that they haven't performed a moral calculus of some sort about pickup. If we were off LW, that might be a different story.

They can correct me if I'm wrong, but I find it unlikely that people interested in pickup on LW are so ethically naive that they support pickup out of some form of egoism, or have a utility function that categorically places men's preferences above women's.

It's much more likely that they consider pickup (or more, a subset of pickup that appeals to them) consistent with their own moral theories and intuitions. Likewise, I don't agree that men discussing pickup on LW are mainly just checking its effects on men, but not on women. Perhaps I'm biased by my own views, but it seems more likely that they have thought about the effects on women. LW is not privy to their thought process, because nobody has asked the right questions. Actually, it's quite possible that they don't use, or even forgot about, some of the very things that outsiders might find objectionable about pickup.

Likewise, while I have a lot of problems with feminism, I would expect that a feminist on LW would have come to feminism through a cognitively sophisticated route (unless they proved otherwise), and that there are enough good things in feminism for a rationalist to believe that there is some value in it. I'm sure that feminists on LW would find it off-putting to have to articulate their moral calculus about how their activism treats men as a precondition to being considered reasonable. That doesn't mean that I expect to fully agree with the moral calculus of LW feminists, but it does mean that I would assume a basic level of moral sophistication on their part.

Part of what squicks me about PUA is that it seems as though there's very careful checking about its effects (at least in the short term) on men, but, in the nature of things, much less information about its effects on women.

You talk about checking the effects of pickup as if it's some sort of novel drug, but I don't see it that way. Most pickup behaviors are isomorphic to what people are already doing.

So it's not necessarily that we are being lax about checking; I think a lot of this stuff is already checked. Pickup techniques are not not as unique and special as PUA marketers or PUA critics make them sound, so they deserve the same level of consideration that anyone should do in their dating behavior, but they aren't so powerful or novel that they require some special moral scrutiny... at least, not separate from a larger moral debate about consent and sexual ethics that should examine the culture in general.

It is frustrating that pickup practitioners are getting held to a much higher moral standard than anyone else in the population, when they are simply doing a more systematized version of what large segments of the population are already doing.

I'm all for engaging in moral calculus about dating behavior. I do it all the time with mine, and I don't agree with all of the conclusions of the calculus of some people who practice pickup. But outside of (some) feminists and people who practice BDSM, who exactly does a rigorous moral calculus about the effects of their dating and sexual behavior? Most people don't calculate their dating ethics, they operate on cached ideas.

While it's understandable that critics of pickup focus on the most worrying aspects, that focus may not leave pickup practitioners on LW feeling like they are being treated as complex human beings who at least might have coherent ethical views supporting the subset of pickup that they practice.

Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism

Hi daenerys! Welcome to the PUA Moderates club.

Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism

Nancy, I'm a bit confused by your comment.

From my point of view, the PUA believers have the advantage at LW

What does "PUA believer" mean? Out of the folks who discuss pickup positively on LessWrong, I doubt any of them "believe" in it uncritically. However, they may feel motivated to defend pickup from inaccurate characterizations.

I do not see people who want to discuss pickup in a not-completely-negative way on LW as having an obvious advantage. The debate is not symmetrical. Anyone who can be painted as a defender of pickup is vulnerable to all sorts of stigma. Yet the worst they can say in their defense is to call the attackers close-minded or uneducated about pickup.

and being gently told, no it's wonderful, and the non-wonderful bits (the worst of which I'd never heard of until you brought them up, something I'm never sure you quite believed) don't matter when so much of it is different

Yes, different parts of pickup are different. No, the good parts don't necessarily justify the bad parts, but the presence of good parts means that pickup shouldn't be unequivocally dismissed.

being in the brainfog business is best for everyone even though there's no careful way for you to check on the effects on people you're taking charge of for your own good

There are lots of assumptions here to unpack, but I would rather hold off until I understand your views better.

just leaves me feeling rather hopeless about that part of LW.

Me too, but for different reasons.

A specific example: I think you're one of the people who says that some men in PUA start out misogynistic, but become less so after they've had some success with attracting women. I wonder how they treat the women they're with before they've recovered from misogyny. Those women don't seem to be there in your calculus.

I'm hurt that you don't think I've run the most basic consequentialist analyses on these sorts of questions. I've never stated my full moral calculus on pickup, so I don't know how you can say that it has gaps. That would be a complex subject, contingent on a lot of empirical and moral-philosophical questions that I don't know the answer to.

Luckily, since I'm not defending pickup in general, I don't have to know how to perform the moral calculus evaluating pickup in general. But I can assure you that I've thought about it. Nobody has asked me the right questions to learn my thoughts on the subject (well, some people have elsewhere... just not here).

In these discussions, sometimes I feel like some people consider pickup to be evil until proven otherwise, based on their initial impression. And that anyone who speaks positively about pickup in any way (or refutes any criticism) is a "defender" (or as you put it, "believer")... unless they write a long explication of all the problems with pickup that convinces that critics that it's not all bad, and that these believers are not completely horrible people.

Dealing with a biased, inaccurate, and polarized assessment of pickup doesn't exactly put me (and other people discussing pickup in a not-completely-negative way) in the right mood to talk about the practical and ethical problems we have with pickup. Just because we don't nail 95 theses to the door criticizing pickup before discussing it doesn't mean that we don't have problem with it, and that we haven't considered the consequences for women.

I suspect that our feelings about pickup are a lot more ambivalent and complex than you realize, but the discussion has become so polarized that people seem to feel like they are forced to pick "sides," and people who actually have very ambivalent feelings about pickup get thrust into the role of defending it.

I'm tired of defending pickup. I want to have a turn criticizing it! But I can't take my turn yet, because so much of my energy discussing pickup is getting consumed by correcting all the biased and wrong stuff that is written about it. If I wrote critical stuff about pickup, then biased people would just use it selectively as part of their hatchet job, rather than promoting a complete understanding of the subject.

How can we reduce this polarization?

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