Bah-Humbug Sequence

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In my experience, Americans are actually eager to talk to strangers and make friends with them if and only if they have some good reason to be where they are and talk to those people besides making friends with people.

A corollary of this is that if anyone at an [X] gathering is asked “So, what got you into [X]?” and answers “I heard there’s a great community around [X]”, then that person needs to be given the cold shoulder and made to feel unwelcome, because otherwise the bubble of deniability is pierced and the lemon spiral will set in, ruining it for everyone else.

However, this is pretty harsh, and I’m not confident enough in this chain of reasoning to actually “gatekeep” people like this in practice. Does this ring true to you?


I highly recommend Val Plumwood's essay Tasteless: towards a food-based approach to death for a "green-according-to-green" perspective.

Plumwood would turn the "deep atheism" framing on its head, by saying in effect "No, you (the rationalist) are the real theist". The idea is that even if you've rejected Cartesian/Platonic dualism in metaphysics, you might still cling for historical reasons to a metaethical-dualist view that a "real monist" would reject, i.e. the dualism between the evaluator and the evaluated, or between the subject and object of moral values. Plumwood (I think) would say that even the "yin" (acceptance of nature) framing is missing the mark, because it still assumes a distinction between the one doing the accepting and the nature being accepted, positing that they simply happen to be aligned through some fortunate circumstance, rather than being one and the same thing.


It's a question of whether drawing a boundary on the "aligned vs. unaligned" continuum produces an empirically-valid category; and to this end, I think we need to restrict the scope to the issues actually being discussed by the parties, or else every case will land on the "unaligned" side. Here, both parties agree on where they stand vis-a-vis C and D, and so would be "Antagonistic" in any discussion of those options, but since nobody is proposing them, the conversation they actually have shouldn't be characterized as such.


On the contrary, I'd say internet forum debating is a central example of what I'm talking about.


This "trying to convince" is where the discussion will inevitably lead, at least if Alice and Bob are somewhat self-aware. After the object-level issues have been tabled and the debate is now about whether Alice is really on Bob's side, Bob will view this as just another sophisticated trick by Alice. In my experience, Bob-as-the-Mule can only be dislodged when someone other than Alice comes along, who already has a credible stance of sincere friendship towards him, and repeats the same object-level points that Alice made. Only then will Bob realize that his conversation with Alice had been Cassandra/Mule.

(Example I've heard: "At first I was indifferent about whether I should get the COVID vaccine, but then I heard [detestable left-wing personalities] saying I should get it, so I decided not to out of spite. Only when [heroic right-wing personality] told me it was safe did I get it.")


#1 - I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but that's a great example.

#2 - I think this relates to the involvement of the third-party audience. Free speech will be "an effective arena of battle for your group" if you think the audience will side with you once they learn the truth about what [outgroup] is up to. Suppose Alice and Bob are the rival groups, and Carol is the audience, and:

  • Alice/Bob are SE/SE (Antagonist/Antagonist)
  • Alice/Carol are SF/IE (Guru/Rebel)
  • Bob/Carol are IF/SE (Siren/Sailor)

If this is really what's going on, Alice will be in favor of the debate continuing because she thinks it'll persuade Carol to join her, while Bob is opposed to the debate for the same reason. This is why I personally am pro-free-speech - because I think I'm often in the role of Carol, and supporting free speech is a "tell" for who's really on my side.


I think this is not a great example because the virtues being extolled here are orthogonal to the outcome.

Would it still be possible to explain these virtues in a consequentialist way, or is it only some virtues that can be explained in this way?

And consequentialists can choose to value their own side more than the other side, or to be indifferent between sides, so I'm not sure what the conflict between virtue ethics and consequentialism would be here.

The special difficulty here is that the two sides are following the same virtue-ethics framework, and come into conflict precisely because of that. So, whatever this framework is, it cannot be cashed out into a single corresponding consequentialist framework that gives the same prescriptions.

Answer by jchan31

It could be that people regard the likelihood of being resurrected into a bad situation (e.g. as a zoo exhibit, a tortured worker em, etc.) as outweighing that of a positive outcome.


Aren't there situations (at least in some virtue-ethics systems) where it's fundamentally impossible to reduce (or reconcile) virtue-ethics to consequentialism because actions tending towards the same consequence are called both virtuous and unvirtuous depending on who does them? (Or, conversely, where virtuous conduct calls for people to do things whose consequences are in direct opposition.)

For example, the Iliad portrays both Achilles (Greek) and Hector (Trojan) as embodying the virtues of bravery/loyalty/etc. for fighting for their respective sides, even though Achilles's consequentialist goal is for Troy to fall, and Hector's is for that not to happen. Is this an accurate characterization of how virtue-ethics works? Is it possible to explain this in a consequentialist frame?


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