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A sensible point, though dating yin to the advent of 'modern civilization' is too extreme. The 'spiritual' or 'yin-like' aspects of green have a long history pre-dating modern civilization.

The level of material security required before one can 'indulge in yin' is probably extremely low (though of course strongly dependent on local environmental conditions). 

Under this definition of 'manipulation', telling someone about a new brand of toothpaste is manipulation, which suggests to me that this framing is overly broad. 

The question is whether you believe in any form of personal autonomy, such that a person can be responsible for their own internal changes, even if stimulated by someone or something else. Day to day life suggests this is a useful concept, and that there is a meaningful distinction between being lied to and being given true information, just as there is between coercive-control and sad movies. 

I also believe this autonomy is sensibly treated as varying between people. It is sensible to speak of building up independence; equally, it is sensible to speak of communicating whilst respecting others have substantial control over their own preferences. 

All this said, I also believe that this is an illusion made possible by the epistemic black-box of inputs and outputs into a person's basic thought processes. People are sufficiently complex that, whilst we can sometimes predict what they'll say, feel, or do, it is currently impossible to know exactly what inputs will lead to which outputs. This lack of clarity for both others and the person themselves gives the impression of a free-chooser. 

As this veil gets peeled back, we may receive an uncomfortable degree of knowledge about ourselves and others. 

Like: what happens if you read a book, or watch a documentary, or fall in love, or get some kind of indigestion – and then your heart is never exactly the same ever again, and not because of Reason, and then the only possible vector of non-trivial long-term value in this bleak and godless lightcone has been snuffed out?!


I'm finding it hard to parse this, perhaps someone can clarify for me. At first I assumed this was a problem inherent in the 'naturalist' view Scott Alexander gives: 

"This is only a problem for ethical subjectivists like myself, who think that we’re doing something that has to do with what our conception of morality is. If you’re an ethical naturalist, by all means, just do the thing that’s actually ethical."

E.g. Mr. negative utilitarian eats a taco and realises he ought to change his ethical views to something else, say, becoming classical utilitarian. If the later version was foomed, presumably this would be a disaster from the perspective of the earlier version. 

But Joe gives broader examples: small, possibly imperceptible, changes as a result of random acts. These might be fully unconscious and non-rational - the indigestion example sticking out to me. 

It feels a person whose actions followed from these changes, if foomed, would produce quite unpredictable, random futures unrelated necessarily to any particular ethical theory. This seems to be more like Scott's ethical subjectivist worries - no matter how your messy-spaghetti morality is extrapolated, it will be unsatisfying to you (and everyone?), regardless of whether you were in the 'right state' at foom-time. I think Joe covers something similar in 'On the Limits of Idealised Values.

Perhaps to summarise the difference: extrapolating the latter 'subjectivist' position is like the influence of starting conditions on a projectile you are inside ('please don't fire!'); conversely, the naturalist view is like choosing a line on Scott's subway route (just make sure you're on the right line!). 

Is this a useful framing? 

The section on bears reminded me of a short story by Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933) called 'The Bears of Namotoko.' Here's an internet archive translation with illustrations. To give a quick summary: 

Kojuro is a lone hunter who travels through the mountains of Namotoko with his dog, hunting bears for their gall bladders and pelts. Kojuro does not hate the bears. He regrets the circumstances which force him to be a hunter, "If it is fate which caused you to be born as a bear, then it is the same fate that made me make a living as a hunter." The bears themselves have essentially human inner lives albeit cannot communicate in words (a 'secret world of bears'). Eventually, Kojuro is killed by a bear, after which the beats says "Ah Kojuro, I didn't mean to kill you" and Kojuro apologises for trying to kill the bear.

I am not sure what the moral of the story is. Miyazawa (in all his stories) attributes very human features to animals (such as familial dynamics, appreciation for beauty, social hierarchy, and religious feeling). Despite this, animals continue to act in a dangerous, unknowable ways. 

I suspect it has to do with the story's roots in old folk tales. In the latter, the Other - whether as a mystical creature, bandit, wild animal, or visitor from a distant land - is often presented as essentially mysterious, much like tsunamis, wars, and famines. The Bears of Namotoko suggests it is not the otherness per se which is the problem; rather, suffering is inevitable becasue of the coil of existence. We must eat to live. 

Does your argument also apply to physical sports? If not, what makes table tennis different from monopoly? 

I think your analogy gestures at something useful but needs expansion. The 'roofie detector gadget' example could be reframed in a way which disempowers - eg, 'it's your fault for not using this gadget', or 'well you really ought to have used this gadget', etc. 

This suggests to me subject matter of the advice is less important than its underlying motive or attitude. I think advice will generally be disempowering if it presupposes the level of risk a person can acceptably run. Contrast the following: 'well, you were wearing revealing clothes' versus 'you can wear whatever you like, but just note that you might be at a greater risk of being assaulted if you go to bar X.' The latter lets the recipient make their own decision about risk. As a separate matter, whether we then have sympathy for a victim who runs a large risk depends on the justifications for running it: cf the freedom to go out at night and choose one's own clothes versus building your own airplane out of scrap metal for fun. 

Of course, even 'empowering' advice could still be upsetting to a victim if given as an immediate response. That's not surprising. Advice in general - especially highly personal or intimate - often needs to be given delicately and sensitively for it to help someone. There is a reasonable position between 'never being able to give advice' and 'not doing it immediately after the incident.' 

In any case, I tend to agree Firinn here that there are important disanalogies between bike theft and rape which cannot be reduced to differences in the prevalence of false allegations. The latter is simply a more complicated crime both socially and legally - it is more serious (in psychological effect, social stigma, and legal penalty, with a few fringe cases excepted) and more closely implicates contentious political beliefs which cash out in different allocations of blame, responsibility, wrongfulness etc. 

It seems sensible to remember that by giving advice you will engage in this complex social phenomena. But then, reading your comments, I don't think you would deny this?