Wiki Contributions


Ideally, an open public debate on (A) the extent to which we allow money to determine the strength of voices in a community, and that advertising is one of these voices with as much cultural and political baggage as, say, a local political party; (B) adverts are becoming increasingly effective using micro-targeting, and will only become more so; and thus (C) we need to consider more limits on where and when adverts can be shown. 

Pragmatically, more restrictions on online adverts and adverts in public spaces would be a start, in terms of size, spending, and possibly developing categories of adverts depending on their source (multinational versus local business). Perhaps certain areas could be zoned to allow greater advertising, such as shopping districts, where the individuals in them likely want to see adverts. Overall, a greater ability to 'opt-in' to advertising should a person want to. 

The counterargument that this would decrease consumption on the basis people would not know what there is to buy is probably true and a real tradeoff. Without advertising we lose the opportunity to stimulate consumer desires beyond what they would be otherwise, slowing down the market. 

Interesting point. One counterpoint is that most criticisms of 'beauty standards being enforced' reference beauty products or other products sold with the implicit promise they will make you beautiful. Eg, leeching off our shared notion of beauty by linking it with a dieting product. 

But something more complicated definitely seems to be going on here. We have a constructed notion of beauty ('model-thinness') being used to sell random products, such as Ibuprofen. It is almost as if one advertiser is leeching off the other's constructed notion of beauty (Hyperreality?) 

The criticism of 'enforcing beauty standards' in an ibuprofun case may flow from this double falsehood: the advertising target might see thin models in a swimwear advert and thinks 'so the advert is trying to tell me that I should buy this bikini because beautiful people wear it, and that thin model is supposedly beautiful. I don't think she is, but others might, and the fact they use the association suggest a lot of people do, so I should play along' 

That would follow from the other model of advert operation mentioned in one of the footnotes: promising others might buy into the advert, even if you don't. 

This is a little provisional - do you think this is what's going on, or could there be more going on I've missed?

Thanks for the comments - you're right on the first point, I didn't want to go into too much detail on the regulation of adverts because it raises many political and philosophical issues. 

The freedom of advertising is almost certainly a facet of the liberal state. Certain counter-examples stick out, such as limits on tobacco advertising, fast food advertising, and advertising aimed at children. The former two seem premised, at least in the UK, on a notion the wider public is burdened by the consumption of these products, and possibly on the basis we can all agree on health as an unqualified good. The latter is an instance of the advert target being regarded as too susceptible to manipulation. Whether these are plausible or sustainable exceptions is a wider question. 

On the second point, my point was a little opaque. Even if we individually reduce consumption of adverts, and notice how they affect our beliefs, that doesn't change the fact we must interact with others who consume adverts unquestioningly. Further, these interactions will involve the use of shared concepts, which can be altered and undermined regardless of the vigilance of specific individuals. So, in terms of action we could attempt to inform others of the harms of advertising and convince them to be more critical; likewise, we could associate with others who share our view on advertising and work together in this educational project. Within these groups, we would also be able to communicate and spend time together without as much influence from the effects of adverts. 

The emphasis should probably have been on the second part of the sentence - that this is a collective issue so will require some form of collective action if we wish to change the broader cultural landscape. 

Great post, thanks! Widespread value pluralism a la 'well that's just, like, your opinion man' is now a feature of modern life.  Here are a pair of responses from political philosophy which may be of some interest 

(1) Rawls/Thin Liberal Approach. Whilst we may not be able to agree on what 'the good life' is, we can at least agree on a basic system which ensures all participants can pursue their own idea of the good life.  So,(1) Protect a list of political liberties and freedoms and (2) degree of economic levelling. Beyond that, it is up to the individual what concept of the good they pursue. Scott Alexander's Archipelago is arguably a version of this theory, albeit with a plurality of communities rather than a single state. Note it is 'thin' but not nonexistent - obviously certain concepts of the good, such as 'killing/enslaving everyone for my God', are incompatible and excluded. 

(2) Nussbaum 'Capacity' Approach. Bit like Liberal+ approach. You take the liberal approach then beef it up by adding some more requirements: you need to protect the capacity of people to achieve wellbeing. Basically - protect life, environment, health/bodily integrity, education (scientific & creative), practical reason, being able to play, hold property, form emotional and social attachments. The main difference with (2) is that it is a thicker conception of the 'good life' - it will deny various traditional forms of life on the basis they do not educate their children or give them critical thinking skills. Hence, Nussbaum champions the notion of 'universal values.'

Going from (1) to (2) depends on how comfortable you are with an objective notion of flourishing. IMO it's not totally implausible given commonalities across cultures of values (which Nussbaum points out - moral relativism is often exaggerated) and various aspects of human experience. 

If I understand right, your first point is that it makes sense for officials to follow the law because parliament and the courts are better placed to alter it.  Another point is then that it makes sense to limit your activity for the benefit of the group ('individual placing themselves above the group')

These are fairly sensible reasons to obey the law. Does that mean law loses its force when parliament and courts are sufficiently incompetent or crooked? Likewise when acting for a small minority rather than the group? 

Not sure officials think of law this way. Further, an open question whether a system could function with this kind of clause being widely accepted by lawyers and legal officials. 

Great post! I wonder if the 'weirdness' be partially due to intuitions about human freedom of choice. For instance, it seems nonsensical to ask whether unicellular organisms could alter their behaviour to modify models predicting said behaviour, and thus 'control' their fate. Are humans in the same boat?