Wednesday 24 November 2010

Defining 'altruism' and 'goods' with respect to political correctness


I have said that 'altruism' is the main goal of political correctness. I should be clearer about what I mean.

Fundamentally, PC does not have a specific blueprint for society - instead I believe that PC is essentially negative and reactive.

PC is negative towards existing states of affairs, wants to change them, and reacts by changing them in a particular direction but without a pre-specified goal or endpoint. 

So by 'altruism' I really mean not a positive explicit ideal of allocation, but instead something more like 'anti-selfishness'. 


The present (pre-PC) state of affairs/ distribution of 'goods' is assumed to the be bad because it is the result of interacting selfishnesses; what is instead desired is a non-personal system of allocating goods according to abstract considerations.


So, altruistic allocation refers to 'goods'.

By 'goods' I mean all of the this-worldly, material entities which are valued.

At one level these are economic goods (money, other tyes of wealth); at another level they are the status symbols (high prestige jobs, or places at high status schools and colleges, or prizes); at a further level 'goods' includes desirable states of mind such as happiness and self-esteem - albeit states of mind are only measurable with (more-or-less-plausible) proxy measures.


In sum, political correctness favour more altruism of 'goods'; in the sense of replacing personal (hence selfish) decisions and choices with abstract systems to implement 'anti-selfishness'.



JZ said...

These posts on PC are deeply interesting. I wonder, though, about the idea that PC is ultimately directed against human "selfishness" - or "self-interest", even. Isn't it more accurate to say that PC finds individual human action horrifying in and of itself? Or, better, that PC is against human individuality or human nature in general? Lots of human things are contrary to PC even when it isn't in any normal sense "selfish" (or even "self-interested"). If people prefer their own family or ethny to others, or feel a special loyalty or responsibility, that will have un-PC consequences. But these natural human preferences and feelings are not selfish or even self-interested. They are deep dimensions of human life that don't have to do with the self or the larger society (as that is understood by PC). In this way, PC may only appear to be a hyper-secular recognition of sin. At a deeper level, it is what your friend Father Rose (or Nietzsche) would call a nihilism of destruction - a wish to annihilate reality as a whole, not just the parts of human reality that are bad.

Bruce Charlton said...

I don't really understand what it would mean to have "a wish to annihilate reality as a whole". It just seems such an unlikely thing to want. And I someone did want it, wouldn't it just be easier to commit suicide than embark on a wholesale sociopolitical change?

So, I so tend to think it is mostly about selfishness or self interest.

When I was, at times in the past, enmeshed in PC despair; it would often be about this kind of thing: the way that all hopes and plans for a 'better world' would be brought-down by the selfish corruptibility of whoever was charged with implementing them.

The leadership would always 'sell out'.

I see PC as trying to get around this, by having the hopes and plans implemented by impersonal mechanisms (mostly bureaucracy).

This amounts to the conversion of ideals to agenda items; and this is precisely what we see with PC (or so it seems to me).

JZ said...

In speaking of PC wanting to annihilate reality as a whole I'm speaking a little loosely, of course. Much of PC seems to be based in a kind of cosmic rebellion against the natural order. Imperfect human nature is a part of that, but so are the better aspects of human nature. And so are the larger forces beyond human nature and control that make human life imperfect. This is what I was gesturing at. (Obviously, I don't think anyone wants to annihilate the Milky Way, or whatever.) So maybe I should have said "a wish to annihilate massive chunks of reality including most of normal human nature, not just selfishness or self-interestedness". In short, I don't think PC can really be explained by an aversion to just this one particular kind of human imperfection. And your own experience of PC despair seems to be in line with this claim. Surely it isn't only because people are selfish that no utopian scheme can be implemented. On the one hand, other human failings are important. On the other, human strengths - such as, for example, particular attachments and loyalties - are incompatible with the utopias PC aims for.

Bruce Charlton said...

I probably should be clearer about what I mean by selfishness.

I mean it quite loosely to include not just the self but general self-interest in terms of whatever the self is identified-with; preference of family (genetic self-interest) and ethny (extended family) and even some kinds of idealistic nationalism (which can be a very powerful motivation - the individual identified with the national spirit - essentially this is an identification with one's culture).

These are all things that PC opposes.

I don't discount what Seraphim (Eugene) Roase called the Nihilism of Destruction - - but I just don't understand it myself.

I understand all the other three types of nihilism (liberalism, realism and vitalism), and have experienced them - but not the nihilism of destruction.