Monday 5 August 2013

But *everybody* does it...


If 'everybody' does indeed do it, and 'it' was always traditionally recognized to be wrong behaviour done by bad people - then there are two possible implications:

1. It is not wrong, never was wrong; and the people were not bad but were indeed victims.


2. 'Everybody' nowadays is wrong and 'everybody' nowadays is bad.

Stark difference - eh?



Wm Jas said...


3. Due to changing circumstances, it is not wrong anymore -- but it really was wrong in the past.

(Before you dismiss this possibility as irredeemably relativistic, consider that this is probably what most Christians would say about eating pork, being uncircumcised, etc.)

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - Indeed. Perfectly logical!

But in practice, this combination seems to be almost impossible for people! - and in *this* post I was referring to how ideas work out in their crude form, in the public arena.

Humans are dichotomous creatures, and crude in their ideas to the point that they do not (in practice) distinguish between a double negative and a positive - for example, there are commenters who do not accept that there is a distinction between an attitude of not being against Mormonism and being a pro (and exclusively) Mormon apologist.

And maybe, in practice, they are right!

Whatever intentions somebody may set out with, their ideas will be pushed one way or the other in the dichotomous frame provided by the public arena.

For example one is allowed to deny any ability difference at all between human races, or else one is categorized having a hierarchy of racial superority-inferiority. This means that - in practice, in public discourse - all differences are regarded 'normatively' with one side being better than the other. And in fact this does seem to be a fact of life - people do in practice regard all differences in terms of superiority and inferiority!

So, to return to your example, I think what Christians have believed *in practice* (over the past 2000 years) was that where they differed from Christian practice, the ancient Jews were *wrong* (perhaps understandably so; but mistaken, in error) - that, for example, they did not *really* need to sacrifice animals by elaborate procedures.

What people can understand is that people were justified in behaving differently in different historical circumstances, which no longer apply - 'that was then, this is now', Good then: Bad now - as modern LDS Mormons seem to feel about their ancestors wrt. plural marriage.

But even there, there is and must be a hierarchy of what is better in an ultimate sense - e.g. the idea that plural marriage was justified for a while in special circumstances, but God's preference is for monogamy (or vice versa).

An interesting angle on this comes from an excellent FAIR talk recommended by commenter Leo on the Orthosphere -

which shows that a historical narrative religion (such as Ancient Judaism) perceives history as a dynamic and non-repeating narrative; while modern Greek/ Roman philosophical/ scientific thought has a static world of eternal verities - the first easily accomodates then and now differences without dichotomy, the second does not.

JP said...

'Everybody' nowadays is wrong and 'everybody' nowadays is bad.

And yet the PC crowd will brazenly assert the reverse -- that everybody in the past was wrong and bad, but today everyone "knows better".

E. H. Carr said "the historian is not a judge, still less a hanging judge" -- but that is precisely what PC historians love to do.

Adam Noel said...

Personally I'd expand in addition to Wm Jas:

4. All world views only make primary sense in the world (at that time) where they we're conceived.

It does not follow from this that all is relative as human nature is partially instinctive/inherent while part is determined by the environment itself.

This changing of the environment itself is what allows something in the context of different circumstances to be right and/or wrong in those circumstances.

At the same time there exists parts of "being human" that are immutable. This gives rise to the hierarchy you speak of. If polygamy is necessary in the environment then it is right but there exists better alternatives (monogamy).

In modern society however we deny the component of us that is immutable (our nature). We deny our limited capacities and instead believe that because we can imagine it so it could be so. All of liberal academia springs forth from this.

I feel like the power of science and the enlightenment blinded us to our own limits. We feel as if we are above nature (God) yet... we are largely the same as we always were.

Bruce Charlton said...

@AN - I would have thought that human nature was only the part that was *not* caused by the environment - except insofar as HN has elements that calibrate to the environment, as with Life History theories - behaviour being (roughly) a product of human nature and the environment.

Adam Noel said...

Yeah, I agree with you. I shouldn't have said the range of human behaviours not human nature. Reformulated:

1) Human nature corresponds to the part of us that is not relativistic. This corresponds to certain behaviours being the same across cultures and time.

2) Environment corresponds to us the parts that are relativistic. This corresponds to certain behaviours not being the same across cultures and time. (Eating pork, polygamy in certain circumstances).

3) The hierarchy forms out of the fact that some environments preclude certain ideal behaviours so a sub-optimal behaviour in chosen in the hierarchy. There is what is ultimately better (what we should do given we are human) but we may not always do what is ultimately better. (Environment precludes it).

4) Modern society denies number one and favours number two. This is problematic as we are a composite of both.

TE said...

Everybody' nowadays is wrong and 'everybody' nowadays is bad.

On the other hand, wasn't everybody bad back then too? One of the most interesting aspects of the Christian worldview is that it says we're all tainted with, or somehow effected by original sin, but on the other hand are made in God's image too, and are therefore a mix of good and bad. So everybody was bad back then too, as well as good. And everyone is bad today, but still has some good in them.

So I think the way of framing it as "are these people bad?" unnecessarily distracts from the issue of whether the actions themselves are.

People find it hard to believe (justly in my opinion) that all (for example) tattooed people are wholly bad these days, since they probably know some tattooed people who have a lot of good in them.

They might find it less hard to believe that tattoos are bad, and that a tattooed person who is partly good is exposing one of their flaws by the action of being tattooed (which is what I myself believe).

I'll also note that I don't quite share your opinion of us almost certainly being in the 'last days' where everything is bad and inevitably getting worse– not necessarily expecting to convince you otherwise– but you may want to consider how this belief may be effecting your perception of things.

Basically, I propose that all times are bad and inevitably getting worse, but without fail they always seem to get better all of a sudden (eucatastrophe)– hidden good makes itself shown, God finds ways to conquer seemingly unconquerable evil, and so on.

Maybe I'm wrong and we are in the last days, after all, but so many people (often very holy people) have said that throughout the centuries that I don't find the case so convincing this time around. Lawrence Auster used to talk about how he believed the Book of Revelations and other doomsday passages in the Bible were really referring to an eternal process of creation, destruction, and creative destruction, rather than a singular event we should look for sometime in the future, and my view on these things is heavily influenced by that kind of thinking.

Pagans, Christians, everyone has noticed seemingly uniquely bad times in the past, as Virgil said:

Quippe ubi fas versum atque nefas: tot bella per orbem:
Tam multae scelerum facies: non ullus aratro
Dignus honos: squalent abductis arva colonis,
Et curvae rigidum falces conflantur in ensem

For here is where right and wrong are inverted: so many wars throughout the earth:
So many different faces of sin: not one man fit for the honour
Of the plow: and the fields lie fallow, their colonists having abandoned them,
And the curved sickle is reforged into a straight sword.

So I guess what I'm getting at is that our times might not be so much uniquely evil as they are evil in a unique way. Though I don't suspect you'll agree.

Bruce Charlton said...

@TE - I'm afraid you don't understand my real views on this matter - but to be fair they are scattered across the blog and hard to find.

Luqman said...

In a time where evil is the norm, the people who are most good, or who at least exhort good the most are fringe personalities, eccentrics, perhaps the high P types you mention in your other blog. This both excites and disappoints me, excites because of its creative force and radical potential, disappoints because these people are averse to any actual work. It is a good thing that evil is unsustainable by definition.

Bruce Charlton said...

@L - That is a clarifying comment for me.

Conscientious and empathic people are very easily subverted by changing the social milieu - and this has already happened to all of the large and powerful Christian denominations - so the hard-working and nice people are almost all working on the side of evil.

(I mean net evil, overall - of course most of what they do may be good - but they will be doing something/s evil which outweighs all this in the longer run).

Most of the high P people are openly and explicitly selfish parasites (eg the Nietzschian secular Right, manosphere types).

So a lot is pinned upon a handful of awkward high P types who are Christian - but as you say these are often fickle, arrogant, lazy loners (such as myself).