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Welcome!

This post is set up to float to the top. I'm getting a bunch of new readers lately, so I figured a welcome/orientation post is appropriate.

Welcome to my journal! (Yeah, yeah, I know, the cool kids call it a blog these days.)

I post intermittently, sometimes at length, usually about personal topics, sometimes about controversial ones. I love thoughtful comments, even (sometimes especially) when they disagree with me. Anonymous comments or private messages are OK, too.

I expect politeness, though -- especially to my other commenters. If you can't be civil, be silent. If I start getting a wave of hostile anonymous commenters, I will likely change my policy.

Some links I keep here for convenience:

...and it isn't mine at all!

(In a discussion about addiction, a FoaF asked me "So, if someone continually decides to gamble and becomes addicted to gambling, it is not their fault?" I decided to capture my response here, with minor edits.)

(shrug) Maybe it's their fault. Maybe it's not. Maybe it depends.

What I'm saying is that regardless of whose fault it is, if a person needs help. I can either help them, or not. And that choice is on me.

This isn't unique to gambling. I mean, if someone goes on a hike in the mountains and falls and breaks their leg, is that their fault? Well, I guess, sure. I mean, if they hadn't chosen to hike in the mountains, or if they'd been more careful where they put their feet, or whatever, they wouldn't have broken their leg.

But so what? The important thing isn't whose fault it is. The important thing is that they're stuck in the mountains with a broken leg.

We either help, or we don't. That's the choice that matters now.

And, sure, if we don't want to help people, one way to make ourselves feel better about that choice is to talk about how it's their own fault. "If they hadn't gambled so much they wouldn't be addicted in the first place," we tell ourselves. "If they hadn't used heroin they wouldn't be addicted." "If they hadn't hiked in the mountains their leg wouldn't be broken." "If she hadn't walked through that dangerous neighborhood wearing that dress..." "If he'd worn proper protective gear..."

If they hadn't, if they'd only, etc. "So it's your fault! Yes it's your fault! And it isn't mine at all!" And so we can let them suffer and die without helping, and still feel like decent human beings, because after all it's their own damn fault.

And we get to do that. But we should also hope that when bad things happen to us, other people don't do that, because often the bad things that happen to us are our own fault.

For example... I had a stroke in 2008. If I'd properly medicated my blood pressure in 2007, I probably wouldn't have had a stroke. Fortunately for me, when it happened people helped me anyway.

Into the White House, part 3...

(It's Super Tuesday! VOTERS enter left and right, fleeing pursuers, then exit. RUBIO and CRUZ enter, pursuing.)

[RUBIO] Did I confuse them
Or show my disdain?
Why do they run from me?
If I can't use them
Then how shall I gain
First place in the primary?

Primaries!
Maybe I'll give a speech?
There's just one thing I want,
But the numbers are out of my reach.

[CRUZ] This is absurd,
I'm competing for third
And can't even the score!
In Texas I'm grinning,
But still Trump is winning
With 254!

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Primaries!
It completely frustrates
When they don't seem to go for you
In more than two or three states.

[BOTH] Primaries!
Oh, the torture they teach!

[CRUZ] What's as intriguing...

[RUBIO] ...or half so fatiguing...

[BOTH] ...as what's out of reach?

[RUBIO] Am I not arrogant, young and Hispanic, attractive and anti-choice, wealthy, abusive to Hillary, well-thought of by Rome?

[CRUZ] You are everything voters could wish for!

[RUBIO] Then why no-?

[CRUZ] Do I know?

[RUBIO] They all must be mad!

[CRUZ] You know nothing of madness
'Till you're watching the polls and you see him,
Up there, nowhere near him,
And all the while hearing him:

Blah, blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah, blah--

[BOTH] Primaries!

[CRUZ] Delegates!

[BOTH] Though it's different for each.

[RUBIO] Always ten states behind --

[CRUZ] Ninety delegates below --

[BOTH] And he's just out of reach.
Primaries!
We can't win, we admit!

Oh well... maybe he'll quit?

Into the White House, part 2...

(BILL and HILLARY are waving goodbye as TRUMP heads off onto the campaign trail with a basket of goodies. Evidence of a conspiracy, perhaps? Moments later, a knock is heard.)

[BILL] Who might that be?

[HILLARY] We've recruited our last superdelegate!

[BILL] (looking) It's the socialist from Vermont.

[HILLARY] We have no superdelegates to spare.

[SANDERS] I don't want your superdelegates... not now, anyway.

[BILL] Then what --

[HILLARY] Then what is it you wish?

[SANDERS] It's not what I wish, it's what you wish.
Not enough voters to win against a third-party challenge from your left, are there? And there will never be, unless you do exactly as I say. In five months time a convention will occur. Only then can the Law be undone...

[HILLARY] What Law?

[SANDERS] The one that threatens the Democrats.

[BILL] What are you --

[HILLARY] What are you talking about?

[SANDERS] In the past, when you were no more than a First Lady, your husband brought his young mistress and you to the White House. He was a good President, but not a good progressive. You see, your husband was a centrist, and he alienated the left wing of his party, who developed an unusual appetite. They admired my democratic socialist paradise and told Ralph Nader that what they wanted more than anything in the world was for him to run as a Green, a Green, nothing but a Green!
California, Illinois, Florida and Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York -!
He said, "All right,"
But it wasn't, quite,
'Cause he got three million votes or so, spoiling the fight!
And your V.P. cried
When the vote was tied.
And when Bush was elected --
I admit it was expected --
They all learned Duverger's Law applied.

And it taught a little lesson to them --
You, too, chum --
So a threat from the left
Would always be an effective one.

[BILL] How could --
[HILLARY] Would you do that?

[SANDERS] Your husband was no progressive so why should I expect you to be?

(Meanwhile, in Kasich's campaign headquarters...)

[KASICH] Why do I have to campaign outside of Ohio?

[KASICH'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER] Because everyone in Ohio knows you haven't had a new idea in months.

[KASICH] That's cheating!

[KASICH'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER] We're losing, John! Don't you understand that? Now, you're not to win less than five percent of the vote. Are you listening to me?

[KASICH] Yes.

[KASICH'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER] How much are you to win?

[KASICH] No more than five percent.

[KASICH'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER] Less than five!

[KASICH] Than five!

[KASICH'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER]
Onto the trail, the time is now,
We have to win, I don't care how.
Get all the votes your skills allow,
You must begin the journey!
Talk to the voters and feed them crap:
If we're to make at least third place
You'll have to pile it high and deep!

[KASICH] Maybe they'll ask me to be their veep?

(Back in the Democrats' lair)

[SANDERS] You wish Duverger's Law repealed?
I want to change the playing field.

Go to your campaign manager and bring me back
One: a national $15 minimum wage,
Two: a return of Reagan-era top marginal tax rates,
Three: reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act,
Four: oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Go public with these before the day
Of July 25 in Philly PA.
Tis' then the DNC convenes,
Full of my supporters with 'shillary' memes.

(VOTERS appear, waving signs with insulting messages about Hillary)

But bring them and I guarantee,
A campaign as smooth as a campaign can be.

(SANDERS departs, as do the VOTERS, some of whom discard their signs)
(BILL starts picking up the signs)

[BILL] Memes?
These must be Sanders' memes!
We'll take them with us.

[HILLARY] We?

[BILL] Yes!

[HILLARY] We?
You're not running.
It's not your campaign.

[BILL] I can help you!

[HILLARY] No!
I can do this on my own.
The campaign is in my name.
Only I can run the campaign,
The campaign is in my name.

[BILL] No, no, the campaign is in _our_ name.
We must run the campaign together,
The campaign is in our name!

[HILLARY] Now tell me what am I to return with?

[BILL] Ugh, You don't remember?
The wage of fifteen bucks,
The tax rate from eighty-five,
The banking investment ban,
Opposing the TPP --

[HILLARY] The wage of fifteen bucks,
The tax rate from eighty-five,
The banking investment ban,
Opposing the TPP...

Into the White House, part 1...

[NARRATOR] Once upon a time in a nearby republic there lay two political parties at the edge of complete political dysfunction.

[JEB!] I wish...

[NARRATOR] And in this republic...

[JEB!] ...more than anything...

[NARRATOR] ...lived a former governor...

[JEB!] ...more than life, more than jewels...

[NARRATOR] ...a current governor...

[JOHN KASICH] I wish, more than life...

[NARRATOR] ...and a former president...

[BILL & HILLARY CLINTON] I wish...

[NARRATOR] ...with his wife.

[BILL] ...more than anything...

[HILLARY] ...more than the moon, I wish...

[JEB!] They're holding elections for President!

[BILL & HILLARY] More than life...

[KASICH] I wish...

[JEB!] I wish to run for President!

[BILL & HILLARY] More than riches...

[JEB!] Like my dad!

[KASICH] ...I wish my campaign had a point.

[JEB! & HILLARY] More than anything...

[BILL] ...I wish we had the White House!

[RICK SANTORUM] (praying) Please, God!

[HILLARY] I want the White House!

[MIKE HUCKABEE] (praying) Please, God!

[JEB!] I wish to run for President!

[SANTORUM & HUCKABEE] I wish you'd give us a sign, you see we're on our knees! I wish...

[BILL & HILLARY] I wish we might have the White House. I wish...

[BEN CARSON] You wish to run for President?

[NARRATOR] The ex-governor's brother was unpopular...

[CARSON] You, Jeb, the President? You wish to run for President?

[CARLY FIORINA] What, you, Jeb, the President? The President?!

[CHRIS CHRISTIE] What, you wish to run for President?

[CARSON, FIORINA, and CHRISTIE] The President? The U.S. President?

[NARRATOR] And now he competed with a retired neurosurgeon...

[CARSON] The President...HA!

[NARRATOR] ...who had two rivals of his own.

[FIORINA] Look at your negatives!

[CHRISTIE] Look at your name!

[CARSON] People would laugh at you-

[JEB!] Still, just the same,
I wish to run for President, just like George I & II!

[CARSON, FIORINA, and CHRISTIE] Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...

[NARRATOR] All three were rivals in this race, and vile and black of heart.
Jeb was expected to win the nomination, but his voters --

[JEB'S VOTERS] We wish...

[NARRATOR] Well, they were at their wit's end.

[JEB'S VOTERS] We wish this Bush were not a fool,
We wish his rep was not a mess,
We wish our fridges were full of food,
We wish our banks were full of gold,
We wish a lot of things!
What in heaven's name are you doing
with that exclamation point after your name?

[JEB!] I thought if my name sounded exciting, it might produce some votes.

[JEB'S VOTERS] It's a name...
How many times do we have to tell you, your name can only take you so far?

[NARRATOR] And then there was a wrinkled little troll who wore a bad toupee.

[TRUMP] I wish...
Promise to protect the South with giant walls,
To run for President, see?
I'll kick those poor old rapist Mexicans in the balls,
Just to run for President, see?

[CARSON] Jeb Bush, if you can criticize Clinton and appeal to Hispanic voters, then you may compete in the race against us.

[JEB!] Come, little voters,
Down from Iowa,
And New Hampshire,
Over the competition,
Out of nostalgia and name recognition...

[SANTORUM & HUCKABEE] Now please, God!

(The VOTERS mostly vote for TRUMP.)

[JEB!]Arrghhhhhhhhhhh...
Quick, little voters,
South Carolina!
Bitch and moan, but really,
South Carolina!
Please applaud now...

(The remaining VOTERS vote for TRUMP.)

[JEB'S VOTERS] Now listen to me well, Jeb! You must drop out of the race.

[JEB!] But, voters, no -- I'm expected to win the nomination!

[JEB'S VOTERS] "Were"! You've been stuck for weeks now with no votes or donors; we've got no choice but to ditch you. Look at you!

[JEB!] But the Milky White House is my best friend!

[JEB'S VOTERS] Do the math!
In Iowa you got one.
In South Carolina, none!
You're a chump on the rump end of fucking Donald Trump --

[JEB!] But-

[VOTERS]You have got to stop your bleating,
While we still can win by cheat-- er, competing!
And no one makes an exclamation point part of their name!
Sometimes we think you're touched.

(TRUMP stomps around while the VOTERS usher JEB!, SANTORUM and HUCKABEE off the stage.)

"Inexplicable on mechanical principles"

I agree with this NYT editorial about the nature of consciousness but it irritates me anyway.

I guess I just have limited patience for the whole idea that consciousness is "inexplicable on mechanical principles."

I mean, I get that the idea that experiences like the ones we have can be mechanical in nature is deeply counterintuitive. We have strong intuitions about what sorts of things in the world experiences can be, and those intuitions are very anti-physical, anti-mechanical. An experience just isn't the sort of thing you can pick up, sniff, toss out the window. I get that part.

But... well, we used to have intuitions about the kinds of things that math could be, and they also weren't physical in nature. How do you pick up the square root of negative one? What kind of a hammer could break 1 + 1 = 2? A rock can describe a parabola if I throw it, but surely only a human mind can calculate one.

And then we built mechanical calculators, and now our intuitions are different.

They didn't have to be. The existence of mechanical calculators doesn't disprove the idea that real math can't exist outside of a human brain... we could assert that mechanical calculators only simulate real math, and that no matter how good a simulation we produce that way, it still isn't the real thing.

For all I know, there are still people who think this. Penrose seems to think something like this, maybe, I don't know. But most people just started thinking of math as something that mechanical calculators can do perfectly well.

As we build mechanical consciousnesses, our intuitions will likely change in much the same way. There will still be some purists insisting that such systems don't have real consciousness, and that Searle's Chinese Room lacks a real understanding of Chinese. But they'll start to sound as ridiculous as people claiming that calculators don't really solve math problems.

Such purism has sounded ridiculous to me for decades; I will appreciate the company.

Cultural co-existence

(A reply to a comment, which got way too long, so I moved part of it here.)

The way I usually look at it is that a culture is basically a set of rules with various strengths, and there are lots and lots of different cultures sharing space, and they disagree about stuff.

Is it OK to go to a concert shirtless?
Is it OK if it's an outdoor concert, but not indoors?
Is it OK if it's a rock concert, but not classical?
Is it OK if my breasts are small, but not if they're large?
Is it OK if I have a conventionally male body, but not a conventionally female body?
Is it OK if I'm thin, but not fat?

We disagree about this stuff. And we don't need to agree. But we do need to find ways to live together and not abuse each other over those disagreements.

My usual principle is that different behavior is acceptable in different spaces, and that a basic respect for our shared humanity demands that everyone have roughly equivalent access to some space where following their set of rules is OK. (This isn't a lexicographic preference; there are other principles that can conflict with it in specific situations, and when they do tradeoffs become necessary. But this is the principle I'm talking about right now.)

My society has been violating that second rule big-time for a very, very long time, and abusing a lot of people in the process.

Where I am right now.

I am finding myself in that place where, when I read someone articulating a line of thought supporting a conclusion, I ask myself first "whose interests does this serve?" and then, depending on the answer, ask myself either "how can I refute this?" or "how would I defend this?"

I do not like this. I do not endorse it. But I am doing it.

And I know why I am doing it, and I know why that's an important goal for some voles, and I value those voles.

But also, I do not want those voles running the show.

I am currently engaged in an ongoing exercise of seeking a more consensual relationship among my voles, where I try to negotiate a voluntary re-organization into a preferable structure rather than try to impose one.

It is... difficult, and I am not good at it.

That's false. I'm actually very good at it. It's just very difficult, and I resent how difficult it is, and I want to avoid doing the difficult stuff and skip ahead to the part where it's easy.

And it starts with acknowledging the current state of play.

So. That's where we are/I am.

Tags:

What if I'm wrong?

Preface

Someone asked me recently whether, if I somehow discovered that Clinton is focusing on getting the support of "social liberal/economic disaster-area Republicans" in order to make the Democrats a single, dominant, center-right party which rules alone for the next couple of decades, would I be satisfied/comfortable with my support for Clinton, or would I have buyer's remorse.

My answer got really long, so it's here.


Answer the First

So, if I'm understanding your question, it's not how I would feel if this happened (which I find risibly implausible), but rather how I would feel if I were convinced that this is what Clinton is trying to make happen.

So, OK.

First off, I am not sure how I could be convinced of that, even if it were true.

But if I somehow were, I think I'd be disappointed and saddened to discover that she's devoting any significant amount of her political capital to such an implausible goal. So, no, I wouldn't be comfortable or satisfied with it, any more than I'd be comfortable discovering in early 2009 that Obama was basing all of his policy decisions on his newly hired astrologer's advice. I really don't like discovering that I've hired fools to do important work.

Would it leave me with buyer's remorse? Probably. I mean, I'd have to see if she stuck with that strategy once she held the office, but if I kept believing that this remained her primary goal, then yeah, sure. I'd wonder why the fuck I ever believed she was a reasonable or competent politician.

Question the Second

So, OK, I guess that answers your question, at least technically speaking.

That said, I feel like I'm dodging your real question, in that you seem to assume that the situation you describe is plausible and evil, and I'm responding as though it were just foolish. I feel like you meant to ask me what if my preferred candidate were really Professor Moriarty in disguise, and instead I answered what if my preferred candidate were a complete idiot and I just hadn't noticed.

So let me try a different question in what I think is more the spirit of your question: what if President Clinton actually did what you describe here, and it turned out to be feasible after all, and I was just demonstrably completely wrong about everything?

So, OK, let me start by breaking that hypothetical into four pieces:
1 - the Democratic party absorbs the non-populist right to become a center-right party, while the Republican party dwindles into political irrelevance
2 - this happens under the Clinton administration, as a consequence of her political choices
3 - this newly revitalized Democratic party rules for two decades without substantive opposition, and
4 - this Democratic hegemony fucks up the country in more or less the sorts of ways I had thought in 2016 the GOP was trying to do and the Democrats were opposing... start wars, dismantle civil rights protections, criminalize abortion, etc.

Is that a fair restatement of your hypothetical?

Answer the Second

Assuming it is...

So, #1 I'm both OK with, and kind of expect, as I've said many times over the years. (cf, for example, https://www.facebook.com/dpolicar/posts/10208154342032983). So far, so good. I'd basically be chuffed, and take more seriously the idea that I may have good intuitions about political trends.

#2 I consider unlikely, but if it happened, I'd react much like I reacted to our change of heart on same-sex marriage -- I expected this to happen, I endorse it happening, but I didn't expect it to happen so fast! Cool. Yay.

#3 I consider risibly implausible, as I expect our political system to create an opposition party. But OK, let's assume it happens. Maybe Clinton does away with our political system altogether and declares herself a monarch, or something like that. Or maybe I'm just wrong about our political system.

#4 I can see happening if #3 does.

So, OK.

Yes, if that happens, I definitely experience buyer's remorse, discomfort, and dissatisfaction. I beat my breast and cry "fuck, I had no idea that electing President Clinton would screw everything up this horribly, so quickly! All of those anti-Clinton people I didn't believe in 2016 were right, and I was wrong, and I should have believed them, but now it's too late!" and I am very sad as I stew in my awareness of how very very wrong I was and watch all the suffering my choice helped effect as we go on fighting wars of choice and rolling back civil rights legislation and giving legal protections to polluters and so on and so forth.

And I wonder how much better things might have been if we'd elected Sanders or Trump or Cruz or Bush instead, though of course it's too late now.

An Anecdotal Digression

A couple of decades or so ago, a friend of mine warned me to get out of Boston, because she'd had a paranormal premonition that when everything went to shit, which it would fairly soon, Boston would be especially hosed. And I thanked her for her concern, and continued to live in Boston.

And if it had turned out that her premonition was right, I'd have felt really bad about that too.

But, well, her premonition wasn't right.

And in fact, I have in the interim come to a position I summarize roughly as "don't regret good decision procedures, even when they produce bad decisions," which militates against my regretting staying in Boston even if that turns out to be Ground Zero of the Zombie Apocalypse next week and I realize in retrospect that my paranormal friend was right after all. Roughly speaking, I had no reliable way of knowing that, or reason to privilege that hypothesis over its competitors. Even if I decide in retrospect that I had enough evidence to believe psychic premonitions were real, I know quite a lot of people who claim similar abilities who don't think Boston is particularly threatened, so I had no reason to believe her specific claim over theirs.

That said, I'd probably feel unsatisfied/uncomfortable/remorseful about my decision anyway, despite not endorsing those feelings.

Just to be clear... I'm not claiming that the situations are equivalent. They aren't. You're not claiming psychic powers, merely ordinary human insight and intelligence and knowledge which lets you understand the current political picture more accurately than I do. That's not at all a remarkable claim, I absolutely believe that many people possess that trait, and you might well be one of them.

But I am claiming that I'm in a similar position with respect to those situations. You (and anti-Clinton advocates more generally) may be a more reliable source of political analysis than pro-Clinton advocates whose stuff I also read, but I see no reason to believe that. This may be evidence of my inadequacy as an evaluator of political insight, but even if it is... well, OK, I am precisely that inadequate.

Another Anecdotal Digression

Somewhat relatedly, my reaction to the actual 2000 election is a minor echo of the hypothetical reaction I describe above.

That is... in November of 2000 I was sad that Bush won because of what it said about my country, but I ultimately didn't think it would matter that much... I wasn't particularly psyched about Gore, either, and I figured Bush would be an ineffectual one-term president who didn't affect much of anything.

I was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. And I feel bad about how wrong I was.

Had I felt about Bush then, the way I feel about him now, I would have held my nose and supported Gore much more strenuously. He'd still have lost, and history would be unchanged, but I would feel less culpable, for whatever that's worth. (Which isn't much. I'm mostly not a moral deontologist.)

An Alternative Hypothetical

As I write this, I realize that there is a hypothetical future that's kind of like #3 but that I think is plausible, where we end up with a two-party system where the center-right Democrat/Republican hybrid you envision here is the left wing, and some even-more-reactionary political movement comes to power as the right wing.

Say, just for concreteness, that "the populist right, with the tattered and useless Republican name," are assimilated by the neo-reaction movement, and the 2020 elections are between Hillary Clinton and Curtis Yarvin. (Or, if you prefer some other exemplar of everything horrible, take your pick... I just picked this one because I have some experience arguing with neoreactionaries, so I know they aren't fictional... or at least, if they are, it's an elaborate con.)

I don't expect that to happen, either, but I don't think it's risibly implausible, just unlikely. And as above, if it happens under Clinton's watch, or even if it gets noticeably more likely under her watch in ways I hold her accountable for, I'll likely change my mind about both her and my methods for evaluating politicians more generally.

Afterthought

So, a while after writing the above I read a FB post by Jeb Bush, which appeared on my feed because a Sanders supporter on my friends list had liked it, which said (among other things) "Hillary Clinton has proven to be an untrustworthy liberal politician who, if elected, would present a third term of the disastrous foreign and economic policy agenda of Barack Obama."

Which got me thinking that perhaps all my thinking above is a kind of straw man argument, where I exaggerate someone's claim into something absurd and then attack the absurd version of the claim. Maybe all that was meant was not some kind of abortion-criminalizing civil-rights-backrolling warmongering economy-destroying atrocity unheard of by modern man Clinton administration, but something far more plausible, like the third Obama term Bush warns of above.

Which, well, in that hypothetical future, I don't regret my support at all. (I don't regret supporting Obama, either.)

Tags:

Tolerance and immorality.

I'm thinking a lot about moral differences lately.

One thing in that space is that there's a difference between moral values and aesthetic preferences, and one of the implications of that difference has to do with tolerance.

Short form: my community endorses tolerance of conflicting aesthetic preferences, but we do not endorse tolerance of conflicting moral values.

Somewhat longer form: Goldwater famously said that moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue, and while most of the social justice advocates I know would probably not agree with Goldwater about what constitutes justice, moderation, or virtue, I suspect they would agree with the sentiment in their own terms: if you do or say something unjust, we don't endorse my sitting back and letting you do it without objection or interference. Rather, we endorse my calling it out and/or opposing it.

And that's precisely because injustice is bad, and we want less of it.

(And, sure, there are exceptions... but they are exceptions precisely because in those cases, my interfering with you or someone expecting me to interfere with your is itself unjust, or otherwise bad, in one way or another.)

By contrast, if you do or say something that challenges my aesthetic preferences -- something that digusts me in a visceral sense, for example -- and I sit back and let you do it without objection or interference, we don't endorse the same kinds of judgments. That's when we start to extol the virtue of tolerance... your kink is OK even if it squicks me.

All of this is pretty obvious when framed abstractly like this, but for many people it gets tricky in practice.

For one thing, most of us don't have a detailed explicit moral framework ready to hand and rely instead on moral intuitions -- we know it's wrong because it feels wrong to us when we encounter it. And for many people, it's easy to confuse moral violations and aesthetic violations. (I want to emphasize the "for many people" part of this, as I know that some of my readers don't experience confusion on this axis, and it is not my goal here to challenge that experience. If you don't, then much of what I say here doesn't apply to you; that's OK.)

It also gets tricky because my community talks a lot about the virtue of tolerance in the abstract, but in reality we're not talking about tolerance of immorality... we're not talking about tolerating, for example, murder or child abuse. So we frequently face rhetorical challenges of the form "Well if you're so tolerant then why don't you tolerate my doing X?" where X is something we consider immoral. Which is a confused challenge, because it equates tolerance of moral acts with tolerance of immoral acts, and they aren't equivalent.

But that gets tricky too, because some of my community understands the word "immorality" to refer, not to the things we have moral objections to (e.g., murder or child abuse), but rather to the things that other communities claim to have moral objections to that we think is perfectly OK (e.g., homosexuality)... such that if I say "we don't tolerate immoral practices" I'm likely to send a lot of hackles rising on the necks of people who understand me to mean, not only that we don't tolerate murder and child abuse and other things we think are immoral, but also that we don't tolerate homosexuality and gender nonconformity and other things that other people claim are immoral.

And when we start looking at cultural norms, as opposed to aesthetic preference, it all gets even more difficult.

And even when all of those issues are flattened out (which basically never happens) we run into the problem of actual disagreements about categorization. I often wonder about that.

I mean, one of my ground rules is that I don't get to pat myself on the back for being more tolerant than you are simply because I treat as an aesthetic preference something you consider a moral value. I can disagree with your moral framework, I can even consider you an enemy, but it has nothing to do with tolerance.

But in practice, this rule almost never comes into play, because I'm almost never capable of telling whether you actually consider something a moral value, because it's so common in my culture to perform moral outrage as a way of signaling strong allegiances to shared cultural norms that are not themselves moral values... often to the point where even asking the question, or expressing my own uncertainty about it, is outrageous.

There are days I suspect I'm in an "Eleventh Voyage" scenario. That is, sometimes I think we humans have created a system where we oppress each other over moral questions we actually agree on.

So, anyway, I'm thinking a lot about moral differences lately.

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