Victimhood Culture

wolz5co - Imgur

I think this concept of Victimhood Culture is the key that explains so much of the lunacy we see in modern academia.

Rather than reinterpret and possibly misrepresent, I have collected some excerpts and extended quotes on the topic to get you caught up:

http://righteousmind.com/where-microaggressions-really-come-from/

I just read the most extraordinary paper by two sociologists — Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning — explaining why concerns about microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in just the past few years. In brief: We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim. This is why we have seen the recent explosion of concerns about microaggressions, combined with demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces, that Greg Lukianoff and I wrote about in The Coddling of the American Mind.

…The key idea is that the new moral culture of victimhood fosters “moral dependence” and an atrophying of the ability to handle small interpersonal matters on one’s own. At the same time that it weakens individuals, it creates a society of constant and intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.

[Read the rest of the post for a superb examination of this pathology.]

From: https://reason.com/blog/2015/09/11/victimhood-culture-in-america-beyond-dig

In “Microaggression and Moral Cultures,” the California State University, Los Angeles sociologist Bradley Campbell and the West Virginia University sociologist Jason Manning identify a “culture of victimhood” that they distinguish from the “honor cultures” and “dignity cultures” of the past. In a victimhood culture, they write, “individuals and groups display high sensitivity to slight, have a tendency to handle conflicts through complaints to third parties, and seek to cultivate an image of being victims who deserve assistance.”

Insightfully complementing their analysis is a new study by the St. Lawrence University economist Steven Horwitz, titled “Cooperation Over Coercion: The Importance of Unsupervised Childhood Play for Democracy and Liberalism.” Horwitz makes the case that overprotective childrearing is undermining the “ability to engage in group problem solving and settle disputes without the intervention of outsiders,” a capacity he calls “a key part of the liberal order.” In other words, both studies find that Americans increasingly want and expect adult supervision.

The authors argue that people seek the moral status of victim in situations where social stratification is low, cultural diversity is high, and authorities are referees. These three conditions pervade the modern American university, so it not surprising that the microaggression victimhood phenomenon is most intense in academia.

…As social status becomes more equal, they argue, people become more sensitive to any slights perceived as aiming to increase the level of inequality in a relationship. In addition, as cultural diversity increases, any attempts seen as trying to reduce it or diminish its importance are deemed as a morally deviant form of domination. As the New York University moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt has astutely observed, “As progress is made toward a more equal and humane society, it takes a smaller and smaller offense to trigger a high level of outrage. The goalposts shift, allowing participants to maintain a constant level of anger and constant level of perceived victimization.”

Those experiencing what they think are microaggressions seek third-party redress of their grievances by assuming the pose of victim. “People portray themselves as oppressed by the powerful—as damaged, disadvantaged, and needy,” write Campbell and Manning. The process heralds the emergence of a culture of victimhood that is distinct from earlier honor and dignity cultures. This is nothing less than demoralizing and polarizing.

In honor cultures, men maintain their honor by responding to insults, slights, and violations of rights by self-help violence. “Cultures of honor tend to arise in places where legal authority is weak or non-existent, and where a reputation for toughness is perhaps the only effective deterrent against predation or attack,” write Campbell and Manning. They note that honor cultures still exist in the Arab world and among street gangs in Western societies.

During the 19th century, most Western societies began the moral transition toward dignity cultures in which all citizens are legally endowed with equal rights. Dignity does not depend upon reputation but exists as unalienable rights that do not depend on what other people think of one’s bravery. Having a thick skin and shrugging off slights become virtues because they help maintain social peace. The aphorism that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is practically the motto of dignity cultures.

Of course, serious conflicts cannot always be resolved privately. In dignity cultures persons, property, and rights are then defended as a last resort by recourse to third parties, such as courts and police, that if necessary wield violence on their behalf. Still, dignity cultures practice tolerance and are much more peaceful than honor cultures.

Horwitz is all about defending the culture of dignity. He points out that daily social interaction is full annoying or obnoxious small-scale behavior such as failing to refill the copier, taking some else’s parking space, or hearing a tasteless joke. “When one seriously considers all the moments in a typical day that have potential for conflict that get resolved through conversation and negotiation, or just plain tolerance, it is actually somewhat astounding how smooth social life is,” Horwitz observes. In fact, the vast majority of conflicts in modern Western societies are resolved without recourse to external authorities or direct coercion.

Horwitz makes a strong case that unsupervised and unstructured play among children teaches them private, noncoercive ways to resolve conflicts and generate cooperation, lessons that are very important to how they conduct themselves when they become adults. Supervised play, by contrast, trains children to expect adults to step in to adjudicate disputes and apply coercion. Horwitz fears this is flipping the social default setting from “figure out how to solve this conflict on your own” to “invoke force and/or third parties whenever conflict arises.”

Americans are turning increasingly to third-party coercion to resolve what would in earlier days have been considered minor conflicts. He worries that without “the skills necessary to solve conflicts cooperatively, it is not hard to imagine that people will quickly turn either to external authorities like the state to resolve them, or would demand an exhaustive list of explicit rules” as to what constitutes permissible conduct. His concern mirrors that of Alexis de Tocqueville who in Democracy in America (1835) prophesied that democracy would generate an “immense and tutelary power” whose authority is “absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood.” Ultimately, Horwitz fears that the result of ceding ever more power to state authorities to resolve conflicts “will be the destruction of liberalism and democracy.”

A victimhood culture combines an honor culture’s quickness to take offense with an overdependence on the coercive institutions that serve as a dignity culture’s last resort. …A victimhood culture will spawn social conflict, which in turn will produce an ever larger and more coercive government tasked with trying to suppress it.

From http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/the-rise-of-victimhood-culture/404794/

…a new, increasingly common approach to handling conflict.

It isn’t honor culture.

“Honorable people are sensitive to insult, and so they would understand that microaggressions, even if unintentional, are severe offenses that demand a serious response,” they write. “But honor cultures value unilateral aggression and disparage appeals for help. Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor.”

But neither is it dignity culture:

“Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.”

The culture on display on many college and university campuses, by way of contrast, is “characterized by concern with status and sensitivity to slight combined with a heavy reliance on third parties. People are intolerant of insults, even if unintentional, and react by bringing them to the attention of authorities or to the public at large. Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization.”

It is, they say, “a victimhood culture.”

Victimhood cultures emerge in settings, like today’s college campuses, “that increasingly lack the intimacy and cultural homogeneity that once characterized towns and suburbs, but in which organized authority and public opinion remain as powerful sanctions,” they argue. “Under such conditions complaint to third parties has supplanted both toleration and negotiation. People increasingly demand help from others, and advertise their oppression as evidence that they deserve respect and assistance. Thus we might call this moral culture a culture of victimhood … the moral status of the victim, at its nadir in honor cultures, has risen to new heights.”

…Per their discipline, the sociologists offer structural explanations for why college students are addressing conflicts within the framework of “microaggressions.”  Victimhood culture “arose because of the rise of social conditions conducive to it,” they argue, “and if it prevails it will be because those conditions have prevailed.”
Those social conditions include the following:

  • Self-help in the form of dueling or fighting is not an option.
  • “The availability of social superiors—especially hierarchical superiors such as legal or private administrators—is conducive to reliance on third parties.”
  • Campaigns aimed at winning over the support of third parties are likeliest to occur in atomized environments, like college campuses, where one cannot rely on members of a family, tribe or clan to automatically take one’s side in a dispute.
  • Since third-parties are likeliest to intervene in disputes that they regard as relatively serious, and disputes where one group is perceived as dominating another are considered serious by virtue of their aggregate relevance to millions of people, victimhood culture is likeliest to arise in settings where there is some diversity and inequality, but whose members are almost equal, since “a morality that privileges equality and condemns oppression is most likely to arise precisely in settings that already have relatively high degrees of equality.”

…As I ponder microaggressions as “a form of social control in which the aggrieved collect and publicize accounts of intercollective offenses, making the case that relatively minor slights are part of a larger pattern of injustice and that those who suffer them are socially marginalized and deserving of sympathy,”

JH: Western society has transitioned from an honor culture to a dignity culture and now is shifting into a culture of victimhood. In the culture of honor, each person has to earn honor and, unable to tolerate a slight, takes action himself. The big advance in Western society was to let the law handle serious offenses and ignore the inevitable minor ones—what sociologists call the culture of dignity, which reigned in the 20th century. It allows diversity to flourish because different people can live near each other without killing each other. The past 20-30 years, however, has seen the rise of a victimhood culture, where you’re hypersensitive to slights as in the honor culture, but you never take care of it yourself. You always appeal to a third party to punish for you. And here’s the big concept—you become morally dependent. Young people are becoming morally dependent; they are also less able to solve problems on their own. An adult has always been there somewhere to protect them or punish for them. This attitude does not begin in college. Students have been raised to be morally dependent.”

All of us now live in fear that a single word, a single tweet, can suck us into a vortex of investigations and social media shame. Third is the sincere belief of the academic community in the culture of victimhood. Most professors are horrified by trigger warnings and microaggressions. But these things flourish in the identity studies departments, gender studies, race studies, and among any group charged with promoting diversity. These three forces are converging so that everybody’s walking on eggshells, afraid of being sued or accused.

HEM: You said that the student concerns that lead them to condemn microaggressions or ask for trigger warnings keep them in a state of constant outrage. One thing we know is that crazy-seeming behavior tends to have a purpose. What is the value of staying in a state of outrage?

JH: Moral judgment is not about finding the truth; it is more about broadcasting the kind of person you are to people that you want to like you. You might call it moral posturing. Getting angry about microaggressions shows that you are championing victims. In a victimhood subculture, the only way to achieve status is to either be a victim or defend victims. It’s enfeebling. When victimhood becomes your identity you will be weak for the rest of your life. Marty Seligman has been talking about this for decades. This is a good way to make people learn helplessness.

JH: There’s a basic tension between pursuing dynamism and decency. Societies differ on how much to focus on dynamism—encouraging innovation and creative destruction—and how much on decency, which means protecting people from the creative destruction, unemployment, and other problems of capitalism. This is the basis of the left/right divide over capitalism: The left usually focuses on decency, the right on dynamism. In talking to you, I’m suddenly realizing that we have the same issue in the college community. Focusing on decency—it’s called inclusivity—is valuable. But is that all we should do? Should we also focus on dynamism, encouraging students to think in new ways, to take risks, to say things that other people might not like?

From http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/opinion/sunday/the-real-victims-of-victimhood.html

BACK in 1993, the misanthropic art critic Robert Hughes published a grumpy, entertaining book called “Culture of Complaint,” in which he predicted that America was doomed to become increasingly an “infantilized culture” of victimhood. It was a rant against what he saw as a grievance industry appearing all across the political spectrum.

I enjoyed the book, but as a lifelong optimist about America, was unpersuaded by Mr. Hughes’s argument. I dismissed it as just another apocalyptic prediction about our culture.

Unfortunately, the intervening two decades have made Mr. Hughes look prophetic and me look naïve.

…On campuses, activists interpret ordinary interactions as “microaggressions” and set up “safe spaces” to protect students from certain forms of speech. And presidential candidates on both the left and the right routinely motivate supporters by declaring that they are under attack by immigrants or wealthy people.

So who cares if we are becoming a culture of victimhood? We all should. To begin with, victimhood makes it more and more difficult for us to resolve political and social conflicts. The culture feeds a mentality that crowds out a necessary give and take — the very concept of good-faith disagreement — turning every policy difference into a pitched battle between good (us) and evil (them).

…The researchers concluded that there was a widespread political “motive attribution asymmetry,” in which both sides attributed their own group’s aggressive behavior to love, but the opposite side’s to hatred. Today, millions of Americans believe that their side is basically benevolent while the other side is evil and out to get them.

Second, victimhood culture makes for worse citizens — people who are less helpful, more entitled, and more selfish.

…Does this mean that we should reject all claims that people are victims? Of course not. Some people are indeed victims in America — of crime, discrimination or deprivation. They deserve our empathy and require justice.

The problem is that the line is fuzzy between fighting for victimized people and promoting a victimhood culture. Where does the former stop and the latter start? I offer two signposts for your consideration.

First, look at the role of free speech in the debate. Victims and their advocates always rely on free speech and open dialogue to articulate unpopular truths. They rely on free speech to assert their right to speak. Victimhood culture, by contrast, generally seeks to restrict expression in order to protect the sensibilities of its advocates. Victimhood claims the right to say who is and is not allowed to speak.

What about speech that endangers others? Fair-minded people can discriminate between expression that puts people at risk and that which merely rubs some the wrong way. Speaking up for the powerless is often “offensive” to conventional ears.

Second, look at a movement’s leadership. The fight for victims is led by aspirational leaders who challenge us to cultivate higher values. They insist that everyone is capable of — and has a right to — earned success. They articulate visions of human dignity. But the organizations and people who ascend in a victimhood culture are very different. Some set themselves up as saviors; others focus on a common enemy. In all cases, they treat people less as individuals and more as aggrieved masses.

[As an aside, The I LOVED “The Culture of Complaint” when I read it back in the 90s. It has an absolutely magnificent W.H. Auden poem at the beginning. ]

Some more resources:

http://righteousmind.com/applying-moral-psych/coddling/  (2015)

Microaggressions and Moral Cultures by Jason Manning (2015) The paper that sparked off the recent interest in this topic.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201509/crisis-u (2015)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200411/nation-wimps (2004)

http://sultanknish.blogspot.dk/2015/11/crymobs-crybullying-and-lefts-whiny-war.html

The Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect

can a giant eraser remove the past?

“Can a giant raser remove the past?” Typewriter Eraser. Scale X, 1999, by Claes Oldenburg (American, born 1929, Sweden) and Coosje van Bruggen (American, born 1942, The Netherlands). Photo by Woodleywonders via Flicker (cc)

Came across this whilst reading Felix Salmon’s superb “Why you can’t trust journalism“. He links to Seekerblog’s 2006 post on “The Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect“, who in turn quotes Michael Criton’s 2002 speech “Why Speculate?“:

Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

I have noticed this time and time again. People who lambaste the media for supporting something they oppose will uncritically quote the same media when they suddenly find themselves in agreement.

Another area I notice this is with Serbs commenting on other countries. Serbs have been demonized in the media for over 20 years. They have suffered the most appalling slanders, yet it has not equipped many of them at all to spot the same treatment of others.

When Denmark recently came under fire for extending its social welfare laws of asset confiscation to migrants, I had Serbian friends in all my timelines writing “F*ck Denmark!”, not wondering at all if the story was being portrayed accurately (which it was not).

See also:

Truth Leakage – How politicians and journalists often reveal the truth as metadata or background material when discussing a tangential topic.

Construal Level Theory

There was a lot of soul searching and anger around the time of the Paris massacre in November 2015 because the Paris massacre got so much attention whereas the Beirut bombing the previous day did not. Maybe Construal Level Theory explains it:

Construal level theory (CLT) is a theory in social psychology that describes the relation between psychological distance and the extent to which people’s thinking (e.g., about objects and events) is abstract or concrete. The general idea is that the more distant an object is from the individual, the more abstract it will be thought of, while the closer the object is, the more concretely it will be thought of. In CLT, psychological distance is defined on several dimensions — temporal, spatial, social and hypothetical distance being considered most important,[3] though there is some debate among social psychologists about further dimensions like informational, experiential or affective distance.

An example of construal level effects would be that although planning one’s next summer vacation one year in advance (in the distant future) will cause one to focus on broad, decontextualized features of the situation (e.g., anticipating fun and relaxation), while the very same vacation planned to occur very soon will cause one to focus on specific features of the present situation (e.g. what restaurants to make reservations for, going for a trip in an off-road vehicle).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construal_level_theory

Miller’s Law

From Wikipedia:

Miller’s law, part of his theory of communication, was formulated by George Miller, Princeton Professor and psychologist.

It instructs us to suspend judgment about what someone is saying so we can first understand them without imbuing their message with our own personal interpretations.

The law states: “To understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of.”[1] [2]

The point is not to blindly accept what people say, but to do a better job of listening for understanding. “Imagining what it could be true of” is another way of saying to consider the consequences of the truth, but to also think about what must be true for the speaker’s “truth” to make sense.

On Bullshit

on-bullshit2

[Update: After I posted this I came across a great study –  “On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit” [PDF] – freshly published in November 2015. Well worth a read. I also recently came across this old but great post from Scott Berkun “How to Detect Bullshit“]

Because I see so much of this  on Facebook, I wanted to post the classic essay “On Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt.

http://www.stoa.org.uk/topics/bullshit/pdf/on-bullshit.pdf

Here is Wikipedia on the essay:

“On Bullshit (2005), by Harry G. Frankfurt, is a philosophical essay that presents a theory of bullshit that defines the concept and analyzes the applications of bullshit in the contexts of communication. As such, bullshit can be neither true nor false; hence, the bullshitter is someone whose principal aim — when uttering or publishing bullshit — is to impress the listener and the reader with words that communicate an impression that something is being or has been done, words that are neither true nor false, and so obscure the facts of the matter being discussed. In contrast, the liar must know the truth of the matter under discussion, in order to better conceal it from the listener or the reader being deceived with a lie; while the bullshitter’s sole concern is personal advancement and advantage to their own agenda.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Bullshit

Here are some quotes:

Humbug is not designed primarily to give its audience a false belief about whatever state of affairs may be the topic, but that its primary intention is rather to give its audience a false impression concerning what is going on in the mind of the speaker. Insofar as it is humbug, the creation of this impression is its main purpose and its point.

 

Consider a Fourth of July orator, who goes on bombastically about “our great and blessed country, whose Founding-Fathers under divine guidance created a new beginning for mankind.” This is surely humbug. …the orator is not lying. He would be lying only if it were his intention to bring about in his audience beliefs which he himself regards as false, concerning such matters as whether our country is great, whether it is blessed, whether the Founders had divine guidance, and whether what they did was in fact to create a new beginning for mankind. But the orator does not really care what his audience thinks about the Founding Fathers, or about the role of the deity in our country’s history, or the like. At least, it is not an interest in what anyone thinks about these matters that motivates his speech. It is clear that what makes Fourth of July oration humbug is not fundamentally that the speaker regards his statements as false. Rather…the orator intends these statements to convey a certain impression of himself. He is not trying to deceive anyone concerning American history. What he cares about is what people think of him.

 

…Her statement is grounded neither in a belief that it is true nor, as a lie must be, in a belief that it is not true. It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth –  this indifference to how things really are – that I regard as of the essence of bullshit.

 

…The characteristic topics of a bull session have to do with very personal and emotion-laden aspects of life for instance, religion, politics, or sex. People are generally reluctant to speak altogether openly about these topics if they expect that they might be taken too seriously. What tends to go on in a bull session is that the participants try out various thoughts and attitudes in order to see how it feels to hear themselves saying such things and in order to discover how others respond, without it being assumed that they are committed to what they say: It is understood by everyone in a bull session that the statements people make do not necessarily reveal what they really believe or how they really feel. The main point is to make possible a high level of candor and an experimental or adventuresome approach to the subjects under discussion. Therefore provision is made for enjoying a certain irresponsibility, so that people will be encouraged to convey what is on their minds without too much anxiety that they will be held to it.

 

Each of the contributors to a bull session relies, in other words, upon a general recognition that what he expresses or says is not to be understood as being what he means wholeheartedly or believes unequivocally to be true. The purpose of the conversation is not to communicate beliefs. Accordingly, the usual assumptions about the connection between what people say and what they believe are suspended. The statements made in a bull session differ from bullshit in that there is no pretence that this connection is being sustained. They are like bullshit by virtue of the fact that they are in some degree unconstrained by a concern with truth.

 

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

 

…Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

 

One who is concerned to report or to conceal the facts assumes that there are indeed facts that are in some way both determinate and knowable. His interest in telling the truth or in lying presupposes that there is a difference between getting things wrong and getting them right, and that it is at least occasionally possible to tell the difference. Someone who ceases to believe in the possibility of identifying certain statements as true and others as false can have only two alternatives. The first is to desist both from efforts to tell the truth and from efforts to deceive. This would mean refraining from making any assertion whatever about the facts. The second alternative is to continue making assertions that purport to describe the way things are but that cannot be anything except bullshit.

 

Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic are more excessive than his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled –  whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others – to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant. Closely related instances arise from the widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country’s  affairs. The lack of any significant connection between a person’s opinions and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world.

 

The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of scepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These “anti-realist” doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry. One response to this loss of confidence has been a retreat from the discipline required by dedication to the ideal of correctness to a quite different sort of discipline, which is imposed by pursuit  of an alternative ideal, sincerity. Rather than seeking primarily to arrive at accurate representations of a common world, the individual turns toward trying to provide honest representations of himself. Convinced that reality has no inherent nature, which he might hope to identify as the truth about things, he devotes himself to being true to his own nature. It is as though he decides that since it makes no sense to try to be true to the facts, he must therefore try instead to be true to himself.

 

Facts about ourselves are not peculiarly solid and resistant to skeptical dissolution. Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial – notoriously less stable and less inherent than the natures of other things. And insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit.

 

See also

Wikipedia’s great article on Lies that described the many types of lies.

The BBC Ethics page on Lying

St Augustine on the 8 types of lie

 

Rise of the Expert Generalist

Enjoyed this profile of Charlie Munger on Medium, especially the description of the Expert Generalist, a rival to the 10,000 hour specialist:

The Rise Of The Expert-Generalist

The rival argument to the 10,000 hour rule is the expert-generalist approach. Orit Gadiesh, chairman of Bain & Co, who coined the term, describes the expert-generalist as:

“Someone who has the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, countries, and topics., etc. He or she can then, without necessarily even realizing it, but often by design:

  1. Draw on that palette of diverse knowledge to recognize patterns and connect the dots across multiple areas.
  2. Drill deep to focus and perfect the thinking.”

The concept is commonly represented by this model of the “T-shaped individual”:

NewImage

The War on the Exceptional

Is there a war on the exception (radical) to the detriment of humanity?

Start with this “In Our Time” episode on Kierkegaard, the read these two essays by Anthony Judge: