Culture Ramblings on Sexual Themes in Modern Culture

Lord Invictus

Never Forget Injustice.
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Okay question @OliverCromwell

A sociopath or very powerful person can take immoral actions, and still be apart of society. They just have to have their crimes overlooked or simply not be caught else they lose the regard of everyone else.

Self interest here is not to refrain from immoral acts-but to simply avoid any consequences of them.

That way you still get the benefits of not being an outcast, and still profit from your immoral acts.

How do you respond to this?
 

King Kravoka

I'm gonna beat King Kravoka.
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But, you know, it's not like it's some right-wing criticism of modern society unnoticed by anyone else that you demand a "citation" for, indeed, nothing less than NPR has run an article on it before.
The premises of that article are just that work is squeezing people out of fuck, not that exo-vocationary culture is less fuck. It's sad that "people are having less sex" can realistically be considered a right wing criticism with the nu-right increasingly being about the sexual frustrations of its adherents. I'll take the whole claim with a grain of salt anyway, since the authors of those outlets are always trying to make society more hedonistic truth and morals be damned.
 

OliverCromwell

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But see, there’s nothing wrong with the sociopath’s reasoning in principle, only in the realm of contingent facts. In principle, there’s nothing wrong with murder, rape, or any other crime because there’s no such thing as moral principles according to a contractarian theory of ethics.

If you actually lived in a society in which everyone believed in contractarian ethics (as opposed to a post-Christian society in which Christianity informs our moral intuitions), it wouldn’t look anything like the nice, liberal society neo-Hobbesians imagine it. It’d better resemble the war of all against all Hobbes thought a stateless society resembles, because contractarians don’t believe moral goodness as virtue ethicists see it even exists.
There absolutely is something wrong with the sociopath's reasoning in principle--it's irrational in the sense that it does not allow an agent to achieve best possible satisfaction of their premises. One says that a person is "wrong" to be immoral in the same sense that a vacuum is "wrong" to not suck up dust or a campfire is "wrong" to not set alight. By definition a preference is a thing that an agent seeks to satisfy, and in acting irrationally and not doing so effectively we can absolutely say that this is "wrong".

Societies have been demonstrably capable of ethical behavior before virtue ethicists or even the concepts of virtue and ethics existed--if even rats are capable of altruistic behavior driven by the evolutionary advantages conferred by being able to participate in mutual cooperation, I see no reason why this would not be true for human beings as well. Humans are not born with an understanding of the meaning of virtue and a justification for it, and yet basic morality has emerged in every single human society that has ever existed on the face of this earth, and altruistic and cooperative behaviors long before that. Clearly, there is some process that leads to it, and the beauty of contractarianism is that it explains and justifies this process.

The average Christian does not read Aquinas (in fact, the average Christian does not even make a serious study of the Bible), the average virtue ethicist does not read the Nicomachean Ethics, and the average contractarian will not read Morals by Agreement or Leviathan or any other contractarian work. Insofar as these or any other ethical theories influence average people in society, they do so through the broad, simplified basic principles that underlie them--we consult the full extent of ethical theory only when moral intuition and these basic principles fail to provide us with a clear answer, much in the same sense that one might turn to the Bible and/or one's priest when deciding whether or not to go to war, but I doubt one would do the same when deciding whether or not to murder somebody who has upset you. And the basic principles that arise from contractarianism are... reciprocity, prosocial behavior, and generally some basic concept of liberties such as the right to life. Hardly a non-functional society, is it?

Most people do not believe in the full breadth of contractarian ethics because most people do not believe in the full breadth any ethical theory and we can only baselessly speculate about a world where they do, because such a thing has never existed in the history of human society. To say that society will somehow lead itself to disaster if we all followed contractarianism and only contractarianism is both unprovable and entirely orthogonal to reality--this is just as true for both virtue ethics and christianity. I can just as easily assert that a society that runs itself according to contractarian principles would be vastly more moral than our own, because people would be more aware of their strategic self-interest and, being so aware, would act more morally because they can directly connect moral behavior to their own benefit; whereas a society that believed in Christianity (rather than a western society where the pre-Christian values of the Greeks inform our moral intuitions) would be nonfunctional, because people would be too preoccupied with life after death to improve the world we live in. Why is it that your bare assertion is right and my bare assertion is wrong?

Okay question @OliverCromwell

A sociopath or very powerful person can take immoral actions, and still be apart of society. They just have to have their crimes overlooked or simply not be caught else they lose the regard of everyone else.

Self interest here is not to refrain from immoral acts-but to simply avoid any consequences of them.

That way you still get the benefits of not being an outcast, and still profit from your immoral acts.

How do you respond to this?
If you possess the Ring of Gyges and are assuredly capable of avoiding any negative consequences that might come about due to your actions, then certainly, your self-interest is to do whatever you wish. But the Ring of Gyges is fiction--in the real world there is no person so powerful or so capable that they are categorically, assuredly able to avoid the discovery of their misdeeds or not suffer from retaliation for them. The strongest men, the most powerful kings, and the wealthiest billionaires still must fear for their ability to participate in society--even the strongest and richest and most powerful have had their misdeeds exposed, and the consequences of such exposure (ejection from society's mutual cooperation) are just as grave for them as they are for anyone else in the world.

And if that is not the case, well then, isn't it just as much in everyone else's self-interest not to allow someone so strong, so rich, so powerful, and so forth to come about in the first place? After all, you may well be the victim of whatever immorality that he might commit, just as I or anyone else, and it seems irrational to be willing to cooperate with such an actor when they are able to defect at a whim and you are powerless to stop it or even realize it has occurred. Is it not, then, strategically rational to include that an actor should not be so powerful in the constraints that we require to engage in mutual cooperation in the first place? Most people would agree that the creation of an artificial intelligence an order of magnitude more powerful than human beings without some sort of ethical constraints built into it would be immoral precisely for this reason, for instance.
 

The Name of Love

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Why is it that your bare assertion is right and my bare assertion is wrong?
Because mine is not a bare assertion and yours is.

There have been Christian societies, and they were so successful that, even now, modern contractarians are dependent on Christian social capital even as they intellectually undermine it with their arguments.

Also, animals are not capable of moral behavior by a long shot, and you confusing pro-social behavior with moral behavior really demonstrates my point: contractarians don’t know what morality and goodness actually are. In fact, what moral goodness actually is doesn’t concern the contractarian; he changes the subject to “what’s the lowest common denominator set of rules that will allow everyone to pursue their own ends within a society that I’d prefer to live in?”
 

OliverCromwell

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Because mine is not a bare assertion and yours is.

There have been Christian societies, and they were so successful that, even now, modern contractarians are dependent on Christian social capital even as they intellectually undermine it with their arguments.

Also, animals are not capable of moral behavior by a long shot, and you confusing pro-social behavior with moral behavior really demonstrates my point: contractarians don’t know what morality and goodness actually are. In fact, what moral goodness actually is doesn’t concern the contractarian; he changes the subject to “what’s the lowest common denominator set of rules that will allow everyone to pursue their own ends within a society that I’d prefer to live in?”
Yes but you see, while there have been successful societies that believe in Christianity, by your own metric that’s not the same thing as “Christian societies”. If you can just arbitrarily assert that societies which proudly and openly believe in contractarianism—such as America in the time of the founders—did not, in fact, actually believe in contractsrianism and were instead influenced by the pre-contractarian culture they inherited, I can just as easily assert that societies that believe in Christianity are not actually Christian and instead influenced by the pre-Christian culture they’ve inherited. After all, what do Plato and Aristotle have to do with Christianity, hmm? Methinks that Christianity is dependent on classical Greek social capital even as they undermine them through their arguments. How can you prove that all Christians really believed in Christianity and didn’t just say they believed in Christianity while actually believing in the pre-Christian western worldview derived from Greece and Rome? If you can arbitrarily declare that people who professed to believing things, and in fact in all their actions deeply seemed to believe those things (as with the founders and Contractarianism, or medieval Europe and Christianity) did not in fact believe those things simply because they happened to still be influenced by the previous beliefs of their society (something that literally every society always has), then you can declare that every belief that had every existed on Earth is, in fact, not genuine and not meaningful.

First off, that’s not even the subject I was discussing in my example—animals are capable of altruism, which goes beyond the common denominator necessary to maintain society, which is why I say animals are capable of “moral behavior” (since I think more or less everyone agrees that altruism is unambiguously moral behavior).

Contractarianism certainly doesn’t concern itself with the “lowest common denominator”, it concerns itself with those rules regulating behavior that are rationally derived from the basis if cooperation between rational agents. And that’s what morality is—a set of rules regulating behavior and distinguishing “good” behavior from “bad” behavior, a definition you can pull from any dictionary. Contractarianism captures this just as much as whatever ethics you have does.

All your complaint is doing is redefining “moral goodness” and presupposing that it is simply whatever your own worldview promotes and achieves—in which case of course neither contractarianism nor any other theory of ethics satisfies it. But that's not because contractarianism is wrong, it’s because your argument is facile and bankrupt and all other ethical theories are made to compete not against each other on their own merits but on an an arbitrary, lopsided playing field set by a shambling imbecile.
 

LordsFire

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Yes but you see, while there have been successful societies that believe in Christianity, by your own metric that’s not the same thing as “Christian societies”. If you can just arbitrarily assert that societies which proudly and openly believe in contractarianism—such as America in the time of the founders—did not, in fact, actually believe in contractsrianism and were instead influenced by the pre-contractarian culture they inherited, I can just as easily assert that societies that believe in Christianity are not actually Christian and instead influenced by the pre-Christian culture they’ve inherited. After all, what do Plato and Aristotle have to do with Christianity, hmm? Methinks that Christianity is dependent on classical Greek social capital even as they undermine them through their arguments. How can you prove that all Christians really believed in Christianity and didn’t just say they believed in Christianity while actually believing in the pre-Christian western worldview derived from Greece and Rome? If you can arbitrarily declare that people who professed to believing things, and in fact in all their actions deeply seemed to believe those things (as with the founders and Contractarianism, or medieval Europe and Christianity) did not in fact believe those things simply because they happened to still be influenced by the previous beliefs of their society (something that literally every society always has), then you can declare that every belief that had every existed on Earth is, in fact, not genuine and not meaningful.

First off, that’s not even the subject I was discussing in my example—animals are capable of altruism, which goes beyond the common denominator necessary to maintain society, which is why I say animals are capable of “moral behavior” (since I think more or less everyone agrees that altruism is unambiguously moral behavior).

Contractarianism certainly doesn’t concern itself with the “lowest common denominator”, it concerns itself with those rules regulating behavior that are rationally derived from the basis if cooperation between rational agents. And that’s what morality is—a set of rules regulating behavior and distinguishing “good” behavior from “bad” behavior, a definition you can pull from any dictionary. Contractarianism captures this just as much as whatever ethics you have does.

All your complaint is doing is redefining “moral goodness” and presupposing that it is simply whatever your own worldview promotes and achieves—in which case of course neither contractarianism nor any other theory of ethics satisfies it. But that's not because contractarianism is wrong, it’s because your argument is facile and bankrupt and all other ethical theories are made to compete not against each other on their own merits but on an an arbitrary, lopsided playing field set by a shambling imbecile.
The founding fathers of America built their concept for a society based on Christian ethics. You can call them contractarians only insomuch as that system happens to overlap with Christian ethics.

We don't even need to go that far though. We can look at the eponymous Pilgrims from the Mayflower, and what came of their society. They explicitly were seeking a place to go and live where they would not be persecuted for their religious beliefs, and founded a colony on Christian principles. They prospered, and became the first permanent colony in what eventually became the USA. They did not progress or develop without hardships along the way, most notably dabbling with Socialism, but as was said by one of their leaders, they needed to repent from 'thinking we were wiser than God' before they could begin to prosper.

De Toqueville, in his famous study of American culture and what made it so prosperous so rapidly, and able to so quickly become a relevant factor on the world stage, specifically and explicitly noted it was the strong Christian ethics that underwrote the nation's strength.

Can you point to an instance where even a single town or village was founded on a group of people with stated and dedicated contractarian principles? Not a set of other principles which happen to overlap, but those principles specifically.

I'm not terribly familiar with contractarianism, so I honestly don't know if there is one.

Also, a significant number of Christians do pick up the Bible and study it regularly. And plenty also pick it up when struggling with sinful impulses, such as striking (or worse) someone for wronging us. Your assumption that this is not the case suggests to me you have little experience with actual Christians, instead of 'nominal' christians who have simply picked up some heritage from cultural inertia.

Myself, I read from my Bible multiple times every day, with an odd day here and there missed.
 

OliverCromwell

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Can you point to an instance where even a single town or village was founded on a group of people with stated and dedicated contractarian principles? Not a set of other principles which happen to overlap, but those principles specifically.

I'm not terribly familiar with contractarianism, so I honestly don't know if there is one.

Also, a significant number of Christians do pick up the Bible and study it regularly. And plenty also pick it up when struggling with sinful impulses, such as striking (or worse) someone for wronging us. Your assumption that this is not the case suggests to me you have little experience with actual Christians, instead of 'nominal' christians who have simply picked up some heritage from cultural inertia.

Myself, I read from my Bible multiple times every day, with an odd day here and there missed.
My entire point is that this is a ridiculous standard to hold when deciding what values a culture "believes" in. Shockingly, cultures change, and the principles on which they were originally founded are not necessarily the principles that they most strongly believe in now. By this logic you could argue that Rome is not and has never been a Christian society and that Mecca is not and has never been an Islamic society, simply because they were founded long before Christianity or Islam were ever a glint in anybody's eye, and endlessly assert that any Christianity or Islam you might see in Rome or Mecca now are obviously just Christian or Islamic principles that just so happen to overlap with their previous Greco-Roman or Arabian pagan societies. I think we can both agree that this would be rather ridiculous, no?

Likewise my point with mentioning that most Christians have not studied the Bible is not to argue that no Christians do but to point out that people absolutely can follow some set of moral principles even without having a total, sophisticated understanding of its philosophical basis. As far as Christianity is concerned, for the majority of Christian history the vast majority of Christians never studied the Bible--they weren't literate, and most of the time the Bible wasn't even written in vernacular--and yet we don't hesitate to say that, say, Rome in 1000 wasn't a Christian society (or at least @The Name of Love doesn't, seeing as though he's repeatedly identified himself with the Catholic Church), and it seems absurd to assert otherwise.

I don't think the historical record suggests that the America of the 1770s was nearly as religious as the America of the Puritans of the America of the Second Great Awakening (for one thing, if it was then what would the Second Great Awakening have happened at all?), nor that the primary influence on the Constitution and the political thought of the founders wasn't the works of Locke and other major contractarian thinkers of the time who a good number of the Founders explicitly cite and whose thought is clearly reflected in the US constitution and most of the post-independence state constitutions, but frankly that's a well-tread historical argument that I doubt either of convince the other on. Even ignoring that, however, there are clearly significant parts of modern America which aren't especially religious (per recent polling Portland is plurality irreligious) and yet they haven't somehow collapsed back into the state of nature as The Name of Love wants to suggest. My point is asserting that this doesn't count because these people are mere cultural Christians without any secular basis for their ethical behavior simply for living in a society that happened to be majority Christian in the past is just as ridiculous as asserting that Rome obviously was never Christian simply because they lived in a society that happened to be majority Greco-Roman in the past. That every society is to some degree influenced by the past does not mean that they are necessarily defined by it.

At any rate, if you want to persist down this sort of ridiculous geneological thinking, I can do you one better--all human societies that have a notion of morality fundamentally based in contractarian thinking. Hamilton and Price's work on altruism suggests fairly clearly that altuistic impulses and general human moral intuitions evolved as a method of enabling cooperation with other humans and participation in cooperative societies, which is also the basic idea behind Contractarian ethical theory. Your Christianity and its notions of the golden rule and forgiveness and altruism are in fact meaningful and followed only insofar as they overlap with these human moral intuitions derived from contractarian thinking. In fact, every other notion of morality that humankind has ever had is meaningful only insofar as it overlaps with these intuitions. Contractarianism is the morality of biology, which existed before any human society or moral creed ever did--all of society is founded on fundamentally contractarian principles as a result, even if people aren't necessarily conscious of it.
 
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