nhaliday + noble-lie   26

"Humankind is unique in its incapacity to learn from experience" | New Humanist
Your new book claims atheism is a “closed system of thought”. Why so?
Because atheists of a certain kind imagine that by rejecting monotheistic beliefs they step out of a monotheistic way of thinking. Actually, they have inherited all of its rigidities and assumptions. Namely, the idea that there is a universal history; that there is something like a collective human agent; or a universal way of life. These are all Christian ideals. Christianity itself is also a much more complex belief system than most contemporary atheists allow for. But then most of these atheists know very little about the history of religion.

Particularly, you argue, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. What is your disagreement with them?
They treat religion as a kind of intellectual error; something only the crudest of Enlightenment thinkers believed. Not every human being has a religious sensibility, but pretty much all human cultures do. Neither Dawkins or Harris are interesting enough to discuss this at length.

Dawkins is really not worth discussing or engaging with at all. He is an ideologue of Darwinism and knows very little about religion, treating it as a kind of a priori notion, rather than the complex social, and anthropological set of ideas which religion usually entails. Harris is partially interesting, in that he talks about how all human values can be derived from science. But I object strongly to that idea.


You are hugely critical of modern liberalism: what is your main problem with the ideology?
That it’s immune to empirical evidence. It’s a form of dogmatic faith. If you are a monotheist it makes sense – I myself am not saying it’s true or right – to say that there is only one way of life for all of humankind. And so you should try and convert the rest of humanity to that faith.

But if you are not a monotheist, and you claim to be an atheist, it makes no sense to claim that there is only one way of life. There may be some good and bad ways of living. And there may be some forms of barbarism, where human societies cannot flourish for very long. But there is no reason for thinking that there is only one way of life: the ones that liberal societies practice.
news  org:mag  religion  christianity  theos  ideology  politics  polisci  philosophy  westminster  government  uniqueness  diversity  putnam-like  homo-hetero  number  anthropology  morality  values  interview  cycles  optimism  pessimism  nihil  realness  noble-lie  reason  science  europe  EU  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  utopia-dystopia  civil-liberty 
october 2018 by nhaliday
Uniformitarianism - Wikipedia
Uniformitarianism, also known as the Doctrine of Uniformity,[1] is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere.[2][3] It refers to invariance in the principles underpinning science, such as the constancy of causality, or causation, throughout time,[4] but it has also been used to describe invariance of physical laws through time and space.[5] Though an unprovable postulate that cannot be verified using the scientific method, uniformitarianism has been a key first principle of virtually all fields of science.[6]

In geology, uniformitarianism has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the key to the past" (that events occur at the same rate now as they have always done); many geologists now, however, no longer hold to a strict theory of gradualism.[7] Coined by William Whewell, the word was proposed in contrast to catastrophism[8] by British naturalists in the late 18th century, starting with the work of the geologist James Hutton. Hutton's work was later refined by scientist John Playfair and popularised by geologist Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology in 1830.[9] Today, Earth's history is considered to have been a slow, gradual process, punctuated by occasional natural catastrophic events.
concept  axioms  jargon  homo-hetero  wiki  reference  science  the-trenches  philosophy  invariance  universalism-particularism  time  spatial  religion  christianity  theos  contradiction  noble-lie  thinking  metabuch  reason  rigidity  flexibility  analytical-holistic  systematic-ad-hoc  degrees-of-freedom  absolute-relative  n-factor  explanans  the-great-west-whale  occident  sinosphere  orient  truth  earth  conceptual-vocab  metameta  history  early-modern  britain  anglo  anglosphere  roots  forms-instances  volo-avolo  deep-materialism  new-religion  logos 
january 2018 by nhaliday
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - Wikipedia
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires (Satire VI, lines 347–348). It is literally translated as "Who will guard the guards themselves?", though it is also known by variant translations.

The original context deals with the problem of ensuring marital fidelity, though it is now commonly used more generally to refer to the problem of controlling the actions of persons in positions of power, an issue discussed by Plato in the Republic. It is not clear whether the phrase was written by Juvenal, or whether the passage in which it appears was interpolated into his works.


This phrase is used generally to consider the embodiment of the philosophical question as to how power can be held to account. It is sometimes incorrectly attributed as a direct quotation from Plato's Republic in both popular media and academic contexts.[3] There is no exact parallel in the Republic, but it is used by modern authors to express Socrates' concerns about the guardians, _the solution to which is to properly train their souls_. Several 19th century examples of the association with Plato can be found, often dropping "ipsos".[4][5] John Stuart Mill quotes it thus in Considerations on Representative Government (1861), though without reference to Plato. Plato's Republic though was hardly ever referenced by classical Latin authors like Juvenal, and it has been noted that it simply disappeared from literary awareness for a thousand years except for traces in the writings of Cicero and St. Augustine.[6] In the Republic, a putatively perfect society is described by Socrates, the main character in this Socratic dialogue. Socrates proposed a guardian class to protect that society, and the custodes (watchmen) from the Satires are often interpreted as being parallel to the Platonic guardians (phylakes in Greek). Socrates' answer to the problem is, in essence, that _the guardians will be manipulated to guard themselves against themselves via a deception often called the "noble lie" in English_.[7] As Leonid Hurwicz pointed out in his 2007 lecture on accepting the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, one of Socrates' interlocutors in the Republic, Glaucon, even goes so far as to say "it would be absurd that a guardian should need a guard."[8] But Socrates returns to this point at 590d, where he says that _the best person "has a divine ruler within himself," and that "it is better for everyone to be ruled by divine reason, preferably within himself and his own, otherwise imposed from without."_[9]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Sacred text as cultural genome: an inheritance mechanism and method for studying cultural evolution: Religion, Brain & Behavior: Vol 7, No 3
Yasha M. Hartberg & David Sloan Wilson

Any process of evolution requires a mechanism of inheritance for the transmission of information across generations and the expression of phenotypes during each generation. Genetic inheritance mechanisms have been studied for over a century but mechanisms of inheritance for human cultural evolution are far less well understood. Sacred religious texts have the properties required for an inheritance system. They are replicated across generations with high fidelity and are transcribed into action every generation by the invocation and interpretation of selected passages. In this article we borrow concepts and methods from genetics and epigenetics to study the “expressed phenotypes” of six Christian churches that differ along a conservative–progressive axis. Their phenotypic differences, despite drawing upon the same sacred text, can be explained in part by differential expression of the sacred text. Since the invocation and interpretation of sacred texts are often well preserved, our methods allow the expressed phenotypes of religious groups to be studied at any time and place in history.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Noble lie - Wikipedia
In politics, a noble lie is a myth or untruth, often, but not invariably, of a religious nature, knowingly propagated by an elite to maintain social harmony or to advance an agenda. The noble lie is a concept originated by Plato as described in the Republic.
concept  wiki  reference  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  big-peeps  philosophy  polisci  government  organizing  elite  egalitarianism-hierarchy  noble-lie  westminster  truth  noblesse-oblige  order-disorder  culture  society  rot  unintended-consequences  instinct  reason  straussian  wisdom  good-evil 
january 2018 by nhaliday
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.


When I say “positive” vision, I don’t mean that people must see the future as a cheerful one. Instead, I’m saying that people ought to have a vision at all: A clear sense of how the technological future will be different from today. To have a positive vision, people must first expand their imaginations. And I submit that an interest in science fiction, the material world, and proximity to industry all help to refine that optimism. I mean to promote imagination by direct injection.


If a state has lost most of its jobs for electrical engineers, or nuclear engineers, or mechanical engineers, then fewer young people in that state will study those practices, and technological development in related fields slow down a little further. When I bring up these thoughts on resisting industrial decline to economists, I’m unsatisfied with their responses. They tend to respond by tautology (“By definition, outsourcing improves on the status quo”) or arithmetic (see: gains from comparative advantage, Ricardo). These kinds of logical exercises are not enough. I would like for more economists to consider a human capital perspective for preserving manufacturing expertise (to some degree).

I wonder if the so-called developed countries should be careful of their own premature deindustrialization. The US industrial base has faltered, but there is still so much left to build. Until we’ve perfected asteroid mining and super-skyscrapers and fusion rockets and Jupiter colonies and matter compilers, we can’t be satisfied with innovation confined mostly to the digital world.

Those who don’t mind the decline of manufacturing employment like to say that people have moved on to higher-value work. But I’m not sure that this is usually the case. Even if there’s an endlessly capacious service sector to absorb job losses in manufacturing, it’s often the case that these new jobs feature lower productivity growth and involve greater rent-seeking. Not everyone is becoming hedge fund managers and machine learning engineers. According to BLS, the bulk of service jobs are in 1. government (22 million), 2. professional services (19m), 3. healthcare (18m), 4. retail (15m), and 5. leisure and hospitality (15m). In addition to being often low-paying but still competitive, a great deal of service sector jobs tend to stress capacity for emotional labor over capacity for manual labor. And it’s the latter that tends to be more present in fields involving technological upgrading.


Here’s a bit more skepticism of service jobs. In an excellent essay on declining productivity growth, Adair Turner makes the point that many service jobs are essentially zero-sum. I’d like to emphasize and elaborate on that idea here.


Call me a romantic, but I’d like everyone to think more about industrial lubricants, gas turbines, thorium reactors, wire production, ball bearings, underwater cables, and all the things that power our material world. I abide by a strict rule never to post or tweet about current political stuff; instead I try to draw more attention to the world of materials. And I’d like to remind people that there are many things more edifying than following White House scandals.


First, we can all try to engage more actively with the material world, not merely the digital or natural world. Go ahead and pick an industrial phenomenon and learn more about it. Learn more about the history of aviation, and what it took to break the sound barrier; gaze at the container ships as they sail into port, and keep in mind that they carry 90 percent of the goods you see around you; read about what we mold plastics to do; meditate on the importance of steel in civilization; figure out what’s driving the decline in the cost of solar energy production, or how we draw electricity from nuclear fission, or what it takes to extract petroleum or natural gas from the ground.


Here’s one more point that I’d like to add on Girard at college: I wonder if to some extent current dynamics are the result of the liberal arts approach of “college teaches you how to think, not what to think.” I’ve never seen much data to support this wonderful claim that college is good at teaching critical thinking skills. Instead, students spend most of their energies focused on raising or lowering the status of the works they study or the people around them, giving rise to the Girardian terror that has gripped so many campuses.

College as an incubator of Girardian terror: http://danwang.co/college-girardian-terror/
It’s hard to construct a more perfect incubator for mimetic contagion than the American college campus. Most 18-year-olds are not super differentiated from each other. By construction, whatever distinctions any does have are usually earned through brutal, zero-sum competitions. These tournament-type distinctions include: SAT scores at or near perfection; being a top player on a sports team; gaining master status from chess matches; playing first instrument in state orchestra; earning high rankings in Math Olympiad; and so on, culminating in gaining admission to a particular college.

Once people enter college, they get socialized into group environments that usually continue to operate in zero-sum competitive dynamics. These include orchestras and sport teams; fraternities and sororities; and many types of clubs. The biggest source of mimetic pressures are the classes. Everyone starts out by taking the same intro classes; those seeking distinction throw themselves into the hardest classes, or seek tutelage from star professors, and try to earn the highest grades.

Mimesis Machines and Millennials: http://quillette.com/2017/11/02/mimesis-machines-millennials/
In 1956, a young Liverpudlian named John Winston Lennon heard the mournful notes of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, and was transformed. He would later recall, “nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.” It is an ancient human story. An inspiring model, an inspired imitator, and a changed world.

Mimesis is the phenomenon of human mimicry. Humans see, and they strive to become what they see. The prolific Franco-Californian philosopher René Girard described the human hunger for imitation as mimetic desire. According to Girard, mimetic desire is a mighty psychosocial force that drives human behavior. When attempted imitation fails, (i.e. I want, but fail, to imitate my colleague’s promotion to VP of Business Development), mimetic rivalry arises. According to mimetic theory, periodic scapegoating—the ritualistic expelling of a member of the community—evolved as a way for archaic societies to diffuse rivalries and maintain the general peace.

As civilization matured, social institutions evolved to prevent conflict. To Girard, sacrificial religious ceremonies first arose as imitations of earlier scapegoating rituals. From the mimetic worldview healthy social institutions perform two primary functions,

They satisfy mimetic desire and reduce mimetic rivalry by allowing imitation to take place.
They thereby reduce the need to diffuse mimetic rivalry through scapegoating.
Tranquil societies possess and value institutions that are mimesis tolerant. These institutions, such as religion and family, are Mimesis Machines. They enable millions to see, imitate, and become new versions of themselves. Mimesis Machines, satiate the primal desire for imitation, and produce happy, contented people. Through Mimesis Machines, Elvis fans can become Beatles.

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
techtariat  venture  commentary  reflection  innovation  definite-planning  thiel  barons  economics  growth-econ  optimism  creative  malaise  stagnation  higher-ed  status  error  the-world-is-just-atoms  heavy-industry  sv  zero-positive-sum  japan  flexibility  china  outcome-risk  uncertainty  long-short-run  debt  trump  entrepreneurialism  human-capital  flux-stasis  cjones-like  scifi-fantasy  labor  dirty-hands  engineering  usa  frontier  speedometer  rent-seeking  econ-productivity  government  healthcare  essay  rhetoric  contrarianism  nascent-state  unintended-consequences  volo-avolo  vitality  technology  tech  cs  cycles  energy-resources  biophysical-econ  trends  zeitgeist  rot  alt-inst  proposal  multi  news  org:mag  org:popup  philosophy  big-peeps  speculation  concept  religion  christianity  theos  buddhism  politics  polarization  identity-politics  egalitarianism-hierarchy  inequality  duplication  society  anthropology  culture-war  westminster  info-dynamics  tribalism  institutions  envy  age-generation  letters  noble-lie 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Kenneth Minogue’s “Christophobia” and the West – Old School Contemporary
from the New Criterion

The failure of Communism was consecrated in the fall of the Soviet Union. The remarkable thing is that, as in most cases when prophecy fails, the faith never faltered. Indeed, an alternative version had long been maturing, though cast into the shadows for a time by enthusiasm for the quick fix of revolution. It had, however, been maturing for at least a century and already had a notable repertoire of institutions available. We may call it Olympianism, because it is the project of an intellectual elite that believes that it enjoys superior enlightenment and that its business is to spread this benefit to those living on the lower slopes of human achievement. And just as Communism had been a political project passing itself off as the ultimate in scientific understanding, so Olympianism burrowed like a parasite into the most powerful institution of the emerging knowledge economy—the universities.

We may define Olympianism as a vision of human betterment to be achieved on a global scale by forging the peoples of the world into a single community based on the universal enjoyment of appropriate human rights. Olympianism is the cast of mind dedicated to this end, which is believed to correspond to the triumph of reason and community over superstition and hatred. It is a politico-moral package in which the modern distinction between morals and politics disappears into the aspiration for a shared mode of life in which the communal transcends individual life. To be a moral agent is in these terms to affirm a faith in a multicultural humanity whose social and economic conditions will be free from the causes of current misery. Olympianism is thus a complex long-term vision, and contemporary Western Olympians partake of different fragments of it.

To be an Olympian is to be entangled in a complex dialectic involving elitism and egalitarianism. The foundational elitism of the Olympian lies in self-ascribed rationality, generally picked up on an academic campus. Egalitarianism involves a formal adherence to democracy as a rejection of all forms of traditional authority, but with no commitment to taking any serious notice of what the people actually think. Olympians instruct mortals, they do not obey them. Ideally, Olympianism spreads by rational persuasion, as prejudice gives way to enlightenment. Equally ideally, democracy is the only tolerable mode of social coordination, but until the majority of people have become enlightened, it must be constrained within a framework of rights, to which Olympian legislation is constantly adding. Without these constraints, progress would be in danger from reactionary populism appealing to prejudice. The overriding passion of the Olympian is thus to educate the ignorant and everything is treated in educational terms. Laws for example are enacted not only to shape the conduct of the people, but also to send messages to them. A belief in the power of role models, public relations campaigns, and above all fierce restrictions on raising sensitive questions devant le peuple are all part of pedagogic Olympianism.

To be an Olympian is to be entangled in a complex dialectic involving elitism and egalitarianism. The foundational elitism of the Olympian lies in self-ascribed rationality, generally picked up on an academic campus. Egalitarianism involves a formal adherence to democracy as a rejection of all forms of traditional authority, but with no commitment to taking any serious notice of what the people actually think. Olympians instruct mortals, they do not obey them. Ideally, Olympianism spreads by rational persuasion, as prejudice gives way to enlightenment. Equally ideally, democracy is the only tolerable mode of social coordination, but until the majority of people have become enlightened, it must be constrained within a framework of rights, to which Olympian legislation is constantly adding. Without these constraints, progress would be in danger from reactionary populism appealing to prejudice. The overriding passion of the Olympian is thus to educate the ignorant and everything is treated in educational terms. Laws for example are enacted not only to shape the conduct of the people, but also to send messages to them. A belief in the power of role models, public relations campaigns, and above all fierce restrictions on raising sensitive questions devant le peuple are all part of pedagogic Olympianism.


One of the central problems of Olympianism has always been with the nation state and its derivative, nationalism. A world of nation states is one of constant potential antipathy. It makes something of a mockery of the term “world community.” Hence it is a basic tenet of Olympianism that the day of the nation state has gone. It is an anachronism. And on this point, events have played into the hands of this project. The homogeneity of these nation states is a condition of democracy, but it also facilitates the wars in which they have engaged. If, however, homogeneity were to be lost as states became multicultural, then they would turn into empires, and their freedom of action would be seriously constrained. Empires can only be ruled, to the extent that they are ruled, from the top. They are ideal soil for oligarchy. Olympianism is very enthusiastic about this new development, which generates multiculturalism. Those who rule a rainbow society will have little trouble with an unruly national will, because no such thing remains possible. The Olympian lawyer and administrator will adjudicate the interests of a heterogeneous population according to some higher set of principles. Indeed, quite a lot of this work can be contracted out to independent agencies of the state, agencies whose judgments lead on to judicial tribunals in cases of conflict. This is part of a process in which the autonomy of civil institutions (of firms to employ whom they want, of schools to teach curricula they choose, and so on) is steadily eroded by centralized standards. Multiculturalism in the name of abstract moral standards has the effect of restricting freedom across the board.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Function of Reason | Edge.org

How Social Is Reason?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/08/how-social-is-reason.html

Reading The Enigma of Reason. Pretty good so far. Not incredibly surprising to me so far. To be clear, their argument is somewhat orthogonal to the whole ‘rationality’ debate you may be familiar with from Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s work (e.g., see Heuristics and Biases).

One of the major problems in analysis is that rationality, reflection and ratiocination, are slow and error prone. To get a sense of that, just read ancient Greek science. Eratosthenes may have calculated to within 1% of the true circumference of the world, but Aristotle’s speculations on the nature of reproduction were rather off.

You may be as clever as Eratosthenes, but most people are not. But you probably accept that the world is round and 24,901 miles around. If you are not American you probably are vague on miles anyway. But you know what the social consensus is, and you accept it because it seems reasonable.

One of the points in cultural evolution work is that a lot of the time rather than relying on your own intuition and or reason, it is far more effective and cognitively cheaper to follow social norms of your ingroup. I only bring this up because unfortunately many pathologies of our political and intellectual world today are not really pathologies. That is, they’re not bugs, but features.

Finished The Enigma of Reason. The basic thesis that reasoning is a way to convince people after you’ve already come to a conclusion, that is, rationalization, was already one I shared. That makes sense since one of the coauthors, Dan Sperber, has been influential in the “naturalistic” school of anthropology. If you’ve read books like In Gods We Trust The Enigma of Reason goes fast. But it is important to note that the cognitive anthropology perspective is useful in things besides religion. I’m thinking in particular of politics.

My point here is that many of our beliefs are arrived at in an intuitive manner, and we find reasons to justify those beliefs. One of the core insights you’ll get from The Enigma of Reason is that rationalization isn’t that big of a misfire or abuse of our capacities. It’s probably just a natural outcome for what and how we use reason in our natural ecology.

Mercier and Sperber contrast their “interactionist” model of what reason is for with an “intellectualist: model. The intellecutalist model is rather straightforward. It is one where individual reasoning capacities exist so that one may make correct inferences about the world around us, often using methods that mimic those in abstract elucidated systems such as formal logic or Bayesian reasoning. When reasoning doesn’t work right, it’s because people aren’t using it for it’s right reasons. It can be entirely solitary because the tools don’t rely on social input or opinion.

The interactionist model holds that reasoning exists because it is a method of persuasion within social contexts. It is important here to note that the authors do not believe that reasoning is simply a tool for winning debates. That is, increasing your status in a social game. Rather, their overall thesis seems to be in alignment with the idea that cognition of reasoning properly understood is a social process. In this vein they offer evidence of how juries may be superior to judges, and the general examples you find in the “wisdom of the crowds” literature. Overall the authors make a strong case for the importance of diversity of good-faith viewpoints, because they believe that the truth on the whole tends to win out in dialogic formats (that is, if there is a truth; they are rather unclear and muddy about normative disagreements and how those can be resolved).

The major issues tend to crop up when reasoning is used outside of its proper context. One of the literature examples, which you are surely familiar with, in The Enigma of Reason is a psychological experiment where there are two conditions, and the researchers vary the conditions and note wide differences in behavior. In particular, the experiment where psychologists put subjects into a room where someone out of view is screaming for help. When they are alone, they quite often go to see what is wrong immediately. In contrast, when there is a confederate of the psychologists in the room who ignores the screaming, people also tend to ignore the screaming.

The researchers know the cause of the change in behavior. It’s the introduction of the confederate and that person’s behavior. But the subjects when interviewed give a wide range of plausible and possible answers. In other words, they are rationalizing their behavior when called to justify it in some way. This is entirely unexpected, we all know that people are very good at coming up with answers to explain their behavior (often in the best light possible). But that doesn’t mean they truly understanding their internal reasons, which seem to be more about intuition.

But much of The Enigma of Reason also recounts how bad people are at coming up with coherent and well thought out rationalizations. That is, their “reasons” tend to be ad hoc and weak. We’re not very good at formal logic or even simple syllogistic reasoning. The explanation for this seems to be two-fold.


At this point we need to address the elephant in the room: some humans seem extremely good at reasoning in a classical sense. I’m talking about individuals such as Blaise Pascal, Carl Friedrich Gauss, and John von Neumann. Early on in The Enigma of Reason the authors point out the power of reason by alluding to Eratosthenes’s calculation of the circumference of the earth, which was only off by one percent. Myself, I would have mentioned Archimedes, who I suspect was a genius on the same level as the ones mentioned above.

Mercier and Sperber state near the end of the book that math in particular is special and a powerful way to reason. We all know this. In math the axioms are clear, and agreed upon. And one can inspect the chain of propositions in a very transparent manner. Mathematics has guard-rails for any human who attempts to engage in reasoning. By reducing the ability of humans to enter into unforced errors math is the ideal avenue for solitary individual reasoning. But it is exceptional.

Second, though it is not discussed in The Enigma of Reason there does seem to be variation in general and domain specific intelligence within the human population. People who flourish in mathematics usually have high general intelligences, but they also often exhibit a tendency to be able to engage in high levels of visual-spatial conceptualization.

One the whole the more intelligent you are the better you are able to reason. But that does not mean that those with high intelligence are immune from the traps of motivated reasoning or faulty logic. Mercier and Sperber give many examples. There are two. Linus Pauling was indisputably brilliant, but by the end of his life he was consistently pushing Vitamin C quackery (in part through a very selective interpretation of the scientific literature).* They also point out that much of Isaac Newton’s prodigious intellectual output turns out to have been focused on alchemy and esoteric exegesis which is totally impenetrable. Newton undoubtedly had a first class mind, but if the domain it was applied to was garbage, then the output was also garbage.


Overall, the take-homes are:

Reasoning exists to persuade in a group context through dialogue, not individual ratiocination.
Reasoning can give rise to storytelling when prompted, even if the reasons have no relationship to the underlying causality.
Motivated reasoning emerges because we are not skeptical of the reasons we proffer, but highly skeptical of reasons which refute our own.
The “wisdom of the crowds” is not just a curious phenomenon, but one of the primary reasons that humans have become more socially complex and our brains have larger.
Ultimately, if you want to argue someone out of their beliefs…well, good luck with that. But you should read The Enigma of Reason to understand the best strategies (many of them are common sense, and I’ve come to them independently simply through 15 years of having to engage with people of diverse viewpoints).

* R. A. Fisher, who was one of the pioneers of both evolutionary genetics and statistics, famously did not believe there was a connection between smoking and cancer. He himself smoked a pipe regularly.

** From what we know about Blaise Pascal and Isaac Newton, their personalities were such that they’d probably be killed or expelled from a hunter-gatherer band.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Human Self as Information Agent: Functioning in a Social Environment Based on Shared Meanings — Experts@Minnesota
A neglected aspect of human selfhood is that people are information agents .... We initially assumed that accuracy would be the paramount concern for the information agent... But there are other considerations. Groups benefit from collective action, and so consensual agreement may be a high priority. Consensus may be needed in many situations when the means to verify information’s accuracy are beyond reach... Even if dissenters tum out to have more accurate information, disobedience is punished... Why might evolution have made people willing to sacrifice accuracy in favor of consensus, at least sometimes? Here we speculate that desire for consensus may derive from an innate social motive, whereas accuracy is an epistemic motive that would need to be acquired, and is therefore less deeply rooted and perhaps weaker. There may not be an innate motive to evaluate the truth value of assertions or to appreciate the meaningful difference between truth and falsehood. Hence it may be necessary to leam from experience that accuracy is an informational virtue that confers benefits, whereas consensus may be more closely tied to innate motivations .... The human mind discovers early in life that other minds have different information, which is something most other animals never discover. The desire to share attention and thoughts with others could thus be innate (or innately prepared) whereas the desire to sort truth from fiction may only come along later...The group first builds consensus and only after that is done seeks novel, idiosyncratic input that might increase accuracy. In an important sense, information shared by the group is valued more and perceived as more accurate than unshared information

When shared information coalesces into a collective worldview that includes values, it often has sociopolitical implications. Many groups are committed to particular ideologies or agenda, and information that impugns shared beliefs could be especially unwelcome. Political and religious ideologies have often sustained their power by asserting and enforcing views of questionable truthfulness. Hence individuals and groups may seek to exert control over the shared reality so as to benefit themselves. Thus many individuals will find it more important to get the group to agree with their favored view than to help it reach an objectively correct view. One fascinating question about official falsehoods is whether the ruling elites who propagate such views believe them or not... As an example close to home, psychology today is dominated by a political viewpoint that is progressively liberal, but it seems unlikely that many researchers knowingly assert falsehoods as scientific facts. They do however make publication of some findings much easier than others. The selective critique enables them to believe that the field’s body of knowledge supports their political views more than it does, because contrary facts and findings are suppressed.

Assessing relationships between conformity and meta-traits in an Asch-like paradigm: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15534510.2017.1371639
Replication of unflattering psychology classic: People bow to conformity pressure, mostly independent of personality

Smart Conformists: Children and Adolescents Associate Conformity With Intelligence Across Cultures: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.12935/abstract
Across cultures, children and adolescents viewed high conformity as a sign of intelligence and good behavior.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Defection – quas lacrimas peperere minoribus nostris!

Kindness Against The Grain: https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/kindness-against-the-grain/
I’ve heard from a number of secular-ish sources (Carse, Girard, Arendt) that the essential contribution of Christianity to human thought is the concept of forgiveness. (Ribbonfarm also has a recent post on the topic of forgiveness.)

I have never been a Christian and haven’t even read all of the New Testament, so I’ll leave it to commenters to recommend Christian sources on the topic.

What I want to explore is the notion of kindness without a smooth incentive gradient.

The Social Module: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/the-social-module/
Now one could propose that the basic principle of human behavior is to raise the SP number. Sure there’s survival and reproduction. Most people would forget all their socialization if left hungry and thirsty for days in the jungle. But more often than not, survival and reproduction depend on being high status; having a good name among your peers is the best way to get food, housing and hot mates.

The way to raise one’s SP number depends on thousands of different factors. We could grab most of them and call them “culture”. In China having 20 teenage mistresses as an old man raises your SP; in Western polite society it is social death. In the West making a fuss about disobeying one’s parents raises your SP, everywhere else it lowers it a great deal. People know that; which is why bureaucrats in China go to great lengths to acquire a stash of young women (who they seldom have time to actually enjoy), while teenagers in the West go to great lengths to be annoying to their parents for no good reason.


It thus shouldn’t surprise us that something as completely absurd as Progressivism is the law of the land in most of the world today, even though it denies obvious reality. It is not the case that most people know that progressive points are all bogus, but obey because of fear or cowardice. No, an average human brain has much more neurons being used to scan the social climate and see how SP are allotted, than neurons being used to analyze patterns in reality to ascertain the truth. Surely your brain does care a great deal about truth in some very narrow areas of concern to you. Remember Conquest’s first law: Everybody is Conservative about what he knows best. You have to know the truth about what you do, if you are to do it effectively.

But you don’t really care about truth anywhere else. And why would you? It takes time and effort you can’t really spare, and it’s not really necessary. As long as you have some area of specialization where you can make a living, all the rest you must do to achieve survival and reproduction is to raise your SP so you don’t get killed and your guts sacrificed to the mountain spirits.

SP theory (I accept suggestions for a better name) can also explains the behavior of leftists. Many conservatives of a medium level of enlightenment point out the paradox that leftists historically have held completely different ideas. Leftism used to be about the livelihood of industrial workers, now they agitate about the environment, or feminism, or foreigners. Some people would say that’s just historical change, or pull a No True Scotsman about this or that group not being really leftists. But that’s transparent bullshit; very often we see a single person shifting from agitating about Communism and worker rights, to agitate about global warming or rape culture.


The leftist strategy could be defined as “psychopathic SP maximization”. Leftists attempt to destroy social equilibrium so that they can raise their SP number. If humans are, in a sense, programmed to constantly raise their status, well high status people by definition can’t raise it anymore (though they can squabble against each other for marginal gains), their best strategy is to freeze society in place so that they can enjoy their superiority. High status people by definition have power, and thus social hierarchy during human history tends to be quite stable.

This goes against the interests of many. First of all the lower status people, who, well, want to raise their status, but can’t manage to do so. And it also goes against the interests of the particularly annoying members of the upper class who want to raise their status on the margin. Conservative people can be defined as those who, no matter the absolute level, are in general happy with it. This doesn’t mean they don’t want higher status (by definition all humans do), but the output of other brain modules may conclude that attempts to raise SP might threaten one’s survival and reproduction; or just that the chances of raising one’s individual SP is hopeless, so one might as well stay put.


You can’t blame people for being logically inconsistent; because they can’t possibly know anything about all these issues. Few have any experience or knowledge about evolution and human races, or about the history of black people to make an informed judgment on HBD. Few have time to learn about sex differences, and stuff like the climate is as close to unknowable as there is. Opinions about anything but a very narrow area of expertise are always output of your SP module, not any judgment of fact. People don’t know the facts. And even when they know; I mean most people have enough experience with sex differences and black dysfunction to be quite confident that progressive ideas are false. But you can never be sure. As Hume said, the laws of physics are a judgment of habit; who is to say that a genie isn’t going to change all you know the next morning? At any rate, you’re always better off toeing the line, following the conventional wisdom, and keeping your dear SP. Perhaps you can even raise them a bit. And that is very nice. It is niceness itself.

Leftism is just an easy excuse: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/leftism-is-just-an-easy-excuse/
Unless you’re not the only defector. You need a way to signal your intention to defect, so that other disloyal fucks such as yourself (and they’re bound to be others) can join up, thus reducing the likely costs of defection. The way to signal your intention to defect is to come up with a good excuse. A good excuse to be disloyal becomes a rallying point through which other defectors can coordinate and cover their asses so that the ruling coalition doesn’t punish them. What is a good excuse?

Leftism is a great excuse. Claiming that the ruling coalition isn’t leftist enough, isn’t holy enough, not inclusive enough of women, of blacks, of gays, or gorillas, of pedophiles, of murderous Salafists, is the perfect way of signalling your disloyalty towards the existing power coalition. By using the existing ideology and pushing its logic just a little bit, you ensure that the powerful can’t punish you. At least not openly. And if you’re lucky, the mass of disloyal fucks in the ruling coalition might join your banner, and use your exact leftist point to jump ship and outflank the powerful.


The same dynamic fuels the flattery inflation one sees in monarchical or dictatorial systems. In Mao China, if you want to defect, you claim to love Mao more than your boss. In Nazi Germany, you proclaim your love for Hitler and the great insight of his plan to take Stalingrad. In the Roman Empire, you claimed that Caesar is a God, son of Hercules, and those who deny it are treacherous bastards. In Ancient Persia you loudly proclaimed your faith in the Shah being the brother of the Sun and the Moon and King of all Kings on Earth. In Reformation Europe you proclaimed that you have discovered something new in the Bible and everybody else is damned to hell. Predestined by God!


And again: the precise content of the ideological point doesn’t matter. Your human brain doesn’t care about ideology. Humans didn’t evolve to care about Marxist theory of class struggle, or about LGBTQWERTY theories of social identity. You just don’t know what it means. It’s all abstract points you’ve been told in a classroom. It doesn’t actually compute. Nothing that anybody ever said in a political debate ever made any actual, concrete sense to a human being.

So why do we care so much about politics? What’s the point of ideology? Ideology is just the water you swim in. It is a structured database of excuses, to be used to signal your allegiance or defection to the existing ruling coalition. Ideology is just the feed of the rationalization Hamster that runs incessantly in that corner of your brain. But it is immaterial, and in most cases actually inaccessible to the logical modules in your brain.

Nobody ever acts on their overt ideological claims if they can get away with it. Liberals proclaim their faith in the potential of black children while clustering in all white suburbs. Communist party members loudly talk about the proletariat while being hedonistic spenders. Al Gore talks about Global Warming while living in a lavish mansion. Cognitive dissonance, you say? No; those cognitive systems are not connected in the first place.


And so, every little step in the way, power-seekers moved the consensus to the left. And open societies, democratic systems are by their decentralized nature, and by the size of their constituencies, much more vulnerable to this sort of signalling attacks. It is but impossible to appraise and enforce the loyalty of every single individual involved in a modern state. There’s too many of them. A Medieval King had a better chance of it; hence the slow movement of ideological innovation in those days. But the bigger the organization, the harder it is to gather accurate information of the loyalty of the whole coalition; and hence the ideological movement accelerates. And there is no stopping it.

Like the Ancients, We Have Gods. They’ll Get Greater: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/04/like-the-ancients-we-have-gods-they-may-get… [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Kinship Systems, Cooperation and the Evolution of Culture
In the data, societies with loose ancestral kinship ties cooperate and trust broadly, which is apparently sustained through a belief in moralizing gods, universally applicable moral principles, feelings of guilt, and large-scale institutions. Societies with a historically tightly knit kinship structure, on the other hand, exhibit strong in-group favoritism: they cheat on and are distrusting of out-group members, but readily support in-group members in need. This cooperation scheme is enforced by moral values of in-group loyalty, conformity to tight social norms, emotions of shame, and strong local institutions.

Henrich, Joseph, The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution,
Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter, Princeton University Press, 2015.
—, W.E.I.R.D People: How Westerners became Individualistic, Self-Obsessed, Guilt-Ridden,
Analytic, Patient, Principled and Prosperous, Princeton University Press, n.d.
—, Jean Ensminger, Richard McElreath, Abigail Barr, Clark Barrett, Alexander Bolyanatz, Juan Camilo Cardenas, Michael Gurven, Edwins Gwako, Natalie Hen- rich et al., “Markets, Religion, Community Size, and the Evolution of Fairness and Punishment,” Science, 2010, 327 (5972), 1480–1484.


—, —, Will M. Gervais, Aiyana K. Willard, Rita A. McNamara, Edward Slingerland, and Joseph Henrich, “The Cultural Evolution of Prosocial Religions,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2016, 39, e1.


Purzycki, Benjamin Grant, Coren Apicella, Quentin D. Atkinson, Emma Cohen, Rita Anne McNamara, Aiyana K. Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ara Norenzayan, and Joseph Henrich, “Moralistic Gods, Supernatural Punishment and the Expansion of Human Sociality,” Nature, 2016.

Table 1 summarizes
Figure 1 has map of kinship tightness
Figure 2 has cheating and in-group vs. out-group
Table 2 has regression
Figure 3 has univeralism and shame-guilt
Figure 4 has individualism-collectivism/conformity
Table 4 has radius of trust, Table 5 same for within-country variation (ethnic)
Tables 7 and 8 do universalism

Haidt moral foundations:
In line with the research hypothesis discussed in Section 3, the analysis employs two dependent variables, i.e., (i) the measure of in-group loyalty, and (ii) an index of the importance of communal values relative to the more universal (individualizing) ones. That is, the hypothesis is explicitly not about some societies being more or less moral than others, but merely about heterogeneity in the relative importance that people attach to structurally different types of values. To construct the index, I compute the first principal component of fairness / reciprocity, harm / care, in-group / loyalty, and respect /authority. The resulting score endogenously has the appealing property that – in line with the research hypothesis – it loads positively on the first two values and negatively on the latter two, with roughly equal weights, see Appendix F for details.²⁴I compute country-level scores by averaging responses by country of residence of respondents. Importantly, in Enke (2017) I document that – in a nationally representative sample of Americans – this same index of moral communalism is strongly correlated with individuals’ propensity to favor their local community over society as a whole in issues ranging from taxation and redistribution to donations and volunteering. Thus, there is evidence that the index of communal moral values captures economically meaningful behavioral heterogeneity.

The coevolution of kinship systems, cooperation, and culture: http://voxeu.org/article/kinship-cooperation-and-culture
- Benjamin Enke

pretty short

good linguistics reference cited in this paper:
On the biological and cultural evolution of shame: Using internet search tools to weight values in many cultures: https://arxiv.org/abs/1401.1100v2
Here we explore the relative importance between shame and guilt by using Google Translate [>_>...] to produce translation for the words "shame", "guilt", "pain", "embarrassment" and "fear" to the 64 languages covered. We also explore the meanings of these concepts among the Yanomami, a horticulturist hunter-gatherer tribe in the Orinoquia. Results show that societies previously described as “guilt societies” have more words for guilt than for shame, but *the large majority*, including the societies previously described as “shame societies”, *have more words for shame than for guilt*. Results are consistent with evolutionary models of shame which predict a wide scatter in the relative importance between guilt and shame, suggesting that cultural evolution of shame has continued the work of biological evolution, and that neither provides a strong adaptive advantage to either shame or guilt [? did they not just say that most languages favor shame?].


The roots of the word "shame" are thought to derive from an older word meaning "to cover". The emotion of shame has clear physiological consequences. Its facial and corporal expression is a human universal, as was recognized already by Darwin (5). Looking away, reddening of the face, sinking the head, obstructing direct view, hiding the face and downing the eyelids, are the unequivocal expressions signaling shame. Shame might be an emotion specific to humans, as no clear description of it is known for animals.
Classical Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle, explicitly mention shame as a key element in building society.

Guilt is the emotion of being responsible for the commission of an offense, however, it seems to be distinct from shame. Guilt says “what I did was not good”, whereas shame says “I am no good"(2). For Benedict (1), shame is a violation of cultural or social values, while guilt feelings arise from violations of one's internal values.


Unobservable emotions such as guilt may be of value to the receiver but constitutes in economy “private information”. Thus, in economic and biological terms, adaptive pressures acting upon the evolution of shame differ from those acting on that of guilt.

Shame has evolutionary advantages to both individual and society, but the lack ofshame also has evolutionary advantages as it allows cheating and thus benefiting from public goods without paying the costs of its build up.


Dodds (7) coined the distinction between guilt and shame cultures and postulated that in Greek cultural history, shame as a social value was displaced, at least in part, by guilt in guiding moral behavior.
"[...]True guilt cultures rely on an internalized conviction of sin as the enforcer of good behavior, not, as shame cultures do, on external sanctions. Guilt cultures emphasize punishment and forgiveness as ways of restoring the moral order; shame cultures stress self-denial and humility as ways of restoring the social order”.


For example, Wikipedia is less error prone than Encyclopedia Britannica (12, 17); and Google Translate is as accurate as more traditional methods (35).

Table 1, Figure 1


This regression is close to a proportional line of two words for shame for each word for guilt.


For example, in the case of Chinese, no overlap between the five concepts is reported using Google Translate in Figure 1. Yet, linguistic-conceptual studies of guilt and shame revealed an important overlap between several of these concepts in Chinese (29).


Our results using Google Translate show no overlap between Guilt and Shame in any of the languages studied.
[lol:] Examples of the context when they feel “kili” are: a tiger appears in the forest; you kill somebody from another community; your daughter is going to die; everybody looks at your underwear; you are caught stealing; you soil your pants while among others; a doctor gives you an injection; you hit your wife and others find out; you are unfaithful to your husband and others find out; you are going to be hit with a machete.


Linguistic families do not aggregate according to the relationship of the number of synonyms for shame and guilt (Figure 3).


The ratios are 0.89 and 2.5 respectively, meaning a historical transition from guilt-culture in Latin to shame-culture in Italian, suggesting a historical development that is inverse to that suggested byDodds for ancient to classical Greek. [I hope their Latin corpus doesn't include stuff from Catholics...]

Joe Henrich presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-unD4ZzWB4

relevant video:
Johnny Cash - God's Gonna Cut You Down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJlN9jdQFSc

this says Dems more guilt-driven but Peter Frost says opposite here (and matches my perception of the contemporary breakdown both including minorities and focusing only on whites): https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:9b75881f6861

this is an amazing paper:
The Origins of WEIRD Psychology: https://psyarxiv.com/d6qhu/
Recent research not only confirms the existence of substantial psychological variation around the globe but also highlights the peculiarity of populations that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD). We propose that much of this variation arose as people psychologically adapted to differing kin-based institutions—the set of social norms governing descent, marriage, residence and related domains. We further propose that part of the variation in these institutions arose historically from the Catholic Church’s marriage and family policies, which contributed to the dissolution of Europe’s traditional kin-based institutions, leading eventually to the predominance of nuclear families and impersonal institutions. By combining data on 20 psychological outcomes with historical measures of both kinship and Church exposure, we find support for these ideas in a comprehensive array of analyses across countries, among European regions and between individuals with … [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
- the genetic book of the dead [Dawkins]
- complementarity [Frank Wilczek]
- relative information
- effective theory [Lisa Randall]
- affordances [Dennett]
- spontaneous symmetry breaking
- relatedly, equipoise [Nicholas Christakis]
- case-based reasoning
- population reasoning (eg, common law)
- criticality [Cesar Hidalgo]
- Haldan's law of the right size (!SCALE!)
- polygenic scores
- non-ergodic
- ansatz
- state [Aaronson]: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3075
- transfer learning
- effect size
- satisficing
- scaling
- the breeder's equation [Greg Cochran]
- impedance matching

- reciprocal altruism
- life history [Plomin]
- intellectual honesty [Sam Harris]
- coalitional instinct (interesting claim: building coalitions around "rationality" actually makes it more difficult to update on new evidence as it makes you look like a bad person, eg, the Cathedral)
basically same: https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/903682354367143936

more: https://www.edge.org/conversation/john_tooby-coalitional-instincts

interesting timing. how woke is this dude?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Tales of the Chinese future past – Gene Expression
older: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2007/09/the-past-and-the-future/
That being said, the past is likely a guide that the Chinese imperialism of the 21st century will not take the form of massed invasions and conquests, but rather client-patron relationships which reinforce the rise of a new hegemon.

Why Confucianism Matters: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/10/why-confucianism-matters/
Why look to China? After all, there were ethical systems in the West. First, I’m not sure that the supernaturalistic religions work to bind elites together anymore due to lack of credibility. Christianity is getting weaker. My own personal hunch is that the current wave of Islamic assertiveness and violence is the paroxysm of a civilization confronting its irrelevance.

Second, Classical Antiquity had plenty of ethical systems, especially during the Hellenistic and Roman period. But Rome collapsed. There was a great rupture between antiquity and the medieval period. In contrast, the Confucian and Neo-Confucian system persisted down to the early 20th century in classical form and casts a strong shadow over East Asia even today. While Stoicism had personal relevance, Confucianism was designed to scale from the individual all the way to the imperial state.

The 1960s saw a radical transition to notional social egalitarianism in the West. This is the world I grew up and matured in. Arguably, I believed in its rightness, inevitability, and eternal dominance, until very recently. But I think that today that model is fraying and people are looking to find some mooring. In particular, I think we are in need of a rectification of names. From Wikipedia:

Confucius was asked what he would do if he was a governor. He said he would “rectify the names” to make words correspond to reality. The phrase has now become known as a doctrine of feudal Confucian designations and relationships, behaving accordingly to ensure social harmony. Without such accordance society would essentially crumble and “undertakings would not be completed.”

How are we supposed to behave with each given person? A lot of this is free-form and improvisational today, and it turns out that many people are not comfortable with this. Humans need scripts.

Finally, the world that Confucianism developed was highly stratified, though there was some chance of advancement. It was not a calcified caste system, but it was a hierarchical one. I believe that is the system that we are moving toward in the West, and it seems that a system that takes for granted non-egalitarianism, such as Confucianism, may benefit us.

Spandrell: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/10/why-confucianism-matters/#comment-6358
I’d say that arguably Confucianism only really flourished after the Song dynasty broke the Chinese aristocracy and instituted a fully civilian ruling class. Confucianism was a force for egalitarianism if anything. It was the religion of the mandarins, not of the people.

If we were to make an analogy to Chinese history I’d say we are more like in the Eastern Han, with private patronage networks taking over the state from within. The result of that wasn’t a strong confucianism. The result was the spread of Buddhism. A very different beast.

Read and check the comments. I wish it were true; I could sell a couple of books if anything. But Confucianism is an ideology of absolutism, not of oligarchy.

The Western Rectification Of Names: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2015/03/09/the-western-rectification-of-names/
The important insight we can gain from the longevity of a Confucian political philosophy is that its core theses do have some utility for complex societies. Unlike that of Rome the Chinese order of two thousand years ago actually persisted down to living memory, with the fall of the Ching in the early 20th century. Confucius believed he was a traditionalist, rediscovering ancient insights as to the proper relations between human beings. I suspect this is correct, insofar as the Golden Mean he and his humanistic followers recommended between the cold and cruel utilitarianism of the Legalists and the unrealistic one of the followers of Mozi is probably the best fit to human psychological dispositions (both the Legalists and Mohists were suspicious of the family).** In the disordered world of the late Zhou, on the precipice of the Warring States period, Confucius and his followers elucidated what was really common sense, but repackaged in a fashion which would appeal more systematically to elites, and scaffold their own more egotistical impulses (in contrast to the Legalists, who seem to have enshrined the ego of the ruler as the summum bonum).

And that is the reality which we face today. Our world is not on the precipice of war, but social and technological changes are such that we are in a period where a new rectification of names is warranted. Old categories of sex, gender, religion and race, are falling or reordering. Western society is fracturing, as the intelligentsia promote their own parochial categories, and traditionalists dissent and retreat into their own subcultures. To give two examples, there are those who might find offense if addressed by the pronoun he or she, even though this is an old convention in Western society. In contrast, traditionalist Christian subcultures no longer have unified control of the public domain which would allow for them to promulgate the basis of their values. There are those who might accede to traditional Christian claims who can not agree with their metaphysics, which the traditional Christians hold to be necessary to be in full agreement.*** In contrast, the progressive faction which declaims the morally restrictive manners of the traditionalist Right in fact belies its own assertions by the proliferation of terms which serve to define the elect from those who do not uphold proper morals and manners.

Why I Am Not A New Atheist: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/11/why-i-am-not-a-new-atheist/
Fundamentally I do not think this is correct. Nor do I think that religious beliefs have much to do with logic or reason. Religion is a complex phenomenon which is rooted in supernatural intuitions and then evolves further in a cultural context, with some possible functional utility as a group-marker.

Second, I do not think religion is the “root of all evil”, and so see no need to convert the world to atheism. Obviously, the horror of Communism illustrates that removing supernatural religion does not remove the human impulse to atrocity.

More recently, I have been convinced that truth and knowledge is a minor value to most humans, including elites. Lying is pretty ubiquitous, and most people are rather satisfied with big lies girding social norms and conventions. One may try to avoid “living by lies” in private, but actually promoting this viewpoint in public is ridiculously self-destructive. Most people could care less about the truth,* while elites simply manipulate facts to buttress their social positions and engage in control.

In other words, the New Atheists seem to think that it’s a worthy to aim to enlighten humanity toward views which they believe align with reality.

At this point, I care about converting the common man to a true understanding of reality as much as I care about a cow grokking trigonometry. I don’t.

i have long believed many 'traditional' institutions and folkways which we in the post-materialist world look askance at are not traditional, but ad hoc cultural kludges and patches for ppl to manage to survive in villages where our cognitive toolkit wasn't sufficient
in an affluent liberal democratic context they may indeed be outmoded and easy to slough off. but if a different form of life, characterized by malthusian immiseration, comes to dominate then the kludges will come back
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Proto-Indo-European society - Wikipedia
Linguistics has allowed the reliable reconstruction of a large number of words relating to kinship relations. These all agree in exhibiting a patriarchal, patrilocal and patrilineal social fabric. Patrilocality is confirmed by lexical evidence, including the word *h2u̯edh, "to lead (away)", being the word that denotes a male wedding a female (but not vice versa). It is also the dominant pattern in historical IE societies, and matrilocality would be unlikely in a patrilineal society.[1]

Inferences have been made for sacral kingship, suggesting the tribal chief at the same time assumed the role of high priest. Georges Dumézil suggested for Proto-Indo-European society a threefold division of a clerical class, a warrior class and a class of farmers or husbandmen, on his interpretations that many historically known groups speaking Indo-European languages show such a division, but Dumézil's approach has been widely criticised.[citation needed]

If there was a separate class of warriors, it probably consisted of single young men. They would have followed a separate warrior code unacceptable in the society outside their peer-group.[citation needed] Traces of initiation rites in several Indo-European societies (e.g. early Slav, Volcae, Neuri and their lupine ritualism) suggest that this group identified itself with wolves or dogs (see Berserker, Werewolf, Wild Hunt).

The people were organized in settlements (*weiḱs; Sanskrit viś, Polish wieś "village"; Ancient Greek woikos "home"; Latin vicus), probably each with its chief (*h₃rēǵs—Sanskrit rājan, Latin rex, reg-, Gaulish -riks). These settlements or villages were further divided in households (*domos; Latin domus, Polish dom), each headed by a patriarch (*dems-potis; Ancient Greek despotes, Sanskrit dampati, Polish pan domu).


Proto-Indo-European society depended on animal husbandry. People valued cattle (*péḱu – Vedic Sanskrit páśu, Latin pecu- *gʷōus – Sanskrit go, Latin bo-) as their most important animals, measuring a man's wealth by the number of cows he owned (Latin pecunia 'money' from pecus). Sheep (*h₃ówis) and goats (*gʰáidos) were also kept, presumably by the less wealthy. Agriculture and catching fish (*písḱos) also featured.[original research?]

The domestication of the horse (*h₁eḱuos – Vedic Sanskrit áśvas, Latin equus, Greek hippos) (see Tarpan) may have originated with these peoples: scholars sometimes invoke this as a factor contributing to their rapid expansion.

Trifunctional hypothesis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trifunctional_hypothesis
The trifunctional hypothesis of prehistoric Proto-Indo-European society postulates a tripartite ideology ("idéologie tripartite") reflected in the existence of three classes or castes—priests, warriors, and commoners (farmers or tradesmen)—corresponding to the three functions of the sacral, the martial and the economic, respectively. The trifunctional thesis is primarily associated with the French mythographer Georges Dumézil,[1] who proposed it in 1929 in the book Flamen-Brahman,[2] and later in Mitra-Varuna.[3]


According to Dumézil (1898-1986), Proto-Indo-European society comprised three main groups corresponding to three distinct functions:[2][3]

- Sovereignty, which fell into two distinct and complementary sub-parts:
* one formal, juridical and priestly but worldly;
* the other powerful, unpredictable, and also priestly but rooted in the supernatural world.
- Military, connected with force, the military and war.
- Productivity, herding, farming and crafts; ruled by the other two.

The Trinity and the Indo-European Tripartite Worldview: http://www.jedp.com/trinity.html

Proto-Indo-European religion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Indo-European_religion
Various schools of thought exist regarding the precise nature of Proto-Indo-European religion, which do not always agree with each other. Vedic mythology, Roman mythology, and Norse mythology are the main mythologies normally used for comparative reconstruction, though they are often supplemented with supporting evidence from the Baltic, Celtic, Greek, Slavic, and Hittite traditions as well.

The Proto-Indo-European pantheon includes well-attested deities such as *Dyḗus Pḥatḗr, the god of the daylit skies, his daughter *Haéusōs, the goddess of the dawn, the Horse Twins, and the storm god *Perkwunos. Other probable deities include *Péh2usōn, a pastoral god, and *Seh2ul, a Sun goddess.

Well-attested myths of the Proto-Indo-Europeans include a myth involving a storm god who slays a multi-headed serpent that dwells in water, a myth about the Sun and Moon riding in chariots across the sky, and a creation story involving two brothers, one of whom sacrifices the other to create the world. The Proto-Indo-Europeans may have believed that the Otherworld was guarded by a watchdog and could only be reached by crossing a river. They also may have believed in a world tree, bearing fruit of immortality, either guarded by or gnawed on by a serpent or dragon, and tended by three goddesses who spun the thread of life.


The Functionalist School holds that Proto-Indo-European society and, consequently, their religion, was largely centered around the trifunctional system proposed by Georges Dumézil,[5] which holds that Proto-Indo-European society was divided into three distinct social classes: farmers, warriors, and priests.[5][6] The Structuralist School, by contrast, argues that Proto-Indo-European religion was largely centered around the concept of dualistic opposition.[7] This approach generally tends to focus on cultural universals within the realm of mythology, rather than the genetic origins of those myths,[7] but it also offers refinements of the Dumézilian trifunctional system by highlighting the oppositional elements present within each function, such as the creative and destructive elements both found within the role of the warrior.[7]


Another of the most important source mythologies for comparative research is Roman mythology.[8][10] Contrary to the frequent erroneous statement made by some authors that "Rome has no myth", the Romans possessed a very complex mythological system, parts of which have been preserved through the unique Roman tendency to rationalize their myths into historical accounts.[11] Despite its relatively late attestation, Norse mythology is still considered one of the three most important of the Indo-European mythologies for comparative research,[8] simply due to the vast bulk of surviving Icelandic material.[10]


The usual scheme is that one of these celestial deities is male and the other female, though the exact gender of the Sun or Moon tends to vary among subsequent Indo-European mythologies.[38] The original Indo-European solar deity appears to have been female,[38] a characteristic not only supported by the higher number of sun goddesses in subsequent derivations (feminine Sól, Saule, Sulis, Solntse—not directly attested as a goddess, but feminine in gender — Étaín, Grían, Aimend, Áine, and Catha versus masculine Helios, Surya, Savitr, Usil, and Sol) (Hvare-khshaeta is of neutral gender),[38] but also by vestiges in mythologies with male solar deities (Usil in Etruscan art is depicted occasionally as a goddess, while solar characteristics in Athena and Helen of Troy still remain in Greek mythology).[38] The original Indo-European lunar deity appears to have been masculine,[38] with feminine lunar deities like Selene, Minerva, and Luna being a development exclusive to the eastern Mediterranean. Even in these traditions, remnants of male lunar deities, like Menelaus, remain.[38]

Although the sun was personified as an independent, female deity, the Proto-Indo-Europeans also visualized the sun as the eye of *Dyḗus Pḥatḗr, as seen in various reflexes: Helios as the eye of Zeus,[39][40] Hvare-khshaeta as the eye of Ahura Mazda, and the sun as "God's eye" in Romanian folklore.[41] The names of Celtic sun goddesses like Sulis and Grian may also allude to this association; the words for "eye" and "sun" are switched in these languages, hence the name of the goddesses.[42][38]
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Garett Jones on Twitter: "Timocracy, epistocracy, and other governance mechanisms should all be candidly considered as alternatives to the universal franchise. https://t.co/prHLBDjtqB"


Look, the solution here is a Mormon theocratic state.
Theodemocracy deserves further exploration


The three men who now lead the LDS church include a prominent heart surgeon, a former state supreme court justice (and U of Chicago professor), and a former Stanford business professor, trained at HBS.

Tax credits for converting to the LDS faith, that's my non-ironic platform, don't @ me
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Born Red - The New Yorker
Obama-Xi State Visit: How China's President Defines the Chinese Dream: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/xi-jinping-china-book-chinese-dream/406387/
interesting glimpse into Chinese cultural overtones

What’s new on Xi Jinping’s bookshelf this year: https://medium.com/shanghaiist/whats-new-on-xi-jinping-s-bookshelf-this-year-8d913dcc261f

China Moves to Let Xi Stay in Power by Abolishing Term Limit: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/25/world/asia/china-xi-jinping.html
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Justified by more than logos alone - The Unz Review
The scientific study of religion is another topic where I once had a lot of interest, but where I concluded that the basic insights have stabilized. Since I stopped reading much in this area I stopped writing much about it too. To get a sense of where I’m coming from, Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion is probably the best place to start. It’s about 15 years old, but I don’t see that much has changed since then in the basics of the field.

And what are those basics? At its fundamental basics religious impulses must be understood as an outcome of our cognitive mental intuitions. All religion operates on top of this basic kernel of our mental OS. Religion may have functional utility as a social system of control, or channeling collective energies, as argued by David Sloan Wilson in Darwin’s Cathedral. Or, one might be able to fruitfully model “religious marketplaces” as argued in Marketplace of the Gods. But these are all basically simply applications installed into on top of the operating system.


Very few are Roman Catholic because they have read Aquinas’ Five Ways. Rather, they are Roman Catholic, in order of necessity, because God aligns with their deep intuitions, basic cognitive needs in terms of cosmological coherency, and because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole. People do not believe in Catholicism as often as they are born Catholics, and the Catholic religion is rather well fitted to a range of predispositions to the typical human.


There are a subset of believers who are not well captured by the generalizations in books such as Slone’s, or in ethnographic descriptions which trace the assimilation of Catholicism into the American scene. They are usually highly intellectual and analytical in their orientation. Often, they seem to be converts. Rod Dreher was a convert to Catholicism from Methodism, before he became Orthodox. Leah Libresco and Eve Tushnet also seem to fall into this category. Highly intellectual. And, converts to Catholicism.

Because they are analytical and articulate, these sorts of religious people are highly prominent on the public stage, and, they also write the histories that come down to us through the centuries. These are also the type of people who are overrepresented in the clerical apparatus of any organized religion. This is a problem, because their prominence can obscure the reality that they are not as influential as you might think. As a metaphor, imagine mountainous islands scattering amidst a featureless ocean. The islands are salient. But it is the vast ocean which will ultimately be determinative. Similarly, the vast number of believers who move along a nexus of inscrutable social forces, and driven by powerful universal psychologies, may be hidden from our view.

And yet even for the “analytics” reason does not dictate. Both Dreher and Tushnet have made references to mystical and emotional occurrences and impulses which are beyond my ken. I have no need, no wish, no impulse, and no intuition as to what they are talking about in that dimension (Libresco seems a somewhat different case, but I haven’t read much of what she’s written; I suspect I’ve been in the same room with her since she worked for an organization which I have many personal connections with, but I’m not sure).

It isn’t a surprise that I think Hume was onto something when he asserted that “reason is a slave to the passions.” In many instances I suspect theological analysis is simply the analytic engine being applied to a domain whose ultimate rationale is driven by a passion.

Addendum: Leah Libresco seems to have been associated with the broad umbrella group of Bay Area rationalists. I’ve been associated in some fashion with these people as friends and acquaintances for nearly 10 years. I will admit that I’ve generally found the conceit of rationality as an ends, as opposed to a means, somewhat off-putting. Ultimately I’m more of a skeptic than a rationalist I suppose at the root.

The nature of religion and Breaking the Spell: http://www.unz.com/gnxp/the-nature-of-religion-and-breaking-the-spell/

Buddhism, a religion or not?: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2007/02/buddhism-a-religion-or-not/

Against the seriousness of theology: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2013/04/against-the-seriousness-of-theology/
This is the hard part for many intellectuals, religious or irreligious, to understand. For intellectuals ideas have consequences, and they shape their lives. Their religious world view is naturally inflected by this. And most importantly they confuse their own comprehension of religious life, the profession of creeds rationally understand and mystical reflection viscerally experienced, with modal religiosity. This has important consequences, because intellectuals write, and writing is permanent. It echoes down through the ages. Therefore our understanding of the broad scope of religious history is naturally shaped by how intellectuals view religion. In a superficial sense the history of religion is the history of theology, because theology is so amenable to preservation.


What Religion Is: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/12/what-religion-is/
It’s been about 10 years since I addressed this topic. Largely because I have no new thoughts. But probably after 10 years, it’s useful to revisit/clarify on this topic to clarify confusions, since people have a lot of opinions on this topic.

People mean different things when they mean “religion,” and the different meanings are not contradictory, nor in conflict.

At the lowest level in terms of individual cognition religion emerges from deep intuitions about the nature of the universe. Colloquially one might say that religion bubbles out of our unconscious.

In relation to social units, say the clan or tribe, religion consists of these intuitions about the nature of the universe and the world around us, bound together with rituals and verbal descriptions and narratives. These rituals and communal narratives help forge some sort of group Weltanschauung that has a functional utility in terms of inter-group competition and relations. Here religion steps out of the individual and becomes an expression of collective consensus.

As human societies became more complex the role of religious professionals became more elaborated. The common role of a shaman can be thought of as a magician, one who manipulates and operates in the domain of the supernatural. Shamans are common and ubiquitous in pre-state societies (even if a tribe does not have a “professional” shaman, someone takes on the role when needed). The priest adds on top of this institutional authority, often supra-clan or tribal. No king, no priest. Eventually, though the shaman-priest took on the role of the metaphysician. The metaphysician generates abstract principles and rationales, which can transcend the tribe or ethnicity, and allows religion to generate meta-ethnic civilizational identities in the service of priestly functions.

So in the post-Axial Age, the religious professional is often shaman, priest, and philosopher.


What about the priest? Though I am wary of the term “political religion,” due to semantic confusion, it seems clear that the function of the priest can be stripped of its supernatural valence. Many of the most objectionable characteristics of religion for people of liberal orientations derives from the institutionalized priestly functions. Unfortunately, the persistence of the priest in the absence of gods, shamanic powers and metaphysical justification opens the doors to secular totalitarianism.


These different aspects of religiosity exist and persist simultaneously in most contexts, but sometimes in tension. Philosophers and priests often take a dim view of shamanic religiosity. In organized religion of the modern sort shamanism is marginalized, or highly constrained and regulated in sacraments. But the recession of state-sponsored Christianity across much of the West has arguably resulted in a resurgence of shamanism, and the proliferation of diverse supernatural beliefs which had previously been suppressed (much of East Asia is characterized by relative weakness of philosophical religion but the strength of shamanism).

The relevance of all this in relation to New Atheism is that New Atheism seems to posit a religious “Blank Slate.” That is, children are indoctrinated in religion at a small age, previous to which they had been atheists. Part of this is due to the fact that the philosophical-metaphysical aspect of religion is quite clearly indoctrination, and often of a superficial sort at that (judging by how weak most believer’s grasp of theology is). But the communal and psychological aspects are not indoctrination, as much as specific instantiations of general human sentiments, dispositions, and intuitions. The erasure of a Christian, Buddhist or Islamic religious orientation will not necessarily leave in its wake a mind primed for scientific naturalism. Rather, it will simply be one shorn of Axial-Age accretions, reverted back to the shamanic age…

Atheism As Mental Deviance: http://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2011/09/18/atheism-as-mental-deviance/
Tyler Cowen points me to a PDF, Religious Belief Systems of Persons with High Functioning Autism, which has some fascinating results on the religiosity (or lack thereof) of people with high functioning autism. I’ve seen speculation about the peculiar psychological profile of atheists before in the cognitive science literature, and there’s a fair amount of social psychological data on the different personality profile of atheists (e.g., more disagreeable). But there hasn’t been a lot of systematic investigation of the possibility that autistic individuals are more likely to be atheist because they lack a fully fleshed “theory of mind,” which … [more]
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, by James Fitzjames Stephen

ὲδύ τι θαραλέαιξ
τὸν μακρὸν τείνειν βίον έλπίσι, φαγαɩ̑ξ
θνμὸν ὰλδαίνονσαν εύφροσύναιξ
φρίσσω δέ σε δερκομέγ’α
μνρίοιξ& μόθοιξ& διακναιόμενον.
Ζε͂να γὰρ ού& τρομέων
ένίδία γνώμη σέβει
θνατοὺξ ἄγαν, Προμηθεῠ
Prom. Vinct. 535–542

Sweet is the life that lengthens,
While joyous hope still strengthens,
And glad, bright thought sustain;
But shuddering I behold thee,
The sorrows that enfold thee
And all thine endless pain.
For Zeus thou has despised;
Thy fearless heart misprized
All that his vengeance can,
The wayward will obeying,
Excess of honour paying,
Prometheus, unto man.
Prometheus Bound (translated by G. M. Cookson)


I. The Doctrine of Liberty in General

II. The Liberty of Thought and Discussion

III. The Distinction Between the Temporal and Spiritual Power

IV. The Doctrine of Liberty in Its Application to Morals

V. Equality

VI. Fraternity

The general result of all this is, that fraternity, mere love for the human race, is not fitted in itself to be a religion. That is to say, it is not fitted to take command of the human faculties, to give them their direction, and to assign to one faculty a rank in comparison with others which but for such interference it would not have.

I might have arrived at this result by a shorter road, for I might have pointed out that the most elementary notions of religion imply that no one human faculty or passion can ever in itself be a religion. It can but be one among many competitors. If human beings are left to themselves, their faculties, their wishes, and their passions will find a level of some sort or other. They will produce some common course of life and some social arrangement. Alter the relative strength of particular passions, and you will alter the social result, but religion means a great deal more than this. It means the establishment and general recognition of some theory about human life in general, about the relation of men to each other and to the world, by which their conduct may be determined. Every religion must contain an element of fact, real or supposed, as well as an element of feeling, and the element of fact is the one which in the long run will determine the nature and importance of the element of feeling. The following are specimens of religions, stated as generally as possible, but still with sufficient exactness to show my meaning.
I. The statements made in the Apostles' Creed are true. Believe them, and govern yourselves accordingly.
2. There is one God, and Mahomet is the prophet of God. Do as Mahomet tells you.
3. All existence is an evil, from which, if you knew your own mind, you would wish to be delivered. Such and such a course of life will deliver you most speedily from the misery of existence.
4. An infinitely powerful supreme God arranged all of you whom I address in castes, each with its own rule of life. You will be fearfully punished in all sorts of ways if you do not live according to your caste rules. Also all nature is full of invisible powers more or 1ess connected with natural objects, which must be worshipped and propitiated.

All these are religions in the proper sense of the word. Each of the four theories expressed in these few words is complete in itself. It states propositions which are either true or false, but which, if true, furnish a complete practical guide for life. No such statement of what Mr. Mill calls the ultimate sanction of the morals of utility is possible. You cannot get more than this out of it: "Love all mankind." "Influences are at work which at some remote time will make men love each other." These are respectively a piece pf advice and a prophecy, but they are not religions. If a man does not take the advice or believe in the prophecy, they pass by him idly. They have no power at all in invitos, and the great mass of men have always been inviti, or at the very least indifferent, with respect to all religions whatever. In order to make such maxims as these into religions, they must be coupled with some statement of fact about mankind and human life, which those who accept them as religions must be prepared to affirm to be true.

What statement of the sort is it possible to make? "The human race is an enormous agglomeration of bubbles which are continually bursting and ceasing to be. No one made it or knows anything worth knowlhg about it. Love it dearly, oh ye bubbles." This is a sort of religion, no doubt, but it seems to me a very silly one. "Eat and drink, for to-morrow ye die;" "Be not righteous overmuch, why shouldest thou destroy thyself?"

Huc vina et unguenta et nimiurn brevis
Flores amoenos ferre jube rosae,
Dum res et aetas et Sororum
Fila trium patiuntur atra.
Omnes eodem cogimur.

These are also religions, and, if true, they are, I think, infinitely more rational than the bubble theory.


As a matter of historical fact, no really considerable body of men either is, ever has been, or ever has professed to be Christian in the sense of taking the philanthropic passages of the four Gospels as the sole, exclusive, and complete guide of their lives. If they did, they would in sober earnest turn the world upside down. They would be a set of passionate Communists, breaking down every approved maxim of conduct and every human institution. In one word, if Christianity really is what much of the language which we often hear used implies, it is false and mischievous. Nothing can be more monstrous than a sweeping condemnation of mankind for not conforming their conduct to an ideal which they do not really acknowledge. When, for instance, we are told that it is dreadful to think that a nation pretending to believe the Sermon on the Mount should employ so many millions sterling per annum on military expenditure, the answer is that no sane nation ever did or ever will pretend to believe the Sermon on the Mount in any sense which is inconsistent with the maintenance to the very utmost by force of arms of the national independence, honour, and interest. If the Sermon on the Mount really means to forbid this, it ought to be disregarded.

VII. Conclusion

Note on Utilitarianism

"Some people profess that the Sermon on the Mount is the only part of Christianity which they can accept. It is to me the hardest part to accept."

—James Fitzjames Stephen

This distinguished philosopher was one day passing along a narrow footpath which formerly winded through a boggy piece of ground at the back of Edinburgh Castle, when he had the misfortune to tumble in, and stick fast in the mud. Observing a woman approaching, he civilly requested her to lend him a helping hand out of his disagreeable situation; but she, casting one hurried glance at his abbreviated figure, passed on, without regarding his request. He then shouted lustily after her; and she was at last prevailed upon by his cries to approach. “Are na ye Hume the Deist?” inquired she, in a tone which implied that an answer in the affirmative would decide her against lending him her assistance. “Well, well,” said Mr Hume, “no matter: you know, good woman, Christian charity commands you to do good, even to your enemies.” “Christian charity here, Christian charity there,” replied the woman, “I’ll do naething for ye till ye tum a Christian yoursell: ye maun first repeat baith the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed, or faith I’ll let ye groffle there as I faund ye.” The sceptic was actually obliged to accede to the woman’s terms, ere she would give him her help. He himself used to tell the story with great relish.

A counterfactual world in which Mill is taught only as a foil for J.F. Stephen, Hart as a foil for Devlin, and Kelsen as a foil for Schmitt.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
The Churches' Bans on Consanguineous Marriages, Kin-Networks and Democracy by Jonathan F Schulz :: SSRN
This paper highlights the role of kin-networks for the functioning of democracy: countries with strong extended families as characterized by a high level of cousin marriages exhibit a weak rule of law and are more likely autocratic. To assess causality, I exploit a quasi-natural experiment. In the early medieval ages the Church started to prohibit kin-marriages. Using the variation in the duration and extent of the Eastern and Western Churches’ bans on consanguineous marriages as instrumental variables, reveals highly significant point estimates of the percentage of cousin marriage on an index of democracy. An additional novel instrument, cousin-terms, strengthens this point: the estimates are very similar and do not rest on the European experience alone. Exploiting within country variation of cousin marriages in Italy, as well as within variation of a ‘societal marriage pressure’ indicator for a larger set of countries support these results. These findings point to a causal effect of marriage patterns on the proper functioning of formal institutions and democracy. The study further suggests that the Churches’ marriage rules - by destroying extended kin-groups - led Europe on its special path of institutional and democratic development.


Crucially for causal identification, the ban was imposed exogenously top-down onto the inhabitants and the (often random) outcome of wars shifted the reign of rulers (and with it the “state religion”).

How the Catholic Church created democracy: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/12/catholic-church-created-democracy/
Cousin Marriage Conundrum: http://www.unz.com/article/cousin-marriage-conundrum/
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december 2016 by nhaliday

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