The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Replying To ESR’s Response

Posted on | January 20, 2018 | 1 Comment

by Smitty

First, thank you for a thoughtful and challenging reply to my objections. In re-reading your post, my reaction and “Three kinds of teleology“, it seems that I may have misinterpreted your “Sorry, Ansari” post somewhat. Specifically, on the point of whether you were
a) attempting to characterize the societal state, “as-is” or
b) attempting to offer a personal opinion on a “should-be” societal state.
I assumed b), and set about what may have been straw-manning you for what I thought were violations of a libertarian viewpoint. I am sorry, and thankful that you either didn’t notice or didn’t engage on that.

You responded to my point 1, Does “Grace” have free will, or is it the case that “she doesn’t have a realistic option”? by claiming that this is a false dichotomy. I think your school of fish analogy has some impact here, but I remain skeptical. While you offer a purely natural, aquatic example, it seems that your point may be more or less the same thing as GroupThink.  That is, you seem to say that if “everyone else is doing it”, then my liberty to dissent is diminished. Unless I missed something. I, of course, never fall prey to GroupThink. More than a couple hundred times a day.

On point 2, I then asked if the individual the unit of analysis, or is “Grace” a component of “women who do that”? and you (quite rightly) pointed out that “Grace” remains an individual (affirming my point) but that “she wants the reader to do this [judging whether she is bound by women who do that]”–I guess I was too busy being unpersuaded by the immaturity of the behavior in question on both sides to pick up the shift in emphasis.

Things got interesting at point 3:

“The lightning” would be sex having deep emotional/romantic consequences for both parties. This does happen of course, and you are greatly to be pitied if you have never experienced it yourself.
Your concept of “soul” isn’t even wrong, it’s meaningless – and will remain so until you give it meaning by providing an observable consequence of having a soul.
Your next paragraph suggests that you want “having a soul” to imply having a long ethical time horizon – not doing things for short-term gratification that are self- and other-destructive in the longer term. This is an important quality, of course, but there is no need to use a word as freighted with mystical spookery as “soul” to label it. I think you just confuse yourself when you do that.

If I’m understanding this correctly, I’m to be pro “romantic consequences”, and “pitied if [I] have never experienced it” (happily married father of two, thanks), but there is no need to “use a word as freighted with mystical spookery as “soul””.

A possible strawman argument would be: I may as well offload all that oogedy-boogedy “soul stuff” and go Full Charlie Sheen. Just maximize my hormonal utilization of whatever objects cause “lightning strikes”, irrespective of gender, age, species, status as “living” (how about them sex bots?). It’s all about the hormones, no? No larger “mystical” context to fret, unless I’m one of “them religious weirdos”.

Which brings us to your “Three kinds of teleology” link. As an intellectual matter, I am simply not bothered with there being any global telological point to reality. Within the scope of the body/mind dimensions of the “Grace”/Ansari exchange (or our communication on the behavior) the chief interest is the individual. Is the personal telelogical aim served by the behavior? From the praxeological perspective, the commentariat has had its pound of flesh, no?

It’s tempting for one to think that one has grokked the teleolgical point of life. Perhaps you did, in your Three Kinds essay. I don’t “know” in any final sense that I can explain in the body/mind plane of the three dimensional existential model I offered. You might object that I’m being coy, but I’m just not wasting time offering you goods in which you seem disinterested.

If anything, I’m unsure a mortal answer is possible. That is: were a closed-form, unambiguous, mathematical-style existential “proof” attainable by human striving.  Such an answer would need to be so objectively clear as to halt the vast spectrum of hand-wringing that has been going on these thousands of years across continents and peoples and languages. Don’t you think it should have already occurred?

Instead, we have the continuous parallel scientific and philosophical efforts to reverse-engineer reality. And we’ll continue. And it’s a Good Thing. But I lack what I perceive as your implicit faith that these strivings will do more than come up with more awesome models of reality, at micro- and macro levels. Because, for all the greatness of the human mind, it’s still a finite instrument. But I could be wrong.

Given that gloomy (within the body/mind bounds) view of reality, maybe “Grace” has the right of it. Satisfy the flesh. “Grace”, though, could invest in her soul, if she ever wishes to have an useful answers to those “why?” questions of life. “Because all the other bimbos you’re emulating are akin to a school of fish. Nice gills, Grace” seems as inadequate an answer as it is a wretched caricature of your example.

At any rate, thanks for the stimulating discussion.