Sunday, May 01, 2016

Human Nature and Political Society.


I've been meaning to reply to commentator Tom for a while now with regard to a comment he left over at this post:
Of course, homophily exists, but given the massive harm it causes to humanity as a whole, I see no reason to mold society to it any more than I see a need to cater to other natural emotions such as violent jealousy[ED].

There are a ton of human impulses that society suppresses, and because man is a product of both nature and nurture, such impulses are heavily modified by experience. I'm sure that if I wasn't raised in Toronto, a heavily multicultural city, I'd be slightly discomfited by my workplace where there is no majority race, I hear Arabic, Hindi and Russian spoken around me, and the clothing styles, while majority jeans and polo shirt, also include Hijab/Abaya and the occasional sari.

Nobody here (a programming shop) blinks an eye because this is what you see every day on the street.

Yes, there are fewer cultural touchstones with my coworkers, so I exercise some cultural homophily with my personal friends (we're all hard-core computer geeks from a variety of races), but surely homophilic tendencies are no basis for the structure of society.

Or should I be agitating for a society where everyone must have read the science fiction greats before getting citizenship?
Whilst I respect Tom's comments, the comment above is in many ways akin to the argument pushed by feminists that a woman should be able to wear whatever she wants and not expect to get sexually assaulted.

Let me explain.

Traditional human anthropology tended to divide nature into its rational and irrational components. The irrational components being our appetites, desires, biases and other tendencies which overarching reason was mean to regulate for our own good.

Now the problem with this approach is that the concept of "reason" was rather vague. The implicit assumption was that the "reason" of the philosopher was also the same "reason" of the prole. The problem, as modern psychology and cognitive science has demonstrated, is that while everyone is capable of reason, the "quality" of everyone's reason is not the same.

An aspect of psychology that is relevant in this instance, is that of Kohlberg's theory of moral development. In essence, Kohlberg demonstrated that people's motivation for moral action is varied. At the lowest--and most populous level-- moral action is based on the avoidance of punishment and the promise of reward and its only that and only at the rarefied level of the enlightened few that it is motivated by considerations of higher ethical principle.  In other words, the reasoning of the bottom is different from the reasoning at the top yet the observed behaviour is the same.*

 
The other relevant dimension here are the latest findings from cognitive science which show that most people are "cognitive misers", even those with high I.Q., and that intuitive "logic" is default operating mode for most people.

When you meld these two findings together you find that most people's daily operations are intuitive in their nature and constrained by external factors such as punishment or shame rather than "considered behaviour modulated by rational deliberation". Sure, there are people like that, but they're in the minority.

It follows therefore that if you want the masses to behave properly, especially when asking them to act in ways which are profoundly counter-intuitive, pragmatically you need to have a strong policing force i.e. state retribution or strong cultural shaming mechanisms, i.e. institutionalised religion to keep people in line.

Expecting everyone to "reason" like a moral philosopher is based upon the assumption that everyone can. This of course is a rehash of the radical equality principle of all men and fails to recognise that some men are limited in reaching this level of cognition. (Note, it's one of the ways mainstream Christianity inadvertently laid the groundwork for Liberalism.) So anyone pushing this agenda is, in a way, furthering the intellectual supposition that all men are cognitively equal.

But suppose you do accept the fact that there is an inherent intellectual inequality amongst men, how then do you regulate public morality in such an environment, especially when asking men to act in a strongly counter-intuitive way? The only way to do so is by having a strong external apparatus, i.e. Church or State threatening to punish wayward behaviour. i.e. Big Brother.  Furthermore, with the collapse of "cultural constraints" the void for regulating behviour needs to be assumed by the state, thus,  radical liberalism necessitates a powerful state regulatory apparatus to provide a check against the intuitive tendencies of the masses.

This is a "high energy" state of affairs. The state needs to be constantly maintained and strong in order to keep society together, should the state falter the intuitive impulses of the masses will reassert themselves. In countries like the U.S., where there is greater degree of individualism and multiculturalism, when the lights go out and the police go on strike, anarchy starts brewing quite rapidly. On the other hand, in countries such as Japan, where there are strong cultural "policing" mechanisms, and more realistic understanding of human anthropology, failure of state does not necessitate a failing society.

The former Yugoslavia was a classic example of this. Comprised of six different ethnicities, most of which did not want to live with each other, the only way the state could be kept together was through a strong totalitarian regime. Interestingly, the people most able to "get along" where the educated "cognitive" types whilst the masses maintained their grudges.  The failure of the policing state meant that natural demographic forces could assert themselves,  the rest is history.  Yugoslavia failed because it needed a strong state to force Croats, Serbs and Slovenes to be Yugoslavs and it was an example of trying to fit men to the model instead of fitting the model to men.

Stable "low energy" states are those which intuitively coalesce, where human nature is not taxed by its membership of them. A state based upon the "intuitive" emotions,experience and morality of the people is far easier to maintain than one which is pushing against human nature all the time. Catering for homophily which is near universal is different from catering to violent jealousy which is exceptional. Equating the two is wrong. A society which pushes against violent jealousy is going to require less "policing" than a society that pushes against "homophily" and is thus more stable.

Stable societies are build on an understanding of human nature and not a rejection of it. Still,  there does need to be some regulation of its more primitive aspects but the approach should be one based on the minimal amount of intervention necessary, not wide scale social engineering. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why Puritanical societies go feral once the thumbscrews are released. Human nature only stand so much deformation.

When the feminists argue that a woman should be able to walk down the street wearing whatever she wants without being molested, they're uttering both a moral truth and an anthropological lie. It's akin to saying men should be able to transcend homophilous instinct. The problem with both both statements is that the fail to acknowledge the reality of human nature and and the human capacities to transcend them. If, however, this state of affairs was able to be achieved would necessitate a strong police state which would need to be maintained in order for there not to be a lapse into anarchy.

Stable societies are based upon the  recognition of human nature as the foundation of them. Not asking too much of people means that when the pressure is put on society, it doesn't go bad. Furthermore, if you're going to police a society, you're better off doing it through culture rather than the police state. I'd rather a minister in a church hall than a policeman in my bedroom.

*Note, the relationship of demographics and Kohlberg's theory of moral development is complex. Since this is a blog and not a academic paper I've tried to keep things simple.


19 comments:

Greg said...

What do you make of this video?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTROCGb5qj8

John The River said...

When I read your analysis on Yugoslavia I realized that I was also reading an alternate future history of Iraq if someone other than Barack Obama had bee president and had maintained a permanent military presence to keep the country together.

Since as a wise man once said "the only problem with Iraq the nation is that there are no Iraqi people (anywhere) to live there".

Sooner or later we would have left and it would have fallen apart. Unlike Korea or Japan which were homogeneous peoples in main and still required decades to create stable democratic societies.

The best possible outcome (other than not breaking the jug in the first place) would have to charged them for the complete costs of a military occupation as long as they wanted to pay for it. With a twenty percent bonus.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Greg

It's quite a good video especially as it emphasizes homophily rather than white nationalism. Furthermore, the referencing of scientific studies was quite good.

@John The River

They should have divided IRAQ into cantons like Switzerland, or broken the country up against ethnic lines. But I think a lot of State Dept guys think that within every gook there is an American waiting to come out Secondly a lot of the Geopolitics of the region would have made any solution difficult. It could of worked, it's just that the guys running the show didn't have a brain in their head.

MK said...

Yugoslavia failed because it need a strong state to force Croats, Serbs and Slovenes to be Yugoslavs and it was an example of trying to fit men to the model instead of fitting the model to men.

First, an excellent post. Lots of good stuff.

I clip the above part because the problem with Yugoslavia is the same as the USSR as with the USA: they all violate the truth of subsidiarity. Everything should operate at the lowest level possible. When Japan or Germany wanted oil, they should have traded for it, like they do now, not invaded the world.

Yug should have broken up into different nation states. The USSR should have as well (Russia should be a small country). The USA should have split at the Civil war into two countries. In fact, each state in the USA should be it's own country with whatever ties they desire, and pay for protection if they need it. Division should be the norm, and unity should only be by choice. It's a moral question, and makes for the best and richest living. Freedom is always more better, because it's how the human being was made, in the image of God.

The Social Pathologist said...

@MK

Funny, I've been thinking about the principle of subsidiary quite a lot recently, and am reading Sam Francis who advocates Ideas very similar to it. Subsidiary promotes identity and also anti centralisation. A lot of our current problems come from the fact that both political theory and capitalism promote centralisation. This in turn decreases the number of nodal points required for the control of society. Part of the Left's success has come about because they have far fewer targets to capture.

Brandon said...

Thus, is libertarianism basically a fraud?

Ingemar said...

One thing that I always find missing about these Balkanization discussions is "What caused these countries to become big in the first place?"

That's an open ended question.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Brandon

Thus, is libertarianism basically a fraud?

As I understand it, it is another form of Utopianism based upon faulty assumptions of human nature and rationality.

@Ingemar.

"What caused these countries to become big in the first place?"

With regard to Yugoslavia there are a whole series of factors and not just "one" thing. I think the important thing to realise here is that the social, political and economic forces unleashed in the 20th century have pushed toward agglomeration and centralisation. The Police state being a consequence of trying to keep things together against a rebellious human nature.

Jason said...

Yugoslavia became Yugoslavia after the war (One) because a hegemonic Serbia had military control and Allied support, and Croatia was weak and had to go along with this (having just been under the thumb of Austria-Hungary). Because of their small sizes, other countries like Slovenia and Bosnia had to go along as well. It was in many ways a situation of Great Power realpolitik - of their adjusting to the breakup especially of the Ottoman an Austro-Hungarian Empires and trying to rearrange things - rather than the building of a true nation or even a true federation (although there was a Pan-Slavism taking different forms that some Yugoslavs believed in to various degrees). It's for these reasons that I think one should be careful about comparing Yugoslavia and say, the U.S., since they're really different kettles of fish (not that rough analogies cannot be made).

Jason said...

To expand a bit on my above point, the U.S. had - and has - a legitimacy that Yugoslavia never had, although it certainly is experiencing a lot of strain at this point. Even the North and South had - and has - more commonalities than Croats, Kosovar Albanians, Voivodinians, etc., did, to refer to what MK said.

Nick B Steves said...

"But suppose you do accept the fact that there is an inherent intellectual inequality amongst men, how then do you regulate public morality in such an environment, especially when asking men to act in a strongly counter-intuitive way?"

Well, the first thing you'd do is ask, "Why the hell are we asking men to act in a strongly counter-intuitive way?" I'm not saying that's an absolute deal-breaker, but generally speaking there aren't good (enough) reasons to regulate public morality that way. Humans coevolved with traditional culture. The constraints of natural power relations are usually a good match for "prole" intuition. Have a problem with crime? Simple: Let everyone arm themselves. Etc.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Nick

but generally speaking there aren't good (enough) reasons to regulate public morality that way.

I think that there are reasons, especially with regard to the common good, but I think that the regulation should not push too hard against human nature. If the state, for instance, prohibits vengeance, it at least has to punish with justice. On the other hand, if it lets the criminal walk, it undermines both itself and encourages contempt for the law, whilst furthering vengeance. The worst possible outcome.

There should not be too much rubbing against prole intuition.

Nate Winchester said...

Dear Slumlord, you're not wrong about most of this but this?

catering to violent jealousy which is exceptional

Strikes me as questionable. I mean just read "Life at the Bottom" particularly this chapter and an examination of history seems to make it obvious that violent jealousy is rather a norm as well.

Of course it would be hard to determine for sure but one must wonder if the current status of violence as exceptional is not the result of many years of cultural and social training just as practice moves a conscious act from a high energy effort to a low energy reflex. Conceptually one could push a society to regard homophily as exceptional as violent jealousy, but the problems are:
1) It would take a long time, generations of effort. But many can't wait on a project that would outlive them and so rush it, causing the inevitable backlash.
2) There is incentive in undoing it. Just as "free love" seems to be unraveling the generations of effort at repressing violent jealousy, it wouldn't take long for an interest group in a democracy to break the effort using things like "privilege."

The Social Pathologist said...

@Nate

Strikes me as questionable

I don't think so. "In-group" violence has always been tightly controlled in any society that achieved any modicum of civilisational complexity, either through social of legal means. It's benefits are manifestly so self evident that it really doesn't take that much effort to stop people from attacking each other. That's not to say that violence did not occur between members of a group but it's rate of incidence was small since society was organised along the lines of human nature.

I think you miss the point. Dalrymple's article--which I've read before--gives an account of the state of affairs which have flourished after the sexual revolution, when sexual behaviour began to be seen as an individual action solely, without any societal dimension. The natural societal brakes on this behaviour were taken away and now it is fueled.

Traditional society understood sexual jealousy and it did not attempt to pathologise it rather it took it into account in societal organisation. Hence the social opprobrium directed towards cads and sluts amongst respectable people. I don't need to remind you that till recently, adultery was a punishable offence by law. The French, for instance, were very lenient on crimes of passion because they understood that human nature was justly wounded by infidelity. Furthermore, by emphasising monogamy, the opportunities for it to flourish were limited.

The thing about traditional societies is that they took human nature into account in the design of their societies and were thus able to optimise them. The lack of violence was a consequence of this and what's very interesting is once society broke down, as in Eastern Europe, post WW2 to violence reasserted itself rapidly.

Low violence societies are produced by either, 1) Building a society that does not chafe against you or 2) Building one that does, and having a policeman watch your every step so that you don't step out of line.

The Social Pathologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nate Winchester said...

I don't think so. "In-group" violence has always been tightly controlled in any society that achieved any modicum of civilisational complexity, either through social of legal means. It's benefits are manifestly so self evident that it really doesn't take that much effort to stop people from attacking each other. That's not to say that violence did not occur between members of a group but it's rate of incidence was small since society was organised along the lines of human nature.

Ok, so now we are at least getting on the same page of definitions.

So what's your measure of civilizational complexity? Because by some measures I'd point out that, in fact, it seems like much of the world is still lacking in it. Heck, even some places still within complex civilizations. And there's the obvious question, if the benefits are manifestly so self-evident, then like... why Africa? Again, you really need to read the Abolition of Man (you could do it in an afternoon, the book's really thin) because it keeps seeming like you're working with only half data:
“No justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite skeptical about ethics, but bred to believe that ‘a gentleman does not cheat’, than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers.”

I think you miss the point. Dalrymple's article--which I've read before--gives an account of the state of affairs which have flourished after the sexual revolution, when sexual behaviour began to be seen as an individual action solely, without any societal dimension. The natural societal brakes on this behaviour were taken away and now it is fueled.

But that was exactly my point, no societal brakes, violent jealousy flourished, which goes against your statement that violent jealousy is exceptional. It was only exceptional because of societal effort. It is like looking at a house trained pet and concluding, "it is exceptional for a beast to 'go' in the woods." My point was that no, it's pretty natural, only through effort and training does it become rare.

Low violence societies are produced by either, 1) Building a society that does not chafe against you or 2) Building one that does, and having a policeman watch your every step so that you don't step out of line.

Except man's nature is fallen, which is very apparent whenever you run into a toddler who finds all of society chafing against them.
" So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?"
It is only by effort and training that parents can raise their children to be society's building blocks. And that's what's been chipped away.
“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” -CS Lewis Abolition of Man
That is what makes Tom's words ultimately hilarious. He expects proper training from a culture that has abandoned all training as oppression. The illogic comes not from heterophily going against human nature, but that for it to work BOTH sides must apply it. If the plaid people of the United Example Nation had been raised and trained against homophily, they may well be against it, but if the polka-dot people of Examplestan next door have not, then it doesn't matter how open the Plaids are, the Polka-dots will prefer Polka-dots.

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The Social Pathologist said...

Sorry for the late reply

But that was exactly my point, no societal brakes, violent jealousy flourished, which goes against your statement that violent jealousy is exceptional.

It really depends what you mean by societal brakes. Some restraint has always been necessary but the arrangement made by traditional societies were a "low energy" approach as opposed to today's "high energy" state. I'm not arguing for a society without any constraint, what I'm arguing for a state of affairs which requires minimal state constraint. The Japanese, for instance, do not need a strong state to guard against crimes of theft since Japanese culture has its own internal mechanisms to disincentivise it. On the other hand, other cultures are quite "informally" approving of crime and thus require strong police states.

Nate Winchester said...

NP, I'm in no rush. In fact a reply yesterday got eaten by the interwebs so this is twice delayed. Though things are clearer as we reach common definitions.

Some restraint has always been necessary but the arrangement made by traditional societies were a "low energy" approach as opposed to today's "high energy" state. I'm not arguing for a society without any constraint, what I'm arguing for a state of affairs which requires minimal state constraint. The Japanese, for instance, do not need a strong state to guard against crimes of theft since Japanese culture has its own internal mechanisms to disincentivise it. On the other hand, other cultures are quite "informally" approving of crime and thus require strong police states.

See, what I'm saying is that your error is that you look at half the picture, and declare it the whole picture (which on the positive side does means you're half right).

Look at the individual a moment. What has really made humanity master of its domain is our ability to self-program via training and practice - to basically take any high energy mental state (the consciousness) and push it steadily into the low energy mental state (the reflexes/subconsciousness). But it just doesn't happen, obviously it takes a lot of time and effort.

Likewise where I'm trying to say is that your confusing two stages as opposites. Society is ALWAYS high energy, the only difference is where it's invested.

As anyone watching a gaggle of children knows, every year a society is invaded by numerous barbarians: babies and all of society is set up against their nature. The parents and local elder then typically invest high energy there in the early stages of life to shape the person so that when they are an adult, the rest of society only has to use low energy to keep running with the new member.

Therefore if a society does not invest the energy into raising its children, it will then be forced to spend the that energy on the law institutions when the child becomes grown. That's the west's biggest current problem is that we've encouraged and instituted so much that parents & elder abdicate their efforts that now the law must try and pick up the tab of the unspent energy. (if the metaphor still makes any sense)

That's the true contrast. Either the cost of bearing society is spread out over all the parents, meaning it's diffused and lighter, or it's concentrated among a smaller group of cops, judges and lawyers (and as they become untrained by society, eventually not even then). Of course that's also why all societies usually heavily favored family because even with the high energy cost spread out, it is still immense for any person to bear and it is only because of familial devotion and love that the adults can continue the effort to raise the children past the point rationality can sustain (in other words, it doesn't matter how much a person can justify raising the kids less it hurt them in the future, eventually they will no longer care).

NO possible "low energy" approach can be designed or worked if there is not a stable apparatus for instructing & raising children. There is no such thing as "low energy" only where the society places the burden of high energy.