Saturday, April 7, 2018

12 Rules For Life But Actually Insightful

The original title was going to be "Twelve Rules For Analytical Life" and I'm sure it would've garnered some eye-rolls from those who gush over the Intellectual Dark Pleb. Alas, that title was chucked in the bin because I've been trying to make good on my yearly New Year's Resolution to present things less snobbishly.

Except, by drawing attention to the scrapped derisive title in the first paragraph of the post, I'm falling short of the ideal anyway. At least I tried, a bit.

Here are the Actually Insightful twelve-rules-for-life:

Rule #1: Get a handle on epistemology.

Rule #2: Get a handle on decision theory and game theory

Rule #3: Familial loyalism draws from every other meritless loyalism. Refuse to play.

Rule #4: Wrap your mind around skepticism about moral responsibility.

Rule #5: Come to see that central problems in Population Ethics remain unsolved.

Rule #6: Think slow, unless you're just here to have fun.

Rule #7: Understand that beliefs aren't dispositional or representative of one's essence. Strangers with whacky beliefs need not have personal demons.

Rule #8: Feel free to be as selfish as possible in the company of ethical egoists. They'd paradoxically want you to.

Rule #9: Make up for some of that selfishness by being altruistic towards the worst off. Take your time sorting out who is and isn't at/near/above the worst-off mark.

Rule #10: The 20th Century was the bloodiest for reasons that have little to do with the usual reasons you've been fed. Combat the false narratives whenever you see them.

Rule #11: The fallacy of relative privation is only partly fallacious.

Rule #12: Don't utter "logic" without qualifiers. There are numerous forms of it, and they bump heads.

From the top:


12  Rules  For  Analytical  Life

An Antidote To Reverence

Rule #1: Get a handle on epistemology and its growing crate of difficulties. 

You don't have to "solve" epistemology or come anywhere close to mastering it, you just have to acquaint yourself with its timeline enough to get a sense of where and how knowledge, opinion and wisdom part ways with each other. Forerunners to this have attempted to explain where we reliably have knowledge and where we reliably lack it. This splinters off into figuring out what we cannot possibly know at present or in the future, what we assuredly don't know for now, what we probably don't know for now, and what we incidentally and therefore unjustifiably seem to "know". As of this time, I'm throwing in with the camp that says all Knowledge has to be adequate and that inadequate knowledge is pseudo-knowledge.

Further reflections show that our claims on Knowledge make (modest or immodest) assumptions about the bankability of human senses. Enter contrastive means of knowledge-acquisition, namely between a priori vs. experiential forms of means-testing. See Rationalism vs. Empiricism for clashes over knowledge acquirement, and Internalism vs. Externalism for clashes over epistemic justification. Yeah, it carries the stench of rank pedantry at first, but with time it does spotlight what you, your closest allies, your frenemies, and your mortal enemies are all up against with each grift and investigative episode.

This may prove helpful the next time you catch yourself feeling frustrated over what you perceive to be communicational shortcomings on your part.

Psychological take sans epistemology:

  • If only you had phrased your points differently/optimally, the enemy camp would've seen things your way. A global awakening would've soon followed. What a bummer it must be, having continually failed to show them the error of their ways, all the while omitting that they failed to dissuade you too.

Psychological take with epistemology:

  • The mutual failure is precisely what we should expect as seasoned reasoners. We are all epistemic sinners to some degree, including professional epistemologists. A self-perceived Epistemic Saint is just a fantasist. When a cynic observes gladiatorial warfare between brutes, the cynic understands that victory doesn't hinge on abiding by "the rules" of combat. Nor should anyone expect ideological warfare to be won via refusals to play dirty. Despite this, playing dirty has nothing to do with epistemic responsibility.

Many impressive thinkers (i.e. novelists, essayists, fiction writers, laurites) never bother digging deep into the formal works of epistemologists, but clearly display a lingering  epistemic attitude towards various observable and unobservable features of the world. These attitudes can be positive or negative, though nearly all modern works of fiction settle on positive, non-skeptical attitudes [per the author]. Epistemologists' orderly works explicate the ways in which our folk semantic and metaphysical assumptions/intuitions tend to inform those dormant attitudes, suggesting that it should be the other way around. I'm inclined to agree.

Bottom line: Good epistemic etiquette takes hard work and ideological dispassion, whereas the paths that lead to epistemic venom are seemingly endless. More on that in Rule #6.

Rule #2: Get a handle on decision theory and game theory. 

Say you oppose, on purely risk-averse grounds, your gov't pumping more and more money into research-and-development because it increasingly props up lethally perilous stuff like Mind Uploading and Brain-Computer Interfaces. You decide to vote Yes on any referendum that sets out to defund the Silicon Valley-esque portions of R&D. At least for as long as runaway A.I. turning us into paperclip maximizers remains a realistic non-cartoonish threat, and it remains just that per the roboticists and computer programmers working on the damn thing.

A bit of game-theoretic reasoning shows that defunding the road to superintelligence is the wrong way to go, unless you believe that foreign governments and their techies treading the same swampy waters are magically immune to the pratfalls your gov't and techies aren't immune to. What is more, things don't even have to go wrong for the foreign [hostile] governments in order for their resounding success to mark your doom. Because incoming A.I. = Arms Race 2.0.

Perhaps foreign governments are not as hostile as I just suggested. They might gladly share in the tech-goodies with the West should their futurists outrace your futurists to the prize. But for that happy prognosis to be of any solace, plenty of things in international relations would have to change in the interim. I don't see that happening. I see the opposite effect brewing, as do a rising number of pol-scientists who eat-sleep-and-breathe international affairs. Universal diplomacy is my favourite pipedream, and it's staying that way. 

Now, even if China/Russia/etc hadn't been involved, such that an A.I. Arms Race had never materialized to begin with, and it was only your government [your taxpayer dollars] that funded the singularitarian idyll; it's still far from clear that you should vote to defund it. In an intellectually open society, most of what the gov't does is on display for public knowledge. And so, everyone of note would be familiar with what tech-savvy extropians are up to, and how far along they've come. If their funding is slashed or discontinued, a domestic black market would take over sooner or later. Such illegal takeovers on the home front make the above concerns a parallel worth taking seriously. A domestic Arms Race 2.0 is barely an improvement over an international one.

The main point being; you shouldn't be overridingly concerned with what your particular taxpayer dollars are being used for. You should be overridingly concerned with (1) whether or not you can stop everyone's taxpayer dollars from being used for said undesirable ends, and if not, (2) whether one subsidizer of this very bad thing is any better/worse than the other one. If the two subsidizers are unequally bad, resign yourself to the wonted Pick Your Poison procedure that pragmatists and grownups prudentially apply on the electoral stage. Nothing changes once we get past the election cycle and dive deep into the push-pull complexion of spending.

Remember to judge betterness vs. worseness from multidirectional angles, not just unidirectional ones. Example: Competence > Incompetence atop Benevolence > Malevolence.   

Rule #3: Familial apathy > loyalty.

This is for people who guilt-trip themselves into staying in touch with relatives or immediate family members whose personas they utterly despise. Parental obligations to young children are the exception, needless to say. And in those cases, the parents' tasks aren't rooted in the nature of loyalty anyway, and are derivative given the one-sidedness of the deontic setup. I'm talking cases where there's no upside to some obligatory holiday get-together, other than the remiss "upside" of keeping one's ill-conceived sense of guilt from running roughshod. Some measure of guilt is the norm for pushovers who, when finally at the end of their rope, have to cook up excuses of something having "suddenly come up" just to skip out on the dreaded affair.

There should be zero guilt arising from any worry over disloyalty. The real issue is that, instead of frank disassociations, many settle for halfway measures by spinning lies just to avoid attending. Guilt-tripped people do this so as to keep the blood-lined relationship(s) on solid enough ground. But making a liar out of oneself is totally unnecessary. There's nothing wrong with bluntly terminating the pretense and custom when feelings of disdain are mutual or just shy of mutual. Cutting all ties is perfectly justifiable even under scenarios where an immediate family member (who isn't a young child) gleans something positive from you at the cost of you taking a hit that's proportional or worse.

This assumes a reader who recognizes that individuated characterological score-keeping is prior to all of the recurring factionalized [racialized, gendered, regionalized, class-minded, lifestyle-minded] recipes for interpersonal relationships. Recipes which resemble older, oft-denounced fetishisms. If you cannot grant me that rudiment, none of this will resonate in the slightest. If you can, it shouldn't be a huge stretch to see the same flaws with bloodline loyalism as with, say, class loyalism.

Loyalty is mind-killing on arrival. Introduce provisional reasons as requirements for justifying one's loyal behavior (see Game Theory above), then you can act out loyalty but still understand how Loyalty The Concept does zero argumentative legwork. Westerners are generally receptive to anti-loyalist provisions when hardened anti-classists are put on trial. Put on trial for what exactly? Insofar as their emancipatory methodology is concerned, class abolitionists come in two forms: Reformists and Revolutionaries.

It is the Revolutionaries who harbor the deepest sense of proletarian loyalty. If reasons for being loyal to your fellow proletariat reduce to you being a worker and other workers being in the same boat as you, your reasoning sucks. It's agent-relative non-reasoning in that the class abolitionist can't begin to fathom a leisurely person outside his class who calmly opposes revolutions and who doesn't indirectly pose a threat.

Shaq gets filthy rich, only to make himself even richer through capital gains. Shaq is ipso facto suspected of believing the wrong things about worker solidarity and class struggle. As for all the strivers who do belong to the Working Class but who want to Be Like Shaq with every fiber of their being, the revolutionary continues to unironically speak on all of their behalf. Disingenuous? Ideologically possessed? Just plain stupid? You decide.

If a fellow worker doesn't want the anti-capitalist's reforms or revolts, despite having taken the time to sufficiently educate himself about them, the anti-capitalist is not speaking (much less acting) on said worker's behalf. The anti-capitalist is, instead, just reckoning that to disagree with his pet agenda is to misunderstand his pet agenda. Adjust for familial solidarity: If your relative or immediate family member wants nothing to do with the rest of the family and their ways, you are not doing him any favors by stressing [your belief in] the importance of Family in life.

I do believe that solidarity can be cogent, but only two types of cogent solidarity exist; cerebral and characterological. All else is noise.

It's swept-aside noise in the case of familial devotion. When glowing talk of The Family is shorthand for Deeply Rewarding Relationships with loved ones, it's another round of lazy misplacement or rearrangement of reasons. If the masked goal is to have the most fulfilling personal relationships a human can possibly have, cradle-to-grave loyalty to an unselected few will unsurprisingly just get in the way. When deep bonds really are the goal, surely it's better to be an orphan or a runaway who never starts a family of his own and whose lifetime score for Rewarding Relationships racks up a 5/10, rather than the non-orphan/non-runaway who abides by familial procedures 100% but who scores 4/10 when all is said and done. Bloodlines tout court can't make up for the 4<5 end result.

The Frankfurt School didn't destroy the family unit, by the way. Human fallibility did. [Not that The Family is destroyed or anything. I'm playing along with hyperbolic rhetoric. Higher divorce rates ≠ destruction] .  

Rule #4: Get a sense of why moral responsibility skepticism exists and why it has credibility among contemporary philosophers, but didn't with their predecessors.

Derk Pereboom and the few philosophers he mentions here have done a wonderful job laying out the skeptical stance and defending it from obstinate resisters. Despite all this, the topic and its maturation continues to be ignored by the wider culture. I do not see a single culture that's an exception to this rule. Even so-called risqué journos cover it in utter disproportion to its attentional level of importance. If you ask me, a culture that's truly worth preserving (in a non-comparative sense) is one whose media landscape organically gives an issue like this its due in terms of mass coverage.

All of the culture-loving people I keep running into –– be they cultural pluralists, multiculturalists, monoculturalists –– cannot wrap their heads around the idea of an ethics that doesn't rely on outmoded notions like "ought implies can". This is deliciously odd, since these are Culture Preservationists I'm describing. In my experience, preservers of culture are the very types of people who are most fond of parenthood, which means they believe in the validity of disciplining children, despite disbelieving claims about children having moral responsibility in the true onerous sense.

So they must understand that their disciplinarian techniques operate as incentive mechanisms for good behavior, or at least as disincentive mechanisms for bad behavior. Translation: Not as tools for keeping score of the child's intrinsic levels of virtuousness and viciousness, to say nothing of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. What exactly changes at the stroke of midnight once the minor turns 18, no one ever really explains.

I know, the line drawn by desert-theorists isn't that precise, but I don't see how a slippery-slope journey to responsibility helps their core argument any. They are perfectly capable of making sense of punishing and rewarding children who don't possess the brand of responsibility they believe adults obtain somewhere down the road. As such, what's to stop skeptics from appealing to those exact same reasons to justify punishing and rewarding ordinary adults? Let me guess: The presence of consanguinity in the case of the family, and the absence of it in the case of society. Haha, right.

See the Reactive Attitudes subsection for arguments spelling out in further detail how moral responsibility is not the edifice of moral philosophy. Or even the cherry on top. 

Rule #5: Read some Population Ethics before portraying existential risk as a looming tragedy that any morally sane person should be worried about.

My own sketch of the rivals:

The awfulness of species extinction, human or other, parades as a truism. I might join in on the parade once the most compelling item in the storied World-Affecting catalogue is shown to be more plausible than many of the items available under the restrictive Person-Affecting catalogue. No one has mounted such a case to even a modicum of success thus far, and that's not just me talking, that's the consensus among thinkers who specialize in population axiology.

So for the time being, you, Mr. Life-Affirmer, don't get to offhandedly make extinctions out to be Really Bad Things, much less worst-case-scenarios, as if it were a given.

Who are extinctions bad for? The unborn? How much badness, then, are you accruing to the boundless heaps of the unborn who will remain so irrespective of whether an infinitesimally teeny, nanoscale percentage continues seeping through into born status? If their shackled potentiality poses an impediment for our evaluative norms, the impediment in large part remains entrenched no matter how many actual persons exist, or go on to exist, based on what we choose to do. What difference could it make? None?

Yet even the trained ethicists who, when cornered, go to bat for the "none" answer I'm looking for, cannot help but decry the possibility of global lifelessness in the future. They'll dryly concede that there's no air-tight argument against lifelessness [i.e. in favour of Mere Additions] because the consensus is what it is, while still conducting themselves as though there are workarounds to this which make human extinction a worst-case-scenario hologram.

Nor can extinctions ever be bad for any extant individual. What's bad for the individual is that he inevitably ceases to exist against his wishes. There is no workaround to this, sadly. The solution is not to take the focus off of individuals' self-directed preferences [to avoid death] and to pretend that those preferences don't become as thwarted so long as they are allowed to become somewhat more other-directed [to spawn the unborn].

Funny thing, if you squint just right, you can interpret the following precautionary oration by JBP as a sturdy defense of the person-affecting restriction. Just substitute "The Individual" for the "actual individual who exists" and "The Group" for the "unborn poor dears condemned to eternal potentiality" and you'll see what I mean:

Works, doesn't it?

So why do I get to champion the person-affecting restriction if I myself acknowledge that nothing is settled in Population Ethics definitively? Medical ethics, for one. Look at how seriously they take the interests of extant persons over those who have the potential to exist. It's no contest; not when it comes to manifold assisted reproduction programs, abortion, embryo selection, egg selection, pre-implantation genetic testing, et cetera. This is true at least throughout the West, and I've not spent much time researching how it plays out throughout the rest. Not that the backward norms of the rest should have much (if any) philosophical pull on the ways medical specialists practice their craft in secular, welfare-minded societies.

The lack of moral outrage, in the most advanced nations, at all the ways in which medical practitioners sully potential persons' interests suggests that person-affecting views should be given the benefit of the doubt, with world-affecting views being far more dubious on the examined intuitive level.

Finally, I am not saying that the weakest position in the person-affecting folder, Presentism, is superior to the strongest position(s) in the world-affecting folder. Rather, I'm making the modest claim that the most compelling derivation of person-affecting views comes with much less counterintuitive baggage than the most compelling derivations of world-pleasing [additive] views.

The additive alternative isn't all that removed from madness at this scale:

Rule #6: Keep your pace on the slow-and-steady end of things as often as possible.

Regrettably, this entails disengaging with the political terrain, or at least not engaging with it for prolonged periods of time.

Our world is an ideologically-heated one. Lasting entanglement with its giddiest participants demands an unduly faster-and-faster pace of us as coolheaded challengers. In opting for a slower pace, we become far less likely to win the Performative Race (in the untrained eyes of each mass constituency, anyway). I already covered why that's no great loss in my last post that broached the problem of far-ranging impact and how impossibly difficult it is to test any activist's all-things-considered effects once you judge said effects by a long-term yardstick.

Commitments to intellectual integrity, on the other hand, don't suffer navigation problems of this sort. Our intellectually candid assessment of something in the present doesn't have the potential to hijack our intellectual forthrightness in the future. Not so with activism. With activism, a nearsighted good can morph into a farsighted bad for reasons completely beyond our control. So to the extent that there's a schism between thinking good and doing good, always remember that Thinking Good comes with no strings attached. And when trying to Do Good, engagement should be swift and sparse, meaning activism (political or other) should not aim for optimific returns. Far from it.

If you stick to this plan but one of your projects ends up going viral anyway, the world will attack. Some attacks will be in good-faith, some in bad. For every objector offering halfway thoughtful critiques, another will take comfort in reflexive thoughtless ones. The more heterodox your agenda is going in, the more crooked the coverage you receive stands to be. Proffer iconoclastic views and the coverage will skew heavily in the bad-faith pile. Should this happen, do your best to keep the pace slow despite the noise surrounding you. If all else fails, don't hesitate to bow out altogether. No sense in trying to outdo the world. Taking on fast-thinking all-comers pressures us to stop being intellectual hobbyists and twists our hand into becoming intellectual workhorses.

to be a workaholic; manual or mental. The refusal has served my social and intellectual integrity well so far.

The after-school special primed a generation to march toward social advancements. We'll use the internet under the guise of Spreading Awareness and bettering this or that state of affairs, but positive impact will, at best, only prove beneficent in the near-term. As it relates to the far future, or even the not-so-far one, there is no way to estimate the predictable summed consequences of our individuated contributions. I'd go further in saying that even our best reasoned, coordinated attempts to improve life for the 22nd Century are laughably unsound. A good deal of activism converges on this wild-card, while making activists habitually surrender aspects of their intellectual integrity to blue lies. If this is you, spare yourself the headache and/or heartache.

Rule #7: Don't fancy yourself adept at vetting the dispositional makeup of strangers based solely on their outlooks and mannerisms.

This is something philosophical pessimists deal with on the regular, especially now that they've cozied up to various Popular Media locales. Many of the same turfs are growingly befouled by neo-romantics and neo-reactionaries. Throw in hooligans like the chap in the screenshot above, and the 'dialogue' is fraught with message/messenger conflations, making it almost entirely unprofitable. These conflations are not solely down to a revived interest in romanticism or reactionary vigor. I've seen many other life-revering dragon-slayers pass on fancy-schmancy epithets but join in on the fun. And fun it must be.

What binds them to the more focused ideologies and movements, like reverential vitalism, is a shared belief in Master-Slave morality. This is accompanied by the ghost of Ressentiment, naturally reserved for diagnosing the out-group's psychological demons. Members of the ideological in-group are never diagnosed with anything of the sort, miraculously enough. {Edit: I use "vitalism" in this context to cue a Cultural Vitalism sort of spin on the original, where the Cultural Vitalist officially disavows literal interpretations of vitalism, but remains psychologically wedded to more or less the same view, reflected in his unease with whiners, entitled millennials, untraditional cultures, etc.}

Reliance on these "deeper" explanations comes in degrees, to be sure, but it's always in the affective background and I believe it's what ultimately underpins the dragon-slayer's moral disgust concerning what the pessimist is trying to convey.

Nietzschean Master-Slave morality is, rather obviously, a concoction of bifurcation in a long list of bifurcated false dilemmas. Just as our frenemies, non-enemies, and non-allies are known to exist in addition to individuals we've identified as clear-cut enemies and allies, so it is with individuals whose inborn essences land them somewhere between and beyond the card-box categories of slave and master.

Just how many things does one have to excel at before reaching Master rank? Unexplained. How many leftover infirmities is one permitted to have, provided they are kept hidden and well compensated for by the strengths? Unexplained. What happens if all the things you excel at are the very things you take no interest in doing? Unexplained. What if, for every nine things you master, the tenth thing you absolutely suck at is the thing you truly want to be an expert at, keeping your self-esteem hovering around low? Unexplained. Are the masters who do excel at whatever it is they care to excel at still prone to having an Achilles' heel? Unexplained.

Despite the false dichotomy groundwork, wildly conjectural ideas about the people who call themselves pessimists, welfarists, preventionists, rawlsians, and other advocates of impartial beneficence, have endured.

Ideas like: It's not so much that you don't like the borg, it's that the borg don't like you. Oh you'll reciprocate its denunciation with an iron fist, but it's all post-hoc. Had you rolled jackpots, you'd have believed in the jackpot and thereby justified the snake-eyes for the unworthy. Only by being the unworthy can one concern oneself with the plight of the unworthy.

Here's Hicks throwing po-mo, of all things, into the mix:

This is boldfaced Political Storytelling. That there's a ready-made audience for it –– an audience itching for so garish a "Telling You What You Want To Hear" excuse for commentary –– is illuminating to say the least. But who am I to psychologize.  

The charge: The slave-moralist only calls for theoretical impartiality because the day will come when he will be the one in dire need of sympathy from the superior masters. As this need for mercy comes to the fore, the theoretical sneakily becomes the practical. The risk-averse pessimist knows this deep down, the argument goes, but doesn't have the strength of character to admit it to himself, much less to the world. Every now and then however, it latently occurs to him that he won't ever make it as top-dog, so the "impartiality" prerequisite for clemency makes for a dastardly ploy to save his own skin when the going gets rough. It's all nicely academic and high-minded, until it's not.

The response? Accusers get 10/10 for Bark, and 0/10 for Bite. When pessimists and impartialists are estranged to you (and they are, because online interactions are stripped of crucial context), calling them losers or wussies relies on the laziest of speculative leaps. Few things come easier than playing keyboard psycho-analyzer and discerner of strangers' inferiorities. You as the self-ascribed master-moralist never projects, only your hyper-ideological opponents do.

The neo-romantic/neo-reactionary/life-affirmer who echoes this line is pretending to know things he cannot possibly know. Where's the data? Why haven't the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg called for a return to a more Darwinian, bootstrap-focused mode of societal organization? Would it not follow from their success? How can he expect us to overlook what aren't even "exceptions" to the rule, since "the rule" is yet to be established?

Before getting a foot in the door, stats on "dispositional beliefs" would have to show that one's low vs. high level of income tracks one's antipathy vs. sympathy for laissez-faire capitalism. People applauding the embedded video have to pretzel-logic themselves into thinking that the stronger your anti-capitalist beliefs are, the harder you'll find it to keep a job or get a raise in a capitalistic system. What possible other explanation could there be? Remember that Hicks' imaginary data cannot accommodate for economic centrists unless their earnings see them populate the upper-middle class income brackets and nothing but. Here's where Hicks and co. can get started on gathering actual stats: Hollywood as a reservoir of economic centrism.

Is Ressentiment also why monarchies fell? If he were having this conversation in 1918, Hicks would handily diagnose peasants with the same "deeper" motives. It follows seamlessly. These spin-meisters would've promulgated conspiracies about how the peasants, serfs and commoners weren't fed up with not having nearly enough to subsist, and were instead psychologically jelly of the nobles because they wanted to have it all.

Moreover, have you ever seen a self-styled master-moralist actually outperform a person they've dubbed to be a slave-moralist at something? I sure as hell haven't. You'd think they would make a habit of issuing the challenge just to create the impression that they're confident in their ability to deliver on the bark. Without a hands-on contest of some stripe, all they have is bark. Bluster is no biggie when it happens offline, I guess, but online bluster is just ideological bluster.

The next time this Nietzschean piffle shows up your inbox, ask the master-moralist for a list of his personal accomplishments. If problems of distance mean we can't duke it out in actual competitions, we can at least compare and contrast credentials or trophies.

Or we can, just maybe, put a leash on our egos and fixate on the issues themselves, Steel Man style, even if your shiny medals happen to be shinier than mine or vice-versa.

And besides, baseless low-blow cuts both ways:

So even if there is something to the idea of beliefs-as-dispositions, cowardly existential escapists can play their card and paint everyone else as pathetic existential masochists. How's that Stockholm working out for ya oh aren't I the clever one?

Rule #8: Be as selfish as possible when in the company of ethical egoists. They'd paradoxically want you to.

What about the egoists who might be reading this? Aren't your twelve rules supposed to be all-inclusive?

No, they're not.

No set of rules is meant to work for all demographics and psychographics equally. If someone tells you otherwise, they're probably a cultist.

To cite the plainest example of unequal targeting: The rules presented here openly cater to people with an internet connection over the sort of people without one. Same goes for literate > semi-literate > illiterate folks. Applicability will vary based on all this and more.

Note that #8 can apply to NIMBY-minded types who don't endorse ethical egoism, but who aren't that far removed from it. It's hard to tell what % of NIMBY types know about ethical egoism and reject it, and what % don't self-identify as ethical egoists simply because they're unaware of the theory's existence.

At any rate, #8 can also include people who boast about how good they've always had it, and even those who are quite badly off but who justify their protracted miseries and the miseries of others, all in the name of self-sufficiency and noble suffering. Noble sufferers have a knack for invoking the likelihood of a transcendental plot-twist somewhere along the way, or at the end of one's life, neutralizing the disvalue of all the tribulations and defeats that came before. You owe these dipshits nothing.

If they insist on the gruel, let them eat gruel.

Might this run afoul of the impartiality I spoke so highly of in Rule #7? Not unless you shoehorn an Objective List of pursuits for life that are to be force-fed proportionally to all individuals with the aid of impartial-concern. That's miles removed from the impartial-concern I have in mind. Mine is meant to insulate individuals' subjective invocations of goods and bads. To foreswear Objective Goods is to foreswear Objective Bads. The clause Let Them Eat Gruel works iff gruel is what they themselves tolerate all-things-considered. There's no shortage of people who decline the gruel, both presently and retrospectively. The clock never stops ticking on their interests.

Here's where things can turn potentially dicey though: You cross paths with the odd ethical egoist who doesn't tolerate the gruel at all. Call him Crank. Say Crank regrets having been born, desperately needs your help, earnestly believes he should get your help, despite contradictorily believing that if the roles had been reversed, asking him to sacrifice some of his leisurely time and/or minimal resources to help you would be asking too much of him. He's incoherent like that, and there's no convincing him.

So then, am I telling the ideal-observer to ignore or downgrade Crank's subjective tastes simply because I find Crank's particular moral philosophy to be incoherent, petulant, and borderline dangerous? Practically speaking, yes I am, because the clock never stops ticking. It's always possible to prioritize the interests of someone else who suffers more or less the same way Crank does, minus the incoherent belief.

I suppose The Clause aims to exclude doxastic impartiality as a bundle-deal for assessing right action, while preserving other forms of impartial-concern. Ideally it's meant to function as a deterrent against forming and maintaining bad beliefs, moral or other. But frankly, I don't see a snowball's chance in hell of people starting to reassess their outlooks simply because they found out that ideal-observers downgraded their human worth due to irreparable disagreements over said outlooks.

Besides, ask me what I'd do if Two Cranks with horrid beliefs were the only people stuck in Burning Building 1, and one Non-Crank with top-notch beliefs was the only person stuck in Burning Building 2, and I'm located at an equidistant point from the two buildings... yeah, the inexactitude The Clause is its chief weakness.

If merely considering The Clause means I must turn in my impartiality card, see below: 

Rule #9:
Be as selfless as possible around those you deem fitting of the involuntarily worst-off status; people who've had it extremely rough and for whom nothing is cancelled or whitewashed by the plot-twist of silver linings, transcendences, or salvations.

When I say 'around' I don't mean it literally. I can't even recall the last time I benefitted someone 'around' me who was in serious need of help. If you're going to assist the global poor, don't travel to them so you can help them "hands on" or anything. That's almost as shoddy of a method for Doing Good as activism tends to be. Instead, make use of this and stay comfortable.

If you had rolled the snake-eyes they rolled, you'd want them to help you out as cost-effectively and as quickly as possible. You'd probably not want them to show up in person and pat you on the head, but then provide you with less resources than they otherwise would have had they simply transferred some money to you and spared themselves the travelling costs (or even a loss in income due to taking time off work).

Rule #10: The 20th Century was the bloodiest for reasons that have little to do with the usual reasons you've been fed. Combat the false narratives whenever you see them.

Here's one of those painfully obvious retorts I don't see making the rounds. Firstly, there's this. The counterfactual 20th Century, wherein Christianity never declines, is what saves us from a communistic doctrine that's quite harmonious with... mainstream interpretations of Christianity.

Then there's this. We repeatedly see examples of individuals born and raised in non-Christian and non-western societies and households; namely of Islamic faith. These individuals go on to lose that faith, and they do not swap it for another one. Spotlighting faithless ex-Muslims of Middle Eastern upbringings is critical because, unlike the ordinary faithless westerner, they don't have the (alleged) moral luxury of having been raised in a western culture that is said to be only as good as it is because of its Judeo-Christian roots; the roots Cultural Christians and other geographic essentialists insist upon when trying to make sense of why western disbelievers have the moral predilections that we indeed have.

If it hadn't been for the metaphysics supplied by those roots, God only knows what kind of ogres we would all be. So how might the belief-believer explain the well-adjusted individuals in the article? I imagine the same counterfactual slippery-slopes apply in those cases as with the faithless westerner. Just proclaim that the proverbial Judeo-Christian reach surpasses geographic bounds. Had those non-western ex-Muslims been brought up in a World devoid of Judeo-Christian metaphysical roots, they'd be the same remorseless beasts that I am told I would be were I raised in a region devoid Jesus-influence. Convenient, as always.

Counterfactuals aside, 20th Century blood spillage spiked due to population booms and technological innovations enabling widespread weaponry enhancement. The sort of enhancement that was inconceivable even in the lead-up to the 20th century. Think Crusades but with heightened militaristic prowess and modern population densities. Control for compounding variables and the narrative of shifting worldviews (i.e. muh Nietzsche warned us about the Death of God) no longer cuts it as the main culprit.

To insist –– on the ash-heap of those Holy Wars and all the sectarian beefs –– that revolutionary Lenninism or Stalinism would've spilled significantly less blood had its core doctrines come with religious sprinkles on top, is to succumb to the very ideological possession that daddy often rails against.

No, that's not mass-murder apologetics from me. That's tradition-apologists simply disliking what they're hearing and reflexively converting it, along with the speaker, into a burlesque of a point.

Accommodate their hyperbolae even slightly, and see them take the mile. What other explanation accounts for why they're still milking the Old Divide for all its worth, or applauding those who milk it for all its worth? From where I'm sitting, it's always one of the following three:

  • Because they're too lazy or incompetent to put in the minimal amount of work necessary to gain exposure to the counterpoints I'm presenting here.

  • Because they're too dense for the counterpoints they repeatedly come across to actually seep in and have real staying power. They seek, but they forget.

  • Because they're shrewd. They understand that certain strategies for win-win marketplace bargaining generally work when it comes to other forms of bargaining, including worldview bargaining. Like so:

The 20th Century dispensed with traditional mores unlike any other that came before it, and that's why they're still bent on treating it as a highly negative historical aberrant. It's why the pundits and the JBPs of the world frequently low-ball the unprecedented benefits it brought, while often misattributing causal power (i.e. decline of faith) behind the harms it brought.

Watch me walk-and-chew-gum at the same time: (1) Anti-capitalistic revolutionary thought paved the way for an unjustifiably horrific aftermath on the Eastern front, (2) adding religiosity to it would've accomplished diddly squat in terms of actual, non-platitudinous harm-reduction. The fearless leader who convincingly bills himself as a Man Of God is bound to see his dictatorial license amplified. Signaling godliness to constituents and underlings is not exactly an underutilized strategy for governmental ladder-climbing. 

In fact, a good share of credit for ugly fallouts from "God Is Dead" societal shifts goes to the romantic and religious maniacs who resisted many aspects of The Enlightenment Project every step of the way, and with more than just words. Pinning such conflicts on a woeful Decline of Religion hits the nail on the head in the same sophistic way that pinning the rise of ISIS on the toppling of Hussein's regime does.

Sure, it's reasonable to speculate that Iraqis and Syrians wouldn't have gotten ISIS in their backyards had Saddam's reign as the region's strongman not been cut short. But who in their right mind would argue that this deals a decisive blow to the committed critics of Hussein and his methods, or that it settles the question of whether Hussein should've ever risen to power all those years ago? I'll take No One for a hundred.

Let's do No One in the case of religion too.

Rule #11: The fallacy of relative privation is kinda bunk.

So you want to call out "Not As Bad As" diversions for the cheap ploys they are? Great. Except the framing is a bit off. Here's the summary, per RationalWiki:

  1. If something is worse than the problem currently being discussed, then
  2. The problem currently being discussed isn't that important at all.
  3. In order for the statement "A is not as bad as B," to suggest a fallacy there must be a fallacious conclusion such as: ignore A.

RationalWiki, you need to read Rule #8 where I go to great pains to remind everyone that the clock never stops ticking. With that in mind, why imply that less important problems are never ignorable?

Maybe that's not the implication. Maybe the implication is: The clock does stop ticking. If so, how exactly does it stop ticking?

Potential Answer: It stops ticking for some of us in our special agent-relative ways!

Potential Follow-up Question: Why should we unthinkingly settle for agent-relative ways?

Potential Answer: Because agent-neutrality is impossibly difficult.

Potential Follow-up Question: Moral responsibility is totes impossible too, haven't you read Rule 4? 

Potential Answer: Nope, no one of note reads your bloated posts...

Potential Request: Well at least read #4. It disposes of ought-implies-can holdovers. 

Potential Answer: Nah, we'll pass.

Potential Sulk: Ah.

Maybe booing the clock's tick-tock is not the implication either. Maybe the implication is: The person committing the fallacy has scurvy motives and presents Barely Less Important problems as wholesale non-problems that are always ignorable. If so, then I agree and the fallacy limns something fallacious indeed. But it's not clear that the "Barely" add-on stays true to the general spirit of the fallacy. I shouldn't have to Steel Man a fallacy to make it passable.

If non-barely Less Important problems are not ignorable according to the fallacy, then I have no business telling Crank (remember Crank?) to quit looking for a cure for hiccups (Crank really hates dealing with hiccups) and to start looking for a cure for something serious that ails ya, like cancer. Thing is, Crank has no history of cancer in his family. Every other affliction that falls into the non-barely More Important than fucking hiccups category, Crank is fortunate enough to be immune to. And even his hiccups crop up once in a blue moon only. Still, my telling him to ignore his bizarre hiccup hang-ups and to focus on serious business, earns me the "Not As Bad As" fallacy badge.

The fallacy works only if it puts a leash on the non-barely stuff and fixates on the barely. Nowhere are these intermediates spelled out by the fallacy's citers. Meh I say.

Rule #12: Don't utter "logic" without specifications. Logics come in numerous forms, and they can be at odds.

No such thing as logical/illogical proper. If I happen to be way off base, and there is an undisputed Flat Logic or Super-Logic so to speak, then I'm dying to know which one of the above-linked logics encompasses it or resembles it most closely. If one of those nine logics is indeed capable of this, all the others would, in one way or another, be "less logical" comparatively. Is this plausible? Any logicians out there ready to chime in?

It'd be kind of like presupposing that Flat Democracy is a thing and that Direct Democracy fills its shoes to perfection. Follow this by zeroing in on someone who believes in Representative Democracy and accusing them of being undemocratic and hypocritical because they resist populism or direct-democratic ballots for policymaking. It's only wrong-seeming when you mistakenly perceive Democratism as a monolith system. It's not. Neither are logics.

Perhaps some meta-logician has argued to the contrary and I've not yet seen it? Maybe the analogy to different forms of democracy suffers from more than mere imperfection? I'm not exactly a savant in formal logics. The discipline is tediously exhaustive, so I'm not ruling anything out. This is why I made this the final rule; for all I know one Special type of logic takes the cake. I highly doubt it, and until someone gives me reason to un-doubt, the rule holds.

See also: Logical Pluralism.

And that's it, that's the last of them.

Feeling pretty damn burned out at this point. I'll do a proper conclusion segment once I recover. Been spending hours a day on this piece over the last few days. I just wanna post it already.


  1. Thanks for writing this. I may have thoughts on it later. Just wanted to inform you someone's reading. Although I'm not really sure you care about that.

    1. I know someone's reading, because I see the hits. Slow and steady as usual. What I don't know is just how much of the post the average reader gets through before giving up on it. I would assume less than half, given the lack of feedback so far. Glad you got something out of it.

    2. I am also the person who sent you a PM on youtube about narcissism. Didn't want an answer, so no response needed.
      What I did personally was I came to your website. I used to casually consume JP's lectures in 2017. I liked the title, because I didn't like JP, not for well thought out reasons, though. After I liked him not for well thought out reasons. Still not well thought out. I also casually consumed your videos after going through a maybe three day immendham phase earlier this year. Was attracted to your temperament as a foil to him. When I actually browsed your two youtube channels, after browsing your blog and casually reading through some posts, I agreed with nearly everything you said. Not in a well thought way. I mean I took your words for granted.You were my "persuader" and or bullshitter, you made me want to conform to some aspects of your story. Before.
      I want to let you know I took your advice to only listen to your recent videos, although I'm sure whatever the past had to say may be worth listening to too if I'm interested enough. What you remind me of right now is free will. I disbelieve in it casually. I also "read" thinking fast and slow by listening to it in the car at your link. Looking at your post, I clicked on links. "Epistemology" and "beliefs" because they might reinforce my beliefs. As such, maybe I am just here to have fun. Give directly is taken note of. "Little to do" and relative privation" and "numerous forms" stand out because I am not well read on it. I looked at rule three, proud. I tried to listen to rule ten's link. A lot of tabs open. A bunch of other stuff happened when I looked at the page. Maybe I also took interest in the other rules to the same degree as the ones I've highlighted. Not willing to scrutinize any more. How much of this would you expect

  2. "Rule #10: The 20th Century was the bloodiest for reasons that have little to do with the usual reasons you've been fed. Combat the false narratives whenever you see them."

    I'm assuming this is a typo since it links to a Steven Pinker interview? If indeed you meant to say it *wasn't* the bloodiest, are you equally making the case from a sentiocentric perspective?

    1. No typo. It was the bloodiest in the sense that its lowest lows left a larger body count compared to previous centuries' lowest lows. But instead of attributing all that to a significant surge in the population count, or the militaristic gains made by the waring nations, a number of talking heads have now reverted back to pinning the root of the problem to a decline of religious faith from that same era (even though the decline kicked off well before).

      So that's what the rule argues against. And no, I'm not going sentiocentric on this, given that the original attribution doesn't measure the 20th Century's lowest lows from that angle either, and keeps it conventionally humancentric.

      Also, this doesn't really contradict Pinker's take, because he, at least on issues of body count, measures things on a per capita basis.