Answering some Kohlberg Dilemmas (Joe and his father).

I have previously posted about the Kohlberg scale of moral development. Basically, they represent the development of morality in the individual, from obedience to evade punishment all the way to universal ethics based on principles like human rights. Kohlberg believed that we all went through the stages in that order and that, as in psychological development, we could “get stuck” on any of these stages. Basically, even if you don’t believe in these stages as being a natural development, they still provide a way of classifying and differentiating moral justifications and rationalizations.

Kohlberg, by the way, believed that women were morally inferior to men. One of his colleagues, Carol Gilligan, argued that this belief was based on an obsession about abstract ethical principles (an obsession which still exist in the political discourse today), and that the last two stages weren’t necessarily the end point of moral development. One does not have to believe that abstract ethical principles are superior to, for example, a view of ethical problems as a network of relations between individuals. So the top of the scale should be taken with a grain of salt. Abstract ethical principles are one way, but not the only way, to reason about moral issues post-conventionally.

In order to measure moral development, Kohlberg used scenarios and asked open-ended questions about them, evaluating the reasoning behind the answers. I thought these scenarios were interesting, for a couple of reasons. The one about Joe and his father opens some questions related to childism and child rights, which I think is very relevant to this blog. The famous Heinz scenario also opens some questions related to capitalism and property rights. So I want to go through these two scenarios here.

Joe is a fourteen-year-old boy who wanted to go to camp very much. His father promised him he could go if he saved up the money for it himself. So Joe worked hard at his paper route and saved up the forty dollars it cost to go to camp, and a little more besides. But just before camp was going to start, his father changed his mind. Some of his friends decided to go on a special fishing trip, and Joe’s father was short of the money it would cost. So he told Joe to give him the money he had saved from the paper route. Joe didn’t want to give up going to camp, so he thinks of refusing to give his father the money.

I like this scenario because it goes to the core of childism: children’s deeply-held values and desires against parental authority. Granted, this particular scenario is a hypothetical, but it is the sort of conflict that takes place all the time in all sorts of families for all sorts of reasons: parents shutting down their children’s values in favor of their own, whether overtly under the form of orders or outright coercion, or covertly under the form of verbal abuse or blackmail. I think this scenario in particular may have been engineered to make the child’s situation look more sympathetic, although it is not whose side you take that’s important, for the sake of the Kohlberg scale, as much as the depth of your justification as to why you take one side or the other. But as an anti-childist, I am on the side of the child in any conflict between children’s values and parental authority.

1. Should Joe refuse to give his father the money?
1a. Why or why not?

I’m not sure if this question is formulated correctly. After all, we do not know any more about his relationship with his father. If the father is willing to go so far as to alienate his son just for a fishing trip, it doesn’t seem like they’re on good terms, but there could be other factors involved. Whether he should refuse to give the money or not would depend on that relationship, amongst other things. But going on the data from the scenario and nothing else, it seems clear that Joe strongly values going to the camp and does not put a great value on his father going to a fishing trip (and why should he?). So on that basis alone, one would be inclined to answer yes.

As for the place on the scale, the question cannot be answered in terms of principles or rights, because it is a personal matter, not a question of ethics. If the question was “does Joe have the right to refuse to give his father the money,” then that would be a different story (my answer, of course, would be yes).

2. Does the father have the right to tell Joe to give him the money?
2a. Why or why not?

In a sense, this question is trivial: of course the father has the right to tell Joe to give him the money. We have the right to ask people to give us money, but they also have the right to refuse. So I assume that the question really means: does the father have the right to order Joe to give him the money and, as a logical consequence, have the right to enforce that order?

The father does not have the right to give Joe orders on the basis of him being Joe’s father. Apart from his responsibilities and duties as a father, his relation with Joe is one of one human being to another human being, and no human being has the right to simply order another to give them money. Usually this is done as a result of a prior agreed-upon exchange (e.g. of money for services or products, of money for citizenship rights, of money to support some cause or organization), but in this case, we are not told of any prior agreed-upon exchange. Therefore, the answer must be no. There is no justification present for the father to have the right to order Joe to give him the money. Joe is perfectly within his rights to decide what to do with the money, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the father’s responsibilities and duties (and going to a fishing trip has nothing to do with either).

My answer here is not at the conventional level, because I care not one bit whether the law or social standards would be on Joe’s side or on his father’s side. In general, my answers in this scenario are at the post-conventional level simply because I reject the relevance of parental authority and legal authority to moral decisions. Only the fact that parental coercion and legal coercion exist make them important: this importance is not a moral one but a prudential one.

This may seem like splitting hairs, but it is important in this situation. If Joe ultimately decides to surrender his property to his father for fear of retaliation, it is because his context (that his father is an aggressive misopedist, or hates him personally) makes it that moral principles cannot be applied, not that the moral principles have changed. Violence and the threat of violence create a distortion in the moral universe in the same general way that gravity wells distort spacetime. A straight line is no longer straight when distorted by a gravity well, and a desirable action may no longer be desirable when distorted by the threat of violence.

3. Does giving the money have anything to do with being a good son?
3a. Why or why not?

This seems to be a leading question, insofar as it assumes the validity of the “good child” construct, which is related to stage three (social conventions). So let me first preface by saying that I do not believe in the “good child” construct. No child is “good” or “bad”: all children react to the environment and familial context they have been placed in. No child can be blamed for being “bad” or praised for being “good,” because these are all arbitrary standards.

That being said, when we look at what the standards are, we find that being a “good child” ultimately means a child that is obedient, a child that does well in school, a child who follows the social constructs put upon it. Based on this, it seems to me that giving the money has something to do with being a “good son,” insofar as giving the money would show obedience to the father. Since I don’t believe in the “good child” construct, the point is moot anyway.

Like I said, the question relies on the acceptance of the “good child” construct. I reject the premise, and therefore cannot answer the question in a way that would make my answer evaluable on the Kohlberg scale.

4. Is the fact that Joe earned the money himself important in this situation?
4a. Why or why not?

I don’t think the fact that Joe earned the money himself is particularly important in this situation. In order to make the arguments I’ve made so far, all we need to establish is that the money is in Joe’s possession legitimately. If he had stolen the money, then the issues would become completely different (although parental authority would not thereby be automatically justified), but that’s not the scenario we have.

Suppose, for instance, that the money was an allowance given to him for food or leisure. This would not confer upon Joe any more obligation to give his father the money. Actually, it would seem to make the father’s demand even more egregious, since the money was given to Joe to serve an essential purpose. But that still would not alter the arguments I’ve already made. Joe would still value his camp more than his father’s fishing trip. The father would still not have the right to order Joe to give him the money. Joe would still not be a “good son” or a “bad son.”

5. The father promised Joe he could go to camp if he earned the money. Is the fact that the father promised the most important thing in the situation?
5a. Why or why not?

My general answer here is the same as in the previous question. The fact that the father promise Joe he could go to camp if he earned the money has no bearing on Joe’s possession of the money. The scenario is not based on the father no longer permitting Joe to go to camp, but on the father wanting Joe’s money, and the fact that this would entail Joe not going to camp is an incidental effect. Even if the promise did not exist in this scenario, it still would not justify the father taking the money.

Since I see it as an irrelevant factor, it cannot be the most important thing in the scenario. The most important factor in the scenario is that the money is Joe’s money, not the father’s. All arguments have to rest on this basic fact, and the basic principle that no one has the right to order someone else to arbitrarily surrender money. In any other context, we would call that robbery: if it was accompanied by a threat, we would call it extortion. Only the fact that a child is involved clouds our logic.

6. In general, why should a promise be kept?

I think that implicit in the word “promise” is the notion that it should be kept, so the question seems rather tautological to me. A promise should be kept because that’s what a promise is, an assurance that you will do something. So I think a more fruitful way to approach this question would be: in general, what are reasons to not keep a promise?

I think one major reason not to keep a promise would be learning new information which makes the promise undesirable or impossible to keep for one or both parties. Person A’s promise to person B to help them move is made null and void by person A throwing their back, for example, or person A learning that a loved one is sick and that they must go see them at the hospital on the same date. If they had known that information at the time the promise was made, they would not have made it.

Another reason would be if the promise was made under duress, but then it would hardly be a promise, as knowing you put someone under duress would surely tell you that there’s no assurance that they will actually follow through.

I suppose a stage 6 answer would be something like “promises should be kept because it is more just for all to live in a society where we can trust each other or rely on each other, because otherwise more callous people would be able to take advantage of others by making false promises” or something of the sort, but I don’t think that’s the right kind of answer.

7. Is it important to keep a promise to someone you don’t know well and probably won’t see again?
7a. Why or why not?

I think it all depends on whether we empathize with that other person. No one is likely to keep a promise to someone they don’t care about and will never see again. But most of us would keep a promise to someone they did care about, even if they would never see them again. I think that the strength of a promise generally is related to the strength of the relation between the parties: a promise made between two close friends is strong, while a promise made between two enemies is not worth a hill of beans (or any quantity of beans, however small).

Is it important? Certainly I would think less of anyone who breaks their promises to anyone, whether they would see them again or not, simply because that shows they are not a very good person. So my answer would be yes. I don’t think the “won’t see again” is particularly important.

8. What do you think is the most important thing a father should be concerned about in his relationship to his son?
8a. Why is that the most important thing?

I think the most important thing a parent should be concerned about in their relationship with their child (no matter the gender of each) is to support, and not interfere in, the natural development of the child. This means that the parent provides the material and psychological support that the child needs (being on the side of the child), while not indoctrinating the child for the parent’s sake.

It is the most important thing because the child’s sole job, the only thing a child should be concerned about, is being a child, and everyone involved in a child’s life should work towards that goal (either by providing material or psychological support, or by preventing undesired indoctrination). There should literally be no goal higher than this for any parent or caretaker. Any indoctrination, any coercion, any demands or orders which do not accord with this goal are wrong. It is not just the most important thing, it is the only thing.

I’m not sure what stage that would qualify as, but it’s definitely not conventional. I don’t believe that social consensus, laws, or social conventions have any bearing whatsoever on the issue of parents’ relationship to their children. The social consensus is that parents should interfere in their children’s lives in order to make them into good adults, and there are no laws against controlling children’s lives (except for things like assault, rape or murder).

9. In general, what should be the authority of a father over his son?
9a. Why?

My answer to this question is a direct consequence of my previous answer. The only justified authority that a parent can have over their child is the authority necessary to provide material or psychological support that the child needs (e.g. the classical example of a parent yanking their child out of the road so they don’t get hit, or helping them through rough times). No other parental authority is desirable or justified.

10. What do you think is the most important thing a son should be concerned about in his relationship to his father?
10a. Why is that the most important thing?

Again, I have to repeat myself: the child’s sole job is to be a child. Children should not be concerned with their relationship with their parents. If they like their parents, then all the better. But if they don’t, then they should not be the ones who have to cultivate the relationship. That’s the parents’ responsibility. So my answer, as unsatisfying as it might be, is: nothing.

11. In thinking back over the dilemma, what would you say is the most responsible thing for Joe to do in this situation?
11a. Why?

To me this question seems rather similar to question 1, except for the word “responsible,” but I’m not sure what it adds to the discussion. Joe has not done anything that he needs to take responsibility for. If anyone did, it is the father, who should take responsibility for giving orders to his child without justification. The responsible thing for the father to do in this situation is to apologize to Joe and tell him that he (Joe) can do whatever he wants with his own money. There is nothing responsible for Joe to do in this situation, because he didn’t do anything wrong.

Well, I hope you liked my answers. If you disagree with me on one of the questions, then please post your own answer in the comments. Since this entry is quite long, I will keep the other dilemma for another entry.

Derrick Jensen Resistance Radio w/ Sheila Jeffreys – December 15, 2013

An antinatalist song: Storken Kommer, by Mistro.

Lyrics translated:

welcome to what I call hell on earth
Forced into life out of the vagina on your mother
was not old boy until I saw that the battle was lost
and I prayed to everything holy that no more were created

naive in a scene played behind a facade
before I knew reality would come to my hurt
was just a kid, so it was no saying what
world is rubbish, calling a spade a spade

every second of every life is like a death sentence
parasites on the bones that we are born
give your sick gene to your offspring
For my part, I hope God gives us a flood

faked a smile as long as I can cope
fuck it, no longer afraid to say what
throughout our species is that accident considered
and our whole earth I will forever despise

stork comes, shoot it down
force it back, get it far away
we have enough as it is, we do not need to multiply
Stop it now so nobody suffers more

stork comes, shoot it down
force it back, get it far away
we have enough as it is, we do not need to multiply
misery as far as the eye sees

we all die, so giving birth is to kill
your lack of wisdom makes you not see it
Prices you see fit if opting out to procreate
and you understand the burden it means to exist

the world will probably never be a happy place
the hope was extinguished like a candle under glass
see chaos in our future, a society in fire
I give it a short time before my fucking fortune becomes true

so why be responsible for that someone will suffer
why throw someone in the mill that I call life
to a place of evil in the broad and wide
I would guess that your ego is subject

it is my view on it that someone gets to
the injustice that affects your children it’s your own fault
for you were aware of it here before
so the blood is on your hands if your child dies

Is economics really a science?

The blog Real Clear Markets doesn’t think so.

The most authoritative macroeconomic theories are those advanced by Nobel Prize Winners in Economic Science, to use the official title of the prize. The Economics Nobel Prize is awarded at the same time as the Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine, the three hard sciences. The implication is that macroeconomics has the same predictive power as the theories of physics, chemistry, and molecular biology. Indeed, we should judge the validity of macroeconomic theories in the same way we judge the theories of the hard sciences. If anything, we should demand even more rigor and reliability from macroeconomics, because it is far more important than any hard science. The failure of macroeconomic actions in the Great Depression led to World War II, in which many millions were killed, to say nothing of the vast misery caused by the Depression itself.

Years ago, I had a dispute on the comparative rigor of astronomy and macroeconomics with Harvard economist H. Gregory Mankiw, who from 2003 to 2005 was Chair of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors. Mankiw admitted that the predictive power of modern macroeconomic theory was abysmal. But he argued that astronomy was no better in the late sixteenth century, when astronomers were debating whether it was Ptolemy or Copernicus who was correct.

BDSM is not “edgy.” It’s just society magnified.

BDSM is being sold to us as an “edgy” form of sex, as opposed to the boring “vanilla” forms of sex used by most people. BDSM is said to be outrageous, transgressive, psychologically healing. But at the same time, we are told that BDSM is a perfectly valid, consensual way of exploring sexuality, so it’s not so transgressive that it becomes outright illegal.

But if you look at the theory of BDSM, you find that BDSM is actually not really “edgy” or transgressive. It is really nothing but another reflection of how our societies work. The monogamous family structure is one reflection of society, in that it posits a hierarchical framework where men dominate women and children, centered around property rights (the inviolability of the home).

BDSM is a different kind of reflection. While the monogamous family is a reflection of the conservative elements of society (and conservatives invoke it at any opportunity), BDSM is a reflection of the liberal elements of society. The liberal view of sex is one where women are not owned by one man, but indirectly by all men (through fuckability standards, the double standard, pornography and prostitution), and where ownership is generalized (where men own women’s sexuality, and women own men’s sexuality). BDSM is a codified, rationalized way of doing sex in accordance with these principles.

The main characteristics of BDSM are:

1. The dom/sub dynamic. This is a straightforward reproduction of the domination and submission dynamic that exists in all hierarchies, simply making it clearer than it usually is. While in most hierarchies the realization that one is dominating others, or is submitting to others, is hidden or repressed through various mechanisms of control, in BDSM that realization is the basis of the performance.

2. Hierarchies are structures of directed control (directed from the dominants to the submissives). The dom/sub dynamic is no different. BDSM “scenes” are frameworks for control flowing from doms to subs. Hierarchies enforce their control through violence or the threat of violence. In “scenes,” there is, likewise, violence and threats of violence.

Now, whenever you say this, BDSM advocates pipe up and say “it’s the sub who is really in control.” Right, like we don’t hear that sort of rationalization all the time. The doms are the one inflicting the violence, not the subs: that’s what they’re there for, and that’s why they’re called “dominants,” because they have the power. Now, I am not saying that all sexual violence is necessarily bad, although I definitely think they should be consensual. Which brings me to the next point…

3. BDSM is based on “consensual non-consent.” What does that mean? It means that you consent beforehand, either by verbal negotiations or through a contract, and that you have a safe word to use in order to stop a scene when it goes too far. But this is not consent, only the appearance of consent. Likewise, hierarchies are greatly concerned about maintaining the appearance of consent while not actually enforcing consent.

The best example of this is contracts. In capitalism, contracts are used to extract surplus value from workers in exchange for financial security (and in many jobs, not even that). In BDSM, contracts are used to normalize future sex acts. They are both form of ritual admission of dominance/submission which aim at providing the appearance of consent. But in reality, the worker has no more consented to obeying future orders than the sub has consented to the future sex acts.

BDSM advocates also say that safe words provide a clear way to prevent abuse. However, we know in practice that it does not, because of the high percentages of people who are abused in BDSM. There are many reasons why safe words can fail: because subs cannot form words due to trauma (or as they euphemistically call it, “subspace”), because subs forget their safe words, because subs don’t want to get disapproval from their doms, because doms don’t hear the word correctly, or because they simply ignore it. Superiors in our hierarchies also have all sorts of reasons not to care about the rights or desires of those they give orders to, all sorts of rationalizations explaining why they don’t have to care at all. We want to believe that we’re all safe from abuse, that the laws protect us, but this is just as delusional.

Through these three points, BDSM encapsulates the rules of universal exploitation. In theory, anyone can decide to be a dom or a sub. A sub can have different doms, and a dom can have different subs. They codify their social relations with contracts (like the work contract and the marriage contract). These relations are ostensibly based on “the consent of governed.”

BDSM’s sole function is to reproduce all the hierarchies and inequalities that have existed in our societies for centuries: sexism, racism, childism (through infantilism/DD and lg). There’s also nothing “edgy” about ritualized submission: religion has been doing it for millennia. Likewise, a relationship between two people sealed by mutual control and ritual is nothing new: we “vanilla” people call it “marriage.”

If you’re into race play you’re a racist. You’re getting off on perpetuating harmful, dehumanizing stereotypes that people live with everyday. If you weren’t racist you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it, let alone enjoy doing it.

If you’re into rape play you condone and normalize rape, and may be a rapist. You are literally getting off on and enjoying the simulated act of raping someone. You’re aroused by their nonconsent (feigned or otherwise). You derive pleasure from forced sexual violation.

If you’re into age play sexually, you are a pedophile. You are achieving sexual gratification from the image of a child. It doesn’t matter that the ‘child’ in question is a consenting adult, the image they are displaying to you is that of a child. If you’re fucking someone who is pretending to be 5 it’s because you’re socially aware enough to know you couldn’t get away with fucking an actual 5 year old and are fucking a substitute instead. That doesn’t make you less of a pedophile.

The only thing that could be said to be “new” about BDSM is the drive to rationalize it as psychologically healing and a form of sexual freedom, claims which have rarely been made about bigotry, religion, or marriage. It is the application of all these old concepts to sexuality that makes BDSM a distinctive ideology: applying bigotry, ritualized submission, and control and ritual, to people’s sex lives. But none of these things are desirable in the first place. We don’t need to keep reproducing bigotry. We don’t need ritualized submission, not to a god, not to a king, not to each other. We don’t need to keep controlling each other. None of this adds up to better sex. None of this adds up to any sort of challenge or even difference from our mainstream, abusive conceptions of sexuality and relationships.

Many BDSM advocates think they have a good argument against us when they say “mainstream heterosexual relationships are abusive too!” But in saying this, they admit that they’re just the same as the mainstream. This is not a revolutionary argument, or even a good argument. It’s just another tu quoque fallacy… terrible logic and even worse life advice.

Some people try to argue that there’s no contradiction between BDSM and feminism. I’ve debunked one such attempt in this entry. I won’t repeat myself here: if you’re interested in my arguments about that, read that entry. I have nothing against people who want to take charge of their sexuality and explore something different. But BDSM is not the way to go. Its explicit, strident anti-egalitarianism, its deliberate lies about “consent,” the fact that it’s aiding and abetting abusers and rapists (both within the community and without), are just disgusting. We don’t need that shit.

Gender choices for Four-year-olds

Are more men raped than women?

This inane claim comes from the Gamergate contingent. But Finally Feminism puts that claim to rest.

Looking at the population inside prisons and jails does decrease the overall difference between female and male sexual assault victimization rates. That’s because the male population of prisons and jails is much higher than the female population and because sexual assault is much more common in those institutional settings than in the general population.

But it doesn’t flip the percentages. The Daily Mail article is wrong: Self-reported rates of sexual assault are still considerably higher for women than for men.

The point of this post? It’s always good to know what the data actually tells us. With the general warning that we should be careful about comparing disparate data sets, collected in different ways, it’s pretty safe to believe that more women than men are raped in the United States.

Americans are not “polarized.”

The blog Occasional News and Commentary looked at a survey which shows that most Americans agree that capitalism has gone too far. This is not an issue of polarization but of people v the power elite.