Disequilibrium ethics

As part of a self-led course on liberal feminist philosophy, I accidentally started reading Situating the Self: Gender, Community, and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics, by Seyla Benhabib. I say accidentally because feminism isn’t really the focus of the book. I have found myself instead knee-deep in “discourse ethics” – the book’s main subject.

It’s easiest to describe discourse ethics in contrast to social contract ethics, where we envision some ideal scenario in which ideal individuals come to some kind of ideal agreement about what constitutes justice. (Social contract ethics typically focuses on justice rather than the broader topic of what constitutes the good life). To the social contract theorist, justice is whatever we could agree to if we were perfectly rational and perfectly objective. In a passage that would have been incredibly helpful had it appeared on page 2 instead of page 169, Benhabib trots out the differences between this approach and discourse ethics.

Both the Rawlsian “original position” and the Habermasian model of “discourse ethics” are idealizations intended to make vivid to us the ideal of impartiality or of what it means to assume the moral standpoint. Their differences center around the following points. According to discourse ethics, the moral standpoint is not to be construed primarily as a hypothetical thought process, carried out singly by the moral agent or by the moral philosopher, but rather as an actual dialogue situation in which moral agents communicate with one another. Second, in the discourse model no epistemic restrictions are placed upon moral reasoning and moral disputation, for the more knowledge is available to moral agents about each other, their history, the particulars of their society, its structure and future, the more rational will be the outcome of their deliberations. Practical rationality involves epistemic rationality as well, and more knowledge rather than less contributes to a more informed and rational judgment. To judge rationally is not to judge as if one did not know what one could know (the effect of hanging the “veil of ignorance”), but to judge in light of all available and relevant information. Third, if there are no knowledge restrictions to be placed upon such an argumentative situation, then it also follows that there is no privileged subject matter of moral disputation. In the discourse model, moral agents are not only limited to reasoning about primary goods which they are assumed to want whatever else they want. Instead, both the goods they desire and their desires themselves can become subjects of moral disputation. Finally, in such moral discourses agents can also change levels of reflexivity, that is they can introduce metaconsiderations about the very conditions and constraints under which such dialogue takes place and they can evaluate their fairness. There is no closure of reflexivity in this model as there is in the Rawlsian one. (pp 169)

Emphases in original. There are three ideas here that I’d like to discuss in turn: (1) actual versus hypothetical dialogue; (2) universal particularity versus blind universalism; and (3) the vague rather than strict boundary between the right and the good.

Actual versus Hypothetical Dialogue

The whole point of thinking about justice hypothetically in terms of idealized agents coming together to hammer out the principles of justice once and for all is that this way you can actually reach an agreement and come to some conclusions. Of course, in real life we can never get any group of appreciable size and diversity to agree on anything at all. The consensus achieved by idealized agents is illusory because (1) we ultimately have to return to the world of flesh and blood to test out the ideas arrived at behind the veil; and (2) meaningful differences between the contractors have been idealized away to such an extent that the contractors are identical, so it’s no consensus at all, except that of the philosopher with themself. I’ll save (2) for the next section.

As to (1), the veil of ignorance – whereby we ponder what folks might agree to about how society is organized if they didn’t know what their own place in that society would be – is a useful thought experiment. It challenges us to think objectively, and it can yield valuable insights. But upon lifting the veil, the conclusions must still be justified to real people who can argue back. This becomes evident when you see the real world criticism by other philosophers when a theory of justice derived from ideal theory is published. This might seem like a trivial point, but I think it matters that at the end of the day, there’s no escaping engaging with real folks who keep raising good objections regardless how objective we think we’re being.

Benhabib’s alternative approach of discourse ethics moves the emphasis from the agreement to the process of getting to that agreement and explicitly eschews the requirement to actually reach universal agreement.

We must interpret consent not as an end-goal but as a process for the cooperative generation of truth or validity. The core intuition behind modern universalizability procedures is not that everybody could or would agree to the same set of principles, but that these principles have been adopted as a result of a procedure, whether of moral reasoning or of public debate, which we are ready to deem “reasonable and fair.” (pp 37)

Disagreement and therefore politics are brute facts of our social nature. The unhappy fact is that sometimes we will of necessity – when the stakes are high enough to warrant it – have to coerce cooperation in order to reap the rewards of social coordination. We can’t avoid this, but we can try to make the social and political decision procedures as just and as robust as possible.

Universal particularity versus blind universalism

As I said above, consensus behind the veil is really the consensus of the contract theorist with themself. This criticism has been lobbed at Rawls from multiple angles, including from feminists and non-contractarian liberals. If we abstract away all our socially defining features and our substantive commitments, we erase the particular, vivid experience of, for example, what it’s like to be a member of a marginalized ethnicity or religion, or a woman in a society where men have been calling the shots for centuries. Individual experience, in all its granular particulars, is a requisite epistemic resource for any meaningful discourse on justice.

The conditions for a just and robust discourse are these:

(1) that we recognize the right of all beings capable of speech and action to be participants in the moral conversation – I will call this the principle of universal moral respect; (2) these conditions further stipulate that within such conversations each has the same symmetrical rights to various speech acts, to initiate new topics, to ask for reflection about the presuppositions of the conversation, etc. Let me call this the principle of egalitarian reciprocity. (pp 29)

Emphases in original. Everyone can speak, raise issues, and contest common assumptions and narratives. And each person owes it to others to listen with charity.

Some white men conferring behind a veil

The right and the good are distinct, but not cleanly separable

Liberal neutrality is a critical feature of a peaceful civilization, as it prohibits those in power from enforcing their visions of the good life onto their dissenting fellows, thus eliminating a source of irreconcilable conflict. But liberal neutrality shouldn’t be construed to shield conceptions of the good from critical inquiry. We derive the same epistemic advantages from opening our conceptions of the good to outside critique as we do from opening our theories of justice to critique.

If in discourses the agenda of the conversation is radically open, if participants can bring any and all matters under critical scrutiny and questioning, then there is no way to predefine the nature of the issues discussed as being public ones of justice versus private ones of the good life. Distinctions such as between justice and the good life, norms and values, interests and needs are “subsequent” and not prior to the process of discursive will formation. As long as these distinctions are renegotiated, reinterpreted and rearticulated as a result of a radically open and procedurally fair discourse, they can be drawn in any of a number of ways. (pp 110)

Justice and theories of the good shouldn’t be strictly separated because this is likely to implicitly privilege status quo power relations to the detriment of the marginalized. Without critical challenge from diverse perspectives, these relations can easily be understood as natural or inevitable, rather than socially constructed and changeable. An example of this is the common understanding throughout pre-feminist history that domestic family matters are private and not open to public scrutiny, and further that a woman’s natural role is within the domestic sphere while the man’s natural role to engage in civic life.

As an aside, I suspect one can fruitfully compare this ethical approach to Hayek’s defense of freedom as a discovery process: the trusting of “the independent and competitive efforts of many to induce the emergence of what we shall want when we see it.” (Constitution of Liberty, pp 29) For both Hayek and Benhabib, the core problems of living together are the epistemic ones of effectively harnessing dispersed knowledge.

Reflective equilibrium and discursive disequilibrium

Reflective equilibrium is the process by which we achieve harmony between our moral intuitions and our rational theories of ethics. We reason about ethics in order to construct some kind of machinery we can trust to guide us through novel moral terrain. We calibrate our theories against our intuitions in well-understood cases, and we go back to the drawing board if our theories throw up catastrophic moral horrors for these intuitive cases. And we go back and forth, sometimes becoming so confident with our theoretical machinery that we accept its verdict in central cases over our intuitions.

Ethical discourse extends this procedure beyond the individual to the moral community (construed as the whole of humanity in some cases). We must strive not only reach agreement within ourselves, but with our fellows. But moral pluralism is a brute political fact, and the socio-moral landscape is continually evolving as cultural, political and market arrangements, technology, and scientific understanding all change with the times. New critiques and new ways of relating to one another are always emerging. We’re thus always in a state of disequilibrium, seeking consensus where none is actually possible. On this view, moral understanding is a continual process and not something that can ever be figured out once and for all.

19 thoughts on “Disequilibrium ethics

  1. “An example of this is the common understanding throughout pre-feminist history that domestic family matters are private and not open to public scrutiny, and further that a woman’s natural role is within the domestic sphere while the man’s natural role to engage in civic life.”

    The phrase “common misunderstanding” links to a reply to me. I feel compelled to point out that the rest of the above quotation does not refer to anything I have misunderstood. 🙂

    Other than that, good post. Carry on! 🙂

  2. susan

    “An example of this is the common understanding throughout pre-feminist history that domestic family matters are private and not open to public scrutiny, and further that a woman’s natural role is within the domestic sphere while the man’s natural role to engage in civic life.”

    This is minor quibble; but really, creating the public/private distinction was a major aspect of the Enlightenment project. To name two examples… The median 17th century European woman worked outside the home. 17th century people were exceedingly willing to intervene in private family matters (including breaking into apartments to stop domestic violence). We see both of those things rapidly evaporate over the course of the 18th century. That doesn’t mean 17th century women had it great; it was just different. Demarcating the public and private, with men as actors in the public civic sphere, and women as private domestic angels, was a real innovation. When Rousseau wrote Emile, he wasn’t describing society as it was, but a radical new society he thought should be.

    (When I was in grad school, we weren’t even allowed to deploy the word “public” in discussing anything before about 1730- to sometimes ludicrous effect, in my mind…)

    In a way, this strengthens your point: the “traditional” public/private gender distinction idealized in the mind of Americans was in fact only the status quo in the West for around 200 years.

    1. Paul Crider

      Interesting point, thanks. I don’t really know, but I’ll take your word for it that this was the case for the median woman. I wonder if this was different for the elite classes?

      I did get the sense from Susan Moller Okin’s work that there was some form of public/private distinction for classical Athens, with women being confined to domestic roles. Do you disagree with that?

      1. susan

        Things were different for elites insofar as they weren’t generally “working” at all and there were different expectations around age of marriage, etc. But the Enlightenment and late 18th century generally brought about a retreat of elite women into a more private/familial sphere as well. For example, some of Rousseau’s harshest words were for aristocratic women who wetnursed their children so they could have active lives at court. (Wetnursing was actually a ubiquitous phenomenon among virtually all classes in early modern Europe.) The 18th century saw a bit of a breastfeeding craze and there are lots of portraits of aristocratic women breastfeeding from that time.

        Joan Landes is, I guess, one of the seminal works on this in the Habermasian tradition. And she deals quite a bit with elites. (I personally am a lot more knowledgable on lower/middling classes and overall demographic trends.) http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100787670

        I really know next to nothing about ancient Greece. It’s been ages since I read Susan Moller Okin… In general I’d say I’m skeptical of political philosophers’ (and regular flavor philosophers’ ) knowledge of history.

  3. cathyreisenwitz

    I’ve written about this before, but I just love how you write in such a way as to not require much background to understand. Example: “…social contract ethics, where we envision some ideal scenario in which ideal individuals come to some kind of ideal agreement about what constitutes justice. (Social contract ethics typically focuses on justice rather than the broader topic of what constitutes the good life). To the social contract theorist, justice is whatever we could agree to if we were perfectly rational and perfectly objective.” Like, that’s a great reminder for someone who knows and a great intro to everyone else. Thanks for writing in an accessible way.

    1. Paul Crider

      Thanks! I think this means I must be getting better. I have been accused of being obscure and given to excessive jargon in the past, and not without reason, frankly. I was consciously thinking about readability while writing this.

  4. johnathan doeman

    What you are describing in terms of the “ideal” justice is not hypothetical but concrete; it’s found in unified tribal society (classless society) as opposed to polar feudal state (state divided into elite owner and common labor classes). You should look up Confessions of the Last Lowly Warrior (Griffin); one of the footnotes refers in some detail to how politics perform the same function in the polar feudal state that morality accomplishes in unified tribal society—distribution of resources. Where political legislation accomplishes this awkwardly in the feudal state, and with bias for the elite—moral ethics fine tunes distribution in tribal society, distributing wealth and resources more evenly among all people.

    The idea behind this being that we are social animals; meaning we have both the base animal instincts “to gather” resources for the self, but also the more evolved social animal instincts “to share” our resources with others, both of which are unconditioned behaviors. Moral behavior, then, is simply the tension between these two instincts/urges finding a natural (behavioral) equilibrium, or balanced expression. What we call “morality” is the codification of these naturally occurring behaviors.

    When some segment of humanity (in some corner of the globe) made the paradigm shift from natural tribal society to artificial feudal society, installing the novel condition (cognitive construct) of dividing unified tribal culture into separate elite and common classes, a milestone the book associates with “creation myths” in general (meaning the creation of the feudal state/feudal humans rather than creation of the physical world and our species), moral ethics were supplanted by political legislation (“legislation” is the modern incarnation of what in an ancient, though equally artificial, form was “edict”, divine and/or royal). Whereas in tribal society the animal and social animal urges are balanced directly by morality, resulting in an evenhanded “middle way”, in the feudal state ideological extensions of these urges, conservatism and liberalism, are balanced indirectly through the political process, expressed as a value shifting back and forth between two protracted extremes.

    The result being that after the shift from tribal society to the feudal state, tribal justice was replaced with feudal justifications, justifications that depart from the “ideal” justice you are looking for, which is tribal in nature. Natural moral laws had to be replaced with artificial political laws for the feudal scheme (exploitation) to take root and flourish. Morality had to be replaced because the goal of morality is to distribute evenly to reduce social stress, which is not conducive to the feudal goal of elite entitlement to the lion’s share of resources through the device of ownership (of the land, means of production), nor does it aid in the transfer of wealth from labor to the elite which follows from ownership and entitlement. In tribal society the common good of everyone is prioritized, reducing social stress. In the feudal state private interests of the elite are prioritized, increasing social stress all around, particularly for labor. You just can’t accomplish the goals of the artificial feudal state within the framework of naturally occurring tribal morality because the two are unequivocally in opposition.

    The artificial division of unified tribal society into a polarized feudal elite and feudal working class is the source of your “disequilibrium ethics”. In order to divest a segment of society from communal ownership of the world, or tribal lands (recall the expulsion from E’den), and moreover to dispossess them of the natural fruits of their natural labors (recall the forbidden fruit) and the prosperity derived from those resources, one must first manufacture a common out-group to which one is not morally obligated to apply the standard of ethics one applies to the elite in-group.

    The allegory of the “firmament” separating the “water above from the waters below” is a metaphor for the firm feudal laws separating the high and low bloodlines, the royal/common bloodlines, or the rulers and the ruled. This division must be made and maintained in some form or capacity in order to artificially justify elite entitlement to the wealth and resources the laboring class creates. After the Age of Reason, after the belief in a divinely mandated fate fell out of favor, after the privilege of elites was marginalized, after the permeability of the barriers between the elites and common station (and the mobility of the labor class) was recognized—after all that the common people could “aspire to escape” the confines of their fate and those “aspirations” threatened the feudal structure which is dependent on a concentration of wealth and power among a few elites, a concentration which is itself predicated upon dispossessing a subservient out-group of their rightful, moral, tribal, natural, or “fair” share of resources.

    Consequently, after the age of reason focus began steadily shifting from internal social barriers separating a subordinate class from elite class to external barriers separating subordinate nations from elite nations, to establishing well-defined borders, less porous national borders, enforced borders separating elite nations from those common nations that manufacture value, so that that value or wealth could be transferred to the elite nations as a rebate in the form of lower prices. National borders are the modern incarnation of “the firmament” in Genesis. And until we abandon feudalism (capitalism is a form of feudalism by the way)–until we do the disequilibrium of ethics will remain a feature of the modern world, since the concentration of wealth and power among the elites (who control government, policy and its enforcement) is dependent upon it- or at least it will remain a fixture of our society until globalization takes place fully, resulting in a single global cultural identity forming (All of this is why capitalism, which is feudal, is inevitably incompatible with democracy, which is tribal in nature. The transfer of wealth from labor to the elite required by the feudal structure/hierarchy, and the state’s active suppression of the tribal/moral instincts of labor to resist or rebel against institutionalized loss of resources, requires control mechanisms for the people, not liberty. This is why all liberty and rights historically erode in a cycle of oppression and revolution in a feudal state inhabited by tribal beings; the rise and fall of the feudal state and the boom and bust of the feudal economy are related).

    Evolution has made us innately, moral tribal beings, for us social ethics can only develop in lockstep with social identity; and a feudal economic system, like capitalism, is patently incompatible with the closed ethical system that will result from globalization. A unified ethics will follow, I promise you. It is a behavioral algebra. I think the global revolution/labor strike that will inevitably occur as the global (feudal) economic system of the West deteriorates, collapses and self-destructs, along with the violent suppression of that global revolution/labor strike by the ruling elites, which will certainly follow, is the hidden meaning of the stories in many religions of an eventual Armageddon/Ragnarok, a final battle between good and evil, which should be understood as tribal good and the evil of feudalism… or between society and the state, between liberty and control, freedom and slavery, heaven and hell. A global age of tribalism will be the result, so that the “second coming” expected by many Christians should be understood as referring not to a Christ figure, but to the moral (tribal) philosophy he taught.

    We are tribal, not feudal. We are evolved moral beings, not backward political animals. I think this gives deeper meaning to the verse somewhere in Romans: We are for grace, not for law.

  5. johnathan doeman

    It’s interesting the author approached this initially from a feminist perspective. The feminist movement is a reaction to the historic marginalization, suppression and subservience of women in Western culture. The idea that a woman should be subservient to her husband and should be ruled over by him is a notion born out of the Western religious traditions, a tradition in which God mandates a wife should obey her husband and follow his example.

    But this idea is the product of misunderstandings of the religious symbol systems of the world in general, but especially in the Western world— its the product of misinterpretations and intentional subversions of the underlying meaning of the allegory and metaphors. In religious symbolism the Heavens, the Sun, the Parent and the Masculine figure should be understood as referring to the dominant elite owner class while the Earth, the Moon, the Child and Feminine figure refer to the subordinate labor class, so that the lost original meaning of any parable or scriptural texts stressing the subordinate condition of women in marriage is that the peasant, the slave (and in the modern age, the employee) should obey and be subservient to the will of their king, their master (and in the modern age, management) in the state/kingdom. In other words, labor is divinely obligated to be subordinate to the elite according to the old gods of the old religion in the Old Testament which is associated with Baal, Saturn, Satan, Prometheus, Lucifer and the (feudal) Serpent that entered the (tribal) garden paradise remembered as E’den.

    Comparative religion has not caught on to this yet, but it was not “fire” Prometheus gave humanity but a “burning” desire for material wealth associated with feudalism/materialism and now capitalism. Insatiable greed is the all-consuming fire in which we all burn with in the comparative “hell” of the feudal state (so to speak).

    If the confusion over religious symbolism had never occurred, all the time and energy and effort of the modern feminist movement would have eventually found an outlet, not in freeing women from the rule and abuse of male dominated society (for women would never have been marginalized by men in the first place) but in freeing the working class from the rule and abuse of the wealthy elite. Jesus was a metaphor, a metaphor representing a revolutionary activist/ideology. The blood of the lamb, that is said to cleanse the world one day, is actually a symbol of the suffering and persecution of political and economic activists who are killed, jailed, beaten and harassed (or choked and pepper sprayed by the police) as they work to cleanse the world of social, economic and environmental injustice. Revolutionaries are always bloodied by the ruling elite when they seek to right wrongs or to liberate the people; when the elites feel their wealth and privilege is threated they act to suppress rebellions and labor strikes. All of this is just to say, it’s only through the blood (suffering/death) of the lamb (the moral activist) that the “sin” (extortion and abuse) of the (feudal) world is washed away (and abolished).

  6. johnathan doeman

    “Disagreement and therefore politics are brute facts of our social nature.”

    I would qualify the above statement by adding politics are brute facts of our social nature while living within the unnatural feudal habitat. Deprivation requires we lower ourselves to brutes. Without the sanctuary of the tribe we live like the brute animals: nature red in tooth and claw.

    “The unhappy fact is that sometimes we will of necessity – when the stakes are high enough to warrant it – have to coerce cooperation in order to reap the rewards of social coordination.”

    Firstly, I don’t believe there is any such thing as “coerce[d] cooperation”, there is only cooperation or subjugation. That sort of linguistic sugarcoating is a pleasant fiction the tribal mind, which is habituated to the ugliness of feudalism, conjures to avoid the brutal reality of what’s really going on, and the stress of that reality.
    Secondly, in true tribal society, tribal democracy—the will of the people–prevails. The tribal democracy of the Iroquois, sometimes referred to as the Haudenosaunee, is the model our own democracy was fashioned after, though ours was substantially perverted by the federalists who inserted many control mechanisms to insure the common people had little or no real power or control.
    In tribal society, however, if a course of action is not good for everyone, it’s not good at all. The issue that comes to my mind here is: If we are forcing compliance “in order to reap the rewards of …” [forced] social coordination… ” why are we having to force people at all? Surely the rewards themselves are worth a little cooperation without need of any force. The answer is because the elite claim the vast majority of any rewards. In other words when you have a society in which risk/cost is socialized and profit/rewards are privatized, you will always have people who have to be coerced to participate. The assumption that the rewards are for some greater good or the public welfare tends to be an illusion, a mere selling point. In order to make sense of the world we live in, and address the problems we face, we have to accept that we do not live in a single united society with one shared economic fate, but two. Every modern nation is composed of two tribes (for lack of a better word), the elite tribe and common tribe.

    1. Paul Crider

      I’m in general very sensitive to the fact that elites extract rents and other advantages from non-elites. But you seem to be ignoring the possibility of genuine collective action problems where the way to cooperate is clear but there are unreasonable holdouts. You don’t need an elite/common dichotomy to understand that.

      1. johnathan doeman

        You didn’t rebut the other points I made, so for the time being I will assume you agree in general. If my dismissal of collective bargaining is your only objection, I will address it now, please bear with me.
        Firstly, I think the problem extends further than “rent” and mere “elite advantages”. I’m speaking of institutionalized theft of resources, whereby a few entitled elites live and prosper at unprecedented levels at the expense, and to the detriment, of the rest of humanity, subsisting themselves wholly from the labors of the working class. This transfer of wealth constitutes an enculturated theft whereby royals and nobility once claimed the lion’s share of resources produced by the peasant class, and by which modern elites claim the vast majority of resources produces by labor. So, again, I’m not talking about rent; I’m talking about Walmart employees, for example, who may create 20 billion dollars in profit in any given year, while making less then minimum wage. Walmart also is a company that vigorously suppresses unionization and collective bargaining.
        The full potential for the liberation of labor from the rule and abuse of the elite was not realized after the Age of Reason largely because feudal people are habituated to the polar feudal structure, and consequently have no conception that another unified model for society is even possible, let alone preferable to the feudal condition (the definition of feudal state here is a society divided into elite and common classes in which there is an obligatory transfer of wealth from labor to the elite through the device of ownership).
        The result being the feudal slave liberated to whatever extent seeks to become like the master, rather than seeking to abolish the feudal institution of ownership and entitlement. The few visionaries that do imagine the possibilities are actively suppressed. Feudal materialism has a way of defending itself in that any “idealistic ideology” one might want to promote and pursue must be funded and paid for. Surmounting that hurdle visionaries that gain notoriety and momentum inevitably meet elite enemies who actively suppress and/or assassinate those deemed a threat to the status quo—or rather to the feudal system that provides them with privilege, power and wealth; it’s a task performed, more often than not, by governments in serving the elites, with chests swollen with a useful brand patriotism.
        The common labor class had a brief reprieve after the enlightenment, in which common class made real strides, freedom for the slaves in the south, advancement of the working poor with unions and collective bargaining rights, but these improvements have been actively and violently rebuffed and countered in many ways by the elite class, until we now have a reemergence of the pre-enlightenment peasant class, now called “austerity” which is essentially a re-envisioning of the peasant class for the modern age.
        “genuine collective action” is actively fought and suppressed by the elite class, and the politicians that serve their interests. Wisconsin comes to mind where Governor Walker stuck several legislative blows against the intrinsic right of the people’s to organize collective bargaining. Walker wet so far as to call the working class (who only wanted more of resources rightly belonging to them) parasites, which makes about as much sense as a tick calling a dear a parasite for squatting to scrape the tick off its ass in order that it may keep more of its own blood. You don’t need a history degree to observe that historically the elite class suppresses rebellions, labor strikes and any activities of the common worker seeking to alleviate the oppression and gluttony of elites, and to thus avoid the existential threat and stress resulting from the elite drain on resources they produce.
        Finding people to resist is not the issue. We are tribal beings, which means we are instinctually social and moral, meaning we are possessed of what Howard Zinn called: A Power governments Cannot Suppress, which is a moral drive for social equilibrium, or the avoidance of what you call the “disequilibrium of ethics” and what others have dichotomous thinking. It is plain that we were once tribal being, and that at some point we made a paradigm shift from unify tribal society to polar feudal society. How can anything but the artificial polar, structure of feudal society be the cause of disequilibrium of ethics, when the resulting dual ethics and dichotomous worldview is required to disenfranchise a laboring outgroup deemed “unentitled” to the very wealth it produces itself, creating a condition in which the idle grasshopper prospers as the industrious ants suffers and goes without.
        An innately tribal humanity has been tearing down the feudal structure throughout history, at least since what Genesis calls The Fall from (tribal) Grace; we just need to use these naturally occurring organic collapses of the feudal structure by providing an alternative tribal framework and philosophy during the rebuilding process, so that as the feudal structure collapses it is replace with tribal institutions and philosophy.
        If you are familiar with Steven E. Hobfoll’s Conservation of resources model of stress: a new way of conceptualize stress (1988), which is the E=MC2 of stress psychology, you may be aware that loss of valued resource is what causes stress. Therefore the institutionalized transfer of wealth and resource from labor to the elite class through the artificial device of “ownership” is very stressful for labor when you approach from the perspective of systems theory. When you consider the impact of such a stressful moment in human history had on tribal culture as the paradigm shift from unified tribal society to a polarized feudal state/kingdom took place, it is clear that such unintuitive development would have been extremely bewildering, to the extent it would have been perceived as abject Evil entering the world. It seems classless society may be the best answer to fixing the world “disequilibrium of ethics”, if for no other reason than any solution that does not address the polar structure of society, and the polar world view that follows from it, is doomed to failure. The medium is the message. So long as we live in a polar society, we cannot help but see the world that way, and react to it accordingly. Any action that does not address the structural root of the problem is an exercise in futility.

        I look forward to your thoughts.

      2. johnnathan doeman

        I see what you are saying now. And I did not address it in my longer reply, which is at Reddit now. To address what I now perceive to be the intent of your rebuttal l can only that I could easily turn that around and say you seem to be ignoring the possibility that the elite are very apt at bribing key people to becoming hold-holdouts, to turn leaders into confederates against the common cause of labor. Surely, you do not put such behaviors past capitalists? There is a term for it in the field of public policy called “coopting.” Our whole model of government is based it, based on system in which, even when the way forward is clear to most moral Americans, members of Congress “hold out” as you say and pass counterintuitive laws that defy logic and sense, for no other reason except bribery, or “campaign contribution” as its called in Washington.
        So, not quiet as simple as you might think.

  7. johnathan doeman

    Sorry for a few typos I’ve spotted, wrote this rather quickly this morning, if anything is unclear please let me know. I’ll post a edited version at Reddit later since there appears to be no edit feature in this forum.

    1. Paul Crider

      Hi Johnathan. This is a site I regularly blog at.

      I appreciate the comments on my post. I’m afraid I can’t offer quite the back-and-forth you seem to want. I think we diverge quite early on in values/worldview. Responding adequately would require at least one lengthy blog post (you’ve written the equivalent of three full blog posts in the comments).

  8. johnathan doeman

    Well, the point of debate and discussion is to persuade and change worldviews. I thought the point of posting was to encourage dialogue. It never occurred to me you were too busy to engage in the discussion you started by posting to Reddit. I truly thought you might appreciate how the polar structure of society informs on the disequilibrium of ethics.

    It seems like refusing to have a back and forth dialogue with someone with a different view puts a lot of pressure on you to be absolutely correct. Are you certain you already have everything figured out? If you want to tell me where we diverge and why, I’ll be happy to discuss on the off chance there is room for improvement. History is littered with accounts of theories and ideas that were taken as immutable truths right before a paradigm shift rendered them obsolete. My email is thepedestrian@hush.com if you change you mind.

    If the aim of posting was merely to seek praise and attention, it seems the others who replied have risen to the occasion. So I won’t take up any more of your time. And if I didn’t say it before, thanks very much for returning my prolific consideration of your paper with a response.

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