For Your Enjoyment: A commenter makes me think

Comment filters here at Pervert Justice are set so that your first comment ever always goes to moderation. If approved, subsequent comments – even on different threads – are not moderated unless they trip the spam trap or certain specific content filters.

One of the best things about this is that I get to see all the commenters names, there’s never one that I miss because I don’t realize a commenter is new. Today that commenter is AbbeyCadabra, commenting on the thread I am 3 years old. I know everything.

AbbeyCadabra really made me think, though not about arcane topics like philately or feminism. No, the arcane which AbbeyCadabra woke from my memory is entirely different and entirely more fun. For your enjoyment, I provide a clip that never stops making me laugh, 40 years after I first saw it:

 

I particularly like, “AbbaCaPocus!” and the poor vampires stone-muffled “Hoh-kusss, Poh-kusss”. There must be something terribly Sadistic going on here at Pervert Justice.

I Have Been Slandered!

While I am well versed in ethics*1 and even considered an expert by some*2 in my area of specialization*3, I always, always, always go back to my sources when I write about ethics to make sure that I’m not misrepresenting the work of others by distorting it through the lens of what part of a topic or an author’s work seemed important to me. It’s also a good way to brush up on areas I tend to neglect. While I could open any number of books sitting on my shelves, it is frankly easier to open an internet source as I’m already writing on my computer. Thus, for topics where a sufficiently trustworthy source exists, I may very well skim a website to make sure that I’m not forgetting or misremembering anything important.

Often, that website is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Today it happens to be the SEP’s background page on Virtue Ethics. Imagine my surprise to read down and find myself defamed by this go-to internet resource on important philosophical topics.

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I’m 3 years old. I know everything.

So if you internet at all, you know about Reddit’s tradition of inviting on celebrities and Know-it-alls (and sometimes celebrity know-it-alls) for AMA sessions. If you internet at all lately, you may even know about the latest AMA to go viral. Too bad. I’m writing about it anyway.

Because Reddit is a sinkhole of evil, I’m going to source most of this from the best place on the internet for useless fluff: the Huffington Post (the Daily Mail and a few other places had coverage as well). According to HP, this all got started because Texas dad Matthew Clark found that his son Caleb tended to stick with the first answer he gave to any question, even if the question was 2+2 and the Caleb’s answer was 10. Find two pairs of two things? Have Caleb count the total? Didn’t matter.

Since Elon Musk thinks his thinky-thoughts can’t be wrong and he did a popular AMA, Matthew thought Caleb had all the necessary tools to be Reddit’s next font of wisdom.

And, in this case, we are all so glad he did.

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For Your Enjoyment: Bill Nye Saves the World!

Got Netflix? As of yesterday, Bill Nye’s new series, Bill Nye Saves the World, is available on Netflix. The trailer looks

fun:

 

I seem to remember PZ over on Pharyngula posting a critique of some of Bill Nye’s actions recently, but I can’t seem to find it and I don’t remember wha the critique was. Should that critique be sufficient to keep you from supporting Bill Nye by watching the series, more power to you. Since I can’t remember the substance of the critique, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if many freethoughtblogs readers can’t either, and thus will chose to watch the new series. For you, I say happy TV times.

I do hope, however, that they limit the use of Rocky’s theme song.

 

 

 

Artiles Resigns

Frank Artiles Speaks in a Florida Legislative Venue

Florida state senator Frank Artiles, thuggish jerk-wad and Republican, proved himself morally unfit to represent the the people of that state. I, personally, wouldn’t be surprised if he had proven himself to be unfit long before recent events. But not living anywhere near Florida, I don’t follow their intrastate politics. (For those not in the know, Artiles suddenly received a spate of negative press this week after he called other state senators “niggers,” “bitch,” and “girl” in addition to the more generic “fucking assholes” which, while impolitic, doesn’t rely on sexism or racism for its impact.)

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A Moral Caricature: Deontology

How do you make your moral decisions? I’m not asking which things you think are good and which things you think are bad. I’m asking what factors do you consider, and what is the process by which you consider them, when you are trying to figure  out what is right or wrong, good or bad?

The online comic Strong Female Protagonist stars a superhero like many others in a story unlike many others. For those who remember Concrete, SFP reminds me more of that book than any other super hero comic I know. Recently, the main character had to make some decisions that any real person would spend some time second guessing. She wondered if she made the right choices. She wondered if she could even be called a hero. And yet, she wasn’t certain that choosing anything else would have been any better. All this is good. All this is appropriate characterization. But these thoughts are thoughts that in other comics would have been dealt with, if at all, in a dramatic moment. Either the hero would mull ethics immediately after a battle while in the midst of unignorable devastation caused by the battle, or the ethics would be glossed over until the middle of the next big battle, when suddenly the hero would seize up and the drama wouldn’t be so much about the goodness of the character as the timing of the character breaking free of the paralysis.

But Strong Female Protagonist is not a typical super hero story. Our Hero ends up wrestling with these questions in the park, speaking to an old professor she ran into by happenstance. One of the themes you’ll see explored here on Pervert Justice will be meta-ethics: how do we make decisions about what is good and what is bad? The creators of SFP did an excellent job with the hero/professor conversation and so I thought I’d take the opportunity afforded by this story to begin a discussion on meta-ethics.

We’ll start just with this one story-page to get a glimpse of a number of major considerations one encounters when attempting to consciously craft a meta-ethics that works with one’s own values and perspectives and experiences. On this page, the hero’s old professor (black hair) is drawn coat-on to represent one side of an ethical debate while the professor is drawn coat-off to represent the other side of the same debate. Our Hero is drawn in the middle of this debate, focussed on listening:

A Page from Strong Female Protagonist where our hero listens to one professor play-act both sides of the Deontology vs Consequentialism debate.

This is one of the first questions we must solve in meta-ethics: will we consider results alone? Or will we consider other factors? Note that consequentialism and especially Utilitarianism (one instance of consequentialism) are not the only systems of ethical decision making that consider the results (or the ends) of an action. Deontology, which is made up of those ethical systems that prioritize following rules or adhering to duties, is frequently asserted to be a system of following rules instead of considering consequences. This, however, is a caricature. Not only are consequences considered at various points in deontic reasoning, but an appeal to consequences is frequently a justification for imposing duties in the first place.

How else would you describe the first argument on the page?

CoatOn: If the ends justify the means, then all is permitted! In the name of the Greater Good we may commit any atrocity we like.

CoatOn is arguing for considering factors other than results, but the argument is that if we fail to examine the means and not merely the results, then we will end up with bad results. This is a Deontic position, a position that ethics is best described as a set of duties and the relationship of individual decisions/actions to those duties. Yet it is not blind to consequences. Rather it asserts that we will get better consequences if we begin our ethical decision making already constrained by certain duties. These duties are different in different deontic systems. In some an important duty/value (often the most important duty/value) is obedience to some authority, typically a god. But not all deontic ethical systems are religious and not all religious ethical systems are deontic.

Consequentialism is typically seen in contrast to deontology. There are other ethical decision making systems to consider, but the most frequently debated today reside in one of these two camps. For now, it’s enough to distinguish deontology from consequentialism and to understand that deontologists don’t ignore consequences, but rather have a belief (sometimes presuppositional) that the best ethical decision making is a process that considers more than consequences alone.

What a Witch Hunt Looks Like

We were talking about witch hunts in the comments to my recent post on lynching and the use of the language of lynching. I said that it’s important that witch hunts threaten more than one’s reputation and that witch hunters use evidence or tests that are not logically connected to the supposed conclusion of witchcraft (among other criteria). To illustrate what we’re actually talking about, I thought we should not stay abstract about witch hunts any more than we were abstract about lynching: and if you haven’t read that post, it’s not abstract at all. That post cannot be more disturbing because of All The Racism, and this one is potentially less disturbing only because of the lack of pictures.

That said, in a world that includes witch hunting, it is important to discuss it honestly, to understand what a witch hunt actually does, what witch hunters actually do. It is every bit as important to understand witch hunting as it is to understand lynching. So, if you’re ready, I give you two short illustrations of witch hunting from the perspective of a victim and from the perspective of a perpetrator.

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Why Lynch Mob is Overused … and Underused

Content note for All The Racism, including graphic photos; witch hunt links contain All The Sexism.

A while back I wrote on Pharyngula about losing my patience with the phrase “witch hunt”. Witch hunts were real things, actively targeting real people for death. They weren’t “partisan”. They didn’t seek actual lawbreakers out in both Massachusetts and the Carolinas, but more aggressively sought out Republican lawbreakers in Massachusetts and more aggressively sought out Democratic lawbreakers in South Carolina. They didn’t take actual evidence and hype it more than it deserved: actual evidence did not exist. What was used as evidence came solely from the prosecutorial imagination.

Worse, witch hunts still take place today, and Christian denominations still encourage them.*1 While I don’t know of any recent witch hunts in the US or Canada, I’m more than happy to condemn this trivializing use of “witch hunt”.

All of which to say that I have been even more offended for even longer at hearing the misuse of “lynch,” “lynching” and “lynch mob”.

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Spam Spam Spam Spam

Cleaning out the spam filter there was an advertisement for an on-line sex-toy retailer. Unfortunately for them, I would probably have been happy to give their site a nod if they had simply sent a request directly to me, but I am not happy to give their site a nod for the glorious accomplishment of being caught in the spam trap.

Still, you can’t beat dildo retailers for their charm and civility these days. As proof, I give you this well-done slice of Spam:

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Pervert Justice is now an Honoured Website. Who knew?

Define “Intelligence”

Over at Alternet, an article by Steven Rosenfeld claims that the report released by the Trump administration included faked information, information not actually reviewed by or known to Trump when the decision to strike Syria was made, and otherwise misleading crap meant to help Trump politically, but not actually representing Trumps actual reasons for bombing human beings. Contextualizing the information for us, Rosenfeld reminds us this isn’t the first time something like this has happened:

President George W. Bush’s White House fabricated intelligence concerning Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction before his April 2003 invasion of Iraq. What seems to be unfolding at the top ranks of the Trump administration is similar to Bush’s pronouncements and evidence following the 9/11 terrorist attack.

The primary difference between the two situations is that the fake facts of Bush were released in advance of the attack on Iraq while the fake facts of Trump are being released after the attack on Syria.


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