Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sexual Harassment And Collective Guilt: NYT Edition

Sanity's anathema to contemporary public deliberation and discussion. Sexual harassment's a problem. It'd be really good if we could have less of it. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, it's not an easy problem to fix. We've already got some terrible solutions in place--e.g. policies that make a "hostile environment" completely subjective, purely in the eye of the beholder, entirely a matter of ungrounded feelings, unconstrained by reasonable person standards. That's just about the worst imaginable response. 
   And now we've got: collective guilt for all men because of the actions of some. Sometimes that's said explicitly; other times it's just suggested. The latter is actually worse. 
   Oh, and don't forget:  no woman has an obligation to speak up, as she may face retaliation for doing so. All men, however, have an absolute obligation to speak up...and must be made to fear the repercussions of not doing so. Without double standards, these people would have no standards at all.
   Thing is, you could say something reasonable about all this; you don't absolutely have to be crazy. Though at this point, I think we have to admit that going to crazy extremes is like crack to the progressive left. They almost can't even be blamed for it. They just can't help themselves.
   It's more than understandable that women don't immediately and always go public with such accusations. These guys are sneaky shits; they know what they're doing. They survive on plausible deniability and the threat of retaliation. And I think that men do have a special obligation to intervene--preferably by knocking a m*ther f*cker on his ass--if they see this sort of thing. But I think this, in part, for decidedly un-PC reasons: men, in general, do have something of a special obligation to defend women. Feminism invokes this intuition when convenient, eschewing its other implications. But I think we all know it's true. 
   But even aside from that: third-party interventions are good for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it's no longer he-said/she-said--now it's two to one. For another, third parties are often more objective, hence their word matters more, evidentially speaking, than that of either of the interested parties. So, yeah, people should intervene. Especially male people. (That is: the people formerly known as men...)
   However, we need to put our collective foot down about this we-want-men-to-be-afraid psychopathy. It's typical PC/progressive insanity, and it has to be slapped down with extreme prejudice. If liberal feminism existed it'd come down on such a line like the very fist of God. But these are the progressive left's true colors: it just doesn't have it in it to simply want the good. It can't manage to try to help women without using the opportunity to harm men. It really does have to be opposed by every reasonable means. 
   I refuse to believe that the only two options are tolerate harassment of women and use this as an opportunity to harm men. Again: this is about reasonable people of both sexes fighting against two insane extremes. It's not a complicated point.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing is collective guilt is a defining feature of Progressivism. It was the key move that distinguished the ur-Progressives, Social Gospel theologians, from their mainline opponents, namely the redefinition of morality itself onto the level of society rather than the individual. If you think it is BS, you simply cannot be in philosophical harmony with Progressives.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Oh noez!

Maybe I'm not a progressive!

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Maybe I'm not a progressive!"

The horror!!

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But really I think this is a key philosophical issue here, how much can morality be socialized like Progressives want it to be. Personally I think it is really incoherent to consider morality on a social level (you are basically either granting moral standing to sets, and might as well give it to prime numbers or triangles, or are granting moral value for things you have no agency towards), but clearly a lot of people do it, so it would be interesting for some good, well, analytic philosophy to untangle the hairbrained semantic web being spun.

But my informed opinion is that we will just find they are full of crap.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous RG said...

Is this really an issue of semantics? I'm no anlaytic philosopher, and I don't know what you specifically mean by "set," but the question, to me, seems not unrelated to the realism/nominalism debate. One philosopher who had no such issue with considering ethics on a social level was Josiah Royce who, like Peirce, was ardently opposed to nominalism. The point I'm getting at is that, if a set is a collection of individuals, Royce would deny that communities, for example, are sets. A community, for Royce, as for Peirce, is a real general, a factor at work in reality. In other words, he specifically denied that he was hypostatizing an abstraction. He stated, for example, that "If a collection of people do what cannot be reduced to the deeds of individuals and the collection of deeds of individuals, then you have a mental process which is due to a community. What has mind is real." Royce took himself to be following Wundt's Völkerpsychologie--indeed he took two classes with Wundt as a grad student--and was thinking of things sufficiently general, e.g. language, custom, religion, etc. Given that, I realize the example that started us down this rabbit hole is likely not the best suited for this point. We might just ask: Can a nation commit a crime? Can a nation do good? Can corporations? Royce would say yes. But I think he would say yes because he doesn't think nations or corporations are sets at all. The nominalist, on the other hand, would say no, because nations or corporations aren't really anything but collections of individuals; nothing is.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We might just ask: Can a nation commit a crime? Can a nation do good? Can corporations? Royce would say yes. But I think he would say yes because he doesn't think nations or corporations are sets at all. The nominalist, on the other hand, would say no, because nations or corporations aren't really anything but collections of individuals; nothing is."

Yeah that's part of it, but I don't think it's purely reducible to nominalism. You could hold Royce's view about communities being a real thing and still oppose applying morality to it, for instance if you thought morality requires agency to be at all cogent. Even if you think there is some reality to human sociality, you simply cannot conceive of societies as agents cogently in my mind.

Also I would note this is not something that this really requires no philosophical high-mindedness. You should not be responsible for crimes you don't commit, and that principle is broken egregiously by the communal guilt that comes out of social morality. I can't think of something much more intuitive than that.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous RG said...

Fair enough. I would certainly agree that the notion of collective guilt is problematic. Like Arendt famously said after WWII: if everyone is guilty, no one is. Nonetheless, I'm interested in whether there is a useful distinction to be made between guilt and responsibility. I'm thinking, for example, of the work of the late Iris Marion Young. The book is a bit of a mess as she unfortunately passed away before it was finished, but in "Responsibility for Justice" she attempts to make sense of what such a distinction might look like. In it, she is thinking foremost about questions of so-called structural injustices, in which a system can produce unjust results even though (potentially) no individual action that comprises the system is itself unjust. Her thought is, while its unhelpful to think of this in terms of guilt, that those who benefit from such a system might still be said to have some responsibility for helping to rectify the unjust outcomes. And insofar as such responsibility is essentially shared, it can only be discharged, so to say, collectively--e.g. through some sort of joint political effort. All that said, I realize I'm a bit far afield by now, especially given that many social justice warrior types are very much interested in guilt, and a particularly bloodthirsty one, at that. Young's view is interesting, though, insofar as it gets us out of the view that moral principles only apply to individual transactions, without the excesses that come about from doing this primarily to locate blame, rather than ameliorating certain social ills. Her idea is thus forward looking, in a way that preoccupation with guilt just isn't, but I digress...

P.s. I also appreciate the thought that one really doesn't need to get too high-minded about this, which my above response belies, I realize.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

This is an interesting conversation, and much appreciated.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think distinguishing responsibilty and guilt is enlightening here for sure, largely because we do have well-recognized mutual responsibilities (although it is sometimes difficult to tease out whether they are supererogatory instead). I think a poorly conceptualized understanding of responsibility could bleed into the sort of hair-brained socialized morality seen among progressives, because of the interpersonal nature of many of them.

We all understand a responsibility to treat others fairly, for instance, and it isn't tough to see someone warping it into the sort of berserker anti-racism of campus PCs, since racism is egregious largely on fairness grounds.

8:04 PM  

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