Tim Skellett Profile picture
Mar 3, 2018 25 tweets 12 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Steven Pinker (@sapinker) comes out with an essay titled, no less, "The Stupidity of Dignity" (2008). This is how you get Trump elected & re-elected, this is how you get Brexit, this is how you get really bad blowback. Utterly, stupidly, unnecessarily.
Having started off in fine fashion by trolling the opposition *without actually achieving much thru the trolling*, Pinker then gets into what we could call #AcademicStrut, the Declaration Of Ego, dressed up over-intellectually. Let's examine this part:
1/ @sapinker's well-known problems with philosophy show up badly here. For one thing, the crucial point is dignity is an *intersubjective* concept, a social one appealing to conscience & group effort. Not just 'subjective', as Pinker wants to damn it. A complex but vital point.
2/ next problem is Pinker doesn't have a clue re #ethics & their nature of being. Every single goddam ethic can be damned as 'subjective', *including the squishy, subjective notion of "personal autonomy" which Pinker tries to advocate against "dignity"*. Ignorant special pleading
3/ Next problem, back to the #AcademicStrut. I don't give a stuff what Ruth Macklin is fed up with. Nobody in their right minds should give a stuff what Macklin is fed up with. Pinker is attempting argument from (pseudo-)authority here, and worse.
4/ So right from the beginning, Pinker is saying, I HAZ THE HOLY TABLETS OF COMMANDMENTS re your social #ethics, and I AM SO OVER YOUR OBJECTIONS, YOU CONTEMPTIBLE HEATHEN, I HAZ THE WORD FROM GOD, I mean SCIENCE, I mean GOD".
Not going to go well, is it? Not persuasive
Except this isn't true. Fine by me if you want to advocate "personal autonomy", but it's also a squishy concept - e.g. children, the nature of "informed", the comatose and the simply asleep, the rohypnoled, etc. etc. Handwaving away does not persuade.
Now we get onto that tricky #philosophy concept of "Not looking too damn obviously hypocritical". Because Pinker wants to impose his own "radical political agenda [morals]", so do I, so do you, so what? Also, just calling something "religious" is NOT sufficient counter-argument.
D'uh. ALL #ethics, including "personal autonomy", are relative. Pinker is trying very hard to suggest 'objectivity' is on his side, only it isn't. This is not an argument in good faith against those pushing the other view; it's an attempt at cheerleading & browbeating instead.
Except that *every single goddam objection here* ALSO applies to personal autonomy, and to every single other system of social ethics. Really, is it too much to ask for, to suggest @sapinker be a tiny bit more self-reflective?
Two main objections, among others, here. a/ First, Pinker is attempting an argument from fallacy of ambiguity. Yeah, yeah, we all know the concept of human dignity can be abused, twisted, lied about. So? This is NOT a good-faith argument.
b/ "Dignity can be harmful": as a general principle, so too can personal autonomy. "I'm alright, Jack, stuff you". You're starving in the Sudan? Fine by me as long as I 'respect' your personal autonomy. Hard cheese 4 me if you suddenly decide on a forcible redistribution of food
Argument from handwaving. #Gattaca & CRISPR are at the door, & in China, they really don't bother with concepts like dignity OR personal autonomy. But they're into making a profit, & you want your kid to be the absolute BEST, & you have cash. No-brainer what's going to happen
In Germany, "dignity" is a central bedrock principle of the modern German constitution - de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artikel_1… - "Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. ...." == Human dignity is inviolable. To respect and protect that is a duty of all state authority.
This is not a religious argument or stance. It is a broadly secular, liberal one, for very very obvious historical reasons, it's the very first thing to get mentioned in the modern German constitution. Too much to ask to expect @sapinker to deal with it?
To sum up: @sapinker's argument here - newrepublic.com/article/64674/… - is New Republic-worthy, & I mean that in a bad way. It's not meant to persuade the opposition, it's meant to annoy them instead, and to be an exercise in cheerleading *for those who already agree with Pinker*.
And I don't know about you, but I get really sick of those who go, "Let's own the cons by really annoying them in a useless way, ha ha ha. God I mean Science I mean God is on our side, Deus vult!, let's OWN the conservatives by helping Trump, Brexit, Viktor Orbán, Putin win!"
Thank-you for so selflessly illustrating #AcademicStrut, from Brexitland, no less. 😀 Not as if Infowars, Hannity, Farage, Gove etc. already make livings claiming over & over again "secular liberals" want to impose control, after all, so we are safe!
Good constructive contribution from @IrishPhilosophy, @cathyby here: "dignity" also had a big place in the first Irish constitution, see (irishphilosophy.com/2017/12/29/con…)
I mean, seriously, just grow up. "I [POMPOUSLY] THINK X IS RIGHT, BECAUSE [NO] REASONS [GIVEN], AND YOU ARE HALLUCINATORY", all by itself, is just plain stupid, like, *really* stupid. Any 14-year-old could be more artistic.
Except, in your rush to groundlessly declare your personal authority and your perception regarding me being hallucinatory, you *competely missed a point really obvious to others*; my point that you and those like you enabled Trump, Brexit, etc.
I mean, SERIOUSLY, folks, is it all too much to demand a professor of sociology to understand some very basic sociology? Really? Like, if you make your whole political platform, "You are dumb, and you should accept my dictates without question", you may well create big problems.
Oh, ffs,. send in a 14-year-old child, so I can at least be flamed more intelligently and artistically.
For the really-hard-of-hearing: here is the take-away message. Don't rely on status to make arguments. If your opponents are genuine, treat them & their arguments genuinely. It is useless for you to stroke your ego if you only thereby enable a social change you really don't like.

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More from @Gurdur

Sep 28, 2018
But now, onto my own personal summation of this all. The @Guardian, it is THE paper and site that gives most national (UK) and international (USA, Australia, the damned world) to coverage of issues like poverty, class. It has worldclass investigative #journalism. But.....
... but I admit to being more than fully cheesed off with the Guardian myself. I was a loyal funder, around 60 quid a month, I stopped completely, because the Guardian's new policies were so idiotic and off-putting, not to mention counter-productive.
But! ....
But, bluntly, the @Guardian still is THE major newspaper in the UK, the USA or Australia, to give a very wide range of opinion from the public, & to also give reasonably trustworthy investigative #journalism.
I refuse to contribute money, but it's still very much my first go-to.
Read 8 tweets
Sep 28, 2018
The #BoycottTheGuardian is because of ... the Jews. Who woulda thunk it? What a surprise, so shocking.
Such a surprise, so shocking, it's coz of the Jews, innit
Some seem very eager to attach yellow stars to the Guardian (by the way, for anyone interested in the truth, it's not Jews who own the Guardian at all, and the Guardian tends to be pro-Palestinian. But hey, #BoycottTheGuardian because Jews).
Read 22 tweets
Sep 28, 2018
Oh, and let's discuss that bit of trivia, that went trending on Twitter for a short while, only in the UK, naturally. The #BoycottTheGuardian garbage. Because maybe the UK could benefit from dosing up the tapwater with lithium and haloperidol too.
For those who don't know it: the @guardian is a broadsheet, i.e. a respectable newspaper, not a scandal-mongering tabloid, based in the UK, though its web-presence is heavy in the USA and Australia. It is the smallest of national broadsheets in the UK, and the best one.
The @Guardian, national broadsheet w/ the smallest subscription in the UK, is also the most "left"-wing & liberal of the UK national broadsheets. Known 1821 till 1959 as the Manchester Guardian, it has done a huge deal of v important investigative #journalism over the centuries.
Read 6 tweets
May 20, 2018
There is an excellent Spanish movie, Alatriste, which opens with a map, and the caption, "When Spain ruled the world". And it's quite amazing; for a period of around 40 years, it really looked like Spain ruled the world. And for longer, it looked like Spain might rule forever
And somewhere around 1600 A.D., it looked like Spain would come to rule the world. It had THE best infantry in the world, the truly feared Spanish tercios. It had a huge, world-spanning empire. It had incredible wealth. And then it all went south, quickly, much by 1650 A.D.
Witticisms can be misleading, but sometimes it's true to say that every great strength hides a great weakness. Spain ruled a huge empire. Almost every single part would rebel. Spain had the world's best infantry - but b/c of aridity, meaning few horses in Spain, little cavalry.
Read 15 tweets
May 5, 2018
There are people who need cheering up. So I am going to do some cheering up, but in a novel, mixed way. Meaning, I am going to tweet random butterfly photos of mine, and also tell y'all a true story.
cc.@US_Vote, @ElectionBabe
Some of you, may think us blokes have it easy, at least when we're young, energetic, & brain-deficient. Nothing is further from the truth for many of us blokes. Now y'all will hear The Truth. An embarrassing saga of the truth, but a funny one. Very.
My photo again.
Australia. BIG place. Lots of mines, quarries. All dusty, dirty, hot work. Picture to yourself a young, innocent bloke who has just got his indie shotfirer's licence (if new 2 this, see ). Prefers not to work in more mines, BECAUSE ()
Read 15 tweets
May 5, 2018
1/ OK. Let's stop talking about the embarrassing time I blew myself up and lost half a head of hair, because embarrassing. Let's talk instead about a colleague of mine on another job, who blew himself up dramatically, and I mean drama
2/ You think I'm silly? This other poor bugger, lemme tell you, he blew himself up, was stark bollocks naked as a result, and only just missed being lethally impaled by a jackhammer into the roof of the tunnel, like some weird kind of Industrial Mineworking Pinned Butterfly.
3/ Shotfirer = the bloke (or woman) who sets off the explosive charges in a quarry, mine or demolition site. The "shot" is the actual explosive charge or set of them.
Read 19 tweets

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